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Monday, January 10, 2011

EDITORIAL 10.01.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

Editorial

Month january 10, edition 000725, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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

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

 

 

THE PIONEER

  1. LIVING IN DENIAL
  2. ON THE RIGHT PATH
  3. STAND UP TO MAOISTS - JOGINDER SINGH
  4. IF GUILTY, BLAME THE JUDGE! - RAJESH SINGH
  5. RUSSIA TO REVAMP FOREIGN POLICY FOR APEC - GWYNNE DYER
  6. TWO-STATE SOLUTION HITS ROADBLOCK - GWYNNE DYER

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. GRASP THE NETTLE
  2. NANDIGRAM SEQUEL
  3. BLASPHEMY AND THE ISLAMIC WAY - MAULANA WAHIDUDDIN KHAN
  4. 'MALNUTRITION KILLS 56,000 CHILDREN ANNUALLY IN URBAN SLUMS' - JYOTI PUNWANI
  5. STYLE MATTERS - JAIRAM N MENON

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. DON'T HANG UP ON LICENCES
  2. DRAPED CRUSADER
  3. SPEAK TO SURVIVE - MEHMAL SARFRAZ
  4. IN A STATE OVER A STATE IN ANDHRA - PANKAJ VOHRA

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. GANGULY & KOLKATA
  2. GET REAL
  3. KAPIL DENIAL SIBAL
  4. SUNLIGHT TO ELECTRIC LIGHT - BIBEK DEBROY
  5. A BIT OF BRINKMANSHIP - EJAZ HAIDER
  6. IT IS NOT THE SAME, COMRADE - INDER MALHOTRA
  7. HOW CHINA CHECKMATES THE FUTURE
  8. THEY SHALL NOT WIN - SHEHRBANO TASEER
  9. 2011 WILL BE FOR WOMEN - HARNEET SINGH

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. PUTTING PAID TO THE MEDIA
  2. PRICE THIS IN
  3. IT WASN'T ONLY CITI THAT WAS ASLEEP - SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE
  4. WHY DOES INFLATION PERSIST? - MEGHNAD DESAI
  5. EAVESDROPPER
  6. CONCOCTING GODFATHER

THE HINDU

  1. GET SCIENCE PRIORITIES RIGHT
  2. UPBEAT BUT WITH CAVEATS
  3. THE DARK SIDE OF GLOBALISATION - JORGE HEINE & RAMESH THAKUR
  4. A NOTIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL?  - JEAN DRÈZE
  5. A BIG FIRST STEP - ABBY GOODNOUGH
  6. RAIN BRINGS NEW FLOOD WOES TO AUSTRALIA
  7. ENUMERATING THE DISABLED

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. SECURING INDIA'S RISE - KAMAL DAVAR
  2. IPL-4 PUTS INDIANS ON TOP OF THE LIST

DNA

  1. KAPIL SIBAL'S REFUTATION OF CAG A PYRRHIC WIN
  2. ONIONS GET INDIA, PAKISTAN TO TALK
  3. TEARS HAVE THEIR OWN STORY TO TELL
  4. WHY POLITICIANS WON'T CONSTRUCT RURAL HOSPITALS - ABHAY VAIDYA
  5. HAS 2010 BEEN THE COUNTRY'S 'SCAMMIEST' YEAR EVER? - ANIL DHARKER

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. WELL DONE
  2. PARADOXES OF LIFE
  3. FOOD INFLATION A CAUSE FOR WORRY - BY ARABINDA GHOSE
  4. EMBRACE CHINA, NOT AMERICA - BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA
  5. PAKISTAN ON PRECIPICE - BY SAMEER REKHI

THE TRIBUNE

  1. TACKLING 2G SCAM
  2. BLOW TO REDDY BROTHERS
  3. POISONED COLOURS
  4. ASIA: THE COMING MOVES - BY SYED NOORUZZAMAN
  5. LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON - BY R.K. KAUSHIK
  6. GOVERNANCE REFORMS IN PUNJAB TO MAKE ADMINISTRATION RESPONSIVE
    THE NEW YEAR PROVIDES AN OPPORTUNITY FOR STOCK-TAKING AND LOOKING AHEAD. PUNJAB CHIEF MINISTER PARKASH SINGH BADAL AND HARYANA CHIEF MINISTER BHUPINDER SINGH HOODA OUTLINE THEIR AGENDA FOR FUTURE
  7. NO SPACE FOR SOCIAL EVILS IN HARYANA

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. MR SIBAL'S ARITHMETIC
  2. IF NOT SKC, THEN AN SRC
  3. IN SEARCH OF THESOUL OF TELUGUS - SANJAYA BARU
  4. HOW TO BE OR NOT TO BE YEAR OF ENVIRONMENT - SUNITA NARAIN
  5. DANGEROUS COMPLACENCY – A V RAJWADE
  6. SHOULD A STOCK EXCHANGE ALSO BE A REGULATOR ? - PRATIP KAR

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. SIBAL IS RIGHT ON NUMBERS
  2. RENEW FOCUS ON AIR
  3. FUNNY AUTHORITY
  4. CLIMATE TALKS & NATIONAL INTEREST  - MUKUL SANWAL
  5. IS PREDATORY PRICING RATIONAL?  
  6. CHANGING WORLD ORDER IN IT, TELECOM  - RAJIV MODY & V SRIDHAR
  7. LITTLE DROPS MAKE THE MIGHTY OCEAN  - K VIJAYARAGHAVAN

BUSINESS LINE

  1. BETTER TO BET AGAINST BETA - ADARSH GOPALAKRISHNAN
  2. GOVERNMENT'S STRANGE SPIN ON INFLATION  - ASHOAK UPADHYAY
  3. KAPIL SIBAL'S ESCAPOLOGY
  4. COOLING DOWN FOOD PRICES - P.V. INDIRESAN
  5. TOO MANY PHDS, TOO LITTLE SOLID WORTH - B. S. RAGHAVAN
  6. LEARN FROM GERMAN EXPERIENCE  - MOHAN MURTI
  7. MEDIA-SHY AP CORPORATES - BL DIARY

DECCAN CHRONICLE

  1. POLITICS OF GOLI AND BOLI
  2. VAULTING POLL AMBITIONS
  3. LOOK BACK WITH HOPE  - BY DOMINIC EMMANUEL
  4. 'CHINA WON'T OBSTRUCT UNSC BID'
  5. IPL-4 PUTS INDIANS ON TOP OF THE LIST
  6. SECURING INDIA'S RISE  - BY KAMAL DAVAR
  7. MY FATHER LIVED AND DIED FOR PAKISTAN  - BY SHEHRBANO TASEER

THE STATESMAN

  1. WE, THE PEOPLE
  2. REVISED RIOT-DRILL
  3. CO-EXISTENCE THE KEY
  4. COP ON THE BEAT - SANKAR SEN

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. MINISTER'S POINT
  2. EASY TARGET
  3. TWIN GOALS  - S.L. RAO
  4. LAST RESCUE MISSION - GWYNNE DYER

DECCAN HERALD

  1. SUBVERSIVE SIBAL
  2. INTRANSIGENT KOREAS
  3. COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION  - M J AKBAR
  4. THE MOTHERS' COMPETITION -  BHARATHI PRABHU

OHERALDO

  1. STING GETSA TAIL
  2. KISME KITNA DUM
  3. GOA'S HOLISTIC GROWTH UNDER THREAT -  DR JOE D'SOUZA

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. THE OTTOMAN TRAIN CHALLENGE
  2. THE REGION: IDEOLOGY IS A POWERFUL DECEIVER  - BY BARRY RUBIN 
  3. FAREWELL TO 'SUPERMAN'  - BY TZAHI HANEGBI 
  4. AMERICA IS NOT ISRAEL, BUT...  - BY ERROLL G. SOUTHERS 
  5. OUR COMICALLY INSECURE – EVEN HYSTERICAL – ESTABLISHMENT - BY ROI MAOR 

HAARETZ

  1. BIBI PROMISED, BIBI DELIVERS  - BY AKIVA ELDAR
  2. NOW IT'S THE TURN OF THE INTELLECTUALS
  3. WHEN THE MESSIAH COMES, ISRAEL WILL DEPORT HIM  - BY BRADLEY BURSTON
  4. DON'T BOTHER PETITIONING THE HIGH COURT - BY MERAV MICHAELI
  5. THE YEAR OF DEMOCRACY - BY RONEN SHOVAL

USA TODAY

  1. OUR VIEW ON REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: AFTER ARIZONA SHOOTING, TIME TO TONE DOWN VITRIOL
  2. OTHER VIEWS ON REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: 'MADNESS AND INHUMANITY'

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. BLOODSHED AND INVECTIVE IN ARIZONA
  2. CAN YOU TRUST THE MARKET?
  3. AT LEAST SOME POLITICIANS GET IT
  4. MAYOR BLOOMBERG SHOVELS OUT
  5. A RIGHT TO BEAR GLOCKS? - BY GAIL COLLINS
  6. UNITED IN HORROR - BY ROSS DOUTHAT
  7. CLIMATE OF HATE - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  8. STAYING AFLOAT DOWN UNDER - BY NICK EARLS

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. ATROCIOUS MASS MURDER!
  2. SOME 'RECOVERY'
  3. NONSENSE RULING AGAINST A CROSS
  4. A BATTLE WE CAN WIN

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

1.      FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - TURKEY'S STAKE IN SUDAN'S REFERENDUM

2.      WHO WINS IN A TWO-PARTY SYSTEM IN TURKEY? - SONER ÇAĞAPTAY

3.      COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ON THE TURKISH ECONOMY - EMRE DELİVELİ

4.      PAPANDREOU AND ERDOĞAN, PARLEYING OR CAMPAIGNING? - ARIANA FERENTINOU

5.      PAPANDREOU'S WORDS - YUSUF KANLI

6.      GLOBAL OPENING VISION AND FACTS - SAMİ KOHEN

7.      ALARM BELLS ARE RINGING IN SOUTHERN CAUCASUS - C. CEM OĞUZ

 

THE NEWS

  1. NEW GOVERNOR?
  2. DYING OF COLD
  3. INTERNAL CONFLICT
  4. ANOTHER BOTCHED AMENDMENT?  - ASIF EZDI
  5. MOBOCRACY - CHRIS CORK
  6. ASSANGE'S WARS - SANA BUCHA
  7. REVOLUTION—WORD AND REALITY - DR A Q KHAN

 

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. IS QADRI BECOMING A HERO?
  2. ATTRACTING DOMESTIC INVESTORS
  3. CHILE TOO RECOGNIZES PALESTINE AS SOVEREIGN STATE
  4. AFGHANISTAN FOCUS! - AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)
  5. GLOBAL PEACE THRU INTERFAITH HARMONY - DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN
  6. CHAOS GREETINGS 2011 - ALI ASHRAF KHAN
  7. THE REASON - YAHYA AHMAD

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. THE REAL CHALLENGE FOR SUDAN
  2. THE PROOF OF PORTS STRATEGY LIES IN CONVINCING COAG
  3. CANBERRA MUST DECIDE ON GST

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. THE BOGYMEN OF BEIJING
  2. HOSPITAL LAND: SELL NOW, PAY LATER
  3. CONTRACTS AS BAD AS EVER FOR DRIVING AWAY GOOD TEACHERS

THE GUARDIAN

  1. ARIZONA SHOOTING: WILD WEST POLITICS
  2. SHOPPING: THE FEELBAD FACTOR
  3. IN PRAISE OF … LEMMY

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. RELIEF FOR DRUG SIDE EFFECTS
  2. OVERCOMING DEFLATION PSYCHOLOGY
  3. ZOMBIE BANKS CAN'T FEEL THE MONEY SPLASH - BY BENN STEIL
  4. NORTH KOREA'S FORGOTTEN CRISIS - BY RYO TAKAHASHI
  5. A PLEA TO THE PRINCE FOR A PRACTICAL WAY TO HARMONY - BY KEVIN RAFFERTY

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. PROCEDURAL DIPLOMACY
  2. A CRITICAL YEAR FOR REDD IN INDONESIA
  3. FITRIAN ARDIANSYAH AND ADITYA BAYUNANDA
  4. ASEAN IN THE 'POST-DEMOCRATIC PLUS' STAGE - P.L.E. PRIATNA
  5. GAYUS THE PERSON OF THE YEAR - PUTERA SATRIA SAMBIJANTORO

 CHINA DAILY

  1. HEAVY PRICE FOR POLLUTER
  2. SMOKING BAN
  3. DEBATE: AGING POPULATION
  4. COPYRIGHTED VIDEO RAISES IPR AWARENESS - BY SUN XIAOZHENG, ZHANG  DUO, CHANG YISHU (CHINA DAILY)
  5. TOBACCO CONTROL NECESSARY - BY LI YANG (CHINA DAILY)

DAILY MIRROR

  1. THE NEED FOR A COUNTER CORRUPTION COMMISSION
  2. THE MYSTERY OF MASS BIRD DEATHS - BY OLIVIA LANG- BBC NEWS
  3. MISMANAGEMENT AND POLITICS CAUSE CRISES IN MOST SPHERES OF ACTIVITY - BY MILINDA RAJASEKERA
  4. UN PANEL AND SRI LANKAN INTERESTS  - BY AUSTIN FERNANDO
  5. MR. WIJERATNE VERSUS MR. SILVA

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

LIVING IN DENIAL

ABSURD TO CLAIM THERE WAS NO 2G LOOT


Mr Kapil Sibal was made the Telecom Minister to clean up the mess that his predecessor, Mr A Raja, had created with the 2G Spectrum scam, but he has astounded everyone by declaring there was no scam at all and that the loss to public exchequer was "zero". If one takes this statement at face value, the ongoing inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation is meaningless as it is probing a racket that never happened. Not just that, the Central Vigilance Commission which took serious note of irregularities in spectrum distribution, too had wasted its time and energy to recommend a CBI investigation. As for the Comptroller and Auditor General, it conjured figures out of thin air and made a mountain of a molehill. The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, before which the Prime Minister has offered to depose, should, going by the Minister's assertion, be doing something more creative than studying an imaginary matter. It is amazing that Mr Sibal should arrive at the incredulous conclusion even as various agencies are struggling to unravel the scandal. His aggressive body language at the Press conference where he made the statement as well as in various television channel interviews, where he sought to run down his interrogators, was a clear indication that the otherwise erudite Minister was bluffing his way along. Surely there are better ways for the Congress and the UPA Government to wriggle out of the situation — with nothing being more sensible than to admit wrongdoing and go about punishing the guilty. Even Mr Manmohan Singh, who sadly did not crack the whip when Mr Raja flouted his directive to freeze allocation till the contentious matter was sorted out, never rubbished the scam as non-existent. In any case, far from strengthening the Union Government's (and the Congress's) position, Mr Sibal's combativeness has further sharpened the conflict between the ruling dispensation and the Opposition, hampering any understanding before the Budget session commences in February. Moreover, his remarks have deepened the suspicion that the UPA is determined to bury the scam by letting loose irrelevant issues that can serve to divert attention from the primary contention. Powerpoint presentations and bluster, which the Telecom Minister has used to validate his outrageous statement, could not answer just one basic question: why was 2G spectrum allotted in 2008 at 2001 prices?

And that brings us to the core issue. Nobody is suggesting money was illegally taken out of the public exchequer, but that money which should have come in did not. The country lost valuable revenue because spectrum was sold in 2008 at 2001 market price. On that basis, the CAG estimated the loss at `1.76 lakh crore. By thrashing that estimate, Mr Sibal is not harming the opposition but the very institution of the CAG. The CAG arrived at the loss figures through the application of time-tested scientific models, and there is no reason to suspect that. Incidentally, the CAG had sought replies from the Telecom Ministry during the preparation of the report. Despite seeking (and getting) three extensions to do so, the Ministry failed to respond to the points the institution had raised, including the revenue loss figures. The Ministry was given yet another opportunity to do so just before the publication of the final report, and again it did not. Clearly, it had no defence, and in its arrogance believed no harm could come to it by brushing aside the institution's queries.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

ON THE RIGHT PATH

BUT CHILDCARE STILL REMAINS A CHALLENGE


The Coverage Evaluation Survey showing that there has been an average decline in the infant mortality rate per year between 2004 and 2008 serves to underscore that India is walking the right path in providing healthcare services to poor people. However, the still-high IMR at 53 per 1,000 live births not only shows an appalling absence of rudimentary healthcare in a country that boasts to be one of the fastest growing economy but that maternal and child health services, which occupy an important place in the socio-economic development programmes, need more focus to address the problem. Having said that, there is no denying that the Governments of States like Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Odisha etc, which traditionally have high incidence of IMR, deserve to be lauded for their proactive initiatives that have resulted in significant rise in major indicators of the maternal and child healthcare such as immunisation, newborn care practices and institutional delivery. If the continuous efforts of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan under 'Janani Suraksha Yojna' has changed the scenario of institutional delivery in the State, then Bihar has shown drastic improvement in full immunisation coverage. However, it would be in order to draw attention to the fact that there is a need for convergence of similar programmes such as National Rural Health Mission and Integrated Child Development Services to bring about more synergy and effective implementation. What is also needed is a horizontal integration of the NRHM and the State Health services to address irrational distribution of human resource and better utilisation of infrastructure.


Although the rural model under the NRHM is showing results, what remains a cause of concern is that there is no perfect model to arrest the growing incidence of IMR in urban slums. Studies have shown that the nutritional status of slum children is even lower than the rural average primarily because families living in urban slums do not qualify for the 'below poverty line' category. And the rural model fails to take into account deep-rooted problems afflicting urban slums, where children are exposed to unhygienic condition, pollution and contamination due to overcrowding and lack of basic civic amenities. Hence, the authorities must come up with a separate set of services for urban areas, especially urban slums. Minister of State for Health Dinesh Trivedi's offer to the Indian diaspora to come forward and partner with the Government in making healthcare facilities more accessible is a welcome move. However, the Government must not lose sight of the fact that in coming years the cost of healthcare will increase alarmingly and the low-income group will be at a disadvantage. So, it is essential to have an equity focus that will provide returns in the poorest areas.

 

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        THE PIONEER

COLUMN

STAND UP TO MAOISTS

JOGINDER SINGH


It's absurd to sympathise with Binayak Sen who helped Maoists under the garb of helping tribals


One fails to understand the reason behind such an uproar against the conviction of Binayak Sen, who is actually a front man, courier and a supporter of Maoists. Just because he is a paediatrician by profession and has worked for tribals does not mean he cannot commit any wrong. The lower court, which has sentenced him to life imprisonment along with two others after an open, two-and-half-year trial, must have found him guilty of criminal conspiracy to commit sedition. Everyone expresses full faith in the judiciary as long the judgement, be it acquittal or conviction, is in favour. The moment a verdict is contrary to one's expectation, the fairness of the judiciary is questioned.


Rights activists, Left sympathisers and members of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha held a rally and staged a sit-in to protest against the verdict. Such ceremonial protests by activists, who call themselves the custodians of civil and human rights and believe in making irresponsible statements, go on to show that they want to have all the benefits and rights of a democracy but none of the responsibilities of protecting the nation from those who threaten to destroy it. What surprises one is that a former Chief Justice has called the judgement "nonsensical" and "unacceptable" and that he feels "ashamed to belong to a judiciary that delivered such a ridiculous judgement."

The sole objective of these Maoists is to browbeat the security forces and civilians so that their illegal activities like kidnapping for ransom, extortion and protection racket remain unchallenged. What is most disturbing is that they are doing all this and more in the guise of helping tribals and uplifting their lot. An estimate puts their earnings from illegal activities at `1,500 crore. They impose their reign of terror by killing innocent people and men in uniform. Between 2005 and May 2010, they have taken the lives of 10,268 people. While 2,372 deaths were reported in 2009 as many as 1,769 people died in 2008 and 1,737 in 2007. In one of the worst Maoist attacks, 55 civilians were killed, 40 injured and 125 kidnapped at Dantewada on February 28, 2006. And more recently in April 2010, 76 CRPF personnel were massacred in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh.

It irks to see that there is not a word of sympathy from these so-called civil rights activists for the innocent people slaughtered in cold blood by Maoists. But they are up in arms when a conspirator is convicted by a court of law. They are least bothered about Maoist crimes and large-scale corruption. All they want is cheap publicity and this casts doubts on their sincerity.


The Union Minister for Finance, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, is right in slamming the argument that Maoist violence is an offshoot of lack of development as "more imaginary than actual". The Minister, reacting to the 'root-cause theorists' who routinely peddle the 'lack of development' theory to justify the spread of Maoism, said the Maoists are engaged in a political project to capture power by using guns. In his words: "Development is needed. Lack of development may swell Maoist cadre. But they do not run charitable institutions ... They are political elements and want to capture power."


The Union Minister for Home Affairs, Mr P Chidambaram, has been equally candid. He said in unequivocal terms that intellectual and material support to Maoists from various quarters was making the Government's task to curb the menace all the more difficult. He has been equally critical of the liberal media for giving these murderers respectability. According to him, Maoists seduce the media by making false charges in court to generate sympathy. "Maoists believe in violence which has no place in a democracy. A strong head, a stronger heart and staying power is required to tackle them," he said.


That the Maoists have been creating mayhem in the country for the past few years is common knowledge. They account for the top five worst attacks on men in uniform anywhere in India, including Jammu & Kashmir and the North-East. The following instances serve to underscore the threat they pose:

 

  March 15, 2007: 55 killed in an armed attack and bombings at Bijapur in Chhattisgarh.

 

  June 29, 2008: 31 policemen, mostly from anti-Maoist Greyhounds of Andhra Pradesh, and four paramilitary personnel killed in an attack on a motor boat at Malkangiri in Odisha.

 

  April 8, 2004: 19 Jharkhand Armed Police personnel and nine CRPF men killed by landmines at Chaibasa in Jharkhand.

 

  July 9, 2007: 16 CRPF men, eight policemen from Chhattisgarh and one civilian killed in Maoist attack at Dantewada in Chhattisgarh.

 

  February 15, 2010: At least 24 personnel of the Eastern Frontier Rifles killed in an attack on the EFR camp at Silda in West Bengal.

 

  April 2010: 76 CRPF men killed in an ambush at Dantewada in Chhattisgarh.


The prophetic warning of Mr Chidambaram needs to be drilled into the heads of civil rights activists: "There can be no half-way approach. Most people still think there could be a compromise or some kind of median approach. This is immature and foolish ... This (Maoist violence) is expected because as long as we did not engage them, they were happy and expanding. They will continue to expand unless we challenge them."

The rights activists would do well to advise their Maoist friends on the futility of killing innocent and poor people. In fact, that would be of help in dealing with what the Prime Minister describes as "the most serious threat to India's internal security". Despite the Prime Minister's deep concern over the "virtual collapse of law and order in view of extortion demands, display of arms, encroachments on public property and the militant rhetoric of Maoist leaders at rallies and meetings", the situation remains unchanged. It is high time for every right-thinking person to come to the aid of the Government. On its part, the Government needs to change the law to encourage people to come forward and depose before a court of law, as nobody, except a foolhardy person, would do so when an atmosphere of fear and terror prevails.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

IF GUILTY, BLAME THE JUDGE!

RAJESH SINGH


That Ilina Sen, wife of doctor-activist Binayak Sen, should trash the justice system is eerily similar to the credo of the Maoists who reject democracy and republicanism and seek to subvert the Indian state and overthrow its elected legitimate Government. Her ideology shows through the veneer of sophistry

It required just one unfavourable verdict — and that too from a lower court — for the family and friends of convicted doctor-activist Binayak Sen to launch a bitter tirade against the Indian judiciary. Until the other day they were confident that the legal system would give them justice. For a number of people, the verdict of the Additional Sessions Court in Chhattisgarh was indeed justice; for Binayak Sen and his sympathisers it was travesty of that. The matter will now be debated in the High Court — where it has reached, and, if necessary, in the Supreme Court as well. But already the wife of the high-profile activist, sentenced for life on a variety of charges including sedition, has declared her loss of faith in the judiciary. So upset was she that she announced her desire to seek asylum in a "more democratic and liberal country", but retracted the statement a few days later.

That Ms Ilina Sen should not have trust in one of the pillars of Indian democracy is eerily similar to the credo of the Maoists who reject the Indian establishment and seek to replace it through their brand of violence. The Red ultras also have contempt for the political and the judicial system. But the Sens have claimed to be part of the mainstream, working for the welfare of tribals, and so they should not have succumbed to the extremist conclusions. Damning the Chhattisgarh administrative and judicial mechanism, she now says her husband should have demanded that the trial be conducted outside that State. If she believes that would have offered her a better chance of justice, it is still not late to resort to that move. But no, like the Maoists she too concludes that it is useless to depend on a system that has, despite its faults, delivered for six decades since independence. The appeal to the High Court, one would presume from her point of view, is one of just going through the motions.

It remains a mystery why she expressed a desire to seek asylum. There have been no reported threats to her — although she claims to fear for her life — nor has she exhausted all the means of justice and arrived at a dead end where staying back would entail a dangerous existence. Incidentally, she forgets that the Maoists, who have been termed as among the country's greatest threats to internal security, continue to flourish, though occasionally some get eliminated. If they can fearlessly continue, why should Ms Sen, who self-admittedly has done nothing wrong, be worried? Of course, innocent people do get trapped, harassed, tortured and even prosecuted at times in the country, and that is unfortunate. But there are mechanisms to address such excesses, and they have been applied to correct wrongs in several instances. In any case, if every 'wronged' person comes to believe that asylum is the only way out, there would be an exodus from this country — and from any other nation as well, since even the most liberal and democratic country suffers from drawbacks.

Perhaps the asylum declaration was designed to embarrass the country before the rest of the world that has been lapping up the Binayak Sen case. There are enough human rights activists across the globe to project her despair as a monumental failing of rights record in India. With such a network of well-wishers, Ms Sen can well become an international celebrity at the cost of India's image. One wonders, though, which "more liberal democratic country" she had planned to settle down in. The US, the UK? Well, look at how they have dealt with Mr Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, who had the courage to publish classified material that has shaken several nations. She had the option of the Gulf States, one of which has given refuge to noted painter MF Hussain, who fled India because he had no "creative freedom" to perform here. One needs to be an extraordinary person to market the idea that a Gulf nation offers more creative freedom than India.

Having ridiculed the judge who convicted Binayak Sen, the latter's friends have turned their attention to the "archaic" provisions dealing with sedition and conspiracy against the Government that nailed Binayak Sen. There have been of late a number of articles slamming Section 124(A) of the Indian Penal Code on the ground that it had been promulgated by the British regime to stifle nationalist sentiments, and thus had no place in present times. While its continuation is a matter of healthy debate, it must be remembered that the country did adopt the provision in 1951 after it had been thoroughly discussed by our law makers. Their relevance was felt even 60 years ago; surely now, when the country is faced with several threats to internal security, they are not out of fashion.


Incidentally, the law on sedition was upheld by the Supreme Court in the landmark Kedarnath Singh versus State of Bihar case in 1962 — the very same case that is being parroted by sympathisers of the convicted activist to claim that Binayak Sen had been wronged. The apex court had said that under provisions of 124(A) that deal with sedition, there could be reasonable restrictions to one's freedom of speech as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution. A Constitution Bench observed that the provisions "impose restrictions on the fundamental freedom of speech and expression, but those restrictions cannot but be said to be in the interests of public order and within the ambit of permissible legislative interference with that fundamental right."

Elaborating on the apparent contradiction between the sedition law and the constitutional right to free speech or expression, the Bench had stated, "It is well settled that if certain provisions of law construed in one way would make them consistent with the Constitution, and another interpretation would render them unconstitutional, the court would lean in favour of the former construction. The provisions of the sections read as a whole… make it reasonably clear that the sections aim at rendering penal only such activities as would be intended, or have a tendency to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence."

 

All through the verdict, the learned justices took pains to explain why provisions of the law should not be read in isolation but should be considered in totality. In the Binayak Sen case, therefore, harping just on Article 19 that provides freedom of speech and expression without taking into account the restrictive measures of the constitutionally valid Section 124(A), is bound to lead to lopsided conclusions.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

RUSSIA TO REVAMP FOREIGN POLICY FOR APEC

GWYNNE DYER


Though it will take several years for Russia to revamp its Asia-Pacific policy, the 2012 APEC summit in Vladivostok is an opportunity for it to reflect on which of its initiatives will yield result and which will be met with a blank stare


Russia will host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Vladivostok in the fall of 2012. This may seem a long way off, but Russia must start planning for this difficult undertaking right away, as the host country presides over the work of APEC's 21 member states — from the United States to Brunei — in the year leading up to the annual summit.


Building hotels and bridges in Vladivostok to prepare for the summit is by no means easy work. The greater challenge, however, will be Russia's responsibility to set the theme for APEC once it takes the reins from the United States, who will host the 2011 forum in Hawaii. There is more to setting a theme than coming up with a catchy slogan. In fact, Russia may have to revamp a significant part of its foreign policy.


America wants free trade


Russia does not even have a full year, but rather 11 months, to accomplish the task. The annual week-long APEC forum, which ends with a summit attended by Presidents and Prime Ministers, usually begins in November, and sometimes as early as October. At a meeting of the APEC Senior Officials in Honolulu on December 12, not long after the 2010 summit in Yokohama ended, the United States announced its theme for 2011: Creating a seamless economy in the Asia-Pacific region by strengthening regional integration and expanding trade, promoting a green economy and better coordinating trade regulations.


These are not the most captivating bullet points but there is still time to polish them up and make them more memorable. What they boil down to is clear — free trade. The theme is a logical choice — one that complements America's work in APEC over the past few years. The United States needs to boost export to countries that are skilled at protecting their markets. In the past few years, the United States has been suffering from a trade deficit because exporters like Japan and China, to name a few, know how to subtly close off their markets to foreign countries. But APEC offers the United States a chance to change the rules. APEC, after all, is all about economic cooperation. Politics don't enter into the equation.

 

Other host countries have pursued different agendas. Japan, which presided over APEC in 2010, focussed on "human security" as a means to boost growth. Other past themes include integrating indigenous peoples and tribes into the Asia-Pacific economy. This is to be expected in an organisation whose members include Indonesia, Peru and other countries with tribal populations.


The theme should be both meaningful to the presiding country and acceptable and interesting to the other member states.


After announcing a theme, the presiding country usually hosts at least 30 meetings that include most APEC member states. These are primarily meetings of Ministers from member states as well as commissions and sub-commissions on IT, tourism, fishing and a myriad of other issues. The presiding country has to lead each discussion.

Unlike the EU, for example, APEC is entirely voluntary. There are no set standards, and yet it is more efficient and effective than the EU. APEC is a powerful machine that runs all year round. The year-end summit, which Russia will host in Vladivostok in the fall of 2012, is a ceremonial wrap-up after a year of hard work. Still, hosting the ceremony requires a great deal of effort.


A backward policy


It is no secret that the Russian Government and independent experts have already begun the search for APEC's theme in 2012. Already the process has yielded some surprises.


Russia has been pursuing the same set of initiatives since it joined APEC in 1998, not unlike its neighbours in the organisation. Its focus has been on natural disaster relief, counter-terrorism, regional security, and the idea of Russia as a transportation bridge between Europe and Asia. Mr Mikhail Gorbachev outlined these priorities in a speech in Vladivostok back in 1986, and they have changed little since.


The 2012 APEC summit in Vladivostok is an opportunity for Russia to reflect on which of these initiatives actually yield results and which are met with a blank stare from its partners.


For that matter, it has yet to be known why Russia is incapable of launching successful Europe-Asia transportation projects when other countries have. For example, China is successfully reviving the Silk Road across Central Asia.


Russia's perennial proposal to bolster regional security is essentially irrelevant. APEC, in this respect, is more like the EU than Nato — its purpose is to create a common economic space. Improved security couldn't hurt, but APEC is not the appropriate venue to pursue it. The ASEAN Regional Forum already deals with security matters in the region.


The problem of Russia's Far East

For over 20 years, Moscow has been saying that APEC is a tool to develop Siberia and Russia's Far East. The Government took a step towards realising this plan by choosing Vladivostok as the host city for the APEC summit.

But the time has come for Russia to rethink its approach to APEC in light of how much the world has changed over these 20 years. For example, APEC now includes the United States and Canada, only half of whose territory lies in the Asia-Pacific region. But nobody in America thinks that APEC is a tool to develop the West Coast, say, California, or that the EU is a tool to develop the East Coast.


For all major countries, the Asia-Pacific region has become a matter of survival — if you are successful in APEC, your future is secure. All countries, including Russia, go to China and neighbouring countries to compete for deals. And Russia, it must be acknowledged, continues to play a secondary role in APEC and the Asia-Pacific region at large.


Perhaps the time has come for Russia to think of its Asia-Pacific strategy as something more than a means to achieving local ends. The strategy should be to ensure that Russia as a whole, rather than its eastern part, does not fall behind in this new era dominated by the Asia-Pacific region. Furthermore, investments from the region more often go to Moscow, St Petersburg and other locations in western Russia. Again, there is much food for thought here.


It would be naïve to believe that Moscow will completely reinvent its Asia-Pacific policy in the few months of 2011. More likely, 2011 and Russia's time presiding over APEC in 2012 will get the ball rolling. It will take several more years for Russia to revamp its Asia-Pacific policy.


(The writer is a Moscow-based political affairs columnist.)

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

TWO-STATE SOLUTION HITS ROADBLOCK

GWYNNE DYER


Popular support in Israel for a land-for-peace deal collapsed years ago, but now the Palestinians are losing faith in a two-state future. For, they believe that no Israeli politician would ever have political courage to halt Jewish settlements across the West Bank


What does it mean when the United States, Britain, France and Spain upgrade the diplomatic status of the Palestinian delegations in their capitals, as they all did in the past year? When the number of countries recognising Palestinian statehood now exceeds one hundred?


Mr Binyamin Ben Eliezer, former deputy Prime Minister of Israel and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labour in the current Government, thinks he knows. "I wouldn't be surprised if within one year the whole world supports a Palestinian state, including the United States," he warned his Cabinet colleagues recently.

Mr Ben Eliezer doesn't mean a hypothetical Palestinian state at some point in the distant future, after Israelis and Palestinians have miraculously agreed on borders, refugees, etc. He means a real Palestinian state, declared this year and promptly recognised by practically everybody.


It would have a seat at the United Nations and the right in principle to control its own borders, though in practice it would still be under Israeli military occupation. Exactly where its borders are, like a host of other issues, would have to be settled afterwards, by direct negotiation between Israel and Palestine.


At first glance, the immediate creation of an independent Palestinian state sounds like an idea whose time has come. The "peace process," now 17 years old, has clearly run out of road, goes the argument, so we might as well try something different. As a rationale for creating a full-fledged Palestinian state now, that's not very convincing — but it's not really why people are talking about this.


Many Arabs and Americans support the idea because they hope that the creation of a legitimate and theoretically independent Palestinian state would give Mr Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, enough credibility to keep the West Bank out of the hands of Hamas a while longer. (Hamas, which rejects any permanent peace with Israel, already controls the Gaza Strip, the other part of occupied Palestine.)

Some Israelis back the idea too, but not many, and none in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Government. Mr Netanyahu does everything he can to avoid direct peace talks, because any Israeli concessions would break the ruling coalition apart. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liebermann says that even an "intermediate" peace deal could take decades.


So, despairing advocates of a peace settlement are now lining up behind the idea of declaring Palestinian statehood even in the United States, where former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk recently endorsed the idea. But it is, alas, an idea whose time has not only come but gone.


It has suddenly become popular because a lot of people are finally realising that the "two-state solution", seen for the past quarter-century as the only possible foundation of a permanent Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, is dying if not already dead. The proposal to create a real Palestinian state, even without agreed borders, is meant as a last-minute rescue mission, but it probably comes too late.

Popular support in Israel for a land-for-peace deal collapsed years ago, but now the Palestinians are also losing faith in a two-state future. They are concluding that the peace-talks have been a charade from the very start, because Israeli politicians, even the best-intentioned ones, will never find the political courage to stop the process of spreading Jewish settlements across the West Bank.


What is the point, Palestinian critics ask, of a truncated Palestinian state that is riddled with Jewish settlements and utterly dominated by Israel? What do Palestinians have to lose if they forget about a state for now and just wait until a higher Palestinian birth rate makes them a majority across all of former colonial Palestine (ie Israel and the occupied territories)?


They would have to live through another ten or fifteen years of military occupation and occasional Israeli punishment campaigns like the 2008 operation in Gaza. They would have to accept that there will never be an exclusively Palestinian state. But once they became the majority, they would launch a non-violent civil rights movement demanding one person, one vote in all the lands between the Jordan and the sea.


That demand — One Big State with equal rights for all — is what wise Israelis fear most, because it would put Israel in the same position as apartheid South Africa. All these people, both Arabs and Jews, live on lands that are under your permanent control, the rest of the world would say. Why won't you let the Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank vote? Israel would survive, but it would become a pariah.


That is why Mr Netanyahu has suddenly demanded that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a specifically Jewish state: If they agreed to that, they could never credibly demand One Big State. It is also why various non-Israelis have begun to advocate the early creation of a Palestinian state: They are hoping to keep the two-state solution alive. But it is already on life support, and the oxygen is running out.


(Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist.)

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

GRASP THE NETTLE

 

The common man's headache just got bigger. Food inflation spiked to 18.32% for the week ended December 25. Worse, non-food prices seem northbound as well, including for petrol and consumer durables. Borrowing costs too are up. Fears about the double whammy of price rise and possible RBI rate hikes made the sensex nosedive last week, FIIs exiting massively on the assumption of dented corporate earnings. Balancing the persisting need to push growth with concerns on generalised inflation, RBI and the government will have to take a tough call soon on more aggressive hardening of monetary and fiscal policy, as IMF suggests.

For now, food bills must come down. Tackling supply-side issues is primarily the government's job and it doesn't help that
UPA bosses seem at sea, some even saying they lack the "tools" to cool prices. Granted, rising incomes have upped demand for food and consumption baskets have diversified. In that light, price increase signals that people across the social spectrum are earning and eating better. Granted, also, that India alone isn't inflation-hit. Mounting international food prices have triggered alarm in many governments and global financial institutions. But this can't excuse past inaction and present paralysis. What India must surely do is try to match rising domestic demand with higher farm output.


The impact, if any, of ad hoc responses to repeated crises such as crackdowns on hoarders, export bans, etc, is short-term. Nor do farmers benefit from high prices, being shackled to middlemen while lacking information about rates in distant markets. Fast-growing India must confront the real issue: agriculture's reform. Tellingly, consumers today are flocking to big retail chain stores selling food at cheaper rates. Yet political myopia has blocked liberalisation of multibrand retail. Without private funds inflow in the farm sector, huge amounts of fruits, vegetables and foodgrain will continue to rot each year thanks to our creaking cold chain and warehouse infrastructure.

Policy making must focus on farming's modernisation, whether to upgrade irrigation with water conservation as a key goal, promote vegetable production under hothouse conditions or boost R&D in seed and soil quality, monsoon readiness or GM foods. Unviable farm size impeding smart use of money and technology, farmers' cooperatives need encouraging as also contract farming - albeit with wage-linked safeguards - which draws big-ticket capital to agri-business. Finally, besides building good supply links, barriers on movement of commodities and arcane restrictions on marketing must go, to cut transaction costs that impact retail pricing. For far too long, political championing of farmers and consumers has been limited to sloganeering. We need change, and fast.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

NANDIGRAM SEQUEL

 

The gun violence in West Bengal's Midnapore district which resulted in the deaths of at least eight villagers and caused many more injuries, demonstrates a lethal disregard for the rule of law. Every aspect of the incident confirms this. The firing took place in a CPM armoury, and armed cadre opened fire apparently because villagers were protesting demands that they send family members to join the militia. This is the biggest bloodbath in Bengal since 14 villagers resisting land acquisition were shot dead in Nandigram in 2007. Private citizens cannot be made to cower under the gun. Regardless of the contention that militias are a response to the threat posed by Maoists, their very existence in a democratic state is an abomination.


The incident also reveals a contradiction at the heart of Bengali politics. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's constitutional responsibilities are compromised by elements of his party resorting to the gun. Despite his party's actions, it remains his responsibility to rein in his party and change the way it deals with opposition, political or otherwise. The way is clear. Terminate the political succour that permit militias to spawn and become a law unto themselves, and permit the police to function without let or hindrance against militias of whatever political stripe. If state police cannot tackle the job by themselves, Bhattacharjee ought to take this up with the Union home minister and call for central paramilitary reinforcements. P Chidambaram has indeed invited Bhattacharjee to Delhi for a meeting, an offer he must take up. Mamata Banerjee, too, needs to do her bit by not consorting with the Maoists. Otherwise the state seems condemned to an unending cycle of anarchy and bloodshed.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

BLASPHEMY AND THE ISLAMIC WAY

MAULANA WAHIDUDDIN KHAN

 

Due to some recent events in Pakistan, the issue of blasphemy is again in the news. It is generally held that Islam prescribes capital punishment for those who commit blasphemy; that is, using abusive language against the Prophet of Islam. But this is quite untrue. According to Islam, blasphemy is simply a misuse of freedom and not a cognisable offence; the blasphemer is not liable to incur legal punishment. This kind of law has no basis in Islamic scriptures. If someone uses abusive language against the Prophet, Muslims must take it as a case of misunderstanding, and then try to remove this misunderstanding. They are required to do so by engaging in discussion or by providing the blasphemer with Islamic literature that gives the true image of the Prophet of Islam.

To use abusive language against the Prophet or to praise him are both a matter of one's own choice. Whatever the choice, it is in God's domain to pass judgment on it. Muslims have nothing to do in this situation except try to remove the misunderstanding and then leave the rest to God.


If there is such a case - which could be called blasphemy - and in anger one tries to punish the offender, one is simply reacting negatively to the situation. And acting in this way is looked upon with extreme disfavour in Islam. Islam always tries to go to the root cause of any given problem.


When one abuses the Prophet of Islam, it is most probably due to some kind of provocation. Without provocation, this kind of negative attitude is extremely unlikely. That is why the Quran advises Muslims to get at the real reason.


The Quran points to one such root cause behind this kind of act and urges Muslims to try to come to grips with it: "But do not revile those (beings) whom they invoke instead of God, lest they, in their hostility, revile God out of ignorance." (6:108)


It is on the record that, during the Prophet's time, there were some non-believers who used to use abusive language against the Prophet of Islam. The Prophet of Islam never suggested any legal punishment for those persons. He simply directed them to one of his companions, Hassan bin Sabit al-Ansari, who would respond to their blasphemous statements and remove their misunderstanding by means of argument.

Islam suggests capital punishment for only one offence, and that is murder. Except in the case of murder, there is no such severe legal punishment in Islam. If ever there were any case of such punishment being meted out, it must have been in obedience to an executive order - an extremely rare exception - and not carried out under any general law of punishment.


Moreover, meting out punishment is the prerogative of an established court and not of any individual or non-governmental organisation. According to Islam, if anyone commits a crime, his case will be referred to a court established by law and, after completing the required judicial proceedings, the judge will give his verdict. And then it is only for the authorised police to implement the court order, not any civilian.


The whole scheme of Islam is based on the process of peaceful dialogue. In a verse of the Quran, God Almighty gives this injunction to the Prophet: "So, [O Prophet] remind them: your task is only to remind, you are not over them a warden." (88:21-22)

This is the standard Islamic response to problems, and the case of blasphemy is certainly no exception. Muslims must, therefore, exhort people in a friendly manner. They must try to change their hearts and minds. It must be borne in mind that the Quran is not a criminal code; it is a book of persuasion. So Muslims must deal with such cases by reasoning and not by meting out punishment.


It is tantamount to defamation of Islam to say that Islam cannot give a reason-based response, and that is why it endeavours to inflict physical punishment on those who make any kind of negative remark against the Prophet. Islam, after all, is a rational religion; all Islamic teachings are based on reason and argument. Islam relies on rational argument rather than on any kind of physical punishment.


In the Islamic scriptures, the Quran and the Hadith, there is no such injunction to deliver physical punishment to one who commits blasphemy. This law was only made during the Abbasid period and is an expression of the imperatives of that period. At that time, the Muslims had established their empire and were in political supremacy. Due to their sense of pride at having accomplished this, they made such a law. But it was a clear innovation. And according to the Hadith, every innovation in the religion of Islam must needs be rejected.

The writer is an Islamic scholar and founder of the Centre for Peace and Spirituality International.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

Q & A

'MALNUTRITION KILLS 56,000 CHILDREN ANNUALLY IN URBAN SLUMS'

JYOTI PUNWANI

 

What's the reason for the frequency in deaths from malnutrition in Mumbai?

These deaths occurred in a community of ragpickers that lives off Mumbai's biggest garbage dump. If they don't spend their day sorting out and selling garbage, they can't eat. The women are anaemic; their children are born underweight, and often don't survive beyond two months. Amongst those that do, their nutritional status keeps going down because they live only on breast milk.


Apnalaya started working with this community after their homes were demolished in December 2004, leaving them in the open. We started a mobile clinic along with another NGO, and a growth-monitoring programme as per the guidelines of the national Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). The result is that the number of children below five suffering from third-degree malnutrition has come down from 92 in 2005 to 19 this year. Nevertheless, when we weighed them last month, we found that 62% of the children were malnourished. Wherever communities exist in such conditions in Mumbai, with no access to electricity, clean water and sanitation, malnutrition and related diseases exist.


What's the government doing?

The state government refused to acknowledge that malnutrition deaths were taking place in Mumbai, or in any urban centre, till Dr Abhay Bang's report in 2004 which was commissioned by the government itself. The report showed that malnutrition kills 56,000 children annually in urban slums. The report pointed out that, unlike in rural areas, no primary healthcare system existed in cities. Mumbai has superb speciality hospitals, but no basic healthcare system. Dispensaries, maternity homes and immunisation centres are both few and understaffed. Government and municipal officials say they can't get qualified staff. Can you believe that there are no takers for government posts?


In 2005, malnutrition deaths in another slum created a media sensation. That helped us prod the government into setting up 1,100 aanganwadis (mother and child care centres) in the city - a big achievement. But the government said it had no space to run them! So now they are run out of private homes, but with no supervision. They function like food distribution centres where teachers come, register their attendance and leave after an hour.


What's the solution?

There must be community monitoring of the ICDS scheme. The Bruhanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) must set up a primary healthcare system for the poor, also to be monitored by the community. But the BMC has tremendous hostility towards slum-dwellers. Outsiders-locals, taxpayers-non-taxpayers - all these issues are brought in, but malnutrition, the central issue, is ignored. Slum-dwellers spend more on basic services than the middle class do, but the money goes to the mafias controlling their supply, who are in league with the BMC. Why can't the BMC provide them these amenities legally and at regular rates? Slum-dwellers would readily pay. But the government and the BMC want the poor to get out of Mumbai. You build flyovers for car owners, but for the labourers - including policemen - without whom this city could not run, you plan rental housing schemes far outside the city.


There has to be equal distribution of Mumbai's earnings and resources, because all citizens have a right to them, regardless of whether they are migrants or locals. Where does Mumbai get its water from, and who uses it? Mumbai has always absorbed the richest and the poorest; it's everybody's city. It cannot be made into a city only for the rich.


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THE TIMES OF INDIA

SUBVERSE

STYLE MATTERS

JAIRAM N MENON

 

The good news is that the bad news comes better dressed these days. Back in the dark ages, we had a minister of telecom who, when he sensed that the game was up, piled his loot on bed sheets, knotted the ends with the dexterity of your neighbourhood dhobi, and took flight. In the scramble, the Hon'ble Sukh Ram couldn't cart all his dishonourable gains with him, and when the raiding party arrived at the scene (as late then as they are now), the obscenely contoured bundles lay about the house, proving to the world how crass the corrupt were.


Mercifully, bribes come better packaged these days. Take for instance the 21st century edition of the telecom scam. It's been executed with such finesse that you and i have not glimpsed as much as a note of the tainted Rs 1.7 lakh crore we have been robbed of. Apparently, it has been transported elegantly, electronically and invisibly to mouth-watering locales like Mauritius, the Cayman Islands and Cyprus. In my book, that's progress.

I also regard as a mark of advancement the fact that corruption now has attitude. No longer do thick wads need to pass furtively under the table from sweaty palm to grasping hand. Such subterfuge is passe and in its place is swagger. The prime mover of the
Commonwealth Games scam displayed the dignity of an elder statesman of sport, even as an acutely embarrassed nation kept hoping that he would resign in mortification. A couple of years earlier, we heard the author of the Satyam saga announce with aplomb his monumental malfeasance. In terms of sheer pizzazz of course, there is none to beat the IPL kingpin for putting gloss on the gross and handing out contracts to kith and kin as if by divine right.


Now, for all the rumpus within and outside Parliament, i don't expect things to change. The wicked won't actually mend their ways. On the contrary, the current public outcry may drive corruption back into the shadows and give us a rerun of the closet scamster. So i will do all i can to make sure chicanery continues to be chic - with a crash course in bribe grooming. It's based on the simple principle that if we can't help being bad, we can at least prevent it looking ugly.


The first thing to do is stop calling a bribe (ugh!) a bribe. That word has a coarse ring to it while its synonyms are so much more cool, viz 'advisory services', 'intermediary charges' or 'consultancy services'. The man (or as recent events would suggest, woman) at the other end of the transaction is no tout (ugh, again). She could well be a 'lobbyist'.


At scam school, you will also be taught to correctly arrange your facial muscles when you are being led in for questioning under the glare of TV cameras and popping flashbulbs. Rather than shading your eyes and covering your face - that is left to petty thieves and teenagers caught in a drug bust - your expression should communicate that you have powerful backers and that you are unafraid of the CID, CBI or the JPC. Before long, you can even smirk like police officer Rathore.


To lead the way in putting a shine on the sordid, i have resolved that the next time i need to negotiate my way out of a parking ticket or ensure a smooth passage for my long pending application at the registrar's office, i will do so in style. Far from changing colour or glancing nervously over my shoulder, i will dig into my pocket and hand out goodies with a flourish. Or again, as office-bearer of my housing society, i will unabashedly pull levers to make sure that by marvellous coincidence all the juiciest contracts go to my biradari. I may even bring myself to do it wearing a pink tie.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

DON'T HANG UP ON LICENCES

AUCTIONS ARE NOT THE ONLY WAY TO FARM OUT 3G SPECTRUM TO TELECOM COMPANIES

 

Telecommunications minister Kapil Sibal's statement that the `losses' from sale of spectrum or second-generation mobile networks are purey notional raises an important question. If ndia's policy establishment felt licensing was better than auctions for the spread of telephony in the country, why shift to selling spectrum for third generation networks? India's evolving telecom policy has been through its share of controversy to reach a happy mean where licensing makes basic telephony universal and auctions help the government and the telecom companies raise revenues. The world's fastest growing telephone directory may swell a bit more as subscribers in cities get hooked to streaming cricket matches and money transfers on their cellphones. The industry expects one in five Indians will be surfing a high-speed network for business or pleasure by 2015. This would justify the R68,000 crore telecom companies bid at last year's auction of spectrum. The average 3G subscriber is expected to bring in more business than what voice telephony fetches.

 

In a way, the writing has been on the wall for some time now. The money in emerging telecom markets remains in voice traffic while mature networks must seek extra rupees from data. Telecommunications investment in the country ought to top R360,000 crore in the five years to 2012. Indian mobile telecom companies are, in the process, signing up 15 million customers every month, but the easy money is behind them. Every new subscriber brings less than R250 of business a month and this number is falling precipitously as networks spread from cities to villages amidst a bruising price war that was made possible by selling spectrum cheap. With cellphones getting smarter and cheaper, 3G telecom services could emerge as the digital gateway for millions of Indians.


Sales of smartphones are forecast to grow 40% a year till 2015 by when close to 200 million people ought to be on 3G networks. Value-added services like video conferencing, social networks, gaming and mobile television could be a R6,000crore industry in five years.

 

All this, however, comes at a cost. The extra revenue telecom companies are eyeing may not materialise in the hyper-competitive Indian market. Operators cannot afford a deadly price war. European telecom companies almost bankrupted themselves while transiting to 3G networks.


Fortunately, Indian firms have the benefit of hindsight and a deep understanding of the price-sensitivity of the Indian customer. Signals for a consolidation in the industry may be misleading when seven companies control nearly all of the market. It is imperative that Indian telecommunications prices 3G services right: companies cannot take too much pain, yet they cannot afford to price in all the costs because their future is inexorably tied to the growth of the data business.


The next five years hold out big promise, and big risks, for telecommunications in the country.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

DRAPED CRUSADER

THE RIGHT IS BOUND TO TAKE FRIGHT AT SEEING BILAL AKA NIGHTRUNNER IN THE BATMOBILE

 

Comic book heroes were always about politics and social engineering. Superman was strictly Apple Pie American as opposed to that Soviet-seeming villain Lex Luthor. But the Cold War's over and comic book writers are now more nuanced. So along with Batman's wondrous boyfriend-cum-sidekick Robin in America, the masked crusader's got a Muslim sub-superhero to help him run crime-busting operations out of Gotham City in Paris. By day, this new hero is Frenchman Bilal Asselah, an Algerian Sunni Muslim immigrant, and by night he is al Capone, er, no, Nightrunner.

 

From December, Batman has decided to `install' superheroes he can kick derrieres with across the world. In France, with the Parisian suburban riots in immigrant districts in 2003 still moderately fresh in memory, Batman's choice has provoked reactions from (American) fans.

 

Why this should be so was a bit of a mystery to us till we saw Nightrunner in his costume. France under President Nicolas Sarkozy has banned the hijab. Nightrunner's costume may not resemble anything remotely `religious' to fellow Muslims. But to rightwingers who see a fidayeen lurking in every `Moslem', a full-body costume is terrifyingly close to the dreaded full-body hijab.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

SPEAK TO SURVIVE

MEHMAL SARFRAZ

 

'Covered in the righteous cloak of religion and even a puny dwarf imagines himself a monster. Important to face. And call their bluff,' is what the late Punjab governor, Salman Taseer, tweeted last month. He called their 'bluff' but had to pay a very heavy price for doing so. On January 4, Taseer was gunned down by a police guard, Mumtaz Qadri, assigned to 'protect' his life. Qadri fired 27 bullets at the sitting governor and then surrendered himself to the police. Reports indicate that Qadri had shared his plan to murder Taseer with some of his colleagues. He had even requested them not to fire at him while he assassinated Taseer; a request that was honoured. Not a single shot was fired at Qadri by the other security guards on duty that day. Qadri killed Taseer because the governor had said that the blasphemy law was a "black law".

 

It all began in November 2010 when Taseer visited Aasia Bibi in jail. Aasia, a Christian, was sentenced to death by a lower court for alleged blasphemy. She submitted a mercy petition for pardon through the governor to President Asif Ali Zardari. "She is a helpless Christian woman. She cannot legally defend herself because she does not have the resources. Implicating helpless minorities in such cases amounts to ridiculing the constitution of Pakistan," said Taseer.

 

The blasphemy law is indeed a black law and has been misused for decades. Despite a provision for death penalty in the law, no one has ever been hanged in Pakistan for blasphemy. But many people have been killed by religious zealots after they were accused of blasphemy. Most of these allegations are made because of property disputes, personal vendetta or rivalry. Human rights activists have long been asking for this law to be either repealed or at least amended to stop it from being misused. Taseer too asked for the same. For this, the mullah brigade came down hard upon the governor. Fatwas were issued against him; he was declared a heretic, a blasphemer. Protests by the right-wing took place all over the country. Taseer's effigies were burnt and he was adjudged wajib-ul-qatl (worthy of murder).

 

Such was the madness that even money was offered to anyone who killed him. Despite all this, Taseer did not back down from his principled stance. Taseer lost his life because he wanted to protect the citizens from being persecuted because of a flawed law. He was indeed a brave man, if not the bravest of them all in Pakistan.

 

The brutal murder of Taseer shocked many but what devastated us was the reaction of those Pakistanis who celebrated and glorified his murderer. The fact that millions of people condoned and justified the murder is not just unacceptable but downright disgusting. To add insult to injury, hundreds of mullahs declared that no 'Muslim' should express grief over Taseer's murder or take part in his funeral prayers. The Imam of Badshahi Mosque in Lahore even refused to lead Taseer's funeral prayers. However, this did not deter thousands of Taseer's friends and supporters from attending his funeral; and, it did make many conclude that religion is indeed "an opiate of the masses". Weep Pakistan, weep… for we have lost a man who was not afraid to voice his opinion and always took the bigots head on. In Taseer's death, we have lost our sanity.

 

A country that came into being on the premise that the rights of the Muslim 'minority' could not be safeguarded in a united India was unable to protect the life of a governor because he spoke up for the rights of the religious minorities in Pakistan. Taseer's martyrdom has also put fear into the hearts of many liberals. They wonder if they will ever be able to speak their minds freely or advocate the rights of minorities without fear of reprisal from the religious fanatics. Seemingly, the doors to any religious debate have been closed as well.

 

Taseer's death will be the toughest test for the secular, progressive and liberal voices in Pakistan. If they cow down now, they will never be able to stand up again. Shehryar Taseer, son of the slain governor, vowed to be strong and not let his father's sacrifice go in vain. The Pakistan Peoples Party distanced itself from Taseer when he took a tough stand on the blasphemy law but the liberals must not isolate the Taseer family. Our State has pandered to the tunes of the right-wing for far too long.

 

It is time to say enough is enough. It would be a great disservice to Taseer if we are frightened into silence now. We the liberals are a minority but we must not hand over our country to the fanatics on a silver platter. The battle is tough. We have to win it; if not for ourselves, then for our future generations.

 

(Mehmal Sarfraz is op-ed editor Daily Times)

 

*The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

IN A STATE OVER A STATE IN ANDHRA

PANKAJ VOHRA

 

It seems that all is over for the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh. The recommendations of the Srikrishna Committee report made public on Thursday have complicated matters further. Instead of finding a solution to a problem created by a premature announcement about the creation of a separate state of Telangana on December 9, 2009, the committee has made things worse. Not that anyone expected the Srikrishna panel to come out with a magical solution. But the Congress and the TDP, the two main players in the state till now, will have a lot to worry about.

 

The possibility of a revolt in the grand old party over this is already being speculated upon. Whether that happens or not, the Congress, which came to power at the Centre on the strength of seats it got in Andhra Pradesh both in 2004 and 2009, is on a sticky wicket.

 

The Congress has been defeated in the polls even earlier on account of its own dissensions. But this time around, it is riding a tiger it cannot dismount and both the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and its chief K Chandrasekhar Rao and former chief minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy's son, Jaganmohan, find themselves sitting pretty as the state is going through its worst crisis.

 

It is difficult to understand why the core committee of the Congress made this announcement on party president Sonia Gandhi's birthday in 2009, when the mandate in the parliamentary and assembly polls held a few months earlier under the overall leadership of YSR was for a unified Andhra Pradesh. If this was done to marginalise Jaganmohan Reddy, it was foolish. Jaganmohan was in the Congress and should have been brought on board along with other key elected members of the state while the matter was being deliberated in the party.

 

It is being said that some top party leaders who were ignored by the late YSR during his lifetime and whose egos had been bruised influenced this decision. Another somewhat unbelievable theory is that some key Congress leaders who do not wish party general secretary Rahul Gandhi to assume more power strategised on how to keep him weak and dependent. But theories like this will obviously gain credence in the absence of any concrete plan to quell trouble in the state, which has been its main force during the past two parliamentary polls.

 

The logic initially given was that Chandrasekhar Rao's fast had influenced the Congress decision. In fact, by announcing a separate state of Telangana, the Congress leadership strengthened Rao who was losing ground after YSR had marginalised him completely in state politics. What seems to be happening now is that both Rao and Jaganmohan are gaining ground in their respective areas at the expense of the Congress.

 

Had YSR's politics been continued, there was a possibility of even actress Vijaya Shanti, a charismatic figure, joining the Congress. Now Rao too cannot afford to concede any ground since the entire Telangana region, particularly the students of Osmania and Warangal universities, will ensure that he stays where he is.

 

There also appears to be a tacit understanding between Jaganmohan and Rao that they would not cross swords for the time being and continue to agitate in their respective strongholds — Rao in Telangana and Jaganmohan in Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra.

 

For the majority of Congress MPs and MLAs, the worry is that they may get edged out in this eventual struggle. In order to ensure their survival, they may have to devise a strategy. Even Chandrababu Naidu and his TDP seem to be at their wit's end. The TDP is on verge of disintegration since its stand on the issue has been ambivalent.

 

For the Congress, the challenge is to remain relevant. If that does not happen, the repercussions created by Andhra politics will be felt both in the state and Centre. Between us.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GANGULY & KOLKATA

 

When Sourav Ganguly went unsold on day one of the Indian Premier League player auction, possible reasons streamed in effortlessly. That he's now been away from international cricket for too long, that he's kind of hitting 40, that Twenty20, let alone the average hyper-competitive IPL franchisee, is unforgiving to anyone out of form or past his best — and that, let's accept it, there is no humiliation in a once-great player coming to terms with the reality that his turn on the big stages may well be at an end. None whatsoever.

 

Instead, the surprise over Kolkata Knight Riders not staking their connect to their HQ by bidding for the city's greatest cricketer is part of a larger curiosity of this auction: that teams can be so easily re-arranged. When the IPL was an idea still on the drawing board, the assumption was that a local connect would be vital for spectators to adopt the city-based teams. So there were the iconic players and a spirited bid for more local players — Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble for Royal Challengers of Bangalore, for instance, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir for Daredevils of Delhi, and Ganguly for Knight Riders of Kolkata, a city that once let loose its rage if he was out of the India side. Now, remarkably casually, they are scattered, the cities and their players.

 

It could be that fan loyalties are more diffused in domestic T20 leagues — a scattering aided by the export of the tournament to South Africa in its second season. It could be that with matches rapidly taking place, audiences move from one good performance to the next. Or could it be that our cities are far less parochial than may have been anticipated?

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GET REAL

 

The BJP's national executive meeting in Guwahati demonstrated, once more, that the party is finding it tough to come to grips with reality. Party chief Nitin Gadkari's closed-door address to the national executive was the self-same state of denial from which it has been unable to emerge ever since the unravelling of what is now called saffron terror. Gadkari is learnt to have claimed that the charges levelled against the RSS and Indresh Kumar are "false". Moreover, he explained away the accusations — in fact, the entire thrust of the investigations — as motivated by the UPA's need to divert attention from the scandals that have put the Union government in a spot.

 

Gadkari's statements are in tune with what the BJP has been saying ever since revelations about the involvement of right-wing groups in incidents like the Samjhauta blast came to light. The BJP, as a major national party, has so far shown itself unable or unwilling to deal with the developments sensibly. It has exhibited no substantial gesture to re-think its tendency to jump to the defence, no matter how outlandish, of the extended Sangh umbrella. However, the BJP's problem is precisely that it forgets that it's a mainstream party, one that's held power at the Centre for a full term. As a result, its reactions, especially in the recent past, often tend to look unbecoming of the party. Gadkari's irresponsible remarks belong to the same book the BJP's parliamentary obstructionism came from. Democratic politics is about give-and-take, negotiation and compromise; it doesn't consist of absolutist or maximalist stances.

 

It's this state of denial that's prevented the BJP from tackling its problems in Karnataka either — which makes it look like a party of glass-house dwellers throwing stones at the rest. Technicalities of the CBI investigation apart, if the BJP aims to be taken seriously, it should not present the investigation as an affront to the majority community. That's not just presumptuous. It's highly irresponsible politics.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

KAPIL DENIAL SIBAL

 

Economics is the art of evaluating the cost of the opportunity foregone. This is a delicate skill, as are all things that dabble in what-might-have-been. It is never that difficult, therefore, to over- or underestimate the size of the opportunity cost. In the case of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the awarding of 2G licences, the figures should certainly be open to debate. They certainly come across as unnecessarily sensationalistic. Most analysts have agreed that the true figure lies well below the CAG's upper estimate. Yet whatever the truth may be, nobody is likely to believe that the government's refusal to use well-designed auctions didn't affect opportunity cost at all, as Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal would have us believe.

 

Regardless of the magnitude of the loss, the question goes beyond the nature of the policies that caused that loss. When governments and bureaucracies deal with quick technological progress there is always the possibility of simple ineptitude. Yet the very cause of the current crisis is the feeling the telecom ministry colluded in subverting its own, however inept, policies. That's why A Raja was compelled to quit as telecom minister. That's why Sibal's assumption of the portfolio was a sign of hope. With his reformist credentials, he was supposed to ensure transparency in the investigation, and help the ministry, and governance, move on. That is why his Friday press conference is so disturbing.

 

The point is this: there is no way that this claim of "zero loss" will be read but as an attempt by the government to brazen its way through a severe political crisis. Going with an obvious, barefaced exaggeration might make a certain amount of sense to the more cynical in the UPA. But it is a misjudgement. The complexities of pricing the 2G loss do indeed mean that the average person can't confidently pick an exact figure, and that the government has chance to attack the CAG's estimate. But everyone has an intuitive recognition of firefighting. There's enough despair about politics and scams about right now that the smart political thing for the government to do is to ensure it doesn't spread, by showing itself willing to submit the process to a thorough, transparent investigation. Brazenness won't help the political climate. Nor will it aid in ending the stalemate with the opposition. Indeed, it strikes an odd, arrogant note precisely when the government is backing the PAC as an investigatory mechanism — and that committee specifically examines the CAG report. It's silly to score points on the weakest part of the CAG report when the Supreme Court is monitoring the situation, and the CBI is still in the process of filing a status report to the court.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

SUNLIGHT TO ELECTRIC LIGHT

BIBEK DEBROY

 

Most people will have heard of Brandeis University, not necessarily of US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (1856-1941). Justice Brandeis is credited with the quote, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant." In any democracy, information and disclosure are like light. Most debates about disclosure have concerned public servants. Consequently, because of Election Commission (EC) affidavits, we know 543 MPs in the 15th Lok Sabha have a combined wealth of Rs 3,075 crore, Namma Nageswara Rao (TDP) leading the field with Rs 174 crore.

 

Disclosure need not only be about public servants. Much of corporate governance is about disclosure of information, and eventual regulation of educational institutions and the media will be along similar lines. Nor does disclosure have to be mandated by law; it can be voluntary. However, rarely does anyone voluntarily part with information, even if there is no culpability. For instance, MPs have to declare assets within 90 days of taking oath and one cannot presume MPs don't know this. Yet, one year after the 15th Lok Sabha was formed, the speaker had to send notices to 51 defaulting MPs. The PMO stonewalled about whether ministers should declare assets, even after an RTI application. Despite voluntary disclosure by the Lok Ayukta in Karnataka, there has not been that much headway on disclosure of assets by judges. And barring Madhya Pradesh, asset declaration by the bureaucracy has not happened.

 

There is a difference between disclosure and information being placed in the public domain. There is greater reluctance to place information in the public domain. Witness the case of ministers or the judiciary. A paper titled "Disclosure by Politicians" was recently published in the American Economic Journal. This collated disclosure practices by MPs (or their equivalents) in 175 countries. About two-thirds of the countries surveyed had some disclosure laws, but less than one-third made those disclosures available to the public. Two sentences deserve a quote: "Countries that are richer, more democratic, and have more free press have more disclosure. Public disclosure, but not internal disclosure to parliament, is positively related to government quality, including lower corruption."

 

Hence disclosure, without it being placed in the public domain, is garbage in, garbage out. India is becoming richer. It is democratic, with all the warts and blemishes. And despite some recent question marks, it has a free press. Yet the battle that there should be disclosure and that disclosure should be in the public domain, is far from over. Perhaps this is understandable. The Right to Information Act is a little over five years old and the Official Secrets Act is 87 years old.

 

But there is a different battle too and that is over the quality of information. Take, for instance, the 2009 statements by MPs. Praful Patel had assets worth Rs 89.9 crore. But when it comes to the ministerial declaration (2010), Praful Patel has assets worth Rs 33 crore. This may be because the former includes assets of wives and dependants, while the latter doesn't. More importantly, the template that the EC provides isn't specific enough.

 

It divides assets into moveable and immoveable. In the moveable category are cash, deposits, bonds, other financial instruments, motor vehicles, jewellery and other assets (values of claims/ interests).

 

Cash and deposits should be straightforward enough, though even there, we may have a problem.

 

Babulal Agrawal is a 1988 batch Chhattisgarh cadre IAS officer. When there was an income-tax raid, it was revealed he possessed 220 bank accounts, with several in names of his peons and maid-servants. But in principle, it should be possible to track down this kind of stuff, even without income tax raids. The EC guidelines state: "Value of Bonds/ Shares/ Debentures as per the latest market value in Stock Exchange in respect of listed companies and as per books in the case of non-listed companies should be given." Apart from wilful non-declaration, understatement of moveable assets occurs because jewellery is declared at historical costs at which they have been acquired. The guidelines merely state that weight and value of jewellery has to be declared.

 

If weight is known, it should be a simple matter to revalue jewellery at current market prices. If nothing else, they can be indexed to inflation. By the same token, motor vehicles can be reported at depreciated values. This becomes even more of an issue when it comes to immoveable assets, divided into agricultural land, non-agricultural land, buildings (commercial and residential), houses/ apartments and others (interest in property).

 

If we raise our eyebrows at perceived under-declaration of assets by MPs, that is primarily because these are undervalued. This is not an MP phenomenon alone, since there is consistent undervaluation of property in registration deeds, partly driven by tax evasion motives and partly by high stamp duties. The point is that present EC guidelines make no attempt to link these to market prices, unlike bonds/ shares/ debentures. Once one accepts that this should be done, one can figure out ways of doing it.

 

For example, for land, recent registered sales of similar land in similar areas (despite under-declaration there too) are a better indicator than historical values and this is a principle adopted in land acquisition cases. For non-agricultural land, circle rates (where they exist) are also a better indicator than historical values. Real estate agents and surveyors have reasonably good ideas about values of buildings and houses/ apartments. The National Housing Bank has begun an exercise known as Residex, to track price movements for residential housing. This is primarily urban and the pilot was restricted to five cities (Bangalore, Bhopal, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai). But it now covers 15 cities and will eventually include all 63 JNNURM cities.

 

Thus, while avoiding subjectivity, it is possible to objectively determine current market prices for immoveable assets too. As is the case with circle rates, there will continue to be undervaluation. But at least the quantum of undervaluation will decrease. For instance, in property transactions in Delhi, registered property value is around 50 per cent of sale value. Reasonable circle rates will increase this to at least 75 per cent. The first step is to alter the EC's template for declaration of assets and apply current market price norms to all other similar declarations too. The light of information and disclosure needs to improve its quality. Perhaps one should give the complete Justice Brandeis quote: "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman."

 

The writer is a Delhi-based economist express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

A BIT OF BRINKMANSHIP

EJAZ HAIDER

 

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has managed to pull the Mutahidda Qaumi Movement back in the fold. But the MQM has decided, sharply, to not join the cabinet. Not unexpected this development, since the MQM was playing for maximum gains and used the threat that leaves something to chance. Gilani has blinked — and while he has got his majority back, by kowtowing to the MQM he has further weakened himself.

 

Coalition politics requires making compromises. But compromise is not spelled capitulation and when a government begins to conflate the two, its days are numbered.

 

MQM's walking out of the cabinet and, later, walking over to the opposition benches had deprived the government of its slim majority. The MQM played its hand and it was Gilani's turn to play his, a bold one rather than acting poltroonishly and running after the MQM on the one hand and the Nawaz League and the PMLQ on the other.

 

Finding Gilani in difficulty and seeing him running around, the PMLN and the PMLQ upped the ante. Mian Nawaz Sharif presented his 9-point charter of demands that ended with the predictable "failing which", and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain said he was no simpleton that could be tricked by the PPP into supporting their government. Even the PMLQ jetsam, the breakaway faction, began squeaking and asking Sharif to move a no-confidence resolution which they would support.

 

It remains to be seen what the price Gilani has had to pay. One MQM demand has been for the PPP to help it (MQM) put down the Awami National Party in Karachi. A tough proposition because the ANP has stood by the PPP at the Centre and in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Other MQM demands too are not easy to meet and, if met, would put the MQM in the driver's seat in Sindh and, by extension, at the Centre.

 

Already, Gilani's government has beaten a hasty retreat on petrol prices after the opposition parties pressured it. The same has happened to the reformed general sales tax which is now in limbo. It is clear that no political actor, and that includes the MQM, is prepared to help Gilani take the tough economic decisions because all are playing politics.

 

So, the question is, what's the point of continuing in government if Gilani is going to allow himself to be dragged around like a head-lugged bear? Short answer: no point.

 

He could have done it differently and responded with his own brinkmanship. That would have meant signalling to other actors that all share the risk. Of course it would have depended on reading other players' motivation but it should have been clear that none really wanted new elections at this point. But Gilani, instead of manipulating risk through compellence, gave into MQM's compellence strategy.

 

]Brinkmanship is about shared risk, and sharing risk means no player wants the situation to end up in disaster. A chess game, as Thomas Schelling argued, "can end in win, lose, or draw" and suggests "adding a fourth outcome called 'disaster'." He then asks, "What does this new rule do to the way a game is played?"

 

"If a game is played well, and both players play for the best score they can get, we can state two observations. First, a game will never end in disaster. It could only terminate in disaster if one of the players made a deliberate move that he knew would cause disaster, and he would not. Second, the possibility of disaster will be reflected in the players' tactics... [The] ability to block or to deter certain moves of the adversary will be an important part of the game; the threat of disaster will be effective, so effective that the disaster never occurs."

 

Instead of pleading with leaders of N and Q to not let his government fall, or giving in to the MQM, Gilani could have signalled to other actors that he was prepared to step down — that he would inform President Asif Zardari that he has lost the majority in parliament and the president could invite the opposition to form the government. And if the opposition couldn't do that, then either it would have had to repose a vote of confidence in Gilani's government or Gilani could have advised the president to dissolve the assembly — so the jig was up for all.

 

It is a counterfactual; but playing the game thus Gilani would have forced the other actors to decide whether they wanted to fall with him or relent to save the current configuration. Some might argue that other actors could have decided to opt for elections. Perhaps. In that case I will argue that the PPP government needs to calculate, even at this stage when the MQM has returned to the coalition, if the time has come to think of early elections. There is no point in presiding over a set-up whose strings are pulled by intransigent coalition partners.

 

The writer is Contributing Editor, 'The Friday Times', Lahore express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

IT IS NOT THE SAME, COMRADE

INDER MALHOTRA

 

AJOY GHOSH'S declaration that Comrade Stalin's exposition of imperialism had made things "clear" to him ('Can the revolution be dictated?', IE, Decemver 27) did not end the Soviet supremo's plain speaking to the foursome of Indian Communist leaders that sometimes acquired stern, if also avuncular, overtones. Since Rajeswar Rao and Basava Punniah were strong advocates of adopting the "Chinese way" and thus "liberating India through armed conflict" a la Telangana, Stalin dealt with this issue at some length. He began by telling Indian comrades that the Chinese "never spoke of armed conflict. They spoke of armed revolution". What the Chinese stood for was "partisan warfare with liberated areas and an army of liberation."

 

Stalin then expatiated on why what was possible in China was not practicable in India. "Peasant partisan warfare," he said, "was a serious matter and a big discovery for the revolution. In this area, the Chinese have done something new for revolutionary practice, in particular in backward countries. And, of course, every communist in a country where peasants are 80-90 per cent is required to put this method in his battle arsenal. This is indisputable. But the Chinese comrades' experience also shows that partisan warfare comes with a disadvantage. The disadvantage is that partisan areas are an island and can always be blockaded." The Chinese, he added, had the friendly USSR to back them and in its neighbourhood they could build up a strong rear; India had none.

 

"You are saying," Stalin went on, "that partisan warfare is enough to achieve the victory of the revolution in India. This is not true. China had more favourable conditions than India. China already had a national liberation army. You do not have such an army. China does not have as dense a railway network as in India and this was a big convenience for [Chinese] partisans. The possibilities for successful partisan war are less for you than for China. In terms of industry, India is more developed than China. This is good for progress, but bad from the point of view of partisan warfare. Whatever liberated regions you might create would be islets. You do not have such a friendly neighbouring state to back you up as the Chinese partisans did with the USSR behind them." From Yan'an, he reminded the Indian comrades, the Chinese had moved to Manchuria.

 

What follows does not find any mention in the meeting's minutes, as released by Russia. The reason becomes clear from the content of the information that is absolutely accurate, because decades after the event the four CPI leaders had no hesitation to divulge it.

 

At one stage during Stalin's discourse discouraging partisan warfare in India, Basava Punniah inquired whether the Soviet Union could send a shipload of arms to a remote Andhra port. The Soviet leader's immediate reaction was a guffaw. After a minute's silence thereafter, he looked the questioner in the eye and inquired tersely: "Do you have a safe rear for any area you might liberate?"

 

In summer 1950, nearly a year before the four CPI leaders' long meeting with him, Stalin had received Indian ambassador S. Radhakrishnan at a time when Mao Zedong was in the USSR. Stalin had kept Mao waiting, and to soften this blow had sent him to Leningrad. The philosopher-diplomat made a friendly reference to Mao. Stalin's response: "He speaks a language I do not understand." (Source: Indian diplomats with lawful access to the still classified archives who wish to remain anonymous.)

 

However, during his discourse Stalin spoke well of China and of Mao personally, but his latent feelings fleetingly came to the surface at least once. He was then underscoring that the Chinese way was good for China but not so for India, "where it is necessary to join the proletarian battle in the cities to peasants' struggle. Some think that the Chinese comrades are against this combination. This is not true... Of course, Mao Zedong would have been (happy) if the railroad and military plant workers went on strike when he attacked Nanjing... But this did not happen since Mao had lost contact with the cities... But the lack of contact with the cities was a sad necessity and not an ideal. It would be ideal to achieve that which the Chinese failed to achieve: to join peasant war to the struggle of the working class".

 

Thereupon, S.A. Dange remarked: "We had almost turned partisan warfare into a theory without the participation of the workers."

 

Stalin: "If Mao knew this, he would curse you." (Laughter)

 

Revolutionary questions, emphasised Stalin, were decided in stages. "You must solve matters in stages, beating the enemies one after another... you must select from the experience of fraternal parties critically, adapting it to the specific conditions of India. You will be criticised on the Left — don't fear this. Bukharin and Trotsky criticised Lenin from the Left, but they turned out to be the fools. Ranadive criticised Mao Zedong from the Left, but Mao was right. He acted according to the conditions of his own country. Carry out your own line and don't pay attention to leftist cries."

 

Reverting to the subject of partisan war, Stalin stated: "Look, Comrade Rao says, 'Let's go to the people and ask them about armed uprising.' You must not do this. You must not shout your plans. You'll all be arrested."

 

Describing the partition of India as an "underhand trick organised by the English", Stalin advised his visitors: "If you are planning an action programme, you should include in it a demand for a military and economic alliance of Pakistan, India and Ceylon [Sri Lanka]. These three states, artificially separated from each other, will come together. It will end with them reuniting. This idea of rapprochement should be put forth by you and the people will support you. The top elites of Pakistan and Ceylon will be against this, but the people will doubt them. To what extent this division is artificial can be seen by looking at Bengal. The Bengali provinces will be the first to leave Pakistan."

 

Uttered 20 years before 1971 these were prophetic words.

 

express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

HOW CHINA CHECKMATES THE FUTURE

 

If there's a human face on Rising China, it belongs not to some Politburo chief, not to an Internet tycoon, but to a quiet, mild-mannered teenage girl named Hou Yifan.

 

Hou (whose name is pronounced Ho Ee-fahn) is an astonishing phenomenon: at 16, she is the new women's world chess champion, the youngest person, male or female, ever to win a world championship. And she reflects the way China — by investing heavily in education and human capital, particularly in young women — is increasingly having an outsize impact on every aspect of the world.

 

Napoleon is famously said to have declared, "When China wakes, it will shake the world." That is becoming true even in spheres that China historically has had little connection with, like chess, basketball, rare earth minerals, cyber warfare, space exploration and nuclear research.

 

This is a process that Miss Hou exemplifies. Only about 1 per cent of Chinese play chess, and China has never been a chess power. But since 1991, China has produced four women's world chess champions, and Hou is the one with by far the most promise.

 

At this point, I have to put my sensitive male ego aside. You see, Hou gamely agreed to play me after I interviewed her. She had just flown into Beijing after winning the world championship, and she was exhausted — and she shredded me in 21 moves.

 

Most dispiriting, when I was teetering at the abyss near the end of the game, her coach nudged her and suggested mischievously that we should switch sides. Hou would inherit my impossible position — and the gleam in her coach's eye suggested that she would still win.

 

I protested that I could survive being beaten on the chess board by a schoolgirl. But to be toyed with, like a mouse by a cat — that would be too much. Ms. Hou nodded compassionately and checkmated me a few moves later.

 

At 14 she became the youngest female grandmaster ever. She's still so young that it's unclear just how remarkable she will become.

 

Women in general haven't been nearly as good at chess as men, and the world's top women are mostly ranked well below the top men — but Hou could be an exception. She is the only female chess player today considered to have a shot at becoming one of the top few players in the world, male or female.

 

Cynics sometimes suggest that China's rise as a world power is largely a matter of government manipulation of currency rates and trade rules, and there's no doubt that there's plenty of rigging or cheating going on in every sphere. But China has also done an extraordinarily good job of investing in its people and in spreading opportunity across the country. Moreover, perhaps as a legacy of Confucianism, its citizens have shown a passion for education and self-improvement — along with remarkable capacity for discipline and hard work, what the Chinese call "chi ku," or "eating bitterness."

 

Hou dined on plenty of bitterness in working her way up to champion. She grew up in the boondocks, in a county town in Jiangsu Province, and her parents did not play chess. But they lavished attention on her and spoiled her, as parents of only children ("little emperors") routinely do in China.

 

China used to be one of the most sexist societies in the world — with female infanticide, foot binding, and concubinage — but it turned a corner and now is remarkably good at giving opportunities to girls as well as boys. When Hou's parents noticed her interest in a chess board at a store, they promptly bought her a chess set — and then hired a chess tutor for her.

 

Ye Jiangchuan, the chief coach of the national men's and women's teams, told me that he played Hou when she was 9 years old — and was stunned. "I saw that this kid was special," he told me, and he invited her to move to Beijing to play with the national teams. Three years later she was the youngest girl ever to compete in the world chess championships.

 

It will be many, many decades before China can challenge the United States as the overall "No 1" in the world, for we have a huge lead and China still must show that it can transition to a more open and democratic society. But already in discrete areas — its automobile market, carbon emissions and now women's chess — China is emerging as No 1 here and there, and that process will continue.

 

There's a lesson for us as well. China's national commitment to education, opportunity and eating bitterness — those are qualities that we in the West might emulate as well. As you know after you've been checkmated by Hou Yifan.

 

-NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THEY SHALL NOT WIN

SHEHRBANO TASEER

 

Twenty-seven. That's the number of bullets a police guard fired into my father before surrendering himself with a sinister smile to the policemen around him. Salmaan Taseer, governor of Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province, was assassinated on Tuesday — my brother Shehryar's 25th birthday — outside a market near our family home in Islamabad.

 

The guard accused of the killing, Mumtaz Qadri, was assigned that morning to protect my father while he was in the federal capital. According to officials, around 4:15 pm, as my father was about to step into his car after lunch, Mr. Qadri opened fire.

 

Mr. Qadri and his supporters may have felled a great oak that day, but they are sadly mistaken if they think they have succeeded in silencing my father's voice or the voices of millions like him who believe in the secular vision of Pakistan's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

 

My father's life was one of struggle. He was a self-made man, who made and lost and remade his fortune. He was among the first members of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party when it was founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the late 1960s. He was an intellectual, a newspaper publisher and a writer; he was jailed and tortured for his belief in democracy and freedom. The vile dictatorship of General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq did not take kindly to his pamphleteering for the restoration of democracy.

 

One particularly brutal imprisonment was in a dungeon at Lahore Fort, this city's Mughal-era citadel. My father was held in solitary confinement for months and was slipped a single meal of half a plate of stewed lentils each day. They told my mother, in her early 20s at the time, that he was dead. She never believed that.

 

Determined, she made friends with the kind man who used to sweep my father's cell and asked him to pass a note to her husband. My father later told me he swallowed the note, fearing for the sweeper's life. He scribbled back a reassuring message to my mother: "I'm not made from a wood that burns easily." That is the kind of man my father was. He could not be broken.

 

He often quoted verse by his uncle Faiz Ahmed Faiz, one of Urdu's greatest poets. "Even if you've got shackles on your feet, go. Be fearless and walk. Stand for your cause even if you are martyred," wrote Faiz. Especially as governor, my father was the first to speak up and stand beside those who had suffered, from the thousands of people displaced by the Kashmir earthquake in 2005 to the family of two teenage brothers who were lynched by a mob last August in Sialkot after a dispute at a cricket match.

 

After 86 members of the Ahmadi sect, considered blasphemous by fundamentalists, were murdered in attacks on two of their mosques in Lahore last May, to the great displeasure of the religious right my father visited the survivors in the hospital. When the floods devastated Pakistan last summer, he was on the go, rallying businessmen for aid, consoling the homeless and building shelters.

 

My father believed that the strict blasphemy laws instituted by General Zia have been frequently misused and ought to be changed. His views were widely misrepresented to give the false impression that he had spoken against Prophet Mohammad. This was untrue, and a criminal abdication of responsibility by his critics, who must now think about what they have caused to happen. According to the authorities, my father's stand on the blasphemy law was what drove Mr. Qadri to kill him.

 

There are those who say my father's death was the final nail in the coffin for a tolerant Pakistan. That Pakistan's liberal voices will now be silenced. But we buried a heroic man, not the courage he inspired in others. This week two leading conservative politicians — former Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and the cricket-star-turned-politician Imran Khan — have taken the same position my father held on the blasphemy laws: they want amendments to prevent misuse.

 

To say that there was a security lapse on Tuesday is an understatement. My father was brutally gunned down by a man hired to protect him. Juvenal once asked, "Who will guard the guards themselves?" It is a question all Pakistanis should ask themselves today: If the extremists could get to the governor of the largest province, is anyone safe?

 

It may sound odd, but I can't imagine my father dying in any other way. Everything he had, he invested in Pakistan, giving livelihoods to tens of thousands, improving the economy. My father believed in our country's potential. He lived and died for Pakistan. To honor his memory, those who share that belief in Pakistan's future must not stay silent about injustice. We must never be afraid of our enemies. We must never let them win.

 

The writer is a reporter for 'Newsweek Pakistan'

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

2011 WILL BE FOR WOMEN

HARNEET SINGH

 

The new year comes with some nice little surprises. First off, Udaan, a small film (strictly in terms of its budget, a modest Rs 3 crore), wins the best film award at the 17th Star Screen Awards. Then Bollywood decides to kill one of its age-old superstitions, of not releasing a big film on the first Friday of the year because of its almost 100 per cent flop track record. Producers UTV Spotboy and director Raj Kumar Gupta took up the January challenge with No One Killed Jessica (NOKJ) and, last anyone checked, they have no reason to complain.

 

The Rani Mukerji-Vidya Balan starrer is cruising along well, fuelled by a good opening, positive reviews and heartening word of mouth.

 

In a hero-dominated industry, it is generally believed that women don't make a poster and hardly ever sell a movie. The Rani-Vidya combo has tweaked the belief. Even as a film, NOKJ should be able to break the glass ceiling. It has everything going for it: it's budgeted smartly, marketed strongly and tells a story we all know by heart and have invested a lot in emotionally. The intention of the film is noble but director Raj Kumar Gupta does not let that become a cross around his neck. In this fast-paced thriller Gupta takes the middle path between fact and fiction.

 

Albeit there are a few broad strokes but as a film experience, NOKJ rivets and moves.

 

Gupta opts for a number of shrewd choices. Mukerji's character has been conceived as the hero of the film. As the fiercely ambitious journalist, Meera Gaity, Mukerji, who seems to be channelling Erin Brockovich, displays her badass side with relish. Hers is a new character in the commercial Hindi landscape: she swears profusely, smokes unapologetically, gets hot and sweaty with a random guy (maybe she picked him at a bar or maybe they are friends with benefits, we don't know because the guy doesn't show up again). Gupta even gives his 'shero' a slo-mo exit. She is the yang to Balan's yin. The latter of course is the soul of the film. As Sabrina, Balan pitches in an affecting performance as she fights to get justice for her slain sister, Jessica. Together, Balan and Mukerji make a formidable team. They go after the villainous system and, yes, they emerge triumphant.

 

NOKJ underscores that heroine oriented subjects when made smartly can work.

 

The Main Items

 

Bollywood in fact is revelling in a show of women power. Some of the year's most high profile films are being helmed by women. Kiran Rao's Dhobi Ghat is on its way. Zoya Akhtar's Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, toplining Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, Abhay Deol and Katrina Kaif, is an eagerly awaited summer release. The biggest cherry of course is Reema Kagti's untitled cop thriller with Aamir Khan, Rani Mukerji and Kareena Kapoor.

 

Our leading ladies are also seriously championing the cause of sexy stories driven by them. Priyanka Chopra gets into seven get-ups as she plots the murder of her seven husbands in Vishal Bhardwaj's Saat Khoon Maaf. Girl power gets a thirties edge with Gul Panag in Turning 30. Vidya Balan is gearing up to enact the life of southern siren Silk Smitha in Ekta Kapoor's The Dirty Picture. In Sujoy Ghosh's Kahani, she does a desi Kill Bill as a pregnant woman who goes looking for her missing husband.

 

Girls just wanna have fun, it seems. Sheila and Munni are so last year. This year, it's all about the stories. The item songs can wait.

 

harneet.singh@expressindia.com

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PUTTING PAID TO THE MEDIA

 

If you don't fix it, someone else will do it for you. That's the lesson from the paid news controversy that has enveloped the media since the Maharashtra elections, when it was found that competing newspapers used the same words to praise Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan. Once this came out, and the Election Commission threatened to get into the act, other instances came to light of similar paid news. Some politicians began giving details of how large Indian-language newspapers threatened to black them out unless there was a payoff. Details of 'package rates' began doing the rounds. The fact that various newspapers have some form of what are called 'private treaties', where the newspapers swap ad space for equity stakes in firms, also got thrown up in this context, as further evidence that the media barters publicity for money.

 

This is what the Press Council of India was confronted with, and this is what it tried to address when it commissioned a report on the subject. When push came to shove, however, the PCI backed down and a watered-down version of the report got issued.

 

Given this backdrop, the Niira Radia tapes were the last straw. According to a news report in FE last week, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is to head a Group of Ministers on paid news. The group is to examine the issue, to establish the facts and to then come up with suitable penalties for this. Suggestions being bandied about include a penalty which is related to turnover and denial of government ads. The issue here is not of the quantum of the penalty; it is the fact that the government can now feel free to monitor the media, to decide what is paid news and what is not. Thanks to the media's collective inability to deal with a very real problem, we now have a situation in which the government now threatens to camp in the media's backyard. For want of a nail, as the saying goes, a kingdom is in danger of being lost.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PRICE THIS IN


The probe instituted by the Competition Commission of India to investigate the onion cartel, as reported yesterday in FE, and the Union finance minister's call to the state chief ministers to act against hoarders to ensure increase in supply of essential items, may provide some hope to consumers who have been badly hit by the steady increase in food prices. But such stop-gap measures that seek to provide some short-term relief will not have any substantial impact on prices, as the problem on the food front has festered for too long and is too extensive to be tackled through such superficial measures. The price statistics bear this out. Overall, the numbers show that wholesale prices of food have risen by an annual average rate of 9.3% in the last five years, which is almost twice the 5.5% annual average increase in wholesale prices during the period. But despite the steady increase in food prices over the medium term, the supply response from the government was restricted to the recurring curbs on exports of some commodities like rice, wheat and sugar. No substantial steps to improve production were attempted despite the persistent price signals over an extended period.

 

What makes the scenario especially worse is that the surging prices indicate that shortage is not limited to just a few products like rice, wheat, sugar or onions, but is much more extensive and not only covers most pulses, vegetables and fruits but also extends to high-protein foods like dairy, fish and meat products. The sharpest increase in food prices over the last five years was in those of pulses, where the prices rose at an annual average rate of 14.4%, which means that nominal prices have doubled over the last five years. The next in line were vegetables, where the prices rose at an annual average rate of 10.3%. Following closely were cereals like rice, wheat and coarse grains, where the prices increased at an annual average rate of 10%. Strangely, prices of almost all coarse cereals, which are mainly consumed by the poor, rose at double digits during the period. In the case of high-protein products, the highest annual average increase in prices was in the case of mutton (12.1%), followed by fish (10%-plus), milk (9.1%) and eggs (7.6%). The only product in this category where the annual average increase was at reasonable levels was chicken, where the average annual price increase was just 3.4% during the last five years. Clearly, we need to go all out to ensure that food production rises in sync with growing incomes.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

IT WASN'T ONLY CITI THAT WAS ASLEEP

SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE

 

How did a relationship manager with less than five years experience deceive a set of hard-nosed, practical money managers of companies and, in the process, expose the soft underbelly of portfolio management business in one of the top-notch banks? To this one can add, how did this man do all of this in the National Capital Region and get away for so long, where people in finance spend a lifetime to work out getting rich formulae?

 

Shivraj Puri was either extraordinarily sharp or else, one has to accept, his counterparties were equally dumb. If one says both of these are not true then the explanation for the heist Puri executed was simply one of playing on systemic gullibility, which, in turn, means another such con job could be just round the corner.

 

These concerns make the arrest of Puri just an aside. One is willing to acknowledge that the Gurgaon police have more or less got their hands on all elements of the story and would move to the prosecution stage soon. But the environment for a fraud stays intact.

 

The enabling environment is the continued reluctance of India's small- and mid-sized companies to move on to a more transparent system of managing their finance. Most would have forgotten that many of these companies are now fighting a strange court case against banks for apparently having taken them for a ride, selling them currency derivatives, which they understood little about. At first sight, these cases seem like chalk and cheese, but actually they are not. A large number of Indian companies, including a number of exporters, took counterparty derivative positions on their foreign currency earnings. These products, too, were sold by banks through their marketing executives. But when the global markets spun out of control in 2008, their open positions backfired and they lost out.

 

The companies have told courts and a sympathetic ministry of corporate affairs that the banks mis-sold the products to them and CBI should chase the banks to recover the same. The courts and the government have swallowed the story hook, line and sinker though RBI had opposed it. Essentially, both the incidents tell us something about the smaller Indian companies. It tells us they are generally cash rich but reluctant to invest in processes or people to avoid a repetition of incidents like the Citibank episode.

 

A rule of thumb used by treasury managers at large Indian and foreign banks advises clients to set up their own investment outfits if the amounts they have to invest is Rs 500 crore or more, instead of depending solely on banks' wealth managers to handle the business. Such outfits, staffed with two fund managers or so, would cost a company about Rs 10-12 crore a year. In the case of the HNIs and companies that had exposure to Citibank, none were working at this scale. This is the tribe that needs the services of portfolio managers from banks on an extensive scale.

 

As the Indian economy has expanded hugely in the past 10 years, the numbers of companies that need these services have ballooned. To meet this demand, the banks have also resorted to short cuts, fast-tracking promotions for Puri and their ilk. Many of them are barely out of their colleges. But soon, each of them, by the very nature of their jobs, becomes the confidant of these companies, who are often pretty naïve in financial engineering.

 

How naïve? In the Citibank episode, none of them, who now complain about signing away huge amounts, took the elementary precaution roughly known as 'maker-checker'. Translated as a simple logic, it says the guy who has taken a payment from a company on behalf of a finance company should not be the same person who signs the final receipt. There should be a firewall between the two, with usually a back office with no connection to the client, which should make out the receipt. Did any one of the clients in this case ever check this out? Apparently, never!

 

Again, the fundamental rule that drives corporate treasuries of large companies is maintaining liquidity and safety. The extension of this principle means the funds are parked in debt instruments that rarely, if ever, exceed the returns from gilts by more than 200 basis points. The Citibank investors had instead chased chit fund-like returns of as high as 36%.

 

The reason for this too has a lot to do with the multi-tasking nature of the CFOs of these small and medium companies. Without fail, the CFOs of all medium-sized companies double up as fund managers of the promoters, irrespective of whether the company from which they draw their salary is listed or not. Treasury managers and mutual fund bosses are all agreed on this.

 

In the absence of a well-organised office to deploy funds, it is these gentlemen who carry out the task. Naturally, they find the portfolio and wealth managers from the banks a very useful ally. While Citibank has protested its innocence in this case, the attraction for a bank to dip into the mess, with the sort of boys like Puri, is formidable.

 

The derivative cases, too, were quite similar, where the CFOs just depended on the ingenuity of the bank officer to pull them through. In the new derivative guidelines, RBI has banned companies with a turnover of less than Rs 100 crore from investing in such products.

 

Perhaps, every major economy manufactures its own version of a financial Achilles' heel. It is possible, thus, that we might not go the US way of a real estate-fed boom-bust fraud cycle. Instead, it will be the fatal attraction of small companies to chase higher returns, which could remain our trouble spot.

 

subhomoy.bhattacharjee@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHY DOES INFLATION PERSIST?

MEGHNAD DESAI

 

It is quite clear that the UPA-2 has lost the battle of inflation. Since around August 2009, policymakers have repeatedly forecast that inflation will come down soon. This has happened with a sad frequency over the last year and more. Now, once again, we are told that by March, inflation will be down to somewhere between 5.5%and 6.5%. India used to have an enviable record in being a low-inflation country where policymakers were hyper-sensitive to inflation pressures. They knew that the citizens were sensitive to price rises. Clearly, India has lost that reputation now. The very fact that we are promised a rate above 5% as a success story itself tells you that inflation has low priority in the government's policy agenda.

 

In the meantime, food price inflation has resisted all efforts at bringing it down below the two-digit level. Last year, there was some defence in view of the drought of 2009, but this year there is not even that excuse. Another reason was cited that it was the growth in rural incomes, thanks to MGNREGA and other spending spurts, which had increased the rural demand for food beyond its previous levels. In as much as this was unanticipated, it would imply that the income elasticity of demand for food itself had gone up as incomes rose. Then there were suggestions that somehow the urban consumer was robust against food price inflation since the sales of consumer durables, etc, were still buoyant. This seemed to imply that the price elasticity of demand for food in urban areas had been reduced, thanks to higher incomes.

 

It is impossible to credit these suggestions with any basis unless we see some detailed evidence. What is more plausible is that India has failed to control inflation more as a result of failure of policy than of benign effects of income growth. High income growth need not cause high inflation since income growth implies that supplies have grown just as much as expenditure has. The mismatch has to be explained somehow. It would seem then that as far as foodgrains are concerned, it has to be a failure of the supply side, which caused inflation.

 

The supply-side failures are of two sorts. Firstly in light of the drought, which was well flagged up before it occurred, there should have been timely release of food stocks to dampen down any price increase. There was a signal failure to do so through the last quarter of 2009 and early 2010. The same happened again late last year when unseasonal rainfall caused a fall in onion output in Maharashtra. Here again the forward markets could see the outcome and traders did what they are in business to do. They anticipated the price rise and bought up stocks. The government, on the other hand, failed to take countervailing action. Hence the spike, how come?

 

There is no reason other than the fact that the agriculture minister has shown no enthusiasm for his job. He is also unsackable. This lackadaisical response has been constant through 2009 and 2010. Add to this the longer-run failure to improve the warehousing of foodgrains, which has been exposed by the Supreme Court and we can conclude that the supply-side failures are pivotal in the foodgrain inflation.

 

One may add to these two defects the weakness of the retailing chain from farmgate to the consumer. The numerous small retailers and the myriad middlemen make for a high cost and inefficient supply chain. This also leads to cries of hoarding and profiteering whenever a small supply shock leads to a spike in price as has happened with onions. The defenders of the small traders are also the first to denounce hoarders. They do not admit that the root cause is the very thing they champion. If the government were to shed its timidity in increasing FDI in retailing, it would begin to narrow the spread between the farmgate price and the retail price as well as reduce its volatility.

 

The supply-side story extends to other sectors such as infrastructure where again the pace of road building has slowed down in the last two years. Power shortages remain a problem again due to the shortfall between targets and achievements in the sector. Public sector companies are failing to meet their targets laid down in the Plan.

 

Despite these shortfalls, the output growth story continues to be good. So credit where credit is due. Fiscal and monetary policies have been sound. There has been no undue tightening of monetary policy. India has not panicked in wake of inflows of capital and has let the economy absorb the extra capital.

 

The best anti-inflation policy would be a Cabinet reshuffle, changing the guard at agriculture. But what do you bet that won't happen?

 

The author is a prominent economist and Labour peer

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

EAVESDROPPER

Jairam effect

The coal ministry is at loggerheads with the environment ministry over the go-no-go areas, but it has already started taking some of minister Jairam Ramesh's concerns on board. For starters, all the dull brown-and-yellow file covers in the ministry have been replaced by bright green covers. As one officer points out, who says coal cannot be green?! "It is there for everyone to see in our offices." The ministry also proposes to expand its novel green drive across the country. Three cheers for green.

 

It's called guest relations now

The office of 'Mayar Group', one of the companies affected by the Citibank scam, is an interesting one. As you enter the office, you find a Guest Relations Officer seated outside the office of the CMD—turns out the Guest Relations Officer is actually the CMD's bodyguard who accompanies the CMD everywhere.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

CONCOCTING GODFATHER

'UNCLE MICHAEL... EVERYONE KNOWS YOU'RE THE FINAL WORD, YOU'RE LIKE THE SUPREME COURT'

 

When Paramount told Francis Ford Coppola that Marlon Brando would have to take a screen test before getting the Don Vito Corleone role, one commentator said this was like asking the Pope to recite the catechism. But Brando more than played along, turning up for the test with shoe polish under the eyes and wads of tissue paper in the mouth. Voilà, the wheezy and jowly performance that captured the American imagination then and enthrals the world's film aficionados to date. Then, there was the part of son Michael. Robert Redford was a contender, as were Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson. But the part was dished out to Al Pacino. He had only two films released before 1972, which is when The Godfather trilogy debuted. Some mystical conjuration would have every decision made on the project the right decision. But who were the people who inspired it?

 

One theory strongly pushes Charles 'Lucky' Luciano to the forefront. In the New York of the Prohibition era, the man organised organised crime—with a management style that was very different from the mayhem-centric one favoured by Chicago man Al Capone, the other obvious contender for the 'inspiration' role. The FBI got to him but he was exiled away in 1946. US authorities said that, till his death in 1962, Lucky was building up a worldwide drug-smuggling operation out of Cuba. A new book, by historian Tim Newark, says nothing doing. This Don died a pauper. But the government had spent so much money hounding him that it had to then build a legend to justify the expenses. Mario Puzo helped. We helped. Long live the imagination.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

GET SCIENCE PRIORITIES RIGHT

 

Sessions of the Indian Science Congress have provided forums for the nation's executive to announce new policy initiatives in science and technology. The recently concluded 98th session at the SRM University in Chennai, with its focal theme of 'Quality Education and Excellence in Scientific Research in Indian Universities,' was no exception. When it comes to a skilled workforce India, as Minister for S&T Kapil Sibal noted in his keynote address, faces a huge supply-demand gap. A major reason is young people moving away from science at the tertiary level. The mushrooming of private and foreign players in an unregulated environment to impart education, much of it of poor quality, puts pressure on the government to step in and provide quality higher S&T education that is affordable. This calls for measures to widen the human resource base and increase the average proficiency levels at the universities. While it is nobody's case that we do not need more universities, the chief thrust should be towards strengthening the existing ones, both Central and State, in terms of infrastructure, finance, and autonomy so that the research and teaching environment gets invigorated to produce quality output. Modest external support for research in universities has already shown positive results: in the last three years, while India's research publications have grown annually at 12 per cent, university output has grown at 30 per cent. Unfortunately, the policy pronouncements of the Prime Minister as well as the S&T Minister seemed to miss the point by addressing the peaks in scientific research rather than improving the average.

 

Innovation is the new buzzword among Indian policymakers and scientocrats. Innovation cannot be bought or implanted. It will happen on its own once you have provided the right environment for research and education in institutions of higher learning. Name-plating organisations cannot produce innovation. Mr. Sibal announced that the government was working on the concept of creating 'Navratna' universities along the lines of Ivy League institutions. He also spoke of plans to set up 14 'Innovation' universities that would "set benchmarks in academics and … compete with the best in the world in the context of problems of hunger, water, poverty, and diseases through cutting-edge science and technology." Rising India can certainly ivy-coat university buildings but that will not guarantee academic excellence and creativity. The Navratna public sector enterprises won that label in consequence of their hard work, solid achievement, and sustained growth; they were not labelled beforehand. Another dubious official project is the Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research to be established in association with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. This is basically conceived as a shortcut to produce hundreds of PhDs and post-doctoral fellows to meet the CSIR's needs. The real challenge is to initiate measures that will produce science and technology excellence in the university system. Diverting the CSIR from its mission of technology development into human resource development is likely to be to the detriment of universities.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

UPBEAT BUT WITH CAVEATS

 

The International Monetary Fund's most recent assessment of the Indian economy is broadly in line with those of the Government of India and the Reserve Bank of India. The economy is expected to grow at a robust rate of 8.75 per cent this year and moderate to around 8 per cent during 2011-12. Since mid-2009, the pace of recovery, which is led by domestic demand, has been strong. Monetary and fiscal policies have been accommodative and the real interest rates have remained low. But, despite some attempts at fiscal consolidation, the fiscal deficit is high. There are other near-time challenges, high inflation being the most significant one. A few days after the release of the IMF report, food inflation shot up to 18.22 per cent. There is very little slack in the economy and this has spurred inflation in manufactured goods. The high food prices are due to supply side factors as well as a structural shift in the consumption patterns. As the RBI pointed out, the consumption of milk, eggs, meat, and other protein-rich items has increased and their prices have moderated less than those of cereals and pulses. It is highly unlikely that the year-end inflation targets will be achieved.

 

The IMF expects India's growth prospects to remain strong over the medium term. Rapid growth is expected to be supported by high investment and productivity gains. Most of the downside risks relate to the global economy. Surging capital inflows could spur further investment, but could also complicate macroeconomic management. Sustaining rapid growth over the medium term will depend, among others, on efforts to facilitate infrastructure investment — such as deepening the corporate bond market and lowering the cost of doing business. It is equally important to improve social indicators, even while carrying out fiscal consolidation. Few will disagree with the IMF's view that improving social outcomes and strengthening infrastructure are the two key pillars of a strategy to achieve rapid and inclusive growth in India. India's banking system is resilient and well capitalised. However, there is a need to constantly monitor asset quality especially when prudential norms for infrastructure are eased.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

THE DARK SIDE OF GLOBALISATION

THE RAPID GROWTH OF GLOBAL MARKETS HAS NOT SEEN THE PARALLEL DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC INSTITUTIONS TO ENSURE BALANCED, INCLUSIVE AND SUSTAINABLE GROWTH.

JORGE HEINE & RAMESH THAKUR

 

Although we may not have yet reached "the end of history," globalisation has brought us closer to "the end of geography" as we have known it. The compression of time and space triggered by the Third Industrial Revolution —roughly, since 1980 — has changed our interactions with the international environment. For many, globalisation — the intensified cross-border exchange of goods, services, capital, technology, ideas, information, legal systems, and people — is both desirable and irreversible, having underwritten a rising standard of living throughout the world. Others recoil from globalisation as they feel it is the soft underbelly of corporate imperialism that plunders and profiteers on the back of rampant consumerism.

 

Globalisation is not uncontrolled. The movement of people remains tightly restricted. The flow of capital is highly asymmetrical. Over the last two decades, overseas development assistance from the rich to poor countries has totalled $50-80 billion per year. In the same period, every year, $500-800 billion of illegal funds have been sent from the poor to rich countries. That is, for every one dollar of aid money over the table, the West gets back $10 under the table and, for good measure, lectures the rest on corruption.

 

The benefits and costs of linking and delinking are unequally distributed. Industrialised countries are mutually interdependent; developing countries are largely independent in economic relations with one another; and developing countries are highly dependent on industrialised countries. Brazil, China and India are starting to change this equation.

 

There is a growing divergence in income levels between countries and peoples, with widening inequality among and within nations. Assets and incomes are more concentrated. Wage shares have fallen. Profit shares have risen. Capital mobility alongside labour immobility has reduced the bargaining power of organised labour.

 

The deepening of poverty and inequality — prosperity for a few countries and people, marginalisation and exclusion for the many — has implications for social and political stability among and within states. The rapid growth of global markets has not seen the parallel development of social and economic institutions to ensure balanced, inclusive and sustainable growth. Labour rights have been less sedulously protected than capital and property rights, and global rules on trade and finance are inequitable. This has asymmetric effects on rich and poor countries.

 

Even before the global financial crisis (GFC), many developing countries were worried that globalisation would impinge adversely on economic sovereignty, cultural integrity and social stability. "Interdependence" among unequals translates into the dependence of some on international markets that function under the dominance of others. The GFC confirmed that absent effective regulatory institutions, markets, states and civil society can be overwhelmed by rampant transnational forces.

 

Globalisation has also let loose the forces of "uncivil society" and accelerated the transnational flows of terrorism, human and drug trafficking, organised crime, piracy, and pandemic diseases. This is the subject of our new book, The Dark Side of Globalization (UNU Press, 2011). The growth of these transnational networks threatens state institutions and civil society in many countries.

 

What can developing nations do to manage the challenges of globalisation?

The outright rejection of globalisation and a retreat into autarky is neither practical nor desirable: who wants to be the next Myanmar or North Korea? As one wag has put it, opposing globalisation is like opposing the sun coming up every morning, and about as fruitful. Equally, though, who wants to be the next Iceland, Greece or Ireland? The notion that endless liberalisation, deregulation and relaxation of capital and all border controls (except labour) will assure perpetual self-sustaining growth and prosperity has proven to be delusional. The three Baltic nations that embarked on this course (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) — to which, for good measure, they added the flat tax — all had double-digit negative growth in 2009.

 

For developing countries, lowering all barriers to the tides of the global economy may end up drowning much of local production. Raising barriers that are too high may be counterproductive, if not futile. Countries that find the golden middle, like Chile and Singapore, tend to thrive, channelling the enormous opportunities offered by an expanding world economy for the benefit of their citizens. Those that do not, like many in Central and Western Africa, are marginalised and left behind.

 

Finding the right, if difficult, balance between openness and regulation requires keeping a watchful eye on trans-border crimes that thrive in the interstices of the national and the international. Illicit trade, accounting for 10 per cent of global economic product according to some estimates, could be growing at seven times the rate of growth of legal trade.

 

The growth in transnational flows has not been matched by an equivalent growth in global governance mechanisms to regulate them. And yet the very nature of the structure of globalised networks, which intertwine global actors and interests, ensures that no single power is able to maintain its position within the newly emerging global disorder without making compromises with other global players.

 

In Africa, home to 36 of the world's 50 least developed countries, state weakness often has opened the door to transnational crime and terrorism. Garth le Pere and Brendan Vickers highlight six pathologies that are particularly prevalent across Africa: illegal exploitation of natural resources, terrorism, the drug trade, illegal migration and human trafficking, gun running, and money laundering. According to some, Guinea Bissau has already become the world's first narco-state.

 

One response to global governance gaps that have made these illegal activities possible has been regional governance. The transfer of state functions to supranational forms of regional governance could enhance the capacity of individual states to combat uncivil society. The sharing of expertise, institutions, policy tools, personnel and other resources can go a long way in stemming the tide of unwanted activities.

 

Human trafficking is among the darkest sides of globalisation, turning human beings into commodities bought and sold in the international marketplace. Women and children are among the most exposed to it. NGOs from all continents attempt to cope with this nefarious activity and report on those involved in it.

 

Southern Africa has witnessed the rise of elaborate transnational crime organisations. The illegal trafficking in narcotics, mineral resources, ivory, counterfeit products and stolen property is thriving. International crime syndicates exploit government weaknesses to make huge profits. Illegal migration and money laundering rob the state of valuable human and material resources, in a region that desperately needs them.

 

A different kind of challenge is posed by insurgencies that thrive as a result of the inequalities created by globalisation. The "development dichotomy" explains why dramatic national-level progress in India has gone hand in hand with an ever greater gap between the prosperity of urban, middle-class Indians and the squalor still seen in many of its 600,000 villages where most Indians live. Uprooted from ancestral lands and unable to adapt to the demands of a modern economy, aboriginal populations (Adivasis) often see revolutionary redemption as the only way out of their predicament.

 

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers, on the other hand, might well have been one of the most globalised terrorist movements anywhere. Part of the reason for their considerable, if ultimately transient, success was the effective way they relied on the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora both to obtain resources and to marshal political support for their cause.

 

Jihadists have excelled at using modern IT and telecom technology to promote their cause and foster their objectives, building on the link between the drug trade and terrorism pioneered by the CIA in Southeast Asia, Central America and Afghanistan. Jihadis have perfected into an art form the international transfer of funds in ways that are essentially untraceable, by relying on ancient mechanisms that replicate the old-fashioned way Osama bin Laden gets his information — through pieces of paper brought to him by hand by loyal messengers — which is one reason he remains at large.

 

It remains to be seen whether the GFC has brought to an end globalisation as we have known it for three decades. But there is little doubt that the "dark side" of globalisation is here to stay.

 

(Jorge Heine holds the Chair in Global Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs and is a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo, Ontario. Ramesh Thakur is Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo. )

 

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THE HINDU

A NOTIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL?

THE NATIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL'S RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY BILL ARE IN DANGER OF BEING BRUSHED ASIDE.

JEAN DRÈZE

 

It is the fate of most advisory committees that the government accepts whatever advice suits its purposes and ignores the rest. The first version of the National Advisory Council (NAC-1) managed to avoid that fate to some extent, due to favourable circumstances. NAC-1 was able to persuade the government to enact the Right to Information Act, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, and the Forest Rights Act, aside from other initiatives. None of these proposals were accepted without change by the government — for instance, the NREGA draft prepared by NAC-1 was severely diluted before being tabled in Parliament (it was "repaired" later on, with some help from the Parliament's Standing Committee on Rural Development and the Left Parties). Nevertheless, NAC-1 was instrumental in ushering constructive legislations and policies that would, in all likelihood, never have seen the light of day through normal government channels. This lent it some credibility, in spite of all the ambiguities attached to this unconventional body.

 

The second version of the National Advisory Council (NAC-2), however, has been convened in very different circumstances, and does not seem to have the ear of the government. A few weeks ago, NAC-2 drew the government's attention to its fundamental duty to pay minimum wages to NREGA workers. This issue required some resolve and application of mind, because framing a sustainable wage policy for NREGA that respects the Minimum Wages Act is not a simple matter. Instead of tackling this issue, the government stuck to the inadmissible claim that NREGA has been "delinked from minimum wages", and tried to make up for it by indexing the wages of NREGA workers (with a provision for revising the base wages every five years).

 

Under the guise of meeting the NAC half-way, the government has made matters worse, by reaffirming its commitment to non-payment of minimum wages to NREGA workers. Even the indexation of wages is little more than damage control. In a fast-growing economy, the least one would expect from a government committed to "inclusive growth" is that it enables the poorest of the poor to maintain their share of the pie. That would mean indexing the wages of NREGA workers not only on the price level, but also on something like the growth rate of per-capita GDP. When per-capita incomes in the economy are growing at more than five per cent per year in real terms, why should those of NREGA workers be kept constant for as long as five years, without any guarantee of upward revision at the end of that tunnel? Yet far from being taken to task for its stinginess, the government managed to get credit for raising the wages of NREGA workers in line with inflation, that too after two years of incessant public pressure. This is like agreeing to stop trampling on the hands of someone who is hanging from the roof of a high-rise building by his fingernails, and getting a prize for it.

 

The NAC recommendations on the National Food Security Bill (NFSB) are in danger of going the same way if not worse. These recommendations are very mild, coming as they did at the end of a long process of consultation with various Ministries, when the government went out of its way to ensure that the NAC did not hatch any "unreasonable" proposal. But even the residue appears to be too much for the government's tiny stomach. Even before the NAC recommendations were adequately fleshed out, they were referred to an "expert committee" consisting entirely of government officials. This committee, headed by Dr. C. Rangarajan, must be commended for its timely deliberations and sharp report. But the conclusions make one wonder why the government wasted the NAC's time: the Rangarajan committee recommendations are almost exactly the same as the Planning Commission's NFSB proposal, formulated before the NAC started its work. If anything, they are more conservative: the Rangarajan committee suggests selling PDS foodgrain to non-BPL households at the Minimum Support Price (MSP), instead of 75 per cent of MSP as the Planning Commission had suggested.

 

The committee report

The Rangarajan Committee rejected the NAC proposals on the grounds that further raising of procurement levels would "lead to a lower availability of foodgrain for the open market, pushing up prices". This argument is incorrect: higher procurement would also mean higher distribution, and the two would, in principle, approximately "cancel out" as far as the effect on market prices are concerned. Coming from a committee that includes at least two world-class economists, this failure of A-level economics is a little embarrassing. Could it be that the committee's judgment was clouded by a fundamental resistance to the idea that the ambit of the Public Distribution System should be expanded?

 

There is another glitch in the Rangarajan Committee report. The report recommends sweeping PDS reforms, whereby the food subsidy would be transferred directly to the beneficiaries through a Smart Card, usable in "any store". The committee's faith in this entirely untested system is touching. But suppose it works. Most of the subsidised food would then find its way "through the normal market channels", as the report happily notes. But in that case, where is the question of a procurement constraint?

 

For good measure, the Rangarajan Committee focuses exclusively on the PDS component of the NAC proposals, and ignores the non-PDS entitlements such as child nutrition programmes, maternity entitlements and destitute feeding. This jars with the committee's recognition of India's massive "nutritional deficiencies", and also with its well-taken observation that better nutrition is "a necessary prerequisite for economic development". A historic opportunity is being missed to do justice to these fundamental concerns.

 

( The author is Visiting Professor at the Department of Economics, University of Allahabad and Member of the National Advisory Council.)

 

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THE HINDU

A BIG FIRST STEP

A LOOK AT LIFE IN LANDMARK, A TWO-YEAR COLLEGE IN VERMONT, U.S., EXCLUSIVELY FOR STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES AND ADHD.

ABBY GOODNOUGH

 

Rayne Nelson, a 21-year-old sophomore at Landmark College in Putney, Vt., does not let her attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (A.D.H.D.) throw her off track.

 

Ms. Nelson is paying most of her own way at Landmark, a two-year college exclusively for students with learning disabilities and A.D.H.D. She wants to graduate on time this spring, and with tuition and fees alone at $48,000 a year — more than any other college in the nation — she cannot give in to distraction.

 

"I have a lot riding on this," says Ms. Nelson, who is also dyslexic. She wants to transfer to a four-year institution and get a bachelor's degree — a goal that would have been out of reach, she says, had she not found Landmark three years after graduating from high school. If Ms. Nelson gets her associate degree in May after four semesters, she will buck the trend at Landmark.

 

Only about 30 per cent graduate within three years; many others drop out after a semester or two. The numbers suggest that even with all the special help and the ratio of one teacher for every five students, the transition is not easy.

 

About half of the 500 students at Landmark are recent high school graduates or, like Ms. Nelson, arrive after a period of drifting. Most of the others have tried and failed at college already, coming with the goal of getting the academic or organisational skills they need to succeed at a four-year college or to enter the workforce.

 

What federal law says

 

Federal law requires all colleges to provide some accommodations for the learning disabled — tutoring, for example, or extra time on exams — and with the rapid increase in students with diagnosed learning disabilities, many mainstream colleges and universities are trying to serve them better. But they still fall short, experts say, for those who need help not just with study skills like how to take notes and write papers, but also with basic daily functions like getting to class on time. Proactive parents might help these students make it through high school, but they face steep odds once they leave home.

 

For such students, options are growing. Mitchell College, a small residential campus in New London, Conn., now offers a transition year in which students earn transferable credits while preparing for college life. Beacon College in Leesburg, Fla., like Landmark a degree-granting institution for the learning disabled, plans to add a summer programme for college-bound students by 2012 and take 100 more students by 2014.

 

Among for-profit ventures, the College Internship Program helps 18- to 26-year-olds learn social, academic and life skills, including how to study, manage money and even cook. It is expanding its summer transition programme for new high school graduates to each of its locations in five states. Landmark, too, is expanding its summer programme, to North Carolina, Oregon and California.

 

Issues

 

All of these programmes are expensive and, given the economic downturn, out of reach for many. This fall, for the first time, Landmark did not meet its enrolment target, with 26 fewer students than planned. "Applications and acceptances were up," says Dale Herold, the college's vice-president for enrolment management, "but when it came down to paying, the follow-through wasn't there. The economy this year was like, whoa."

 

The drop is a serious matter for a small, tuition-dependent college. Landmark has an endowment of only about $11 million. One reason is that the college is relatively young — it is celebrating its 25th anniversary this school year. Another, officials say, is that alumni are reluctant to donate because of the stigma attached to attending a school for the learning disabled.

 

Some students struggling in mainstream colleges decide to spend just a "bridge semester" at Landmark to get help specifically with time management and productivity. MacLean Gander, who teaches writing to these students, says many of those in his class are talented writers but routinely fail to show up for class or hand in papers. They are students like Isabel Jacob, 19, who has A.D.H.D. and was asked to leave Salve Regina College in Newport, R.I., after failing three courses her freshman year, and Michaela Brunell, 20, who fell behind at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. "I loved it my first year," Ms. Brunell says, "but as my classes got more work-oriented, I didn't have good strategies set up."

 

At the college

 

On its face, Landmark College does not look like one of the nation's most expensive schools. The academic buildings are squat and plain, the grounds understated, and some dorm rooms have a 1970s-era feel. Likewise, in many classrooms there are only subtle hints of the learning disabilities that make college so challenging for the students there. Some might speak so quickly that they are hard to follow; others might trail off in the middle of answering a question, distracted or grasping unsuccessfully for the right words.

 

One afternoon in an English class, a student frequently asked the professor to repeat what he had just said. In a seminar about learning disabilities, meant to help students understand their diagnoses, a young woman was using three differently coloured pens to highlight text, a strategy to process what they read: one colour might indicate unfamiliar words, and another the facts that could show up on a test.

 

"We're dealing with really bright students here," says Michael Nieckoski, Landmark's director of educational technology services. "In some ways they may be even smarter than your average undergraduate, because they've spent most of their lives trying to either overcome their diagnosis or outsmart everyone."

 

By the time they get to Landmark, though, some are so far behind that the chances of catching up are slim. Linda J. Katz, the college president, says about 20 of the 220 new students this past fall could not read above a sixth-grade level. They started out working on basic skills in non-credit courses. This fall, about six per cent of Landmark students were taking only non-credit courses; another 16 per cent were getting partial credit while they worked on reading and writing. Those with more than basic skills take a for-credit curriculum that includes classes in literature, history and science.

 

First semester

 

During their first semester, students are steeped in techniques for keeping up with schoolwork. For note-taking, they are taught to divide a page into two columns, recording as much of the lecture as possible on one side and main ideas and topics on the other. For time management, they are given planners and told to schedule everything from when they will start a homework assignment to when they will eat dinner.

 

Every student who needs it gets assistive technology. Those who have trouble reading, for example, can listen to a computer reading their textbooks instead. Those who struggle with writing and spelling can dictate a research paper to a computer that will transcribe it.

 

Meghan Benzel, a third-semester student with A.D.H.D. and nonverbal learning disorder, says being able to listen to her reading assignments had made all the difference for her. Ms. Benzel, 20, came to Landmark reluctantly — her aunt had heard it advertised on the radio — after graduating from high school in Kennett Square, Pa. There, Ms. Benzel says, she was an unhappy loner whose top goal was keeping her learning disabilities secret.

 

In addition to taking five classes last semester, she is a tour guide and residential adviser with a gaggle of friends and concrete goals. After graduating in May, she plans to join AmeriCorps and work with inner-city children.

 

But Ms. Benzel says that as an R.A., she sees another kind of Landmark student — the kind who comes grudgingly, often pushed into it by parents, and never accepts help. "Last week the kid next door to me left," she says. "He had given up on classes and wasn't in good contact with anyone."

 

The Landmark student

 

It is not supposed to happen that way. Officially, a network of academic advisers who meet weekly with each student, resident deans who live in the dorms, and tutors and counsellors keep a close eye on students who rack up absences, botch assignments or appear socially or emotionally adrift. But in reality, such students are especially likely to resist help and keep their problems under wraps. The typical Landmark student is 19 and male — only about 30 per cent are women, who are less likely to have diagnoses of learning disabilities, partly because of genetic and neurological differences and partly because girls are more likely to keep disabilities hidden. But there is no typical path for the roughly 100 students a year who graduate. Some, like Ms. Benzel, reject the idea of continuing school, at least in the near term.

 

Of those who received associate degrees and transferred to four-year institutions over the last five years, about a third dropped out, according to data gathered by Landmark. The rest have either graduated or are still working toward bachelor's degrees.

 

Sarah Tarbell-Littman of Bronxville, N.Y., had floundered for a semester at Mount Holyoke College, spent five semesters at Landmark and now attends Clark University, taking three courses each semester instead of four so as not to fall behind.

 

"She knows what she needs now and can ask for it," says her mother, Diane Tarbell. "Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't, but that's a big first step."

 

( Abby Goodnough is Boston bureau chief of The Times.)

 

 © New York Times News Service

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THE HINDU

RAIN BRINGS NEW FLOOD WOES TO AUSTRALIA

 

A swollen river submerged bridges and inundated homes and stores on January 9 in Australia's already sodden Queensland state as more heavy rain added to the country's worst flooding in decades.

 

Maryborough became the latest of some 40 towns to be partly awash as a river running through it burst its banks and entered parts of the town of 22,000, which has been heavily protected by sandbags and levies. Downstream, residents of Gympie were frantically sandbagging their town in anticipation of flooding there on January 10.

 

The latest flooding was not as bad as in recent weeks, when entire towns were submerged beneath an inland sea the size of France and Germany combined, but was a sign that the ground has little capacity left to soak up any more moisture, so any new rain is likely to make matters worse, officials said.

 

Some areas of Queensland have had more than eight inches (200 millimetres) of rain the past 24 hours, the Bureau of Meteorology said on late January 9. "This year, with all of the catchments primed and the rivers already flooding, that 200 millimetres of rain will mean something very different," said Warren Bridson, acting chief of the state emergency services. "It could mean the difference between a minor flood and a major flood."

 

Roads and rail lines have been cut, Queensland's big-exporting coal mine industry has virtually shut down, and cattle ranching and farming across a large part of the state are at a standstill.

 

Prime Minister Julia Gillard flew on January 8 to several towns that were cut off or partly submerged by floodwaters, and promised residents they would be fully restored. Queensland officials have said the price of rebuilding homes, businesses and infrastructure, coupled with economic losses, could be as high as $5 billion. Australia's worst flooding in some 50 years was caused by tropical rains that fell for days, starting just before Christmas.

 

— AP

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THE HINDU

 

ENUMERATING THE DISABLED

INTERVIEW WITH JAVED ABIDI, FOUNDER OF THE DISABILITY RIGHTS GROUP.

 

Javed Abidi , Honorary Director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) and the founder of the Disability Rights Group, is an active campaigner for access for persons with disabilities. After winning a case in the Supreme Court, in 1998, for effective implementation of the Persons with Disabilities Act, he is now engaged in mobilising public opinion on the proposed disability law. Mr. Abidi, who was in Chennai recently for a South Zone Consultation Workshop on census and the enumeration of people with disability, shared his views with A. Srivathsan and Garimella Subramaniam on the improvements made to the 2011 census questionnaire and their implications for policy changes and resource allocations.

 

It was only in 2001 that Independent India began a comprehensive Census enumeration of people with disability. Now, as the 2011 census is set to commence in February, how do you view this in the context of the struggle for establishing the rights of the disabled?

 

It was not easy to include the enumeration of the disabled in the 2001 Census. We struggled for more than six months and managed to include it only at the last moment. Till the 2001 census figures were revealed, the Government of India maintained that the number of people with disability was less than one per cent of the total population contrary to the estimate by U.N. institutions which placed it at about 10 per cent and the activists estimating it to be five to six per cent. The 2001 census showed that 2.1 per cent of the population had different kinds of disabilities. In my opinion this figure is grossly underestimated.

 

Why do you think the 2001 figures are not accurate?

 

There are two reasons for contesting the 2001 Census figures. First we have to bear in mind that the average percentage of population with disabilities in China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and other countries in Asia-Pacific region is around five per cent. It would defy logic to think that India is the sole exception with lower figures. Second, only five kinds of disabilities were included for enumeration. Since the question on disability was introduced at the last moment there was no time to train the enumerators adequately. As a result, many enumerators missed out or incorrectly filled the column on disability.

 

How critical is it to get the figures correct?

 

The Census data is the foundation on which the rights of the people with disability will be determined. Statistics has a huge impact on policy making and resource allocation. It directly affects decisions on a host of issues ranging from reservations in schools to availability of good quality aids and appliances for the disabled.

 

How will census 2011 be better?

 

Two important improvements have been made to the 2011 census questionnaire. One, the question on disability has been moved up the list from the previous fifteenth position to the ninth, one place ahead of the question on mother tongue. This change, we hope, will ensure that the question will not be missed out either by the enumerator or the respondent. Two, the categories of disabilities have been expanded from five to eight. For the first time people with mental illness and multiple disabilities have been brought in. Those with disabilities, besides the seven listed, can be accounted for under the eighth category titled "other disabilities." These changes will make the enumeration more inclusive. For the last one year we have interacted with Dr. C. Chandramouli, Registrar General and Census Commissioner, and he has been exceptionally receptive to our concerns.

 

What efforts have NCPEDP and the cross disability alliance taken to ensure that the forthcoming enumeration would be accurate?

 

The NCPEDP was invited by the Census Commission to train its enumerators. We have developed a 45-minute module to explain disability, conditions of disability and the sensitivities involved in asking questions about disability.

 

The 90 national trainers identified by the Census Commission were trained by NCPEDP who in turn trained the other enumerators. We have also organised a series of workshops for volunteers interacting at the grassroots level. The purpose is to train them to create awareness about the importance of census and convince people with disability and their families to ensure the question is asked and accurately answered.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

SECURING INDIA'S RISE

KAMAL DAVAR

 

At the threshold of the second decade of this millennium, the defining security paradigm for India remains to successfully confront various security challenges to its economic growth and a peaceful rise to global pre-eminence. The unprecedented military rise and strategic assertiveness of China, the continual Pakistan-sponsoredterrorism and its consistent adversarial policies towards India and Afghanistan and the growing Naxal/Maoist menace are some of the formidable security challenges that confront India. As a steady nine per cent economic growth propels India to take its rightful place on the world stage, the path of peace and progress for India is strewn with roadblocks. Are we sufficiently gearing up to overcome these challenges and be deserving of a "seat at the high table" vexes the mind of most both within India and abroad. Would we shed an inexplicable timidity in macro decision-making and bureaucratic sluggishness to be what we deserve will be seen in this decade.


Notwithstanding many genuine peace overtures by India to China, the latter, unmindful of Indian sensitivities on Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Arunachal Pradesh, has not only diluted its earlier stand on Indian sovereignty but mischievously altered it on both counts. Alarmingly, the Chinese perfidy has been witnessed in the dimensions of the International Border and the Line of Actual Control. India shares a 4,057-km border with China whereas it has come out with a startling statement that it shares only a 2,000-km border with India. India's ambassador to China has inexplicably stated that we share a border of 3,488 km. The issue of the mystery of the "missing" thousands of kilometres in J&K and Arunachal Pradesh needs to be strongly addressed with the Chinese after our ministry of external affairs and ministry of defence reconcile their figures. The presence of a nearly 10,000 Chinese workforce, as reported by noted US journalist Selig Harrison, ostensibly for infrastructure projects in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), is indeed ominous from our security point of view. The Chinese undertake all policy steps with a long-term view of their interests and, as such, their stand now has to be most carefully analysed and corrective counter-measures put in place expeditiously by India. We need not be overly delighted by the growing Sino-Indian trade relationships as even the projected $100-billion trade with them is loaded in their favour. It is indeed reassuring that our government politely but firmly has stated its position in the joint statement issued at the end of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's recent visit. It was also in keeping with our democratic credentials for an Indian diplomat to attend the Chinese-boycotted Oslo Nobel Prize ceremony for Liu Xiaobo now in jail in China.


Pakistan, though displaying all the attributes of a failing state and being myopically anti-India in its stance, appears to have made its strategic future imperatives unmistakably clear. Firstly, with a weakening US-Nato footprint in Afghanistan, it would strongly play into US fears and its operational and logistical discomfiture in Afghanistan and thus extract the maximum in financial largesse and military equipment from the US. Secondly, for the price of the latest military equipment from the Chinese arsenal, like the JF-17 jets, F22P frigates, nuclear and missile technologies, besides billions in trade, Pakistan has reportedly allowed thousands of Chinese to be stationed in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan. Not surprisingly, the Pakistanis have stated that Gilgit-Baltistan will not be a part of any future negotiations on J&K. Patriotic Pakistanis may take heed of these sinister developments by the Pakistan Army for short-term military gains as the Chinese may become the neo-colonialists in this disputed region. On the other hand, the Indian security establishment must be mindful of the land threat dimension now to the already existing naval dimension of the Chinese encirclement of India via their "string of pearls" strategy.

The progress achieved in combating the Naxal/Maoist threat to our hinterland that affected about 220 districts, has to be stepped up. Central police organisations and state police set-ups have to improve their professional standards and grassroots intelligence-gathering capabilities to counter this home-grown scourge. However, political leaders, of all hues, must not politicise this threat for electoral gains and hamper the onerous task of the security forces. Our intelligence organisations must also keep a watch on any linkages being developed with these insurgents by either Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence or Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or the Nepal-based Maoists or any Northeast-based insurgent groups.


With growing multi-dimensional threats to India's security, it is critical for the Government of India and the three services to craft out a long-term coherent strategy. The Indian armed forces must be expeditiously given the latest wherewithal, especially in all four-dimension strategic weaponry, including space. The reach of the Indian Navy with an assortment of "blue water" assets, the Indian Air Force (IAF) with strategic trans-continental capabilities and the Army with an adequate offensive and defensive lethal punch has to ensure at the earliest. With the IAF punch already depleting, the induction of the long-awaited 126 multi-role combat aircraft must be expedited besides ensuring timely induction of the fifth-generation fighters being developed jointly with Russia. The Indian Navy and the Integrated Andaman and Nicobar Command will have to be suitably strengthened given the ever-increasing forays by the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean. Our armed forces must be fully geared to operate in a nuclear scenario and be able to field an effective nuclear triad, if required, besides meeting the challenges of information warfare which the Chinese have already mastered and with its cyber capabilities "hacked" many sensitive networks of the US.


Meanwhile, India must encourage indigenous private-public partnerships in the research and manufacturing of state-of-the-art weaponry. As it furthers a defence partnership with its "strategic ally", the US, it will be prudent to expand military linkages with Russia, Israel and France. We need to continue enlarging our developmental footprint in Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics besides endeavouring to re-establish close ties with Iran. Overall, this decade will surely be of much reckoning for an emerging India.

Kamal Davar was the first chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

IPL-4 PUTS INDIANS ON TOP OF THE LIST

 

IPL teams splurged liberally on Indian cricketers in the auction for season four. This represents a smart, if extravagant, move on the part of high-profile franchises in the cricket world's biggest T-20 league. Wiser by the experience of the inaugural auction held three years ago, when money was showered on international stars regardlessof their availability, the state of their fitness and their levels of commitment to a start-up professional league, IPL teams decided to concentrate on the Indian cricketer who, thanks to the BCCI window for the IPL, are available for all matches. This also validates the national pride generated by our cricketers who are ranked not only No. 1 in the ICC Test rankings but are also early favourites for the World Cup to be held in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh from next month.


In their bid to change their entire player set-up, which saw them finish near the bottom in the first three editions, Kolkata Knight Riders may have gone overboard in raising the base prices of national stars. The advent of two new teams in Pune and Kochi made the auction even more vibrant. While the top of the list of the most expensive picks is populated solely by Indians, of whom Gautam Gambhir, seen as the future face of Indian cricket and prospective captain in all forms of the game, hit the jackpot at $2.4 million, the commitment shown by the top Sri Lankans, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, has been recognised. Gone is the time when the (joint) highest paid cricketer of the league, Andrew Flintoff of England, could be a virtual passenger in his team Chennai Super Kings' victory march, taking IPL money without having to sweat for it on the field.
Some egos were dismantled, none more so than in the emotive case of Sourav Ganguly in whom his home state team, KKR, showed no interest. Pragmatism scotched the remnants of ambition in Brian Lara whose move to play IPL was seen as driven by greed by some of his Caribbean colleagues. Even a winning captain like Adam Gilchrist, previously of Deccan Chargers, had to go elsewhere, which only goes to show that age is something sporting geniuses cannot overcome for too long. A few players with known negative behaviour patterns have also been left by the wayside. The IPL and Champions League winners Chennai Super Kings strategised to retain the core of their winning combination towards which they pre-signed four payers while considerably limiting their war chest. Mumbai Indians, IPL runners-up, also took the same route without showing the same commitment to buying others through the auction route. Whether any advantage was derived by CSK in having the managing director of the owning company, India Cements, sitting in a conflict-of-interest situation as the BCCI secretary and president-elect, is not known. However, since the rules were the same for all and set before the auction there could be no real complaints although other problems, like salary "rorts (whereby players are paid more than the agreed sum)", do exist.


Having taken a huge image dent engendered by the circumstances in which the flamboyant IPL architect, Lalit Modi, left his brainchild after the IPL-3 final, the league is set to reinvent itself in its fourth season. The financial health of the very popular professional league, with its exotic blend of sport and entertainment, has generated confidence and new self-belief in Indian cricket, which can only increase now that a distinct Indian flavour has been given to it. Notwithstanding a number of T-20 competitions springing up, like the "Big Bash" Down Under, IPL still retains its pre-eminent position as the cricket word's premier league for international cricketers.

 

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DNA

KAPIL SIBAL'S REFUTATION OF CAG A PYRRHIC WIN

 

Telecom minister Kapil Sibal seems to have scored a pyrrhic victory when he forcefully demolished the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on the second generation mobile telephony spectrum allocation scam, pointing to a notional loss of Rs1.76 lakh crore. He has unwittingly tried to discredit the CAG, which could turn out to be a great disservice. It would make the beleaguered UPA government far more vulnerable than before.

 

It was also clear right from the day the report was laid on the table of the parliament that the figure of loss incurred was not accurate, and that it was a hugely debatable issue. But the purported loss to the exchequer was not to be taken in isolation. It was part of the many other things that were not right about the way Sibal's predecessor, A.Raja, had gone about allotting the second generation mobile telephony spectrum.

 

There were blatant violations of procedure and the fairness principle was given a go-by in the arbitrary choice of licensees.

 

Secondly, the CAG had calculated the potential loss not by comparing the license fee collected in the auction of 3G licences alone but also on how companies leveraged their market value based on the spectrum they had managed to corner through unfair means.

 

The brilliant lawyer that he is, Sibal picked up what was the weakest point in the report and went on to clinically decimate it. But if he believes that the second generation mobile telephony spectrum scam would vanish into thin air because of his legal acumen, then he may have to think again. He has not created the unbreachable bulwark that will protect the Manmohan Singh government from opposition criticism and attack.

 

His other argument that he was compelled to air his views on the CAG through the media because parliament was stalled by the opposition, and he had no other way of stating the facts may not wash either. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is examining the CAG report, and the parliamentary panel is the right place to thrash out the inaccuracies of the auditor. Protocol demands that the government put forward its view in the panel.

 

It is clear that Sibal is fighting a political battle on behalf of the Congress and prime minister Manmohan Singh. But politics is not just about winning debating and legal points. It is much more about images and perceptions. The image of UPA2 in the public mind at the moment is that this government is caught up in too many scams. It has much to atone for. Instead of belligerence, this government should display is a sense of penitence and do what it can to clean up the mess.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

ONIONS GET INDIA, PAKISTAN TO TALK

 

India and Pakistan are getting on each other's nerves once more. Only this time, it is not a diplomatic spat where statements emanating from New Delhi and Islamabad blame the other for real and perceived threats, insults and issues as it usually has been in the last few years. It is about trade, and more specifically about onions. Pakistan was exporting onions to India to tide over the acute shortage of this important vegetable, particularly for north Indian cuisine. Now, Islamabad has stopped the export of onions saying there is a shortage in Pakistan.

 

Indian traders have retaliated by stopping the export of vegetables to Pakistan. Probably, Islamabad is indulging in predictable retaliation -- a trade war tactic -- because it is fuming at New Delhi's reluctance to export the much-needed cotton to Pakistan, and apparently the sudden stoppage of onions is merely a move to increase pressure on New Delhi.

 

There is, however, a glimmer of hope that after the customary bickering, the two sides will talk and sort out trade matters. External affairs minister SM Krishna has promised to talk to his counterpart so that we can have affordable Pakistani onions on our plate. Krishna has also referred to the meeting of foreign secretaries which would serve as a prelude to the foreign ministers' talks that are to follow soon. If these meetings are able to focus on increasing trade between the two countries, it could improve the prospect of bilateral dialogue on the more intractable issues.

 

India and Pakistan are economically and socially interlocked because they share the same geography even when they differ and quarrel on matters of politics and history. If politicians and generals were to step aside, it could very well be the case that traders and common people from the two sides will interact with each other more closely and establish stronger reciprocal ties.

 

It would, of course, be unrealistic to ignore the issues that divide the two countries and which are not likely to go away anytime soon. But trade could be a good starting point to keep the differences from boiling over.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

TEARS HAVE THEIR OWN STORY TO TELL

 

Why do you humans being cry, asks eponymous film hero Terminator even as he descends into his own dissolution. This question cropped in a scientific research carried out by Israeli neurobiologist Noam Sobel and the answer is that tears are chemical signals – a language – beaming a message waiting to be decoded. And when the tears happen to be that of a woman, it seems to mean a 'no' or 'not now'. He has further inferred that a woman's tears could be a real dampener because it kills off sexual arousal in men.

 

These are but experimental observations, not yet scientific truths, since he sample on which the experiment is based is too small. He also confessed that men's tears may have a story to tell too, but they could only find women volunteers. He has now found a man, but the experiment is still in its incipient stages. Our general experience tells us that tears have a tremendous emotional impact, whether of a woman, child or man; whether the person is hungry, sad or in pain. The truth is that tears move us and this will remain regardless of the chemical analysis that scientists promise to carry out.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

WHY POLITICIANS WON'T CONSTRUCT RURAL HOSPITALS

ABHAY VAIDYA

 

Have you ever wondered why so many of our nearly 800 MPs and 4000+ MLAs from rural constituencies rush to establish educational trusts but show no interest in addressing the crying need for rural hospitals?

 

This leads to the bigger question: Given the pressing need for decent rural hospitals, is it not appropriate that well-established politicians use their mass mobilisation and networking abilities for this cause?

 

Practically every prominent politician in the country has an educational trust to his name which is almost always in expansion mode. Starting with Arts, Science and Commerce colleges, they grow on to add institutes in high-demand segments like engineering, medicine, pharmacy, IT and now, biotechnology.

 

Since these trusts have charitable objectives, they receive numerous government concessions, financial grants and tax waivers. The biggest of these are large tracts of land at throwaway prices on practically indefinite lease.

 

Consider some recent examples: Maharashtra minister Narayan Rane's close relatives run the Mumbai-based Dnyaneshwari Shikshan Trust which has no known track record in education. And yet, a prime plot in Pune (valued at Rs20 crore) meant for a government rehab centre for the mentally ill, gets transferred to this trust at a fraction of the amount.

 

President Pratibha Patil's daughter, Jyoti Rathore's Maharashtra Mahila Udyam Trust got a Rs19 crore plot (7.93 hectares) from the Maharashtra government some months back. The commercially valuable land is located five kms from the Pune-end of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Coincidentally, a 10 acre plot adjacent to this one has been bagged by the Kasegaon Education Society, closely associated with Maharashtra minister Jayant Patil.

 

To be fair, some of the big, politician-driven educational trusts do run institutes with fine reputations. One is at peace on that count, although the question remains, why did the politicians not apply the same model to promote rural healthcare in their constituencies?

 

Is it because one can get away by taking donations while providing substandard education while that is not possible with hospitals which deal with people's lives?

 

Take the case of an 86-year-old woman who recently suffered a hip fracture in the taluka town of Phaltan in sugar-rich western Maharashtra — a bastion of Sharad Pawar's NCP.

 

For more than an hour there was no ambulance to bring her to the local, private hospital. When a rickety ambulance arrived, it was without paramedics. After a poor quality X-ray, the doctor decided that surgery could be done only after five days.

 

In sheer frustration, she had to be moved to an orthopaedic hospital in Pune, 86km away; the ambulance driven at a painfully slow speed, onthe heavily potholedPhaltan-Pune road.

 

"Half of Silicon Valley is owned by my batchmates from IIT, Kanpur. I repent having returned to India 30 years ago to settle in Phaltan to do research for rural development… Think of how the rural people are suffering for want ofdecent healthcare..."This was the anguish of the woman's son — Anil Rajvanshi, a US-returned researcher developing renewable energy technologies and devices for rural India.

 

Rajvanshi can afford to take his mother to the best of India's hospitals. But what about the millions of our poor brethren who are at the mercy of politicians in their constituencies?

 

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DNA

COLUMN

HAS 2010 BEEN THE COUNTRY'S 'SCAMMIEST' YEAR EVER?

ANIL DHARKER

 

It's a new year and you are dying to say 'Happy New Year' and mean it, but what do you get? Emails circulating round give an incomprehensible figure of $462,000,000,000. And people greeting you with an expression which says 'Yet another scam!'

 

Has 2010 been the 'scammiest' year ever? It would certainly seem so if you followed the news.

 

Yet consider this: the ruling party has the country's oldest political dispensation at the helm, one which is synonymous not only with our Independence but also with the idealism of Gandhi and Nehru. It is controlled by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi who, successfully or not, have tried to follow the same path of idealism.

 

The government, itself, is led by a man respected the world over for his scholarship, and in India for his honesty. His senior colleagues are equally able men of the same unquestioned integrity so that whether people agree with the way they are doing their job or not, no one will question their track record: Pranab Mukerjee, P Chidambaram, AK Antony, Kapil Sibal and Jairam Ramesh are men whose commitment and sense of fairplay is above debate. In such a scenario, how can we be in such a mess?

 

It's a question that's difficult to answer but we can safely start with the assertion that the top leadership being corruption-free is no guarantee of a clean government.

 

Coalition politics has often been given as an excuse for many cases of corruption in government. But however much the Karunanidhi family is in politics for the spoils of office, would the DMK have really pulled out of the government if the prime minister had held a tight leash on his errant ministers?

 

To take just one example, and an all-important one at that: during the allotment of 2G spectrum should the cabinet not have decided the modalities of allocation and left it to the minister to carry out the mandate? Couldn't the prime minister have summoned his telecom minister and ensured that the fairest method (an auction) was followed? Given the crooked inventiveness of Maran and Raja, they would have still managed some fiddles but the damage to the country's finances would have been far less.

 

In any case, it's not just coalition ministers who have been accused of bending the system. In November last year the CBI wrote to the central cabinet secretary asking the government to transfer out SI Patel, an additional secretary-level officer with the ministry of road transport and highways.

 

He was posted as member (projects) in the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). This request came because the minister Kamal Nath refused the CBI permission to initiate an enquiry against Patel. Why did he do that? The project in question was large: the 120km Nagpur-Betal Highway (NH 69), with a contract value of Rs10,800 crore. The CBI said it had sufficient evidence against Patel, so why was Kamal Nath protecting him? If you remember, in a part of the Nira Radia tapes, reference is made to Kamal Nath's 'Ten per cent' (or was it 15?).

 

That, of course, may be loose talk and Nath may be innocent, but when he tries to protect one of his senior people, what does that suggest? Kamal Nath isn't a member of a difficult coalition partner, but a staunch Congressman. So what stopped Manmohan Singh from over-ruling his minister, and giving the CBI the permission it wanted? It is clear, that the rot that has set in is due to a failure of leadership.

 

But even if Manmohan Singh decides to be more assertive, it will have a salutary effect only on contracts given by the Central government. The figure of $462,000,000,000 I mentioned earlier represents the sum of Rs20,556,848,000,000 (Rs20 lakh crore); black money that has been spirited out of the country between 1948 and 2008. This figure has been given by the US-based Global Financial Integrity, a non-profit research body that has been tracking illegal capital flight in the world.

 

According to Dev Kar, a former IMF economist who did the study, the illicit financial outflows from India have grown at 11.5% a year, and have done so even after the economic reforms of 1992. Everyone who believed that corruption would stop once the economy was opened up, and artificially created shortages were a thing of the past, have been proved wrong. Corruption just moved to other, even more lucrative, areas.

 

Is there a solution? The first is to find the right leaders for key jobs like Kapil Sibal or Jairam Ramesh or Prithviraj Chavan. The other is to cut down on discretionary powers given to ministries and CMs where the interface with the private sector breeds corruption.

 

A third step is to wind down unnecessary government ministries and organisations. The IT sector did spectacularly well because there was no ministry of IT. Do we need a ministry of steel? Do we need a department for prohibition? In short what we need is nothing less than an overhaul of government, a system of regulatory bodies and separate judicial benches to deal with serious frauds on the economy.

 

It's a massive task alright. But then, $462, 000,000,000 is a massive figure.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

WELL DONE

 

The people in Udhampur deserve kudos for foiling an attempt to kidnap two girls from a busy road in the heart of the town on Friday. Indeed, they have proved that the ordinary citizens together can succeed where the law-enforcing agencies fail. It is too shocking for words that two hoodlums should have the audacity to forcibly drag young women into their vehicle. At any time of the day the main streets in Udhampur town hum with a lot of activity. When the incident took place the clock was hovering around 6 p.m. --- by no means a lonely period even in these days of unprecedented cold. The victim duo was actually returning after taking tuition. Not even in their wildest dreams they must have thought of the horror that they were to face soon. As they were walking on the way to the Chabutra Chowk they found themselves being pulled by persons in a vehicle. Some shopkeepers noticed the event but must have rubbed their eyes in disbelief before raising an alarm. Never before had they come across such an occurrence except possibly in the movies. Splendidly rising to the occasion, the shopkeepers rushed towards the scene of the crime. Their sight was enough to scare aware the criminals who took to their heels and, unfortunately, managed to escape through the narrow lanes in the area. There was no way they could have taken their vehicle which was set on fire by the angry crowd. The people also held a massive protest demonstration. Their fury was further fuelled on seeing the police that took its time in reaching the spot. They shouted slogans against the uniformed force. They did not allow a fire tender either to enter the bazaar and instead took upon themselves to throw water on the means of transportation they had set ablaze.

 

One can only draw dreadful inferences about the genesis of the happening. Clearly there are people in our midst who feel that they can get away with anything under the sun. They have no fear of the law leave alone any respect for it. Apparently they also think that they can call the shots in a social order which is gradually ceasing to be cohesive in the face of the impact of materialistic elements and sentiments. Their haughtiness is further encouraged by a distressing reality of our times. There is sharp decline in the public esteem for the authority of the police. It is a pity that the only visible arm of the government is perceived to be corrupt and inefficient even in the State where some of its members have made supreme sacrifices in the battle against terrorism.

 

With this background in view, the citizens of Udhampur have provided a silver lining in a hopeless milieu. They have shown that they don't have to wait for any outside help to save their peace and honour. United they have done it. They may not have been able to nap the villains but they have averted a possible major tragedy. To criticise them for raising slogans or indulging in violence will amount to utter disregard for their courage. They have posed a serious query to the government apparatus: "We have done our job? Are you doing yours?" The police has certainly redeemed its prestige by nabbing the culprits within 24 hours and finding out their links with this city. Nevertheless, an all-important question does crop up. Why can't the women breathe freely in our environment? Why can't they go about their everyday tasks with the confidence that they are safe? Why, oh why?

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

PARADOXES OF LIFE

 

It is the paradox of life that the way to miss pleasure is to seek it first. There are parts of the country, including ours, which are reeling under the onslaught of biting winter. There are, on the other hand, coastal areas where at least at some places they are running fans to fight the heat. Which is more enjoyable? Alternatively there can be another poser. Which can be crueller? It is a case of only the wearer knowing where the shoe pinches. Those fond of cold climate must be cursing them if they have to be per force away from it. Those in the relatively warmer zones may be blaming their bad luck for being denied the basic joy of snowfall. An ideal situation is the one in which a person can enjoy all kinds of weather. A thinker has struck a note of cheer: "Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating;, there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather." The irony is that it is difficult to agree with this observation in practical terms. How can one revel in "sunshine" if the mercury shoots up to 40 degrees Celsius and more? Likewise a good spell of rain can make our lives difficult on our pot-holed roads with ill-designed buildings and unplanned sewerage system only worsening it. How can be snow exciting for us shivering in freezing weather? We would like to disappear at its first sight. Yet, we need all of them --- summer, rain and winter --- for our individual and collective good. They add different colours to our existence. In more ways than one they do a yeoman service like yielding food and water for us. Possibly we will be better off if we heed to the advice that "there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes." We should utilise the available infrastructure to overcome the problems, if any, we face in a particular weather. There are plenty of devices on hand to make our lives comfortable. Why should we fight shy of using them?

 

Again, we can come across a few enigmatic situations. These instruments, for instance, may help us fight the current harsh winter. At the same time, off and on, we can't entirely rule out deaths by asphyxiation resulting from unwanted gas emanating from an overheated heater. Likewise they can be both good and bad during other climates. In contrast, there are millions of poor people in our country who don't have the time and money to think about these luxuries. They have to sleep in the open for want of requisite accommodation. Nothing happens to their overwhelming majority. How can it be explained? This does not mean that there are not some deaths on this count. We have to pre-empt them. The challenge before us is that whatever the weather we don't run short of stamina and sleep. Is it easier said than achieved?

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

FOOD INFLATION A CAUSE FOR WORRY

BY ARABINDA GHOSE

 

Reports that food inflation has risen to a high of 14.44 per cent should have caused consternation among official circles and statements from them expressing deep anxiety on the one hand and determination to fight it with all the might at the Government's disposal should have been announced.


Yet, the Government attitude not only towards such high rate of food inflation but agriculture itself appears to be almost casual. The Government at the Centre has set the target of 244.50 million tones as the target for production of food grains this year (July 2010-June 2011) and anyone connected with agriculture would tell you that even a ten million tonne less target does not appear to be achievable. Going by the 116 million tones production of kharif crops, one must recall that there has not been any year–even during the bumper harvest years – that production in Rabi season exceeding that during the kharif season.


Thus one should not expect a production of more than 230 million tones or so food grains during the year, which will be less by 4 million tonnes than the highest so far in 2008-09, when production had reached the level of 234.47 million tonnes.


The huge loss in production in Andhra Pradesh, the granary in south India, will also affect total production. What is the Government reaction to these developments? Anxiety all right, but not the determination to raise production and productivity by adopting newer technologies and undivided attention on agriculture by powers that be.


It is true that while the Prime Minister had in 2005 and later spoke about staging a "second green revolution" and the President said this twice during December 2010–in Delhi and Udaipur – there does not appear to be the same dedication for staging the first green revolution among people involved in agriculture. Which one had witnessed in 1967-68.


The first green revolution has been a historical landmark in world agriculture and was caused by collaboration among at least four countries including India to bring about that revolution. Besides we had Dr Noman. Borlaug on the one hand and Mr. C. Subramaniam on the other providing unmatched leadership for staging this revolution.


Mr. Subramnaiam, who was belatedly awarded Bharat Ratna, was "demoted" from the Ministry to Steel to the Ministry of Agriculture when Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister in 1966 after the untimely death of Lal Bahadur Shastri. Many political people were dismayed at the such a "demotion" of a prominent leader from Tamilnadu. How wrong they were had become apparent within two yearsDr Borlaug had been coming to India since the 1963s and was deeply worried about the low productivity of wheat in India. He was aware that the United States Department of Agriculture (USAD) had collected certain wheat jeans from Japan immediately after the end of the second world war These genetic material were taken to Mexico, which too had problem of low productivity of wheat, by the Mexican Government- Rockefeller Foundation Office of Special Studies. They developed certain varieties which had higher productivity. Mr. Subramaniam decided that he would import just 250 tonnes of these new varieties from Mexico for trial in India. Immediately, certain people (the earlier versions of "environmentalists" ) raised hackles. Subramaniam, who was not involved in any "extra-curricular" activities such as sports, had silenced those people by saying that this wheat was for tests at agricultural institutes and not for distribution among farmers.

Dr. Borlaug had difficulty in loading the seeds (Pakistan had asked for 300 tonnes) but when the consignments reached Singapore for separating the two consignments, war had broken out between India and Pakistan on, September 1, 1965.


After the war, seeds had come to Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) or Pusa Institute a little late in October. The response was slow and more water and fertilizers had to be added which produced excellent grains.


Satisfied, Mr. Subramaniam ordered import of 18,000 tonnes of wheat seeds from Mexico of the Lerma Rojo 64 and Sonora 64 varietes which must have stunned the agriculture world, it being the highest ever import of seeds in the world so far and till now. These seeds were planted on 240,000 hectares of land in the country during the 1966-67 season (October to April).


One would not believe it today ,but the farmers of Punjab and Haryana were so enthused by the results of this test that were prepared to pay "ONE RUPEE PER SEED) for plantation in the 1967-68 season (IARI, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiasna and the G.B. Pant Institute of Agricultural Technology, Pantnagar had produced these seeds named Sonalika and Kalyan Sona. At Pantanagar, a scientist posted there then, had told this correspondent that the farmers would thrust one hundred rupees notes in the hands of the Institute employees requesting for just a handful of these seeds.


Even before the new wheat varieties were harvested, the Government of India issued a postage stamp about the wheat revolution which had contained then a picture of Indira Gandhi and of the Library building of the IARI. When the wheat was harvested, schools had to be closed in Punjab for storing gunny bags of new "Green Revolution" wheat (The name was given, Dr. William S. Gaud., then the Director of the United State Agency for International Development).The production rose from about 12.4 million tonnes in 1967 to over 16 million tones in 1968. The rest of the story is well known.


The question one would like to ask whether simply chanting the slogan of staging a second green revolution, Indian Agriculture can raise the production and productivity of wheat (and rice) or sustained research and undivided attention by the Ministries of Agriculture, Fertilsiers and Water Resources in particular are necessary?


For the last seven years, there has been no change in the Ministry of Agriculture and hence for the last seven years there has not been another C. Subramaniam in India. One hopes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would launch a search fro a "Second C. Subramaniam" now instead of seeking a second green revolution. (NPA)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

EMBRACE CHINA, NOT AMERICA

BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA

 

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China visited India soon after U.S. President Obama. These visits indicate that India has defacto become one of the three global superpowers-the other two being the America and China. Question is which two of these three will join hands to defeat the third? America and China joining hands against India is unlikely because India is not a threat to either country. We have had Panchsheel agreement with China and historic ties of friendship with America. On the other hand, China and America have a deep distrust of each other. Therefore, India will be the kingmaker. We can join hands with America and encircle China; or we can join hands with China and break America's hegemony. We have to assess which of these relationships will be more beneficial for us.


America has advanced technologies while China has cheap labour and thereby great influence over the global economy. We can access advanced technologies by befriending America. On the other hand, we can gain through manipulation of the world markets by befriending China. We have to assess whether advanced technologies will be more beneficial for us or control of the world markets.


America's technological supremacy is eroding. That country has not been able to make any major commercially viable invention after the internet in the nineties. Moreover, America has transferred most of the advanced technologies to India and China through Foreign Direct Investment by its corporations. We have been able to generate desi version of certain technologies that were denied to us by America like supercomputer and cryogenic engines for our space missions. President Obama has announced the removal of restrictions on transfer of dual use technologies that was imposed previously on Indian Space Research Organization, Defense Research and Development Organization and Bharat Dynamics. This will further speed up the transfer of advanced technologies. Research work too is being increasingly transferred to India to avail of the low wage rates of the scientists here. Future technological inventions are more likely to take place in India. India will have some access to these even if the patents are held by foreign companies. Surely, America still has control of some advanced technologies like the patriot missiles and stealth aircrafts but these are few and getting fewer. Correspondingly the benefit derived by us from friendship with America will become less.
Benefits from friendship with China are of an altogether different nature. China and India have the winning combination of advanced technologies and cheap labour. American companies are unable to compete with us. America's exports are declining. America has had to borrow huge amounts of money from China and India to keep its economy afloat in this situation of declining exports. China has a huge foreign exchange reserve of U.S. Treasury Bonds. Our holdings of these bonds is also substantial though about one-fifth of China's. China and India can use their combined holdings to manipulate the value of dollar and force America to beat a retreat.
China and India can lead the developing countries to increase the price of goods exported by them. Oil exporting countries have made a cartel by the name of OPEC. This organization determines how much oil will be produced by its members. The prices are increased by controlling the supply of oil in the world market. Similarly, India and China can lead the developing countries into making cartels of iron ore, timber and other natural resources. We can also persuade the developing countries to collectively impose an export tax on shoes, toys and electronic equipment in order to increase prices for the developed countries.


China and India can jointly ask for redoing the TRIPS agreement in the WTO. Patent laws were not part of the international trading regime till 1995. Countries could copy the patented designs and products of other countries without inviting trade sanctions. This has changed since the WTO Agreement has been signed. Now we cannot copy the patented goods. This has led to the developing countries paying huge amounts to the developed countries as royalties. We can ask for removal of TRIPS from the WTO.


Basic question is of distribution of global income between the developing- and developed countries. Presently about 25 percent people living in the developed countries get 75 percent of the global income while 75 percent people living in the developing countries-including China and India-get about 25 percent of the global income. It was not like this always. 300 years ago China accounted for 25 percent of the world income while India accounted for 23 percent. The advent of colonialism in these years led to reduction of China's share to 2 percent and India's share to 1 percent at the time of our independence. We have been able to make only small progress in last 60 years of cooperation with the developed countries. China's share has increased to 6 percent while India's has increased to 2 percent. Cause of this slow progress is that we have assumed the 75 percent share of the developed countries to be just and legitimate. We have been trying to increase our share without seeking a reduction in their share. This is like the ant thinking that she will get more of the sugarcane without reducing the share of the elephant. This will not do. It will take many hundred years for us to get 75 percent of the world income. Reduction of incomes of the developed countries is necessary for us to increase our share and this will only be possible if China and India join hands.


U.S. President Obama has sought India's help in creating jobs for American workers. This demonstrates that the United States has hollowed from within. It already required money from China and India to make its ends meet and is now requiring jobs from these countries. The U.S. will collapse like a house of cards if the developing countries can unite. It is able to extract cheap goods from the developing countries by following a policy of divide and rule.


We should make the following three points for negotiations with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. One, we must make a common strategy for using our holdings of U.S. Treasury Bonds and making America to bow to our demands. Two, we must make cartels for the export of natural resources like ores, timber, potash, etc. Three, we must make a call for removing the patents regime from the WTO. Lastly we could ask for free movement of natural persons. Resources of the world belong to all the people of the world. Every human being should have the right to enter any other country. National governments may require the immigrants to follow the culture and spirit of their country but they should not have the right to bar their entry. These agreements will lead to the establishment of a just world order and also provide huge benefits to India.

 

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN ON PRECIPICE

BY SAMEER REKHI

 

The radicalization of Pakistani society, polity and its security forces is growing at a disturbing pace. The obscurantist and fundamentalist forces, having had a guaranteed free run by the successive governments, are fattening day by day. Not surprisingly, the cynicism growing out of the state's failure to protect the life and property of its citizens is also apparently going in favour of the religious extremists. This is not good augury for Pakistan, its neighbours or the world as such.


Three Developments

Three recent developments are worth taking note of in this context. One, a report by the US investigating journal Pro Publica, stating categorically that David Coleman Headley is not just a terrorist, but a ISI trained spy groomed for 26/11 Mumbai operation. Two, a report in Pakistani Daily Express Tribune dated December 31, 2010 revealing that the killing of Benazir Bhutto was planned at the home of a Pakistani Army Brigadier. The newspaper, quoting unnamed sources, reported that nine men including the Brigadier were involved in the conspiracy. Three, the unfortunate incident of killing of liberal and anti-rabid Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer on January 4, 2011 by one of his bodyguards. Taseer was vehemently opposing the death sentence to Asiya Bibi, a 45 years old Christian woman, for blasphemy.


The killing of Taseer comes close on the heels of various fatwas by hardline clerics declaring Taseer and Sherry Rehman, another liberal leader of PPP (Pakistan People's Party), as Wajib-ul-Qatl (deserving death) for their opposition to the blasphemy law. Disturbingly, after Taseer's assassination, over 500 Pakistani scholars and clerics described Taseer's assassin policeman as 'Ghazi'. Jamat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat Pakistan, a group representing moderate Barelvi sect of Sunni Muslims praised the Elite Force cop, Malik Mumtaz Qadri calling him 'Ghazi'meaning Islamic warrior. Thousands of facebook users praised Qadri and set up groups in Qadri's honour. The Pak media, in general, denounced the killing, a high-profile daily terming it as the 'growing cancer of intolerance' in Pakistan.


Extremists in Security Forces

As is now well known across the world, the penetration of Pakistan Army/forces by extremists and terrorist sympathisers is far too much to ignore. The process of 'Islamisation' of security forces started by Zia-ul- Haq in 1980's created a vast pool of jihadi officers and officials, who would not hesitate to strike against their own formations and colleagues in the way of religion, as they perceive. In 2003, two attempts were made on the life of General Parvez Musharaf by some junior officers of Pakistan Air Force and Army. The operations were a part of Al-Qaeda--Jaish-e-Mohammad--HuJI combine supervised by Abu Faraj-al-Libbi. On September 5, 2007, 30 persons were killed in two suicide bombings in Rawalpindi Cantonment, suspected to be undertaken by extremists' sympathizers in Pak Army to avenge Lal Masjid seige. On September 13, 2007, a Pashtun Pak Army Officer of SSG (Special Services Group) blew himself up in SSG mess at Tarbela Ghazi (100 km south of Islamabad). Nineteen SSG officers were killed. Tehreek-e-Taliban was said to be behind this operation. It is oft-repeated refrain in Pakistan that the Army and terrorist groups Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahiba etc. recruit from the same villages. The ISI and the Army do not have any compunction about using terrorist groups and their jihadi ideologues for their strategic objectives and for internal as well as external policy initiatives, which they consider as their exclusive domain.In April 2010, a sixty five page UN report on investigation of Benazir Bhutto's killing was tabled by a panel headed by Chile's UN ambassador Heraldo Munoz. A possible link between Benazir Bhutto's independent position on improved relations with India viz-a-viz Kashmir, and her assassination was drawn by the investigation report. The report severely criticized ISI for interfering in criminal investigations. It said that the ISI and military played a pervasive and clandestine role in every aspect of Pakistani society and undermined the rule of law.

 

Inferences
In this back drop, the following inferences can be drawn. One, radical/rabid influences are growing among almost all sections of Pakistani society including the liberal elite, moderate Barelvis and other hitherto positive streams. Two, Islamist terrorist organizations like Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) etc are facing no dearth of finances/ recruitment, as their support among the society has grown considerably. Their religio-social fronts like Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD), enjoy a sea of sympathizers. Three, Pak Army/ISI have unofficially designated Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT)/Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) as state backed proxy combatants with exclusive focus on India, especially Kashmir. Four, the use of religion to exacerbate hatred towards India by Pakistan's establishment through various devious means and projections may eat up Pakistan one day, but it would harm India in the short-run, too. Five, Pak Army/ISI has undone whatever degree of "peace with India" sentiment had been developed in Pakistan during Musharaf's regime. India is being openly projected as enemy number one and Pakistan Army is likely to use all its available assets to undermine the growing clout of India.
However, appreciating the power of the masses to bring about massive upheavals, it is hoped that the people of Pakistan, who are the worst sufferers of the times, will gather necessary will and force, to throw off the yoke of destructive religious bigotry. It is only the Pakistani society that can end the military domination of public affairs in that country. Pakistani establishment and Pakistan's people need to be seen separately and dealt accordingly. It should be an international effort to promote liberal education in Pakistan to turn the tide of obscurantism and religious intolerance. The major players of the world also need to look beyond their short term strategic advantages as regards their appeasement of Pak Army Generals. They need to realize the long term catastrophic consequences of such an approach and correct them it in the interest of posterity.
(The author is a security/ intelligence analyst)

 

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******************************************************************************************THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

TACKLING 2G SCAM

KAPIL SIBAL SHOULD NOT SOIL THE PITCH

 

IT is not clear what purpose Mr Kapil Sibal, the lawyer-turned expert on telecommunications, has achieved by rubbishing the Comptroller and Auditor General's report on the 2G spectrum allocation other than trying to score a point over the CAG – as lawyers often do with their rivals. At best, he has succeeded in confusing the issue. People may wonder which of the two sets of facts to believe. The CAG is a body of professionals that commands respect for exposing skeletons in the government's cupboards. It took 18 months to study the issue in detail and reach the conclusion that the exchequer lost Rs 1.76 lakh crore as a result of allotting 2G spectrum on the basis of a flawed policy of first come, first served rather than resorting to bidding.

 

The CAG report, submitted to Parliament in November last year, created a political storm and led to the ouster of Mr A. Raja as Telecom Minister. An agitated Opposition stalled the functioning of Parliament to demand a JPC probe. The Supreme Court expressed dismay at the goings-on in the Telecom Ministry ("Is that the way the government functions?"). The CBI is seized of the issue. The Public Accounts Committee is looking into the matter. Even the Prime Minister has offered to appear before the PAC. But here is a minister, who instead of placing his department's viewpoint before the PAC, has rushed to a TV channel with his version of the scam. In the process he has exposed himself to the charge of violating parliamentary propriety.

 

Mr Sibal accepts that wrongs have been done and he has penalised the erring firms. He also supports the issue of criminal liability. But it is the amount of presumptive loss that is disputed. The CAG has rejected Mr Sibal's assertions and sticks to its figure of loss. In a scam of this proportion what matters the most is credibility of the agency investigating the issue. People want to know the whole truth. Let the CBI and the PAC do their job without Mr Kapil Sibal further muddying the waters.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BLOW TO REDDY BROTHERS

SC PANEL FOR BAN ON MINING OPERATIONS

 

THE Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowerment Committee's recommendation for cancellation of all three mining leases of the powerful Reddy brothers in Andhra Pradesh due to various irregularities is a big blow to them. The Reddy brothers — Janardhana Reddy, Karunakara Reddy and Somasekhara Reddy — are not only Karnataka's nouvea mining magnates but also ministers in the B.S. Yeddyurappa government. The committee, which submitted its report to the apex court on Friday, has recommended cancellation of leases on the mines of the Obalapuram Mining Company spread over 140 acres as well as its sister concern, the Ananthpur Mining Company. Among the reasons cited are illegal extension of the lease by the authorities; illegal mining beyond approved areas and depth; and illegal construction within the Bellary reserve forest in violation of the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act. It found that a mining lease of 39.5 hectares, executed by the Andhra Pradesh Government's Department of Mines in favour of the company, differed materially from the area for which environmental clearance had been taken under the Act.

 

Keeping in view the nature, the extent and the magnitude of the irregularities, the empowered committee's report for action against the Reddy brothers needs to be pursued to its logical conclusion expeditiously. However, an early action seems unlikely because a three-Judge Forest Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Justice S.H. Kapadia has said that it would look into the report from the "larger perspective" and not just on the "individuals". Not surprisingly, the Reddy brothers have dubbed the report as "biased" and "vindictive."

 

Paradoxically, the Reddy brothers are a boon and bane for the Yeddyurappa government. Their illegal mining operations in Karnataka's Bellary district and in Andhra Pradesh are now legion. After the late Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy's death and his son Jagan Mohan Reddy's exit from the Congress, their troubles have multiplied. Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde has said that he would name all those involved in the mining scam in his report to be ready by March. Governor H.R. Bharadwaj says that he has received complaints accusing the Reddy brothers of constantly shifting the boundary marks between Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and supporting illegal mining activities besides transporting iron ore. The CBI, the Income Tax and the Enforcement Directorate are also probing into their assets. Clearly, the heat is on the most powerful family in Karnataka.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

POISONED COLOURS

LEAD IN PAINT MUST BE BANNED

 

Bright paints often mask an ugly reality — they have lead in them. While lead increases the durability of paint and helps it retain a fresh appearance, it is also poisonous to human beings. Many nations strictly regulate the lead content of paints used in homes and various institutions. However, in developing nations like India, much of the paint used has lead content. The Bureau of Indian Standards permits up to 1,000 ppm (parts per million) of lead in paints. On the other hand the internationally acceptable level of 600 ppm is also being revised and soon, only 90 ppm would be allowed. A recent study conducted by the Consumer Association of India showed that most paint manufacturing industries do not comply with Indian lead-safe standards, let alone global ones, even though many of the brands surveyed in the study are international.

 

Lead poisoning affects children even before they are born by impairing their growth, health and even mental faculties, including intelligence. Ironically, it is also considered to be the most prevalent environmental disease among residents of developing nations. The ill-effects of lead poisoning have been known for centuries, but mankind has been slow to act on this issue. Lead was widely used as an additive in gasoline, which contributed to the air pollution and constituted a health hazard till it was banned practically worldwide. In India too, unleaded petrol was introduced in 2000, and all petrol used now does not contain lead.

 

India needs to take immediate steps to set enforceable health safety standards regarding the use of lead in paints. Manufacturers should also be made to prominently display the lead content of their paints. It must be kept in mind that lead paint is most dangerous when it is peeling, chipping, chalking, or cracking. Special protective measures are needed to prevent workers and users alike. Lead poisoning directly imperils our future. We must take proactive measures to prevent it.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

ASIA: THE COMING MOVES

TRYING TIMES FOR INDIAN DIPLOMACY

BY SYED NOORUZZAMAN

 

Despite opposition from various sections of the US thinking public, the Obama administration's promised withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan is going to begin in July. However, the US presence in Afghanistan will remain intact in various other ways, as it cannot allow Al-Qaida and its affiliates to regain the ground they have lost in the strife-torn country. But this is not the only reason why the super power cannot think of losing the advantage it has for taking care of its interests in Central Asia and South Asia.

 

The US has worked hard for removing the hurdles in the implementation of the  Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, which may become a reality soon. An agreement has already been signed among the four nations with the US quietly working as the facilitator. The Asian Development Bank has been persuaded to fund the ambitious project and efforts are on to start the work of laying the pipeline with Afghanistan guarantying the security of the stretch that will pass through its territory.

 

Security experts believe that the Afghan guarantee has come on behalf of the US, which will be assigned by Kabul the responsibility of protecting the project by positioning its soldiers wherever needed. A clearer picture of the TAPI project and its strategic implications will emerge in the coming few months.

 

The TAPI project has helped the US in getting the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline idea virtually shelved. This is a major victory for Washington DC in the efforts to punish Iran for its refusal to cap its controversial nuclear programme. The success achieved by the US on the gas diplomacy front is bound to give it greater confidence in playing its cards in West Asia. The US is expected to be proactive in the world's most volatile region with its combat troop withdrawal from Iraq reaching the final stage. With a view to countering the efforts of Al-Qaida to expand its base in the Arab world with its headquarters in Yemen, the Obama administration is giving hints of reviving the virtually abandoned drive to find a solution to the festering Israeli-Palestinian problem.

 

Former US President Jimmy Carter stated in a recent newspaper article he wrote along with Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu, "Two years after the 2008 Gaza conflict, there is an opportunity to reassess the entire approach to the negotiations"  that have been held with little success to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue. "If there is no real progress, more violence is the likely outcome", the article warns.

 

Another issue that may be intensely debated in West Asia in the coming few months is related to Iran's nuclear ambitions. Iran is moving ahead, step by step, towards acquiring the nuclear bomb in the guise of pursuing a peaceful nuclear energy programme. Influential Arab countries like Saudi Arabia are likely to put more pressure on the US and other Western nations to stop the Iranian nuclear march or get ready for other countries in the sensitive region trying to go nuclear. 

 

The US, which has enormous interests in West Asia to protect, cannot ignore the Arab plea and may use the success it has achieved in the ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia to raise a thicker and higher wall to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. It is mainly the China factor which has been encouraging Iran to keep its controversial programme going. Russia, too, has considerable interests in Iran like China, but Moscow has not been able to inspire as much confidence in the Persian Gulf nation as Beijing does. However, if China indirectly enables Iran to realise its nuclear ambitions, Beijing will be jeopardising its own interests in the Sunni Arab countries. Most Arabs are as strongly opposed to the Iranian nuclear programme as the US and other Western countries are.

 

Will the US go unchallenged with its expected moves on the Asian chessboard? China is likely to pose a major challenge to the US almost everywhere in Asia. It may use the fast growing bilateral trade with India to improve its relations with New Delhi with a view to preventing the latter from helping the US game plan in any manner in South Asia. There is much realisation in China, as reflected in the writings of China experts, that the US is propping up India to keep Beijing entangled in rivalries with its next-door neighbour. Of course, both India and China understand well that this is the age of cooperative diplomacy without jeopardising one's own interests. They have to make their moves with utmost caution so that they remain the growth engines of the evolving Asian century. Yet the undeniable reality is that there are suspicions on both sides against each other.

 

China has also been showing signs of using its widespread presence in Pakistan to threaten US interests in Afghanistan and West Asia. Even since the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan became public, China has been more active in the Af-Pak region. It may increase its development and other activities in Afghanistan to emerge as a major player in the Great Game in the South-West Asian region. The strong anti-US sentiment in both Afghanistan and Pakistan may help China in spreading its network there. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai lately showing reluctance to accept most US demands must be seen against this backdrop.

 

India, which has invested considerably in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, will have to be more watchful of its interests in the emerging scenario in that country. There is no dearth of goodwill for India in Afghan society. But New Delhi will have to intensify its efforts to ensure that the Taliban influence on the Karzai government remains within manageable limits. Pakistan will obviously create difficulties for India. Countering Islamabad's moves in post-July Afghanistan will not be easy, as both the US and China will be depending on Pakistan to a considerable extent to safeguard their interests.

 

The chill in India's relations with Iran because of our otherwise justifiable role at the International Atomic Energy Agency with regard to Teheran's controversial nuclear programme may make the situation a little difficult for India in Afghanistan. India's withdrawal from the Asian Clearing Union, affecting payments to Iran for imports from there by Indian business entities, has also added to the growing misunderstanding between New Delhi and Teheran. India will have to work hard to convince Iran to understand New Delhi's compulsions in the evolving new world order. India cannot afford to dilute its commitment to the larger cause of nuclear non-proliferation in view of its drive to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

BY R.K. KAUSHIK

 

IN history, sometimes along with human beings institutions also migrate. In the year 1947, one such institution, which migrated from Amritsar to Lahore was Muslim Anglo-Oriental (MAO) College. This college had a very famous Principal, who was also the first person from Punjab to get a PhD in English from Cambridge University of England.

 

It was one day in the summer of 1937 that he, a bachelor, went for shopping in Hall Bazaar of Amritsar. As ill luck would have it, he forgot his purse in the shop and came back. A British lady by the name of Ms. Christable picked up the purse and went next day to return it to Prof. Mohammed Din in his college.

 

Since the British lady had also been a Cambridge student, an instant friendship started. May be, that was love at first sight. Later, they decided to get married and their Nikah ceremony was performed by Sir Allama Iqbal.

 

Prof. Mohammed Din had three children — two daughters followed by a son, who was born in 1946. Christable's younger sister Alys also started visiting Amritsar and developed a liking for a lecturer of English at MAO College named Faiz Ahmed Faiz. The younger sister followed the elder one and married Faiz.

 

At the time of Partition, most of the Muslim students and teachers of MAO College of Amritsar moved to Pakistan along with the college. The college itself got shifted to the premises of DAV College of Lahore located in the lower Mall. It still runs there.

 

Prof Mohammed Din was handsome and a voracious reader, besides being a famous Urdu poet, with the surname of Taseer. He took over the Principalship of Islamia College, Lahore. Prof. Mohammed Din Taseer had an early death in the late 50s. His son and two daughters were brought up by his wife Christable — now converted to Islam with the new name Bilquees. The daughters settled in England after marriage in Muslim families and the son, Salman Taseer, became a chartered accountant. He later joined politics and became a famous leader of the Pakistan People's Party. He became the Governor of Punjab province of Pakistan in May 2008 and was murdered a few days ago by a fanatic.

 

Sometimes I think that had Prof Mohammed Din not lost his purse in the shop in Hall Bazaar, Amritsar, and had that not been found by the British damsel, many such events would not have happened.

 

Salman Taseer was murdered because of his stand on the blasphemy law regarding Holy Prophet. There is a strange coincidence. His father too had praised, defended and arranged for the funeral of Illamddin in 1929 because Illamddin, who had killed Rajpal Malhotra, the owner of Hind Pocket Books and father of former Punjab Governor Surender Nath because of his comments on Holy Prophet.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

GOVERNANCE REFORMS IN PUNJAB TO MAKE ADMINISTRATION RESPONSIVE
THE NEW YEAR PROVIDES AN OPPORTUNITY FOR STOCK-TAKING AND LOOKING AHEAD. PUNJAB CHIEF MINISTER PARKASH SINGH BADAL AND HARYANA CHIEF MINISTER BHUPINDER SINGH HOODA OUTLINE THEIR AGENDA FOR FUTURE
PARKASH SINGH BADAL, PUNJAB CHIEF MINISTER

 

EVERY New Year brings one face to face with an opportunity to reflect on the challenges and opportunities of both the year gone by and the year that knocks at our doors. In my long political career, I have always put myself through severest tests to see as to how much we have been able to achieve for our state. It gives me great satisfaction to say that the past four years have been among my most satisfying periods in terms of service to the state.

 

I say this on the basis of several landmark efforts we have made to take our state into a new orbit of development and growth. Even more satisfying has been the knowledge that all our efforts are bearing fruit in terms of concrete developmental projects on the ground. I briefly list some of these here.

 

The SAD-BJP government has drawn a blue print for ensuring overall development and welfare of all sections of society. Power, infrastructure, civil aviation, education, skill development, medical education and health care, governance reforms and welfare of the under-privileged sections of society are on the top of the government's agenda. The year 2011 will be significant as it will herald the fructification of landmark projects, thereby putting Punjab on a higher growth trajectory.

 

On the power front, our government has focussed its attention on making Punjab a power surplus state by generating additional capacity of 9494 MWs. To fulfill this commitment, work has already commenced at the thermal plants near Talwandi Sabo (2640 MW), Goindwal Sahib (540 MW) and Rajpura (2100 MW). An MoU and a power purchase agreement for the thermal plant at Gidderbaha (2640 MW) has been signed with NTPC for execution as a regional power station.

 

Education has always been close to my heart, and I am glad to say that in this sphere Punjab has made a decisive push forward. We have brought three new universities to the state. In addition, the iconic ISB at Mohali and the IIT at Ropar are set to embellish the academic and professional education horizon of the state. We have recruited over 45,000 fresh teachers in various disciplines.

 

Health has been the other key sector for us. As a part of upgradation and modernisation of medical education and research, Rs.197 crore has been spent on Govt. Medical College, Amritsar, Rs.100 crore on Baba Farid University of Health Sciences at Faridkot and its constituent college, Guru Gobind Singh Medical College, and Rs.101 crore on Rajindra Medical College, Patiala.

 

Guru Ravi Dass Ayurveda University is also being set up at Hoshiarpur. As many 135 Professors, Associated Professors and Assistant Professors, besides 101 Senior Residents and Junior Residents and 748 nursing and other paramedical staff have been recruited in medical colleges.

 

Fully-equipped cancer diagnostic and treatment centres at Amritsar , Faridkot, Patiala and Bathinda are being set up to effectively tackle the growing menace of cancer. A plan of Rs 346 crore for the upgradation of infrastructure and equipment in hospitals to provide medical and health care facilities to the people is under implementation.

 

Two super speciality hospitals are being set up in Public Private Partnership over government land in Mohali and Bathinda in collaboration with MAX Healthcare at a cost of Rs.300 crore. As many as 878 specialist and medical doctors, besides 3,835 paramedics, have been recruited in government hospitals Students suffering from heart diseases and cancer are being provided with free treatment at the PGI, Chandigarh, and other hospitals under the school health programme

 

]An ambitious programme of Rs. 2,111 crore for the cleaning of the Satluj river (Rs.1,376 crore), the Beas (Rs.222 crore) and the Ghaggar (Rs. 513 crore) has been initiated to clean these rivers and make them pollution-free within a year. As a part of this programme all the cities and towns will be provided with the facilities of sewerage and safe drinking water by November 2011. Another major programme has been chalked out to construct rural latrines in villages at a cost of Rs. 2 crore.

 

I can proudly say that we have pushed Punjab into the next-gen infrastructure development era. Major initiatives have been taken to revamp the network of roads involving an investment of over Rs. 25,000 crore. Besides, the New Year will also witness the linking of every important city in the state with 4/6 lane roads, besides the completion of 33 ROBs / RUBs initiated at the cost of Rs. 7073 crore.

 

The strides made in the key area of civil aviation in Punjab are a matter of pride not only for our state and our government, but also for the country as a whole. Punjab attempts to soon become one of the few states in the country to have three international airports with the setting up of a new international civil air terminal at Mohali and another Rs. 17,000 crore Greenfield International Airport planned near Ludhiana. We already have one international airport at Sri Amritsar Sahib.

 

For the first time since Independence a concrete initiative has been taken for governance reforms to make day-to-day administration responsive, accountable and transparent. These reforms are aimed at eliminating various outdated and cumbersome procedures for which people had to face undue harassment in government offices. These governance reforms in terms of computerisation of land records and simplification of archaic revenue acts will not only be public friendly but also change the perception of the common man about the functioning of government offices.

 

The New Year will witness the commissioning of Rs. 20,000 crore Bathinda refinery. Besides, the dedication of five thermal plants being built at a combined cost of Rs. 62,000 crore will put Punjab state on a higher pedestal of growth apart from opening new vistas of employment for Punjabi youth through skill development initiatives.

 

We have recently come up with a new sports policy 2010 aimed at achieving excellence in sports and giving incentives to sportspersons, who win laurels for the state at the national as well as international level.

 

Our government has undertaken the construction of three world-class historic memorials at Chapparchiri (SAS Nagar), Kup Ruhira (Malerkotla) and Chhamb Kahnuwan (Gurdaspur) at a cost of Rs. 44 crore in commemoration of the victory of Sirhind by Baba Banda Singh Bahadur and in the memory of Chhotta and Wadda Ghallughara martyrs respectively to bring awareness about our rich legacy among the future generations.

 

Our aims are clear, our vision is focussed and our approach is firm and sure-footed. As the New Year 2011 dawns, let us pledge to make the coming year a year of complete transformation in terms of development, prosperity and progress. I wish you all a very happy and successful new year – and many, many more years ahead.

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

NO SPACE FOR SOCIAL EVILS IN HARYANA

WE ARE DETERMINED TO BRING THE STATE CLOSE TO THE GOAL OF POWER SELF-SUFFICIENCY, TAKE CONCRETE MEASURES TO BEEF UP INFRASTRUCTURE AND BROADEN EDUCATIONAL AND HEALTH CARE FACILITIES

BHUPINDER SINGH HOODA, CHIEF MINISTER OF HARYANA

 

Every New Year brings one face to face with an opportunity to reflect on the challenges and opportunities of both the year gone by and the year that knocks at our doors. In my long political career, I have always put myself through severest tests to see as to how much we have been able to achieve for our state. It gives me great satisfaction to say that the past four years have been among my most satisfying periods in terms of service to the state.

 

The New Year is the time for doing soul-searching, stock-taking and making new resolves. We must pause and ponder, and make an honest assessment of how far we have succeeded in addressing people's issues and meeting their aspirations and needs during the previous 12 months, and draw guidelines to shape our vision for the New Year.

 

2010 was indeed a watershed year, which saw Haryana forge ahead in fields ranging from as old as education, health and infrastructure to as young as metro linkages and nuclear energy. The state carved a niche for itself on the national and global canvas. We have taken sure and steady steps on the road to ensuring efficient delivery of services, improving the quality of life and meeting aspirations of the people. But we have miles to travel and a long way to go.

 

Having placed Haryana in the high-growth orbit, we must now move to make it a model state. We are determined to bring the state close to the goal of power self-sufficiency, take concrete measures to beef up infrastructure, broaden educational and health care facilities and move further up on the human development index ladder. We shall concentrate our energies on conserving precious resources like water and power, and creating an eco-friendly industrial environment.

 

We must work to make Haryana a state where equity reigns supreme, where a transparent and responsive administration bends to people's needs, where opportunities and resources are aplenty, where nepotism, graft, crime, female feticide and other social evils have no space, and where people are made proud participants in progress.

 

We must take quick steps to create new avenues of growth, conserve resources, take basic facilities right to people's doorstep and put in place an effective redressal system. On the occasion of New Year let us take a resolve to achieve these goals with dedication and indulgence.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

IN THE WAKE OF GOVERNOR SALMAN TASEER'S KILLING, SILENCE IS NO OPTION FOR ANY RIGHT-THINKING PAKISTANI, NOW MORE THAN EVER

 

Trivia question for the New Year: Who started the first ever global jihad? Answer: Sultan-Caliph Mehmed Reshad in November 1914, when he symbolically took the sword of the Prophet at Constantinople's Fatih Sultan Mehmed mosque to sanctify the Ottoman empire's war on Britain, France and Russia. The Ottoman Caliph joined with the Germans in World War I, making it the "duty of Muslims everywhere in the world to wage war on the infidels [in the opposite alliance]".

 

The Sultan, of course, ended up on the losing side, and the repercussions were felt all the way to India as his empire was dismembered after the Treaty of Versailles — remember the Khilafat movement and Gandhi's support for it. Less known is the role Germany played in promoting the idea of jihad and pan-Islamism.

 

 A new book, The Berlin-Baghdad Express by Sean McMeekin, shows that from the 1890s, Germany's leaders saw Islam and the idea of global jihad as a secret weapon which could destroy the British Empire and decide the coming war.

 

The spy master Baron von Oppenheim opened a bureau of Islamic propaganda in Berlin and the day after the Sultan's announcement, German agents began distributing jihadi literature throughout the Middle East, pronouncing a death sentence on European 'infidels'. They probably missed the irony that they were 'infidels' themselves and the aim was to use Islam to stoke anger and create anti-British unrest right up to India.

 

 The Germans failed but they seem to have pioneered a tactic that the Americans used well in the first Afghan war, against the Russians. Just think of the glorified mujaheedin of the Rambo films of the 1980s.

 

The larger point is that today's internal battles within Islam — between liberals and the bigots who have perverted it — can only be understood if we realise that the idea of a global jihadist war dedicated to the destruction of modern civilisation is really a product of the modern age. It is intertwined with legacies of colonial policies and great power politics and not just some atavistic blast from the past.

 

 The seeds of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer's killing in Pakistan go all the way back to the Zia regime. The anti-blasphemy laws that Taseer was killed for, originated under the British but were made punishable by death under Zia, as he consciously Islamicised Pakistan's polity.

 

 It was Zia's ISI that became the frontline for the CIA's funding of the mujahideen against the Russians. Simultaneously, as Shuja Nawaz writes in his study of the Pakistan Army, it was Zia that began what became known as 'Zia-bharti' — the entry of conservative elements into the armed forces.

 

Terrible as Taseer's killing has been, what is scarier is the aftermath. Indira Gandhi was also shot by her Sikh bodyguards filled with religious angst but one of them was immediately killed by angry compatriots and the others were prosecuted and hanged. Taseer's killer, Mumtaz Qadri, was not even opposed by his other guards.
 Qadri was given a hero's welcome at his first court appearance by lawyers with rose petals; Facebook pages have been created in his honour and a coalition of religious parties sent out statements welcoming his actions.

 

Taseer did get a state funeral but major political leaders, including from the opposition PML-N, did not even attend. Even President Zardari, described in virtually every Taseer obituary as his 'close friend', kept away from the funeral.

 

This is especially revealing in a culture where death has a way of ending ill-will. Little wonder then that the only other politician who supported Taseer's drive to repeal the blasphemy laws, Sherry Rahman, has disappeared from public view.

 

 Perceptive commentators have noted the enabling atmosphere that was created both before and after Taseer's killing. Just three years ago, the media and the legal community were at the vanguard of the movement to oust Musharraf. Most of the press, especially TV commentators, bitterly opposed Taseer on the blasphemy laws prior to his murder.

 

The Lahore High Court even forbade Zardari from issuing a pardon to Aasia Bi, the Christian woman on death row and at the centre of the debate; and the legal community is bitterly divided.

 

Late last year, when asked in an interview about the danger of Pakistan turning into a failed state, Taseer dismissed the Pakistani Taliban as merely "brainwashed, illiterate tribes" who would melt away if confronted.

 

The aftermath of his death shows how right he was in standing up to fundamentalists and how wrong he was in underestimating the cancer that has eaten up Pakistani society.

 

Why should we care, some would question. After all, Pakistan is reaping the whirlwind of its own policies over the past three decades. The problem is that if Pakistan goes down or if the fundamentalists take over, India will feel the maximum impact.

 

Taseer's murder is not just a lament for liberalism. It is a battle for the heart of Pakistan itself. What was once peripheral and never to be acknowledged openly has now become mainstream — as the pictures of students in Peshawar demonstrating in support of Qadri show.

 

 What is at stake now is not just abstract concepts like rule of law or freedom of speech. Make no mistake: this is about the soul of Pakistan itself. More than any other time in Pakistan's history, silence is no more an option for any right-thinking Pakistani.

 

 

NALIN MEHTA

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

COLUMN

MR SIBAL'S ARITHMETIC

CAG WAS OFF THE MARK, BUT RAJA DID WRONG

 

There is nothing sinister or diabolic about Union minister Kapil Sibal's latest argument regarding the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India pertaining to the loss to the exchequer from 2G telecom licences in 2007. The basic argument pertaining to the erroneous notion of "presumptive loss" has been made before and Mr Sibal's arithmetic is credible. Too much need not be made about this being a ministerial affront to a constitutional body. CAG's track record on auditing the government has not been all that impeccable. The fantastic figure of a loss to the exchequer of Rs 1.76 lakh crore was based on a variety of assumptions that have since been convincingly questioned by several experts. Being a clever lawyer, Mr Sibal has built a clever argument that could well stand the scrutiny of the courts. It is, however, important to note that Mr Sibal has not exonerated former telecom minister A Raja of wrongdoing. Whether Mr Raja's actions amounted to criminal misconduct and whether he should be so punished is a matter for the courts to decide. But Mr Sibal has succeeded in reducing the scale of the scam to manageable proportions. If this homework had been done earlier, the government might not have faced the kind of popular burst of anger that it did when the original figures were trotted out. By separating the wheat from the chaff, that is Mr Raja's procedural misconduct, that may well have benefited some telecom companies and hurt others, with a likelihood of his having gained from such consideration, from the allegations of Himalayan corruption, Mr Sibal has given the telecom scam a manageable size. The government would be on firmer ground arguing that this is a matter that can, in fact, be enquired into by the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament rather than a Joint Parliamentary Committee.

 

At least one reason why this scam became so magnified and was dubbed the "mother of all scams" had to do with the range of other related developments, including revelations of media and corporate interference in Mr Raja's continuation as Union telecom minister after the May 2009 elections. Given the doubts raised in public mind, the government will have to go through the arduous process of not just claiming its innocence but also proving it in courts of law. In the meanwhile, the government must also clean up spectrum allocation and follow a new methodology that several experts have already suggested by which spectrum is made available to all users who pay for it and make use of it, like a normal toll road. Ending the oligopolistic privileges of incumbents and eliminating barriers to entry, with proper regulation and an empowered telecom regulatory authority, would help. Mr Sibal's critics are right to point out that the entire issue was more about a flawed spectrum allocation policy than about loss to exchequer. Both the United Progressive Alliance government and the National Democratic Alliance government are guilty of adopting a flawed spectrum policy. Criticism of these flaws predates the CAG's sensational loss-to-exchequer claims. Though it is true that it was the CAG's alarm that finally forced the government to admit that Mr Raja's methodology was flawed, a fact conceded by the fact that the prime minister himself tried to discourage Mr Raja from pursuing a policy that he claimed was transparent and a continuation of the existing practice. Even as the courts and investigating agencies come to their informed conclusion on Mr Raja's culpability, the Sibal corrective should help bring balance to the political debate and encourage the opposition parties to end their disruption of Parliament.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

IF NOT SKC, THEN AN SRC

SRI KRISHNA REPORT TAKES STING OUT OF TELANGANA DEMAND

Sometimes stating the obvious with charts and numbers helps. Just as the Justice Rajinder Sachar committee helped focus public attention on a well-known fact, namely the economic and educational backwardness of Muslims in most of northern and eastern India, the Justice Sri Krishna Committee (SKC) report has revealed the obvious, namely that the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh is not as badly off as so many protagonists of the separate Telangana movement, including some well-known economists, claimed. Simple numbers tell a tale. In the forty years since the first separate Telangana agitation of 1969, this region has done well for itself, especially when compared to the really more backward Rayalaseema region. Why then did the agitation launched by Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leader K Chandrashekhara Rao in 2001 catch on? Partly because a desperate Congress party breathed life into it to bring down the Telugu Desam government of Chandrababu Naidu. It is well known that the Congress underestimated its chances of victory in Andhra Pradesh in 2004 and joined the TRS platform. In the event, it was the TRS that benefited from the alliance with the Congress. However, poor handling of Mr Rao's ego and intra-party games in New Delhi revived TRS fortunes. A confused national leadership of the Congress confounded matters and revived a dying movement that has also gained from the support extended by Maoists to the statehood cause.

After conducting an impartial enquiry, the Sri Krishna Committee has come to the conclusion that keeping Andhra Pradesh united, but offering Telangana certain constitutional guarantees and developmental support would be the best way forward. This is really not a new idea. It goes back to a key idea of the 1956 "Gentlemen's Agreement" that created a Telangana Regional Committee. This was unfortunately abolished in 1973, in response to the "Jai Andhra" agitation. This time around the Congress party must carry conviction with the people of the state and the Telangana region in implementing the recommendations of the SKC. It is a matter of winning the people's trust. If the central government and the Congress party fail to win the trust of the people of Telangana, the agitation will not die down. If, on the other hand, they do succeed, a new phase of growth and development can be initiated in the state of the Telugus.

 The SKC report is right to assert that state formation in India cannot be made merely in response to agitational politics and violence. If there is a case for the re-organisation of Indian states, this must be done on the basis of a national re-evaluation. This calls for a second States Re-organisation Commission.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

 

IN SEARCH OF THESOUL OF TELUGUS

SRI KRISHNA COMMITTEE'S HEART GOES TO TELANGANA, MIND STAYS WITH ANDHRA PRADESH.

SANJAYA BARU

In seeking the soul of the Telugu-speaking people, the heart and mind of the Sri Krishna Committee are conflicted. The Committee for Consultation on the Situation in Andhra Pradesh, chaired by Justice Sri Krishna (Report at: www.mha.nic.in/pdfs/CCSAP-REPORT-060111.pdf), has prepared a balanced and wise report. In a short ten months, the members of the committee have been able to secure a grasp on the pulse of the people of Andhra Pradesh, but their soul remains elusive.

The academic basis of the report is of high quality. So is the range of consultations that have been made. Almost every prevailing viewpoint and fact has been taken in account. No one can say that their voice has not been heard. The research into the sociological and cultural basis of the split personality of the Telugus, the historical background to the controversy and the demand for a separate Telangana state, the economic basis, or lack of it, for the grievances pertaining to the region's backwardness, political and administrative pre-history of the present crisis, have all been adequately examined and documented in this 505-page report.

 What is the upshot of the effort? The heart of the Sri Krishna Committee is with the people of Telangana and empathises with their sense of alienation and neglect. The mind, however, comes down firmly on the side of a united Andhra Pradesh, with constitutional guarantees for Telangana's personality and development. It remains to be seen if the soul of the Telugu people will be stirred by this mature and wise balancing act.

The six options listed by the committee have been widely reported. These are: (a) status quo; (b) bifurcation into Telangana and Seema-Andhra with Hyderabad as a Union Territory (UT) and new state capitals for each; (c) bifurcation into Rayala-Telangana and Coastal Andhra, with Hyderabad as capital of the former; (d) bifurcation into Seema-Andhra and Telangana, with Greater Hyderabad as an independent UT; (e) bifurcation with Hyderabad as capital of Telangana and a new capital for Seema-Andhra; and, (f) united Andhra Pradesh with a statutorily empowered Telangana Regional Council and financial and other guarantees for Telangana's development.

In addition to these six options, the committee has also recommended setting up of a Water Management Board and an Irrigation Project Development Corporation, thereby recognising how important the issue of river water sharing is to the entire problem of regional development within the state. Indeed, many analysts have long argued that the two developments that revived the dormant pro-separation feelings in the Telangana region were the late N T Rama Rao's decision to build the Telugu Ganga project and allow Krishna waters to go to Chennai, and the late Rajashekhara Reddy's projects that seek to take Godavari and Krishna waters away from the Telangana region to the Rayalaseema region.

Indeed, if the first separatist agitation of 1968-69 was triggered by a resentment in Telangana that coastal Andhra was gaining more from the state's development, this time round there was as much resentment against the politicians of the Rayalaseema region (both Chandrababu Naidu and late Rajashekhara Reddy being from there).

Most observers have already discounted options (a), (b) and (c), and regard even (d) as impractical. The final solution will have to be either (e) or (f). Option (e) is what the separatists of the Telangana region seek and option (f) is what all those who seek status quo but recognise Telangana's sense of alienation want.

The Sri Krishna Committee has cast its own vote in favour of the last option and has hastened to add that if, in fact, the bifurcation of the state is to be considered, this must be examined as part of a national review of statehood. A second States Re-organisation Commission (SRC) may have to be set up to undertake a more comprehensive review of all aspects of the problem.

The committee must also be commended for giving due weight to the importance of the future of Hyderabad. The report recognises the contribution made to the city's development by the people of Coastal Andhra, and Hyderabad's evolving national and global importance.

That the committee's heart is with the people of Telangana is doubly established by the fact that the impressive statistical work done shows that, in fact, the state's more backward region today is Rayalaseema and not Telangana. On most parameters of development, the Telangana region, even excluding Hyderabad, has done better than Rayalaseema despite the fact that for the past decade or so the state's two powerful chief ministers, Mr Naidu and Dr Reddy, hailed from the Rayalaseema region!

The report, in fact, knocks the bottom out of the economic grievance of Telangana. Coastal Andhra economists like R Radhakrishna and Mahendra Dev had long punctured a hole in the views of Telangana's economists like C H Hanumantha Rao. While rubbishing the backwardness argument, the committee empathises with Telangana's sense of cultural alienation and political disempowerment. Nothing captures the former better than the way in which Telugu cinema, produced mostly by the Kammas of coastal Andhra, portrays Telangana Telugu and its people, and nothing captures the latter better than the fact that after Chenna Reddy, no Telangana leader has been made the state's chief minister.

If the heart rules the politics of the state in the coming weeks, there may be no getting away from the state's eventual bifurcation, whether now or after a second SRC submits its report. If the mind takes precedence, then the people of Telangana and the state as a whole would opt for the sixth option. The final outcome will depend on how the Sri Krishna report touches the soul of the Telugu-speaking people.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

HOW TO BE OR NOT TO BE YEAR OF ENVIRONMENT

SUNITA NARAIN

The year 2010 was a loud year for the environment. High profile projects — from Vedanta to Posco and Navi Mumbai airport and now Lavasa — hit the headlines for non-compliance with environmental regulations. While 2009 was the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy, it was only last year that we were all outraged by the disaster. The realisation of how every institution — the judiciary, Parliament and government — had miserably failed to provide justice to the victims shocked us deeply.

It was also in 2010 that the world was taken by storm with allegations of "rigging" of the climate change science. The sceptics had their moment of glory, as they ridiculed the science and picked holes in its analysis. And even though most of what they had to say was proven wrong, the damage has been done. Even as extreme weather has hit various parts of the world, we are not certain anymore if this variation is the growing impact of climate change or not. Then in December, meeting in Cancun, the world took the final step to deny the problem of climate change. It agreed to do nothing to reduce its emissions — at the scale and pace needed.

 The question is what is the cacophony adding up to. Where is it leading us?

Take the issue of projects that have been cancelled or held up because of environmental reasons. It would not be wrong to say that virtually all infrastructure and industrial projects — from mining to thermal and hydel and nuclear power to cement or steel — are under attack today from local communities who fear loss of livelihoods. These communities today are at the forefront of India's environmental movement. They are its warriors.

But for them environment is not a matter of luxury — fixing the problems of growth, but of survival — fixing growth itself. They know that when the land is mined and trees are cut, their water source dries up or they lose grazing and agricultural fields. They know they are poor. But they are saying, loudly and as clearly as they can, what we call development will only make them poorer.

This is what I have called the environmentalism of the poor. The fact is today development projects take local resources — minerals, water or land — but cannot provide employment to replace the livelihoods of all those who they displace. It is for this reason that the country is resonating with cries of people who are fighting development itself.

The question is where do we go from here? I would argue, we need to keep listening to these voices, not dismiss or stifle them in the name of anti-growth dissent or even Naxalism. This can be done through the strengthening of all the processes of democracy that make us ensure that local people have a voice in development. For instance, the Forest Rights Act demands that the gram sabha (village assembly) in tribal areas must give its written consent to the project before it is cleared. The public hearings, held during the environmental impact assessment, provide the platform to hear people's concerns. In most cases today, the effort is to rig and undermine these processes — public hearings and even the video recording of the event is faked — or keep the local people out through use of force. But what is worse is that the final project clearance process does not demand that these voices are not just heard but are listened to. In most cases you will find the concern raised by people is pushed aside as projects are rammed through in the name of industrial development. This must stop.

But what all this adds up to in my view is to define a new chapter of environmentalism in the world. I say this because it is only now that we are being forced to confront some tough questions on how to be or not to be an environmentalist. We are learning that the techno-fix solutions — of cleaning up pollution even as we continue to emit more — are not good enough answers. The rich world has failed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions through its investment in efficiency. It now needs to find ways to reinvent growth without fossil fuels and to grow within limits. The world failed us in Cancun because the rich are still not prepared to accept the writing on the wall — there are limits to grow, unless we can grow differently — in this climate-constrained world.

We in urban and middle-class India must learn this lesson quickly. We cannot afford this environmentalism of costly solutions that want to put band-aids on what is so badly broken. We must understand that our future lies in being part of the environmentalism of the poor, as this movement will force us all to seek new answers to old problems.

The bottom line is that in this New Year we must grow a new philosophy: Unless we rock the boat, we will not have a boat at all. Lets hope we can build this rocking boat together.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

DANGEROUS COMPLACENCY

THE COUNTRY MAY BE HEADED FOR A BALANCE OF PAYMENTS CRISIS UNLESS POLICY MAKERS WAKE UP.

A V RAJWADE

It is much cheaper to learn from others' experiences than repeating their mistakes. But the balance of payments data released recently makes me wonder whether there is a possibility that India could fall in the same trap as Mexico (1994-95), East Asia (1997-98) and Brazil (1998): fast growth attracting large capital inflows and currency appreciation in real terms leading to ever-larger current account deficits. Obviously the cycle cannot continue forever. One day, inevitably, the music stops (as it did for all these countries); the cycle starts spinning in the reverse direction; and a crisis results. Argentina, too, allowed a sharp appreciation of its currency to control inflation, until the inevitable balance of payments crisis (2001).

Look at some specifics of the recent data. On the "flow" side: 

 The trade deficit in H1 (first half) of the current year has gone up to $67 billion from $56 billion in the corresponding period last year, even as net invisibles have fallen from $42.5 billion to $39 billion, more than doubling the current account deficit from $13.3 billion to $27.9 billion; 

  • The prospects for the rest of the year do not look any better, particularly since oil prices, almost 30 per cent of India's imports, have crossed $90, and commodity prices have also gone up. 
  • Some trends in the current account numbers between the first half and the full year are interesting. In 2006-07, the number in the latter period was actually less than the former. In the next two years, the annual deficit was higher by 80 per cent. Last year, the annual number was higher by 190 per cent. While the trend of the ratio is unmistakable, what could it be in the current year? Goldman recently estimated the full year deficit at $67 billion.

The picture is equally dark on the "stock" side:

  • For the first time in seven years, external debt exceeds the country's reserves. And, more worryingly, short-term debt has gone up even faster than the total external debt. It now amounts to $66 billion. 
  • India's net external liabilities have more than doubled in one year (tripled in two years!) to $185 billion at the end of June 2010. (Paragraph 2.35, RBI's Financial Stability Report). 
  • The composition of the inflows has become increasingly risky with a sharp increase in debt, particularly short-term debt, and in portfolio investments, even as net foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows have fallen from $12.3 billion (H1 2009-10) to just $ 5.3 billion in H1 2010-11.

In short, there are too many negative factors on both the flow side and the stock side.

The breathtaking complacency of the policy makers in the face of such numbers makes me wonder whether market fundamentalists have "intellectually captured" their thinking on the virtues of a liberal capital account and market-determined exchange rates. At one place in the Mid-Year Analysis 2010-11 placed before Parliament by the ministry of finance, it is conceded that "The main implication of such large capital flows to India has been buoyancy in stock markets and appreciation of the rupee vis-a-vis the US dollar. The currency appreciation further encourages capital flows as FIIs often expect this to persist and so to make capital gains due to the appreciating rupee, besides benefiting from the stock market rise. The appreciating rupee can have adverse impact on the earnings of exporters and makes exports less competitive in the international market … appreciation of local currency could lead to cheaper imports at the cost of domestic goods, which may have adverse impact on domestic employment and growth." (3.15 & 3.16, emphasis mine.) But it immediately pleads helplessness, quoting some research by the Inter-American Development Bank to the effect that "capital controls work temporarily, but start hampering growth and productivity and cannot fully prevent the flows and therefore need to be complemented by other tools, including macro-prudential financial safeguards" — as if there are no ways to influence the exchange rate short of capital controls. This apart, it should not be forgotten that, as far as the objectives of employment and growth are concerned, the risk-reward relationship of a liberal capital account and market exchange rate is grossly skewed in the direction of risk.

On capital flows, I came across a study on illicit financial flows from India (1948-2008) published recently by Global Financial Integrity, a US-based NGO. It estimates that, over 61 years, such outflows aggregated $213 billion (1.5 per cent of GDP on average); compounding the flows at the T-bill (treasury bill) rate, the present value is estimated at $462 billion. The equation for estimating the illicit outflows (paragraph 28, World Bank Residual model) seems to ignore portfolio flows altogether. In our case, these have been extremely large over the last couple of decades. This apart, the study claims that the illicit assets comprise 72.2 per cent of "India's underground economy" in 2008, estimated at $640 billion. Is underground economy synonymous with undeclared assets?

avrajwade@gmail.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

SHOULD A STOCK EXCHANGE ALSO BE A REGULATOR ?

WELFARE MAXIMISATION AND PROFIT MAXIMISATION OBJECTIVES CONFLICT WITH EACH OTHER SO IT IS DIFFICULT TO IMAGINE A PROFIT-MAXIMISING REGULATOR.

PRATIP KAR

The Report on the Ownership and Governance of Market Infrastructure Institutions submitted by the Committee headed by Bimal Jalan, the former Reserve Bank of India governor, is an important document. In a quiet way it has suggested a blueprint for the future regulatory architecture of the securities market. Whether one agrees with all or some of the recommendations is a different matter and the extent to which the recommendations are implemented by the securities market regulator remains to be seen.

Central to the recommendations of the Report, and the one on which the cognoscenti have spent less time, is the regulatory framework for these infrastructure institutions. The Report correctly identifies three institutions – the stock exchange, the clearing corporation and the depository – as being critical to securities market infrastructure. These three institutions are responsible for the entire process beginning with the buying and selling securities and ending with the transfer of ownership of assets bought or sold. But classifying the three institutions under the same head makes the institutions similar but not the same. The institutions are different not only functionally, but also fundamentally. The stock exchange, for example, provides not only the trading infrastructure, but is also the market itself, while the other two institutions are pure service providers and retain the characteristics of utilities. This is a distinction, the importance of which should not be lost.

 The Report recognises that these three Market Infrastructure Institutions (MIIs) as "suppliers of an indispensable public good for modern society" and then reaches the conclusion that "to ensure dependability of the process to the fullest extent possible, [a] certain degree of regulatory powers have to necessarily reside in each of the MIIs, albeit in varying degrees".

Of the MIIs the stock exchange has been called the "first level regulator" because it performs multiple regulatory functions such as issuer regulation, member regulation, trading regulation and investor regulation. Indeed, from the time informal trading alliances came to be set up for trading in securities in Antwerp, Bruges, and in the coffee houses of Amsterdam and London or under the buttonwood trees and banyan trees in New York and Mumbai, this was the traditional and accepted view. The securities market regulators were not to be born till a couple of centuries later and it was the stock exchanges that had to lay down the rules for admitting members and conditions for trading. In fact, as Joel Seligman recounts in his Transformation of Wall Street, when the United States Securities and Exchange Commission was born, its first attempts to bring the New York Stock Exchange under its oversight met with stiff resistance. This was the case in India too and it was not easy for the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to regulate the Bombay Stock Exchange.

But that was then. The present times are different and what got us here won't get us there and for that matter any further. Technology has altered the way trading is done. The trading pits have long been replaced by trading platforms and CPUs, and it is the location of the CPUs that matter, not the building or the address of the stock exchange. Integration and connectivity are the buzzwords. Indeed with all these changes, when the demands for funds increased and the traditional stock exchanges faced competition from the more agile private trading platforms set up by large brokerage houses, there was pressure for them to change their nature and constitution. From mutual organisations they became demutualised and the trading rights that were once an integral part of membership of an exchange became separated from the ownership rights. One could be a shareholder of the company that owns the stock exchange, with or without becoming a trading member. But once demutualised, the stock exchanges were no longer not-for-profit entities. Profit became one of the business objectives and rightly so. A demutualised stock exchange with shareholders should have a profit maximisation motive; it is a commercial enterprise. Profit is not a bad word, but it becomes a bad word when "public good" is involved. The Jalan Committee Report recognises this when it observes that "the goals of profit maximisation for an MII and that of welfare maximisation for the public may not always run parallel and the MII may be tempted to charge prices well in excess of the costs from its users".

This is only one facet of the conflict between the twin objectives. Others such as market share and predatory practices, as we have seen in recent times, arise from competition. Even these come into direct conflict with the public good objective and are far too important to be ignored. It then becomes difficult both theoretically and more so practically to imagine a profit maximising regulator. Reasonableness of profit can never be incontestably established. The moot question is whether under the changed conditions the regulatory powers should continue to reside in the stock exchange as has been argued in the report and whether that would be effective. Indeed, this is an issue that many countries are being confronted with and a common satisfactory solution is not yet in sight.

Looking for a solution through a mechanism to ensure regulatory autonomy through the separation of personnel who are carrying out regulatory functions, placing a cap on remuneration and the introduction of the concept of "Chinese Walls" are non-solutions. In financial markets when human behaviour is involved and one has to constantly deal with greed and the need to cut corners to grab market share, "Chinese Wall" becomes a euphemism for the most porous walls through which information flows freely without the need for osmotic pressure to drive the flow. The most desirable way of addressing the conflict is to segregate the functions of operating an infrastructure or providing an efficient service efficiently and economically, and regulating it. The stock exchanges could continue to provide the trading system and trading platform and may even continue to implement the risk management system, while their regulatory roles are bundled into another body created specifically for the purpose under the Sebi Act or the Securities Contract (Regulations) Act and given statutory status while making it function under Sebi oversight. This is necessary, given the complexities of the Indian market, which are very different from other markets, but not easy. But once this is done, it would be easy to implement some of the recommendations of the Jalan Committee. In fact, some of the recommendations may not even be necessary.

 

Views expressed are personal The author is a former executive director of Sebi and is currently associated with International Finance Corporation's Global Corporate Governance Forum and the World Bank.pratipkar21@gmail.com

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SIBAL IS RIGHT ON NUMBERS

BUT THERE WAS A SCAM


TELECOM minister Kapil Sibal is entirely right to dismiss the notion that the exchequer lost a colossal . 1.76 lakh crore on account of the manner in which 2G licences were granted in 2008. But this does not mean that there was no scam. And those guilty must be punished and policy correctives put in place. While the step by step process by which the minister whittled down the Comptroller and Auditor General's numbers provided the pyrotechnics at his demolition job, the operative part was reiteration of the telecom policy itself: policy sought to promote telecom use by larger and larger sections of the population, greater economic efficiency and faster growth as a result. The aim of policy was not to maximise revenues from the sale of licences. This policy was formulated in 1999 by the previous National Democratic Alliance government, and is entirely sensible. According to this policy, some spectrum was allocated with every licence without special upfront charges. And this policy has immensely benefitted the people of India and the Indian economy by boosting telecom growth.

 

But this does not mean that there was no irregularity in the grant of licences in 2008. The queue for telecom licences was rigged to favour some applicants. Culpability in this must be fully nailed. Further, there is no policy in place to seize, via special taxes, the undeserved gains made by those who sold their stake, in whole or in part, in the company that got the licence or transferred to themselves as cheap inter-corporate loans fresh investment in the licensee company by a third party, mostly a foreign company. And this has lost the exchequer revenue, not taken into account by the CAG. The CAG's estimate is also faulty as it does not take into account the additional tax revenues that have accrued from faster economic growth and networked efficiency of the tax department, both deriving from the telecom policy that gives spectrum cheap to telecom licencees. In the absence of the telecom revolution facilitated by cheap spectrum, India would have lost tax revenues far in excess of what any auction would have generated.

 

Mr Sibal, however, would be wrong to find a scam in the NDA's decision to switch to revenue sharing in 1999. As Mr Arun Shourie says, the minister's demolition of the CAG numbers rests on the soundness of the NDAformulated and Raja-implemented licensing policy.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

RENEW FOCUS ON AIR

KEY TO WIDENING TAX BASE


 THE government is right to raise the direct tax collection target by . 20,000 crore. The bar should rise as the economy grows. However, the tax department should also get its act right and bring into the net the brazen tax evader, who does not bother to file a tax return, rather than harass salaried taxpayers or withhold refunds to boost revenues. This is eminently feasible with intelligent, imaginative use of information technology. Rigorous scrutiny of annual information returns (AIR) should be revived to identify potential taxpayers by examining their expenditure patterns. The tax department's unique identifier, the permanent account number (PAN), is still found missing in several large financial transactions gathered through the tax information network (TIN), breaking up audit trails. Sure, getting a PAN has become much easier now, but PAN is not mandatory for all sections of the population. PAN should be mandatory for all those who make high-value transactions and it can eventually be replaced with the unique identity number. A truly fool-proof PAN will enable the tax department to identify people with large incomes and collect tax from them, even if they file no returns. The AIR continues to be relevant to track booming real estate transactions. All it takes for the department is to tap into information pooled by the registrars of properties. The coverage of AIR should go up in the coming Budget. The point is to extend the use of intelligent collection, collation and analysis of data to other areas as well.

 

 An efficient TIN would reduce dependence on information volunteered through tax returns. It also makes sense to focus on high-net worth individuals rather than fritter away administrative energies on many tax returns that yield small amounts of tax. Implementing the Goods and Services Tax would widen the tax base, too.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

FUNNY AUTHORITY

THE ABSURD LEGACY OF DICTATORS


 OFTEN, dictators and authoritarian characters, downright nasty as they may have been, are dealt a severe blow by posterity. This often happens in the form of being subjected to laughter and ridicule. And all too often it's the antics of the dictators which show up their absurd egos. Witness, for example, the recent story about how the Nazis were thinking of targeting the Finnish owner of a dog that could, apparently, imitate with a raised paw the Nazi salute. It isn't known whether Hitler, known to have other idiocies, himself was aware of the anti-canine plot. But other dictators readily come to mind when thinking of the grandly idiotic. Take Uganda's Idi Amin. What more does one need to say about a man who styled himself "His Excellency, President for Life Field Marshall Al Hadj Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC. Lord of all the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular." Add to that modestly short list of embellishments the title of 'King of Scotland', and we are just about done.

 

Of the modern day ones, Saparmurat Niyazov, who took over Turkmenistan after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is perhaps the best of the lot. First among his acts was to christen himself 'Turkmenbashi' or 'Father of all ethnic Turkmen'. Then, everything from the airport, a meteorite, the main national port, and even the very months were re-named after him and his family. Since watermelons happened to be a favourite, a national holiday in honour of the fruit ensued. He also wrote a book, which you needed to memorise in order to be eligible to graduate from school, get a state job or even a driver's license. He also ordered a giant ice palace to be built in the Karakum desert, the hottest place in Central Asia. At which point, one knows time will melt the mirage of such a legacy as quickly as the ice.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CLIMATE TALKS & NATIONAL INTEREST

INDIA'S NEW CLIMATE NEGOTIATION STRATEGY MUST BE INFORMED BY THE NEED TO REFORMULATE THE CONCEPTS OF FAIRNESS AND EQUITY IN TERMS MORE COMPREHENSIVE THAN HISTORICAL RESPONSIBILITY, SAYS MUKUL SANWAL


The debate on the climate negotiations, instead of discussing the nature of any policy shift, should define the national position and determine red lines for future negotiations. A new paradigm has emerged at Cancun. Instead of the multilaterally agreed emissions reduction targets of the Kyoto Protocol, there is now a shared target for all countries, where deep cuts in greenhouse gases are required according to science. Developed countries are to take the lead in cutting greenhouse gases with low carbon strategies. New rules, in the form of guidelines, will assess domestic action in developing countries.

 

The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities will continue but no longer drive policy, as a 'bottom-up' approach is being institutionalised. Global climate governance is now conceptualised in terms of strategies that will modify patterns of resource use rather than in terms of international environmental law to determine a balance of rights and obligations. We must recognise the geopolitical rather than just the environmental nature of the climate regime, which has over the last 20 years focused on institutional arrangements to dilute commitments of developed countries, through three distinct but related tracks.

 

 Negotiations around the Kyoto Protocol saw developed countries shift the focus to flows from stocks of carbon with offsets reducing the costs of measures. Consequently, the total amount of surplus emissions credits, or 'hot air,' is large enough to allow these countries to follow a business-as-usual pathway until after 2020, while still complying with the emissions targets announced at Copenhagen.

 

The second track has been to keep developing countries engaged in new institutions to support capacity building projects (Global Environment Facility, Green Climate Fund), expert groups (technology transfer, adaptation) and programmes of action (adaptation, forests) whose only tangible result has been to increase awareness and transfer limited funds to the least developed countries. Adoption of new energy or agriculture technology has not been provided the promised incremental costs. At Cancun, too, intellectual property rights were off the table and discussion on the nature and modalities of funding postponed. Finance serves to solve a political problem and not the problem itself.

 

The third track has been to end the differentiation between countries in undertaking emissions reductions, and each annual meeting of the Convention post-Kyoto has advanced this agenda to the point where developed countries, in the Cancun agreements, are only required to take the lead before developing countries take on commitments.

 

India, with a larger population below the poverty line and without access to electricity than in Sub-Saharan Africa, is now caught between a rock and a hard place. In the period 1990-2005 developed countries' emissions rose by 1.35 Gt, and their overall emissions remained limited only because of the reductions of 1.76 Gt in the economies in transition following the economic collapse of the Soviet Union. They do not want to bear the cost of modifying longer-term trends, or lifestyles, as they had agreed to do under Article 4.2(a) of the Climate Convention.

 

Still, China will contribute over 40% of total abatement by all countries by 2020, more than the total abatement by all developed countries, and more than 2.5 times the amount of abatement pledged by the US, driven by concerns over energy security.

AS INDIA has per capita electricity availability less than 10% the OECD average and half that of China, peaking of emissions while ensuring access to sustainable development will be by 2050, or earlier contingent on assured and affordable access to new technology, and this should be our first red line for the negotiations.

 

Science is now going to be the determining factor in assessing the adequacy of national actions, as limiting the increase in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius agreed in the Cancun agreements, implies biophysical limits to growth. Therefore, both global temperature and quantitative limits on national emissions are needed as a transparent basis for developing and assessing national strategies. The Cancun agreements recognise equitable sharing of the carbon budget, and a global goal on these lines should be the second red line for the negotiations.

This means reframing the equity debate away from historical responsibility to reviewing developed country interpretation of burden-sharing. Currently, ecosystem services delivered outside national boundaries — by the atmospheric and terrestrial natural resource — have been ignored, effectively setting their value to zero in decision-making. Consequently, in the world energy-related carbon dioxide abatement scenario up to 2050, recently prepared by the International Energy Agency, most of the reductions come from developing countries — China 27%, India 12%, the US 11%, OECD other than Europe 10% and OECD Europe 7%. This analytical work ignores lifestyle changes and is based on 'global least cost' economic efficiency criteria for allocating global emissions reduction to secure the 2 degree goal, and using global 'fairness' criteria will lead to a much more aggressive emission reduction effort in developed countries.

 

Finally, it has yet to be fully appreciated that the UN Conference on Sustainable Development to be held in 2012 (Rio + 20) will focus on the green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development, echoing similar provisions of the Climate Convention. That eradication of poverty remains the overriding priority of developing countries in formulating national actions must also be recognised in the guidelines for their reporting and assessment, and this should be our third red line for the negotiations.
    In taking a leadership role, we should stress that national carbon budgets alone will safeguard the ecological health of the planet, enable eradication of poverty and be a stronger driver than market mechanisms for the transformation of the world economy.

 

(The author is has worked at the policy level in the government of India and the UN
    Climate Change Secretariat)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

IS PREDATORY PRICING RATIONAL?


THE MCX-SX has accused the NSE of predatory pricing in the currency derivative segment, and the case is under review by the Competition Commission of India (CCI).

 

Predatory pricing refers to a situation where a firm charges a price below its cost of production, with the intent of forcing its competition to either immediately exit the market, or to exit the market after facing losses for a while. Once the competition exits the market, the predatory firm raises prices.

 

There are three main reasons why it is difficult to prove that a firm is engaged in predatory pricing.

 

The first is determining whether a firm is charging prices that are below average variable costs. Economic logic states that if a firm is not even covering its average variable costs, the firm will minimise losses by instantly exiting the market. If a firm is covering its average variable costs, but is unable to cover its average total costs, the firm will minimise losses by staying in business in the short run, and exiting in the long run. Hence, a rational firm will not stay in business when the price for its product is below its average variable cost, unless it has some intent other than current loss minimisation.

 

The Areeda-Turner test, which the US courts use in several antitrust cases, maintains that a price below the shortrun marginal cost should be unlawful, and uses the average variable cost as a proxy for short-run marginal costs. Entities outside a firm find it difficult to obtain accurate information on a firm's actual costs, especially if the firm is a multiproduct firm. Lawyers representing each entity in a predatory pricing case often disagree on whether a particular expense is to be included in fixed costs or in variable costs, such as in the case of Liggett versus Brown & Williamson, 1993.

 

The second is proving intent. Firms can reduce prices because costs have fallen; hence, it is difficult to prove that a firm reduced prices with predatory intent. Regulators, therefore, request information on a firm's internal communications. In the case of the MCX-SX versus the NSE, the regulators can also look at the timing of the price reduction by the NSE.

 

The third is the rationale for predatory pricing. The rationale is that the predatory firm manages to force competitors out from the market, and after their exits, raises prices above the competitive level. Short-term losses incurred during the price-cutting stage are lower than the profits that can be earned after competitors are driven away from the market. This strategy only makes sense if there are barriers to entry. If there are no barriers to entry, once a predatory firm raises prices above the competitive level, other firms will enter the market and force prices down.

 

Thus, if there are no barriers to entry, predatory pricing is not a rational strategy. An exception to this is when the predatory firm aims to build a reputation for predatory behaviour each time a new firm enters the market. Such a strategy is only possible for a firm with 'deep pockets', and it is difficult to prove that a firm is adopting such a strategy.

 

In the case of the MCX-SX versus the NSE, one other factor has to be considered. Stock markets have falling average costs over the relevant range of output. As the number of trades increases, costs per trade fall. There are two points to be considered here. First, the NSE could simply be reducing prices because costs have fallen as their business has increased.

 

Second, even though average and marginal costs may be driven very low in the case of economies of scale, no matter how low costs fall, a price of zero leads to zero revenues. Given that average costs can never be driven to zero (though they may come very close to zero), a price of zero will lead to losses.

 

The case before the CCI presents several points of interest.

 

(The author is an associate professor of economics at NDIM. Views are personal.)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GU EST COLU M N

CHANGING WORLD ORDER IN IT, TELECOM

RAJIV MODY & V SRIDHAR


 AQUIET revolution of some sorts is happening in the telecom industry worldwide. The bankruptcy of stalwarts such as Nortel and the fast impregnation of Google and Apple into the mobile phone space are changing the world order once dominated by the likes of biggies such as AT&T. What are these changes and what can we expect in the future?

 

Bell Labs, which boasted itself with its seven Nobel prize winning inventions, was reduced to almost nothing when the Alcatel-Lucent combine pulled out of basic science, material physics, and semiconductor research due to market and financial pressures. The last Nobel prize winning work which came out of the Bell Labs (in 2009) was for the Charge Coupled Device created by Willard Boyle and George Smith, in the late '60s. The last Nobel laureate at IBM was Harry Markowitz in 1990 for his co-invention of economic theories on stock market risks and reward. Is there a tectonic shift in the areas of corporate research and development?

 

Though breakthrough inventions such as the above have declined of late, time-tomarket for products has decreased considerably, leading to smart innovations in marketable areas including networking, high-speed electronics, wireless networks, nanotechnology and software. While IBM has mastered the art of being ahead of others especially in IT services, most large organisations such as Nortel and AT&T faltered in adapting to changing market conditions. The new world order is to be nimble and agile in producing solutions that can survive in the extremely competitive market place.


Though 'multi-touch' was invented way back in 1991 by Pierre Wellner as explained in his classic paper on Digital Desk, Apple showed us how to make a commercial success of multi-touch with the launch of iPhone in 2007. Similarly, with customised and flexible offerings, MediaTek of China has risen speedily to the second place in mobile handset chipset business once dominated by the likes of Texas Instruments.

The other notable change is the community-based application development on open platforms. Google transformed the way in which applications are built and distributed. Google's Android is being accepted by all stakeholders including developers, handset makers and consumers as default operating systems for mobiles as well as consumer electronics. The huge direct and indirect network externality effects of open platforms and operating systems have helped Google make giant strides in this space. The order here is 'collaborative innovation'.

 

Firms do not have to invent on their own from the basics. The 'flat world' has opened up avenues for tapping the innovative potential of millions of individuals and small firms across the world and garners them for competitive advantage. This opens up avenues of growth for R&D outsourcing firms in India. However, because it is open, innovations are very rapid and have a very short life cycle. Firms in this space need to be extremely smart in looking at the future and make appropriate investments and capability building. Extrapolating the past is similar to driving a car by looking at the rear-view mirror. You never know what will hit you in the road ahead. Hence be conscious of the everevolving market environment.

 

The third intriguing aspect in R&D is the role of software patents in this emerging scenario. In 2007, IBM received 3,125 US patents from the US Patents and Trademark Office. This was the 15th consecutive year that IBM has received more US patents than any other company in the world. However, an overwhelming majority of the 700 software entrepreneurs who participated in the famous 2008 Berkeley Patent Survey Report, ranked patenting as the dead last amongst the seven strategies for attaining competitive advantage. Pamela Samuelson, in a recent issue of the Communications of the ACM, points out that the new-age software firms regard 'first-mover advantage' as the single most important strategy for attaining competitive advantage. The more open platforms and the increased cost of obtaining and enforcing patents are barriers to software patenting. This requires that the firms be agile, niche and business savvy.

 

The fourth change is to participate in the local market. Traditionally, Indian firms have been supporting R&D needs, especially in telecom, of multinationals that were developing products for matured markets. Being not nearer to the market was always a disadvantage as the requirements could not be completely conceptualised and fulfilled. However, recent strides of India in telecom and the imminent deployments of 3G and broadband wireless access services provide opportunities for Indian R&D firms to provide customised offerings to local markets.

 

These changes open up opportunities for Indian R&D software services firms, provided display the competence, foresee technology and market evolution, and react with speed.

 

(Mody is chairman and CEO while Sridhar     is research fellow; both at Sasken Communication Technologies. Views are personal.)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

LITTLE DROPS MAKE THE MIGHTY OCEAN

K VIJAYARAGHAVAN


THE seeking aspirant, in his pursuit of spiritual growth towards true effectiveness and 'victory over oneself', would identify all the 'minutiae', specifically concerning him. To use the words of Conan Doyle, he would also 'appreciate their importance'. This also is one aspect of the art of action (karmasu koushalam).

 

Besides this aspect of attending to the basics and details (pictured by Benjamin Franklin in his recounting on how for want of just a nail, finally a kingdom was lost), another issue also stands out for attention and application. This centres on how even things done regularly well and effectively, even if this be for a short while each day, would add up to something substantial. Samuel Johnson outlines how, through persistence and application and "petty operations incessantly continued", major and great accomplishments finally result. A quarry becomes a pyramid and "mountains are levelled and oceans bounded by the slender force of human beings".

 

On this issue of how 'small' things add up to produce the huge, two separate verses are highly illustrative — one by Julia Fletcher Carney and another from the ancient Sanskrit work, Hitopadesha.

Julia Carney's immortal lines (from her poem, Little Things) read thus, "Little drops of water,/Little grains of sand,/ Make the mighty ocean/And the pleasant land./So the little minutes,/Humble though they be,/Make the mighty ages/Of eternity". Hitopadesha in this practical message to all aspirants notes, "With the falling of just drops of water, the pot gradually gets filled up. So is the case with acquisition of all knowledge and all pursuits too".

 

A Tamil quote runs, siru thulli, perum vellam (small drops and finally a flood). Bhagavad Gita's concept of shanaihi, shanaihi (6,25) and Pavlov's advice on 'passion and gradualness' for pursuit of excellence — these too base themselves on such practical wisdom.


 Applied to practical living, one can take heart from the fact that even an hour withdrawn from routine and devoted regularly to a particular task, would bring about substantial rewards, especially when this pursuit is interspersed with longer periods of time, even if these be done only once in a way.

 

 Indeed, in these chunks of even minutes and 'petty operations incessantly continued', lie, often, the potential for tangible accomplishments!

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

BETTER TO BET AGAINST BETA

RESEARCH SHOWS THAT GOING LONG ON A HIGH BETA PLAY IN A MARKET WITH LITTLE LEVERAGE COULD GO AWRY.

 ADARSH GOPALAKRISHNAN

 

In the 2006 instalment of James Bond movie Franchise, the antagonist goes short on an airline company while plotting to thwart the release of a new plane by the said company. His terrorist-funded plan goes haywire when Bond sinks the plot and literally sinks the antagonist's stock (no pun intended). That was a rather extreme example of an extraordinarily high beta play gone very awry. In a paper titled ' Betting against Beta' ( http://www.nber.org/papers/w16601) the authors take James Bond's side in trying to exhibit how going long on a high beta play in a market which affords little leverage could go awry.

 

Mr Andrea Frazzini of AQR Capital Management and Mr Lasse H. Pedersen of NYU Sternattempt to ascertain the effects of borrowing constraints on investment choices and how these choices may lead to the success of a 'betting against beta' approach. They looked at 20 developed MSCI equity markets and asset classes including government bonds and corporate bonds. The paper is choc-a-bloc with statistics and back-testing models, considering the vast number of asset classes and duration under consideration.

 

The emergence of quantitative finance and mushrooming of the asset management industry with a multitude of hedge funds, private equity funds among others have led to a swarm of money chasing fewer return opportunities. In such a setting, investors are forced to resort to two alternative means to earn bigger returns.

 

Amplifying returns

 

One way would be to amplify returns by augmenting one's own capital with debt to invest more in an asset. The other would be to bet on a high beta asset which can outperform the market on its own.

 

Beta is a measure of how an asset's price behaves during market swings. A beta of 1 would indicate that price moves in step with the market, while less that one or low beta indicates lesser volatility while more than one or high beta indicates higher volatility. Low beta assets, based on historical evidence, would theoretically be great candidates for picking up with leverage, as an investor would be provided more protection on the downside compared to the general market. Conversely, high beta assets with their tendency to magnify market movements would be nasty candidates for leverage considering that a leveraged investment would amplify the losses.

 

Empirical tests

 

The authors ran empirical tests using a 'betting against beta (BAB)' approach. The conditions used mimicked those of market participants such as margin-trading arbitrageurs and leveraged financial institutions, among others.

 

The BAB approach entailed taking long leveraged positions in low beta assets (stocks, treasury and others) to match market volatility and taking short positions in high beta assets, without any leverage. The results were back-tested from 1926 till 2009.

 

The results showed that 'positive average returns' from this approach increased until lending rates tightened. However once investors begin to de-leverage, the BAB approach begins to produce 'negative' returns. The authors also note that their results validated the long-held notion that 'investors prefer unleveraged risky assets to leveraged safe assets' which empirically results in lower alphas among high beta stocks.

 

The real world ramifications which the paper postulates are quite interesting. Private equity groups which often resort to highly leveraged buyouts are said to have raised the beta of the low-beta stocks when they sell the stock back to public markets.

 

Risky approach

 

The results also indicate preference among banks among other cash-heavy institutions for leveraged low beta assets. Shadow banking institutions which have ready access to leverage may go in for extremely high leverage in short-term assets with good ratings.

 

This approach, of course, does come with risks as witnessed in the case of Long Term Capital Management which went bust due to a few temporarily soured positions in Russian debt.

 

Other debt-fuelled implosions include the relatively recent demise of banks such as Lehman Brothers and Bear Sterns that loaded up on leverage to take positions in several 'highly rated' assets such as sub-prime bonds among esoteric assets with some literally explosive results.

 

Conversely, institutions such as mutual funds which don't have the leverage option are far more open to picking up high beta assets.

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

GOVERNMENT'S STRANGE SPIN ON INFLATION

THERE IS ENOUGH EVIDENCE THAT INFLATION IS BEING DRIVEN BY BAD GOVERNANCE, NOT EXCESS DEMAND.

ASHOAK UPADHYAY


One would have thought that policymakers would begin the year with a resolve to think afresh on the dangers underlying the much-touted economic growth of 8 per cent-plus this fiscal. But the reactions of policymakers point to a continued focus on superficial symptoms.

 

Inflation is a danger with many faces; it is like many fires raging for a variety of reasons. Each deserves a distinct response, but most policymakers appear content to focus attention on "fire" as an abstraction — the wholesale price index or headline inflation.

 

Early last week, the chairman of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council, Dr C. Rangarajan, asserted that the RBI would have to raise rates if inflation persisted; he was referring to the headline figure that almost every policymaker from the Prime Minister down uses as the tag word for the spiralling cost of living.

 

By November last, that rate had fallen to around 7 per cent; its direction appears downward thanks to the RBI. That for policymakers is proof enough of their success measured by monetary policy interventions.

 

BEYOND HEADLINE INFLATION

 

Is headline inflation the "fire" that is consuming various stakeholders, or are there others, more direct and therefore more deadly?

 

And can those fires be put out by the RBI simply pressing the rate hike button? Or do they call for other types of interventions from New Delhi in coordination with state governments?

 

In other words, how efficacious can monetary policy be in controlling prices that have diverse origins, even if they are reflected in rise in effective demand beyond the limits the RBI deems tolerable for price stability?

 

Policymakers face the real danger of mistaking the symptom for the cause: monetary policy can fight sweltering demand by hiking cost of borrowing but can it help fill supply deficits?

 

Surely, fire alarms have to ring in North Block and other economic ministries monitoring those inputs whose shortages are stoking price rises that affect various stakeholders all through the production chain?

 

There is no better evidence of the wrong agency attacking the disease and therefore rendering the entire battle for price stability futile, than the persistent build-up in the prices of various essentials and inputs since January last year when the RBI began to hike its key rates. Withdrawing "monetary accommodation," censorious as it sounds, nipped to an extent real estate prices towards the third quarter, but it did nothing to cool food or input costs.

 

DUBIOUS ARGUMENT

 

Policymakers in New Delhi have now seized upon a new line of defence for the dizzy food price spiral since last December: Supply shocks are caused by rising incomes. By implication, demand has outstripped supply of the kind of food items that reflect food habit changes. Never mind that onions are the staple ingredient of Indians, this disingenuous argument that blames the people for their ills (who asked them to change their diets!) cannot hope to get the government off the hook for being lazy at the very least.

 

Hold that argument for a moment. An economy heading for annual growth of 8 per cent cannot but experience rising incomes at least among a sliver of its subjects, one would imagine. It's the job of a responsible government to anticipate rising demand and ensure stocks for a different set of food items, before a new fire breaks out because of supply "shocks".

 

Rest assured that till food prices decelerate, the irresponsible line of argument, that incomes are inflating prices (in an economy still transitioning) will gain wide currency: New Delhi policymakers will grasp at this feather in the wind to excuse themselves from any hard policy decisions needed to ensure adequate supplies — from imports if necessary but most, from an increasingly moribund agriculture.

 

BAD GOVERNANCE

 

Inadvertently, the RBI has also added to the argument of supply constraints but in the non-food segment. In November, it spoke of "supply constraints particularly in infrastructure". Pile on New Delhi's new ratiocination and what we get is this: An economy marked by excess demand over supply (for food and inputs) and, therefore, over-heated!

 

Is that why we are being primed for a stern RBI? The media is full of perverse expectation posing as wisdom of a rate hike later this month — despite the evidence that the causes for inflation lie in bad governance not overabundant demand.

 

The RBI, against its better wisdom and data (growth is not "broad based") may oblige. So we get this new policy scenario for 2011: Preach growth from New Delhi, smother it from Mint Road. Welcome to the silly season.

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

KAPIL SIBAL'S ESCAPOLOGY

 

Instead of dismissing the CAG's price-related observations, Mr Sibal would have done well to focus on how procedures were subverted to award licences to a select few.

 

When it comes to wriggling out of trouble, the Minister for Communications, Mr Kapil Sibal, could have taught Harry Houdini a thing or two. His claim that there was no financial loss to the country as a result of the 2G spectrum allocation policy followed in 2008 is breathtaking, if only for its sheer nerve. That not even Congressmen believe it is another matter altogether. Whatever calculations Mr Sibal might deploy to prove his theory, the central question remains: why was a scarce national resource priced in 2008 at 2001 prices and then allotted to a few select companies? Mr Sibal has not answered this. Instead, his contention that start-up spectrum is anyway free because it is given to operators bundled with the licence, is misleading. It may have been needed in 2001, when the industry was stalling, but its value in 2009 becomes evident from the subsequent deals struck by some of the companies who sold equity stake to foreign players at multiples of the entry price they paid the Government without even putting up a single tower or owning a subscriber. Surely, the foreign players did not pay millions of dollars just to get hold of 2G licences, which are but pieces of paper, without spectrum.

 

Instead of dismissing the price-related observations of the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr Sibal would have done well to have focused on the more serious allegations — namely, how laid-out procedures were subverted in awarding licences to a select few. The Government has to answer why it decided to hand out licences to the likes of Swan, Datacom and Unitech, when as many as 46 companies had put in their applications. It also needs to explain why the Department of Telecom shifted the deadline for receiving applications from October 1, 2007 to September 25. As a result of this, 408 applications, from the likes of AT&T, Hindujas, Sterlite and Moser Baer, got automatically disqualified. Also, on January 10, 2008 DoT changed the first-come-first-served criteria by giving priority to those who paid the entry fee first instead of those who had applied first. Only two hours' notice was given to the applicant companies and yet how did a few of them get bank drafts worth thousands of crores of rupees, dated a day ahead, as if they had got advance information about the impending notice?  Until these questions are answered, Mr Sibal will continue to edge the Raja ball rather than, as he hopes, drive it cleanly. That said, he is probably right in criticising the notion of imputed losses. They tend to distort the picture and allow the wrong-doers a chance to wriggle out of trouble.

 

Finally, by taking on the CAG in the manner he has done, Mr Sibal has started a bad precedent by undermining its already diminished authority. In that sense, he has not acted very responsibly and the Prime Minister, if he was ignorant about what Mr Sibal was proposing to do, should speak sternly to him.

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

COOLING DOWN FOOD PRICES

TO BRING ABOUT PRICE STABILITY AND CONTROL WASTAGE DUE TO ROTTING, THE CENTRE SHOULD ENCOURAGE THE SETTING UP OF MODERN, REFRIGERATED STORAGE CENTRES, EVEN FOR RELATIVELY LONGER LASTING VEGETABLES SUCH AS ONIONS AND POTATOES.

P.V. INDIRESAN

 

Recently, a former Economic Adviser to the Government of India opined that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the current explosion in onion prices.

 

According to him, the business of a trader is to make profits and it should be understandable if he does so. He also pointed out that it is important for business to store the articles traded, else customers will not get what they want when needed.

 

That appears to be a vindication of hoarding, because it becomes impossible to draw the line between storing and hoarding. Similarly, it is not easy to draw the line between making profits and profiteering. This former Advisor may perhaps be described as a mercantilist.

 

Mercantilists' view

 

Mercantilism prevailed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Its main features were protection of traders by imposing tariffs on imports and subsidising exports. Adam Smith opposed it, because it favoured suppliers and worked to the disadvantage of consumers. He even called it inefficient.

 

When prices rise and goods become scarce, governments impose controls and resort to rationing. In India, there were restrictions on the movement of grains between one district and another during World War II.

 

When Rajaji became Chief Minister of Madras Presidency, he removed those controls. Scarcity was so real, I wondered why he did so and what would happen. But, contrary to expectations, there was suddenly plenty of grain in the market. Apparently, controls are not the answer to scarcity.

 

Agriculture and food are heavily controlled in India. It is surprising that in spite of uncertain monsoons and therefore the need for storage of grains on a large scale, there are virtually no silos.

 

Most surplus grain is stored in the open, in gunny bags, vulnerable to attacks by rodents and vermin. Every year, we hear of horrendous stories of how thousands of tonnes of grain rot and become unusable. Yet, there is no move to build silos which are the best way to store grains.

 

Poor refrigeration

 

India is, after China, the world's largest producer of vegetables. Yet, large quantities are allowed to rot, including in retail markets. In the West, vegetables and fruits in shops are kept in refrigerators and hence last longer than they do in our shops.

 

The large mark-up in vegetable prices is mainly due to loss on account of poor storage, and aggravated by our hot climatic conditions. Yet, one hardly sees refrigerated vans, and very few shops have facilities to keep vegetables cool.

 

This situation is ideal for speculators. Onions and potatoes, which are relatively longer lasting, are particularly attractive for hoarders and profiteers.

 

Speculators do not hoard these in India alone, they export the "surplus" to Pakistan. Then, after creating a situation of scarcity, they import the same at several times the price at which they were exported. Such a scheme helps both Indian and Pakistani traders make huge profits. It raises prices in both countries and makes consumers pay.

 

The way ahead

 

What should the Government do? First, it should be watchful and anticipate any coming shortages. The Government blames the ruin caused by heavy rains for the onion crop shortage. But the fact is that in Maharashtra the crop arrives weeks after the rains do and, hence, the Government should have known that there is a possibility of failure weeks in advance. Even otherwise, the Government should have stocked onions to cope with possible shortage situations. It is true that the crop does not last as long as grains do, but if refrigerated storage facilities were in place, the Government could have had a cushion for emergencies.

 

India produces around 15 million tonnes of onions and potatoes each year. A prudent government would have encouraged the setting up of modern, refrigerated storage centres with capacity to store as much as half a year's production.

 

The Government need not get a state-owned agency like the Food Corporation of India to store vegetables. It could let private enterprise handle it. However, it should ensure competition among the private storage facilities and keep a check on the quantities and types of items stored. Such open competition will be a much better option than depending on a state monopoly. India has a large refrigeration industry. It will definitely welcome any move by the Government to encourage cold storage of vegetables; it will also enhance the industry's technological capability.

 

As a matter of policy, the Government has been discouraging storage of food products, particularly cold storage. Protection of the "poor farmer" and prevention of hoarding and profiteering by rich traders are the excuses. As matters stand, a significant share of the prices paid by the consumer goes to middlemen and the farmer gets very little for the effort he puts in.

 

Tamil Nadu has an interesting system of uzhavar santhai, which helps farmers sell green vegetables to consumers directly. Unfortunately, it is not quite appropriate for root crops such as potatoes and onions. Hence, the Centre should loosen its controls and let cold storage of relatively long lasting vegetables flourish. There is a widespread view that the current onion crisis was engineered by corrupt politicians. It is reported that prices went up several times within a few hours. Unfortunately, there is no solution once the fence starts eating the crops.

 

This is 294th in the Vision 2020 series. The previous article appeared on December 27.

 

(The author is a former Director, IIT Madras. Responses to indiresan@gmail.com and blfeedback@thehindu.co.in)

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

TOO MANY PHDS, TOO LITTLE SOLID WORTH

B. S. RAGHAVAN

 

At one time, the letters PhD after a name was a mark of high academic distinction. It was taken to reflect the quality and quantum of high-end research in the different subjects for which the PhD was awarded. Acquiring the qualification too required long and painstaking effort, and doctorates were few and far between. Indeed, some 50 years ago, the conferment of the degree was equivalent of today's "breaking news", the fact of anyone becoming a PhD was published prominently in the newspapers.

 

To a certain extent, the smaller number and the ability to put in longer and more arduous effort was also the result of less number of students in a few institutions of high learning dotting the landscape catering to smaller populations. The leading lights of the academia too had more time to devote to identifying and fostering talents.

 

Explosion of PhDs

 

The situation in the last few decades has vastly changed. There has been a veritable explosion of PhDs.

 

In India, today, as per the latest available figures, there are 483 universities in India (39 Central Universities; 255 State Universities; 59 private universities; 130 deemed universities) and over 16,885 colleges, including 1,798 for women. Around 14,000 PhDs awarded every year was made up of Humanities (4000), Science (5000), Agriculture (1000), Engineering (1000), Commerce (1000) Education (500) and medicine (250). On the basis of the total number of universities, this works out to 30 doctoral degrees per university on an average, but in reality, not counting the universities which are not up to the required academic standards, the number of PhDs per university per year runs in hundreds.

 

For instance, the Madras University alone at the last count had awarded 381, while Mumbai is not far behind with 322. Punjab (227) and Rajasthan (219) too are in the big league in churning out PhDs.

 

It is not that the numbers are high only in India. Worldwide, there is a glut of PhDs. America's annual output is 64,000.

 

In percentage terms, between 1998 and 2006, the number of doctorates handed out in all OECD countries grew by 40 per cent, compared with 22 per cent for America.

 

Even Japan, with its aging population, accounted for an increase of about 46 per cent more PhDs in the same period.

 

Painful proof

 

The difference between India and the advanced countries is that the choice of subjects for PhDs and quality of academic research leading to them are both palpably poor in India. Virtually, any subject, however trivial, is good enough for a PhD: The less said about the guides, the better. A mere possession of a PhD does not guarantee any significant value-addition in Indian conditions.

 

In the "Academic Ranking of World Universities" compiled in 2009 by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University, no Indian university figures among world's top 300; one (IISc Bangalore) among 301 to 400, and two (IIT Kharagpur and the University of Calcutta) among 401 to 500.

 

The IISc has actually slipped down from a rank among 201 to 300 that it held in 2003 and 2004. In terms of scientific papers, Indian contribution is just 1.23 per cent of world share.

 

Can there be a more painful proof of the backwardness of Indian universities in academic research and the quality of PhD students?

 

The Economist (December 16), in an article on doctoral degrees, aptly titled ''The disposable academic'', mentions that some heads of universities in the US, finding that too many PhDs have led to a fall in the degree's worth, have even stopped entertaining applications for pursuing a PhD.

 

Even as regards the market for PhDs, it says that over all subjects, a PhD commands only a 3 per cent premium over a master's degree, and in some subjects (maths and computing, social sciences and languages) the premium vanishes entirely, even reducing the earnings in some instances!

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

LEARN FROM GERMAN EXPERIENCE

REFORMS IN THE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH AREA ARE URGENTLY NEEDED AND INDIA CAN LEARN MUCH FROM THE GERMAN EXPERIENCE.

MOHAN MURTI

 

Excellence comes when work is done without anxiety, apprehension, disquiet, in the calm of self-surrender, says Bhagavad gita Mahabharata. Like Lord Krishna said in Bhagavad gita, science and research in Germany are characterised by a pursuit of excellence in unperturbed calm.

 

With a splendid research infrastructure, a wide variety of disciplines and competent staff, Germany offers various forms of research locations, such as universities, non-university institutes and companies.

 

Facts and Figures

 

There are about 750 public-funded research institutions and about 130 research networks and clusters. The total staff in R&D in Germany exceed 500,000 of wom over 300,000 are scientists and scholars. Gerrmany's gross domestic expenditure on Research and Development annually is about €61 billion.

 

Germany is home to 373 universities that do not see themselves as "schools" for undergraduates and doctoral students, but as centres of the "unity of research and teaching". This principle has a long tradition and was coined by Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835), philosopher and founder of Humbolt University in Berlin.

 

And, that makes Germany one of the world's most attractive research and higher education nations of the world.

 

R&D Policy Framework

 

The quest for 'excellence' is turning Germany's best universities into top research universities, thereby sponsoring the best brains in the country and attracting talented students and top foreign researchers from all around the world.

 

For instance, each year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables more than 2,000 researchers from all over the world to spend time researching in Germany. To date, over 1000 Indian scientists have benefitted from the research opportunity. The Foundation maintains a network of more than 24,000

 

Humboldtians from all disciplines in over 130 countries worldwide — including 44 Nobel Prize winners.

Again, Indian scientists have benefitted from Max Planck science fellowships. Indian researchers make up the largest foreign group of scholars in international Max Planck research schools.

 

Triadic Patents

 

German companies are among the most actively engaged in research in Europe. After the US and Japan, Germany registers the highest number of triadic patents worldwide — patents that are submitted simultaneously in Europe, Japan and the US. German companies collectively spend over €50 billion in internal R&D expenditure.

 

Now lets take a look at where India stands. Science has to fight parochialism. The Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranked India in the 58th position in international innovation. Even with a large talent pool, the country is unable to be the source of major innovations on a sustained basis.

 

So, what could be the reason for this? Addressing the Indian Science Congress, Prof. Amartya Sen, Chairman of the Interim Governing Board of Nalanda University, hit the nail on its head when he said "Science has to fight parochialism, and Nalanda University (which existed in Bihar during the early fifth century and the 12th century) was firmly committed to doing just that".

 

For good reasons, we need precisely the same mindset today, in the Indian science and research set-up.

 

Creativity Demands

 

Tranquility, time and trust. These three magic words sum up what is required to spout excellence and creativity in human beings. The demands of science and research in India seem to be just the opposite: haste, quick results and mistrust. What counts is the number of 'papers' published and how many times you are 'cited'.

 

Progress of technology, humanities and natural science often springs from clear, calm thinking, questioning ability and originality of thought. And, originality needs to be recognised and accepted. But, reality in India is that often, new and unusual ideas are outright, rejected.

 

If the inventor of X-Rays, Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen or, young Albert Einstein who propounded the theory of relativity had worked in an Indian research lab, a research project proposed by either of them would never have found financial support and, neither of them would have become Nobel Laureates or attained a position in the academic world.

 

We all know that noble laurate Dr. Venky Ramakrishnan, Ph.D, Physics from Ohio University, was considered a no-good substandard material to adorn the portals of IIT (he was rejected by them) as well as the medical colleges in India.

 

innovation laggards

 

India is not realising its potential for innovation, because its education and research institutes do not encourage a culture of questioning, experimentation and exchange of ideas.

 

Funding pressures have diverted scientists away from their core abilities to deal with red tape to cater to the requirements of funding agencies.

 

Reverse Engineers

 

India is still known in Europe as a country that picks up obsolete technologies at throwaway prices and reverse-engineers products. We urgently need to reinvent ourselves as a research and development powerhouse where innovation flourishes.

 

Although India's potential is high, it is not nurturing innovation. India's education system seems to stunt any spirit of innovation by failing to close the gap between the industry and the academia.

 

As a rigid society, we are unable to cope with failure. And, failure is an essential ingredient for innovation to prosper.

 

We should recapture the 'spirit of excellence' in the Bhagavad gita. We ought to recognise and pay tribute to good work. We must spot and encourage talent. After all, excellence means constant improvement and innovation — thinking in curves instead of logical straight lines, introducing simple procedures, time and labour-saving devices, better health care, cheaper wares and making our agricultural yield higher. There is nothing in India that cannot be improved. As for 'Indian excellence', the best is yet to come.

 

(The author is a former Europe Director, CII and lives in Cologne, Germany. blfeedback@thehindu.co.in.)

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

MEDIA-SHY AP CORPORATES

BL DIARY

 

Come January, all listed companies slip into 'silent period' ahead of announcing their quarterly results. But this time around, companies in Andhra Pradesh are more silent than their peers elsewhere. The Telangana factor is keeping them away from media glare. With the Srikrishna panel report bringing the T-factor back to the fore, corporates have reportedly decided to put off all press conferences and other off-the-record and on-the-record interactions with reporters. "They don't want to face unpalatable queries on the T-factor. Better to be silent for while," says a corporate honcho.

 

Well covered

 

It is not often that you find a person collapsing in the middle of a press conference; so when a thud was heard from the back of the hall, the proceedings of Star Health and Allied Insurance meeting were halted and all attention fell on the official who had collapsed. When it emerged that it was nothing serious — the official had just felt a little giddy out of exhaustion, a titter of relief ran through the journalists, who wanted to know if the official was 'covered'.

 

No small change, this problem

 

Try getting coins for a few hundred rupees from the RBI's vending machines in Chennai, and you will know why your neighbourhood shopkeeper is reluctant to part with small change. First, there is the intimidating security. Next, there are the long, slow moving queues – one each for Re 1, Rs 2 or Rs 5 coins. You join one, and then you notice the machine for Re 1 coins rejects used notes. Assuming you have a crisp Rs 100 note, you continue. Then you come to a gun-toting guard brusquely stopping people from changing more than one note at a time. Why? To discourage touts from making a business of supplying coins. So, after 30 minutes and two times in the line, you get change for two hundred rupees. Now, those coins you will not want to give away easily!

 

Headless for long

 

The appointment of the Chairman for Damodar Valley Corporation seems to have taken a political turn. In December, the Union Power Ministry cancelled an almost-complete selection process and ordered a fresh headhunt. Apparently two Congress MPs — A. H. Khan Chowdhury from West Bengal and Mohammed Azharuddin from Uttar Pradesh — had pointed out "serious administrative errors" in the selection of the candidate (a Bengal cadre IAS) and raised queries on his competence.

 

The episode, however, now faces counter criticism from another Congress MP, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury ,also of Bengal, who felt that the eligibility criteria set in the newly-launched selection campaign had "compromised the quality" of the potential candidates. Chowdhury, however, charges the BJP-led coalition in Jharkhand with having played the spoilsport.

 

Tailpiece: In the meantime the organisation with multi-purpose social responsibility has been without a full-time chairman for six months and without a full-time secretary (practically, the CEO of the company) for nearly a year.

 

Aero-drone

January-February is when Bangalore blooms with Tabebuia in lush splendour, but it is also that time when the mean metal birds descend in droves, with hard-nosed dealers in tow. Although the city has hosted the Defence Ministry's Aero India for a dozen-odd years and knows the drill quite well, it never fails to jive to the impending show yet again. Already, you can sniff 'aero' in everything around here, as hoteliers, taxi, bus and tour operators, corporate public relations agencies and aviation enthusiasts exult at the prospect of good times. The local media have already launched their biennial blitz with tit-bits and unofficially raised the curtains for the 'Aero' that's not on until February 9. No escaping the déjà vu.

 

Bunking bankers

 

Are the district-level bankers' committee meetings that review the performance of the banks in the Dakshina Kannada district meant only for public sector banks and some private banks? It seems so as, most of the time, the meeting witnesses thin or nil attendance from a few new-generation private banks in the region. Not only do they not attend the meetings, they do not even bother to send their performance numbers to the Convenor.

 

Latest joke at RBI

 

M1 Manipulation

 

M2 Mealy-mouthedness

 

M3 Mismanagement.

 

Green minister turns red

 

The Union Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, and the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Sinh Ahluwalia, have had verbal duels often, which was why the media turned up in full force at a FICCI event on Self-Governing the Commons, where the two sparring partners were scheduled to speak. But this time, Montek was clearly aware that the media was waiting for some verbal fireworks and changed his tune — he offered to hug the 'green' Minister in front of all the flashing cameras. Laughing, Jairam declined, settling for a handshake.

 

Sunny son

 

Unlike his father, Tamil Nadu's Deputy Chief Minister, M. K. Stalin, is not particularly known for humorous repartees — but sometimes it's clear he is a chip of the old block. Delivering the valedictory address at a solar power convention in Chennai, Stalin spoke eloquently on how well the State was positioned for a solar play. "The future of the State is safe in the hands of the sun," the son of the present Chief Minister and the 'heir-apparent' for CM's throne, said.

 

OUR BUREAUS

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

POLITICS OF GOLI AND BOLI

VAULTING POLL AMBITIONS

 

The Congress in Uttar Pradesh may be down in the dumps but its members stubbornly refuse to look before they leap.
The party is not even close to identifying candidates for the next Assembly elections, but one young man, Vivek Singh, has gone ahead and declared himself the candidate for Lucknow East.

 

Mr Singh has put up huge hoardings across the city declaring himself as the Congress candidate and even his profile on Facebook reflects his aspirations. His friends address him as "MLAji" and the man himself has posted photos of "meetings" with leaders such as Digvijay Singh and Raj Babbar in which he looks more like a bystander.

 

In Congress circles, he goes around boasting that he has gifted a gold chain to "Didi" and a high-end model of Blackberry to "Bhai saheb" and hence his ticket has been confirmed. That is perhaps the transparency that All-India Congress Committee general-secretary Rahul Gandhi keeps talking about.

 

Gehlot and the Gujjars

 

Though the Gujjar agitation ended without any bloodshed, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot kept his distance when Gujjar leader K.S. Bainsla signed a peace pact with the government. Mr Gehlot did not even appear for a joint photo session. It is learnt that Mr Gehlot was not happy with community leaders as they blocked railway tracks and caused problems for the common people.

 

The last time that the Gujjars launched an agitation, Mr Gehlot had invited them for talks. When Mr Bainsla met him with his colleagues, the chief minister made them promise before a picture of the late Martin Luther King that they would not allow any blood to be spilt. They kept their promise.

 

When the Gujjar leaders called on the chief minister recently, he thanked them for maintaining peace. But he also expressed his resentment at the train blockade by the Gujjars. "The previous BJP government dealt with the agitation with a 'goli' (bullet) while Gehlot handled it with 'boli' (talks)'", quipped a Gujjar leader.

 

Murder not most foul

 

during his recent interaction with mediapersons at Raipur, Chhattisgarh director-general of police (DGP) Vishwaranjan raised many eyebrows when he said that murder is no crime.
"Murder is not considered a crime world over", he said. "It is deemed an offence only in cases of supari (contract) killings with motives." The top cop said this while fielding a volley of questions by scribes on the rising number of murders in Chhattisgarh.

 

Needless to say, the remark attracted severe criticism and derision from the media, Opposition parties, and even criminologists, who said the DGP has coined a new definition of crime to cover up his failure to arrest the deteriorating law and order situation in the state. "Has the history of mankind ever witnessed a murder without a motive", an academician wondered. It is for the top cop to answer.

 

Ajmal's agenda in Assam polls

 

With elections round the corner in Assam and leaders busy making plans to come to power, there is now confusion on who is siding with whom. Badruddin Ajmal, the veteran minority leader and MP (member of Parliament), recently urged the Opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) to choose Prafulla Kumar Mahanta as its chief ministerial candidate.

 

This surcharged the political atmosphere and also re-ignited the cold war in the party as the AGP president, Chandra Mohan Patowary, is also working out how to become chief minister. It is known that the perfume-baron-turned politician, Mr Ajmal, has also opened a channel with the Congress, which is said to have offered a ministerial berth to the veteran minority leader in the Union Cabinet. Now, everyone is wondering if Mr Ajmal's aim was to unite the Opposition or divide it on the eve of the polls.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

LOOK BACK WITH HOPE

BY DOMINIC EMMANUEL

 

I am sure most people will agree with me that the year 2010 has not been as bad as some of the newspaper editorials and critics have painted it. In my opinion, every year has its own high and low points. Of course, how one looks at the events of the year depends entirely on one's outlook towards life, towards people and indeed towards God. What I am trying to say is aptly described by Frederick Langbridge: "Two men looked out of the same prison bars, one saw the mud, the other saw the stars".

 

On January 31, 2010, I was travelling in a train from Madhya Pradesh to New Delhi. Due to the Gujjar agitation where protesters blocked railway tracks, the trains were either running late or their routes were diverted. Hence, the travel time increased. As is usual during our lovely train journeys in India (yes only in India), people soon get chatting with each other as if they have known each other for ages. That day, however, I did not joining the co-passengers who began cursing the situation, the government, the Gujjar community. I knew that my inclusion in the above-mentioned discussion will not change the situation, I got curious firstly, to learn the new route the train would be traversing on, passing through new towns and villages. Secondly, I also decided that if I was not absorbed in reading, I would look out of the window and enjoy the beautiful green fields. It is such a soothing site both to the eyes and the heart to observe a sea of green flowing fields to as far as one's eyes can see.

 

It also gave me an opportunity to wonder again — a marvel that has never left me since my childhood really — on the great mystery and indeed a miracle of how just any tiny one seed can multiply itself into thousands of seeds or grow into a huge fruit-bearing tree. It immediately brought back to me the scene as described by Jesus in the Bible, "very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit".

 

Jesus was speaking about the "dying of a seed and bringing new life" in the context of his own sacrificial death on the cross that was to follow but one which would bring new life and new hope to humanity. Among other things that Jesus wanted to teach his disciples was the value of sacrifice in life, even to the extent of death.

 

The reason we become so cynical and critical in life is because we are so concerned about ourselves, our own comforts, our own interests. While a critical reflection on the events of 2010 and the entire last decade can help us to improve our situation for 2011 and for the coming decade, my own take on looking at reality would be to try and see the positive side of most things. What can surely help us in doing that is for us to peep out of our own selfishness, our own narrow outlook, our own self-gratifying needs. There is a simple but quite enlightening Persian proverb that can help us change our outlook on life altogether. It says, "I complained that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet". Next I will reflect on what could be some of the positive things we could do to begin another decade of our lives.

 

— Father Dominic Emmanuel, a founder-member of Parliament of Religions, is currently the director of communication of the Delhi Catholic Church. He was awarded the National Communal Harmony Award 2008 by the Government of India. He can be contacted at frdominic@gmail.com [1]

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

'CHINA WON'T OBSTRUCT UNSC BID'

 

 "We are quite confident that when the matter of choosing new permanent members to an expanded Security Council comes up, India will have the requisite numbers to sail through", Hardeep Singh Puri, India's permanent representative to the UN, tells Ramesh Ramachandran in an interview over email.

 

Q. On January 1, 2011, India began a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. What are the UNSC's priorities as India returns to it after nearly two decades?
A. The existing agenda focuses heavily on threats to international peace and security in Africa. About 60 per cent of the Security Council's formal meetings are about Africa and about peacekeeping. India has considerable empathy, knowledge and experience when it comes to Africa and will add value to the deliberations of the Security Council.

 

We are also the leading contributor to UN Peacekeeping, having contributed one lakh peacekeepers to virtually every peacekeeping operation in the last 50 years. The expertise that we bring to this core UN activity is unparalleled.

 

The Security Council is also focused on terrorism. We have an immediate national interest in the counter-terrorism regimes that are being developed by the Security Council. It is noteworthy that no democracy has as many neighbours on the Security Council's agenda as India. The issue will naturally be a priority for us and we will contribute to strengthening international regimes that support democracy and human rights.

 

India will work towards strengthening multilateral processes, including a strong and efficient Security Council, and for an international rule of law based on "right" rather than "might". The promotion of the common good of all and not just narrow national considerations will guide us.

 

Q. Is the permanent mission of India to the UN adequately staffed and resourced to perform duties expected of it?
A. The ministry of external affairs has increased the number of diplomats assigned to the mission by 40 per cent in the past year.

 

A special team, with officers with the relevant experience, has been created to focus on work relating to the Security Council. Other resources are also being made available.

 

Q. Do you agree with the view that India will be "on probation" during its two-year term as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, and that its quest for a permanent seat will depend on how it performs in the eyes of the leading Western powers?
A. I do not agree with such a view. First and foremost, Security Council reforms are a matter for negotiation for the UN General Assembly and are not a subject matter for the Security Council's consideration at present. Two, India's entry into the UNSC stands on its own merits. The spectacular margin of our victory in the election on October 12, 2010, with 187 out of 190 votes stands testimony to our global stature. We intend to bring our diplomatic, political and economic strengths to the working of the Security Council and thereby enhance its effectiveness and efficiency. This is our commitment to the international community.

 

Q. At what stage is the process of UNSC reform? How many of the 192 UN members are in support of India?
A. At present the process of int-er-governmental negotiations on Security Council reforms is interestingly poised. The large majority of the delegations in New York have called for a shorter negotiating text by the end of January 2011. They have urged the chair of these negotiations to prepare such a text based on the proposals and positions submitted by countries or groups in the first half of 2010 and subsequently streamlined in September 2010.

 

As for support, let me put it this way: We are quite confident that when the matter of choosing new permanent members to an expanded Security Council comes up, India will have the requisite numbers to sail through.

 

Q. Is India making efforts to secure for itself veto power or have we given up on that?
A. The issue of the veto is likely to be one of the more contentious points of negotiations, if not the most contentious. My personal view is that it will be very difficult for new permanent members to sell the reform package to their domestic constituencies if they do not have the same rights and obligations as the existing permanent members.

 

Equally, there will be resistance to the extension of veto to new permanent members from certain quarters. For this reason, in 2005 the G4 (Group of Four, comprising India, Brazil, Japan and Germany) had — in a spirit of compromise — put forward its current position that consisted of two elements. First, that the new permanent members should have the same responsibilities and obligations as the current permanent members. Second, that the new permanent members shall not exercise the right of veto until the question of the extension of the right of veto to new permanent members had been decided upon in the framework of the review mandated 15 years after the entry into force of the Security Council reform.

 

The position of the "L69" (a diverse group of UN member-states from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific), of which India is an active participant, is that new permanent members should have all the rights and obligations of the existing ones. This brings the "L69" and African Group positions in sync with each other on the issue of the veto.

 

Q. Have the G4 been able to reconcile the draft proposal with that of the African Group?
A. With each passing day there is increasing convergence between the positions held by India and the African group. The most recent manifestation of this was the statement on December 17, 2010 — at the first exchange of the sixth round of inter-governmental negotiations on Security Council reforms , the "L69" Group aligned its position closely with the African position. This sentiment has been reciprocated by the Africans. Sierra Leone, which represents the African group at these negotiations, welcomed the "L69" statement, while other African countries, including South Africa, Nigeria and Mauritius, aligned themselves with the "L69" statement.

 

Q. The leaders of all P-5 countries, except China, who visited India in 2010 strongly supported India for a permanent seat in the Security Council. How do you view this?
A. We have a constant dialogue with China on this issue. I can state with reasonable degree of confidence that China will not be an obstacle to India becoming a permanent UNSC member.

 

]Q. Will India be willing to increase its share of contribution to the UN budget?
A. India's contribution to the regular budget of the UN in 2009-10 was $11.4 million, while our contribution to the UN peacekeeping operation last year was $7.7 million. We also make significant voluntary contributions to the UN's development programme, to the democracy and population funds, to Unicef, etc. This clearly makes us one of the most important developing country contributors on a voluntary basis.

 

There is a complex formula that includes a set of inter-related factors, both economic and non-economic, that determines any change in the share of a country's contribution to the UN.

 

Needless to say, India is a country that is willing to step up to its responsibilities as and when called upon to do so. But the other side of the equation is that the UN should be able to appropriately respond to India's growing global stature.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

IPL-4 PUTS INDIANS ON TOP OF THE LIST

 

IPL teams splurged liberally on Indian cricketers in the auction for season four. This represents a smart, if extravagant, move on the part of high-profile franchises in the cricket world's biggest T-20 league. Wiser by the experience of the inaugural auction held three years ago, when money was showered on international stars regardless of their availability, the state of their fitness and their levels of commitment to a start-up professional league, IPL teams decided to concentrate on the Indian cricketer who, thanks to the BCCI window for the IPL, are available for all matches. This also validates the national pride generated by our cricketers who are ranked not only No. 1 in the ICC Test rankings but are also early favourites for the World Cup to be held in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh from next month. In their bid to change their entire player set-up, which saw them finish near the bottom in the first three editions, Kolkata Knight Riders may have gone overboard in raising the base prices of national stars. The advent of two new teams in Pune and Kochi made the auction even more vibrant. While the top of the list of the most expensive picks is populated solely by Indians, of whom Gautam Gambhir, seen as the future face of Indian cricket and prospective captain in all forms of the game, hit the jackpot at $2.4 million, the commitment shown by the top Sri Lankans, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, has been recognised. Gone is the time when the (joint) highest paid cricketer of the league, Andrew Flintoff of England, could be a virtual passenger in his team Chennai Super Kings' victory march, taking IPL money without having to sweat for it on the field. Some egos were dismantled, none more so than in the emotive case of Sourav Ganguly. Pragmatism scotched the remnants of ambition in Brian Lara whose move to play IPL was seen as driven by greed by some of his Caribbean colleagues. Even a winning captain like Adam Gilchrist, previously of Deccan Chargers, had to go elsewhere, which only goes to show that age is something sporting geniuses cannot overcome for too long. A few players with known negative behaviour patterns have also been left by the wayside. The IPL and Champions League winners Chennai Super Kings strategised to retain the core of their winning combination towards which they pre-signed four payers while considerably limiting their war chest. Mumbai Indians, IPL runners-up, also took the same route without showing the same commitment to buying others through the auction route. Whether any advantage was derived by CSK in having the managing director of the owning company, India Cements, sitting in a conflict-of-interest situation as the BCCI secretary and president-elect, is not known. However, since the rules were the same for all and set before the auction there could be no real complaints although other problems, like salary "rorts (whereby players are paid more than the agreed sum)", do exist. Having taken a huge image dent engendered by the circumstances in which the flamboyant IPL architect, Lalit Modi, left his brainchild after the IPL-3 final, the league is set to reinvent itself in its fourth season.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

SECURING INDIA'S RISE

BY KAMAL DAVAR

 

At the threshold of the second decade of this millennium, the defining security paradigm for India remains to successfully confront various security challenges to its economic growth and a peaceful rise to global pre-eminence. The unprecedented military rise and strategic assertiveness of China, the continual Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and its consistent adversarial policies towards India and Afghanistan and the growing Naxal/Maoist menace are some of the formidable security challenges that confront India.

 

As a steady nine per cent economic growth propels India to take its rightful place on the world stage, the path of peace and progress for India is strewn with roadblocks. Are we sufficiently gearing up to overcome these challenges and be deserving of a "seat at the high table" vexes the mind of most both within India and abroad. Would we shed an inexplicable timidity in macro decision-making and bureaucratic sluggishness to be what we deserve will be seen in this decade.

 

Notwithstanding many genuine peace overtures by India to China, the latter, unmindful of Indian sensitivities on Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Arunachal Pradesh, has not only diluted its earlier stand on Indian sovereignty but mischievously altered it on both counts. Alarmingly, the Chinese perfidy has been witnessed in the dimensions of the International Border and the Line of Actual Control. India shares a 4,057-km border with China whereas it has come out with a startling statement that it shares only a 2,000-km border with India. India's ambassador to China has inexplicably stated that we share a border of 3,488 km. The issue of the mystery of the "missing" thousands of kilometres in J&K and Arunachal Pradesh needs to be strongly addressed with the Chinese after our ministry of external affairs and ministry of defence reconcile their figures. The presence of a nearly 10,000 Chinese workforce, as reported by the noted US journalist, Mr Selig Harrison, ostensibly for infrastructure projects in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), is indeed ominous from our security point of view. The Chinese undertake all policy steps with a long-term view of their interests and, as such, their stand now has to be most carefully analysed and corrective counter-measures put in place expeditiously by India. We need not be overly delighted by the growing Sino-Indian trade relationships as even the projected $100-billion trade with them is loaded in their favour. It is indeed reassuring that our government politely but firmly has stated its position in the joint statement issued at the end of the Chinese Premier, Mr Wen Jiabao's recent visit. It was also in keeping with our democratic credentials for an Indian diplomat to attend the Chinese-boycotted Oslo Nobel Prize ceremony for Liu Xiaobo now in jail in China.

 

Pakistan, though displaying all the attributes of a failing state and being myopically anti-India in its stance, appears to have made its strategic future imperatives unmistakably clear. Firstly, with a weakening US-Nato footprint in Afghanistan, it would strongly play into US fears and its operational and logistical discomfiture in Afghanistan and thus extract the maximum in financial largesse and military equipment from the US. Secondly, for the price of the latest military equipment from the Chinese arsenal, like the JF-17 jets, F22P frigates, nuclear and missile technologies, besides billions in trade, Pakistan has reportedly allowed thousands of Chinese to be stationed in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan. Not surprisingly, the Pakistanis have stated that Gilgit-Baltistan will not be a part of any future negotiations on J&K. Patriotic Pakistanis may take heed of these sinister developments by the Pakistan Army for short-term military gains as the Chinese may become the neo-colonialists in this disputed region. On the other hand, the Indian security establishment must be mindful of the land threat dimension now to the already existing naval dimension of the Chinese encirclement of India via their "string of pearls" strategy.

 

The progress achieved in combating the Naxal/Maoist threat to our hinterland that affected about 220 districts, has to be stepped up. Central police organisations and state police set-ups have to improve their professional standards and grassroots intelligence-gathering capabilities to counter this home-grown scourge. However, political leaders, of all hues, must not politicise this threat for electoral gains and hamper the onerous task of the security forces. Our intelligence organisations must also keep a watch on any linkages being developed with these insurgents by either Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence or Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or the Nepal-based Maoists or any Northeast-based insurgent groups.

 

With growing multi-dimensional threats to India's security, it is critical for the Government of India and the three services to craft out a long-term coherent strategy. The Indian armed forces must be expeditiously given the latest wherewithal, especially in all four-dimension strategic weaponry, including space. The reach of the Indian Navy with an assortment of "blue water" assets, the Indian Air Force (IAF) with strategic trans-continental capabilities and the Army with an adequate offensive and defensive lethal punch has to ensure at the earliest. With the IAF punch already depleting, the induction of the long-awaited 126 multi-role combat aircraft must be expedited besides ensuring timely induction of the fifth-generation fighters being developed jointly with Russia. The Indian Navy and the Integrated Andaman and Nicobar Command will have to be suitably strengthened given the ever-increasing forays by the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean. Our armed forces must be fully geared to operate in a nuclear scenario and be able to field an effective nuclear triad, if required, besides meeting the challenges of information warfare which the Chinese have already mastered and with its cyber capabilities "hacked" many sensitive networks of the US.

 

Meanwhile, India must encourage indigenous private-public partnerships in the research and manufacturing of state-of-the-art weaponry. As it furthers a defence partnership with its "strategic ally", the US, it will be prudent to expand military linkages with Russia, Israel and France. We need to continue enlarging our developmental footprint in Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics besides endeavouring to re-establish close ties with Iran. Overall, this decade will surely be of much reckoning for an emerging India.

 

* Kamal Davar was the first chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

MY FATHER LIVED AND DIED FOR PAKISTAN

BY SHEHRBANO TASEER

 

Twenty seven. That's the number of bullets a police guard fired into my father before surrendering himself with a sinister smile to the policemen around him. Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province, was assassinated on January 4 — my brother Shehryar's 25th birthday — outside a market near our family home in Islamabad.

 

The guard accused of the killing, Mumtaz Qadri, was assigned that morning to protect my father while he was in the federal capital. According to officials, around 4.15 pm, as my father was about to step into his car after lunch, Mr Qadri opened fire.

 

Mr Qadri and his supporters may have felled a great oak that day, but they are sadly mistaken if they think they have succeeded in silencing my father's voice or the voices of millions like him who believe in the secular vision of Pakistan's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

 

My father's life was one of struggle. He was a self-made man, who made and lost and remade his fortune. He was among the first members of the ruling Pakistan People's Party when it was founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the late 1960s. He was an intellectual, a newspaper publisher and a writer; he was jailed and tortured for his belief in democracy and freedom. The vile dictatorship of General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq did not take kindly to his pamphleteering for the restoration of democracy.

 

One particularly brutal imprisonment was in a dungeon at Lahore Fort, this city's Mughal-era citadel. My father was held in solitary confinement for months and was slipped a single meal of half a plate of stewed lentils each day. They told my mother, in her early 20s at the time, that he was dead. She never believed that.

 

Determined, she made friends with the kind man who used to sweep my father's cell and asked him to pass a note to her husband. My father later told me he swallowed the note, fearing for the sweeper's life. He scribbled back a reassuring message to my mother: "I'm not made from a wood that burns easily". That is the kind of man my father was. He could not be broken.

 

He often quoted verse by his uncle Faiz Ahmed Faiz, one of Urdu's greatest poets. "Even if you've got shackles on your feet, go. Be fearless and walk. Stand for your cause even if you are martyred", wrote Faiz. Especially as governor, my father was the first to speak up and stand beside those who had suffered, from the thousands of people displaced by the Kashmir earthquake in 2005 to the family of two teenage brothers who were lynched by a mob last August in Sialkot after a dispute at a cricket match.

 

After 86 members of the Ahmadi sect, considered blasphemous by fundamentalists, were murdered in attacks on two of their mosques in Lahore last May, to the great displeasure of the religious right my father visited the survivors in the hospital. When the floods devastated Pakistan last summer, he was on the go, rallying businessmen for aid, consoling the homeless and building shelters.

 

My father believed that the strict blasphemy laws instituted by General Zia have been frequently misused and ought to be changed. His views were widely misrepresented to give the false impression that he had spoken against Prophet Mohammad. This was untrue, and a criminal abdication of responsibility by his critics, who must now think about what they have caused to happen. According to the authorities, my father's stand on the blasphemy law was what drove Mr Qadri to kill him.

 

There are those who say my father's death was the final nail in the coffin for a tolerant Pakistan. That Pakistan's liberal voices will now be silenced. But we buried a heroic man, not the courage he inspired in others. This week two leading conservative politicians — former Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and the cricket-star-turned-politician Imran Khan — have taken the same position my father held on the blasphemy laws: they want amendments to prevent misuse.

 

To say that there was a security lapse on January 4 is an understatement. My father was brutally gunned down by a man hired to protect him. Juvenal once asked, "Who will guard the guards themselves?" It is a question all Pakistanis should ask themselves today: If the extremists could get to the governor of the largest province, is anyone safe?

 

It may sound odd, but I can't imagine my father dying in any other way. Everything he had, he invested in Pakistan, giving livelihoods to tens of thousands, improving the economy. My father believed in our country's potential. He lived and died for Pakistan. To honour his memory, those who share that belief in Pakistan's future must not stay silent about injustice. We must never be afraid of our enemies. We must never let them win.

 

Shehrbano Taseer is a reporter with NewsweekPakistan.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

WE, THE PEOPLE

THE PROP OF FARM AND FACTORY


IT isn't exactly repartee. Politicians here are much too graceless to engage in pre-election debates as in the West. In the competition over campaign rhetoric, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has raised a slogan that is less emotive and seemingly more feet-on-the-ground than Mamata Banerjee's. The Chief Minister's krishi-shilpa-manush is intended to be a somewhat belated counter-punch to ma-mati-manush. Pre-eminently, it is people who constitute the common plank for politicians across the board; it is only the priorities that differ. There is little that is new in Mr Bhattacharjee's presentation as he sought to afford currency to the new coinage. Essentially, it is an afterthought after the bedlam in Singur and butchery in Nandigram. With the benefit of hindsight and after enough died and more suffered cruel and barbarous reprisal, the Chief Minister has iterated his anxiety to strike a balance between agriculture and industry with due regard to the people as the main prop. Agriculture, in his reckoning, has benefited the rural economy. Ergo, the state must come up with industries to benefit the "new generation of educated youth". Out of electoral compulsion, he appears to have abjured the Panglossian agenda that had marked his governance in 2007. He was doubtless driven by the phenomenal majority in the Assembly; as electoral support can now scarcely be taken for granted, he has spared a thought for manush (people), who now figure in the overall construct and incidentally of both leaders.
One must give it to Mr Bhattacharjee that he did apologise after the Nandigram blitz. Having done that, there was no call to offer  a feeble defence of government action. "Which government wants to open fire on its people?" was the Chief Minister's query at the 45th anniversary of his party organ. It is your government that did, can be the short answer, Mr Bhattacharjee.  There are two facets of that firing that still remain unaddressed. First, the nature of the shots violated the UN convention, a reality that was first highlighted by none other than Jyoti Basu. Second, the involvement of cadres who masqueraded as  policemen. The carnage will forever remain an underbelly of West Bengal's drive towards industrialisation, a blot on its economic history. And the faith of manush in the government was almost irretrievably lost in the wake of the re-run in November of that year. Only after three winters has the Chief Minister accepted the imperative to "tread with extreme caution in every aspect of land acquisition and industrialisation".  The blunder has been acknowledged, but barely four months before the election.


REVISED RIOT-DRILL

ALL EYES ON J&K POLICE

NO police force in the country has been required to deal with the kind of stone-pelting public protest that had strained to the limit the human and material resources of the local cops and central paramilitary in the Kashmir Valley in the summer of 2010. When resort had been taken to the "ultimate" law-enforcement method, inevitably the backlash from deaths or injuries caused by police firing further inflamed passions. That required formulating a new riot drill, which is slated to come into effect a few months ahead. Revised tactics, and the employment of non-lethal weaponry, specially designed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation are some of its features. The home ministry is presently studying for approval as "standard operating procedure" an action plan put together by a team headed by the J&K police chief, senior officials from Andhra, UP, the CRPF's rapid action unit, and representatives of the central intelligence agencies. Obviously full details of the upgraded procedures will not be publicised, but already five new battalions of the Indian Reserve Police are being imparted with specialised training to implement the action plan and the use of laser-guns, rubber pellets, pepper spray etc. While there will be much hope that the Valley will never again be subjected to the brand of violence that caused so much distress last summer, police leaders all over the country will be closely monitoring the law-and-order scene there to assess the impact of the revised drill, and whether it should be adopted by other police forces. For, with the exception of the introduction of water cannon, riot-control procedures have changed little down the decades ~ barricades, tear-gas, lathi-charge and firing.
The situation in the Kashmir Valley will call for a bit more than what may suffice elsewhere. The majority of stone-pelters are paid troublemakers ~ it is seldom a case of a public protest turning ugly. So identifying and apprehending those funding the mischief (with aid from across the frontier?) will be of critical importance. From where are the stones "supplied", surely they are not lying on the streets, also requires some probing and counter-measures. What cannot be overlooked is the importance of the local police and the IRP operating in tandem. Extending the specialised training to units of the local forces must be the next logical step.

CO-EXISTENCE THE KEY

RABHAS AND GAROS MUST MEND RIFT

SINCE the time Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram were carved out of Assam, the Centre has been less than pragmatic in dealing with inter-state border issues, which is why simmering tensions in the region often surface and sometimes lead to death and destruction. Thankfully, a temporary truce now restrains disputant states from acting provocatively. Assam and Meghalaya have taken the sensible stand of solving the problem on the basis of demographic composition of border villages but little progress has been made so far. Until border disputes are solved, it would be idle to expect a smoother relationship between people living along these man-made lines. As if this were not enough, fresh trouble has erupted between the Rabhas and Garos along the Assam-East Garo Hills (Meghalaya) border. The killing of four people on 5 January in clashes between the two ethnic groups, however, has no link with the border issue. Tensions between the two communities ~ they have lived in peace for ages ~ were reportedly building up after the Rabhas resorted to frequent bandhs/ blockades of National Highway 37 in Assam to press their demand for autonomy under the Sixth Schedule. The Garos complained that these blockades restricted their movement on NH-37, the only link that connects NH-40 leading to Shillong.


What has actually soured relationships between them is a 30 October incident in which a temple in Williamnagar was allegedly attacked by Garos while protesting against civic polls in the Garo Hills. On 22 December, some Rabha youths attacked a Garo pastor and his family while they were travelling on NH-37 during a bandh. This is also said to have prevented many Garo students in Shillong from reaching home in time for Christmas. The Army is reported to have moved into the affected areas but success in defusing such ethnic feuds largely depends on how far the Garos and Rabhas are prepared to go to make adjustments, and how well they realise the need for co-existence.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

COP ON THE BEAT

THE CONSTABLE NEEDS AN INSPIRING LEADERSHIP

SANKAR SEN

 

IN the police hierarchy, the position of the constables is lowly and lost. Though they form the base of the pyramid, they are generally regarded as the other ranks who cut wood and draw water, and are often looked down upon by senior officers. The Police Commission of 1902 appointed by Lord Curzon ~ had recommended a mechanical role where the constables would not have to exercise any judgment or discretion. Most of them were ill-trained and poorly educated and played the role of errand boys. The situation has not changed since then.


The cardinal fact was forgotten ~ the constabulary represents the image of the police before the public. Their amiability, courtesy and competence can endear the force; equally their misconduct and lapses can tarnish the image of the police. To quote a perceptive author, the constable remains a "spear carrier" in the background of police operations, and not a major actor in the centre-stage.


The poorly paid and inadequately trained constabulary constitutes the Achilles heel of the Indian police. Very little has been done despite recommendations by several police commissions to set things right. Their promotion prospects are bleak. After 30 or 35 years of service, many constables have to retire in the same rank. This is extremely frustrating. Yet the constables can render signal service if they are properly led and duly empowered. Some of them display remarkable presence of mind, strength of character and leadership qualities and constitute an untapped and unexplored reservoir of strength.


I am reminded of an incident in 1979 when policemen went on strike. A section of the media called it a "police mutiny". The agitation began in Punjab and then spread to other states. The grievances were genuine, yet never addressed. I was, at that time, posted as Range DIG, Rourkela, in Orissa. The initial calm turned out to be deceptive. The discontent was smouldering.  The police hierarchy never heard  the rumblings of the distant thunder.


In search of a safety valve, I held a meeting with senior officers and constables of Rourkela district. The constables clamoured for better housing, medical facilities and compensatory allowance,  which they used to receive when Rourkela Steel Plant was under construction. These demands had been pending for quite sometime, and had long-term financial implications. The police leadership was not in a position to redress their grievances without a positive response from the state government.  At the meeting, the constables did not give any inkling of  the impending agitation,In Orissa, such an agitation usually took the form of policemen not reporting for duty, but it did not take a violent turn. The people of the state are generally peaceful, and there was a certain understanding between the police brass and the constabulary. The police was neither politicised nor unionised.


However, the movement by the Central Industrial Security Force, based at Rourkela Steel Plant, was gradually spiralling out of control. CISF jawans at the Bokaro Steel Plant fought gun-battles with army contingents and had to be disarmed. Fortunately, no such incident occurred in Rourkela. The plant authorities and the police intervened at the right juncture, assisted by a  BSF contingent from Kolkata. The tense situation was defused.
The police agitation gradually died down all over the country. The state governments adopted a carrot-and-stick policy. In Orissa, some of the ringleaders were dismissed from service by invoking Article 311(2) of the Constitution. However, they were subsequently reinstated by the state government as a gesture of clemency.
A remarkable incident occurred in Rourkela during the agitation. Sepoys of the Orissa Military Police battalion, stationed in the steel town, organised a protest march against the alleged misbehaviour of the police commandant towards a sepoy. In the parade ground, the commandant grabbed a jawan by the neck and admonished him.  The District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police came to my office to discuss the issue. Both felt that as the most senior police officer I should talk to the sepoys. When I reached the spot, the policemen were seething with anger. A big crowd had gathered as a disciplined force had become restive.
My initial efforts to pacify the jawans by assuring them that their grievances would be looked into were not effective. The protesting constables were defiant and in no mood to listen. The efforts of the DM, SP,  and the local MLA made no headway.


As I was trying to devise an alternative strategy, a young constable of the local police station came to my rescue. In a firm tone,  he admonished his battalion colleagues for bringing the police into disrepute. He urged them to go back to the barracks without further ado, and in the process making a mockery of police discipline. The protesting constables were taken aback by their colleague's firmness. It did have a sobering effect.
Taking advantage of the situation, I again spoke to the agitators iterating my assurance of an enquiry into the grievances. I succeeded in persuading them to return to their barracks. It was the end of a nightmare.
I now turned to the hero of the hour who had displayed the finest qualities of a police officer and a crisis manager. He did not speak a word. Quiet and self-possessed, he listened to my congratulatory remarks and then clicked his heels, gave a smart salute and walked away with due grace and dignity. As senior police officers, we have failed to empower the constabulary and help them in terms of career advancement. This is one of our marked failures, precisely to provide proper and inspiring leadership to the force. Many of us are indeed lost leaders.

 

The writer is Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences, former Director-General, National Human Rights Commission, and former Director, National Police Academy

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

MINISTER'S POINT

 

It is not usual for a minister to get into an argument with a statutory authority; the convention is that instruments of Constitution should be left free to carry out their duties. The comptroller and auditor general submits numerous reports to Parliament. All of them point out deficiencies in the government's performance. Some of them make news for a day or two, and are then forgotten. If Kapil Sibal has chosen to take issue with the CAG's performance audit of the issue of second-generation licences for spectrum, the explanation must be sought in three factors. First, the Supreme Court has chosen to take interest in the issue of the licences, and has in the process implicitly indicted Mr Sibal's predecessor in the ministry of communications, A. Raja. Second, the Supreme Court's investigation of Mr Raja's questionable activities has raised questions about the inexplicable inactivity of the prime minister while Mr Raja ruled the roost. Finally, Mr Sibal happens to be a lawyer of some experience. The prime minister's last encounter with the Supreme Court, when he used executive privilege to defend a possible error, was not very astute; a more expert response was called for.

 

This context also explains the line taken by Mr Sibal. It would have been futile to confront the Supreme Court. It is well aware of the separate spheres of responsibility of the executive and the judiciary. The awareness has led it often before not to look too closely into the misdoings of the executive. But, in this case, it has decided to get to the bottom of the matter; no argument is likely to lead it to desist. It would also have been unwise to defend Mr Raja's performance. The quid pro quo for his arbitrary allocation of spectrum is still unknown; if it turns out to be greater than zero, he would become indefensible. Once these options were ruled out, the best strategy was to attack the arithmetic of the CAG.

 

If, however, the CAG's figures were questionable, so are those of Mr Sibal. It would be futile to correct them because both involve conjectures, and conjectures are by definition inaccurate. Both implicitly agree on the objective; both assume that it was right to get as much money as possible out of licensees. This common objective defines the correct method, which was to auction the spectrum. So, while Mr Raja's method undersold the spectrum, so would have the method of Mr Sibal if he had had a chance. The only difference arises from the fact that a difference between the maximum price of the spectrum and the actual price accrues to operators as an unearned surplus, and is available for sharing with the minister, bureaucrats of the department of telecommunications, and others in power. There is a presumption that some of the surplus went to Mr Raja, and a certainty that none went to Mr Sibal who was not even in the picture.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

EASY TARGET

 

It takes very little to generate prejudice. A recent investigation into sex crimes perpetrated in the Midlands and in the north of England, since 1997, has revealed that 50 of the 56 convicted of abusing under-age white girls happen to come from Muslim backgrounds. This tiny sample has led the former home secretary, Jack Straw, to conclude that white girls are "easy meat" for "Pakistani heritage men", who, he believes, are sexually frustrated on account of oppressive gender segregation practised in their communities. By making such an unthinking generalization, Mr Straw, a member of parliament from Blackburn since 1979, has not only betrayed a crassness bordering on xenophobia but also let down a considerable section of his constituency, nearly half of which is made up of Pakistani Muslims.

 

Even with all the numbers and figures staring one in the face, it is patently unjust to label an entire community as one harbouring criminal intent towards people of a certain race. By insinuating Pakistani men's unique, and even disproportionate, involvement in racially motivated crimes, Mr Straw has compromised the lives of thousands of ordinary British Pakistani men. It would not be surprising if every other Pakistani man is now feared to be a molester. Such a public perception would make matters all the more difficult for a community that is already a minority in its adopted country. Instead of focusing on the problem at a micro level and proceeding on the basis of unprovable presumptions, it would have been more sensible for Mr Straw to take a long perspective on the matter. So far, there has been no serious nationwide research into what is obviously a common evil. In any case, it is often notoriously difficult to predict crime trends. As another survey conducted in the same region shows, 80 per cent of the sex offenders in the last one year were white.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

TWIN GOALS

GROWTH AND SOCIAL WELFARE ARE NOT CONFLICTING OBJECTIVES COMMENTARAO S.L. RAO

 

This column has, for many years, argued the following: reforms to stimulate growth and ensure that government expenditures on physical and social infrastructure are made efficiently and honestly. Growth that adversely impacts the poor — for example, by stimulating galloping food inflation — must be corrected. Inflation's effects must be moderated and alleviated. The unleashing of private enterprise that began when Rajiv Gandhi introduced "broad banding" of industrial licensing in the mid-1980s changed India. The government should rely on markets even to get cheap food, kerosene, health, education and so on to the poor, than rely on inefficient and wasteful physical deliveries by government agencies. The reform of India's administrative services, good governance and independent regulation are fundamental to high, consistent and inclusive economic growth in India.

 

However, a recent and ongoing debate in an internet forum presents two nuanced positions that appear to pit social welfare schemes against economic growth. Economic growth is said to reduce the numbers in poverty. Growth improves government revenues by bringing in greater tax and non-tax revenues, and enables much larger expenditures on education, health, nutrition and other social services, especially those meant for the poor. Without high levels of economic growth, the government's revenues are limited and so is its ability to spend on welfare. Many economists agree and feel that India should emphasize policies and reform measures that will enable sustained and high economic growth, providing the resources for governments to improve capability and opportunity for the betterment of the living standards of the poor. If there is inflation or high current account deficits or volatile foreign exchange inflows, or even high government deficits, they must be closely monitored. But they should not cause panic in the government and lead it to moderate policies oriented to growth.

 

The proponents of this view do not sufficiently recognize the present inability of the government to spend such resources, to do so efficiently, and with minimal theft. Another and more sophisticated version of the argument asks for less dependence on the government — even for social welfare schemes — and greater reliance on the market, through cash disbursements, vouchers, coupons, and so on, that individual households can spend on education, health and other sectors according to their choice. This argument neglects the difficulties in identifying and targeting the households that must benefit from these measures. It can lead, as with physical distribution, to undeserving people getting them. The unique identity project, called Aadhar, is an attractive way to improve identification and targeting of beneficiaries.

 

The spend-on-welfare-first school includes the many Indians who have been brought up under 30 years of the "socialistic pattern of society" to believe that governments must, at all costs, first invest in improving the capability of the poor and raise the resources from the better-off and the rich. There is no faith in the trickle-down argument — that growth will trickle down to benefit the masses of the poor even while it improves incomes and the wealth of the rich and the middle classes. But data from the National Sample Survey Organization and the market surveys of the National Council of Applied Economic Research show that the high growth years of the last two decades were accompanied by declining percentages of the very poor in the population and increasing purchases of manufactured goods by the relatively poor. (However, the rural poor did not benefit in this way and they are a significant number.)

 

Lack of faith in trickle-down led to the programmes of subsidies on foodgrain, kerosene, fertilizers, petrol, diesel, liquefied petroleum gas cylinders, electricity and so on. Many, but not all, were meant either for the very poor and vulnerable or large voting groups. Suppliers under these schemes give goods and services at below-cost tariffs and make up most of their losses through cross-subsidies, that is, by charging extra from other consumers. If this is inadequate, the government is to make up the difference through cash disbursement to the suppliers. In fact, governments are slow in disbursing. There are large arrears, and suppliers are squeezed for liquidity. Further, subsidies and cross-subsidies lead to distortions in the markets, demand and prices. Suppliers often cook their accounts to claim high reimbursements. Beneficiaries sell the subsidized products in the market. For example, over 40 per cent of the subsidized kerosene is estimated to be used for adulteration of diesel and is sold to truck operators.

 

Despite high economic growth and the large subsidy programmes for the poor, inequalities in Indian society have been widening. An increasing proportion of incomes and wealth is controlled by the very rich. Inequalities by themselves may not matter so much for welfare because poverty levels are falling and human development indicators of the population, as a whole, are rising. The poor should then have had access to more food and nutrition as well as to health and education. As they improve their capability to take on better jobs, they become an important part of the growing consumer classes.

 

However among the very poor, the rural poor have been the least benefited. Their employment opportunities are limited, wages are low and government services in health and education are of low quality, if these are available. The poor spend far more of their meagre incomes on availing of these services from private providers than others. Of course, the new social welfare programmes, such as free mid-day school meals, the national rural employment guarantee scheme, education for all, and others, make some difference to the well-being of the poor. But reforms to legislation and policies for labour, investment, better infrastructure, and administration, have lagged far behind the need for them. Alternative employment opportunities and government services for improved living have avoided the rural poor.

 

Growth and social welfare schemes are not conflicting objectives. Growth does enable substantial resources for welfare, and more suppliers bring competition. It can result in lower tariffs and better quality of service and supplies. These are, however, not automatic results of growth or of the withdrawal of the government to let private enterprise grow. Transparency is needed, so that information is freely available to all, and exploitation of the consumer is minimized. This requires open government decisions through public hearings, consultation of all interests, reasoned and public decisions, and the means to ensure that rules laid down for the market are followed on pain of severe penalties.

 

India's administrative services at all levels have demonstrated their incapacity to manage the spending of vast government funds on physical and social infrastructure efficiently, effectively and honestly. The country's governance through the legislative, executive and the judiciary has also been inefficient and slow. Crony capitalism — the favouring of crony industrialists by the government — is rising. There is little provision for monitoring by institutions closest to the users, such as the panchayats in villages, ward committees in urban areas and independent regulators and consumer groups elsewhere. Even where there are provisions, there is no functioning capacity built into these institutions. The fourth estate, that is the media, has been only spasmodically effective in unearthing abuse and misuse.

 

India must have a wholesale top-to-bottom reform of administration if the fruits of growth are to rapidly reach everybody. Unfortunately, the terms of the debate have been confined to growth versus social welfare and not the nitty-gritty of how both can be achieved effectively.

 

The author is former director-general, National Council for Applied Economic Research

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

LAST RESCUE MISSION

GWYNNE DYER

 

What does it mean when the United States of America, Britain, France and Spain upgrade the diplomatic status of the Palestinian delegations in their capitals, as they all did in the past year? When the number of countries recognizing Palestinian statehood exceeds 100?

 

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, former deputy prime minister of Israel and minister of industry, trade and labour in the current government, thinks he knows. "I wouldn't be surprised if within one year the whole world supports a Palestinian state," he warned his cabinet colleagues recently.

 

At first glance, the immediate creation of an independent Palestinian state sounds like an idea whose time has come. The 'peace process', now 17 years old, has run out of road, goes the argument, so we might as well try something different. Many Arabs and Americans support the idea because they hope that a legitimate Palestinian state would give Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, enough credibility to keep the West Bank out of the hands of Hamas a while longer. (Hamas, which rejects any permanent peace with Israel, already controls the Gaza Strip, the other part of occupied Palestine.)

 

Some Israelis back the idea too, but none in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government. Netanyahu does everything he can to avoid direct peace talks, because any Israeli concession would break the ruling coalition. So despairing advocates of a peace settlement are now lining up behind the idea of declaring Palestinian statehood, even in the US.

 

This has suddenly become popular because a lot of people are finally realizing that the 'two-state solution', seen for the past quarter-century as the only possible foundation of a permanent Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, is dying. The proposal to create a real Palestinian state, even without agreed borders, is meant as a last-minute rescue mission.

 

The bell tolls

 

Popular support in Israel for a land-for-peace deal collapsed years ago, but now the Palestinians are also losing faith in a two-state future. They are concluding that the peace talks have been a charade from the very start, because Israeli politicians will never find the courage to stop the process of spreading Jewish settlements across the West Bank. What is the point, Palestinian critics ask, of a truncated Palestinian state that is riddled with Jewish settlements and utterly dominated by Israel? What do Palestinians have to lose if they forget about a state for now and wait until a higher Palestinian birth rate makes them a majority across all of former colonial Palestine?

 

They would have to live through years of military occupation and occasional Israeli punishment campaigns like the 2008 operation in Gaza. They would have to accept that there will never be an exclusively Palestinian state. But once they became the majority, they would launch a civil rights movement demanding one person, one vote in all the lands between the Jordan and the sea. That demand — One Big State with equal rights for all — is what wise Israelis fear most, because it would put Israel in the same position as that of apartheid South Africa. Both Arabs and Jews live on lands that are under your permanent control, the rest of the world would say. Why would you not let the Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank vote? Israel would survive, but it would become a pariah.

 

That is why Netanyahu has suddenly demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a specifically Jewish state: if they agreed to that, they could never credibly demand One Big State. It is also why various non-Israelis advocate the early creation of a Palestinian state: they are hoping to keep the two-state solution alive. But it is already on life support, and the oxygen is running out.

 

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

EDITORIAL

SUBVERSIVE SIBAL

''CLEVERNESS, DRAMA DO NOT HELP STRENG-THEN A CASE.''


Union communications minister Kapil Sibal's attack on the comptroller and auditor-general's report on 2G spectrum allocation calls into question the government's ability and willingness to find the truth about the scandal. Sibal has denied that the government suffered any loss because of the controversial decisions of the telecom ministry under A Raja. He has termed as erroneous the calculations of the CAG which said that the loss might possibly be as high as Rs 1.76 lakh crore. By questioning the CAG's methodology and its findings, the minister is showing an important constitutional authority in poor light. The CAG has already defended its report before parliament's public accounts committee (PAC). The commerce secretary also appeared before the PAC but did not question the figures projected by the CAG. Sibal's belated attack now raises doubts about the government's intentions. It is a reminder of the attack launched against the CAG as part of the cover-up of the Bofors scandal in the 80s. If there is no loss to the exchequer and there are only some procedural mistakes in the implementation of policy, why did it take so long for the government to come out with that view?

The minister's arguments are those of a clever lawyer, trying to obfuscate issues and facts and create confusion. He also adopted a posture, aggressive and theatrical enough to make people believe that there was substance in the argument. But cleverness and drama do not help strengthen a case. What Sibal has done is in effect supporting the case of Raja, who has also advanced the same arguments. Then why did Raja have to resign?

It was also highly inappropriate of the minister to make these statements when a number of  agencies are investigating the scandal. The supreme court, the PAC, the CBI and a government-appointed committee are all looking into various aspects of the scandal. The minister's views can also be interpreted as an attempt to influence investigations. He was right to point out that the policy helped the telecom sector to become competitive, mobile connections to increase and the customers to benefit in many ways. But these are no reasons to virtually defend the wrong-doings of a minister who subverted norms and rules to favour his chosen companies. In the light of the minister's statements, the actions he claimed to have taken against arrant companies have also become suspect.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

INTRANSIGENT KOREAS

''TALKS MIGHT LEAD TO A DEAD-END, BUT STILL IT IS BETTER.''


An opportunity to ease tensions in the Korean peninsula has been thrown away with South Korea rejecting North Korea's offer of unconditional talks. Pyongyang has said that it is willing to meet "anyone, anytime and anywhere" but Seoul has dismissed the offer as a propaganda gimmick. Tensions in the peninsula, rarely low, have touched a new high in recent months following a North Korean artillery attack on South Korea's Yeonpyeong island in November which left four people dead. Pyongyang resorted to shelling in response to South Korean military exercises close to the disputed inter-Korean western maritime border. In March last year, a South Korean warship sank killing 46 sailors. Seoul accused North Korea of torpedoing the ship, suspended trade ties and referred the matter to the United Nations. In October, the two countries exchanged fire across their land border. Relations between the two have plunged since. Of course, Pyongyang's confrontationist moves are untenable but it is not the only actor in the East Asia drama that is provocative. Amidst the skyrocketing tension in the region, South Korea and the US have been carrying out large-scale military exercises near the disputed maritime border, despite objections from North Korea as well as China.

South Korea's intransigent attitude is unhelpful. Perhaps the North Korean talks offer is aimed at propaganda. Still, what does Seoul have to lose by engaging in talks? Apparently, it does not want to be seen rewarding the North for its provocative behaviour. But does it have any better ideas to defuse the crisis? Seoul says it wants an apology from Pyongyang. Isn't that for domestic propaganda reasons? South Korea has nothing to lose by accepting the talks offer and following it up with a proposal of dates and an agenda for a dialogue. Talks might lead to a dead-end but the consequences of not talking are worse. It could mean more tension, more muscle-flexing on both sides. Perhaps even war.


It is time that the long-stalled Six Party Talks on North Korea's nuclear programme were revived. The recent revelation that North Korea has a modern uranium enrichment facility with at least 1,000 centrifuges is of serious concern. Waiting for the tension to ease before start of the nuclear talks is not the right strategy. The nuclear issue is far more complicated and cannot be put on hold till relations between North and South Korea improve.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION

M J AKBAR


At some point, when the wound begins to hurt, the narrative in a scam story arcs towards the bizarre. You can be almost sure that the change in trajectory has been propelled by some lawyer trying to be a judge.
A lawyer's training is conditioned by loyalty to the client; a judge must rise above his background and become a servant of the law instead of the cheque book. Last Friday, Kapil Sibal gave a grand press conference to declare that his predecessor A Raja was totally and indisputably innocent in the telecom scam that has disabled parliament and rocked the country. On the same day, in the same city, Delhi, yet another judge said in open court that there was sufficient evidence to maintain a complaint against Raja

.
Special CBI judge Pradeep Chaddha, while admitting Subramanian Swamy's petition seeking Raja's prosecution, said, "I have gone through the complaint and the bunch of annexures and I am of the view that this complaint is maintainable and the proceedings will continue." Courts, high, supreme and special, have seen the record and found a basis for prosecution. Sibal, a modern Gandhian, can see no evil, hear no evil and will speak no evil unless it is about the opposition, in which case he can be vituperative.


The only concession Sibal made over this prearranged handout of licences on a first-come-first-served basis, was that there might have been a 'procedural lapse'. That is an elegantly discreet description of bribery which should find a place in a quotation book.


If Kapil Sibal believes what he says, he should send in his resignation immediately so that Raja can be reinstated. Why was Raja dropped from the cabinet, at such political cost, personal anguish and Karunanidhi family heartbreak if he was innocent? At the very least prime minister Manmohan Singh owes Raja a grovelling apology. Raja should in fact sue Singh and Sonia Gandhi for libel, since their decision to wrench him out of the office he coveted amounted to, by Sibal's interpretation, defamation and humiliation on a national scale. Obviously, Sibal was either on holiday or so immersed in his public service duties that he was totally oblivious of media when the Radia tapes took complete control of airwaves and print. Or, perhaps, again like a good lawyer, he had no interest in any fact that would be relevant to the prosecution.


A conscious decision


Since Sibal will still need a job after resignation, he can easily step into a vacant home ministry. P Chidambaram will surely now have to resign. Chidambaram, after all, sent a letter to the prime minister accusing Raja of malpractice, not mere 'procedural lapses'. A letter emerges from a conscious decision to place a view on record, so Chidambaram must have felt very strongly about what was happening. Nor is Chidambaram ignorant of the law; by any account he is as good a lawyer as Sibal, if not better. So the only conclusion is that Chidambaram was consciously misleading the prime minister, on a matter of such public significance, possibly for partisan reasons, and therefore must be held accountable. Indeed, there is a strong rumour doing the rounds in Delhi that Chidambaram could lose his portfolio in the next reshuffle; so maybe these little dots scattered across the capital's landscape do connect after all.


Something clearly also needs to be done about this pesky comptroller and auditor general Vinod Rai who refuses to keep quiet even when someone as self-important as Sibal delivers an obiter dicta. Rai insists, even after the Sibal intervention, that the treasury suffered a massive loss, and that a proportionate benefit went to private sector telecom players. And then there is the insufferable judiciary, which remains coolly indifferent to the pressure tactics of such majestically powerful ministers. Surely there must be a way in which judges like Chaddha can be transferred to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.


Sibal has eliminated the distance between the Congress and the DMK's spectrum sale at highly discounted prices. For some reason, an impression had been growing that Sonia Gandhi and the prime minister wanted to increase this space. Clearly, that impression was inaccurate. It is inconceivable that Sibal would have gone public without clearance from both the PM and the party president. The DMK-Congress alliance can now march shoulder to shoulder towards electoral triumph in the next Tamil Nadu assembly elections using the spectrum scandal as a mark of pride rather than a sack of defacing coal. There is no question, either, of government seeking any compromise with the opposition during the budget session. If Raja did no wrong, why should there be an enquiry?


When a good lawyer gets a bad case his instinct tells him to shift the narrative. Political lawyers believe that they can manipulate the court of public opinion, but the people see all the evidence, not just some of it, before they reach a decision. The public is an excellent judge.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

THE MOTHERS' COMPETITION

 BHARATHI PRABHU


Shouldn't education be about allowing the child to think independently?


Archana is a harried mom these days. What with teaching her son 'shlokas' for a competition and making preparations for the dance competition, she is not fancying the fancy dress competition scheduled for later. Her five-year-old, of course, would rather play with the computer as she downloads the music and refuses to learn the steps that she has painstakingly choreographed. Ask her why she bothers so much and she says "how can I be laid back? Because my vegetable carving and model of the Vidhana Soudha were the best last year, everybody expects me to do well in other things too".



Mothers are reliving their school days. The homework is more for the moms than the kids. Be it tests, assignments or projects these hands-on moms outdo each other. (A majority of dads are thankfully not into this fierce competition. Their role being restricted to attending PT meetings and guiding the children in studies.)

Shouldn't vegetable carving be all about teaching the child the safe use of knives, the importance of vegetables in diet and the joys of eating raw veggies rather than getting a 'hands off' gourd crocodile that is let to rot on the school shelf? Should not model-making be more about getting the child to learn about relative size and to get him to innovatively use available material rather than the mother 'outsourcing' the task to professional model-makers and driving kilometres just to get that perfect and prize winning model?



The assembly of moms in front of schools discusses the test portions, which senior's question papers to be photocopied or who is a good/bad teacher threadbare. Listening to them you wonder whether the children are in primary or middle class or whether they are taking some other exam like the CAT or IAS and also wonder what impression the child develops of the teachers being thus analysed.



What do the children learn in the process? That it is okay to be fiercely competitive, to withhold information and that it is alright to speak about people behind their backs.



Looking back, didn't most of us do well in school without this excessive participation of parents? We went to school ourselves, did the homework on our own, prepared our projects (without the help of Google) and chose our own careers. Shouldn't education be about allowing the child to be independent in thought and action? Shouldn't education be about teaching the child to share? No one will deny that parents play a very important role in their children's education, but moms these days are so busy teaching the children academics that important social and survivals skills go untaught.



As parents we play important roles in moulding our children's character. Rather than focus exclusively on homework, competitions and test grades, we would do well to think of their overall development.

 

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OHERALDO

EDITORIAL

STING GETSA TAIL


Now it can be told. The mysterious forces that allegedly trapped the Anti-Narcotics Squad's (ANC's) Police Sub-Inspector Sunil Gudlar, who was seen on video tape negotiating with two foreign women over the sale of drugs, have come out in the open. Ayala Driham, sister of jailed drug lord David Driham alias Dudu, has a mission; to establish the innocence of her brother, who she says was 'framed' by the Police, and to establish her allegation that it was Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Veenu Bansal who demanded a bribe through Gudlar. This is all down in black and white, in a statement to Crime Branch. Ayala shot Gudlar on a spy-cam in a hotel room. She says Gudlar approached her at the behest of Bansal.


Ayala says that she had to conduct the sting, as former ANC men, including former ANC PSI Gudlar, falsely framed her brother in the drugs case. Gudlar, says Ayala, told her that money was the only option to bail out Dudu. She says after his arrest Dudu was kept in a room next to Bansal's cabin in the ANC office. "If he was arrested, why was he not in the police lock-up?" she asks. She says she has the evidence to prove her allegations against both ANC officers. She has also handed over the entire sting footage – comprising three tapes exposing a fresh police-drug nexus – to the Crime Branch.


Last year, seven policemen including a police inspector were suspended and arrested for corruption after their link with Dudu and another Israeli drug baron Yaniv Benaim alias Atala, was exposed. This came after Atala's jilted girlfriend – with the unlikely name of Lucky Farmhouse – had uploaded film clips of Atala's confession on social websites in which he bragged about his links with Goa police. Atala has now been held, thanks to the red corner alert issued by the Goa Police. Whether he has been arrested in Peru or Israel, and whether he can be actually extradited to India to stand trial, will be known with the next few days.


Ayala's assertions about Dudu may be a little prejudiced, as she is bound to look upon her brother much more benignly that the rest of us. Still, the evidence she proffers is interesting, and the case sems to get murkier and murkier, as one or the other new 'nexus' keeps creeping in. To top it all, there is the always unspoken allegation that Home Minister Ravi Naik's son Roy has a 'nexus' with these druglords. Talk is cheap, of course, and the evidence insufficient so far. Ayala, however, has refrained from making allegations of the typical kind. It is therefore incumbent that these allegations be looked into thoroughly, and some closure brought to the issue.

 

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OHERALDO

EDITORIAL

KISME KITNA DUM


In September-October 2010, motorcycle-borne personnel of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) crossed the border, entered Gombir in the Demchok region in Jammu and Kashmir, and threatened civilian workers who were building a shed for the state Rural Development Department. The place is about 300 km south-east of Leh.


And what did the Indian Army do?

It asked the state government to maintain status quo, and to take the permission of the Ministry of Defence before carrying out any construction activities within 50 km of the Line of Actual Control. The local administration is baffled, as it will stop all developmental work in the area. And so are we. Is this how the Indian Army responds to external aggression?

 

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OHERALDO

EDITORIAL

GOA'S HOLISTIC GROWTH UNDER THREAT

THERE IS HARDLY ANYONE IN THE GOAN POLITICAL SYSTEM, COMMITTED TO THE CAUSE OF SOCIETY, SAYS DR JOE D'SOUZA


He came, there he saw and alas, he was conquered. If Hariprasad, the Congress Observer, as well as the fund raiser for the Congress in Goa, now feels, that he has comfortably quelled the growing anarchy in the political system in Goa, he is sadly mistaken. The only achievement of the Delhi emissary is that he has delayed the malignant growth of "coteries" based governance, directed to incapacitate the Chief Minister and marginalise the influence of "High Command", be it of the NCP or that of the Congress itself.


Today, it is Sharad Pawar of the NCP, who apparently appears to be on the receiving end. The Congress bosses in New Delhi should realise that the "family business" of running the government in Goa has assuming cancerous dimensions in Goa, ever since the 2007 elections to the Goa assembly were held. The ever increasing role of a father, son, daughter, wife, sister and a brother in political governance of Goa, is assuming pernicious levels to the detriment of the holistic growth of Goan society. Notwithstanding, even "in-laws" are figuring in the 'son-shine' and son-in-law shining conspiracy in the Goan political scenario. The 'Des Ka Daam' will transform into 'vees ka kaam,' wherein twenty like minded thieves, essentially consisting of husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters of a few politically ambitious families in Goa, would challenge the Sonia, and Rahul's authority to undermine the sanctity of austerity, in governance.
The increasing use of the family label to generate funds through extortion, exploitation, coercion, and arm-twisting tactics, may give Digambar Kamat a brief respite, and an uncomfortable stability. But it must be realised that the "patron saint" of Goa's political opportunism and defection, is grooming up to assume power much sooner than expected, by the hapless Goan society. There is hardly anyone in the Goan political system, truly committed to the cause of society. It is I, me, myself, and mine as more and more of Goa is facing degradation, deterioration and destruction, in the wake of rampant corruption, exploitation and manipulation. For the short sighted Goan citizenry, it is drinking, dancing, and gambling all the way, as long as adversities do not personally touch oneself.


Today, 20% contracts, 10% licence, 15% commission, 5% accounting charges , 3% cheque clearing charges, 15% tender approval payment, 8% expression of interest settings are today unwritten or the illegal ways by which politicians, bureaucrats and those involved in managing public money administer. While Goans are sleeping, dancing or drinking, many outstation bureaucrats have not only amassed wealth, but acquired properties for a price, through their acts of omissions and commission. It is an exercise in absurdity, that we blame those in governance alone for the rapid increase in crime.


Isn't Goa soon turning into a perfect "hole"-a-day" destination? Each day the aam admi is a victim of having a 'hole" in his pocket, as individuals, or as a society, at large. Our religious institutions are under pressure from a series of thefts and burglaries, our youth are scorched by sunburns and varied aspects of drinking, dancing and gambling. The youth have burned out the parental savings. The energy and character of elders in Goan society has been drained out, as they are either fighting the rising prices on an empty stomach or quenching their worries, over a spirited drink.


The issue in Goa is not the smaller picture of marginalising Micky-mouse, but of strangulating the growth of NCP, as the election year in Goa, is fast approaching. But the wider and the real motives of all those who are preparing to marginalise the NCP, are not the exercise to strengthen the secular Congress forces under the leadership of Sonia or Rahul, but to use the Sonia-Rahul equation to promote the vicious and harmful dynastic rule in Goa, which would be disastrous and harmful to the growth of healthy Congress in Goa.
Can the presence of Sonia and Rahul in a population of 110 crores, over a vast country like India, compare well with family based Congress rule in Goa, which appears to be looming large in the state?


The presence of Mickky, surely, is advantageous to the NCP. Sharad Pawar did a blunder, by primarily asking the NCP stalwart to resign from the Digambar ministry, in the first place. But to assume that marginalisation of Mickky would strengthen the Congress, is absolutely fallacious. Mickky's presence is not a threat to the Congress, but specifically, he is a deterrent to those aspiring and dreaming of using Congress in Goa, to foster family rule in Goan politics and establish sycophancy, corruption and political manipulations in the governance of the state.


It is gratifying, although the distracters of the BJP, in general, and those of Manohar Parrikar, in particular, would tend to brush aside the gesture of the Leader of the Opposition of selling onions at Rs30 a kilo, as a political gimmick, or a worthless exercise. Instead of purifying the Arabian sea, as a result of the visit of Sagres III from Portugal, Parrikar has done well to establish that price rise is due to corruption and maladministration, and not only due to crop damage and onion shortages, Parrikar could do more on this front, to help heal wounds of the aam admi, due to the rampant growth of corruption and lethargy, by the present Goan politicians in power. Today, not only the politicians, but bureaucrats have amassed wealth and as well as properties all around Goa, out from the ill-gotten wealth.


It is not the issue as to how Kiran Dhingra, JP Singh, Pal or Surya-Narayan acquired or sold properties in Goa, but as to how Kalmadi, Narayan Rane and a host of other political figures centred in mega cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, or Chennai happen to control the real estate businesses in Goa, and allegedly participate in mega construction, industrial and commercial ventures on the fly, by mode of night operation.
It is a disaster and calamity in the making, that Goan parents are oblivious to the fact, that their children, or the youth, by and large, are tending towards burning out energies, as well as hard earned money in mega festivals, gambling dens and drugs.


The politicians, police, press, priests and the people at large, are under the pseudo spell of pseudo prosperity of Goa, which is neither due to vibrant agriculture or fisheries, nor is it due to stable industrial growth, but sadly it is the "feel good factor" due to drugs, drinks, dope, dupe, deceit and dacoities, mushrooming and flourishing in Goa, as law is made into an ass by our politicians functioning in denial mode, be it Ravi Naik or Dayanand Narvekar.


Hariprasad, the Congress Observer from Delhi, apparently, has calmed a storm in a tea cup of Congress woes in Goa, by acceding to the demand of the "Des Ka Daam." But Congress High Command must be ready to stem the rot, which is due to follow wherein "Dynastic Ambitions" would be in the open, to rock the Congress in Goa. Is Goa getting ready for the husband, wife, father, son, daughter, brother, sister and the in numerous in-laws, running as a family business? Only time will tell whether it is making hay while the sun shines, or in-laws grind.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

THE OTTOMAN TRAIN CHALLENGE

THE NEW FAST LANE UNDERLINES THE NEED FOR A MORE STRAIGHTFORWARD SOLUTION TO CHRONIC TRAFFIC JAMS: A DECENT RAILWAY BETWEEN J'LEM AND TA.

 

On Friday a new express toll lane was opened that aims to alleviate chronic traffic jams at the entrance to Tel Aviv. The new 13-km. lane stretches from the Ben-Gurion interchange to the Kibbutz Galuyot interchange on Route 1. At rush hour, drivers approaching Tel Aviv on that highway will have the option of driving on the new lane for a fee that will fluctuate: the worse the traffic jams, the higher the toll.

It is not clear how successful this novel experiment will be. What is clear is that this is a rich man's solution. Under normal circumstances the toll price is expected to range between NIS 6 and NIS 25, but it could reach as high as NIS 75. True, private vehicles with four or more passengers can use the lane for free, but to receive that exemption the driver must wait in line at the entrance to the lane and show that he or she is carrying at least three passengers – which, depending on the length of the wait, could defeat the purpose.

MORE THAN anything, however, the project, built by a private contractor at a cost of NIS 500 million, underlines the desperate need for a more straightforward solution to our chronic traffic jams: a decent railway connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Under Ottoman rule, a railway that traveled between Jerusalem and Jaffa in three and a half hours was completed in four years by a French contractor between 1888 and 1892. Yet after almost two decades of deliberations, modern Israel, for all its achievements from agriculture to hi-tech to medicine, has failed to complete a highspeed railway project that efficiently connects its two largest cities.

In fact, it took the Jewish state seven years, from 1998 to 2005, just to refurbish the dilapidated old Ottoman-era line. With the trip taking an hour and forty minutes, compared to just under an hour by bus, the logic of this project was dubious.

According to the most recent projections, a high-speed railway worthy of its name will be up and running in 2017. However, judging from from their track record it would be foolhardy to expect the powers-that-be to meet even this distant deadline.

Since the mid-1990s a myriad of factors have come together to prevent various governments from agreeing upon a high-speed railway project. No fewer than eight different routes for the railway were considered by almost the same number of transportation ministers. Projects endorsed by one minister were discontinued by another. At times the purported railway was approved as a "national project" which would allow it to bypass regional planning committees. At other times it was not.

Some interior ministers were enthusiastic about the idea of a Tel Aviv-Jerusalem railway. Others were not. Environmental activists attempted to torpedo projects that endangered the landscape. Residents protested about the noise of a train running past their homes. Budgetary restraints tended to mitigate in favor of projects that were most detrimental to the environment and that disturbed residents. Palestinians, meanwhile, protested the use of land for the railway that fell beyond the Green Line. The list of delays was interminable.

Now, finally, it seems the project is well under way with all segments of the railway tendered out to different construction firms as of last July. The total cost of the project is estimated at NIS 6 billion.

Sadly, recent events have shown that even when a railroad line exists there is no guarantee that it will provide efficient service. A full one-third of our railway fleet has been temporarily decommissioned, causing inconvenience and delays to thousands of passengers.


At the end of December a fire broke out, apparently due to mechanical failure, in an intercity three-carriage (IC3) train. About 100 passengers were lightly injured; they were forced to break the windows of the train when the doors failed to open. Until the specific cause of the incident has been established and steps taken to prevent a recurrence, all IC3 trains have been taken out of use.

 

In parallel, railway workers are threatening to strike in protest against plans to outsource maintenance work on 78 new coaches purchased last year from Canadian manufacturer Bombardier.


But while occasional delays caused by strikes or freak mechanical failures may be largely unavoidable or unforeseeable, or both, there is no excuse for the never-ending saga of the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem railway. A dubious lone toll lane on the highway will not change that fact.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

COLUMN

THE REGION: IDEOLOGY IS A POWERFUL DECEIVER

BY BARRY RUBIN 

 

We are living in a time when pragmatism no longer dominates the Western intellectual and political debate.

Some of my readers are bothered when I say that mistakes in Western Middle East policy are caused by stupidity and ignorance – abetted by ideology – and want to argue that the shortcomings are due to deliberate sabotage or evil intentions (often against Israel).

 

I can understand why people think such things. But almost 40 years of studying the Middle East have shown me time and again that foolishness, misunderstanding, wishful thinking and naivete are powerful forces in international affairs. As the great statesman Charles Maurice de Talleyrand put it almost two centuries ago: "This is worse than a crime, it's a blunder."

 

Remember that we are dealing with people (policy-makers, journalists, academics) who are trying to function across cultural, experiential, historical, linguistic and usually religious lines. And what is their biggest handicap at present? Why, the very denial that such lines exist. Once you accept the assumption that everyone is basically alike in their thoughts, dreams, goals and worldview, you have no hope of understanding anyone who has a different standpoint.

 

True, sometimes these decisionmakers and opinion-makers (especially the academics and European journalists) have taken up partisan positions. Yet this is far less true for politicians and policy-makers who must keep in mind both their own and their country's interests. We tend to focus on extreme exceptions – which certainly exist – but are a minority.


Ideology, of course, is also a powerful deceiver. It sets up preconceptions that often dominate even when the facts go against them. Central here is the sad reality that we are living at a time when ideology rather than pragmatism dominates the Western intellectual and political debate.


The academic world has broken down to an astonishing extent in terms of its ability to distinguish truth from falsehood. The mass media have followed this pattern, albeit to a lesser extent. Thus, the Western world has been deprived of its two greatest sources for "reality checks."


That's devastating.


"Since the masses are always eager to believe something," said Talleyrand, "for their benefit, nothing is so easy to arrange as facts."


But what's worse is the domination of governments by forces that cannot even acknowledge that the great struggle of the time is between revolutionary Islamism and other radical forces – as in not only North Korea, Venezuela, etc., but in the West as well – and traditional liberal Enlightenment, democracy, freedom of speech, Western civilization and family values.


In Talleyrand's words: "To succeed in the world, it is much more necessary to possess the penetration to discern who is a fool than to discover who is a clever man."

Of course, a number of Western governments do things that favor the wrong side in terms of domestic policies. It is easier to believe that in domestic affairs there is a hidden agenda, an ideologically dictated series of goals concealed because the public would reject them if it understood what was really going on.


Yet when it comes to foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, many Western leaders think they are buying peace and stability when they are actually undermining it, precisely because they don't understand their enemies. Often, they no longer seem to understand the foundations of statecraft either. Perhaps this is symbolized by people being able to obtain a degree in "conflict resolution" but not learning about the uses of force, deterrence and credibility.


CONSIDER A little case study. The Obama administration has messed up on Israel-Palestinian issues for two years, a story I can tell – and have, in previous articles – in great detail. Recently, it proposed a three-month freeze of construction on West Bank settlements. If it had gotten precisely what it wanted, this would have led to no gain at all.


The administration reportedly promised Israel a great deal if it agreed to the proposal. The Israeli government responded cooperatively. Yet what was the US government offering? Apparently, the administration was so incompetent as to contradict itself to the point where Israel couldn't figure out the supposed deal. Then the Palestinian Authority demanded more, and even if it was given concessions wanted to sabotage talks.


In short, the Obama administration became increasingly entangled in seeking a goal that wasn't worthwhile, offering more and more but in a confused, contradictory manner, and having to deal with Palestinian leaders who refused to cooperate and an Israeli coalition that might splinter over the issue.


So the administration abandoned the whole mess. Yet to read the explanations available to average Americans, or even opinion-makers, one would never know any of this clearly. The alternative explanations mostly blame Israel for Washington's failure.


Indeed, after two years in which Israel has offered to negotiate with the Palestinians every day and they have refused to negotiate almost every day, the ruling establishment, mass media and academia generally persist in saying the deadlock is Israel's fault.


If people are unable to understand the simplest points – due to preconceived ideology, a failure to look at the facts or and inability to understand them – we are not dealing with a conspiracy, but with what might be called intellectual blindness.


What is the way out?


First, keep explaining the truth, since there's a large portion of people open-minded enough to be persuaded, if they only are allowed to see the ridiculous flaws in what they've been told. In other words, use the free marketplace of ideas to the greatest extent possible.


Second, let events (and the behavior of their enemies) teach people that their ideas, policies and programs just don't work, make them look like idiots, and lead to a loss of prestige and power. That has been clearly happening.



Third, develop and put into place a counter-elite that has a far better level of understanding about how the world works.

Having seen so many different and changing eras already, I'm confident that this combination will work. Hopefully, it will work faster so that fewer people will die and suffer, while the damage already done will be easier to reverse.


Or, to quote Talleyrand once again: "The art of statesmanship is to foresee the inevitable and to expedite its occurrence."

The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal and Turkish Studies. www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

FAREWELL TO 'SUPERMAN'

BY TZAHI HANEGBI 

 

Anyone familiar with Meir Dagan's eight-year tenure as Mossad director knows that during his time, reality surpassed all imagination.

Last week, Meir Dagan completed a very successful eight-year tenure as Mossad chief, a position to which he was appointed in September 2002 by prime minister Ariel Sharon. Only one of his predecessors, Isser Harel, held the post for a longer period of time – 11 years. The other Mossad directors, eight in total, served for an average of four and a half years.


Dagan's term was extended twice, first by prime minister Ehud Olmert, and then by Binyamin Netanyahu, who requested that he retain the position for an additional year. In my capacity as chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee during the years when both decisions to extend Dagan's term were made, I was asked to weigh in, and I supported the decisions wholeheartedly. I was fully aware of the fact that extending his term, time and again, would engender criticism.


Those who opposed it had practical reasons for doing so. First, they raised the concern that keeping the director of the Mossad in his position could cause other qualified, senior members, patiently awaiting the coveted promotion, to resign. Second, the claim was raised that extending the term would create unjustified inequality between the Mossad, IDF Military Intelligence and the Shin Bet, whose heads were replaced during Dagan's term (Amos Yadlin replaced Aharon Ze'evi Farkash and Yuval Diskin replaced Avi Dichter respectively). The third critique was based on the fundamental belief that in a democracy, the head of a covert organization should not accumulate unlimited power.


These concerns should not be taken lightly. The extension of Dagan's term indeed lead to the resignation of two senior members of the Mossad. And elements from the IDF expressed their dissatisfaction with the special status and influence of the veteran Mossad chief. Despite this, I did not doubt, even for a moment, that the extension of Dagan's term contributed directly to strengthening the security of the state of Israel.


I HAVE closely and directly followed the Mossad's activities during seven of Dagan's eight-year tenure. In 2003 and 2004 I served as minister of internal security, and was a member of the security cabinet. From the end of 2004 until mid-2006, I served, by prime ministerial appointment, as the minister responsible for implementing the findings of the state comptroller on highly sensitive and strategic issues, which included Mossad activities. From May 2006 until November 2010, I chaired a discreet subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, whose purpose was to very closely supervise our intelligence agencies. These different vantage points allowed me to examine up close the Mossad director's impressive undertakings over the years. I was continuously exposed to all the inner workings of the organization: its vision, goals, missions, the training of commanders and fighters, its resource allocation, successes and setbacks, and its power structure.

Dagan insisted, without reservation, on full transparency in dealing with the relevant overseeing government and Knesset bodies. He understood the great importance of parliamentary oversight.

The small subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee consists of experienced members who have served as senior ministers and held key positions in the security agencies for many years. The uniqueness of this committee is the members' ability to check their political ties at the door and perform their professional duty out of national commitment. This practice made it easier for the Mossad to grant the committee access to the secret world in which it operates. As a result, we were able to understand how Dagan gained the confidence of three very different, even rival, prime ministers.

The three recognized that under Dagan's command, the Mossad's achievements reached unprecedented heights. And this was the basis for their desire to see him maintain his tenure for as long as possible.

In his departing words to government ministers earlier this month, Dagan insisted on making it clear that behind the Mossad's success stands "an excellent and unique group of women and men, imbued with a sense of purpose who work day and night, without seeking accolades."

This is indeed the truth, but not the whole truth. Even trained, fearless fighters require a leader who challenges them. Dagan was the right leader at the right time, who took office at the right moment, just as the circle of threats surrounding Israel began to close in.

It was the popular Al-Ahram newspaper, with close ties to the Egyptian government, which a year ago went as far as to call Dagan what no local commentator dared call him – "Superman."


The surprising article claimed that the Mossad chief, "had reached indescribable achievements, whether in relation to Iran, or the restraint of the Syrian military, as well as in the struggle against Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. According to foreign sources, the Mossad, under Dagan, was responsible for a slew of daring operations carried out in the Middle East. Among others, the operations attributed to him include the assassination of Hizbullah chief of staff Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus in February 2008, the bombing of the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, and the attack on ammunitions trucks destined for Hizbullah in Sudan."

Even without relating to these specific operations, anyone familiar with Dagan's years in the Mossad up close can attest to the fact that reality has surpassed all imagination. The nature of covert operations is such that only failures receive exposure. Success is dependent on the enemy being unaware of the operation's very existence. In briefly summing up Dagan's tenure, I choose to characterize it by the fact that 99 percent of the operations he initiated and carried out will never become public knowledge, and that is the greatest proof of their quality.

The writer is a former Kadima minister.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

AMERICA IS NOT ISRAEL, BUT...

BY ERROLL G. SOUTHERS 

 

There are elements of the Jewish state's aviation security methodologies from which the US may glean innovative strategies.

Recently, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano met with top Israeli officials to discuss ongoing partnerships between the United States and Israel, threats from terrorism facing both nations and DHS' commitment to working with Israel to expand operational and technological cooperation on homeland security issues.


Israel's world-renowned aviation security strategies are often mentioned in America. However, despite their successes, the secretary summarily stated, "Israeli-style security won't work for the US."


Citing glaring disparities between our nations, she pointed out that what has been effective for Israel with 7.3 million people, 11 million airline passengers and one major international airport, is not feasible for 310 million Americans, with 70 times the passenger load and 450 airports."


As we struggle in the aftermath of whole body-imaging and pat-down hysteria, brought on by the lack of public education, engagement and a "touch my junk" video gone viral, some have been asking, what was the point of the secretary's visit?


AS SOMEONE who has been engaged in counter-terrorism and airport security in the United States for many years, and who is now a Visiting Fellow at the IDC's Institute of Counter-Terrorism, I believe I am both acquainted with the American needs and Israeli capabilities associated with this undertaking.


Despite the differences in size and scope, the State of Israel does one thing better than most; it prioritizes "the human element" on both sides of the counter-terrorism equation. America has crossed a threshold, when the mere mention of the "P-word" (profiling) in the English lexicon, invokes images of shredding the Constitution.


The fact is, behavior-based information obtained by Ben-Gurion Airport security personnel, which is indicative of inconsistencies or evasion, does not put security and civil liberties at odds, nor should it in the United States.

The Israeli airport interview process is facilitated by a staff of "well-trained" security personnel, who engage relentlessly in the fulfillment of their mission. They understand the enemy and the importance of getting it right every time. The "people" facilitate the success of the system.


The Israelis are second to none when it comes to using technology to augment security. In their mantra of "finding the bomber, instead of the bomb," they have developed systems with the capacity to identify persons, through behavioral cues and responses, who may be attempting to pass through a layer of security. Inasmuch as the technology is enhancing the performance of their personnel, Israel's prioritization of the human element, as an asset and potential adversary, continues to prove extraordinary.


We could also learn a lesson from Israel's Trusted Traveler program. The secretary has promised to implement a biometrically based program for domestic travel. By creating a vetted population, which has met certain background parameters, TSA's efforts toward becoming risk-based and intelligence-driven would be greatly enhanced and resources can be deployed appropriately. America's current preferred border crossing system, Global Entry, is only available for returning international travelers.


No, America is not Israel. But, we do face a common and highly adaptive enemy. One who continues to demonstrate the capacity to aggregate and point their actors in one direction, via propaganda, technical assistance, broad strategic direction and occasional direct guidance. This is an antagonist who has repeatedly articulated the economic utility in attacking the aviation domain, an American industry that generates 1.9 million jobs and is forecast to create $507 billion annually in total economic activity. They will continue to do so, until they get it right.


Recent plots and al-Qaida's latest directive of shifting to softer targets, utilizing less operators and employing more frequent attacks with shorter planning cycles (to evade our intelligence efforts), illustrates the dynamic capacity of their operations.


Israel's resilience to years of similar tactics employed by Hizbullah and Hamas, continues to provide lessonslearned to us all.

 


We are facing a transnational threat. Education, information- sharing and intelligence analysis are critical to developing effective countermeasures around the globe. Although Israel operates at a very different passenger load and threat level, there are elements of its methodologies from which we may glean innovative strategies going forward. Secretary Napolitano's efforts to engage in discussions, which generate information in the short-term, will return relationships that could endure a lifetime and may save lives.


The writer is a Visiting Fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) International Institute of Counter-Terrorism (ICT) in Herzliya, Israel. He is the Associate Director of the DHS National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) and adjunct professor of homeland security and public policy at the University of Southern California. He is also the Managing Director of Counter-Terrorism and Infrastructure Protection for the international security consulting firm TAL Global Corporation.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

OUR COMICALLY INSECURE – EVEN HYSTERICAL – ESTABLISHMENT

BY ROI MAOR 

 

The Knesset's decision to investigate organizations that criticize government policy is yet another demonstration of the fear that grips Israeli elites.

The Knesset's decision last week to investigate local organizations that criticize government policy may or may not prove to be a watershed for Israeli democracy.


Either way, it is yet another demonstration of the fear that grips our elites.


This fear is supposedly directed at the country's delegitimization abroad. The most frequently cited concern is the prosecution of IDF officers abroad, and the most popular targets are human rights organizations which, their detractors claim, distribute damaging and misleading information to foreign countries.


But human rights NGOs are not the only target. Organizations which assist refugees have been denounced as a threat to Zionism.


Groups advocating a fair distribution of profits are labeled as servants of Iran and Hizbullah. Even protectors of the environment are sometimes compared to terrorist organizations.


Need I even mention what happens to those who struggle for the rights of the country's Palestinian minority? The sum of all this belligerence is an establishment that is comically insecure, even hysterical. The country just joined the OECD. It has never been sanctioned in any way. On the contrary, despite being a relatively wealthy nation, it is one of the world's largest recipients of foreign aid. It is the only country outside the European Economic Area which participates in the European research and development program.

 


Its already vast military superiority in the region is further buttressed by a guarantee of permanent technological superiority by the world's most advanced producer of armaments.


Even terrorism, which was never a strategic threat, has waned on all fronts in recent years.


SO WHY are our elites so afraid? Although they will never admit it, perhaps not even to themselves, their true concern is about internal strength rather than its standing abroad. Israeli society has been demobilizing for decades now. Its formerly Spartan ethos has been almost completely reversed, creating soaring socioeconomic gaps. Cohesion now has to be maintained by constantly fomenting nationalist paranoia.


Although effective in the short term, fear mongering is a shaky long-term prop.

 

And it certainly has real consequences.


Like all countries, Israel has never been a perfect democracy. Within a certain scope of positions, orientations and identifications, it has generally allowed a wide array of liberties as well as fierce competition for political power. At the margins of this space for acceptable discourse, freedoms were much more restricted. Outside it, they were virtually nonexistent.

The center which defines legitimacy has shifted repeatedly over the years, and so various groups have dropped in and out of democracy's remit. In recent years, we are witnessing a substantial contraction of this center, and as a result, groups that were always marginal are now closer to losing their freedoms altogether.

 

We should not lose sight of the bigger picture, though. The erosion of democracy is always a result of indifference and apathy. The recent crackdown is a reaction to the opposite trend. Israelis and Palestinians are standing up for democracy.


Some pay with their lives. Others sacrifice their freedom. Most Israelis who oppose their government's policy are giving up something more modest, yet significant: the assurance of their superiority and their belief in the justice of their privileges. The establishment is rightly concerned about these groups: They represent one of the biggest threats to the status quo.


The writer is an Israeli activist and blogger. This article was first published on www.972mag.com and is reprinted with permission.

 

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

BIBI PROMISED, BIBI DELIVERS

BY AKIVA ELDAR

 

What do you want from Benjamin Netanyahu? For the first time, the prime minister promised last July that he wants to forge an agreement within a year with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Since that day, the Israeli right wing has simmered with consternation. Virtually not a day passes without its leaders contributing another brick to the building of Palestine.

 

True, it won't happen according to the original plan and timetable framed by the architect, Netanyahu & Co. But the Palestinians have never been closer to attaining international approval for the establishment of their own state.

 

"We could close the Foreign Ministry," an aide close to Abbas told me last week, smiling from ear to ear. "Bibi [Netanyahu] and [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman are doing all the work for us." When a representative of Israel's government dedicates the "culture hall" at the West Bank settlement of Ariel and a large majority of Knesset members authorize the expansion of the Har Homa neighborhood (seen as a settlement by the entire world ), who really believes that Israel is serious about two states or the division of Jerusalem?

 

When the prime minister is not even willing to peek at Abbas' map (including land swaps ) that represents his proposed final-status arrangement, why shouldn't a country like Chile join its neighbors, which have already announced that they recognize a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders?

 

When Israel's foreign minister states that the prime minister's announcements about a final-status accord within a year are just prattle, why should the queen of England refuse to recognize the credentials of the ambassador of Palestine?

 

When the Civil Administration appropriates Palestinian land for "security reasons," to build an illegal outpost, how should the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations justify U.S. President Barack Obama's objection to a resolution denouncing the settlements? When Israel can't be bothered to apologize for the killing of a protester who demonstrated against a stretch of the security fence built on her own land, CNN does not need Saeb Erekat to enlighten viewers about the dangers of the status quo.

 

Palestinian diplomats do not need to sweat in order to delegitimize the occupation of the territories. In a post-colonial era, even a former furniture salesman like Netanyahu finds it impossible to pitch the control of one people by another people as a legitimate arrangement. He himself admits that the alternative - a binational state - would come at the expense of the democratic character of the Jewish state. The fact is that in order to mobilize international support for a Palestinian state outside of the Green Line, he and other right-wingers are doing more than assisting the Palestinians; they are even prepared to erode Israel's legitimacy within the 1967 borders.

 

One of Israel's most important assets since June 1967 has been its ability to maintain its reputation as a democratic state, even as it continued to be an entity of occupation and settlement. The special status of being an isolated democratic island in a hostile region conferred to Israel special support in the international community. The American president even told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that he should curb his criticism of Netanyahu's foot-dragging, since in Israel's democracy the prime minister has to take his coalition partners into account.

 

Yet for several months now the coalition (aided and abetted by a few MKs from the Kadima party ) has proven to the world that Israel is unworthy of special consideration. The loyalty law, along with the forgiving attitude toward the rabbis' letter and the cabinet decision to create a detention camp for refugees, negate any advantages Israel has accrued in the international arena through its reputation as a democracy. You can't adopt laws that discriminate against a fifth of your population on an ethnic and religious basis and expect that the world will discriminate in Israel's favor, to the detriment of neighbors who are of similar bent.

 

For the Netanyahu-Lieberman-Barak coalition, it's not enough to have recruited legions of supporters for a Palestinian state. There are indications that the way they have delegitimized human rights organizations has awakened the Israeli left from its slumbers. Activists who gave up on the fight against the occupation are now learning that the occupation has come to them, to their homes. Some have decided to hit the streets, once again. Hundreds (including some members of President Shimon Peres' family ) recently signed a petition congratulating states that have recognized the Palestinian state.

 

So perhaps, in the end, Netanyahu really will establish Palestine.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

NOW IT'S THE TURN OF THE INTELLECTUALS

 

A group of Israeli intellectuals, including Israel Prize laureates, have decided to take action and send an open letter to the 41 MKs who voted to establish a parliamentary committee of inquiry to study the sources of funding for human rights groups. In their letter, they warn that if the committee is established, "the Israeli government will lose the last of its legitimacy. All its activities and laws will be patently illegal."

 

Public protest by intellectuals in Israel is important and encouraging. Their warning of the shift from democracy to racist fascism is the last call to those sliding down this slippery, dangerous slope. The race to pass discriminatory laws in the Knesset like the loyalty law and the prohibition against Arabs living in small Jewish communities - along with the support for racist rabbis and now, the war against human rights groups - is already more than a worrisome phenomenon. It has generated a cultural and governmental revolution that began back when the High Court of Justice was the scapegoat of the far right and the ultra-Orthodox.

 

It is a culture led by the extreme religious right-wingers in Israeli politics, who seek to redefine the concept of civil and human rights. Their means are well-tested: First they cast aspersions on the human rights groups, then they investigate the suspicions and finally, they emerge with public condemnation, regardless of whether it would stand up in court. That way, these extremists can control civil society, citizens' last refuge from arbitrary government.

 

We would be deluding ourselves to think that the intellectuals - themselves suspected, in the eyes of many, of being "anti-Zionist" - have the power to stop this trend. Without action by upright politicians and active public support, it is doubtful that sane voices will break through the wall of fascism that is in the process of imprisoning the state.

 

This is no longer a matter only of Israel's good name and global image. It is about redefining Israeli society, turning it into a society that, as in China, North Korea, Iran and some Arab countries, spews out even the intellectuals who are still seeking the honorable path.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

WHEN THE MESSIAH COMES, ISRAEL WILL DEPORT HIM

BY BRADLEY BURSTON

 

When the Messiah comes, he will be without papers.

 

When the Messiah comes, he will be taken into a small room, off-white and chilled, with one gray metal chair at either side of a gray metal desk.

 

When the Messiah comes, he will be questioned by a junior officer of the Shin Bet security and by an Interior Ministry official who got his job through his cousin, a kashrut supervisor at a cookie factory who got his job through his sister's father-in-law, the third assistant to the deputy chairman of the Ramle branch of the Shas party.

 

When the Messiah comes, no one will know. His donkey, which is white and is named Havatzelet, will be impounded in a leaky underground police lot near the Lod railroad station. There will be no paperwork. By nightfall it will have disappeared, spirited into a closed truck by the lot's watchman, who after his shift will drive the donkey to a moshav. Money will change hands, and the donkey as well, four times, until it is sold by settlers to Palestinians some of whose ancestral land now lies inside the settlement fence.

 

When the Messiah comes, the first sign will be a gag order. A coded report on a high-profile news website will be made to disappear. It will reappear on a blog from Seattle, and then in The Guardian.

 

The government will put off responding, eventually issuing a statement ascribed to sources in Jerusalem and reading "We have no knowledge of this." The Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson's Unit, quoting an unnamed senior military official, states that there is no evidence that a Messiah of any kind has come. It will later soften the denial, saying it is checking the report and directing reporters to the Defense Ministry, which turfs them to the Prime Minister's Office, which cannot be reached for comment.

 

When the Messiah comes, rabbis will treat him like Jesus. They will brand him disloyal, diseased, Reform. In wall posters, Sabbath sermons, ritual decrees and signed petitions, careful not to use his title, chief rabbis of cities and towns will warn of an existential threat to the essential Jewish character of the state. Under no circumstances are Jews to sell or rent homes or land to someone like this. The rabbis' wives will vilify him as a carnal threat to Jewish girls.

 

The rabbis' declarations will divide the Jewish people and bring wrath and dishonor upon Israel. The rabbis will continue to draw large civil-service salaries, as well as generous tips in cash, goods and services, under the table and off the books.

 

When the Messiah comes, the right will crucify him. Im Tirtzu will roll out ads and billboards showing him with a tail to complement his horns. A blogger from Commentary will call him a whiny, petulant boob. In Maariv and the Jerusalem Post, seven columnists will all have at him in the same three-day period. NGO Monitor will ask for donations to expose his sources of funding.

 

When the Messiah comes, the occupation will end. But before it does, a global social network led by Fox News, 4,300 rightist bloggers, the Zionist Organization of America and Daniel Pipes will launch a campaign aimed at exposing the Messiah as a Muslim. When the Messiah is crucified, the army will deny that he was even in the vicinity at the time of the incident.

 

When the Messiah comes, an Israel political party whose voters are routinely denigrated by native-born Israelis as whores and non-Jews will propose legislation declaring him a delegitimizer of Israel and the army (over the crucifixion ), a blasphemer of Zionism (for suggesting that the Palestinians were not the sole obstacles to peace ), and rendering him ineligible for citizenship unless he signs a loyalty oath stating that even if Israel did practice crucifixion, it did so in a democratic and Jewish manner.

 

Aides to MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union), together with Beitar Jerusalem soccer fans, will create a Facebook group called "Mavet Le'mashiach" (Death to the Messiah ).

 

When the Messiah comes, he will be granted refugee status by the United Nations as a legitimate asylum seeker, but will be held at a detention camp in Israel's Area 51, near the perimeter of the Dimona nuclear reactor facility, where a judge will trick him into signing an illegible document that will cause him to be deported to Chad. By the time the Messiah leaves the Jewish state, he'll be thrilled to go.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

DON'T BOTHER PETITIONING THE HIGH COURT

BY MERAV MICHAELI

 

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has threatened it will petition the High Court of Justice if the Knesset passes the bill that would subject applicants for residency in small communities to the discriminatory approval of admissions committees. The petition is not worth the trouble. The High Court will take a year or two to ponder the issue and then ask that a committee be established to look into how many communities use admissions committees, why people are rejected and whether the rejections were justified.

 

The committee will issue a report stating that admissions committees are indeed problematic, and the state cannot permit segregation and discrimination, except in cases when it is voluntary.

 

Then the High Court will rule specifically and unequivocally that discrimination and segregation are illegal unless someone desires such policies, in which case they should be allowed in accordance with the outlines of the committee report. So the policy will remain in place. While the High Court and the investigatory committee toil away, the admissions committees will flourish, large numbers of the public will be segregated from the "clean" population, allowing the latter group to dwell securely in communities that become increasingly similar in character to West Bank settlements. And "compatibility with social and cultural fabric" will become synonymous with voluntarism as a way of legitimizing the discrimination.

 

This scenario is not the product of my wild imagination. It is precisely what happened in the case of segregation of men and women on buses serving the ultra-Orthodox public, which ended last Thursday with an astonishing High Court ruling in which segregation and discrimination were condemned. "Have we returned to the days of Rosa Parks, the African-American woman who in 1955 brought about the end of racist segregation and discrimination in the buses of the United States?" the court asked. Strong words, indeed.

 

But, at the same time, the court left the back door open, and I am not simply speaking metaphorically. All the ultra-Orthodox women will continue to board the buses through the back door as they were conditioned to do, even through violence, over the course of the seven years that this scandalous segregation spread. During this period, the High Court of Justice weighed the issue. The investigative committee was appointed. It wrote its report. And the transportation minister pondered whether to accept its recommendations.

 

This approach has become customary with the court in recent years. It was true with the ruling on the appointment of a woman to the Turkel Committee investigating the Turkish flotilla incident. It was also true regarding the issue of fertility treatments for single women, and in the case of proper representation of Arabs in the Israel Lands Administration, etc. In its opinions, the court uses outstanding, strong, truly moving language regarding the illegality of segregation and equal rights. But, in the same breath, it enables those with power, the ones who are carrying out the oppression and discrimination, to continue to maintain it almost unhindered.

 

Two concurrent developments have brought the High Court to his point. First, it doesn't function in a vacuum. The expansion and penetration of discrimination, racism and segregation in Israeli politics and Israeli society reaches the court as well. It can be said that the dominant culture of the occupation, which has filtered down into various sectors in Israel for many years, is also filtering down to the High Court of Justice.

 

One can be more precise and say that the tools with which the High Court has for years legitimized the occupation now also serve its legitimization of serious injustices within Israel itself. Let's admit it. The approach involves verbose, enlightened condemnation regarding illegal acts and then giving them a legal seal of approval as a "necessary evil." This is what the High Court has done throughout the years of occupation. Aside from the issue of torture, which took the court 10 years to outlaw, everything has been legitimized: assassinations, home demolitions, sealing of homes, expulsion, expropriation, administrative detention, withholding of information and, of course, the separation fence.

 

The second development is part of the dangerous and fascist introversion of the Israeli political system in recent years, as expressed in attacks on the High Court. The fact that the court does not provide backing for the truly beautiful theories it expounds in its directives reflects how these attacks on the court have penetrated. If it is not afraid, the court is at least wary. That is the result of threats, legislative initiatives and ministerial acts of people like former justice minister Daniel Friedmann.

 

Our politicians should understand that through their dangerous acts, which corrupt and destroy anything good, they won't be able to rely on the court to save them and us from perdition.

 

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


HAARETZ

OPINION

THE YEAR OF DEMOCRACY

BY RONEN SHOVAL

 

In the past year, a vigorous public debate has been waged in Israel between dozens of heavily funded organizations that call themselves human rights groups and several other organizations claiming that those groups have cynically exploited the human rights discourse as a propaganda tool for defaming the Israel Defense Forces and isolating Israel.

 

On the one side are organizations that charge Israel with carrying out war crimes, including those involved in hounding senior Israeli officials abroad or in calling for the boycott and divestment of Israel. These organizations believe that Israel is an anti-democratic, militaristic and racist regime.

 

On the other side are organizations that believe that Israel has a democratic, moral and tolerant society that is fighting physically and ideologically for its very right to exist as the national home of the Jewish people. These organizations see Israel as a magnificent democracy that is dealing with gigantic threats while maintaining democratic norms at the highest possible level. They organizations believe that Israel has fallen victim to a mendacious campaign aimed at accusing it of crimes it did not perpetrate, and thus at justifying a policy that would negate its right and ability to protect itself.

 

The public debate that has taken place in Israel over the past year has underscored the fact that Israel is a democratic state of the highest order. There were reports, ads, hundreds of articles and endless interviews, along with demonstrations and various steps aimed at explaining and convincing. At times this debate was to the point and at other times it was demagogic. It was visceral, scathing and sometimes fiery. Just like in a democratic country.

 

A revolution took place in Israel this year, after many years in which only those attacking Israel (a small percentage of the population ) were represented in the public discourse, including in the media and among the intelligentsia. This was the first year in which Israeli democracy succeeded in creating two camps and two voices - two ideologies, as is customary in a democracy, and in Judaism. Not a single viewpoint, as is customary in communist countries. Two interpretations of the term "liberalism," not just one, as is customary at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.

 

During the past year, the vast majority of the public became convinced that the organizations that call themselves human rights groups actually belong to the extreme left and seek to force their radical values on others through foreign funding. The vast majority of the public does not believe the lies that are being spread against the IDF fighters, and knows that Israel makes every effort to avoid harming innocent people. Most of the public knows that Israel is a democratic and open state. They do not buy the lie that all of us are backward, violent and racist, just because a negligible minority decided it has a monopoly over enlightenment, democracy and human rights.

 

The Israeli public is wise and capable of understanding a complex reality, as well as media manipulations, even though the "human rights groups" - which revolve around arrogance, hypocrisy and disrespect for human beings, for the people and their elected representatives - think otherwise. The people are critical and have finely honed senses, and can therefore easily identify who seeks to defame them and who is furthering their rights.

 

Since Israel is a democracy, and since transparency is a condition for democracy, we are entitled to know who is funding and fueling the campaign of hatred against us. Which special interests are meddling in Israeli democracy and bestowing great power - sometimes disproportionate, sometimes undemocratic - in the hands of a radical minority? In another few months, we shall get the answers to which we are entitled.

 

The writer is the chairman of the movement Im Tirtzu.

 

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

EDITORIAL

BLOODSHED AND INVECTIVE IN ARIZONA

 

She read the First Amendment on the House floor — including the guarantee of "the right of the people peaceably to assemble" — and then flew home to Arizona to put those words into practice. But when Gabrielle Giffords tried to meet with her constituents in a Tucson parking lot on Saturday, she came face to face with an environment wholly at odds with that constitutional ideal, and she nearly paid for it with her life.

 

Jared Loughner, the man accused of shooting Ms. Giffords, killing a federal judge and five other people, and wounding 13 others, appears to be mentally ill. His paranoid Internet ravings about government mind control place him well beyond usual ideological categories.

 

But he is very much a part of a widespread squall of fear, anger and intolerance that has produced violent threats against scores of politicians and infected the political mainstream with violent imagery. With easy and legal access to semiautomatic weapons like the one used in the parking lot, those already teetering on the edge of sanity can turn a threat into a nightmare.

 

Last spring, Capitol security officials said threats against members of Congress had tripled over the previous year, almost all from opponents of health care reform. An effigy of Representative Frank Kratovil Jr., a Maryland Democrat, was hung from a gallows outside his district office. Ms. Giffords's district office door was smashed after the health vote, possibly by a bullet.

 

The federal judge who was killed, John Roll, had received hundreds of menacing phone calls and death threats, especially after he allowed a case to proceed against a rancher accused of assaulting 16 Mexicans as they tried to cross his land. This rage, stirred by talk-radio hosts, required marshals to give the judge and his family 24-hour protection for a month. Around the nation, threats to federal judges have soared for a decade.

 

It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman's act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats. They seem to have persuaded many Americans that the government is not just misguided, but the enemy of the people.

 

That whirlwind has touched down most forcefully in Arizona, which Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik described after the shooting as the capital of "the anger, the hatred and the bigotry that goes on in this country." Anti-immigrant sentiment in the state, firmly opposed by Ms. Giffords, has reached the point where Latino studies programs that advocate ethnic solidarity have actually been made illegal.

 

Its gun laws are among the most lenient, allowing even a disturbed man like Mr. Loughner to buy a pistol and carry it concealed without a special permit. That was before the Tucson rampage. Now, having seen first hand the horror of political violence, Arizona should lead the nation in quieting the voices of intolerance, demanding an end to the temptations of bloodshed, and imposing sensible controls on its instruments.

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

CAN YOU TRUST THE MARKET?

 

The stock market was up in the first week of 2011 — following rallies in 2009 and 2010 — but many investors are still wary. According to the Investment Company Institute, a mutual funds trade group, 2010 was the fourth year in a row that individual investors withdrew more money than they added to funds that invest in American stocks. Some $80 billion was withdrawn in 2010, on top of nearly $240 billion in the three years before that.

 

Why the retreat? One explanation is reasonable doubt about the economy. Of late, profits, and related stock-market gains, have been fueled not by increased revenues but by layoffs and other cuts — an unsustainable pattern. Another explanation is a loss of faith in financial markets. The Dodd-Frank reform law could help restore that faith, but the new Republican majority in the House has vowed to try to block the law's implementation, including regulations to make deal-making by banks more transparent. Some Democrats may join in.

 

Without reform, investors are right to be leery. The stock market has crashed twice in the past decade — after the tech bubble burst in 2000 and as the full force of the financial crisis struck in 2008. Long-term, buy-and-hold investors are still nursing losses because of reckless games played by big banks and short-term traders.

 

Last year's "flash crash" also showed the powerful potential for instability in a market dominated by high-speed trading. Regulators have put in safeguards, but more are needed, including a ban on "flash trades" that let some traders buy and sell using nonpublic data.

 

Meanwhile, other investor protections may face opposition. In the debate on financial reform, Senator Tim Johnson, a Democrat of South Dakota, fought a provision that would have required stockbrokers who give investment advice to act in their clients' best interest and not in their own interest in selling expensive products. Instead, Congress told the Securities and Exchange Commission to study the issue — and report back this month. Mr. Johnson now leads the Banking Committee. We fear that means a tough road ahead for even this basic protection.

 

Industry lobbyists are also fighting investor protections. They have pushed back against proposals to limit excessive mutual fund fees and have filed a lawsuit to block a rule to give investors a bigger say in who serves on corporate boards. No wonder investors are cautious.

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

AT LEAST SOME POLITICIANS GET IT

 

Advocates of federal action to address climate change had little to cheer about in 2010. The prospects may be even grimmer this year, with nearly every important committee chair in the now Republican-controlled House dismissing the threat of global warming or the human contribution to it.

 

As Congress dawdles and denies, some states are moving forward. Massachusetts recently announced a plan to curb emissions from homes, cars and factories by one-fourth below 1990 levels over 10 years — considerably more aggressive than President Obama's commitment in Copenhagen to reduce emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels. The plan relies on existing technologies to produce more power from renewable sources like wind, tougher energy-efficiency standards for buildings and more investments in mass transit.

 

Massachusetts will also benefit from its participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a 2008 agreement among 10 Eastern states, including New York, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. These emissions have already dropped dramatically in the region, in part because utilities have been switching from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas.

 

The Massachusetts announcement follows California's approval of a cap-and-trade program requiring 360 large enterprises, including refineries and power plants, to gradually reduce emissions to help achieve a statewide reduction of 15 percent from current levels by 2020 — just under Mr. Obama's target.

 

As in other cap-and-trade programs — including proposals that stalled in Congress — the plan will require each facility to reduce emissions or buy allowances to pollute. This should encourage industry to invest in cleaner technologies while raising money for the state and local communities to improve energy efficiency.

 

The trading program was the last missing piece of a broad initiative signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006. Among other things, it requires that an increasing percentage of California's energy be generated by wind and solar power. It also meshes neatly with the state's strict greenhouse gas limits on vehicles, which paved the way for the national standards adopted by the Obama administration.

 

Other states and cities, including New York City, have embraced one or more aggressive strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. None of this is enough; a national policy would be much better. One hopes that Washington will get the message — before it's too late.

 

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

 


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

MAYOR BLOOMBERG SHOVELS OUT

 

As Mayor Michael Bloomberg went to red alert for the small snowstorm that swept into New York City on Friday, it was fairly evident that the fuss over snow removal wasn't only, or even mostly, about snow. It was about the mayor.

 

One year into his third term, Mr. Bloomberg has a dismal 37 percent approval rating, according to the Marist poll released on Thursday. Every New Yorker knows that Mr. Bloomberg has had better economic news to peddle, and has been making quite a name for himself on the national scene promoting big solutions to big issues.

 

The unease is about how he is doing back home, a concern that has been boiling for some time and spilled over after the post-Christmas blizzard, which overwhelmed the city and city government alike.

 

It did not help that the mayor's first advice to New Yorkers was essentially to quit whining, get out and go to a Broadway show. He later apologized and quickly reorganized how the Sanitation Department operated when this second snowstorm arrived.

 

But Mr. Bloomberg's problems with New Yorkers predated the storm. His choice of a non-educator, Cathleen Black, as schools chancellor felt idiosyncratic to many people. His Police Department, troubled about whether its famous statistics are valid, has finally found the need for a review by three former prosecutors.

 

Then there is the scandal involving CityTime, a system that was supposed to streamline employee timekeeping in the city. Federal prosecutors recently charged consultants in the project with an $80 million fraud scheme. And, as Comptroller John Liu has been saying for over a year, the project is years behind schedule and 10 times over its original budget of about $68 million.

 

Here we have a technology mix-up overseen by the mayor who made several sizable fortunes in technology, a management glitch for the mayor known as a management guru. Even his fuming about misplaced trust and "no tolerance for this whatsoever" doesn't explain enough about how so much of this slipshod work slipped past his desk unnoticed. Last week Mr. Liu canceled a $286 million contract for emergency communications "to prevent CityTime 2."

 

It is far too soon to write off the mayor's third term. We assume these are blemishes not full-fledged failures and that they give him an opportunity to do things better, just like in the weekend's baby snowstorm.

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

A RIGHT TO BEAR GLOCKS?

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

In 2009, Gabrielle Giffords was holding a "Congress on Your Corner" meeting at a Safeway supermarket in her district when a protester, who was waving a sign that said "Don't Tread on Me," waved a little too strenuously. The pistol he was carrying under his armpit fell out of his holster.

 

"It bounced. That concerned me," Rudy Ruiz, the father of one of Giffords's college interns at the time, told me then. He had been at the event and had gotten a larger vision than he had anticipated of what a career in politics entailed. "I just thought, 'What would happen if it had gone off? Could my daughter have gotten hurt?' "

 

Giffords brushed off the incident. "When you represent a district — the home of the O.K. Corral and Tombstone, the town too tough to die — nothing's a surprise," she said. At the time, it struck me as an interesting attempt to meld crisis control with a promotion of local tourist attractions.

 

Now, of course, the district has lost more people in a shooting in a shopping center parking lot than died at the gunfight of the O.K. Corral, and the story of the dropped pistol has a tragically different cast.

 

In soft-pedaling that 2009 encounter, Giffords was doing a balancing act that she'd perfected during her political career as a rather progressive Democrat in a increasingly conservative state. She was the spunky Western girl with a populist agenda mixed with down-home values, one of which was opposition to gun control. But those protesters had been following her around for a while. Her staff members were clearly scared for her, and they put me in touch with Ruiz, who told me the story.

 

Back then, the amazing thing about the incident in the supermarket parking lot was that the guy with a handgun in his armpit was not arrested. Since then, Arizona has completely eliminated the whole concept of requiring a concealed weapon permit. Last year, it got 2 points out of a possible 100 in the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence state score card, avoiding a zero only because its Legislature has not — so far — voted to force colleges to let people bring their guns on campuses.

 

Today, the amazing thing about the reaction to the Giffords shooting is that virtually all the discussion about how to prevent a recurrence has been focusing on improving the tone of our political discourse. That would certainly be great. But you do not hear much about the fact that Jared Loughner came to Giffords's sweet gathering with a semiautomatic weapon that he was able to buy legally because the law restricting their sale expired in 2004 and Congress did not have the guts to face up to the National Rifle Association and extend it.

 

If Loughner had gone to the Safeway carrying a regular pistol, the kind most Americans think of when they think of the right to bear arms, Giffords would probably still have been shot and we would still be having that conversation about whether it was a sane idea to put her Congressional district in the cross hairs of a rifle on the Internet.

 

But we might not have lost a federal judge, a 76-year-old church volunteer, two elderly women, Giffords's 30-year-old constituent services director and a 9-year-old girl who had recently been elected to the student council at her school and went to the event because she wanted to see how democracy worked.

 

Loughner's gun, a 9-millimeter Glock, is extremely easy to fire over and over, and it can carry a 30-bullet clip. It is "not suited for hunting or personal protection," said Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign. "What it's good for is killing and injuring a lot of people quickly."

 

America has a long, terrible history of political assassinations and attempts at political assassination. What we did not have until now is a history of attempted political assassination that took the lives of a large number of innocent bystanders. The difference is not about the Second Amendment. It's about a technology the founding fathers could never have imagined.

 

"If this was the modern equivalent of what Sirhan Sirhan used to shoot Robert Kennedy or Arthur Bremer used to shoot George Wallace, you'd be talking about one or two victims," said Helmke.

 

Giffords represents a pragmatic, interest-balancing form of politics that's out of fashion. But, in that spirit, we should be able to find a way to accommodate the strong desire in many parts of the country for easy access to firearms with sane regulation of the kinds of weapons that make it easiest for crazy people to create mass slaughter. Most politicians won't talk about it because they're afraid of the N.R.A., whose agenda is driven by the people who sell guns and want the right to sell as many as possible.

 

Doesn't it seem like the least we can do?

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

UNITED IN HORROR

BY ROSS DOUTHAT

 

When John F. Kennedy visited Dallas in November of 1963, Texas was awash in right-wing anger — over perceived cold-war betrayals, over desegregation, over the perfidies of liberalism in general. Adlai Stevenson, then ambassador to the U.N., had been spit on during his visit to the city earlier that fall. The week of Kennedy's arrival, leaflets circulated in Dallas bearing the president's photograph and the words "Wanted For Treason."

 

But Lee Harvey Oswald was not a right-winger, not a John Bircher, not a segregationist. Instead, he was a Marxist of sorts (albeit one disillusioned by his experiences in Soviet Russia), an activist on behalf of Castro's Cuba, and a man whose previous plot had been aimed at a far-right ex-general named Edwin Walker. The anti-Kennedy excesses of Texas conservatives were real enough, but the president's assassin acted on a far more obscure set of motivations.

 

Nine years after Kennedy was killed, George Wallace embarked on his second campaign for the presidency. This was the early 1970s, the high tide of far-left violence — the era of the Black Panthers, the Weathermen, the Symbionese Liberation Army — and Wallace's race-baiting politics made him an obvious target for protests. On his final, fateful day of campaigning, he faced a barrage of coins, oranges, rocks and tomatoes, amid shouts of "remember Selma!" and "Hitler for vice president!"

 

But Arthur Bremer, who shot Wallace that afternoon, paralyzing him from the waist down, had only a tenuous connection to left-wing politics. He didn't care much about Wallace's views on race: he just wanted to assassinate somebody (Richard Nixon had been his original target), as "a statement of my manhood for the world to see."

 

It's possible that Jared Lee Loughner, the young man behind Saturday's rampage in Tucson, will have a more direct connection to partisan politics than an earlier generation's gunmen did. Indeed, many observers seem to be taking a kind of comfort from that possibility: there's been a rush to declare this tragedy a teachable moment — an opportunity for people to cool their rhetoric, abandon their anger, and renounce the kind of martial imagery that inspired Sarah Palin's PAC to place a target over Gabrielle Giffords's district just months before Loughner gunned down the Arizona congresswoman.

 

But chances are that Loughner's motives will prove as irreducibly complex as those of most of his predecessors in assassination. Violence in American politics tends to bubble up from a world that's far stranger than any Glenn Beck monologue — a murky landscape where worldviews get cobbled together from a host of baroque conspiracy theories, and where the line between ideological extremism and mental illness gets blurry fast.

 

This is the world that gave us Oswald and Bremer. More recently, it's given us figures like James W. von Brunn, the neo-Nazi who opened fire at the Holocaust Museum in 2009, and James Lee, who took hostages at the Discovery Channel last summer to express his displeasure over population growth. These are figures better analyzed by novelists than pundits: as Walter Kirn put it Saturday, they're "self-anointed knights templar of the collective shadow realm, not secular political actors in extremis."

 

This won't stop partisans from making hay out of Saturday's tragedy, of course. The Democratic operative who was quoted in Politico saying that his party needs "to deftly pin this on the Tea Partiers" was just stating the obvious: after a political season rife with overheated rhetoric from conservative "revolutionaries," the attempted murder of a Democratic congresswoman is a potential gift to liberalism.

 

But if overheated rhetoric and martial imagery really led inexorably to murder, then both parties would belong in the dock. (It took conservative bloggers about five minutes to come up with Democratic campaign materials that employed targets and crosshairs against Republican politicians.) When our politicians and media loudmouths act like fools and zealots, they should be held responsible for being fools and zealots. They shouldn't be held responsible for the darkness that always waits to swallow up the unstable and the lost.

 

We should remember, too, that there are places where mainstream political movements really are responsible for violence against their rivals. (Last week's assassination of a Pakistani politician who dared to defend a Christian is a stark reminder of what that sort of world can look like.) Not so in America: From the Republican leadership to the Tea Party grass roots, all of Gabrielle Giffords's political opponents were united in horror at the weekend's events. There is no faction in American politics that actually wants its opponents dead.

 

That may seem like a small blessing, amid so much tragedy and loss. But it is a blessing worth remembering nonetheless.

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

CLIMATE OF HATE

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?

 

Put me in the latter category. I've had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton's election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.

 

Conservatives denounced that report. But there has, in fact, been a rising tide of threats and vandalism aimed at elected officials, including both Judge John Roll, who was killed Saturday, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords. One of these days, someone was bound to take it to the next level. And now someone has.

 

It's true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn't mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.

 

Last spring Politico.com reported on a surge in threats against members of Congress, which were already up by 300 percent. A number of the people making those threats had a history of mental illness — but something about the current state of America has been causing far more disturbed people than before to act out their illness by threatening, or actually engaging in, political violence.

 

And there's not much question what has changed. As Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff responsible for dealing with the Arizona shootings, put it, it's "the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business." The vast majority of those who listen to that toxic rhetoric stop short of actual violence, but some, inevitably, cross that line.

 

It's important to be clear here about the nature of our sickness. It's not a general lack of "civility," the favorite term of pundits who want to wish away fundamental policy disagreements. Politeness may be a virtue, but there's a big difference between bad manners and calls, explicit or implicit, for violence; insults aren't the same as incitement.

 

The point is that there's room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn't any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.

 

And it's the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

 

Where's that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let's not make a false pretense of balance: it's coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It's hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be "armed and dangerous" without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

 

And there's a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you'll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won't hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O'Reilly, and you will.

 

Of course, the likes of Mr. Beck and Mr. O'Reilly are responding to popular demand. Citizens of other democracies may marvel at the American psyche, at the way efforts by mildly liberal presidents to expand health coverage are met with cries of tyranny and talk of armed resistance. Still, that's what happens whenever a Democrat occupies the White House, and there's a market for anyone willing to stoke that anger.

 

But even if hate is what many want to hear, that doesn't excuse those who pander to that desire. They should be shunned by all decent people.

 

Unfortunately, that hasn't been happening: the purveyors of hate have been treated with respect, even deference, by the G.O.P. establishment. As David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, has put it, "Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we're discovering we work for Fox."

 

So will the Arizona massacre make our discourse less toxic? It's really up to G.O.P. leaders. Will they accept the reality of what's happening to America, and take a stand against eliminationist rhetoric? Or will they try to dismiss the massacre as the mere act of a deranged individual, and go on as before?

 

If Arizona promotes some real soul-searching, it could prove a turning point. If it doesn't, Saturday's atrocity will be just the beginning.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

STAYING AFLOAT DOWN UNDER

BY NICK EARLS

 

Brisbane, Australia

 

THERE was cricket in Sydney last week. The crowd wore pink fluorescent wigs and hats cut from watermelons. Shirts were optional. Australians are fun-loving when there is fun to be had. It's part of our national character. So is our disregard for authority, which we celebrate, while at the same time being one of the most law-abiding nations on earth.

 

That's what the rest of the world sees, and it's all true. But we want to see something more in ourselves, a hard-working stoicism — and right now it's the northeast state of Queensland, where once-in-a-century flooding has devastated countless communities, that shows it most clearly.

 

All maps of Queensland are deceptive. They show inland plains crossed by rivers, always colored blue. It's tempting to imagine riverboats hauling freight, green fields stretching out from either bank, industrial towns and cities drawing water for their factories.

 

What the maps don't reveal is that the rivers are often only possibilities. Many are dry for years, their waters long since soaked up by the parched ground and left as a chain of water holes.

 

The maps also don't say that, every few years, the rivers flood. Once in a generation, they cover the land. And sometimes, like now, they tear the state apart.

 

To the north and west of Brisbane, the state capital and my hometown, Queensland faces a flood affecting an area the size of Texas and Oklahoma combined. The mines that supply one-third of the world's coking coal are shut down. Crops have been destroyed and the soil that grew them has been carried away. Mercifully few lives have been lost so far, but the economic impact has been estimated at $5 billion. Some 200,000 people have been affected, many of them forced from their homes by water and mud.

 

Nevertheless, there is none of the clamor of disaster, none of the chaos one might expect. Crisis management plans have been activated. Townships, towns and cities are hard at work, not only as governments but as communities. Neighbors are helping neighbors, and then helping people they have never met. When the hard-hit coastal city of Rockhampton put a call out over the radio for people to fill sandbags, 70 volunteers turned up within minutes.

 

There's a calm resilience too. Rockhampton's Fitzroy Hotel, surrounded by floodwaters that have risen to an inch or so below its floorboards, has rebranded itself as the Fitzroy Float-El. Its customers now arrive by boat. Inside, on the widescreen TVs normally tuned to sports, the Fitzroy is showing footage of the last inundation, 19 years ago. Veterans of that flood are turning up to watch themselves filling sandbags, back when they were thinner and had more hair.

 

Even after the rain stops, we're told, it will be weeks before all the water is gone. As the less-fortunate evacuees return home, they will find mud everywhere: in their filing cabinets, their kitchen cupboards, their photo albums. As I learned in the aftermath of the Brisbane flood of 1974, the smell will remain for years — a swampy stench that comes out of the walls and down from the ceiling on hot days.

 

Those people will need room for grief and anger. Most of them, though, when interviewed standing in the wreckage, talk about how life goes on.

 

Events like this flood not only show our stoicism, but create it. It's important to Queenslanders, like all Australians, that we see ourselves as people who look adversity in the eye, stare it down and band together to overcome it.

 

Houses will be repaired, and new ones will be built. Businesses will get back to work. In ground that was baked dry but is now soaked deep, eggs will hatch, seeds will germinate and hidden species will reveal themselves and make the most of this change in their luck before the next drought sets in. Life will go on and, for farmers and those dependent on the land, the next crop should be a good one, if the weather holds.

 

Nick Earls is the author, most recently, of "The True Story of Butterfish."

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: AFTER ARIZONA SHOOTING, TIME TO TONE DOWN VITRIOL

 

Saturday's tragedy in Arizona was unspeakable, as President Obama put it, but it was not unthinkable. American history is blighted with assassinations and attempted assassinations of prominent figures, often by disturbed young men with motives that make sense only within their twisted minds.

 

Combine that past with today's overheated political rhetoric and easy access to high-powered weaponry, and perhaps the only question was when, and where, the next unspeakable act would occur.

 

The heartbreaking answer was Jan. 8, 2011, outside a supermarket in Tucson. A 22-year-old gunman, identified as Jared Lee Loughner, opened fire with a Glock handgun, grievously wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killing six others, including federal Judge John Roll and, poignantly, a 9-year-old girl learning about democracy.

 

As of Sunday, no evidence had emerged that Loughner has a coherent political philosophy. His Internet trail shows him to be politically aware, but it is marked by a string of barely rational ramblings. That makes the instant efforts to ascribe blame for his actions unseemly. This is a time for civility, for toning down the volume, for Americans to remember what unites us, not what divides us.

 

As one of her last official acts before the shooting, Giffords, a 40-year-old centrist Democrat, read the First Amendment to the Constitution on the House floor. The parts about freedom of assembly and the right to petition the government for the redress of grievances, which she was fulfilling with her meet-and-greet for constituents outside the Safeway. And, of course, the part about freedom of speech.

 

With speech comes responsibility, a notion that seems lost on too many players in today's hyperpartisan hothouse. Regardless of Loughner's motivations, his killing spree is a grisly reminder that deeply disturbed people are easily driven to violence, whether by their own personal demons or by others who stoke their anger. When talk-show hosts warn about using bullets if ballots don't work, or candidates speak about resorting to "Second Amendment remedies," they invite risk for the sake of ratings or political gain. As Giffords hauntingly warned in March, after Sarah Palin's political action committee targeted her congressional district using the cross hairs of a gun sight, "there are consequences" to such imagery.

 

In the wake of Saturday's tragedy, the greatest need is to do everything possible to prevent Tucson from being the beginning of a wave of violence like that of the 1960s, when America was convulsed by assassinations of President John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy.

 

The nation's top leaders have, expectedly, struck the appropriate chords. Obama labeled the attack "a tragedy for our entire country" and called for a nationwide moment of silence today for the victims. John Boehner, the new Republican speaker of the House, suspended this week's congressional business and said an attack on one member of Congress is an attack on all members. Obama could further promote bipartisan healing by involving Arizona's two Republican senators, ex-rival John McCain and Jon Kyl, in the selection of a replacement for Roll, an appointee of the first President Bush.

 

Sharp ideological differences will unquestionably remain — over health care, the size of government and other issues. That is how it has always been in America's democracy, and no doubt how it always will be. What's wholly unacceptable is when lawmakers and judges routinely fear for their lives because of their public service.

 

The youngest victim of Saturday's rampage was 9-year-old Christina Green, who was interested in politics and just wanted to meet her congresswoman. She was born on Sept. 11, 2001, four hours and four minutes after the first plane hit the World Trade Center. The most fitting tribute to her memory will be if the nation pulls itself together in the face of tragedy, as it did after 9/11, rather than tears itself apart.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OTHER VIEWS ON REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: 'MADNESS AND INHUMANITY'

 

Rep.Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., to MSNBC in March: "We're on Sarah Palin's targeted list. But the thing is the way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they've got to realize there are consequences to that action."

 

Howard Kurtz, on The Daily Beast: "Let's be honest: Journalists often use military terminology in describing campaigns. We talk about the air war, the bombshells, targeting politicians, knocking them off, candidates returning fire or being out of ammunition. So we shouldn't act shocked when politicians do the same thing. Obviously, Palin should have used dots or asterisks on her map. But does anyone seriously believe she was trying to incite violence? ... This isn't about a nearly year-old Sarah Palin map; it's about a lone nut job who doesn't value human life. It would be nice if we briefly put aside partisan differences and came together with sympathy and support for Gabby Giffords and the other victims, rather than opening rhetorical fire ourselves."

 

The Arizona Republic,in an editorial: "When the 112th Congress opened with the reading of the Constitution, Giffords' section was the First Amendment. It includes the right to assemble peaceably, which is exactly what Giffords and her constituents were doing (Saturday) morning. ... This incident ... will fit into a narrative of this state as a place of hatred and rampant violence. ... But many of us know the fallacy of the easy politics of convenience and stereotypes and how simple it can be to use one terrible moment to characterize the state. As (President) Obama and (Gov. Jan) Brewer and other leaders asserted ... the bloody crimes committed Saturday are not evocative, at this point, of anything but madness and inhumanity."

 

Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, Pima County, Ariz., site of the shooting: "There's reason to believe that this individual may have a mental issue. And I think that people who are unbalanced are especially susceptible to vitriol. People tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that. That may be free speech, but it's not without consequences."

 

]Matt Bai, inThe New York Times: "The problem here doesn't lie with the activists like most of those who populate the Tea Parties, ordinary citizens who are doing what citizens are supposed to do — engaging in a conversation about the direction of the country. Rather, the problem would seem to rest with the political leaders who pander to the margins of the margins, employing whatever words seem likely to win them contributions or TV time, with little regard for the consequences. ... It's not that such leaders are necessarily trying to incite violence or hysteria; in fact, they're not. It's more that they are so caught up in a culture of hyperbole, so amused with their own verbal flourishes and the ensuing applause, that — like the bloggers and TV hosts to which they cater — they seem to lose their hold on the power of words."

 

Amy Davidson in The New Yorker: "Where can you take a child in this country? If to the supermarket, to meet her congresswoman, is no longer on that list, then we are in trouble. (Saturday), a man began shooting at a Safeway in Tucson, where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was standing under a sign with her name on it. One bullet hit her in the face. ... There were more bullets: One killed Christina Green, who was 9 years old and had just been elected to her school's student council; the neighbor who brought her thought that she might want to meet a grown-up politician."

 

Matthew Cooper in the National Journal: "The shooting of Giffords — a mother (her husband had children by a previous marriage), a young woman of 40, the wife of an astronaut and the in-law of another who is currently in space — is horrible by any measure. It is the first time a female elected federal officeholder has been shot. It's a reminder that female politicians are no more protected than female cops or firefighters, soldiers or corrections officers. And yet the first time we hear about a mother killed in the line of duty or a female POW, it curdles the stomach, not because of paternalism but because it marks a new barrier of decency that's been broken."

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

ATROCIOUS MASS MURDER!

 

The United States of America — and, indeed, all of us — have suffered another horrendous assassination attack.

 

When anyone seeks to do evil to any of our officials of our great nation, he attacks us all, not threatening just our lives, but also threatening our ideals of individual personal freedom and our nation.

 

As Democrat Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords stood in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday, meeting face to face with her constituents in the best of American democratic traditions, a surely deranged young man armed himself with an automatic firearm and attempted to express his dissent through murder.

 

Rep. Giffords fortunately survived the attack, but was gravely wounded. But a federal judge and five other citizens were killed, including an aide to the congresswoman and a 9-year-old little girl. And many other innocents were wounded.

 

Fortunately, some courageous Americans on the street risked their own lives to intervene, wrestling the murderer into submission as he attempted to continue firing.

 

Countless people throughout our nation — with total disregard for partisanship, politics and contentious issues, but with humane concern for our nation — have despaired because of the wounding of Rep. Giffords and the lost lives of others.

 

Our very freedom leaves us vulnerable to the fact that just one or a few may deal death and do great damage to many.

 

We pray for Rep. Giffords' survival and full recovery, and for the other victims. We pray for the survival of our free America. We condemn the evil that threatens our ideals.

 

We recall the assassinations of all too many of our presidents, members of Congress and others, shuddering because depraved and/or deranged individuals may commit such horrendous deeds against humanity, decency and American democracy.

 

Rep. Giffords' name is now indelibly in our consciousness. But we must not forget the others who were murdered or wounded, but whose names and families and aspirations we will never know.

 

It is so easy to do evil, so difficult to do good. Let us all dedicate ourselves, once again, to the highest of our nation's ideals, and to the denunciation of the horrors that a few may inflict upon the many.

 

Innocent lives have been lost. But the life of our nation, the lives of our people, and the lofty ideals of men and women of good will live on.