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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

EDITORIAL 25.01.11

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

 

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


Editorial

Month january 25, edition 000738 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.      DEMOCRACY UNDER ATTACK

2.      DEATH SILENCES HIS VOICE

3.      IT'S BACK TO THE EMERGENCY! - A SURYA PRAKASH

4.      NICE BUT VACUOUS RESOLUTIONS - RAJIV DOGRA

5.      AN ENTIRELY UNCALLED FOR COMPARISON - SHIKHA MUKERJEE

6.      WAGES OF OPPRESSION BY RUTHLESS ARAB REGIMES - HAMZA HENDAWI


MAIL TODAY

1.      A COMPROMISE ON JPC ISSUE BEST WAY FORWARD

2.      HU VISIT SHOULDN'T WORRY US - BY KANWAL SIBAL

 

THE TIMES OF INDIA

1.      STAND AT EASE

2.      FDI'S FREE FALL

3.      CALL IT CHINESE ARITHMETIC - DEEP K DATTA-RAY

4.      POINTLESS POLITICAL GAMBIT

5.      FITTING REPLY TO SEPARATISTS - AJAY VAISHNAV

6.      MEN IN BLACK - DILIP BOBB

 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

1.      WHEN BISHOPS BECOME PAWNS

2.      AT A DEAD END

3.      MAXIMUM DENIAL

4.      REMEMBER THE TIME

 

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

1.      TONE IT DOWN

2.      END OF AN ERA

3.      MARKETS AND NAMES

4.      THE VOICE FALLS SILENT - SADANAND MENON

5.      INDIA'S BRIDGE TO THE PACIFIC - C. RAJA MOHAN

6.      'THE MODEL OF DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA IS WELL ROOTED BECAUSE IT COMES UP FROM THE BOTTOM' - SHEKHAR GUPTA

 

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

1.      CLEFT STICK

2.      FLAWED ARGUMENTS

3.      IN CHINA, A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN - ANURAG VISWANATH

4.      THE DIE IS CASTE - NISTULA HEBBAR

 

THE HINDU

1.      MUSIC AS EVOLUTION

2.      MMR VACCINE & SCIENCE FRAUD

3.      EASTERN PROMISES, WESTERN FEARS  - SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN

4.      BEHIND THE PALESTINE PAPERS - SEUMAS MILNE AND IAN BLACK

5.      VENEZUELA BRINGING SPEEDY INTERNET TO CUBA  - RORY CARROLL

6.      KILOGRAMME SET FOR THE SCRAP HEAP  - ALOK JHA

7.      BERLUSCONI GETS SHOW OF FAITH - JOHN HOOPER

 

THE ASIAN AGE

1.      ZERO TOLERANCE FOR WRONGDOERS VITAL

2.      A REPUBLIC NEEDS RULES - SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

3.      'THERE WILL BE NO OTHER PANDITJI' - SHUBHA MUDGAL

4.      DIPLOMATIC TAI CHI - VIKRAM SOOD

 

DNA

1.      BHIMSEN JOSHI SHONE AMONG GALAXY OF STARS

2.      THE BJP'S MISTIMED ACTION MAY BACKFIRE

3.      ASTONISHMENT BRINGS WAKEFULNESS - SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR

4.      THE MIDDLE CLASS TURNS AWAY FROM THE PM - PARSA VENKATESHWAR RAO JR

5.      BANGLADESH LIBERATION FIGHTERS SAY A LOUD THANK YOU TO INDIA - ASHOK MEHTA

 

DAILY EXCELSIOR

1.      CONFIRMS THE WORST

2.      SOLDIERS THEY ARE

3.      EXPLORING ALTERNATIVE STRATEGIES IMPROVING THE GOVERNANCE PROCESS - BY D SUBA CHANDRAN

4.      U.N.O ROLE IN NEW WORLD ORDER - BY M L GUPTA

5.      SOCIAL FORESTRY IN INDIA - BY R L BHAT

 

THE TRIBUNE

1.      CASE FOR INDO-PAK TALKS

2.      AN EXERCISE IN HALF-TRUTHS

3.      BLOW TO HARYANA GOVT

4.      WRONG PREMISES, FALSE START - BY B.G. VERGHESE

5.      PARKASH @ RS 17 A KILO - BY ROOPINDER SINGH

6.      HOW LONG WILL PAK ARMY BE A SPECTATOR? - IRFAN HUSAIN

7.      TRACING THE DISAPPEARED - I.A. REHMAN

THE KASHMIR TIMES

1.      NEED FOR CAUTION

2.      MODERNISING DEGREE COLLEGES

3.      STAPLED VISA ISSUE

4.      CHINA AGAIN POKES INDIA - BY MONISH TOURANGBAM

 

BUSINESS STANDARD

1.      MR YEDDYURAPPA IN THE DOCK

2.      DOES DAVOS MATTER?

3.      A CAT THAT CATCHES MICE - AJIT RANADE

4.      ER? BY THE WAY, TIBET! - AJAI SHUKLA

5.      RELAY SOLUTIONS FOR FOOD PRICES - SURINDER SUD

6.      WAITING FOR MR COETZEE - THE JLF - NILANJANA S ROY

 

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

1.      WIPRO, BE NIMBLE

2.      SAY NO TO NICOTINE

3.      CROCO-DIAL DANDY

4.      CREATING JOBS FOR INCLUSIVE GROWTH - AJAY SHANKAR

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

6.      BJP'S REPUBLIC DAY THEATRICS  - C L MANOJ

7.      GOING WHERE SOME MEN HAVE GONE - MUKUL SHARMA

 

BUSINESS LINE

1.      UNSHACKLING GROWERS

2.      THE SPECTRE OF INFLATION - JAYATI GHOSH

3.      OF ONIONS AND PHONE CHARGERS  - RASHEEDA BHAGAT

4.      WILD SWINGS IN IIP NUMBERS  - S. D. NAIK

 

DECCAN CHRONICLE

1.      COMPETITIVENESS AND OTHER BAD METAPHORS  - BY PAUL KRUGMAN

2.      A REPUBLIC NEEDS RULES  - BY SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

3.      ZERO TOLERANCE FOR WRONGDOERS VITAL

4.      SHANTI, SALAAM, SHALOM  - BY FRANCIS GONSALVES

5.      'THERE WILL BE NO OTHER PANDITJI'  - BY SHUBHA MUDGAL

6.      LISTEN TO THE RHYTHM...  - BY AMRIT SADHANA

 

THE STATESMAN

1.      GOVERNOR'S ACT IMPROPER

2.      OVERNIGHT WISDOM

3.      GASSED !

4.      AMEND THE LAND ACT - KP BHATTACHARJEE

5.      NO OUTRAGES, PLEASE, WE ARE ISRAELIS  

6.      NOWHERE MAN  - TK CHAUDHURI

 

THE TELEGRAPH

1.      NO PREJUDICE

2.      FUTURE BATTLES

3.      PROTECTION VERSUS SERVICE  - ASHOK V. DESAI

4.      WISHFUL THINKING - MALVIKA SINGH

5.      NEW STRATEGIES TO SWEETEN A BITTER PILL  - DIPANKAR DASGUPTA

 

DECCAN HERALD

1.      A KOHINOOR GONE

2.      CREDIBILITY GAP

3.      WRONG PREMISES B G VERGHESE

4.      CAN GOVERNOR PROSECUTE A CM? - N HARIDAS

5.      'HE TAKES YOU STRAIGHT TO GOD' -  D P SEN GUPTA

 

OHERALDO

1.      TOURISM ON THE DECLINE

2.      PROSECUTING THE CHIEF MINISTER

 

THE SENTINEL

1.      IN A FREE SOCIETY  

2.      MATTER OF CHOICE  

3.      ARE WE REALLY MARCHING FORWARD?  

 

THE JERUSALEM POST

1.      TURKEL'S CREDIBILITY

2.      NO HOLDS BARRED: WAR CRY OF THE VALUES-BASED PARENT - BY SHMULEY BOTEACH 

3.      ENCOUNTERING PEACE: WHAT DOES NETANYAHU WANT?  - BY GERSHON BASKIN 

4.      BORDERLINE VIEWS: TORAH TO ZION - BY DAVID NEWMAN 

5.      BY THY OWN HAND  - BY MARTIN SHERMAN 

6.      GOING SOLO  - BY ELI AVIDAR 

7.      FRANCE VS FRANCE  - BY ROBERT ZARETSKY 

 

HAARETZ

1.      THERE (STILL) IS A PARTNER

2.      BEHOLD, THE LATEST QUEEN OF ENGLAND  - BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

3.      GALANTISM  - BY YITZHAK LAOR

4.      ISRAEL'S MILITARY TECHNOLOGY SUPERIORITY - BY MOSHE ARENS

5.      VOTING TO DESTROY NATURE  - BY ZAFRIR RINAT

 

THE NEW YORK TIMES

1.      WHAT COMES AFTER NO?

2.      TACTICAL SECRETS

3.      HE NEVER LEFT

4.      A NIGHT OF FOOD AND SONG

5.      THE TALENT MAGNET - BY DAVID BROOKS

6.      RAISING FALSE ALARMS - BY BOB HERBERT

7.      THE BRIGHT SIDE OF BLIGHT - BY DIANA LIND

8.      A FIGHTING SPIRIT WON'T SAVE YOUR LIFE - BY RICHARD P. SLOAN

 

USA TODAY

1.      OUR VIEW ON KIDS: WHEN UNWED BIRTHS IS 41%, IT'S JUST NOT RIGHT

2.      ANOTHER VIEW ON KIDS: FOCUS ON EARLY EDUCATION - BY JOHN M. SHALIKASHVILI

3.      CIVILITY? YES. BUT GOP SHOULD FIGHT ON SUBSTANCE - BY MICHAEL MEDVED

4.      GOP ON RACE: ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK - BY DEWAYNE WICKHAM

 

TIMES FREE PRESS

1.      OBAMA: MIDTERM CHALLENGE

2.      KEEP PUBLIC NOTICES PUBLIC

3.      WELCOME DROP IN JUVENILE CRIME

4.      MASS MURDER NEAR MOSCOW

 

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

1.      FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - A TRUTHFUL 'TRUTH COMMISSION'

2.      PROSPECTS FOR TURKISH-ISRAELI NORMALIZATION WORSEN - SEMİH İDİZ

3.      WHY ARE PROMISES NOT REALIZED? - ERDOĞAN ALKİN

4.      IRAN SHOULD STOP TREATING BAHAIS LIKE THE TROJAN HORSE - RECEP KORKUT

5.      IDEALIST FOREIGN POLICY MAKES NO PROGRESS - CÜNEYT ÜLSEVER

6.      JUDICIARY FIGHTING THE LAST BATTLE FOR THE SECULAR FRONT - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

7.      RECENT HISTORY OF OIL PRICES ABOUT TO REPEAT ITSELF? - CHRIS RHODES

8.      GREAT PERSONALITIES - YUSUF KANLI

9.      RECIPROCAL INSINCERITY: TRENDS IN TREATMENT OF MINORITIES IN  REECE, TURKEY - DIMOSTENIS YAĞCIOĞLU

 

THE NEWS

1.      SHADOWY DEATH

2.      THE BUDGET CRUNCH

3.      FACING DISASTER

4.      THE DAYS AHEAD FOR KARZAI -  RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI

5.      ONE-POINT AGENDA, PLEASE  - DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN

6.      WILL THE POT BOIL OVER?  - K HUSSAN ZIA

7.      THE CIVIL SERVICE-CONVICT LINK  - S KHALID HUSAIN

8.      RESETTING TIES BETWEEN CHINA AND US  - DR MALEEHA LODHI

9.      DIVIDING AFGHANS  - RIZWAN ASGHAR

 

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

1.      IS PUNJAB POLICE CRUMBLING DOWN?

2.      HOW TO HANDLE OVERSTAFFING ISSUE?

3.      PALESTINE: LIMITED INDEPENDENCE IS NO INDEPENDENCE

4.      PML (N)'S AGENDA & 45 DAYS TIME FRAME - M ASHRAF MIRZA

5.      MEDIA SHOULD ACT RESPONSIBLY - MOHAMMAD JAMIL

6.      ACTIONS OF A FEW CAN EMPOWER MANY! - NOSHEEN SAEED

7.      RIVER WATERS EXPLOITATION - ALI SUKHANVER

8.      INDIA'S SHOOT-TO-KILL POLICY ON BD BORDER - BRAD ADAMS

 

THE AUSTRALIYAN

1.      IRAN'S ALARMING AMBITIONS

2.      GIDDINGS MUST ESTABLISH HER ECONOMIC CREDENTIALS

3.      INTEGRITY REQUIRES INFORMATION

 

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

1.      PARENTING AND PREMIERSHIP

2.      CHEMISTRY IN THE CLASSROOM

3.      THE AUSTRALIAN DREAM IS GROWING HAZIER

4.      STATE SCHOOLS NEED A HELPING HAND

 

THE GUARDIAN

1.      IN PRAISE OF ... DOWNING STREET CATS

2.      THE PALESTINE PAPERS: DESPAIR. BUT WE STILL NEED A DEAL

3.      IRELAND: FIANNA FOILED

 

THE JAKARTA POST

1.      PRESSURES FOR TIGHT MONEY

2.      PRESSURES FOR TIGHT MONEY

3.      WHY A RISING ASIA MAY NOT BE A CHANGED ASIA - MARIA MONICA WIHARDJA

4.      LETTER TO THE EDITOR: STRONG PROTEST BY ADNAN BUYUNG NASUTION

5.      HUNGARY AND RI – TOGETHER AT THE WHEEL - JÁNOS MARTONYI

6.      INDIA, INDONESIA POISED TO RESHAPE TIES, RECAPTURE THE OLD MAGIC - MAHENDRA VED  

7.      ANTI-CORRUPTION CURRICULUM IS NOT THE SOLUTION - ANITA LIE

 

CHINA DAILY

1.      LIGHTER TOUCH ON TRAFFIC

2.      WATER FACILITIES TO GROW

3.      BETTER TO BE FRIENDS THAN FOES - BY LI WEI (CHINA DAILY)

4.      EAST AND WEST MUST COOPERATE OR PERISH - BY MARTIN WOLF (CHINA DAILY)

5.      CHINA'S ROLE IN THE WORLD - BY YU YONGDING (CHINA DAILY)

 

DAILY MIRROR

1.      LET US CARE MORE FOR OUR CHILDREN

2.      BLAIR — IT'S TOO LATE TO REGRET

3.      SOLHEIM/TGTE: WINS IN SUDAN- FAILED IN SRI LANKA

4.      WHERE O WHERE IS THE PROMISED UTOPIA?

5.      THE OTHER CHEEK  - KARAN THAPAR

 

GULF DAILY NEWS

1.      A WORLD AFRAID OF ITSELF..!   - BY S AVINASH

 

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

DEMOCRACY UNDER ATTACK

BAN ON ENTERING J&K SHOULD OUTRAGE ALL INDIANS


It is absolutely shocking that the Government of Jammu & Kashmir should have decided to bar the entry of senior BJP leaders into the State. On Monday, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Ms Sushma Swaraj, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mr Arun Jaitley, and BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar were first prevented from getting off the aircraft in which they had travelled to Jammu and then barred from leaving the tarmac. After much persuasion, the three senior BJP leaders were taken to a room in the arrivals terminal of Jammu Airport from where they were arrested and taken away to an undisclosed location later in the evening. The authorities, obviously acting on the instructions of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, lamely cited the enforcement of Section 144 in defence of their abominable behaviour and indefensible action. That law, however, does not apply in this case. While it is true that the three leaders had gone to Jammu to address a rally as part of the Ekta Yatra which is scheduled to conclude with the hoisting of the National Tricolour at Lal Chowk in Srinagar, there is nothing illegal about doing so. Mr Abdullah has let it be known that he will not allow the Ekta Yatra to enter the State, leave alone unfurl the Tricolour in the heart of Srinagar. Ostensibly, his objection — as also those of the Congress — is aimed at ensuring separatists in the Kashmir Valley do not feel offended and secessionist sentiments are not hurt at the sight of the Tricolour fluttering in Srinagar's most prominent public square. In brief, national pride and the right to fly the national flag have been suborned to the despicable urge to mollycoddle separatists and secessionists whose hearts beat for Pakistan and who routinely hoist the Pakistani flag in Srinagar and elsewhere. Whom in Mr Abdullah batting for? And why is the Congress so keen to prevent the hoisting of the Tricolour in Srinagar? Have certain commitments been made by the Prime Minister of which we, the nation, are ignorant?


The issue, however, goes beyond the BJP's political programme. It is about the right of any Indian to fly the national flag anywhere in the country, more so on Independence Day and Republic Day. This right is being crudely abridged by the National Conference and the Congress for reasons that should shame us as a nation. Over the past week, the Government has resorted to strong-arm measures that remind us of the crackdown on Opposition activists and the un-constitutional means that were adopted to silence the voice of the masses during Mrs Indira Gandhi's Emergency. Trains are being diverted; preemptive arrests are being made; security forces are being mobilised; and, a reign of terror has been unleashed on nationalists in Jammu & Kashmir. It would almost seem that between themselves, Mr Abdullah and his patrons in the Congress have declared Jammu & Kashmir a separate entity where the freedoms and liberties enshrined in the Constitution of India do not exist. This is manna from heaven for the separatists — they could not have asked for anything better. Meanwhile, what we are witnessing is a needless confrontation that will not fetch either the Congress or the National Conference any political benefits. If anything, it will be a blow to democracy in India. Unless resisted, we could witness the emergence of a police state under Congress tutelage. The Tricolour must fly high at Lal Chowk.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

DEATH SILENCES HIS VOICE

BUT BHIMSEN JOSHI'S MUSIC WILL LIVE ON FOREVER


He called himself the "high commissioner of music", but he was more than that: Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was a Renaissance man. A wanderer, an over-reacher, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi constantly strove to go beyond his limits, to rise above the boundaries of his gharana , and take his music to new levels of height and depth — a character trait he exhibited even as a child when he would often disappear from home, leading his parents to lodge complaints with the police. On most occasions, little Bhimsen would just let himself be carried away by the sound of music — be it the muezzin's call to prayer or songs sung by a rejoicing baraat or even the gramophone records played at the local music shop. In fact, he was listening to music at the music shop when he first heard the voice of Abdul Karim Khan, the founder of the Kirana gharana. This was a turning point in his life, for on that day he took it upon himself to sing like the maestro himself, a decision which prompted him to ultimately leave home at the age of 11 in pursuit of a guru. In the years ahead, he undertook a long and arduous journey, seeking his spiritual master who would guide his way to music of the celestial kind. He travelled across the country from his hometown Gadag to Bijapur, Pune and Mumbai, from Gwalior to Bengal and Jalandhar — sometimes supporting himself by singing bhajans on trains which he often boarded without a ticket, and at other times by working as a domestic help. Eventually, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi returned to Karnataka where he met the eminent exponent of Kirana gharana, Sawai Gandharva, and thus began an illustrious chapter in the guru-shishya tradition. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi's tutelage under Sawai Gandharva lasted only five years but it laid the foundation of his musical genius. It is only natural that his big break was a concert organised to mark his guru's 60th birthday.


In the years since that awe-inspiring concert, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi established himself as a celebrated exponent of the golden Kirana gharana . His heartfelt performances in a voice that was both potent and piercing, allowed his melodies to penetrate our souls, positioning him as the most revered Hindustani classical music vocalist of our times. Indeed, it was a breathtaking synthesis of skill and passion that separated Pandit Bhimsen Joshi from his contemporaries, many of whom remain dogmatically committed to their respective gharana in a manner that has possibly hurt their creative spirit. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was the last of the titans of his gharana but the music that he has left behind rises above its predetermined notations and, instead, has become an integral part of the vast repertoire of Hindustani classical music. His death marks the end of an era; his music remains.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

IT'S BACK TO THE EMERGENCY!

A SURYA PRAKASH


From Swaran Singh to Manmohan Singh: Congress has learned no lessons and hence continues its assault on the Constitution and institutions of state


The Union Telecom Minister, Mr Kapil Sibal, informs us that the methodology adopted by the Comptroller and Auditor-General to calculate the loss to the exchequer on the sale of 2G Spectrum (Rs 1.76 lakh crore) is "fraught with serious errors" because there was "no loss at all". He has also insinuated that the CAG's findings had actually helped the Opposition spread "utter falsehoods" about the manner in which the Government sold this scarce resource.


Spokespersons of the Congress have followed suit with threats to move a privilege motion in Parliament against the country's supreme audit institution, simply because the latter declared that it would not just sit back and watch Union Ministers run down the institution.


Meanwhile, the Government and the ruling party have targeted two other institutions — the Supreme Court and the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal. After having appointed Mr PJ Thomas, an accused in the palmolein import scandal, as the Central Vigilance Commissioner, the Government had the cheek to tell the apex court recently that the latter has no authority to examine his 'suitability' for the job. The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal has come under attack because it spoke the truth on the commissions pocketed by Ottavio Quattrocchi and others in the Bofors field gun deal.


What does all this indicate? The first inference is that the Congress has hit the panic button. Unable to accept the fact that the stock of the Government headed by Mr Manmohan Singh has come crashing down in recent times, some of those in the top echelons of power and the party are going berserk and abusing all and sundry for their own follies.


The second inference is that the Congress, which thrust a dictatorship on this country during Mrs Indira Gandhi's Emergency 35 years ago, has learnt no lessons despite its shrinking electoral base. It still longs for the 'good old days' when bureaucrats, policemen, judges, jailors and journalists could be intimidated and made to do the party's bidding.


Since the Congress still manages to subvert the Constitution and various institutions of the state by installing nincompoops, toadies and persons with doubtful integrity and qualifications in key offices, it wonders why a CAG, a judge or a person heading an appellate tribunal should display probity and independence and live up to the great ideals of our founding fathers.


Someone needs to give the party a wake-up call. India has come a long way since those dark days 37 years ago when it wanted an obedient Supreme Court packed with "committed" judges and an even more obedient media. In those days there was just one Justice HR Khanna who stood up to Mrs Indira Gandhi's tyranny and wrote the lone dissenting judgement in the famous habeas corpus case.


Today, there are several dozen such judges. The media too has blossomed and diversified and it is both impractical and foolhardy to try and 'manage' it. The shift on the political front is even more dramatic. The Congress's electoral base has shrunk by about 15 to 20 per cent. The days of single-party rule are long past us and India's political map is now painted in myriad hues.

Yet, it appears, old habits die hard. Recent events show that the Congress's maladjustment to core constitutional values, which began in the 1970s, continues. In the mid-1970s, the Congress set up a committee headed by Swaran Singh to suggest amendments to the Constitution.


The committee proposed measures to weaken the judiciary and to alter the federal structure. It said the constituent power of Parliament to amend the Constitution should not be open to question or challenge and Article 368 should be amended to categorically prohibit judicial review. Also, High Courts must be barred from entertaining writ petitions challenging the constitutional validity of a Central law.


This report resulted in the obnoxious 42nd Amendment that virtually converted our democracy into a dictatorship. What had annoyed the Congress the most was the Supreme Court's judgement in the Keshavananda Bharati case in which it declared that Parliament had no power to alter the basic structure of the Constitution.

Anxious to please their party boss and Prime Minister, several leaders of the Congress launched a tirade against the Supreme Court during the debate on the 42nd Amendment and even threatened the judges. Here is a sample:

CM Stephen: "Now the power of this Parliament (through the 42nd Amendment) is declared to be out of bounds for any court. It is left to the courts whether they should defy it. I do not know whether they will have the temerity to do that but if they do ... that will be a bad day for the judiciary. The committee of the House is sitting with regard to the inquiry into the conduct of judges and all that. We have got our methods, our machinery."

The Congress also mocked at the Supreme Court for propounding the doctrine of basic structure. Swaran Singh accused the courts of having "transgressed the limits" prescribed for them.


Swaran Singh: "The word 'basic' and the word 'structure' do not occur in the Constitution. They say: You cannot add to the Preamble; it will alter the rhythm of the Preamble ... First the basic structure, now the rhythm. Is it that we are sitting here as poets in order to look to the rhythm?"


Mrs Indira Gandhi: "We do not accept the dogma of the basic structure." Swaran Singh: "Some judges have imported the phrase 'basic structure'. I would not say they have imported it. Since it does not exist in any other Constitution, they have invented it."


NKP Salve: "In the life of every nation ... there comes a time when the Constitution has to be saved from the court and the court from itself."


The threats that the Congress is now holding out to constitutional authorities like the CAG and the Government's view on the powers of the Supreme Court remind us once again of those dreadful days. With due apologies to Mr Salve, it would be appropriate to say that in the life of our nation, the time has come when the country's Constitution has once again to be saved from the Congress and the party from itself.


Why? Because from the days of Swaran Singh to the days of Mr Manmohan Singh, little has changed in the Congress!

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

NICE BUT VACUOUS RESOLUTIONS

RAJIV DOGRA


It's nice to hear the Prime Minister promise that his Government will curb inflation, root out corruption and secure Indians from terrorist attacks. The purpose clearly is to make the aam admi feel all is not lost and theUPA Government can still deliver governance. But should we believe such promises? To disprove his critics, the Prime Minister must walk his tall talk


There must be other countries in the world where the daily newspaper makes dreary reading. But that is their concern, we should watch for our worries. Sometimes, in the past too, our newspapers contained gore, but the bad news was invariably tucked away in the inner pages. That, however, was then, now it has started hitting you in the face on the front page itself.


From high onion prices to spiraling inflation and endless tales of corruption, there is nothing to bring cheer with that morning cup of tea and the crisp broadsheet. As a result, some people have changed their daily habit. They no longer reach for the newspaper the moment it is flung over the gate by the vendor and rustles in over the verandah. They bring it in of course, but they let it lie unopened to be read later during the day. Why spoil the day by beginning with bad news is the new logic.


Therefore, it is a hopeful development that this year the Prime Minister has gone beyond the formality of greeting people on on the advent of 2011. This time he has made a promise. Obviously, he was responding to the multiple concerns of people. For example, the last quarter of 2010 has troubled people to an extent that no other period has in the 63 years of our independent history.


It was, no doubt, in response to this anguish that the Prime Minister included in his New Year's message the promise that "We will redouble our efforts to deal effectively and credibly with the challenges of inflation, cleansing our governing processes, national security and making our delivery system work for the aam admi."

With this single sentence the Prime Minister has captured the national mood. Why just the national mood, as a matter of fact these are exactly the pre-requisite that any society, anywhere in the world, would demand as the basic minimums from its Government. A society that lives for a sustained period of time with spiralling prices, people who have to grease palms in every office, a nation that cowers in fear of terror; all these combine sooner or later to tear at the foundations of a society. Therefore, the Prime Minister has done well to promise to the nation that these concerns are going to be the areas of his focus in 2011.


He has already made a start by setting up a Group of Ministers to go into the issue of corruption. If this GoM works really fast, and against the average of many other GoMs, then we may have some concrete decisions within a year. But a year is a long time in politics, the public wants quick action and not just on corruption.

The double digit inflation has been worrying the nation for some time now. The Government's assurances, given periodically, that a few weeks more and the price spiral would be contained, have had no practical effect; prices keep scaling higher and higher still.


Insofar as cleansing the governing process is concerned; the scale of corruption over the last few months has left people bewildered. Many are simply unable to count vast numbers such as 1.76 lakh crores. They wonder if we have surpassed by a lakh crore or more the world record for the largest amount of corruption in a single deal.

The third promise listed in that sentence relates to national security. Thus far the nation's security seems to rest on a daily dose of hope and prayer. Just one bomb separates us from the nightmare of 26/11.


Against such a grim background the assurance that has been given to the nation is rather brave. Still, we must live in hope. After all, leaders of men have wrought greater miracles in history, and against all odds. The nation's response should, therefore, be supportive with a collective prayer naturally of wishing the resolve well.


Seriously pursued the possibilities are promising, and the options obvious. A lot can be accomplished easily.

For instance, a few years ago, while addressing young district officers, the Prime Minister had made a promise that they would be assured stability of tenure. It meant that officers would not be transferred at someone's whim.

A largely fixed tenure used to be the rule till the early eighties; this helped keep officers insulated from political interference and they could more or less take decisions free of fear. Much has changed since then. Civil service, which was once the backbone of the nation, looks badly bruised today.


The Prime Minister's assurance, if implemented, would have gone a long way in restoring the morale, and in encouraging a sense of independence, among officers. Sadly, arbitrary transfers have not stopped.


Yet another oddity in the system is the assumed indispensility of a few. In most well run countries, a bureaucrat bids adieu the day he reaches the age of superannuation. This predictability is good for the system; it gives hope to the younger officers that they too can reach the very top. Such a system is followed in our armed forces, where one rarely hears of extensions to the Army, Air Force or the Navy chiefs. Such extensions in tenure, however, are routine in the Pakistani Army, with disastrous results.


Must we emulate a proven bad practice and give a few favoured bureaucrats arbitrary extension in service? If they are so good indeed why doesn't the Government encourage them to use their talents for larger public good, by joining an NGO for instance? And if they are really good why doesn't one hear of any of them excelling in other fields post their extended bureaucratic tenure? In contrast those who retire on time have gone on to excel in politics, arts and literature. Extensions, by their very nature, are unnatural. They are a reward, a personal reward mostly, of some sort or the other.


If we are serious about cleansing the governmental processes then a start must be made by providing transparency in the system; of predictable tenures and of a uniform good bye to the Government job at the age of 60.


Insofar as the third item of national security is concerned, let us begin by remembering our heroes. Kargil was an instance of great heroism on part of our youth, many of whom lost their lives in the battle. Yet even the anniversary of the battle is thinly attended politically. In contrast solemn ceremonies, attended by the highest in the land, are held in all western countries annually to commemorate their war dead. Our security can only be ensured once we begin to value the sacrifices of our heroes.


This may be a modest agenda, but transparency, trust and honour could be a good way to start a new year.

(The writer is a former Ambassador.)

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

 

AN ENTIRELY UNCALLED FOR COMPARISON

SHIKHA MUKERJEE


By seeding the idea that the foes of the Congress are proto-Maoists, Pranab Mukherjee has politically sanitised the Maoists in West Bengal and subverted the legitimacy of the counter-insurgency operations. This is dangerous for both the State and the nation


It is a telling moment when a sage politician like the Union Minister for Finance Pranab Mukherjee declares that those who are obstructing the normal conduct of business in the Lok Sabha over the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the 2G Spectrum scam should identify with the Maoists. This bizarre comment, some would suggest, delivered in the overheated environment of a public meeting in West Bengal, is nonetheless inexcusable.


The failure to distinguish between forces that have declared war against the state as their purpose, namely the Maoists, and parliamentary parties that are demanding a different mechanism to examine the spread of the corruption cancer within the political establishment in New Delhi is a serious breach. The idea of democracy, it would seem cannot accommodate extraordinary measures to deal openly with extraordinary situations like the 2G Spectrum scam that is considered the greatest act of corruption till now in India.


An agitated Mr Mukherjee lashed out at the Opposition. Because he was in West Bengal, it seems he felt the best comparison that would explain it all to the public was with the Maoists. In doing so, not only did he trash the Opposition's politics but he also planted and therefore encouraged the idea that the Maoists are relatively harmless political Opposition. This bunching of the anti-State actor with parties whose principal aim is to gather sufficient votes to oust the Congress from power or prevent themselves from being ousted from power wherever they are the ruling regime is revealing.


In Maoist country, that is West Bengal, the finer and sensible distinctions disappear. In the overheated political climate of the State, the abnormal becomes the new normal. If the Maoists are not Maoists ( as is implied for over a year and a half by the Trinamool Congress) and the Bharatiya Janata Party that is in power in several political critical states in India as well as the CPI(M)-led Left Front that is also in power in fewer States, but nevertheless is a ruling party, are potential Maoists, then what has the Congress been doing in Andhra Pradesh? Why is it defending the actions of the Andhra Pradesh State Government in the encounter that killed Azad? Why is the Congress defending the decision of the lower court in Chhattisgarh that has delivered life imprisonment verdict on the Binayak Sen case, for his alleged links to the Maoists?


This substitution in West Bengal Mr Mukherjee felt would work because that is precisely how the Trinamool Congress has been describing the parliamentary Left — as Maoists. For over a year and a half now, the principal Opposition in West Bengal has gone around discrediting the idea that Maoists are operational in 28 police station areas of the State. The Trinamool Congress has accused the CPI(M) of every atrocity, including that of being undercover Maoists.


The danger in exaggeration lies in the problem that the really scary becomes sort of tame in comparison. By seeding the idea that the enemies of the Congress and by extension of its principal ally the Trinamool Congress are proto-Maoist, Mr Mukherjee has politically sanitised the Maoists in West Bengal and subverted the legitimacy of the operations by the joint security forces and the State police in dealing with what his Prime Minister famously declared to be the greatest threat to internal security in India.

At one time, being a Naxalite or having Naxalite sympathies was a distinction in West Bengal. From boxwallahs as corporate types were described in the 1960s and 1970s to bureaucrats, college and school teachers and of course students from the best colleges in Kolkata, everyone wanted to have a Naxalite connection. It branded the connected as the new elite. Therefore, the abnormal has always been attractive in the strange politics of West Bengal.


This rather perverse sense of distinction, creating elites out of the idea of violent politics that ushers in a revolution, has worked to create support for the destructive in West Bengal. Whereas Mr Mukherjee has described the obstructionists in Parliament as proto Maoists, in West Bengal, the Congress has tried to play a balancing act — sending security forces to contain the Maoists and supporting the destructive agenda of the Trinamool Congress.


As Kolkata's overcrowded roads are further crowded by the hundreds of Nano cars, they serve as a daily reminder of how West Bengal lost out because of the destructive politics pursued by the Opposition. If obstruction is intolerable in Parliament, why is obstruction not condemned by the Congress in West Bengal? As the senior-most Minister in the Government, as an elected Member of Parliament from West Bengal, this sort of inconsistency or even incoherence is unexpected from Mr Mukherjee. The pressures of balancing the political act seem to have disturbed his usual sagacity.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

WAGES OF OPPRESSION BY RUTHLESS ARAB REGIMES

WITH SOUTHERN SUDAN VOTING FOR A SPLIT, ARAB COUNTRIES SHOULD DO SOME SOUL-SEARCHING ON HOW THEY DEAL WITH THEIR RELIGIOUS MINORITIES, SAYS HAMZA HENDAWI


Southern Sudan's nearly certain secession from the Arab-dominated north is likely to set a dangerous precedent in an Arab world looking increasingly fractured along sectarian and ethnic lines.


Southern Sudanese voted this month in a referendum on whether to break away from Africa's largest country. Final results are expected within weeks but preliminary returns show more than 98 per cent supported independence. The vote is part of a 2005 peace deal that ended 22 years of Civil War between the Christian and animist south and the Muslim and Arabised north.


Already, there are growing secessionist sentiments, exclusive enclaves and intensifying calls for autonomy in some Arab nations such as Iraq and Yemen. In countries like Lebanon and Egypt, the fault lines are widening between ethnic and religious groups, threatening to split loyalties.


"The lesson we must all learn is that secession, as in the case of Sudan, can be the road to safety when union becomes a heavy and unbearable burden on people," prominent columnist Salama Ahmed Salama recently wrote in Cairo's independent newspaper Al-Shorouk. In an Arab world traditionally suspicious of what it sees as Western "plots" to fragment and weaken it, secession, federalism and autonomy are taboos often rejected out of hand regardless of their validity. Strong Central Governments, many contend, are the best defence against Israel, the Arabs' arch-enemy. The Sudan vote has sparked soul-searching about how the predominantly Arab and Sunni Muslim nations of the region have dealt with ethnic and religious minorities since independence from colonial rule in the 1950s and 1960s.


The intense discussion of the Sudanese vote, played out in the media across the region, touched on such relevant issues as the validity of international borders drawn by the area's European colonizers after World War I, the supremacy of citizenship over sectarian and religious affiliation and how big a part regional, non-Arab powers like Israel and Iran play in allegedly fueling dissent among minorities in the West Asia.


"Parts of our region will face the threat of breaking up if dealing with crises continues to be done at times through denying and ignoring them or, as is the case most of the time, blaming them on foreign conspiracies," columnist Elias Harfoush wrote last week in the respected pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat.Next to his column, a cartoon depicted an electric saw splitting the ground in two as it moves in the direction of an arrow pointing to "the region," meaning the Arab world. In the background, two flags, each emblazoned with half of the word "Sudan" are fluttering from a mast cut in two.


Apart from the Sudanese vote, some of the fractures already existing in the Arab world have grown deeper. In Iraq, leaders of the embattled Christian minority, citing the failure of security forces to protect them, are calling on the Government to establish a new province they can claim as their own to escape attacks by Muslim militants who have killed hundreds of Christians and forced tens of thousands to flee the country since the 2003 US-led invasion.


Khadum al-Muqdadi, an Iraqi political analyst, warns against creating an exclusively Christian province, arguing it would only be a matter of time before some in the West demand its independence. "I think moves to create a Christian province are packed with risks and do not benefit the Iraqi Christians who have been living in peace and under tight protections by all Governments," he said. In northern Iraq, the seven years since the US-led invasion have seen the autonomous Kurdish region become all but independent from the rest of the country, with calls now growing for the right to self determination.


In Yemen, a secessionist movement is gaining strength in the south of the country, once an independent state that became part of a unified state in 1990. The south sought secession again in 1994, staging a revolt that was ruthlessly put down by the Government in northern Yemen.In Lebanon, whose survival on a delicate power-sharing formula filters down to the Army and most Government departments, haunting memories persist from the 1975-1990 Civil War when Christians and Muslims turned against each other.


Entire swaths of southern Lebanon and Beirut are exclusively Shiite. The boundary once known as the "Green Line" that separated Lebanon's capital into a Christian east and a Muslim west still serves as a potent symbol of Lebanon's history of division. "I think there is a common issue, which is that the modern Arab state is fraying at the edges for different reasons," said Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute of Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. "The question that Sudan raises is: 'Is there a structural problem with other Arab countries? And are there other Arab countries that are possibly vulnerable to secessionist movements?"'


(The writer is the chief of bureau of AP in Cairo.)

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

A COMPROMISE ON JPC ISSUE BEST WAY FORWARD

 

FOLLOWING the ignominy of a washed out Winter session of Parliament, in which hardly any business was transacted, it is heartening to sense that both the Opposition and the government seems to be backing off from the brink, which means trying to arrive at a compromise that would ensure that we have a relatively smooth Budget session.

 

The fact that most of the political parties are being forced to resolve the deadlock not so much for Parliament's sake but mainly due to the upcoming Assembly elections in crucial states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam and Kerala should not undermine the importance of the efforts towards a compromise.

 

It is of utmost importance that the Union budget and railway budget are thoroughly scrutinised and debated by Parliament and to that end the government and Opposition must arrive at some sort of an understanding.

 

The proposal that is said to be emanating from sections within the United Progressive Alliance— one which seems to have the support of the Left parties— that there should be a discussion in Parliament on whether or not there is need for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe on the 2G Spectrum scam, appears to be a viable compromise formula.

 

There can be no two opinions even within the Opposition that the 2G Spectrum issue needs to be debated; therefore parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal's offer that it be discussed as a priority item during the Budget session should be considered favourably. The Opposition, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party, must overcome the temptation of seeing the barracking of Parliament as a tactic that can bring the UPA to its knees.

 

On its part, the government must act in right earnest and not use it as a short term ploy to buy peace with the Opposition.

 

HAVE THE WILL FIRST

NEWS that the authorities in Liechtenstein and Switzerland are not likely to share information with India regarding its black money stashed away in their banks anytime soon — citing treaty issues — may disappoint the common citizen. But the same cannot be said about the attitude of the Union government.

 

They appear to be anything but keen on this front. Had this not been the case, the Union government would have got the list of Indians with an account in LGT Bank of Liechtenstein through the diplomatic route that was available, rather than through the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement with Germany which foreclosed the option of the names being made public.

 

 

Recent reports have said that India is in the process of hammering out agreements with 22 tax havens to get information on tax evaders. While this raises the prospect of forward movement in the future, this must not be an excuse to do nothing now.

India can look for inspiration at the United States which used its sovereign heft to make a Swiss bank reveal the names of all tax evaders, even forcing it to pay a fine of $ 780 million in the process. Treaties certainly help, but what matters even more is sovereign will which has so far been lacking.

 

A master passes away

 

IN the firmament of Hindustani classical music, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, who passed away on Monday, was perhaps the brightest star. With his mellifluous voice and mastery over his art, it seemed, sometimes, that he was the voice of God. His Kirana Gharana is noted for the khayal form of singing, but he was equally well known for his devotional songs, mainly bhajans and abhangs . Fortunately, he was no forgotten artiste. He was honoured throughout his professional life and showered with awards, the highest being the Bharat Ratna conferred on him in 2008, on top of other honours from the Union government, various states and private bodies.

 

Panditji was the product of the famous guru- shishya parampara ( the guru- disciple tradition) and for him, on the highest pedestal was his own guru, Sawai Gandharva, a student of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, who lived and taught at a place near his hometown Gadag. As homage to his guru, Panditji organised the well known Sawai Gandharva Music Festival in Pune, an annual cultural festival of Hindustani classical music lovers.

 

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            MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

HU VISIT SHOULDN'T WORRY US

BY KANWAL SIBAL

 

PRESIDENT Hu Jintao's just concluded US visit has naturally attracted international attention, as the challenger was meeting the champion, as it were. The US is seen as a slowly declining power, and China a rapidly rising one. The dwindling of US power worries many, even the detractors of US policies, because of unforeseeable destabilising consequences.

 

A larger number are, however, more anxious about what China's spectacular ascent might entail. How the US and China relate to each other, the degree of engagement or bickering between them, the balance they establish and what might be the cost to others, will remain under close watch.

 

Apprehensions

 

The existing global political, security and economic structure corresponds to American specifications. Many would want this US hegemony eroded, with a more multipolar world emerging, wedded to genuine multilateralism. Power hitherto concentrated in the Euro- Atlantic area must shift to Asia, Latin America and Africa, but the transition, if possible, should be welladjusted, without any single country acquiring excessive strength or pursuing hegemonic ambitions. It is here that China causes concern, and US policies are not re- assuring.

 

China already has accumulated inordinate financial power, enabling it to steadily build its political influence in various regions. It seeks to dominate its periphery, while acquiring capacities to defend its spreading global interests. Its hunger for resources is huge; the consequent vulnerability has to be guarded by growing military power. It flies into diplomatic rage when challenged on issues it considers of vital national interest. Its closest associates are North Korea and Pakistan, an unwholesome threesome for proliferating nuclear and missile technologies.

 

China hardly inspires confidence that its conduct, in a multi- polar setting, would be more accommodating and respectful of the interests of others than that of historically dominant countries. Its authoritarian regime, mercantilist policies and expansionist claims create legitimate apprehensions.

 

A country that is opaque in its internal governance cannot be transparent in its external relations. Its recent comportment in stoking tensions with several of its Asian neighbours, including India, is a foretaste of the muscle- flexing it can do as its power grows.

 

The US is mainly responsible for China's accelerated rise. If China is now seen as a problem in some US circles, this would not be the first case of America's strategic mistakes recoiling on it. The US encouraged Islamic fundamentalism as a weapon against the Soviet Union, with terrible consequences for all, including the US. If Pakistan has become a migraine for the US, an epicentre of global terrorism and source of US's strategic stultification in Afghanistan, it is again because of US misjudgments in handling it, linked to the Cold War, the relationship with China and an historically entrenched anti- India bias. The normalisation of the US- China relationship in the early 70s has worked at India's cost. In the 1980s and 90s, the US overlooked Pakistan's nuclear and missile dealings with China and North Korea, giving Pakistan the means today to effectively blackmail both the US and India with terrorist activity under the protective cover of its nuclear capability. The way the Americans have suppressed full exposure of the A. Q. Khan case, and the complaisance with which they are viewing China's decision to beef up Pakistan's nuclear capability even today, is instructive for India.

 

The US consciously built China as a strategic counterweight to the Soviet Union, with Cold War considerations in mind, assisted later by those under its tutelage and influence, such as Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. Corporate America, which has always salivated at the thought of exploiting a billion strong China market, helped the Chinese to develop their formidable manufacturing and export muscle over the years.

 

Calculations

 

Why the US strategists believed that an economically strong China, with its huge population, its long history, its authoritarian system capable of disciplining the masses and imposing huge human costs on them, its sense of grievance against the West and Japan, could become a benign, permanently co- operative partner is unclear.

 

 

Henry Kissinger can well pontificate now how radically different are US and Chinese attitudes to problem solving and timeframes for doing so. What were his long term calculations when US courting of China began under his watch? Or those of Zbigniew Brzezenski, whose unflagging trust of the fired- up Chinese dragon contrasts with his persistent distrust of the enfeebled Russian bear. Did Kissinger expect the US to always remain in control, cede power only as much as was necessary to maximise mutual benefit, contain China's ambitions by making their realisation largely dependent on US goodwill? Did he visualise a situation of virtual financial fusion and the baleful trade interdependence between the two? Yes, this limits China's options too, but China is not a superpower, it doesn't control global political, security and economic institutions as the US does. This interdependence constrains US options more than those of China, as China in any case does not have such wide options within the international system.

 

China's economic capacity now makes it not only critical for US financial health, but also global growth, to the point that the world now has a vested interest in the vigour of the predatory Chinese economy.

 

The problem of global imbalances is a joint creation of US and China thrust upon the world. If the US, because of its past mistakes, cannot now wield sticks to get Pakistan in line, how can it influence China's conduct beyond what the latter accepts tactically?

 

India

 

The G- 2 idea, in these circumstances, seems prompted less by an unabated confidence in US leadership than a defensive strategy dictated by reduced options. It is not even a practical strategy, as it is too selfcentred, ignoring the claims of Russia, Japan, the EU, India or Brazil in managing a revitalised but more equitable global system.

 

Beyond continual mutual engagement needed to manage their " vital and complex" relationship, President Hu's visit to Washington produced modest results. The human rights issue is a distraction imposed by US domestic lobbies, with limited material impact on the economic relationship.

 

US role in contributing to peace and stability in the Asia- Pacific region is pointedly mentioned in the Joint Statement, in line with its East Asia Summit membership.

 

The agreement to resume military contacts to remove " misunderstanding, miscalculation and misperception" will remain a fragile exercise so long as US supplies arms to Taiwan, embargoes their sale to China and the US Navy exercises in the South China Sea. On issues of the Yuan exchange rate, climate change etc, no new ground was broken.

 

India should view Hu's US visit with equanimity.

 

The absence of any reference in the Joint Statement to conjoint US- China efforts toward peace and stability in South Asia— the India/ Pakistan dimension— is a welcome correction. China possibly resisted any reference to Afghanistan or Pakistan to balance this. The complex game that the US is playing with China, earlier at India's expense, and now less so, and China plays with us by both engaging and containing us, with its propagandists claiming absurdly that US is using India to further its policy of encircling it, and that China's toughened stance on the border issue and on Kashmir derives from this, we too should play with both in return.

 

The writer is a former Foreign Secretary ( sibalkanwal@ gmail. com)

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

STAND AT EASE

 

The 61st anniversary of the birth of the Indian republic will invariably focus on the Republic Day parade: a state-sponsored programme that seeks to encapsulate the diversity of the nation as well as showcase the military might of the country. However, given that Delhi is turned into a security fortress in the run-up to the parade - to the great inconvenience of the public - and the event itself is largely reserved for VVIPs, the orchestrated pageantry is an impersonal experience for the average citizen. Contrary to the ideal of a republic, our Republic Day celebrations are more about the state than its people.


This is precisely why January 26 means little to the common man. If the real significance of the date is to be driven home, civil society must be encouraged to participate in the celebrations. After all, it is the individual that is the most important entity in a republic. Republic Day should be about the aam admi, not politicians and dignitaries. Neither is the display of military strength entirely necessary. As the largest democracy in the world with confidence in its institutions, India has no need for aggressive patriotism. Besides, cultural celebrations are not the monopoly of Republic Day organisers. People should be encouraged to commemorate the day in their unique style. This will make Republic Day celebrations truly diverse and representative.


In this respect it is a matter of concern that apart from the parade we have no Republic Day traditions to speak of. Even Republic Day celebrations in schools across the country are modelled on the parade in Delhi. In a country as large as ours, Republic Day and Independence Day traditions are important to reaffirm a sense of oneness. The celebrations as they are today fall far short of this aim. Private citizens and businesses can help change this by creating new traditions, be it community events or organising theatre festivals and sporting extravaganzas.

It is only when ordinary citizens of the country start treating Republic Day at par with festivals such as Holi or
Diwali that celebrations on January 26 will become meaningful. The sanitised parade in Delhi is too far removed to evoke much patriotic fervour. Nor does it recognise the true essence of Republic Day as the empowerment of the people. The accent ought to be on celebration, festivity and exuberance - as is the case with national day celebrations in other democratic nations - rather than on sacrifice and state pageantry.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT


FDI'S FREE FALL

 

Falling FDI in both absolute and relative terms indicates a lack of investor confidence. It should jolt politicians back to governance and building on the 1991 reforms. A UN report on FDI in 2010 makes this point sharply. Though global FDI flows increased by a percentage point over the last year, developing economies' share jumped 10%. For the first time ever, more than half of global FDI travelled to emerging markets. However, FDI inflows into India declined by a whopping 31.5%. And that's not in relative but in absolute terms. In other words, it's not just that India is getting a smaller share of a bigger pie - indicating its relative uncompetitiveness among emerging markets. It's that the size of the pie itself has shrunk for India - by almost a third. That ought to be enough to set alarm bells clanging for our economic managers.


Crucial to India's rejuvenation, FDI builds infrastructure, brings in best practices in technology and management, and makes the Indian economy more globally competitive. Once built, infrastructure attracts more FDI, triggering a virtuous circle. The UN data shows that the biggest FDI gainers were countries that emphasise infrastructure, such as Singapore and China. All of this puts the decline in FDI on an altogether different plane from the recent exit of FII which is essentially speculative and sensitive to short-term issues such as inflation, interest rates and politics. India's poor performance in all of these explains why capital flight touched nearly a billion dollars in the first 15 days of this year. The solution isn't beyond us. It's in our past. India must work at enticing FDI, as it did during the 1990s.


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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

CALL IT CHINESE ARITHMETIC

The most important relationship in the world took a step towards parity last week when China's President Hu Jintao visited Washington. A balanced relationship between the lone superpower and Asia's rising hegemon promises global stability. Much will depend on Beijing ironing out the fault lines within its own foreign policy making apparatus whose opacity is confounding. Neither Washington nor New Delhi is ever certain of the dynamic between China's pragmatic president, the military and nationalist sentiment.


Significant interests generate significant stresses. In seeking to defuse them, Hu noted that the China-US relationship is not a zero-sum game. Speaking economically, for that is the bedrock of the relationship, Hu noted that more than 70% of US companies in China stayed profitable during the global economic crisis and that Chinese products saved US consumers $600 billion over the last 10 years. There is more than a grain of truth in this. Americans are not forced to buy Chinese, just as they are not obligated to set up shop in China. They do so because it is in their interest.


Similarly, it was national self-interest that prompted President Barack Obama to give Hu the state honours he expected but was denied in 2006. The strategy bore rewards. Hu was uncommonly accommodating on North Korea and even acknowledged, to everyone's surprise, that 'a lot still needs to be done' in terms of human rights in China. But most significant was his promise to delink China's state acquisitions from its 'indigenous innovation' policy which requires foreign firms selling high value, technologically cutting-edge products, to ensure that the patents at the product's core are developed in and owned by China.


In short, foreign sellers are forced to reveal the technological secrets that give them the edge and draw customers, including the Chinese state. The significance of Hu's promise lies in the size of the state sector budget. At $88 billion, it dwarfs the contracts amounting to $45 billion (supporting 235,000 jobs) that Obama announced were signed last week. Much need not be made of this for in actuality, many of these deals were agreed to as long as three years ago. If anything makes the visit memorable, it's China's offer to change the innovations policy and give the US access to a huge market.


However, it may be difficult for Hu to deliver because he must negotiate the complexities of an authoritarian political system with poor institutional mechanisms. Authoritarianism cannot tolerate dissent. In the Middle East, dissent is driven underground and re-emerges in the mosque, producing radical imams and suicide bombers. In the Middle Kingdom, dissent re-emerges as straightforward nationalism expressed through a plethora of sources, including the internet. Pandering to it means subverting forward-looking and practical policies. One repository of nationalism is the People's Liberation Army (PLA) which, like any nation's military, is more nationalistic than the society that spawned it.


What complicates matters in China is that society is already highly nationalistic and that the military wields undue influence. Mao, himself a military leader, entwined the military in Chinese politics. Though his axiom was 'the Party commands the gun and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party', in practice relations were at best ambiguous.


Today, the Chinese Communist Party gets ultimate sanction from the military whose apex body is the Central Military Commission (CMC) and whose influence in policy making is considerable, though perhaps less than when Deng Xiaoping ruled as CMC chief. Deng was able to extract military compliance, but only by promising to modernise it. Now, all but two CMC members are generals. Secretive even by Chinese standards, recent events testify to its power and nationalist ideology. Angered by US arms sales to Taiwan, the CMC vetoed a visit by US defence secretary Robert Gates. When he finally did make it, China used the occasion to unveil its stealth fighter. Gates was sufficiently perturbed to ask Hu if this was a message. Hu said no and Gates left it at that.

Much of this is old hat for us because the three elements - opacity, the military and nationalism - have worked to both India's and China's cost. In 2005, Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao agreed to a working plan to resolve the boundary question while safeguarding the interests of each country's settled populations. It implied a territorial swap to finally remove a constant irritant that not only embitters bilateral relations but could destabilise all of Asia. However, talks have stalled and there has been no progress. Instead, the Chinese have raised the ante on Arunachal Pradesh and further antagonised Indian opinion with their stapled visa tactics. The explanation can only be the convolutions of China's political system and the CMC's vested interest in being perceived as an aggressive defender of the nation.

Despite the Chinese arithmetic involved in achieving parity, China-US moves serve as a model for
India and China. Beijing and Washington are moving towards their own equilibrium and South Asia must similarly be left to find its own balance. Commendably, the China-US joint statement is silent on our part of the world. Ultimately, if Hu can make China accommodate US requests, it will not only make for a more prosperous and safer world, but might indicate the possibility of his convincing his peers to also settle the boundary issue.

 


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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

POINTLESS POLITICAL GAMBIT

 

The 'yatra' as a populist gambit seems to have become ubiquitous in Indian politics, thanks in no small part to the BJP itself. It now wants to hoist the Indian flag at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on Republic Day, which on the face of it sounds reasonable. But it shouldn't have to ship in at least 15,000 rallyists from outside the state to do so, which is what it was planning to do at last count. It's, of course, a free country and if a political party wishes to display the national flag in some part of it, so be it. But delve into the specifics and it becomes obvious that in this particular instance, it is problematic. The BJP seems to be cynically bent on provoking a negative reaction so that it can exploit it for political gain.


The reality is that the situation in the Valley is hardly normal at present. It has only just started to recover from a spell of deep, bitter conflict that lasted months and was among the worst that has ever been seen in Kashmir, following two other summers of discontent. On top of that a red alert has been sounded in the Valley about a possible Lashkar strike in the run-up to Republic Day.


There will be an official flag-hoisting ceremony at the Bakshi stadium in Srinagar, which the BJP is welcome to join. But it need not exacerbate an already fragile security situation by shipping in large numbers of outsiders to the state to hold its own rag-tag rally in the heart of Srinagar, which the state government would then be duty-bound to protect. If, therefore, the state government were to take a decision that it may be unable to do so, and that it may be better to prevent the rally from taking place due to the undue burden it would place on overstretched security forces, such a decision is understandable on pragmatic grounds.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

FITTING REPLY TO SEPARATISTS

As usual, there is a needless hue and cry over the BJP's Rashtriya Ekta Yatra to unfurl the tricolour at Srinagar's Lal Chowk on Republic Day. While the other mainstream parties are describing the unity rally as a political gimmick, Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, who seldom misses a trick in playing to the separatists' gallery, has described it as 'provocative' and hence, a fitting case for imposing restrictions on the BJP activists from entering the state.


In our efforts to sound politically correct or be pragmatic, we more than often end up appeasing the Kashmiri separatists only to the detriment of our national interests. Kashmir is an integral part of India and the Constitution of India allows every citizen to hoist the national flag throughout the length and breadth of the country. In fact, the successful holding of the ceremony at Lal Chowk, in the heart of Srinagar, would be a fitting reply to the separatists, who are again boycotting Republic Day. By not allowing the BJP to hoist the tricolour, we are just strengthening the hands of those who challenge the unity of India.


Equally ominous is the suggestion that the BJP should attend the state's official function. Clearly, it ignores the crux of the matter. More than political parties and their cadres, it is about the right of every Indian to hoist the national flag in the state. Why do we need official ceremonies to do that? One fails to understand the logic behind this exceptionalism in relation to the state. Instead of imposing restrictions on BJP activists, the state government should take seriously its responsibility to protect citizens in exercising their constitutional rights.

 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 

MEN IN BLACK

I came upon a group of men in a five-star lobby. They were all dressed in black suits, black ties, dark glasses, mournful faces. It was like a scene from Men In Black if it were made in India and shot by Ram Gopal Varma. Maybe they were bankers or CEOs mourning the Great Depression, i thought, since they all had briefcases. I asked if they were bankers since they were meeting in a five-star lobby. No, they replied, they were often accused of being lobbyists, so they chose the venue, but they were in mourning. Had somebody died? i asked. "Yes", they declared, "our livelihood."


I inquired as to their line of business. In hushed tones, they informed me that they were members of NAB, as if that explained everything. When i expressed ignorance, they stood up and said it stood for the National Association of Bribers and they were all life members. I reminded them that the rise in the number of cases involving kickbacks had gone through the roof, including the one covering Parliament House during the last session, and it looked like a son-rise industry, so by any logic, they should be celebrating. They shook their heads sorrowfully. The government, they said, was in a fix over the fixers and had decided to crack down on corruption.

It was the kickback of kickbacks. The prime minister's pristine image was at stake and also the government's future. No one, they declared sadly, was willing to take a normal bribe any more. Big Brother was watching, and listening, the police were on the prowl instead of on the take, Adarsh was being demolished and, thanks to Sonia Gandhi's missive to chief ministers to give up their discretionary powers, it had led to massive disruptions in the bribery chain.


I expressed curiosity about NAB. They said it was an all-India body formed by people who had based their livelihoods on greasing palms. Only the very highly accomplished and those with proven ability in bribe-giving could become members. On joining, new members were given a secret password, a tin of grease, a briefcase, a badge and a list of people in positions of authority who were, as they put it, 'accommodating' - as in, accommodation in prestigious high-rise apartments facing the sea. They showed me the membership badge; it depicted grainy footage of a hand slipping currency notes into a drawer. It looked familiar. I asked why the black outfits. We are the original Men In Black, they declared, since they only dealt in black.


Did they all have to wear the badge at all times? Yes, it was a badge of honour, it proved that you were well networked and well versed in the art of lobbying and magically causing files to move up the chain of approvals or even disappear. It had, they explained, given birth to a Rs 1.76 lakh crore industry, although there were people like Kapil Sibal who were contesting that figure. Now, they saw that industry being threatened by the recent crackdown, phone taps, arrests, resignations, CBI raids, RTIs and WikiLeaks' disclosures on Indians with Swiss bank accounts. Swiss banks, they explained, were the ultimate and safest destination for all ill-gotten wealth. If Swiss banks were starting to resemble Swiss cheese, what was the future for NAB? They would, they complained, all be Nabbed eventually.


I argued that corruption was certain to make a comeback since it was so deeply embedded in Indian culture. They agreed but pointed out the other reason their livelihood was threatened. Inflation had hit the bribery industry hard, prices of everything had shot up and people were no longer accepting cash. So what was the new currency of choice? They opened their briefcases to show me the contents. They were filled with onions. Their eyes filled with tears.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

WHEN BISHOPS BECOME PAWNS

Popular perception of the role of the governor as being little more than a smiling benign presence at state functions, largely given to tending the roses in the Raj Bhavan, is turning out to be myth as the office is increasingly involving itself in political manoeuvres, and not always with good effect.

The latest is the collision between Karnataka governor HR Bhardwaj and chief minister BS Yeddyurappa after the latter sanctioned prosecution against Mr Yeddyurappa in the controversial land allotments made by him. Going by conventional political logic, Mr Yeddy-urappa has a point when he says that a state-appointed commission headed by a retired judge was looking into the allegations and the outcome of that is awaited.

The charge that Mr Bhardwaj has acted at the behest of the Centre to derail Mr Yeddyurappa will push the battle squarely into the political arena with the Congress saying the embattled CM should seek legal redress. Mr Bhardwaj is the latest in a line of governors who have been proactive in political decisions, the most notable being Buta Singh's dubious decision to dissolve the Bihar assembly in 2005.

The Supreme Court had to step in to declare the governor's action unconstitutional and illegal, forcing him to resign. Similarly, when AR Antulay was facing corruption charges, the then governor did not sanction his prosecution. The public outcry forced Mr Antulay out of office. Several other CMs have also been at the receiving end of the governor's wrath in corruption cases.

What this has done is to turn the spotlight on just how impartial the role of the governor really is. Since it is a political appointment, it stands to reason that the party which appointed the person will try to manipulate things to its advantage. But if the governor is seen to be a puppet in the hands of any political party, the post ceases to have any relevance whatsoever.

A constitutional position like that of the governor cannot be subject to the vagaries of politics. The fact that the office has not always been beyond reproach has led to many asking that this post be abolished. For it to have the effect of being one more level in the checks and balances in democracy, it might well be worth examining how to insulate the office from political pressure.

We have seen very few governors who have had the gumption to stand up to the government of the day. The Yeddyurappa saga is not yet over. But whichever way it goes, the office of the governor has been just a little more diminished by it.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

AT A DEAD END

Infosys chief mentor NR Narayana Murthy is very, very angry. And shocked. But who wouldn't be if one was in Kolkata on the occasion of Subhas Chandra Bose's 114th birth anniversary. Delivering the 'Netaji oration' at the Netaji Research Bureau, Mr Murthy pointed fingers at the political leadership of the country for failing to show "due respect" to Bose adding that it was time "this is corrected".

Being a practical man, he even provided an example of the failure of political commemoration for the great man: "I was shocked to learn that there is not a single major avenue named after Netaji in Delhi" adding that he was hopeful "our wonderful PM will correct this lacuna".

Nice, revolutionary disgruntlement from Mr Murthy. But how can Delhi name a road after the former Congress president and leader of the Indian National Army? An unwritten rule of street nomenclature is that the person honoured has to be dead. To suggest that Bose is not 114 years old and alive would be to suggest that he is dead, something that Mr Murthy should be wary of suggesting to any Bengali especially in Kolkata.

On its end, the CPI(M)-led Left Front government, of which the Subhas Bose-formed and Netaji-worshipping Forward Bloc is a member, is blaming the central government for turning a deaf ear to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's suggestion of "getting the thoughts and ideals of Netaji across to the people of the entire nation".

Mr Bhatta-charjee wants January 23 to be declared as 'Deshaprem Divas' (Patriotism Day). Which is a perfectly kosher way of celebrating the man who, according to the communists in Bengal, could have hatao-ed corruption, poverty and rising prices all in one go if he is invited to Delhi from his current hide-out. As for Mr Murthy's suggestion, we only hope the Bengalis don't mind.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

MAXIMUM DENIAL

'The least that every worker in field and factory is entitled to is a minimum wage which will enable him to live in modest comfort, and humane hours of labour which do not break his strength or spirit...,' Jawaharlal Nehru declared stirringly in his presidential address to Congress in Lahore in 1929. Eight decades later, the Union government of free India resolved that it would not pay the minimum wage established by law to workers in public works.

In 2009, the Centre froze wages for workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to R100 per day. As a result, with time, wages in many states fell below the minimum wages, aggravated further by rising food prices. This extraordinary decision, impacting critically on unorganised workers, was criticised. In response, the Centre agreed to index this wage to inflation, but remains unyielding about paying minimum wages.

The Indian republic has a long tradition of failing to implement those of its own laws that guarantee social, economic and redistributive justice. Land reforms and legal prohibitions on bonded labour, usury, manual scavenging, untouchability and domestic violence, as much as laws to secure worker protections, are all flouted with impunity. But the decision to withhold minimum wages in government works falls into a different category, because the State flouts one of the most fundamental legal protections of the impoverished worker.

The minimum wage ensu-res only bare subsistence, or in the words of the Supreme Court "it sets the lowest limits below which wages cannot be allowed to sink in all humanity". It is much less than a "living wage", which the Court decrees should be "sufficiently high to provide a standard family with food, shelter, clothing, medical care and education of children", but also "a fair measure of frugal comfort to provide for old age and evil days".

The Centre's defence is that MGNREGA is not conventional employment, but more social security payments to unemployed persons. The Centre had resorted to a similar plea to deny minimum wages for famine relief works. Justice Bhagwati clarified: "It is not as if a dole or bounty is given by the State", nor is their work "worthless or useless to the society", any less eligible for minimum wages than other work.

The Centre also worries that minimum wages are fixed by states, and they may peg the rates at arbitrarily high levels in order to force higher subsidies from the Union exchequer. This can be remedied by amending the law to establish rational criteria for minimum wage fixation, and possibly empowering the Centre to fix minimum wages for MGNREGA; it could then limit its support to minimum wages fixed by it.

The argument is also made that higher wages to rural labour distort the market, and disadvantage the already hamstrung farmer by forcing a greater wage burden. A majority of small farmers depend only on family labour. Evidence is sometimes cited of reduced migration to Punjab of migrant workers from the Hindi rural hinterland – the proverbial bhaiyas – which has dented the financial viability of farmers. But wages form only less than 30% of farmer costs; they are much more burdened by other high inputs costs, such as seed, fertiliser and electricity. To the extent that farmers are indeed burdened, they should be compensated by the State rather than by depriving workers of survival wage.    

The government must be a model employer, and to the extent it offers works at higher wages, it will push wages up even in private employment, because workers will have alternative recourse. Studies such as by Chandrashekhar and Jayati Ghosh establish that that MGNREGA has indeed pushed up wages for workers, even more so for women.

The Centre is primarily unwilling to pay even a bare subsistence wage to those who toil in public works, because of the burdens this would impose on the exchequer. But the Court as far back as 1967 enjoined that the minimum wage must "in any event be paid, irrespective of the extent of profits, the financial condition of the establishment or the availability of workmen on lower wages". This surely applies at least as much to government as to a private employer. Whenever the government claims it does not have resources to invest for the poor, it is a cliché to contrast this selective tight-fistedness with lavish government expenses on its own salaries, on tax holidays for the private sector, on urban infrastructure and extravaganzas like the Commonwealth Games, and on defence. But like with many clichés, there is a great deal of truth in these contrasts. In any case, even if a resource constraint exists, can we therefore justify short-changing our poorest people from a subsistence wage?

In three independent judgements, the Court categorically decreed not only that the minimum wage is inviolable, but also that failing to pay it amounts to 'forced labour'. It held that 'force' may also arise from 'hunger and poverty, want and destitution' which 'leave no choice of alternatives to a person in want'. The government's decision to withhold minimum wages amounts to reducing millions of workers to forced labour, which is barred by the Constitution.

For those who transact only the language of growth, more money in the hands of workers would mean more disposable income to spend, which would spur the stagnant rural economy.  But like Nehru, we must above all recognise the ethical imperative of preserving the 'strength and spirit' of those who toil. This is a goal that the Indian republic should not jettison — not after so many years of hard-won freedom.

 

*Harsh Mander is Director, Centre for Equity Studies

**The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

REMEMBER THE TIME

Keeping aside the appeals to abandon its plans of hoisting the tricolour at Srinagar's Lal Chowk on January 26, the BJP has its own reasons to stop its 'Tiranga Yatra': peace and national interest, which it wants to achieve. All it has to do is look back to what it did when the party was in power.

In February 1999, former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee undertook  a bus journey to Lahore to break the ice on Kashmir. Despite the Kargil war later that year, which killed his initiative, he did not stop. Despite the massacre of more than 100 people on July 31, Vajpayee declared that the talks with Kashmiri separatists would be held  within the parameters of humanity. And he kept his word.

The Vajpayee government held talks with the Hizbul Mujahideen in August 2000. Unfortunately, vested political interests didn't let the talks continue. That wasn't all. The BJP again picked up the threads in November 2000 when it announced the first 'Ramzan ceasefire' against militants. Ramzan got over in December — by the time Lashkar-e-Tayyeba had made its first attempt at a fidayeen attack at Red Fort — but the ceasefire lasted till May 31, 2001. It proved to be a futile exercise, as militants regrouped and fidayeen attacks became the norm.

That initiative ended but another started with an invite to former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to visit India and discuss Kashmir. The fate of the Agra summit of July 2001 is now history. Even at the height of tensions on the borders, following the terrorist assault on Parliament in December 2001, Vajpayee did not see any "clouds (of war)" in May 2002.

There was no talk of flag hoisting all these years, until now when the flag has been picked up by Anurag Thakur, a young BJP MP. When people are not ready, unfurling flags don't win hearts and minds. The separatists in the Valley have their own agenda. The bitter truth of the Valley is that even after 62 years of independence, there are not even 62 Indians. Those who were have either fled or have been silenced. It's a psychological battle and that's the message that Vajpayee gave on April 18, 2003, to a crowd waving green flags embossed with a pen and an inkpot (The People's Democratic Party's flag, which is a reincarnation of the flag of the Muslim United Front) in Srinagar.

He stunned his audience who cheered his offer of "extending a hand of friendship to Pakistan". The dividends were there for all to see: a ceasefire on the borders came into effect in November 2003 and the foundation for a composite dialogue with Pakistan was laid on the sidelines of the January 2004 South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation  summit in Islamabad. In the same month the dialogue between the Kashmiri separatists and the Centre started. It was for the first time there was a dialogue between the Hurriyat Conference and the Centre. It was the then Deputy PM LK Advani who held two rounds of talks with the separatists.

Coming back to 2011, it's ironic that while it's the same faces, the approaches have changed. And people are wondering why.  

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

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

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

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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TONE IT DOWN

 

Sensitive political issues offer only one means of dealing with them — with sense and sensitivity. The Bharatiya Janata Party's aggressive and adamant stand on hoisting the Tricolour at Srinagar's Lal Chowk on the occasion of Republic Day betrays a dangerous inability to understand the subtlety and calibration needed in a place like Jammu and Kashmir. Following the arrests of members of the party's youth wing, senior BJP leaders Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, along with Ananth Kumar, flew to Jammu where they were not allowed to exit the airport.

The rhetoric and drama that ensued both inside and outside the airport, foregrounding the insistence on being allowed to "march" to Srinagar, is just the sort of troublemaking that J&K does not need, with its 2010 summer of discontent having subsided only a little below the surface.

The BJP's insistence, which has become an article of faith, giving it a pseudo-revolutionary tone, is matched by its verbal attack on the Centre and J&K Chief Minster Omar Abdullah, accusing them of having "psychologically surrendered" to separatists. This misses the fundamental logic that the problem of Kashmir does not rest on the hoisting of the national flag at Lal Chowk. In fact, it can be no more than a symbolic act which has the potential to aggravate tensions at a moment when the Valley had just begun to see a tense quietening down after a fraught summer. As the nation's main opposition party, the BJP has a responsibility here which the party has been running away from.

That is why it is time the BJP itself saw reason, toning down its rhetoric and withdrawing from this path. Even its ally, the JD(U), has asked it to drop its plans. Securing the national interest involves much that has nothing to do with symbol and rhetoric — such as the transaction of business in the national legislature. Kashmir doesn't need spectacle; it needs nuance and the firmness of touch that comes from offering people the small changes that begin improving their lives. Whether in government or opposition, that is what major national parties should work towards securing. Aggressive postures aimed at little more than self-serving polarisation will do no good to any cause, least of all one proclaimed in the name of this country's unity.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

END OF AN ERA

 

Sometimes, only a cliché will do. And thus, when Pandit Bhimsen Joshi died on Sunday, aged 88, for so many people it was truly the end of an era. Joshi had a long, full, and remarkably productive life. He, together with Mallikarjun Mansur, Kishori Amonkar and Pandit Jasraj, took Hindustani classical vocals to a new level of popularity, artistry and accessibility. And it is the end of an era precisely because his lifetime, in which he accomplished so much, was also the era of the transformation of classical music, a transformation in which he participated and which he helped mould. He was born as our vocal traditions were being classicised; he performed in the legendary era of all-night concerts, when great singers would keep going till dawn; he dominated the age of state sponsorship and the National Programmes of Music on Doordarshan; and he was a beloved institution by the time that liberalisation happened, and music labels and recordings proliferated.

Joshi was, of course, one of the consummate practitioners of his art. Those who listen to him remember with what ease and brilliance he could pluck a perfectly moulded note out of thin air, starting a concert like a well-tuned sports car. But, even more than that, he was an ambassador for our indigenous classical traditions, a man who managed to be both authentic and a crowd favourite, a populariser without being populist. For an entire generation, his was the face, with a drawn and inward-looking expression, that kicked off the vocals in Films Division's Mile Sur Mera Tumhara; and one look at that expression, one listen to the booming, perfect voice, and even those who hadn't heard classical music before understood how it was special, and so was he.

Joshi, thus, will leave behind hundreds of thousands of fans of his — people whom, in addition, became fans of Hindustani vocals thanks to him. And, like all great performers, he will leave behind memories of great performances. In one of his later concerts, at dawn in Nehru Park in Delhi, those who attended remember it started raining just as he was about to begin. The elderly Joshi carried on. Umbrellas were unfurled, a sea of nodding black; people slowly became soaked in the rain. But Joshi carried on. For two hours, they say, his voice cut through the rain. Nobody moved.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MARKETS AND NAMES

 

The idea of "benami" properties has a long and complicated legal history. Decades ago, a law commission investigation concluded that it would not be true to say that benami property transactions were entirely outside the law; indeed, in cases in which a Hindu Undivided Family was involved, there was a long tradition of benami transfers being accepted as legitimate. Yet permitting the growth of such transfers was particularly unacceptable in the days of the all-controlling state; it was clear that benami transfers would, in particular, undermine land ceiling regulation. Thus the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988 was passed, to enable the state to seize such properties.

It's this law that the Centre now intends to replace, changing a few crucial parameters. One is that the burden of proving a property benami will no longer lie with the prosecution. There are also diminutions of the right to appeal, and the promise of fast-track courts — which, as always, seems like an admission of defeat when it comes to questions of larger reform of the judicial process. The entire effort is part of a 2004-era UPA initiative to follow up on incomplete land reform; movement forward was much debated, but it was thought that without a clampdown on benami transactions, any such effort would be stillborn.

While it would be nobody's case that comprehensive land reform will not aid in energising Indian agriculture, the methods should be discussed in greater detail. In a post-reforms era, it is worrying that a more straightforward method is not considered — the assignation of land to the property-holder through an accurate land register, and the support and incentivisation of a land market so that farmers can capitalise on their land and holdings can be consolidated. Moving agriculture into the market era needs a different, more visionary approach.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE VOICE FALLS SILENT

SADANAND MENON

 

Acolleague remembers being put to sleep, as a child, to the recordings of Bhimsen Joshi. That's a strange story — Bhimsen, with his full-throated voice, was after all reputed to even bring back the dead to life. So, if he himself has now died, just weeks short of his 90th birthday, it brings some comfort to think that his voice will continue to wake us up and keep us alive for generations.

It is one of those moments. In the space of a few years we seem to have lost most of the artists who shaped a national cultural consciousness over the past 60 years — artists who drew the contours of musical traditions, theatrical and performative practices and visual lexicons.

It is hardly half-a-year since we lost Gangubai Hangal, Bhimsen Joshi's "gurubehn". And now, with Joshi's demise, over eight flourishing decades of the Kirana gharana initiated by Ustad Abdul Karim Khan and Ustad Abdul Waheed Khan has finally returned to "sama". An entire musical legacy has folded into itself.

However Bhimsen Joshi's legacy is of a very different texture. What he leaves behind, besides a genuinely grieving nation, is the possibility of an artistic leap of faith transcending one's own circumstances. This eldest child among 16 siblings, he expressed his musical inclinations and talents quite early in life, happily grabbing a tanpura kept aside by his grandfather. Not finding the oxygen that his musical spirit craved, Bhimsen was to leave home at 11 and, like little Nachiketa of the Upanishads, set out in search of a guru.

His story also gives us a good entry into the idea of the nation as conceptualised by Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore saw the nation both as mrinmaya (territorial) and as chinmaya (ideational). It is interesting now to think back on the year 1933 when the little would-be maestro wandered off on his own, for some four years, into a territory that was pre-national. But if one tracks his trajectory from Bijapur in Dharwad to Pune to Gwalior and finally to Jalandhar, from where he was rediscovered and brought back home by his father, one can actually draw the map of a different India — a "music India", perhaps more authentic and honest than all the contested state and national borders with which we have entangled ourselves. The Kirana gharana effortlessly unifies the south, north and west of the subcontinent. It is perhaps this India that will suffer the most from the departure of artists like Bhimsen and Gangubai. But Bhimsen's return to Dharwad was fortuitous as he found the guru, the master that he was searching for, right in his backyard — Pandit Rambhau Kundgolkar or Sawai Gandharva — in Kundgol, near Bijapur. His earlier training with Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan at the Madhava Music School in Gwalior had helped open his voice; under Sawai Gandharva's unsparing tutelage he was to quickly blossom into a vocalist with an awesome range of fast-paced taans and an intuitive grasp of the complexities of the raga.

It was also fortuitous for Bhimsen when Gangubai, eight years his senior, began travelling from Hubli to Kundgol to learn from the same guru. The young lad was assigned the task of escorting her back to the railway station every day after the lessons. He would request her to sing to him whatever she had been taught that day and then quickly sing it back to her as his own form of riyaaz. No wonder he was, by 22, cutting his first HMV disc.

Though Bhimsen's gaayaki was primarily drawn from the Kirana tradition, he also drew extensively from the Agra and Gwalior styles. This contributed to the full-throatedness of his khayal renderings. His Miyan ki Todi, Bhimpalasi, Puriya Dhanashri and Multani had a distinction which hasn't yet been equalled. It is, of course, legendary now how he kept himself open to

influences as far-ranging as from Kesarbai Kerkar to Amir Khan and to Begum Akhtar.

The Kirana gharana received immense ballast from Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, with his mastery of the nishad and his shimmering daughters Hirabai Barodekar and Roshanara Begum. Sawai Gandharva had expanded on this repertoire and

Ustad Amir Khan chiselled, cut and perfected it, to a crystal of incredible beauty and majesty. It took Bhimsen to pick this up, and with cavalier abandon and a robust

energy make it accessible enough that it could be returned to the connoisseur on the street.

The struggle to return music to the country's ordinary people was not easy. Bhimsen was perennially torn between the pull of the earth energy and the adoration of the elite. There was a recklessness in his approach to life which had its own magnetism. He loved life on the fast track, especially with

expensive Benz cars. Stories of his periodic binge drinking are legion. But every time he caught himself and brought himself back on track — somewhat like a replay of the time in childhood when he ran away from home and returned.

Till the end Bhimsen believed that there is no substitute for a guru. He scoffed at the university style of teaching music. With the decline of gurus, he was constantly thinking and speaking about the need for devising an alternate

system of training youngsters, by which the health of the musical

systems could be sustained. He has written about his fears regarding the dilution of the teaching process because of modern India's inability to create an appropriate system for its real needs.

He also believed that "the computer can possibly replace everything; but not our music." Till the last he would plead with the government and its institutions to have faith in the vitality of our age-old music, and not restrict it within

artificial systems of pedagogy. This is a question we will have to engage with urgently. For with Bhimsen Joshi passing away, we have once again lost an entire university. Like

Nalanda, hopefully this too will not languish into a ruin.

The writer is a Chennai-based cultural critic express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

INDIA'S BRIDGE TO THE PACIFIC

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

There are many good reasons behind Delhi's renewed interest in Jakarta. Indonesia is one of the world's fastest growing economies. As the anchor for the Association of South East Asian Nations, Indonesia is central to India's Look East policy. Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous nation, third largest democracy, hosts the largest Muslim population, and shares an expansive civilisational heritage with India.

As it serenades President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the chief guest at this year's Republic Day celebrations, India must look beyond the obvious to think strategically about Indonesia. For Jakarta is the natural partner of Delhi in developing big new ideas for reordering Asia and the world.

In the middle of the 20th century, newly independent India and Indonesia had the political gumption to reject the division of the world into rival blocs and invent non-alignment as the natural choice for emerging nations. In Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru argued that the essence of freedom was independent action on the world stage. In Jakarta, the founding fathers of the republic emphasised the importance of a "free and active" foreign policy. Nehru was determined to insulate India from the vagaries the Cold War; Jakarta talked of "rowing between two reefs." For a nation composed of thousands of islands, the maritime metaphor was indeed natural for Indonesia.

As they rise on the world stage today, India has the potential to emerge as the third largest economy in the coming decades, Indonesia as the sixth. Their challenge today is not to seek "strategic autonomy" from the major powers, but contribute responsibly to the management of an increasingly complex world.

In addressing Indonesia's contemporary foreign policy tasks, Yudhoyono's metaphor — again maritime — is about "navigating the turbulent ocean" that the world has become. Amidst a historic redistribution of power in favour of Asia and a series of transnational challenges, that is India's task as well.

One common conception that has endured the many twists and turns of the Indian and Indonesian foreign policies is the belief that they deserve to play a large role in world affairs. Despite their rise today, neither of them can unilaterally transform the world. Acting in concert, however, Delhi and Jakarta can make a difference.

It is this opportunity to bridge the many global divides that must define the conversation between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Yudhoyono. Four issue areas merit their urgent attention.

The first is to rethink the North-South divide that once animated Delhi and Jakarta. The non-alignment of India and Indonesia involved more than surviving the East-West divide. It was also about articulating the collective interests of the newly independent nations.

Today, as members of the G-20, that is responsible for managing the aftermath of the global economic recession, India and Indonesia can jointly transcend the old North-South divide and contribute vigorously in rebalancing the world economy.

The second is about shared democratic values. In the immediate aftermath of decolonisation, the natural emphasis in Delhi and Jakarta was on promoting third-world solidarity rather than political liberalism. Over the decades, many developing nations have adopted democracy. Many peoples are fighting for it — note the current demonstrations in Tunisia. In this new context, two of the world's largest democracies have some obligation to support the efforts for political modernisation in the developing world.

Unlike India, which is hesitant to inject its domestic political values into foreign policy, Indonesia, which survived two dictatorships, is proud of its hard-won democratic freedoms, and has made them part of its diplomacy.

India must consider practical cooperation with Indonesia in supporting democratic transitions, most notably in Myanmar. An independent initiative for democratic change, coming from Delhi and Jakarta, will have a lot more political credibility across Asia than Western hectoring.

Third, India and Indonesia have a big role in shaping the evolution of Asian political and security institutions. Nearly six decades ago, it was Delhi and Jakarta that worked together to promote the concept of Asian unity at the Bandung Conference. Today, amidst the rise of China and the relative decline of the United States and Japan, India and Indonesia will need to intensify their political cooperation to

ensure that Asia's economic prospects are not endangered by renewed regional conflict.

Finally, India and Indonesia must develop a new framework to manage their shared ocean spaces in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. As great power tensions increasingly express themselves in Asian waters, Delhi and Jakarta must step up their naval and maritime cooperation.

India is seeking to consolidate its role as security provider in the Indian Ocean and raise its profile in the Western Pacific; a strategic partnership with Indonesia is critical for success. As the archipelago bridging the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Indonesia is destined to play a great role in both. A maritime partnership between Delhi and Jakarta will erase the artificial separation of the two oceans and herald a new era: of the Indo-Pacific.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

'THE MODEL OF DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA IS WELL ROOTED BECAUSE IT COMES UP FROM THE BOTTOM'

SHEKHAR GUPTA

 

I'm at the residence of the UK High Commissioner in Delhi and my guest is the incredibly versatile minister, Vince Cable, a senior member of the UK Cabinet and also an accomplished economist whose work sets a benchmark for understanding the global credit crunch.

I have been to India around 20 times and this is the second time I have been here as a minister. I love coming to India. I'm here this time following up the Prime Minister's visit in July with a trade delegation, trying to build trade and investments in India.

Shekhar Gupta: You are a son-in-law of India, in a manner of speaking.

Vince Cable: Yes, I could say that. I was very happily married for 35 years. My wife has died but we have an Indian extended family. We have family in Goa and Mumbai. I love coming back, meeting them again. I do consider this a second home.

Shekhar Gupta: We are happy to see you coming back. I read your speech in Mumbai. You talked about this perilous journey you had made to Mumbai on a boat which was about to capsize with small children on board. Tell us more about that.

Vince Cable: Well, I came to Mumbai in the mid-1970s. And I think it was Emergency time and it was a very different India. I crossed Bombay Harbour where my brother-in-law ran a brewery, and there was a big strike, a gherao, going on there. Of course, because I was young at that time, I have vivid memories of that. It was a very different India from today. In the 1960s, when I first came, and then in 1970s, there was actually a lot of pessimism about whether Indian democracy would survive, about economic growth which was about 3-3.5 per cent and people talked about the Hindu rate of growth, which was very fatalistic.

Shekhar Gupta: You didn't like that expression.

Vince Cable: I actually wrote a controversial report in the 1980s...

Shekhar Gupta: ...Saying it would double.

Vince Cable: Saying it would double and it was regarded as extremely eccentric. Nobody thought it was possible, but

it happened, of course.

Shekhar Gupta: If you had said that in India, you would have been regarded not just as eccentric, but totally crazy.

Vince Cable: I think that may well be true. But it was beginning to happen at that stage. You were beginning to get a significant growth in agriculture with commercial farming, scientific farming and manufacturing, although it was protected. And then starting with the reforms in the '80s and then Manmohan Singh's more radical reforms in the '90s. Of course, the whole place has now sort of taken off and far exceeded the expectations of anybody.

Shekhar Gupta: The only difference is that what you expected manufacturing to do to India's growth, has actually been done by services. Services was not something that was on anybody's radar in the mid-70s.

Vince Cable: No, particularly, the whole IT sector. I think the reason services became a growth sector was because, in a way, it was outside the grip of the planning system and the licencing system. It was an area where Indian entrepreneurs could grow without hindrance.

Shekhar Gupta: In fact, Indian entrepreneurs are now the biggest employers in the UK.

Vince Cable: Yes, they are very welcome and they are very good. Our biggest manufacturing employer is Tatas. It's not just that they employ a lot of people, they also do a lot of R&D, they do skill training, and we are getting more and more Indian companies investing in the UK. I think that's actually a good message. When I come here, it's simply on behalf of British companies wanting to invest in India, of course, we want that to happen. But it's genuinely a two-way process.

Tell me something more about the pessimism you saw in India when you first came in 1965, around the time you got married.

It was a very difficult period, it was before the Green Revolution.

Shekhar Gupta: And it was between the two wars. The '62 war, Nehru's death, the build-up to the '65 war... it was a very bad time.

Vince Cable: Yes, there had been the euphoria after Independence which was then beginning to wear a bit thin, and then the disastrous move with China, there was worry about the future of democracy, the economy wasn't very dynamic. I think all these things combined...

Shekhar Gupta: You could pick that pessimism on the street?

Vince Cable: Yes, the fashionable intellectual thinking in India was, at that stage, pessimistic. It was an utterly different climate from what you encounter today.

Shekhar Gupta: Do you think the other extreme now? Are we like people who would declare victory too soon?

Vince Cable: No, I don't think so. But what I do see now is that the model of development you have in India is now very well rooted because it comes up from the bottom. It has all this energy, not just from entrepreneurs but from hundreds of thousands of millions of people wanting education, wanting to better themselves. And you feel it on the streets, not just in big cities, but in smaller cities too. And what's driving growth in India is not trade, but domestic demands.

Shekhar Gupta: It's consumption.

Vince Cable: Yes, that's right. And it's coming out of a very successful commercial farming.

Shekhar Gupta: Were you surprised that India seems to have handled economic downturn a little bit better than many other countries?

Vince Cable: Not surprised, because partly India is a continental economy, it doesn't have that degree of exposure of some other countries. Britain was in a very different position because we have an exceptionally large banking system and therefore, we were hit by the problems in that sector. India sailed through that crisis with very little damage.

Shekhar Gupta: Going back to your visit here in the mid-70s, you used a word, gherao. I'm trying to recall when was the last time I heard it. That was on the front page everyday when I was in school and college in the mid-70s. Did you get to see a gherao?

Vince Cable: Yes, it is an Indian creativity extended to industrial relations. In UK at the same time, we had a lot of strikes. What the Indian unions were doing was, they were locking people out, they were forcing management to stay inside buildings, locking them for days at end. It was a very ingenious but obviously very damaging...

Shekhar Gupta: You never thought of taking their expertise? You were a bit of an agitator.

Vince Cable: Fortunately, we didn't copy that. My politics was initially on the Left.

Shekhar Gupta: As against your father's?

Vince Cable: Well, my father was very conservative. He didn't like my marriage, for example, for that reason. But I respected him. He was a hardworking, patriotic, disciplined man and I have got some good habits from him. But the politics were different.

Shekhar Gupta: How has the Left evolved in Britain since then? Particularly now, you've got an incredible coalition.

Vince Cable: Well, the coalition is a unique experiment in the UK in recent years. We had a coalition during the Second World War, we haven't had one since. Politics since in the UK has been rather tribal, you know—Conservative vs Labour, Right vs Left. The Liberal Party, which merged into the Liberal Democrats that I'm a member of, was a rather small part of the political scene. We have now created a completely new way of doing politics. The current coalition represents quite a wide spectrum, Social Democrats on one hand to Conservatives on the other. We work together very well. Two things brought us together—one was the arithmetic of the election—we had to have a stable government and the only way of getting it was to have a coalition. The other was the sense of an emergency. The budget deficit position was, still is, very serious and the only way was to take tough decisions on cutting the deficit. My department had to cut 25 per cent spending within a year.

Shekhar Gupta: Ideologically, how do you reconcile with that—fee hikes, withdrawal of subsidies?

Vince Cable: No, I'm fully behind the Budget discipline and that has got nothing to do with ideology. The social democratic tradition that I represent in the government is about fairness. We push for a fairer distribution of taxation, but we are absolutely committed to fiscal discipline. As I said, my department had to take a cut of 25 per cent.

Shekhar Gupta: You talk about education a lot. How do you compete with the US system, particularly now that you have cut the subsidy on your own education, tuition fee is going up. Can you compete with America?

Vince Cable: We have a very high quality in higher education system. Four of the ten top universities in the world are British. As a result of these changes we've had to make, essentially what will happen is that we are withdrawing public subsidy from teaching but it will now be restored to the universities through fees, which, of course, you don't pay upfront in the UK. You don't have to produce cash, you get a student loan which can be repaid over years and years. That loan is organised in a progressive way—if you have a high income as a graduate, you pay more, and if you have low income, you don't pay anything actually. We have organised it in a such a way that, first of all, there is fairness, secondly, there is a guaranteed stream of income for universities in the future. So, there is every reason to believe that the standard will remain high.

Shekhar Gupta: Tell us a bit more about the negotiation that led to the formation of the coalition government. I ask because in India, we think we're the gurus of coalition making, besides being the gurus of everything else.

Vince Cable: Well, it was remarkably smooth. There are coalitions in the European Union where they take months to negotiate. The coalition agreement between the two parties was agreed within two or three days.

Shekhar Gupta: Because there was no choice.

Vince Cable: Yes, there was no choice.

Shekhar Gupta: The spirit of the mandate was that Labour should not come back.

Vince Cable: Indeed, that's right. There was no way of forming a stable government which had the Labour Party at its heart.

Shekhar Gupta: We in India innovate with our coalitions because our coalitions are bit more complex than yours. We have coalitions of the willing, the unwilling, the resentful and the respectful, the loyal and the devious—all kinds of people. And then we have innovations like Common Minimum Programme and a coordination committee. Are you familiar with any of the stuff that's being done here?

Vince Cable: I am sure we can learn from you and you can learn from us. We have also been very, very radical. We are in the process of privatising the Royal Mail, which the previous governments weren't able to do. We made big and controversial changes in higher education. Actually, the coalition government has been radical.

Shekhar Gupta: Just to clarify, I was not being pompous as to suggest that you learn coalition making from us. We haven't been very good at running smooth coalitions. We have run coalitions, but we've had more ideological conflicts and contradictions between them. Look at The Daily Telegraph's sting that got you into trouble (which reported that Cable said he could "bring the government down" if he resigned). That's the kind of statement the Left in India used to make almost everyday on TV channels—"I can pull this government down."

Vince Cable: That was a little bit out of context. Anyway, I'm getting on with my job, As far as I'm concerned, that's more important.

Shekhar Gupta: What are the issues that engage your attention when you come to India, when you talk to your Indian counterparts?

Vince Cable: The big theme is trying to build up the trade relationship and two-way investment flows. I think India and Britain ought to have a very close relationship but we are below potential. I'm not entirely sure why. I think the British were preoccupied with the European Union for a long time, building up our commercial links there, maybe people in government and business didn't pay sufficient attention to the way world economy is changing, the changing centre of gravity towards emerging economies like China. Maybe we were not quick enough to spot that. Maybe also, the way India was changing. Anyway, we have grasped the necessity to to build much more closer links with India. That's why David Cameron came here and I'm following up with a trade delegation.

Shekhar Gupta: Where does this change come from—is it Cameron, the entire Cabinet or the coalition—for this sort of unquestioned optimism about India?

Vince Cable: It comes from several things. I think it comes from the recognition in the UK that we had to rebalance our economy. We thought we were doing well; but actually not.

Shekhar Gupta: Tell us what Dr Vince Cable means by 'rebalancing UK's economy'?

Vince Cable: It was growth by strong consumption supported by consumer debts. We had a housing collapse, a banking system which became complicated and dangerous. We now know, moving forward, that it isn't just a question of growth. It's growth that is driven by private investments and exports. So we've got to look outward and as we do so, we recognise the world economy is a different place. Most of the growth and dynamism is now in emerging markets like India. So, we have to make a strong long-term commitment here. We now have a very clear commitment to building up trades, welcoming Indian companies to UK and encouraging a two-way flow. I think we do recognise it is not about a sudden burst of energy and a lot of declarations. It is about long-term relationship building. That's why I have come back and we will keep coming back.

Shekhar Gupta: Are there issues in India that worry you, barriers that still exist?

Vince Cable: Well, there are some barriers. I talked to the Commerce Minister this morning. We have got a good relationship. He made the point that we can't pull down all these barriers overnight and there is a gradual and irreversible process of liberalisation.

Shekhar Gupta: I would call it a homeopathic process of reform.

Vince Cable: Until very recently, it was inconceivable that India would open up its retail sector.

Shekhar Gupta: And the ironical thing is the impetus for these have come from a sudden increase in the price of agricultural commodities. So, organised retail is actually seen as a solution to price fluctuation.

Vince Cable: Yes, indeed. You can see the commonsense of it. There is a lot of waste getting from farm to shop, lack of refrigeration and proper transport. Obviously it's Indian companies that are going to lead this process but we have big retail chains that can contribute something.

Shekhar Gupta: Can you tell us about your book, The Storm?

Vince Cable: I wrote that as the (financial) storm was beginning to break. It was very clear to some of us five years ago that the kind of boom that we had—not just in the UK—was not based on a solid foundation. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

Shekhar Gupta: When you started writing, did people dismiss you as the spoilsport?

Vince Cable: I did have some famous exchanges with the British PM of that time, Gordon Brown, and he swept all this aside.

Shekhar Gupta: What is the one thing he said then which you now think he would regret having said?

Vince Cable: His response to me was, 'You are just being silly. What's the problem?' But there's no point claiming credit for things in the past. I'm now in government and we've got to do these reforms. That, of course, includes sorting out the problems of the economy and sorting out the problems of the banking system. I am in the middle of it and I've got to do it all rather than write about it.

Transcribed by Nikhil Radhakrishnan, For longer text, visit www.indianexpress.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CLEFT STICK

When I meet other central bankers, RBI governor Duvvuri Subbarao recently said, "they tell me why don't you give us a bit of your inflation so that our growth will be faster. That's how desperately they want some inflation and how desperate we are to control our own inflation." That illustrates the cleft stick the government is caught in, before RBI's Q3 policy review. In its earlier review, RBI was categorical that the possibility of further rate hikes was low in the immediate future. That was predicated on inflation slowing down, but this didn't happen and the base effect is wearing off beyond January 2011. In November, the point-to-point WPI showed an increase of 7.5%, not too comfortable, but low enough for RBI to postpone the thought of hikes in policy rates. The point-to-point WPI hike was a higher 8.5% in December, making the target of 5.5% impossible to achieve—even the new 6% target looks impossible. While both the food (15.52%) and primary articles (17.03%) numbers are today lower than they were in comparable periods in January 2010, they are inordinately high and those for fuel and power have increased. Inflation is being driven by primary articles and fuel and power, less so manufactured products, as an FE study of production data and price hikes showed—but even in the case of manufactured products, increases in input costs are now leading to price increases.

That monetary policy is singularly ineffective in dealing with such inflation has been publicly acknowledged by Chief Economic Advisor as well as by others. But the government cannot be seen to be doing nothing about inflation and there has been a near-complete failure to address supply-side issues on farm products. Which is why even the head of the PM's Economic Advisory Council has asked for a rate hike. Thus, a rate hike is certain and markets have factored it in. The moot point is the extent of the hike and what it does to growth. The first half of 2010-11 has seen a growth of 8.9%, and while government spokespersons have talked of it touching 9% for the year, the IIP shows clear signs of slowing—results of some capital goods firms like L&T also show a higher rate of orders being cancelled. The impact of a rate hike will show in growth declining to 8% in 2011-12. The extent to which this slowdown is acceptable will be reflected in whether policy rates are hiked by 0.25% or 0.50%. Unfortunately, nothing will happen to inflation, but growth will slow down. Since it is concerned with liquidity and slow credit growth, RBI might also reduce the CRR and SLR.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FLAWED ARGUMENTS

The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Orissa high court's judgment to overturn the death sentence to Dara Singh for killing Graham Staines and his 10- and 6-year-old sons in 1999, has caused an uproar, and justifiably. The Court judgment is in response to a CBI plea against the high court judgment, asking that the original death sentence given by the sessions court be reinstated. While lawyers for the accused argued the holes in the case, including the use of coercion in getting confessions, the Supreme Court took note of this and, after examining other aspects of the case, concluded that the basic case stood the test of judicial scrutiny. Which is why it upheld the case against Dara Singh and Mahendra Hembram. It concurred with the high court in dismissing the case against the others who were supposed to have been in cahoots with Singh and Hembram, and described them as 'poor tribals'.

Why the fact that they were 'poor tribals' should matter, but what is more worrying is what the Court has said to justify not applying the death sentence to Dara Singh, why it is not the 'rarest of the rare'. While examining the aggravating as well as mitigating circumstances, the Court has said, "Though Graham Staines and his two minor sons were burnt to death while they were sleeping inside a station wagon … the intention was to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity. All these aspects have been correctly appreciated by the High Court and modified the sentence of death into life imprisonment with which we concur." Given that, later in the judgment, the Court says "it is undisputed that there is no justification for interfering in someone's belief by way of 'use of force', provocation, conversion, incitement or upon a flawed premise that one religion is better than the other", the judgment is certain to be seen as justifying such crimes even though this is clearly not the Court's intention. Enough reason for the Court to want to review this part of the judgment, and perhaps strike it down.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

IN CHINA, A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN

ANURAG VISWANATH

 

In 2010, when I travelled across China, the common dinner table conversation was housing and, given the sky-rocketing prices in mid-2009, who is buying what, when and how. Unlike a decade or two ago, when the reticent Chinese, still caught between socialism and capitalism, hardly ventured out to wash dirty linen in public, conversation steered easily into the grey nooks of everyday China—who has one, two or three properties; who is going to spend the rest of his life paying back the hefty bank loan; of the new influx of migrants buying properties in tier-1 cities, sometimes a precondition for the transfer of their rural hukou (household registration or residency permit) into urban hukou; and who has been wily enough to sub-let his public housing for a few hundred yuan or more and, instead, moved into ostensibly, a newer, nicer apartment. More than a decade ago, in 1998, China discontinued the old paternal practice of allocating public housing for members (employees) of the state danwei (work-unit).

Staying in a rented property may be widely popular in India, but in China, it is somewhat 'demeaning', socially linked to a 'loss of face'. "Dwellers must own their dwellings." This is becoming the pre-condition for marriage and, thus, new beginnings. If you look beyond the gloss of cities—beyond the spanking new blocks of impressive sky-rise, the construction frenzy of dirt and dust, hoardings of 'Urban upgrading! Life upgrading!' splattered across provincial cities—it is hard not to notice the large swathes of unoccupied empty apartments, which, according to a Chinese daily (Southern Metropolitan Daily, June 2010), reaches 20% in new real estate projects in Guangzhou, and even higher in Shanghai and Beijing.

Two contrasting scenarios have unfolded; both of unoccupied houses (speculators, multiple investments) and unaffordability, as residential prices relative to per capita income is very high.

Speaking of unoccupied space, The Telegraph, London, quoted Corriente Advisors (American hedge fund) last week saying that China has an excess of 3.3 bn sq m space. According to an estimate, 87% of houses in urban China are privately owned, but not all privately owned houses are owner occupied—the rich in China, like the rich in India, are increasingly choosing to have multiple properties for investment or speculation. Unoccupied space has led to the phenomenon of ghost towns, now no accident in China. The recent reportage on one such ghost town, Kangbashi New Area, 15 miles south of Ordos city in Inner Mongolia, by NYT, Al Jazeera TV and even (surprisingly) China Daily is a glaring example. Another instance is the brand new creation of the satellite city of Chenggong, 30 km (18 miles) from capital Kunming of Yunnan province, built on 10 previously existing townships on the outskirts, where the trickle of people has failed to turn into a flood.

And speaking of unaffordability, according to an estimate of two National University of Singapore researchers (Lu Ding and Huang Yanjie, July 2010), in tier-1 cities, housing price per sq m amounts to 50-100% of average annual income. Recent data shows that there is an increased supply of housing area per person in China from an average of 6.5-7.5 sq m in 1990 to 30-34 sq m in 2009, which portends a better lifestyle, but the irony is that much of it is unaffordable.

Real estate industry accounted for a small part of China's GDP in the 1990's but has become a pillar industry today, a move promoted by the State Council's policy prescriptions, beginning in 2003.

The downside is that developers, speculators and banks have joined the fray, fuelling soaring prices. A new class of what the Chinese call diwangs (land kings) has come into being. Political scientist Minxin Pei, who has chronicled the dark side of China's rise, has noted that half of the 100 richest individuals in China on the Forbes 2004 list were real estate tycoons, a scenario markedly different from India.

China's real estate bubble is in part due to the increased phenomenon of the last decade of local governments relying on land-based fiscal revenue (tudi caizheng) for meeting a third of their budgetary needs. All land in China is state land, the citizens have user rights, not ownership rights (as is the case in India). User rights range typically from 70 years for residential use and 40-50 years for commercial or industrial use. The nexus between local government and developers, a phenomenon not alien in India, has swallowed numerous villages—a phenomenon that an academic, Lu Duanfang, calls the 'new land enclosure movement'.

The NYT has reported that state banks made a record $1.4 trillion in loans in 2009 but allegedly this was diverted into the property market, leading to soaring prices and land bids. It also suggests that state-owned companies are also jumping into the fray, and are outbidding private developers at land auctions in the last year. Banks are surely at risk—academics Lu and Huang cite official documents to highlight the magnitude of the problem—in April 2010, total housing mortgage loans reached 5.7 trillion yuan ($900 billion) or 13.1% of total loans (43.3 trillion yuan or $6.6 trillion) held by financial institutions in China.

Beijing itself is not oblivious of the fact that its economic miracle is going hand in hand with burgeoning non-performing loans. Measures such as 'New Deal in Housing Policy' (fangdichan xinzheng) have been implemented since December 2009 to cool the overheated property market. This includes mortgage restrictions, curbs on purchase quotas, regulations to prevent what we in India call benami transactions, as well as tighten restrictions on real estate developer and property taxes, all in a span of three months (March-June 2010). New experiments such as low-income housing projects in Guangzhou province are beginning to incubate.

China ended the Year of the Tiger on a high GDP growth of 10.3%, stoking further fears of a property bubble. Hopefully, the policies will work to rein in the bubble before it bursts. If not, the consequences for China and the rest of the world will be ominous.

The author is a Singapore based sinologist and a visiting fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi. These are her personal views

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE DIE IS CASTE

NISTULA HEBBAR

 

In a country where there is an abundance of politicians in the category of Mr 10 per cent (as in the percentage of commission they charge on deals) Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa has got himself the moniker of being Mr 19 per cent, but in a totally different context. That 19 per cent is the Lingayat community vote, which is solidly behind Yeddyurappa and appears to be the bedrock on which the BJP's fortunes rest in the state. It is also a support base which the Congress and the Janata Dal (S) are finding very difficult to break, in their struggle for relevance in Karnataka.

All this being said, therefore, Governor HR Bharadwaj's head-on confrontation with the BJP-led state government has more connotations for the Congress's fortunes than is apparent at first sight.

The politico-demographic make-up in Karnataka is quite simply divided between the Vokkaligas and the Lingayats. The Vokkaligas have a voting population of around 16%, while the Lingayats comprise 19% of the vote bank. The Congress's see-saw with the Lingayat vote began in the 1960s when S Nijalingappa broke off from the Indira-led Congress to throw in his lot with the Congress (O)—since then only when Veerendra Patil was part of the Congress did the party get an unreserved support of the Lingayat community.

Over the years, Yeddyurappa has been successful in capturing this 19%, a fact that has helped him counter not just the Opposition but also any moves to replace him within his own party.

In capturing the Lingayat vote, Yeddyurappa has done two major things. One, he has extended immense patronage to Lingayat religious trusts called 'mutts'; two, he has played on a historical sense of persecution among the community to engage its sympathy.

Yeddyurappa has not only given out huge amounts in donations to these 'mutts', but a few days ago the state saw an extraordinary outpouring of very public support for him from these religious institutions on television.

The community's sense of togetherness comes from being a persecuted religious sect within Hinduism. It was founded by the 12th century seer Basaveshwara during the heydays of the Bhakti movement, and was reviled by the orthodoxy; its survival and spread in Karnataka is a story of grit in the face of persecution. Therefore, when a fellow community man is persecuted, like in the case of Yeddyurappa, when he wasn't given his turn at chief ministership under an agreement with the Janata Dal (S), there is an outpouring of sympathy. A central government appointed governor going after a duly elected chief minister is also likely to elicit a similar reaction.

All this is not to say that the Yeddyurappa government does not have serious allegations of graft against it, but that those fighting against it should be the political opposition in the state. It doesn't help that in the midst of some of the worst allegations made against Yeddyurappa, the BJP has swept the panchayat polls.

The Opposition has been fairly inept in dealing with Yeddyurappa politically. Despite understanding the caste make-up of the state, the Congress has been unable to hit him where he is most vulnerable. Politics, at the end of the day, is a game of ideas and how they translate into numbers; the Karnataka chief minister seems to have both on his side at the moment. The reliance on the governor, therefore, can only spell doom and an extended stay in political wilderness.

The Congress and the Janata Dal (S) need to understand that. Whatever the outcome of the war between Yeddyurappa and the Governor, it will be the Congress and the Janata Dal (S) who will be the loser.

nistula.hebbar@expressindia.com

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

MUSIC AS EVOLUTION

With the death of legendary vocalist Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, the world has lost not only a path-breaking Hindustani musician but the very embodiment of the guru-sishya tradition, around which the Indian arts blossomed. Contrary to common perception, this tradition is not one of inflexible continuity but of continuous evolution and constant search. Joshi, a stalwart of the Kirana gharana, exemplified this urge for musical exploration, a journey that led him in many directions, both classical and popular. His voice had a rare appeal for both lay listeners and connoisseurs, and he was as highly regarded among votaries of Hindustani music as of Carnatic. His penchant for experimentation and assimilation resulted in a broadening of tradition. He once said in an interview that he enjoyed all kinds of music. That he went to Varanasi to learn thumri singing from the tawaifs and brought this genre into the classical mainstream is proof that he was free from musical prejudice. It was thanks largely to his pioneering ways that bhajan singing and abhang rendition are now widely accepted on the concert platform.

Pandit Joshi firmly believed that to serve his art form meant not just to practise what he had learnt and received, but to enrich it. It was this eclectic vision that led him to integrate what he regarded as the best influences from other schools, including Gwalior and Jaipur. While his genius did not allow itself to be straight-jacketed within the strict confines of a gharana, he remained a medium of continuity, an agent for change within tradition. Recognised as a completely intuitive musician, he never played to the gallery. It was his ability to become immersed in his music, often to the point of forgetting himself, that explains his widespread and compelling appeal. His was a greatness marked by a reflexive spontaneity, one that did not lend itself to easy analysis but spoke wordlessly to the hearts of the audience. Well before people began to talk of music outreach, Pandit Joshi launched the annual Sawai Gandharva Music Festival in Pune and was personally involved in its organisation from 1953 to 2002. His songs for a select few Hindi films and appearances on Doordarshan's advertisements for national integration made his voice and face familiar to the nation. At a time when awards and honours are feverishly sought and canvassed for, this doyen never looked for official recognition. Yet the nation's highest honour, the Bharat Ratna, came to him in 2008. It was a most deserving honour for this unique and modest man, who while engaged with charting the evolution of music was both a follower and a creator of tradition.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

MMR VACCINE & SCIENCE FRAUD

A 1998 paper linking a measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine with a 'new syndrome' of autism and bowel disease was retracted by The Lancet in February 2010. The retraction came after the U.K. General Medical Council's Fitness to Practise Panel conducted a 217-day hearing and found Andrew J. Wakefield, the lead author of the paper, guilty of dishonesty in relation to "the study's admissions criteria, its funding by the Legal Aid Board, and his statements about it afterwards." Deep-going investigation by Brian Deer, a journalist based in London, and published online recently as a series (www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c5258.full) in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), has revealed that the researcher from the Royal Free Hospital and School of Medicine, London, whose licence to practise has been revoked by the GMC, indulged in acts that went far beyond dishonesty as specified by the GMC. For instance, the critical data of all the 12 children included in the study had been "misrepresented or altered," especially the symptoms and the timeline when the symptoms first showed up. Dr. Wakefield's conflict of interest included a patent for a diagnostic test to "detect a new syndrome — autistic enterocolitis." The doctor also stood to gain financially from the proposed development of the test kit and a 'safer' vaccine. The journalist has revealed how Dr. Wakefield had the support of his institution when he sought to exploit the MMR scare for financial gain.

Dr. Wakefield's research will remain a textbook case of how falsified medical research involving 12 handpicked children can discredit the safety of a vaccine used for a few decades on millions of children. Scientists were quick to point out the flaws in the paper. No study has been able to replicate his work, and more than a dozen large-scale studies have found no link between the two. Yet it took more than a decade to fully expose the science fraud owing to the inexplicable failure of several institutions and individuals. The fallout of the 1998 study has been severe in some developed countries — public fear has been whipped up, and suspicion about a link between MMR vaccine and autism strengthened. Measles, once considered eradicated in the United States, emerged with a vengeance in 2008 when 131 cases were reported, double the annual average for the previous six years. The same year, England and Wales declared measles as an endemic, the first time in 14 years. Although signs of autism appear around the same time children receive the MMR vaccine, there is an urgent need to educate the public that no link has been found between the two. Awareness-building is all the more important as Dr. Wakefield continues to defend his work.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

EASTERN PROMISES, WESTERN FEARS

INDIANS MAY BE SUSPICIOUS OF CHINA AND THE CHINESE OF INDIA. BUT IT IS THE WEST WHICH DOES NOT WANT TO ACCEPT THE STRATEGIC CONSEQUENCES OF A RISING ASIA.

SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN

Behind the heavy typeface that the release of confidential American diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks has generated lie smaller stories which sometimes tell us more about the way in which our world is changing than the headlines themselves.

The U.S. ambassador in Paris met Michel Rocard, a former Prime Minister of France, in October 2005 for one of those sweeping, freewheeling chats that Gallic statesmen evidently specialise in. The bulk of the conversation deals with the French political scene but at the end, M. Rocard shares his concerns about the place of France and the United States in the new world order and proposes a joint Euro-American think-tank to prepare for the future. "Speaking of the growth of India and China, along with all the other challenges confronting both of us," the leaked cable quotes the senior French politician as saying, "We need a vehicle where we can find solutions for these challenges together — so when these monsters arrive in 10 years, we will be able to deal with them."

So there we have it. Even as the Indian elephant and Chinese dragon circle each other warily, wondering how each will cope with the rise of the other, the Occidental mind which has enjoyed dominating the world and the global commons for two centuries is worrying about how to deal with the combined arrival of these two "monsters."

Happily for the West, the arrivistes are not exactly on the best of terms with each other. India is too wary of China's rise to exploit the opportunities this ascent provides. For its part, Beijing — which alternates between feigning indifference towards New Delhi and fretting over whether it might join hands with a "democratic bloc" led by Washington — is so self-absorbed that it is unable to harness the externalities that India's rise has generated in the region.

In a recent article, Kishore Mahbubani spoke of the triangular relationship between India, China and the U.S. and noted how the U.S. had better relations with both India and China than the two Asian giants had with each other. By being in the middle, he argues, Washington has a strategic edge. It also has an incentive to ensure a certain amount of tension between India and China, so as to cement its own presence in Asia as an offshore balancer.

Though Mahbubani does not say so, it would be naïve to imagine the problems the Indian and Chinese sides have with one another are the product of an American conspiracy. The fact is that India and China do not know each other well and have not paid enough attention to understanding the social, political and economic dynamics of the other. As a result, misperceptions and misunderstandings abound and have given rise to suspicions and even fear. That is why it is essential that a continuous and wide-ranging dialogue take place between different stakeholders: officials, politicians, the military, scholars, journalists, artists and others. Above all, there must be engagement on the big strategic questions of our time.

In a series of interactions held recently in Beijing at the initiative of the Observer Research Foundation and the International Department of the Communist Party of China, Indian and Chinese analysts had a surprisingly frank exchange of views on the state of the bilateral relationship, the problem areas and the new areas for potential China-India cooperation.

From the Chinese side, a number of scholars spoke of four specific problem areas with India. There is, first and foremost, the unsettled boundary and the fact that border territories are disputed. Second, the presence of the Dalai Lama and the so-called 'Tibetan government in exile' is seen as a continuing irritant, especially in the aftermath of the disturbances which shook Lhasa and some other Tibetan pockets in China in 2008. Third, and this was surprising, the scholars acknowledged that China's friendship with Pakistan was a source of friction with India. And though they differed from the Indian side in characterising the current nature of the relationship, they acknowledged the fact that "balancing India" used to be a primary Chinese motive in the past. Their argument was that the rise of the Indian economy in the past decade has forced Chinese policymakers to de-hyphenate their South Asian policy. Finally, many of the Chinese interlocutors spoke of growing strategic suspicions that are made worse by a trust deficit. "Many people in China believe Indians look down upon them," a professor from the International Relations department of Renmin University said. "India sees itself as close to the West and is willing to be used by the U.S. in its desire to become a world power." Other scholars echoed the same view in different ways — that India might become part of an American-led effort to gang-up against China, that many in India subscribe to the 'China threat' thesis.

My own assessment is that the boundary dispute and Dalai Lama are not major problem areas. Indeed, my suspicion is that part of the recent brittleness in the relationship is the product of artificially accelerated efforts to settle the boundary question. As for the Tibetan spiritual leader, it is true that his presence in India is a red rag to those in China who see him as working against the unity and integrity of their country. But the Chinese side can also well appreciate the consequences of his being asked to leave India. A Hollywood exile for the Dalai Lama would only serve to raise the salience of the Tibetan issue globally. Besides, it is time China and India also start paying attention to what might happen to the Tibetan question once the present Dalai Lama is no more. And start engaging each other, and Bangladesh as the lowest riparian, on Tibetan water-related projects.

Responding to Indian queries on China's plans to harness the Brahmaputra, a scholar from the Chinese Institute of Contemporary International Relations spoke of the need for the comprehensive development of Himalayan hydropower resources. Citing Indian projects in Bhutan as a positive model, he said India's trust deficit with its neighbours like Pakistan and Nepal was coming in the way of the development of hydropower.

As far as Pakistan is concerned, it is obvious that China and India have a crucial stake in the stability of that country and need to discuss between them what they can do to help the situation there. The Chinese side is well aware of the emerging ideological and institutional fault lines in Pakistan. If there is any country other than the U.S. that has the ability to exercise leverage over the Pakistani military, it is China. Until now, however, China has been reluctant to use its influence. For more than four decades, Chinese strategic thinking on Pakistan has been dominated by the need to 'balance' India. But with India having outgrown South Asia and Pakistan in danger of imploding as the problem of extremism and terrorism slowly gets out of control, Beijing cannot afford to remain wedded to this anachronistic mindset.

On strategic issues too, the Indian and Chinese sides have much to talk about. India and China are both officially committed to an open, inclusive architecture for the Asia-Pacific region. Both also have a stake in the freedom of navigation. During the visit to India by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, the two countries committed their navies to joint anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. A commitment was also made to discuss the wider issue of maritime security. These are all promising new areas of cooperation that should be actively pursued. One Chinese scholar spoke of the need for strategic transparency, another made a pitch to launch new security principles by updating the Panchasila concept. Of course, such an effort is unlikely to go beyond the reiteration of homilies unless China and India both recognise that the world and their own national profiles have moved on since the 1950s. It has become a cliché to say the world is big enough to accommodate the rise of India and China. Since the world is a finite place, this means those who are today squatting on strategic space despite their leases having run out will have to be displaced. Let the West have nightmares about demons and monsters. The elephant and the dragon cannot afford to be scared of each other.

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

BEHIND THE PALESTINE PAPERS

HOW 1,600 CONFIDENTIAL PALESTINIAN RECORDS OF NEGOTIATIONS WITH ISRAEL FROM 1999 TO 2010 CAME TO BE LEAKED TO AL-JAZEERA.

SEUMAS MILNE AND IAN BLACK

The revelations from the heart of the Israel-Palestine peace process are the product of the biggest documentary leak in the history of the West Asia conflict, and the most comprehensive exposure of the inside story of a decade of failed negotiations.

The 1,600 confidential records of hundreds of meetings between Palestinian, Israeli and U.S. leaders, as well as e-mails and secret proposals, were leaked to the Qatar-based satellite TV channel al-Jazeera and shared exclusively with the Guardian. They cover the period from the run-up to the ill-fated Camp David negotiations under U.S. President Bill Clinton in 2000, to private discussions last year involving senior officials and politicians in the Obama administration.

The earliest document in the cache is a memo from September 1999 about Palestinian negotiating strategy. It suggests heeding the advice of the Rolling Stones: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might find you can get what you need." The final one, from last September, is a Palestinian Authority (P.A.) message to the Egyptian government about access to the Gaza Strip.

The Palestine papers have emerged at a time when a whole era of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, starting with the Madrid conference in 1991, appear to have run into the sand, opening up the prospect of a new phase of the conflict and potentially another war.

In particular, they cover the most recent negotiations, before and after George Bush's Annapolis conference in late 2007 — when substantive offers and concessions were made by both sides until the process broke down over Israel's refusal to freeze West Bank settlement activity. The bulk of the documents are records, contemporaneous notes and sections of verbatim transcripts of meetings drawn up by officials of the Palestinian negotiation support unit (N.S.U.), which has been the main technical and legal backup for the Palestinian side in the negotiations.

The unit has been heavily funded by the British government via the free-market think-tank, the Adam Smith Institute. Other documents originate from inside the P.A.'s extensive U.S.- and British-sponsored security apparatus.

The Israelis, Americans and others kept their own records, which may differ in their accounts of the same meetings. But the Palestinian documents were made and held confidentially, rather than for overt or public use, and significantly reveal large gaps between the private and stated positions of Palestinian and, in fewer cases, Israeli leaders.

The documents were leaked over a period of months from several sources to al-Jazeera. The bulk of them have been independently authenticated for the Guardian by former participants in the talks and by diplomatic and intelligence sources.

The N.S.U. — formally part of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (P.L.O.) — is based in the West Bank town of Ramallah under the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat. It has drawn heavily on the expertise of Palestinian-American and other western-trained diaspora Palestinian lawyers for technical support in negotiations.

In the case of one-to-one talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders — especially between Mahmoud Abbas and the then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert — N.S.U. officials were not present, but reports on the outcome of the encounters were often given later to the unit and records made.

After the breakdown of the Camp David talks, which Mr. Clinton and Israeli leaders blamed on Yasser Arafat and a lack of technical Palestinian preparation, Palestinian leaders went to great lengths to ensure that the fullest records and supporting documents were drawn up for later talks. Among N.S.U. staff, Arab-American lawyer Zeinah Salahi drew up many of the minutes and meeting records, while others were made by French-Palestinian lawyer Ziyad Clot, author of a recent book about the negotiations, Il n'y aura pas d'Etat Palestinian (There will be no Palestinian State).

The influence of the N.S.U. in the negotiation process has caused tensions among West Bank-based Palestinian leaders and officials, and widespread resentment about the salaries paid to its most senior managers, notably Adam Smith International's Andrew Kuhn, who stepped down from running the unit last year.

But as the negotiations have increasingly been seen to have failed, and the Ramallah-based P.A. leadership has come to be regarded by many Palestinians as illegitimate or unrepresentative, discontent among N.S.U. staff has grown and significant numbers have left.

There has also been widespread discontent in the organisation at the scale and nature of concessions made in the talks. Among N.S.U. staff cited in the documents, Mr. Salahi now works for the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Mr. Clot has returned to France and Rami Dajani works for Tony Blair in his role as the West Asia quartet's envoy.

In response to the leaks, P.A. and P.L.O. leaders such as Saeb Erekat can be expected to point out that one of the core principles of the negotiations is that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed". As such they are not necessarily committed to provisional positions that in the event failed to secure a settlement — though Mr. Erekat made clear to U.S. officials in January 2010 that the same offers remained on the table. Critics are likely to argue that concessions — such as accepting the annexation of Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem — are simply pocketed by the Israeli side, and risk being treated as a starting point in any future talks.

Fatah leaders are likely to accuse al-Jazeera of having an anti-P.A. agenda by publishing the leaked documents, which they believe will benefit their Hamas rivals, backed by Iran.

The documents have been redacted to remove details such as e-mail addresses, phone numbers or other information that could identify those who leaked them. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

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THE HINDU

VENEZUELA BRINGING SPEEDY INTERNET TO CUBA

FIBRE-OPTIC CABLE LAID FROM VENEZUELA WILL MAKE CUBA'S CONNECTION SPEED 3,000 TIMES FASTER AND BOOST ITS ECONOMY.

RORY CARROLL

Cuba is set to join the high-speed broadband era with an undersea fibre-optic cable laid from Venezuela, bringing the promise of speedy internet to one of the world's least connected countries.

A specialised ship sailed from Camuri beach, near the Venezuelan port of La Guaria, at the weekend, trailing the cable from buoys on the start of a 1,600-km journey across the Caribbean sea.

Venezuelan and Cuban officials hailed the project as a blow to the United States' embargo on the island. It will make Cuba's connection speed 3,000 times faster and modernise its economy.

"This means a giant step for the independence and sovereignty of our people," Rogelio Polanco, Cuba's Ambassador to Caracas, said at a ceremony in tropical sunshine.

The ship, Ile de Batz, owned by the French company Alcatel-Lucent, will lay the cable at depths of up to 5,800 metres and is expected to reach eastern Cuba by February 8. Cuba's government said the cable should be in use by June or July.

Cuba has some censorship restrictions but the impact could be profound. The country has just 14.2 Internet users per 100 people, the western hemisphere's lowest ratio, with access largely restricted to government offices, universities, foreign companies and tourist hotels.

The 50-year-old U.S. embargo prevented Cuba tapping into Caribbean fibre-optic cables, forcing it to rely on a slow satellite link of just 379 megabits per second.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, Havana's closest ally, funded the $70-million cable and named it Alba-1, after the region's Caracas-led leftwing alliance. Improved communication is necessary to effect "historic, political and cultural change", said Ricardo Menendez, Venezuela's Science, Technology and Industry Minister.

The cable should boost President Raul Castro's drive to modernise Cuba's centrally planned economy and make state enterprises slimmer and more efficient. About 500,000 state workers will lose their jobs this year. In addition to broadband, the cable will let Cuba's telephone system handle millions of calls at once. It will be extended to Jamaica next year.

Cuban officials said the priority would be improving communications for those who already had access to the island's intranet, a government-controlled version of the Internet. Broadband would mean higher quality communication but not necessarily "broader" communication, said the communist daily newspaper Granma, dampening hopes of an information explosion.

The recent lifting of a ban on mobile phones and personal computers means more information is bypassing state channels, but high costs and state monitoring may have limited the impact.

Bloggers such as Yoani Sanchez have won attention and plaudits abroad for their chronicles of daily life, but they remain a marginal force at home. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

 

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THE HINDU

KILOGRAMME SET FOR THE SCRAP HEAP

SCIENTISTS LOOK AT ALTERNATIVES TO THE MASS OF PLATINUM USED AS INTERNATIONAL STANDARD MEASURE, WHICH HAS LOST 50 MICROGRAMS.

ALOK JHA

For more than a century, all measurements of weight have been defined in relation to a lump of metal sitting in Paris. The "international prototype" kilogramme has been at the heart of trade and scientific experiment since 1889, but now experts want to get rid of it.

On Monday, scientists will meet at the Royal Society in London to discuss how to bring the kilogramme into the 21st century, by defining this basic unit of measurement in terms of the fundamental constants of nature, rather than a physical object.

"The kilogramme is still defined as the mass of a piece of platinum which, when I was director of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, I had in a safe in my lab," said Terry Quinn, an organiser of Monday's meeting. "It's a cylinder of platinum-iridium about 39mm high, 39mm in diameter, cast by Johnson Matthey in Hatton Garden in 1879."

One problem with using a lump of metal to define such a basic quantity as the kilogramme is that it is liable to change over time. Measurements over the past century have shown that the international prototype has lost around 50 micrograms, around the weight of a grain of sand.

Instead, experts want to link the kilogramme to a fundamental unit of measurement in quantum physics, the Planck constant.

This redefinition would bring the kilogramme into line with the six other base units that make up the International System of Units (SI) — the metre, the second, the ampere, the kelvin, the mole and the candela.

None of these are now based on a physical reference object. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

 

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THE HINDU

BERLUSCONI GETS SHOW OF FAITH

JOHN HOOPER

It has shocked and titillated newspaper readers the world over, but it would seem the latest scandal over Italian Primr Minister Silvio Berlusconi's riotous private life has done nothing to undermine his supporters' faith in him.

A poll published on Sunday by Corriere della Sera found backing for his Freedom People movement was higher than a month earlier, and less than half of Italians believed he should resign.

The survey was conducted last week, as controversy raged over the findings of an investigation by prosecutors in Milan, which had been delivered to Parliament on December 17. These included claims by a participant that Mr. Berlusconi hosted a party for more than 20 women that turned into an orgy.

Italy's Prime Minister is formally suspected of paying an underage prostitute and trying to cover it up by exerting pressure on the police. Prosecutors say a nightclub dancer, Karima "Ruby" el-Mahroug, 17 at the time, visited Mr. Berlusconi eight times at his villa near Milan last year.

Yet the poll found that, if an election was held immediately, more than 30 per cent of voters would support his party, compared with less than 28 per cent in December. Mr. Berlusconi's Freedom People movement, together with its main ally, the Northern League, could garner almost 41 per cent.

Renato Mannheimer, the head of the company that conducted the poll, said "even the Catholic electorate ... does not appear to have significantly altered its preferences".

Many of the Prime Minister's critics will see the results as a reflection of his power to influence voters through the media.

On the day the investigation's findings were released, one of his television channels relegated the story to third place on the evening news. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

ZERO TOLERANCE FOR WRONGDOERS VITAL

The news of Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi being removed as head of the 2010 Commonwealth Games organising committee will be met with much relief. These marching orders should have come a long time ago. Narratives of malignancy regarding preparations for the Delhi Games under Mr Kalamdi's stewardship had begun to surface about a year before the event. The Prime Minister was urged to step in to stem the rot. The reports carried credibility and Dr Manmohan Singh was compelled set up a Group of Ministers to look into the shoddy goings-on. A special unit of dependable Central officers was also created to maintain schedules and quality as it was no longer feasible to rely on Mr Kalmadi's capabilities and his probity. However, what Dr Singh did not do was to wield his authority to ease out the OC chief quickly. By the time his government acted to place curbs on Mr Kalmadi, a lot of damage had been done.

In a way, the Games saga stands out as a symbol of the absence of timely governmental action when malfeasance is abroad. In the face of early signs of wrongdoing and corruption, our governments typically begin to pore over the rulebook instead of isolating the bad apples, begin to look at the political colour of the persons under scrutiny, and sometimes even give the impression that their citing of rules is meant to stall action. From this arises the idea of partisanship with the wrong sort. The idea of due process — a key requirement of democratic life — is permitted to give wrongdoers a long leash, although everyone knows what the score is. This needs to change, and swiftly. Without deviating from due process, the system needs to be armed with legislation and procedures to deal with crooks transparently and speedily. The absence of this is hurting the political system grievously even when individual leaders are themselves perceived as being above board. The long line of corruption scandals in recent decades shows that governments seem to act only when the people mount pressure, almost never on their own. The UPA-2 government needs to strain every nerve to alter this perception. It can make a beginning with the issue of black money stashed in tax havens abroad by unscrupulous individuals. True, the government cannot breach the confidentiality conditions under which it has obtained the names of 26 individuals from Germany — who are said to have secreted away ill-gotten wealth in funny places to avoid paying taxes. That will close doors for the future and make foreign governments — with which we deal on a regular basis on a plethora of issues — mistrust us. But what the government can do is ask the judiciary to disclose the names — and once these are in the public domain, it will have to find the ingenuity to deal with those who had parked black money abroad on a stringent basis. Needless to say, the matter must move beyond taxation.

Recently 14 eminent figures from different walks of life wrote "an open letter to our leaders" in which they rightly held that the "malaise of corruption" is "corroding the fabric of our nation". They urged that investigating and law-enforcing bodies be made independent of the executive. This is simplistic. America's FBI, for instance, is an arm of the US justice department. In a democratic order, when governments carry the mandate of the people, it may be even dangerous to transfer such powers away from elected authorities. The right way would be to reform governments, ensuring through legislation that clean people are elected and to have stringent laws against bribe-givers too. The subject is rocking the nation: effective steps are urgently needed.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

A REPUBLIC NEEDS RULES

SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

"Little drops of water, little grains of sand, make the mighty ocean and the beauteous land…"

But what about little drops of blood? What do they create?

On the immediate eve of the 61st birthday of our republic, this is the question to be addressed as a priority, at a time when assorted violence is claiming the lives of our fellow citizens on an unprecedented rate. The state of the nation seems to be symbolised by Netai, an obscure hamlet in the tribal belt of West Bengal, which came to national attention recently when eight persons were killed and 18 injured in an exchange of fire between two armed groups — subsequently identified as armed militia of the ruling political party, and villagers used as human shields by Maoists. The situation is not unique to this state. Similar situations are prevalent elsewhere.
Omissions and commissions in general governance have allowed political violence and subversive activities to reach a stage where they threaten the security fabric of the country. The nation seems to be staring into an abyss, demonstrating before the world an apparently fatal flaw in its societal nature where the practice of social and political democracy has become an extremely violent process at the grassroots, on scales that could well match the darker areas of Latin America. Sustained corrective action is required to be taken in hand urgently.
The basic reason for the descent into looming chaos is sheer lack of accountable governance at all levels of government, both at the Centre as well as in the states. India's fabled corruption and administrative inefficiency have created an all-pervading environment of systemic fragility in the country, though it must be stated in all fairness that states have often been more culpable in this respect than the Centre, and amongst them some states more than others.

Insurgency and terrorism are all essentially manifestations of warfare, as also is organised crime. Logistics constitutes the soft Achilles' Heel of all military systems, whose destruction or degradation will severely circumscribe and cripple the main operational effort. The same principle requires to be applied to the war on terror and crime, where criminal logistics require to be high priority targets because like all other quasi- military enterprises criminal and illegal activities too require fairly substantial logistic and administrative infrastructures of their own. These support systems draw upon the general civil and commercial infrastructure, providing a profusion of targets amongst the network of channels for procurement or manufacture of illegal weapons, ammunition and explosives, illegal financing and covert administrative support systems like safe houses and medical facilities for subversives and criminals. The targeting process has to comprehensively cover the entire gamut of activity because it is difficult to interdict contraband selectively. Interdiction operations are primarily based on strong police, intelligence and preventive services. Conventional military deployment is generally not necessary under these circumstances, except for elements of military intelligence where necessary, but if deployed will generally be in a supporting role. Again, as in all operations, integrated functioning is the key.
Proliferation of locally-manufactured small-bore country weapons is more or less a cottage industry flourishing in many parts of India, amongst which the Monghyr region in Bihar is perhaps the closest Indian equivalent of the fabled village gunsmiths of Darra Adam Khel in Pakistan. Country weapons are crude but undoubtedly effective for the purpose intended, and their design parameters are showing increasing sophistication, along with some rudimentary efforts at quality control. The innumerable small workshops in the country provide adequate machining facilities and technological experience is readily available everywhere, but a system of overwatch is required on their functioning and outputs so that they are not diverted, voluntarily or under threat, to the fabrication of illegal country weapons. It will not be possible to control the menace otherwise.
Military-grade explosives like CX or RDX are difficult to acquire or pilfer, and must of necessity be smuggled, usually through (and from) Pakistan, Bangladesh or Nepal. Therefore, terrorists have to assemble explosive devices either by pilferage from the mining industry, or from commercially-available expedients like ammonium nitrate, a widely-used chemical fertiliser freely available as perfectly legal purchases in the open market. Ammonium nitrate in the correct combinations with other ingredients like charcoal or fuel oil ("ANFO" — ammonium nitrate — fuel oil) creates improvised-explosive devices (IED) commonly known as "fertiliser bombs", whose makers in the underground bazaar command high prices for their services. However, assembly instructions for explosive devices are now freely available on the Internet and even rates are mentioned in Wikipedia.

Illegal finances are somewhat less readily available, even though unaccounted black money is flourishing, while illegal hawala transactions are too well known to require further elaboration or discussion. As a result, an industry of lucrative high-intensity crime has sprung up featuring bank hold ups, dacoities and, above all, extortion and kidnapping for ransom. The consolidated financial proceeds of all types of crime sustain criminal politics and their practitioners. The government(s) and their police have to become serious and sustained gang-busters if they really intend to clean up the situation, whose dimensions are well known.

The solution to the present situation is deceptively simple, but like all such, difficult and perhaps even impossible to execute within the given realities of the present national environment. Good, unbiased governance at all levels of the public, political and administrative structures is the sole remedy, to legislate, uphold and implement laws even-handedly in letter and spirit, without being influenced by local, political or other considerations. India has in its legal armoury some of the best economic, social and homeland defence legislation in the world. Let these weapons be brought out and deployed in full intensity to save the country and cure the wasting disease which has confined it to the sick bed notwithstanding India's economic "great leap forward".
On this 61st Republic Day, we the people owe it to ourselves.

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

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

'THERE WILL BE NO OTHER PANDITJI'

SHUBHA MUDGAL

The nation is in mourning. Or at least its music lovers are. They grieve as I do, at the passing away of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, a musician, a maestro whose genius touched many hearts, melted the stone-cold core of many insensitive souls, turning them into staunch followers of classical music. And yet, as we pay tribute to him, I find almost everyone, including myself, turning to the same clichéd phrases, words and terms that we use at the passing of others — the great masters of Indian music who departed before Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, statesmen, kings, leaders from different walks of life and accomplished figures. Over and over I hear myself repeat sometimes in Hindi, at times in English, phrases that are identical to those that I hear others repeat — "great sense of loss", "irreparable loss", "mourn the loss", "pray for his soul to find eternal peace" and so on. And then I think to myself that a voice so unique, a musical sensibility so rooted in the traditions of khayal gayaki and yet endowed with such originality certainly deserves more eloquent tributes couched in more elegant if not unique phrasing.

Perhaps it is that very quality of having found a unique and individualistic style of expression and articulation that set Pandit Bhimsen Joshi apart from the many who have loved music passionately and obsessively and who have, like him, faced hardship and deprivation to serve the cause of music. Some were able to touch and transform the lives of only a few around them, while Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and other great masters impacted the journeys and sensibilities of countless followers.

I was introduced to the music of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi in my childhood, by my parents Skand and Jaya Gupta, who were diehard followers of classical music. My father would invariably go into raptures when Panditji sang Jo bhaje Hari ko sadaa, sohi param pada paayegaa… in Bhairavi, often bursting into tears despite being an agnostic. My mother, always more restrained and less demonstrative, would still hurry to all of Panditji's concerts in Allahabad, ensuring that my younger sister Ragini and I were ready on time, and loaded on to the Lambretta scooter that drove us in Ramleela ki chowki style to all such events and happenings in the city. So we knew that the Pandit was someone special, someone who made even good old Dad weep. But we didn't exactly know what was special about him although we learned to recognise his inimitable voice fairly accurately even as young children. We just knew that there would be people collecting in droves for his concerts; that a hush would descend as he began singing, and that we would be hissed at sharply if we so much as giggled or chatted with each other even in whispers to point out any of his wild gestures or mannerisms.

Over the years, as I grew older and started studying music, I started appreciating with greater awareness the mastery and magic that held listeners in thrall. And then, in 1987, I received for the first time an invitation to sing at the Sawai Gandharva Festival, started in 1953 by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi to pay tribute to his guru Pandit Rambhau Kundgolkar, better known as Sawai Gandharva. If that wasn't enough of a milestone, the surprise that awaited me in the green room surely was — a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Panditji strode in as I was preparing to go on stage to face thousands of discerning music lovers, made a cheerful enquiry if all was well even as everyone in the room fell at his feet in turns. And then he sat down cross-legged on the dusty durrie in the green room and proceeded to tune the tanpura for me, in the ultimate gesture both of hospitality to an invited artiste and encouragement to a fledgling. I am certain he extended this gesture not only to me but to many who were touched by his music.

There are sure to be many such anecdotes about him as there are of his stamina, determination, will power, alcoholism and idiosyncrasies, all equally engaging and riveting. And I hope that we continue to hear them and enjoy them as we learn to cope with the loss of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi.

More importantly, we must thank him for the lessons he leaves behind as inheritance for countless musicians. A unique style invariably compels admirers, followers and disciples to attempt cloning. And therefore, during his lifetime, and after his demise too, we will have to contend with many Bhimsen Joshi clones, some who will, with limited success, ride the wave of nostalgia that is sure to swell and ebb in times to come; and others who will fade away into oblivion sooner or later. This has been the case with other grandmasters of the arts too — Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur, Pandit Kumar Gandharva, Ustad Amir Khan Sahab and Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan to name only a very few. What most of us will forget or will obstinately refuse to recognise is the special unspoken lesson that can be learned from these great musicians — that you have to be comfortable being yourself, and not kill yourself musically or otherwise trying to be someone you are not.
There will be no other Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and it would be best if we learn to celebrate that fact.

Shubha Mudgal is a well-knownIndian classical singer

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

DIPLOMATIC TAI CHI

VIKRAM SOOD

When Lang Lang, a resident of New York, was invited by the White House for a piano recital at the banquet for Chinese President Hu Jintao in Washington DC on January 19, no one really bothered to check the music he would play. The score he played had Mr Hu beaming and the Chinese Internet users delighted.
According to commentators like Matthew Robertson, early morning TV viewers in China knew about an hour or so in advance that Lang Lang would play the song My Motherland. The melody selected by the pianist was the theme song from the 1956 Chinese propaganda film of Korean War days — Battle on Shangganling Mountain (Triangle Hill). The song refers to the Americans as "jackals" (some say it is "wolves") and the victory at Triangle Hill was meant to depict victory over imperialists.

Quite obviously, Mr Hu's hosts did not know the significance of the song. Apparently they were quite satisfied after the mandatory reprimand the US President had delivered to his guest when he spoke of the need for China to observe human rights so long as Mr Hu bought $45 billion worth of American goods. Whatever spin the Americans and the White House might put on this incident now, it is being seen as a great propaganda victory in China.

The question is, was this a carefully-choreographed plan by the Chinese who knew that they would receive the par-for-the-course lecture on human rights and values of democracy even as the two countries remain locked in a economic-trade-currency embrace, and the Americans had to be given an immediate response on their home ground? Or does this reflect a tussle of some sorts in Beijing between an assertive People's Liberation Army (PLA), which may want a bigger role in foreign policy in the decade ahead, and a political leadership that is now going to be in transition as Mr Hu prepares to hand over power to his selected successor, Xi Jinping, by 2012? And therefore this exercise of display of assertiveness with each power centre positioning itself inside China and positioning themselves against the US where there will be presidential elections in 2012.
All of 2010 saw a more assertive Chinese foreign policy activity in its periphery, including India. The New Year began similarly when the Chinese arranged the leak about their new J-20 stealth fighter just hours ahead of US defence secretary Robert Gates' meeting with President Hu on January 11 in Beijing. The word is that this fighter is based on US technology having got some of the technology from an American F-117 that was shot down in the Balkans in 1999. Apart from this, the Chinese also revealed that Shi Lang, the first of six Chinese aircraft carriers, will sail later this year; and the Dong Feng 21D missile, which is capable of sinking a US aircraft carrier, is now a part of the Chinese Second Artillery Corps arsenal. The message is that the western Pacific is more and more a Chinese domain. The gauntlet has been thrown by a China that has hubris as the other superpower on its way to attaining its pre-ordained position in the world.

If China's military assertiveness is the new factor that worries the Pentagon, it is the Chinese quest for technology that has in many ways made this assertiveness possible today. China's economic rise is not merely export driven. It is based on the principle and practice that to be competitive in the global economy, China would need to innovate and indigenise. Above all factors today, it is innovation that will drive growth and competitiveness, and this is only possible through a well-integrated education, research and infrastructure. Three years ago, the Chinese were the fourth-highest spenders on research and development at $66 billion. The concentration has been on hybrid electric vehicles, high-speed rail and solar power systems — the future for transport, energy and communications (American Progress, January 14, 2011, report). This is something we lack and a mere Nano and an LCA (Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas) are far too inadequate. They do not qualify as 21st century innovations.

Inevitably, a major event like the Hu visit evoked comments from the old cold warriors of the previous century, Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski. The former had broken the ice between Beijing and Washington and the latter had arranged the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two. Kissinger took the first step towards the creation of a rising China against the Soviets and now speaks of the need for the two countries to interact globally and avoid another Cold War. Mr Kissinger sees the need to build an emerging world order as a joint enterprise. Mr Brzezinski gave us the Afghan jihad that thrives today, and the few "Islamic hotheads" that he scorned at then have become a global menace. He too stressed on the need for the US and China to collaborate on global issues like North Korea and West Asia. This one supposes is a continuation of the G2 principle that US President Barack Obama first enunciated when he visited China in November 2009.
At first, seemingly lukewarm and reacting to President Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama and arms sales to Taiwan, China now assesses that its moment has come and demands that it be heard as an equal partner.
The Hu-Obama joint statement spoke of close cooperation on climate and energy problems and "deeper bilateral engagement and coordination" on "a wide range of security, economic, social, energy and environmental issues". Platitudes apart, the two countries, despite their differences on economic issues, are expected to work together on many others. China may have risen for its neighbourhood but not enough to take on the US frontally.

The internal debate in the US whether China needs to be contained or engaged and co-opted will continue. Whichever way we look at it, China will engage the US attentions far more than India. Also, neither of these global powers will jeopardise their bilateral relations for India's sake. In the final analysis, India is going to be fairly alone.

Vikram Sood is a former head of the Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency

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DNA

BHIMSEN JOSHI SHONE AMONG GALAXY OF STARS

 

When jeremiads were being sung for classical music in changing times, Bhimsen Joshi sang with abandon and people just thronged to listen to him. He was a flamboyant classical singer.

 

For many that would have been a contradiction in terms, but the maestro pulled it off with ease. He was popular without being populist, a purist who rendered the nuances of a raaga with great tenderness. His death in Pune on Monday, just short of his 89th birthday next month, may seem to mark the end of an era, but as some fellow classical musicians spanning generations have rightly said, he would remain a shining example for a long time to come.

 

What is it that made him the commanding singer that he was? He had a melodic voice and that alone would have given him the stardom in the classical music arena. But he did what every true artist always does. He put the voice in the service of the reign of raaga, the basic mode of classical singing. It was the timbre of the voice, which did not remain merely mellifluous, that gave his singing that lasting quality. The notes lingered after he finished with them. The histrionics of his performance — and there was plenty of it, which the photographers and TV camerapersons had captured over the years for posterity — that captured in a graphic way his singing, was not the act of an uncanny performer. Joshi let himself go whichever the way the raaga went and the audience followed it faithfully. He was fully immersed in his singing, the quality that distinguishes a great singer from the ordinary. While the uninitiated were enchanted by his passionate recital, the connoisseurs were left speechless.

 

Joshi did not dominate the scene because he had not much of a competition. He shone in a galaxy of brilliant stars — Mallikarjun Mansur, Kumar Gandharva, Gangubai Hangal, Kishori Amonkar, et al. And he would survive comparison with giants of the past like Omkarnath Thakur. Though he did not let himself be imprisoned in the gharana tradition of Hindustani classical music, the deep, rich tenor of his own Kirana gharana was there for all to hear. Joshi showed that there is no other way to keep the tradition of classical music alive except by singing it with all the passion at one's command. That is what he did through his life with unmatched robustness of spirit.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

THE BJP'S MISTIMED ACTION MAY BACKFIRE

 

In spite of being in the opposition for so many years, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) still appears to struggle with the concept. This weakness has been exposed by its current insistence on unfurling the tricolour at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on January 26. It seems to be squandering the excellent opportunity to really push a beleaguered UPA government by suddenly shifting focus to Kashmir. By opting for the gesture over a more substantial campaign against corruption, the burning issue of the day, it almost seems to be playing into the government's hands.

 

What is even more curious is that corruption has been the BJP's pet project — especially the black money held in Swiss banks. But now that the corruption issue and the Swiss banks have been handed to it on a platter, it has abandoned this and veered completely to the "flag in Kashmir" topic. And instead of putting the government on the ropes, it has seemingly played into its hands by giving the Centre a fighting point. Creating public commotion has not suited the BJP well in recent times — look back to its ill-conceived bandhs on inflation last year. Besides, after J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah has invited the BJP to be part of the official flag-hoisting in his state, this insistence on Lal Chowk seems recalcitrant and petulant.

 

It is clear, of course, that the BJP is switching to its core constituency — "the patriotic Indian" but it seems to have misread the mood. The patriotic Indian is far more concerned about the plunder of the nation, as the Supreme Court has so pithily put it, than raising flags in Kashmir. The suspicion will be that the BJP is reluctant to create a national movement on corruption because of the situation in Karnataka. It will appear that the party is unwilling to "sacrifice" the chief minister of one state for the national good and can well be accused of playing the same electoral politics that it is quick to blame others for.

 

Between the Commonwealth Games and the 2G bandwidth allocation, any other opposition would have moved past, licking its chops with glee and on to some huge anti-government campaign.

 

Apart from corruption, there has been inflation, failure on the 'aam aadmi' front and a scrambling to keep allies happy at the cost of the nation. UPA-II has managed to make the worst of a perfect situation when it came to power in 2009. And now has the advantage of an opposition party that has offered it a reprieve on the most burning issue of the day.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

ASTONISHMENT BRINGS WAKEFULNESS

SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR

 

Astonishment is the basis of spiritual opening. Its amazing how this creation is so full of astonishing things around. But we take things for granted. And that's when a thought of inertia dawns and dullness comes along. Tamas acts in, inactivity happens and ignorance resides.

 

Whereas a sense of astonishment brings wakefulness. A miracle shocks you; that shock is the wakefulness. And when we are awakened we see the whole creation is full of miracles. The entire creation is to be wondered upon; because it is all a display of one consciousness.

 

From the point of view of an animal, your language means nothing. It is just like howling. If a cat or a dog were to look at you, unless you have trained them for a very long time, they will think you are barking at them, just with a different sound, making no sense. Our language, our intellect, our mind is so limited, its perspective is limited.

 

Our little brain is programmed to one language or few more languages. And we think that all the understanding, the knowledge can be captured in this brain. We think we can reason out, find logic, understand all that exists; but this feeling: "I know it all" can keep us in a little shell of dullness. "I don't know" creates wakefulness, because you need to know in order to be awakened.

 

What is this? "I don't know"; this "I don't know" is the key to progress knowledge.

 

Nature reveals little more of your secrets; and bit more of its mysteries. So that you get opportunities to be amazed. To wonder what life is, what consciousness is, what universe is, who am I, and what is this? And, you are so fortunate to come to that point. This is the beginning of spiritual journey of union with the Divinity.

 

Let us get astonished at the union, a preface for the union. Wonder is the preface for the union. And when you are united, you wonder at everything. The prana, the life force, is present in every object.

 

There is nothing inanimate on this planet. We are all floating on the ocean of life. Everybody is just a shell, an ocean of life: This is one such phenomenon. All the present, past, future, its time scale is within the preview of consciousness. Consciousness is beyond time and space, it is all just vibrations.

 

So, if you are amazed, astonished, wonderstruck, just close your eyes with a smile and think.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

THE MIDDLE CLASS TURNS AWAY FROM THE PM

PARSA VENKATESHWAR RAO JR

 

The core constituency of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has always been the middle class. It was the class that benefited the most from the economic reforms in 1991. It remained his silent admirer all these years because the reforms were not popular with the majority of the people. It saw in him an example of a meritocrat rising above the venal political class. The middle class did not always vote for Singh. It favoured the nationalist, conservative, even reactionary politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as against the socialist, secular rhetoric of the Congress. But when it came to judging Singh, it had no hesitation voting for the man with its gratitude. This simple, silent bond between the middle class and Singh has broken in the last few months, in the wake of the series of scams, from that of A Raja's 2G allocation to Suresh Kalmadi's Commonwealth Games financial mishandling. Even the Adarsh Housing Society scandal is now laid at the door of the prime minister.

 

In the beginning the middle class saw Singh as an honest man who had nothing to do with the political quagmire surrounding him. From 1991 to 1996, it was PV Narasimha Rao who was the villain of all the things that went wrong. So in the eyes of his admirers, Singh had nothing to do with all that was wrong with the Congress and its corrupt ways. Of course, he was a member of the Congress ever since he entered the political arena. He has made it a point to be seen as a politician though everyone, including his middle class constituency, thought of him as too much of a gentleman to be a politician. Singh did not want to play the game of being an outsider who did not understand the vileness of everyday politics. It was his admirers who refused to accept the fact that he was ready to bear the cross of being a politician.

 

Even during his first term as prime minister, Singh was spared the criticism. The sharpest criticism of the main opposition party, the BJP, was that he was weak and ineffective and not his own man. By the end of 2010, the scandals and corruption that overwhelmed the UPA-II, and friends of Singh were not willing to give him the privilege of being a non-political prime minister anymore. In an abrupt turnaround, they are now pinning the blame on the man for pervasive corruption.

 

There are two reasons for this. For the first time, the middle class is feeling the pain of market economy in recession. It is bitter and angry and in an irrational manner thinks the prime minister is somehow responsible for its economic anxieties arising out of the 2008 market meltdown. Corruption comes in handy to nail Singh at last. They are not willing to accept that an honest man cannot do much to fight the corruption around him on his own. They are now convinced that he had the power to prevent corruption and remove the persons responsible for it, without realising that then he would be bringing the roof down upon himself and his party, if he does so.

 

Singh is unlikely to wilt before this middle class offensive. He would perhaps consider this as the moment of political baptism. It is quite likely that Singh's detractors in the Congress would want to use this opportunity to pull him down. He has become that much more vulnerable in the quicksands of corruption. Singh, though, must be relishing the moment when he is fighting the classic political battle of shrugging charges of corruption against his party and his government.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

BANGLADESH LIBERATION FIGHTERS SAY A LOUD THANK YOU TO INDIA

ASHOK MEHTA

 

For the second time in the almost 40 years since its creation, Bangladesh invited a delegation of Indian war veterans who had fought alongside the Mukti Bahini freedom fighters in the 1971 War of Liberation that comprehensively defeated the Pakistan army. The first invitation was extended by the caretaker government in 2007, while the second, by the Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League government in 2009, could not materialise due to the mutiny of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) personnel. That aborted invitation was made good last month.

 

"Without you, we would not be a country" acknowledged the freedom fighters, some on wheelchairs and some on crutches among the many able-bodied. The outburst of sentiment, generosity and plain thank you was moving. Indian war veterans were feted by the freedom fighters, Awami League politicians, and the three armed services. Equally striking was the absence of the leader of the opposition, Bangladesh National Party (BNP) leader Khaleda Zia. She was absent from the official wreath laying ceremony at the national Martyrs' Memorial, though she did attend after her bête noire, prime minister Sheikh Hasina had left the victory parade.

 

The arrest by the government of BNP's standing committee member from Chittagong, the self-confessed Pakistan sympathiser, Salauddin Qadir Chowdhury, on the same day for war crimes merely added fuel to the fire.

 

This was part of the government's drive to bring to book those who collaborated with the Pakistani military crackdown in 1971. After Zia's eviction, following court orders from Army House and her grievous electoral decline in 2008, she was in need of comfort and found no better place for solace than Beijing where the Chinese accorded her honours reserved for state visitors. Khaleda Zia, along with her husband, the late President Gen Zia-ur Rehman, have ruled Bangladesh for almost half of its existence and systematically distanced the country from India.

 

Bitter rivals, the two begums have divided the country's politics between themselves. The army-backed caretaker government of 2007-08 had unsuccessfully sought to keep them out of politics in what was called 'minus two'. What one is observing today is transition from 'minus two' to 'plus two' — the nurturing of the sons, Sheikh Hasina's Sajib Wajid and Khaleda Zia's Tariq Zia.

 

Bangladesh has seen army rule twice: first under Zia-ur Rehman and later under Mohammad Ershad. The army has a Chinese bias with the US and UK involved in training and consultancy. Conspicuously, India, along with its military, is peripheral to the Bangladesh military's overall disposition. Its linkages with the Pakistan army and the ISI, despite the genocide of 1971, have not gone away. All three service chiefs in Dhaka are now from the post-1971 Liberation War vintage. Unlike the Pakistan army that seeks revenge against India for 1971, the Bangladesh military does not seem to want to avenge the genocide of Bangladeshis.

 

In some quarters, India is portrayed as the enemy to help build the primacy of the military as the ultimate protector of the nation.

 

The military is under civilian control for the present. Last year, the BDR had revolted and targeted their commanding army officers with immense brutality. The hangover of that mutiny is still in the air as the BDR is being overhauled. An army takeover was averted during the caretaker regime, with the international community threatening to keep the Bangladesh army out of UN peacekeeping operations. At an average, every soldier earns one if not two lucrative tenures abroad, which make UN missions the biggest driver of recruitment.

 

The military, which shares some traits with its Pakistani counterpart, is a potent factor in keeping the country united and the civilian government mindful of good governance. As a professional force, it knows its red lines. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina is also her own defence minister and has inherited an effective military apparatus carved out by Gen Ershad, notably the Armed Forces Division. The head of the AFD reports directly to the prime minister, bypassing the ministry of defence, making it a dream outfit for any military.

 

From India's point of view, prime minister Sheikh Hasina has ensured that Indian insurgent groups and leaders thriving inside Bangladesh in the past have no safe havens now. This has been her biggest gift to India and after Bhutan's Operation All Clear, it has secured India's eastern flank internally.

 

With Sheikh Hasina in office, the exchange of war veterans must be institutionalised to initiate defence cooperation, which is virtually non-existent. This will help erase the India bogey and bolster confidence-building measures. New Delhi must cautiously draw maximum mileage while Sheikh Hasina is in power and help replicate the win-win situation of 1971.

 

— The writer is a retired major general and an expert on strategic affairs

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

CONFIRMS THE WORST

 

Two newspaper accounts about poachers and hunters taking a toll of wild life in different parts of the State this week are revealing. That they have also managed to strike in the Dachigam National Park, of all sanctuaries, at the outskirts of the Summer Capital should wake us up to the challenge we have on hand. In the other incident in this region the authorities have seized carcasses of three wild animals in Ramkote forest range of Billawar in Kathua district. Indeed, what has happened inside Dachigam is most amazing. The sanctuary has been the focus of attention for quite some time now for decline in its Hangul population. The miscreants entered it from one side. On being spotted and chased by the staff they took to their heels leaving behind a pheran, an identity card and, shockingly, four kilograms of Hangul meat which has been sent for forensic tests. As is only too well known Dachigam is the home of rare Hangul (Kashmir stag). Hangul is our State animal believed to be the only surviving race of the Deer Red family of Europe in the Indian sub-continent (the claim is based on the assumption that Shou of Bhutan may be extinct). It is listed as an endangered species in the Red Data book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (UCN). Hangul's grand visible assets --- splendid head of antlers --- are also its undoing, as is often the case with animals. It is highly prized for that and, hence, is the envy of smugglers. Dachigam is a little more than an average preserve not because of Hangul alone. It has an idyllic location and it has a guest house exclusively for VIPs the entry to which is regulated by the people at the helm.


There should be all-round surprise that the security of such a well-protected spot has been breached. Eventually we have at least one confirmed reason why the Hangul population has dwindled over the decades. There is a sharp variation in the estimates in this regard. Once spread all over the Kashmir hills the beautiful animal's total strength was then stated to be between 3000 and 5000. Now their number is said to have come down to a couple of hundreds. How and why has this disaster occurred? Deforestation and militancy are the obvious causes. It is not easy to explain, however, why they could not be rescued in Dachigam itself --- virtually their kingdom. What can then be the fate of inhabitants of other sanctuaries on both sides of the Pir Panjal and in our largely trans-Himalayan Ladakh region? We have created a fairly good number of wild life reserves across the State. It is a statement of pious intentions of our administrators. Regrettably, however, we have not gone beyond simply demarcating areas. Concerned officials have admitted that they are handicapped for want of requisite money and manpower. From the available information it appears that it is just by chance that the seizure in Billawar has been made. Two persons on a scooter carrying a Punjab number plate aroused suspicion because of the manner of their movement. They fled to the nearby jungle on being stopped by the anti-poaching squad of the Wild Life Department leaving behind a plastic bag and the vehicle. One carcass each of jackal, jungle cat and civet cat was found inside the sack. All these animals are protected under the Jammu and Kashmir Wild Life Protection Act. Some of their assets carry big commercial value.


Clearly there is a case for better management of our wild life reserves. Many of them are exposed to heavy vehicular traffic. Actually this is true of our green gold as a whole. We are losing it. Vast bald patches on our mountains are a tell-tale sign. Off and on we do get reports of land and timber mafias playing havoc. Day in and day out there is man-animal conflict. With their natural habitat shrinking the animals per force move out at times killing those who came in their way. They too get eliminated if they turn violent. The inability to co-exist is leading to co-destruction. The ultimate pity is that the animals are not safe even in the pockets meant solely for them. We need to reverse the overall adverse trend. We ought to beef up the security mechanism around sanctuaries. These have been created with a laudable objective in mind. Simultaneously we should zealously take care of the other forest wealth as well. There is no substitute for eternal vigilance in either event.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SOLDIERS THEY ARE

 

All hearts will go to the families of four labourers of Reasi district whose bodies have been brought home from the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh. They had gone all the way to Shimla to assist in the construction of a road. All of them had lost their lives in landslides; they belonged to Shergarhi village in Mahore tehsil. Let it be said that they were soldiers of a different kind. They might not have worn uniforms but their contribution to the nation's development was remarkable. Like them there are millions of the members of their ilk who move from one state to the other in search of employment. They are not afraid of working in areas that may scare away the white-collar babus. One can come across them on the top of the hills, as in this instance, deserts and on the banks of rivers. Their safety should demand the attention of their employers. Of course, their respective state governments are called upon to intervene as and when they face a crisis. We can't just overlook that there are hundreds of them from Bihar and Punjab mainly lending their expertise to this State. Last year quite a few of them were caught in the cloudburst and the havoc it had caused in our trans-Himalayan district of Leh. The State Government and the local administration were flooded with anxious queries about their welfare. We have focussed on labourers engaged in construction activity constituting what is called the unorganised labour.
The term "unorganised labour", however, has a wider connotation and includes various sections of people the majority of them being those involved in the agricultural activity in the country. It is defined as "those who have not been able to organise themselves in pursuit of common objectives on account of constraints like casual nature of employment, ignorance and illiteracy, small and scattered size of establishments and position of power enjoyed by employers because of the nature of industry." We must salute its positive contribution.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

EXPLORING ALTERNATIVE STRATEGIES IMPROVING THE GOVERNANCE PROCESS

IN AND AROUND J&K

BY D SUBA CHANDRAN

 

While numerous reports and independent analysis on Jammu and Kashmir have been repeatedly emphasizing the existence of governance deficit as a major issue for most of J&K's problem today, there have not been much discussion on the alternatives available to the government and the civil society in reducing the governance deficit. What alternative strategies could the State (represented by the governments in Jammu/Srinagar and New Delhi) pursue to improve the process of governance in J&K? How can the civil society help the governments to improve this process?


Before looking into the alternative strategies, a critique of the primary problem with the existing strategy is essential. At least four problems could be identified with the existing governance strategy. First and foremost is the lack of accountability, which the State (in J&K and New Delhi) has to share the primary blame. Over the years, narrow political pursuits by parties and governments have helped the insincere section to grow further, while the honest and sincere officials remain thoroughly demoralized. Even if a considerable section within those who are sincere and wants to make a change, today have lost their hopes and adopt a "chalta hey" primarily out of the hopeless situation in which they are outnumbered.


Second primary problem is the work culture or the lack of it, in J&K, for which the Civil society has to share the primary blame. In fact, the problem of accountability and corruption - two great evils that plague the governance process in J&K stem from the lack of work culture in J&K. From the official who works in Lakhanpur to the policeman who is stationed in the Nyoma Police station in Ladakh, there is a serious problem, in terms of attitude towards work and discharging responsibilities. There is a "chalta hey" attitude amongst the common public, which is voracious in demanding its rights, but pusillanimous in performing its duties. We need electricity for 24 hours, but we will refuse to pay bill; we want every roads to be laid and streets to be lit, but will avoid paying tax. While most of the urban population is addicted with this problem, one could see a visible change in how the rural areas in J&K are also trying to ape the urban attitude and remain lethargic. Even in Ladakh, which in J&K is considered to be the most sincere and less corrupt, one could see this attitude slowly seeping in.


We need to do a thorough inspection and look inwards. What went wrong with us, as a society? Why at times, we take pride in short circuiting the system and not doing what we are supposed to? Why at times, we see the sincere and honest people as some archaic elements and old fashioned stupids, who do not know how to pursue their lives? How did we end up landing in the mess, that we are in today?


Third major problem, related to governance in J&K is corruption. Undoubtedly, none has imposed corruption into J&K; it is the result of the above two problems - lack of accountability and the decline in work culture. While it is difficult to find which is the cause and which is the effect, it is easy to conclude - both together has ensured that J&K is the second most corrupt state in India. Perhaps, it is the first now; if we overtake Bihar shortly and have at least something to be proud of - we are the most corrupt in India!


Fourth primary problem is the alienation of people from the process of governance. Most of those who are highly critical of the civil society highlight the argument in terms of "us versus them"; truth also is, most of the civil society does not feel a part of the government and the governance process. He or she may agree that the government is a result of "by the people" in terms of election, but will question whether it is "of the people" and "for the people". Barring a few, the majority in J&K is convinced that their government, neither belongs to them nor represents them, though was elected by them.


For different reasons, there is also a significant gap between the people and the rulers - whether it is the bureaucrats or political leaders. Any survey among the people, is likely to show the increasing divide between the people and their leaders. Perhaps they believe, like the government, those who are in charge of the process of governance also do not represent them. In short, the people feel alienated from the process of governance.
Given the above situation - lack of accountability, high level of corruption, alienation of the people from the process of governance and the declining work culture, what are the alternate strategies that could be pursued?
Two strategies in particular can address the above four problems. First and foremost is the revival of the panchayat institutions. Panchayat institutions, if implemented in letter and spirit is the closest, in terms of the distance between those who govern and those governed. Perhaps, panchayat institutions truly represent the spirit of governance "by the people, of the people and for the people" in India, than any other representative structures.


Since the people and the panchayat leaders are from the same region, and coexist in the same geographical and more importantly in the same social setting, the accountability is likely to be more, with less of corruption. While the panchayat institutions are unlikely to completely remove corruption and make everyone totally accountable, given the situation and alternatives, it is the best institution, well suited for a region like J&K to bring the process of governance closer to people.


Panchayat institutions are also about empowerment of people at the local level. This will greatly reduce the feeling of alienation by the people from the process of governance. Since the local people are expected to be involved in day to day functions from ensuring the lights in streets, construction of small bridges and local roads, and the maintenance of schools and small buildings in the locality, panchayat institutions are likely to be all inclusive, in terms of providing a sense of ownership.


The second strategy, that could also be considered is the expansion of the idea of Hill Councils. As of today, J&K has two Hill Councils for Leh and Kargil. Despite minor hiccups and problems, the general perception regarding the Hill Councils has been positive. The local population not only feels empowered, but also being part of day to day affairs. Of course, there have also been minor (and at times even major) problems between the Hill Councils and the mainstream State administration led by the IAS officer; but even this difference is positive, in which the Hill Councils are trying to assert themselves in terms of who manages what. This difference essentially means, that the people at the local level, want to be the master of their own house and the region, and want to take charge of the governance process. Though this might make the mainstream administration to feel powerless, such a demand from the local government should not be seen as a disruptive process.


Besides, politically, the Hill Councils are also likely to provide an identity to a particular region, which feels isolated and hence started looking inwards. As in the case of Rajouri and Poonch, this has created new problems within, in terms of creating new identities. A "Pir Panjal Hill Council" or a "Chenab Valley Council" is likely to provide a regional identity to the people and unite them, instead of dividing them over other ethnic loyalties.
Panchyats and Hill Councils will not only ensure that the people feel empowered and be a part of the governance process, but also in the long run, solve most of J&K's present problems.


(The author is currently Director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), New Delhi and a Visiting Professor at the Pakistan Studies Programme in Jamia Milia Islamia)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

U.N.O ROLE IN NEW WORLD ORDER

BY M L GUPTA

 

The main issues being faced by the people of world are:


Global warming and climate change, corruption and poverty terrorism


In the pre industrial era the world population was much below a billion where as presently it is well over six billions. The increased population increases demand of housing, consumables, animals to provide milk and meat, utilities like water and power, vehicles, infrastructure like roads, railways tracks , airports etc. The increased housing and number of factories, power plants consume forest, agriculture and plantation cover, main stay of carbon absorption beside sea and water bodies. Increase in human, animal population, vehicles, thermal power plants, D.G. sets and furnaces etc. increases carbon emission resulting in global warming and climate change threatening very existence of mankind on this earth. Though clean energy solutions like solar and nuclear power and recovery of waste land to increase forest cover may help but ultimate solution lies in population reversal by enforcing one child norm for about fifty years.


Corruption is a world wide phenomena but developing nations particularly India are badly affected by it. Many scams have been surfacing since the times of Indira Gandhi. However 2 G scam in which UPA led Govt. has put the country to a loss of Rs 1.76 lacs crores, a wooping sum was never thought of . Inspite of 10 percent average growth rate in GDP the nation still has 77 percent of its population with average income of Rs 20/- (Rupees Twenty) or less per day. With ever galloping prices of consumables like onion, garlic and various other items, poverty is glaring in the face of majority of Indian population. With property prices galloping it has become difficult for even the middle class to afford a house of their own.


Though in the long run only reversal of population growth can eliminate poverty. However, elimination of corruption, absolute power, nepotism and favouritism in governance may ease the situation to some extent. Country should have two or three party system both at National and State level , contest to be arranged directly between parties based on door to door calls and expression of their manifesto on Govt. owned media which must also be debated between parties. Representatives be nominated by parties proportionate to percentage of votes secured in election and defector should cease to represent in the house. Largest party should be given the rule of country or state where as simple or two third majority should only come to play in case of issues of vital national importance. The president of india and his nominee governors (selected on advice of a commitee of best experts in governance ) should have the direct control over vigilance, judiciary or any other monitoring agency to have checks and balances over the government to free it from evils of corruption, absolute power, nepotism and favouratism.


Terrorism normally is a result of religious and economic exploitation. Even in Hindu Society under caste system the lower castes were exploited to the extent that majority of Indian population had been left to do menial jobs for the upper castes and were deprived of education and association on equal terms. Islam to is dominated by a section of people having ancestry mainly from Saudi Arabia who for vested interest have been misleading the majority of Muslims.


There was rebellion by land lords, money lenders and Muslim priests/mentors affected by sweeping reforms enforced by new regime that came into power in Afghanistan on April 27, 1978. Pakistan led by Gen. Zia-a Maulvi's son fueled the rebellion through it's inter services intelligence. U.S and its European allies following anti communist policies poured in large quantity of arms and funds through I.S.I in aid of Afghan rebels. Gen. Zia-Ul-Haq had placed entire education system of Pakistan in the hands of Maulvis through Jamaat-i-Islami. A large number of students (Talibans) from among refugees & local population of Balouch were trained in militancy in schools (Madrasas) to fight soviet forces that had been invited into Afghanistan in 1979 to protect the regime against rebels. The western media carried out religious propaganda that "Islam is in danger" at the hand of ungodly communist. A large number of volunteers from Arabian Countries joined the rebels. Osama Bin Laden a Civil Engineer by profession and son of a multi billionaire contractor of Saudi-Arabia helped in recruiting volunteers as well in raising large funds for establishing training camps etc.


His outfit Al-Qaeda established in 1987 and various Pakistan based terrorist groups like Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad etc. are the outcome of imperialist aided war against the communist. America woke up and declared war against terror only when it was attacked by them on September 11' 2001. Osama Bin Laden who succeeded in establishing Al-Qaeda net work in various countries was labeled as chief accused. America & Its western allies have now realized that the war against terror has to fought unitedly by world as a whole. U.N.O has thus to play a major role through enlarged security council to fight against terror, corruption, Poverty, global warming. A new World order has thus to emerge.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SOCIAL FORESTRY IN INDIA

BY R L BHAT

 

Forests in a developing society like ours are important, for they provide ecological balance as well as contribute to economic development. India's forests account for about 23 percent of country's geographical area. These should be protected not destroyed. The national commission for agriculture provided stragies for the proper development of forestry. 'A tree for every child was the slogan adopted'. In order to make this programme successful the deep involvement of school teachers, farmers and all progressive elements is necessary.
The role and importance of forests in a developing country like India burdened with poverty, pollution needs no elaboration. Forests have a fruitful role in the development of a country. It is the backbone of a nation.
In present world growing population has led to disastrous over use and clearance of forests for fuelwood timber pulp and paper industry. The use of fuel leads to annual loss of forest cover. In Himachal 300 sq kms has been damaged during last 40 years. The amazon which is the world's largest tropical rain forest with an area of 5 million sq kms is being felled 3500 kms every year. In Nepal firewood is so scare that it costs more than kerosene.


The extensive loss of forest has serious economic and ecological implication. Deforestation has caused carbondioxide concentration on earth's atmosphere to rise from 290 to 350 microlitres. The felling of forests disturbs the habitat of wild life and may lead to extinction of many species.


India's forests with a gross area of 75 million hectares accounts for 1/5 of country's Geographical area. This brings per capita forest area to a meagre 0.11 hectares which is one the lowest in the world. This means forest cover in India is very poor. The national forest policy of 1952 had recommended 83 percent of country land to be covered by forests but the scenario is really dismal. But instead deforestation is going on alarming speed.

 

Natural forests are being destroyed at a rate faster than nature or man can regenerate them.
Significantly, the data provided by the American earth observation spacecraft, Lander has revealed that India's forest cover has declined from 16.9 percent in early seventies to 14.1 per cent in the early 80s' which means that country loses forest cover 1.3 million hectares per year. The Lander has also shown that forest cover within 100 km of India's major cities is diminishing at the rate of 15% per year.


In order to remedy the situation and to retrieve the damage done to ecological balance, the Indian Commission on Agriculture (INCA) after a comprehensive review of state forestry in country in 1976 recommended a three pronged strategy for the development of forestry.


The strategy envisaged:-


(i) Rehabilitation of degraded forests through vigorous afforestation.


(ii) Development of production forestry to meet wood and timber requirements.


(iii) To develop social forestry to meet the wood, fodder, timber and other minor forest produce requirement to the rural population.


The concept of social forestry needs a grass root level initiative in which common masses have a vital role.

Social forestry in India is aimed at meeting needs of fuel wood and replacing cow dung for releasing it as manure and protecting agriculture land from corresive action of winds and meeting the demand for green leaf fodder for cattle.


In order to achieve the objectives there is need of development of village forests on community land, planting tree along road side, canal banks, tube wells approach roads with technical assistance from Government.
A tree for every child is the slogan adopted for social forestry. India is getting help from Sweden, Canada and the World Bank to give concept a practical shape. There are several important preconditions before a programme of this nature can be successfully implemented. The relevant data must be collected by the panels of ecologists, sociologists, economists and administrators. Thereafter most practicable integrated approach should be worked out and adopted.


In villages the rural women as a social group should be involved in the process. People should be made aware about the essence of forests. The awareness should be at the grass root level of society.


Individuals are already standing up for forest preservation. India's unique 'Chipko movement is exemplary. In Himachal apple growers now use cardboard cartoons for packing their produce and thus avoid waste of wood. There is urgent need for suitable alternatives materials for making furniture doors etc. We must restrict the use of wood to an absolute minimum and decorative wood panelling deserves same sort of contempt we reserve for people wearing fur coats.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

CASE FOR INDO-PAK TALKS

NO SOLUTION IS POSSIBLE WITHOUT DIALOGUE

 

There is no dearth of concerned individuals on both sides of the India-Pakistan divide who think alike on how to remove tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. Thus, it is not surprising that while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's special envoy for Afghanistan-Pakistan S. K. Lamba was stressing on the need for India and Pakistan to remain engaged at a recent function in Delhi, Pakistan's former Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri was at another venue in the city talking of maintaining regular contacts at the highest levels to resolve the lingering disputes between the two countries. Mr Lamba was more emphatic in saying that despite Pakistan's polity being "fragile" and its interest in peace with India being "uncertain", it will not be wise for New Delhi to reject the process of engagement. We all know that there is no alternative to dialogue to normalise relations between the two.

 

Revival of the India-Pakistan dialogue process can help in weakening the forces of extremism in Pakistan, which is in the interest of peace in the entire region. An atmosphere of tension suits these elements, doing all they can to capture power in Islamabad. One can imagine the consequences of extremists controlling the levers of power in Pakistan. Of course, it is the primary responsibility of the saner elements in Pakistan to ensure that their country remains stable and free from chaos. But instability in India's immediate neighbourhood with a stockpile of nuclear weapons can lead to "unpredictable consequences", as Mr Lamba rightly pointed out.

 

Pakistan has been insisting on full resumption of the composite dialogue process which got snapped in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist strike. The two countries have had an extensive exchange of views through the diplomatic channel in the run-up to the scheduled India-Pakistan Foreign Secretaries' meeting on the sidelines of the February 6-7 SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) summit in Thimpu (Bhutan). No more time needs to be wasted on deciding whether full or partial dialogue should be resumed at this stage. An early India-Pakistan engagement is a must to enlarge the constituency of peace on both sides and defeat the forces of disruption in the region.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

AN EXERCISE IN HALF-TRUTHS

NEEDLESS ROW OVER PUNJAB GROWTH RATE

 

Punjab's economy has attracted a lot of political attention in the recent past, which is a welcome break from the traditional politics of vendetta and personal attacks. First, it was the mounting state debt and the Centre's conditional offer to cut it that generated much heat and led to the ouster of then Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal. Then the issue of ballooning subsidies was hotly discussed by both politicians and academics. Now it is the state's GDP growth rate figures, which have become controversial.

 

Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has largely presented the government side. Late last year when he repeatedly claimed in the media that there was no Central offer on the debt issue, he was proved wrong when the Central government later admitted in Parliament in reply to queries from Mrs Harsimrat Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal and Mr Manish Tiwari of the Congress that talks were held between the Union and state finance ministers to reduce Punjab's debt. The growth rate issue has cropped up as the Central Statistical Organisation has applied different base years for calculating growth rates –1999-2000 for all India, 2004-05 for Haryana and 2008-09 for Punjab. Punjab's so-called growth of 8.8 per cent is based on this variation.

 

Capt Amarinder Singh of the Congress has rightly cleared the confusion. Mr Sukhbir Badal should read the last budget (2010-11) of his own government, which puts Punjab's GDP growth rate at 5.11 per cent between 2002 and 2007 against the national average of 7.8 per cent. How can the growth rate shoot up suddenly when all available data presents a dismal picture of the state finances? The debt of the government and boards and corporations has reached an all-time high. The fiscal deficit is alarming. The rate of unemployment at 10.5 per cent is higher than the national figure of 9.4 per cent. It does not behove the state's Deputy Chief Minister to misrepresent the facts. Instead, the economic problems should be recognised and honest efforts made to accelerate the state's flagging growth rate — at least to the national level.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BLOW TO HARYANA GOVT

PRESIDENT RESCUES AN UPRIGHT FOREST OFFICER

 

President Pratibha Patil deserves to be lauded for having come to the rescue of Mr Sanjiv Chaturvedi, a Haryana cadre Indian Forest Service officer, who has been hounded by the state government for his impeccable integrity and administrative acumen. In a significant directive on Thursday, she not only saved the whistleblower from continued harassment and torture by the state government but also revoked all charges against him which, after an inquiry by the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment, were found to be fabricated by a coterie of state government officials. Mr Chaturvedi had to pay a heavy price for checking corruption in the forest department. He refused to bow to the powerful mafia with political connections. Consequently, he had to face 12 transfers in five years and a suspension. In particular, he earned the wrath of former Forest Minister Kiran Chaudhary and Prahlad Singh Gillankhera, MLA. When the officer tried to check the alleged misuse of public funds by the forest department which had ordered plantation on Mr Gillankhera's private land, he was charge-sheeted and suspended.

 

Creditably, Mr Chaturvedi refused to be cowed down by threats or pressure tactics. He blew the whistle many times and earned the displeasure of his bosses. After he tried to implement the Supreme Court's orders to prevent the Saraswati Wildlife Sanctuary from being destroyed during his first posting at Kurukshetra in 2007, he was shunted out to Fatehabad. There he had to face more trouble. His decision to stop the illegal construction of an herbal park was viewed seriously. Though he tried to ensure that public funds were not misutilised for creating private assets, Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda suspended him in August 2007 without citing any reason. The Centre revoked it in January 2008.

 

What is disturbing in the episode is the typical attitude of Haryana's senior bureaucrats. While they did not defend an upright forest service officer at crucial times, apparently to keep the political masters in good humour, it was finally left to the President of India to bail him out. Of course, the Prime Minister's Office, too, intervened in August 2008 when it sought a report from the state government. Surprisingly, the entire top brass of the government was pitted against an officer who was only following the Supreme Court's orders and unearthing scams in the department. The President's directive to the government, first of its kind, would have served its purpose if the state governments learn a lesson from the episode and stop witch-hunt of upright officers.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

WRONG PREMISES, FALSE START

EXTRAORDINARY COURT VERDICT

BY B.G. VERGHESE

 

The Supreme Court has passed an extraordinary order in confirming the Orissa High Court's ruling, reducing the trial court's sentence of death on Dara Singh, found guilty of burning alive Graham Staines, an Australian missionary, and his innocent minor sons aged 10 and six, a few years ago. The court upheld the death penalty only in "the rarest of rare cases" but extenuated the murderer's intent "to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity". This is an appalling statement and should be expunged or reversed by a larger bench as it gives a licence for rage killings to teach anybody a lesson.

 

The court went on to say that conversion by force was not acceptable. None would deny that, and there is no evidence of this in the Kandhamal case. This apart, conversion by conviction is permissible under the Constitution. How is religious conversion any different in principle from conversion from one ideology or political persuasion to another? Several states have adopted quite bizarre anti-conversion (Freedom of Religion) laws that call for certification of bona fide conversion by a magistrate. Yet, such movements as ghar vapasi and conversion of tribals to Hinduism are permissible and considered part of the natural order of things.

 

Another unfortunate episode is being crudely enacted in Karnataka where the Governor has taken another hasty step in what seems a campaign against the Chief Minister. Such partisan politics is an outcome of Governors being appointed as, or too readily playing the role of, hatchet men. Not that the Chief Minister is an angel. His administration was recently exposed on charges of corruption by the Lok Ayukta, whose wings have since been clipped through a parallel inquiry ordered by the government, which it is feared the Chief Minister could manipulate administratively. An earlier party revolt against Mr Yeddyurappa's corrupt ways was overcome through dubious means. The BJP, which once favoured the Chief Minister's removal, is now backing him to the hilt as it tilts with the Union Government on issues of corruption and misgovernance.

 

Nothing daunted, the party chief, Mr Nitin Gadkari, has proffered the amazing defence that Mr Yeddyurappa's action in denotifying land to allot this to members of his family "is immoral, but not illegal". What a travesty of justice and standards in public life! His stance is not improved by pleading that previous Chief Ministers have done likewise. If this is the motto of the party, then it can only attract scorn and condemnation. The BJP may contest the government's order sanctioning prosecution of the Chief Minister but it erred in staging a day's statewide bandh in protest against the Governor's action. Both sides have sent out wrong signals.

 

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court was unduly harsh on Mr Kapil Sibal, the Telecom Minister, for speaking out against the Comptroller and Auditor-General's (CAG's) "erroneous" calculation of a Rs 1760 lakh crore loss on the 2-G spectrum allocation. Given the raging debate on this subject from public platforms and in the media, there is no reason to suppose that the CBI and other investigative agencies will be unduly influenced by the minister's observations. Mr Sibal is right in protesting that the government was prevented by the Opposition from presenting its case in Parliament and, therefore, went directly to the people. This is unexceptionable, though some may argue that the minister could have toned down his remarks.

 

The Public Accounts Chairman, the BJP's Murli Manohar Joshi, too protests too much in complaining to the Speaker about the alleged impropriety of Mr Sibal's criticism of the CAG. Considering that the CAG's report was leaked and widely debated in public by the BJP and others well before being presented to Parliament, Mr Joshi's concerns are misplaced. In fact, his own party forced him to recant his view that a JPC, as sought by the BJP, was unnecessary. The facile manner in which political parties adopt double standards has ceased to surprise.

 

The Prime Minister in turn has pleaded double taxation treaty confidentiality in disclosing the names of secret Swiss and Lichtenstein bank accounts as have come into its possession. This is a technically correct stance but it begs the question why the government has studiously failed to "ratify" and operationalise the UN Convention Against Corruption, which it signed two years ago. This is a powerful instrument for preventing and investigating corrupt practices through money laundering and keeping the proceeds of illicit transactions in foreign bank accounts. It also provides for joint investigations, freezing of bank accounts and extradition of accused persons. The tardy progress in legislating a Lok Pal Bill without watering down its provisions, as reported, is also inexplicable. None of this inspires confidence and gives credence to charges that suggests the government has something to hide.

 

Finally, the ongoing battle between the National Advisory Council, headed by the UPA chairperson, and the government and its Council of Economic Advisers on how best to proceed with the proposed Food Security Bill and amendments to the RTI Act is cautionary. Debate is legitimate but it would not be prudent to push beyond a point. Power cannot be divorced from responsibility and an elected government must remain accountable to Parliament and the people, and not to any other unelected or party body in a parliamentary democracy. It must never be assumed that the tail can or should wag the dog. This is not to pronounce on the merits of the case but to underline due process.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

PARKASH @ RS 17 A KILO

BY ROOPINDER SINGH

 

Please call when you have the time, I have something for you," said an SMS on my mobile phone. I was so busy that I didn't even notice it, and called back a day later.

 

Now, in a typical Punjabi conversation you find out how everyone and everything is, before you get to the crux of the matter. This conversation, too, took the same course.

 

In due course of time, the subject of the SMS came up. "We have managed to get some copies of Parkash," said Devinder Singh, who has been responsible for digitising a large chunk of literature from the region and has pursued his goal with singular dedication.

 

What he said was very important to me, personally, since my father, the late Giani Gurdit Singh, published Parkash, a newspaper in Punjabi, and for some years in Urdu, from 1947 to 1978. It was a daily for many years, before turning into a weekly paper.

 

My father had a formidable collection of manuscripts, newspapers and books, but in part because of our having to move from one city to another, we do not have proper records of the paper of which he was the owner, printer, publisher and editor.

 

Since a few years, my mother, Mrs Inderjit Kaur, and I have tried to get copies of the newspaper, photocopies or otherwise. She is in touch with Sukhdev Singh of Ludhiana who has an archive of Singh Sabha Patrika, a monthly journal that my father edited from 1973 to 1988, but we have yet to come across someone who has preserved Parkash in this manner.

 

Naturally, as we were talking about the paper, my fingers got busy on the Internet, and in Google books I found a 'Snippet view' of an entry of Press in India (1965), published by the Registrar of Newspapers for India, where it said under the heading Circulation Levels: "Among Punjabi dailies, the Parkash from Chandigarh had the highest circulation (8,110) in 1964." Now I work for a newspaper that is also published from Chandigarh and has the highest circulation in the region. On the way to office, I often drive past the building where Parkash was printed.

 

Devinder told me that his colleagues had traced a kabari- wala who had many papers of the 1960s and the 1970s with him, and among them were copies of Parkash. While I don't exactly know how he managed to get such old papers, it seems that these are a part of an estate sale of someone who had been a collector of old newspapers. Thanks to his passion, something of the past has been salvaged. But it was almost lost.

 

"We almost had a fight with the kabariwala last night," said Devinder.

 

"Why? Was it over how much he wanted?"

 

"He reneged on the deal we had made and wanted more," was Devinder's reply.

 

"How much did he want?"

 

"We had agreed to give him Rs 17 per kg, but he wanted more. He broke his word, but then I thought of the value of what he had and we went back to him today," said the digital archivist, his outrage obvious.

 

Even as I was soothing ruffled feathers, my mind leapt at the possibilities of resurrecting the times and moods of those decades, and reading some of my father's Rajnitak Kundilias, the satirical poems that were memorised by many and are still quoted.

 

Thanks to a dedicated archivist, and a deal that did not go sour, musty bundles of old newspapers are being examined, and soon they will be scanned and made available on the Internet. A digital light will illuminate an era gone by, as seen through varied visions published in newspapers, including Parkash.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

 

HOW LONG WILL PAK ARMY BE A SPECTATOR?

RAMPANT POPULATION GROWTH, ILLITERACY, CORRUPTION AND LACK OF OPPORTUNITY MAKE A LETHAL MIX. THUS FAR THE MILITARY`S ATTITUDE HAS BEEN THAT NONE OF THESE ISSUES ARE ITS PROBLEMS AND SHOULD BE ADDRESSED BY POLITICIANS AND GOVERNMENT FUNCTIONARIES

IRFAN HUSAIN

 

WHEN we learned via WikiLeaks that the Indian Foreign Secretary thinks the Pakistani military is "hypnotically obsessed" with India, we were hardly shocked. Over the years, many (including this columnist) have commented on this obsession.

 

Why, they have repeatedly asked, does the Pakistani army not thin out its troops along the Indian border in order to face the more immediate threat in our tribal areas along the Durand Line? After all, India is highly unlikely to attack Pakistan while we are preoccupied with the jihadi threat.

 

The reality is that the Pakistani officer corps has been trained to view India as our primary foe. But, more importantly, defence planners everywhere analyse the capability of potential enemies, not their intentions. In this calculus, India looms large on our military`s horizon.

 

In most countries, while the defence ministry carries out analyses of dangers posed by possible foes, it is the foreign office that assesses their intentions. Based on these two inputs, the political leadership decides on resource allocations to the military, keeping in view budgetary constraints as well as the needs of the social sector.

 

These competing demands are mediated first in the Cabinet and then debated in parliament before being approved through a vote. The budget document that emerges at the end of this process reflects the priorities and constraints agreed upon by all major stakeholders.

 

In Pakistan, however, budgetary allocations are skewed by the fact that the army plays such a dominant role in the process. Not only does it assess military risks, but it evaluates intentions as well.

 

Finally, it virtually dictates to the government what resources it wants. Such is its stranglehold over the institutions of the state that the single-line entry for defence in the budget is not even debated in the National Assembly.

 

Ultimately, it is the allocation of resources and the taxation structure that reflect the true distribution of power. In Pakistan, the military siphons off the lion`s share of resources and the feudal class pays no taxes, while the business community gets away without paying anywhere near what it should. In this sense, both our income and expenditure are off-kilter.

 

This state of affairs has persisted for decades, and its effects are obvious in the shape of a poorly educated, undernourished population with high levels of unemployment. Whether we talk about the dangers posed by home-grown terrorists in the tribal areas and southern Punjab or about gangsters in Karachi, we need to ask what options these young killers have. They have effectively been denied any meaningful education and the opportunities that would flow from it. We criticise the mushrooming of madarsas but fail to tell poor parents where they should educate their children in the absence of the required state investment in education.

 

So when the country is near collapse, we should not just wring our hands over the end result but look at the causes behind it. And these are, I fear, all too evident: it does not require a rocket scientist to point out that when the state is unable or unwilling to invest in its people, frustration and poverty will drive them to desperation.

 

But it is not very helpful to go on beating the drum about the army`s acts of omission and commission. After all, any institution that wields unchallenged power will use it for its own ends. Their vision confined by the blinkers of purely military threat perceptions, defence planners have failed to see that their `hypnotic obsession` with India has bred internal foes that the army is ill-equipped to fight.

 

It is also true that India has done little to reassure Pakistan that it means us no harm. Over the years its defence budget has grown steadily and it has embarked on an alarming arms procurement and development programme. Whenever I have written about this, I have instantly been deluged with angry emails from Indian readers who loftily remind me that India is playing on a much larger stage and has preoccupations other than Pakistan.

 

While this might be so, it is scant comfort to Pakistani defence planners who see a huge buildup on their eastern border. It would be irresponsible for any military commander to close his eyes to such developments in his neighbourhood, especially given the antagonistic history India and Pakistan share.

 

Nevertheless, if Pakistan is not to become a failed state, it needs to get its act together. For starters, there needs to be a clear understanding of the factors that have brought Pakistan to the brink. Rampant population growth, illiteracy, corruption and lack of opportunity make a lethal mix. Thus far the military`s attitude has been that none of these issues are its problems and should be addressed by politicians and government functionaries. — By arrangement with Dawn

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

TRACING THE DISAPPEARED

THE SITUATION IN BALOCHISTAN IS ESPECIALLY CRITICAL. THERE INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCES HAVE BEEN VIEWED AS PART OF A SYSTEMIC DESIGN TO SUPPRESS THE PEOPLE`S LEGITIMATE ASPIRATIONS

I.A. REHMAN

 

THE report of the judicial commission set up last year to probe the cases of involuntary disappearances has not been officially released. But the extracts from it carried by the media contain enough evidence of gross abuse of power by the intelligence and law-enforcing agencies that no modern government can choose to ignore.

 

Much of what the families of victims and their defenders have been complaining of has been vindicated and the government stands indicted for being utterly insensitive about the citizens` most fundamental rights.

 

The commission has confirmed that the intelligence agencies have been picking up their victims and that in some cases they have been assisted by the local police/Elite Force "which was obviously beyond their scope of duties". In many cases, senior police officers knew of the arrest and detention of "missing persons" by intelligence agencies but they failed to admit this before the commission/courts. In a few cases the police officers were found guilty of "intellectual dishonesty by registering fake FIRs against the persons picked up by the intelligence agencies and handed over to the police after a long time".

 

The commission has also taken serious exception to the "uncivilised method adopted by the police and agencies` personnel for arresting the victims", and not allowing the detainees any contact with families during long periods of detention. The intelligence agencies have also been censured for issuing stereotyped denials of responsibility even in the face of strong evidence. While some of the cases of enforced disappearance were solved with the help of intelligence agencies, "all in all their cooperation remained lukewarm and not up to our expectation", the commission is quoted as saying.

 

An extraordinarily distressing disclosure made by the commission is the fact that the incidents of enforced disappearance have not stopped. When the commission was set up in April 2010 its task was to trace 189 "missing" persons and during the next eight months another 203 people were reported to have disappeared. There is reason to believe that the count of the involuntarily disappeared persons is still incomplete.

 

Nobody can possibly disagree with the commission when it says: "In order to put an end to the issue of enforced disappearances/missing persons, the intelligence agencies should be restrained from arbitrarily arresting and detaining anyone without due process of law. Generally, it would be appropriate if the government evolves a mechanism for intelligence agencies to share information and leave it to the police to make arrest and proceed under the relevant law."

 

No further proof is needed that people have been and are being arrested by unauthorised functionaries in violation of due process, that they are detained at unauthorised places, and that a regime of fear has been established.

 

The remedial measures suggested by the commission are mostly unexceptionable. No one must be arrested or detained in violation of due process and if fresh legislation is needed to meet this basic requisite of the rule of law this should be done without any delay. The commission has conceded the possibility that in extraordinary situations compliance with legal procedures may not immediately be possible, but this should not become an excuse to turn an exception into a rule. And even for such situations legal mechanisms should be in place and these special procedures should come into play as soon after an arrest as possible.

 

The commission`s plea for reining in all intelligence agencies sums up a great deal that has been said on the subject and also what has been left unsaid. The extra-constitutional and extra-legal autonomy exercised by these agencies has not only caused suffering to a large number of citizens, it has also caused incalculable harm to democracy. A serious effort to regulate the working of the intelligence agencies - civil as well as military - should be high on the national agenda.

 

Each agency should be organised under a publicly known law which must not only define the powers and obligations of its staff but also provide for prevention of and redress for abuse of authority. As pointed out by the commission, this will be in the agencies` own interest. However, there can be no two opinions on the victims` right to compensation and this recommendation ought to be implemented forthwith. This is an opportune moment for the government to sign the UN convention on the protection of people against enforced disappearance and keep its provisions in mind while drafting new legislation.

 

The suggestion for the appointment of a commissioner to deal with cases of enforced disappearance needs elaboration. That the families of victims of arbitrary arrest and detention need help even to get their complaints registered cannot be denied. But why cannot the police and the other executive paraphernalia attend to these matters as required under the Code of Criminal Procedure?

 

Since the commission was only required to help trace the "missing" persons, it has not taken note of the reappearance of some of them in the form of dead bodies. A high-powered judicial probe into these gory incidents must not be delayed. The commission`s findings should help the government in comprehending the gravity of the situation created by enforced disappearances and its inability to deal with it. The victims and their families in all provinces have been subjected to the most horrible forms of anxiety and torture. But the situation in Balochistan is especially critical. There involuntary disappearances have been viewed as part of a systemic design to suppress the people`s legitimate aspirations to control their resources and manage their affairs.

 

Obviously, in addition to establishing a lawful regime for dealing with those suspected of terrorist acts or other anti-state crimes, it is necessary to reach out to the people of Balochistan with a wide-ranging plan for their political accommodation and full respect for their rights. — By arrangement with Dawn

 

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THE KASHMIR TIMES

EDITORIAL

NEED FOR CAUTION

J&K BANK'S HIGH MARKET CREDIBILITY MUST BE SHIELDED AGAINST POLITICAL CONTROVERSY OVER RBI DIRECTIVE


LIKE everything else in this state, a change inthe pattern of businessrelationship between the J&Kgovernment and J&K Bank,via the Reserve Bank of India(RBI), is beginning to beenveloped by political fog.Before the context, substanceand likely impact of thechange have been explainedand clarified for the benefit ofthe stake holders a controversyhas started over its real aswell as imaginary politicalimplications. It is not easy todiscern truth at this earlystage because there are conflictingversions of what thechange was all about and howit was going to impact uponthe health of the J&K Bank.One side of the story has itthat the J&K Bank mightemerge as loser in the bargainwhile the other version dismissesany such apprehensionand asserts that in material
terms nothing has changed;but for some 'procedural' modification.The J&K Bank enjoys aunique position in more waysthan one. The J&K governmentis its majority-shareholderand yet it is considered to bea private institution and not anationalised bank. It has beenthe exclusive channel of financialtransaction for the internal
working of the state governmentand also the onlysource of supplementing theways and means requirements
of the state, of course with theRBI authorisation. It is this(latter) part of the bankingoperation that is affected by
the recent announcement ofthe RBI and evoked not onlypolitical controversy but givenrise to certain other apprehensionsin the minds of the stakeholders. The J&K Bank hasbeen performing remarkably,going by available indicatorscontained in the bank's periodicreport card. Thanks to itsefficient management, this
institution has acquired highcredibility, respectability and,more importantly, tremendoustrust of depositors and
investors over the past fewdecades. It has risen from anobscurity to being recognisedas a viable competitive entityin its sphere of activity.Perhaps it would be no exaggerationto say that J&K Bankis the only good thing todaythat is worth mentioningabout this perennially troubledstate. The bank hasgrown into a huge public asset
and developed healthy traditionsof utilising its humanresource. Obviously, that kindof success is possible only witha high level of skill and efficiency.Credibility is thus awell earned reward.Even while the debate goes
on about pluses and minusesof the recent change effectedby the RBI, purportedly at therequest of the J&K overnment,it is absolutely essentialthat nothing is said or done toinjure the prevailing sentiment.Success and failure inbanking are largely determinedby the sentiment, like itinfluences the course of eventsin the stock market. Any wordor action that hurts the sentimentand harms the credibilityof a financial institutioncould inflict permanent injuryto its fate. That is what thegovernment, RBI and all othershave to keep in mind whilesorting out issues thrown upby the recent development.It is indeed a measure ofJ&K Bank's high institutionalsignificance that the RBIannouncemnt is being soclosely scrutinised for itsimplications. There are twoways to explain its nuances togeneral public, especially thestake holders. One is for theRBI and the J&K Bank toexplain beyond doubt thenature of the change that is totake place from April and setforth its implications vis-a-visthe existing pattern. Secondly,its inevitable political connotationneeds to be nuanced properlyby the government.Instead of treating this highlysensitive issue as an ordinaryball-game between contendingpolitical rivals it is incumbentupon both sides to refrain frompolemics injurious to thehealth and credibility of thisvital public institution. Easiersaid than done.Perhaps the main burden ofsetting aside doubts andapprehensions among stakeholders rests with the managementof the J&K Bank itself.As in the past, the performanceof the bank should continueto speak for itself. There isno alternative to that imperative.
So long as the bank's performancegraph maintains itsvertical upward course politicalor other controversies are
not going to impact its credibility.Even so, all concernedneed to respond to genuineapprehensions sooner than
later.

 

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THE KASHMIR TIMES

EDITORIAL

MODERNISING DEGREE COLLEGES

NEED TO ENSURE THAT SCHEME DOES NOTMEET FATE OF PAPER HORSES

THE reports that UniversityGrants Commission (UGC)under Special AssistanceProgramme has sanctioned Rs 25lakhs for modernizing the degreecolleges of the state, are welcomeyet at the same time give rise tocertain obvious and genuine questions.Under this modernization programme,the degree colleges of thestate, which have successfullyimplemented the provisions under2F rule and Section 12 B of UGCAct, would be equipped with thecomputer labs, audio visual system,projectors, Genset generators, LCDprojectors, laptops, multimedia andother advanced equipments.Notably the beneficiary collegesneed to have been recognized bythe University. As per the officialsources, the work on this project,for which UGC had asked the stategovernment to submit a proposal,would be initiated quite soon. Thefinal decision in this connectionwas taken and the amount was
sanctioned after thorough deliberationsin a meeting convened by aspecial committee of UGC at
New
Delhi with the principals of degreecolleges of Jammu division. Tostart with, the amount has beensanctioned for degree colleges ofJammu division and soon a similarmeeting of Principals of degree collegesof Kashmir division toowould be called by UGC for finalizingthe scheme and sanctioningthe desired amount. Across the
state, the total number of collegeswhich fall under the purview of thisscheme is 49 i.e., 21 in Jammu divisionand 28 in Kashmir divison.Thoughthe UGC had earmarkedRs 25 lakhs as the maximum
amount under the said scheme yetthe colleges sent the proposals asper their requirements for which
the money would soon be released.Going by the official versions, thestudents would be able to get these
facilities from the next academicsession. Notably the Centre recentlyhad approved Rs 45 Cr grant for
improving the infrastructural needsof the degree colleges in the state.So far, so good! Undoubtedly, any
step aimed at strengthening theinfrastructural needs of the statewould be worth appreciation provided
it is implemented in its letterand spirit and its impact too is visibleon the ground. The reason for
skepticism is only on account ofpast experiences which have beenvery depressing. Even in the past,
there has been no dearth of moneysanctioned for improving the standardof education and upgrading
the infrastructure yet the problemhas always been on account ofimplementation of such projects
and utilization of the amount sanctionedfor the same in right earnest.One hopes that the ambitious programme
would not remain restrictedto the state of paper horse and itsbenefits would trickle down to the
students in real sense.

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THE KASHMIR TIMES

EDITORIAL

STAPLED VISA ISSUE
CHINA AGAIN POKES INDIA
BY MONISH TOURANGBAM


CHINA, yet again, didwhat it does best: KeepIndia guessing. Reportsof the Chinese Embassy issuingstapled visas to two Indiansdomiciled in Arunachal Pradeshhave muddied diplomaticwaters. A weightlifter Yukar
Sibi and the ArunachalWeightlifting Federation'sPresident Abrham Techi, (arecruited havaldar in the Army)
were to participate in a majorweightlifting competition inChina. But due to their stapledvisas, the immigration authoritiesat the airport stopped them.Specially against the backdropof a 9 November 2009External Affairs Ministry traveladvisory issued cautioningIndian citizens that Chinesevisas issued on separate papersstapled to passports would notbe considered valid for travelout of the country. This wasdone in the wake of reports ofstapled visas being issued toJammu and Kashmir residents.Both the Defence MinisterA.K. Antony and the ExternalAffairs Ministry have criticisedthe inconsistency of the ChineseEstablishment. But, at thisjuncture, the UnionGovernment seems to be maintainingrestraint before jumpingto conclusions. The officialstatements and responses aremore general in nature, largelyrejecting any question beingraised on the sovereignty andintegrity of India, reemphasizingthat Arunachal Pradesh isan integral part of India.Importantly, UnionGovernment sources assert,"This practice is certainly tiedto China's position on Jammuand Kashmir and ArunachalPradesh. One could infer variousconclusions, but as far asIndia is concerned, anythingthat questions the status ofthese two States won't beacceptable. These States are asimportant to us as the Tibetissue is to China.Pertinently, since some time,Beijing has been deliberatelymaking its visa policy inconsistentto unsettle Indian policyminds and give characteristicdiplomatic messages of its lingeringdifferences with NewDelhi on matters of core interest.
Last year, the ChineseGovernment refused to issue avisa to the Northern ArmyCommander Lt Gen B S Jaswal
on the grounds that his jurisdictionincluded J&K. Thedenial of visa on the flimsyground that he was in commandof J&K did not go downwell with New Delhi and as aresult, defence exchangesbetween the two countries werestalled.But, before generalizationsare stamped, it should beunderstood that very different
conclusions can be drawn fromthe stapled visas issued to residentsof J&K and to those ofArunachal Pradesh. J&K is amatter of dispute betweenIndia and Pakistan, and thus,issuing stapled visas to domicilesof J&K amounts to questioningIndia's claim and indirectlyreiterates Beijing'sambivalent attitude towardsthe Kashmir issue and its wellexpected tilt toward Pakistan.Hence, making it easier forthe Indian Establishment to
come out with a strongdemarche. It is widely knownthat New Delhi does not tolerateany external interference
on the Kashmir subject, whichit considers strictly bilateral.But, in the case of ArunachalPradesh, the parties in disputeare India and China. Beijingstill claims Arunachal as its ownterritory and in the past hasoften denied visas to residents ofArunachal, often on a lameexcuse that the State's peoplewere Chinese citizens and hence
did not require visas to travel toChina. According to sources, in2007, China denied a visa to anIAS officer Ganesh Koyu whohailed from Arunachal and wasa member of a 107-strong IASofficers' team on a anagement
programme to China. This hadresulted in the Government cancellingthe trip for the entirebatch.Thus, keeping the past scenarioin mind, some Indian andChinese analysts read the stapledvisa as a positive signal.They argue that China has allalong considered Arunachal asits own territory and its peopleas Chinese citizens, the fact that
visas have been issued at all,even if stapled could be a welcomesign.It means that Beijing is acceptingArunachal as a disputed territoryand hence opening a windowof opportunity towards takingthe border talks to the next
level. Chinese analysts like HuShisheng of the State-run ChinaInstitute of ContemporaryInternational Relations inBeijing are reported to have commentedthat the recent decisionis a possible "concession" toIndia, "there must have been achange in policy for such a thingto happen," he added.Nevertheless, it will be wrongto read too much into this singleincident and expect a comprehensivepackage. It is at bestbeing seen as a small pebblethrown into the largely still andstagnant Chinese policy towardArunachal. Notably, India's policy
has and should remain constant:that Arunachal is anIndian State, an integral part ofIndia and the people of
Arunachal are Indians to thecore. Incidentally, the latestepisode has happened within amonth of the Chinese PremierWen Jaibao assuring New Delhiof taking serious note of India'sconcerns vis-à-vis the stapled
visa issue.Significantly, the status quo isin India's advantage, withArunachal an integral part ofthe country and its people asIndian as anyone else within theIndian Republic. No points forguessing that China wants
changes in its favour. The protractedborder dispute betweenthe two Asian giants has definedmuch of how New Delhi andBeijing feel about each other atthe core.While Indian and Chineseleaders often loudly proclaim the
new synergy between the twocountries over various internationalissues, the new bonhomieif there is one, has failed totranslate into new confidence asfar as core issues of interest areconcerned. There have also been
reports of Chinese troops havingintruded into Indian territoryalong the Line of Actual Control(LAC) in South-Eastern Ladakhregion in September-October2010.Interestingly, around the sametime when this visa row was
playing out in the media, India'sForeign Secretary NirupamaRao speaking at the SingaporeConsortium for China-IndiaDialogue on 'RabindranathTagore's Vision of India andChina: a Twenty First Century
Perspective', sought congruenceand common ground and arguedagainst a conflicted and contestriddenrelationsip betweenNew Delhi ad Beijing.Expectedly, diplomatic effortswill be on to downplay the visarow so as to circumvent this irritantfrom inflicting a largerdamage on other components of
the comprehensive relationship.But at the same it should bemade plain that India is notready to tolerate or compromiseon sensitive issues likeArunachal and J&K for the sakeof furthering Sino-Indian ties.
During the Chinese Premier'svisit, New Delhi made the rightmove towards a restraint aggression,by diverting from the normand not making any reference toChinese sovereignty on Tibetand the 'One China' policy, so
dear to Chinese ears. If Beijingwants to hear the "One China'policy from the IndianEstablishment, the message
should be passed that NewDelhi also expects China torespect India's sovereignty andterritorial integrity.
—INFA(The author is ResearchScholar, School ofInternational Studies (JNU)

 

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

COLUMN

MR YEDDYURAPPA IN THE DOCK

GOVERNOR'S RIGHT, BJP MUST ALSO FIGHT CORRUPTION WITHIN

Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa's days appear to be numbered irrespective of whatever counter-strategies and theatricals he and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may choose to engage in to challenge the decision of state Governor H R Bharadwaj to allow two lawyers to initiate prosecution against him on grounds of corruption and criminal misconduct. Mr Bharadwaj, who has been a senior advocate at the Supreme Court and law minister at the Centre for many years, knows his rule book and appears to have acted with considerable care and due process. There are precedents for such action by other governors vis-à-vis other chief ministers. Hence it is not surprising that the Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram, himself a lawyer of no mean standing, has declared that the governor has acted in accordance with the law. So, this is not a litigation that a trial court or high court will be able to dismiss summarily. The second, and perhaps the more damaging sleight of hand that Mr Yeddyurappa has been rendered, is not by his enemies but by his own BJP national President Nitin Gadkari. For an RSS appointee (the organisation stands for the moral regeneration of the country) to say that one of his party leaders has acted immorally and improperly though legally, cannot be more damning.

Mr Bharadwaj appears to be on firm ground because of the documented details, which the two lawyers have amassed, of preferential allotment and denotification of land in favour of Mr Yeddyurappa's sons, close relations and political followers under his discretionary quota. The loss to the exchequer over 13 land transactions has been computed by the governor at Rs 465 crore, with the pecuniary gain to the chief minister's relatives and supporters put at Rs 190 crore. Mr Bharadwaj also appears to have given the chief minister and his administration enough time to reply by first seeking to examine the relevant files and requesting photocopies. The first reaction of the state BJP was to call a bandh on Saturday, a move that was seen as improper for a ruling party and criticised by wide sections of public opinion. Mr Yeddyurappa's longer-term counter-strategy is to start a parallel investigation which seeks to establish that previous chief ministers have also acted in a similar manner. To his misfortune, the Karnataka High Court has put a temporary stop to this process. Mr Yeddyurappa's predecessors may well be guilty of similar misconduct, but two wrongs do not make a right. Moreover, the scale of misconduct is clearly different. The circumspection and restraint of earlier chief ministers had kept them out of harm's way. The BJP may well be right in claiming that the governor, a former UPA minister, is engaged in an act of political vendetta, but the chief minister appears to have given the governor an opportunity to do so on a platter. With the mood currently prevailing in the country, there is bound to be popular support for any action against corruption in high places.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

DOES DAVOS MATTER?

EUROPE'S CRISIS AND ASIA'S RISE HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE

There was a time when anyone who mattered in New Delhi's economic policymaking circles and Mumbai's financial and business circles considered it a privilege and fashionable to spend the last few days of January in a snow-bound Swiss village, rubbing shoulders with business, political and thought leaders from around the world. No longer. By opting to opt out of leading the Indian delegation to Davos this year, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has made a telling point. Not showing up at Davos won't make a difference. The corporate sponsors of the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos have for some time understood the declining global interest in their annual winter-fest, both on account of competing forums worldwide, some sponsored by the WEF itself, and on account of a decline both in western interest in the rest of the world, given the West's preoccupation with its own problems, and the unwillingness of emerging market leaders to preen and perform before largely western audiences. In seeking to remain relevant, Davos' organisers have tried various tricks and the latest one this year is to become gender-conscious and politically correct. Klaus Schwab, the WEF founder, told the media on the eve of this week's gathering that Davos would be both more welcoming to women leaders and to ideas regarding "inclusive growth" and the social responsibilities of business. The WEF has specified that one out of every five delegates at Davos must be a woman, and the Indian co-chair this year will be a woman. But it remains to be seen if the new quota system is a serious response to male dominance of the corporate world, or just the WEF's way of remaining in business.

Political correctness too could be a way of ensuring business in emerging markets. The wooing of India's "inclusive model" could be a way of the West saying a "New Delhi Consensus" is a better substitute for the discredited "Washington Consensus" rather than a more threatening "Beijing Consensus". "At a time when the world is searching for a new model of economic development", said Mr Schwab, "India's experience as a crucible for new types of inclusive growth gives it a special role among developing economies." Snubbed by China, a crowd-puller at Davos in the past and now a rival with its own Boao Forum, and worried both about China's rise and Europe's decline, the Davos person is beginning to discover the charms of democratic India. It is entirely possible, though, that in years to come, India may want to showcase itself to the world from an Indian forum rather than in a remote, snow-bound Alpine village!

 

 Davos enthusiasts would, however, argue that the retreat is a good way for corporate leaders to get up to speed with new ideas from around the world and would help attract new investors to emerging markets. It would be useful for the WEF to carry out a study on how much investment came India's way thanks to its talk-fests, as opposed to the simple animal spirits of global investors who are enthused by India's rise. Moreover, any sensible business person would check out the ground reality in India before investing and not just fall for smart power-point presentations, peppered with Bollywood beauties and spicy Indian curry.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

A CAT THAT CATCHES MICE

CHINA'S TREATMENT OF GENERAL ELECTRIC AND THE BJP ILLUSTRATES DENG'S PRAGMATIC PHILOSOPHY

AJIT RANADE

Which country is the biggest foreign investor in the United States? It is a tricky question, and don't look for FDI data. The answer is China. With almost a trillion dollars invested in US government securities, the Chinese have become the largest foreign stakeholders in the US economy even though this may not be in FDI terms. This is just one more aspect of the strange embrace of the world's two largest economies. Their relationship is one of dependence and also of suspicion. The US needs China to fund its deficits, while China needs the US to keep its employment and industrial growth engine chugging. The US accuses China of currency manipulation, and China flexes its muscle in the Pacific Ocean. Neither of them can push matters to the brink, but there is constant attempt to outsmart and outmanoeuvre each other.

Until a few years ago, the pitch was becoming more and more strident. And then the financial crisis happened. The great crash of Wall Street exposed American vulnerabilities. And in China, the growing unrest, agitations for wages, spiralling inflation and growing income inequality caused attention to be diverted away from America confrontation.

 

 It was President Hu Jintao who coined the word "harmonisation", to de-emphasise growth, and emphasise redistribution. He articulated a strategy to take development inland away from coastal China. Under him there were also some token gestures of currency revaluation, to deflect global criticism.

In that continuing spirit, the recent visit of President Hu to Washington seems to be an attempt to steer bilateral relations to a more pragmatic level. In that sense, it was a historic visit, metaphorically like "China going to Nixon", as described by Paul Krugman.

Pragmatism is, of course, old hat to the Chinese. It was Deng Xiaoping who said that "it does not matter what colour is the cat, so long as it catches mice". Deng uttered those words in 1961, long before it became the guiding force for economic reforms that he unleashed in 1978. The case of the pragmatic China is best illustrated by its reaction to Jeff Immelt, Chairman of General Electric (GE).

But first some background. GE is a giant American global conglomerate, ranked by Forbes as the second-largest company in the world. It has a turnover of more than $150 billion and it operates in 100 countries. GE Capital, its financial services arm, is sometimes called the largest bank which is not a bank. GE, founded in 1892, was part of the original Dow Jones Industrial Index, and is the only company which is still in the index. Its leadership pipeline is legendary, and it has provided CEOs to a variety of high-profile corporations. Its Chairman Jack Welch, who reigned for 20 years and whose leadership is now part of MBA textbooks, was named "Manager of the Century" by Fortune magazine. Chairman Jeff Immelt stepped into Welch's large shoes ten years ago. Under Immelt, GE has become even more global, and has reinvented itself as a company where "imagination is at work", and the thrust is on green initiatives, called by GE as "eco-imagination".

GE moved into China well before the world took notice of the juggernaut. Since GE is into everything from lightbulbs to plastics, and medical imaging to jet engines, it had every reason to be present in China. Immelt wanted China to contribute at least $10 billion to GE's revenues by 2010. But things were not going so well. GE wasn't as profitable in China. It felt thwarted by restrictive laws and regulatory policies of China.

Back in July, the normally unflappable and eminently diplomatic Immelt blew up against China. The Financial Times reported that he accused China of being hostile to foreign companies. He said that China did not want any foreign company to win, and that GE was facing its toughest conditions of the past 25 years in that country.

Immelt's frustration might have arisen from the fact that Chinese policies require that foreign companies disclose their technology, patents and other trade secrets. Else they are not given permission to operate, or bag government contracts. Given the huge appetite of potential orders from China, most western companies cannot resist.

But then those patents leak out, and copycat companies become your low-cost competitors of tomorrow. This happens not just with Apple products, but also with cars, trucks, turbines, railway coaches, everything. It is not clear how much of this is actual theft of intellectual property, and how much is legal under Chinese law. If GE had to gripe publicly, one can only imagine the plight of smaller foreign companies operating in China.

This July confrontation could easily have escalated into something nasty. (Remember Google?) But here is the pragmatic twist in the tale. Mr Hu had come to Washington with a large shopping list, that included GE and Boeing. GE signed several deals worth $4 billion, and about 5,000 American jobs, in energy, rail and aviation. It signed up a joint venture deal to build a Chinese aircraft, and another for coal gassification, both crucial technologies. Was GE surrendering to China? Was it giving away its technology to its future competitor? Of course not, said Immelt, who was confident that this partnership would lead to world dominance! For his part, President Hu and his colleagues chose to ignore Immelt's very public diatribe from July.

The pragmatism bug seems to have bitten President Obama as well. He too was at the receiving end of Immelt's public bile earlier, having been accused of souring the mood in the economy, and being anti-business. Mr Obama has followed the Chinese pragmatic way and appointed Jeff Immelt as the chairman of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board. This sends a very pro-business signal, which is pragmatic. But it also speaks of the maturity of the American political process, for Immelt's forthright comments, both against China and Mr Obama, weren't entirely unjustified.

As President Hu finished his historic visit to Washington, back in Beijing, the pragmatic Communist Party of China Central Committee was welcoming the first-ever historic visit of the president of the BJP to China. The CPCCC needs the BJP support on inducing Indian IT, financial services, English tutors and Bollywood to embrace China. Disagreement about Arunachal, Pakistan's nukes or even Tibet will not dampen the pragmatism fever in the Middle Kingdom.

The author is chief economist, Aditya Birla Group. The views expressed are personal

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

ER? BY THE WAY, TIBET!

AJAI SHUKLA

China has unquestionably boxed India into a corner in their boundary dispute. Hardening its position on the status of J&K, Beijing now treats that state as a part of Pakistan until determined otherwise. It is time for India to recalibrate its Tibet policy based on a harder-nosed appreciation of happenings in the Land of the Snows.

That New Delhi is already willing to play the Tibet card was signalled by foreign minister S M Krishna on a visit to Beijing last November, when he compared India's sensitivities over Kashmir with China's over Tibet and Taiwan. The foreign ministry also claims to have been blunt while raising the issue with Wen Jiabao during the Chinese premier's visit to Delhi last month.

 

 While a tactical Beijing may proffer cosmetic concessions, India's key concern — the boundary dispute — will probably remain ignored. China simply has no incentive to settle that problem. Indian policymakers ascribe Beijing's indifference to its calculation that a better border deal lies further down the superpower road, but more sophisticated China watchers discern another reason. With China's leaders obsessively aware of their failure in suppressing Tibetan nationalism, they fear that delineating the border might see Indian influencing radiating into Tibet.

The Chinese logic is simple and elegant: keep New Delhi's attention on Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh to prevent it from focusing on Tibet. New Delhi must counter that strategy with a fundamental shift in the way it views the border dispute: as an India-Tibet-China issue, rather than as a purely Sino-Indian one. Tibet has long been the elephant in the room when New Delhi talks to Beijing; that presence must be unambiguously placed on the table. Beijing's road to Lhasa, it must be made clear, runs through New Delhi.

This will harmonise many of the dissonances that afflict India's China policy. The first of these is the uncomfortable political paradox of pretending that the Tibet issue does not exist, even while providing asylum to a hundred thousand Tibetan refugees, an entire ecosystem of Tibetan Buddhism, the Tibetan government-in-exile and the Dalai Lama himself. New Delhi also faces an ethical disconnect between its morality in providing that sanctuary on the one hand; and its grubby realism in neutering Tibetan interests for fear of offending Beijing on the other. In emphasising the latter, India unwisely relinquishes the opportunity to generate and coalesce around itself global moral opinion on Tibet. This is especially surprising, given that India's conciliation on Tibet has only emboldened China further.

Finally, the greatest inconsistency in New Delhi's approach is the deep divide between its placatory, softly-softly approach towards China — itself born of the harsh lesson of 1962 — and the Indian citizen's more robust suspicion of China's motives and actions. This gulf will ensure that any back-room settlement that is hammered out with China — in the unlikely event that one is — will simply not fly in this country. Indian officials must frankly reflect the national belief that China, after illegitimately occupying Tibet, occupies and covets Indian soil.

Zhongnanhai (the Beijing headquarters of the Communist Party and the executive government) can be expected to react with anger, given its deep insecurities about Tibet. But it will then have a motive to talk seriously about the boundary question.

New Delhi must note that top Chinese administrators in Lhasa already accuse India of malevolence in Tibet. Lao Daku, the chief of the feared Tibet Autonomous Region Public Security Bureau (TARPSB), declares in a Tibetan language Internet article published in his name after his ground tour of Tibetan areas from July to September 2010: "The collusion between the Dalai Clique, splittist forces, internal and external, and hostile foreign forces is stronger than before… . India, our large neighbour and a developing country, is getting closer to the West day by day, and poses a new threat to our country's security. India's indulgence and harbouring of the Dalai Clique is undermining Tibet's stability and development."

As the common Indian would put it: Munni to vaise bhi badnaam ho gayi.

Even considering that Lao, a regional security chief, might paint a bleak picture of security in order to extract more resources from Beijing, his article vividly illustrates the historical Chinese paranoia about the empire crumbling from the fringes. Railing against the melding of separatism in Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan, Lao warns, "We can see how, with western support, the (supporters of) Tibet independence, Xinjiang independence and Taiwan independence are acting crazy. If it is like that, there is a danger that these three causes will be combined."

While Taiwan encompasses a different set of dynamics, Beijing regards Tibet as a far bigger problem than Xinjiang. This belief was reinforced by the 2008 uprising that sprang from Amdo, one of traditional Tibet's three provinces that now lies outside the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), mainly in Qinghai province, and whose demographic transfers have converted it into a Han-majority area. If even a "pacified" Amdo could erupt in rebellion, argue the mandarins in Zhongnanhai, how do we deal with the remote reaches of Tibet that border on India? In contrast, the borders of Xinjiang have been effectively sealed through agreements with Pakistan and the Central Asian Republics, all of which function as Rottweilers for Beijing.

And so Beijing heaps greater repression upon Tibet, increasing Tibetan hostility. This is overlooked in New Delhi, where border policy is guided by the assumption of perpetual weakness. Beijing realises that its dramatic infrastructure development programme in Tibet, and the lightening march of People's Liberation Army divisions to the Indian border all rest on very shaky foundations. It is time for Indian diplomats to treat Tibet as an asset, rather than an embarrassment.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

RELAY SOLUTIONS FOR FOOD PRICES

LOCAL INNOVATIONS BY FARMERS TO INCREASE YIELDS OR REDUCE DAMAGE COULD GO A LONG WAY IN ENSURING STEADY VEGETABLE SUPPLIES TO CONSUMERS

SURINDER SUD

The recent spike in vegetable prices, due partly to erratic supplies, could well have been averted if the novel concept of "relay cropping" in vegetable farming had become popular.

This system allows growing three to seven crops of different vegetables on the same patch of land over a period to ensure a steady and regular flow of vegetables to markets.

 

This innovative approach, significantly, has been conceived and successfully put into practice by a 51-year-old Orissa farmer, Hrushikesh Giri of village Gopalpur in Bhadrak district, who, incidentally, holds a post-graduate degree in Philosophy but has been practising farming for the last 35 years.

Under relay farming, two crops with different maturity periods are sown in a field to begin with. When the shorter duration crop is harvested, the other crop gets better space to flourish. Once the second crop begins inching closer to maturity, another crop is planted in between its rows. Likewise, the cycle is continued for subsequent crops.

In fact, relay cropping is not the only way of diversifying vegetable cultivation to get more output per unit of land. Mixed cropping, involving planting at least two crops simultaneously, is another option that several farmers have tried out to advantage. A 38-year-old matriculate farmer, Davinder Singh of village Nakodar in Jalandhar district of Punjab, for instance, has evolved a novel concept of growing cabbage as a companion crop of onion. This allowed him to bag about 300 tonne of cabbage as a bonus without impairing the yield of onion, the main crop.

Likewise, a 50-year-old primary school-educated farmer, Indrasan Kushwaha of village Ajirma in Surguja district of Chhattisgarh, has hit on the idea of growing coriander on the periphery of soil beds on which onions are grown. This enables him to bag 2.5 to 4 tonne of coriander leaves per hectare to supplement the income from the main onion crop.

Such innovation, attributable to individual ingenious farmers show that Indian farmers are neither technology-shy nor lack the wisdom and skills to innovate or refine the available technologies to serve their specific needs. This truth has now been scientifically validated by the Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs or agriculture polytechnics).

Spread all over the country, these 589 KVKs have searched for, tried and documented the innovations conceived and successfully practiced by farmers themselves.

They managed to identify over 550 well-proven innovations by farmers. These were peer-reviewed at the zonal and central level by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). About 200 selected ones out of them have been outlined in a publication titled Farm Innovations — 2010 brought out by the ICAR's agricultural extension division.

This collection reveals that neither age nor education level are hurdles to innovation. One case in point is an illiterate 80-year-old sugarcane grower, Jiblal Yadav of village Chehal in Koderma district of Orissa. He has evolved a new method of sowing sugarcane after sprouting the cane sets, instead of planting them directly, to save at about two weeks time which can be utilised for gur-making or land preparation.

Many astute farmers have displayed the capability to evolve crop varieties through selection from locally available land races of crops. A 53-year-old high school pass farmer, Arun Kumar Kamboj of village Chakarpur of Udham Singh Nagar district of Uttarakhand, for instance, has developed an aromatic rice variety that has good quality grains, worthy of exporting as organic basmati. He has named this long-grained aromatic rice variety "Hansraj". Its grains are fetching premiums even in the local market and seeds are in demand from other local farmers.

Interestingly, another 52-year-old, seventh class passed farmer from Orissa is using an ordinary doctor's stethoscope to diagnose pest attacks. Chakradhar Pradhan of Janhapada village of Bargarh district places the stethoscope on the plant's surface to hear whether the plant is being bitten by the root borer insect. This helps him plan pesticide sprays to prevent crop damage.

Most of the innovations by farmers are inexpensive, need-based and easy to implement. Their adoption on a wider scale can benefit farmers and boost agricultural production.

surinder.sud@gmail.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

WAITING FOR MR COETZEE - THE JLF

NILANJANA S ROY

It's 1 pm on the front lawns at the Diggi Palace, and we're waiting for Mr Coetzee. The crowds spiralled out of control this year, as the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) became part carnival, part another roadside attraction.

The day before, with the poets/singers/lyricists Gulzar, Javed Akhtar and Prasoon Joshi packed into an absurdly small space, a tent meant to seat 250 almost folded as over a thousand people tried to get in. The session was repeated on the front lawns at lunch, the audience reciting favourite couplets along with Prasoon Joshi, to meet popular demand.

 

 The weekend at the JLF is notoriously peak time, and this year it's stressing everyone out — writers, publishers, readers, hordes of gawkers, the festival organisers. The organisers throw cordons around authors to get them into their baithaks and Mughal tents on time. If you get into one of the forums, you can't get out. So, we're waiting for Mr Coetzee, holding on to our seats, an hour-and-a-half before the quiet writer with the keenly observant eyes is due to speak.

"This," says Ian Jack, one of my fellow judges on the jury of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, "is a tamasha. It's a carnival." Later in the evening, going up to announce H M Naqvi's Home Boy as the winner of the prize, the jury is scattered by the crowds, and we make our separate ways to the stage. Chaos is this year's presiding deity.

JLF veterans are easy to separate from JLF newbies. In its fifth year, the festival is brashly Indian, not one of the usual, well-ordered literature festivals where readers queue politely to listen to writers talk, and queue politely to have a Junot Diaz or a Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or a Mahesh Elkunchwar sign their books.

The newbies are wild-eyed, bewildered at not just the crowds, but at the variety of what's on offer — Northeastern writing in the baithak, Afghanistan/Pakistan on the front lawns, American (that would be US American, not Latin American) fiction led by Ford and Diaz performing a pincer movement from the sides. The veterans have planned their Jaipur campaign like battle-worn soldiers, marking down the best times to visit the café, the least-used bathrooms, the easiest sessions to get into. The run-up to this year's edition of the JLF has been marred by vicious gossip, a bitter battle about "ownership" of this cultural space conducted on the website of a magazine known for its deliberately contrarian stances, and some tension in the organising committee. There is the intrigue of a late Mughal court about the JLF this year, and it leaves an unpleasant residue — until the sessions start.

Reporting a successful festival is not a news story; reporting a spectacular failure is. But the truth is that once the sessions start, all of this changes. Waiting in my row for Mr Coetzee are tourists from Australia; two rows behind is a bunch of college students from Muzaffarpur, who're sleeping nights at the railway station and attending sessions during the day. Their favourite readings were the ones by Junot Diaz, Rana Dasgupta, Vinod Kumar Shukla and Temsula Ao. Earlier in the day, the Palestinian doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish has spoken of the three daughters he lost, "collateral damage" in the conflict; and his audience, 300-strong, first listened in silence and then wept, many openly.

Siddhartha Mukherjee, doctor and chronicler of cancer, and Katherine Russell Rich, writer and cancer survivor, listen as other cancer survivors speak of their experiences, of the complex emotions — denial, hope, fear, resistance, determination, a renewed appreciation of life — that cancer might bring in its wake. Orhan Pamuk takes centre stage at all his sessions. Martin Amis speaks about the experience of writing about a cousin who disappeared when she was a child, and was discovered later to have been murdered, one of the many victims of the serial killer Fred West in the 1970s.

Comparing notes, with friends and strangers, we realise that we have all attended different festivals, scripting our own. The politics and the gossip that occupy the Delhi Durbar set are irrelevant for most attendees, who want a bigger snack bar and perhaps a system of passes for sessions.

It's 2:30 pm and J M Coetzee is on stage. He will not be answering questions or discussing the state of South African literature; the man who wrote The Life and Times of Michael K and Disgrace will not be discussing his novels or the process of writing them. Instead, he says, he will read a short story for the next 45 minutes, one of his famous "Lessons". The story is about a son, called John, visiting his mother to discover that she has given shelter to the local village exhibitionist, who now has a place in her home along with the clowder of cats who also have claim on her. There is no sound from the crowds, no restless whispers, no stirring, just the sound of Coetzee's measured, story-teller's voice, and the parrots in the trees. And this is what will stay with me and hundreds of others through the rest of the festival. Just the memory of one writer, on stage, reading his story, holding us silent with the magic of his words.

nilanjanasroy@gmail.com  

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

WIPRO, BE NIMBLE

NOT JUST BY CHANGE OF CEO


THAT Wipro is making an attempt to respond to its relatively poor performance is welcome. Without a change in direction and a change in how it is internally organised, it cannot hope to race ahead as it wants to, whether to keep up with traditional rivals or to remain ahead of new companies snapping at its heels. That said, it is futile to obfuscate the leadership issue. The two joint CEOs who have now been replaced with a single successor worked under hands-on executive chairman Azim Premji. Mr Premji, as visionary, built up Wipro, a diversified consumer products company, into an information technology major that IBM once rated as its most potent rival from India. Mr Premji, as leader, paid the company's CEO the Indian IT industry's top dollar. Mr Premji, among all the IT titans, took the most constructive response to the growing drought of talent that pushes up costs and erodes margins, by focusing the energies of a foundation funded by his personal money and run by one of the brightest members of the Wipro team, to tackle education challenges. Mr Premji runs Wipro, and so is responsible for the company's successes and also for its more recent failures. Not that there has been any suggestion from the company that any deficiency on the part of the individuals who manned the joint-CEO structure was responsible for Wipro's relative stagnation of late. And the reported demand for these former CEOs' services from other large companies shows that the market, too, attaches little blame to the CEOs who have exited. Mr Premji is remaking Wipro once again, after having reinvented it as an IT powerhouse.

 

What clients want are business solutions and business outcomes, not particularly software services that might, if properly deployed, help achieve these goals. Companies that succeed will boldly offer clients the business outcomes they want, handling the analytical, IT and managerial bits of the solution within, rather than foist this complexity on the client. This will blur the traditional distinction between BPO, IT and consulting, and also boost value generated per employee, something Indian IT desperately needs. Hopefully, this is the path Wipro, Mr Premji and the new CEO will now take.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SAY NO TO NICOTINE

GO ALL OUT TO CURB TOBACCO USE


THE government is reportedly toying with a proposal to ban foreign direct investment (FDI) in the wholesale marketing arms of cigarette companies and subject import of tobacco products to licensing. We strongly urge it to do so. Prima facie that might seem at odds with the views expressed in these columns. As votaries of foreign direct investment into the country, we have always urged the removal of ceilings on FDI in various sectors. However, even as we root for more FDI, we are emphatic that such investment must be in sectors where the gains are a net positive. Unfortunately, that is not the case with investment in tobacco and tobacco-related sectors. The damage caused by consumption of tobacco products on human health is now well documented. The report, 'Economics of Tobacco and Tobacco Taxation in India', released last year estimated that without strong action, over 51 million Indians alive today will die prematurely from bidi and cigarette consumption. Over the years, the government has initiated a number of measures to curb tobacco consumption, including mandating the carrying of pictorial warnings on cigarette packs and banning FDI in tobacco. However, these efforts have made very little dent on tobacco consumption.

 

In the West, sustained advocacy and better awareness have led to a sharp fall in tobacco consumption, while poor literacy and lack of awareness of health hazards make India an attractive destination for global tobacco majors faced with declining sales in the west. Undeterred by the recent (2010) ban on FDI, many of them have set up fully-owned marketing subsidiaries through which they sell their global brands and allegedly bring in funds to support their local operations. This loophole must be plugged forthwith. The cost in terms of public health expenditure (paltry as that may be) and in terms of loss of life and productivity can in no way compensate for the additional dollars brought by tobacco companies. Given the government's stated resolve to curb tobacco consumption, it must levy sin taxes on tobacco products and, no less important, say 'no' to foreign investment in the sector.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CROCO-DIAL DANDY

CONNECTIVITY EVERYWHERE


THE crocodile in J M Barrie's Peter Pan did not seem too worse for wear after swallowing a clock, and followed Captain Hook in search of more arm candy for many years. Today's crocodiles are not that tough obviously, because one in the Ukraine has been laid low after downing a mere mobile phone, not a loudly ticking timepiece. The manufacturer of the 21st century essential, however, should be happy about some aspects of the episode. First, it gives the lie to all the carping comments that floated about when it emerged that a cellphone from the same company had been snapped up by a codfish in 2009 and languished in its belly for a week before being retrieved in working condition by a fisherman who caught the greedy fish. What could be a more ringing testament to its durability than that the instrument did not flake out despite being dumped into a tank full of water (and crocodiles) a few weeks ago too. That it even rang valiantly despite being snapped up by one of the aforementioned reptiles surely sends a signal about connectivity in hard to reach places. Moreover, the fact that even the formidable innards of a croc have not been able to break it down into excretable portions in a month speaks volumes for the quality of its components.

 

Admittedly, there is little danger of human users mistaking it for a pre-prandial canapé, but the argument that cellphones are not injurious to health, however, could become a little harder to swallow considering the crocodile's appetite and energy have diminished considerably post-ingestion. Captain Hook's bête noire was made of sterner stuff, clearly, but then again he did not have to deal with irritating ringtones, vibrating mode and constant spam text messages.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CREATING JOBS FOR INCLUSIVE GROWTH

BY BLENDING UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE/BENEFITS WITH LEGISLATIVE REFORMS THAT ENSURE LABOUR MARKET FLEXIBILITY IN MANUFACTURING, INDIA CAN REALISTICALLY LIFT MILLIONS OUT OF POVERTY, SAYS AJAY SHANKAR


 INDIA'S economic performance over the last decade has been phenomenal and has surprised the world. Inching back to 9% GDP growth rate after experiencing only a slowdown rather than a recession in the worst global economic crisis in decades, being recognised as an emerging player in the new knowledge economy, home to ambitious firms beginning to transform themselves into successful MNCs, there is even talk of India becoming an economic superpower.

 

But then comes the reality check. We have more absolutely poor people than the 20 poorest countries of Africa. We have more people without access to clean toilets than with access to mobile phones. We have more people without electricity than the whole of Africa. Malnutrition and hunger are harsh realities warranting the quest for food security measures. There is the uneasy apprehension that growth may not yet be inclusive enough.

 

In this context, it is necessary to have the conceptual clarity that anti-poverty welfare measures such as MGNREGA and food security do not in themselves take people into the trajectory out of poverty. They do not directly generate the economic activity that would push millions out of poverty. They only mitigate the condition of being 'poor' and make it a bit more bearable. This recognition need not dilute the moral imperative for such programmes. The analytical challenge is one of understanding the nature of market, policy and regulatory 'failures' or 'distortions' that are coming in the way of genuinely inclusive growth and the faster movement of the millions out of poverty.

 

That there is a real problem is apparent to most students of the history of economic development. The normal pattern has been one of benefitting from globalisation through the advantage of cheaper labour by producing relatively simpler labour-intensive products for the global market; creating a competitive business ecosystem of entrepreneurs, managers and workers; and then gradually moving up the value chain. India presents the unusual picture of appearing to skip the first phase of being globally competitive in simpler labour-intensive production. In Asia, Japan was the first country to successfully industrialise and as it moved up the value chain to the level of the US and western Europe at the end of the 1950s and during the 1960s and 1970s, labour-intensive manufacturing for global markets moved to the East Asian tiger economies of Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore. India, then being at a similar stage of development, was completely bypassed.

 

In the next phase, China opened up its economy and over the last 30 years has become the factory of the world and has practically eliminated poverty as we in India understand it. India was then at a similar stage of development and was again completely bypassed. The other Asean countries also experienced the benefits of labour-intensive manufacturing. Now that China has prospered and its wage costs are beginning to rise, the global supply chains for labour-intensive products such as garments, leather, toys, etc, are looking at new cheaper locations. A recent New York Times story reports that Vietnam, Cambodia and Bangladesh are emerging as the choices for relocation from China for the global garment supply chains. India was not even mentioned. It may, alas, be again being bypassed.

 

THIS, surely, should be a wakeup call. Where will the poor of India go, where and when will they get jobs that take them out of poverty? The Maoist problem illustrates the huge costs of the failure of inclusive growth. The question that we need to ask ourselves is why, after almost two decades of economic reforms and liberalisation, India is still not perceived by investors, domestic as well as foreign, as being attractive enough for labour-intensive manufacturing. The answer, if we are to be candid, lies in the prevailing perceptions regarding the politico-economic realities on the ground. The onerous burden of the regulatory requirements of labour welfare legislation with the associated rentseeking behaviour of the multiple faces of the inspector raj is difficult enough. When this is combined with the perception of risk of labour unrest increasing proportionately with the size of the labour force, then risk-averse capital prefers capital-intensive outlets like real estate, IT, BPO, entertainment, etc. to labour-intensive manufacturing.

 

There is consensus about the need for inclusive growth across the political spectrum. Yet, the champions of inclusive growth need to recognise the necessity of the environment appearing attractive enough to globally mobile capital for labour-intensive manufacturing. This means having the political motivation to seek pragmatic options of simplifying and rationalising the regulatory burden for 'labor welfare' without diluting the real objectives of existing legislation. This is doable. Many provisions in our labour laws go back to the early period of industrialisation and have become dated with technological progress. The merger of different reporting and inspection requirements would be of great help. Certification through credible accredited third parties is an option that offers immense potential. It has begun to deliver significant results in other segments of regulation.

 

The real need, however, is to bring in labour market flexibility as the potential for labour-intensive manufacturing lies in being able to serve the global markets. Entry into global markets for mass produced labour-intensive products is tough. For new entrants, business is volatile with the order book position going through huge ups and downs. The absence of labour market flexibility makes investment for this purpose go elsewhere. With the almost complete opening up of the Indian market through trade liberalisation, the domestic market for labour-intensive manufactures is actually being taken over by Chinese imports and resulting in job losses.

 

Introducing labour market flexibility in identified segments, combined with unemployment insurance/benefits, is probably the only way to generate the political consensus that is required. To the extent manufacturing jobs are created, the claims on MGNREGA would come down. There is no other option if the promise of inclusive growth is to be fulfilled.

 

(The author is former secretary,     government of India)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

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

 

Petro-eloquent
 WITH Jaipal Reddy replacing Murli Deora as the new petroleum minister, the hope in Congress circles is that the new minister will establish the ministry's badly-missing connect with the general public by politically articulating the economic rationale behind many policy decisions, including the hike in petrol prices. It has been openly said in party circles that Deora's poor communication skills, his apolitical attitude and his perceived image as someone who is too close to a particular business house have severely handicapped the ministry's ability to appear credible on some fronts. It was a regular sight in Parliament to have a visibly defensive Deora either ducking opposing queries or asking his junior minister to answer questions regarding his department. Given Mr Reddy's political profile, clean image and proven eloquence, Congressmen are finally hoping to see the petroleum ministry speaking the language of a political administrator. Watch out!

 

POLITICAL circles are abuzz with rumours of the impending arrest of a wheeler-dealer who has long evaded law-enforcement authorities. The person in question is a close associate of a powerful advisor to a senior Cabinet minister and has often been spotted hanging around in a particular ministry. The person was also put on the CBI's list of unwanted personalities, and it is believed his phones were tapped for a few months early last year. Officials in the investigating agency which carried out the tap say there are "explosive" conversations between this person and the associate of the minister. But, after the Radia tape leaks, the agency is guarding these conversations and is tight-lipped about what action it intends to take, especially since it involves a powerful minister's associate. The fixer has in the past been chargesheeted in various cases ranging from the Ketan Parekh stock market scam to misuse of duty free import schemes. The cases have been under investigation by agencies for over 10 years now, and it is believed that his proximity to the minister's associate has ensured investigations slow down. But agencies are now closing in on the person. Ominous signals

 

AS THEDMK surrendered the telecom ministry to the Congress and has realistically conceded its inability to wrest a matching ministry, some fresh developments in Tamil Nadu are adding to its discomfort. Film star Viayakanth's outfit, which had tactically helped the DMK-Congress front in the last Lok Sabha poll, is on the verge of crossing over to Jayalalithaa. His outfit has around 9% votes, crucial in the coalition arithmetic. Similarly, the PMK, an uneasy DMK ally, could also switch over to the rival side. For the Congress, it could provide an inspiration to further armtwist Karunanidhi to shell out over 70 Assembly seats by holding out the threat of going for a solo run. Worse, it is an open secret that a DMK that is ousted in Chennai and cornered in Delhi suits the Congress just fine. Mutual compulsions

 

ALMOSTa decade and half after the CPI(M) expelled its veteran leader K R Gauri in Kerala, efforts are on to bring her back. There are compulsions on both sides to try a CPM(Gauri) reunion. Gauri's regional outfit has run its course and the Congress is no longer keen to sponsor it. Similarly, with the Pinaryi Vijayan faction of the Kerala CPI(M) thinking that even though Gauri is now a spent force, her return could still help it beat inner-party rival V S Achuthanandan in his Alappuzha belt. But for Gauri, now in her 90s, all that may really count is wanting to conclude a long political innings with an honourable position in her Marxist home.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

SEREN DI PITY

BJP'S REPUBLIC DAY THEATRICS

C L MANOJ

 

BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi and party's Karnataka CM Yeddyurappa have reasons to feel on top of the saffron world this Republic Day! From being privately dismissed by BJP leaders as a fossil of a rejected past, Joshi — whose sense of betrayal for having been denied a second term at the top party post is known to be second only to his own helpless anger over being unceremoniously knocked out of the once-projected Atal-Advani-Joshi triumvirate — has bounced back in style. Not only is Joshi keeping his party on the edge with his moves and countermoves as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, he even has the ultimate political satisfaction of seeing his own dismissive party falling back to do a copycat 'tricolour' act that he failed to pull off rather comically 18 years ago.

 

On the other hand, the selfsame Yeddyurappa who had publicly bulldozed the BJP's attempt to remove him as chief minister has now forced the party to project him as its 'legally-permissible immoral' face of a political crusade against injustice!

 

But then, can the BJP's retreat to the Joshi-era Hindu nationalism help it in its post-2009 presumed quest to be a 'sensible' and 'moderate' party capable of anchoring a larger anti-Congress Opposition unity? Or will it just end up as a political boost for the hardline Kashmiri separatists and Islamic fundamentalists who find themselves with no genuine public backing after their briefly successful joint bid to raise their heads last summer? But then, extremism and communalism of all colours are known to always work to feed and feed off one another.

One can't also miss the Congress' unconcealed glee at the sight of BJP brass rallying behind Yeddyurappa right when they are supposedly hammering the UPA-II with an anti-corruption campaign. The JD(U), the critical NDA ally, has already deplored BJP's Mission Srinagar. The Left, BJP's muchneeded strategic axis for a complete Opposition unity, has shown its uneasiness with BJP's endorsement of Tiranga politics, Yeddy brand and its inability to flay right-wing terror, by deciding to chart a separate course in Parliament. So, the immediate political fallout of BJP's Tiranga-Yeddy, or T-Y, misadventures is to rupture Opposition unity.

 

On their Kashmir plank, the BJP leaders have asked some politically correct questions to their critics. Isn't Kashmir an integral part of India where any citizen can hoist the national flag? Aren't the Omar Abdullah regime and UPA-II succumbing to the threats of separatists by blocking the yatra? If some human rights activists and liberals could host Syed Ali Shah Geelani at a Mandi House seminar where he made some anti-India remarks, why can't they support Thakur Jr's symbolic pro-India yatra to Srinagar? Good questions for a middle-school classroom debate, but bad politics to keep even the allies on board.

 

The J&K government will have functions to ceremoniously hoist the national flag at Bakshi Stadium in Srinagar, the winter capital in Jammu and other district headquarters. So, there is no question of J&K being left out on R-Day show. Lal Chowk is not a hallowed sacred space but a traditional place for political meetings. Just as Sheikh Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru had addressed the people from Lal Chowk in the past, of late, the separatists too have been holding meetings there. Yet, in the last three successive and successful elections, a larger number of ordinary Kashmiris defied the separatists' boycott calls and threats to vote. It is also a fact that A B Vajpayee and L K Advani had failed to campaign in the Valley, at least as a symbolic show of their support to the Valley's tryst with Indian democracy, when the crucial elections were held during the NDA rule, while Sonia Gandhi had campaigned.

 

The point is, whether India's sovereignty over Kashmir is to be conceived as an act of occupation, to mark which the national flag has to be planted on annexed land or as a voluntary togetherness of citizens, fractures in which have to be healed. Political actions are to be measured by their consequences, not professed intentions. Is a showdown over the flag intended to heal wounds or to deepen fissures? Is defence of an immoral leader likely to add to, or take away from, a fight against corruption?

 

Only myopic jingoists think India will ever 'sell off' Kashmir or Arunachal Pradesh.

 

One wonders who pushed BJP's young gun Anurag Thakur on to this? He should know his party has never been comfortable with politics of the Tricolour, which invariably reopens talk of RSS' non-participation in the freedom movement and of Vajpayee's role in it. The only memorable fallout for M M Joshi after his ekta yatrafailed to trigger any national enthusiasm for the BJP was his own in-house ambush. Another saffronite Tiranga specialist, Uma Bharti, is now in nowoman's-land. Thakur should be lucky if Omar stops him on the way. Else, he will have to end up as a silly spectacle as Mr Joshi had in 1992, when he had to be airlifted to Srinagar and brought to Lak Chowk under security with no cheering crowd to watch.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

GOING WHERE SOME MEN HAVE GONE

MUKUL SHARMA

 

AWELL known quote attributed to Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, goes: "We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing, all-powerful God who creates faulty humans, and then blames them for His own mistakes." Never mind that except in Judeo-Christianity (along with some street versions of various eastern faiths), where punishment for sin is a standard feature, this objection doesn't necessarily pan out in other major religions of the world. The problem doesn't bother deists either, who believe that although a supreme architect made the universe, it exerts no further influence or control over it after that.

 

Also, in at least two important belief systems, the need to question the story logic simply doesn't arise because the notion of having absolute faults is almost non-existent. In one of them, the belief is that the Godhood manifests in many forms as a way of losing Itself in endless creative play and, therefore, resides in all Its manifestations. Of course for any play to be interesting, the players have to be differently abled with some being better at the game and some not so —with or without faults or good qualities. The aim of the game is to remember the Godhead is in ourselves, for only then is it finally over. There's no faultfinding involved. Or real mistakes.

 

In the other belief system, 'faultiness' in a human being is about an individual's inability to conduct oneself in conformity with the principle or law that orders the universe — actions or deeds that constitute the foundation for the entire cycle of cause and effect. The total then determines the person's destiny and shapes all past, present, and future experiences. Even in theistic versions, it's ultimately we who possess the free will to choose good or evil and suffer the consequences which can be redeemed by rebirth when we get yet another chance to make amends. Again, the point is there's no blamegame involved.

 

The reason for Roddenberry's cliché anti-theist comment is the same reason why Star Trek contains no trace of any religion — a backlash against the perceived paradoxes which seem to exist in the Abrahamic Scriptures. Where religion does make a rare appearance, it consists mainly of ritual and psycho-babble and one gets the feeling that respect for such things is motivated more by cultural relativism than by a sense that they might contain truths of interest to others.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

UNSHACKLING GROWERS

IT IS TIME THAT HORTICULTURE IS EXEMPT FROM THE APMC ACT. THERE IS NO REASON WHY ORGANISED BUYERS OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCE SHOULD REQUIRE A LICENCE TO DO SO.

The whole nation is upset with rising prices of fruits and vegetables which have become unaffordable even for the middle class, leave alone the poor. The Government is on the defensive for its perceived inability to augment supplies in the short run, and contain the price rise. Ironically, this sad situation is despite the country being blessed with varied agro-climatic conditions and being touted as the second largest producer in the world of fruits and vegetables (at over 170 million tonnes). Problems in the supply chain appear to be the main reason behind high retail prices. Suggestions have been made that fruits and vegetables should be exempted from Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees Act (APMC) regulations and that the grower should be allowed to sell directly to food processors, consolidators or retailers.

Indeed, four years ago, the Ministry of Agriculture came up with model by-laws for the APMC and most States have adopted them, some with minor variations. So, even today, nothing prevents the grower from selling the produce outside the APMC mandi system, just as nothing prevents the private players from networking with growers and buying from them directly. Yet that does not seem to be happening today on the scale that is required and that is because of a lack of adequate linkage between growers and organised private buyers. Growers produce what they know to produce, although ideally they should produce what the market wants. It is here that the private sector, especially food processing companies and organised retail, can play a crucial role in linking farms and markets. In its own self interest, the private sector must demonstrate a sufficient commitment to building capacity among small growers to service the market. This calls for a step up in private investment to strengthen the supply chain.

It is also time that horticulture is exempt from the APMC Act. There is no reason why organised buyers of agricultural produce should require a licence to do so. The idea should be to shorten the time-to-market for producers and also facilitate feedback to help them produce what the market needs. It is also necessary to de-risk agriculture, especially horticulture crops, from the adverse effects of weather and market volatility. The organised retail which seeks agricultural transformation should actually seize the initiative to stabilise both production and prices. Especially in case of horticulture the principal stakeholders are the growers and consumers including retailers and food processing companies.

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

THE SPECTRE OF INFLATION

C.P.CHANDRASEKHAR
JAYATI GHOSH

 

Persisting high inflation points to the failure of the Government to properly recognise and attempt to address structural tendencies and adopt appropriate short-term measures.


Inflation, as measured by the Wholesale Price Index for all commodities, stood at above 8 per cent over the last twelve months and above 10 per cent in four of those (Chart 1). This is disconcerting not just because of its level, but because of its persistence.


Inflation persists because its incidence has shifted across commodities, though more often than not it has been focused on one set of food articles or another. That makes it more damaging when looked at in terms of its welfare consequences for the people and its political consequences for the UPA Government.

These features make it unclear as to why the Government has not, on a war footing, made an effort to dampen price increases — especially since it has the advantage of large foreign exchange reserves that can be deployed to augment supplies of any tradable commodity when required. This is a moot question also because the Government has on more than one occasion argued that inflation is not a generalised problem but has attributed it to supply-demand imbalances in particular commodities, which then provides the base for speculation.

Across commodities

If it has not been able to exercise the manoeuvrability it derives from comfortable foreign exchange reserves to dampen inflationary trends through supply management, it is partly because of an unusual feature of the inflationary process. This is the fact that it has moved across a range of primary commodities, especially food articles.

Inflation has affected one or more of cereals, pulses, onions, vegetables, meat, eggs, milk and a host of other commodities at different points in time. With the incidence of such inflation being high in many instances, even if the overall weight of individual commodities varied, the effect has been such as to keep overall inflation at relatively high levels.

One consequence of this moving inflationary frontier is that a patently lackadaisical Government has been caught off guard on more than one occasion. In fact, driven by its belief that specific demand-supply imbalances were responsible for the problem, the Government seems to have consistently expected inflation to moderate quickly rather than rise significantly.

Almost a year ago, when addressing a Chief Minister's conference on food prices early in February 2010, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, declared: "The worst is over as far as food inflation is concerned. I am confident that we will soon be able to stabilise food prices."

Three months later, on more than one occasion, government spokespersons, like Chief Economic Advisor Dr Kaushik Basu, declared that inflation had "peaked out" and was on a downward trend. One or two predictions of an impending price decline are understandable. But, over the last year, almost every month or even week, one official spokesperson or the other (be it the Finance Minister, the Finance Secretary, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission or the ubiquitous head of the PM's Economic Advisory Council) has declared that inflation is bound to moderate.

One reason for this is that the Government did not realise that the demand-supply imbalance that it was dealing with was more generalised than it thought it was because of the agrarian crisis resulting from a long-term neglect of agriculture.

That neglect has obviously meant that investments and expenditures that could have boosted agricultural productivity have been woefully inadequate. This has combined with increases in input costs resulting from the perceptions on appropriate pricing of inputs and the need to reduce subsidies that has characterised the reform period.


As a result, even in instances where the Government has contributed to pushing up output prices, the viability of crop production has not been sustained despite the high-input and high-output price regime. The implication for the trend (as opposed to weather-influenced fluctuations) in agricultural growth can only be adverse

As leading economists have noted, what needs explanation is not the fact that we are faced with inflationary tendencies rooted in structural demand-supply imbalances today, but the fact that this problem has not erupted before.

This is partly because deflationary policies reined in demand as well for some time. Matters have changed since, necessitating short term supply management measures to combat inflation. Unfortunately, the Government has failed on this front as well.

Role of speculation

The impact of that failure has been exceptional also because of the role that speculation has come to play in the deregulated and liberalised environment put in place during the last few years. At an aggregate level there are a number of features of the inflationary process that point to this enhanced role for speculation.

The first is that, while inflation is not restricted to food alone, it has been substantially driven by food articles, which are more prone to speculative influences. In the case of these commodities, even when demand-supply imbalances are minor or absent, speculation can push up prices.


The second is that within food articles, inflation has at different points in time affected different commodities, such as cereals, pulses, vegetables, eggs, meat and milk. Not all of these commodities are equally weather dependent and the prices of some are influenced by where administered prices are set.

To attribute the trends in their prices solely to demand-supply imbalances or imported inflation is to neglect the role of speculation. Third, when inflation does occur in some food items, be they onions, vegetables or even cereals, the rate of inflation tends to be extremely high, pointing to the role of speculation in driving prices in the short run.

A role for speculation is also established by recent evidence on distribution margins. There is reason to believe that the margins between wholesale and retail prices of many important food items have increased in the recent period. (See Macroscan, Business Line, February 23, 2010.)

The point is that this has been happening in a period of increased corporate involvement in food distribution and food retail. The share of corporate retail in food distribution in the country as a whole is estimated to have tripled in the past four years, and has grown even faster in major metros and other large cities. And this is also the period when retail food prices have shown the greatest increase.

The other point that emerges from a comparison of retail margins across major towns and cities is that such margins are lowest in States (such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala) where there is an extensive, well-developed and reasonably efficient system of public distribution that provides a range of food items on a near universal basis to the population. In regions where such a public distribution system is weak or non-existent (such as Utter Pradesh and Bihar) the margins tend to be much higher and growing faster.

In this context, consider how retail margins have been behaving in the very recent past, in just one location, the city of Delhi. Charts 2 and 3 describe the price behaviour of two significant but relatively less perishable food items: rice and tur dal.

It is evident that the retail prices have generally been tracking the wholesale prices in terms of direction of movement, but still there are some noteworthy variations. On average, retail margins have increased for these commodities, and quite sharply for tur dal. This may be the result of a number of features, and obviously requires more investigation. But even so it is worth noting that Delhi is a city that has witnessed a significant increase in corporate food retailing. And the role of inflationary expectations in being able to influence retail price behaviour is obviously much greater for larger players.

The case of onions

The food prices that have been most talked about of course are those of onions. Onion prices are widely perceived to have great political significance, especially in North India. Because onions like other vegetables are highly perishable, supply conditions should play a major role in their price. Charts 4 record the wholesale and retail prices, and the total market arrivals (in metric tonnes) of onions in the city of Delhi.

The evidence is somewhat surprising. For much of the period of falling market arrivals over the past year, onion prices were rather stable and the retail margin actually shrank. Prices started rising sharply only in October — and this is the period after which supply was actually increasing quite sharply.

In November and December, market arrivals increased but prices continued to shoot up. Surely inflationary expectations and hoarding must have played roles, along with the speculative pressure reflected in onion futures, and this was not sufficiently counteracted by public intervention through its own food distribution network.

The Government has recognised this structural, inflationary tendency in a peculiar, in fact patently absurd, way. It attributes the inflation to the demand-side effects of high growth. If people are richer because of an 8-9 per cent growth rate, they are bound to demand more. Since supply does not adjust, prices are bound to rise.

There are many assumptions here. That when GDP grows, those who need to buy and consume more cereals, pulses and vegetables garner a reasonable share of the benefits of that growth. Or that when GDP grows, such growth cannot occur in large measure in the commodity producing sectors, resulting in a widening gap between the demand for and supply of certain goods. That even though the "high growth" era began in 2004, it is only now that it has generated demand-supply imbalances. And, that if there is indeed a supply-demand imbalance the government is unable, for whatever reason, to redress it by resorting to imports. Making such assumptions is not just wishful thinking, but avoiding the conundrum.

A priority issue

Dealing systematically with the problem of high food prices in a country with a largely hungry population should normally be a priority issue for any government. There are certainly crucial medium-term policies that reverse the longer run neglect of agriculture, which must be implemented. The issue of rapidly rising cultivation costs that are making farming unviable once again needs to be addressed in a holistic way.

The concerns of storage, distribution and post-harvest technology also need to dealt with. But in the short run, creating a viable and effective public distribution system that will counteract tendencies to price spikes in essential commodities is an immediate requirement.

Unfortunately, precisely at a time when it can come in handy the Government is threatening to renege on the UPA's promise to deliver universal access to a minimum quota of food through the public distribution. Riding on the argument that not enough foodgrain is available, even though production has been good, stocks with the government are comfortable and foreign exchange that can be used to import even more is being handed over to the rich to be transferred to accounts abroad, it has used the Chief of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council to stall even a diluted proposal from the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council to expand the public distribution system. If this attitude persists, possibly high inflation too will.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

OF ONIONS AND PHONE CHARGERS

RASHEEDA BHAGAT

 

A visit to Jain Hills in Maharashtra's Jalgaon district reveals the difference that an optimal irrigation system has made to the onion and banana belt's agrarian economy.

It is a three-hour drive from Aurangabad airport to Jain Hills, the headquarters of Jain Irrigation Systems on the outskirts of Jalgaon city. My travelling companion in the car is Mr Uzy Nevo, an Israeli agri expert specialising in greenhouses, and the company has invited him for a consultancy on its greenhouse operations. He is most keen to get the English translation of my conversation with the driver, Ashok Vaghul, on the prices of, what else, onions, of course.

"Now the price has come down to Rs 20-25 a kg", he says, and I stop my sharp exclamation of surprise, noting that after all we are in the "onion State" of Maharashtra. Unlike Chennai, Bangalore or Delhi where the humble onion had shot past the Rs 100 mark a few weeks ago, in Jalgaon, the price never crossed Rs 50. "But even then people like me couldn't afford to buy onions at that high price."

He and many of his colleagues at Jain Irrigation, who ferry passengers all over the State and beyond, watch out for an opportunity to get a 40-50 kg load of onions whenever they go to Nashik. "On the return journey the car is empty and we can buy 50 kg at around Rs 250-275", he says. Of course, it is a battle to keep the bulbs from rotting, but the booty helps to keep the family kitchen going for at least a few months.

"Ask him how much he saves", prods Mr Nevo, who marvels at the "very high rate of savings in India." Both he and I are amazed to find that the driver, whose salary is around Rs 10,000, sends his daughter to an English-medium school, regularly puts money in her savings bank account and has a couple of life insurance policies too. In all, he puts away at least a few thousand rupees every month. (Madam, burey time ke liye bachana tau padta hi hei. (One has to save for a rainy day)."

Mr Nevo and I discuss for a while issues ranging from corruption in India to high onion prices.

Onions in greenhouses?

He is aware how heavy rains and flooding affected the onion crop in October-November, and he says that some friends of his have been consulted by a couple of Indians for technology to grow onions in greenhouses.

When I tell him that I thought only roses and other exotic flowers and vegetables and high-value crops — well, the onion is getting there alright — were grown in greenhouses, and that onions required massive acreage under cultivation, he says that after the initial investment on the greenhouse, subsequent crops would be cost-effective. "And greenhouses can be huge; do you know there are greenhouses that can go up to 80,000 hectares? In African countries very often, huge greenhouses are put up."

I put up the possibility of growing onions in greenhouses in India to Dr Anil Dhake, vice-president, R&D, Jain Irrigation Systems, but he thinks the cost would be prohibitive. "As for the vagaries of weather affecting the onion crop, it can be protected in open fields also through the use of low-cost technology... making tunnels and covering them at night with polythene sheets, which can be removed if there is no rain in the day." He says greenhouse technology works only for high-value crops such as "cut flowers, red and yellow bell-peppers, gherkins and other such exotic vegetables."

Banana belt

The Jalgaon belt is, of course, famous for bananas — 50,000 hectares are under banana in this district, accounting for 18 per cent of India's produce of bananas — and Dr Dhake is justifiably proud that, thanks to Jain Irrigation's early initiatives, the entire banana crop has been brought under drip irrigation. Apart from optimum use of water, farmers are also opting for another of its initiatives — tissue culture banana plants.

"Initially farmers were reluctant to purchase these at a cost; we had to educate and demonstrate to them that, as these come from a healthy mother plant, you can get 'xerox' copies in the field, which means much better quality and more than double the yield." It took four years to convince farmers to buy these, "but now we are not able to meet the demand despite producing 3 crore such plants," says Dr Dhake. Each tissue culture banana plant costs Rs 11; while the traditional method gave the farmer one crop in 18 months with a yield of around 15 kg per plant, with this technology they are able to get a second crop within 18 months and the yield varies between 25-30 kg per plant.

However, because of winter scorching — the banana cannot withstand temperature below 10 deg Celsius but this winter Jalgaon saw a minimum temperate of 3 deg Celsius — much of the banana crop has been affected and the yield this season will fall by about 30 per cent, fears the scientist.

India shining

But much more than bananas or onions, the loss of his Sony Ericsson mobile phone charger is troubling Mr Nevo. By the time we convey this to Vaghul, we are well beyond Aurangabad and he cheerfully says: " Aaj tau nahi milega". The Israeli is desperate and I take charge; after a couple of stops that yield no charger for the fancy model, we stop near a mobile shop at a small town on the highway. The dealer is optimistic that he has the required pin after he fails to find chargers that match the handphone. He brings out one bagful after another of used chargers, some of them in pieces. To my sceptical look, he says: " Sirf pin hi tau chahiye (I only need the pin); if I find the match I'll fit it in a jiffy to any charger." He turns his shop upside down, muttering that he is sure he has several matching pins. The foreigner is amazed he would go to such lengths to serve a customer.

When he throws up his hands we go to the next shop, separated by half a partition, where the dealer has been patiently watching the entire episode. With a smile, he pulls out a brand new charger, unbranded of course, and voila, it works! Now comes the bill part; I'm certain the dealer will fleece the desperate "white man" and am mentally preparing to pounce on him. But all he wants is Rs 120, which is gratefully paid.

As we drive on, all questions about Indian corruption are forgotten, and Mr Nevo says: "The Indian people are so very helpful; where else in the world would you get service like this at 8 p.m. and at this price?"

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

WILD SWINGS IN IIP NUMBERS

S. D. NAIK

 

Over the years, the primary database for computing the Index of Industrial Production has become increasingly shaky as a large number of factories in the organised private sector do not care to report their production data to official agencies.

The industrial growth measured by the official index of industrial production (IIP) has nosedived to 2.7 per cent in November from the revised figure of 11.3 per cent in the preceding month. However, the IIP growth during April-November 2010-11 stood at a more comfortable 9.5 per cent against 7.4 per cent during the corresponding period of last year.

In manufacturing, with consumer non-durables showing a negative growth of 6 per cent against 2.3 per cent a year-ago and that of consumer durables showing a growth of just 4.3 per cent against 36.3 per cent a year-ago during the month of November, some felt it could be the result of raging inflation affecting demand for these items. However, the sales of several products as also the non-food credit growth of the banking sector continue to show healthy growth.

Incidentally, the IIP numbers have been very volatile over the past 6-8 months. For instance, in April this year, the IIP growth was 16.64 per cent. Again, during the months of July and October it was 15.09 per cent and 11.3 per cent respectively. However, in August it was down at 7.35 per cent and it plunged to 4.39 per cent in September. Though it rose to 11.3 per cent in October, it again nosedived to 2.71 per cent in November.

DECLI NING QUALITY

Even granting that the IIP numbers for a month could be distorted by seasonal and cyclical factors, such wild swings raise doubts about the quality of industrial statistics. A glaring instance of doubtful estimate related to the capital goods production during the month of July showing a huge jump of 63 per cent in the initial estimate which was subsequently revised to 72 per cent. The industry associations contested this figure claiming that their estimate showed a more modest growth of 22 per cent in capital goods production in July.

Subsequently, industry analysts discovered that the big increase in capital goods output was on account of a huge surge in the output of cables and wires which are included in this segment and not due to any big increase in the production of machinery items.

Not surprisingly, capital goods output showed a slump in the following month and the overall growth in IIP dipped to 7.35 per cent from 15.09 per cent in the previous month. Thus the high volatility from month to month has been a familiar feature of the IIP in recent times. However, the longer term trend appears to be relatively stable moving in the region of 9 to 10 per cent.

Another problem with the IIP data is that there is very little representation of the products manufactured by the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) which account for about 45 per cent of the total industrial output in the country and 40 per cent of exports. Hence the IIP numbers fail to capture the actual trends in this sector.

ASI VERSUS IIP

The Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) 2008-09 data unveiled on January 14 brought out the big gap between the annual growth in industrial production given by the two official government measures — ASI and the IIP. The ASI industrial growth was much higher than what the IIP data had reported for 2008-09.

According to ASI data, overall industrial growth during 2008-09 was 8.73 per cent while the IIP data had pegged it at a meagre 3.35 per cent. The discrepancy between the two official sources of data is because of the fact that ASI data is based on finalised accounts of industries whereas IIP data are collected from various sources over the course of a month.

For many years, ASI used to be the basis for estimating the gross domestic output of organised manufacturing. However, in the early 2000s, this practice was abandoned as a huge and inexplicable divergence was detected between the ASI and the IIP estimates. Unfortunately, no effort was made to rectify the discrepancy that had crept into the ASI data.

However, over the years, the primary database for computing the IIP has become increasingly shaky as a large number of factories in the organised private sector do not care to report their production data to official agencies. The decline in the quality of industrial statistics has been more rapid in the post-liberalisation period after dismantling of the licensing regime.

A major problem with the IIP data is its outdated base year 1993-94. Its product basket of 543 items is no longer representative considering the dramatic transformation of the economy and the consumption behaviour of the people in the post-reform period. Some of the old products have gone out of use and many new products have come into the market over the past decade and a half.

The Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) is already in the process of creating a new index with 2004-05 as the base year which is likely to have some 150 new products. Now the introduction of this new series is being expedited. Experts, however, believe that even this new series will be somewhat outdated.

There is an urgent need to strengthen the database since a credible and reliable database is essential to enable policymakers in the government to formulate and implement appropriate policies. Also the base year needs to be updated every five years considering the fast changes taking place in the economy.

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

COMPETITIVENESS AND OTHER BAD METAPHORS

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

Meet the new buzzword, same as the old buzzword. In advance of the State of the Union, US President Barack Obama has telegraphed his main theme: competitiveness. The President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board has been renamed the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. And in his January 22 radio address, the President declared that "We can out-compete any other nation on Earth".

This may be smart politics. Arguably, Mr Obama has enlisted an old cliché on behalf of a good cause, as a way to sell a much-needed increase in public investment to a public thoroughly indoctrinated in the view that government spending is a bad thing.

But let's not kid ourselves: talking about "competitiveness" as a goal is fundamentally misleading. At best, it's a misdiagnosis of our problems. At worst, it could lead to policies based on the false idea that what's good for corporations is good for America.

About that misdiagnosis: What sense does it make to view our current woes as stemming from lack of competitiveness?

It's true that we'd have more jobs if we exported more and imported less. But the same is true of Europe and Japan, which also have depressed economies. And we can't all export more while importing less, unless we can find another planet to sell to. Yes, we could demand that China shrink its trade surplus — but if confronting China is what Mr Obama is proposing, he should say that plainly.

Furthermore, while America is running a trade deficit, this deficit is smaller than it was before the Great Recession began. It would help if we could make it smaller still. But ultimately, we're in a mess because we had a financial crisis, not because American companies have lost their ability to compete with foreign rivals.

But isn't it at least somewhat useful to think of our nation as if it were America Inc., competing in the global marketplace? No.

Consider: A corporate leader who increases profits by slashing his work force is thought to be successful. Well, that's more or less what has happened in America recently: employment is way down, but profits are hitting new records. Who, exactly, considers this economic success? Still, you might say that talk of competitiveness helps Mr Obama quiet claims that he's anti-business. That's fine, as long as he realises that the interests of nominally "American" corporations and the interests of the nation, which were never the same, are now less aligned than ever before.

Take the case of General Electric (GE), whose chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, has just been appointed to head that renamed advisory board. I have nothing against either GE or Mr Immelt. But with fewer than half its workers based in the United States and less than half its revenues coming from US operations, GE's fortunes have very little to do with US prosperity.

By the way, some have praised Mr Immelt's appointment on the grounds that at least he represents a company that actually makes things, rather than being yet another financial wheeler-dealer. Sorry to burst this bubble, but these days GE derives more revenue from its financial operations than it does from manufacturing — indeed, GE Capital, which received a government guarantee for its debt, was a major beneficiary of the Wall Street bailout. So what does the administration's embrace of the rhetoric of competitiveness mean for economic policy?

The favourable interpretation, as I said, is that it's just packaging for an economic strategy centred on public investment, investment that's actually about creating jobs now while promoting longer-term growth. The unfavourable interpretation is that Mr Obama and his advisers really believe that the economy is ailing because they've been too tough on business, and that what America needs now is corporate tax cuts and across-the-board deregulation.

My guess is that we're mainly talking about packaging here. And if the President does propose a serious increase in spending on infrastructure and education, I'll be pleased. But even if he proposes good policies, the fact that Mr Obama feels the need to wrap these policies in bad metaphors is a sad commentary on the state of our discourse.

The financial crisis of 2008 was a teachable moment, an object lesson in what can go wrong if you trust a market economy to regulate itself. Nor should we forget that highly regulated economies, like Germany, did a much better job than we did at sustaining employment after the crisis hit. For whatever reason, however, the teachable moment came and went with nothing learned.

Mr Obama himself may do all right: his approval rating is up, the economy is showing signs of life, and his chances of re-election look pretty good. But the ideology that brought economic disaster in 2008 is back on top — and seems likely to stay there until it brings disaster again.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A REPUBLIC NEEDS RULES

BY SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

 "Little drops of water, little grains of sand, make the mighty ocean and the beauteous land…"
But what about little drops of blood? What do they create?

On the immediate eve of the 61st birthday of our republic, this is the question to be addressed as a priority, at a time when assorted violence is claiming the lives of our fellow citizens on an unprecedented rate. The state of the nation seems to be symbolised by Netai, an obscure hamlet in the tribal belt of West Bengal, which came to national attention recently when eight persons were killed and 18 injured in an exchange of fire between two armed groups — subsequently identified as armed militia of the ruling political party, and villagers used as human shields by Maoists. The situation is not unique to this state. Similar situations are prevalent elsewhere.

Omissions and commissions in general governance have allowed political violence and subversive activities to reach a stage where they threaten the security fabric of the country. The nation seems to be staring into an abyss, demonstrating before the world an apparently fatal flaw in its societal nature where the practice of social and political democracy has become an extremely violent process at the grassroots, on scales that could well match the darker areas of Latin America. Sustained corrective action is required to be taken in hand urgently.

The basic reason for the descent into looming chaos is sheer lack of accountable governance at all levels of government, both at the Centre as well as in the states. India's fabled corruption and administrative inefficiency have created an all-pervading environment of systemic fragility in the country, though it must be stated in all fairness that states have often been more culpable in this respect than the Centre, and amongst them some states more than others.

Insurgency and terrorism are all essentially manifestations of warfare, as also is organised crime. Logistics constitutes the soft Achilles' Heel of all military systems, whose destruction or degradation will severely circumscribe and cripple the main operational effort. The same principle requires to be applied to the war on terror and crime, where criminal logistics require to be high priority targets because like all other quasi- military enterprises criminal and illegal activities too require fairly substantial logistic and administrative infrastructures of their own. These support systems draw upon the general civil and commercial infrastructure, providing a profusion of targets amongst the network of channels for procurement or manufacture of illegal weapons, ammunition and explosives, illegal financing and covert administrative support systems like safe houses and medical facilities for subversives and criminals. The targeting process has to comprehensively cover the entire gamut of activity because it is difficult to interdict contraband selectively. Interdiction operations are primarily based on strong police, intelligence and preventive services. Conventional military deployment is generally not necessary under these circumstances, except for elements of military intelligence where necessary, but if deployed will generally be in a supporting role. Again, as in all operations, integrated functioning is the key.

Proliferation of locally-manufactured small-bore country weapons is more or less a cottage industry flourishing in many parts of India, amongst which the Monghyr region in Bihar is perhaps the closest Indian equivalent of the fabled village gunsmiths of Darra Adam Khel in Pakistan. Country weapons are crude but undoubtedly effective for the purpose intended, and their design parameters are showing increasing sophistication, along with some rudimentary efforts at quality control. The innumerable small workshops in the country provide adequate machining facilities and technological experience is readily available everywhere, but a system of overwatch is required on their functioning and outputs so that they are not diverted, voluntarily or under threat, to the fabrication of illegal country weapons. It will not be possible to control the menace otherwise.

Military-grade explosives like CX or RDX are difficult to acquire or pilfer, and must of necessity be smuggled, usually through (and from) Pakistan, Bangladesh or Nepal. Therefore, terrorists have to assemble explosive devices either by pilferage from the mining industry, or from commercially-available expedients like ammonium nitrate, a widely-used chemical fertiliser freely available as perfectly legal purchases in the open market. Ammonium nitrate in the correct combinations with other ingredients like charcoal or fuel oil ("ANFO" — ammonium nitrate — fuel oil) creates improvised-explosive devices (IED) commonly known as "fertiliser bombs", whose makers in the underground bazaar command high prices for their services. However, assembly instructions for explosive devices are now freely available on the Internet and even rates are mentioned in Wikipedia.

Illegal finances are somewhat less readily available, even though unaccounted black money is flourishing, while illegal hawala transactions are too well known to require further elaboration or discussion. As a result, an industry of lucrative high-intensity crime has sprung up featuring bank hold ups, dacoities and, above all, extortion and kidnapping for ransom. The consolidated financial proceeds of all types of crime sustain criminal politics and their practitioners. The government(s) and their police have to become serious and sustained gang-busters if they really intend to clean up the situation, whose dimensions are well known.

The solution to the present situation is deceptively simple, but like all such, difficult and perhaps even impossible to execute within the given realities of the present national environment. Good, unbiased governance at all levels of the public, political and administrative structures is the sole remedy, to legislate, uphold and implement laws even-handedly in letter and spirit, without being influenced by local, political or other considerations. India has in its legal armoury some of the best economic, social and homeland defence legislation in the world. Let these weapons be brought out and deployed in full intensity to save the country and cure the wasting disease which has confined it to the sick bed notwithstanding India's economic "great leap forward".

On this 61st Republic Day, we the people owe it to ourselves.

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

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

ZERO TOLERANCE FOR WRONGDOERS VITAL

The news of the Congress MP, Mr Suresh Kalmadi, being removed as head of the 2010 Commonwealth Games organising committee will be met with much relief. These marching orders should have come a long time ago. Narratives of malignancy regarding preparations for the Delhi Games under Mr Kalmadi's stewardship had begun to surface about a year before the event. The Prime Minister was urged to step in to stem the rot. The reports carried credibility and Dr Manmohan Singh was compelled set up a Group of Ministers to look into the shoddy goings-on. A special unit of dependable Central officers was also created to maintain schedules and quality as it was no longer feasible to rely on Mr Kalmadi's capabilities and his probity. However, what Dr Singh did not do was to wield his authority to ease out the OC chief quickly. By the time his government acted to place curbs on Mr Kalmadi, a lot of damage had been done. In a way, the Games saga stands out as a symbol of the absence of timely governmental action when malfeasance is abode. In the face of early signs of wrongdoing and corruption, our governments typically begin to pore over the rulebook instead of isolating the bad apples, begin to look at the political colour of the persons under scrutiny, and sometimes even give the impression that their citing of rules is meant to stall action. From this arises the idea of partisanship with the wrong sort. The idea of due process — a key requirement of democratic life — is permitted to give wrongdoers a long leash, although everyone knows what the score is. This needs to change, and swiftly. Without deviating from due process, the system needs to be armed with legislation and procedures to deal with crooks transparently and speedily. The absence of this is hurting the political system grievously even when individual leaders are themselves perceived as being above board. The long line of corruption scandals in recent decades shows that governments seem to act only when the people mount pressure, almost never on their own. The UPA-2 government needs to strain every nerve to alter this perception. It can make a beginning with the issue of black money stashed in tax havens abroad by unscrupulous individuals. True, the government cannot breach the confidentiality conditions under which it has obtained the names of 26 individuals from Germany — who are said to have secreted away ill-gotten wealth in funny places to avoid paying taxes. That will close doors for the future and make foreign governments — with which we deal on a regular basis on a plethora of issues — mistrust us. But what the government can do is ask the judiciary to disclose the names — and once these are in the public domain, it will have to find the ingenuity to deal with those who had parked black money abroad on a stringent basis. Needless to say, the matter must move beyond taxation.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

SHANTI, SALAAM, SHALOM

BY FRANCIS GONSALVES

Christianity, like other religions, finds itself divided into sects or "churches", popularly called "denominations". When a little girl was asked by her classmate: "Are you Catholic or Protestant?" she innocently replied, "No, I'm from another abomination!" Sadly, though Jesus desired that his disciples live in unity and peace, there are so many denominations among Christians that Jesus too would probably see these as abominations, not denominations. Hence, every January, Christians of diverse denominations come together for a "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity" concluding with a "Day of Prayer for Peace" (January 30th).

Peace is a value that every religion proclaims in vibrant voices: shanti, salaam, shalom. Yet, peace is elusive; and, ironically, some of the bloodiest wars are fought in God's name. Thus, we must draw wisdom from the wellsprings of our traditions.

Peace is sometimes seen in negative terms as the absence of war. But, the Sanskrit shanti, Hebrew shalom and the Arabic salaam more positively suggest an integral wholeness resulting from the right relationship with others, nature and the Absolute. Peace has an inner dimension and an outer one, the latter unattainable without the former.

In his book Being Peace, the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes: "Without being peace, we cannot do anything for peace". He adds: "How do you want to create peace, if there is no peace inside yourselves?" Peace must dwell deep within one's own being before it overflows to others.

In classical Hinduism, the Vedas pray for peace. In the Atharva Veda we read: "Peace (shanti) be to the earth and to airy spaces! Peace (shanti) be to heaven, peace (shanti) to the waters, peace (shanti) to the plants and peace (shanti) to the trees! May all the gods grant me peace (shanti)!" The peace experienced within is breathed out as blessing to all of creation.

The holy Koran, likewise, recommends salaam as a greeting: "If those come to you who believe in our signs say: 'Peace be upon you!'" and "If you enter dwellings say salaam upon one another..." During the salat, the prescribed ritual prayer, salaam is used as a benediction for Allah, the Prophet Muhammad, and Allah's faithful worshippers. Moreover, salaam is one of the 99 beautiful names of Allah.

The Jewish shalom implies blessing, happiness, equality, justice and repose. In the Zohar we read: "God is peace (shalom), God's name is peace (shalom), and all is bound together in peace (shalom)". Peace is affirmed as the Transcendent One and also as the value that binds all creatures. Peace is a divine gift and it requires human effort too.

In his famous "Sermon on the Mount" Jesus preached: "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God". This peace has nothing to do with pious passivism, but involves commitment to peoples in order to "make peace" thereby ensuring justice for all. In "making peace" peacemakers frequently suffer violence. This was true of Jesus, crucified, and of the great peacemaker, Mahatma Gandhi, whose martyrdom we shall soon commemorate. Such lives can never be snuffed out. They live on.

Before his death Jesus prayed to God for his disciples: "May they all be one, Father, as you are in me and I am in you". After his resurrection he gave his disciples blessings of peace: "Peace be with you!" Jesus' much-desired unity among his disciples and his dreams for peace among all peoples need our prayers and sincere efforts for harmony.

Like four streams flowing into a sea of serenity, peace requires, first, respect for all peoples; second, the readiness to listen and learn from others; third, that we find areas of common life and cooperation; fourth, that we realise that no single religion can exhaust the Divine Mystery, one of whose names is peace. And those dismissive of dharma and denomination, heaven and nirvana, could heed the words of Gandhiji: "Peace is its own reward". Need we strive for any other?

— Francis Gonsalves is the principal of the Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi. He is involved in interfaith dialogue and peoples' initiatives for fostering justice, harmony and peace.

He can be contacted at fragons@gmail.com [1]

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

'THERE WILL BE NO OTHER PANDITJI'

BY SHUBHA MUDGAL

The nation is in mourning. Or at least its music lovers are. They grieve as I do, at the passing away of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, a musician, a maestro whose genius touched many hearts, melted the stone-cold core of many insensitive souls, turning them into staunch followers of classical music. And yet, as we pay tribute to him, I find almost everyone, including myself, turning to the same clichéd phrases, words and terms that we use at the passing of others — the great masters of Indian music who departed before Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, statesmen, kings, leaders from different walks of life and accomplished figures. Over and over I hear myself repeat sometimes in Hindi, at times in English, phrases that are identical to those that I hear others repeat — "great sense of loss", "irreparable loss", "mourn the loss", "pray for his soul to find eternal peace" and so on. And then I think to myself that a voice so unique, a musical sensibility so rooted in the traditions of khayal gayaki and yet endowed with such originality certainly deserves more eloquent tributes couched in more elegant if not unique phrasing.

Perhaps it is that very quality of having found a unique and individualistic style of expression and articulation that set Pandit Bhimsen Joshi apart from the many who have loved music passionately and obsessively and who have, like him, faced hardship and deprivation to serve the cause of music. Some were able to touch and transform the lives of only a few around them, while Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and other great masters impacted the journeys and sensibilities of countless followers.

I was introduced to the music of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi in my childhood, by my parents Skand and Jaya Gupta, who were diehard followers of classical music. My father would invariably go into raptures when Panditji sang Jo bhaje Hari ko sadaa, sohi param pada paayegaa… in Bhairavi, often bursting into tears despite being an agnostic. My mother, always more restrained and less demonstrative, would still hurry to all of Panditji's concerts in Allahabad, ensuring that my younger sister Ragini and I were ready on time, and loaded on to the Lambretta scooter that drove us in Ramleela ki chowki style to all such events and happenings in the city. So we knew that the Pandit was someone special, someone who made even good old Dad weep. But we didn't exactly know what was special about him although we learned to recognise his inimitable voice fairly accurately even as young children. We just knew that there would be people collecting in droves for his concerts; that a hush would descend as he began singing, and that we would be hissed at sharply if we so much as giggled or chatted with each other even in whispers to point out any of his wild gestures or mannerisms.

Over the years, as I grew older and started studying music, I started appreciating with greater awareness the mastery and magic that held listeners in thrall. And then, in 1987, I received for the first time an invitation to sing at the Sawai Gandharva Festival, started in 1953 by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi to pay tribute to his guru Pandit Rambhau Kundgolkar, better known as Sawai Gandharva. If that wasn't enough of a milestone, the surprise that awaited me in the green room surely was — a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Panditji strode in as I was preparing to go on stage to face thousands of discerning music lovers, made a cheerful enquiry if all was well even as everyone in the room fell at his feet in turns. And then he sat down cross-legged on the dusty durrie in the green room and proceeded to tune the tanpura for me, in the ultimate gesture both of hospitality to an invited artiste and encouragement to a fledgling. I am certain he extended this gesture not only to me but to many who were touched by his music.

There are sure to be many such anecdotes about him as there are of his stamina, determination, will power, alcoholism and idiosyncrasies, all equally engaging and riveting. And I hope that we continue to hear them and enjoy them as we learn to cope with the loss of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi.

More importantly, we must thank him for the lessons he leaves behind as inheritance for countless musicians. A unique style invariably compels admirers, followers and disciples to attempt cloning. And therefore, during his lifetime, and after his demise too, we will have to contend with many Bhimsen Joshi clones, some who will, with limited success, ride the wave of nostalgia that is sure to swell and ebb in times to come; and others who will fade away into oblivion sooner or later. This has been the case with other grandmasters of the arts too — Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur, Pandit Kumar Gandharva, Ustad Amir Khan Sahab and Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan to name only a very few. What most of us will forget or will obstinately refuse to recognise is the special unspoken lesson that can be learned from these great musicians — that you have to be comfortable being yourself, and not kill yourself musically or otherwise trying to be someone you are not.

There will be no other Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and it would be best if we learn to celebrate that fact.

- Shubha Mudgal is a well-knownIndian classical singer

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

LISTEN TO THE RHYTHM...

BY AMRIT SADHANA

Visualise your last trip to a natural habitat. The echo of birdcalls creating a constantly shimmering rainbow of sound from the forest canopy above. A lively spirited brook bubbling around moss-covered rocks as the wind rustles through the leaves.

The weariness of urban life melts away like a dewdrop in the morning sun. There are no mechanical sounds to destroy the musical soundscape of nature. In these sounds there is pitch and tempo, melodies and choruses, which are all being created by a multitude of animate and inanimate players.

Immediately we feel more relaxed and open, at home and at peace. But have we ever thought that listening to these nature sounds is very important for our wellness — and even for our very being in this world?

Recently, Spanish scientists have found that sound affects us not only because of its vibrations, but that it is an integral part of our genes — the musical relation between sounds is actually reflected in the form of our DNA. Somehow we've always felt this deep connection, and now it has been shown scientifically.

But there is more: today everything in our lives seems to overstress us, even doing things that are supposed to be "good" for us — diets, exercise, taking time for nature walks, and so on. We feel that there is no free personal space any more; everything is too planned. Living with nature is an antidote to all this calculated lifestyle. Going into the wild woods where there are no charted paths, where surprise awaits us at every turn is itself an unburdening experience.

Just imagine remaining there for a little while. Letting everything come spontaneously, in the moment, drinking in the melodies of sounds and becoming aware of the feeling of peace inside that they bring about. We can even watch our eyes close by themselves, allowing the relaxation to penetrate every pore of our body. It invites a kind of tranquil trance with a lining of inner wakefulness that we wouldn't want to miss.

The word enjoyment takes on a new, softer and more personal meaning. We sense that the natural sounds we are listening to are actually inside us, part of us in a very intimate way. They create a lightness within, a spontaneous relaxation that we can never totally forget, that we can undergo at every step of the way here if we just pause for a few moments and allow ourselves to resonate with them.

And the great thing is that this experience is there for us whether we are old or young, fat or thin, fast or lazy. Moreover, once we know how it feels, we can recall this feeling of relaxation and exquisite wakefulness anywhere in the world, first in nature and then even on a crowded street in the city. It is called meditation.

This way of enjoying the natural music around us can help us to find true wellness, which has to do with what we feel inside, not with how others say we should feel. Discovering ourself like this can be full of fun, peace and joy.

A small tip from Osho is very helpful: "Anything that can help from the outside will have some music in it, only then can it help. The sound of running water in the hills can help, because it has its own music. The roaring waves of the ocean can help, because they have their own music. The singing of the birds in the morning can help, or the sound of insects in the silent night, or the rain falling on the rooftop — anything that creates music can also create meditation".

— Amrit Sadhana is in the management
team of Osho International Meditation Resort, Pune. She facilitates meditation workshops around the country and abroad.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

GOVERNOR'S ACT IMPROPER

SANCTION TO PROSECUTE YEDDYURAPPA

 

Although the Governor of the State, under our parliamentary system of government, is expected to act on the advice of the Cabinet, he or she would have to arrive at an independent decision based on facts on the issue of sanctioning prosecution of the Chief Minister. HR Bhardwaj, Governor of Karnataka, was entirely within his constitutional right to sanction prosecution of BS Yeddyurappa, Chief Minister, on two private complaints filed by advocates Siranjan Basha and KN Balraj. Instead of referring the complaints to the Chief Minister for his response and trying to arrive at the veracity of the allegations through official channels available to him, the Governor overplayed his constitutional role by seeking the resignation of the government. Yeddyurappa too was ill-advised, to pass a Cabinet resolution asking the Governor not to act on the complaints. The Lokayukta was already seized of the complaints and the state government had ordered its own inquiry into it. The complaints of corruption and nepotism against Yeddyurappa were serious enough for him to step down and clear his name.  Instead, he chose the path of confrontation. He is moving the High Court to seek a stay on the sanction.
Yeddyurappa is not the first Chief Minister against whom sanction for prosecution has been granted by the Governor. Marri Channa Reddy, while Governor of Tamil Nadu, gave Subramanian Swamy, president of the Janata Party, sanction to prosecute J Jayalalitha, then Chief Minister, on corruption charges and the Supreme Court upheld the sanction. AR Kidwai as Governor of Bihar sanctioned prosecution of Lalu Prasad, then Chief Minister, but that was only after the CBI had made a thorough inquiry and established prima facie a case against him in the fodder scam. The issue of sanction in all other cases of corruption against Chief Ministers like Prakash Singh Badal, Amarinder Singh and Rajinder Kaur Bhattal in Punjab, Om Prakash Chautala in Haryana, K Karunakaran in Kerala and Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh followed probe by investigation agencies and charge-sheets filed in courts of law.  In the case of Yeddyurappa no such inquiry has been conducted so far. Bharadwaj had played the role of prosecutor and judge before granting sanction.


The Congress leadership cannot escape blame for posting Bhardwaj as Governor of Karnataka, much against the wishes of the Chief Minister, with a clear mandate to destabilise the first and only BJP government south of the Vindhyas. And he played his role to perfection by calling the government elected by the people of Karnataka a chor. Besides bringing discredit to the office of Governor, Bhardwaj, who was a Law minister of no great distinction, has succeeded in giving a new lease of life to the tottering BJP government in Karnataka.

 

OVERNIGHT WISDOM

ACTUALLY OFTEN INANE

AMAZEMENT never ceases at the way in which just hours after being allocated  fresh portfolios ministers are ready to pronounce on policy, plans and what have you, probably only on the basis of a note or briefing from a senior official ~ the "Yes Minister" syndrome. Years ago a few sagacious mantrijis would ask journalists to hold their horses until they had got a feel of the stables, but now such is the temptation to attain 15 seconds of fame on the small screen that they have no hesitation in displaying symptoms of foot-in-mouth disease on "24-hour channels" that convey everything but news. Ajay Maken was honest enough to say he had never participated in sport at a serious level (his predecessor made much of having done some trekking during an early civil service posting in the Himalayan foothills), but if he was expected to project the UPA's bid to inject fresh blood into government he disappointed ~ regurgitating notions that have long outlived their utility. Not too much need be made of his ordering expeditious clearance of CWG dues ~ the external affairs minister had suffered some body blows on that account just days earlier. While he was "politically correct" in talking about a non-confrontationist position with the national sports federations he will have a tough time ensuring his babus "let go". Or ending a situation in which the money-spinning BCCI serves as a red rag to the sarkari bull. Where the just "promoted" sports minister (he has independent charge) trod the beaten path was his advocating former players holding office in the federations. Admittedly they could be preferable to the politicians who have usurped those offices, but contemporary reality calls for professional management of federations, both to promote the sport and provide it financial security ~ the bureaucrats prefer persisting with a system in which the federations come to them with a begging bowl.


Maken also took a skewed line when he laid stress on increasing medal tallies at international competitions. He would do Indian sport eternal good if he shifted focus to giving it a base of mass participation, at all age and income levels. That would create a genuine sporting culture, not today's excessively parochial approach that sees empty stands if the national team is not playing, or performance being assessed solely on the basis of victory or defeat ~ as elections are!

 

GASSED !

FAILURE OF MUNICIPALITY AND PCB

Mercifully, no lives were lost. Which could well turn out to be the reason why Sunday's ammonia leak in Dum Dum is unlikely to qualify as a disaster in standard governmental perception. Experience suggests that the official response may even be influenced accordingly. Yet the reality will have to be accepted ~ never perhaps has Kolkata witnessed so severe an environmental mishap. No fewer that 5,000 people have been affected, compelling the evacuation of patients from a nearby hospital and an exodus of residents from the area. Prima facie, leakage of ammonia gas from a cold storage is at the core of the major pollution and health hazard that appears to have afflicted a fairly wide area. The primary parameters of an inquiry that will be routinely commissioned is whether the storage contained the gas in excess of what is required to preserve fish. Another issue for which the local municipality is answerable is the location of  such a facility in a densely populated residential area with a busy traffic intersection and in the vicinity of the Metro's terminal station. The sanction ought never have been granted; its proximity to a hospital should have made the risk obvious. Yet another issue concerns the whereabouts of the storage owners; they were absconding ~ at any rate for the whole of Sunday ~ almost in the manner of the owners and caretakers of Stephen Court.


As much as the municipality, the leakage mirrors the failure of the Pollution Control Board to regularly monitor the storage of ammonia that has now rendered hundreds of thousands breathless. Given the location, the inherent danger ought to have been assessed by the PCB and the storage relocated. In terms of real estate, the area reeks with dubious deals between South Dum Dum Municipality ~ Left-turned Trinamul ~ and the promoters. Clearly, the fundamental pre-requisites that ought to guide the setting up of a cold storage were ignored ~ a lapse that even the PCB was apparently not aware of. Not least the fact that a cylinder, loaded with ammonia inside the storage, was cracked. That as many as three sources of  the leakage had to be plugged till Sunday night confirms the danger keg. Once again this is a terrible municipal failure, compounded by the PCB's ignorance. There is a vested interest too many.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

AMEND THE LAND ACT

DEVELOPMENT WITH EQUITY AND JUSTICE

KP BHATTACHARJEE

THE Allahabad High Court judgment last September should protect those displaced on account of land acquisition. The two-judge Bench observed, "Throwing out villagers from their land and taking away their livelihood and a way of life is state sponsored terrorism."
The judges criticised the UP government's land acquisition process, one that deprived farmers of the right to file objections.
There has been a spurt of protests in parts of UP and Orissa by farmers opposing acquisition of their land and demanding adequate compensation. This can be viewed in the context of  Rahul Gandhi's support for tribal rights in Orissa.
An amendment to the Centre's Land Acquisition Bill is on the anvil. Had this legislation been passed some years ago, it might have spared Bengal the kind of violence it has witnessed. It would even have facilitated the smooth growth of industries. Above all, the displaced would have been assured of protection.
The country has been witness to a massive transformation in various spheres since the colonial rulers passed the 1894 Land Acquisition Act. With the phenomenal increase in population, the demand for land, both for human settlements and industry, has gone up. It is, therefore, essential to amend the Act.
The amendment must redefine such terms as "public purpose", "public interest" and "public good". The colonial Act stipulates that the government has the right to acquire land under these heads. In October 2007, the Supreme Court had ruled against the blanket use of such expressions by the State for the sake of acquiring private land. The court laid down the parameters that ought to govern the acquisition of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes. The fundamental issues are justice and equity.
In 2008 the Planning Commission appointed a committee to examine the terms. It recommended that "land ostensibly acquired in the public interest should not be handed over to private entities." In real terms, a public company can re-invest its profit for the expansion and development of the company or for social development. It does not have the right to siphon off its profit for the benefit of the directors.  The question is: if a company utilises its profit to generate employment opportunities, can it be called a "public purpose"?
The puzzle centres around the model to be followed. It has to be flexible and acceptable to farmers and investors. Farmers and villagers must have the right to protect their land. The main options are: direct purchase of land from the farmers by industrialists; the second is that the government acquires the land and hands it over to the industrialist; the third form is for the industrialist to acquire 70 per cent of the required land and then the government will acquire and provide the remaining 30 per cent.
The model that may yet work is direct purchase of non-agricultural land from landowners, avoiding intermediaries. Transparency must be maintained and should the landowners be aggrieved, they will be able move court.
In 2008, the Jindal group had planned to acquire 6000 acres of non-agricultural land for their steel plant directly from the landowners by paying compensation and allotting shares of the company. The plant is scheduled to come up in Salboni, West Bengal. This Salboni model has been hailed by industrialists as one of the best packages offered to displaced families. Is it possible to replicate this model?
The Centre must reflect on every option before firming up the amended legislation. Payment of adequate compensation to  farmers is perhaps the most important aspect of the proposed amendment. Farmers generally want a higher compensation and a long-term income to sustain their families. This is a reasonable demand considering the fact that farmers will not only give up their land but will also lose their source of agricultural income.
Several viewpoints have emerged in recent months on the compensation package. While dedicating the NTPC's thermal power project, Dadri-State-II, on 10 September, Sonia Gandhi stated: "Land acquisition must be done in a manner that does not result in loss of large tract of fertile and productive agricultural land so indispensable to cultivate foodgrain needed to feed our people. And if farmers are deprived of land-based livelihood, they must be provided with adequate compensation and alternative occupation. Some states like Haryana have progressive legislation in this regard. Other states would do well to emulate them."

Clearly, two important issues are involved, notably adequate compensation and alternative occupation. The Haryana model covers compensation at prices fixed by the state government for different areas of the state, employment to one member of the family and annuity for 33 years. The Salboni model envisages payment for the land at open-market price. The company's compensation will provide a long-term income to the farmer's family. In addition to compensation, the family may also demand employment for one member of the family. And this makes a resettlement and rehabilitation package so imperative.

Parliament will have to examine the compensation issue in detail. It will have to specify the compensation package so that it is acceptable to farmers. It will, therefore, have to be flexible.  During the Singur agitation,  Amartya Sen had suggested that the future value of land needs to be considered while deciding on the price. A similar opinion has also been expressed by NC Saxena, a member of the National Advisory Council, headed by Sonia Gandhi. But such a formula might lead to speculation on the land price. There is no hard-and-fast rule to fix the future value of land. It would be proper to determine the fair price of land considering the records of transactions. This is precisely how land is valued.

Farmers are also demanding that rehabilitation and resettlement be made part of the compensation package. They have  asserted that they will vacate their land only after their new homes are ready for occupation in the resettlement areas. The other demand is that the rehabilitation programme should be in place for them to be gainfully employed. This demand has been considered as very logical by experts on the NAC. Mr Saxena has suggested that the amended act be named Land Acquisition (Amendment) and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act.

More agitations are inevitable if the displaced are not provided with appropriate compensation,  a regular source of income, a house in the resettlement zone along with a rehabilitation programme.

The family must survive instead of being thrown out of its agricultural livelihood with a meagre compensation. The dichotomy lies in the fact that the means to ensure development and generate wealth are also driving farmers' families to penury. The country must ensure development with equity and justice.

(The writer is executive director, Centre for Human Settlements)

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THE STATESMAN

NO OUTRAGES, PLEASE, WE ARE ISRAELIS

IN A RECENT REPORT, ISRAEL HAS EXONERATED ITS MILITARY FROM INVOLVEMENT IN LAST MAY'S RAID ON A GAZA-BOUND AID FLOTILLA THAT LEFT NINE TURKISH CIVILIANS DEAD. BY FAILING TO COME CLEAN, THE COUNTRY DOESN'T ADVANCE ITS OWN CAUSE OR THAT OF PEACE IN THE REGION

Friends of Israel have long lamented the apparent numbing of its moral sensibility, seeing it as an insidious long-term consequence of the country's interminable-seeming conflict with the Palestinians. They will feel renewed concern following the recent publication of an Israeli report into last May's raid on the aid flotilla bound for Gaza. Public opinion throughout the world largely deplored the violence with which Israel enforced its blockade of the Hamas-ruled enclave and stopped the convoy, leaving nine Turkish civilians dead.
Israel's response is a report that exonerates the military with only a few caveats and pats Israel on the back, not only over the conduct of the raid but over the blockade of Gaza in general. According to the Turkey Commission, this breaks no international law. Not surprisingly, Israel's political establishment is delighted. The defence minister, Mr Ehud Barak, has congratulated the commission, declaring that the report "proved Israel is a law-abiding country".

Many will feel that the report proves nothing of the sort, but only highlights a growing unwillingness on the part of Israel to subject the actions of its military in Gaza and the West Bank to scrutiny. As we report, 52 separate military police investigations over the last two years into Israel's December 2008 offensive in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, which resulted in the deaths of 759 Palestinian non-combatants, have yielded precious little. The level of casualties in the offensive was shocking.

A single lethal air strike on a house where about a hundred civilians were sheltering killed 21 of them. There were well-documented cases of Israeli troops using children as human shields. These were corroborated in some instances by Breaking the Silence, a group of Israeli human rights activists and former army veterans, some of whose members witnessed these events.

A country that resorts to such inhumane tactics while presenting itself as a standard bearer for democracy should be asking itself hard questions about whether it was striking the right balance between security demands and respect for the basic human rights of civilians caught up in a war zone.

That does not seem to be happening. With most investigations into Operation Cast Lead already closed, and only one soldier jailed in connection with the events ~ for a trivial offence ~ Israel has clearly decided that in the run-up publication of a UN report into the Gaza bloodshed of two years ago, attack is the best form of defence. The UN report is likely to be critical but Israel will be able to dismiss it as biased, citing its own investigations.

The most immediate losers in all this are the relatives of victims of the raids on Gaza who have been denied justice. Unfortunately for them, Israel is unlikely to come under much pressure to explain its actions more convincingly. In America, even light-touch criticism of Israel is politically fraught, while in Europe and most Arab capitals, fear of giving succour to the Islamist regime that rules Gaza is an overriding preoccupation. When it comes to Gaza, Europe tends to turn a blind eye to actions by Israel that it would condemn elsewhere.
If, as seems likely, no one takes much notice of the conclusions of the UN report into the offensive into Gaza, Mr Barak will no doubt feel even more relieved than he does today. So will the Hamas authorities who thrive on the culture of martyrdom and who justify their rigid hostility to Israel by pointing to the flagrant injustice with which Israel ~ and most of the world ~ treats Palestinians. By failing to come clean over Operation Cast Lead, or over the Gaza flotilla, Israel neither advances its own cause nor that of peace in the region.

the independent

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THE STATESMAN

NOWHERE MAN

NOW & AGAIN

TK CHAUDHURI

 

This is the story of an orphan. I no longer remember how Naresh came to live with us but those were pre-Partition days and no one seemed to mind a few additions to the extended family. But Naresh became a part of our family, our parents saw to it. He was 10 or 12 when we saw him first. Baba tried to give him an education but gave up when Naresh quit school after class VII. Odd jobs assigned to him invariably had to be reallocated to someone else. But he had a golden voice and my mother loved him for that.

 

After Partition, Naresh accompanied us to the small town in West Bengal where we eventually settled. By then, he was a young man and Baba was keen on Naresh earning a living. He set up a tea shack for him and it did well for the first few months. My parents were happy as the location of the shop ~ near a college ~ seemed providential. Then collections started dipping. Apparently, most of Naresh's patrons wanted credit and he simply could not say no. Soon enough, the venture failed.


After a few months, Naresh came to seek the blessings of my parents for a new career that he was embarking on. The owner and lead singer of an ensemble specialising in Kirtan and Bhajan had spotted Naresh's vocal prowess and had offered him a position in the troupe. My parents were happy for him and would brighten whenever Naresh dropped by to share stories about his growing popularity as a singer. 


Two years later, Naresh arrived one morning with a young woman in tow. He introduced her as his wife Saraju ~ the daughter of the owner of the troupe who married her off to his protégé before he died. The ensemble's ownership had now passed on to Naresh who now sported shoulder-length curly hair and a tilak on the forehead. He appeared very confident and content.


My mother greeted the bride happily and showered her with presents. Once the couple departed, she confided in Baba that Saraju was expecting and she quite liked the girl who she hoped would act as an anchor in Naresh's life.


Six months passed. Naresh visited us again. This time, he was alone and devastated. Apparently, Saraju had died in childbirth because no midwife was available at the crucial moment. The baby died too. An inconsolable Naresh told my parents that he had abandoned the troupe. My mother sat him down and told him that he must go back to singing again as it would slowly revive him. She told him that he should take up the reins of the troupe and try to move on. Naresh promised to listen to her and left quietly. Though my parents remained hopeful, even as a child, I could make out that he had lost all purpose in life.  


The news reached us a few months later. The orphan from an unknown village in East Bengal had died a lonely death at a distant village market. My parents were grief-stricken. But I like to think that Saraju and their child was with Naresh when he breathed his last so that they could guide him to the land of eternal bliss. The orphan certainly deserved that. 

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THE STATESMAN

UN EXPERT SEEKS BETTER PROTECTION FOR RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN INDIA

 

Independent UN human rights expert Ms Margaret Sekaggya called has on Indian authorities to do more to ensure a safe and conducive environment for human rights defenders working in India. "I am particularly concerned at the plight of human rights defenders working for the rights of marginalised people, i.e. Dalits, Adavasis, religious minorities and sexual minorities, who face particular risks and ostracism because of their activities," Ms Sekaggya said at the end of her fact-finding mission, according to a Press release issued in New York.


Ms Sekaggya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, began her visit on 10 January and met government officials, a broad segment of civil society and the Press, representatives of UN agencies and the diplomatic corps, and visited five states.


She cited the testimonies she received about human rights defenders and their families, who have been killed, tortured, ill-treated, threatened, arbitrarily arrested and detained, falsely charged and kept under surveillance because of their legitimate work in upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms. "I am deeply concerned about the branding and stigmatisation of human rights defenders, who are often labelled as Naxalites (Maoists), terrorists, militants, insurgents or anti-nationalists," Ms Sekaggya said. She noted that defenders, such as journalists, who reported on violations by state and non-state actors in areas affected by insurgency were being targeted by both sides.


"I urge the authorities to clearly instruct security forces to respect the work of human rights defenders, conduct prompt and impartial investigations on violations committed against human rights defenders and prosecute perpetrators." Ms Sekaggya said the government should enact a law on protection of human rights defenders "in full and meaningful consultation with civil society", and review the functioning of the National Human Rights Commission with a view to strengthening it. She noted the "arbitrary application of security laws at the national and state levels".


She urged the government to repeal the Public Safety Act and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and to review the application of other security laws which negatively impact on the situation of human rights defenders. Ms Sekaggya, will present her report to the Human Rights Council in the 2012 session.
Duvalier return 'matter of concern' UN spokesman Mr Martin Nesirky said that the return of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier to Port-au-Prince came as a total surprise to the UN mission in Haiti as it did to many around the world. The reasons for Duvalier's sudden return are still unknown, Mr Nesirky told reporters in New York. He said it was a source of concern to see him resurfacing at a critical time for the stability of the country, as all energies were focused on looking for a settlement of the current electoral crisis. He recalled that Duvalier had to flee his country, 25 years ago after 15 years of dictatorship ~ remembered by many Haitians as a period of massive human rights violations.


UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that the return of the former dictator to Haiti clearly raised issues of impunity and accountability and added that it was looking into the matter. OHCHR spokesman Mr Rupert Colville said in a news briefing in Geneva that there were major issues surrounding Duvalier and the considerable range of human rights abuses that took place in Haiti during the decade and a half that he was in power. Mr Colville spoke about issues such as corruption, as he noted that it was not clear if Haiti was in a position to arrest and charge Duvalier. Human rights groups have called for the arrest of Duvalier in relation to human rights abuses perpetrated during his rule.


Duvalier made a surprise return after years of exile in France when a political crisis erupted in Haiti. In December, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Port-au-Prince, accusing the ruling coalition government of rigging election results, after provisional tallies put former First Lady Ms Mirlande Manigat and the candidate put up by outgoing President Rene Préval's party, Mr Jude Celestin, in first and second places, thus qualifying them for a run-off scheduled for this month. Popular musician Michel Martelly, one percentage point behind in third place, has been excluded from the run-off. The Organization of American States has reviewed the count and sent a report to Mr Préval.


The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti has retained 12,000 military and police personnel on the ground since mid-2004 when the then-President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, went into exile amid violent protests.


Ban urges rule of law in Tunisia


UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon has voiced his concern over continued violence and loss of lives in Tunisia and urged dialogue among all stakeholders to resolve differences peacefully and to restore stability to the country.


 "I call on the government and all stakeholders to ensure a prompt restoration of the rule of law, and to respect and accommodate the aspirations of the people," Mr Ban told reporters in Abu Dhabi, at a global energy forum. "Tunisia must regain its stability as soon as possible, to pursue the path of development and prosperity," he said. He added that recent events highlighted the need to address the underlying social and economic needs of the population.


Tunisia has been rocked by street protests in recent weeks by civilians reportedly angered by rising prices of essential commodities, lack of employment opportunities, alleged corruption and limitations on fundamental rights and freedoms. President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country last week after growing protests and violence. "I urge all concerned parties to ensure an immediate end to the violence," Mr Ban said. He stressed that dialogue was essential to resolve problems peacefully and to prevent any further violence and escalation.
The Secretary-General urged the international community to support efforts to restore genuine democracy in the country.


$208m in donations sought for 2011

The head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Ms Valerie Amos, has announced that in 2011, it aimed to save more lives, more rapidly, with fewer gaps and less duplication as climate change was presaging natural mega-disasters and aid workers were facing mounting attacks in conflict areas with economic crises crimping resources.


"In a changing world, there can be no organizational status quo," Valerie Amos, of OCHA told Member States at a meeting in New York. "In 2011, OCHA's structure, in the field and in New York will be more adaptable to the evolving nature of crises," she said. She noted that 2010 had been an unprecedented year with more than 250 natural disasters.


"By the end of 2011, OCHA will be a more focused organisation. It will be better at managing its human resources and there will be greater clarity between the field and headquarters in terms of who does what," in line with the Office's theme for 2011 ~ Responding in a Changing World.


OCHA, with more than 350 aid agencies in joint planning exercises, is funded by 39 member states. Ms Amos has asked for $208 million in voluntary contributions for 2011.


The UN wing was established by the General Assembly in 1991 as the department of humanitarian affairs to ensure a more effective and coherent response to emergencies by coordinating the actions of UN agencies and national and international organizations. OCHA has seen its caseload balloon over the past 20 years, culminating in the 2010 record.


Ms Amos, under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, stressed the need to learn from from the lessons of Haiti and Pakistan where delays, logistics and other issues prevented the initial operations from moving as effectively as desired.


anjali sharma

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

NO PREJUDICE

The working of a democratic State is not a game between thieves and policemen, or one of cat and mouse. But where the persecution complex of an incumbent government is as severe as it is in Karnataka, it is not surprising that the exercise of a constitutional provision should end up invoking the tropes of victimhood. The sanction granted by the governor, H.R. Bhardwaj, to prosecute the chief minister, B.S. Yeddyurappa, is being projected as an unconstitutional and unethical move to vanquish the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government. What should be made clear is that Mr Bhardwaj is well within his rights to use this discretionary power granted to him by the Constitution. In fact, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act both anoint the governor as the only authority to sanction the prosecution of the chief minister. Mr Bhardwaj has not acted without evidence against the Yeddyurappa government, which is facing serious charges of corruption concerning illegal mining, denotification and land scandals in the law courts. The governor has not acted without precedent either, given that the prosecution of several chief ministers, such as J. Jayalalithaa and Lalu Prasad, had been sanctioned by the governors of the respective states. It also needs to be said that Mr Bhardwaj has merely ordered for the legal process to begin against Mr Yeddyurappa, who will have the opportunity to prove his innocence before the judiciary.

However, it is difficult to argue as easily about the governor's action being completely devoid of political colour. This is not merely because Mr Bhardwaj has often overstepped the limits of his constitutional authority in his dealings with the Yeddyurappa government, which he has beseeched openly for its unwillingness to discipline corrupt ministers or what he saw as its disregard for minority sentiments. The reason why Mr Bhardwaj's role in the present controversy seems suspect is that governors have come to be seen as instruments of the ruling party at the Centre who satisfy the political interests of their appointees. Yet, the governors in states perform the same role as the president does at the national level. While the president is appointed through indirect elections, the governors' appointment, formally done by the president on the advice of the Central government, remains a less transparent procedure. To ensure that governors remain apolitical creatures, their appointment has to be depoliticized. The controversy in Karnataka should be seen as an indicator of the urgent need for a wider constitutional reform.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

FUTURE BATTLES

Giving up the gun in favour of democratic politics is not a matter of strategy. It calls for an ideological shift and a new approach to politics and power. Nepal's Maoists have been slow to realize and accept this. That is why they retained their People's Liberation Army even after joining mainstream politics. The current political stalemate in Nepal is largely owing to the Maoists' sinister strategy of using the PLA in order to secure their supremacy in electoral politics. The Maoist leader, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, had to resign as prime minister two years ago following his differences with the army chief over the integration of the PLA cadre. A breakthrough seems possible now with the PLA handing over its chain of command to a committee run by the country's regular army. The committee is supposed to decide on the integration of the PLA cadre in the army or their rehabilitation in the police and other forces. The Maoists' move, although late, may set the stage for the formation of a consensus government. But the Maoists need to convince other parties that their farewell to arms is genuine and irreversible.

However, the agreement over the PLA gives Nepal's politicians their best chance of forming a consensus government and breaking the political impasse. The PLA may not have been the only reason for their collective inability to form a credible government. In a bizarre record, the parliament failed to elect a new prime minister in place of Madhav Kumar Nepal even after meeting 16 times to do so. The president, Ram Baran Yadav, wants the parties to elect the new prime minister by January 29 or face fresh elections. Although the Maoists have the largest number of seats in parliament, their claim to the prime minister's post inspires more concern than hope for a political consensus. The formation of a consensus government should be more about consolidating the peace process and drafting the new constitution than about which party heads it. But even a good constitution is no guarantee for the success of a fledgling democracy like the one in Nepal. That depends on whether the politicians can put the country's interests above their own.

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

PROTECTION VERSUS SERVICE

THE RBI SHOULD RETHINK ITS ENTIRE MODEL OF REGULATION WRITING ON THE WALL ASHOK V. DESAI

The Reserve Bank of India is an exceptionally clean and efficient organization. It discourages contact between its staff and outsiders in the belief that personal contacts are an essential component of corruption. That could make it unfriendly to outsiders. But it promises quick response to letters, and almost invariably gives it. It minimizes discretion by making clear rules. Its rulebook runs into thousands of pages; but the result is that everyone knows or can find out rules, and everyone gets equal treatment. In brief, the RBI is an admirable institution; if the Central and state governments ran half as well as it, Indian lives would be much improved.

But, as can happen with rule-bound institutions, it is extremely compartmentalized; it does not see the interconnections between the various areas it oversees. And it has strong preconceptions. In particular, it dogmatically protects the interests of banks, and of government banks in particular, and is consequently biased against change and innovation. How much damage this blinkered approach can do is illustrated by the report prepared for its directors by a sub-committee to study issues and concerns in the microfinancial institutions sector.

To begin with, the committee's terms of reference were so narrowly defined that it considered only MFIs and defined them as only lending institutions; it consequently ignores the larger purpose, which is to extend financial services to the villages and the poor. Contrast this with the Raghuram Rajan Committee of the Planning Commission, which is never mentioned by the RBI. It said that the poor have three kinds of financial needs: credit, security, and earning from savings.

It would save costs if the needs were fulfilled by the same institutions; for that, financial institutions need to be diversified. The RBI's model of the institutions as extensions of banks is ill-suited to the needs. There is plenty of evidence of its weakness, for example cooperative credit societies and rural banks.

The Rajan Committee pointed out that microfinance organizations needed to raise money from somewhere. The answer was obvious to the MFI committee: the money would come from the banks. But there is an even more obvious answer that it strenuously avoided: the money can come from their clients. In other words, the MFIs would be much more viable if they could take deposits — if they were banks themselves. And the need is not for a dozen or two; to reach 700 million people in half a million villages, thousands of banks would be needed. The RBI hates this idea, and relates how experiments with small and rural banks have failed. If banks are to be made failure-proof, they must start with huge capital; the RBI would not think of anything less than Rs 300 crore. They would have to have promoters with deep pockets; and since there are not so many of them around, only a handful of new bank licences can be given.

But if the Rajan Committee is right, the fault did not lie with their smallness. Cooperatives failed because they were used only to channel credit from state governments; they came under the control of local politicians who gave themselves loans and forgot to repay. This was, for example, the story of the Maharashtra sugar cooperatives, but it will never be mentioned in any official document because the politicians who ruined the cooperatives were the pillars of the Congress. The record of state-sponsored credit institutions is at least as bad as that of private ones.

The MFI committee wants the MFIs to confine themselves to lending to the deserving poor, and wants to place a ceiling on the interest rates they charge. Both proposals are designed to make MFIs less profitable and therefore more susceptible to failure. Interest rates charged by moneylenders go to very high levels. That is what creates a business opportunity for MFIs. They can charge high rates and still lend more cheaply than moneylenders. But the rates are not high just because moneylenders are crooks and exploit their borrowers. Costs of giving small loans to a large number of borrowers in villages are high; so are the risks. They will affect MFIs as much as they do moneylenders, and MFIs will have to charge high rates if they are to survive and to put something by for expansion. Hence it is a thoroughly bad idea to control their interest rates, or their margins — and it is impossible to control both together, as the committee's chairman, Yezdi Malegam, a chartered accountant, should know.

More generally, the MFI committee wants to confine MFIs to lending to the deserving poor, and for that purpose, to collect considerable information about their income, their borrowings and so on. One wonders which world the committee is living in. A villager may do some agricultural labour while it is available. She may go and work on some public works if any are going on. She may go to the next town and do some domestic work. The poor find work wherever they can, and travel for it. The MFI committee wants MFIs to pursue the poor and compile a record of how much they are earning, how much they have borrowed and from whom, and so on. It expects the itinerant poor to cooperate with the MFIs and give them all the information from day to day. This is unrealistic; if MFIs keep collecting such detailed information, they will be able to lend to very few.

But then, the MFI committee does not expect them to lend to the poor. It wants every poor person to join a "self-help group", borrow through it, and repay through it. It wants the MFI to sit in the courtyard of the village council and wait for SHGs to come and transact business; it would prohibit anyone from an MFI to ever go near an individual's home. It has a closely defined, structured model in view: banks would finance a very small number of MFIs, MFIs would deal only with SHGs, and all SHGs would be attached to and sponsored by the establishment of the village. This would be very convenient for the RBI; it would simply reproduce its current model of bank regulation and extend it to villages.

It seems to me that the Malegam report has been designed to enable the RBI to keep close control of rural credit and to keep its hands clean. It is simply not concerned with creating competition, bringing down the costs of financial services, or taking to villages the variety of financial services that townsmen are used to or with encouraging innovation. As I have said, I have a high opinion of the RBI's competence. I also think that the government has created too many financial regulators, chiefly to create jobs for its favourite bureaucrats, and that we could do with fewer. But it could not make a bigger mistake than allow the RBI to regulate MFIs; that would be the way to deal rural financial development a death blow. In fact, the RBI's recent attitudes make me wonder if it has lost the plot. Maybe it should rethink its entire model of regulation.

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

WISHFUL THINKING

MALVIKA SINGH

There has been a shuffling around of men and women in the Central cabinet. For us, living and working in the outside world, it made no sense at all because the people of India cannot comprehend why X is in a particular ministry or why Z has been shifted. It is disturbing for us ordinary mortals to have to face the harsh truth that individual ministers are not selected for a specific portfolio because of their competence in the field they are mandated to govern, but for other unsavoury reasons. Do leaders of India have any strategy for growth and development in all areas of human activity ? Or do they not care about the grave problems that beset India?

Why are they not excited by the challenges that face our legal and political systems, both of which need to be overhauled and infused with radical correctives to ensure the demise of the corruption that has invaded this nation? Why is the state of our healthcare system so abysmal, our agricultural policies so defective and exclusive, our education system so disconnected from our cultural base, our habitats so unliveable, our natural environment so exploited, and our inheritance being continuously mutilated? Are our leaders unable to see the reality on the ground? Are they incapable of restoring and cleaning the rusty delivery systems left behind by a colonial power because of a lazy and greedy political and administrative class?

Our immature democracy is suffocated by intellectually limited leaders who can be easily identified in all the political parties, who spend their time undoing the good done by their political opponents instead of being mature and responsible. This has destroyed India. We have to suffer at the hands of incompetent chief ministers with no understanding of anything except deft and devious political manipulation. They kill all creativity, fresh ideas and initiatives, and dismiss any out-of-the-box thinking, which they cannot comprehend because of their complete lack of exposure and intellectual wherewithal.

Change course

In Jaipur, where the internationally acclaimed literary festival attracts the best from across India and the world, there was a wonderful mood throughout the inaugural day and the days that followed, with endless visitors meeting, talking, listening, exchanging ideas with writers and publishers, and more. It seemed as if the mire of present-day politics in India had been left outside the portals of Diggi Palace.

Alas, that was wishful thinking — the chief minister became the chief guest at dinner and the 'segregation' of that dreadful animal called the VIP from the intelligent Indian took place. The charade that accompanies such 'arrivals' and 'sitdown dinners' had never been a part of the lit fest. Has this delightfully egalitarian event also succumbed to the classic Indian disease of the cordoned off, no drink, no laughter, no ideas, no happiness, VIP nonsense?

Did the chief guest have an interesting chat with any of the erudite and celebrated visitors — Martin Amis, Gulzar, Orhan Pamuk, Kiran Desai, Jim Halliday, Jung Chang, J.M. Coetzee, to name a few — or encounter the Indian writers in English as well as in our regional languages? Did he try to understand why a French publisher should be devoted to publishing a monumental volume on the Ramayana presented through Indian miniature paintings on the subject, and the unimaginable hurdles she had to overcome in this salutary exercise? Was he able to talk to Sheldon Pollock, the great Sanskrit scholar, and understand the importance that Western scholars and institutions give to a language that India should be researching?

When cultures go into decline, so does the nation. India needs to take note and change course.

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OPINION

NEW STRATEGIES TO SWEETEN A BITTER PILL

THE RECENTLY ANNOUNCED MODEL OF LAND ACQUISITION BY THE WEST BENGAL GOVERNMENT MIGHT FARE BETTER THAN EARLIER MODELS, WRITES DIPANKAR DASGUPTA

The announcement of the so-called Bengal model of land acquisition and the simultaneous handing out of 1,200 acres of land to 13 industries by a government that is perilously close to the end of its term have evoked reactions from Opposition leaders along expected lines. Indeed, to the public at large as well, the industry minister's statements, in this connection, have probably sounded like an election gimmick on behalf of the Marxists at best and a pathetic attempt to remain in power at worst.

Nonetheless, given the fact that election strategies define the rules of the game in a democratic society, it is not clear that the minister's attempt to draw our attention to the fresh flow of industrial investment in West Bengal to the tune of Rs 23,195 crore can be viewed as a grievous fault. Instead of engaging ourselves in facile searches for political motives, therefore, it could well be worth our while to investigate if there is any fundamental difference between the government's latest assurances to land losers and the alternatives it has been trying out since the Singur debacle.

Towards this end, a judgement passed by Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice A.K. Patnaik in the Supreme Court on January 3, 2011, relating to land distribution in Haryana has a bearing on the matter. The much applauded Haryana model sweetens the bitter 1894 Land Acquisition Act pill in three distinct ways. First, it claims to offer lucrative market prices to land losers. Second, it ensures an annuity stream for 33 years for a land loser, where the annuity itself is somewhat inflation-adjusted in that it increases over time. And finally, as per a circular issued by the Haryana Urban Development Authority, dated September 10, 1987, it offers a scheme for direct allotment of developed plots to land losers/oustees at normal allotment rates. More precisely, the referred circular provides for allotment of a plot measuring marginally above 3 cottahs to any landowner whose acquired land measures between 6.22 cottahs and one acre.

Five appellants in this suit had each lost land to the extent of 0.79 acres in Hudbust No.1, Kasba Karnal, while the sixth lost more. The first five received a compensation of Rs 3,02,473 for the land they parted with. However, they were each charged Rs 2,80,478 for the 3.11 cottah developed plots they received according to contract, a sum that ate up almost the entire amount of compensation money they had received for the substantially larger plots they had given up. The aggrieved parties had applied for the HUDA developed plots soon after they were notified on December 12, 1990, about their availability. The price per square yard (0.012 cottah) announced in the notification was Rs 863 only, so that the promised 3.11 cottah plot should have been valued at Rs 2,15,750 rather than Rs 2,80,478. For unexplained reasons though, HUDA allotted the plots almost three years after receiving applications and that too following court proceedings. The price charged was Rs 1,342 per square yard on the ground that the latter was the ruling market price at the time of actual allotment.

The bone of contention in the lawsuits that ensued, therefore, was the extra charge imposed on the allottees and the Supreme Court finally passed an order in favour of the appellants. The fact remains, though, that even at the reduced price, the difference between the compensation received and the allotment price paid was hardly sufficient to build a residence. This being the case, the only virtue that remained for the Haryana model to recommend for itself was the annuity stream. It is not too clear, of course, how virtuous this virtue was itself. For land acquired for government projects, it awarded a sum of Rs 15,000 per year, increasing at the rate of Rs 500 per year. For private projects, the rates stood doubled at Rs 30,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively. Neither sum could guarantee a decent standard of living for an average farmer's family.

The Bengal model announced by the industries minister seems to fare well when assessed against this Haryana tale. Of course, annuity-wise, the Haryana model dominates. It is missing altogether in the Bengal package. Regarding compensation for acquired land, the minister indicated lucrative area-based market prices, probably at par with Haryana. As far as "land compensation" goes, however, Bengal's latest offer is clearly superior. If the minister is to be taken at face value, 3 cottahs of developed land will be handed over in exchange for each acre of lost land. But as opposed to Haryana, the allotment will be free of charge, if the media has reported correctly. The minister has also indicated that the plot of land can be used either for commercial purposes or sold away to take advantage of value appreciation. In addition, arrangements will be made to impart vocational training to a member of the land losing family, in view of job opportunities that will emerge with industrial development. Fortunately, the package does not guarantee a job per family too, since such promises cannot but remain unfulfilled. Industries that will come up will be large employers for sure, but not large enough to provide employment for each family. Indeed, it is surely with this impossibility problem in mind that the newest industrialization drive is projected to create 41,000 jobs directly and indirectly. Lastly, sharecroppers and landless labourers will gain from the scheme, a feature that is absent in the Haryana model.

Even though the Bengal brand of the 1894 pill appears to be somewhat sweeter than Haryana's, the judgment handed out by the division bench of the Kerala High Court for the State of Kerala vs. M. Bhaskaran Pillai case of 1997 prevents acquired land from being returned to the loser costlessly. More concretely, for the 3 cottahs per acre model to be workable, around 3,000 cottahs or 49 acres of developed land must be found in an area disjoint from the acquired area in Singur for distribution amongst the land losers. Any acquisition of land, then, will call for a multiplier chain of further acquisitions for the government to stick to its promise.

If this understanding is correct, complaints from people being coerced into accepting low quality land, labelled as developed real estate, will pile up over time. It is perhaps to prevent this eventuality that the ministry insists that private industries be required to create appropriate infrastructure for neglected areas adjoining the acquired land. If the private parties do not renege, then developed or at least semi-developed land allotment in nearby areas may not turn into a wild goose chase. But the yet-to-emerge scenario is not too clear in this context.

In the meantime, the Opposition will continue to squeal. One leader has been quoted by the media to have demanded an investigation into the manner in which 1,200 acres of land were allotted to industry in the first place. Another has pointed out that the government does not have a land bank at all from which it could have distributed the land. Such veiled allegations of corruption might turn into threats for industrialists benefiting from the scheme. Although the industry minister has made time-bound allocations, the bounds themselves are likely to be fragile if the entrepreneurs are unsure about the post-election scenario.

A part of our land for industry problem arises from state governments' insistence on producing alternative versions of the 1894 Act instead of scrapping it altogether. The Act is a powerful tool in the hands of state governments and most of them are loath to strip themselves of the authority they enjoy through wielding it. Eminent economists have repeatedly suggested the free market route for land acquisition. But will markets work either in a state that will soon enter the Guinness Book of Violence?

The author is former professor of economics, Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta

 

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

EDITORIAL

A KOHINOOR GONE

''PANDIT JOSHI'S WAS AN AMAZING MUS-ICAL JOURNEY.''


With the passing away of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, the classical music world has lost a colossus and an era has ended. He joins a galaxy of musical stalwarts like Bismillah Khan, Vilayat Khan, Gangubhai Hangal and Ali Akbar Khan, whose voices have fallen silent in the last couple of years. Since the age of 11, Pandit Joshi's was an amazing musical journey transporting millions into ecstasy. The notes for his calling were set by bhajans at temples and the prayers from a mosque near his house. Pandit Joshi's lineage too was impeccable. His mother would enthrall him with bhajans and his grandfather Bhimacharya Joshi was a well-known musician. The young Joshi's passion for music was such that he ran away from home at a tender age. His quest, often ticketless, took him to Bijapur, Bombay, Gwalior, Jalandhar and parts of Bengal before he finally found a place in Pune where he could give free play to his genius. He was born in Gadag in north Karnataka, which has nurtured a number of musical legends; the last to pass away from there was another great, Gangubhai Hangal, in 2009.


Pandit Joshi has been rightly compared to Tansen, the legendary 16th century musician in Mughal emperor Akbar's court. As some of his contemporaries have pointed out, the nation has indeed lost a Kohinoor. Pandit Joshi was an unmatched exponent of the Kirana Gharana. He was renowned for the classical melodies 'Marwa' and 'Puriya.' His rendering of the two would send listeners into raptures. His classicism, though, did not come in the way of taking music to the masses. He was celebrated for his eloquent expression of the light classical, devotional and the popular genre as well. Little wonder then that his was the largest commercially recorded repertoire in Hindustani vocal music.


It is this connect with the larger world that has spawned a whole new generation of practitioners of classical music who are sure to keep the legacy of Pandit Joshi going. This is especially gratifying given the decibel assault from the noise from most of our films that passes off for music. The availability of music across various media has also democratised the art making accessibility easier than ever before.


Like all creative people such as writers and artists, musicians too never die: they continue to live in the body of their work. So too will Pandit Joshi. The place he has secured in our hearts will remain forever.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

CREDIBILITY GAP

''HIS RECORD IN OFFICE DOES NOT INSPIRE CONFIDENCE.''


The charges of acquisition of huge wealth, raised against the kin of former Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan, do not directly involve him but have raised uncomfortable questions which need to be answered. Media revelations have shown that Balakrishnan's  two sons-in law and his brother have amassed properties disproportionate to their known income in the years when the former CJI was holding office. One of them, a son-in-law, was a middle level political functionary and another, the former CJI's  brother, was a government pleader. The son-in-law has been stripped of his political office by the party and the brother has resigned on a direction from the government, in the wake of the allegations.


Those against whom the charges have been levelled have not been able to explain how they came to acquire so much wealth in such a short span of time. The Kerala government has ordered a vigilance inquiry into the charges as the basic facts are quite serious. From a strictly legal point of view the former chief justice should not be faulted for any misdemeanours of his kin unless it is proved that they influenced his conduct and decisions as the chief justice. But the issue is not so straightforward and his record in office did not inspire great confidence. His explanation in the contempt of court issue involving an alleged attempt by former minister A Raja trying to influence a judge of the Madras high court in a bail case was not convincing. His opposition to the demand for disclosure of wealth by judges and attempts to shield judges who faced serious charges of corruption raised questions about his commitment to the idea of personal and professional integrity of members of the higher judiciary.


Balakrishnan is now chairman of the National Human Rights Commission. It is wrong and improper for him to continue to hold that position in view of the latest disclosures. His relatives explaining the charges is not enough to clear the doubts. A number of jurists, former judges and even a former chief justice have called for his resignation. He should quit office and face an inquiry in order to uphold the image and credibility of his present position and the high judicial positions he has held in the past.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

WRONG PREMISES B G VERGHESE

THE CENTRE HAS STUDIOUSLY FAILED TO RATIFY AND OPERATI-ONALISE THE UN CONVENTION AGAINST CORRUPTION, WHICH IT SIGNED TWO YEARS AGO.


The supreme court has passed an extraordinary order in confirming the Orissa high court's ruling reducing the trial court's sentence of death on Dara Singh, found guilty of burning alive Graham Staines, an Australian missionary, and his innocent minor sons aged 10 and six, some years ago. The apex court upheld the death penalty only in 'the rarest of rare cases' but extenuated the murderer's intent "to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity." This is an appalling statement and should be expunged or reversed by a larger bench as it gives licence for rage killings to teach anybody a lesson.


The court went on to say that conversion by force was not acceptable. None would deny that, and there is no evidence of this in the Kandhamal case. This apart, conversion by conviction is permissible under the constitution. How is religious conversion any different in principle from conversion from one ideology or political persuasion to another?


Several states have adopted quite bizarre anti-conversion (Freedom of Religion) laws that call for certification of bona fide conversion by a magistrate. Yet, such movements as 'ghar vapasi' and conversion of tribals to Hinduism are permissible and considered part of the natural order of things.


Another unfortunate episode is being crudely enacted in Karnataka where the governor has taken another hasty step in what seems a campaign against the chief minister. Such partisan politics is an outcome of governors being appointed as, or too readily playing the role of, hatchet men.


Not that the CM is an angel. His administration was recently exposed on charges of corruption by the Lokayukta, whose wings have since been clipped through a parallel inquiry ordered by the government, which it is feared the CM could manipulate administratively. An earlier party revolt against Yeddyurappa's corrupt ways was overcome through dubious means. The BJP, which once favoured the CM's removal, is now backing him to the hilt as it tilts with the Union government on issues of corruption and misgovernance.


Nothing daunted, the party chief, Nitin Gadkari, has proffered the amazing defence that Yeddyurappa's action in denotifying land to allot this to members of his family 'is immoral, but not illegal.' What a travesty of justice and standards in public life! His stance is not improved by pleading that the previous CMs have done likewise. If this is the motto of the party, then it can only attract scorn and condemnation. The BJP may contest the governor's order sanctioning prosecution of the CM but it erred in staging a day's statewide bundh in protest against the governor's action. Both sides have sent out wrong signals.


SC harsh on Sibal

Meanwhile, the supreme court was unduly harsh on Kapil Sibal, the telecom minister, for speaking out against the CAG's 'erroneous' calculation of a Rs 1.76 lakh crore loss on the 2-G spectrum allocation. Given the raging debate on this subject from public platforms and in the media, there is no reason to suppose that the CBI and other investigative agencies will be unduly influenced by the minister's observations.


Sibal is right in protesting that the government was prevented by the opposition from presenting its case in parliament and therefore went directly to the people. This is unexceptionable, though some may argue that the minister could have toned down his remarks.

The Public Accounts Committee chairman, BJP's Murli Manohar Joshi too protests too much in complaining to the Speaker about the alleged impropriety of Sibal's criticism of the CAG.


Considering that the CAG's report was leaked and widely debated in public by the BJP and others well before being presented to parliament, Joshi's concerns are misplaced. In fact, his own party forced him to recant his view on the  JPC, as sought by the BJP. The facile manner in which political parties adopt double standards has ceased to surprise.


The prime minister in turn has pleaded double taxation treaty confidentiality in disclosing the names of secret Swiss and Lichtenstein bank accounts as have come into its possession. This is a technically correct stance but it begs the question why the government has studiously failed to 'ratify' and operationalise the UN Convention Against Corruption, which it signed two years ago.


This is a powerful instrument for preventing and investigating corrupt practice through money laundering and keeping the proceeds of illicit transactions in foreign bank accounts. It also provides for joint investigations, freezing of bank accounts and extradition of accused persons. The tardy progress in legislating a Lok Pal Bill without watering down its provisions, as reported, is also inexplicable. None of this inspires confidence and gives credence to charges that suggests the government has something to hide.


Finally, the ongoing battle between the National Advisory Council, headed by the UPA chairperson, and the government and its Council of Economic Advisers on how best to proceed with the proposed Food Security Bill and amendments to the RTI Act is cautionary. Debate is legitimate but it would not be prudent to push beyond a point.

Power cannot be divorced from responsibility and an elected government must remain accountable to parliament and the people and not to any other unelected or party body in a parliamentary democracy. It must never be assumed that the tail can or should wag the dog. This is not to pronounce on the merits of the case but to underline due process.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

CAN GOVERNOR PROSECUTE A CM?

N HARIDAS

 

A governor has to act on the advice of the ministry. Changing that will only destabilize the state structure.
Chief Minister Yeddyurappa is to face prosecution and if the BJP top brass too is defiant, Karnataka has to go without a 'governing government.' The supreme court has laid down that while considering prosecution against cabinet members and the chief minister, the governor can act independently without the recommendation of the council of ministers.


This apex court decision goes against the precedents of parliamentary democracy, but as the law laid down by the apex court, it is unquestionable. Its political morals are good, but will good morals make good laws?

According to the order of precedents of state power, the prime minister or the president is the chief prosecutor of the nation, and the chief minister is the chief prosecutor of the state. In the instant case, even if a prosecution is ordered by the governor or by the court itself, the executive has the power to withdraw the prosecution according to procedural law, and what stands in the way of the chief minister withdrawing the same prosecution? What prevents the chief minister from remitting his own sentence and exempting himself finally —these are the odds of law, still untested.


A paralysed individual


Then, what are the wrong political consequences of prosecuting a sitting chief minister?  A chief minister under prosecution and standing in the dock of a criminal court is not a chief minister who can act as head of executive power. He is a paralysed and frustrated individual, and he cannot carry on the administration with dynamism and leadership.


We see scandals and corruption charges plaguing prime ministers and presidents, and if, on the basis of these allegations, they are prosecuted in court, I think, no government can function. Therefore, the present action of the Karnataka governor has thrown up unprecedented political and constitutional questions.


Can the president of India give sanction to a petitioner to prosecute prime minister Manmohan Singh on the corruption committed in 2G spectrum and in the conduct of Commonwealth Games? If the Bhardwaj precedents is followed, there is no difficulty for such a drastic step.


Simply based on a petition by anybody, the president can launch prosecution against the prime minister and scuttle the functioning of the government of India, at one stroke.


While under prosecution, a prime minister need not resign, but how can a prime minister in the dock of a court govern the country?


A paralysed government of India will be an ungoverning government, and so no government at all, as the Nixon presidency lay moribund under the Watergate hammer blows. A prime minister or chief minister is in office to lead the government of the country or a state and not to test the validity of his office under municipal laws.

The demagogue and the idealist will ask what is the other option for the people to respond when a chief minister and a prime minister is corrupt?  The real and punitive response shall be their overthrow in the next ballot.

A prime minister or a chief minister, charged with a non-bailable offence can be remanded to prison too, and how can he run the administration from the prison cell? Of course it will be a spectacular democratic drama to witness the ruling chief minister lying in a prison cell and ruling the state hand-cuffed!


If the chief minister gives nod to prosecute a member of the cabinet, there is no harm as he can remove that minister and appoint another in his place. But what about a chief minister who leads the pack, who will not resign and will not and need not give place to any substitute as he is not constitutionally compelled to do so? Is the administration of the state more important or the corruption charges?


India has to make a new law that the prime minister or the chief minister cannot be prosecuted while in office and any prosecution has to wait till he quits office or he is forced to quit. This is to save the administration.


Governor Bhardwaj's utterances before and after the sanction speaks of his ire and malice against the chief minister and based on these words of malice alone the sanction order appears to be coloured. President of India and governor have to act on the advice of the council of ministers, and any change from that track will only destabilise the state structure.


It was well known that the American courts were blatantly anti-Nixon, but they too were cautious enough to say that a president in office cannot be drawn into court, and so they declared Nixon only an 'un-indicted co-conspirator' in the Watergate scandal.


(The writer is a retired judge)

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

'HE TAKES YOU STRAIGHT TO GOD'

 D P SEN GUPTA

Bhimsenji held the whole institute crowd, spell-bound for three hours.


I do not remember the exact date now, but about 25 years ago, I heard that Pandit Bhimsen Joshi had come to Bangalore to perform and was put up in a hotel. I immediately went and met him. He was flanked by a few admirers. I introduced myself as the chairperson and founder of Spicmacay, Bangalore chapter, and requested with folded hands whether he would please agree to perform for us at the Indian Institute Of Science the following day.


"Not this time, professor," he said. "I have other commitments. I shall make it some other time." I was disappointed, but I thanked him for seeing me and asked him if I could tell him a brief anecdote before I left. "What about?" he asked, a little surprised.

"About my mother," I told  Bhimsenji who looked more surprised but I simply proceeded with my story. "Panditji, this was more than 30 years ago. I was in college. You had already made a name in Calcutta. My elder brother and I were having a hurried  dinner one evening to go to a music concert where you were listed as one of the singers.


"Who is this Bhimsen Joshi?," mother asked as she was pestering us to eat slowly.
"Would you like to come, Ma?" I asked. She got ready and I got a taxi. The programme started at about 10 pm. Hours passed, different  artistes came, one after the other. Your programme was at around 4 am. You came and sat down, covered your knees with a shawl and started a khayal in  raga 'Jaunpuri'.


"This was my first exposure to the divine music that you render. In no time you had cast a spell and the crowd listened in hushed silence. We did not realise how time passed and when darkness had melted into dawn. After 'Jaunpuri' and 'Ahir Bhairav,' you started your Bhajans. As the last Bhajan in Bhairavi you rendered, "...Jo bhaje Hari ko sada, wo hi parama pada payega."

 

I felt a churning inside that I cannot describe. I stole a look at my mother and saw tears streaming down her eyes. She gripped my hand and whispered to me, "He takes you straight to God."


I felt a little embarrassed after recounting a very personal tale to this great artiste. Bhimsenji listened in silence and after a brief pause asked me, "Where is your mother?" I pointed my fingers upwards. He was quiet again and then said, "All right, Sen Gupta... I shall come to your institute tomorrow."


I could not believe my ears. I rushed back to the institute and with the help of the others made all the arrangements: accompanists, tabla, tambura, the best sound system, the food for artistes and the lot. I do not need to describe how Bhimsenji held the whole institute crowd, overflowing into the foyer of the huge Gymkhana hall, spell-bound for three hours and when he started his inimitable bhajan, 'Jo bhaje Hariko sada' it was I who had tears streaming down which I did not attempt to hide.


After dinner, Bhimsenji brought out a 'dabba' and made a pan for himself and one for me, the most precious pan I have ever had. "Was the dinner all right, sir?" I asked him. "First class," he said, "Mainay to panch rosgulle khaliya," he said and started laughing showing his five fingers. And that was all that was needed to make him happy, Bhimsen Joshi, who could transport his listeners to heaven.

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OHERALDO

EDITORIAL

TOURISM ON THE DECLINE


Tourism statistics for 2009 compiled by the Union Tourism Ministry raised eyebrows recently, when Goa was ousted from its position in the Top 10 destinations for foreign tourists in India by, of all states, Bihar. The travel and tourism industry in Goa, buoyed by an endless increase in Russians coming to this state, seems to have given this alarming news the go-by.


But the bitter truth, as revealed recently in an article written for 'The Wall Street Journal' by Samita Sawardekar, is that the growth rate of foreign tourists coming to Goa is declining. Goa's share of the number of foreign tourists coming to India has seriously reduced over the past decade. If the government does not urgently remedy matters, it may soon translate into actual numbers.


In 2009, the number of foreign tourists who visited Goa grew by nearly 7 per cent, to 376,000. In Bihar that year, the number of foreign tourists grew by a phenomenal 22 per cent, to reach 423,000. The contrast becomes even more pronounced when one looks at history. In 2001, Goa was visited by 260,000 foreign tourists, while Bihar barely had 85,700 foreign tourists. In just one decade, India's most backward state has overtaken India's most forward state in terms of foreign tourist arrivals!


Even more alarming is a comparison between Goa and it main local competitor, Kerala. In 2001, Kerala attracted 209,000 foreign visitors. In 2009-10, that number had swelled to 548,000, representing a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 13 per cent. Goa, in the same span of time, has increased it numbers to only 376,000. Most perturbing, while Kerala's 'market share' of foreign tourists visiting the country has remained more or less constant at 4 per cent, Goa's 'market share' over the past decade has dropped from 4.78 per cent in 2001 to 2.75 per cent in 2009.


'The Wall Street Journal' attributes the reasons behind this decline to not just better "competing options" in other states, but also to "the growing images of crime, environmental deterioration and corruption in Goa". In particular, it refers to the recent cover story in 'India Today' about how Goa has become a fulcrum of world drug smuggling. Why, the recent annual budget representation of the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) too deviated from its normally purely economic agenda to express concern about drugs and crime in the state.


Tourism contributes over 13 per cent of Goa's gross domestic product (GDP). It may be only the third-largest sector in terms of value generation after the pharma industry and mining, but its direct and indirect contribution to employment in this state could be as high as 25 per cent or more. If Goa can't tackle the rot in the system, it may end up killing the goose that lays the golden egg.


Goa's tourism policy, says 'The Wall Street Journal', is distinctly shortsighted. It shows little or no vision in terms of the long-term development needs of the state, and ignores the accompanying ills of tourism. Rapid and uncontrolled tourism in the coastal belt has put severe pressure on land and civic infrastructure like roads, water, sewage, and garbage disposal, it says. But do our policy makers need 'The Wall Street Journal' to tell them that? It is visible to the naked eye, in traffic jams, tankers, stink and trash scattered everywhere.
What Goa urgently needs is a massive clean-up to purge the rot across the system, and a long-term vision of sustainable tourism backed by ecologically and culturally sensitive policies and adequate investments in infrastructure, the paper says. Most important is strong political will in the leadership. It asks: "Does Goa have a Nitish Kumar who can convert this crisis into an opportunity…?"


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OHERALDO

EDITORIAL

PROSECUTING THE CHIEF MINISTER

WILL ANY CABINET EVER PASS A RESOLUTION PERMITTING PROSECUTION OF THE CM, ASKS ADV CLEOFATO ALMEIDA COUTINHO


A big storm is staged in Karnataka over the grant of sanction to prosecute Chief Minister B S Yeddurappa under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The country is passing through a series of scams, and the ones that have caught the imagination of the public are the 2G Spectrum scam and the land scam in Karnataka. The BJP, which claims to be at the forefront of waging war on corruption, has allowed its Chief Minister to continue, based on what seems to be pure political considerations. Governor of Karnataka H R Bharadwaj, who happens to be a former Law Minister of India and is otherwise known to be close to the Gandhi family, has sanctioned the prosecution of B S Yeddurappa. The Chief Minister, who had announced a judicial enquiry by a retired High Court judge appointed by himself, has received brickbats from Karnataka Lok Ayukta Justice Santosh Hegde over the issue.

 

The sanction to prosecute the Chief Minister of Karnataka has come on the basis of a petition filed by two advocates seeking the Governor's sanction to prosecute the Chief Minister, his sons, as well as the Home Minister of the state, R Ashoka. The state cabinet has passed a resolution during its meeting on 19 January, asking the Governor not to grant sanction. After the grant of sanction, the local BJP unit called for a bandh and disrupted life in the state. Even prior to the granting of sanction, BJP legislators had planned a dharna in front of the Bangalore Raj Bhavan. It is strange that instead of protecting law and order, the government helps disrupt life, law and order. The question is, can the government itself be a party to holding the state to ransom? Would that not be tantamount to a breakdown of the constitutional machinery?


The prosecution of the Chief Minster and ministers of any state cabinet under the Prevention of Corruption Act is possible only after the Governor of the state grants sanction. This means that in case the Governor does not grant sanction, the state's Chief Ministers and ministers cannot be prosecuted. The issue here is that normally, in nearly all other matters of state – except deciding which party to call to form the government after an election or resignation of a Chief Minister – the Governor of a state is advised by the Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers. In nearly all these cases, the Governor normally goes by the advice given to him by the Council of Ministers. So, is the Governor entitled to act on his/her own and in use his/her discretion in the matter of sanction to prosecute the Chief Minister and the ministers? This is the question that is being hotly debated not only in Karnataka but all over the country. And the party that always claimed to be a 'party with a difference' is saying the Governor has no discretion in the matter.


But will any cabinet of ministers, which holds office at the pleasure of the Chief Minister that heads it, ever pass a resolution permitting the Governor to sanction prosecution of the Chief Minister? Or, for that matter, even a member of a cabinet? Especially in our system, where partisan and political considerations always crop up, and the launch of prosecution normally means a death knell for the government?


In such a situation, it is obvious that the Governor shall act in his/her discretion; (s)he shall go by his/her own conscience. Even otherwise, the Governor has discretionary powers under Art 163 of the Constitution of India. The Lok Ayukta of Karnataka Justice Santosh Hedge has hit the nail on the head by openly stating that the Governor was well within his power to sanction the prosecution of the Chief Minister.


Nearly two decades ago, Mumbai BJP corporator Ramdas Nayak sought prosecution of A R Antulay, who was the then Congress Chief Minister of Maharashtra, charging him with the commission of offences punishable under Sections 161 and 185 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 5 of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The allegation was that A R Antulay had collected contributions and donations for the benefit of certain trusts controlled by him, by misuse of his position and power. Without the sanction of the Governor of Maharashtra, the prosecution of A R Antulay was held bad.


The BJP corporator then moved the Bombay High Court and a division bench of Justice Gadgil and Justice Kotwal held that a request for sanction of prosecution must not be decided by the Law Minister or any other minister. The division bench of the Bombay High Court was clear in its view: "It deserves to be decided by the Governor in his individual discretion."


The Government of Maharashtra, though it was not aggrieved by the order of dismissal of Ramdas Nayak's petition, challenged the view of the Bombay High Court before the Supreme Court. It was the Government of Maharashtra's contention that it was not for the courts to decide in respect of the particular matter about whether the Governor should act within his discretion or with the aid of the Council of Ministers. The Supreme Court held that in deciding whether to sanction or not to sanction the prosecution of the Chief Minister, the Governor would act in the exercise of discretion, and not with the advice of the Council of Ministers.
To my mind the issue of sanction to prosecute the Chief Minister being within governor's own discretion was settled. Any other view shall only be obnoxious and it will only give a feeling that the Chief Minister and the ministers are beyond the rule of law since there can be no prosecution without sanction.


In case the Governor does not accord sanction, petitioners normally move the High Court to direct the Governor to accord sanction. But in case the Governor grants sanction, to say that Governor ought to have gone by cabinet advice is totally unacceptable. Whether there is sufficient material evidence prima facie for the Governor to accord sanction may be a matter to be decided by the High Court or the Supreme Court. And whether the issue is beyond judicial scrutiny is for the higher courts to decide.


There can be no doubt that the Governor's activist and discretionary role ought to be minimised when the chief minister of a state is a popularly elected person, as against the nominated position of the Governor. However, some healthy conventions ought to be permitted to be evolved and the power to grant sanction by no stretch of imagination could be left in hands of the cabinet to decide, as no Chief Minister shall even sign a summons to himself to sit on the accused bench in a criminal court.

 

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THE SENTINEL

EDITORIAL

IN A FREE SOCIETY  

Last week, upholding the life sentence awarded to Rabindra Kumar Pal alias Dara Singh, the Supreme Court said that although his victims, Australian missionary Graham Stuart Staines and his two sons, aged ten and six, were burnt to death while they were sleeping, the ''intention was to teach a lesson'' to him about his religious activities. Twelve years after the heinous crime, the apex court has dismissed the CBI's appeal to enhance the Orissa High Court verdict of life imprisonment to death penalty for Singh. Staines and his sons, Philip and Timothy, were burnt to death in the midnight of January 22-23 of 1999. ''The deceased, Graham Staines, was engaged in propagating and preaching Christianity in the tribal area of interior Orissa,'' a bench of Justices P Sathasivam and BS Chauhan recorded the prosecution case in judgement last Friday. ''Whether a case falls within the rarest of rare case or not, has to be examined with reference to the facts and circumstances of each case and the Court has to take note of the aggravating as well as mitigating circumstances and conclude whether there was something uncommon about the crime which renders the sentence of imprisonment for life inadequate and calls for death sentence,'' said the bench, and added: ''In the case on hand, though Graham Staines and his two minor sons were burnt to death while they were sleeping inside a station wagon at Manoharpur, the intention was to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity. All these aspects have been correctly appreciated by the High Court and modified the sentence of death into life imprisonment with which we concur.'' Introducing Staines as a person who worked with tribal people, mainly lepers in Orissa, Justice Sathasivam, who penned the judgement, said, ''It is undisputed that there is no justification for interfering in someone's belief by way of 'use of force', provocation, incitement or upon a flawed premise that one religion is better than the other.'' The judgement also said that ''our concept of secularism is that the State will have no religion'' and that ''the State shall treat all religions and religious groups equally and with equal respect without in any manner interfering with their individual right of religion, faith and worship''.

Many have read between the lines in the apex court judgement in different ways, but what, in a free society, one ought not to overlook  are the twin issues of intolerance and politics of religious conversion as applied to poor tribals. The killing of the Australian missionary was not only cowardly and dastardly, but also a sheer violence on the Indian ethos. There cannot be any justification for such crimes. But a free society must also ensure that people, in the first place, are not provoked to teach anyone any ''lesson'' of the sort that Staines was subjected to. Allegations galore of Christian missionaries attempting a complete religious conversion in backward areas, especially among the tribal populace — thanks to their gullibility arising from illiteracy, poverty and backwardness. Such conversion attempts, by exploiting the vulnerability of poverty-striken people, and absolutist designs cannot be accepted in a free and liberal society. True, one has the right to practise any religion in such society, but that cannot be a consequence of coercion or by way of allurement. Such conversion attempts militate against the kernel of a free and liberal society, which secular India (in the real sense of the term) cannot afford to gloss over.

Friday's apex court observation has come at a time when the debate on religious activities has tilted towards a pseudo-secular regime that tends to conveniently ignore concerns arising out of forced religious conversions dressed up as charity, mainly in tribal areas. While the government in a democracy must reach out to all such areas and bring them to the mainstream of development, it ought to also crack down on every variety of fanaticism, regardless of the faith concerned.

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THE SENTINEL

EDITORIAL

MATTER OF CHOICE  

In a very sensible newspaper article, Muslims for Secular Democracy general secretary Javed Anand talks about the ''choice before educated Muslims'' in view of the growing radicalization of Islamic societies worldwide, including in India, and points to the ''moral and ethical integrity'' of Farid Isaac, a South African Islamic theologian by quoting him thus: ''If a choice has to be made between violence towards the text (holy scripture) and textual legitimization of violence against real people, then I would be comfortable to plead guilty to charges of violence against the text...'' Anand, who in recent times has been very vocal against religious fanatics, says that the ''choice before educated Muslims'' today is ''opting out of Islam altogether, or discovering another Islam'', but ''to discover this other Islam, you will need the sensibilities of a Farid Isaac''. In this, in fact, there is an exhortation to all educated people, not just Muslims, to decry violence in the name of religion and assert their pluralist position. We need more Javed Anands in our midst.

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THE SENTINEL

EDITORIAL

ARE WE REALLY MARCHING FORWARD?  

When it comes to the financial world, though recession is over, yet the need remains to be more cautious than ever before as the fluctuations cannot be wiped out. A number of economies are still striving hard to tackle the economic front

T he current situation cannot be termed a smooth one. The government's first-half economic report card states that the GDP will exceed nine per cent, while at the same time warned that the possibility of being hit by European problems would be there.

India's industrial growth plunged to 2.7 per cent in November 2010 from 11.3 per cent in October 2011, worsening the economic woes for the government struggling to find ways to control the soaring prices of essential commodities. The industrial growth plunge shows and indicates a massive deceleration in industrial production. The index of industrial production (IIP) fell to 2.7 per cent in November 2010 — the slowest growth since May 2009. The IIP for October was revised upwards from 10.8 per cent to 11.3 per cent. The sharpest fall during the month of November 2010 came in consumer non-durables, which showed a negative output of six per cent compared to a growth of 36 per cent in the same month in 2010. Manufacturing, the biggest constituent in the IIP, grew at 2.3 per cent against 12.3 per cent in November 2009.

Industry forums have expressed concern over the sharp decline in industrial output data. However, according to the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the November 2010 figure was an aberration and industrial output growth during the current financial year was likely to remain in double digits.

"Inflation is going up and industrial output going down — it will have an adverse impact but I am not coming to any premature conclusion," Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee himself admitted while reacting to the 8.6 per cent slump in industrial output growth. Accordingly, the sharp drop in industrial output was partly because of the base effect. "Last year in the month of November there was a sudden jacking up, so base effect is also there, but that is no consolation. We shall have to look into it and take corrective measures," the Finance Minister said, adding that the situation was likely to improve in the coming months. To what extent it has improved is anybody's guess! Annual food inflation surged to 18.32 per cent for the week ending December 25, 2010, as the high cost of onion spread its effect to other vegetables as well.

Though the RBI — the able regulator — raised the short-term key borrowing and lending rates six times in 2010 in a bid to raise the cost of funds and check inflationary expectations, yet the fact remains that slowing industrial production will put the government and the RBI in a fix when it comes to tackling inflation as hiking key interest rates was one of the foremost measures employed by the central bank last year. The ongoing situation will definitely make the RBI more cautious about aggressive tightening in its forthcoming policy framings. Concerns on inflation should be tackled on the supply side, given that it is being driven by a limited set of food items where bottlenecks in distribution are the root cause of rising prices.

The positive and pertinent point of the mid-year policy is that it has located realistically five areas that require focused attention in the mid-term — fiscal consolidation, capital flows, education, environment and infrastructure. So far as the capital flows is concerned, the crucial need is there to pay attention, given the surge in investment by FII (Foreign Institutional Investors) in the stock market (touching a record 440 billion in 2010). While extending thanks to the economic fundamentals, it is also important to bear in mind that this has the strength of raising the stock prices. Overheating, in turn, implies price rise resulting from excessive effective demand. It is a fact that till now this has not led to rupee appreciation, but the fact remains that it could have an adverse impact on external trade.

Fiscal deficit has been bothering for years together, though the Finance Ministry is of the view that despite the additional spending by the government, the budget target (5.5 per cent of GDP) could be met. We have to keep in view the 13th Finance Commission's target (elimination of revenue deficit by 2013-14) set on this score. The need is there to lower the expenditure-GDP ratio and jack up the tax-GDP ratio. The mid-year review has rightly pointed out that buffers are to be built up so that additional spending during tough times could be countered effectively. In fact the government has been rightly using the higher tax revenue to lower the fiscal deficit, thanks to the lesson being learnt from Greece. Still, there is need for boosting the investment wing, which is not possible if the expenditure spree is not checked or reprioritized.

If supervision and follow-ups are adequately done without fear, favour or negligence, a good amount of money/foreign exchange could be saved. Nobody is above law and any deviation should be squarely dealt with. Supervision gaps/manipulations at the micro-level are no less responsible for poor show at the macro-level.

So far as the financial world is concerned, it may be pointed out that though recession is over, yet the need remains to be more cautious than ever before as the fluctuations cannot be wiped out. A number of economies are still striving hard to tackle the economic front (Hungary, Greece and Spain, among others), and naturally any laxity could invite further problems. In this age of globalization, can we remain insulated? Which is to say that the time is especially ripe to have more updated internal risk-management processes. Newer risks have surfaced over time and the capital markets (where the banks are still the major players) cannot simply be expected to behave as per one's expectations. That is why a constant watch over the trends should be there.

Regulators as well as policy-makers have to remain alert in spite of the fact that a number of corrective measures that were being taken had been found to be market-oriented.  Breathing easier, however, is just a temporary affair as the problems remain manifold and there is no short-cut solution to stop recurrences.

Risk management efforts are to continue, and newer threats sshould be detected sooner. Signs of recession and  slowing down of the pace of economic growth/activity are very much alive. Immediate systemic failure of the banking system/risks may be said to have receded, but the threats loom large as there remain many unknown factors still to be countered. How effectively and how fast the upcoming plans would be implemented still remains unclear. For example, the future of hedge funds — a major collapse can trigger a systematic shock. Side by side, big liabilities in the credit-default swap market are no less capable of triggering the financial accident.  That is equally true for investment banks as well.

Factors that cause financial crisis and the consequences of changes in factors hover around. Actually it is confidence that emerges as the greatest casualty of the market crisis. To what extent snap-shot measures ultimately act as the saviour/shore up business confidence, has to be watched. At times the uncertainty factor becomes so strong that the leading financial institutions hesitate to credit smaller banks, which, in turn, fail to re-credit business or simply do not want to risk it. Private customers suffer as well. Unless the global banking system, which happens to be the monetary circulation system for the non-financial sector of an economy, resumes larger credit business, the current economic slow pace may remain as a disturbing reality.

Dr BK Mukhopadhyay

(The writer, a management economist, is an Associate Professor, NERIM, Guwahati )

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

  TURKEL'S CREDIBILITY

ARE WE TO BELIEVE THAT ALL THESE EXPERTS PUT THEIR REPUTATIONS ON LINE IN GRAND CONSPIRACY DESIGNED TO "WHITEWASH THE MILITARY"?

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Ankara on Sunday that the Turkel Commission's first report on the May 31 interception of the Mavi Marmara, released here on Sunday, has "no value or credibility" and was "made to order."

The British Independent, echoing the sentiment, bashed the Turkel Commission report for "whitewashing the military" and lamented "the apparent numbing of its moral sensibility."

Meanwhile, Mark Lagon, former State Department adviser on efforts to reform the UN Human Rights Council, told Army Radio Monday that while the Turkel report was reliable and demonstrated that Israel had conducted an objective investigation, he was skeptical about how it would be received by the UN panel, led by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, appointed to look into the May 31 events. Lagon voiced concern that the UN panel – which isn't conducting its own investigation, but is relying on the inquiries carried out by Israel and Turkey – would not take the report seriously out of concern that it treated the IDF too leniently.

Neither Erdogan nor The Independent bothered to muster much proof for the Turkel report's purported unreliability. The report's conclusion that Israel acted within the bounds of international law when it enforced the blockade on Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip was evidence enough, it appears, that the commission's members were tainted with partiality.

ISRAEL'S SURFEIT of intractable critics seem unable to come to grips with the fact that what the commission termed "the regrettable consequences of the loss of human life and physical injuries" on board the Mavi Marmara was the unfortunate result of "extensive and unanticipated violence" launched against a small cadre of naval commandos by a "hard core of approximately 40 activists" from the Turkish Islamic "charity" Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) equipped with "clubs, iron rods, chains, slingshots and ball bearings."

Nor are Israel's detractors willing to accept that while the relevant Israeli decision-makers, in their planning process, appeared not to have considered "the scenario of an organized force armed with lethal weapons actively resisting the boarding attempts," the military response of the soldiers who ran into that force, carefully attempting to differentiate between those on board who posed a threat and those who did not, was in accordance with international law.

The presumption that the Turkel Committee's findings are unreliable due to some sort of imagined prejudice is deeply dismaying, though entirely predictable.

Appointed in June of last year, the committee has devoted seven months to an exhaustive inquiry. It was privy to thousands of video and audio clips containing hundreds of hours of recordings from diverse sources, transcripts of cabinet meetings, IDF briefings and investigations, and documentations of interrogations of flotilla participants conducted by Israel Police. The vast majority of its hearings were open to the public. A website and regular press releases further enhanced transparency.

The commission would also have availed itself of eyewitness accounts from Turks and Brits who participated in the Mavi Marmara's voyage, but no responses were received to requests for cooperation even after the commission arranged to hear testimonies of all kinds via closed-circuit TV.

Representatives of three Israeli human rights organizations and two Israelis who participated in the flotilla did agree to cooperate.

 Finally, in addition to the five Israeli members, the Turkel Commission also includes two international observers, Lord David Trimble, a 1998 Nobel Peace Prize winner from Northern Ireland, and Canada's former military prosecutor Brig-Gen. (ret.) Ken Watkin, who both endorsed the findings. Consultations were also made with prominent experts in the field of international law, including Prof. Dr. Wolff Heintschel von Heinegg of Viadrina European University in Germany, and Prof.

Michael Schmitt of Durham University in the United Kingdom, who also agreed with the legal conclusions of the report. Prof. Ruth Lapidot, recipient of the Israel Prize for international law, assisted as well.

Are we to believe that all of these respected scholars and experts put their reputations on the line in a grand Zionist conspiracy designed to "whitewash the military"? That all those long hours of investigation and inquiry were a sham? For some, apparently, clinging to such ludicrous notions is preferable to internalizing that Israel's military requires no "whitewashing," because it should not have been stained in the first place.

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THE JERUSALEM POST

COLUMN

NO HOLDS BARRED: WAR CRY OF THE VALUES-BASED PARENT

BY SHMULEY BOTEACH 

 

Yale Professor Amy Chua's latest book on Chinese-style parenting promotes type of child-rearing that breeds real narcissism.

The best response thus far to Amy Chua's screed against the soft, indulgent style of American parents, The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was by David Brooks of The New York Times. Chua decries American parents as wimps who capitulate to their kids. Not Amy. She has threatened to burn her children's stuffed toys if they don't excel at piano, has withheld food, water and bathroom breaks to teach piano to her seven-yearold, called them lazy, stupid and fat, denied them play dates and sleepovers, TV and video games, and slowly molded Carnegie Hall protégés with straight As.

Thunderous applause.

To which Brooks responded that the hardest cognitive skill that any child confronts is learning how to get along with other people – interactions which Chua seemed to dismiss as beneath her kids.

Touché. The man has a point.

Americans as a people would probably get an A in the success department, but a D- in getting along with each other. With half the population divorced, families disintegrating all around us, and some nutjob shooting up innocent bystanders every other week, we have clearly demonstrated an inability to master interpersonal relationships.

BUT I have a variation on Brooks's argument: The draconian parenting advocated by Chua breeds a real and potentially toxic narcissism. In essence, her argument is that we must raise children with an extreme focus on self. Our kids are brought into this world, not to be a blessing to others through a life of service, but to become immensely successful, with success defined almost exclusively in terms of personal achievement. A success is a concert pianist, a
Nobel Prize winner, an Olympic Gold medalist, a billionaire businessman or a powerful politician.

Great. Knock yourself out.

But I counsel some of these "successful" people. Their lives are often ill-balanced and, given their egos' stranglehold on their happiness, they often struggle to find meaning and purpose beyond the dictates of their ambition.

Sure, we can all agree with Chua that TV and video games are a waste of time, and I endorse her call for far greater parental discipline. But where does selflessness figure in the values by which she raises her children? Should every child really be raised to believe that the greatest gift he or she can give the world is to inflict his or her vast achievement on it? Indeed, her book has generated such a wide readership precisely because American parents seem so much more interested in raising successful rather than good children, kids who excel at making money rather than making friends, at obtaining status rather than obtaining wisdom, at winning championships rather than championing a cause.

I wonder what the Amy Chuas of this world do when one of their kids expresses a desire to be a rabbi, priest or teacher? Do you rend your garments and don sackcloth and ashes? Or do you simply tell them, OK, but only if you rise to be chief rabbi, pope or secretary of education?

I want my kids to be successful, sure. But more than anything I want them to be soulful and moral. Yes, I would like to see them prosper, afford nice things and earn the admiration of their peers. But if money and status become more important to them than being ethical, altruistic and giving, I have utterly failed as a parent.

My friend
Dennis Prager, the radio host and author, tells a story of a woman who bragged to him that her children were top doctors and lawyers. He asked her, "Are they good people?"

"Why of course," she responded.

And then his clincher. "Then why didn't you tell me that first?"

I am proud when my kids show me a good report card. But I receive real joy when people who've met them tell me how respectful and warm they are.

LET US reemphasize the point. If you raise kids who get into Julliard and Yale – Chua's favorite playgrounds – but are selfish egotists, you blew it.

To the Amy Chuas of this world I ask: Is America really missing success, or are we beginning to squander that success through an erosion of values? Success without values always ends in misery and failure.

That does not mean I dismiss many of Chua's important points. I too have been mostly opposed to sleepovers, because they involve no sleep. The kids come back dead tired and blow the next day. And often there is no parental supervision to speak of.

Kids should not be veging out in front of TVs, and the last thing a child needs for healthy development is to beat a hooker with a lead pipe in a video game.

I do believe that American kids are spoiled and indulged, and that far too many parents seem to be afraid of their kids – afraid of saying no, afraid of setting simple, unalterable rules, afraid of giving them chores and responsibilities around the house.

Why? First and foremost, because we have such bad marriages these days that for many a parent the principal source of affection comes not from a spouse but from the children. And the last thing he or she is going to do is bite the hand that emotionally feeds them.

Second, we can't say no to our kids because we feel guilty about how we neglect them as we veg out in front of a TV. And finally, discipline takes a lot of out of you, and we're so tired and stressed from our jobs (where we invest the major part of our creativity) that we arrive home a depleted wreck, unable to muster the strength to stand up to our children.

But there is also an overarching, pernicious American belief that the essence of good parenting is to give your kids all the things you didn't have as a child. But by giving your kids all the material things you lacked, you are robbing them of the one big thing you did have – pride in your own effort and achievement. We're not supposed to give our kids everything. They're supposed to earn it.

But what Chua doesn't seem to recognize is the need, as Maimonides expressed it, for moderation in all things. And this is especially true of parenting. Effective child-rearing involves finding a balance between how much we ought to chisel our children into what we believe is the perfect image versus passively allowing their own personalities and gifts to unfold.

WHAT MOST rubbed me the wrong way is Chua's seeming insistence that having a kid who can play the piano or violin is the ultimate success. I believe in developing a child's potential, but our kids aren't circus monkeys that we train to impress teachers, ace exams and perform in front of admiring audiences. They are people too, and we have to help them find a personal truth that accords with their unique gifts and disposition. King Solomon expressed it wisely: Educate a child according to his way.

 In the final analysis, what Chua exhibits above all is considerable insecurity. She tells her children that they risk becoming losers – which is what she terms anyone who is second- best. Life for her is a winnertake- all competition, and Chua's ambition rules her like a demon. Yet she thinks nothing of coercing her children into the same cult of demonic possession.

At Oxford I met many people like Chua. They inevitably ended up, like her, as professors at elite universities. Their rigidity and obsession with success ensured that they never took real risks, preferring tenured positions for life to the rough-and-tumble of entrepreneurship. For all their ambition, people like Chua would never go into politics, for example, for fear of allowing a force outside themselves to determine their fate, their fear of failure precluding the ability to take real chances.

Are we really loving our children when we raise them in a climate of overarching fear?

The writer has just published Honoring the Child Spirit: Learning and Inspiration from Our Children. His previous books include the critically acclaimed parenting manuals Ten Conversations You Need to Have with Your Children and Parenting with Fire. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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THE JERUSALEM POST

COLUMN

ENCOUNTERING PEACE: WHAT DOES NETANYAHU WANT?

BY GERSHON BASKIN 


Understanding what has been leaked, the PM should move forward with current Palestinian leadership as soon as possible.

The Al-Jazeera leaks on the extent of Palestinian concessions in previous negotiations with Israel are being presented as earth-shattering throughout the Arab world. The Palestinian Negotiations Affairs department's own internal documents demonstrate that the Palestinians have been willing to grant Israel sovereignty over almost all of the neighborhoods in east Jerusalem. The Palestinian leadership headed by President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to the model proposed by former prime minister Ehud Olmert which would grant Israel a role in the Old City of Jerusalem under a special system and even an international body that would have guardianship or control over the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif.

For anyone who has been intimately involved in the negotiations process over the past two decades, this is nothing new. In fact, most of the concessions "leaked" were actually already made by Yasser Arafat when he accepted the Clinton Parameters (albeit a year and a half too late).

Arafat was even ready to grant Israel sovereignty over Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem during Camp David in July 2000. Israeli leaders have been misleading the public for years on the extent of Palestinian concessions, and it was convenient and comfortable for the Palestinian leadership to not be completely forthcoming on the details with their own public.

But now the truth is out there and the Palestinian leadership, rather than trying to deny it, should face their people and show them to what extent they were/are willing to go to end the Israeli occupation and bring about Palestinian freedom and statehood.

The Palestinian leadership should be proud that it has fully come to terms with what it will take to end this occupation while maintaining the most basic and essential Palestinian national strategic interests.

IS THERE anything our leaders and people can learn from these new disclosures of negotiations history? We now know how far the Palestinians have been willing to go. Do we have any idea what our side is willing to concede so that Israel's national strategic interests of achieving lasting peace with our neighbors can be materialized?

Do we have any idea what Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wants? Even with all of my long-term intimate knowledge of the issues and the players, I honestly have no idea what are his thoughts, intentions, or plans are on the future of the two state solution which he officially supports.

The problem here though is not that I have no understanding of where Netanyahu would like to lead the nation, but that no one knows (or at least no one in the public domain) and it appears that Netanyahu himself does not know how to answer the question.

"Netanyahu experts" debate the question and some wager a guess. Members of his own party and government are not even sure. The American administration has been trying to understand Netanyahu's position since he took office. It also fails to get direct answers from the prime minister. The Europeans – even those who still describe themselves as friends and allies – fail to see the logic of our government.

Increasing numbers of American and European Jews find themselves without words when asked to defend policies that seem directionless.

Our enemies rejoice in the consistent enlargement of the "boycott Israel" movement, and are anxiously waiting for Israel to be officially declared a pariah state. And the Palestinians, whose future is on the line as much as Israel's, simply cannot understand how Netanyahu does not see that the viability of the two-state solution is withering away with each passing day.

I am asked how Netanyahu can move ahead on peace with seriousness and determination, given the nature of his coalition and the fragility of coalition politics? This is the same question that US special envoy Dennis Ross was sent by President Barack Obama to ask.

According to a close confidant of Ross, Netanyahu replied that his problems vis-à-vis the Palestinians were more substantive than mere coalition calculations. He did not relate to ideological concerns such as the historic and religious significance of Judea and Samaria, or to the claim of G-d-given rights and deeds to Jerusalem and the Holy Land, but rather focused on specific issues concerning the security risks involved in territorial withdrawal.

The most significant and detailed security risk involves the security of the Jordan River border and the strategic threat the country will face if rockets enter to the east of its center. He is 100 percent correct when he states that a rocket, even a homemade one fired from the hills of Ramallah toward Ben-Gurion Airport could put an end to civil aviation. This is definitely a strategic threat, unlike the same rockets shot at Sderot which, while intolerable, are not a threat to national security.

ALL THE security experts I have spoken with, including several US generals and senior NATO officers, have said there are real military and security answers that would effectively guarantee security along the Jordan River. The Palestinian leadership, including President Mahmoud Abbas, has said in public and in private, that they are willing to find a way to meet all security demands, including direct IDF involvement in patrols and monitoring missions that would be established based on Israeli security standards.

The recent "leaks" of Palestinian documents testify to a willingness to meet Israeli security and other political demands. In fact, if Netanyahu fully comprehends the significance of what has been leaked, he should be compelled to move forward with the present Palestinian leadership as soon as possible. Right now the only thing that will guarantee its continued rule is a peace agreement.

In other words, most security experts, including a significant number of current and former IDf officers, Mossad and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) officials, believe that the security risks from peace – including a withdrawal from the West Bank based on the June 4, 1967 border with agreed-on territorial swaps in the order of around 3%-4% – pose no real strategic or security threat that cannot be answered.

On the other hand, failure to reach peace raises some real unanswerable existential threats that not only empower extremists locally and regionally, but also put an end to the two-state solution, which is a death blow to the Zionist enterprise.

SO THEN, how do I answer the question? I say that Netanyahu is an intelligent man; his understanding of the issues is not shallow. He knows what a potential agreement looks like. He knows exactly what the parameters of peace are. He knows how far the Palestinians can compromise, and he also has to be aware of the consequences of not reaching an agreement.

That is exactly what is so perplexing about the question.

I say that some Netanyahu experts have said he is bound by the echoing voice of his father, Prof. Benzion Netanyahu, the ultimate right-wing ideological historian.

Those experts say that as long as he is alive, the prime minister will have great difficulty moving forward on peace. He is 100 years old, and these experts say that his son's epiphany will come shortly after he dies. I have no ability to predict such events. What I say is that Netanyahu is likely to undergo the same awakening that has happened to almost every prime minister before him. The weight of responsibility and the real resolvability of this conflict will push him forward. It is only a matter of time – hopefully less time than that remaining for the two-state solution.

This is of course wishful thinking. Never before has the key to peace been so clearly in the hands of one person. That is the striking and sad reality we find ourselves in.

The writer is the co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (www.ipcri.org) and is in the process of founding the Center for Israeli Progress (http://israeli-progress.org).

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

BORDERLINE VIEWS: TORAH TO ZION

BY DAVID NEWMAN 

 

The process of transporting a scroll to Israel is an interesting one.

I have been privileged during the past 10 years to bring a number of Torah scrolls from the UK to communities in Israel. In most cases these have been scrolls which are either surplus to the synagogues in the UK or are from synagogues which have closed down and are disposing of their assets. The recipients are mainly young communities which require the minimum of one Torah scroll - two would be better - for weekly use, but do not have the necessary resources for initiating the writing of a new scroll.

There are other needy recipients, not least army bases and some public institutions such as universities and hospitals. Even the trains bringing workers into Tel Aviv very day have cars reserved for prayer services, and they too are in need of usable scrolls. These diverse prayer groups would be grateful for such a gift from a Diaspora community.

The process of transporting a Torah scroll is an interesting one. One can have a special box built for it, but this can be quite expensive and takes up a lot of luggage room. Or one can simply walk onto a plane carrying the scroll and find an appropriate place to store it – a place where it will not be disturbed. I have found El Al to be particularly helpful and, if notified in advance, it will give priority boarding and make a shelf or a closed space available in which to store the scroll safely.

Walking into the departure lounge of Heathrow Airport with a Torah scroll in one's arms is a sure guarantee of a seat and, on most occasions, a lively conversation with fellow travelers about the origins of the scroll, its destination, and the thought of getting their own communities to donate one to a community here.

Taking the scroll through security checks is not always that easy and, in the UK at least, it is advisable to inform the airport chaplain in advance. It is always useful to be surrounded by fellow travelers who will add to the explanation when needed, to see it safely through the X-ray machine (which the rabbis allow) and, in some cases, to open it and put the cover back on when an overzealous security official (and in the post 9/11 era there are plenty of these) insists on seeing what's inside.

There have unfortunately been many cases of Torah scroll thefts in recent years. Just last week the Israeli police announced that it had broken up a gang who had been responsible for a wave of thefts at synagogues throughout the country. Seventy scrolls were found at the home of one of the suspects.

It is therefore necessary to ensure in advance that there is no problem with the customs authorities. It is important to have letters from both the donor and recipient communities which attest to the fact that this scroll is being given as a present, and is not intended for commercial use. The Ministry of Religious Services, in turn, issues a customs permit for the import of a Torah scroll (which is required for the customs official at Ben-Gurion Airport).

Most scrolls are instantly visible, but there have been cases in which the scroll has been removed from its wooden holders and wrapped inside a suitcase.

IT IS always good to receive a Torah scroll that's ready for use and has no blemish. Equally, there is no point in bringing in a scroll that is in such a bad state that it is either impossible to repair or that the repair would cost almost as much as the writing of a new scroll. This is always checked out at the point of origin. Often communities are willing to donate their surplus scrolls, only to find out that there is no point in transporting them because of the poor state of the parchment or the illegible letters.

I have heard of cases where well-meaning donors have gone to great lengths to have Torah scrolls transported only to find after arrival that they are in such a bad state that the only thing for them is to be buried with other holy manuscripts. Torah scrolls, like people, have a life expectancy, and with some exceptions, 120-150 years is considered reasonable.

Most scrolls will require some repair. After having it checked by a scribe at the point of origin, I always have it repaired by qualified scribes here. Any repair up to approximately $3,000-$4,000 is well worth it, and is not normally beyond the capability of the recipient community. Most qualified scribes are able to identify the general state of the scroll quickly, and are often able to tell you the rough date and place where it was first written.

It is also common for the donors to have the scroll dedicated in the name of an individual or community. New Torah mantles are prepared, in some cases the wood is refurbished or replaced and the scribes ensure that the Torah is fit for use. It is also possible to have a computer inspection of the scroll to ensure that every letter is okay, and each scroll can be assigned a unique identification tag in a national computer database in the event of future theft. Some insurance companies now insist on such an ID before issuing a policy for a synagogue.

THE FINAL stage in the process is the induction of the old-new scroll into the recipient community. This is often done in a ceremony organized by both the donor and the recipient communities, to the lively sounds of music, dancing and general celebration. It is an event which transcends all political, social or cultural divisions, and which expresses the essential Jewish link between Israel and the Diaspora, and which has far greater significance and meaning than the writing of a cheque or the internet transfer of money.

 

At the risk of making this week's column into a promo, I urge communities and individuals in the Diaspora to check their stock of Torah scrolls. If you find that you have one scroll too many (perhaps even more than one) consider forging a link with a needy community here and arranging for its transfer. It gives a new meaning to the links between Israel and the Diaspora.

 

The writer is dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Ben- Gurion University. For further information or assistance on the transfer of Torah scrolls to Israel, contact newman@bgu.ac.il.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

BY THY OWN HAND

BY MARTIN SHERMAN 

 

The growing menace of endogenic Judeo-phobia – or how Jews fan the flames of hatred against their own.

"Thy destroyers and thy demolishers shall emerge from within thee." – Isaiah 49:17

"When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews; you are talking anti-Semitism" – attributed to Martin Luther King Jr., Harvard, 1968

Finally a belated realization is beginning to dawn on the nation. The pace is still far too slow, the scale far too small, and one can only hope that it will not turn out to be "too little too late." But at least some semblance of awareness is beginning to emerge that decades of delegitimization as the nation-state of the Jews comprise the gravest strategic danger Israel faces.

In his column "Yes to prosecuting subversion, no to McCarthyism" (January 13), Isi Leibler gave an commendably accurate diagnosis of the malaise and its roots: "We largely have ourselves to blame for enabling our adversaries to succeed in embedding their false narrative in the consciousness of the world." Aptly, he added: "Our failure has been augmented by the small but influential far left post-Zionist factions which systematically promote the Arab narrative and distort our position in our own media and universities." Perhaps the only defect in Leibler's analysis it that he understates the numbers and diversity of the malefactors.

For this perilous predicament has been precipitated not only by a small core of dedicated post/anti-Zionist zealots. It has been greatly facilitated by the complicity of a much larger allegedly pro-Zionist layer of Israeli society and pro-Israel Jewry – either passively through benign neglect, intellectual indolence and/or a lack of stomach for confrontation; or actively by providing the zealots with platforms, prestige and position to promulgate their poisonous – and arguably perfidious – political agendas.

Indeed, without such tacit cooperation (or craven capitulation), this kernel of radicals would be severely curtailed in its capacity to propagate anti-Israel malevolence. This has at least two consequences: It provides a license for the abuse of academic freedom, essentially lending it a veil of legitimacy for the perversion – rather than the pursuit – of truth.

And it fuels not only the growing drive for delegitimization of the Jewish state, but fans the hatred against the Jewish people. The howls of protest that inevitably arise at the mere mention of these effects are generally of two kinds. Both must be summarily dismissed as either invalid or irrelevant or both.

The first kind of protest typically holds that any discussion of such things constitutes a dire danger to freedom of expression, and an intolerable infringement of the autonomy of intellectual inquiry, the sine qua non for vibrant democracy.

In fact, in the context of Israeli academe, the contrary if true. It is the complacency/complicity/capitulation of the academic mainstream visà- vis the radical leftists that has constricted the freedom of expression and the scope of "permissible" opinions and/or research. This is undeniable in light of the almost total absence – certainly the gross underrepresentation – of pro-Zionist perspectives, and certainly of robustly hawkish ones, across the entire spectrum of the nation's faculties of social sciences and humanities (including law).

This wildly disproportionate dearth is even more remarkable – and revealing – given that over the past two decades, the dominant dovish paradigms have been refuted by reality – apparently demonstrating that such "intellectual inbreeding" has severely degraded the quality of academic output.

The second such Pavlovian-like protest is that Israel is not – and should not be – immune to criticism, and such criticism cannot and should not be dismissed as anti-Semitism, nor should anti-Semitism be invoked as grounds for muffling it.

While Israel is obviously not without blemish, and not every expression of disapproval can – or should – be construed as motivated by anti-Semitic impulses, this is only one aspect of a more complex truth. For it cannot be denied that the persistent and pervasive application of double standards to the conduct of the nation-state of the Jews, and the endemic distortion of realities in it – make anti-Semitism an increasingly plausible explanation for the unparalleled and unrelenting assault on nearly every position and action taken by Israel.

NOR CAN it be ignored that a growing body of opinion holds an increasingly seamless nexus between anti-Israeli vilification and anti-Jewish bigotry. Indeed, a significant number of pundits have identified anti-Zionism as the new channel through which a major portion of today's anti- Semitic sentiments are flowing. In effect, Israel has become a "lighting rod" that attracts hatred and enmity toward Jews, in a manner that provides these emotions with an aura of acceptability and political correctness that overt anti-Semitism could not.

Thus anti-Zionism has become a convenient surrogate for anti-Semitism, with hatred for Jews as individuals (Jews as people) being replaced by hatred for Jews as a collective (Jews as a people).

Accordingly, accounts of Israel and its actions, which cast unwarranted aspersions on the country and its policies, or present it in a one-sided, biased distorted, misleading, not to mention outright mendacious light, contribute considerably to fueling the flames of Judeo-phobic passions and validating Judeo-phobic prejudices.

Clearly then, pronouncements made by Israeli and/or Jewish individuals or organizations have special value for the country's detractors – frequently used to validate their anti-Zionist condemnations and "authoritatively" discrediting any rebuttals. Whether intentionally on not, such pronouncements reinforce the insidious invective and the demonic imagery used to portray Israel today.

The problem extends far beyond the explicitly post/anti-Zionists who propose annulling the country's status as a Jewish state and transforming it into a "state of all its citizens," and/or openly condemn it as an ethnocratic apartheid regime, meriting not only international censure but sanction.

Oren Yiftachel, for example, depicts Israel (on both sides of the Green Line) as a "colonialist ethnocracy," and Neve Gordon has explicitly called for a boycott of the country because of its "apartheid policies."

It extends to purportedly pro-Zionists who allegedly endorse the existence of Israel as the nation-state of Jews, but provide – hopefully unwittingly – anti- Semites with material and opportunity to promote their Judeo-phobic agenda. This group includes figures such as Aeyal Gross, who has described Israel as "a society where shooting at children of the 'other' is the norm" and which "is in fact indifferent or worse to Israel's widespread killing of Palestinian youth" and Fania Oz-Salzberger, who in the wake of the Gaza flotilla episode proclaimed in a Daily Beast article that she was "ashamed of my country"– presumably because young commandos were compelled to use lethal force to extricate themselves from the clutches of a brutal lynch mob – a mob who, shortly before the incident, had called for the Jews to "go back to Auschwitz."

PERHAPS MORE significantly, it includes the bodies that provide institutional support for the aforementioned individuals, and which facilitate the propagation of their condemnation – purposeful or otherwise – furnishing them with promotional platforms to mindfully endorse – or mindlessly enhance – the process of delegitimization. These include universities such as Ben-Gurion University, which promote individuals like Neve Gordon to department heads, whose duties presumably entail setting programs for seminars and conferences, contacts with other institutions of higher learning, influencing the choice of faculty and so on.

It includes Jewish benefactors who set up Israel studies chairs/programs and ensconce in them figures who provide – at best – a distorted portrayal and – at worse – a demonized image.

 It also includes major Jewish organizations such as the American Jewish Committee, which invited Peter Beinart as key speaker at its 2011 Global Forum. For not only has Beinart expressed views (in his misleading 5,000- word piece in the New York Review of Books in 2010 which catapulted him to celebrity status) that totally negate AJC executive director David Harris's eminently sensible defense of Israel's democratic credentials, but has publicly suggested that US Jewry ought to apply the same value judgments to Israeli measures vis-à-vis the Palestinians as they do to events "in Bosnia, the former Soviet Union and Darfur."

The net result of all this is that such individuals, armed with the prestige of their formal positions, become the prisms through which the wider public comes to view Israel and to evaluate its essence and ethical foundations. Unless these developments are urgently addressed – and arrested – their tragic consequences are not difficult to predict. Perhaps the best way to initiate such a corrective process is to inform the public and foreign donors of the ongoing absurdity of these self-destructive phenomena, and urge them to consider if this is really the best way to use their tax shekels and dollar donations

The writer lectured at Tel Aviv University in Political Science and Security Studies for the past twenty years. In 2009/2010 he was the visiting Israeli Schusterman Scholar at University of Southern Californian (USC) and the Hebrew Union College (Los Angeles). He served for seven years in the defense establishment and is currently engaged in the establishment of a new Policy Center in Israel. www.martinsherman.org

Caroline Glick's column will resume next week.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

GOING SOLO

BY ELI AVIDAR 


In this coming decade, Israel will likely find that it must rely on itself to advance interests and goals in region and world.

The first decade of the 21st century began with a disappointment: the failure of the Camp David conference in 2000, when Washington had a strong president who had invested everything he could in the peace process. In Israel, we had a prime minister who had been elected on a wave of hope for peace, and who was prepared for far-reaching concessions, while on the Palestinian side there was Yasser Arafat, seen as the only leader who could bring the Palestinians to an historic compromise.

The first decade also began with the terror attack on the Twin Towers, etching into Western consciousness that terror organizations were no longer restricting themselves.

It was marked by the rule of George W. Bush as US president, who began with a certain hostility toward Israel and ended as the best friend that it has ever had.

I can recall a cable I sent to the Foreign Ministry immediately after the Bush's election, when I served as head of the diplomatic delegation in Qatar, in which I stated that Bush and Richard Cheney were bad news. I detailed the scope of the deals that Cheney had obtained as president of an oil company in the Gulf states – $9 billion – and I insisted that their tenure meant problems for us.

I was wrong. My assessment was based on logic. But logic is one thing, and reality is another. The attack on 9/11 shocked the US. Every day that went by brought new revelations about how Arab countries were turning a blind eye to terror activities.

Finally, the West understood. We were given a place in the VIP box for those who had been saying "I told you so," when we had been telling the US how it should fight its war. During the Bush era, the US demanded that its allies move toward democracy. The first decade of the 21st century was one in which the US operated proactively, and took advantage of every drop of motivation, will and money in a war against the enemies of the West and freedom.

But in the end, the US tired of Bush's crusade and of attempting to reeducate the Muslim world, while it also tired of supporting Israel. It was a decade in which Israeli leaders enjoyed huge support in Washington but that support diminished with the accession of Barack Obama.

Toward the end of the decade, Arab countries also realized that the US was weak economically and militarily, and in particular discovered the limits of its ability to get results in Afghanistan and Iraq. The US today is tired. The country wants to engage in domestic matters, and be more popular among those who hate it.

This weakness has resulted in Arab countries no longer falling in line with Washington's positions, and small, impudent countries such as Qatar doing everything in their power to support Hamas and warm relations with Iran, while enabling Al Jazeera to stoke up anti-American sentiment.

This understanding has also resulted in the Palestinian Authority, which relies on US aid, launching a diplomatic offensive to recognize a Palestinian state by explaining that the US is too weak to force Israel into an agreement. This is to make the unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence seem "natural."

THE SECOND decade of this century will be one in which it is not certain that the US will be part of any Middle East solution, and certainly not on Iran.

The WikiLeaks documents that revealed the distress of Arab leaders over Iran's nuclear program and the lack of US will to act shows that in the coming decade, the US will abstain from military action in Iran or even from supporting operations by other countries in the Middle East. The US lives in peace with nuclear bombs in Pakistan, Russia, China and India; a bomb in Iranian hands is not an existential problem for it.

The second decade will be one in which we will be forced to stop wasting time on declarations about the responsibility of the West for the Iranian problem, and will need to take practical steps as we see fit.

The decade must be one in which Israel begins speaking Arabic. The meaning of this is not that we will assimilate into the Middle East and join the Arab League as per the vision of Shimon Peres in the 1990s, but rather we will begin to speak Arabic to become a more effective player in the region.

An Israel that speaks Arabic will be better understood and in this way, we will be better able to defend our interests and finally achieve results.

We will also need to act independently, and not rely on the US veto and support at the UN because that is no longer assured.

The second decade will force us to create international policy that relies on universal values and not just to explain our position within the context of the Palestinian conflict. This will be the decade of the environment, a decade of improved health and scientific development, and in all these areas Israel has much to contribute. There are dozens of other issues in which we can play a significant role in the UN and fight the delegitimization campaign against us.

With the discovery of vast gas resources, the next decade must also be a decade of renewal. It is enough for us to look eastward and see what is happening to countries that enjoy fixed revenues from energy. The gas must enable us to pass on to the next generation an economy without national debt and cleaner air.

THE SECOND decade of the 21st century must be an active decade from Israel's point of view. A decade in which we initiate actions to set the regional and international agenda, and are not merely led by events to which we respond. This must be a decade in which, instead of just purporting to build a new Middle East, we learn to conduct ourselves wisely in this region.

The author is chairman of the Smart Middle East Forum. This article was first published in Yisrael Hayom.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

FRANCE VS FRANCE

BY ROBERT ZARETSKY 

 

Author of recent publishing sensation 'Indignez-vous' has managed to pit French values against questions over religion and race.

During the Dreyfus Affair, French intellectuals clashed over the definition of republican France. Was it a nation, as Emile Zola believed, whose greatness was founded on the universal values of justice and reason? Or, as his opponent Maurcie Barrès replied, was it a nation whose identity was rooted in its past and people – the "soil and the dead"?

Slightly more than a century later, France is revisiting this debate, one whose implications for French Jewry may be no less momentous.

THE UNLIKELY protagonist in the current drama, Stéphane Hessel, is no stranger to the storms of history. Born in Berlin to a Jewish father and gentile mother, Hessel became a naturalized Frenchman in 1937. Following the fall of France, he joined the Free French in London and, in March 1944, was sent to France to prepare the resistance for the imminent Allied invasion. Caught by the Gestapo, Hessel was tortured and sent first to Buchenwald and then Dora – the camp where tens of thousands of slave laborers assembled V-1 and V-2 rockets.

Hessel escaped in the chaos of Nazi Germany's collapse and returned to France. He entered the Foreign Service and was posted to the fledgling United Nations, where he assisted in the drafting of the
Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man. The document's emphasis on the imperatives of justice and law is not just deeply Dreyfusard, but also steeped in Hessel's experience of the French Resistance.

For Hessel, the act of resistance – sparked by moral indignation – entails not just the defense of one's life, but the values that infuse that life with meaning. For the past half-century, this conviction led him to fight on behalf of the disenfranchised and dispossessed in France: illegal workers and the homeless, the Roma communities and North African squatters demonized by conservative governments.

Now 93, Hessel has taken up the cause of the Palestinians. An outspoken critic of Israel's actions, in particular its 2008 incursion into Gaza, he has added his name to the call for a boycott of products from the occupied territories. In his recently published Indignez-vous!, Hessel declares his support of the Goldstone Commission. While he has condemned the actions of Hamas, he has largely focused on Israeli policies: "That the Jews would themselves engage in war crimes is intolerable. Alas, history offers few examples of nations that have drawn lessons from their own histories."

Long an advocate of nonviolent resistance, Hessel nevertheless insists on the insidious relationship between the bleak reality in Gaza and terrorism. The violence practiced by Hamas, he argues, is "comprehensible" as a symptom of this people's collective "exasperation."

INDIGNEZ-VOUS! has stunned the French publishing industry. Since November, the work has sold nearly 500,000 copies in France (the equivalent of 2,500,000 copies in the US). The book's unprecedented success attracted the attention French Jewish organizations, most notably CRIF (Council of Jewish Institutions in France), whose response was immediate and hostile.

So too was the reaction of some prominent intellectuals, most notably Pierre-André Taguieff.

A well-known historian who specializes in the history of French anti-Semitism, Taguieff's most recent work, La Nouvelle Propagande Anti-Juive (The New anti-Jewish Propaganda) , argues that an important current of French anti-Semitism, once associated with the political Left, has not died. Instead, it has gained a new lease on life as "radical anti-Zionism."

By conflating Zionism and Nazism, this school of thought "legitimates the racist agenda for the destruction of Israel." It is, Taguieff warns, the only "racist ideology that today is not only legitimate, but intellectually respectable."

Taguieff's claim unsettles for reasons both intended and unintended. There is, incontestably, a disturbing tendency on the European Left to judge Israel far more harshly than Hamas or Hizbullah. But equally disturbing is the syllogism lurking in Taguieff's analysis: namely that if all critics of Israel are anti-Zionists and all anti-Zionists are anti-Semites, then all critics of Israel are anti- Semites.

To this dubious reasoning, Taguieff added an unsavory flourish on, of all places, his Facebook page. Paraphrasing Voltaire – a thinker who, ironically, despised Judaism and Jews – Taguieff declared: "When a poisonous snake is given a good conscience, as with Hessel, the desire to smash its head is understandable."

The posting soon disappeared, replaced by a less hateful, but equally unfortunate phrase: "He could have at least finished his life in a more dignified manner instead of inciting hatred against Israel and joining his voice to the worst of anti-Jews."

Much of the debate has since been mired in attacks and counterattacks by the opposing camps. Rather than wrestling with the real questions at hand – What, for example, constitutes illegitimate criticism of Israel? How do we weigh the findings of the Goldstone Commission? – the most frequently asked question deals with the religious backgrounds of the two antagonists. Despite the common assumption that Taguieff is Jewish, his immigrant parents were in fact Polish and Lithuanian Catholics. (A fact that did not prevent Tariq Ramadan, for example, from lumping Taguieff with other "Jewish apologists" for Israel.)

As for Hessel, no one, including Hessel, is quite sure whether he is or isn't Jewish. In his autobiography, Danse avec le siècle (Dance with the Century) he states plainly he is not Jewish – his father's parents had converted to Protestantism – but has since affirmed his Jewish roots. (Compounding the confusion are accounts, like Gil Shefler's report on January 4 in The Jerusalem Post, describing Hessel as a Holocaust survivor when in reality he was a political deporté.)

What would Dreyfus's defenders have made of the current confusion? For them, the question of religion (or race) was irrelevant; all that mattered was justice and truth. In the current affair over Hessel, however, religion (and race) threatens to become once again square and center, while justice and truth are being pushed aside.

 Last week, the abyss between Hessel's supporters and French Jewish organizations was deepened. A public debate on the boycott of goods made by settlements in the occupied territories, scheduled to be held at the prestigious École Normale Superièure in Paris, was canceled due to pressure from the CRIF when it was learned that Hessel would appear with other intellectuals like Gisèle Halimi and the former justice minister Elisabeth Guigou.

In an open letter to Maurice Barrès – Facebook, happily, had not yet replaced newspapers as the means of public discussion – the Dreyfusard Lucien Herr declared that he was writing on behalf of his fellow citizens, individuals of "goodwill... who placed the law and an ideal of justice before their own interests, their own instincts and their own sectarian claims."

Where are those individuals of goodwill today?

The writer is an historian at the University of Houston, author of Albert Camus: Elements of a Life (Cornell 2010) and coauthor of France and Its Empire Since 1870 (Oxford 2010).

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THERE (STILL) IS A PARTNER

LIEBERMAN'S ARGUMENT THAT THE DOCUMENTS PROVE A LONG-TERM INTERIM AGREEMENT IS THE ONLY REALISTIC SOLUTION IS GROUNDLESS.

On Sunday, Haaretz reported on Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's proposal to promote a long-term interim arrangement with the Palestinians. A few hours later, Al Jazeera and the Guardian published documents detailing the negotiations over the final-status arrangement held between the previous government and the Palestinian leadership headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

The documentation, conducted by the Palestinian team heads, illustrates the serious and down-to-business approach of the Palestinians with regards to the central core issues - borders, Jerusalem and holy places.

The documents testify yet again that Israel has found a pragmatic Palestinian partner, interested in implementing the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders. This solution consists of border adjustments that would enable annexing a considerable part of the settlements, in this way gaining international recognition for annexing the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians even said they were ready to discuss a special regime in the Old City. The documents point to the isolated West Bank settlements of Ma'aleh Adumim and Ariel and to the Har Homa neighborhood at the Jerusalem city limits - established after the Oslo agreements - as the main obstacles to a fair, sensible demographic partition.

The documents include a transcript of the statements made by Negotiations Department head Saeb Erekat at a meeting with American officials about a year ago. It reflects the Palestinian leadership's deep frustration with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's refusal to open a serious debate on the central issues. Without a solution to these issues, Netanyahu's declarations in support of a two-state solution are devoid of meaning.

Lieberman's argument that the documents prove a long-term interim agreement is the only realistic solution is groundless. Olmert's government ended its term before having completed the final-status negotiations. There is not, nor will there be, a Palestinian partner to a 20-year - or more - interim arrangement without delineating permanent borders and reaching an agreed upon solution to the refugees problem.

If Israel continues to prefer expanding the settlements to ensuring its status as a Jewish democratic state, we will lose the last Palestinian partner who could prevent its perpetuation as an isolated, condemned apartheid state.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

BEHOLD, THE LATEST QUEEN OF ENGLAND

SHELLY YACHIMOVICH HAS NO REAL COMRADES IN HER PARTY. EVERYONE IS AFRAID SHE WILL DEVOUR THEM, TOO.

BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

The students in the audience at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya were beside themselves with embarrassment. There they were in the presence of five respected figures, who sat on stage debating the subject of executive salaries. After the panelists finished speaking, the moderator, Prof. Uriel Procaccia, invited Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich to take the stage.

But Yachimovich had a surprise. She said she would only agree to come on stage after the panel members left it. The five panelists were stunned. Why embarrass them publicly? Procaccia cleared his throat and asked if she was serious. She said she was.

Attorney Ram Caspi then declared that he was not ready to get down, but Yachimovich continued to demand an empty stage. Caspi finally relented, but said he was also leaving the room entirely. Who does she think she is, he asked, the Queen of England? He in fact did leave, as did Procaccia. Only then, after the stage was cleared, was the Queen of England so kind as to take the podium and deliver her remarks to her student subjects.

Where does this haughtiness, this arrogance, this chutzpah come from? Is this how a woman who sees herself as someone who does good should act? Does socialism necessarily mean hating others?

What happened at the IDC did not surprise Yachimovich's Labor Party colleagues. At the Knesset, she conducts herself like a lone wolf seeking her prey - and her prey is anyone, particularly her party colleagues.

Ask Avishay Braverman. Ask Amir Peretz, whom she publicly betrayed after he brought her into the Knesset. Then she moved on to Ehud Barak, whom she also betrayed, after which she began ingratiating herself to Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini, whose strength has been on the rise. And I don't envy Eini for a moment once he leaves for the private sector.

Yachimovich has no real comrades in her party. Everyone is afraid she will devour them, too. She does not respect party discipline, has not voted with the coalition and conducts herself like a fireball that scorches everything it touches. Can such a woman take the helm of the Labor Party, which so greatly needs to heal and come together?

But personal attributes, for all their importance, are not the main point of the story. Her policy positions are a problem, too. They are not consistent with a party that wishes to take the reins of government. Yachimovich only handles issues in the socioeconomic sector. And in this field, she has adopted populist positions that the public loves.

There is no problem passing laws that give more to various population groups. It's easy. It's popular. Everyone will vote in favor. It's also not an issue to come out, in a sweeping manner, against all those horrible multimillionaires. The public loves that, too.

On the tough issues, however, Yachimovich has not said a word over the course of her five years in the Knesset. She has never stated her opinion on the negotiations with the Palestinians, the settlements, the siege of the Gaza Strip, the Turkish flotilla, the Iranian nuclear threat, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's loyalty legislation or relations with the United States. None of these important topics exist for Yachimovich - because on these issues, the people are divided. On these issues, there is a right wing and a left wing.

An opportunist who wants everyone to love her (other than a few wealthy people whose power at the polls is insignificant ), prefers not to express any positions on controversial issues. And anyone who conducts oneself with such cowardice is not fit to take the helm of a party wishing to govern.

Yachimovich has certain sacred cows that she takes care to feed: the large workers' committees, from the Israel Electric Corporation to the Ports Authority. Even though they enjoy the highest salaries in the labor force, she always supports their demands for additional raises. As a result, taxes have to be raised and budgets increased, further greasing the already fat public monopolies; battles have to be waged in the private sector, and against any privatization or reform proposal, because privatization is bad and nationalization is good.

Yachimovich is essentially a neo-Marxist. If she manages to head the Labor faction, she will turn it into a tiny, contentious niche party, smaller than Meretz. The students at the IDC have already seen who they are doing business with.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

GALANTISM

THE HOME OF YOAV GALANT DOES MAKE FOR A SENSATIONAL PHOTOGRAPH, BUT THE INTENSE COMPETITION FOR THE LEADERSHIP OF THE JNF IS MUCH MORE SIGNIFICANT.

BY YITZHAK LAOR

After the State of Israel was established, Moshav Amikam was built. It was an isolated, God-forsaken place in the days when there were few alternatives to public transportation. Like its neighboring Beitar moshavim, Aviel and Givat Nili, it was built on the land of the Palestinian villages of Sindiana and Sabarin, whose dwellers, like all others in this fertile region, were expelled eastward. There was plenty of land left for the newcomers for farming, training, antiquities, and now also, a destructive highway.

The decades that passed between the time of the great land grab - with the establishment of the state and the passage of land laws in its initial years - and the last decade have concealed a fact that occasionally surfaces: Land is an enormous asset that attracts aggressive types, raising questions about the permanent links between the state and its favored sons.

A small portion of the million dunams taken over were transferred then to private hands. The most favored caretakers were the various collective settlements. The older kibbutzim and moshavim - in addition to the little they had - as well as the new ones, received a great deal of land. Together they shared the vision of agriculture as mankind liberation or a justification for the takeover of the land. The olive grove and the pool, and the Galant mansion, are really only a minor symptom of the demise of the old order (without playing down the frontier ethic of taking over lands that are not yours ). In any case, the kibbutzim and moshavim are disappearing as a model of settlement.

The gift purchased from the Israel Lands Administration for Ariel Sharon by a rich friend - 4,200 dunams from the lands of Kafr Huj - in order to build the Sycamore Ranch near Kibbutz Dorot, signaled back in 1972 something of the new era. The desertion of the "kibbutznik" Ehud Barak shows how this degeneration has come full circle, including the ease with which the agriculture portfolio was recently passed from "the representative of the moshavim," Shalom Simhon, to the "representative of the kibbutzim," Orit Noked. (During the Mapai era, the issue of the minister's affiliation - representative of the moshavim or the kibbutzim - was of utmost significance, since this influenced water allocations, crop planning, marketing, subsidies, purchasing organizations, etc. )

Now there are no longer collective settlement interests. The kibbutzim remain as proprietors of villas, and the Labor Party primaries remain, with the kibbutznikim, in their political blindness, capable of deciding who is one of their own (Barak ) and who is not (Amir Peretz ). At the end of the burial procession marches Avshalom Vilan, the former Meretz MK and socialist kibbutznik. Now a representative of the farmers, he demands that the government increase the number of cheap working hands imported from Thailand. All else that remains is the kibbutz sing-along with Saraleh Sharon in the late night reruns on state-run television, and a lot of extravagant real estate.

In 2003, the Knesset Constitution Committee held extensive discussions on incorporating into the constitution the Israel Lands Administration law, so that it would appear more democratic. The most hypocritical speaker to participate in this discussion was Avraham Burg: "I think that one of the things that must be considered by the law, certainly if the foundations of this law will be fundamentally foundations of equality, is separating the Jewish National Fund, or the administration of national lands for this purpose, from the administration of state lands or the Israel Lands Administration, whose lands belong to all citizens and residents."

Burg retired to business and a post-Zionist European career, but the Israel Lands Administration does, indeed, free up lands for Jewish cities, and once in a while, it gives the JNF lands "in return," which are not to be sold under any circumstances to Arabs. This, in essence, is what the politics of land is all about in Israel: Who gives out the land?

The home of Yoav Galant does make for a sensational photograph, but the intense competition for the leadership of the JNF is much more significant.

The number of Arabs left in Israel after the great expulsion was about 50,000. Today, there are a million. Since their lands were confiscated - and that includes lands owned by Arabs living in Israel today, not only the absentee owners - the amount of land they own collectively has not changed: They still retain two percent of all the lands in Israel in their increasingly crowded communities. Just one percent serves them for agriculture, while the area of their villages has not increased.

How many Arab citizens received 35 dunams of olive trees? In which Arab community was a pool built? Herein is the history of the State of Israel in a nutshell.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

ISRAEL'S MILITARY TECHNOLOGY SUPERIORITY

DESPITE ISRAEL'S LEADING POSITION IN WEAPONS DEVELOPMENT, AN ILLUSION REMAINS THAT IT IS DEPENDENT ON THE UNITED STATES FOR THE QUALITATIVE ADVANTAGE OF ITS WEAPON SYSTEMS.

BY MOSHE ARENS

For many years a basic tenet of Israeli defense policy was that its soldiers must have a qualitative advantage over its enemies in terms of the weapon systems at their disposal. The question was how to achieve that qualitative superiority.

Yitzhak Rabin once told me that victory on the battlefield could only be achieved with weapons acquired abroad, and this view was shared by many in the defense establishment. France was Israel's main source of advanced weapons in the 1950s, with the United States assuming that mantle thereafter. The claims by Israeli engineers that they could develop systems that were at least as good as anything available abroad were dismissed as pipe dreams.

Rabin's position came to the fore in 1987, when as defense minister he asked the cabinet to cancel the Lavi combat aircraft development program, which he had inherited from his predecessor, despite the fact that it was to be the most advanced fighter plane in the world at the time, and two prototypes were already undergoing flight testing. After squeezing the cancellation through the cabinet, Rabin ordered Israel Aircraft Industries (now Israel Aerospace Industries ) to close its engineering division lest it drag Israel into another "adventure." That division was one of the best fighter aircraft design departments in the world.

The Israel Navy became the first Israel Defense Forces branch to place its trust in a locally developed weapon system when it equipped its missile boats with the Gabriel sea-to-sea missile. In the Yom Kippur War the Gabriel was instrumental in the navy's decisive victory over the Syrian and Egyptian navies in the first missile battles in the history of naval warfare. The Israel Air Force was the first to utilize small unmanned aerial vehicles, which destroyed Soviet-made surface-to-air missile batteries during the first Lebanon War, without losing a single plane, and Israel's UAVs are still among the best in the world. But the IAF has remained adamant in its opposition to an Israeli-developed fighter aircraft.

Today, 24 years since the unfortunate decision to abort the Lavi project, the capabilities of the Israeli defense industry are known throughout the world. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems is first in the world when it comes to tactical missiles. Elta Electronics Industries' radar systems are the world's best, and most advanced, while the Merkava is the world's best main battle tank. The Arrow is the world's first operational ballistic missile interceptor, while Iron Dome is the first short-range missile interceptor. In any conflict, Israel's enemies will contend with many surprises that will demonstrate the qualitative advantage that locally developed systems can provide.

Yet the illusion remains that Israel is dependent on the United States for the qualitative advantage of its weapon systems. In fact, this is true only when it comes to manned aircraft. And while the incorporation of Israeli-developed systems into the aircraft acquired in the United States once gave Israel some advantage over the very same aircraft that were sold to Arab countries, that advantage has begun to disappear with the introduction of U.S. restrictions on the incorporation of Israeli systems into these aircraft.

The F-35, the latest U.S. fighter that Israel wants to acquire, will include no Israeli systems. The F-35 development program has been plagued by frequent delays and mounting cost overruns. The design compromises that have to be made to accommodate its goal of serving as a joint strike fighter that will be acquired by the U.S. Air Force, Navy and the Marines have limited its performance capabilities.

In the meantime, anti-stealth technology is being developed and may yet neutralize what is being advertised as the aircraft's major advantage before delivery or within its operational lifetime. Russia and Indian are developing a more advanced aircraft, the Sukhoi T-50, which is certain to be sold to Arab air forces and to face the IAF's aircraft in the future.

It is time to reexamine Israel's own capabilities in this area. In any event, IAI must not be permitted to allow our fighter-aircraft design capability to atrophy.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

VOTING TO DESTROY NATURE

A NEW BILL, AIMS TO CANCEL OUT A VITAL TOOL IN ASSESSING THE LONG-TERM EFFECT OF BUILDING PLANS.

BY ZAFRIR RINAT

Almost every week members of the Knesset gather to promote the funeral of the natural landscape in Israel. In a joint forum of the Economic Affairs Committee and Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, they review the clauses of the new planning and building bill (the "balconies reform" ), comment and criticize, demand corrections, but until now no real amendments have been made.

If it is not significantly changed, the new bill, which is being prepared for its second and third reading, will pave the way for the government to speedily approve plans for constructing housing and infrastructures on an unprecedented scale. These will wipe out a significant part of the little open space remaining in Israel, especially in the area north of the Negev where most of the country's population lives.

Dozens of environmental struggles waged by green organizations and residents groups ended successfully in recent years. This happened to a large extent because of the support of the planning committees, who took an approach that prefers careful planning based on building in existing communities and not at the expense of open spaces. An analysis conducted recently by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel shows that if the new bill were in force, many of those campaigns would have failed.

Take, for example, plans that were blocked to build new communities in unique landscape areas in the Negev and the Judean foothills. The new bill would grant the interior minister the right to declare a "special planning zone" in which a committee will be established that will be able to approve, among other things, the establishment of new communities. The minister will also be able to promote building plans through a local master plan which he will define as having "national importance," and shorten its approval procedure.

As part of the new bill, district master plans in which a great deal of thought was invested in recent years, and which have become a vital tool in assessing the long-term effect of building plans, will be canceled. They helped prevent the approval of projects such as paving a road on the edge of the Carmel, which would have seriously damaged the landscape. Instead of the district master plans there will be a new means, which has been given the appropriate name of "comprehensive plan," because it will likely include a range of possibilities to approve more construction.

Perhaps the most draconian tool is the establishment of a series of subcommittees for planning and building, which will have broad authority to approve various infrastructure plans, with virtually no possibility of appealing their decisions. If such committees existed today, it is reasonable to assume that they would have approved plans such as quarrying in the Natuf river bed and building the Nof Ayalon road - two projects in the Modi'in area that were ultimately not approved, and would have seriously damaged the open landscape that still exists in the area.

Add to that the fact that a large part of the planning committees will be under the almost complete control of representatives of government ministries, and it becomes clear that representatives of the public will have almost zero influence on the decision-makers. You don't need a developed imagination to estimate what short-sighted and narrow-minded Israeli governments will do with the tools of tremendous authority given them by the new bill.

The citizens of Israel can only put their trust in the handful of legislators who are holding the discussions in the Knesset. It is flimsy, but that's all there is. Perhaps public pressure, combined with a bit of wisdom and fairness that some Knesset members still have, will cause them to recognize that they must introduce many amendments to this bill that will neutralize its damaging effect as much as possible.

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

EDITORIAL

WHAT COMES AFTER NO?

The Republicans have vowed to "repeal and replace" President Obama's historic health care reform law. Now that House Republicans have muscled through a symbolic repeal bill, they will have to deliver their own alternative plan. Don't expect much.

There are many more slogans than details. But it is already clear that their approach would do almost nothing to control skyrocketing health care costs and would provide little help to the 50 million uninsured Americans.

When Republican leaders talk of reducing medical costs they really mean reducing insurance premiums for some people, primarily by letting the young and healthy buy insurance in states that allow the sale of skimpy policies. That won't help older and less healthy people and would probably drive up their premiums as they flock to states whose regulations guarantee them coverage.

The Republicans have offered no coherent plan for slowing the rapid rise in medical costs that is driving up insurance premiums, Medicare and Medicaid costs, and the federal deficit. The reform law, by contrast, has multiple provisions for changing the delivery of health care in ways that should reduce costs.

As for the Republicans' calls to reduce waste and fraud in Medicare, reform the medical malpractice system, and expand high-risk pools to cover people with pre-existing conditions, most of these ideas are already in the reform law. They could surely be strengthened if both parties worked together.

Even as it denounces reform at every turn, the Republican leadership has figured out that many Americans want the many consumer protections that come with the new law. So, once reform is repealed, the leaders are vowing to reinstate such provisions as letting young people stay on their parents' plans until age 26, preventing insurers from canceling policies after people become sick, and barring insurers from placing caps on what they will pay.

The problem is that such requirements will drive up the cost of insurance unless they are paired with a mandate (or comparable prod) requiring that everyone buy insurance so that healthy people offset the costs of less healthy beneficiaries. Yes, that's the same mandate the Republicans have vowed to overturn.

Many Republicans have also vowed to restore more than $130 billion worth of unjustified subsidies to private Medicare Advantage plans that is needed to help pay for the expansion of coverage under health care reform.

In coming weeks, expect to see a lot more posturing on issues that might energize the party's conservative base or poll well with people made skittish by months of Republican exaggerations about the new reform law. They have already introduced bills making it even harder for insurance policies in new insurance exchanges to cover abortions, never mind that the law already has incredibly strict provisions.

The Party of No will also try to use its new control of the House to block implementation of reform by withholding money needed to hire people to write necessary regulations. The House Republican Study Committee has proposed legislation that would prohibit using money in the annual budget to carry out any provision of the law or to defend it in court.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

TACTICAL SECRETS

At the Supreme Court last week, Justice Antonin Scalia summed up what he and other justices seemed to consider the least bad outcome in a difficult case: "It seems to me you call the game off."

The game in this case is a multibillion-dollar contract the government made in 1988 with General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas to build a stealth aircraft, the A-12 Avenger. The issue before the court in General Dynamics Corporation v. United States is whether the government can use the state-secrets privilege to avoid explaining why it wouldn't share classified technology with them. Two weeks before the companies were supposed to deliver an initial A-12 prototype, they reported it would be delayed a year or more. Six months later, the government canceled the contract, saying the companies had defaulted. The contractors' primary defense was that the government caused the delay by not sharing information with them, and they insist they should be paid for work done before the contract was ended.

If the court favors the government's argument, the government will collect $2.9 billion — $1.35 billion it claims it's owed under the contract, plus 20 years of interest. If the contractors prevail, they will collect $2.6 billion — $1.2 billion to cover "actual costs" plus interest.

It's not hard to see why Justice Scalia sought what he called "a 'go away' principle of jurisprudence," with no more money changing hands. But that would require ignoring the trouble with the state-secrets privilege.

In the name of fighting terrorism, under President George W. Bush, it became a doctrine used far too frequently to cover up illegal and embarrassing acts. The Obama administration has adopted the Bush policies virtually wholesale, protecting the government from accounting for its misdeeds by denying even a day in court to their victims — like Maher Arar, the Canadian victim of mistaken identity who was arrested and flown to Syria to be tortured. It's essential for the justices to address the privilege's faults.

In a 1953 ruling in United States v. Reynolds about the deaths of civilians in a military plane crash, the court first recognized and upheld the privilege, agreeing the government could withhold a report about the crash because there was "a reasonable danger" that information about secret electronic equipment would be disclosed. The privilege has since been broadened and overused. As a lower court said in the General Dynamics case, the government has used the privilege "for tactical purposes" and "an unfair advantage."

The court should narrow the privilege to what it was in Reynolds, a limited basis for the government not to disclose a piece of evidence so it can't be invoked to dismiss entire claims or cases. The court should also rule that trial judges faced with claims of privilege must examine the evidence to ensure they are convinced about the risk to national security from disclosure.

The evidence in the Reynolds case has since been declassified. We know that if the trial judge had looked at the "protected" report, he would have found proof only of Air Force negligence that caused the plane's crash. There was no mention of military intelligence. In Reynolds, the government hoodwinked the Supreme Court. The court should honor the gravity of real state secrets by assuring that other kinds of information can't be hidden behind this privilege.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

HE NEVER LEFT

Duane Clarridge burst onto the public stage in the mid-1980s for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal. The scheme involved selling weapons to Iran and using the proceeds to fund rebels trying to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. A career officer in the Central Intelligence Agency, Mr. Clarridge, known to virtually everyone as Dewey, was indicted for lying to Congress about the operation but was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush before his trial was finished.

Unfortunately, the experience doesn't seem to have taught him a lesson or chastened him one bit. Mr. Clarridge, 78, is still organizing spy missions of questionable legality and seeking to interfere with foreign governments, this time from his poolside perch in San Diego.

As reported by Mark Mazzetti on Sunday in The Times, for two years, Mr. Clarridge has fielded operatives in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They gather information on militants, Taliban leaders and Kabul's ruling class and make reports to military officials and private sector hard-liners, including Oliver North, another Iran-Contra alumni, who is now a television commentator.

Initially, Mr. Clarridge operated under a Defense Department contract arranged by a civilian employee who is now under criminal investigation. After the Pentagon ended his financing last May, he turned to private donors. Among his exploits: trying to discredit President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan by "proving" he is a drug addict — a charge American officials flatly deny.

There are serious questions about whether some of his activities may violate the so-called Neutrality Act, which bars private citizens from actively undermining a foreign government. What we do know is that there should be no place in our democracy for this kind of rogue operation.

Outsourcing functions in a war zone to private gunslingers is dangerous and invites abuse. Mr. Clarridge long ago proved that he will do pretty much anything to advance his agenda, no matter the cost to the national interest. The Justice Department should investigate and the Pentagon should make clear to military commanders that his reports should not be sought or relied on.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A NIGHT OF FOOD AND SONG

Perhaps you've been invited to a Burns Supper Tuesday, an annual feast given to celebrate the birth of the Scottish poet Robert Burns on Jan. 25, 1759. We have never experienced a Burns supper in Scotland, where the traditional entree, haggis — a sheep sausage encased in a sheep's stomach — is a delicacy. In America, when the haggis makes its entrance, guests reach for the whiskey, which is also traditional at Burns suppers.

The point of the celebration, of course, is Burns's poetry, especially verses from his "Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect," which was published in 1786 and made Burns instantly famous. These are wonderful poems, but the dialect is full of thorns and brambles.

Like the haggis, it may pose little problem to historically minded Scottish readers. When Americans rise to recite the songs of Robert Burns, it is a workout for parts of the tongue and throat that are rarely used in modern American English. To the listeners, it is nearly as intelligible as Chaucer read aloud in his middle English.

We like the idea of celebrating poetry with food and ritual, but we need some events that come a little more naturally to the American palate.

Perhaps a ceremonial breakfast of the cold plums from "This Is Just to Say" on Sept. 17, the birthday of William Carlos Williams. Perhaps the tea and cakes and ices (peaches optional) from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" on Sept. 26, T. S. Eliot's birthday. Or perhaps, best of all, an afternoon of the concupiscent curds in "The Emperor of Ice Cream" on Aug. 2, which is the day Wallace Stevens died.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE TALENT MAGNET

BY DAVID BROOKS

President Obama will be talking about economic growth and competitiveness in the State of the Union address Tuesday night. It will be interesting to see if he talks about it in the standard way or in a visionary way.

The conventional way would be fine — expanding exports, reforming education, adjusting corporate tax rates to help firms compete. But it wouldn't really give the country what it hungers for. The country wants a more precise vision of what a thriving America is going to look like in the 21st century. It also wants Obama to define, once and for all, his vision of government's role.

A visionary speech might begin with the fact that America's position in the world is changing. In the 20th century, America was the Big Dog nation. We had more money, more resources and more skilled labor, and we could outcompete our rivals by dominating the inputs and the outputs — by pouring in more talent, greater investments and more resources.

In the 21st century, the U.S. will no longer be the Big Dog. Human capital will be more broadly dispersed. There will be an array of affluent nations fully engaged in the global economy. Therefore, competitiveness will be more about organizing relationships than amassing force. To thrive, America will have to be the crossroads nation where global talent congregates and collaborates.

Parents in middle-class nations around the world should want to send their kids to American colleges. Young strivers should dream of working in Hollywood or Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs from Israel to Indonesia should be visiting venture-capital firms in San Francisco or capital markets in New York. Global engineers should want to learn the plastics techniques in Akron and retailers should learn branding and distribution in Bentonville and Park Slope.

In this century, economic competition between countries is less like the competition between armies or sports teams (with hermetically sealed units bashing or racing against each other). It's more like the competition between elite universities, who vie for prestige in a networked search for knowledge. It's less: "We will crush you with our efficiency and might." It's more: "We have the best talent and the best values, so if you want to make the most of your own capacities, you'll come join us."

The new sort of competition is all about charisma. It's about gathering talent in one spot (in the information economy, geography matters more than ever because people are most creative when they collaborate face to face). This concentration of talent then attracts more talent, which creates more collaboration, which multiplies everybody's skills, which attracts more talent and so on.

The nation with the most diverse creative hot spots will dominate the century.

If this is the nature of competitiveness, what is the role for government? Well, government will be a bit like the administration of a university. A university president is nominally the head of the institutions. He or she lives in the big house. But everybody knows a university president is a powerful stagehand.

The professors, the researchers, the tutors, the coaches and the students are the real guts of a university. They handle the substance of what gets done. The administrators play vital but secondary roles. They build the settings. They raise money. They recruit and do marketing. They help students who are stumbling.

The administrators couldn't possibly understand or control the work in the physics or history departments. They just try to gather talent, set guidelines and create an atmosphere where brilliance can happen.

So it is with government in an innovation economy. Entrepreneurs, corporate executives, line workers and store managers handle the substance of the economy. Government tries to nurture settings where brilliance can happen.

First, government establishes an overall climate, with competitive tax rates and predictable regulations and fiscal balance. Tax rates don't have to be rock bottom. Companies will pay more if there are other amenities to compensate. But everything should be structured to nurture new business formation.

Then government actively concentrates talent. City governments are used to thinking in this way, while national governments lag. For example, Robert Steel, the deputy mayor of New York City, gave an excellent speech on Dec. 16 on how to build a bioscience center in Brooklyn and how to build an engineering center on Staten Island or Roosevelt Island. The speech was about using government to build hubs.

Finally, the government has to work aggressively to reduce the human capital inequalities that open up in an innovation economy. That means early and constant interventions so everybody has a chance to participate.

President Obama exists because his father was drawn to study in the United States. Obama embodies America's nascent role as the crossroads nation. Let's see if he can describe the next phase of American greatness.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

RAISING FALSE ALARMS

BY BOB HERBERT

If there's a better government program than Social Security, I'd like to know what it is.

It has gone a long way toward eliminating poverty among the elderly. Great numbers of them used to live and die in ghastly, Dickensian conditions of extreme want. Without Social Security today, nearly half of all Americans aged 65 or older would be poor. With it, fewer than 10 percent live in poverty.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tells us that close to 90 percent of people 65 and older get at least some of their family income from Social Security. For more than half of the elderly, it provides the majority of their income. For many, it is the only income they have.

When you see surveillance videos of some creep mugging an elderly person in an elevator or apartment lobby, the universal reaction is outrage. But when the fat cats and the ideologues want to hack away at the lifeline of Social Security, they are treated somehow as respectable, even enlightened members of the society.

We need a reality check. Attacking Social Security is both cruel and unnecessary. It needs to stop.

The demagogues would have the public believe that Social Security is unsustainable, that it is some kind of giant contributor to the federal budget deficits. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the Economic Policy Institute has explained, Social Security "is emphatically not the cause of the federal government's long-term deficits, since it is prohibited from borrowing and must pay all benefits out of dedicated tax revenues and savings in its trust funds."

Franklin Roosevelt couldn't have been clearer about the crucial role of the payroll taxes used to finance Social Security. They gave the beneficiaries a "legal, moral and political right" to collect their benefits, he said. "With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my Social Security program."

There has always been feverish opposition on the right to Social Security. What is happening now, in a period of deficit hysteria, is that this crucial retirement program is being dishonestly lumped together with Medicare as an entitlement program that is driving federal deficits. Medicare costs are a serious problem, but that's because of the nightmarish expansion of health care costs in general.

Beyond Medicare, the major drivers of the deficits are not talked about so much by the fat cats and demagogues because they were either responsible for them, or are reaping gargantuan benefits from them, or both. The country is drowning in a sea of debt because of the obscene Bush tax cuts for the rich, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have never been paid for and the Great Recession.

Mugging the nation's grandparents by depriving them of some of their modest, hard-earned Social Security retirement benefits is hardly an answer to the nation's ills. And, believe me, those benefits are modest. The average benefit is just $14,000 a year, which is less than the minimum wage would pay. With employer-provided pensions going the way of the typewriter and pay telephones, the income from Social Security is becoming more precious by the day.

"If we didn't have Social Security, we'd have to invent it right now," said Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future. "It's perfectly suited to the terrible times we're going through. Hardly anyone has pensions anymore. People's private savings have taken a huge hit, and home prices have been hit hard. So the private savings that so many seniors and soon-to-be seniors have counted on have just been wiped out.

"Social Security is still there, and it's still paying out retirement benefits indexed to wages. It's the one part of the retirement stool that is working."

The deficit hawks and the right-wingers can scream all they want, but there is no Social Security crisis. There is a foreseeable problem with the program's long-term financing, but it can be fixed with changes that do no harm to its elderly beneficiaries. One obvious step would be to raise the cap on payroll taxes so that wealthy earners shoulder a fairer share of the burden.

The alarmist rhetoric should cease. Americans have enough economic problems to worry about without being petrified that their Social Security benefits will be curtailed. A Gallup poll taken recently found that 90 percent of Americans ages 44 to 75 believed that the country was facing a retirement crisis. Nearly two-thirds were more fearful of depleting their assets than they were of dying. The fears about retirement are well placed — most Americans do not have enough to retire on. But there should be no reason to believe that Social Security is in jeopardy.

The folks who want to raise the retirement age and hack away at benefits for ordinary working Americans are inevitably those who have not the least worry about their own retirement. The haves so often get a perverse kick out of bullying the have-nots.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE BRIGHT SIDE OF BLIGHT

BY DIANA LIND

Philadelphia

EVEN in Philadelphia, with its 40,000 vacant properties and a quarter of its population living below the poverty line, the Kensington neighborhood still shocks. On a frigid afternoon, a prostitute lingers in the shadow of the elevated train tracks, waiting restlessly for customers. Husks of long-closed factories stand amid thigh-high winter wheat. Streams of garbage flow down the streets, as if both the people and the city government had agreed to forsake the effort of propriety.

In recent months, this neighborhood has also been terrorized by a killer who choked and raped his victims in the area's ubiquitous abandoned houses and vacant lots. If only these deserted places could be charged as accomplices to the so-called Kensington Strangler's three murders and two sexual assaults, and for aiding and abetting the drug use and prostitution that have caused so many of the neighborhood's problems. But the empty lots with their discarded furniture and ghetto kudzu and the weather-beaten houses with boarded-up windows won't be going anywhere soon.

It's been nearly 30 years since James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling published their broken windows theory, positing that the torn social fabric that allows for vandalism also encourages other kinds of crime and disinvestment in a neighborhood. The theory validated the inclination to improve the built environment first, in the hopes that once a sense of confidence has been restored other aspects of an engaged community will follow. And in places on the cusp of gentrification or economic recovery, like certain New York areas in the '90s, quality-of-life campaigns have been proven to clean up the streets and reduce crime.

Indeed, as gentrification has slowly crept northward in Philadelphia, Kensington residents have gained some hope from a newly branded arts corridor, a few rejuvenated parks and street improvements, all thanks to the efforts of an invaluable local community development corporation. But this scattershot approach has failed to create the kind of holistic change needed in this neighborhood — or its counterparts in St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit and Baltimore.

Many cities have also sought to transform undeveloped lots into green space and urban agriculture. It's a natural fit and, again, in Kensington a full city block has been converted from an industrial brownfield to an admirably active farm. But land-based strategies that try to reinvent this vacant lot or that blighted ground do little to stem the larger social trends that created the spatial problem in the first place.

Philadelphia, like many Rust Belt cities, was so deeply hurt by the loss of manufacturing that began in the 1950s that it has yet to recover. Gone were the jobs that even high-school dropouts could leverage to achieve stable lives, and with them went the housing stock. Today, we are left with a city where the number of jobs requiring postsecondary education has grown, while more than 60 percent of Philadelphia's adults read at a sixth grade level or below, creating a miserable mismatch that leaves both employers and the unemployed in need.

That's why any plan to mitigate the vacant property crisis must not only include innovative urban planning, but also try to restore employment opportunities. We need to literally build jobs on neglected and undeveloped land.

There are a number of organizations in Philadelphia that provide models for dealing with vacancy and joblessness as intertwined problems. For example, the Job Opportunity Investment Network, a public-private partnership, supports workforce training programs that have a hyperlocal impact.

One such program is the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, which provides low-skill residents with intensive education and then matches graduates with jobs at the prestigious universities and medical centers within walking distance of their homes. While the jobs help people leave poverty behind, they ensure that the new wealth created remains in their neighborhoods, helping stabilize these downtrodden communities.

Roots to Re-Entry enrolls convicts in a horticulture vocational and life-skills training program that, upon their release, leads to landscaping jobs. Part of the training includes growing organic food that is donated to Philadelphia's neediest, showing how this work can nourish impoverished neighborhoods.

Such programs can teach residents the skills they need to reimagine the urban voids they encounter every day. Cities, in turn, should partner with neighborhood groups to determine the most suitable abandoned buildings and lots for development, luring companies and projects that would employ newly retrained residents.

Strategies that deal with vacant spaces by generating new paths to employment aim to do more than fixing broken windows ever could. They seek to change the dynamics of the local economy by creating better communities, not just prettier ones, where abandoned properties are viewed as job sites rather than crime scenes waiting to happen.

Diana Lind is the editor at large of the magazine Next American City and a 2011 Van Alen Institute fellow.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

A FIGHTING SPIRIT WON'T SAVE YOUR LIFE

BY RICHARD P. SLOAN

GABRIELLE GIFFORDS'S remarkable recovery from a bullet to her head has provided a heartening respite from a national calamity. Representative Giffords's husband describes her as a "fighter," and no doubt she is one. Whether her recovery has anything to do with a fighting spirit, however, is another matter entirely.

The idea that an individual has power over his health has a long history in American popular culture. The "mind cure" movements of the 1800s were based on the premise that we can control our well-being. In the middle of that century, Phineas Quimby, a philosopher and healer, popularized the view that illness was the product of mistaken beliefs, that it was possible to cure yourself by correcting your thoughts. Fifty years later, the New Thought movement, which the psychologist and philosopher William James called "the religion of the healthy minded," expressed a very similar view: by focusing on positive thoughts and avoiding negative ones, people could banish illness.

The idea that people can control their own health has persisted through Norman Vincent Peale's "Power of Positive Thinking," in 1952, to a popular book today, "The Secret," by Rhonda Byrne, which teaches that to achieve good health all we have to do is to direct our requests to the universe.

It's true that in some respects we do have control over our health. By exercising, eating nutritious foods and not smoking, we reduce our risk of heart disease and cancer. But the belief that a fighting spirit helps us to recover from injury or illness goes beyond healthful behavior. It reflects the persistent view that personality or a way of thinking can raise or reduce the likelihood of illness.

The psychosomatic hypothesis, which was popular in the mid-20th century, held that repressed emotional conflict was at the core of many physical diseases: Hypertension was the product of the inability to deal with hostile impulses. Ulcers were caused by unresolved fear and resentment. And women with breast cancer were characterized as being sexually inhibited, masochistic and unable to deal with anger.

Although modern doctors have rejected those beliefs, in the past 20 years, the medical literature has increasingly included studies examining the possibility that positive characteristics like optimism, spirituality and being a compassionate person are associated with good health. And books on the health benefits of happiness and positive outlook continue to be best sellers.

But there's no evidence to back up the idea that an upbeat attitude can prevent any illness or help someone recover from one more readily. On the contrary, a recently completed study of nearly 60,000 people in Finland and Sweden who were followed for almost 30 years found no significant association between personality traits and the likelihood of developing or surviving cancer. Cancer doesn't care if we're good or bad, virtuous or vicious, compassionate or inconsiderate. Neither does heart disease or AIDS or any other illness or injury.

And while we may be able to point anecdotally to a Gabrielle Giffords as an example of how a fighting spirit improves medical outcome, other people with a spirit just as strong die — think of Elizabeth Edwards, for example. And many patients who employ negative thinking nevertheless recover from illness every day. We want good things to happen to good people and this desire blinds us to evidence to the contrary.

But such beliefs have implications for how we regard people who are ill. If people are insufficiently upbeat after a cancer diagnosis or inadequately "spiritual" after a diagnosis of AIDS, are we to assume they have willfully placed their health at risk? And if they fail to recover, is it really their fault? The incessant pressure to be positive imposes an enormous burden on patients whose course of treatment doesn't go as planned.

Very early in my career, I participated in a study of young women who were hospitalized and awaiting the results of biopsies to determine if they had cervical cancer. While I was interviewing one of my patients, the biopsy results of the woman in the next bed came back to her — negative. The fortunate woman's father, who was there with her, said in relief: "We're good people. We deserve this." It was a perfectly understandable response, but what should my patient have said to herself when her biopsy came back positive? That she got cancer because she wasn't a good person?

It is difficult enough to be injured or gravely ill. To add to this the burden of guilt over a supposed failure to have the right attitude toward one's illness is unconscionable. Linking health to personal virtue and vice not only is bad science, it's bad medicine.

Richard P. Sloan, a professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, is the author of "Blind Faith."

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON KIDS: WHEN UNWED BIRTHS IS 41%, IT'S JUST NOT RIGHT

 

What's the matter with kids today? A great deal more than you might realize.

 

One-third are overweight or obese. Nearly a third drop out or can't finish high school in four years. All told, 75% are in such a poor state that they are ineligible for military service for reasons ranging from health to drugs to criminal records to lack of education.

 

Last month came bad news about the rest: 23% of those who try to enlist fail the basic entrance exam.

 

Dismayed military leaders and education reformers are quick to blame failing schools, and they're right. But there's a deeper issue in play as well — one that gets far too little attention.

 

In 2009, 41% of children born in the USA were born to unmarried mothers (up from 5% a half-century ago). That includes 73% of non-Hispanic black children, 53% of Hispanic children and 29% of non-Hispanic white children. Those are not misprints.

 

Some children of unmarried parents, of course, turn out just fine, particularly if the parents are economically secure or in committed, long-term relationships, or if the single parent is particularly strong and motivated. And as married parents will tell you, wedlock does not guarantee untroubled kids.

 

Even so, evidence is overwhelming that children of single mothers — particularly teen mothers — suffer disproportionately high poverty rates, impaired development and low school performance.

 

A long-term study by researchers from Princeton and Columbia universities who've followed the lives of 5,000 children, born to married and never-married mothers in 20 urban centers, is the latest to reach that conclusion, and it sheds light on the reasons.

 

A large majority of the never-married mothers had close relationships with a partner when their child was born. But by the time the child was 5, most of the fathers were gone and the child had little contact with him. As many of the mothers went on to new relationships, the children were hampered by repeated transitions that did more harm to their development.

 

These " fragile families" are not a new phenomenon. In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then a Labor Department official and later a prominent senator, rang alarm bells when unmarried births in the black community were nearing 24%. (The rate among white mothers was about 3% then.) But his paper on the subject ignited a furor, particularly among fellow liberals and civil rights leaders, who charged him with racism and blaming the victim.

 

Today, the 1965 numbers look quaint. Yet despite the soaring statistics, the problem never gets the profile it deserves.

 

Many on the right focus on marriage as the answer, and surely that is a big part of it. Single-parent success stories aside, reduced commitment is no virtue. On the left, the tendency is to see poverty as the villain, and just as surely, fighting its causes is also part of the answer. So is improving schools.

 

But so far, no one's answers seem to be working. Even as school programs have cut into teen pregnancy rates, more babies are being born to unmarried women in their 20s. In 2009, for the first time since the Census began tallying marriages, the proportion of never-married Americans ages 25 through 34 exceeded those who had been married.

 

There are no easy ways to reverse these trends. Anything that promotes stability in children's lives can help. But this much is clear: When 41% of babies born in the USA have unwed parents and most children reach adulthood with serious problems, more attention must be paid.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER VIEW ON KIDS: FOCUS ON EARLY EDUCATION

BY JOHN M. SHALIKASHVILI

 

Sad, but true: Most young adults in the U.S. cannot qualify for military service, and one major reason lies with our troubled educational system.

Approximately three of every ten high school students fail to graduate on time with a diploma, according to the latest research cited by Education Week. Even more alarming, a recent Education Trust report shows that among high school graduates, 23% seeking to enlist cannot pass the military's basic exam for reading, math and problem-solving.

While there are other disqualifying factors for military service — such as being overweight or having a criminal record — a poor education could be the biggest obstacle of them all.

From a national security perspective, the situation is so serious that nearly 200 retired generals and admirals are calling on Congress to consider major educational reform, with a special emphasis on increased investments in high-quality early education.

Why early education? Because research shows that these high-quality programs are the most cost-effective way to provide children with the skills they need to succeed in school and later in life. Getting a positive, early start can help at-risk kids, many from single-parent households, overcome obstacles such as high dropout rates and teenage pregnancies.

Two examples:

•A continuing long-term University of North Carolina study, started in 1972, found that at-risk children who participated in an early education program were two-and-a-half times more likely to be attending a four-year college at age 21 than those who did not participate.

•A similar study by the HighScope Educational Research Foundation found that at-risk children in a Michigan preschool program were 44% more likely to graduate from high school than those not attending. Every dollar invested produced up to $16 in savings over the long term, largely from lower corrections costs and savings in education.

In taking up education reform, Congress should support a shift away from the traditional K-through-12 approach toward a system that incorporates high-quality early learning so children are ready to learn when they enter kindergarten.

Otherwise, our dropout crisis could well become a national security crisis.

Retired general John M. Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is a member of Mission: Readiness, a non-profit organization focused on national security issues.

 

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USA TODAY

OPINION

CIVILITY? YES. BUT GOP SHOULD FIGHT ON SUBSTANCE

BY MICHAEL MEDVED

 

When the president gestures toward the political center and calls for more civility in public discourse — as expected in tonight's State of the Union address — should his Republican opponents respond by questioning his sincerity, denouncing his hypocrisy or defending the constitutional value of partisanship and gridlock?

 

To do so makes sense only if the GOP wants to blow its chances for 2012 and to undermine its newly installed House majority. Public rejection of calls for civility inevitably looks like a defense of incivility; noisy attacks on offers of compromise suggest a closed-minded extremism. Positioning yourself as the party of nastiness and polarization might play well with small elements of your base but can't qualify as a winning political strategy.

 

Friction of the fall

 

In a sense, the current conservative dilemma seems unfair — causing some strategists to yearn for the hyperpartisan food fights of the fondly remembered good old days ... way back in autumn of 2010. During last fall's congressional campaigns, President Obama defined himself as a strident, often indignant party leader, ripping opponents as "enemies" who deserved to be "punished," or suggesting that the only appropriate Republican role as he steered the country would place them as passive passengers in "the back seat."

 

The voters delivered a clear-cut November verdict on such combativeness with historic Republican victories. But a revised presidential strategy emerged during the lame duck session of Congress — grudgingly at first, with Obama initially deriding Republican negotiators as "hostage takers" but later celebrating compromise on extension of the Bush tax rates. Before leaving for vacation, the president began projecting a sunnier face toward the opposition, registering an uptick in the polls, and culminating in his eloquent, effective speech on the Tucson tragedy.

 

He will almost certainly touch similar themes of accommodation and graciousness in tonight's speech at a time when Americans remain broadly divided on his job performance.

 

A typical AP-GfK Poll this month still shows 46% disapproval of Obama's performance as president, but most surveys simultaneously indicate big reservoirs of goodwill toward him as an individual.

 

Republicans should note a fascinating detail in a Jan. 13 Quinnipiac University Survey. The pollsters asked 1,647 respondents whether they liked Obama's policies and whether they liked him "as a person." The good news for the GOP: A slight plurality (48% to 46%) said they disliked administration policies. But the bad news showed a huge majority (73%) who said they liked the president personally. Only 19% agreed with the statement, "I don't like Obama as a person and I also don't like most of his policies." Even among self-described Republicans, only a minority (41%) said they disliked the president as an individual.

 

These figures argue the suicidal nature of any political strategy that scoffs at the president's current calls for a more amiable, uplifting tone. The key voters who could facilitate future GOP victories are the nearly one-third of Americans who say they disagree with Obama on policy but like him personally.

 

The GOP won't convince these citizens by suggesting that the president is pursuing a "secret agenda" to wreck the economy, or following the Saul Alinsky model for socialist takeover, or deliberately undermining American strength because of anti-colonialist "rage" associated with a Kenyan father he hardly knew. Even conservatives who insist — against logic and evidence — that such dark conspiratorial motivations accurately characterize this administration must acknowledge at some point that it's easier to convince Americans that their leader is wrong than that he is evil. The public will far more readily credit charges of incompetence than they will accept accusations of diabolical intent: After all, incompetence is vastly more common in human affairs than malevolence.

 

An easier case to make

 

Moreover, it should be easier to convince people that the president is inept on health care and spending than to convince them that he's knowingly trying to ruin the country to fulfill nefarious visions as a radical ideologue. Most Americans will stubbornly refuse to impute vicious motives to a familiar figure and visibly devoted family man, who insistently expresses love of country and good intentions.

 

It's more feasible to convince people who like Obama policies that these approaches aren't working than to convince the massive majority that is personally fond of the president that he's actually a bad guy. In public opinion polling, positions on issues shift more readily than responses to personalities. After all, the public still considered Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush basically "good guys" when voting them out of office for perceived mishandling of the economy.

 

And what of the Tea Party activists and others who remain deeply convinced of the bad intentions and socialist schemes of the president and his advisers? They need to realize that in a national crisis, it's more important to win elections and legislative battles than to advance abstract arguments about your opponents' motivations — motivations known ultimately only to God and, perhaps, history.

 

So when the president tonight speaks of "civility," Republicans should respond by saying, "We'll call your civility and raise you to graciousness — and now let's fix the mess with health care, the deficit and taxes."

 

By avoiding a protracted debate over political style, they can refocus on policy substance. And those are the arguments — polite, positive but principled — that conservatives can and must win.

 

Michael Medved, a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors, hosts a daily, nationally syndicated radio talk show.

 

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USA TODAY

OPINION

GOP ON RACE: ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK

BY DEWAYNE WICKHAM

 

Just when it seemed the GOP's pup tent was popping its stitches, Republicans again dashed any hope that their party might become a political big tent.

 

The illusion of GOP inclusion came in the wake of last year's election when black Republicans won congressional seats in South Carolina and Florida, the first time in over a century that a former Confederate state has sent a black Republican to Congress. The election of Allen West of Florida and Tim Scott of South Carolina— plus Jennifer Carroll's election as Florida's lieutenant governor — had some people thinking the GOP had broken free of its racial myopia.

 

Those breakthroughs came less than three weeks after Republicans were stung by the racially charged action of Dave Bartholomew, the Virginia Beach GOP chairman who was forced to resign after he was caught passing along an e-mail that compared black welfare recipients to dogs.

 

While the election of Carroll, Scott and West overshadowed Bartholomew's bad act, it has done little to burnish the image of the Republican Party among blacks and other minorities. That's because when it comes to burning bridges with this nation's minorities, the GOP can't help itself.

 

Proof of its propensity to act more like a white citizens' council from the 1960s, rather than the political party that ended slavery in the 1860s, came earlier this month. That's when Republicans in the U.S. House voted to stop delegates from voting on the House floor when the entire body assembles as "a committee of the whole."

 

The six delegates — minorities from Washington, D.C., and the U.S. territories of Guam, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands — have historically lacked the full voting rights of House members. They could vote in a committee, but not on the House floor where legislation is enacted.

 

But in 2007, when Democrats took control of the House, they adopted a rule that allowed the delegates to have a limited vote on the House floor when the entire body acted as a committee to speed up the legislative process.

 

Republicans argue it violates the Constitution to allow delegates such a floor vote, even though a federal appeals court upheld it in 1994. Since 1993, whenever they controlled the House, Democrats allowed delegates this limited vote. Whenever Republicans have been in power, it has been taken away. This time, there was reason to believe things would be different.

 

"America is more than a country," Republicans said in the preamble to a pledge the GOP made to voters shortly before the November election. "America is an idea — an idea that free people can govern themselves, that government's powers are derived from the consent of the governed."

 

But now that Republicans control the House, they've decided that Americans represented by the six delegates — five Democrats and one Independent— should have their ability to give consent to government actions through their elected representatives reduced again.

 

"If the representatives of people in Baghdad and Kabul couldn't vote, we'd call that an incomplete democracy," the Rev. Jesse Jackson told me.

 

Sure we would. And we'd accuse those responsible of being political thugs. But such harsh language is no longer acceptable at a time when many people think kinder words will produce better political behavior. So, suffice to say, I think the GOP's pup tent has just gotten a lot smaller.

 

DeWayne Wickham writes on Tuesdays for USA TODAY.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

OBAMA: MIDTERM CHALLENGE

 

Tonight, America's most unlikely president will appear before a joint session of Congress, with many Americans looking on from their living rooms, to give the annual State of the Union address.

 

He -- and we -- face an array of huge challenges.

 

While there are 97,000 Americans sadly engaged in a bitter, costly war with distressing battle deaths and wounds in Afghanistan, and 47,000 American soldiers still in Iraq, the United States and President Barack Obama face big problems of a faltering domestic economy, painful unemployment, too-high taxes and huge annual budget deficits afflicting all Americans.

 

Millions of Americans who need jobs are jobless -- with 9.4 percent unemployment.

 

Housing foreclosures hit 1 million last year, with even more being added this year.

 

Despite high taxes, federal government spending remains far more than a trillion dollars in the red each year.

 

So what is the president going to propose?

 

That's the challenge of his leadership.

 

There is no prospect for any immediate solution or exit from Afghanistan, where thousands of American servicemen and women are tied down, and even the proposed withdrawal from Iraq is uncertain.

 

There is no expectation of greatly reduced federal spending to bring the budget even close to balance, so our $14 trillion national debt is likely to grow.

 

And while it is not the responsibility of the federal government to provide full employment for all Americans who want to work, fiscally irresponsible federal government policies have put a burden on free-enterprise America, resulting in long-term joblessness for too many Americans.

 

There is not much that Obama is likely to propose that will arouse optimism. Considering the failure so far of his economic policies -- such as the budget-busting "stimulus" -- there is little he is apt to offer that will encourage us to believe his leadership is taking the United States in the right direction.

 

Presidents cannot solve all problems. But they may inspire us with good leadership -- or alarm us with its absence. The president seems to lack a vision, or even an inkling, of what our nation and our people should do -- now -- to face and solve our domestic and foreign challenges.

 

There surely will be great interest -- and great concern -- about what Obama will propose tonight.

 

Will he inspire us or distress us?

 

We should hope for the best but prepare for the worst as the president declares where he wants to lead us in the second half of his term.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

KEEP PUBLIC NOTICES PUBLIC

 

Public notices of upcoming government meetings and actions are probably not the first thing most readers turn to when they pick up the Times Free Press or any other newspaper.

 

But those notices serve a vital function.

 

Legal notices or, for short, "legals" let people know about things such as scheduled County Commission meetings and bids for government contracts. Legals keep citizens informed about the actions of their government. That makes government officials more accountable to taxpayers and gives citizens time to express public support for or opposition to proposed government actions before votes are taken.

 

Running those advertisements is not free, of course, and in the name of saving money, some government officials -- including officials in Chattanooga -- have wrongly suggested that they should be allowed merely to post the ads on government websites rather than run them in newspapers.

 

But that is shortsighted. Yes, legal ads provide some revenue for newspapers, including this one, and yes, governments at all levels understandably want to save money. But taking steps that would reduce public awareness of the actions of government officials is far too high a price to pay compared with the small amount spent on legal ads. (For instance, the city of Chattanooga's 2010-11 budget was $185 million, of which only $75,000 was allocated for legal notices.)

 

And the reality is, far more people will see legal notices in the newspaper than are likely to see those notices if they are quietly tucked away on government websites.

 

Gathering the ads together in the newspaper also provides a "one-stop shop" for readers who want to know about planned government actions. They do not have to navigate from one website to another for notices about different local governing entities.

 

We do not say that government should not publish public notices on websites in addition to publishing them in newspapers, as one more way to enhance public access. But little-noticed websites are not a substitute for general-circulation newspapers when it comes to keeping the people informed.

 

This is Public Notice Week, designated by the Tennessee Press Association as a week to fight attempts to remove public notices from newspapers and consign them to government websites. We join the TPA in opposing the transfer of legal notices out of newspapers.

Tennessee should keep its public notices thoroughly public.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

WELCOME DROP IN JUVENILE CRIME

 

Crime is far too prevalent in all respects and thus is a serious concern. But juvenile crime is especially upsetting because it not only harms the victims, but it sets the youthful offenders' lives on a bad course.

 

Any amount of crime is obviously "bad news," but there is some "good news": In Hamilton County, juvenile crime is in decline!

 

Criminal offenses by juveniles dropped 31 percent in the past five years, court authorities reported.

 

The local report, submitted to the Tennessee Department of Children's Services, says there were 3,989 juvenile crimes in Hamilton County in 2006 -- but such offenses declined to 2,754 by 2010.

 

That's still far too many, of course. Juvenile crime is plainly a serious problem when our young people have been involved in 2,754 violent and nonviolent violations of our laws.

But at least there's movement in the right direction.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

MASS MURDER NEAR MOSCOW

 

Any mass murder of innocent people is horrible -- whoever the target, whatever the motive, wherever it occurs.

 

In Moscow's busiest airport yesterday, someone who apparently was a suicidal terrorist -- the motive was not immediately known -- slaughtered more than 30 innocent people and wounded about 180 other people by exploding a bomb in the international arrivals terminal.

 

Russia has enemies of many kinds. Security is usually very tight. But the Domodedevo Airport, 26 miles outside Moscow, evidently was not secure enough yesterday to avoid this horrifying tragedy.

 

What was the suicide bomber's motive? What did the many people who died and the many more who were injured have to do with anything that drove the killer to destroy himself and others?

 

We live in a dangerous world -- and many were killed randomly in Moscow, for no reason that was immediately clear.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - A TRUTHFUL 'TRUTH COMMISSION'

Last week we commemorated the fourth anniversary of the killing of journalist Hrant Dink. Yesterday, we marked the 18th anniversary of the slaying of Uğur Mumcu, a columnist for daily Cumhuriyet. The thread tying these murders together is just that: a fragile fiber of speculation about the murderers. For we really don't know who was behind these killings, despite years of effort at explanation and half-hearted quests for justice.

The list goes on to include scores of other political killings, to date unsolved. And hundreds if not thousands of "disappearances," assumed by most to have been extra-judicial killings in the 1990s "dirty war" in the Southeast, are part of this horrific picture of injustice. In the latter case, suspects range from proxies for the state itself in its war against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, to rival factions seeking to control the region's heroin trade in a complex blend of terror, clanism and criminal drug profiteering. Several efforts to probe this history have been mounted but little can be conclusively said about any of it.

Which is why we hope the suggestion by the main opposition party for a parliamentary commission to examine all of this comprehensively finds support both in Turkey and among Turkey's allies in Europe and North America. The proposal, made Saturday by Republican People's Party, or CHP, Secretary-General Sezgin Tanrıkulu is notable for its reasoning and thoughtfulness.

First and foremost, it envisions representation by eminent, well-known persons and all political parties. Secondly, it would be immune from legislative or executive interference. Last, the proposal would give the "truth commission" full investigative authority to call witnesses and summon documents. An effort with any less authority and credibility would be another charade, which is the last thing the subject deserves.

The record of such commissions around the world has generally been good. Among the best known is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up in South Africa in 1995. It was seen by many as a crucial component of the transition to full and free democracy in South Africa.

Argentina had its commission beginning in 1983 to cover the "dirty war" of the 1970s and Chile had a similar panel that convened in 1991 and set to rest many (if not all) of the crimes of the Pinochet dictatorship of 1973-1990.

The South African example is notable for its emphasis on reconciliation, which contrasts with the model of the equally famous Nuremberg Trials that followed World War II. This is a dimension of any commission that also needs thoughtful discussion.

This effort should avoid the specter of the "victor's justice" that has defined many enquiries and tribunals to date. It must focus on justice for victims, an accounting with history and reconciliation with our past.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

PROSPECTS FOR TURKISH-ISRAELI NORMALIZATION WORSEN

SEMİH İDİZ

It was always a foregone conclusion that Turkey would reject any findings by a unilateral Israeli commission investigating the events surrounding the attack on the Mavi Marmara last year that left nine Turkish activists dead in international waters.

It was equally predictable that any unilateral Israeli commission would exonerate both the government and the Israeli Defense Forces for the killings. Therefore the Turkel report that was released by Israel on Sunday contains no surprises. What was surprising was Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan's response.

Why Erdoğan was "astonished" by the report and "regretted" its findings is not clear. Surely he did not expect Israel to say its own soldiers had murdered Turkish citizens in international waters with the support of their government.

Neither is Erdoğan's rejection of the Turkel Commission's findings all that important. What is important at this stage is whether the "Palmer Panel" set up by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will also reject these findings.

That commission was set up to find the "middle road" between Turkey and Israel. In order to do this it has been waiting for the Turkel report, and is ready to receive any other facts that it is provided with. It also has the power to question the sides.

The report containing Turkey's own investigation into the Mavi Marmara incident was sent to the Palmer Panel last September. The contents of that report were made public by Ankara on Monday, a day after the Turkel findings were released.

While the Israeli investigation maintains that the Israeli military acted in self-defense and in total compliance with international law, Turkey maintains exactly the opposite. It says the attack in international waters is contrary to the principle of "Mare Liberum."

This, Ankara says, makes the Israeli attack an act of piracy on the high seas, aggravated by the premeditated murder of unarmed activists who were trying to protect themselves against an illegal attack on their ship by Israeli forces.

Turkey also maintains that acts in violation of human rights continued against the pro-Palestinian activists on the Mavi Marmara after they were arrested and brought to Israel, including the sexual harassment of female activists. Ankara also maintains that Israel soldiers stole property on the ship belonging to the activists on board. This was corroborated later and resulted in court proceedings in Israel against the accused soldiers.

So the chips are down now and all eyes are on the Palmer Panel, and this is where it starts getting difficult for Ankara. Israel of course stands accused of murder in the eyes of the majority of the world, especially after the release of the U.N. Human Rights Council's report last year on the Mavi Marmara incident.

But that seems of no consequence to the Israeli government, which is more concerned with "legal liability" issues relating to the incident rather than the negative image it may be projecting to the world. It is clear that Israelis are resolved by now to the fact that they have long since lost the "international publicity war."

The Palmer Panel will have to take the Human Rights Council's findings into consideration also, for the sake of "objectivity," even if Washington voted against these findings in order to protect Israel. Be that as it may, though, it is not clear if it is fully understood in Turkey that the Palmer Panel is not going to apportion blame to one side or another, simply because it is not mandated to do so.

On the other hand it is clear that if it were mandated to do that, and if its findings were to go against Israel, Washington would immediately step in again to veto these findings. All of this was made clear from the start in the various statements from the United States about the Palmer Panel, and later in the way the U.S. voted against the Human Rights Council's report last year, even if the overwhelming majority of Council members voted for it.

The bottom line is that the panel's main objective is to see if a middle ground can be found between Turkey and Israel to get their relations back to normal. In other words, it will be seeking a political resolution between the two countries and not a legal one.

The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, administration does not see it that way, of course, and expects a verdict from the Palmer Panel against Israel. Therefore when the facts about this panel start sinking in as far as the Turkish public is concerned, it is almost a foregone conclusion that Prime Minister Erdoğan will go on the war path against the panel, and all those he sees behind it.

He will have no choice but to do so after the manner in which he has personally agitated the Turkish public against Israel. His hands are tied even more given that it is an election year. He cannot appear soft against the killing of nine Turkish civilians by the forces of another country, something that has happened for the first time since the Republic was founded.

The situation therefore does not portend well as far as the Palmer Panel's desire to bring about a political rapprochement between Turkey and Israel is concerned. As the Turkel report and the Turkish report on the Mavi Marmara incident clearly show, whatever the good intentions of diplomats on both sides, Turkey and Israel have been pushed into a zero-sum game by their politicians and cannot get out of it.

That they are prepared go on with this game points to the fact that there is no strategic value left in the relationship between the two countries. If there was this would have ensured that things did not get out of hand as they have. At least this appears to be the case for the AKP administration, whatever the feeling on the Israeli side may be.

The United States swallowed its national pride in 1967 for the sake of the strategic value of its ties with Israel, and decided the country was innocent even though it sank the USS Liberty – a reconnaissance ship in international waters – killing 34 crew members and wounding 170.

That incident is only remembered today by a group of aging and highly frustrated Americans who are still calling for justice for their mates, and bemoaning what they refer to as "the shameless cover-up" by the Johnson administration.

A "cover-up" such as this, for the sake of Turkish-Israeli ties, in not likely to happen in Turkey. It is even less likely to happen now after the release of the Turkel Commission report.

This is why until such time as Israel finds a formula acceptable to Ankara for an apology over the Mavi Marmara incident and pays compensation to the families of the murdered victims, the prospects for the rapprochement desired by the Palmer Panel appear slim if not nil.

If it does not find this formula, this will also confirm that ties with Turkey carry no strategic value anymore for Israel also, in which case we can say that Turkish-Israeli ties as we have come to know them are a thing of the past.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WHY ARE PROMISES NOT REALIZED?

ERDOĞAN ALKİN

 

ERDOĞAN ALKİN

ealkin@iticu.edu.tr

Time magazine has created a new phrase for insufficient job creation in the United States. Announcing that the official unemployment rate has leveled off "is like a patient on life support saying that at least he isn't losing any more blood."

This means that new jobs are far below the level President Barack Obama promised two years ago when he unveiled the $800 billion stimulus package. This is not the president's fault, of course, but indicates the changing nature of unemployment.

During past crises, not only in the U.S. but in almost every rich country, unemployment problems were solved with economic expansion. Unemployment was then a cyclical problem, meaning unemployment rose as economic activity slowed down and decreased with the same pace during an overall economic recovery.

However, this time the situation looks different. If unemployment has become a structural problem instead of a cyclical one, increased economic activity may not create enough jobs. The main reason is the technological advancement that increased efficiency in production and made hiring new workers unnecessary. Globalization contributed to this tendency as business in developed countries, and even in countries like Turkey, began to prefer to use cheap labor abroad – the result being firing workers in their home-countries and hiring outside.

Not just cheap labor, but also access to facilities that did not exist in their home countries, have both played important roles in diverting the path of new investments.

It is not easy to fight these structural problems simply through macroeconomic policy – such as pumping extra money into the economy. A different approach is necessary to solve t