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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

EDITORIAL 27.10.10

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 october 27, edition 000662, 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. BOMB FOR BOMB
  2. CALLING THE FUTURE
  3. PROBLEM OF PLENTY
  4. COUNTERING TERRORISM  - ASHOK K MEHTA
  5. PREPARING FOR THE FINAL BATTLE - SHIKHA MUKERJEE
  6. AFTER BLUFF AND BLUSTER, US CAPITULATES - B RAMAN
  7. SARKOZY FACES THE FURY OF HIS PEOPLE - ANDREI FEDYASHIN

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. CHANGE THE GAME
  2. FALLING OFF THE GRID
  3. KASHMIR YESTERDAY AND TODAY - GAUTAM ADHIKARI
  4. 'THE HORROR GENRE BY NATURE IS VERY GIMMICKY'
  5. IF FREEDOM FAIL - JUG SURAIYA 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. A SILVER LINING IN A DARK CLOUD
  2. CHANGING ITS SPOTS
  3. WHAT THE GAMES COST US - NISHANT PYASI,
  4. WILL THE TIGER FALL PREY TO THE MINING LOBBY? - PRERNA SINGH BINDRA,
  5. TAKING A WRONG TURN - PRANAB BARDHAN

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. ARMING THE GUARDS
  2. BIG ON JAPAN
  3. GOVERNING THE FUND
  4. BY THE CRUELLEST MONTH - BIBEK DEBROY 
  5. MIXED SIGNALS - DHRUVA JAISHANKAR 
  6. BRINGING SPEED TO BUS RIDES - RANESH NAIR POSTED
  7. HOW MANY MILES TO ISTANBUL?
  8. NO TO OBAMA, YES TO CHINA
  9. THE STATES THAT WON'T CLICK

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. REGULATORY CERTAINTY
  2. A SICK ECONOMY
  3. HELLO HAPPINESS
  4. NOT JUST CURRENCY SOLUTIONS - MK VENU
  5. USE THAT BUYING CLOUT - GURMEET KANWAL

THE HINDU

  1. 'SEDITION' VERSUS FREE SPEECH
  2. MIXED SIGNALS AHEAD OF SEOUL
  3. THROWING OFF THE YOKE OF MANUAL SCAVENGING - VIDYA SUBRAHMANIAM
  4. PITY THE NATION THAT HAS TO SILENCE ITS WRITERS: ARUNDHATI ROY
  5. FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS - MOUSHUMI BASU
  6. 'OUTSTANDING RESEARCH CAN SHAPE BETTER POLICY' - DAVID M. MALONE
  7. THE INDIAN INSTITUTIONS INVOLVED
  8. HUGE AMBER DEPOSIT DISCOVERY IN WESTERN INDIA - IAN SAMPLE

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. FOOD SECURITY: START NOW, IMPROVE LATER
  2. PERMISSION TO DEFECT - P.C. ALEXANDER
  3. THE SUM OF EGO & CHALLENGES - JAYANT V. NARLIKAR
  4. THE GILGIT QUESTION - S.K. SINHA

DNA

  1. JAPAN'S RESERVATIONS NEED TO BE RESPECTED
  2. MALARIA BITES CANNOT BE IGNORED
  3. WOMEN CAN KEEP UP THE SPIRIT TOO
  4. INDIA'S PRESENCE IN EAST ASIA VITAL TO COUNTER CHINA'S INCREASING CLOUT - HARSH V PANT
  5. ARUNDHATI ROY IS DANGEROUSLY WRONG ON KASHMIR - VENKATESAN VEMBU

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. IT HURTS
  2. AUDIBLE AND VISIBLE
  3. INDIA TO OVERTAKE JAPANESE ECONOMY - BY NITYA CHAKRABORTY
  4. THINK OF JAMMU NOW? - PROF. JAVED MUGHAL
  5. PROBLEM OF J&K REFUGEES - BY DR. RAM CHANDER SHARMA

THE TRIBUNE

  1. PM'S VISIT TO JAPAN
  2. COMMANDERS CONFERENCE
  3. BREACH OF PRIVACY
  4. BETTER RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA - BY HARSH V. PANT
  5. ROLE REVERSAL - BY K.R. BHARTI
  6. PUNJAB: TRADITIONAL VS ELITE POLITICS - ASHUTOSH KUMAR
  7. ONCE A LEADER, NOW A LAGGARD - SARBJIT DHALIWAL

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. THE GREAT BIG MOTION PICTURE BUFFET

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. IN FIRM RECOVERY MODE
  2. REGULATING THE REGULATOR
  3. MINING INDIA'S DEVELOPMENT - RAJENDRA ABHYANKAR
  4. LET THE RUPEE RIDE - SUBIR ROY
  5. RACE FOR STREET SPACE - M J ANTONY
  6. SHOULD THE RBI RAISE POLICY RATES?

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. IN DEFENCE OF FREE SPEECH
  2. RESPITE ON TRADE FRONT
  3. CUS OFFICE ROMANCES HIT - BY THE RECESSION!
  4. RAISING INVESTMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION - ARVIND PANAGARIYA
  5. NO SEPARATE BUDGET FOR RAILWAYS? - DHIRENDRA SWARUP 
  6. WHEN STATUS QUO IS JUST FINE - JAIDEEP MISHRA 
  7. THE CLONING CONTROVERSY - VITHALC NADKARNI 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. FOOD SECURITY: START NOW, IMPROVE LATER
  2. PERMISSION TO DEFECT - BY P.C. ALEXANDER
  3. WE CAN'T BE INDIFFERENT TO GILGIT-BALTISTAN - BY S.K. SINHA
  4. THE SUM OF EGO & CHALLENGES - BY JAYANT V. NARLIKAR
  5. THE GILGIT QUESTION - BY S.K. SINHA
  6. THE NATURE OF INTELLIGENCE - BY SADHGURU

THE STATESMAN

  1. CANDID IN CAMBRIDGE
  2. TURMOIL IN FRANCE
  3. WILDLIFE WORRIES
  4. NEHRU AND TIBET - BK BHATTACHARYYA
  5. KARAT, CASTE AND THE LEFT - RAJINDER PURI
  6. WORLD OF LOST AND FOUND - SUNIPA BASU
  7. WHEN VICTORY CAN BE CHEAP, AND EMPTY - JAMES LAWTON

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. UNITED IN NOISE
  2. WIN SOME
  3. TO BE OR NOT TO BE - ASHOK SANJAY GUHA
  4. POINT MADE - STEPHEN HUGH-JONES

DECCAN HERALD

  1. REDUNDANT BUDGET
  2. SERVING THE US INC. - BY N N SACHITANAND
  3. PALESTINIANS SHIFT GEAR FOR STATEHOOD - BY ETHAN BRONNER, IHT
  4. AIR NEEDS TLC - BY CHITRA SRIKRISHNA
  5. LAWLESS LAWYERS

HAARETZ

  1. ANONYMOUS SOLDIERS - BY YITZHAK LAOR
  2. ANONYMOUS SOLDIERS - BY YITZHAK LAOR
  3. DISCRIMINATORY AND UNNECESSARY
  4. OPEN GAZA'S GATES - BY AMIRA HASS
  5. MONIED INTERESTS - BY YOSSI MELMAN

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. SECRET MONEY IN IOWA
  2. HAITI'S LATEST MISERY
  3. FLU VACCINE, THEN AND NOW
  4. MOOSE AND SQUIRREL - BY VERLYN KLINKENBORG
  5. CAN'T KEEP A BAD IDEA DOWN - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  6. WHEN A PIRATE IS THE VOICE OF CHIVALRY - BY MAUREEN DOWD
  7. TURNING THE TALIBAN AGAINST AL QAEDA - BY SCOTT ATRAN

USA TODAY

  1. OUR VIEW ON 'MISSING CANDIDATES': POLITICIANS DUCK THE PRESS, TRY TO AVOID ACCOUNTABILITY
  2. CANDIDATES' VIEW ON 'MISSING CANDIDATES': WE'RE NOT CAMERA-SHY
  3. COMMUNITIES CAN AGE GRACEFULLY - BY TED C. FISHMAN
  4. ONLINE DOCTOR RATINGS AREN'T VERY HELPFUL - BY KEVIN PHO
  5. THE WILSON YOU NEVER KNEW - BY PAUL G. KENGOR
  6. ZTHE LONG, STRAGE TRIP ENDS ON TUESDAYCONNEAUT BY CHUCK RAASCH

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. WARS OFF CAMPAIGN RADAR
  2. EVIDENCE OF NEED FOR REFORM
  3. WHO WILL CONTROL CONGRESS?
  4. THE PRESIDENT'S CRUMBLING SUPPORT
  5. DOCTOR SHORTAGE TO GET WORSE
  6. PROTECTIONISM VS. JOBS

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - BLIGHT, HOPE AND 'NOSTRA EUROPA'
  2. IS TURKEY AN IRAN-LOVER AND ISRAEL-HATER? - MUSTAFA AKYOL
  3. ONE FLEW OVER… - UĞUR CEBECİ
  4. ENEMY-LESS TURKEY - BURAK BEKDİL
  5. THE CRUCIAL SUPPORT LINE FOR TURKEY: SEEING THE BIG PICTURE - SERTAÇ AKTAN
  6. DON'T BE SURPRISED IF ONE DAY WE APOLOGIZE TO OGÜN (!) - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  7. THE ROMA AND THE EUROPEAN ABYSS - CAROLINE FOUREST
  8. KID CRIMINALS - YUSUF KANLI

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. PPP-PML (Q) OPEN DOORS FOR EACH OTHER
  2. SBP PREDICTS LOWER GDP GROWTH RATE
  3. ENIGMATIC ATTACKS ON HOLY SHRINES
  4. IS THERE ANY GAIN OUT OF STRATEGIC DIALOGUE? - M ASHRAF MIRZA
  5. PAK SACRIFICES NOT APPRECIATED BY US - ASIF HAROON RAJA
  6. OCT 27: BEGINNING OF KASHMIR AGONY - BASSAM JAVED
  7. WHAT IS NEXT ABOUT KASHMIR? - AFSHAIN AFZAL
  8. TURKEY STEPS OUT - ROGER COHEN

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. A REALITY CHECK ON WIKILEAKS
  2. MIX AND MATCH OUR HIGHER EDUCATION FOR 21ST CENTURY
  3. DAVID HICKS MISSES THE POINT

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. LOBOTOMISED V HANSONISTS
  2. AUSTRALIA, THE HEAVY COUNTRY
  3. LEADERS GO OVER THE TOP IN BATTLE OVER BANKS
  4. WIKILEAKS' FEATS AND A MAN'S FOIBLES

THE GUARDIAN

  1. IN PRAISE OF … JOEL BURNS
  2. UNIVERSAL CREDIT: STRANGLED AT BIRTH
  3. THE ECONOMY: PEERING INTO A WASTED DECADE

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. NO ONE WINS DEVALUATION RACE
  2. BY-ELECTION TRIUMPH FOR LDP
  3. A BRITISH LESSON FOR JAPAN? - BY HUGH CORTAZZI
  4. BRACE FOR THE RACE TO PUT BASES ON THE MOON - BY GWYNNE DYER
  5. CHINA'S FAIR-WEATHER FRIENDS IN WASHINGTON - BY HANS-WERNER SINN
  6. BUILDING GREATER EUROPE - BY FYODOR LUKYANOV

 THE JAKARTA POST

  1. GOVERNOR FAUZI BOWO AT A LOSS
  2. CONDUCTING ASEAN
  3. HOT ISSUES IN SINO-RI RELATIONS - MAKMUR KELIAT
  4. VIEW POINT: THE UNBEARABLE CRUELTY OF CARELESSNESS - JULIA SURYAKUSUMA 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

BOMB FOR BOMB

MARXISTS LOSING BATTLE FOR SURVIVAL 


Kannur, known as Kerala's Marxist heartland, is yet to be free from the clutches of large-scale violence that started on October 23 during polling for the civic elections. The northern Kerala district is infamous for its tradition of murderous political violence sponsored and perpetrated by the CPI(M) through the past four decades. But the current signs point to a possible end to the Marxists' monopoly over conflict. Though BJP activists have always been the target of Marxists in Kannur, incidents of violence against workers of the Congress and the Muslim League, chief constituents of Kerala's Opposition United Democratic Front, are not rare. But recent incidents indicate that the Congress and the Muslim League are now determined to repay the Marxists in the same coin. A telling example of this shift is the fact that the bombings and booth-capturing last Saturday during repolling for local body elections in some places were reportedly perpetrated by the Congress and the Muslim League. But the UDF has denied any role, which is only to expected. Taking the battle right into the enemy's camp, Union Minister of State for Home Mullappally Ramachandran has charged Kerala's Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, a CPI(M) Polit Bureau member from Kannur, with playing a pivotal role in the conspiracy for launching large-scale violence during polling. Talk in Kannur is that the Marxists, despite their immense experience in the art of ruthless violence, will find it difficult if the UDF partners are determined on a bomb-for-bomb and sword-for-sword policy. It could even lead to the crumbling of the Marxists' supremacy in Kannur. The similarities between these developments in Kannur and the political violence in West Bengal are unmistakable. After ruling West Bengal for more than three decades, virtually unchallenged by a viable alternative, the CPI(M) in this State has had to come to terms with the reality that violence is no longer a weapon over which its cadre have exclusive rights. The Trinamool Congress led by Ms Mamata Banerjee, actively helped by Marxists-turned-party activists, is now giving back as good as it gets. This is not necessarily good news — either for West Bengal or Kerala. Political violence has a nasty habit of self-perpetuating itself; the vicious circle can become difficult to break unless both sides give up violence as a means of forcing themselves on the people and letting the masses decide who should rule them. 


In Kerala, as in West Bengal, the Marxists are fighting a rearguard battle for survival. If last year's Lok Sabha elections were any indications, the Left is in for a rout in next summer's Assembly polls. While in Kerala the CPI(M) and its allies have been in and out of power, and hence may be able to handle defeat better, the story in West Bengal is marginally different. After 35 years in power, the CPI(M) really wouldn't know how to handle defeat and adjust to its new role as the Opposition. But what should bother us at the moment is the spiralling violence which is cause for extreme concern.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

CALLING THE FUTURE

LOT OF FOOD BUT NO SPACE TO STORE

PROBLEM OF PLENTY

 

The recent news of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K Rosaiah requesting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ensure adequate number of rakes from the Indian Railways for clearing foodgrain stocks from the godowns as the State is facing acute shortage of space to store farm produce mirrors the Catch 22 situation poor farmers face in our country. On one hand, they are pushed to the brink of death, unable to bear the burden of debt when crops fail; on the other, when the harvest is good they are unfortunately stuck in a buyers' market due to lack of storage facilities. Things may worsen for Andhra Pradesh farmers this year with paddy production estimated to be at record 220 lakh tonnes. The situation in Andhra Pradesh is not one in isolation. A few months back, the potato farmers in West Bengal were compelled to go for distress sale to get rid of their bumper crop; they had produced 9.5 million tonnes of potatoes against 5.5 million tonnes the previous year. Not too long ago, the sorry plight of the country's food storage system grabbed headlines as television news channels showed sacks of foodgrains piled in the open in front of the Food Corporation of India godowns, rotting in the rain. It is a fact that the silos and plinths, both hired and Government-owned, are already overflowing this year. Against a storage capacity of 56.9 million tonnes, the Government already has a stock of 57.9 million tonnes of wheat, rice and coarse grains. Not surprisingly, the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Food Supplies is now mulling the idea of slashing procurement of foodgrains. The scenario brings to the fore the short-sightedness of policy-makers who have failed to make adequate arrangements of warehousing. Despite the Planning Commission's suggestion of making provision for an estimated `7,687 crore to build warehouses and cold storage facilities, the FCI is currently not constructing any new storage capacity. Interestingly, it has a 10-year guarantee scheme aimed at creating capacities through the public-private partnership mode. Further, it showed lapses in management by giving up storage space between 2004 and 2006 that could have stored million metric tonnes of grains.

The whole food fiasco exposes the Government's lack of policy planning towards food storage and food security. With the FCI's storage capacity used to the brim, in tandem with the buffer stock norms fixed by the authorities, the Government can assist in food security instead of driving the prices up in the open market. According to estimates, 70 million fewer people are getting BPL grain due to our 20-year-old data, based on 1991 Census. What could be more ironical than the Government being the largest 'hoarder' of foodgrains when the people are grappling with poverty, and suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Whatever little growth the country has witnessed in the agriculture sector is going down the drain due to this criminal neglect.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

COUNTERING TERRORISM

ASHOK K MEHTA

 

Ever since 9/11 what has worked best in neutralising jihadi plots to strike terror is effective intelligence-sharing and counter-terrorism


Now that the Commonwealth Games have ended successfully, besides investigating corruption, it is time for also instituting a 'Lessons Learnt Commission' about efficient event organisation, including its security cover. While Union Home Secretary GK Pillai held a briefing to announce that terror attacks expected on October 12 and 13 were thwarted, Delhi Police Commissioner YS Dadwal dismissed the threats as "not real". Doing the rounds were bizarre stories about glider-borne terrorists striking during the CWG when airspace over Delhi had been completely sanitised. Intelligence-sharing and counter-terrorism cooperation were key to an incident-free CWG. 

The US's Ambassador to India, Mr Timothy Roemer, told a television channel that at least thrice before the 26/11 Mumbai attack, American counter-terrorism officials had warned their Indian counterparts about a possible attack on Mumbai, including The Taj Mahal Palace hotel. Mr Roemer insisted that counter-terrorism cooperation between the US and India was working well despite revelations that the FBI was tipped off on David Headley's Lashkar-e-Tayyeba connections at least three years before 26/11. Our Foreign Ministry officials have said that information given was "very general and non-specific". 


Next month will be two years after Mumbai. Miraculously not a single attack sourced in Pakistan has occurred in India. Some credit for this must go to counter-terrorism cooperation besides the bilateral joint working groups on counter-terrorism India has with more than two dozen countries, not to mention the ineffective Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism established in 2006 with Pakistan.


Besides UN counter-terrorism programmes on monitoring and cooperation and the US-based Centre on Global Counter-Terrorism Cooperation there are also regional organisations and initiatives for cooperation on this front. The UN has appointed Mr Richard Bennet as head of its Al Qaeda/Taliban monitoring team. 

It is estimated that at least 14 terrorist strikes were attempted against India in the last two years and in four to six cases the tip-off came from Germany, the US, the UK and Russia. How well India's own National Counter-Terrorism Centre for Homeland Security is shaping we will know by the end of the year, the deadline for its formation. The two terrorist attacks that succeeded were against German Bakery in Pune and the hit-and-run shooting at foreign tourists outside Jama Masjid Delhi before the CWG. Both have been attributed to the home-grown 'Indian Mujahideen'.


Meanwhile, it is useful to study (and for India to imbibe and implement) how Europe, the UK and the US are addressing problems of home-grown terrorism. The report of the London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalism and Political Violence, King's College, on 'Recruitment and Mobilisation for Islamic Militant Movement in Europe' reveals that recruitment efforts have been driven underground and recruitment is occurring in mosques with the Internet playing a stellar role in virtual self-recruitment.


It is not surprising that the biggest terrorist attack in recent history — 9/11 — was planned by Mohammed Atta and his team from a Hamburg mosque in Germany. Thejihadi phenomenon in Germany came to light after a German, Cuneyt Ciftci, carried out a suicide attack on an American post in Afghanistan. More recently American troops in Afghanistan held a German from Hamburg, Ahmad Siddiqui, who revealed the terror plot against European targets in London, Berlin and Paris. Other German Muslims traced in Afghanistan were killed or captured in fighting.


The German Federal Bureau of Investigation has claimed that around 200 Muslims from Germany were trained in camps in Pakistan. And of these at least 100 had returned to Germany. The German recruits are known to be linked to two Al Qaeda affiliates, the Islamic Mujahideen of Uzbekistan and the Islamic Jihad Union. Germany's unintended export of jihadi terror has made Chancellor Angela Merkel admit to radicalisation of some Muslims in Germany. 


Similar radicalisation of Muslims into Islamists has taken place in the US and the UK. Several terrorist attacks were preempted in the UK due to its intelligence and counter-terrorism cooperation. The Americans have had two lucky escapes from terror plots sourced in Pakistan's North Waziristan. Both the failed attempt to blow up a NorthWest Airlines flight to Detroit last Christmas and the Times Square bomb plot were linked to Pakistan. 

The US State Department's warning earlier this month of an Al Qaeda plot to strike targets in Europe shows the West's increasing success in monitoring and tracking terrorist cells and disrupting and dispersing them. North Waziristan is the new terror hub housing a variety of terrorist groups ranging from Afghan and Pakistan Taliban to the Haqqani network to Al Qaeda and other foreign cells.


Targeted killings by American unmanned drones have involved German and British jihadis who were in training camps plotting new attacks. During last week's strategic dialogue, Americans urged the Pakistani Army to launch operations in North Waziristan but Islamabad is not cooperating as some of the terrorist groups there are its declared 'strategic assets'. 


The Al Qaeda has diversified its operations from AfPak and elsewhere to Yemen and Islamic Maghreb which is a source of threat for Spain and France. The Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb has indulged in kidnapping and killing of Europeans working with local Government, seeking ransom as well as political demands such as repeal of 'un-Islamic' demands like the ban on burqa. 


It is clear that the CIA and its associates have infiltrated Pakistan-based terrorist cells on the AfPak border and their agents and spies are able to direct drones with deadly accuracy. In addition, dedicated intelligence agents and electronic intelligence through eves-dropping techniques from friendly listening posts have provided key leads to the CIA to issue warnings of Mumbai-style attacks in Europe. 


When American forces begin withdrawing from Afghanistan next year, one hopes for the West's sake that the intelligence network and the drone response capacity is not disturbed. Otherwise, Mumbais could happen all over again. 


So which secret weapon has kept the Lashkar-a-Tayyeba away from Indian shores? India, despite being a nuclear power and possessing the third largest military in the world, does not have an active deterrent against cross-border terrorist attacks. Last week's security conclave of the National Defence College was confronted by this dilemma. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram's much awaited NCTC will be as good as the Indian system will permit it to be. But counter-terrorism cooperation with strategic partners will be vital.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

PREPARING FOR THE FINAL BATTLE

SHIKHA MUKERJEE


As next summer's Assembly poll draws closer, the CPI(M) and the Trinamool Congress are rallying their forces for what is expected to be a historic election. Top leaders of both the parties have hit the streets, leading marches to commemorate some occasion or the other. The idea is to connect with the masses. Who will succeed in connecting better?


Unruliness is routine to the intensely competitive politics of India; in West Bengal in this phase, with a regime change anticipated, the strife is spiralling to new levels. The result is a huge stirring. West Bengal, it seems, is preparing to walk itself to the victory post.


The flood of visuals of blood soaked bodies and seriously injured activists is being replaced by new images of streams of people on the march. A new Pather Panchali (Song of the Road) is being written, not about an individual's journey but about the collective life of contemporary West Bengal.


The stillness that had marked the longevity of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) has given way to a new restlessness as the prospective ruling party, namely the Trinamool Congress appropriated the roads as its favoured locations for action. First, there was the 23 day-long hunger strike by Ms Mamata Banerjee and then the weeks of camping outside the now derelict Tata Motors factory at Singur. The road is once again back in the picture. 

The road has emerged as the new political space, or rather it has reasserted its magic for it is both metaphor and omnipresent. India's romance of the road, especially major thoroughfares predates the national movement, because the "Raj Path" figures in various bits and pieces of ancient literary and political texts. Power has been understood to flow up the Raj Path or out of the gates and down the Raj Path. The road, therefore, can conjure up the idea of both movement and change. 


The political churn underway in West Bengal has, therefore, spilled on to its highways and streets. CPI(M)'s route march began post the Durga Puja festival and will culminate at the end of November. The finale will be a week of meetings at the traditional rallying point of Esplanade, in what has become popularly known as the Metro Channel, either because it is opposite the once upon a grand old Metro Cinema or because it is on top of the metro railway track. The weeklong rallies will mark the end of all the walkathons that the comrades will have organised through mid October and November. 


Not to be outdone, the Trinamool Congress on October 23 organised its own walk led by the party chief Mamata Banerjee. It was a rally to demand the withdrawal of security forces and the termination of the joint operations against the Maoists in the Lalgarh-Jhargram-Bankura-Purulia region. The next walk and talk exercise has been scheduled for November 14. Reports indicate that the Trinamool Congress is also planning to mobilise school children to act as a peace force in the Maoist infested districts and will perhaps distribute leaflets to jawans at various Central Reserve Police Force camps to request them to quit the area.


Before the mandatory shut down for the Durga Puja season, the CPI(M)'s rallies were small and tentative, almost experimental, as though the party was testing the ground before the roll out. With the major festival season over and the weather changing, the number of rallies by different sections of voters has jumped. 

Before the Durga Pujas, the CPI(M)'s concentration was on organising small interactive sessions with voters in urban and rural areas. These intense exchanges have clearly emboldened the party to try a bit more, venture out a bit further. The strategy seems to be to mobilise the masses and hope for a revival of interest in the politics of the CPI(M). 


The CPI(M)'s journey to power was through the streets. Its rallies were historic mobilisations and have left lasting images and deeply embedded memories within the polity. By going back to the rally as a method of mobilisation, the CPI(M) is hoping to erase more recent memories of organised mammoth meetings where participants were transported as so many units to fill the space and it had all become a matter of headcount. 

The month long multiple marches are intended to revive the attachment of multiple sections of voters; in the Jangal Mahals as a return of some semblance of normalcy after the ouster of Maoists; in North Bengal as a mobilisation against the separatist movement in Darjeeling, Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri districts; in South Bengal against the "excesses" of the Trinamool Congress as the party of governance in the panchayats and municipalities and the party of Opposition. Youth, students, workers, women and peasants are also being mobilised and will march as torchbearers of the CPI(M) and conclude their programmes by rallying at Esplanade in November. 


By avoiding the thoroughfares of the metropolis, where a rally would symbolise the power of the party to mobilise the numbers to bring normal life to a standstill, the CPI(M) is working to a different strategy. It is trying to woo back its support base by returning to the roots of its power base, namely the rural areas. That it is being able to organise these rallies, especially in North Bengal, South and North 24 Parganas, the Sundarbans and Jangal Mahal is an indication that its connect to the voters and its acceptability in these districts remains, if not intact then at least sufficient for it to mobilise respectable enough numbers to put on a good show. 

Whereas a mahamichil or grand rally would have been disruptive, obstructive and annoying for the metropolitan population, smaller marches in the rural areas are more effective in reviving old attachments. For the CPI(M) the capacity to organise these rallies is also a process of renewal. In the Jangal Mahals, in South and North 24 Parganas and in North Bengal, the roads had been occupied to the exclusion of the CPI(M) by the Opposition, which included an assortment of interests from the Trinamool Congress, to the People's Committee against Police Atrocities, to the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha. 


The Trinamool Congress's journey like the CPI(M)'s also began on the streets of South Kolkata in the late 1990s. It culminated in its two of its greatest political triumphs when Ms Banerjee took over Esplanade East and National Highway 2 and succeeded in her objective — of ousting the almost completed Nano production facility of Tata Motors from Singur. This set in motion the Trinamool Congress juggernaut that decimated the CPI(M) first in the panchayat elections in 2008, then in the Lok Sabha elections in 2009 and again in the municipal elections in 2010. 


Having thundered up the highway and the byways of West Bengal, the return of the Trinamool Congress to the streets of Kolkata is a signal that the warm up exercises for the elections in 2011 have begun in earnest. The transformation of leaders rushing around in SUVs into footsloggers is a way of gauging the value of the stakes; in other words, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

AFTER BLUFF AND BLUSTER, US CAPITULATES

B RAMAN


The Pakistani Army has literally arm-twisted the US Administration into giving in to its demands. The new aid for Pakistan comes without any strings attached and the Americans have demonstrated they are paper tigers

The third US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue for 2010 concluded in Washington, DC on October 22. The two sides fielded high-power delegations for the dialogue as they had done for the first two rounds held earlier this year in Washington and Islamabad. The US delegation was headed by Ms Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, and included, among others, Mr Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary. The Pakistani delegation was headed by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and included among others Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Chief of the Army Staff.


Apart from the formal talks at the delegation level, where hype pushed the cruel ground realities under the carpet, there were other opportunities for frank interactions which the Americans utilised to tell the Pakistanis what they really thought and expected of them.


To quote from the Dawn of Karachi (October 22): "Pakistan's Ambassador Husain Haqqani later told the Pakistani media that President Obama's decision to 'drop in' during a meeting of the 'core group' of Pakistani officials with the incoming US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon was 'not pre-announced but it was pre-planned'." He described it as "the best ever" meeting between a US President and a Pakistani delegation during which President Obama conveyed his "unequivocal support to Pakistan and its democracy". President Obama, he said, regretted the mistakes the US had made in the past while dealing with Pakistan and assured the Pakistani delegation that Washington would not repeat those mistakes. The US media, however, gave a different version of this meeting. Foreign Policy, a prestigious online magazine for global issues, reported that President Obama "personally delivered the tough love message that other top administration officials have been communicating since the Pakistani delegation arrived". Earlier, Ms Clinton dropped in unannounced at another meeting between Special Representative Richard Holbrooke and Gen Kayani. She delivered "the message that Washington's patience is wearing thin with Pakistan's ongoing reluctance to take a more aggressive stance against militant groups operating from Pakistan over the Afghan border", the report said. "A similar message was delivered to Gen Kayani in another high-level side meeting on Wednesday morning at the Pentagon, hosted by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm Michael Mullen," the magazine said. "The message being delivered to Pakistan throughout the week by the Obama team is that its effort to convince Pakistan to more aggressively combat groups like the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba will now consist of both carrots and sticks," the report added. "But this means that the US Administration must find a way to incentivise both the Pakistani civilian and military leadership, which have differing agendas and capabilities," the report added. "The Obama side is calculating that Pakistan's military can deliver on subjects important to the US but doesn't want to, while the civilian leadership in Pakistan wants to, but isn't able," said one high-level participant who spoke with the magazine in between sessions. 

It is apparent from the reports on the dialogue that came out of Washington, DC that the US has not been able to find a way of making Pakistan act to destroy the General Headquarters of Al Qaeda led and inspired terrorism located in the Pakistani territory. One is increasingly confused as to where this GHQ is located. Previously, one thought it was located in North Waziristan. The fierceness of the retaliatory action by the Pakistan Army in response to a recent strike by a Nato helicopter in the Kurram area has created suspicions that at least part of the GHQ may be located in the Kurram Agency. There have been other reports speculating about the possibility of its location in the Khyber Pakhtunkwa Province.

Wherever it may be located, one thing seems certain — the Pakistan Army knows where it is and is not prepared to act against it. The Pakistan Army uses the Punjabi Taliban against India in an attempt to force a change in the status quo in Jammu & Kashmir. It has been using Al Qaeda, the Pashtun Taliban and their global jihadi allies for extracting money out of the US by dangling the threat of another 9/11 over the US head if it does not pay protection money to the Pakistan Army.


Despite the blunt words reportedly used by Mr Obama, Ms Clinton and Mr Gates in more restricted interactions, more protection money was forthcoming in the form of a five-year commitment (2012-16) of $2.29 billion in military aid euphemistically called counter-terrorism assistance. This will be in continuation of the allocation of $1.5 billion provided by the George Bush Administration in 2005 and of the civilian aid of $7.5 billion over a five-year period already being provided by the Obama Administration since last year under the Kerry Lugar Act.


According to the Dawn, Pakistan also receives hundreds of millions of dollars a year from the so-called Coalition Support Fund, which reimburse Pakistan for its military operations against militants. The US reimbursed Pakistan $1.3 billion between January and May for Pakistani operations conducted in 2008 and 2009, but has not yet paid for operations in 2010. Announcing the military aid package, Ms Clinton said that the US had full confidence in Pakistan's commitment to the anti-terrorist fight. 


The ambivalence in the US policy marked by blunt speaking in restricted sessions and the failure to follow it up with punitive action to make the Pakistan Army act as it frequently promises to has convinced the Pakistan Army over the years that US leaders may warn privately regarding its transgressions but will not act against it. So long as this conviction does not change, Al Qaeda and its associates will remain where they are and will continue to plot and act against US nationals and interests.


More money was not the only carrot that Pakistan got during the dialogue. It made other gains in the form of the US commitment to uphold Pakistan's interests in Afghanistan, the promise of a separate visit to Pakistan by President Obama next year and an invitation to President Asif Ali Zardari to visit the US. With the carrots continuing to flow from the US in spite of its inaction against Al Qaeda and co, why should it act against the terrorists?

Unless and until the US picks up the courage to tell Pakistan "thus far and no further. Either you act or we act", things are not going to change. The pathetic apologies from the US for a recent raid by a Nato helicopter into Pakistani territory to neutralise terrorists who had attacked Nato positions in Afghanistan have shown to the Pakistan Army the Achilles Heel of the US — its dependence on Pakistan for logistic supplies to the Nato troops fighting in Afghanistan.


The confidence of the Taliban that the US would not act against it for sheltering Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders in Afghan territory contributed to the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US. The present confidence of the Pakistan Army that the US will not act against it for its inaction against Al Qaeda and its allies now sheltered in Pakistani territory will encourage more acts of terrorism against the US and other Nato countries in their respective homelands.


The Pakistan Army literally blackmailed the US before the Strategic Dialogue by stopping the logistic supplies to Afghanistan. Instead of teaching it a lesson for its blackmailing tactics, the US not only apologised, but followed it up with more favours for Pakistan. This is not the way the US is going to prevail over Al Qaeda, the Talibans and their allies.

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

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THE PIONEER

OPED

SARKOZY FACES THE FURY OF HIS PEOPLE

ANDREI FEDYASHIN


There are protests across France against the proposal to change pension benefit rules and make people work longer than before. The French President wants to cut spending, but the French people say, 'Non!'


Nicolas Sarkozy has ensured that he will be remembered in France for more than his stunning wife, Ms Carla Bruni. Now the President will surely be associated in popular memory with the massive strikes sparked by his move to increase the pension age from 60 to 62.


The controversial vote on pension reform was postponed twice, on October 15 and then 20, before the Senate eventually passed the Bill yesterday, October 22. Mr Sarkozy's supporters in Parliament had urged him to give them at least one more week to debate the reforms, but the President refused, despite the growing public discontent.

If protests were rated like Michelin rates restaurants, the current strikes in France would get the highest mark, three stars. Always quick to take to the streets, the French are showing the Greeks how it's done. What's more, the protests in Greece this past summer were a response to immediate cuts in salaries and social benefits, while pension reforms will take effect years from now.

Demonstrations have been raging in France since June. There have already been several days of nation-wide strikes, shutting down railroads, oil refineries and public offices. Students eagerly locked arms with the adults, apparently driven by the popular slogan, "Pensions before arthritis," and a Gallic tendency to avoid work whenever possible.


Why are the French so up in arms? Similar reforms are currently underway in Britain and are sure to extend to other European countries, including Russia.


In May 2007, Mr Sarkozy was elected President with a convincing 53 per cent of the vote. Since then, his popularity has plummeted to less than 20 per cent.


But the French have nobody to blame but themselves. During the campaign, Mr Sarkozy promised to crack down on illegal immigration, which the majority welcomed, but he also vowed to change France, the French character and the French way of thinking and living, to teach the French to work harder and to cut their vacations, which are the longest in the EU, and not to sponge off the taxpayer.


Famous for their concern (to put it mildly) for their own financial wellbeing, the French did not quite understand — or refused to believe — that Mr Sarkozy intended to deliver on his promises to cut spending, in part by reforming the pension system.


Under the newly approved reform Bill, the retirement age in France will be raised from 60 to 62 by 2018 and the age of full pension eligibility from 65 years to 67. This is not a drastic increase. Britain plans to increase the pension age, which is currently 60 for women and 65 for men, to 65 for everyone in 2020.


Compared to the harsh austerity measures taken recently in Iceland, Britain, Greece and Spain, the French have it easy. They retire earlier than their peers in Spain, Britain, Italy, Germany, Greece, the United States and Japan, and they don't seek post-pension employment. But the shortfall in France's pension fund is growing at an alarming pace and could bankrupt the fund by 2015.

Of course, the French Government is not paying pensioners with its own money; it essentially pays pensioners back the money they have been contributing from their paychecks for over 40 years. The public believes — and not without a reason — that if there is not enough money in the fund, the Government, both past and present, is to blame for not investing wisely. The public is also outraged that banks were given billion-dollar bailouts during the crisis, while the pension fund got nothing.


Still, this is not the reason why the French are burning cars and barricading gas stations. They are not so radical as to reject any and all reforms, even painful ones. The French usually accept them in the end, however hard they protest. The problem appears to be Mr Sarkozy himself. The French are not protesting pension reforms; they are protesting Mr Sarkozy.


Mr Sarkozy has turned a majority of the French against himself with his hypocrisy. He does not hide his love of luxury, money, himself and his beautiful wife, all the while encouraging the people to work harder and take shorter vacations. The first thing he did after taking office was to increase his salary by 140 per cent and to cut his own taxes. I don't think any nation would stand for that.


-- The writer is a Moscow-based political commentator. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

CHANGE THE GAME

 

From the cultural and geopolitical standpoint, India's Look East policy first articulated in the post-Cold War years always made sense. Today, withAsia driving the global economic engine, it makes even more sense. Facing sluggish demand and protectionist irritants in recession-hit parts of the developed world, New Delhi is scouting for alternative markets and business avenues. Manmohan Singh's three-nation tour of Japan, Malaysia andVietnam provides just the chance to arrest the drift marring the Look East enterprise in recent years. 


There are plenty of reasons for India and Japan to seek closer cooperation. They have agreed to a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) which, if implemented, will be a game-changer. Not just because tariffs on a large number of products will go, cheering everybody from Indian auto-parts makers to Japanese shrimp sellers. More than a free trade pact, the CEPA represents a wide-ranging economic alliance involving understanding on intellectual property and boosted investment, apart from accelerated trade in both goods and services. A liberalised visa regime is the cherry on the cake: it will dismantle barriers to business and labour movement as well as facilitate people-to-people exchange. 


Indian industry will gain big, from pharma companies producing affordable generic drugs to Indian IT, whose software expertise complements Japan's expertise in hardware. As for infrastructure, India has a $1 trillion investment target for the near future and Japan, already with major stakes in projects here, can offer more resources as well as expertise to develop anything from transport connectivity to urban amenities. But forFDI to make a quick difference, India must get cracking on labour, retail and land acquisition reform. With a lacklustre report card unlike China, it must also push private sector joint ventures to build transborder infrastructure. 

Economic understanding has a strategic bearing, as indicated by bilateral keenness on jointly developing rare earth minerals and metals. Japan is over-dependent on 
China for supplies crucial for high technology manufacturing. India, with about 3 per cent of the planet's reserves, can help out while itself accessing technology to aid exploration and production. On security, last year's India-Japan defence framework pact is set to be enhanced, including in key areas like maritime cooperation. Sensitivities on both sides notwithstanding, the two must equally strive for an accord on civil nuclear cooperation. The good news is that Japanese firms want profitable nuclear commerce. But more than their lobbying or fear of South Korean competition, it is India's impeccable record as a responsible nuclear power that should persuade Japan about such a deal's merits. With Japan-China relations taking on a bitter tinge, Tokyo should now look to New Delhi as a reliable strategic partner. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

FALLING OFF THE GRID

 

For a country that's supposed to be a world leader in information technology, India is woefully lacking when it comes to providing the benefits of that prowess to its own citizens. As against a telephone subscriber base, fixed and mobile, of over 706 million, the number of fixed internet subscribers is barely over 16 million. And of these, only 9.77 million are broadband users as against the government target of 20 million broadband users by this year. In an era where internet access has become as basic a utility as electric power, the government is not addressing the digital divide with sufficient urgency. 


It will need to roll out five-lakh route km of fibre optic cable to ensure connectivity to the gram panchayats, one of the cornerstones of its current policy. Granted, it can utilise cable already laid down by PSUs, but even so, the capital costs will be prohibitive. Neither is judging broadband penetration solely on a quantitative basis advisable. New studies have shown that India is languishing near the bottom of the heap when it comes to the quality of broadband service as well. Given all these factors, is there a long-term vision that can weigh the advantages of skipping a generation of broadband technology that is already on the way out in large parts of the developed world and betting instead on wireless technologies such as 3G? With a World Bank report showing that a 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration accounted for a 1.4 per cent increase in per capita GDP growth in developed economies, such questions are vital ones for the Indian economy.


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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

 TOP ARTICLE

KASHMIR YESTERDAY AND TODAY

GAUTAM ADHIKARI

 

WASHINGTON: Arundhati Roy is right. And she is wrong. She said the state of Jammu & Kashmir was "historically" not a part of India. But nor was India, as we know it. 


The geopolitical entity we now call the Republic of India simply did not exist till the midnight hour of August 14/15, 1947. So, all its constituent parts technically did not constitute a whole we could legitimately call India until that hour. There was a British Indian empire, there was a civilisation that we might call Indic and which encompassed a huge swathe of South Asia, but formally there was no nation of India. 


Historically, Kashmir was very much a part of that wider civilisation. Roy needs to read up that bit of Indian history. The kingdom of Kashmir was also a part, loosely, of British India, as were several other princely states. The states opted to join one of the two independent nations after that midnight hour in 1947. Jammu & Kashmir formally opted for India when Maharaja Hari Singh, under attack from Pakistani army irregulars, signed India's Instrument of Accession Act on October 26, 1947. 


So if Kashmir is not a legitimate part of India, and we should accordingly give it up to Pakistan, then much of India including, say, Baroda or Mysore, is illegitimate. We hope that is not what Roy implied when she said Kashmir was not an integral part of India. Fortunately, she has the right to say what she wants, even when she knows less than she ought to about a subject, because India's democratic Constitution allows her that freedom. She must not be prosecuted for sedition or for being naive. 


Nor should Dileep Padgaonkar, now heading a committee entrusted with the job of exploring possible solutions for the Kashmir problem, be harassed for suggesting that Pakistan would have to be part of any move to resolve this dispute. Kashmir would not be a problem for India if Pakistan did not question the legitimacy of the state's accession to the Indian Union. To insist that the status of Kashmir is not a 'dispute' between India and Pakistan is nothing but silly, ultra-nationalist posturing. 


In fact, the dispute is exclusively between the two nations over who should possess the state. It is not about 'independence' for the Kashmiri people. That is not to say that a section of Kashmiris in the Valley would not like independence; the contest between India and Pakistan, however, is about settling a Partition-era dispute. 

As India prepares to receive President Barack Obama, several administration officials in this town have clarified publicly that the US does not see a role for itself mediating the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan unless it is invited to do so by both sides. That amounts to telling Pakistan, which has been asking for American intervention, that the US will not intervene if India doesn't want it. 


The Indian position is that all differences between the two countries, including over Kashmir, should be reconciled bilaterally. That was what the two nations had signed up to in 1972 after negotiating the Shimla Agreement, which remains legally binding. 


The problem is one of perception, internationally as well as, it seems from the pronouncements of Roy and friends, with a section of Indian opinion. Pakistan has successfully sold a lemon to the world that it is fighting for Kashmir's independence. It adds to the deceit by qualifying the portion of Kashmir it has taken over as 'Azad' or independent Kashmir. Which, of course, is nonsense. Pakistan's north-west frontier areas enjoy a greater degree of effective independence from Islamabad

The fact is that neither India nor Pakistan is ready to offer independence to any part of Jammu & Kashmir, certainly not under those oft-cited UN resolutions asking for a plebiscite in J&K to assess how much popular support each country enjoys in the state. No plebiscite has taken place but several credible opinion polls in recent years have offered a glimpse of public opinion in Kashmir. One by the respected Chatham House of 
London showed barely 2 per cent support among people in the Valley for joining Pakistan. A majority in the Valley wanted independence but that's not on offer from either Pakistan or India. That is to say nothing of China, which occupies 20 per cent of the state's territory, and no one in the world dares ask it to vacate. 

Independence, if it is to be at all considered, becomes a complicated issue when we try to visualise it. Will it be independence just for the Muslim majority Valley? Or will it be also for Jammu, with a predominantly Hindu population, and Buddhist Ladakh, neither of which is particularly anxious to break with India? And who will protect that independence from the likely possibility that Pakistani army irregulars will pounce to merge it with the part it now controls and call it all Azad Kashmir? 


Some will argue that an international force can be created, perhaps under UN auspices, and stationed in a truncated Kashmir to guarantee its independence. Yes, of course, like an international force is today guaranteeing protection for Afghanistan from marauding bands of ISI-directed Talibanand al-Qaida jihadis operating out of shelters in Pakistan, right? 


Come on, get real. 


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


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                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'THE HORROR GENRE BY NATURE IS VERY GIMMICKY'

 

Why are you so fixated on films about horror and politics? 


Maybe the two are intermingled in my mind? You've to admit a lot of our politics is horrific. But seriously, i don't understand politics at all. I am interested in the psychology of politics. I don't consciously choose political headlines as subjects of my film. It's about what comes naturally to me. Not all my films are dark. Rangeela was not. But Rakht Charitra is my most violent film to date. In fact, it is the most violent Indian film ever made. 

What is it about? 

Rakht Charitra is about Paritala Ravi. I'm trying to convince the people here in Anantapur that i want to portray Paritala Ravi the way he was, and not as a villain. But they aren't convinced. And yes. I'm being threatened. My mother is very worried. But what can i do? I've heavy security with me. Now if i've to go i've to go. Paritala Ravi's family and friends have decided to wait and watch after i convinced them that my film wouldn't take sides. But there're sections of Paritala Ravi's younger supporters who feel i'm raking up the past to sensationalise the subject. I explained to them that i don't mean to take sides. I'm making the film from both the perspectives. If Paritala Ravi has a story to tell so do those former associates and enemies of his who are either dead or in jail. I won't overlook their point of view. 


You are also planning a film on the nexus between religion and sex with specific reference to Swami Nityananda? 

I can't deny God & Sex is inspired by the Swami. What intrigued me was an image that i saw in the video of the Swami watching Hindi film songs on television. It just struck me that behind closed doors everyone from Godman to gunman is the same, doing routine things. It's amazing how powerful our country's godmen get in the corridors of power. Whether it's politics or sex they exude power and command a mass following. I remember my aunt had gone to a prayer meeting for Satya Sai Baba. She came back and put up a large photograph of the man. I asked her what prompted her to do so, was she that impressed by his ideas? She said she couldn't follow a word of what he said. 'But so many people can't be wrong', she said. That statement of hers struck me. 

 

These godmen generate mass hysteria because they are seen as a direct link to divinity. They are able to cash in on the gullibility, vulnerability and insecurities of people because we live in desperate times and we need to have some faith to cling to. 


Your films and especially your marketing are often accused of being gimmicky. 


Those who think i'm gimmicky better take a close look at the horror genre. It's by its very nature gimmicky. 


Is the sequel for Rakht Charitra also ready for release? 


We decided on doing the sequel simultaneously to save costs. It doesn't matter how Rakht Charitra fares. We'll release the sequel. So far whoever has seen the film has loved it. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

IF FREEDOM FAIL

JUG SURAIYA 

 

Freedom to dissent is one of the basic tenets of any true democracy. But can that freedom include the freedom to break away from the polity that constitutionally guarantees the freedom to express one's views? That's the ticklish point raised by the furore created over the speech given by S A S Geelani at a seminar on Kashmir held in Delhi and attended, among others, by Arundhati Roy, India's resident contrarian-in-chief. In his speech, the separatist Kashmiri leader made repeated references to 'azadi' for his home state, thus making himself liable to charges of sedition against the Indian Union.

 

The larger point at issue goes beyond Kashmir and raises questions about the nature of democracy itself. A democracy, by definition, is a free society: a free association of people who individually and collectively affirm this association. But does this freedom of association extend to the right, or the freedom, to opt out of such association if one chooses to do so?

 

Take the example of a labour or trade union, an association of people who have common professional or employment interests. In India, the Constitution guarantees the right to form such unions. But, by the same token, it also guarantees the individual's right not to join such a union or, having joined, to leave it if one so desires. The right to free association must include the right of disassociation, otherwise the free association is not free.

 

While this might apply to associations such as trade unions, can it apply to the larger association of the sovereign nation state which is the guarantor of all other associations, be they trade unions, or corporations, or any other economic or social organisations? Civil wars have been fought over the question of secession, the real or fancied right of one or more parts of a nation state to break away from the rest. The American Civil War of 1861-1865 which, through brute force, upheld the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts kept the republic intact but left deep scars which have yet fully to heal over a century and a half later. The minority rights of the confederate states to secede had been overruled by the majoritarian force of the union.

 

In today's Kashmir there are many, apart from Geelani, who would say that a virtual civil war is being fought between the Indian state and those who are demanding azadi. It is a war being fought not just with bullets but with ideas that are perhaps even deadlier than bullets. Is the call for azadi in Kashmir a legitimate political demand which must be countered through political dialogue and negotiation or is it a security threat, instigated by Pakistan, which has to be dealt with by police and military action? It is a question which threatens to split into two not just Kashmir but the whole of India's civil and political society.

 

The demand for azadi provided it is not accompanied by a call for armed insurrection is not a law and order or security problem but a political problem that has to be addressed politically. But this political process cannot even begin if the very word azadi is banned from the debate as being seditious, a threat to India's security and ultra vires the Constitution. If the Indian state was to lock up everyone who voiced or was at least willing to listen to the call for azadi it would have to lock up not just a sizeable portion of Kashmir's population but also that of India's as a whole. Is anyone Kashmiri or otherwise who is willing to at least discuss azadi necessarily a subversive? If that is the case, then it is not Kashmiri azadi that we have to worry about. What we have to worry about is the loss of azadi, the loss of freedom, of India's democracy.

 

secondopinion@timesgroup.com

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

A SILVER LINING IN A DARK CLOUD

 

It may be a case of clutching at straws, but the first interactions of the Kashmir interlocutors have not gone off as badly as many expected. The fact that many in the political firmament did not talk to the three persons deputed by the government does not seem to have put them off. In fact, they have been able to talk to many jailed militants from many factions. The fact that the BJP has chosen to rake up the issue of the team mentioning the involvement of Pakistan is unfortunate and derails the whole issue of finding a solution to the problem that has brought life to a standstill for the people of the Valley.

 

As mentioned in these columns before, no door should be shut in trying to find a way out of this impasse. The likes of hardliners like Syed Ali Shah Geelani may find it politically useful to stick to their diktat of pushing for students to stay away from their classes, but this is not helping anyone. A generation of young people cannot be held to ransom by politics that will yield them no dividends in the future. The three may or may not be able to proffer any immediate answers to the intractable problem of Kashmir, but at least they should be given a chance to engage with all the people involved in a final settlement. And this will certainly involve the people and not just those who speak on their behalf. To that extent, the team has spoken to students, many of whom have found their education cut short by constant calls for boycotts and curfews, who want to look at life beyond this mess.

 

There is no doubt that the team will have its work cut out given that political leaders in the Valley were dismissive of it even before it began its work. And naturally, the issue of Pakistani involvement will surface as it already has. But this should not be a sticking point in the efforts to restart the peace process. The fact that most people that the interlocutors have spoken to have sought that a congenial atmosphere be established is a positive sign. In the days to come, we can expect some hyperbole like that of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq asking for the direct intervention of Barack Obama in the Kashmir dispute. But for the moment, the very fact that a dialogue has begun once again after months of turmoil and bloodshed is a sign that we might well be looking at a tiny silver lining in the ominous cloud.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

CHANGING ITS SPOTS

 

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) appears to be going through a new and refreshing change. No less than party supremo Prakash Karat has acknowledged that the organisation was still banking on concepts and theories from the 40s. Now this is a come up for the books for Mr Karat, who is known to stick to his views howsoever outdated they may be. Further, he went on to describe himself as the only non-scholar in a gathering if intellectuals at a conference at Cambridge University.

 

But we wonder how many lessons Mr Karat has learned from the past where he has singlehandedly seen the party go down the drain with his less than politically savvy moves. In saying that the party needs a makeover,  Mr Karat seems to have got the wrong end of the stick once again. If he is serious about taking on the challenge of neo-liberal capitalism, the very scholarly Mr Karat needs to do a lot more about convincing people that the Left is a viable option to the parties that it has taken on today. Mr Karat has never been one to leave any stone unturned in criticising establishments. Indeed, criticising establishments is a part and parcel of the Left's world view. And Mr Karat has never been one to shy away from this. And we applaud him for this. But he seems to have a singular ability to put his foot wrong whenever it comes to scoring a political goal.

 

But nevertheless, we have to say that we are with Mr Karat in his admission of the Left's failures. However, we fail to understand his verbiage when it comes to expressions like "…its focus of exploitation is similar to primitive forms of exploitation." Perhaps Mr Karat would like to explain all this to us, the simple folk who follow his words and deeds with rapt attention. The Marxist philosophy that theory is all is not quite working for the party, and maybe its leading personality should take a leaf from his mentor, Karl Marx who always believed that the ends justified the means. Or perhaps he would be better off with the other, equally famous Marx, Groucho.

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

WHAT THE GAMES COST US

NISHANT PYASI,

 

The exhaustive media coverage of the 2010 Commonwealth Games (CWG) would convince one that all was (not) well. Whether it was the presence of stray dogs in the village, corruption allegations, the displacement of migrant population or the neo-colonial aftertaste, it was clear that the American phenomenon of 'media gone wild' was wilder in India, with expected repercussions. One is reminded of the story of six blind elephants trying to determine what humans are like and coming to the ludicrous conclusion that 'humans are flat'. CWG 2010 is  that 'flat human' — all bad, no good.

 

CWG 2010 is likely to go down as the least understood mega event to be hosted by any city in the recent past. A few brief outlines of clarity are desperately called for to dispel the chaos. Why did we host these games, and more importantly, how did we host them?

 

Academic studies on mega events have recognised that they are hosted for two key reasons: economic and societal development, and strategic marketing and management of a tourism destination. Mega events help improve tourism and sports infrastructure for present and future use (e.g. roads, Delhi Metro, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium etc); foster development of the arts, sports, culture, heritage and leisure and promote feelings of pride, community, and nationalism (as opposed to such feelings being aroused through non-peaceful events). As far as marketing a tourism destination is concerned, such events help create a favourable image through positive media exposure, attracting foreign visitors, expanding and spreading tourism and other business opportunities. These are positive, achievable goals that can accrue if the event is properly managed from inception to execution, which can justify why CWG 2010 was being hosted in Delhi.

 

What we see, however, is that while the country has invested an estimated R70,000 crores into the Games, many of the potential benefits are being undermined by the prevailing negative tone.

 

Not all costs are monetary. A report by Equitable Tourism Options identifies the cost of CWG 2010 to the Indian democracy, including the unilateral decision to host the games, human rights violations, misplaced investment priorities and misleading promises. We needed budget accommodations not  'starred hotels'. Instead of localised sports schemes, we invested into centralised mega facilities in the NCR.

 

The volume of spending was certainly amplified here, even by mega event standards. The winter Olympics in Vancouver had its share of budget overruns, displacements, safety hazards and human rights violations. The Indian context is unique, given its stage of development and high population density, amplifying these alternate costs. So what do Indians get in return for their investment?

 

What the years of hard work put into CWG 2010 by multiple agencies have yielded is national pride and identity, a reliable image on the world stage and a positive legacy. We cannot forget that Pakistan had helped us secure the bid. The Asiad Games Village (Khelgaon), the various stadiums and the pavilions constructed in Pragati Maidan in 1982 are a legacy of the 1982 Asiad Games.

 

A negative perception causes more harm than good, negating many of the potential economic, social, and strategic benefits that are still for the taking. India, and especially Delhi, has a lot at stake. However, do the stakeholders (bureaucrats, politicians, media, public, etc.) realise that our returns on this investment will be shaped by how we ourselves perceive it? Maybe it is time to experience the CWG 2010 in a positive tone.

 

Nishant Pyasi is PhD candidate at  University of Calgary The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

WILL THE TIGER FALL PREY TO THE MINING LOBBY?

PRERNA SINGH BINDRA,

 

The tiger's most unfortunate truth — besides the fact that man wants to make a meal of its bones — is that the ground beneath its feet is rich with minerals, and greed has cast its eye on it. Millions of hectares of 'tigerland' have been diverted for mining and the demand to open up more escalates. The latest horror story is from Rajasthan.

 

The state's apathy is evident in the fact that tigers went extinct in Sariska in 2004. A massive effort, and hundreds of crores of rupees later, the tiger staged a return, only to have its guardian, the state imperil its refuge by granting leases to no less than 40 mines around the reserve. Tadoba in Maharashtra fares no better, with 16 proposed mines, coal washeries and thermal power plants coming up in its fringes in addition to the 25 that already operating. Maharashtra has also thrown open the rich forests of Sindhudurg for iron ore and bauxite, granting 49 leases in a biodiversity hotspot and a crucial wildlife corridor connecting Radhanagri, Koyna and Anshi-Dandeli Tiger Reserve. Experts have called it "an ecological disaster".

 

The forests of Jharkhand, Orissa, Karnataka, Goa and Chhattisgarh have been ravaged by mines. Saranda in

Jharkhand, containing Asia's largest Sal forests, lost over 40 per cent of canopy cover to iron ore mines. Once the big boys of steel come in, two-thirds of the forest will be taken up by mines and Saranda will be lost forever.

 

The Madhya Pradesh chief minister's vow to 'save tigers' reeks of hypocrisy. MP has floated proposals for coal mines near Bandhavgarh, and the forest corridor between the Bori-Satpura and Pench Tiger Reserves. Six of these are in Chhindwara, the constituency of roads and highways minister Kamal nath, already at odds with the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) which refused the expansion of NH-7. Incidentally, this highway cuts through the Kanha-Pench corridor.

 

Corridors are vital for the survival of the tiger. Mines in such close proximity will wreak havoc on the fragile ecosystem and isolate tiger populations, leading to a genetic dead-end. Fragmented habitats also push tigers into human habitation, escalating man-tiger conflict. 

 

Efforts by environment minister Jairam Ramesh to rationalise and restrict the opening up of forests for mining have met with all round criticism, even from the Prime Minister's Office.

 

The battle will only intensify given that the demand for coal is set to touch about 2,300 mt per annum by 2030 from the current 600 mt. With India's main energy thrust continuing to be thermal power plants, development pundits fail to comprehend the import of such projects. When we pillage the earth on which the tiger walks, when we mine its forests or poison our water sources, it leads to loss of livelihood, huge amounts of displacement and consequent unrest.

 

Prerna Singh Bindra is a conservation journalist The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

TAKING A WRONG TURN

PRANAB BARDHAN

 

The stories of mismanagement before the start of the recently-completed Commonwealth Games in New Delhi and of the hysterical reaction in Beijing to the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize award to Liu Xiaobo illustrate in their different ways the complexity of national political culture in India and China now strutting in a global playing field and the self-image of their elite.

 

In the build-up to the Commonwealth Games, a relatively minor international sporting event, the scandals of ineptitude and corruption around the construction projects became a matter of widespread scathing commentary in the Indian media. The Indian urban elite, which is itching to bask in the glory of their country's much-awaited climbing the global ranks of big powers, often described this as a matter of national humiliation; the comparison with the superb Chinese organisation of the much bigger Olympics event merely two years back was found particularly galling. For this elite, it is not quite a matter of national humiliation that India continues to be the world's largest country of illiterates and school dropouts, of child and maternal mortality, of stunted and underweight children. In broad health and education indicators, India today is where China was 40 years back, long before economic reform and high growth started there. Even in India's economically most-advanced state, Gujarat, the proportion of malnourished children is much larger than in sub-Saharan Africa.

 

But the scathing commentary in the Indian media around the Commonwealth Games also reminds one about the sharp contrast with a major suppressed scandal in China around the time of the Olympics. A few weeks before the 2008 Olympics, there was what came to be called later the tainted milk scandal in China. Journalists were officially encouraged to suppress this bad news in view of the imminent Olympics, which was being stage-managed as China's moment of international glory. Journalists who were fully aware of the large dimensions of the scandal avoided writing about it (though they duly warned their close friends and relatives about the milk) "in order to be harmonious", as one editor said in justification later to a foreign reporter. Meanwhile nearly three hundred thousand children fell sick and dozens died. Somehow most of the Chinese elite, which is basking in superpower glory, did not consider this a matter of national humiliation.

 

Chinese official agencies have now declared the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the jailed human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, as an affront against Chinese national dignity and a malicious attempt to impose Western values on Chinese society. (One indignant Chinese 'netizen' announced that from now on he'd avoid Norwegian salmon, another vowed that next time he goes to Macao for gambling, he'll boycott Norwegian prostitutes). The officials, of course, blithely ignore that China is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, and freedom of expression and protest is ornamentally a part of Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution. These 'Western' values of non-violent dissent are vociferously practised in several non-Western countries, including India where some have even traced these values to ancient Indian political philosophy and practice.

 

What is worrying is that this is not just Chinese official over-reaction and propaganda. Last year a prominent Beijing intellectual told me that dissidents like Liu Xiaobo have marginalised themselves in the Chinese intellectual community by aligning their cause too much to the West. This kind of attitude even among intellectuals makes it easy for the Chinese leadership to portray any external criticism of the regime as a slur on Chinese self-respect and any dissent as sedition. In both China and India particularly among the middle classes a kind of preening nationalism is raging. Of course, Indian political culture has been somewhat more tolerant of dissent and diversity, and electoral arithmetic often makes compromise and cooptation of dissenting groups necessary. Yet much of the rest of the country looks away – or regards it as the necessary price for keeping the nation state intact — as gross abuse of human rights and violence by the Indian Army and paramilitary regularly take place in Kashmir, Manipur and Bastar (Chhattisgarh) often reciprocated by the rebels. In different parts of India, the Hindu nationalist forces raise their ugly head, politically and socially, and win elections from time to time.

 

In the nationalist paranoia about Western values one often forgets that the ideology of the nation state with its homogenising and aggrandising propensities is itself an import from the West. Western history is littered with the devastation at home and abroad caused by the overbearing Nation State. The memory of colonial oppression and defeat by the West and the longstanding reality of its international economic and military domination add fuel to the ultra-nationalism in Asia, both on the chauvinist right and the anti-imperialist left. The misdeeds and the ambiguity of a country's own history do not deter the nationalist zeal and myth-making. As the 19th century French philosopher, Ernst Renan, famously said, part of being a nation is to get its history wrong. About 100 years ago, at a time when a fervent nationalist movement in India was surging all around, Rabindranath Tagore wrote novels and essays that pointedly showed how harmful nationalism can be — "with all its paraphernalia of power and prosperity, its flags and pious hymns".

 

Countries like China and India have to draw the lesson from Western history of how national conceit can make societies lose their moral balance.

 

Pranab Bardhan is Professor of Economics at University of California, Berkeley, and author of Feet of Clay: Assessing the Economic Rise of China and India (OUP) The views expressed by the author are personal

 

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ARMING THE GUARDS

 

As India's economy gets ever more complex, and as its private sector increases in scale and ambition, it becomes correspondingly important to get regulation right. Given the fact that we have come late to reform and private sector-led growth, we can learn from the regulatory experience of other countries, avoiding the old trap in which regulators are always a step behind law-breakers. That requires us to get serious about insulating regulation from political interference. Regulation isn't about the government of the day meddling in private sector decisions: it is about an independent authority, with expertise, that lays out the parameters within which the market will work its magic.

 

The government's move, as reported in The Financial Express, to introduce uniformity to the tenure of the heads of currently existing regulatory bodies, is thus a step in the right direction. What this will do is increase the term of those regulators who have just three years in office, to five. That's in advance of the appointment of new people to head two of the most important regulatory agencies: both the head of the Securities and Exchange Board of India and the RBI governor will be replaced next year. But it doesn't go far enough. Indeed, it doesn't even begin to address the various inconsistencies in our regulatory structure. Who should select the regulators, for example? Is it just bureaucrats at the ministry in charge? Or, as in the case of the Competition Commission, should the Chief Justice of India be involved? How can they be removed — is an inquiry essential, and if so, should it be judicial in nature?

 

What becomes clear is that we have not even begun to think through what a complete and consistent regulatory structure would look like. It may have been built up ad hoc — but allowing it to remain so misses the advantages that come from having a substantial set of examples to learn from. And allowing regulators to remain appointees of, and subservient to, the government of the day only perpetuates the state's interference in the economy, and creates conditions that aren't far from crony capitalism. In some sectors, regulators are routinely ignored: the telecom regulator has had to complain that Telecom Minister A. Raja has "distorted" its recommendations. And some sectors are not being regulated at all: the dynamic road sector, for example, is crying out for proper supervision. This is one of the big ideas for our time, and one the prime minister, a former regulator himself, could well make his own.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

 

BIG ON JAPAN

 

Bilateral meetings are not usually suffused with a sense of satisfaction, not even between long-term allies. Therefore, the success of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's meeting with his counterpart in Japan, Naoto Kan, can be gauged from this press release: "The two prime ministers reiterated the fundamental identity of values, interests and priorities between Japan and India." The sentiment needs to be flagged, because observers, even in the two governments, have for long been impatient with the inability of India and Japan to summon the mechanisms to engage substantively by building on a relationship free of any source of friction. It is in this context that it would be short-sighted to completely attribute the breakthroughs of this visit to India and Japan's frictions with China.

 

Delhi and Tokyo, of course, have had a difficult year with respect to Beijing. Both are scoping their diplomatic terrain to find ways of coping with China's rise, and also with the territorial disputes China has begun to highlight. As key neighbours of China, they come to their ties with China from very different coordinates — but both are invested in the building of a new Asian order in a way that diminishes confrontations with China. Neither would like to be seen to be ganging up on China, and instead both seek the integration of the region economically for the greater common good. Progress along many tracks should help. The conclusion of talks on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement imparts economic substance to the bilateral relationship, given that it covers trade in goods and services. Japan is also extending cooperation on infrastructure development, replicating the Delhi-Mumbai corridor model, in other parts of the country. This would assist not just in India's development, but will deepen India's connection to Asian production chains. India has also committed to the stable supply of rare earth minerals to Japan. (China, which has a near monopoly on the global market, has blocked normal supplies to Japan after bilateral tension over disputed waters.)

 

Dr Singh can personally take much of the credit for enhancing cooperation between the two countries. In 2005, he established the convention of annual meetings between the two prime ministers. While India and Japan have often shared concerns, it has nonetheless required application to get them on the same page.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GOVERNING THE FUND

 

The G-20 finance ministers signed off on the most significant reform of the International Monetary Fund in Gyeongju, South Korea, over the weekend. According to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the agreement looked uncertain until a last-minute meeting of G-7 finance ministers with finance ministers from the BRIC nations. Since

any deal on reform required a transfer of voting rights away from developed countries to emerging economies, t was not unreasonable to expect some resistance. In the end, however, 6 per cent of voting rights were transferred away from the developed countries to emerging economies, mostly to the BRIC countries — in the IMF, voting on major decisions is not on a one-country-one-vote basis; each country has a quota in accordance with the size of its economy. Significantly, Europe agreed to give up two seats that it presently holds on the 24-member governing board.

 

China, the world's fastest growing economy, was the biggest beneficiary of the change in voting shares. India increased its quota from 2.44 per cent to 2.75 per cent, taking it up from number eleven to number eight on the voters list.

 

A few things will remain constant though. India, the world's second fastest growing major economy, still doesn't have enough votes to elect an executive director to the board without a coalition with other countries. Also, the US, with a vote share of 17.67 per cent, will still retain its veto on all IMF decisions — an 85 per cent majority in the board is necessary to clear decisions. This reform isn't, after all, simply a matter of cosmetics. It is supposed to usher in a more demo-cratic global governance structure in tune with the realities of a post-financial crisis world. That task remains incomplete.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

BY THE CRUELLEST MONTH

BIBEK DEBROY 

 

 There were reports, later denied by the finance ministry, that India was planning to switch from fiscal year to calendar year. A fiscal, financial or budgetary year is the time-frame for rendering annual financial statements. However, let us be specific. Do we mean fiscal year for government, personal income taxation, or corporate sector taxation? They need not be identical and can and do differ, especially for the corporate sector. Why are we stuck with April 1 to March 31 as the fiscal year?

 

The answer doesn't lie in the Income Tax Act of 1961, as some commentators seem to think, but predates it by at least 200 years. The internal note the finance ministry prepared isn't in the public domain. However, when it prepared the note (the switch was denied, not the note), it presumably meant fiscal year for the government, that is, for public finance purposes. Assessment years for taxation would have been synchronised, but not necessarily for the corporate sector. Indeed, in some countries of the world (India doesn't allow deviation for taxation, only balance sheets), divergences between government and corporate fiscal years are permitted.

 

Why did we desire to switch? Two reasons were mentioned. First, there is a bunching of pointless public expenditure towards end of March, before stroke of the midnight hour on March 31. That's known, and malaise in government budgetary and accounting procedures is also accepted. Reforms are necessary. But a mere change in the fiscal year doesn't eliminate this syndrome. We move the malaise from end-March to end-December.

 

Second, we want the switch because we wish to conform to international practice. International practice on what? Indeed, most countries report data on calendar year basis and India is a bit of an outlier there. However, that doesn't mean public finance follows a calendar year. On the contrary, few major countries in the world (China is an exception) follow calendar year for public finance purposes. Therefore, international best practice cannot be an argument. A better argument is that April 1 is completely arbitrary and we ought to improve. April 1 is arbitrary in two ways. It's arbitrary in the way it was introduced in England and it's also arbitrary in the way the English introduced it in India. The vernal equinox is a natural point to begin a calendar and many countries, England and India included, began their calendars around March 20/21. Calendar reform is a messy affair. Until 1752, England's legal year used to begin on March 25. Though implemented in 1752, the statute was from 1750, titled, "The Calendar (New Style) Act", and involved transition from a Julian to a Gregorian Calendar.

 

That transition was about aligning the number of days in a year. The language is understandably quaint, but deserves a quote. "Whereas the legal supputation of the year of our Lord in England, according to which the year beginneth on the twenty-fifth day of March, hath been found by experience to be attended with divers inconveniences, not only as it differs from the usage of neighbouring nations, but also from the legal method of computation in Scotland, and from the common usage throughout the whole kingdom, and thereby frequent mistakes are occasioned in the dates of deeds and other writings, and disputes arise therefrom." The year was supposed to change to January 1, but didn't for tax purposes. In transition from Julian to Gregorian, the calendar advanced by 11 days and the tax year became April 6 instead of March 25. (There are several theories about why this occurred.) For some purposes, the fiscal year in the UK continues to be April 6. However, for public finance, it became April 1, primarily because April 6 was awkward. In that sense, April 1 was arbitrary in England. There are several explanations for April Fools' Day too, and some of these are connected to people who failed to switch to January 1.

 

A Calendar Reform Committee was formed in India too, in 1952, to reconcile several calendars that were around. The report was published in 1955 and recommendations implemented in 1957. Consequently, Saka Era begins on the date of the vernal equinox. That's in synch with most New Year practices in India. It was natural for the East India Company to align this with April 1. While vernal equinox wasn't arbitrary, introduction of April 1 by the English was arbitrary. There is no reason to hang on to colonial practices if we can do better. For instae, we have changed the time when Union Budget is presented. We might even change the day. So why hang on to the fiscal year?

 

Two considerations are important. First, there is the agricultural crop year, divided into rabi and kharif, and notwithstanding agriculture's declining importance, it continues to be significant. April 1 is linked to rabi rather than kharif, though even there, a better sense of rabi harvests requires us to move to something like June 1. On the other hand, if we are more interested in kharif, we should move to something like October 1. Second, there is a festival calendar too, important for corporates to assess sales and taxes, though this is not a problem if corporate fiscal years are delinked from government fiscal years. While India is a land of perpetual festivals, the peak is between October and January.

 

Allowing for time-lags, this doesn't fit badly with the present fiscal year cycle. Therefore, there seems to be a case for delinking the corporate fiscal year from government's fiscal year. If that is done, there is a case for moving the public finance fiscal year to something like October 1. Incidentally, that's what the US also has. If budgets become more and more transparent as tax reforms take hold, taxes won't change from year to year and we will no longer require long budget sessions of Parliament. Effectively, budget proposals can be placed in the public domain in advance. Until that happens, there is the matter of squeezing in a budget session. That's more doable around October 1 than around June 1.

 

However, it is by no means obvious that there is a case for switching public finance to the calendar year. Even if the fiscal year is different from the calendar year, there is no great problem in providing calendar year data to international organisations. We do have a problem with our statistical system, but that doesn't have much to do with what our fiscal year is. In any event, why is there this reticence on the finance ministry's part? Let's have that note in the public domain and let's debate the issue. Let's not be arbitrary once again.

 

The writer is a Delhi-based economist express@expressindia.com,/i>

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

MIXED SIGNALS

DHRUVA JAISHANKAR 

 

In international diplomacy, there is very little to distinguish backslapping from backstabbing. While the visiting Pakistani delegation led by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani shared conversations and jokes with their American interlocutors last week, it was evident that a deep tension lay under the carefully-choreographed geniality. Although the end result — some nice words and an even nicer five-year $2 billion military aid package — makes it seem as if Washington lost yet another round, there is far more to the evolving US-Pakistan relationship than meets the eye.

 

These talks followed several major developments that threatened to widen the rift between the United States and Pakistan, possibly irreparably. The sharp increase of cross-border strikes since August — both manned and unmanned — by the United States and its NATO allies from Afghanistan was bad enough for Pakistan's self-image. That one such attack resulted in the deaths of several Pakistani soldiers made matters worse. Pakistan's chosen response, of closing the border crossing at Torkham, enabled militant attacks on fuel tankers destined for Afghanistan. This is bound to further accelerate the United States' already increased use of its Northern Distribution Network in Central Asia. Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik, spelled out the depths to which the relationship had descended with a public warning: "We will have to see whether we are allies or enemies."

 

The recent talks were meant to smooth creases after this low. Nevertheless, following his meeting on Wednesday with President Barack Obama and newly-minted National Security Adviser Tom Donilon in the White House, Qureshi did not hesitate to outline his government's latest list of demands. These included respect for Pakistani sovereignty, post-flood reconstruction aid, a free trade agreement, and intervention on Kashmir. With the exception of disaster relief assistance, the other items on his wish-list appear to have been ignored by his American interlocutors. Instead, several factors point to a gradual hardening of the United States' Pakistan policy.

 

First, despite talk of another "blank cheque", the United States has, to little fanfare, floated the idea of placing more stringent conditions on its military aid to Pakistan. It has drawn attention for the first time to reported human rights abuses by members of the Pakistani security forces, such as those depicted in a much-watched video posted online last month. Invoking the decade-old Leahy Amendment, the US has reportedly already cut off funding for Pakistani units that have been involved in the killing of unarmed prisoners or civilians, and has threatened to do this in other cases as well. This is completely unprecedented, and suggests a creative effort at threatening cut-offs of military aid without explicit conditioning. Washington does, however, open itself up to charges of hypocrisy: the major criticisms of US drone strikes in both countries have been their extrajudicial nature and their killing of civilians.

 

At the same time, no progress has been made on bridging wide differences over tackling terrorism in Pakistan's tribal areas. The US has neither stemmed drone attacks nor ruled out hot pursuit. In fact, officials led by CIA Director Leon Panetta have indicated that, if anything, such unilateral actions may be stepped up. Among other things, the US government recently requested that more CIA and American special forces officers be stationed in Pakistan. Pakistan, for its part, has not ceded to greater pressure by Washington to crack down on such groups as the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Toiba. Nor are there any signs of resolution of the deep differences between Washington and Islamabad over ongoing talks between the Afghan government and members of the Taliban.

 

Finally, whisperings of what was said behind closed doors, particularly by Obama in his private meeting with Kayani and Qureshi, are of considerable consequence. Obama reportedly reiterated that the US would be forced to retaliate militarily to a terrorist attack on US soil with links to Pakistan. He also exhorted Pakistan to step up military efforts along its western frontier.

 

The US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke took considerable creative license last week in declaring there was no longer a "trust deficit" between Pakistan and the United States. Two days later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added that the United States "has no stronger partner when it comes to counter-terrorism efforts against the extremists who threaten us both, than Pakistan." These statements should certainly not be taken at face value in light of the perpetually shifting undercurrents in this relationship. The United States may appear a transparent power, but it is not above either deception or deniability if the stakes are high enough. And they most certainly are in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

 

The writer is programme officer for Asia at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, DC express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

BRINGING SPEED TO BUS RIDES

RANESH NAIR POSTED

 

Around the world, bus rapid transit systems (BRTS) have become a key element in urban transportation, usually in combination with metros. Ahmedabad's BRTS completed its first anniversary on October 14, 2010, and the initial results are very encouraging. With a fleet of 45 buses covering a route stretching 34 km, about 85,000 passengers use the system every day. The BRTS is expected to cover a total of 84 km — 58 km in Phase 1, to be completed by March 2011, and 26 km in Phase 2, to be completed by December 2011. An additional elevated corridor of 4 km may take a little longer, because of the need to get clearances from the Archaeological Survey of India.

 

The rapid growth of Ahmedabad during the last decade brought with it the usual problems. There was a tremendous strain on the public transport system of the city. The presence of many more private vehicles caused a major deterioration in air quality and noise pollution. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) responded to this challenge in 2005 by designing an integrated transit plan for the city, with a multi-modal strategy that included a metro system, a regional rail system, the BRTS, and the regular bus system. They set an objective of increasing the share of public transport from an abysmally low 7 per cent in 2005 to 40 per cent by 2015.

 

The Government of India's Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), launched in 2005-06, provided the city with funds for delivering India's first full BRTS. Of the total cost of Rs 1,000 crore, half came from the JNNURM and the other half from the AMC. The JNNURM portion was split into 35 per cent from the Government of India and 15 per cent from the government of Gujarat.

 

The planning and design of the BRTS was done by Ahmedabad's Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology University (CEPT). AMC is responsible for building the infrastructure, and Ahmedabad Janmarg Limited (AJL) was set up as a special purpose vehicle to execute the project and manage its operations. To this end, AJL has entered into a set of well-structured arrangements with the private sector. Its board has the AMC commissioner as chairman, with representatives of associated government departments like the AUDA, transport experts, and more significantly, the leader of the opposition in the municipal corporation, as members.

 

For a city of 466 square km, Ahmedabad has a well-established ring and radial road network (5 rings and 17 radials). Most of the selected routes connect to the vital junctions of the city and are placed either on wide rights of way that are already there, or on secondary roads. This has meant that the corridor is able to accommodate the requirements of the BRTS, integrate well with existing infrastructure without major land acquisition, and contribute to easing traffic in a significant way.

 

The buses ply on the BRTS corridor from 6 am to 11.30 pm at intervals of 2.5 to 4 minutes during peak hours and 6 to 8 minutes during off-peak hours, so that people do not have to wait for buses. The average bus speed of 25 km per hour during the peak period is the highest in the country.

 

The average price of tickets is Rs 5 for 5 km, which is about 40 per cent higher than for the city bus service. But the average collection per bus per day for BRTS is Rs 10,000, compared with Rs 3,000 on average for the city bus service. Surveys by CEPT suggest that about 50 per cent of the commuters have shifted to BRTS from the city bus service, around 28 per cent from autorickshaws and about 21 per cent from two-wheelers and cars.

 

AMC has put in place the support infrastructure for BRTS which includes 51 bus stations, depots, and terminals, as well as a centrally-managed state-of-the-art control room for tracking the buses. It demands no return on this investment. The automatic ticketing system as well as the passenger information system at the bus stops, which provides passengers with real-time information on bus timings, have been outsourced.

 

So far, Chartered Logistics has won the contract for 70 buses, based on a national competitive tender. The plan is to have 3-4 private operators, each owning 50-70 buses, as the system expands. The bus operator is expected to bring buses as per the specifications and operate according to the schedule provided by AJL, and is paid Rs 35 per km for operation and maintenance with a guaranteed payment for 72,000 km per bus per year calculated over the entire fleet. The service quality is monitored and penalties are levied on deficiencies, since reliability is the core brand value of the service. In promoting the brand "Janmarg", free trial runs were carried out for three months on a stretch of 13 km where citizens used the BRTS, and the feedback from the public as well as experts was used to refine the operations. As I. P. Gautam, Ahmedabad municipal commissioner and chairman of AJL put it, "the dependability factor has been a source of success of the system."

 

At 34 km, the BRTS of Ahmedabad has not reached the scale of 50-60 km when it is expected to break even. But even at this early stage, AJL is not making any operating loss. The sources of revenue are fare collection, fines for service lapses, advertisements, and the pay-and-park system. Advertisement rights have been given only on 12.5 km (roadway and bus stations) so far. A beginning has also been made in setting up a transport fund into which some of the revenue is earmarked for managing AJL's operations. With the expansion of operations, AJL's operating costs per unit are declining; and with full exploitation of the advertisement potential, revenue streams are likely to increase further. Once 45 new feeder buses are procured under the JNNURM, this would make a major difference to the economic viability of the system. The feeder buses will bring passengers into four big parking lots that are being built for the purpose of providing connectivity to the BRTS.

 

Last year has seen many accolades for Janmarg. In December 2009, it won the "best mass rapid transit system" in the country from the Government of India. In January 2010, it received the "sustainable transport award" from the US-based Transport Research Board, making Ahmedabad the first city in South Asia to bag the prestigious international award.

 

An efficient and affordable public transport system is urgently needed in most Indian cities. As Prof Shivanand Swamy of CEPT, a principal planner of the system, explains, "Developing mobility solutions in urban areas is not about selecting a metro or a BRT system. It is all about putting together an integrated land-use transport system which meets the varying needs of the people and matches with their socio-economic conditions and rising aspirations." While still in its early stage, the Ahmedabad BRTS has shown a way for a sustainable Indian model of a rapid transit system.

 

Ahluwalia is chairperson of ICRIER and chair of the high-powered expert committee on urban infrastructure. Nair is a consultant to the committee. Views are personal

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

HOW MANY MILES TO ISTANBUL?

 

Ankara — Davutogluism is a mouthful. It's not going to make Fox News any time soon. But if I could escort Sarah Palin, Tea Partiers and a few bigoted anti-Muslim Europeans to a single country illustrating how the world has changed, it would be the home of the D-word, Turkey.

 

Ahmet Davutoglu, who birthed a foreign policy doctrine and has been Turkey's foreign minister since May 2009, has irked a lot of Americans. He's seen as the man behind Turkey's "turning East," as Iran's friend, as Israel's foe, as a fickle NATO ally wary of a proposed new missile shield, and as the wily architect of Turkey's new darling status with Arab states. The Obama administration has said it is "disappointed" in Turkey's no vote on Iran sanctions last June; Congress is not pleased, holding up an ambassadorial appointment and huffing over arms sales.

 

Nostalgia is running high in Washington for the pliant Turkey of the Cold-War days. Davutoglu is having none of it. "We don't want to be a frontier country like in the Cold War," he told me. "We don't want problems with any neighbour" — and that, of course, would include Iran.

 

Zero problems with neighbours lay at the core of Davutoglu's influential 2001 book Strategic Depth. Annual trade with Russia has since soared to $40 billion. Syrian-Turkish relations have never been better. Turkey's commercial sway over northern Iraq is overwhelming. And now Turkey says it aims — UN sanctions notwithstanding — to triple trade with Iran over the next five years.

 

All this makes the anaemic West edgy: the policy has produced 7 per cent growth this year. There's also something deeper at work: the idea of economic interdependence as a basis for regional peace and stability sounds awfully familiar. Wasn't that the genius of the European Union idea?

 

Which prompts another question: Can it only work for Westerners? I don't think so. And, having shortsightedly kept Turkey out of the EU, the West is scarcely qualified to complain. As David Cameron, Turkey's strongest European supporter, said recently, "It is just wrong to say that Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit in the tent."

 

Wrong indeed, and stupid, but that's where Turkey is, with at least a foot outside the Western tent, and increasingly proud of what it has achieved in a transformed world. Nations have increasing options. They don't depend as much on the US. Congress can rail about that and it won't change a thing. Turkish foreign policy, Davutoglu said, "is based on a realistic, rational analysis of the strategic picture." Yep.

 

So it gets prickly over US guidance. When I asked Davutoglu about the visit last week of Stuart Levey, a senior Treasury department official, to Ankara to talk about Iran sanctions, he bristled: "We don't need any advice," he told me. "We are a responsible country of the UN system and a member of the Security Council. We voted no. That is our decision. We have no need to be told by anyone, we will implement the Security Council resolution. But as for unilateral resolutions — American or European — we will look at our own national interest. Is it wrong to have strong economic relations with neighbours?"

 

I think Turkey has Iran policy about right. Isolation comforts the hard-liners. Sanctions won't turn Iran. A Turkish-Brazilian swap deal for Iran's low-enriched uranium, reached last May, was a means "to open the way for diplomatic negotiations."

 

Davutoglu was adamant: " Nobody from Washington can say Turkey acted on its own. Our purpose was to ease the tension and to contain the Iranian nuclear program."

 

Turkey can be the West's conduit to the Muslim world if Washington can bury its pique. The new Turkey won't abandon NATO or its American alliance: If NATO wants to talk to the Taliban, or the West to Iran, it can help.

 

But when Turkish-Israeli relations implode, rumblings on Capitol Hill get furious. That Turkey's Iran diplomacy coincided with Israel's killing of eight Turkish and one US citizen on a Turkish-led Gaza-bound flotilla was a fluke. Still, it has left bitter feelings. "Turkey expects solidarity from the United States because its citizens were killed in international waters," Davutoglu said. "This is an issue of national pride." He added, referring to Israel, "Yes, we expect an apology because we think friends can apologise to one another."

 

Far from US solidarity, Turkey got US hostility. One congressman wrote to President Obama demanding that he "condemn Turkey's reaction to the incident." That last sentence cries out for an exclamation mark. That's the kind of cheap jingoistic nonsense that boxes in Obama's Mideast policy and condemns it to tired failure. It's time for Davutogluism to roll off more American tongues.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

 

NO TO OBAMA, YES TO CHINA

 

The Left has begun making familiar noises ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit to India. A full-page article in the CPI's New Age reminded the UPA government that Washington made only half-hearted attempts to pressurise Pakistan to act against the perpetrators of 26/11, did not pass on the tip-off provided by David Headley's wife, and that its increasing engagement with New Delhi was aimed at countering China.

 

It says Obama is visiting India at a time when anti-American sentiment is growing in several parts of the world. Washington wants India to play second fiddle in world matters that involve US interests — particularly against China, Iran and North Korea — and a positive role to keep China away from Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the name of the war on terror. The article says that the US is "aiming to pit India against China": it wants to contain China's role in South Asia, and India is the hub of its policy to that end.

 

"Whatever the relationship with the US, India should not compromise the country's interest to fulfil the American dream," it says. The bilateral disputes with Pakistan and China must be solved through bilateral agreements between these countries, not by joining the US, it argues.

 

Protesting the president

 

While other parties on the Left have limited their anti-Obama sentiment to editorials, the CPI(ML) has called for countrywide protests during Obama's visit. ML Update says the visit will serve US interests in many ways — by expanding the Indian market for the US military-industrial complex and by further binding India to the US' imperialist foreign-policy strategy. "Barack Obama is coming to our country as the intelligent, democratic face of US imperialism. Let all who stand for peace, justice and sovereignty greet him with protests all over the country with a loud welcome message — US imperialism keep off from India, keep off from Asia," it says.

 

The recession's still on

 

In an article in the CPM weekly People's Democracy, economist C.P. Chandrasekhar argues that the optimism that overcame global governments when growth figures for the last quarter of 2009 were released is fast receding, as growth has slowed sharply in the subsequent two quarters and unemployment rates are in danger of rising further.

 

He says that the fundamental problems visible during the financial slowdown remain: household balance sheets are under strain because of the debt accumulated during the boom; unemployment is curtailing current income; and credit is either unavailable to, or being avoided by, those who need to expand consumption, because of a collapse of net worth. "Private consumption expenditure in much of the developed world, which stagnated in real terms in 2008 and declined significantly in 2009, is unlikely to recover substantially in 2010. On the other hand, governments across the developed world, overcome by conservative fears of excess public debt, are holding back on public expenditure or resorting to severe austerity measures that are sparking public dissent, as in parts of Europe," he says.

 

In sum, the fear that an early retreat from the stimulus would deliver a double dip is still real, at least in the developed world. What is needed, Chandrasekhar says, is a return to a globally synchronised fiscal push with measures to distribute the benefits of that push across continents and countries. According to him, it is precisely that option that the IMF foregoes when it emphasises the need to stabilise and subsequently reduce high public debt, and calls for a strengthening of private demand in advanced economies without explaining how that is to be ensured.

 

Compiled by Manoj C.G.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE STATES THAT WON'T CLICK

 

The video is painful to watch. Amid screams of fear and pain, a Syrian girl at a school in Aleppo is forced to hold her classmate's legs in the air. With a disconcertingly casual expression, their teacher hits the classmate's feet repeatedly with a stick.

This video is at the center of a scandal in Syria. Although Facebook and YouTube are banned there, the video has gone viral. After bloggers and the local news media took notice, the Syrian government investigated and recently announced the firing of the teachers involved.

 

Syrian activists have used connection technologies to encourage protest before. Last June, mobile phone users used blogs and social networking sites to coordinate a boycott of Syrian telecom providers over high prices. However, the foot-beating incident is the first successful human-rights campaign. It illustrates that in repressive societies like Syria, where activists have to worry about getting caught, they increasingly operate websites rather than offices.

 

The story is not always positive, of course, especially when the activists are unable to conceal their identity or, even worse, are infiltrated. Just weeks after the successful movement in Aleppo, the opposite happened in Damascus, where a 19-year old female Syrian blogger was arrested by authorities for "spying" — all too often the government label for dissent.

 

But the fact is that connection technologies will make the 21st century all about surprises. Indeed, new technologies and the desire for greater freedom are already changing politics in the most unlikely places. In 2008, Oscar Morales, an unemployed Colombian engineer, used popular social networking, video and Internet-based telephone services to orchestrate a massive demonstration against the FARC, Colombia's Marxist insurgency.

 

Inspiring as such stories are, connection technologies do not always empower citizens in positive ways. They can benefit the human-rights activist and the terrorist alike. But the most important question is how they will affect relationships between individuals and states. Not all governments will manage the turbulence of declining state authority the same way. While much remains uncertain, it seems clear that those best suited to cope with this maelstrom will be free-market, democratic governments — and autocratic powerhouses such as China.

 

In the developing world, partially connected and still-connecting states will face a different set of opportunities and challenges. The stakes are high for states with weak central governments, underdeveloped economies and disproportionately young and unemployed populations. In these countries, connection technologies are breaking down the barriers of age, gender and socioeconomic status. While not removing the risks associated with activism, connection technologies are expanding the traditional realms of civil society, creating new spaces and new tools.

 

However, many governments in partially connected societies are wary. The sudden influx of connection technologies will threaten the status quo, leaving already fragile governments in potentially unstable positions. This is particularly true for those struggling to maintain political legitimacy. Anything that questions the status quo, the ruling party or the facade of stability poses a threat.

 

There are also the so-called failed states, which, while small in number, are globally significant. Chaotic and unable to act consistently, they are natural havens for criminal and terrorist networks that may have local grievances but harbour regional and global ambitions. Although connection technologies can be outlets for innovation in these countries, they also enable the exportation of criminal and terrorist behavior.

 

Around the globe, nonprofit groups and individual activists face new opportunities. But they will have to adjust to the new environment in which they operate. This means, among other things, they will have to ensure that efforts to expose wrongdoing do not strengthen governments apt to make nationalistic appeals; work behind the scenes when appropriate; and use technology in the private sector for their own ends.

 

Continuous innovation will pose difficult challenges for people and governments the world over. In an era when the power of the individual and the group grows daily, those governments that ride the technological wave will clearly be best positioned to assert their influence and bring others into their orbits. Those that do not will find themselves at odds with their citizens.

 

Schmidt is chairman and chief executive of Google. Cohen is director of Google Ideas

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

REGULATORY CERTAINTY


The government's plan to have a uniform 5-year tenure for regulators, as reported by this newspaper, is a good idea, and is in fact one of the recommendations made by the Planning Commission in terms of evolving a uniform regulation strategy. But fixing the regulatory process, if that is the idea, requires more than just fixing a common tenure for regulators. It requires action not just in terms of fixing regulation governing various regulatory bodies, it requires the government to be serious about regulators. In recent times, the Delhi government refusing to allow the electricity regulator to lower tariffs is a good example of the government not being serious about regulatory bodies. Other examples that come to mind are the then telecom regulator telling the telecom minister he was distorting the regulator's recommendations, and the government not notifying critical sections of regulations. Not notifying Sections 5 & 6 in the case of the Competition Commission ensures the regulator cannot decide on M&A activity. Similarly, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) still does not have the powers to regulate the price of various petroleum products, since the government has not listed the products that come under its purview. Sectors like roads and railways don't even have regulators.

It's not just the tenure that's different for regulators, even the selection process differs. In the case of most regulatory bodies, the government is in charge of selections, but in the case of the Competition Commission, the selection committee is to be headed by the CJI or his nominee. In the case of the telecom regulator and the Competition Commission, the chairman or members can be removed only after the Supreme Court conducts an inquiry; in the case of the PNGRB and the newly appointed airport regulator, an inquiry by the government is enough—members of the appellate body of the airport regulator, however, cannot be removed unless the Supreme Court conducts an inquiry. In almost all cases, the government has the power to issue directions on policy matters, and it is the government that has the final word on what is to be considered policy. Giving uniform tenures to regulators will get the government some good press, particularly in the case of regulators whose tenure is increased from the current three years to five, but will do little to inure the regulatory process from the government of the day.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

A SICK ECONOMY

 

The startling statistics on the loss of working days and income due to sickness in India once again indicts both government policies and the priorities in healthcare. With India losing 27,316 life years per lakh population, which was double that of China, the time has come for a rehaul of the current health policies that have neglected preventive public health services and environmental health conditions. The neglect of the latter has now pushed up communicable diseases, which are more than five times the level in China. Communicable diseases have been largely controlled by providing universal access to safe drinking water and hygienic disposal of human waste, and the key to this is the building of adequate sanitation facilities. The sanitation campaign rolled out at the end of the last decade has accelerated the sanitation coverage in recent years but only 26% of the rural population has access to sanitary latrines even today. There is also the need for a strong public health system that can handle all potential health threats. India can follow the example of Sri Lanka or even the state of Tamil Nadu, which have strong public health Acts that have been relatively more successful in building strong health systems. Currently, most states do not even have the basic legislation to set up public health services. Though the central government developed a model public health Act in 1955 and 1987, it has not been able to goad the states to adopt it. And the states have to depend on blunt and outdated instruments like the Epidemic Act of 1897 and the Indian Penal Code of 1860 whenever a severe health threat has already occurred.

 

There is also the equally important issue of adequate funds for public health services and health infrastructure facilities. Currently, India's public expenditure on health is just 0.95% of the GDP, and it falls far short of the 1.82% spend by China, 1.89% spend by Sri Lanka, 3.22% by Russia, 3.48% spend by Brazil and 6.86% by the US. The meagre public spend on healthcare in a nation that celebrates its human resources potential is telling and it only reinforces the finding of a WHO study, which ranked India 171 among 175 countries in public health spending.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

HELLO HAPPINESS

 

Happiness is in town. The ongoing 'IIC Experience 2010', the annual festival in the Capital with its 'Trees' theme, was inaugurated by the king of Bhutan last week. The Himalayan kingdom, besides 60% forest cover and carbon neutrality of its economy, also does its economics differently. It uses happiness as the measure of its national output in place of GDP. It adopted this novel parameter of GNH (gross national happiness) in the 1970s, replacing GDP, in vogue since the time of Adam Smith, because money is easy to measure. Not happiness—which mainstream economics, despite its importance for homo economicus, has steered clear of. Bhutan, however, took the 'happy' path to get around the sluggishness in national income and employment. Looks like it worked. In 2007 the country became the second fastest growing economy in the world, all the while staying with its GNH index! A survey of the period said half the population were happy, with only 3% reporting they were not happy.

 

Policymakers in parts of the developed world, where people despite the redoubtable GDP have become less happy over the past 50 years, are of late mulling higher taxes on big earners to make society as a whole happier. But happiness can be a dodgy bird if you want it to soar and soar. Your happiness may increase as you go up from being poor to rich, but it does not go on increasing with ever-bigger income. Once a country's average salary crosses a certain level, income rises cease to make a difference to people's happiness. Richard Layard, the leading proponent happynomics, says this level is $20,000—higher than this gradually makes people less content. The law of diminishing returns catches up. Who says economics is all about money or it cannot apply to everything, including the smile on Bhutan's face?

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

NOT JUST CURRENCY SOLUTIONS

MK VENU

 

The G-20 finance ministers who met over the last weekend at Gyeongju in South Korea came up with a broad agreement that countries must move towards a more market determined exchange rate that reflects the underlying fundamentals of the respective economies. There was also a broad consensus to avoid competitive devaluation that could jeopardise a more uniform global recovery. Predictably, the final communiqué could not extract any commitment from countries with big current account surpluses that they would appreciate their currencies in the near term. In this respect, it was interesting to note the manner in which Germany and China came together to publicly criticise the US's policy of following an excessively loose money policy, thereby causing the prospect of multiple asset bubbles in the rest of the world. Germany has got a current account surplus at 5.2% of GDP in the last 12 months and this is higher than 4.9% of GDP, which China has accumulated in the same period. So Germany has become China's natural ally in opposing a proposal brought by the US to impose a generalised cap on current account surpluses that nations can accumulate.

 

Although the US move was aimed specifically at China, which is seen as having the most undervalued currency, there are many other countries generating healthy trade surpluses who will not take kindly to the US proposal to have a cap on current account balances. For instance, in the last 12 months,

 

Singapore has accumulated a current account surplus of 18% of GDP, Norway (14%), Switzerland (10%), Sweden (6%), Japan (3.3%), South Korea (3.2%), Taiwan (9.3%) Saudi Arabia (12%), the Netherlands (6.1%). Though many of these countries are outside the G-20, what is clear is they are all competitive sellers of goods and services in the global market and not necessarily so because of undervalued currencies. So it will be very difficult to impose a generalised cap on current account surpluses that nations accumulate.

 

Japan historically had surpluses because it has always been very competitive in whatever it exported to America and other parts of the world. Though the US has demanded that nations with excess surpluses appreciate their currencies, Japan is no position to do so because its currency has already touched a 15-year high. From this point onwards, it will be impossible for Japan to further strengthen its currency. If anything, there is a case for the Japanese currency to actually weaken, purely based on fundamentals.

 

So overall, it is safe to conclude that currencies have not been the fundamental cause of the global economic crises, nor will currency adjustment alone provide a solution to the current global economic imbalance. Therefore, the G-20 finance ministers were right in talking about the need for an overarching macro-prudential framework governing fiscal consolidation, monetary policy, financial sector reform and an appropriate exchange rate policy that would help a more orderly recovery of the world economy.

 

The problem, however, is nations must first agree to an overarching global macro-prudential framework. Some G-20 nations, including Germany, are therefore right in seeking responsible behaviour from countries that hold reserve currencies. The US and Japan, the two largest economies, have dropped interest rates to near zero in a bid to revive growth. This is now forcing many emerging markets to contemplate imposing capital controls.

 

RBI has also made it clear that it will intervene if capital inflows became too lumpy in the near future. This is a no brainer. If you can't absorb the excess dollars, what can you do except prevent them from entering your monetary system. However, India's worries are rather unique at this stage. It needs enough capital inflows to meet the rapidly widening current account deficit (CAD), which is expected to cross 4% of GDP this fiscal. Policymakers are still wondering whether India's CAD, which used to be under 2% of GDP in recent years, has structurally moved to a higher plateau of 4%-plus. If this is so, then India will necessarily need a net capital inflow of about $75 billion annually so that after fully covering its CAD it could add some $25 billion to its forex reserves as a safety net.

 

However, in these highly volatile times, can one say with complete certainty that India will get $75 to $80 billion of net capital inflows every year in a smooth and orderly fashion? Though India continues to be a darling of global investors, recent experience suggests we cannot take for granted orderly net capital inflows of such magnitudes, especially against the backdrop of the global environment in which a double-dip recession is psychologically never ruled out. Recent history tells us that net capital inflows can swing from $105 billion in 2007-08 to less than $20 billion in 2008-09.

 

RBI is therefore closely watching the quantum and nature of capital inflows coming into India. It must be enough to meet a CAD of 4% of GDP and yet not too much in excess of that. If capital inflows are far in excess of what is needed to meet the CAD, then the central bank will have no choice but to start taking measures to discourage flows at some stage. But signalling this policy stance, especially its timing, can be very tricky for an economy with a widening CAD.

 

In the event of excess dollar inflows, the political economy will not allow the central bank to let the rupee appreciate beyond what is seen as a fair exchange rate. Many economists reckon the rupee is fairly valued now based on the real effective exchange rate formula applied to a basket of over two dozen countries.

 

RBI has done well in the past one year to reduce broad money supply growth to less than 15%. This used to be above 20% in the heyday of the global liquidity party leading up to the financial meltdown in 2008. So, RBI has some room to buy up dollars and buttress its forex reserves when capital inflows are consistently good. Remember Dr Venugopal Reddy had done the same by accumulating about $90 billion in additional forex reserves through 2007 and 2008. This came in handy when global liquidity froze in September 2008. India's forex reserves peaked at $320 billion during the pre-crisis period and are now at less than $285 billion. India will do well to further fortify its reserves when times are good. It will come in handy when the going gets bad. In complex and uncertain times it is better to be creative than ideological.

 

mk.venu@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

USE THAT BUYING CLOUT

GURMEET KANWAL

 

Over the next five years India will spend over $50 billion on defence acquisitions. Among the weapons systems and equipment to be acquired, the big ticket items will include the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov), 126 multi-mission, medium-range combat aircraft (MMRCA), six C-130J Hercules transport aircraft for Special Forces, eight Boeing 737 P-8I maritime patrol, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, six Scorpène submarines, and a large number of main battle tanks (MBTs), 155 mm artillery guns and equipment for counter-insurgency operations.

Will India's plans for defence modernisation lead to substantive upgrade of India's defence technology and manufacturing prowess, or will the country's defence procurement remain mired in disadvantageous buyer-seller, patron-client relationships?

 

Though the Indo-US nuclear agreement sounded the death knell of the era of defence technology apartheid practised against India, it will still be a decade or more before the ghosts of technology denial regimes are finally buried. The deeply entrenched bureaucracies in the departments of state, defence and commerce around the Washington beltway will take quite some time to finally accept India as a co-equal partner with whom dual-use technologies can be shared to mutual advantage.

 

Meanwhile, India too has some growing up of its own to do as the country sheds its suspicions of the past. The government continues to retain its monopoly on defence R&D. It still relies primarily on the public sector for defence production and though it talks about encouraging public-private partnerships, not much has actually happened. The revised Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP 2008) still favours the defence PSUs over the private sector. MNCs are allowed to bring in only up to 26% FDI as against 74% for non-defence sector joint ventures. Procurement of weapons and equipment worth more than Rs 300 crore from MNCs has been linked with 30-50% offsets though it is doubtful whether the economy is ready to absorb such high levels of offsets. These measures will together gradually bring in much needed investment and will result in the infusion of cutting edge defence technology.

 

The DRDO is in the process of implementing the report of the P Rama Rao committee that had asked it to identify 8 to 10 critical areas that best fit its existing human resource pool, technological threshold and established capacity to take up new projects. Since its inception in 1958, the DRDO has achieved some spectacular successes, but also has many signal failures to its name. Successes include the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme that produced the Prithvi and Agni series of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles and, subsequently, the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile in a collaborative venture with the Russians.

 

Among the failures are the MBT Arjun that has suffered huge time and cost overruns and the light combat

aircraft that still appears to be light years away from operational induction into the IAF. However, to DRDO's

credit, it worked under extremely restrictive technology denial regimes and with a rather low indigenous technology base. Consequently, India continued to import almost 70% of its defence equipment for over four decades, primarily from the Soviet Union and, later, Russia. Though some MiG-21 aircraft and other weapons systems were produced in

 

India, these were manufactured under licence and no technology was ever transferred to India, with the result that even though India spent large sums of money on defence imports, the technology base remained where it was.

 

As a growing economic powerhouse that also enjoys considerable buyer's clout in the defence market, India should no longer be satisfied with buyer-seller, patron-client relationships in its future defence procurement planning. In all major defence acquisitions in future, India should insist on joint development, joint testing and trials, joint production, joint marketing and joint product improvement over the life cycle of the equipment. No company that does not agree to provide genuine transfer of technology should be shortlisted for trials and competitive bidding.

 

However, India cannot leap-frog to a higher plane virtually overnight. The immediate requirement is to think big in keeping with the country's growing global status and to plan for the future with a level of confidence that policy planners have not dared to exhibit before. In 10 to 15 years India must acquire all its defence needs only from Indian companies—with or without a joint venture with an MNC. Only then will the era of self reliance dawn on India.

 

The author is director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

'SEDITION' VERSUS FREE SPEECH

 

It is deplorable that three sentences uttered at a seminar relating to the status of Kashmir within India should have evoked such zealous hyper-patriotic anger and resulted in demands for invoking harsh sedition laws. Writer and social activist Arundhati Roy has strong views on the strife-torn and troubled Valley, which many may disagree with, or regard as extremely contentious. But what possible justification can there be — as the Bharatiya Janata Party has outrageously demanded — for slapping a case against her under Section 124 (A) of the Indian Penal Code, for exciting "disaffection" towards or bringing "hatred or contempt" against the government? Do we lock up or threaten to silence our writers and thinkers with an archaic section of the law that carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, merely because they speak their minds? Why is it criminal to suggest that Kashmir's status in India is not settled despite the accession? Aren't so many others in Jammu and Kashmir saying as much? Didn't Chief Minister Omar Abdullah recently remark that the State had only acceded to, and not merged with, the Indian Union? The central government would do well publicly to make a stand and deny reports that it is considering pressing sedition charges against Ms Roy and Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who addressed the same seminar. Courts too must apply their mind and refuse to entertain frivolous and vexatious petitions that make such outrageous allegations.

 

In his classic defence of free speech, On Liberty, John Stuart Mill laid down what is known as the 'harm principle.' It postulates that the only justification for silencing a person against his will is to prevent him from causing harm to others. It is to this powerful libertarian mid-19th century principle that we owe the idea that free speech cannot be proscribed merely because we find it disagreeable, and that curbs may be imposed only if such expression constitutes a direct, explicit, and unequivocal incitement to violence. There is no such nexus in Ms Roy's statements on Kashmir, which are shaped around the theme of gross human rights violations and (as she points out in a statement published on the opposite page) "fundamentally a call for justice." It is tragi-comic that there is talk of 'sedition' at a time when it is regarded as obsolete in many countries. Courts have ruled that laws that aim to punish people for bringing a government into hatred or contempt are frighteningly broad and risk being used to suppress radical political views. In Britain, the last completed trial in a sedition case dates back to 1947. In the United States, Supreme Court rulings have rendered toothless the most recent sedition law, the Smith Act enacted in 1940. The controversy over Ms Roy's remarks is essentially much ado about nothing.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

MIXED SIGNALS AHEAD OF SEOUL

 

In what seems to be a foretaste of things to come, there were more signs of discord than accord at the meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors from the G20 countries. In the run-up to the Seoul summit, the meeting at the South Korean city of Gyeongju was expected to yield a reasonable formulation for the political leaders of the world's leading economies to build upon. The imbroglio over currency rates has become the most pressing issue of the day but there have been related issues such as reform of the IMF. It was agreed to evolve a broad framework to contain current account deficits and surpluses but a proposal to set specific targets ran into opposition. The proposal, mooted by the U.S. Treasury Secretary, seeks to shift the focus away from exchange rates, which after all are only a manifestation of the much larger problem of global imbalances. Besides, adjusting exchange rates is just one method — and, in the present circumstances, not even the preferred method — of tackling the underlying problem. It will be politically more appealing especially for the two principal protagonists, the U.S. and China, to seek remedies through current accounts rather than through exchange rates. The big advantage is neither side need appear to concede too much. On the flip side, there is the problem of setting caps on deficits and surpluses and, more importantly, working out a mechanism to monitor individual countries. Previous attempts to impose tougher IMF surveillance of current account imbalances achieved very little.

 

On a more positive note, the meet resulted in what is seen as a landmark reform of the IMF. Developing countries such as China and India are to get a bigger voice reflecting their rise in the global economic hierarchy. European countries will cede two of their eight seats on the IMF board in favour of the emerging powers and over 6 per cent of the IMF voting power will be transferred to the currently under-represented countries. It was also decided to double the IMF's $340 billion quota, considerably augmenting its resources to cope with future financial crises. India along with Russia, China and Brazil will be included in the IMF's top ten shareholders. The IMF and several countries have hailed this agreement as historic, one which will overhaul the Fund's outdated governance structure. The agreement on IMF reform is a shot in the arm for the G20, which, on the eve of the Seoul meet, seems less cohesive than it was at the height of the global economic crisis.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

THROWING OFF THE YOKE OF MANUAL SCAVENGING

THE OBNOXIOUS PRACTICE WILL CONTINUE IN ONE FORM OR THE OTHER, AS LONG AS THE GOVERNMENT AND SOCIETY REAT CERTAIN SO-CALLED MENIAL JOBS AS THE PRESERVE OF ONE COMMUNITY.

VIDYA SUBRAHMANIAM

 

On November 1, a unique journey will come to a ceremonious end in Delhi. Earlier this month, five bus loads of men and women headed out from different corners of the country with one slogan on their lips: honour and liberation for those still trapped in the horror of manual scavenging.

 

When the protesters (most of them former manual scavengers) set out on their mission, they knew that the Samajjik Parivartan Yatra (national rally for social transformation) would have to be more than a petition to the government. A comprehensive rehabilitation package was undoubtedly at the core of the yatra's demands. But there was equally another objective: To motivate the remaining members of the scavenging community to throw off the yoke — on their own, without waiting for a package. Bezwada Wilson, convenor of the Safai Karamacharis Andolan (SKA) and the brain behind the rally, explains the concept of self-liberation: "Manual scavenging is a blot on humanity, and if you engage in it, it is a crime you commit on yourself. So, don't wait for the government, break free."

 

Given the depth of emotion in this message, it will be a double crime if the government does not do everything in its power to hasten the process of liberation. Perhaps that is why, on October 25, the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council proposed a far-reaching package of reforms to end the practice. Nonetheless, the irony is inescapable. Sixty-three years after Independence, India is still debating the best way to lift manual scavengers out of their collective misery.

 

Mr. Wilson was a young boy when his family in Karnataka sent him away to study in a school across the border in Andhra Pradesh. He came home for holidays but felt out of place in a community whose defining feature was the uncontrolled violence of its menfolk. It was the early 1970s and they lived in a large, grimy neighbourhood around the edges of the Kolar Gold township. The evenings were always the same. The men would get into a drunken rage and assault the women senseless. The pattern of male aggression and female submission was common to most feudal, patriarchal societies, but even by this yardstick, the violence was excessive.

 

The teenager knew he had been born to a family of sweepers. The local school he went to as a child was segregated and was known by a swear word. But that still did not explain the anger that erupted around him. His father, a retired government employee, and his brother, mysteriously employed in an unnamed place, stonewalled his questions. Determined, the boy followed his brother to his workplace, where the horror of manual scavenging hit him like a million lashes.

 

Mr. Wilson learnt that he and his family were part of a huge community of manual scavengers that serviced the Kolar Gold township. They physically lifted and carried human excreta from the township's network of dry latrines. He could now see where the violence came from. But he could also see the unfairness of it all on the women who formed 85 per cent of the manual scavenging workforce. The women of his community were victims thrice over: they were outcasts even among Dalits; they were despised and shunned for the work they did, and they were physically abused by the men who saw the beatings as an outlet for their frustrations.

 

The employment of humans to clean human faeces was unarguably the worst violation of human rights anywhere in the world. The degrading act stripped the individual of her dignity while the constant handling of excreta brought in its wake crippling illnesses and infections that went untreated because the community bore the cross of untouchability. Over the next decade-and-a-half, Mr. Wilson worked at educating the elders and spreading awareness about the dehumanising aspect of their occupation. But it was difficult to organise a community that was simply unprepared to give up its job.

 

This was a baffling paradox. On the one hand, there was the daily ritual of the men drinking and getting violent to forget the pain and humiliation of manual scavenging. At the same time, there was a sense of ownership about the job. "It is our job," they told Mr. Wilson, vastly complicating his effort simultaneously to organise them, fight the company management that employed them, and push the government towards banning the occupation and rehabilitating the workers.

 

Mr. Wilson told The Hindu, "Our people had internalised their oppression. They saw themselves as a condemned lot, it was their fate, they had to do this work." If the manual scavenging community, now included among the safai karamcharis (sweepers) to diminish the ugliness of the act, owned up its work due to an acute lack of self-worth, those higher in the caste hierarchy compounded the injury by perpetuating the myth that toilet cleaning and allied activities, like sweeping and picking up garbage, could only be done by the valmiki Dalits, also known as dom, hela, hadi, arundatiyar, madiga, relli, pakhis, chekilliyars, etc.

 

Incredibly, the ridiculous notion prevailed even at the level of governments — and it continues to prevail — with job reservation for the Scheduled Castes translating as the Dalit castes forming the majority of workforce in Class IV and lower categories. Whatever the official explanation for this, this was nothing if not the Varna system by diktat.

 

The insensitivity of officialdom to manual scavenging can be seen from the length of time it took India to formally ban the practice. The Constitution abolished untouchability once and for all in 1950. The Protection of Civil Rights Act, which prescribed punishments for untouchability, followed in 1955, and The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act came in 1989. But manual scavenging, which is untouchability at its most violent, was prohibited by legislation only in 1993. The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act came into force 46 years after Independence.

 

Far worse, manual scavenging continues to this day, with many Central and State government departments themselves employing manual scavengers in violation of the 1993 Act. The worst offender in this respect has been the Union Ministry of Railways: the open discharge system of toilets in train carriages results in excreta having to be manually lifted off the tracks. Many municipalities too continue to use dry latrines.

 

In 2003, the Supreme Court directed all the State governments to file affidavits on manual scavenging, taking a serious view of a PIL petition filed by the SKA and 18 other social action groups. The Uttar Pradesh government admitted to the practice as did the Railway Ministry. But most other State governments brazenly lied that their States were "free from manual scavenging." The SKA, which has an entire library devoted to the documentation of the practice, has clinching photographs and data that establish the lie. The Andolan estimates that there are currently over 3 lakh manual scavengers, down from 13 lakh a decade ago. However, it attributes the declining numbers as much to voluntary liberation as to official intervention.

 

So far, manual scavenging has been tackled at two levels: The conversion of dry latrines into pour-flush toilets and the rehabilitation of those engaged in the practice. The rehabilitation itself has been terribly half-hearted; a shocking report in The Hindu shows that the district administration in Ambala fired manual scavengers it had re-employed as sweepers. The crucial issue, therefore, is a vital third element: the de-stigmatisation of the so-called menial jobs via changes in recruitment patterns and policies. Without this overhaul, manual scavenging will continue in one form or another.

 

It is also necessary to expand the definition of manual scavenging to include other kinds of unhygienic toilet cleaning. The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation has been overseeing the elimination of dry latrines since 2004. According to the Ministry, the numbers of dry latrines have declined from a total of 6 lakh in six States to about 2.4 lakh in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Uttarakhand.

 

But significantly the Ministry makes the point that while dry latrines may be on their way out, this does not necessarily mean the end of manual cleaning of excreta. A recent paper prepared by HUPA says that in the poorer areas in many towns and cities, the dry latrines have given way to "bahao" latrines. These are not connected to septic tanks or underground pits but flow out directly into open drainage, resulting in the "sludge and excreta" having to be manually removed. Says the paper: "These unsanitary latrines require continuous cleaning, which is done by municipal staff and almost always manually, with the most rudimentary appliances."

 

And no prizes for guessing which castes form the municipal staff. As Union Minister for HUPA Kumari Selja says: "It is ultimately about attitudes. As long as society treats toilet cleaning and sweeping as menial jobs to be done only by certain members of the caste system, it will be difficult to end the obnoxious practice. The scavenging and sweeping community will be truly liberated when cleaning jobs become respectable with the workforce drawn from all communities."

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

 

PITY THE NATION THAT HAS TO SILENCE ITS WRITERS: ARUNDHATI ROY

 

I write this from Srinagar, Kashmir. This morning's papers say that I may be arrested on charges of sedition for what I have said at recent public meetings on Kashmir. I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice. I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state.

 

Yesterday I travelled to Shopian, the apple-town in South Kashmir which had remained closed for 47 days last year in protest against the brutal rape and murder of Asiya and Nilofer, the young women whose bodies were found in a shallow stream near their homes and whose murderers have still not been brought to justice.

 

I met Shakeel, who is Nilofer's husband and Asiya's brother. We sat in a circle of people crazed with grief and anger who had lost hope that they would ever get 'insaf' — justice — from India, and now believed that Azadi — freedom — was their only hope. I met young stone pelters who had been shot through their eyes. I travelled with a young man who told me how three of his friends, teenagers in Anantnag district, had been taken into custody and had their finger-nails pulled out as punishment for throwing stones.

 

In the papers some have accused me of giving 'hate-speeches,' of wanting India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their finger-nails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one. Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free.

 

Arundhati Roy

October 26, 2010

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS    

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT THE COMMITTEE CONSTITUTED TO LOOK INTO CHARGES OF CORRUPTION IN THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES SHOULD ALSO INCLUDE VIOLATIONS OF LABOUR LAWS WITHIN ITS PURVIEW.

MOUSHUMI BASU

 

One of the more blatant and visible scams of the recently concluded Commonwealth Games relates to how the thousands of workers who worked on the games construction sites were denied minimum wages, safety equipment, housing and other benefits constitutionally due to them.

 

In an interview to BBC Radio 4 aired on September 9, 2010, the Chief Minister of Delhi went on record stating that no such cases of violations had been brought before her. This despite the fact that innumerable State agencies such as the Delhi Development Authority, Municipal Corporation of Delhi, New Delhi Municipal Council, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and others have been involved in litigation proceedings concerning violations of workers' rights in the High Court of Delhi since January this year. The 117-page report submitted in March 2010 by the Expert Committee appointed by the High Court of Delhi (comprising Mr. R.D. Srivastav, Secretary (Labour), Govt. of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi); Mr. A.K. Singh, Commissioner (Labour), National Capital Territory of Delhi; Ms. Arundhati Ghose, former Indian Ambassador to the United Nations; and Dr. Lakshmidhar Mishra, Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission) recording large-scale violations of labour laws at various Commonwealth Games and related project sites, also appears to have missed the Chief Minister's attention. A major accident a few days before the start of the Games at a site close to the venue of the opening ceremony was dismissed by the Delhi Chief Minister and S. Jaipal Reddy, Union Minister for Urban Development as a "minor glitch" in a series of events.

 

Principal employers

 

Legally, under the provisions of the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition ) Act 1970, and the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service ) Act 1979, the final responsibility for construction projects rests with principal employers, which includes amongst other responsibilities the duty to oversee that workers employed on the specific project sites are given their minimum wages, over-time payments, safety equipment, medical facilities, proper housing, sanitation and other provisions as required by law. On October 20, the DA announced that it would invoke the bank guarantee of Rs. 183 crore furnished by Emaar MGF, the principal employer of the Commonwealth Games village, for failing to deliver on agreed standards of quality and design. One may ask as to why prosecution proceedings should not be initiated against Emaar MGF and such other companies for not following safety standards resulting in accidents and deaths of workers, non-production of muster rolls and wage records, and the almost abysmal housing and sanitation facilities made available to workers, as noted in the report of the High Court appointed Monitoring Committee and the status report submitted subsequently by the Delhi Legal Services Authority (DLSA) to the High Court of Delhi.

 

As a country if we are serious about issues of human security and development, then it is imperative that the Committee constituted, headed by former Comptroller and Auditor General V.K. Shunglu, also include violations of labour laws within its purview. An estimate provided by the Office of the Regional Labour Commissioner (Central) places the total number of workers employed in Commonwealth projects at approximately 70,500. In a survey done by Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) it was shown that savings of approximately Rs. 75-85 from each worker per day were made by contractors through non-payment of minimum wages alone. The minimum wages in Delhi are Rs. 203 for unskilled workers, Rs. 225 for semi-skilled and Rs. 248 per day for skilled workers. As late as September 2010, PUDR had shown how workers were receiving somewhere between Rs. 110-130 for a day's work. If we take the total number of workers to be 70,500, then it can be said that contractors were on average saving approximately Rs.16-18 crore per month by non-payment of the stipulated minimum wages. If one adds savings further made on account of non-payment of overtime to workers at the stipulated rates, and the compensation for working even on holidays, the gross profits for companies works out to be much higher.

 

Accidents and deaths

 

Besides non-payment of the legal wage, other equally important issues relating to the Games have not as yet received adequate attention. There is yet no figure estimating the total number of accidents and deaths that have occurred in the course of construction of Games-related projects. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), in an affidavit submitted before the High Court in September 2010, has recorded 109 cases of death at various work sites in the capital. Other agencies have yet to come up with their estimates and figures. In a reply to an RTI filed by PUDR as recently as the last week of September, the Labour Department of the Delhi Government that deals with cases related to Workmen's Compensation admitted to not having any knowledge about the total number of accident and death cases in the capital. This is a shocking state of affairs. It involves victims ranging from a two year-old child at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to young men and women who had come to the capital to work, hoping to build a better life for themselves and their families.

 

Penalties

 

There is another aspect to this story that needs to be addressed. Existing penalties for violation of labour law standards are extremely paltry. A company can as per law get away with paying Rs. 1,000 as fine, which is the maximum penalty that can be imposed for not conforming to safety standards or non-adherence to regulations such as maintenance of muster rolls, wage records and such other provisions.

 

This was a fact that was brought to light by the Supreme Court of India in the judgment delivered in the Asiad Games PUDR vs. Union of India (1982) case where it was observed that:

 

'Magistrates and Judges in the country must view violations of labour laws with strictness and whenever any violations of labour laws are established before them, they should punish the errant employers by imposing adequate punishment. The labour laws are enacted for improving the conditions of workers and the employers cannot be allowed to buy off immunity against violations of labour laws by paying a paltry fine which they would not mind paying, because by violating the labour laws they would be making profit which would far exceed the amount of the fine. If violations of labour laws are to be punished with meagre fines, it would be impossible to ensure observance of the labour laws and the labour laws would be reduced to nullity. They would remain merely paper tigers without any teeth or claws.'

 

It has been nearly 28 years since the Supreme Court made these observations in connection with the 1982 Asian Games held in Delhi. The situation has only deteriorated for the average worker in the unorganised sector, and the official silence on issues of corruption relating to workers' rights' stands out as a stark reminder of the reality. I am reminded of the words of the Haitian scholar Michel-Rolph Trouillot, who once said 'naivete is often an excuse for those who exercise power. For those upon whom that power is exercised, naivete is always a mistake.'

( The author teaches at Jawaharlal Nehru University and is a member of the Peoples Union for Democratic Rights.)

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THE HINDU

 NEWS ANALYSIS    

'OUTSTANDING RESEARCH CAN SHAPE BETTER POLICY'

THE 'THINK TANK INITIATIVE' IS AN AMBITIOUS SOUTH ASIA-WIDE EFFORT TO INCREASE POLICY DEVELOPMENT CAPACITY IN THE SUBCONTINENT. IT IS TO BE LAUNCHED IN NEW DELHI ON OCTOBER 30.

DAVID M. MALONE

 

On October 30, five international donors, coordinated by Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC), launch in Delhi, an ambitious South Asia-wide effort to increase policy development capacity in the subcontinent, through the "Think Tank Initiative" (TTI). The donors, contributing a total pool of $110 million globally, include the Hewlett and Gates Foundations and the British and Dutch governments. The idea germinated several years ago within the Hewlett Foundation, where experience with funding of research projects left its leadership convinced investments should also be made in the core capacity of promising research institutions.

 

Approach to research funding

 

The central purpose of the initiative is to allow successful applicants to more effectively link research and policy. It seeks to better connect the best research capabilities to the most challenging development problems. We believe stronger, sustainable local think tanks should lead to smarter and more effective policymaking. The TTI hopes to promote further investments of this nature over a 10-year period.

 

Why would international funders want to support policy-oriented research institutions in India?

 

On the positive side of the ledger, a number of them are outstanding and produce work of the highest quality, often on a financial shoe-string. We received dozens of very exciting applications from tremendously accomplished institutions. Ruled out were centres focused on a single issue only (for example, agricultural research or micro-finance). What all countries need, beyond such specialised institutions, is sophisticated multi-issue research centres that can (among other strengths) relate and sometimes prioritise issues relative to each other.

 

On a less positive note, one of the main reasons that independent research institutions in India are so important is that the promise of India's universities remains largely unfulfilled, not just in quality of teaching and research but also in the capacity and desire to influence policy.

 

Even the enviable Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) are often less well equipped, and also less inclined, to influence policy through evidence-based research than their counterparts elsewhere around the globe. While several university-based teams in India, in such fields as law and economics, have played an important role in shaping national policies over the past 60-odd years, they are very much the exception. Meanwhile, many academic departments in India are probably weaker than they were 40 years ago for a variety of reasons.

 

Thus, in India, Think Tanks both offer capacity and counter deficits.

 

Policy-relevant research in India matters in three ways. First, advice on improved policy in a rapidly growing country still trailing too much grinding poverty, is important. Second, India and other economically fast-growing "emerging" nations serve as models for other developing countries who would like, in their own ways, to emulate their successes. Third, as we grapple with increasingly global problems like climate change or macroeconomic imbalances, solutions can be "sourced" from anywhere in the world. India, with its long-standing tradition of scholarship and weight in global affairs is surely an integral part of the global solution.

 

Nine Indian institutions (the largest number of all the countries in which TTI is active) each will receive up to $2 million. The purposes and methods of these research institutions differ widely, as described in the three cases below.

 

The Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) is known more for political philosophy than for its interest in influencing policy directly, although it has the intellectual fire-power and increasingly the desire to do the latter, not least as a result of generational change in this very fine institution where the young build on the shoulders of giants.

 

The Institute of Economic Growth (IEG), early on associated with the famed Delhi School of Economics, made signal contributions over several generations to Indian macroeconomic, trade, industrial, population and rural development policies. More recently, thanks to such scholars as Bina Agarwal, the institute has produced important work on those left behind or adversely affected by economic reform and development.

 

Meanwhile, the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP) under V.S. Arunachalam has produced remarkable work on energy technology and energy security policies.

 

Why foreign support?

 

India is notoriously deferential to the old and wise. This is a good thing, but can become a bad one when younger, challenging voices are stifled. The TTI choice favoured institutions undertaking significant change and introducing new voices into public dialogue in India. And there are so many terrific young Indians to learn from.

 

A debate is in full swing in India about whether foreign support is desirable or even necessary for such institutions. In my own country, Canada, private money for policy-relevant research and for universities is a recent (if rapidly growing) phenomenon. Canadians have often benefitted from foreign research funding.

 

It is the U.S. that has been light years ahead of all other countries in mobilising large amounts of funding for independent research. In other Western countries, government funding was seen as central for these purposes, and any parallel private, philanthropic efforts as optional add-ons.

 

In India, many research institutions depend on government research contracts for routine sustenance. For cross-cutting analysis and research, foreign funders, such as the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, provided a vital life-line in India for independent thought as early as the 1950s. Since then, Indian contributions, from the private sector, from generous individuals, and endowments from government have grown. But, for a country of its size, with growing international significance, and influence, much more is required.

 

In India, potential donors may be more interested in funding their alma maters in the West, in building temples or in supporting impressive activist and programming non-governmental organisations (NGO). Happily, several visionary and public-minded Indian entrepreneurs are moving to fill the gap for the country's varied Think Tanks and policy-oriented NGOs, as are several long-standing trusts. However, given the high demand, foreign research funders may continue to be useful to Indians for some years to come.

 

( David M. Malone, President of Canada's International Development Research Centre, is a former Canadian High Commissioner to India. His book, Does the Elephant Dance? Contemporary Indian Foreign Policy, will be published in 2011.)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS    

THE INDIAN INSTITUTIONS INVOLVED

 

In India, TTI support has been extended to: the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP), Bangalore; the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA), Delhi; the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), Delhi; the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi; the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS), Delhi; the Institute of Economic Growth (IEG), Delhi; the Institute of Rural Management (IRMA), Anand; the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), Delhi; and the Public Affairs Centre (PAC), Bangalore.

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS  

HUGE AMBER DEPOSIT DISCOVERY IN WESTERN INDIA

THE FIND REVEALS A NEW NARRATIVE OF THE CONTINENT'S LIFE FORMS.

IAN SAMPLE

 

Hundreds of prehistoric insects and other creatures have been discovered in a large haul of amber excavated from a coal mine in western India. An international team of fossil hunters recovered 150kg of the resin from Cambay Shale in Gujarat province, making it one of the largest amber collections on record. The tiny animals became entombed in the fossilised tree resin some 52 million years ago, before the Indian subcontinent crunched into Asia to produce the Himalayan mountain range.

 

Jes Rust, a paleontologist at Bonn University, said the creatures, including ancient bees, spiders, termites, gnats, ants and flies, were in remarkably good condition considering their age. In total, the team has identified more than 700 arthropods, a group of animals that includes insects, crustaceans and arachnids.

 

Well preserved with details

 

"They are so well preserved. It's like having the complete dinosaur, not just the bones. You can see all the surface details on their bodies and wings. It's fantastic," Rust told the Guardian. The remains of two praying mantises were also found.

 

Insects and other small animals may be trapped in resin flowing down tree bark, or as it covers their dead bodies on the forest floor. The resin hardens into a translucent yellow material that preserves them.

 

The amber is the oldest evidence scientists have of tropical forests in Asia. Tests linked the amber to a family of hardwood trees called dipterocarpaceae, that make up 80 per cent of the forest canopy in South-East Asia.

 

SIGNIFICANT FIND:A handout image by the American Museum of Natural History in New York shows a spider (top) and an ant (above) found in the Cambay amber deposit.

 

Fossilised wood from these trees was found alongside the amber deposits. Rust said that much of India may have been covered in forests at the time the amber formed.

 

The trapped insects give a revealing snapshot of life in India before it collided with Asia. India was once attached to Africa but separated some 160 million years ago. For the next 100 million years, India's landmass moved towards Asia at around 20 cm a year.

 

India was isolated for so long that it could have evolved unique flora and fauna, but the encased insects suggest this did not happen. Writing in the U.S. journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describe life forms in the amber closely related to those in Asia and Europe. As India moved towards Asia, the encroaching continental plates may have created an arc of islands that connected the two landmasses like stepping stones long before 50 million years ago, said Rust. This would allow species from India, Asia and Europe to mix.

 

"We think that, before the final collision between India and Asia, some sort of island arc was established. Our findings suggest that the mixing of fauna was already so strong, that it was already happening for several million years," said Rust. Once species from India had crossed into Asia, they could have spread further, eventually reaching Australia.

 

Michael Engel, curator of entomology at the University of Kansas, said: "What we found indicates that India was not completely isolated, even though the Cambray deposit dates from a time that precedes the slamming of India into Asia. There might have been some linkages." The team has so far recorded 100 different arthropod species, but Rust said they expect to find more, some of which are likely to be close relatives of animals in Africa and Madagascar. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

FOOD SECURITY: START NOW, IMPROVE LATER

 

Whatever the nature of the debates that it may provoke, the National Advisory Council headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi has — apparently after contentious deliberation — produced a fairly detailed conceptual scheme that is expected to provide the basic inputs for framing the Food Security Bill due to come up in Parliament shortly. The food security provision for the poor is UPA-2's big-ticket social sector project just as the NREGS had been the chief anti-poverty measure in UPA's first term in office. The NREGS had led to two broad discussions: who will foot the bill, and will it provide universal or cent per cent coverage to all the poor in the country? Fortunately, the country did not permit itself to be derailed by voices of concern on these points. Eventually, it turned out that NREGS — although it is implemented in a slipshod way and is shot through with corruption, especially in the poorly administered states of the country — actually put some money in the hands of the rural poor throughout India, and this went on to boost aggregate demand in the system and was a factor that saw the country out of a threatened economic trough in the wake of the worldwide recession that is still plaguing leading Western economies. In the end, NREGS came to be perceived as beneficial to our economic system, whatever the initial anxieties, although some continue to voice a few worries. The ideological maximalists too were harsh with their criticism of the NREGS proposal that had been first mooted. The scheme sought to cover only 100 districts in India to begin with, and those that spoke in the name of the poor suggested that this was to feeble and was tokenism by another name. Life has shown this not to be the case, although there are deficiencies galore in implementation.


The criticism of those who desire the best straightaway has already begun to be attracted by the NAC's food security proposal. Prof. Jean Dreze, a leading light of the NAC who has done laudable theoretical and empirical work on the state of the country's poor, has distanced himself from this proposal, saying that he would have liked universal coverage. This conveys the idealist's dream, and is not the pragmatist's method. The latter believes that it is best to get started and try and improve in the light of experience. Thus the so-called "consensus" that the NAC has produced on food security is a watered down version of the "first best" solution, and is probably not even the second best. And yet, it is hard to endorse the position that we must either have all or nothing. The way matters stand, the current proposal seeks to provide foodgrain cover to around 75 per cent of the very poor in the country, in both rural and urban areas. It is far from certain that even this will be attempted with sincerity and without corrupt elements having a field day. No less significantly, the public distribution network has been all but obliterated. To get it going in the right spirit calls for close supervision as well as expenditure, and will be among the key challenges before the government. For all the problems that can be envisaged, the measure is unprecedented and calls for political support. Those who might question it on the money argument ("who will foot the bill?") may find that a workforce that has food in its belly is more productive and less disaffected. Seen in this light, the measure deserves their support. India is a fast-paced economy but it continues to have the largest proportion of the world's very poor, countrywise. This is why the solution that we envisage needs to transcend the imperatives of the market.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

PERMISSION TO DEFECT

P.C. ALEXANDER

 

I am writing this at a time when politics in Karnataka has been in great turmoil as a result of 11 MLAs of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) announcing their decision to leave their party, thereby reducing the state BJP government to a minority. Arguments on the validity of these defections have been heard by a two-member bench of the high court of Karnataka, and then by a third judge on certain points raised by the two judges. When the third judge delivers his judgment on the specific issues referred to him, there will be a greater degree of certainty about the provisions of the 10th Schedule and, to that extent, an improvement in the situation as it prevails today. Yet, what the high court bench decides may not be the final verdict. The aggrieved parties on both sides, the government and the Opposition, are likely to go on to appeal to the Supreme Court.


During the fairly long period of its existence, the 10th Schedule has not succeeded in achieving what was expected of it. Instead, it has facilitated more defections than would have been possible otherwise, and given legal respectability to corruption and lowered the standards of political morality among the leaders of political parties. I would recommend for the consideration of lawmakers that the 10th Schedule, the entire anti-defection law, be scrapped and defection by any elected representative be treated as a breach of trust placed in him/her by the electorate and instantly result in them losing membership of legislature.


When it was first introduced, any resort to the courts was ruled out in paragraph seven of the 10th Schedule. But the Supreme Court's verdict of November 1991 struck that down as unconstitutional and brought the Anti-Defection Act under judicial review. Some blatant acts of misuse by the Speaker/Chairman of the legislature and open breach of objectivity and fairness by some selfish politicians could be corrected through judicial intervention. However, the abuses of the law continued and the act gained the notoriety of being friendly to unscrupulous politicians.


When the act was brought into force in 1985, many critics objected to the restrictions it imposed on the freedom of choice of the elected representatives. The critics specifically pointed out that parliamentary democracy has functioned smoothly in most of the Western democratic countries without a legal provision against defection.
But the situation in India is quite different. The party system in India is still very weak and deep commitment to any political ideology is yet to be developed by politicians. When India gained Independence in 1947, many people expected that within the period of one or two elections, different political groups in the country will consolidate their position as political parties with separate ideologies and fight elections on the basis of ideologies rather than other extraneous factors.


The general expectation about the formation of political parties in India was that there would be three broad groups, namely, nationalist parties with centrist ideologies, nationalist parties with ideologies of the Right and Left parties with socialist and Communist ideologies. However, the expected regrouping of parties based on political ideologies did not take place and, in fact, the third group of Leftists parties practically failed to take off. In the absence of strong national parties in most parts of the country, several small state parties, based on caste and sub-caste loyalties, have come into existence under some charismatic leaders in the post-Independence decades. They have managed to gather enough support to justify recognition as political parties.
This, indeed, is a dangerous trend and since the anti-defection law has failed to have the desired impact, the only possible remedy seems to be to replace the existing law with a new one whereby anyone who wishes to leave the party which elected him/her should lose his/her seat in the legislature instantly. Even the Independents who got elected should lose their seats if they join a political party. Anything short of this would betray the trust vested in them by the electorate.

Unfortunately, the Anti-Defection Act, though introduced with very good intentions, was implemented in most legislatures in order to serve the personal interests of a few people anxious to acquire political power for themselves. This was made possible by Section 6 of the act, which states that if any question arises as to whether a member of the House has become subject to disqualification, the question shall be referred to the decision of the Speaker or Chairman, as the case may be, and his/her decision shall be final. However, experience soon showed that some Speakers went out of their way, to an extent not contemplated by the framers of the act, to prevent disqualification of the offending members. In the case of disqualification of members of the Uttar Pradesh legislative Assembly a few years ago the numbers were found to be inadequate to term it a split. The Speaker then gave his definition of split as a "continuing" one and not limited to one session of the legislature or one occasion of voting. This led to further addition to the number of defectors and the whole idea of recognising legitimate splits came under disrepute. In some cases the presiding officer did the counting of votes in support of the resolution for disqualification without proper division, in order to support the party in power that had helped him to get elected as Speaker/Chairman.


If one makes an over-all assessment of the benefits derived from the Anti-Defection Act since its enactment, one is inclined to agree with the view that the interests of democracy at this stage of development of the parliamentary system in India would be served better by scrapping the 10th Schedule rather than trying to improve it through amendments or plugging the loopholes as and when they are brought before the judiciary. Some members of the judiciary had entertained strong doubts about the usefulness of such an act, and this is clear from the fact that two of the five judges who heard the defection case had held the view that the entire 10th Schedule was unsustainable.


Since the decision of the high court of Karnataka is expected in a few days' time, we will have to wait patiently to know what will be the future for this act in our system of parliamentary democracy.
Whatever may be the decision of the court, it is time that the nation starts a debate on the advisability of scrapping the act instead of making piecemeal amendments as and when new problems arise in its implementation.

 

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

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

THE SUM OF EGO & CHALLENGES

JAYANT V. NARLIKAR

 

Parents often ask, how could they bring motivation to their child. How can a bright child be motivated to use his or her talents maximally? A short answer is: Make the child face challenges.


As a 12-year-old kid I learnt what a challenge means when we had my maternal uncle, Morumama, staying with us. He had come as a student for M.Sc. mathematics at the university and was to be with us for two years. While it was fun to have him around for games like cards and chess, or for verbal banter, we found another avenue of interaction.


This came through unexpectedly, through blackboards. My father had installed two blackboards in the walls of the long veranda at the back of the house for me and my younger brother, then aged 10. They were meant for drawing pictures, geography maps, or playing games like noughts and crosses. Morumama thought of another use. One fine morning when I walked into the veranda I saw that the smaller of the two boards carried a few lines in the neat handwriting of Morumama. The title of the text caught my attention: "Challenge Problem for JVN". The text below carried the problem.


As I was reading it, in sauntered Morumama. He told me that the problem would stay on the blackboard till I solved it; or until I confessed my defeat at not being able to solve it. I looked at the problem more carefully. It was more a puzzle than a numerical exercise and I began to think about it. Mathematics was my strong point and so I felt confident that I would solve the problem. I used the other board for my attempts and soon discovered that the problem was not that simple. Indeed it took me well over 24 hours to solve it. But the fact that I did solve it boosted my morale no end. I had won my duel with Morumama.


As I expected, this was not the end but a beginning! Morumama had other problems in his stock which he unloaded on the blackboard from time to time. The problems were different although the title the same: "Challenge Problem for JVN". I solved quite a few of them in the long run, while some I could not. Win or lose, the underlying motivation came through that word — "Challenge".


This magic word is known to bring out the best in a person. My own ability in mathematics grew impressively without my becoming aware of it. I, therefore, strongly recommend the challenge aspect in school education. Perhaps, to entice more students to solve the challenge problem, there may be some reward for the first correct solution. But in the long run, the human ego simply thrives on the feeling of having achieved success.
The challenge aspect has played a key role beyond the school years too. Those who have read Isaac Newton's biography will recall the challenge problem Johann Bernoulli posed for European mathematicians. The problem is simple to describe. A and B are two points in a vertical plane as on a wall, and a smooth wire connects them. A lies above B and is not vertically above it. A bead starts from rest at A and slides down the wire from A to B. What should be the shape of the wire so that the bead takes the shortest time to slide down from A to B?
The problem is deceptively difficult and for six months nobody could solve it. Then Bernoulli arranged to have the problem sent to Newton. Newton at that time had left Cambridge and, in his capacity as Master of the Royal Mint in London, was somewhat removed from the world of science. The challenge, however, spurred him into thinking. Having seen the problem on his return home from work in the evening, he sat down to solve it. And solve he did, by early hours of the morning. He sent his solution to the Secretary of the Royal Society, asking him to send it to Bernoulli without revealing the solver's identity. However, when Bernoulli saw the solution he guessed that only Newton could have solved it. He is reported to have said: "I can tell the lion from its paws".
Mathematicians have loved to have tricky problems to face as challenges. In modern times, the list of 23 problems announced in the year 1900 by the celebrated German mathematician David Hilbert have served as the challenge problems to generations of mathematicians. Not all of them have been solved yet and whenever a problem is solved (or claims to have been solved), it makes world news in the select world of mathematicians.
I have given instances of mathematical challenges as an example of motivating youngsters in school. One can talk of challenge problems in scientific fields like physics or chemistry, problems not involving rote learning, but requiring the application of brain.


Here I wish to distance myself from many of the quiz programmes which require an encyclopedic knowledge but not necessarily independent thinking. Scientific problems need not be confined to theory alone. One can think of experiments, too.


The Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune has an ongoing programme of interaction with school children. The programme is led by Arvind Gupta, who has developed countless number of "toys". Each toy is made from scrap material and seems at first to have magical properties. In the last analysis one sees that the toy functions this way because it is obeying some scientific law; the same law that appears in the student's textbook. Only at school it is taught as a mantra to be memorised rather than a beautiful manifestation of nature.


I wish the school syllabi would allow at least one period per month when a challenge problem could be posed, discussed and answered, not by the teacher but by some bright student.

 

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

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

THE GILGIT QUESTION

S.K. SINHA

 

The Northern Areas, illegally occupied by Pakistan, has been renamed Gilgit-Baltistan. This region is of great strategic importance to India. It borders Afghanistan and is legally a part of India, but our decision-makers have been ignoring it. In the 20th century, the British were alive to its importance in the context of the threat from Czarist Russia, and after the 1917 Revolution from the Soviet Union. Current reports of an increased Chinese military presence in Gilgit are a cause of grave concern.


The British had a political agent at Gilgit and later obtained a lease to administer the area. As Independence approached, the lease was terminated and Gilgit reverted to Jammu and Kashmir. Brigadier Ghansara Singh of the state Army took over as governor of Gilgit from the British political agent, Colonel Beacon, on August 1, 1947. Major Brown, commanding the Gilgit Scouts, staged a military coup at Gilgit, surrounding the residence of the governor on November 1, 1947. Brig. Ghansara Singh was forced to surrender and the Pakistan flag was hoisted in Gilgit. Pakistan got its first taste of a military coup. The non-Muslim troops of the Maharaja's Army took refuge in Skardu fort along with a large number of Hindu and Sikh refugees. Col. Shahmsher Jung Thapa was commanding the garrison. On November 1, 1947, when this coup took place, Pakistani forces had advanced to the outskirts of Srinagar. With our backs to the wall, we were preparing to launch an offensive to throw them out of the Valley. Our resources were slender in the Valley and could not be reinforced in the winter. The grass airfield at Srinagar would soon become unusable after snowfall and the road across Banihal pass was blocked with snow. There was then no tunnel at Banihal. We were in no position to do anything about Gilgit. When the snow melted and the road and air communications were restored, we reinforced our strength in the Valley. Our summer offensive was launched with the main thrust to Muzaffarabad. Gurais Valley was secured in the north to guard against the threat from Gilgit and Sonamarg in the East against the threat from Kargil, then under Pakistani occupation. The relief of Skardu was to be carried out subsequently. Our summer offensive achieved reasonable success with the capture of Tithwal, tantalisingly close to Muzaffarabad. On the appeal of the UN to both India and Pakistan, our offensive was suspended in June 1948. The Skardu garrison held out heroically for six months. Unfortunately, we did not then have transport aircraft with pressurised cabins, needed for flying at 20,000 feet, to carry out air drops at Skardu. By August 1948, food ran out in Skardu, which had a large civilian population that had taken shelter there. We had to most reluctantly order the Skardu garrison to surrender. On August 14, 1948, Col. Thapa had to raise the white flag. The enemy massacred Hindus and Sikhs. By September they captured Kargil and advanced to Ladakh, threatening Leh. After two unsuccessful attempts we managed to break through the Zoji-la heights, establishing a world record by using tanks at such high altitude. We captured Kargil and advanced another 200 miles to secure Leh. Soon the ceasefire came into force and Gilgit Baltistan remained under Pakistan occupation.


Pakistan has been assiduously promoting two myths. First, Gilgit was liberated by an indigenous freedom movement against the tyrannical rule of the Maharaja and the people joined Pakistan of their free will. Second, Gilgit-Baltistan was never a part of J&K. Pakistan detached Gilgit-Baltistan from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and denied its people basic political rights. They still cannot vote for the Pakistan Parliament. All the top government positions are held by Pakistanis who get special allowances for serving in the region, as the British officers got in India. The council, recently designated an Assembly, has a nominated chairman known as the chief executive officer with a local deputy elected on a very limited franchise. Eighty-five per cent of the people in the region are Shias and are subjected to ethnic and sectarian violence. There has been a prolonged agitation in the region against anti-Shia school textbooks and the government settling Punjabis and Pathans to alter the region's demographic profile. Interestingly, members of the United Gilgit-Baltistan movement recently complained that India has not been doing anything for them and they want reservation of seats in Indian educational institutions for students from their region!


Although New Delhi maintains the whole of J&K is an integral part of India, we have been indifferent to the travails of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. In March 1953, Pakistan gifted 5,000 sq. km of territory in Shansgam Valley to China. The Karakoram Highway through this region provides a road link between China and Pakistan. A rail link is now under construction from Tibet to join the Pakistan rail network and connect to Gwadar port. Permanent military barracks have been constructed for increasing numbers of Chinese troops. This region is an important link in China's String of Pearls strategy to contain India. In 2005, we agreed to the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road. As governor of J&K, in my Republic Day address that year I had urged the opening of the Kargil-Skardu road. Musharraf had allowed a PoK delegation led by a former chief justice to visit Srinagar. This included four members from Gilgit. These four called on me and thanked me for taking up the opening of the Kargil-Skardu road. They wanted their visas extended to enable them to visit Kargil because, they said, they had a deep attachment for the people of Kargil. I arranged for them to visit Kargil. They also mentioned their local problems. Baroness Emma Nicholson, a member of the European Union Parliament, was deputed to prepare a report on Kashmir. She visited PoK, Gilgit-Baltistan and Indian-administered Kashmir. I had a long discussion with her in Srinagar. In her report she praised the functioning of democracy in Indian-administered Kashmir, criticised the lack of it in PoK and its total absence in Gilgit-Baltistan. Pakistan tried to scuttle this report but the European Parliament passed it by over 400 votes, with only nine votes against it.
In the present crisis, we can no longer remain indifferent to Gilgit-Baltistan. Simultaneously, we need to build our military muscle to deter military adventurism against us by either China or Pakistan. Belatedly, some efforts are now being made. This must be completed on a war footing to safeguard our national interests.

 

n 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

            EDITORIAL

JAPAN'S RESERVATIONS NEED TO BE RESPECTED

 

India has concluded a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (Cepa) and it was stated in the joint communique issued at the end of prime minister Manmohan Singh's state visit to Japan that a civil nuclear deal between the two countries will be speeded up and that a free trade agreement is on the anvil. The civil nuclear deal was the one that India wanted and the Japanese were politely holding back.

 

The deal makes huge economic sense because of the five major companies involved in nuclear power generation, two are Japanese while the American Westinghouse is now owned by the Japanese. The Japanese have reservations, based partly on their history and their no-nuclear-arms politics.

 

Japan is the only country in history that has known what it is to face the consequences of a nuclear bomb. The Americans dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 that ended the Second World War in the east Asian theatre. They have overcome the economic consequences of the defeat in war but they have not forgotten the trauma of the nuclear holocaust.

 

Their opposition to war, and to nuclear arms particularly, is not the outcome of unfounded idealism. It is based on the nuclear nightmare that the country had experienced firsthand. It was right then that Singh had noted the historical factors, shown respect and consideration towards Japanese sensitivity in the matter and said that the deal would not be pushed through in a hurry.

 

There are many Indian critics of Japan's nuclear policy. They have argued with some justification that Japan has been able to hold on to its pacifist stand because of the strategic nuclear umbrella provided by the US, and that Tokyo's ostensible sensitivity smacks of hypocrisy. It is a harsh and hasty judgment. It is also true that Japan is not totally convinced of India's disarmament intentions, and official India too makes no bones about it.

 

India believes in nuclear disarmament but argues that it has to be implemented by all, including the five original nuclear weapons states — the US, Russia, Britain, France and China. India is not game for a self-imposed, partial disarmament. These are then genuine differences in perspective between the two countries.

 

The other Indian misconception about ties between the two countries is that they have a common irritant, China. It is a fact that China's equation with India and Japan are at best uneasy, and at worst, hostile. But that cannot be a binding factor for India and Japan. International relations are not conducted on such simplistic assumptions.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

MALARIA BITES CANNOT BE IGNORED

 

The World Health Organisation(WHO) has strongly contested the claims made by a recent study published in Lancet that 2 lakh

 

Indians die of malaria every year. The WHO puts the figure closer to 15,000. The controversial study is part of India's continuing

 

Million Death Study. The study makes the point that malaria deaths are grossly under-reported in countries across Asia, including India.

 

The bone of contention seems to be in the methodology used, particularly the 'verbal autopsy' method, where researchers speak to family members and doctors about symptoms observed in the patients. The WHO feels that this is an unreliable method because malaria symptoms are often the same as those of other diseases. To give some heft to the WHO objections, if the mortality figures given in the study are extrapolated, there are 17 to 50 million falciparum malaria cases annually in Orissa, a state which has a population of 40 million.

 

However, there is a larger point that needs to be taken note of and it is for this reason that this study should not be dismissed. The survey found many cases in rural areas who had little access to healthcare; several patients died without medical attention. Whatever the actual figures may be, we cannot deny that healthcare is an issue in much of rural India. Not just malaria, there are many diseases that remain undetected and

 

untreated in our hinterland.

 

The government needs to look at the survey from this angle — the dismal healthcare facilities available in the country. Much of our focus appears to have shifted to what might be called 21st century diseases — HIV/AIDS, heart conditions, new forms of cancer, Alzheimer's. But Old World illnesses continue to take their toll and malaria has been a constant factor here. India's biggest metros suffer no less, especially around the monsoon, in spite of access to superior healthcare.

 

The government needs to concentrate on the message within: malaria is a killer and it is going untreated and unreported. That ought to be enough for action, the actual mortality figures notwithstanding.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

WOMEN CAN KEEP UP THE SPIRIT TOO

 

The Dalai Lama has shown that spirituality and good humour go together, and some of the important things of life can be spoken of in a jovial manner. His remark in Toronto that it would be an advantage to have a woman as the next Dalai Lama was said in a lighter vein but it was not intended as a light remark.

 

The 75-year-old Tibetan Buddhist leader was sincere when he opened up the possibility of a female being the religious head. It is true that in the Tibetan tradition, where the same person is presumed to be reincarnated as the spiritual successor, there have been no females among the 14 who have held the office of the Dalai Lama so far. But there is nothing in principle to exclude a woman.

 

The Dalai Lama, who has shown a rare openness to changing trends, recognises the woman's more obvious sensitivity to others' pain as a great strength in assuming the role of a spiritual leader. Will his words come to pass? If yes, then it will be a revolutionary move that takes female emancipation to a whole new level.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

INDIA'S PRESENCE IN EAST ASIA VITAL TO COUNTER CHINA'S INCREASING CLOUT

HARSH V PANT

 

Prime minister Manmohan Singh's three-nation tour of Vietnam, Japan and Malaysia this week is to give a fillip to India's 'Look East' policy by underscoring the need for greater integration and engagement in diverse fields, particularly trade, between India and East Asia. Singh's bilateral visit to Japan and Malaysia and to Vietnam for the 8th Asean-India summit has made it clear that his government's foreign policy priority will be East and South East Asia which are poised for a sustained economic growth in the 21st century.

 

This is a time of great turmoil in the Asian strategic landscape and India should make its relevance felt in the region. A two-week stand-off between Japan and China over a boat collision shows the communist state is adopting a more aggressive stance against rivals and US allies in Asia and there may be more tension to come. The US and its allies have already started re-assessing their regional strategies and it is likely that an anti-China balancing act will soon emerge.

 

China would not have expected that its arrival as the world's second-largest economy would evoke a new robustness in US policy towards China and the Asian region. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton used her visit to Asia to signal unequivocally that the US is unwilling to accept China's push for regional hegemony.

 

When Beijing claimed that it now considered its ownership of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea as a "core interest", Clinton countered by proposing that the US will help establish an international mechanism to mediate the overlapping claims of sovereignty between China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia that are littoral states in the South China Sea.

 

Both Tokyo and New Delhi have made an effort in recent years to put India-Japan ties in high gear. The rise of China in Asia-Pacific and beyond has fundamentally altered the strategic calculus of India and Japan, forcing them to rethink their attitudes towards each other. India's booming economy is making it an attractive trading and business partner for Japan as it tries to get out of its long years of economic stagnation. Japan is also re-assessing its role as a security provider in the region and beyond. India seems willing to acknowledge Japan's centrality in shaping the evolving Asia-Pacific security architecture.

 

India's ties with Japan have come a long way since May 1998 when a chill had set in after India's nuclear tests with Japan imposing sanctions and suspending its Overseas Development Assistance. Since then, however, the changing strategic milieu in Asia-Pacific has brought the two countries together so much that the last visit of Singh to Japan resulted in the unfolding of a roadmap to transform a low-key relationship into a major strategic partnership. The rise of China is a major factor in the evolution of India-Japan ties as is the US attempt to build India into a major balancer in the region. Both India and Japan are well aware of China's not so subtle attempts at preventing their rise.

 

An India-Japan civil nuclear pact would be critical in signalling that they would like to build a partnership to bring stability to the region at a time when China is going all out to reward Pakistan with civilian nuclear reactors, putting the entire non-proliferation regime in jeopardy.

 

Not surprising, therefore, that civil nuclear cooperation, enhancing trade ties and UN reforms dominated the talks that Singh had with his Japanese counterpart Naoto Kan. After some initial hiccups and with Singh's personal intervention, the long-awaited Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement was signed.

 

India will be making a case of its growing presence in the East Asian regional security and economic architecture at the 8th Asean-India Summit in Hanoi where the focus will be on enhancing the integration of the East Asian region with India.

 

India's free trade agreement with Asean last year committed New Delhi to bring down import tariffs on 80% of the commodities it traded with Asean. This allows India to challenge China's growing penetration of East Asia and prevents India's growing marginalisation in the world's most economically dynamic region. After signing a free trade pact in goods, India and Asean are now engaged in talks to widen the agreement to include services and investments. India hopes to increase its $44-billion trade with the Asean to $50 billion by the end of 2010.

 

India is pursuing an ambitious policy in East Asia aimed at increasing its regional profile more significantly than before. There is no time to lose as China's presence is already changing the regional landscape and smaller states in the region are now looking to India to act as a balancer in view of China's growing prowess and America's likely retrenchment from the

 

region in the near future.

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DNA

COLUMN

ARUNDHATI ROY IS DANGEROUSLY WRONG ON KASHMIR

VENKATESAN VEMBU

 

There's a mesmeric, seductive quality to Arundhati Roy's prose. For all its verbiage, it teases, tempts and torments the mind and lures it into the parlour of a contrarian world; it then persuades it, with the sheer power of its eloquence that the natural order of things in the 'real' world as we know it is wholly unnatural and completely flawed.

 

"So you think India is a superpower in the making?" it says, and marshals compelling arguments for why India is more in the "bhookey-nangey" category. "So you think big dams are great for development?" it asks. "Perhaps you'll feel differently if it were your home and your livelihood that needed to be sacrificed for the greater good".

 

A fair-minded person might concede that Roy has at least half a point, even if, once the seductive power of her prose has worn off, her polemical pounding of that half-point is grating in the extreme. Heck, she's not even the only one who holds an unflattering mirror to Indian society and forces us to reflect on our failings.

 

The social historian Ramachandra Guha does it no less trenchantly, no less controversially and no less eloquently; but he does it with a far greater sensitivity to the burden of history, and he at least has the intellectual honesty — and the good grace — to acknowledge the merits, such as they are, of India's democracy, flawed though it is.

 

But whereas the soundbite-savvy Roy's polemics were once merely infuriatingly dishonest (even when they had half a point), her most recent public articulations on Kashmir, coming on top of her unvarnished defence of Maoist resort to violence, cross the threshold of what any self-respecting, law-bound nation-state can tolerate. Roy may have declared herself an 'independent mobile republic', as she did after the 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests in order to dissociate herself from the BJP's nuclear jingoism; but she's still bound by the sedition laws of the decidedly immobile republic she inhabits.

 

Apart from being historically inaccurate, Roy's words also betray an inadequate sensitivity to the enormous gravity of any loose talk of azaadi or self-determination at a time when the separatist campaign in Kashmir finally stands exposed before the world as having been propelled all along by Pakistan-backed jihadis who are playing for much larger stakes: the disintegration of secular India.

Perhaps in parlour room polemics, among calm and politically sanitised minds, there may be little risk from intellectual explorations of the merits of Kashmiri self-determination. But the Kashmir mind today is in a fevered state as a result of years of hot-headed jihadi indoctrination; only when that fever subsides can other cures be contemplated. Right now, given that inflamed state, Roy's words have the potency to bestir indoctrinated minds into extreme action.

History doesn't flow in straight lines, but in contours, and in Kashmir's tortured history there are many contours to negotiate. The Indian state may not always have got it right in Kashmir, but Roy's black-and-white delineation represents a colossal and intellectually dishonest oversimplification of the problem without sufficient appreciation of the fanatical geopolitical forces at work. It also takes her farther down the slippery slope of shrill and decidedly dangerous sloganeering which has enormous lethal consequences in the real world. Perhaps she should break the spell that her own hypnotic prose appears to have on herself and her increasingly fanatical flock of followers

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

IT HURTS

 

How can one set of martyrs be different from the other? They make supreme sacrifice for the defence of the country. Yet, a distinction is sought to be made among them. A report in this newspaper that their kith and kin have been singled out for a gesture on the basis of not only their regions but also districts is very disturbing. It involves a nominal benefit. That is not important. In any case it is doubtful whether the families of deceased soldiers would care about what they get after the loss of their dearest ones. They do receive a certain amount in accordance with a prescribed procedure which is based on a uniform pattern. Every addition to it should also be equal. Any discrepancy in it --- whatever the reason --- can be hurting. Viewed in this context it is indeed distressing the way the martyrdom of policemen in the State has been viewed. Our report quotes a Government order singed by the Inspector-General Police (Headquarters) the relevant portions of which are: "100 colour television sets have been arranged for distribution among the Kashmir-based police martyrs", "197 blankets out of 200 available with the Armed Police Headquarters (APGQ) shall be provided for distribution among the next of kin of police martyrs of Jammu zone" and of "21 pressure cookers available with Police Control Room (PCR), Srinagar, 20 will be made available for distribution among the next of kin of police martyrs of Kathua district." Does this need any elaboration? Anyone will know the disparity between TVs, blankets and pressure cookers in terms of cost in particular. All the items must have already been given away on the scheduled date of October 21 which is the Police Martyrs Day. The disclosure about such discrimination leaves a bad taste in the mouth. 


How can an authority be so insensitive? There has been no application of mind with regard to the grim reality that it can fan an already prevailing feeling of regional favouritism. It has been claimed that the Jammu police has already given "five" colour TV sets from its own funds to the families of martyrs apart from water filters and blankets. How can any such mention reduce the gravity of all that has happened now? The State police does have a welfare fund to which every cop right from a constable to the chief contributes. It has sizable kitty. Surely, there is merit in the argument that it can be properly harnessed to ensure that there is standardisation. Even if assuming that there is discretion involved in such matters it has to be exercised in a manner that is not only fair but also seen to be so. This is necessary for the sake of confidence of the men in uniform. It will also nip in the bud the least desirable debate about lopsided treatment. 


Publilius Syrus, a Latin writer of maxims, has made a profound observation: "As men, we are all equal in the presence of death." He perhaps would have amended his view had he come across the present instance. There are elements among us who can cast a prejudiced glance on the post-death situation. This approach is best avoided especially in the case of martyrs who transcend all barriers to figure in the annals of history and because of whom we live. 

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

AUDIBLE AND VISIBLE

 

There are a number of experts in the State who will tell you that they have put on tape and video the interviews of quite a few pioneers in their respective fields who are no more. Their purpose is two-fold. They want to keep their record for posterity. At the same time they don't rule out the possibility of commercial exploitation of their resources at some stage to bring them money for their perseverance. They know that they are in possession of research material of immense value. It is an awareness which has come with the passage of time. The radio and television footages are now considered as, if not more, important as the print media. There is a way of preserving them. Those who are in the business know how to go about it. The developed world has moved faster in this direction. There can't be any reason to doubt this. Nevertheless a matter of satisfaction is that an effort is on to create global understanding so far as this task is concerned. Every year October 27 marks the World Day for Audio-Visual Heritage proclaimed by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation). The underlying idea is to "help raise global awareness of the importance of audio-visual documents as an integral part of our national identity and to draw attention to the urgent need to protect them." The theme for this year is "save and saviour your audio-visual heritage." There are some people who feel that nostalgia is like grammar --- the past is tense and the present perfect. Yet, it is always a pleasure to see an old film or hear an old song especially. There are many people who don't like the current dare-all-bare-all stuff or loud music based on what they at times find is rabidly offensive multi-lingual lyrics. A person is doubly delighted when he happens to watch or listen to a deceased member of the family who has been successful in one way or the other. It is generally believed that audio-visual documents such as films, radios and television programmes as well as audio and video recordings contain the primary records of the 20th and 21st centuries. 
Such documentation transcends language and cultural boundaries as it appeals immediately to the eye and the ear and to all regardless of whether or not they are literate. If kept safely it is a permanent complement to the traditional written record. It is UNESCO's reading that much of the world's audio-visual heritage has already been irrevocably lost through neglect, destruction, decay and the lack of resources, skills and structures "thus impoverishing the memory of mankind." It also concludes that "much more will be lost if stronger and concerted international action is not taken." At least once we have come across a disaster striking us in this country. There was a fire in the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India in Pune in 2003 in which valuable pictures were destroyed. The contemporary reports reveal that the losses included historic speeches of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1942 Congress session, apart from a few full-length movies. We should have a strong safety mechanism. There is no point in being wiser after the event.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

INDIA TO OVERTAKE JAPANESE ECONOMY

BY NITYA CHAKRABORTY

 

The demographic profile of the emerging economies is playing a big role in boosting the productivity in the developing world, especially in India, China and Brazil and this factor is responsible for the economic decline of the developed world, the worst example being Japan.


According to the latest international demographic studies, the average age of the population in India in 2010 will be 28 as against 37 in China, 38 in USA, 45 in West Europe and 49 in Japan. Japan will be worst hit in terms of productivity due to its ageing population. The annual budget of the Japanese Government will be burdened so much by pressure of social security for the retired who are non-productive that not enough funds will be left for developmental programmes. That way India is also advantageously placed vis a vis China and with the passing of years, India will be getting more benefits to its productivity due to its strength of the younger population who will be increasingly technically qualified due to the revamp of the education system.
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh is presently in Japan on a state visit and he is expected to talk to his Japanese counterpart with confidence since India is now recognised as a high growth economy in a period of global financial crisis and internationally, Dr. Singh is playing a major role in finding out solutions for the economic crisis which has been accentuated by the wrong policies of the capitalist west. That way, Japan this time will be more in an accommodative mood and the Japanese Government may even seek India's help in persuading China to be more helpful to solving the currency crisis. Japan earlier wanted India to be a part of anti-China axis but India has refused to fall in line and India is taking an independent position. India has its own problems with China but it wants to deal with that bilaterally and India believes that in the coming years, India, China and Russia have to cooperate to ensure a strong and stable international economic order.
According to a study on economic balance of powers after the present global crisis carried out by Samsung Research Institute, on a long term, India has better prospects of growth at the rate of 6 to 7 per cent while China will be having 4 to 5 per cent growth from 2020 due to declining economically active population and slowing productivity growth. However, Chinese economy is so big that its limited growth will also enable it to replace USA in 2026 as the largest economy of the world.


The study makes it clear that the US hegemony over the global economy is declining and the data shows that the US's economic weight has fallen steadily since 2000. It was 32 per cent in 2000 and in 2007, it came down to 25 per cent. But during this period, the emerging economies have gained in strength. These economies, including BRICs, had a weight of 5.3 per cent in 1992 but it went up to 12.8 per cent in 2007. China showed especially fast growth and the average growth was 10 per cent since entering WTO in 2001. China has already overtaken Japan in 2010 to become the number two economy in the world.


As experts see it, global economy is expected to slow down due to ageing population and shrinkage in economically active population while the emerging economies will lead the global economic growth. Both the US and EU will have very low growth ranging from 2 to 3 per cent in the initial years and then later even 1 to 2 per cent as a result of the shrinking labour population. As against this, the economic weight of the BRIC countries will continue to rise 16.1 per cent in 2010, 25.1 per cent in 2020 and 31.7 per cent in 2030.
As regards the financial power, the study mentions that the financial power of Europe and the emerging economies will strengthen in the next decade and after as against the USA, and significant advancement is expected in sovereign wealth funds and emerging economies. However, the study points out that while absolute financial power the US enjoyed now will weaken, it will still have superior status. In fact, financial power will be divided in the post-crisis period between the USA and Europe while the impact of China's rapidly growing financial power will be limited to Asia.

Analysing the international monetary system, the study says that US dollar will remain the leading currency due to its abundant liquidity in financial market and network effect but euro will become a powerful competing currency resulting in a bipolar currency system in the world. After the present global financial crisis, restructuring in the international financial order will alter the US led global currency system. However, Chinese yuan will become a regional currency in Asia.


According to the study, the global weight of the commercial banks are migrating to EU and the emerging economies and there will be increasing influence of oil money in the middle east and sovereign funds mainly consisting of Asian capital. There has been a contraction of the US investment banking industry due to the financial crisis and therefore the US seeks a breakthrough by cooperating with European and Middle Eastern capitals. The US and UK will cooperate to maintain their vested interests in the international financial system
As regards the knowledge capital, the study projects that the US will maintain its hegemony in the scientific and technology sectors until 2030 and its main rival will be China which could jump to second position globally by 2030 in terms of technology development. Research and development investment of China will amount to US$ 300 billion in 2020 surpassing those of Germany and Japan. China will rise as an Asian technology powerhouse in terms of the number of papers, number of citations and competitiveness of universities. In some areas, China and India could surpass the US in terms of scientific knowledge.


The study underlines that the latest global financial crisis paved the way for China to shorten by more than two years the time necessary to catch up with industrialised countries including the USA. While the US and Europe lost two years for the global crisis, Japan lost four to five years. The status of the US as a world superpower is weakened while the emerging countries leap forward. Regional integration spreads from trade and investment issues to finance and currency, and China strengthens its position, through its economic power, in Central Asia, Africa and ASEAN. (IPA)

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

THINK OF JAMMU NOW?

PROF. JAVED MUGHAL

 

"Closed mouth catches no flies" has practically been proved by Kashmir down the decades. They have felt the pulse of the Central Govt. and have understood that the Delhi does not understand the language of peace and security and has developed a habit of returning love in exchange for anti-India slogans, damaging Govt. property and carrying out processions in the streets. But the Valley has a wonderful flair of getting their demands fulfilled. Once their nest is feathered, they remain voiceless for a specific period of time and as soon as the requirement of some more packages is perceived, another strategy is planned afresh by them to stuff their pockets and grease their palms. Jammu never raised anti-Govt hue and cry despite being subjected to the unremitting sufferings due to routine negligence of the Delhi Sarkar and our own Govt. playing the role of a silent spectator of the whole show or getting into the state of deep slumber whenever the question related to the progress of Jammu cropped up. If a comparison is drawn between the two regions i.e. Jammu and Kashmir keeping in view the arenas of multi-farious upliftment-may it be education, health, transportation, tourism and many more, one gets shocked to note that Jammu region, in spite of being of great significance to India-being geographically well connected with the entire country round the year surmounting all weather vagaries, fruitfully accessible to the entire Indian market, climatically acceptable to every corner of the country, and a mushrooming abode of diverse cultures, languages and literatures quite richer than that of Kashmir, still stands ignored as well as under-developed. Govt has never been so serious about this calm, collected, rational-minded and long ailing province perhaps for the reason that we do not rush out on the roads to indulge into stone pelting, set the Govt property ablaze and raise anti-national slogans etc. 


On the contrary we the Jammuites have always stood shoulder to shoulder with the Central and State Governments at all crucial moments and moved our lips never to complain of the sufferings and brunts of developmental handicaps inflicted on us. If tourism of Jammu region is properly brought to the lime light and improved with due consideration, it will stand one with the tourism-portion of Kashmir. But the reason behind it is the dominance of Kashmir-based politics on the State-craft with ultimate policy-making powers. Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad had of-course, made an attempt to bring an end to this political-hijacking culture but could succeed no longer being unable to diagnose the camelionic designs of the Valley politics. He was a politician with the bureaucratic bent of mind and point-blank approach but was accepted no more. Since day one of Kashmir's emergence as a state taken from the Lordship of Maharaja Hari Singh, a sustained and well-contemplated scheme of policies and programmes was chalked out as far as the allocation of Assembly segments/

constituencies was concerned. More number of Assembly Seats was allotted to the Valley with less number of the same to Jammu Province with the intention to keep this biggest division (population and area-wise) deprived of the power to speak aloud on the floor of the House. Before the eruption of insurgency and even now-a-days more often the high quality products and the greater number of Packages travel across the Tunnel leaving behind Jammuites rubbing hands and beating heads. This attitude of the Central Government is actually making us realize that our deep-delved innocence and spotless allegiance to our leadership is being misused and we are being underestimated as unable to speak out for justice. I am proud of the better competence, caliber and moral character of the leaders of Jammu Division in contrast to those operating in Kashmir. Of course there was also a chunk of healthy brains (the Kashmiri Pandits) till 1992 but they are the part of our being now. We can not afford to stab someone at the back; quite impossible for us is to dishonor our motherland; we have a deep sense of gratitude which we have shown to Kashmiri hegemony down the decades since 1947. How unfortunate the Kashmir is that it does not have clean-minded and clear hearted political patronage like that of Jammuites nor could their leaders learn from our political representatives, a sense of faithfulness to their people. But the time has come for Jammuites to bring an end to this long-standing submission to Kashmir supremacy and establish an independent and self sufficient image at the national level otherwise the day is not away when our fate is decided by 14000 Sqkmtrs area in such a way that our forthcoming generation will land into the same state of affairs to face the same abject predicament as we have been facing for the last over 60 years. We are educationally backward because our educational sector in Jammu Division is always in an ailing state; our tourism stands relegated to the backdrop of negligence; our transportation is always at the mercy of weather. We don't matter anywhere at all. One slogan is raised from the Valley, the entire country gets shaken at its foundation but Jammu has ever shown the best example of its loyalty even then it does not matter to both the Governments. Chaos and panic seem to be favorite activator and vitalizer of our political machinery. 
Our Governments have got used to the air filled with the cries and thumping sounds of the guns. Punjab started it and got a lot to their progress. Kashmir does it and gets a lot in exchange but Jammu is silently gulping down the bitter draughts of identity crises sitting on the bare rock with nothing in the hands excepting unfulfilled dreams in the eyes and pulsating hopes in the heart. Unfortunately the Govt is openly lopsided towards the Valley and is least bothered about this biggest region, population-wise. May it be KAS exams or some other domain of recruitment, the bigger tendency of our Govt is towards Kashmir to keep it in good humour but at every tick of clock our Central as well as State Governments has bitterly failed in their experiment. Let it be manifest upon India that today's sentiment of exploited chunk of Kashmir is being governed by some other preferences than getting mere funds from the centre. These funds and packages become instrumental in furthering their struggle for the attainment of their main motives that we know. Jammu has never been jealous of Kashmir's prosperity because Kashmir's progress is in fact the prosperity of our country; after all Kashmir is the integral part of our nation-hood but our plea is that all the three regions should proportionately be benefited. This step-motherly treatment can lead to the emergence of another Trouble-torn Valley on the peaceful soil of Jammu also. Jammu's track record should be studied and reciprocated equally lest it should also transcend the barriers of peace and harmony creating a more issues for the political set up. 


It is good that all party delegation went to Kashmir to calm down the common ire but the matter of great anguish is that it did not bother to know the grievances of Jammu Division. Even in Kashmir the delegation did not go to the real sufferers. It enjoyed the beautiful strolls on the breezy brinks of Dal Lake, relished the aromatic dishes of Kashmiri Wazwan and flew back to the Pavilion. And while being on the way back to Delhi, they simply touched Jammu and shook hands with their like-minds and slipped away. This delegation was merely an eye-wash. Hence to iron out all differences and regional discriminations, the immediate demand of the circumstances is to reorganize the Assembly Seats in the state as per the population and geographical status of the state so that the due representation to all the three regions can be administered. The Dehli Darbar should plan out a cut and dried policy to allocate proportionate funds to render equal distribution of developmental steps and initiatives to all the three division-Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh. Rajouri, There should be a specific rotation for the installation of the CM from Jammu and the Valley on the basis of particular time scheme which the PDP-Congress Coalition has proved practically possible and advisable too during their regime. The Central Government will have to come forward (stopping all politics of tricks and gimmicks) to resolve this issue of discrimination once for all.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

PROBLEM OF J&K REFUGEES

BY DR. RAM CHANDER SHARMA

 

The Government of India has discriminated with PoK Refugees for the last 63 years and who are still considered as Displaced Persons (DPs). They are now in the fourth generation and still living in sub human conditions in 46 filthy camps. More than 2 lakh unarmed POKR were slaughtered in 1947 and according to GOI data (reply of unstarred question No. 7214 on 14-05-2002 in Lok Sabha) - in wake of Pakistani aggression in Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 about 32000 families of minority Hindu and Sikh families migrated from PoK to India, no claim in lieu of the movable and immovable properties left behind by these DPs were invited till date by GOI as PoK has always been considered as integral part of India and under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. Furthermore, under an unanimous resolution of Indian Parliament of 1994 the PoK area is an integral part of India and shall be liberated soon. Out of these 26300 families are living in Jammu region of J&K and 5300 were settled outside the state in other parts of India. These families were paid only ex-gratia assistance by GOI and the cases of 9500 families were rejected on the flimsy grounds as a) Those who didn't migrate during the crucial period i.e. between Sept 1947 and Dec 1950. b) Those in whose cases the Head of the family didn't migrate with the family. C) Those who didn't' stay in camps. D) Those whose monthly income was more than Rs. 300. A meagre assistance of Rs. 47 crores were sanctioned in the year 2000 on the deficiency of land and has been rejected by the POKR community.


POKR are now 20 lakh in number living in Jammu region and about 5 lac outside Jammu and Kashmir -- all the POKR were settled in camps and different scattered areas under a well planned conspiracy to undermine them politically and those who were from the Distt Muzzeferrabad of Kashmir valley were also pushed to Jammu and those settled outside the state have no right to vote in Jammu and Kashmir assembly. Soon after the partition the refugee problem between India and Pakistan was settled once for all amicably under Displaced Persons Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 1954 and all the claims of moveable and immoveable properties were paid to West Pak and Bengal Refugees but the same Act was not used for the settlement of claims of POKR as these hapless people are always told to be repatriated. Jammu and Kashmir High Court under Mr. Justice T. S. Dobia passed a judgement in writ petition No 684/01 dated 02-08-2002 where in the Govt was directed to pay similar benefits as that of other refugees of partition to POKR within six months including ownership rights but on the contrary the Jammu and Kashmir Govt moved the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India against the judgement.


World over the refugees problem is addressed by International refugees law of Refugee Status of 1951 and its protocol of 1967 but POKR are not considered as refugees and India is not a signatory to the UN agreement on Refugees. On the contrary the Tibetan Refugees in India are being treated honourably and being given all benefits of financial aids and provided with education through special schools and preservation of their culture and language. POKR are the first stakeholders of the Kashmir conflict and are ignored and discriminated by the Indian and J&K Govt till date. They were excluded on all levels of state and central talks and not included in the round table talks of the PM and five working groups. A committee named Wadhwa Committee was framed for the redressal of their grievances and the recommendations were not made public. The fifth working group headed by Justice (Retd.) Sageer Ahmed has no mention of POKR. The recent all party delegation which visited Jammu and Kashmir declined to meet the POKR groups and State Government arrested the leaders of POKR and lathicharged the peaceful demonstrations in Jammu.


POK Refugees at this juncture demand their settlement as per international refugees laws, grant of Rs. 50 lac per family as final compensation for their HR violation, full payment of left out properties, constitution of Refugee Dev Board with corpus fund of Rs 1000 crores, opening of schools for education and preservation the their language and culture, reservations in professional colleges and govt job in state and central deptts, payment of cash and relief as given to other internally DPs till final settlements, allotment of agri land, complete ownership rights of evacuee land, development of camps on modern lines and special economic and employment package.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

PM'S VISIT TO JAPAN

NOTHING DRAMATIC BUT STEADY PROGRESS IN TIES

 

CONSIDERING that Indo-Japanese relations have always followed a tortuously slow path of progress, the seeming lack of movement in the talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Japanese counterpart Naoto Kan in Tokyo should come as no surprise. Some satisfaction can be drawn from the fact that the overall direction is positive. There was unrealistic optimism among some before Dr Singh's visit that a civil-nuclear agreement may be clinched soon, but what has emerged is a declaration of intent by both sides to meet in the third week of November to iron out differences. India's approach on the issue during the Tokyo visit was well-calibrated. While Dr Singh emphasized that India will not push Japan on concluding a deal, his message to Japanese industrialists was to take advantage of the huge business opportunity that awaited them in meeting the needs of India's civil nuclear energy programme. Japanese majors in nuclear technology — Marubeni, Mitsui, Toshiba, Mitsubishi and Hitachi — are evidently salivating at the prospect of getting a slice of the Indian nuclear commerce pie and can be depended upon to exert pressure on their government to shed its reluctance to a civil nuclear deal with India.

 

In recent years, Japanese companies have been notoriously finicky and indecisive about investing in India, often seeming to be on the threshold and then holding back. A major deterrent for them has been India's poor infrastructure. That the Japanese government committed itself to its largest ever loan for an overseas infrastructure project two years ago — a 1,483km 'dedicated freight corridor' between Delhi and Mumbai providing high speed connectivity for high-axle-load wagons and an industrial corridor either side of the freight corridor — signalled a new strategic relationship with India. But despite that silver lining, Japanese investment is slow in coming. Even the Free Trade Agreement between the two countries has been hanging fire for years.

 

That Japan's recent frustration over Chinese aggressiveness over the small stretch of ocean contiguous to Japan and Chinese claims over Arunachal have alerted the two countries to the need to forge closer links is indeed a blessing in disguise. The time is indeed propitious for a major thrust in Indo-Japanese cooperation. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

COMMANDERS CONFERENCE

GOVT MUST BE SENSITIVE TO THE SERVICES' NEEDS

 

EVERY year the defence minister twice formally addresses and interacts with the Army's top brass comprising its chief, vice chief and the seven regional commanders along with several other senior ranking officers holding pivotal positions at Army headquarters. Both the annual Service-specific Commanders conference and the Combined Commanders Conference are occasions when the military's entire top rung leadership meets to discuss national security and take a comprehensive look at matters pertaining to the internal state of the services.

 

It was in such a forum Defence Minister AK Antony on Monday rhetorically stated that terrorism would be crushed while simultaneously calling upon Pakistan to shed its ambivalence on terrorism. That the defence minister chose to mention this at an Army Commanders Conference reflects on the extent to which the Army has become a part of the country's efforts to quell insurgency and safeguard internal security. Indeed, the Army's otherwise secondary role of 'aid to civil power' has over the years become a pivotal if not primary role and that too on a seemingly permanent basis.

 

But this is only one dimension to India's security concerns. China's ongoing and fast paced military modernisation programme along with that country's well entrenched strategic encirclement of India is a matter of grave concern. But the Indian Army, the world's third largest, will remain handicapped unless the government addresses a long list of wide ranging serious problems that it is facing. From both a qualitative and quantitative decline in the Army's officer cadre, which includes a growing incidence of corruption by senior officers, to grave equipment deficiencies, the Indian Army is silently facing considerable internal challenges. All these issues are expected to figure in discussions during the ongoing Army Commanders Conference. But in a country where civilian control of the military rightly remains supreme, it is for the political executive, starting with Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who must take notice and address these issues on an urgent basis. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BREACH OF PRIVACY

GOOGLE STREET VIEW RECORDS TOO MUCH

 

BEING on the cutting edge is often controversial, and the Internet giant Google is in an uncomfortable position, again, because of privacy concerns. It has admitted that it had "accidentally" captured complete e-mails and passwords from domestic WiFi networks in the UK. Google uses a series of "Street View" cars that take photographs and collect data for its service, which it launched on May 25, 2007. It was originally confined to some cities in the US, but it not only covers the US but also Canada, the UK, Australia, South Africa, etc. After Google announced that it had collected "fragments" of information from unsecured wireless networks, UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) examined a sample of data. It also announced that Google had not breached UK's data protection Act. However, following the latest hullabaloo, the ICO is re-opening its investigation.

 

Google has been accused by regulators in Canada and Spain of breaking local laws and it has also faced stiff resistance in Europe. Google's newly-appointed director of privacy tried to make amends by both apologising for the error, as well as promising that the company would strengthen its internal privacy and security practices. Street View has also seen controversies regarding the images that were put online, since they caught many people not quite where they wanted to be seen (like strip clubs or during protests), even though they were at public places. Other similar products include Microsoft's Streetside and Mapquest's 360° View.

 

It is increasingly becoming clear that practically all online activities are examined by search engines and advertising networks that evaluate each user as a potential customer. The pattern of activity of users is the basis of "behavioural advertising", the advertisements that are based on each person's geographical location, browsing history and demographics. Consumers too need to take precautions. It is not a coincidence that the data that Google gathered was only that which was being transmitted over unsecured networks, i.e., where users had not taken the trouble to use passwords and secure their home wireless networks. If you leave your front door open, someone may walk through it, just as Google did.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

BETTER RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA

EMERGING GLOBAL CHALLENGES AS THE CATALYST

BY HARSH V. PANT

 

A few days back India and Russia finalised joint fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) and multirole transport aircraft (MTA) projects to be completed over the next decade as part of which India will acquire about 250-300 FGFAs and 45 MTAs. The Indian Defence Minister underlined that these would be the flagship Indo-Russian joint projects as the joint development of Brahmos cruise missiles has been a positive experiment that would serve as a model for FGFA and MTA projects. India also raised the issue of inordinate delays in the delivery of Russian defence systems, resulting in considerable cost escalation.

 

The delivery of the aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov, has now been finalised for 2012-13 after India agreed to pay Russia $2.34 billion earlier this year as opposed to the original price of $974 million agreed to in 2004. India was supposed to get Akula-II nuclear-powered submarine last year but now its delivery has been postponed to March next year.

 

Despite this, the two sides are intent on having a strong defence partnership. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will be in India in December and the deal for joint development of FGFA will be signed during his visit. The Russian Chief of Defence Forces will be in India followed by the visit of the Russian Navy Chief in January next year. The two armies will be holding a joint counter-terrorism exercise later this month in India and it will be followed by another one in Russia next year.

 

There are very few examples of a relationship between two countries that has been as stable as the one between India and Russia. Despite the momentous changes in the international environment after the end of the Cold War, there remains a continued convergence of interests that makes it advantageous for both India and Russia to maintain close ties. Barring a fleeting hiccup during Boris Yeltsin's term as Russia's President, New Delhi and Moscow have been extraordinarily successful in nurturing a friction-free relationship that harks back to the Soviet era.

 

After the Cold War, both India and Russia struggled for several years to define their relations with other major players on the global stage, where the rules of international politics were in a state of flux and where the terms of the economic interaction between nations were being reset. As India rose in the global inter-state hierarchy, many in this country continued to rely on Russia for railing against the "unipolar world order". The most visible manifestation of this tendency was an attempt to create a Russia-China-India "strategic triangle". The proposal for a Moscow-Beijing-Delhi strategic triangle had originally come from former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov during his visit to India in 1998, arguing that such an arrangement would be a force for greater regional and international stability. But as every state in the triangle needed the US to further its own interests, this project could not move beyond platitudinous rhetoric.

 

And now with the US in relative decline and China emerging its most likely challenger, Russia and India are struggling with the implications of a possible Chinese hegemony over the Asian strategic landscape. It is this geopolitical imperative that is forcing Delhi and Moscow to ramp up their partnership. While this was not discussed in the open, this is the hidden subtext behind the rapidity with which the two countries are trying to revise their relationship. The rise of China is the new reality that India and Russia are trying to come to grips with, and this will shape the contours of their ties in the future.

 

Defence, of course, remains central to Indo-Russian relations. Not only is Russia the biggest supplier of defence products to India, but the India-Russia defence relationship also encompasses a wide range of activity that includes joint research, design, development, and co-production. India is now locally producing several Russian defence systems, including the Brahmos supersonic missile, the T-90 tank and Sukhoi fighter aircraft. Russia has agreed to further expand defence supplies ties with India, both in content and range, and has also decided to give its nod to cooperation in sophisticated spheres of technology about which the US and other Western nations seem reticent. During Putin's trip to New Delhi earlier this year, significant defence deals were signed that included a new contract for refitting the Gorshkov aircraft carrier; a $1.2 billion deal to procure 29 additional MiG 29 K naval fighter aircraft; and an agreement for an additional 40 Su MKI fighters for the Indian Air Force.

 

The bilateral defence relationship has indeed come under pressure as India has adjusted to the changing nature of modern warfare and shifted its defence priorities to the purchase of smart weaponry, which Russia is ill-equipped to provide. Already, India's increasing defence ties with Israel and the gradual opening of the U.S. arms market for India has made Russia relatively less exciting. The Indian military has been an critical of over-reliance on Russia for defence acquisition which was reflected in the Indian Naval Chief's view that there should be re-think on India's ties with Russia in the light of the Russian demand of $1.2 billion more for Admiral Gorshkov.

 

Though there is disquiet among the Indian armed forces about the Russian behaviour over Admiral Gorshkov, it is clear that Russia is the only country that is willing to share defence technology of strategic nature with India, including aircraft carriers and nuclear submarine. It is equally significant that Russia is probably the only major global power that has not sold defence technology to Pakistan. Civilian nuclear energy cooperation has also gathered momentum with a comprehensive nuclear deal between India and Russia and a pact to build two power plans in Tamil Nadu. Russia is already constructing four nuclear reactors in India, and this pact will lead to more than a dozen Russian nuclear power plants in India.

 

The rapidly deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan has been instrumental is bringing India and Russia closer to each others in recent years. Moscow's recent assertion that the security situation in Afghanistan "does impact the security" of India and Russia underscores the convergence of views between the two on the evolving situation in Afghanistan. As a consequence, India and Russia have stepped up cooperation on Afghanistan. This comes at a time when Indian disenchantment with the West on Af-Pak is at an all-time high and it is looking at alternative policy options to secure its interests. India-Russia partnership is only likely to get stronger in the light of the challenges that the two face in their vicinity.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

ROLE REVERSAL

BY K.R. BHARTI

 

THAT evening when I happened to pass by a street of my village town, I heard a big noise. I gathered that preparations for the Ram Lila to be staged in the village were going on. But the people there were virtually scuffling. The reasons were beyond my comprehension. However, out of curiosity, I hid myself behind a wall to gather the facts.

 

"No-no, I won't do the role of Rama this time. I have done enough of it all these years. I would rather be happy to perform the character of Ravana. There has to be some change in one's life," asserted an actor.

 

"You are so handsome, humble, pious and poised soul. Who can better fit into the role of Rama more than you? Moreover, it is a big honour to act Rama, the Yug Pursha. What really has polluted your mind?" said an office-bearer of the Ram Lila Committee. But all flatteries seemed to fall flat on him.

 

Needless to say that Dashratha, Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, Shatrughana are the most popular characters of the epic Ramayana which actors readily accept to play. Though great in all respects, the roles of Lord Hanuman, Sugriv, Angad, Bali, Jamwant are accepted with slight hesitation for the reason of obnoxious appearance of a monkey or a bear which earns them a nickname of Hanuman, Bali, Sugriv, etc in their social life.

 

But when it comes to the role of Ravana or the entire demon clan, it is only after persistent persuasion and prodding that actors accept these roles. The managers no doubt take into account the physique and traits of characters before assigning roles. Why this particular man wanted to act Ravana instead of Rama, was an enigma to me and I left the place with this riddle remaining unresolved.

 

My memories were drawn to Ram Lila of our times when the roles of women characters of Ramayana were more often played by men in the guise of women. It was great fun to watch men playing women. At times prompting of characters from behind the curtain provoked peals of laughter. On one occasion, a prompter asked Sita (a man playing Sita) to be ready for her role. "Let me finish my bidi (smoke) first", was the quick and curt reply. This and other similar happenings really amused the audience. Of late, women have come forward to play the role of women characters in villages too.

 

The days of Ram Lila were drawing close and the Rama-Ravana saga was now an open secret among the people. I linked the bits and pieces of the gossip to unravel the whole mystery. The role of Sita was being played by a very comely girl of the village this time and not by a male which indeed had become the reason for the role impasse. The man perhaps wanted to seek pleasure in lifting Sita in his arms in the episode of Sita Haran.

 

I was benumbed and kept musing over the changing times and values.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

PUNJAB: TRADITIONAL VS ELITE POLITICS

THE SHIROMANI AKALI DAL, WITH ALL ITS RECENT EFFORTS TO BROADEN THE SUPPORT BASE IN URBAN PUNJAB BY BUILDING INFRASTRUCTURE, INCREASING ROAD AND AIR CONNECTIVITY AND TACKLING THE ENDEMIC POWER CRISIS, CANNOT SIMPLY AFFORD TO ANNOY ITS CORE CONSTITUENCY: THE JAT SIKH PEASANTRY 

ASHUTOSH KUMAR

 

THE removal of Manpreet Singh Badal from the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Cabinet as Finance Minister of Punjab on the charges of "persistent acts of indiscipline and opposing the publicly endorsed pro-people policies of the party and the government", ostensibly at the behest of Deputy Chief Minister and party president Sukhbir Badal, has brought the Akali rebel to the centre stage of Punjab politics at the moment.

 

Has it been merely the culmination of a long-term tussle between the siblings for being the 'natural inheritor' of an ageing Badal senior a la Thakre family in Maharashtra or Karunanidhi family in Tamil Nadu, or are there substantive issues involved also in this still unfolding political saga having long-term ramifications for the party and the beleaguered state? What does the event tell us about the way electoral politics operates in the state? How to make sense of the contrasting mode of politics and leadership style of the two main protagonists engaged in a battle that has really just begun?

 

Without going much into details, let us refer to the contentious 'issue related to Punjab finances' that led Manpreet Badal, a 'born Akali' in his own words to put his 'entire political career at stake' to serve the 'best interests of Punjab and Punjabis'. What Manpreet Badal is saying or has been saying for long is fairly known and whose veracity cannot be denied even by his detractors. That Punjab, once considered the 'model state' of India for long thanks to the success of capital intensive/technology driven Green Revolution, has for considerable period now been experiencing deceleration in terms of economic growth is a irrefutable fact.

 

Symptomatic of the economic malaise that has gradually set in the state irrespective of political regimes, the state has over the years accumulated a staggering debt burden is also known even if only the 'fully informed' citizens may be knowing till recently that the total debt at the moment stands at a whopping Rs 70,000 crore and the state government is paying around Rs 8,000 crore as interest only. It goes without saying that if it does not mend its ways by raising resources and cutting its expenses, the state is likely to default on its repayment in the near future.

 

The ruling political class explains the predicament of Punjab, especially its ever-increasing debt, by putting forth three oft-repeated 'explanations': first, the state paid a heavy economic price on account of its more than a decade-old fight against militancy as it not only became debt-ridden as a result but also experienced a flight of capital from the borderland state. The fight was for national unity and integrity and for the nation's security.

 

Secondly, investments that dried up during the conflict period have not picked up till date as the neighbouring hill states have been doling out incentives to potential investors thanks to the special category status accorded to them by the Centre. Thirdly, the debt has also accumulated due to the heavy subsidies being given to farmers who, in turn, have contributed to the nation's cause by replenishing its food grains stocks year after year ensuring food security.

 

Ironically, when finally the Centre reportedly did offer to bail out the state from the crisis by agreeing to adjust part of the debt due to the persistent efforts of the now sacked Finance Minister, the Akali Dal rather than lapping up the offer has gone into ferment. Why?

 

It is not only because, as has been insinuated, that if the 'deal' would have been clinched then the credit would have gone entirely to the leadership of Manpreet Badal, the 'challenger' in the mould of custodian of 'Punjabi pride', adding to his already high-profile stature of a leader with 'saintly idiom' to the detriment of the leadership aspirations of his Chief Minister-in-waiting cousin, a quintessential Punjabi politician, known and grudgingly appreciated even by his detractors for his 'rough and ready' but effective mode of organisational politics.

 

If it would have been so, then why should the known Sukhbir Badal's baiters like Amarinder Singh or Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, both top leaders of the rival Congress waiting in the wings for the impending 2012 elections, would vehemently criticise Manpreet Badal, the 'lone ranger'? Allegations of being 'anti-party'/'anti-people' have essentially been in response to Manpreet Badal's uncritical support to the economic reforms measures being suggested by the Centre as 'pre-conditions' in lieu of the proposed economic package. The measures, aimed at diminishing the state's expenditure and raising additional resources include a reduction in the power subsidies, privatisation of the loss-making PSUs, bringing the local bodies under audit by CAG, raising the transportation charges and finally a check on the withdrawal of sums from the provident fund.

 

A four-time MLA and long-term member of the political affairs committee, Manpreet Badal would be critically aware that the fragmented nature of Punjab electoral politics has made it imperative for the leaders who shape the form and content of their party agenda/manifesto, tenor of election campaigns and also decide about important matters of alliance building and modes of distribution of patronage, to prioritise the party's electoral survival while contemplating policy options even at the cost of the perceived long-term gains for the state.

 

The Akali Dal, like its rival Congress, has been emphasising its unambiguous commitment to economic reforms in its election manifesto, however, fearful of the backlash of the numerically strong and land-owning Jat Sikh peasantry -- its core constituency -- has simply been unable to roll back the huge anti-reform subsidies in the form of free water and electricity being doled out in the name of common good.

 

Moreover, the Akali Dal, unlike the rival Congress, has a limited social support base that has made an electoral alliance with the BJP a matter of compulsion for the party, howsoever an 'unnatural' alliance it is. The Sukhbir Badal-led Akali Dal with all its recent efforts to broaden the support base in urban Punjab by building urban infrastructure, increasing road and air connectivity and tackling the endemic power crisis, cannot simply afford to annoy its core constituency, especially at this stage in a state where religion, caste, region and leadership factors combine differently in different elections ensuring the change of power in every elections held in the post-1966 Punjab.

 

Notwithstanding the rhetoric about a shift in the electoral agenda from identity to development and good governance, the Akali Dal would thus be contented to stay with the 'mass politics' based on ethnic populism devoid of programmatic efforts for the sake of electoral mobilisation and gains.

 

An unusual leader like Manpreet Badal, who no longer seems willing to tread the beaten path and has come out as an unabashed reformist/moderniser, is essentially catering to 'elite politics' addressing the deep concerns of the bourgeoning educated urban middle class citizenry as well the entrepreneurial class in the state who read English language newspapers, watch informed debates on TV and have an access to the internet and Facebook and yearn for the 'game changer'.

 

Do these 'new' classes have a wider socio-political and economic policy impact than what their actual size suggests in contemporary Punjab? Does the heat and dust of mass politics that defines the elections in Punjab encourage such a significant departure even at the present moment of a grave crisis? How would the powerful Jat Sikh landed peasantry react? Whether the 'new' youthful leader would succeed in actually affecting a discernable shift in the political and economic agenda of Punjab or simply walk into political oblivion, no one can say at the moment.

 

The writer is a Professor, Department of Political Science, Panjab University, Chandigarh. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

ONCE A LEADER, NOW A LAGGARD

A DISTURBING FACTOR IS THAT A HUGE SEGMENT OF THE RURAL POPULATION IN PUNJAB IS ENGAGED IN AGRICULTURE AND CONTRIBUTES JUST 29 PER CENT TO THE STATE'S GDP 

SARBJIT DHALIWAL

 

IT is said that crises provide opportunities. Obviously, Punjab is in a deep fiscal crisis. The state's decline from the top of the economic ladder is real. The state's growth has been chained by the debt. Unfortunately, there has never been a focussed debate on Punjab's economy. Had the Centre not made an offer to waive a part of the loan recently, the political leadership would not have given the attention it deserves.

 

Punjab's ruling political leadership has been living in its own wonderland oblivious of the grave situation confronting the state on various fronts owing to its shaky fiscal situation. It should browse through the 11th Plan (2007-12) document that throws enough light on the state's declining fortune.

 

Punjab will be the slowest growing of the 28 states in the country during the 11th Plan period. The Planning Commission has pegged the state's GDP growth at 5.90 per cent against the country's growth of 9 per cent during the Plan.

 

Punjab will grow the slowest while states like Gujarat, Haryana and Karnataka will race ahead with a projected growth rate of 11 per cent or above. Even the trouble-torn Jammu and Kashmir and the Naxal-hit Chhattisgarh,

 

Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa will grow at a faster pace than Punjab.

 

Punjab's share in the country's GD is declining. It was 3.76 per cent in 1999-2000 and came down to 3.11 per cent in 2008-09 with an average fall of 0.06 per cent every year in the last 10 years.

 

Punjab was the number one state in the country as far as per capita income is concerned till the 1990s. Its per capita income was Rs 25631 in 1999-2000. Gujarat's per capita income in 1999-2000 was Rs 18864, Haryana's Rs 23222, Maharashtra's Rs 23011 and Kerala's Rs 19461. However, in 2007-08, Haryana with per capita income of Rs 39,462 moved far ahead of Punjab's per capita income of 31,662. Maharashtra, Kerala and Gujarat have also left Punjab behind. The per capita income of Delhi and Goa is almost double of Punjab.

 

Punjab pays about Rs 8,000 crore as interest per annum on its debt of Rs 71,000 crore. Money saved from paying interest in case of the partial debt waiver could have been diverted to fund development in the state. In the light of this, the Centre's offer on loan should have been grabbed immediately. Besides, Punjab's PSUs are also under a heavy debt and some are on the verge of collapse.

 

The share of agriculture and allied activities in the state's GDP was 49.13 per cent in 1980-81 and it came down to 31.61 in 2006-07 and to 29.04 in 2009-10. It has been on a declining curve ever since 1980-81. Had the MSP of main food grains not increased substantially during the past few years, the share of this sector would have come down further. The level of public expenditur on agriculture and allied areas from the budget expenditure (revenue account) also came down to 2.95 per cent in 2005-06 from 9.83 per cent in 1980.

 

A disturbing factor is that a huge segment of the rural population (67 per cent) contributes just 29 per cent to the state's GDP. Its contribution to the SGDP has been declining since 1980-81.Two things are very clear. First, rural people are becoming poorer compared to the other 33 per cent contributing 71 per cent to the SGDP. Second, there is a huge surplus of manpower, which has been under-performing in the absence of adequate opportunities to perform in the rural sector. In developed economies only 5 to 10 per cent people do farming. Through sustained human resource development, the developed economies have shifted huge chunks of their population to manufacturing and industrial sectors from the rural sector. It will take several decades for Punjab to achieve the level of developed economies.

 

All these facts clearly indicate that there are imbalances in the state's economy, which need to be restructured to check Punjab's further decline. Sooner or later, the political leadership will have to take a call to check Punjab's slide.

 

Instead of investing in traditional farming such as growing wheat and paddy, the state government should invest in modernising agriculture and the state's over all economy. Farmers should be given subsidy to set up dairy farms, poly greenhouses and taking to horticulture to cater to the needs of the middle class. If the Centre wants that Punjab should ensure food security for the country, let it pay for free power to farmers in the state.

 

Investment in human resources is the area that needs top priority.

 

Punjab has been lacking on this front. To shift wards of farmers from the farm sector to the industrial, manufacturing and service sectors, there is need to provide quality education in the rural areas.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

THE GREAT BIG MOTION PICTURE BUFFET

IT MAY MAKE MORE SENSE TO SERVE UP A SELECTION RATHER THAN KEEP THINGS EXPENSIVELY À LA CARTE

 

Last Thursday, during the opening ceremony of the Mumbai Film Festival, there came a point when I had seen just about enough. The show started late, two imbecilic non-actresses fumbled their way through sloppy introductions to a pretty impressive jury, some sort of dance troupe made an embarrassingly loud mess on stage and then, instead of going to the film, we went to a break. We film fanboys were already seething when, impossible as it sounds, Minishha Lamba grabbed our attention. 

 

She started talking of "the next guest", listing screen credits I could rattle off in my sleep. As she went on about legendary wordman Aaron Sorkin, my brain exploded in writerly arousal. Was the writer of The West Wing really here? Electrified and prepared to leap to my feet and throw hands together more in giving myself a high-five rather than merely applaud, I was stopped cold by the woman declaring that while Mr Sorkin would have loved to be here, they have a video clip instead. It was unforgivable. 

 

And yet I forgave, gladly, even gratefully. Because the film that followed, The Social Network, is without a question the finest English language film I've seen on the big screen in a few years. The expectations were always unbelievable because of the quality of talent on tap – a script by Sorkin (A Few Good Men, Studio 60, On The Sunset Strip), director David Fincher (Fight Club), and music by Trent bloody Reznor of the Nine Inch Nails – and because critics worldwide were already dubbing it an unqualified masterpiece. Worry not, the film is better than anything you've read about it, really. 

 

So, well done, Mumbai Film Festival, letting a cinematic tour de force wash over us and quell our harangued, harrowed souls. Maybe the tacky opening act was intentional, even. Yet this is not a piece on The Social Network – I have nowhere near enough words to do the film justice here – but applause for a festival format that our local multiplexes can learn a lot from. I've been watching just two films a day there, but friends have been milking the festival to the hilt, gorging on a splendiferous buffet of world cinema, finding a veritable sushi feast in the stunning Japanese language cinema selection. 

 

The format is simple: a delegate pass, costing a thousand rupees (halfprice for students), entitles you to watch everything you can over the eight-day festival period. So you shuffle through schedules, experiment, recommend, enquire, and figure out your own unique movie-map, which surely intersects with others. A sense of community is fostered, and filmmakers and writers you worship are around, in better mood than ever, as thrilled as you are by the cinema on offer. "You coming in for the (Takeshi) Kitano?", Vishal Bhardwaj asks. "No? Okay, then we'll meet at the (Alejandro Gonzales) Inarritu tonight." Amazing. 

 

Even without the smorgasbord of obscure, lovely options, this format – of subscribing to a short-term, intensely packed cinematic spread – is a very workable one. Imagine buying a weekly pass at the nearest PVR, and watching the latest films by John Woo, Mallika Sherawat, Tom Cruise and Priyadarshan, with enough left over to try out a small Indie with an interesting poster and the new Aishwarya Rai movie. The experimentation the format encourages is most heartening to big and small filmmaker alike, and theatre-owners giving up on their ridiculously priced tickets can seek succour in full, bustling theatres. It will make more people go to more films, and reach beyond their comfort zones and try the new. 

It'll work. Now who's going to do something about it?

 

RAJA SEN

 

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

EDITORIAL

IN FIRM RECOVERY MODE

SOFTWARE LEADERS BEAT THE ENVIRONMENT

 

While software industry leaders are claiming that the economic environment for them continues to be challenging, the numbers indicate a more positive state of affairs and a possible return to business as usual. The dark year of 2009-10 is behind them. This is particularly so for the top two. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has steadily improved top line growth for the third successive quarter now and chalked up an impressive 24.9 per cent growth year-on-year for the September quarter. Same is the case with Infosys Technologies, which has recorded a 24.4 per cent growth. Both have in the process gone back to the rate of growth they had achieved in the fourth quarter of 2008-09, that is six quarters ago. On the margin front the story is varied but instructive. Even through the slowdown, TCS had been improving its margins and its net margin now stands at an impressive 23.3 per cent, which is under 2 percentage points behind that of the margin leader Infosys. As for the latter, it never lost track of margins even during the darkest period when growth was negligible or negative. At the current level, margins have not returned to the best figures of 27 per cent plus, indicating that a tough struggle is still ahead. Wipro, which has non-software businesses ranging from soaps to lighting, has also maintained a steady level of net margins over successive quarters despite top line volatility. In keeping with the overall mood, TCS CEO N Chandrasekaran has struck the most positive note about the recovery of global demand in the period ahead.

 

It is important to note that the steady improvement in the performance of leading Indian software companies comes at a time when recovery in the advanced economies, where most of their clients are located, remains weak. It is also important that the leaders are in a separate class compared to the rest of the software industry whose performance is in keeping with the halting economic recovery in developed economies. This indicates that in fair weather or foul, the leaders are likely to do good business because, as Infosys CEO S Gopalakrishnan says, investment in information technology (IT) will have to be made in building tomorrow's businesses (no matter how negative the current scenario at any given moment may be) and his firm is part of that initiative. Thus, as long as businesses keep reinventing themselves, Indian IT leaders will be partnering them. This substantially de-risks the latter's business from the worst vagaries of business cycles. The biggest risk to these firms remains the anti-offshoring sentiment in the US, the main client base of the IT leaders and it is significant that despite this sentiment being at a pre-election peak, business has not been adversely impacted. However, the big IT firms seem to have learnt a key lesson and have announced plans to significantly raise the level of local hiring. As this process continues and the share of domestic Indian business increases, margins are likely to come under pressure. But the firmness of the current recovery indicates that they will still remain extremely healthy in comparison to any other mature industry.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

REGULATING THE REGULATOR

PROPOSED CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY NEEDS A CREDIBLE HEAD

 

On paper, the government's plan to create an independent Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in place of the government-controlled Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) looks unexceptionable. An industry that is now dominated by private airline companies certainly requires a regulator that is equidistant from government, itself owner of the biggest airline operator, and industry. But there are compelling reasons to suspect that the CAA will be DGCA by an other name. One reason lies in India's recent regulatory history. To start with, the government has not yet been able to fully establish the autonomy of independent regulators by opting to man most of them with retired civil servants, mostly from the Indian Administrative Service. It could be argued that former bureaucrats are uniquely qualified to head regulatory bodies since they are well-versed in the mechanics of policy-making. They are also considered preferable to private industry specialists who may well be vulnerable to one industry lobby or the other. Both are valid points, but the current practice in no way precludes the kind of dispassionate and fearless independence that regulators in evolving industries urgently need. If we assume that regulators are expected to safeguard the interests of investors, then the turf war over unit-linked insurance plans between the insurance and stock market regulators — both headed by former IAS officers — has done little to help the millions of investors in these products. Also, government administrators mostly tend to be generalists whereas regulation is increasingly demanding an acute level of specialisation.

 

This is a particularly critical issue as far as the CAA is concerned, because, unlike other regulatory bodies, it is being financed out of a Rs 12 surcharge on consumers. But early reports also suggest that it is on course to become something like the pre-liberalisation Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission or the Bureau of Industrial Costs and Prices. The civil aviation ministry has expressed the view that the CAA should have a say in air-fare disputes between consumers and airlines, requiring airlines to compulsorily produce information on their fare-fixing procedures. It is true that consumers do need an appellate body to which they can address grievances, but the consumer courts have proved to be a reasonably efficient and fast-track solution and should be mobilised. Also, regulation and dispute-solving are distinct functions. In a business in which pricing lies at the heart of the competition, it seems unreasonable to ask airlines to reveal the basis of their decision-making. Besides, pricing is the least of the industry's problems — timeliness and safety (as evidenced by the government-owned airline's dismal record) are the bigger issues. If the government truly wants to set a new standard for regulation, it should look outside its cadres for a head for the CAA. In its early days, the Indian power sector regulator was headed by an economist of repute like S L Rao. There are many persons of professional distinction, outside of government and industry, who can lend credibility to regulatory institutions. This is of particular importance in civil aviation where the track record of the ministry in policy-making and regulation has so far been found to be wanting in many ways.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

MINING INDIA'S DEVELOPMENT

GOVERNMENT AND INDUSTRY SHOULD TOGETHER EVOLVE MINING POLICY BASED ON GLOBAL BEST PRACTICES

RAJENDRA ABHYANKAR

 

Vedanta, Posco and Sindhudurg. The issue is the same — the need for a well-thought-out policy relating to extractive and resource-based industry. The government's withdrawal of mining permission to Vedanta on the Niyamgiri hills in Orissa's backward Kalahandi district; the divided verdict by the Gupta Committee on the Posco iron ore project; and the environment ministry's concern on 49 mining licences issued by the Maharashtra government for bauxite and iron ore in the eco-sensitive Western Ghats raise the issue of a fundamental conflict between the real cost of sustainable development and the national imperative to raise living standards of all Indians.

 

Rahul Gandhi's dramatic championing of the Dongria Kondh tribe raised the status and expectations of the country's politically neglected tribal population. More importantly, it raised the issue of charting the future development of affected populations beyond existing constitutional provisions in order to nurture their culture and way of life without detracting from the equal need to bring them acceptable advantages of enhanced living standards.

 

 Without a policy frame, somewhat like a directive principle, which addresses this core issue, national legislation relating to environment protection, coastal zone regulation and forest rights will not by itself achieve the desired result. The appointment of ad hoc expert committees to pronounce on this issue neither provides a consistent policy nor detracts from the presumption of political partisanship.

 

International experience in countries with indigenous populations like Australia, the US, New Zealand, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Indonesia and others is not the best guide. The conflict between preserving indigenous cultures and sharing the benefits of growth and modernity has been starkly posed everywhere with only a modest degree of success. Policy in this regard has nevertheless moved from paternalistic underpinning towards seeking genuine and informed consent of the affected peoples.

 

The issue assumes urgency since most of the country's mineral-rich districts are co-terminus with tribal lands notified in Schedule V of our Constitution. The existence of over 30,000 illegal mines around the country brings out the relatively lax application of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (Pesa) Act which requires consultation with tribal panchayats or gram sabhas. It is necessary to take a view not only with regard to Vedanta and Posco that have in-principle approvals, but also the existing illegal mines in the operation where tribal rights, sanctuaries and cultures would have been affected or destroyed.

 

Indian industry needs assured supply of minerals and metals as also oil, gas and other intermediates to fuel growth. The extractive industry too needs an adequate rate of return on investment. The likely scaling down of projected investment in this sector because of stop-go policies could have a deleterious effect on the targeted FDI inflow for infrastructure growth in communications, industry, agriculture and services.

 

India needs a national policy on mining covering new mines and all existing mines — legal, conditionally approved, and illegal. The reports of the N C Saksena and Meena Gupta committees were the culmination of the work of a number of earlier committees set up by government. The dissonance in the latter's findings raises questions of both propriety and transparency.

 

The government's new-found resolve to deal with the issue across-the-board, given strong political will at the top, should enable the development of an environmentally sustainable, rights-based and cost-effective policy for value-realisation of our natural resources. A considerable body of case-studies has built up internationally where major multinational entities in extractive and hydrocarbon sectors have shown the way.

 

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD's) non-binding guidelines on corporate governance and sustainability for the European corporate sector provide an excellent basis for considering a set of national guidelines which could eventually become law. These guidelines are being effectively observed in specific cases of violation of the rights of people dispossessed or deprived by new and existing mining, exploration, infrastructure and industrial projects.

 

A number of "best practice" examples can be cited, e.g. Canadian mining company Goldcorp agreeing to commission an independent human rights impact assessment study and submit a detailed action plan to ameliorate violation of communal property rights in its Guatemala operations; BHP Billiton setting up a global ethics panel for quarterly review of non-compliance with the company's code of business conduct, and their sustainability committee which focuses on HSEC (health, safety, environment and community) risks; and Anglo-American's Social Way guidelines methodology which uses a 24-criteria scorecard that includes issues like rights of indigenous peoples and complaint and grievance procedures for stakeholders.

 

India's resource-based industries need a "road map" for future development that addresses issues relating to environmental sustainability and also provides a code of business conduct that can address the issue of making affected populations stakeholders in the enterprise. The exercise could be started by getting existing permission-holders, like Vedanta and Posco, to submit a plan of action in regard to their proposed or ongoing operations which takes into account the issues listed above. It will provide the framework for a cohesive and national policy.

 

The author was India's ambassador to the European Union

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

LET THE RUPEE RIDE

SUBIR ROY

 

India seems to be the odd man out. At a time when global powers are lined up against each other over exchange rate management and the threat of competitive devaluation looms over everyone, India seems happy to let the rupee rise. This is even as exports are sluggish, a high negative current account balance persists, and foreign direct investment (FDI) is trailing portfolio investment in the current year in reversal of the earlier pattern. What gives?

 

The worrisome way of looking at all this is to identify a holy cow as the root cause. Nothing must be done to impede capital flows into the stock market which is getting on to a bull run of sorts. Middle class India has been waiting for this for two years now and there is no question of spoiling the party when it is just about to warm up by stemming the inflow of portfolio investment. Not just common folks, the big and the powerful with alternative resources will not have their round-tripping via the stock market stopped. So, no border restrictions, no Tobin tax a la Brazil. The short-term capital inflow continues unchecked, taking the rupee up and turning the tables against buoyant export growth.

 

 The positive way of looking at the scenario is to argue that export sluggishness is a result of global trade not picking up as consumption trends in developed economies remain weak. According to the IMF (World Economic Outlook), global trade in volume terms is likely to rebound this year after falling last year, but is projected to grow at an average rate of 6.8 per cent over 2012-15, which will be less than the average 7 per cent achieved during 2000-07. As for the current account deficit, a fast-growing economy powered by high investment expenditure will have a keen appetite for import of plant and machinery which will lead to a sizeable current account deficit. The dissonance between FDI and portfolio investment also need not be considered a wholly negative development as the latter need not necessarily create an asset bubble. Corporate earnings are doing well, helping keep in check price-earnings ratios. Plus, anchor investors in public issues end up financing new capital assets.

 

Thus, while an appreciating rupee may not be doing the damage that it is popularly supposed to be, it can even be doing some good via the impact on inflation. Global commodity prices, on their way up once again, will sharply impact core (non-food and non-energy) inflation during a period of high industrial growth. Since bringing down inflation while sustaining rapid growth is the key task ahead and agricultural prices remain stubbornly high despite a good monsoon, a strong rupee that keeps raw material import costs down is a great help.

 

There is yet another reason why clever policy-makers may be secretly happy to live with a robustly valued rupee. Indian tariff rates remain high and should be brought down progressively. Bringing down nominal tariff rates is unpopular with domestic industry. It is so much simpler to let the job be done via creeping currency appreciation. Greater import competition for domestic industry does wonders to a country's competitiveness over time. The appreciation of the rupee since August, assuming a median import tariff of 10 per cent, has brought down the landed cost of imports by 6 per cent. Being able to stand up to cheaper imports is the obverse of being able to competitively export. So that loops back to export performance where we began.

 

There are a couple of recent developments that go against this line of reasoning. Recent industrial growth rate figures show a decline largely as a result of poor performance by capital goods. This and a declining order book position do not portend well for investment expenditure which has been a driver of high growth. Faltering growth and appreciating rupee do not go well together. But neither the private nor the public sector currently appears reluctant to invest. Business confidence is at a high and there is no resource crunch for public investment. We may eventually see imports matching a lot of investment expenditure but that will only point to the need to address the competitiveness of the domestic machine-building sector. If Bhel's power plants cannot compete with Chinese equipment in price, then they must at least be clearly superior in quality.

 

The foremost agenda for policy-makers is to bring down inflation which is largely the result of high food prices. An appreciating rupee is not a contributing villain. In fact, cheap imported edible oils and pulses help contain food prices. Export competitiveness is indeed a priority but a favourable exchange rate is more of a quick fix. Neither auto components nor software exports seem to be suffering from an adverse exchange rate. Apparel exports are, but that is because western demand for higher-end garments (India's niche) is yet to pick up and a lot of Indian garment factories are uneconomical in size, a hangover from the days when factories were kept small so as to qualify for being small scale. Export competitiveness is a long, hard-fought battle, won industry by industry, cluster by cluster. Auto components (Deming prize), software (CMM Level Five certification) and pharmaceuticals (FDA certified facilities) all score on quality.

 

The current growth-induced tax buoyancy and disinvestment inflows offer the government a golden opportunity to improve the fiscal balance which is vital for achieving price stability. Once that is achieved, the rupee can be left to find its own level. The benefits of doing so outweigh those from keeping the rupee cheap.

 

subirkroy@gmail.com 

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

RACE FOR STREET SPACE

ATTEMPTS TO REGULATE STREET VENDING HAVE FAILED AND FOR THE SUPREME COURT, VEHICLES HAVE BECOME THE NEW ROAD ENCROACHERS

M J ANTONY

 

Two strong contenders for road space in our cities are hawkers and motor vehicles. Pedestrians just squeeze in. Civic authorities had been trying, hesitantly and vainly, to regulate street vending for decades. The Supreme Court, which grappled with this problem in the Capital as early as 1966, last week left it to the authorities to solve it through legislation. As for the middle-class Autopia, the government pretends to be asleep at the wheel. And it is difficult to wake it up.

 

Hawkers are said to be the second largest in the unorganised sector workforce. The total turnover of hawkers in Mumbai is estimated to be Rs 12,000 crore, Rs 10,000 crore in Delhi, and Rs 8,800 crore in Kolkata. The 10-million odd street vendors are not covered by any beneficial law and after six decades, a Bill is still waiting for Parliament's assent to cover these traders who are at the bottom of society.

 

 The latest judgment in the petition, Gainda Ram vs Municipal Corporation, conceded that the problem was not "judicially manageable". Unemployment and migration to the cities, which catapult street vendors to a multi-crore trade, are best addressed by the executive in a "statutory framework", it said.

 

The court regretted that there was no comprehensive law to regulate these small traders. Pointing out the growing division in society in the new economy, the judgment said: "While there is a burning problem of unemployment on the one hand, on the other hand, there is a section of our people that, having regard to its ever-increasing wealth and financial strength, is buying any number of cars, scooters and three wheelers. No restriction has apparently been imposed by any law on such purchase of motor vehicles. There is very little scope for expanding the narrowing road spaces in metropolitan cities. The roads are choked to the brim, posing great hazard to the interest of the general public."

 

While one section of society is suffering from affluenza, the court pointed out that "most hawkers are very poor, a few of them may have a marginally better financial position. By and large, they constitute an unorganised poor sector in our society. Therefore, structured regulation and legislation are urgently necessary to control and regulate the fundamental right of these vendors and hawkers".

 

In several judgments since the 1960s, the Supreme Court has conceded the fundamental right of the hawkers to ply their trade. It is derived from Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, namely, the right to carry on business, and Article 21, the right to livelihood. But the right is not absolute. It can be regulated by the government. This power to impose reasonable restrictions is granted under Article 19(6). Thus, though the hawkers have a fundamental right to pursue their trade, the government has the power and duty to ensure the safety of the public who uses the roads. Harmonising these two rights has been the challenge that the Supreme Court and some high courts undertook, with indifferent results.

 

The very first case dealt with by the Supreme Court in 1966, Pyare Lal vs New Delhi Municipal Committee, highlighted the dilemma. The sale of cooked food on public streets was creating unhygienic conditions and, therefore, the committee passed a resolution to stop such sale. The court ruled that though the vendors have a fundamental right to pursue their trade, they have no right to carry on street vending, particularly in a manner that creates unsanitary conditions in the neighbourhood.

 

However, the conflict of fundamental rights was not so easy to resolve and it has trudged through several decades of litigation between hawkers' groups and civic authorities. Even the solutions suggested by the Constitution benches have not seen the end of the debate. There was a move to demarcate hawking and non-hawking zones in the city, assign hawking days and non-hawking days, and effect rotation of hawking areas and days. But none of these has seen a lasting solution.

 

Later, the court appointed committees to sort out the rights of the hawkers, like who should be given licences; where can they ply their trade; and matters of transfer and cancellation of licences. The committees produced formulas but they did not work, and instead created more headaches for the court. It was in this context that the new generation of judges, who inherited the problem from the last, left the issue to the lawmakers. It is comforting that the central government has, at last, drafted a law for the whole country called the Model Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill 2009. However, whether the hope and trust bestowed on the executive will be belied is another question, which, given the history of the case, has a bleak answer.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

SHOULD THE RBI RAISE POLICY RATES?

 

No, because year-on-year data mask a sharp upward correction in industrial growth but a rate rise could see a surge of fund flows into India and prove counter-productive

 

RAMYA SURYANARAYANAN

India Economist, DBS Bank

If rates are left unchanged for fear of attracting capital inflows, the unintended consequence may be higher inflation — both in goods and asset markets

Much of the debate surrounding the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI's) monetary policy seems to centre either on the near-term inflation readings or the volatility in year-on-year (YoY) industrial production growth rates. Of late, the pressure for exchange rate appreciation arising from rate differentials is an added point of contention. We think none of these are the right variables (or data transformations) to focus on.

Those calling for a rate hike at the upcoming November policy meeting usually point to the still high 8.6 per cent (YoY) inflation figure in September. Those calling for a "stand pat", point to the expected decline in inflation in the next five months and the recent volatility in industrial production data. However, near-term inflation trends, whether low or high, should not be the determinant of policy action since rate changes take time to work through the system (unless the monetary brakes are slammed) and policy is not concerned with transient inflationary pressures. Further, the headline YoY inflation, which is the data transformation of focus, is also distorted by base effects and food prices, neither of which policy can control. The policy-relevant horizon for inflation is the inflation trends over the next 12 months and the goal (and scope) of policy should be to keep ex-food inflation in the comfort zone (say, 5 per cent) in that period. Though it is not possible to accurately predict the level of inflation in the next 12 months, central banks work around this uncertainty by raising rates as the growth rate picks up and the gap between the actual growth rate and the estimated potential or full-capacity growth rate lowers or turns negative (so-called output gap). By doing so, central banks can stay one step ahead of inflation, for inflation will normally lag growth.

 

So, the question about the RBI policy boils down to the outlook for growth and the output gap. If the output gap will tighten or capacity constraints will be hit soon, either in product or labour markets or even in terms of infrastructure capacity, inflation will firm up over the next 12 months. Here again, the policy debate is complicated by the focus on YoY industrial production growth rates as opposed to seasonally-adjusted levels or month-on-month (MoM) growth rates. The trouble with the YoY changes is that they don't immediately or precisely capture the turns in the economic cycle, the very information that helps estimate the position of the economy in the business cycle and assess the output gap. Instead, the YoY changes averaged out the monthly growth that took place in each of the past 12 months. The rationale for using YoY growth rates is that they are far less volatile than the MoM growth rates. However, YoY rates are less volatile precisely because they have smoothed out the information we actually need.

 

According to our assessment, in the period October 2008 and June 2009, growth slowed more than fundamentals dictated due to panic arising from the failure of Lehman Brothers. From July 2009 to March 2010, to compensate for the earlier slowdown, output grew rapidly and surged (above trend). Right now, output is rightly moderating and normalising to trend. Since businesses operate with imperfect information in an uncertain world, the normalisation doesn't happen in a straight line and we are currently seeing some "undershoot". This explains the weaker industrial production readings. Seen from that perspective, a sharp upward correction in production is on the cards in the next few months. This should keep growth on track for our slightly above-consensus GDP growth forecast of 8.8 per cent in 2010-11.

 

On inflation, our concern is the medium-term "core" inflation pressures will increase as the economy grows well above 8 per cent in the year ahead even as we are optimistic that the headline WPI will ease to 5 per cent by March. Credit growth has been running at a 22 per cent annual rate (average MoM annualised rates of growth) since January 2010, not the 18 per cent rate indicated by the YoY rate (which will rise to 22 per cent belatedly from September onwards). If rates are left unchanged for fear of attracting capital inflows, the unintended consequence may be higher inflation — both in goods and asset markets. As such, we think further interest rate increases are necessary and forecast the repo rate at 6.50 per cent by March 2011, up from 6 per cent currently. At the November policy meeting, there is still scope for the RBI to leave rates unchanged but it would have to get back to rate increases soon. Of course, all this may mean that, eventually, controls on capital flows may have to be reviewed to limit exchange rate volatility.

 

ASHWIN DANI

VICE PRESIDENT, FICCI

 

Any increase in interest rates will accentuate fund flows into India and could prove counter-productive. The rates should be revised downwards to discourage flows of 'hot money'

 

With the next monetary policy review due just in a few days from now, all eyes are on the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). So what stand should the RBI take on November 2? To answer this question, we need to look at trends in three key macro variables. First, the trend in the index of industrial production (IIP), particularly the disaggregated sectoral figures. Second, the trend in inflation rate. Third, the trend in trade and the overall external situation.

 

On the IIP front, between December 2009 and May 2010 industrial production showed robust double-digit growth. Then in June 2010, industrial growth slipped to 5.8 per cent. In July 2010, it recovered to 15.2 per cent but slipped again to 5.6 per cent in August 2010. So, the question is, are we seeing some early signs of a slowdown? There are reasons to believe we are.

 

Strong IIP growth was driven by high growth in two sectors, namely capital goods and consumer durables. And in recent months, both these segments have shown signs of a deceleration. In fact, growth in capital goods entered the negative territory on two occasions — June and August 2010. Even if these are considered an aberration, a continuation of the recent trends would surely pull down overall industrial performance. Consumer non-durables have been growing at an anaemic rate for some time now and growth in intermediate goods is also tapering.

 

Both capital goods and consumer durables are sensitive to interest rates, which have been rising since May 2010. As monetary policy acts with a lag, recent trends in IIP growth should be a matter of concern. In fact, it should not be a surprise if we see a sharper slowdown in the months to come.

 

Notably, the RBI has already raised key policy rates five times this year, increasing the repo rate 125 basis points, reverse repo rate 175 basis points and cash reserve ratio 100 basis points. The banks waited for some time but eventually took the cue and increased lending rates. Prospects are that, going forward, lending rates will increase again even without RBI's intervention. Therefore, another policy rate rise will certainly queer the pitch to a level where industry will be affected.

 

Secondly, policy rate increases by the RBI can possibly affect only manufactured goods inflation. Both food and now, to some extent, fuel inflation is determined by market forces. Therefore, an increase in policy rates at this juncture is not imperative since manufactured goods inflation is coming under control, and food and fuel inflation would demand a larger supply-side intervention.

 

Thirdly, the overall global situation is extremely uncertain and this is affecting India. Our export growth is slowing, with overall exports plateauing on a month-on- month basis. Imports, however, are rising and continue with their growth momentum. Further, though the rupee has been appreciating against the dollar, the currency of our most important competing country – China – has not appreciated in the same manner. This, perhaps, explains why imports are rising at such a fast clip. This is also affecting Indian industry in its home turf. There are reasons to believe that several countries are trying hard to push their products into the Indian market.

 

Further, on the external front, our finance minister said in Seoul that a huge flow of funds was directed at the Indian markets in search for higher yields. Since interest rates in the US and the EU remain close to zero, it is extremely profitable to borrow dollars and place them in the Indian markets. Noted economist Nouriel Roubini has given several warnings about this "carry trade" in dollars over the last one year.

 

We believe that a rise in interest rates in the US and other western economies could lead to a sudden withdrawal of these inflows, thereby creating an element of uncertainty. In such a situation, any further increase in domestic interest rates will accentuate fund flows into India and could prove counter-productive. If at all interest rates have to be moved, these should be revised downwards to discourage flows of "hot money".

 

Finally, inflation is a major worry and we need to bring it down to lower levels. A policy package for containing inflation must emphasise supply-side intervention rather than tweaking monetary levers, which have often proven to be ineffective.

 

We are seeing an ominous parallel to the situation that prevailed from the mid-2006 to 2008 when food inflation was rising and interest rates were raised in successive doses to check inflation, but this did not play a very effective role. The result was a sharp slowdown in the industrial sector. The global meltdown was also an aggravating factor.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

IN DEFENCE OF FREE SPEECH

FORGET CHARGES OF SEDITION

 

LIBERAL democracy and free speech are under threat. It is disgraceful that the police are considering arresting Arundhati Roy and S A S Geelani for sedition, following their speeches favouring azadi for Kashmiris. In a free society, charges of sedition are legitimate only in extreme cases, not whenever it is inconvenient. India promised a plebiscite in Kashmir at the time of accession. It later changed its position. But anyone demanding that India stick to its original promise cannot be called seditious. Geelani champions Kashmiris joining Pakistan, but a plebiscite can have no meaning if it does not include the right to canvass support for all possible outcomes. Thousands of agitating Kashmiris, the entire Hurriyat, and the vast majority of the population in the Kashmir valley favour azadi. Can the response be to jail them all? Can this possibly check Kashmiri alienation? The government claims Kashmir's accession to India is final, but all Indians need not agree. The official manifesto of the Swatantra Party (which merged in 1977 with the Janata Party) called for a plebiscite in Kashmir. Would the government like to jail, with retrospective effect, Swatantra stalwarts like C Rajagopalachari, south India's great freedom fighter and later free India's first Governor General? Many eminent journalists have repeatedly supported a plebiscite or some form of azadi for Kashmir. Dileep Padgaonkar, one of the three interlocutors appointed by the government on Kashmir, has said Pakistan has a role in Kashmir, a position that chauvinists have long denounced as seditious. Will he be jailed too? Arundhati Roy has simply repeated what eminent Indians have said earlier. 

 

 Liberalism in India is in danger and all liberal voices need to speak out loudly. M F Husain and Taslima Nasreen were chased out of India. Rohinton Mistry's classic Such a Long Journey has been proscribed as a textbook. These are steps on the road to serfdom. In standing up for dissidents on Kashmir, we stand up for liberal values and free speech for all Indians. We oppose Geelani's Islamism, but we defend his right to ask for a plebiscite.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

RESPITE ON TRADE FRONT

BUT REMAIN ON GUARD


GOOD news continues to pour in on the economic front. After the rousing reception to the Coal India initial public offering last week, we now have encouraging trade data. According to data released by the government on Monday, the trade deficit (difference between merchandise exports and imports) that looked as though it may go out of hand in August, fell to a much more manageable $9.12 billion by end-September. Though export growth continues to lag the growth in imports, as is inevitable in a fast-growing economy, the gap has come down. Exports grew 23.2% while imports rose 26.1% setting at rest fears that a rising rupee would hit export growth and, in turn, employment. It would be hasty, of course, to conclude from this that the exchange rate has no impact on exports (the Chinese success has been built almost entirely on an undervalued currency). But what it does suggest is that improving productivity has made the exchange rate less important than before. This is reassuring for two reasons. One, there will be less pressure on the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to intervene in the forex market to arrest rupee appreciation (with all its attendant consequences on liquidity). Two, it will rein in the current account deficit (the trade deficit plus the balance on trade in services) presently hovering well above the 2.9% reached in 2009-10, would be well below what is regarded as the safe upper band of about 3% of GDP. 

 

There is just one cloud in this happy story. And this is that if capital inflows continue apace, these could become a serious issue. To the extent that such flows were going to finance a growing current account deficit, there was reason to believe the absorptive capacity of the economy had increased. However, if the pace of capital inflows continues unabated and the current account deficit shrinks, we could find ourselves in a situation like in 2008 when the surplus on the capital account was grossly in excess of the deficit on the current account, resulting in further appreciation of the rupee to a point where it could hit exports. All of which only means it is too early to relax our guard; we can at best breathe easy for now.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CUS OFFICE ROMANCES HIT

BY THE RECESSION!


IN THE US, a recent issue of Bloomberg Businessweek reports that that the prolonged recession has taken a toll not just on employment but the office romance. In February, 75% of US workers surveyed by job-search website Monster.com stated that a workplace relationship could cause conflict. And 62% added that office romances were a distraction from job performance. Career.builder.com's annual Valentine Day romance poll showed a decline in reported office trysts. While 50% of respondents claimed to have been involved in a workplace relationship in 2006, that proportion dropped to 37% in early 2010. All of which has upset those who believe that love is what makes the world go round, not just on college campuses but in office cubicles. Stephanie Losee, co-author of Office Mate, says, "That's when you're excited to come in and work and you care about your company." Which is another way of saying that people in love with a colleague might not just come in early, go home late and take less leave but go all out to impress the loved one with their work! Pixar, Southwest Airlines and National Public Radio even encourage in-house match-making. 

 

All that is now being threatened. The party-pooper, or what we in India call the kabab mein haddi, is not sexual harassment suits but third-party retaliation cases filed by employees afraid of losing their jobs in a sluggish economy and who maintain that they were treated unfairly because of the manager's obsession with another colleague or failed romance! Retaliation suits in the US grew by 23% in 2008, twice the rate of all other claims. The US's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission notes that the annual payout in sexual-harassment lawsuits averaged only $47.8 million over the last 12 years but that, thanks to a spurt in third-party discrimination claims, $376 million was recovered in 2009. Perhaps Indian tech firms and Nasscom could cite these statistics while lobbying for outsourcing on Capitol Hill!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

COLUMN

RAISING INVESTMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION

UNLESS WE FIND CREATIVE WAYS TO MASSIVELY INCREASE INVESTMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION, INDIA'S POTENTIAL DEMOGRAPHIC DIVIDEND MAY FAIL TO TRANSLATE INTO A REAL DIVIDEND, SAYS ARVIND PANAGARIYA


WHILE the university system in England is far from broken, in the last several decades, the more dynamic and competitive US universities have relegated it to the second position worldwide. Abandoning the traditional destinations in England, 100,000 Indian students today study in American universities. 

 

Aware of the decline, the British authorities have been reforming the system in the last 15 years. The latest step in this direction is the report of the independent panel headed by Lord Browne. The panel was asked to make recommendations to increase investment in education, ensure that the quality of teaching is world class and make higher education accessible to anyone with the talent for it. While the ailments of our higher education system are wider and deeper than those of the British system, there are useful lessons for us in the Browne report. 

 

Consider first the access issue. In 2000, the gross enrolment ratio in higher education, which measures the number of individuals going to college as percentage of college-age population, was 8% in China and 10% in India. By 2008, the ratio had shot up to 23% in China but crept up to only 13% in India. College and university education remain off-limits to many talented Indian students. 

 

On the quality front, consider the QS World University Rankings, which are designed to assess the all-round quality of universities across all disciplines and levels. Two Chinese universities found listing among the top 100 universities in the 2010 rankings, with the University of Peking ranking 47th and Tsinghua University 54th. Sadly, not a single Indian university made it to the list. No doubt, we have institutions of excellence in teaching in the IITs and IIMs. But they are not full-fledged universities. Universities of Hyderabad and Delhi that earn the top spots in the national ranking do not make to the QS list of the top 100 universities. 

 

This comparison with China is especially telling since Mao Zedong had almost entirely wiped out China's higher education system during the Cultural Revolution of 1966-68. In contrast, India has had an uninterrupted history of modern universities since 1857 when the Universities of Calcutta, Mumbai, and Madras were founded. Soon after the independence, our university system was strengthened but it has languished during the last three decades, precisely the period during which the Chinese have been rebuilding theirs. 

 

To be sure, financing is a key problem facing our higher education system. With tight central and state government budgets and pressures to cut fiscal deficits at all levels, the government lacks the resources necessary to expand access to all who deserve. With salaries rising in the private sector, universities also find it difficult to retain and recruit topquality teachers essential to good teaching. It is here that we could put the experience of England and the advice offered by the Browne report to good use. 

 

Until 1997, college and university students in England paid no tuition fees whatsoever. With public expenditure on higher education stagnating, expenditure per pupil fell by 36% between1989 and 1997. On the recommendation of the Lord Dearing Committee, which reported in 1997, a fee of £1,000 was introduced, but it proved inadequate. The Higher Education Act, 2004, which came into effect in 2006, raised tuition fee further, but placing a cap on it at £3,000. The government had expected that only the best universities will hit the cap but all institutions have come to charge £3,000 today. As a result, there remains no further scope for increased investment to improve access or quality. The reform introduced by the Higher Education Act, 2004 has fallen well short of its objectives. 

 

THIS is where the Lord Browne report picks up the matter. It proposes to eliminate the tuition cap altogether with two key provisions to ensure access. First, student will pay no fees upfront, with the government footing the entire bill up to £6,000 per student. Institutions charging more than £6,000 will be required to pay a progressively rising tax on the margin. The tax will be used to finance grants to students from low-income background to meet the living expenses. Second, after graduation, students will be required to begin paying back the costs paid by the government as soon as their incomes rise above a threshold, currently recommended at £21,000. 

 

The Browne report rightly argues that this package will force greater competition among universities since it will allow them to charge higher fees for better education. With no fees to be paid upfront, it will also give students greater choice and access. They will be free to join the institution that offers the highest returns net of costs to them. Above all, the package will stimulate the much-needed increase in investment in higher education. 

 

Browne report notes that as a consequence of compelling evidence in favour of substantial private gains from higher education, "it is not surprising that the argument for a private contribution to higher education has been made — and won — … in countries with a wide range of political values such as Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, Japan and Korea." It also states, "Throughout the range of submissions that we have received, there is broad agreement among groups with an interest in higher education that those who benefit directly from higher education as graduates ought to make a contribution to the costs." This is a sea change from the past rounds of reforms that saw many advocating free university education. 

 

With the growth rate at 8% or more, the Indian economy today offers large private returns to higher education. But our universities are unable to hire top-class faculty for want of resources. Our leaders, especially when visiting abroad, tirelessly refer to the impending demographic dividend. Yet, sadly, little thought is being given to harnessing the younger population: unless we find creative ways to massively increase investment in higher education, the potential dividend may fail to translate into real dividend. 

 

(The author is a professor at Columbia     University and Non-resident Senior     Fellow at the Brookings Institution)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

FAC E - O F F

NO SEPARATE BUDGET FOR RAILWAYS?

DHIRENDRA SWARUP 

 

Former Expenditure Secretary Let us break with the archaic practice 

 

IT HAS taken 86 years since the practice of presenting a separate Railway budget began and over half a century after the British left the shores of this country to question this legacy. The Constitution prescribes that a statement of the estimated receipts and expenditure of the government of India shall be laid before Parliament every year. Railways is not an exception to this requirement. Surely, it is not anybody's case that Railways is not a part of the government. It is in compliance of this constitutional requirement that the annual financial statement, popularly known as the Union Budget, placed before Parliament also includes the receipts and expenditure of the Railways. 

 

There is no justification that the British practice of separating the Railway budget from the Union Budget should continue merely because running trains is a commercial activity. Nor can the size of the Railways' receipts and expenditure be a relevant consideration. If the commercial nature of the operations or the size of the receipts and expenditure is the criteria, then defence, posts and telegraph and telecom should have separate budgets too. 

 

Those who are in favour of continuation of the current practice will argue that Railways is an important activity and deserves special attention of Parliament. Some others might saythat merging the Railway budget with the Union budget will compromise the independence of the railway ministry. This does not cut ice and can easily be overcome within the existing framework. What is more important is the integrity of the budgetary process of the government as a whole and not a fragmented view currently available. A comprehensive view of the central finances, including a total picture of the government's assets and liabilities, is essential. 

 

We have done away with the tradition of presenting the budget at 5:00 o'clock in the evening. Then why should there be hesitation in doing away with the tradition of a separate railway Budget? Railway finances should also be brought within the purview of the fiscal responsibility and budget management legislation. 

 

Let the debate begin.

Vijayalakshmi V 

Former Financial Commissioner, Rlys But it leads to better focus on the service 

 

ASEPARATE Railway budget, a brainchild of Acworth committee, was a historic necessity that freed the commercial undertaking from the government system. The arrangement was reviewed by at least two committees, but no major change was suggested, except to evolve a national policy for the Railways. No government system should dilute the essential ingredients of checks and controls vital for public finances. For Railways, no such aberration had taken place by this emancipation of the ministry from the finance department, as Indian Railway Accounts Service discharged the responsibility of comprehensive and integral management of railway finances. 

 

Path-breaking decision of devolution of powers, financial flexibility, autonomy and freedom to Railway Board was expected to result in expansion and modernisation. Railways did achieve this with balanced distribution of resources for rehabilitation and replacement (through Depreciation Reserve Fund), expansion and justified connectivity (through Capital Fund) and essential amenity works (through Development Fund). The setting up of Special Railway Safety Fund to overtake the arrears in replacements and renewals in a time-bound manner through government grant and safety surcharge proved the merit of the special status. 

 

Was the system capable of withstanding challenges posed by external factors? When the economy was booming, this crucial infrastructure sector rose to the occasion, thanks to its autonomy. Through a slew of measures encompassing technical innovation, commercial response and dynamic managerial strategy, the challenge was met well. 

 

Critics may question its relevance in a globalised scenario, which had dented the monopoly edge of government-owned Railways. The business models should have a market focus supported by new processes in planning, reporting and performance assessment. Besides, there should be a ready tool for smooth separation when domains of public-private partnerships are explored. Can there be a more effective device to meet these requirements than a separate Railway budget, which puts this entity under Parliament scanner and watchful public?

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

NOW&TH EN

WHEN STATUS QUO IS JUST FINE

JAIDEEP MISHRA 


THERE is a strong case for the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to hold its policy rates steady in its upcoming policy review next week. The latest industrial figures show subdued overall growth, with decelaration widespread and in negative territory for key segments like capital goods. Also, the record rains this season should boost agricultural output and arrest food inflation. Further, should the central bank indicate dearer cost of funds and further tighten monetary policy, the move would incentivise and rev up capital inflows. 

 

And buoyant funds flow would tend to harden the rupee and distort the exchange rate. It is true that efficiency improvements and productivity gains are supposed to keep the economy competitive, going forward, never mind market-determined exchange rates and a stronger rupee. Certainly in the long-run, it is inevitable that the rupee would harden as the economic fundamentals improve and become globally more competitive. But in the here and now, with apanoply of distortions in the real economy and routine bottlenecks such as the infrastructure deficit, it cannot be gainsaid that a hardening rupee would have negative implications economy-wide: needlessly incentivise imports and make exports increasingly uncompetitive. Note that the latest index of industrial production figure, for August, shows growth at a modest 5.6% (over the like period last year). Worse, for the capital goods segment, which indicates investment demand, year-on-year growth is put at a negative 2.6%. Further disaggregated figures show that basic goods, which have 35.5% weightage in the index, grew a paltry 3.7% in August (y-o-y). The growth in consumer goods output was lacklustre as well and consumer non-durables, which have a weightage of over 23% in the industrial index, grew minus 1.2%, as per the latest figures. Meanwhile, credit offtake remains below target. The weak trend rate of demand for credit underlines the need for the monetary authority not to revise upwards its repo rate, the rate at which the RBI provides liquidity to the banking system, and its reverse repo rate, the rate at which it accepts deposits. 

 

In recent months, the key component of the wholesale price index has been food inflation and the RBI has consistently raised its policy rates by almost 3% points this year, so as to dampen inflationary expectations. The persistently high price spiral in food items suggests structural rigidities, and the pressing need to boost supply of superior foods like vegetables, milk and eggs, and the limited extent that monetary policy can bear fruit in the face of heightened demand. Anyway, food prices have considerably eased lately, and food inflation has halved. Further easing of agricultural prices can well be expected in the weeks and months ahead. Overall, it is entirely possible that the price index would touch the lower single digits by March. Hence the need for statusquo in policy, for now. 

 

The larger issue is to debate and analyse monetary and non-monetary causes of inflation in the Indian setting. After all, it is a full quarter century since the Chakravarty Committee recommended that price stability emerge as the "dominant" objective of monetary policy. This was back in the uncertain 1980s and tentative opening-up, such as for short-term overseas borrowings. But the fact remains that the seemingly high growth rates in the latter part of the eighties was driven by imprudent deficit financing of public expenditure, which led to severe macroeconomic imbalance by 1991, given a host of glaring structural rigidities in the economy. It was in the context of loose fiscal policy, the general lack of reforms and opening-up that the committee called for focus on price stability in monetary policy design, rather than stressing on growth. 

 

It is also a fact that the empahsis on price stability as the dominant–if not the sole–objective did gather momentum in the pathbreaking 1990s, what with policy-induced institutional capital inflows revving up inflation into the strong double digits. It was then that RBI governor C Rangarajan noted that 'monetary policy as an arm of economic policy is best suited for the pursuit of price stability...' Be that as it may, the tighter monetary regime, a depressed capital market and weak global trends did dampen economic growth in the late nineties. 

 

And the general lack of buoyant demand stemmed price rise. Indeed, so much so that governor Bimal Jalan called for a rethink on the inflation- objective stance, and the need for more 'flexibility' to shore up growth. He sought to revisit 'this whole question of trade-off–particularly at the margin–and during periods of external and domestic uncertainties...,' given our large non-monetised and agricultural economy. Later, governor Y V Reddy went on to set the RBI's repo rate at 9%, when the economy was growing at a likewise rate. But the external growth environment was buoyant, then; it is no longer so. Hence the need for monetary policy now to boost growth.

 

There is a strong case for the RBI to keep its policy rate unchanged, for now The latest industrial figures post subdued growth, credit offtake is weak and food inflation is falling, which is all the more reason to keep the rates unrevised There may be a case for higher risk weightage for real estate, but no pressing need to indicate dearer cost of funds

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

THE CLONING CONTROVERSY

VITHALC NADKARNI 


THE birth of Dolly the cloned sheep reminded bioethicist Leon Kass of William Blake's poem. Like all her fluffy predecessors, Dolly had the "softest clothing, woolly and bright". As to the question "who made thee?" the answer was radically different. Dolly was, quite literally, made by an Englishman, Ian Wilmut, and his fellow scientists in the laboratory. Her asexual mode of birth was even more ironic, Kass added, "just like He (Jesus) who calls Himself a lamb." 

 

The success in cloning raised the prospect as well as the spectre — of cloning human beings. Kass who later went on to serve George W Bush as the president's philosopher, noted sombrely that it had become harder, and not easier, to discern the true meaning of true cloning. 

 

In some sense, we all have been 'softened up' to the idea, he explained: through movies, cartoons, jokes and intermittent commentary in the mass media, some serious, most lighthearted, we have become accustomed to new practices in human reproduction: not just in vitro fertilisation, but also embryo manipulation, embryo donation and surrogate pregnancy. 

 

In such a brave new world, there was something inexorablylogical about the next big step, namely cloning of humans. But there was nothing inevitable or logical about cloning. It merely personified our desire to control the future fully, while being subject to no controls ourselves. Moreover, the reactions from the people in the street were revealing: the terms used to describe the prospect of cloning all had negative connotations such as 'offensive', 'grotesque', 'revolting', 'repugnant' and 'repulsive'. 

 

What was offputting was the prospect of mass production of humans, with armies of lookalike clones compromised in their individuality. The idea of woman giving birth to or rearing a genetic copy of herself seemed even more bizarre as was the narcissism of those wanting to clone themselves and the arrogance of others who think they know who deserves to be cloned or which genotype any child-tobe should be thrilled to receive. 

 

To be fair, in the opposite camp, too, almost no one could muster up enthusiasm for cloning; almost everyone anticipated its possible misuses and abuses. Moreover, many people felt oppressed by the sense that there was probably nothing we could do to prevent it from happening. This was what made the prospect all the more revolting.

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

FOOD SECURITY: START NOW, IMPROVE LATER

 

Whatever the nature of the debates that it may provoke, the National Advisory Council headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi has — apparently after contentious deliberation — produced a fairly detailed conceptual scheme that is expected to provide the basic inputs for framing the Food Security Bill due to come up in Parliament shortly. The food security provision for the poor is UPA-2's big-ticket social sector project just as the NREGS had been the chief anti-poverty measure in UPA's first term in office. The NREGS had led to two broad discussions: who will foot the bill, and will it provide universal or cent per cent coverage to all the poor in the country? Fortunately, the country did not permit itself to be derailed by voices of concern on these points. Eventually, it turned out that NREGS — although it is implemented in a slipshod way and is shot through with corruption, especially in the poorly administered states of the country — actually put some money in the hands of the rural poor throughout India, and this went on to boost aggregate demand in the system and was a factor that saw the country out of a threatened economic trough in the wake of the worldwide recession that is still plaguing leading Western economies. In the end, NREGS came to be perceived as beneficial to our economic system, whatever the initial anxieties, although some continue to voice a few worries. The ideological maximalists too were harsh with their criticism of the NREGS proposal that had been first mooted. The scheme sought to cover only 100 districts in India to begin with, and those that spoke in the name of the poor suggested that this was to feeble and was tokenism by another name. Life has shown this not to be the case, although there are deficiencies galore in implementation. The criticism of those who desire the best straightaway has already begun to be attracted by the NAC's food security proposal. Prof. Jean Dreze, a leading light of the NAC who has done laudable theoretical and empirical work on the state of the country's poor, has distanced himself from this proposal, saying that he would have liked universal coverage. This conveys the idealist's dream, and is not the pragmatist's method. The latter believes that it is best to get started and try and improve in the light of experience. Thus the so-called "consensus" that the NAC has produced on food security is a watered down version of the "first best" solution, and is probably not even the second best. And yet, it is hard to endorse the position that we must either have all or nothing. The way matters stand, the current proposal seeks to provide foodgrain cover to around 75 per cent of the very poor in the country, in both rural and urban areas. It is far from certain that even this will be attempted with sincerity and without corrupt elements having a field day. No less significantly, the public distribution network has been all but obliterated. To get it going in the right spirit calls for close supervision as well as expenditure, and will be among the key challenges before the government.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

PERMISSION TO DEFECT

BY P.C. ALEXANDER

 

I am writing this at a time when politics in Karnataka has been in great turmoil as a result of 11 MLAs of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) announcing their decision to leave their party, thereby reducing the state BJP government to a minority. Arguments on the validity of these defections have been heard by a two-member bench of the high court of Karnataka, and then by a third judge on certain points raised by the two judges. When the third judge delivers his judgment on the specific issues referred to him, there will be a greater degree of certainty about the provisions of the 10th Schedule and, to that extent, an improvement in the situation as it prevails today. Yet, what the high court bench decides may not be the final verdict. The aggrieved parties on both sides, the government and the Opposition, are likely to go on to appeal to the Supreme Court.

 

During the fairly long period of its existence, the 10th Schedule has not succeeded in achieving what was expected of it. Instead, it has facilitated more defections than would have been possible otherwise, and given legal respectability to corruption and lowered the standards of political morality among the leaders of political parties. I would recommend for the consideration of lawmakers that the 10th Schedule, the entire anti-defection law, be scrapped and defection by any elected representative be treated as a breach of trust placed in him/her by the electorate and instantly result in them losing membership of legislature.

 

When it was first introduced, any resort to the courts was ruled out in paragraph seven of the 10th Schedule. But the Supreme Court's verdict of November 1991 struck that down as unconstitutional and brought the Anti-Defection Act under judicial review. Some blatant acts of misuse by the Speaker/Chairman of the legislature and open breach of objectivity and fairness by some selfish politicians could be corrected through judicial intervention. However, the abuses of the law continued and the act gained the notoriety of being friendly to unscrupulous politicians.

 

When the act was brought into force in 1985, many critics objected to the restrictions it imposed on the freedom of choice of the elected representatives. The critics specifically pointed out that parliamentary democracy has functioned smoothly in most of the Western democratic countries without a legal provision against defection.

 

But the situation in India is quite different. The party system in India is still very weak and deep commitment to any political ideology is yet to be developed by politicians. When India gained Independence in 1947, many people expected that within the period of one or two elections, different political groups in the country will consolidate their position as political parties with separate ideologies and fight elections on the basis of ideologies rather than other extraneous factors.

 

The general expectation about the formation of political parties in India was that there would be three broad groups, namely, nationalist parties with centrist ideologies, nationalist parties with ideologies of the Right and Left parties with socialist and Communist ideologies. However, the expected regrouping of parties based on political ideologies did not take place and, in fact, the third group of Leftists parties practically failed to take off. In the absence of strong national parties in most parts of the country, several small state parties, based on caste and sub-caste loyalties, have come into existence under some charismatic leaders in the post-Independence decades. They have managed to gather enough support to justify recognition as political parties.

 

This, indeed, is a dangerous trend and since the anti-defection law has failed to have the desired impact, the only possible remedy seems to be to replace the existing law with a new one whereby anyone who wishes to leave the party which elected him/her should lose his/her seat in the legislature instantly. Even the Independents who got elected should lose their seats if they join a political party. Anything short of this would betray the trust vested in them by the electorate.

 

Unfortunately, the Anti-Defection Act, though introduced with very good intentions, was implemented in most legislatures in order to serve the personal interests of a few people anxious to acquire political power for themselves. This was made possible by Section 6 of the act, which states that if any question arises as to whether a member of the House has become subject to disqualification, the question shall be referred to the decision of the Speaker or Chairman, as the case may be, and his/her decision shall be final. However, experience soon showed that some Speakers went out of their way, to an extent not contemplated by the framers of the act, to prevent disqualification of the offending members. In the case of disqualification of members of the Uttar Pradesh legislative Assembly a few years ago the numbers were found to be inadequate to term it a split. The Speaker then gave his definition of split as a "continuing" one and not limited to one session of the legislature or one occasion of voting. This led to further addition to the number of defectors and the whole idea of recognising legitimate splits came under disrepute. In some cases the presiding officer did the counting of votes in support of the resolution for disqualification without proper division, in order to support the party in power that had helped him to get elected as Speaker/Chairman.

 

If one makes an over-all assessment of the benefits derived from the Anti-Defection Act since its enactment, one is inclined to agree with the view that the interests of democracy at this stage of development of the parliamentary system in India would be served better by scrapping the 10th Schedule rather than trying to improve it through amendments or plugging the loopholes as and when they are brought before the judiciary. Some members of the judiciary had entertained strong doubts about the usefulness of such an act, and this is clear from the fact that two of the five judges who heard the defection case had held the view that the entire 10th Schedule was unsustainable.

 

Since the decision of the high court of Karnataka is expected in a few days' time, we will have to wait patiently to know what will be the future for this act in our system of parliamentary democracy.

 

Whatever may be the decision of the court, it is time that the nation starts a debate on the advisability of scrapping the act instead of making piecemeal amendments as and when new problems arise in its implementation.

 

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

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

WE CAN'T BE INDIFFERENT TO GILGIT-BALTISTAN

BY S.K. SINHA

 

The Northern Areas, illegally occupied by Pakistan, has been renamed Gilgit-Baltistan. This region is of great strategic importance to India. It borders Afghanistan and is legally a part of India, but our decision-makers have been ignoring it. In the 20th century, the British were alive to its importance in the context of the threat from Czarist Russia, and after the 1917 Revolution from the Soviet Union. Current reports of an increased Chinese military presence in Gilgit are a cause of grave concern.

 

The British had a political agent at Gilgit and later obtained a lease to administer the area. As Independence approached, the lease was terminated and Gilgit reverted to Jammu and Kashmir. Brigadier Ghansara Singh of the state Army took over as governor of Gilgit from the British political agent, Colonel Beacon, on August 1, 1947. Major Brown, commanding the Gilgit Scouts, staged a military coup at Gilgit, surrounding the residence of the governor on November 1, 1947. Brig. Ghansara Singh was forced to surrender and the Pakistan flag was hoisted in Gilgit. Pakistan got its first taste of a military coup. The non-Muslim troops of the Maharaja's Army took refuge in Skardu fort along with a large number of Hindu and Sikh refugees. Col. Shahmsher Jung Thapa was commanding the garrison. On November 1, 1947, when this coup took place, Pakistani forces had advanced to the outskirts of Srinagar. With our backs to the wall, we were preparing to launch an offensive to throw them out of the Valley. Our resources were slender in the Valley and could not be reinforced in the winter.

 

The grass airfield at Srinagar would soon become unusable after snowfall and the road across Banihal pass was blocked with snow. There was then no tunnel at Banihal. We were in no position to do anything about Gilgit. When the snow melted and the road and air communications were restored, we reinforced our strength in the Valley. Our summer offensive was launched with the main thrust to Muzaffarabad. Gurais Valley was secured in the north to guard against the threat from Gilgit and Sonamarg in the East against the threat from Kargil, then under Pakistani occupation. The relief of Skardu was to be carried out subsequently.

 

Our summer offensive achieved reasonable success with the capture of Tithwal, tantalisingly close to Muzaffarabad. On the appeal of the UN to both India and Pakistan, our offensive was suspended in June 1948. The Skardu garrison held out heroically for six months. Unfortunately, we did not then have transport aircraft with pressurised cabins, needed for flying at 20,000 feet, to carry out air drops at Skardu. By August 1948, food ran out in Skardu, which had a large civilian population that had taken shelter there.

 

We had to most reluctantly order the Skardu garrison to surrender. On August 14, 1948, Col. Thapa had to raise the white flag. The enemy massacred Hindus and Sikhs. By September they captured Kargil and advanced to Ladakh, threatening Leh. After two unsuccessful attempts we managed to break through the Zoji-la heights, establishing a world record by using tanks at such high altitude. We captured Kargil and advanced another 200 miles to secure Leh. Soon the ceasefire came into force and Gilgit Baltistan remained under Pakistan occupation.

 

Pakistan has been assiduously promoting two myths. First, Gilgit was liberated by an indigenous freedom movement against the tyrannical rule of the Maharaja and the people joined Pakistan of their free will. Second, Gilgit-Baltistan was never a part of J&K. Pakistan detached Gilgit-Baltistan from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and denied its people basic political rights. They still cannot vote for the Pakistan Parliament.

 

All the top government positions are held by Pakistanis who get special allowances for serving in the region, as the British officers got in India.

 

The council, recently designated an Assembly, has a nominated chairman known as the chief executive officer with a local deputy elected on a very limited franchise. Eighty-five per cent of the people in the region are Shias and are subjected to ethnic and sectarian violence. There has been a prolonged agitation in the region against anti-Shia school textbooks and the government settling Punjabis and Pathans to alter the region's demographic profile. Interestingly, members of the United Gilgit-Baltistan movement recently complained that India has not been doing anything for them and they want reservation of seats in Indian educational institutions for students from their region!

 

Although New Delhi maintains the whole of J&K is an integral part of India, we have been indifferent to the travails of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.

 

In March 1953, Pakistan gifted 5,000 sq. km of territory in Shansgam Valley to China. The Karakoram Highway through this region provides a road link between China and Pakistan.

 

In the present crisis, we can no longer remain indifferent to Gilgit-Baltistan. Simultaneously, we need to build

our military muscle to deter military adventurism against us by either China or Pakistan. Belatedly, some efforts are now being made. This must be completed on a war footing to safeguard our national interests.

 

A rail link is now under construction from Tibet to join the Pakistan rail network and connect to Gwadar port. Permanent military barracks have been constructed for increasing numbers of Chinese troops. This region is an important link in China's String of Pearls strategy to contain India. In 2005, we agreed to the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road. As governor of J&K, in my Republic Day address that year I had urged the opening of the Kargil-Skardu road. Musharraf had allowed a PoK delegation led by a former chief justice to visit Srinagar. This included four members from Gilgit. These four called on me and thanked me for taking up the opening of the Kargil-Skardu road. They wanted their visas extended to enable them to visit Kargil because, they said, they had a deep attachment for the people of Kargil. I arranged for them to visit Kargil. They also mentioned their local problems. Baroness Emma Nicholson, a member of the European Union Parliament, was deputed to prepare a report on Kashmir. She visited PoK, Gilgit-Baltistan and Indian-administered Kashmir. I had a long discussion with her in Srinagar. In her report she praised the functioning of democracy in Indian-administered Kashmir, criticised the lack of it in PoK and its total absence in Gilgit-Baltistan. Pakistan tried to scuttle this report but the European Parliament passed it by over 400 votes, with only nine votes against it.

 

In the present crisis, we can no longer remain indifferent to Gilgit-Baltistan. Simultaneously, we need to build our military muscle to deter military adventurism against us by either China or Pakistan. Belatedly, some efforts are now being made. This must be completed on a war footing to safeguard our national interests.

 

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

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

THE SUM OF EGO & CHALLENGES

BY JAYANT V. NARLIKAR

 

Parents often ask, how could they bring motivation to their child. How can a bright child be motivated to use his or her talents maximally? A short answer is: Make the child face challenges.

 

As a 12-year-old kid I learnt what a challenge means when we had my maternal uncle, Morumama, staying with us. He had come as a student for M.Sc. mathematics at the university and was to be with us for two years. While it was fun to have him around for games like cards and chess, or for verbal banter, we found another avenue of interaction.

 

This came through unexpectedly, through blackboards. My father had installed two blackboards in the walls of the long veranda at the back of the house for me and my younger brother, then aged 10. They were meant for drawing pictures, geography maps, or playing games like noughts and crosses. Morumama thought of another use. One fine morning when I walked into the veranda I saw that the smaller of the two boards carried a few lines in the neat handwriting of Morumama. The title of the text caught my attention: "Challenge Problem for JVN". The text below carried the problem.

 

As I was reading it, in sauntered Morumama. He told me that the problem would stay on the blackboard till I solved it; or until I confessed my defeat at not being able to solve it. I looked at the problem more carefully. It was more a puzzle than a numerical exercise and I began to think about it. Mathematics was my strong point and so I felt confident that I would solve the problem. I used the other board for my attempts and soon discovered that the problem was not that simple. Indeed it took me well over 24 hours to solve it. But the fact that I did solve it boosted my morale no end. I had won my duel with Morumama.

 

As I expected, this was not the end but a beginning! Morumama had other problems in his stock which he unloaded on the blackboard from time to time. The problems were different although the title the same: "Challenge Problem for JVN". I solved quite a few of them in the long run, while some I could not. Win or lose, the underlying motivation came through that word — "Challenge".

 

This magic word is known to bring out the best in a person. My own ability in mathematics grew impressively without my becoming aware of it. I, therefore, strongly recommend the challenge aspect in school education. Perhaps, to entice more students to solve the challenge problem, there may be some reward for the first correct solution. But in the long run, the human ego simply thrives on the feeling of having achieved success.

 

The challenge aspect has played a key role beyond the school years too. Those who have read Isaac Newton's biography will recall the challenge problem Johann Bernoulli posed for European mathematicians. The problem is simple to describe. A and B are two points in a vertical plane as on a wall, and a smooth wire connects them. A lies above B and is not vertically above it. A bead starts from rest at A and slides down the wire from A to B. What should be the shape of the wire so that the bead takes the shortest time to slide down from A to B?

 

The problem is deceptively difficult and for six months nobody could solve it. Then Bernoulli arranged to have the problem sent to Newton. Newton at that time had left Cambridge and, in his capacity as Master of the Royal Mint in London, was somewhat removed from the world of science. The challenge, however, spurred him into thinking. Having seen the problem on his return home from work in the evening, he sat down to solve it. And solve he did, by early hours of the morning. He sent his solution to the Secretary of the Royal Society, asking him to send it to Bernoulli without revealing the solver's identity. However, when Bernoulli saw the solution he guessed that only Newton could have solved it. He is reported to have said: "I can tell the lion from its paws".

 

Mathematicians have loved to have tricky problems to face as challenges. In modern times, the list of 23 problems announced in the year 1900 by the celebrated German mathematician David Hilbert have served as the challenge problems to generations of mathematicians. Not all of them have been solved yet and whenever a problem is solved (or claims to have been solved), it makes world news in the select world of mathematicians.

 

I have given instances of mathematical challenges as an example of motivating youngsters in school. One can talk of challenge problems in scientific fields like physics or chemistry, problems not involving rote learning, but requiring the application of brain.

 

Here I wish to distance myself from many of the quiz programmes which require an encyclopedic knowledge but not necessarily independent thinking. Scientific problems need not be confined to theory alone. One can think of experiments, too.

 

The Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune has an ongoing programme of interaction with school children. The programme is led by Arvind Gupta, who has developed countless number of "toys".

 

Each toy is made from scrap material and seems at first to have magical properties. In the last analysis one sees that the toy functions this way because it is obeying some scientific law; the same law that appears in the student's textbook. Only at school it is taught as a mantra to be memorised rather than a beautiful manifestation of nature.

 

I wish the school syllabi would allow at least one period per month when a challenge problem could be posed, discussed and answered, not by the teacher but by some bright student.

 

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

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

THE GILGIT QUESTION

BY S.K. SINHA

 

The Northern Areas, illegally occupied by Pakistan, has been renamed Gilgit-Baltistan. This region is of great strategic importance to India. It borders Afghanistan and is legally a part of India, but our decision-makers have been ignoring it. In the 20th century, the British were alive to its importance in the context of the threat from Czarist Russia, and after the 1917 Revolution from the Soviet Union. Current reports of an increased Chinese military presence in Gilgit are a cause of grave concern.

 

The British had a political agent at Gilgit and later obtained a lease to administer the area. As Independence approached, the lease was terminated and Gilgit reverted to Jammu and Kashmir. Brigadier Ghansara Singh of the state Army took over as governor of Gilgit from the British political agent, Colonel Beacon, on August 1, 1947. Major Brown, commanding the Gilgit Scouts, staged a military coup at Gilgit, surrounding the residence of the governor on November 1, 1947. Brig. Ghansara Singh was forced to surrender and the Pakistan flag was hoisted in Gilgit. Pakistan got its first taste of a military coup. The non-Muslim troops of the Maharaja's Army took refuge in Skardu fort along with a large number of Hindu and Sikh refugees. Col. Shahmsher Jung Thapa was commanding the garrison. On November 1, 1947, when this coup took place, Pakistani forces had advanced to the outskirts of Srinagar. With our backs to the wall, we were preparing to launch an offensive to throw them out of the Valley. Our resources were slender in the Valley and could not be reinforced in the winter. The grass airfield at Srinagar would soon become unusable after snowfall and the road across Banihal pass was blocked with snow. There was then no tunnel at Banihal. We were in no position to do anything about Gilgit. When the snow melted and the road and air communications were restored, we reinforced our strength in the Valley. Our summer offensive was launched with the main thrust to Muzaffarabad. Gurais Valley was secured in the north to guard against the threat from Gilgit and Sonamarg in the East against the threat from Kargil, then under Pakistani occupation. The relief of Skardu was to be carried out subsequently. Our summer offensive achieved reasonable success with the capture of Tithwal, tantalisingly close to Muzaffarabad. On the appeal of the UN to both India and Pakistan, our offensive was suspended in June 1948. The Skardu garrison held out heroically for six months. Unfortunately, we did not then have transport aircraft with pressurised cabins, needed for flying at 20,000 feet, to carry out air drops at Skardu. By August 1948, food ran out in Skardu, which had a large civilian population that had taken shelter there. We had to most reluctantly order the Skardu garrison to surrender. On August 14, 1948, Col. Thapa had to raise the white flag. The enemy massacred Hindus and Sikhs. By September they captured Kargil and advanced to Ladakh, threatening Leh. After two unsuccessful attempts we managed to break through the Zoji-la heights, establishing a world record by using tanks at such high altitude. We captured Kargil and advanced another 200 miles to secure Leh. Soon the ceasefire came into force and Gilgit Baltistan remained under Pakistan occupation.

 

Pakistan has been assiduously promoting two myths. First, Gilgit was liberated by an indigenous freedom movement against the tyrannical rule of the Maharaja and the people joined Pakistan of their free will. Second, Gilgit-Baltistan was never a part of J&K. Pakistan detached Gilgit-Baltistan from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and denied its people basic political rights. They still cannot vote for the Pakistan Parliament. All the top government positions are held by Pakistanis who get special allowances for serving in the region, as the British officers got in India. The council, recently designated an Assembly, has a nominated chairman known as the chief executive officer with a local deputy elected on a very limited franchise. Eighty-five per cent of the people in the region are Shias and are subjected to ethnic and sectarian violence. There has been a prolonged agitation in the region against anti-Shia school textbooks and the government settling Punjabis and Pathans to alter the region's demographic profile. Interestingly, members of the United Gilgit-Baltistan movement recently complained that India has not been doing anything for them and they want reservation of seats in Indian educational institutions for students from their region!

 

Although New Delhi maintains the whole of J&K is an integral part of India, we have been indifferent to the travails of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. In March 1953, Pakistan gifted 5,000 sq. km of territory in Shansgam Valley to China. The Karakoram Highway through this region provides a road link between China and Pakistan. A rail link is now under construction from Tibet to join the Pakistan rail network and connect to Gwadar port. Permanent military barracks have been constructed for increasing numbers of Chinese troops. This region is an important link in China's String of Pearls strategy to contain India. In 2005, we agreed to the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road. As governor of J&K, in my Republic Day address that year I had urged the opening of the Kargil-Skardu road. Musharraf had allowed a PoK delegation led by a former chief justice to visit Srinagar. This included four members from Gilgit. These four called on me and thanked me for taking up the opening of the Kargil-Skardu road. They wanted their visas extended to enable them to visit Kargil because, they said, they had a deep attachment for the people of Kargil. I arranged for them to visit Kargil. They also mentioned their local problems. Baroness Emma Nicholson, a member of the European Union Parliament, was deputed to prepare a report on Kashmir. She visited PoK, Gilgit-Baltistan and Indian-administered Kashmir. I had a long discussion with her in Srinagar. In her report she praised the functioning of democracy in Indian-administered Kashmir, criticised the lack of it in PoK and its total absence in Gilgit-Baltistan. Pakistan tried to scuttle this report but the European Parliament passed it by over 400 votes, with only nine votes against it.

 

In the present crisis, we can no longer remain indifferent to Gilgit-Baltistan. Simultaneously, we need to build our military muscle to deter military adventurism against us by either China or Pakistan. Belatedly, some efforts are now being made. This must be completed on a war footing to safeguard our national interests.

 

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

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

THE NATURE OF INTELLIGENCE

BY SADHGURU

 

When I say intelligence, do not think of intelligence as purely logical thinking. Logical thinking is just a small part of your intelligence. Right now, this body knows that if it inhales this air, it should take only oxygen and leave out carbon dioxide. This is a huge intelligence, isn't it? There is enormous intelligence in the body which is constantly functioning, and this functions even if you are unaware. This functions if you are sleeping, this functions even if you are in coma. It doesn't require you, it is just constantly functioning. Somebody's body becomes diseased because somewhere a certain part of the body intelligence is not functioning.

 

Otherwise, if the body intelligence is functioning fully, any organism that enters, it knows what to do. How to cleanse itself up, how to rebuild itself, everything is built in. But somewhere, for some reason, or for various reasons, certain parts of the body intelligence do not function.

 

So when we talk of intelligence we are not looking at intelligence as logical thinking. We are looking at life; we are looking at intelligence as the means and the fundamental source of life. Everything in the existence is hugely intelligent. The earth that you walk on, just see how intelligent it is. You put a neem seed here, only neem tree comes. You put a mango seed there, only mango tree comes. Never did it ever get confused and produce a neem tree out of a mango seed, or a mango tree out of a neem seed. Never has it failed, always in function. The mud that you walk on, see how intelligent it is. So, when I say intelligence, I am talking about that basic intelligence which is the very basis and means of existence and your aliveness right now. We want that to function on a higher scale. In a way, enlightenment means just that. The fundamental intelligence, that which is the basis of life, is in full flow within you. That's enlightenment. An enlightened person may not be logically smart; generally they are taken for a ride by ordinary people. But his basic life intelligence is in function within himself — it's in full flow. But outside, if he wishes to be smart with the outside situation, he can be. Many times he may not be bothered about being smart with the outside world. Shiva is like this too. In certain parts of the country, Shiva is worshiped as Bholenath. Bholenath means the innocent or even the ignorant.

 

So when we say intelligence, we are not looking at just being smart. We are looking at that dimension which makes life happen, allowing that to be in full flow.

 

 Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a yogi, is a visionary, humanitarian and a prominent spiritual leader.
An author, poet, and internationally-renownedspeaker, Sadhguru's wit and piercing logicprovoke and widen our perception of life. He canbe contacted at www.ishafoundation.org [1]

 

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THE SATESMAN

EDIT

CANDID IN CAMBRIDGE

CAN LEFT REINVENT ITSELF BACK HOME?

 

Those puzzled by Prakash Karat's unequivocal rejection of the "Bengal line'' that had ascribed the CPI-M's distress to the tactical error of withdrawing support to UPA-I must be more surprised that the party general secretary chose a foreign audience to make a candid confession about where the Left had gone wrong. That he now declares the Left is stuck in the forties while the rest of the world has moved on must be viewed in the context of an audience that is more acquainted with the changes which have taken place in the socialist bloc than with the Marxist experience in India. Mr Karat didn't have a special obligation at his Cambridge University lecture to rationalise the contradictions which have left his party in dire straits in Bengal and Kerala.

 

He could afford to be candid without dampening spirits at the grassroots or opening a Pandora's Box at conclaves which have still failed to begin the rectification drive. What he may not have anticipated was the dust that his lecture would raise back home to the extent of prompting the Congress to take a dig. What remains to be seen is whether he will return with fresh perceptions on the Marxist roadmap or whether he will find it too embarrassing – after all that he has said to justify his actions – to adopt a softer line.


Mr Karat has the option of repeating the punch line he had brought to Kolkata ~ "making mistakes is not as important as learning from them''. The debate now will revolve around whether the "historic blunders'' echoed at Cambridge hark back to the socialist dogmas which impeded industrial growth, militant unionism and  virulent opposition to the market economy in its early years, or to the political concessions that found the Left to be as opportunistic as the rest. If he has discovered the need to move with the times, it is a significant shift from the position from which he had refused to budge even after the election disasters. The real test is how far he will be prepared to go in his acknowledgement of the new challenges. Even as he preaches change, Mr Karat sustains the ideological awareness that has deserted most of his comrades. At the same time, he may realise the difficulty of introducing reforms, protecting Marxist roots, when the ground reality reflects the sordidness of factionalism in Kerala and the devices used to stem the negative signals in Bengal. It is worse when a confident Congress mocks its erstwhile "friends''. Eventually, the Cambridge confession will be pointless if the Left fails to reinvent itself.

 

TURMOIL IN FRANCE

NO WINNER OR LOSER

IN the raging turmoil in France, there appears to be no clear winner or loser ~ neither President Sarkozy nor the unions. The petrol shortage has been crippling and the President still hasn't been able to ensure that the 12 oil refineries ~ on strike for the past fortnight ~ are reopened. He may well claim a moral victory should parliament approve his plan to raise the retirement age from 60  to 62, a bone of contention that is central to the crisis that has gripped the country. It is a crisis that offers a study in contrast with Britain where opposition to David Cameron's spending cuts has been largely muted. At another remove, strikes have been roiling France over the government's policy on pension and retirement. Assuming that Sarkozy wins a victory on the age of superannuation, his standing as Head of State has plummeted considerably, going by a public opinion poll whose outcome was released on Sunday. It cannot but be disconcerting to the Elysee Palace that only five per cent of the people now support Sarkozy and his centre-right dispensation. Another 24 per cent are said to be "behind" him. While the strike in the refineries has crippled France and is bound to impact the rest of Europe, the pension dispute is likely to end in a messy settlement. There is little doubt that Sarkozy has lost further ground though it would be premature to speculate on his prospects in the 2012 election. 
The silver lining is that the moderates within the unions have come to realise the futility of militant action once pension reform becomes law. Hence the decision to tone down the protests to nationwide marches, scheduled later this week. The fear of losing what they call a "public opinion victory" is substantial if the oil blockade persists and if the agitation by refuse collectors spreads. Sarkozy's headache must remain the hardliners. The crisis can only exacerbate unless the refineries reopen. It hinges partly on the President's possible go-ahead from parliament and rather more substantially on the unions.

 

WILDLIFE WORRIES

NOT EVERYONE SHARES THEM

WHEN asserting that, "humans are more valuable than tigers. One cannot destroy Panna and let just tigers survive" the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh was betraying a mindset that had implications beyond his refusal to create buffer zones around the tiger reserve that has already lost most of its big cats. He was confirming that several others holding similar positions of authority also preferred to keep people (actually voters) happy, rather than accord wildlife the protection it merits. For, it requires little expert study to confirm that when a human-animal conflict develops, and generally it is a conflict over land, it is the animal that suffers. That explains why few effective buffer zones are in place around Project Tiger parks; the prey-base at Ranthambore is dwindling; villages are not re-located away from the core areas of sanctuaries; mining leases are being issued on the fringe of Sariska which is supposedly being revived; limited action is being taken to preserve the telephant corridors in North Bengal and Assam, and no long-term plans have fructified to preserve the Bharatpur bird sanctuary as a wetland. More examples of a lack of political commitment to conservation are not difficult to find. At times the attitude of local political leaders is downright negative ~ note Narendra Modi's blocking attempts at creating a second habitat for the Asiatic lion because it is "a pride of Gujarat". Yet the threat to the fauna of the Indian wilderness cannot be discounted.


While the state governments and local authorities must take the proverbial "lion's share" of the blame for the deteriorating situation, the Centre has also failed. Passing the buck downward does not wash. New Delhi's task goes beyond allocating funds, monitoring the usage, issuing advisories etc. Ministers of the central government are also required to inspire their counterparts in the states, assume a major role in what is of necessity a sustained campaign. It is an area in which the Centre has shown limited competence ~ what follow-up to the recommendations of the tiger task force set up by the Prime Minister? Tall talk in the Capital or televised educational endeavours in an urban environment are as pointless as harping on it being a state subject. It is time that some of the "bright" ministers at the Centre accept that glib tongues hardly suffice to spread the light. There is no alternative to "carrying" the states along.

 

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THE SATESMAN

COLUMN

NEHRU AND TIBET

SIXTY YEARS AFTER THE ABDICATION OF RESPONSIBILITY

BK BHATTACHARYYA


Tibet was an independent country. Its language, culture, rituals, heritage and ethos were unique and quite different from China's. Both traditionally and culturally, it was closer to India. Two of the famous religious centres ~ the Mount Kailash and Manas Sarovar of the Hindus have been located in Tibet since time immemorial. Indian pilgrims used to visit these places in large numbers before the Chinese occupation of Tibet in October 1950. Besides, Tibetan scholars maintained regular contact with their Indian counterparts. This has been echoed by Jawaharlal Nehru. "Nalanda University has attracted students from Tibet. Many Indian classics have been preserved in Tibetan translations relating not only to Buddhism but also to Brahminism, astronomy, mathematics, medicines, etc." (pp 190 & 217, The Discovery of India, London 1967). Tibet was also a great centre for the cultivation of the tantra cult by Indians.

 

Tibet was a buffer state between India and China. In his Glimpses of World History, Nehru wrote that "Tibet was independent". It  used to issue passport and visa till it was subjugated by China in 1950. As a sovereign country, Tibet participated in the first Asian Relations Conference held in New Delhi in April 1947 under the leadership of  Nehru, then the Vice-President and foreign minister of the interim government.
India's relations with Tibet were regulated by the Indo-Tibetan Convention of 1904. The British established a mission in Lhasa and three trade agencies at Gyantse, Yatung and Gartok. The convention also provided for a trade agreement between the two countries, deployment of two military detachments and maintenance of post and telegraph services in Tibet. India inherited these rights from the British after it became independent on 15 August 1947. The 1904 convention was "formally confirmed" by the 1906 convention (Anglo-Chinese Treaty).

 

It was signed by  Britain and China on 27 April 1906.


Nehru was obsessed with Communism and, therefore, did not entertain any future apprehension from the Chinese Communists. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, however, had anticipated China's sinister designs on Tibet even before the Communists gained full control over the country. On 4 June 1949, Patel wrote to Nehru: "We have to strengthen our position in Sikkim as well as in Tibet ... Tibet has long been detached from China. I anticipate that, as soon as the Communists have established themselves in the rest of China, they will try to destroy its autonomous existence. You have to consider carefully your policy towards Tibet in such circumstances and prepare from now for that eventuality" (p 136, Sardar Patel's Correspondence 1945-1950, vol 8 edited by Durga Das, Ahmedabad 1973). The Communists, even before acquiring control over the whole of China, had started an anti-India campaign. In September 1949, "a Chinese magazine accused the Prime Minister of India of aiding imperialist designs for the annexation of Tibet and charged him with the beastly ambition of aggression". (p 76, With Nehru in The Foreign Office by Subimal Dutta, Calcutta 1977).
Again in September 1949, "the Communist Radio asserted that Tibet was a part of China and that the British and American imperialists and their running dog, Nehru, are now plotting a coup in Lhasa for the annexation to Tibet". (pp 294-295), India from Curzon to Nehru and After by Durga Das, New Delhi 1969). Sardar Patel and Dr Rajendra Prasad were annoyed  with Nehru's policy on Tibet and felt that "the Communist Radio comment was a danger signal which New Delhi must heed" (p 295 ibid)


In October 1950, China occupied Tibet. Since then, it has been a source of our anxiety, angst and apprehension. On 2 November 1950, the Union cabinet met ostensibly to accord post facto approval as the surrender of Tibet was a fait accompli. Five days later,  Patel wrote to Nehru, highlighting the grave danger that India would face consequent to the surrender of Tibet to China. The letter is a very valuable historical document and I quote: "I have carefully gone through the correspondence between the external affairs ministry and our Ambassador in Peking and through him the Chinese government ... I regret to say that ... the Chinese government has tried to delude us by professions of peaceful intentions ... At a crucial period they managed to instil into our Ambassador a false sense of confidence in their so-called desire to settle the Tibetan problem by peaceful means ... The final action of the Chinese, in my judgment, is little short of perfidy."
In the same letter Patel told Nehru: "The tragedy of it is that the Tibetans put faith in us; they chose to be guided by us; and we have been unable to get them out of the meshes ... of Chinese malevolence ... It appears that we shall not be able to rescue the Dalai Lama. Our Ambassador has been at great pains to find an explanation or justification for Chinese policy and actions ... There was a lack of firmness and unnecessary apology in one or two representations that he (our Ambassador in Peking) made to the Chinese government on our behalf ..."
Drawing Nehru's attention to China's long-term objective, Patel wrote: "Even though we regard ourselves as friends of China, the Chinese do not regard us as their friends". The surrender of Tibet was the Himalayan blunder and Patel had warned Nehru that China has come "almost up to our gates". He anticipated the danger from China to "our Northern or north-eastern approaches consisting of Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling and the tribal areas in Assam". He suggested an early discussion with Nehru with a view to meeting the "Chinese irredentism and Communist imperialism" (pp 335-341, Sardar Patel's Correspondence 1945-50 vol 10 edited by Durga Das, Ahmedabad 1974). The meeting did not take place.


On 9 November 1950, Patel told a public meeting in Delhi, "A peaceful country like Tibet has been invaded and it may not survive. There has been no aggression from its side. The whole border becomes exposed to danger. We should, therefore, be vigilant" (p 148, For a Unified India: Speeches of Sardar Patel 1947-1950, New Delhi 1982).


KM Panikkar was India's Ambassador to China during the crucial period. His role was not commendable. On 14 September 1950 a complacent Nehru in his letter to Vijayalakshmi Pandit (then our Ambassador to the USA) stated that the Chinese "listen to us". In the same letter he praised Panikkar, saying that he "gets on very well with the Chinese Government" (p 510, Patel: A Life by Rajmohan Gandhi, Ahmedabad 1992). Sir Girija Shankar Bajpai, who was the  Foreign Secretary at that point of time "complained to Nehru that Panikkar had been influenced more by the Chinese point of view, by Chinese claims, by Chinese maps and by regard for Chinese susceptibilities than by his instructions or by India's interests" (P 511, ibid).


India should not have abdicated its authority, power and responsibility which devolved on her on 15 August 1947 under the 1904 Indo-Tibetan convention. It  should have asserted itself instead of meekly surrendering Tibet at the nation's peril.


Nehru believed China. He never imagined that "Peking represented a threat to Indian interests in the foreseeable future" (p 83 of Subimal Dutt's book). Brigadier JP Dalvi in his book, Himalayan Blunder, has written that in 1954, Nehru revealed his mind when he said: "What right does India have to keep a part of its Army in Tibet, whether Tibet is independent or part of China?" (p 22). Nehru also told Durga Das that "he would not quarrel with China over Tibet. He would not take over Curzon's role and establish Indian influence in Lhasa" (p 295, India from Curzon to Nehru and After).


Patel had been able to see through the Chinese games, motives, machinations and manoeuvres whereas Nehru did not. He ignored Patel's warning and brought China "almost up to our gates" endangering the country's security perpetually. The net result was that India was humiliated by China in November 1962, when it invaded NEFA, now Arunachal Pradesh. A shocked Nehru had to describe it as "a perfidy".

The writer is a former Joint Secretary, Assam government

 

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THE SATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

KARAT, CASTE AND THE LEFT

THE LEFT HAS BEEN CORRECT IN PROPAGATING CLASS INSTEAD OF CASTE. BUT, LIKE THE REST OF THE POLITICAL PARTIES, IT HAS BACKED CASTE-BASED RESERVATION DURING ELECTIONS, SAYS RAJINDER PURI

 

Addressing a seminar at Cambridge, UK, CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat said, among other things, that the Indian Left had made a mistake in paying insufficient attention to caste. He was right but probably not in the way he thought. Traditionally, the Left was opposed to using caste as a criterion for backwardness. Dr Ram Manohar Lohia was the first Indian socialist to have backed caste as a criterion. Lohia was right given ground realities. With little mobility in rural India and caste communities frozen in time and space for centuries, caste in large swathes of rural India for all practical purpose was indistinguishable from class. 


However, Lohia was grievously wrong in substance. By recognising caste as a legitimate criterion, he failed to realise that he was thereby driving the last nail into the coffin of class consolidation. For short-term consolidation, caste as a criterion brings spectacular success. The long-term implications sink in much later. I believe that Lohia himself became aware of his error. Once in his company, I witnessed the departure of an aspirant for election who demanded the right to contest by citing his caste. Lohia regretfully remarked after his departure: "They cite caste when they seek a ticket for contesting elections. They are never around when we court arrest!" It was a telling observation and it stuck in my memory. 


Oddly enough, it was Choudhary Charan Singh who best utilised caste as a factor in politics without muddying the ideological picture and creating negative long-term results. In terms of agenda or ideological underpinning, he never endorsed caste. He focused solely on class. Unlike the Communists, he did not draw the line between labour and capital. He sought to polarise urban and rural India. However, for the purpose of elections, he used the caste factor with uncanny skill in selecting candidates and profiling constituencies. He got the best of both worlds. He exploited ground realities without jeopardising long-term class consolidation. 
Alas! At the end, the Choudhary too succumbed to short-term gain by sacrificing long-term commitment. In a desperate attempt to retrieve lost ground by his mismanagement as a lame-duck Prime Minister, he suddenly supported the Mandal formula for job reservations in the government in the general election of 1979-80. This was personally suicidal for me. I was contesting the New Delhi parliamentary seat heavily populated by government employees incensed by this move. I was pitted against heavyweights AB Vajpayee and CM Stephan. I got an equal measure of tomatoes thrown at me by both Congressmen and BJP supporters.
 Charan Singh's move did not work countrywide of course. After the polls were over, a chastened Charan Singh in a working committee meeting wanted to reverse his decision regarding endorsement of the Mandal formula for job reservation. He said it would balkanise India. But Madhu Limaye and a few others strongly dissuaded him. They said a reversal of decision would make him appear ridiculous. My support for him was ineffective. So that was that. 


VP Singh, without being even aware of the Mandal formula, jumped to support it as a desperate move to counter Devi Lal's farmers' rally. He was briefed about the Mandal formula by Sharad Yadav. After VP Singh's move, the Sangh Parivar showed its lack of commitment. Instead of openly opposing caste-based reservation, the BJP started its Hindutva movement in an effort to indirectly counter Mandal by seeking consolidation of Hindu society on the basis of religion.


 Paradoxically, the Mandal formula as an ideological agenda has never delivered results. In a UP assembly election fresh after he took up Mandal, VP Singh combined with Laloo Yadav against the Kanshi Ram-Mulayam Singh combination. The latter never talked of Mandal during the poll but focused on consolidating their respective vote-banks. VP Singh and Laloo Yadav were trounced. So much for Mandal as a winning formula! 


The Left has been correct in propagating class instead of caste. But it has displayed no commitment to its traditional belief. Like the rest of the political parties, it has backed caste-based reservation during elections. So it stands neither here nor there. It is a wishy-washy mishmash. If Comrade Prakash Karat seeks the real reasons for the Left's failure, he should delve a little deeper and discover how his party's cosmetically approved measures fly in the face of genuine radical reform. He will not get answers from seminars held in Cambridge or in JNU.         

The writer is a veteran journalist 

and cartoonist

 

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THE SATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

WORLD OF LOST AND FOUND

SUNIPA BASU


There is an apocryphal story in our family about lost and found. Once my two sisters as school going kids had left behind their luncheon boxes and water bottles behind in school. Since it happened once too often, father was packed off to school to fetch them by mother after a tirade against the callousness and carelessness of "his" kids. Since he was forgetful by nature, father went without a murmur. He returned triumphantly half an hour later, not with the missing objects but a huge smile.


It transpired that the school darwan had led him to a room to retrieve the things. Like Ali Baba's magic den, it seems the room was full of  missing objects - bags, tiffin boxes, pencils, crayons, books shoes and what not. Naturally father could not identify the things but came back a much relieved man that nothing was wrong with his children and that mother was unnecessarily worried.


This incident, I think, changed my attitude towards leaving things behind. My elder son never goes out at one go. Within two minutes of his departure, he returns to pick up either his watch, his book or something else. I would not close the door knowing the bell would ring frantically sooner rather than later. Often this would happen twice before he finally left. The younger one would ring up after some time to check whether he had left his purse or mobile behind and I would have the unenviable task of having to look for it and report back.
One can regale others with unique stories about lost and found and it is a wonder that no one have thought of a reality show on TV on this topic.


Today's technological innovations can give rise to bizarre situations. A frequent flyer landed in New York with his baggage stranded in Paris and he was faced with the prospect of having to attend a business conference in jeans and tee-shirt. The security threat perception once landed a friend in trouble when he left his luggage on the railway platform. It brought in the bomb disposal squad and the sniffer dog brigade. Discretion being the better part of valour, he decided it was better to beat a hasty retreat rather than claim his luggage. On occasion, it brings out the best in human nature - like the taxi driver who came back with the bridal suitcase of a cousin just as the bride was to enter her in-laws' house.


But most of time one is not so lucky. All of us at some time or the other have visions of one's best suit hanging in the wardrobe of a distant hotel or an expensive camera bag resting on the seat of some park. I once received a farewell gift on my transfer which I left behind in the railway compartment. Since it was packed and sealed, I keep wondering even now what I had got.


The worst case scenario is when you alight from a moving vehicle and just as you recall what you left behind, the vehicle is out of sight despite your desperate sprint and shrill cries. It so happened with a cousin who was gifted a box of delectable sweets by his in-laws which he neatly kept on the luggage rack of his compartment. As he alighted at the next junction with bag and baggage, he suddenly remembered the box of sweets resting on top of the rack. Alas, the train was already pulling out of the station.

 

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THE SATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

WHEN VICTORY CAN BE CHEAP, AND EMPTY

CHAMPAGNE TOAST IN GARISH DUBAI TO ROONEY'S NEW WEALTH LEAVES A BITTER TASTE, SAYS JAMES LAWTON

 

A great old football man, who died four years after Wayne Rooney was born, never tired of passing on to his co-workers one of his deepest beliefs.


It was his article of faith, the lesson he had learned most truly.


"Always celebrate your victories," said Joe Mercer, a hero of Goodison Park and, after the intervention of Second World War army service that stretched to seven years, inspiring captain of Arsenal.
The brilliant and deeply philosophical manager of a superb Manchester City team invariably added, "You must celebrate because in this game you never know if you will ever have another reason to do so."


Strictly speaking, Rooney, who followed Mercer into the colours of Everton with such precocious distinction, was doing no more than following the old man's bidding when he flew off to Dubai with his wife Coleen for a little warmth and sustenance at the 1,200 pounds-a-night "seven star" Burj Al Arab hotel.


However, if Rooney did have something to celebrate apart from his 25th birthday, certainly in material terms more than any other professional in the history of the game, we can be sure it was not the kind of triumph Joe Mercer had in mind.


Not that Mercer could ever have imagined a player in the middle of the biggest slump of his career, eight months removed from his last significant club performance and with a dreadful World Cup effort still smouldering in the nation's memory, taking on a club of Manchester United's standing and stripping it bare of any serious sense that it remained bigger than its best paid employee.


Yet if many of the events of recent days would have been mysterious to Mercer, there is no doubt that his reactions would have been, at the very least, complicated by more than the odd flash of ambivalence.
Mercer had some terrible times as a professional, not least when his Everton manager Theo Kelly charged him with feigning injury in an international against Scotland, an accusation that was not withdrawn even when Mercer paid his own medical bills after an operation for serious cartilage damage.


When Mercer signed for Arsenal, for whom he performed with bow-legged commitment of the highest order, the Everton manager took along 


the player's boots so he wouldn't have reason to return to Goodison Park and say farewell to team-mates who had come to think of him as the professional model to which they all aspired.


Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Rooney affair, the player has plainly placed a huge burden on himself as he seeks to regain the fire and authority of the best of his game. His decision to fly to Dubai, while nursing an ankle injury - a process hardly served by a 10-hour flight to the desert shore - surely came from the public relations school of "up yours".


As Rooney nursed what looked like a poolside pint, Coleen sipped champagne and displayed a demeanour which might just have suggested a certain dip in the ferocity with which she received the news of his private life that apparently so deeply threatened their marriage.

Meanwhile, of course, Manchester United ~ the team Rooney argued had become unfit for title-challenging purpose ~ were fighting at least some way back into contention at one of football's least hospitable places - and Javier Hernandez, who cost United almost precisely half the price of meeting one year of the superstar's new contract - was playing with the relish and the flair that not so long ago were so implicit in every Rooney performance.


It means that beyond the argument of whether Rooney and his agent were right to push a United made so vulnerable by their American ownership's Doomsday borrowing policy against the wall, there is an issue that has nothing to do with morality or style or the imperative to act entirely out of self-interest.
All that is for Rooney to square with himself, a chore which he appeared to have somewhat got the better of in the Dubai swimming pool.


What is rather more compelling, at least for some of us, is the answer to that question Joe Mercer raised all those years ago.


It asks whether Rooney will again quite know the gut-deep exhilaration displayed by young Hernandez on Sunday when he scored a back-headed goal of surreal opportunism and another of front-rank predatory instinct. Really, what was Rooney celebrating in Dubai when his team-mates were embroiled in a difficult assignment?
It wasn't one of the great statements of a career that has so often been quite brilliant. It wasn't the wonderful maturity he displayed when he stood head and shoulders above the rest of England's "golden generation" in his first competitive match, a European Championship qualifier against World Cup semi-finalists Turkey in Sunderland seven years ago.


It wasn't the stupendous goal he scored for Everton against an all-conquering Arsenal, which persuaded ArsEne Wenger that he was, by some distance, the best young English player he had ever seen.


Certainly it did not follow the kind of announcement he made in Portugal in 2004, when only injury halted his thrilling attempt to provide England with the momentum that might just have brought the nation its first major tournament win in 38 years.


No, what he could only be drinking to in Dubai, the most garish of monuments to quick, borrowed money, was his new status as an icon of the grab-it-all-and-stuff-the-consequences persuasion. 


That might be fine for Rooney and his advisers, but it wouldn't have been for Joe Mercer - or all those who came so much later and thought they saw in Wayne Rooney a footballer who could flourish in any age of the game.


Why? Because he could persuade some of the most knowledgeable men in football that his talent was so exceptional, so profound, it could be put on the level of so many of the greatest players the game had ever seen. Nor was it just talent; it was the appetite and the fury of the street, it was the passion to play football with a conviction that he was born to do this better than anything else he would ever touch in a life of such unpromising beginnings.


Yes, old Joe said to celebrate every win as if it was your last. He probably didn't realise then there would be a day when victory could ever look so empty and so cheap and, maybe, hazardous.


the independent

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

UNITED IN NOISE

 

It is time to be alert when political parties start campaigning for the right to make more noise. A bizarre and tacit agreement of sorts seems to be emerging between the Trinamul Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) over an issue that could affect the lives of ordinary people in West Bengal. The Union minister of state for urban development and senior member of the Trinamul Congress, Sougata Roy, and a CPI(M) legislator, Sujan Chakraborty, are both concerned about the fate of firecracker-makers in Bengal. They are both campaigning (Mr Roy has written to the Central minister for the environment and forests) for the state's permissible decibel level for firecrackers to be raised from 90 to 125 decibels. They are doing this for the sake of these small businesses, concentrated mainly in the 24 Parganas, which have suffered owing to the law regarding noise levels in Bengal. Their main argument is that everywhere else in India the permitted level is 125 decibels, and this encourages illegal trafficking in firecrackers, especially around the time of Diwali.

 

This is an absurd situation for several reasons. First, for years, the state government and the police have been trying to decrease noise pollution in the state by regulating the manufacture of firecrackers. This was prompted by a Calcutta High Court ruling of 1996, and since then, police and citizens' groups have been trying, more or less successfully, to make certain festivals more bearable for the ears of those who may not wish to take part in more extreme forms of celebration. In this, the Left Front government has seen eye to eye with the citizens' groups and has managed to mobilize the police to maintain a certain standard of law-abiding behaviour in the cities and suburbs. Not only would all this be undone by this new, and united, wave of political campaigning to raise the legal noise level, but the state government will also be made to look rather silly if one of its own people suddenly ends up on the side of its political opponent. What it amounts to — and Bengal is more than familiar with this — is a particularly mindless form of populism. Calcutta's pavements, and therefore its pedestrians, have been victims of such politics, when both parties tacitly united over legalizing hawkers, as they did over ruining the Maidan with their rallies.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

WIN SOME

 

Afghanistan remains a picturee of contradictions. Yet, a pattern seems to be emerging that is easily discernible. It all points to the growing confidence of Hamid Karzai's government in manoeuvring the political game to its advantage. Mr Karzai's renewed efforts to engage the Taliban in talks, this time with Nato backing, and his ready confession to receiving money from Iran to run his office, are both indicators of this. The Nato forces, led by the United States of America, have so far shied away from openly supporting Mr Karzai's reconciliation drive with the Taliban. The admission of assistance in the talks process constitutes, therefore, a turnaround of sorts. The US is still maintaining its distance by insisting that it has recently made substantial military victories over the insurgents, and that it is serving merely as an escort party to partners at the table. But there cannot be doubts about a softening of stand, courtesy what is being perceived as General David Petraeus's military statesmanship. But Mr Karzai's recent summoning of the peace council, which confirmed indigenous support for his reconciliation policy, coupled with the 'no objection' from the international forces, undeniably projects him as a man who is more in control of the situation than he was earlier.

 

There are no clear answers to what prompted this change of scene in Afghanistan. The US's tepid support for Mr Karzai's policy could be the result of a combination of factors — the evident futility of the military exercise; the US's last-ditch attempt to limit the involvement of the Taliban's Haqqani faction, and thereby Pakistan, in the peace process; Mr Karzai's success in building up a regional entente to counter the West's monopoly over dictating Afghanistan's political future. But what is certain is that the situation has worked to the unqualified advantage of the Afghan president, who now has no qualms in admitting to receiving money from foreign nations (Iran, a known US-detractor, in this case) in exchange for services. Mr Karzai no longer thinks twice about bracketing Iran and the US together, both of whom have come to him with money bags. He also minces no words in pointing out that since the time of George W. Bush, before whom he allegedly admitted to receiving Iranian money, the US has not moved any closer to or further away from Afghanistan's power centre.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

TO BE OR NOT TO BE

WHY RICH SOCIETIES ARE MORE SUICIDE-PRONE

ASHOK SANJAY GUHA

 

In the folklore of economics, high and equitably distributed income is regarded as virtually synonymous with well-being. Apparently contrary to this view, however, is a striking but little-known piece of evidence: there is a strong and highly significant positive correlation between per capita incomes and national suicide rates. The paradox is compounded by a strong negative correlation between suicide rates and Gini coefficients (the standard measure of income inequality in any society), so that any explanation of the income-suicide link in terms of income inequality can be ruled out. The richer your country, the higher the probability of your committing suicide; and the more egalitarian your society, the likelier are you to kill yourself.

 

To confound the confusion still further, suicide data within a given society follow the expected pattern: the suicide rate of the poor exceeds that of the rich. The micro-behaviour of the suicide rate is in conflict with its macro-incidence.

 

Other stylized facts about suicidal behaviour indicate that it is legitimate to view suicide as a social phenomenon rather than a purely individual aberration. National suicide rates have a high degree of stability over time, though they may indeed be affected by social catastrophes like the economic collapse of Eastern Europe and Russia in the Nineties and the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, there are enormous systematic differences in these national rates, differences so vast that they cannot possibly be explained away by any conceivable reporting error.

 

Finally, there is some evidence that suicide rates worldwide have been rising gradually, though very slowly, over time. For the species as a whole, increase in prosperity does not seem to have reduced our propensity for self-slaughter.

 

How does one account for these troubling features of one of the major perennial problems of the human condition? A clue to an answer lies undoubtedly in Émile Durkheim's well-known work on the sociology of suicide — a work that helps to widen the economist's generally narrow view of the determinants of human welfare.

 

From the economist's perspective, the debate on whether economic growth really promotes welfare dates back to the Easterlin paradox. In the 1970s, Easterlin showed in a famous study that self-reported measures of happiness are uncorrelated with per capita incomes across countries. While some economists have verified empirically that measures of 'social capital' (an index of the intensity of interaction within a society) appear to be negatively correlated with suicide rates, indicating the importance of social integration, economists more generally tend to be interested in the effects of income on measures of happiness and well-being.

 

There is a general consensus that suicide is triggered off by a shock. A random and unexpected mischance, economic or emotional, opens up a present and a future that the individual finds too painful to contemplate. Whether the consequence is suicide or not depends however on the shock-absorbers that his environment provides. Economic shocks can be tided over given a high enough asset level or access to adequate credit. Emotional shocks on the other hand can be moderated only by a social support structure: economic support is no substitute.

 

The rich in all societies and most members of rich societies have adequate assets to act as a buffer against economic trauma; they can also mobilize credit against the security of these assets. Rich country governments also offer their citizens a pervasive safety net of social security. However, their social support structures are eroded by a variety of factors. The high personal value of time is a strong disincentive to the cultivation or even the maintenance of social relationships. The deeper penetration of the market provides services to individuals (such as individualized entertainment) which, in poor countries, are available only as public goods and require therefore the formation of collective groups for their provision. Higher mobility, both occupational and geographical, leaves less time for social relationships to develop. The labour market expands and penetrates the family, leading first to the decay of the extended family and then to the dramatic implosion of the nuclear family. Rich societies are, in general, more anonymous and impersonal: technological changes that work in the opposite direction (such as improvements in communication technology) act only as minor palliatives to this broad trend.

 

Those in poor countries have more social connectedness and therefore better support against emotional trauma. A more leisurely lifestyle leaves more opportunity for tea and gossip, for the formation and cementing of personal relationships. Lower mobility makes possible the deepening of these relationships into powerful buffers against external shocks. Marriages and families are more stable. Individuals are rarely isolated and solitary; more likely they are cocooned in a social matrix which, while it restricts their freedom, supports them in extremity. Further, the social support structure, the joint family, the clan or community often also provides a measure of credit in the event of economic shock (while wealth provides no protection against emotional stress). Also, while poor countries have fewer assets and less access to formal credit, they tend, for this very reason, to save at higher rates as a precaution against emergencies.

 

Of course, social connectedness is also a matter of personal choice. However, one's choices are constrained by the social environment in crucial ways. Investing much time on social relationships is futile in a society where no one else has time to spare. Organizing groups for collective entertainment is difficult when everyone has easy access to personalized pastimes. Deliberate choice of a well-rooted, immobile lifestyle may not achieve much by way of social relationships (while missing out on economic opportunities) if one's neighbours are always on the move. Our commitment to holy matrimony till death doth us part is weakened in a society where general marital instability ensures an abundance of alternative partners and where our spouses, too, enjoy a similar set of options. In short, there is an unstable dynamics about the growth or decay of social support systems.

 

Social support structures are 'public goods'. Their benefits are not confined to single individuals, but extend to all the members of a society. On the other hand, they are specific to any society: the variation in the strength of social support between different countries is probably correlated to the differences in national suicide rates. Within any society, however, the differences in suicide between income classes are determined by differential access to private goods (like credit or wealth). Hence the poor in any country kill themselves at a higher rate than the rich in the same country.

 

Finally, there is little doubt that the growth of the market globally has been eroding social support structures everywhere: the slow secular increase in suicide rates worldwide is, therefore, no mystery.

 

The author is professor at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

POINT MADE

STEPHEN HUGH-JONES

 

In the 1960s, I knew a young Indian diplomat posted in London. He later rose very high in the IFS. But what intrigued me was not his professional skills but the accent of his perfect English. It wasn't exactly British. But to me, just back from 30 months in Mumbai, it wasn't Indian either.

 

I had to be mistaken, of course, and I was. But excusably so: he had been educated — before Cambridge — at Sherwood College, Nainital, and (you guessed) St Stephen's, Delhi.

 

Accent is a major factor in the use and the force of spoken language, just as vocabulary and style are in writing. In Britain a century ago, nearly all the upper class south of the Scottish border and many north of it, spoke not with a regional accent but with what came to be called an 'Oxford accent' — the university, not the place. And everyone, user or non-user, rich or poor, accepted that this was the sign of a gentleman — put bluntly, a member of the ruling class — or, at least, that any down-to-earth accent revealed the opposite.

 

When (rarely) young aristocrats actually married one of what were known as the " Gaiety Girls", after the theatre of that name, the first thing her reluctant parents-in-law would make plain was that she must learn to speak as they did. Hence Bernard Shaw'sPygmalion, and later its musical version, My Fair Lady — a play on the way his plebeian heroine would pronounce Mayfair, the grandest district of London.

 

Later this accent was renamed 'received pronunciation' — a would-be neutral term which was no such thing, since it implied that all educated people spoke this way. Today, inverted snobs call it a 'cut-glass' accent, presumably because glass with incised patterning is far above the moulded glass of ordinary folk; and its speakers, 'talking posh', are derided as 'chinless wonders'.

 

Yet this accent persists. Time has modified it, of course: hear a British broadcaster of the 1930s and — not only thanks to those days' recording apparatus — his accent may sound cut-diamond. But today's less marked form is still widespread. I was brought up, initially in a Scottish household, using it, and use it now. So do many, probably most, other educated Britons. And you can meet accents far posher than mine.

 

And, which is the point, except from its sworn enemies, this accent still receives much of the respect that it got in the days when class-deference was a British norm. Even now, a man using it is taken more seriously, felt likelier to be speaking with — and exercising — authority, than one, maybe his equal or indeed superior, with some down-to-earth accent.

 

Scottish speech is still an exception: the once cut-glass BBC is now thick with Scots. But talk plain 'Estuary English', the accent of millions down-river east of London and around it, say Myfair instead of Mayfair, and you'll find an on-air job hard to get.

 

Though many think so, this isn't a uniquely British phenomenon, albeit more marked in Britain than elsewhere. America has class accents, if not so uniformly a single one: compare Barack Obama with the average American, let alone Afro-American. France too, in French, as I know — I lived there for years — though many non-Frenchmen think not. I imagine it's true of most languages and most societies. It makes language an instrument of power.

 

Even in those societies where English is, or was, an import? Well, hear R. Viswanathan, now India's ambassador to Argentina, but brought up in a Tamil-speaking farming family. He struggled into English at a local college, but "later when I went to Chennai for higher studies and Delhi for joining the Foreign Service, I was intimidated by the high-flying rich kids with Don Bosco and Doon School accents." It didn't last: "I was more hungry to catch up and prove myself." But point made, I'd say.

 

thewordcage@yahoo.co.uk

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

EDITORIAL

REDUNDANT BUDGET

''THE RAILWAY BUDGET HAS NO LEGAL MANDATE.''

 

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee's proposal to put an end to the practice of presentation of a separate budget for the Railways and instead have a consolidated Union budget is a step in the right direction. It is only in India that the Railway ministry presents a budget of its own before the general budget is presented. This is a vestige of a British tradition and was started under the Separation Convention in 1924.


There is actually no constitutional sanction for it. The practice may have been necessary or useful in pre-Independence days when the Railways accounted for almost 70 per cent of the government expenditure. But it has little rationale now when it is just one department of the government and there are many others which have much bigger allocations. The Plan support for the Railways is only Rs 16,000 crore while that for defence is 1.75 lakh crore.   And there is no separate defence budget presented to parliament.


The separate treatment given to the Railways has done much to politicise its working. The railway minister can easily dispense with favours and patronage and this has made the ministry a much sought after one. This has badly affected the department.  Populism dictates many of the decisions and the Railways, one of the most important infrastructure departments, have not made much progress in the last many decades.

 

The  present minister,   Mamata Banerjee, managed  to make the cabinet agree to the highest ever bonus of  77 days wages, amounting to over Rs 1,000 crore, for the 14 lakh employees of the department and has announced a number of populist projects in view of the approaching Assembly elections in West. The rail projects announced by successive ministers call for an investment of about Rs 1 lakh crore, but the ministry has a budgetary support of only Rs 15,000 crore.


This is a totally untenable situation.  Many projects do not take off and others do not get completed.  The launch of unviable projects and attempts to implement them, on personal and political considerations, also lead to wastage of resources. Projects which are genuinely needed are ignored. The Railways' finances and the economy as a whole suffer from these problems.


India has the world's fourth largest rail network and the railways are the biggest employer in the country. The separate status given to it has only set it back and prevented it from playing its true rule in public and economic life. Earlier Mukherjee's proposal is implemented the better.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

SERVING THE US INC.

BY N N SACHITANAND


It's no exaggeration that US foreign policy is as much devised in the boardrooms of its giant companies as in the White House.

 

As democracies, the US and India, the world's most powerful and most populous, should be natural allies. Strangely, ever since the founding of democratic India, the inter-governmental relationship between the two has been scrappy, though the people of the two countries are the greatest of chums. On the other hand, from the  Truman administration onwards, US foreign policy has tended to mollycoddle Pakistan, despite that country's pathological tendency towards military rule. 


To understand this contradiction, one has to go back to the very founding of the US and the mentality this bred in its people. Essentially, the US was formed by freebooters who grabbed land from the natives through superior firepower. This "free enterprise" is the cornerstone of  the US system and governs the thinking of the persons who formulate its foreign policy.


It may be no exaggeration to maintain that US foreign policy is as much devised in the boardrooms of its giant companies as in the White House. Whether it be coming to the rescue of the United Fruit Company threatened by land reform legislation of the Guatemalan government in 1954 or arranging the overthrow of the democratically elected Allende government in Chile in 1973 for having nationalised Anaconda Copper or the 2003 invasion of Iraq in order to 'save' Anglo-American oil field assets, US foreign policy actions have more often than not been slanted to protect its corporate interests.


This is why the US considered the spread of Communism with  its anti-private sector philosophy the greatest threat to itself and fashioned its foreign policy to contain that 'menace.' In fact, at one stage, before the launch of the German Putsch, the Roosevelt administration regarded the Nazis as more benign than the Bolsheviks. It was Hirohito who pushed the US into the Second World War, not Hitler. 


Post the war, US foreign policy was obsessed with countering the Red wave, to the extent of being willing to sup with the Devil (despotic regimes of all varieties). 


One of the tactics used by the US during the protracted Cold War with the Soviets was containment, using encircling alliances like Seato and Cento, formed by client nations. 


'Khaki' Pakistan was more than willing to be a satellite (yes, Shah Mahmood Quereshi , that is the appropriate term). The quid pro quo for Pakistan was a largesse of subsidised arms for its ambitious armed forces and  backing on the Kashmir issue in the UN from the US.


Democratic India, which was then carrying the cross of Nehruvian socialism, chose to remain 'non-aligned' --  a  contortionist stance that kept it friendly with the Soviet bloc but not a part of it. It is true that on two momentous occasions the US government overcame its anathema for India being in the Soviet camp and came to our support. One was during the 1962 skirmish with China.


The second was the humanitarian food aid  from the US under Public Law 480 in the 1960s, when India ran short of domestically produced cereals. But generally, official Indo-US relations have been prickly, if not glacial. The nadir came in 1971 when the US sent its Seventh Fleet to intervene against India in the war with Pakistan over the liberation of Bangladesh.


The US has never forgiven us for our pro-USSR history, even though international Communism became a spent force many years ago. Hence the tilt towards Pakistan in its foreign policy. It is another matter that one of the goblins the US danced with --  Islamic Extremism -- has now become its most feared tormentor  and a demon that can consume the entire world. 


Ironically, the  favoured satellite of the US, Pakistan, is a prime breeding ground for the menace. The US knows this but is caught in a half-Nelson by Pakistan and bending to its blackmail because of the Afghan imbroglio. That is why it turns a blind eye to organs of the Pakistan state backing terrorist groups indulging in mayhem in India.

Why the sudden change? 

So, why has the US government suddenly become lovey-dovey towards India to the extent of even helping us get out of the technology pariah status we found ourselves in with the 1974 nuclear test?  As stated above, much of US foreign policy is conceived in its corporate boardrooms. 


India today is a rising economic power with the world's second highest growth rate. India is also on a muscle-building exercise in terms of its defence. It will need a lot of technology and capital equipment in the future in the areas of energy, infrastructure and armaments.


It is an action replay of what happened in the early seventies, when corporate US pushed the Nixon administration to play ping-pong with China in order to create an entry for US industry into the Chinese market. Similarly today, faced with a demand recession at home, US companies must have been slavering at the prospect of feeding the huge emerging Indian market.


They pushed the right buttons in the US administration and presto, the path was cleared in double quick time for India to sup again at the world nuclear power table and purchase US armaments to its liking.   


President Obama comes as the Chief Marketing Manager for US Inc. He may, however, be in for a disappointment when he hawks nuclear power projects. The Indian parliament is in no mood to soften the new legislation on liability in case of accidents at a nuclear power facility. 


But he could have better luck in persuading India to lower tariff barriers and remove impediments for FDI in multi-brand organised retail. India, in turn, can expect a softening of  the US export control regime which has denied several Indian high tech entities like ISRO, BARC and defence factories access to critical and cutting edge technologies, equipment and components from the US.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

PALESTINIANS SHIFT GEAR FOR STATEHOOD

BY ETHAN BRONNER, IHT


They are pursuing a multilateral declaration of statehood realising that mere stating will have little effect.

 

The Palestinian leadership, near despair about attaining a negotiated agreement with Israel on a two-state solution, is increasingly focusing on how to get international bodies and courts to declare a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. 


The idea, being discussed in both formal and informal forums across the West Bank, is to appeal to the United Nations, the International Court of Justice and the signatories of the Geneva Conventions for opposition to Israeli settlements and occupation and ultimately a kind of global assertion of Palestinian statehood that will tie Israel's hands. 


The approach has taken on more weight as the stall in American-brokered peace talks lengthens over the issue of continued settlement building. 


"We cannot go on this way," said Hanan Ashrawi, a former peace negotiator who is a part of the inner ruling circle of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which oversees the Palestinian Authority. "The two-state solution is disappearing. If we cannot stop the settlements through the peace process, we have to go to the Security Council, the Human Rights Council and every international legal body." 


Israeli officials reject the move as unacceptable and a violation of the 1993 Oslo accords that govern Israeli-Palestinian relations. It would also pre-empt any efforts by Israel to keep some settlements and negotiate modified borders. But the Israelis are worried. No government in the world supports their settlement policy, and they fear that a majority of countries, including some in Europe, would back the Palestinians. The Israelis say that what is really going on is a Palestinian effort to secure a state without having to make the difficult decisions on the borders and settlements that negotiations would entail. 


They are pressing the Obama administration to take a firmer public stand against the new approach, but Washington has made no move to do so. 


"A lot of members of the international community believe that since the Palestinians are the weaker party, if they get more support it will help them in the direct talks with us," a senior Israeli official said, speaking on standard diplomatic ground rules of anonymity. 


"But it works in the opposite direction. This would kill a negotiated settlement." 
Israel and the Palestinians began the direct talks at the start of September. But a freeze on West Bank settlement construction by Israel ended four weeks later, and the 
Palestinians said they would not return to the table without an extension.


The US is pleading with the Palestinians not to give up hope. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said to an audience of Palestinians in Washington that the US was working hard to restart the process, and that special envoy, George J Mitchell, would return to the region soon. 

The Palestinians' approach is often referred to as a unilateral declaration of statehood. But they declared their state more than 20 years ago and realize that simply restating the declaration will have little effect. Instead, they are pursuing what might better be called a multilateral declaration.



Al-Haq, a Palestinian legal group, repeated its standing argument that for the purposes of the court, Palestine should be considered a state because it engages in international relations and tries its own people in a legal system. Arguing against was Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, who said granting the Palestinians statehood even for the criminal court violated their treaties with Israel. He said in a telephone interview from The Hague that the underlying purpose of the Palestinians was to strengthen their case for statehood recognition. 


The Palestinians want the world to declare their state on the territories that Israel conquered in the 1967 war — the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Half a million Israelis now live in those areas, and Israel could find itself, in effect, in daily violation of another member state.


Certain countries sympathetic to the Palestinians, however, might not agree to a declaration of their statehood. For instance, China, Russia and Spain are all facing independence movements within their borders. When Kosovo declared its independence two years ago, many states declined to recognise it because of the potential for setting a precedent of legitimising secession. 


If the Palestinians were to go to the United Nations Security Council, they might well face an American veto. Therefore they might start in the General Assembly, where there is no veto and where dozens of countries would be likely to support them. 

 

While that would be less binding, it would provide a kind of symmetry with Israel. It was in the General Assembly in November 1947 that the Zionist movement achieved success through a resolution calling for the division of this land into two states, one Jewish and the other Arab. Israel has long viewed that vote as the source of its international legitimacy. 

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

AIR NEEDS TLC

BY CHITRA SRIKRISHNA


Even a millionth of money used for CWG would go a long way in providing facilities.

 

I'm seated on the ground in an air conditioned recording studio at All India Radio (AIR). I have a live broadcast in a few minutes when I suddenly realise I need to use the facilities. I make a mad dash across the hallway and the building's only toilet is occupied. 


As the clock ticks away, I realise no amount of hand wringing is going to help. The occupant inside is oblivious to my concerted throat clearing and door handle jiggling. I return to the recording studio with my teeth clenched. 

After the broadcast, before my accompanists can engage in small talk, I'm out in a jiffy answering nature's call. I am a much more relaxed musician, when I make my way to the canteen behind the studio. This is my first visit to the canteen and I am appalled at its decrepit state. No one else seems to be bothered.


I wonder if the media that provided literally wall-to-wall coverage of the state of the bathrooms, bedrooms and dining halls of the athletes village at the Commonwealth Games, would ever get worked up about the canteen or bathrooms at AIR, where equally world-class musicians struggle every day.  


While the government saw it fit to spend thousands of crores for a ten day sporting event why can't it be using its resources to provide better facilities for a 24-hour daily broadcast service that reaches millions of people? 

Even a millionth of the money used for the CWG would go a long way to provide reasonable canteens and bathrooms for musicians.   Whether one listens to the strains of a Bhairavi or the dulcet tones of M L Vasanthakumari, the radio has remained an integral part of millions of Indian households. It's like a family member, one who has been with us for a long time and gives unstintingly. 


But what are we doing to help this beloved and somewhat down-at-the-heel relation? Classical music is our nation's pride and AIR has been spearheading the task of preserving and spreading this art form to every nook and corner of the country. 


Whenever I listen to archival recordings being aired, it's like being transported to another era. An era when musicians breathed music and seldom thought about monetary compensations often leading a life of penury. It's time to give this neglected relative some Tender Loving Care.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

LAWLESS LAWYERS

''THE SILENCE OF THE JUDICIARY IS DEAFENING.''

 

The incident on Saturday when a group of lawyers took law into their own hands was, unfortunately, one of the many such that have been witnessed in the recent past. Only a few days ago, a group of lawyers beat up an undertrial facing a charge of assaulting a member of the black-coated brigade.


On November 10 last year, the Karnataka high court witnessed its worst moments when lawyers barged into the court of the chief justice, ransacked it and compounding their misbehaviour, locked up two judges in another court hall. If the judiciary had dealt with this unbridled hooliganism with the seriousness it deserved and sent to jail some of the offenders, we would perhaps not be witnessing repetition of such lawless behaviour at frequent intervals. Indeed, such incidents have been sullying the image of practitioners of law, which has never been incandescently bright.

 

Lawyers live by law. That they try to subvert an institution that is their bread and butter, if not mission as some may claim without much justification, indicates that there is more than a problem of anger management here. The profession is seen by many as a self-employment option that provides opportunities other than a mere livelihood, such as politics, for instance.


It is this attraction that lures many undesirable elements into the profession. Hundreds of so-called law colleges have also sprung up, turning out half-baked legal practitioners, unschooled in civility, leave alone in law. The bar associations, hungry for numbers, register them as members without adequate initiation. The efforts of the higher judiciary to lay down stricter guidelines for the study of law have not been very effective. The result is what we are witnessing of late.


More than the general populace, it is the seniors in the judicial fraternity who should be concerned about the trend of extra-judicial methods of conflict resolution that many of their juniors are indulging in. The silence of the judiciary in this regard is deafening. Are they too afraid of the collective violence by lawyers? Perhaps the events of last November are weighing on their minds. Such passivity by the Bench will only encourage more acts of mob violence by lawyers, eroding public faith in law. If the lawyers themselves resort to the rule of the street, who needs courts?

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

ANONYMOUS SOLDIERS

TO BELIEVE IN A JOURNALIST, YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE IN DEMOCRACY - THAT IS, IN THE POWER TO STOP THE GOVERNMENT.

BY YITZHAK LAOR

 

The films "The Ghost Writer" (Roman Polanski, 2010 ) and "Burn After Reading" (the Coen brothers, 2008 ) both deal - as do other, less prominent films - with a conspiracy taking place behind the back of democracy, the voters and the press. In both movies, which otherwise differ greatly from each other, the world will never know what "really happened" behind the scenes, because those who know the truth were murdered by the security services. In both films only we, the audience, know the truth, which is buried at the stories' end.

 

Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island" (2010 ), in which the truth about the security services and their murderous ways is never even revealed to the viewers, provides further evidence of the gloomy attitude toward global politics that has gradually taken over the key battlefield of its artistic representation.

 

Something cynical and evil peers out at us from the movie screens. Sometimes it is ridiculous (see the Coen Brothers ) and sometimes grotesque (Polanski ). But notice how the brave journalist who exposes the truth - Watergate, Daniel Ellsberg, the Vietnam War - has steadily disappeared. To believe in a journalist, you have to believe in democracy - that is, in the power to stop the government. And to believe in the individual's ability to win, you need a vast innocence.

 

But where can such innocence be found when the leaders of the world's two greatest democracies, President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, get up and lie to their citizens with a straight face, mixing claims of "weapons of mass destruction" with democratic justifications?

 

The Iraqis who are dying en masse, who are without electricity or water, who are subject to daily murder, are better off - because democracy has won. That is the only conclusion that can possibly be drawn at a time when the WikiLeaks site has confirmed what we could have grasped without the documentation, simply by observing the slaughterhouse that is Iraq.

 

The victims of atrocity cry out in agony, but no one hears. This failure to hear has turned those responsible into obtuse liars and has rendered their voters powerless and, all too quickly, cynical. For what, really, can one say any more? That life is not good?

 

But it is good, as long as you are not an Iraqi, or a poor soldier rotting in Iraq. And who exactly can you vote for in the elections when all the parties have already agreed that "first we'll achieve victory"?

 

Democracy has won, but no one even tries any longer to excuse its crimes on the grounds of the need to defeat communism. In Iraq, they never even intended to build a democracy.

 

They wanted oil, so they occupied a country. They also hoped to insert a massive military wedge between Iran and Saudi Arabia. And to do this, they sold lies.

 

The military machines possessed by democracies are essentially no different than those held by dictatorships. Sometimes, frightening though it is, they are virtually the opposite of different from each other. Democracies need voters, and the candidates compete over their patriotism to sway the population.

 

What is the value of public opinion when it will only accept "zero casualties," and all the rest is just manipulation? And what is the value of public opinion if it has the right to decide on the mass murder of people who are citizens of other countries, and who cannot themselves participate in the decision?

 

Those now crowing over the atrocities of last year's war in Gaza in comparison to what happened in Iraq should stop for a moment.

 

True, it isn't just the Israel Defense Forces; America's army is also not a particularly good one. It too expresses its military superiority mainly in bombing and the ability to wreak destruction from afar; and its democracy also mandates "zero casualties."

 

But look at who the new anonymous heroes of our era are: faceless leakers, document thieves, those who break the silence under cover of darkness.

 

********************************************


HAARETZ

OPINION

ANONYMOUS SOLDIERS

TO BELIEVE IN A JOURNALIST, YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE IN DEMOCRACY - THAT IS, IN THE POWER TO STOP THE GOVERNMENT.

BY YITZHAK LAOR

 

The films "The Ghost Writer" (Roman Polanski, 2010 ) and "Burn After Reading" (the Coen brothers, 2008 ) both deal - as do other, less prominent films - with a conspiracy taking place behind the back of democracy, the voters and the press. In both movies, which otherwise differ greatly from each other, the world will never know what "really happened" behind the scenes, because those who know the truth were murdered by the security services. In both films only we, the audience, know the truth, which is buried at the stories' end.

 

Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island" (2010 ), in which the truth about the security services and their murderous ways is never even revealed to the viewers, provides further evidence of the gloomy attitude toward global politics that has gradually taken over the key battlefield of its artistic representation.

 

Something cynical and evil peers out at us from the movie screens. Sometimes it is ridiculous (see the Coen Brothers ) and sometimes grotesque (Polanski ). But notice how the brave journalist who exposes the truth - Watergate, Daniel Ellsberg, the Vietnam War - has steadily disappeared. To believe in a journalist, you have to believe in democracy - that is, in the power to stop the government. And to believe in the individual's ability to win, you need a vast innocence.

 

But where can such innocence be found when the leaders of the world's two greatest democracies, President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, get up and lie to their citizens with a straight face, mixing claims of "weapons of mass destruction" with democratic justifications?

 

The Iraqis who are dying en masse, who are without electricity or water, who are subject to daily murder, are better off - because democracy has won. That is the only conclusion that can possibly be drawn at a time when the WikiLeaks site has confirmed what we could have grasped without the documentation, simply by observing the slaughterhouse that is Iraq.

 

The victims of atrocity cry out in agony, but no one hears. This failure to hear has turned those responsible into obtuse liars and has rendered their voters powerless and, all too quickly, cynical. For what, really, can one say any more? That life is not good?

 

]But it is good, as long as you are not an Iraqi, or a poor soldier rotting in Iraq. And who exactly can you vote for in the elections when all the parties have already agreed that "first we'll achieve victory"?

 

Democracy has won, but no one even tries any longer to excuse its crimes on the grounds of the need to defeat communism. In Iraq, they never even intended to build a democracy.

 

They wanted oil, so they occupied a country. They also hoped to insert a massive military wedge between Iran and Saudi Arabia. And to do this, they sold lies.

 

The military machines possessed by democracies are essentially no different than those held by dictatorships. Sometimes, frightening though it is, they are virtually the opposite of different from each other. Democracies need voters, and the candidates compete over their patriotism to sway the population.

 

What is the value of public opinion when it will only accept "zero casualties," and all the rest is just manipulation? And what is the value of public opinion if it has the right to decide on the mass murder of people who are citizens of other countries, and who cannot themselves participate in the decision?

 

Those now crowing over the atrocities of last year's war in Gaza in comparison to what happened in Iraq should stop for a moment.

 

True, it isn't just the Israel Defense Forces; America's army is also not a particularly good one. It too expresses its military superiority mainly in bombing and the ability to wreak destruction from afar; and its democracy also mandates "zero casualties."

 

]But look at who the new anonymous heroes of our era are: faceless leakers, document thieves, those who break the silence under cover of darkness.

 

********************************************


HAARETZ

OPINION

DISCRIMINATORY AND UNNECESSARY

NEW BILL AIMS TO PRESERVE COMMUNITIES' 'JEWISH PURITY' BY MEANS OF WILLFUL EXCLUSION THAT TRADUCES ISRAEL'S BASIC LAWS.

 

This morning, the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee will discuss a proposal to amend the law relating to small communities' absorption committees. Ostensibly offering admission candidates a right of appeal, the law would effectively ratify and institutionalize the committees' right to accept candidates according to criteria of "suitability to the community's fundamental outlook, as defined in its regulations," and "social suitability with regard to the community's way of life, spirit and social fabric."

 

This is an outrageous proposal that crudely attempts to bypass the High Court of Justice's Ka'adan ruling, in which the court ruled that an Arab citizen can buy a house in a Jewish community. The communities are located on public land and offer candidates a high-quality lifestyle for relatively cheap prices, for the purpose of fulfilling the controversial goal of "Judaizing" regions around the country.

 

In its 2003 ruling, the High Court deemed the absorption committees' classifications of candidates "a grave blow to equality;" yet since then, the communities, whose well-to-do residents are eager only to admit "people like us," have persisted with their admission policies.

 

Single mothers, physically challenged persons and others who deviate from the communities' conservative norms are rejected on sophistic pretenses. Arab candidates are categorically rejected on the hazy grounds of "unsuitability."

 

Some residents of the communities are uneasy about these trends.

 

Now MKs Shai Hermesh, Israel Hasson, Uri Ariel, Moshe Matalon and Yitzhak Vaknin want to enshrine this blatant discrimination in Israeli law.

 

This is woefully unnecessary litigation: The seventh amendment to the Israel Lands Administration Law, which was recently passed, provides the administration the right to designate restrictions on the sale of land plots in communal villages. It is best that a state authority, that is devoid of local interests and committed to maximal transparency, conduct the admissions process.

 

It is hard to resist the conclusion that the aim of the proposed law is to preserve the communities' "Jewish purity" (the villages' regulations are formulated in a way that constructs non-Jews as being inappropriate to their "community spirit" ), by means of willful exclusion that traduces Israel's Basic Laws.

 

Should this atrocious amendment be authorized by the committee, it will join other discriminatory laws that have been accepted recently, and will proffer to the Knesset yet another ignoble stain.

 

]********************************************

 


HAARETZ

OPINION

OPEN GAZA'S GATES

ISRAEL'S POLICY, MEANT TO OVERTHROW HAMAS BY PROHIBITING PRODUCTION AND MANUFACTURING, HAS FAILED MISERABLY.

BY AMIRA HASS

 

Do you really want to weaken Hamas? Surprise it. Go back and open Gaza's gates - to ordinary human movement, not just to cherries, shavers and a handful of pious Muslims who manage to wend their way past the Egyptian bureaucracy. Open the Erez checkpoint. Then you'll see how Gazans yearn for life.

 

 Let young people study outside the Gaza Strip. Despite the exasperating presence of Israel's foreign rule, in the Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank those young people will encounter a form of diversity that is becoming extinct in Gaza. They will discover that such diversity is better than the monolithic reality imposed by Israel's siege and messianic politics. Allow female pupils and female teachers to tour their land and see that the world is more complicated than brainwashing television programs and competitions to obtain relief packages. Consider this: Diplomats report that most Hamas summer camps in Gaza have been closed; most children preferred camps operated by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

 

Stop suffocating manufacturers who have become impoverished over the past five years. Challenge those who call for a boycott, and allow the forcibly unemployed to find work in Israel. Let's see if Hamas can stop them from doing that. The Kav La'oved worker's hotline will campaign devotedly against their exploitation, while Palestinian organizations will try to dissuade them, softly or not, from working in Israel.

 

Yet their self-esteem, buoyed by the fact that they are again providing for their families, will find its place among such internal contradictions. Let cement and iron enter Gaza so engineers, builders and painters can get back to work. They will rebuild the rubble, along with their attitudes on life.

 

When residents from Hebron, Nazareth and foreign countries travel to the Khan Yunis coast, or visit a cultural center north of the Al-Shatti refugee camp, their illusions about the wonders of the religious-totalitarian regime will evaporate. The earlier the quarantine in which Gazans were put some 20 years ago is broken, the harder it will be for Hamas to tighten the bridle.

 

The apocryphal legend says that the closure - the regime of movement restrictions - was imposed on the Palestinians because of the strengthening Islamic movement and the terror strikes against Israeli citizens. But the sequence of events should be read the opposite way: The policy of mass confinement took root in January 1991, before the suicide attacks in Israel. This is a society that was progressively allowed less access to the outside world and experienced ever-more sophisticated variants of Israeli oppression and a lack of concrete solutions from the PLO leadership. Under such circumstances, is it any wonder Allah's earthly emissaries managed to find their way to people's hearts?

 

If the Israeli government's policy indeed meant to overthrow Hamas by prohibiting production and manufacturing, and by using mathematical formulas to make sure that the animals' - excuse me, the human beings' - nourishment does not slip beyond a red line, then it has failed miserably. This failure was evident before Israel was compelled by international pressure to annul the restrictions on the entry of consumer goods. Gaza residents' famously high threshold of pain and endurance levels let them get by the past three dark years. Unjustly, this resilience is attributed to Hamas.

 

Appearing increasingly self-confident and self-satisfied, Hamas is consolidating its rule. True, it relies on stifling dissent, intimidation and oppression (like its rival, the Palestinian Authority ). But thanks to its strong talent for improvisation, Hamas is learning to serve the population and supply vital needs under extremely hostile circumstances. Are those policy makers who devised the draconian restrictions that foolish to think that bans on chocolate and toys and the destruction of the manufacturing sector would stir an uprising against Hamas or convince it to deliver the keys of power to Mahmoud Abbas?

 

It would be wrong to dismiss the wisdom of our leaders. Perhaps they've gotten exactly what they wanted - to strengthen Hamas in the Gaza Strip, both for perpetuating the intentional division between Gaza and the West Bank and to encourage perpetual low-intensity warfare (which sometimes escalates ).

 

Only under such circumstances do our leaders know how to function, while securing their people's support.

 

********************************************

 


HAARETZ

OPINION

MONIED INTERESTS

IN ITS WILLINGNESS TO LEND ITS NAME TO PROMOTE A BUSINESS DEAL, THE PERES CENTER FOR PEACE HAS EXCEEDED THE BOUNDARIES OF GOOD TASTE.

BY YOSSI MELMAN

 

This is what peace looks like: an architect to the elite, a housing developer for the upper thousandth percentile, a commercial bank and the Peres Center for Peace. On Sunday, the Hebrew edition of Haaretz carried an infuriating and disheartening ad on the front page. The Peres Center was proudly announcing a meeting with the American architect Richard Meier. At the meeting, which took place on Monday and was closed to the public, "a residential tower was unveiled." The ad also mentions the tower's developers and Bank Leumi, which is backing the project financially.

 

What does a commercial construction project intended for Israel's wealthiest people and investors from abroad have to do with a center purporting to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians? What's the connection? Money, of course. The Peres Center is mired in debt and trying to extricate itself using any contribution, charity or sponsorship it can schnorr. When to this end it turns into an events hall and rents itself out to anyone who asks, one can understand. But it seems that in its willingness to lend its name, or more to the point the remnants of its reputation, to promote a business deal, the center has exceeded the boundaries of good taste.

 

The Peres Center has meandered a long and winding road since a decade and a half ago, when the Jewish-American billionaire Daniel Abraham gave Shimon Peres half a million dollars in seed money to set up the center. Abraham's donation helped Peres raise more and more funds from wealthy people around the world. Over the years, Peres, who is known far and wide as a warrior for peace, has raised many tens of millions of shekels for the center, whose management he has put in the hands of his aides, first and foremost Uri Savir and Avi Gil.

 

When Peres was tempted into establishing the center, he believed his political career had ended. But he rose like the proverbial phoenix, and naturally limited his involvement in the center. Under the direction of "the president," Savir and his friends, Peres' worldwide campaign for peace donned a new form - "peace industry." The vision and the way, and sometimes Peres' own castles in the air, found expression mainly in megalomania and the aspiration to enjoy the finer things in life. In the heart of Jaffa a magnificent building went up that could yet become a white elephant. The directors enjoy high salaries, travel the world and, especially, rub elbows with the rich, movie stars and soccer heroes.

 

The Peres Center's spokeswoman, who was asked to respond on the issue, said the ad was basically a mistake and the developer responsible for it improperly used the center and damaged it severely. If that's the case, why didn't the center publish a statement admonishing the developer?

 

In any case, the ad and the commotion it caused are symptomatic of Israeli society's attitude toward the peace process. The left has fallen apart. Two people are responsible for its disintegration: Yasser Arafat, who did not give up the "armed struggle," i.e., terror, and Ehud Barak, who made everyone sick of the Labor Party and destroyed it.

 

The public perceives the leftist camp mainly as sympathizing with the Palestinians' suffering and (rightfully ) fighting the injustice of the occupation.

 

The problem is that the left is also perceived as indifferent and even alienated from poverty, inequality and injustice in Israeli society.

 

No wonder most people - bogged down in the daily grind and helpless before an ugly, cruel capitalism that is greedy for the economy's resources - have had it with the left that raises only the banner of peace. To many people, the left and the search for peace, as they are represented faithfully by the Peres Center as well, are identified with monied interests.

 

****************************************

 


 

******************************************************************************************

THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

 

SECRET MONEY IN IOWA

 

Bruce Braley, a Democrat from northeastern Iowa, has been a popular two-term congressman and seemed likely to have an easy re-election until the huge cash mudslide of 2010. The Republican Party had largely left him alone, but then a secretive group called the American Future Fund began spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on distortion-heavy attack ads.

Mr. Braley is now struggling to maintain his lead against a Republican challenger, Benjamin Lange, who is

running on a familiar program of smaller government and opposition to the health care law, the stimulus and growing federal spending. Mr. Braley has disclosed all of the donors behind his ads and his campaign; Mr. Lange generally will not discuss his independent support.

 

Mr. Braley has shown admirable political courage throughout the race, staunchly defending his support for health care reform, the stimulus and the Bush-era bank bailout. Each will benefit the country over time, he said. "I'm going to stand my ground and won't be intimidated," he told a local radio station a few weeks ago.

 

That position stood him well in the relatively liberal 1st District of Iowa until he became a target of the American Future Fund, one of several conservative groups spending millions of dollars to defeat Democrats while promising their donors anonymity.

 

As The Times reported recently, the American Future Fund was started with money from Bruce Rastetter, an ethanol company executive. Mr. Braley supports ethanol tax credits — a favorite in Iowa. Mr. Rastetter, who is pushing to defeat several Democrats on the House energy and agriculture committees, has not explained his political goals.

 

The fund, based in Iowa, has spent at least $574,000 to run a series of anti-Braley ads. One that is particularly pernicious shows images of the ruined World Trade Center and then intones, "Incredibly, Bruce Braley supports building a mosque at ground zero." Actually, Mr. Braley has never said that, stating only that the matter should be left to New Yorkers.

 

Another implies that Mr. Braley supports a middle-class tax increase because he voted to adjourn the House at a time when some Republicans had proposed cutting income taxes on everyone. In fact, Mr. Braley supports extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class, while letting them expire for families making $250,000 or more to avoid adding $700 billion to the deficit.

 

Mr. Braley has also been the subject of $250,000 worth of attack ads by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which also has not disclosed its contributors.

 

He is only one of many candidates being pummeled this year by secret money and shamefully false advertising. The American Action Network, another conservative group that does not disclose its donors, is targeting Representative Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, in his race against Sam Caligiuri, a Republican.

 

The group is running an ad claiming that the health reform law, which Mr. Murphy supported and Mr. Caligiuri wants to repeal, requires jail time for people who do not buy health insurance. The law does no such thing. At least one Connecticut television station has stopped running the ad.

 

The voters, who are the real victims of these distortions, haven't the slightest idea who is paying for the ads. But rest assured that the big corporations and donors will make their identities known to the winners they push into office. The price for their support will be high.

 

 ***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

HAITI'S LATEST MISERY

 

The cholera outbreak in Haiti — the first in 50 years — has layered fresh anxiety atop long-standing misery. By Tuesday the disease had sickened more than 3,000 people and killed more than 250. While the authorities have expressed cautious hope that the outbreak might soon stabilize and remain largely confined to the rural Artibonite region, there is still fear that the disease could overwhelm the shattered capital, Port-au-Prince.

 

The United Nations and foreign relief agencies deserve credit for an energetic response, rapidly setting up mobile treatment centers and delivering clean water, medicine and public-service messages urging cleanliness and caution.

 

Aid workers have been heroic in keeping people relatively safe and healthy since the Jan. 12 earthquake. And the truth is that many of the hundreds of thousands of people who are now living in camps are in some ways better off than the millions more in Haiti's slums, because they have better access to services. That is not very comforting. And it is not sustainable.

 

Haitians need what their government and international donors have promised — permanent homes and sanitation, potable water and medical systems so they do not have to depend on relief.

 

More than 1.3 million Haitians were left homeless by the quake, and more than 1.3 million remain homeless today. Thousands of people live in semi-sturdy "transitional" shelters, but there is still no new permanent housing to speak of. Tens of thousands of displaced people squatting on private land are in danger of eviction or have already been forced to move. Only a fraction of quake rubble has been cleared.

 

The government of President René Préval still has not made many of the most basic decisions, including where to build new housing, and whether and how it will exercise its powers of eminent domain.

 

The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, headed by Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and former President Bill Clinton, is supposed to bring coordination, efficiency and transparency to the rebuilding. It has met only three times and is still not fully staffed. At its most recent meeting on Oct. 6 — actually a conference call — the commission was still voting on changes to its bylaws.

 

It has approved some important projects, including a reinvention of Haiti's primary education system and a $200 million program for agricultural development. Most recently it approved a 12-bed regional hospital, lending and training programs for small and medium-sized businesses, flooding prevention in the city of Jacmel, and efforts to protect women and girls from sexual violence. These need to be accompanied by significant progress in building housing and removing rubble.

 

Thanks to the immense foreign intervention, some things have improved this year, like many displaced Haitians' access to clean water and medicine. That has undoubtedly helped prevent far wider sickness and death in the cholera outbreak. Unless the rebuilding begins in earnest, even that good news may prove transitory.

 

 ***************************************

 


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

FLU VACCINE, THEN AND NOW

 

Last year many Americans, fearful of a new swine flu virus, clamored for vaccines that were often hard to find or even unavailable in their area. This year there should be plenty of vaccine for everyone who wants it.

 

The problems last year stemmed in large part from the late emergence of an unexpected strain — the swine flu — which was impervious to the standard flu vaccines then being prepared.

 

Manufacturers had to switch plans in midstream and start producing a second vaccine. They got a late start, many experienced production problems, and deliveries of swine flu vaccine ran way behind schedule. People who sought the vaccine often found that their doctors had run out, or had to wait hours in line if they could find a clinic or a store with a supply.

 

Meanwhile, individuals who wanted complete protection had to get two flu shots, one to protect against the swine flu that was already circulating, the other against seasonal flu strains that were expected to circulate but never did appear to any significant extent.

 

This year immunization will be much simpler. The vaccine will protect against both the swine flu and two other flu strains. Most people will need only a single shot. By mid-October, manufacturers had delivered 139 million doses and were projecting that they would produce 160 to 165 million doses in all for this flu season. That should be plenty to handle the likely demand.

 

Federal health officials now recommend that all people ages 6 months and older should get vaccinated. Influenza activity is relatively low around the country, but it makes sense to get protected soon, before the virus arrives in force.

 

***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

MOOSE AND SQUIRREL

BY VERLYN KLINKENBORG

 

In the Wayback Machine, it's a very short trip to 1959 and the debut of "Rocky and His Friends" — the cartoon series featuring characters originated by Alex Anderson. Mr. Anderson died Friday at the age of 90 after a life spent mostly in advertising.

 

Jay Ward, who created the series, was clearly responsibly for its anarchic spirit. But Mr. Anderson's leading characters — Rocky the flying squirrel and his pal, Bullwinkle the moose — are lodged in the imagination of Americans of a certain age. Say the words "Rocky and Bullwinkle" and suddenly we're in Frostbite Falls, surrounded by Boris and Natasha, the Russian spies, and Mr. Peabody, the calm, pedantic owner of the Wayback Machine.

 

Compared with animation by Warner Brothers and Walt Disney, Rocky and Bullwinkle was a simply sketched cartoon. To the children who watched, it was spectacularly grown up, a cold-war fable crowded with allusions, puns and moments of almost abstract silliness. Its narrative lines were so absurd that it made Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck look like studies in narrative composure. If you want to chart the decline in the attention span of baby boomers, this is the place to begin.

 

My favorite moment from the show, which came to an end in 1964, was the invisible narrator's telling of Fractured Fairy Tales. In a series rich with vocal characterizations, this was the richest of all, voiced by the great Edward Everett Horton, who is better remembered as Fred Astaire's comic partner in "Top Hat."

 

Others had their own favorites. The young viewer instinctively identified with Rocky, a squirrel of both courage and common sense, and with Bullwinkle, who was mystified not only by the world but by the conventions of the cartoon and often stepped out of its frame. Our idea of rationality came from Mr. Peabody, who was, of course, a bespectacled dog time-traveling back into one non sequitur after another.

 

An entire generation got its first impression of our Soviet rivals from Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. The two plotted and bickered and — reassuringly — were always thwarted.

 

 ***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

CAN'T KEEP A BAD IDEA DOWN

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

I confess, I find it dispiriting to read the polls and see candidates, mostly Republicans, leading in various midterm races while promoting many of the very same ideas that got us into this mess. Am I hearing right?

 

Let's have more tax cuts, unlinked to any specific spending cuts and while we're still fighting two wars — because that worked so well during the Bush years to make our economy strong and our deficit small. Let's immediately cut government spending, instead of phasing cuts in gradually, while we're still mired in a recession — because that worked so well in the Great Depression. Let's roll back financial regulation — because we've learned from experience that Wall Street can police itself and average Americans will never have to bail it out.

 

Let's have no limits on corporate campaign spending so oil and coal companies can more easily and anonymously strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its powers to limit pollution in the air our kids breathe. Let's discriminate against gays and lesbians who want to join the military and fight for their country. Let's restrict immigration, because, after all, we don't live in a world where America's most important competitive advantage is its ability to attract the world's best brains. Let's repeal our limited health care reform rather than see what works and then fix it. Let's oppose the free-trade system that made us rich.

 

Let's kowtow even more to public service unions so they'll make even more money than private sector workers, so they'll give even more money to Democrats who will give them even more generous pensions, so not only California and New York will go bankrupt but every other state too. Let's pay for more tax cuts by uncovering waste I can't identify, fraud I haven't found and abuse that I'll get back to you on later.

 

All that's missing is any realistic diagnosis of where we are as a country and what we need to get back to sustainable growth. Actually, such a diagnosis has been done. A nonpartisan group of America's most distinguished engineers, scientists, educators and industrialists unveiled just such a study in the midst of this campaign.

 

Here is the story: In 2005 our National Academies responded to a call from a bipartisan group of senators to recommend 10 actions the federal government could take to enhance science and technology so America could successfully compete in the 21st century. Their response was published in a study, spearheaded by the industrialist Norman Augustine, titled "Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future."

 

Charles M. Vest, the former M.I.T. president, worked on the study and noted in a speech recently that "Gathering Storm," together with work by the Council on Competitiveness, led to the America Competes Act of 2007, which increased funding for the basic science research that underlies our industrial economy. Other recommendations, like improving K-12 science education, were not substantively addressed.

 

So, on Sept. 23, the same group released a follow-up report: "Rising Above the Gathering Storm Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5." "The subtitle, 'Rapidly Approaching Category 5,' says it all," noted Vest. "The committee's conclusion is that 'in spite of the efforts of both those in government and the private sector, the outlook for America to compete for quality jobs has further deteriorated over the past five years.' "

 

But I thought: "We're number 1!"

"Here is a little dose of reality about where we actually rank today," says Vest: sixth in global innovation-based competitiveness, but 40th in rate of change over the last decade; 11th among industrialized nations in the fraction of 25- to 34-year-olds who have graduated from high school; 16th in college completion rate; 22nd in broadband Internet access; 24th in life expectancy at birth; 27th among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving degrees in science or engineering; 48th in quality of K-12 math and science education; and 29th in the number of mobile phones per 100 people.

 

"This is not a pretty picture, and it cannot be wished away," said Vest. The study recommended a series of steps — some that President Obama has already initiated, some that still need Congress's support — designed to increase America's talent pool by vastly improving K-12 science and mathematics education, to reinforce long-term basic research, and to create the right tax and policy incentives so we can develop, recruit and retain the best and brightest students, scientists and engineers in the world. The goal is to make America the premier place to innovate and invest in innovation to create high-paying jobs.

 

You'll have to Google it, though. The report hasn't received 1/100th of the attention given to Juan Williams's remarks on Muslims.

 

A dysfunctional political system is one that knows the right answers but can't even discuss them rationally, let alone act on them, and one that devotes vastly more attention to cable TV preachers than to recommendations by its best scientists and engineers.

 

 ***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

WHEN A PIRATE IS THE VOICE OF CHIVALRY

BY MAUREEN DOWD

 

WASHINGTON

It's the Year of the Woman, all right. In a bad way. Some of the women running in high-profile races are not my cup of Tea. And some of the male candidates could be part of the Little Rascals' He-Man, Woman-Haters Club.

 

The misogyny reached its zenith outside a Rand Paul debate in Lexington, Ky., on Monday night when a group of Tea Party toughs roughed up a woman from MoveOn.org because she wouldn't move on.

 

One man, wearing a "Don't Tread on Me" button, ripped off her wig and wrestled her to the ground with the help of another man, and a third Paul volunteer stamped his foot on her shoulder when she was down.

 

In a campaign season when many men — and women — are taking harsh stances that could hurt women, a chivalrous voice has at last arrived.

 

Oddly enough, it belongs to a renegade pirate whose motto is "Keep it dark": Keith Richards.

 

You'd think that an only child whose mother killed all the pets he kept as companions would not grow up to be so positive about women.

 

"I put a note on her bedroom door, with a drawing of a cat, that said 'Murderer,' " Richards writes in "Life," his new memoir. "I never forgave her for that."

 

His mom, Doris, who didn't like the muss and fuss, reacted nonchalantly: "Shut up. Don't be soft."

 

But the first thing he did when he began making money with a little band called the Rolling Stones was buy Mum a house.

 

His reaction when the Stones started to attract hordes of "feral, body-snatching girls" was not titillation but terror. "I was never more in fear for my life than I was from teenage girls," he writes. "The ones that choked me, tore me to shreds, if you got caught in a frenzied crowd of them — it's hard to express how frightening they could be. You'd rather be in a trench fighting the enemy than to be faced with this unstoppable killer wave of lust and desire, or whatever it is — it's unknown even to them."

 

He continues: "The problem is if they get their hands on you, they don't know what to do with you. They nearly strangled me with a necklace, one grabbed one side of it, the other grabbed the other, and they're going, 'Keith, Keith,' and meanwhile they're choking me."

 

The shy English Boy Scout and choirboy who started out with "no chick in the world" describes the women he was involved with — from road flings to his manager to his ex, Anita Pallenberg — with candor but generosity.

 

Even groupies are accorded respect. "You could look upon them more like the Red Cross," he says. "They'd wash your clothes, they'd bathe you and stuff."

 

Learning that there's a blind girl who loyally follows the band, he arranges for her to get rides from the group's truck drivers.

 

"I've been saved by chicks more times than by guys," he writes. "Sometimes just that little hug and kiss and nothing else happens. Just keep me warm for the night, just hold on to each other when times are hard, times are rough."

 

The Prince of Darkness who got in trouble with feminists for "Under My Thumb" is, it turns out, a cuddler who loves strong, high-spirited women.

 

He had the "unlikely role of consoler" for Mick's girlfriends when Jagger cheated. "The tears that have been on this shoulder from Jerry Hall, from Bianca, from Marianne, Chrissie Shrimpton ... They've ruined so many shirts of mine." Including when Jerry found a note from one of Mick's girlfriends written backward that said, "I'll be your mistress forever."

 

"Really good code, Mick!" Richards chides.

 

The guitarist explained in an interview with NPR's Terry Gross that the band's so-called "anti-girl" songs could just as easily be about guys.

 

"Under My Thumb," he said, could've been about a guy under a woman's thumb and "you're just trying to fight back." Besides, he says, he didn't write the lyrics — Jagger did.

 

In the book, he explains: "The songs also came from a lot of frustration from our point of view. You go on the road for a month, you come back, and she's with somebody else."

 

The biggest "seductress" in his life was heroin, he writes, which he relied on to anesthetize him from the "blah blah blah" of show business, something he did not enjoy as much as Jagger.

 

He said he never collected women, like Jagger and Bill Wyman, or "paid for it," or indulged women who collected rock stars.

 

"I've never been able to go to bed with a woman just for sex," writes the author, happily married for decades to the former model Patti Hansen, whom he is supporting through bladder cancer. "I've no interest in that. I want to hug you and kiss you and make you feel good and protect you. And get a nice note the next day, stay in touch."

 

The consummate gentleman. Who knew?

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

TURNING THE TALIBAN AGAINST AL QAEDA

BY SCOTT ATRAN

 

FOR the last week there have been widespread news reports that NATO is facilitating talks between the Afghan government and Taliban leaders, even as it routs Taliban forces from their main stronghold in Kandahar. The United States plan seems clear: allow for "preliminary" talks to end the war through a broad-based "reconciliation" process, but don't get serious about a deal until beefed-up coalition forces have gained the initiative on the battlefield.

 

Yet, despite assertions by senior NATO officials that they can defeat the Taliban militarily if given enough money and men, and that military pressure will start the Taliban thinking about alternatives to fighting, the surge in southern Afghanistan appears only to have expanded the scope of the Taliban's activity and entrenched their resolve to fight on until America tires and leaves.

 

In truth, the real pressure to show that there is light at the end of the tunnel is not on the Taliban, but the United States, so it can start drawing down troops next year as President Obama has pledged. This is why NATO and Washington are only now openly discussing the talks, although they have been going on in fits and starts for years. True, some senior Taliban leaders are playing along — but this is not so much because they fear defeat at the hands of the Americans, but because they worry that their new generation of midlevel commanders is getting out of control.

 

Washington's goals officially remain those stated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: to strengthen Afghan Army forces and to "reintegrate" the supposedly "moderate" Taliban, that is, fighters who will consent to lay down arms and respect the Afghan Constitution, including its Western-inspired provisions to respect human rights and equality of women in the public sphere. Yet in nine years of war, no significant group of Taliban has opted for reintegration (a few individuals have come in, only to return to the Taliban when it again was in their interest). Moreover, coalition military personnel know that there isn't a single Afghan Army brigade that can hold its own against Taliban troops.

 

Ten months into the new NATO push in Afghanistan, 2010 is the bloodiest year yet of the war. Insurgent attacks are up more than 60 percent compared with last year, according to the United Nations. The estimated number of Taliban has increased some tenfold since the aftermath of their defeat by coalition forces in 2001. Taliban troops now roam large areas in northern and eastern Afghanistan, far beyond the traditional Pashtun provinces of the south.

 

The United States claims to have killed thousands of Taliban in recent months, mostly foot soldiers and midlevel commanders. But those 25-year-old foot soldiers are being replaced by teenage fighters, and the 35-year-old midlevel commanders by 20-something students straight out of the religious schools called madrasas, which are the only form of education available in many rural areas.

 

These younger commanders and their fiercely loyal fighters are increasingly removed from the dense networks of tribal kinship and patronage, or qawm, and especially of friendship born of common experiences, or andiwali, that bind together the top figures in the established insurgent groups like the Quetta Shura and the Haqqani network. Indeed, it is primarily through andiwali — overlapping bonds of family, schooling, years together in camps, combat service, business partnership — that talks between the adversaries, including representatives of Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's president, and Mullah Omar, the Taliban's ultimate leader, have continued over the years.

 

These new Taliban warriors, however, are increasingly independent, ruthless and unwilling to compromise with foreign infidels and their associates. They yearn to fight, and describe battle as going on vacation from the long, boring interludes of training and waiting between engagements. They claim they will fight to the death as long as any foreign soldiers remain, even if only in military bases.

 

AS with the older Taliban, their ideology — a peculiar blend of pan-Islamic Shariah law and Pashtun customs — is "not for sale," as one leader told a Times reporter. But the new cohort increasingly decides how these beliefs are imposed on the ground: recently the Quetta Shura sent a Muslim scholar to chastise a group of youthful commanders in Paktia Province who were not following Mullah Omar's directives; they promptly killed him.

 

Hardly anyone who calls himself "Taliban" (an umbrella term for fractious Pashtun tribesmen who collectively hate the foreign invaders enough to turn even traditional enemies into friends) considers the American conditions for reintegration as anything other than comical. To get the tribesmen to lay down arms that have sustained them for decades against a host of powerful invaders is about as likely as getting the National Rifle Association to support a repeal of the Second Amendment. The separation of men and women in the public sphere is at the foundation of Pashtun tribal life, along with the duty to protect guests.

 

So why hold talks at all? Because there is a good chance that the Taliban can be persuaded to cut ties with Al Qaeda and offer some sort of guarantee that President Karzai won't be left hanging from a lamppost when the Americans leave (as President Muhammad Najibullah, the puppet Afghan leader of the 1980s, was after the Soviets fled). The veteran correspondent Arnaud de Borchgrave recently told me that when he met with Mullah Omar shortly before 9/11, he was "stunned by the hostility" the mullah expressed for Osama bin Laden.

 

Indeed, there is strong evidence that in the late 1990s Mullah Omar tried to crack down on Mr. bin Laden's activities — confiscating his cellphone, putting him under house arrest and forbidding him to talk to the press or issue fatwas. But then, as the Taliban were deliberating about how to "disinvite" their troublesome guest after 9/11, the United States invaded, bombing them into a closer alliance with Al Qaeda.

 

Likewise, it should be possible to drive a wedge between Al Qaeda and the Haqqanis. The group's leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, was once called "goodness personified" by Representative Charlie Wilson, the great patron of the Afghan mujahedeen. During the Soviet occupation, he was a principal conduit of funds between Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and the Islamic rebels, and remains a key link between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban.

 

Although some Haqqani leaders now profess loyalty to Mullah Omar and probably continue to harbor members of Al Qaeda, this is most likely a manifestation of the tradition of sanctuary and the Afghan tribal dictum that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." What's more, the Haqqanis have many long-standing andiwali ties with Mr. Karzai's tribe, the Popalzai, which could be exploited in negotiations. Indeed, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar — a Taliban leader with close links to the Haqqanis who is in Pakistani custody, but is thought to be involved with the current talks — is himself a member of the Popalzai and once saved Mr. Karzai's life.

 

With no real hopes for a breakthrough in negotiations, the Pentagon's current thinking seems to be to keep troop levels up for at least a few months after President Obama's declared June 2011 drawdown date, to show the Taliban that the force and the will to beat them will remain if they don't come to the table. But this isn't likely to impress any Taliban, who can simply wait us out.

 

The smarter move would be to turn the current shadow-play about talks into serious negotiations right now. The older Taliban leaders might well drop their support for Osama bin Laden if Western troops were no longer there to unite them. The Haqqanis, too, are exclusively interested in their homeland, not global jihad, and will discard anyone who interferes in their lives. No Haqqanis joined Al Qaeda before 9/11, because they couldn't stand Arabs telling them how to pray and fight.

 

The problem now, for the Taliban leaders, the Afghan government, its Western backers and Pakistan, is that the main "success" of the recent surge — killing thousands of Taliban foot soldiers and midlevel commanders — may create a whirlwind that no one will be able to control.

 

Scott Atran, an anthropologist at France's National Center for Scientific Research, the University of Michigan and John Jay College, is the author of "Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood and the (Un)making of Terrorists."

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON 'MISSING CANDIDATES': POLITICIANS DUCK THE PRESS, TRY TO AVOID ACCOUNTABILITY

 

What's the most dangerous place in Washington?" goes an old political joke. "Between a candidate for Congress and a TV camera."

 

Not anymore. In this campaign season, instead of running toward the news media, more candidates than usual

are running away.

 

Some are seeking to control their messages by shopping for outlets they perceive as friendly, by ducking the national news media, or by avoiding debates. It's a nice trick for candidates — particularly uninformed novices afraid of unscripted gaffes — but a dirty trick on voters, who are losing what little opportunity they have in this age of sound bites to see how candidates deal with tough, independent questioning.

 

The situation has become so bad that Politico has dubbed this the "year of the missing candidate."

 

In part, the trend is an escalation of the adversarial relationship candidates have always had with reporters who break unflattering stories that office-seekers wish never became public. In the past, though, most candidates had to deal with all comers — those they liked and those they didn't — or risk failing to get their messages out.

 

What's different today is that the rise of cable's conservative Fox News and its left-leaning rival MSNBC has

given candidates outlets where they believe they can get kid-gloves treatment — and sometimes do. When former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin advised one Republican to "speak through Fox News," other conservatives took heed. Many have sought to shun the broader press and, by extension, the public. While this is mostly a conservative phenomenon, some Democrats have adopted the same arrogant attitude.

 

How have candidates tried to avoid accountability? Let us count the ways:

 

•Ducking debates. This is a time-honored tactic, particularly for front-runners and incumbents. Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry refused to show at last week's televised debate in his home state. Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer did one debate— in which she froze during a question about her record — then made clear there'd be no more. And Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton, a veteran Democrat in a tight race, has refused to debate, despite editorial pleas from The Kansas City (Mo.) Star that he "stop making excuses" for ducking this vital tool for comparing candidates.

 

This time around, however, even some relative newcomers are avoiding debates' harsh spotlight. In Nevada, for example, Tea Party candidate SharronAngle, who came from nowhere and is now in a tight race with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, decided she would appear in no debates after mid-October.

 

•Playing hide 'n' seek. In Nevada, Angle routinely refuses to give out her campaign schedule, which rarely includes public events. It has become a game among reporters in Nevada to find her. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, in line to become speaker of the House if Republicans win a majority, won't give out his full daily schedule because of security concerns, his aides say. But Boehner and others in leadership positions have security details — paid for by taxpayers — precisely so they can do public events, not so they can avoid impromptu coverage.

 

•Picking favorites. Delaware's Christine O'Donnell, who shot from obscurity to become the GOP Senate candidate, has refused to speak with one particular political reporter at The News Journal, the state's largest paper. (The News Journal, like USA TODAY, is owned by the Gannett Co.) In California, Republican billionaire businesswomen Meg Whitman, running against Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown for governor, initially did few interviews and, more recently, has concentrated on using her fortune for TV ads. Brown has recently stiffed outlets ranging from CNN to Fox News.

 

•Acting thuggish. In Alaska, one reporter covering the Senate campaign found himself under civilian arrest early this month. Security guards around Republican Joe Miller handcuffed and detained a blogger who was trying to interview the candidate.

 

A lot of this is as absurd as it sounds: Candidates running for election running from the public. Campaigns are meant to test the candidates' views on the issues, their character, their intelligence and their ability to weather the rough and tumble that governing will entail. If candidates are afraid to answer questions, and prefer to hide behind handlers and TV commercials, you have to wonder about theirfitness for public office.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

CANDIDATES' VIEW ON 'MISSING CANDIDATES': WE'RE NOT CAMERA-SHY

 

USA TODAY contacted each of the candidates referred to in Our View. Responses from them or their spokesmen, in the order they were mentioned:

 

Aide to Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas: "During this campaign, Gov. Perry has done more than 250 one-on-one interviews, on top of scores of press conferences and public events across every region of Texas. The governor was ready to debate, as he has done many times in previous elections. If (Democratic candidate) Bill White truly wanted to debate, he would have released his hidden income tax returns and come clean with the people of Texas about how he profited while serving the public."

 

Gov. Jan Brewer, R-Ariz.: "My opponent and I have been in public office for most of three decades and for the past eight years. We both have held statewide offices. The people of Arizona know us well and our differing positions on critical issues. I'm not giving my opponent the opportunity to remake himself in further debates."

 

Aide to Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo.: "Congressman Skelton was pleased to participate in multiple candidate forums this election cycle."

 

Aide to Sharron AngleRepublican Senate candidate in Nevada: "Sharron Angle never backed out of any traditional debate. ... Given Harry Reid's poor performance at the Oct. 14 debate, it is not surprising that Reid's handlers would only agree to accept one debate and not several before the polls opened. ... And just for the record, Mrs. Angle has done more media interviews than Harry Reid did during this election cycle, including CNN and Good Morning America."

 

Aide to Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio:  "House Republican Leader Boehner has made five major speeches in the past few months that have garnered national attention, given weekly on-camera press briefings when Congress is in session, and appeared at dozens of events in his congressional district or on the road to help candidates — which are often open to the press. Like other congressional leaders, including Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi, he does not release his full schedule due to security concerns."

 

Christine O'Donnell, Republican Senate candidate from Delaware: "Unless you think Christiane Amanpour or Good Morning America are 'friendlies,' then the charge that this campaign only gives interviews to friendlies simply is not true. We send out media advisories to our press events, and we gladly participate in as many interviews as our schedule permits. ...The focus of this election cycle should be about the issues that are important to Delawareans, not about a reporter trying to get that 'gotcha' moment. If a reporter demonstrates a consistent pattern of taking statements out of context or misrepresenting facts, it is no longer a wise use of our time dodging their attempts at 'gotcha' moments."

 

Meg Whitman, Republican candidate for governor of California: "I've been endorsed by more than 20 California newspapers and have done over 450 press interviews since August of last year. Everyday on the campaign trail, I have newspaper, radio and television interviews so I can reach as many voters with my message as possible."

 

Aide to Jerry Brown, Democratic candidate for governor of California: "I flatly disagree that Jerry Brown has been anything other than fully accessible to California press. When considering interview requests, we try to choose the biggest California audience we can, and there simply aren't enough hours in the day for Jerry to do every interview he's asked to do."

 

Aide to Joe Miller, Republican Senate candidate in Alaska: "Too much time has been spent talking about this publicity stunt rather than the real issues facing Alaska and this country. This unfortunate incident was instigated by a liberal blogger who aggressively pushed bystanders and moved towards Joe as he was leaving. The blogger was only detained after continued aggressive behavior towards the public. Joe did not direct the security working this event to detain a reporter; he had already left the area and was not even aware of it until later in the evening."

 

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

COMMUNITIES CAN AGE GRACEFULLY

BY TED C. FISHMAN

 

For the past three years, I have been traveling in Asia, Europe and the U.S. to get a glimpse at a world population that is growing ever older. Before long, throughout the developed world, there will be more people over age 50 than there are under 15. This has never happened before.

 

Older people, more than any other group, have borne the brunt of an increasingly mobile world where jobs and money move ever more speedily around a globe. Older workers don't move or find new opportunities as swiftly as companies and capital do. Yet, one of the most hopeful and surprising trends in our rapidly aging world is the reassertion by communities of the qualities that make them uniquely attractive and less vulnerable to the tides that gut them of young people and leave older people to endure economic decline.

 

In my travels, two American communities — industrialRockford, Ill., and Sunbelt Sarasota, Fla. — offered contrasting views today of how a growing sense of place might figure in our older future to come.

 

As in other challenged industrial cities, Rockford's leaders face a local economy that often communicates to people in their 50s and older that they are past their use-by dates. Blame global competition. It moves many jobs abroad and spurs automation, which also destroys jobs for industrial workers. Nearly everywhere I go in Rockford, I meet former factory workers who feel they were urged to take early retirement or otherwise pressured out of their jobs too early. The local big box stores, and other employers that see the value of seasoned workers, suit them up for jobs. Few pay nearly the salaries the workers earned in their former gigs.

 

Young move away

 

One of the biggest complaints in town is that Rockford's best-educated young people leave for the big urban metropolises, or go to select smaller places that are considered cool. Rockford is not cool. But it is trying.

 

The city's mayor was elected as a political novice at age 35 on a promise to make the city look and feel young again. His plan mirrors the ambitions of aging industrial cities across America. The schemes challenge the notion that economic fortune depends on how well a person, firm or place serves a wired, flat world. Instead, it argues for the creation of exhilarating places that have their own unique, attractive character that cannot be replicated in China or Brazil or wherever jobs might migrate to. A prime goal is to attract the young professionals and creative types who possess the generative juice to kick-start new economic activity. Cafes, river walks, cultural events and incentives for inventive businesses to fill in the decimated downtown are all part of Rockford's plan.

 

Ironically, one of Rockford's great recent victories is the luring of a giant Chinese solar panel manufacturer to town. It didn't want Rockford's wooded paths or cafes. It wanted its Midwestern workers.

 

What's more, the niche that is best attracting new young professionals and creating jobs is the health care sector. It did not need local officialdom to help it grow. The needs of the growing numbers of elderly in the region took care of that. The hospitals are now the second largest employer in town. Older Rockford might not be the enemy of its rejuvenation; it might be the engine.

 

Cool and old?

 

Can a place get cool by getting old? That's the idea in Sarasota, where one household in two is home to someone over 65. While the zeitgeist in Rockford makes people in their 50s feel old, in Sarasota someone 50, or 60, is a kid. Sarasota is flush with new not-for-profit organizations because retirees there crave new projects and start charities. The local Ringling cultural complex, which includes a circus museum, busies 700 older volunteers.

 

There is so much going on in Sarasota to promote, and profit from, keeping older people engaged, active and healthy that one local civic organization touts the region as a kind of Silicon Valley for aging. It sounds paradoxical, but Sarasota's critical mass of firms serving the older market produce a steady stream of innovation — in business models, services and technology — all with the needs and desires of late-life consumers in mind. Firms that pioneer innovative senior housing in Sarasota, for example, replicate it elsewhere.

 

Unsurprisingly, one particularly competitive field is health care, the kind older people need and the kind they don't, but spend for nonetheless. Sarasota Memorial Hospital and Health Care System is the second largest hospital in Florida. Some 1,300 doctors work in the area, a disproportionately high number for a population of 50,000. Highway 41 running past the main hospital is the kind of loosely zoned strip that other cities fill with car dealerships, but in Sarasota it's a stretch of pharmacies, clinics and quasi-medical white-coat practices, most with big billboards.

 

Health care is certainly a potent force in bringing outside money, what economists call "export" revenue, to town. It comes mainly in the form of federal Medicare funds. Specialties that rely on customers who pay their own way also flourish.

 

Looking for a chiropractor, for prolotherapy or for a mesotherapy weight loss center? Highway 41 is the place. None of those businesses is relocating to cool or low-cost foreign climes. For them, Sarasota's aging population has made it the best place to be. Even as Florida retirement communities go boom and bust, for Sarasota, being the community that best serves its older population gives it a vitality and stability other communities might well envy. And learn from.

 

Ted C. Fishman is the author of the new book Shock of Gray: The Aging of the World's Population and How it Pits Young Against Old, Child Against Parent, Worker Against Boss, Company Against Rival, and Nation Against Nation. He also is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

ONLINE DOCTOR RATINGS AREN'T VERY HELPFUL

BY KEVIN PHO

 

When I ask new patients how they found me, frequently they say on the Internet through search engines such as Google.

 

Out of curiosity, I recently Googled myself. Numerous ads appeared, promising readers a "detailed background report" or a "profile" of me. Among the search results was information about my practice, whether I was board certified, had any lawsuits against me, and reviews from online doctor rating sites. Thankfully, most were favorable, but some were not.

 

Can patients reliably choose a good doctor online?

 

People already choose restaurants, movies, and their college professors based on what they read on the Internet, so it's inevitable that many will research their doctors on the Web as well. But there are some good reasons consumers should be wary of the information they find online about doctors.

 

Random information?

 

An Archives of Internal Medicine study in September found that most publicly available information on individual physicians — such as disciplinary actions, the number of malpractice payments, or years of experience — had little correlation with whether they adhered to the recommended medical guidelines. In other words, there's no easy way to research how well a doctor manages conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. That kind of relevant performance data are hidden from the public.

 

To fill the information void, dozens of online physician rating sites have surfaced. Most allow patients to critique their doctors anonymously, scoring them on the friendliness of their office staff, communication skills, punctuality and knowledge.

 

But the medical profession has been slow to embrace online reviews. Nancy Nielsen, past president of the American Medical Association, has said: "Anonymous online rating sites that don't allow physician access add nothing to the quality of patient-physician communication and understanding." Some doctors have even sued their online critics, claiming libel and defamation.

 

Little patient traffic

 

Despite such concerns, patients don't use these sites that often, which is another drawback. The number of Web ratings of me, for instance, can be counted on one hand. This year, Tara Lagu published a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine finding that 70% of Boston doctors spread over 33 rating sites had no reviews. Educated physician choices cannot be made on such scant information.

 

How can a Web search for a doctor be improved?

 

First, physicians should encourage patients to leave online reviews. More data are needed to make the ratings useful. And for those worried about libel, consider that, according to Lagu's study, almost 90% of online patient reviews were positive.

 

Second, anonymous reviews should not be allowed. Not only can anonymous posts be manipulated by someone bearing a grudge, glowing narratives can be planted by a doctor or his staff. Ratings accountability allows doctors to use real patient feedback to constructively improve their practice. Angie's List, a leading fee-based consumer rating service, sets an example by not allowing anonymous reviews of health professionals.

 

And finally, objective performance data, such as how often doctors appropriately screen patients for cancer, or how many of their patients meet blood pressure or cholesterol targets, are often not revealed. They need to be made publicly available.

 

Until these improvements are made, patients going online to look for a new doctor could be disappointed by what they find.

 

Kevin Pho, a primary care physician in Nashua, N.H., blogs at MedPage Today's KevinMD.com and also is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

THE WILSON YOU NEVER KNEW

BY PAUL G. KENGOR

 

On the heels of a recent Sundaymagazine profile of Glenn Beck, TheNew York Times published aroundtable discussion among six scholars on the issue of PresidentWoodrow Wilson. Wilson has become a popular Beck target, and has suddenly emerged as a hot topic in our current politics.

 

"I hate Woodrow Wilson!" shouted Beck at February's ConservativePolitical Action Conference in Washington.

 

For the record, I was at that gathering, and I'm a conservative, I like Beck, and I don't hate Wilson. My take on Wilson, however, is very different from what I'm hearing from Beck or from scholars on the left or right, whether pro-Wilson or anti-Wilson. It relates to a crucial aspect of Wilson that needs to be better known and which, dare I say, might even prompt Beck to amend his view — slightly perhaps.

 

First, let me say that I agree with several important criticisms of Wilson. His views on race and segregation were deeply offensive. His wielding of state power was often repressive, even abusive, particularly duringwartime. And the long progression of a seemingly non-stop, ever-increasing centralization of policy and programs in Washington arguably began under Wilson.

 

Yet, one critical component of Wilson is missed by both sides, which conservatives should like and liberals might not: Wilson was stridently, vocally anti-communist. He staunchly opposed Bolshevism in particular.

 

No love of Bolsheviks

 

My personal experience with this is instructive. I develop this point on Wilson in my latest book, where I throw conservatives a curveball with a kickoff chapter titled, "Woodrow Wilson: 'Utter Simpleton.' " Given that my book is about how communists deliberately and cynically duped liberals/progressives, conservatives initially expect Wilson will be my first dupe.

 

 

To the contrary, Wilson was called an "utter simpleton" by Vladimir Lenin, who, along with communists from Moscow to New York, demonized Wilson. They ridiculed his League of Nations, his ideas and his administration, openly calling for the "overthrow" of the U.S. government. It was for such reasons, not to mention an intense faith that saw communism as militantly atheistic, that Wilson vehemently opposed communism.

 

Wilson dubbed the Bolsheviks "barbarians," "terrorists" and "tyrants." He said they were engaged in a "brutal" campaign of "mass terrorism," of "blood and terror," of "indiscriminate slaughter" through "cunning" and "savage oppression." The "violent and tyrannical" Bolsheviks were "the most consummate sneaks in the world," and Bolshevism was an "ugly, poisonous thing." Wilson warned that the Bolsheviks were pushing an "expansionist" ideology that they wanted to export "throughout the world," including into the United States.

 

Most significant, Wilson and his State Department insisted that America should not have diplomatic relations or try to find common ground with the Bolsheviks. "In the view of this government," said Wilson's State Department in August 1920, "there cannot be any common ground upon which it can stand with a power whose conceptions of international relations are so entirely alien to its own, so utterly repugnant to its moral sense. ... We cannot recognize, hold official relations with, or give friendly reception to the agents of a government which is determined and bound to conspire against our institutions; whose diplomats will be the agitators of dangerous revolt; whose spokesmen say that they sign agreements with no intention of keeping them."

 

Why communists despised him

 

One of Wilson's more striking displays was a Sept. 6, 1919, speech in Kansas City, where the great liberal seemed to engage in what his liberal forebears would certainly consider Red-baiting.

 

Reiterating his "abhorrence" of Bolshevism, Wilson was stumping for the Versailles Treaty ending World War I, which was being opposed by isolationist Republicans. Here, Wilson compared that Republicanopposition to the Bolshevik "spirit." He told his critics to "put up or shut up," and then asserted: "Opposition constructs nothing. Opposition is the specialty of those who are Bolshevistically inclined."

 

President Wilson was so concerned about international communism that he actually aided the forces fighting the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War. He supported a naval blockade of a Red-controlled area inside the USSR, and even joined a multinational Western coalition in sending troops — a huge contingent of over 10,000 American boys — to battle the Bolsheviks.

 

Wilson's characterization of Bolshevism and the communist threat was hardly ill-informed. Highly educated, Wilson suffered no delusions about Marxism-Leninism, and knew that the American Communist Party was not simply another political party. He was a man of the progressive left who understood the destructiveness of the communist left. He observed how communists lied to and sought to manipulate his fellow progressives.

 

That is why communists, from Moscow to New York to Chicago, despised Wilson. It's a side of the renowned progressive that few, on the left or right, seem to remember or acknowledge. It's also a key reason why conservatives — Beck included — who, if nothing else, are vociferously anti-communist, might reconsider Wilson, at least somewhat.

 

Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College in Grove City, Pa. His latest book isDupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

ZTHE LONG, STRAGE TRIP ENDS ON TUESDAYCONNEAUT BY CHUCK RAASCH

 

WASHINGTON — It was probably inevitable that the 2010 elections would culminate with a rally on

 

theNational Mall on Saturday organized by political satirists and comediansJon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

 

The long, strange trip ends Tuesday, when millions of Americans go to vote and look forward to a respite from the bombardment of ideology and inanity that has marked Campaign '10.

 

Call it the shock-and-guffaw campaign.

 

We've seen a candidate declare she is not a witch, a governor shooting a gun at a mock law, a gubernatorial candidate threaten "I'll take you out" to a journalist, and a candidate for the U.S. Senate indicted on a pornography charge.

 

Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., compared his opponent to the Taliban, and used an out-of-context quote that made Republican Daniel Webster appear to say exactly the opposite of what he meant to say.

 

The original Daniel Webster, one of the Senate's great orators, would almost certainly wonder what is making everyone so angry.

 

It's saying something about the times that a couple of self-deprecating comedians are trying to tether us back to normality.

 

Stewart claims he is trying to do that with his "rally to restore sanity." Colbert will counter with a mocking "march to keep fear alive."

 

Whatever Colbert and Stewart hope to accomplish, they certainly are holding a mirror to the campaign of 2010.

 

Stewart is urging rally-goers to bring signs that say: "I am not afraid of Muslims, Tea Partiers, socialists, immigrants, gun owners, gays. But I am kind of scared of spiders."

 

Except for the spiders, all of these groups have been targets of politicians or talking heads or ad copy writers in this political season.

 

Speaking of targets, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin ran an advertisement showing him firing a rifle at what was supposed to be the "cap and trade" climate change bill. Funny, it was the Democrats who pushed this law in Washington and Manchin is a Democrat. He also spoke badly of the Democrats' health care reforms in his gun-toting ad.

 

Governors have been known to veto bills they don't like, but legislative homicide?

 

The biggest self-inflicted campaign wound might have been Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell's "I am not a witch" declaration in campaign ads broadcast all over her state. The ads were a response to the flap over a quip she had made as a young woman, that she had once dabbled in witchcraft. Few candidates have been as mocked as O'Donnell. But what do you say to people to get their votes after you've introduced yourself by denying you are a witch?

 

Other candidates embraced their pasts, even if it was a brush with infamy. Kristin Davis, the madam of the escort service used by former New York governor (and now CNN commentator) Eliot Spitzer, is running for governor of New York.

 

One of her competitors is Jimmy McMillan, a mutton-chopped standard bearer of "The Rent is Too Damn High" party. He came to a recent debate wearing gloves, and his histrionics made him a YouTube star and got him a gig on the Don Imus talk show.

 

Alvin Greene had his 15-minute brush with fame in South Carolina when, despite virtually no campaigning, he won the Democratic Senate primary in June. Many Democrats had never heard of him. Then Greene, who is unemployed, was indicted for showing pornography to a college student.

 

One of the stranger moments of this campaign came when New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino threatened New York Post journalist Fred Dicker with the line, "I'll take you out, buddy."

 

The spat stemmed from allegations involving an out-of-wedlock child allegedly fathered by Paladino, and Paladino's objection to photographers supposedly stalking her. Dicker asked Paladino how Paladino was going to "take him out."

 

"Just watch," the candidate said, as he walked away.

 

We have been, all too much.

 

(Chuck Raasch writes from Washington for Gannett. Contact him at craasch@gannett.com, follow him athttp://twitter.com/craasch or join in the conversation at http://www.facebook.com/raaschcolumn)

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

WARS OFF CAMPAIGN RADAR

 

Political campaigns are weird in many ways, but especially with regard to the bogus issues they create -- and the life-and-death issues they leave off the table. In the past few days, for example, the new Wikileaks files on Iraq have revealed troubling but long-undisclosed archives on the immense number of unreported deaths in Iraq and the extent to which the American military winked at the use of torture by Iraqi authorities. But candidates apparently see no problem.

More generally, evidence of troubling trends in both Iraq and Afghanistan has surfaced that shows Iran's inroads into the governments of both -- and with that, an increasing disregard for, and hostility toward, Washington's policies. Then there's the great fatigue that both countries have for the U.S. presence after so many years of war.

 

In Iraq, the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki continues to cling to power, but has been unable, or unwilling, to make basic compromises with Sunnis that would allow the Parliament to form a consensus government. In this void, which has existed since the national election in March turned narrowly in favor of the Sunni coalition, Maliki seems to be deliberately reviving Iraq's haunting sectarian divide.

 

Sunnis who had quit the insurgency and joined The Awakening -- the tribal militias that ultimately suppressed the al-Qaida terrorists largely responsible for fomenting the brutal and divisive sectarian civil war that tore the country apart in 2005-07 -- have been cut from the government's promised payroll and are being arrested and persecuted. More ominously, they have begun drifting back to the insurgency as a result of Maliki's broken promises to include them in a power-sharing arrangement,

 

The Maliki government, however, has quit listening to the advice of U.S. commanders with the remaining American garrison. Instead, he is collaborating more closely every day with Iranian advisers from Teheran. The deepening fissures raise legitimate fears of widening Iranian influence and return to sectarian war. Yet congressional and senatorial candidates across America are strangely mute.

 

They seem oblivious to the fact that Maliki seems intent on easing himself into a dictatorship, or that his path would undermine what little gain the United States might salvage from the needless war in Iraq. Neither do the candidates mention the safety of the 50,000-strong U.S. garrison that is scheduled to be there until the end of 2011.

 

Much the same is occurring in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai, winner of an openly corrupt election, is now rapidly becoming both a scold of Washington and a brazen collaborator with Iran. He just admitted last weekend that he regularly receives "bags of money" -- millions of dollars -- from Iran, to go with the billions he and his country have received from Washington, never mind that Iran continues to be a sponsor of anti-American, anti-Israel terrorism across the Middle East.

 

He, and lately Washington, it seems, are both angling for a compromise with the Taliban for some collaborative form of power-sharing, but they apparently are doing so separately -- and amid continuing fighting in many provinces.

 

In fact, the Obama administration, quietly but rightly, seems to be rewriting the agenda for Afghanistan and looking at least for a partial exit next year. Though it's well past time for that to happen, it seems remarkable that these events can be occurring without any mention in the current political campaigns.

 

Presumably, Republicans don't want to remind Americans that the prior Republican-controlled Congress and White House led the nation into the disastrous but needless war in Iraq when it should have been finishing the job against al-Qaida in Afghanistan -- and had then the opportunity to do so. Now, the United States must devise an exit from both countries with precious little to show for all the tragic deaths and casualties, and the vast and unfinished expense.

 

There are political lessons to take away from these wars, at least with regard to our reliance on foreign oil and profligate energy use, and the relationships and military power that are required to sustain a country without an energy policy. Yet we now can only wonder what congressional and senate candidates have learned from these lessons.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

EVIDENCE OF NEED FOR REFORM

 

Hundreds of area residents in need of medical, vision and dental care began lining up last Friday afternoon at Signal Mountain Middle/High School to secure a ticket for a two-day, free clinic that started Saturday. Many camped out in line Friday night. On Saturday morning, 376 people got one of the 400 available tickets. The hundreds who came later had to be turned away.

 

Their circumstances are easily imaginable. Almost half of Tennessee's employers, particularly smaller businesses, now do not provide insurance. One of every six among us has no health insurance.

 

Many lower-wage workers cannot afford insurance even if it's offered. Self-employed people and younger workers frequently can't afford insurance. And TennCare accepts just the very poor.

 

Those who lined up for the rare, free care easily could have been any among us -- friends or family members, people with jobs or those laid off. The free clinic selflessly provided by volunteer members of the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps is a fine service, but it's rare.

 

Until the first pieces of health-care reform began a few months ago, many more might have been in line. Until then, many people with pre-existing conditions could not get insurance at any cost. Others had their insurance policies canceled when they got sick, or were stuck with undue limits on their medical care, or they couldn't carry their children on their policies.

 

Those who pretend to believe that our country should continue to be the only advanced nation in the world without an affordable, accessible, universal health care system should consider the consequences. There but for the grace of God would go many of us. Which raises haunting questions: What would we rather have in place of health care reform? Why are its critics so blind?

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

WHO WILL CONTROL CONGRESS?

 

With President Barack Obama on track to lead our nation for two more years, the big question in Tuesday's elections involves whether Democrats or Republicans will come away with majority status in the House of Representatives and the Senate, or perhaps in one but not the other.

 

Those are very important matters. If Democrats keep majorities in both houses of Congress, Obama may have "his way" on big spending and big taxing, and on many other issues, for the next two years.

 

But if Republicans win majority power in one or both houses of Congress, the legislation proposed and passed in the next two years may be very different.

 

A third of the senators are up for election, but all seats in the House will be decided Tuesday. Obama and his policies are somewhat lacking in popularity these days, so the outcomes of the congressional elections are vital.

 

Will there be legislative "gridlock" if Republicans win?

 

Many voters are understandably upset this fall over a number of issues, including the shaky economy and the prospect of more big deficits and higher taxes.

 

What the voters decide Tuesday in the congressional elections surely will have a big effect on whether Obama will have a good chance, or none at all, in seeking a second four-year term a short two years from now.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

THE PRESIDENT'S CRUMBLING SUPPORT

 

Some unlikely "reasons" have been offered lately for why the president and Democratic members of Congress have seen their support collapse among so many Americans.

 

One argument put forth is that the president and Congress have failed to get the message out about "good things" they have done since Democrats took control of Congress in 2006 and the president took office two years ago. Democrats say the public would enthusiastically support them if we understood how "wonderful" programs such as ObamaCare socialized medicine and the $862 billion "stimulus" are.

 

But that argument is absurd. With his control of the "bully pulpit," President Barack Obama regularly explains and defends Democrats' policies to the American people. And whatever one may think of his actions, he is generally thought to be a good communicator. Plus, he has the aid of the often unskeptical, liberal news media in getting his message out. If the American people don't "buy" what the president is "selling," it isn't because he hasn't been "advertising."

 

The much more likely reason for the president's and the Democrat Congress' loss of support is the public's disagreement with the liberal laws they have imposed on the country. Most Americans want ObamaCare repealed, and most think the stimulus money was wasted. There is also massive opposition to Democrats' plan to give amnesty to illegal aliens.

 

And contrary to the constant claim that "racism" is behind opposition to the president, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that opposition to the president is cutting across racial and other lines.

 

"[S]upport for the president among Latinos, young people and women has dropped as much as it has among groups that were considered less likely to stick with the president, such as white males ...," Tribune Newspapers reported.

 

The president will not be on the ballot next Tuesday, but we will at least learn in the upcoming elections how far support for Congress has fallen. Democrats may lose control of one or both houses of Congress. But they will have only their own actions to blame for that.

 

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

DOCTOR SHORTAGE TO GET WORSE

 

There were disturbing statistics in a recent article in the Times Free Press: In Hamilton County, there is one primary-care doctor per 1,057 residents. But just across the state line, in Walker County, Ga., there is only one primary-care physician per 3,420 residents.

 

Sadly, in many parts of the nation, there is a doctor shortage.

 

What is more troubling is that the shortage is going to get worse under ObamaCare. The socialized health care "reform" approved this year by Democrats in Congress adds 30 million or more uninsured people to government-run medical care. But the legislation does little to add new physicians to provide care to those tens of millions of people.

 

In fact, quite a few doctors are retiring early because of the coming bureaucratic hassles of ObamaCare, including penalties against doctors who do not make a costly switch to computerized records.

 

ObamaCare is supposed to increase access to care for the uninsured. But how will it do that if there are far too few doctors to treat 30 million newly "insured" people?

 

Many who cannot find a family doctor are likely to wind up in emergency rooms. Earlier this year, the dean of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Chattanooga predicted that the "reforms" would mean more emergency room visits.

 

"There's no question that emergency department [visits] will go up [under health care reform] ... because insurance doesn't equal access," Dr. David Seaberg, who is also an emergency physician, told the Times Free Press.

 

That defeats one of the loudly proclaimed goals of ObamaCare, which was to promote efficiency by reducing emergency room visits for routine care.

We're afraid that when all is said and done, many promises of ObamaCare will never become reality — but its high costs will.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

PROTECTIONISM VS. JOBS

 

Congress does so many of the wrong things — especially where the economic crisis is concerned — that it is like "shooting fish in a barrel" to point out those wrong actions. But sometimes Congress gets something right, so it's only fair to point out those things, too.

 

Last summer, Congress quietly passed a bill that reduced or eliminated tariffs on many imported products that are used as raw materials by U.S. manufacturers. That reduced the prices for those raw materials. As a result, some manufacturers have been able to save enough money on materials to increase hiring, though modestly.

 

In the town of Norlina, N.C., for instance, a textile manufacturer was able to rehire dozens of third-shift workers who had been laid off. That's because the owner had been able to save millions of dollars he otherwise would have had to spend on a specially dyed acrylic fiber imported from Europe, McClatchy Newspapers reported. Reduced tariffs made the fiber far cheaper.

 

Unfortunately, our nation has seen the opposite effect when it has imposed tariffs.

 

Some years back, President George W. Bush slapped a big tariff on imports of foreign steel. The goal was to protect a relatively small number of jobs in the American steel industry. But the tariffs cost far more jobs in U.S. industries that use steel because those companies had to pay higher prices for the metal.

 

The trouble with protectionist policies is that they "sound good." After all, wouldn't we want to "protect" our industries and workers from foreign competition? Wouldn't that mean more jobs here?

 

History shows otherwise. Protectionism imposes artificially higher prices on American consumers by reducing competition, and it destroys jobs.

 

Freer trade is generally better.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - BLIGHT, HOPE AND 'NOSTRA EUROPA'

 

The defining aesthetic characteristic of Istanbul is surely its duality. Set in a stunning natural landscape, centuries of abounding architectural greatness exist side by side with what is arguably the most ugly urban blight in Europe.

 

Some of this can be explained by poverty, the traumatic transition from empire to Republic, the transformation from an agricultural society and economy to an industrial one. The shantytowns and ramshackle apartments that comprise large swaths of Istanbul are evidence of this.

 

Some of this duality can be explained by the mindset of those in charge of public construction. Turkey is hardly alone in this, of course. But such structures as the state television TRT building in Istanbul's Tepebaşı, a multi-hued monstrosity of glass and steel, are true trophies of kitsch.

 

But by and large, the thousands of inescapable eyesores are the result of a planning and regulatory approach to historical protection and respect of legacy that is a farce. Centuries-old villas are allowed to collapse while paperwork circulates among bureaucracies. Height restrictions are routinely violated. The cubic Süzer Plaza between Taksim Square and Dolmabahçe Palace is a key example. At least a third of buildings in the nominal "culture valley" between Taksim and Istanbul's Nişantaşı are topped by illegal floors added sometimes a century after original construction. Insults are added to architectural injury when restoration contracts are issued to unqualified firms and ancient city walls are restored with the artfulness of warehouse construction.

 

And so it is again as we reported yesterday in the case of a shopping mall rising in the center of Beyoğlu in the year we celebrate being a "Cultural Capital of Europe." The culprit in the case of the Demirören Shopping Center appears to be the jurisdictional holes left in a reorganization of planning boards charged with the distinct and separate tasks of "renovation" and "protection." How convenient.

 

So our welcome to the latest chapter of "Europa Nostra," a pan-European organization dedicated to protection of cultural heritage, can only be enthusiastic. Established through the efforts of some 70 Turkish cultural professionals, the new Turkish chapter will be one in a network of more than 400 allied groups in Europe whose mission is to end the rot in physical culture. On this effort too we reported yesterday.

 

Additional good news is that Europa Nostra's remit will not be limited to Istanbul. It also seeks to monitor, guide and lobby toward more thoughtful planning, building and preservation throughout Turkey, including in areas where hydroelectric plants threaten important legacies.

 

Cynics will certainly say this is nice, but too little too late. We disagree. We think much can and should be done. We wish Europa Nostra strength, stamina and endurance along with success.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

IS TURKEY AN IRAN-LOVER AND ISRAEL-HATER?

MUSTAFA AKYOL

 

In the past century, Turkey was globally famous for its tasty delights and steamy baths. In the recent years, though, it has become also famed for its growing political role in the world.

 

This status that makes many Turks proud, but it also raises a lot of criticism and concern. Unfortunately, it even provokes a new trend of Turkey-bashing in the West, and especially in the United States. In his recent column, which presented a quite fair and sensible evaluation of Turkish foreign policy, Roger Cohen of the New York Times was pointing out to that problem. In the U.S. Congress, Cohen noted, now there is even a "Turkey-equals-Iran-lover-and-Israel-hater surge."

 

Erdoğan and watermelons

 

Too bad. Because Ankara's new trajectory is really based on national interest, defined largely as economic interest, than anything else. Besides, the ideological topping on that rational policy is more complex, and certainly less crude, than a love affair with Iran and a hate affair with Israel.

 

Let me try to elaborate. The new trajectory I am speaking about is, of course, the one led by the Justice and Development Party, or AKP. People have different ideas about the nature of the "silent revolution" that the AKP realized, but many could agree that market-based economic growth is at its core. In other words, unlike Ayatollah Khomeini, who said that his revolution was "not about the price of watermelons," Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan speaks about prices, investment figures and trade volumes all the time. No wonder both his Islamist and leftist opponents at home blame him for "selling the country to global capitalism."

 

As for "Islamism," the AKP's record is limited to a few modest efforts to soften Turkey's ultra-intolerant secularism, such as trying to allow university students wear a headscarf if they wanted to. Add to that a willingness to preserve "family values," with measures such as a tighter control of obscenity on Turkish TVs. 

 

When you combine these elements — capitalism, promotion of religious freedom and cultural conservatism — AKP actually looks quite similar to the conservatives in the United States. Why then, most of those conservatives, and especially the neo-conservatives, have become so alarmed about it?

 

The answer lies in AKP's foreign policy, and particularly the deterioration of Turkish-Israeli relations. Hence came the image that Turkey is now an "Israel-hater."

 

But wait a minute. Erdoğan is in power since 2002, but his rift with Israel came only in late 2008, when Israel attacked the Gaza strip, leading to the deaths of hundreds of civilians, and infuriating a great majority of the Turkish society. Before that Erdoğan had tried to advance ties with the Jewish State for years. He repeatedly denounced anti-Semitism in many occasions and visited Tel Aviv in 2005. In 2007, he arranged for Shimon Peres to become the first Israeli president to address the Turkish parliament, and initiated indirect talks between Israel and Syria.

 

In other words, Erdoğan is not ideologically anti-Israel. But like most Turks who vote for him, he has a deep emotional connection with the Palestinians, and reacts strongly in their favor, sometimes to the level of overlooking the terrorist acts and war crimes on their side. (Not too unlike some American neo-conservatives who have a similar emotional connection to Israel and who similarly overlook her war crimes.)

 

A niche to fill

 

As for Iran, it is obvious that the Erdoğan government is less alarmed than Washington or Tel Aviv by Tehran's nuclear program. But to be less alarmed is not to be supportive. Quite the contrary, Turkish policy makers have repeatedly said that they do not want to see a nuclear-armed Iran, which will be a source of concern for Turkey as well. Hence they engaged in the diplomatic effort which brought the Iran-Turkey-Brazil nuclear swap deal of last May — an achievement that the U.S., unwisely in my view, dismissed.

 

Besides Turkey's national interests as Iran's neighbor, and trading partner, one key difference between Ankara and the Washington-Tel Aviv axis seems to be their different gut feelings about the mindset of the Iranian regime. The view that the latter is a totally irrational and a suicidal regime hell-bent on destroying Israel, at the expense of destroying itself as well, does not look realistic to AKP leadership. As Sunnis, they cannot sympathize with the guardianship of the Shiite jurists; but as fellow Muslims, they can understand that collective suicide is really not an Islamic ideal.

 

Finally, what the hawks in the West should see, I believe, is that the very things that have made them nervous about Turkey have made the country quite popular in the streets of the Middle East. And this is good news, for that Turkey, at the end of the day, is a moderate country which supports a two-state solution in the holy land, promotes peace and stability in the region, and presents a synthesis of Islam and modernity.

 

It should be telling that the troubled region has long been divided between popular radicals and unpopular moderates. None of these camps presented a way out. But with the niche that she is filling now, Turkey can.

 

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ONE FLEW OVER…

UĞUR CEBECİ

 

Boeing 787 Dreamliner has not been actively in service and the tests continue. I participated in the airplane's first flight from Seattle and landed in Tokyo. The flight, which would normally take hours, took only ten minutes in Boeing's simulation center in London.

 

Due to problems with component exporters, with certification and the composite fuselage, Boeing's new aircraft 787 Dreamliner was delayed for 2.5 years.

 

The first delivery will be made to Japanese ANA Airlines in February or March 2012. Boeing finished construction of 28 units of 787 in order to make up for the delay. Training programs are going on one hand, and on the other pilots, cabin workers and technicians are being trained in the simulation centers in Seattle, Shanghai and Singapore, in addition to London.

 

Boeing is preparing for a revolution in personnel training for its first aircraft having a completely composite-plastic fuselage. The classes are benefiting from video screenings and 3D animations.

 

Before going to the simulators I visited the cabin mock-up. The greatest change is that the color green replaces red in emergency exit signs. The recent studies showed that the green is perceived more easily than red.

 

Some 150 pilots were hired for Boeing 787 trainings, each of them having an average of 15,000 hours of flight experience.

 

Fun to fly

 

Visual details have been of the most paramount importance in the simulators manufactured by Thales. We finished the preparations shortly and took of at Seattle's Tacoma Airport. The main controls of the aircraft are very easy to use.

 

Head-Up Displays, or HUD, offer an extra convenience enabling the pilots to have a better control over their route. Under unpleasant weather conditions when the sight-range is limited, HUD increases the flight safety. There are HUDs both in front of the main pilot and co-pilot.

 

We are landing in Tokyo's Haneda airport which is famous for its rainy weather. The visual simulations are so

realistic. The airplane stops in the middle of the runway after braking.

 

The training pilots that I have talked with about the 787 have said that they really liked the flight characteristics of the aircraft. Most of them liken it exactly to 777 but say it is much more fun to fly with 787.

 

Boeing preferred to actualize the 787 trainings in different corners of the world but under its surveillance. What is aimed with that is to better introduce the new aircraft to the airports. Boeing is planning to increase its investments in terms of this, thus aiming to maintain better operation without compromising its standards.

 

Unbelievable ascension

 

I am at Do&Co International's London Heathrow base. The company's owner, Atilla Doğudan's, new generation actor is in charge of his business. Marius Doğudan or Erol Doğudan with his Turkish name is Attila's youngest son. He is only 24 now but this young man is the manager of the company's London and New York operations.

 

He is exactly like his father. Fussy about details, is never content with anything less than perfect. Very meticulous, he just cannot stand a single slice of zucchini being over-grilled.  Picks it up from the moving tray and puts it aside.

 

He is almost taking the photographs with his eyes of the dishes loaded in the plane for Emirates, or the appetizers prepared for Etihad or whether there is a fault with the service plates or not.

 

Undoubtedly, he must be tasting his father's delicious food very frequently but he is tall and gaunt.

 

His elder brother, Attila Mark Doğudan, 26 years old, is working at the Vienna base.

 

Marius is working together with his childhood friend, who also is the commander of Do&Co's New York base, Cristiano Ceriani.

 

Having spent a month in Turkey last year, Marius says he loves Istanbul. He has started to take Turkish classes. "If I stay there for six months, I can be fluent," he says.

 

The facility opened in Heathrow in 2003 is located on a 4.500 square-meter area. It first started to undertake the business class food service for the British Airways' short- and mid-range flights. The company's second biggest customer after British Airways is Emirates.

 

The company makes five flights between Dubai and London Heathrow, two of which being with A380 aircrafts.

 

Do&Co crew is loading 6000 trays of food on a daily basis. Emirates want them to run the passenger lounges in Heathrow Airport.

 

The other customers of the company are Etihad and Cyprus Airways. The food service is loaded from Turkey in Turkish Airlines' London flights. But the shortages or beverages are supplemented from the London base.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ENEMY-LESS TURKEY

BURAK BEKDİL

 

During the Cold War, Turkey's official foreign security threat whitepaper nicely covered all of its neighbors plus the entire non-neighboring Warsaw Pact, its satellite states around the globe plus some Arab countries. There were plenty of enemies, from next door to almost the next planet. In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, the list was radically narrowed to half the world.

 

About a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the enemy list was further narrowed to "every state that may be supporting the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK," plus Greece, Cyprus and "every state that may be supporting either of the Hellenic nations." A parallel list detailing "domestic threats" quickly replaced former foes that were no longer on the list. Suddenly, there were plenty of enemies again, from inside homeland to next door.

 

Enemy lists often reflect a blend of rational thinking, caution and paranoia, although in Turkey's case the latter may have occupied a space larger than necessary. But fortunately, the collective feeling of being surrounded by enemies is fading. The Turks are ready to embrace their old nemesis Greece, old foes Russia, Arab nations, Iran and, perhaps less willingly, their archenemy Armenia. This is the new security threat concept: an enemy-less enemy list. In about two decades, Turkey has transformed from perceiving two thirds of the world as a "threat" to practically perceiving none.

 

Elected governments have every legitimate right to make foreign policy, revise it, decide which foreign nation to view as friend or foe, revise it, and shape spending in line with these foreign policy and security deliberations and priorities. The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is no exception. It has every right to declare half the world or only Martians as foes. It has every right to declare the entire galaxy as friends. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's famous "zero-problems-with-neighbors" doctrine can be criticized (or even ridiculed at times), but its legitimacy cannot be questioned.

 

Further fortifying this doctrine, Mr. Davutoğlu recently said Turkey does not perceive any missile (or other military) threat from any of its neighbors, although he was referring indirectly to Iran. Press reports have suggested that this thinking would soon be echoed in Turkey's threat whitepaper, officially known as the National Security Policy Document. Former usual suspects Russia, Greece, Syria, Iran and (northern) Iraq will no longer be on the list, according to these reports.

 

All that has a consistent line of logic: 1- There is an elected government, 2- Its foreign policy is based on zero problems with the country's neighbors, and, therefore, 3- Its foreign security threat document does not include any of its neighbors (or even non-neighbors). The missing link is between all that consistent line of logic and defense spending.

 

Defense spending must be coherent with an established security concept. If Turkey's security policy predicted an armed conflict with Argentina, its sanity could have been questioned, but, acquisition of aircraft carriers based on this security policy would have been rational. But spending billions of dollars on weapons systems targeting threats that, according to the security concept, do not exist is ridiculous.

 

For instance, Turkey may soon have to spend a generous $5 billion to buy modest air-defense systems to protect its soil from enemy missile and aircraft attack. Since the proposed system can provide "shielding" against short- to medium-range (non-ballistic) missiles – which must therefore come from some neighboring territory – and since Turkey does not perceive any security threat from its neighbors why is it going to spend a fortune on these systems?

 

Why did the government spend $500 million only to develop four prototypes of what will eventually be Turkey's "first national tank," the Altay? What do armies do with tanks? Either invade neighboring lands or fight invading armies from neighboring lands. Since none of those scenarios is part of Turkey's national defense strategy, why will Ankara eventually spend up to $10 billion on hundreds of third-generation main battle tanks?

 

Why does Turkey spend billions of dollars on naval systems, including new frigates, corvettes, submarines, coastal surveillance systems and even a "landing platform dock that can carry up to eight helicopters?" Which country in our seas of peace poses a security threat to Turkey? None, according to the threat paper. What, then, justifies the generous naval spending?

 

"Deterrence" cannot be the explanation. Deterrence can be applicable to situations in which the country that aims to be "deterrent" suspects the other(s) of aggressive intentions. Since Turkey has no enemies in its vicinity (well, according to the government at least…) what will it do with new generation tanks and air defense systems and frigates and a landing platform dock? Which government would spend tens of billions of dollars on equipment it thinks it will not need?

 

There is something bizarre here. Either the government is privately skeptical about its own threat perceptions, or it just wants to buy expensive war toys for fun!

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE CRUCIAL SUPPORT LINE FOR TURKEY: SEEING THE BIG PICTURE

SERTAÇ AKTAN

 

Before the NATO Lisbon Summit and the U.S.-EU Summit that will take place at the end of November, I want to write about the crucial U.S. support to Turkey and to its ultimate Westernization goal, "EU membership" – which has actually played a very important role within European-Turkish relations over time. Despite being known previously as both the EEC and the EC, it will be referred to as "EU" in this article.

 

More than any country on the European periphery, Turkey had faced grave challenges in its European integration process. One can claim that the EU's relations with Turkey could have been smoother and less problematic if Turkey had not been so insistent on full membership.

 

A natural dilemma for European elites arise whenever they have to consider Turkey as a natural partner or a significant outsider because of its geostrategic position and Western-oriented policies on the one hand and its population and Islamic culture on the other. External factors have somehow always played their role in Turkey's most important steps concerning democracy, the rule of law, human rights and system changes (like the change from a single-party to a multi-party system) either by supporting, pressuring and recompensing or even by plotting and swindling. Turkey may have had various problems in the past concerning high inflation, high unemployment, economic and political crises and dilemmas but the U.S., more than the EU, always felt the need to keep Turkey, this strategic country, on track and never let it get out of its Western line completely. 

 

The U.S. has a realist policy perspective on Turkey in geostrategic and geopolitical manners while the EU generates its position more in an idealist and normative way. In general, Washington evaluates its diplomatic efforts in favor of Turkey's full membership in the EU. From time to time, having the EU accept Turkey as a full member has created strains in Transatlantic relations. The EU political figures have complained many times about what they view as undue U.S. pressure and lobbying in Turkey's favor. They have argued that the U.S. has no right to interfere in the internal and external affairs of the EU and especially in its foreign policy making. Whether the U.S. has any right or not the history of the last six decades in EU-Turkey relations shows that it can and it does.

 

The U.S.'s sensitivity regarding Turkish membership has its roots in the question of "What could happen if Turkey fails in this long journey of so-called Westernization?" A negative answer to this question has the potential of a problematic result, more to say a multi-problematic result in security, economic and ideological terms both for the U.S. and the EU. Neither of them would prefer such a scenario. Probably, in their minds, Turkey will always require intervention and be the land of people that must be supervised.

 

To show the big picture we have to scrutinize some events that had strong effects on EU-Turkey relations which can easily be considered milestones. Although it is not categorized under the "EU-Turkey relations" topic, chronologically, I still want to start with the NATO membership because even before the Coal and Steel Community was established it was "NATO" on the international stage that determined the notion of the "West" and, therefore, as it was back then, still today Turkey's NATO membership has an indirect but powerful importance in EU-Turkey relations. 

 

Since a security organization conception which protects the European continent was an idea of the U.S. at the first place, being the founder and the leader of such an organization at the time would also give Washington the ultimate decision over who would be "in" and who would be "out" of this alliance. Bringing Turkey closer to Europe through a military-based path was the easiest start to keep Turkey on the West-side of the world in such a time.

 

Important international relations theories suggest "everything begins with the need for security." Turkey's first close encounter with the Europeans after the Second World War had naturally been on military lines. After all, the main issue was not specifically Turkey's defense against communism, but it was Europe's. However, until Turkey became a member in 1952 it was rejected by the Alliance twice after NATO's establishment in 1949. That was because in these four years, some arguments that were mainly raised by the General Staff of the U.S., were stating that both Turkey's and Greece's membership in NATO might be hazardous. Having two countries that have top-conflict issues with weak and outmoded armies was not considered as the best thing for the alliance.

 

Nevertheless, things changed when European countries started to become more moderate on Greece's membership and found it worthy of consideration. It was going to become inevitable for Greece to enter the organization with the sympathy that it had for having a common cultural Western background and plus, whatever was left from the "Orthodox ties" with Russia was also going to end. The situation of the U.S. with Russia combining with the U.S. need to have military bases in the region – which can be understood as reciprocity of its own support and sustenance that was given to Turkey with the Marshall Aid – it became clear that Greece could not be admitted into the alliance alone. The U.S. could not afford a Turkey facing East which was highly expected to happen if Turkey and Greece would have an issue over the Aegean Sea. 

 

In Feb. 18, 1952, Turkey – simultaneously with Greece – became a member of NATO. Although some member governments feared that the admission of Turkey, which had a common frontier with Soviet Russia and Bulgaria, might aggravate international tension, Turkey did join the organization. The U.S. – by foreseeing the inevitable membership of Greece – supported Turkey's admission. After being rejected two times