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Friday, February 11, 2011

EDITORIAL 11.02.11

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 media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

Month february, edition 000752, 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.      ANOTHER DUBIOUS DEAL

2.      CBI'S UNDUE HASTE

3.      TARGETING THE KARMAPA - SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY

4.      LOOT INDIA, SALT IT ABROAD - ARINDAM CHAUDHURI

5.      CUTTING CORNERS - ANURADHA DUTT

6.      POLITICS OF CONVENIENCE - KALYANI SHANKAR

7.      WE NEED TO NEGOTIATE RISK BETTER - VINAYSHIL GAUTAM


THE TIMES OF INDIA

1.      FIGHT RAPE

2.      BRAKES ON CAPITAL

3.      WHEN SECURITY HAWKS SWOOP - VIRENDRA SAHAI VERMA

4.      'GOVERNMENT HAS TO CHANGE ITS MENTALITY'

 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

1.      NUMBERS DON'T REVEAL IT ALL

2.      HOTLINE TO HEAVEN

3.      1983, ONCE MORE? - RAJDEEP SARDESAI

4.      BRANDS OF SOCIALISM - SUNIL SETHI

 

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

1.      SPEND AND TELL

2.      STANDS APART

3.      A TENSE CALM

4.      INDEXING INFLATION - ILA PATNAIK

5.      REBOOT THE SYSTEM - PCSHARMA

6.      NO DEMOCRACY WITHOUT PARLIAMENT - JAYANTHI NATARAJAN

7.      THE SCREEN SAVERS - HARNEET SINGH

8.      THE END OF COMMAND AND CONTROL IN EGYPT - FAITH IS NOT THE ANSWER

 

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

1.      MR SHOURIE'S QUESTIONS

2.      MARK TO MARKET RULES

3.      WHITEWASH ON BLACK MONEY - SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE

4.      WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE  - YOGINDER K ALAGH

 

THE HINDU

1.      RISE OF THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD

2.      ICC'S EXEMPLARY FIRST STEP

3.      THE MINISTER VERSUS THE CIVIL SERVANT - R.K. RAGHAVAN

4.      ADDITIONAL SOLICITOR-GENERAL'S OPINION ON ANTRIX-DEVAS DEAL  

5.      FORMIDABLE AND STILL IN BUSINESS  - N. GOPAL RAJ

6.      U.S. FEARS SAUDIS OVERSTATED OIL  - JOHN VIDAL

7.      THE HIDDEN DANGERS OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION  - LEO HICKMAN

 

THE ASIAN AGE

1.      TOUGH LINE BY SC, EC A RAY OF LIGHT

2.      MELTING POT MENU - SWAPAN DASGUPTA

3.      IS BOLLYWOOD LOSING ITS WAY? - SHIV VISVANATHAN

 

DNA

1.      IT'S TIME TO JUNK THE SULLIED PADMA AWARDS - SHEKHAR HATTANGADI

 

DAILY EXCELSIOR

1.      ROAD TO SELF-GOVERNANCE

2.      HERITAGE PRESERVATION

3.      PEACE PROCESS WITH PAKISTAN - BY TAVLEEN SINGH

4.      SINKING HOPES OF GROWTH - BY DR ASHWANI MAHAJAN

5.      SCOURGE OF ADULTERATION - BY SHIBAN KHAIBRI

 

THE TRIBUNE

1.      PAK IMAGE MAKEOVER

2.      THE AARUSHI CASE

3.      RAPE VICTIMS OF UP

4.      GETTING ALL 'POSCOS' MOVING - BY B.G. VERGHESE

5.      CRICKET OR SURGERY - BY S.M. BOSE

6.      PAKISTAN'S UNSAFE YET GROWING N-ARSENAL - GURMEET KANWAL AND MONIKA CHANSORIA

 

THE KASHMIR TIMES

1.      THREE-TIER HOAX

2.      CONFUSION BEGETTING INSTITUTE

3.      GOOD BYE, HOSNI MUBARAK - INDER MALHOTRA

4.      RESTING AND WAITING..! - BY ROBERT CLEMENTS

 

BUSINESS STANDARD

1.      THE BIG CLEAN-UP

2.      IT AS UTILITY

3.      DON'T PANIC - AKASH PRAKASH

4.      OF GOVERNMENTAL HONOURS - BHUPESH BHANDARI

5.      IS THE FLIGHT OUTBOUND OR RETURNING? - N CHANDRA MOHAN

6.      SOME PRE-BUDGET MUSINGS - SHANKAR ACHARYA

 

MUMBAI MIRROR

1.      CASTLES IN THE SAND

 

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

1.      BACKWARD IN TELECOM

2.      FOREVER IN QUEUE

3.      JUST ZIP IT

4.      WE NEED A BETTER SPECTRUM POLICY  - REKHA JAIN

5.      SC ON MEMBERS OF BANNED OUTFITS  - RAVI SHANKAR PRASAD

6.      THE TUNISIAN CATALYST - JOSEPH E STIGLITZ

7.      THE PYTHON AND THE PORCUPINE  - MUKULSHARMA

 

BUSINESS LINE

1.      MAKING THE NUMBERS COUNT

2.      SUNNY PROSPECTS FOR WHEAT - A. GOVINDAN

3.      ADDITIONAL SOLICITOR-GENERAL'S OPINION ON ANTRIX-DEVAS DEAL

 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

1.      IS BOLLYWOOD LOSING ITS WAY?  - BY SHIV VISVANATHAN

2.      DIVINISE YOUR THOUGHTS, ACTS  - BY SWAMI TEJOMANANDA

3.      A POET'S TRIBULATIONS  - BY MAHIR ALI

4.      TOUGH LINE BY SC, EC A RAY OF LIGHT  

5.      MELTING POT MENU  - BY SWAPAN DASGUPTA

6.      HURRY UP AMERICA! EGYPT'S GETTING TIRED  - BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

 

THE STATESMAN

1.      ACCUSED MUSHARRAF

2.      DEMOCRACY'S DEATH WISH - RAJINDER PURI

3.      HYPOCRISY EXPOSED BY THE WIND OF CHANGE

4.      BEYOND THE NON-POLITICAL VIEWS OF E-GOVERNANCE

5.      DON'T THROW THIS IN THE BIN

 

THE TELEGRAPH

1.      AFTER THE THAW

2.      OPENING UP

3.      DEADLOCKED REVOLUTION  - ASHOK MITRA

4.      BITS AND PIECES  -  ALVIKA SINGH

 

DECCAN HERALD

1.      NEW BEGINNING

2.      THE NUCLEAR EDGE -  BY HARSH V PANT

3.      ICY CHALLENGE  

4.      IN WAEL GHONIM'S TURBULENT EGYPT  - BY ROGER COHEN, NYT

5.      A BREAD STORY  - BY PARVATHI RAMKUMAR

OHERALDO

1.      A TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE

2.      THE EVIL LIVES WITHIN THE GOANS - JAMES FERNANDES

 

THE SENTINEL

1.      WAR WITH DIFFERENCE  

2.      THAT PM!  

3.      KASHMIR'S SELECTIVE SILENCE  

 

HAARETZ

1.      BETWEEN DEMOCRACY AND PEACE

2.      BY BENNY NEUBERGER

3.      A BIG LEAP FOR THE ISRAELI PSYCHE  - BY CARLO STRENGER

4.      ISRAEL NEEDS TO HELP THE U.S. TO STABILIZE THE REGION - BY YOEL MARCUS

5.      THE INSECURITY MINISTER  - BY YOSSI SARID

6.      MORALITY ISN'T EVERYTHING  - BY GABRIEL HERMAN

 

THE NEW YORK TIMES

1.      BEYOND REASON ON THE BUDGET

2.      JUDGE FOGEL AND THE DEATH PENALTY

3.      PROTECTING THE WHISTLE-BLOWERS

4.      MARRIAGE EQUALITY IN NEW YORK

5.      THE FREEDOM ALLIANCE - BY DAVID BROOKS

6.      ABRAHAM LINCOLN, INFLATIONIST - BY PAUL KRUGMAN

7.      THE NEXT STEP FOR EGYPT'S OPPOSITION - BY MOHAMED ELBARADEI

8.      OUT OF TOUCH, OUT OF TIME - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

TIMES FREE PRESS

1.      SNOW -- BUT NOW SUNSHINE!

2.      ALARMING POST OFFICE LOSSES

3.      WHEN DID YOU LAST RIDE A TRAIN?

4.      CHATTANOOGA PEDICABS?

5.      SPENDING CUTS? STILL RED INK!

 

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

1.      FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - DRIVING A DISGRACE IN NEW YORK

2.      THE DAYS OF DISQUIET - BURAK BEKDİL

3.      WHAT HAS CHANGED IN EGYPT? - SAMİ KOHEN

4.      CASTRATION… - YUSUF KANLI

5.      THE DEMOCRAT 'SULTAN' NAZARBAYEV - GÜLAY KILIÇ

 

THE NEWS

1.      MISSING MEN

2.      PRESSURE MOUNTS

3.      Mardan massacre

4.      THE SAVIOUR ITCH ALIVE ONCE AGAIN  - AYAZ AMIR

5.      EGYPT'S STOLEN 'REVOLUTION'  - DR MUZAFFAR IQBAL

6.      'BETWEEN A ROCK AND  - S KHALID HUSAIN

7.      PIRACY AS CULTURE  - ENAM HASAN

8.      THE IMPACT OF THE DAVIS AFFAIR  - SHAFQAT MAHMOOD

9.      SIDE-EFFECT  -  HARRIS KHALIQUE



PAKISTAN OBSERVER

1.      LET THERE BE TAINT-FREE CABINET

2.      PAKISTAN IN GRIP OF HEALTH CRISIS

3.      ISRAELI AIR STRIKES ON GAZA

4.      SUPER SPECULATORS CAUSE EGYPT COLLAPSE - M D NALAPAT

5.      SAMJHOTA EXPRESS BLAST CASE - SULTAN M HALI

6.      THE HOLY PROPHET (PBUH) OF BLESSINGS - DR JAVED JAMIL

7.      GIVING DAVIS HIS DUE - BILAL ZUBAIR

8.      WHAT THE MUSLIM BROTHERS WANT? - ESSAM EL-ERRIAN

 

THE AUSTRALIYAN

1.      LIFT URANIUM SALES BAN TO INDIA

2.      BUT WHAT EXACTLY WILL HE DO?

3.      THE FIRST CASUALTY OF WAR DAMAGES SEVEN NETWORK

 

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

1.      STATIC IN THE FIBRE-OPTIC

2.      OIL'S SLIPPERY FUTURE

3.      NO MORE BUCK PASSING ON CHILD PROTECTION

4.      WINDSOR DENIALS SHROUDED IN DOUBT

 

THE GUARDIAN

1.      EGYPT: THE ARMY'S FATEFUL CHOICE

2.      IN PRAISE OF … SIR JOHN ROSE

3.      CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM: ALTERNATIVE CURRENTS

 

THE JAPAN TIMES

1.      TRIAL OF MR. OZAWA'S AIDES

2.      AMERICA'S RHETORICAL GAP RILES THE ARAB STREET - BY RAMESH THAKUR

3.      ISRAEL'S POST-MUBARAK FEAR - BY GWYNNE DYER

 

THE JAKARTA POST

1.      DON'T SMS ME

2.      ASEAN AS CONFLICT MEDIATOR

3.      SHIFTING BURDEN OF PROOF: A BREAKTHROUGH? - BAMBANG WIDJOJANTO  

4.      WIKILEAKS AND THE FUTURE OF DIPLOMACY - YAYAN G.H. MULYANA

5.      VIOLENCE, POSSESSION OF TRUTH AND BEING HUMAN - MERLYNA LIM

 

DAILY MIRROR

1.      PEOPLE'S ROLE IN NATIONAL RECONCILIATION

2.      NEPAL: SECRET AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE MAOISTS AND KHANAL?

3.      MUBARAK OUT, BUT MILITARY NOT A MOSES

TEHRAN TIMES

1.      WHAT IS SHIRIN EBADI LOOKING FOR IN BRAZIL? - BY SAJJAD SAHARKHIZ

 

THE GULF DAILY NEWS

1.      A WORLD WITHOUT COMPASSION...   -  BY JENNIFER GNANA

2.      LEAVE EGYPT ALONE..!    - BY ANWAR ABDULRAHMAN

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER DUBIOUS DEAL

THE PM, OF COURSE, IS UNAWARE OF ISRO SCAM!


The Union Government has to come clean on the controversial Indian Space Research Organisation-Devas Multimedia Private Limited deal if it hopes to salvage what remains of its image which has already received a brutal battering by a series of scams and scandals, most notably the Great 2G Spectrum Robbery. As of now, the more the Government tries to explain away the deal that gave away precious S-band Spectrum to a private player without competitive bidding the more it sinks deeper into incredulity. The decision by ISRO to cancel the agreement does not end the episode, because more questions are raised than answered. The organisation claims that moves had been initiated by the Space Commission to annul the deal way back in July 2010, but it does not explain why the process has consumed six months. Also, while the agreement was signed in 2005 it took ISRO five years to realise that the deal with Devas was not in the national interest. Even accepting the Government's belated realisation at face value, the obvious thing for it to do would be to initiate an inquiry into how the controversial deal was signed in the first place and hold those behind it accountable. But the Government's response so far after the dubious agreement was exposed does not indicate its willingness to get to the bottom of the issue. Even more serious than the fact that a faulty agreement which caused a presumptive loss of some `2 lakh crore to the public exchequer was entered into by a Central agency is the realisation that the Cabinet was kept in the dark about the deal. If, as ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan says, the Cabinet should have "ideally" been informed of the deal, one wonders what kept seasoned bureaucrats and scientists from doing so. It is clear that the contract was signed not just in a hurry but surreptitiously too. And, this raises another issue; since the Space Commission and other space agencies come under the direct jurisdiction of the Prime Minister, the culpability of the Prime Minister's Office cannot be wished away. Even if the Cabinet was kept out of the loop, the agreement must have been vetted by the PMO. So, how is it that the Prime Minister remained unaware of it until now? Apart from the matter of offering on a platter easy access to S-band Spectrum to a private player without bidding, there is the issue of the sudden rise of Devas Multimedia. It was founded in 2004 by a former Scientific Secretary with ISRO, and within a year it landed a deal that more established organisations would have given anything for.


Assertions by both ISRO (and Devas Multimedia) that no spectrum has yet been allotted — hence there has been no financial loss — are an attempt to obfuscate the issue through technicalities. It is a given that once the private firm was offered the right to use the transponders on the two communication satellites to be launched, the availability of S-band Spectrum would follow. This is even more relevant since the two satellites were supposed to be custom-built according to Devas's requirements for providing satellite-based broadband services across the country and specialised services for public sector organisations such as the Indian Railways. Had the Comptroller and Auditor-General not raised a red flag, the deal would have gone unnoticed and Devas would have laughed all the way to the bank.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL


CBI'S UNDUE HASTE

JUSTICE MAY YET BE DONE TO AARUSHI, HEMRAJ


Another dramatic turn of events in the Aarushi murder case — a designated court named the murdered 14-year-old's parents, Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, as accused in the case based on the Central Bureau of Investigation's closure report — may have done little to fetch clarity in a case that has remained strangely opaque for the past two-and-a-half years, but it has surely gone a long way in revealing India's premiere investigative agency for what it really is: A bumbling organisation that manages to tie itself up in knots while conducting an investigation and does not care a hoot about professional integrity. On Wednesday, Special Judicial Magistrate Preeti Singh named the Talwar couple as accused in their daughter's murder case. Curiously, this was done on the basis of information that the CBI provided in its closure report on the case, in which it said that though there was reason to believe Rajesh Talwar was the prime suspect, there was not adequate evidence to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Yet, the court found just about enough proof to convert the closure report into a chargesheet! In fact, charges were filed not only against Rajesh Talwar but also his wife Nupur Talwar who is now a co-accused in the case under Section 302 (murder) and Section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence or giving false information to screen offender), read with Section 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. Justice Singh's decision to reject the CBI's plea to close the case is a damning indictment of the agency's epic failure — for why else would it choose to throw up its hands and simply give up on Aarushi and Hemraj? It is really a letdown when the CBI — an organisation in which, the court said, the country has, or ideally should have, "unshakable trust" — claims "helplessness" and declares that it is ready to close a murder case because it can't marshal evidence against the man it believes killed his own child.


Yet, strangely enough, the CBI's closure report says that there is enough material to "indicate involvement of the parents in the crime" but due to "crucial and substantial" breaks in the chain of evidence, it is unable to establish "the exact sequence of events between 12.08 am and 6 am on May 16, 2008" and thus, cannot prosecute the Talwars. Nothing could be more distressing. What makes matters worse is the reaction of the parents — as of now, the couple has only been accused of murder and not been convicted of the heinous crime. They must realise that there is a body of circumstantial evidence that does not exactly absolve them of suspicion. If they are indeed not guilty, then they should cooperate with the the investigative and judicial process. Instead, they have damned India as a "banana republic". It's a shame and a pity.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

TARGETING THE KARMAPA

SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY


Why are officials attacking the 17th Karmapa from behind the cloak of anonymity? If there is actionable evidence, it should be made public.


Reading a police officer's views on the Karmapa Lama reminded me of a Bangladeshi diplomat saying that of all the countries he had served in, India had the most powerful civil servants. He did not mean efficient or politicised. Nor a boot-polisher like Mr Padam Singh in Uttar Pradesh. He meant that following the precedent of that hilarious British TV series, "Yes, Minister", our bureaucrats can also tie rings round our politicians.


So, an official like Himachal Pradesh's Director-General of Police, Mr DS Manhas, takes a public stand on something that lies, one would have thought, even outside the State Chief Minister's competence. It's only for the Union Government to decide on the status of a foreign dignitary and the political implications of his activities. Similarly, it is only for his colleagues and followers — in this instance, members of the Karma Kagyu school of Buddhism — to pronounce on his religious status. It's for the Finance Ministry's Enforcement Directorate, not the State police, to judge his financial conduct.


The alacrity with which bureaucratic nonentities have rushed into print may be a reflection of Opposition politics since different parties rule in Shimla and New Delhi. Or of inter-departmental rivalry. But drawing conclusions, prejudging issues and expressing opinions citing information that cannot be checked also reflects the residuary power that the bureaucracy has continued to exercise since British times when it ruled the land without being answerable to dhotiwallah politicians whom it held in contempt.


Of course, this can't be held up as a universal rule. Everyone knows of civil servants like Mr Padam Singh who don't need an Emergency to surpass even Mr LK Advani's famous stricture on journalists. This is especially true of States like West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. They will say it's necessary for survival; others claim it's the path ambitious personnel choose to forge ahead on the fast track.


Undoubtedly, there are innumerable similar sycophants in every Ministry in the Union Government too. But there are also officials who see it as their duty to thwart ministerial decisions that they believe to be against the national interest or to which they object for other, less noble, reasons. It was of one such official in the External Affairs Ministry that my Bangladeshi friend was speaking. Rajiv Gandhi assured General HM Ershad when he went to Dhaka for SAARC's inauguration that in future India would involve Nepal in river talks with Bangladesh. The General was cock-a-hoop about the promise. "I've gained what none of our 'India lobby' netas, neither Sheikh Sahib nor Hasina, could get!" he told us triumphantly over tea at the commandant's house in the cantonment where he lived even after becoming President. But nothing happened and I forgot all about the boast until two conversations many years later.


One was with a retired External Affairs Ministry official who told me how naïve Rajiv Gandhi had been. "He went and promised the Bangladeshis that we would have tripartite water talks," the official snorted. "We had to work very hard to get out of the mess it would have created." The Bangladeshi diplomat was equally scathing. According to him, the popular view that involving Nepal would also bring in China was only a clever smokescreen created by South Block officials to rally patriotic opinion on their side. The real reason was what the Bangladeshi called India's opportunistic inconsistency. New Delhi claimed the rights of a lower riparian state when negotiating with Nepal, he said. With Bangladesh, it insisted on the position of an upper riparian state. The two sets of claims were not reconcilable.

Despite the cunning attributed to politicians, perhaps civil servants do have a better grasp of devious logic. I cannot think of any other explanation for Mr Manhas's tortuous argument, as reported in the media, that the bank accounts that the Karmapa opened (and we have only the DIG's word for it that he did) were intended to endow him with legitimacy. "It was in all probability done to get him legal sanctity as the 17th Karmapa," he is quoted as saying.


Now, there's a conundrum for you. How can a bank account in the name of a monastery linked with the 16th Karmapa, and which anyone can open since proper nouns like Tsurphu, Dharam Chakra and Sherab Ling are not patented, make Ogyen Thinley Dorje the 17th Karmapa? He is venerated as the incumbent Karmapa for three reasons. First, he was recognised as such when he was seven or eight years old and still in Tibet. Second, because the Dalai Lama, Tibet's highest ranking spiritual and temporal leader, has repeatedly confirmed the selection. And third, because hundreds of thousands of Buddhists all over the world, including three of the sect's four premier rimpoches, revere him as such.


It's silly to suggest that any of these three factors was influenced by the name of a bank account. I have often felt that policemen (even more than soldiers) should steer well away from statecraft. This episode confirms the impression that they open their mouths to put their foot in it. The lie about the Karmapa using Chinese SIM cards was a prime example. They corrected it later to say the SIM cards were made in China, like most other cards. They said they had seized the cards. Later, they admitted no cards had been seized.


I wonder what these officials are up to. Why are they attacking the Karmapa from behind the cloak of anonymity, saying he is not the Karmapa, that they will never allow him to become the Karmapa, and that he is really a Chinese agent? If true, the man should certainly be unmasked. National security demands no less. But there are proper channels for such action and proper forums where responsible officials should lay their information to be impartially sifted and acted upon as deemed right and necessary.


That is what the country expects of the men and women, some in uniform others in civvies, who are paid to be the guardians of our security. Instead, the police, Intelligence and civil officials seem determined to use their authority and reputed access to confidential information only to mount a witch-hunt through the media. Mr Manhas and Mr Padam Singh show that the British Prime Minister who applied the harlot's tag of power without responsibility to the Press got his targets confused.


sunandadr@yahoo.co.in

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THE PIONEER

OPED

LOOT INDIA, SALT IT ABROAD

ARINDAM CHAUDHURI


Billions of dollars of black money are stashed in secret foreign bank accounts. The seeds of our black economy were sown during the licence-permit-quota raj: An evil nexus emerged between businessmen, politicians and babus, making corruption a way of life. Everybody profited and parked the ill-gotten wealth abroad. The practice still continues


It is often described as a global predicament. In India, people call it the country's biggest malaise. Yes, the reference is to black money and the black hole that our reprehensible politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen have collectively created.


Possibly, there is no nation other than India, which has been so shamelessly looted by its own unscrupulous citizens. And this insidious saga is continuing for years without anything being done. According to well-researched reports, the total amount of black money parked in various foreign banks by Indians is more than our entire national income. The figure is to the tune of a staggering $1,450 billion.


India happens to be the largest account holder of black money stashed abroad. Russia is at the second place with less than a third of the Indian amount. It has around $470 billion. UK occupies the third spot with $390 billion, followed by Ukraine, which has only $100 billion. China holds the fifth place with $96 billion, looking comparatively clean.


However, all this did not and cannot happen overnight. In fact, for the past 60 years, we have successfully created a system, which has allowed people with unsatiating appetite for wealth to systematically siphon off money to secret accounts in Switzerland and other tax havens around the world.


The seeds of this corruption were sown during the second Five-Year plan in such a manner that corruption almost got institutionalised and generation of black money became a natural extension. In an attempt to build an industrialised India, which is self-sufficient, the policy framework was drafted around industrial licensing, price controls and import barriers.


Though the framework was logical on paper and had great pedigree of success in erstwhile USSR in the 1920s, under the leadership of Stalin, — a similar model was simultaneously showing results in China as well under the aegis of Mao Tse Tung — what we forgot was that our political set-up was unlike that of the then USSR or China.

As a result, though the plan was to make India self-sufficient, our scabbed policies heretically went on to make select industrial houses, bureaucrats and politicians self-sufficient at the cost of the nation. Industrial licences were doled out to industrial houses, which did not have any track record or credibility, other than their proximity to under-handed political leadership. Therefore, incompetent industrial houses kept ruling through their quisling political connections and due to lack of competition, and generated illicit black money.

Political parties, in order to keep themselves in power, increasingly got involved in the vicious circle as they were financially supported by these industrial houses. With time, criminalisation in politics gained gigantic proportions.

An evil nexus between businessmen, politicians and the rentier-class babus ran mayhem across the country, making corruption a way of life in India and national loot their personal obsession. Amongst all the three classes, it is the political class, which has been the biggest offender as not only have flagitious politicians plundered for themselves but they have created an enabling looting environment for the enterprise to thrive.

Estimates published by various media groups reveal that in 1967-68, black money circulating in the country was Rs3,034 crore, which increased to Rs46,867 crore by 1979. Simply put, from nine per cent of GDP in 1968, black money accounted for 49 per cent of the GDP by the end of 1979. And mind you, that was 30 years back.

It is no secret that both the frequency and magnitude of scams have only multiplied with every passing year. Back in the 1980s, there were just eight scams; this figure grew to 26 in 1990s, and now this has seen an exponential increase and touched a figure of 150. Such has been the abysmal and ulcerated level of ethics that the unscrupulous political class has left no stone unturned to extract their pound of flesh from every possible deal — be it animal fodder, coffins of soldiers, or real estate meant for martyrs.


We have a devious Chief Minister selling the resources of one of India's mineral-rich States as if the same were his own. Another boot-legging Chief Minister went about misappropriating residential flats meant for Kargil martyrs. And if this wasn't enough, a double-dealing man who considered Indian sports as his personal fiefdom, misappropriated thousands of crores through the CWG route. Another knavishly malfeasant former Union Telecom Minister sold telecom licences, as if he owned them, at an iniquitous price that cost the exchequer and the nation a presumptive Rs1,70,000 crore.


When Global Financial Integrity in its recent report said that around $19 billion is lost in India as black money each year, we knew where it came from. Although as per Transparency International, a whopping 60 per cent of the total black money generated is routed into the electoral process, the obdurate politicians alone do not monopolise this plunder.


They have systematically created a flaringly vitiated environment wherein corporate houses can have their own pounds of flesh. Otherwise, knowing the blatantly debauched leakages that repeatedly occur, why would the Indian Government still stick to a no-tax-for-long-term-capital-gains policy? Taking advantage of this, degenerate promoters have been raking in crores of rupees by offloading their stake in their own covinous companies and siphoning them off to various surreptitious tax havens across the world.


--The writer is a management guru and Editor, The Sunday Indian.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

CUTTING CORNERS

ANURADHA DUTT


It makes no sense to reduce funds for tiger conservation


After all the hoopla over the need to formulate a foolproof strategy to save tigers, down to 1411, as per the last census, from 1827 in the early 1970s, when Project Tiger was launched, the Government has exposed its own indifference to the matter. The Planning Commission's decision to reduce the National Tiger Conservation Authority's budget by 25 per cent, with a meagre Rs150 crore, as against Rs650 crore last year, being released for the next fiscal year, has been castigated by conservationists. The amount is too little to cover both staff and conservation costs of 39 tiger reserves, and the relocation of villagers from core areas, with an amount of Rs10 lakh being earmarked as compensation for each affected family. The pruning down of the budget is certainly strange in view of the fact that protection of tiger habitat by relocating humans, living inside, is considered essential for the success of the programme to save the big cats from extinction.


An incisive critique of the Government's approach to tiger conservation is provided by former Project Tiger Director PK Sen. Pointing out that the money is too meagre, he recalls that 12 years ago, when he was Project Tiger Director, the budget was Rs65 crore per year. And this amount did not include the cost of relocating affected families from tiger reserves. His tenure lasted for five years. Given that the Prime Minister's Office accepted the proposal of the Tiger Task Force — set up in April 2005 to help reframe conservation strategy after the disappearance of all of Sariska reserve's tigers came to light — to make relocation of humans integral to conservation, the reduction in funds is unjustifiable. In contrast, an amount of Rs35,000 crore is earmarked every year for rural development, whether this money is spent properly or not, wasted or stolen.

Mr Sen dismisses the view of some activists that it would be ideal if humans and tigers could co-exist. Man-big cat conflict is inevitable when humans live in tiger habitat. It is 'scientifically established' that tigers tend to move out when people along with cattle shift into their terrain. As cattle and animals such as deer, which primarily comprise the prey base, compete for food, the former prevail. The herbivorous prey base then decreases and, eventually, tigers begin to kill and eat cattle. Retaliating, humans start poisoning the big cats. An added threat is locals being paid by poachers to give them information on the movement of the priced creatures. He blames the Tribal Rights Act, 2006 for having weakened the Wildlife Protection Act and Indian Forest Act.

That the issue of tiger conservation ranks low among Government priorities is easily gauged from the drastic reduction in funds allocation. At a recent meeting, the Authority had reportedly wanted Rs1,100 crore for the revamped exercise from the Planning Commission. This figure encompassed the additional cost of compensating relocated families, with 762 villages and an estimated 48,000 families being inside the core areas. The Commission apparently had agreed to allotting about Rs700 crore. But it reneged on its commitment, to the shock of the Authority, despite Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh having spoken to the Commission about the issue. Mr Sen expects the money left over from the previous year's allocation to be used. Even if the funds are released in April, the process of relocating families from core areas will take about eight to 10 months.


Thus, action on the ground is quite the opposite of Government assurances even as tiger numbers continue to dwindle, with the animals falling victim to poachers, disease, fights over territory and other factors. As a key member of the 13-nation International Tiger Forum, India, with the largest tiger population in the world, needs to set the precedent in conservation-related work. Merely hosting seminars and allowing wildlife functionaries to fly abroad to attend conferences will not do. Even the Prime Minister himself ordering modernisation of the management of tiger reserves, and seeking state-specific schemes for Central assistance is meaningless if the requisite funds are held back.


Such callousness is especially shocking when one views the state largesse, showered on the Commonwealth Games that were staged in the capital last October. Cost estimates vary between Rs60,000 crore to Rs70,000 crore, with funds, intended for schemes meant for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, also being reportedly deployed for games-related projects and work. At the end, it was all sound and fury, signifying that corruption among politicians and their hangers on had been institutionalised. Today, the games village and sports stadia lie empty. Even as New Delhi's Congress Government crows about having turned the capital into a world class city, on the strength of having squandered scarce resources on mainly inessential infrastructure, one can only lament the ruling regime's short-sightedness.


And one of the most glaring failures is in the area of conservation. Mr Ramesh may be bent on reviving wildlife, threatened by poachers, catering to global demand and to protect bio-spheres from predatory builders and industries. But, sadly, his colleagues, driven by the compulsions of real politik and business, do not share his vision, and seem hardly to care about the fate of tigers or ecology.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

POLITICS OF CONVENIENCE

KALYANI SHANKAR


Congress has rescued Chiranjeevi from slipping into oblivion. In the process, it has gained MLAs in the Assembly and can hope for Kapu, Balija and Telega votes


Producers and directors formed a bee-line in front of Telugu superstar-turned-politician Chiranjeevi's bungalow when he expressed his desire to do his 150th film in August last year. This was precisely 24 months after he launched his Praja Rajyam Party. It was the first indication that the PRP was in the process of winding up.

Mr Chiranjeevi, known as Chiru to his fans, has given several hits and as an actor, he has spread social messages through his films. Even in Telangana his films are great hits. He launched the party in 2008 thinking he could do an NT Rama Rao. But to his disappointment, his party bagged only 18 seats in Assembly election and was washed out in Lok Sabha election. Heartbroken, Mr Chiranjeevi began looking for other options after the 2009 Lok Sabha election.


The Praja Rajyam, since its inception, has maintained a cordial relation with the Congress. In contrast, it never had friendly ties with either the Telugu Desam or the Left parties. There were hints of a merger last year as the Congress was looking for extra seats to stabilise the Andhra Pradesh Government after Mr Jaganmohan Reddy rebelled. Mr Chiranjeevi met Congress president Sonia Gandhi on May 30 last year with promises of support to the Congress. The process, which began then, took about nine months to reach fruition. Definitely, getting the PRP merge with it is a tactical coup pulled off by the Congress. For Mr Chiranjeevi, he will continue to dominate Andhra politics, instead of bowing out, after the merger. With the formal announcement, a new political realignment has begun in Andhra Pradesh.


Like most politicians, Mr Chiranjeevi, who had formed the party as an alternative to the Congress and the Telugu Desam, said with a straight face, "Our party's main plank is social justice. The Congress, too, has the same plank. So in order to fight for the common cause, we have decided to merge our party with the Congress." But is that the real reason? Certainly, he is not talking of the package that has been worked out between the Congress and the PRP. Who would believe that he has not set any pre-conditions for the merger when politics is ruled by the principle of give and take?


The moot question is why did the PRP and the Congress think of a merger? The answer is simple: It has become a political compulsion for both the PRP and the Congress and suited them both, given the demand-supply situation in the State. The Congress needs more legislators and Mr Chiranjeevi has the number.


Rebel leader Mr Jaganmohan Reddy and the separatist Telangana movement have been giving sleepless nights to the Congress leadership for past one year. The PRP's 18 MLAs will act effectively to prop up the Congress Government, headed by Mr Kiran Reddy, which has 156 MLAs in the 294-member Assembly. Mr Jaganmohan Reddy, who has the support of 26 Congress MLAs, has been taking pot shots at the Congress saying he has been doing the party a favour. If Mr Jaganmohan Reddy decides to pull the rug from under Mr Kiran Reddy's feet, the PRP cushion will ensure the stability of the State Government.


The immediate test will be the Kaddapah and Pulivendla by-polls where Mr Jaganmohan Reddy is fighting the Congress. With the entry of Mr Chiranjeevi in the scene, the Balija community, which has a sizeable presence in the constituency, is expected to move towards the Congress.


The Congress needs a crowd-puller and a charismatic leader. Its experiment in appointing Mr K Rosaiah and Mr Kiran Reddy as the Chief Ministers failed to pay off. Mr Chiranjeevi, who is a superstar, fits the bill. With this new face, the Congress hopes to regain its lost support in the State. Mr Chiranjeevi will be pitched to counter the growing influence of Mr Jaganmohan Reddy.


Most important, the merger will help the Congress to win over the Kapus, Balijas Vantaris and Telegas as Mr Chiranjeevi commands the loyalty of these communities in the Andhra-Rayalaseema region. After the advent of the PRP, the Kapus voted strongly for Mr Chiranjeevi in the 2009 polls and helped him get 18 per cent vote share.

As far as Mr Chiranjeevi is concerned, the merger offer came as a god-sent opportunity. After he himself lost the Lok Sabha election and his party managed just 18 seats, he was looking for a face-saving formula. Despite getting 18 per cent of the vote share, he was finding it difficult to run the party. Although he was able to attract several politicians and civil servants before the polls, soon they got disenchanted and deserted him. In the past few months, more than 20 leaders have left his party. Already two of his 18 MLAs have shifted allegiance and moved to Mr Jaganmohan Reddy's camp.


If anything, his stand for a united Andhra Pradesh has alienated him from the Telangana region. Hence, his first instinct was to keep his flock together. And what better way to do it than to merge with the Congress?

He has also worked out an advantageous package for himself. According to insiders, Mr Chiranjeevi will be projected as the chief ministerial candidate in the 2014 elections. The merger at this point will give the Congress enough time to prepare for the 2014 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections to project Mr Chiranjeevi as the leader. The Congress is keen to gain back its foothold in the State, which is in shambles after the death of YS Rajasekhara Reddy.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

WE NEED TO NEGOTIATE RISK BETTER

VINAYSHIL GAUTAM


With the shape and size of risk constantly changing, sustained efforts are needed to identify linkages between corporate governance, enterprise risk management and firm performance


There is something about the world of finance, which can be quite teasing if one does not use a comprehensive framework of reference and is not sufficiently alert or analytical.


For instance, consider the pricing of oil. Today, there is a perception that oil prices are high. However, a comparative study on pricing shows that the perception is not correct. If oil was sold at $30 a barrel in 1973 and 1974, then using the simple logic of inflation, it would be priced today at $75 a barrel. It means anything above $75 a barrel should be considered an artificial price.


If we take into consideration the fact that cost of finding and lifting oil today is much higher, the story reads differently. In Saudi Arabia, the cost of oil may be $30-$35 but in Venezuela or Russia if the oil price drops below $60 a barrel, then it would be unviable. There would be no surplus generated by investment thus, negating the purpose of investment.


How should one see it when the shape and size of risk is constantly changing? Gradually, the risk is becoming incorporated in enterprise management as a policy and practice. But understandably, there is fuzziness around the principle and concept of enterprise risk management or ERM.


ERM, in the context of a commercial bank, is a process affected by the Board of the bank or the management of the bank, which is applied in setting the strategy across the enterprise. It is designed to identify the potential event that may affect the entity and to manage the risk in a way, which is within its risk appetite in achieving its objectives.

Enterprises are slowly realising that better capital management through increased predictability and lower volatility, as key factors contributing to shareholders' value, encourages robust decision-making. However, sustained efforts are needed to achieve this. What is required is identification of the linkages between corporate governance, enterprise risk management and firm performance.


A look at the trends as they have emerged over a period of time will help to clarify the issue. In 1988, in the banking sector, Basel I Regulations came into force which primarily focused on credit risk. In 2002, Sarbanes-Oxlay Act came into force. It was an important Act dealing with regulations. In 2004, Basel II was introduced. However, after the 1998 economic crisis, it became increasingly clear that Basel II was not enough. So talks of Basel III started. The Basel Committee in December 2009 prepared a 'Consultative Paper' for discussion. If all goes well, Basel III should come into effect by 2012.


After the final declaration, it is clear that the main focus of Basel III is Liquidity Management. While buffer has to be created, the composition of the capital structure also needs a re-examination. Tier I needs critical attention. The tendency to include anything and everything in Tier I capital is not only dangerous, but experience has shown that unless handled well it could lead to repeat experiences of very high risk. It is clear that the thinking has developed around terms of capital, which could really pile up with the option of definite free reserve.

There are factors that contribute to increasing the risk. There are even regulatory risks. Typically, there is an absence of instrument because in some countries the central bank does not approve a given type of instrument that itself could cause turbulence. Good management of finance and capital can only result from experience and understanding of turbulence. It is like walking on the razor's edge.


Without regulations, players tend to mutate the position and advantage. The off-balance sheet activities can cause phenomenal upheavals with lax governance and can take unique shape. Had no balance sheet explosions occurred, the crisis itself would have taken a different shape. This only emphasises the importance of collateral management.

In this regard, it is important to emphasise the culture of collaboration. As of now, we have a Credit Information Bureau operating. This is important not only within the organisation but also outside the organisation. The analytics around risk is important for adherence to basic risk under-writing.


Historical practices are good indicators of where to give credit and where to withhold it. Then, of course, there is the stress test, the scenario analysis and contingency plan. Timely reporting is essential to know a firm risk and this needs to be addressed.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

FIGHT RAPE

 

The spate of rape cases reported over the last few days highlights a serious deficit in security for women in India. A girl in Kerala was pushed out of a running train and brutally assaulted and raped. A 21-year-old accountant was gangraped by five men in Ghaziabad. In Fatehpur district, Uttar Pradesh, a Dalit girl resisting rape had her nose, ear and part of her hand chopped off. From Kerala to Uttar Pradesh, Amritsar to Jhansi, sexual crimes against women are on the rise. According to National Crime Records Bureau statistics, more than 53 rape cases are recorded everyday. In 2009, a total of 21,397 rape cases were reported countrywide. Given the number constitutes a fraction of the actual number of rapes that take place, the figures are a serious indictment of efforts to provide security for women.


At the root of the problem is the approach of the police towards rape cases. It has been documented that in 90% of rape cases the victim is known to the accused. This makes it all the more necessary to investigate such cases speedily. Any delay could be used by the accused to intimidate the victim and her family into silence. Unfortunately, this is the case most of the time. It is precisely because very few rape cases ever lead to conviction that the law fails to provide effective deterrence. The solution lies in implementing police reforms that provide confidence to the victims and their families to fight for justice. This can be achieved by establishing dedicated rape cells staffed mostly by policewomen, and strengthening them in terms of staff and resources where they exist. Having special fast-track courts to try rape cases across the country is a good idea.

Rape victims suffer a great deal of social stigma. It is one of the main reasons that prevent victims from reporting the crime. Trauma centres and rehabilitation services for the victims are integral to the fight against sexual violence. There is no escaping the fact that sexual crimes can be reinforced by a perverse patriarchal mindset that treats women as commodities. Gender sensitisation programmes need to be institutionalised in schools and colleges across the country to counter this trend.


In many cases victims are not even aware of the mechanism in place to seek justice. Awareness campaigns at the grassroots to educate women about what to do in threatening situations, and informing them about police procedures if sexual violence actually occurs, will greatly help. Better policing combined with speedy convictions and awareness campaigns is the answer to the problem.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

BRAKES ON CAPITAL

 

As Azim Premji emphasised this week, guaranteeing people's freedom to work anywhere in the world is essential for economic progress. But many western countries have responded to bad news on the economic front by erecting protectionist barriers which inhibit, specifically, freedom of movement. The US has once again increased visa fees for Indian IT professionals and the UK plans to restrict the number of Indian students. Such policies are self-harming because the freedom to move oneself is part of a triad of freedoms - the other two being the freedom to move capital and knowledge - which in combination are essential to the world's socio-economic development. Achieving these freedoms unfortunately still remains a work in progress. But given that the sour political mood in the West entails penalising newer trade partners such as India, what can India do in response?

The best response would be to turn this into an opportunity by incentivising businesses to move to India wholesale. If Indians can't travel elsewhere, surely capital and knowledge can come to India. The India-US nuclear agreement and its operationalisation by the
Obama administration improves India's access to restricted knowledges. Capital is able and willing to flow into India, but our government denies this freedom to international investors. Multi-brand retail, education and defence are areas where the Indian government, to satisfy short-term political ends, doesn't permit liberal investment norms. If India does open itself up further while the West closes itself to our human capital, then multinational corporations are liable to moving entire production processes to India. That would also entail, of course, overhauling India's decrepit infrastructure.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

WHEN SECURITY HAWKS SWOOP

VIRENDRA SAHAI VERMA

 

On the last day of 1999, when the world was preparing to welcome the new millennium, a group of Tibetans was climbing high mountains and crossing long valleys on foot - on their way to India. On January 5, 2000, when Ugyen Thinley Dorje appeared in Dharamsala, the news of the 17th Karmapa Lama's escape to freedom spread like wildfire. The Tibetans in exile, including the Dalai Lama, were thrilled. For the world media, the 15-year-old boy-monk's escape from the Chinese-controlled territory was the "story of the century". But, for the Indian intelligence, there was something fishy about it. They refused to believe that a boy, his sister and four monks could run away from Tibet.


The security establishment's suspicion lingers on. The Karmapa is not allowed to go to Rumtek monastery in Sikkim, the seat of his previous reincarnation. In June 2008, he was given permission to visit his centres in the US, but last year he had to cancel his foreign engagements as the home ministry refused to clear his trip. And now, with the recovery of some Chinese currency from his monastery, the sceptics are busy refloating their old conspiracy theory: Dorje has come to India to collect the Black Hat of his lineage from Rumtek and take it back to his Tsurphu monastery in Tibet. And this theory is entirely based on the "circumstances of Karmapa's escape" from Tsurphu, which is located in a "high security region of Tibet".


The Indian media has swallowed this theory without asking one simple question: how difficult is it to escape from Tsurphu? I had the same question on my mind when i went to Tibet in 2004. During my stay in Lhasa, i along with an Australian professor went to Tsurphu, which is about a four-hour drive from Lhasa. The northern highway from Lhasa was excellent till it branched off to a gravelled road. We saw only a few isolated villages along this lonely stretch. The area was barren with no cultivation.


When we reached Tsurphu, i realised that it was a medium-size monastery as compared to huge monasteries in Lhasa. Our visit was unannounced and we had travelled in a jeep with a Tibetan driver and a Han guide. They took us to the Karmapa's living quarters which were kept in the same state in 2004 as they might have been when he fled in 1999. Even a big notice on a blackboard asking visitors to take permission for audience with the Karmapa was in place.

 

On the first floor of the monastery, we saw the window from where the young monk had jumped to a terrace and then to the ground where a vehicle waited for him. There was only one sentry post at the only gate of the monastery and there was no high fencing. The monastery, on the bank of a river, was surrounded by high mountains. The structure of the monastery did not indicate that security might have been much tighter when the Karmapa had escaped. We did not encounter any check post on the entire route. We both were foreigners but nobody stopped us.


As someone who has worked with military intelligence, i understood that it was not so difficult for a determined young man to escape from this isolated monastery. It certainly was much easier than the escape of the Dalai Lama, who had fled in 1959 even as the Chinese army had surrounded the Potala palace.


All those who suspect the circumstances of the Karmapa's escape are ignorant of the ground reality and have too much faith in Chinese security. Until now, after 10 years of his stay in India, we tend to believe the Chinese claim that the "Karmapa has gone to India to collect his hat". To keep this myth alive, the Chinese haven't even removed the notice from the board at Tsurphu.


China has an interest in creating confusion, but it's very difficult to understand why we have believed the Tibetan monk's alleged links with China so credulously. It's being alleged that the Karmapa hasn't made any statement against China since he came to India. The Karmapa reiterating the Dalai Lama's views on Tibetan autonomy and curtailment of religious freedom in Tibet, has been reported on at least a dozen occasions. The Himachal police have accused the Karmapa of being a Chinese spy because they found "Rs 11 lakh in Chinese yuan" at his monastery. The fact that currency of at least eight other countries was also found has been easily ignored because that proves that the money came from hundreds of devotees from numerous countries who visit him every day.


With the Dalai Lama not getting any younger at 75 and clouds over the Karmapa's credentials as the next charismatic leader of the Tibetans in exile, no points for guessing who will benefit from these rumours. Power struggle within the Tibetan sects and the naivete of our police have done extensive damage to our foreign policy and security. The Chinese couldn't have asked for a better scenario. They must be amused; in fact, they are probably smiling.


The writer, a former military intelligence officer, is a visiting fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'GOVERNMENT HAS TO CHANGE ITS MENTALITY'

 

With considerable experience at the grassroots and at macro levels , Ranjan Panda drought-proofs perennially drought-prone areas in Orissa. Felicitated by WaterAID, amongst other organisations, he spoke to Deep K Datta-Ray :


What is your specific area of environmentalism and why?

It's water harvesting. It's a myth India doesn't receive a good monsoon. The problem is wastage, exacerbated by climate change. People have less time to collect rainwater for farming and personal use. I try to change this, put in place schemes villagers can use to harvest rainwater. As a sociologist, i went to remote areas to study local knowledge and stayed to help preserve it, especially in managing water because of the richness of their knowledge. Ineffective water harvesting means people can't grow crops, land is deserted, there is migration to urban areas and that generates a whole slew of problems at the abandoned village where soil deteriorates causing environmental problems. And in the city, look how destitute people live in slums. None of this need happen.

Can people quitting the land be attributed to water problems?

In Orissa, water degradation started at the end of colonial rule and was aggravated post-Independence by two huge mistakes. First, massive state sector water harvesting. This meant local knowledge was lost as government created a dependency syndrome. People stopped doing something they did naturally. Second, the state did a bad job. Central planning meant local practices were ignored. One example is the Mahabandha Yojana. Recently, massive water tanks were constructed in differing terrains. But one size does not fit all areas. Big tanks have problems, like silting, which cannot be managed locally. As a result much water is wasted and this is what i'm trying to stop.

 

How was water managed pre-Independence?

Villagers took care of matters. They knew how water flowed and constructed small structures to direct and collect rainwater. Locals knew the lay of the land and utilised the knowledge. They built structures - Katas, Mudas and others - throughout western Orissa which are now forgotten. They were ecological and economic marvels. Records show this was agriculturally one of the most prosperous regions just a century ago. Small was beautiful. People maintained these facilities on their own using knowledge built up over centuries. But now, a region which gave the wonder of rice to the world is drought-ridden. And it's because of gross neglect of these structures and systems.


How do you revitalise this ancient knowledge to solve today's problems?

We build on this knowledge and use modern science to excavate and renovate centuries-old structures. We retrieve knowledge about the local terrain and water movement and adapt it to newer changes. We also use modern biology to plan vegetation that prevents soil erosion. We encourage farmers to return to organic farming because the use of hybrids and pesticides is very, very water intensive. The land was not designed to support such harvesting. We have been trying to promote simple, low-cost interventions and the onus is on locals to plan, implement and maintain.


Are you suggesting that there have to be policy-level changes?

Very much so. The government has to change its mentality from looking at water harvesting as structural intervention to integrated ecology. That makes possible plans for systemic intervention, where all policies tie up with each other. Your readers will be astounded to hear that the ministry of agriculture decides on how much paddy is to be grown in an area without consulting the ministry of water resources on how much water is required! We need departmental convergence in planning and managing our present and future.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

NUMBERS DON'T REVEAL IT ALL

A striking lack of hubris accompanies the official forecast for the growth of the economy this year. Not without reason. For one, the 8.6% projection is disproportionately buoyed by farm output recovering after a drought year. Second, the world's second fastest growing major economy has not yet been able to bounce back to the rate at which it was growing before the global credit meltdown in 2008. Third, investment is displaying a hint of fatigue, a sign that the economy will lose steam. Fourth, our trade deficit is yawning appreciably as Indians spend their way out of the biggest economic crisis in living memory. Finally, and most ominously, the spectre of inflation that not only threatens India's growth prospects but also risks excluding millions of people a Robin Hood government is trying to drag inside the circle of prosperity.

The sobering reality of galloping food prices — partly caused by rising living standards — is no longer restricted to the managers of the economy. By hurting the vulnerable, food inflation renders itself unacceptable ethically, economically and politically. Hunger is not price sensitive and dearer food tends to squeeze out consumption elsewhere. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sees the growth momentum faltering unless inflation is brought to heel. Yet, it is difficult to shake off the helplessness inherent in his appeal for systemic reforms that could tame food prices. Since India began liberalising its economy, prices on the farm climbed by a fifth against prices on the factory floor. The first 10% occurred over 13 years from 1994-95; the other 10% in the 20 months to December 2009. Productivity gains in manufacturing and services have completely sidestepped Indian agriculture. Capital and technology have transformed India's non-farm economy; farming needs its share of both.

Modern and efficient agriculture would require economic reorganisation that carries a politically higher price tag than persistent inflation. It is unlikely that any political party can at this stage seriously countenance revolutionising Indian farming. But the UPA may have to revisit its ambitious welfare agenda if it makes economic growth less inclusive. Huge income transfers may have shielded India during the downturn, but entitlements that cost the moon may now achieve the exact opposite of what they set out to. Government austerity, on the other hand, could keep the economy ticking along without inflation eating away much of the gains that rapid growth renders. The growth-at-all-costs approach may well have run its course.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

HOTLINE TO HEAVEN

A guilt-ridden conscience too needs to keep pace with the times. Helping in that endeavour, as of now, is 'Confession: A Roman Catholic App' that can be downloaded by iPhone and iPad owners as an aid to unburdening that load off the chest. The Vatican, which recently gave its official sanction to social networking, has expectedly been guarded in its response, pointing out that 'confessing' to an iPhone, which is now being hailed as the "perfect aid for every penitent" cannot replace the traditional system.

The app has already got the approval of Catholic churches in many countries of the world. Though Little iApps, the three-member Indianapolis-based team that developed the tool, insists that the application will only aid in arranging one's thoughts before stepping inside the box, there are many in the world who will feel a far greater degree of comfort with their hand-held device than with a shadowy priest (or is it one's conscience) lurking on the other side of the wooden lattice. Unfortunately, at some point, the demons will have to be confronted as the app developers have already excluded the possibility of emailing a list of sins committed.

Our much-maligned country, we might smugly say, has already been quite a trend-setter in this regard. This ancient melting pot has embraced the digital age with great gusto, with most of its major temples offering online services to the devout. So while you will be able to propitiate the gods through e-Seva, you can contribute to the noble cause through e-Hundi. Also, once you have gathered those precious 'divine blessings' over ether, you can shop online for gangajal, shivalingas or rudraksha beads. Surely the day is not far when one will be able to perform iPenance and save the trouble of being roasted in the hell-fires of eternal damnation.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

1983, ONCE MORE?

RAJDEEP SARDESAI

June 25, 1983: Indian cricket's greatest moment has also been a giant shadow looming over every Indian World Cup campaign since. Every four years when the World Cup comes by, nostalgia takes over. Images of Kapil Dev sprinting to take the catch that changed the course of  cricketing history are replayed again and again. We rewind to stories of how a team of no-hopers conquered the summit of the game. The truth is, wondrous though the '83 triumph was, it's time to shake off the past. Indian cricket, and India, have changed remarkably over the last 28 years and only by focusing on the present can we once again land cricket's biggest prize.

Let's start with the cricket first. In 1983, Indian cricket was still short of self-belief. Yes, we'd registered the occasional triumph in England and West Indies, most notably in 1971, but for the main part we were a country that preferred to play for the 'honourable' draw rather than push for victory. One-day cricket, with the premium on big hitting, fitness and fielding, was even more alien to our cricket culture. Gavaskar's 36 not out in 60 overs in the inaugural World Cup was symbolic of  a team uneasy with the idea of limited overs cricket.

Kapil Dev, in a sense, came to represent the new world. We won in 1983 because Kapil Dev unshackled cricket from the timidity of the past. His enthusiasm and attacking style were infectious: suddenly, Indian cricket was possessed of a number of  players who were ready to play the game in the fast lane, including Krish Srikkanth who opened the batting like a Chennai auto driver in peak traffic.

Twenty-eight years later, that aggressive spirit infuses every member of this Indian squad. What was a sparkle in 1983 is now a raging inferno that spreads from Sachin and Sehwag at the top through the team.  In '83, defeating the mighty West Indians was a major surprise. Within six months, the bruised Windies crushed us in home conditions. Today, Dhoni's team are the number one Test team in the world, have won a 20-20 World Cup, are possessed of India's finest ever batsman and have shown the ability to win in all conditions.

In 1983, we didn't expect to win, now we are favourites. Much of that has to do with the changing economics and social demography of the sport. A Yusuf  Pathan will earn in one season of the IPL what the '83 team would have struggled to make collectively in an entire career. Big money can quickly turn the head, but in a strange way it can also build self-esteem. In the 1980s, Indian cricketers needed to go and play in English county cricket to earn a decent wage. Now, overseas players are desperate for a slice of the IPL action to make a quick buck. India is the capital of global cricket and that elevated status has brought a measure of self-confidence noticeable in the new young Indian cricketer.

The demographic transition is even more interesting. In 1983, the Indian team had only two players — Kapil and Yashpal — who came from non-traditional cricket centres. In Dhoni's team, there are as many as nine players, including the captain, who perhaps could be called 'small town' boys. Places like Ranchi, Jalandhar, Shrirampur, Ikhar, breed a certain fire in the belly. Jalandhar-born Harbhajan, who perhaps best exemplifies the never-say die spirit, was once quoted as saying: "If you've dodged the traffic in my town, then handling a McGrath bouncer is no problem!"

It's not just the cricket which has been transformed, so has the country. In 1983, we were a country struggling to grow at a 3.5% 'Hindu' rate of growth. Slow growth rate and few employment opportunities instilled a certain inferiority complex in the minds of the average Indian. Today, an 8% growth rate has created the basis for an aspirational society where managing rising expectations is the biggest challenge.

In 1983, the idea of India was under strain. The north-east was in foment, Punjab was facing a separatist threat, communal riots were undermining social peace. In 2011, despite fresh challenges posed by Maoist violence and terrorism, the fact is that the Indian state has shown the resilience to hold together and rise above divisive tendencies.

What does this have to do with sporting success? In a strange way, it does. Sport often mirrors society. For a long time, when we were a slow growth, protectionist, inward-looking society, it reflected in the way we played our sport. We never measured up to world standards because we were not expected to. As we became more market-friendly, stable and dynamic, we began to throw up sporting icons who could compete with the best in the world.

Just contrast our cricketing fortunes with neighbouring Pakistan. While we have climbed to the top, Pakistani cricket, despite brimming with talent, has slid into chaos and controversy. When you cannot play an international cricket match in your country for fear of a terrorist strike, then it is bound to affect the team's performance. A nation needs internal stability to move ahead, so does a world class cricket team.

Post-script: My World Cup dream remains of an India-Pakistan final in Mumbai with Sachin Tendulkar scoring a hundred to take India to victory. Can't think of  a better way to celebrate a rising India.

Rajdeep Sardesai is Editor-in-Chief, IBN 18 Network. The views expressed by the author are personal.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

BRANDS OF SOCIALISM

SUNIL SETHI

"Come rebel with me," shouts the young man with an electric guitar on stage, emerging from a miasma of purple smoke and green laser beams. He stamps and gyrates and throws off his leather jacket as he bursts into revolutionary Urdu lyrics by Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Habib Jalib set to rock music.

The cheering crowd is on its feet and, by the time he's on to the sloganeering number 'Dahshatgardi Murdabad' (Death to terrorism), it is lustily singing and dancing to his bhangra moves and clicking pictures on cell phones.

Meet Taimur Rahman of the Laal Band and a leading light of the Mazdoor Kisan Party, Pakistan's crowd-pulling socialist rocker. Armed with a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and son of the distinguished editor Rashed Rahman, Taimur is accompanied by his brother Haider on the flute and his pretty wife Mahvesh Waqar, a popular TV anchor, strutting her stuff in high heels and a tambourine. In 21st century India, upper class red rebels of Taimur's ilk may seem an anomaly but in Pakistan, where most kinds of musical entertainment in public are not permissible, they are a welcome, even necessary, form of political protest and release for pent-up emotion.

Can Pakistan be Egypt?  

But is the Laal Band not in danger for its combination of popular music and revolutionary fervour from fundamentalist groups? Not really, counters informed opinion, because left-wing and civil rights groups are not influential enough to stem the rising tide of Islamist orthodoxy and an ingrained "culture of patronage politics".

In a recent critique, the political analyst Huma Yusuf questions why Pakistan is incapable of erupting in the kind of popular uprising that has lately convulsed Egypt. "The economy is teetering, food inflation is soaring, fuel shortages are rife and the unemployment rate is up to 34%. Add to that religious fervor, rabid anti-Americanism and rampant corruption and you've got a veritable Molotov cocktail."

Her answer is that in a society that tolerates intolerance and rewards vigilantism, Pakistanis are unable to forge the kind of consensus witnessed in Cairo. "Success and survival in Pakistan depend on who you know, not what you are able to do. Given the country's history of tumultuous politics and takeovers, it is impossible to know who might one day be in a position to offer you opportunity, clemency, electricity or anything else you might need."

Or as political commentator Abbas Zaidi notes in a recent blog: "Pakistanis are essentially tamashbeens, spectacle-loving people — and we will cheer on with gusto anyone who does our dirty work, while we sit and watch."

Luxury cars

There is a storm of angry letters from readers on a news item in a leading daily about legislators' luxury cars parked in the reserved parking lot of the Sindh legislature in Karachi — a fleet of Mercedes Benz, BMWs , Land Cruisers and Humvees of American manufacture. The sight outside the National Assembly in Islamabad is much the same. The fleet of second-hand Toyota Corollas offered free to Senate members are deemed an insult because members want brand new cars; as a result the unused Toyotas are gathering dust. Is this painful display of luxury logical in a country with a public debt of Rs 8.89 trillion, the report asks. To drive the point home further, it highlights the contrast with the modest and sturdy Ambassadors used by Indian leaders and officials in New Delhi on Republic Day. "What a sight it was to see Indian service chiefs disembark, one after another, from their old and small cars, as did the ministers."

Socialist rock bands may be the rage in Pakistan but some examples of Indian Socialism have their adherents across the border.

Sunil Sethi is the host of Just Books on NDTV.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SPEND AND TELL

 

Purging political parties and elections of illegitimate money is an idea with broad appeal in India, its need publicly acknowledged by most political parties. It is also easier said than done, as democracies around the world have discovered, as they search for ways to clean elections and curtail influence and favour-mongering. Now, the Election Commission has asked political parties to maintain audited accounts, to be produced within six months of the close of the financial year.

There have been earlier moves to make election funding more transparent. In 2003, the Election and Other Related Laws (Amendment) Act introduced tax deductibility for political donations, if receipts were provided. Amounts over Rs 20,000 are supposed to be disclosed by parties on the EC website. Political parties are tax exempt, but are expected to file tax returns — though in practice their declared income is drastically understated. Partly, the opacity and rule-bending in India stems from the fact that the rules are so difficult. Election spending caps are unrealistically low, and apply only to candidates (exempting parties and supporters). Undisclosed expenditure by parties is still the norm, despite steadily increasing reporting requirements. Now, parties will be asked to keep accounts on an accrual system (as transactions occur), and rotate their auditors at least every three years. Various measures have been taken up to bring more transparency — for instance, the mandatory filing of affidavits of a candidate's assets and liabilities. And while these moves towards greater disclosure are a more sensible way to achieve the EC's ends than, say, capping donations, we need more reform to reach a tipping point. Public funding of elections has been discussed widely, if desultorily — its viability in our democracy is still to be assessed, but some measure of state subsidy can also be used to extract better intra-party governance and transparency. There should also be a move to structure private fund-raising in a way that inc-entivises many more small donors.

Any move to make party accounts more transparent must be applauded, as a stab in the right direction. Competitive and avid resource-generating by parties is at the heart of many of our high-profile cases of corruption — and this accounting exercise, even if it only skims the surface of a party's real stash, could be valuable if it's a foreshadowing of greater reform.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

 

STANDS APART

 

The Mumbai Cricket Association has a ready explanation for putting just 4,000 tickets on sale for the World Cup final at Wankhede Stadium on April 2. The MCA pleads helplessness in putting more tickets on sale, saying the largest chunk has to be handed over to the ICC (for distribution to tournament sponsors and partners) and to affiliated clubs. The MCA may have an excuse that is trotted out before every big match and this squeeze on the ticket-buying spectator is certainly not limited to Mumbai's stadia — but it is a reminder of the subversion of the way sport is administered in this country, as too the effect of this sidelining of the spectator's rights.

It's not just cricket. A few months ago, as Delhi embraced the Commonwealth Games, ticket-buying spectators asserted not just their numbers through the sales collections but also their fidelity by showing the contrast at many venues between their packed stands and the patchy attendance in the reserved ones. In cricket, the ticket-buying spectator is an alienated constituency. As the Wankhede numbers show, her chances of showing up at the ground for the big events are extremely slender. The telecast-driven commerce of the sport means revenue from tickets matters little in big events, and in this World Cup certainly the fan not networked enough to wrest a ticket will be little missed.

But this tournament takes place at a time when Twenty20's popularity has sparked anxiety about the longer formats of

the game. Cricket through the decades has been kept going by the informed spectator who turns up for the quiet matches too. By marginalising her so spectacularly, the sport snaps her connect with the stadia and dissuades her from turning up for the regular events. And then cricket agonises over falling attendance at Tests!

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

A TENSE CALM

 

Ever since the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council accord was signed in 1988 — which concluded the mid-1980s violence unleashed by the Gorkha National Liberation Front — the Darjeeling hills have been framed between years of a spurious calm, nurtured in reality by the absence of the state administration, and the emergence of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in 2007, which revived the demand for a separate state of "Gorkhaland" while abjuring the GNLF's bloodshed. However, if the GJM today seems to be increasingly retracing the path of the GNLF, the reason lies in the violence of the 1980s and, more importantly, in the lawlessness and economic devastation presided over by the GNLF in the DGHC. Moreover, the GJM never hid the fact that, like the GNLF, it would stifle other Gorkha voices. Tuesday's tragic deaths of two GJM supporters in police firing in the Dooars highlights the faultlines and tensions within the GJM as well as between the GJM and other Gorkha outfits, brutally peaking with Madan Tamang's murder last May. These may only sharpen as the tripartite talks bring an interim administration closer — the GJM's clash with the GNLF in Kurseong last week could have been worse. There needs to be more than merely apportioning blame for Tuesday's deaths. What the Darjeeling Hills need are: in the short term, restoration of normalcy and the end of violence; in the long term, a change of policy from the state government. Even as Tuesday's incident showed the very real danger of the violence spreading to the Dooars and estranging the plains from the hills, there has to be responsible and accountable governance in Darjeeling.

That is why, regardless of the fate of the interim set-up or the distaste in the hills for the state government, that very government cannot disown the hills. What that means is the constitutional provision of security, not the claims of proprietorship over

Darjeeling. Without normalcy, no administration can function. And the hills people must cease to be a pawn in the game for Writers Building and the season's loudest pro-Gorkhaland outfit.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

INDEXING INFLATION

ILA PATNAIK

 

As India grapples with the problem of high inflation, the issue of inflation measurement assumes importance. People sometimes feel that prices are rising faster than the headline inflation numbers reported by the government. This is not unreasonable if the government's statistical system does not correctly measure prices of the goods that people consume, or take into account the structure of household expenditure. In India, this problem has been made worse by the media and policy focus on Wholesale Price Index (WPI),

instead of Consumer Price Index (CPI). The existing CPI measures are a better measure of what is going on. The CPI is about to be improved significantly. In addressing our inflation crisis, policy-makers and the public at large need to focus on inflation as seen in the CPI.

In recent years, consumer price inflation in India has slowly crept up. There are four measures of CPI, which have broadly moved together. The CPI for industrial workers (CPI-IW) is the one with the most recent weights. The year-on-year change of the CPI measured by this index has exceeded 5 per cent in every month of the last five years. This contrasts with most other emerging economies which have, in general, witnessed low inflation, especially after the global financial crisis of 2008.

At present, monetary policy in India is not explicitly charged with delivering low and stable inflation. Even then, monetary policy needs to care about inflation, given that in the long run inflation is always a monetary phenomenon. In this context, a major problem identified by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is the measurement of inflation in India.

In a recent paper on inflation measurement in India, my colleagues and I examined detailed price data, expenditure patterns of households and the composition of different price indexes available in India.

Internationally, "producer price indexes" are widely used. These reflect "factory-gate prices", valued from the producer's perspective. In contrast, the Indian phrase "wholesale price" may record prices paid at various stages of the distribution chain: starting from prices of raw materials for intermediate and final consumption, or prices of intermediate goods, to prices of finished goods up to the retail stage. Furthermore, the price data used in the WPI may sometimes contain discounts and rebates, taxes and subsidies on products, as well as trade and transport margins. In addition, the weights in the WPI do not reflect the consumption of the average household.

Increasing trade integration coupled with the domestic liberalisation of administered prices has turned a growing fraction of the WPI basket into tradable goods, whose prices are determined in international markets. The evidence shows that the WPI tends to move with producer prices of other countries as a consequence of the substantial share of tradables in the WPI.

The domestic WPI is thus strongly influenced by the fluctuations of global prices of tradables and the fluctuations of the rupee. Domestic monetary policy has no impact on global tradable prices. In addition, now that India has moved towards a flexible exchange rate policy, domestic monetary policy does not involve an administrative control of the exchange rate.

There is a sharp contrast between wholesale price inflation, where it is seen that a range of countries has similar tradables inflation, and consumer prices which show a marked divergence of consumer price inflation across the same countries.

For these reasons, the WPI, while continuing to be a valuable source of data, should be de-emphasised in the discussion of inflation outcomes. The central bank should focus on the unique features of each domestic economy, rather than on the common factor of global tradables inflation.

To gauge the extent of the information delays in the CPI basket, we compare it with the CMIE Consumer Pyramids, a data set drawn from a panel data set where over 120,000 households are surveyed each quarter, for which we have a detailed breakdown. The weight of food in the Consumer Pyramids data set is similar to that seen in the CPI-IW. Within food also, we find that the distribution of expenditure is not too dissimilar across the two sets of weights. This increases our confidence in the CPI-IW.

The national CPI, which is going to be soon released, will measure both urban and rural consumer prices. It will be based on the latest weights in the most recent 2004 round of the National Sample Survey of household expenditure. We may expect that these changes will further increase confidence in the CPI.

Two other issues in data quality of the CPI are food prices and the prices of services. When food prices in the CPI are compared to those from other sources like the ministry of agriculture or data collected by NCDEX, it is found that the data in the CPI broadly corresponds with the information from other sources. This inspires further confidence in the CPI.

Second, while services account for half of India's GDP and a large share of household consumption expenditure, there is no price index for output prices in this sector, neither at the consumer nor at the producer level. The only price series available for some services are those that have always been routinely collected in the CPI surveys (in particular for the CPI-IW).

Confidence in the information content of the CPI-IW suggests that the acceleration in year-on-year inflation beyond 5 per cent from early 2006 onwards should be seen as a serious problem. The problem of high and volatile inflation should not be downplayed on the grounds that it is based on low quality information.

The Central Statistical Office's plans of releasing a new CPI series for India this month lends fresh salience to this question. This new CPI is likely to become the best

option for a headline inflation indicator, through significant improvement upon existing price indexes in terms of representation, quality of price collection and weighting. The release of this new CPI is a natural opportunity for RBI to de-emphasise other inflation measures and

focus on the new CPI.

The writer is a professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Delhi, express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

REBOOT THE SYSTEM

PCSHARMA

 

History books have divided India's past into different periods like the ancient age, the Mughal period, the British period, etc. However, the last few decades, of the age which began after Independence, would certainly compel historians to describe it as the age of corruption and kickbacks.

Unprecedented corruption, a proliferation of scams, growing involvement of public servants occupying high positions (including chief secretaries, directors-general of police, senior judges, ministers, heads of financial institutions, chairmen of regulatory boards, etc) and media reports of about $500 billion stashed in foreign banks, would all justify this categorisation. As a result, public faith in the government has plummeted to new depths.

Safeguarding the financial integrity of the country is as vital as protecting its territorial integrity. But if institutions like the Central Vigilance Commission — set up in 2002 with a renewed mandate to cleanse public life — become the focus of national controversy, there are natural doubts on the system's intention and the capacity to confront corruption. These doubts are only deepened when it is revealed that these institutions are failing to fight, collectively and resolutely, external intrusions into their defined roles.

Besides impeding growth and development, corruption has caused several upheavals in independent India's history. A major state government was dismissed on charges of corruption and president's rule imposed following the Sarkaria Commission's report. The JP movement, launched in 1974, caused a political turmoil in the country. The bank security scam of the early 1990s conceived and carried out by Harshad Mehta and senior bankers subverted the banking sector. The Telgi scam undermined the very credibility of our currency system. The fodder scam of Bihar caused convulsions in both administrative and political fields. Refreshingly, in 64 cases of this scam which involved politicians, public servants and other individuals, 935 convictions have been awarded. The impact of this all-pervasive corruption is palpable, on our economic growth, development, health, education and, above all, on the public distribution system and on welfare schemes like NREGS.

In a PIL in the Supreme Court, it is alleged that a large part of the NREGS funds in a state have been siphoned off by corrupt officials. Startling instances of poor landowners compelled to part with their small holdings under duress for most inadequate recompense, prosecution of those who declined to oblige the corporate body, have also been reported. These are some of the dismal features of governance today.

The lust for lucre and clout are the motives that impel an individual or a group to commit fraud. But the culture of impunity and the collapse of vigil are responsible for widening the scope and territory of corruption.

What is the remedy? Investigations are integral to finding out the truth and bringing the corrupt to book. There is a plethora of investigating agencies, vigilance organisations, ombudsmen, lokayuktas, etc, but their record falls far below public expectation.

One more special law, the Lokpal Act, is under consideration to combat current levels of corruption, especially in the political field. Special laws may be an answer to special situations, but adding to the list of existing laws without critical appraisal of their implementation may not be the right remedy.

Access to law is not the same thing as access to justice. Therefore, expeditious trials and the certainty of conviction are needed to dispel the growing dissatisfaction with justice-delivery institutions. But this task will remain incomplete if rooting out corruption from judiciary is not accorded the same, if not greater, priority as other wings of governance are.

The corrupt are often shielded by their colleagues, which thwarts the efforts of honest public servants. This is an internal challenge the system must confront.

Drastic administrative measures like Article 311(2) of the Constitution have become necessary to weed out the corrupt. Recall how the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) set up in Hong Kong in 1974 led to the summary dismissal of hundreds of public servants. The result is almost zero levels of corruption.

For a permanent bulwark against corruption, the public must maintain its own vigil and express its rage, so necessary in a democracy.

The prime minister's recent exhortation to chief secretaries to take on corruption "frontally, boldly and quickly" is both a cry of anguish and a call for action. The state has no other alternative than to assume this role, to satisfy popular yearning for a clean, corruption-free environment, which is a human right.

The writer is a member of the National Human Rights Commission, express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

NO DEMOCRACY WITHOUT PARLIAMENT

JAYANTHI NATARAJAN

 

At the end of possibly the most dismal session of the Rajya Sabha in the history of our Republic, the chairman of the House, Hamid Ansari, observed with anguish that members should perceive the difference between dissent, remonstration, agitation and disruption. Profound words, which were quickly lost in the din of political one-upmanship. Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar put it starkly: "A good driver is one who does not cause a traffic jam." However, for me, the words that kept resonating were from an article I read somewhere: "There can be no democracy if Parliament stops functioning." This one sentence summarises whatever needs to be said.

This winter session of Parliament, as dozens of others before me have observed, was a complete washout. Twenty-two entire business days were lost in the din and obstruction of the functioning of Parliament. Thirty-two important pieces of legislation, including those on free and compulsory education and reservation of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, and over a dozen economic bills were neither discussed nor passed. Both the Houses worked for seven out of the 138 hours scheduled for the session — in other words, work occupied 6 per cent of the time of Parliament. Ninety-four per cent of Parliament's very expensive time, paid for with taxpayers' money, was lost in disruption. The caveat, however, is that parliamentary work perhaps occupied even less time than this, since at least two hours out of the seven being counted were spent listening to the address of the visiting US president, Barack Obama.

Senior BJP leader L.K. Advani observed that "sometimes business not proceeding also yields results". His word and intent are incomprehensible to me, but all that can be said is that if this was an attempt to justify his party colleagues storming into the well every day, shouting slogans for five minutes, getting the Houses adjourned, and then going home with the satisfaction of the day's work well done, then it was at the very least ill-advised on the part of a leader of Advani's stature to even attempt justification.

The issues are too well known to bear repetition, and the arguments about the JPC versus the PAC have been debated at length. At the core of the imbroglio lies an issue crucial to the health and future of Indian democracy. How do we make Parliament and, thereby, our democracy work? How do we work out the dynamics between the government and the opposition, the majority and the minority, so that both are enabled to function to the best of their ability without either compromising their mandates and principles or jeopardising their political and electoral interests?

If the JPC issue is examined in greater depth, it would be interesting to remember that after blocking Parliament for days, demanding a JPC on the Bofors issue, when the government finally conceded their demand, the then opposition in 1988 proceeded to boycott the Bofors JPC on the ground that it had too many Congress members. I repeat, therefore, where does one draw the line?

There can be no doubt that the voice of the opposition must be heard and respected. It cannot make for a healthy democracy if the majority rides roughshod over the opposition on the sheer strength of numbers. A mature government will have to find ways to establish a healthy working relationship with the opposition, which is exactly what the UPA government is doing. Above all, if we are to preserve the glorious traditions of our Parliament we have to first completely avoid intemperate and occasionally vicious hostility, and preserve at all costs, respect for each other's right to speak, if not for our views.

Second, all parties big and small, should self-regulate so that even while forcefully making their points, they always observe the rules and procedure of the Houses, and at any rate, never cross the bounds of decency and decorum. I am ashamed to say that during the passage of the Women's Reservation Bill in Parliament many of us women were pinched, pushed and shoved by one or two male colleagues. If it is explicitly understood by troublemakers that they will be ostracised by the Houses and by the public at large if they misbehave, it would have a salutary effect on their demeanour in Parliament.

Third, the presiding officers of the Houses have vast powers to regulate the functioning of the Houses and discipline unruly members, including suspension or removal. Until now, they have never really used their powers, and have been extraordinarily tolerant of erring members. This in sharp contrast to many state legislatures where unruly members are bodily carried out by the watch and ward, in response to orders from the Chair. Perhaps the time has come for the presiding

officers to think about swift action against unruly members.

It has to be mentioned that the media plays a huge role in the disruptions that occur in Parliament. The media finds it far more newsworthy to report disruption than to report a good debate. If the media can be persuaded to simply black out unruly behaviour, and report good debates, there is no doubt that disruptions of Parliament will dramatically decrease.

In 1917, Mahatma Gandhi wrote about the future Parliament of India:

"What then would our Parliament do if we had one? When we have it, we would have a right to commit blunders and to correct them. In the early stages we are bound to make blunders... He who has no right to err can never go forward... The freedom to err and the power to correct errors is one definition of Swaraj."

The writer is Rajya Sabha MP and Congress spokesperson

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE SCREEN SAVERS

HARNEET SINGH

 

"Hit hai toh fit hai" is a popular industry mantra. A hit film is the only All Area Access pass to all things bright and beautiful in B-Town.

Take, for instance, Anushka Sharma. A mere three films old, she is already a contender for a lifetime achievement award for playing the perfect Punjabi kudi on screen. She played a meek young Punjabi wife in her debut Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and turned into a chalu smuggler in Badmaash Company. However, it was in her third film, Band Baaja Baaraat, that she truly came into her own as the pitch-perfect Janakpuri wedding planner, Shruti Kakkar.

The success of the film has propelled Sharma into the A-list. Currently on a publicity blitz for her new film, Patiala House, the Bangalore girl is painstakingly correcting the audience's perception that she is a Punjabi. She can't really blame the media for the "typecast question" since the title of her new film again screams, well, Punjabi.

Sharma has learnt to tackle the Punjabi issue with finesse. She acknowledges it as a compliment ("I am proud that my acting is so good that people actually confuse me for a Punjabi") and spells out her future course of action ("I will not try to break an image that is working for me"). Why fix what ain't broke?

The buzz is that the entire publicity strategy for Patiala House has been changed to accommodate Sharma's growing star stock. The Nikhil Advani film was initially positioned as a father-son story with posters and promos woven around Akshay Kumar and Rishi Kapoor. Post the success of Band Baaja Baaraat, new promos highlighting Sharma's character were hurriedly put on air.

Sharma can share happy stories with Katrina Kaif. During Raajneeti, a film top-lining National Award-winning actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Nana Patekar, Manoj Bajpayee, Ajay Devgn and (ahem) Arjun Rampal — the focus was firmly on Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor. In fact, the entire publicity campaign for the film was nicely wrapped around Kaif's cotton sari. Her last release, Tees Maar Khan, also revolved around her belly dancing. What if the title of the film was Tees Maar Khan? Let's face it, 'Sheila Ki Jawani' was the only take-home from that movie.

The wise man was right. Nothing succeeds like success. Ask Aamir Khan who is going about town these days flaunting a mysterious smile. Unlike the case of Mona Lisa, we don't need historians to decode that smile. He's enjoying his golden run as actor, director and producer. The importance of an Aamir Khan film can be garnered from the fact that Yash Raj Films announced his casting as the anti-hero in Dhoom 3 a good 12 months before the film rolls out.

For Aamir, the Dhoom 3 announcement tied in well with the wedding reception that he threw for nephew Imran and his bride Avantika. Aamir's party — attended by Bollywood stars, bureaucrats, industrialists, politicians and sportsmen — was a subtle show of success, the incredible turnout a reflection of his goodwill. The party could have easily come across as a direct display of power, but Aamir made it all heart by attaching the warmth of a family function.

About time Aamir threw a bash. After all, success and celebration are shadows of each other.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE END OF COMMAND AND CONTROL IN EGYPT

 

The sea of people pulsated with energy, galvanised by the words of Wael Ghonim, the young Google executive who got the Mubarak treatment — 12-day disappearance, blindfolding, interrogation — before a tweet that will one day be etched in some granite memorial: "Freedom is a bless that deserves fighting for it."

The fight goes on. In the Tahrir Square crowd, I ran into Ahmed el-Shamy, a Pfizer executive. He's 54, and like many of his generation who have known only dictatorship since the coup of 1952, he can hardly believe his eyes. "Our youth makes fear history," he said.

Ghonim's tweet and a shattering TV interview afterward got Pfizer employees and much of Egypt re-energised in their quest for the dignity that comes with being actors in a nation's destiny rather than its pawns. A sign I've seen sums things up: "Tahrir Square — closed for constitutional changes."

Much of Egypt is closed, too, including the stock market and a tourism industry that accounts for 8 per cent of gross domestic product. Hosni Mubarak, to his credit, took Egypt into the global economy. Part of the payback is that the world gets to judge Egypt with its pocketbook. The question arises: Is this stubborn president ready to take his country down with him?

Everything I hear suggests the army will not fire on its own people. Mubarak does not dare order them to shoot for fear of the response. Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, his defence minister, has strong views on this subject. He expressed them to a Western diplomat during the Tunisian uprising: The army exists to defend the nation, not a regime.

If the army won't shoot, the protesters won't disperse, leaving the stand-off: Until he goes, they remain.

With each day of impasse the economy sinks further. There are strikes in Cairo and Suez. The days of a dictatorship that won't —- or can't — use brutality in crisis are probably numbered.

At Pfizer, everyone was talking about Ghonim, the young Egyptian representing a generation that the old Egyptian, Mubarak, cannot comprehend. The pharaoh has lost contact.

It's happened before: Mubarak's anti-democratic regime, the successor to Nasser's and Sadat's (but without the charisma), is the 45th in a line of houses stretching back to 3,000 BC. This, too, must pass. When? They were changing political allegiance at Pfizer, saying, yes, the almost 300 dead, shot by security goons, must not die for nothing; and, yes, what happened to Ghonim could happen to any Egyptian in Mubarak's black-hole security state. "My generation grew to think we can accept anything," El-Shamy said. "But the youth, they refresh us, remind us of dignity, fairness, freedom."

His son, Omar, 21, was standing beside him. "Maybe Mubarak thought he's controlled things," Omar said. "But lies don't last." As we talked, Cairo University law professors filed past to declare that Egypt must become a nation of laws because that's the only kind of nation that guarantees people rights. As Fouad Ajami has written of the Arab condition: "The fundamentalist call has resonance because it invites men to participate — and here again there is a contrast to an official political culture that reduces citizens to spectators and asks them to leave things to the rulers."

American values and interests do not always coincide — perhaps they rarely coincide. Diplomacy comes down to juggling them. That US values are embodied on Tahrir Square is as clear as the lines of the pyramids. I say its interests, on balance, lie there too: in the establishment of a participatory society that would return Egypt to its pivotal place in the Arab world and give the young hope.

The US no longer has the power to impose solutions. But Barack Obama's wavering on Egypt will not honour him. His story is the American gift of self-empowerment: Do not deny it to Egyptians.

The credibility of Mubarak in guiding a democratic transition is zero. He is an antidemocrat by formation and temperament. Everything offered so far — from amnesties to constitutional reform committees — has screamed: We can run down the clock on this.

I walked out of the square between two tanks. The gap between them was two feet wide. You had to crouch and squirm. Women went through with little kids. Behind us were thousands of people. One surge and we would all have been crushed. I thought: If we can pass unscathed through the eye of this needle, Egypt can tread the narrow path to better days. The tragedy of Mubarak is that he underestimated his own people.ROGER COHEN

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

FAITH IS NOT THE ANSWER

 

The recent events in Tunisia and Egypt have revived interest in the question of why the Middle East has been seemingly resistant to the democratic "waves" that have swept much of the rest of the world. Starting with Portugal in 1974, and then in many countries of Latin America, these have transformed, most recently, countries of the former Soviet Union and in Africa. (There have been some reversions to autocratic rule, in Russia most notably, and China remains strikingly high and dry.)

"Islam" is far too often the one-word answer to the question.

But , as Shekhar Gupta points out in 'Cry Freedom' (IE, February 5) it is only most of the countries of north Africa and the Arab Middle East that have pure dictatorships, and not the "Islamic world" more generally. Muslim majority countries that are "free" or "partly free" (in the Freedom House listing) include Indonesia, Turkey, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Pakistan as well as the Arab countries of Morocco and Kuwait. These contain a huge majority of the population of Muslim majority countries. And, according to the State of Democracy in South Asia report, Muslims who express an opinion in India favour democracy in about the same numbers (67 per cent) as the Indian population as a whole (70 per cent). So the absence of democracy in most Arab countries must be due to something other than the tenets of Islam.

We have made this mistake before, of arguing that a country or a region is not democratic because of the religion of its ruling majority community. The Southern Europe (Greece, Spain, Portugal), Eastern Europe and Latin American democracy "waves" swept away authoritarian regimes in countries that are mainly either Orthodox Christian or, more significantly, Catholic. Scholars as well as politicians and other political activists said that the hierarchical nature of the Catholicism — and the powers of the pope — was the problem. Many, many US citizens, certainly as recently as during John F. Kennedy's election campaign of 1960, saw Catholicism as a serious threat to democracy. Serious

political scientists as late as the 1960s argued that one of the best predictors of whether a country would be democratic was whether its people were Protestant Christians.

How then did all of those Catholic countries become democracies? It is true that the Catholic Church changed in the 1960s, under Pope John XXIII. The "Christian Democratic" parties of Europe began to shed their explicit religious agendas. Transitions from authoritarian rule to democracy in the next decades were not hindered — and in some cases were helped — by the Church and its leaders, the same Church that had been willing to partner with pious dictators devoted to an orderly country, albeit brought about through repression. While a few of these countries have become somewhat less democratic in recent years, no one claims that Catholicism is to blame. There are elements of most religions that can be used to justify anti-democratic values, particularly concerning equality and tolerance — and there are other elements that can be drawn on to support those and other democratic values.

Another answer to the question of why there are so many Middle East dictatorships is that the US and other Western powers favour them, for strategic reasons or because of oil. It is worth remembering that the US support of dictators did not begin with those of the Middle East. As the most powerful country in the Western hemisphere since the nineteenth century, the US was all too happy to ally with autocratic rulers. As Franklin Roosevelt may or may not have said of Somoza of Nicaragua, in a phrase much quoted recently: "he may be a sonofabitch, but he's our sonofabitch." For more than 60 years, since the end of World War II, "Free World" allies have been, far too often, dictatorships, cynically tolerated if not welcomed and aided as men able to keep the country out of "communist" (or "Islamist") hands. It is hardly unusual to find a US government willing to support dictators like Mubarak for decades, all the while claiming a devotion to democracy. External support goes a long way to explain why authoritarian regimes, like Egypt's, survive. And of course the US was not averse to helping install dictatorial regimes all over the world, most notably in Iran in 1953 and Chile in 1973.

More recently, the US and the Europeans have facilitated quite a few democratic transitions, for example in Indonesia, partly out of a genuine commitment to democracy, partly because it is an embarrassment to preach the virtues of freedom while practising alliances of convenience, and partly because of a self-interested calculation that in the long run democracies are more stable, less problematic countries. But even so, as is clear from what is happening in the Middle East now, immediate strategic considerations can trump even perceived long-term interests.

There is no religious reason that condemns countries of the Middle East to continued authoritarian rule, and even the US has probably learned the lesson of the Iraq war, and is now unlikely to use force to restore a fallen ally. A country that manages to install democratic rule, through mobilising its citizenry and recognising the interests of military establishments (and perhaps appealing to their national pride) would undoubtedly be welcomed into the democratic family. Consolidating such a regime is not easy, and there may be relapses. Some particularly oppressive regimes may last much longer, because they can use their oil wealth to buy protection, and buy off their citizens. But, as in Latin America and more recently sub-Saharan Africa, the numbers of "not free" countries will possibly dwindle to a handful — and most of us will be around to see it happen.

Philip Oldenburg is a political scientist at Columbia University, New York

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MR SHOURIE'S QUESTIONS

 

The Prime Minister was told about not just the extent of the A Raja scam way back in 2009 but was even given names of various front companies, which formed part of the money trail that CBI is following today. CBI met a key informant who gave it all the details of the money trail by the end of 2009. Even prior to this, in 2007, the then Trai chief Nripendra Misra met the Prime Minister and other senior ministers, including Pranab Mukherjee, to explain to them that when Raja said he was merely following Trai recommendations, this was not true. Former telecom minister Arun Shourie made these disclosures at the Express Group's Idea Exchange on Thursday. Shourie was responding to charges made by the UPA that Raja was merely following the policy of his predecessors, and that though it is true the NDA government had said in 2003 that all future mobile licences would be auctioned, the NDA itself violated the rule—Shourie was the minister when this violation was supposed to have taken place. Shourie says that after apprising the Prime Minister of the Raja details, he himself met the CBI chief to give him details and knows that CBI got all the details of the money trail from the informant Shourie introduced to it.

Given the level of detail Shourie says he has—he is meeting CBI officials later this month to give his account of events, including documents he says were not given to the CAG while it was preparing its report—it is incumbent upon the government to address the issues he is raising. Indeed, for the Court, which is monitoring the CBI's progress, it may be worth asking CBI why it slept on the information it had for more than a year. Ironically, while the Prime Minister's letter to Raja asking him to auction spectrum is there in the public domain, telecom minister Kapil Sibal is on the record saying the Prime Minister never asked Raja to auction spectrum. It would be interesting to see if the government's response to this latest salvo will be as ham-handed as its handling of the Raja case so far, like claiming Raja did nothing wrong and then arresting him later, or first saying Raja's non-auction policy was a good idea but later announcing that all future spectrum allocations would be based on auctions.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MARK TO MARKET RULES

 

The markets have ended in the red in seven of the last ten sessions and the Sensex has given up close to 15% since the start of the year. Since October, India has underperformed the US markets as also some of its emerging market peers. Given the strong macroeconomic headwinds that threaten to disrupt growth, it's not surprising that fund managers are taking money off the table. Adding to their discomfort are the series of scams, concerns on corporate governance, the perceived inability of the government to function, and the reduction in investment levels—the order books of three of India's top engineering firms have also fallen in the December quarter. Operating profits, brokerage Nomura reports for a sample of 72 firms, have risen just about 10% year-on-year while net profits are up an anaemic 6.8% year-on-year. Growth—the Indian market's biggest USP—is tapering off thanks to soaring inflation in commodities and rising interest rates.

Things are unlikely to get better in a hurry. Goldman Sachs recently upped its inflation forecast for 2011-12 to 6.7% from 6% and Standard Chartered believes GDP growth is likely to come in at just 8.1% for 2011-12, way below the promising 9% that was being pencilled in even six months back. Margin pressures are likely to persist until prices of crude oil and key commodities come off. If earnings grow by just 13-14% in 2011-12, this means the Sensex is trading at around 14.5 times forward earnings. Historically, the market has traded at an average price earnings (P/E) multiple of around 15 times one-year forward earnings. At levels of 21,000, India was probably the most expensive market in the world, trading at well over 17 times. It's not that foreign institutional investors (FIIs) have given up on India; they've pulled out just about $1.5 billion since January. In the long run, India may remain an attractive story, but given the current levels of under-performance, few can fault investors for effectively re-rating the Sensex.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHITEWASH ON BLACK MONEY
SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE

Whoever gave the finance ministry the suggestion to project the agreements signed with the tax havens to the Supreme Court, as evidence of how serious the government is in closing the net on black money, probably needs to be produced in court too. The documents India has signed with 10 countries on the OECD tax haven list are not even the standard double taxation avoidance agreements. Instead, they are the much more restricted Tax Exchange Information Agreement.

What that means is if any of those countries change their tax laws and when India does its, they will tell each other about the changes. Where did black money, if stashed away in any of these havens, come into play in this exchange of information?

If that sounds a bit over-the-top argument to produce in a court, it is not the only one. Successive columns in this newspaper have pointed out how the debate is wrong in guessing the figure of black money in circulation and the economic rationale for its generation.

Instead, the finance ministry would have been served better if it had asked the Court to reverse its judgment in the Mauritius tax case. That was the case where the Court in 2003 disposed of a petition to cancel the India Mauritius Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement. Instead, the Supreme Court ruled that capital gains realised by foreign investors on their investments made in India, channelled through Mauritius based companies, will continue to be income tax-exempt.

To substantiate its position, the Court had also noted that it was quite legitimate for third parties (i.e., foreign investors) to enjoy treaty benefits by using the advantage of being shown as resident in Mauritius. The interesting part of the argument then was use of such treaties was a necessary evil to help promote "economic development and inbound investment into developing countries".

In subsequent years the poor officers of North Block have basically gone around upholding this line of argument. For someone to suddenly turn around now and suddenly claim it's all wrong, is rich.

It is necessary to quote the details of that order, if the black money debate raging all over the place has to make any sense. The Supreme Court in the 2003 order also said if there are no anti-treaty shopping provisions in a treaty, then those benefits could not be denied to the residents of a country, even though such residents might be controlled by non-resident third parties. Basically, the Court made it clear that if India was concerned about treaty abuses it should introduce the requisite provisions in its domestic laws to prevent such use of the jurisdiction by non-residents of the country, meaning the investors with a Mauritius address.

This is a very key point made in the order. Black money or tax evasion has to be handled by introducing changes in domestic laws. The problem, irrespective of its size, cannot be solved by running after will-o'-the-wisp in foreign countries.

In every knowledgeable tax officers' assessment, the Mauritius-resident route has been the biggest conduit for tax evasion in the country. Since the time the Indian stock markets boomed, tax officials have found, nestled among the large number of genuine foreign investors using this route, rogues misusing it.

To plug the route, the government had two options. Ask the Court to annul the treaty or renegotiate the treaty with Mauritius. The Court, as we have seen, rejected the cancel option. So the government proposed an override clause in the India-Mauritius tax treaty. The clause said if there were proven violations of the residency status certificates or bogus procuring of the certificate itself by entities, the Indian government will have the right to override the treaty. The Mauritius government, despite long discussions, refused to accept it. The net result is the original provisions of the treaty with all its ills like treaty shopping stand. Yet neither the government nor the Supreme Court is inclined to look into this trail. The courts cannot be blamed solely. The BJP, which was in power at that time, had actually petitioned the Court to let the treaty stand. It was fighting a petition filed by an NGO that had won a victory in the Delhi High Court to abrogate the treaty.

Surprising? Not quite. For political parties, black money has been an issue only when they have lost power. They are unwilling to accept that the problem with black money is not when it stays stored in the icy vaults of Swiss banks or wherever. The problem emerges when the money moves out from there to travel through Mauritius and then into the Indian stock markets or into other parts of the economy as FDI, and the government writes in laws to allow treaty shopping.

Let's see why? Suppose a Rs 500 crore travels from a Swiss bank to Mauritius and at the same time another Rs 500 crore comes from within India to the NSE for trade. Whatever may have happened earlier, since all securities market trade is taxed through the Securities Transaction Tax in India and the government has eliminated long-term capital gains tax on such transactions, the advantage of the Mauritius route vis-à-vis the Indian cash is gone. But what has not gone is the question of the source. The KYC norms of Indian banks and of Sebi will ensure the origin of the Indian money will have to be transparent.

But not so for the cash from Mauritius. No questions are asked and this is where Indian operators, when they want, use the loophole to do this round tripping. But, as the Supreme Court said then, it is for us to figure out how to improve our laws to get at the bottom of this problem. Generation of black money is therefore not a unique Indian problem. The problem is in the way we have constructed our laws. Running off to Basel and Bern will not give us any solutions.

subhomoy.bhattacharjee@expressindia.com

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE
YOGINDER K ALAGH

The growth story is under some strain. India took note of the last downturn around six months late. By that time, the American and Chinese stimulus were well under way. This column had argued since September that year that a stimulus was called for, but the illusion was kept up that our economy was insulated from the Lehman failure. The delay cost us a half percentage point of GDP and anyway our stimulus did not have the infrastructure component that the others did. But the economy responded well and soon the loss of around a million jobs in export sectors like diamond polishing and made-ups was a memory. Interestingly, as growth recovered, apart from the current FM, there was little acceptance that we were following a Keynesian path, and the talk of labour reform (presumably reducing wage costs in a demand-deficient economy?), free trade revival, etc, continued. In actual practice, there was a more realistic policy stance. For example, a CBDT paper on taxation as a part of the stimulus strategy talked of inverted tariffs for capital and intermediates and such other not-very-neo-classical policies. All in all, India did well in the stimulus and if investment was not there, it sensibly implemented social programmes like NREGA.

By now the world is hesitantly but firmly getting out of the worst. Most countries that are our competitors have recovered on the growth front and have done so with price stability and many have near-zero interest rates. India, on the other hand, is crossing the price precipice. Its fiscal deficit at 8.5% and current account deficit at 3% is one of the highest in its history and also amongst nations that matter now. Public debt as percentage of GDP is around 80%, which is distinctly uncomfortable. These figures fare poorly in global comparisons. Indian inflation has reached 10%, close to the trend rate of the period of a closed economy in which interest and exchange rates were insulated from market forces and global competition.

There is a structural component to inflation, largely stoked by food and fuel. Even if we factor in the weather, the growth rate in agriculture is around 3% and hitting a per capita growth rate of more than 6%, a general food inflation is the consequence. It is not cereal-centred, since the country has reached an income level where even the poor households have a diversified consumption basket. India developed advanced tools to track consumer behaviour of rich and poor households separately since the 1970s when a task force I chaired defined the poverty line, but also built up linear expenditure systems of consumer behaviour. The income elasticities of poor households in the 1990s were very low but they were high for non-cereal food commodities. The situation is worsened by the near stagnation in agricultural output in the 2008-10 period. It can be onions, tomatoes, milk or any of a range of food commodities that give up. We are recognising grudgingly that the world cannot feed India, although trade is to be valued for other reasons.

Some of the best younger Indians, alas outside our shores, have done some excellent work to show that the degree of industrial concentration is not much less after the 1992 reform. I know them from their college days when Asok Mody came to me for the first time and of course Anusha Chari's version was reported in a Brookings meeting some time ago. Our pundits have no time for scholarly work, the two-minute byte being their stock in trade. Instead of commending that work, apparently a senior Indian close to policymaking circles is reported to have pooh-poohed it, but now that The Economist has blown the lid in Dancing elephants, superficial comment is best ignored . My only regret is that, work on India, of the kind done at home for decades, is now done only in universities abroad as our own education system is systematically undermined. But only the very brave will posit a neo-classical supply curve for their policy prescriptions either for the industrial or the agricultural sector.

Wage and commodity inflation is now general in its consequences and a slew of corporate results have declared dismal PBT figures in this quarter on account of rising costs. We are near the precipice after which prices chase costs. Stock prices are taking the brunt. Apart from a dim recognition of the facts, a fascinating response has been to keep on repeating neo-classical prescriptions in a completely structural economic context in 'a habituated through the decade manner'. With prices rising, labour reform is the panacea to many. Others are in favour of interest rate reductions with a double-digit price rise. Why organised labour or banks will commit hara-kiri is a mystery and a question not raised. Fiscal tightening is also not on the agenda since anyway reform means reducing tax rates.

There are other ways. When constraints of this kind emerge as you approach fuller utilisation of resources, a wages and incomes policy is called for. If per capita consumption can only rise by 6% in real terms, corporate, workers and politicians have to get signals that the weighted average of their claims can't rise beyond that. President Obama made tax concessions for the rich a policy issue before Christmas. We need the intellectual strength to state the facts and the policy systems to follow through with details. But we may instead get another dose of platitudes on reform dished out as salvation.

The author is a former Union minister

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

RISE OF THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD

It is apparent that the Muslim Brotherhood is positioning itself for a role in a post-Mubarak Egypt. The al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen has emerged as the largest and most organised political opposition in the country. The group initially stayed away from the uprising, perhaps unsure of how, as an Islamist movement, it should respond to the spontaneous and non-religious character of the protests. But when it became clear that the snowballing protests had loosened President Hosni Mubarak's grip on Egypt, the Ikhwan made it known that it could not be ignored in the transition to a new set-up. Using its organisational strengths, the Ikhwan mobilised large numbers of its supporters for the protests. And despite being banned from political activity, it accepted with alacrity an invitation from Vice-President Omar Suleiman for discussions on how the political transition should take place. The objective of the Brotherhood is to create a state governed by the Sharia but in recent days it has hastened to project a more pragmatic image of itself to domestic and international audiences. This has been through reassurances that it was working towards a democracy in Egypt.

Indeed, some of the fears surrounding the Ikhwan were clearly exaggerated by Mr. Mubarak to his main benefactor, the United States, in order to perpetuate his regime. Even so, concerns remain about what the rise of the "brothers" could mean for Egypt itself, for the volatile West Asian region, and for the rest of the world. Formed in 1928 as an Islamist nationalist movement to fight the colonial regime, it spawned several offshoots and has become influential in countries across the region. A key question to emerge from the unfolding uprising in Egypt is what it holds for the Palestine-Israel conflict, particularly as the Palestinian Hamas is a wing of the Brotherhood. The group has officially renounced violence and is critical of al-Qaeda. For Egyptians who count themselves as secular and moderate, the Ikhwan's views on religious minorities and women, and its other illiberal beliefs are a source of major concern. But it is still an open question if it can emerge as the most powerful political force in a democratic Egypt. In the Mubarak regime, it enjoyed support among Egypt's middle classes as it was the only opposition. It fared well even in the country's notoriously fraudulent 2005 elections, winning as many as 80 parliamentary seats out of a total of 454. A brutal crackdown on the Ikhwan by a rattled regime ensured it did not win any seats in the 2010 elections. Even though in recent days it might have lost points for its initial reluctance to join the protests, and then for engaging with the regime on transition talks, a fair election would see it doing well. For now, though, it would have to compete with other political forces.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

ICC'S EXEMPLARY FIRST STEP

Amidst growing cynicism about the integrity of the game, the International Cricket Council (ICC) deserves credit for dealing appropriately with the canker of spot-fixing. The game's governing body couldn't afford to be passive, especially in the lead-up to the World Cup, which will be played in the sub-continent. In provisionally banning Pakistan's Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, and Mohammad Amir before instituting an independent tribunal to try them, the ICC acted promptly, decisively, and transparently. The nature of the bans — 10 years (five suspended) for Butt, seven (two suspended) for Asif, and five for Amir — was just. The punishment was proportionate — a distinction being made between match-fixing and spot-fixing — and also exemplary. In the past, the administrators have been guilty of laxity. While the crackdown after the match-fixing scandal that threatened to destroy cricket a little more than a decade ago helped contain the problem, the lack of demonstrable corrective action contributed to the rise of spot-fixing. This judgment, if followed up consistently, should act as a deterrent. The 18-year-old Amir, whose case has certain mitigating circumstances, might return to fulfil the dazzling promise he has shown after he has served his time. But Butt, 26, and Asif, 28, have little to look forward to.

The verdict hasn't ended the matter however. Tribunal chairman Michael Beloff's remarks that his panel has recommended "certain changes to the [ICC] Code with a view to providing flexibility in relation to minimum sentences in exceptional circumstances" appear to have encouraged thoughts of an appeal. Butt, Asif, and Amir have also been separately charged by the Crown Prosecution Service — they will have to return to England to face charges of conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments and also conspiracy to cheat. It hasn't escaped notice that Asif and Amir were exposed bowling no-balls at pre-determined moments not by the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit but by News of the World, a British red top which chanced upon the story. Merely refining its systems of security won't do for the ICC; it will have to liaise better with government agencies in this regard. While the world cricket body has shown encouraging signs in its handling of the affair thus far, its commitment to eradicating corruption will be severely tested in the times to come. Its resolve and acumen will determine the future of the great game.

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THE HINDU

THE MINISTER VERSUS THE CIVIL SERVANT

THERE IS HARDLY ANY ROOM TODAY FOR THE AVERAGE OFFICER TO DISPLAY ANY SIGN OF INDEPENDENCE OR CANDOUR IN DECISION-MAKING.

R.K. RAGHAVAN

The Central Bureau of Investigation's decision to arrest the former Telecommunications Secretary, Siddhartha Behura, along with the former Minister, A. Raja, in connection with the 2G spectrum case, revives an old debate over the relationship between the civil servant and the politician. The drastic action by the agency should shake the entire bureaucracy, especially the officers of the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Police Service, out of their complacency. It should make them introspect on how they should regulate their responses to ministerial demands for unequivocal compliance of directions. The issue is ticklish and may never be resolved to the satisfaction of either side, or even those members of the public who believe that the independence of the civil service became extinct a long time ago. Nevertheless, it has become necessary to place things in perspective, so that the public understands the dynamics of a relationship which places enormous strain on officers at the senior levels of the bureaucracy.

There is nothing that has been reported till now that suggests that Mr. Behura had been dishonest and received monetary favours from the companies which benefited. Only a CBI charge sheet will lead to the process of confirming or disproving his integrity. There is just a possibility that, while being personally honest he had been more than willing to do the Minister's bidding, in order to stay in the good books. It is not insignificant that he had worked under Mr. Raja earlier in the Ministry of Environment. The fact that he signed more than 100 letters in regard to the issue of licences within days of assuming charge as Secretary, is a cause for grave misgivings: he was dishonest or negligent or displayed a lack of application of the mind. His lawyer claims his client had raised several objections to the Minister's actions. It is not known whether these had been recorded on the files. If Mr. Behura's dissent had indeed been put down on paper, that would provide an extenuating circumstance when his criminal liability is assessed.

Lord Macaulay, who was the Law Member of the Governor-General's Council in India and later Secretary of War in England in the second half of the 19th century — he is recognised as the draftsman of the remarkably structured Indian Penal Code — visualised the civil service as a body of young men with outstanding intellectual abilities and values. His report of 1864 paved the way for streamlining the recruitment for and training of the members of the Indian Civil Service. The foundation he laid stressed the qualities of discipline and integrity. The early years of Independence saw both Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Home Minister Sardar Patel nursing the civil services with great care and affection. They were convinced that the bureaucracy, as it evolved under the British, constituted a vital and dependable machinery to push through with the various reforms that an infant nation desperately needed. The uprightness and patriotism of the two great men ensured that the civil services were kept insulated from the muddy waters of day-to-day politics and played the key role expected of it in maintaining social stability, thereby providing the right ambience for development work.

Overall, despite a few hiccups, the culture that respected the average civil servant flourished. A clear distinction between the policymaking role of the Minister and of the implementation function of the civil servant had come to be established. By and large, the latter could argue against a Minister's decision without the peril of being humiliated or penalised. Once the Minister made up his mind after a discussion, he had the last word, and the Secretary had no alternative but to implement the decision. There was therefore everything in the system that promoted candour and honesty.

The watershed in the infamous history of the Indian administration thereafter was possibly the Emergency, declared in 1975 on specious grounds. The arbitrariness that ensued led to the dilution, if not the annihilation, of many traditional institutions. The civil service just caved in without protest.

Since then, the floodgates have remained open, and there has been no stopping the process of tinkering with the civil service. The casualties have been the fearlessness and objectivity of the members of the civil service. Barring a few, Ministers both at the Centre and in the States have steamrolled the bureaucracy so much that a fear psychosis now envelops the whole civil service. The judiciary has generally been remiss in undoing the damage. This is because of the stand that it cannot step in where routine administrative matters (such as transfers and suspensions) are involved, and that an act of injustice done to a civil servant does not constitute any infringement of the fundamental rights embodied in the Constitution. The Administrative Tribunals have occasionally offered some redress but have not done enough to remove the fear that grips a majority of public servants. This explains the rot.

The current situation is one in which the average IAS or IPS officer can hardly say 'no' to a ministerial fiat. Blind obedience is what is expected, even when a direction is downright illegal. Some of the unfortunate recent scams are a direct outcome of this situation. A few of the so-called 'encounters' involving anti-social elements also belong to this category. The demand these days from a Minister is for instantaneous action, and any perceived delay by an officer is fraught with grave consequences. In earlier times, ministerial displeasure often resulted in an officer's transfer from a sensitive job. These days, however, the consequence of ministerial ire is an inspired physical assault or a dubious departmental enquiry.

Against this backdrop, how do you expect even an iota of independence or candour from civil servants? It is easy for many of us to be critical of them for their submissive behaviour. But any non-conformist uprightness is a sure route to disaster. This is despite many safeguards, including the protection provided in Article 311 of the Constitution, which guarantee due process before a major penalty (dismissal, removal or reduction in rank) is imposed. Suspension from service is perhaps the worst ignominy that can befall a government official. No doubt there are some restrictions on this power. These do not, however, deter a reckless Chief Minister from settling scores with an unbending civil servant, especially in the higher echelons. The Union government caused great damage by sharing this power with the States in respect of the All India Services. This has been the chief source of fear even among bold officials. Major reform is immediately called for in this area.

It is not as if the blame rests squarely with the politicians. Overzealous and greedy civil servants have contributed equally to the dilution of standards. Many of them have looked the other way when Ministers were found indulging in malpractices. Worse is the case of those who have themselves functioned as conduits for money passing to Ministers. A third category comprises those who are themselves guilty of corruption and cannot blame their Ministers of unethical behaviour. How else do you explain an IAS-officer couple in Madhya Pradesh having been allegedly found to have assets worth more than Rs.300 crore?

Are such officers the products of an ambience where there is a premium on dishonesty? Or, is it that they have a DNA which prevails over any instinct to be straightforward? What is clear, however, is that unless New Delhi takes up a major exercise to promote honesty in public service, especially in the IAS and the IPS, the country will come to be looked upon as a banana republic by the rest of the world. The growing feeling among major investors from the developed world that they cannot do business in India without paying bribes is a matter of shame.

In the meantime, my advice to senior officers is this: put down any dissent from ministerial directions in writing, and just abstain from any decision that even remotely suggests any irregularity or illegality. Do this even at the cost of being victimised through suspension or being ignored for a significant position that is legitimately your due. These are golden rules which you can ignore only at your own peril.

(The writer is a former Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation.)

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THE HINDU

ADDITIONAL SOLICITOR-GENERAL'S OPINION ON ANTRIX-DEVAS DEAL

The following is the legal opinion given on July 12, 2010 by Additional Solicitor-General Mohan Parasaran on annulment of the Antrix-Devas agreement of January 28, 2005.

The core of the legal advice is to invoke force majeure to terminate the agreement, with the direction coming from the Department of Space on the basis of a decision "taken by the Government of India, as a matter of policy, in exercise of its executive power or in other words, a policy decision having the seal and approval of the Cabinet and duly gazetted as per the Business Rules of the Government of India."

Querist: The Department of Space, through its Secretary.

Sub: Agreement dated 28.1.2005 between M/s. Antrix Corporation Limited and M/s. Devas Multi Media Private Limited.

M/s. Antrix Corporation Limited (hereinafter referred to as 'ANTRIX') is a Public Sector Undertaking and is an arm of the Department of Space, Government of India. It entered into a commercial contract, after nearly two years of negotiation, on 28.1.2005 with M/s. Devas Multi Media Private Limited (hereinafter referred to as 'DEVAS'), for lifetime lease of 90% capacity of S Band Transponder of 2 satellites, built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) [GSAT — 6 and 6A]. However, after the signing of the said agreement, it has been realized by the Government of India that the Antrix-Devas lease agreement on GSAT-6 and 6A would take away most of the total S band spectrum available. The S band spectrum is crucial for several strategic and societal services. The Integrated Space Cell of IDS, Ministry of Defence have projected a need for 17.5 MHz in S band for meeting the immediate requirements of Armed Forces, another 40 MHz during the 12th plan period and an additional 50 MHz during the 13th plan period. Armed Forces have also projected the need to build S bank satellite capacity through GSAT-7S, for national security related mobile communications. There are further demands for S band transponders from international security agencies viz., BSF, CISF, CRPF, Coast Guard and Police for meeting their secured communication needs. Indian Railways have also projected S band requirements for train tracking.

In view of these emerging requirements, there is an imminent need to preserve the S band spectrum for vital strategic and societal applications. Besides this, there were also certain concerns on the technical, commercial, managerial and financial aspects of Antix-Devas contract such as, severe penalty clauses for delayed delivery of the spacecraft and for performance failure/service interruptions, violation of ICC guideline of 'non-exclusiveness' in leasing the capacity, the contract enabling Devas to sub-lease the capacity without any approvals which could even give rise to security concerns, etc.

It is evident that the two satellites together, if launched, would require about 70 MHz of the S band spectrum of 150 MHz allocated to ISRO for satellite in the orbit. This will result in serious consequences strategically affecting the needs of the defence and other departments concerned with national security, including para-military departments, Indian Railways, etc.

Opinion has been sought from me as to whether Antrix-Devas contract can be annulled by invoking any of the provisions of the contract in order to (i) preserve precious S band spectrum for strategic requirements of the nation and (ii) to ensure a level playing field for other service providers using terrestrial spectrum.

The core issue which arises for consideration is as to whether there are justifiable or legal grounds existing for termination of Antrix-Devas contract. For this purpose, one has to necessarily advert to the contract/agreement that has been entered into between Antrix and Devas on 28.1.2005. Article 2 of the said contract defines 'lease capacity' as follows:

"In accordance with the terms and conditions of this Agreement, ANTRIX shall lease to DEVAS and DEVAS accepts such lease of 5 (five) C X S transponders each of 8.1 MHz capacity and 5 (five) S X C transponders, each of 2.7 MHz capacity on the Primary Satellite 1 (PS1) with technical performance and other specifications defined in Exhibit A, and/or any other available capacity as provided and/or mutually agreed to by the Parties in writing (hereinafter the 'Leased Capacity'). DEVAS and ANTRIX agree that the Leased Capacity shall be utilized in accordance with this Agreement and its Exhibits. …….."

The modus of termination has been specified in the agreement in clause 7. But I am afraid that the conditions stipulated in this clause cannot be invoked at this stage for the purpose of terminating the contract. The only other relevant provision for seeking recourse to terminate the contract under the given factual scenario viz., national needs and change in governmental policies, would be Article 11 of the contract, relating to 'Force Majeure'. Article 11(a) provides that neither of the parties shall be liable for any failure or delay in performance of its obligations under the contract if the delay or failure is occasioned due to the force majeure as defined in the said Article and that it is incumbent upon either party seeking recourse to force majeure to give a notice of 7 days of the event of force majeure having occurred to the other party.

Article 11(b) of the contract defines the event 'force majeure' in an inclusive manner. 'Force majeure' has been defined to include any event, condition or circumstance that is beyond the reasonable control of the party affected (affected party) and that despite all efforts by the affected party to prevent it or mitigate its effect (including the implementation of business continuation plan), such event, condition or circumstance prevents the performance by such affected party of its obligations mentioned herein. The following events may be considered as force majeure events under the agreement:

(i) explosion and fire;

(ii) flood, earthquake, storm or other natural calamity or act of God

(iii) strike or other labour dispute;

(iv) war, insurrection, civil commotion or riot;

(v) Acts of or failure to act by any governmental authority, acting in its sovereign capacity; ( emphasis supplied by me)

(vi) Changes in law and regulations. ( emphasis supplied by me)

(vii) National emergencies.

It is noticed that when the agreement was entered into between Antrix and Devas, way back in the year 2005, the circumstance was vastly different than what it is today. The governmental policies with regard to allocation of satellite spectrum has undergone a sea change and there has been a tremendous demand for allocation of spectrum for national needs, including for the needs of the Defence, para-military forces, railways and other public utility services as well as for societal needs. There can be no dispute whatsoever that the Government of India is the owner of satellite spectrum space and any policy taken by the Government of India with regard to allocation and use of S bandwidth, including those which are subject matter of contractual obligations, would fall within the doctrine of force majeure, as envisaged in the very agreement between Antrix and Devas. However, I only wish to add one note of caution. It is always advisable that in the present case, instead of the Department of Space taking a decision to terminate, it would be more prudent that a decision is taken by the Government of India, as a matter of policy, in exercise of its executive power or in other words, a policy decision having the seal and approval of the Cabinet and duly gazetted as per the Business Rules of the Government of India. That would give a greater legal sanctity to the decision to terminate the contract in as much as the contractual provisions expressly stipulate that for the force majeure event, to disable one of the parties to perform its obligations under the contract, the act must be an act by the governmental authority acting in its sovereign capacity. Several reasons exist to resort to this sovereign power for preserving national interest. In my view, instead of the Department of Space directing Antrix to terminate the contract, it will be advisable from a legal perspective that the direction comes from the Department of Space on the basis of a governmental policy decision, as indicated above. I have nothing further to add.

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THE HINDU

FORMIDABLE AND STILL IN BUSINESS

WITH WELL OVER 1,700 FLIGHTS TO ITS CREDIT AND AN IMPRESSIVE SAFETY RECORD, THE SOYUZ ROCKET IS EASILY THE MOST SUCCESSFUL LAUNCH VEHICLE AROUND.

N. GOPAL RAJ

This was a rocket that was intended to be the former Soviet Union's first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). But it swiftly metamorphosed into the country's premier launch vehicle, carrying the world's first artificial satellite and subsequently the first human to orbit the earth.

Improved variants of it have continued to be in service, with the current version known as the Soyuz. With well over 1,700 flights to its credit and a formidable safety record, this is easily the most successful launch vehicle around. The Soyuz rocket is still regularly launched. During 2010 for instance, 10 of these rockets flew, carrying satellites into orbit and ferrying astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station.

The Soyuz rocket is usually launched from the famed Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. But in the few months it will lift-off, for the very first time, from Europe's Guiana Space Centre in South America.

After the Second World War, rocketry in the Soviet Union got under way with efforts to reproduce the German V-2 rocket. Thereafter, there was a sustained effort to build better rockets of their own.

However, neither the Soviet government nor its armed forces, which oversaw the rocket programme, were interested in a space programme. What they wanted were powerful rockets that would be militarily useful.

While the U.S. had access to airbases in Europe and elsewhere from which its nuclear-armed bombers could attack the Soviet Union, the latter needed rockets capable of flying thousands of kilometres in order to retaliate against the U.S. mainland.

The R-7

The first such Soviet ICBM was the R-7 that was the brainchild of the legendary rocket designer Sergey Pavlovich Korolev and his team. It was initially intended to carry a three-tonne nuclear warhead to a distance of 8,500 km.

But, as space historian Asif Azam Siddiqi graphically narrates in his book Challenge to Apollo: The Soviet Union and the Space Race, 1945-1974, the rocket's payload capability was suddenly hiked. Based on a report from Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov, the eminent Soviet nuclear physicist who later won the Nobel Prize for his efforts to promote peace and human rights, the government insisted, in October 1953, that the R-7 be capable of carrying at least five tonnes, preferably six tonnes.

This was a bombshell for the country's liquid propulsion engineers led by Valentin Petrovich Glushko. The engines for the R-7, running on liquid oxygen and kerosene, were intended to develop thrust ranging from 50 tonnes to 60 tonnes. Substantially higher thrust was needed to meet the new performance requirements for the rocket. But even as it was, the engines were running into trouble with problems of unstable combustion. Hiking their thrust further could be a nightmare.

An ingenious solution was found. Instead of a single large combustion chamber, each engine would have four smaller chambers fed with propellants from a common turbopump. This configuration cut short development time, simplified production and even reduced weight and improved performance.

In addition, each engine incorporated smaller combustion chambers, called verniers, which could be swivelled to steer the rocket.

The end result was an iconic rocket. Its core stage was much broader at the top than lower down. The core was equipped with a RD-108 engine generating 75 tonnes of thrust. It was surrounded by four large, conical strap-ons, each with a RD-107 engine producing 83 tonnes of thrust. A total of 32 combustion chambers fired at lift-off, a number unmatched by any other rocket.

Baikonur

The novel launch structure for this rocket has also become equally identified with Soviet rocketry. The rocket was held in place on the launch pad by four large metal structures, rather like the petals of a flower. Using a system of counterweights, the four petals would swing clear when the rocket took off.

Previous Soviet missiles were tested at Kapustin Yar on the banks of the Volga river in Russia. But launches from that site could be picked up by Western radar stations in Turkey. So the Government sanctioned the creation of a new launch facility for the R-7 near Tyuratam in Kazakhstan, an obscure settlement on the railway line from Moscow to Tashkent. This became the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

After two launch failures in May and July 1957, the R-7 finally successfully flew in August that year.

The Soviet Union now had a powerful rocket at its disposal. But it was the untiring efforts of people like Sergey Korolev that made it possible for the country to use this asset to produce a string of breathtaking firsts in space. Even so, it was only after the U.S. announced its plan to launch an artificial satellite that the Soviet Government backed efforts to beat them at that endeavour.

On October 4, 1957, the space age began with the R-7 launching the Sputnik, a shiny metal weighing only about 80 kg that was equipped with radio transmitters issuing a series of beeps. A month later, another R-7 took the dog Laika into space.

April 12, 1961 was another historic occasion. On that day, an uprated and improved version of the R-7, equipped with an upper stage, allowed Yuri Gagarin, flying in the Vostok space capsule, to become the first human to orbit the earth.

Steadily improved over the years, launch vehicles derived from the R-7 became the workhorse of the Soviet and later the Russian space programmes. The variant operating currently is known as the Soyuz.

Marketing launches abroad

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia began marketing its launchers abroad. In 1996, Starsem, a partnership between European and Russian space organisations, was established to provide commercial launch services using the Soyuz rocket.

In May 2003, the European Space Agency (ESA) decided to operate the rocket from its Guiana Space Centre. "The decision to develop the launch infrastructure to enable Soyuz to be launched from French Guiana is of mutual interest to both Europe and Russia, and benefits from funding from the European Community," according to the space agency. The Soyuz would, it said, perfectly complement the capabilities of Europe's more powerful Ariane 5 rocket as well as the smaller Vega that is expected to have its maiden flight this year.

Both European and Russian space agencies and companies are involved, and the launch facilities for the Soyuz at French Guiana have been completed.

As has been done traditionally in Russia, the rocket will be integrated horizontally and transported in that fashion to the launch pad. There it will be lifted to the vertical position and held in place by the four petals of the launch structure.

But one important difference from the Russian practice is to have a massive mobile gantry that can roll into place over the rocket and its launch structure. This allows satellites to be put in place after the rocket has been moved to the the pad, as is done with Europe's Ariane 5 rocket. The gantry would, of course, be moved clear before the launch.

The European commercial launch company Arianespace will begin operating the Soyuz launch complex in April, according to a press release it issued last month. At least two launches of the rocket from Guiana and three from Baikonur were planned for 2011. The company says that it has orders for 18 Soyuz launches.

With the Space Shuttle being retired this year, the Soyuz rocket will become the only way to carry astronauts to the International Space Station. Currently, such manned missions are launched from Baikonur. However, the new launch facilities at Guiana have been been designed "so that it can be smoothly adapted for human spaceflight" if needed, according to the European Space Agency.

A rocket that first flew more than half a century back looks like it will be in service for many years to come.

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THE HINDU

U.S. FEARS SAUDIS OVERSTATED OIL

PRICES ARE LIKELY TO GO OUT OF CONTROL AS RESERVES DRY OUT; GLOBAL PRODUCTION COULD START TO DECLINE NEXT YEAR.

JOHN VIDAL

The U.S. fears that Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude oil exporter, may not have enough reserves to prevent oil prices escalating, confidential cables from its embassy in Riyadh show.

The cables, released by WikiLeaks, urge Washington to take seriously a warning from a senior Saudi government oil executive that the kingdom's crude oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 300bn barrels — nearly 40 per cent.

The revelation comes as the oil price has soared in recent weeks to more than $100 a barrel on global demand and tensions in the Middle East. Many analysts expect that the Saudis and their Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cartel partners would pump more oil if rising prices threatened to choke off demand.

However, Sadad al-Husseini, a geologist and former head of exploration at the Saudi oil monopoly Aramco, met the U.S. Consul General in Riyadh in November 2007 and told the U.S. diplomat that Aramco's 12.5m barrel-a-day capacity needed to keep a lid on prices could not be reached.

Highest point in production

According to the cables, which date between 2007-09, Husseini said Saudi Arabia might reach an output of 12m barrels a day in 10 years but before then — possibly as early as 2012 — global oil production would have hit its highest point. This crunch point is known as "peak oil."

Husseini said that at that point Aramco would not be able to stop the rise of global oil prices because the Saudi energy industry had overstated its recoverable reserves to spur foreign investment. He argued that Aramco had badly underestimated the time needed to bring new oil on tap.

One cable said: "According to al-Husseini, the crux of the issue is twofold. First, it is possible that Saudi reserves are not as bountiful as sometimes described, and the timeline for their production not as unrestrained as Aramco and energy optimists would like to portray." It went on: "In a presentation, Abdallah al-Saif, current Aramco senior vice-president for exploration, reported that Aramco has 716bn barrels of total reserves, of which 51 per cent are recoverable, and that in 20 years Aramco will have 900bn barrels.

"Al-Husseini disagrees with this analysis, believing Aramco's reserves are overstated by as much as 300bn barrels. In his view once 50 per cent of original proven reserves has been reached ... a steady output in decline will ensue and no amount of effort will be able to stop it. He believes that what will result is a plateau in total output that will last approximately 15 years followed by decreasing output." The U.S. Consul then told Washington: "While al-Husseini fundamentally contradicts the Aramco company line, he is no doomsday theorist.

His pedigree, experience and outlook demand that his predictions be thoughtfully considered." Seven months later, the U.S. embassy in Riyadh went further in two more cables. "Our mission now questions how much the Saudis can now substantively influence the crude markets over the long term. Clearly they can drive prices up, but we question whether they any longer have the power to drive prices down for a prolonged period." A fourth cable, in October 2009, claimed that escalating electricity demand by Saudi Arabia may further constrain Saudi oil exports. "Demand [for electricity] is expected to grow 10 per cent a year over the next decade as a result of population and economic growth. As a result it will need to double its generation capacity to 68,000MW in 2018," it said.

A warning

It also reported major project delays and accidents as "evidence that the Saudi Aramco is having to run harder to stay in place — to replace the decline in existing production." While fears of premature "peak oil" and Saudi production problems had been expressed before, no U.S. official has come close to saying this in public. In the last two years, other senior energy analysts have backed Husseini. Fatih Birol, chief economist to the International Energy Agency, told the Guardian last year that conventional crude output could plateau in 2020, a development that was "not good news" for a world still heavily dependent on petroleum.

Jeremy Leggett, convenor of the U.K. Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security, said: "We are asleep at the wheel here: choosing to ignore a threat to the global economy that is quite as bad as the credit crunch, quite possibly worse."— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

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THE HINDU

THE HIDDEN DANGERS OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION

LEO HICKMAN

The night before the Challenger space shuttle took off for its ill-fated final flight in January 1985, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officials held a two-and-a-half-hour conference call with executives from the company that made the rocket boosters to discuss a potential fault. The subsequent investigation into the disaster, which killed all seven astronauts on board, concluded that poor decision-making at that meeting, which gave the go-ahead after much debate, was aggravated by the fact that two of the NASA managers had been awake for 23 hours straight and had slept for no more than three hours the previous day.

Similar errors during long night shifts were implicated in the nuclear disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, as well as the Exxon Valdez oil spillage. Meanwhile, the Automobile Association says that more than 3,000 deaths and serious injuries on U.K. roads each year can be attributed to sleep deprivation — as many as for drink driving. But new research published this week says that lack of sleep can harm us in more direct ways than, say, falling asleep at the wheel of a car. Researchers at Warwick medical school in central England published a study in the European Heart Journal that linked disrupted sleep patterns to major health problems. "If you sleep less than six hours a night and have disturbed sleep you stand a 48 per cent greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15 per cent greater chance of developing or dying from a stroke," said lead author Professor Francesco Cappuccio.

Professor Jim Horne, director of Loughborough University's Sleep Research Centre, says the key to healthy sleeping is achieving at least six hours of "core" sleep a night — which includes the "deep" sleep during the first five hours of normal sleep. "Core sleep gradually gives way to what I rather loosely call 'optional' sleep, which maintains sleep until morning awakening. After about six hours of good sleep, all core sleep has usually disappeared." But he says that the idea of a "perfect" length of sleep is a myth: everyone is different. He therefore urges people not to assume that a few bad nights will give you heart disease or a stroke — with the subsequent worry only exacerbating your restlessness.

His tip for insomnia? Get up, leave the bedroom and do something distracting but mentally stimulating, such as a jigsaw.— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

TOUGH LINE BY SC, EC A RAY OF LIGHT

With corruption-filled gloom pervading our public space, it is the intervention of institutions outside the executive, notably the Supreme Court and the Election Commission, that offer some hope that we will be able to navigate our way through the present troubles caused by the venality of those in authority. The Supreme Court

on Thursday passed a series of instructions which suggest how stringently it is approaching the 2G spectrum case that has brought shame upon the conduct of an erstwhile Union Cabinet minister, exposed the functioning of the government, and permitted many to question Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's ability to stand up to political and administrative compulsions. So concerned appears the Supreme Court with the shocking state of affairs that it appears to be putting itself out to make the point that while legal processes in this case must be transparent, these not stretch endlessly as is often the case in this country. To quicken the pace of procedures, the highest court has asked the government to constitute a special court to deal solely with the 2G issue and directed the CBI to file a chargesheet by March 31. It has also instructed that no other court in the country must pass any order that might impede the investigation in this case in any manner. The CBI probe must also cover the culpability of beneficiaries in the alleged scam as they are deemed to be a part of the conspiracy to cheat the exchequer. Indeed, going into specifics, the court has asked why the CBI had sought remand of the accused for a short duration and observed that it (CBI) must have a free hand (to accomplish its task). These instructions serve to underline that the 2G case has stung the nation and made us reflect on the working methods of those holding high office.

Of late, chief election commissioner S.Y. Quraishi has also spoken up candidly on the need to clean up the election process so that we may get MPs and MLAs who do not face criminal charges and have not gone to jail. This is no doubt in the belief that clean legislators and ministers would be more sensitive to corruption issues and be less tolerant of bureaucrats or others who might scheme to dip their hands into public funds — a malady that is making a mockery of our democracy. The CEC had on Wednesday accepted a report by the accounting regulator that seeks basic changes in the way political parties prepare their accounts. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India recommended that all parties be required to prepare financial statements and submit audited accounts to the Election Commission within six months of the ending of a financial year. These accounts must be compulsorily published in a newspaper. It has also been suggested that auditors of political parties must be appointed by the Comptroller and Auditor-General and changed every three or four years. Mr Quraishi has asked the income-tax department to formulate an action plan to monitor illegal cash flow in the coming elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry. In Bihar last year, the EC's tough handling under Mr Quraishi served greatly to reduce malpractice by parties and candidates.
These suggestions by the CEC are heartening. But they will have meaning only if the political class backs it by framing appropriate legislation and rules. The tough stance of the Supreme Court and the EC are laudatory. In order to drastically curb corruption, however, it is also needed that the discretionary powers of ministers and others are done away with. The point was raised by Congress president Sonia Gandhi at a recent AICC session, but not much has happened since.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

MELTING POT MENU

SWAPAN DASGUPTA

Two years ago, I was invited to a seminar at a grand Cambridge college. As is customary on these occasions, the seminar was to conclude with a formal dinner that sounded promising. Curiously, just before dinner I was discreetly told by a co-participant to "tank up" at an improvised "control room". Apparently, some participants had

insisted that they would attend the dinner on two conditions: that only halal meat would be served and there would be no alcohol. Rather than create cultural complications, the hosts had graciously acquiesced.
Apart from a sense of culinary disappointment, I was not sure how to react. For westerners (and, for that matter, Chinese), hosting subcontinental guests can be a nightmare: there are just too many dietary taboos. Many are vegetarian. Others don't eat beef or pork, while still others insist on halal. Some are teetotallers, but a minority will not accept drinking at the table. The net result: some people are gratified while others grumble silently about those who made all the fuss.

My Cambridge experience came to mind while reading the reactions to David Cameron's well-crafted assault on "multiculturalism" at a conference in Munich last week. The British Prime Minister's speech echoed many of the themes voiced earlier by German Chancellor Angela Merkel but it broke new ground by formally linking some facets of cultural relativism to the threat of Islamist terrorism Europe faced from within. Mr Cameron's contention was that multiculturalist fads had eroded a national civic culture and this in turn had allowed Islamist radicals the space to influence impressionable young Muslims in cosmopolitan societies. From espousing "non-violent extremism" to becoming suicide bombers, he felt, was a small jump.

Mr Cameron offered a robust prescription to meet the challenge: "(We) must build stronger societies and stronger identities at home. Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance… and a much more active, muscular liberalism".

At a time when there is mood of gloom and doom in Britain, Mr Cameron's advocacy of "active, muscular liberalism" will invariably be misinterpreted as tacit endorsement of far-Right groups engaged in creating a demonology around Britain's Muslims. That would be a tragedy and will derail a much overdue process of the United Kingdom (UK) coming to come to terms with an emotional drift that has plagued it since the Sixties.
For starters, it is necessary to separate "multicultural" from "multiculturalism". The post-1945 wave of immigration from the old Empire has altered the landscape of urban Britain. UK — and England in particular — now hosts people from diverse national and ethnic backgrounds. Far from immigrants and their descendants being an economic drag, this spectacular cosmopolitanism has actually helped maintain UK's post-imperial relevance. Diversity has enriched it culturally and economically.

Multicultural Britain is an irreversible reality. In an age of global connectivity it is difficult for the "melting pot" experiment to be easily replicated. In matters of food, faith and even social attitudes, the inheritance of the "old country" will persist for generations and may even be renewed. Indian restaurants will continue to thrive in Blighty; Bollywood films will influence fashion and fads; brown and black holders of British passports will continue to fail the Tebbit test at Edgbaston and Oval; and the mosque will remain at the epicentre of community life and social certitudes for many Muslims.

White, Anglo-Saxon Britain have accepted these foreign implants into an island nation with grace, generosity and remarkably little social tension. Yes, Britain has a race problem but considering the magnitude of the post-war redrawing of the ethnic and cultural landscape, it is remarkable that chauvinism and cultural xenophobia have not taken deep roots in mainstream politics.

In 1985, over a convivial cup of tea, John Enoch Powell told me that "mass migration was unfair to both the Punjabi and the Brummie". He was wrong about the Punjabi who did well out of the Midlands; and he was only partially right about the Brummie. White working class communities may have resented odd job losses, taunted and bullied the "Paki" boy in the local school and grumbled about the all-pervasive "smell of curry". But bewilderment with the unfamiliar was also coupled with "passive tolerance" and a distaste for extremist politics — a reason why Powell, for all his undoubted erudition, was shunned by the establishment after his "rivers of blood" speech.

Over the years, and more so after the European Union expanded the labour market, this "passive tolerance" has evolved into active engagement with diverse cultures. The process of integration and partnership would have been even more meaningful had it not been for two separate developments: the outpouring of multiculturalist fads and the 7/7 bombings which brought home the reality of home-grown Islamist terror.

Multiculturalism began as a noble attempt to widen the boundaries of tolerance and co-existence. It was based on the assumption that Britain was a rainbow coalition where the British inheritance and way of life were on par with those of other cultures. This assumption rejected integration as a social goal and reduced Britain to an ethnic menagerie. Secondly, along with the negation of a dominant culture, multicultural activists sent out strong signals that it was the host community that must stand down from its pedestal, vacate public spaces and make the necessary adjustments to respect minority sensitivities. They rarely stressed the importance of immigrant communities respecting the ways of the natives. Accommodation and adjustment became a one-way street. The perverse consequences were not surprising: inflammatory sermons in mosques and an in-your-face assertion of separateness.

Mr Cameron is right to question this provocation to British tolerance but his invocation of "muscular liberalism" as an alternative seems far-fetched. The multiculturalist parody was also a direct consequence of a larger crisis of values in British society. Over the past 50 years, the West has systematically undermined existing moral certitudes — a recurring complaint of Pope Benedict — and made the foundations of a hitherto robust civic culture fragile. To undercut the appeal of extremism on its doorstep, the West has to recover a soul first.

Swapan Dasgupta is a senior journalist

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

IS BOLLYWOOD LOSING ITS WAY?

SHIV VISVANATHAN

There are three institutions I love in India. The first is the informal economy. Survival would be impossible without it and subsistence would not be an art form without its creativity. The second subculture I love is the culture of food, the sensorium of smells and tastes that make India the greatest civilisation around cuisine. The third

institution is Bollywood. It is silly, ridiculous, illogical, but so wonderfully representative of India that Indian identity would be bereft without its inventions. I worry about the future of all three but Bollywood in particular worries me. It is an early warning signal about the folklores of our mind.

Bollywood is a myth. It is a myth of the unity of India, a myth built around a kaleidoscope of varieties from the idea of the nation, to the legend of the mother, to the ultimate resolution of violence. Myths are hardworking genres. They seek a unity of narrative by resolving contradictions or at least by papering over them. If you cannot solve a problem, one must at least make it tentatively livable, even if the resolution sounds like an unbelievable wishlist. Bollywood as myth has worked out great contradictions, from the opposition of town and country, family loyalty versus professional code, between domesticity, marriage and the idea of sexual freedom. Think of Mother India, Amar Akbar Anthony, Sholay, Yaadon ki Baraat, Do Bigha Zameen, Zanjeer, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Kaho Na Pyar Hai or Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. Of course, some of the resolutions were unbelievable but miracles and hope are the glue of Indian life. For all our belief in science and IT, prayer is still seen as more effective. Nandan Nilekani is effective but a civilisation needs a Sai Baba and Ramana Maharshi for its moment of crisis.

There is a disquiet about Bollywood that I need to articulate. It is not a socio-economic disquiet about the new theatres. I am worried that Bollywood as myth is losing its power and potency. I am not reducing it to bad scripts. The loss is more magical.

The old contradictions that sustained our life and provided the humus for the Bollywood imagination sounds stale. The question of town versus country or law versus family brings a yawn. There are new issues like the diaspora, terror, sexuality, the growing role of women, the changing ideas of sexuality. I think the old forms of resolution do not work. Most movies get caught in scripts which fail to have a resolution. The trouble with Bollywood is that resolutions must involve the new and something too radical is seen as alien, something too orthodox is considered passé.

Consider the movies on the diaspora. The diaspora was both a mirror and a lens. We saw it as an Indian possibility. America was just another place for the Indian diaspora to enact Indian dream in American costumes. We loved change, but throughout all the change the diaspora had to remain loyally Indian. Where that formula worked, the movie worked as in K3G, Kaho Na Pyar Hai, Kal Ho Na Ho. As long as we remained Indian at heart, we could be citizens of any state. Singh is Kinng is a perfect example. It reminded me of an earlier diasporic movie that failed — Kaante. There is memorable line where a character says: as a diaspora we have succeeded in everything except in crime. The Italians have their Mafia. The Chinese have their Tongs, the Columbians have their drug rings but we Indians have failed to dent crime. Singh is Kinng overcomes even that failing, but not convincingly. Crime is diasporic but our gangs go global only between Mumbai and the Gulf as Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai successfully showed. Crime and violence need an Indian embeddedness to resolve. Abstract evil eludes our imagination. Caricatured you get a bomb called Raavan, or gets reduced to the ludicrousness of Tees Maar Khan.

There is a sense that something about the diaspora is not quite resolvable. The sexuality, the violence, the way of life cannot be completely reduced to Indian values. Nostalgia does not work. Women need freedom of a different kind. Marriage and family do not resolve everything. Anjaana Anjaani is a good example of a movie which is inarticulate about the diaspora.

Our sense of melodrama is also limited. It can extend to family melodramas. It can go as far as Paa but any sense of illness is still restricted to cancer or some variant of that. The idea of euthanasia is still too alien. Euthanasia can be practised in secret but it's not publicly acceptable. The rational handling of disease or violence is beyond us. We cannot make a convincing movie about AIDS or terror. We still turn disease into a form of eccentricity.

Small movies do not provide solutions to these problems. They become cameos memorable in themselves. They are fragmentary as imaginations. We need the big, the large, the banal and the average to create the stuff of Bollywood drama. Therefore constructs like A Wednesday, Dhobi Ghat are seen as sensitive. Sensitive is a "Hindi" word which means meaningful but in small doses. A sensitive movie is not an epic blockbuster. No One Killed Jessica has to move beyond documentary. Myth that moves to realism or sociology loses its shelf life.
Let me give a contrary example. Rajnikanth movies have a tremendous sense of myth and their resolution. Sivaji has this wonderful fragment on colour and character which is an answer to the Fair & Lovely ads. Robot is our real science-fiction movie in the way it integrates technology and the body, playing out what is human. Bollywood, I am afraid, is missing the bus on myth.

Think of the one movie that everyone is talking about: Dabaang. It is the oldest of formulas — a cop movie, what someone dubbed as Bollywood's mimicking of Bhojpuri films. The plot is weak. What sustains it is a cameo. In fact, it is the intersection of two cameos, from two different films. It follows the question: Munni or Sheila? But Munni or Sheila is a very Bollywood question. Since Bollywood scripts have failed as myth, fans and publicity agents have created a myth by collaging two movies. It asks questions at a populist level between two forms of Bollywood dance, where sexuality is formulated twice. In one the sheer effervescence of the old is played out with a cast of effervescent stereotypes. In the other a diasporic image gyrates offering a different sense freedom. One offers a sense of prohibition and licence, the other the new found freedom even naiveté of Sheila. But in its very moment of celebratory populism, it realises that myth has exhausted itself. There is no deep contradiction. Munni or Sheila is Bollywood's happy way of signalling emptiness, waiting to stumble on new meaning.

One is waiting for a return to deeper meaning, to melodrama with greater stamina, to life which knows there are no easy solutions.

Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist

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DNA

IT'S TIME TO JUNK THE SULLIED PADMA AWARDS

SHEKHAR HATTANGADI

 

Every year, on the eve of Republic Day, the Indian government gives out awards to best and brightest. And every year, the announcement of the Padma awards winners triggers a controversy.

 

This year, the squabbling was Atal Behari Vajpayee being ignored for the Bharat Ratna while his former secretary, Brajesh Mishra, got the Padma Vibhushan. Last year's list had the likes of Sant Singh Chatwal, a jet-set New York hotelier now under a cloud for dodgy deals with Indian banks. He was decorated with a Padma Bhushan for lobbying with American senators on the Indo-US nuclear deal. Mishra's Padma Vibhushan is for the same reason.

 

It is difficult to disregard the nexus between the UPA bestowing the nation's second-highest civilian honour on

a senior policy advisor from the BJP, after he broke ranks with his party and supported the UPA line on the nuclear issue.

 

That the taint of political patronage hits the awards even in this "non-controversial" year should make us pause. Are these quid-pro-quo anointments any different from the "Rai Bahadur" and "Khan Bahadur" titles with which colonial British rulers co-opted the more influential and pliant among the Indian natives into supporting their policies and legitimising their rule? Precisely to avoid such a repetition, our Constitution framers — led by freedom fighter Acharya Kripalani — inserted Article 18(1) abolishing all titles.

 

Successive governments manoeuvred around this proscription by naming them "national awards". Kripalani, a Lok Sabha MP, then moved "The Conferment of Decoration on Persons (Abolition) Bill 1969." His motion was defeated.

 

The descent in recent years has been alarming: a Padma Shri for a Bollywood actor charged with poaching the endangered black buck, and for a surrendered Kashmiri militant against whom cases of extortion and attempted murder are pending.

 

Personal whims and politics play their part. Rajendra Prasad ordered a Padma Shri for his favourite nurse and Rajiv Gandhi for his school principal. Gandhi gave MG Ramachandran a posthumous Bharat Ratna to woo the Tamil Nadu electorate, notwithstanding that MGR was cited for tax evasion. VP Singh's Bharat Ratna for the late Dr BR Ambedkar betrayed an anxiety to bolster his pro-Dalit agenda. Zail Singh, Vajpayee and Dr.Manmohan Singh sought to honour their eye, knee and heart surgeons respectively. But Indira Gandhi took the cake: she decorated herself with a Bharat Ratna!

 

In the Balaji Raghavan v Union of India (1995), the Supreme Court upheld the decorations "as awards, not titles" on arguably thin grounds. On the awards violating the principles of equality and democracy, the court observed that the theory of equality does not mandate that merit should not be recognised.

 

The judgment cited Article 51-A (Fundamental Duties) which exhorts every citizen to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity. "It is therefore necessary," the court reasoned, "that there should be a system of awards and decorations to recognise excellence in the performance of these duties." But if doing one's duty always calls for rewards by way of governmental recognition, and since following the law is a citizen's primary duty, shouldn't every law-abiding citizen then lay claim to these awards? Isn't this an unseemly leap of legal reasoning by the country's highest judiciary?

 

The court also noted that "it is axiomatic that the misuse of a concept does not change its inherent nature."It failed to note the equally applicable axiom that the long-term systemic abuse of that concept debases it beyond repair, and thus renders it unsuitable for the very purpose for which it was instituted.

 

The judgment mandated that the awards shall not be used as pre-fixes with names and that the awardees in all categories be restricted to 50 or less. The number routinely exceeds 100: there were 128 awardees this year.

 

Moreover, is the government equipped to judge works of art, science, and literature? Does a private-sector entrepreneur with a negligible record of public service deserve a governmental honour? Doesn't such an award compromise the independence and integrity of citizens beholden to criticise and protest against ill-advised government policies and actions? Do the truly great need any certificate for their greatness? MK Gandhi lost nothing for having been overlooked for the Nobel Peace prize.

 

Perhaps the ultimate put-downer came from the late film comedian David Abraham. When a government official informed him about his selection, the roving-eye bachelor joked: "I'll take Padma, and you can keep her Shri."

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

ROAD TO SELF-GOVERNANCE

 

Though the State Cabinet took the decision of proceeding with the long-delayed Panchayat elections to be completed by March 2011, the step has met with opposition from stakeholders. Panthers Party has castigated the decision of proceeding with elections without first implementing 73rd Constitutional amendment. It is not happy with the Government deciding to hold Panchayati elections under existing rules terming it a fraud on the people of the State. Its objection is that existing rules leave scope for nomination of a member while the 73rd amendment has scrapped that option. Its fears are that the government will fill many seats with its nominees and that would be tantamount to the defeat of the idea of investing people with the right of self - rule. PDP chairperson has other argument to oppose the decision. She said that the conditions were not conducive for holding elections at this point of time and added that the time was worse than what it was in 2001. The Congress had initially some reservations and favoured adoption of the 73rd Constitutional amendment in connection with Panchayati Raj. But it appears that the coalition partner of the NC has finally come round and accepted the viewpoint of its partner National Conference. Last Panchayat elections were held in the State in 2001, and out of about 2700, elections were held for no more than 1900 Panchayats. It has to be said that Panchayti Raj is an old concept based on indigenous system of dispensation of justice in the country. In our State, this system of adjudication was introduced during the reign of Maharaja Hari Singh, the last ruler of the State. However, despite the fact that Gandhiji wouldn't lose sight of the Indian village being the hub of indigenous system of justice, the Panchayati Raj institutions could not acquire the status and dignity as peoples' responsive bodies owing to a number of reasons. Some of these were absence of regular elections, prolonged suppressions, and insufficient representation of weaker sections like Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women. There were other causes as well like inadequate devolution of powers and lack of financial resources... Article 40 of the Constitution of India, enshrining the Directive Principles of Sate policy lays down that the State shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government. Introducing the 73rd amendment the Government stated that in the light of the experience in the last forty years, and in view of the shortcomings, which have been observed, it is considered that there is an imperative need to enshrine in the Constitution certain basic and essential features of Panchayat Raj institutions to impart certainty, continuity and strength to them. Accordingly, it was proposed to add a new Part relating to Panchayats in the Constitution to provide for among other things, Gram Sabha in a village or group of villages; constitution of Panchayats at village and other levels, direct election to all seats in Panchayats at the village and intermediate level, if any, and to the offices of Chairpersons of Panchayats at such levels: reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in proportion to their population for membership of Panchayats and office of Chairpersons in Panchayats at each level; reservation of not less than one-third of the seats for women; fixing tenure of 5 years for Panchayats and holding elections within a period of 6 months in the event of supersession of any Panchayat, disqualifications for membership of Panchayats; devolution by the State Legislature of powers and responsibilities upon the Panchayats with respect to the preparation of plans for economic developments and social justice and for the implementation of development schemes; sound finance of the Panchayats by securing authorization from State Legislatures for grants-in-aid to the Panchayats from the Consolidated Fund of the State, as also assignment to, or appropriation by, the Panchayats of the revenues of designated taxes, duties, tolls and fees; setting up of a Finance Commission within one year of the proposed amendment and thereafter every 5 years to review the financial position of Panchayats; auditing of accounts of the Panchayats; powers of State Legislatures to make provisions with respect to elections to Panchayats under the superintendence, direction and control of the Chief Electoral Officer of the State. These are the highlights of the amendment under discussion, and one can see that adoption of this amendment right now would have immensely strengthened and concretized the idea of self-governance in Jammu and Kashmir. There is logic in the dissidence of some political parties who argue that non-implementation of the amendment leaves space for the Government to interfere in free and fair polling. However, the argument that political atmosphere is not conducive for Panchayat polls are hardly tenable. If self-governance is what would be the right solution to Kashmir's internal situation, then Panchayati elections are the way to follow.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

HERITAGE PRESERVATION

 

The welcome news is that the Government of Jammu and Kashmir has taken the right decision of renovating and beautifying some of the historical and cultural sites in the city of Srinagar. An interesting project discussed by its managing committee headed by the Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir is the historical shrine of Jamia Masjid. Normally such task falls within the jurisdiction of the Department of Archeology. But keeping in mind the sensitiveness of the place, the Government did the right thing of incepting a managing committee to take the decision. Jamia Masjid has a long history and is a focal point in the political-cultural life of Srinagar and the Valley. It is here that the Mirwaizs of Kashmir have been delivering Friday sermons which thousands of worshippers attend. The proposed shopping complex, parking space, parks and sanitary improvement will add to the grace and beauty of the site. Taking cue from the proposal of renovation at Jamia Masjid at a cost of about twenty crore rupees, the Sate Department of Tourism has been prompted to announce renovation and remodeling of the historic locality of Nagar Nagar at a cost of 50 crore rupees. Nagar Nagar was the name given by the Mughal rulers to the part of locality eastward of Hari Parbat hillock. In the light of the urge for preserving historical heritage, and in the aftermath of the success of the two projects mentioned above, the Government could carry on the heritage preservation programme by renovating other historical and cultural symbols especially the dilapidated temples, shrines, tombs, and fortresses abounding the State because these have not only historical and cultural but also tourism significance.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

PEACE PROCESS WITH PAKISTAN

ON THE SPOT

BY TAVLEEN SINGH

 

As someone who believes that India has no choice but to reopen dialogue with Pakistan I applauded when our Foreign Secretaries met last week and decided that it was time to begin talking to each other again. In retrospect it was not a wise decision for the Government of India to have broken off dialogue after 26/11 because it achieved nothing. Had we continued the process of dialogue we might have been more successful in forcing at least the civilian half of Pakistan's government to acknowledge that the ISI played a role in the attack on Mumbai. Even if Pakistan's civilian leaders had hesitated to acknowledge this publicly they may have been an important source of information in sessions of private dialogue.


This did not happen and in the end the fault line between civilian and military aspects of Pakistan's ruling establishment were obliterated and today more than two years after the worst terrorist act on Indian soil Pakistan remains as far from punishing the men who did it as it was in November 2008.


Meanwhile, what we like to think of as 'civil society' in our neighbouring Islamic republic has shrunk to a frighteningly small collecting of frightened people. In Davos this time I met many old Pakistani friends and, inevitably, we talked mostly about the change that has overcome their country. They were defensive. The daughter of an old friend who was in Davos as a TV reporter said that she worked for an Urdu channel and that whenever she expressed her 'liberal' analysis of a particular event she noticed that the TRPs were good. An old army man, who had once been close to General Pervez Musharraf, said that he did not think it was possible to understand what was happening in Pakistan from the safety of India. Yet another friend blamed the Americans for everything that had gone wrong. He said that if the Americans left Afghanistan he had no doubt at all that Pakistan would go back to being that happy, optimistic country that I had seen when I first took that short flight from Delhi to Lahore on a balmy evening in 1980.

 

It made me sad to listen to my friends because it confirmed that the people who could make a difference and help retrieve Pakistan from the brink of Islamist hell remain in denial about what has happened to their country.
I first noticed this in the summer of 2001 when I went to Lahore and Karachi to do a series of stories for Aaj Tak called 'Safarnama'. My going was a last minute decision on the part of Aroon Purie. The Pakistani government was being stingy with visas because General Musharraf was coming to Agra to talk to Prime Minister Vajpayee and they did not want any adverse advance publicity. It happened that I already had a visa to attend a friend's daughter's wedding and so it was decided that I should go.


There was no time to make hotel reservations so I stayed in Lahore with a friend and used a Pakistani television crew because there was no time to bring an Indian one. All day I wandered about the streets of Lahore with my Pakistani crew interviewing ordinary people and everywhere I went, including in some neighbouring villages, I met people who spoke the language of radical Islam. They objected to my not covering my head, to my working with strange men and to my wearing a sleeveless kameeze. It was mostly women who berated me for not 'respecting Pakistani culture' and the rules that had been made for Muslims by the Prophet of Islam. In Lahore's most famous 'nihari' restaurant I got into an argument with the owner, whose family were migrants from Delhi, because he said that television was forbidden in the Koran. When I asked him how this could be possible since television did not exist in the time of the Prophet he said, 'The Koran forbids the creation of images of human beings. Only Allah has this right.' When I came home in the evenings and told my friends the stories I had heard they did not believe them.

Since then whenever I have met them in Delhi or London or Davos I have noticed their determination not to acknowledge that their country was changing beyond recognition. And, that it was changing because of Islam. All the institutions of government including the police, the army, the judiciary, legislature and the executive are now manned by people born long after 1947. They believe that if Pakistan was created in the name of Islam then Islam has to be the solution to all their problems. They have been bred in schools that have taught them to hate India, to think of Hindus as evil and sly and to believe that there can never be peace between their 'land of the pure' and our land of happy infidels. The hostility against India runs deep and manifests itself in the violence of the jehadi groups that attack us on a daily basis online verbally and in more violent ways in real life.
Only last week Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed, who we believe was the mastermind of 26/11, announced that Pakistan would take Kashmir from India even if it meant a nuclear war.


So should we talking to him instead of General Kayani or President Zardari? Our Foreign Secretary has dismissed him as a 'man of no intelligence' but he is a man who wields enormous power. He started the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, with the help of the Pakistani Army, and he now runs an Islamic charity called the Jamaat-e-Dawaa which everyone knows is just a Lashkar front. If General Kayani cannot control him from making hate speeches is there any point in talking to General Kayani? Yes, there is but we must find out who else we should be talking to.


The stalemate since 26/11 has achieved nothing so we have nothing to lose by dialogue. But, we need first to establish the groups in Pakistan who really matter and not waste time talking to those who do not. What is even more important is that we state in the clearest terms what it is we seek to achieve from this new process of dialogue. An important achievement of this new peace process could be just to find out who really controls Pakistan today.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SINKING HOPES OF GROWTH

BY DR ASHWANI MAHAJAN

 

Rate of inflation is continuously increasing for almost past three years. But in the last few months it has accelerated further and common man is the worst hit. Generally speaking inflation in any economy is caused by excess of demand over supply. Therefore solution to inflation lies in improving supply and control on demand. Theoretically supply can be improved by increasing production of goods and services or imports. Experience shows that there has been a reasonably good growth in industrial production, especially consumer goods production. But rate of growth in agricultural production has come down to a very low level and in some years agriculture has even witnessed a negative growth. As such shortage of agricultural products mainly food items has been causing much faster increase in prices of food items, making life difficult for the common man. In recent months the price of onions and tomatoes has become the talking point on the streets.
Frightened by the inflation the Government has been trying to adopt measures to control inflation. In this endeavour the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been trying to fight inflation through monetary measures to control demand. Through monetary measures RBI tries to control supply of credit and money supply and thereby demand. Theoretically central bank of an economy can adopt a series of measures including changes in interest rates, cash reserve ratio etc. and control the supply of credit. Using these measures to control credit, a restriction can be imposed on demand in the country. If this policy is successful, prices could be brought under control.


We understand that to keep away the impact of worldwide recession, RBI reduced the interest rates and reserve ratios (both cash reserve ratio and statutory liquidity ratio), in order to boost demand in the country. This act of the RBI to somehow keep the demand high did produce results and despite a slight fall in export demand, domestic demand was able to offset the impact of world recession. Thus despite slow down world over, India could achieve a growth rate of 7.2 percent. But today India appears to be absolutely free from recession; rather the concerns are high on increase in demand and resulting hyper inflation.


How credit is controlled

In the past few months, RBI has been following tight money policy. Measures of various types are being adopted to reduce the flow of credit in the country. On January 25, 2011 the repo rate and reverse repo rate were hiked to 6.5 and 5.5 percent respectively. This is seventh hike in the current fiscal year. Earlier, the Reserve Bank had increased CRR of banks in two instalments. So far this fiscal year, the Reserve Bank has hiked repo rate and reverse repo rate by 1.25 and 1.75 percent point respectively and CRR of the banks by one percent. This type of policy of the Reserve Bank reduces the capacity of the banks to lend money on the one hand and increase the cost of credit on the other. Combined impact of this policy is reduction in the flow of credit and thereby demand in the country. It is believed that RBI had 'sucked in' liquidity to the extent of 50,000 crores by hiking the CRR by one percent (in two instalments). Since January 25, 2011, Sensex of Mumbai Stock Exchange nosedived by 1150 points till February 4, 2011.This signals nervousness amongst the market players about future prospects.


Sinking hopes of growth

Experience in the last 10 years' shows that not only there has been a significantly high rate of growth; rate of economic growth has been faster than ever before. But major problem in all these years have been with agriculture, where rate of growth has either significantly reduced or have even gone negative. High rate of economic growth has primarily been due to much higher rate of growth in service sector and fairly satisfactory rate of growth of manufacturing sector. As a result of this high rate of growth, prices could be kept under control in the first 6-7 years of this decade. As a result of stable prices, interest rates started coming down. Though falling interest rates did affect adversely a section of the society dependent on interest income but growth of the economy definitely got a boost due to this. Falling interest rates in the economy gave a boost to the demand for homes, cars and other consumer goods as sufficient credit was available at relatively lower interest. These purchases were well within the reach of the people. Increase in the effective demand in the economy gave a boost to house building and production of consumer durables in general and automobiles in particular. Lower interest rates played best role in the development of infrastructure as the companies started getting loans at affordable rates for investment now. As a result of this phenomenal all round growth, our country became world's second fastest growing economies after China. But since 2008-09 rapidly rising prices started causing an upward revision in interest rates. For a short spell starting from the year 2009, RBI effected a lowering of interest rates to counter global recession, and it did produce desired results and nation could achieve more than 7 percent growth at a time when global GDP was shrinking by approximately 1 percent.


It can be said that lowering of interest rates has a major role in the saga of India's economic growth. As such rapid price rise in the current financial year is likely to cause hiking of interest rates on two counts. Firstly, to keep inflation under check, RBI has been adopting tight money policy and making increase in repo rate and reverse repo rate. RBI has also been trying to raise CRR and therefore reducing the capacity of banks to lend more and thus inducing them to raise interest rates. Secondly, hike in interest rates is needed to compensate for inflation so that depositors are ensured of a positive and reasonable real interest rate. Say for example rate of inflation is 8 percent, 12 percent rate of interest rate would mean real interest rate of only 4 percent.
No doubt if there is inflation RBI will have to increase interest rates. But this is likely to affect growth adversely, causing a chain effect in the form of further inflation. Thus there is need to attack the root cause of inflation. We must understand that to curb inflation we must overcome the shortage in supply of agricultural products. For that policy makers must end their indifference towards agriculture. This will meet two pronged objective. On the one hand it will help keeping inflation under check and on the other hand food will be available to the poor at affordable prices.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SCOURGE OF ADULTERATION

BY SHIBAN KHAIBRI

 

The larger horizon of political and administrative system in our country unfortunately seems afflicted with massive corruption, plunder, loot, adulteration, nepotism and utter non performance. It is to be admitted that the affected "Aam Aadmi" feels not only dejected and frustrated but indignant too.There are people in all walks of life - the media, the bureaucracy, the judiciary and even in politics, though in small number, who rise against, revolt and reject the wrong. Confronting the deep rooted malaise, may even cost them their life. They die, opposing the evil. Their death, however, results in a wake up call.


Yashwant Sonwane Additional District Collector was burnt alive as he wanted to curb the adulteration of fuel. Perhaps it is the fate of an average Indian to use and consume only adulterated stuff , how does it matter whether the engines of the users' vehicles get corroded and damaged with the adulterated oil or the kidneys , intestines , heart, the pancreas and other organs of the human body get damaged with the consumption of spurious milk, ghee, oil, oxytocin hormone injected vegetables and other adulterated and sub standard food stuffs.?


Can the well established illegal market of oil mafia worth thousands of crore Rupees exist, sustain and flourish without a strong nexus? How many Yashwant Sonawanes, Satindra Dubeys, Manjoonaths and the like, have to get killed to get those politicians, police authorities, bureaucrats, employees and middlemen exposed who are overtly or covertly, a part and parcel of such syndicates in our country? Touching the tail end of the dragon by arresting petty pilfers, truck drivers or some retail outlet vendors won't resolve the gigantic problem. Likewise prosecuting and punishing small fries and letting big fish plunder and loot with impunity, shall sooner or later, menacingly disturb the tranquil equations in the society


How come, following the public outrage and substantial exposure by the media, raids were conducted on specific and pin pointed oil mafia places? No raids reportedly went astray which substantiates the deep belief that the entire nexus, their modus operandi, the specific involvement of individuals is fully known to the administration. The question is then why only post Sonawane incidents virtually mortify the administration to act and that too till the dust settles down and why not before that , needs to be pondered over which is really the bane of all such gory happenings.


It is an irony that in our country , there are numerous small and big issues which prompt our political parties to organize protests, demonstrations and that oft resorted "Chakka Jam " and "Jail Bharoo" type of agitating ways against respective state and central governments but we have never heard or seen all political parties together in one voice giving a call for " Bharat Bhand " against adulteration , on the one hand , to arise public awakening and on the other , compel the administration to act sternly as a future deterrent to the adulterers. Can there be any other more important national issue and that too concerning the health of the citizens especially that of the children , than public mobilization against adulterers and dealers in spurious goods? Generation of a nation wide wave of indignation, with intent to expose and bring to justice, on fast track basis , the mafia of every type is urgently required as things are worsening day by day, the main edifice of morality plummeting congruently.
It is intriguing that only on the issue of hike in pay, perks and facilities, our political parties seem to get firmly united, abstain from parliamentary proceedings as mark of protest but not on those issues which grossly affect the "Aam Aadmi" in every sphere. The Maharashtra employees in lakhs demonstrated not for wage revision but against the stinking system where despite there being sufficient checks and balances, rules and regulations, procedures and norms but not invoked, resting them only on paper. If A. Raja is finally arrested for spectrum scam, it is largely due to the relentless expose by the media and the keen and effective monitoring by the Supreme Court, where the investigative agencies are to file periodic reports, the first of which is due by Feb10, 2011.


This face of India , i.e.; soft within and outside, is getting increasingly known to the International community , no wonder China is bothered, not in the least, to revise its staple visa policy and even after its Premier's recent New Delhi visit , it has enlarged and extended the obnoxious policy of staple visa to Arunachal Pradesh in addition to Jammu and Kashmir, not to speak of constructing numerous dams on and diverting the rich Brahamputra River water and in case of an outbreak of a conflict , these dams could get converted into water bombs against India with unimaginable perilous consequences . American President is delivering a good flowery worded lecture, here , in New Delhi but does nothing to direct American administration to allow Indian investigating agencies to grill terrorist Hardley or to take action against Union Carbide owner or to stop aiding Pakistan militarily. Obama government does nothing to prevent beleaguered Indian students, the victims of the sham university, The Trans Valley University, from being shackled and radio tagged in the most demeaning manner and to rub salt on the wounds, these anklets are called as hip and trendy by Julliet Wur , a senior American officer. These students are now under orders to keep mum and hence are gagged. The question is that could America dare meet out such treatment to Chinese, Russian or French students? Sri Lanka is wantonly killing our fishermen and our External Affairs Minister is arguing with and then placating them with citing example of "Pakistan is not doing it when they (our fishermen) enter their waters." In Australia, our students are subjected to acts of violence. Even land locked Nepal and countries like Bangladesh are creating problems for us, because we are soft and evasively defensive.


To a question by the media persons to Rahul Gandhi on Sonwana's murder, he replied," This is a symptom, if someone is suffering from cancer, merely saying so won't do. The whole political system is defective; the system has to be changed. Youth has to come forward etc etc." At least he acknowledged the defects galore in the entire political system but the remedy he suggested appeared time consuming and ineffective.
Sonwane's killers should be tried in fast track courts and dispensation of justice and stern punishment arranged within 2 to 3 months so as to prove it a future deterrent. It should not go the Qasab's and other similar cases' way of lengthy legal and bureaucratic tangles, lest people forget and many Sonwanes get burnt alive to uphold the right and oppose the unethical.

 

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EDITORIAL

PAK IMAGE MAKEOVER

KEY FACTORS BEHIND THE EXERCISE

 

The Pakistan Cabinet's resignation on Wednesday was expected anytime after pressure began to mount on the PPP-led government to downsize it at the earliest. The International Monetary Fund, one of the major donors helping the country's economy to survive, had been telling the Pakistan government for a long time to cut down the Cabinet's size and implement some other reform measures for politico-economic stability in that country. The recently introduced 18th Amendment also had it that the government should be as thin as possible with a view to reducing its expenses at a time when it found itself in difficult straits. There was tremendous pressure from the main opposition party, the PML (N), too, for doing what Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani did on instructions from President Asif Zardari.

 

The most important factor for the PPP-led government to go in for an exercise of this nature was its image of being a corrupt and inefficient administration. The PPP, which had emerged as the largest single party to be able to form a government with a little support from here and there after the 2008 elections, has lost its following considerably. The party's top leader, Mr Zardari, is today one of the most hated figures in Pakistan because of his image of being corrupt to the bone. The sharp decline in the PPP's popularity was helping former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's PML (N) to enlarge its support base. Most political analysts believe if there is an election in the near future, the PML (N) may easily capture power in Islamabad.

 

Neither the army nor the US, whose massive aid sustains the economy of Pakistan, want Mr Nawaz Sharif's party to control the levers of power at least at this stage. His victory, it is feared, will embolden the extremist forces, adding to the US troubles in Afghanistan, from where American forces are scheduled to begin their withdrawal in July. But will the exercise undertaken in Islamabad help the PPP and its camp followers? Much will depend on who the new Cabinet members are and how efficient they prove to be.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

THE AARUSHI CASE

HOLDING THE TRIAL IS THE ONLY OPTION

 

The CBI Special Court in Ghaziabad cannot be faulted for treating the 'closure report' filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation as a charge sheet against the parents of Aarushi Talwar, who was mysteriously found murdered on her own bed nearly three years ago. Had the court accepted the investigating agency's plea that though it suspected the role of the father, it had not been able to establish the motive or collect any evidence and would, therefore, like the case to be closed, it would have been accused of letting the guilty get away. Under the circumstances, the decision to hold a trial and order a fresh investigation was the only option open to the court. The trial should also be welcomed because it would give the doctor couple, Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, a fresh opportunity to establish their innocence. It may well appear perverse that while investigators have failed to establish the guilt, the parents are now being called upon to prove their innocence. But still, the case poses a serious challenge to the country's criminal justice system and does need to be pursued to its logical end.

 

The 'perfect murder', which has grabbed the attention of the nation, and the investigation that followed are a sad reflection on the country's premier investigating agency. Indeed, there are two different conclusions drawn by two different teams of the CBI. While the first team was confident that the murder was committed by three domestic helps, the second team found the parents to be the main suspects. With no evidence of any forced entry into the flat, in which four people lived and two of whom were killed on the same night, the two surviving inmates do have a lot of explaining to do. But then the Talwars have already undergone the whole gamut of tests and there is very remote possibility of finding fresh evidence . One, therefore, suspects the prosecutors would be content to pin the Talwars down on the charge of destruction of evidence and let the murder mystery continue to fire the imagination of writers and filmmakers.

 

The law-makers need to take a good, hard look though at allowing private hospitals to do the autopsy and independent labs to conduct forensic tests. Depending solely on government doctors and hospitals no longer appears necessary. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

RAPE VICTIMS OF UP

POLITICAL CLOUT OF CULPRITS IS ALARMING

 

If Uttar Pradesh is not turning its rape victims into dreaded dacoits like Phoolan Devi any more, there are reasons! Under Mayawati's regime that claims to have restored law and order in the state, the nature of incidents of rape is growing macabre. A 17-year-old Dalit girl had to lose part of her nose and one of the ears and fingers, chopped off with a sharp-edged weapon by the men who also tried to molest her. Her father had an altercation with these men at a panchayat meeting. The incident that took place at Urdauli village last week shook the civilised society.

 

A rape case, that too of a Dalit girl, almost always gets tremendous attention from all sections of society. After Banda legislator Purushottam Naresh Dwivedi had sent a minor girl to jail on charges of theft after raping her in his house, media went hammer and tongs against the BSP legislator. Dwivedi was arrested a month later. Then an attempted self-immolation by a girl of 14 on January 26, who was raped by two boys at Nagla Gumani village in Ferozabad district, and the rape of a Muslim woman at Sultanpur on February 1 created clamour for booking the culprit.

 

From raping and parading of naked Dalit women, the offenders have graduated to chopping off their body parts, pushing the victim to the verge of committing suicide or immolation. Rape can be a single, isolated shocking incident. Something terrible must be happening to these women at various levels to take away their will to fight back and live. The gruesomeness of these acts has failed to attract anything but clichéd jingoism from political quarters. Rahul Gandhi, Congress general secretary, who visited three rape victims in Uttar Pradesh on Monday, is accused of politicising a sensitive issue. Of course, there is the usual monetary compensation and promises of free medical help. Rape in these caste- ridden societies is a way of avenging and humiliating the rising Dalit vote power. Hence the malaise should be treated at several layers by sensitising administrative machinery and putting the justice delivery system on a fast track. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

GETTING ALL 'POSCOS' MOVING

NO MORE TIME SHOULD BE LOST

BY B.G. VERGHESE

 

Mr Jairam Ramesh has finally given conditional clearance to the mega POSCO steel-mine-port project in Orissa that he vetoed last August after much palaver. This is good news but is something that could have been done long back without the prodding and pushing it entailed. There is nothing in the order, including stipulating action in consonance with the Forests Rights Act that could not have been said or sought earlier from the project authorities and the state government.

 

Precious time has been lost considering that initial clearance for this 12 m tonne, $12 bn project was given in July 2007 after an MOU was signed with the South Korean Pohang Steel Company in 2005. The subsequent Forest Rights Act, retrospectively applied, was to undo earlier approvals as in the case of the Vedanta aluminium project. One clear lesson is that piecemeal, stop-go clearances and incremental approvals, subject to revision in the context of future legislation, constitute an appallingly clumsy and muddled way of doing business. This inspires no confidence and can only undermine the credibility of governance.

 

No surprise if investors, Indian and international, should pause before staking too much in an uncertain future. The contretemps over coal mining caused by the Ministry of Forests and Environment's "go and no-go" classification of forests for mining approvals brought a word of caution from the Planning Commission Deputy Chairman in December that this could retard infrastructural and industrial development. The Reserve Bank of India followed, lamenting the decline in inward FDI flows, resulting in delays and stop-go's in relation to environmental clearances for a wide range of projects on account of procedural and land acquisition hassles and (the consequent) paucity of quality infrastructure which lies at the heart of the government's growth and poverty alleviation strategy.

 

The Coal Minister has now assessed that as a result of MoEF embargoes on mining, the country faces a possible shortfall of 142 m tonnes in coal production next year with implications for prices and industrial production. With oil prices rising, the foreign exchange burden will also increase.

 

The Prime Minister has upheld environmental conservation as a matter of prudence and inter-generational equity but has expressed concern that we should not return to the permit-quota-licence raj. Mr Ramesh has countered by stating that most coal mining applications have been cleared and that he is seeking to maintain a delicate balance between conservation and growth. The MoEF argument, as reported, that no-go mining areas serve to preserve a national strategic reserve is unconvincing. Worked mines can and should be ecologically restored as green parks and water bodies, as is indeed being done in certain cases with considerable success.

 

The notion that growth caters solely to corporate greed is fallacious. A sustained high rate of growth is necessary not merely to generate incomes and employment to absorb the net 12 million annual addition to the labour force as a result of given demographic factors but to mitigate, if not obviate, the 30 million annual distress migration of Malthusian refugees seeking life-saving opportunities. It also helps support inclusive growth by generating the revenue surpluses that make possible the funding of large rights-based programmes such as the Employment Guarantee Act, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and so forth. A sustained 8-9 per cent rate of growth over the next decade should enable the country to overcome destitution by 2020. High growth is, therefore, more essential for the poor than it is for the well-off. However, widening disparities between different classes and regions must also be countered in the interest of social and political stability.

 

A further proposition that merits wider understanding is that poverty, which breeds survival economics, is inimical to conservation and the environment.

 

The government's new line on POSCO has not unexpectedly aroused the opposition of sundry activist groups that have opposed not only this but also a whole series of large projects across the board in every part of the country. Relevant conditionalities are in order; but any set of ideological red-lines can only harm the welfare of the tribals and other disadvantaged groups, who are being falsely instigated to forego opportunities of transforming their lives and their environment.

 

The land can no longer sustain the numbers still scratching a marginal livelihood from it. Mega industry is obviously not the sole answer and must be buttressed by the development of off-farm, rural -based small and medium enterprises in food and by-product processing and a range of services. The khadi and village industry and handloom and handicraft sectors are well poised to be infused with modern technological, marketing and management inputs to give a thrust to a new generation of SMEs, assisted with micro-finance that post office savings banks could provide. Gandhi has to be reinterpreted for modern times in a manner that he would surely have approved.

 

Energy represents another vital sector that required impetus. After virtually banning any new hydro projects in the higher reaches of Uttarakhand and Himachal, there has reportedly been a welcome relaxation – at least for survey and investigation – in North Sikkim, though not in Arunachal Pradesh. However, strong opposition to the mega 6 x 1650 MW nuclear plant, proposed to be set up at Jaitapur, in Ratnagiri district, remains. There is again evidence of a touch-me-not attitude in the opposition to the project, apart from objections to the adoption of new technology being brought in by the French collaborator, Areva.

 

Issues concerning public hearings, land acquisition, fisheries, the temperature of return coolant water flows, seismicity, radiation and green cover have all been gone over and answered. Some of the objections to the Jaitapur project would appear to be ideologically driven on account of positions taken on the merits of the civil-nuclear deal. These have been amply debated and answered, though those who are determined to oppose nuclear power and the route followed will continue to do so. But none can have a veto on development. Nuclear power is not the sole option and there can be no disagreement about going forward with solar and other forms of non-conventional sources of energy. Nor is it sufficient to argue that nuclear power is currently high cost and that its immediate contribution over the next decade or two will be limited in relation to India's total energy budget.

 

The underlying national strategy is to move on to a second and third stage of nuclear power generation, graduating from uranium-based to cheaper and more efficient breeder reactors operating on the plutonium-thorium cycle. That the country has gone slow in developing nuclear power for a variety of reasons is every reason to expedite rather than further retard the process today. Yesterday's people fear tomorrow, which is where the future lies.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

CRICKET OR SURGERY

BY S.M. BOSE

 

BUNTY, living in our neighbourhood, is a bright boy of 13, always scoring more than 95 per cent in his examinations. He wants to be a surgeon and his knowledge of surgery is impressive. He frequently comes to me to know more.

 

Bunty was very much interested in cricket and had joined training classes. He was considered to be a good allrounder and got selected in the under-13 Chandigarh team but left as it was interfering with his studies.

 

Therefore, I was surprised to find him in cricket gear at a time when he should have been in a tuition class. When I asked him why, he told me that he was in a hurry and would come in the evening.

 

He was at my place just after sunset. "Uncle, you must be eager to know how come I have resumed cricket," he told me. "Yes, you had stopped playing cricket, now what happened?" I asked him. Instead of replying, he asked me if I had watched the IPL auction and without waiting for my answer he told me: "What is the use of becoming a surgeon? Uncle, you have occupied one of the highest positions that an Indian surgeon can dream of. Professionally, you have a name, but during the whole of your professional career spanning over 45 years you might not have earned a total of two crore rupees. I also know that you were a dedicated and devoted doctor and always had a stressful and hard life. Not only you, Malhotra uncle who retired as Air Chief Marshal and Uncle Saluja retiring as Chief Engineer also had the same life. But the other day, Gautam Gambhir got more than Rs 11 crore for playing cricket for the IPL for a period of 45 days only and that too just for 4 to 6 hours per day. Compare it with your salary. Uncle, do you realise that what you have earned in the whole of your professional tenure, Gambhir will earn in eight to 10 days.

 

"And mind you, Gambhir is in good company of Pathan brothers, Rohit Sharma, Robin Utthapa, Yuvraj Singh etc. Do you know uncle how much other sports persons like Floyd Maxweather, Tiger Woods, Fernando Alonso, Cristiano Orlando earn Rafael Nadal earn in a year?

 

"Uncle, do not get depressed when I tell you that you got two crores for undertaking thousands of operations and training hundreds of surgeons but Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan or Akshay Kumar get two to three crores from an ad of 30 seconds, that also for saying silly things like 'thanda thanda cool cool'. Now please don't say that money is not everything. Uncle, time has changed and I know the value and power of money.

 

"I can't be a Bollywood actor but I have the option of cricket or surgery, and I have decided to go for cricket. I am sure in the next five or six years, I will be a candidate for IPL auction. Wish me good luck." I became dumb with this 440-volt shock and could only mumble best wishes.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

PAKISTAN'S UNSAFE YET GROWING N-ARSENAL

AS TERRORISM SPREADS AND THE SECURITY SITUATION IN ITS NORTH-WESTERN REGION WORSENS, REPORTS OF PAKISTAN INCREASING ITS NUCLEAR ARSENAL HAVE RAISED FEARS OVER ITS SAFETY AND SECURITY. THERE IS SERIOUS CONCERN ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF NON-STATE OPERATORS ACQUIRING A DIRTY BOMB IN THE EVENT OF THE GOVERNMENT CRUMBLING OR A SUCCESSFUL COUP LED BY RADICAL EXTREMISTS, WHICH COULD BE CATASTROPHIC. AS PAKISTAN'S IMMEDIATE NEIGHBOUR, INDIA WILL HAVE TO BEAR THE BRUNT OF SUCH A FALLOUT.

GURMEET KANWAL AND MONIKA CHANSORIA

 

Despite growing concerns regarding the safety and security of Pakistan's nuclear warheads, fissile material stocks, and nuclear facilities, recent reports indicate that Islamabad has managed to amass a nuclear stockpile of approximately 110 warheads—a steep upward climb from earlier international estimates.

 

According to a statement in The Washington Post by David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security, "Pakistan has expanded its nuclear weapons production capability rapidly." The paper also quoted Dr. Peter Lavoy, US national intelligence officer for South Asia, as having told NATO officials in December 2008, that "despite pending economic catastrophe, Pakistan is producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than in any other country in the world". The frenzied activities by Pakistan's nuclear establishment will soon place it on the fifth spot as the world's largest nuclear weapons power in terms of the number of warheads stockpiled. In fact, it has now edged ahead of India, which is reported to have 60 to 80 nuclear warheads.

 

Pakistan could not have accelerated production of plutonium and enriched uranium, which it uses for warheads, without substantial outside support. China has been its principal nuclear and missile technology benefactor. Pakistan's Chasma-I reactor was imported from Beijing during the 1990s followed by Chasma-II in the early 2000s. Now China is supplying Pakistan with two new 650-MW nuclear reactors, Chasma-III and Chasma-IV. While these reactors are ostensibly for electricity generation, they will produce plutonium as a byproduct. It is not yet clear whether these will be subject to full-scope IAEA safeguards.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The China-Pakistan deal is in violation of China's NPT obligations and transgresses the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG, having 46 NPT states including China) guidelines that forbid NPT-signatory states from supplying nuclear technology and fissile material to states not a party to the NPT. Pakistan has a poor non-proliferation track record as it is known to have passed on nuclear technology to states like Iran, Libya and North Korea through the AQ Khan network. As Pakistan Air Force aircraft ferried nuclear goods and the army tightly controls the nuclear programme, it is facetious for the Pakistan government to continue to claim that proliferation occurred without its knowledge.

 

Confirmation regarding the deal to supply new reactors has come in from China National Nuclear Corporation, which announced that China Zhongyuan Engineering is the general contractor for the project. Beijing has sanctioned a low-interest loan to Pakistan for 82 percent of the $1.9 billion cost of the reactors. The leading Chinese political daily and mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Renmin Ribao, lashed out against the US for "being soft on India and deriding the NPT". Commenting on the spillover effect of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal and choosing to ignore India's spotless nuclear non-proliferation record, Renmin Ribao stated that if the US made a "nuclear exception for India", other powers could "do the same with their friends" — apparently a clear reference to Pakistan. As a matter of fact, by virtue of this latest nuclear reactor deal, Beijing has done precisely that.

 

However, going by the experience in setting up Chasma-I and Chasma-II, it will be quite some time before the Chasma-III and Chasma-IV reactors begin producing power – and plutonium to add to Pakistan's fissile material stockpile. Meanwhile, the Kahuta facility has been producing highly enriched uranium for a quarter century. Additionally, two un-safeguarded plutonium and tritium producing reactors are operational at the Khushab facility for advanced compact warheads and the intensified construction of a third facility has been reported.

 

Pakistan has been testing ballistic and nuclear-capable cruise missiles at an average rate of one every two months. It is apparently engaged in improving the accuracy of its North Korean origin No Dong and Taepo Dong missiles and of the Chinese origin missiles M-9 and M-11. Its indigenous arsenal include the Hatf, Shaeen and Ghauri series of ballistic missiles and the Babur cruise missile.

 

Pakistan does not have any tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons. However, low yield fission bombs can be employed against tactical targets by means of aerial delivery or missiles. Pakistan is reportedly working towards miniaturising its nuclear warheads for use on the Babur cruise missile. As and when this capability is acquired, Pakistan will also be able to develop tactical nuclear warheads for its short-range missiles.

 

On the other hand, Indian missiles are indigenous but these have not been tested as often as Pakistan's. Also, there is a question mark over the efficiency of India's fusion warhead. India has an edge by establishing a genuine triad, that is, land, sea and air based deterrence that enhances survivability for retaliatory strikes. This may give the impression of an overall nuclear parity with Pakistan, but is not true. Nuclear deterrence is not a numbers game and if deterrence breaks down, India has the capability to destroy major Pakistani cities several times over. Hence, credible deterrence prevails between both nations.

 

With the spectre of terrorism having taken hold of Pakistan's polity, there are serious doubts whether Pakistan's nuclear warheads are safe from falling into Jihadi hands. The death of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer at the hands of a specially selected bodyguard has fuelled apprehensions of guards being subverted and diverting fissile material or even a warhead or two. Western commentators have for long expressed grave reservations about the safety and security of Pakistan's nuclear warheads and have called for contingency plans to "take out" all of them in the eventuality of their imminent loss to the jihadis.

 

According to US-based columnist Seymour Hersh, US and Israeli Special Forces have even rehearsed such plans in the Negev Desert. So long the warheads are in the custody of the Pakistan army, such reservations are misplaced. However, in case there is ever a successful coup led by radical extremists with the support of disgruntled elements in the Pakistan army, nuclear warhead storage sites will need to be bombed so as to render the warheads ineffective. For this contingency, India must consider providing military and logistics support to the US and its allies.

 

As fighting intensifies in the NWFP-Pakhtoonkhwa and other tribal regions in Pakistan's FATA, the worsening security situation in the "Af-Pak" region, continuing radical extremism elsewhere in Pakistan, creeping Talibanisation, a floundering economy and the failure of the civilian government to govern effectively, have raised deep concerns regarding the safety and security of Islamabad's nuclear arsenal. In the event of President Zardari's government crumbling due to the Pakistan army's failure to root out militants and terrorists, a situation could well arise where extremist infiltration within the military and intelligence services could compromise the security of Islamabad's nuclear weapons. This could be catastrophic for the entire region. As Pakistan's immediate neighbour, India will have to face the brunt of such a collapse.

 

There is serious unease about the possibility of non-state actors seizing an opportunity to acquire a nuclear warhead or a "dirty" weapon. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has expressed doubts regarding the "continuing safety" of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. Going by assurances provided by Zardari in May 2009, the Obama administration maintains Pakistan's nuclear weapons are secure "at least for the moment". However, apprehensions continue to grow not just in Pakistan's immediate neighbourhood but across the globe even though Gen Tariq Majid, Chairman of Pakistan's Joint Chiefs of Staff, has categorically rejected such propositions.

 

It is imperative for Pakistan's nuclear authorities to come clean on the system of checks and balances instituted by them. These organisations include the National Command Authority, responsible for policy formulation and control over all strategic nuclear forces, the Strategic Plans Division, in charge of developing and managing nuclear capability in all dimensions, and the Strategic Forces Command, responsible for planning and control as well as for issuing operational directives for the deployment and use of nuclear weapons. Potential loopholes in the system through which sensitive WMD technology could slip into the hands of non-state actors must be effectively plugged.

 

The authors are director and senior fellow, respectively, at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi

 

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THE KASHMIR TIMES

EDITORIAL

THREE-TIER HOAX

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS IMPERATIVE FOR A GENUINE PANCHAYATI RAJ SYSTEM


By deciding to go ahead with the elections to the panchayats in the State under the existing law, which is quite retrogressive in nature in as much as it does not fulfill the objective of the empowerment of the people at grass-root level, the State cabinet has demonstrated its reluctance to evolve a genuine democratic decentralized polity and system of governance. Such a system is indeed imperative for achieving the desired objective of inclusive growth and justice through inclusive governance to all sections of the people. The cabinet's nod to the decision for holding elections to the panchayats under the existing Panchayati Raj Act makes it obvious that the State rulers are keen to concentrate power in their hands and are not willing to usher into an era of grass-root democracy. Under the existing law not only the elections to the panchayats cannot be considered democratic even the panchayat bodies at different tiers have been denied adequate powers and authority. The State government's refusal to bring the necessary amendments in the State Constitution, in accordance, with the 73rd and 74th amendments in the Constitution of India, betrays the rulers concern for concentrating power in few hands, their lack of trust in the people at the grass-root level and their hostility to the laudable concept of democratic decentralization. Under the 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts Part IX and part IX A were added to the Constitution of India. These amendments provided constitutional sanction to democracy at the grass rot level by inserting in the Constitution two new parts relating to three-tier panchayati raj institutions and urban local bodies like the Municipal Corporations and Municipal Committees. These amendments provided constitutional guarantee to the basic and essential features of the self-governing democratic institutions in both the rural and urban areas. These included regular elections to these institutions, reservation of seats for the women and other weaken sections of the society, devolution of financial, legislative and administrative powers, mandatory provision for setting up independent election commission at the state level for conducting elections and the constitution of finance commission after every five years. The Act makes it obligatory for the states to hold elections regularly and to establish a three-tier panchayati raj system at village, intermediate and district levels. Unlike other states the elections to these institutions in J&K will depend on the whims of the State government. Even these bodies will lack any constitutional sanctity and democratic character. The changes in the State Constitution on the lines of the 73rd and 74th amendments in the Constitution of India are imperative for evolving any genuine system of democratic decentralization. The attitude of the State government in refusing to bring the necessary changes in the Constitution and go ahead with the elections under the existing law to be conducted by the government-appointed chief electoral officer is indeed inexplicable.


Under the existing law not only the panchayats and local bodies shall remain deprived of adequate power and authority but these would also lack democratic character. Unlike in other states where the chairmen of the district boards or zila samitis are democratically elected by the people in Jammu and Kashmir it will be the ministers who will head these institutions. This enables the State government to directly control these institutions and interfere in their affairs. While in other states the local level elected self-government has been made ineluctable, irreversible and irremovable in J&K under the State laws even the elections will depend on the whims of the state government and these institutions can be superseded when ever the state rulers find them inconvenient. What is even more important is the provision for functions, finances and functionaries of these self-governing institutions. The Eleventh Schedule to the Constitution of India for the devolution of powers -Functions, Fiances and Functionaries- to the elected panchayati raj institutions, including urban local bodies, sets out 29 areas providing efficient and rightful access to the common people to public goods and services. These cover primary and secondary education, primary health-care centres and dispensaries, rural housing, sanitation, women and child development, public distribution outlets, rural infrastructure including roads, bridges, culverts etc, veterinary centres, maintenance of community assets, rural industries, minor irrigations and agriculture and can ensure participative development and inclusive growth. For ensuring the centrality of the panchayati raj institutions in the planning and implementation of all central-sponsored and state schemes the funds earmarked for these should be provided to these institutions. In the absence of any constitutional guarantees the proposed panchayati raj system will turn out to be a 3-tier hoax. What prevents the State government from initiating the process of amending the State Constitution to provide for a genuine system of democratic decentralization to ensure inclusive growth through inclusive governance?

 

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THE KASHMIR TIMES

EDITORIAL

CONFUSION BEGETTING INSTITUTE

CBI HASN'T SERVED ITS PURPOSE, RATHER IT'S A TOOL IN HANDS OF POWERFUL TO SERVE THEIR PETTY INTERESTS


If you can't convince anyone, confuse them. India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is inspired by what Truman warned against years ago. The CBI has lately earned the notoriety of cover-ups and leaving investigations mid-way after botching up evidence and totally adding to the confusion, rather than clear the cob-webs. It has received brickbats from all quarters for its rather visible property of bailing out police or political regimes from messes whenever the latter are cornered. It's credibility is virtually at stake with its fishy role in hushing up cases of corruption and murders, in creating a hype with fresh leads and twists and finally closing up cases with simply no answers at all. Close on the heels of the file closure in Ruchika Girhotra molestation and suicide case, the CBI has ended up the Arushi Talwar case with murder charges against the parents of the victims, with no apparent evidence just some assumptive questions. In several other cases of crime, including the Shopian double rapes and murders, the CBI has ended up with similarly confusing conclusions that can be easily questioned. The bureau has earned notoriety for hushing up cases that are politically inconvenient or fail to suit other influential people. It does what it is best at: begins with a pretence of pursuing the cause of justice in the face of public outrage, creates hypes with selectively leaked reports about major leads in the case and then cleverly develops withdrawal symptoms with fresh twists and turns based on no evidence at all but a confusing mess of long pages of report that challenge its own conclusions. Political dispensations have never questioned the existence or utility of the CBI because it suits them to use the bureau to their political advantage, nail the adversaries or bail out their own men caught in the net. The CBI, which was supposed to be a bureau comprising expert investigators, to look into the cases where local police has failed to probe, has really not served its purpose. Rather it has become a pliable tool in the hands of the powerful and thus subvert justice. Such a money draining body should be dispensed with or else it should be rightly named the Confusion Begetting Institute (CBI).

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THE KASHMIR TIMES

OPINION

GOOD BYE, HOSNI MUBARAK

SOONER YOU GO, THE BETTER

INDER MALHOTRA


AFTER more than two weeks of tremendous turmoil in Egypt, the question is not whether Hosni Mubarak will go, but when. President Barack Obama of the United States says that the time for "transition" in the Arab world's largest and most populous country is "now". But the tyrannical dictator who has ruthlessly ruled the country for 30 long years insists that he must stay until September when elections are due. His effrontery is egregious. For he says that his abrupt departure would lead to chaos, a claim the Egyptian people agitating for his immediate exit have repudiated.


It does say something about the prevailing state of affairs that the Egyptian army has stayed neutral in the people's struggle against the despised despot. It has confined its role to keeping apart the swelling ranks of Mr. Mubarak's opponents and the thugs, mostly belonging to the president's intelligence agencies and police, who had started attacking the peaceful demonstrators at Cairo's Tahrir Square, killing 10 persons and injuring hundreds.


Even more remarkable on several counts have turned out to be the "preliminary talks" for "Constitutional reforms" held between Vice-President Omar Suleiman and representatives of those determined to overthrow the present regime. The first point to note is that Mr. Suleiman, head of Egyptian Intelligence and Mr. Mubarak's right-hand man throughout, is the first ever vice-president since his boss came to power after Anwar Sadat's assassination. Secondly, he found it necessary to include among his interlocutors leaders of Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that has been banned in Egypt for 57 years. Thirdly, Mr. Suleiman's proposal to form a committee to decide on Constitutional reforms has invited flat rejection from the National Association for Change, Muslim Brotherhood and almost everyone else. Their precondition for any discussion is the instant exit of Mr. Mubarak.


This magnifies manifold the responsibility of the United States to straighten out the mess that is essentially of its own creation. For America's rhetoric about the values of democracy, free speech, rule of law and so on is totally at variance with its actual policy of supporting and sustaining the worst possible autocrats in West Asia, as elsewhere. Shortly after his inauguration Mr. Obama had made his famous speech at Cairo in which he had vowed to promote democratic values in the Muslim world. But the implementation of this promise was zilch. The reason for this glaring contradiction between words and deeds are obvious: Core values are al right for oratory; core strategic interests decide what is to be done. It is inconceivable that without American support, especially financial and military aid, Mr. Mubarak could have remained at the helm for so long. Indeed, he was able even to snub his benefactors. Only a few weeks ago at the time of usually rigged parliamentary elections, he brushed aside Mr. Obama's request to allow foreign observers to watch the poll.


Now the world's mightiest power that has had the coziest relations with West Asian despots finds itself in a cleft-stick. It realizes that the avalanche of democratic forces in Egypt - and indeed the whole region where Egypt sets the pace - cannot be resisted. Yet it is wary lest the changeover to democracy should bring to the fore the very forces, such as radicals of the right or the left, it dreads. There is certain irony in the fact that Mr. Mubarak's stock-in-trade so far had been that he alone was the bulwark against the Islamic fundamentalism represented by Muslim Brotherhood. Today, his crumbling regime is seeking the Brotherhood's cooperation.
Nothing could have illustrated the American dilemma than the performance of Frank Wisner, a veteran diplomat and a former ambassador to both India and Egypt, acting as Mr. Obama's emissary to the beleaguered dictator. He chose to state publicly that it was "critically important" that Mr. Mubarak should "stay" during the transition, and this outraged the Egyptians. Mercifully, the US administration promptly distanced itself from the uncalled for statement by the envoy. However, America's future course of action is still unclear.
Cutting out the cackle, the paramount fact is that American policy in West Asia is dictated primarily by its total support to Israel. What has made this policy viable is the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel that was brokered by the US in President Carter's time. In the radically changed situation in Egypt, indeed the whole of West Asia, the future of the Camp David peace treaty has become uncertain, to say the least. It is instructive that there is upsurge against the regime also in Jordan, the only other Arab country to have a peace treaty with Israel.


Under the circumstances it is no surprise that Israel, for all its arrogance, is virtually in panic. While the Israeli government remains tight-lipped, an unnamed Israeli minister is quoted as having said: "For the US, Egypt is the keystone in its policy, for us it is the entire arch". The stark reality is that whatever happens in Egypt and the region, a setback to the American position and a much greater one to that of Israel is unavoidable. Gone are the days when Israeli prime minister, Benjiman Netanyaho could dismiss Mr. Obama's plea for a freeze, even a temporary one, on the construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory because he could appeal to the all-powerful Jewish lobby in the US over its president's head. One cannot predict what the rulers of Israel would do. But several American commentators have bluntly told them that they should arrive at a settlement with the reasonable leadership of the Palestine Authority on West Bank before it is too late. Or else, the alternative before the rulers of the Jewish state would be to convert it into an apartheid state. For, the Arabs would be in a majority in the areas occupied by Israel, and the principle of one-man-one-vote would have its inexorable consequences.


Be that as it may, the primary responsibility for a peaceful transition to genuine and transparent democracy in Egypt lies with the United States and its failure in this respect would have catastrophic consequences. Success, on the other hand, would be enormously beneficial for the region - because historically Egypt has been the font of new ideas across the Arab world - and, at one remove. across the world. In any case, those anxious to rid Myanmar of the military junta ought to feel some remorse about having propped Mr. Mubarak for three decades.


India and Egypt have always had friendly relations that were at their best during the time of President Nasser. This country never supported the Camp David Agreement because it negated the traditional policy of nonalignment. It is regrettable therefore that New Delhi took an unduly long time to support the struggle of the Egyptian people.

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THE KASHMIR TIMES

OPINION

RESTING AND WAITING..!

BY ROBERT CLEMENTS


In today's fast paced world, it is very difficult for us to understand, that sometimes we have to rest and wait: I read this lovely and meaningful article by Robert Foster, and I thought you'd like it too:
No one likes having to wait. Our irritation level rises as we stand in the store queue, endure the mandatory security "search" at the airport, and watch the clock as we remain seated while others come and go in the doctor's or dentist's office - the land where time seems to stand still.


We become frustrated sitting still in the world's largest parking lots - the highways surrounding our large cities.
Today's culture demands immediate gratification. "I want it now!" Modern technology helps us to get going faster and faster: E-mail, mobile phones, text messaging, getting all the information we require instantly over the Internet. TV has given us the ability, via satellite, to watch global conflicts and disasters firsthand. The most time-pressured individuals of all are those who cannot stand just to be - they always must be doing something. Not just to BE - to DO! That accurately described me a number of years ago.


Then my secure and serene world came unglued. My wife, Bev, could no longer cope with the altitude of our guest ranch in Colorado, which stood at 7,200 feet. So we moved to the more suitable environs of Southern California, which had been her home for many years. For me this meant new living quarters, a very different climate, leaving behind my lifestyle of 45 years, finding a satisfactory new place to worship, making new friends and, most difficult of all, determining what to do in Orange County.


I felt cast adrift, separated from everything that was comfortable and familiar. But God was using that time to get my attention.


There was no heavenly vision, no dream of God talking to me, but He did speak one early morning from Psalm 37:7. It seemed He was saying, "You need to learn how to REST and how to WAIT." These were important lessons, even for a man like me."


The activity of waiting is difficult, this is because we must wait patiently, extremely hard for determined, high-achieving business and professional people. But we must wait for God to reveal His will. He has a plan and purpose for every stage of our lives. As someone has said, "High hopes are never awakened in the human heart to be finally disappointed.!"


So, dear friends, rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him..!


bobsbanter@gmail.com

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

COLUMN

THE BIG CLEAN-UP

NO TIME FOR CYNICISM, TIME FOR REFORM

A wave of cynicism is sweeping middle class India about what has come to be seen as "governance deficit" with a series of skeletons tumbling out of governmental closets with uncanny regularity. That even a highly respected and hallowed institution like the Indian Space Research Organisation can get embroiled in a scam has only added to the mood of cynicism and despair. It is against this background that the opposition political parties are targeting a prime minister who is arguably the cleanest PM India has ever had. The Opposition may not be off the mark in alleging that despite the prime minister's impeccable personal integrity, he presides over a government of increasingly questionable integrity. That serious corruption charges have been levelled even against state governments in the charge of various other political parties has further added to an air of all pervasive cynicism. It is not just the executive and the legislature that have exposed themselves to serious charges of corruption and wrongdoing, but even the judiciary and the so-called "fourth estate" have come under increasing scrutiny. Rather than bemoan the sweeping cynicism of the middle class, and beat one's breast about the world's biggest democracy becoming a "banana republic", the time has come for a comprehensive clean-up of institutions  and procedures. It is, therefore, just as well that a cleaning up process has begun. Heads must roll, the culprits punished and greater transparency brought into the functioning of all institutions. Discrete and specific steps, as being taken up in the telecom sector, are as important as some major acts of institutional cleansing.

In this context, the proposal of the Election Commission (EC) to impose financial accountability on political parties is timely and welcome. As reported in this newspaper, the EC has accepted a report prepared by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) recommending transparency in financial accounting. A swath of proposals has been made ranging from the need for accrual-based accounting to a common format for financial statements by political parties made on an yearly basis, with a common and fixed accounting year, and the auditing of accounts by chartered accountants who are rotated every three years. Just as the office of the comptroller and auditor general of India (CAG) has pursued cases of financial impropriety without fear or favour, the Election Commission of India too must push for political funding reform. The ICAI is right to dem and that political parties conform to its accounting standards.

 

 The ISRO case has also drawn attention to the need for greater transparency in the operations of India's defence, space and nuclear sector. State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in these sectors have functioned behind a veil of non-transparency on grounds of national security. Be it large and powerful private sector firms, or SOEs, or media organisations, or political parties or institutions of national security and national importance, no one should claim exemption from public scrutiny of finances. The essence of democratic governance is public scrutiny of finances. If greater financial transparency comes out of the current public washing of dirty linen that in itself would be a good thing. The EC is making good use of the extant public mood. Other regulators and law-keepers must follow the example.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

IT AS UTILITY

LET PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP THRIVE

A technology advisory group headed by Nandan Nilekani has recommended that national information utilities be set up to handle several large e-governance projects ranging from goods and services tax to the new pension scheme. The country is lucky to have come as far as it has through the successful functioning of the large IT backbones of key operations like the National Stock Exchange and the National Securities Depository. If the government adopts the mindset that drives the recommendations, then it will build on that and write a new chapter in the use of information and communications technology (ICT) for development. The positive impact will come in two ways. One, it will give a tremendous boost to the domestic IT sector which is a fraction in size of its Chinese counterpart. As for the wider impact, the report itself says that the five projects that it has looked at "have enormous transformative power and can change India's growth trajectory".

The most important paradigm that the report says should be kept in mind is that business change should drive the design and implementation of these projects. That is, the executives and IT experts running them should not begin to live in a world of their own, considering that the very large projects will have an extensive combined footprint. No matter what wizardry IT can be made to deliver, it is after all an enabler and a powerful tool to serve the perceived business needs of the overall economic system. In designating these projects national information utilities, the report underlines the other reality. They themselves will not be pure business ventures operating in a competitive marketplace but be more in the nature of private companies serving a public purpose. They will have to work in partnership with the government, in fact intermediate between the government, which is the client, and the private IT vendors who will build the projects. Once these projects have been built and have stabilised, the government should restrict itself to laying down policy and letting the utilities leaders run them smoothly. The cornerstone on which this government-utility partnership will rest will have to be an agreement between the two which will specify what is to be done, the obligations of the two, the financial arrangement, service level agreement (the deliverables that the utility must guarantee) and a business continuity plan.

 

 The big danger that the report seeks to eliminate by recommending a common structure and platform for all the projects is a multiplicity of systems and the nightmare of getting them to talk to each other. They must all belong to the same family and run on a single application which will reap enormous economies of scale and thus both lower costs and deliver major efficiencies. Within this, there will have to be customisation at every deployment. Since the Centre, states and major public sector concerns have already given themselves different systems, the interfaces between them will have to be worked out and dovetailed with the new overarching platform. If all this comes about and there is no reason why it should not, then the threat of a digital divide will be transformed into a digital bridge.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

DON'T PANIC

WE'RE LIKELY TO SEE SENSEX EARNINGS OF 1,200-1,225 A SHARE FOR THE YEAR ENDING MARCH 2012

AKASH PRAKASH

 

The Indian markets are now seemingly on the verge of panic and capitulation. The markets are falling everyday, mostly on limited volume, with the mid- and small-caps getting hit particularly hard. Markets are now down over 15 per cent in dollars, being the worst performer among the larger EM universe. We are now approaching the levels of January 2010, effectively implying that the majority of the gains the markets delivered in 2010 have evaporated. So, in little over a month, we have opened up a performance gap of 20 per cent vis-a-vis the US and given back most of the gains of the last 12 months. In certain sectors like real estate, infrastructure and construction, we are back to the lows of early 2009, and below those levels if one were to adjust for the incremental equity raised since then. India has gone from being fashionable, where investors were convinced of a great long-term growth outlook, to being panned for its governance and economic weaknesses, all in a matter of a month. In 2010, investors could not get enough of India, in 2011, they can't seem to leave fast enough!! The reasons for this change of view are all well known, from inflation to interest rates, commodity prices and governance.

 

 So, what does one do now? It is probably too late to sell, unless one expects a total collapse (something I do not subscribe to). On a stock-specific basis, good values have already begun to emerge (many stocks are down 35-40 per cent). Even for the broad market, valuations are approaching reasonable levels. My sense remains that we will see Sensex earnings of about 1,200-1,225 per share for the year ending March 2012. Taking a multiple of about 13.5 times (slight premium to the EM average) on that leads to a Sensex target of about 16,500, giving a further downside of about 5-7 per cent. At that type of market level and multiples, one can build a strong long-term investment case for India.

I remain convinced that irrespective of all the inflation issues and governance deficit, the country will grow at between 7.5 and 8 per cent for the coming three-five years. Combine this with inflation coming down to about 5 per cent, and we have a nominal GDP trajectory of about 13 per cent. The listed corporate sector will grow earnings slightly faster, as it doesn't have the drag of agriculture (most of the listed sector represents the faster-growing industrial and service sectors), and is gaining share from the government in many sectors. Thus, we have the listed corporate sector delivering an earnings trajectory of near 15 per cent, with an ROE of 20 per cent and limited leverage. This earnings profile can be accessed through some great companies and management teams. This earnings trajectory has also only limited correlation to US and EU consumption demand. Will investors be willing to pay 13-14 times earnings for this type of growth profile? Given the likely subdued longer-term growth trajectory of the West, I see no reason why these multiples are not sustainable (the main factor constraining our multiples is our vulnerability to external capital flows and the exaggerated volatility they cause). All you need is one quarter of poor economic data coming out of the US, and see how the search for uncorrelated growth picks up again.

The fact also remains that India is under-represented in all market indices (because of the free-float adjustment), and its weightage will only increase over time. Most smart investors I talk to already have country allocation for China and Brazil, but are still sitting on the fence for India. Not yet fully convinced on the country, they will eventually bite the bullet and allocate over the coming years. In this sense, you don't get the feeling that India is over-owned, at least not by the smart, long-term money.

The markets have already given up on this government and expect no reforms; no further disappointment is likely when expectations are already so low. If this government can get even a few basic things done on financial sector reform, skills-building and education, tax reform, infrastructure, etc, markets will react positively. Earnings expectations are also getting whittled down, and are now more realistic. Budget expectations are also now very muted, just maintaining basic fiscal discipline and meeting their own fiscal deficit road map will be seen as a victory by the markets.

The buying power of local institutions is also compromised in the short term because of regulatory issues. As we cycle through these distribution changes, money flows will resume to both mutual funds and insurance, we are probably at a cyclical low point in flows today.

India as a country has got de-rated, nobody expects anything positive to come out of this government, nor any policy action. While maybe true in the short term, this cannot remain so, something has to give, the government will be forced to be more decisive. Policy inertia forever cannot be the base case assumption. India is also getting hurt by rising commodity prices, again more a cyclical issue and not something which will be permanent.

Can the market come down a lot more? Yes, obviously it can if we have further political uncertainty, and mid-term polls. Alternatively, if there is any shock to global risk appetite, triggering a massive outflow of equity capital, equity indices can fall sharply. Markets can also easily overshoot, and become much cheaper than you would expect (for a short period of time). RBI could also overshoot in its desire to be seen as being tough on inflation.

It is fashionable to bash India right now, and sentiment has seemingly turned on a dime, but investors would be better placed to do the work and spend the time to figure out what they can buy over the coming months, rather than trying to scramble to sell. You are probably too late, with the risk/reward against you, unless one is looking for a quick trade.

The contrarian bet from here is, if Parliament actually functions, some Bills get passed, Budget is reasonable, some governance-related clean-up happens and markets stabilise.

The markets are oversold, expectations are very low, valuations are nearing attractive levels, and perception is worse than the ground reality. An intriguing combination for someone looking to put money to work.

The author is the fund manager and Chief Executive Officer of Amansa Capital

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

OF GOVERNMENTAL HONOURS

WHAT MAKES THE WISE MEN ON THE PADMA COMMITTEE CHOOSE ONE BUSINESSMAN OVER THE OTHER?

BHUPESH BHANDARI

 

Every year, the night before Republic Day festivities start, the government comes out with the annual list of Padma awardees — artistes, academicians, social workers, public servants, and businessmen. About a week before the list is announced, inquisitive businessmen begin to sniff around if their names are on it. A Padma award, after all, adds greatly to a businessman's prestige. Walk into the office of anybody who's got it and you won't miss his picture with the President.

 

 Elsewhere, in cosy clubs and drawing rooms, each name is dissected threadbare by those who didn't get it. The key numbers — return on capital employed, share price et al — are painfully collected, minutely debated and summarily dismissed. The heartburn is enough to set all the holy rivers of the country on fire. This time was no different. "Can you tell me what he has done in life?" This is a question I have ducked at least a half-a-dozen times ever since the list came out.

This is not to run down the contribution of businessmen to our national life. They manufacture goods, provide services, reach products to markets, create jobs, earn foreign exchange and do philanthropic work. The government of any free-market state has always been aware of their usefulness. And if they are rewarded for their enterprise, there is nothing wrong with it. But can we know how the awardees are selected?

Rewarding businessmen has been a long tradition in the country. In the pre-Independence days, the government used to dole out knighthoods to businessmen regularly. For the lesser businessmen, there were titles like Rai Bahadur.

In the thick of the Second World War, around the time Mahatma Gandhi had launched the Quit India movement, the government made Lala Shri Ram of DCM a knight. Overnight, he became Sir Shri Ram. True, he had started from scratch and built a large business empire of textiles, sugar, engineering goods and potteries; but the purpose of the knighthood was not lost on many. The freedom movement was strong and it needed businessmen on its side so that supplies could be reached the armed forces in remote frontiers without any hindrance. Lala Shri Ram was a leading manufacturer of textiles. The government had no choice but to keep itself in his good books.

There was much opposition from Lala Shri Ram's family — how could he call himself a nationalist and accept this honour from the imperial government? He had been a champion of swadeshi all his life, though critics said the boycott of imported cloth suited local manufacturers like him very well. So, his acceptance of the knighthood remained an inexplicable contradiction in his life. To be fair, the businessman did not wear the title on his sleeve — he always insisted on being called Lala Shri Ram. Soon thereafter, his younger brother, Lala Shankar Lal, too was knighted.

Is the same principle still at work? Political parties do need huge funds to contest elections, the cap on expenses fixed by the Election Commission notwithstanding. And it is an open secret that much of this money comes from corporations. Many of them disclose in their profit-and-loss statement donations made to all political parties. Still, there needs to be transparency in the Padma awards. What makes the wise men on the Padma committee choose one businessman over the other?

The Padma awards, though the most prestigious of the lot, aren't the only awards on offer for businessmen. Most of these awards are decided by jury; Ramalinga Raju's case shows how some of these can be way off the mark. Satyam had won a string of awards in 2008. Teleos in association with the Know Network had for the second year in a row given it the Asian MAKE (most admired knowledge enterprise) award. The MAKE awards are given to leading Asian organisations that leverage enterprise knowledge to create value through innovation, product or service excellence, and operational effectiveness. Oracle had given it the "Partner of the year 2007" award for acquired applications. Satyam was "Citizenship Partner of the Year" at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference Awards.

Raju was the 2007 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for his business acumen and his efforts to service the community. Other recipients of the award included names like Mukesh Ambani, Kumarmangalam Birla, Sunil Mittal and N R Narayanamurthy. In fact, Raju went on to represent India at the global edition of the award at picturesque Monte Carlo. For three days, he rubbed shoulders with the best from the world of business, though he failed to bag the final honour. (The only Indian to have won at Monte Carlo is Narayanamurthy.)

As late as in September 2008, Satyam had won the coveted Golden Peacock Global Award for Excellence in Corporate Governance for 2008 at the Ninth International Conference on Corporate Governance held in London. "It is a testament to our efforts to continually innovate and advance corporate governance best practices in our industry and around the world," Satyam CFO Srinivas Vadlamani was quoted as saying. Everything came crashing down when Raju confessed his crime in the early days of January 2009.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

IS THE FLIGHT OUTBOUND OR RETURNING?

THE TALK ABOUT MONEY STASHED ABROAD IS ALL VERY WELL BUT WHAT ONCE LEFT INDIA IS NOW RETURNING VIA P NOTES, FDI AND REAL ESTATE INVESTORS

N CHANDRA MOHAN

The recent exposé of Swiss bank account holders has rekindled a controversy regarding the amount of illegal money stashed abroad by Indians. Political leaders have been demanding these funds be returned and even distributed to the poor. Amazing sums like $1.4 trillion have been bandied about, even though it is well-recognised that the exact numbers are difficult to come by. Those who receive kickbacks from corruption deals or launder their money abroad are most unlikely to inform the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) of their intentions.

Since capital flight has been the norm in India till recently, the popular perception is that this haemorrhage continues on a growing scale even in an era of reform. According to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) report a decade ago, $20-30 billion, or $1-2 billion every year, might have leaked out of the country during 1971-86. This number was taken from a 1990 study on capital flight and trade misinvoicing by Meenakshi Rishi and James Boyce. Rishi later updated these estimates, which indicated that $88 billion, or $3 billion every year, in 1997 dollars left the country from 1971 to 1997.

 

 More recently, Global Financial Integrity, a programme of the US-based Centre for International Policy, put out a couple of reports authored by Dev Kar* that placed illicit outflows from India at $213 billion or $2,891 million in 2005 dollars from 1948 to 2008, the bulk of which fled the country after the 1991 economic reforms. Real illicit outflows gathered momentum between 1991 and 2008 when their growth accelerated to 16.4 per cent a year against 9.1 per cent from 1948-1990.

The Rishi-Boyce method is basically a residual measure and similar to what World Bank does to estimate capital flight. If the source of funds ( change in external debt and net foreign direct investments) exceeds recorded uses like financing the current account deficit or adding to forex reserves, it flees the country as capital flight. Illicit inflows exist when the recorded use of funds exceeds the source. This residual measure, then, is adjusted for the net effect of trade misinvoicing, notably, export underinvoicing and import overinvoicing.

The underinvoicing of exports occurs when an invoice that understates actual receipts is given to the authorities when forex earnings are to be converted to rupees. The remaining forex earnings are parked abroad. Similarly, when the invoice overstates imports. But there can be inflows when exports are overinvoiced and imports underinvoiced. The net effect of misinvoicing, thus, must be considered. As Kar seeks to derive gross illicit outflows, periods of misinvoicing with the wrong sign are set to zero. So, too, are inward flows when sources of funds fall short of uses.

However, not all outflows are illicit. Former RBI governor Y V Reddy argued 14 years ago that abnormal outflows can also be legal, although some researchers prefer to term only illegal outflows as capital flight. This phenomenon can also be viewed in three ways: gross capital flight, reverse capital flight and net capital flight. Much like outflows, there can be inflows. In fact, the size of capital inflows and outflows sloshing through India's balance of payments is as much as 103.5 per cent of GDP. The difference between gross and reverse flight is net capital flight.

Net capital flight is perhaps more of a reality since India's laws and the policy environment have changed since 1991. The incentives for stashing funds abroad illegally have steadily diminished since then. Direct and indirect taxes, including tariffs, have came down and the exchange rate is more realistic. India is also one of the world's fastest-growing economies. With current account convertibility and liberalised trade, the financing requirements for the illegal import of items like gold have also come down from earlier times when smuggling was rampant.

What left the country earlier, thus, is now returning home as a two-way process. If around $3 billion in 1997 dollars left the country every year from 1971 to 1997, there were net inflows amounting to $3.6 billion a year from 1991 to 1997 according to the numbers if the the Rishi-Boyce method is used. Between 1998 and 2008, net inflows trickled down to $5 million a year in 2005 dollars. As noted earlier, Kar's methodology is somewhat different in normalising illicit inflows and shows gross illicit outflows of $1.3 billion in 2005 dollars from 1998 to 2008.

There is suggestive evidence that rich domestic residents who salted their funds abroad are bringing back their money in the form of portfolio investments through participatory notes (P Notes) — it is a derivative instrument for which the ultimate beneficiary is not known. It's believed that domestic residents with funds abroad are also bringing back their money as foreign direct investment. The returning flight is also fuelling a real estate boom all over the country. Nevertheless, the perception persists of a stock of funds held abroad in Switzerland and elsewhere waiting to be brought back by a pro-active government.

*a)The Drivers and Dynamics of Illicit Financial Flows from India:1948-2008, November 2010 and b) Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2000-2009, Update with a Focus on Asia, January 2011 (co-author Karly Curcio)

From the Ivory Tower makes research from the academic world accessible to all our readers

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BUSINESS STANDARD

SOME PRE-BUDGET MUSINGS

WHAT ARE THE FIVE OR SIX MAJOR CHALLENGES FACING THE INDIAN ECONOMY ON WHICH SOME SERIOUS POLICY ACTION COULD BE TAKEN IN THE BUDGET?

SHANKAR ACHARYA

 

Budgets just aren't what they used to be. Where are the major tax reforms and important economic reform announcements that used to drive the budgets of the 1990s? These days they are notable by their rarity. Even when such announcements are made (and repeated in several successive Budget speeches) heralding the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the Direct Tax Code (DTC), the promises are not borne out by performance. Postponement is the order of the day. Perhaps governance, in general, has got harder over time and economic policy (including budgets) simply reflects that broader reality.

 

 It certainly doesn't help when there is entropy in the official structures charged with budget-making. Thus the venerable institution of the "budget group" (BG) in the finance ministry seems to have greatly weakened since 2003, if it has not been disbanded. The BG consisted of the three departmental secretaries of economic affairs, revenue and expenditure (with the senior-most designated as finance secretary) and the chief economic adviser. In the old days, the BG would begin meeting in late November, both by itself and with the finance minister (FM). The frequency of meetings (coordinated by the additional secretary, budget, in the department of economic affairs) would gradually increase and rise to a crescendo in January and February, with many meetings on tax issues held in the inner sanctums of the two revenue boards rather than in FM's chambers.

The competence and cohesion of the BG was deemed to be a significant element in successful budget-making. Its continuity between November and next April was taken for granted. Not so in the last two years. Last year the revenue secretary was allowed to superannuate in the middle of the process. This year, ten days ago, it was the turn of the finance secretary (also head of the economic affairs department). I do not recall any comparable case in the twenty-five years prior to 2010. Of course, if the BG's role has been diminished any way, the disruption from the exit of individual members may be less.

Turning to substance, what are the five or six major challenges facing the Indian economy on which some serious policy action could be taken in the Budget?

First is the continued stubbornness of inflation, especially in food articles. It has been many years since food inflation has been in double digits for two successive years. Thus far, the government has mainly left it to the RBI to battle inflation through a series of small increases in policy rates. The government has not explicitly tightened fiscal policy, although its failure to spend authorised amounts has contributed to a short-run liquidity squeeze. Thanks to this, high inflation (which boosts the GDP dominator) and the massive bonanza from spectrum auctions, the Centre's fiscal deficit in 2010-11 is likely to be well within the 5.5 per cent of GDP target. The deficit is slated to drop to 4.8 per cent in 2011-12. Given the stickiness of inflation, the forthcoming Budget should target a lower fiscal deficit in the range of 4 to 4.5 per cent of GDP. This would make for a more balanced monetary-fiscal mix and lighten the pressure on RBI to undertake further investment-discouraging increases in policy rates. The Budget should also announce a set of measures to strengthen the supply chain in agriculture and reduce restrictions on trade and marketing, including on foreign direct investment in retail.

Second, India's current account deficit in the balance of payments has widened substantially in the last three years (to 3.7 per cent of GDP in the first half of 2010-11), while its financing has relied increasingly on more volatile components of capital inflows. Aside from more active currency management by RBI (which is necessary), the recommended reduction in the fiscal deficit should help reduce the current account deficit. In addition, significant reforms/improvements in policies relating to natural resource management (notably, mining and hydrocarbons) could spur more stable, direct investment inflows.

Third, India faces a huge challenge of a "youth bulge", also referred to as the "demographic dividend". Government estimates suggest that the annual increment in the labour force is about 12-13 million a year, of which only 10 per cent or so is finding jobs in various organised sectors. The remaining 90 per cent is condemned to eking out a precarious living in various forms of casual/informal activities. The single-most important antidote to this growing problem would be to reform our currently anti-employment labour laws. This reform would also provide a powerful stimulus to labour-intensive manufacturing (for both exports and the domestic market), which has been languishing in recent years, dragging down both employment and overall manufacturing growth. Successive governments have ducked this issue. It would be a huge and long overdue step if this Budget were to confound expectations and announce reforms.

Fourth, in his Budget speech a year ago, the finance minister had stated "if there is one factor that can hold us back in realising our potential as a modern nation, it is the bottleneck of our public delivery mechanisms". The plethora of scams and scandals during the past year have certainly amplified concerns about India's rickety and corrupt public delivery systems. Oddly, this does not seem to slow the burgeoning of government entitlement programmes, where hundreds of thousands of crores are spent to ostensibly help the poor and the weak, but most of the money (Rajiv Gandhi used to say 85 per cent) winds up with various intermediaries who have become adept at milking the vulnerable delivery systems. This Budget could announce serious moves towards targeted cash transfer systems based on the Unique Identification programme that has been gaining critical mass in recent times. Simultaneously, the Budget could formalise forward movement on the recent announcements by the Congress party president to improve governance and reduce corruption, including through initiation of state funding of elections.

Finally, with each passing year that reforms in agriculture remain stalled, rural distress mounts and the disparities between the rural poor and the urban rich become increasingly glaring. The broad thrust of necessary reforms has been outlined by successive high-powered committees. The challenge is to find the political will for implementing changes.

Will this Budget announce serious measures to meet the five challenges outlined above? If the past is any guide, it might be prudent to harbour low expectations, while nurturing hopes for pleasant surprises.

The author is honorary professor at ICRIER and former chief economic adviser to the Government of India. The views expressed are personal

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

CASTLES IN THE SAND

UNLIKE ITS PREDECESSOR, THE 2011 CRZ NOTIFICATION PAYS HEED TO INTERESTS OF THE MANY STAKEHOLDERS OF INDIA'S COASTLINE

 

We once had a Prime Minister of a very different hue; indeed so multi-hued that she was different things to different people. To environmentalists, Indira Gandhi was a patron saint. Her November 1981 letter to the India's chief ministers demanding protection for India's coastline was seen to re-affirm her commitment to the environment. Of dubious legal consequence, this letter still a magnificent gesture probably designed to catch the international eye, of which Mrs Gandhi was always acutely conscious.

 

The 10-year journey from that fabled letter to the 1991 Coastal Regulation Zone Notification resulted in a startling law, its brevity masking its colossal reach: previously unprotected, some 7,500 kms of coastline (including Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep) were now under statutory protection. No one had attempted anything like this before and no one knew if it could ever work. While it did not ban on all construction within 500m of the High Tide Line, it created four 'zones' and specified development in each. Paradoxically, that was both its greatest strength and greatest failing. The notification correctly recognised that different areas need different treatment; but this zoning had the effect of flattening conditions across the country within each zone. The coastal concerns of the Sunderbans and Navi Mumbai are not identical. Goa and Kerala require quite different treatment from Versova. And Mumbai is, as ever, a case apart.

 

Framed as an eleventh commandment – thou shalt not build near the sea--the 1991 was structurally flawed. It had no remedies for breach. The unsurprising result was that over its 20-year life it was more frequently violated than followed. It was repeatedly amended (government argot) or diluted (greenspeak) some 25 times over its 20-year life. Without meaningful enforcement mechanisms, and with constant changes in content, it forced activists to the slow grind of litigation, and, faced with regularisations, reduced courts to helplessness.

 

Its fatal conceptual flaw was that it did not acknowledge the differing interests of the many stakeholders of India's coastline. In a coastal city, development and affordable housing are equally valid concerns; in Goa and Kerala, tourism is a powerful economic force that cannot be relegated to second place; and individual ownership of beachfront property is perfectly legitimate. The 1991 notification did none of these.

 

Its success is questionable. Certainly there was much valuable work in ecological zones that, but for the notification, might now have been lost forever. But nothing about, say, the mess across the harbour that is the Rewas to Revdanda stretch speaks of environmental success. In cities like Mumbai, it created absurdities. Much of the Island City is within spitting distance of the sea and in a "CRZ-II" zone. Here, the 1991 notification demands special development permission. Therefore, all development on, say, Marine Drive needs CRZ 'clearance'. Forget that there are six lanes of Marine Drive concrete (and those incredible tetrapods) between the site and the sea. And forget, too, that Marine Drive has no 'marine ecology' to speak of. Ditto Malabar Hill and Prabha Devi. What is the impact on the sea of a structure 200 mtrs inland, surrounded by roads and other buildings? This mindlessness most hurt the urban poor, discouraging meaningful housing policies while encouraging sea-front slums, resulting in a massive degradation of a city's coast.

 

Such legislative carpet-bombing also creates new windows of opportunity for graft. Once upon a time, when men were men and politicians honest, the most important portfolio in government was home. Now it is urban development, where the men are metrosexual and the bureaucrats are terrified.

 

Predictably, the 2011 CRZ Notification, announced by Jairam Ramesh on 7 January, provoked howls of outrage. It allows development in coastal cities, said some. But a coastal city sits on the coast. Where but on the coast can you possibly build? Others claimed that it lends itself to abuse, and the government should revert to the 1991 notification--but that was more abused than used. The fact that a law might be abused is never reason to invalidate it. A law and its implementation are two different things.

 

The 2011 notification makes special provisions for Mumbai, Kerala and Goa, and for 'critically vulnerable coastal areas' like the Sunderbans, Bhitarkanika and the Gulf of Kutch. It prohibits SEZs on the coast. Creeks, rivers and estuaries and 12 nautical miles into the sea are covered. Local communities participate in planning. It also quietly works to protect a city's open spaces. This is an environmental law both sensible and balanced; and if there's one thing we need, it is sense and balance, not pride and prejudice.

 

For another version with notes and references, visit http://www.prisonerofagenda.com 

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BACKWARD IN TELECOM

POLICY MUST SEEK TELECOM INCLUSION


THE latest recommendation from the telecom regulator, Trai, calling for telecom operators to hand over a few thousand crore rupees more to the government for the spectrum they have been assigned is deeply flawed and should be rejected. The telcos are crying foul, predictably, calling the proposals unfair and discriminatory. But that is not the real point. The real point is that the recommendations are premised on a view of telecom and the use of spectrum that is rooted in the past, whereas policy has to be forward-looking, designed to build the telecom networks that will propel India into the future. Such a vision is completely absent in the report. For rapid economic growth, everyone must have access to high-speed broadband (the French supreme court ruled that broadband access is a fundamental right and the US plans 100 Mbps connectivity to every home). This is the key to productivity growth, cheaper and better education and healthcare, more transparent and effective governance and greater innovation and productivity in business. High-speed broadband can be extended to all of India only by using wireless technologies. All-data networks are what India needs, on which voice is but one functionality. The current recommendation assumes that some frequencies will be used for voice while others will be used for data. This looks backward. The goal should be to migrate the country as rapidly as possible to all-data networks for which the maximum amount of spectrum is made available. Data networks should be seen as vital infrastructure whose quality and cost determine the economy's competitiveness in existing and emerging businesses. Attempts to maximise government revenue by jacking up the cost of this infrastructure is unforgivable myopia.

 

The other reason why the current recommendation is retrograde is that it further consolidates the paradigm of allocating dedicated spectrum to each industry segment and commercial operator within each segment. This was a paradigm dictated by primitive technology when spectrum hopping was science fiction. Today, we need to design spectrum sharing and dynamic, real-time allocation of spectrum among alternate users, not dedicated spectrum. To broadband-enable India's 1.17 billion people, there is no other way.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

FOREVER IN QUEUE

SPEED UP THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM

 

THE government faces flak for appointing P J Thomas as the Central Vigilance Commissioner. Thomas has a chargesheet pending against him in Kerala, accusing him of being a party to a palm oil import controversy dating back to 1992. This brings up the desirability of having fasttrack courts to try anyone in public life, politician or civil servant. Fast-track trials should be made mandatory for all lawsuits pending against public figures, including candidates for political office. This is necessary till India overhauls its creaking judicial machinery. The total number of judicial officials, including the 31 judges of the Supreme Court, is a little more than 17,600, which means that India has less than 18 judges per million people. This compares badly with 51 judges per million Britons or Canada's 75 judges per million citizens. Unsurprisingly, all courts have a long queue waiting for judgement: over 30 million cases await a verdict, with 52,000 lawsuits pending in the Supreme Court and over 4 million in the high courts.

 

The condition of most courts can reduce the hardiest undertrial to tears: the buildings are dilapidated and infrastructure hasn't been upgraded for near to a century. This has to change. The government is flush with funds, and some of that has to be used to improve physical infrastructure in courts. Over 3,000 judicial posts are vacant, mainly in the lower courts, and these positions must be filled quickly. Today, the job of hiring judicial officers is with state and central governments. But their track record is abysmal and the goal of having 50 judges per million Indians, stated nearly nine years ago, still looks distant. Governments are not doing a decent job of hiring judicial officers, particularly state governments. It is time to create an Indian judicial service, on the lines of the administrative and police services. That's an idea that has been discussed in the past, but never implemented. There is little justificaiton for delaying the proposal any further. Justice delayed is justice denied. In India, the denial of justice has become endemic, and that must stop. Delivering justice on time is a vital instrument of inclusive growth, with the potential to check the rampant misuse of social power that works against the poor, in the absence of legal restraint.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

JUST ZIP IT

DON'T MESS WITH HANDBAG HEROINES


NEVER underestimate the capacity of a lady with a handbag. So what if she seems outnumbered and actually quite ill-equipped to take on forces bigger and more agile than herself, the old bag emerges victorious even from skirmishes not of her own making. Far from being a mere object of reticule, that faithful attache (like the ubiquitous vahanaof a god(dess), has obvious powers of deterrence. Could it be its primly structured shine or its image of inert potential energy that exudes such an awesomely forbidding aura, even when toted around by a relatively diminutive personage? Is the prospect of hell in a handbag what makes even the most hardened troublemakers turn tail and run? The point is moot whether Dame Margaret Thatcher's prim purse was behind her legendary chutzpah when dealing with obstreperous elements in the Falklands or in Westminster, but this week's heroic tour de force by a granny in Northampton, UK — foiling a gang of six sledgehammer-wielding men's robbery attempt with just a few well aimed swings of her trusty portmanteau — has underlined that an (h)It Bag is more than a mere fashion accessory or a political symbol.

 

The handbag has been immortalised in countless statues in India in recent times, albeit always appended to the arm of a certain combative political personality. The amazing display by the British Supergran should be an object lesson for all those who are contemplating locking horns — or handles — with any handbag-heroines anywhere in the near future. The Oxford English Dictionary, after all, reminds us that "To handbag" is a transitive verb (of a woman politician), to treat (a person, idea etc) ruthlessly or insensitively."

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

WE NEED A BETTER SPECTRUM POLICY

TO ENSURE A COMPETITIVE TELECOM SECTOR, INDIA MUST HAVE A SPECTRUM MARKET THAT WILL HELP DETERMINE FAIR PRICES, SPUR PENETRATION OF SERVICES AND BALANCE OUT THE DEMAND AND SUPPLY ISSUES, SAYS REKHA JAIN

 

TELECOM minister KAPIL Sibal's 100-day plan for the telecom sector aims to fill gaps in the earlier policy and processes, especially those related to the allocation, assignment and pricing of spectrum. His recent announcements regarding a "directional shift from past practice and bring in a fresh policy regarding spectrum. In the future, the spectrum will not be bundled with licence, but made available only through a market-driven process" are what various analysts had been saying for several years now.

 

Several representations and reports had decried the past practices of subscriber-linked criterion as being distortionary. The first-come-firstserved basis, even without the arbitrary cut-off date, was not tenable in a competitive scenario. With this situation in the background and considering the success of 3G auctions in bringing high revenues to the government, spectrum auctions has become the flavour of the season. However, Kapil Sibal's statement that incumbents pay a market-linked price for spectrum beyond 6.2 MHz allocated to them in the past is going to lead to contentions regarding its rationale and reduce incentives for investments.

In any such auction, prices are determined by the current and future expectations of supply and demand. One possible reason why the service and spectrum licences were bundled was that the government was not sure of future availability of spectrum and could provide only start-up spectrum of 4.4 MHz + 4.4 MHz or 6.2 MHz + 6.2 MHz. There was a provision in the licence that more spectrum would be made available as per the then prevailing spectrum allocation policy.

 

Incidentally, the licence did not specify an upper limit of spectrum that could be allocated. CDMA licences had similar terms.

 

In nearly all countries of the world, at least three to four times this spectrum has been made available to operators. Even if the spectrum was not available when 2G or 3G services were planned, a clear roadmap of how and when spectrum would become available could have been used to decide on how much spectrum would be available and when. In the absence of that and the growing demand for services, operators faced an uncertain future. When subscriber numbers increased and operators asked for more spectrum, it was allocated based on their fulfilling the subscriber-linked criterion on a first-come-first-served basis. So, while we began with an auction mechanism in order to streamline the wireless in local loop with limited mobility operators as full-fledged cellular operators, the DoT and the then minister accepted introduction of operators without auctions.
 he issues with Mr Kapil Sibal's approach is that it is not possible to determine the market price with respect to past allocations as market prices are determined by the then existing circumstances that cannot be replicated. The 2G spectrum prices cannot be linked to 3G prices as the market conditions under which the allocations were made are entirely different. In fact, the 3G pricing went high because of the uncertainty surrounding the 2G spectrum policies.

 

MAKING announcements about spectrum pricing without having a blueprint for spectrum usage in all bands is detrimental to the health of the sector. Certain bands are eminently suited for shared usage (wi-fi). We do not need a market mechanism for such bands. Increasingly, the move towards a more progressive spectrum regime will imply using more bands for shared spectrum usage as is the practice elsewhere.
    For example, the Federal Communications Commission in the US has given the go-ahead for white space spectrum in the digital TV band. Also, a blueprint for the future availability for commercial spectrum and transitioning to digital transmission modes within a specified timeframe has to be thought of in a coherent way.
    Another viable mechanism for bringing in market mechanism is through spectrum trading initially among the existing operators within a regulatory approved framework. Since the more aggressive players could have higher spectrum needs, this could be shared/traded with those whose roll out plans are different geographically or over time. The operators who participate in this could be initially limited to those who meet some rollout conditions. Such mechanisms will help to determine the market prices, will spur penetration of services and by balancing out the demand and supply, lead to better outcomes for the sector as a whole.
    While, on the face of it, it may appear that the government will lose out on auction revenues, it needs to take a holistic perspective. Better penetration means higher GDP and overall development of the citizens. If higher auction prices lead to liquidity and credit crunch as is the case with 3G, then just ensuring that "all operators are set right with retrospective effect" may give short-term political mileage, but will lead to declining sector growth. Let us not play with the India growth story in a negative way.
    
(The author is executive chair, IIMAIDEA Telecom Centre of Excellence, IIM,
    Ahmedabad)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

FAC E - O F F

SC ON MEMBERS OF BANNED OUTFITS

RAVI SHANKAR PRASAD


Spokesman BJP The judgement must be reviewed

THE SC judgement, holding that mere membership of a banned organisation is not enough and that unless he resorts to, or incites, violence or disorder, he will not be incriminated or prosecuted has serious and long-term implications for the security, sovereignty and integrity of India. It needs to be recalled that whether it's TADA or POTA, membership of a banned organisation was held to be punishable. Both these laws, now scrapped, were earlier held to be constitutionally valid by the SC.

 

Now we have the Unlawful Activities (Prevention Act), 1967, whereunder an unlawful activity means an act undertaken by either an individual or an association even by words, either spoken or written, that is designed for, or supports, any claim of secession or incites any individual or group that brings about such secession, and disrupts the territorial integrity and sovereignty of India. Under this Act, punishment is provided for terrorist acts and also the power of the government to ban terrorist organisations. There are many internal remedies available of review against any order passed. Further, membership of an association declared unlawful by itself is punishable if a person continues to be a member, takes part in meetings and in any way assists its operation. This Act has been held to be constitutionally valid by the SC.

 

No one doubts that India is facing serious threats from extremism, terrorism and secessionism. In terms of the SC judgement, unless a member resorts to violence or incites people to violence, no action can be taken. Regardless of its contribution to the cause of terrorism, unlawful activities or secession, it'd be very easy for sympathisers to hold a meeting without any banner or official address to continue to channelise or assist terror activities. Membership of these organisations isn't a club membership for enjoyment or pleasure. One becomes a member when one shares the ideology or objective of these groups. The government must seek a review, and if the court doesn't agree to it, then through a clarificatory or curative legislation must undo the impact of this judgement.

 

PRASHANT BHUSHAN

Senior Advocate Supreme Court The court has protected citizen's rights

THE recent judgment of the Supreme Court that mere membership of an organisation declared to be unlawful cannot be made a crime and that provisions of TADA or UAPA making mere membership a crime would be violative of the fundamental rights of association and free speech, is a salutary judgment, which will provide much-needed relief to hundreds of persons languishing in jail, like Dr Binayak Sen. The clamour among certain political parties that the judgment must be reviewed is totally misplaced.

 

Most organisations declared unlawful, like SIMI, do not have a system of formal membership. Moreover, most persons accused and incarcerated on the basis of membership of such organisations have been held only on the basis that they were found in possession of some literature or attended some meetings of them. The charge against Dr Binayak Sen is that he passed on a couple of innocuous letters from a Maoist leader who was in jail to an alleged colleague outside. These letters did not contain any plan or hint of any unlawful activity. Yet, he has been sentenced to life imprisonment on the basis that this constitutes sedition. Such charges can be levelled against any doctor treating a Maoist or SIMI member, or a lawyer representing them, or a journalist interviewing them. They can also be levelled against a person participating in a campaign by an "unlawful" organisation to implement the rural employment scheme or land reforms.

 

This is why the Supreme Court, while interpreting the offence of sedition, said that, "Viewed in that light, we have no hesitation in construing the provisions of the sections impugned in these cases as to limit their application to acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder or disturbance of law and order or incitement to violence." The incarceration and victimisation of hundreds of people merely on the basis of their association with, or membership of, an organisation declared unlawful is not only causing grave injustice to persons like Dr Binayak Sen but also perpetrating a deep sense of injustice and alienation among many innocents.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GU EST COLU M N

THE TUNISIAN CATALYST

JOSEPH E STIGLITZ

 

THE whole world celebrates Tunisia's democratic revolution, which has set off a cascade of events elsewhere in the region — particularly in Egypt — with untold consequences. The eyes of the world are now set on this small country of 10 million, to learn the lessons of its recent experience and to see if the young people who overthrew a corrupt autocrat can create a stable, functioning democracy.

 

First, the lessons. For starters, it is not enough for governments to deliver reasonable growth. After all, GDP grew at around 5% annually in Tunisia over the last 20 years, and the country was often cited as boasting one of the better-performing economies, particularly within the region. Nor is it enough to follow the dictates of international financial markets — that may get good bond ratings and please international investors, but it does not mean that jobs are being created or that standards of living are being increased for most citizens. Indeed, the fallibility of the bond markets and rating agencies was evident in the run up to the 2008 crisis. That they now looked with disfavour at Tunisia's move from authoritarianism to democracy does not redound to their credit — and should never be forgotten.

 

Even providing good education may not suffice. All over the world, countries are struggling to create enough jobs for new entrants into the labour force. High unemployment and pervasive corruption, however, create a combustible combination. What matters is a sense of equity and fair play.

 

If, in a world of scarce jobs, those with political connections get them, and if, in a world of limited wealth, government officials accumulate masses of money, there will be justifiable outrage at such inequities — and at the perpetrators of these "crimes." Outrage at bankers in the West is a milder version of the same basic demand for economic justice that we saw first in Tunisia, and now across the region. Virtuous though democracy is — and as Tunisia has shown, it is far better than the alternative — we should remember the failures of those who claim its mantle, and that there is more to true democracy than periodic elections, even when they are conducted fairly. Democracy in the US, for example, has been accompanied by increasing inequality, so much so that the upper 1% now receives around one-quarter of national income — with wealth being even more inequitably distributed.

 

Moreover, in many countries, democracy has been accompanied by civil strife, factionalism, and dysfunctional governments. In this regard, Tunisia starts on a positive note: a sense of national cohesion created by the successful overthrow of a widely hated dictator. Tunisia must strive to maintain that sense of cohesion, which requires a commitment to transparency, tolerance, and inclusiveness —both politically and economically.

A sense of fair play requires voice, which can be achieved only through public dialogue. Everyone stresses the rule of law, but it matters a great deal what kind of rule of law is established. For laws can be used to ensure equality of opportunity and tolerance, or they can be used to maintain inequalities and the power of elites. Tunisia may not be able to prevent special interests from capturing its government, but, if public financing of electoral campaigns and restrictions on lobbying and revolving doors between the public and private sectors remain absent, such capture will be not only possible, but certain.

 

There are many balancing acts to be mastered: a government that is too powerful might violate citizens' rights, but a government that is too weak would be unable to undertake the collective action needed to create a prosperous and inclusive society — or to prevent powerful private actors from preying on the weak and defenseless. Latin America has shown that there are problems with term limits for political officeholders, but not having term limits is even worse. So, constitutions need to be flexible. Enshrining economic-policy fads, as the European Union has done with its central bank's single-minded focus on inflation, is a mistake. But certain rights, both political (freedom of religion, speech, and press) and economic, need to be absolutely guaranteed. A good place for Tunisia's debate to begin is deciding how far beyond the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the country should go in writing its new constitution.

 

Tunisia is off to an amazingly good start. Its people have acted with purpose and thoughtfulness in setting up an interim government, as Tunisians of talent and achievement have, on a moment's notice, volunteered to serve their country at this critical juncture. It will be the Tunisians themselves who will create the new system. For its part, the international community, which so often has propped up authoritarian regimes in the name of stability (or on the principle that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend") has a clear responsibility to provide whatever assistance Tunisia needs in the coming months and years.

 

(The author is University Professor at Columbia     University and a Nobel laureate in Economics)
    ©Project Syndicate, 2011

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

THE PYTHON AND THE PORCUPINE

MUKULSHARMA


THE python and the porcupine had been living in the same burrow for many years. Their cohabitation had begun during a very rainy night when the torrential downpour had caught both animals outdoors on the forest floor getting increasingly wet and miserable and, instinctively, they had sought refuge in the natural underground shelter nearby. But also instinctively, when they found themselves suddenly thrown together so unceremoniously, prey and predator had faced off with instant animal intent that had gone disastrously wrong for both parties.

 

In the dark, the huge snake had lunged with its muscular sinews ready to constrict and kill while the spiny rodent had immediately flared its treacherous quills in response. The python felt the jabs almost at once when it began coiling around the creature but it continued squeezing anyway even through all the pain. On the receiving end, the porcupine could feel its breath slowly being sucked out and its small bones beginning to buckle and crack under the awesome pressure of the unrelenting compression. Only when the snake's suffering became intolerable to bear did the great serpent finally let go and crawled away to a corner, leaving behind a very badly damaged little animal twitching and mewling in the dark.

 

In the morning, both were still groaning. The python had about a dozen quills embedded in its body which it could do nothing about since it had no hands while the porcupine lay moaning a few feet away with at least a couple of bones broken. But wild animals are hardy, their bodies heal faster, and after a few days both were able to drag themselves around the burrow little by little. However, they were still not really fit because barbs remained inside and bones had not completely mended. Therefore food was becoming a problem. "If," said the python finally, "you remove these quills, I will carry you on my back and we can try to hunt and forage." The porcupine nodded weakly.

 

Thus many years passed. And after some more time elapsed it was time for them to die. As they lay on their respective deathbeds in the burrow the python spoke for the last time. "I just want you to know," it said in a sad but wise voice, "that the last thing I want to do is hurt you, but it's still on the list." An equally sad and wise porcupine also spoke for the last time. "I guess you're never too old to learn something stupid," he said as they died together.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

MAKING THE NUMBERS COUNT

The results from the Census would be the best report card on what the economic reforms and high growth rates have delivered on the ground.

In popular perception, the Census is just a little more than a population enumeration exercise. Actually, it is much more. There is, in fact, no better data source that captures the living conditions and progress of Indians than this massive decennial operation. Think of it: We have estimates of poverty that vary according to how the 'poverty line' is defined, which is itself a matter of subjective interpretation. The lay public is, therefore, confused when told by one Expert Group that the poverty ratio for 2004-05 was 37.2 per cent and not 27.5 per cent as assessed by some other panel's methodology.

There is no such ambiguity when it comes to the Census, which gathers very specific and direct information that reflects the real state of affairs of households. Take, for instance, the findings of the 2001 Census that 63.6 per cent of Indian households had no latrines and only 39 per cent had access to drinking water within their premises, while there was no drainage connectivity for wastewater outflow in 53.6 per cent. Or, that 52.5 per cent used firewood as cooking fuel and a mere 17.5 per cent LPG. Are there more credible measures of backwardness, if not poverty, than these for policymakers to introspect on their own governance failures? If the 2011 Census were to reveal improvement in these numbers — besides demographic indicators such as female sex ratio and fertility rates — that would, indeed, constitute 'progress' more than just abstract GDP growth or poverty reduction figures. The results from it would be the best report card on what economic reforms and high growth rates of the last 7-8 years have delivered on the ground. And since the Census' coverage extends to each and every household across the country's 6,40,000-odd villages and 8,000 towns — unlike the usual sample surveys of other official and private market research agencies — there can be no quarrel over the authenticity of its data.

The good thing, moreover, is that bulk of the data, this time, will be available over the next year. The use of advanced character recognition and automated forms processing software will enable scanning and processing of the entire primary information, collected from some 240 million households, in double-quick time. That makes it useful to not just planners, but even corporates, which will get insights into the amenities and assets (including consumer durables) available now with households that could lead to the exploration of new business opportunities. Earlier, the release of all data this took five years or more, by which time these had ceased to have much practical relevance. The credit for the remarkable progress on this count goes to technology and, of course, the Census authorities' willingness to deploy it.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

SUNNY PROSPECTS FOR WHEAT

A. GOVINDAN

India's 2011 wheat production is expected to be around 84 million tonnes (the second advance estimate puts it at 81.7 million tonnes), a new record, provided the weather during the growing season remains normal. Late season rain in major growing areas created favourable soil conditions for planting.

Recent official planting data show that wheat planting in the marketing year (MY) 2011-12 is significantly ahead of the previous year's level, at a record 29 million hectares.

High wheat prices, combined with the recent upward revision in the government wheat support price for the 2011 crop, provided an impetus for wheat planting. Although growing conditions so far have been favourable, factors which could affect the quantity and quality of wheat production include an early or sudden rise in temperature, or rain and hail at the time of harvest.

PROCUREMENT AND PRICES

The increase in the minimum support price (MSP) for wheat last year raised domestic open market wheat prices, despite record production.

As most of the marketable surplus was procured by the government under the price support operation, open market availability was limited, keeping prices high during the lean marketing period. To contain the price rise, the government recently announced additional allocations of wheat and rice, for the below poverty line and above poverty line categories.

Although the government did not impose any stocking or other restrictions on private participation in wheat procurement last year, unlike in previous years, the trade was hesitant to enter the market in a big way due to constant changes in the government's market intervention policies.

FOOD SECURITY ACT

Wheat consumption in the coming years will significantly be influenced by the government decision on implementing the National Food Security Act, the Congress party's election promise, which is at present in a limbo.

The National Advisory Council (NAC), headed by UPA Chairperson, Ms Sonia Gandhi, has suggested the government provide 35 kg of wheat or rice a month to priority households (46 per cent of rural population and 28 per cent of urban population, or around 45 per cent of the country's total population) at a subsidised rate of Rs 2 per kg for wheat and Rs 3 per kg for rice.

For the general category (44 per cent of the rural population and 22 per cent of urban population, or about 35 per cent of the country's total population), the NAC has suggested supplying 20 kg of foodgrains at a price not exceeding 50 per cent of the current support price.

However, an expert panel set up by the Prime Minister, headed by Mr C Rangarajan, Chairman, Prime Ministers' Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC), to examine the NAC recommendations, has suggested that legal entitlement should be restricted only to the "priority households".

STOCK SITUATION

Government-held wheat stocks, which stood at 21.5 million tonnes on January 1, 2011, are projected at around 14.5 million tonnes on April 1, 2011, marginally below the April 1, 2010, stocks of 16.1 million tonnes, but well above the government's desired minimum buffer stock level of four million tonnes and strategic reserves of three million tonnes.

With the government wheat procurement likely to remain high at over 24 million tonnes in MY 2011-12 because of the hike in the support price and likely larger production, government wheat stocks could swell to around 36 million tonnes as on June 1, 2011.

The large stocks in recent years are not so much the result of higher output as they are of policy measures and market forces which together have raised the public sector's role in the marketing of wheat and rice.

As a long-term measure, the government will have to augment its own grain storage capacity and encourage private participation in building grain storage facilities for its own use or for leasing it out to the government.

EXPORTS UNLIKELY

Despite large carryover stocks and outlook for a record wheat crop, the government is unlikely to lift the ban on wheat exports in the near future due to domestic food inflation concerns, with the exception of small quantities to neighbouring countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh due to geopolitical reasons.

Although the Government has permitted exports of 200,000 tons of wheat through government parastatals in August 2010, according to trade sources no exports have taken place so far. At an f.o.b. price of over $300 per tonne, there is unlikely to be much demand for Indian wheat in global market, despite world wheat prices skyrocketing in recent months, following lower production in Russia, Canada, and some other countries and an export ban by Russia.

High domestic wheat prices during the past two years vis-à-vis global prices prompted some south Indian flour millers to import small quantities of wheat in containers, mostly from Australia, officially placed at 160,000 tonnes in MY 2008-09. Although limited imports continued in MY 2010-11, they are unlikely to continue in MY 2011-12, as global prices are slated to rule high in the coming months.

Domestic wheat shortage and higher prices forced the government to lower the duty on wheat imports by the private trade to 5 per cent in June 28, 2006, and later to abolish the import duty indefinitely.

The zero import duty regime is unlikely to be repealed in the near future due to food price inflation concerns. Since February 9, 2007, wheat exports remain banned with the exception of small exports to Bangladesh through public sector trading companies and limited quantities of wheat products. Concerned about food price inflation, the government is unlikely to relax wheat export restrictions in the foreseeable future.

(The author was Senior Agricultural Specialist at FAS/USDA, American Embassy,New Delhi, for over three decades. )

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

ADDITIONAL SOLICITOR-GENERAL'S OPINION ON ANTRIX-DEVAS DEAL

The following is the legal opinion given on July 12, 2010 by Additional Solicitor-General Mohan Parasaran on annulment of the Antrix-Devas agreement of January 28, 2005. The core of the legal advice is to invoke force majeure to terminate the agreement, with the direction coming from the Department of Space on the basis of a decision "taken by the Government of India, as a matter of policy, in exercise of its executive power or, in other words, a policy decision having the seal and approval of the Cabinet and duly gazetted as per the Business Rules of the Government of India."

Querist: The Department of Space, through its Secretary.

Sub: Agreement dated 28.1.2005 between M/s. Antrix Corporation Limited and M/s. Devas Multi Media Private Limited.

***

M/s. Antrix Corporation Limited (hereinafter referred to as 'ANTRIX') is a Public Sector Undertaking and is an arm of the Department of Space, Government of India. It entered into a commercial contract, after nearly two years of negotiation, on January 28, 2005 with M/s. Devas Multi Media Private Limited (hereinafter referred to as 'DEVAS'), for lifetime lease of 90 per cent capacity of S Band Transponder of 2 satellites, built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) [GSAT – 6 and 6A]. However, after the signing of the said agreement, it has been realised by the Government of India that the Antrix–Devas lease agreement on GSAT-6 and 6A would take away most of the total S band spectrum available. The S band spectrum is crucial for several strategic and societal services. The Integrated Space Cell of IDS, Ministry of Defence has projected a need for 17.5 MHz in S band for meeting the immediate requirements of Armed Forces, another 40 MHz during the Twelfth Plan period and an additional 50 MHz during the Thirteenth Plan period. Armed Forces have also projected the need to build S band satellite capacity through GSAT-7S, for national security related mobile communications. There are further demands for S band transponders from international security agencies viz., BSF, CISF, CRPF, Coast Guard and Police for meeting their secured communication needs. Indian Railways have also projected S band requirements for train tracking.

In view of these emerging requirements, there is an imminent need to preserve the S band spectrum for vital strategic and societal applications. Besides this, there were also certain concerns on the technical, commercial, managerial and financial aspects of Antix-Devas contract, such as severe penalty clauses for delayed delivery of the spacecraft and for performance failure/service interruptions, violation of ICC guideline of ' non-exclusiveness' in leasing the capacity, the contract enabling Devas to sub-lease the capacity without any approvals which could even given rise to security concerns etc.

It is evident that the two satellites together, if launched, would require about 70 MHZ of the S band spectrum of 150 MHz allocated to ISRO for satellite in the orbit. This will result in serious consequences strategically affecting the needs of the Defence and other departments concerned with national security, including para-military departments, Indian Railways etc.

Opinion has been sought from me as to whether Antrix-Devas contract can be annulled by invoking any of the provisions of the contract in order to (i) preserve precious S band spectrum for strategic requirements of the nation and (ii) to ensure a level playing field for other service providers using terrestrial spectrum.

The core issue which arises for consideration is as to whether there are justifiable or legal grounds existing for termination of Antrix-Devas contract. For this purpose, one has to necessarily advert to the contract/ agreement that has been entered into between Antrix and Devas on 28.1.2005. Article 2 of the said contract defines 'lease capacity' as follows:

"In accordance with the terms and conditions of this Agreement, ANTRIX shall lease to DEVAS and DEVAS accepts such lease of 5 (five) C X S transponders, each of 8.1 MHz capacity and 5 (five) S X C transponders, each of 2.7 MHz capacity on the Primary Satellite 1 (PS1) with technical performance and other specifications defined in Exhibit A, and/or any other available capacity as provided and/or mutually agreed to by the Parties in writing (hereinafter the 'Leased Capacity'). DEVAS and ANTRIX agree that the Leased Capacity shall be utilised in accordance with this Agreement and its Exhibits. …….."

The modus of termination has been specified in the agreement in clause 7. But I am afraid that the conditions stipulated in this clause cannot be invoked at this stage for the purpose of terminating the contract. The only other relevant provision for seeking recourse to terminate the contract under the given factual scenario viz., national needs and change in governmental policies, would be Article 11 of the contract, relating to 'force majeure'. Article 11(a) provides that neither of the parties shall be liable for any failure or delay in performance of its obligations under the contract if the delay or failure is occasioned due to the force majeure as defined in the said Article and that it is incumbent upon either party seeking recourse to force majeure to give a notice of 7 days of the event of force majeure having occurred to the other party.

Article 11(b) of the contract defines the event 'force majeure' in an inclusive manner. Force majeure has been defined to include any event, condition or circumstance that is beyond the reasonable control of the party affected (affected party) and that despite all efforts by the affected party to prevent it or mitigate its effect (including the implementation of business continuation plan), such event, condition or circumstance prevents the performance by such affected party of its obligations mentioned herein. The following events may be considered as force majeure events under the agreement:

(i) explosion and fire;

(ii) flood, earthquake, storm or other natural calamity or act of God

(iii) strike or other labour dispute;

(iv) was, insurrection, civil commotion or riot;

(v) Acts of or failure to act by any governmental authority, acting in its sovereign capacity; (emphasis supplied by me)

(vi) Changes in law and regulations; (emphasis supplied by me)

(vii) National emergencies.

It is noticed that when the agreement was entered into between Antrix and Devas, way back in the year 2005, the circumstance was vastly different than what it is today. The governmental policies with regard to allocation of satellite spectrum have undergone a sea change and there has been a tremendous demand for allocation of spectrum for national needs, including for the needs of the Defence, para-military forces, railways and other public utility services, as well as for societal needs.

There can be no dispute whatsoever that the Government of India is the owner of satellite spectrum space and any policy taken by the Government of India with regard to allocation and use of S bandwidth, including those which are subject matter of contractual obligations, would fall within the doctrine of force majeure, as envisaged in the very agreement between Antrix and Devas. However, I only wish to add one note of caution. It is always advisable that in the present case, instead of the Department of Space taking a decision to terminate, it would be more prudent that a decision is taken by the Government of India, as a matter of policy, in exercise of its executive power or in other words, a policy decision having the seal and approval of the Cabinet and duly gazetted as per the Business Rules of the Government of India.

That would give a greater legal sanctity to the decision to terminate the contract in as much as the contractual provisions expressly stipulate that for the force majeure event to disable one of the parties to perform its obligations under the contract, the act must be an act by the governmental authority acting in its sovereign capacity. Several reasons exist to resort to this sovereign power for preserving national interest. In my view, instead of the Department of Space directing Antrix to terminate the contract, it will be advisable from a legal perspective that the direction comes from the Department of Space on the basis of a governmental policy decision, as indicated above. I have nothing further to add.

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

IS BOLLYWOOD LOSING ITS WAY?

BY SHIV VISVANATHAN

There are three institutions I love in India. The first is the informal economy. Survival would be impossible without it and subsistence would not be an art form without its creativity. The second subculture I love is the culture of food, the sensorium of smells and tastes that make India the greatest civilisation around cuisine.

The third institution is Bollywood. It is silly, ridiculous, illogical, but so wonderfully representative of India that Indian identity would be bereft without its inventions. I worry about the future of all three but Bollywood in particular worries me. It is an early warning signal about the folklores of our mind.

Bollywood is a myth. It is a myth of the unity of India, a myth built around a kaleidoscope of varieties from the idea of the nation, to the legend of the mother, to the ultimate resolution of violence. Myths are hardworking genres. They seek a unity of narrative by resolving contradictions or at least by papering over them. If you cannot solve a problem, one must at least make it tentatively livable, even if the resolution sounds like an unbelievable wishlist. Bollywood as myth has worked out great contradictions, from the opposition of town and country, family loyalty versus professional code, between domesticity, marriage and the idea of sexual freedom. Think of Mother India, Amar Akbar Anthony, Sholay, Yaadon ki Baraat, Do Bigha Zameen, Zanjeer, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Kaho Na Pyar Hai or Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. Of course, some of the resolutions were unbelievable but miracles and hope are the glue of Indian life. For all our belief in science and IT, prayer is still seen as more effective. Nandan Nilekani is effective but a civilisation needs a Sai Baba and Ramana Maharshi for its moment of crisis.

There is a disquiet about Bollywood that I need to articulate. It is not a socio-economic disquiet about the new theatres. I am worried that Bollywood as myth is losing its power and potency. I am not reducing it to bad scripts. The loss is more magical.

The old contradictions that sustained our life and provided the humus for the Bollywood imagination sounds stale. The question of town versus country or law versus family brings a yawn. There are new issues like the diaspora, terror, sexuality, the growing role of women, the changing ideas of sexuality. I think the old forms of resolution do not work. Most movies get caught in scripts which fail to have a resolution. The trouble with Bollywood is that resolutions must involve the new and something too radical is seen as alien, something too orthodox is considered passé.

Consider the movies on the diaspora. The diaspora was both a mirror and a lens. We saw it as an Indian possibility. America was just another place for the Indian diaspora to enact Indian dream in American costumes. We loved change, but throughout all the change the diaspora had to remain loyally Indian. Where that formula worked, the movie worked as in K3G, Kaho Na Pyar Hai, Kal Ho Na Ho. As long as we remained Indian at heart, we could be citizens of any state. Singh is Kinng is a perfect example. It reminded me of an earlier diasporic movie that failed — Kaante. There is memorable line where a character says: as a diaspora we have succeeded in everything except in crime. The Italians have their Mafia. The Chinese have their Tongs, the Columbians have their drug rings but we Indians have failed to dent crime. Singh is Kinng overcomes even that failing, but not convincingly. Crime is diasporic but our gangs go global only between Mumbai and the Gulf as Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai successfully showed. Crime and violence need an Indian embeddedness to resolve. Abstract evil eludes our imagination. Caricatured you get a bomb called Raavan, or gets reduced to the ludicrousness of Tees Maar Khan.

There is a sense that something about the diaspora is not quite resolvable. The sexuality, the violence, the way of life cannot be completely reduced to Indian values. Nostalgia does not work. Women need freedom of a different kind. Marriage and family do not resolve everything. Anjaana Anjaani is a good example of a movie which is inarticulate about the diaspora.

Our sense of melodrama is also limited. It can extend to family melodramas. It can go as far as Paa but any sense of illness is still restricted to cancer or some variant of that. The idea of euthanasia is still too alien. Euthanasia can be practised in secret but it's not publicly acceptable. The rational handling of disease or violence is beyond us. We cannot make a convincing movie about AIDS or terror. We still turn disease into a form of eccentricity.

Small movies do not provide solutions to these problems. They become cameos memorable in themselves. They are fragmentary as imaginations. We need the big, the large, the banal and the average to create the stuff of Bollywood drama. Therefore constructs like A Wednesday, Dhobi Ghat are seen as sensitive. Sensitive is a "Hindi" word which means meaningful but in small doses. A sensitive movie is not an epic blockbuster. No One Killed Jessica has to move beyond documentary. Myth that moves to realism or sociology loses its shelf life.

Let me give a contrary example. Rajnikanth movies have a tremendous sense of myth and their resolution. Sivaji has this wonderful fragment on colour and character which is an answer to the Fair & Lovely ads. Robot is our real science-fiction movie in the way it integrates technology and the body, playing out what is human. Bollywood, I am afraid, is missing the bus on myth.

Think of the one movie that everyone is talking about: Dabaang. It is the oldest of formulas — a cop movie, what someone dubbed as Bollywood's mimicking of Bhojpuri films. The plot is weak. What sustains it is a cameo. In fact, it is the intersection of two cameos, from two different films. It follows the question: Munni or Sheila? But Munni or Sheila is a very Bollywood question. Since Bollywood scripts have failed as myth, fans and publicity agents have created a myth by collaging two movies. It asks questions at a populist level between two forms of Bollywood dance, where sexuality is formulated twice. In one the sheer effervescence of the old is played out with a cast of effervescent stereotypes. In the other a diasporic image gyrates offering a different sense freedom. One offers a sense of prohibition and licence, the other the new found freedom even naiveté of Sheila. But in its very moment of celebratory populism, it realises that myth has exhausted itself. There is no deep contradiction. Munni or Sheila is Bollywood's happy way of signalling emptiness, waiting to stumble on new meaning.

One is waiting for a return to deeper meaning, to melodrama with greater stamina, to life which knows there are no easy solutions.

* Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

DIVINISE YOUR THOUGHTS, ACTS

BY SWAMI TEJOMANANDA

The Emotional Quotient (EQ) has been gaining importance nowadays as it is becoming increasingly evident that in spite of being intelligent, educated and rich our emotional problems of anger, jealousy and frustration are dominant. Issues like dealing with praise and criticism or success and failure persist.

Emotions are feelings that have great power and influence on our thoughts and actions. Certain emotions bring agitation, unhappiness, conflict, struggle and cause misery, while other emotions evoke feelings of peace, happiness and harmony.

The negative emotions of anger, hatred and jealousy immediately cause agitation. Love, on the other hand, always brings proximity and closeness. When we are close, there is no need to shout. Have you seen two people in love sitting together, two close friends having a chat or a mother caressing her child? They all speak softly. Moreover, when we pray to God with devotion, our heart just whispers and total silence follows. For when there is full identification, there is communion without words.

We want to eliminate the negative and cultivate the positive emotions because we have already divided this world into good and bad, beautiful and ugly; we have categorised people into friends or enemies and all objects into likes or dislikes or as positive and negative. And as long as we continue to divide, our problems, conflicts and struggles will remain. Anger and jealousy are only desires manifesting in other forms. If we desire something and someone else gets it, we become jealous. But if we do not desire it, we are unaffected. Emotion is a power and desire is also a power — they are one and the same force. When desire is not fulfilled, it gives rise to a display of negative emotions.

Let us, therefore, not create the division of positive and negative. Understand that it is one and the same force taking different forms. Secondly, look upon all as your own Self, but do not consider them to be "like" yourself. Lastly, let us "divinise" the emotions. Take the example of an ordinary wire and what happens to it when an electric current passes through; it becomes charged and is suddenly transformed. Even though the wire looks the same, a different quality has entered into it. In the same way, emotions can bind us, but if "divinised" they can elevate us.

In our Hindu scriptures we are taught to divinise all aspects of life. They enjoin us to look at our parents as God, our teachers as God and to treat all elders and guests as God. Cultivating such an attitude, we will slowly change from within. In Narada Bhakti Sutra it is said that if we must have desire, let it be desire for God. Express all emotions to Him, pray to Him and He will liberate you.

Slowly rise to this level of thinking, "It is divinity alone that is present everywhere!" Feel that presence of God everywhere and rise above duality and the pairs of opposites. And eventually it will become a way of life.

How emotions present themselves will depend upon our attitude and circumstances. We may feel jealous of a successful person, but we are never jealous of the success of our own children. On the contrary, we are proud of them and rejoice that they have surpassed us. Thus, because of love, we do not feel envious or resentful, we feel happy. How does that happen? It is because we are able to see our Self in them and that is called pure love.

— Swami Tejomayananda, head of Chinmaya
Mission Worldwide, is an orator, poet, singer, composer and storyteller. To find out more about Chinmaya Mission and Swamiji, visit www.chinmayamission.com [1]

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A POET'S TRIBULATIONS

BY MAHIR ALI

Yeh khoon ki mehk hai ke lab-i-yaar ki khushboo
Kis rah ki janib se saba aati hai dekho
Gulshan mein bahaar aaee ke zindaan huwa abaad
Kis samt se naghmon ki sada aati hai dekho

One of the more enchanting aspects of my relationship with Faiz Ahmed Faiz's poetry — and it may well chime with the experience of others who relish his work — is the way how long familiar verses suddenly strike a particularly profound chord.

I had that experience just a few days ago while listening to the above quatrain, which opens his fourth collection of verse, titled Daste-Teh-i-Sang. To loosely translate: "Is this a whiff of blood or the fragrance of her lips?/ Ascertain the path down which the morning breeze blows./ The prison blooms with life at the first hint of spring/ Ascertain the direction from which the chant of freedom songs flows."

It is a commonplace that poetry with enduring appeal reflects universal truths, and Faiz's verse is replete with these. This much is conceded even by those who appreciate this poet's unique talent while disdaining his ideological inclinations.

I recall a deeply conservative high school English literature teacher lamenting Faiz's communist inclinations before launching into a panegyric about the exquisite imagery in: Bhujha jo rozan-i-zindaan to dil yeh samjha hai/ Ke teri maang sitaaron se bhar gayee hogi/ Chamak utthe hain silasil to hum ne jana hai/ Ke ab sehr teray rukh par bikhar gayee hogi. ("As the prison window fades to black, the heart senses/ That the heavens above must be awash with glimmering stars;/ And with the first glistening of the bars the realisation dawns that the blessed morn/ Has returned to gently cast its glow across thy visage."

The teacher failed to realise, perhaps, that it's unlikely Faiz's imagination would have toyed with images of this nature but for his incarceration. And what are the chances he would have glimpsed the interior of a prison cell but for the path delineated by his political convictions?

The poet first found himself behind bars in the wake of what's known as the 1951 Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case. The known details of the case make the suspected aspirations of the conspirators seem like folly; success would have entailed a Communist-backed military coup, with indeterminate consequences. It has long been established that by the time the organising cell was busted, the plot had effectively been abandoned.

It could nonetheless be argued that at least some of the would-be adventurists involved in this dimly remembered episode from Pakistan's early history had broadly honourable intentions; and, given the nation's trajectory in the 60 years since then, who can conclusively claim that they were all grievously mistaken?

More to the point, Faiz's series of spells in prison throughout the 1950s served as a conduit for some of his most powerful poetry. His second and third volumes of verse, Dast-i-Saba and Zindaan Nama, were thus unwittingly subsidised, so to speak, by the very state that sought to seal his lips. Enforced isolation in this form is surely not what Wordsworth had in mind when he defined poetry as "emotions recollected in tranquillity", but Faiz evidently found plenty of tranquil moments behind bars, and the solitude appears to have enhanced his sensitivity.

Zindaan Ki Aik Shaam (A Prison Evening) not only epitomises his heightened sense of awareness — "The morning breeze brushes past/ As tenderly as whispered vows of endearment" — but also his lasting conviction that oppression would not endure: "Reason reassures the heart/ Life's so sweet at this moment in time/ The sadists who seek to poison its stream/ Can't have their way today or anytime soon/ Let them turn out the lights/ In the hallowed spaces where we gather/ They cannot hope to extinguish the moon."

Yet the poet's thoughts extended well beyond personal sensations. The years of imprisonment also yielded memorable verses on international affairs, ranging from the troubles in Tehran (Irani Tulaba Ke Naam) to freedom struggles in Africa (Aajao Afreeka). And, not least, Hum Jo Tareek Rahon Mein Marey Gaye, verses from which were resurrected during television coverage of Benazir Bhutto's assassination, and cited again last month following the murder of Faiz's nephew by marriage, Salman Taseer.

The latter poem's origins lie in The Rosenberg Letters, a compendium of the correspondence of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in the final months before their execution in the US on the charge of supplying atomic secrets to the Soviet Union.

Faiz read the book — a heartrending testament to Julius and Ethel's devotion to each other and their love for their young sons, which includes, as an appendix, a vast number of (ultimately ignored) clemency appeals from Nobel laureates, rabbis and priests — while in Montgomery Jail.

Given the poet's proclivities, not least a rebel spirit that endured until the very end, it was somewhat alarming to learn some months ago that 2011 has officially been decreed Faiz Year on account of his birth centenary on February 13. The last thing a literary giant of Faiz's stature and cultural cachet needs if official approbation from a regime whose stalwarts could easily qualify, inter alia, as the targets of a pointed of a barb from one of Faiz's lesser known anthems: Yeh kitne din Amreeka se jeenay ka sahara maangain ge? ("How long can they hope to rely on American life support?").

It is something of a relief to realise that commemorative events in the week ahead are mostly under the auspices of the Faiz Foundation, guided by the indefatigable I.A. Rehman. One can only hope they will help to enhance popular acquaintance with Faiz's spirit in the land he loved to distraction.

By arrangement with Dawn

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

TOUGH LINE BY SC, EC A RAY OF LIGHT

With corruption-filled gloom pervading our public space, it is the intervention of institutions outside the executive, notably the Supreme Court and the Election Commission, that offer some hope that we will be able to navigate our way through the present troubles caused by the venality of those in authority. The Supreme Court on Thursday passed a series of instructions which suggest how stringently it is approaching the 2G spectrum case that has brought shame upon the conduct of an erstwhile Union Cabinet minister, exposed the functioning of the government, and permitted many to question the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh's ability to stand up to political and administrative compulsions. So concerned appears the Supreme Court with the shocking state of affairs that it appears to be putting itself out to make the point that while legal processes in this case must be transparent, these not stretch endlessly as is often the case in this country. To quicken the pace of procedures, the highest court has asked the government to constitute a special court to deal solely with the 2G issue and directed the CBI to file a chargesheet by March 31. It has also instructed that no other court in the country must pass any order that might impede the investigation in this case in any manner. Indeed, going into specifics, the court has asked why the CBI had sought remand of the accused for a short duration and observed that it (CBI) must have a free hand (to accomplish its task). These instructions serve to underline that the 2G case has stung the nation and made us reflect on the working methods of those holding high office. Of late, chief election commissioner, Mr S.Y. Quraishi, has also spoken up candidly on the need to clean up the election process so that we may get MPs and MLAs who do not face criminal charges and have not gone to jail. This is no doubt in the belief that clean legislators and ministers would be more sensitive to corruption issues and be less tolerant of bureaucrats or others who might scheme to dip their hands into public funds — a malady that is making a mockery of our democracy. The CEC had on Wednesday accepted a report by the accounting regulator that seeks basic changes in the way political parties prepare their accounts. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India recommended that all parties be required to prepare financial statements and submit audited accounts to the EC within six months of the ending of a financial year. These accounts must be compulsorily published in a newspaper. It has also been suggested that auditors of political parties must be appointed by the Comptroller and Auditor-General and changed every three or four years. Mr Quraishi has asked the income-tax department to formulate an action plan to monitor illegal cash flow in the coming elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

MELTING POT MENU

BY SWAPAN DASGUPTA

Two years ago, I was invited to a seminar at a grand Cambridge college. As is customary on these occasions, the seminar was to conclude with a formal dinner that sounded promising. Curiously, just before dinner I was discreetly told by a co-participant to "tank up" at an improvised "control room".

Apparently, some participants had insisted that they would attend the dinner on two conditions: that only halal meat would be served and there would be no alcohol. Rather than create cultural complications, the hosts had graciously acquiesced.

Apart from a sense of culinary disappointment, I was not sure how to react. For westerners (and, for that matter, Chinese), hosting subcontinental guests can be a nightmare: there are just too many dietary taboos. Many are vegetarian. Others don't eat beef or pork, while still others insist on halal. Some are teetotallers, but a minority will not accept drinking at the table. The net result: some people are gratified while others grumble silently about those who made all the fuss.

My Cambridge experience came to mind while reading the reactions to David Cameron's well-crafted assault on "multiculturalism" at a conference in Munich last week. The British Prime Minister's speech echoed many of the themes voiced earlier by German Chancellor Angela Merkel but it broke new ground by formally linking some facets of cultural relativism to the threat of Islamist terrorism Europe faced from within.

Mr Cameron's contention was that multiculturalist fads had eroded a national civic culture and this in turn had allowed Islamist radicals the space to influence impressionable young Muslims in cosmopolitan societies. From espousing "non-violent extremism" to becoming suicide bombers, he felt, was a small jump.

Mr Cameron offered a robust prescription to meet the challenge: "(We) must build stronger societies and stronger identities at home. Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance… and a much more active, muscular liberalism".

At a time when there is mood of gloom and doom in Britain, Mr Cameron's advocacy of "active, muscular liberalism" will invariably be misinterpreted as tacit endorsement of far-Right groups engaged in creating a demonology around Britain's Muslims. That would be a tragedy and will derail a much overdue process of the United Kingdom (UK) coming to come to terms with an emotional drift that has plagued it since the Sixties.

For starters, it is necessary to separate "multicultural" from "multiculturalism". The post-1945 wave of immigration from the old Empire has altered the landscape of urban Britain. UK — and England in particular — now hosts people from diverse national and ethnic backgrounds. Far from immigrants and their descendants being an economic drag, this spectacular cosmopolitanism has actually helped maintain UK's post-imperial relevance. Diversity has enriched it culturally and economically.

Multicultural Britain is an irreversible reality. In an age of global connectivity it is difficult for the "melting pot" experiment to be easily replicated. In matters of food, faith and even social attitudes, the inheritance of the "old country" will persist for generations and may even be renewed. Indian restaurants will continue to thrive in Blighty; Bollywood films will influence fashion and fads; brown and black holders of British passports will continue to fail the Tebbit test at Edgbaston and Oval; and the mosque will remain at the epicentre of community life and social certitudes for many Muslims.

White, Anglo-Saxon Britain have accepted these foreign implants into an island nation with grace, generosity and remarkably little social tension. Yes, Britain has a race problem but considering the magnitude of the post-war redrawing of the ethnic and cultural landscape, it is remarkable that chauvinism and cultural xenophobia have not taken deep roots in mainstream politics.

In 1985, over a convivial cup of tea, John Enoch Powell told me that "mass migration was unfair to both the Punjabi and the Brummie". He was wrong about the Punjabi who did well out of the Midlands; and he was only partially right about the Brummie. White working class communities may have resented odd job losses, taunted and bullied the "Paki" boy in the local school and grumbled about the all-pervasive "smell of curry". But bewilderment with the unfamiliar was also coupled with "passive tolerance" and a distaste for extremist politics — a reason why Powell, for all his undoubted erudition, was shunned by the establishment after his "rivers of blood" speech.

Over the years, and more so after the European Union expanded the labour market, this "passive tolerance" has evolved into active engagement with diverse cultures. The process of integration and partnership would have been even more meaningful had it not been for two separate developments: the outpouring of multiculturalist fads and the 7/7 bombings which brought home the reality of home-grown Islamist terror.

Multiculturalism began as a noble attempt to widen the boundaries of tolerance and co-existence. It was based on the assumption that Britain was a rainbow coalition where the British inheritance and way of life were on par with those of other cultures. This assumption rejected integration as a social goal and reduced Britain to an ethnic menagerie. Secondly, along with the negation of a dominant culture, multicultural activists sent out strong signals that it was the host community that must stand down from its pedestal, vacate public spaces and make the necessary adjustments to respect minority sensitivities.

They rarely stressed the importance of immigrant communities respecting the ways of the natives. Accommodation and adjustment became a one-way street. The perverse consequences were not surprising: inflammatory sermons in mosques and an in-your-face assertion of separateness.

Mr Cameron is right to question this provocation to British tolerance but his invocation of "muscular liberalism" as an alternative seems far-fetched. The multiculturalist parody was also a direct consequence of a larger crisis of values in British society.

Over the past 50 years, the West has systematically undermined existing moral certitudes — a recurring complaint of Pope Benedict — and made the foundations of a hitherto robust civic culture fragile. To undercut the appeal of extremism on its doorstep, the West has to recover a soul first.

* Swapan Dasgupta is a senior journalist

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

HURRY UP AMERICA! EGYPT'S GETTING TIRED

BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

In Tahrir Square, I saw a young man holding a sign over his head. The sign urged President Hosni Mubarak to flee the country: "Hurry up! My arms are tired".

Lots of Egyptians seemed to feel the same way. They said they're sick of Mr Mubarak and the entire regime — and are increasingly resentful that the Obama administration continues to seem more comfortable with the regime than with people power. My sense is that we're not only on the wrong side of history but that we're also inadvertently strengthening the anti-Western elements that terrify us and drive our policy.

US President Barack Obama and his aides were blindsided by the crisis from the beginning (as were we in the news media), and I fear that they've mishandled it since. When the protests began, secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton described Mr Mubarak's government as "stable" and "looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people".

Then US special envoy, Frank Wisner, called for Mr Mubarak to stay in power, saying: "President Mubarak's continued leadership is critical". The White House has tried to backtrack, but it has been backtracking from backtracks so much that on Egypt its symbol might as well be a weather vane.

When well-known journalists like Anderson Cooper of CNN were being beaten up in Tahrir Square, the White House found its voice. But now that foreign reporters are no longer being routinely harassed, it has lost its sense of urgency. "Now" is no longer in the White House lexicon.

America seems to favour reforms under Mr Mubarak's vice-president, Omar Suleiman, while perhaps throwing Mr Mubarak himself overboard. But Mr Suleiman is every bit as much an autocrat as Mr Mubarak himself, and our emphasis on stability, order and gradualism suggests a profound allergy to popular will.

That raises a basic question: Why does our national policy seem to be that democracy is good for Americans and Israelis, yet dangerous for Egyptians?

One answer is simple. American officials worry that Mr Mubarak has for decades stifled any secular democratic opposition, so the only organised dissent comes from the Muslim Brotherhood. The fear is that if elections come too soon, before secular groups can organise, the Brotherhood will do well.

That's a legitimate concern, but it's one that the Egyptian opposition is fully aware of and has a variety of mechanisms to address. And a new opinion survey shows that the Muslim Brotherhood has only 15 per cent approval and its leaders get just one per cent support in a presidential straw poll (the candidate to watch: Amr Moussa, the chief of the Arab League).

To many Egyptians, the US is conspiring with the regime to push only cosmetic reforms while keeping the basic structure in power. That's creating profound ill-will. In Tahrir Square, I watched as young people predisposed to admire America — the Facebook generation — expressed a growing sense of betrayal. In a country where half the population is under 24, we are burning our bridges.

Americans, perhaps, don't fully appreciate that the regime is mind-bogglingly corrupt and instinctively repressive. On my blog, nytimes.com/ontheground, I've linked to a video that appears to show Egyptian forces shooting an unarmed, unthreatening protester in cold blood and to another that apparently shows a government vehicle driving through a group of protesters, striking them and hurtling on. Those videos are heart-wrenching, and it is because of long experience with the regime's callousness that ordinary Egyptians don't trust people like Mr Suleiman one bit. They think he's stalling in an effort to retain the system — and they're probably right.

Human Rights Watch has confirmed 302 deaths in the Egypt upheavals, based on visits to hospitals in three cities, and says the real toll may be significantly higher. To put that in perspective, that is several times the toll when Iran crushed its pro-democracy movement in 2009. And it's approaching the toll when the Chinese Army opened fire on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing in 1989. Yet when it's our ally that does the killing, we counsel stability, gradualism and order.

These are Egypt's problems to work out, not America's. But whatever message we're trying to send, the one that is coming through is that we continue to embrace the existing order, and that could taint our future relations with Egypt for many years to come.

Many years ago, when I studied Arabic intensively at the American University in Cairo, I was bewildered initially because for the first couple of months I learned only the past tense. That's the basic tense in Arabic, and so in any Arabic conversation I was locked into the past.

The Obama administration seems equally caught in the past, in ways that undermine the secular pro-Western forces that are Egypt's best hope. I hope the White House learns the future tense.

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

ACCUSED MUSHARRAF

ONLY PART OF THE OVERALL CULPABILITY 

 

IT is early days to speculate whether Pervez Musharraf, in self-imposed exile, is headed for his nemesis. More than three years after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, he has been named by Pakistan's Federal Investigative Agency as an accused; yet this addresses only part of the overall culpability of the establishment. Thus far, the military, notably the ISI, has managed to remain  unscathed. That the Musharraf dispensation had a hand in the killing was suspected on 27 December 2007 itself with the abrupt change in Benazir's security and hosing down of the streets to wash out the blood stains ~ reportedly ordered by the then President and no less ~ to remove any tell-tale evidence. A third factor that has deepened suspicion was the inordinate delay in commissioning the investigation. Verily was the government on the mat early last year when a UN commission had blamed the authorities for deliberately delaying the inquiry into the assassination and for not providing adequate security to Benazir. There was even a clear hint that the ISI had masterminded the plot. Arguably, the government might still have been dragging its feet were it not for this rap on the knuckles. That the world body had to intervene in an effort to get to the root of the tragedy confirms that the establishment was only too eager not to take the lid off a pretty kettle of fish. The FIA may now seemingly have taken the lid off, but as yet there is no reference in the chargesheet to the widely suspected role of the ISI, now under a protege of General Kayani. The civilian establishment will not dare to rock the boat at Rawalpindi GHQ at this juncture; only a few months ago was President Zardari put on notice by the army chief over misgovernance and corruption in the wake of the floods.

 

There is little doubt that the chargesheet has been selective; for now, it has scuppered Musharraf's political designs and his plans to return to Pakistan. The "absconder" may prefer the safety of London and Dubai for sometime yet. Musharraf's aide, Muhammad Ali Saif, may have a point when he argues that the chargesheet, "is a political drama to hide the real actors behind the killing of Benazir Bhutto". The "real actors" are now strutting the stage. The suspicion of the involvement of the military brass deepens with the exclusion of army officers from the three-member inquiry committee formed by Yousuf Raza Gilani last year. The findings of the Prime Minister's panel are still under wraps. Despite UN intervention, a lot has been airbrushed over the past three years. The military may now keep a lot more under the hat to keep itself in the clear. The retired General may be fighting a lonely battle, if and when he appears in the dock.

 

DIAGNOSIS & ANTIDOTE

PM SCORES OVER NAC HEAD

THE chairperson of the National Advisory Council has made the diagnosis and it may be just a coincidence that the antidote has been prescribed by the Prime Minister on the same day. Dr Manmohan Singh has announced a raft of proposals to plug the loopholes of the NREGS, close to seven years after it was introduced by UPA-I. The prefixing of  'Mahatma' is scarcely a value-addition; in a sense it has merely made a gigantic public sector failure still more glaring. The ingredients of Dr Singh's tonic deal with the fundamentals ~ a biometric database of all workers to authenticate applications, attendance and payments. This is the first major attempt to address drawbacks. Small wonder why the scheme has been reduced to a virtual fizzle that cannot be concealed by blaming it entirely on the states, as did Sonia Gandhi recently. Admittedly, Mrs Gandhi is not off the mark when she cavils that the implementation of the scheme by the states has been shoddy, if not decidedly corrupt. Yet the onus can't entirely be placed on the states as she reckons; equally, if not more, does the responsibility devolve on the Centre. The Prime Minister's move to fix the drawbacks illustrates the Centre's prolonged failure to monitor the scheme. Seven years is a long enough spell to earnestly evaluate what the government calls a "flagship" endeavour, but alas only on paper. The anniversary turned out to be an occasion for ceremonial reflection.  And both the Prime Minister and the UPA chairperson ~ who spoke as head of NAC ~ had little or nothing to claim in terms of the scheme's effectiveness. There is an entity too many scanning well-trodden ground ~ the Centre, the NAC and the cabal for all seasons, styled the Group of Ministers. Whether guaranteed employment or food security, there is little to show beyond the tiresome charade of meetings and presentations. The overwhelming part of rural India is mired in poverty. The Prime Minister has pledged priority in allocations to the Maoist-affected areas. If that is a policy decision, so too is the paramilitary offensive for which the states can be trusted to do their bit. The second negates the first, the cruel irony of welfare economics in Incredible India.


'POLITICAL' ALIBIS

AGGRAVATE WARRIORS' WOES

POLITICIANS occasionally deviate into the realm of truth. If a month earlier the defence minister assumed the role of a herald to celebrate another phase in the development of the Light Combat Aircraft ~ criticism of which has begun to sound like a defective gramophone record ~ he was more realistic at AeroIndia a few days ago when he admitted that the Air Force demanded further improvements before declaring the fighter "operational". That, however, was something of an "aside" because AK Antony was waxing eloquent about some of the systems for the LCA having been indigenously developed to compensate for their not being available due to technology-denial regimes. Commendations on that score may be "politically correct", but there must be no scope for doubt over the efficacy of the indigenous product. Or to put it bluntly, are IAF pilots being subjected to unreasonable risk because others make a point of wearing their "patriotism" on their shirtsleeves? It would be a betrayal of the young pilots' faith and commitment if the Air Force was subjected to political pressure to accept the plane ~ as the Army so obviously has been pressured into ordering a fair number of MBT Arjuns. The minister was spot-on when he contended that cutting edge technology was unlikely to be made available from foreign sources, but who will certify that the domestic development is of matching quality? Surely not the DRDO, which would claim it was state-of-the-art essentially to justify the huge development costs. This pertains not to just high-end military systems like jetfighters or tanks. Recall the lavish praises heaped upon the INSAS rifle? Most users prefer the more "dated" AK-47. Who will deny that MiG-21s, Avro-748s and Dornier-228s that were built by Hindustan Aeronautics did not perform as well as their "originals". The aim of this commentary is not to slam indigenous production for there can be no getting away from the fact that the best military machines are "built" not "bought". However there is every reason to guard against getting carried away on a highly-politicised "self-reliance" wave. The young men and women who put their lives on the line must be assured that their equipment is of requisite standard ~ they must not be expected to take a politician's word on that at a time when it is foolhardy to take a politician's word on anything.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

DEMOCRACY'S DEATH WISH

BLAME CLASS, NOT MASS!

RAJINDER PURI


Winston Churchill was reluctant to surrender the British Empire. He had little love for India's political leaders. Arguing against giving India independence he reportedly said: "Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters; all Indian leaders will be of low calibre and men of straw. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles. A day would come when even air and water... would be taxed in India ."


This statement by him has been widely quoted and vilified. But a careful reading of it suggests that Churchill was not blaming the mass of Indian people as much as the class that ruled them. His reference to the plight of the public that might be taxed even for air and water indicates that. Churchill acquired his view of the Indian elite through Britain's interaction with India's political leaders during the freedom struggle.
All societies have masses and classes that rule them. What criterion creates the ruling class might differ from one society to another. Sometimes through dint of effort and luck members of the mass succeed in becoming part of the ruling class. Overwhelmingly in such cases the new entrants to the ruling class acquire the traits and attitude of their newfound peers. Rarely do they display concern for the plight of those from among whose ranks they have emerged.


Today by common consent democracy in India is imperilled. Who is to be blamed for it ~ the mass of common people or the ruling class that governs them? Consider the performance of both segments.It cannot be denied that the public has voted sensibly whenever it has been provided with a real choice. During the Emergency members of the elite sat in clubs and drawing rooms exhorting the efficiency brought about by Indira Gandhi's gift to the nation. They marveled over how the trains ran on time and how officials attended office punctually. But came the election and the public trounced the Congress at the hustings. Subsequently Mrs Gandhi acknowledged that imposition of the Emergency had been a mistake. A couple of years later the public voted out the squabbling Janata Party leaders and brought back the Congress led by Mrs Gandhi.


After Indira Gandhi's assassination the public overwhelmingly voted for her son to ensure national unity against a divided opposition. Later it voted out Rajiv Gandhi in favour of a leader pledging an end to corruption but failing to live up to his pledge after assuming power. One can go on. Today some leaders and intellectuals lament that the public does not vote sensibly. Do political parties and the electoral system give the public a chance to do so? For instance, is there any real choice between Mayawati, Mulayam Singh, Rajnath Singh or the Congress in UP? Voters perforce fall back on caste and on micro advantage. There is no macro alternative offered to them.


Now take a look at how the ruling class is performing in democracy. For starters consider the Prime Minister. It is the most rudimentary and basic norm of democracy that governments and ministers are accountable for the performance of the administration. After the exposure of massive corruption scams the media, the ruling party and the opposition continue to wrestle with questions related to who might have accepted bribes. That problem is secondary. The government must accept constructive responsibility for the lapses. Given the volume of corruption the PM should have resigned long ago by accepting constructive responsibility for the graft. Sadly, not only has the PM failed to hint resignation even once, but the media and the opposition have embarked on an unnecessary fishing expedition to discover if the PM is the big corrupt fish to be caught and fried.
Consider the judiciary. Over half a dozen retired Supreme Court (SC) judges are facing corruption charges in court. In the past the most scurrilous and damaging allegations of moral turpitude and corruption made against a sitting Chief Justice of India and his colleague on the Bench were allowed to pass unpunished for contempt by the SC. What sad conclusion might be drawn from that episode? Apart from challenged integrity there is the question about competence. Some of the SC judgments can only be described as bizarre. Very recently one judgment had portions expunged by the SC itself after public protests. Currently one judgment is so illogical and endangering to national security that the Union Government is filing a review petition. If credibility of the very judicial system is damaged, what remains of democracy?


Consider officialdom. The Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) is embroiled in a huge public controversy and a court case. He was appointed while a court case of corruption was pending against him. The public debate around him is confined to the question of his financial probity. Not one voice has been raised to point out that his continuance in office is untenable not because of alleged corruption, but because his functioning as the CVC will lack credibility while he faces a court case. Also, the court proceedings against him would lack credibility if meanwhile he continues in office. Amazingly, the CVC in his own defence communicated to the court that because many MPs were facing criminal cases he too should be allowed to continue! His integrity may be foolproof. But what about his competence to be CVC? Given his defence argument, would he judge corruption cases on the basis of how prevalent is corruption?


The media is not only openly indulging in paid news. Recent transcripts of taped conversation have revealed that leading icons of media are embedded in the wheeling and dealing of murky politics. Most media exposures are inspired leaks by political rivals trying to do each other in. In short, the media has become an extension of the corporate and political establishment.


What about the youth? There is a renowned university heavily subsidized by the government to train the cream of Indian youth to lead the nation in various fields. It is the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Currently, its students are facing a probe for having participated in the making of pornographic videos. It seems that the students of JNU have a good idea about the kind of system they will inherit and are therefore preparing themselves for it.


One can summon many examples to prove that almost all institutions are crumbling. When a system collapses in such magnitude there comes about a point when the public revolts. India is very close to that point. In Egypt crowds took to the streets to bring about desired reform. In India even though democracy has crumbled, a democratic culture prevails. People are attuned to usher change through elections. But for such change to occur the elite must create a genuine alternative to the present political class. That would require an alternate agenda. That in turn would require a nationwide movement to propagate it and to mobilize public support in its favour. That's a tall order. It's a tough call. But only if the ruling class rises to the challenge can the general mass give an adequate response. Failing this there could be anarchy. Sporadic public protest could lead to uprooted rail tracks, blocked highways and unchecked lynching. The signs are already visible.  


The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

HYPOCRISY EXPOSED BY THE WIND OF CHANGE

 WHEN THE ARABS WANT DIGNITY AND SELF-RESPECT, WHEN THEY CRY OUT FOR THE VERY FUTURE BARACK OBAMA OUTLINED IN HIS CAIRO SPEECH, WHAT THEY GET INSTEAD IS DISRESPECT, WRITES ROBERT FISK

THERE is nothing like an Arab revolution to show up the hypocrisy of your friends. Especially if that revolution is one of civility and humanism and powered by an overwhelming demand for the kind of democracy that we enjoy in Europe and America. The pussyfooting nonsense uttered by Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton these past two weeks is only part of the problem. From "stability" to "perfect storm" – Gone with the Wind might have recommended itself to the State Department if they really must pilfer Hollywood for their failure to adopt moral values in West Asia – we've ended up with the presidential "now-means-yesterday", and "orderly transition", which translates: no violence while ex-air force General Hosni Mubarak is put out to graze so that ex-intelligence General Suleiman can take over the regime on behalf of America and Israel.
Fox News has already told its viewers in America that the Muslim Brotherhood – about the "softest" of Islamist groups in West Asia – is behind the brave men and women who have dared to resist the state security police, while the mass of French "intellectuals" (the quotation marks are essential for poseurs like Bernard-Henri Lévy) have turned, in Le Monde's imperishable headline, into "the intelligentsia of silence". And we all know why.
Alain Finkelstein talks about his "admiration" for the democrats but also the need for "vigilance" — and this is surely a low point for any "philosophe" – "because today we know above all that we don't know how everything is going to turn out". This almost Rumsfeldian quotation is gilded by Lévy's own preposterous line that "it is essential to take into account the complexity of the situation". Oddly enough, that is exactly what the Israelis always say when some misguided Westerner suggests that Israel should stop stealing Arab land in the West Bank for its colonists.

Indeed, Israel's own reaction to the momentous events in Egypt – that this might not be the time for democracy in Egypt (thus allowing it to keep the title of "the only democracy" in West Asia) – has been as implausible as it has been self-defeating. Israel will be much safer surrounded by real democracies than by vicious dictators and autocratic kings. To his enormous credit, French historian Daniel Lindenberg told the truth this week. "We must, alas, admit the reality: many intellectuals believe, deep down, that the Arab people are congenitally backward."

There is nothing new in this. It applies to our subterranean feelings about the whole Muslim world. Chancellor Merkel of Germany announces that multiculturalism doesn't work, and a pretender to the Bavarian royal family told me not so long ago that there were too many Turks in Germany because "they didn't want to be part of German society". Yet when Turkey itself – as near a perfect blend of Islam and democracy as you can find in West Asia right now – asks to join the European Union and share our Western civilisation, we search desperately for any remedy, however racist, to prevent its membership.

In other words, we want them to be like us, providing they stay away. And then, when they prove they want to be like us but don't want to invade Europe, we do our best to install another American-trained general to rule them. Just as Paul Wolfowitz reacted to the Turkish parliament's refusal to allow US troops to invade Iraq from southern Turkey by asking if "the generals don't have something to say about this", we are now reduced to listening while US defence secretary Robert Gates fawns over the Egyptian army for its "restraint" – apparently failing to realise that it is the people of Egypt, the proponents of democracy, who should be praised for their restraint and non-violence, not a bunch of brigadiers.

So when the Arabs want dignity and self-respect, when they cry out for the very future which Obama outlined in his famous – now, I suppose, infamous – Cairo speech of June 2009, we show them disrespect and casuistry. Instead of welcoming democratic demands, we treat them as a disaster. It is an infinite relief to find serious American journalists like Roger Cohen going "behind the lines" on Tahrir Square to tell the unvarnished truth about this hypocrisy of ours. It is an unmitigated disgrace when their leaders speak. Macmillan threw aside colonial pretensions of African unpreparedness for democracy by talking of the "wind of change". Now the wind of change is blowing across the Arab world. And we turn our backs upon it.

the independent

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

BEYOND THE NON-POLITICAL VIEWS OF E-GOVERNANCE

TO A LARGE EXTENT, BENGAL OFFERS A GLIMPSE OF HOW BOTH THE CENTRE AND THE STATE GOVERNMENT ARE VISIBLY TORN BETWEEN THEIR EGALITARIAN APPROACHES AND THE TECHNO-MANAGERIAL CONCEPTS OF EFFICIENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY DICTATED BY INTERNATIONAL FUNDING AGENCIES, WRITES
SHIB SHANKAR DASGUPTA

IN his book, Globalization and its Discontents, Joseph Stiglitz mentions that the greatest disparity between economically developed and economically developing countries in today's world is no more the amount of natural resources each country possesses but the growing divide in the capacity to access and manage information resources.

Social scientist Manuel Castells echoes similar feelings as relations between society and techno-science become more visible when we think about a "space of flows" that maps these networks of information that increasingly define the current state of a nation in knowledge-based economy.

The information capacity of a country is often linked with the ability of its public sector organisations to harness information for economic and social development. The government of India, with a strong bias on technical and managerial approach, has adopted the national e-Governance plan to modernise its public sectors. It plans to introduce 100,000 common service centres distributed across 600,000 villages in the country under this plan. It is a comprehensive programme comprising 27 mission-mode projects at the Central and state levels to coordinate among various line ministries and government departments through statewide area networks and integrated state data centers to offer public services.

Locating the national e-Governance plan within the political, economic and social contexts in India and, to a large extent, West Bengal offers a glimpse of how both the Central government and the Bengal government are visibly torn between their egalitarian approaches and the techno-managerial concepts of efficiency, accountability and transparency dictated by international funding agencies in integrating ordinary citizens of the country in the mainstream of development.

A multi-level analysis of the national e-Governance plan in India shows that the grand promise of integrating ordinary citizens into the public service delivery system has been severely affected in Bengal. At the macro-level, the techno-managerial definition of e-Governance based on information capitalism is quite insensitive to the local issues and concerns of the rural citizens in West Bengal. The political economy of land in the Bhoomi e-Governance project in Karnataka, cautions that macro-level policy prescriptions misses the deep and wide structural issues through which possession and dispossession of land happens in India. The discussion on the national e-Governance plan, therefore, has to move beyond its neutral and apolitical identity to a level of complex processes of social and political contextual understanding in West Bengal.

At the meso-level, the Left Front government in West Bengal is more involved in certain utilitarian ideas, trapped within their propaganda of setting up 6,000 common service centres in the state. The chief minister often mentions that citizens can get online services through the common service centers in West Bengal. But simply digitizing of existing processes without transforming the decision making hierarchy prevalent in state bureaucracy does not improve accountability, efficiency and transparency in government functions.
Finally, at the micro-level, the common service centers due to the technological stupor of the Left Front government fail to offer any online services that are relevant to the needs and concerns of the ordinary citizens in West Bengal. As a result, the common service centers resemble at best a malnourished and deformed child standing mute amidst the chaos of public service functions of the local Panchayats in West Bengal.
The leadership in West Bengal should be aware that by joining the bandwagon of e-Governance and accepting information technology as the passport to satisfy its electorate may not be the right approach to industrialisation in West Bengal. The Left Front government has to devise its own strategies to protect the marginalised populations with an equity-efficiency trade-off that enhances equity in the fields of healthcare, education, land reform, and micro-credit for small producers.

The Left Front government, in its efforts to pursue the high-technology model of industrialization, has succeeded in building small enclaves of private wealth in glittering hotels and shopping malls in Kolkata while much of the rural economy is struggling stagnancy. They have come up with very few new ideas and ventures

on e-Governance targeted to the marginalized populations who need it most.

By accepting information capitalism blindly the Left Front has compromised bulk of its egalitarian ways of moving with the proletariat. They have to understand that the conflict today is not about anti-automation or pro-automation. They have to judiciously decide how the national e-Governance plan can bring prosperity to the poor and the marginalised population; the people who have been supporting them in elections for the last 30 over years.


The writer is with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York, USA, and can be contacted at shibshankar.dasgupta@gmail.com

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THE STATESMAN

NOW & AGAIN

DON'T THROW THIS IN THE BIN

USING A SIMPLE PRECEPT, A VOLUNTARY ORGANISATION HAS MET THE NEEDS OF HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF FAMILIES WHILE HELPING TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT, SAYS BHARAT DOGRA

IT is increasingly emphasised that environment protection should be linked to safeguarding and promoting livelihoods. It is also widely realised that meeting the basic needs of people (with special emphasis on the weakest sections) in a sustainable way should be at the centre of all our efforts. Goonj is a voluntary organisation that has been able to integrate all these very basic concerns in its work.

Almost every household discards some products from time to time as these are no longer useful. Some of these discards are picked up by the long-established recycling network, but many other products do not have any such channel for purposeful use and so invariably add to the garbage mountain or landfill burden. This need not be so as many poor people can put these products to good use to meet their basic needs.

Apart from what is discarded from the point of view of need, the more prosperous urban households can be persuaded or motivated to part with many other products of better quality (for example, clothes that are in decent shape) provided they know that these will definitely reach deserving, needy households. In addition, bulk quantities of usable waste can be picked up from factories or other places – like patches of clothes from garment makers — and then creative processors can make good use of this bulk material to meet the basic needs of many. If all these simple precepts can be creatively translated into practice, then, first, this will meet the basic needs (clothes, notebooks, shoes, etc) of many. Second, the burden of solid waste can be reduced significantly and, third, this entire creative process will generate livelihoods (washing, cleaning, repairing, processing, sorting, loading, etc) for the weaker sections. These livelihoods are likely to have a lot of scope for creativity, innovation and (India's very special) jugaad.

Goonj has been working on precisely these principles. The team, from its director down to the person who handles damaged jeans, has displayed tremendous creativity in translating this vision into action. In the process, they have helped several hundreds of thousands of people to meet their basic needs, creating sustainable livelihoods and winning several prestigious awards.

Goonj started with collecting clothes for needy people and it now collects a whole range of goods, including clothes, shoes, toys, notebooks, other stationary, newspapers, books, etc. One of its main strengths is its network of volunteers in many parts of India. Clothes as well as other goods can be deposited at the various collection points provided by these volunteers, who then arrange for this to be transported to a bigger storage.
I visited one such storage in Delhi where clothes of all sizes and types were being washed, dried, processed, repaired, packed and got ready for transporting to various parts of the country where there are most needed (for example the flood-ravaged parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh or the drought affected areas of Bundelkhand).
In another unit I saw how parts of even damaged clothes were used to prepare a wide range of beautiful products such as bags, mobile phone cases, etc. In other sections, I saw collections of shoes, notebooks, pencils, pens, etc. In yet another section, sanitary napkins were being prepared at a very low cost to meet the needs of women from weaker sections.

A special effort of Goonj (Rahat) has been try to meet the clothing and other basic needs of those affected by natural disasters. During the Kosi floods in Bihar, the truckloads of clothes provided by Goonj were very useful. Another of its inspiring aspects has been that it has not received regular funding from any big donor organisation. Its inspiring growth has been mainly on the basis of a network of citizen donors (with some help from corporate groups as well). Thus Goonj has been able to reach its present stage of a wide network with an annual budget of about Rs 4 crore, largely on the strength of small donors and volunteers.
Both because of what has been achieved and how it has been achieved, one hopes the Goonj story will continue to march ahead with many "echoes" or efforts to replicate this achievement.

The writer is currently a Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi

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THE TELEGRAPH

FOLLOWING FORM

AFTER THE THAW

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is living up to its name at last. For most of its time, the functioning of the Saarc was compromised by longstanding conflicts among its member nations. Although one of the aims of Saarc was to advocate a spirit of collective self-reliance in South Asia, cooperation in the region was hard to come by. Finally, the agreement in Thimphu over a liberalized visa regime for select citizens of the member states has given a new lease of life to Saarc. A thaw seems to have set in.

However, this is not the time for unqualified optimism. There is no doubt that the introduction of multi-entry and multi-city visas for 22 categories of professionals travelling among the Saarc states is going to foster some kind of regional cohesiveness. Yet, the screening process for the granting of such visas may prove onerous, even controversial, when diplomatic decisions are applied to real-life situations. One of the chief impediments in the successful implementation of these liberal plans in a region like South Asia is the preponderance of identity-based politics. As a result, rights are often subsumed by the ethnicity, nationality and religious affiliations of individuals. South Asia, being exceptionally prone to terrorism, is, by default, a region where suspicion, instead of solidarity, reigns supreme among the neighbouring states. The good news, however, is that India and Pakistan, the two big powers in the region, also resumed bilateral talks on the sidelines of the Saarc meet in Thimphu. Although the dialogue began on a stormy note, with Pakistan making a rather churlish attempt to stoke emotions, the course seems to have taken a sensible turn. Of course, no one with a modicum of realism expects a dramatic reunion among the feuding nations of South Asia. Yet, pragmatism and prudence, as manifested in the visa agreement, can at least help sustain, and build on, the economic success of Saarc.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

OPENING UP

India's presence in the American mind is minuscule; but there are indications that it may be expanding. It is certainly on the mind of the president of the United States of America. But it is important to understand where it is located. In his first speech on Indian soil in November, he spoke expansively about how he had created markets for US exports to India and the jobs they had created in the US. It was almost as if he had forgotten that he was in India and was speaking to a largely Indian audience. His most recent reference to India was in his speech to the US chamber of commerce. He talked of the waning of the American dream, and attributed it, amongst other things, to the rise of India's and China's middle classes. As they get richer, the market they constitute is luring companies to produce for them, and life is ebbing out of American industry. The resulting recession has shaken people's faith in the destiny of the US — the belief that the US was the land of opportunity and would go on scaling new heights. He outlined what he was going to do to reverse the economic and psychological downturn: he proposed to invest in infrastructure, education and innovation, reduce taxes and simplify regulation. There, too, he boasted of having created a quarter of a million jobs through export deals to India and China.

This preoccupation with US exports may appear parochial and egocentric. The prime minister of India may be comparing Barack Obama with his predecessor to the former's detriment. Of course, Mr Obama is focused on America and is addressing its domestic concerns. That is where he will stand or fall. But what needs to be noted is that while his message is couched in nationalistic terms, it is in India's interest, for he is also fighting the incipient protectionism and xenophobia that are surging in the US. It is going through the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Nine per cent of its labour force is unemployed. American legislators' concerns are just as local and short-term as Indians'. They would erect import barriers if they thought that would protect American jobs. If they did, that would put India's information technology industry in jeopardy. Mr Obama is diverting his country's attention from such inward-oriented policies, and is thereby serving India's interests.

He deserves India's understanding; but more could be done. This is a good time to dismantle India's import restrictions. The US and other Western countries have for long been asking for a reduction in India's protection of service industries. Even if their firms set up shop in India, they will bring in mainly capital; Indian workers are so good and reasonably priced that much labour influx is unlikely. India should stop being scared and start behaving like a superpower. And trumpet every liberalization measure it takes.

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

DEADLOCKED REVOLUTION

THE FUTURE MAY BE UNCERTAIN, BUT THE ANGER DEMANDS RECOGNITION CUTTING CORNERS: ASHOK MITRA

Such are the ironies of history. If Tunisia had not exploded, Egypt, it is more than likely, would not have witnessed the awesome people's uprising. Tunisia is only one-sixth the size of Egypt; its population is barely 10 million as against Egypt's 70 million; its geopolitical importance is piffle compared to the country mounting guard over the Suez Canal. And yet, because Tunisians had more than enough of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's long, oppressive rule and, chose, in a sudden burst of emotion, to topple the tyrant, the people of Egypt too discovered the courage to give themselves a revolution. The little one set the example, the big one took the cue. Hosni Mubarak's regime was even more claustrophobic than the Tunisian monarchy; it was also shot full of corruption. Egyptians have suffered him over the span of three decades. They seethed in anger, but did not quite know what to do with that anger. An external occurrence now provided the enlightenment: it is courage that matters. It took a bare week following the events in Tunisia for Egyptians to break out into one of the most magnificent displays of people's power the world has ever seen; the message is bold and clear: tyranny shall not pass.

The sequence of happenings, it could well be claimed, proves the relevance of the old theme: the valour of a few quickly draws in admiring joiners, the few soon turn into hundreds, at the next hop the hundreds become thousands and an astounding multiplier effect sets to work, the entire nation learns to march together in quest of a common goal. Only in the present instance the few who started the fire sparked it off in a different country. No matter, even an external stimulus did it for Egypt.

The crucial question, however, remains: what shape the Egyptian people will give to their revolution or whether the conspiracy of circumstances will render it into a great disappointment. It is still a complex, confusing picture. The revolt had a single-point agenda: to get rid of the tyrant-in-residence. It has been a long roster of pent-up discontent from different sections of society; about everybody joined in the collective protest — the working class and the huge multitude of the unemployed, vast segments of the middle class, the younger generation, housewives squeezed by inflation, including those who wore the burqa and those who did not. Few amongst the millions who rose in revolt had thought out a priori — not even in vague outline — precisely what kind of future they were looking forward to once their initial target was accomplished. Only after they discovered themselves as architects of an actual revolution and a panicky president of the United States of America issued a cryptic statement hoping for a peaceful transition in their country, which Egyptians interpreted as a hint to Mubarak to disappear without fuss, thought turned to the nitty-gritty issue of the nature of the post-revolution polity. Lacking a homogeneous ideological base, diverse groups among those mounting the ramparts nurture widely differing notions about how to rebuild the administration and the country, and whom to call upon to shoulder this responsibility. At one end is the generation of youngsters enthused by the writings of Edward Said, at the other is the well-knit organization of the Muslim Brotherhood keen to drag Egypt into the tentacles of rigorous discipline and religious rituals. Mubarak's insensate, repressive rule has been the Brotherhood's opportunity; many helpless, persecuted people, hemmed in by the regime's authoritarian ways, tended to escape into the seeming tranquillity the sanctum of religious orthodoxy offered.

Even as millions were shouting themselves hoarse demanding Mubarak's departure, dissonance, therefore, reared its head over what arrival should follow the departure. Mubarak and his confidants could have been waiting for this moment. The president disowned by the people has finally made his much anticipated statement agreeing to vacate the seat of power, but has added a defiant proviso: he would leave only after the verdict of the national elections he has scheduled for September is out. He has also reshuffled his cabinet of ministers, installed a vice-president, and his prime minister has apologized to the people for the casualties caused by police and security excesses, and invited rebels for talks. At the time of writing, the vice-president is confabulating with representatives of a cross-section of the insurgency groups on the issue of a new, democratic constitution for the nation; there is, however, no mention of Mubarak's agreeing to go away at this instant.

Conceivably, all this is a façade. The US has been the guardian angel of the Mubarak regime all along. The Egyptian army has a symbiotic relationship with the Pentagon. Perhaps advised by friends in Washington, it has behaved with circumspection with the chanting crowds choking the streets and squares of Cairo, Alexandria and elsewhere. There was enough confidence too that the insurgents would begin speaking in different voices the moment talks are initiated on the details of the interim arrangements to follow. Whatever the intensity of Egyptian determination to see the last of Mubarak, it could not sway the US to overlook its global strategic interests. Mubarak has been America's most faithful friend in the Middle East after the Saudi kings as also one of the two pivots of their policy planning for the region. The other pivot is, of course, Israel. No administration in the US can afford, for reasons of domestic politics, to alienate the Israelis. President Barack Obama cannot quite give marching orders to Mubarak without considering its consequences. The set-up replacing the Mubarak regime, Israel needs to be assured, would not affect its security concerns.

For both the US and Israel, the major imperative is to prevent the best organized national group, the Muslim Brotherhood, from infiltrating into power in the wake of Mubarak's dethronement. The American administration will be most reluctant to let go of its tacit support for Mubarak unless it is sanguine that, whatever else happens, the Brotherhood would be no part of the new administration. But it has also to take into account the other danger: a prolongation of the impasses in Egypt might actually aggravate anti-American sentiments across the entire region.

It will obviously be wishful to think that an ideal people's republic would be the bequest of the revolution. Passion ignited the revolution. Passion by itself, though, cannot reconstruct the rundown system. Other inputs are called for, including exercises aimed at balancing the interests of different social groups that have been an integral part of the uprising.

Once the emotional fervour has abated, exhausted citizens can be expected to withdraw from city squares and street corners; the process has already started. People will be going home with a sense of half-fulfilment. At this point they do not quite know whether they have succeeded in removing their bete noire; they have, however, extracted from him at least half a promise to quit in about six months or thereabouts. This commitment, it is being assumed, is underwritten by the US.

Is there much reason for despondency at this dénouement of the people's wondrous awakening in Egypt? Perhaps not. Revolution is always an uncertain quantity, its outcome satisfies some, disappoints many others, or it can be the other way round. The overriding objective reality still cries out to be taken cognizance of: the Arab world, the full stretch of it, is in a ferment. The fire must have been burning subterraneously for years; it has now emerged to consume one ancient regime after another in the region. Sultans and sheikhs have shortchanged the Arab people for long, ensconced in their belief that the US, where they have stashed most of the wealth they have amassed by exploiting their subjects, would protect them for ever. The internal combustion is of such force that the support of an external ally, even if the ally happens to be the world's mightiest power, is of no avail. Tunisia has been followed by not just Egypt; the rulers of Yemen and Jordan, too, have failed to escape the heat.

What is amusing is the coy, frightened reaction of the ministry of external affairs in New Delhi to the developments in Egypt. Half a dozen heads of government in Europe, including those of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, have issued a joint statement suggesting Hosni Mubarak abides by the will of the people; they are surely worried no end over the prospect of another 'oil shock' in case instability in Egypt shuts down the Suez Canal. India, though, is awaiting a more positive signal from the US of which it is the most loyal strategic ally. Is it equally anxious not to ruffle the feathers of its other strategic ally, Israel? There is food for thought here: India, once the self-proclaimed helmsman of Afro-Asian resurgence, has now its closest relationship in the Middle East not with any of the Arab countries, not with Iran, but with Israel.

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

BITS AND PIECES

BONAFIDE: MALVIKA SINGH

The government is creating a lot of noise about an accelerating rate of growth. Yet the anarchy, which has enveloped all aspects of working and living in India because of corrupt processes and delivery systems, has attracted poisonous termites that are devouring our habitats and environment. It is simple — the restructuring of any system requires its many different arms to be revamped simultaneously to ensure that the 'whole' becomes viable and strong. The nonsense about bits and pieces that is touted in our country has destroyed one for the other, and reduced the 'change' to a 'mess', where one limb has no idea what the other is doing. Not only is this true in terms of 'ideas' and 'structural change' but also in the realm of governance, where one minister or babu does not know or comprehend what the colleague in another ministry or department is doing. This is unacceptable.

The prime minister, as the CEO of the government of India, must support all his ministers in the council. A recent example that contradicts this premise is the rather inexplicable imposition of a 'group of ministers' — Sharad Pawar, Sushil Kumar Shinde, P. Chidambaram, Veerappa Moily and others — on the environment minister. This makes a mockery of the minister concerned as well as of the policies of the government. One wonders why the prime minister needs to do this at all. If he and some over-active cabinet ministers have an ideological problem with one of their colleagues — who is abiding by the laws of this land that have been broken for years — they should either 'rewrite' the laws or replace the minister with another. There is no shortage of desperate ministerial candidates waiting to grab certain 'coveted' ministries which can dole out precious treasures.

Step backward

It is truly sad that our leaders have no holistic concern and, therefore, a method of creating a balance between unthinking 'growth' — which could become deadly and poisonous for our children and theirs — and real, inclusive development, where the less privileged become active participants in the processes of change. Old and often faulty models, which many Western nations regret having followed blindly at the behest of international monetary institutions, are now being thrust upon India. As a result, resentment is creeping into the polity. Elections are the only barometer in a democracy, and they will prove this truth conclusively. Because of the haphazard reforms and restructurings of the 'economy', India will suffer economically as well as socially when the dispensation changes. It will be one step forward and ten steps backward.

Sitting ensconced in the comfort of their urban ivory towers, disengaged with the diversity of ideas, demands, and more that make up the entity called India, drafting policies that will determine the lives and futures of rural and urban, poor and rich India, these men and women have alienated themselves from the reality. This may well result in a repeat of the 'India Shining' episode. Many of the mandarins in the government need a rural, off- the-main-road Bharat darshan without the mandatory tamasha that accompanies it, if they are to begin to understand, even superficially, the young, aspiring and booming India. They think they know but, in fact, know very little about this layered and dynamic civilization, with all its nuances that make it stand alone. This is the reason behind the rampant corruption and profound anarchy, both intellectual and physical.

To the outsider, who watches governance unfold and reads newspaper reports, the sense that the government and the Congress are pulling in different directions is overwhelming. Is this a deliberate strategy, a kind of 'divide and rule'? Or, is 'change' imminent?

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

EDITORIAL

NEW BEGINNING

'BOTH NATIONS MUST CREATE CONDITIONS TO RESUME TALKS.'

 

After the disastrous foreign ministers' meeting in Islamabad in July last year, India and Pakistan seem to be picking up the threads of mutual engagement again. The 90-minute talks between the two foreign secretaries this week on the sidelines of the SAARC council of ministers' conference in Thimphu has sent out some hopeful signs. Substantially, the relations between the two countries and the positions remain much the same but there is some forward movement in devising ways to break the ice. The Islamabad meeting had set back the slow clock of improvement in relations mainly because of some unwise remarks made by the Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and had ended in mutual blaming. But in Thimphu both sides seem to have done better in talking about talks.

It was encouraging that the two officials, Nirupama Rao and Salman Bashir, spoke in one voice and issued a common statement of intent. The details of the discussions have not been made public, perhaps as a matter of abundant caution, and it was stated that the new beginning should be allowed to mature in course of time. Even when both sides stuck to their positions they were couched in diplomatic terms and the differences did not come to the fore. The fact that both felt satisfied with the talks and thought the other side had taken a constructive attitude will not be missed. The statement of External Affairs S M Krishna that the talks had laid a solid foundation for a sustained engagement is proof of that. If both sides abide by the spirit of last April's Thimphu agreement between the prime ministers to reduce the trust deficit, there is hope for the future.

Issues like the nature of future talks, which Pakistan insists should be a composite dialogue touching on all issues like Kashmir, and India's insistence that Pakistan should show progress in punishing those who planned the November 2008 Mumbai terror attack remain. Not only has Pakistan failed in taking action against those involved in the Mumbai outrage but has started comparing it with the attack on the Samjhauta train in 2007.

Anti-India activities and rhetoric continue in that country, sometimes with official approval. But the fact remains that both countries must try to create conditions to resume the broken dialogue and work towards the goal of normalisation of their relations. The Thimphu talks may be a step in that direction.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE NUCLEAR EDGE

 BY HARSH V PANT


Officials point out the fact that despite several provocations, India and Pakistan have behaved 'rationally' during various crises.

 

According to the most recent estimates, Pakistan has doubled its nuclear stockpile over the last few years with its arsenal now totalling more than 100 deployed weapons. Pakistan is now ahead of India in the production of uranium and plutonium for bombs and development of delivery weapons. It is now producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world. Pakistan will soon be world's fourth largest nuclear weapon state ahead of France and Britain and behind only the US, Russia and China. It is investing heavily in plutonium production capacity which will allow it t produce more powerful new generation of weapons.


At a time when the US has pushed Pakistani military to shift its focus to the threat from extremist group from within its own borders, the recent reports once again underscore the India-centric threat matrix of Pakistan's military establishment.


The danger is that this expansion is happening at a time of great internal turmoil in the country and the rise in religious extremism. The fears of proliferation and possible terrorist attempts to seize nuclear materials are real and cannot be brushed aside. Along with the defeat of al-Qaeda, the Obama administration's Afghan war review of last year has mentioned Pakistan's nuclear security as one of the two long-term strategy objectives in Af-Pak. In State Department cables released by WikiLeaks last year, concerns about the vulnerability of Pakistan's nuclear material was evident.


As the Obama administration was starting to review its Af-Pak policy, an intelligence report suggested that while Pakistan's weapons were well secured, there was deep, continuing concern about 'insider access', meaning elements in the military or intelligence services. The then US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, wrote in a separate document that "our major concern is not having an Islamic militant steal an entire weapon but rather the chance someone working in GoP (government of Pakistan) facilities could gradually smuggle enough material out to eventually make a weapon."


Not surprisingly then that even as American officials were trying to persuade Pakistani officials to give up nuclear material, they were quietly seeking to block Pakistan from trying to buy material that would help it produce tritium, the crucial ingredient needed to increase the power of nuclear weapons. And yet a December 2008 US intelligence briefing to NATO noted that "Despite pending economic catastrophe, Pakistan is producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world."


But any attempt by the US to force Pakistan on the nuclear issue will only generate further suspicion that the US favours India and wants to control Pakistan's nuclear weapons. This, despite the fact that throughout the Cold War years, it was Washington that was critical in giving a boost to Pakistani nuclear programme by wilfully turning a blind eye to nuclear developments in the country.


Blame

Today, Pakistan accuses the West of double standards and discrimination as the pressure has mounted on Islamabad to sign the Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) aimed at banning all future production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium. A successful conclusion of FMCT by the end of this year is a critical element of the Obama administration's non-proliferation agenda. In 2009, the US Congress passed a $6.5 billion aid package for Pakistan with the stipulation that the Obama administration provide regular assessments of whether any of the money "directly or indirectly aided the expansion of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme." The US has already spent more than $100 million helping Pakistan build fences, install sensor systems and train personnel to handle nuclear weapons.


Pakistan has more than enough nuclear weapons for an effective deterrent against India. As many as 110 odd nuclear weapons will not make Pakistan's nuclear deterrent more effective as compared to a deterrent based on about 60 weapons. Nuclear deterrence doesn't work like that. The higher number will be used by the military to enhance its prestige by claiming that Pakistan is ahead of India, at least in this realm.
For long, the US and the West have viewed nuclear weapons in South Asia with dread because of the possibility that a conventional war between India and Pakistan might escalate into a nuclear one. Indian and Pakistani officials, on the other hand, have continued to argue that just as the threat of mutual assured destruction resulted in a 'hot peace' between the US and the former Soviet Union during the Cold War, nuclear weapons in South Asia will also have a stabilising impact. They point out the fact that despite several provocations, India and Pakistan have behaved 'rationally' during various crises by keeping their conflicts limited and avoiding escalation. But since September 11, 2001, the nature of the problem for the West has changed in so far as the threat is now more of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal being used against the West by radical Islamists if they can lay their hands on it.


There is little hope that the rational actor model on which classical nuclear deterrence theory is based would apply as much to militant Islamist groups as it would to the Pakistani government. The present turmoil in Pakistan has once again raised concerns about the safety, security and command and control of its nuclear stockpile. The command and control arrangements continue to be beset with some fundamental vulnerabilities that underline the reluctance of the Pakistani military to cede control over the nation's nuclear assets to civilian leaders. It is instructive to note that of all the major nuclear states in world, Pakistan is the only country where the nuclear button is in the hands of the military. Moreover, senior civilian and military officials responsible for these weapons have a problematic track record in maintaining close control over them.


This poses a serious challenge to the Indian credible minimum deterrent nuclear posture. While India has little to worry about Pakistan's desire to have more than 100 nuclear warheads, the possibility of leakage from the state to non-state actors is a serious threat as it will undermine India's ability to maintain peace in the region. New Delhi will have start thinking creatively lest it be overtaken by events on the ground.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

ICY CHALLENGE

'ALL NATIONS ARE EYING ANTARCTICA'S MINERAL WEALTH.'


India's presence in Antarctica is growing steadily. Construction work on another research base, Bharati, has begun and due to be completed next year. This is India's third base in the icy continent. The first, Dakshin Gangotri, was set up in 1983 but was submerged in polar ice a few years later. India set up its second research station, Maitri, in 1988-89 in the Schirmacher Hill area. Bharati is coming up in the Larsemann Hills area. This is a rare stretch of ice-free land located in eastern Antarctica. India's Antarctic research programme is reason for pride. India is among 30 countries in the world that have research stations there. When Bharati is up and running India will be part of an elite club of nine that has multiple stations. Indian scientists are working in extremely harsh conditions in Antarctica to contribute to the world's understanding of climate change, oceanography, weather patterns, etc. Scientists say that the Larsemann Hills area will provide rich insights into geological structures and tectonics, paleo-climatology, and solid-earth geophysics.


Antarctica belongs to no one. Seven countries — Argentina, Australia, the UK, Chile, France, Norway and New Zealand — have made formal claims on it and these are frozen under the Antarctic Treaty. The continent is said to be rich in minerals and oil. It also contains 30 per cent of the world's fresh water. Thus the interest of countries in Antarctica goes beyond the research potential it holds out. Governments are eying its mineral wealth. Mining is banned until 2048. Countries are cementing their presence in the continent so that some day, if and when its minerals are opened up for exploitation, their claims will be strong. Research activity in Antarctica is seen as one way of getting a toehold in the continent. And India has established a foothold on it.


Human activity in Antarctica, whether through research or tourism, is destroying the continent's pristine environment. The US' McMurdo station, for instance, spews 2,50,000 litres of sewage per day into the sea. Each person there generates over a tonne of garbage per year and the research station has around 2,000 people in summer.


Hopefully, Indian scientists are treating the environment with more respect. Bharati is located near lakes that contain rare algae. Scientists must avoid any activity in these lakes that harm its marine life. Besides its research activity in Antarctica, India should spearhead global efforts to protect its environment.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

IN WAEL GHONIM'S TURBULENT EGYPT

BY ROGER COHEN, NYT


That American values are embodied on Tahrir Square is as clear as the lines of the pyramids.


The sea of people pulsated with energy, galvanised by the words of Wael Ghonim, the young Google executive who got the Mubarak treatment — 12-day disappearance, blindfolding, interrogation — before a tweet that will one day be etched in some granite memorial: "Freedom is a bless that deserves fighting for it."

In the Tahrir Square crowd, I ran into Ahmed el-Shamy, a Pfizer executive. He's 54, and like many of his generation who have known only dictatorship since the coup of 1952, he can hardly believe his eyes.

Ghonim's tweet and a shattering TV interview afterward got Pfizer employees and much of Egypt re-energised in their quest for the dignity that comes with being actors in a nation's destiny rather than its pawns.


Much of Egypt is closed, including the stock market and a tourism industry that accounts for eight per cent of gross domestic product. Hosni Mubarak, to his credit, took Egypt into the global economy. Part of the payback is that the world gets to judge Egypt with its pocketbook. The question arises: Is this stubborn president ready to take his country down with him?


Army's restraint

Everything I hear suggests the army will not fire on its own people. Mubarak does not dare order them to shoot for fear of the response. Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, his defence minister, has strong views on this subject. He expressed them to a senior western diplomat during the Tunisian uprising: The army exists to defend the nation, not a regime.


If the army won't shoot, the protesters won't disperse, leaving the stand-off: Until he goes, they remain.


With each day of impasse the economy sinks further. There are strikes in Cairo and Suez. The days of a dictatorship that won't — or can't — use brutality in crisis are probably numbered. It's time for Mubarak to take a Nile cruise; he'll be the only client. Then Ghonim can declare liberated Egypt open for business.

At Pfizer, where El-Shamy has worked for 23 years, everyone was talking about Ghonim, the young Egyptian representing a generation that the old Egyptian, Mubarak, cannot comprehend. The pharaoh has lost contact.


It's happened before: Mubarak's anti-democratic regime, the successor to Nasser's and Sadat's, is the 45th in a line of houses stretching back to 3,000 BC. This, too, must pass.

 

When? They were changing political allegiance at Pfizer, saying, yes, the almost 300 dead, shot by security goons, must not die for nothing; and, yes, what happened to Ghonim could happen to any Egyptian in Mubarak's black-hole security state.


El-Shamy's son, Omar, 21, was standing beside him. A media student, he's now a Tahrir veteran, tweeting and facebooking and googling from a 9th-floor apartment overlooking the square.

 

As we talked, Cairo University law professors in their black robes filed past to declare that Egypt must become a nation of laws because that's the only kind of nation that guarantees people rights. As Fouad Ajami has written of the Arab condition: "The fundamentalist call has resonance because it invites men to participate — and here again there is a contrast to an official political culture that reduces citizens to spectators and asks them to leave things to the rulers."


American values and interests do not always coincide — perhaps they rarely coincide. Diplomacy comes down to juggling them. That American values are embodied on Tahrir Square is as clear as the lines of the pyramids. I say its interests, on balance, lie there too: in the establishment of a participatory society that would return Egypt to its pivotal place in the Arab world and give the young hope.


The United States no longer has the power to impose solutions. But Barack Obama's wavering on Egypt will not honour him. His story is the American gift of self-empowerment: Do not deny it then to Egyptians. Give a clear message to Tantawi. Egypt needs to move forward. For that the president needs to move out.


The credibility of Mubarak in guiding a democratic transition is zero. He is an antidemocrat by formation and temperament. Everything offered so far has screamed: We can run down the clock on this.


I walked out of the square between two tanks. The gap between them was two feet wide. You had to crouch and squirm. Women went through with little kids. Behind us were thousands of people. One surge and we would all have been crushed. I thought: If we can pass unscathed through the eye of this needle, Egypt can tread the narrow path to better days. The tragedy of Mubarak is that he underestimated his own people.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

A BREAD STORY

BY PARVATHI RAMKUMAR


Why attention to quality is constantly ignored is beyond comprehension.


The loaf of bread was in its usual plastic cover, sealed so tightly with unyielding glue. It was impossible to open without tearing the whole thing, and when I'd finally managed to rip the plastic apart — utterly inartistic, I think — slices of bread tumbled out. They scattered themselves on the table and on my plate, a crumbly mess decorating the breakfast table. Then, I took up a slice of bread to toast. The slice in question was wafer thin, so fragile that it had to be held just so, or it would disintegrate while you held it. Somehow or the other, I managed to pop it into the toaster.

What came out of the toaster was a biscuit like object, harder than a rusk. Spreading butter on it was a dangerous ordeal, for this object was like porcelain. And dry as a bone.


How much does it take for a baker to sell a decent loaf of bread, without compromising whatever it is that goes into the baking? Why are bread slices cut so thin that they feel like scraps, why are they so dry that they leave you gasping for water?


In the larger perspective of things, inefficiency and indifference seem to have risen to alarming levels. It is fairly common to find stones among chickpeas, for example, or to suddenly discover that the milk has been horribly diluted. A remote control, recently purchased for my set top box, conked out within the month, in addition to the buttons falling off. A handbag bought from a fancy store inexplicably refuses to close after a week, for the zipper has gone haywire. A readymade salwar kameez, still new, shrinks and loses its colour after washing, even though the tag said it could be washed. Then there was the running dye, and all the other clothes took on iridescent hues completely unbecoming. Never mind the rents that appear when the stitches come off a few days later.


Why attention to overall quality is constantly ignored is beyond comprehension. To palm off substandard ware seems to project general lack of self-respect, and callous indifference to all that one does. To spend just a little more time on improvement reflects the confidence of an individual or individuals as a group. Adulteration of food and scrappy garments, reducing the slice of those bread slices and economising on them so much that all you have are glorified biscuits are not a good reflection of general attitude.


To take pride in one's work is the certainly a stepping stone towards progress in general.

 

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OHERALDO

EDITORIAL

A TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE


Why are upright judges in Goa getting suspended one after the other? We do not know. And why did one of them – Anuja Prabhudesai – get honourably reinstated after having to endure 10 long months of suspension? We do not know that either. All we do know is that in many ways the Judiciary, which so often demands that other branches of the state apparatus should conduct themselves in a transparent manner, operates under a cloak of secrecy; accountable to no one but itself. How conducive is this for a democracy that is supposed to operate on the basis of a system of mutual checks and balances?


South Goa Additional Sessions Judge Desmond D'Costa was on Wednesday placed under suspension pending an inquiry against him. The reason(s) for D'Costa's suspension are not known. Nor can they be known. The instructions have been issued by the High Court. Judge D'Costa will not comment. And even the usual 'reliable sources' say that it is a one-line order that does not mention any reason.


Thankfully, secrecy is not the strongpoint of Indians, whether in the Judiciary or elsewhere. Even the most 'confidential' information invariably gets leaked. In the absence of any 'official' information, one has no choice but to rely on these 'reliable sources'.


Can a judge be suspended unless a complaint against him or her, prima facie, has some merit, charges are framed, these charges are formally communicated to the judge concerned and (s)he is asked to show cause why action should not be taken, and given an opportunity to be heard in the matter? This is natural justice. Should it not apply to the very Judiciary that imposes it on the rest of the country?


The legal fraternity in Goa believes that Judge D'Costa, who has an impeccable reputation throughout a career spanning nearly two decades, was suspended because of the "hasty" manner in which he passed an acquittal verdict in a high profile murder case involving alleged serial killer Mahanand Naik. The case was before the Principal Sessions Judge, who presided over most of the trial. The concluding part of the trial, however, came up before Judge D'Costa while he was holding charge when the Principal Judge was on leave. He acquitted the accused for want of evidence. The Principal Sessions Judge, apparently, complained that he disposed off the case "hastily", within 20 days.


If the judgment is faulty, then it will be overturned on appeal. If it is manifestly unsound, then the higher judiciary may pass strictures against the Judge, just as a Supreme Court Bench did recently, when it remarked that there seemed to be "something rotten" in the Allahabad High Court. But what is wrong if the judgment was merely delivered quickly? Can 'haste' be a standalone problem?


Delays are the bane of the Indian judiciary. Cases can last lifetimes, or even longer. "Justice delayed is justice denied" is probably the most quoted legal maxim in this country. Reducing the mountainous backlog of cases has, time and again… and again, been named the No: 1 priority in India's justice system by various Law Ministers and Chief Justices of India over the years.


If this one trial was conducted swiftly while all the rest were tardy, then there could possibly be some substance to such a complaint. But Judge D'Costa has always tried to conduct trials as speedily as possible. His record is testimony to this, in every court he has been posted to throughout his career. He is a judge who endeavours to live by his words, rather than merely mouth them.


And if he is to be suspended for that, there could be no greater travesty of the cause of justice.

 

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OHERALDO

EDITORIAL

THE EVIL LIVES WITHIN THE GOANS

 ARCHBISHOP OFFERED NAME AND FAME ON A PLATTER TO DR OSCAR REBELLO AND GBA LEADERS, SAYS JAMES FERNANDES


Goenkarponn or Goanness is a quality inherited by a Goan, irrespective of caste or religion; a quality that is manifested, visible in their warmth and generosity towards neighbours and unknown Indians. Abundance of farm produce, poultry and fruits in most Goan households was a standing testimony that Goans were sincere, hardworking and did not shy away from any type of work.


Most Goans collected and carried animal manure and other organic wastes on their heads, for the house and for agriculture. Goans are not lazy people; the accusation that Goans are lazy is the greatest injustice heaped on them.


When migrants first came to Goa, Goans offered them food and shelter, little realising that these very same migrants would one day destroy their dreams, hopes and future, that they would rob them of their land, economic activities and, above all, their peace of mind. But is it fair to blame migrants for the culture, discipline and decency disappearing from the character of the Goans?


Should we hold migrants accountable for the Goan's greed for easy money and for Goa becoming the most corrupt state in the nation? Should we blame migrants because we are losing our land to non-Goans, drug traffickers, flesh traders, money launderers and other antisocial elements? Should we hold migrants responsible because Goans sacrifice even God at the altar of 'modko'?


Or should we be honest and accept the blame? If Goa is in a state of decay, it is because of the evil living within each and every Goan. And the refusal of the educated, the religious leaders, the self righteous, to speak against the evil deeds witnessed by them, is no less than a crime against humanity.


The evil characteristic of Goans is magnified when they keep voting for the very individuals who are responsible for their misery, suffering and helplessness. They vote for the very individuals accountable for the decay and destruction of their beautiful land; for the very persons who sell their land and jobs to drug traffickers, money launderers, flesh traders, tax evaders and other anti-social elements.


The combined effect of this is catastrophic. For, the elected representative makes it his mission to pamper his evil-minded electorate with money and subsidies, and permits them to indulge in illegalities, irregularities, gambling, drinking and adopting 'modko' as their God.


The evil-minded Goan, sadly, is unable to realise that the elected representative is systematically removing the support base from under Goan feet. To achieve these devilish goals, the elected representative permits discrimination, adulteration, vote banks and the rise of anti-social elements.


What is an anti-social element? Any person who illegally acquires false official documents, commits irregularities and illegalities, or builds a house or business premises without proper approvals, is an anti-social element.


What would you call an elected representative that pockets – partly or completely – the budget for development work? Who helps anti-social elements acquire ration cards, voting cards, electricity and water connections, and permits them to construct houses or business premises on encroached land?

Discrimination: Goa is the only state where the Constitution is exploited to assist migrants and harass locals. Law abiding Goans have to produce endless documents, but law-breaking migrants – claiming to be 'aam admi' – get approvals and ration/voting cards without any documents. All traditional businesses, like the sale of fish, vegetables and fruits, have been taken over by migrants.


Adulteration: In the last five years, adulteration/duplication has increased two to five times. Most food and snack items, and well as goods sold in Goa are either adulterated or duplicate. Oil used for frying is adulterated. Not only adulterators, but mega-project builders, land sharks, destroyers of hills and mangroves, and other so-called developers have the blessings of MLAs and ministers.


Vote Banks: The miseries and poverty of people in the interiors, including Gawdas, Kunbis and those in traditional trades, would have disappeared if they were helped to build a house in or near Panjim or other towns; a home away from home. They would have been employed and happy. But the leaders, instead, permitted migrants to build illegal houses in open spaces, as well as capture the available jobs.
If thousands of people attended the Goa Bacho Abhiyan (GBA) rallies in Panjim and Margao in 2006 to demand the withdrawal of RP2011, it was because Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao instructed Fr Maverick Fernandes to ask all parish priests to mobilise for the rally. Archbishop Ferrao offered name and fame on a platter to Dr Oscar Rebello and other GBA leaders. Archbishop Ferrao was the real reason why RP2011 was withdrawn.


The bold and courageous statements of speakers at the GBA rally ignited hope in the hearts of the thousands. For the first time, people saw an opportunity to throw away the shameless, corrupt and land-selling MLAs and ministers. But once RP2011 was withdrawn the same GBA leaders who had thundered about eliminating the 40 'chors' turned dumb and voiceless.


In the 2007 assembly elections, instead of awakening Goans about their corrupt MLAs, GBA leaders went into hiding. Then they conferred legitimacy on the looters by joining the same 'chor' MLAs to prepare RP2021.
Leaders of different faiths betray their flocks and compromise their faith when they dine with evildoers and, at the very next moment, preach about the virtues of honesty, sacrifice and compassion. They should begin a serious crusade and refuse to accept money or material items from these rogues, for themselves or their places of worship.


Though I accuse Goans of being evil-minded, I believe firmly in their inner values; in their 'Goenkarponn'.

 

This belief makes me conclude that all true Goans would agree to the following, before making any additions or changes to RP2021.


(1) Other than residential homes on ancestral or tenanted land, the State Level Task Force should suspend all constructions, conduct detailed inquiries into approvals already given and applications received, and pass the information to a 2nd Task Force
(2) Clear garbage, and demolish all illegal constructions identified by the 1st Task Force.


(3) Identify land all over Goa for future development, build the necessary infrastructure, and train the personnel to be employed in the proposed industries.
(4) Investigate into all approvals (including land allocation) for business and industry, and verify their credibility.
The GBA, Council for Social Justice and Peace, village, citizens and consumer forums, mining affected peoples, citizens against hill cutting and other NGOs do raise their voices against illegalities, but refuse to identify the source of the evil. It is time they target the source of the evil. It is time they educate people that it is the MLAs and ministers who allow and enable every illegality, irregularity, food adulteration, duplicate goods, mining and CRZ violations. (The writer is the President of Goynche Niz Mogi (GNM). He can be contacted at
gnm4july@yahoo.com.Website: www.loversofgoa.com)

 

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THE SENTINEL

EDITORIAL

WAR WITH DIFFERENCE  

As a major power in the making, which will obviously entail engagements of different kinds with an increasingly envious and hostile neighbourhood, India ought also to deal with the new threat of cyber attacks. It augurs well, therefore, that the country has joined the effort of major powers to somehow define the ''rules of the road'' in the cyber world. At the Munich Security Conference last week, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon asked for an international effort to examine if the laws of armed conflict could cover organized cyber attacks too. ''In our view, an effort by the international community is necessary because cyber security threats have reached the stage of undermining public confidence and of sowing distrust among nations. This could then become a recipe for disaster, leading to all kinds of troubles,'' he said. He pointed to the manner in which the 26/11 handlers facilitated the attacks through internet communication tools. Menon also told the conference about something as ''apolitical and seemingly non-controversial and harmless as the Commonwealth Games was subject to 8,200 attacks on the ticketing, scoring and timing networks''. On his part, British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that the UK intended to host an international conference on the subject of cyber attacks later this year. He harped on how the Zeus malware, which attempts to steal banking information and other personal details, was sent through an attachment last December by way of a ''spoofed e-mail purporting to be from the White House to a number of international recipients''. British agencies detected this on government systems and realized that it had passed many filters. It was concluded at the conference that it was imperative that international norms of behaviour in the cyber domain too be introduced. Menon rightly raised the question of whether the rules of armed conflict could also be applied to cyber conflict. ''Do, or when do, laws of governing the legality of war and laws of conduct of war apply to cyber attacks? A broader issue still is what the emergence of this domain and these new threats, capabilities and forms of war mean for the balance of power,'' Menon said. There were suggestions from certain quarters to also invoke the arms control approach that led to conventions and treaties to control nuclear weapons in the 1960s and 1970s.

There is no doubt that technology will increasingly come to the aid of terrorists in the future. Super-terrorism, the future form of terrorism, will involve a solid network of state and non-state actors in the enterprise of mayhem. The cyber means, in this scheme, will obviously be a top priority for super-terrorists. As Menon has said, an instance was Mumbai 26/11. Therefore, as the world of internet evolves and criminals of all hues attempt to exploit the technological surge, countries across the world, and more so emerging ones like us against whom high-tech jihadi terrorists have already launched a war, must cooperate so as to arrive at a coordinated fight against cyber attacks. The Munich conference — unfortunately not so publicized by the media despite its importance — is a good beginning. Without wasting time, powers that are being reckoned globally, including India, would do well to arrive at a decision as to whether the rules of armed conflict should be applied to cyber attacks as well or whether a new, special regime is the need of the hour. Let the fact that cyber attacks form a major dimension of the super-terrorism in the making, be not lost on governments such as India's that will be targeted by criminals to dislodge them from their sustained and sustainable growth trajectories. In fact there is no reason why India cannot take the lead in designing a global apparatus against cyber terror.

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THE SENTINEL

EDITORIAL

THAT PM!  

We learn from Sunil Shastri's book titled Lal Bahadur Shastri: Past Forward that the country's second Prime Minister was so upright that he deposited money in government coffers because his sons had used his official car! How many politicians would do that today? How many of them have conscience to that end? Lal Bahadur Shastri's was an incredible case. Take these: when his wife decided to learn Hindi, she paid the tuition fees by dispensing with the domestic maid and doing the household chores herself; in true Gandhian style, he travelled like a commoner in trains even when he was a railway minister; during the independence struggle he protested when his wife smuggled two mangoes to him when he was in the Faizabad prison — he was angry because it was illegal for prisoners to have anything other than jail food, and so on and so forth. However, it is this same leader — a leader in the real sense of the term — who the Congress, to which he belonged, seems to have totally forgotten. Is it because Shastri is not from the Nehru-Gandhi family, or is it because the kind of values that he epitomized do not have any meaning in the current Congress scheme of things? Why in the Congress political culture of the day there is no Lal Bahadur Shastri celebration?

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THE SENTINEL

EDITORIAL

KASHMIR'S SELECTIVE SILENCE  

KILLING OF TERRORISTS INSPIRES PEACE MARCHES, PROTEST RALLIES AND WIDESPREAD CONDEMNATIONS. BUT WHEN INNOCENT WOMEN AND CHILDREN ARE KILLED IN THE MOST BRUTAL MANNER, NO ONE RAISES A STINK

Lack of spontaneous reaction of separatists to the latest tragedy amounts to actually condoning such massacres. On January 31, masked gunmen barged into the house of Ghulam Nabi Lone at Muslimpeer in Sopore at 8 pm. One of them forced his entry into the kitchen and caught one of the teenagers, Akthar, who was 17 years old, by hand. Another gunman went upstairs and brought down Arifa (16). They then asked the girls to accompany them and shot both of them by the road half a kilometre away. Their crime: militants suspected that their behaviour was not proper and that they were police informers — a 'justification' to brutally murder the two innocent sisters in their teens who were about to get married.

Terrorists have killed women and children in the past too, and in large numbers. But no one has come forward to defend them or plead for them. This happened earlier in Rajouri as well when three teenage girls were gunned down as a punishment for not wearing burqa. In downtown Srinagar also, the faces of three girls were disfigured by spraying acid on them. Those who are always in search of pretexts to hold up the banner of human rights have suddenly vanished into thin air. The government as well as the separatists are conspiringly  silent over the gruesome incident. Public response to the recent brutality has also been quite feeble. The tragedy of Kashmir is this selective silence which amounts to actually condoning such massacres.

Contrary to this, remember the ruckus created when two young women went missing in Shopian and were subsequently found in a river on May 30, 2009? Though allegations flew thick and fast that the two were raped and murdered, investigations revealed that the women had, in fact, died of drowning. Meanwhile, violent protests raged for more than 47 days with the relatives and others clamouring for justice and demanding a CBI inquiry into the incident. All the mainstream as well as separatist outfits came out in full force to inflame passions and mislead the gullible public. The CBI inquiry later brought out that the doctors, lawyers and many others had literally fabricated evidence to give a bad name to the security forces.

It may also be recalled that when Tufail Ahmed, a teenager, died in a stone-throwing incident in June last year, the so-called saviours of Kashmiris launched an agitation to fight for justice. All of them, right from Shabir Shah to the Hurriyat leadership, cried in unison – human rights had been violated. As a result, violent protests continued for many days, with the police and paramilitary forces being at the receiving end.

However, when Akhtar and Arifa were massacred by militants in the Muslimpeer area of Sopore district, about 55 kilometres north of Srinagar, the family mourned alone. Nobody sympathised with them. No mainstream party has come out to protest the killings. No political leaders visited the grieving family. We are yet to hear any call of protest from the Hurriyat. No murmurs of protest can be heard from the human rights set who are in the habit of raising a hue and cry to whitewash the crimes of jihadis. The cold-blooded murder was not even mentioned except may be behind closed doors. In Sopore and other parts of the valley, it was business as usual.

As pointed out by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, had there been even the slightest allegation against the security forces, all hell would have broken loose. "I think this in itself brings out the contradictions that exist in Kashmir, because if there was even the slightest indication that these deaths have been the result of the high-handedness of the security forces, today the whole valley would have erupted in flames. But because the killings were by militants, the condemnation is muted or it does not come at all," he is reported to have said on the sidelines of a function in Delhi recently. The entire valley would have been closed down by separatists of all hues. There would have been no end to protest rallies in memory of the victims. Even dyed-in-the-wool champions of human rights like Arundhati Roy would have come out of their cocoons to accuse the Indian government of using brutal force to curb human rights. All kinds of fictitious stories would have been planted in newspapers with the largest circulations with the intent of maligning the security forces.

The irony is that over the past many years, separatists have been using every tragedy in the valley to further their political agendas. Indeed, the politically motivated condemnations following the brutal incidents have been part of the pattern in the valley. The anti-national forces have tried to exploit every unfortunate incident to promote their sinister designs. Once the blame of any attack has been arbitrarily laid at the door of security forces, Hurriyat and other fundamentalist outfits came out on the streets crying hoarse that human rights of Kashmiris have been violated.

But when the finger of suspicion points to perpetrators among them, they prefer to remain silent and take refuge in "muted condemnation". Is it then, the accountability of terrorists which makes separatists remain silent? But, by all accounts, the intensity of the tragedy is the same, irrespective of the identity of the perpetrators. Sadly, Kashmir has a history of the skewed application of the concept of human rights. Killing of terrorists inspires peace marches, protest rallies and widespread condemnation. But when innocent women and children are killed in the most brutal manner, no one raises a stink.

Nowhere was this hypocrisy more apparent than when these so-called human rights activists created much noise over the death sentence to three terrorist conspirators concerning the attack on the Parliament. Nothing could be more ludicrous than the fact that these activists seem so concerned about the ruthless killers but have turned their faces away from the silent sufferers of the valley who are being killed in cold blood. It almost seems that the innocent have no human rights. Only their killers have.

There is no justification of violence in a democracy. The killings deserve to be condemned by all irrespective of the identity of the attackers. It is really unfortunate that there is only "muted condemnation" by those who claim to be the "real representatives" of Kashmiris. The recent brutality has exposed their double standards. These forces deserve to be rejected by one and all whose ulterior motive is only to provoke public disquiet.

Sunita Vakil

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HAARETZ

OPINION

BETWEEN DEMOCRACY AND PEACE

THE ARGUMENT OVER THE CONNECTION BETWEEN DEMOCRACY AND PEACE HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR 20 YEARS; HUNDREDS OF ARTICLES HAVE BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT THE TWO VERSIONS OF THE DEMOCRATIC PEACE THEORY.

BY BENNY NEUBERGER

The claim that democracies are less inclined to war than other types of government is invalid in the Middle East. The Egyptian masses calling for the establishment of a democratic regime have brought the link between peace and democracy into the public debate. While opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei sounds a reassuring note by saying the peace with Israel is not in jeopardy because democracies don't go to war against democracies, the Muslim Brotherhood speaks of a "democratic" referendum to decide the fate of the peace agreement and could lead to its annulment. Indeed, some predict that democratization would return Egypt to the cycle of war.

The argument over the connection between democracy and peace has been going on for 20 years. Hundreds of articles have been written about the two versions of the democratic peace theory. The first holds that democracies do not go to war against democracies. The second goes even further, to claim that democratic regimes are less likely than others to engage in war even against dictatorships. The theories assume that the devolution of political power characteristic of democracies leaves time for negotiations and compromise between the hawks, and that democratic rulers are by nature less aggressive than others. Above all, the democratic peace theory, also called the theory of democratic pacifism, is based on Immanuel Kant's "perpetual peace." The 19th-century philosopher argued that nations seek peace and do not want to pay the price of war and that as a result democratic rulers, who are responsible to their peoples, are disinclined to initiate war.

In the Middle East there have never been democracies on both sides of the barricades. Nevertheless there are many signs that in its most literal form the theory doesn't work here. There is no historical evidence for the idea (which is congruent with the democratic peace theory and which was popular in pre-state Israel and after independence ) that the source of the Arab-Israeli conflict is the absence of democracy on the Arab side. There is no evidence that the Arab nations wanted peace and it was only the kings and generals who wanted war. Furthermore, the peace agreements with Egypt and with Jordan were not the result of democratic public opinion; rather, they came from leaders who were not democratic but who chose the road of peace.

The Kantian theory of warmongering elites and peace-loving masses has not proved itself in Israel either. The important decisions in favor of peace did not stem from popular pressure. This is true in regard to the withdrawal from Sinai, as part of the peace treaty with Egypt, and the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip. The decisions to recognize the Palestinian people and the Palestine Liberation Organization, as part of the Oslo Accords; the proposal to divide Jerusalem, at the 2000 Camp David summit; and the acceptance of the "two states for two peoples" solution, were all taken at the leadership level and were not the result of "democratic" popular pressure.

We have seen courageous decisions toward peace on the Arab side (Anwar Sadat, Hosni Mubarak, King Hussein, Mahmoud Abbas ) and the Israeli (Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon ). But we have also had leaders (Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu ) who did not go all the way for peace out of fear of nationalistic public opinion. This "democratic fear" of making peace is an example of the failure of the argument that the people always want peace. Israel's wars of choice - the 1956 Sinai Campaign and the 1982 and 2006 Lebanon wars - also undermine the claim that democracies do not tend to initiate war, as do the wars fought by the United States in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Granada, Iraq and Afghanistan.

A key term that is absent from the theory of democratic pacifism, but extremely relevant to Egypt's current situation, is "democratization" - the transition period from dictatorship to democracy. Whereas in entrenched democracies, such as in Scandinavia, the leadership and the public are indeed generally moderate, in partial democracies (and in regimes undergoing democratization ) there is sometimes unbridled nationalistic competition among the elites, who believe this is the way to win democratic elections. Party and government institutions are too weak to avoid the temptation of nationalistic incitement. It is no accident that it was precisely during the era of democratization that bloody wars broke out in the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia.

Israel's right wing has no reason to rejoice in its clairvoyance if the peace with Egypt stumbles as a result of democratization in that country. It was the right, with Netanyahu leading the way, who argued over and over that peace had no chance as long as the Arab states were not democratic. This was a convenient excuse not to pay the price for peace. It is possible that had the Netanyahu government done more to advance peace with the Palestinians and the Syrians it would have significantly decreased the threats posed by a more democratic Egypt.

The theory of democratic peace does not hold water in the Middle East in an era of democratization. Peace and democracy are the basic values of any humane society but the link between them is tangled and complex, exactly like the link between freedom and equality.

 Prof. Benny Neuberger teaches political science at the Open University of Israel.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

A BIG LEAP FOR THE ISRAELI PSYCHE

ONE OF THE MOST PERSISTENT IMAGES IN THE ISRAELI PSYCHE IS THAT OF ARABS AS AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT, AS PEOPLE WHO ARE PRIMITIVE, FILLED WITH HATE FOR ISRAEL AND WANT TO DESTROY IT.

BY CARLO STRENGER

The human psyche, both individual and collective, tends to work on emotionally laden images rather than on precise concepts. The more pressure we are under, the more difficult it is to change the emotional charges associated with images, particularly of groups that we have experienced as dangerous over many years.

One of the most persistent images in the Israeli psyche is that of Arabs as an existential threat, as people who are primitive, filled with hate for Israel and want to destroy it. While, like all collective stereotypes, this image is an imprecise generalization it does have some foundation in Israel's historical memory: for most Israelis, even if they were not yet alive then, the images of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Ahmad Shukheiri screaming that they will push the Jews into the sea has remained indelible. And it doesn't help that Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and other radical Islamist leaders continue to say that Israel needs to be wiped out. Hence Israel's apprehension about Egypt's transformation is understandable: Is it about to turn into another radical Islamist state like Iran, or will it become a more or less liberal democracy?

The only way to test the rationality of these fears is to look at comparative data. Fareed Zakaria, one of the most influential commentators on international relations, has claimed that there is a threshold for successful democratization: It seems to be a per capita GDP of approximately $6,500. This is said to be the magic number that indicates the presence of a strong middle class that looks out for its own interests, which generally do not include war. As a result, research shows, there have as yet been no wars between democracies at the same developmental level. This augurs well for Israel.

The states surrounding Israel are approaching the Zakaria threshold. Most important, according to the CIA's World Factbook, Egypt currently has a per capita GDP of $6,200. Since President Hosni Mubarak's regime was catastrophically inefficient economically and highly corrupt, it can be expected that with a government that is only slightly more efficient, Egypt will soon cross the threshold that allows for stable democracy.

The Egypt section of the 2009 United Nations Human Development Report presents a complex picture of the state. The educational system, unfortunately, is in tatters, and the government is highly corrupt. But there are a few positive indicators, such as the presence of several institutions that could allow for the emergence of a functioning civil society relatively quickly.

What about the various arguments according to which the Arab psyche and Muslim culture are simply incapable of democracy and modernization? "So far there is not a single example of a functioning Arab liberal democracy," they say. "Even when change comes from the people, look what happened in Algeria in the 1990s and in the Palestinian Authority in 2006: Free elections bring radical Islamist groups to power!"

This, of course, is a weighty argument that cannot be dismissed out of hand. Commentators disagree when it comes to answering the question of whether the Muslim Brotherhood would become the dominant force in Egypt if free and fair elections were to be held. Most Egypt hands, like anthropologist Scott Atran of the French National Center of Research, think the organization's power is overestimated. But we won't know for sure until after the upcoming election.

So, too, the "Arab psyche and Islamic culture" arguments are based on very shortsighted thinking. Commentators between the 9th and 17th centuries would have said that Europeans are obviously incapable of creating stable regimes and devoid of culture, sophistication and finesse, whereas the Islamic world is far ahead in all respects. Let us not forget that in 1683 Vienna was almost conquered by Muslim forces.

While Israel certainly has cause for anxiety, I believe that at this point it has no choice but to bet on Egyptian democracy and the broadening of democratization in the Arab world. Israel must address its own fears and prejudices rather than hoping for a perpetuation of the status quo, which was unstable to begin with.

It will not be easy for Israel to overcome the memories of terrorism and all-out attacks against it. But we must not forget that in order to cooperate on building the cornerstones of the European Union, in the late 1940s, European states had to overcome memories of much more terrible wars, with tens of millions of victims.

Building the foundations for relationships between democracies is a two-way street. Israel must do its share to convince the Arab world that we are not haughty, arrogant and completely devoid of respect for Islam and for Arab culture. The Arab world has good reasons to think that Israel is incapable of relating respectfully to Arabs, given settlement construction, expropriation of Palestinian property and other unilateral steps. Our government can start building confidence this very moment by stopping such acts immediately.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

ISRAEL NEEDS TO HELP THE U.S. TO STABILIZE THE REGION

NEITHER U.S. NOR ISRAELI INTELLIGENCE PREDICTED THE RECENT EVENTS IN EGYPT. IN FACT, WHEN THE PROTESTS BEGAN EGYPT'S CHIEF OF STAFF WAS IN THE MIDST OF AN OFFICIAL VISIT TO THE PENTAGON.

BY YOEL MARCUS

It is customary to say that when the Hebrew month of Adar begins, we increase our joy. In general this is attributed to our victor over the wicked Haman. On television we see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak whispering to each other, their hands over their mouths as if by accident, to foil any random lip-reader who could reveal the subject of their conversation: Yoav Galant? Moshe Ya'alon? Boaz Harpaz? After all, on Purim there must a villain whose name is drowned out with shouts, clapping and noisemakers each time it is mentioned.

One can guess that, in addition to the local gossip - for example, the anticipated attendance of U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at next week's farewell party for the outgoing Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi - the two chiefs were whispering mainly about U.S. President Barack Obama in light of the upheaval in Egypt, and what Barak will say to whom on the "urgent" trip to Washington he invited himself to. As an experienced lip-reader, I assume that in his great modesty he will "explain" to them what the situation is and how to deal with it.

Neither U.S. nor Israeli intelligence predicted the recent events in Egypt. In fact, when the protests began Egypt's chief of staff was in the midst of an official visit to the Pentagon. The Obama administration panicked and without thinking twice called President Hosni Mubarak a dictator who must be removed immediately, without considering who would take over and the implications for the peace with Israel and for the U.S. position in the region.

Washington frightened Israel even more than it did Mubarak, because Israel is an old hand at self-frightening. Netanyahu warned the administration that Egypt could go the way of Iran. And Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom warned of the danger of the rebels blocking the Suez Canal, and then where will we be? Which proves that Israelis don't understand that the uprising in Egypt is not necessarily against the peace with Israel. Closing the Suez Canal would above all hurt Egypt's revenues. We are the unrivaled experts in creating doomsday scenarios when the behavior of the United States is not to our liking.

The administration's response was somewhat confused and zigzaggy, initially demanded the immediate ouster of Mubarak, for whom Washington has often rolled out the red carpet in the past. Then it said the Egyptian president should see out his term in order to facilitate the democratic transfer of power. But when the administration talks about democracy, it doesn't mean it literally. It means making sure the regime of a state where it has a regional interest is stable and pro-American. Saudi Arabia, for example, which is very low on the democratic scale, is Washington's favorite. Proving that democracy is a matter of geography.

In the context of its peace agreement with Israel, Egypt receives $1.3 billion annually in military aid from the United States, in addition to other economic assistance. Occasionally the Egyptian ambassador to Washington checks in with his Israeli colleague to see whether U.S. aid to Israel has increased, so that he can get in on it as well. An Israeli diplomat described to me how the Egyptian ambassador once patted him on the shoulder and said: "Keep up the good work."

The peace between Israel and Egypt has been cool but businesslike, even during the time of President George H.W. Bush and Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. There have been no Shi'ite suicide bombers in this majority Sunni state, whose regime suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood with an iron hand. And since we gave back everything, down to the last millimeter, there is no territorial dispute between Egypt and Israel. Even a cold peace is peace, and there is no reason why U.S. aid to Egypt shouldn't continue after Mubarak, and why tens of thousands of Israeli tourists shouldn't continue to visit Sinai.

After Washington's initial sour response, the White House spokesman said the U.S.-Israeli alliance is stronger than ever. And in fact, as the only stable democracy in the region Israel is a valuable and loyal strategic asset to the United States. We have a historical connection. Every time we got into trouble America was at our side, with weapons, a veto and money.

Given all this, instead of looking for the wicked Haman we should be initiating and advancing peace agreements with the Palestinians and with Syria, and in so doing help our friend across the Atlantic to do what is necessary to ensure, with sensitivity and flexibility, the restoration of order in Egypt. Because stabilizing the region, beginning with Egypt, is first and foremost in our interest.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE INSECURITY MINISTER

WHEN DEFENSE MINISTER EHUD BARAK PULLED APART THE ARMY, IT WAS SERIOUS; WITHOUT THE ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES, WE HAVE NOTHING TO RELY ON BUT OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN, WHO HAS RECENTLY GONE MISSING.

BY YOSSI SARID

Ever since Defense Minister Ehud Barak equated himself with David Ben-Gurion, there has scarcely been any great figure for whom he has not found a modern-day equivalent. This week, he enriched the trove of comparisons by equating Yoav Galant, the former chief of staff-designate, with Moses and King David, two Biblical figures "who made mistakes when they were young but were then forgiven." In this manner, he placed both the crown of Torah and the crown of kingship on the head of the former nominee, and possibly on his own head as well.

The slides we see on the screen of our sick imaginations show the head of the army of Israel rising from his couch as evening breaks, walking back and forth on the roof of his house and watching a beautiful woman bathe herself. He desires her and thus concocts a plot to get rid of her husband who is fighting on the front.

It is possible to be envious of David, who committed a despicable act but is nevertheless remembered as a young man with beautiful eyes, from the naval commandos or from the elite "slingshot and stone" unit. Even the legal opinions that established the Buzaglo test - which requires the same law to apply to high officials and ordinary citizens alike - and the prohibition on stealing the poor man's lamb did not detract from David's positive image.

But what does Barak want of Moses, who is not considered to have committed any sins, unless the targeted killing of the Egyptian is seen as a crime on his part? Nevertheless, he was severely punished, allowed to see the promised land only from afar - not because he was guilty, but because he was responsible: Despite his efforts, he was unable to turn the rabble into a nation.

It sometimes happens that one does not reach the promised land, just as one does not always get the post that had been promised. But Moses did not submit an appeal.

Yet it is not because of his comparisons that the defense minister has lost his popularity, but rather because of his failures. This week, a reporter from a news agency telephoned and demanded an explanation: Why is Barak sinking precisely now? How is what is happening now different from what happened before, he asked, referring to an article I wrote in this newspaper many months ago that outlined his failures one by one.

The explanation is simple. As long as he was merely dismantling a government, it wasn't so terrible: Governments come and go, and their departure doesn't orphan the country. As long as he was merely breaking up a political party, that wasn't a disaster: It was a blessing to extinguish its wick, which was guttering in any case.

But when he pulled apart the army, that was no longer a joke: It was serious. Without the Israel Defense Forces, we have nothing to rely on but our father in heaven, who has recently gone missing.

Like Moses (if you'll excuse the comparison ), Barak does not bear sole blame for the bad vibes among the top brass; he has partners. But guilty or not guilty, he is responsible. It is during his term of office and under him that the disturbances took place. It is true that the document purporting to describe Galant's plans for a smear campaign against his rivals was forged, but the conspiratorial atmosphere that brought it into the world was real.

After all, what is the major task of the person in charge of any work place if not to instill habits of teamwork, to inculcate an esprit de corps? And that is all the more true in the army. And in this task, Barak failed. So much so that a level-headed person like former minister Avraham Shochat feels he is a security risk. Perhaps no one is waking up to oust him because they in any case haven't slept all night?

The trouble is that the candidates who have been mentioned as possible replacements for him - all the has-beens - are infused with that same evil spirit; they, too, trail a long line of vengeful personal accounts to settle. Every general is out to get his comrades in arms and in rank. Even when they divest themselves of their uniforms, they don't divest themselves of their grievances, and they will not be long in demanding satisfaction.

Sooner or later, Barak will be ousted. Our sensitive antenna of the public's feelings - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - will soon identify his vulnerability in the public's eyes and throw him overboard. Even this adventurous government will not accept a defense minister who is a security risk, and whose value is as minuscule as the number of Knesset seats he brings. It will not wait until six o'clock after the war.

What is needed in this pathetic group picture of a broken-down clique is a skilled director in ordinary shoes, not the boots of the Golani Brigade or the Paratroops. Perhaps this new candidate will not have participated in the last war, but he also won't have participated in the war between the generals.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

MORALITY ISN'T EVERYTHING

IN CONSIDERING CANDIDATES FOR SUPREME COMMANDER, IT IS NECESSARY ABOVE ALL TO LOOK AT THEIR ABILITY TO WIN WARS, AND ONLY THEN AT THEIR PERSONAL MORALITY.

BY GABRIEL HERMAN

The Yoav Galant affair calls attention to an ancient contradiction between the moral character of military leaders and their role in leading organizations designed to kill and destroy. What in fact do we want from a military leader - that he be white as snow in his private life, or that he win battles? True, both qualities can exist in a single person, but past experience shows it is unlikely. Most of history's great military leaders were not morally pure, and those who were generally failed as military leaders.

Victorious military leaders have left behind piles of dirt that make Galant's land affair appear insignificant. During a drunken party Alexander the Great drove his spear through a close friend (who was also his lover ) only because the man criticized him. When Julius Caesar wasn't waging war, he committed adultery with his enemies' wives and sometimes also with his friends' wives. (When he was waging war, he preferred asceticism of body and soul for the sake of victory. ) Napoleon Bonaparte incriminated the Duc D'Enghien, and his execution was tantamount to murder. Before the landing at Normandy, Gen. George Patton fired up his soldiers by telling them they didn't need to die for the sake of their country; they needed to make sure "the bastards" on the other side died for the sake of their country.

Neither by the moral standards of our times nor by those of their own times have history's victorious military leaders been symbols of morality and purity.

To win in battle, a leader needs a rare combination of characteristics. A military leader has to hack his way to the top; he has to make thousands of soldiers follow him through fire and water and put their lives on the line for the sake of victory. He has to consider a large amount of data (the enemy's weak points, the terrain, the weaponry and the systems at his disposal ), he has to make snap decisions, and above all he has to surprise the foe by trickery.

At this point the contradiction between the military leader's morality and his ability to win comes into focus: The fight on the battlefield is not like those in civil society or in a game of chess. Both civil societies and chess have rules, and transgressors are usually punished. On the battlefield there are no rules: This is the dirtiest of life's games. In the war of minds between two commanders, it is the greater trickster and liar who emerges victorious. A victor is someone who acts in the most irregular, surprising, unrestrained and destructive way.

In a way, this is similar to the world of crime. Napoleon was said to have overcome the spoiled princes of Europe because he was toughened in the vendettas of his native Corsica.

Osama bin Laden carried out one of the most surprising, daring and destructive attacks of our times. He reached the top of Al-Qaida thanks to his religious fanaticism, which in this context means disregarding the usual constraints of morality, with the end justifying the means. For nearly a decade he has been evading captors while teasing and tricking generals who learned their craft at the best military academies in the United States and Europe and who command the world's most advanced armies.

The reason for this may lie in bin Laden's strategic abilities versus those of the military leaders facing him. The latter reached their status after being filtered not just based on leadership criteria but also for probity, as dictated by Western political correctness. In the conflict between the two kinds of commanders, bin Laden has had the upper hand.

The conclusion is not that criminals or religious fanatics should be appointed chiefs of staff. However, in considering candidates for supreme commander, it is necessary above all to look at their ability to win wars, and only then at their personal morality (which will be raked over with a fine-tooth comb later, if they enter politics ). A military leader's personal morality is important in a civilized country, but victory in battle is more important.

Gabriel Herman is a professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

 

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

EDITORIAL

BEYOND REASON ON THE BUDGET

After two years of raging at President Obama's spending plans, House Republican leaders have finally revealed their real vision of small government: tens of billions in ideologically driven cuts to job training, environmental protection, disease control, crime protection and dozens of other critical functions that only the government can perform.

In all, they want more than $32 billion in cuts below current spending packed into the next seven months. They would be terribly damaging to a frail recovery and, while spending reductions must be part of long-term deficit control, these are the wrong cuts, to the wrong programs, at the wrong time.

But they are not deep enough for many Tea Party members, freshmen and other extremists in the House Republican caucus. In a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, they forced the leadership to abandon its cuts and prepare to double them. The new list is expected on Friday and promises to be one of the most irresponsible budget documents ever issued by a House majority.

The Senate should make it clear that it is not worthy of consideration, and President Obama should back them up with a veto threat.

If House Republicans don't come to their senses, they could shut down the government on March 4 when the stopgap measure that is now financing it runs out. If that does take place, it will at least be clear to voters that their essential government services were turned off in the service of two single-minded and destructive goals: giving the appearance of cutting a deficit that was deliberately inflated by years of tax cuts for the rich, and going after programs that the Republicans never liked in good times or bad.

Many of the Republican freshmen want to stick to the "Pledge to America" that they would cut $100 billion from the president's 2011 budget, a nice round number apparently plucked from thin air. More experienced Republican leaders knew it would be impossible to cut that much in the remaining few months of the fiscal year and said they would trim the equivalent percentage. Harold Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, warned that the full cut would require laying off F.B.I. agents and air traffic controllers.

If he was trying to make his $32 billion in cutbacks seem modest by comparison, he failed. The list would cut $2 billion from job training programs — precisely what is needed to help employ workers mismatched with the job market. It would cut $1.6 billion from the Environmental Protection Agency, which is struggling to keep up with the growth of greenhouse gases. There would be significant cuts to legal assistance for the poor and renewable energy programs and an end to all spending for AmeriCorps, public broadcasting and high-speed rail.

The battle over the rest of the 2011 budget is only a prelude, of course, to the bigger fight about to begin over the 2012 budget. President Obama is scheduled to unveil his budget on Monday, and already he seems willing to feed the bottomless Republican hunger for cuts rather than fight them. An ominous early sign is his proposal to cut the low-income heating assistance program nearly in half to $2.57 billion. Administration officials say that energy prices have fallen, but, as Democratic lawmakers from the frostbitten Northeast have pointed out to him, there are many more unemployed people now.

Some cuts will have to be made, but strategically it seems to make little sense to start giving away important ones before reaching the negotiating table. Republican lawmakers in the House have already made it clear that they are indifferent to the suffering and increased joblessness their cuts will cause. As the extreme reductions are heaped up in the next few days, Democrats in Congress and in the White House need to make a clear case to the public that quality of the nation's civic life is at stake.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

JUDGE FOGEL AND THE DEATH PENALTY

On Tuesday, Judge Jeremy Fogel of the Federal District Court in northern California toured a new facility at San Quentin State Prison for executing inmates. Five years ago, in Morales v. Tilton, he ordered the state to halt all executions after he found that the way it administered its lethal injection created too much risk that an inmate would suffer extreme pain.

The inspection was part of his review of a proposed new method for injecting those drugs to assess whether he should allow California to resume executions.

Judge Fogel stressed in his 2006 opinion that, in focusing on the administration of the lethal three-drug cocktail, "this case presents a very narrow question." But that question cannot be answered unless the judge also asks the state why it believes that one of the drugs, sodium thiopental, is reliable.

After the sole American manufacturer stopped producing sodium thiopental, California imported it from Britain without Food and Drug Administration approval. The agency said that it would not review the drug's efficacy because "reviewing substances imported or used for the purpose of state-authorized lethal injection clearly falls outside of F.D.A.'s explicit public health role."

Judge Fogel's doubts about California's use of the death penalty are comparatively recent. He rejected two other challenges to lethal injections as delaying tactics. In 2006, however, he stayed the execution of Michael Angelo Morales after the state failed to comply with his order that the injection be administered by a state-licensed medical professional.

Soon after, he began his own review of the execution method. One of his pivotal findings was that, in six of California's 11 executions by injection, the "inmates' breathing may not have ceased as expected" and they may well have been conscious when other drugs were given to paralyze and kill them. The state's medical expert said that would be "terrifying" for someone being injected and "unconscionable."

In an essay about this case, Judge Fogel was punctilious about not saying whether he supports or opposes the death penalty. Instead, he expressed faith in the legal process as a means of fairly resolving even the most difficult issues.

For legislators in state capitols considering whether to abolish the penalty, however, this case has done much more than that. It has documented how lethal injection can be cruel and unusual punishment when unprofessionally administered and how the culture of prisons breeds that shoddy approach. It is one more reason to reject the death penalty as a barbaric punishment.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

PROTECTING THE WHISTLE-BLOWERS

All those Capitol budget hawks searching out waste, fraud and abuse should first find out why some mystery lawmaker killed a long-needed whistle-blower protection bill in the final hours of the last Congress.

The measure would have greatly bolstered Washington's ability to recoup wasted multimillions by encouraging government workers to alert superiors to how bad things really are and guaranteeing that they won't be punished for doing the right thing.

Both houses unanimously approved versions of whistle-blower protection in the lame-duck Congress in December. But just as the final compromise was about to pass, the 12-year campaign was snuffed out by a still unknown senator exercising an anonymous hold. The Senate could use its own whistle-blower right now to let the taxpayers and voters know who is to blame.

Revival of the measure should be a top priority, particularly since the new Senate supposedly will no longer tolerate the skulduggery of secret holds. In the House, Representative Darrell Issa, the zealous new chairman of government oversight, should be the first to drumbeat for the measure.

Mr. Issa already has his own Web site inviting government workers and the public to send his office tips about abuses. But, so far, it's more an outlet for antigovernment ranters than knowledgeable whistle-blowers understandably wary of the reprisals they can suffer.

The measure, which should also be a no-brainer for the Capitol's new Tea Party ethic, would strengthen the free speech and due process rights of whistle-blowers. It would allow jury trials for documenting bureaucratic retaliations and enlarge the covered agencies to include airport baggage screeners, nuclear plant workers and other vital jobs.

In the lame-duck session, some Republicans warned that the measure might somehow facilitate more of WikiLeaks's wholesale disclosure of government business. The issues are unrelated, except on the red-meat talk-radio circuit. And what could possibly be more patriotic, or budget-minded, than protecting government workers who have the courage and good sense to raise the alarm when taxpayers are being cheated?

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

MARRIAGE EQUALITY IN NEW YORK

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's pledge to make a strong push in the next few months to pass legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in New York State is a promising development. Speaking on Wednesday at Hofstra University, Governor Cuomo said he intends to ask the Legislature to take up the measure and that he will be "working very hard to pass it."

Just 14 months ago, the State Senate voted, 38 to 24, to continue the state's discrimination against gay and lesbian couples who want to get married. But strong leadership by the state's popular new governor could alter the outcome this time.

The Democratic-led Assembly supports extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. The obstacle remains the State Senate. Mr. Cuomo's predecessor, David Paterson, was also a passionate advocate of marriage equality, but he was too weak to get the job done.

The Senate's majority leader, Dean Skelos, a Republican, is opposed to ending the bigoted status quo, but he has said he would not try to block a vote. That is the least he can do. Polls show that a solid majority of New Yorkers favor allowing same-sex marriage. That should give Mr. Skelos and his recalcitrant caucus pause.

Much now depends on whether Senate Democrats, now in the minority, can deliver a sufficient mass of votes to bring along Republicans who might have done the right thing last year had it appeared the marriage bill stood a chance and their votes really mattered. Mr. Cuomo's resolve to exercise leadership could make the difference.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE FREEDOM ALLIANCE

BY DAVID BROOKS

Over the past few weeks, I've had a chance to interview some amazing people. I sat down with Bill Gates, who was in Washington to try to keep the looming budget cuts from decimating the foreign aid programs.

I sat down with scientists and university presidents who are nervous that budget cuts might retard American research and innovation.

I've received a number of e-mails from people in the early childhood education movement who are already seeing states cutting their vital work.

I've also been in touch with people at Teach for America. The line in the federal budget that helps pay for their work qualifies as an earmark, so they face an $18 million cut and the loss of 400 teachers.

It seems that as long as there is a budget crisis, I'll never be lonely. But I have to say, many of these great people are suffering under a misimpression. They assume that if they can only persuade enough people that their programs are producing tremendous results then they will be spared from the budget ax.

They are wrong about that. The coming budget cuts have nothing to do with merit. They have to do with the inexorable logic of mathematics. Over the past decades, spending in nearly every section of the federal budget has exploded to unsustainable levels. Each year, your family's share of the national debt increases by about $12,000. By 2015, according to Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former director of the Congressional Budget Office, Moody's will downgrade U.S. debt.

The greatest pressure comes from entitlements. Spending on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on the debt has now risen to 47 percent of the budget. In nine years, entitlements are estimated to consume 64 percent of the budget, according to the invaluable folks at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. By 2030, they are projected consume 70 percent of the budget.

When you throw in other politically untouchable programs, like Veterans Affairs, you arrive at a situation in which a vast majority of the budget is off limits to politicians who are trying to control debt. All cuts must, therefore, be made in the tiny sliver of the budget where the most valuable programs reside and where the most important investments in our future are made.

Over the next few weeks, Republicans will try to cut discretionary spending to 2008 levels and tell their constituents they are boldly reducing the size of government. That is a mirage. Anybody who doesn't take on entitlement spending is an enabler of big government. The supposedly rabid Republican freshmen are actually big government conservatives. They will cut programs that do measurable good while doing little to solve our long-range fiscal crisis.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration theoretically opposes runaway debt while it operationally expands it. The president is unwilling to ask for shared sacrifice if the Republicans won't ask with him. Fine. But he hasn't even used his pulpit to prepare the ground. He announces unserious cuts with lavish fanfare.

Since most of the budget is untouchable, the budget ax will fall on every section of the discretionary budget. It will fall on the just and unjust alike, regardless of merit.

The implication is this: If people who care about this or that domestic program fight alone, hoping that their own program will be spared, then they will all perish alone. If they have any chance of continuing their work, they will have to band together and fight their common enemy, the inexorable growth of entitlement spending.

The foreign aid people, the scientific research people, the education people, the antipoverty people and many others have to form a humane alliance. They have to go on offense. They have to embrace plans to slow the growth of Medicare, to reform Social Security and to reform the tax code to foster growth and produce more revenue.

Specifically, they have to get behind an effort now being hatched by a group of courageous senators: Saxby Chambliss, Mark Warner, Tom Coburn, Dick Durbin, Mike Crapo and Kent Conrad. These public heroes have been leading an effort to write up the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission report as legislation to serve as the beginning for a serious effort to get our house in order. They've been meeting with 20 to 40 of their colleagues to push this along. It's not always the most famous senators that are involved in this effort. It's the midranking and junior ones who are willing to risk political ire to save the republic.

They need a popular movement mobilized behind them. They need an activist alliance so that party leaders and the White House can see a politically viable way forward.

It's not only about debt; it's about freedom. It's about whether we get to make budget choices or whether we have our lives dictated by the inexorable growth of programs beyond our control.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, INFLATIONIST

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

There was a time when Republicans used to refer to themselves, proudly, as "the party of Lincoln." But you don't hear that line much these days. Why?

The main answer, presumably, lies in the G.O.P.'s decision, long ago, to seek votes from Southerners angered by the end of legal segregation. With the old Confederacy now the heart of the Republican base, boasting about the party's Civil War-era legacy is no longer advisable.

But sooner or later, Republicans were bound to notice other reasons to disavow Lincoln. He was, after all, the first president to institute an income tax. And he was also the first president to issue a paper currency — the "greenback" — that wasn't backed by gold or silver. "There is nothing more insidious that a country can do to its people than to debase its currency," declared Representative Paul Ryan in one of two hearings Congress held on Wednesday on monetary policy. So much, then, for the Great Liberator.

Which brings me to the story of what went on in those monetary hearings.

One of the hearings was called by Representative Ron Paul, a harsh critic of the Federal Reserve, who now has an oversight role over the very institution he wants abolished in favor of a return to the gold standard. Mr. Paul's subcommittee called three witnesses, one of whom was an odd choice: Thomas DiLorenzo, a professor at Loyola University and a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

What was odd about that choice? Well, Mr. DiLorenzo hasn't actually written much about monetary policy, although he has described Fed policy — not just recently, but since the 1960s — as "legalized counterfeiting operations." His main claim to fame, instead, is as a critic of Lincoln — he's the author of "Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe" — and as a modern-day secessionist.

No, really: calls for secession run through many of Mr. DiLorenzo's writings — for example, in his declaration that "healthcare freedom" won't be restored until "some states begin seceding from the new American fascialistic state." Raise the rebel flag!

O.K., it's going to be a while before the G.O.P. as a whole embraces neo-secessionism, and Mr. Paul, although highly visible, is, in fact, a somewhat marginal figure even within his own party. But Mr. Ryan, who led the other hearing — the one at which Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, testified — is a rising Republican star. So it's worth noting that Mr. Ryan's hard-money rhetoric was nearly as bizarre as Mr. DiLorenzo's.

Start with that bit about debasing our currency. Where did that come from? The dollar's value in terms of other major currencies is about the same now as it was three years ago. And as Mr. Bernanke pointed out, consumer prices rose only 1.2 percent in 2010, an inflation rate that, for the record, is well below the rate under the sainted Ronald Reagan. The Fed's preferred measure, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, was up only 0.7 percent, well below the target of around 2 percent.

But Mr. Ryan is sure that the dollar is being debased and won't take no for an answer. In an attempt to create a gotcha moment, he waved a copy of a newspaper bearing the headline "Inflation Worries Spread" at the Fed chairman. But the gotcha actually went the other way. As Mr. Bernanke immediately pointed out, the article was about inflation in China and other emerging markets, not in the United States. And the Fed chairman declared, correctly, that "inflation made here in the U.S. is very, very low."

Advantage Bernanke. But the facts don't matter, because conservative hard-money mania, the demand that the Fed stop trying to rescue the economy, isn't really about inflation fears.

Mr. Ryan said as much in Wednesday's hearing, in which he declared that our currency "should be guided by the rule of law, not the rule of men." A few years ago, my response would have been, say what? After all, even Milton Friedman saw the conduct of monetary policy as a technical issue, not a matter of principle; his complaint about the Fed's role in the Great Depression was that it didn't print enough money, not that it printed too much.

But then Friedman, who believed that it sometimes makes sense to let your currency depreciate, who urged Japan's central bank to adopt a policy very similar to what the Fed is doing now, was a leftist by the standards of today's G.O.P.

Wednesday's hearings aren't likely to have any immediate effect on monetary policy. But they offer a revealing — and appalling — look at the mind-set of one of our two major political parties. We've always known that the modern G.O.P. wants to take America back to the way it was before the New Deal; but now it's clear that the party wants to build a bridge to the 19th century, and maybe even to the antebellum era. Backward, march!

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE NEXT STEP FOR EGYPT'S OPPOSITION

BY MOHAMED ELBARADEI

Cairo

WHEN I was a young man in Cairo, we voiced our political views in whispers, if at all, and only to friends we could trust. We lived in an atmosphere of fear and repression. As far back as I can remember, I felt outrage as I witnessed the misery of Egyptians struggling to put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads and get medical care. I saw firsthand how poverty and repression can destroy values and crush dignity, self-worth and hope.

Half a century later, the freedoms of the Egyptian people remain largely denied. Egypt, the land of the Library of Alexandria, of a culture that contributed groundbreaking advances in mathematics, medicine and science, has fallen far behind. More than 40 percent of our people live on less than $2 per day. Nearly 30 percent are illiterate, and Egypt is on the list of failed states.

Under the three decades of Hosni Mubarak's rule, Egyptian society has lived under a draconian "emergency law" that strips people of their most basic rights, including freedom of association and of assembly, and has imprisoned tens of thousands of political dissidents. While this Orwellian regime has been valued by some of Egypt's Western allies as "stable," providing, among other assets, a convenient location for rendition, it has been in reality a ticking bomb and a vehicle for radicalism.

But one aspect of Egyptian society has changed in recent years. Young Egyptians, gazing through the windows of the Internet, have gained a keener sense than many of their elders of the freedoms and opportunities they lack. They have found in social media a way to interact and share ideas, bypassing, in virtual space, the restrictions placed on physical freedom of assembly.

The world has witnessed their courage and determination in recent weeks, but democracy is not a cause that first occurred to them on Jan. 25. Propelled by a passionate belief in democratic ideals and the yearning for a better future, they have long been mobilizing and laying the groundwork for change that they view as inevitable.

The tipping point came with the Tunisian revolution, which sent a powerful psychological message: "Yes, we can." These young leaders are the future of Egypt. They are too intelligent, too aware of what is at stake, too weary of promises long unfulfilled, to settle for anything less than the departure of the old regime. I am humbled by their bravery and resolve.

Many, particularly in the West, have bought the Mubarak regime's fiction that a democratic Egypt will turn into chaos or a religious state, abrogate the fragile peace with Israel and become hostile to the West. But the people of Egypt — the grandmothers in veils who have dared to share Tahrir Square with army tanks, the jubilant young people who have risked their lives for their first taste of these new freedoms — are not so easily fooled.

The United States and its allies have spent the better part of the last decade, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars and countless lives, fighting wars to establish democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now that the youth of Cairo, armed with nothing but Facebook and the power of their convictions, have drawn millions into the street to demand a true Egyptian democracy, it would be absurd to continue to tacitly endorse the rule of a regime that has lost its own people's trust.

Egypt will not wait forever on this caricature of a leader we witnessed on television yesterday evening, deaf to the voice of the people, hanging on obsessively to power that is no longer his to keep.

What needs to happen instead is a peaceful and orderly transition of power, to channel the revolutionary fervor into concrete steps for a new Egypt based on freedom and social justice. The new leaders will have to guarantee the rights of all Egyptians. They will need to dissolve the current Parliament, no longer remotely representative of the people. They will also need to abolish the Constitution, which has become an instrument of repression, and replace it with a provisional Constitution, a three-person presidential council and a transitional government of national unity.

The presidential council should include a representative of the military, embodying the sharing of power needed to ensure continuity and stability during this critical transition. The job of the presidential council and the interim government during this period should be to set in motion the process that will turn Egypt into a free and democratic society. This includes drafting a democratic Constitution to be put to a referendum, and preparing for free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections within one year.

We are at the dawn of a new Egypt. A free and democratic society, at peace with itself and with its neighbors, will be a bulwark of stability in the Middle East and a worthy partner in the international community. The rebirth of Egypt represents the hope of a new era in which Arab society, Muslim culture and the Middle East are no longer viewed through the lens of war and radicalism, but as contributors to the forward march of humanity, modernized by advanced science and technology, enriched by our diversity of art and culture and united by shared universal values.

We have nothing to fear but the shadow of a repressive past.

Mohamed ElBaradei, as the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. He is the author of the forthcoming book "The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times."

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

OUT OF TOUCH, OUT OF TIME

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

CAIRO

Watching President Hosni Mubarak addressing his nation Thursday night, explaining why he would not be drummed out of office by foreigners, I felt embarrassed for him and worried for Egypt. This man is staggeringly out of touch with what is happening inside his country. This is Rip Van Winkle meets Facebook.

The fact that the several hundred thousand Egyptians in Tahrir Square reacted to Mubarak's speech by waving their shoes — they surely would have thrown them at him if he had been in range — and shouting "go away, go away," pretty much sums up the reaction. Mubarak, in one speech, shifted this Egyptian democracy drama from mildly hopeful, even thrilling, to dangerous.

All day here there was a drumbeat of leaks that the fix was in: Mubarak was leaving, the army leadership was meeting and Vice President Omar Suleiman would oversee the constitutional reform process. The fact that this did not turn out to be the case suggests there is some kind of a split in the leadership of the Egyptian Army, between the anti-Mubarak factions leaking his departure and the pro-Mubarak factions helping him to stay.

The words of Mubarak and Suleiman directed to the democracy demonstrators could not have been more insulting: "Trust us. We'll take over the reform agenda now. You all can go back home, get back to work and stop letting those foreign satellite TV networks — i.e., Al Jazeera — get you so riled up. Also, don't let that Obama guy dictate to us proud Egyptians what to do."

This narrative is totally out of touch with the reality of this democracy uprising in Tahrir Square, which is all about the self-empowerment of a long-repressed people no longer willing to be afraid, no longer willing to be deprived of their freedom, and no longer willing to be humiliated by their own leaders, who told them for 30 years that they were not ready for democracy. Indeed, the Egyptian democracy movement is everything that Hosni Mubarak says it is not: homegrown, indefatigable and authentically Egyptian. Future historians will write about the large historical forces that created this movement, but it is the small stories you encounter in Tahrir Square that show why it is unstoppable.

I spent part of the morning in the square watching and photographing a group of young Egyptian students wearing plastic gloves taking garbage in both hands and neatly scooping it into black plastic bags to keep the area clean. This touched me in particular because more than once in this column I have quoted the aphorism that "in the history of the world no one has ever washed a rented car." I used it to make the point that no one has ever washed a rented country either — and for the last century Arabs have just been renting their countries from kings, dictators and colonial powers. So, they had no desire to wash them.

Well, Egyptians have stopped renting, at least in Tahrir Square, where a sign hung Thursday said: "Tahrir — the only free place in Egypt." So I went up to one of these young kids on garbage duty — Karim Turki, 23, who worked in a skin-care shop — and asked him: "Why did you volunteer for this?" He couldn't get the words out in broken English fast enough: "This is my earth. This is my country. This is my home. I will clean all Egypt when Mubarak will go out." Ownership is a beautiful thing.

As I was leaving the garbage pile, I ran into three rather prosperous-looking men who wanted to talk. One of them, Ahmed Awn, 31, explained that he was financially comfortable and even stood to lose if the turmoil here continued, but he wanted to join in for reasons so much more important than money. Before this uprising, he said, "I was not proud to tell people I was an Egyptian. Today, with what's been done here" in Tahrir Square, "I can proudly say again I am an Egyptian."

Humiliation is the single most powerful human emotion, and overcoming it is the second most powerful human emotion. That is such a big part of what is playing out here.

Finally, crossing the Nile bridge away from the square, I was stopped by a well-dressed Egyptian man — a Times reader — who worked in Saudi Arabia. He was with his wife and two young sons. He told me that he came to Cairo Thursday to take his two sons to see, hear, feel and touch Tahrir Square. "I want it seared in their memory," he told me. It seemed to be his way of ensuring that this autocracy never returns. These are the people whom Mubarak is accusing of being stirred up entirely by foreigners. In truth, the Tahrir movement is one of the most authentic, most human, quests for dignity and freedom that I have ever seen.

But rather than bowing to that, retiring gracefully and turning over the presidency either to the army or some kind of presidency council made up of respected figures to oversee the transition to democracy, Mubarak seems determined to hang on in a way that, at best, will slow down Egypt's evolution to democracy and, at worst, take a grass-roots, broad-based Egyptian nonviolent democracy movement and send it into a rage.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

SNOW -- BUT NOW SUNSHINE!

 

Most of us are excited by snow. But haven't we had enough -- or too much -- already this winter? Our latest snow on Wednesday and Thursday didn't stick on our streets and highways. But spring is still far away, so we'll have to make do with sunshine and temperatures rising to near 60 degrees early next week.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

ALARMING POST OFFICE LOSSES

 

The U.S. Postal Service performs an important role in delivering personal letters, business communications and packages. Our Founding Fathers understood that, so they provided for the post office when they were writing the Constitution of the United States.

 

But unfortunately, the Postal Service can't meet all its obligations with the amount of revenue it takes in. Among other things, many people use the Internet for things that used to require the Postal Service. Just in the three months from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2010, the post office ran $329 million in the red.

 

It is reported that the post office would have had a net profit of $226 million for the recent quarter -- except for a requirement that it make advance payments to cover big expected health care costs for future retirees.

 

With huge numbers of baby boomers starting to retire, don't the post office's troubles sound a bit like the difficulties facing our massive entitlement programs?

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

WHEN DID YOU LAST RIDE A TRAIN?

 

Freight trains are vitally important to our national economy. And passenger trains are useful and economical in some heavily populated areas. But with our country $14 trillion in debt and running $1.5 trillion in annual red ink, does President Barack Obama's proposal to spend $53 billion more of tax or borrowed money for high-speed rail service make sense?

 

Would you like to ride a passenger train from Chattanooga to Atlanta or Nashville in about an hour? Or to New York or Chicago in just a few hours? Fine. But that should not be paid for with more taxes or more debt for passenger lines that can't pay their own way.

 

With the federal government taxing and spending too much already, would it be rational to spend billions more for passenger trains that are likely to lose money?

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

CHATTANOOGA PEDICABS?

 

If you go to, say, Hong Kong, or some other places in the Far East, you surely will want to ride a "pedicab," sitting comfortably on a padded seat while an energetic driver pedals the three-wheeled vehicle for momentum.

 

Now it is interesting that Buzz Chattanooga Pedicabs is proposing to offer half a dozen colorful pedicabs for service to passengers in the downtown area from the Tennessee River to Main Street and from Interstate 24 to the Bluff View Arts District, beginning in March.

 

Pedicabs may be attractive to many tourists, and to some locals, for a recommended minimum tip of three bucks.

 

Will pedicab service "pay" in Chattanooga? Free enterprisers plan to find out!

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

SPENDING CUTS? STILL RED INK!

 

Most of us personally enjoy spending for things we want. But if we do too much spending, when the bills come in we are not very comfortable. And we will get into serious trouble if we persist in that bad habit.

 

Many of our government officials like to spend, too. On city, county and state levels, taxpayers may impose some restraint. Unfortunately, however, on the federal government level, where the problem is greatest, there obviously is too little restraint.

 

Some officials tell us they are "giving us something" when they spend for this or that. What they are "giving" us is more debt -- an obligation for higher taxes on us someday. But they seem to keep getting away with it.

 

That's why we have a national debt of more than $14 trillion, on which we had to pay taxes to cover an interest expense of hundreds of billions of dollars just last year! And with U.S. spending running about $1.5 trillion in the red each year, we are getting into even deeper trouble.

 

Part of the difficulty is that the federal government is doing too many expensive things, some of which are actually unconstitutional. There are some things our Constitution lists that we must do. But it is politically unpopular for members of Congress to insist on cuts in optional spending.

 

Currently, however, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have summoned enough courage to propose to cut $35 billion out of some federal spending programs.

 

Hooray! But they will have difficulty getting Democrats to agree to cut that $35 billion. And even if spending cuts of that magnitude are made, other excessive spending would still add more than a trillion dollars to our national debt in just the next year.

 

House Republicans want to eliminate some programs. They want to get rid of the $373 million AmeriCorps make-work program, $298 million for police hiring grants, $1 billion for high-speed rail, $317 million for "family planning" and $531 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

 

But whoa! Some of those things are popular with some voters. And even elimination of the spending of tax money for those things would barely scratch the surface in reducing debt.

 

Proposed reductions in programs that would not be eliminated include $407 million (6 percent) from food aid for pregnant women and their children (leaving 94 percent of that spending intact), $103 million (just 1 percent) from NASA, $1.9 billion (18 percent) from the Environmental Protection Agency, $106 million (1 percent) from the Internal Revenue Service, $60 million (14 percent) from legal aid for the poor, $894 million (13 percent) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, $61 million (3 percent) from the Food and Drug Administration, $600 million (13 percent) from the Community Development Fund, and $246 million (10 percent) from agriculture research.

 

Many people don't want to make those cuts. But even if we did, we would only be beginning to get a handle on our national debt!

 

Balancing the budget will be difficult. It will involve choices that will upset many. But not doing so will get us into even worse shape.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - DRIVING A DISGRACE IN NEW YORK

Neither of the two Turkey-based car manufacturers seeking a bid to make New York taxicabs has significant business links to Iran or operations there. But even if they did, the campaign being waged against them by an NGO seeking to prevent a nuclear Iran would still be a disgrace, an elevation of scarcely disguised Islamophobia to a new and commercial level.

An advertisement running in New York newspapers, which we carried as news on our front page yesterday, asks: "Which company should me making NYC's Taxi of Tomorrow?" It has Uncle Sam in the driver's seat and a crude caricature of Iran's Ahmadinejad in the passenger seat. A further caricature has two cabs passing the Statue of Liberty, one with a "Nissan" signboard, the other tagged "Karsan."

It takes little imagination to conceive how this will play among New Yorkers. Iran, of course, had nothing to do with the events of Sept. 11 in 2001. But how many families of victims clearly make the distinction? Few, we suspect. In Brooklyn, where the manufacturing facility is likely to be and 15 percent of the population is Jewish, the anti-Semitism of Iran's leader is a source of deep offense and pain. But if any kind of commercial link to Iran should effectively bar entry to Brooklyn, then don't drive your Mercedes there. Germany is the one Western country whose trade with Iran is skyrocketing despite sanctions. And yet Turkey takes the heat.

Trading with Iran in goods not covered by international sanctions is legal, respectable and hardly an aid to any nuclear arms plans in Tehran. If any one should know this, it is certainly the leadership of "United Against Nuclear Iran," the NGO sponsoring the ads.

The executive director of the organization is Mark Wallace, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The NGO was founded by the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, a onetime advisor to Turkish companies including the Koç Group, and U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross, who is now in the Obama administration. Its advisory board includes former CIA director James Woolsey and the eminent Lebanese-born political scientist Fouad Ajami.

These are people who should know better. They are also people who know Turkey well. That they have allowed themselves to be associated with a scheme of blatant trade protectionism that is draped in manipulative, Islamophobic and even racist garb is disgraceful. They should immediately disassociate themselves from this ugly campaign and condemn it for what it is.

We also hope that Karsan and Nissan are discussing this matter with Turkey's delegation to the World Trade Organization. If a set of figures close to – and in some cases currently employed by – the U.S. government is involving themselves in this campaign, a clear case of unfair trade practice exists.

Not to mention a campaign that may also deny New Yorkers the chance to ride in a clean and modern taxicab.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE DAYS OF DISQUIET

BURAK BEKDİL

"Watch out," he said after sipping his wine at the elegant 'A Brasileira,' "Either their zebibahs will fade or your leaders will start growing them." To discuss Middle East politics under drizzle at Fernando Pessoa's favorite coffeehouse was bizarre. But so was our conversational journey from "The Book of Disquiet" to "The Days of Disquiet."

It was probably my fault as I mentioned Ibis, a sacred bird in ancient Egypt and an important symbolic reference for Pessoa (1888-1935), one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century – Ibis, the bird that diverted us from the great poet's Book of Disquiet (which he wrote under the heteronym Bernardo Soares) to present-day Egypt's "Days of Disquiet." Perhaps we were like the "curious types whose faces are not interesting but who constitute a digression from life," as Pessoa described the clientele at Lisbon's second-class eateries.

With an "uninteresting" face perhaps still dizzy from the previous night's melancholic songs at the A Tasca do Chico, my Lebanese friend repeated, "It's the zebibah, habibi, watch out!" He was referring to the ostentatious display of piety in Egypt, the zebibah (raisin), a dark circle of skin or in some cases a bump, which comes from pressing the forehead into the ground during daily prayers.

"With their abstinence from alcohol and pork," he went on, "Your leaders may look too pious for the less pious Turks; but without the zebibah shining on their forehead they can only look like elementary-level Muslims to the Brothers." I had to remind him that he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood. He smiled.

Earlier during the day, at the Café Nicola, a passer-by had indiscriminately shouted at the customers, "You alcoholics!" "Your Brothers have found you here," I teased him. "You thought you could get away from [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan," he teased me. We were both wrong. The protestor, whom we later found reading his International Herald Tribune on a nearby pavement, was a Pakistani.

According to my Lebanese friend, as much as the "Turkish model" could be a template for the Brothers, the Brothers could be a template for Mr. Erdoğan and his "brothers."

The extremely common talk of the "Turkish model" these days is accurate, he said. "Because anyone who stands against Israel is a friend of Arabs… But that thinking has only built temporary alliances which easily turned into longer-term hostilities among the Arabs."

Now he lit his fine Havana cigar, cursed the smoking ban and the drizzle, but started laughing when there was nothing to laugh. "I am thinking," he explained, "Of the funny situation... [Mr.] Erdoğan being accused of being 'too Muslim' in Turkey… Imagine him now being accused of being not Muslim enough by his role-model-partners…"

Middle East politics, no doubt, is more "religiotics [my neologism]" than politics. "When [the Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah makes a speech, all Lebanese forget about their religious identities," he said. I told him that was a complete tautology.

And, fortunately, it was one of the rare moments my Lebanese friend ever agreed with my political views (my friend is in a love-and-hate relationship with Erdoğan: He dislikes Mr. Erdoğan "for what the prime minister is"; but at the same time he adores him for his bravado against Israel).

"Yes, it's tautology. The Lebanese tend to forget their religious identities because Nasrallah speaks of unity… unity against Israel. But then there is religion about forgetting religious identities, too."

I reminded my Lebanese friend of other facts of life in the Middle East political calculus, like the murder of Rafiq al-Hariri, his country's former prime minister, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his country's not-so-distant cousin. And he spoke to me like "the pragmatist Arab."

"People [in Lebanon] don't care who killed al-Hariri. Let it pass. What's the point about who killed him? He was killed, and we want to look forward, move forward." Good. Very pragmatic. But what about Mr. Ahmadinejad?

"Go back to my 'who-stands-against-Israel-is-a-friend-of-Arabs' theory. Ahmadinejad is not the darling of Arabs. But he is 'accepted'." I smiled, trying to look "impressed."

The rest of the day? Borrowing/rewriting lines from Pessoa's "A Factless Autobiography," "I walked on the streets, until the night fell, my life felt to me like the life they had. By day they were full of meaningless activity; by night, they were full of meaningless lack of it. By day I felt I was nothing, and by night I was I. There was no difference between me and these streets, save they being streets and I a soul, which perhaps is irrelevant when we consider the essence of things."

By night, I imagined a compromise for the Turkey-Egypt modeling efforts. In my theory, we shall see "modernized" Egyptian leaders whose zebibahs will fade a little bit; and "conservatized [my neologism, again]" Turkish leaders who will start growing pale (only pale!) zebibahs…

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WHAT HAS CHANGED IN EGYPT?

SAMİ KOHEN

As the upheaval in Egypt heads into its third week, the present situation is different from the initial days of unrest.

The number of people taking to the streets is decreasing but excitement and determination remain.

The expectations and the hopes of people have not yet been satisfied as President Hosni Mubarak is still holding the country on a tight rein. The protesters, however, were expecting a Tunisia-like quick end (that is, the withdrawal of the chief and the end of the regime).

The only conclusion so far is that Mubarak has announced that he will not run for another term in office (while his son Gamal will also not run for the presidency).

Despite pressure from protesters and suggestions from the outside, there is no sign of Mubarak's resigning. The "chief," as a matter of fact, has taken steps for the continuation of his regime. He appointed Omar Suleiman as vice president in order to assure an orderly and stable transition period.

New 'powerful man'

Of course, this is not enough to satisfy people's demands. Still, there is something new: at least the opposition is being heard now, new constitutional regulations are in the works and economic reforms are being planned for the welfare of the people.

One of the most attractive moves of the new "powerful man," Suleiman, is that he is in dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhoods' leaders. This is quite a change in the regime's position.

On the other hand, emergency law and other restrictions continue. But in the meantime, protesters meet despite curfew and express their anti-regime views openly.

In short, the popular movement in Egypt has not yet reached its target though it's been two weeks. But there are important changes that could never have been imagined before. As the unrest is heading into its third week, a transition period launched by the regime and the resistance of protestors is continuing. That is to say, the masses are still against the government…

Who has the final say?

In fact, for an orderly transition from the Mubarak regime to a new order, a period of stability is needed. This is the dominant view in the West, especially the United States. The U.S. has been actively involved in the process from the beginning for that.

Although the Barack Obama administration is in favor of Mubarak's resignation, they have recommended no rush and have favored the preservation of stability during the transition period. In other words, the U.S. already remains in harmony with the Egyptian government as Washington practically orchestrates the process… There are reasons behind the U.S. policy at work and some of these reasons are in contradiction.

Obama is defending free and democratic regimes in Egypt and in the Arab world. But Washington isn't ready to lose the Egyptian government as its longtime ally due to national interests. The U.S. prefers a regime without Mubarak, a controlled and guided democracy. Such a regime will eliminate possibilities that are frightening the West and the U.S., such as chaos or an Islamic regime.

Egyptian administrators intend to have a transition to the post-Mubarak regime through such a process. What will people expect or aim for? Will they decide the future of the country in the streets or in upper administration levels? We'll see this in the upcoming weeks.

* Mr. Sami Kohen is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece first appeared. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

CASTRATION…

YUSUF KANLI

No … I know that life in the palace and odalisques of the sultans and such subjects are quite popular nowadays, but I have no intention of writing about the castrated servants of the royal harem, or women's quarters, of the former Ottoman palaces.

Castration has appeared all of a sudden on the agenda of a section of the Turkish society – that is parliamentary deputies, some journalists and academics – after a handful of ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, deputies suddenly came up with the bright idea of applying "chemical castration" as a form of "treatment" on criminals sentenced for rape, pedophilia or incest.

An interesting idea, is it not?

First, I thought, "Hah ha, these backward people have suggested something idiotic once again!" Frankly, sometimes I have difficulty controlling my temper when I encounter some sheer examples of primitivism often coming from one of those almond-mustached people around plenty nowadays…

I was wrong, however. The AKP deputies who sponsored that bill making amendments in sex crimes were not the only people who apparently believed biological or chemical castration might be a "punishment/treatment" for men involved in rape, pedophile, incest and such deplorable sex crimes.

Applied in many countries

A quick check on the Internet provided very interesting results.

Apparently, in the American states of California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin, provided criminals give their consent, castration can be applied as a form of "treatment/punishment" for criminals sentenced for rape and pedophile (children involved must be below 13 years of age).

Similarly, in Israel such a punishment might be applied on criminals involved in pedophilia.

In Argentina, subject to the consent of criminals, it is applied only on criminals sentenced for rape.

In France, in order to be released on probation after serving a certain period of their sentence, sex crime offenders must give their consent to undergo "chemical castration," considered there as well as some sort of a "treatment/punishment."

Norway enacted a law in 2006 allowing castration for criminals involved in rape and pedophilia. In Poland, criminals engaged in a sexual offense on children below 15 might undergo castration.

What's this chemical castration that these countries and proponents of the bill in Turkey are talking about?

Indeed, "chemical castration," unlike the biological one, does not require an operation. The criminal undergoing that "treatment/punishment" – in all countries in which it is in force, it is a must for an early release from prison, and the Turkish bill states the same – although unless the criminal gives his consent it cannot be applied on him. Essentially, the compulsory medication drastically decreases the testosterone levels in the men, meaning they are no longer a threat.

The bill under debate in Turkey now stresses that criminals involved in rape or pedophilia often have a serious disorder which cannot be cured by placing them behind bars, as after they are released from prison, such people often commit the same crime and are sentenced again. The bill says that if those people were subjected to a compulsory medication program and their testosterone levels were drastically reduced, they would no longer pose a threat to public security as they would not be able to commit such crimes.

This mentality, unfortunately, is a rather simple and crooked one and is no different than saying, "If we close down all primary schools we will not have any problems with the primary schools," or a return to the archaic "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" primitive law understanding.

Well, in today's Turkey some people at the top echelons of the state administration would perhaps love to see the arms of people who carried "unwanted placards" severed by a court as a form of punishment. If their arms are cut off, they will not be able to raise such placards again … Is it not true?

The castration of the law will not help anyone.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE DEMOCRAT 'SULTAN' NAZARBAYEV

GÜLAY KILIÇ

"Today, without dramatizing the situation in those years, I openly declare to you that in the beginning of the 1990s we were on the edge of a cliff." This sentence was uttered by Nursultan Nazarbayev 10 years after the declaration of independence of Kazakhstan. In the 1990s, Kazakhstan was suffering from an economy that was on the verge of bankruptcy, insufficient infrastructure, a deficiency of expert staff (the experts in Kazakhstan migrated to Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union), and a governmental structure that was about to collapse. There were other factors that made the adverse conditions in the country even more serious during that period.

Almost all of the former Soviet regions have experienced similar problems and a transition period that was never experienced before. As a country that takes its place among the other countries that show a maximum effort to overcome this period, Kazakhstan is at the forefront in several fields. Kazakhstan owes its success to its people in the first place and then to Nursultan Nazarbayev. Under the difficult conditions of the post-independence period, Nazarbayev not only started both the economic and political structuring processes, but also ensured unity and solidarity in the country. The civil wars and ethnic conflicts that have stirred the countries of the region did not hit Kazakhstan. As a matter of fact, Kazakhstan is a country that harbors approximately 130 nationalities from 45 different religions. Nazarbayev is the leader who has inspired a spirit of unity and solidarity in Kazakhstan.

Nazarbayev is a leader who is successful not only in domestic politics, but also in the international arena. His endeavors also in respect to nuclear security, which has lately become a subject frequently discussed throughout the world, cannot be ignored. Kazakhstan's leadership in the matters of nuclear security and peace is very important, since during the Soviet Union era it was a country that possessed a considerable amount of nuclear power. It is Nazarbayev who has assigned his country to carry out this mission. Nazarbayev went down in history as the first leader to voluntarily relinquish his nuclear weapons, and in 2010 he received the fruits of his labor for world peace by bringing his country the chairmanship of the OSCE. Nazarbayev took very important steps also for OSCE and managed to attract the attention of the whole world to the region. With regard to world security issues and solving regional problems, the country has incorporated four basic principles – namely confidence, tradition, transparency and tolerance – from the structure of the OSCE.

Referendum discussions and Nazarbayev's position

Nazarbayev became the president who was given broad authority within the framework of the 1995 constitution, which was accepted by popular vote. In the constitution, it was stated that, "The same person should not be elected as president more than twice in a row." However, with the new regulations that were implemented in 2007, this rule has been invalidated for Nazarbayev.

Lately, the presidential election to be held in 2012 has become an issue in the country. The discussions with respect to a possible referendum regarding the extension of Nazarbayev's term in office have come to the forefront because of a petition started by nongovernmental organizations. Previously, the president of the Kazakhstan Central Election Commission, Kuanduk Turgankulov, announced that if 200,000 signatures were collected, then a referendum would be held in March 2011. On Jan. 12, 5 million signatures that were collected during the petition were submitted to the election commission. Both the petition and the referendum, which is supported by some political parties, are aimed at canceling the 2012 elections and extending Nazarbayev's term in office until 2020 without calling for an election.

If elections are held in 2012, most probably Nazarbayev will run and will be re-elected. The most important point regarding the elections is the protection of the political culture of the society. Nazarbayev vetoed the proposal the second time for the referendum for the good of Kazakhstan's future. However, the Kazakhstan Parliament and the Senate did not give up their attempts with regards to the realization of the referendum. 

Critics in the West and especially in the United States argue that Kazakhstan cannot be ruled by Nazarbayev forever. Until today, Nazarbayev has acted prudently and has implemented many projects in the interest of the country. If he continues his prudent approach with respect to the referendum and persistently vetoes the proposal, he will be standing behind a decision that has vital importance for the people of Kazakhstan. The existence of Kazakhstan is closely related to its social and political culture. If its political culture is undermined, the results will be unavoidable. The elections are very important both for the people of Kazakhstan and the country's international prestige.

Today, the "choices of the population" may not seem very important in a country that announced its independence only 20 years ago, but 20 years from now its importance will come into prominence. On the other hand, as a country that has undertaken the chairmanship of the OSCE, Kazakhstan should not compromise on universal values; in order to prove and sustain its power, it should develop its political culture as much as possible. If the previous political culture of Kazakhstan and its short history as an independent country are taken into consideration, a serious criticism cannot be performed with respect to matters such as human rights and freedom in the country.

However, it is an undeniable reality that in the country serious steps with regards to development are not being taken. Today, the necessary measures to be taken in the long run are being implemented by Nazarbayev. As a country that plans to be a leading country in Asia, in order to avoid chaos in the future, Kazakhstan should protect its political culture and aim to increase the speed of its development.

* Gülay Kılıç is a research assistant at the International Strategic Research Organization, or USAK, Center For Eurasian Studies.

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

MISSING MEN

 

The new menace of people going missing, almost unheard of in our country till 2002, when suspected militants first began to be 'picked up' by agency personnel, possibly following 'instructions' from US mentors in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, seems to be expanding. But the fact that courts are taking up these cases, even when military personnel are involved, marks a hopeful sign that the violations will stop. Court hearings also indicate just how unsafe people are. The Peshawar High Court has summoned two military officers in a case in which a petitioner in the Mardan district has said that he and his three brothers were picked up in a search operation last October. Two of the men remain missing. In another case, a resident of Swat district has said his brother was taken away ten months ago by military personnel for providing fodder to cattle owned by the Taliban. He says the militants forced his brother, a fodder gatherer, to do so.


The cases of missing persons that continue to arise are in many ways clear-cut. If any of these individuals has committed a crime he must be brought before a court. Detention in an unknown place, without access to family, is a clear violation of the law. It can only build resentment against authorities and complicate the matter of building opinion against militants. It is hoped that the aggressive action being taken by the courts will put an end to such cases, and to the suffering they inflict on families whose loved ones disappear for months without a trace, deprived of any opportunity to contact relatives or obtain legal aid.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

PRESSURE MOUNTS

 

With little public sign of resolution, the pressure is mounting on Pakistan to release Raymond Davis without delay. This matter always had the potential to turn into a full-blown confrontation between ourselves and the Americans, and aside from holding the accused in a double-murder case we seem to hold few bargaining chips. The latest turn of the screw is that the US has suspended all high-level contacts with our government and this could negatively impact a number of forthcoming events. The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, cancelled a meeting she was due to have last weekend with our Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Both were attending an international security conference in Munich, and their meeting was cancelled in protest to our continued detention of Davis. Our Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, has been called twice to the White House to receive formal complaints and demands for Davis' release. The American Ambassador to ourselves, Cameron Munter, has visited the president to discuss the matter. A shadow now falls over the crucial and long-planned summit including Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US at the end of this month. If this is scuttled due to the fallout resulting from the Davis affair, it will take months to reschedule, and the trust deficit that exists will have widened meanwhile.


At the core of the current difficulty is a differential interpretation of precisely who and who should not, be allowed to claim diplomatic immunity, a differential based on inconsistencies between local law and international law. International laws and treaties have to be codified locally in order for states to act upon them. Our responsibilities and rights under the Vienna Convention are defined in the Diplomatic and Consular Privileges (DACP) Act, 1972. The DACP is not a 'cut and paste' of the Vienna Convention, and there are differences between the two, one of which relates to immunity. Legal technicalities aside, there appears to be expert consensus that supremacy rests with local laws and that Davis is therefore subject to the law of the land as expressed in the DACP 1972. It is then up to the courts to act in accordance with local law, and with no reference to international laws or treaties that have no local standing. The Americans are taking a literal position regarding the Vienna Convention and seem to be wanting to ride roughshod over our Constitutional law. Much is now at stake, and yesterday's recognition of 'partial immunity' for Davis by our foreign office may be the device which allows both sides 'wiggle room'. Three of our citizens are dead at the hands of US citizens; a fourth is dead as 'collateral damage'. We must not allow ourselves to be bullied into a position where we are by some sleight-of-hand presented as the 'baddies' in this shootout. And Uncle Sam needs to understand that might is not always right.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

Mardan massacre

 

Friday, February 11, 2011

 

The strike by a 14-year-old bomber, dressed in school uniform, at a military recruitment point in Mardan, is in many ways a terrifying event. More than 20 people have been killed, most of them young cadets taking parts in a parade. Some were only a few years older than the bomber – who of course belonged in school, and not on the streets clad in a suicide vest. The use of teenagers so young in this fashion is obviously made to put security personnel off guard and catch them unawares. The tactic seems to have worked in Mardan, as it has in the past in other places. Few would suspect that children can be ruthless killers, able to inflict the kind of havoc we saw at the military centre. The militants seem recently to be extending this tactic. A woman is reported to have been among six persons arrested in Bajaur. It is believed she was a would-be bomber. Security forces in the agency got wind of a house where women bombers were apparently being trained. Last year, in December, a woman suicide bomber blew herself up near a World Food Programme distribution point at Khar in the same agency, killing 47 people. The problems that arise from a security perspective when women are used as bombers are many, given that social norms dictate they are not usually stopped or searched at check-posts where mostly only male personnel are present.

The Mardan incident, as well as the arrests in Bajaur indicate that the killers are as active as ever. The brief lull we had seen some months ago in the rate of the blasts and bombings everywhere in the country has not lasted. Indeed, the terrorists seem to have moved ahead of security personnel again, developing new means to elude detection. They also seem able to run training centres to recruit bombers without check. There is simply no way of saying how this reality can be changed – but it is obvious that some way to achieve this will have to be found if our future is to be secured and if we are to ever escape the dreadful scourge of bombings that have already decimated – literally and metaphorically – so much of our society.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

THE SAVIOUR ITCH ALIVE ONCE AGAIN

AYAZ AMIR

 

This itch can subside for a while but, Allah be praised, it never wholly disappears. The army can't look to its own problems and the evidence is scant that it has fully imbibed the lessons of the past. But let a civilian government ride the saddle if only for a while and the saviour syndrome – the delusion besetting every army command that it knows best and it alone can rescue the nation from the abyss – rises irresistibly to the fore.

Civilian governments are often their own worst enemies and there is little in their record of achievements to put in the history books. But Pakistan's tortured journey down the years is testimony to one overriding conclusion: the army's blunders when in power leave civilian blundering in the shade. This is a lesson which should be inscribed in stone. Yet it seems to be the fate of every Pakistani generation to learn it anew.


There is another factor encouraging the saviour syndrome. Unlike the Roman custom, which had much to commend it, of a slave standing next to Caesar as he returned from a successful campaign and was awarded a triumph, and whispering into his ear, "Remember Caesar, thou art mortal", around every army chief there soon assembles a crowd of eager patriots who assure him of his immortality if only he were to seize power.

The four army chiefs – from Ayub to Musharraf, with Yahya and Zia in between – who tried their hands at saving the nation, each leaving a sorry mess behind, were led down this same road of perdition by similar councillors dressed in the robes of patriotism.


Whether in the centre or the four provinces, but most assuredly at the centre, this has been a dispensation overwhelmed as much by a multitude of problems as by the inability to do much about them. There's no denying this. Leadership has been at a discount and knavery, also known as corruption, has thriven.

But the answer to this in any rational democracy – I being the first to concede that this is not a rational state, much less a rational democracy – should lie in the roll of the dice of the next elections. Let the people's court, supposedly the highest court but we know what the truth of this illusion is, render its verdict. If the people are tired of the existing parties, as pundits with no connection to practical politics say they are, let there be a search for alternatives. Now is the time to head the gathering storm...that is, if there is such a storm.


Indian corruption – consider only the 2G or telecom scandal – dwarfs any concept of corruption we may have in this country. Yet no one in India says the army should step in and cleanse the national stables.


Three years of this dispensation are already over (a minor miracle in itself). A year remains, after which we will be in election year. Then let any new knights waiting in the wings (although it is hard to see any) take up the challenge of saving Pakistan...a challenge as fresh today as 63 years ago when Pakistan was born. We are forever saving ourselves...and screwing ourselves in the process.


If prophets of doom, suddenly emerging from the woodwork, are to be believed – and there is no telling if their grim warnings are on the mark or merely a symptom of their fantasies – we are about to screw ourselves again. If we are to take their warnings seriously, the army command, worried to death about the state of the economy and of things in general, is once again mulling over the prospect of – you've guessed it – saving the nation.

True, the national scene presents a chaotic picture. Religious forces, left in the wilderness after the 2008 elections, have suddenly discovered a cause in the blasphemy issue and are pumping it for all it is worth. The Raymond Davis affair – Americans sure know how to act foolishly – has become another national headache. The PIA strike adds to the picture of a nation in disarray. And we don't need tutorials about the more deep-seated problems plaguing our rather vulnerable fortress of Islam.


But what's the answer to this chaos? Army intervention which alarmist soothsayers are not only predicting but in some cases virtually encouraging, or a continuation of the present mess in the hope that this too will pass, as all things must, and that when elections come a relatively better alternative should be on offer?


My generation (baby boom 1950) has endured a lifetime of military adventures conducted ostensibly for the loftiest of motives only to see the country pay a heavy price for its Bonapartes and Caesars. Unnecessary wars and national humiliation, the alienation of East Pakistan, the preoccupation with strange strategic doctrines, have been some of the fruits of military interventionism. Do we need to go down this road again?


That the nation will not survive the loot and corruption of the present order is a storyline no different from the hoary chestnuts pulled out of the fire to justify earlier coups. The army already is managing war and peace issues with little input from the civilian sector. American visitors, military or civilian, conduct their more meaningful talks in GHQ, Rawalpindi, not the wan and tepid power centres of Islamabad.


The Supreme Court under the baton-ship of My Lord the twice-resurrected Iftikhar Chaudhry is playing an activist role in various matters, and rightly so. When political governments fail to act someone will take up the slack, either the military or the courts. And it is much better that the courts should perform this function rather than anyone else. This is how a democracy should function.


Let's not forget another factor. A civilian government, its mantle however tattered and moth-eaten, provides a constitutional umbrella under which other institutions can function better than if left to their own devices. My Lord Iftikhar Chaudhry would be looked upon as an encumbrance and an irritation in a military-dominated order...the old problem of two swords in one scabbard. The army has been able to do what it has done in Swat and South Waziristan because it had political backing and because it was able to concentrate on the task at hand instead of being distracted by the task of running the country.


Of course we can do with better governance and less corruption and ineptitude. The Raymond Davis affair could have been handled better and PIA affairs under a managing director who shouldn't be there – I saw him in the Defence Committee of the National Assembly two days ago and it wasn't funny – shouldn't have been allowed to come to the present pass. And surely there are better ways of running a presidency than slaughtering a black ram (bakra) every day to ward off the evil eye (I joke not).


But we are stuck with these things just as we are stuck with terrorism and the wages of religious extremism. If at all we are lucky – about which, as the shades of evening approach, I have my growing doubts – and we manage to turn things around it is not going to happen overnight. The harvests we are reaping were sown long ago.

Should we not show similar patience about our corrupt and creaking democracy? Or should we be patient about everything else and froth at the mouth only when it comes to weighing democracy in the scales?

Kemal Ataturk rallied the Turkish nation when he had been dismissed from the Ottoman army. Other commanders rallied to his standard but he himself mounted no putsch. All the elements comprising the Turkish resistance against foreign intervention, and the humiliating terms of the Treaty of Sevres, freely chose him as their leader. Gen de Gaulle created the Fifth Republic not when in uniform but long after he was out of it.

Saving Pakistan should begin by going to the Pakistani people, as Mustafa Kemal went to the Turkish people and de Gaulle to the people of France. The long trek into the heart of the Pakistani nation – there to forge and temper something new – who is going to undertake this journey?

 

Email: winlust@yahoo.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

EGYPT'S STOLEN 'REVOLUTION'

DR MUZAFFAR IQBAL

 

Cairo's Tahrir square is fast losing its appeal for the western media. In Pakistan, there has been little awareness of the momentous events unfolding in Egypt. The Arab world is seized by it, but mostly because of Al Jazeera and because of the possible implications it carries for the dictators who rule it. Yet, for all practical purposes, Egypt's youth has become hostage to those who have stolen its revolution.


What started rather abruptly saw some of the best on-site reporting. The use of the Internet and Facebook also took a new turn. Together, they produced stunning images and captivating narratives during the last three weeks. These can easily be called the best of what has appeared in the media in recent years. But is that all? Is this the end of this strange uprising which has been called a revolution?


To be sure, a revolution it is not. Anyone serious enough to look up the word "revolution" in a dictionary is bound to find its use problematic for what took place in Tunis and what is taking place in Egypt. To be honest, one cannot speak of the Tunisian or the Egyptian "revolutions" in the same manner in which one speaks of the French Revolution (1789-1799); the Russian Revolution of 1917; and the Chinese Revolution (1927-1949). True, there is a certain amount of energy akin to a revolutionary zeal, but Cairo's Tahrir Square has nothing in common with any known revolution in history. It is a mass of oppressed people who have found a voice, but the best a mass of vocal people without a revolutionary leadership can hope to do is bring down one dictator and replace him with another face. That is exactly what happened in Tunis and that, sadly, may be the end of this saga in Egypt. Yet, one hopes it will not end with a whimper.


Initially, there were comparisons with the fall of the Berlin Wall, but soon, those were set aside and focus shifted to violence and the death of as many as 302 people. But the blood has hardly dried and the western media has already found other topics more appealing. Or is it Mr Obama and Ms Clinton who have finally put a gag on the sound and the fury?


No matter how one looks at these tremendous events, there is no better proof of the west's hypocrisy, that is, if one needs one more proof. From Washington to Bonn, there has been a unanimous display of the same double standards one is loath to repeat. Ultimately, the script reads: "Democracy must remain a catchword for the Muslim world, but it must never be put in place. If one ex-air force general, Mubarak, is in danger, find another ex-intelligence general, Suleiman, who can take over and safeguard our interests." No wonder, Fox News has already raised flags about the Muslim Brotherhood just about to take over America's key partner in the Middle East!

There is nothing new in these double standards. Anyone who has studied American foreign policy already knows this. But this time around, it is particularly painful because the youth in Egypt has put all it has on line for a change that they cannot seem to bring about because there is no leadership. The so-called "wise elders" they initially found turned out to be such a disappointment for them, although if one had just looked them up on the internet, one would have never expected anything from them.


A revolution means destruction of one system and enactment of another. Without destruction, there is no revolution. This need not be violent, but the entire state apparatus has to be drastically re-formed in order for a revolution to take place. This means a change of rules; a change of procedures; and a change of those who sit in high offices. This is what Egypt's youth is craving for. Now, for the sixteenth day in a row, they are still out there, chanting slogans, braving teargas and bullets and midnight knocks but the western world is increasingly becoming callous to these brave young men who are angry but not angry enough. They want a change but don't yet know how. Who are out there, shaking off their fear with which they were born – it has been thirty years!

As these words are being written, there is one significant change taking place. Young men and women have moved out of Tahrir square and have arrived where they should have been in the first place: in front of the parliament building. If they succeed in reaching the presidential palace, then a helicopter is bound to appear to take the 30-year-old terror out of Egypt. But even that will not be enough as the next in line is of the same mould, unless the helicopter is big enough to take them all!


This will, however, still not be enough as it is not just one, two or ten persons; it is the entire rotten system, built by these men who have made Egypt an American colony that needs to go. And that system is thirty long years old, with its steel nails reaching down to the lowest policeman who makes his living by taking bribes and who goes on the streets to terrorise people. That system is surely shaking, but Egypt's stolen revolution yearns for a leader to appear on the scene. This may not be impossible as the youth learns to rely on its own wisdom rather than finding wise old men who cannot even imagine a future without the "fatherly figure" they are supposed to remove from the scene.


Uncertain as Egypt's future now looks, this stolen revolution is also bound to produce waves all across the Middle East and even beyond. Only time will tell what kind of waves will appear from Cairo during the next few days, but no one should think that Egypt will remain the same, even if its revolution is stolen.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: quantumnotes@gmail.com

 

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 I. THE NEWS

OPINION

'BETWEEN A ROCK AND

S KHALID HUSAIN

 

The originator of the phrase "between a rock and a hard place" would regret if he were alive that he did not keep the setting in Pakistan in mind, to save his phrase from becoming a mockery. The phrase implies someone's being at a stalemate, in a bind, or in a quandary, such as one in which the rulers have kept the country for the past over three years.


No halfway competent government would make a habit of sticking the country between a rock and hard place on any issue, and almost never on every issue. The country under the present PPP government has been immovable on almost all issues. What the PPP government has shown in the process is that being stuck like this is not a big deal for it, especially in terms of things like the army's "strategic depth." Then being stuck can be useful, even if for a time. Time at the tiller is what the present rulers seek most, for more moneymaking.

The very first issue on which the PPP government got the country stuck was the murder of the ruling party's chairperson, Benazir Bhutto. Instead of moving with speed to unravel the mystery behind the murder and expose the culprits, the PPP government chose to take a route which was guaranteed to lead to nowhere. And that seems exactly where it wanted to go, when the government asked the UN to investigate the murder.

However, the president caused the issue to become stuck still further by expressing reservations on the UN report, terming it "incomplete" and as "leaving many things out," even as slogans of "Bibi hum sharminda hain tere qatil zinda hain" ("Bibi, we are ashamed your murderers are alive") drowned the president's address at her mausoleum on the third anniversary of the murder. The murder remains stuck between the PPP followers' clamour for the solution of the crime and the ugliness its solution is likely to uncover.


The invalidation of Musharraf's PPP-specific National Reconciliation Ordnance (NRO) by the Supreme Court is stuck between what is lawful, but could be hurtful for almost the entire top echelon of the PPP and more than eight thousand others, and what is defiance of court order and, therefore, unlawful, but could be "beneficial" to this group. The Supreme Court is biding its time as the PPP government, led by its minister of law, uses every trick in the book to undermine the court order, even if the entire legal fraternity has to be corrupted for the purpose.

Corruption is one of the few things which are not stuck. In fact, it is the only thing the present rulers have managed to get really, really unstuck. Corruption is now a habit, an addiction, an obsession, and the country an El Dorado for the corrupt of the land. There are no exceptions, not even the Hajis, who were merrily robbed in broad daylight by the ministry of religious affairs, no less, with no bearded conscience being pricked. The Hajis' welfare has been entrusted to the ministry of foreign affairs from next year. Too late. The surfacing of visa letters and visa issuance scams are corroboration that the corruption epidemic has spread to the Foreign Office, and to our embassies abroad.


The PPP government, far from leading the country towards good governance, has instead caused it to be stuck between the ruling party and extremist religious parties, which in the past have consistently been rejected at the polls. There was the strong hope that the PPP, the MQM and the ANP would be a barricade against extremism. But along came Mumtaz Qadri to murder Salmaan Taseer in cold blood.


The barricade that was to be collapsed like a house of cards. Interior Minister Rehman Malik, the man who received a presidential pardon for his conviction by the country's highest court, pronounced words that seemed to say he would do exactly what Mumtaz Qadri did if he came across a "blasphemer." Not wait for his trial by a court of law but gun him down. The National Assembly's and Senate's refusal to offer fateha for Taseer's soul amounted to endorsement of Qadri's act by the two bodies. That the MQM also joined in the refusal was unfortunate.

If the government finds itself stuck between the religious parties and Americans on the drones, and on the issues of Aasia Bibi and Raymond Davis, it is the result of the incompetent, corrupt and characterless leadership, and a result of its wheeling and dealings. None of these has been remotely in the country's interest, but strictly of personal benefit for the coterie of leaders. By its incompetence and poor governance, the PPP government has played into the hands of extremist parties by continually providing grist for their street politics.

Inflation and rising prices are caught between world trends and the business interests of those who occupy positions of power or have a nuisance value. If diesel prices break all barriers, there are personal interests involved, including the interests of some individuals belonging to the bearded variety. So also with sugar, flour, bus fares and all the rest. The process of education is caught between promotion of education and protection of ake-degree holders through weakening institutions responsible for higher education.


There is not an issue on which the country is not stuck between a rock and a hard place. The rock often is presidential ego, which prevents recognition and correction of mistakes. PIA and the Pakistan Cricket Board are two glaring examples of ego scoring over institutional well-being. The presidential nominees who are heading the two hapless organisations have made it a habit to create one crisis after another.


In their demeanour and their management and work style, such as ignoring the duly constituted board of directors, or giving short shrift to management and decision making processes, the worthies emulate their mentor's approach, with similar disastrous results.


The writer is former corporate executive. Email: husainsk@cyber.net.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

PIRACY AS CULTURE

ENAM HASAN

 

Karachi is slowly recovering its status of a hub of cultural activities, despite the countrywide wave of terror which keeps the city on edge. The theatre has been revived, new cinemas are opening, art exhibitions and fashion weeks are held every now and then, as are literary and other festivals. But none of this has produced a change of thinking among our educated people in terms of persuading them that the internationally protected intellectual property rights deserve respect and protection in Pakistan.


One glaring, and current, example of violations of intellectual property rights in Pakistan is the production of Bombay Dreams, which is being staged at the Arts Council Theatre in Karachi until Feb 20. Shah Sharabeel is a famous theatre director who brought us Moulin Rouge last year for a successful round of houseful entertainment for four weeks under the auspices of Centre Stage Productions, sponsored by a private cellular company with a contribution of millions of rupees. But this time around, he went one step ahead in advertising and launching Bombay Dreams: presenting himself as its director and the Oscar-winning A R Rahman its composer.

Bombay Dreams was basically a production of Andrew Lloyd Webber, who had based it on a book by Meera Syal and Thomas Meehan. A R Rehman composed its music and Don Black penned the lyrics. The first production of Bombay Dreams opened in 2002 in London, and later it became a Broadway success.

However, people were misled into believing that Mr Sharabeel had managed to have A R Rehman on board for the score of his adaptation of the play. According to media reports, he has now admitted he did not have the permission of either A R Rehman or the Really Useful Group (Rug), which has the copyright of Bombay Dreams.

Sharabeel is on record saying: "Pakistan is a Third World country, probably like Uganda, to A R Rahman. Why would he even care that he is being given credit or not?" Obviously, why would A R Rehman care! But Shah Sharabeel should have cared, that he was not plagiarising something, using A R Rehman's global celebrity status to his own advantage. But Rug official Jo Preston does seem to care, and has been reported to be initiating legal proceedings against Centre Stage Productions


All of this is taking place despite the fact that Pakistan is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organisation, which requires that governments take measures against violations of intellectual property rights. It is not enough for a country to have intellectual property laws on its statute books. They have to be enforced to protect artistes and other creative persons worldwide from piracy and unauthorised use of their artistic creations.

The World Trade Organisation requires that its members ensure protection of copyrights and act against those guilty of violating them. The WTO has in place the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Part 3 of the agreement states: "Governments have to ensure that intellectual property rights can be enforced under their laws, and that the penalties for infringement are tough enough to deter further violations."

Regardless of the probable penalties of such violations, Shah Sharabeel continues to stage the production as his own. This is also evidence of what respect the famous director accords to the laws of the country he lives in. Meanwhile, the Intellectual Property Organisation of Pakistan and other officials concerned, from the censors to the taxation department, have apparently turned a blind eye to this piracy. This does not reflect well on the culture of the cultured in our country.

The writer is a print journalist.

 

Email: enam.hasan@live.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

THE IMPACT OF THE DAVIS AFFAIR

SHAFQAT MAHMOOD

 

The American Embassy in Islamabad and the Pakistan Foreign Office have declared that relations between the two countries are strong. This is a sure sign that they are not. Diplomacy and doublespeak often go together.

The 'Raymond Davis' affair – the name in inverted commas because who knows what his real identity is – has blindsided both governments. It is literally a bolt from the blue and most unwelcome for all concerned. There were enough issues to sort out already. This imbroglio has made it more difficult.


Both parties have good reasons to take a stand although no one is particularly happy about it. Events are just forcing them in a direction they cannot avoid. The Americans have to stand by their undercover operative to avoid a negative impact on others assigned similar missions. The Pakistanis have to worry about a political fallout that could be severely damaging.


Whether 'Raymond Davis' has diplomatic immunity would now be determined by the Lahore High Court but there is little doubt that he was on an undercover assignment. This by itself is not unusual; most countries have similar operatives. His exposure and involvement in the killings has exposed a schism that has been brewing for some time between the two countries.


The Americans are deeply suspicious about the cooperation that the Pakistani intelligence agencies have been extending in the campaign against Al Qaeda and other extremist organisations. They often accuse them of duplicity through leaked stories in the American media that suggest shadowy links between for example, the ISI and radical groups.


The Pakistanis deny this vehemently and ask for proof that the Americans have been unable to provide. They are also deeply offended by the cases initiated against the DG ISI in American courts. This development and the unending stream of allegations against the ISI are seen as a pressure tactic employed to put the organisation on the defensive.


This uneasy relationship between the intelligence agencies of the two countries prompted the Americans to seek an increase in their undercover personnel in Pakistan. It was resisted and for a long time visa applications put up by the American government were not approved.


This led to a standoff with the Americans claiming that they cannot provide aid unless they have people in place to monitor it. The message was clear; allow our people to come in or money will not flow. The Pakistani government finally caved in and since then there has been a surge in American footprint on the ground.


The 'Raymond Davis' episode was waiting to happen. With a sizeable number of American undercover operatives moving freely in the country, problems were bound to occur. It started at security checkpoints where they would refuse to identify themselves or get their vehicles searched. There were a number of standoffs.

People like Raymond Davis, operating alone, were particularly vulnerable to a serious incident. One, an unaccompanied white person would attract attention, not only of curious passersby, but also of petty criminals wanting an easy score. This could have been the reason Mr Davis was accosted in Lahore.


Secondly, someone on an undercover assignment and all by himself has greater propensity to feel paranoid. Trained to react instinctively to real or perceived danger, he or she is more likely to reach for a gun under pressure, as compared to an ordinary tourist. The surprise is not that the Davis incident happened; more that other such incidents have not occurred.


How far will this go and how would it affect Pak-US relations? After the Lahore High Court has taken cognizance of the matter, there is no way that the provincial or the federal government can just release Mr Davis. American pressure for his instant release demonstrates a degree of contempt for Pakistani institutions. Maybe, the political wing in the embassy, which should have better reading of the situation, can advise everyone that the government cannot dictate to the judiciary.


It seems to me that the federal government is veering toward granting him diplomatic immunity. But, the problem is that if the court considers the reasoning unsatisfactory, there is not much that the government will be able to do.


If such an eventuality does occur, it would be, for PPP government, the worst of both worlds; getting negative political fallout without actually securing Davis' release. It needs to have a solid immunity case before it even considers going to court. Since national security is involved, it would be wise to seek a preliminary hearing in camera to test the waters


The Punjab government is sitting pretty because it has basically gone by the book. Since the federal government dithered about the immunity question, there was little choice for it but to register a case and keep Mr Davis in custody. It has provided consular access but has continued with the investigation. On a political plane, the PML N and Mr Shahbaz Sharif have nothing to lose. The Americans may not think too much of them, but a strong and principled stand plays well on the Pakistani street.


Will this episode affect Pak-US relations? It is obvious that the American government is very keen on Mr Davis' speedy release. With every passing day, more details of his activities are emerging that do not reflect well on the US in the public eye. But, a quick release seems unlikely. Whatever determination is made by the foreign office will have to be adjudicated in court. This could take time.


There is also the unresolved matter of the unfortunate bystander crushed by the consulate vehicle. This may also fall within the ambit of diplomatic immunity but so far no information has been provided by the American government. It remains a sticking point until it is resolved.


Assuming that there is no quick solution, where would Pak-US relations stand? The simple fact is that both countries need each other pretty desperately. Pared down to the bare minimum, US needs the transit facilities to its troops in Afghanistan that cannot be easily replicated. It also needs Pakistan's cooperation to make progress in the war in Afghanistan. Lastly, it worries about militancy in Pakistan and would like to remain engaged.


The Pakistani government is desperately short of money and needs every bit it can get from the US, from its European allies, from the IMF and other multilateral institutions. The key to all this assistance lies in the hands of the United States. Someone correctly remarked that sovereignty is not only of territory but of being able to pay one's bills. The Pakistani government is in the sad state of not being able to do so.


Thus, in case of a serious standoff both countries will have a lot to lose. But then, the US is a superpower and has more options. Pakistan's desperate economic straits make it more vulnerable. Even so, in the event of such a standoff, neither side will emerge a winner. It would be best for the US to understand the imperatives of the Davis case and wait patiently for a resolution.


Email: shafqatmd@gmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SIDE-EFFECT

 HARRIS KHALIQUE


The year of Faiz, his birth centennial being celebrated officially and by academic and literary institutions and associations across Pakistan and by Pakistanis abroad in 2011, began with a fresh rise of obscurantism and religious intolerance. Besides, destitution and unemployment are seeing new heights when we begin to celebrate the year. On the first day of the year, the newspapers told us that the international money-lenders ask the rich running the country of the poor for immediate fiscal belt-tightening measures warning that the state of economy is far worse than envisaged. Meaning thereby that in the plutocracy of Pakistan, the poor this year have to be squeezed further in the name of the survival of their country.


The first personal tribute we as a nation offered Faiz Ahmed Faiz, our most beloved poet, valiant trade unionist, enlightened journalist who edited Pakistan Times, Lahore, and Lotus, Beirut, ardent campaigner for the rights of the poor and the disadvantaged, peasants and labourers, an educationist who would choose to teach in the working-class neighbourhood of Lyari, Karachi, and cultural icon who established institutions like Lok Virsa, Islamabad, was the dead body of his nephew, Salmaan Taseer, riddled with scores of bullet holes.


This was not enough of a tribute perhaps. Therefore, those who had decided to celebrate the Faiz year at the official level hurriedly disowned the martyr who happened to be their political associate and gave in fully to the desires of ones who want to take this country back into the Palaeolithic age. They are the ones who know well that they will disappear into oblivion if people of this country become knowledgeable, critical and wise.


And the current rulers of Faiz's country have bowed down in front of these obscurantist forces that use religion to whip up emotions of innocent people in order to grab more political power. In the process, they continue to commit a great disservice to the faith of Islam.


Let me turn back a few leaves of history. Alys, the wife of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, was the younger sister of Bilquis (formerly Christobel) and the sister-in-law of Muhammed Din Taseer, more commonly known as M D Taseer. Taseer was someone Allama Iqbal adored and recommended to Cambridge for a PhD in English literature. He is remembered as a towering personality in both Urdu and English literatures. As a poet, essayist and critic, he made a mark for himself at a very young age. Faiz was a few years younger to Taseer and it was Taseer and Bilquis who introduced Faiz to his future wife Alys.


Another claim to fame for Taseer is his role in organising the funeral of Ghazi Ilam Din Shaheed, who had killed Rajpal in Lahore for publishing a blasphemous book. The parallel drawn between Ilam Din and the assassin of M D Taseer's son, Mumtaz Qadri, is terribly wrong, unfortunate and ironic. Salmaan, who was born to Bilquis and M D Taseer, stood up for the rights of a poor peasant woman and her likes, both Muslim and non-Muslim, who are victimised by the presence of article 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code. This was introduced in 1986 under Zia's martial rule. Bilquis and M D Taseer's son and Alys's and Faiz's nephew neither committed nor encouraged any blasphemy. He was to fall prey to the whims of blood-thirsty bigots.

Faiz will be offered more tributes this year it seems in the shape of rising poverty and inequality for those he lived, worked and wrote for. Happy Faiz Centennial!

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet and public policy adviser who works with progressive social movements.

Email: harris.khalique@gmail. Com

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

LET THERE BE TAINT-FREE CABINET

 

MEMBERS of the Federal Cabinet quit on Wednesday paving the way for the formation of the new but neat, clean and lean Cabinet. Only time would tell whether this exercise and its stated objectives are realized but one must appreciate the move, which has the potential not only to bring down the administrative expenses but also enable the PPP leadership to make wiser choices for the new body so that the next team is able to steer the country out of the existing mess.


The 18th Constitutional Amendment restricts the number of the Cabinet to 11% of the membership of Parliament but for unexplainable reasons the parties involved in framing amendments in the constitution thought it appropriate to give effect to the condition after next general elections. One also doesn't know why the framers of the clause picked up the figure of 11%, which still translates into considerably higher number of Cabinet members that a poor country like Pakistan can hardly justify or afford. However, in the wake of acute financial constraints, the Government was under pressure from the public opinion, Opposition and media to trim the size of the Cabinet as part of the exercise to reduce non-development expenditure. The reduction in size was also due after transfer of about 18 Federal Ministries and Divisions to the Provinces and in fulfilment of one of the conditions put forward by PML(N) in its 10-point agenda that envisioned dropping of the ministers with tainted reputation. Now that the cabinet has resigned, it is to be seen how the President and the Prime Minister withstand intra-party and inter-parties pressures for inclusion of people in the new Cabinet both in terms of background of the candidates and the size of the Cabinet. We believe that the Government has almost wasted its three years and has only two years to perform before it goes to the masses again for a vote and therefore it cannot afford to have same lame duck Cabinet, which failed to deliver to the people. The Government can legitimately take credit for some of the macro-level historic decisions but there is no trickle down effect on the masses, whose plight has, in fact, become more miserable during tenure of the present Government. There is alround deterioration and therefore in the first place the leadership of the ruling Party should appoint technocrat ministers who have rich background of the relevant subjects so that they are able to provide an effective leadership. Secondly, there should be no room for people with dubious character whether they belong to PPP or its allied parties. Thirdly, bureaucracy should also be de-politicized and only competent and honest people should be assigned critical responsibilities who have the necessary motivation and will to deliver.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN IN GRIP OF HEALTH CRISIS

 

IT has almost become a daily phenomenon that foreign experts and think tanks portray a dismal picture of state of affairs in Pakistan. Besides terrorist and extremist tendencies, some time they point out towards the menace of growing corruption, at times falling human development index and some time about social unrest caused by deteriorating standard of governance.


In a latest development, the World Bank has alerted that Pakistan is facing a health crisis with rising rates of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other non-communicable diseases. The report says that these diseased disproportionately affect poor families, with possible effects of disability and premature death, and worsening poverty, as people pay for medical treatment out of their own pockets. This is the state of affairs in the health sector even after years of huge spending under the so-called Social Action Programme (SAP) that was aimed at bringing about transformation in health, sanitation, nutrition and education. What the World Bank has pointed out is only tip of the iceberg, as situation in the health sector is even worse if we take into account the prevalence of hepatitis, TB and cancer; rate of child mortality and incidence of water-borne diseases. This is because the Government is not fulfilling its obligation both in terms of provision of funds and implementation of various programmes and plans aimed at improving health facilities for the people. Apart from low allocations, whatever is made available goes to drains because of corruption and poor people are left at the mercy of private sector that sucks blood of the patients, pushing them closer to death both physically and economically. It is the fundamental responsibility of the Government to protect life, honour and properties of the citizens and provide basic facilities like health, education and shelter. There is no justification to have a Government that is unable to fulfil these fundamental responsibilities.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

ISRAELI AIR STRIKES ON GAZA

 

ISRAELI air force once again raided the Gaza Strip early on Wednesday reminding the tragedy of December 2008 air strikes that killed more than 225 people. According to reports a number of Israeli war jets flew over Gaza and in three successive strikes eight Palestinians were injured while medical facilities and a metal workshop were destroyed.


Israelis continue to use heavy ammunition against the innocent civilians in Gaza who are living under tight Israeli siege for the last over five years now. Israel has repeatedly attacked Gaza since the 22-day war of December 2008. Most of those killed were policemen in the Hamas movement, which controls Gaza, but women and children had also died. Israel launches ground or air attacks as and when there are protests and retaliations from the Palestinians against excesses by its forces. In this situation there is need that the United Nations and international community must pressurize Israel to freeze fresh Jewish settlements and resume peace talks with the Palestinians because any further delay will be detrimental to regional peace and security. The negotiations stalled after Israel refused in late September 2010 to extend a 10-month freeze on settlement activity in occupied Palestinian territory, prompting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw from direct talks with Israeli Prime Minister. Benjamin Netanyahu wants to reinforce the might of the State of Israel in the wake of developments in the Middle East while it is time to inject greater urgency into the Middle East peace process. The peace process is in danger of falling victim to the revolutionary tide sweeping the Arab world. That means there is a real urgency for the Israelis and the United States to bring an end to uncalled for attacks on Palestinians and resume the dialogue. We would also urge the UN Secretary General, the OIC and the Arab League to play their role to calm down the situation because another uprising in the Palestinian territories would bring a catastrophe in the region.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

SUPER SPECULATORS CAUSE EGYPT COLLAPSE

GEOPOLITICAL NOTES FROM INDIA

M D NALAPAT

 

After nearly three decades of faithfully serving the interests of the NATO powers, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak may have been forgiven for believing that the alliance would stand by him in his moment of mortal peril. Most of the huge assets that he has accumulated over the years (perhaps by thriftily saving his salary) are in Egypt, and while his immediate family have the means to run away from the country over which they have ruled for so long, the bulk of his friends and relatives will be left behind, to face the anger of the populace. And seeing the speed with which the NATO powers have distanced themselves from him and the system that Mubarak and they jointly created and administered for their mutual benefit, it may not be long before the 83-year old gets arraigned for human rights violations and be made to face trial in the International Court. He would not be the first Third World leader to be thus thrown to the wolves by those who are clear that only their interest matters, and not that of the rest of the world, in any situation. Indeed, the NATO powers consider themselves to be the world, or the "international community", as CNN or BBC calls them


Amazingly, none of these or other news channels has identified the small group of individuals who are directly responsible for much of the unrest sweeping across Egypt. While CNN,BBC and even Al Jazeera ( whose newsrooms are filled with personnel from the NATO powers, as indeed are the key positions in almost all countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council) focus mainly on educated, "sophisticated" voices that clamour for "freedom and democracy", the reality is that it is economic hardship that has brought hundreds of thousands of ordinary Egyptians to Tahrir Square. Much of this pain has been caused by the huge increase in food prices across the world


If one were to rely on BBC or CNN for information, you would be told that the high prices have been caused by "supply disruptions", which i turn has been caused ( or so we are told) by "freak weather conditions". Indeed, there have been floods and storms. But this has been the case for centuries, if not millenia. The reality is that more than 80% of the rise in price has been caused by Speculation. The same small, super-greedy band of international speculators who almost destroyed the world's finances by their greed in 2008,are back in action, this time cornering foodstuffs so as to send prices skyrocketing.


Those bankers and others who fund such ghouls are the ones who need to be haule into prison for "human rights abuses". Instead, they are given not just honour and respect by President Obama of the US and Prime Minister David Cameron of the UK, but more than $1 trillion in subsidy, to rescue them from the economic consequences of their own crimes. Those who preach "transparency" and "accountability" to the world are silent when it comes to their own deliberate failure in bringing to justice the handful of those who stole more than $3 trillion from investors worldwide. Indeed, in the US, the new Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, is as much a handmaiden of speculators as was his predecessor, Hank Paulson


Although President Nicholas Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany have called for changes in the laws so as to curb the speculation and profiteering that caused the 2008 financial collapse, this needed corrective has been opposed by President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron, who seem to value the private interests of a handful of super-greedy individuals more than they do the interests of the global community. Fed by huge taxpayer-funded subsidies, the dozen-odd financial conglomerates that were responsible for the 2008 meltdown are again at work, once again sending the prices of oil, copper, foodstuffs and other items shooting up. This they do by manipulating market prices, free of any fear of adverse consequences, given the servility that countries such as the US and the UK have shown to them since the era of Reagan-Thatcher in the 1980s. Under Reagan-Thatcher, the making of money in any way possible was glorified, hence the boom in the financial industry since that period. While in the case of China under Deng Xiaoping, money was made by increasing production and employment, in the case of the US and the UK, money was made out of holding back production, downsizing or destroying enterprises and dizzy speculation. Such greed reached its high point during the George W Bush period, when a company that was close to Vice-President Dick Cheney became the largest corporate beneficiary of the Iraq war Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W Bush, Tony Blair. Since their time, speculators have become the kingpins in the world financial system. Not content with sending up the price of oil, they have focussed on Poor Country Debt (draining hundreds of millions of dollars from very poor with the help of certain NATO countries) and the staples of consumption of the poor. Because of the price increases in petroproducts that are speculator-driven, growth has slowed down in China and India, and as a consequence, hundreds of millions have suffered in just these two countries.


Because of the speculative rise in food prices, several billion people have suffered, while many have even died of starvation caused by higher food prices. Tens of millions more (including many in the NATO countries that are the home of the Super-Speculators) have lost their jobs because of the financial and economic dislocation caused by the uncontrolled speculation that is cheered on by both the US as well as the UK authorities


It suits the Super Speculators to pretend that the problems in Egypt are caused by the "thirst for democracy" of the people there. The reality is that it is the thirst for food and for jobs that have driven more than 95% of the protestors towards the daily marches and rallies that are taking place in Egypt against the Mubarak regime. Why there are no prorestors in the UAE or in Kuwait is because the governments there have provided food and jobs to the local people, thereby ensuring stability. However, even they may face problems, if uncontrolled speculation continues in items of mass relevance (such as petroproducts) or consumption (such as foodgrains). Once again, the crimes of the few will lead to misery for the many


China, India and other emerging powers need to raise a collective voice agains the Super Speculators. They need to shame the US and the UK into enacting laws that criminalize the efforts at withdrawing supplies from the market in order to boost prices, and that make punishable the cornering of commodities by intermediaries intent ony on fianancial windfalls. Hosni Mubarak is of a different cut from Gamal Abdel Nasser, who lived a simple life and never allowed his family to make money. Unlike Mubarak, who follows Thatcher and Cheney in looking after only the interests of the super rich, Nasser cared for the poor. It is ironical that it is the same super rich who have felled Mubarak with their speculative ravaging of commodity markets

 

Should the US and the UK continue to permit speculators to push up the prices of essential commodities, the world will witness such turmoil that the core interests of even the US and the UK would be affected. Presumably, the Super Speculators will not care, so long as they themselves are safe. Greed has become King.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

SAMJHOTA EXPRESS BLAST CASE

SULTAN M HALI

 

From information gleaned from Indian media, it has become imperative to reopen the Samjhota Express blast case. On 15 January 2010, a court in Panchkula, Haryana recorded Swami Aseemanand's statement in the blast case. The statement was recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code before a Panchkula magistrate. His earlier confession was recorded in the Mecca Masjid case, which is being probe by the CBI. Swami Aseemanand stuck to his confession that Hindutva radicals were behind the bomb attack on the Samjhota Express in 2007. Aseemanand, Aka Naba Kumar Sarkar, named absconding Hindutva militants Ramji Kaisangra and Sandeep Dange as the key plotters in the terror attack.


Sources in the NIA said that the confession on 15 January practically rules out the involvement of other groups, initial investigation into the attack had also looked into the possibility of involvement of Jihadi groups, which the UN and US both had banned, even naming Arif Qasmani (a rich Pakistani) and alleging him as the plotter and linked with terror groups. Aseemanand has been arrested for bomb attacks that Hindutva radicals carried out on mosques to retaliate against the spate of Jihadi terror strikes by India Mujahedeen and other Islamic groups as part of what he calls the "bomb-for-bomb" strategy.


In the Samjhota Blast case, the probe team has found that the bomb used in the train was kept in a suitcase that was bought from a shop in Indore's Kothari Market. The suitcase had cloth covers stitched by a local tailor.


The NIA is now trying to get details of those who bought the suitcases and covers. The Indian government on the other hand said that it would share information with Pakistan on the investigation into the Samjhota Express blast once the probe was completed. Home Secretary G.K Pillai said that India understood the concerns of Pakistan as several Pakistani citizens were killed in the blast but the investigation was not yet over. "As and when the investigation is completed and the charge sheet is filed, we would definitely share the information with Pakistan". He further said that government was committed to bring to justice anyone who committed terror irrespective of religion or anything else as it considered such people "criminals". I think in one sense, it (the probe) shows that we are willing to be fair as far as possible. If somebody has done a crime, irrespective of who is he, what his religion is, we will go after him and make sure that he is punished. He said that he hoped the message would go across to Pakistan which was yet to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attack to justice. While this is a positive development and a possible breakthrough has been achieved as far as India-Pakistan peace dialogue is concerned, following the meeting of the two foreign secretaries at the sidelines of the SAARC conference at Thimpu, Pakistan must raise the issue of the Samjhota Express blast case. The opportunity has been afforded by Aseemanand's confession. There may be nefarious attempt to shield the heinous role of serving and retired Indian army officers in the terror plots as 8-10 of its Ml officers are reported to be involved in the terror cases against Muslims. The role of foreign agencies is also likely to be exposed if investigation proceeds in the right direction. Dr J C Batra, who is a senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India, was asked his opinion on Aseemanand's confession by officials of Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi. He appeared very defensive and started to accuse SSI and its so-called history for such activities alleging that even this could be an ISI plot. He further stated that Swami's statement does not have much legal value as circumstantial evidence is also needed. He added that RSS is being wrongly implicated and there could be others involved who are not being exposed. A Pakistani parliamentarian, Mr. Mian Abdul Sattar, parliamentary secretary for planning and development, who was accompanying the Pakistani diplomats, later said that that he was told by Mr. JC Batra that the Indian Army is involved In this case and there are efforts to shield it from getting exposed. It must be mentioned here that in earlier article by Tehelka, 10 Mi officers were accused for involvement which included 01 Major, 5-6 Colonels 02 Brigadiers and 01 General officer. It is imperative that the Pakistani parliamentarian should raise this issue for discussion in the Parliament.


Three recent articles from Tehelka magazine concur on the same factors s above. 'In the Words of a Zealot' gives details of the first confession of Aseemanand where he talks about various accomplices belonging to RSS and Indian Army. In 'Tehelka scoop' by Ashish Khetan, Aseemanand goes on to write a letter each to the Pakistani and the Indian Presidents claiming that he wants an opportunity to transform Hafiz Saeed, Mullah Omar and other Jihadi terrorists through friendly talk. In a third article, it is given that not just confession but also forensic evidence piles up against Hindutva terror.


At the moment, RSS and Indian Army are under the focus and Pakistan has the legitimate right to ask for information on investigation due to Samjhota blast case. With fifty nine of the sixty eight victims of Samjhota Express blast case being Pakistani citizens, returning from India, Pakistan has a strong case to demand justice for them. Pakistan must initiate ground work in an endeavour to ask for compensation for poor victims for Pakistan in the light of Lockerbie case, which provides a precedence of such an instance. Some ground work may be initiated to get access to the accused once the case proceeds in the Indian Courts.


The Foreign Minister of Pakistan is likely to visit India in the near future for a dialogue with his counterpart. Due diligence is required to present a logical case based on cogent reasoning for providing Pakistan access to the latest breakthrough in the case.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

THE HOLY PROPHET (PBUH) OF BLESSINGS

DR JAVED JAMIL

 

Muhammad SAW was a Daee (one who invites) in at least two ways. He was a Daee as Rasul (Ambassador) of God, where he conveyed the Message of God, primarily acting as Muballigh (one who propagates the message). Then he was a Daee (Inviter) as a person, as the Most Perfect Abd of God, where he invited the mankind towards Islam through emulating his example. Both are important parts of the Islamic Revolution that started with the dispatching of Qur'an from God to His Last Ambassador and Prophet (PBUH). Unfortunately, there are people who are trying to undermine his status and functions as Abd, which can in fact be described as the most natural form of Dawah.

 

There have been proponents of the theory that Muhammad had two phases in his life. He was a Messenger of God for some time and a Human Being at the other time, his actions and statements as Messenger are to be followed and his actions and statements as Human beings are not to be followed. I have a disagreement. We have to understand that Muhammad SAW's position should be classified not as "Rasul" and human being, each of which position is isolated, but as Nabi (always since birth) Rasul (when he is conveying his message (by action as well as speech) in accordance with the guidelines of God) (So also always after his Mission started, known as ba'that) Abd (Slave) when he is following God in every action of his life. (always) Imam (when he is implementing the System)


Qur'an itself has explained in detail that Muhammad SAW was the man who was endowed with all the abilities to receive the Message from God, to understand the meaning of all that is being revealed to mankind through him and to apply the messages contained in the verses to establish a system:


Those who follow the apostle, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures),- in the law and the Gospel;- for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honour him, help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him,- it is they who will prosper." (7: 157/A)


The Quranic verses describe Muhammad SAW as "Messenger who gave good news as well as warning", as one who "allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad", as "Witness, a Bearer of Glad Tidings, and Warner" and as one who "mightest judge between men, as guided by God." He is advised to "consult them in affairs" and is admired for dealing gently with the people. He is not always addressed as "O Prophet" or "O Messenger" but is also often addressed as "Thou/you". What was then the real purpose of Risalat? Obviously it was to inculcate abdiyyat in human beings. It is this abdiyyat that makes humans worthy of salvation. And if abdiyyat is the final destination of man, who can be the most perfect abd (slave) of God other than the Final Prophet of God. He was the first who submitted to what was revealed to him. If as the argument goes he was Rasul only for a certain period of time, and at other times he was simply an ordinary human being not worth emulating, how can he be described as the best abd, and how he can be judged as what his position at a particular time was (Rasul or human) when he was allowing them what was lawful and forbidding them what was prohibited.


The argument that Muhammad SW is worth emulating only as Rasul and not as human being is fallacious for another reason too. As Rasul, he is only conveying the messages of Allah and therefore his commands are to be obeyed. But a Rasul can be a role model only for rasuls and not ordinary human beings. He must be emulated by ordinary human beings because as a human being he proved himself to be the most perfect abd of all times; and all human beings must try to become good abd. Howsoever good human beings become, obviously they cannot hope to become Nabi or Rasul; they can only hope to become good Abd of Allah. Muhammad's (SAW) nabuvvat and Risalat cannot be emulated, his abdiyyat can be.


If Muhammad SAW is a perfect Abd, and he is receiving guidance and protection of Allah at all times, it means that his personality, his inclinations, his behaviour on different occasions, his natural disposition, his reactions to various events at the personal and social levels and his application of what is being communicated to him through Nuzul (Revelation) and Wahi (communication)—all become direct sources of Dawah ilallah. As he was the Most Perfect Abd of Allah, it becomes important to know what he spoke on various occasions, how he acted in various situations and how he behaved with his wives, relatives, friends, supporters, enemies and strong and week sections of society. If he is the first recipient of Qur'an and has been charged with communicating it to the world and start its application, we need to know how he explained, interpreted and applied the messages of Qur'an. Without knowing all these aspects, we cannot hope to understand the Qur'an. In effect, Muhammad SAW was not a combination of Messenger (when he was receiving and reciting Qur'an) and Human (When he was not) but a combination of Messenger ((when he was receiving and reciting Qur'an) and Abd, which meant that he was the most perfect follower of God's Commands. Hence his deeds and sayings are extremely important because it is as Abd that we can emulate him, not as Rasul; none of us can ever be Rasul of God while we all can become good abd. (Normally Abd is translated as servant or slave but it means a passionate and conscious submission to someone; while "slave" and "servant" imply a kind of compulsion.) The Agenda of Dawah must not remain limited to invite people to the institution of Islam. In addition, it should involve presentation of Islam as a Comprehensive System capable of leading the Mankind to peace and prosperity. Dawah strategy must therefore be comprehensive. Some of the highlights of the Dawah must be as follows: 1. Start Ideological aggression against the Western and other un-Islamic ideologies by showing their impact on society 2. Stop always and only blaming ourselves for our sufferings. Introspection must be supplemented with focus on External factors. 3. Stop feeling Inferior. Show to the world that despite many shortcomings and not following Islam the way it demands, Muslims are far more civilised than others. 4. Stop being defensive, apologetic and defeatist. Attack the False ideologies that are based on economic exploitation, suppression and injustice. 5. Stop toeing the lines of the Western thinkers 6. Befriend Western people and make them aware about the designs of their political and economic masters and their impact on society 7. Develop good relations with all religions, particularly Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, but don't try to dilute Islamic principles in order to appease them . Their slanders against Islam can easily be answered by citing their own scriptures and making comparative studies. 8. Take all religions with you and wage a full-fledged war against commercialisation of evils particularly gambling, alcohol, smoking and sexual misdemeanours and unhealthy sexu al practices. 9. Take left forces along with you in the fight against injustices at the international level. (Cooperate in good and piety, and do not cooperate in sin and enmity. (5:2) 10. Develop highest levels of science and technology but do not misuse them for the commercialisation of evils.


—The writer is Executive Chairman, International Centre for Applied Islamics, and Chief Editor, "Islam, Muslims & the World".

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

GIVING DAVIS HIS DUE

BILAL ZUBAIR

Undeterred by the growing US pressure, the state institutions along with political leadership have not succumbed to the ongoing diplomatic row between Washington and Islamabad. Magnitude of current crisis could be comprehended by suspension of all bilateral diplomatic activities by the United States till release of alias Raymond David by Pakistani authorities. The threats of suspending all aid and assistance to Pakistan are also emerging from Washington. So far, mammoth political and diplomatic endeavors by United States to seek the release of Raymond Davis have gone unproductive. Resultantly, Pak-US relations are at the lowest ebb since the beginning of renewed relationship in the post 9/11 period.


It all started with Raymond Davis, a technical staff member of the US Consulate in Lahore shot dead two Pakistani men on January 27, 2011 in a crowded part of Lahore (Mozang Chowk), in self-defense by his narration. Following the incident, the U.S has tried to establish David identity as a diplomat, which is neither proven from his credentials nor acknowledged by the Pakistani Foreign Office. According to the US media, Raymond Davis runs Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC, a company that provides 'loss and risk management professionals'. He has no connection whatsoever with the U.S diplomatic staff working in Pakistan. Despite Pakistan's insistence, the State Department has refused to share the true identity and nature of work Davis was undertaking in Pakistan, making the matter more suspicious.


At time when anti-Americanism is high in the country, owing to unpopular alliance with Washington and increasing drown attacks, the government is in no position to play loose in this particular situation. The political leadership has remained wary of the popular public sentiments attached to this event that also has backing of the religious parties, media and civil society organizations. The PPP led government can not alienate from the mounting public opinion and any support of mainstream political parties on this issue is unlikely. For the same reason the top PPP officials including Prime Minster has chosen the legal aspect of the episode telling the Parliament to let law decide the fate of Davis. Adding fuel to fire, the suicide of Shumaila, widow of Muhammad Faheem, one of the victims has exacerbated the scenario leaving no room for politicians to make a back channel compromise with US.


Secondly, this issue has exposed the innate weakness of Pak-U.S relations where U.S continues to treat Pakistan as a minor partner. If U.S claims the present bilateral engagement between the two countries is strategic in nature then could it be compromised by a single incident? The broader picture of relations has thus squeezed to one point bilateral agenda (release of Raymond Davis). It also exposed the American double standards in advocating the rule of law and strengthening the democratic institutions while forcing Pakistan to bypass the state laws and ongoing legal proceeding. It gives an impression that the U.S wants to strengthen only those aspects of rule of law that promotes American interests in the country. The attitude of American is making the whole scenario doubtful. Questions have also been raised that if Raymond is a spy as believed to be, the ongoing investigation could reveal the undercover activities he has been carrying out since his arrival in Pakistan. This dilemma is haunting the U.S and could open a Pandora box of clandestine activities of other private contractors in Pakistan. This would be followed by serious ramifications in Pakistan-U.S relations.

Similarly, the David episode signals a strong massage to the private security contractor employed by U.S. in guise of providing security to diplomatic missions in the Pakistan. There is a wide spread belief that these contractors have been involve in objectionable activities across countries. A news report itself suggests Davis as a covert spy carrying a pistol, facial make-up, wireless set and pictures of different areas of Multan, Sargodha and Lahore. What mission an American diplomat was undertaking carrying such sophisticated equipments. Davis is certainly among those 650 private security contractors who are currently reported to be operating in Pakistan.

Following the diplomatic row in 2010 on issuing visas to US nationals, the Pakistani embassy issued one-year multiple Pakistani visas to the US marines and diplomats without fulfilling the diplomatic and legal prerequisites. According to a diplomat in Foreign Office more than 700 visas have been released to the U.S diplomats and about 250 to (ODRP) Office of Defence Representatives, Pakistan in the pretext of (SAC) Security Assistant Cooperation providing training and capacity building of the armed forces in the Pakistan. One wonders what variety of tasks the Americans are undertaking on the pretext of diplomatic, defence and security cooperation. Presence of non-diplomatic staff should have been viewed seriously with no let go to the officials found in objectionable activities against the state of Pakistan.


Whatever would be result of this diplomatic saga, the current stance has revealed the level of diplomatic counterweight Pakistan can exert on Washington. Likewise such incidents develop the understanding of bottom-line drawn vis-à-vis state to state relations that has truly not been the case in Pak-U.S relations. Thus responsibility heavily lies on the political leadership to show some moral courage by sending a clear message to Washington that there is no alternative to law taking its course and the unbecoming foreigners have to alter their way in pursuing their duties in Pakistan.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

WHAT THE MUSLIM BROTHERS WANT?

ESSAM EL-ERRIAN

THE Egyptian people have spoken, and we have spoken emphatically. In two weeks of peaceful demonstrations we have persistently demanded liberation and democracy. It was groups of brave, sincere Egyptians who initiated this moment of historical opportunity on Jan. 25, and the Muslim Brotherhood is committed to joining the national effort toward reform and progress.In more than eight decades of activism, the Muslim Brotherhood has consistently promoted an agenda of gradual reform. Our principles, clearly stated since the inception of the movement in 1928, affirm an unequivocal position against violence. For the past 30 years we have posed, peacefully, the greatest challenge to the ruling National Democratic Party of Hosni Mubarak, while advocating for the disenfranchised classes in resistance to an oppressive regime. We have repeatedly tried to engage with the political system, yet these efforts have been largely rejected based on the assertion that the Muslim Brotherhood is a banned organisation, and has been since 1954. It is seldom mentioned, however, that the Egyptian Administrative Court in June 1992 stated that there was no legal basis for the group's dissolution.


In the wake of the people's revolt, we have accepted invitations to participate in talks on a peaceful transition. Along with other representatives of the opposition, we recently took part in exploratory meetings with Vice President Omar Suleiman. In these talks, we made clear that we will not compromise or co-opt the public's agenda. We come with no special agenda of our own — our agenda is that of the Egyptian people, which has been asserted since the beginning of this uprising.


We aim to achieve reform and rights for all: not just for the Muslim Brotherhood, not just for Muslims, but for all Egyptians. We do not intend to take a dominant role in the forthcoming political transition. We are not putting forward a candidate for the presidential elections scheduled for September.


While we express our openness to dialogue, we also re-assert the public's demands, which must be met before any serious negotiations leading to a new government. The Mubarak regime has yet to show serious commitment to meeting these demands or to moving toward substantive guaranteed change.


As our nation heads toward liberty, however, we disagree with the claims that the only options in Egypt are a purely secular, liberal democracy or an authoritarian theocracy. Secular liberal democracy of the American and European variety, with its firm rejection of religion in public life, is not the exclusive model for a legitimate democracy.

In Egypt, religion continues to be an important part of our culture and heritage. Moving forward, we envision the establishment of a democratic, civil state that draws on universal measures of freedom and justice, which are central Islamic values. We embrace democracy not as a foreign concept that must be reconciled with tradition, but as a set of principles and objectives that are inherently compatible with and reinforce Islamic tenets.

The tyranny of autocratic rule must give way to immediate reform: the demonstration of a serious commitment to change, the granting of freedoms to all and the transition toward democracy. The Muslim Brotherhood stands firmly behind the demands of the Egyptian people as a whole.


Steady, gradual reform must begin now, and it must begin on the terms that have been called for by millions of Egyptians over the past weeks. Change does not happen overnight, but the call for change did — and it will lead us to a new beginning rooted in justice and progress. The writer is a member of the guidance council of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. — The New York Times

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

LIFT URANIUM SALES BAN TO INDIA

NUCLEAR POWER IS ESSENTIAL TO CLEAN DEVELOPMENT.

THE only regrettable thing about Resources Minister Martin Ferguson's canvassing the possibility of Australia selling uranium to India with the US embassy is that the sales are not under way. If, as leaked WikiLeaks cables suggest, Mr Ferguson told US embassy officials in 2009 that a deal to supply India with uranium could be reached within three to five years there is no good reason not to press ahead now. India needs nuclear power to fuel its economic boom and Australia has a chance to further its influence on the subcontinent by selling India clean energy as well as the coal it needs.

Not only is Australia's ban on uranium sales to India a negative for the national economy, the issue is an ongoing irritant in our relationship with an important ally. India, as Kevin Rudd has acknowledged, has a "very good" history of nuclear non-proliferation, despite its refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The ban is also out of step with world opinion, given that India is engaged in nuclear technology contracts with the US, Britain and Canada and imports uranium from Russia and Kazakhstan.

The ban also flies in the face of the need for significant carbon cuts, a consideration that renders Greens nuclear spokesman Scott Ludlum's statement that "some days you can smell the uranium on Martin Ferguson's breath" even more ludicrous than it sounds. Given current technology and the limitations of wind and solar power, it is a puzzle that any politician supposedly concerned about carbon does not support safe expansion of nuclear power.

India, which recently overtook Russia as the third-largest carbon polluter in the world, is yet to extend reliable electricity to about half its 1.1 billion people. Depletion of its uranium reserves caused India's production of nuclear power to fall last decade. Its 19 nuclear plants produce only 4 per cent of its electricity, but that level is expected to doubled over the next 25 years as new plants are commissioned. Without greater reliance on nuclear energy, India's projected increase in greenhouse emissions, which are set to double by 2031, would rise even higher. The same arguments, on a smaller scale, also apply to Australia. As the holder of the world's largest known uranium reserves, it is in our interests to expand exports and embrace nuclear power when it is economical to do so. Mr Ferguson's pragmatism is welcome.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

BUT WHAT EXACTLY WILL HE DO?

THE CLIMATE COMMISSIONER HAS GOT IT WRONG IN THE PAST

TIM Flannery is an accomplished communicator and not a bad bloke, but he would not have been our choice for climate commissioner, a three-day-a-week job for which he will be paid $180,000 a year. Professor Flannery, a mammalogist and a paleontologist, is no expert on global warming and has made a hash of the subject in the past, even speaking of sea-level rises of 80m by 2100. That's 160 times the maximum figure predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In 2007, the Australian of the Year famously argued that in Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane, water supplies were so low they urgently needed desalination plants, possibly within 18 months. Australians, he said, needed to stop worrying about drought and start talking about the "new climate". Somehow, we don't think he had this year's floods in mind. Given this tendency to hyperbole, it is good to see experts and economists among others on his panel and to know they will be backed by specialist scientific advisers. Enough expertise then, but to what purpose? No doubt it placates the green lobby, smarting from Labor's decision to chop such green schemes as "cash for clunkers". But do we really need Professor Flannery to explain climate change? If he wants to be useful, he should urge the government to start selling uranium to India, pronto.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

THE FIRST CASUALTY OF WAR DAMAGES SEVEN NETWORK

WAR, TRUTH AND VIDEOTAPE CREATE A FURORE IN CANBERRA.

SADLY, unnecessary additional trauma has been inflicted this week on the widow and family of Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney. The memory of this fallen soldier and his tragic death have been revisited and trivialised, not by politicians, but by the Seven Network. The station went to extraordinary technical lengths to resurrect Tony Abbott's private battlefield briefing about this fatality, and then misrepresented it. The episode can only undermine public confidence in the media.

On Tuesday, the network breathlessly claimed the Opposition Leader "insults a fallen soldier" and was "caught on camera making an insensitive remark about the death of one of our soldiers during a visit to Afghanistan". The trouble for Seven and its chief political reporter, Mark Riley, was that these allegations simply weren't true. By now most of us have seen the raw footage. We see Mr Abbott in Afghanistan last October being briefed by Australian Major General John Cantwell and US Colonel Jim Creighton about the circumstances surrounding the death of Lance Corporal MacKinney six weeks earlier. Back in Australia, Mr Abbott had attended the Digger's funeral.

Speaking privately with soldiers who had lost one of their own, Mr Abbott is told that despite all their training, resources and best efforts, their mate's life was lost. Clearly sympathetic, Mr Abbott conceded: "No its pretty obvious that, well, sometimes shit happens doesn't it." The footage also shows Colonel Creighton and General Cantwell nodding in agreement. "It certainly does, yeah," says General Cantwell. But Seven chose not to show this reaction, which contradicts its claims of insults and insensitivity. This omission gives the game away.

It is possible to trace this story back to the Seven Network's disappointment at having missed out on video footage of Mr Abbott firing a weapon during that Afghanistan trip, prompting it to use Freedom of Information laws to seek the raw Defence Department footage. That is a reasonable quest for information, the kind of sensible journalism that digs up stories. But having invested the time and effort to obtain the footage, perhaps there was extra pressure to ensure it generated a story. Whatever the motivation, the network admits it asked sound engineers to specially enhance the audio on the footage so that they could eavesdrop on what, until then, had been Mr Abbott's confidential briefings. Still, it was one thing to make Mr Abbott's private comments public but quite another to present them wrongly as "insensitive" or "impolitic".

Clearly, in this case a television program has chosen to promote its own interests by dishonestly seeking to damage Mr Abbott. Along the way it has caused offence, produced additional distress for the soldier's family and patronised its own audience. Seven underestimated the intelligence of viewers who seemed to realise that being wrongly accused of a transgression as horrible as belittling our fallen might render many people speechless. Public reaction has overwhelmingly supported Mr Abbott and criticised Riley and Seven.

But what of the rest of the media? As a conservative Liberal, Mr Abbott is seen as fair game by many in the press gallery with some holding him in open contempt. So while they agreed the Opposition Leader had said nothing wrong in Afghanistan, many journalists still attacked him for his awkward response to Seven's claims. It seems like something of a witch trial to condemn a man for his reaction without taking into account the egregious nature of the allegation to which he is responding.

This is symptomatic of a culture of "gotcha" journalism, where one reporter strikes and the pack feeds. It also amplifies suggestions that hunting conservatives is a favourite sport of the Canberra clique.

The Australian is not published from within a glass house; all media and all reporters are capable of errors of judgment. However, the public expects reporters to play a constructive role, scrutinising the political process, rather than feeding off it, parasitically. Politicians seldom win sympathy. But no fair-minded person would think Mr Abbott deserved this as reward for putting himself in Afghanistan, in harm's way, to support our troops.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

STATIC IN THE FIBRE-OPTIC

The federal opposition has seized with glee on a new assessment of the government's national broadband network. The Economist Intelligence Unit has issued a comparative evaluation of the broadband plans of those countries which have announced them, based on their speed, cost, timetable and regulatory framework. It also ranks them based on a score of its own devising.

South Korea, which probably leads the world at present in installing and using broadband internet connections, is at the top, scoring 4.4 out of a possible 5. Australia, in ninth position, scores 3.4. But the headline figures will pain the government most: Australia's network will cost 24 times South Korea's. The claim that it will deliver one-tenth the speed (100 megabits per second as opposed to South Korea's 1000 Mbps) appears to be a mistake: NBN Co announced last August that its network would be capable of the higher speed.

And yet, is a bare comparison based on the organisation's chosen criteria informative - let alone fair? South Korea, population 48 million, has a land area of about 100,000 square kilometres, and a population density of 491 people per square kilometre. Australia's 22 million people live in a continent of 7.6 million square kilometres at a density of 2.8 per square kilometre. It stands to reason it will cost far more to equip this large, sparsely populated nation with broadband connections of a suitable speed than South Korea. Or Japan, Singapore, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, France, Spain and Denmark - the other countries ahead of Australia on the table.

The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, came out all guns blazing yesterday to counter the potential damage from a usually authoritative source. The criticism was based on an ideological opposition to government investment, he said. It ignores the government's intention to privatise the broadband network once it is established. They are fair points. Free-market theorists will purse their lips, but Australians accept that at times their government must provide remote areas - within reason - with equal access to services and infrastructure to mitigate the effects of distance and isolation. Moreover broadband is in a special category of infrastructure. By bringing many other services - medical, scientific, educational, cultural - within reach of isolated communities it can multiply many times the benefit of one connection.

Even so, it is puzzling that the federal government has resisted the opposition's call for the project to be referred to the Productivity Commission for analysis. That would have allowed all the issues in this vast, complex project to be aired and compared.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

OIL'S SLIPPERY FUTURE

Peak oil - the contentious theory that the volume of oil available to supply the world's needs is at or near a maximum, and that supplies will plateau and start to fall away soon - has received a boost from WikiLeaks. The US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, it has been revealed, was telling Washington from 2007 that Saudi oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 40 per cent. If the information he obtained from an executive of the Saudi government-owned oil monopoly, Aramco, is true, the world's largest oil producer will not be able to increase production to cover extra demand and stabilise the oil price as it has in the past.

The thesis of peak oil - perhaps unprovable - is that as world demand increases - particularly from rapidly developing countries such as China and India - the world can expect to pay vastly more for fuel, because new reserves are not coming on stream fast enough to replace those which run out. New reserves are smaller and harder to access: deep in the ocean or near the poles. They cannot be found, proved and exploited fast enough to keep the oil price down.

The one positive from a squeeze on oil prices (and it is nothing to be wished for) might be that it would force a change in transport decisions away from a reliance on motor vehicles. That might help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Governments find it extraordinarily difficult to lead such a change, so powerful is the mystique of the petrol engine and the various industry and consumer lobbies which sustain it. A market-driven change, being unavoidable, makes easier the adjustment which politicians are reluctant to face.

Yet market effects are unpredictable. The added cost of transport will filter through quickly to other parts of the economy - in particular food. Fuel is a substantial part of the production cost of most crops. The world's food markets are already under pressure from the effects of climate change. The pressure may increase as growers switch to crops suitable for making ethanol which becomes more attractive if oil is dear. At present, this effect is small, but if oil prices stay high, it can be expected to increase, so great is the pull on resources that motor vehicles exert.

For Australia, a big rise in oil prices would bring economic dislocation. Life in far-flung suburbs would change radically. Whether peak oil is true or not in all its detail, oil supplies cannot last forever. It is time our politicians and planners started factoring scarcer oil into their plans.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

NO MORE BUCK PASSING ON CHILD PROTECTION

FAILURE TO FLAG CLEAR THREATS OF ABUSE IS INEXCUSABLE.

SICKENING is not too strong a word to describe what has been revealed by Ombudsman George Brouwer in a report to State Parliament on the management of registered sex offenders. Mr Brouwer discovered that hundreds of Victorian children have been exposed to unacceptable risk - and some sexually assaulted - because of breakdowns in the system created to protect them. He concludes that this exposure to danger was the result not of oversights or errors by individual bureaucrats or officials failing to meet their responsibilities; rather, it was caused by a systemic breakdown in the management of sex offenders. In other words, the institutions charged with protecting our most vulnerable citizens - Victoria Police, the Department of Human Services, Corrections Victoria and ultimately the state government - have failed in that task.

The scope of the breakdown is frightening: Mr Brouwer established that between October 2004 (when the Sex Offenders Registration Act came into effect) and March last year, police failed to inform the department about 376 registered offenders who had reported contact with more than 700 children. What happened to some of these children is so disturbing, to use the Ombudsman's word, that he gives particulars about only two. In one of those cases, a belated investigation by police and departmental officers found the offender had sexually abused a minor. He had informed police on his release from jail that he was living with children.

Victoria Police has primary responsibility for management of the sex offenders register. The force, while saying it deeply regrets the failures exposed by the Ombudsman, takes issue with his finding that the organisation had displayed ''inadequate commitment'' to the register. Yet the evidence in Mr Brouwer's report supports that conclusion. What cannot be disputed is that there has been a lack

of co-ordination between Victoria Police and the Department of Human Services. In March 2006, in a report to Parliament on improving responses to allegations of sexual assault, the Ombudsman noted that best practice in such complex areas of public policy required a whole-of-government approach. ''The efforts of government agencies involved must be directed to working collaboratively with each other and the community they serve if there is to be long-term and durable change,'' he wrote. It is inexcusable that, four years later, the Ombudsman has had to report to Parliament that inadequate co-ordination has resulted in children continuing to be placed in danger.

Corrections Victoria should also change its practices and philosophy. Mr Brouwer found it had repeatedly failed to provide timely reports to the department on the most serious offenders and that this had undermined efforts to protect children. He wrote: ''The practice of seeking the permission of the registered sex offender before the release of information on cases where children may have been at risk demonstrates that Corrections Victoria opted to place the rights of registered sex offenders over the rights of vulnerable children that may be at risk of harm. I consider it unacceptable that the safety and protection of children was caught up in bureaucratic procedures that prolonged the process of providing critical information.'' If that mindset still exists, it must change; the rights of children are always paramount.

It is appropriate that Victoria Police, the department and Corrections Victoria have pledged to support the Ombudsman's recommendations. Their obligations to children require no less. More pleasing still is the exemplary response of the Deputy Premier and Police Minister, Peter Ryan. ''The buck stops with us,'' Mr Ryan said, signalling he accepts personal responsibility for fixing the system. All Victorians will wish him well in that urgent task.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

WINDSOR DENIALS SHROUDED IN DOUBT

IT'S known as plausible deniability. Confronted with an improper action, those in charge deny all knowledge and blame an underling who cannot be questioned. Establishing responsibility is all but impossible.

In the Hotel Windsor affair, the underling was Peta Duke, media adviser to then planning minister Justin Madden. In February 2010, she unintentionally leaked an email outlining a plan to use a public comment process as a way to halt a controversial development. Mr Madden denied any involvement or knowledge.

When ministerial staff were barred from appearing before an upper house inquiry, Ombudsman George Brouwer was called in. His report confirms The Age's belief that Mr Madden's denials, and claims that Ms Duke acted entirely alone, are utterly implausible.

Mr Madden ordered a probity review that was so restricted that it ''did not address the primary concern … Mr Madden's media plan and the alleged involvement of his office'', Mr Brouwer found. He was frustrated by the lack of records, in breach of statutory obligations, and ''by the number of witnesses who said they were unable to recall discussions and/or meetings''. Mr Brouwer also records a failed challenge by then attorney-general Rob Hulls to his power to investigate ministers and advisers.

The report finds that, based on two senior department officers' sworn evidence, the idea of using a consultation process and negative public feedback to refuse the project was raised at a February 17 meeting with Mr Madden by his chief of staff, Justin Jarvis. The wording of Ms Duke's plan, dated a week later, ''is consistent with Mr Jarvis' comments''.

Mr Brouwer pointedly notes her reference to having ''taken the hit'' for the government in a later email to the then premier's communications chief, George Svigos. The Government Architect also recalled a meeting at which it was suggested a decision be delayed until after the state election. The suspicion remains that the scandal forced Mr Madden into approving the project.

For want of documentary proof, Mr Brouwer does not make conclusive findings of impropriety, but Mr Madden's political ambitions may not survive the doubts this report raises. While the government has changed, the recommendations on accountability and record-keeping still matter.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy's first intervention, to restrict a high-rise project near the Shrine of Remembrance to the benefit (incidental or not) of influential Liberal supporters, shows why a fully documented and accountable process is vital. Any lack of transparency erodes public confidence in planning.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

EGYPT: THE ARMY'S FATEFUL CHOICE

The president's obstinacy puts the military on the spot at a time when the power of the people has spilled across the country's political landscape

President Mubarak last night laid a powder trail that could explode today in the disastrous confrontation between the army and the people which Egypt has managed to avoid until now. The military now faces an enormous dilemma. President Mubarak's brief and mumbling reference to handing over some powers to his vice-president last night will satisfy nobody. Will the army now attempt, on the back of suppressive action in the streets, to shape a new version of the Nasserist state, or will the demonstrators shouting "We want a civilian government" in Tahrir Square prevail?

The president's obstinacy puts the army on the spot at a time when the power of the people, like the Nile flooding its banks, has spilled across Egypt's political landscape in a torrent hardly imaginable only a few weeks ago. As the waters recede a new Egypt will be revealed, but still nobody knows how much of the old will remain and how much of the new will persist. What is clear is that the army must move swiftly to demonstrate that they are in charge and that Mubarak is now an irrelevance if a violent deterioration of the situation is not to take hold.

In effect the soldiers have to decide whether Egypt is revisiting 1952, to create a supposedly better version of the hybrid military-civilian state that was set up by the Free Officers, or going back to the revolution of 1919, to renew the British-style parliamentary democracy that was created after that upheaval. It is a momentous decision.

Egypt is split between an older generation of leaders, including some in the established opposition, most of whom appear mystified by what has happened, and a younger generation, who have been propelled by events into the political frontline. Many of these newcomers may be as confused as their elders. If the older generation have shown themselves reluctant to cede power, the younger generation is unprepared to exercise it. But that is the way things are when the impulses for change have been dammed up for so long.

The most notable thing about the situation in Egypt is the absence of strong leaders on all sides. The barons of the army and the ruling party are elderly, and compromised by their complicity in the oppressive system they have served. On the opposition side, both the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad Badi, and the secular lawyer Mohamed ElBaradei are also old, and they have been followers of the revolution rather than leaders. Then there are the young men and women in their 20s and 30s whom we barely yet know, except for a couple of figures like Wael Ghonim.

Egypt has not had such a youthful renewal since the original Free Officers' revolution in 1952 brought majors and captains to power. Gamal Abdel Nasser was 34 at that time. The styling of yesterday's military announcement as "Communique No 1" suggests a conscious harking back to the early days. But this is not the army of 1952, when those majors and captains gathered great popular support for their own political project.

This army has a very different duty before it now, indeed one that should be staring it in the face. Confusion on both sides, the gap between the generations, and the mixture of elation, anxiety and now fear which characterise Egypt mean that Omar Suleiman was right to speak of the need for a road map, but the correct one is not the regime-friendly path he was pushing last night as he called for the protesters to leave the streets and return to work.

The military needs to isolate Mubarak and help install a national unity government which has representatives of every group and class, including some military officers, but not dominated by them. In the end the army needs to move out of politics. But before then it has the choice between facilitating change or blocking it, with possibly bloody results. Like the rest of Egypt, the army must break with the past.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF … SIR JOHN ROSE

A BUSINESSPERSON WHO STEPS DOWN FROM THE HELM OF A COMPANY USUALLY DOES NOT DESERVE THE ENCOMIUMS THEY RECEIVE

A businessperson who steps down from the helm of a company usually does not deserve the encomiums he or she inevitably receives. Sir John Rose, who yesterday delivered his last annual results as boss of Rolls-Royce, is an exception. Vince Cable has taken the unprecedented step of praising him as "a tremendous business leader" who had also made "a huge contribution … to strategic thinking both within business and government on growing global market share". The business secretary is unlikely to shower such congratulations on, say, Eric Daniels when he leaves Lloyds. Sir John stands out for two main reasons: his personal achievement, and his role as a sincere advocate for manufacturing in a more diverse economy. Since 1996, when he took over as chief executive, Rolls' profits have gone up more than fivefold. The company has gone from aerospace also-ran to ranking in the global industry's top two. He did this despite grumbling from fund managers over his investments in developing new engines that would take decades to pay off, and in the face of the fashionable view that British manufacturing was in inevitable decline. Sir John has kept good-paying jobs in Britain, and come up with plans for an apprentice academy in Derby. "There are only three ways to create wealth – you can dig it up, grow it or convert something in order to add value," he remarked in 2009. "Anything else is just moving it about." Which is not a bad way of summing up Britain's bubble years.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM: ALTERNATIVE CURRENTS

AV IS A DEVELOPMENT OF HUGE POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE THAT IS INDISPENSABLE IF THE CREAKING AND TAINTED SYSTEM OF WESTMINSTER POLITICS IS TO BE REINVIGORATED

There is a right way to reshape the rules by which elections are run, and a wrong way. The parliamentary voting system and constituencies bill, which would pave the way for the introduction of the alternative vote, cutting the number of constituencies from 650 to 600 and transforming the way the Boundary Commissions work, is the wrong way. Unfortunately it has damaged not only the coalition and the opposition, but politics itself. It has been rushed through the Commons and filibustered in the Lords, a flawed process of scrutiny that has done little to improve a bill that wrongly shackled together two quite separate propositions. It is unrealistic to suppose constitutional reform could ever be motivated exclusively by an unpolluted pursuit of the ideal, but the country deserved better than this. Yet if, as now seems likely, it finally makes the statute book on Wednesday, it will be welcome, for it will at last pave the way for a referendum on electoral reform to be held with the local elections on 5 May. The danger is that the parliamentary tactics will colour the referendum debate.

The alternative vote is only a small and, arguably, imperfect advance, as our reporting of it today shows, but it is also a development of huge political significance that is indispensable if the creaking and tainted system of Westminster politics is to be reinvigorated. It offers the chance of change to voters who are crying out for it. But this may be jeopardised by the process of delivering it. Hitching constituency boundary reform, which will advantage the Conservatives, with the AV referendum, which is a direct boost to the Lib Dems, was a low but effective piece of political gamesmanship that left Labour in trouble. The constitution, as an abstract idea, has never been a first-order issue for voters, and all the less so when they are worried sick about their jobs and their pensions. Meanwhile the party itself is divided over AV, opposes the equalising of constituencies and has a strong case to make over the way the legislation culls MPs but not ministers, which will dangerously strengthen the executive. It is hardly surprising that such a complex message has failed to emerge from the hand-to-hand fighting in the Lords. But it leaves the party's modernisers on the back foot. Critics are wondering why, if Ed Miliband is really pro-AV and genuinely willing to engage with Lib Dems, he has allowed his peers to filibuster to the point where a referendum might be lost. They suspect the tribal urge to use every available weapon to damage the coalition has overwhelmed a more principled stand. That is one reason why he must come out fighting, soon. The other is more political: polls show the tide swinging towards a yes vote.