Google Analytics

Amazon Contextual Product Ads

Saturday, January 1, 2011

EDITORIAL 01.01.11

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at:


media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



Month january 01, edition 000718, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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













  1. A MESSAGE FROM 2012
















































  2. TO MAKE 2011





























Politically, 2010 was a year of scams, but it also was a watershed period for Opposition unity. Never before since the Emergency and a decade later when Vishwanath Pratap Singh broke ranks with the Congress, was the Opposition so glued as one to confront those who abuse office and misuse power. It is a tribute to the sagacity of Opposition leaders that despite their ideological differences and the utmost efforts of the Congress to divide them, they have remained steadfastly together to put the UPA regime on the mat on issues ranging from the CWG rip-off to the audacious 2G Spectrum loot to the Adarsh housing scandal to food prices. The Congress sought to dent this unity by blowing out of proportion the alleged land scams in BJP-ruled Karnataka in the hope that it would not only put the main Opposition party on the back foot but also turn others like the CPI(M) against it. But that too failed, as both the Left parties and the BJP remained on track. The UPA's attempt to ensnare the BJP in the Radia tapes and the Adarsh scandal and thus deflect attention from its complicity too ended in a damp squib when the BJP threatened legal action for throwing muck at its leaders. It is entirely due to this Opposition solidarity that the Union Government, otherwise arrogant in its numbers in Parliament, has been compelled to makes a series of overtures to at least have a functional Budget session due in February. But even here it has not given up its insidious efforts to drive a wedge. First it floated the idea that since the Public Accounts Committee, headed by an BJP leader, was good enough to 'probe' the 2G scam and that the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee was meaningless. Next the Prime Minister offered to appear before the PAC. The UPA naively thought these moves would win it praise from some Opposition parties. All the actions — albeit belated — that we see in the various scandals are a result of the sustained and united pressure the Opposition has built on the Government.


The year gone by also proved disastrous for the Congress electorally and that contributed to its plunging public image. It was wiped out in Bihar despite hectic campaigning by its stalwarts — Ms Sonia Gandhi and Mr Rahul Gandhi. Its party backed candidates were trounced in local body elections in Rajasthan and Gujarat. The Congress's dirty tricks department fell flat on its face when a sustained campaign to dislodge the BS Yeddyurappa Government by weaning away legislators came a cropper. With the courts upholding their disqualification, the task of trying to dislodge the BJP Government has been given to Governor HR Bhardwaj: From all accounts, he continues to valiantly pursue the goal set by his masters. The scenario for 2011 is no more radiant. If the Congress failed to grab power through the back door in Karnataka, it could find power slipping out of its hands in Andhra Pradesh. Having messed up the Telangana issue and failed to counter Mr Jaganmohan Reddy, the party is on tenterhooks there. Things do not look cheerful for it in Tamil Nadu either, where its cosy give-and-take relationship with the DMK has been shaken following the 2G loot. Finally, in West Bengal, where it has a real chance of doing well, it can only dream of coming to power as as a junior partner of the Trinamool Congress. 






A connectivity revolution is set to blur India's digital divide in the coming decade, according to a study conducted by global consultancy firm KPMG. The spread of 3G mobile telephony, says the report, will herald the change as the value added services market will witness tremendous growth and lead to affordable handsets, attracting users in both rural and urban areas. Healthy competition among phone manufacturers and service providers, resulting in dramatic drop in prices of handsets and call charges, has already led to deep penetration. User-friendly and affordable technology has come as a boon for micro-enterprises, people living in interiors, and urban and rural poor: It is enabling them to improve their income by providing access to market information and direct contact with customers. For instance, the fishermen of Kerala, who till a couple of years ago were at the mercy of buyers, have successfully increased their profits by eight per cent through better access to information. It would not be wrong to say that m-commerce and m-advertising will gather momentum in the coming decade given the fast pace of diffusion. Digital convergence in the banking, retail, manufacturing and service sectors is almost a certainty with operators planning to focus on adoption of new applications and value-added services. With feature-rich smart phones that can support multi-tasking and run different kinds of applications like mobile office and mobile Internet becoming cheaper by the day, cell phones are set to become tools of empowerment for many.


Keeping the development agenda in sight, it is time that policy-makers become pro-active and take advantage of the possibilities that mobile access to IT services can open up. India can utilise mobile telephony to provide increasing access to healthcare. With junior doctors functioning in healthcare centres much on the lines of a call centre, mobile phones can bring healthcare services and treatment to the doorsteps of people in interior areas who often find it difficult to travel to primary healthcare centres, district hospitals or places where diagnostic facilities are available. Further, in an age when corruption has become the order of the day, it can be the new interface between the Government and citizens, helping authorities to listen, inform, act and deliver services in a transparent way, while strengthening people's participation in governance. But a good starting point could be allowing the banking sector to create a successful mobile banking platform because a mobile wallet service will reduce transaction time and costs and allow customers access to financial services like making payments and transferring money. The Reserve Bank of India has taken the first step by relaxing mobile banking policies and increasing the mobile payment limit to Rs 50,000 to ease financial transactions in areas with low ATM penetration. The next step can be converging the unique identification project with mobile services. 










The year gone by wasn't Annus Horribilis. The abiding image of 2010 will remain the Commonwealth Games, in several senses — the fact that there wasn't a major faux pas in organising the event, India's better-than-expected performance in actual competitions, and scams. Perhaps unfairly, 2010 will be remembered for scams, not just CWG and 2G, but Adarsh too. Add to that the Radia tapes and WikiLeaks. However, 2010 was also the year of Indian recovery from slowdown and a greater global recognition of India's (and China's) economic clout. Several major heads of state and Government came visiting.

Have we seen the last of the scams? Almost certainly not. There are more skeletons in the cupboard waiting to tumble out in 2011. Most of the stuff in WikiLeaks and the Radia tapes is yet to be made public. Mr Suresh Kalmadi is right. The Organising Committee's expenditure is only a small percentage of the CWG expenditure.

With or without CAG reports, some of that is going to emerge. On such issues, no one has been covered with glory in 2010 — mainstream media, industry chambers and their heads (or former heads), lobbyists, judiciary (half the Chief Justices were called corrupt), political parties. The year which begins today should be a time for cleansing. But that's unlikely.

All major political parties face an identity crisis, none more than the Congress. There have been no major economic reforms since UPA1 came to power in 2004. Roads and telecom were started by the NDA; VAT/GST is also a legacy. At best, one has a diluted RTI, MGNREGS and right to education (and possibly right to food).

Is that what India, and especially young India, wants? That doesn't sound plausible. In fits and starts, reforms have chugged along since 1991. Why hasn't there been greater resistance to reforms? Largely because the economy grew at almost 6.5 per cent between 1992 and 2002 and at almost nine per cent between 2003 and 2007.

At 6.5 per cent, 10.75 million new jobs were created a year and at nine per cent, 12 million new jobs were created a year, mostly among the young. This isn't an elitist or urban phenomenon. More and more of rural India has become integrated into the urban mainstream and, as Bihar shows, growth has been in construction, real estate, trade, transporatation and hotels. That's not elitist.

A hypothesis that floats around is, therefore, almost certainly false. The NDA lost the 2004 general election because it pushed reforms and growth. India doesn't deserve to shine. India deserves to whine. Indians want public expenditure hand-outs and doles. Thus, there have been no reforms between 2004 and 2009.

Yet the economy has chugged along at almost nine per cent and the country has voted the Congress back. Just as 'con' is the opposite of 'pro', Congress is the opposite of progress, deliberately so. And because of an imploding of Oppostion, the Congress also believes this strategy brings electoral gains.

That will both be tested and not tested in 2011. Yes, there are major State Assembly elections this year. But in none of those is the Congress a major contender. In fact, on its own, the Congress doesn't rule in any major States, except Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. Therefore, it is easy for the Congress to play the role of Opposition and pretend to be the voice of the disdvantaged and the deprived in New Delhi. 

However, that there are disadvantaged and deprived is more of a reflection of failed policies, for which the Congress is the most culpable. Had those policies not stymied growth, especially between the late-1960s and the mid-1970s, the cake would have grown and we wouldn't have had poverty on the scale we do today.

Is it the case that growth isn't good for poverty reduction? Empirically, this isn't a valid proposition. Around 1950, the percentage of India's population below the poverty line used to be 50 per cent. Around 1980, it continued to be 50 per cent. We have different poverty numbers now, because they use different poverty lines. However, if we use the same poverty line, the percentage below the poverty line is 27.5 per cent. This is high, but it is a significant drop.

Moving beyond numbers, when growth picked up in the 1980s, the lowest decile of the population switched from firewood to LPG, bought bicycles and ceiling fans. Isn't that an improvement? Even 27.5 per cent is a 2004-05 figure. The next NSS large sample results would surface in 2011 and we should find a sharper drop.

Census 2011 figures won't surface in 2011. But they will appear in 2012 and we shall find a significant increase in urbanisation which is correlated with economic development. Inequality also increases in a period of rapid growth.

People don't want growth. People don't want urbanisation and land conversion. People don't want commercial exploitation of mines and forests. This proposition doesn't consider the counter-factual, of the lives these poor people lead. This will only be partially tested in 2011, precisely because Congress isn't that important in the States where elections will be held. But it is a proposition that will begin to be tested in 2011, if the Bihar Assembly election results are any indication.

At the moment, the Congress basks in the glory of a pro-reform image, because many of the 1991 reformers are part of the UPA Government. This is despite not having undertaken any reforms worth the name. This includes agriculture, where non-reform has contributed to food price inflation.

The specific numbers may decline, including for onions and tomatoes. But, as an issue, because of inelastic production, food price inflation isn't going to disappear. Simultaneously, growth is likely to slow because of monetary policy tightening, interest rate hikes because of public expenditure and removal of fiscal concessions consequent to indirect tax reform.

With the demise of the Left, the Congress has assimilated the Left within its ranks, the National Advisory Council being an example. The party is now the leftist Opposition, with the Government maintaining a reform facade, even if it does nothing.

With lower growth and continuing inflation, will this hold in 2011? Will it hold in the face of more scams, all highlighting discretion and its abuse, not in granting industrial licences, but in allotment of natural resources, of which, ether is only one example?

If it holds, that's because the Opposition offers no credible alternative. The most interesting aspect of 2011 will thus be what the two main parties project as their leadership and their economic vision. It has to be something that resonates with young India. It also has to be a leadership that is not a geronotocracy and is one young India identifies with. If this shake-out doesn't occur in 2011, it will have to before 2014.

Though 2011 marks 20 years of reforms, at worst, 2011 will postpone decisions and will be no more than marking time.

The writer is a noted economist and public policy analyst. 







In a September 2010 report in a Bengaluru newspaper readers were told about the distribution of ministerial portfolios in the Yeddyurappa cabinet. It said, "The Lingayat community, to which Yeddyurappa belongs and is viewed as the BJP's vote bank, dominates the Cabinet with as many as 11 representatives. The Lingayats are followed by six ministers who belong to other backward castes and SC category. There are four ministers from the Brahmin and three from the Vokkaliga communities. Two ministers represent the ST category and two are from minority communities." If this represents one end of the caste dynamics spectrum in India, the other may be seen in a report from a national newspaper, also in September, which said: "A mongrel brought up in an upper caste home in Morena was kicked out after the Rajput family members discovered that their 'Sheru' had eaten a roti from a Dalit woman and was now an 'untouchable'." 


In so many ways, caste casts its shadow on Indian society, and caste has been used as the hook to hang the Hindu portrait in most of the modern discourse on Hinduism. Christian missionaries in the West use it all the time to raise funds for their church-planting activities in India; the evangelical-led Dalit Freedom Network lobbies US Congressmen to initiate inquiries on caste-based discrimination; the UN's Durban Conference sought to equate caste with race; and Muslims, without fail, assert that Hindus are bound by caste. Left-Marxists have taken much pleasure in demonising Hinduism because a birth-based hierarchy is essentially discriminatory. Most college courses on India, not just on Hinduism, taught in US universities highlight caste as an intrinsic feature of Hinduism. Worried Indian-American parents wonder how to explain to their children the complexities of caste as the children come home from school shame-faced after listening to simplistic presentations of Hinduism as caste-bound and elitist.

In this context, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), after due diligence, released a report on caste, titled "Not Cast in Caste: Seeking an End to Caste-based Discrimination." The report argues that while caste-based discrimination and violence is an ongoing human rights problem in India, the solution to the problem lies within Hinduism itself. The report reiterates that many Hindu scriptures and commentaries extol the inherent divinity and spiritual potential of all, and that caste-based discrimination therefore represents "a lamentable gap between the Hindu teaching of recognising and respecting the divinity in all beings and the practice of this precept in the treatment of many fellow Hindus." The report urges Hindus to acknowledge that the varna and jaati system, that even today confers benefits of social mobility for many, has become perverted, and that Hindus should consider the situation objectively and compassionately so that they can be the leaders in reframing and reforming caste dynamics. 

HAF takes a clear stand against a birth-based hierarchy. It also bemoans caste-based discrimination leading to violence against the Scheduled Castes, the exploitation of women, the denial of entry into temples, and other forms of abuse and shaming. These violate the dignity and divinity of fellow citizens, the report opines. Arguing that the jati and varna identities calcified and warped over the centuries of exploitative foreign rule, predatory proselytism, and bureaucratic classification of jatis by colonial administrators, the writers of the report point out that the current Indian political dynamics have contributed to the strengthening of caste identity, thus making reform difficult.

Self-criticism and introspection are inherently difficult, and a minority of vocal internet warriors pounced on HAF. Perhaps they did not read the full report in which it is clearly pointed out that caste-based discrimination has survived despite considerable Hindu attempts to eradicate it. But who would not acknowledge that caste-based discrimination evolved in Hindu society? Or that some Hindu texts lay down laws and codes that support caste-bias and a birth-based hierarchy? The HAF consultants for the report all pointed out the complexity of the caste conundrum. The experts, well-versed in the Hindu texts as well as in Indian history, weighed in with their advice, support, and cautionary notes. 

Within half an hour of the report going online, there was a flurry of email activity and postings on discussion boards. HAF was sought to be driven into a corner by some Hindus who found the report objectionable for a variety of reasons. They asserted that HAF does not have the "adhikara" or authority to present such a report; that HAF had not consulted with the pontiffs of the traditional Hindu temples but only "jet set" and "dollar swamijis"; that HAF's report played into the hands of "Marxists", "Christian missionaries", "white people", "jihadists", etc. It was alleged that HAF's report was not scholarly; that HAF's report conflated jati and varna with caste; and that HAF has no right to "apologise". 

Why not acknowledge what is wrong, and go on to strengthen Hindu society, as many Hindus have done in the past? HAF therefore wisely argued that birth-based hierarchy goes against modern tenets of equality, and that caste-based discrimination, especially in its egregious forms, is the denial of dignity and divinity of fellow Hindus. HAF consulted experts who have decades-long grass roots experience working with Dalit groups, and who have observed first-hand the shaming and the marginalising, if not the dehumanising aspects of caste-based discrimination. 

What is evident from this experience, ironically, is that caste continues to shape modern discourse about Hindus and Hinduism. It also shows that the various social and religious movements over the past 2500 years - from Buddhism and Lingayatism to the Dasa Sampradaya, and from Sikhism and Arya Samajism to the Self-respect and the Dravidian movement - have sought to engage and deal with the excesses or anachronisms in Hindu society with varying degrees of success. Great social reformers, from the Buddha to Basaveshwara, from Kanaka Dasa to Narayana Guru, from Swami Vivekananda to Mahatma Gandhi, as well as influential men like Periyar have churned Hindu society. All of them faced challenges, and posed challenges. Therefore this report by the Hindu American Foundation is just another and small contribution to the debate, but is a necessary one in a new, fast-paced, globalised world. India is changing, and many young Hindus have begun to distance themselves from what they consider anachronistic and archaic. 

Hindus now live, work, and play around the world. Many do not know that Hinduism, the "rolling caravan of conceptual spaces," could provide the world a new lead - encouraging pluralism, respect for one another, and support for diverse cultures to flourish. Monotheistic and monopolistic religions and ideologies rely on standardization. They cannot sustain diversity. But Hinduism, which sustains diversity, is burdened by birth-based jati assignments. We can renew the grandeur of this ageless "religion" if, and only if we are all willing to take another critical look at caste-based discrimination and birth-based hierarchy.

-- Ramesh N. Rao is Human Rights Coordinator for the Hindu American Foundation, and professor and chair of the Department of Communication Studies and Theatre, Longwood University. The views expressed here are his own.








Is caste-based discrimination and hierarchy based on birth intrinsic to India's ancient way of life. Is it a failure of Hindu society to live up to Hinduism's essential, spiritual teaching of divinity inherent in all beings? The short answer is Yes - but difficult to express it.

In mid-2010, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), acknowledged in a landmark report, Hinduism: not caste in caste, that caste-based discrimination did make its appearance in Hindu society. There was candid admission that some ancient texts do lay down social laws and codes which support prejudice and privilege. Caste-based discrimination has survived despite attempts by reformers to eradicate it. At the same time, many Hindu scriptures and commentaries extol mankind's inherent divinity and spiritual potential. But there is a lamentable gap between precept and practice. 

The HAF report stresses the need for today's Hindu leaders and the larger Hindu community to end this dichotomy. It recognises the significant work already being done in this regard by many Hindu religious leaders, organisations, and individuals. But it underlines the need for a more forceful, coordinated, and concerted approach.

In this connection, HAF collected the independent statements of 13 prominent Hindu and spiritual leaders. Extracts from these are provided below as backgrounder to a unique edition of Saturday Special, which hopes that the second decade of the 21st century, which begins today, would see the stirrings of a revolutionary process in Hindu society leading to the end of a sad chapter in the world's oldest civilisation.

Swami Bodhananda, spiritual head of the Sambodh Foundation, writes that every sensible Hindu agrees that the existence of caste and discrimination are blots on society. Caste-based hierarchy is ethnically, morally and spiritually wrong; against enlightened social and political principles. 

Swami Bodhinatha Veylanswami, spiritual head of the Kauai Adheenam and publisher of Hinduism Today, says that caste is still clung on to as an "ego structure". He adds: "We should totally ignore the caste system as lived in India today and through example show a better and more wholesome path for modern society." 

Swami Chidananda Saraswati, spiritual head of Parmath Niketan,an international, non-profit charity foundation, points out that the Hindu scriptures do not mention the superiority of one caste over the next. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna describes the best of everything: 

Out of mountains, I am the Himalayas; out of the rivers, I am the Ganga; out of religious rituals, I am japa; out of the trees , I am the pepal. He goes on and on defining truly the "best" of everything on Earth. But He doesn't say anything such as"out of the castes, I am a Brahmin." If one caste were superior to others, certainly He would have mentioned it. Nowhere in any of our scriptures does it place one of the castes qualitatively higher than the others. 

It should be noted that Krishna says that He created all four departments of a society. His system was a system of 'varna vyavastha' or a functionally organised civilisation. He describes each caste as a different part of the body, all playing individual crucial roles.

Sri Chinna Jeeyar Swami, head of the Vishistha Advaitha tradition of Sri Ramujacharya, quotes a shloka which serves as proof of denial of discrimination:

Jna:na:th na suddhihi, da:syam sya:th sarva tha:nthrika bhe:dathaha, Sada: prapanna su:dra:na:m sarve:sha:m mo:ksha ka:nkshina:m,Mathsa:yujya:di siddhyartham dwija dharmo:kthavad bhave:th "

(Third chapter of Sri Parasara Samhitha of the Visishtha Parama Dharma Sashthra says that Purity can be attained by anybody not just by acquiring great knowledge but through unconditional service as a bramhan should do. This service is recommended to all, even Sudhras, and seeking moksha (release from karmic bondages), a divine union with God.)

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of Art of Living says: Historically, many of the revered rishis were Dalits. Dalit contribution to sanatan literature is commendable. For instance, the narrator of the Puranas, Soot Maharishi, was a Dalit. Shaabara Rishi, born into an 'atishudra' family, was highly revered as a rishi. His seminal commentary on the Vedas is a highly regarded reference book for the most learned of Vedic scholars. The current generation of upper castes is not exposed to this information and that is the reason why, in the villages, people continue to indulge in inhuman practices.Every morning, the first puja of the day in the Tirupati temple is offered by the scheduled caste Banjara community. It would be good to start this practice in other temples where there is discrimination.

Swami Dayananda, Convener, Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, points out: " The most widely used Hindu tradition of greeting anyone, including strangers, is with a namasthe, which is the same as that used in worshiping Ishwara, the Divine Almighty incarnate. Swami Paramananda Giriji Maharaj, head of Akhand Paramdham, recalls the story of Satyakam from the Upanishads, who wasn't sure of his caste because his mother admitted to having sexual relationships with multiple partners from diverse backgrounds. But his teacher, a rishi, said: "You are speaking the truth therefore you are Brahman and are able to know Brahmn Gyan and I accept you as a shishya." 

Swami Prabhananda, general secretary of the Ramakrishna order, states: "During Swami Vivekananda's lifetime, caste was a social scourge. Now it is inextricably linked up with Indian politics. The only way to do away with caste distinctions is to ensure that people of all caste, race and religion live together; everyone from the untouchable to the Brahmin live together, work together, eat together and worship together like children of the same Divine Parents, which indeed they are." 

Swami Tejomayananda, head of the Chinmaya Mission, stresses the distinction of guna from karma:

Not by birth is man a brahmana. By cultivating good intentions and noble thoughts alone can we ever aspire to brahmana-hood. The definition insists that he alone is a brahmana whose thoughts are as much Sattvik as his actions are. A Kshatruiya is one who is Rajasik in his thoughts and actions. A Shudra is not only one whose thoughts are Tamasik - somebody who lives of low endeavors, for satisfying his base animal passions and flesh-appetites. 

The late Swami Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, also harped on this point: Guna-karma-vibhagasah. Catur-varnyam maya srstam (Bhagavad Gita 4.13); in other words: one cannot claim to be a Brahmin without the right qualifications.

Space constraints prevent Saturday Special from highlighting the statements of Pramukh Swami Maharaj of the Swaminarayan Sanstha, Swami Varadananda of Vivekananda Vedanta Society, Chicago and Pravrajika Vrajaprana of the Vedanta Society of Southern California. Their views, along with those of the others may be read by visiting the HAF's website, www. 

-- The writer is Deputy News Editor, The Pioneer








Indian society has been viewed by Hindu American Foundation through the western prism. This 'Christian' view has led to confusion and corruption in its mind resulting in a 172-page report, which has created a huge controversy among Hindus worldwide. 

The confusion is so huge that it could not differentiate between Caste and Jathi/Kula/Varna; it could not differentiate between adherence to Achara/Anushtana and practicing untouchability; it could not identify the simple fact that the caste based discrimination prevailing in the society at present has got nothing to do with the Hindu religious texts. Its confusion is evident from its "brutal" honesty in "admission" of caste-discrimination as "sanctioned" by Hindu texts. 

Varna is different from Jathi. Varnas are only four, but many jathis are there in each varna. Dharma Shastras have put forward specific Acharas and Anushtanas for the four Varnas and those Anushtanas and Acharas differ from each other. That is, Rules and regulations differ for each jathi/varna and the customs and rituals are based on those rules and regulations. The customs and rituals are followed traditionally, from birth to death, by each Jathi/Varna and therefore the "Guna" is invariably inherited by 'Birth'. That is, the Guna is formed traditionally from the concerned Jathi Dharma. Therefore, the Jathi/Varna differentiation based on birth doesn't contradict the Chathurvarnas based on Guna. 

It is true that Vishwamitra was a Kshatriya by birth and Valmiki and Vyasa Sudras. Dhrona and Ashwathama were Brahmins. They are all exceptions. Alwars and Nayanmars were hailing from different varnas/Jathis, but followed the same Dharma. Again they are exceptions. Similarly we have such exceptions in modern times too. Heredity plays a vital role in determining one's Guna. Context and Continuity are more important, and hence, exceptions cannot be made into rules. 

Some feel such differences are a cause for concern; some say those differences have to be destroyed; some say they are a blot on our Sanatana Dharma.; some want to ignore such differences and proceed with their own 'Swadharma". Finally, there are those who get traumatised about these and end up as atheists. 

It is a fact that many Jathis have acquired different Varnas due to changing social environments. It is also a fact that such changes stopped with the advent of foreign invasions. There is nothing to feel ashamed of this jathi/varna system. Jathi Dharma, Kula Devata worship, etc., have been a source of strength for society and they have also prevented conversions and other devious activities of alien forces to a great extent. 

That is why alien forces want to destroy this system and that is the reason they gave their own identity to Jathi as "Caste". Then they concocted "Caste-systems", created caste-conflicts, indulged in forced and coerced conversions and approached the issue in the guise of "human rights", which has become a huge industry owned and backed by various western organisations largely owing allegiance to the Vatican.

However, the observations made by HAF with regards to the existing discriminatory practices in the name of caste in the society cannot be denied. It is true that society witnesses different kinds of discriminations such as refusing entry to Dalits in temples, hundreds of manual scavengers, scores of caste walls separating Dalits and OBCs/BCs/MBCs, the two-tumbler system in tea shops, separate burial grounds for Dalits and refusal of entry even into saloons. 

But it must be remembered that these discriminatory practices are present in other religions too, particularly Christianity. The leaders of the Poor Christian Liberation Movement (PCLM) would vouch for this fact. 

The degeneration, which started with the advent of foreign invasions could have been stopped and rectified had independent India followed our Dharma instead of the British system. Organisations like RSS and VHP have been focusing on eradication of caste-discrimination with full knowledge on the strength of jathi-system. The best examples are "Ekal Vidyalayas" across the country and the "Village Temple Pujaris Forum", a unique project of VHP Tamil Nadu. Traditional religious Institutions are also taking steps towards ensuring a united society by ending discrimination. For example, Gurus like Kanchi Acharya and Udipi Pejawar Swamiji are reaching out to Harijans. As a responsible organisation, HAF should have deliberated with the Acharyas of various Sampradayas before going public with its report. 

The HAF's report would terribly affect all these good works being done by these organisations, as it would become a strong tool in the hands of alien forces, which are out to destroy Hindu Dharma. Hindu American Foundation would do a great service to Hindu Dharma by immediate withdrawal of its report. HAF can also do a lot in fields like media, temple protection, education, Veda Rakshana, Research in History and Literature, etc. 








THE year gone by, 2010, was a bonfire of vanities, consuming the reputation of the Kalmadis, Radias, Karunanidhis and Lalu Prasads, and singing that of the Tatas and the Manmohan Singhs, along with that of those self- appointed judges, the Indian media.


The year 2011 is not likely to be exceptional; the economy will grow, the cricket World Cup will come and go, and there will be scams and alarums aplenty. Except, with the revelations of 2010, the people will be less trusting of those who claim to speak on their behalf. Five states— West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Assam and Kerala — will have elections to their state assemblies. As in the case of Bihar, each election will shift the current paradigm a wee bit. Just where, only time can tell.


A new India is emerging, one that demands transparency and a level playing field for all, not as a matter of entitlement, but as a matter of fact. It is not enough to promise the sky and legislate the right to education, or access to food. People now want both— and now— as a matter of right, and not a grant.


Information and communication technologies ( ICT) have played a great role in this. The fact that India has 700 million cell phones and 130 million households out of a total of 220 million access TV, illuminates the dark and devious corridors of power. People are better informed today of the ways in which they are deprived of better education, healthcare and infrastructure by those who pocket thousands of crores of public money.


The sooner our politicians get off their high horse and abandon yesterday's bogus slogans and engage the people with intelligence and empathy, the better. If not, they will themselves be the big losers of the coming year.



THE new norms of the All India Council for Technical Education ( AICTE) betray a rather myopic approach on the part of the Human Resource Development Ministry.

While HRD minister Kapil Sibal has rightly recognised the need to " expand the education sector", the new norms have clearly compromised on the quality of education in engineering, management and architecture — fields that fall under the AICTE's purview.


As it is the existing regulations had failed to contain the rise of ' teaching- shops' all over the country; their dilution will only provide further impetus to this phenomenon.


Moreover, if the AICTE, according to its own admission, has not been able to monitor whether the institutions fulfill all the requirements, it should have worked towards evolving more stringent methods of accreditation.


The statement of an AICTE official that " we are depending on the media to highlight any instances of wrongdoing" shows that the body, in effect, is abdicating its responsibility.


While there is no denying the fact that the need for technically qualified people will only increase as India's economy grows and diversifies, it cannot be done by merely increasing the number of seats, with no concern for quality. The country will simply be landed with a large number of unemployed and, indeed, unemployable, degree holders.



IT is legitimate to wonder why the Justice Srikrishna Committee, set up by the Union government to look into the demands for a separate Telengana state, has not taken a categorical stand on the issue.


Reports say the panel has outlined the four options before the Centre, enumerating the pros and cons of each alternative. This is all well and fine, but it is not that these alternatives did not exist before the panel went about its job.


We can only hope that the panel has made it easier for the Centre to take a call on the matter. There is no denying that whether a new state should be set up or not is, above all, a political decision. But the panel's report is relevant because it has had the advantage of speaking to a wide cross- section of stakeholders on the issue.


With the ball now in the Centre's court, it will need to display maturity and leadership for the contentious issue to be resolved with the least amount of public disturbance.



            MAIL TODAY





WITH a stronger Congress cast in UPA II, a mind and body improving performance was expected.


Instead, corruptions and scandals have smeared judges, journalists, politicians, businessmen, everybody; leaving out just you and me. That is probably because there isn't enough muck left to go around. The thousands of crores wasted in rotten deals could have built schools and hospitals for the public and uplifted our civic life.


But before you want your money back, consider the other side of this dark performance.


Now that everybody has over- charged and failed to perform we can at last conclude that the rot is systemic. Post liberalisation, the villains and vamps were government officials, ministers and their families: in short, anyone in " public service". The good guys were in the private sector, particularly at the high technology end. The recently introduced 2G vision has spoilt even that. When Ratan Tata comes away with a black eye, it is time to switch heroes.




In this scenario it is tempting to launch a single point campaign against corruption in high places. V. P. Singh did just that a decade ago and memories of that period should have a sobering effect. Riding on a righteous wave, V. P Singh sneaked in caste politics and essentially left corruption the way it was. Such cleanliness drives only settle old scores, leaving the door open for newer players to make their number.


Instead of dwelling on personalities, good or bad, these scandals should force us to change the plot altogether. If we want transparency in public life then our Parliamentarians and planners must include themselves in their plans. The policies they advocate for medical care and education, for example, should affect their lives as well. They too must dance to their tune! Why should our elected representatives go abroad for treatment when they have systematically destroyed All India Institute of Medical Sciences ( AIIMS), and practically every other public hospital? Or, why should they send their children to private schools when they publicly demand reservations in government ones? Do they care how hard it is to sip bread through a straw? For transparency in politics, rules and norms must apply equally. Without that the privileged will never be forced to think of themselves as part of the public.


This process begins when expenditures in health, education and energy are seen as investments, and not as costs. Any attempt to force successive governments on these issues comes up with the pat response: " But where is the money?" The Spectrum scam has reportedly siphoned off 1.76 lakh crores. How many quality hospitals and schools could have been inaugurated with this fund? And this is just one scandal! Add up all the rest— the land deals, the defence deals, the mining deals, the CWG deals— and there is just so much money in the system.


Yet, when politicians are asked to finance quality ( emphasis on Quality) health, education and energy they throw up their hands and turn out their pockets. What is worse, we generally believe them. After all, is it not true that India is poor? Is it not true that we are many? Is it not a fact we were once colonised? Agreeing to so much popcorn has killed our hunger for real food. The fact is that prosperous countries around the world came out of poverty because they saw health and education as human capital investments.


Without bringing in the long history of European social democracy, this strategy is doing brilliantly in places as disparate as Singapore, Brazil and the Basque province of Spain.




Till recently, these sites were havens for the corrupt of all stripes, whether from the bureaucracy, politics or business.


Instead of praising tycoons, as we tend to do, or glorifying workers, as Mao was wont to, the emphasis here is on mass delivery of quality health, education and energy.


So, it is not this class versus that, or these clean fingers against those dirty ones. The test of good governance is when our Ministers go to the same public hospitals or schools to which they send the rest. It is only then that we can have transparency.


There is little point in ousting proven bad people and replacing them by unproven good ones. After Nehru, from Lal Bahadur Shastri to Rahul Gandhi, we have done just that and look where we are now.


Sadly, the 13th Finance Commission has yielded to orthodoxy and done little to raise human capital in any of its recommendations.


Instead, this Commission actually advises the government to cut funds for National Disease Control programmes by Rs. 577 crores and to super- specialty government hospitals, AIIMS included, by as much as Rs. 700 crores. This would drive more patients to private hospitals and raise levels of indebtedness. As it is, 80 per cent of all health expenditure in our country is in the private sector. This is some kind of an international record, but it comes at such a price. Whether it is Saxena speaking, or Tendulkar, poverty rates in India hover between 40 and 50 per cent.


Consider another startling fact: nearly 60 per cent of our unskilled working population is not just literate, but

with a Secondary or Higher Secondary degree.


Where is that demographic dividend if, even after school, it is an unskilled job at the end of the tunnel? Shockingly, only 5 per cent of workers in India, between 20 and 24 years of age, have vocational training.


In Korea, the comparable figure is 96.




Experience also tells us that corruption is scarcity's best friend. Why? Think of the black marketer outside a packed box office and the answer is clear. The shady chap in a striped shirt helps you jump the line for a price. An identical logic gives political wielders their power. As there is a shortage of quality education and health, we line up behind our elected leaders hoping they will jump the queue for us. This is how our relationships with patrons begin. In time such dependencies congeal and spread to other areas as well. Before long, a good person falls into bad company and quickly morphs into a Satyam Raju or a Telecom Raja.


Alongside, we must also lay some ghosts to rest. Our heroes have not done well, but our villains are cardboard figures too. Caste and religious politics are in practically every corner of this country, giving the impression that we can never shake them off. But Gandhi and Nehru decisively overcame them more than 60 years ago. At that time India was more traditional, less urbanised, less developed and less globalised. What stops us from walking the same path today? Unfortunately, passionate blood and soil oratory, much like lip- sync performances, have diverted us from things that matter most. Consequently, we are unable to see the cold blooded calculations behind sectarian wars. Recall how V. P. Singh played the Mandal card; or how, Babri Masjid became an issue.


Simple anti- corruption drives will not do, but raising human capital will. There is a cheap bargain basement solution for this. We should perhaps mandate that anyone standing for election should be bound by oath to be treated only in public hospitals and to send their children only to government schools. This will force transparency in public life. Once that is in, poverty must be out.


Poverty and transparency are incompatible twins. That is why they were separated at birth.


The writer is a senior fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library








THE TECHNOLOGY battle for 2010 was more or less won by two people — Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The former was even chosen Person of the Year by Time magazine and the latter introduced a product — the iPad — that created a new market category, sold eight million pieces in less than eight months and has struck fear in the minds of its competitors. But in 2011, things could be way different. For one, the race to earn the most influential social network title will not be run by just one site. It will be a bitterly fought battle between Facebook and Twitter. At the same time, the tablet PC market will heat up with the introduction of quality gadgets from top tech firms from around the world. There is a third conflict — the battle for the smartphone operating system.


Will it be Android, BlackBerry OS, Nokia's Symbian and Apple's iPhone in 2011? This is good news for users such as you and me on the social network front. For one, it gives us a viable alternative — even if Facebook and Twitter have differentiated in terms of usage. Facebook underwent several changes and upgrades last year; Twitter had just one.


Facebook earned billions of dollars from investors and advertisers; Twitter made about $ 200 million in new investment by venture capitalists.


Facebook scored its 500 millionth user last year. Twitter has just about 75 million.

If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world in terms of population after China and India but ahead of the US. At present, Twitter is No 8, while MySpace is at No 5.


This year would change all of that. Well, most of it for sure.


It is more or less the same sce- Battle for the most influential social networking site: Twitter founder be hoping to give his Facebook counterpart Mark Zuckerberg a nario for the Apple iPad. According to analysts, the iPad controlled 95 per cent of the tablet PC market by the end of 2010.


Apple has sold eight million iPads around the world, and it has not even been launched in more than 40 countries yet. It was in Time magazine's 50 top inventions of 2010 list and Popular Science 's top gadget for 2010.


When Samsung hit back with a well- designed and a robust Galaxy Tab with more features than the iPad and at competitive prices, the battle lines were drawn. So far, Samsung is losing the battle. But it is the other players like BlackBerry maker Research In Motion who could change the market with their PlayBook tablet.


Given that BlackBerry already has millions of customers around the world for its smartphone the transition to a tablet may not be tough if the feature- set is strong enough to take on big daddy iPad. RIM did have a demo of its PlayBook last year, but it does not hope to launch the tablet well into 2011. By that time, iPad would have conquered a few more markets with its iPad 2, the upgraded version complete with two cameras, USB ports and smudge- free screen.


You may whine that Apple has not introduced either the iPhone 4 or the iPad in the Indian market, but you could always get it from your relatives or friends from the US or Hong Kong or Singapore — three countries where these products are the cheapest.


The third battle could be the most interesting for the Indian market. India already has nearly 750 million mobile phones. With the introduction of 3G services this year, the battle for the smartphone platform will be the most viciously fought. Android and Symbian lead the way in India, but BlackBerry OS and the iPhone platforms are no pushovers either in the domestic market.


The last year was a veritable treasure trove for new technologies being introduced, but it is 2011 that will decide the future of these gizmos and software. In that sense alone, 2011 could be a watershed.



IT IS fairly evident that China thinks the Internet is evil; at least the fuddy- duddies in the Communist Party leadership do. As bloggers and analysts have pointed out, China shows the same hatred towards foreign websites as a cancer patients would to his affliction.

Their latest target is Skype, which allows international audio and video calls free or at ridiculously cheap rates. It was deemed illegal two days back, even though it is one of the most popular sites in China.


Other sites that have been banned or prevented from entering the Chinese market are Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and WikiLeaks.


As Malcolm Moore, the Shanghai correspondent of the UK- based newspaper Telegraph points out: " In the West, the automatic assumption is that China is scared of greater internet freedom. If it relaxes its grip on YouTube, for example, Chinese internet users might suddenly all start looking at videos of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Actually, while China does ban some of the websites because of the information they contain ( Amnesty, WikiLeaks), the ban on the others is nothing more than plain old protectionism." This could well be true because China has a humongous home- grown Internet industry, led by baidu. com, the Chinese language search engine that rivals Google. For all its state capitalism chants, China remains a protectionist state at heart.



RENOWNED photographer Steve McCurry ( yes, the same genius who shot the iconic ' Afghan Girl' picture for National Geographic magazine) has shot his last series of pictures on film in what was possibly one of the most interesting projects of all time— last year, Kodak had handed over its last ever 36- frame photographic roll and told him to shoot whatever he would want with it.

McCurry travelled the world to get those pictures, and on December 30, put up some of them on his blog at stevemccurry.


wordpress. com. The muchawarded photographer is an Indophile, so don't be surprised if you get to see more Indians in his series than any other nationality, including a superb portrait of actor Amitabh Bachchan.


" Today is the day that Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kansas, the last lab on the planet to process Kodachrome, stops developing the iconic film forever," McCurry wrote on his blog.


" When Kodak stopped producing the film last year, they gave me the last roll.


When I finished shooting the final frames I hand- delivered it to Parsons.


Here are a few of those last 36 frames." Visit the blog. It's a piece of history you wouldn't want to miss.


TIMes of indial logo






Nat King Cole famously sang: "Unforgettable, that's what you are..." But wise men say life's a book of laughter and forgetting. One chapter - 2010 - finished, let painful memories escape the brain's loft, like incriminating evidence did from official safekeeping in the Year Of The Scam gone by. Only, retro-wallahs drunk on nostalgia drive their yaadon ki baraat into this New Year. They recall the bloke in Proust's novel, Remembrance of Things Past, who cried over the lost taste of a biscuit dipped in tea in childhood. Correspondingly, desi rear-viewers doubtless miss teatime refreshments dunked in ghee, bachpan mein. Even on 2011's Day 1, they look back in anger, Proustian languor or - if on rumbling stomach - hunger. 

But why cling to remembrance of things gone bust, such as political reputations, electoral ambitions or public coffers? Why go in search of lost time or grime? Let the Congress rewind history - Save Indira! Sink Sanjay! - to escape a future where BJP imagines pre-Emergency's "JP Movement" will reincarnate in its JPC Movement. The rest of us should dodge, not jog, memory. Dilli, Dallas or Durban, New Year revellers did just that last night, fireworks in the sky serving the healing functions of mind-wash. Continue the celebration. 

At most we'll forgive total recall on the ghee. For, one kilo a day, along with milk and almonds, prolongs youthful virility...or the memory of it. So suggests a Haryanvi farmer, possibly the "oldest father in the world". If this news-making country gentleman turned daddy at 94 - an age most of us get amnesia - he says you breed what you eat. Almonds though are more a memory-booster than libido-hoister. Let's skip to radical memory-erasers instead. Docs say merely popping a pill one day will block memories that bug us, including fear of political web-spinners and other spiders. To beat yucky yaadein meantime, can morphine match endorphin, the body's natural mood-elevating chemical which laughter helps release? 

It's said the body can't tell between real and pretend laughter, and so gains therapeutically from both. Unlike fake drugs, humour - spontaneous or spurious - has health benefits. And, given healthcare costs, wealth benefits. No wonder, in 2011, IT hotspot Bangalore may see a grand university start teaching "Laughter Yoga". Considering the success of simulated ha-ha-ho-ho-hee-hee sessions in neighbourhood parks, this institution of learning-to-laugh could giggle its way to gold. Deservedly, since guffaws help de-stress, funny-money back guarantee. Laughter's too serious a 'business' to be left to resident welfare association rookies. 

Not that in 2011, we won't catch cold when vice goes viral. All the more need for laughter the best medicine, booster of immunity par excellence. So, to marry hilarity with the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, do two things. One, shout: out, out, miserable memorabilia! Two, say cheese. 2011 can then start with a shiny clean slate...or is it a licked-clean plate? 

Darn those ghee-dunked wonders. Unforgettable, that's what they are..








Happy New Year or, rather, happy new decade! Writing a column at the onset of a new decade is daunting. One has to summarise the last 10 years and predict the next 10 in a limited space. However, the events that happened and the events that might happen are being covered enough. For me, the onset of the new decade is a good chance to reflect at how Indian culture changed, and should change in times to come. 

A decade is a long time in an individual's life. Whether it is having a child, getting married, finishing your education or changing your job or cities, things must surely be different for you now from what they were in 2000. 

However, 10 years isn't a long time when it comes to nations and societies. Cultures change for sure, but the shift in people's thinking, outlook and worldview is gradual. Our culture isn't just our food, arts and traditions. In a broader sense, culture defines us: who we are as people, how we aim to live our lives, what is acceptable or unacceptable behaviour and who in society is rewarded and punished. Most important, our culture contains the implicit rules by which we live - our values. Just as an example, one might say the United States values wealth, competition, individualism and religion. These are pretty much core to the essence of American society and culture. 

When we think of Indian values, we normally think of personal values - such as family, religion and respect for elders. These things are notably Indian. However, ask someone to articulate Indian community values, and there won't be a clear answer. Do we value wealth or education? Do we value democracy where people have a greater say in how they are governed, or do we believe in power in the hands of a select few to whom the laws don't apply? Do we value honesty, or do we value getting a job done anyhow? Do we believe in frugality, or do we want to show off our wealth? Do we value our local communities, or do we value being part of India? 

These questions have no easy answer. There are conflicting responses to any of these questions in the India we see around us today. Scholars, unable to account for this, make profound statements like 'there are many Indias within India'. Some romantic types even call it 'the beauty of India, where everything is unpredictable'. 

I call it confusion. Values cannot be unpredictable, they are consistent, even in volatile times. The past decade was spent by Indian society in a muddled set of values. It is hoped in the next 10 years we do a 'values clarification', especially for the new generation. A clear set of values helps tell people what their lives are for and what is worth working for. Values tell people what is good and important. They bind society. Social scientists believe that without values, a society could disintegrate, a risk often present in India. Religious heads believe that without values, human life is meaningless and all the worldly pleasures will not lead to any satisfaction. Yes, a lack of good values is why scams happen, nepotism exists and the government doesn't care about its people. Core values are vital to any society and human being. 

So why are we in such a confused state? Where have we gone wrong? Are Indians less moral, despite being the most religious in the world? No, we are perfectly fine people. The land where Buddha and Gandhi became icons, purely by the strength of their values, means ours is a society that understands goodness. The reason there is no concrete set of Indian values yet is that the concept of India itself is new. 

Just over six decades ago, there was no India. We had a collection of princely states, with kings and queens, which the British ruled at gunpoint. When the latter left, we loosely stitched these together, cut off a large chunk with partition and labelled the result India. The only common value all these kingdoms shared was their wanting the British out. After that was achieved, another revised set of values was never fully agreed upon. In 60 years, India mixed, modernised and defined itself somewhat, but there is still a long way to go. Today, different subsets of society have their own set of values, which frankly doesn't help much at a national level and leads to what we have now: confusion. 

As we enter the new decade, there will be prescriptions on how many roads, airports and power plants we need to build. Along with this infrastructure, we must spend time building our values. Leaders, opinion makers and all of us in our dinner table discussions should continue to bring up this single question: What should an average Indian live, work and strive for in his life? 

At present, there is no easy answer. There is also deep cynicism. But if we keep looking, and contribute to the quest for the right answer, we will find it. The answer to this fundamental question will determine our Constitution, our laws and where we will go as a society and nation in times to come. India will grow economically in the next 10 years. But if we focus on our collective values too, it will truly be a happy new decade. 

(The writer is a best-selling novelist.)







World Series Hockey (WSH) - an Indian hockey league along the lines of cricket's highly successful Indian Premier League (IPL) - is an excellent idea. Slated to begin this year, the league could provide a much-needed boost to hockey in India. True, the aim of the erstwhile Premier Hockey League between 2005 and 2008 was much the same. However, given the long-term financial commitment that WSH envisages, there is reason to believe that things will be different this time. Like the IPL, a vibrant professional hockey league will not only attract sponsors but also create a platform for fresh talent to come through. 

The bane of Indian hockey today is lack of interest on the part of the public. This in turn is fuelled by the perception that it doesn't pay to take up the sport as a career. Much of the allure that cricket has is due to the fact it is a lucrative sport. But WSH can rectify this. The figures being cited for potential earnings by top players taking part in the league are between Rs 10-40 lakh per season. Given that hockey players have long protested against poor pay, the league could finally make hockey financially attractive. The problem with the previous hockey league was one of scale. But with WSH holding out the promise of substantial financial investment over a period of 15 years, scale should not be an issue. 

The success of the IPL has taught us a lot about how to organise a franchise-based sport league. Former players like Viren Rasquina have gone on record that a professional hockey league is the best thing that could happen to Indian hockey. Plus, the participation of quality foreign players will provide a massive learning opportunity for our youngsters. WSH could be just the lifeline that Indian hockey needs. 







A false sense of euphoria has set in with the launch of the WSH, a joint initiative of the derecognised Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Nimbus Sport. This will be counterproductive for hockey. The comparison with IPL is ominous, given the latter's history of shady dealings. But can the WSH even woo fans like the IPL? Its previous avatar, the Premier Hockey League which ran from 2005 to 2008, failed to sustain itself due to lack of an audience. Commercialisation is not the solution to every sporting problem. 

If the IPL has succeeded in drawing an audience across the country, that's because cricket always had a strong grassroots foundation and a dedicated audience. Does hockey have a similar grassroots foundation and audience? Will the mere pumping of money bring about a revival of the game? On top of it all, can the WSH recruit foreign players in the wake of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) questioning its legitimacy? The FIH has already termed the league as unofficial. Given the ongoing tug-of-war between the IHF and Hockey India for taking over as the prime administrative body in the country, the WSH may become a moribund rebel league much like the Indian Cricket League, which crashed. 

The Indian hockey team's performances in the Commonwealth Games and the Guangzhou Asian Games have raised a glimmer of hope for the revival of the sport in the country. When the team needs to focus on qualifying for the London Olympics in 2012, it can hardly afford a split among the pool of players. Instead of distracting cash-rich leagues, Indian hockey needs to pull itself up at the grassroots. This calls for spending (without hope of immediate returns) on infrastructure and training facilities at the village and township level. Hockey federations, too, need to be reformed and their internecine disputes sorted out.








WASHINGTON: At the end of the first decade of the new century, Indians have reason to be angry at the state of affairs they have to endure at home. They would be quite justified. And our global image isn't hot either right now. It took a beating in 2010. 

We can look at the picture in two ways. We can either review our relative status in terms of economic growth, a significant reduction of absolute poverty and in global relevance. We would have reason then to be somewhat happy, particularly when we compare our current situation with what prevailed 20 years ago or even at the end of the 20th century. Or, we can be annoyed that we haven't developed fast enough, we have the largest mass of poor people living within any single country, and we blunder along in messy conditions that no major nation should have to tolerate. 

If we Google-map the first view, we can see a reasonably bright picture, despite the grey spots. Yes, there is a mess in large parts of the country and there are far too many people who lack basic amenities to lead a decent life. But if we zoom in, we will find swathes of the country doing rather well, especially in the northwest, the west and the south. When you take the performance of states in the east and north-central India out of the national picture, our developmental averages shoot up. 

Even in the east there are signs of change. Bihar, for example, shows encouraging indications that better governance can steadily reverse falling performance trends. If the economic reforms begun in 1991 have to go on producing positive results, they must be speedily expanded not only at the national level but also in the states if we are to help smoothen the uneven impact the reforms seem to have had thus far. And if interstate commerce and investment, currently hindered by many barriers, can be seriously expanded, the positive picture of India can shine in dazzling hues. 

Nevertheless, we have to look back in anger. Why can't we get our act together? This past year has hit our global image as well as self-worth with a double whammy. The first blow was the unbelievable ineptitude and alleged corruption on display during the organising of the Commonwealth Games. We can only hope that someone is taking care to ensure that the guilty are forced to pay for the foul-up and that we refrain from staging such international extravaganzas until we are totally sure we have the capacity and infrastructure to organise them. We've had enough of show. 

The other deadly strike was from the Radia tapes. It hurt our international image, of course, but worryingly left us in danger of losing faith in our national self-worth. 

When you see a titan of industry reduced to just a wheeler-dealer businessman, when you watch a scrupulously honest prime minister covered in the world media as a helpless professor failing to manage an unruly and corrupt class of politicians, you have to ask: Are there any heroes left outside the dream world of Bollywood? 

You listen to the tapes in growing dismay. You find yourself aghast at the power and access of a mere lobbyist. You see senior mediapersons with their pants down yet losing their shirts when asked to account for their blatant cozying up to special interests. All you can do is scream in silence: Where's the accountability, stupid? 

With a snail-like judiciary on one hand and an understaffed, undertrained, underpaid and overly corrupt police force on the other, accountability in India is hard to nail down. Now that other watchdog of public ethics, the `media, appears to be badly infected. Mercifully, there still are editors and TV hosts willing to buck the trend. 

Yes, we are entitled to rage. There's plenty that has gone wrong. But, you know what, it's a new year, a new beginning, a time to look ahead. Why don't we step back to look at the picture in all its shades, the bright colours as well as the dark spots? 

Be angry. But let's also look forward, hoping for a better life in a happy new decade.









Those who control the present, control the future. But beyond making short-term plans and acting on them, we have been, at best, lukewarm to how we want our future to be, and at worst, unbothered by such vagaries. For a people who still fall for the charms of astrology and soothsayers, this que sera, sera attitude could be seen as a paradox. But embedded in this 'what will be, will be' way of life, lies the menace of our notorious 'chalta hai' mentality that has allowed us to see dysfunctional behaviour as par for the course. While 2011 did see you, the citizenry, attentive to the many wrongs and callous inactions (as you did the year before that was marked by scams and brazen acts of inefficiency), for us taking stock here on January 1, 2012, the actions you take  in your to-be-unfolding present will result in how we stand here 365 days ahead.


Food security and containing food inflation will be a challenge, one seemingly more manageable than the other. But incremental steps will have to be taken even after promises and wishes become law. For a nation becoming increasingly visible to the world, it is imperative we have far less of our hungry tomorrow than we have today - not only in percentage terms that are beyond the reckoning of individuals, but also in terms of sheer numbers. Here where we stand at the start of 2012, good things look better than they did on January 1, 2011. But bad things should also improve. The knobbly-kneed approach to national security, whether in the form of the domestic war against Maoists or the external one from terrorists, has to be replaced with a 'trickle up' vigilance that starts on the ground and ends in policy.


In the world stage, the stuck record of our desire to have a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council and the utterings by dignitaries should be coupled with India's sense of greater engagement with the world, starting with our own neighbourhood. It's one thing to not want to meddle in affairs that lie beyond our nose; quite another to want to be considered a serious international 'player' who engages outside its own backyard. Where you stand and where we stand may not look that different from each other. But depending on how you act, the wheels of change will be set into motion by you in 2011. All we have done is kept it running and made necessary course corrections. For that, of course, our parliamentarians and politicians and those in the public space must have done their jobs and not have let things hang in limbo because of petty politics. For, in the end, the 'us' here on the first day of 2012 are the same people as 'you' there on the first day of 2011.








At each turn of the year, a latent innocence makes one wish for things, small and big, knowing fully well January 1 is as routine a date as any other. And so when I asked myself, this year-end, what I would like 2011 to bring to us in India, my mind's disc began playing AR Rahman's song from Roja, 'Chinna Chinna Aasai…', the hauntingly beautiful lyrics of which have been rendered for the Hindi version of the film into 'Chhoti Si Aashaa...' (small wish). And my list, a 'chinna, chinna' one, quickly emerged. I set it down knowing that these 'aashaaen' will not be fulfilled. Why so? Quite simply, because they are not 'big', they do not cost much and they are eminently do-able. They are:


1. Whistle-blowing, baton-wielding policewomen will energetically discourage incontinent Indian men from their unceasing painting of our prominent public walls and thoroughfares in free-flowing uric yellows.


2. Likewise, betel-pulping mouths will not be allowed to spray-paint with jets of red dribble the walls, corner-joints and lift-wells of our mantralayas and sachivalayas, our bhavans and sadans. And the stink of excrement will be banished from sarkari corridors, spiders' webs removed from their walls, and grime and hand-grease effaced from all their surfaces.


3. Our city roads will not take any more cars and two-wheelers until they have been made fitter and safer for pedestrians, no less than for vehicles. No family will be allowed to ply more than one car or two two-wheelers. There will be designated areas with designated timings within which vehicles will be permitted only on payment of condign rates of peak-hour user charges.


5. Our coastlines will come under the unforgiving eye of a National Coastal Conservancy Force which ensures that the country's beaches are so fine-toothcombed that our sea-shores become as clean as the sands of our uninhabited island in the Andamans or Lakshadweep.


6. All hilly regions above a stipulated altitude will be declared plastic litter-free, which means that if any product including pesticide and fertiliser and electronic equipment is to be sold there, it will have to come in bio-degradable wrapping. And the term 'plastic litter' will specially include that horror, polysterene, better known as thermocol.


7. In pursuance of recent court orders, exemplary fines and, in default, imprisonment will visit manufacturers and retailers of gutkas if they sell their obnoxious product in non-biodegradable sachets.


8. No hoardings or cut-outs beyond a stipulated size will be allowed to be displayed and will have to be of bio-degradable material and will be required to be dismantled within a one week of being put up.


9. An immediate stop will be put to the advertising of skin-lighteners as a step against gender oppression and our complexion-fixated universe of dowry-demands, which means that celebrity stars will have to be told to earn their pocket money from elsewhere than the savings and debt-burdens of brides' parents.


10. Manufacturers of toys will be forbidden from making toys that resemble or mimic weapons of war or ballistics, and retailers of toys from selling them, so as to not perpetuate in naïve free marketing what we are up against as a nation and a civilisation.


11. No fire-crackers of any decibel-calibre whatsoever will be allowed anywhere in India as a step against pollution and the most horrendous fire-hazards at the place of manufacture, sale and use against child labour. The ban will also be a step in favour of care for the elderly, the infirm, and also animals.


12. There will be the strictest enforcement of laws prohibiting cruelty to animals, especially to quadrupeds and fowl being hustled to the slaughterhouse and to places of so-called worship for 'ritual sacrifice'.


13. The ministry of railways will ensure that not one elephant dies in the mountainous and forested regions of

our east by speeding trains colliding with the pachyderm in what is its territory, not that of the railways.


14. The ministry of surface transport and the National Highways Authority will recall an Indian emperor called Asoka and regard trees along highways or along tracks for future road-layings and widenings, as being in their protection, not as obstructions.


15. The ministries for power and water resources will ask all bulk users of electricity and water across the country ('bulk user' to be defined for this purpose by the ministry for environment) to cut down their usage of those threatened resources by 15% with immediate effect as a step towards climate change mitigation and conservation.


16. The department of public works will draw up an all-India scheme under which all buildings over a 100 years old will be looked after on a self-renewing basis and their dismantling severely regulated and allowed only if they endanger life and limb, as a step towards the conservation of our built heritage.


17. The ministry of home affairs will, in concert with its counterparts in state governments, enforce a strict regime of physical fitness in the police forces with the BMR (basal metabolic rate) of personnel being regularly monitored, paunches disallowed, ability to run to rescue and give chase to vouchsafed. And, simultaneously, a modern regime of psychological counselling given to make 'third degree' and the horrors of the interrogation seat alien to policing.


18. Parliament and our state legislatures, will bring about a self-denying regulation by which legislators are paid not a monthly salary but a sum, be it ever so large and generous, on the basis of daily attendance, with a provision for prospective and proportionate disallowances of the same, in the event of their obstructing the business of the House.


19. The New Year will see inaugurated a Himalaya Niti, a Van Niti, and a Sagar Niti, which protect Himalayan India, Forest India and Littoral India against natural disasters, from 'developer' and 'contractor' greed and from the misplaced enthusiasms of centralised planning.


20. And, finally, some of the moneys misspent, siphoned off or 'notionally' lost in scams in the recent past will be recovered by the exchequer to enable it to provide funds for another direly needed and symbolic 'recovery': the restoration of neglected water-bodies across India in the manner of the Padma Pushkarini, a tiny water tank that Leela Samson, director of Chennai's Kalakshetra, recently revived from its dried-up and given-up hollow of despondency.


The reader will think 'Why, in this fanciful new 20 Point Programme, has 'poverty alleviation' and 'sustainable development' been left out? And our farming crisis, food security, the alarming malnutrition we see around us? What about the deplorable standards in our healthcare and education? And those nightmares: terrorism, Maoism, casteism and communalism? And what about corruption?' The reader would be right. I would only submit that there are many people who are doing things about those large, life and death issues. But there are not half as many who share the 20 'chinna, chinna' wishes I have listed, which are so difficult to implement because they are so easy.


Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a former administrator, diplomat and governor


The views expressed by the author are personal








It's the first day of a new decade in which India is expected to find its place in the sun, a seat in the United Nations Security Council and sundry other coigns of vantage. It's a fine, foggy first day, which impels thoughtful chaps like myself to moodily read the entrails of the times and prophecy forth. But I find that I am looking into the void. Worse, the void is not looking into me.


The decade which begins today is inscrutable, unfathomable and designed to surprise. Don't let charlatan analysts thrust their bright projections upon you. Don't let them confuse you with charts and pie diagrams. Remember that I am the only true soothsayer, and I am looking into a void which refuses to look into me. Our mutual ignorance is compendious. So the predictions that follow - picked out of a cocked hat - are shots in the dark, illuminated only by the muzzle flash. Entertain them at your own risk.


My most valuable prophecy is from the world of fashion. I am happy to predict the demise of the funny men's jeans, which have been all the rage for the last two years, which are cunningly cut to make it look like the wearer's behind has been amputated. I look forward to the day when men reclaim their backsides and I can fearlessly go out and buy some pants again.


Moving on from petty personal issues, I predict that lakhs of analysts who make a living predicting 'What the US is Up To' will be underemployed by 2015. The unipolar world is kaput. In the closing months of 2010, a recession-pooped US politely declined to continue playing banker to the world. Other nations or organisations will now call the tune and UN headquarters will relocate to Timbuktu.


Also underemployed will be thousands of analysts who live off the India-China deathmatch for supremacy in Asia. The tournament will be cancelled. In the last decade, the two nations were reinvented by money. Now, they will be altered unpredictably by social and political forces let loose by prosperity. Exhausted by rapid change, they will be happy to gang up instead of fighting. All Indian citizens, not only those of Arunachal Pradesh, will be able to visit China without a visa.


In information technology, the 2000s closed with the University of Glasgow unveiling a PC superchip that runs 20 times faster than current CPUs. But the device of the future is not your PC but your cellphone, which has been in your pocket for at least a decade. There are now four new mobile operating systems and as computing moves to the cloud, phones will put the PC out to pasture.


Which spells millions more cameras and microbloggers out there, connected to the internet. The decade of leaks is making way for the age of consent, when citizen journalism will credibly counterpoint manipulated reality and make it difficult for power and authority to work against collective will.


From personal experience, I appreciate that the power to sway opinion is like a loaded weapon. Use it or lose it. So what's your prediction for the decade ahead? Draw, pardner. Let's see what your muzzle flash lights up. I'm off to nurse my New Year's hangover.


Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine


The views expressed by the author are personal




T tion c wo Indian scientists -- Ajay Anil Gurjar and Siddhartha A. Ladhake -- are wielding sophisticated mathematics to dissect and analyse the traditional medita- chanting sound `Om'. The `Om team' has published six tion chanting sound `Om'. The `Om team' has published six monographs in academic journals, which plumb certain acoustic subtlety of Om that they say is "the divine sound".

Om has many variations. In a study published in the Inter- national Journal of Computer Science and Network Security, the researchers explain: "It may be very fast, several cycles per second. Or it may be slower, several seconds for each cycling of [the] Om mantra. Or it might become extremely slow, with the mmmmmm sound continuing in the mind for much longer periods but still pulsing at that slow rate." The important technical fact is that no matter what form of Om one chants at whatever speed, there's always a basic `Omness' to it. Both Gurjar, principal at Amravati's Sipna College of Engineering and Technology, and Ladhake, an assistant professor in the same institution, specialise in electronic signal processing. They now sub-specialise in analysing the one very special signal. In the introductoy paper, Gurjar and Ladhake explain that, "Om is a spiritual mantra, out- standing to fetch peace and calm."

No one has explained the biophysi- cal processes that underlie the `fetch- ing of calm' and taking away of thoughts. Gurjar and Ladhake's time-fre- quency analysis is a tiny step along that hitherto little-taken branch of the path of enlightenment. They apply a mathematical tool called wavelet transforms to a digital recording of a person chanting `Om'. Even people with no mathematical back- ground can appreciate, on some level, one of the blue-on- white graphs included in the monograph. This graph, the authors say, "depicts the chanting of `Om' by a normal per- son after some days of chanting". The image looks like a pile of nearly identical, slightly lopsided pancakes held together with a skewer, the whole stack lying sideways on a table. To behold it is to see, if nothing else, repetition.

Much as people chant the sound `Om' over and over again, Gurjar and Ladhake repeat much of the same analy- sis in their other five studies, managing each time to chip away at some slightly different mathematico-acoustical fine point. The Guardian

India Express






Of all the crucial questions that one should ask on New Year's Day, the most pressing could well be this: how long does a debilitating hangover take to vanish? A particularly terrifying opinion comes from the South African cricket team. It's possible, it appears, for your eyesight and analytical skills to be impaired for at least four days. At least that appears the only reasonable interpretation of a report, in the South African Afrikaans daily Beeld, that members of the South African team are upset that umpire Steve Davis was seen drunk at a city hotel — the night before the Test started. The South Africans might have legitimate complaints about Davis' umpiring. He refused an appeal from Dale Steyn against Zaheer Khan on day three, which helped India build up an unassailable lead; and on day four, he upheld a problematic lbw appeal against Mark Boucher. There's enough fodder here for those who can, endlessly, discuss whether or not the Indian team took the right decision, post-Sri Lanka, to refuse the referral system for umpiring decisions. In this case, the ICC has denied the team has laid a formal complaint against Davis, drunk or not, but this certainly joins the pantheon of great post-Test excuses. So many of those, of course, used to be deployed against India by tourists. Problematic hotels; unwelcoming crowds; and for the English of previous generations, past masters of the whinge, smog in what was then Calcutta and "dodgy prawns" in what was then Madras. It's intriguing, now, that such excuses are marshalled against a home umpire by a team from obviously developed South Africa. Till now, it was Australia that was known for the strength of its beer. Perhaps South Africa wants to claim that distinction? Although "the land of the four-day hangover" is hardly the world's greatest tourist-board catchphrase.







It is necessary to realise the importance of the decision of the second Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal, which all parties appear to have more-or-less agreed with. This is necessary not merely for the substance of its order, which settles a long-running dispute, but also for the atmospherics involved. Those offer insights into handling recurrent or persistent disputes between upper and lower riparian states — problems that the framers of our Constitution had anticipated, and knew to be highly sensitive. The tribunal has fixed quotas of the Krishna water for Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra — maintaining the first tribunal's award, notified in 1976, but using a new annual water series of 47 years and a 65 per cent dependability. This resulted in an additional 20 per cent of water to be allocated, with Andhra getting most of that surplus and Karnataka getting to raise the storage level of the Almatti dam. While this ends Andhra's use, hitherto, of the entire surplus, it still gets the biggest share, as the lower riparian state. There are discordant notes though: the Andhra opposition complains the surplus reduction will ruin irrigation projects built with the whole surplus in mind. Even Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, while welcoming the additional water, plans to raise the Almatti issue, fearing flooding of parts of western Maharashtra. In the land of the Cauvery dispute or the Punjab and Haryana water troubles, it's always necessary to remember that our politics should not be allowed to turn riparian disagreements into rallying cries for inter-state mobilisations. The Krishna tribunal's order should enforce that lesson. Rational settlements of water disputes help irrigation, river maintenance and expansion of cultivation. Most importantly, water goes where it's needed. State-level politics must take cognisance of that and cooperate, for states' mutual benefit and the nation's. Something of that cooperation has been evident in this case, and the misgivings can be raised as appeals for review or modification in the three-month window the tribunal has allowed the three states and the Centre. In short, something this intricate and sensitive can be managed if the bounds of reason are not breached, and popular sentiments not exploited.







The Shiv Sena was caught coldbloodedly planning violence at Pune's Lal Mahal, after a statue of Dadoji Konddeo was removed by the municipal corporation. Telephone transcripts recorded by Pune police revealed Uddhav Thackeray's personal assistant Milind Narvekar instructing the Sena's legislator Neelam Gorhe to stone and torch buses, after informing television crews across town. In other words, what they would later pass off as the spontaneous fury of the people was carefully choreographed for maximal impact and echo, via television.Statues have long been powerful political statements — from the point they are erected in high pomp to their equally meaningful falls from grace. And Dadoji Konddeo, Shivaji's Brahmin tutor and mentor, has been a divisive figure and a point of contention in the state's caste politics — between Marathas (who largely vote for the NCP) and Brahmins. The removal of Konddeo's statue by an NCP-dominated corporation was simply a bit of swagger and muscle-flexing, in the manner of the Sena's usual icon-obsessed politics. But manipulating statues as pawns in a political chessboard is one thing, to respond to that with calculated violence, destroying public property and burning buses, is another. While Maharashtra has long been disfigured by its narrow, resentful politics, the Sena first patented the thuggish methods that have now seeped into the mainstream. Since it cannot manage rational objection, it threatens and executes violence, inflating small actions into questions of pride and identity. It has a history of meticulously orchestrating violence. In the 1993 riots, Sena activists combed Mumbai armed with electoral registers to identify and attack Muslims. Now, its methods and pathologies have been replicated by the MNS and other groups of hoodlums, like the Sambhaji Brigade. But the conversation taped by the Pune police reveals the extent to which these actions are planned by the party's top leaders. Their mobilisation techniques have been perfected over the years, as they pick up on stray incidents and incite violence. Their vandalism is designed to look like mass anger, even when it's a few party workers who carry it out, after making sure that the spectacle is being recorded on camera, its impact amplified as it reverberates across the media. The Shiv Sena's sorry transcripts should finally destroy their credibility as those who speak for popular discontent, and reveal them as the bullies and phonies that they are.









Last New Year's Day, I bravely predicted on these pages the death of opinion. Even the most self-absorbed practitioners of my noble, if insular, calling will have dimly perceived that we haven't had the best of years. We aren't dead yet, though. So, in a spirit of public service, mindful of the season, and with all the solemn seriousness that befits discussions of the state of our opinion-generating industry, this New Year, I'll suggest a few resolutions for us.First, whatever you're up to, don't get caught. It is clearly extremely inconvenient. Not that you'll be fired or anything. (The very idea!) But you'll be required to defend yourself, and that cuts into your sleep schedule. Besides, what you think of as the most innocuous contacts can bring down on your head the judgment of the People. Those outside Delhi just don't seem to understand how difficult it is to hang up on influential callers who can be mean to you later. Have they never had girlfriends?In fact, just to be certain you don't get caught, don't use the phone. It is difficult to work out what a safe medium of communication is, though. Phones are tapped by the income-tax department if they're having a slow day at work, and the direct tax receipts for 2009-10 suggest they have no shortage of slow days. The home ministry, which never saw a technological innovation it didn't want to control, is busy trying to decode BlackBerry Messenger. You could try email, but if it's at all interesting, Julian Assange might want to read it, and Julian Assange isn't particularly scrupulous about how he gets what he wants. The old-fashioned method, writing a letter to give to your doctor to deliver, will just get him life imprisonment for sedition. Probably best to use carrier pigeons.Or, of course, you could use the most confidential method of communication that the genius of man has yet developed, and tweet more. Tweeting, you can be assured, is the equivalent of speaking to the ether, a mystical communion between you and your computer that nobody would dare to overhear. And even if someone were ill-mannered enough to actually read your tweets, why worry? There's no chance of being misunderstood: people accustomed to pontificating over 10-minute monologues or 1,000 words have no trouble making themselves clear in 140 characters. If you're too old-world for new media, you could always go back to basics, and shout louder. You cannot go wrong by dialling up the volume, or pitching yourself shriller. The Great Indian Middle Class expects it. We can barely hear things now unless they're Diwali-night loud. Those of you who are forced to rely on the written word, do not despair: exaggeration is the volume button of print. Overstate your case, make impossible predictions, be provocative. Don't worry, nobody will call you on it. Read, retweet, forget.And if you do get caught — claiming something that's proved false later, or talking to someone you shouldn't, or perhaps merely in plagiarism — don't apologise. That just keeps the story going, because the chances are you're so unaccustomed to doing so that you'll do it really badly. Besides, why should you? Does anyone ever own up to solemn predictions that haven't materialised? If they did, then the ideas bazaar would be subject to a little market discipline, the quality would improve for consumers, and we can't have that. We like the bazaar as it is, thanks — though perhaps, as I said, we bazaaris could shout a little louder. Of course, sometimes you get caught, and sometimes you wind up apologising. If that's the case, be creative about yourself. The weirder the excuse, the better. In fact, be creative in general. Be creative about language: let your inspiration be Fatima Bhutto, who said, of Urdu's response to American imperialism, that "it is not a language where we have words for computer, or wi-fi or text messaging. It's not a language that automatically updates itself as others do, like Arabic or French. So samraj is especially important because it literally means the raj of Uncle Sam." There's nothing you can call that sort of creativity but "opinion". The ideas bazaar rewards creativity, if of the right sort. Nobody will take you seriously as a news or opinion peddler, for example, unless you write a novel. Or, if you have greater power of invention than mere novelists, an impressionistic, anecdotal work of pop sociology. It doesn't matter if it's a coming-of-age story about a young small-town journalist discovering the rottenness of metropolitan India, or a return-to-the-motherland story about a young NRI journalist discovering the rottenness of metropolitan India. We are a broadminded society, capable of dealing with variety. However, until we are certain your publisher values you enough to give us free booze at your book launch, we cannot think of you as a public intellectual. India is unique: journalists want to become novelists, and novelists want to become journalists — very effectively confusing the New York Times op-ed page. And, finally, a very important caution: don't be seditious. It isn't clear what sedition is, but don't do it anyway. You may have thought that it's a low-cost way to get Guardian-reading tea-sippers in the West to like you and offer you a fellowship to a small New England liberal arts college, but it turns out we forgot to take it out of our lawbook when Nehru told us to, and the eternal truth about laws is that if they're there, somebody will decide to enforce them. No doubt we'll eventually get round to living without them: New Zealand wound up repealing sedition laws after the Dunedin police, irritated beyond measure by a local bar-owner (who advertised, to match-happy local students, a competition in which the prize was a petrol-soaked couch), found they couldn't get a conviction on "encouragement to arson" — and tried to get him on sedition instead. Of course, our law-and-order institutions are above such underhanded methods, but just to be on the safe side, unless you want to turn into a burning sofa-bed, avoid seditiousness. Far better to say the commonplace, if very loudly. Resolve to make these changes, these seven in 2011, and we won't go wrong. Though, as I said, even if we do go wrong, nobody will notice.









 The Indian sports domain circa 2010 has been nothing if not eventful. Above all else, it has been marked by the demise of one-sport tunnel vision. True, Indian cricket has surpassed itself on-field. With Sachin's much anticipated 50th Test century in his 21st year of international cricket, India's seemingly sustainable top of the totem pole ranking in Tests home and away, and the once-in-a-millennium captain MSD leading the Chennai Superkings to IPL and CL glory, Indian cricket is arguably in impeccable condition. That having been said, cricket no longer seems to possess the aura of unsurpassable invincibility it once did, and there are many reasons for that. In large part, most of those reasons are because of multi-discipline events and the stellar performances of the Indian athletes as a whole, or even in individual sports where many of our athletes and teams are competing with the best that the world has to offer. India as a country, for the first time in recent memory, is hosting multi-nation single- and multi-discipline events that have captured the nation's imagination. And this trend is unlikely to reverse — with an array of different events planned in the coming years, Indian sports, despite the naysayers, are in hale and hearty shape. Sceptics may claim that the Commonwealth Games (CWG) were an expensive lesson in corruption. But not only does this understate the positive impact of investing in Indian sports, it also takes away from the performances India's top athletes churned out with startling consistency. Today, if one were to look at the highlights of the year gone by, without doubt India's performance at the CWG and at the Asian Games in Guangzhou will merit a top-five mention at the very least. There have been a myriad of on-field feel-good stories this year: emerging superstars in wrestling, boxing, badminton, tennis, archery, gymnastics, and of course, athletics. And with established corporate houses/ sports management firms associating with each other and partnering with Indian sports federations, it's only a matter of time before football, basketball, and even hockey, start feeling the windfall effect of privatisation. Then of course there was the landmark moment where an Indian corporate house finally took on the enviable position of being a team owner in the world's most popular league — the English Premier League. With Venkys' acquisition of Blackburn Rovers, Indian football is set to metamorphose, as is the popularity of participatory and competitive football in near future. Taking into account the developments in sports other than cricket, it's hardly surprising that cricket, while still the numero uno sport in India, no longer enjoys the monopoly it once did. Not even in a banner year for on-field cricket, where the on-field plaudits have been plentiful. And this is frightening for cricket, because one gets an eerie feeling that these are the golden years of Indian cricket. With a more diverse talent pool moving to other sports as viable options, cricket may no longer command the premium it once did in terms of career opportunities, or even viewership. Also take into account that India's international success may not be long-term, especially since the stalwarts of cricket — Tendulkar, Dravid, VVS, and even to some extent Zaheer and Harbhajan — are closer to the twilight of their careers, and there don't appear to be too many heirs apparent waiting for their time in the sun. Cricket's future will also depend on how the ICC ODI World Cup pans out for the Indian team, and IPL-IV which follows shortly after will also be treading uncharted territory, with 10 teams and off-field litigation. This could be a sign of a growing eclecticism for the Indian sports fan's palate. Or, it could be a gradual decline for cricket, due to the saturation point having been reached via all three formats, and the professional fixtures adding to an already jam-packed international calendar. It's too soon to speculate, and frankly, it's unnecessary. What matters is that 2010 was the watershed year for Indian sports. Now all other sports will evolve independent of cricket. Cricket will always be our national sport, but there's room for others to emerge as well. The year's top moments in Indian sports speak for themselves. Somdev's unprecedented year, marking the renaissance of Indian tennis ably supported by Rohan Bopanna, Sania Mirza, Sanam Singh, and the old pioneers, Lee and Hesh. Saina showing the grit, determination and patriotism that is the mark of a world champion, and taking badminton's popularity to unprecedented heights. The Indian track and field team making tracks at the CWG and the Asiad in Guangzhou. Sushil Kumar in wrestling, Vijender in boxing. And it is only fitting that the master cartographer mapped his own destiny in 2010, as Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar established himself as one of the greatest sportsmen of all time across sports. The writer is a Delhi-based sports lawyer








Politics in Pakistan took an ugly turn this week, with two major parties attacking each other. It began when PML-N chief, Nawaz Sharif questioned MQM leader Altaf Hussain's recent remark on the need of a revolution in Pakistan. Dawn quoted Sharif on December 27: "Today those who had been defending and supporting a dictator for 11 years are talking about revolution." He also demanded to know why 50 people were killed in Karachi in reaction to MQM leader Dr Imran Farooq's murder in London earlier this year. Daily Times added on December 27: "Nawaz Sharif criticised... Altaf Hussain for supporting dictators and accused the MQM of violence in Karachi." Sharif said this at a rally to launch the PML-N chapter at Muzaffarabad (PoK).


This war of words between PML-N and MQM took a sharp turn when their leaders resorted to unparliamentary language and personal attacks, right outside parliament. PML-N stalwart and opposition leader in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan made some objectionable remarks against MQM chief Altaf Hussain, who had challenged PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif to a live debate on national issues. Khan also said Hussain had been living in the UK for 19 years after taking an oath of allegiance to the Queen and did not come home even when Pakistan was lurching from one disaster to another. Another PML-N leader, Khawaja Asif, according to The News on December 29, "accepted the challenge of an open debate from anywhere in the country, and asked Altaf as to when he was returning home for the purpose." Taking a dig at the MQM chief, Asif also offered to arrange for a Pakistani visa for him since he was a British citizen now. He added that the MQM was the only political party headed by a foreign national. Hussain reportedly announced his intention to get even with PML-N by targeting them in Punjab.


Unsteady government


The grapevine in Pakistan has been predicting the fall of the PPP-led government for many months now. The future of the government remains in a state of flux.


Daily Times reported on December 27: "Sindh Interior Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza said the MQM has joined the government on its own free will and there was no compulsion for any political party to join or quit the government." On December 28, The News reported: "The MQM decided... to part ways with the federal cabinet... The party will take a decision about its future coalition with the PPP in the Sindh government soon." Daily Times quoted President Asif Zardari on Benazir Bhutto's third death anniversary: "Today, I declare this from Garhi Khuda Bukhsh that your government will complete its five years."


On December 29, Daily Times reported that the MQM issued a "final warning" to the PPP: "If the government does not change its attitude for the better, then we will sit on the opposition benches." Zardari deputed interior minister Rehman Malik for brokering peace between the PPP and the MQM. After making a quick trip to MQM headquarters in Karachi, Malik told reporters that "no one can drive a wedge between PPP and the MQM," and that "those who wanted a fight between PPP and MQM will be disappointed."


PM under attack


An irked Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the chief of JUI-F, has demanded that President Zardari remove Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. Dawn quoted him on December 28: "The PM should resign and the PPP should appoint a new one... He has sabotaged the process of reconciliation among coalition partners and his actions have caused political instability in the country."


A cry for answers


On Benazir Bhutto's third death anniversary, PPP workers reportedly questioned their own government for not finding her assassins yet. Dawn reported on December 28 that at a rally organised at Rawalpindi's Liaqat Bagh (the site of Benazir's assassination), the traditional "Jiye Bhutto" slogans were met with "Benazir hum sharminda hain, tere qatil zinda hain"(Benazir, we are ashamed that your assassins are still alive).When top PPP leaders entered the family graveyard of Garhi Khuda Bakhsh at Naudero, the Bhutto family's ancestral village, emotionally charged workers and people repeated this slogan.







Academic life encourages specialisation and technical thinking, and, oddly, there are few fields in which this is more true than philosophy. The discipline that should be of interest to everybody is often the most impenetrable.But occasionally brave philosophers do leap out of their professional lanes and illuminate things for the wider public. Hubert Dreyfus of Berkeley and Sean Dorrance Kelly of Harvard have just done this with their new book, All Things Shining. They take a smart, sweeping run through the history of Western philosophy. But their book is important for the way it illuminates life today and for the controversial advice it offers on how to live.Dreyfus and Kelly start with Vico's old idea that each age has its own lens through which people see the world. In the Middle Ages, for example, "people could not help but experience themselves as determined or created by God." They assumed that God's plans encompassed their lives the way we assume the laws of physics do.For the past hundred years or so, we have lived in a secular age. That does not mean that people aren't religious. It means there is no shared set of values we all absorb as preconscious assumptions. In our world, individuals have to find or create their own meaning.This, Dreyfus and Kelly argue, has led to a pervasive sadness. Individuals are usually not capable of creating their own lives from the ground up. So modern life is marked by frequent feelings of indecision and anxiety. People often lack the foundations upon which to make the most important choices.Dreyfus and Kelly suffer from the usual Cambridge/Berkeley parochialism. They assume that nobody believes in eternal truth anymore. They write as if all of America's moral quandaries are best expressed by the novelist David Foster Wallace. But they are on to something important when they describe the way — far more than in past ages—- sports has risen up to fill a spiritual void.Spiritually unmoored, many people nonetheless experience intense elevation during the magical moments that sport often affords. Dreyfus and Kelly mention the mood that swept through the crowd at Yankee Stadium when Lou Gehrig delivered his "Luckiest Man Alive" speech, or the mood that swept through Wimbledon as Roger Federer completed one of his greatest matches.The most real things in life, they write, well up and take us over. They call this experience "whooshing up." We get whooshed up at a sports arena, at a political rally or even at magical moments while woodworking or walking through nature.Dreyfus and Kelly say that we should have the courage not to look for some unitary, totalistic explanation for the universe. Instead, we should live perceptively at the surface, receptive to the moments of transcendent whooshes that we can feel in, say, a concert crowd, or while engaging in a meaningful activity, like making a perfect cup of coffee with a well-crafted pot and cup.We should not expect these experiences to cohere into a single "meaning of life." Transcendent experiences are plural and incompatible. We should instead cultivate a spirit of gratitude and wonder for the many excellent things the world supplies.I'm not sure this way of living will ever prove satisfying to most readers. Most people have a powerful sense that there is a Supreme Being over us, attached to eternal truths. Though they try, Dreyfus and Kelly don't give us a satisfying basis upon which to distinguish the whooshing some people felt at civil rights rallies from the whooshing others felt at Nazi rallies.But Dreyfus and Kelly might help invert the way we see the world. We have official stories we tell about our culture: each individual is the captain of his own ship. But in practice, willy-nilly, the way we actually live is at odds with the official story. Our most vibrant institutions are collective, not individual or religious. They are there to create that group whoosh: the sports stadium, the concert hall, the political rally, the theatre, the museum and the gourmet restaurant. Even church is often more about the ecstatic whoosh than the theology.The activities often dismissed as mere diversions are actually central. Real life is more about serial whooshes than coherent meaning.We can either rebel against this superficial drift, or like Dreyfus and Kelly, go with the flow, acknowledging that the autonomous life is impossible, not seeking totalistic theologies, but instead becoming sensitive participants in the collective whooshings that life offers.This clarifies the choices before us. This book is also a rejection of the excessive individualism of the past several decades, the emphasis on maximum spiritual freedom. In this, it's a harbinger of future philosophies to come. Our culture is defined by arenas. Our self-conception just hasn't caught up.David brooks







It appears as though the Union minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, sought the perfect finishing touch to the year when he wrote a letter about conflict of interest and parliamentary ethics to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and the Chairman of the Upper House, Hamid Ansari. 2010 was the year that saw his party president boast of the fact that almost half-a-dozen members of her government have resigned on charges of corruption and the prime minister had to "oblige" the nation with a promise to appear before a parliamentary committee, even as he remains in denial mode over the obligation to set up a joint parliamentary committee probe on the 2G spectrum scam, the biggest fraud ever.In the communication to Kumar and Ansari, Ramesh raised ethical issues related to his own department. He called the actions of certain MPs objectionable, and a blatant violation of the norms, and appealed for the speaker's intervention.Ramesh's action brings up many underlying issues that deserve introspection and candour, starting with the fact that he went ahead and categorised members of Parliament as "lobbyists" campaigning for their own projects. He mentioned some who lobby with him despite having nothing to do with certain projects. While most, including the minister, would agree that this not new in our political system, what is of grave concern is the way it is treated as an accepted norm, a simple fact of politics. This is a clear threat to the very spirit of democracy.Having said that, the contents of the letter are, in fact, very disturbing. Ramesh has rightly castigated the members of Parliament who come lobbying for various companies and groups, or for the industires in which they have a stake. However, by framing it in such a way in the letter, Ramesh has cast aspersions on the entire lot of parliamentarians. The blot will remain unless the minister comes out and clarifies the matter by revealing the names of the MPs he is referring to. Every MP has the right to know who these "so called members of Parliament"among them are, the political parties to which they belong, and the projects they have been lobbying for. It is not just a question of ethics, but also a matter of breach of privilege of MPs. It is not just a matter that can remain between the minister and the speaker of the Lok Sabha or the chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Rather, it deserves to be made fully transparent, and the people of the country have a right to know the identities of the MPs against whom Ramesh has made these charges. In the interests of Parliamentary dignity, Ramesh must immediately spell out their names and other details.The minister has gone to the extent of claiming that he tried to discourage them — there are members of Parliament who have been been applying pressure on his ministry, directly approaching officials and virtually trying to coerce them. His claim needs to be investigated.While parliamentary practices do entail seeking information from the concerned ministry through various procedures, and also includes references that might relate within or outside their constituencies, which cannot be denied to MPs, it should be noted that the minister enjoys the privilege to accept or decline recommendations and requests. The issue which has now been raised has major ramifications, going beyond the confines of parliamentary practices.The ethics committees in both Houses of Parliament explicitly demand that any member of Parliament, while raising an issue where she or he might have professional or financial interests (by way of services, or being part of the management or ownership, etc.), should declare these interests before participating in any debate or intervention. But this disclosure is best left to the individual parliamentarian. The extent to which it is heeded can be gauged from the fact that Vijay Mallya, who owns an airline, comfortably remains part of the consultative committee of Parliament on civil aviation. There could be a long list of such individuals who may have a direct or tangential business interest. Given the difficulty of establishing a statutory mechanism to do away with such practices, they are best left to the conscience of an individual MP.Of course, it is a grey area — it is difficult to determine whether an MP extends recommendations for the public or constituency's sake or for commercial interests. The fact that such individuals exist in our midst should not deprive genuine lawmakers the right to seek an appointment with the minister. So greater clarity on the minister's part would help the situation and set do's and don'ts for political transactions in the future. Ramesh has certainly not helped the already damaged reputation of our MPs. The atmosphere of sleaze and open accusations flung at all levels, in the government and outside, begs a big debate.


The writer is a BJP MP in the Rajya Sabha and national spokesperson of the party








 It is sad and ironical that nowadays, politics has lost its direction and also its way. I vividly recall my student days when we joined student movements mainly to protect the best interests of education, and advocated the spreading of literacy awareness. During those days, we believed in building moral character, ideologies and more importantly, in value-based politics, in order to render selfless service to the people, especially the downtrodden. We always stood by the definition of democracy: for the people, by the people and of the people. We always considered ourselves partners in the joys and sorrows of the people. No individual interest mattered to us. We are never for individual vendetta.The political environment has changed drastically over the years. It will be a travesty of the truth if I try to convince you that today's Indian politician continues to retain the endearing qualities of times gone by. It is quite evident that politics has lost its way in the maze of corruption, greed and the naked pursuit of power at the cost of ideology, morality and, above all, the interests of the people. The DNA of Indian politics has changed for the worse, destroying time-tested values like loyalty to the people, probity in public life and the selfless delivery of services. One devastating upshot of the degeneration in politics over the years is the entry of private feuds or vendettas into the political space.My life's vision is primarily divided into four major issues: dedication, determination, devotion, direction — and selflessness. In this connection I quote from the words of the great philosopher Swami Vivekananda: "give me a few selfless men and women and I will shake the world." This statement of Swamiji has tremendously influenced my life and destiny. I always believe that selfless people can build our society. But what do we need today to make our politics a value-based one, so that it can be more acceptable to people? The major emphasis must be on transparent, vibrant, sincere, good performers; honest people, who can provide for and build a better future around us.I am not an astrologer, so I shall refrain from making a prediction in regard to the shape of things to come because of the erosion of values all around. As I keep saying, at times at the risk of tiring some of you, politics is all about the people; whose affection, trust and support for a lifetime you can hope to earn only by listening to what their heartbeats try to convey. I am afraid there is no other option available.In this context, I am a strong believer that the media has to play a pivotal role of bringing the right kind of person into politics: those with a human face and total commitment to the people, with unblemished track records and the ability to lead from the front. The kind of person that is fighting against money power and living with high honesty should be encouraged by the media not only during the election, but throughout the year, relentlessly.The dynamics of a political party are sharply different from those of the corporate sector. The corporate sector has a history of its own identity, ideology, philosophy, plans of action and vision; but political parties are based on commitment and obligation to the people. And above all, political parties must be the main pillars of national development. Political institutions lead the nation, and should be regarded as the lifeline of the nation. Further, the urges of human beings — their competing aspirations, notions of governance and demands for delivery of services — cannot be measured in terms of profit and loss. The corporate sector, which I think is playing a critical role in ensuring material progress, nevertheless has goals that cannot be readily fused with those of a political party.Politics as of now has lost most of the above skills and is lagging behind. Politics also, in the long run, has lost its credibility in democratic India. For a better tomorrow, a better future to come, we need to scrap politicians with heartless, decorative faces. They do not do politics from their heart's core. They can not read the "sound of music" of our people. Future generations of politicians must re-acquire the skills of listening to our people, reading their minds. They must work towards "bridging" the people and the government, not be election-oriented.In today's scenario, a vacuum is observable in our leadership. Who can provide statesmanship? We need real leaders in our country, who can take bold decisions fearlessly and with pro-people thinking; who can initiate brave action with the involvement of our people; who are capable of understanding the feelings of mankind; and for whom concern for the well-being of our people causes them to work towards improving their quality of life. What gives a "stable government", provides "good governance"? I strongly feel the future generation of politicians must be from among those with qualitative skills — and with minds of genuine humanism. Unless we have such people, how will they understand how to manage our vast human assets? How will they provide quality services to people?India is a vast nation, with different religions, castes, creeds. The political activist should work on ensuring every one of us remains united, on correcting and nurturing the bonds of our society. My vision of the future is one in which all levels and sections of the population, and all parties of the country march forward together into a more secured and prosperous future.Let us focus on political parties. There is no gainsaying that almost all our entities are election-oriented. We do not do the job throughout the year. "Showcase" development that is purely election-focused cannot do justice to, and deliver the "goods" for the people. The end of our politics should be a commitment to people; it must be people-, nor election-oriented. The government's role would be to translate those goals into reality.We can see that "lobby" culture hampers our administration's attempts to provide good governance. The culture of placing one's "own man" sacrifices the excellence of our administrative support. This has certainly created a great deal of difficulty for our aim of good governance.To conclude: we will give more thrust to our planning process. We will divide our strategy into short and long term goals. We will have an action plan; review it for the betterment of our people; be constantly watchful. Do not forget that today's thinking must be tomorrow's vision, and think: what should be the vision for the next decade or so?We all must remember, above all, to protect the constitutional rights: ie, the right to speech, and the right to freedom.Our main motto will be "food for all, jobs for all, smiles for all", and that we will take care of Maa, Mati, Manush.


The writer is the leader of the Trinamool Congress










In the early 1990s, despite having founded Bharti in 1976 (at the age of 18, his bio tells us), Sunil Mittal was still pretty much a nobody from Ludhiana. Grit, perseverance, and a lot more, is what kept the businessman going, moving from making bicycle crankshafts with Rs 20,000 from his father, to importing Suzuki gensets before graduating to push-button phones. He struck it lucky in 1993 when the telecom minister Sukh Ram gave out mobile licences in metros without charging anything upfront (Mittal got Delhi in a 'beauty parade'), moved on to greater heights when the government decided to replace the fixed licence-fee regime with a revenue-share one in 1999; he never got fazed when Ram Vilas Paswan did a big favour to the fixed-line licence players by allowing them to offer what was called Wireless in Local Loop (WLL) mobile services in 2001—this lowered the attractiveness of mobile licences and a canny Mittal snapped up several in an auction; in 2003, when Arun Shourie legalised the abuse of WLL and converted it into full-blown mobility, Mittal used the opportunity to get the government to implement Calling Party Pays, which removed a very big advantage the WLL-players had. In the middle, there were unsavory stories of influence peddling, but Mittal survived it all, moved from being a nobody with no money to getting around 14 foreign partners to bankroll his ventures—he grew the business so much, not one left unhappy.


Today, as he's humbled all rivals, and battled A Raja's blatant favouritism, the question being asked as he headed out to Africa: did he leave because regulatory favouritism killed the business or did he leave because, after a certain size, Indian firms just have to go looking for new markets overseas? Naturally, it's a combination of the two. In any case, Mittal continues to invest a lot here (he just spent Rs 13,000 crore on buying thirteen 3G licences) and is reinventing Bharti to become an entertainment company, a money transfer agent, a debit card, a bank…


All of which is really India's story, of humble beginnings, of grit, of attracting foreign investors, of controversies, of political patronage, of superb managerial and technological talent so high class the developed world is vying for it. All of which ties in with the ingredients we've lined up for you on this opinion page spread today. Shobhana points to the role of stock markets and foreign investors, the same ones that continue to bankroll Mittal, in India's growth story. India's so hot, she says, that if equity funds just moved gear to neutral, this would result in a lot more billions pouring in.


Investors, needless to say, aren't here to eat, pray, love. Shailesh explains the move from the early 1990s when FDI was restricted to the Perfettis and Kelloggs coming in with $50-odd mn to 2010 when Bharti alone spent $10.7 bn to buy Zain. Though India continues to have abysmal education standards on the whole (see the oped page package today), Shailesh points to enough graduates coming out of colleges, and enough R&D in select pockets, for India's patents to shoot up. As a result of India Inc pulling itself by its bootstraps—21 firms have Deming prizes and 153 the TPM award from the Japan Institute of Plant Maintenance (JIPM)—we've reached a stage where around 40% of what India Inc produces is exported.


The impact of all of this, as Arvind tells us, is the sharp surge in consumer spending ($700 bn more by 2020); NCAER-CMCR talks of how 37% of Indians will be middle-class by 2025 and McKinsey sketches the impact of India's huge urbanisation that will see the equivalent of a Chicago being constructed each year from now to 2030. Combine this huge surge in demand—for licences, for land, for clearances—and you understand the surge in corruption that the political class is so ham-handedly trying to cover up. You could worry about this or you could keep in mind that, as the middle class becomes dominant, it demands a different value system, a different type of politician, more focused on clean, more focused on delivery—Poonam Gupta and Arvind Panagariya's study on the oped page traces some of this.


As in business, so in politics. Barring the top 3 or 4, the list of India's 10 richest businessmen has changed each decade, and even the top 3 or 4 are constantly reinventing themselves—newcomer DoCoMo forced Sunil Mittal to lower tariffs and its 3G tariffs will determine his. There's a lesson in there for our political class to read, to understand, to emulate. As FE's tagline puts it, Read to Lead. Have a great year ahead!










A nation that has a rich history of more than 5,500 years, since the beginning of the Indus Valley civilisation,

has obviously been through several extraordinary years, decades, and centuries. Yet perhaps how India manages the coming decade will probably give an indication of how the nation could fare in the rest of the 21st century. Indeed, the last 10 years give little indication of how the next 10 will play out, simply because a number of changes, some not connected directly, are all likely to converge during this coming decade to create many tipping points, whether they relate to socio-economic and political landscape or to consumer behaviour and private consumption.


From private consumption perspective, India has been seeing a sustained expansion of a number of categories across which Indian consumers, all but those at the fringes of poverty line and those with incomes just allowing consumption on basic necessities, are allocating their disposable spending. From 9 categories that accounted for 80% of private consumption in 1991, there are now 22, and in the coming decade some more will be added. Indeed, if the economy continues to grow at about 8% for each of the next 10 years, then at today's prices and exchange rates, the discretionary private consumption shall cross $1.2 tn by 2020 of the total private consumption projected at about $1.7 tn by then.


With this remarkable addition of more than $700 bn (at today's prices) in consumers' hands by 2020 compared to what they had in 2010, India will see a noticeable increase in the depth of spending within each category of spending. This is already visible in categories such as automobiles, consumer electronics, clothing & footwear, travel & leisure and even education, where there are enough consumers at all price points from deep value to ultra-premium and luxury—with strong growth across all segments.


Further, while there will be a very remarkable increase in consumer incomes across almost the entire spectrum of the population, for those in the top 50 mn households of the 250 mn expected in 2020, their spending will dramatically shift towards spending on lifestyle and aspirational categories, which include housing & home decor, health & wellbeing, travel & leisure, education & coaching, including those related to hobbies, grooming, eating out and other forms of entertainment and recreation. Hence, the next decade shall see an unprecedented boom in start-up/growth of lifestyle-focused goods and services.


Very interestingly, most of this new lifestyle consumption consumes not only financial resources but also another strictly finite resource—'time'. Indian consumers, again across all socio-economic strata but the very rich or the very poor, will be the time-poorest ever. This time poverty will be further accentuated on account of a large quantum of women (especially in urban India) entering a career-oriented workforce (different from sheer manual labour-oriented workforce), be it in BPOs, retail, healthcare, grooming, or dozens of other vocations across dozens of industries. Hence, saving time will perhaps have the same priority for most as saving money.


This will transform the consumption and consumption-channel landscape beyond recognition. The Gayatri mantra of success for those engaged in consumer goods and services industries would be 'convenience'. Whatever/whoever can save time for the consumer relating to product information, purchase decision, product or service acquisition, transaction and utilisation will be the preferred product and the preferred supplier.


Coupled with generational changes, technological and telecommunication enablers, increasing traffic congestion across most major urban centres, and increasing paucity of land for traditional (brick & mortar) retail per se, the next decade shall see an unprecedented compacting of the value chain from the producer/delivery provider of most consumer goods and services to the end- consumer, with even a question mark coming up over the very raison d'être for conventional retail as we are used to seeing it today. Instead, India should see the emergence of some very strong new business models where most producers may directly compete for getting the attention and the business of their consumers rather than going through intermediaries such as retailers or be an aggregator of different types of goods and services across multiple consumption categories with a levy of a transaction charge for their facilitation, rather than the conventional retail mark-ups that are taken for granted today.


Like all other epochal eras of the past, the next one—the coming decade—will ruthlessly displace those who are mere spectators of these changes, and will throw up new winners who will either enthusiastically straddle these changes or even better, force the pace of some of these changes!

—The author is chairman of Technopak Advisors Pvt Ltd








Corporate India's two decade old journey, post economic liberalisation in 1991, is a story of many parts. The sudden opening up of the economy to global influences, as a result of balance of payment crisis, initially stunned the hitherto insular industry into immobility, even denial. The Bombay Club, that famous protectionist group of leading Indian industrialists, with the indomitable Rahul Bajaj as its head, is now a business legend, symptomatic of the broader feeling of inadequacy amongst a large swathe of Indian businesses in early 1990s in taking on global competition that has started crowding our shores post-liberalisation.


Luckily, this tendency to hang on to the vestiges of the licence permit raj, where the market was assured once you build it (consumer goods, industrial machinery, chemicals, well just about everything), didn't last long. Forced into the new business order, India Inc quickly learned to restructure its financial, people and process management to remain domestically competitive. Mid- to late-1990s was the period of great churn that defined new ways of tackling old businesses, whether it was technology emphasis on total quality management, six sigma et al, struggle with the concept of core competence that saw many businesses being put on block, or even professionalising management. Though still minuscule by global standards, patents awarded in the country to Indian inventors (mostly, companies), jumped almost 10-fold between 1991 and 2008, from 379 to 3,173. Even at the US patent office, patents filed by India have moved up from 51 in 1991 to 2,387 in 2007. Indian businesses were becoming leaner, meaner and globally more efficient, even as the tech meltdown of late 1990s and early 2000s has started chiselling away at the invincibility of many big global corporations. Slow economic growth in the western world started pushing global money into high-growth markets like India, Brazil, China and Southeast Asia, diversifying the source of finance for India Inc, hitherto just bank-centric. A deepening and widening of the capital markets brought with it certain global statutory and advisory best practices that enabled India Inc to adopt better governance, disclosure, risk and financial management practices. With public and foreign money becoming critical to businesses, ownership too became diversified.


Whilst in 1991, the count of listed companies on the BSE was under 1,200, currently it numbers over 3,200. FIIs own over 14% of the Rs 71 lakh-crore-odd market capitalisation on BSE, from nil back in 1991. Venture capital and private equity, just about absent in 1991, invested over $17 billion at its peak in 2007, and $8 billion so far this year. By the early 2000s, a decade of living and surviving in an open economy gave confidence to Indian businesses that they can compete with the best globally, and enabled them to plug more closely into the global business supply chains. Indian companies, big and small, in information technology, IT-enabled services, textiles, pharmaceutical and auto components went global with a vengeance, looking for new customers and suppliers. The concomitant  revolution in telecommunication technology and business, both in India and globally, enabled Indian IT/ITeS companies to build global scale by delivering engineering services remotely. The changing structure of Indian economy into services threw up new players—in telecom, financial services, healthcare, retail, etc. Though the much-needed labour reforms that could have given an impetus to manufacturing didn't materialise, and the biggest hope here in SEZs quickly soured due to issues of land acquisition and policy gaffes, manufacturing, in spite of all the Doubting Thomases, managed to keep its share intact in economic value added, from 14.9% in 1991 to 16.1% in 2009-10. And in many industries, like pharmaceutical and small cars, India did manage to become a significant global sourcing base, leveraging on its humongous domestic market to build scale. Even while local businesses like cement witnessed entry of global players such as Lafarge and Holcim, success at competing with the the global best in India gave ambition to many Indian businesses that started building a global footprint, largely through acquisitions—starting perhaps with Tata Tea's acquisition of UK's Tetley in 2000 to Bharti's $10-billion Zain buy in Africa this year.


A 2009 study by BCG lists 20 Indian companies as the new global challengers for industry leadership, and the number of Fortune 500 companies from India stand at 8 compared to just one or two back in 1991. Such a huge change within just 20 years. Surely, the Bombay Club must have been a 'media imagination' as its 'alleged' key players now maintain.










It's been quite a spectacular year for the Sensex. Even if the market hasn't outperformed all its peers, the benchmark has returned a reasonably good dollar-adjusted return of 18.5%, in the process scaling a new peak. And notwithstanding the end of the Goldilocks-like environment, in which domestic demand remained strong but the cost-push impact was subdued, thanks to a weak global economy, India remains a good bet for investors. For sure, the growth momentum could taper off in 2011-12 with GDP coming in at 8.3-8.4%, as it probably would in the rest of Asia, too, primarily because global recovery seems to be delayed and also because a tighter monetary policy could hurt domestic demand at the margin. But an upturn in the investment cycle, momentum in consumer demand and an improving world economy should give the GDP a push in the following year, so that it clocks a growth of close to 9%. In this kind of a scenario, India should continue to be among the fastest growing nations and it's precisely this that has pulled in foreign portfolio flows of about $29 bn in 2010, driving up the country's market capitalisation to $1.6 tn.


At a broader level, the contrast in the economic and credit outlook between emerging markets (EM) and the advanced economies is becoming more pronounced, thanks to the deteriorating public finances of several European nations. Fitch reported last week that while capital flows to fast-growing EMs do pose challenges, with respect to monetary and exchange rate policies, the outlook for EM sovereign credit ratings is broadly positive. So several EMs, especially India, could continue to get re-rated. Currently, the majority of fund managers globally are underweight for a variety of reasons. Data suggests that global funds or those benchmarked to the MSCI World, put together, have about 0.65% of their assets in India, implying an underweight position of 0.38% compared with the benchmark weight of 1.03%. As such, even increasing the weightage to neutral could mean an additional inflow of nearly $7 bn, going by the fact that these funds today have a corpus of over $1.5 tn. It's these expected inflows that may drive up market capitalisation of countries like India; Goldman Sachs projects that the BRIC countries will have a 30% share of world equity capitalisation by 2020, from 18% currently. Indeed, with the liquidity from QE-2 expected to leak into EMs rather than find users in the US, it's possible the share of BRIC nations will go up faster than expected. In India, strong corporate earnings, estimated to average 20% for the broad market over the next few years, should support a P/E growth of 20%, so that the market continues to trade at least at current multiples.


Among the biggest pickings from the market have been by the government, which has almost pulled off its Rs 40,000 crore disinvestment target for 2010-11. But India Inc has gained enormously from the approximately $80 bn or so that foreign funds have invested in Indian equities between 2004 and now, and from the contribution of domestic players, both institutional and retail. If a Coal India shovelled Rs 15,000 crore into its kitty, DLF went home with Rs 9,000 crore-plus in June 2007, while Reliance Power had investors all charged up with its Rs 11,500 crore IPO in early 2008. Even when the chips were down, after August 2008, blue-chip companies like Tata Motors and Hindalco were able to pick up money from the markets. With the wealth effect growing, there will only be greater retail participation in the Indian markets, whether directly or via mutual funds and insurance companies, and this will supplement foreign flows.


The short point is that firms need not fear being short of equity; the Indian market today is a good hunting ground for risk capital and that's good news for investment, which doesn't seem to be doing well. From the average of 18% during March 2004-March 2008, growth in real investment turned negative to -1% during the global financial crisis; the average growth has rebounded to 11% in the last three quarters (December 2009-June 2010) but remains below the pre-crisis period average. That's despite the fact that corporate balance sheets are in great shape with a fourth of all companies sitting on cash surpluses and the cost of capital, while rising, still relatively low. The market, however, is clearly willing to back investment; newcomer Adani Power walked away with no less than Rs 3,000 crore. Now it's up to India Inc.









The world's growing riches seem to make little difference to over 100 million people globally as they slide into poverty every year because of healthcare costs. One of the unsolved conundrums in many countries is the inability to provide for universal healthcare coverage, despite economic growth and development. While the financial consequences of illness are severe for many in poorer countries that do not have appropriate systems in place, those in richer nations are by no means immune from this malady. Researchers at Harvard have made the point that illness or medical bills were behind 62 per cent of personal bankruptcies in the United States in 2007. In India, high spending on health is a major reason for people sliding into poverty. Inadequate state delivery systems mean India's private expenditure on health accounts for 72 per cent of the total health expenditure. Moreover, with poor re-financing options, a staggering 89.5 per cent of this private health expenditure is met out of pocket, from the immediately available funds of individuals. Coming up with viable financing methods, therefore, is an urgent requirement for many countries, including India. The World Health Organisation makes a timely intervention by calling for reforms in the way nations finance healthcare in its World Health Report — Health systems financing: the path to universal coverage.


Any policy that aims at reducing personal financial burden related to healthcare should focus on bringing down the direct payments by the individual. This means a change in who pays for healthcare, now borne overwhelmingly by individuals in countries that have weak government-paid healthcare systems. The question of 'who-else-should-pay' gives itself two choices globally: integration of provision and payment, which calls for a lead role by governments; and an institutionally separate agency, say, an insurer or a government body that pays for healthcare on behalf of individuals. In India, there has been an increase in the share of private insurance to meet private health expenditure, up from 1.1 per cent in 1995 to 2.2 per cent in 2008. But this is no substitute for the state's role in providing basic, affordable healthcare. The report's suggested domestic options for innovative financing — for instance, diaspora bonds, and a minimal tax on foreign exchange transactions in currency markets (0.005 per cent in the case of India) — are timely as they could help governments fund better state-provided healthcare. Revenues raised from such measures should be used for putting in place strong and affordable delivery systems, particularly in the two important areas of primary and preventive healthcare.







Can an experiment conceived, carried out, and reported in kids-speak with pencil-coloured figures and hand-written tables by school children aged 8 to 10 years get published in a highly rated international journal following a peer-reviewing process? Twenty-seven schoolchildren from the Blackawton Primary School in Devon, U.K., have proved this is possible — if a simple but novel scientific question raised is answered in a scientific way. Their paper was published in the Royal Society's Biology Letters journal ("Blackawton bees," by P.S. Blackawton et al: The objective was to test if bumblebees, once trained, could remember the visual pattern based on colour and choose the correct holes representing sugar water. The bees were first trained using a grid containing 16 holes in a 4x4 array, with the inner four holes containing sugar water and set to blue and the outer 12 holes containing salt water and set to yellow, and vice versa. They were then tested using the same and also a new pattern of colours, and retested using a new colour. The finding was that bumble-bees can use a "combination of colour and spatial relationships in deciding which colour of flower to forage from." Considering that our understanding of how bees perceive coloured patterns and scenes is inadequate, this inspiring outcome has shown that schoolchildren guided by gifted teachers can think and carry out experiments like any hard-wired scientist. An accompanying commentary ("Blackawton bees: commentary on Blackawton, P.S. et al." by Laurence T. Maloney and Natalie Hempel de Ibarra) notes that the experiments were "modest in scope but cleverly and correctly designed."


For these kids, doing science changed their perception of the subject. Science also became "cool and fun." This refreshing approach turns the spotlight on the best methods of teaching science. The rote learning system adopted by most schools in India, even classroom study combined with some laboratory work with pre-defined outcomes, does very little to stimulate curiosity and interest in science. Is that one of the reasons why out-of-the-box thinking that produces path-breaking science rarely comes out of Indian laboratories? The children at Blackawton had their gifted teacher, and R. Beau Lotto, a neuroscientist and co-author from University College, London, to guide them. Scientists from India's space and atomic energy departments and in some other places where serious science is done can take a leaf out of Blackawton's book and lead the way in engaging with school pupils and getting them to do real science.










If the Radia tapes are dominating the public debate in India, it is a controversy over the secretly taped conversations of several senior Liberal Democrat Ministers that is rocking Britain. The tapes were leaked by a national newspaper to reveal the scale of divisions in the seven-month old Tory-led coalition. Wittily dubbed the "Libileaks," the tapes show that behind the facade of public unity the coalition is actually in the grip of a virtual civil war with many on both sides seething with resentment. What, until now, was sought to be dismissed as media speculation or rumours is now official — on record and straight from the horse's mouth.


The jury is still out on how damaging the revelations may prove to be for the coalition in the long run but their timing caused a huge embarrassment to Prime Minister David Cameron and his Lib Dem deputy Nick Clegg. The leaks came just when they were about to hold a joint year-end press conference to list their government's achievements. In the event what was meant to have been a celebration of Britain's first coalition in 70 years (there were mince pies and mulled wine on offer) turned into an inquisition by journalists.


The sting operation was mounted by The Daily Telegraph, a pro-Tory newspaper, which sent two young undercover women reporters to Lib Dem Ministers posing as voters in their respective constituencies wishing to learn about their experience of working with the Tories. Apparently, minutes into the meeting(s) and the Ministers were pouring their hearts out to the reporters telling them how they hated being in the same room as the Tories and how their policies were just "not right" or were "blatantly" unfair.


One Minister confided how he was "gobsmacked" by the Tories' decision to scrap child benefit for higher rate taxpayers; another said he could not work with his senior Tory boss, Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, "for very long." Another complained that the Tory Chancellor, George Osborne, had the "capacity to get up one's nose;" and one told the undercover reporters, "I don't want you to trust David Cameron."


Transport Minister Norman Baker likened the role of Lib Dems in the coalition to the moderates who fought South Africa's apartheid regime from within.


"I always think in South African terms, should you be Nelson Mandela, outside the system, campaigning for it to be changed, or should you be Helen Suzman, who's my … one of my political heroes. Helen Suzman was in the apartheid regime when everybody was male and white and horrible actually. She got stuck in there in the South African parliament in the apartheid days as the only person there to oppose it. She stood up and championed that from inside,'' he said.


The most damaging comments, though, came from Business Secretary Vince Cable, a party veteran who is not only regarded as one of the safest hands in the government but whose presence in the coalition lends it legitimacy in the eyes of grassroots Lib Dems. In remarks that surprised even his admirers for their sheer naïveté, Mr. Cable boasted that he had the power to bring down the government. Working with the Tories was like a "war," he said, but claimed he had the "nuclear option" to destroy them.


"Can I be very frank with you ... I have a nuclear option, it's like fighting a war. They know I have nuclear weapons, but I don't have any conventional weapons. If they push me too far then I can walk out of the government and bring the government down and they know that," he said.


Observers were puzzled how someone so highly regarded for his sagacity and judgment — he is referred to as "St. Vince" — could have fallen into the trap. "Picture the scene in Dr. Cable's constituency office on the fateful day," wrote The Observer columnist Andrew Rawnsely, "Two young women walk in off the street to seek from Vince his private opinions about the coalition. Is there a twitch in his antennae for trouble? Does he raise his guard? Does he for a moment wonder whether the femmes fatales might be undercover reporters? No, there is a meltdown in the brain of the great sage and evaporated is every ounce of the commonsense and judgment for which he was once hailed."


The Lib Dems' candid confessions have been interpreted in two ways. One is that they were simply trying to impress their supposed constituents by telling them that they were not enjoying being in power but were doing it in the larger national interest. The second, closer to the truth, is that the episode merely confirmed what was widely suspected — that for all the show of unity the coalition is a shambles with the partners barely tolerating each other.


As Janet Street-Porter wrote in The Independent: "There are no surprises in the ensuing revelations — just confirmation of what many of us suspected: that working with people you hadn't even planned on getting engaged to, let alone sharing the bed with, is difficult. Every day, you have to bite your lip and pretend to the outside world (the media) that your shotgun marriage is working reasonably well and you're all chums. Deep down, you harbour seething resentment …''


Coming back to Messrs Cameron and Clegg's press conference. The pair (in Westminster Village they are known as the coalition's "golden couple" because of their great personal chemistry) tried valiantly to put a gloss on the episode by talking about the "dynamics" of coalition politics and how two parties with their own distinct policies and identities were bound to have different views. The important thing was that they had agreed to work together to provide political stability at a time when the country, going through a bruising recession, needed it most.


"Shock, horror, two different parties have different ideas," said Mr. Clegg trying to make light of his Ministers' criticism of Tory policies.


Mr. Cameron said rhetorically: "Do we in this coalition have disagreements, arguments, which we work out in private and then make announcements in public? Yes we do. I would say judge the coalition on the record of what it's done. We couldn't do that without a good working relationship and a very strong team in the Cabinet."


But if the two thought the worst was over, they were in for a shock. Even as they were trying to gather their breath after a gruelling media encounter, the BBC dropped a bomb-shell. It said it had got hold of a particularly damaging part of Mr. Cable's taped conversation that the Telegraph had withheld. In it, the Business Secretary claimed that he had "declared war" on Rupert Murdoch and "blocked" his bid to acquire full control of BSkyB, the satellite broadcaster that runs the Sky TV network. (Mr Murdoch's company has a 39 per cent stake in it and wants to acquire the remaining 61 per cent in the face of strong opposition from other media groups which fear that given that Mr. Murdoch already owns some of Britain's most important newspapers including The Times and The Sun, the proposed takeover would have serious and far-reaching consequences for media plurality.)


In the tapes, he tells the reporters who are heard giggling: "I have blocked it using the powers that I have got … I can't politicise it but from the people that know what is happening this is a big, big thing ... So there are things like that we do in government, that we can't do ... all we can do in [the] opposition is protest."


This was politically explosive stuff. For as Business Secretary, Mr. Cable had a quasi-judicial role over Mr Murdoch's bid and his remarks were seen to breach the principle of impartiality he was obliged to observe. Within hours, he was stripped of his responsibility for media and telecommunications. An angry Downing Street, describing his remarks as "unacceptable," announced that Mr. Cable would "play no further part in the decision over News Corporation's proposed takeover of BSkyB." The issue would now be dealt with by the Tory Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, a self-confessed admirer of Mr. Murdoch and happily disposed towards his bid. So the unintended consequence of Mr. Cable's premature boast may be that it is Mr. Murdoch who actually ends up winning the "war."


Embarrassing as all this has been for the coalition, questions are being asked about the ethics of the Telegraph's tactics. The PCC has received more than 20 complaints arguing that a sting operation of this nature is justified only when undertaken in aid of public interest and that in this case no public interest was involved.


There are also fears that this could undermine the trust between MPs and their constituents. For now, though, the episode has exposed the true state of the coalition's health.









rdon, or Pakistan's blasphemy laws are amended, Aasia Bibi is a marked woman. Ironically, more so because of the attention her case has drawn over the past month-and-a-half after a sessions court in the Nankana Sahib district of Punjab sentenced her to death under Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) for allegedly making derogatory remarks against the Prophet in an argument with women from her village.


The argument began after two women refused to drink water from a glass Aasia Bibi had touched because, according to them, it had been defiled due to her faith and caste. This was in 2009. In early November 2010 the sessions court announced the death sentence, triggering yet another debate on the dreaded blasphemy laws, which, according to the last report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, had come to haunt even the Muslims as rivals sects of Islam had begun to use the provisions against each other.


Being a Christian, her case, as a lawyer put it, seems to have bothered the conscience of the international community and condemnation from overseas, including the Vatican, was quick to come. President Asif Ali Zardari — himself a member of the minority Shia community — asked the federal Ministry of Minority Affairs to conduct an enquiry. He also constituted a committee under the Minister, calling upon religious experts, intellectuals and others to suggest amendments to the blasphemy laws.


Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer visited Aasia Bibi in Sheikhupura jail, where he addressed a press conference with the death row designate sitting beside him. In front of the media, she put her thumb impression on the mercy petition that Mr. Taseer was to submit to the President. Meanwhile, civil rights organisations took to the streets.


The "religious" right-wing parties were not far behind, calling for street-wide protests on Christmas-eve, a shutter-down strike on New Year's Eve and a public meeting in Karachi next month to protect the blasphemy laws.


All this attention has actually put Aasia Bibi's life in jeopardy, lament some opposed to the blasphemy laws. "If the sessions court convicted her, so what? Appeal. There is a High Court, there is the Supreme Court. Instead, Salman Taseer generated unwelcome publicity regarding this case at the cost of a woman who the government does not have the courage to support now," rued the former federal Law Minister, Iqbal Haider.


Academic and human rights activist Farzana Bari said she was "extremely disturbed and shocked how Aasia's life has been put on the altar of political expediency". But, while she was supportive of the move to amend the blasphemy laws, she said it ought to have been raised at the time of the 18th Amendment when the entire Constitution was under review. "It is unfortunate that this highly sensitive and controversial issue has been raised around the unfortunate case of Aasia whose chances of release are further reduced by this controversy."


Their fears are not unwarranted. While no one has been executed in Pakistan under Section 295C of the PPC, the National Commission for Justice and Peace has recorded that 34 people — many of them Muslims — have been murdered for alleged blasphemy by individuals or mobs since 1986 when this clause was introduced by the Parliament elected under military dictator Zia-ul Haq's supervision.


Most of the victims were booked under the blasphemy laws — including Section 295B for defiling the Koran — and at least seven of them were killed or "committed suicide" under police watch. There have even been instances when judges who ordered the acquittal of blasphemy accused could not escape the fury of vigilantes. A most chilling instance according to the Jinnah Institute — one of the many organisations that have called for a review of Aasia Bibi's case and repeal of the blasphemy laws — is the murder of Lahore High Court judge Arif Iqbal Bhatti in 1997 for acquitting two Christian boys sentenced to death for blasphemy by a lower court.


So, in or out of prison, the fate of people booked under the blasphemy laws remains uncertain "as the 'religious' right-wing — despite never having won a majority at the polls — wields disproportionate street power", primarily because the majority prefers to look the other way. Aasia Bibi's impoverished husband and children have been on the run and now the primary concern of civil rights activists is her protection, especially with rewards being announced by hardline clerics for anyone who kills her in case she gets acquitted/pardoned and threats being issued to those who dare suggest amendments.


Under the circumstances, even die-hard optimists among civil rights activists have given up on repeal. According to lawyer Asad Jamal, "the time to seriously pursue repeal has not arrived; though it is good to keep suggesting that such laws will ultimately have to be repealed. But let's settle for amendments for now. It is simple politics. If you can't kill the snake, try taking out the sting. Sherry Rehman's proposed changes aim to take out most of the venom. I think a government besieged from all corners cannot be expected to even amend these laws. A government led by Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) is not likely to take up this cause. Other than PPP, Awami National Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement, no party can be expected to join hands to alter these laws. And, right now even that is not possible."


This is a widely held view. "I don't think our federal government, which is presently hostage to ethnic and sectarian militants, would even think of preventing misuse of the blasphemy law by incorporating necessary amendments in section 295C of PPC or consider adopting administrative measures to prevent this rampant misuse of blasphemy law in Pakistan to satisfy all kinds of prejudices of the complainants in vast majority of cases. This is unfortunately a most painful state of affairs," laments Mr. Haider who, as part of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's Cabinet, had attempted to amend the law in 1994 in vain.


In fact, even the discourse that Ms Rehman had hoped her Private Member's Bill would provoke in the National Assembly did not happen because of the delay in it being taken up. And on Wednesday, two days ahead of the shutter-down strike called by 'religious' right-wing parties and organisations, federal Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khursheed Shah reiterated the government's commitment to the blasphemy laws on the floor of the National Assembly and clearly distanced the administration from the Private Member's Bill; more so because Ms. Rehman belongs to the PPP.


A main change that her Bill proposes is doing away with the death sentence in 295C of PPC since this has been highly misused to settle scores. Statistics testify this. In the 60 years after 1927 — when 295A was introduced in the Penal Code, and still remains both in India and Pakistan, to prohibit blasphemy towards all religions and holy persons — there were less than 10 reported cases of blasphemy. Since 1986, when 295C was added, nearly 1,000 people have been charged with blasphemy.


What Ms Rehman's Bill proposes is removing ambiguities in the law that provide scope for abuse and reducing punishments while introducing penalties for making allegations to settle personal scores. Also, the Bill proposes removal of trial of cases under 295A-C from the sessions courts to High Courts as they are always under a higher degree of public scrutiny. Besides, as the Member of National Assembly points out, sessions courts very often come under pressure; they get filled with mobs that pressurise the judges.


With the "religious" right-wing parties mounting pressure on the government against amending the blasphemy laws, civil rights activists are making an effort to rally together across the country to mobilise opinion under the banner of 'Citizens for Democracy'. At the risk of coming across as pro-government, member organisations feel it is important to show visible support to the PPP-led federal dispensation in its initial intent to amend the blasphemy laws and, for now, view the Minister's turnaround as an attempt to diffuse a potentially volatile situation.


Their mission is not easy in a country where any criticism of the blasphemy laws is immediately billed by the "religious" right wingers as "anti-Islamic". Some are openly citing the example of the murder of the LHC judge to threaten the government and legislators. And, a petition has already been filed in the LHC asking it to stop Parliament from discussing any amendment to the blasphemy laws.


Such being the odds, civil rights organisations are banking on Mr. Zardari, citing the manner in which he pushed through the Human Organs Transplant Law despite stiff opposition. But, that was a long haul. This promises to be even more uphill; all the more now that PPP's biggest coalition partner the MQM, which may have supported the amendments to maintain its secular credentials, has left the Cabinet with the threat to withdraw support to the government at a time of its choosing.








Politically speaking, not a lot changed and not a lot was solved in 2010. Economic hard times, disappointment with an underachieving Barack Obama, the familiar bloody slog in Afghanistan, lack of progress on climate change, sabre-rattling in east Asia and stalemate in West Asia made it a year many will be happy to forget.


But because so many problems will carry over, 2010 was also a year of living dangerously. It ends with the uncomfortable thought: that was bad, but 2011 could be worse.


Peacemakers — Blessed they may be, but it was not a good year for them. Perhaps the biggest flop, and certainly the most widely predicted, was the U.S. administration's failure to secure an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, or even the prospect of one. Perhaps the biggest success was the relative calm achieved in Zimbabwe by the power-sharing government after years of vicious internecine strife.


For a while, in West Asia, it seemed momentum was with Mr. Obama and his special envoy, George Mitchell. But the Americans soon ran into all the familiar roadblocks, epitomised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's inability, or unwillingness, to extend a moratorium on new building in the occupied territories — a key Palestinian precondition for direct negotiations.


Efforts to end the war in Afghanistan through dialogue with the elusive, many-headed Taliban were much debated but produced no tangible results. President Hamid Karzai, the Pakistani military, Afghan exiles, the U.N. and western officials were all reportedly engaged in negotiations of one kind or another. But little changed and the war, if anything, got worse and it remains unclear whether Mr. Obama can meet his July 2011 deadline for the start of a phased U.S. withdrawal.


Hard of healing — Less prominent conflicts also defied resolution. In Spain, the government rejected an offer by Basque militants to end their separatist struggle.


In the Caucasus, hostility between Georgia and Russia over the breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia simmered dangerously.


In Yemen, north-south political and tribal tensions were exacerbated by Saudi Arabian, Iranian, al-Qaeda, and U.S. interventions. Despite the freeing of pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, the brutal Myanmarese junta's fake elections fooled nobody.


Arms control — Iran hogged the international spotlight in 2010 and can be expected to do so again next year, as the seemingly endless drama over its suspect nuclear programme produced anger, fear and frustration in equal measure.


Panjandrums of Pyongyang Stalinist, reckless and enigmatic, North Korea remained a problem of huge concern. Kim Jong-il's regime provocatively revealed its uranium enrichment facilities to the world, conducted more military exercises, sank a South Korean naval vessel and then attacked a South Korean island in November, killing civilians in the process.


As the New Year begins, tension around the east Asia region is sky-high — which is the height the debris could reach if Kim and his son and heir press the red button.


Democrats — 2011 will be a similarly big year for Mr. Obama, as he begins to position himself for a second term. The U.S. President needs some substantive achievements, at home and abroad, on which to form a campaign platform — and he has a lot of work to do. Likewise, 2011 will see the field of Republican presidential contenders narrow, with much attention centred on the improbable Sarah Palin.


A referendum in Sudan, early in January, on southern succession will be a truer test of democracy in action. Some fear Khartoum's rulers will not let the south take its independence without a fight. What is more likely is a prolonged, post-independence struggle over resources, borderlines and revenue, since an independent south would control most of Sudan's oil while lacking the means to refine, export and sell it.


Old world, old fears — The 2010 Eurozone crisis victimised Greece and Ireland and left Portugal, Spain and Italy peering ahead to 2011 with mounting trepidation. But democracy was also a victim, as far-right political parties across Europe exploited the economic downturn to promote their often xenophobic, racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim views.


Further to the south and east, Iraq and Afghanistan struggled separately and with mixed results to make western-imposed democracy work. In penniless, unstable and flood-damaged Pakistan, questions persist over how long the elected government can struggle on and even whether democracy will survive.


Shocks and surprises — An earthquake that struck Haiti in January killed at least 150,000 people and brought misery to millions, raising questions about the efficacy of the international response. Heavy rains in northwest Pakistan caused record floods, dislocating tens of millions of people. And a wholly unanticipated volcano eruption in Iceland reintroduced millions of Europeans to long-haul land travel.


— The campaigning WikiLeaks website stunned the world, with a series of spectacular leaks of classified information concerning Afghanistan, Iraq, and the U.S. State Department's private dealings with governments around the world.


— All 33 miners trapped underground for more than two months in Chile were rescued, more or less unscathed, amid national rejoicing that spawned a brief global "feelgood" moment. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010






Estonia was gearing up on Friday for historic New Year's festivities as the tiny country becomes the first former Soviet republic to adopt the euro, a symbolic boost for the currency tarnished by the worst crisis in its 12-year history. The changeover will officially start at midnight January 1, marking the beginning of the end of the Estonian kroon and a final step in the Baltic state's dogged effort to become the 17th member of the eurozone and to integrate its economy with Europe. — AP










Life without celebration is like a long road without an inn, said the ancient Greek philosopher Democritus. As his pregnant saying hints, celebrations are not just occasions to uncork the champagne, but also junctures to pause, relax and take stock. New Year has become one such moment in the flow of time for the world as well as India.


An average Indian cannot be faulted for grimacing, and perhaps even sighing, on New Year's Eve, for when one casually sums up the year that has passed what will float into the mind are words like scam, spectrum, Radia, Raja and Kalmadi that together create a bleak collage. But taking stock means stepping back and looking at the big picture. And the big picture is not as dreary or dark as one might think (unless you are an incorrigible pessimist). People who cry hoarse about scams would also have to admit that it was the robust institutional mechanisms of the country that brought them to light. Some journalists had egg on their face after Radiagate. But that does not obscure the fact that it was other journalists who unearthed the scam in the first place. Strange as it may sound, the exposure of corruption and the noisy rows it creates are a sign of a vibrant polity in a neighbourhood where the dread silence of dictatorship is common.

The year that passed also saw the increasingly belligerent antics of many right-wing conservative groups, whether it was the Sri Ram Sena that attacked girls in the pubs of Mangalore or the khap panchayats that snuffed out of the lives of many innocent couples for daring to love outside their clans and social class. But, again, the general populace has given such fanatical moral policemen the treatment they deserve by ignoring them and going on with their lives. Ironically, the frenetic spasms of right-wing groups actually show that liberal space in India is growing. Their posturing invites derision rather than delight these days for the priorities of Indians have changed. Despite all the scams and shams, there is a perceptible increase of confidence in Indians — especially the middle class. Perhaps the new economic environment has something to do with it. Nothing symbolises this new-found confidence as does the sprightly arena of sports. From Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang to Somdev, Saina Nehwal and Tintu Luka, there is a long list of remarkable talent that has done the nation proud this year. They represent more than the games they play.

The decentralisation of governance and political empowerment of depressed classes have had an effect on other areas too. For instance, there has been an increase in the number of dalit entrepreneurs who have done well. The average citizen now uses the Right to Information Act boldly to take his rulers to task. Recurrent Assembly elections have shown people re-electing performing chief ministers and ignoring caste and communal slogans. The much-awaited Ayodhya verdict triggered not a single clash. All these signal a new mindset wherein people are not ready to be confined to narrow identities. Chauvinists, beware.

But one cannot be too gung-ho. There is also another India, which feels left out and dejected — the India of the poor. It was in 2010 that the UNHDP released the sobering statistic that India ranks only 119 among 169 countries on the human development index. A government panel also shamefacedly admitted that more than 70 per cent of Indians live on less than `20 a day. The rise of Maoism is a consequence of a large chunk of people being left out of the growth story. The task before the country in 2011 and the years to follow will be to stop the useless self-flagellation over scams and work optimistically for more inclusive growth.








"Do not ask for whom the bell tolls

The cyclist will probably spit in your face!"

From Doonyadari by Bachchoo

The first line of V.S. Naipaul's novel A Bend in the River is, "The world is what it is". A pretentious critic could easily pause at his/her reading of the novel and reflect that this opening sentence, like Charles Dickens's first line of A Tale of Two Cities — "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" — incorporates a whole world view. Naipaul's statement is tantamount to a rejection of ideological or religious models for the world.

He is telling the reader that his vision of the world is literally what's in view — what he sees. It's not the ideologue's vision of neat divisions: believers and infidels; exploited and the exploiters; Aryans and Jews etc. Neither is it the religious view which attributes apples falling to earth, floods in Pakistan and tsunamis in the Indian ocean to the will or indifference of a supreme being.

To me Naipaul's sentence seems to mean we ought to take things as they actually are and not impose our wishes on them but struggle along with reality and the world's meanness as we find it.

(End of pretentious critic's analysis.)

Being asked to say what I don't want happening or being in 2011 is going against the grain of my accepting the world being what it is.

I started reading newspapers at a very early age, because I would fetch them and spread them out on the veranda table for my grandfather and pretend I was him and leaf through them.

At that age I didn't understand the difference between my expressed opinions and an editorial in a national newspaper. I marvelled at the pomposity of some character sitting in Mumbai or Delhi telling Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru what he should do. Even more wondrous was that some editorials ventured into telling the American government how to react to something the Soviet Union had done. It was much later that I realised that these editors were not vain fantasists but imbued with the traditional conviction that this was their job, that editors led the opinions of the masses. Fourth estate stuff.

Editorial wishes for 2011 would include pious ideas of universal peace and the abolition of poverty and deliberate murder. But in thinking about what one doesn't want one inevitably begins to invent the means by which this abolition can take place and one thinks of what one does want. Wanting night abolished would mean wanting eternal day — though that particular is not on my list. I like sleeping and doing (some) other things in the dark.

Now the elegant and talented editors who commission and control this column want such a wish list from me, but even they must know that the good fairies come in twos and threes and the powers of the genii of the lamp, summoned by rubbing — at which I have some skill — are restricted.

So, like the boy who made his third wish the wish to have an infinite number of wishes, I will restrict myself to three, but cheat a bit:

In 2011, I wish that a new age of reason would begin: No mass murders through suicide bombings, no boo goo about a world beyond what is and, therefore, no compulsion to commit atrocities to no palpable end.
This doesn't mean a suspension of the fight against exploitation, inequality and nasty or reductive capitalism — only against doing it in the name of great and lesser Satans. See things for what they are. The world is what it is.
And then the plea for this new rationality includes a stop-in-your-tracks signal for the global warming bandwagon which is making billions of dollars, pounds and euros out of faulty or incomplete science. We now have an international cartel of "scientists" and "sustainable industries" dedicated to grabbing the millions of dollars available from governments. The new alterative-power-source industry lobby, more pernicious and persistent than any petro-lobby, relies on falsifying or suppressing results and basing vast international statistical surveys on faulty fundamental premises: tell your computer that 2 + 2 is 32 and your entire science goes wonky.

The globe may be getting warmer. It's very cold in London today and has been for the last two weeks. The north-east of the USA is deluged by unprecedented snow storms. Lots of cooling going on. I am aware that the warming-wallahs claim that cooling is part of warming, that cold means it's hot and there are scientific precedents for that sort of paradoxical statement. It is still not scientifically clear that man-made carbon dioxide output is responsible for climate change. More and more scientific evidence emerges to indicate it is not. This doesn't mean that carbon dioxide is good for you or that fumes from petrol should choke the cities, or that whales should be slaughtered for blubber. Just let's determine what's true and not be led by paid self-interested lobbies. Objective, sceptical science above lobby interest in 2011!

And then there's the final request to the genii but this is very particular and personal. I would like the traffic and parking laws of Britain to be relaxed. For instance, there should be no random breathalysing of drivers. It should be restricted to those who commit an offence — driving through red lights etc. There is no evidence whatsoever that random breathalysing prevents accidents, though I admit it would be difficult to devise any experiment that gives us any significant result.

Then there's the parking. Britain's councils have a fascistic policy and have colonised every bit of space with red and white lines and specialist lanes, in what is nominally a free country, to hound the honest driver and impose draconian punishment on those whose tyres have crossed even by a centimetre, some fabricated pavement boundary or double white line. I have fallen into these cunning traps of the Diabolical Parking Satan several times this year and paid hundreds of pounds in fines for fear of being jailed, deported, extraordinarily rendered, water-boarded, subjected to the methods of the Rumsfeld Institute of Electrical Correction and heaven knows what else. No! Enough is enough! Death to parking regulations in 2011 and forever!








It has to be said: 2010 will be marked by historians as the year India sold out! And sold out in such shameless and brazen manner that the jaws that had dropped when the first few scandals hit the headlines, remain dropped till today. As we sing Auld Lang Syne and bid another rotten year goodbye, there is nothing much to cheer about in the coming months. The "Central Bureau of Ineptitude" (CBI) has done it again!


With the embarrassingly gauche handling of the Aarushi murder case, the spotlight is focused once again on a body that needs another body to replace it! Why bother to go into the CBI's lapses when "no evidence" is staple? Either we dismantle this thoroughly useless organisation, which has been manipulated by politicians over the years and used as a torture instrument to browbeat and intimidate citizens, or we restructure it and get more transparency into its functioning. But will that ever happen? Na bhai, na. Too many mighty heads will roll.

If one takes the Aarushi bungling as but a single example of how things are run in India, it can act as a case study for all the rest of the muck flying around freely — from Lalit Modi, Suresh Kalmadi, A. Raja and, of course, fearless Niira Radia. Combine that with the entrenched belief that not a single well-connected crook gets caught or is thrown into the clink, and that not a single state of India is free of monumental corruption at every level, and you get a pretty sordid picture of the country's future.

India's "Gallery of Rogues" doesn't begin or end with the usual suspects (the ones named earlier). These are just a few high profile people who got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. And pray, why or how did they get caught? Because those even higher up in the food chain wanted them to face the music, take the rap — either for deals that soured, or relationships that got corroded — and keep those big mouths sealed.
To come back to the grisly murder of an innocent 14-year-old girl (Aarushi), whose case has been summarily closed by the CBI claiming a lack of evidence, one wonders at the felicity with which it was done. Does it mean Aarushi's assailant committed the perfect murder? Or does it mean nobody wants the criminal behind this heinous act to be caught? The answer is, obvious, when one studies what is known — that files went missing, crucial evidence was destroyed, and all the suspects now walk free. Extraordinary? Nope. Expected. It's time to pay attention to Ratan Tata's "banana republic" reference. The Aarushi case is an apt symbol of all that is loathsome in our system. It's now official: The powerful and the well-connected can and do get away with murder.

Never has the morale of most Indians been this low. While shockwaves over the vile deeds of a Mr Modi and Mr Kalmadi were still rocking the nation, we shook our heads and made those "tch tch" noises with our tongues to suggest "This is terrible… but badey log have always played such games… And at least these two have been caught!" How sweetly we fooled ourselves! Caught? Sure. But who will dare to punish them? They know too much about too many sacred cows. And that's really what's eating India's innards. In the old days, there were two or three sacred cows squeezing the country of all its resources. Now, the sacred cow population has doubled, tripled and gone through the roof! There is a hierarchy even in this cowshed. And those in the know are aware of that order — nobody dares to take on "those people" (in-laws and out-laws) who are seen as dangerous… even more dangerous than the "D gang". And to think we "trust" these mighty netas. Not just to serve India's interests on every level — defence, economy, terrorism — but most importantly, to be the moral barometres for citizens. If the state fails us on all these levels, whom do we turn to? Aha — this is where Dr Binayak Sen and others come in. Why has Dr Sen become a folk hero… a martyr? Because we know, almost instinctively… intuitively… that he represents our interests in the long run. That we need a Sen to remind us of higher goals, of deeper truths. 2010 saw the Maoists emerging as the most visible force of dissent and rebellion. Or, more accurately, the "Maoist menace" could no longer be ignored or wished away.

Forced into acknowledging them, our home minister P. Chidambaram, along with his colleagues, decided to make them the Bogey Bears du jour. It suited everybody… the heat generated by other scams was getting too hot to handle — if the Maoist threat was not for real, we would have had to create it! But since the Maoists weren't in the backyard of those sprawling kothis in Delhi, or at the imposing gates of corporate headquarters in Mumbai, the "Maoist problem" could be intellectually debated over television, hastily buried and resurrected at will.

However, nothing got India's goat as much as the fearless Radia tapes. Those revealing and damaging tapes established incontrovertibly that the state had ears and eyes everywhere… that nothing, but nothing, was "private" in our so-called democracy. If that wasn't scary enough, the tapes also established the new pecking order in which some old war horses were exposed as bleating goats, and several holier than thou personalities displayed less than noble characteristics. The most shocking outcome was the utter and total beizzatti of venerated media-wallas. Perhaps, that was the last straw in the "Credibility Stakes". When respected journalists sold out, when judges were deemed corrupt, when cops colluded with politicians to cover up big and small crimes, when netas became dakus, when murders and kidnappings became routine… and India itself was repeatedly raped by the very people who were meant to protect it… we, the people, woke up… and wept. Well, it's time to dry those tears and act. Kick a few butts for starters…

Can we… will we…? Or is it just far easier to sit back and allow India to sink even lower in 2011?
I am an incorrigible optimist. I'd like to end this tumultuous decade by saying, "The rot stops here... Jhanda Ooncha Rahey Hamara..."

Happy New Year, readers!


— Readers can send feedback to








The year 2011 marks two decades since the end of the Cold War and a decade since 9/11 Twin Tower attack and the UN Millennium Summit's developmental goals. The Chinese Communist Party also turns 90. F. Fukuyama's pronouncement that the Soviet Union's disintegration ended history and was the triumph of Western values waserroneous as seeds of future contestation were already sown. The twin contemporary challenges are: radical Islam and China's rise. The first was armed and financed by the United States, in league with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, to counter the Soviets in Afghanistan and the latter unshackled by the Mao-Nixon rapprochement in 1972.

On terror there was some success against Al Qaeda in Iraq, due to convergence of interests between the Sunni tribes and Iran. This allowed orderly US withdrawal from a war that candidate Obama called one of choice and not necessity. In the latter category comes Afghanistan where, despite troop surge reviewed two weeks ago, a Pakistan reluctant to act against those it views as its present or future assets i.e. Taliban, Haqqanis and associates, is delaying action hoping that a fatigued US quits. Meanwhile, Al Qaeda has replanted in Yemen, Somalia etc. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's pronouncements in New Delhi on terror were carefully wrapped in the UN Security Council mumbo-jumbo. Half-a-billion US dollars of grants and deals worth $14 billion announced in Pakistan would weaken US leverage, entrench Chinese interests and embolden Pakistan.
The real challenge is China's rise with its gross domestic product (GDP) projected to overtake the US' in the next 10-15 years. In any calculation till 2050, India is placed third. The US has calculated that engagement alone is not working, containment is impractical and, thus, there is need to hedge. Admiral M. Mullen, commenting on Chinese military capacity building in June 2010, said that "I have moved from being curious to being genuinely concerned". It was thus not a coincidence that US President Barack Obama's India visit was clubbed with that to three other Asian democracies — Indonesia, South Korea and Japan.

The current international economic, trading and security order is the one devised after the World War II when the US had emerged as the hegemon, replacing Great Britain by about 1918. The transfer was orderly as it was between powers sharing values, culture and a language. At the Tehran Summit in 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stayed with Stalin, to the consternation of Winston Churchill. It signalled to Soviets the new pecking order. Recent Chinese assertiveness has raised questions about their future behaviour.

Chinese conduct so far has been paradoxical. They have subscribed to the letter of various trade and non-proliferation regimes, though breaching often their spirit. They reject neo-liberal ideas, the latest demonstration being their massive protest over the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo. Despite World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership, they subsidise exports and maintain an undervalued currency. On Iran and North Korea they dilute UN Security Council sanctions and then merrily engage both. They render similar help to Sudan and Zimbabwe, unmindful of genocide or rigged elections. Whether this tendency to defend outliers and sit amongst the rule makers will be accentuated with its rise or moderated is moot.

This jostling between the entrenched and the rising powers will determine the global debate on a panoply of issues, which inter alia are: climate change; reform of global institutions like the UN or International Monetary Fund; effectiveness and evolution of new structures like the Group of Twenty; consensus on the right to protect against genocide, promotion of human rights etc; counter terrorism, human trafficking and piracy; nuclear disarmament and global zero; protection of global commons like the oceans, cyber and outer space; ensuring equitable access to minerals, metals and water etc.

As economic power is redistributed, the world will become polycentric with greater balance between Americas, Europe and Asia, and concomitantly new inter-dependence. The inequalities of the mid-19th to 20th century will start paling. Trading, political and security structures must adapt or be marginalised. Rising powers will want rapid adjustment of structures; status quo powers shall resist.

The face-off is between Western neo-liberalism and the emerging Confucian-Socialist Chinese model preferring stability to individual rights and economic success to democracy. The land of Buddha, Mahavira and the Upanishads as indeed Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and B.R Ambedkar, must shape this debate. The solution lies neither in US senator John McCain's league of democracies proposal which will create new divisions, nor can it be in accepting the cynical Chinese model. In a multi-polar world the new narrative can come from the swing powers — EU and India, combining the wisdom of the East and the West. Tang dynasty Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang in the seventh century, visiting Nalanda when told not to return to his barbaric homeland, as Buddha had chosen not to be born there, replied that Buddha would not forget those not yet enlightened. Historically, rising powers when confronting the entrenched powers have caused conflict. Can Buddha trump Confucius and wisdom prevail? The next decade shall tell.

The author is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry









China's reputation as the world's factory floor has been dented in recent years by horror stories about the poor quality of made-in-China goods.


Children's toys were found to be coated with lead-laced paint, and medicines and pet foods with toxins caused fatalities overseas.But beyond those aberrations, which perpetuate something of a myth, it is possible today to find many "nicely made-in-China" products, argues Lionel Derimais, a French national who until recently lived in Beijing. Derimais is quite an unlikely authority on Chinese-made merchandise: an itinerant professional photographer — he travelled in the Sunderbans with French writer Dominique Lapierre in 1999 — he came to Beijing in 2005 to document a country in the throes of an Olympics fever. Earlier this year, disquieted by the erroneous image being conveyed about the quality of Chinese merchandise, he started a blog ( to showcase manufacturers and service providers in China who measure up to international standards. In just eight months, his blog has become a gateway for people looking to source quality goods from China. In an interview to DNA, Derimais explains his motivation in promoting the made-in-China label.


How did you, a professional photographer, come to write about China merchandise?


Whenever I read reports about the poor quality of made-in-China products, I've felt that they don't reflect the reality of people who live in China, for whom things are improving every day. One evening in November 2009, after one of those 'bad China' days, my girlfriend showed me a beautiful bag and said, "See, there are some nicely made-in-China products." That gave me an idea: I immediately checked if the domain name ( was available, and bought it, with no particular idea in mind. In mid 2010, I began to write about people I knew of who made quality stuff to an international standard; my friends and associates referred other products and services. That's how it all started.


What is the biggest myth about the made-in-China label?


The biggest myth is that it's all not well-made: contrary to what the world thinks, there are a lot of people in China making fantastic products and offering great services to an international standard. You can of course find products that are poorly made — in China, just as you can find them anywhere in the world where people don't care about their work. It all boils down to price: we have to realise that we must pay the right price for things that are nicely made in China. We're always looking to buy cheap things. But there are limits to that. Nicely made in China products are not particularly cheap, but why should they be?


What kind of goods and services have you showcased?


I've showcased products and services that touch all aspects of life: hand-crafted furniture, ceramics, yak-wool shawls, embroidered house linen, jewellery, surfboards, double-bass violins, cheese, hats, equestrian equipment, and services like pet vets, tailor-made travel services… The list is long.


Many of the people you showcase are foreigners in China. Why is that?

I've interviewed a few Chinese people, but yes, there are many more foreigners. One reason is that Chinese people have been a little reluctant to come forward, although that's changing. I've been featured in Chinese magazines, and I hear from overseas Chinese people who say I'm showing them a side of China they didn't know!


How can you vouch for the quality of the products or services?


Before I feature any manufacturer or service provider, I do a bit of research. I take recommendations from my wide circle of acquaintances who are knowledgeable in their respective fields. I then interview the manufacturer or service provider. If I'm not personally satisfied about the quality or with what I'm told, I don't write about them.


What are the challenges to having things nicely made in China?


Education and training are the two most important. Curiously, most of the people I've featured started up their businesses because they couldn't find something they were looking for. These days, with more and more Chinese people travelling overseas and buying expensive goods, they expect the same quality when they return to China.


Does it cost more to have things nicely made in China?


There's certainly an issue with the price. People elsewhere must understand that for anything that is nicely made — in China or elsewhere — they have to pay the right price. People still expect to pay a lot less than they pay in Europe or in the US, but we have to stop thinking on those lines. You can't get things done cheaply and nicely.


Most of your posts feature not mass-produced goods but boutique stores or services, where it's easy to maintain quality. Is the quality of mass-manufactured made-in-China goods still an issue?


It's true that many of them are boutique products or services, but I don't think mass production necessarily entails poorer quality than boutique production. If you're looking for bad stories and fakes, you can find them anywhere in the world — even in France!


China is trying to transition its economy from manufacturing to consumption: is that reflected in your blog?


Sure, my posts reflect the fact that China is changing from mass manufacturing to small-production units of higher quality. I showcase not just products, but also services across every area of the Chinese market. My blog is only eight months old, and there are many 'hidden' products and services to be showcased. I've only scratched the surface in terms of featuring Chinese people who are making fantastic products. There are many brands in China that nobody outside of China has heard of.


Do you worry that you might run out of 'nicely made-in-China' things to write about?


Sometimes I worry, but then I quickly find three new companies of which I'd never heard. There are literally hundreds of people out there that deserve be featured. The way I look at my blog is this: I like networking and putting people in touch. With my blog, I can build a community of people who have something to tell the world that wasn't told earlier. I'm helping to get the word out. It's like a puzzle: there are people working in their particular corners, and everybody adds a few pieces. I'm putting the puzzle together and presenting a more accurate image of what life in China is like.







In a perfectly rational world, everyone must voluntarily donate their organs after death.


This is because, a) we lose nothing in our life time, and b) the probability that we could be the beneficiaries of someone else's organ donation increases by such action.So in theory, nobody should have any objection to donating their organs posthumously. And yet, in reality, this is not always so.


As we live in a less than rational world, some of us are innately squeamish at the very thought of any bodily mutilation, even if it is after our death. Some of us may have religious reservations. Others may be too modest to allow a stranger take a look at their body! Ergo, not all of us like to donate our organs.


In fact, in many countries, citizens are required to decide whether or not to give away their organs after death for the benefit of other people.


Often, many hospitals ask their terminal patients to make a similar call. Research shows that the percentage of organ donations in such instances typically tend to cluster around either 20% or 80% and little in-between!


Now this is an intriguing conundrum, till we realise that this is on account of the 'presumed consent' clause which is practiced in many countries. Presumed consent means one is assumed to have given one's consent (to donate one's organs), unless one explicitly states otherwise. On the other hand, in countries where consent is not presumed, one has to explicitly sign one's consent to donate one's organs; otherwise consent is assumed denied.


In these columns earlier, we have spoken of behavioural inertia or status quo bias. Status quo bias is so innate to human nature that when consent is presumed given unless explicitly denied, few of us tend to change the status quo (which presumes consent), so that 80% of subjects end up donating their organs, with merely one-fifth of them disturbing the status quo to deny consent.However, when consent is not presumed, the status quo bias favours our not giving consent (by doing nothing) and we have to change the status quo — which only about 20% of subjects do — to explicitly provide our consent. Clearly, how options are framed matters!


Presumed consent phenomenon can be seen in action almost everywhere today, especially among slick marketers. For example, we get all these routine and unsolicited invitations for sharing books, or pictures, or friends and anything else for that matter, from the mailboxes of people known to us.Had we been unfortunate enough to have clicked on one of these emails and accepted the invite, our computer would have — to our utter embarrassment — generated identical invitations to all the contacts on our address book, and what is more, would have kept sending reminders to join in!


If we had been careful while accepting the invitations, we would have noticed the 'presumed consent' clause, wherein by accepting the invite we had unwittingly


consented to similar invites being sent from our mailbox to all our contacts!


Some marketers use the status quo bias and presumed consent even more imaginatively. We are offered a free subscription of a certain magazine for six months on trial basis and an option on whether to subscribe or not to subscribe to the magazine at the end of that trial period. Everyone finds this an acceptable offer.


Our acceptance involves our providing our mailing address, phone number and credit card number, which we are told would be used only in case we choose to subscribe at the end of the free trial period.


What we miss out on is the 'presumed consent' clause in fine print, according to which unless we explicitly write not to subscribe, subscription and even subsequent renewals will be presumed consented and our credit card accordingly charged and renewed, unless we write explicitly to stop the subscription and/or renewal.


Now, for a mere six month of free trial, the marketer ensures a long term subscription of nearly 80% of the population targeted!







There is much talk about young people but not many seem to know what they think or feel. Popular sociology is also of no help.

The much hyped social surveys about what the young think, feel and prefer do not tell the story in a satisfactory manner. To know more about the young we will have to turn to popular Hindi — also known as commercial, mainstream, maudlin — films. There was a time when people looked to these Hindi movies to define romanticism. Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna, Rishi Kapoor, Asha Parekh, Saira Banu, Sharmila Tagore set the trend for romance.


But the situation is quite different today. The film-makers — writers, directors and producers — are looking at the changing social reality to get a fix of the romantic co-ordinates. Here we find young people, focused on their careers — the mantra of economically liberalised and socially conservative India today. But the romantic sentiment continues to burn in spite of the no-nonsense race for success.


Take for instance, the two romantic films this year — I Hate Luv Storys starring Imran Khan and Sonam Kapoor, and Band Baaja Baaraat starring Anushka Sharma and Ranvir Singh. The script in these two films differs radically from the old formula of rich boy meets poor girl, or the poor girl meets rich boy. The romance is now between girl and boy, both middle class.


In I Hate Luv Storys, the hero and heroine are into film-making, and they are interested in making their mark as professionals. But love happens — for the sake of the story, of course, but it also underlines the fact that love is the basic emotional factor that makes success worth the while — only now it takes a sophisticated and intelligent turn. The girl and the boy understand their emotions and come to terms with it while at work. Call it workplace romance, if you like.


In Band Baaja Baaraat, the girl and the boy are pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, and setting up their own business; dreaming of making it big. The girl is from lower, unsophisticated middle class in Delhi, wanting to push her way up. The boy is from a rich farmer's family who is not interested in tractors and sugarcane harvest, but in doing things in the city, though he is a rustic and does not qualify to be a cityslicker as such. And true to life, it is the boy who struggles with his emotions while the girl is surefooted.


What matters is what people do with their emotions and ways of living. The social changes cannot always be computed in terms of rising salaries and the possession of shares and real property. At the bottom of it all, it is the emotional base that serves as the rock. Popular Hindi films track this vein more acutely than anyone else and, frankly, this is the only interesting part of the history that we live. The rest is just facts and figures, to be consigned to archives.









One of the scariest sights in this city is that of a vehicle hanging in the air after breaking the wall of a flyover. We are condemned to watch it with wide open eyes once in a while. It may be a case of rash driving. But, at the same time, we can afford to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt occasionally. Human errors are not always responsible for road mishaps. Bad roads too can cause havoc especially when these have no traffic signals. In our city the entire traffic scenario is just chaotic. The number of vehicles is rising fast without corresponding increase in infrastructure. Viewed in this context it is to be welcomed that some wise men have installed studs on some roads including on fly-overs. But, evidently, they have overplayed their hand. The studs are oversized and, as it seems, are bigger than even speed-breakers. Instead of cautioning the drivers these are damaging the means of transport. There are no signboards either emphasising the necessity to slow down the speed of vehicles. This is surprising considering that the expertise in this regard has evolved over the decades and is readily available. By definition the road studs are "retro-reflective devices fixed to the surface of the road for the control, warning, information or guidance of road users." Normally these are used in conjunction with white lining systems. Of course, these are supposed to act as speed-breakers and are considered to be useful near zebra crossings, construction sites, railway road crossings, hospitals, parking lots and schools. Like a speed-breaker, however, the road stud is too a hump surface across the road surface. The Indian Roads Congress, which is the premier technical body of highway engineers in the country, has expressed the following considered opinion about what is expected from an ideal road hump: "(a) there should be no damage to vehicles nor excessive discomfort to the drivers and passengers when passing at the preferred crossing speed; (b) it should not give rise to excessive noise or cause harmful vibrations to the adjoining buildings or affect the other residents of the area; (c) above the design speed, a driver should suffer increasing level of discomfort (but without losing directional control and without any vehicle damage) depending on the extent through which design speed is exceeded."


Unlike the road studs the speed-breakers are generally meant for residential pockets in urban areas where physical constraints become necessary for more than one reason. In an extensive exercise the Indian Roads Congress has gone on to advise actual specifications of speed-breakers, including about their shape and height, for smooth vehicular movement. We need to consider them seriously --- the basis being that a speed-breaker must have a width of 3.7 metres with a height of 0.1 m on a road where the traffic moves at a speed of around 25 kilometres per hour in a city. Such precautions are required to take care of heart patients while deterring reckless drivers.


Therefore, while setting up road studs, the concerned authorities should ensure that these don't end up harming vehicles and their occupants. At the same time it will help to put up road signs everywhere. We should do all that is within our hands to have perfect discipline on our congested roads.







The killing of two persons, including a woman, by leopards in Kupwara district in the north of the Valley once again brings into sharp focus a serious problem haunting us for quite some time. There is a battle for space between people and the animals. And, there seems to be no immediate end to it. Hardly a week passes without a clash between us on the one hand and bears and leopards in particular on the other. In one of the latest incidents a leopard killed a woman when she was collecting firewood from Mawar (Handwara tehsil) while in the other another leopard struck a 22-year old person who suffered serious injuries to which he succumbed on his way to Srinagar's Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences where he was declared brought dead. Angry people in both the places turned out in streets and raised slogans against the wild life department. The two gory happenings have occurred within a week of a wild bear being shot after he attacked and wounded a person in Pulwama district in another corner of the Valley. In the higher reaches of this region, too, such events keep taking place off and on. According to a report, about 35 persons, mostly women and children, have been killed by animals in the State during the last two years. Their number is reported to be 97 in four years. It is said that 12 wild animals have lost their lives in two years in retaliatory actions. The inability to coexist is leading to co-destruction. How else can we interpret this phenomenon? Time and again we have been compelled to take notice of it in these columns. Any other subject would have appeared hackneyed by now. There is no way one can overlook man-animal conflicts. It involves loss of precious human lives. It also involves loss of precious species of animals required to enrich the earth. In fairness, we can claim that we have provided special enclosures for the wild life to live and prosper. There are a number of national parks and sanctuaries for them in the State. The question that should concern us is whether we are properly maintaining these preserves. We are afraid that the answer will be no. We are unable to do so for want of requisite staff and money.


From Nandini at the outskirts of this city to the faraway Leh district it is the same story. We have created wild life reserves. This shows our will to do the right thing. Apparently, however, the adage that where there is a will there is a way does not hold true in this case. Almost all of these protected areas are as good as other open forest areas with even a jewel like the Dachigam in the Summer Capital losing a part of its original glory as a well-kept home of hangul (the Kashmiri stag). In a situation like this it is anybody's guess that our approach towards forests is worse. If we are not felling trees we encroach upon them to expand our settlements thereby further shrinking the space that belongs to animals. What do the animals do in the face of our invasion but to stir out and take care of us? Why should we then regret inviting misfortunes?









Karunanidhi, the Tamilnadu Chief Minister is furious. And this after he at one point in the 2-G scam had seemed reconciled to accepting whatever befell his cash cow and the Dalit face of his DMK, A. Raja, Apparently someone endowed with more political acumen than him has persuaded him to do a volte face. His dear Dalit face, A. Raja, who had been forced out of the Union Cabinet by a shaky Prime Minister, Raja's party boss changed his mind. Raja must be defended. The party big guns led by Karunanidhi's son M.K. Stalin, who is also the Deputy Chief Minister of the State, woke up to the old man's call and immediately hit the streets to sing paens or praise for Raja. 

It was untrue that Raja was in any way involved in the hundreds or thousands crore worth of G-2 spectrum scandal. We the people were expected to watch with admiration, the revolution he had wrought in the country's telecom industry. Only Raja could have sold the spectrum space with such alacrity, casting time-tested procedures to the winds.

The country ought to be grateful to the DMK's newest hero for having outshone his own party colleague, Karunanidhi's, briefly estranged newphew Dayanidhi Maran who was stripped of the Telecom portfolio at his grand uncle's behest and the Prime Minister forced to allot Telecom to A. Raja.

And what a stinking trail the entire episode has left behind it. Raja, if Karunanidhi and M.K. Stalin's revised view of his shenanigans is to be believed merits at least a 'Padma' for his endeavours. And who cares for the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh if he is allowed to be seen as foolish in the face of the defiance by Raja of the advice tendered to him by his boss, the Prime Minister.

I know that knives will be out instantly if I say Manmohan Singh owes it to his own reputation as an honest sagacious man to resigns because of Raja's defiance. May be even honest men find it hard to give up the "band baja" that goes with the Prime Ministerial office. Or, is it Manmohan Singh's loyalty to his political mentor, Sonia Gandhi who initially made this most unlikely man the Prime Minister of the country.

One pities the Prime Minister as the Opposition unrelentingly continues to bleed him to his political demise with its frequent rapier thrusts. You might say some of the criticism heaped on Manmohan Singh is harsh but why did he have to dither for nearly a month before letting the CBI and Parliament's watchdog Parliamentary Accounts Committee headed by Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, to get their teeth into the point at issue. Or, why did he and his government find it ever so difficult to accept a joint parliamentary committee to look into the alleged misdeamnours of A. Raja?

The only reason for the government's stubborn resistance, as has been pointed out by some, appears to be the likelihood of the Prime Minister and the UPAnot escaping some of the smear. After all Raja had spurned the Prime Minister's advice on the award of the spectrum contracts. And if that was so why didn't Manmohan Singh sack the recalcitrant Minister. Could it be that he was guided by Sonia Gandhi all along, asked by her not to do anything that annoyed a major coalition partner, Karunanidhi's D.M.K. Which it could be said makes him a collaborator of Raja and therefore equally qualified to face an inquiry.

Short of resigning his Prime Ministership or subjecting himself to an inquiry Manmohan Singh should bluntly tell Sonia that regardless of a future poll tie-up with DMK, this party must be told to lay off the spectrum scam now conducted under the Supreme Court's supervision.

Scandals and scams have, to say the least, been the flavor of the season. It's the Congress Party's misfortune that it happens to be in power at this time for ordinarily the telecom scam must go back to when BJP's late Telecom Minister Pramod Mahajan played the big daddy of all the scamsters.

At the grassroots level, that is at your level and mine, the scandals, they only disgust. However if our political partis had a way of listening to conversations at the grassroots level they would know that most Indians are unconvinced that the real intention of the Congress and the BJP during the recent parliamentary logjam is not to fight corruption but to indulge in power play, to whet their appetite for power.

Neither party has shown any sincerity or proactive readiness to combat the growing menace of corruption, Sonia Gandhi has been at the helm of the Congress Party for more than ten years. The earlier part of her incumbency was spent in refuting Bofors. The Prime Ministers too during the time span rarely raised their voices against corruption. It was only the G-2 scam which woke up the government finally to the seriousness of the charge forcing even the Supreme Court to show its teeth and the civil society saying in no uncertain manner that time to call a halt to such activities has come. The Commonwealth Games muddle and the Mumbai housing scams involving senior politicians and military brass only added a sharper edge to it.

There is still time for saner and sober elements in the two major parties to try and prevent the situation going out of control. Dialogue between the two for the moment appears to have completely broken down. And indeed it seems to be the season for trading downright abuses between the two major an- tagonists. The real issue which the nation needs to confront now is whether the government and the opposition will together arrive at a consensus on at least a few major institutional measures that can break the nexus between corrupt politicians, big business houses, bureaucrats and the lobbyists. If such an approach is adopted by the main contenders, the BJP's demand for the appointment of Joint Parliamentary Committee to investigate the telecom scam will become pointless. On the other hand the Congress too will have to get off its high (misplaced) moral horse and face the situation as it stares the nation in the eye. It would be in the interests of the Prime Minister, if only to retrieve his tattered image to act in this regard. It should not be difficult for him to convince his mentor, Sonia, of the advantages of adopting such an approach.

To conclude on a happy note the Prime Minister has offered to Mr Murli Manohar Joshi to appear before the Parliamentary Accounts Committee headed by the latter. The committee, a permanent parliamentary fiscal watchdog is currently looking into the G-2 spectrum scam. The Auditor and Comptroller General, who blew the lid off the 1.76 lakh crore scam, has already been examined by the committee. This would only tighten the noose against A. Raja's neck. What a pity it would be if Mr. Joshi's younger colleagues, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, the opposition leaders in the two houses and their pudgy BJP Chief Nitin Gadkari were to obstruct the PAC from pursuing its task. Their preferred JPC has already taken its toll of the Parliamentary process. It can't be their case that they would not allow even the Budget session to be held.








Science and Technology'' have made tremendous progress in various sectors viz; industrial sector, hydrothermal; medical and agricultural sectors etc. In ''Agricultural Sector'', use of high yielding varieties of various crops responding to high doses of fertilizers and pesticides, and requiring large quantities of water, has brought about a ''Green Revolution'' in India during 1968. Owing to this ''Green Revolution'', India's food grain production became from a mere 50 million tonnes (mt) in 1950 AD to nearly 200 mt in 2000 AD. But in this ''Green Revolution'' another change has taken place. This change relates to deterioration of an environment both physical (Land /soil, water and air) and biological (animals and plants belonging both to lower and higher categories).

It has been pointed that ''Green Revolution'' has now reached a plateau and is sustained with diminishing returns and falling dividends. India's rice production has become threatened with diversified biotic and abiotic constraints severely. Intensive use of fertilizers and pesticides in Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh has given rise to environmental degradation. The reckless use of pesticides in Punjab and Haryana has given rise to brown hopper-a very common pest of paddy which was hitherto not present and was noticed only after ''Green Revolution''. In ''Green Revolution'' intensive cropping was followed, which mainly involved cultivation of rice and wheat crops. This cropping system generally removes nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P2O5) and potassium (K2O)- to the extent of 500-700 Kg ha-1 year-1. The amount of N, P2O5 and K2O removed by these crops have exceeded to the applied doses of nutrients which as a result caused the deterioration of soil health and its macro and micro-organisms.

Due to continuous use of high analysis fertilizer during ''Green Revolution'', especially nitrogenous chemical fertilizer, produced wide spread deficiency of Zinc (Zn) in soils of many states of India. And this constituted one of the major constraints in losing growth momentum brought about by ''Green Revolution'' in agricultural production, especially rice and wheat. Apart from deficiency of Zn, deficiency of sulphur(s) has also been noticed in soils of several parts of India including Jammu and Kashmir. As per the study conducted by Jalali et al. (2001), the soils of irrigated areas of Jammu district, where rice and wheat cropping pattern is practised are low in organic matter, so more deficiency of Zn is found in these soils. The soils of Jammu district are also deficient in Sulphur.

During the ''Green Revolution'' era, the soil-water system has also been degraded considerably besides the soil fertility. In many parts of Punjab, Haryana, Western UP and other states, uncontrolled use of irrigation water has led to salinity. It has also caused salinization in about 8 million ha of lana and side by side water logging in many parts. Chemicals present in fertilizers also percolate into water make it contaminated with No3 and heavy metals like Cd, Cr, Ni, Pb etc. Drinking of NO3 contaminated water has become a potent source of blue baby disease in large number of babies. 

Excessive withdrawal of ground water to meet the requirement of water for rice and wheat has resulted in lowering of the water table in most of the states including Punjab, Haryana, UP and Jammu and Kashmir. In the central districts of Punjab, the water table is receding at the rate of 30-45 cm year.-1 About half of the blocks in Punjab find it difficult to sustain the increased number of tubewells. Similar is the situation in case of Haryana and Western UP. A long term analysis of ground water levels by the Central Ground Water Board from 1983-2002 indicated decline in ground water levels by more than 4 m in 306 districts of 20 Indian States (Anonymous, 2004). In Jammu and Kashmir state, Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts where rice and wheat cropping sequences are being followed since long, are the worst affected in depleting of water table.
The excessive use of pesticides during ''Green Revolution'' became a serious concern because of their health hazards to human beings, animals, plants as well as wildlife. The adverse effect of pesticides involves the contamination of soils. Some of agrochemicals leave behind residues in the food, thereby, providing ill effects when their concentration exceed the safe limits beyond tolerance. These days various food stuffs are found to contain high levels of pesticide residu of DDT, BHC and others. As reported by Gupta (2006) an average Indian's body has the highest DDT level in the world varying from 3.1 ppm to 12.8 ppm.

There are a number of heavy metals which enter the human body systems through soil, air and water pollutants. Most of the metallic pollutants are also present in pesticides like DDT, BHC and atrazine, and organic wastes. The soil is the primary recipient and from the soil, the metallic pollutants make their entry into the living beings easily. Of the various metallic pollutants, cadmium (cd) and arsenic (As) are extremely toxic, mercury (Hg), lead (Pb), nickle (Ni) and fluorine (F) are moderately poisonous, boron (B), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn) and Zinc (Zn), are relatively lower in toxicity.

Disproportionate use of chemical fertilizers also creates heavy metal pollution in soils such as Cd, Pb, Ni etc. Accumulation of these metals in soils over a period of time get toxic and finally get accumulated in human beings through various agricultural products grown on such soils which cause a number of complicacies in human and animal bodies.

Use of nitrogenous fertilizers alone i.e, without using phosphatic and potassic fertilizers, create acid rains through ammonia volatilization and depletion of ozone layer due to denitrification. Acid rains render the soils acidic which have an adverse effect on plant growth. Oxides of nitrogen viz; No, N2O, NO2 adversely affect the Ozone layer which protects us from the ultra violet (UV) rays.

It is point to mention that presence of parthenium weed or congress grass, which is very allergic both to animals and plants, has come with the seeds of high yielding wheat varieties during ''Green Revolution''. It is a great threat not only in Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir state but in many parts of other states of the country.
Control measures : Make balanced use of fertilizers by maintaining the ratio of 4:2:1 in respect of nitrogenous, phosphatic and potassic fetilizers. Apply organic manures like FYM, compost/vermicompost and green manuring. Advocate the farmers to follow integrated nutrient management practice which involves to use both organic manures and inorganic fertilizers to minimise the loss occurred through pest attacks on crops, plant resistant varieties must be preferred to grow. Prefer to use botanical pesticides as well as biological control measures. Integrated pest management (IPM) approach is required to be followed.








Mahatma Gandhi had said that service to the poor and the distressed was service to the God but how stunning it is that most of the poor are virtually looted by the nexus of some corrupt leaders and bureaucrats in our country. Abject timorousness of the political leadership in governance of this country, in stemming the rot of the loot and the corruption, is shaking the confidence of the common man. 

Why is theGovernment - the seemingly big Government in size, not performing in containing the spiralling graph of scams and corruption, despite, to run its show , it spends over 60 to 65% of total Governmental expenditure on itself, in the shape of salaries perks and overheads of its Ministers? Is it not a fact that big Government in most of the cases, does not make good Government? You have acid tests conducted and the results amply depict, from under performance to non performance, which results in the suffering of the people, who elect them to govern this country, which appears to reel under the cluster of scams, shams and loot. Corruption seems to have crept into our blood. In most of the cases, those who are supposed to and under oath, to protect, preserve and provide, are looting, pilfering and snatching. .

The Adarash Housing scam, Common Wealth games scam, 2G spectrum scam and other sundry scams, as if there being a season of scams having surfaced very recently, are fresh in our minds and every Indian watches what type of action- quick and stringent- is taken to effectively nail the culprits and how the highest court of this land is passing strictures after strictures in respect of these and similar matters under its consideration, a new stunning scam , biggest ever in Independent India ,evenovershadowing 2G Spectrum, has come into light. This is UP food scam and estimated to be to the tune of Rs.200,000 crores.

This scam, in its modus operandi, is self explanatory of how callous and ethically bankrupt and with a criminal mindset, the nexus of bureaucrats and politicians can act, so as not to spare even the poorest of the poor, for whom this food under public distribution system, was meant to be sold. This scam reportedly has been going on since 2002 and is said to be operative even now. Initially, the scam was estimated to be at Rs.35000 crores . It is pertinent to note that no agency has been asked to probe it although UP politicians reportedly knew about this scam as to how food for the poorest was denied to them and under a well executed modus operandi, sold in open market , exported and smuggled abroad, for illegal private profiteering and amassing of wealth. 
The day this scam was getting unfolded and suspected politicians bureaucrats and others getting exposed over TV Channels on Dec6, 2010, the same day, first ever notice was served on the country's Chief Vigilance Commissioner, by the Supreme Court, asking him to clear its stand as to how he got this coveted chair, despite not fulfilling the criteria for holding such an important and sensitive post. The tenets of morality demanded that the CVC should have tendered his resignation. The CVC has pulled out from supervising the probe into 2G Spectrum loot as also because he had held the post of the Telecom Secretary too. It sounds paradoxical that the Chief Guard of morality in India who had to monitor and oversee the probe, himself is facing corruption charges.

Hats off to the whistle blower , Vishwanath Chaturvedi of UP who is the petitioner in this hair raising food scam and on whose petition, Allahabad High Court directed the probe to be completed in 6 months and a status report filed every two months. Such watch dogs of our stinking system, who muster courage against all odds, to raise the voice against the looters deserve country's honour, awards and medals, given due encouragement, besides providing due protection.

How heartless these culprits could be, can be imagined, as to how the food meant for those who live below poverty line and who earn a daily wage of Rs.7 to Rs20, was taken away from the state's warehouses and diverted for purposes of earning the loot. Not only the successive governments in UP; did nothing in the matter, but the central government too appears to have done nothing. The major political parties on the national level are in many instances found lacking in mustering the requisite courage to take on Regional Political parties for such massive scams against the interests of the needy and the poor ,with an eye on prospective political gains or equations , now that an era of coalition politics is gaining antecedence and have been found choosing to be mute spectators .We have seen how DMK , an ally has virtually been found dictating terms to its principal partner in getting choicest and as many berths in union cabinet and in particular, its arms twisting in 2G Spectrum matter. Are political equations and government formations and sustaining them over and above the national interests and those concerning the people?

The young Congress leader, Rahul Gandhi, has his choicest stereotyped rhetoric in public meetings, to offer, by saying," there are two Indias --one, Rich India and the other, -Poor India: and that the Poor India is the real India ." His silence is, however, suspect as to who is responsible for emergence of two Indias. To be sincere, he should take to task and publicly decry, the Congress party for having ruled India for more than 52 years out of 63 years and own responsibility of dividing India into two parts economically. Mere flowery and emotive speeches are not going to resolve the matters as the whole scenario is baffling due to which general cynicism is bound to set in. There appears to be a strong feeling of disparagement of law by corrupt and immoral elements and the system of investigation and judicial trials, on the other hand, need sweeping changes to make them responsive to the requirement of quick and fast actions. That is precisely the reason, that no tainted political leader or a top corrupt bureaucrat is sternly punished, let alone awarded capital punishment, thanks to our brand of democracy.

Ruses and fudging are often resorted to, as a follow -up of what commissions of enquiry, probes, investigations etc; unravel in scam cases. That speaks in itself, as to why, the tainted Minister A. Raja, is not arrested and prosecuted. Raids on premises after the usual suspected clean ups, may perhaps yield not as per expectations of the probing agencies. Could the policy of deferring, avoiding and dodging, with intent to open the umbrella of protection, extended to an ordinary citizen or an employee too as is brazenly done in respect of tainted big wigs? Why does our democratic set-up allow those who are history sheeters , extortionists, scammers, corrupt etc; to enter state legislatures and our Parliaments ? Why are all political parties, Regional and National, united (and silent) on this main issue.?

This state of affairs is invoking innate hatred and utter disdain from the common Indians who feel that their money is not only spent unwisely in most of the cases, but siphoned off to fill in the private coffers, that explains why a whooping Rs.80 lac crores of black money is suspected to be stashed in Swiss Banks. This "Loot ka Dhan" can be retrieved back home. Is any attempt being made in this direction by the government - apparently not?

There are lot many honest political leaders who sincerely do their job, so are lot many honest and hard working bureaucrats and employees but their presence is not increasingly felt, as those at the other end, are wreaking havoc. The message must go loud and clear that we need better politicians, better leaders and better governance alone. Better comprises honesty, integrity, sincerity and high moral values. The voters of Bihar have recently shown the way , it is for us to emulate.










THE new year 2011 has ushered in a new vistas of cooperation for the people of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra by giving them an opportunity to share the surplus waters of the Krishna equitably and peacefully. Though this issue has been a matter of dispute for decades, all the three states are by and large happy now with Thursday's ruling given by the Krishna Waters Disputes Tribunal, headed by Justice Brijesh Kumar. Differences do persist among these states regarding some of the provisions in the tribunal award. However, these can be resolved through consultations among the states and in a spirit of give and take. According to the judgement, Andhra Pradesh gets a lion's share of the surplus water of the Krishna while those of Karnataka and Maharashtra have been substantially enhanced. Andhra Pradesh will get 1001 tmc ft (thousand million cubic feet), Karnataka 911 tmc ft and Maharashtra 666 tmc ft water from the river.


The tribunal has allowed Karnataka to store more water in the Almatti dam. As a result, the Karnataka government can now raise the dam height from 519.6 metres to 524.25 metres as directed by the tribunal. The height of the dam itself has long been mired in controversy with both Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra having objected to it. While Andhra Pradesh feels that the dam height would adversely result in changes in the state's cropping pattern as also impact projects like Srisailam and Nagarjunasagar, Maharashtra says that it would increase the risk of floods in Kolhapur, Satara and Sangli. Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has said that his government, within the three-month period given for clarification, will propose the setting up of a joint committee to manage the operations of the Almatti dam in a manner that the water is released in stages and without causing floods in the Maharashtra side.


Andhra Pradesh should have no cause for worry because it got the maximum share of the surplus waters. Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy has said that the government would study the judgement first before reacting to it. Of course, it needs all his skills to convince the people that the tribunal verdict will not hit the medium and minor projects taken up under the late Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy's Jalayagnam scheme. Water is a precious commodity and every state is plagued by shortages, often leading to riots, road blocks and other disturbances and disputes for getting water. The Cauvery water riots between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are fresh in memory. However, there will be no scope for disputes if the state governments rise above narrow considerations and share water as a national resource.









IT is strange that without an alternative system being in place for a sovereign guarantee for import-export payments involving the transactions between India and Iran, the RBI has withdrawn from the Asian Clearing Union (ACU) being used for the purpose. The RBI, all of a sudden, declared on December 23 that all payments for crude oil imports from Iran would now have to be made through a system other than the ACU, as it was no longer a part of it. The RBI withdrew from the ACU after the European Central Bank asked for a certificate that the crude being imported with the use of the euro does not fall in the category of the goods included in the US sanctions list.


Obviously, the RBI decision aims at avoiding any dispute with the European Central Bank, which must have acted as a result of invisible pressure from the US. But this may lead to a major crisis for India's energy sector, as Iranian crude import comes to around 12 per cent of India's total oil requirement. This is bound to have its impact on the oil availability in the country. It is just not possible to get from other sources 10 billion barrels of oil, which was about to reach from Iran in January. If the supplies from Iran are not cleared soon, India will have to make frantic efforts to overcome the shortage, and this may push up the prices at the international level.


Iran, too, will be losing $11 billion annually which it had been receiving from India for crude import. It is in the interest of both countries to ensure that the crude supplies remain unaffected. There is a clear message for Iran. The US and its Western allies will do all they can to punish Iran for its refusal to abandon its controversial nuclear programme. Iran has already suffered a major setback with the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project having failed to take off owing to the US factor. This is the time for the Iranian leadership to sit up and take a fresh look at its unrealistic nuclear ambitions.









THOUGH Haryana is ahead of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh in industrial development, the growth has been uneven and slow. Political leaders often like to take credit for industrialisation, the fact is the state has largely benefited from its close proximity to Delhi. That is why industrial units have conveniently located themselves in Faridabad, Gurgaon and Manesar. Industrialists are also driven by herd mentality. Starting with a joint venture called Maruti Udyog, the largest car-maker in the country, the Japanese have taken a special liking for Haryana. Others have followed.


Post-liberalisation, foreign direct investment has picked up and accelerated the pace of industrialisation in India. Haryana has got a good share of the cake. Barring stray cases, peaceful labour relations have also helped. However, the situation has changed now. A steep rise in land prices in the National Capital Region in recent years has come as a dampener. The high cost of land acquisition has led a number of industrial projects to be shelved. Unitech, a real estate firm, has abandoned its Rs 22,000-crore special economic zone project at Kundli in Sonepat district. The SEZ projects proposed by Reliance Industries and DLF at Gurgaon and Jhajjar are also facing problems. Hotmail founder Sabeer Bhatia is dragging his feet on the Rs 1,800-crore nanocity project.


The Haryana government's latest industrial policy, unveiled on Thursday, should be seen in this backdrop. Its focus is on luring industry to the backward areas. This will be a major challenge for the political leadership. Industry does not move by policies on paper. The basic infrastructure will have to be put in place apart from developing urban centres to meet the needs of a modern lifestyle. A reliable and fast road, rail and air connectivity has become a necessity. Haryana's law and order needs to be better managed. So also the state's social backwardness. The khap panchayats and the Jat agitation have soiled the state's image. Whether the government rises to the challenge remains to be seen. 

















SOME years after Truman, echoing Roosevelt, proclaimed four great freedoms for mankind — of speech and expression, of worship and from want and fear, Bob Hope added a fifth category, freedom from humbug. Its relevance was well illustrated by the BJP and the Left during the just concluded winter session of Parliament when they raucously muzzled all debate, ostensibly to save democracy from corruption and misgovernance. This is humbug of a high order.


The arguments used to justify this are self-serving. There is an ordained or ongoing scrutiny of the 2-G spectrum matter by the Public Accounts Committee, a CBI review of spectrum allocation from 2001 being monitored by the Supreme Court, an investigation of any policy malfeasance by a retired Supreme Court judge and a parallel investigation by the Enforcement Directorate. Since the Opposition remained dissatisfied, the Prime Minister volunteered to appear before the Public Accounts Committee and the government proposed a special session of Parliament to debate whether or not a Joint Parliamentary Committee would add value to the ongoing proceedings.


The Opposition, especially the BJP, will have none of this and insists that it is not for the Prime Minister to choose the forum before which he is arraigned. It wants the constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee rather than a debate on the need for one as offered. This is an untenable stand and devoid of merit. The Public Accounts Committee is one of half a dozen established joint committees of Parliament under its rules of business. On the other hand, there is no standing provision for any other Joint Parliamentary Committee except by express direction of Parliament. So, for the Opposition to insist on reference of the so-called spectrum scam to the exchequer to a non-existent body that can only be constituted by a specific mandate of Parliament, is an absurdity.


The Opposition insists that the government must face Parliament but will not let Parliament function or decide. This is an insult to the people of India who did not elect their MPs merely to prevent Parliament from functioning.


All this is seemingly justified by the enormity of the estimated loss of Rs 1,760 lakh crore to the public exchequer as a result of mala fide rate fixation for the sale of spectrum. This is a largely hypothetical figure. The then prevailing sluggish growth of tele-density with high call rates yielded to an exponential growth in telephony and a correspondingly sharp fall in call rates, partly because spectrum was sold at fixed or low prices. This entailed transferring real national benefit from a small, elite telephonic clientele to a greatly growing segment of the public. The social cost of such a transfer cannot be described as stealing money. If enhanced connectivity promoted higher growth, investment and employment, was there no dividend to the exchequer?


This is not to suggest the absence of mala fide as some illicit gain has been clearly proven. There was also delay in taking corrective action. But the range and degree of malfeasance have to be established and that is what the parallel probes currently under way are designed to establish. A thoroughgoing parliamentary debate could have brought greater clarity regarding possible failures of policy or implementation and indicated what needed to be probed or if any charges should be preferred and against whom. This was not allowed to happen. The tail assumed the right to wag the dog and the will of the people was claimed by a minority Opposition.


If the premier institution of Parliament can be held to ransom in this bizarre fashion, it could next be the turn of the judiciary or the CEC to be told that unless some other norms are adopted at the whim and fancy of an assorted group of protestors, these constitutional authorities will be prevented from performing their functions. This is a recipe for anarchy. The real motivation was and is the hope of electoral advantage and the smell of power.


It was not for nothing that a BJP spokesperson publicly stated that until a few weeks ago, the party could not even remotely envision electoral victory in 2014. But now the "kursi" had come into view and appeared drawing nearer by the day. Hence evidence of vaulting ambition. The Left is staring electoral nemesis in the face in West Bengal and Kerala. The more blatant conceit of the BJP is matched by its deceit in planning anti-government rallies in several states. Karnataka has been excluded as the BJP government there has been caught with its hand in the till. Blatant corruption has been exposed by the Lok Ayukta, who has been given short shrift by the state administration.


The Congress, too, must turn the light inwards. It has fostered corruption and protected the corrupt. It may be procedurally correct regarding the JPC; but where is its moral authority? Surely, all sides must join hands to tackle the prevalent moral rot collectively in the coming year.








EVERY morning  when  I step out of my house,  I first check on the presence of the million-rupee manhole cover embedded in the driveway; reverentially bow for its  darshan, and then only start the day. At night, I worry about someone stealing it to become an overnight millionaire by the shortest underground route, and poor me getting into the hole as the fall guy. Or perhaps, a dubious art dealer giving a wink to the auctioneers of Paris and London – and the media raisING a stink, on yet another heritage undercover job.


When the makers of Chandigarh innocently thought of endowing the city's manhole covers a distinct identity by casting Le Corbusier's layout plan on them; they could have hardly suspected that they were in fact paving the streets with gold and not just  covering up its underbelly. With the astronomical prices that this humble, down-to-earth objet d'art   now fetches at the international auctions, it may be a smart  idea to promote a 'manhole cover treasure hunt' during the city's heritage day festivities.  The winner would, of course, walk away with a full-size replica, and a free ticket to Paris and back.    


Another city where I was told one was quite walking on the streets of gold was Zurich. To step on the cobbled streets of its financial district Bahnhofstrasse, with the tons of bullion stashed in the vaults of the Swiss banks underneath, was to stroll on gold. Another aspect about Zurich's avant-garde culture is that as home to the art movement of Dadaism, its museum proudly displays a broken urinal as the prime display. We in Chandigarh are, of course, much more covered up with our art treasures and stop at manholes only.


Looking at the now rising stock of its diminishing Corbusean manhole covers, Chandigarh could perhaps  now think of starting a new series to keep the Paris auctioneers upbeat, by depicting a more contemporary layout of the Changiarh-Mohali-Panchkula tricity. While the deluxe edition would be gold plated, for the economy class  collectors they could be in tin. For the absolutely low-budget art collectors, we could make some special Corbusean bas-reliefs on concrete manhole covers.


Perhaps, one day Chandigarh, too, like Paris would be romanticised for its sewers — and a legendry creation like  Phantom of the Opera inspired by it. Hollywood has the swashbuckling James Bond — a blond in the arm — popping out from manholes, deftly escaping through intricate network of the city sewers, while the KGB keeps tumbling into them! Surely, Bollywood won't be far behind.


Perhaps time has come when we might as well make an official inventory of the remaining heritage manholes, put a golden plaque around each of them and usher in the golden era of Chandigarh. It's a million rupee question.







JUST after 1980 when Bob Edwards had purchased the Bourn House near Cambridge, England, to set up the first "test-tube" baby clinic (the Bourn Clinic) to treat infertility cases requiring what we know today as IVF (in vitro fertilisation), the technique for which he received the Nobel Prize this year, he drove me to the then heavily guarded building, and chuckled. All around, he said, were TV cameras poised on the top of the adjoining buildings to record what was happening inside Bourn House, and I would become a marked man!


Bob had been a celebrity in Britain (and in many other parts of the world) for nearly three years, not only for having given IVF to the infertile couples but also ignoring the church-going crowd that felt that man had no right to interfere if God had made a couple infertile. He realised that if any organic malfunctioning could be considered a disease, infertility was the most widely prevalent disease around the world, affecting 10 to 15 per cent couples of child-bearing age, and he had given new hope to them. In fact, today, advances based on Bob Edwards' work between 1970 and 1980 have made it possible for 85 per cent of infertile couples to have a child.


So he put all his money in the Bourn Clinic. It was a risk few would have taken, for the success rate of IVF at that time was less than 10 per cent. Louise Brown, the first so-called test-tube baby that he and the late Patrick Streptoe had delivered on July 25, 1978, was their first success after over 30 failures. But Bob Edwards recognised that nothing worthwhile in this world was ever accomplished without taking a risk, believing in oneself, and going that extra mile that others didn't dare to walk.


Bourn Hall, in the village of Bourn, became a landmark, and the techniques that Bob had pioneered spawned a host of new, related technologies. Infertility clinics (good or bad) started sprouting around the corner everywhere, specially in India which even today has no regulation to control them, over the next three decades. This mushrooming was an anathema to the innate sense of ethics and morality in Bob. So when he started his second journal (the first being, now widely known, Human Reproduction, Reproductive BioMedicine (RBM) Online, he asked me to write an article on ethical issues in modern biological technologies which was published in September 2003 issue of this journal.


The IVF and related techniques were by then well accepted. The question was that of ethics in the practice of these techniques which became to be collectively known as assisted reproductive technologies (ART). As my article pointed out, the scope of unethical behaviour and practices on part of the practitioners of ART was immense, and it was being exploited fully to make easy money at the cost of ignorance of people.


In delivering Louise Brown after many failures, in setting up the Bourn Clinic, and in starting two highly successful journals, Bob showed that patience, self-confidence, and a real commitment to the legitimate interests of the people based on strong ethics and highly developed professionalism, pays in the long run. He was unfazed when, in 1971, the Medical Research Council of Britain (MRC), one of the most forward-looking scientific grant-giving organisations in the world), denied financial support to Bob Edwards for work which led to the Nobel Prize. He seemed always short of money. When in 2002, I persuaded him to come to Hyderabad for the Silver Jubilee of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, which he had visited earlier, he asked if in addition to his travel, board and lodging expenses, a few hundred pounds could be paid to him. I arranged for an ART clinic in Hyderabad to do so. As a courtesy, he then visited the clinic which, today, is doubly proud of that visit.


I have watched the modern biological revolution from close quarters since its beginning in 1953, and I believe that there are not many who have during this period succeeded on so many counts as Bob has. However, the fact remains that success is never the outcome of just one individual's effort and no one is, I am sure, more aware of it than Bob Edwards.


The person he would be missing the most at this time is C.R. Austin (known to his friends as Bunny Austin), without whose support all through, Bob would not have got to where he did. An unsung hero of reproduction biology, Bunny was a gentleman par excellence in the traditional British sense, who left most of the talking to his very articulate wife, Patricia. I came to know them when I was working in the National Institute for Medical Research in London during 1956-57. In the later years, he was to become the world's foremost authority on the mammalian egg. He discovered, independently with M.C. Chang of the Worcester Foundation in New England in the US, the phenomena of "capacitation" which Bob Edwards recognised as the single most important hurdle in developing the technique of IVF – that is, fertilising the human egg with human sperm in vitro (say, in a test tube!), allowing the fertilised egg to develop initially also in the laboratory, and then transferring the embryo thus generated outside the body, into the uterus of a woman for further normal development.


Mammalian sperm are infertile when ejaculated by man. They acquire the capacity (hence the term, "capacitation") to fertilise an egg during passage through the female reproductive tract. Therefore, for successful fertilisation of human egg by human sperm in the lab, one would need to first capacitate the human sperm.


Bunny Austin moved to Cambridge as the Darwin Professor of Animal Morphology in the Physiological Laboratory of the University in the 1960s. Bob who was with Bunny at the National Institute for Medical Research, also joined him there. It was there on the fourth floor of the Physiological Laboratory that he developed the technique of capacitating the human sperm in vitro and then using the capacitated sperm to fertilise a human egg also in vitro what we know today as IVF.


When Bunny moved to Cambridge, he purchased the most prestigious building in the village of Toft near Cambridge, called the Manor House. It was listed in the Cambridgeshire Directory of Heritage Buildings, and was not the most comfortable one in the world. My wife and I stayed there as guests of the Austins more than once, in an upstairs room the floor of which was sloping and creaked at each step. But the overall beauty of the building had a magical effect even on visitors and I remember many delightful evenings spent there with Bob Edwards, and his wife, Ruth. It was there that I learnt about Bob's fascination with fast cars and fast driving, violating every rule of the road, which very few Britishers do. He could persuade me to be driven by him, I think only once!


After retiring from Cambridge, Bunny and Pat migrated to a remote corner of eastern Australia, where he passed away, unknown and unsung, a few years ago. Both Bob and I lost an extremely dear friend. Bunny wasn't even elected to The Royal Society, a grave omission on the part of the Society. Bob's election to the Fellowship of The Royal Society, perhaps, partly made up for it.


Bob has been an unusual entrepreneur who expanded his entrepreneurship to areas that are generally considered taboo for scientists. For example, he stood for membership of the British Parliament, and failed. But that was probably his only major failure. In everything else he tried, he succeeded.


Bob has been a Fellow of Churchill College in Cambridge, and my wife and I remember dining at the College as Bob's guests. There was never a dull moment when he was around, and he always livened the dinner table.


The Nobel Foundation did not do Bob a favour by awarding Nobel Prize for 2010 to him. Bob should have received the Prize 20 years ago, around 1990, by which time many with much lesser accomplishment to their credit had been given this honour.


As of now, he is sick. I spoke to him last nearly two years ago when I was in Cambridge. It was clear to me even then that he was very unwell. As he is not well, his wife received the Nobel Prize on his behalf.


Unfortunately, this is not the first time in recent years that the Nobel Foundation has slipped. It did so when it conferred the Nobel Prize on Luc Montagnier and a colleague of his for discovering HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. It should have been shared with Robert Gallo of the US. In fact, the Nobel Prize may have been given (which would not have been right) only to Bob Gallo, but for the French government's active and persistent intervention to protect the legitimate interest of Luc Montaignier, for Bob Gallo was far better known even for work on HIV and AIDS, and had already made several other major discoveries such as of interleukin-2 and of HTLV1 and HTLV2, the human leukaemia-causing viruses.


It is a thought that if Luc Montaignier had done his work in India, he would have been probably only ridiculed as happened to Subhas Mukherjee who delivered the first Indian test-tube baby, Kanupriya Agarwal, on October 3, 1978, just 69 days after Louise Brown was born.


In fact, soon after Louise Brown was born, Bunny Austin came to India at my invitation and gave a lecture in the then Regional Research Laboratory (now Indian Institute of Chemical Technology) at Hyderabad on the work of Bob Edwards. He then asked me about Subhas Mukherjee and said that if the Indian scientific community and the Government of India would certify to the brandied facts of Kanupriya's birth, Bob Edwards would be happy to share the credit with Subhas Mukherjee. If that had happened, Mukherjee wouldn't have committed suicide, and would have shared the Nobel Prize with Edwards. I wonder how many such opportunities we have missed and will continue to miss.


It is said that when a well-known exporter of crabs from India to the US was chastised by his American customers for sending them a consignment of crabs in containers that had no lids, he told the Americans not to worry as they were Indian crabs and as soon as any of them would try to climb up, all the others would pull it down. It is this Indian Crab Syndrome that has often prevented the emergence of Indian Nobel Prize winners.


The writer, a former Vice-Chairman, National Knowledge Commission, is a former Director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad



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





Ten years ago, at the dawn of the new millennium, some hopeful commentators forecast that the decade to come was going to be India's. It has been—almost, because the top prize goes to China, which in 2010 emerged as the world's second-largest economy (it was seventh largest in 2000). India did well, clocking 7.5 per cent annual growth (up from 6 per cent in the 1980s and 1990s), but has been overshadowed by China. In reality, therefore, it has been an also-ran. Its bigger neighbour has simply moved into another league; it now single-handedly moves commodity and energy markets around the world, not to mention currency markets, and has made a determined foray into Africa. It intends to move into Central Asia, and has become confident enough to take on several East Asian countries simultaneously—Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan and, of course, Taiwan. It is also thrusting into India's neighbourhood. Further, with the construction of an impressive railway line into Tibet, the positioning of more powerful missiles on that plateau, and (most recently) improved road and tunnel connections right up to the disputed Indian border, it poses a new level of military threat. Among other things, China has a defence budget that is five-and-a-half times India's. If anyone needed any reminding, it doesn't pay to come in second-best.


 What of the coming decade? The risk is that India will end up second-best once again, though it is likely to put in a stronger performance than in the 2001-2010 period, because annual growth might be faster (most likely 8.5 - 9 per cent). The country's global clout will grow too, when it emerges as the fifth-largest economy (it is 10th today). In many respects, India in 2020 will be akin to what China is today—which is not a bad position to be in. But the gap with China, whose economy is now three-and-a-half times India's, is unlikely to have shrunk. It will be achievement enough if the gap does not grow, because (barring accidents) China by then would have grown to about the size of the US economy today. Through the coming decade, therefore, the primary concern of the world's powers (including India) will be simply coping with the consequences of China's rise.


Three issues need consideration. First, how much strategic space will India have wrested for itself through better performance in the second decade of the century, and will that have served to contain the tensions with China—tensions that have grown this past year? Second, can Planet Earth deal with the birth of a second United States; the global economy may grow, as a result, from a little over $60 trillion today to perhaps $80 trillion. Given that the world's carbon footprint already exceeds Planet Earth's carrying capacity, and given the surge in demand that one should expect from commodity-intensive growth in India and China, environmental breakdown could well provoke a crisis—and, therefore, a discontinuity (in which case, all bets are off). The third issue, of course, is whether the United States, laden with public debt, will have the will and the wherewithal to maintain military superiority over China, whether the other Asian powers will come closer together to face the Chinese dragon (Japan is re-orienting its defence posture, and India is busy re-arming), or whether all parts of Asia will have been forced to adjust and accept Chinese dominance—and, if so, what that dominance might mean. As this should make clear, the next 10 years too look like being China's decade, with India a less distant No. 2 than is the case now.









The year 2010 marked a dramatic change in the stance of the international policy establishment towards capital controls in emerging markets, where I use the term not in the sense of differences between countries in levels of restriction, but in the sense of imposition of (renewed) controls in countries which had previously liberalised their capital account regimes. The term "regulation" is more appropriate for these reversals, but I will continue with the term capital controls, since it is still used, and since much of the emotion surrounding it happened when it had that name. So the term capital controls is used here for going into reverse gear on capital account liberalisation.

The change in the international stance on capital controls in 2010 was marked by the G20 communique after the Seoul Summit in November 2010, and in the statement by Dominique Strauss Kahn at the Shanghai meeting of the International Monetary Fund in October, both of which endorsed capital account management among permissible "carefully designed macro-prudential measures". These are big signals, even if they merely mark recognition of what countries facing the newest round of capital surge that started in mid-2009 have been doing anyway, starting with Brazil. Prior to 2010, for a period of twelve long years, capital controls met with outright hostility and condemnation, dating back to September 1, 1998, when Malaysia imposed capital controls in what had been the most famously free capital account regime in the developing world. Malaysia gained current account convertibility status under Article Eight of the International Monetary Fund as far back as November 1968, a brazen display of export confidence. Then, in 1973, the Malaysian ringgit went into a full float, along with the dollar, pound and yen. It was a status no other developing country currency had attained, or even dared aspire to attain.

That record of early commitment to borderless capital flows was abruptly reversed in 1998. Capital controls had been imposed before. Colombia had unremunerated reserve requirements on capital inflows from 1993 to 2000, and even Malaysia temporarily restricted an inflow surge in 1994. The difference was that those were controls on entry, but the 1998 Malaysian move controlled exit. This was immediately condemned as an egregious abuse of sovereign power, and a violation of international trust. But what Malaysia did was not extreme. It was a carefully calibrated move designed to give Malaysia the space within which to lower interest rates without precipitating an outward stampede of capital. For non-resident capital, there was no ban on taking out profits and interest. It was only the principal that was incarcerated within the country. After six months, the ban was converted to an exit levy, and after another six months the levy was reduced to 10 per cent on capital gains alone, later further reduced to a levy on capital gains only on capital that had been in the country less than a year. By May 2001, all controls had been fully lifted (controls on exit of resident capital were, however, retained for a longer period).


This was not a story of irresponsible monetary policy at all. It enabled Malaysia to recover from the East Asian crisis with far less macroeconomic pain than other countries in the region. And it was clear that Bank Negara was continually calibrating controls to the need of the hour, removing them when no longer required.


The international reaction was swift and broadbanded to condemn all controls of any kind on foreign capital, at the point of entry or exit. To the basic lesson for developing countries that capital account liberalisation gave access to capital at lower cost and was, therefore, good for them, a corollary was appended, that such liberalisation must be monotonic at all times. The only permissible direction in which the capital account regime could go was towards liberalisation, without reversals of even a temporary kind along the way. There was no formal justification for this monotonicity requirement, and no empirical support. On the contrary, Malaysia offered a clear case of a country that had worked its way out of the East Asian crisis by disregarding monotonicity.


Any country worried about its international reputation was compelled to abide by these rules. Thus it was that when capital inflows into India quadrupled over the period 2004-08, regulating the inflow of capital was not seen as an option. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had to use such instruments as were available, to hold the exchange rate from appreciating wildly as it would have done if the dollars surging in had not been added to official reserves, and to sterilise the rupee inflow from the continued dollar purchase. This task was managed well, albeit at huge fiscal cost. What also helped was use by RBI of its role as a banking regulator to prick a potential asset bubble in its infancy.


Two countries did dare to flout the rules even then. Colombia reimposed unremunerated reserve requirements on inflows during 2006-08, and Thailand did too. In a recent paper, Kevin Gallagher and David Coelho assess these actions for their effectiveness, set against the background of a panel of neighbouring countries in each case. The results of all such empirics are necessarily context-specific, since the kinds of capital control used, their timing and duration, all matter critically for the success of the initiative. But the results of this and other studies show that temporary restrictions do help monetary policy autonomy, can control the composition of inflows in desired directions, do help stabilise the exchange rate, and do help regulate the pace of inflows.


The 2010 official benediction means that countries facing a capital surge can now consider capital controls without fear of blotting their good conduct book. This augurs well for the poor in these countries, who face the brunt of macroeconomic volatility. May we all have a Happy New Year.


The author is honorary visiting professor, ISI Delhi








Simon Kuznets theorised economic inequality increases in developing countries until a base per capita is achieved. After that, inequality decreases. The Kuznets Curve (KC) looks like an inverted U-shaped graph, when inequality is mapped against per capita.


Some social scientists discern an Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC), when pollution levels are mapped versus per capita. That is, a developing nation damages its environment in its first growth spurt. After some basic per capita is reached, citizens demand clean-ups and then emissions are capped, sewage treated, etc. A KC may also exist with regard to corruption and per capita. One fervently hopes so. The last decade has seen unprecedented growth — India's per capita rose from a nominal $500 in 2000 to $1,125 in 2009. Side by side, there has been robust growth in corruption and its incestuous twin, crony capitalism.


Logically, given the original KC, there has to be a KC for corruption. Corruption breeds inequality but inequality eventually declines with growing per capita. But whatever that magic per capita level may be, India has obviously not hit it yet.


In 2010, we saw some signs that India is closer to the tipping point. This is not because there was a decrease in corruption, or crony capitalism. It is because corruption was exposed and there was genuine, spontaneous outrage about it.


This is not a reference to the orchestrated posturing that crippled the winter session of Parliament. It is about the universal disgust inspired by the CWG mess, the spectrum scandal and the Radia tapes. It is about the free, frank discussion of judicial outcomes in sensitive matters like the Vinayak Sen case, the Reliance-ADAG gas allocation dispute and the Babri Masjid.


Ultimately, disgust is the bedrock on which a civil society is built. Be it environmental degradation, crony capitalism, or generalised corruption, improvements occur only when the establishment finds chalta hai unsustainable. A sufficient number of citizens need to be sufficiently disgusted before that happens.

How long will it take to develop that level of disgust in amader Bharatvarsha? There cannot be hard-and-fast extrapolations. The prerequisites are high levels of genuine literacy (as opposed to the ability to sign one's name), democracy and personal freedom, respect for property rights, and some level of basic per capita. India has a long way to go on most of these indicators.


Decent institutions like a fair, efficient and independent judiciary; honest and efficient civil services; and transparent government policies develop only when societies possess the above. Otherwise, as in India, we see cargo-cult travesties, where the forms are aped without the functionality.


But in this respect, India could end up uniquely blessed. No country has ever had a population so large, so young and so upwardly mobile in both absolute and percentage terms. A decade or two later, most of the current establishment will be dead, of natural causes, and India's per capita will be roughly five to six times as large as it is now.


Simply through the efflux of time, and the so-called demographic dividend, the current gerontocracy will be replaced by people who are much younger, more wealthy, better educated, and more self-assured. Will our descendants be unpatriotic enough to ignore our long-cherished tradition of sirfarish?


There is hope. Schoolchildren led the campaign against fireworks that has resulted in less noisy and less polluted Diwalis. They are well aware their texting and IM bills are larger, and their power supply is more expensive and uncertain, due to the shenanigans of Raja and his ilk. Some of them wonder why the laws used by the British to muzzle the Freedom Movement are used against the citizens of a supposedly free state. They will do the job eventually if only we can nurture their sense of disgust.









Delhi's Press Club never fails to register. The food remains good; the best items have by now survived for decades. Thankfully nobody has tried to repackage the menu. The booze, of course, is highly affordable, though one wishes that along with being a watering hole the club also provided with sufficient vigour the platform for public discourse which is really its unique franchise.


The wonder is the place still survives. Many successful scribes, upwardly mobile or arrived, keep away from it. It's a bit tacky, they say. There is a sprinkling of old timers who, in manner and loudly uttered opinion, really belong to the sixties when the media was king and being able to call the club your own was a privilege.


 Affordable good food and booze apart, what really draws me to the club where I try to sign the register, so to speak, during a Delhi visit is the default option in life and living that it represents. It is such a great meeting place for odd bods which offers hope that there is a place in emerging India too for them.


When the sun came out after days of chilling fog, I eagerly went to see if you could still sit out on the lawn. You could but the grass, never luxurious in the best of times, was totally gone. The quintessential old man was there at the next table narrating to his somewhat starry-eyed guests how the battle to have a detailed report on paid news and get it circulated in toto and not the few-pages summary was won. There was also the old hand who used to handle press liaison for a chamber of commerce, consciously placing next to his glass the latest copies of two popular political magazines. And, of course, the old old faces who seemed to have held on to their modest positions in old old stables.


The slightly down and out Delhi Press Club is really a symbol of the media and one of the few places where odd bods could make good. If your school and college results were distinctly mediocre and you had neither the inclination nor the resources to go for an MBA, but had somehow managed to acquire a decent familiarity with the English language and what was happening around the world, then chances were you would have entered upon a newspaper career. Today journalism schools have taken away a lot of the entry space but the odd bod still can ask to take a test and walk in.


The distinction between odd bods and regulars was brought home sharply to me recently by a young novice at the India office of an American consultancy. There were two types among youngsters at her office. One was rich people's kids, able to pay their way through a good management school, very focused. The other was people like her whose ability to think on their feet had got them through a succession of interviews despite the missing MBA. She proudly said she could get along with people across groups.


Does a society need odd bods? The Europeans seem to have opted out of the race to succeed long ago, with their desire for leisure and short working weeks. The Americans who were supposedly still striving to create wealth have recently been administered a rude shock by the results of a test administered by that rich man's club, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, to youngsters across countries and cities which measured their knowledge of science, mathematics and ability to read. The toppers are students from Shanghai and the Americans come somehow around 15th to 31st. The UK and France also score poorly. If today's toppers will rule tomorrow's world, then it belongs to China.


But are rough and ready answers the right ones in the long run? Take the case of Japan. Not so long ago Japan was considered unstoppable. And Japan had the same education system that is being assiduously adopted by China's elite cities and schools — rigorous learning oriented to getting into the right pre-schools which, in turn, will open the door to the right schools, colleges and jobs. Discipline, long hours at studies, intensive coaching and perfecting responses and techniques were the hallmark of the older Japanese system, followed first by South Korea and now China.


But look where Japan is going? It is floundering and the best symbol of that is the travails of Sony, once the leitmotif of Japanese innovation and unstoppability. Japan is today in the throes of self-doubt. Not only is its economy mired in stagnation for a decade and more, the absence of cohesive politics has led to its humiliation in boundary disputes with China. The Japanese, whose unique strength lay in the way they prepared for everything, typically floundered when confronted by the unpredictable.


Where does India figure in all this? It is a peculiar hybrid. The IT success is attributed to an aspirational middle class pursuing capabilities and skills the way the Japanese had done earlier and the Chinese do now. But there is another India too which thrives in chaos and which has a good number of odd bods. There is no place for the latter in today's China whose people have traded political freedom and the right to be different for the pursuit of wealth through hard work and discipline.


My kind of India is, it should be clear by now, one where there is enough space for everybody — achievers as well as odd bods. That is why I like to spend most of my time in Bangalore and love to visit the Delhi Press Club which is marked by people who have not come to much but appear none the worse off for it.









David Harvey, who teaches at the Graduate Centre at the City University of New York, has become the leading exponent of classical Marxist political economy today. In two recent books, A Companion to Marx's Capital (Verso, £10.99) and The Enigma of Capital and the Crisis of Capitalism (Profile Books, £13.49), he tries to explain the recent crisis of capitalism from 2007 to the present — as well as the example of past crises — to make his argument against capitalism. With exceptional clarity and integrating spatial categories into the theory of capital accumulation. Harvey's thesis is this: capitalism functions and feeds on itself by constant growth which means "3 per cent compound growth for economic satisfaction". This growth rate is impossible to sustain over the long run and leads, Harvey says, to increasingly severe crisis. The recent crisis fuelled by property speculation shows up the weaknesses and problems with capitalism, as does the growth of the financial sector which has cornered a large share of the economic gains (corporate profits came from the financial sector) while the working class has seen no gains over three decades in the US.


For Harvey, the crux of the vicious circle of capitalism is the problem of surplus capital which has to go somewhere (to earn the magic 3 per cent) to keep the cycle ticking over. The American financial crisis, Harvey says, even in 2010 has nothing to do with the lack of liquidity — corporations, banks, financial institutions are awash with cash but underpaid workers and consumers aren't spending enough to get the business cycle moving again. For one thing they don't have the money; for another, the gap between what labour earned and what it would like to spend on could only be covered by credit which they were wary about because of their sense of insecurity about their jobs. The surplus capital is clearly in the wrong hands, as he notes: "In midsummer of 2009, one-third of the capital equipment in the United States stood idle, while 17 per cent of the workforce were either unemployed, enforced part-timers or 'discouraged' workers. What could be more irrational than that."


 Under the circumstances, capitalism has to find a way out which means going abroad or globalisation in various ways and every now and then relapsing into protectionism. Another was the explosive use of opaque derivatives but with the writing on the wall where this could eventually lead to, labour hesitates either to borrow or invest in the economy.


So, Harvey gives a grim picture of a future that doesn't work. Capitalism can only survive by socialising losses and distributing profits to private hands. This can be done because of the close collaboration between the state and high finance which Harvey describes as "state-finance nexus". Harvey doesn't see this as a kind of conspiracy; both sides need each other and support each other. Often there is a friction between the two but in the end differences are sorted out as neither side has an alternative model that would work.


All the same, Harvey warns that the "accumulated rigidities" over the last cycle of 1970s have become so great that only a fundamental restructuring can restore the basis for renewed economic growth. But until this is done, the pressure for a return to credit and debt to refuel the economy would be considerable. And this will be a recipe for another crisis of a larger magnitude in a few years.


But the question is whether there is a realistic alternative to capitalism as a way of organising the economy. Everywhere the anti-capitalist left is fragmented and rapidly losing ground; in fact, radical political responses during repeated capitalist crises have invariably favoured the right. The rise of China and India, both of which continued to grow during the recession and that might well bring about a shift in the balance of the global economy, holds out the promise of a huge potential for the absorption of surplus. But this is a distant dream provided certain political conditions were satisfied.


Besides, it won't be easy. Harvey reminds his readers that Marx himself thought that no social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed. And Harvey admits that capitalism has still a long way to go before it gives up the struggle. In his final chapter, Reflections and Prognosis in Marx's Capital, Harvey ends on a philosophical note with a verse by Bertolt Brecht:


It takes a lot of things to change the world:

Anger and tenacity. Science and indignation,

The quick initiative, the long reflection,

The cold patience and infinite perseverance,

The understanding of the particular case and the understanding of the ensemble:

Only the lessons of reality can teach us to transform reality.


The two books that complement each other are a welcome addition to the literature of the present crisis that set out the case for a new radicalism and a vision of the alternatives. But one thing has been made clear by the crisis: there can never be unfettered capitalism, "red in tooth and claw". Call it what you like, capitalism has to be regulated if it has to survive.










Few countries are blest like India with a prime minister with such sound intentions and of such unimpeachable integrity. But Manmohan Singh is, indeed, a good man fallen among politicians if he imagines that yet another mechanism to punish venal public servants will make any impact on the massive corruption that is destroying India. His proposal might have the effect of upstaging and discomfiting the Opposition whose attacks on the prime minister are truly "despicable", as Sonia Gandhi put it, but that tactical advantage will certainly not cleanse public life.


 Nor may corruption "verily prove a nail in the coffin of the Congress," as Rajendra Prasad warned, for all parties are probably equally tainted today. The problem is not, however, with major scams of which we have had many between Krishna Menon's Rs 216-crore jeep scandal and the $1.6 billion Bofors case. No tears need be shed for tycoons who can afford to pay for goods and services, and who factor bribes into the overheads. If they have to gratify a politician or a bureaucrat they recoup the expenditure from the public. That's why businessmen ignored Inder Kumar Gujral when, sitting in Dr Singh's chair, he pleaded with them in private and in public to inform a special cell in his office of every demand for a bribe. Even Ratan Tata didn't bother to disclose what he did recently about the rock on which his airline proposal foundered.


But ordinary folk desperately need protection from an increasingly rapacious system. When he was Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), Subimal Dutt, a respected member of the Indian Civil Service, lamented that bureaucrats in an increasingly lengthening list of government departments refused to perform even their legitimate duties unless they received what was euphemistically called "speed money". This, Dutt observed, had become "a way of life".


I mentioned this to Rajiv Gandhi when he was prime minister and the reply was immediate and idealistic. The solution, he said, lay in a strong consumer movement. Quite so. But Ralph Nader would not have gained iconic status in the US if every branch of the administration had not responded positively to the public lectures and campaigns against corporate greed and official indifference that his young followers, known as "Nader's Raiders", mounted. Laws were changed, courts alerted, and exposure of the car industry's faulty designing led to the discontinuation of Chevrolet Corvairs.


Several Indian states boast moderately successful consumer movements but, by and large, ordinary citizens still have no redress against, say, BSNL's exploitative lethargy or the Income Tax department's reluctance to disgorge refunds. In an earlier stint as finance minister, P Chidambaram dismissed corruption as the "by-product of controls", saying, "If we remove controls, the corrupt are easily identified, isolated and punished." But it's only an escapist cliché that all abuses were rooted in the control-permit-licence raj. If anything, the greater liquidity accompanying the abolition of controls encourages even more corruption.


Not that corruption is only financial. Delving into history, Kalyan Singh's appointment of 93 ministers (16 of them with criminal antecedents) in Uttar Pradesh was also a corrupt practice, morally if not legally. But money, land and mining excite the senses most; they also permit point-scoring.


Two prescriptions might provide partial relief. First, the Santhanam Committee's recommendation that the CVC should be empowered to initiate inquiries and investigate the conduct of leading political personalities, which all previous governments understandably rejected. Second, a far stronger corrective machinery – meaning an honest police force and an impartial judiciary – to bring the guilty quickly to book so that Indians are no longer reduced to begging and bribing for every single service.


We did not need Wikileaks to tell us that the "police and security forces are overworked and hampered by bad police practices, including widespread use of torture in interrogations, rampant corruption, poor training, and a general inability to conduct solid forensic investigations." No wonder the Americans scathingly accuse the police here of cutting corners to avoid a "lagging justice system, which has approximately 13 judges per million people." Surprisingly, the leaked cables made no mention of ramshackle courtrooms, dilatory, underpaid court officials, cunningly exploitative lawyers and venal judges.


Reform the police and the judiciary to give a strong consumer movement a chance. Perhaps we might then think of a clean administration that serves the aam admi instead of preying on him. But, then, to return to my favourite quotation from Juvenal because it seems so apt to modern India, "Quis custodiet ipsos/ Custodes? Who is to guard the guards themselves?"










The subscription from the retail category for three recent initial public offering (IPOs) in December 2010 makes interesting reading.


The MOIL IPO, which had a quota of 11,524,800 shares and closed on December 1, was overwhelmingly over-subscribed 32.86 times.


The A2Z IPO, which had a quota of 7,465,918 shares and closed on December 10, was under-subscribed 0.33 times.


The Punjab & Sind Bank IPO, which had a quota of 13,300,000 shares and closed on December 16, was overwhelmingly over-subscribed 44.45 times.


Both in terms of number of shares reserved for the retail investors category and the response received, the Punjab & Sind Bank IPO was the biggest and the A2Z the smallest among these three IPOs. A2Z is a private


sector corporation in which Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, a stock market wizard touted as India's Warren Buffett, has substantial investments. "The promoter Amit Mittal and the business model inspired me," he said some time ago. Between March 31, 2007 and March 31, 2010, A2Z's performance has been outstanding. Total income rose by 6.76 times, from Rs 181.29 crore to Rs 1225.30 crore; and its profit after tax rose even faster by 8.84 times, from Rs 11.15 crore to Rs 98.62 crore.


At the upper price band of Rs 410, the original investment of Rs 20 crore at Rs 10 per share made by Jhunjhunwala was expected to gallop in value to over Rs 800 crore. But when the stock listed on December 23, the highest price it could command, that too for a brief while, was Rs 390 and it nosedived to Rs 325 a couple of hours later. "A2Z Maintenance — heading below Rs 200 level soon, exit the stock immediately, the clout of 'RJ' is losing (in the) stock market," advised a panic-stricken boarder on the message board.


What could have caused A2Z IPO's lacklustre performance? Another significant point worth mentioning is, that the A2Z IPO was not being crowded out by other contenders. In fact, announced IPOs like One97 Communications and L7T Finance had actually been postponed.


Now take the case of MOIL and Punjab & Sind Bank. Both are public sector companies. MOIL touched Rs 591.05 when listed on December 15. At the time of writing, its price is hovering at Rs 460 to Rs 465. Against the IPO price of Rs 356.25 (after a 5 per cent discount), it is yielding a profit of around 24 per cent. The investment in the MOIL IPO has, therefore, been considered worthwhile.


The MOIL IPO, which planned to rake in Rs 1,260 crore, at its upper price of Rs 375, was the largest of the three. The A2Z issue at the upper price limit of Rs 410, which expected to rake in Rs 675 crore, was the second largest, while the Punjab & Sind Bank issue with Rs 480 crore as its target at the upper price band of Rs 120 was the smallest.









BAD politics constrains growth today. It is time politicians admitted the fact and took responsibility for the economy's problems. Inflation, after coming down to a little over 7%, threatens to shoot up again, thanks to high rise in the prices of vegetables. Core sector growth is down to 2.3% in November, the lowest level in the last eight years. True, unseasonal rains are to blame, at least in part, for both kinds of bad news, affecting the onion crop and construction, the latter leading on to a fall in the demand for cement, depressing output. Broad money is growing at 15%, year on year, at a pace lower than the nominal growth rate of the economy as a whole. It is difficult to blame lax monetary policy for inflationary pressures in such a circumstance. Supply constraints and an inefficient supply chain that allows any perceived shortage to freely translate into huge speculative margins for the trade are to blame. India's farmers face a peculiar situation. The moment the urban middle class faces a rise in the prices of farm produce, political pressure is brought to bear on drastic measures to hold prices down, including a ban on exports. This, in tandem with a supply chain that fails to pass on retail price signals to the producers, kills the basic incentive to increase farm output. As India prospers and Indians consume increasing quantities of food in general, and superior foods, in particular, the demand for food and non-food agri commodities goes steadily up. The only sensible response is a secular increase in the output of all crops — not switching crops via changes in relative prices. This calls for bold moves outside the traditional framework, to increase economies of scale and upgrade technology. This calls for political boldness and imagination, and engagement with farmers and traders. 


 Rent-seeking and patronage politics make doing business difficult, create delays and cost overruns. Political funding must be reformed, and levying of realistic user charges appreciated as being pro-growth and pro-people. If politicians find the courage to take on such a change agenda in the new year in right earnest, the economy would roar ahead.







 THE . 400-crore fraud at Citibank's Gurgaon branch is a pointer both to the gullibility of investors, including, high net worth individuals (HNIs) and corporate treasuries who should have known better, who one would presume should know better and to the absence of proper systems at the bank. At one level it is incredible that HNIs who, presumably, acquired their high net worth by being smarter than most, could have been so naive about trusting such vast sums of money to someone, even if that someone happens to be a relationship manager with a well-known foreign bank. While no system can be completely fraud-proof, procedures at the bank were also clearly wanting as the relationship manager seems to have acted entirely on his own without proper oversight from any other official. A proper internal/concurrent audit would have brought the fraud sooner to light. 


The fraud also offers a number of valuable lessons. The first is that when someone offers you a return that is way beyond what the market does, you need to get your antenna up. If you don't and allow yourself to be blinded by greed, the chances are that you will rue the day you did so. Second, there is no such thing as excessive caution when it comes to safeguarding your wealth. And while exemplary punishment to the fraudster can act as a deterrent, there is no substitute to being financially alert. Granting power of attorney is an invitation for trouble, unless the power-of-attorney holder is a person in whom you have implicit trust. In the instant case, the Citibank employee had reportedly promised a guaranteed return of 2% per month and had been given power of attorney by several HNIs to deal with their funds at his discretion. At a time when bank fixed deposits earned a fraction of that (it has varied from a miserable 5% earlier this year to about 7% at present), this was clearly too good to be true as investors have discovered to their cost. The exalted company in which those duped find themselves is poor consolation for those at the receiving end of one of the most audacious frauds in recent times!






 THAT the iconic Harrods foodhall will soon feature India's favourite yoghurt drink — appropriately marketed by Indo-Pak Brit-Asian duo — may not cause much of a churn in the dairy-based drinks market in that country, but it definitely shows the whey ahead. As we enter a year that will mark a century since the only ruling British monarch ever to set foot in India declared the shifting of the capital of the British Raj from Calcutta to a 'new' Delhi at the Coronation Durbar, things have changed dramatically. Not only is the East India Company — from whose charge Queen Victoria wrested India after 'the mutiny' of 1857 and declared herself Empress — now Indian-owned, 2010 saw the company that had annexed a subcontinent bit by bit being relaunched as a luxury brands retailer. Even more appropriately, 70 years since the Salt Satyagraha was begun by Mahatma Gandhi to begin an important chapter of the freedom struggle, British Salt was also bought by an Indian — the same one who had in previous years made Corus and Jaguar-Land Rover say tata to their British pedigrees as well. 


 It had to happen, considering chicken tikka masala has supplanted steak and kidney pie and much of English tea (an oxymoron to begin with, when talking of the beverage and not the afternoon ceremony invented by the British ) is now Indian too, from Tetley to Typhoo. Egged on by the prospect of better finances, that last bastion of Britishness — football — also fell this year with Venkateshwara Hatcheries buying the Blackburn Rovers. Befittingly, the last week of the old year saw the venerable Grosvenor House take the Sahara of an Indian to turn the corner after years of losses. Perhaps the commemoration of Delhi Durbar should be held in London this time, because there is no doubt who rules Britannia!






 YET once again, at the Burari Congress session the other day, party president Sonia Gandhi chose to reap the dividend in the slogan of austerity. Shouldn't she reflect how hollow these exhortations ring, how ineffectual she renders herself to be as she reiterates the slogan so very often. Surely, Mrs Gandhi would remember that an old oak is not felled at one stroke. 


 A large number in her party would put up a stance of obedience and loyalty to the diktat, soon to lapse again into an easy life of luxury. Most have become addicted to a lavish and extravagant lifestyle. We are oblivious that it is for the same reasons that the excesses of the ancien regime led to the French Revolution in the 18th century and the Russian revolution in the 20th century. Since we are a democracy, we cannot produce a Kamal Pasha or a Mao Zedong to impose the changes and reforms and above all, the self-discipline that is needed. It would need a persistent follow up and ruthless deterrent, a firm will and a firm hand. An austere lifestyle is essential and relevant not merely to demonstrate an abiding identity with the aam admi but also as a lasting virtue in public life and governance. 


 What is austerity, asked jesting Indian media a laPilate and would not wait for an answer. Before we essay an answer, let us see what austerity is not. Austerity is not erecting statues for your own glory. It is not two-storey high cut-outs of netas. It is not having garlands round your necks which reach down to your Gucci shoes. It is not having your white Ambassador car fitted with flashing light and wailing siren. It is not jumping queues, nor whisking the privileged away from the essential security drill at airport. It is not cavalcades ferrying the netassecured by gun-toting guards. It is not countless ministers and mandarins so very often airdashing in special aircraft or luxury-class commercial flights. It is not reckless indulgence in lavish birthday celebrations or marriage receptions. 


 Austerity is not parliamentary committees vying with each other for jaunts and junkets to salubrious climes within the country or, still better, far-off overseas locales. Austerity is not judicial commissions, inquiry committees or retired bureaucrats remaining ensconced in sinecures for years and years. Keeping excessive lakhs of employees in government offices and companies is no austerity. Nor is it the myriad colossal subsidies. On the other hand, austerity within the meaning of the current nationwide debate is also not stark puritanism or parsimony. It requires no self-flagellation of hermits or the silence of monks. 


Austerity is certainly no sanctimonious hypocrisy. Austerity in public life is merely the practice of a little restraint by people whose actions are in public domain, whose every move is watched, perhaps emulated, and who set an example from above. You may have a large private income or inherited wealth, but its ostentatious display or a sign of conspicuous consumption just does not become you if you are a representative of the people or a public servant. Similarly, Wodehousian flippancy, so enjoyable in the privacy of your home or club and in the company of fellow eggs and beans, is out of place when aired in public, no matter how mordant the wit or how innocent the intent. 


From the time of independence, the lifestyles of people in power or position have changed dramatically. Pre-1947, we had the pomp and circumstance of the British Raj (excusable in a sense as they had an empire to rule and a corresponding message to send down to the ruled) and the grandiose panoply of the Maharajas and Nawabs (understandable but not excusable). The lure of an easy and extravagant lifestyle with an urge to grab loaves and fishes of office has captivated all sections of political leadership. 

AS THE virus has rampaged, it has sucked in its vortex bureaucrats and all others in public life. Today, frugality, thrift and husbandry are considered oldfashioned fads. The VIP culture has caught the entire nation in its trap with all its accompanying ills. Basic governance itself has been hit hard. Sybaritic lifestyles have been as much an infatuation for men and women in the relatively newer parties in power as the Congresswallahs who have been longest in power. Ministers and leaders, irrespective of the party label, have fallen prey, masquerading as 'servants of the people' while, in fact, holding masses in cynical disdain, necessary for them only in so far as they vote them to power. 


We have had austerity drives in the past in the form of miss-a-meal-a-day campaigns, a ceiling on guest lists at weddings, and immunerable government circulars regarding belt-tightening and avoidance of wasteful expenditure. These have invariably come to naught. Hence the reaction of people to the frequent crop of austerity slogans. Hence the attitude of 'there goes that song again'! Four years ago, Sonia Gandhi exhorted her partymen to exercise restraint and observe austerity. She realised how these unrestrained traits have steadily deepened the chasm between the ruler and the ruled and the rich and poor, breeding cynicism for the very institution of democracy. 


It goes to the credit of young Rahul Gandhi that he perceived the efficacy of an identity the netas must establish with the poor and the deprived. His interactions with a Kalavati, with those in Kalahandi in Orissa and in Bundelkhand do indeed make good politics, a clear case of enlightened self-interest. There is that stirring example of immense moral power, awe and respect that Gandhiji derived from an exemplary austere and simple lifestyle, his own Spartan life, as Gurudev Tagore explained: "Gandhiji sat at the thresholds of the huts of the thousands of dispossessed, dressed like one of their own. He spoke to them in their own language." 


 The ever-growing scourge of the VIP and VVIP culture pervades the society, ministers and leaders obsessed with collecting a vast retinue of hangers-on and `a battery of officials in tow. They constantly indulge in reckless spending of public money on luxurious travel, entertainment, renovation of offices and bungalows, distributing favours and doling out largesses at the expense of the exchequer. The councils of ministers and chairmen of public institutions and enterprises at the Centre and the states bloat and expand. So does parasitic bureaucracy. Both sections view public sector companies under their charge to be their fiefdom, to splurge at will.






 THE Indian life insurance industry has seen dramatic changes in 2010. The regulator has continued to work on creating an environment where insurance is seen as a long-term investment, the products are transparent and customer-friendly, and the players continue to take steps to streamline their costs. These may appear as short-term adjustment issues; however, in the long run, these steps will be instrumental and prove far-reaching in improving the health of the industry. Crystal gazing is fraught with risk, however, the coming three years will experience some fundamental developments to create a more structured framework within the industry. 

 First, there will be a 'flight to safety' among frontline sales, intermediaries and distributors to companies with strong brand visibility. Given the reduction in commission rates for frontline sales, intermediaries would prefer to work with insurers that have a strong brand franchise and build long-term partnerships with them. There will be less short-term, instinct driven action by players and there will be greater polarisation of market share at the top end. 


 Second, insurers with strong bancassurance tie-ups are expected to do better in line with trends seen in most mature markets. In next couple of years, fee-based income from sales of insurance products would increasingly be a significant driver in a bank's P&L. This will drive a bias towards well-established brands and service providers. Relatively low-cost channels and technology-driven means to access customers will also drive volumes in the future. 


 Insurers that have the financial strength and size will increasingly focus on developing a countrywide presence. This will also mean it will become difficult for smaller and newer players to build a wide and deep distribution network. Smaller insurers will focus on top 20 towns over medium-term rather than experimenting with low percapita income in under-penetrated areas. The biggest challenge would be to penetrate into the vast hinterlands of India that are low on financial literacy and thus uninsured. This will give bigger players opportunities to gain market share where competitive intensity is low. 


 The new realities stemming from this tumultuous phase, coupled with the competitive environment, will force insurers to take a more critical view of their operating models. The comparisons of investment management performance will soon become a key element in decision-making of customers. Currently, it is difficult to compare performances across insurance companies but time is not far when fund management capabilities and performance will increasingly drive buying behaviour. Insurers will also increase focus on persistency ratios to manage their long-term profitability. 


 Lastly, customer service and retention will become more crucial than before. Looking back as markets have evolved and consumer needs have grown more complex, the distribution model for life insurance has gradually shifted from a product-push to an advisory model. An advisory approach based on a clear understanding of investors' individual needs and risk appetites will be critical to success. Service standards, needbased selling, and customer retentions will become key differentiators. 


 The coming year is expected to be extremely positive from a customer's (both existing and new) point of view as they would be able to enjoy several innovations in products (along with a cost-effective charge structure) and service standards as companies will become more customer centric. In line with emerging needs, companies are expected to offer several unique offerings in the coming year targeted at diverse customer segments (women, youth, etc.). 

 Every stakeholder in this industry should use this opportunity to continue interacting with customers, educate them on benefits of insurance products, focus on need-based selling and draw in more customers into this industry. India is still an underinsured nation and considering the demographic dividend, it is imperative to spread the message of long-term investments and securing the future as widely as possible. As much as it appears to be a challenge at this time, these opportunities must be put to judicious use to attain a sustained growth trajectory for the Indian insurance industry.







 TAKING a cue from Afghanistan, where for the first time in nine years, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is beginning to right some of the wrongs in its 'war of necessity'. To nudge India to look towards its western proximate neighbour in turmoil would appear to be disingenuous in the face of the exalted importance it is now accorded by the world: all the 'big five' leaders will have visited us before the year is out. 


 The recent spate of graft and greed cases have confirmed why India has, 'islands of prosperity' in a 'sea of deprivation'. And the gridlock that has ensued in Parliament, thereafter, will ensure, as always, that priority issues in the country will continue to be put on the backburner. Like India, Afghanistan, too, has more than a fair share of malign actors, power brokers, corrupt politicians and warlords (India has corporate czars). A Centre for Strategic and International Studies survey suggests that a whopping 75% viewed Taliban in an unfavourable light, putting Taliban, drug peddlers, local warlords, the US and the Afghan government in the order of threat. Corruption, at 76% (December 2009), was considered the biggest stumbling block to progress. Remarkably, on a poser whether the country was moving in the right direction, 56% (November 2009) thought so. 


 A year later, the ISAF has been able to significantly arrest the second largest source of corruption and funding for the Taliban, i.e., poppy cultivation by concentrating on higher level traffickers rather than broad eradication. As a result, from a peak of 8,200 metric tonnes, it has come down to 3,600 metric tonnes in 2010 (CSIS survey, September 8, 2010). Additionally, ISAF is working with the Afghan government to further economic development and transition agriculture from opium cultivation to legal and profitable crops. 


 Even as ISAF now has the requisite boots on ground (100,000) for the first time and have addressed all the Taliban strongholds in the south and east, there is a focused approach to simultaneously target the government's lack of governance, graft and greed by malign actors. Out of a realisation that the US contracting money to support its war effort for fuel, water, ration, construction material, convoy escort are all being misappropriated and redirected to insurgent hands, the ISAF has been able to substantially curtail the flow of aid and contract money to malign hands. 


 If this money increasingly reaches the people it is meant for, the ISAF will be well on its way to reduce corruption. Whether and to what degree they succeed, only time will tell. But the important thing is that they are drawing the right lessons from an engagement of only nine years, whereas India refuses to draw its lessons from its almost four decades of experience in fighting insurgences in the Northeast and Maoist menace and two decades of countering terrorism in J&K. It does not require a wise man to discern the nexus between power brokers, corrupt bureaucrats, bad policing and other malign actors which keeps the insurgency going and financially viable in the above contexts, with severe consequences for our poor and deprived sections. 


 If, approximately, 240 districts are under the Maoist shadow governance, it is more or less for the same reasons that Afghanistan has 33 out of 34 provinces under Taliban shadow governance. And, unlike India, the debate on what should come first, security, empowerment and governance, has already been clinched in favour of security. In Afghanistan's case, it is obvious that unless people feel secure and have confidence in the government, there can be no meaningful governance. Already, in Afghanistan, local governance, school attendance (5.8 million children including 38% girls attend school in Afghanistan today) and commerce have increased. 


 Of course, it is but stating the obvious that India has to apply its own models keeping the Indian conditions in mind. Whether empowerment should precede security and development is a call for our leaders to take. But at least start somewhere, put timelines for review and amend strategies if the ones being pursued are not working. But, at least start addressing the problem.


Like Afghanistan, if India has to lift millions out of poverty, it is time we tried out a few innovative things of our own to break the vice like grip of our own fair share of power brokers, malign actors, corporate czars, and anarchists masquerading as ideological insurgents. That is, if we have time away from scams. If there is one enduring message from our four decades of fighting insurgencies, is the lesson not to become embroiled in 'open-ended' irregular wars that fuels corruption, among other evils. 


 And for a way forward, if we have to take a cue or two from war-torn Afghanistan, then so be it. 
    (The author is a research associate at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi)

It's obvious that unless people feel secure and have confidence in the government, there can be no meaningful governance 

Whether empowerment should precede security and development is a call that has to be taken carefully 
It's also important not to be embroiled in 'open-ended' irregular wars that fuel corruption, among other evils







IMAGINE a world, not as John Lennon said, 'A world without countries and religions' but a world so high up above the sky that it hurtles through multiple time zones at a speed of 17,500 miles an hour. It's the world of the space station where you got to hook your feet in toeholds on the wall and Velcro your dining plate to the table if you want a celebratory New Year meal. 


 Pointless to pop a bottle of bubbly in that cramped low-gravity environment. Instead of the spectacular hiss and spray witnessed on earth, all you can hope for is some tame tizzy of undissolved gas in the champagne, going around listlessly in the glass. 


 If all this sounds unappetising for the New Year, so will be the world of the future, after climate change. The polar ice caps will have melted and water levels around the world would have risen ominously. An earlier, Victorian age imagined its anti-hero for such a watery world as 'a poor, ignorant and abused childlabourer chimney sweep' as Charles Kingsley did. The boy finds himself swimming around with gills like a newt. 


 But what if you went to the future as Kevin Costner's post modern avatar did? The protagonist of Waterworld is a mutant with webbed feet and gills. His transformation would be a giant step in the evolutionary history of mankind, meant to accommodate drastic climactic change. 


The Water Babies hero pursues Kingsley's version of the ideal Victorian Christian male. And his two main instructors are two powerful supernatural female figures: one is the beautiful, baby-cuddling Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby, whom the writer Margret Atwood describes as the Golden Rule in action. 


The other figure is the ugly, strict, and punitive but fair Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid, 'a nannyish embodiment of payback'. The older generation would view both archetypes as Mercy and Justice or as aspects of Wordsworthian nurturing Mother Nature who 'never did betray the heart that loves her'. (Charles Kingsley was a friend of Darwin; and his book came out four years after Origin of Species.) 


At the end of the book, the two women are shown to be one and the same double-sided lady! Her distant ancestor, according to Atwood, is the constellation of Libra or the scales of the balance. This leads to the almost universal concept of the balancing principle. The Chinese call it Tao or Way; for Indians it's R'ta or Karma, which you pay for — if not here, then 'there'.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Life without celebration is like a long road without an inn, said the ancient Greek philosopher Democritus. As his pregnant saying hints, celebrations are not just occasions to uncork the champagne, but also junctures to pause, relax and take stock. New Year has become one such moment in the flow of time for the world as well as India. An average Indian cannot be faulted for grimacing, and perhaps even sighing, on New Year's Eve, for when one casually sums up the year that has passed what will float into the mind are words like scam, spectrum, Radia, Raja and Kalmadi that together create a bleak collage. But taking stock means stepping back and looking at the big picture. And the big picture is not as dreary or dark as one might think (unless you are an incorrigible pessimist). People who cry hoarse about scams would also have to admit that it was the robust institutional mechanisms of the country that brought them to light. Some journalists had egg on their face after Radiagate. But that does not obscure the fact that it was other journalists who unearthed the scam in the first place. Strange as it may sound, the exposure of corruption and the noisy rows it creates are a sign of a vibrant polity in a neighbourhood where the dread silence of dictatorship is common. The year that passed also saw the increasingly belligerent antics of many right-wing conservative groups, whether it was the Sri Ram Sena that attacked girls in the pubs of Mangalore or the khap panchayats that snuffed out of the lives of many innocent couples for daring to love outside their clans and social class. But, again, the general populace has given such fanatical moral policemen the treatment they deserve by ignoring them and going on with their lives. Ironically, the frenetic spasms of right-wing groups actually show that liberal space in India is growing. Their posturing invites derision rather than delight these days for the priorities of Indians have changed. Despite all the scams and shams, there is a perceptible increase of confidence in Indians — especially the middle class. Perhaps the new economic environment has something to do with it. Nothing symbolises this new-found confidence as does the sprightly arena of sports. From Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang to Somdev, Saina Nehwal and Tintu Luka, there is a long list of remarkable talent that has done the nation proud this year. They represent more than the games they play. The decentralisation of governance and political empowerment of depressed classes have had an effect on other areas too. For instance, there has been an increase in the number of dalit entrepreneurs who have done well. The average citizen now uses the Right to Information Act boldly to take his rulers to task. Recurrent Assembly elections have shown people re-electing performing CM and ignoring caste and communal slogans. All these signal a new mindset wherein people are not ready to be confined to narrow identities. Chauvinists, beware.








 "Do not ask for whom the bell tolls

The cyclist will probably spit in your face!"

From Doonyadari by Bachchoo


The first line of V.S. Naipaul's novel A Bend in the River is, "The world is what it is". A pretentious critic could easily pause at his/her reading of the novel and reflect that this opening sentence, like Charles Dickens's first line of A Tale of Two Cities — "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" — incorporates a whole world view. Naipaul's statement is tantamount to a rejection of ideological or religious models for the world.


He is telling the reader that his vision of the world is literally what's in view — what he sees. It's not the ideologue's vision of neat divisions: believers and infidels; exploited and the exploiters; Aryans and Jews etc. Neither is it the religious view which attributes apples falling to earth, floods in Pakistan and tsunamis in the Indian ocean to the will or indifference of a supreme being.


To me Naipaul's sentence seems to mean we ought to take things as they actually are and not impose our wishes on them but struggle along with reality and the world's meanness as we find it.


(End of pretentious critic's analysis.)

Being asked to say what I don't want happening or being in 2011 is going against the grain of my accepting the world being what it is.

I started reading newspapers at a very early age, because I would fetch them and spread them out on the veranda table for my grandfather and pretend I was him and leaf through them.


At that age I didn't understand the difference between my expressed opinions and an editorial in a national newspaper. I marvelled at the pomposity of some character sitting in Mumbai or Delhi telling Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru what he should do.


Even more wondrous was that some editorials ventured into telling the American government how to react to something the Soviet Union had done. It was much later that I realised that these editors were not vain fantasists but imbued with the traditional conviction that this was their job, that editors led the opinions of the masses. Fourth estate stuff.


Editorial wishes for 2011 would include pious ideas of universal peace and the abolition of poverty and deliberate murder. But in thinking about what one doesn't want one inevitably begins to invent the means by which this abolition can take place and one thinks of what one does want. Wanting night abolished would mean wanting eternal day — though that particular is not on my list. I like sleeping and doing (some) other things in the dark.


Now the elegant and talented editors who commission and control this column want such a wish list from me, but even they must know that the good fairies come in twos and threes and the powers of the genii of the lamp, summoned by rubbing — at which I have some skill — are restricted.


So, like the boy who made his third wish the wish to have an infinite number of wishes, I will restrict myself to three, but cheat a bit:


In 2011, I wish that a new age of reason would begin: No mass murders through suicide bombings, no boo goo about a world beyond what is and, therefore, no compulsion to commit atrocities to no palpable end.


This doesn't mean a suspension of the fight against exploitation, inequality and nasty or reductive capitalism — only against doing it in the name of great and lesser Satans. See things for what they are. The world is what it is.


And then the plea for this new rationality includes a stop-in-your-tracks signal for the global warming bandwagon which is making billions of dollars, pounds and euros out of faulty or incomplete science. We now have an international cartel of "scientists" and "sustainable industries" dedicated to grabbing the millions of dollars available from governments. The new alterative-power-source industry lobby, more pernicious and persistent than any petro-lobby, relies on falsifying or suppressing results and basing vast international statistical surveys on faulty fundamental premises: tell your computer that 2 + 2 is 32 and your entire science goes wonky.


The globe may be getting warmer. It's very cold in London today and has been for the last two weeks. The north-east of the USA is deluged by unprecedented snow storms. Lots of cooling going on. I am aware that the warming-wallahs claim that cooling is part of warming, that cold means it's hot and there are scientific precedents for that sort of paradoxical statement. It is still not scientifically clear that man-made carbon dioxide output is responsible for climate change. More and more scientific evidence emerges to indicate it is not. This doesn't mean that carbon dioxide is good for you or that fumes from petrol should choke the cities, or that whales should be slaughtered for blubber. Just let's determine what's true and not be led by paid self-interested lobbies. Objective, sceptical science above lobby interest in 2011!


And then there's the final request to the genii but this is very particular and personal. I would like the traffic and parking laws of Britain to be relaxed. For instance, there should be no random breathalysing of drivers. It should be restricted to those who commit an offence — driving through red lights etc. There is no evidence whatsoever that random breathalysing prevents accidents, though I admit it would be difficult to devise any experiment that gives us any significant result.


Then there's the parking. Britain's councils have a fascistic policy and have colonised every bit of space with red and white lines and specialist lanes, in what is nominally a free country, to hound the honest driver and impose draconian punishment on those whose tyres have crossed even by a centimetre, some fabricated pavement boundary or double white line. I have fallen into these cunning traps of the Diabolical Parking Satan several times this year and paid hundreds of pounds in fines for fear of being jailed, deported, extraordinarily rendered, water-boarded, subjected to the methods of the Rumsfeld Institute of Electrical Correction and heaven knows what else. No! Enough is enough! Death to parking regulations in 2011 and forever!






Cabinet ministers, it seems, need all the help they can get in these troubled times. So, when the Congress MP, Mr V. Hanumantha Rao, organised a prayer get-together at the well known Jahangir Peer Dargha near Shamshabad, several ministers, MPs, MLAs and MLCs attended, anxious doubtless for some divine inspiration and intervention. Ministers Mr Jupally Krishna Rao and Mr Sridhar Babu and MP Mr Anjan Kumar Yadav were among those spotted offering prayers at the famed dargah. The large turnout left the locals and the police puzzled. According to one Congress leader, since there was nothing to do on a Sunday, and given the turbulent state of local politics and the volatile T-issue, the netas thought it prudent to seek solace in a holy place. It seems to be a political habit. Immediately after the formation of the new Cabinet, several ministers who had been favoured with a berth made a beeline for the famous Sri Venkateshwara Temple or the Durga Temple at Vijayawada to render thanks. With little government activity until the fate of Telangana is decided, idle Cabinet ministers are now much sought after for the Ayyappa and other pujas. After all, the nexus between politics and religion has a long history.



It is high time the Chief Minister Mr N. Kiran Kumar Reddy learnt the art of public speaking. Perhaps his elevation to the CM's gaddi has been too sudden, but he could at least bear in mind the audience he is addressing. The other day, addressing a gathering at a mammoth show of dancers and art lovers at the Gachibowli stadium, the Chief Minister, much to everyone's surprise, hammered on about his straightforwardness and toughness! The connection between arts and Mr Reddy's character traits, however admirable, escaped the comprehension of his audience. Equally puzzling was his remark at a recent meeting with noted industrialist, Mr Anil Ambani. After Mr Ambani explained his various projects in the state and future plans to pump in more investments, the Chief Minister remarked out of the blue that former ace cricketer Kapil Dev too had called on him. Those present at the meeting were left trying to figure out just what Kapil Dev had to do with Mr Ambani.



The submission of the eagerly awaited Srikrishna panel report to the Union home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, on Thursday was a heaven-sent opportunity for all those who delight in rumours, speculation and plain misinformation. SMSs began doing the rounds from the morning purporting to give 'points' of the report. They were obviously idle speculation since some claimed that the report favoured statehood for Telangana, while others said the exact opposite and still others suggested the three-state solution. Actually, the report was submitted only in the evening. After which it was the turn of our great Telugu news channels to claim to be in the know. One channel ran scrolling news claiming that it had a copy of the report but was holding back from broadcasting the contents "in order to maintain utmost ethics and also in view of the guidelines issued. We are equally responsible for maintenance of peace and tranquillity of the society." Wah, wah, what integrity.









It has to be said: 2010 will be marked by historians as the year India sold out! And sold out in such shameless and brazen manner that the jaws that had dropped when the first few scandals hit the headlines, remain dropped till today. As we sing Auld Lang Syne and bid another rotten year goodbye, there is nothing much to cheer about in the coming months. The "Central Bureau of Ineptitude" (CBI) has done it again!


With the embarras-singly gauche handling of the Aarushi murder case, the spotlight is focused once again on a body that needs another body to replace it! Why bother to go into the CBI's lapses when "no evidence" is staple? Either we dismantle this thoroughly useless orga-nisation, which has been manipulated by politi-cians over the years and used as a torture instrument to browbeat and intimidate citizens, or we restructure it and get more transparency into its functioning. But will that ever happen? Na bhai, na. Too many mighty heads will roll.


If one takes the Aarushi bungling as but a single example of how things are run in India, it can act as a case study for all the rest of the muck flying around freely — from Lalit Modi, Suresh Kalmadi, A. Raja and, of course, fearless Niira Radia. Combine that with the entrenched belief that not a single well-connected crook gets caught or is thrown into the clink, and that not a single state of India is free of monumental corruption at every level, and you get a pretty sordid picture of the country's future.


India's "Gallery of Rogues" doesn't begin or end with the usual suspects (the ones named earlier). These are just a few high profile people who got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. And pray, why or how did they get caught? Because those even higher up in the food chain wanted them to face the music and keep those big mouths sealed.


To come back to the grisly murder of an innocent 14-year-old girl (Aarushi), whose case has been summarily closed by the CBI claiming a lack of evidence, one wonders at the felicity with which it was done. Does it mean Aarushi's assailant committed the perfect murder? Or does it mean nobody wants the criminal behind this heinous act to be caught? The answer is, obvious, when one studies what is known — that files went missing, crucial evidence was destroyed, and all the suspects now walk free. Extraordinary? Nope. Expected. It's time to pay attention to Ratan Tata's "banana republic" reference. It's now official: The powerful and the well-connected can and do get away with murder.


Never has the morale of most Indians been this low. While shockwaves over the vile deeds of a Mr Modi and Mr Kalmadi were still rocking the nation, we shook our heads and made those "tch tch" noises with our tongues to suggest "This is terrible… but badey log have always played such games… And at least these two have been caught!" How sweetly we fooled ourselves! Caught? Sure. But who will dare to punish them? They know too much about too many sacred cows. And that's really what's eating India's innards. In the old days, there were two or three sacred cows squeezing the country of all its resources. Now, the sacred cow population has doubled, tripled and gone through the roof! There is a hierarchy even in this cowshed. And those in the know are aware of that order — nobody dares to take on "those people" (in-laws and out-laws) who are seen as dangerous… even more dangerous than the "D gang". And to think we "trust" these mighty netas. Not just to serve India's interests on every level — defence, economy, terrorism — but most importantly, to be the moral barometres for citizens. If the state fails us on all these levels, whom do we turn to? Aha — this is where Dr Binayak Sen and others come in. Why has Dr Sen become a folk hero… a martyr? Because we know, almost instinctively… intuitively… that he represents our interests in the long run. That we need a Sen to remind us of higher goals, of deeper truths. 2010 saw the Maoists emerging as the most visible force of dissent and rebellion. Or, more accurately, the "Maoist menace" could no longer be ignored or wished away.


Forced into acknowledging them, our home minister P. Chidambaram, along with his colleagues, decided to make them the Bogey Bears du jour. It suited everybody… the heat generated by other scams was getting too hot to handle — if the Maoist threat was not for real, we would have had to create it! But the "Maoist problem" could be intellectually debated over television, hastily buried and resurrected at will.


However, nothing got India's goat as much as the fearless Radia tapes. Those revealing and damaging tapes established incontro-vertibly that the state had ears and eyes every-where… that nothing, but nothing, was "private" in our so-called democracy. The most shocking outcome was the utter and total beizzatti of venerated media-wallas. Perhaps, that was the last straw in the "Credibility Stakes". When respected journalists sold out, when judges were deemed corrupt, when cops colluded with politicians to cover up big and small crimes, when netas became dakus, when murders and kidnappings became routine… and India itself was repeatedly raped by the very people who were meant to protect it… we, the people, woke up… and wept. Well, it's time to dry those tears and act. Kick a few butts for starters…


Can we… will we…? Or is it just far easier to sit back and allow India to sink even lower in 2011?


I am an incorrigible optimist. I'd like to end this tumultuous decade by saying, "The rot stops here... Jhanda Ooncha Rahey Hamara..."

Happy New Year, readers!


 Readers can send feedback to [1]








The year 2011 marks two decades since the end of the Cold War and a decade since 9/11 Twin Tower attack and the UN Millennium Summit's developmental goals. The Chinese Communist Party also turns 90. F. Fukuyama's pronouncement that the Soviet Union's disintegration ended history and was the triumph of Western values was erroneous as seeds of future contestation were already sown.


The twin contemporary challenges are: Radical Islam and China's rise. The first was armed and financed by the United States, in league with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, to counter the Soviets in Afghanistan and the latter unshackled by the Mao-Nixon rapprochement in 1972.


On terror there was some success against Al Qaeda in Iraq, due to convergence of interests between the Sunni tribes and Iran. This allowed orderly US withdrawal from a war that candidate Obama called one of choice and not necessity. In the latter category comes Afghanistan where, despite troop surge reviewed two weeks ago, a Pakistan reluctant to act against those it views as its present or future assets i.e. Taliban, Haqqanis and associates, is delaying action hoping that a fatigued US quits. Meanwhile, Al Qaeda has replanted in Yemen, Somalia etc. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's pronouncements in New Delhi on terror were carefully wrapped in the UN Security Council mumbo-jumbo. The real challenge is China's rise with its gross domestic product (GDP) projected to overtake the US' in the next 10-15 years. In any calculation till 2050, India is placed third. The US has calculated that engagement alone is not working, containment is impractical and, thus, there is need to hedge. Admiral M. Mullen, commenting on Chinese military capacity building in June 2010, said that "I have moved from being curious to being genuinely concerned". It was thus not a coincidence that US President Barack Obama's India visit was clubbed with that to three other Asian democracies — Indonesia, South Korea and Japan.


The current international economic, trading and security order is the one devised after the World War II when the US had emerged as the hegemon, replacing Great Britain by about 1918. The transfer was orderly as it was between powers sharing values, culture and a language.


Chinese conduct so far has been paradoxical. They have subscribed to the letter of various trade and non-proliferation regimes, though breaching often their spirit. They reject neo-liberal ideas, the latest demonstration being their massive protest over the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo. Despite World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership, they subsidise exports and maintain an undervalued currency.


This jostling between the entrenched and the rising powers will determine the global debate on a panoply of issues, which inter alia are: climate change; reform of global institutions like the UN or International Monetary Fund; effectiveness and evolution of new structures like the Group of Twenty; consensus on the right to protect against genocide, promotion of human rights etc; counter terrorism, human trafficking and piracy; nuclear disarmament and global zero; protection of global commons like the oceans, cyber and outer space; ensuring equitable access to minerals, metals and water etc.


The face-off is between Western neo-liberalism and the emerging Confucian-Socialist Chinese model preferring stability to individual rights and economic success to democracy. The land of Buddha, Mahavira and the Upanishads as indeed Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and B.R Ambedkar, must shape this debate. The solution lies neither in US senator John McCain's league of democracies proposal which will create new divisions, nor can it be in accepting the cynical Chinese model. In a multi-polar world the new narrative can come from the swing powers — EU and India, combining the wisdom of the East and the West. Tang dynasty Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang in the seventh century, visiting Nalanda when told not to return to his barbaric homeland, as Buddha had chosen not to be born there, replied that Buddha would not forget those not yet enlightened. Historically, rising powers when confronting the entrenched powers have caused conflict. Can Buddha trump Confucius and wisdom prevail? The next decade shall tell.


* The author is a former secretary in theexternal affairs ministry



Copy of logo_bg






WELL over a year has passed since the Prime Minister identified Left-wing extremism as the nation's most severe challenge, after which the home minister initiated an offensive and exhorted the governments in affected states to pull no punches. Yet P Chidambaram has just been honest enough to admit that "Naxals are striking at will, wherever they want". That was after giving the police in Gadchiroli (a Maoist-afflicted district in eastern Maharashtra) a rap on the knuckles for "not doing enough". On that very same day, deputising for the home minister at the CRPF's anniversary celebrations, Pranab Mukherjee called for the police to be "sensitive, patient and mature" while dealing with the situation. The veteran could afford to be philosophical, the man in the hot seat had to be pragmatic.

 Both would deny suggestions that they were not on same wavelength, concur that a solution to the insurgency lay in socio-economic action, but their messages to the men tasked with facing the Maoists' weaponry was more than a little confusing. And it is that lack of tactical clarity that has enabled the insurgents to make light of virtually everything that the security forces have thrown at them ~ Andhra Pradesh being the sole possible exception. To be fair, that lack of clarity is not confined to the UPA, the affected states are equally unclear about how to tackle the menace, and in West Bengal there is the added problem of inter-party rivalry (into which Chidambaram appears to have been sucked) blunting the police's edge.

In theory, all the entities involved in countering the situation will agree that the authority of the state has to be regained before development, tribal welfare measures and the "healing touch" can come into play. But no consensus exists on just how far the security forces should go to create conditions for the follow-up action to be effective. It is unfair ~ though politicians seem to make a virtue of it ~ to expect the forces to fight with "one hand tied behind the back". It is equally unfair to rush the paramilitary into the conflict-zone without adequate training in local conditions and sans actionable intelligence ~ Dantewada would testify to that. Even now, after so much violence, there is little evidence of effective inter-state coordination. The states have their limited objectives, the Centre lacks the leadership quality to inspire them into raising the bar. Thus Chidambaram's lament could long fill the air.



THE Asif Ali Zardari government has suffered a double whammy in the course of a week ~ the pullout by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam last week and now Wednesday's decision of the MQM to withdraw two of its ministers. This is but the first step; the raging political instability is bound to deepen if the Muttahida Qaumi Movement decides to quit the federal government and no less crucially from its bastion ~ the government of Sindh. Though the stability of the Pakistan government isn't threatened just yet, the disenchantment of the Jamiat as well as the MQM is essentially an expression of no-confidence against the Zardari/Gilani administration. Indeed, the MQM has been fairly explicit on the reasons for pulling out its ministers ~ corruption, law and order and rising prices. Of lesser moment is the cavil that its two ministers were allotted what it calls "impotent" portfolios. It could well have added another factor, specifically the government's failure ~ rooted in Zardari's almost incredible indifference ~ to tackle the worst floods of the century. This apparently is the coalition partner's counter-blast to the PPP's charge that it was responsible for the ethnic violence in Sindh. Its decision to sit in the Treasury benches to give the government a chance to address the problems is intended only to stave off the crisis. The dismissal of one of the Jamiat ministers served to bring matters to a head.

Should the MQM eventually decide to quit the federal government, the PPP-led coalition will be reduced to a minority. And should the MQM team up with the Opposition, the risk of the government collapsing is substantial. The resignation of the eight Jamiat members of the National Assembly didn't rock the coalition boat. But the 25 members of the MQM constitute a crucial segment that has propped up the coalition. Their resignation at the federal level will almost certainly upset the strength of the PPP-led coalition in Sindh province. The challenge posed by the Jamiat and MQM has exposed the inherent fragility of the Pakistan government. The impending release of the report on Benazir Bhutto will also cause another flutter in the establishment three years after the tragedy. Politically, Pakistan does seem to have entered an uncertain phase. The Taliban must be laughing up his sleeve.



MAMATA Banerjee should not have missed the ominous coincidence of a passenger flare-up at Howrah Station that coincided with the triumphant announcement of Kolkata's Metro becoming a full-fledged railway zone. How this will help the underground system may be debated in a dispassionate atmosphere after the assembly election. What was cruelly evident on the same day was that suburban train services are in a mess with frequent delays causing nightmares to lakhs of office-goers.  The violence that erupted after passengers packed into compartments and kept waiting on the tracks while long-distance trains moved on can be ascribed to irresponsible conduct. But the truth survives that while the railway minister strikes populist notes in offering prizes to staff for diligence, commuters suffer when the Railways fail in the basic duty of prioritising punctuality at least during office hours. In trying to produce the image of a ministry on the move, the Minister has ignored hurdles and hazards even though commuters are expected to feel good after the setting up of a passenger welfare committee.

What it does confirm is that populist gestures are subject to rigorous tests on the ground. The section of staff not attached to the Left-controlled Metro Railwaymen's Union may be delighted by the upgradation. But will it tone up the functioning of the Metro ~ which has suffered serious mishaps in recent months? Or help deal with what the railway minister describes as "sabotage''? Regularising the services of casual staff and recruiting thousands to vacant posts can be the answer to the Left's charge that the railways have left the security system unattended and – in spite of Miss Banerjee's strenuous claims that all this is "non-political'' – also serve to neutralise the strength of the unionised critics. That doesn't minimise the need to upgrade Metro (and suburban) services which have left growing numbers of commuters seriously concerned and cast doubts on projects launched with great fanfare. The political manoeuvring that will inevitably go on before the election cannot ignore services that commuters in the Metro and on suburban lines have a right to expect. From Miss Banerjee's point of view, the violence at Howrah should be a warning that commuters, who constitute a sizable chunk of the electorate, can't be taken for granted. And if her administration finds it strange that bricks and missiles were easily available inside the station, she must realise that others, too, can play politics on the tracks.








THE ancients, so the Latin writer Ovid, knew that nihil est annis velocius ~ nothing goes by faster than the years. Or, as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus pronounced:  pantha rei ~ everything flows. Especially when a year ends and another begins, we wallow in self-pitying sentiments about the evanescence of time. How time flies! we moan. This is our shocked realization that time is what it is. It states a banality, if ever there was one.
There are, however, sign-posts within the flux of time, like buoys in the river. Some are given, like the day and the night, the cyclic waxing and waning of the moon, the seasons; some are man-made, like festivals, birthdays, anniversaries, and new years. These sign-posts are meant to make us conscious of the silent, steady, constant progress of time and tell us: one season gone ~ another season ahead; one year gone ~ another year ahead. There are one-time celebrations like births and marriages, like annaprasan or First Communion or other rites of passage. But viewed from a detached distance these one-time celebrations, too, are mere repetitions of previous births and of rites in former generations. Each sign-post in the river is, again, but a part of a long series.
Aware of time, its vastness and its flow, its interminable progress, our heads begin to reel, overcome by wonder and anxiety. Like the French philosopher Blaise Pascal who, surveying the night sky, shuddered in mere amazement at the mysteries laid bare before him ~ bare, and yet insoluble.

We can take two different existential points of view. One is reacting to time by detaching ourselves from its dynamics as radically as we are able to. Condescendingly, we call time maya, we say it does not really exist, or that it is static, or repeats itself. By saying so, we assume a life-negating attitude. We see time as a river viewed from a distance, when the flow of water is no longer visible and tangible. We become votaries of an ascetic withdrawal from the concerns of material life.

Or, we choose the attitude of "catching" time and using it to our and our society's general good. Carpe diem! is a Latin proverb which I love: Catch the day! Once we try to use the time which every day gives us conscientiously and with concentration, we make one essential realization: Time does not flow at a boringly even pace. It has greater or less intensity, it differs in quality depending on our activities and experiences. The most ecstatic moments ~ moments of physical and spiritual love, of friendship, of meditation, of the experience of beauty (but also of fear and pain!) ~ intensify the experience of time. Such moments are often filled with cairos, as Christian theologians would term it. They are redeeming moments which give us the power to loosen the fetters of petty thinking and trivial emotions. We feel the passage of time, but with an affirmative, positive attitude, because without time such ecstasy and joy, such redemption would not happen.

Obviously, rituals, seasonal celebrations, secular and religious feasts wish to accomplish the same ~ the uplift into a higher quality of time. Yet, how often do such occasions end in dead duty, in uncomprehending routine, in unwelcome expenses, in social obligations and, well, boredom.

Hence, why not create such higher quality of time ourselves, individually, or as small groups? I strongly believe in celebrating life every day and every hour ~ not just on a New Year's Day, or an anniversary. How may this happen? It will happen when we strive to become conscious of the gift of our life, and that implies the gift of time. It will happen when we learn to assume an attitude to life marked by gratitude ~ for our health and intellect, our inspirations and experiences, our family and our friends, our professional activities and our spare-time leisure. Somebody and something is present in everybody's life that is precious and lovely, no matter how grave our hardships are. It may be memories, if nothing else in our present life. By concentrating on these human beings and things, we apportion a higher value to our life's flux of time.

Further, the arts are a potent vehicle for making time more valuable. Especially music ennobles time as it so intrinsically uses time to achieve its desired effect. There is theatre and the other performing arts. But also poetry and fine arts which do not depend as strongly on the discipline time demands from the artist.
There is a quality of time we can create alone, independent from the agency of others, like prayer, meditation, beholding things beautiful. There are other things lending value to our time which rely on the interaction with human beings. May I tell you which rare human quality I consider most fecund in ennobling our whole life-time? It is loyalty and reliability. I mean uncompromising loyalty and reliability which never falters no matter what life's circumstances bring. Such a quality may become true in friendships or professional relations or in teacher-student relationships. But most likely it will grow between husband and wife, and even more so between mother and child. Indeed, it was my mother and my mother alone on whom I could fully rely. She died three years ago at the age of almost 94. I remember that once I asked her a certain favour and repeated my request a few days later. She chided me mildly saying: "You need not tell me more than once." She never failed me.

Loyalty and reliability are so precious because, in the midst of the flux of time and its changing circumstances; they give our lives a constancy, a firm bridge to cross the flowing river. Loyalty and reliability, in a sense, "conquer" time by bestowing on it an inexhaustible, unchanging value.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel, Love in the Time of Cholera demonstrates the quasi-divine quality of loyalty potently. A young man falls in love with a woman above his status, she rejects him and marries someone else. The man, however, does not waver in his love, and after a wait of several decades, he marries his widowed beloved. Nobody will read this novel without feeling stirred.

After this reflection, we perhaps celebrate a new year with a fresh view. It is a mere point in time, not so different from other points. Yet, if we have used the time of the previous year to the fullest, giving value to each day, we are empowered to welcome the new year without regrets and without the moans about how time flies.

 In this spirit: Happy New Year!

The writer, a German Tagore scholar basedin Santiniketan, can be reached at






The political fog in Delhi is even heavier than the climatic fog. But, after peering at the shadowy figures grappling in the mist, one may conjecture the inner party intrigues and the cross-party cooperation under way. When politics across party lines ceases to be impelled by either policy or ideology, what remains is naked power struggle. The visible conflict over the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) versus the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) masks the reality. The conflict, in fact, is between LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi within the BJP, and between 10 Janpath and 7 Race Course Road within the Congress. Ignore the praise lavished by Sonia Gandhi on the PM. The very need for such public endorsement betrays unease. And there are distinct signs of common interests colluding across parties. Consider the following facts and connect the dots. 
Speaking in Parliament, the Prime Minister declared: "I have nothing to hide." Oh yes you have, chorused the opposition. If you have nothing to hide, why not allow the JPC to be formed? The decision to disallow the JPC was taken by the core committee of the Congress Party. The PM could not very well go against that decision. The JPC can summon any minister for questioning. The PAC cannot. To probe the Spectrum 2G scam, if ministers are grilled the Congress future could suffer. How will Rahul Gandhi become PM? Why, already when he closes his eyes, Chidambaram sees Rajiv whenever Rahul speaks! Therefore, Congress blocked the JPC. But it was the PM who became the opposition's target.

This was odd. After all, the main opposition criticism of the PM has been that he behaves like a helpless dummy ordered about by Sonia Gandhi. In the event, how come that all the opposition's blame for condoning corruption in the 2G Scam falls only on the PM and never on Sonia Gandhi? Well, if one digs deeply enough one may find links between sections of the BJP and Congress even closer than those forged between them by the mining operations in Andhra and Karnataka. 

To deflect criticism from him, the PM went further. Departing from a written speech at a Congress Party function he caught his party colleagues by surprise. He suddenly announced that he was prepared to be questioned by the PAC which is chaired by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi. Thereby the PM succeeded in conveying that his party's reluctance to allow a JPC did not stem from the desire to protect him. There are others who might be seeking protection. The opposition led by the BJP set up a howl. Rules were cited that precluded the PAC from summoning ministers. The opposition alarm increased after the purposeful manner in which Joshi proceeded with the PAC's job of probing the 2G scam within its brief. Joshi correctly pointed out that the rules precluded the PAC from summoning a minister. No rule prevented the PAC from questioning a minister who volunteered to be questioned. Like the proverbial sphinx, Joshi did not confirm or deny whether he would take up the PM's offer. 

The puzzle remains. If the PAC shows even limited success in its probe, that would not prevent the JPC from being formed.  Rather it would strengthen the case for a fuller inquiry by the JPC. Why then the BJP panic over the PAC probe? The panic arises not from the fact that the PAC would fail. Rather, it appears to arise from the fear that the PAC might succeed. If that happened, Joshi would become the hero. Where would that leave Advani? The two are old rivals. It might be recalled that during the Jain Hawala case in which Advani allegedly received Rs 60 lakhs, something that he publicly neither confirmed nor denied, some party men advised Joshi, who was BJP president then, to state that the fund had been deposited in the party coffers. Joshi refused. That certainly did not improve relations between both the leaders. 

Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, an Advani loyalist, is openly pressuring Joshi to abandon the PAC probe. Joshi remains unmoved. In desperation, the Advani group sought help from the RSS to curb Joshi. The RSS advised both leaders to do their respective jobs. RSS pointed out that the PAC did not preclude the JPC. Now it remains to be seen how events move forward. In the natural course, such silent cross-party collusions would have resulted in major political realignment across the political spectrum. But that is unlikely to happen. Indians are half-hearted warriors who fight only with half-measures. They are always willing to wound but afraid to strike. Political realignment seems out, more chaos seems in.  


The writer is a veteran journalist 

and cartoonist





Tariq Anwar was part of the trio along with Sharad Pawar and  PA Sangma that raised the issue of the Congress president Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin and quit the party to float the Nationalist Congress Party in 1999. Since then, NCP has witnessed several twists and turns. While it has been unable to grow beyond Maharashtra, the party has also run into rough weather on the IPL scam and other corruption charges in Maharashtra. Recently, under Mr Anwar's stewardship, NCP contested 170 seats in Bihar and drew a blank. In an interview with NIRENDRA DEV, he talks of the issues confronting the party. 

What's wrong with the NCP? The party is unable to establish a toehold beyond Maharashtra. You are a founding member of the party from Bihar but in the recent assembly elections, NCP could not win a single seat. 
It's true we could not win any seat. Last time we had two seats. But this time we have recorded a substantial increase in the vote share. It has gone up to two per cent. The Congress vote share was eight per cent. So put together, NCP-Congress could have won more than 10 per cent votes and also bagged several seats. Despite our best efforts, Congress decided to go it alone. In Katihar district alone, the vote break-up suggests that if  NCP and Congress had joined hands,  we would have won all the seven seats. 

That sounds too hypothetical. NCP is practically nowhere on its own. We hear that the two parties could merge any day. 

I am not being simply hypothetical. Out of the 170 seats we contested, we finished second in four seats and third in seven seats. So, it's not a fact that NCP doesn't exist. We have to strengthen the organisation. It needs some time, especially in a state like Bihar.

In Hindi belt states, caste considerations weigh a lot among the parties and also among the electorate. Ours is a national party with a 100 per cent national outlook. We do not want to ensure growth of our party in the name of caste, creed and religion. Compared to 2005, our vote share across Bihar this time increased from around two lakh to 5.22 lakh. So it has doubled. We will soon emerge as a force. Moreover, in the Bihar election this time, there was a strong wave in favour of the Nitish Kumar-led JD-U-BJP combine. It is not possible for smaller parties like ours to counter such waves. In normal elections, we would have put up a much better show. 

What about NCP's growth strategy? You call yourself a nationalist party but, over the years, you have failed to make a dent outside Maharashtra?

We are a 100 per cent nationalist party with a nationalistic outlook on all issues. We are making considerable progress in terms of winning friends in several states and enhancing our base. In Orissa, we are with Naveen Patnaik and have four MLAs. In Bengal for the next assembly polls, we will ally with Mamata Banerjee's Trinamul Congress. In Kerala, we are with the Left. 

So Mr Pawar will campaign against the Left in Bengal and in their favour in Kerala.

That's what coalition politics is all about (laughs). I understand what you are saying. But this is neither new, nor very peculiar. Coalition politics does allow each individual party to tread its independent path. Therefore, we have taken this line. We will ally with the Trinamul Congress in Bengal. Party general secretary PA Sangma has been authorised to hold talks and finalise seat sharing with Trinamul. We do not have a very good organisational network in Bengal and would like to concentrate on very few seats. 

Similarly, Mr Sangma has been authorised to hold talks with like-minded parties in Assam for next year's assembly polls. In Kerala,we are an alliance partner of the Left parties. See, this is not opportunism. Even in the past, this has happened. In 1999-2000, NCP shared power with the BJP in Meghalaya and fought fiercely against BJP-Shiv Sena in Maharashtra (smiles).

What about the recent controversy with regard to the demand for a joint parliamentary committee on the 2G Spectrum scam? Is the development not an embarrassment for UPA allies since reportedly some of you favoured a JPC? 

There is no embarrassment. At the UPA level, we discussed things in detail. What NCP wanted to say was stated frankly within the UPA forum. Our stand was if JPC comes, we will not be against it. But our leadership also made it absolutely clear that we are with the UPA alliance and the government. If the Congress is against JPC and takes a decision we will be with the government. So no embarrassment!  

But NDA is now taking the issue to the streets. They have announced rallies across the country. Corruption is an issue your detractors use against NCP, given scams like Adarsh in Maharashtra and  the IPL controversy. 
See, BJP and NDA did not want any discussion in both houses of Parliament. It is unfortunate. I strongly believe this situation should have been avoided. Parliament is a forum where things should be discussed. Even on the question whether there should be JPC or not, it should have been discussed in Parliament. So it is unfortunate. We also wanted to discuss other issues; but nothing could be discussed. 

What about the issue of NCP's merger with Congress.  Some time back, a Maharashtra-based leader Ratnakar Mahajan also suggested the merger?  

We have categorically ruled out such a proposition. It will never happen. We are an independent identity. Who is this Ratnakar Mahajan? Either the said (NCP) leader is frustrated for his own reasons or has been tutored by outside elements. We have nothing to do with such statements. Despite the impression in certain quarters and the media, since 1999 under the leadership of Sharad Pawarji, NCP is growing from strength to strength.







A new year invariably brings with it new expectations and anxieties. It is necessary, unless the expectations were to be relegated to a wish list in a New Year's Eve parlour game, to ground the wishes in reality. Following this, it is not unrealistic to expect that the Indian economy, which coped with the global economic downturn without any major hiccups, will continue to grow and the dream of a double-digit growth rate will come closer to being achieved. But this economic performance has to be tempered with worries at a different level. The first of these is the rising prices of some food items, especially onions. It is not clear how this phenomenon is going to be tackled by the government despite an acceptance of its importance in official circles. A related but far more long-term problem is the growing difference in Indian society between the rich and the poor. There is no sign that this problem is being taken seriously by policy-makers except for introducing schemes like the national employment guarantee scheme. Without underestimating the necessity and the success of this, and similar schemes, the problem of poverty demands greater attention if India is not to become two nations held together by one Constitution.


The year opens with the speculation that the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, will reshuffle his cabinet. This reshuffle, if it takes place at all, has been long in the making. But a reshuffle is not a solution to some of the problems facing the prime minister. It has become quite apparent that there is a deficit of accountability and performance within the government. The entire episode concerning A. Raja, the former minister of telecommunications, which left the government somewhat embarrassed, would not have been possible if processes of accountability and transparency had been more firmly in place. The slur of corruption has stained this government despite the undeniable personal integrity of the prime minister. There is the growing impression that the prime minister does not always impose his will on the government. Mr Singh should dispel this impression. He should not underestimate the goodwill he commands and should proceed to leave his own indelible mark on the administration, as he has done on foreign policy and the economy. If Mr Singh does this, 2011 could very well be his year.


Current trends lead to fears about the nature and the future of Indian democracy. It is evident that the delicate balance that should exist among the judiciary, the executive and the legislature has been disturbed. The threats, external as well as internal, have provided a suitable alibi to subvert some of the basic democratic rights. These are, of course, issues affecting the whole of society rather than only politicians and the government. They cannot be brushed aside by any glib talk that India's moment in the world has arrived.










Books do not change lives, but books can change the way we look at the world. As a student of economics, I was a high modernist who believed in transforming rural communities through industrialization. Concern for the poor came with a heavy dose of condescension. Those who lived outside cities had to be improved and uplifted through an infusion of modern technology and what used to be known as the 'scientific temper'. Then I read Verrier Elwin's Leaves from the Jungle, a charming evocation of the life of the Gond tribals of central India. This, and his other works, showed me that despite their apparent illiteracy and lack of material wealth, the tribals had a rich tradition of poetry, folklore and art, a deep identification with nature, and a strong sense of community solidarity. In the latter respects they had, in fact, something to teach a modern world that dismissed them as primitive and uncivilized.


A little later, I became a Marxist, persuaded into the faith by the scholars who taught me in Calcutta. I was young and impatient; the incremental idealism of my parents' hero, Jawaharlal Nehru, did not seem sufficient to make a dent in the poverty and inequality that was so manifest a feature of social life in India. Then, on a visit to Dehradun, I picked up from the pavement of the town's main street a copy of George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. I took the book home and read it through the night. Orwell had seen, at first-hand, how the democratic aspirations of the Spanish people had been undermined by the takeover of their movement by a band of cynical and amoral communists, acting under the instructions of Josef Stalin. He communicated his experiences in prose of an uncommon clarity. By the morning, I had abandoned Marxism, and was a social democrat once more.


Another book that changed the way I looked at the world was Truth Called Them Differently, published by the Navajivan Trust in Ahmedabad. This reproduced the debates between Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi. They argued about many things — India's place in the world, the role of the English language, whether an hour a day at the spinning wheel was mandatory for the patriot. The exchanges reveal the intellectual and moral qualities of the two men, each of whom had the ability (and courage) to change his views when circumstance or reason so demanded.


Elwin was once a well-known writer in India. Tagore, Gandhi and Orwell enjoy global reputations. All had a considerable and varied oeuvre in English. Their books were published by the most prestigious publishing houses. A fourth book whose reading radically altered my understanding of the world was, in contrast, written by an author unknown outside his native Karnataka. And it was published by a totally obscure press. Browsing through Bangalore's Premier Book Shop in the early 1990s, I came across a slim book called The Flaming Feet. The title was intriguing, as were its contents — a series of essays on and around the figure of B.R. Ambedkar.


Published by a local NGO called the Institute of Cultural Research and Action,The Flaming Feet was the first work in English by D.R. Nagaraj, a professor of Kannada in Bangalore University. The politics of the 1930s and 1940s had placed Gandhi and Ambedkar as antagonists — as, more recently, had the politics of the 1980s and 1990s. The Bahujan Samaj Party had launched a series of stinging attacks on the Mahatma, accusing him of patronizing the Dalits and impeding rather than aiding their emancipation. From the other side, the Hindutva ideologue, Arun Shourie, had written a 600-page screed depicting Ambedkar as a toady of the British.


D.R. Nagaraj was unusual and — at that time, at least — unique in admiringboth Gandhi and Ambedkar. To be sure, in their lifetime their respective social locations made it hard for these men not to be political adversaries. By the time Ambedkar returned from his studies in the US, Gandhi was the acknowledged leader of the national movement. For a brilliant and ambitious young man from a Dalit background, to join the Congress was to relegate oneself to a secondary role in politics. Thus, as Nagaraj pointed out, "there was very little scope for a Congress Harijan leader to develop interesting and useful models of praxis from within". So, Ambedkar chose to form his own political party and fight for his people under a banner separate from, and opposed to, Gandhi's Indian National Congress.


In The Flaming Feet, Nagaraj demonstrated how, through their debates and arguments, Gandhi and Ambedkar transformed each other. The Mahatma became more sensitive to the structural roots of caste discrimination, while Ambedkar came to recognize that moral renewal was as critical to Dalit emancipation as economic opportunity. In seeking to honour both men, Nagaraj was, as he put it, fighting both "deep-rooted prejudices" (which urged Indians to follow only one or the other) as well as "wishful thinking" (which made one believe that one or other thinker provided all the answers to the Dalit predicament). Nagaraj insisted that "from the viewpoint of the present, there is a compelling necessity to achieve a synthesis of the two". "The greatest paradox of modern Indian history," wrote Nagaraj, was that "both Gandhian and Ambedkarite perceptions of the issue are partially true, and the contending visions are yet to comprehend each other fully".


Reading Nagaraj, like reading Tagore, Gandhi, Orwell and Elwin, was an epiphanic experience. He taught me to recognize that while Gandhi and Ambedkar were rivals in their lifetime, from the point of view of India today the two men should rather be viewed as partners and collaborators. The legacy ofboth was required to complete the unfinished task of Dalit emancipation. After the publication of The Flaming Feet, Nagaraj began writing more often in English. These later essays, like the book, were marked by an unusual ability to bring disparate worlds into conversation: the past and the present, the elite and the subaltern, the vernacular and the cosmopolitan.


In 1998, just as he was maturing as a scholar and political analyst, Nagaraj died of a heart attack. Now, 12 years later, his published and unpublished essays on Dalit questions have been brought together in an expanded edition of The Flaming Feet, edited and sensitively introduced by his former student, Prithvi Datta Chandra Sobhi, and appearing this time under the imprint of a more mainstream publisher. Here Nagaraj writes with elegance and insight about a wide range of subjects — on the "lack of a living tradition of militant Gandhianism"; on the self-invention of a Dalit identity (as he points out, in searching for a history outside Hinduism, "the modern Dalit has to seek his rebirth in a state of fearful loneliness. S/he has nothing to rely upon in his/her immediate Hindu surroundings"); on the need to build a united front of ecological, Dalit and tribal movements.


Nagaraj was a social scientist as well as littérateur whose mode of writing was sometimes empirical, at other times metaphorical. Here is a representative excerpt: "Babasaheb [Ambedkar] had no option but to reject the Gandhian model. He had realized that this model had successfully transformed Harijans as objects in a ritual of self-purification, with the ritual being performed by those who had larger heroic notions of their individual selves. In the theatre of history, in a play with such a script, the untouchables would never become heroes in their own right, they were just mirrors for a hero to look at his own existentialist anger and despair, or maybe even glory."


This new edition of The Flaming Feet may be the most important work of non-fiction published in this country in 2010. At any rate, it is indispensable for anyone with any serious interest in society and politics in modern India.



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





Often at the receiving end of inter-state water dispute adjudications, Karnataka has something to cheer finally after the second Krishna Tribunal made known its award on Thursday. While allocating the state 911 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water from the southern peninsula's one of the longest rivers (Andhra Pradesh got 1001 tmcft and Maharashtra 666 tmcft), the Tribunal has allowed Karnataka to raise the Almatti reservoir dam height from the present 519 metres to 524.256 metres. It should be considered the single biggest positive from the verdict as it allows Karnataka to utilise water to the extent of 303 tmcft as against 173 tmcft now. This decision will go a long way in increasing its irrigated area in the parched and backward parts of northern Karnataka, provided the government allocates necessary funds to the projects for their speedy completion. The neighbouring Andhra Pradesh had been relentless in its opposition to the increase in height of the dam but the Tribunal in its wisdom has refused to consider the Andhra plea. In addition to this, the Tribunal has increased the allocation to the Tunga Bhadra projects from the existing 310 tmcft to 360 tmcft.

The Tribunal has not reviewed the award of Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal-I which was a demand of Andhra Pradesh. Had this been done, Karnataka would have found itself at a disadvantage as it has failed to utilise fully its share of water. KWDT-I had allotted 734 tmcft to Karnataka but the state has so far utilised not more than 600 tmcft. While this itself is a lesson for Karnataka, the government should now make efforts to not only complete the existing project but also show eagerness to take up the proposed ones.

Having said that, the government may be have to rework its allocations and proposed projects as it will fall short of its allocation by 101 tmcft — the Tribunal has allocated Karnataka 177 tmcft from the surplus waters compared to the 278 tmcft that the state had sought as its Master Plan 2002 had proposed to utilise 278 tmcft of water from the Scheme B for about 20 of its projects. This means that while all its Scheme A projects would be through, the projects which are to utilise Scheme B allocation, like the Varada, Upper Bhadra, etc will have to be fine-tuned according to the available supply. The Yeddyurappa government should not lose any time in mobilising the funds required as the Krishna projects have the potential to metamorphose the most backward region of the state.








The overwhelming response of CBSE-affiliated schools to the proposal to teach Mandarin to students shows the changes taking place in the education sector and also the change in attitudes as a result of the rise of China on the world's stage. There are about 12,000 such schools and a large number of them have shown keen interest in introducing the language for their students from the earliest level. Courses are expected to start from the next academic year. The proposal was first made when Human Resources Development minister Kapil Sibal visited China earlier this year and was mentioned in the joint statement issued after Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's recent visit to the country.

Indians are by nature great learners of languages. The multiplicity of languages in the country and the three-language scheme have meant that many people are polyglots. 

There have been historical reasons too. Persian, Arabic and even Turkic have been popular in the country and are part of the country's intellectual and cultural heritage. 

Apart from English whose place is unique, modern languages like French and Spanish are also being widely taught and studied in the country. But Mandarin has not been popular because its utility was limited and the language is thought to be very difficult to learn. It is now taught only in a few centres at the university level. The importance of a language depends also on the place where it is spoken and the people who speak it. With China emerging as a world power and as it will remain so in the foreseeable future, knowledge of Mandarin will become necessary and will be of practical use. It will also help to improve political, economic and cultural relations with China. The Chinese have also been keen in the recent past to encourage study of their language and culture in other countries.

China has offered all help and support for India's Mandarin plan. But it will be difficult to launch the programme on a wide scale because the number of trained teaching personnel is not large. But going by the interest seen in the programme, it  will gain strength and popularity in the coming years. Mandarin is not just a politically important language. It has a long and rich heritage and its study will help to understand China better.







If democracy is to survive, we can no longer rely on past respect for institutions. We need systems that ensure accountability.


After 63 years of independence we are more clearly looking at our leaders and institutions. Jawaharlal Nehru nurtured the institutions of democracy, the legislature (the political party at central and state levels, state leadership, respect for the legislature, etc); the executive (bureaucracy and administrative services, selection, promotions, tenure, etc), judiciary (selection, respect for their judgments, non-interference, etc); and the defence forces (appointments, training, civilian control, etc).

The (print) media in the early years was invariably polite and respectful of the political leadership. It was quick to reflect the views of government. Businessmen were kept at a distance because making money was not appreciated, though it was famously said that in the first parliament, G D Birla had financed a hundred members. Now, evidentally, the top businessmen and academics are increasingly part of the policy-making environment.

The Second Five Year Plan with its emphasis on government direction of all resources gave a dominant role to the public sector. In the absence of trained managers, many bureaucrats were appointed to top positions in the public enterprises. There were episodes of politicians using their powers to make money for themselves and others, but the opportunities were limited and amounts were small. The Mundhra case cost the then finance minister T T Krishnamachari his cabinet berth for a while. However, catching and punishing erring government officials was uncommon.

In Indira Gandhi's time, government spending rose significantly on defence equipment and buying of aircraft for the national carrier, and in the public enterprises. There were many opportunities for ministers and officials to make illegal incomes. Intermediaries flourished, arranging deals between businessmen — both Indian and foreign — and the government. 

Ostensibly, political parties had to collect money for fighting elections but individual politicians and bureaucrats also prospered. The earnings were spent on improving their living standards, invested in India or illegally sent abroad for investment. Government policies facilitated profitable investment of illegal earnings.

After the Emergency years, the media became more investigative and less shy of publishing its findings. Growing competition especially from the electronic media and the internet, led to greater exposures.  The 'iron frame' that we inherited from the British creaked as it aged but for long we thought that it was honest and dedicated to the country's best interests.

Many top bureaucrats were respected household names.  We held the judiciary in awe and regarded them as above any reproach (except for some lethargy) and there were icons among them as well. We regarded the defence forces and their leaders as patriots who sacrificed for the nation.

Blind belief

Each service had its nationally recognised heroes. All of us believed whatever news we read in the media and the opinion columns of top editors, columnists and journalists had considerable influence on many. These institutions and their leaders have in recent years lost their lustre.

The rot festered during the Emergency and after. Politicians and bureaucrats were whispered as having made fortunes from their positions. There is no iconic figure left today either among politicians or administrators. Many at the top seem limited in ability or venal. No political party is free of the stain. New political leaders appear to be emerging, but are yet to assume iconic proportions.

The one politician who might fit the bill is Nitish Kumar, while Narendra Modi has demonstrated organisational skills and visionary administrative leadership. The Congress party from the time of Indira Gandhi has not encouraged the rise of leaders outside the family, except when Sonia Gandhi gave the prime ministership to Narasimha Rao and he marginalised her.

There is a consensus that the administrative services are primarily responsible for the poor implementation of government programmes, their inefficiency, poor targeting and large scale theft of public funds. The involvement of every institution that we expect to lead — political, administrative, military, judiciary, media, in many scandals, the naming of corrupt Chief Justices of India by a senior advocate, and the exposures of media and business tycoons in the leaked Radia tapes have damaged the faith in the country's leadership.

We have reached a stage where we can not unquestioningly respect leaders in any sphere. If our democratic framework is to survive, we can no longer rely on past respect for institutions. We need systems and processes that ensure accountability.

The Central Vigilance Commission and other investigating agencies like the CBI should no longer be the exclusive preserve of a ruling party but must be free to investigate. Prosecution of ministers and bureaucrats should not require government approval but must be left to independent investigating agencies.

There must be a Media Commission with teeth to review content and practices (like the disgraceful practice of 'paid news'). A National Judicial Commission must review appointments and investigate charges against sitting judges and purpose action. The Central Administrative Tribunal should be a more independent body and be responsible for transfers, tenures, promotions and prosecutions of administrators. Penalties must be severe and include confiscation of ill-gotten gains as well as long and rigorous imprisonment for wrongdoers. Automatic respect must be replaced by systems that enable it.








For the first time in seven years, the UPA government, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has gone down in the estimation of the 'aam admi'.


 If a public opinion poll were held today, the verdict may well go against it. The decline of its popularity began with reckless waste of money in the Commonwealth Games. It was followed by the sale of telecommunication licences for a fraction of their market price. It is estimated that the loss incurred is upwards of $39 billion. Covert that into rupees and you will get a nasty shock.

The supreme court asked the prime minister to explain the reasons for his doing nothing to stop minister A Raja for causing heavy losses to the exchequer. The opposition parties joined hands with the BJP to demand a Joint Parliamentary Committee to look into the matter. It spurned other alternatives suggested by the government and stalled parliament functioning for three weeks. The chief target of this demand is to question the integrity of the prime minister, bring him down in public esteem, have mid-term election in the hope of reducing the number of Congress party members in the Lok Sabha.

I watched the proceedings of the Congress party meeting held in a village on the periphery of Delhi on TV to find out what Congress party leaders had to say in defence of the prime minister. They paid handsome tributes. I go along with them. They also criticised the BJP and the communists by taking them head on. I also share their opinion on the negative role they have been playing all along. I agree with Digvijay Singh describing the RSS as fascist oriented. Ever since its inception, it has been exploiting the latest Islamophobia of the Hindu massess.

Now that Uma Bharati, who celebrated the destruction of the Babri Masjid by embracing Murali Manor Joshi has joined the BJP, there can be no doubt that the party's aim is to promote Hindutva which its principal spokesman L K Advani described as a noble concept. It is for the 'aam' Hindu to decide whether he wants India to be Hindu Rashtra or a secular state, as envisaged by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Maulana Azad.  However, what still need to be explained is why the prime minister did not intervene in time to stop those scamsters from getting away with their nefarious designs?

Long live Urdu

Till the partition of the country in August 1947, the language of northern India was Hindustani. It was written in three different alphabets: in Arabic letters and called Urdu, in Devnagri and in Gurmukhi. After the partition, two falsehoods were spread by linguistic bigots: one that Urdu was the language of Muslims and the other that Urdu could only be written in Arabic alphabet.

It was hard to persuade these mis-informed fundoos that every language can be written in any script. Urdu continues to flourish in northern India but in Devnagri script. The leading light in driving this message home is Kamna Prasad, now her Excellency Kamna Prasad Sood, wife of our Ambassador in Kathmandu. She has adopted two daughters Jiya and Bahar.

I've known Kamna for over 31 years. She is a couple of inches taller than me and beautifully proportioned. Amongst her numerous admirers was M P Hussaini, who made many portraits of her. She is a very private person and never revealed her family background. I found out that her mother was a very good looking woman and a minister in the Bihar government. Her son (Kamna's elder brother) married Babu Jagjivan Ram's daughter Meira Kumar who is speaker of the Lok Sabha. Kamna is not a name-dropper. I have never heard her talk about her relations.

She has made it on her own.  She helped promoting Bindeshwar Pathak's Sulabh International. She set up the Jashn-e-Bahar Trust which has been organising annual mushairas for the last 10 years when Urdu poets from different parts of world came to recite their compositions.

For her endeavours to promote Urdu, she was awarded the Bi Amma Award earlier this year. Her publishing house Jiya Prakashan has published several collections of Urdu poetry in Devnagri. She has made films and appeared on TV channels explaining modern trends in Urdu poetry. She also co-authored 'Celebrating the Best of Urdu Poetry' (Penguin) with me. What more could anyone have done to keep Urdu alive in India? Urdu is the chief passion of her life. She continues to promote it in the only way it can retain its status as the principal language of northern India.

No room for Bapu

A managing director of a company was distressed to find that many men working under him had been found guilty of corruption. In order to teach others a lesson, he put it to the board of directors that they put pictures of those men on the walls of the main reception room just as police stations display photographs of criminals in the main office. The youngest member of the board remarked: if we do so, there will be no room left for photographs of Mahatma Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

(Contributed by Ramesh Kotian, Udupi)







When asked pointedly, he confessed that no Indian was ready to chat with him.



What would the average Indian's images and feelings by association be, when one mentions Pakistan? Animus and suspicion? Red blood of partition, ugly territorial disputes, the horror of Kargil war or the recent mass slaughter of 26/11? You can't be blamed; yet one exhorts you to consider the other side of the picture.

A Pakistani can also be an innocent civilian, blissfully unaware of the deep nuances of Indo-Pak politics. He's painfully made aware of one thing though — 'Indians hate Pakistanis'. A lazy afternoon a year and a half ago took me to a virtual chat room where I met one, AZ. Now, in a chat room it is inevitable to exchange ASL (age, sex and location) and AZ, it was obvious, was hesitant to mention his L. When asked pointedly, he confessed that no Indian was ready to chat with him — he was from Karachi. "Naaraaz hai kya?" he asked guiltily.

Good God, why should I be angry, I thought in my mind — I, who am so enamoured of Mirza Ghalib, Amir Khusro, the Quawwali and Ghazals, calligraphy, mosques and minarets, not to mention Karachi halwa! "No," I answered and asked what his hobbies were, to which he replied that he enjoyed playing cricket in his area and was basically a bowler. "I am as fast as Shoaib Akhtar," AZ pronounced with simple pride. "Oh the Rawalpindi Express... well, we'll call you Karachi Express then!" I exclaimed enthusiastically. The boy seemed pleased as punch.

During the next few days, a fact that I already knew was confirmed — the Pakistanis are besotted with Bollywood. Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar seemed great favourites with this young man. Any riling remarks made on these two stars, in deliberate zest, were met with respectful rebuttals by AZ, always made in the vernacular plural — presumably because I am a little older and a woman.

AZ leaves an instant message on most days but was conspicuously absent on 26/11. Yes, Kasab's a monster and deserves the most stringent of penalties, but why has a situation been created where harmless civilians from across the border are made to feel guilty, ashamed and apologetic for no fault of theirs? Why are 'I hate Porkistan' communities (offensive sobriquet for Pakistan, replete with a picture of the Pakistani flag slashed in red) being created and joined by Indian youngsters on a prominent social networking site?

Once, I asked AZ what his favourite colour is — "All colours except red," pat came the answer. Was this an unassuming response or were there deeper cryptic connotations to it? I really can't say. All I can say for sure is that I love green as much as I love saffron and blue. And above all I love the colour white — the symbol of peace — and want it to ubiquitously and eternally prevail.




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




Even after the herculean effort required to win Senate ratification of the New Start treaty, President Obama has no time to rest. The treaty, which mandates modest cuts in long-range nuclear weapons, is on its way to approval by the Duma, the lower house of Parliament in Russia. Once that happens, Washington and Moscow should quickly begin discussing other, more far-reaching agreements.


Two decades after the end of the cold war, the United States and Russia still have many thousands of nuclear weapons. The two countries cannot credibly argue for restraining the nuclear ambitions of Iran, North Korea and other wannabes unless they keep working to bring their own numbers down.


One of their most urgent tasks is slashing — or better, doing away with — their tactical nuclear weapons. These smaller arms, with a 300- to 400-mile range, have no military utility or deterrent value. They also have never been the subject of a treaty, or of any verification. That is what makes them so particularly frightening.


The United States has about 500 tactical nukes, including 180 in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. These weapons are considered secure. But Russia's arsenal is much larger — between 3,000 and 5,000 — and, likely, vulnerable to covert sale or theft.


President Obama is already committed to negotiating cuts in tactical nukes. And he may have some new allies: Republicans who pushed through a side resolution to the New Start treaty requiring negotiations on tactical weapons within a year. If they meant what they said — and weren't just trying to kill New Start — they need to support the president in any negotiations and commit to swift ratification of a treaty.


Whether Russia would give up its "advantage" in tactical weapons is hard to gauge. Moscow had said it wouldn't negotiate until Washington removed all of its tactical weapons from Europe. More recently, Russian officials appear more open to discussions.


The two sides cannot stop there. They also need to reduce their number of stored warheads — their "hedge." Russia and the United States are each estimated to have around 2,000 stored weapons. Some spares are needed as replacements in case of catastrophic failure in deployed warheads or cheating by the other side, but these huge reserves are far more than necessary.


Russia will want to include missile defenses in any negotiations. That doesn't need to be a deal breaker. The administration has already made important progress by persuading Moscow to cooperate with NATO in jointly developing a system intended to intercept short- and medium-range missiles.


We also strongly urge President Obama to press Congress to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996. It is nearly impossible for countries to build weapons without testing, so the treaty is a powerful tool for curbing proliferation. But it cannot come into force without ratification by the United States and a handful of other countries.


Senate Republicans blocked ratification in 1999. But there are few agreements more in this country's favor. The United States tested its weapons more than 1,000 times before adopting a voluntary moratorium nearly 18 years ago. President Obama has already promised a huge infusion of new money — $85 billion over 10 years — to ensure the nuclear weapons complex remains safe and up to date without testing.


President George W. Bush scoffed at arms control treaties as old think. President Obama was right to revive negotiations, but he still has a lot of work ahead. The threat of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism are all too clear and present.








Nearly 40 million Americans are locked into dead-end jobs because they do not have a high school diploma. A daylong exam called the General Educational Development test, or G.E.D., provides the equivalent of a high school diploma — and better chances in the job market — to those who pass it. Nearly 800,000 people take the exam each year, and about 500,000 pass.


But here is the stunning — and sad — truth about this exam: Success depends heavily on where you live. In Iowa, Kansas and Delaware, 90 percent or more of those who take the test pass. In Alabama, Mississippi, New York and the District of Columbia, less than 60 percent pass.


What accounts for the difference? Preparation. States with low success rates do a poor job of prepping students for the exam. The reverse is true in states with high scores. In Iowa, for example, students take a diagnostic pretest, then receive instruction in their weak areas, then take a practice test. In 2009, 98 percent of those who took the test in Iowa passed the G.E.D. exam.


The test is free in some states and costs as much as $400 in others. Either way, states should make sure people have a legitimate shot at success.


A G.E.D. program developed by New York City's Department of Education may help show New York State — and other states with poor test results — the way forward. The program uses innovative instructional techniques to make sure students are fully prepared. Over the last several years, the program has a pass rate of about 78 percent, more than 20 percentage points higher than the statewide rate.


The city's program has so impressed the American Council on Education, the nonprofit group that owns the G.E.D., that it will soon begin a pilot program in District 79, which deals with alternative schools and programs. Underwritten by a $3 million grant from the MetLife Foundation, this pilot program is intended to develop a model for educating more adults more quickly so they can pass the G.E.D. and move on with their careers.


These improvements are timely because the G.E.D. test itself is about to get tougher. The new test, to be developed over the next several years, is being revised to conform to more rigorous educational standards proposed earlier this year by the National Governors Association and state school superintendents.


These standards set forth ambitious new goals for what children should learn from kindergarten through high school and have already been embraced by most states. Among other things, they would require students to develop reasoning skills earlier in their educational experience and set higher, college-level standards in math, English and science.


For all these reasons, states — including New York — will need to invest much more heavily in programs that prepare people for the G.E.D. At stake is their economic future — and the country's.







Of all the recommendations by the independent 9/11 Commission in 2004, the one that Congress has had the most difficulty with is the summons to Congress to reform itself. The commission urged lawmakers to junk the hydra-headed, multicommittee system of intelligence oversight in favor of single panels in the House and the Senate combining the clout of budgeting with oversight.


"Tinkering with the existing structure is not sufficient," the commission said. That was true in 2004, and the need for sweeping reform is just as real today. Centralizing oversight offers the best hope of tracking the myriad jobs done by 15 separate agencies in the field.


Congress was instantly alarmed at the prospect of shrinking dozens of prized committee turfs and silencing the subcommittee gavels of chairmen fiercely protective of their perks. Self-imagined lions roared that Capitol Hill's ramshackle system was in fact beneficial: "purposeful redundancy," they called it.


Enter now a fresh band of tinkerers. In 2007, Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, made a token gesture toward rationalizing the system by creating a select intelligence oversight panel. The incoming Republican majority promises to do a better job without the panel.


The panel was a hybrid of members from existing oversight committees who worked firmly under the thumb of the Appropriations Committee. There is some thought that it helped, even though it fell well short of the union of purse strings and oversight that was needed — and is still needed — in both House and Senate.


The Republicans insist that lawmakers in charge of intelligence and appropriations can work more closely. But if past practice holds, Congress will continue to shuffle the status quo and duck the need for painful reform. Our legislators need to be less concerned about protecting rival fiefs and far more committed to protecting the nation's security.








2011. Perhaps you can remember when the thought of a brand new year — even the very numeral — was exciting. Somehow, it is harder to place the moment when the excitement of a new year turned to wariness and then to alarm and then to futile questions about the nature of time. Are we tunneling forward into the future, or is time blowing past us like a stiff breeze? Perhaps we simply carry time within us. To be conscious at all is to be conscious of time.


By now, of course, 2010 feels like a completely familiar, totally used-up year. But why does 2011 still sound like an annum out of science fiction? It's not as though 2011 is a remoter outpost in the hinterland of the future than, say, 1971 was. Yet here we are in the second decade of the 21st century, living in the very future we tried to imagine when we were young so many years ago. Surely we must have colonies throughout the solar system by now. Surely hunger is no more, and peace is planet-wide.


The coming of the new year reminds us, again, that we live, as we always have, somewhere on a sliding scale between utopia and dystopia and that we continuously carry our burdens and opportunities with us. 2011 is merely a new entry in our ancient custom of chronological bookkeeping, an arbitrary starting point for our annual trip around the sun.


But it is also so much more. Who can live without fresh intentions, new purposes? Who does not welcome a chance to start over, if only on a new page of the calendar? Life goes on, but it goes on so much better with hope and renewal and recommitment.


Last night was a night for banishing regrets. Today is for wondering how to live without new ones, how to do right by ourselves and one another.








I. Happy New Year! Besides the Times Square ball, the glorious American mosaic of things scheduled to be dropped around the nation on New Year's Eve also included all but which one of the following:


A) The Brasstown, N.C., Possum Drop


B) Dillsburg, Pa.'s giant pickle


C) The Elmore, Ohio, Sausage Drop


D) Seaside Heights, N.J., first annual dropping of Nicole (Snooki) Polizzi




II. Finish the quote:


1) After the lame-duck session, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said: "When it's all going to be said and done, Harry Reid has


A) brought us together."


B) eaten our lunch."


C) eaten a lot of late-night pizza."




2) John Boehner, the incoming House speaker, broke into tears on election night and weepily announced: "I've spent my whole life chasing


A) the American dream."


B) women."


C) cars."




3) "Oh, my gosh! It's so important," Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts said sarcastically during a recent debate. "I'm glad I rushed back from our break to work on:


A) earmarks."


B) food safety."


C) tax cuts for the wealthy."




III. Identify the speaker:


1) "They cheat. They are serial cheaters."


A) Senator James Risch of Idaho, speaking in opposition to a nuclear arms treaty with Russia.


B) Cuckolded former aide to Senator John Ensign of Nevada, on the Republican caucus.


C) Tiger Woods, on the golf tour.


D) Unsuccessful "Dancing With the Stars" finalist, on Bristol Palin's family.




2) "Balloons and ballrooms are not my thing."


A) John Boehner, explaining his teariness at postelection victory party.


B) Bristol Palin, analyzing her ultimate defeat on "Dancing With the Stars."


C) Harry Reid, describing his partying skills.


D) Andrew Cuomo, the new governor of New York, on his plans for a "new austerity" swearing-in.




3) "There's no one who wants this over more than I do."


A) Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the New York City snowstorm.


B) President Obama on the 111th Congress.


C) Tony Hayward, the former chief executive of BP, on the oil spill.


D) Sarah Palin on filming the last episode of her reality show.




4) "What I said was stupid, stupid, stupid."


A) U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina of California after making fun of Senator Barbara Boxer's hair.


B) Rod Blagojevich for saying he was blacker than Obama.


C) Christine O'Donnell for the "I am not a witch" ad.


D) Kate Middleton for announcing she and Prince William do not want any household help.




IV. Multiple choice:


1) The Wall Street Journal reported that at least 15 percent of the incoming House freshman plan to:


A) Sleep in their offices.


B) Use the word "refudiate" in their official correspondence.


C) Twitter 24/7.


D) Try to get invited to Prince William's wedding.




2) John Boehner told Lesley Stahl that he can no longer visit public schools in his district because:


A) They've all been closed.


B) He hates that cloakroom smell.


C) He cries when he thinks of the importance of giving them a shot at the American dream.


D) He's afraid he'll be asked to spell "potato."




V. Match Republican presidential hopefuls with their 2010 achievements. (One hopeful gets two):


1. Sarah Palin


2. Haley Barbour


3. Tim Pawlenty


4. Mike Huckabee


5. Mitt Romney


6. Newt Gingrich


A) On a visit to Iowa, introduced his spouse to the audience as "my red-hot, smoking wife."


B) Took six shots to kill a caribou that was, really, just standing there.


C) Continued to fail to explain why he drove to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car.


D) Said he doesn't remember what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said during a 1962 civil rights speech at his hometown because he was "watching the girls."


E) Compared Democrats to Nazis; compared lower Manhattan mosque supporters to Nazis.


F) Family Christmas card said: "Guess which grandchild heard that Papa might run again?"


G) Demonstrated how to deep-fry a turkey on TV.




ANSWERS: I: C (the Sausage Drop was canceled because of a lack of volunteers); II: 1-B, 2-A, 3-B; III: 1-A, 2-C, 3-C, 4-B; IV: 1-A, 2-C; V: 1-B, 2-D, 3-A, 4-G, 5-C and F, 6-E.








I got a call on New Year's Eve from Gladys Scott, which was a terrific way for 2010 to end.


As insane as it may seem, Gladys and her sister, Jamie, are each serving consecutive life sentences in a state prison in Mississippi for their alleged role in a robbery in 1993 in which no one was hurt and $11 supposedly was taken.


Gladys was on the phone, excited and relieved, because Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi had agreed to suspend the prison terms.


"I've waited so long for this day to come," she said.


I was happy for the Scott sisters and deeply moved as Gladys spoke of how desperately she wanted to "just hold" her two children and her mother, who live in Florida. But I couldn't help thinking that right up until the present moment she and Jamie have been treated coldly and disrespectfully by the governor and other state officials. It's as if the authorities have found it impossible to hide their disdain, their contempt, for the two women.


The prison terms were suspended — not commuted — on the condition that Gladys donate a kidney to Jamie, who is seriously ill with diabetes and high blood pressure and receives dialysis at least three times a week. Gladys had long expressed a desire to donate a kidney to her sister, but to make that a condition of her release was unnecessary, mean-spirited, inhumane and potentially coercive. It was a low thing to do.


Governor Barbour did not offer any expression of concern for Jamie's health in his statement announcing the sentence suspension.


He said of the sisters: "Their incarceration is no longer necessary for public safety or rehabilitation, and Jamie Scott's medical condition creates a substantial cost to the state of Mississippi."


By all means, get those medical costs off the books if you can.


I asked Gladys how she had learned that she was to be released. "Oh, I saw it while I was looking at the news on television," she said.


The authorities hadn't bothered to even tell the sisters. After all, who are they? As Gladys put it, "Nobody told me a thing."


I asked if she had seen Jamie, who is in another section of the prison, since the governor's decision had been announced. She said no one had tried to get the two of them together for even a telephone conversation.


"I haven't seen her or heard from her," Gladys said. "I want to see her. I want to see how she's doing and take care of her."


I am not surprised at Governor Barbour's behavior. He's not the first person who comes to mind when I think of admirable public officials. The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss., noted that the governor had been on the radio this week asserting that there was hardly anyone in prison who didn't deserve to be there. It's an interesting comment from a governor who has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to free prisoners convicted of the most heinous crimes.


The Jackson Free Press, an alternative weekly, and Slate magazine have noted that Mr. Barbour has pardoned four killers and suspended the life sentence of a fifth. So cold-blooded murder is no reason, in Mr. Barbour's view, to keep the prison doors closed.


This is also a governor who said recently, while reminiscing about the civil rights struggle and the treatment of blacks in his hometown of Yazoo City, Miss., in the 1960s: "I just don't remember it being that bad." The comment was in an article in The Weekly Standard in which the governor managed to find some complimentary things to say about the rabidly racist White Citizens Councils.


Faced with heavy and widespread criticism, he later pulled back on the comments, describing the era as "difficult and painful" and the councils as "indefensible."


The only reason the Scott sisters have gotten any relief at all is because of an extraordinary network of supporters who campaigned relentlessly over several years on their behalf. Ben Jealous, the president of the N.A.A.C.P., emerged as one of the leaders of the network. The concerted effort finally paid off.


Gladys Scott said her 16 years in prison have been extremely difficult and that she had gotten depressed from time to time but had not given up hope. "It was a very bad experience, " she said.


What is likely to get lost in the story of the Scott sisters finally being freed is just how hideous and how outlandish their experience really was. How can it be possible for individuals with no prior criminal record to be sentenced to two consecutive life terms for a crime in which no one was hurt and $11 was taken? Who had it in for them, and why was that allowed to happen?


The Scott sisters may go free, but they will never receive justice.


Charles M. Blow is off today.







NEW Year's resolutions often have to do with eating more healthfully, going to the gym more, giving up sweets, losing weight — all admirable goals aimed at improving one's physical health. Most people, though, do not realize that they can strengthen their brains in a similar way.


While some areas of the brain are hard-wired from birth or early childhood, other areas — especially in the cerebral cortex, which is central to higher cognitive powers like language and thought, as well as sensory and motor functions — can be, to a remarkable extent, rewired as we grow older. In fact, the brain has an astonishing ability to rebound from damage — even from something as devastating as the loss of sight or hearing. As a physician who treats patients with neurological conditions, I see this happen all the time.


For example, one patient of mine who had been deafened by scarlet fever at the age of 9, was so adept at lip-reading that it was easy to forget she was deaf. Once, without thinking, I turned away from her as I was speaking. "I can no longer hear you," she said sharply.


"You mean you can no longer see me," I said.


"You may call it seeing," she answered, "but I experience it as hearing."


Lip-reading, seeing mouth movements, was immediately transformed for this patient into "hearing" the sounds of speech in her mind. Her brain was converting one mode of sensation into another.


In a similar way, blind people often find ways of "seeing." Some areas of the brain, if not stimulated, will atrophy and die. ("Use it or lose it," neurologists often say.) But the visual areas of the brain, even in someone born blind, do not entirely disappear; instead, they are redeployed for other senses. We have all heard of blind people with unusually acute hearing, but other senses may be heightened, too.


For example, Geerat Vermeij, a biologist at the University of California-Davis who has been blind since the age of 3, has identified many new species of mollusks based on tiny variations in the contours of their shells. He uses a sort of spatial or tactile giftedness that is beyond what any sighted person is likely to have.


The writer Ved Mehta, also blind since early childhood, navigates in large part by using "facial vision" — the ability to sense objects by the way they reflect sounds, or subtly shift the air currents that reach his face. Ben Underwood, a remarkable boy who lost his sight at 3 and died at 16 in 2009, developed an effective, dolphin-like strategy of emitting regular clicks with his mouth and reading the resulting echoes from nearby objects. He was so skilled at this that he could ride a bike and play sports and even video games.


People like Ben Underwood and Ved Mehta, who had some early visual experience but then lost their sight, seem to instantly convert the information they receive from touch or sound into a visual image — "seeing" the dots, for instance, as they read Braille with a finger. Researchers using functional brain imagery have confirmed that in such situations the blind person activates not only the parts of the cortex devoted to touch, but parts of the visual cortex as well.


One does not have to be blind or deaf to tap into the brain's mysterious and extraordinary power to learn, adapt and grow. I have seen hundreds of patients with various deficits — strokes, Parkinson's and even dementia — learn to do things in new ways, whether consciously or unconsciously, to work around those deficits.


That the brain is capable of such radical adaptation raises deep questions. To what extent are we shaped by, and to what degree do we shape, our own brains? And can the brain's ability to change be harnessed to give us greater cognitive powers? The experiences of many people suggest that it can.


One patient I knew became totally paralyzed overnight from a spinal cord infection. At first she fell into deep despair, because she couldn't enjoy even little pleasures, like the daily crossword she had loved.


After a few weeks, though, she asked for the newspaper, so that at least she could look at the puzzle, get its configuration, run her eyes along the clues. When she did this, something extraordinary happened. As she looked at the clues, the answers seemed to write themselves in their spaces. Her visual memory strengthened over the next few weeks, until she found that she was able to hold the entire crossword and its clues in her mind after a single, intense inspection — and then solve it mentally. She had had no idea, she later told me, that such powers were available to her.


This growth can even happen within a matter of days. Researchers at Harvard found, for example, that blindfolding sighted adults for as few as five days could produce a shift in the way their brains functioned: their subjects became markedly better at complex tactile tasks like learning Braille.


Neuroplasticity — the brain's capacity to create new pathways — is a crucial part of recovery for anyone who loses a sense or a cognitive or motor ability. But it can also be part of everyday life for all of us. While it is often true that learning is easier in childhood, neuroscientists now know that the brain does not stop growing, even in our later years. Every time we practice an old skill or learn a new one, existing neural connections are strengthened and, over time, neurons create more connections to other neurons. Even new nerve cells can be generated.


I have had many reports from ordinary people who take up a new sport or a musical instrument in their 50s or 60s, and not only become quite proficient, but derive great joy from doing so. Eliza Bussey, a journalist in her mid-50s who now studies harp at the Peabody conservatory in Baltimore, could not read a note of music a few years ago. In a letter to me, she wrote about what it was like learning to play Handel's "Passacaille": "I have felt, for example, my brain and fingers trying to connect, to form new synapses. ... I know that my brain has dramatically changed." Ms. Bussey is no doubt right: her brain has changed.


Music is an especially powerful shaping force, for listening to and especially playing it engages many different areas of the brain, all of which must work in tandem: from reading musical notation and coordinating fine muscle movements in the hands, to evaluating and expressing rhythm and pitch, to associating music with memories and emotion.


Whether it is by learning a new language, traveling to a new place, developing a passion for beekeeping or simply thinking about an old problem in a new way, all of us can find ways to stimulate our brains to grow, in the coming year and those to follow. Just as physical activity is essential to maintaining a healthy body, challenging one's brain, keeping it active, engaged, flexible and playful, is not only fun. It is essential to cognitive fitness.


Oliver Sacks is the author of "The Mind's Eye."









The turning of the calendar page is always a reminder of the impermanence of things man-made. So it is fitting, if ironic, that the institution to which the Hürriyet Daily News owes the greatest debt for its service in 2010 is one that will begin to fade from history in 2011.


Hence my choice for an award category I just invented: the "Daily News Institutional Hero of 2010." This one-time prize goes to the network of secondary schools in Turkey known as "Anadolu Liseleri" (Anatolian High Schools.)


First a bit of disclosure. I myself graduated from the most venerable of these institutions, then known as Kadıköy Maarif Koleji. To be more precise, I was issued a certificate of completion, or something like that. No one really expected an exchange student to pass the final exam that included Turkish literature and the history of the revolution. My school back home never caught onto the fib. An "honorary graduate," we'll call it.


When the Maarif Koleji was founded in 1955, it was the first modern state school to challenge the educational dominance of the many elite private academies dating back to the 19th century. Modeled roughly on Robert College or Lycée Saint Joseph, until recently it included a year's prep in English and about half the curriculum was also in that language. It was also free, or almost so, the major distinction from its rivals.


I arrived there in 1973, a callow teenager just off his first ride on a jet airplane, transported from a tiny vocational high school in California to what was then the first or second largest high school in Europe (even though we were technically in Asia). The model expanded over the years to other cities, all the Maarif Kolejleri schools were reflagged as Anatolians in the mid-1990s and their number now stands at more than 900.


A concession to mediocrity


The memories of the place are precious, but it is not a topic I generally dwell upon. At least it was not until early December when in our morning news meeting the agenda included an item on Education Minister Nimet Çubukçu's plan to phase out these schools. Actually, the name will remain. It's just that ALL high schools will soon carry the moniker, intensive English training will end and the rigorous entrance exams that have been Anatolian High School hallmarks will be scrapped. Mediocrity, in other words, will be Çubukçu's legacy.


Light in the eyes and evidence of fire in the belly have always been more important to me than CVs or resumes. So it was in all innocence in that meeting that I asked for a show of hands from Anatolian graduates. As nearly every hand shot up, I was shocked. But now it all makes sense.


All newspapers are marvels. But one produced amid trying conditions by a team that is – but for a few support staffers like myself – working entirely in a foreign language is nothing less than a miracle. The indigenousness of the men and women who create the Daily News is, to my mind, what gives this newspaper its authenticity, its authority and its grasp of Turkey's complexity. Of all this we are very proud.


To be sure there are other critical tributaries to the educational river that has swept the skills of more than 50 people into our newsroom and bureaus, including schools that trained our journalists first in French, German or Italian before English. And the universities we attended, along with those from which we were expelled, would add up to material for several more columns.


But the bedrock of our worldview is a public educational innovation that began more than half a century ago in Kadıköy. Alas, I am the only alumnus here of that first Anatolian High School, created the same year I was born. But the feat is all the more remarkable in that our training grounds were the spin-off Anatolian High Schools, by my tally, of Adana, Ankara, Bursa, Denizli, Elazığ, Konya and Mersin.


Giving lie to a myth


It is more than just language and the book learning of logic, philosophy, math and literature. One unifier of the very diverse crowd that comes to work each day is the common view that most international media reduce Turkey's complexity to a handful of feeble narratives. One of these oft-told tales is that Turkey is essentially a binary place, a society of "Europeanized" elites in the leafy precincts of Istanbul, Ankara and sometimes İzmir. This contrasts with the hearty peasant stock of Anatolia, newly enriched perhaps, but lacking in sophistication and worldliness. Our very existence gives the lie to that myth, in any language.


So no recitation of favorite headlines from 2010 from me. No solemn forecast of what will go right or what will go wrong in 2011. The obligatory editor's year-end soliloquy is just a few thoughts on the magic behind the people who bring you each day the Daily News, a bit of insight into who we are. A very Turkish newspaper in the English language. A true product of Anatolia.


I do have one resolution, however. 2011 may well see the end of Anatolian High Schools, an unsung institution that has done so much for Turkish society, culture and democracy. But the "Anadolulular" will still be here, doing our damnedest to tell Turkey's story and stories, equipped with the skills and lessons wrought by a bold half-century's Turkish experiment in world class education.


Happy New Year.


*David Judson is the editor-in-chief of the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review








A senior White House official recently explained why U.S. President Barack Obama bypassed the Senate and "recess appoint" Francis Ricciardone as Ambassador to Ankara.


"The bilateral relationship with Turkey is key and it is important for the United States to have an Ambassador in place, particularly someone as well qualified and experienced as Ricciardone," the official said. "The recess appointment will enable Ambassador Ricciardone to go soon to Ankara, where he is expected to be an extremely effective representative for the United States," even though he is going to Turkey without the legislative branch's endorsement.


Ambassador Ricciardone, during his confirmation hearing in last August told the Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review that he was expecting to go to Turkey following Ramadan. However, Senator Brownback, a former Republican senator from and new governor of Kansas never lift his block on his nomination while he was in the Senate.


Mr. Mitchell Reiss, former Director of Policy Planning at the United States Department of State under Colin Powell, and current president of Washington College, who worked with Ambassador Ricciardone in the past, said that he also supported the president's recess appointment of Ricciardone. Reiss said what was done was a constitutional right for a U.S. president. "There was a chance the new Senate might also postpone the confirmation if president were to re-submit his name," Reiss said, arguing that Congress was less than forthcoming in terms of giving the green light to the confirmation. "President Obama recognized Turkey's importance and wanted to move ahead with Ricciardone,'' Reiss said.


Reiss said relations between the countries were facing difficult and uncertain times and rejected the notion that a lame duck appointment would make an ambassador less effective than an ordinarily appointed one. "Nobody in Ankara will take Ricciardone lightly just because he did not receive the confirmation of the U.S. Senate," Reiss said.


On the other hand, Republican congressional leaders lashed out at the White House's recent recess appointments, as did Republican-leaning and conservative think tanks whose experts viewed the recess appointments as bad moves. Jamie Fly, executive director of the newly-founded Foreign Policy Initiative stated: "It is disappointing that President Obama made this recess appointment given Ambassador Ricciardone's track record in previous posts. We need an ambassador in Ankara who will stand up for U.S. interests even when they conflict with Turkey's desires. Ricciardone has shown himself unable to manage similarly difficult challenges in the past."


Michael Rubin, Turkey expert at the American Enterprise Institute, another right wing and conservative think tank in Washington, said "the nature of recess appointments is that they tend to be lame ducks. The recess appointment lasts a year, and it's not often that a recess nominee is extended, if for no other reason than the Senate does not like when the President uses this tactic. Turkey might want a serious American representative with weight in Washington, but what they got is a controversial has-been who, at best, will be home before the year is out."


Turkey's Washington Embassy was satisfied with the appointment. Rauf Alp Denktaş, spokesman for Turkey's Washington Embassy said that they "see the appointment as a positive development. It displays the importance that U.S. gives to Turkey." Denktaş also said that


"Ambassador Ricciardone's past experience with Turkey will help Turkey to convey its messages more easily

to the U.S. administration." The Turkish Embassy clearly believes that Ricciardone's knowledge on Turkey will help him to make relations better between countries.


According to a Washington source who knows about the opposition to Ricciardone's nomination in the Senate: "The U.S. administration took this decision to make a recess appointment because they didn't feel confident that Ricciardone would sail though in the new Senate." In the new Senate there will be 47 Republican senators, adding eight new seats won at the November mid-term elections to their ranks.


A representative of the U.S. State Department, which held only one press briefing this week due to the holiday season, said over the phone that "the decision was made by the White House" and for now they had nothing to add. The official declined to comment whether or how much the White House consulted with the State Department about the recess appointment.









This year, 2010, was a rather difficult year for Turkey. Our antediluvian problems have become more visible, our taboos have become more fragile, and yet finding solutions has gotten even tougher.


And naturally, they have all together been delayed until the aftermath of general elections in June 2011. A new constitution, a more open society, more rights and freedoms, the Kurdish question, the demilitarization process, peace talks with Armenia, the Cyprus question, relations with Greece, the European Union membership talks are all pending. Beside ever-lasting issues, now we have new ones due to choices made by the government and the international conjuncture. Difficult balancing acts between relations established or strengthened with Iran and the Arab World and keeping alliances alive with Israel and the Western world did not help to facilitate solutions to pending problems.


Social polarization in the meantime has grown up. The important point is however, not necessarily the polarization itself. Actually, it is better to have multiple poles against one way of thinking or a unique pole. What is important is the management of conflicts among poles by imagining adequate policy responses, therefore creating a ground for all polarized to continue to live together.


In this sense, 2011 will be a milestone. Either the new constitution will pacify conflicts through a new social contract or the social environment will become more unbearable. Accumulated internal and external contentions are no longer sustainable through the way they were managed so far. No matter which party wins the elections, things to do are obvious, and there is not much space for alternatives except some nuances here and there in the way of doing the job.




Throughout the year, there has been some timid progress towards the solution of the age-old issues. Some critical steps have been taken to reduce the 1982 Constitution's authoritarian substance with the Sept. 12 referendum and to deepen the demilitarization process with the prosecution of military personnel involved in the "Balyoz" (Sledgehammer) coup plot.


Steps are in the right direction, but not sufficient. The motto we used during the referendum, "Not Enough but Yes," was an act of principle though, which simply means that a democratic step cannot be censored with the assumption that it can be abused by those who are allegedly anti-democratic!


We have let the chips fall as they may when it comes to the Kurdish conflict and voiced everything at a louder pitch in 2010. However, it's not easy yet to say that each detail has been talked through. Quite to the opposite, usual monologues seem to continue unabated until the June 2011 elections and tension might rise in the meantime.


2010 will also be remembered by murders of women and homosexuals by men as well as permanently harming the nature by development frenzy. In both subjects, however, social awareness has begun to rise.


Abroad, Turkey's United Nations Security Council temporary membership is finally ending. I think our diplomats have been looking forward to seeing the end since the no vote over sanctions against Iran. However, end of this task neither means the end of Iran-related problems nor of tension with Israel. A meeting scheduled for late January in Istanbul regarding Iranian nuclear issue will give no solid and positive result yet, so will be transferred to 2011. Expectation of any solution in the Turkish-Israeli conflict, which has hit the roof because of the Mavi Marmara attack, is very low as well, considering politicians of the two countries. Status quo and rhetoric are likely to continue.


To overcome the bottleneck in accession talks between Turkey and the EU depends on how well the Cyprus issue is discussed during the Hungarian and Polish EU term presidencies. Despite a growing perception in Europe that Turkey wouldn't necessarily be a burden on the block if it is accepted as a member, it's not clear how this could be materialized and what kind of positive outcomes it would create. In 2011 the government should design a new EU strategy following the elections, possibly with its European partners.


2011 is set to become a year that Turkey would rather focus on internal issues due to the constitutional process and the elections. The country is going through an irreversible transformation process since 1983. Those who wish to reverse the process will be sent into history's dumpsite. Transformation may not be smooth and resistance might slow down the process for a while, but all the water will run sooner or later.


I hope this will be a year during which bold yet humble language and action, in peace with citizens and nature, settles in.







I know by experience that while visiting a foreign country, one of the most difficult things is starting a conversation as soon as talking about business is over. People usually try to comment on local topics to show their interest. However, if you do not live there, it is always a tricky business to come up with fresh ones and avoid the ones that have lost local glamor.


So, here are some examples of ins and outs from the Turkish perspective. Outs are the ones that have been around for a long time – people are tired of hearing themselves talking about them. Ins are still fresh and you can find a lot of people interested in delivering opinions on them:


Out: Accession talks with the European Union


In: The future of the European Union


Out: The future potential of Turkey


In: The impact of Turkey's current credit rating on foreign direct investment 


Out: The global crisis


In: Health and growth of emerging markets


Out: The business potential in Istanbul


In: The Anatolian Tigers


Out: Internationally known Turkish production


In: Internationally known Turkish brands


Out: Tourism and textile production as the main drivers of the economy


In: Becoming an energy corridor and a power center in many sectors


Out: Superiority of some nations in macro and microeconomics


In: At the end of the day, we are all the same


Out: Trading with the West is essential for growth 


In: Trading with the world is essential for growth


I hope a few topics from the above menu will help you through your conversations.




*Zafer Parlar is the founder of istventures (, which supports international companies in their market entries and development in Turkey, as well as Turkish companies in their local operations and international expansion plans.








When the Office of the Rector of Istanbul University allowed police to carry out unlimited checks on students this year, students fiercely reacted.


Friday morning, I saw students on TV protesting against Istanbul University Rector Professor Yunus Söylet for the decision. The following remarks of a student speaking to a TV reporter showed how the student body generally felt about the decision: "They want to turn our university into a semi-open prison. We do not want our backpacks, bodies and notes being checked."


One of the placards a protester was carrying summarized everything beautifully: "what you are looking for is not in my backpack, it is in my head."


We are currently seeing university officials and police gradually increasing the strength of the reactions to students. Young Rector of Celal Bayar University in the Aegean city of Manisa Professor Mehmet Pakdemirli threatened students with expulsion for protesting against Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, who was visiting the institution.


High school students taken to a police station


At a high school in the Istanbul district of Sarıyer, students distributed free cakes, bagels and pastries to other students in order to boycott excessive price increases at the canteen. But this naive action of the students landed them in a police station. The principal, disturbed by the protest, though it was brilliantly designed, called the police.


Be it high schools or universities, every time students want to raise their voices they face the police. What do students want? What do protests and boycotts mean? What are the messages? I haven't come across a single official who has tried to listen to the needs of students.


But I do know a nongovernmental organization doing so.


Community Volunteers, or TOG, has worked with university students for years. The project "Research for the Needs of University Youth," conducted by the organization, clearly reveals the following: 43 percent of Turkey's youth complains about a lack of resources at university; 51 percent of students believe resources are not used properly by the administrations at their schools, and; 6 percent say resources are not used effectively by students.


Gulf exists between the youth and the administration


Professor Ekrem Düzen, who led the survey on behalf of TOG, says there is a gulf between university students and school administrations. In short, our education system doesn't embrace the youth.


Approximately three weeks ago, during a meeting with university rectors at the Dolmabahçe Palace Office of the Prime Ministry, university students protested against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the police quashed the protest by applying excessive, brutal force.


Photos in newspapers showed a young girl being kicked by police and writhing in pain. The entire nation witnessed the event. Another young girl lost her baby because policed kicked her.


Photos of protesters in front of Dolmabahçe Palace are now among some of Turkey's more unforgettable images. TOG Chairman İbrahim Betil sent a letter to Prime Minister Erdoğan.


I have a copy of the letter.


Referring to the survey conducted by the Community Volunteers, Betil said: "The needs of the youth are not known, not understood, nor given the necessary amount of attention. The youth have no addressee. However, they know what they want. The youth want a chance for self-improvement. They want to participate in the community, to have a voice and take responsibility."


So it means there is something bothering the youth when they take to the streets.


Betil demands in the letter the enactment of a youth law immediately. He also wants the establishment of a National Youth Agency.


I don't know if Erdoğan answered Betil.


I only hope the government will become all ears to the voice of the youth rather than that of the police in 2011.








Just a day into the New Year, politics is already adopting an election atmosphere despite a full five months until general elections.


The new air in Ankara is evidenced by the latest parliamentary speeches from the political party leaders and the period until the June elections will be a race of promises between the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP.


The AKP will likely make new suggestions in addition to those that they have mentioned already while the CHP will try to better explain a package of promises consisting of 41 items; the Kurdish question, a new constitution and corruption claims will be hot topics in the election term.


The AKP and the CHP, the two main actors ahead of the elections, are set for a fierce fight with the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, likely to be involved as well in making for a tight race in Kurdish-populated regions and cities, as well as the provinces of Istanbul, Mersin and Adana.


While all three have effectively launched their election campaigns already, the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, is trying to increase its influence as it gives the impression that the party would like to base its election strategy on the Kurdish conflict.


The AKP and the CHP will directly enter Parliament – along with the MHP, in all likelihood; some claim the MHP might have an election threshold problem, but no serious opinion poll confirms this, at least for now. The BDP, meanwhile, appears destined to enter Parliament through independent candidates. Thus, if the election arithmetic does not change, Parliament will maintain its four-party structure.


Could there be any surprises though?


Plenty of surprise scenarios are being voiced in the capital. Let's take a look at some:


Since the BDP will go to Parliament with the help of independent candidates, the party will definitely have seats. If the BDP unexpectedly gets less than 20 seats and cannot form a group, this could be a surprise. Another surprise could be that the pro-Kurdish party might not have many deputies from Diyarbakır, Istanbul and Batman.


As for the MHP, failing to exceed the threshold and send representatives to Parliament would be a surprise, as would a leadership struggle. If the MHP cannot attain a certain percentage despite passing the threshold, inner-party opposition could spell trouble for leader Devlet Bahçeli.


A surprise in the CHP could occur if the party remains at the 22-25 percent level that was attained during former leader Deniz Baykal's term. In this case, new Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu might step down much earlier than expected.


In the other direction, a truly massive surprise would be if the CHP manages to hit upward of 35 percent.


A surprise for the AKP could be in electing fewer than 330 deputies since party officials believe they will certainly keep their current number of seats, if not increase them. They, as such, do not even consider the 50-percent "threshold" a surprise. For AKP officials, the biggest surprise would be to drop below 40 percent.


In fact, the real surprise could occur if political doyen and Felicity Party, or SP, leader Necmettin Erbakan manages to spring a surprise.


In order to overcome the threshold, Erbakan plans to make an election coalition composed of various parties, a fact that is corroborated by a recent opinion poll which says the SP has 5.4 percent, the Turkey Party, or TP, has 1.9 percent, the Democrat Party, or DP, has 3.6 percent and that the Great Union Party, or BBP, has 1.3 percent support. If one were to put these four conservative parties together, they would overcome the 10 percent threshold and reach 12.2 percent. Even if the BBP, which has already flirted with the AKP, is not included in this picture, the other three could overcome the threshold.


If the 84-year-old veteran politician, Erbakan, forms a bloc and manages to enter Parliament, this would certainly be the biggest surprise of the June 2011 elections.


The CHP's inner-party election worries


Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu announced an inner-party election to determine deputy candidates. On the other hand, however, he also assigned new tasks to candidates outside their own election regions.


Deputy candidates who are due to work in different provinces believe they might not be able to pay proper attention to their own provinces and would thus face difficulty in the inner-party elections. Most are at unease, unhappy and concerned about a possible failure in the election. If Kılıçdaroğlu cannot end the anxiety, the CHP could experience trouble on the eve of the elections.


Let's see how the deputies, who used to be assigned by the center for 15 years, will come through CHP's selection process.








A happy birthday it is for Aman ki Asha, which was born on this day one year ago. It is a reincarnation of similar initiatives by social activists and bilateral forums of concerned citizens who have long endeavoured for peace between India and Pakistan. But when the largest media houses in the two countries – the Times of India Group in India and the Jang Group in Pakistan – came together to launch Aman ki Asha on Jan 1, a day considered auspicious for new beginnings, the movement for peace in this troubled region gained a new momentum. And we have tangible evidence to validate this assertion. 

Before Aman ki Asha was launched, a public opinion survey had been conducted in both countries to gauge popular appreciation of relations between the two countries. A similar survey was conducted in the last week of 2010 to check if opinions had changed in the course of the year in which Aman ki Asha conducted its elaborate events and campaigns to bring leading players in many crucial sectors together to deliberate on common concerns, and to design viable strategies for moving ahead. The results are truly heart-warming. A detailed report on the findings of this comparative survey is being published today in this newspaper. The gist of it, however, is that Aman ki Asha has developed tremendous awareness about Indo-Pak relationship and has communicated people's desire for peace to both governments. In India, for instance, the terror perception with reference to Pakistan has come down from 75 per cent to 42 per cent. As many as 73 per cent of the respondents in Pakistan and 68 per cent in India affirmed that "Pakistan-India relations feature in my thoughts." There is an overwhelming avowal of the effectiveness of people-to-people interaction as an instrument of peace. Trade, sports and tourism stand out as sectors that could lead the way for durable and honourable peace between India and Pakistan. 

Heartened by the headway it has made in one year, Aman ki Asha has to move ahead with a fresh resolve "to bring the two governments, and all other stakeholders, to the negotiating table with the open-minded willingness to genuinely work towards the benefits of peace." This, in essence, is the goal of the campaign launched by the two countries' largest media conglomerates. In this respect, we should be reminded of the opening words of UNESCO's constitution: "Since war begins in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed." It is this proactive role that the media must play in our times, a role that Aman ki Asha has fruitfully vindicated. On this first anniversary of Aman ki Asha, our resolution is to make more concerted efforts to set the stage, in the words of the mission statement of the campaign, "for a new freedom to liberate the people from the bondage of poverty and deprivation."





TO MAKE 2011


As in most other parts of the world, New Year's Day is being celebrated in all our big cities, amid gloom because of the overall state of affairs in Pakistan. In fact, it is worth asking if there is anything to be happy about the occurrences of last year, such as summer's unprecedented floods. 2010 brought with it little cheer, and we can only hope that 2011 will begin with a sun that shines brighter and drives away the gloom that hangs everywhere. Apart from the floods, there were also other calamities. Indeed, there were far too many of them. Through the year we saw political chaos and what seems like a descent towards total anarchy. People faced inflation that left most bent over under the weight. The lack of good governance, of even a semblance of it, added to people's despondency. It will be hard to shake this off. 

But somehow we need to find a way to make things different as the New Year begins. There can be little hope that political leaders will improve their performance or focus on meeting the immense needs of people everywhere. Ways need to be found to compel them to do so. This is no easy task. What we need is for citizens to act as a national pressure group and prod the government into acting more like an elected body representing people and less like a mafia eager to gather all it can from state coffers and then flee. There are other areas in which a great deal of effort is required. In education, in health, in nutrition and in other areas we lag far behind our neighbours. If we are to start making real progress, we need, at the very least, to catch up with our neighbours. This effort would in itself allow the people of Pakistan to realise their potential. They have not been allowed to do this so far. Our resolution for the New Year should be to do what we can to change this. As a collective body, 165 million people have enormous power. This needs to be harnessed to put us on the right track. Only then can we be assured that the year ahead and the ones after it will bring happy tidings for us.








In these troubled times, it is not often that a news story lifts the heart but when I read about the Aman ki Asha quest for peace between India and Pakistan I felt that there was new hope for our world. This grassroots movement, which seeks to change the conversation, get beneath the discourse of politics, finance and self-interest and break through the barriers to a long and lasting peace, is in touch with some of the deepest needs and currents of our age, because unless we learn to live together, we are unlikely to have a viable world to hand on to the next generation. The authors of this initiative are to be congratulated for their courage and vision. 

If any truth has emerged during the first decade of the 21st century, it is that we cannot live without the other. Even though the world is so dangerously polarised, we are bound together more closely than ever before – financially, politically, economically and electronically. If stocks plummet in one country, there is a domino effect throughout the world. What happens in Iraq or Gaza today is likely to have repercussions in London or New York tomorrow. And India and Pakistan, two halves of a single whole, are profoundly affected by each other. What happens between them will affect the future of the world. It is also true that we British, who presided over the partition of India, must always carry a large measure of responsibility for the tragic conflict that has ensued and are involved in it.

Unless we learn to appreciate our profound interdependence, we will fail the test of our time. The authors of the Aman Ki Asha initiative have understood this. They are right to point to the teachings of the Sufis and the Bhakts, who insisted on the importance of love and inclusion. Whatever our beliefs, we need a spiritual revolution that emphasises the importance of compassion, the ability to experience with the other and put ourselves reflexively into one another's shoes, if we are to build a just and equal society, where all peoples can live together in harmony and respect.

As a religious historian, I have been struck by the fact that every single one of the major world faiths has developed its own version of what has sometimes been called the Golden Rule – always treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself – and has insisted that this is the test of true spirituality and will bring us into relationship with the ultimate. It summons us to look into our own hearts, discover what gives us pain, and then to refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever, to inflict this pain upon anybody else. They have also pointed out that it is not sufficient to confine our benevolence to our own ethnic, national or ideological group – we have to honour the stranger, love even our enemies, and reach out to all tribes and nations. 

The fact that the great traditions, working quite independently of one another, have all placed the compassionate ethos at the core of faith tells us something very important about the nature and structure of our humanity. This is how human beings work. The practice of compassion cannot simply be a matter of transient feeling or emotional bonhomie. It is a principled determination to make a space for the other in our minds and hearts – not just on an occasional basis but "all day and every day," as Confucius prescribed. Compassion practised in this way enables us to break out of the prism of the personal and national egotism that impedes our development and experience the transcendence that we call God, Nirvana, Brahman or Dao.

The authors of Aman ki Asha have understood that it is no use waiting for the politicians and leaders to act; ordinary men, women and children must make their wishes known. In rather the same way, the Charter for Compassion, which we launched in November last year, is a grassroots, global movement that seeks to restore compassion and disciplined empathy to the centre of spiritual, religious and ethical life. The Charter was composed by hundreds of thousands of people on line on a multi-lingual website and drafted by a team of men and women from six major world faiths. In a time when the religions seem to be at loggerheads, the Charter is an expression of religious cooperation. You can read and affirm the Charter at

If there is anything that those of us who are working for the Charter can do to help and encourage Aman ki Asha, please let us know. It seems to me that we have a great deal in common, as we work to overcome the barriers that divide us from one another, to cross the borders that we erect in our minds and hearts, and learn to appreciate our deep and inescapable interdependence. 

It may be that the Charter and Aman ki Asha are just two expressions of a profound, subterranean shift in the consciousness of our time. 

The first decade of the 21st century has been one of war, enmity and violence – and India and Pakistan have both been in the eye of the storm. It seems that so many of our policies – environmental, political, and financial – are no longer sustainable. Of course the obstacles to a peaceful world – and to peaceful relations between India and Pakistan – are immense. But we have the power to take our destiny into our own hands, work together energetically for the wellbeing of our neighbours, and counter the despairing egotism that is rife all over the world. Many of us have experienced the power of compassion in our own lives. We know how a single act of kindness can turn a life around. History also shows that the dedicated action of just a few individuals, often decried by their contemporaries as impractical dreamers, can make all the difference. In a world that seems so often to be spinning out of control, we need such action now.

Well known religious historian Karen Armstrong is the author of over 20 books on the commonalities of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. She sees fundamentalism in a historical context, as an outgrowth of modern culture. has selected her as one of the ten most influential leaders in the world of religion in 2010.







The morning of the first of January is always a sobering one. After all the inane New Year's Eve celebrations, people have to get up in the morning, and get on with it. The year that has just ended wasn't exactly one that left Pakistan drenched in glory. More than 5,000 Pakistanis were killed in more than 670 terrorist attacks. Pakistan's right-wing, intoxicated on petrodollars and taxpayer rupees (courtesy of the invisible hand), continued its grotesque failure to represent even a sliver of the values it claims to uphold. Wikileaks put to rest the dangerous fiction of any difference in the ambient levels of national pride between civilian and military leaders. Most disturbingly, the economy continued to be a zombie lacking the robustness expected of an emerging market of 180 million consumers. 

Then again, perhaps we sometimes overdo our maatam about Pakistan. Every country has problems. 2010 was a pretty bad year for everyone. Our princely brethren in the Middle East were probably more embarrassed than anyone at GHQ by Wikileaks. Indians were embarrassed by a range of acronyms BSF, CRPF and AFSPA and the odd Kalmadi and Radia. Greece and Ireland, despite not being run by President Zardari, went totally belly-up. Libya still has Moammar Qadhafi and Italy still has Sylvio Berlusconi. Perhaps most embarrassingly, the United States is still mired in an expensive war run by an ambitious and Machiavellian general, who is nowhere close to wanting it to be over, all while US leaders continue to refuse to tax the rich. 

The difference between the troubles of other countries and the troubles of Pakistan is that in this country the tradition of a responsible optimism is non-existent. Our realism seems only to prop us to declare moral, economic and political bankruptcy – we are doomed, it is said. Our optimism blinds us to daylight robbery, the murder of poor innocent villagers and the hijacking of our faith traditions – we are doing just fine, and everything else is a conspiracy against us, we are told. 

There is of course such a thing as a little perspective. On this first day of a new year, in a new decade, of what is still a relatively new century, Pakistanis must insist on being responsibly optimistic about what the future holds. To do this, we have to stop and take a deep breath. 

There are a lot of things that call for a realistic, responsible and constructive narrative of hope in Pakistan. And we need not close our eyes to any brutal truths, nor condemn to oblivion any of our outrage. We just have to control ourselves, just a little bit. 

When we're bombarded with fake news stories, we can choose to condemn the Pakistani media. Or we can celebrate the brilliance, bravery and contrition of the same media. From blogs like Café Pyala to newsmen like Azhar Abbas, the fake wikileaks was not so much a fiasco as it was a manifestation and affirmation of the Pakistani media's evolving maturity and internal accountability. 2010 was a year in which this evolution took on a more vibrant feel. 

When we're titillated by the mud and sleaze that has been flying betwixt the MQM and the PML-N, we can choose to hold our heads in our hands, and lament politicians' disgraceful behaviour. Or we can consider the fact that all things considered, both the MQM and the PML-N are enablers of new kinds of political cultures in the country. The Noon League, it seems is done with its days as a proxy of the military establishment. The MQM, it seems is sincerely committed to decentralised local governments. Both a sustained democracy and the emergence of increasingly fiscally, politically and administratively autonomous cities in Pakistan are good things. They were visibly manifest in 2010. 

When the skies ripped open and Pakistan was flooded knee-deep in water and misery during the worst monsoon season in our history, we were scarred for life. Scarred by the clumsy callousness of political leaders, and the populism of our military leaders. Scarred by the drowning livestock, the inundated schools, and the looming disease epidemics. So how did Pakistanis respond? 

The same way Pakistanis responded in 2005 for victims of the earthquake and in 2009 for IDPs from Swat and FATA. Pakistani doors and wallets swung open and goodwill, money and love flowed forth like someone had unhinged Tarbela. From Slackistan to Hopelessistan and everywhere in between came forth the generosity and hope that has helped sustain twenty million flood victims. 

Did Pakistan have some help from abroad? Sure. But it was deeply and widely disproportionate to the magnitude of the needs. Pakistan survives earthquakes, terror-wars and floods because of the resilience and generosity of Pakistanis. 2010 was yet another massive demonstration of this graceful resilience and generosity. 

Of course, there's much to be accountable for too. Human life and dignity seem to have little meaning for tiny pockets within the country, and the state seems to have no way to respond to these pockets. Ethnic strife in Karachi and all across Balochistan was proof. So was terrorism all over the country, including at Daata Darbar. There are no metrics whatsoever on civilian casualties in war zones in FATA, including civilian victims of drones. We can keep demonising the PPP for this, but those drone attacks and military operations are the domain of the Pakistani military. That institution remains unaccountable for its actions. There are also no metrics on how complex it must be to grow up Christian, Hindu or Ahmadi in Pakistan – which surely highlight the urgent need for legal and political reform that addresses equality of citizenship in Pakistan. Yet for all these problems, where do the voices for change come from? They are from Pakistan. 

For every sin there are one hundred calls for accountability. For every excess, one hundred voices against it. This is a young and evolving democracy with a complex set of existential challenges. Within the morbidity and from the so-called sea of mediocrity, arise absolute geniuses. All Pakistani. Where do they come from? The Aisamul Haqs, the Rohail Hayats, the Qayaas', the Maria Toors, the Bumbu Sauces, the All Growth Pakistan 25, the Raza Rabbanis, the Asma Jahangirs – where do they all come from? They are from Pakistan. 

In the year 2011, there will be more. Any one of 180 million could be on this list next year. That rich and exciting possibility should help us get up and get on with it today, and every day in 2011. Happy New Year. 

The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy.







At the recent meeting of the Global Agenda Council of the World Economic Forum in Dubai some of the top issues in the global risk landscape and their possible mitigates were highlights. Ironically, a few of us from Pakistan could relate to most systemic risks as being endemic to our sovereign environment, each of them inextricably multi-dimensional in their scope. As global experts underscored the salience of effective governance structures, accountability, and clarity in multi-stakeholder concerted action as the means of addressing these risks, one could not help reflect on ones own constraints within that space. 

Reflecting on these risks and the mechanisms that can ensure institutional and population resilience is part of what one should be doing at the turn of the decade.

Against the backdrop of mayhem caused by Iceland's Volcano and the recent unexpected weather on Christmas Eve, probably the beginnings of manifestations of the "inconvenient truth", the agenda of climate change and the modest progress achieved in Cancun are now a major point of reflection, globally. Pakistan has recently learnt some bitter lessons which drove home the importance of natural calamities and their inter-linkages with climate change. The widespread inundation and damage consequent to the 2010 floods may not have received the support it deserved from the international community particularly vis-à-vis Haiti earthquake and the earlier Tsunami, it nevertheless speaks volumes about resilience of the poor in the riverside communities of the Indus river. The response of the domestic and expatriate Pakistanis was additionally indicative of community resilience. The same cannot be said for the systems of governance though. Our disaster management systems need significant injection of resources and capacity building in order to be effective.

Someone once very appropriately stated: "half of Pakistan is seismically active and the rest is flood prone" may I add that nearly all is vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Terrorism featured prominently as a global threat. Pakistan is at the epicenter. Water and food insecurity are other internationally-recognized global risks; both are inherent to the problems the country faces and are deeply interlinked. Health security and the threats of emerging and reemerging infections loom large as global risks; Pakistan's underreporting of H1N1 during the crisis in 2009 points to lack of responsiveness and hence failure on its part to comply with International Health Regulations, 205. It is easy to draw up an inventory of risks, but sobering to gain insights into the manner in which state capacity has been eroded over time to respond to these challenges. 

In the economic sphere, global deliberations now centre on slow moving risks exacerbated by the financial crisis and global economic downturn, the costs and consequences of public bail outs, systemic loop holes in the global financial system, the impact of the crisis in making people risk averse which stymies recovery and the need for enhancing global resilience in a globally interconnected economy. Our worries in the economic sphere are sharper and fairly mundane. The grinding resource constraints and severely crowded out development budget are realities in an environment where there are many competing priorities: the unrelenting energy crisis, the cost of waging a war and fighting insurgency, the massive need for rebuilding in the aftermath of the 2010 floods, to mention a few. The deepening fiscal deficit and the new formula for federal fiscalism, which according to an expert economist "has sown the seeds of fiscal indiscipline", inadvertently, I would add, are sobering. In such an environment, the lack of institutional resilience is evident in some key trends: in particular, the unrelenting inability of economic managers to implement the RGT reform, levy long overdue taxes on the 'privileged sectors' and address constrains that stand in the way of reforming public sector enterprises that continue to incur massive unnecessary losses from the fiscal system. Slow mobilization of development assistance and the stalemate over the IMF negotiations also mirror impediments to institutional resilience despite the presence of some credible economic managers within the system. These are ominous signs and indicate that injecting individual capacities in the system, though important in its own right, is not enough; a major overhaul of systems of governance is due.

While institutions may not be responsive and resilient, people are and have become so. They are enduring the fall out of the recession, bearing the brunt of unemployment, putting up with the crippling power shortages in severe temperatures, holding out in the face of food price inflation and soaring cost of utilities with painful and unprecedented endurance. The tacit suffering is now frequently changing color with street protests commoner than they were before. These outbursts can spark out of hand if institutional capacity to respond is not stepped up. 

The recent notion and expectation that the 18th amendment and the 7th NFC will be a means of addressing these problems are founded on a well-conceived premise, but theoretically so. Decentralization of power to sub-state units can indeed open avenues for accelerating progress in social service delivery and enhancing public sector effectiveness by bringing those responsible for delivering services, close to intended beneficiaries and making them accountable. However, in reality provinces lack fiscal discipline and are plagued by pervasive collusion and state capture. The lack of progress in the accountability legislation and many other transparency promoting measures, prevailing views on the local government system, which resort to moving the pendulum towards strengthening provincial central control and away from district devolution and community oversight do not auger well for strengthening democratic governance in provinces. The risk of crony appointments and procurement graft will in all likelihood increase if checks and balances are not mainstreamed.

Institutional resilience with respect to individual and community risks is another important dimension. With many ministries related to the social sectors in the process of being devolved to the provinces over the next six months – inclusive of health, education, social welfare, Zakat, etc. – the mechanisms, which can enable that are in a flux. Perhaps the most ominous risk and one not very clearly appreciated in international circles is the risk that population trends pose in countries like ours. With a rapidly burgeoning base of the population pyramid, limited economic opportunities, and scarce welfare systems, there is a risk that people will increasingly fall prey to extremist ideologies. 

Pakistan may not be the only country where the dark shadow of interconnected systemic risks loom and where the imperative to be institutionally resilient stands tall. However, it is certainly one of the few countries where the interconnectedness of risks and the progressive erosion of institutional capacity to respond are most clearly manifested. The pendulum of resilience must shift from individuals and communities to institutions and the state. People are stretched to capacity and may not be able to withstand stresses for very long.

The author is the founding president of the NGO think-tank, Heartfile.








Perhaps the most positive thing to be said about the ongoing democratic process is that it is bringing out all our weaknesses: ranging from deceit and intrigue to daring corruption, nepotism and cronyism that thrive at national cost. Can we purge ourselves of these evils through democracy? That is civil society's big test. 

So far people simply bewail the failings of political leadership or demonise the individuals in question, especially those most deeply involved in corruption.

The official establishment equates criticism of the present government with opposition to democracy. The gold standard for democracy in the region being American, Pakistanis worry that, in their desperation, the present leaders could bargain national interests away in their eagerness to comply with such democratic standards. Some years on, a Wikikeaks revelation may throw light on whether, and how, that happened. But hindsight is always too late, particularly for a country racked with the kind of crises that Pakistan is facing at the moment. 

The provinces are pulling in different directions, which bodes ill for the federation. The prices of common goods and foodstuffs rise by the week. Utility services have become a bad joke. PIA and the Railways, the country's connecting infrastructure, are in a state of collapse. Sectarian and ethnic tensions have gained new dimensions, with coalition parties use these as political tools to weaken each other. The increase in crime is therefore unavoidable. 

Whatever they are in theory, in the actual sense full executive powers rest with the president. Parliament and the prime minister don't seem to mind this. What would a Prime Minister Bhutto have had to say about a Ghulam Ishaq Khan or Farooq Leghari whose involvement approached that of President Zardari today? 

President Musharraf's political character weakened the army-people relationship. President Zardari's is weakening the parliament-people relationship. The president has a remarkably keen political sense. When it came to the restoration of the judiciary deposed by Musharraf in November 2007, he ceded to popular will in the face of direct action on the streets. One may assume that unblocking executive implementation of a pursuit of the Swiss cases is something he feels could cost him his presidency rather than save it. It is true that his parliamentary electoral college, when really hard-pressed shows, a strong instinct for self-preservation. As when the MQM sided with the electorate over the NRO and it became too embarrassing for other parties to re-endorse it. But it is too exhausting and risky to wait each time for things to reach the brink before the country's politicians and parliament take cognisance of popular sentiment. 

This government seems as unscrupulous and as crafty as Ziaul Haq's was at segmenting professional bodies and furthering social polarisations in religious and secular politics, merely to retain support internally and externally. 

Islam and democracy in Pakistan were cruelly juxtaposed; now the civil and the military elements are as well. When Pakistanis wonder if the army might intervene, it is not just the Pakistani army they have in mind but America and its surrogates as well. That is why an appropriate parliamentary role is so important. 

Never has the conduct of foreign policy had a more immediate impact on domestic life for Pakistanis. Retaliatory "Taliban" strikes at perceived enemies or other "conspiratorial" attacks on the state have made death by terrorism a constant fear and repeatedly realised actuality in every Pakistani's life. Given the sometimes matching and sometimes diverging short- and long-term ends, and the tortuous history of US war policies on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Pakistanis complain about the "agencies," not even knowing whether they are authorised by someone or operate autonomous. They perceive these outfits as working together sometimes and at cross-purposes at other times, covertly on one occasion and overtly on another, but always lethally at work. 

Pakistanis have an abiding commitment to the existence and conception of the state founded in 1947. That half of it was lost in 1971 just makes them more anxious as to where political misjudgement and thoughtless propagandist demagoguery may lead this time. Bearing in mind the burgeoning American-Indian nexus, Pakistanis are justified in asking their government to re-evaluate the orientations and management of its own segment of what those beyond the Af-Pak theatre dovetail with containing Islamist terrorism globally. 

It is not as if parliament has not debated the nature of services to be rendered to the NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan. Nor does it matter that parliament showed scant respect for its own consensual resolution. That whole context is now anachronistic. We have since experienced the consequences of US-recommended aerial bombardments and national military action within our own space.

We need to do a rethink before NATO withdraws, comfortable in the knowledge that Pakistan's superbly trained army has been left with no choice but to continue waging the war against the Taliban, in what is being made Pakistan's region to deal with rather than Afghanistan's.







"With big power comes big responsibility," was Spiderman's famous counsel that Pakistan army should accept in terms of apportioning responsibility for where we are as a nation and a state and how we got here. That army chiefs have directly ruled Pakistan for over half its life and have controlled the country from behind the curtains for the remaining part is a fact. But the immediate retort by proponents of controlled-democracy is that our self-serving politicians have probably been worse than our self-serving dictators. How does opposition to army's intervention in politics immediately result in a comparison of apples and peaches? Why should support for constitutionalism, democracy, civilian control of the military and apolitical role of the military amount to a defence of our indefensible public representatives?

If there is one institution that has had the power and influence to determine Pakistan's constitutional journey, its institutional development (or lack thereof) and its prevalent social and political ethic, it is the army. It is this manifest power that entices khakis to perceive themselves as guardians of our nation and state and encourages hapless civilians to look to these khakis as saviors when things get desperate. But there are other facts that our checkered political history has brought out. That military rule is no solution to Pakistan's multifarious ailments. That with every military intervention Pakistan gets dragged further into the woods. That khaki control of the polity accentuates our collective sense of disempowerment, corrodes institutional autonomy and development, and nurtures a political elite that is corrupt, self-serving, sycophantic, and a bane for democracy once it is restored.

That the solution to abuse of public authority is wider distribution of state authority and its subjection to an institutional system of checks and balances. That relying on the military to function as a check on exercise of authority by constitutionally ordained civilian institution drags the military into the political thicket and keeps the transitional democracy weak and nonperforming. That constitutionalism, rule or law and continuation of the democratic process is the only way forward. We remember these lessons as soon as our honeymoon with our latest dictator ends and forget them within a few years of transitioning back to representative rule. We are being told once again that that if the Zardari/Gilani regime (which has broken all previous records of incompetence and corruption) is not ousted by any means fair or foul the skies will most definitely cave in this time.

That the ruling regime is corrupt and incompetent and lacks seriousness of purpose might be an understatement. But how will its forced ouster help institutional development and maturity, political continuity and reform and our evolving social consciousness? How will another coalition of the willing, comprising an equally failed set of politicians, cobbled together with the help and persuasion of our khaki saviors and foreign patrons further the interests of the ordinary Joe? Are we willing to suffer another misadventure with a new set of generals taking charge to tell us wherein our true good lies? Was the rule of law movement a sustained national struggle to burry the doctrine of necessity and entrench constitutionalism and rule or law, or was it a transient effort to reinstate a handful of judges we felt sorry for?

The point is that we cannot afford to give up on the democratic process merely because the going has gotten tough. Throwing the towel in cannot be our instinctive response every time we are confronted with the ugliness of a representative process that we will need to suffer in any event if the end goal is a functional constitutional democracy. And during such transition the role and responsibility of the army in supporting rule of law, democracy and constitutionalism doesn't end with its decision not to impose martial law. What we will need to sustain democracy and rule of law is an army willing to (i) withdraw from areas of policymaking that it has encroached over due to our history of military rule, (ii) transform its mindset from that of a national savior to a vital state institution willing to fulfill its legal mandate, and (iii) subject itself to the public scrutiny and legal process that must accompany exercise of public authority by any institution or individual.

Unfortunately over the last couple of years, we have seen a steady flexing of muscle by the army as opposed to a withdrawal. Since its first public assertion in matters of foreign policy during our national debate over the Kerry-Lugar law, the army under the leadership of General Kayani has been expanding its scope of influence to an extent that now the army chief is in the driving seat when it comes to matters such as the strategic dialogue between Pakistan and the US. From Wikileaks we also know that the army chief has been discussing budgetary issues directly with the US administration and wishes for the incorporation of a mechanism by which reimbursement of military expenditure by the US comes directly to the army as opposed to the federal government. Wikileaks has also confirmed that there is no change in the khaki mindset, and the army chief would feel obliged to indulge in political engineering if he deems such action necessary in larger national interest as defined by him.

And finally the military's aversion to legal processes and public scrutiny is no secret. The approach of our intelligence agencies to the missing persons' case and the recent issue of release of 11 civilians charged with terrorism and then released by the trial court and the Lahore High Court are instructive in this regard. From the missing persons' case it appears that the ISI and other intelligence agencies continue to work on the assumption that constitutional guarantees against arbitrary arrest and detention are luxuries that the state of Pakistan can ill-afford at this time and thus fundamental human rights of citizens can be dispensed with in the interest of national security as defined by them. 

The same mindset is reflected in the decision of intelligence agencies to force civilian jail authorities not to release 11 civilians discharged by a trial court, the audacity to abduct them once their release was ordered by the Lahore High Court, the initial refusal to subject themselves to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the gall to come up with a cock-and-bull story about how imposters abducted the released individuals and how they were recovered by the agencies from FATA so that they can be tried under the Army Act! The army high command and the head of the intelligence agencies cannot possibly believe that such conduct is legal. And yet it continues unabated and any journalist or state functionary drawing unnecessary attention to such facts does so at the peril of his freedom and physical safety.

We cannot solve problems with the same mindset that led to their creation said Einstein. After continuing with a national-security focused mindset for 63 years that has led us astray, it is time to review such myopic thought-process together with the institutional structures, policies and ethos sustained by it. There is need for the army to engage in introspection as an institution. Instead of blaming ambitious generals and incompetent politicians for derailment of democracy and constitutional rule in Pakistan, there is need to take a wholesome account of the causes of military intervention in politics and make amends to the prevailing khaki mindset, institutional authority and its exercise, and the definition of military professionalism to make it compatible with rule of law. To qualify as a general who supports democracy and constitutionalism it is not enough that General Kayani has not yet succumbed to the temptation of imposing martial law.









It is easy to despair before the filthy wave of racism that is engulfing us. The remedy for this despair: the growing number of young people, sons and daughters of the new Israeli generation, who are joining the fight against racism and occupation. This week, several hundred of them gathered in a hall in Tel Aviv (belonging, ironically, to the Zionist Federation of America) to launch a book published by the group "Breaking the Silence." In the hall there were some veterans of the peace camp, but the great majority of those present were youngsters in their twenties, male and female, who have completed their military service.

The Occupation of the Territories is a book of 344 pages, consisting of almost 200 testimonies by soldiers about the daily and nightly life of the occupation. The soldiers supplied the eyewitness accounts, and the organisation, which is composed of ex-soldiers, verified, compared and sifted them. In the end, 183 of some 700 testimonies were selected for publication. Not one of these testimonies was denied by the army spokesman, who generally hastens to contradict honest accounts of what is happening in the occupied territories. Since the editors of the book have themselves served as soldiers in these places, it was easy for them to distinguish between truth and falsehood.

The book makes very depressing reading, and not because it details gruesome atrocities. On the contrary, the editors made it a point not to include incidents of exceptional brutality committed by sadists, which can be found in every army unit in Israel and throughout the world. Rather, they wanted to throw light on the grey routine of the occupation. There are accounts of nocturnal incursions into quiet Palestinian villages as exercises – breaking into random houses where there were no "suspects," terrorising children, women and men, creating mayhem in the village – all this to "train" the soldiers. Every testimony is meticulously documented: time, place, unit. 

At the launch of the book, some of the testimonies were shown on film, with the witnesses daring to show their faces and identify themselves by their full name. These were no exceptional people, no fanatics or bleeding hearts. Just ordinary young people, who had time to come to grips with their personal experiences.

The titles of the testimonies speak for themselves: "…The battalion commander ordered us to shoot anyone trying to remove the bodies", "The commander of the navy commandos put the muzzle of the rifle into the man's mouth," "They told us to shoot at anybody moving in the street," "You can do whatever you feel like, nobody is going to question it," "I did not know that there were roads for Jews only," "The [Hebron settler] boys beat up the old woman," "Arrest the settlers? The army cannot do that." And so on. Just routine.

The intention of the book is not to uncover atrocities and show the soldiers as monsters. It aims to present a situation: the ruling over another people, with all the highhanded arbitrariness that this necessarily entails, humiliation of the occupied, corruption of the occupier. According to the editors, it is quite impossible for the individual soldier to make a difference. He is just a cog in a machine that is inhuman by its very nature.

Groups of young people who are simply fed up are springing to life in the country. They are signs of an awakening that finds its expression in the daily fight of hundreds of groups devoted to different causes. Only seemingly different – because these causes are essentially bound up with each other. The fight against the occupation, for the refugees who seek shelter in this country, against the demolition of the houses of the Bedouin in the Negev, against the invasion of Arab neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem by settlers, for equal rights for the Arab citizens in Israel, against social injustices, for the preservation of the environment, against government corruption, against religious coercion, etc., etc. They have a common denominator: the fight for a different Israel. 









THOUGH on the basis of prevailing situation and emerging trends one can foresee what is going to happen, it is difficult to predict precisely what is in store for the world in general and Pakistan in particular in the new year. However, one can definitely analyse briefly the year that has just passed during which the world saw war theatres, confrontation, tension, natural calamities like floods and earthquakes and economic recession.

Former US President George W Bush and his neo-con advisors were rightly considered war-mongers and there were expectations that with their departure things would move in the right direction as far as threats to regional and global peace and security were concerned but alas another year has passed but incumbent President Barack Obama has miserably failed to prevail in translating his election slogan of 'change'. This mindless pursuit of war and hegemonic policy is not only imperilling sovereignty and security of States but has also complicated economic miseries of the world. Coming back home, the Government and the leadership of the country might not be held responsible entirely for the instability caused mainly by foreign-imposed war on terror but one can painfully point out that the entire year remained in the grip of politicking, charges and counter-charges, corruption scandals, lawlessness, crippling shortages of power and gas, price-hike and unemployment. It is unfortunate that at a time when the country was faced with so many daunting challenges at internal and external fronts, the leadership of the nation remained bogged down in trivial matters and did not accomplish anything that could have mitigating effect on the sufferings of the people. Media reports are witness to the fact that the whole year was mere a year of hollow statements with no substantial movement towards solution of the issues that haunt each and every Pakistani. No doubt, the Government can take credit for achievements like 18th and 19th Constitutional Amendments as well as NFC award and this and that package but none of these have any direct bearing on the fate of the common man. Resources and powers might have been transferred from Centre to the Provinces but the trickling down effect was not visible and instead Year 2010 was Year of Non-Development during which no mega project was either conceived or initiated. Pakistan's image in the comity of nations also further suffered during the year due to wrong policies of the Government, rampant corruption and a heap of insult thrown on national leadership in respect of its shameful conduct in dealing with foreign diplomats and powers especially the United States, as revealed by WikiLeaks. This is really a great tragedy and national loss as no country with huge population of 180 million could afford to lose an entire year. People are hard-working but the history will not forgive the national leaders and national institutions that are to be blamed squarely for such a depressing performance during the outgoing year that has added to the frustration of the people.








THE 1980 files declassified by Britain disclose that Western powers went into immediate consultations after Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 to firm up plans to back 'Islamic resistance'. Senior officials from Britain, France, then West Germany and the United States met in Paris on January 15, 1980 and concluded that as long as there were Afghans willing to continue resisting the Soviet invasion and as long as the Pakistanis were willing to see their territory used, resistance should be supported.

It is a known fact that how these Western countries organized Islamic resistance and what role Pakistan played and suffered its consequences. It was for the first time during those years that the country saw the menace of bomb blasts and intriguingly it is again facing the same situation but with more intensity due to its role in the war against terror. Leaving this aspect aside, the question arises if Islamic militancy was justified at that time how can this be equated with terrorism now, as is being done by the West. It was the West and the West alone that brought motivated people from different Islamic countries to Afghanistan to fight Soviets and left Afghanistan at the mercy of the situation afterwards. This is dichotomy of highest order and reveals the real face of those who consider themselves as champions of global peace. You cannot switch human mind off and on like an electronic gadget. You cannot change minds of Afghans who fought Soviet invaders as they have the same perception about Western forces that have occupied their motherland now. It was a 'Jehad' for them at that time and it is 'Jehad' for this now as well. Ironically, the West was unable to learn any lesson from its own experience in Afghanistan during Soviet occupation of that country and treaded the same path two decades afterwards. Though there is a realization even in the United States that there can't be success in Afghanistan but again the leadership is unable to swallow this bitter reality.








THE case of one Abdul Jabbar is classic example of justice delayed is justice denied. Property of his father was illegally occupied by one Hayat in 1960 and owner of 512 acres of land passed away during lengthy litigation process and his son Abdul Jabbar lived life like a pauper, forced to beg to feed his children, despite the fact that he was owner of property worth millions of rupees. 

This is just a tip of an iceberg but is reflective of the pathetic state of dispensation of justice in the country. There are hundreds of thousands of Jabbars who are languishing in different lower courts of the country and not getting justice because of rigmaroles of the law and procedures. Not to speak of the ordinary courts, the worthy Chief Justice of Pakistan himself has expressed dissatisfaction over the performance of even Anti-Terrorism Courts where special procedures are adopted to expedite the case. Speedy and inexpensive dispensation of justice is what the Chief Justice needs to prioritize as the corrupt and inefficient system is one of the main causes of decay in the society. No doubt, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary has given a new hope to the people of Pakistan vis-à-vis justice and independence of judiciary. He is trying to set the direction and we are sure he has the vision and determination to carry out necessary reforms but we would urge him to focus on the issue to save life and future of Jabbars of this country.









Recently, some political parties especially the PML-N and the MQM have been talking about Long March and revolution, though both the parties are status quo parties and have the stigma of having been vaulted in power with the support of military establishment. Of course, they had then reciprocated the military rulers in perpetuating their rule. But at this point in time, when the country is caught up in the dense thorny thicket of gigantic difficulties and problems, even ordinary politico would not think of making a call for street agitation. In a democracy, there is always difference of opinion between the political parties but the differences are narrowed down through negotiations. But in Pakistan, the politicians have the tendency to take extreme position or rigid stand that takes them to the cull de sac, which results in dismissal or removal of governments as happened to the PPP and PML-N during 1990s. When both parties had signed the CoD, and formed coalition government after February 2008 elections, political analysts and pundits had presaged that alliance or coalition between the PPP and PML-N would not last long, as both parties had different manifestos and ideologies, and have been archenemies in the past. 

It is disheartening to note that not only major political parties have reinvented the politics of 1990s, the entire political set up including opposition parties in Pakistan are moving in divergent directions. By doing so, they would be exposed to more vulnerable risks to the detriment of the country. There is need to rationalize their outlooks and policies to put an end to the rising political hostility. Religious parties should also come out of the confrontational mode and work for lofty aims and objects of our great religion beyond sectarian considerations, and work against the rising tide of extremism and terrorism. Political leaders should know that the people are crying for food, for jobs, for healthcare for their families and schooling for their children. There is nobody to listen to the impoverished, disenfranchised and enslaved humanity especially in rural areas with the result that people are committing suicides with their children. Verily, the signals coming from the street are very ominous and very troubling. There is a storm in the making. The leadership must change the course to preempt this storm; otherwise it will blow all of us and hurt the country as well. 

The people are fed up with the internecine conflicts of the political parties and are disappointed over their apathy towards their plight. Politicians should feel the pulse of the masses and synchronize their aims and objectives in line with the ground realities and reform their political agenda by showing what a change really mean and how. Unfortunately, the ruling elite continue with the politics of power and pelf. On the one hand the PPP and the PML-N are at loggerheads, while on the other the PML-N and the MQM top leaderships and their acolytes have stooped so low as to use vulgar language against each other and launch personal attacks dragging their women folk in the war of words. In fact, leaders of both the parties have despicable track record. Both have been fugitives from law. Altaf Hussain went into self-exile when the long arm of law was chasing him for his alleged involvement in criminal cases. And Mian Nawaz Sharif could not bear the tribulations of prison life and eagerly fell in for an ignoble bargain and left for Saudi Arabia. Ayhow, vengeance and vendetta have been the hallmark of both the leaders, and both by temperament and style are autocrats and not democrats. In fact, the PPP, the PML-N, MQM and PML-Q top leaders run their parties as their personal fiefdoms. People still remember the musical chairs of power politics Mian Nawaz played with late Benazir Bhutto. 

Leaders of the PPP and the PML-N while referring to the past Martial Laws often criticize the army and go so far as to accuse the present military leadership for interfering in political affairs. The other day, when the MQM and JUI withdrew their ministers from the federal cabinet, PML-N honcho said that he would not become a part of puppet play. By now it is understood by all and sundry that if the political leaderships were endowed with vision and sterling qualities of statesmanship, there would have been no rule by civilian bureaucracy or Martial Law in the past. Had Chaudhary Kahliq-uz-Zaman and other Muslim Leaguers not helped late General Ayub Khan to perpetuate his rule for a decade? Had Muslim League, Jamat-i-Islami and other religious parties not launched movement against elected prime minister ZA Bhutto, who was consigned to gallows in connivance with the then judiciary? Had Mohammad Khan Junejo, other Muslim Leaguers and later Mian Nawaz Sharif not aided and abetted General Zia-ul-Haq? 

Was it not true that faction of the Muslim League under Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Pervaiz Ilahi and MQM supported General Musharraf till the last moment? When in exile, late Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif had vowed that they have learnt a lot from their mistakes in the past, and solemnly declared at the time of signing the Charter of Democracy that they will not reinvent politics of 1990s. After February 2008 elections, both the major parties had vowed to stay together to meet the challenges faced by the nation. But that was not to be, and they continued point-scoring against each other. On 15th March 2009, both parties were on a collision course on the issue of restoration of judiciary, and had the army chief reportedly not asked the belligerents to avoid confrontation, there would have been chaos and anarchy in the country. Yet they accuse the military establishment for interfering in politics. They should understand that not the tanks, the guns, the fighter planes or naval ships protect, safeguard and preserve the elected governments and the houses of legislature. This protective shield comes to them from the people's power. And this power comes to them only when they stay relevant to the people's lives. They of course lose this power if they become irrelevant to the peoples' lives. 

Pakistan's military has given a lot of sacrifices in the ongoing war on terror so that their compatriots could live without trepidation and fear. They have destroyed strongholds of militants and even their infrastructure, but remnants of terrorists are still stalking all over the land; lawlessness is rampant everywhere; and poverty, want and hunger are mowing down those living below the poverty. Yet, none of the current crop of the nation's political leadership across the spectrum is inclined to act responsibly. Either turf wars or sheer politics of power and pelf is consuming all their time and energy, while the country is slipping deeper into morass intractably. Armed Forces need resources and support to fight the spectre of terrorism and for preparations to frustrate the designs of our enemies. Military is also helping the civilian government by bringing the Baloch youth into mainstream. 

This will inculcate their sense of national integration and patriotism. Also induction of soldiers in large numbers from far-flung areas of Balochistan is a matter of pride for their families, province and Pakistan Army. It is vital that both major parties rise above political exigencies and strive in unison to address the grave challenges faced by the country on account of security and stability, strengthen economy and collect revenues from the rich to give relief to the common man. 


The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.









History is made and nations are built by the individuals with extraordinary traits. Some of these qualities are unflinching courage, bounteous talent, sagacity, genius, blotless character and the ability to take right decisions in face of stupendous crises. In Turkey's context; it was Mustafa Kamal Ataturk who in 1924 created the modern Turkey with secularism as its paramount anchor and armed forces as its defenders. After 85 years, the pendulum is swinging towards the other side with Prime Minister Rajab Tayyab Erdoðan (in Turkish language it is Recep Tayyip Erdoðan), reinventing Turkey to conform it to the imperatives of the present day world with Islamic identity. Both these heroes represent two ends of the fulcrum but essentially serve the same glorious purpose of turning Turkey into a modern state. 

Kamal Ataturk knocked down the orthodox caliphate to replace it with a state based upon modernism and secularism. Erdoðan is engaged in an historic task of embracing Islam with the essentials of the modern societies. As a teenager, this most illustrious icon, revolutionary, progressive, truly Muslim and a popular prime minister of Turkey, sold lemonade and sesame buns on the streets of Istanbul for a living. Ever since his advent in politics and now as the prime minister of Turkey (since March 2003), Tayyab Urdegan has been waging a multi-dimensional war at home and aboard, in order to bring Turkey into the comity of developed nations, while retaining its Islamic image, spirit and ethos. 

Firstly, he has to cope with the Arab nationalism that historically remained averse to Persian and Turkish leadership role of Islam. Precisely for this reason the Sharif of Mecca sided with imperialist British during the First World War, thus paving way for Turkey's defeat and disintegration. That subversion tore the much-touted and sought after ideal of Islamic unity. Turkey, of late, is being perceived as an Islamic state that can serve as a model for other Islamic states in terms of both development and adherence to religion Islam. Secondly, Erdoðan has to move away from Israel that it has recognized and for which Turkey has remained under severe censure and ill-will from certain Islamic states. Erdoðan supports an independent state for the Palestinian nation. He has called for Israel's nuclear facilities to come under IAEA inspection. Erdoðan berates Israel for turning Gaza into a concentration camp for the brutalized and hard-pressed Palestinians. 

At the 2009 World Economic Forum conference, Erdoðan lambasted Israeli President Shimon Peres in response to Peres 'disparaging jargon used against the Palestinians. Erdoðan also chided the moderator for giving more time to the Israeli president and as a protest walked out of the debate. That was a shining moment of triumph for the integrity and honor of Turkey. It also betokened Erdogan's moral grandeur. The Turkish Foundation for human Rights and Freedoms and Human Relief (IHH) sent on May 31, 2010 the "Gaza Freedom Flotilla" of six ships carrying humanitarian aid and construction materials to the beleaguered inhabitants of Gaza. For the first time, it was a demonstration of exceptional courage that not only exposed Israel's brutality but mounted a defiance to break the stifling blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza. 

Although the Turkish army had been issuing threatening statements and hurling warning salvos to the Erdoðan government and his "Justice and Development Party" AKP, it is not in a strident position to dislodge it as the previous military generals have been doing. On the contrary, since July 2008, the army has come under enormous pressure following the detention and interrogation of a hundred military personnel, including several generals for clandestinely conspiring and hatching plans of revolt against the government of Prime Minister Erdoðan. In February 2010, more than 40 officers were arrested and formally charged with attempting to overthrow the AKP government. They include four admirals, a general and two colonels; some of them retired, including former commanders of the Turkish navy and air force. Yet three days later, the former commanders of the navy and air force were released. These developments reflect that the military's power in Turkey is diminishing. 

Another front of fight for Prime Minister Erdoðan is against the obscurantist, the Islamic extremists and even the superior judiciary. The judiciary in Turkey has been supporting the army and creating legal bottlenecks for the Erdogan's party AKP to contest elections or come into power. The senior Judges have been openly condemning certain decisions of the Erdoðan government. The most dazzling achievement is the economic miracle that Erdoðan has performed in his country. When Erdoðan took over in March 2003, Turkey owed a debt of $23.5 billion to the IMF. In 2009 it was reduced to $7 billion. Turkey's debt to the IMF will be completely paid off in 2013. Prime minister has vowed not to obtain further loans from the IMF. 

In 2002, the Turkish Central Bank had $26.5 billion in reserves that swelled to $72.5 billion in 2009. During the same period, inflation fell from 34.9% to 5.7%, the lowest in 39 years. The public debt "declined from 74% in 2002 to 39% in 2009." "The World Bank lauded Prime Minister Erdoðan for the indispensable critical reforms and bringing the economic stability in Turkey. 

Prime Minister Erdoðan has introduced and implemented several watershed reforms that aim at extracting Turkey out of a decadent mould of governance and bring it at par with models prevalent in the advanced and developed societies. For instance, in January 2008, the Turkish Parliament passed a law that places complete ban on smoking in most public places. Prime Minister Erdoðan has particularly focused on normalizing relations with Iraqi Kurdistan, a territory that has remained in perpetual conflict with Turkey. Now a Turkish university is set up in Arbil and a Turkish Consulate in Musil. The Kurdish language is being used in all broadcast media and political campaigns. Kurdish names to the cities and towns have been restored. Armenia and Turkey that were looked upon as inveterate adversaries are now set upon a reconciliation course. Besides taking other confidence building measures, the most remarkable measure was to open the international airspace between Armenia and Turkey in 2005. Turkish government is also rehabilitating churches and other building in Armenia. 

Concerning democratic reforms, Erdoðan gave the European Court of Human Rights supremacy over Turkish courts, and also curtailed the powers of the 1991 Anti-Terror Law. He abolished many restrictions placed on freedom of speech and the press. A partial amnesty has been given to many members of the Kurdish terrorist organization PKK that surrendered to the government. Defining these otherwise impossible measures, Prime Minister Erdoðan said, "We took a courageous step to resolve chronic issues that constitute an obstacle along Turkey's development, progression and empowerment." 

Turkey's quest and endeavor, since 1987, to join the European Union has remained an unrealized dream so far. The flurry of reforms that Erdoðan government injected into Turkish body politic and socio-economic sectors were also aimed at fulfilling certain conditions fixed by the EU for Turkey to become is member. But primarily the white Christian Europe is still not in a mood to allow Turkey with an Islamic stamp to join this fold. Erdoðan government has bent over heavily backward to accommodate the conditionalities of European Union. But in the wake of the bias that runs in the European content against Turkey especially in Germany and France, it is still sitting with its fingers crossed. To accede to the EU, Turkey must first successfully complete negotiations with the European Commission on each of the 35 chapters of EU law which contains some of the unbridgeable bottlenecks for Turkey to overcome. Erdoðan is the recipient of 15 honorary doctorates, three honorary citizenships and 27 multifarious awards, including the "Profile of Courage Award" from the American Jewish Committee. It was a unique honor for Turkey when Obama after assuming the presidency of United States made his first overseas trip to Turkey in April 2009. That portrays Turkey's important position on the world stage with Erdoðan as the prime minister. 

The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist.









The recent visit of Russian President Medvedev to India and especially the expected news about Russia supporting India's designs for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council has again created an animated discussion about Pakistan's place in the region and in the world, about friends and foes.

It is quite clear that after the fall of communism and the Soviet Union and 9/11 the world has changed especially with regard to international relations and global alliances as well as friends and foes. The collapse of the main foe communism has left the 'first world' madly wondering for a while what to do now and whom to fight given the fact that weapon production and sale is one of their best businesses in the world. At the same time it has been progressively becoming clear that access to and command over energy resources will be the main motor for future economic development on which the political power structure of the world is depending. And those energy resources unfortunately are situated and controlled by countries outside the geographic West. That is why after a time of contemplation the West settled for Islam as the next enemy to be fought and subdued and started invading Iraq and Afghanistan declaring it first the Crusade.

This decision has not only caught Pakistani nation but the autocratic ruler by surprise, that is why the then Gen. Musharraf regime had to burn midnight oil for the decision on which side to stand or to accept the threat of being bombed back into the Stone Age. Pakistan's foreign policy concepts have always been unbalanced and one-sidedly directed towards India and that also with an approach that lacks imagination and flexibility. The reason for that might well be that foreign policy design in Pakistan is a task of the army rather than of the Foreign Office due to domination of lateral entrants in Foreign Service. This army-related India-inclination has produced concepts like for instance that of 'strategic depth' which has put severe constrains on Pakistani foreign policy and is one of the reasons why Pakistan today has a problem of Taliban militancy and of good relations with its neighbours Afghanistan and Iran. But the blame for this situation is not with Pakistan alone. A good portion of it is with our neighbour India whose leaders until today think that the creation and existence of Pakistan is and was unacceptable and that Pakistan should be wiped out from the world map. 

In addition the Kashmir conflict which is a problem of 'unfinished partition plan approved by the British parliament and the King' is hanging in fire and humanity is crippled in Indian held Kashmir and the world conscience is in deep slumber due to political expediency and though the issue is tightly connected with the creation of Pakistan was and is an additional irritation between the two because of non-implementation of UNSC Resolutions on Kashmir initiated at Indian request. It was the threat of being overrun by India which produced a situation in Pakistan where army and defence became the first and foremost concern of the state and which, as a consequence, allowed the Pakistani army to grow into a position of overwhelming power in the political field, dominating the state sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly until today. For a rather long period of cold war foreign relations in South Asia were rather strongly defined: since the early fifties Pakistan had thrown its weight with the US and their allies while relations with the immediate neighbours were difficult from the beginning while India after an early role in the non-alignment movement later settled for a partnership with the Soviet Union which turned out to be a clever move. 

Soviet Union or Russia turned out to be a more reliable friend and partner than the US was for Pakistan and even in such situations like 1965 war, the Bangladesh crisis of 1971 and the sanctions because of nuclear tests Russia stood faithfully by India. It should therefore be no surprise that this relationship which stood the test of those times is holding the test of our time also. With the end of cold war India was quick to rethink its foreign relations and started diversifying them by setting up new coalitions with Israel and the US and starting to improve their relations with the main neighbour and rival China. Their relations with the countries of South Asia though have remained dominated by a rather hegemonic Indian attitude with Indo-Pak relations at a dead end. 

General Ziaul Haq was the first to break the ice when he embarked on his Cricket diplomacy tour to India, which gave birth to back channel diplomacy and the bus tour of Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee, which met its doom with the happening of Kargil episode, then it was during Gen. Musharraf's rule came some movement into those relations which has since then been lost due to a well hatched conspiracy of Mumbai attack and the unimaginative foreign policy of the current government, which is working on the dotted lines of the previous regime. Pakistan on the other hand missed the train of rethinking its foreign relations so far and that is why we are getting nervous every time India is displaying the newly gained respect as an international partner. It would be much better though to put our own house into order than watch what our neighbour is doing. 

The excellent Russian relations with India should not make us hesitate: the days of cold war and of 'either-or' relationships are gone. The current political situations makes it more than clear that settling relations with our immediate neighbours should be our first priority, Iran in the first place, the first country to have recognized Pakistan, but also Afghanistan and of course India. While Iran is manageable Afghanistan and India will need time and much effort, but without that effort Pakistan will be losing out in the region. We have good relations with Turkey which could be intensified and with many Arab countries first and foremost Saudi Arabia but here also we need to think those traditional relations over in the light of our ongoing fight against Islamic militancy and militant Islamic ideology in our own country and in the rest of the world. In any case a diversification of our foreign relations would also loosen our dependence on the US which would greatly benefit our country.

In any case there is no need to be upset about India's active and well played foreign policy moves. US have been trying for long to win India, which they have so Pakistan should foster more cemented relations with China and Iran first.







A major policy of India, the former Non-Aligned leaders and now a noted colonial terror state, is to reap maximum benefits by hook or crook from anywhere, especially from the ongoing conflicts and terror wars. By supporting NATO terror syndicates in Afghanistan, India is eager to hook Washington through its lobbyists to replace Pakistan as a terror partner in the region to challenge China. India is also anxious about America's plans for Afghanistan and Washington's close ties with Pakistan — an extra base for NATO terror syndicates to clear energy routes from Central Asia. But the US illegal occupation and state terror attacks threaten the region as well as world peace at large. The India-Pakistan nuclear rivalry remains dangerous. India would gain credibility and make the world safer if it worked harder to reduce tensions with Pakistan.

Upon considerable gains in external gimmicks, one of the latest foreign policy goals of India of late is to silence Pakistan and make Jammu Kashmir a non issue citing it soft repeat show that JK is an integral part of Indian Union. UN chief Ban kid Moon stated on 15 Nov that the Jammu Kashmir dispute remains on the UNSC's agenda and rejected the reports that suggested it had been removed from the list of unresolved issues and some articles on Kashmir are inaccurate. The latest, probably revised, list of matters the Security Council is seized with "continues to include the agenda item under which the council has taken up Kashmir, which, by a decision of the council, remains on the list for this year. Supported mainly by Britain, a key Indian foreign policy objective is to influence all important sources like UN, ICC, ICJ, EU, USA that could create obstacles in Indian bid for UNSC and escalating terror operations in JK. It is to the advantage of colonial powers like India and Israel that all noted global state terror states are regrouping under the NATO gang and are coming together by using UN and UNSC as forums to advance their colonialist, capitalist and imperialist agendas. Maybe as a gimmick to create frictions, on Nov 15, the UN just removed Jammu Kashmir from the UN list of unresolved disputes, which has come as a major setback to Kashmiris as well as Pakistan. The omission of Jammu and Kashmir from a list of disputes under the observation of the UN Security Council was noticed by Pakistan, whose envoy has lodged a protest.

While presenting the annual report to the 192-member assembly, British Ambassador Mark Loyal Grant had, possibly deliberately, not mentioned the Kashmir dispute in the context of unresolved long-running situations, despite the fact that it was included in the annual report. Pakistan's acting envoy to the UN Ajar Hussein B Sail said Jammu and Kashmir dispute was not mentioned in the context of unresolved long-running situations. While speaking at the UN General Assembly session, which was discussing the functioning and reform of the Security Council, he argued that this was an inadvertent omission, as JammuKashmir is one of the oldest disputes on agenda of the Security Council. The agenda item entitled, 'India and Pakistan Question', which covers the Jammu Kashmir dispute, is duly mentioned in the annual report of the Security Council and is also present on its agenda. Pakistan's acting ambassador to the world body, Ajar Hussein Sail, in his speech to the General Assembly on November 12 had referred to the omission of Jammu and Kashmir dispute in a statement by the President of the Security Council, and not from its annual report, as reported in a section of the press. "We understand this was an inadvertent omission, as Jammu and Kashmir is one of the oldest disputes on the agenda of the Security Council," Sail had remarked after Grant's statement.

Whole idea of India harping on the JK being an "integral part" issue is to prepare enough ground for getting Jammu Kashmir removed from UN list of disputes as an occupied territory. But India failed, again. Pakistan, fighting for regaining the sovereignty for Kashmiris, has been asking the UN to intervene to help resolve the issue, but India has always maintained that it has to be resolved bilaterally between the two nations. A UN General Assembly session was organized by the UK that holds the presidency of the Security Council last month.

Earlier in October, Secretary-General Ban Kid-moon had said that the UN would not intervene in Kashmir issue until requested by both the parties-India and Pakistan. "As far as this role of good offices is concerned, the UN normally takes that initiative when requested by both parties concerned. India and Pakistan, they are neighboring countries, important nations in that region - peace and security would have important implications," he said. The UK reportedly repeated its support to see India on as a permanent member of the Security Council at the debate in the General Assembly. Unfortunately, India has tactfully silenced UN chief. India officially bribes even the top world leaders, including UN chief with awards, honorary degrees and ready cash plus other "usual" benefits for services rendered to promoting Indian causes. Shameless Ban kid Moon, who intermittently talk about Indian horrors in JK, scruplessly accepted in New Delhi an award and "cash price" last year as part of package to support Indian cases in UN, especially on Jammu Kashmir and a seat on the notorious terrorist UNSC to safeguard its interests in JK and shield the state criminal from any possible punishments for their crimes against humanity in JK.

Resolution of Kashmir issue remains the key to peace in the region fo two nuclear powers, while USA is keen to stll the Pakistani nukes by playing "not doing enough" song. America claims to be a close ally of Pakistan, but US president ignored Islamabad I in his first trip to the region. US Obama talks about world peace and good relations with Muslims, but he only obliged New Delhi, an major enemy of Muslims, Kashmir and Pakistan, in not visiting Islamabad before coming to India. In India Obama's real face got exposed. In spite of the fact that Obama denied permission to lobbyist for both Israel and India, both have somehow managed backdoor entry into the White House and get things done by using office of the top Indo-Israeli lobbyist Mrs. Clinton. Anti-Islamic media in USA promotes illicit ties with India and Israel – both are fascist States.








The phrase "enemy within" brings to mind the image of a shadowy spy stealing military secrets. That was the case for Israeli master spy Jonathan Pollard jailed for 1980s espionage that compromised U.S. Cold War strategy. That phrase also describes those involved in a form of psy-ops that is not easily detected because it operates so brazenly. For instance, the well-timed release of diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks displaced reports of Israeli obstinacy in peace talks with reports of a need for war with Iran. That operation relied on editors at four major newspapers chosen by WikiLeaks to manage the releases. Despite the delight at their impact voiced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, mainstream media failed to mention the possibility of undisclosed bias by those who chose what to release and when. 

The bias of The New York Times is well known. Less clear is the role of Ian Katz, Deputy Editor at The Guardian (London) and Executive Editor Sylvie Kauffman at Le Monde in Paris. The geopolitical success of the WikiLeaks operation suggests an enemy within. Israeli duplicity often operates through what U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates describes as "the people in between." When waging unconventional warfare, those people are the most dangerous combatants, particularly those operatives in mainstream media.

For systems of governance reliant on informed consent, nothing could be more perilous. The "people in between" routinely target media—freedom's greatest vulnerability—as a means for displacing facts with what a targeted populace can be deceived to believe. How old is this duplicity? How long have false beliefs been used to manipulate behavior? Modern technology—particularly media—enables deception on a global scale. Between the American populace and the facts they require to protect their freedom—that's where this enemy within imbeds its operatives. The false intelligence claiming Iraqi WMD was a people-in-between operation. Judith Miller at The New York Times fed us a steady diet of front-page news that we now know was fixed around Israeli goals promoted by Ahmad Chalabi, a London-based Iraqi expatriate who, like Israel, sought regime change in Iraq. 

Pentagon insider Richard Perle developed Chalabi over two decades. A Jewish Zionist, Perle has long been a strategically well-placed "person in between." Miller left The Times and joined Fox News and then Newsmax. Yet the impact of complicit media pales in comparison to the enemy within that brought the U.S. economy to its knees and undermined national security at its financial core.

The most devastating in this chronicle of enemies is the most difficult to see. As with other "in between" operations, this too succeeds by displacing facts with false beliefs. Only in this case, those beliefs were imbedded in education and over decades worked their way into law. 

Known as the "Washington Consensus," this widely shared perspective shapes economic policy worldwide. At the heart of this generally accepted truth is found the belief that money should be accountable only to itself. In this mindset, financial freedom is an article of faith. Instead of the civil rights refrain, "Let my people go," its proponents insist: "Let my money go." Allow money the freedom to work its will worldwide and everything will work out fine. That shared belief works "in between" in the same way that Jonathan Pollard undermined national security, WikiLeaks shifted attention to Iran and Judith Miller induced us to war in Iraq. Only in this case a false belief has been so thoroughly internalized that it's difficult to see because this shared mindset has become that with which we have been educated do our seeing.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are the primary apostles of this consensus faith. The World Trade Organization (WTO) now seeks to take this belief to global scale by enforcing unrestricted free trade not only in goods and services but also financial capital. The WTO operates like a global Sanhedrin akin to a Jewish high council accountable only to itself. What's now emerging as a global enemy within is a finance-guided form of transnational governance marketed as free trade but accountable only to itself. That 'self' traces its origins to an internalized mindset in which financial freedom serves, by consensus, as a proxy for personal freedom. That mindset was decades in the making. 

This modern-day Mindset Warfare is being waged by an enemy that is truly within. Fast globalizing financial forces now induce us to freely embrace the very forces that undermine our freedom. By waging war on us from the inside out, the originators of this money-myopic mindset dismantled the U.S. economy, enabled vast financial pillaging and induced us to fiscal ruin. Those wielding this weaponry operate from our internal shadows as the Zionist entity within. —The CG News



the austRALIAN








Thirty years ago, the Fraser government grappled uncertainly with an unprecedented resources boom, shied away from much-needed fiscal discipline, failed to curb an impending, destructive wages breakout and failed to rise to the challenge of removing protectionism. Then, as now, one of the dominant issues in the international arena was a protracted war in Afghanistan, which in 1980 was being waged by Russia.


Both sides of federal politics have much to learn from cabinet documents released under the 30-year rule, which cast a clear light on the Fraser government's vacillating over vital, difficult decisions needed to position Australia for future prosperity.


The papers, which largely bear out John Howard's recollections of events of the era, suggest the Fraser government failed to understand the need to join the dots on economic policy. Lacking an over-arching vision to position the nation for the emerging challenges of globalisation, it took a piecemeal approach to individual but interrelated issues -- government spending, protectionism, the financial system and industrial relations. As conflicts and challenges arose, its narrow focus was often on shoring up popular support to ensure its survival.


Like the Rudd government decades later, the Fraser government was dogged by short-term thinking and expediency. At a time when it should have been encouraging Australian industries to compete in a global market, the then prime minister marked himself out as a politician of the past, renewing the two-airline, Ansett-TAA duopoly that cost the travelling public dearly and retaining too much of the expensive protection afforded the car and footwear and clothing sectors. This populist, protectionist agenda, mirrored in present-day policies such as the Green Car fund, was never going to be sustainable. For the Fraser government, it eventually resulted in being blindsided by Labor, which picked up and ran with the reform agenda the Coalition had lacked the vision and courage to implement. A prime example was its failure to introduce much-needed industrial relations reform. A less centralised system would have helped prevent the wages breakout that cost the economy and employment dearly in 1981. The Fraser government also lacked the intellectual imagination to adopt the reform proposals it was presented. It dodged the challenge of introducing a broad-based indirect tax, deregulating interest rates and financial deregulation.


As Paul Kelly reports today, the changes it resisted were far-reaching in their impact, ushering in a new era. The fact that Labor had the vision to reform the financial system and begin the process of labour market reform and that the Howard government introduced the GST and further freed up industrial relations affirms that economic reform in Australia has been a bipartisan effort. Both the current government and the opposition need to take stock and consider the salient lessons of how the Fraser government, fearful of losing support, became so inert that it was easily trumped by Labor, which had used its time well in opposition to consider how Australia needed to be made more competitive and to present such a narrative to the public. Today's government and opposition should take note.







AS we enter another year, we have the chance to think intelligently about what lies ahead in 2011 and beyond.


Three decades ago, our policymakers joined the dots and recognised that globalisation would shake Australia to the core unless the country embarked on fundamental structural reform. With the nation's businesses threatened by cheaper goods and services from overseas producers, the response was not to shield the economy but to continue to break down tariff walls, end protection of local manufactures and open Australia to the world. The rewards for embracing free trade, floating the dollar and deregulating the financial sector are still being enjoyed by Australians today, with high economic growth and low unemployment the envy of the world.


Now as we enter the second decade of the 20th century we are embarking on a new round of gobalisation that offers as many challenges to our politicians and business leaders as did the global changes of the 1980s. One challenge is the digital revolution of high-speed broadband and ubiquitous connectivity that is changing the way we live and work. As Cameron Stewart writes in our pages today, the technology at the core of this revolution -- the internet -- is not new. Over 20 years we have become used to the blurring of the personal and private domains through technology. But a new generation of hand-held hardware, such as the iPhone and iPad, is transforming the ease and speed of access, connection and availability of data -- as well as changing the way we live. Philosopher D.E. Wittkower wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal, that web operations like Facebook mean "even when we're alone, we're never alone alone". This ever-present technology and faster broadband, combined with a population increasingly happy to buy and sell goods and services on the net is what Harvard Business School academic Clayton Christensen meant more than a decade ago when he coined the phrase, disruptive innovation. Technology destroys and creates in a cycle that carries huge economic potential as well as challenge.


Yet our politicians continue to address the revolution in narrow terms. Explicit in the language of the Prime Minister and her Communications Minister is a view of the net as a delivery vehicle for government services such as health and education as well as internet television on demand. There is nothing wrong with that, except that it sells the revolution short and ignores market forces and business. In the end, what is really important is how the revolution transforms the economy. The extent of disruption -- and potential innovation -- is only now apparent as technology opens Australian business to another round of competition. Industries that once thought they were immune from globalisation -- free-to-air broadcasting and retailing, for example -- now find their models under attack. They must reinvent or fail. This may only be the start. The revolution is taking place in an age of uncertainty: no one knows for sure where it is going and how individual sectors will respond. The market will determine the direction, but the job of government is to put the macro settings in place to give business the flexibility to respond to rapid change. Government must avoid wrong calls and dismiss the notion that it can somehow protect us from the forces of globalisation. It cannot and should not even try. At the same time, our politicians must understand the extent to which the revolution will affect the jobs and economic wellbeing of some Australians. Flexibility in where and when people work will be crucial and Australian companies must confront rather than retreat from the growth of online retailing. Big retailers, Gerry Harvey among them, have called on the government to protect their old business models by removing the GST exemption for purchases valued at less than $1000 that are bought from offshore online sites. This is a complex issue but it is clear that we can't turn back the clock on the internet.


There are plenty of signs that we are entering a period of transition that no government can ignore. But the Rudd and Gillard governments have not yet joined the dots, as the Hawke and Keating governments did, and instead have taken a disappointingly fragmented approach. Labor failed the test of micro reform (parallel book imports) while gambling billions in public money on trying to pick winners (the National Broadband Network). The books fiasco, in which the government maintained protection for local publishing, showed the folly of trying to hold back the digital tide. Amazon, which has already undermined local booksellers, reports that sales of hardcover books have been overtaken by sales of ebooks for its hand-held Kindle. The $35 billion NBN is seen by Labor as "important infrastructure" that "will change our way of life", yet it is being rolled out without proof that it will improve productivity. The government touts the health and education services to be delivered by the NBN, but the project is not commercially viable and it is far from certain that it will generate the new businesses its advocates claim.


Labor has put all its policy eggs in the NBN basket, but it is at best a risky response to such a huge challenge. Australia needs more digital visionaries, not cable-laying nerds, to truly exploit the digital revolution. We need broad thinkers, not just more broadband.








It has been the year of indecision for Australia, cocooned from the economic problems of Europe and the US but complacent about the nation's future. Weak political leadership and a lack of vision was greeted with ambivalence by voters, who returned delicately balanced parliaments at four state and federal elections. The first drawn AFL Grand Final for 33 years was a metaphor for these irresolute times. A resources boom and strong economic growth cloaked a policy vacuum as our politicians enjoyed a reform holiday the nation could not afford. And while Australians took another look at their wallets this year and began to save after the global financial crisis, they showed less appetite for the big debates needed to lock in the benefits of the boom at a national level.


At year's end, the country's political class is all but deadlocked, with a minority Labor government in Canberra still trying to navigate its way around a Greens agenda obsessing on 10th-order issues rather than the substantive productivity, infrastructure and tax reforms so vital to our future. Julia Gillard and her colleagues have emerged battered from a testing political year in which they dumped a first-term prime minister in Kevin Rudd and suffered devastating consequences at the federal election on August 21. Labor is still to throw off the Rudd legacy, with its damaging image of waste and ineptitude in public projects. In the first half of the year, the Rudd government's policy efforts verged on disastrous -- from the debacle of the mining tax to the imbroglio of the emissions trading scheme. The Gillard government is still struggling to sort out both. It was the year, too, when the most comprehensive review of tax since the Asprey report of the 1970s was all but shelved -- a lasting legacy for its main author, outgoing Treasury secretary Ken Henry, perhaps, but a document yet to be emphatically embraced by the government that commissioned it.


The Coalition can feel satisfied at the progress it has made this year under Tony Abbott, a leader written off as unelectable by the press gallery's self-proclaimed insiders this time last year. But while the Coalition's credibility was vindicated at the ballot box, the Opposition Leader has yet to address the longer-term challenges of policy development for the 21st century. At state level, the conservatives enter the new year bolstered by a remarkable victory under Ted Baillieu in Victoria last month, Labor's loss in that state underlining the extent to which the party of the "working man" has lost touch with the suburbs of Australia and is struggling to define its identity.


How then to break the deadlock, to overcome the indecision and ensure Australia's good fortune, natural advantages and present prosperity are not squandered? The answer comes in two parts. The government must start governing according to what the country needs, not what focus group studies claim it wants. The revelations in The Australian this week of a 42 per cent increase in the money spent on market research by Labor in the year before the August poll is evidence of the vacillation clouding clear policy development. While $31 million buys our elected representatives a lot of data, it cannot overcome a policy paralysis born of disconnection with the electorate and a lack of courage in implementing essential reforms.


The second lesson of the year is that governments have limits, and we cannot continue subcontracting tasks to bureaucrats that they are incapable of performing. The failure of governments to effect real improvement in the lives of indigenous Australians is a case in point: it is increasingly clear that most of the substantive developments emerging in remote regions are due to the efforts of individuals, communities and the corporate sector, not Canberra or the state capitals. Governments play a crucial role in setting economic policies and broad directions for defence and for delivery of essential services, but we must disabuse ourselves of the notion that governments are omnipotent.


Finely balanced parliaments are no alibi for failure, and we expect more, much more, from the political class next year. But a nation's achievements are built on the enterprise of its people and it is from their labours, not the work of governments, that growth and prosperity will flow.










AT FEDERAL and state levels, 2011 is shaping as another brute of a year for the Australian Labor Party. In Canberra, Julia Gillard heads a desperately fragile minority government, reliant on the variable whims of independents and the Greens to get legislation passed and, indeed, to survive. When she abruptly replaced Kevin Rudd as prime minister, Gillard said she had acted because the government had lost its way. It has not yet found the compass.


In NSW it seems only a miracle could save Kristina Keneally's staggering Labor government from devastating defeat at the March 26 election. The improbability of such a miracle, with voters in their present vengeful mood, was highlighted by Victoria's election when a much better performing Labor government was booted out. In NSW, Labor is trying to defy not just the curse of long incumbency, but a matchless record of incompetence and scandal.


On the federal front, the best that can be said of Gillard to date is that, following the shambles that was Labor's election campaign, she has played the weak hand that a disillusioned electorate dealt her with some skill. In the messy aftermath of her near-death experience at the polls, she out-manoeuvred Tony Abbott in negotiations with the cross-benchers who share the balance of power. She was then effective enough in the short pre-Christmas parliamentary session.


But weathering tactical skirmishes does not add up even to making a start on the huge task ahead of Gillard and Labor if they are to regain the political credibility squandered over the past 12 months or so. They have to persuade sceptical voters the Rudd prime ministership - apart from the prompt, effective response to the global financial crisis and fine symbolic gestures - was an aberration.


Too many decisions were taken by too few, without proper consultation. Too many were driven by polls, focus group soundings and the media cycle. Some, most notably the emissions trading legislation, were subsequently shelved. Others were duds. Too many "announceables", not enough achievables.


Gillard needs, urgently, to reclaim Labor's historic mission as a party that knows what values it stands for and delivers major reform. True, the parliamentary numbers will make this diabolically difficult; so will the likelihood that, come March, half the states will be in Coalition hands. Yet her government simply must rise above short-term management and bed down Labor's big programs - the national broadband network, parental leave, the mining tax, health reform, the national curriculum. She needs also to tell Kevin Rudd, plainly, that a foreign minister is a team player, not the Lone Ranger. If she fails to establish her authority and achieve results, voters who want the "real Julia" to emerge will increasingly conclude there is nothing much there.


Tony Abbott also faces a challenging year. The Opposition Leader has proved over the past 12 months that he is a formidable, sometimes likeable, occasionally scatty, political bruiser. But on policy he has been at once opportunist and inconsistent. The hallmark of his leadership has been relentless, knee-jerk negativity. We know what he is against - almost anything the government proposes - but what is he for? Only one seat away from power, an accident could give him an opportunity any time. But a more positive appeal would help him to reap that opportunity.


In NSW the immediate and thankless task ahead of Keneally is to do what she can, given the dysfunctional state of her party, to minimise Labor's looming disaster. The one feather she has to fly with, apart from personal charm, is that the NSW economy has survived the global bust in better shape than seemed likely a year ago, retaining its AAA credit rating and with the budget likely to return a small surplus this financial year.


And, the budget numbers aside, a truly dreadful mess is exactly what the next government, presumably one led by Barry O'Farrell, will inherit. Sydney is being strangled by traffic congestion, the product of inefficient public transport and inadequate infrastructure. Housing construction is falling further and further behind demand. The good life seems to be the reserve of those wealthy or lucky enough to live close to Sydney's harbour and its beaches. Somehow it must be spread much wider into the hinterland and the regions.


This is O'Farrell's challenge and opportunity. He has kept his ideas close - to avoid Labor stealing them, he has said - but now, in the final stretch, we need to see them.







THE snow and ice may be piling up, the pound weak, and the budget cuts biting savagely at home, but out here the outlook for England's cricketers and their supporters is, well, balmy. Far from being ''Last Night of the Poms'', the Barmy Army's rendition of patriotic songs has been triumphant as well as tuneful, their dance ''The Sprinkler'' as benign and absurd as a morris dance outside a country pub. The ribbing has been quite gentle to us, in our unaccustomed defeat. We must declare a moratorium on cheap jokes about whingeing, aversion to bathing, socks and sandals, warm beer and butties, monocled toffs and forelock-tugging folk. Military historians have to stop writing books blaming all our stuff-ups on British generals. Before play starts on Monday at the SCG, someone has to think of new, humorous lines to the national anthem, and song sheets should be handed out in the stands. As for a war dance, how about a crouch with a sharp upward jerk of the right arm, as with pulling a starter-cord: ''The Victa.''







WHAT a difference a year makes, even more so a decade - or not, depending on one's place in the world. The world's population has grown by three-quarters of a billion in 10 years. Accidents of birth still overwhelmingly determine whether they and the planet's other 6 billion people have experienced this as a time of progress or decline, of comfort or struggle. This first day of the new year and the new decade - for those who count the years from one to 10 - is a time for resolutions. The Age has long observed the immodest editorial tradition of proposing such resolutions for readers, the nation and the world. A look back over the past decade's resolutions shows that failure is often likely but not inevitable, that progress has been made but much unfinished business remains and that we must act in hope to avoid the despair of defeat.


For Australia, this day 10 years ago was the centenary of Federation, when the nation formed by the union of six British colonies remained within the British Empire. The empire is gone, but the allegiance to an imperial monarchy remains. Yet again we urge Australia's leaders to find the courage to work towards a fully independent republic that properly protects basic rights such as freedom of speech and formally recognises indigenous Australians. Julia Gillard's minority Labor government may have promised a referendum on the last issue, but the federation is badly in need of wholesale modernisation.


The agenda for 2001 was transformed by the September 11 terrorist attacks. Prime minister John Howard joined President George Bush as the ''coalition of the willing'' went to war in Afghanistan and, 17 months later, Iraq. All the leaders of the time have gone, leaving their successors to clean up the mess and heal the rift with the Islamic world. In particular, we must hope for a restoration of statesmanship and sanity in the Middle East, to rescue the peace process, as The Age wrote 12 years ago, ''from the limbo to which the Netanyahu government had consigned it''. Little has changed, except that Hamas, which controls Gaza, now presents an even bigger obstacle. Global pressure is required to get Israeli and Palestinian leaders to resume a dialogue of good faith. In Africa, such pressure helped end long-running conflicts in which millions died. Sudanese will decide the fate of their nation in a referendum this month. International diplomacy is still needed to preserve the peace in a region where terrorists have a foothold. It is thanks to such actions that Northern Ireland is free of terrorism 10 years after the IRA first gave up its arms.


In 2003, our wish was that Australians would seek to understand and respond to the needs of the world's less privileged. In 2004,The Age hoped more could be done to tackle man-made or avoidable disasters associated with poverty, disease, conflict and bad governance. The next year, we observed: ''A world that is preoccupied with problems of security, civil conflicts and terrorism seems to have a terrible blind spot when it comes to the underlying causes.'' Yet Australians are still largely blind to what drives asylum seekers to risk their lives at sea, and the issue causes much more hysteria than the small number of arrivals merit. We should pay more attention, instead, to the conflicts and repression that forcibly displaced these people and 43 million others worldwide - the highest level since the mid-1990s - of whom up to 1.5 million are Zimbabweans in South Africa. That is the terrible result of standing by as Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe terrorised opposition in defiance of world opinion, both in 2001 and today.


Around the world, other nations have embraced and consolidated democracy, including our northern neighbours Indonesia, the Philippines and the new nation of East Timor, with sustained Australian support. Consider, too, the contrasting fates of the Solomon Islands, where Australia also intervened, and Fiji, since both suffered coups at the turn of the century. More broadly, international aid programs have worked. Deaths from disease and poverty have fallen even as populations grow. Educational levels are rising. Democracy is spreading. More people can realistically aspire to live in peace and prosperity.


However, in politics locally and abroad, this has been a year of public disillusionment. In the US, Barack Obama's struggle to deliver his promised change cost the Democrats control of Congress. He has since defied expectations with a series of congressional victories. Approval of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is perhaps the most globally significant. After years of setbacks for non-proliferation, this treaty mends US-Russian relations and may give them at least some credibility in curbing the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran.


While the return of rain locally and a chilly northern winter causes some to doubt climate change, the weight of science says otherwise. Other recent trends add urgency to our 2008 call to act on the challenges of sustainability as we test the limits of global resources. While most developed nations emerge slowly from recession, Asia is leading the charge of new economic powers. World industrial production has passed its pre-recession peak. With oil production flat for four years, the price is back over $US90 a barrel. Commodities from copper to cotton, including staple foods, are at or approaching record high prices. The message of the markets is that this is a world of finite resources, and we must adapt to that fact.


Australia may be an abundantly blessed nation but it is not immune from the consequences of inaction on a crowded, conflict-ridden planet. That is why we should not only wish, like a beauty queen, for world peace, but work to end conflicts and curb our wasteful consumption. Australians may well celebrate their own good fortune, but psychology studies show that helping others is one of the surest sources of happiness. We will reap countless benefits for years to come by helping others, be they our neighbours or people in far-off places. In that spirit, we wish a happy new year for all.










It flares up quickly, only semi-predictably and brings panic in its wake. Fluis a phenomenon to send a shiver through any government, and yesterday's 60% increase in intensive care cases is dangerous because it follows the health secretary's autumn refusal to publicise vaccinations. Worse, although Andrew Lansley has now activated a separate campaign about hand hygiene, the move appeared to come late in the day.


Neither the former decision nor the latter delay is proof of wickedness. Judgments like these inescapably turn on a balance of risks, and the interim chief medical officer (recruitment for the permanent post is ongoing) was on hand yesterday to explain why the timing of the new campaign fitted with expert opinion. She struck a plausible enough note, and yet as the cases continue to snowball, so too will the controversy. The vaccine's take-up has been dismal, and some practitioners are pointing the finger at the lack of publicity. The immediate danger for Mr Lansley is complacency; he must sound prepared for the worst – a winter crisis in the hospitals – without in any way hamming up a situation he still hopes to avoid. Striking that balance will be tricky enough. Trickier still will be interpreting the wider lessons.


One of Vince Cable's more stinging misspoken words was his characterisation of the coalition's NHS reforms as "Maoist". With little cover from his own party's manifesto, and less from that of the Lib Dems, Mr Lansley is abolishing primary care trusts and requiring GPs to pick up the work, whether they want it or not. He puts enormous faith in the decentralised decisions of family doctors. The nationwide vaccine campaign was deemed superfluous on the basis that it was for them to chivvy vulnerable patients into getting the jab. If it transpires that many GPs have failed to communicate that effectively, then it will be as well to pause and ask how well they will fare at thornier tasks, such as managing contracts with mighty hospital trusts and rationing costly drugs.


The other big question is where even justifiable penny-pinching on flu prevention would leave Mr Lansley's personal ambition of transforming his ministry into a department for public health. It would be likewise hard to square with the coalition's wider emphasis on changing behaviour through persuasion – in the buzzword, "nudge". In these pages this weeksenior minister Francis Maude damned the mismatch in spending between educational prevention and medical cure, and yet this arises because communications budgets are such soft targets that the chancellor has made great public play of cutting them to curb council tax. Once it has thrown off the flu, the government will have some serious thinking to do.







Let's hope, however vainly, for a collective resolution to extend a smidgeon more trust in considering what makes people tick


The ancient cynics shunned wealth in pursuit of virtue, their very name – a classical cousin of the modern "canine" – a token of the dog-like contempt earned by willful forbearance of poverty. The cynicism which pervades public life at the dawn of 2011 is less a descendant of this noble lineage, than its antithesis. It is a creed that ascribes the basest motives to everybody, and dismisses the very possibility of moral improvement. Inflamed by the MPs' expenses crisis of 2009, and by the too-casual jettisoning of manifesto pledges that followed election 2010, mistrust is paralysing politics. It is evident in marketopian reforms which treat public servants as knaves to be slapped into line by the self-interested whack of the invisible hand. It is evident, too, in fear and loathing between the governing and governed, and – we admit – in newspapers being too gleeful about catching yet another snout in the trough. The great injustices of the day have at times been buried in a blizzard of dodgy receipts for duck islands and patio doors. The dismal worldview reaches its apogee in the rightwing blogosphere, where pundits parade as anarchists but subtly entrench hopelessness by decreeing every call for public virtue to be a cover for private vice. None of this is to deny the praiseworthiness of doubt and sceptical inquiry, preconditions for both good government and clear thought. But it is to hope, however vainly, for a collective resolution to extend a smidgeon more trust in considering what makes people tick.






Biodiversity is all we have, so the case for conservation ought to be obvious – but change remains blighted by several obstacles


Continental Europe is home to more than 125,000 known species of terrestrial and freshwater animal, and each year another 700 newly described species join the list. That sounds like good news to mark the end of 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity. It may not be. The planet buzzes with life, most of it unidentified and an alarming proportion of it now vulnerable to extinction. That is why the UN has declared 2011 to be both the International Year of Forests and the launch of an International Decade of Biodiversity, with a new intergovernmental panel of expertise. French researchers pointed out in November that theinventory of European fauna is incomplete and that they cannot begin to guess what the total might be. Yet Europe is where taxonomy and ecology began: from Beijing to Bradford, from Windhoek to Wisconsin, creatures have formal Latin names because Latin was the scholarly language of the first systematic catalogue of the living world little more than 250 years ago.


Biodiversity is all we have. Living things provide humankind's food, fabric, fibre and pharmaceuticals; they fertilise and pollinate crops, generate oxygen and recycle water. The wealth of nations is built upon biodiversity: even the oil, coal, peat, chalk and flints dug from the ground were once living tissue. So the case for the conservation of life's variety ought to be obvious. But biodiversity is a problem in four parts. We do not know, cannot identify, and cannot even begin to count most of the creatures upon whom we depend; nor do we know how these unidentified species interact with and depend upon each other; yet we are extinguishing this richness at a rate perhaps unparalleled in the 3.5bn year history of life on Earth; and we have as yet no masterplan with which to address any of these challenges.


Right now one fifth of the planet's known vertebrates and one fifth of its named flowering plants are vulnerable, threatened or heading for extinction, but these represent only a small fraction of all that there is to conserve. If biodiversity is still unfinished business in the continent in which research began – and which is still home to most of the world's expertise – then things look ominous for those places so much richer inwildlife and so much poorer not just in money but in scientific investment: those countries with the coral reefs, mangrove swamps, rainforests, savannahs and dry uplands that are home to the greatest diversity.


There are of course vital projects – the Census of Marine Diversitythe Barcode of Life, International Union for Conservation of Nature red lists and so on. But they do not add up to global determination, and so far these initiatives do not address one taxonomic riddle: confusion about how many species have been "discovered" and named more than once. There is a global convention on biological diversity with 193 signatories, which declares that living species are not the common heritage of all mankind; instead states have sovereign rights over their own biological resources, and therefore implicitly a direct interest in conserving them. Since the richest concentrations of biodiversity are held by the poorest nations, scientists from Europe and the US must negotiate formidable bureaucratic and social obstacles before they can begin research, train local naturalists and start to advise on conservation techniques. Such intricacies forced the last-minute cancellation of a London Natural History Museum initiative in Paraguay in November.


Meanwhile, the most conservative estimates suggest that creatures fashioned by millions of years of evolution are being extinguished at a rate a thousand times faster than, for example, at the end of the Ice Age, and that as the human population grows in the next 90 years, this extinction rate is predicted to increase by a further tenfold. Such problems cannot be solved in a year, or a decade. But perhaps, with serious political investment, a concerted global effort can at last begin.









The past year was one of political disappointment in Japan as the government failed to make breakthroughs in resolving crucial economic and diplomatic problems. Prime Minister Naoto Kan and the Democratic Party of Japan should reflect on what went wrong, set clear goals that will capture the minds of people and mobilize every possible resource to realize them.


The nation's economic difficulties, the rapidly graying population, severe competition from emerging economies, the economic and military rise of China, and the deteriorating security environment could make 2011 a watershed year for Japan. The DPJ government must strive to improve the economy and social welfare so people can have more stable lives, and make Japan resilient to whatever economic and diplomatic disturbances assail the country from outside.


When former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama made his policy speech before the Diet in late January 2010, it seemed that Japan saw a ray of hope as he set out such ideas as an "economy for human beings," a "Japan sustained by a New Public Commons," in which people support and help one another, and reform of the "system of government through political leadership." His call for moving U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma outside Okinawa Prefecture reflected his idealism; failure to achieve this objective led to his government's demise.


Mr. Hatoyama's tenure was not without achievements. His administration implemented the idea of making direct payments to people, such as the child allowance and free high school tuition, instead of allowing a taxable-income deduction that mostly benefits those with higher incomes. The Hatoyama administration also introduced income compensation for individual farmers, started a system to openly scrutinize government spending, and crafted relief measures to cover a large number of Minamata disease victims.


Almost unnoticed, Mr. Hatoyama took the initiative in having a bill passed to pay up to ¥1.5 million to former Japanese World War II prisoners of war who had been interned in Siberia, Mongolia and Central Asia — a measure the Liberal Democratic Party had refused to adopt. His handling of the Futenma issue was disastrous, but at least he helped people realize the excessive burden that U.S. bases impose on Okinawans. Mr. Hatoyama apparently was under the illusion that once the DPJ took power from the LDP, he could do as he liked. He failed to comprehend the reality of the dynamics governing Japan's bureaucracy and Japan-U.S. relations. This failure and his lack of prudence, perseverance and preparedness torpedoed his administration.


In contrast to Mr. Hatoyama, Mr. Kan is overly pragmatic, giving short shrift to ideals or principles, as symbolized by his decision to drop what was viewed as a key party slogan — "From concrete to humans" — from the DPJ's manifesto for the July Upper House election. Apparently he did so thinking that public works projects were necessary to buoy the economy. This demonstrates that he lacked both the ability to understand the ideal behind the slogan and the will to follow through on it.


His preference for pragmatism is visible in a variety of issues. He is sticking to the Japan-U.S. accord in May to move the Futenma functions to Henoko — a less populated area in the northern part of Okinawa Island — despite strong Okinawan opposition to the plan. In an effort to smooth business in the Diet, whose Upper House is controlled by the opposition, he approached two opposition parties — first the Social Democratic Party, which upholds the war-renouncing Constitution, and then Tachiagare Nippon, which calls for revising the Constitution and whose express raison d'etre is "bringing down the DPJ." Both rejected his pitch. Mr. Kan should realize that his overly pragmatic approach will obliterate differences between DPJ and LDP politics.


The DPJ's manifesto for the 2009 Lower House election, which helped the party to gain the overwhelming support of voters, is not perfect. Mr. Kan should prioritize election promises and, if necessary, break some of them while seriously considering what policies are necessary to realize such ideals as an "economy for human beings," a "New Public Commons" and "reforming the system of government through political leadership." People want to see such ideals become a reality. With available funds limited, Mr. Kan must strictly prioritize policy measures in an effort to meet their expectations.


The Senkaku incident and North Korea's artillery attacks on a South Korean island underscored the importance of close cooperation between Japan and the United States. Mr. Kan should work intelligently with the U.S. to develop ways to improve defense preparedness and to reduce tension and friction in the region. He also must quickly develop strategies to deal with China and Russia, and realize mutually beneficial relations.








MOSCOW — When Russian President Dmitry Medvedev delivered his annual address to the Federal Assembly, I was struck by the fact that his speech seemed intended for an advanced, prosperous country, not the real Russia of today.


Russia will hold a presidential election in 2012. What happens in 2011 will, in my opinion, be even more important than the election itself. Indeed, the evolution of Russian society could transform Russian politics, despite those domestic opponents who deny change or those who unqualifiedly classify Russia as "incorrigibly authoritarian."


In order for that to happen, a new agenda for Russia must be developed this year. A decade ago, defense of Russia's territorial integrity and restoration of governability topped the list of priorities. People supported a president, Vladimir Putin, who was devoted to this "stabilization" agenda. We may debate the means by which it was pursued, and how successfully, but Russia's "existential" challenges were largely overcome.


Progress on stabilization only highlighted Russia's unresolved problems, which the global financial crisis exacerbated, but did not cause. After all, Russia's resource-based, de-industrializing, expenditure-driven economy is the result of purely domestic choices. Nor was it the crisis that gave rise to corruption, which affects officialdom at all levels, or that caused Russia to lose its democratic dynamic.


We Russians rode along on oil and gas, forgetting that these resources will not last forever. But, even with favorable world market conditions, we did not manage to solve the problem of poverty, in which millions of Russians still live.


I am convinced that Russia's troubles all come down to politics. We need a democratic, competitive environment, initiative at all levels, an active civil society and real public control. Only under such conditions will difficult problems lend themselves to solution.


Starting in 2005-2006, the authorities implemented measures that made responsiveness to acute problems practically impossible. The decisions to appoint, rather than elect, regional governors; to introduce party-list voting; to raise the electoral threshold for parties to enter the Duma; and to repeal the minimum-turnout requirement — all accompanied by rampant manipulation of elections and the mass media — created a political system closed to feedback from society. Not surprisingly, the political elite became self-absorbed and served only its own narrow interests.


This past summer, with wildfires raging outside Moscow, the elite's isolation took on a menacing nature. And something else happened: Society became more demanding, recognizing its own interests and knowing how to express them.


Although the traditions of self- organization in Russian society are neither deep nor strong, real movement in this direction became visible for all to see. Activists from public movements, journalists, ecologists, businessmen and ordinary people who had suffered the tyranny and corruption of public officials began to join in.


The authorities have recognized this, at least to some degree. Medvedev's decision to suspend construction of a highway through the Khimki forest near Moscow in the face of widespread civic protest was important. For many months, Moscow and federal authorities ignored the highway's opponents, so Medvedev's decision was a signal: Contempt for the people is inadmissible.


Yet right after that, the bureaucracy tried to turn the public hearings — called to give people and civil institutions a voice in solving such problems — into an empty formality.


So, the struggle between democratic and anti-democratic tendencies is becoming acute. If the anti-democratic tendencies win out, all that we have accomplished in previous years will be jeopardized — including stability itself.


This threat evidently motivated Medvedev to speak out in November: "It is no secret," Medvedev blogged that "as of a certain period, symptoms of stagnation have begun to appear in our political life, and the threat of turning stability into a factor of stagnation has appeared."


The president's statement was unexpected. Medvedev's assessment attested to his understanding that Russia's problems are rooted in its politics — in the degradation of the ruling party, in the absence of a real opposition and in the lack of respect for the rights of political minorities.


I welcome Medvedev's emphasis on social concerns and his anti-bureaucratic rhetoric. But his statements are only a first step toward formulating a new Russian agenda, the first point of which must be a renewal and acceleration of movement toward real and effective democracy. It is vital that Russians believe that Medvedev's words reflect his priorities, and that he is prepared to fight for them.


Among these priorities, one of the most important is education. We have approached the point when the constitutional requirement of universal, free education may become a fiction.


People are asking: How is it that, after World War II, the state had enough money to provide free education, whereas today's Russian state does not?


Society also demands effective mechanisms for combating corruption, which is turning into a serious political problem, precisely because it has widened the gap between the people and the authorities. Indeed, today's elite cannot or will not solve the problem. Only a serious presidential initiative, supported by civil society and brave new political forces, can do the job.


The new agenda must also include a strong economic component. Patching up holes in the budget and individual initiatives are not enough to ensure economic renewal. Russia needs a breakthrough toward an up-to-date, knowledge-based, and ecologically sustainable economy. Here, I see a direct connection with the problem of education.


I am convinced that Medvedev must become the leader in the process of formulating the new Russian agenda, and he must act in the coming year. Society will support him.


Mikhail Gorbachev, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was the last Soviet head of state. © 2010 Project Syndicate








Will the New Year ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, which has been sitting on a powder keg for more than a month, and bring peace and hope for its 70 million people? The answer, sadly, is a big question mark.


Since the exchange of fire between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) on Nov 23, warmongers have been trying to escalate tensions. But till now peace lovers have prevented the situation from going out of hand. The military drills conducted by the ROK, alone as well as with the United States, were like adding fuel to fire.


The ROK's live-fire artillery drill on Yeonpyeong Island two weeks ago not only brought the world to the edge, but also dealt a heavy blow to many major stock markets.


A war could have broken out had the DPRK not shown exemplary restraint. Instead of its usual stance of retaliation, Pyongyang responded calmly, saying the drill was not worth a reply.


But the risk is that Pyongyang may not show similar restraint if Seoul continues with its hard-line policy.


Messages from Seoul this week have been mixed. On Dec 29, ROK President Lee Myung-bak called for a dialogue within the framework of the Six-Party Talks. This is the first time since the Nov 23 incident that he has endorsed peaceful negotiations, and not confrontation.


But Lee also said the ROK "should make efforts to achieve peace through inter-Korean dialogue while enhancing its defense posture". On the same day, the ROK defense ministry said in a report to Lee that it will enhance measures to deter the DPRK's military provocation. Just a day later, in a white paper on defense, the ROK labeled the DPRK government and its military an enemy.


This is why it is important for countries that want peace and stability restored on the Peninsula to continue their efforts to defuse tensions. Peace and stability on the Peninsula can be achieved only through negotiations.


China, along with other peace-loving countries, has been urging the other parties to resume the Six-Party Talks. It remains committed to an impartial line and hopes that the DPRK and the ROK improve their ties.


The Six-Party Talks, initiated by Beijing in 2003, comprises the DPRK, the ROK, the United States, Japan, Russia and China. It is the only security mechanism in Northeast Asia, and its early resumption is the only effective way of resolving the Korean Peninsula denuclearization issue and safeguarding peace and stability in the region.


Hopefully, a new and stronger global initiative to resolve the Peninsula issue peacefully could be built through occasions such as President Hu Jintao's meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington later this month.







The record high that the Chinese currency hit against the US dollar on the last trading day of 2010 is of great symbolic value. But the unfolding role and expected rise of the yuan signify more substantial changes.


China's rise as the world's second largest economy may be one of the most remarkable global events of the first decade of the 21st century. And though it cannot be said that China will replace the United States as the largest economy in another decade, the gradual rise of the yuan will be a key theme of the 2010s as Beijing shifts its dependence on exports and investments to domestic consumption for economic growth.


The central parity rate of the yuan strengthened to a record high of 6.6227 per dollar on Friday, marking not only a 3-percent rise in the yuan's value in 2010, but also a more-than-24-percent increase since the fixed exchange rate was scrapped in July 2005.


Domestically, the rise of the yuan sends a clear signal to the public that Chinese authorities are determined to fight inflation at all costs. Inflation in China rose to a 28-month high of 5.1 percent in November, fueling public worries that prices could rise further and erode their purchasing power.


Yet, by allowing the yuan to gain against the greenback for 11 consecutive days at the end of 2010, policymakers have overcome concerns that a higher-valued yuan could hurt Chinese exporters deeply and shown how important it is to curb inflation.


On the global front, the yuan's revaluation shows how shortsighted, if not irresponsible, people who blamed the Chinese currency for the imbalance in the world economy have been.


Given the size of the Chinese economy, the revaluation of the yuan has been speedy enough. An exceptionally fast rise in the currency of a major economy during a major global crisis can make the adjustment of global economic imbalance very volatile and destructive.


The revaluation of the yuan may have been outpaced by China's robust economic growth in the first decade of the century. But China's gradual approach to currency revaluation is well in line with the transformation of its growth model. China has been trying for years to boost domestic consumption and make it a key factor of economic growth, but progress in this regard was inadequate in the last decade to significantly tilt the foreign exchange rates in favor of Chinese consumers over exporters.


Hopefully, the case will be different in the new decade as the authorities have just mapped out a new five-year development plan to pursue sustainable growth, driven mainly by domestic consumption. Thus, it is likely that the yuan will be used more widely in cross-border trade.








In China, local governments open and responsive to online public opinion are praised and those suppressing criticisms are shamed


The Chinese government's relationship with the Internet is far more complex than media-filtered presentations. From the central government down to the local level, there have been many experiments to use the Internet to improve government performance and communications with the public. The government doesn't just see the Internet as a challenge; it also considers it an opportunity.


Stories of the proactive use of the Internet by government agencies abound. Perhaps the best examples are websites where members of the public can report corruption cases, such as the website launched by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China in October 2009. The website had so many visitors on its first day that it crashed under heavy traffic.


The Supreme People's Court, too, launched a website last year to solicit reports of illegal activities by judges. Within six months, 294 judges faced disciplinary action, which resulted in 116 prosecutions.


Many government agencies have started using microblogs to improve communications with the public. Reports of police corruption, torture of suspects to extract confession, and collection of illegal or arbitrary fines have dealt a blow to the image of law enforcement departments in recent years. Not surprisingly, police departments have been at the forefront of efforts to use microblogs to regain the public's trust.


The Beijing police department launched its microblog earlier this year. In five months, it has attracted more than 300,000 visitors, even though netizens initially criticized it for its formal, disjointed style bogged down in bureaucracy. But its writers have responded by gradually phasing out their dry official-speak in favor of the lively colloquial expressions or abbreviations widely used by the microblogging community.


The microblog of Guangzhou police department has become popular by sharing timely information with the public. In June, Guangzhou police had an hours-long standoff with an armed man before shooting him down. The police microblog covered the incident live throughout the day, attracting about 250,000 visitors.


Many Chinese officials have learned to use the Internet to show their commitment to serving the people and their responsiveness to public opinion. In Jiangxi province, 72 county-level officials have opened "people's livelihood" blogs. The public can use the blogs to seek help for their individual problems, while officials use them to respond to the requests.


Some officials have chosen to participate in discussions in Internet forums. A county Party secretary in Chongqing was voted one of the top-10 local "cyber-celebrities", because he regularly took part in online discussions on local issues and often responded to suggestions and criticisms.


The most dramatic example of officials' eagerness to demonstrate their Internet-friendliness came from Changzhou in Jiangsu province. After a resident attacked the environmental protection bureau in an Internet forum for failing to deal with water pollution and demanded the resignation of the bureau's director, the bureau offered him a "cyber-supervision of the government" award of 2,000 yuan ($302).


But not everyone is convinced by such initiatives of government agencies and officials. Critics dismiss them as mere public relation stunts. Responding to such criticisms, Guangdong's Party leader Wang Yang said that officials can spend only limited time interacting with netizens: "In this sense, if this is said to be just making a show, then I don't deny it." But Wang argued that when officials like him make such a show, they encourage others to follow in their footsteps and spur efforts to turn the Internet into an institutionalized vehicle for citizens' political participation.


So, are government agencies and officials genuinely interested in using the Internet to better serve the people and give them more opportunities to supervise the government, or is it just an exercise to improve their image? And how many concrete results can these government experiments with the Internet deliver? These are legitimate questions that need to be continuously asked because the Internet will play an increasingly important role in China's political life.


At the moment, the central government appears quite determined to push local governments and officials into ensuring that their Internet-friendliness is meaningful. The People's Daily recently criticized local government websites that had been lying "dormant" rather than serving as active communication channels for the public. The newspaper publishes quarterly rankings of local governments' response to incidents that have gained high profile in cyberspace. Local governments that are open and responsive to online public opinion are praised, while those that try to suppress criticisms are named and shamed.


Apparently, although it still has a long way to go, China is learning how to turn the Internet into its friend rather than an enemy.


The author is a research fellow at the University of Nottingham's School of Contemporary Chinese Studies and an associate fellow at Chatham House.










It has been said, correctly, that Sudan is a microcosm of Africa. For this reason, the entire continent will follow events in Sudan over the next few months with the greatest interest. 


On January 9, 2011, the people of South Sudan will vote in a referendum to decide whether they will remain part of a united Sudan or form a new independent state. If they choose the latter option, the new state will come into being on July 9, 2011. 

During the same period, even as Sudan is addressing the issue of its North-South relations, it will also have to arrive at a comprehensive agreement to end the conflict in Darfur. 

During its nearly 55 years of independence, Sudan has experienced a succession of violent conflicts, in the south, the west (Darfur), and the east. It is commonly accepted that what lay at the root of these conflicts was the failure of independent Sudan — one of Africa's most racially, ethnically, religiously and culturally diverse countries — to construct a polity informed by the principle and practice of unity in diversity. 

This challenge faces almost all African countries as they seek to construct stable and peaceful societies. Virtually all civil wars and other violent conflicts in post-colonial Africa have occurred because of the failure to manage properly the diversity that characterizes these countries. 

These conflicts have taught Africa that, in order to contain the centrifugal pressures that encourage fragmentation within our relatively new states, a conscious effort must be made to nurture and entrench national unity, which must include democratic practices. Conflict has also communicated the unequivocal message that unity cannot be secured and maintained by force alone. 

Rather, it is only by respecting our diversity — ensuring that each social group enjoys a shared sense of belonging, rather than feeling marginalized and excluded — that the state's unity and peace can be guaranteed. Sudan has learned these lessons through harsh practical experience, including war. 

As long ago as 1975, Jafar Al Nimeiry, Sudan's military head of state, stated with great prescience what Sudan and Africa needed to do to achieve peace and stability. 

"Unity based on diversity has become the essence and the raison d'être of the political and national entity of many an emerging African country today. We take pride in that the Sudan of the Revolution has become the exemplary essence of this new hope. The Sudan is the biggest country in Africa. It lies in its heart and at its crossroads. 

"Its extensive territory borders 

[nine] African countries. Common frontiers mean common ethnic origins, common cultures, and shared ways of life and environmental conditions. Trouble in the Sudan would, by necessity, spill over its frontiers, and vice versa. A turbulent and unstable Sudan would not therefore be a catalyst of peace and stability in Africa, and vice versa." 

Poor governance 

Unfortunately, failure to implement policies based on genuine respect for this perspective plunged Sudan into its second costly North-South war, fuelled the violent conflicts in western and eastern Sudan, and created the possibility of the South's secession. 

Given this history, it is clear that the governments of Sudan and South Sudan, as well as the overwhelming majority of the Sudanese people, have had enough of war and passionately desire peace. 

The processes in which the Sudanese parties are currently engaged — the preparations for the South Sudan referendum, negotiations on post-referendum arrangements, and the search for a negotiated settlement in Darfur — are all informed by this desire for peace. 

For this reason, Africa is following Sudan's evolution with intense interest — and is eager to see this country "at the heart and crossroads of Africa" give substance to Al Nimeiry's vision. 

But regardless of the outcome of the South Sudan referendum, the impending developments in Sudan will result in important changes to the structure of the Sudanese state. In this context, the Sudanese parties — North and South — have accepted the important principle of establishing 'two viable states' if the South secedes. 

As happens during periods of major and rapid change, the country will experience social tension, uncertainty and unease. Africa is keen that the Sudanese leadership cooperates effectively to manage this delicate situation, in the interest of the continent as a whole. 

This requires that Sudan's various leadership collectives have sufficient strength and cohesion to bring their constituencies into the settlement, and therefore that no one, from near or afar, does anything to weaken any of these collectives. 

It is in Africa's interest to see Sudan's people living together in peace and cooperating with one another for their mutual benefit — fully respecting one another's diverse but not mutually exclusive interests, whether they live in one country or two. 

A Sudan that truly embodied "the exemplary essence" of respect for diversity of which Al Nimeiry spoke would serve as a catalyst for peace and stability on our continent. 

It is to be hoped that the sustained and enormous international focus on Sudan has as its objective providing the necessary support to the Sudanese people to help them achieve this goal, including building two viable states, as may be necessary. 

(Source: Gulf News) 







Nine years of occupation, over 2,000 lives lost and billions of dollars wasted, yet the U.S. is still in the process of determining what its strategy in Afghanistan should be. 


The Obama administration's year-end review of its strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan was more an exercise in diplomatic obfuscation than an objective assessment of ground realities. Its cautiously reassuring message is belied by a close reading of the public summary which stated that the Taliban insurgency has been slowed, but admitted that this achievement remained "fragile and reversible". In Pakistan, progress has been "substantial" but not enough to deny either al-Qaeda or the Taliban the havens that shelter them. The president asserted that "we are on track to achieve our goals" but the reality remains grim, with a record number of American casualties and fears of Taliban resurgence. 

These fears were confirmed by U.S. intelligence agencies which remain skeptical of the military claims, suspecting them to be politically motivated. The influential International Crisis Group has also dismissed them, pointing out that dozens of new districts have come under Taliban control. The respected Council on Foreign Relations, too, warned recently: "We cannot accept these costs unless strategy begins to show signs of progress." 

What then explains America's continuing reluctance to seek a negotiated settlement and look for politically acceptable safe-exit options? After all, Obama's intelligence and political instincts cannot be doubted. Yet acknowledging mistakes and abandoning failed policies is neither easy nor pain-free, particularly for superpowers that are convinced of their "manifest destiny". It was belief in its invincibility that humiliated the U.S. in Vietnam and destroyed the Johnson administration. 

More worryingly, the review confirmed that the president remains torn between the ambition of his generals and the fear of his advisors. For those who may doubt the extent to which individual ambitions and institutional interests are clouding national objectives, one need only read Bob Woodward's book, Obama's Wars. 

It is fascinating on many counts but more importantly for the portrayal of the infighting in Washington's corridors of power. The jealousies and rivalries he exposes are treacherous. 

Obama comes out a lonely and frustrated figure, failing to garner the support of even his defense and state secretaries who, the author hints, see long-term political advantage in supporting a more robust military posture. 

Recall what President Eisenhower wrote some 50 years ago. Though America's most celebrated soldier, he cautioned against the military's enormous growth, fearing that the economy risked becoming a subsidiary of the military. 

In his farewell address, Eisenhower warned that the influence of "the military-industrial complex was economic, political, even spiritual", and exhorted Americans to break away from their reliance on military might as a guarantor of liberty and "use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment". 

As James Ledbetter points out in his book on Eisenhower, the former president was no pacifist but he deeply feared the consequences of what he called a "garrison state", in which "policy and rights are defined by the shadowy needs of an all-powerful military elite". Obama's failure to get the generals on board with regard to his preferred political strategy in Afghanistan is a painful confirmation of Eisenhower's fears. 

Obama's generals already appear to have succeeded in moving the goalposts. Their ambition, as well as the appetite of the defense industry, is enormous. This explains why Biden was constrained to warn that America would withdraw by 2014, come "hell or high water". The president is caught between Scylla (the military) and Charybdis (his supporters), unable to break away from either. 

There is little evidence of the president being able to listen to experts who call upon the U.S. to radically change its strategy and negotiate directly with the Taliban "now rather than later, since the Taliban will likely be stronger next year". 

Characterizing the 2014 deadline as unrealistic, they have stated that "like it or not, the Taliban are a long-term part of the Afghan political landscape". A genuine role for the Taliban in a new political dispensation in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly inevitable. 

With the Republicans determined to reset the domestic agenda, Obama's room to maneuver even on foreign policy issues is narrowing. 

He has to decide soon on a strategy that actually enables him to declare a 'victory' to pull out troops, without allowing the Republicans to accuse him of abandoning Afghanistan and being soft on national security issues. 

If the American policy is succeeding as the administration claims, then it should have no problem in steadily drawing down its forces. But if the strategy is not working, as critics claim, then it is even more important to abandon the Petraeus-advocated counter-insurgency in favor of a lighter counter-terrorism strategy. In fact, the Petraeus strategy is alienating civilians and intensifying anti-American sentiments while aiding the Taliban in recruiting new fighters. 

America has to abandon the false notion that the more intense the operations, the greater their effectiveness. While there are major differences among the stakeholders about the modalities for the peace process, there is no doubt that the U.S. has to give primacy to political strategy that is complemented by military tactics, rather than the other way round. 

What Obama decides is not a matter of mere academic interest to Pakistan. The Americans continue to demand that we 'do more', while Admiral Mullen speaks of his "strategic impatience" with Pakistan. There is also credible evidence concerning Washington's growing inclination to expand its operations to Pakistan. This is likely to be far more disastrous than Nixon's decision to seek salvation for Vietnam in Cambodia and Laos. 

Let our leaders beware that any show of pusillanimity at this time will unleash the dogs of civil war deep within Pakistan. We have already paid an enormous price in furtherance of U.S. goals; let us not slide into this quagmire. The Americans have the luxury of walking away from the mess but we will remain stuck in it. 

Tariq Fatemi is a senior Pakistani diplomat. The article was first published in the on December 30, 2010. 

Photo: U.S. soldiers are stuck in sand in southern Afghanistan 








Reports suggest Tamir Pardo, Israel's incoming spy chief is ready to own up that the country's intelligence apparatus, Mossad, was behind the assassination of a senior Hamas official in Dubai. 


He is preparing an official apology to the United Kingdom and is seeking to justify the use of forged British passports by Mossad terrorists! 

Evidence clearly point to the fact that Mossad agents used the forged passports of several European countries in early 2009 in order to assassinate senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in the UAE. 

The hit, which triggered immediate condemnation from the United Arab Emirates, can be deemed as one the historic failures of assassination operations carried out by Mossad. 

While the hit squad managed to murder al-Mabhouh in Dubai, subsequent investigations and revelations that Mossad agents had used the forged passports of several European countries as well as Canada and Australia enraged Israel's allies. 

Another failure in recent times for the intelligence agency came when a Mossad-linked spy network was discovered and dismantled in Egypt. 

Cairo has recently announced that a 37-year-old businessman, identified as Tareq Abdul Razzaq Hassan, was spying for two confirmed Mossad agents by the names of 'Joseph Dimor' and 'Idi Moshe,' his Mossad handler. 

Following his arrests the two Mossad agents who were working at the Israel Embassy in Cairo allegedly fled the country to occupied Palestine. Egypt has called on international organizations to assist Cairo in hunting down these two fugitive Mossad agents so that they can face trial in the country's security court. 

The discovery of over 100 Mossad networks in Lebanon, including the dismantlement of an internet intelligence network in Beirut, seems to foreshadow the gradual collapse of the Israeli spy agency. 

Mossad, which has a five-story headquarters in Herzliya, a suburb north of Tel Aviv, is referred to in Israel as the watchful "Eye of David." 

The agency, which was set up with in 1949 with the aim of assassinating foreign personalities opposed to Israeli policies as well as compiling intelligence, has since carried out thousands of terrorist operations across the world. 

The assassination of over 350 Iraqi nuclear scientists, hundreds of Palestinians, dozens of Arab thinkers, and three Iranian nuclear scientists are but examples of Mossad's most recent activities. 

Despite several successes, Mossad has only reaped failures in the past two years, since the exposure of its spy cells in Egypt and Lebanon together with the revelation of its potential for terrorist attack following the Dubai incident, has increased doubts about the agency's competence. 

Due to these failures, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to appoint one of his closest friends Tamir Pardo as Mossad Director Meir Dagan's successor. 

Mossad works directly under the supervision of the Prime Minister's office and any terrorist operations need the premier's authorization and blessing. Security and intelligence ministers will also need to approve the plans. 

Mossad's director, who will have to brief the premier in detail about operations abroad, has a permanent seat on the country's National Security Council. 

An official apology by Mossad will be synonymous to an acknowledgement of an error on part of the agency. This decision will surely entail legal repercussion for the Israeli regime. 

In a trip to London, Pardo is reportedly planning to meet British Foreign Secretary William Hague and British Home Secretary Theresa May to offer his sincere apologies. 

The discovery of a spy cell in Egypt has soured relations between the two countries to a point where Cairo is contemplating severing all ties. Egypt, which has many political, economic, and security ties with Israel, was not prepared to be betrayed in such a way. 

Increasing public anger in Egypt against Israeli policies and what Egyptians see as the regime's efforts to push the country into crises has prompted Cairo to seek legal punishment for the two Israeli agents who fled the country. 

According to al-Shuruk daily, the businessman-turned-spy provided interrogators with copies of reports he passed on to Mossad from a Syrian security official in connection with a Syrian nuclear program in exchange for 1 million dollars. 

This chapter of faux pas has put Mossad and Israel's spying tactics under the spy glass of Arab countries and even the world. This will mark the prelude to the agency's downfall. 

The incoming Mossad directors planned trip to the UK and his official apology is an unprecedented acceptance of defeat and hands Israel a pronounced political and security failure. 

Hence, Mossad, which was one of the main terrorist and intelligence agencies in the world, has suffered one too many defeats and in the near future will be forced to revise its operational foundation. 

Hassan Hanizadeh is the head of the Arabic service of the Mehr News Agency. 

(Source: Press TV) 



EDITORIAL from The Pioneer, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, The Financial Express, The Hindu, The Statesman's, The Tribune, Deccan Chronicle, Deccan Herald, Economic Times, The Telegraph, The Assam Tribune, Pakistan Observer, The Asian Age, The News, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, The New York Times, China Daily, Japan Times, The Gazette, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Guardian, Jakarta Post, The Moscow Times, The Bottom Line and more only on EDITORIAL.




Project By


a trust – of the people by the people for the people

An Organisation for Rastriya Abhyudaya

(Registered under Registration Act 1908 in Gorakhpur, Regis No – 142- 07/12/2007)

Central Office: Basement, H-136, Shiv Durga Vihar, Lakkarpur, Faridabad – 121009

Cell: - 0091-93131-03060

Email –,

Registered Office: Rajendra Nagar (East), Near Bhagwati Chowk, Lachchipur

Gorakhnath Road, Gorakhpur – 273 015






No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Amazon Contextual Product Ads