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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

EDITORIAL 23.02.11

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  media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


Editorial

month february 23, edition 000762, 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. DIABOLICAL CONSPIRACY
  2. VICTORY FOR OPPOSITION
  3. TIDE TURNS IN LIBYA - MANVENDRA SINGH
  4. A NICE TRY, BUT IT DID NOT WORK - RAJESH SINGH
  5. SWAYING SENSE AND SENSIBILITIES - SHIKHA MUKERJEE
  6. SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE IN TEHRAN - DANIEL L BYMAN

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. STEP ON IT
  2. OIL'S WELL
  3. COME TOGETHER, RIGHT NOW - ROHIT VISWANATH
  4. 'INDIAN WRITERS INSPIRE AMERICAN WRITERS OF COLOUR'
  5. POWER HAS BECOME THE ONLY YARDSTICK OF POLITICAL INTEGRITY - JUG SURAIYA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. UNCLOUDED BY PREJUDICES
  2. INDIA GUSHING
  3. OUT OF INDIA - RAHUL BOSE
  4. IN A MUDDLE KINGDOM - TENZIN TSUNDUE

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. COLONEL'S TURN
  2. AGAINST THE BREEZE
  3. WHY GROWTH MATTERS - ILA PATNAIK
  4. THE BAHRAIN WE KNEW - ALIA ALLANA
  5. VIEW FROM THE LEFT
  6. THE GREAT GAME FOLIO - C. RAJA MOHAN
  7. THE CLUELESS CONTINENT - ROGER COHEN
  8. HYDERABAD GOVERNS WITH 24X7 CANDID CAMERA - RANESH NAIR

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. INDUSTRY'S HIRING AGAIN
  2. THE CENTRE CANNOT HOLD
  3. GO REGIONAL, THEN GLOBAL - JAYANTHA R VARMA
  4. JPCS DON'T EVEN GET PASS MARKS - SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE

THE HINDU

  1. ON REAL INTERNET FREEDOM
  2. MUSEVENI WINS AGAIN
  3. FOR AN INTEGRATED RESOURCES POLICY  - LIGIA NORONHA
  4. NO LONGER A MAN THE WEST CAN DO DEALS WITH  - IAN COBAIN, AMELIA HILL AND KARTIK MEHTA
  5. IN LIBYA, THE SUCCESSION QUESTION  - IAN BLACK
  6. U.S. CABLES' INSIGHTS INTO QADHAFI'S FAMILY  - IAN BLACK
  7. BID TO DOCUMENT ENDANGERED LANGUAGES  - LUCY TOBIN

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. MALKANGIRI: DON'T FORGET ITS LESSONS
  2. BUDGET, IN VERSE - INDER MALHOTRA
  3. EARLY AUTUMN FOR THE PATRIARCHS - RAJENDRA ABHYANKAR AND SUMIT GANGULY

DNA

  1. LOOKING BEYOND DISABILITIES - KRITHIKA GOPALKRISHNAN
  2. WHEN ROAD-BUILDING IS A ZERO SUM GAME - GAURI SINH

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. WHERE ARE HUMAN RIGHTS AND CIVIL LIBERTY ACTIVISTS?
  2. BALOCHISTAN SET TO EXPLODE - BY M K DHAR
  3. CHALLENGES BEFORE INDIAN ECONOMY - BY LALIT SETHI
  4. ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT AND KASHMIR POLITICS - BY FAROOQ GANDERBALI

THE TRIBUNE

  1. JUDGEMENT ON GODHRA
  2. IT'S LIBYA'S TURN, NOW
  3. ANOTHER G-20 TALK SHOW
  4. PREJUDICES AGAINST JUDICIARY - BY KULDIP NAYAR
  5. TWO VIEWS ON CORRUPTION - BY HARWANT SINGH  
  6. ASIAN-WOMEN  - KISHWAR DESAI
  7. THE BATTLE OVER A LONG COAT

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. LOVES TO RANT, RAVE AND BLATHER ABOUT CINEMA, OFTEN AT HIS OWN PERIL

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. CREDIBLE FISCAL CONSOLIDATION
  2. POWER PLAY
  3. WHAT DOES CONGRESS STAND FOR? - ARVIND SUBRAMANIAN
  4. POINTERS FOR GROWTH IN ASIA-PACIFIC - NAGESH KUMAR
  5. CURBING THE LUST FOR LITIGATION - M J ANTONY
  6. INDIA'S GAS STORY NEEDS A SOLID BASE - VINAYAK CHATTERJEE 

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. BIG DEAL
  2. THE JPC TUSSLE
  3. CRICKET EXPERTS
  4. I BEG TO DIFFER, PROF AMARTYA SEN
  5. SHOULD PUBLIC FIGURES DISCLOSE TAX RETURNS?
  6. POLITICS BEYOND SOUND BITES  - C L MANOJ

DECCAN  CHRONICALE

  1. GADDAFI AT WAR WITH HIS PEOPLE
  2. BUDGET, IN VERSE  - BY INDER MALHOTRA
  3. REVOLUTION AND EUROPE'S MUMBO-JUMBO  - BY ROGER COHEN
  4. EARLY AUTUMN FOR THE PATRIARCHS  - BY RAJENDRA ABHYANKAR AND SUMIT GANGULY
  5. IN PERFECT BALANCE  - BY YOGI ASHWINI

THE STATESMAN

  1. 'TRASH OF HISTORY'
  2. DEFILED FURTHER
  3. COME ALL YE FAITHFUL
  4. FREE FLOW OF RIVERS - BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA
  5. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY  
  6. GODHRA MYSTERY PERSISTS  - RAJINDER PURI
  7. ALL POTENTIAL, LITTLE WEALTH  - SEAN O'GRADY

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. WARNING SYSTEM
  2. NO RETREAT
  3. THE WORLD FOOD CRISIS
  4. CLEAR UP THE MESS  - SUMANTA SEN

DECCAN HERALD

  1. GODHRA CLOSURE
  2. CRISIS AVERTED
  3. POLICY PARALYSIS -  BY HARSH V PANT
  4. ARAB RULERS TAKE STEPS AGAINST UPRISING  - BY MICHAEL JANSEN
  5. THE CLASS OF '69  - M K CHANDRA BOSE

HAARETZ

  1. TRANSPARENCY FOR NGOS IS NOT ANTI-DEMOCRATIC
  2. BY GERALD M. STEINBERG
  3. BIG HARASSING BROTHER - BY MERAV MICHAELI
  4. WELCOME SOBRIETY
  5. UZI RETURNS TO ACADEMIA - BY ALUF BENN

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. LIBYA'S BUTCHER
  2. PLEDGE? WHAT PLEDGE?
  3. THE FIRE THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING
  4. BLACK SWAN LAKESIDE - BY MAUREEN DOWD
  5. IF NOT NOW, WHEN? - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  6. NEPAL'S STALLED REVOLUTION - BY MANJUSHREE THAPA
  7. FINALLY, TURKEY LOOKS EAST - BY ELIF SHAFAK

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. WELCOME SHUTOFF OF FUNDS
  2. LIBYA, GADHAFI, GAS PRICES
  3. REP. GRAVES AND OBAMACARE
  4. 'MAN'S INHUMANITY TO MAN'

 HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - DISCRETION PLEASE, MR KILIÇDAROĞLU
  2. MUBARAKISM WITHOUT MUBARAK, OR ARAB 'PARADIGM SHIFT'  - BURAK BEKDİL
  3. 'ORGANISM' AND RAPE! - NURAY MERT
  4. LIBYA AND BAHRAIN - GWYNNE DYER
  5. ISTANBUL'S PROMISING OFFICE MARKET - ALAN ROBERTSON
  6. FOR TURKEY THE GOLDEN AGES WILL START - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  7. DIPLOMACY ON THE BRINK: FROM ZERO PROBLEMS TO ZERO TOLERANCE - BERFU KIZILTAN

THE NEWS

  1. MURDER AND ESPIONAGE
  2. BATTLE LINES
  3. ECONOMIC MANAGEMENT: PROMISES VS PERFORMANCE  - DR MUHAMMAD YAQUB
  4. THE DO-NOTHING BRIGADE  -  AMEER BHUTTO
  5. TRIBESMEN ALONE  - AYAZ WAZIR
  6. GIVE PEACE A CHANCE  - RIZWAN ASGHAR
  7. ASYLUM-SEEKING REBELS
  8. BACK TO WORK?  - CARL FINAMORE

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. NO PARALLEL BETWEEN ARAB, PAKISTAN BUT…
  2. LET THERE BE MORE THAN ONE PROVINCE
  3. POWER OF THE WIND POWER PLANTS
  4. RISING POVERTY AND GOVERNANCE - SHAKEEL AHMAD
  5. WHY DAVIS KILLED PAK CITIZENS? - LT COL ZAHEERUL HASSAN (R)
  6. PAK-INDIA WATER WAR - ABID LATIF SINDHU
  7. MAFIA POLITICS - DR KHALIL AHMAD
  8. PRESIDENT HAS NO POWER TO FORGIVE MURDERER - DR ANWAR UL HAQUE

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. THE TERRIBLE LESSONS OF LIBYA
  2. GILLARD DINING OUT ON OPPOSITION HUNGER
  3. MALTREATED GIRLS IN ALICE SPRINGS NEED A STRONG VOICE

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. POLITICIANS GET OUT THEIR TRAIN SETS
  2. STILL PART OF THE UNION
  3. A GIRL, THE AFL AND A TANGLED WEB OF COVERAGE
  4. A SAFE CHOICE FOR AN OUTDATED POST

THE GUARDIAN

  1. IN PRAISE OF … STEFAN DOHR
  2. HEALTH SERVICE REFORM: PERILS OF THE CUT-PRICE KNIFE
  3. IRELAND: A CHANGE TOO FAR

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. FUTENMA ISSUE REVISITED
  2. ECONOMY IS KEY TO SECURITY - BY MICHAEL RICHARDSON
  3. CIVIL SOCIETY MUST PUSH NUKE BAN - BY DAISAKU IKEDA

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. REFORMING PSSI
  2. INDONESIA AND THE EU: A RELATIONSHIP IN 3D - WERNER LANGEN
  3. VIEWPOINT: HANDBAG HEROES AND THE PRESIDENT - JULIA SURYAKUSUMA
  4. YUDHOYONO'S FAMILY: POLITICS OF HISTORY - ASVI WARMAN ADAM

DAILY MIRROR

  1. AS THE INNOCENTS AND THE IMMATURE CELEBRATE…
  2. PRABHA'S GHOST HAUNTS TAMIL NADU ELECTIONS
  3. LANKA IN HOT WATER AS INDIA ROCKS THE BOAT  - MY DEAR MAHINDA AIYA,
  4. VIPS INVADE CRICKET FIELD

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS...   - BY REBECCA TORR  

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

DIABOLICAL CONSPIRACY

SABARMATI EXPRESS ARSON WAS PREMEDITATED


The significance of the special court's verdict in what has come to be popularly known as the 'Godhra carnage case' cannot be overstressed. The facts of that terrible criminal deed that was committed on February 27, 2002, by a Muslim mob at Godhra are well known, but nonetheless merit mention. The mob, which had gathered a short distance from Godhra station, stopped Sabarmati Express and doused one of its coaches, S-6, in which kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya were travelling, with gallons of petrol and set it on fire. In the resultant blaze, 59 people, including men, women and children, died. Many of those who managed to flee the burning coach have been permanently scarred. It was clearly an act of pre-meditated mass murder which was sought to be given a cover of spontaneous anger over alleged misbehaviour with Muslim vendors at the station; forensic tests and a careful reconstruction of the sequence of events showed that a conspiracy had been hatched and carried out by those present in the mob on that day. The retaliatory violence that followed left 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus dead. Needless to say, the violence cannot be condoned, but neither can it be isolated from the carnage at Godhra. That said, Tuesday's verdict not only upholds the prosecution's case that the attack on the Sabarmati Express coach carrying Hindu pilgrims was pre-meditated but also the majesty of the law of the land: Calculated subterfuge and brazen propaganda by bogus activists like Teesta Setalvad and Arundhati Roy, aimed at absolving the killers of the kar sevaks, can serve to titillate the imagination of those who subscribe to perverted notions of secularism, but they cannot convert fiction into fact. After Tuesday's judgement, not only does Justice UC Banerjee's report, commissioned and paid for by then Minister for Railways Lalu Prasad Yadav to influence Muslim voters in Bihar, claiming that the fire was "accidental", lie in tatters, but the toxic canard and calumny industry, much of it located in the backrooms of media houses and television studios, stands exposed.


It would be easy to describe the verdict, as is being been done by those gloating over the acquittal of 63 (including prime accused Maulvi Hussain Umarji) of the 94 men who stood trial, as a repudiation of the charges framed by the Gujarat Government against them. That's a simplistic — and motivated — assessment. Cracking a crime committed by a mob is not an easy task; it becomes all the more difficult when there is a communal angle to the misdeed as witnesses either refuse to depose or turn hostile — or, as the court has observed, in some cases tend to exaggerate their version of events. The Government can appeal against the acquittals and seek a revision of the verdict, but that's entirely its choice. A last point that needs to be made is that it was a fair trial conducted with due diligence. The Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team was involved in the process. Therefore, any criticism of the verdict, especially by the candlelight vigil brigade, would be nothing but baseless cavil and should be disregarded with contempt. The guilty men — or at least most of them — of Godhra have been held guilty of arson and murder. They will get their just deserts. That should help bring about a closure to an unhappy chapter of our times.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

VICTORY FOR OPPOSITION

UPA CONCEDES JPC PROBE INTO 2G SCAM


With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announcing the formation of a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the 2G Spectrum scam, good sense has finally prevailed on the UPA regime. Had this step been taken earlier, the Winter session of Parliament would not have been a washout. But Mr Singh was being churlish when he said that the Government had agreed to the JPC because Opposition parties like the BJP had held up proceedings, thus placing the blame for the impasse squarely on the latter. There is no doubt that the functioning of Parliament is paramount in a democracy but the demand for a JPC probe — which the Government had stubbornly blocked until now — also reflects the sentiments of both Houses. The Prime Minister has not done a favour to the country or even to the Opposition by agreeing to the parliamentary probe. If he has accepted the demand now it is simply because the UPA regime has come to recognise the pitfalls of a continued confrontation with a united Opposition. The Union Government ultimately realised that the Opposition was determined not to blink first on the matter. It was also alarmed by the increasing number of people, including its own voters, who had begun to view the Government's obstinacy as a means to hide the truth about the spectrum allotment racket from the nation. Yet, the BJP has not only welcomed the decision of a JPC investigation but also thanked the Prime Minister for it. This is in keeping with the civility of our democracy, though a Left member did caustically remark that the Union Government had done nothing extraordinary to merit any compliment; it had only performed its "duty".


Of course, now that Parliament is functioning, there is no reason to believe that the Opposition's campaign against corruption in the UPA regime will run out of steam. On the contrary, the JPC decision will energise the drive against other scandals such as the CWG scam, Adarsh housing society scandal and the controversial allotment of S-band in which the Prime Minister's Office was directly involved. The fact that arrests have been made in the first case and the dubious deal annulled in the third should not take away our focus from the issue. Both the Government and the Prime Minister have much to answer for, especially with regard to the S-band allotment case. The fight against corruption has, thus, not ended with the constitution of a JPC; it has just begun. Meanwhile, one can only hope that the Government acts on the outcome of the proposed JPC and not discard its findings, as it has done with some other parliamentary panels in the past. Of course, given the combative mood of the Opposition which stands united on the issue, it is unlikely that the Government will get away easily.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

TIDE TURNS IN LIBYA

MANVENDRA SINGH


Faced with a popular revolt against his autocratic rule, Muammar Gaddafi has responded with blazing guns. But that won't help him retain power.


Hosni Mubarak was despised in Egypt for his authoritarian rule as well as being a 'stooge' of the United States. The popular pedestrian perception of Mr Mubarak was that of an American agent, as desperate a curse as can be in this part of the world. Not unlike the 1970s and 1980s charges and counter-charges in India about being a CIA or a KGB agent. So it was with Mr Mubarak, accused of having sold his soul to the Americans. But that was the impression from the very beginning and it was the tipping point of the popular revolt that ultimately removed him from office. Not some 'foreign pressure' or outside forces.


Which is what Mr Sayf al-Islam Gaddafi would have the world believe is happening in Libya. In one of the most bizarre public speeches in the Arab world, albeit televised, the younger Gaddafi declared that foreign agents were out to destabilise his father, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, from his perch as the longest ruling Arab head of Government. And that in this civil war his side would fight to the last round, which in his language means bullets and not some run-off in an election.


Mr Sayf Gaddafi was cocky and he was desperate. But he had a message for the people of his country and those outside. Unlike the Egyptians who implied through nervous Western columnists that the Muslim Brotherhood would gain power if Mr Mubarak were to be toppled, he was explicit in his declaration that Islamists were out to create a civil war in his country. It was his way of telling the suddenly-very-democracy-concerned West that what stands between the chaos of radical Islam and order is the Gaddafi regime, so back off from instigating a Twitter revolution. Good idea, but not cleverly done.


Unlike Mr Mubarak, the revolutionary credentials of Col Muammar Gaddafi are intact — or were intact. A friend of the Irish Republican Army, splinter groups of the Palestinians, to South African radicals, and now Mr Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Col Gaddafi has been the champion of Third World revolution. He does not have the stain of being an American stooge.


Col Gaddafi sold himself as the modern day Omar Mukhtar, the great Senussi hero of Libya and the first Arab to achieve guerrilla stardom. He tried to pose as the successor to Omar Mukhtar, the Lion of the Desert, even funding the Hollywood movie by that name. Yet, today he is on the verge of losing power. The violence against the protesters has reached the tipping point of the Libyan revolution. And Mr Sayf Gaddafi's remark about an impending civil war was perceptive for there are signs of serious things happening in that north African country.

Libya has been in a bind ever since the Italians decided to demonstrate colonial capabilities and administratively unite Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan into a new country and named it after the loose generic Greek name for all of north Africa. But Libya is not like the other three north African countries — it is sociologically and politically on a very different plane than its western neighbours. And so has been its response to the demonstrations. The violence unleashed against protesters is unlike any seen in an Arab country. Not even tiny Bahrain has inflicted the kind of attacks that the Libyan security forces have meted out against the civilian population. And the tale has only just begun.


Reports from Benghazi suggest the use of heavy weaponry and extensive gunfire. And there are reports of gunfire exchanged in parts of Tripoli as well. When gunfire is exchanged it obviously means both parties are armed and willing to let lead fly against the other. Which only adds to the suggestions that Army units or even police units are changing sides.


Benghazi is where it all began and that is where the Army is supposed to have switched sides. Benghazi, Tobruk, El Alamein are the areas that were critical to Allied successes during World War II. A stalemate in Europe compelled both sides to switch attention and it was the Libyan desert that provided the locale for some of the most vital history changing moments of the War.


This was after all where Umar Mukhtar came from, and this where the legendary German General Erwin Rommel met his Waterloo. The Indian First Armoured Division had a not insignificant role in that campaign. Benghazi is, thus, well placed in terms of history and inheritance to be the launching pad of the Libyan revolt of 2011. And it is a revolt that is being watched with great interest. Unlike Egypt or Tunisia, Libya has a significant role in the global oil trade.


Disruptions in Libya, which are being threatened, have the potential to once again make the oil trade spin out of control. Sheikh Faraj al Zuway of the large Al-Zuwayya tribe has threatened the disruption of oil supplies if the authorities do not stop the "oppression of protesters". The Al-Zuwayya tribe lives south of Benghazi and is vital to maintaining any semblance of order in that area. Benghazi, then, is a bit like what Tabriz in 1978 was to the Iranian Revolution.


The tide has turned and the endgame has begun for Col Gaddafi. His departure is a certainty; the question of duration is entirely dependent on the levels of violence he or his son are willing to inflict on the people of Libya. Akram Al-Warfalli, a key Al-Warfalla tribesman, told Al-Jazeera "we tell the brother (Gaddafi), well he's no longer a brother, we tell him to leave the country". The tribe lives south of Tripoli and the noose is tightening in a geographical sense as well.


India has a stake in Libya, not simply from a sense of military history or from lucrative construction contracts and labour market benefits. But something far more sinister and important. Libya was, after all, where the global network of AQ Khan came apart. It was the seizure of a consignment to Libya that exposed the dodgy Bhopal-born nuclear smuggler. Col Gaddafi quickly turned approver and cut a deal with the West.

The full picture of that nuclear proliferation supermarket is not yet available with India. The country needs to know more than what it does currently for the sake of today and tomorrow. It is worth investing a little more in the minds of Libya to get a clearer picture of things back home. There have always been connections and it is a question of making the right contact to get the correct music score. It is in our national security interest. The Indian First Armoured Division was not on a desert holiday during World War II. It had a role to play and so do we today.


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THE PIONEER

OPED

A NICE TRY, BUT IT DID NOT WORK

RAJESH SINGH


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his desperation to defend his inaction regarding the underselling of 2G Spectrum has made all the wrong noises. While TRAI had objected to A Raja's 'policy' and the sudden revision of the cut-off date for submission of applications, the Union Ministry of Law and Justice had proposed the setting up of an EGoM


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his structured interaction with television journalists recently justified his inaction on the massive irregularities in the allotment of 2G Spectrum on the ground that neither the Union Ministry of Finance nor the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had objected to the procedure adopted by the Telecom Ministry. He said, "If the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Telecom both agree… and also that TRAI is an expert body; if all of them are of the same view, I didn't feel I was in a position to insist on auctions."

Of course, they were of the same view: That there was something wrong in the spectrum allotment and that corrective measures should be taken. The Prime Minister, therefore, should have insisted on auctions.


Interestingly, it was not just these organisations that had objected; even the Union Ministry of Law and Justice had registered its protest over the manner in which the spectrum was being distributed by Mr A Raja.


An overview of the developments that happened right under the Prime Minister's benevolent gaze shatters the carefully constructed belief by Mr Singh's spin masters, and now the Prime Minister himself, that he simply went by expert opinion and that he could not be held responsible for the presumptive loss to the public exchequer. Let us begin with the letter sent by the Union Ministry of Law on November 1, 2007 to the Telecom Ministry — a missive that the Prime Minister very conveniently forgot to mention in his media interaction.


Then Minister for Law HR Bhardwaj was perhaps the first senior Cabinet Minister to smell a rat. Apparently upset by the methodology adopted in allotting the spectrum, he wrote to the Union Ministry of Telecom, "In view of the importance of the case (2G Spectrum allocation) and various options indicated in the statement of the case, it is necessary that the whole issue is first considered by an Empowered Group of Ministers and, in that process, the legal opinion of Attorney General can be obtained."


The Minister for Law was responding to an opinion sought by the Union Ministry of Telecom on going ahead with the allocation of 2G Spectrum licence on first-come-first-served basis and on prices fixed in 2001. An enraged Mr Raja wrote back — not to the Union Ministry of Law and Justice but directly to the Prime Minister — questioning the idea of an EGoM to decide on spectrum pricing. He said in that letter, "The Ministry of Law and Justice, instead of examining the legal tenability of these alternative procedures, suggested referring the matter to EGoM. Since generally new major policy decisions of a department or inter-departmental issues are referred to the GoM, and needless to say that the present issues relate to procedures, the suggestion of the Ministry of Law is totally out of context."


This was on the morning of November 2, 2007. The same afternoon, the Prime Minister, perhaps alerted by Mr Bhardwaj's strong stand, wrote back to Mr Raja and cautioned him against taking any measures without informing him. "I would request you to give urgent consideration to the issues being raised with a view to ensuring fairness and transparency and let me know of the position before you take any further action in this regard," Mr Singh directed his Minister. The Prime Minister also instructed him to adopt "correct pricing of spectrum and revision of entry fee".


Thus, the Union Ministry of Law and Justice registered its objection, Mr Raja dismissed it contemptuously, and the Prime Minister was all along in the loop. He did nothing. Towards the end of November the same year, came another shocker for the then Minister for Telecom. The Union Ministry of Finance got into the act, with then Finance Secretary D Subbarao sending a stinker to the Telecom Secretary on the issue. Mr Rao wrote, "It is not clear how the rate of `1,600 crore, determined as far back as in 2001, has been applied for a licence given in 2007… In view of the financial implications the Ministry of Finance should have been consulted in the matter before you finalised the deal."


For good measure, Mr Subbarao added, "Meanwhile, all further action to implement the above licences may please be stopped." The Finance Secretary was clearly expecting too much. Mr Raja had ignored the Prime Minister's directive to adopt corrective pricing and revise entry fee; he was not going to be deterred by a Finance Secretary's direction.


"If the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Telecom both agree…" — remember the Prime Minister's clarification at the media interaction. Clearly, the Ministry of Finance had not agreed to the deal. Had then the Union Ministry of Telecom agreed? We know that even it had not, if one goes by the assertions of senior Ministry officials. Neither then Telecom Secretary DS Mathur nor then Department of Telecom Member (Finance) Manju Madhvan was on the same page with Mr Raja. One had to leave in disgust while the other was swiftly replaced with then Minister's yes-man after he retired. With senior officials in the Department of Telecom registering their protest to the deal, the only way to believe the Union Ministry of Telecom was in agreement is to accept that Mr Raja alone was the Ministry.


And finally, was TRAI of the "same view" — as the Prime Minister asserted in his televised interaction? Of course, it was not. Then TRAI chairman Nripendra Mishra had actually written to the Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura — who had replaced Mr Mathur by then — objecting to the policy and the sudden revision of the cut-off date for submission of applications along with the requisite sum. When the Government machinery went to town quoting a few statements of his that seemed to endorse the dubious methodology adopted, Mr Mishra went on record clarifying that his statements had been picked out of context. "Cherry picking", is how he described it.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

SWAYING SENSE AND SENSIBILITIES

SHIKHA MUKERJEE


Mamata Banerjee is keen on appealing to the sentiments of progressive Left-minded voters of West Bengal by highlighting the CPI(M)'s role in political violence and the 'constructive agenda' of her Trinamool Congress

The dividing line between the electorate in West Bengal and the rest of the country has been described variously, but politically conscious and progressive would cover most of what is imagined about the 5.6 crore or so voters. That would suggest that what distinguishes West Bengal from the rest is rational choice; the voter makes a hard-headed calculation of what is in his best interest every time and then uses his ballot to serve that purpose or those purposes.


To hear the political class speak, the idea of the Bengali voter would be a totally different one; one moved by sentiment, open to all sorts of pressures and manipulation. Either the political class has deliberately chosen and, therefore, needs to deny the rationality of the voter or has for equally good reasons fostered the idea of the voter being an emotionally charged being, responding to tugs at the heartstrings rather than tugs at the purse strings.

Will Ms Mamata Banerjee contest the elections? Will she opt out much like Ms Sonia Gandhi did in 2004? As these rumours gather steam, the fact that the media is willing to ask speculative questions to various Trinamool Congress functionaries known for their proximity to didi, is an indication that some people are lobbying this question into the public domain to test the sentiment for and against the proposition. It is also possible that the spectre is being raised to confuse the Opposition or the Congress or someone else. It is also possible that by raising the question, it is hoped that there will be a resurgence of the original sentiment that demolished the walls of the red bastion.


Whatever the reasons, the answer from one of the Railway Minister's acolytes is surprisingly composed, albeit noncommittal. On television, Senior Trinamool leader and Union Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Ray was unruffled; there can be no alternative to Ms Banerjee as Chief Minister; the people of West Bengal want to see her as Chief Minister. His restraint is understandable given that Ms Banerjee does not have an Assembly Constituency, having always contested as a Member of Parliament. Naming her as a candidate in the forthcoming elections would trigger speculation about where she would select for the contest. By ducking the question, but confirming Ms Banerjee as Chief Minister, Mr Ray obviously wanted to trash the rumours without equivocation.

Unusually brisk and businesslike, setting the agenda for the greatest battle the Trinamool Congress will ever face, Ms Banerjee called on her supporters to work hard with "discipline". Reiterating her slogan of Ma, Mati and Manush, Ms Banerjee declared that agriculture and industry shared equal priority. Her speech was not delivered to rouse the masses; it was a call to arms of her supporters, including those who she claimed had secretly met her after being paid by the CPI(M) to attend the Brigade Parade Ground meeting last week.

By calling on the Congress to negotiate the terms of the coalition and including the Socialist Unity Centre of India Marxist as part of the alliance, Ms Banerjee is delivering a message; the Trinamool Congress will not go it alone in the State Assembly election. Drawing a distinction between Marxists and the CPI(M), the Trinamool Congress is obviously keen on respecting the sentiments of the progressive or Left-'minded' voter, especially those who abandoned the CPI(M) in the 2008 panchayat elections, the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and the 2010 municipal elections and by-polls.

Emphasising the CPI(M)'s lead role in unleashing political violence, highlighting the constructive agenda of the Trinamool Congress and so packaging the appeal to the voter in a powerful mix of sentiment and sense, Ms Banerjee is clearly preparing to be the only acceptable choice as West Bengal's next Chief Minister. By dropping all reference to the Maoists and the joint security operations, Ms Banerjee evidently does not want to stir up an issue that is sensitive. The contrast with the CPI(M)'s Brigade Parade Ground rally could not be more stark, where the names of 377 dead in just under two years were posted on pillars to drive home the message: That violence had become the leitmotif of politics in West Bengal.


As an opening statement, the Trinamool Congress's mixing of sentiment and sense was carefully calibrated to appeal to all sets of voters; the support that has consolidated itself under the party's banner; the support that is swayed by sentiment; the support that will make a rational choice and decide what works best for them.

Mobilising the multitude with all the different, often crosscutting interests at play, requires a complex organisation and a powerful sentimental appeal. The Trinamool Congress needs to do both effectively to conquer the crumbled Left bastion. Despite the speculation about Left resurgence, the pull of the CPI(M) is still very weak and often floundering. Therefore, the Trinamool Congress will need to find ways of picking up not only the CPI(M)'s cast offs but also the support that is no longer convinced that the Left is the winner.

As star campaigner, party organiser and policy maker, arbitrator and candidate selector all rolled into one, for Ms Banerjee the next several weeks will be even tougher than the long wait she has had to undergo to triumph in West Bengal.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE IN TEHRAN

DANIEL L BYMAN


The Iranian regime is all braced to curb any uprising of democratic forces on the streets of Tehran. Yet, highlighting the democratic struggle would help shine the spotlight on the demonstrators and raise the diplomatic and political costs to the regime of a brutal crackdown


Demonstrators marching in a square. A sclerotic and despotic regime employs its thugs to beat them and arrest their leaders. But the brave protestors carry on, calling for the downfall of the regime and the beginning of a new democratic future.


We've seen this movie before, and in Egypt and Tunisia, so far at least, it has had a surprise happy ending. Many US observers look to the hated regime in Tehran as next in line, reasoning that before this latest wave of protest the regime faced demonstrations over its rigging of the 2009 election, and that discontent is only likely to grow. In Iran, however, the picture is grimmer and the odds of revolution lower.


Ironically, the strength of Iran's democratic forces, dubbed the "Green Movement," and their success in mobilising so many ordinary Iranians in 2009 may prove their downfall. For the Iranian regime, unlike its Arab neighbours, was not surprised that its people would take to the streets. As it showed in 2009 when it killed dozens of demonstrators, the Iranian regime will use as much force as it needs to stay in power.


The same, of course, was said about the Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. But even more so than in Egypt or Tunisia, the Iranian military is tightly bound to the regime. For in reality, Iran has two militaries, with one-the Islamic Republican Guard Corps — dedicated first and foremost to preserving the revolutionary regime from its enemies, including those at home. Many former IRGC leaders hold key political and economic positions in the Government of firebrand President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The IRGC and Iran's other security forces are ready. In the 1990s, the regime faced unexpected protests, with Iranians voicing their anger at the country's economic and political malaise and the corruption of the regime. The clerical regime deployed Army units to put down the unrest, only to find the soldiers hesitant to pull the trigger, if necessary. Unfortunately, the regime learned: It created special police and military units for crowd control, making sure that they remained loyal to the regime over the Iranian people. Mr Ben Ali and Mr Mubarak discovered the need for such units too late.


And while Mr Mubarak and Mr Ben Ali had a small coterie of family and lackeys to help them run the show, Iran's leadership is far broader. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad are often criticised by other Iranian elites as well as the people, but Iran's leaders are likely to come together in the face of protests. They see the demonstrators as illegitimate and tools of the West. While they would rather avoid the opprobrium that comes with gunning down hundreds of their own people, they will hang together rather than risk hanging apart.


Ironically, the Obama Administration is being, and can be, much bolder in its calls for dramatic change in Iran because Tehran is an adversary and because the United States has little influence. Another irony is that the failure to halt Iran's nuclear programme also emboldens the administration. Efforts to engage Iran proved fruitless, so there is less to lose by further alienating the regime. Politically, US President Barack Obama can only benefit from becoming the champion of democrats against a hated regime, and this will help him deflect any criticism that he was too slow in getting behind the protestors in Egypt's Tahrir Square.


In practice, however, the United States calls for democracy in Iran may have more mixed results. Highlighting the democratic struggle can help shine the spotlight on the demonstrators and raise the diplomatic and political costs to the regime of a crackdown. But the United States support, even if only rhetorical, will also convince hardliners that the United States is behind the unrest and make them more willing to press the trigger.

-- The writer is the Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

STEP ON IT

 

The Centre's approach to judicial reforms leaves a lot to be desired. Notwithstanding the plethora of promising ideas suggested in recent times, movement on removing judicial bottlenecks has been excruciatingly slow. Statistics recently released by the Supreme Court provide grim reading.


The number of pending cases in high courts stands at a staggering 41,83,731. Subordinate courts fare worse: the backlog increased from 2.67 crore cases in March 2009 to 2.78 crore in June 2010. The trend is unlikely to reverse anytime soon.


In this context, it is inexplicable why, despite disposing of over 60 lakh cases since 2001, India's 1,562 fast track courts now face an uncertain future. Union law minister Veerappa Moily has indicated the Centre's reluctance to continue funding them, the logic being that within three years all courts in the country would be on fast-track mode.


But, given tardiness in correcting structural anomalies till now, there's little guarantee this deadline will be kept. Consider the issue of massive vacancies in the judiciary. As of October 2010, high courts had a shortfall of 287 judges. Subordinate courts recorded a deficit of 3,070 judges in June last. Both figures are rising. Yet little has been done.


The net result is a pathetic judge-to-population ratio of 10.5 judges per million people - the lowest in the world. The law commission recommends the ratio be around 107. Pressed to address these problems, the law ministry's response has merely been to throw out more ideas.


There's long been talk of setting up a national judicial service along the lines of the IAS to attract new talent to the judiciary. A national litigation policy has been announced that is supposed to see voluminous government litigation cut down by a third. Exclusive courts to dispose of commercial cases, revision of archaic laws, mobile courts in rural areas and the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill have all been on the anvil for a while now.

Blaming disruptions in Parliament for holding up the judiciary-related Bill is no excuse. Deficiencies such as vacancies mount because the authorities sit on appointments. Meanwhile, massive delay - running into decades in some cases - in dispensation of justice means the system largely works just for the privileged, since the less well-off find it hard to pursue protracted and costly litigation.


Yet that a huge number of cases are filed each year bears testimony to the faith of people across the social board in the judiciary. Indeed, the courts being a vital pillar of democracy, the status quo cannot continue. We must speed up judicial processes, bring in institutional transparency while addressing the issue of corruption. Reform needs expediting, starting now.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

OIL'S WELL

 

Oil and gas exploration in India is set for a boost with the multibillion dollar deal struck between Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and oil major BP. The UK-based company is to buy 30% stake in 23 RIL blocks while a 50:50 joint venture will focus on gas sourcing and marketing. In the backdrop of dipping output from its KG D6 block, RIL can do with BP's expertise in deep-water exploration and development even as both split the business risks.


Combined with its investment in US shale fields that could be buoyed with incoming funds, RIL's efforts to access cutting-edge technology and know-how will benefit the energy sector as a whole. For BP, it's the first big bang exposure to India's huge energy market, where per capita demand is rapidly growing. As a pooling of skills and resources, it's a win-win for both sides.


We could be looking at the single largest FDI ever in India: a potential $20 billion bringing the spotlight right back on us as a high-returns investment stopover. That's good news. FDI has been southbound in recent times. And, reflecting India's inability till now to significantly enthuse global energy majors, there was poor overseas response to the new exploration licensing policy's 8th round of auction of acreages.


Emerging economies such as India and China, it's estimated, would represent over 65% of future global energy consumption. So, while greater oil production and supply will be a boon, the JV - with a likely emphasis on LNG - will build infrastructure for delivery of natural gas, our demand for which may double by 2020. The government must play facilitator by granting quick approval as also by making the energy sector less restrictive. Pacts like these can help reduce yawning demand-supply mismatches and enhance energy security in a nation overwhelmingly dependent on imports. To net more such landmark deals, let's get more investor-friendly.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

COME TOGETHER, RIGHT NOW

ROHIT VISWANATH

 

India has signed four Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements so far and it isn't a wonder that all of them are with Asian countries - Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea. The CEPAs reflect India's deepening engagement within Asia. With the centre of the world's economic gravity shifting to Asia, this is a step in the right direction.


According to an Asian Development Bank report, Asia at present accounts for more than 35% of world GDP, up from less than 20% in 1980. The region is expected to contribute as much as 45% of global GDP in purchasing power parity terms by 2020. Moreover, according to a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, along with the shift in global goods production towards Asia that is well documented, there will be a boom in consumer demand in the region. Asia accounts for less than a quarter of today's middle class. By 2020, that could double. More than half the world's middle class could be in Asia and Asian consumers could account for over 40% of global middle class consumption.


Given this scenario, it is surprising that India and other major powers in the region demonstrate slow progress on pan-Asian integration initiatives and prefer to engage with individual countries or blocs on a stand-alone basis. Take Indian exports for example. In 2007-08, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) accounted for a 9% share and Northeast Asia for 14.8%. South Asia had a share of just 5.1%. For imports, Asean had a 9.5% share, Northeast Asia 18.6% and South Asia a mere 0.7%. In contrast, exports to the rest of the world were 71.1% and imports from the rest of the world, 71.2%.


Asian countries' relations within the region can be bilateral, sub-regional, regional or inter-regional. Their contours range from political, strategic and economic to cultural interactions, with some being a mixture of these. India alone is involved in a plethora of regional and sub-regional groupings apart from the bilateral initiatives with individual countries. The Look East Policy initiated by P V Narasimha Rao in the 1990s has not only led to closer collaboration with Asean but also to involvement in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). Another initiative in which India has played a major role is the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC). It aims at promoting tourism, transport and cultural linkages. Whereas Asean, Saarc and BIMSTEC are either Southeast Asian or South Asian initiatives, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is mainly a Chinese initiative. India, Pakistan and Iran are observers at the SCO.


Some of these initiatives have had relative success and others have not really taken off. But what is noteworthy is that none has a pan-Asian vision. There are several benefits from regional integration in Asia. By increasing interdependence, integration will ensure peace and stability in the region. As India and China move towards realising their economic potential, their energy requirements will inevitably rise. West Asia can provide the required energy security to the region. Similarly, some Asian economies are predominantly competent in manufacturing and hardware capabilities while others have complementary competencies in software and services. Regional production networks can be developed across Asia to take advantage of these synergies through vertical specialisation. Economic integration will be a key pillar - possibly the key pillar - of the region's future development.


It is an irony that although nearly two-thirds of the world's foreign exchange reserves are controlled by Asian countries, decision-making in the dominant global financial institutions is at present dominated by western countries. By evolving into a regional economic bloc, Asia will be able to claim its due in managing the international economic system and thus contribute to building a democratic and multipolar global economy.

The neglect in developing their own region by Asian nations is due to the interests of individual states; lack of political will; resource constraints; geopolitical factors including hegemonic ambitions; lack of leadership and vision; and weak institutional frameworks. Needless to say that any pan-Asian integration initiative will be shaped by the relations between the two largest countries of the region - India and China. Given their inconsistent strategic aspirations, however, India and China are likely to remain trade partners for the time being rather than become friends. It, therefore, makes sense for India to start by emphasising on cooperation while working to narrow the gap with China.


China, India and Japan are the three pillars on which the architecture of an Asian union would have to be based, with provisions for a reunified Korea and also Russia to eventually evolve as the other supporting columns. These powers have a special role to play in leading a cooperative effort that supports stability, effective integration and strong representation of Asia's common interests in global institutions and forums. For a while now, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been making a case for an Asian economic community combining the Asean countries, China, India, Japan and the Republic of Korea. This would create an 'arc of advantage' across which there would be a large-scale movement of people, capital, ideas and innovations, thereby releasing enormous creative energies. In the larger interests of its own aspirations and that of the region, India must heed his words and take the lead.


The writer is a project associate with ICRIER.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

'INDIAN WRITERS INSPIRE AMERICAN WRITERS OF COLOUR'

 

With book sales only second to Orhan Pamuk's, American author Junot Diaz was a surprise hit at this year's Jaipur Literature Festival. Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and creative writing professor at MIT, Diaz spoke with Srijana Mitra Das about racism, social change and debts owed to earlier writers:


Tell us a little about yourself.


I grew up in a military family which is super-annoying if you're an artist. I'm an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. I teach at MIT. I'm 42 years old. I don't have kids, my mom weeps everyday. I grew up in the shadow of New York City.


What themes shape your writing?

The narrator of the two books i've written, Junior, is a highly politicised, progressive person, piercing in his visions of racial, class and cultural inequalities and hilariously frank. He tells the truth not to shock or impress but because he can't resist it. That allows him some sort of charm. My themes have all come out of him so far. Junior's very interested in how communities of colour, specifically Dominican, Caribbean and African diasporas, assemble themselves and drive ourselves crazy.


'Crazy' in what way?

We're as bad as any outside force. In the Dominican community, we're obsessed with marrying someone lighter-skinned than us. We don't need Europe anymore for this!


Somewhat like Indians?

Just like Indians! We don't even need a Raj; we're taking care of it! There's so much about our internal formations that's really toxic and dangerous but we just accept them as everyday.


Why does that happen?

Individual motivations vary. Collective practices are possible because they wrap themselves in silence. That we're not able to talk about these things in any real way is what allows them to exist. Junior brings these forward. That's my interest as a writer. The day you can actively say, "So, everyone you guys marry is lighter-skinned than you. What do you think about that?", and you're not attacked, is the day you have the space to start changing things. If there's no space for deliberation, there's no possibility for transformation. A novel is a tiny space for deliberation.


In a larger space, has Barack Obama becoming president brought change?

Certainly. But we can't have the arrogance of assuming we know how the present will play out in the future. I don't know what long-term impact he'll have. I know there are a lot of black and Latino kids now who can imagine themselves being president of America. That never happened before. But i also know that the African-American community is as messed up as before, as poor, lacking in jobs and victimised by racism as it's ever been. I don't know what Obama's larger effect is yet.


Do other writers influence you?

I'm like a small business owner 50 years in debt! The list on my balance sheet is endless. Indian writers play a hugely inspiring role for American writers of colour. South Asian writers gave enormously to post-colonial literature. I'm a child of this. I grew up reading Rushdie who had tremendous impact. While reading Arundhati Roy's novel, I was like, 'Oh my God!' Maxine Hong Kingston, Toni Morrison, Paule Marshall from the Caribbean, the great Mexican writer Juan Rulfo, the giant Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Alejo Carpentiere...the list goes on. There's also a bunch that never gets any love and respect, science fiction writers like Octavio Butler or the African-American Samuel R Delany, probably the greatest living American writer. The debt we younger writers owe to them is greater than anything we actually end up doing.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

POWER HAS BECOME THE ONLY YARDSTICK OF POLITICAL INTEGRITY

JUG SURAIYA

 

In a political climate increasingly polluted by scams, a debate has arisen about the honesty of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The PM's supporters extol his much-vaunted personal honesty as though it were some sort of magical talisman which will ward off the evil influence of the all-pervasive corruption which bedevils not only the Congress-led UPA but also the BJP and other political formations. Manmohan is often proclaimed by his fans as being a singular rock of honesty in a treacherous sea of dishonesty.


The PM's critics, on the other hand, ask how this much-lauded honesty can survive contamination by association with indicted scamsters like former telecom minister A Raja. A man is known by the company he keeps. Which in this case is another way of saying how 'honest' can an honest man be if he wilfully turns a blind eye to the dishonesty of his associates? You might be an honest person yourself. But if you see me commit a crime and don't report it, what good - how honest - is your honesty?


This debate needs to be enlarged so as to go beyond its limited reference to a single individual. Never mind how honest or otherwise Manmohan Singh is said to be. What exactly is honesty and what role does it play in political life today?


The prospect of an honest politician is like a tantalising mirage in a parched desert of thirst. The taint of corruption that infects all spheres of public life, starting with the political, is seen as the single biggest internal threat to India's success story, more than lack of infrastructure or any other bottleneck. But though they are its most visible symptoms, graft and bribery are not the only manifestations of dishonesty.


While economic dishonesty is relatively easy to spot, as our scams show, ideological dishonesty is less easy to detect but is equally, if not more, ruinous for the country. Economic dishonesty can lead to financial bankruptcy; ideological dishonesty leads to moral bankruptcy.


The graft that we see in public life today, and which is common to all political parties, reflects this ideological dishonesty. Whether it is the so-called Left in Bengal which unleashed a reign of terror on small farmers unwilling to surrender their land and way of life to capitalist industry, or the Congress which in the name of secularism and aam admi exploits and further entrenches captive vote banks, or the BJP which hails Narendra Modi's resurgent Gujarat even as it seeks to sweep the carnage of the post-Godhra riots under the carpet of economic progress - all political parties and groups in India are suffering from a serious credibility deficit.

The only ideology in evidence today is the ideology common to all parties across the political spectrum: somehow, anyhow, get and retain power. In such a situation, what does political 'honesty' mean? If gaining power is the first goal of politics, political honesty, or integrity, implies one's aptitude in achieving those goals. It's a Catch-22 situation. There is not much point having a political ideology if you do not have the power to implement it. But having got the power to implement it, you might find that its implementation could jeopardise your power, without which your ideology is useless in any case. The solution? Simple. Junk the ideology and hang on to power. Maybe one day you'll be able to revive your ideological beliefs and implement them. Then again, maybe not.


That is the honest truth of political 'honesty' in today's India. In a situation in which honesty is the best power policy, Manmohan Singh, widely seen as the least 'powerful' PM the country has ever had - should be deemed to be politically 'dishonest'. If there were more such 'dishonest' - read 'less power hungry' - politicians around, the country might benefit as a result. Honestly.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

UNCLOUDED BY PREJUDICES

It must have been a rare occasion when the nation, on Tuesday, focused on the terrible Godhra 'incident' without immediately hitching it to its bloodier aftermath. The case before the sessions court at Ahmedabad's Sabarmati Central Jail was to determine whether the death of 59 passengers travelling in the ill-fated Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002, was caused by a violent mob of conspirators or by 'accident'. With the conviction of 31 people for 'criminal conspiracy', the verdict is that Godhra was no accident. In the scheme of things that took place in February-March 2002 in Gujarat, it is indeed difficult to not see Godhra as a simple 'cause' leading to the 'effect' of independent India's bloodiest riots. This hyphenation has not only allowed politics to muddy any unbiased investigation into the case, but it turned the whole discourse into a Godhra-Gujarat ideological see-saw. This, at the cost of finding out what really happened and bringing the guilty to justice. With Tuesday's verdict, reason unclouded by politics reigned.

The court verdict will be challenged in a higher court. One expects the political class to allow the judiciary to do its job now without interference. As an emotive issue, Godhra-Gujarat is well past its expiry date. After the carnage, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi queered the pitch by stating that the Godhra deaths were caused by a "pre-planned" attack even before any investigation was underway. Prime Minister AB Vajpayee went on to publicly ask why Gujarat's Muslims had not condemned the attack. The politicisation of a tragedy was made more 'representative' when the UC Banerjee Commission, formed by the then Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Prasad, tabled its report just before the 2005 Bihar elections, insisting that the train fire was "accidental". It was left to the Gujarat high court in 2006 to rule the Banerjee report as being "opposed to the prima facie accepted facts on record". Two years later, the Godhra Commission stated that there was a mob attack, which Tuesday's verdict confirms.

But Godhra is no ordinary case of rioting. Apart from being a spark that led to a wildfire, it also saw the law being bent to a communal tune. Many suspects were picked up and arrested simply because of their names. Which is why Tuesday's verdict is as important for the 63 acquitted as it is for the 31 convicted. Perhaps, even more.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

INDIA GUSHING

Reliance Industries has managed to get Big Oil back into India. BP's purchase of a 30% stake in 23 of Reliance's oil and gas fields for $7.2 billion (around R32,400 crore) makes it a big deal for corporate India. Throw in a venture for sourcing and marketing natural gas in India and the $20-odd billion (around R90,400 crore) foreign investment is nearly twice as large as the next biggest deal: the $11.08 billion (around R49,970 crore) purchase of Hutchison's stake in India's third largest telecom service provider in 2007.

BP has timed its entry after India sorted out issues over who owns the gas found after exploration, whom it can be sold to and at what price. For Reliance Industries boss Mukesh Ambani, the struggle to pump more gas out of the ground should ease off with BP's deep-water prospecting technology. In any case, the deal provides a more realistic assessment of the value of Ambani's concessions, which turns out to be less than what the stock market had priced in. There is another, broader, story beyond the corporate merger. Big Oil has resolutely stayed out of India since Esso, Burmah-Shell and Caltex, were nationalised after the 1973 oil shock. The pressing need then (apart from controlling fuel prices) was to build India's refining capacity. Both were achieved: India is among the world's largest refiners of oil, and fuel prices are still subsidised by the government.

The enormous refining capacity cloaks our measly crude output. Efforts to get international oil majors to prospect in India have till now been stonewalled. The only major player is the mid-sized British company, Cairn Energy, which, incidentally, is selling its Indian assets. BP's entry changes all that. For one, it signals old memories may have faded. Two, the string of finds in the Bay of Bengal and off the Gujarat coast may now be significant enough to bestir the Exxons, Shells and Chevrons. By BP's estimates, India's energy consumption has tripled in the last 20 years and is set to double in another 20. This isn't a market Big Oil can afford to ignore.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUT OF INDIA

RAHUL BOSE

'In 65 years, not a single politician has come here.' It is 5 pm, the sun is softening as we sit amid a bunch of villagers at Rehatyakheda village in Amravati district, 250 kilometres from Nagpur. It has taken us seven hours to reach Rehatyakheda. The last 35 km is a dirt track. "I am 43 and in all these years, we have had no electricity and roads. Only two hand-pumps have been installed for water," a villager tells me. I look around the village and clichés stare at me: 50% of India lives on less than $2 a day; 100 million children go to bed hungry every night; 62% lives without electricity. Rehatyakheda is a microcosm of all these clichés. It is just another heart of India's darkness.

There are just two rows of thatched mud huts facing each other in Rehatyakheda. No shops, no dispensary. There's an apology of an anganwadi; a school room so unsafe that the children study on its open verandah. There are little scrubs of farmland where tuar and chana plants precariously survive. Here, water is scarce and precious. Temperatures climb to 48 degrees in summer. If days are difficult, nights bring their own hardships: pigs, deer and monkeys rampage the standing crops, reducing the already pathetic yields by half.

The village lives in darkness; its children are taught to play in the dark. Food is cooked during the day, eaten by the light of a kerosene lamp, carefully set at its lowest flame, at night. To save kerosene, 10 minutes is all they get to finish dinner.

The nearest medical facility is 30 km away. Pregnant women prefer to give birth in their huts rather than travel two hours on the bumpy dirt track to the nearest public health centre. They know the journey can lead to a haemorrhage and death, like it happened to those women who insisted on travelling to the nearest health centre. This situation has been the same since 1947.

"A couple of years ago, my father fell ill and the few medicines I had did not work. I took him to the dispensary but they had nothing else," says Narayan, a social worker at Apeksha Homoeo Society, an NGO working in this village and district. "That night my father died. The memory still haunts me and that is why I joined Apeksha." In this region, Apeksha has distributed solar lamps donated by viewers of the NDTV's Greenathon last year. I am here to do a 'one year later' story about the village that now use solar lamps that my friends and I donated.

When Teri (The Energy and Resources Institute), the partner and advisor to the Greenathon, asked me which region we would like the lamps to be donated to, I only said it should be in Maharashtra's most backward areas. But I had not bargained for Rehatyakheda.

"You are the first person who is not from an NGO or a government official to visit us," a villager tells me. "This is the first time we have been given something by someone willingly. For everything else, we have to fight." They tell me the effect the lamps have had on the lives: 12 hours of light. All night! The men take these lamps to the fields and spend nights there without the fear of animals ravaging their crops. The women cook fresh food in the evenings and the children can now study at night.

But 60 solar lamps can't make the land more fertile, provide more food or make water any cleaner. Only conscientious and dutybound governance can bring about changes. But where is it? Where did it go after the 1960s? What has made it acceptable to talk about the Sensex more than the infected sores on children who will never see a rural clinic? Why is India not on the streets every time grains meant for the only ration shop near Rehatyakheda is pilfered by hoarders? Why doesn't Delhi burn when one of the two hand pumps in the village malfunctions and no one comes to fix it?

In the pell-mell of the post-1991 liberalisation push, the middle class is obsessed about wealth. The political class obsessed about pushing more Indians into this consumption-driven tier. Today both are in a conspiratorial dance, a dance of mutual benefit where the silent agreement is: we will make you rich. In return, you keep quiet as we engineer the disappearance of our bottom-most 100 million.

But even as our planners and strategists wait for the 100 million to die of thirst, infection, starvation and diseases, the fun part is they are not dying. It is one of the great ironies of this civilisation that while most Indians have been born into nothing and continue to survive on nothing, they are quite full of life. They live on little and yet retain the ability to comb their children's hair, sing a folk song, put on their ancestral jewellery and pray on an auspicious day. And keep living. Else, Rehatyakheda would have been a ghost village, a place where adivasis once lived.

But it survives, long enough for me and other Indians to want to question our governors. But cruelly, when the prime minister holds a press conference, the questions are reflective of the deluded paradise we choose to aspire for. In this land, only telecom scams, satellite spectrum and black money  are discussed. Not one question is asked about why no politician has ever visited Rehatyakheda. Why is there no electricity? Why do the schoolchildren here study in a room donated by the forest department? Singh was asked the wrong questions by the wrong people with wrong agendas.

One day, when the PM decides to meet the rest of us, I will take him to Rehatyakheda and make him meet the woman who while serving me a handful of watery tuar dal and a jowar roti for dinner said, "We are very poor, saheb. This is all we can give you. One day perhaps we will be able to afford more." When, Dr Singh?

(Rahul Bose is a social activist and actor)

*The views expressed by the author are personal.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

IN A MUDDLE KINGDOM

TENZIN TSUNDUE

On June 28, 1992, three senior lamas responsible for the recognition of the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa approached the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. Following instructions in a poem-letter left behind by the 16th Karmapa, Tai Situ Rinpoche and Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche asked for his endorsement of a nomad boy born in eastern Tibet. The Shamarpa left following a disagreement. The next day the Dalai Lama declared seven-year-old Ogyen Trinley Dorje the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa. Two months later, Shamarpa declared his own candidate — Trinley Thaye Dorje, another boy born in Tibet. Thus started another battle for power.

The Karmapa — who ruled half of Tibet and heads the Karma Kagyu order that has more than 600 Buddhist centres globally — is today entangled in China-Tibet-India politics, aggravated by rivalries spanning three centuries of power struggles. Living in a rented apartment near Dharamsala since escaping Tibet in 2000, the Karmapa's focus is on Buddhist studies. He escaped to India to receive teachings and transmissions from Karma Kagyu teachers and the Dalai Lama.

Till now I believed that in the country's long-term interests, Indians support our struggle to reinstall Tibet as a buffer zone between India and China. India is our second home; for many the only home. Therefore, calling the Karmapa a 'Chinese spy' is hurtful and unsettling.

When the Tibetans first sought asylum in India in 1959, we couldn't make sense of the modern world. My mother laboured on the strategic road construction linking Kullu-Manali to Ladakh, where I was born in a tent. Later rehabilitated to Karnataka, the then Chief Minister S Nijalingappa offered us huge tracts of land on lease for 100 years. Today more than 40,000 Tibetans live in Karnataka without facing any benami land deal charges. Himachal Pradesh is home to about 27,000 Tibetans. The number increases as more refugees escape China's punitive rule. Still, the Himachalis shared their homes with us. Lands acquired for infrastructure are in the process of being leased out to Tibetans by the state. Amid this adjustment and uncertainty, the Karmapa's office has been accused of stashing foreign currencies and making a benami land deal. Legally, Tibetans are 'aliens' in India; we can't vote, can't own immovable properties and have to register all our movements in India. The 40,000 eligible Tibetans should, perhaps, follow in the footsteps of Namgyal Dolkar, the first Tibetan to have received Indian citizenship, and make things easier for everybody.

In 2010, India advised the Karmapa against undertaking a pan-European speaking tour. Barring Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, he is free to move anywhere in India. In fact, just when we were expecting a complete end to the travel ban, the 'Chinese spy' controversy kicked off. Quoting anonymous sources, the media repeatedly called the Karmapa 'spy', 'agent' and accused him of having 'Chinese links'. Times Now editor Arnab Goswami ratcheted up the accusations by calling the Karmapa "... part of China's grand design". Anchoring a TV panel discussion, he said the Karmapa met Chinese leaders in 2009 in Hong Kong. Ogyen Trinley Dorje's only overseas trip over the last decade in India was to the US. Shamarpa's Karmapa candidate, Trinley Thaye Dorje, was in Hong Kong in February 2009. He visited Hong Kong last week too.

Most Tibetans believe that it's a case of financial mismanagement. A rival party, headed by Shamar Rinpoche feeds the graver allegations to weaken the legal status of the Karmapa in India while also staking claim on the Rumtek monastery, in Sikkim, for his candidate. For the Tibetans, Ogyen Trinley Dorje is the only Karmapa. Sadly, the object of Tibetan faith and hope has become the subject of India's suspicion.

As China steps up its presence across the Himalayas, India's first line of defence should be to capture the loyalty of its Himalayan population. People from Ladakh, Lahaul, Spiti, Kinnaur, Sikkim and Tawang protested the allegations by the media, which did not play up the Centre's 'clean chit' to the Karmapa as enthusiastically as they broadcast allegations of his alleged 'Chinese links'.

The Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama and Karmapa are the Sun, Moon and Star for Tibetans. The Panchen Lama is under Chinese custody. So, after the Dalai Lama, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa will be our leader. He will also become the spiritual guru of Buddhists across the world. Tomorrow, when 400 million Buddhists in China are free to practise their faith, imagine what a Dharamaraja the Karmapa will make. It's up to India to decide whether to host such an avatar as a refugee or hand the sceptre to a triumphant China.

(Tenzin Tsundue is a Tibetan writer and activist)

*The views expressed by the authors are personal.

 

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

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

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

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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

COLONEL'S TURN

 

When a dictator goes is always a moment of breach, the crossing of an invisible line which tips the scale beyond recovery. We have just seen that happen in Egypt. And the world is observing how and when the scales will tip, if at all, for other Arab regimes witnessing popular revolt. In the end, Hosni Mubarak left without a cataclysm in his wake, although how soft Egypt's and Tunisia's post-revolutionary landing will be is unknown. Across Egypt's western border, Libya is a different ballgame. Having endured Ottoman suzerainty, Italian colonialism, Rommel and Montgomery's tank duels in World War II as well as a brief monarchy, Muammar Gaddafi, in 1969, had offered Libyans what appeared then an attractive alternative — an "organic" state almost like no other. Oil added to Tripoli's fierce anti-colonial assertiveness. What it didn't generate was the distribution of the wealth, and Libya never boasted the educated, politically aware middle class that's been so pivotal for Cairo's "Jasmine Revolution" chapter. Yet, all that seems to have changed irretrievably overnight, although the besieged regime has begun large-scale retributive violence.

The moment Gaddafi's fate appeared to tip over to the wrong side of history was perhaps the successive resignations of his diplomats — in the US, India, at the UN, the Arab League — protesting the brutality of the regime against demonstrators. The fear about Libya is that Gaddafi's was always the regime expected to depart with bloodshed. The crackdown tends to confirm those fears. Unlike the violence used in Egypt, Tunisia or Bahrain, the Libyan regime's actions have been severe and there are reports of military aircraft firing at protesters.

Gaddafi appeared on state TV for less than a minute on Tuesday morning to deny rumours that he had fled to Venezuela. Even as he used the half-minute to call the international media "dogs", the picture of him in the passenger seat of an ageing vehicle with an umbrella to shield himself from the rain belied his thunder. Libyans, for the 41 years of Gaddafi's reign, cared little about their government. Now they do. Their coming this far is the result of Gaddafi's autocratic and eccentric rule.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

AGAINST THE BREEZE

 

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation released figures for domestic air traffic in January that showed that Air India's domestic wing, the former Indian Airlines, has slipped to fourth place. Jet Airways, when figures for its low-cost wing JetLite are included, Kingfisher and IndiGo flew more people than Air India — by a significant margin. Air India flew 7.8 lakh flyers; Jet flew 12.2 lakh, Kingfisher 9.6 lakh and IndiGo 9.5 lakh. As a marker of the continuing decline and increasing irrelevance of what is still referred to in wistful sarkari circles as India's national carrier, it doesn't get clearer than this. Air India simultaneously reported the lowest on-time figures: barely a third of their flights were on time, well below the competition; occupation rates were similarly low. Its market share is now around 17 per cent. Were it purely a market decision, it's beyond any doubt what Air India's fate would be.

Tragically, it is not the market's decision to make. Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi had barely settled into his new office after the recent reshuffle when he made it clear that he would be requesting a significant infusion of cash into the troubled airline — merely, he claimed to tide over what he seemed to think was a temporary crisis. These thousands of crores of taxpayer money will be on top of the Rs 2,000 crore that has already been made available to Air India in two tranches recently. Ravi's estimate is that the company will need at least Rs 10,000 crore more. This comes, of course, at a time when a cash-strapped UPA 2 is desperately trying to reassure voters and international investors that it knows how to control spending; fiscal restraint is expected to be a crucial component of the budget exercise.

We live in a very different world from the world in which "flag carriers" were a necessity. India is a self-confident nation now, and much of that self-confidence comes from pride and faith in the efficacy of its vibrant private sector. The emotional kick that a "national carrier" is supposed to provide is hardly needed or wanted now. Nor is it the case, as the DGCA's numbers eloquently argue, that it fulfils any conceivable market-supporting role. Whatever decisions have to be taken about Air India in the short- and medium-term should reflect these two, essential, long-term perspectives. Otherwise, those decisions, like so many taken about Air India in the past, will be self-defeating and expensive in a way we cannot afford.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHY GROWTH MATTERS

ILA PATNAIK

 

India's long-term growth story remains intact. Yet, of late, investor confidence in India has declined. The last decade saw high private corporate investment as the main engine of growth. Investment growth has been at risk since the global financial crisis impacted business prospects. In recent months, there has been a decline in the stock market, and in foreign investment into India.

Budget 2011 must focus on improving the investment climate to sustain India's high GDP growth.

Policy-makers in India were able to respond quickly to the demand contraction caused by the crisis through expansionary fiscal and monetary policy, and the Indian economy continued to register high growth. But now it seems that the policy stance might have been excessively expansionary as inflation and fiscal and current account deficits rose sharply. The focus now needs to move away from pumping higher aggregate demand to keep up production, to longer-term investment that can increase the productive capacity of the economy.

The finance minister's post-crisis budgets focused on safety nets required to prevent the global recession from hurting the poor in India. The reforms required to keep investors optimistic about medium-term prospects for the Indian economy were not put on the front-burner. Even reforms promised by the UPA were not carried through. The dismantling of the licence raj regime, however slow, that has characterised the last 20 years was put on hold. The years under the leadership of the man who initiated reforms saw a reforms-deficit emerging, as government actions failed to meet expectations. The corruption scandals hitting the government have only made the situation worse.

A difficult question faced by the government is one of government finances. The UPA has put government spending on a new path. Concerns about the expansion of government spending programmes and the consequent borrowing that these may entail would mean rising interest rates, high inflation, pre-emption of household savings by the government and a possible rise in the debt-GDP ratio to unsustainable levels. The question the government needs to ask is: is this path sustainable for the country at the current level of development and income? Can adequate resources be raised to sustain the growth in expenditure that this may require? What should be the approach that can prevent India from ending in a fiscal mess?

While subsidies are a legacy of the past, the UPA has focused on setting up large welfare programmes such as the NREGA. These have become a major source of concern as they mean larger and larger government spending. Expenditure requirements of the food security legislation and wage indexation for NREGA have been among important concerns.

Is spending on large welfare programmes sustainable for India? It has been seen that countries with low per capita income of $1,000, such as India, have tax collection to domestic production (tax to GDP) ratios of less than 20 per cent. It is only when a country's per capita income rises to about 10 times as much, that the government is able to collect more than 20 per cent of domestic production in taxes. There are a number of reasons for this. A large part of the economy is in the informal sector, with little participation in production chains where taxes need to be paid; agricultural income is often out of the ambit of the tax system; the use of modern information technology is limited in the bulk of the country and it is easy to avoid paying taxes. Consequently, the developing country average for tax payments is 18 per cent, which is roughly where India is today, when we combine Central, state and local government tax collections.

While resources can be raised by disinvestment or by selling spectrum, reducing subsidies and increasing efficiency in the immediate context, the tax to GDP ratio cannot be expected to rise unless the structure of the economy changes adequately, and income levels are at about $10,000 per capita. Until then the growth in expenditure can be met through higher revenue collection which can come through higher GDP growth, with the tax to GDP ratio at roughly where we are now.

The above argument, as Vijay Kelkar points out in a recent paper, implies that the government needs to focus on higher GDP growth. Tax policy has to be consistent with the objective of higher GDP growth. The most important front on which the government can act is to implement the Goods and Services Tax (GST). This will help production significantly as India will be able to reap the benefits of being a common market. However, very little progress has been made on the GST and the government has extended the deadline for implementation of the GST many times. It must now take the initiative and implement a Central GST where goods and services have a single rate and a single administration. This can pave the way for the next steps, both in terms of tax policy and IT systems which will be required for a nationwide GST. It would be ideal if every state joined in. But, if even after being put on the defensive by the prime minister's reference on the GST the BJP chooses to oppose it, the Congress needs to go ahead and put together states willing to join, leaving out those unwilling to join. The implementation, especially the handling of turf issues with Central and state tax administrations, is not going to be quick or easy, and Pranab Mukherjee needs to make a beginning.

The focus on GDP growth needs to be put on the expenditure side as well. Faced with a trade-off between spending on building highways and bailing out loss-making public sector enterprises in competitive markets, the former needs to be given clear precedence. Further, there are a number of issues, including foreign investment, infrastructure, taxes and so on, for which a laundry list of reforms is available. These reforms require political initiative and if the government wishes to pull out of the reform deficit, it can push ahead. Given the credibility of the government and given its track record on implementation of promises made in the past, the budget has to emphasise concrete action rather than just make big promises.

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

COLUMN

THE BAHRAIN WE KNEW

ALIA ALLANA

 

A Bahrain of gunfire at a roundabout in a commercial area in the heart of the capital is not the Bahrain we knew. Growing up Indian in the Gulf, you got odd looks, queries about why Indians smelt funny. Bahraini Indians, though, never suffered through such questions.

Not accidentally, Bahrain is the only Gulf state that operated a naturalisation policy. Sheikhs used to sit at their ports, from Sharjah to Dubai, from Abu Dhabi to Bahrain, with rubber stamps and al tajnees al siyasi — naturalisation permits. For countries with small nomadic populations, the absorption of others was considered a necessity; they needed a workforce to build their growth. But Bahrain was the only country that continued to grant its residents the right to actually be of the country. Now that very policy — naturalisation — is being called into question.

The majority of Bahrainis are Shia, but the king, who comes from a line 200 years old, is Sunni. For those on the streets both his rule and the naturalisation policy must be called into question. Indeed, many of those carrying guns for Bahrain are from South Asia, men who protect the emirate because of what they are offered in return. Ask any Indian in Bahrain if it is the hell we are seeing on its streets now.

Bahrain has yet another distinction. It is a tiny island, smaller even than Dubai. But economically, its vibrant banking economy is catching up with its savvy neighbour. Unlike the majority of the Gulf states it went unaffected by the global recession. The cranes never went crazy here, and unemployment has steadily fallen. Following educational reforms, it continues to enjoy higher literacy rates than anywhere else in the region. Indians and Bahrainis are nearly indistinguishable.

But anger between Sunni and Shia still rages. It rages despite the country offering its citizens free healthcare, and dole, should a person be unemployed — this is no Egypt, it is no Tunisia.

The opposition, Al Wefaq, continues to cry foul, and it has done so for the past 10 years. In response, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, a moderate as compared to his father, has tried to re-initiate reforms. As he said on TV, these reforms have been too slow and have taken too long. The number of Shias in the ministries has increased over the past 15 years; but they are yet to integrate into the ministry of the interior and military. This is part of what the talks we have seen begin are about.

This, too, is a country where women have slowly been given increased opportunities. Look at the number of women at the protests and contrast that with Egypt and Tunisia.

Growing up in Dubai, certain areas were taboo — going to a nightclub was never a possibility. Few local girls, if any, went to study abroad — but Bahrain was always a role model. With its freedom of movement and its vibrant coffeeshop culture, it mimicked a Lebanon a mental stone's throw away. In more ways than one, too, in that both are playgrounds for other, bigger countries. Bahrain was first a backyard for the Saudis and later for the US. The Saudis have always treated Bahrain as a place to escape their draconian laws, a place of alcohol consumption and wild women. This, compounded with their interference in Bahrain's politics and its army has continuously angered the Shias.

Shias have become dissociated, therefore, with the country's politics. Travelling through Shia and Sunni neighbourhoods extensively, I've never seen a Bahraini flag on a Shia house — nor have I seen posters of Shia politicians. Where, then, do these protesters see their country headed?

Naturally one worries about the rising threat of Iran and subsequently America's position in the Gulf. Bahrain is the home port of the US Fifth Fleet. American defensive missiles might be being put in place, too, perhaps with Iran in mind.

But Bahrain is as important culturally as it is strategically. I remember my first night in a London nightclub and the menacing, disapproving stares I got from Emirati boys — I, after all, had grown up in Dubai. Yet alongside me, young Bahraini girls, their hair wild and skirts short, danced the nights away, unfettered. Those were heady days. Bahrain was reforming. But it stopped. It's time for more — because if people aren't satisfied with the low 3 per cent-plus unemployment rate and some of the highest growth rates in the Gulf, then there is a grave problem.

alia.allana@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

VIEW FROM THE LEFT

A 'democratic' environment

An article in CPM weekly People's Democracy calls for a review of the environment impact assessment (EIA) procedure in the light of the recent conditional clearances granted by the environment ministry, mainly to Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Maharashtra and POSCO's plant in Orissa. It says the actions of the ministry in the last few months expose the weakness of the EIA notification of 2006, arguing that this "was not geared towards the effective and continuous monitoring of big projects so that they complied with the conditions under which they had been allowed to proceed with their work."

"In the wake of this gap, the conditions being imposed by the ministry on these projects are unlikely to be met... Today the ministry is using its discretion to ignore the advice of teams led by eminent scientists who have raised technological, environmental and social concerns with regard to many of these projects," it says.

The article argues that impact assessment has to be "democratised" to make the ministry and the companies more accountable. "A proper and independent system of doing impact assessment and monitoring compliance needs to be put into place. Thus it is time for reviewing the EIA experience in order to make a comprehensive law that gives more rights to project-affected people by involving public representation and consultation at all stages of impact assessment," it notes.

Dyed in saffron

As the Budget session gets underway, the Left has once again signalled its intention to raise the issue of saffron terror in Parliament, a move which could expose the chinks in the opposition unity. The lead editorial in the CPI's weekly journal New Age says both the Congress and the BJP have "deliberately ignored" Hindutva terrorism.

"Though the ATS in some states and some national investigating agencies do claim that they have enough proof to nail Sangh-affiliated organisations for several bomb blasts, still the UPA government is not ready to order a comprehensive probe in the sinister game-plan of the Sangh Parivar."

With an eye on the sizeable Muslim votebank in poll-bound West Bengal, the Left has been pitching for the release of Muslim youth who are in jail in connection with cases of bomb blasts in Malegaon, Ajmer, Mecca Masjid and Samjhauta Express. The article says, "Not only do these young people need to be released immediately and compensated, but action has to be taken against those officials who wrongly implicated them." it talks about the need for cleaning and overhauling the police and investigating agencies "that have been heavily infiltrated by RSS personnel during the six-year rule of theBJP-led NDA."

CEO Singh

The lead editorial in CPI(ML) journal ML Update attacks Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for comparing the loss to the national exchequer caused by 2G spectrum allocation to the subsidies meant for the poor. It focuses on the prime minister's media interaction and criticises him on several counts. Noting Singh's assertion that of all the decisions he has taken, seven out of 10 turn out to be correct, which the shareholders of a normal corporation would call a job well done, it says — "so here we have Singh's essential vision of democracy and his role as prime minister: he is the CEO of a 'normal corporation'!"

It says, "Manmohan Singh and his ilk can only see politics through the corporate prism — where the government is just a service provider to those who can afford to buy that service. Not even a 'sleeping shareholder', the notion of a citizen has actually been reduced to that of a fee-paying customer and those who cannot afford to pay simply do not count!"

Compiled by Manoj C.G.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE GREAT GAME FOLIO

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

Davis deal

As the Raymond Davis affair dominates US-Pakistan relations, it is quite tempting to be carried away by the surge of simulated nationalism next door. Past record suggests a deal, sooner than later, between Washington and Rawalpindi. The only question is about the terms of that deal. Expect the Pakistan army chief Ashfaq Kayani to shake down the Obama administration hard.

Davis, who shot dead two Pakistanis in Lahore last month, says he acted in self-defence, and is said to be a CIA employee. There is speculation that the men he killed might be ISI operatives. If this is a quarrel between the CIA and the ISI, the civilian government led by President Asif Ali Zardari and Premier Yousaf Raza Gilani is caught in a cleft stick — squeezed on one side by the army which is whipping up public passions and on the other by the Obama administration pressing for an early release of Davis.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who was recently sacked as the foreign minister of Pakistan, is presenting himself as the hero who stood up against American pressure to release Davis. Fouzia Wahab, information secretary of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, had to quit after she said Davis enjoyed "diplomatic immunity" and therefore could be sent back to the US.

The real question is about law — whether Davis enjoyed diplomatic immunity and can avoid trial and punishment in Pakistan. It is about politics — what would it take for the Pakistan army to help resolve the issue amicably.

The Obama administration, which took a tough stand in the immediate aftermath of Davis's arrest, appears to be exploring a deal now. John Kerry, the head of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the US Congress, travelled to Pakistan last week to find a way out. That he could not return triumphantly might mean the Pakistan army has raised the stakes. Any deal on Davis would have two elements — one public and the other more substantive.

On the first, there is talk of the US offering an apology to the bereaved families and a reasonable sum of "blood money" as compensation. While the inflamed public opinion must necessarily be addressed, it is the army that Washington must propitiate in the next few days. What we don't know at this stage is how far the Obama administration might go down that road.

Saudi intervention

As the fires lit by the Egyptian revolt engulf Saudi Arabia — from the south west in Yemen, north west in Jordan, north east in Bahrain, and south east in Kuwait — all eyes are on King Abdullah, who is 83 and recuperating from three months of medical treatment in the United States and Morocco.

As he returns home in the next few days, his first task will be to get a handle on the situation in tiny Bahrain, which cuts so close to Saudi Arabia's vulnerable spot — the Shia minority in the oil-rich eastern parts of the kingdom.

In Bahrain, the revolution is not just about economic discontent and accountable governance. It is about the Shia majority — nearly 70 per cent of the population — marginalised in a nation governed by the Sunni Muslim elite. If the Sunni Saudi royal family is the principal backer of the government in Bahrain, the Shias in Bahrain have strong kinship with their co-religionists across the water in Saudi Arabia.

A regime change in Bahrain, then, will have profound implications for stability in Saudi Arabia on the one hand and regional balance of power between the Saudis and Shia Iran. In a statement on Sunday, the Saudi government said it "stands with all its capabilities behind the state and the brotherly people of Bahrain". Some are reading the statement as a warning about a potential intervention by Riyadh to stabilise Bahrain.

Minority rights

As the Middle East struggles to break free from the old order, the question of minority rights — religious and ethnic — are bound to come to the fore. Most nations in the Middle East have significant minorities. These include Coptic Christians in Egypt, Sunnis and Zoroastrians in Iran and Shias in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, to name a few religious minorities.

Ethnic minorities include the Kurds in Iran, Iraq and Turkey, the Arabs in Israel, the Berbers in Algeria, Morocco and Libya, and the Baloch and the Azeri in Iran. There are geographic divides too — as between the north and south in Yemen.

In putting down the minorities, the authoritarian rulers of the Middle East have manipulated the strong narrative of Arab nationalism and Islamic universalism, leveraged an unending conflict with Israel, aligned with conservative religious sentiment and mobilised anti-imperialist sentiment.

Those rulers who survive the current storm in the region and others who gather the reins of power will have a tougher time dealing with the potential assertion of minority rights across the region.

raja.mohan@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE CLUELESS CONTINENT

ROGER COHEN

 

It says something about the miserable European response to the Arab spring that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's personal contribution to North African affairs — his alleged liaison with a then-17-year-old Moroccan dancer — only just takes the prize for most abject performance. His foreign minister, Franco Frattini, was not far behind with his response to the brave uprising of the Tunisian people that ousted the longtime dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali: "Priority number one is the deterrence of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorist cells."

All manner of worthy things may be wished for Arabs just across the Mediterranean — and they were by President Nicolas Sarkozy's fatuous brainchild, the 43-member Union for the Mediterranean — but of course democracy and freedom are not among them. The Barcelona-based Union, which should be disbanded forthwith, preferred to concentrate on matters like the "de-pollution of the Mediterranean." That, for Europeans, generally meant keeping Arabs away.

No wonder Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel-prize winning Turkish novelist, wrote an essay late last year called "The Fading Dream of Europe." He noted the inward, small-minded, anti-immigrant turn of a European continent that had once represented the summit of his own and many Turks' aspirations. And that was penned before the latest European niggardliness.

In his own way the ageing multibillionaire Berlusconi has aped the manners of the very Arab despots the peoples of Egypt and Tunisia and Libya and Bahrain have risen to oust. Like them he has confused self and nation, entranced by the cult of his personality.

Or, and it hardly matters which, these Arab dictators and their business acolytes have aped Berlusconi, mimicking the worst of the West while bringing nothing of its political openness, creating a valueless simulacrum of moneyed European sophistication while their people languished without the most basic rights the European Union upholds.

Berlusconi epitomises a long trans-Mediterranean connivance with Arab subjugation — a marriage of convenience that condemned Arabs to be supplicants (Moroccan dancers there to titillate). Men and women across North Africa have taken to the streets to overturn this dignity-denying status quo.

A judge, Cristina Di Censo, has now indicted Berlusconi, 74, on charges that he paid for sex with a 17-year-old girl, Karima el-Mahroug, who has denied having sex with him. I'd say this particular Italian soap has run long enough: A leader more consumed with his virility and Arab women one quarter his age than with governance does not serve Italy well. Berlusconi's is not the only European resignation in order. The French foreign minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, has piled gaffe on gaffe since the Tunisian uprising began on December 17. It's not enough that she offered the "know-how" of French security forces to Ben Ali. It's not enough that she accepted a ride on a private jet from a Ben Ali business partner while on a Tunisian vacation during the protests. It's not enough that she was on the phone to Ben Ali although she earlier denied she had any "privileged contact." Yes, Madame Minister, it is enough. True, Prime Minister François Fillon was also accepting flights and lodging from Hosni Mubarak at the time. But Egypt had not arisen then; and Fillon's record is distinguished, unlike Alliot-Marie's comedy of errors since becoming foreign minister. The European Union must rethink its relations with the Muslim world at its doorstep, beginning with accepting Turkey, whose membership would help usher the Continent from the small-mindedness Pamuk describes. I'm not sure booming Turkey's still interested; keep someone at the door long enough and that person will turn away. But a Union with Turkey in it would not have responded to the Arab awakening with such tiptoeing awkwardness.

A new European pact with democratising Arab neighbours is also urgently needed. Cancel the funds for nice environmental projects and those Barcelona bureaucrats' salaries. Put European money behind forming decent democratic societies across the water. This will be a generational project, but it's the only way to stop the desperate human tide into southern Spain and Italy.

The first major international challenge for post-Lisbon Europe has revealed that the 2009 treaty did nothing to change the lowest-common-denominator approach that makes the EU such a foreign-policy pygmy. I guess that must be the way middling-power European nation states want it.

One shout-out is called for: to Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen for being first to say: "Mubarak is history. Mubarak must step down." Contrast those declarative sentences with Brussels mumbo-jumbo. Danes, as World War II showed, sometimes stand apart from the crowd and do right.

The New York Times

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

HYDERABAD GOVERNS WITH 24X7 CANDID CAMERA

RANESH NAIR

 

Even as the wrongdoings in the telecom sector generate anger and dismay, Hyderabad's city governance initiative using mobile phones provides a breath of fresh air on what the telecom revolution can do for India. The Off-Site Real Time Monitoring (OSRT) system is a unique but simple mobile-based IT initiative which uses a combination of GPS (Global Positioning System) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) technologies through cell phones for managing civic amenities in the city in a transparent and efficient manner.

Until a few months ago, citizens had to call or make visits to the corporation's offices to get their grievances addressed. OSRT has changed it all, at least in respect of some services, and it promises to do much more. The GPRS technology allows cell phones to capture real time images of public servants at work or public sites under inspection, with the date and time of the picture as well as the stamp of latitude and longitude along side the image, superimposed on a Google map layer. These images are instantly transmitted to a central server. Most importantly, they are immediately available in the public domain, allowing citizen monitoring. They rule out discretion in reporting, thereby making scientific cross-verification possible. The use of visual images built on an open source interface like Google maps is highly cost-effective.

We saw OSRT at work in solid waste management on the streets of Hyderabad. In 1995, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) had outsourced the collection of garbage to private contractors. The contractors' private workforce collects garbage from door to door and brings it to the dumper bins from where it is taken to the transfer stations. The corporation has the responsibility of transporting the garbage from the transfer stations to the main dump yard. Earlier, the status of the 4000 bins and attendance of the 16,000 public health workers were monitored manually by sanitary supervisors of the corporation at about 200 locations across the city. With the introduction of OSRT, the supervisor uses his cell phone to take the picture when the workers show up for work, and uploads it on the GHMC server.

The joy and pride on the face of the young supervisor with high school education who was showing us around had to be seen to be believed, as he clicked the picture with his cell phone and explained to us how the data had instantly been received by the server located in Bangalore. He had recorded the attendance and also the state of the bin. The same procedure is repeated at the end of the day's work. The results are there for all to see. The attendance of workers has gone up from 85 per cent to 98 per cent, and dumper bin lifting for transporting to transfer stations has increased from 76 per cent to 98 per cent. Online monitoring of parks and street lights is also being done through OSRT.

When citizens register a complaint about an uncleared garbage bin or a faulty street light through SMS from their mobile phones, the message goes to the concerned officer and the ward corporator. On rectifying the fault, the status is uploaded and the report is posted online; the complaint resolution message is communicated to both the citizen and the ward corporator. All complaints have to be attended to within 48 hours, and there has been a significant reduction in customer grievances.

The corporation has hired eight MBA graduates as coordinators to conduct detailed analyses of the data from the server and submit reports on the state of service delivery. M. Rajeswara Rao, the additional commissioner (IT) of the GHMC, proudly declares this to be the first real time urban governance monitoring system in the country at any level of government.

Penalties for violations such as shortage in attendance, non-lifting of garbage, unswept roads and delays, are deducted at source from the amount due to the contractor. The threat of penalty assures that the private contractors manage the system with maximum efficiency. It is difficult to design equally effective systems of penalty which will generate such efficient responses in the public sector, but the role of oversight by government and the community is extremely important. The corporation now plans to integrate OSRT with backend IT infrastructure to build in features such as system-generated penalties. As Sameer Sharma, the commissioner of the GHMC, puts it "The OSRT relies on the eye, a little-used feature of the mobile phone to bring about real time accountability."

Hyderabad city's innovation in granting building permissions, which are a den of corruption in most cities, is even more impressive. The building permissions programme was brought under OSRT in November, 2010. Of the 1000 applications received since then, 95 per cent have been disposed of. Permissions for buildings up to 15 metres height (ground floor plus four floors, except multi-storey buildings) are given within four days. Up to 80 per cent of the applications are in this category.

Real time images are taken every 15 days at different stages of construction to check for compliance with sanctioned plans. Resistance is to be expected, but a beginning has been made. In Kukutpalli in the west zone of the GHMC, demolition of unauthorised construction was being carried out on the day we visited the city. The illegal construction had begun a few months ago and the mobile governance system had found deviation from the sanctioned plans by a group of private builders who had purchased some plots in the Andhra Pradesh Housing Board colony. The corporation had demolished about 5 per cent of the unauthorised construction, but suddenly demolitions were stopped and negotiations seemed to be on the agenda to determine the penalty.

The medium of public private partnership is being used by the corporation in attempting innovative ways of delivering public services. A single vendor was selected through a competitive bidding process for enabling mobile phones to be used for monitoring urban services, and the contract on BOT basis was awarded to Blue Frog Mobile Technologies Private Limited for a period of three years. The design and maintenance of the system has been outsourced to the private party. The pilot commenced in August 2010, and the roll-out included meetings with stakeholders, and detailed study of the existing administrative and monitoring systems.

The corporation has invested Rs 48 lakh on the software package and Rs 15 lakh on cell phones. The GHMC also pays Rs 2 lakh per month as rental charges for GPRS connectivity. The corporation's role has been in providing the enabling infrastructure including cell phones. It charges monthly rentals for use of the cell phones by private contractors engaged in sanitation services. To date, Rs 24 lakh has been recovered from contractors' bills by way of rentals. The GHMC has also collected Rs 27 lakh as fines for shortage in attendance, non-lifting of dumper bins and unswept roads.

Mobile phones are already being used in a number of municipal corporations for better public service delivery. Hyderabad has gone a step forward by tracking real time images to monitor the delivery of public services. Innovation will be our salvation as it forces the government to govern.

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

postcardsofchange@expressindia.com

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

INDUSTRY'S HIRING AGAIN

 

Given its commitment to creating employment, the government is almost certain to hike the allocations for the employment guarantee scheme next Monday. While critics differ on its efficacy, with the estimates ranging from 30% to 60% of the promised jobs getting created, the official numbers are impressive. President Pratibha Patil's address to Parliament said a total of 5.3 crore households got jobs under MGNREGA in 2009-10—at an average of 50 days a year, that's 265 crore man-days of employment. What's worth keeping in mind while raising MGNREGA funding, however, is that after years of stagnation, industrial employment is finally looking up, and significantly at that. Data from the Annual Survey of Industries shows that while industrial employment rose from 8.3 mn in 1991-92 to 10.1 mn in 1997-98, it fell steadily to 7.9 mn by 2002-03—between 2005-06 and 2008-09, however, it rose to 11.3 mn, or around 7-8 lakh new jobs got created in each of the last three years. According to Professor Bishwanath Goldar at the Institute of Economic Growth, real value added in organised manufacturing grew at around 12% per annum in 2003-04 to 2007-08 and employment rose 7.5%; between 1992-93 and 1996-97, value added rose 13% and employment just 2.8%; earlier still, between 1980-81 and 1989-90, value added rose 8.6% and employment just 0.3% per annum.

If things have changed, what made them change? Goldar's explanation is that with state governments allowing some flexibility in hiring and firing labour, jobs growth has picked up—for the top 5 states in terms of labour reforms, he estimates employment grew 7.5% per annum between 2003-04 and 2008-09 while it grew just 3.7% in the bottom 5 states in terms of labour reforms. Goldar quotes a World Bank study that says rigid application of labour laws ensured Indian industry created 3 mn less jobs in the formal sector. What's interesting is, Goldar points out, the share of large units (employing 1,000-1,999 persons) in total organised sector employment has risen by 2 percentage points between 2002-03 and 2008-09. Also, the share of employment in traditionally employment-intensive industries like food products and textiles has fallen; the share of low employment-intensive industries like motor vehicles has risen.

In other words, the paradigm for industrial employment has shifted, and shifted hugely. Whether the government chooses to raise MGNREGA funding in the Budget or not, it would be foolish to ignore the significant potential employment that industry can generate if the government is willing to be more flexible on employment.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THE CENTRE CANNOT HOLD

First Tunisia, then Egypt. Two regimes went down in just around a month. And the jasmine contagion hasn't stopped spreading. Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Jordan, Yemen... demand for change is sweeping the region. And beyond. There is anxiety in the corridors of power as far out as in China. In Libya, Muammar el-Qaddafi's militiamen are unable to hold back the tide that has grown increasingly sullen over 40 years of his rule. The rest of the world is grappling with the magnitude of this change. The Italian interior minister is worried that the tide of immigrants from Tunisia is akin to the "biblical exodus", and his government has set apart Euro 100 million to protect itself from this exodus. Global oil companies are making plans to evacuate employees from Libya, while Brent crude has hit a three-year high in response to the political unrest in its "heart of darkness". There is a lot of uncertainty at play. Notwithstanding a common catalyst, notwithstanding common conditions like high inflation and high unemployment among well-educated youth (median age in the Arab world is 22 years), the protests are emerging from a variety of contexts. The Egyptian façade of democracy, for example, has been much more convincing than that of Libya. It is in this sense that comparisons with 1989, persuasive as they are, merit questioning. Then, it was a bunch of communist regimes that collapsed like a pack of cards. The character of those being challenged now is much more varied.

So it is that comparisons with 1848 are gaining ascendency. As Anne Applebaum has written in the Washington Post, "Though

inspired very generally by the ideas of liberal nationalism and democracy, the mostly middle-class demonstrators of 1848 had, like their Arab contemporaries, different goals in different countries." Which is also to say that it will take some time for the dust to settle, and for the world to figure out exactly how the events that have grabbed attention at the beginning of this year will pan out. The only certainty is that everything from political theory to oil companies' calculations will need recalibrating.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

GO REGIONAL, THEN GLOBAL
JAYANTHA R VARMA

Indian stock exchanges are now confronted with an urgent need to look beyond the borders of India and formulate a vision for their role in the Asian stock exchange business. When I wrote about this last year (FE, November 30, 2010), I thought that Indian exchanges might have a year or so to get their act together. Global consolidation in the exchange space has moved much faster in the last few weeks and this timeframe has shrunk dramatically.

Last year, the Singapore exchange (SGX) initiated the process of consolidation in Asia with a bid for the Australian exchange (ASX). Though this bid appeared to have stalled, it is now receiving an uplift from a wave of global consolidation. The London Stock Exchange (LSE) wants to merge with the Canadian exchange (TMX) to create a transatlantic platform for listing and trading equities. This plan is dwarfed by an even more ambitious proposal by the German exchange Deutsche Börse (DB) to merge with NYSE Euronext to create a behemoth in equities and derivatives trading.

It is now clear that exchange consolidation is not going to be on a regional scale. Increasingly, the goal will be to create exchanges that span several continents and provide a single platform for trading stocks and derivatives from all over the world round-the-clock. In a year or two, when the LSE-TMX and DB-NYSE combines have completed the integration of their respective mergers, they will be looking at acquiring Asian exchanges to complete their global reach. Many analysts now believe that 5-10 years from now, there will probably be 4-5 global exchanges, each of which spans Asia, Europe and the Americas.

At that point, the Indian exchanges will have the choice between splendid isolation (and irrelevance) in a globalised world and becoming a relatively minor piece in a global exchange. To avoid this fate, Indian exchanges need to act now to spearhead the formation of pan-Asian exchanges that would have much greater bargaining power during the final round of consolidation.

There are two reasons for optimism that Indian exchanges can play a key role in the first phase of Asian consolidation. First, India is a large and fast growing emerging market. Second, Indian exchanges are world-class in terms of market design, range of derivative products, large and varied investor base, sound regulation and high liquidity.

If we exclude developed markets like Japan, Australia and Singapore, and if we regard China, Hong Kong and possibly Taiwan as being in a class of their own, then India and Korea are the emerging markets of the Asia-Pacific region, with large and vibrant equity and derivative markets. Korea has the world's largest index derivative market while India is the premier market for single stock futures.

The accompanying table compares Indian and Korean exchanges with the aggregate of other Asia-Pacific emerging markets to demonstrate how large these two countries loom over the rest.

A partnership of some form (an alliance, if not a merger) between the Korean and Indian exchanges would clearly be a formidable Asian exchange that could, over time, absorb other smaller Asian exchanges and introduce derivative markets in those countries. Just as Euronext (a merger of European exchanges) subsequently became a major part of a transatlantic merger, it is easy to visualise this pan-Asian exchange becoming a significant part of a global exchange in the final phase of global consolidation towards the end of this decade.

Of course, any such alliance would involve tricky issues of valuation.

For instance, the Indian market capitalisation is 1½ times that of Korea; Korean traded value is nearly 4 times that of India; the exchange profit numbers are comparable; and the long-run growth prospects are probably better in India.

When it comes to regulation, nothing much will change because each exchange as a separate operating subsidiary could continue to be regulated by its current national regulator. Any merger would, however, require changes in national regulation on foreign shareholding and other related matters.

Needless to say, the purpose of this article is not to campaign for a specific merger or alliance. The purpose rather is to illustrate, with sufficient particularity, the thought processes that Indian exchanges need to go through in identifying potential partners and working out various permutations and combinations in order to derive the maximum possible advantage for themselves and for India.

The author is a professor of finance at IIM, Ahmedabad

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

JPCS DON'T EVEN GET PASS MARKS
SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE

Obviously there must be something really big about a joint parliamentary committee (JPC), the way the nays and ayes have panned out. Despite a CAG report, a highly rigorous Supreme Court-monitored CBI investigation and the Justice Patil committee report, we are told, a JPC has to be it. So there will be a JPC and we have the Prime Minister's word, no less.

Since a JPC is so significant, it follows whenever there have been critical episodes punctuating our progress as a nation, there would have been such committees. Checking up parliamentary records shows this is indeed the case. Many of them have addressed momentous issues for our times. Top of the list must be the JPC set up to examine no less than food management in the Parliament House Complex. There has also been an equally significant committee to maintain the heritage character and development of Parliament House complex, as late as 2009.

Commentators have often noted the only safety from inflation in food prices is to take refuge at the tables in the assorted canteens maintained by the Indian Railways in the complex. It follows that the JPC on food management in Parliament is, therefore, also an able substitute for an examination of the inflation question.

A small digression here. CV Madhukar, chief of PRS Legislative Research, informs me that there is a difference between a joint committee and a joint parliamentary committee. The Indian Constitution does not refer to a JPC and neither do the parliamentary rule books. While both comprise members from both houses, to be a JPC it has to be designated as such by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. Else it remains a joint committee only. By that count, there are four JPCs that have been set up till date. The one on 2G scam will be the fifth.

It is also a distinction that not many legislators seem to think much about. The official Websites of a number of them list their membership of these "joint parliamentary committees".

What has been the record of the four JPCs that were set up? The first of these, on Bofors, was like the 2G scam, set up after a tremendous political demand. Before the committee could be formed, VP Singh had resigned from the Congress party and so the demand lost its steam. The committee was boycotted by the Opposition and that was the end of it.

Of the other three, two were set up as a fall-out of the huge upheaval in the stock markets in 1993 and in 2002. The strongest demand of the members of the second JPC on stock market scam was their report should not meet the same fate as the first one. So we can safely ignore the impact of the first one.

There was another JPC, almost as soon as the second JPC on stock market was winding up its work. This was a fall-out of the allegations of pesticide residues in cold drinks and therefore was tasked to devise safety standards for soft drinks, fruit juices and other beverages. Since the then NDA government was at the receiving end of a series of controversies, especially the stock scam, it perceived the pesticide storm as a possible stick to beat the sugar lobby (read Sharad Pawar) with. Predictably, the report said nothing spectacular to upset any industrial group, including even issues like water consumption by soft drink companies.

So, to decide if JPCs are particularly useful, the only standard we have is the second on the Ketan Parekh and UTI. In this respect, the committee did a good job. One of the things it brought successive governments to was tabling an action taken report on all the recommendations made in the final report. True, then too the big debate was if Prime Minister Vajpayee or even finance minister Yashwant Sinha will have to depose before it. Nothing of the sort happened. But as the committee continued with its work, the government hived off UTI—India's then largest mutual fund—into UTIAMC and firewalled its bad investments into another entity. Also, for the first time the government was forced to make good some of the losses suffered by the investors in US-64, the flagship scheme of UTI.

subhomoy.bhattacharjee@expressindia.com

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

ON REAL INTERNET FREEDOM

The United States has restated its commitment to keep the Internet free and make it a bulwark of democracy but, unsurprisingly, there is no chorus of welcome for its fulsome defence of online freedoms. In a recent university address titled "Internet Rights and Wrongs: Choices and Challenges in a Networked World," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton berated authoritarian regimes and praised the people of Tunisia and Egypt for using digital tools to organise democratic protests. In the future, she said, America would partner civil society and governments and even fund technologists to protect the open Internet. This second assertion of net freedoms in two years should have impressed many but it did not — and with good reason. As the WikiLeaks episode makes clear, U.S. policy is deeply flawed by the contradiction of espousing an open Internet, and in parallel, working to prevent inconvenient disclosures. At the time Ms Clinton was underscoring high opportunity costs for countries which filter or shut down the Internet, the U.S. administration was pursuing legal action to arm-twist Twitter, the very website that she was praising for helping frustrated citizens of the Arab world. U.S. government officials are seeking court orders to compel Twitter to hand over personal details, including private messages, of Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning, the detained American soldier, and Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland's parliament.

To praise the Internet for aiding truth-telling and, in the same breath, dismiss the discussion on free speech for websites such as WikiLeaks as a "false debate" is hypocritical. It can be credibly argued that the simmering discontent in Tunisia exploded in public anger when WikiLeaks published the cables on the U.S. ambassador's assessment of corruption by President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. The Tunisian uprising, then, was triggered by the WikiLeaks revelations, and fanned by the Internet. In a more connected world the key question before the U.S. is to define confidentiality. The less of it, the better. For the media, and by extension the Internet, the decision to publish secrets is not a difficult one. The judicial position on the Pentagon Papers on Vietnam, refusing to grant prior restraint on publication of classified documents, serves as a clear guide. This unambiguous principle should underpin free speech online in the era of WikiLeaks. There is absolutely no evidence to show that the whistleblower website endangered lives. Through all the controversy, the media have done well to strengthen their oversight mechanism and redact sensitive information. As a tireless advocate of 'democracy,' the U.S. needs to believe in its own assertions on unfettered free speech and stop introducing self-serving double standards.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

MUSEVENI WINS AGAIN

Uganda's longstanding leader, Yoweri Museveni, has won a fourth elected term, taking 68 per cent of the vote to the 26 per cent scored by his nearest challenger, Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change. Including the 10 years the incumbent had as President after overthrowing Milton Obote in 1986, this will take his unbroken time in office to over 30 years. The result is consistent with prior polls, but the conduct of the election was problematic in several ways. The country has no independent election commission, and potential donors to opposition parties were discouraged by a climate of intimidation. Private radio stations refused some candidates airtime that had been paid for in advance, and the Commonwealth Observer Group has expressed concerns about the use of money and official positions for campaign purposes. In the last 15 years, furthermore, corruption has spread; thousands of lives have been lost in a partially successful war against the Lord's Resistance Army, with both sides using child soldiers; and one in three of the 34 million population still lives on $1.25 or less a day. The Ugandan army have also been accused of systematic brutality and of plundering resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The President himself has shown no embarrassment over other controversies too. In 2006, he abolished the constitutional two-term limit. Elections within his own party, the National Resistance Movement, have been marred by many allegations of vote-rigging.

Rural voters, however, backed Mr. Museveni strongly on the day, which suggests that to them his political contribution to rural stability outweighs the fact that for other voters he has long lost the shine of his early achievements. Those included rebuilding a country with bitter memories of Idi Amin's dictatorship and the two decades of civil war that followed it. Uganda also led Africa in addressing the AIDS epidemic. The defeated Mr. Besigye, the President's former personal physician, says he will not challenge the results in court, and his followers have not responded to his call for public protests. A lot is at stake, not least because the recent discovery of an estimated one billion barrels of oil in the Lake Albert Basin promises any government in Kampala greater international leverage. Mr. Museveni is relatively free from accusations of personal enrichment, and Ugandan voters have shown a degree of practical judgment throughout the election, both in keeping the polls peaceful and in making their decisions at the ballot booths.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

FOR AN INTEGRATED RESOURCES POLICY

IT IS TIME TO THINK OUT OF THE BOX AND DEVELOP POLICY AND REGULATORY MODELS THAT ARE UNIQUE TO US, RATHER THAN ADOPT THE SECTOR SPECIFIC IMPORTED MODEL OF INDEPENDENT REGULATORS.

LIGIA NORONHA

A high-power committee headed by Ashok Chawla has been constituted to look into the pricing, allocation and utilisation of natural resources. The recent cases of illegal mining and corruption, undervaluation of 2G spectrum and its allocation, pricing of natural gas, and the potential of shale gas have prompted this exercise, long overdue. Here is an opportunity, however, to put in place an integrated development and regulatory policy for natural resources development rather than opt for a limited agenda.

Several factors make the need for an integrated policy compelling. One, the rising prices and economic rents these resources generate require a revisiting of how the rent is appropriated, and of the arrangements and business models we have to allocate resources and share the rents between the developer and the state. Two, the resource and capacity needs of the constituent resource rich States need to be assessed. For, key resources such as oil, natural gas, minerals, coal and hydropower are owned by the States and controlled by the Centre. Three, the strategic aspects of coal, oil, base metals, and rare earth metals need a longer term perspective on their development and utilisation. Four, the often adverse environmental implications of development call for a context-specific, informed and inclusive debate on weak and strong sustainability criteria. Five, the social impact that their development creates, in the absence of a focussed attention on a more people-oriented resources policy, will result in inequitable and unfair outcomes and, increasingly, a reduced social licence to operate. Six, oil, gas, coal and minerals are exhaustible resources. Developing them today means we forgo the opportunity of developing them in future. It is important to ensure that some of the revenues earned from such development are put into intergenerational funds so that they generate income streams in perpetuity, as does the Government Pension Fund of Norway that is built on a share of its petroleum revenues, and invests the proceeds in income generating activities. A fiscal rule then determines what can be appropriated for budgetary purposes.

In India, as in many other countries, there is a tendency to treat these issues separately. But the time has come for us to think out of the box and develop policy and regulatory models that are unique to us, with a common architecture rather than merely adopting the sector-specific imported model of independent regulators. Given that resources in India occur in rich terrestrial or marine environments — and onshore resources in the midst of dense habitations — and that we are still in the early stages of their development, there is a strong case for an integrated resources policy.

Our work in these sectors suggests the need to engage with the following questions:

— Should India consider having different business models for different minerals depending on their strategic and economic importance, rather than a uniform concession system for all? For example, oil and gas have adopted production sharing contracts (PSC) because of their strategic importance and value. Should we not think of production sharing contracts or rate of return contracts for iron ore, copper, lead and zinc, for greater resource control, to capture the resource rent more effectively, and to have options to take shares in kind that can be used to develop downstream industry in States? Not being able (or willing) to oversee or control the cost component in production sharing contracts should not be an excuse for not seriously engaging with this business model.

Inadequate approach

— Should we not introduce intergenerational principles in the design of funds that we create out of our resource revenues? The current approach is to impose a cess on the sector and then have the proceeds go to a sectoral fund which is part of the Consolidated Fund of India, as is the case of the Oil Industry Development Fund, a model that is also proposed by the MMDR Bill 2010. This approach is inadequate and, going by the experience of the oil fund, does not recognise the intergenerational aspects of exhaustible resource development. The oil cess is not shared with the States. Assam and Rajasthan have been asking for a share in grants from the oil development cess or its reduction to accommodate a larger additional royalty to States to be used for local development. Resource revenues need to be transparently recorded and spent on current poverty alleviation and social development priorities, and also invested in future needs.

— Should we not use more competitive bidding processes to allocate acreage, blocks, and sites to get better deals for States as argued by Chhattisgarh Governor Shekhar Dutt in his letter to the PMO on the MMDR Bill 2010? Competitive bidding processes or auctions capture the differential quality of the resource or the hydropower sites, and the desirability of resource to the entrepreneur, and result in better economic outcomes for the resource owner relative to discretionary allocations, as the economic agent is in a better position to judge the value of the resource and express this valuation through the bid or premium offered as compared to the assessments of government agents.

— Should we not seek to integrate better economic, social and environmental regulations around natural resource development? Environmental regulation can result in reduced competition and create barriers to entry through, for example, the time involved in the permitting process, tradable pollution permits which benefit the dominant firms, etc. On the other hand, permissive entry policies or the absence of policy or its enforcement can result in excessive competition and entry which exacerbate the cumulative environmental and social impacts, as is evident in the mining in Goa and Karnataka.

— Should we not revisit Centre-State relations in the context of environmental regulation of resource development? The current sharing of rights and responsibilities of environmental management and oversight tends strongly to favour the Centre, as against the need for much more distributed governance. There is a limited functional interaction between Central and State authorities and among relevant State level agencies. The role of gram sabhas, PRIs is limited or absent, even where decentralisation is provided for, the corresponding institutional and fiscal support is inadequate and, overall, the States are under no strict obligation to devolve functions on natural resource management to local bodies.

Resource federalism

— Should we not focus on strengthening the institutions of resource federalism as we put in place more and more independent regulators which tend to centralise power at the Centre? Resource federalism was not an issue in the earlier phases of resource development, in that federal arrangements did not constrain the Centre's statist and centrist approach to it. However, economic reform and coalition politics are leading to new demands from the States. As the Centre seeks to accommodate them through a greater devolution of revenues and control, there is need to strengthen the institutions of oversight and rule enforcement, which involve all three levels of government. In fact, in this context, and given the poor regulatory performance of the mineral rich States in recent times, should we not have a diffusion of regulatory control through society by requiring a more pro-active disclosure of information in connection with the RTI, institutionalising social audits and participatory monitoring using indicators, tools and spatial databases? One of the most interesting developments using Google earth maps, for example, is the way people are now in a position to locate illegal mining and the dumping of overburden rejects, and create protests around it because they have the information they need.

(Ligia Noronha is Director, The Energy and Resources Institute.)

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THE HINDU

OPED

NO LONGER A MAN THE WEST CAN DO DEALS WITH

HIS FORMER UNIVERSITY DISTANCES ITSELF FROM SEIF AL-ISLAM EL-QADHAFI — HE HAD A ROLE IN NUCLEAR TALKS AND IN MEGRAHI'S RELEASE, CONVICTED IN THE LOCKERBIE BOMBING CASE.

IAN COBAIN, AMELIA HILL AND KARTIK MEHTA

With his flawless English, his expensive Italian suits and his place at the London School of Economics (LSE), Seif al-Islam el-Qadhafi appeared to be a man with whom the West could do business: a man who could smooth access to his country's vast mineral resources while avoiding the need to deal with his famously capricious father.

As State security forces were reported to be firing relentlessly into crowds of civilian protesters on February 21, and with Qadhafi Jr appearing on television to threaten a civil war in which the regime "will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet," many of his erstwhile associates were questioning their friendships with him.

The LSE was quick to distance itself from Seif on February 21, issuing a statement in which it said the university had had a number of links with Libya, but that "in view of the highly distressing news from Libya over the weekend of February 19-20, the school has reconsidered those links as a matter of urgency".

Although the LSE had accepted £1.5m from the Qadhafi International Charity and Development Foundation, an organisation headed by Seif — some of which was to finance "a virtual democracy centre" — the university stressed that it was to be paid over five years, and only £3,00,000 has been received to date. "In current difficult circumstances across the region, the school has decided to stop new activities under that programme," the statement said. The LSE has also received scholarship funding in return for advice given to the Libyan Investment Authority in London. "No further receipts are anticipated," the university said.

Reactions

Professor David Held, an academic advisor to Seif Qadhafi during his four years at the LSE, said: "Watching Seif give that speech — looking so exhausted, nervous and, frankly, terrible — was the stuff of Shakespeare and of Freud: a young man torn by a struggle between loyalty to his father and his family, and the beliefs he had come to hold for reform, democracy and the rule of law. The man giving that speech wasn't the Seif I had got to know well over those years." The university's move to break its financial links to the regime in Tripoli did nothing to silence criticism, however. Raheem Kassam, director of the anti-radicalisation group Student Rights, said: "LSE has the most market-driven fund-raising model there is in the U.K. Has that model reduced them into a simple gun for hire?" An explanation for Qadhafi's arrival at the LSE in 2002 may be found in one of the WikiLeaks cables, in which a U.S. diplomat notes that "creating the appearance of useful employment for al-Qadhafi's offspring has been an important objective for the regime".

Shortly before he arrived, apparently with the blessing of the late Fred Halliday, professor of international relations, he startled some of the academic staff by insisting that it was his father, and not Anthony Giddens, emeritus professor at the university, who created the concept of the third way, then a pet philosophy of Tony Blair.

In the introduction to his doctoral dissertation on global governance, published in 2008, Qadhafi wrote: "I shall be primarily concerned with what I argue is the central failing of the current system of global governance in the new global environment: that it is highly undemocratic." The purpose of his dissertation, he added, was to analyse "how to create more just and democratic global governing institutions," focussing on the importance of the role of "civil society."

Approached MI6

Six months after arriving in the U.K., and with U.S.-led forces about to invade Iraq, he is said to have approached MI6 to inform the agency that his father's regime was prepared to abandon its nuclear weapons programme. The contact led to negotiations between Libya, Britain and the U.S. which saw the programme dismantled, and the Qadhafi regime begin to be allowed in from the cold.

While studying for his PhD, Seif enjoyed a life of considerable luxury in one of London's wealthiest and most prestigious suburbs. In August 2009 Qadhafi bought his son a £10m house in north London. Inside the neo-Georgian eight—bedroom mansion, Seif could relax in his own swimming pool sauna room, whirlpool bath and suede-lined cinema room.

On February 21, the entourage of blacked-out cars parked on Seif's driveway had disappeared and there was less need for the forest of CCTV cameras or the private security team who had been on hand to protect him at all times.

Lockerbie

During his time in London Qadhafi mixed socially with Lord Mandelson and the financier Nathaniel Rothschild, and was said to be on friendly terms with the Duke of York. He played a leading role in talks that led to the 2009 release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing in which 270 people died. While flying Megrahi home to Libya on a private jet, Qadhafi Jr gave a television interview in which he said the release had been linked to lucrative business deals.

Mandelson later insisted any suggestion that the British government had struck a deal and then instructed the Scottish government to release Megrahi was wrong, implausible "and actually quite offensive."

A review of documentation relating to the release conducted by the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, reported earlier this month that the British government had been anxious to avoiding harming the country's commercial interests, and that there would be "severe ramifications for U.K. interests" if Megrahi was to die in prison.

— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

           

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THE HINDU

IN LIBYA, THE SUCCESSION QUESTION

THERE EXISTS A RECIPE FOR INSTABILITY AND CHAOS, AND CIVIL SOCIETY IS VIRTUALLY NON-EXISTENT.

IAN BLACK

No obvious successors or opposition movements are waiting to take over Libya if Muammar Qadhafi is forced from power after four decades in which political dissent was crushed and society atomised.

Academics, analysts and diplomats agree that until recently his most likely heirs were his sons, primarily the reformist-minded Seif al-Islam. But that option appears to have disappeared after Seif's TV address warning of "civil war" while promising reforms late on February 20.

Benghazi a centre of dissent

"Seif was considered the most pro-western and most liberal of the family and most in touch with youth — and he blew it," said veteran Libya-watcher Charles Gurdon of Menas Associates. "Any idea that he could take over has now gone." Qadhafi destroyed any hope for his sons' succession by playing them off against each other, argued George Joffe, a Cambridge University Maghreb expert. "If he goes, the whole family goes." Opposition in Libya is fragmented regionally and there is little sign of organised anti-regime activity at the national level. Benghazi, in the impoverished east has long been a centre of dissent and calls for a constitution. Tripoli has traditionally been quiescent, if resentful of Qadhafi's orders to move government offices from the capital to his home town of Sirte.

'Libya a special case'

But previously unknown individuals are now emerging to organise protests as unrest spreads in Tripoli. Exiled groups such as the National Front for the Salvation of Libya are thought to enjoy little support among the country's 6.5 million people.

Conventional politics was abolished by the leader's "Green Book" and replaced by people's committees and the general people's congress — a sort of parliament. When Hafez al-Assad, Syria's President and the Ba'ath party leader, visited Libya in the 1970s he was greeted with placards saying "Political parties are treason".

If the Qadhafi regime falls, anyone associated with it would be tainted. "There's no one whose face is known on TV who isn't associated with Qadhafi ," said another old Libya hand. A possible exception could be Shukri Ghanem, a former Prime Minister and now head of the national oil corporation.

"Libya is a special case," said a former Tripoli-based diplomat. "In other countries — Egypt, Jordan or Bahrain — you can construct scenarios about what might happen after an uprising. In Libya you can see only instability, chaos and violence."

Takeover by the army looks unlikely. Qadhafi, a military man himself when he seized power and overthrew the monarchy in 1969, deliberately kept the army weak and refused for long periods to issue it with ammunition. The regime is protected by special battalions like the one commanded by his son Khamis, said to have been crushing protests in Benghazi. Civil society is virtually non-existent and the business sector still young and weak though angry about the corruption of the Qadhafi family and their favourites.

Reformist activity was led by Seif al-Islam through his Qadhafi charitable foundation. He did some work promoting human rights and semi-independent media but met resistance from the old guard in the revolutionary committees and the security services.

No one seriously expects Islamists to play a big role in the post-Qadhafi era. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an al-Qaeda affiliate which sent many young men to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, was defeated, its members now either in prison or freed and pardoned. The mosques are carefully monitored and generally tame.

Libya's once powerful tribes, experts predict, could become more significant players in a Qadhafi-free future. "The tribes will be important and there will be a combination of old secular opposition with an Islamist element," said Gurdon.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

 

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THE HINDU

U.S. CABLES' INSIGHTS INTO QADHAFI'S FAMILY

IAN BLACK

The leader of the Libyan revolution presides over a "famously fractious" family that is powerful, wealthy, dysfunctional and marked by internecine struggles, according to U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. The documents shed light on his eight children.

Muammar Qadhafi The patriarch, now 68, was described by U.S. ambassador to Tripoli, Gene Cretz, in 2009 as a "mercurial and eccentric figure who suffers from severe phobias, enjoys flamenco dancing and horseracing, acts on whims and irritates friends and enemies alike." Qadhafi has an intense dislike or fear of staying on upper floors, and prefers not to fly over water, the cables add.

Safiya (nee Farkash) Qadhafi's second wife travels by chartered jet in Libya, with a motorcade of Mercedes vehicles waiting to pick her up at the airport to take her to her destination, but her movements are limited and discreet. Hails from Benghazi, the centre of the rebellion.

Seif al-Islam Second-eldest son. Cables claim at odds with siblings Muatassim, Aisha, Hannibal, and Sa'adi.

Sa'adi Third-eldest son. "Notoriously ill-behaved Sa'adi has a troubled past, including scuffles with police in Europe (especially Italy), abuse of drugs and alcohol, excessive partying, travel abroad in contravention of his father's wishes.

Former professional footballer (a single season with Perugia in Italy's Serie A league, he owns a significant share of al-Ahli, one of the two biggest soccer teams in Libya, and has run Libya's football federation). An engineer by training, Sa'adi was briefly an officer in a special forces unit. Used troops under his control to affect the outcome of business deals. Owns a film production company. Reported to have been involved in crushing the protests in Benghazi.

Muatassim Fourth-eldest son. Father's national security adviser and until recently a rising star.

Hannibal Chequered history of unseemly behaviour and public scuffles with authorities in Europe and elsewhere. Arrest in Geneva over alleged beating his servants led to a bilateral spat, in which the Swiss were forced to back down under threat of withdrawal of Libyan investments. Is the fifth eldest son.

Khamis Qadhafi's sixth son and the "well-respected" commander of a special forces unit — 32nd battalion or Khamis brigade that effectively serves as a regime protection unit and was reportedly involved in suppressing unrest in Benghazi. Trained in Russia.

Aisha Daughter who mediates in family disputes ands runs NGO. Reported to have financial interests in a private clinic in Tripoli, one of two trustworthy facilities that supplement the unreliable healthcare available through public facilities.

Muhammad The eldest son, but by Qadhafi's first wife. Heads the Libyan Olympic committee that now owns 40 per cent of the Libyan Beverage Company, currently the Libyan joint venture Coca-Cola franchisee. Also runs general post and telecommunications committee.

Saif al-Arab Least publicly known of the eight children. Reportedly lives in Munich, where it is claimed he pursues ill-defined business interests and spends much time partying.

Like all the Qadhafi children and favourites is supposed to have income streams from the national oil company and oil services subsidiaries. A seventh son, Milad Abuztaia, is an adopted nephew. ( Ian Black is the Guardian's Middle East editor.)

    © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

     

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THE HINDU

BID TO DOCUMENT ENDANGERED LANGUAGES

LUCY TOBIN

You'll never again hear anyone speaking Laghu, and anyone yearning to communicate in Old Kentish Sign Language is out of luck: it, too, has gone the way of the dodo. But there's still a chance to track down a conversation in Gamilaraay, or Southern Pomo — if you're prepared to trek to visit to one the few native Americans still speaking it in California. Of the 6,500 living languages currently being used around the world, around half are expected to be extinct by the end of this century.

Online project

It was concern about the cultural and historical losses that result from a language disappearing that inspired the World Oral Literature Project, an online collection of some of the 3,500-plus "endangered languages" struggling for survival in the world.

The heart of the project [http://www.oralliterature.org], run by Cambridge University, is a large database listing thousands of languages alongside details such as where they are spoken and by whom, plus audio clips. On the site, surfers can discover that Laghu was a language spoken in the Solomon Islands until it disappeared in 1984, Old Kentish Sign Language was a precursor to the modern—day version, and Gamilaraay is still used by the Kamilaroi tribe of New South Wales.

The project is the brainchild of Mark Turin, a research associate at Cambridge University's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. He grew up in London speaking Dutch and English and had planned to study linguistics at university, but on a gap year in Nepal realised he was interested in "what language unlocked, not just the nuts and bolts", and switched to anthropology. He is fast becoming the Bear Grylls of his field, having trekked all over the world for his cause.

'Most are primarily oral'

"We know very little about most of the world's languages, and an incredible amount about the histories and changes of a handful of western European languages," Turin explains. And he has devoted his academic career to trying to open up little-known languages. "Most endangered languages are primarily oral, and are vehicles for the transmission of a great deal of oral culture," he says. "That's at risk of being lost when speakers abandon their languages in favour of regional, national or international tongues."

So the World Oral Literature Project aims to document vanishing languages — and everything about the culture and society they convey — before they disappear. Its database used three major sources to collate the information about the disappearing languages, including Unesco's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger [http://www.unesco.org/culture/languages-atlas/]. About 150 of its listed languages are in an "extremely critical" condition, where the number of known living speakers has slipped to single figures, or even just one.

"As soon as a scholar declares a language to be extinct, you get a phone call from someone furious who says 'my mother still speaks it'," Turin says. "But in a way, these corrections are all part of the process of drawing attention to the cause and the sense of urgency involved in careful documentation and description of endangered speech forms the world over." The project also provides funds for local fieldworkers in countries including Malawi, India, Mongolia and Colombia to collect data and recordings about little-spoken languages. In the past, Turin says, major collections of recordings were lost because they weren't deemed important. He sees the new site as a "safe haven" for fieldwork on languages that might otherwise be lost. "The vast majority of tapes are just kept in dusty boxes, but to put them on our database we digitise and hopefully future-proof them," he adds.

Donors

"All manner of people have been getting in touch to give us their collections, including missionaries, retired scholars and community activists." One early donor was Reverend John Whitehorn, a former missionary and Cambridge linguist who lived with an indigenous community in Taiwan in the 1950s. "When he came back to England, he walked into Cambridge's Museum of Anthropology and said, 'I've got books, textiles and tape recordings, are you interested?' The museum took it all apart from the recordings because they didn't know what to do with them," Turin explains. "He went home and stored his collection around the house in carrier bags, where they stayed until he walked into my office with the bags under his arm, and asked, 'do you want them now?' The tapes are brilliant, with songs and interviews and linguistic information that might otherwise have disappeared." The database is currently updated exclusively by academics (though users are encouraged to send in contributions), but Turin hopes that it will ultimately become a Wikipedia-style web 2.0 project "that people want to contribute to," with user uploads, recordings and discussion to help keep languages alive. To that aim, Turin organises lectures and workshops for linguists, librarians, academics and members of the public to discuss the best strategies for collecting and protecting languages and their research.

But he worries that, in academia, funding pressures mean the importance of languages is being overlooked.

© Guardin Newspapers Limited, 2011

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

MALKANGIRI: DON'T FORGET ITS LESSONS

The abduction by Naxalites last week of Orissa's Malkangiri collector R. Vineel Kumar, along with junior engineer Pabitra Majhi, underlines the complexity of dealing effectively with the Maoist problem. There are some crucial lessons here too. Since the Naxalite issue affects about 60 districts across seven states, what we are witnessing in Orissa has wider implications.

The initial focus was on whether or not to engage in talks with the Maoists who demanded the release of arrested colleagues in return for the captured officials. It is just as well that the Orissa government chose to agree to such a swap. It has been a ready prescription for some years that there should be no negotiations with terrorists. It is thought that such a course of action is pusillanimous, that it emboldens terrorists, and that it is a relatively painless way of getting freed desperadoes captured with some difficulty. In India we have almost always chosen the path of dialogue, but the no-negotiations stance is especially strong among Western nations. The Rubaiya Sayeed case in Kashmir and the Kandahar hijack case highlight the unspoken Indian approach. Possibly what explains the Western view is that usually these countries deal with terrorists who are not their own citizens, and those abducted are usually ordinary individuals (not large groups) — often in non-Western locations (such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan) — and not senior officials or their families. Should the worst happen and a hostage is killed by the kidnappers, the domestic political fallout is expected to be relatively small. A genuine test of the no-negotiations-with-terrorists approach is yet to come. Only if a senior official or a large group of their own nationals is taken captive home soil will we get a real idea of how firmly committed Western democracies are to the principle they espouse. Most hostage situations which have played out on Indian soil involve our own citizens — those captured as well as the outlaws — or, as in the Kandahar case, a very large group of our citizens are affected. This brings an altogether different perspective into play. It should also be kept in mind that if an official as senior as a district collector is allowed to be tortured or killed by outlawed bodies, the faith of the populace in the administration is likely to be badly shaken, not to mention that government officials would hesitate to serve in such areas. There is another consideration as well. Vile as the operating techniques of the Naxalites are, should they be deemed to be terrorists in the ordinary sense of the term? The answer is not easy or uncomplicated, for the stated aim of Naxal violence is succour for the poorest sections and this brings in a degree of sympathy for them among the intelligentsia. Another issue in the debate, of course, is that Naxalites are not external elements but our own citizens. The rules of engagement may have been different if their gangs included foreigners.

There are two key lessons in the Malkangiri affair. The collector seems to have been an extremely popular figure in the district on account of his concern for the poor and the steps he took to improve their condition. Even so, he was foolhardy to move about without security. Quite simply, that is inviting trouble in the Naxal belt. It is to be hoped that all state governments which face the Maoist problem have strict instructions for officials not to move about in the field without adequate precautions. Two, conspicuously pro-poor district officials leave a mark. This is why — before the negotiations began — poor villagers tried on their own to confront the Maoists to release Mr Kumar unharmed. The extension of this is that genuinely welfare-minded officials can help challenge the Maoist phenomenon through their actions.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

BUDGET, IN VERSE

INDER MALHOTRA

 

FIVE DAYS before the country's 64th Union Budget seems a good time for a bird's eye-view of the succession of this exciting annual event on the last day of February that I have covered or been a witness to. (Until the turn of the millennium, the Budget used to be presented at 5 pm; mercifully, the timing now is 11 am, thanks to Yashwant Sinha, Atal Bihari Vajpayee's finance minister.) To tell finance minister Pranab Mukherjee what to do or undo is best left to pundits of finance and fiscal, dismal science wonks and trumpeters of tycoons.
The first Budget I covered as a very young and raw reporter was John Mathai's third and last in 1950. Almost immediately after getting his Budget passed, he resigned in protest against Jawaharlal Nehru's decision to set up the Planning Commission with powers that the finance minister considered "excessive". Mathai's farewell performance was remarkable for his highly combative replies to his critics at the end of the Budget debate. For instance, he called a trade union leader from Gujarat "a Bania masquerading as a labour leader". Another member, he said, "mistook Parliament for the UN". More hard-hitting was his advice to Durga Bai, a prominent member who had waxed eloquent about the man-in-the-street: "Please do not take so seriously every man you meet in the street". (As it happened, some years later, Durga Bai, then a member of the Planning Commission, married Mathai's successor as finance minister, C.D. Deshmukh.)


Deshmukh, a member of the heaven-born Indian Civil Service (ICS) of the British days and a former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, was the first bureaucrat to become a Union Cabinet minister. However, before discussing his nearly six-year stint, it is only fair to mention that the man who had the honour to present the first Budget after the tryst with destiny was R.K. Shanmukham Chetty, a respected businessman of what was then Madras. His Budget was a declaration of war on those who had evaded taxes during World War II. Ironically, he also ensured his departure by excluding from the list of suspected tax-dodgers to be investigated the owners of a favoured business house.


It was Deshmukh who set the trend of quoting ancient Sanskrit shlokas or even verses in Tamil, not his mother tongue, in his Budget speeches. Others followed his practice enthusiastically. Consequently, rare is a Budget speech that is not studded with apt Urdu or Hindi poetry or verses in various other languages or even a catchy title of a Bollywood film. P. Chidambaram, now Union home minister, excelled in this art when he was finance minister first in the United Front government (1996-1998) and then in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government until 2008. Mr Mukherjee then returned to the portfolio he likes the most. It needs to be added that he was the first member of the Rajya Sabha to be made finance minister during Indira Gandhi's second innings in the 1980s.


Interestingly, Deshmukh resigned from the Nehru Cabinet in 1956 not because of any differences on economic policy but because he was enraged over a proposal to either make Bombay a city state and be kept out of Maharashtra or the bilingual Bombay state continuing. His successor was T.T. Krishnamachari who had coveted the finance portfolio for long. But the country was in the throes of a foreign exchange crunch which required heavy cuts in expenditure that were inevitably unpopular. His popularity declined further when, on the advice of the renowned Hungarian economist, Nicholas Kaldor, he imposed both wealth tax and expenditure tax but forgot to reduce the rates of income tax in what came to be known as the "Krishnamachari-Kaldor Budget".
TTK, as everyone called him, had to resign in February 1958 because of the "Mundhra affair", a case of Life Insurance Corporation's questionable investments in the highly dubious firms of industrialist Haridas Mundhra. Since the interval before the Budget was too short, Nehru temporarily took over the finance portfolio and presented the next Budget amidst much applause, especially when he quoted from William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. However, when some difficult questions were put to him during the Budget debate, he charmingly replied: "I know little of high finance and am a bird of passage in this ministry. Wait for the new incumbent".
The new incumbent was Morarji Desai who earned several distinctions. He presented the largest number of Budgets, eight in all and two of them on his birthday, February 29! He was the only finance minister to be divested of his portfolio without being asked to leave the Cabinet (in 1969 by Indira Gandhi). He came to grief also over the gold control he had imposed in his 1963 Budget after the border war with China and before he was eased out of the Nehru Cabinet under the famous Kamraj Plan. Above all, Desai was the first of the two finance ministers to become Prime Minister later, the second being Manmohan Singh, of course. R. Vekataraman, a rather popular finance minister, was the only one to become the republic's President.


Indira Gandhi, like her father before and her son Rajiv Gandhi later, briefly took over the finance ministry after Desai's exit. She nationalised major banks and saw to it that a populist Budget was presented and approved.
Constraint of space compels me to jump straight to Dr Manmohan Singh's first Budget in 1991. It was a major landmark because it propelled India's controlled economy towards liberalisation and globalisation. In 1996, the year in which the Narashima Rao government was voted out, there were signs that Dr Singh wasn't receiving from his party the support he needed. No wonder, in the course of his Budget speech he wistfully remarked: "I feel like going to theatre tonight". The allusion to Abraham Lincoln was missed by many, but not the Urdu verse he quoted: "Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil mein hai, Dekhna hai zor kitna baazu-e-qaatil mein hai".
In the prevailing political ambience and national mood, the good doctor might be tempted to recite this couplet yet again.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

EARLY AUTUMN FOR THE PATRIARCHS

RAJENDRA ABHYANKAR AND SUMIT GANGULY

It was only a matter of time before the popular protests which brought down his autocratic neighbours — Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt — came home to Libya, one of the most repressive states in the region. Not surprisingly, its mercurial ruler, Col. Muammar Gaddafi, has not been averse to using force to quell the popular uprising. Some 400 protestors are dead and hundreds injured in Benghazi, Misurata and Baida. It is ironic that Col. Gaddafi, who had derived inspiration for his coup against the Italian-backed King Idris from Gamal Abdel Nasser's group of Free Officers, once again finds that it is Egypt that may determine his future or lack of it.

His eldest son, Seif al-Islam, in an incoherent speech has warned that if the protests continue there is danger of civil war in the country to the detriment of its oil economy. This is not so much a warning to the Libyan people as a foretaste of what government goons could do if the protesters do not buckle under. That is the significance of his statement. His invocation of Libya's oil resources is also significant. It constitutes a warning to European governments which depend on Libyan oil and natural gas, that their secure sources for heating during this cold winter could be disrupted.

It is necessary for us to understand the tactics that the government is resorting to: they constitute a rearguard action by a ruling family which sees street protestors undermine its tribal governance structure. Unlike in Tunisia and Egypt where disaffected youth spearheaded the protest movements, in Libya the agitators have found support amongst workers' unions and human rights groups. Furthermore, the protestors have also sought assistance from their brethren in Egypt.

Over almost four decades, Col. Gaddafi has built up the most opaque system of governance in the Arab world. The entire system is geared to keeping his family in power and designed for passing on to future generations of his kith and kin. Col. Gaddafi had hoped that like Mr Mubarak in Egypt, Bashar Assad in Syria, Abdullah II in Jordan and Mohammad IV in Morocco, his son, Seif al-Islam, would also ascend to the patrimony he had created, regardless of the sentiments of his subjects.

To that end, he had undertaken a series of deft foreign and security policy initiatives. Two, in particular, were worthy of being underscored. They were his willingness to resolve the Lockerbie bombing episode and his disavowal of his regime's long-standing, clandestine nuclear ambitions. These gestures had made his otherwise brutal regime much more palatable to many in Europe and rendered their willingness to purchase petroleum and ancillary products from Libya more tolerable.

Col. Gaddafi was also quite prepared to curry favour with a host of poor African nations through the disbursement of his very substantial oil revenues. Indeed, at one point, he managed to secure the presidency of the African Union through the adroit exploitation of foreign assistance. Simultaneously, he doled out funds to Muslim minorities in other parts of the world through Libyan missions in those countries.

Domestically, he had sought to improve his image through the exploitation of Islam. To that end he was willing to resort to some bizarre and extraordinary steps. For example, some years ago he flew in a bevy of young Italian women to introduce them to the virtues of Islam.

His willingness to dole out the state's largesse was not confined to the foreign realm. He was more than willing to provide his populace the key necessities of life — healthcare, education and housing. However, the state's generosity came at a distinct price. The most basic freedoms, those of speech, religion and association, were routinely denied and any demands for such rights ruthlessly suppressed.

The protest movements that are now sweeping across the region are emblematic of the breakdown of this compact that a host of West Asian autocrats had come to see as the natural order of politics. Those who are risking their lives from Tunis to Tripoli and beyond are making it clear that they will not be satisfied by bread alone. They now crave the power of the ballot that has been so long denied to them.

The gathering storm of the protests besetting the entire Arab world, and even Iran, leaves us with no choice but to support these popular movements. To quote India's greatest democrat, Jawaharlal Nehru, it is their "tryst with destiny" — when the pent up anger of long-suffering people has finally found utterance. Given the largely peaceful features of these protests, it is imperative that India's policymakers, who have long-standing ties with many of these states, forthrightly urge their leaderships to recognise that the day of reckoning is now at hand.
These movements, yearning for democratic political participation, are quintessentially homegrown and not foreign implants. Any attempt to violently repress the popular upheavals under way will only lead to needless bloodshed and rend apart entire societies and states. Instead, an acceptance of the legitimacy of these protests may provide these anachronistic and hidebound regimes an opportunity to grant what their citizenry have long lacked — fundamental civil rights that are now seen as truly universal.

Rajendra Abhyankar is a diplomat in residence and Sumit Ganguly is the director of research at the Centre on American and Global Security at Indiana University,
Bloomington, US

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DNA

 

LOOKING BEYOND DISABILITIES

KRITHIKA GOPALKRISHNAN

 

Mumbai is known for its spirit and it is this fortitude shown by the Mumbaikars that keeps the city going. In our day-to-day lives, we come across a lot people who are not as fortunate as us and who fall victims to no fault of theirs. In spite of their disabilities, they have the urge to make a mark in the world and not just survive but also make a difference in others' lives.

 

I happened to meet one such person while I was on my way home. He was a blind, middle-aged man and was struggling to find a place in the ever-crowded local trains of Mumbai. I offered him my seat and he accepted it after a lot of reluctance.

 

He seemed to be a very enthusiastic person and chattered away to glory and in due course we got to know that both of us hailed from Tamil Nadu. With much time left for us to reach our respective stations, small talks soon turned into an hour-long conversation.

 

His name was Muthu Kumar (name changed) and he was part of an orchestra for the differently-abled. The main aim of his orchestra was to provide employment to the physically challenged and make them financially independent. Kumar, who was born blind, was abandoned by his family at a very young age. He managed to overcome all obstacles and was lucky to land himself a job with an orchestra.

 

However, having secured a job for himself did not satisfy Kumar's wants. He wanted to give back to society. So, joining hands with the other members of his group, he decided to help the weaker sections of the society. They set up a hostel for the underprivileged and provide them with basic amenities like food, shelter, and clothes. They also trained them in vocational courses so that they could make a living of their own and become independent.

 

Kumar said that there had been many instances when their income had been a paltry Rs100. But instead of feeling upset, they would take such instances as a motivating factor and would start work all over again the next day with new hopes. As time passed, people's perception towards them also changed and they started receiving donations as well. Kumar seemed to be unperturbed by his disability and said that he wanted to extend his help to as many people as possible.

 

I was spell-bound and left speechless listening to Kumar's story. His life highlights just one of the million obstacles faced by the physically challenged. But it was his determination and the spirit in him that helped him overcome all obstacles with ease. If Kumar can do it, so can we.

 

It would be remarkable if we could see beyond our shells and look at the reality of the world outside. As the saying goes, 'Little drops of water make an ocean', similarly our contribution to the society, however small it may be, will definitely bring about some drastic change in the near future. And for those lacking in spirit, draw inspiration from Kumar's life!

 

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DNA

WHEN ROAD-BUILDING IS A ZERO SUM GAME

GAURI SINH

 

Rs21,00,00,000. That's Rs21crore. Can you properly count the number of zeroes in that figure? A Rs21crore road – that's even more mind boggling. A TV news anchor's voice broke on the incredulity of all those zeroes being used in the context of something as lowly as a road… was it to be paved in gold, he actually asked. A road for the Gods is possibly what he implied.

 

Nope. It was for mortals and what's more, mortals who travelled the 1.8 km stretch between St Stephens church and the J Mehta lane. In effect, the area called Nepean Sea Road. Which just happens to be the road I reside on.

 

I should consider myself privileged. 'The road is 'mostly used by VVIPs, ministers and industrialists', as related news reports put it. Though I come under none of the above, I'm sure I'm chuffed: I do have illustrious neighbours. Up the hill is state guest house Sahyadri, and I can count on glimpses of various high-profile guests of state on occasion. Not to mention their security entourages (I once counted 10 cars lined up, all zooming down Walkeshwar as traffic not-so-patiently waited for the blaring sirens to subside), their hangers-on and of course my own ilk - the camera crews - whenever a political story breaks. That's enough traffic to warrant a BIG road nearby, in any case.

 

Expensive? I'm missing the point, surely. Sunita (building), having to its credit the dubious distinction of harbouring some of the most pricey flats in the city as reported sometime ago, is in the same line as Sahyadri; and scattered around are the sundry bungalow habitats of Mumbai's ye olde money - the Birlas, Ruias, Kilachands. The sprawling premise of Dr Mallya is in a lane a stone's throw down. Within walking distance is the CM's bungalow. And the breathtaking beaches of Raj Bhavan aren't too distant either.

 

Surely I ought to have no problem with a new road for all these wonderful neighbours.How about when I need to get to office, or the airport or pick up my four-year-old? Especially when the heavyweight politicos in our friendly neighbourhood area decide to leave their premises at the same time as I? Along with their cavalcades and crew, naturally. How unreasonable of me to bring this up. Surely I can suck up and smile, like the rest of Mumbai — it's only an hour or so of a wait till they pass. If there's an emergency situation in the meantime —fire, illness, and the like, I'll just have to be philosophical in the manner of the great Indian psyche: kismet mein nahin likha tha. Like that elderly citizen who reportedly couldn't reach her home for two hours when Hillary Clinton visited the store up the same road.

 

I couldn't be naïve enough to actually believe that because they're elected public servants, they should have any consideration for the public's time. Or money. I should understand that Nepean Sea road, after all, finds mention as one of the toniest areas of the city - real estate prices here touch the Rs 50-60,000 a square foot mark, which already is quite a lot of zeroes when neatly added up. So why make a fuss on a few zeroes extra on repairing that very road? Even if those repairs take ages in the manner of great Indian standard time and clog up an already space-starved, low-lying, flooded-like-an-overflowing-pool in the monsoon stretch.

 

If the hotly debated proposal actually goes through, I should realise enough to not protest and let my leaders and betters (?!) take decisions that are in the(ir) best interest. How very un-neighbourly of me to be concerned, about expense, about traffic and emergencies, about the sheer waste of the taxpayer's money - don't you think?

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

WHERE ARE HUMAN RIGHTS AND CIVIL LIBERTY ACTIVISTS?

 

The conspiracy of abetting armed insurgency in Kashmir carried with it the vicious component of media blitzkrieg. Sections of media could be purchased, manipulated or intimidated. It was a global campaign and the ISI has special expertise in the exercise. Vulnerable sections of local media, hitherto running normally, adopted partisan attitude and spread canard to malign those involved in restoring normalcy in the disturbed state. Sections of local vernacular press pandered to the ideology of militant outfits and adopted biased stance in covering events or analyzing situations to utter disregard of professional ethics. Alongside this, large number of non-government organizations began mushrooming not only within the state and the country but in foreign countries as well where Kashmiri and Pakistani Diaspora worked in tandem to project India as the evil oppressor and violator of human rights in Kashmir. Volatile groups of dissident Kashmiris from the valley, PoK, Pakistan and émigrés in western countries formed NGOs under one pseudonym or the other with the tacit purpose of conducting forceful anti-India campaign about presumptuous violations of human rights by the security forces in Kashmir. Self-styled human rights activists boosted the morale of insurgents and blew events and chance aberrations out of proportion. They resorted to shooting resolutions of condemnation to UN Human Rights bodies like the Human Rights Council or Human Rights chapters in British Parliament or the US Congress. They organized briefings at the UN, the EU and in other parts of the world to project through print or electronic media and through video recordings out of context events to tell the audience that "innocent Kashmiris" were subjected to human rights atrocities. These so-called human rights activists never said a word about the terrorists, where they got training in arms, who provided them with weapons and logistics, how they butchered innocent civilians and committed innumerable atrocities on local population in Kashmir. In comparison to their vociferous chanting of violation of human rights, they remained tongue tied about the crimes committed by the jihadis: they closed their eyes to the burning of thousands of schools, libraries and laboratories in the valley during the early days of armed insurgency: they advertently closed their eyes to the targeting of innocent members of the minority community ultimately hounding them out of their homes. All this has gone unnoticed with these rights activists. We would like to know where these self-styled rights activist and champions of civil liberties are when in Libya the guardsmen of despotic Gaddafi massacred nearly 200 protestors, all his co-religionists, by opening machine gun fire on the mourning crowds in Benghazi and leaving thousands wounded. He is the same Gaddafi who as champion of Islam advised entire Europe to convert to Islam. Kashmiri separatists lionized him when he gloated over his tantrum of supporting "Kashmir freedom movement". We would like to know why these rights activists are silent over the repression let loose by the rulers in Yemen on protesting mobs. We would like to ask the separatists of Kashmir who have now discovered a new Messiah in China just because China is India's rival in Asia and out to give sleepless nights to the Indian administration how they are reacting to the mass cry for democratization in China and the suppression of street mobs in Shanghai who were demonstrating for democratic rights and carrying forward the"Jasmine Revolution". Why are these NGOs --- once vociferous --- now tongue-tied on large scale suppression and stifling of the voice of freedom? Has their spirit of human rights advocacy run out of steam? We would like to know what they have to say about the mass uprising in Bahrain being put down with the help of brute force. Why don't these rights activists react to the iron curtain policy of Saudi monarchy behind which the voice of the masses is muted. There is turmoil in entire Arab world just because the people there are fed up with autocrats, despots and tyrants all glued to power under the mask of religion. Their people want to breathe the air of freedom, democracy and popular rule. They are witness to the boon of freedom of press and platform enjoyed by the people of free world. Theirs is not an Islamic movement but a movement for social justice and economic emancipation. It is only Iran where a social-political movement hijacked by the clerics is stonewalled to all aspirations of the people for true democratic dispensation and freedom of press, platform and movement. Why are these rights activists silent on the repression of Iranian clerical regime of their own people? Otherwise none of the current movements from Tunisia to Egypt and from Yemen to Bahrain is religious; these are purely political and economic movements though apprehensions of radicals hijacking them cannot be ruled out. Since the self-styled NGOs pretending to be the upholders of human rights and civil liberties are tight lipped on these significant world events, it naturally follows that they have only one agenda to pursue and that is of giving support to a conservative and radical religious agenda. Political uprising in the Arab world is spreading like contagion even to non-Muslim countries like China just because it is the voice of the people long suppressed by dictatorial and authoritative dispensation. Such is the consternation in Beijing that it has blocked almost all network channels that help spread the message of struggle for freedom throughout the country. No fewer than twelve major cities of China have come under the umbrella of internet blockade. Why are our rights activists silent on these happening? They have withdrawn into their shell and have forfeited their moral right of pontificating about observance of human rights. The world has to learn from India how practically human rights can be protected including of those who are sworn enemies of peace, and even in situations most challenging like terrorism and religious extremism.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

BALOCHISTAN SET TO EXPLODE

BY M K DHAR

 

The revolutions sweeping across the Arab world and dictators falling like nine pins ought to hold out a lesson for Pakistan's military-guided fidgety government to cease repression against the people of Balochistan province, who have risen in revolt. To deflect attention from the secessionist movements in Balochistan and Sindh provinces, Islamabad has been projecting what it perceives as an existential threat from India as its policy priority and officially promoting jihad and terrorism against it. Successive rulers, military or otherwise promoted Islamists in order to counter the urge for democracy and human rights among the vast majority of Pakistan's population. They even launched bloody military campaigns in Balochistan to suppress the rebellion by freedom-loving people, but failed to restore peace or win the support of the Baloch. Several Baloch leaders have been assassinated by government forces and thousands of nationalists are languishing in prisons, but the urge for democratic governance and freedom to manage their own affairs remains as strong as ever.
Public protests have intensified against repression and target killing of even moderate Baloch leaders by invisible state agencies and thousands of nationalists have disappeared inside the lockups of military field intelligence units. The International Crisis Group and even the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan have reported discovery of over 60 unidentified bodies during the past six months, apart from 300 persons missing, 117 target killings and 119 deaths in bomb explosions in the province. Unofficially at least 9,000 Baloch nationalists are missing after being picked up by the Army, the para-military Frontier Corps and state intelligence agencies.
The main reason behind the rebellion in Balochistan, which was forcibly annexed by Pakistan in 1947, is repression of its people by the rulers in Islamabad. Military campaigns have not succeeded in suppressing the people's urge for freedom and a better life, despite heavy casualties. Though it is Pakistan's largest province by area, the least populous among the four provinces, it has the lowest per capita income and the level of literacy, though it is the sole producer of oil and gas in the country. Its resources are exploited by people from other provinces, particularly Punjabis and Pathans, which has generated hatred for them among the people and led to selective cases of ethnic eleansing. The repressive Army is Panjabi-dominated and patronises the Pakistani the Afghan Taliban who are fighting the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and also suppresses those who raise their voice against Army-Jihadi collusion.
The pre-meditated killing of prominent Baloch leaders Nawab Akhtar Bugti during Gen Musharraf's rule became the catalyst for a unified stand by all the major tribes -- Marris, Mengals and Bugtis -- against the repressive policies pursued by Islamabad. The targeted killing of other tribal leaders far from putting down insurgency, has added fuel to it, and strengthened the demand for secession. Last year Secretary General of the Balochistan National Party (Mengal) Hanin Jalib Baloch was also killed in broad daylight in the provincial capital Quetta and so was national party leader Maula Bux Dasti, leading to widespread protests and shutdowns. Baloaach Marri, the son of nationlalist leader and chief of the Marri tribe Nawab Khari Bux Marri, was also killed under suspicious circumstances near the Afghanistan-Balochistan border. Such killings took place against the backdrop of disappearances of nationalists who constitute the bulk of the "missing" persons, which the Pakistan Supreme Court is currently seized of. There is little progress in the case because the government's agencies refuse to cooperate in divulging the fate or whereabouts of the missing persons because they themselves are responsible.
Even as the Pakistani authorities would not acknowledge it, the killing of tribal and nationalist leaders has strengthened the appeal of insurgents called "freedom fighters" and extended the reach of the armed school among Baloch nationalists. Even those regarded as moderate now feel compelled to revisit parliamentary politics to wrest their rights within the state of Pakistan.
This is corroborated also by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan which said that the local population had been subjected to "indiscriminate bombing" which has resulted in heavy casualties among women and children. It also reported alarming accounts of summary executions, some allegedly carried out by agencies of the Army. It has found widespread disappearance of nationalists, torture inflicted on people held in custody and detention without following due processes of law. The people's perception regarding discrimination against them practiced by the federal government, notably an establishment that they saw as being dominated by Punjabis, played a role in fomenting deep sense of resentment and anger in the province. The absence of dialogue has given way to brute force. Baloch nationalists see the expansion of military presence in the province as unacceptable and in infringement of their privacy and right to life.
To ward off criticism of its objectionable handling of the unrest in Balochistan and suppress the urge for human rights, democracy and development, the Government in November 2009 had announced a package of political, administrative an financial measures called Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan (the beginning of the rights of Balochistan) but there were no takers for it because it did not fix a deadline for constitutional reform and provincial autonomy. The Baloch politicians were also angered by the promise of "demilitarization" of the province and replacing the Army with the dreaded Frontier Corps. Which has established record in harassment and torture of people and is hated more than the Army. They say no conciliation is possible unless Pakistan's Constitution is amended there should be international mediation and facilitation and also guarantors to under-write any promises of constitutional and political nature made by the Pakistan Government.
The nationalists' demands have become more radical and they say that the attitude of the Pakistan Government ensures that a solution within the Constitution is not possible. They now openly articulate the demand for separation, secession and independence to get relief from discrimination and repression. The Balochistan time bomb is ticking, but the Pakistan government refuses to pay heed, ignoring the prospect of an uncontrollable explosion. (NPA)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

CHALLENGES BEFORE INDIAN ECONOMY

BY LALIT SETHI

 

Tumbling stocks, though recovering at times, retail prices galloping faster than inflation, booming petroleum prices with rising energy costs and with these there is simmering discontent, yet far from the boiling point, amid growing distrust of the political and sarkari classes. Crude prices are hovering above $100 per barrel, occasionally going below that level, and fueling worldwide inflation and causing a considerable price rise, but to these could be added Indian factors, which hurt the people at all levels.
These are no State secrets nor are they perceptions of intellectuals or just popular beliefs because the Prime Minister agrees that clean and efficients government is an imperative and corruption must be curbed, if not eliminated. The Government has announced that it would prosecute those who have stashed away money in tax havens around the world and would disclose their names as well as recover tax from them. One estimate is that $1 trillion of Indian money lies in offshore havens, including Mauritius and Swiss banks, besides 26 other islands and nations where Indians have taken their big money. How much tax will the Government recover from the evaders and how much of the money taken out of India is known to the Government? Is it a few or many billions of dollars? Will the Finance Minister inform the nation about it? Will he include the proposed recovery in his Budget Estimates? Let us hope for the best.
Even the Union Home Minister admits that there is governance as well as an ethical deficit following concerns expressed by captains of industry. He insists that these deficits have surfaced only now would be totally wrong. The fact is that these deficits, like the ever rising Budget deficits, have always been there, but possibly they were not as pronounced as they are now and the moneybags, who include tax evaders or rather tax "avoiders" using the loopholes in the laws, are pretending to be holier than the rest of the people because their riches entitle them to pontificate and be the fountains of good faith and profiteering beyond reasonable levels, while wheeling and dealing is their unstated fundamental right.
Privacy is their preserve as the lesser mortals have little to show and even less to hide. Business and industry leaders appear to be quite cozy with the rulers and mutual back-slapping and pulling each other's leg is like having a whale of time and an eternal cocktail party, which merges into wining and dining, followed by a break for the dawn and sunrise to arrive. Let the lay people be fed with promises galore because the economy is burgeoning and the dream world is not far away. For the vocal and educated middle classes, this belief rings true. The poor count only when and if the Opposition parties decide to cash in on their discontent, but they have decided not to do so at this point of time or for decades to come because it is hard labor and they could face the same music if ever they come to power, but they are in power in several places, if not at the Center.
Mr. P. Chidambaram made his comments in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, a publication at the center of New York, where scams and financial skullduggery of the highest magnitude were hatched almost 20 years ago—in 1992 to be precise—which was followed by daylight robbery of banks and stock markets by white collar financial wizards and their shenanigans came to light only a few years ago. Yet the same Americans preach morality to India and the rest of the world and pretend and refuse to look inwards or search their own hearts because the only way to forget your own malaise is to blame the rest of the world, especially the developing world, because it is easy to preach to that forum. Is that also true of the Indian captains of industry, who are now openly preaching to the government to ensure good governance so that they do not have to pay small bribes from the peon upwards, which really slow down projects?
It is also the international perception that lower level corruption is unique to poor countries, especially India and this is considered a major hurdle, which only Indian partners of international projects are capable of handling. That is why the easy to do business with India environment receives low marks in negotiations with India. High-level corruption is considered an acceptable reality around the world, but there again the recently uncovered scams like the second generation spectrum sale or allocation complicate the picture.
It is on this point perhaps that Mr. Chidambaram said that governance and ethics deficit is not a malaise that was unique to the coalition of the United Progressive Alliance as the industrialists and former judges wrote an open letter to all political leaders about widespread governance failures in every sphere of national life. The Home Minister admitted that the systems put in place to meet the challenges or failures are not adequate and an effort to make them foolproof would have to continue. Is that a tall order or vain hope?

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT AND KASHMIR POLITICS

BY FAROOQ GANDERBALI

 

Unable to reconcile with the fact that a Muslim majority state can accede to democratic India, Pakistan has made it a point of prestige to keep the pot of unrest stirring in Kashmir. The result has been that the beautiful state has been in deadly turmoil for the last more than twenty years.
Pakistan founded by Mohammed Ali Jinnah led to a notion that the state be merged out of a resolution passed in March 1940 at the Muslim League session in Lahore. As historian defines it that the creation of a Muslim state of Pakistan was historically a fallout of the collapse of the Mughal empire and the consequent disintegration of Muslim rule in India. The contemporary Pakistan is in deep inherit contradiction between feudality, modern democracy, military despotism, radical and political Islam and an epicenter of intolerance, one of the most violent nations on earth where Muslims are killing Muslims only.
Keeping these objective factors in consideration as the historical perspective of Kashmir, an armed insurgency erupted in the valley in 1990 involving local youth in order to create an independent buffer state or either to merge with the Muslim Pakistan.
After the 9/11 catastrophic episode that shook the dynamics of global politics radicalised and gave birth to the policy of geopolitics as an external dimension of Kashmir conflict propounded by western powers.
Hurriyat, a divided political dispensation, came into limelight as a 'pseudo' socio-political force in the valley which lacked political vision and methodology to sustain a Pan-Kashmiri movement, capitalized politically on the marginalised middle-class unemployed youth. Chaos and social upheaval engulfed the valley.
The internal and external dimensions of Jammu and Kashmir politics is in stalemate, a historical socio- political stagnation marked by typical political vacuum filled with a transitional institutional breakdown. The relations between India and Pakistan drifted further.
Recently, J&K Youth Development Forum a youth orginisation of Kashmir, addressing huge public rallies in the valley, laid emphasis on the core economic empowerment of youth especially belonging to conflict-afflicted Kashmir to utilize the enormous resources of the state to the maximum potential with sustainable growth and employment generation so as to usher into a proactive, self-reliant economic zone with active participation of intelligentsia, academicians and civil society for mobilization of youth as human recourse with a sense of entrepreneurship.
India is an emerging nation with a large middle-class, liberal institutions, corporate enterprise. It is a knowledge power with pluralistic outlook having far reaching influence on the geopolitics, geo-economics, globalization of trade and is a force in redefining the future of world order.
It is imperative for the political establishment of Jammu and Kashmir to strive hard and channelize the youth through a suitable platform for growth oriented economy. On their part, the youth should come forward and organize themselves to compete globally and prove their substance and shoulder greater responsibility. The state comprises of an agrarian economy. 80 percent of the people are dependent on agriculture for the lively hood. The state depends mostly on farming, animal husbandry and horticulture, which forms the back bone of economy. We have to use more technology to increase crop productivity.
Besides these, there are other fields like tourism and power generation. The rural youth has to play a role by optimum utilization of land holding with latest hybrid varieties of food crops to attain self- sufficiency. 4.5 lakh families are engaged with horticulture activities. Banking institutions are coming forward to help farmers in a big way. The employability of skilled and unskilled resources of youth have to be generated.
Our youth will have to rise to the occasion and take advantage of India's diversity and participatory democracy in essence to reach new heights of economic and social enlightenment. Youth is the great undertaking to build a dynamic and futuristic state to maintain peace and harmony in the subcontinent as well as an essential component for the formation of a modern civilization.
Over the years separatist leaders supported from Pakistan have been talking of independence, which has brought just economic deterioration, misery and nothing else. Never ever have they talked of economic independence. How we can bridge our food grain deficit, how we can present a profit making budget or how industrialization and other economic activity will replace stones with pen and paper in the hands of our youths. Instead what Hurriyat and Pakistan is ensuring that prosperity disappear and education flee from Kashmir. These are the two things which ultimately challenge Hurriyat and their hegemony.
They will lose power if people become educated and economically independent, as they will hold these leaders accountable.
Kashmir's glorious future lies with India. If the situation becomes normal, Indian private and public sector will pour billions of dollars in the dilapidated state economy. Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be created and fruits of democracy will bring in the sweet benefits.
For this to happen people have to struggle for the peace. It is under the light of peace will the gold of prosperity shine. Youths have to play a vital role in this transformation. They can bring revolution and they can change the destination of Kashmir forever. Entire India is looking at them to make a headway towards this direction and achieve what has been dream of entire country.

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

JUDGEMENT ON GODHRA

TOO MANY ACQUITTALS PUT SIT IN THE DOCK

 

TUESDAY's special court judgement in Ahmedabad which ruled that the torching of Sabarmati Express near Godhra station that killed 59 people in 2002 was a "pre-planned conspiracy" is the first verdict in the Supreme Court-monitored case. Additional Sessions Judge P.R. Patel convicted 31 undertrials but acquitted 63 others, including Maulvi Umarji, the key accused, for lack of evidence. The acquittal of such a large number of accused raises disturbing questions on the quality of investigation conducted by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by former CBI Director R.K. Raghavan. It also speaks poorly of the Indian criminal justice system because the undertrials have been languishing in the high security Sabarmati Central Jail since 2002. While Mr Raghavan has said that he will examine the prospects of an appeal if he is still convinced about the evidence, defence lawyer I.M. Munshi has said that his clients will challenge the verdict as there are "many contradictions" in the ruling. The trial began in June 2009 with the framing of charges against all the 94 accused who were charged with criminal conspiracy and murder in torching the train's S-6 coach on February 27, 2002.

 

Even though the quantum of sentence for those convicted will be announced on February 25, the maximum punishment for an offence of this kind is death sentence provided that the judge brings this under the ambit of the rarest of rare cases. This tragedy triggered widespread communal riots in various parts of Gujarat which claimed over 1,000 lives. The Godhra case is one of the nine highly sensitive cases of communal violence being investigated by the SIT. The judge could not pronounce this ruling in September 2010 because of the Supreme Court stay.

 

The special court has by and large endorsed the views of the Justice Nanavati Commission, appointed by the Narendra Modi government, which said that the train fire was a "pre-meditated event". However, a commission set up by the Centre under Justice U.C. Banerjee in 2005 said the fire was an "accident caused from inside the coach without external input". The Banerjee report, which was submitted to the Railway Ministry, kicked off a major controversy because he eliminated the petrol theory, the miscreant activity theory, the electrical fire theory and the possibility of an inflammable liquid having been used. The conspiracy theory in the case, now confirmed by Judge Patel, stands on confessions of the accused and witnesses under Section 164 of Cr PC and under Section 32 of the repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

IT'S LIBYA'S TURN, NOW

GADDAFI LOSING GRIP OVER POWER

 

The protests that began in Benghazi, the second biggest city of Libya, a week ago against the rule of Col Muammar el-Gaddafi have shaken the power structure of this Arab country by its very foundations. The situation in its capital, Tripoli, has become chaotic with many government buildings, including its parliament, on fire. The furious protesters, demanding an end to the 40-year autocratic rule of Colonel Gaddafi, tore down and burnt his posters seen all over Tripoli. Security forces had no gumption to stop these people from expressing their disapproval of the Gaddafi regime in this manner. A large number of people have lost their lives as government troops used helicopter guns to silence the agitators. But this brutal way of handling the unrest has not dampened the determination of the pro-democracy forces.

 

The protesters are gaining ground with many top officials tendering their resignations one after another. The most prominent among them is the Justice Minister of Libya. A senior military officer, who refused to order the gunning down of unarmed protesters, has been removed from service. Libyan ambassadors to the UN, the Arab League, India, China and some other countries have dissociated themselves from the beleaguered regime. Colonel Gaddafi made a brief appearance on the state television to dispel the rumour that he had resigned and fled to Venezuela. The truth, however, is that he is no longer in command of the situation today. His son, Saif el-Islam Gaddafi, is running the show. But his arrogant behaviour will only worsen the trouble in Libya. His use of provocative language like "We will take up arms … We will fight to the last bullet" justifies the call for regime change.

 

Libya is not Egypt or Tunisia, as Saif Gaddafi wants the world to believe. But the reality is that more blood has been shed in Libya than what happened in Egypt or Tunisia, where the dictatorial regimes have fallen and the process for a democratic set-up has begun. The day is not far off when Libya, too, may have a similar change. Autocratic rulers in West Asia cannot remain in the saddle forever with the powerful wind for democracy blowing in the region.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER G-20 TALK SHOW

US-CHINA FACE-OFF AGAIN

 

The G-20 summit, which ended in Paris on Saturday, has left India's concerns largely unattended. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's attempt to push the issue of black money parked in tax havens was fruitless. The rising prices of commodities, including food and oil, which contribute to growing social unrest in developing countries, including the Middle East, did figure in the talks. World Bank President Robert Zoellick urged the Group of 20 to "put food first in 2011" but the leaders spent most of their time bickering over how to measure imbalances in global economy. At the end, they agreed on guidelines to identify trouble spots which could trigger another global financial crisis.

 

The original forum, G-8, was expanded to include rising economic powers like China, Brazil and India, to tackle the 2008 global financial meltdown. Now when the emerging economies are growing fast while Europe and the US are not fully out of the woods, the focus has shifted to regulating banks, managing growth and recovery and preventing the recurrence of a financial shake-up. Imbalances have cropped up as global growth has been driven largely by relentless American consumption, which has benefited China the most. As the US has piled up a huge deficit in the process of helping financial institutions and providing a stimulus to industry, it has increasingly questioned the unfair trade advantage China has gained by keeping its currency undervalued against the dollar. The low value of the yuan boosts Chinese exports.

 

This issue was at the centre of the G-20 debate in Paris. China accepted the compromise on measuring imbalances on the prodding of France and Germany. The guidelines avoid a reference to irritants like currency valuation and foreign currency reserves held by China. In this debate India has played the role of a passive participant since, according to Finance Minister Mukherjee, it has not contributed to "the build-up or persistence of global imbalances".

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

PREJUDICES AGAINST JUDICIARY

EXECUTIVE IGNORES PLEA FOR MORE COURTS

BY KULDIP NAYAR

 

PAKISTAN Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary made an interesting point at the Commonwealth Law Conference at Hyderabad. He said that the democratic government, which replaced military rule in his country, did not make or nullify the acts and actions of the military rulers.

 

Justice Chaudhary suffered a lot at the hands of Gen Pervez Musharraf, then the sole wielder of power. The countrywide agitation by the Pakistan lawyers restored him to his office. In the process, the Pakistan judiciary became independent. But without punishment to those who derailed the system, no example can be set before the people who do not respect the rule of law.

 

I agree with the chief justice that a nation must undo the wrongs that a ruler might have done to the constitution or to the legal system in his or her regime. This, however, is dependent on the successor's commitment to values, justice and fair play.

 

India too had a bitter experience when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi amended the constitution and took illegal steps during the emergency. The Janata Party, which came to power after defeating her at the polls, nullified all the changes she had effected. Yet it failed to punish Mrs Gandhi's Cabinet colleagues or pliable officers responsible for the excesses they had committed.

 

The Shah Commission did a commendable job to bring out the wrongdoings. It also named those who committed the crime. But Mrs Gandhi returned to power before any law court could punish anyone of them. She, in fact, took action against those who had not obeyed the unconstitutional authority residing in her son Sanjay Gandhi during the Emergency.

 

The mere undoing of the wrongs is not enough. The culprits must be brought to book. Otherwise, they would again become instruments of tyranny. This is precisely what happened when Mrs Gandhi assumed power for the second time in 1980. She brought back her obedient officers and tainted ministers; some of them are still there in the Manmohan Singh government.

 

Chief Justice Chaudhary was quite right to assert that it was the judiciary that brought an end to the constitutional deviations in Pakistan and restored the rule of law. I do not know whether his claim on the rule of law is justified because lawlessness in certain parts of Pakistan is disconcerting. Yet he could not punish the guilty. Maybe, that would have meant taking action against General Musharraf who was the President and enjoyed immunity because of the office he occupied. Still the Chief Justice could have initiated some steps to bring him to book. This would have served as a notice to future rulers.

 

I think Justice A.K. Ganguly hit the nail on its head. He remarked during a hearing of the Supreme Court that "no government wants a strong judiciary." He was, no doubt, referring to the "cancer of adjournments." In a phone-tapping case, only one witness had been examined during the last four years. But his remark has validity. Yet, if I may say so, the manner in which some judges ingratiate themselves with the government, they convey a wrong message to it. A high court judge, who is now in the Supreme Court, admitted that his visit to Delhi could not be complete until he had called on members of the judicial presidium.

 

Justice Ganguly did well to reprimand Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh for pleading to get two important cases related to NREGS wages in the high courts of Hyderabad and Bangalore bunched together and heard in the apex court. The petition was dismissed by Justice Ganguly. Incidentally, Mr Deshmukh was pulled up by the judge some time ago for using his influence as Chief Minister to prevent the police from registering a case against a money-lender. Most recently, Justice Ganguly lamented Deshmukh's place in the Union Cabinet, given that the apex court had pulled him up for misuse of position. Strange, the Prime Minister has taken no notice of it.

 

The tug of war between the executive and the judiciary is nothing new. It was there even during the time of India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He was furious when the Supreme Court declared the Zamindari Abolition Act ultra virus. Not long ago, then Speaker Somnath Chatterjee refused to accept the Supreme Court's notice. He said that the court had no right to examine the issue that fell in Parliament's jurisdiction.

 

A few weeks ago, the government said the Supreme Court could not examine the suitability of Mr P.J. Thomas once he was appointed Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC). This time the court had the upper hand when it asserted its power of judicial review.

 

The Commonwealth Law Conference cautioned against the use of judicial review to erode the legitimate role assigned to other benches of the government. Indeed, Parliament is supreme since it represented the people. But independence of the judiciary cannot be diluted in a democratic society. The government has the tendency to arbitrariness.

 

The prejudice of the executive is visible by the negligible allocation made for the judiciary. It is a quarter per cent of the budget outlay. One chief justice after another has pleaded for more courts to clear the backlog of cases. How can 16,000 courts in the country dispose of about 2.4 crore cases pending?

 

The other point that Justice Chaudhary raised on the double standards the West followed on subsidies is pertinent to our part of the world. The developed countries, which control the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), often take the developing countries to task for giving subsides to their farming sector. Yet, strangely, some developed countries, including America and France, give billions of dollars as subsidy to their own farmers.

 

Initiating the debate, Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia said there was need to adopt a minimum core-approach with a focus on the people below poverty line. Eminent lawyer Kamal Hussain from Bangladesh was more forthright. He equated human rights with the people's right to livelihood. I think the Prime Minister had the last word when he said that a sound legal system based on the rule of law is a "major determinant of a favourable macro-economic development."

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

TWO VIEWS ON CORRUPTION

BY HARWANT SINGH

 

WHO cheats? That is a question posed by two well-known economists, Levet and Dubner. Then they go on to answer: Well, just about anyone where the stakes are right. You might claim that you don't cheat, forgetting the time you cheated! The golf ball you nudged out of a bad lie or, 'forgot' to sign for the last drink in a crowded bar.

 

Cheating may or may not be human nature, but it certainly is a prominent feature in just about every field of human activity. Levet and Dubner claim that cheating is a primordial economic act: getting more for less. So it isn't just the lowly babu who pockets a few thousand to move a file, or the high-profile bureaucrat or mighty minister who collects a large sum to clear a project or take a portion of an illegal building or a doctor who takes entrance exam on behalf of a duff candidate for his entry into a medical college for a few lakhs. From teachers who want to show better performance of their class to cricket players in match fixing, or an athlete who takes a drugs to win a medal, to sanctioning the change of land use, or reducing the import duty to favour a cartel etc, bending rules in the process, cheating is across the board and the list is endless and the spread is far and wide.

 

Executives and other dignitaries cheat out of an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. Whatever the incentive, whatever the situation, dishonest people will try to gain advantage by whatever means necessary. To them a thing worth having is worth cheating for. The corrupt people, like thieves, have a bonding amongst them. They cover and protect each other. Thus a Defence Secretary Bhatnagar when charge-sheeted by the CBI in the Bofors case was sent as Lt-Governor, placing him beyond the reach of the long, but palsied arm of law. Prosecution witnesses, the whole bunch of them, in corruption cases can turn hostile, if the incentives are right.

 

Where there are pools of corruption and malfeasance, even non-swimmers can safely dive in: without the fear of drowning. When the environments are clean and chances of being found out are high, there is a disincentive for cheating, but where the chances of being pointed out are low or absent, one may commit murder, knowing that get-away is easy.

 

There is a tale, 'The Ring of Gypes,' from Plato's 'Republic.' A student named Glaucon offered the story in response to a lesson by Socrates. He told of a shepherd named Gypes who stumbled upon a secret cavern with a corpse inside that wore a ring. When Gypes put on that ring he found that it made him invisible. With no one able to monitor his behaviour, he seduced the queen and murdered the king and so on. Glaucon's story poses a moral question: could any man resist a temptation of evil if he knew his act could not be witnessed! Glaucon thought the answer was no, while for Socrates the answer was yes. Such are the two views on corruption.

 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

ASIAN-WOMEN
RELIGION AND CULTURE IN AN ALIEN LAND

ASIAN WOMEN BEAR THE BRUNT OF STANDING APART IN COUNTRIES OF THEIR IMMIGRATION FOR WEARING DISTINCT SYMBOLS OF RELIGIO- CULTURAL IDENTITY. AS TORCH BEARERS OF CULTURE, THEY ARE PRESSURISED BY THEIR COMMUNITY TO CARRY THESE SYMBOLS. CAUGHT BETWEEN THESE EXTREMES — WOMEN DRAG THE ISSUES OF CULTURAL- IDENTITY TO COURTS OF LAW.
KISHWAR DESAI

 

Recently David Cameron, the Prime Minister of UK created shockwaves when he said that he thought the policy of multi-culturism has not worked in the UK. Instead of encouraging people of different cultures to live in mutual respect, by allowing each community to maintain its identity, he said, it had led to further segregation. The fact that he made the speech in Germany did not help (as Germany has already admitted to collapse of multi-culturism)— nor was it a particularly good idea to deliver it when right- wing groups were staging their own protests in the UK. But, did he have a point ? And how difficult is it to integrate into the western mode of life, for those who are concerned about their own culture or religion? In this context, do Asian women have a particularly difficult time with issues of integration?

 

Usually, Asian women and girls living abroad have to maintain a fine balance between tradition and modernity; no matter how hard they try, it leads to misconceptions due to the weight of conservative values placed upon them. I recently saw a news item about speed dating amongst UK based Muslims (mostly Pakistani). Nice concept, I thought, at least this way they will be able to meet youngsters from opposite sex of their own age. To my shock (and horror!) I later found that most of the boys were looking for 'simple' girls who wanted nothing more in life than getting married and producing children. The girls were, on the other hand, were not only looking for interesting men, but having been exposed to a British life, had ambitions beyond being domestic goddesses. Therefore the report concluded, many of the boys would go back to Pakistan and find girls who would fit the bill. And many of the girls would end up with compromised dreams.

 

The flip side of the coin is another fact — recently a spate of allegations has broken out in the UK accusing young married Pakistani men of grooming underage British girls for sex. The alleged reason for this phenomenon has been provided by a Muslim member of the House of Lords who maintains that this is the alarming effect of forced or incompatible marriages; men brought up in the UK go back home and marry women whom they think will make good 'housewives' but cannot relate to. Finally, they end up in extra-marital affairs or grooming young white girls. I am not sure if this is meant to make us feel sorry for the men. But if I juxtapose the two stories, one can only sympathise deeply with Muslim Pakistani women who seem to be caught between the two worlds, excoriated by the fact that they have to live in an 'alien culture' (even though they are British born and bred) hanging, like Trishanku, between the two worlds.

 

But wouldn't this be true for all Asian women living away from their home country? In fact, women are usually the most affected by displacement, migration and identity loss, while little is said about their turmoil except to romanticise it in novels and films.

 

Yet, they are seen as the home-makers and the torchbearers for the next generation. Therefore they have to nurture their culture and religion and keep all the symbols of faith and identity alive. It is a tough battle, especially when they may have hopes, dreams and aspirations which might not fit into the strait-jacket they are required to wear by their families. For instance, while many men are able to deal with the physical and outward signs of migration by wearing Western clothes, Asian women, and now even girls, are often still seen in their salwar kameez, sarees, veils, hijaabs and burkhas — making them an obvious and easy target of discrimination. Yet, these very symbols are seen as being important and worthy of being protected and at times, as in the case of UK schoolgirl Shabina Begum, who went to court, but lost, the right to wear her jilbab in school (see box) fighting a very public legal battle for.

 

Perhaps most people cannot comprehend how difficult it is to wear cultural or religious symbols in a country where none are encouraged. And especially where these symbols are often looked down upon, as the UK Prime Minister pointed out, as a sign of separation.

 

In a more relaxed society, such as India, different linguistic and religious communities carry on with the business of living with their own symbols and rituals –and indeed , even within their own ghettoes. Should there be uniformity –or should we allow a thousand flowers to bloom? At the same time, should we also be careful that it is all being done out of choice and is not (as was suspected in the Shabina Begum case) an imposition ?

 

Some years ago, in the UK there was a striking example of a young Sikh Welsh girl who fought a legal battle against her school for the right to wear the kara. Fourteen year old Sarika Singh was told by the Aberdare Girl's School that she could not wear her kara because the school had a 'no jewellery' rule. The case was fought for her by the human rights organization , Liberty. A petition was handed over to the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, which was backed by 150 gurudwaras, 200 Sikh organizations, and even 70 non-Sikh bodies. This is one of the very few cases where an Asian girl has fought and won her right to wear a religious symbol. As Sarika's lawyer pointed out, 25 years earlier the right to wear their turbans was conceded to the Sikh men by the law lords in the UK. She also pointed out that it was as important for Sarika to wear her kara as it was for Monty Panesar, the cricketer, to wear his. A rather curious comparison.

 

However, for a woman or a young girl to assert her right to a cultural identity is equally difficult. Cultural

symbols could be considered as important as religious symbols are for an immigrant community, and the case of Sunali Pillay of Johannesburg comes to mind. She had taken the Durban Girl's High School to court because she was prevented from wearing her tiny gold nose ring to school. The case went all the way up to the highest court in South Africa, the Constitutional Court, and the final ruling was in her favour saying 'no child should be prohibited from displaying cultural symbols of choice.'

 

But, there are still some who would argue that David Cameron has a point. Each community, when it migrates to an alien land should integrate into the new country, even if it means giving up cultural and religious symbols as is encouraged in France. In this war over identity and culture, more and more women, their bodies, their attire, their behavior and their intellect are now becoming the battleground.

 

London based Kishwar Desai is the author of Witness the Night, winner of the Costa First Novel

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

THE BATTLE OVER A LONG COAT

 

This was a leading case contested at House of Lords on the legal regulation of religious symbols and dress under the Human Rights Act 1998. Shabina Begum, of Bangladeshi origin but born in the UK, aged 16 at the time was a student at Denbigh High School, in Luton, Bedfordshire. Though, four out of six parent governors were Muslims at the school, which had pupils of other faiths, it wished to be culturally inclusive. Hence, the school uniforms incorporated trousers or skirts, and Pakistani or Punjabi shalwar kameez with optional khimar (headscarf). The uniform was decided upon in consultation with the local mosques, religious organisations and parents.

 

For two years, Shabina Begum attended the school without complaint, wearing the shalwar kameez, but in September 2002, after the death of her parents and under the influence of her brother, a member of radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, she went to the school and demanded that she be allowed to wear the long coat-like garment- jilbab. In the opinion of Begum and her supporters, shalwar kameez offered by the school was relatively close-fitting with short sleeves, and was therefore not compliant with the requirements of Sharia law. Shabina refused to attend the school for three years.

 

The school's supporters argued that if Begum was allowed to attend classes wearing jilbab, other pupils too would feel pressure to adopt stricter forms of Islamic dress. Begum, with her brother, issued a claim for judicial review of the school's decision of not letting her wear the jilbab. The claim was made on the grounds that the school had interfered with her Human Rights to manifest her religion along with her right to education.

 

Begum lost the case in the High Court but later won on appeal to the Court of Appeal. The school appealed against this decision, and the case was heard by the Judicial Committee of The House of Lords. The House of Lords ruled in favour of the school on the ground to protect the rights of other female students who would not wish to be pressured into adopting a more extreme form of dress.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

LOVES TO RANT, RAVE AND BLATHER ABOUT CINEMA, OFTEN AT HIS OWN PERIL

WHEN THE FEMME'S NOT FATALE ENOUGH

WHAT TO DO WHEN THERE ISN'T AN ACTRESS GOOD ENOUGH TO FIT THE CHARACTER'S SHOES?


I was watching William Wyler's sublime Roman Holiday on TV this Sunday, and immaculate as that film doubtless was, I couldn't help but reflect on Wyler's fantastically good fortune. As Princess Ann wakes up in the journalist's bedroom she had assumed was an elevator, she takes a while to get accustomed to things, looking around blissfully blankly.

 

It is a frame that looks delightful only because of Audrey Hepburn. Having the most beautiful woman in the history of eyesight is an advantage no director should forego, and so the lens, justifiably yet indulgently, lingers far longer than it normally should on that magnificent, clueless face. Wyler's leading man, Gregory Peck, is also the stuff of sculpturable legend.

 

And so it is that we sit back and allow the camera to caress the protagonists even as they play off each other perfectly, the director more than content to bask in the perfection of his cosmetically perfect casting.

 

Yet what when you don't have the right man or woman for the job? Vishal Bhardwaj's highly ambitious misstep, Saat Khoon Maaf, suffers mostly because of bad writing, but also because his leading lady, Priyanka Chopra, instead of ever internalising her performance, wears it doggedly on the outside. It is the sort of 'look-I'm-acting' performance that allows certain people to opine that she's actually working hard ('ooh, she's fat and grey and is cackling SO loudly') but never quite lets the audience connect with the character. A 'confident' performance is far from being an assured one. A shame, because Ruskin Bond's Susanna deserved better.
    But who else could it have been? Instinctively in love with Vishal's Macbeth adaptation, we yell Tabu. Yet the Tabu of today, of Toh Baat Pakki, isn't the Tabu we all flipped for in Maqbool. Sure she was great in Cheeni Kum, but the Tabu of Maqbool (and, to some degree, the Tabu of Meenaxi and Astitva) has long been sidelined by an industry out to find the next Shimmying Shiela. Tabu circa 2005 would be perfect, but do we have any options today?

 

Maybe, just maybe, with a director like Bhardwaj sternly shoving her out of her comfort zone, Kareena could do it. There are few current mainstream actresses as self-aware as Kapoor — now she doesn't feel the need to wear her character's 'confidence' around her like a pretty shawl — and even lesser are as surreally, almost spectrally, stunning. Her skin the colour of moonlight enchanted us in his Othello adaptation earlier, and that ethereal, unworldly quality might have helped Bhardwaj's new film.

 

But the options, it must be said, are very limited. There are several pretty heroines without enough acting chops, some strong actresses lacking in the unbridled sexuality Susanna needs, some potentially interesting but mostly untested ingenues, and very few truly gorgeous ladies. Bhardwaj's first choice for the role, Aishwarya Rai, would have doubtless lifted the film purely by putting her face in it, but is that perhaps too big a price to pay?

What then is a director to do? With a killer character but no actress around, should he compromise with casting his leading lady? Or hold his horses till the right cinematic muse comes around? It is a tough call, and both options require great gumption. Tragically, in Bombay, it's never open season on actresses.

READERS' FEEDBACK

A lot to look forward to This refers to Raja Sen's column 'Little to look forward to in '11' (MM, 16).

 

Is it possible that the writer, by his 'virtue' of being a film critic, is being unduly critical and pessimistic of what the year holds out in terms of film releases? Is this a natural professional hazard? Or should we call it a malady?
Sen's views in the article came across as if they were forced by an underlying, inborn trait of pessimism.

Sen seems to have forced himself to find something in each film that will justify his jaundiced look. Sadly, the pessimism does not seem too justified.

 

All I say is that there's a lot to look forward to. All you need is the right viewpoint.
    — Hutoxi Patel

 

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

COLUMN

CREDIBLE FISCAL CONSOLIDATION

PRESIDENT'S ADDRESS AND RANGARAJAN SET AGENDA FOR FM

Combating inflation, protecting the common man from the impact of rising food prices and sustaining the momentum of economic growth while ensuring the poor get a fair share of the "fruits of growth" are among the government's "foremost priorities" in 2011-12, President Pratibha Patil said in her address to Parliament this week. This sets the fiscal and policy framework for Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as he puts the finishing touches to his annual Budget speech in Parliament and approves his ministry's policy proposals for the year ahead. On the same day the president spoke, the head of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC), C Rangarajan, urged the government to adhere to the finance commission's timetable for deficit reduction. The PMEAC is right to suggest that the time has come to roll back the fiscal stimulus that was rolled in during 2008-09 in response to the global economic slowdown. This would mean an increase in excise duties. To the extent that inflation management would require preventing cost-push inflation, such an increase in indirect taxes would have to be accompanied by an anti-inflationary fiscal stance. Mr Mukherjee should know that the usual North Block trick about window dressing the fiscal and revenue deficit numbers will no longer work. He must make a credible effort towards fiscal consolidation. This will require convincing expenditure management as well as revenue mobilisation. This is the year to do both.

Whatever the political roadblocks to the early introduction of a goods and services tax (GST), a clear roadmap should be laid out, and some early steps taken, to facilitate the transition. Tweaking indirect tax rates in line with the GST roadmap will also help raise revenues. If there is an effort to provide tax relief to the salary-earning middle class hurt by inflation, this should be balanced by tapping the wealth of India's super-rich. While there is a case for a moderate corporation tax regime in line with other Asian economies (the idea of zero corporate tax as advocated by some may be politically difficult to push), the government can afford to tap further into dividends and capital gains, based on an exempt-exempt-tax (EET) basis. In the context of growing wealth of the super-rich, and the government's stated concerns about making the growth process socially inclusive, there is also a case for introducing an inheritance tax and similar measures, even if they prove unpopular with the more vocal taxpayers and the markets.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

POWER PLAY

POLICY FOCUS MUST SHIFT FROM GENCOS TO TRANSCOS AND DISCOMS

Of all the infrastructure areas, the United Progressive Alliance government has fared worst in power. While the UPA's ultra mega power projects (UMPPs) programme promises to deliver increased capacity, much of the good news in power is only in generation and not in transmission and distribution (T&D). Where generating companies (gencos) have captive consumers who are willing to pay, the T&D problem is managed reasonably well. However, with few state electricity boards (SEBs) ready to make all consumers pay, and with populist politics denying consumers who are willing to pay the opportunity to do so and get access to assured power, the T&D gap remains acute. While the entry of private players in generation has proceeded without resistance, SEBs are reluctant to permit the liberalisation of the lucrative and politically-sensitive T&D segment. Thus, though allowing private participation in the generation, transmission (transco) and distribution (discom) segments was permitted in the Electricity Act, political realities on the ground have rendered its implementation difficult. In addition, the T&D segment faces several unresolved issues such as open access, connectivity issues pertaining to long- and medium-term access, transmission pricing and T&D losses. T&D losses (more often just theft) continue to plague sector performance with no remedy in sight. Losses conservatively estimated at 35 per cent (the corresponding figure for Korea is 4 per cent) reflect poorly on the administrative and regulatory will required to curb this malady.

It is arguable that private sector interest in T&D would not increase significantly, even if SEBs were to shed their resistance to their entry as long as these daunting problems persist. The scenario is, however, not entirely bleak. T&D is now seen as an integral part of the system rather than merely a post-generation process to evacuate power. The Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (APDRP) initiated in 2001, aims at strengthening the sub-transmission and distribution networks and reducing T&D losses. Perhaps most heartening is the tremendous enthusiasm of private sector equipment manufacturers, encouraged no doubt by robust growth prospects of the India's power sector over the next two decades and beyond. Both public and private sector players have joined the fray: Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), Siemens, Crompton & Greaves, Areva T&D, among others, have been ramping up domestic manufacturing capacity over the past two years. Even Chinese firms have been knocking at India's door so that they are not left out of a growing market.

 

 The most daunting challenge before Indian planners is to make the electrification programme more inclusive. This means extending the transmission network to rural India which has been largely excluded to date from developments in the power sector over the past decade. Even commendable programmes such as APDRP have a strong urban bias, being primarily concerned with improving efficiency in urban distribution through massive investments in the network, and a genco bias. The rural electrification programme needs to be accelerated not merely for reasons of equity, but because rising rural incomes have spurred demand. A virtuous cycle of economic growth backed by reliable power supply, meaning more efficient transcos and discoms, is urgently needed.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

 

WHAT DOES CONGRESS STAND FOR?

STABILITY AND EFFICIENTLY MEETING EQUITY SHOULD BE THE OBJECTIVES OF THE FORTHCOMING BUDGET

ARVIND SUBRAMANIAN

Larry Summers, the recently departed Chairman of US President Barack Obama's National Economic Council, posed the following question before his trip to India last November: "What is the self-perception of the Congress as a political party?" In fact, this broad question provokes three specific ones in the domain of economics. Is the Congress the party of Jagdish Bhagwati or Amartya Sen; Nehru or Indira Gandhi; or Aruna Roy or Nandan Nilekani?

The upcoming Budget provides an excuse to reflect on these questions. Responses to them should underpin the specific fiscal policy choices and broader economic policy priorities that feature in the Budget. Consider each in turn.

 

Bhagwati vs Sen: The Bhagwati-Sen opposition relates to whether promoting growth or focusing on equity is the key objective. Three points are worth mentioning here. Insofar as one must choose, it is fiendishly difficult to do so. The choice will depend on the goals of policy and the relative costs and benefits of the instruments used to achieve each of them. A different response to this choice is, of course, to deny it or stress its false nature and assert that both matter. But the Bhagwati school would rightly claim that without growth there might not be adequate resources for spending on the poor. Perhaps the most interesting response is that many of the policy choices are really constrained by politics and limited government capacity, so that the implicit assumption that there might be a choice at all is open to question.

Nehru vs Indira Gandhi: The opposition here is between stability and prudence on the one hand and populism on the other. For much of India's economic past, Indian policy makers exhibited an almost pathological penchant for stability, reflected in low inflation and fiscal rectitude. The stability in the Nehru era was the compensation for the Hindu rate of growth that characterised it. Mrs Gandhi, of course, was a rank populist, and its most damaging economic manifestation was India's first real disavowal of fiscal and macroeconomic prudence after she returned to power in 1980.

Aruna Roy vs Nandan Nilekani: There are two contrasts here – suggested by Pratap Bhanu Mehta – on how the equity objective should be approached, relating respectively to the animating spirit and to the means deployed. The Aruna Roy approach views the poor as weak, as victims, as lacking in real agency, and hence deserving of the protective embrace of the state. The Nandan Nilekani approach would view the poor in less despairing terms, and ascribe their poverty largely to lack of opportunity.

A second important distinction relates to the means deployed to achieve the equity objective. The Roy approach, reflected in the history of the Indian government intervention, would entail "caring" for all aspects of the lives of the poor, leading to employment guarantees, subsidised food, water, electricity and credit. Under the Nilekani approach, equity would not be sacrificed or even demoted. Instead, more effective policy instruments – notably targeted transfers – would be used to meet the needs of the poor.

The Congress party has answered these questions forcefully, unambiguously, and to some extent, unfortunately in favouring Sen over Bhagwati, Mrs Gandhi over Nehru, and Roy over Nilekani.

Although India has grown rapidly, one might argue that this has less to do with policy changes and a lot to do with the mystifying fact that growth has been on autopilot because of a growth-generating-growth dynamics. On the other hand, since 2004, when it returned to power, the Congress has made the pursuit of equity its over-riding objective and has done so with a healthy dose of fiscal and legislative populism at the expense of stability.

The Congress has implemented one of the world's biggest employment guarantee schemes in NREGA; it has generously granted loan waivers; it has enshrined into law the right to education and the right to food security, to name some of the most important pro-poor initiatives. The Congress interpreted its two-peat victory in the 2009 elections as a vindication of its pro-poor shift and has, therefore, continued to lurch leftward. To be fair, an effort has been made at reining in subsidies, for example, for fertilisers and some petroleum products. But this effort is notable for the modesty of its ambition.

The demotion of stability by the Congress is especially ironic. It repudiates the one success from India's past and ignores the central lesson from the recent global economic experience. This lesson, exemplified best by China, is the need for a sound public sector balance sheet as the only insurance against large financial crises. So, while the world obsesses about stability, India remains doggedly populist.

On Roy vs Nilekani, one might say the state's protective embrace has become a smothering embrace. Poverty, to be cynical, has become a constituency to be nurtured rather than a scourge to be eliminated. Also, using the price system to achieve equity objectives via wide-ranging subsidies and guarantees has led neither to the achievement of efficiency nor the promotion of equity. For example, free power often means no power or interrupted power even for the poor; at the same time, free power has meant very expensive power for a lot of industry, undermining efficiency.

So, in the light of the evidence, what should be the guiding vision for this Budget? It should be part-Nehru and part-Nilekani. Short- and long-term stability must return as an over-riding objective. Both will require substantial fiscal consolidation. Reducing inflation can no longer be ducked as a supply problem and needs fiscal as well as monetary attention. Long-term stability will require embarking on the trajectory to meet the 13th Finance Commission targets for government debt. A two percentage point reduction in the Budget deficit would not be overly ambitious. If India cannot do this when growth is at 8 per cent and real interest rates are close to zero, imagine the problems of consolidation forced under weaker economic conditions. Further delays in implementing the Goods and Services Tax will make the commitment to stability ring hollow.

The Nilekani part of the Budget requires a firm commitment to phasing down and eliminating subsidies, and replacing them with direct transfers, a move that the government seems to be slowly espousing. The poor do need assistance, but a modicum of clear and direct help, not a panoply of uncertain handouts. The key consequential advantage would then be to relieve the government of its need to abuse the price system through distortionary subsidisiation, and allow it to achieve efficient allocation of resources, thereby promoting economic growth.

With stability safeguarded, and equity addressed efficiently, the pulls of growth and equity can be more easily reconciled. In this way, Manmohan Singh can play Cupid between Jagdish Bhagwati and Amartya Sen. Then, to change mythologies and metaphors, peace can reign among the Cambridge-educated trinity that constitutes the Indian economic pantheon.

The author is Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics and Centre for Global Development

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

POINTERS FOR GROWTH IN ASIA-PACIFIC

DEVELOPING ECONOMIES OF THE REGION FACE FRESH DOWNSIDE CHALLENGES AS THEY ENTER 2011

NAGESH KUMAR

The Asia-Pacific region recovered impressively from the depths of the global financial crisis of 2008-09, with China and India leading the recovery. The developing economies of the region grew at 8.3 per cent in 2010 compared to 4.6 per cent in the previous year. However, the region faces fresh downside challenges as it enters 2011. For one, growth prospects for the year will be affected by the slowing down of advanced economies in the second half of 2010 following the withdrawal of expansionary fiscal policies in the light of mounting debt crises. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific's (UN-ESCAP's) latest projections suggest that the average growth rate of developing economies in the region may come down to 7 per cent in 2011, with the slowing down of advanced economies affecting the prospects of the region's export-oriented economies.

A bigger challenge in the year will be to maintain stability. Rising exposure to short-term capital flows of the region's emerging economies owing to a massive injection of liquidity is leading to a build-up of asset bubbles in both capital and real estate markets. The stock market valuations in most emerging markets in the region are deeply linked with the movements of foreign institutional investor (FII) flows. Real estate markets have climbed new peaks in many countries in the region including in China. Besides stoking inflation, these inflows are also pressuring exchange rates in countries including Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. Therefore, a number of countries in the region like South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand have resorted to capital controls to moderate the volatility of capital flows.

 

Rising prices, especially of food, have been triggered by supply shocks in some countries like crop failures in Russia and Kazakhstan followed by export bans. The inflationary expectations resulting from supply shocks have been amplified by the speculative activity in the commodity futures against the background of massive increase in liquidity in the world economy. World food prices have already crossed the peak reached in 2008. This means a lot of hardship for the poorer and vulnerable sections of society and puts their nutritional security at risk. This, in turn, means policy makers in the region will have to walk a tightrope. In the process of controlling inflationary pressures through monetary and fiscal tightening, they may upset the recovery process adversely, especially in a weak external growth environment.

Apart from these short-term challenges, it is clear that despite recovery the demand for Asia-Pacific's goods in the West will remain weak as they adjust with global imbalances by curbing credit-fuelled consumption. So the region has to develop new sources of aggregate demand to sustain its dynamism in the post-crisis world. The new engines include a rebalancing of the economies towards greater domestic and regional consumption.

How is India placed against these regional trends as it prepares for the new Budget? Firstly, in terms of growth outlook, the India growth story remains largely intact. UN-ESCAP projections suggest that GDP growth in 2010-11 would be about 8.7 per cent and is likely to be sustained through to 2011-12 at about the same rate if not better. This is because unlike many Asia-Pacific economies, India's growth is largely driven by domestic consumption and investment, and is not so much affected by the slowing down of advanced countries.

This outlook is subject to downside risks and policy challenges. Increasing exposure to short-term flows is causing a lot of volatility in stock markets besides a pressure on the exchange rate. An appreciating exchange rate is not healthy for the Indian economy, especially in view of the already stretched current account deficit. It may be prudent to consider capital controls to moderate the inflows of short-term capital and focus on longer-term flows such as FDI, external commercial borrowings and IPOs abroad by Indian companies.

One of the most serious challenges facing the Indian economy arises from rising food prices. They affect poor and vulnerable sections of population disproportionately in view of their consumption basket largely comprising food. The food price inflation, therefore, can have serious implications for the poverty and hunger situation in the country. The challenge has to be met at different levels.

Lowering tariffs and taxes on food commodities besides monetary tightening is being tried. Regulating commodity futures especially of food commodities by imposing limits on positions may also help. Hopefully, the arrival of the new crop in a few weeks will curb inflationary expectations. Agriculture development should be paid greater attention in resource allocation to foster a new and more sustainable Green Revolution across the country for enhancing not only food security but also inclusiveness of the growth process.

The current emphasis on inclusive growth of the government will strengthen the Indian economy's resilience to external shocks. As one of the largest and fastest-growing economies of the region, India has much to benefit from and contribute to the process of regional economic integration in Asia-Pacific. Trade and investment links with East Asian economies are deepening as a part of the farsighted Look East Policy. Hopefully, the deepening integration will help fulfill the vision of India's leadership to create "an arc of advantage" in Asia.

The author is chief economist of UN-ESCAP, Bangkok 
The views expressed are personal
nkumar@un.org

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

CURBING THE LUST FOR LITIGATION

THE SUPREME COURT HAS ABRUPTLY REPLACED AN INTERNAL MECHANISM TO WEED OUT WASTEFUL GOVERNMENT APPEALS WITH A THINK TANK

M J ANTONY

 

In more than one-third of the litigation in India's courts, the government is a party. In criminal cases, it cannot be avoided. But it is a different matter with civil cases. According to one estimate, the government is involved in 10 million cases. No wonder, the Union law minister and Attorney General have described the government as a "compulsive" litigant.

 

 Last week, some Supreme Court judges also echoed this sentiment, in stronger terms. They criticised the government for resorting to prolonged litigation on "trivial" issues, and pointed out that not only did this waste the judiciary's time but also caused the public exchequer a "colossal" loss.

"How much public money is spent on litigation by the government and its agencies? It is a matter of grave concern," a bench comprising Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly said. The government preferred to fight a case up to the Supreme Court in matters that could be resolved at the secretariat. The judges cited the example of noted surgeon P Venugopal, who was removed from the post of Director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences some time back. "He had to spend his time in the corridors of courts instead of conducting operations and heart surgery; we are fed up with these matters," the court said. The agony of casual workers, small traders and those who have to get compensation for land acquisition is worse.

While unveiling a tantalising vision statement last year, the law minister recognised the problem and promised to turn the government from a "compulsive to a responsible and reluctant litigant". The government proposed to entrust the task of weeding out senseless litigation from the government's docket to top law officers — the Attorney General and the Solicitor General. They now have a full-fledged office in central Delhi, assisted by 52 lawyers and 26 law researchers. Statistics on pending matters have been called from government departments including public sector undertakings.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati has also commented on the government's unhealthy urge to litigate. "It cannot be denied that government has become a compulsive litigant. There are several reasons for this. The Law Commission identified various reasons why the government became an irresponsible litigant. It said that in most cases, government litigated because of the utter indifference on the part of civil servants," he said at recent conference. "Sometimes, the government pursued litigation as a matter of prestige, with an attitude of vengeance. In several cases, the officials had an attitude of arrogance and a superiority complex in litigating. It is easy to file a case in court and leave it to the courts to decide. One obvious reason to do so is to avoid the necessity of taking decisions, some of which can be awkward."

Meanwhile, a five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court last week scrapped a scheme under which state-run enterprises had to resolve their disputes through an internal mechanism. In its judgment in the case, Electronic Corporation of India vs Union of India, the bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia noted that the court had earlier asked the government not to bring disputes within the government, its departments and public sector undertakings. Following three judgments ("ONGC cases") in 1995, 2004 and 2007, the government set up a committee to settle the disputes so that they did not rush to the court.

In the last week's judgment, the court regretted that though the mechanism was set up with a laudatory object, it led to delays in filing appeals, causing a revenue loss. For example, in many cases, the industry department took one view about the dispute while the revenue department took an opposite stand.

Moreover, with the enactment of regulatory laws, there could be overlapping jurisdictions — the dispute between the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) and insurance regulators, for instance. In cases involving high stakes, the committee cannot be expected to give timely clearance. Differences of opinion among departments will generate more litigation. "The mechanism has outlived its utility," the court concluded.

The impact of the dissolution of the committee is yet to be seen. The mechanism in place for the past 15 years did reduce the number of appeals in the fratricidal battles in the courts at various levels. Now one can expect to see more government departments and public sector undertakings fighting with each other up to the Supreme Court, wasting public revenue. That is, unless the think tank set up under the leadership of the top law officers brings out some quick alternative mechanism to cure the lust for litigation.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

 

INDIA'S GAS STORY NEEDS A SOLID BASE

INCREASING AVAILABILITY NEEDS TO BE ACCOMPANIED BY IMPROVED INFRASTRUCTURE AND CLARITY ON REGULATION

VINAYAK CHATTERJEE 

The last six to seven years have seen a dramatic change in the way natural gas fits into the energy equation of India. The foundation of the industry was laid way back in 1950s [with the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and GAIL]. But the real impetus was provided with the entry of the private sector into Exploration and Production (E&P) through the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) along with the efforts of public sector undertakings. Since then, the sedimentary basins of India – Bombay High, the Cambay Basin, the Krishna-Godavari (KG) Basin, the Mahanadi Basin, and the Cauvery Basin – have seen some notable natural gas discoveries. The KG Basin has been the most successful of these, with large discoveries by Reliance Industries Limited, Gujarat State Petronet Limited and ONGC. These discoveries have triggered the need for downstream pipeline infrastructure and stimulated demand from user industries such as power, fertiliser, city gas distribution, refining and steel.

Even so, the country is expected to face a demand-supply imbalance, at least in the medium term. Say's Law in economics tells us that "supply creates its own demand". And this is most apt when attempts are made to estimate gas demand. Conservative estimates predict current demand at around 260 million standard cubic meters per day (mmscmd) while supply is around 170 mmscmd. This unmet and potentially explosive demand, coupled with gas flowing from the discoveries and development of transnational pipelines and terminals, is expected to lead to a far larger country-wide gas market, providing opportunities across the value chain. It is expected that the gas industry will drive investments to the tune of over $25 billion in the next five to seven years.

 

For now, the supply side in India is clearly being driven primarily by NELP. With only around 20 per cent of total sedimentary area under the "Well Explored" area, there is much ground left to cover. From the "explored areas", 51 discoveries have been reported, and two have already started production. Several other blocks have potential so gas supply could increase significantly in the near to medium term. In addition, coal bed methane production has started recently and plans are afoot for investments in underground coal gassification. Given India's huge coal reserves, this would improve the supply situation in the times to come.

In addition to domestic sourcing, infrastructure to land liquefied natural gas (LNG) into the country is also being enhanced. Besides, the existing LNG terminals at Dahej and Hazira, two under-construction terminals at Kochi and Dabhol and the additional LNG terminals at Mundra, Ennore and Mangalore are under active consideration. This infrastructure would be able to land LNG from the Gulf countries. Also, there are plans to supply gas through a pipeline from gas-rich Turkmenistan, under the recently signed Inter-Governmental Agreement for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India transnational pipeline.

New gas sources such as gas hydrates and shale gas would enhance availability in the long run. However, such sources have environmental challenges. Shale gas has dramatically altered the energy scenario in the US in the last four or five years. We have had our own success in the recently discovered shale gas reserves in the Damodar Valley, the first shale gas discovery outside the US and Canada. The petroleum and natural gas ministry plans to invite investments in shale gas E&P in a few months. Shale gas may prove a game-changer.

Clearly, the gas supply side story looks promising. But is there infrastructure to take it to the load centres?

My colleagues P Ramesh, Rakesh Jain and Sunil Kundu who track developments in this area express concern on gas carriage-related matching infrastructure developments.

At present, there are only two cross-country pipelines to transport gas from sources to demand points. However, with the formation of the Petroleum & Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) – the regulatory body for promoting the oil and gas downstream industry – plans are afoot to develop an entire gas grid that supplies gas to various parts of the country. Three cross-country pipelines have already been bid out. This apart, appropriate infrastructure development through city gas distribution (CGD) networks that take pipelines to domestic, industrial and commercial users are underway. Thirteen CGD cities have already been bid out and another 240 cities over the next few years are being readied. Thus, the blueprint for development of infrastructure to supply gas to the consumption points has been thought through. The bidding process has, however, been moving in fits and starts, partly due to policies and in part owing to lack of clarity on gas availability. It is essential that decision-makers get their act together and focus on addressing this important link in the gas value chain.

Policy on gas allocation, a critical enabler, has been completely erratic and has, therefore, been a big stumbling block to confident value-chain development. After much prevarication, it appears some transparency is being attempted in the allocation with parameters being laid down for the allocation of gas. But even this seems to be driven by compulsions of specific areas of influence rather than a well-thought out framework.

Gas pricing has been the other concern area in which there have been flip-flops. An empowered Group of Ministers and the country's courts have been embroiled in this. All this has led to a lack of clarity and consequent investment uncertainty vis-à-vis at what price gas would be available. Though the need for adequately incentivising gas producers to invest in the exploration and production of gas cannot be underestimated, there is also a need for ensuring that the price works for the user segments. The argument favouring an independent energy regulator who balances conflicting pulls and pressures with what is good for the long-term development of the country requires emphasis. Though the establishment of the PNGRB as the regulatory body is a step in the right direction, its powers are limited to regulating only mid-stream and downstream segments. The upstream E&P segment is not under its purview. The current regulatory environment is hydra-headed and encompasses the ministry of petroleum and natural gas, Directorate General of Hydrocarbons, PNGRB and, often, empowered Groups of Ministers and the judiciary.

A fully empowered regulatory body with powers to regulate all constituents would go a long way towards an orderly development of the value chain including resolving some of the emerging issues in the sector like pooled pricing, streamlining the taxation regime for E&P and clarity on the taxation structure on gas swapping.

As we learnt in high-school science, it is about change of state — solid to liquid to gas. We are progressing!

The author is the chairman of Feedback Ventures
The views expressed are personal 
vinayak@feedbackventures.com  

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BIG DEAL

BP'S DEAL WITH RIL COULD BE A GAME CHANGER FOR ENERGY-THIRSTY INDIA


BP, a nearly-$200-billion energy giant, will pay $7.2 billion for a 30% stake in all oil and gas assets of Reliance Industries (RIL), apart from the Panna Mukta Tapti fields. It could pump in another $1.8 billion in the fields if exploration goes smoothly. Over time, as BP-RIL expand operations into importing liquid gas and building marketing networks BP's total investment could climb to $20 billion, the biggest foreign investment in India till now. This could send a positive signal to global investors rattled by India's winter of political angst and the government's dither over clearing the sale of Cairn's India assets to Vedanta. The BP-RIL deal has other positives. It's the first time since India opened up exploration to overseas players that any large energy major has committed any investment to the sector. With funds, technology will follow, which will be a source of relief for RIL. Output from its biggest field, called KG-D6, off the coast of Andhra Pradesh, which peaked at around 60 mmscmd in 2010, has started to decline prematurely. Analysts had earlier reckoned that it could go up to 120 mmscmd, but that hasn't happened. BP's proprietary drilling and extraction technologies can help boost output here, and that is key.


RIL will also use some of the funds that it receives from BP to retire debt, the rest for investments in its core energy business. What should RIL shareholders expect? The RIL stock has underperformed the Sensex for three successive years: by more than 20% in 2010, by 4% in 2009 and 5% in 2008. Can the deal with BP help RIL break out of the . 900 to . 1,100 trading band where it has been stuck for many months? Brokerages are divided on this. BofA and JP Morgan have set post-deal price targets at . 1,193 and . 1,240, respectively. UBS pegs it at a more modest . 1,050 per share. In reality, it might still be too early to take a call on a one-year price target. Apart from what's been announced, the deal might bring other hidden advantages, in terms of technology, synergies and scale to the joint venture. After all, India's growth makes it certain that its thirst for energy will be great. In that scenario, BP's global expertise and access can only help.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE JPC TUSSLE

DON'T TREAT IT LIKE A POLITICAL TROPHY; USE IT TO TAKE ON SYSTEMIC CORRUPTION


Given that the prospect of the Opposition stalling the upcoming Budget session of Parliament would be wholly inimical for democratic functioning, it is welcome that the Prime Minister has announced the formation of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the 2G spectrum issue. The point may well be raised as to what the government eventually gained by delaying the JPC. The answer is that the tussle over the issue was clearly part of the political battle on crafting public perceptions over combating corruption. In that context, it is imperative that the working of the JPC, or the terms of reference it will work under, reportedly yet to be finalised, are not taken hostage by the same impetus to garner political capital. It is also important that the JPC must not detract from, or impede, the probes of the various investigative agencies that are looking into the spectrum allocation issue. Indeed, it would be heartening were the JPC to become an instance of a non-partisan Parliamentary effort to unambiguously probe corruption involving a national resource. That would be all the more significant, given that there is ample room to doubt whether a JPC can achieve anything concrete, not least given the fate of the previous JPCs (on Bofors and the Harshad Mehta scam, for example), as well as the fact that a report from such a body does not have any penal consequences. In fact, the JPC would do well to also look into the larger issue of the spectrum policy, including pricing, and whether the greater public good is best served by having upfront payments for allocation.


The whole point of a JPC, as with the probes of the investigating agencies, must be to find evidence that establishes wrongdoing in how licences were allocated and the commercial transactions of companies in order to fix culpability and punish the guilty. It is solely political compulsions that dictated both the demand for a JPC and the government's eventual acceptance of the Opposition's demand. The final aim should be to translate this into an important step in the formation of a unified front in the fight against systemic corruption.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CRICKET EXPERTS

THE ONGOING WORLD CUP SERVES TO CHEER IN WAYS CRICKET FANS EVER IMAGINED


When George Bernard Shaw referred to cricket as a game played by 22 flanelled fools and watched by 22,000, he could not have anticipated that, a hundred years later, the inaugural match of World Cup 2011 between India and Bangladesh would be watched by 18.8 million on the ESPN channel and by 20 million on DD, thanks to the idiot box. Neither could Shaw have anticipated that each TV news-channel would have its own experts to analyse what could happen for the benefit of the foolish masses. Thanks to the ongoing World Cup, cricket of the one-day international (ODI) variety is played for six to seven hours but talked about for days before and after the match. The obsessive focus these days is on talking cricket and not just playing the game. During a match, perfect strangers can walk up to each other and pose the query, "What's the score?" And all this is over and above the live coverage of the game on the sports channel which follows that up by asking the man of the match to "talk us through your performance". Like a famous American golfer quipped decades ago, "One day a deaf-anddumb player will win all golf's big tournaments and no one will know what happened!" Sometimes, of course, even the TV newschannels don't seem to know what happened. At 5.26 pm last Saturday, minutes after Virender Sehwag's 175 took his country to a mammoth total against Bangladesh, a leading TV newschannel flashed the following headline on the bottom of the screen: "Sehwag's century takes India to 370 against Pakistan!" After flashing that headline three times, the TV news-channel corrected it to "Sehwag's century takes India to 370 against Sri Lanka!" What's a little geography between friends who are foes only on the battlefield of the game?

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

I BEG TO DIFFER, PROF AMARTYA SEN

AS CHINA'S EXPERIENCE SHOWS, GROWTH RATE IS NOT JUST A SIDESHOW IN THE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT DEBATE

 

In a recent op-ed in The Hindu, Amartya Sen has clarified his views regarding what importance we should assign to growth in the policy discourse. Coming as it does in response to a debate on the Cuts Forum to which I had actively contributed, Sen's clarification justifies a rejoinder by me.


The lively debate on the Cuts Forum had been triggered by a lecture Jagdish Bhagwati had delivered at a joint session of the Parliament on December 2, 2010 and subsequent remarks Sen made on India-China growth comparisons while speaking in New Delhi. Bhagwati, who actively contributed to the Cuts Forum debate, had emphasised in his Parliament lecture the centrality of growth to poverty alleviation firstly as a force that "pulls up" the poor into gainful employment and secondly as a source of revenue to expand anti-poverty programmes.
In contrast, in his New Delhi talk, Sen had argued that the Indian fixation with surpassing China's rate of economic growth was "very stupid" as a measure of the nation's advancement (James Lamont in the Financial Times, December 21). He noted, however, that growth was a "positive thing" in the context of social justice, poverty reduction and directing greater revenues towards health and education.


In the op-ed, Sen elaborates on these views. He states that growth can be a good thing, denounces growth for its own sake (anon sequitursince no serious analyst advocates growth for its own sake), notes the importance of growth in generating "resources for the government to spend according to its priorities" and characterises as "silly" the focus on growth in India-China comparisons.


Sen leaves the impression that growth is at best a sideshow when it comes to the well- being of the poor. He essentially ignores the direct contribution growth makes to the creation of income and employment for the poor when he states: "The central point to seize is that while economic growth is an important boon for enhancing living conditions, its reach depends greatly on what we do with the fruits of growth. To be sure, there are large numbers of people for whom growth alone does just fine, since they are already privileged and need no social assistance."
Thus, contrary to the evidence that growth directly benefits the poor, Sen emphasises the accrual of such benefits only to those "already privileged" with the benefits to the poor depending principally on how what the government does with the "fruits of growth".


Why does it matter whether you choose to see growth as central to improving the wellbeing of the poor or as a sideshow? Because the policies you would advocate critically depend on this choice. Bhagwati, who sees growth as central, has long advocated policy reforms that enhance growth prospects while also recommending increased expenditures on antipoverty programmes. Sen, who sees growth as a sideshow, has rarely spoken in favour of promarket reforms, implicitly giving a nod to the licence-permit raj, which denied higher incomes and better employment opportunities to the poor.


All politicians now recognise the centrality of growth in generating revenues to finance expenditures on health, education and employment programmes in a poor country like India. Because India started extremely poor at Independence and also grew very slowly for nearly four decades, successive governments failed to muster enough revenues to finance expenditures on these sectors. As a concrete example, Article 45 of the directive principles of state policy in the Constitution had required free compulsory primary education. But despite repeated attempts throughout, the goal remained unfulfilled until 2010 when accelerated growth finally yielded sufficient revenues to permit the implementation of the right to education as a fundamental right.
    Sen's characterisation of India-China growth comparisons as silly is equally unsettling. Those of us who fought hard for the reforms can scarcely forget that the success of China in launching its economy into the high-growth orbit and India's failure to do the same was the final blow necessary to convince our politicians, bureaucrats and even some economists of the flaws of our policy framework. Rapid growth of Singapore and Hong Kong would not mean much to them since they were merely city-states. The South Korean and Taiwanese miracles would not impress them either, because, with a population more than 20 times their size, "our problems were different". It was a decade of 10% growth following liberalisation in China — a communist country with a population larger than ours — that rendered all excuses unpersuasive.


There is equal merit in the India-China growth comparison today. A large part of the difference between the achievements of the two countries in terms of indicators of the wellbeing of people during the past three decades is to be attributed to China's superior growth performance. This growth has given China's citizens per-capita incomes that are more than three times those in India; it has also given the Chinese government several times higher revenues for social spending. These facts are sufficient to make the question why China has grown faster and what India must do to bridge the gap a pertinent one. But if you proscribe India-China growth comparisons, you will never get to this question.


There are other compelling reasons why the growth comparisons ought to interest us. India's growth prospects relative to China determine where investors will choose to invest. The hope that India's growth rate may soon surpass that of China, making it the third largest country worldwide in GDP terms in a matter of 15 years, strengthens its case for permanent membership in the UN Security Council. And how well India is able to guard its borders and waters against China in the future also depends on how rapidly it can catch up with the latter in both growth rate and GDP terms.

 

ARVIND PANAGARIYA

PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

FACE-OFF

SHOULD PUBLIC FIGURES DISCLOSE TAX RETURNS?

 

ARVIND KEJRIWAL RTI ACTIVIST Yes, They Should, in Public Interest

 

Under the RTI Act, any information that is likely to invade the privacy of an individual should not be disclosed unless there is a wider public interest involved. If the government decides to disclose any information relating to any individual, the government is required to ask that individual if he has any objections. After considering those objections, the public information officer is required to decide whether to disclose that information or not. When someone asked for Justice Balakrishnan's tax returns, the income tax officer asked the former Chief Justice if he had any objections. In response, he raised objections that the information contained in his returns could be misused and its disclosure has no public interest.


Ordinarily, the income tax return of any individual would be treated to be a private document. However, the situation is different in the case of those holding public offices. They exercise immense powers. Transparency in their functioning and about their assets and incomes is a useful way to check their possible misuse of powers. India has worked in a culture of secrecy for almost 250 years now. It has gone deep into our grain. Secrecy is the norm; transparency sounds so alien. Since the advent of RTI, the talk of transparency in any sector creates headlines.


One of the arguments given against making income tax returns public is that it could be misused by criminals to kidnap and demand ransom. That's the most stupid argument, to say the least. The information network of criminals is far more superior than that of income tax department. They know that what exists in your tax return is not even a fraction of what you have. If they based their operations on the figures provided in tax returns, they would be soon out of business. Any public figure who opposes disclosure of his tax return should invite suspicion. Though he would not have disclosed his ill-gotten wealth in his tax returns, now it would be possible for people, who know about him, to indicate which of his assets are illegal and whether his declared income can support his lifestyle. Therefore, both legally and in larger public interest, the tax returns of public figures ought to be made public.

 

DILIP MODI PRESIDENT, ASSOCHAM Disclosure will Enhance Trust

Governance deficit is not only affecting India's image globally but also poses a serious threat to sustainable, inclusive growth. Our government has already signed 13 tax information exchange agreements and is actively supporting efforts at the G20 to end tax evasion and track black money.


In this context, deploying RTI to reveal tax returns of public figures in the country is a significant mechanism that could immediately achieve two objectives: one, alter the practice of engaging in corrupt practices for personal gain and two, generate a society that is well-informed and can, thus, make informed choices.
In the long run, information revealed in tax returns and assets will become an important factor in deciding the performance of the public figure. This is bound to help bridge the governance deficit. After all, trust and corruption are correlated; so is the lack of information in aiding corruption.


To the extent that the revelation of tax returns is followed by sincere efforts to ascertain whether high returns are connected to political connections, it will make RTI an effective catalyst in constraining corruption. This could help clean up the process of funding elections, often the genesis of corruption. The mismatch between tax returns and affidavits filed during elections, will generate greater transparency and hopefully, electoral punishment for those misrepresenting facts.

Of course, RTI on tax returns could become a powerful tool here. Experience of some of the emerging economies has already revealed the effectiveness of revealing such information. In one case, the exercise in auditing municipal governments randomly was seen to have created greater accountability. Once the results of such audits were disseminated publicly, its impact was clearly visible in the re-election of mayors in municipal elections.


Studies also reveal that in countries enjoying high level of trust, the percentage of people rating corrupt political leaders as a big constraint to equitable growth tends to be lower. There is no doubt that disclosure of assets of public figures will allow people to make well-informed decisions through the democratic process.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

SERENDIPITY

POLITICS BEYOND SOUND BITES

C L MANOJ


Mass politics and test of leadership continue to be an engaging and exhausting craft on the perennially shifting political grounds despite the bluster and collective conspiracy of the new-age 'sound-bite politicians' to reduce it to an easy, 20:20 game at Delhi's cosy TV studios and drawing rooms. No wonder, the clever theories relayed from 'political Delhi' often lose their bite once they meet the larger realities and concerns that thrive beyond the middle class border of Indraprastha. That fact, once again, got demonstrated in a series of political twists and turns these past 10 days.


On a day when the CBI sleuths reached the Kalaignar TV headquarters in Chennai, the animated 'Delhi theme' was whether M Karunandhi's kith and kin will be arrested straight away or will they flee like the cornered first family of Egypt did. Instead, we saw the astute politician in S Ramadoss coolly hugging the very Karunanidhi to ink a DMK-PMK pollpact by rejecting a more generous deal offered by Jayalalithaa. What does it mean?
A typical case of a greedy politician's contemptuous rejection of the 'national discourse' against corruption! Or, is it a signal from a seasoned politician that the Delhi antenna has no connectivity with the factors that dictate realpolitik at ground zeros? Perhaps, it will be easy to find the answer in Messrs Prakash Karat and A B Bardhan too happily finalising the Left's electoral pact with the very honourable Jayalalithaa without feeling conflicted about their ongoing war against corruption.


By Delhi's all-conquering anti-corruption sound-bite logic, Mamata Banerjee's coexistence with 'the corrupt UPA' should have jeopardised her chance against the Left by now. But try and get a whispering good comrade, all that he/she will tell you is how frightfully unabated is the Bengali determination to sign off the three-decade old communist rule. The honeymoon of the 'united opposition in Delhi' should have also made it easy for the BJP and AGP to join hands against Tarun Gogoi's hattrick bid. Yet, the pre-poll Assam discourse is influenced by the government-Ulfa peace talks, that taming of 'the Perfume King', and the social compulsions that defy the Opposition's unity plot against the incumbent! In Kerala, too, 'local scandals' and the tricky coalition equations relegate the national theme to the back-stage.


On the second the day of the Budget session, the Opposition celebrated their 'unity' and 'the triumph of democracy' in getting the PM to concede a joint parliamentary committee (JPC). But almost the same time came the reports of the Ahmadabad special court upholding the "conspiracy theory" in the Sabarmati train burning case. BJP leaders led by the Narendra Modi camp instantly flashed the V-signs and began the celebration against 'arrogant pseudosecularists'. For them, this is the icing on the cake of 'democracy's victory dance' on the platform of a 'united Opposition'. For them, the rest of details like the post-Godhra 'reaction' carnage are mere footnotes.

 


Whether this will further consolidate the Left-to-Right Opposition unity against 'corruption', or help BJP to expand its 'NDA alliance' or cut through both projects on the ground will be seen soon. Maybe for the larger nation, just two recent acts on the Delhi platform should hold some interest. One, the sight of some top corporate honchos being asked to reach the CBI headquarters soon after the Prime Minister's press conference. For the ordinary people what is no more news is not the Opposition pillorying Dr Manmohan Singh as "ineffective and weak" but their rulers breaching, for once, the traditional hidden MoU of no aggression against the collaborating corporate biggies. Because this is a nation of people that is long used to the dance of the political-corporate nexus in Delhi's corridors of power under the choreography of weak as well as strong political leaderships. The only thing that has made the contents of Radia tapes credible is the fact that these officially confirmed what has always been whispered. So, for the people, what is the turn off is not the tales of corruption but our political class' longstanding willing collaboration with it.

 

By promising action against this cartel, Dr Singh and Mrs Gandhi have raised the expectations on the street. This can work both ways for the Singh-Sonia duo; deliver on it and restore the credibility or falter in this test and get battered. For the BJP-led Opposition, too, the test, beyond sound bites, to appear credible and sincere in their anticorruption/black money crusade that had started from the iron ore mines of Karnataka has only intensified after L K Advani's claims about Sonia Gandhi's foreign account ended up in an apology. It is the proof of the leaders' promised actions on ground, not the hollow bluster of sound bites, that matter to the world beyond Delhi.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

GADDAFI AT WAR WITH HIS PEOPLE

The shocking events in Libya over the past few days presage the unravelling of the broad coalition of tribal conglomerates husbanded by the military dictator, Col. Muammar Gaddafi, which has governed the country for over four decades, the longest serving dictatorship in the Arab region, possibly the world. The more than explicit brutality of the regime toward its own people had shades of the cruelty of Pakistani soldiers toward the Bengalis of East Pakistan which led to the breakup of the country and the founding of Bangladesh in 1971. The Libyan security forces have rained ammunition from fighter planes and helicopter gunships. Milling protesters have also been fired upon with machineguns by soldiers. The number of the dead and injured can hardly be accurate when the foreign media is denied entry and there appears to be a fairly effective communications blackout in place. Reports based on sketchy phone conversations with protesters suggest that hundreds of people may have been killed with bullets fired by the military and possibly over a thousand others wounded. There is no gainsaying, however, that the regime has engaged in open military confrontation with its own unarmed citizens. This brutality has shocked the world. Libya's ruling elite now appears divided and many of its leading lights have defected. The justice minister is said to have resigned. Libya's ambassador to the US, its deputy ambassador to the United Nations, its ambassador in India and senior diplomats in London have denounced the Gaddafi dictatorship and quit. Two colonels in the Libyan air force disobeyed orders to fire on the people from the air and chose to defect and land their planes in Malta. Available accounts suggest that foreign mercenaries have been brought in to attack protesting crowds with lethal weapons as the integrity of the military — divided on tribal and clan lines — has come into question. If this is true, it would appear that the base on which Col. Gaddafi's power rested is crumbling. Whether media reports are verifiable or not, all the signs are that the regime has been pushed on the backfoot to the point that the dictator's heir apparent, his younger son Saif ul-Islam, promised that the ruler and his family would "fight to the last bullet". This is a sign that the regime is tottering. The possibility of civil war and the breakup of Libya cannot at this stage be dismissed out of hand. Libya is an oil-rich country and continuing chaos there can have an appreciable impact on the international oil economy. It is therefore to be seen how the UN Security Council assesses the emerging situation. India's response to the extraordinary happenings in the North African country has been less than muted. New Delhi has only said it would evacuate Indian workers if needed. In the UN Security Council, India needs to take a clearer-cut position against the dictatorship which has rained bullets on masses of its own people.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

BUDGET, IN VERSE

BY INDER MALHOTRA

FIVE DAYS before the country's 64th Union Budget seems a good time for a bird's eye-view of the succession of this exciting annual event on the last day of February that I have covered or been a witness to. (Until the turn of the millennium, the Budget used to be presented at 5 pm; mercifully, the timing now is 11 am, thanks to Yashwant Sinha, Atal Behari Vajpayee's finance minister.) To tell the finance minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, what to do or undo is best left to pundits of finance and fiscal, dismal science wonks and trumpeters of tycoons.

The first Budget I covered as a very young and raw reporter was John Mathai's third and last in 1950. Almost immediately after getting his Budget passed, he resigned in protest against Jawaharlal Nehru's decision to set up the Planning Commission with powers that the finance minister considered "excessive". Mathai's farewell performance was remarkable for his highly combative replies to his critics at the end of the Budget debate. For instance, he called a trade union leader from Gujarat "a Bania masquerading as a labour leader".

Another member, he said, "mistook Parliament for the UN". More hard-hitting was his advice to Durgabai, a prominent member who had waxed eloquent about the man-in-the-street: "Please do not take so seriously every man you meet in the street". (As it happened, some years later, Durgabai, then a member of the Planning Commission, married Mathai's successor as finance minister, C.D. Deshmukh.)

Deshmukh, a member of the heaven-born Indian Civil Service (ICS) of the British days and a former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, was the first bureaucrat to become a Union Cabinet minister. However, before discussing his nearly six-year stint, it is only fair to mention that the man who had the honour to present the first Budget after the tryst with destiny was R.K. Shanmukham Chetty, a respected businessman of what was then Madras.

His Budget was a declaration of war on those who had evaded taxes during World War II. Ironically, he also ensured his departure by excluding from the list of suspected tax-dodgers to be investigated the owners of a favoured business house.

It was Deshmukh who set the trend of quoting ancient Sanskrit shlokas or even verses in Tamil, not his mother tongue, in his Budget speeches. Others followed his practice enthusiastically. Consequently, rare is a Budget speech that is not studded with apt Urdu or Hindi poetry or verses in various other languages or even a catchy title of a Bollywood film.

Mr P. Chidambaram, now Union home minister, excelled in this art when he was finance minister first in the United Front government (1996-1998) and then in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government until 2008. Mr Mukherjee then returned to the portfolio he likes the most. It needs to be added that he was the first member of the Rajya Sabha to be made finance minister during Indira Gandhi's second innings in the 1980s.

Interestingly, Deshmukh resigned from the Nehru Cabinet in 1956 not because of any differences on economic policy but because he was enraged over a proposal to either make Bombay a city state and be kept out of Maharashtra or the bilingual Bombay state continuing.

His successor was T.T. Krishnamachari who had coveted the finance portfolio for long. But the country was in the throes of a foreign exchange crunch which required heavy cuts in expenditure that were inevitably unpopular. His popularity declined further when, on the advice of the renowned Hungarian economist, Nicholas Kaldor, he imposed both wealth tax and expenditure tax but forgot to reduce the rates of income tax in what came to be known as the "Krishnamachari-Kaldor Budget".

TTK, as everyone called him, had to resign in February 1958 because of the "Mundhra affair", a case of Life Insurance Corporation's questionable investments in the highly dubious firms of industrialist Haridas Mundhra. Since the interval before the Budget was too short, Nehru temporarily took over the finance portfolio and presented the next Budget amidst much applause, especially when he quoted from William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida.

However, when some difficult questions were put to him during the Budget debate, he charmingly replied: "I know little of high finance and am a bird of passage in this ministry. Wait for the new incumbent."
The new incumbent was Morarji Desai who earned several distinctions.

He presented the largest number of Budgets, eight in all and two of them on his birthday, February 29! He was the only finance minister to be divested of his portfolio without being asked to leave the Cabinet (in 1969 by Indira Gandhi). He came to grief also over the gold control he had imposed in his 1963 Budget after the border war with China and before he was eased out of the Nehru Cabinet under the famous Kamraj Plan.

Above all, Desai was the first of the two finance ministers to become Prime Minister later, the second being Dr Manmohan Singh, of course. R. Vekataraman, a rather popular finance minister, was the only one to become the republic's President.

Indira Gandhi, like her father before and her son Rajiv Gandhi later, briefly took over the finance ministry after Desai's exit. She nationalised major banks and saw to it that a populist Budget was presented and approved.
Constraint of space compels me to jump straight to Dr Manmohan Singh's first Budget in 1991.

It was a major landmark because it propelled India's controlled economy towards liberalisation and globalisation. In 1996, the year in which the Narashima Rao government was voted out, there were signs that Dr Singh wasn't receiving from his party the support he needed.

No wonder, in the course of his Budget speech he wistfully remarked: "I feel like going to theatre tonight". The allusion to Abraham Lincoln was missed by many, but not the Urdu verse he quoted: "Sarfaroshi ki tammana ab hamare dil mein hai, Dekhna hai zor kitna baazu-e-qaatil mein hai".

In the prevailing political ambience and national mood, the good doctor might be tempted to recite this couplet yet again.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

REVOLUTION AND EUROPE'S MUMBO-JUMBO

BY ROGER COHEN

It says something about the miserable European response to the Arab spring that the Italian Prime Minister, Mr Silvio Berlusconi's personal contribution to North African affairs — his alleged liaison with a then-17-year-old Moroccan dancer — only just takes the prize for most abject performance.

His foreign minister, Mr Franco Frattini, was not far behind with his response to the brave uprising of the Tunisian people that ousted the longtime dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali: "Priority number one is the deterrence of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorist cells".

All manner of worthy things may be wished for Arabs just across the Mediterranean — and they were by President Nicolas Sarkozy's fatuous brainchild, the 43-member Union for the Mediterranean — but of course democracy and freedom are not among them.

The Barcelona-based Union, which should be disbanded forthwith, preferred to concentrate on matters like the "de-pollution of the Mediterranean". That, for Europeans, generally meant keeping Arabs away.

No wonder Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel-prize winning Turkish novelist, wrote an essay late last year called The Fading Dream of Europe. He noted the inward, small-minded, anti-immigrant turn of a European continent that had once represented the summit of his own and many Turks' aspirations. And that was penned before the latest European niggardliness.

In his own way the aging multibillionaire Mr Berlusconi has aped the manners of the very Arab despots the peoples of Egypt and Tunisia and Libya and Bahrain have risen to oust. Like them he has confused self and nation, entranced by the cult of his personality. Or, and it hardly matters which, these Arab dictators and their business acolytes have aped Mr Berlusconi, mimicking the worst of the West while their people languished without the most basic rights the European Union upholds.

Designer labels without freedom of speech or the rule of law constitute a virulent form of contemporary savagery.

Mr Berlusconi epitomises a long trans-Mediterranean connivance with Arab subjugation — a marriage of convenience that condemned Arabs to be supplicants. Men and women across North Africa have taken to the streets to overturn this dignity-denying status quo. They want to stand on their own two feet rather than forever being cast as peoples in decline.

A judge, Cristina Di Censo, has now indicted Mr Berlusconi, 74, on charges that he paid for sex with a 17-year-old girl, Karima el-Mahroug, who has denied having sex with him. People power, Italian-style, brought a half-million protesters into the streets on February 13. I'd say this particular Italian soap has run long enough: A leader more consumed with his virility and Arab women one quarter his age than with governance does not serve Italy well.

Mr Berlusconi is not the only European resignation in order. The French foreign minister, Ms Michèle Alliot-Marie, has piled gaffe on gaffe since the Tunisian uprising began on December 17.

It's not enough that she offered the "know-how" of French security forces to Ben Ali. It's not enough that she accepted a ride on a private jet from a Ben Ali business partner while on a Tunisian vacation during the protests. It's not enough that her parents signed a property deal with this Ben Ali sidekick. It's not enough that she was on the phone to Ben Ali although she earlier denied she had any "privileged contact".

Yes, madame minister, it is enough.

True, Prime Minister Mr François Fillon was also accepting flights and lodging from Mr Hosni Mubarak at the time. But Egypt had not arisen then; and Mr Fillon's record is distinguished, unlike Ms Alliot-Marie's comedy of errors since becoming foreign minister.

The European Union must rethink its relations with the Muslim world at its doorstep, beginning with accepting Turkey, whose membership would help usher the continent from the small-mindedness Pamuk describes. I'm not sure booming Turkey's still interested; keep someone at the door long enough and that person will turn away. But a Union with Turkey in it would not have responded to the Arab awakening with such tiptoeing awkwardness.

A new European pact with democratising Arab neighbours is also urgently needed. Put European money behind forming decent democratic societies across the water. This will be a generational project, but it's the only way to stop the desperate human tide into southern Spain and Italy. The first major international challenge for post-Lisbon Europe has revealed that the 2009 treaty did nothing to change the lowest-common-denominator approach that makes the European Union, such a foreign-policy pygmy. I guess that must be the way middling-power European nation states want it.

One shout-out is called for: to the Danish Prime Minister, Mr Lars Lokke Rasmussen, for being first to say: "Mubarak is history. Mubarak must step down". Contrast those declarative sentences with Brussels' mumbo-jumbo. Danes, as World War II showed, sometimes stand apart from the crowd and do right.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

EARLY AUTUMN FOR THE PATRIARCHS

BY RAJENDRA ABHYANKAR AND SUMIT GANGULY

It was only a matter of time before the popular protests which brought down his autocratic neighbours — Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt — came home to Libya, one of the most repressive states in the region. Not surprisingly, its mercurial ruler, Col. Muammar Gaddafi, has not been averse to using force to quell the popular uprising. Some 400 protesters are dead and hundreds injured in Benghazi, Misurata and Baida. It is ironic that Col. Gaddafi, who had derived inspiration for his coup against the Italian-backed King Idris from Gamal Abdel Nasser's group of Free Officers, once again finds that it is Egypt that may determine his future or lack of it.

His eldest son, Seif al-Islam, in an incoherent speech has warned that if the protests continue there is danger of civil war in the country to the detriment of its oil economy. This is not so much a warning to the Libyan people as a foretaste of what government goons could do if the protesters do not buckle under. His invocation of Libya's oil resources is also significant. It constitutes a warning to European governments which depend on Libyan oil and natural gas, that their secure sources for heating during this cold winter could be disrupted.

It is necessary for us to understand the tactics that the government is resorting to: they constitute a rearguard action by a ruling family which sees street protesters undermine its tribal governance structure. Unlike in Tunisia and Egypt where disaffected youth spearheaded the protest movements, in Libya the agitators have found support amongst workers' unions and human rights groups. Furthermore, the protesters have also sought assistance from their brethren in Egypt.

Over almost four decades, Col. Gaddafi has built up the most opaque system of governance in the Arab world. The entire system is geared to keeping his family in power and designed for passing on to future generations of his kith and kin. Col. Gaddafi had hoped that like Mr Mubarak in Egypt, Bashar Assad in Syria, Abdullah II in Jordan and Mohammad IV in Morocco, his son, Seif al-Islam, would also ascend to the patrimony he had created, regardless of the sentiments of his subjects.

To that end, he had undertaken a series of deft foreign and security policy initiatives. Two, in particular, were worthy of being underscored. They were his willingness to resolve the Lockerbie bombing episode and his disavowal of his regime's long-standing, clandestine nuclear ambitions. These gestures had made his otherwise brutal regime much more palatable to many in Europe and rendered their willingness to purchase petroleum and ancillary products from Libya more tolerable.

Col. Gaddafi was also prepared to curry favour with a host of poor African nations through the disbursement of his very substantial oil revenues. Indeed, at one point, he managed to secure the presidency of the African Union through the adroit exploitation of foreign assistance. Simultaneously, he doled out funds to Muslim minorities in other parts of the world through Libyan missions in those countries.

Domestically, he had sought to improve his image through the exploitation of Islam. To that end he was willing to resort to some bizarre and extraordinary steps. For example, some years ago he flew in a bevy of young Italian women to introduce them to the virtues of Islam.

His willingness to dole out the state's largesse was not confined to the foreign realm. He was more than willing to provide his populace the key necessities of life — healthcare, education and housing. However, the state's generosity came at a distinct price. The most basic freedoms, those of speech, religion and association, were routinely denied and any demands for such rights ruthlessly suppressed.

The protest movements that are now sweeping across the region are emblematic of the breakdown of this compact that a host of West Asian autocrats had come to see as the natural order of politics. Those who are risking their lives from Tunis to Tripoli and beyond are making it clear that they will not be satisfied by bread alone. They now crave the power of the ballot that has been so long denied to them.

The gathering storm of the protests besetting the entire Arab world, and even Iran, leaves us with no choice but to support these popular movements. To quote India's greatest democrat, Jawaharlal Nehru, it is their "tryst with destiny" — when the pent up anger of long-suffering people has finally found utterance. Given the largely peaceful features of these protests, it is imperative that India's policymakers, who have long-standing ties with many of these states, forthrightly urge their leaderships to recognise that the day of reckoning is now at hand.

These movements, yearning for democratic political participation, are quintessentially homegrown and not foreign implants. Any attempt to violently repress the popular upheavals under way will only lead to needless bloodshed and rend apart entire societies and states. Instead, an acceptance of the legitimacy of these protests may provide these anachronistic and hidebound regimes an opportunity to grant what their citizenry have long lacked — fundamental civil rights that are now seen as truly universal.

* Rajendra Abhyankar is a diplomat in residence and Sumit Ganguly is the director of research at the Centre on American and Global Security at Indiana University, Bloomington, US.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

IN PERFECT BALANCE

BY YOGI ASHWINI

The universe sustains because of balance in nature. Every force in nature has an equal and opposite force balancing or complementing it, for if something as small as an atom goes into imbalance, it can lead to disaster. Atom bomb is one such example — it shows that even the smallest existing force when out of balance can create havoc in the universe.

The whole Creation rests on this one principle, and the forces of nature are always at work to maintain this balance. Day and night, summer and winter, darkness and light, North Pole and South Pole; every force, every phenomenon is complementing another equal and opposite aspect of it in nature.

Positive thought exists because there is negative thought; both are necessary, as one cannot exist without the other. Even if one aspect of Creation increases disproportionately, the entire Creation is at risk of destruction.

Life itself is balance. Whenever the smallest constituent in the body goes out of balance, it results is a disease. The complete sciences of Yog and Ayurved are based on balance, both aiming at achieving a state of balance. Ayurved deals with balance in detail. Any imbalance is called vikriti (against nature) and balance is prakriti or nature. Vikriti creates disease and prakriti health.

All Ayurvedic treatments are designed to bring the body in a state of balance. And the kriyas prescribed in Yog, asanas and pranayamas, too aim at bringing all the forces which constitute the various layers of the body in a state of balance. The former affects the physical and the latter acts upon the subtler layers, thereby translating to the physical. Pranayamas are done to clear blockages in the etheric body. There are channels called "nadis" in the etheric body through which prana flows. The three main nadis are Sushumna (the white column which runs along the spine), Ida (Chandra or cold nadi) and the Pingala (Surya or hot nadi). Hyper (fast) and hypo (slow) pranayamas are done in cohesion to clear the blockages in the etheric layer and distributing prana where there's excessive collection. The result is balance, which translates at every layer of the being — physical, financial, emotional and spiritual.

No one technique is picked up in isolation as balance between two opposing forces is necessary to keep the body in harmony, for when there is balance, a higher level of existence is achieved. It is something similar to what happened at the time of samudra manthan.

Both suras and asuras churned the ocean to obtain amrit, the elixir of life. When devtas and asuras collected to churn the ocean, the Sumeru Parvat was taken as the churner, the Vasuki Nag was used as rope to churn. The Sumeru Parvat is likened to Sushumna nadi in a human being, Ida and Pingala to Vasuki Nag entwined around the Sushumna. The kundalini force resides at the base of the mooladhar chakra in a shell like that of a tortoise. When through the practices of Yog one is able to balance the flow of prana in both Ida and Pingala nadis, then the force called the kundalini shakti rises in the sushumna nadi. This results in the achievement of yog or atma sakshatkar, which is like obtaining amrit.

Now, along with amrit what came out of the churning also was the most potent form of vish, the halahal, which nobody was ready to take. Then Lord Shiva, who is said to encompass all aspects of Creation and who does not distinguish between the positive and negative forces in nature, took the vish and held it in his throat.

If amrit is important, the importance of vish is also depicted here for it was not destroyed by ingesting it but was held to maintain balance in nature. Also positive and negative worked together to bring about the desired results, proving that both have to work in tandem in Creation, both have their own place in Creation.

— Yogi Ashwini is an authority on yoga, tantra and the Vedic sciences. He is the guiding light of Dhyan Foundation. He has recently written a book, Sanatan Kriya: 51 Miracles... And a Haunting.
Contact him at dhyan@dhyanfoundation.com [1]

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

'TRASH OF HISTORY'

LIBYA'S CRISIS AT HOME AND THE WORLD

 

MONDAY'S warning to protestors by Muammar Gaddafi's son that Libya will witness a "civil war and rivers of blood" doesn't quite place the country at the crossroads as Saif al-Islam Gaddafi imagines; it is an acknowledgment that the regime in Libya is teetering towards collapse. The severity of the repression since the uprising began a week ago has been decidedly more brutal than in Egypt. The firing that killed no fewer than 200 mourners was an indication of the brutality unleashed by Colonel Gaddafi, the dictatorial, if obedient, Western ally in the Arab world. There is speculation over his whereabouts. We do not know whether he has fled his tent and the country to be the guest of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, but we do know that he is facing unprecedented protests that have shaken his authority to its foundations. The whiff of jasmine gets stronger and stronger from Cairo's Tahrir Square to Manama's Pearl Square and now to Tripoli's Green Square. The striking feature of the movement in Libya is that it isn't the people alone who have risen in revolt. No less critically, Gaddafi is under pressure from within the establishment to step down. The resignation of the Justice minister over the excessive offensive has widened the crack. This lends a sharper edge to the crisis, more furious than what Hosni Mubarak had to encounter. His son's warning to the crowds was only a desperate expression of bluster.
Within the comity of nations, the Colonel's position has been denuded beyond measure with Libya's envoys to the UN, the Arab League, Beijing and New York shrilling for his ouster. A string of diplomats are said to have defected since Sunday with the implicit message that Libya today is a country that they would rather not represent. Verily has Libya reached a grim pass both at home and in the world. Its unsplendid isolation deepens after the blistering attack by its ambassador to the Arab League, Abdel-Moneim al-Houni: "Gaddafi's regime is now in the trash of history because he betrayed his nation and his people. He, his commanders and aides should be put on trial for the mass killings." The President ~ the world's longest serving leader ~ has been disowned by those who represent his authority. The international community, not least the USA and Britain, are confused.

 

DEFILED FURTHER

RULING PARTY MEMBERS MISBEHAVE

 

IT may have appeared trivial in comparison with what Parliament has witnessed on previous occasions, and certainly was only a faint reflection of what some of their counterparts were doing in their home state, yet there can be no trivialising the protest by pro-Telengana members of the Congress party when the President was opening the Budget Session of Parliament. To describe as "unprecedented" any unbecoming conduct in the apex legislature would be inaccurate since there have been so many ugly scenes in the past, yet this could be a case of the "rarest of the rare" ~ ruling party members (even if only a small section of them) waving placards and disturbing what is rated as one of most solemn events on the parliamentary calendar. Sure the issue is one that is agitating the people in Andhra, true for them it was disappointing that the President's Address ~ a statement of government intention ~ offered little indication of a solution. Still, the protest was pre-meditated, its brevity and lack of intensity does not erase that. What stands established is that Congressmen of the region are losing confidence in their national leadership and it is palpable that they have scant regard for the UPA's parliamentary managers who are tasked with ensuring the smooth conduct of the legislature. PK Bansal & Co. must realise that, and not find comfort in the protest garnering limited media attention: their dealing with the Opposition has ever been inept, now comes trouble from within the ranks of the Treasury.
Of concern that extends beyond any party or group are signs that an increasing number of MPs now deem the legislature essentially a "protest forum", much heat is generated on a range of issues but when some of them are debated there are few enlightening interventions, hardly ever a constructive suggestion. By screaming and performing other antics that secure some media play, some parliamentarians believe their job is done. A tragic consequence of this is that overuse has rendered ineffective the "conventional" methods of protest. Time was when a walkout "registered", now even adjournments are deemed inconsequential. Scuttling an entire session has "paid off", what are the implications of that? Back to the Congressmen from Telengana: will the party leadership take them to task for Monday's misdemeanour? As importantly, will they and others across the House find it profitable to conduct themselves with dignity and decorum?

 

COME ALL YE FAITHFUL

MISS BANERJEE CASTS HER NET

SUNDAY'S clarion call by Mamata Banerjee for electoral pacts makes it pretty obvious that she is keen on an expanded template. No such appeal preceded last year's civic elections in which Trinamul Congress scored a convincing victory despite the fact that an alliance with the Congress didn't materialise. By that token, Trinamul emerged as the dominant force in Bengal. A little over two months before the Assembly elections, she has publicly made a strong appeal to the Congress to forge an alliance. Ideological persuasions are of little or no consequence in the overall construct. So it is that she has invited SUCI ~ "our small friend", a non-entity in terms of legislative representation, seemingly more radical than the Left, and more violently disruptive than Trinamul.  Nay more, Miss Banerjee has cast her net sufficiently wide by drawing a fine distinction between what she calls the "Left-minded" and the Left Front. In her reckoning, the Left Front is "bad", but not those who are "Left-minded". She has advanced an open invitation to the latter to join the anti-Left alliance. Quite obviously she is eyeing the jhola-brigade comprising former fellow-travellers and perceived intellectuals who had been up in arms against the violent offensive in Nandigram (2007). Four years later, it is an open question whether this segment will readily team up with Trinamul; quite a few of the "Left-minded" are now sitting on the fence despite being inducted into railway and KMC advisory committees. The stage and film personalities among them have benefited not a little from CPI-M patronage.


Miss Banerjee must be acutely aware that the real test will be the alliance with the Congress. Seat-sharing remains the thorniest issue. There is no indication yet that the state Congress will come down from its demand for one-third of the constituencies ~ precisely 98 in a 294-member Assembly. There is no clue either from the Trinamul leader on an agreeable seat-sharing formula. The other critical issue is the zonal importance in electoral terms. Trinamul has affirmed its strength in South Bengal, but North Bengal remains the Congress's zealously guarded turf. Will the latter be willing to part with a few seats in the region in favour of Trinamul? The Congress flirtation with the CPI-M in the formation of the Siliguri municipal board must rankle in any talks on seat-sharing. Miss Banerjee has shed her reservations vis-a-vis the Congress and the latter may theoretically be agreeable to an alliance. It is the allocation of constituencies and the number thereof that may yet be a forbidding challenge when talks  take off.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

FREE FLOW OF RIVERS

FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE PEOPLE AND AQUATIC LIFE

BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA

 

THE Allahabad High Court has ordered that no more than 50 per cent of the water may be removed from the Ganga. The court observed that the river water is polluted and not even fit for bathing. Also, the bulk of the water was being removed for irrigation and to cool boilers of power plants. This has served to increase the level of pollution. The ocean doesn't get polluted if a kilogram of arsenic is added to the water. Yet the same arsenic can  kill all life in a village pond. Similarly, increased flow of water will reduce the intensity of pollution in the Ganga.


At present, muscle power has emerged as a major factor. Even the specified minimum release of water from the Narora barrage is not being effected. Groups of farmers reach the head-works and force officials to increase the canal's flow. The reduced flow is affecting the livelihood of the downstream fishermen as well as pilgrims who bathe in Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna and Ganga Sagar. But the fishermen and pilgrims are not organised. They have not been able to reach the head-works and force more water to be released into the river.
Officials believe that water, flowing in the river, is a waste of precious natural resources. They ignore the immense benefits provided by free flow of rivers. First, free flow recharges the groundwater, especially during the floods. Unfortunately, officials see the floods only as a 'problem.' The free flow of water is being impeded by storing it in the Tehri dam and constructing embankments along the course of the river. As a result, tubewells are drying up. The increase in the volume of irrigation through canals gets neutralised by the reduction in irrigation with the aid of tubewells.


Second, fishermen are losing their livelihood. I understand that the output of hilsa has come down between Allahabad and Farakka. Fish from downstream are unable to cross the Farakka to their spawning grounds. Third, the river carries sediment along with water. This is  removed along with the water drawn into the canals. The sediment can nourish our coasts and combat the natural tendency of the sea to cause erosion. No wonder the extent of erosion has been rapid in the Ganga Sagar island.


Fourth, rivers are worshipped across the world. River Jordan is considered sacred by Christians. Pilgrims bathe in the free-flowing waters of the Ganga. My father used to take us to Sarsaiya Ghat in Kanpur. We would cross the river on boat and bathe in one of the islands. The practice has now been discontinued. Those who inhabit the areas  along our rivers have been deprived of the joy they once derived from such activities.
Fifth, the free flow of rivers has its own value. Two dams were built on the Elhwa River in  Washington. These dams facilitated irrigation and generated electricity. But the tourists were unhappy as they were denied the excitement of fishing, kayaking and other activities. The government commissioned a study to resolve the matter. The people of Washington were asked how much money they were willing to pay if the dams were removed and the river is allowed to flow freely. The study revealed that people were willing to pay much more for the removal of dams than the benefits that were derived from irrigation and electricity. The two dams are now being removed.


I have undertaken a similar survey of pilgrims at Devaprayag, Rishikesh and Hardwar. I have assessed that the pilgrims are losing benefits worth Rs 4,666 crore a year due to the deterioration in the quality of water as a result of the Tehri dam. The people of the country are losing Rs 7,980 crore a year because of the obstruction to the free flow of the Ganga.


Sixth, water is being drawn to cool the boilers of the nuclear power station at Narora. Hot water is subsequently released directly into the river. This kills the fish, turtles, worms and other aquatic life. The hot water can be easily cooled and re-used, but only at a cost. The government is unwilling to incur even this small expenditure for the simple reason that it is not concerned over the loss suffered by wildlife, fishermen and pilgrims.
The benefits from drawal of water have been overstated. Officials say that water has to be drawn from the river in order to increase agricultural production and ensure food security. This is not correct. I have studied the pattern of distribution of water from canals. Farmers in the head of the feeders overuse water. They irrigate the fields excessively although the benefits are nominal. They cultivate water-guzzling crops like menthe and sugarcane. These crops are cultivated mainly for consumption by the rich and have no connection with food security. Farmers at the tail-end of the feeders get very little water, if at all. Food security can be ensured by more scientific cultivation of jowar, bajra and ragi. Officials are pandering to the needs of the rich behind the smokescreen of food security.
The amount of water that may be beneficially drawn can be calculated after taking all these factors into account. Say, 100 per cent water is drawn and the river is entirely dried out. The farmers will benefit but the loss to the fishermen and pilgrims will be huge. Now, say, 10 per cent water is released. The farmers will suffer a minor loss, but the gain for the fishermen will be considerable. Release of the next 10 per cent will lead to a slightly higher loss to the farmers and a slightly lesser gain for the fishermen. At some point, the loss to farmers will be equal to the fishermen's gain. This is the optimum level of water that must be released.


The method of removal of water from the river must also be reconsidered. Presently a barrage is set up across the river-bed. A reservoir is constructed behind the barrage. Water ferments in the reservoir and sediment is trapped. Fish cannot move to their spawning grounds as their path is obstructed by the barrage. Water can be removed without such risks.


A partial obstruction can be set up. Say, 40 per cent water is to be removed and the river bed is 100 meters wide. A wall can be constructed at 40 meters and water in this section can be diverted into a canal. This will allow free flow of the river in the remaining 60 per cent of the bed. The river will be able to discharge its ecological functions of carrying sediment, supporting aquatic life and providing clean water to the pilgrims.

Such drawal will not be subject to manipulation by lathi-wielding musclemen.


The court's order is the first bold step in the right direction. The judges deserve to be congratulated. A study needs to be undertaken by an independent agency on the optimum level of water that may be drawn from the river. All barrages constructed on the rivers should be removed and replaced with partial obstructions that do not allow more than optimum water to be removed.

(The writer is former Professor of Economics, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.)

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

100 YEARS AGO TODAY

BARASET GANG CASE


Convictions And Sentences At Alipore

The case in which Kartick Moochi and eight others were charged with having formed themselves into a gang and committed dacoities, robberies and burglaries in several places within the Subdivision of Baraset, was concluded before Mr A.W. Watson, Additional District and Sessions Judge, presiding over the Alipore Special Criminal Sessions with a special jury. Two hundred witnesses have been examined on behalf of the prosecution and the case has lasted nearly two months. All the accused appeared in court in prison dress during the trial as they had been convicted previously in dacoity and had livelihood cases.


The jury returned a ananimous verdict of guilty against all the accused. The judge, agreeing with the verdict, sentenced the leaders, Kartick Moochie, to transportation for life; Bhola Ghose and Karno Ghose to ten years' transportation each; Badul, Rohman, Tapa, Bana, Sorbo and Sarat to five years rigorous imprisonment each; and Sitanath to three years' rigorous imprisonment.


The Sheriff of Madras has been informed that the Government of India have intimated to the Madras Government that His Majesty's pleasure has been taken in the matter of his visit to Madras and that His Majesty greatly regrets that he will be unable to visit Madras on this occasion owing to the pressure of time, but that the spirit of loyalty and devotion with which the resolution of the citizens of Madras is inspired is greatly appreciated by His Majesty.


Several important questions were discussed at the meeting of the Travancore Popular Assembly on Monday, including the construction of roads and bridges and other means of communication in the taluks

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

GODHRA MYSTERY PERSISTS

RAJINDER PURI


THE court judgment on the Godhra train fire is out. The complete judgment needs to be read before passing opinion. But from what has already appeared in media certain observations are relevant. The judgment unambiguously states that there was a conspiracy behind the train fire. This scribe wrote on the Godhra train fire three months and again six months after the event. Questions raised then apparently remain unanswered.
The first question is who really masterminded the conspiracy? Three months after the fire it was asked: "Within hours of the Godhra incident the government said that the carnage was pre-planned by the ISI. It even named the main ISI suspect who had allegedly fled to Bangladesh. Now the government says that the Godhra carnage was not pre-planned but spontaneous."  Six months later it was asked:"Why did the government immediately after the Godhra tragedy state that the ISI had planned it and why months later did it say it had not?" Has the judgment adequately adduced the reasons for the government's volte-face?"


Six months after the Godhra fire it was pointed out: "The Ahmedabad-based Forensic Science Laboratory proved that the railway carriage was set afire from inside. The outside doors of the burnt bogie were locked. The arsonists there could only have entered the compartment through the corridor from the adjoining bogie. How did a Muslim mob pass through unprotesting kar sewaks and burn alive inmates of the adjoining bogie...? Circumstantial evidence suggests the possibility of foreign-funded saboteurs having infiltrated the Sangh Parivar to act as enemies of the state. If investigations bear this out, these infiltrators must be hunted, exposed and punished. They could be the greatest threat to national security."


This may have appeared like a wild surmise nine years ago. But after arrested Hindu terrorists have confessed to a court that they conspired to kill the present head of the RSS and to falsely implicate the former RSS head in the murder; after the Malegaon blast; after it has been established that accused members of the Sangh Parivar committed the murder of an RSS colleague; after Swami Aseemanand's curious confession and the even more curious acceptance of it by the government that turned a blind eye to the UN resolution clearly nailing and naming the Lashkar terrorists who perpetrated the Samjhauta train blast, does the surmise still appear implausible?


The truth is that the extremist wings of the Sangh Parivar are very porous. These are open to infiltration by criminals, hoodlums and even foreign saboteurs. This is an angle that needs to be urgently probed by the government and addressed by the RSS.    


The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

ALL POTENTIAL, LITTLE WEALTH

POLITICAL CHANGE IS A PRECONDITION FOR ECONOMIC REFORM, BUT IS NOT SUFFICIENT. THE NEW POWERS IN NORTH AFRICA AND WEST ASIA WILL HAVE TO ABANDON OLD STATIST, NATIONALISTIC WAYS IF THEY WANT TO LIFT THEIR MILLIONS OUT OF POVERTY, JUST AS CHINA AND INDIA HAVE DONE, WRITES

SEAN O'GRADY

THE International Monetary Fund has a name for this part of the world: "Menap" ~  Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan. Its population is about 450 million, more than seven times that of the UK. But its economy is not much bigger than Britain.

Oil or not, Menap has been a serial economic underperformer, although some of the stats some of the time point in the other direction. If bald economic indicators could feed or house families, the crowds would be on the streets of Benghazi and Tripoli to praise Gaddafi for delivering enviable macro-economic aggregates.
Even by the standards of oil exporters, Libya's economy at a national level has performed well. Its public finances are as healthy ~ a 10 per cent surplus on the budget rather than deficit. Libya's economy will grow by 6.2 per cent this year, inflation will be 3.5 per cent and it will have a 20 per cent trade surplus; all superior to the UK. The other economies are growing rapidly too; Bahrain by 4.5 per cent; Morocco 4.3 per cent, Tunisia 4.8 per cent; and Egypt 5.5 per cent. In Britain we will struggle to hit 2 per cent. The figures show the potential of the region.

The problem is that such growth is unable to keep pace with the aspirations of a rapidly expanding, young population, and everyone ~ from the bosses at the IMF to the average unemployed graduate lobbing rocks in Rabat ~ knows it. These nations could do so much better. With abundant labour, situated at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, and from a low cost base, they could export and grow as fast as China or Indonesia. Or, more to the point, Turkey, the country that shows what can be achieved, a beacon of progress although cruelly locked out of the EU (2011 marks the 50th anniversary of Turkey's application to join; accession talks are continuing). An enlarged European economic "space" embracing Europe's former colonies to the south and east would be a truly dynamic powerhouse.

Yet for now the Menap region enjoys the remarkable non-distinction of being one of the few places in the world where the graduate unemployment rate is actually higher than for less well qualified young people; while these economies can generate unskilled jobs in tourism or government, they are unable to absorb those they train for more demanding trades and professions. Egypt's government borrows a lot ~ 7.6 per cent of GDP, a figure that would be much higher were it not for US military aid.

The IMF says that liberalised economies, opened up to international trade and investment, could raise growth by a full percentage point ~ and that could easily make the difference between persistently rising living standards and creeping poverty. There's a new vulnerability and urgency to the task ~ spiralling food prices hit Menap nations with few crops of their own and many mouths to feed. Egypt has gained from a cotton boom, but not enough to compensate for the soaring cost of food and oil. Morocco is especially exposed to food inflation.
Fortunately political freedom and economic efficiency reinforce each other. Without a free press - as we know - waste and corruption go undetected and unpunished. Foolish investments, often grandiose "prestige" projects with little true economic return, are left uncriticised. Citizens remain economically disenfranchised when banking systems are so wilfully primitive; market signals are suppressed and finance for entrepreneurs, even on a modest scale, is difficult to find honestly. So individuals are unable to build up their wealth and their stake in their nations. It's true that the Menap banks emerged unscathed from the financial crisis ~ but at a considerable long-term cost to their peoples.

Talking about money at a time like this may seem in poor taste, but remember that this whole wave of unrest began with Mohammed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old fruit and veg stall-holder in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, who had been prevented from trying to scrape a living by a zealous market inspector. He traded illegally because he couldn't get a job. He killed himself and sparked the fire that has consumed regime after regime.

In microcosm, it was a perfect representation of the root economic problem ~ a large number of young people, an underdeveloped market economy tied down by petty officialdom, part of an overblown, overmighty state that has arrogated economic power as steadily as political might. Egypt's military, complete with farms, factories and service workers, is an economy within an economy, and one that is geared purely for the benefit of the military.

Political change is a precondition for economic reform, but is not sufficient. The new powers will have to abandon old statist, nationalistic ways if they want to lift their millions out of poverty, just as China and India have done. Half a century after they were liberated from their British, French and Italian colonial masters and now throwing their domestic oppressors off their backs, they have the opportunity to become prosperous as well as free.

the independent

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THE TELEGRAPH

WARNING SYSTEM

Nine months after a special sessions court handed out the death penalty to Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving assailant of the 26/11 carnage, the Bombay High Court has reconfirmed the verdict. It agrees with the lower court on the two central points that determined the earlier ruling. One, the severity of the crime — committed against the sovereign authority of the Indian State — and two, the convict's agency in perpetrating it. Both the conclusions have always been so self-evident that to many it appeared to be nothing short of a travesty of justice to have Kasab hauled to court to prove them. But these facts needed to be established in the highest portals of justice, and in accordance with the rule of law that governs a democratic State and society such as India's. This is also the reason why it might take a few more years before the verdict on Kasab's crime, repeated several times over, is carried out. Even while granting the death penalty in the "rarest of rare" cases, the judicial system in India allows the convict to appeal before the next tier of the justice system, which, in this instance, is the Supreme Court, and, ultimately, to the discretion of the president, the highest authority in the land. India cannot be expected to give up its sense of fair play only because the masterminds and the perpetrator of the crime committed on its territory belong to a neighbouring country with which it has had uncomfortable relations. In fact, in doggedly following the path of justice it might hope to set an example for an intransigent Pakistan, which has been pussyfooting on its own trial of the aggressors of 26/11.

India itself cannot refuse to learn its own lessons from the Bombay High Court verdict. The clean chit given to the co-accused, Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed, may seem to vindicate the fairness of the Indian justice system, but it also points to its loopholes. The assassins of 26/11 who came from beyond the borders could not have operated in a vacuum. They must have had their foot soldiers in India who, as the trial shows, have managed to elude the long arm of the law. India has to evolve a system which is not draconian or isolationist (as most of its anti-terror measures are) in order to bust this intricate terror network. That, and not the hanging of hated figures such as Kasab, will assure the security of the country and its people.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

NO RETREAT

Wars rarely have a linear progression. The Indian State's battle against the Maoists is no exception. If the Orissa government has to bend over backwards in order to secure the release of R. Vineel Krishna, the collector of Malkangiri district, and Pabitra Mohan Majhi, a junior engineer, it should not be seen as an act of capitulation. Other states, which faced the Maoist insurgency, found themselves in similar situations. In Andhra Pradesh, the government has had several ceasefire agreements with the rebels and still continues to fight them. A similar case of abduction of policemen by the Maoists and hard bargaining over the release of their arrested comrades occurred in Bihar sometime back. Taking government officials hostage in order to force the State to concede their demands is an old tactic of armed insurgents everywhere. All this is, however, no reason for Bhubaneswar to lower its guard against the Maoists. The abduction of Mr Krishna and Mr Majhi shows yet again how deep the rebels have penetrated the state. If they can do this to the highest official in the district, they can obviously terrorize people and village-level officials at will. Even as it negotiates with the Maoists' interlocutors, the Orissa government must seize this occasion to re-examine its strategy for the anti-Maoist operations. Clearly, there are inadequacies that need to be addressed and loopholes that need to be plugged.

However, the battle needs to be fought also at the socio-economic level. Some of the Maoists' demands relate to the tribal people's alienation from their land and forests. This is a crucial issue particularly because most of the new development projects in Orissa are located in land and forests inhabited predominantly by the tribal people. In several of these projects, the acquisition of land will involve displacement of traditional human settlements. Also, Orissa is a frontline state in India's brave new exploration of its mining and mineral wealth. Incidentally, this wealth exists in forests and hills where the country's poorest, mostly tribal people, live. Its wealth of iron ore, bauxite and other minerals also gives Orissa enormous responsibilities of protecting its forests and environment as well as the tribal people. There are many new laws aimed at safeguarding the tribal people's right to their land and its resources. But good laws are never enough to stir India's officialdom into action.

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

THE WORLD FOOD CRISIS

THE USUAL EXPLANATIONS ARE FAR FROM THE TRUTH PRABHAT PATNAIK

While the advanced capitalist countries are currently hit by an acute crisis of recession and unemployment, the developing world is facing, apart from the fall-out of this crisis, an acute food crisis. Hunger afflicts the developing world today with a virulence not seen in decades. World food prices, not just in nominal but in real terms (relative to manufactured goods prices), are at a record high. These prices, which had shot up in 2008, came down in 2009, but to a level that was nonetheless higher than in any year before 2008; they have resumed their upward march thereafter. Food riots have broken out in several third world countries; and in the Arab world rocked by popular uprisings, the last straw has been the escalating food prices.

When the food price upsurge (led by foodgrains) occurred in 2008, George Bush, the then president of the United States of America, attributed it to the improving living standards in India and China. As people become better off their diet gets diversified away from the direct consumption of foodgrains towards animal products like chicken and meat. But since these products themselves use grains intensively as feed, the direct and indirect consumption of foodgrains per capita (including also as processed food) increases with per capita income. Bush's argument was that the rapid growth in per capita incomes in India and China has therefore created excess demand pressures in the world foodgrains market, causing the price rise. Intriguingly, exactly the same argument is now reportedly advanced by the deputy chairman of the Indian Planning Commission who attributes the current food price inflation in India to the growing prosperity of the country.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Per capita foodgrain absorption, taking direct and indirect absorption together, has declined in India since the beginning of "liberalization", first gently and of late precipitously, so much so that the level in 2008 itself was lower than in any year after 1953. In China too, there was a sharp decline in per capita total absorption of foodgrains between 1996 and 2003. It improved thereafter but even by 2005 had not reached the 1996 level; it could not have jumped suddenly in 2008. Since the population growth in both these countries has come down substantially, even their absolute absorption in 2008 could not have been much higher than, say, in the mid-1990s. It is not the increase in their demand, therefore, that can possibly explain the 2008-11 food inflation.

Many have rightly emphasized speculation as an important underlying cause. But while speculation can no doubt conjure up an inflationary upsurge out of thin air, it typically operates on an underlying demand-supply imbalance, accentuating its consequences. We, therefore, have to look at the underlying output and demand trends; and here we come across two startling facts.

First, per capita cereal output, and also foodgrain output, has declined significantly in absolute terms for the world as a whole since the 1980s. The average annual per capita cereal output for the quinquennium 1980-85 was 335 kilograms; for 2000-05 it was 310 kilograms. Since this decline in output has also meant decline in consumption, hunger in the world has been on the increase long before the price upsurge of 2008. Or, putting it differently, the world food crisis is a matter not of the last two years but of the last two decades or more.

The second fact is even more startling. Since per capita income in the world economy has been going up, and since, therefore, the demand for foodgrains in real terms should have been going up, the decline in per capita foodgrain output should have meant a rise in foodgrain price after the 1980s, relative, say, to the price of manufactured goods. But we find that cereal price relative to manufactured goods declined by 46 percent between 1980 and 2000. Indeed, between 1980 and 2008, the year of price upsurge, foodgrain prices in general fell relative to those of manufactured goods, even though per capita foodgrain output declined in absolute terms.

How could this happen? The answer is simple: a massive squeeze on the purchasing power (an "income deflation") imposed on the working population all over the world, and especially in the third world, by the universal pursuit of "neo-liberal" policies. Consider an economy with 100 workers each earning a wage income of Re 1, where the marketed foodgrain output is 100 kg. If, for simplicity, all wages and only wages are spent on foodgrain, then its price will be Re 1 per kg. But if the output drops to 50 kg. then the excess demand at the old income-price configuration can be removed in either of two ways: either through a rise in price to Rs 2 per kg or through a reduction in wage income to 50 paise per worker. In other words, an income deflation can play the same role in getting rid of excess demand as a price inflation.

Neo-liberal policies impose an income deflation not just on workers but on peasants, petty producers, and agricultural workers in several ways: through cuts in government expenditure on health, education and welfare (which forces them to access more expensive private facilities); through cuts in input subsidies by the government (which squeezes peasant incomes); through cuts in government expenditure on rural development (which dries up rural purchasing power); through the unemployment generated by imports out-competing domestic production and by the changing demand-pattern of the increasingly affluent elite (that is, corporate retail outlets displacing petty traders); and through increasing corporate and multinational corporations' control over the distribution of peasants' and petty producers' output (which reduces their share in the final price).

Income deflation, however, even as it squeezes demand via restricting purchasing power, also has the effect of restricting output and supply in so far as it is directed against peasants and petty producers, by reducing the profitability of their activities. This fact, together with the general withdrawal of State support and protection from peasant and petty production sectors (the virtual winding up of agricultural extension activities by the government in India is a case in point), which also characterizes neo-liberalism, means that the output of this sector atrophies. Income deflation therefore traps the foodgrain sector of the economy at a low level of demand and supply.

A consequence of this is that while foodgrain prices can remain low or even fall relative to those of manufactured goods, even in the midst of declining per capita foodgrain output, a sudden shock to the system in the form of an injection of demand can cause an inflationary spurt; and if speculation builds on it, the spurt can be quite lethal. Such a shock has been provided to the world food economy by the sudden diversion of late of substantial amounts of grains for the production of bio-fuels. In the US alone, which is a large foodgrain producer, more than a fourth of grain output is currently diverted to the production of bio-fuels.

This is what underlay the 2008 food price upsurge: with oil prices touching dizzy heights because of speculation, large-scale diversion of foodgrains for bio-fuels occurred, which pushed up foodgrain prices. What is more, because of this bio-fuel link, foodgrain prices now have got hitched to oil prices in the minds of speculators. When oil prices rise, so do foodgrain prices, in anticipation of higher diversion of grains to bio-fuels, even before any actual increase in diversion occurs. Not surprisingly, the very person who encouraged the diversion of foodgrains for bio-fuels, George Bush, also started the false explanation for food inflation, namely that the Indians and the Chinese were eating more, to divert attention from his own culpability.

It is often argued that to overcome the world food shortage, agriculture everywhere should be opened up for corporate capital. Even if we assume for argument's sake that such a move will augment food output, it will only compound world hunger by imposing a massive squeeze on the purchasing power of the peasants and agricultural labourers who will get uprooted to make way for corporate agriculture. There is no escape therefore from the fact that overcoming the world food crisis requires a revamping of peasant agriculture, through land reforms, through State support, through protection from encroachment by corporate and MNC capital, and through State-funded transfers and welfare expenditures for improving the quality of rural life. The point is: will neo-liberalism allow it?

The author is professor, Centre for Economic Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

CLEAR UP THE MESS

FIFTH COLUMN: SUMANTA SEN

Recently, the army refused to get involved in the maintenance of law and order in the Darjeeling hills and in the adjoining areas of the Dooars. It pointed out that this was the job of the police and the paramilitary forces. The refusal came in the wake of growing resistance within the force over the last many years to the undertaking of assignments that are not, strictly speaking, part of its normal work. Even then, if the defence ministry had insisted that the army should go to the hills, the latter would have had no other option but to obey. Fortunately, this did not happen, and it is only to be hoped that in future too, the civil authorities will pay heed to the army's protestations. The objection is not because the men and officers in the army want to avoid responsibility. The objection stems from a growing awareness that shouldering such responsibility creates an image that the armed forces of any country can do without — namely, the image of the army occupying its home soil.

Such protests were first made in the 1980s in several states of the Northeast, where the forces were made to do normal police work, barring only traffic management. In Imphal, for instance, it was common to find jawans searching for offenders — a job which usually would have been done by the local constabulary. Raids and other peace-keeping operations gradually turned the army into an object of hatred. This, most certainly, was not a welcome sign in a state suffering from insurgency, which drew succour from Myanmar. It was common to hear senior army officers grumbling about this, but the government in New Delhi always insisted on a more-than-essential role for the force in a state covered by the Disturbed Areas Act. The result is today's opposition to army presence in the state that often manifests itself through demonstrations on the streets. It is true that the jawans, at times, bring upon themselves such protests through their own actions. But it must be remembered that the overall atmosphere of hostility can get to sections of the men in uniform and cause them to behave as if they were dealing with an alien people.

Bungling forces

Such a situation could perhaps have been avoided if the state's law-enforcement agencies were alive to their own responsibilities. But over the years, the feeling seems to have grown among various state governments, and not only of the Northeast, that their own police cannot be wholly relied upon to meet any crisis. The police, in recent times, are seen more as bungling than as anything else — perhaps secure in the knowledge that ultimately there is the army to clear any mess they may have created. This became more than evident at the Darjeeling-Jalpaiguri border. When asked to stop a procession of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha there, the police made such heavy weather of their task that ultimately firing had to be resorted to.

Another glaring instance of police incompetence was noticed some years ago in Tripura, which was then facing the brunt of separatists' attacks. After an incident at Amarpur, one had asked the local police why they could not stop the attackers from decamping with guns from the police station. The visibly nervous cops, with rifles in their hands, had replied, "How could we? They were armed." Ultimately, the then chief minister, Nripen Chakraborty, had to seek the army's help. Nearer home at Barasat, and only the other day, policemen guarding the houses of their big bosses stood doing nothing as a young man was beaten to death, with his sister pleading for help. Perhaps in this case also, their argument would be that the assailants were armed — knives and rods against their guns.

Now the army has made it evident that clearing up the mess created by the police is not its responsibility. The time has come for the civilian bosses to pull up their socks.

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

EDITORIAL

GODHRA CLOSURE

''THE VERDICT SETTLES THE CONFLICT OVER GODHRA.''


Nine years after a coach of the Sabarmati Express went up in flames at Godhra station killing 59 passengers, a special court has convicted 31 people. Sixty-three others, including the main accused Maulvi Umarji have been acquitted. The guilty verdict settles a long-running conflict over what actually happened at Godhra on Feb 27, 2002. It lays to rest the debate over whether the Godhra incident was an attack or an accident. It upholds the view that the burning of the coach was the result of a pre-planned conspiracy, making it one of the most controversial incidents in independent India. Not only was its cause disputed but also what followed has triggered angry debate. Soon after the train incident, Gujarat was convulsed in terrible mass violence. Chief Minister Narendra Modi described the violence that left around 1,200 people — mainly Muslims — dead as a spontaneous response to the Godhra 'attack'. Many disagreed with him. They have been of the view that the Godhra incident was not a 'pre-planned massacre' as claimed by the Gujarat government but an accident and that the violence that followed was a planned pogrom, not an impromptu eruption of public anger. The court verdict rejects their claim.


Many of those who have been acquitted have languished in jail for almost nine years, raising questions over the efficacy of our criminal justice system. Lack of evidence has contributed in some of the accused walking free. More worrying is the possibility that many of the acquitted might have, in fact, been innocent, jailed because of their religious affiliations by a police force that was anxious to please its political bosses. Nothing the state offers the innocent among the acquitted will be adequate compensation for the time they lost behind bars.

Right from the start it was evident that the Gujarat government had double standards in its pursuit of justice. The Godhra case was pursued assiduously. Hundreds were quickly arrested after the incident and charged under POTA. Terrorism charges were subsequently dropped. A verdict has come on the Godhra case now providing some justice, however delayed and imperfect it might be. It will give victims a measure of closure. The victims of the mass violence that followed Godhra are desperate for justice and closure too. But trials drag on and intimidation of witnesses continues. Unless justice is delivered in these cases too, the wounds inflicted repeatedly on Gujarat will refuse to heal.

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

CRISIS AVERTED

''THE JPC SHOULD WORK IN A TRANSPARENT MANNER.''

 

The announcement by the government to set up a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to probe the 2G spectrum allocation scam has hopefully ended the months-old stand off between the UPA and the opposition over the issue. Much political acrimony and wastage of an entire session of parliament could have been avoided if the decision had been taken earlier. The government did not gain from its obduracy but instead had to pay a price in terms of the public perception that it had much to hide. The revelations from other investigations and the arrest of former telecom minister A Raja and his aides only strengthened that perception. It has now made a climbdown when no other option is left, as loss of one more parliament session would have made its position completely untenable.


The effort now should be to make the parliamentary probe a success by unearthing the entire gamut of irregularities in spectrum allocation and fixing responsibility for the acts of omission and commission on the part of both politicians and officials. Parliamentary committees which investigated other issues in the past have not done any great job. The spectrum JPC has the advantage that it has access to the results of investigations conducted by other agencies like the CAG, the CBI, the ED and the Shivraj Patil committee appointed by the government. It will have the power and opportunity to go beyond the procedural lapses and the illegalities involved in the decisions that made the scam and to examine the policy framework and systemic weaknesses which made it possible for a few individuals to commit irregularities with ease and cause unimaginable loss to the nation. Naturally the nexus between politics and business and the issues related to the supervision of ministerial actions by the prime minister, which are important for a regime of checks and balances, will also come under the scanner. The JPC can lay down guidelines to be followed in the future in the utilisation of national resources like spectrum so that discretion and arbitrariness do not influence government decisions. It is important that the panel's terms should cover all these aspects.


No time should be lost in wrangling over membership and the JPC should work in a time-bound and transparent manner so that the results of its investigations and the recommendations are available at the earliest. Its findings can also help the CBI in its ongoing criminal investigations.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

POLICY PARALYSIS

 BY HARSH V PANT


A series of defence procurement scandals since the late '80s has made the bureaucracy risk averse, thereby delay-ing the acquisition process.


Last week, defence minister A K Antony expressed concerns about the modernisation of the armed forces of China and its rapidly growing military spending. Rather intriguingly, he suggested that while this is a matter of serious concern, "we are not unduly worried because we also will have to modernise and strengthen our armed forces."

He said the review of capabilities of armed forces was an 'ongoing and constant' process and the defence preparedness was being reviewed on a regular basis and "if there are any gaps, they will be filled up." According to the defence minister, India is modernising its "forces on the basis of a comprehensive review of the emerging security scenario around us."


All this is clearly commonsensical but China's rapid rise is shaking up the strategic milieu around India and Indian armed forces will have to be made capable of tackling that challenge. This rise is actually now an old story and the Indian government should have been ready long back. But the reality is that Indian defence modernisation is lagging behind and the government, particularly, the present defence minister, is largely responsible for the sad state of affairs today in the military realm.


China's largely secretive military modernisation programme is producing results faster than expected. Beijing is gearing up to challenge the US military prowess in the Pacific. It is refitting a Soviet-era Ukrainian aircraft carrier for deployment next year and more carriers are under construction in Shanghai. China's submarine fleet is the largest in Asia and is undergoing refurbishments involving nuclear powered vessels and ballistic missile equipped subs.


Its anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) system, developed specifically to target US carrier strike groups, has reached initial operational capability much earlier than expected. And earlier this month, photographs appeared on Chinese internet sites of what is apparently China's first stealth fighter during a runway test in western China.

China has already shown its prowess in anti-satellite warfare and has redeployed its nuclear warheads onto mobile launchers and advanced submarines. In a marked shift in China's no-first-use policy, Chinese leaders have indicated that they would consider launching pre-emptive strikes if they found the country in a 'critical situation,' thereby lowering the threshold of nuclear threats. There is a growing debate in the PLA about whether to discard conditionalities on China's commitments to no-first use.


China is a rising power with the world's second largest economy and a growing global footprint. It would like to have a military ready and willing to defend these interests. But it is the opaqueness surrounding China's military upgradation that is the real sources of concern.


Retaliation

China continues to defend its military upgradation by claiming that it needs offensive capability for Taiwan-related emergencies. But clearly its sights are now focused on the US. China wants to limit American ability to project power into the western Pacific. It wants to prevent a repeat of its humiliation in 1996 when the US aircraft carriers could move around unmolested in the Taiwan Strait and deter Chinese provocations.


Not surprisingly, the steady build up of a force with offensive capabilities well beyond Chinese territory is causing consternation in Washington and among China's neighbours. This comes at a time of Chinese assertiveness on territorial disputes with Japan, India and Southeast Asian countries.


The US has been consistently underestimating the PLA for more than a decade now. The US intelligence had estimated that the jet would not be deployed until 2010. Not surprisingly, the Chinese military has advanced faster than the west thought it could. The US aircraft carrier battle group now stands vulnerable in East Asia.

Chinese ships have increasingly challenged the US navy in the waters of the Pacific in recent months. China might succeed in getting the US out of East Asia without firing a shot by enhancing its deterrence capability in the region, forcing the US to think twice before intervening in the region.


Compare this to India's lackadaisical approach to military matters. As a percentage of the GDP, the annual defence spending has declined to one of its lowest levels since 1962. More damagingly, for the last several years now the defence ministry has been unable to spend its budgetary allocation. The defence acquisition process remains mired in corruption and bureaucratese.


A series of defence procurement scandals since late 1980s has also made the bureaucracy risk averse, thereby delaying the acquisition process. A large part of the money is surrendered by the defence forces every year given their inability to spend due to labyrinthine bureaucratic procedures involved in the procurement process.

India's indigenous defence production industry has time and again made its inadequacy to meet the demands of the armed forces apparent. The Indian armed forces keep waiting for arms and equipment while the finance ministry is left with unspent budget year after year. Most large procurement programmes get delayed resulting in cost escalation and technological or strategic obsolescence of the budgeted items.


The UPA government is yet to demonstrate the political will to tackle the defence policy paralysis that seems to be rendering all the claims of India's rise as a military power increasingly hollow. The capability differential between China and India is rising at an alarming rate. An effective defence policy is not merely about deterring China. But if not tackled urgently, India will lose the confidence to conduct its foreign policy unhindered from external and internal security challenges.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

ARAB RULERS TAKE STEPS AGAINST UPRISING

BY MICHAEL JANSEN


The UAE, Oman and Qatar have weathered the political storm gripping the region.


What happens in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman and embattled Bahrain could depend on the stance adopted by Saudi Arabia towards the revolutionary turmoil in West Asia and North Africa.


At the peak of the crisis in Bahrain, Gulf rulers met in the capital, Manama, to demonstrate solidarity, urge the kingdom's heriditary rulers to take a firm line against protesters, and warn their own subjects not to follow the bad example of the Bahrainis. There is little doubt that Saudi Arabia, the heavyweight of the Arabian Peninsula, convened this gathering with the aim of preventing people's power from spreading to other countries in this strategic oil-rich region.


While there is certainly considerable concern in Riyadh over developments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and the other countries beset by uprisings, the Saudi ruling family is unlikely to alter traditional domestic or external policies to meet the challenge of the revolutionary zeal sweeping North Africa and West Asia.


On the internal front, one analyst argues that Saudi Arabia's stability is ensured by the country's ancient tribal culture combined with Muslim values which form the bedrock on which the Saudi regime is founded. He says that the slow evolution of the kingdom since oil began to flow after World War II shows that this cultural-religious foundation has survived the social, economic and political changes the regime and populace have faced as the country modernised.


Sect affiliations

On the external front, however, Riyadh cannot ignore unrest in neighbouring Bahrain. As a wag quipped, "Riyadh did not build a causeway between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia because Saudis want to party in Manama on weekends". Saudi Arabia provided a route that could put its troops into Bahrain on short notice to quell unrest in the island state which has suffered from sectarianism for decades. Riyadh fears the uprising in Bahrain and, to a lesser extent, those taking place elsewhere in the Arab world could infect already restive Shias in the oil-rich eastern province.


The underlying cause of Bahraini unrest is the divide between the Sunni ruling family and the the 70 per cent majority Shias. They claim that the Sunni establishment discriminates against Shias applying for jobs in the army, police and civil service as well as in education and housing. Government promises of increased spending on welfare programmes and offer of family subsidies of $2,700 did not impress protesters calling for reform and, after force was used against them, regime change.


The change protesters demand could, in the case of Bahrain, involve change in behaviour rather than the ouster of the Khalifa family which has ruled since the early 19th century. Bahrainis of both sects seek to be regarded as citizens with rights and ligations to the state and want to be partners with the king in governance, perhaps, in a constitutional monarchy. Bahrainis, like Arabs everywhere, also want an end to cronyism and corruption, jobs, and decent wages.


So far, the UAE, Oman and Qatar have weathered the political storm gripping the region. They have done so for a number of reasons. These countries are small and solidly Sunni. They have tiny, highly privileged native populations which have reaped the  benefits of rapid development. Educational levels are high and many citizens are employed in the civil service, army and police. The societies are tightly knit. Facebook, Twitter, mobile phones are tools for social rather than political networking. In Egypt and Tunisia the internet connected democracy activists who triggered the uprisings.


The poor, downtrodden residents of the Gulf are generally unskilled or semi-skilled expatriate workers who cling to jobs that provide them with more money than they can earn in their home countries. They do not present a united front but represent many nationalities and speak many languages, making it extremely difficult to raise the banner of revolt. If they did, efficient local security forces would crack down very hard.


Kuwait may be the only state in the Gulf with an elected parliament because democracy has not been a primary demand of the people of the region, particularly the UAE and Qatar. UAE political scientist Ibtisam al-Ketbi argues that severe restrictions on political activity means that expression of grievances is not "well developed. The people do not have the ability to push" for reform and change. She warned however, that the UAE and Oman are 'not immune' to infection from the the revolution virus.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has distanced India from the upheavals in North Africa and West Asia, arguing that he has to consider the welfare of five million Indian workers employed in the Gulf and elsewhere in the region.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

THE CLASS OF '69

M K CHANDRA BOSE


The astonishing transformation of glamour girls as grannies was a sight to relish.


It was alumni meet with a difference. The participants were all past 60. On Feb 6, the students of BA (English) batch of 1969 from NSS College, Pandalam, a hallowed place associated with Lord Aiyappa, gathered for a reunion.

The venue was the conference hall of a hotel at Ernakulam. It was a motley group of retired academics, government officials, professionals and a couple of entrepreneurs. Some of us were coming face to face after 41 summers. Quite a few were unrecognisable as ravages of time had taken their toll. From a class of 37, five have departed. Nineteen of us along with the spouses were present on the occasion.


Mostly hailing from lower middle class rural households, as students we had modest dreams with certain level of idealism. Campus politics in Kerala was yet to take a violent form. The majority opted for post-graduation and got scattered all over India. Our classroom under the clock tower offered a panoramic view of the stadium and the main road. With cool breeze wafting in the afternoons we often found it difficult to ward off sleep. The vast open terrace was the backdrop of our shenanigans. At a time when contacts between the sexes were minimal on the campus two of our classmates embarked on an amorous adventure leading to wedlock. The couple remained the star attraction of the day.

 

Time is a great leveller. For five hours we forgot our age and weariness of life and tried our best to rewind the campus life though the hotel was no match for the serene ambience of the college. Overcoming the initial hesitation we relived many wonderful memories of those days. From the distance of time we now see our teachers and campus events in a different light. We all became adolescents again. There were flashes of youthful exuberance. The astonishing transformation of glamour girls as grannies gleefully talking of their mischievous grandchildren, lanky boys turning into portly grandpas, the most reticent becoming more eloquent than the most boisterous in the class were sights to relish.


We never had a clue that a loner and the epitome of quietness in our midst would blossom into a novelist in Malayalam. Married into an orthodox family when she was barely 17, she doggedly pursued her studies and career against all odds. Bitter lessons of life became fertile ground for her creative genius to take wings. There was another classmate still nursing her bruised brain years after venturing out on a day of bundh.


Frank exchanges peppered with youthful banter delighted us all and helped to revive the long-lost bond. By hindsight we feel the time was inadequate to catch up with the years of camaraderie. Everyone departed with a heavy heart. Hats off to my friends who had toiled hard to make the day memorable.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

TRANSPARENCY FOR NGOS IS NOT ANTI-DEMOCRATIC

ISRAELI NGOS SHOULD BE COVERED BY THE EXISTING REPORTING REQUIREMENTS FOR NON-PROFITS, BUT IN PRACTICE, MANY POLITICAL ADVOCACY GROUPS HAVE FOUND WAYS TO AVOID SUCH TRANSPARENCY BY REGISTERING UNDER DIFFERENT FRAMEWORKS, OR AVOIDING ANY ISRAELI OVERSIGHT MECHANISM.

BY GERALD M. STEINBERG

The Knesset legislation that mandates reporting of foreign government funding for non-governmental organizations is not anti-democratic, as claimed by vocal critics, mainly the recipients of the foreign largesse.

Indeed, as wide support in the Knesset showed, including from Labor and Kadima MKs, this law mandating transparency is designed to fix a gaping hole in Israeli democracy. This bill is very different from the draconian and partisan effort to use the Knesset to investigate only left-wing groups.

In recent years, European governments have provided an estimated 100 million euros in taxpayer funds annually to a very narrow group of Israeli, Palestinian and European political advocacy organizations. When these groups sponsor quasi-academic conferences, newspaper advertising campaigns and public rallies heralding sweeping allegations of Israeli wrongdoing, the public has the right to know that the money was provided by a foreign government.

This transparency is an elementary requirement for the informed debate that is essential to the democratic process. While all external funding for Israeli civil society, across the political spectrum, should be public knowledge, large foreign government transfers are very different in principle from private donations.

All governments have interests and use power to pursue those goals. When officials from Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, and another dozen nations use their "soft power" to fund dozens of Israeli groups, such as Breaking the Silence, Yesh Din, and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israeli, whose officials travel the world declaring that Israel is a nation of war criminals, these groups are also promoting the interests of their sponsors. ‏

(In contrast, the U.S. government generally does not fund Israeli political advocacy NGOs, and the few exceptions, such as the ill-advised attempt to use the "Geneva Initiative" organization, ended quickly.‏)

In election after election, the governments chosen by Israeli voters have differed with European positions. However, by massively funding opposition NGOs, many of which claim to promote human rights ‏(although they do this selectively‏), Europe tries to interfere with and manipulate the legitimate outcome of Israeli elections.

In fact, some NGO officials are simply rejected politicians, who, after failing to get Knesset positions, have used foreign funds to exert power they could not obtain otherwise. A heavy shroud of secrecy surrounds the budgets of these Israeli political groups.

In most European nations, the details are more tightly held than military plans, and no parliamentary hearings are held to discuss the legitimacy, wisdom or implications of such funding. The decision making processes are also completely non-transparent, leaving open the possibility that these policies are made in violation of due process of law, as was recently uncovered in the case of Canadian NGO funding.

In theory, Israeli NGOs should be covered by the existing reporting requirements for non-profits, but in practice, many political advocacy groups have found ways to avoid such transparency by registering under different frameworks, or avoiding any Israeli oversight mechanism.

The new legislation, which is based on the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act, is designed to prevent these exceptions, and to promote the public's right to know who and what forces are behind powerful political campaigns that take place outside, and often in direct opposition to, the electoral process.

Had the NGO recipients endorsed this transparency legislation, instead of falsely denouncing it as anti-democratic, the proposed investigations aimed only at one side of the political spectrum ‏(and misdirected at alleged Arab government funding‏) would not have been introduced.

With the adoption of regulation for reporting of foreign government funds, the door is open to expanding transparency for private foreign funding for Israeli groups across the political spectrum.

The writer is president of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institution that tracks NGOs, particularly in the Middle East.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

BIG HARASSING BROTHER

MEN CONSTITUTE MOST OF THE PEOPLE IN CHARGE, AND THE WAY THEY SEE WOMEN DETERMINES WHAT IT IS THAT WOMEN CAN EVEN BE.

BY MERAV MICHAELI

Since the chief editor of the reality TV show "Big Brother" was kept on staff, despite being heard on live television telling a female contestant she has to "play with his penis between her breasts," it must be at least pointed out that his was clearly a watershed moment, for the worse, and one that warrants an explanation.

It must be made clear that this is sexual harassment. By definition, specifically defined by the law: "A desecrating or derogatory attitude toward a person with regard to his or her sex, gender or sexuality." The comment made by the editor in question is not denigrating coming from a person with whom you want to have a sexual relationship. From anyone else, it is forced sex − "even if the individual who was harassed did not indicate to the harasser that he or she was not interested in the proposal or the approach."

It is sexual harassment because this is the model in which all sexual attacks and harassments happen: A man in authority, who has total access to and enjoys the trust of the victim, takes advantage of his power to force sexual actions or language on her.

In the case of the "Big Brother" editor, he is in an ultimate position of power: He sees and is not seen; he holds the position of a father, a priest, a therapist; he is the omnipotent one, who decides what happens to the people who have placed themselves in his hands − and he has surely promised them that those hands are trustworthy.

It is sexual harassment because the remark was made in a place where the editor, Yoram Zak, is the boss, the overlord. Even if the female contestant did not hear what he said, all the men and women working under him certainly have, thus turning the workplace into a hostile environment for women, and for some of the men as well. The attempt to separate between what can supposedly be said in a room, but cannot be said on television, is based on male morality − by which anything that makes men laugh is deemed humorous and anything that stimulates men is sexy and legitimate, no matter how violent it may be.

Indeed, the fraternity rallied around its tried and true territory: the right to sexually harass women as one of the privileges of the powerful class.

Editors and writers did not hesitate to publish how they too tell sexist jokes and look at pornography in their place of work. That is to say − how they, too, break the law. They, too, like Zak, understand that when a woman appears on a show like "Big Brother," as with any workplace where a man is in charge, she is giving up not only her privacy ‏(something which is true for men as well‏), but also the right and ownership of her own body.

Men constitute most of the people in charge, and the way they see women determines what it is that women can even be. Zak is the one who cast the female contestants on "Big Brother," including their breasts. The CEO of the Keshet television franchise is the one who cast Zak to design his pornographic screen.

The law against sexual harassment states that "the employer must take reasonable steps ... to prevent sexual harassment or abuse by his employees or by supervisors appointed by him." The employer in this case, Avi Nir, not only does nothing to prevent the sexual harassment, he creates the perfect conditions for it. And once it was exposed, not only did he neglect to "efficiently deal with the incident ... and do everything possible to prevent such incidents in the future and to correct the damage done," rather he keeps the harasser who he appointed in a senior and lucrative position − allowing Zak to stay in charge of many hours of live programming, in which they will continue to abuse their power.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

WELCOME SOBRIETY

THE BURIAL OF THE INVESTIGATIVE COMMITTEES WILL SAVE ISRAEL EMBARRASSMENT AT A TIME WHEN THE WORLD IS CHEERING THE COURAGEOUS CIVIL SOCIETIES IN ARAB COUNTRIES.

After many months during which he even lent a hand to anti-democratic legislative initiatives, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday that he will let Likud MKs vote according to their consciences on whether to set up parliamentary committees to probe human-rights organizations identified with the left. Netanyahu's decision is expected to halt the attempt to turn the fight against "the delegitimization of Israel around the world" into a fight against the legitimacy of minority groups in Israeli society.

The burial of the investigative committees will save Israel embarrassment at a time when the world is cheering the courageous civil societies in Arab countries that are fighting for freedom of expression and association.

Monitoring and fearless criticism of government agencies are the heart and soul of democracy. Elected officials are not the proper people to investigate the funding sources of human-rights organizations.

The prime minister decided to withdraw his support from the initiative by Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman after the State Prosecutor's Office notified the High Court of Justice that establishing parliamentary investigative committees could have a "chilling effect" on freedom of expression.

Netanyahu had not taken a moral stance against the extreme right − including members of Likud's parliamentary faction − who are leading the incitement campaign against the left and the Arab minority. He stood aside when the Knesset committee approved the makeup of the investigative committees. The prime minister made do with a tepid response to Lieberman's arrogant denunciations of four senior Likud figures who stood up courageously against the evil spirit sweeping their voters.

He should adopt the approach of Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and ministers Dan Meridor, Benny Begin and Michael Eitan, who consistently take firm principled positions against initiatives that seek to use the parliamentary majority to curtail the minority's basic rights. We hope the prime minister's last-minute decision to prevent such disgraceful investigative committees marks the start of the renunciation of Lieberman's distorted perception of the democratic system.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

UZI RETURNS TO ACADEMIA

NOW THE ADVISER CLOSEST TO NETANYAHU IS HIS FORMER COMMANDER, DEFENSE MINISTER EHUD BARAK, WITH WHO HE ENJOYS TALKING BUT IGNORES HIS ADVICE.

BY ALUF BENN

When I was in the army I learned that assignment interviews with the commanders end in one of two ways. When you bend the system, they send you off with your assignment order with neither a blessing nor a hug; they just want you gone. When the system screws you the interview summary always concludes with the words, "I wished the soldier success on his chosen path."

The prime minister's farewell announcement for his national security adviser belongs to the second category. Benjamin Netanyahu blabbered on about the skills and capabilities of Uzi Arad, who resigned this week, and wished him well ‏("I am certain he will continue to acquit himself superbly"‏) on his old-new path in academia. "Uzi is also a close and loyal friend," Netanyahu said.

The prime minister is right: Arad was his most trusted aide. They met during Netanyahu's first term as premier, when Arad was head of research for the Mossad. Netanyahu recruited him to the Prime Minister's Office as a foreign policy adviser, and their ways never parted. Even in the leanest days, in the political desert, Arad rode alongside Netanyahu and helped him recapture his government seat. Their connection was intellectual, not political: Arad fulfilled Netanyahu's need for a fascinating conversation partner, someone who read and understood history and philosophy and who shared his admiration for the United States. Netanyahu fulfilled Arad's need for a commander who would read his recommendations and position papers.

When their mutual dream came true and Netanyahu became prime minister again, Arad slipped naturally into the role of national security adviser. He hoped and believed that his proximity to the boss would enable him to create a professional staff forum for the country's political leadership. Fortified by the "National Security Council Law" passed after the Second Lebanon War, as well as augmented budgets and the personal charm needed to recruit staff, Arad set out on his mission. Using colored markers, he blocked out an organizational chart on a big newsprint pad, and felt that he was approaching the target: professional administrative work that would replace the "trust me" culture in Israeli defense and foreign policy administration.

But the loyalty was one-sided. Netanyahu is not analytical, as Arad is; his world is made up of people, not models and flow charts. Between his first and second terms Netanyahu cultivated a new genius, foreign-policy adviser Ron Dermer. Dermer had three pluses for Netanyahu: He is a native English speaker, he grew up with politics ‏(both his father and his brother served as mayor of Miami Beach‏) and his identification with Netanyahu was ideological rather than personal, as Arad's was. As such, Dermer emerged as the main figure in the PMO, shaping policy on the most important issues − the peace process and relations with the United States − while Arad fell. The latter was relegated to bureaucratic battles and to issues that, while important, had no political value, such as arms control. The Turkel committee that investigated last year's Gaza flotilla raid showed that the decisions on stopping the Turkish boats were made using the old "trust me" method, without input from the National Security Council.

His years in America, the land of rules and of orderly lines, did not turn Netanyahu into a devotee of organized work procedures. Like his predecessors he ruled by "compartmentalize and decentralize": by dividing up a single task among five different envoys, each of whom reported to him separately, in order to maintain control by insuring that none of them became too strong.

The adviser closest to Netanyahu is his former commander, Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Netanyahu enjoys talking with him, but ignores his advice. The only figure who has influence over the prime minister is his political rival, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who can boot him out of power at any given moment and in the meantime is neutralizing any peace initiative that would improve Netanyahu and his party's popularity. The question "What will Lieberman do" concerns the prime minister about as much as the Iranian nuclear threat, and dictates his moves more than any other consideration.

When he returns to the lecture hall Prof. Arad can share with his students the lessons he learned in the PMO: Organizational structures, however sophisticated, do not make good decisions on their own. Political considerations will always beat out professional advice, and the leader will always reserve freedom of action for himself and postpone all decisions to the last moment. It's the Israeli way, and it would be better to put energy into improving the content rather than pointless attempts to maintain the form.

Otherwise, you're left with a farewell letter, good-luck wishes and a sense of missed opportunity

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

EDITORIAL

LIBYA'S BUTCHER

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya vowed on Tuesday that he would "fight on to the last drop of my blood" and die a "martyr." We have no doubt that what he really meant is that he will butcher and martyr his own people in his desperation to hold on to power. He must be condemned and punished by the international community.

Colonel Qaddafi, who took power in a 1969 coup, has a long, ruthless and erratic history. Among his many crimes: He was responsible for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. In 2003, after years of international sanctions, he announced that he had given up terrorism and his pursuit of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

We applauded those changes, and we are not eager to see Libya once again isolated. But Colonel Qaddafi's brutal suppression of antigovernment demonstrations has left no doubt that he is still an international criminal.

As of Tuesday, opposition forces claimed to control half of Libya's 1,000-mile Mediterranean coast. Witnesses described the capital, Tripoli, as a war zone and said pro-government forces, relying heavily on mercenaries, were massacring demonstrators.

Authoritative information was difficult to come by — the government has blocked nearly all foreign reporters and shut down Internet and other communications. But there were reports of warplanes and helicopters being used to attack civilians, and human rights groups estimated that at least 220 protesters have been killed.

The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday condemned the violence and said those responsible must be held to account. It must quickly come up with more concrete ways to press Libya's government to stop the attacks on its people and move to a democratic transition — preferably with Colonel Qaddafi gone.

The Security Council should impose sanctions on Colonel Qaddafi, his family and other officials responsible for the repression, including a freeze on their overseas assets and a travel ban. If the government does not immediately halt the killing, the United Nations should re-impose a ban on all arms sales to Libya.

The Security Council rarely acts quickly, so the United States and the European Union should impose their own sanctions while pressing the United Nations to act. Britain made a good first step when it revoked eight weapons-related export licenses for Libya. On Tuesday, the Arab League suspended Libya's participation in its meetings.

We were reassured to see some Libyan diplomats rejecting their government's brutality. Two military pilots refused to fire on their fellow citizens and flew their planes to Malta. All should be granted safe haven.

The United Nations high commissioner for human rights says Colonel Qaddafi's use of lethal force may constitute crimes against humanity. We agree. There needs to be a thorough investigation.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

PLEDGE? WHAT PLEDGE?

Before last year's elections, when New York's legislators were terrified of losing their jobs, a majority signed a pledge to pass a set of much-needed reforms, starting with a plan to end the gerrymandering of political districts. Now all 32 Republicans in the State Senate and a few Democrats in the Assembly have decided that they have more important things to do. That sort of cynical postelection amnesia is an insult to voters.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn't forgotten his reform pledge. Last week, he introduced a bill that should make elections in New York more competitive. It would set up an independent commission to draw political districts based on nationally established criteria — such as near-equal numbers of people per district, contiguous county or community lines and minority rights — all without regard to the party registration of voters.

The Legislature would have a chance to vote on the new maps, up or down. After two rejections, legislators could offer limited amendments on a third effort. If an agreement still had not been reached, the issue would go to the courts.

Every 10 years, after the national census, Albany's legislators have drawn districts with one main goal: to get themselves re-elected. It has worked far too well. A recent report from Citizens Union Foundation noted that over the last 12 years, 96 percent of the state legislators who stood for re-election won. The new census numbers are in. That means the process of map-drawing has to begin this summer to be ready for the 2012 election. If lawmakers keep their promises, this legislation should easily pass both houses.

Speaker Sheldon Silver of the Assembly (who was conveniently silent on last year's pledge) should endorse the Cuomo bill and schedule a vote this month. In the Senate, the Republican leader, Dean Skelos, did sign on, with much fanfare, but now says he is too focused on the state budget to follow through. He is stalling.

It takes 32 Senate votes to approve the governor's bill, and Democrats say that they could muster 25, maybe more. The list of Senate Republicans who are forgetting their pledge is long. But here are six who might be more attuned to their voters, if pressed: Martin Golden of Brooklyn and Andrew Lanza of Staten Island; Lee Zeldin and Jack Martins of Long Island; Greg Ball of Brewster; and Mark Grisanti of Buffalo. Call them and all the legislators who vowed to change Albany's cynical business as usual. It is time to deliver.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE FIRE THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING

In The Times's grim, vivid account on March 26, 1911 — the day after the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire — these words appear: "The victims who are now lying at the Morgue waiting for some one to identify them by a tooth or the remains of a burned shoe were mostly girls from 16 to 23 years of age." There were 146 victims in all, 129 of them women.

Nearly a century later, the names of the last unidentified victims have been discovered, thanks to the work of a historian named Michael Hirsch. They are Maria Giuseppa Lauletti, Max Florin, Concetta Prestifilippo, Josephine Cammarata, Dora Evans and Fannie Rosen, all buried together beneath a single monument in the Cemetery of the Evergreens on the border of Brooklyn and Queens. This completes the roll of the dead in one of the city's worst and most important fires.

The fire started late on a Saturday, possibly in a waste bin, just before the Triangle shirtwaist factory closed for the day. The flames and smoke spread quickly, and there was no way to escape. The building was supposedly fireproof, the stairwell doors were locked and there was only one internal fire escape, which quickly buckled under the weight of bodies. Before the fire engines arrived, the terrified workers began leaping from the upper windows to their deaths.

The outer building did not burn; it still stands at 23-29 Washington Place. The horror there brought about sweeping changes in fire safety codes, workplace regulations and conditions for working women.

Having the names of these last victims means knowing them, if only a little, by the lives that brought them to that horrifying day. They were Russian and Sicilian, nearly all of them supporting distant families, nearly all of them terribly young.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

BLACK SWAN LAKESIDE

BY MAUREEN DOWD

CHICAGO

Can Tiny Dancer lift up the City of Big Shoulders?

He thinks so. Even coiled with nervous anticipation and bundled in Patagonia on a snowy election day, Rahm Emanuel retained his Black Swan panache.

He was 10 minutes early, as usual, for an 8 a.m. campaign stop at the 65th Street El on the South Side. Commuters streaming through were already calling Emanuel "Mr. Mayor," or simply Rahm, explaining which parking meters on the Lakefront they wanted fixed or what predatory lending on the South Side they needed stopped.

"You can do it!" yelled Lynetta Spears, 38, a tall, African-American woman.

Surrounded by his three adorable — and adoring — children, Emanuel pointed at Spears intensely, Jerry Maguire-style.

"Barack Obama trusts him," Spears told me. "Rahm's a good guy."

She shrugged off the caricature of the 51-year-old Emanuel as The Enforcer who stabs steak knives into tables swearing vengeance and sends dead fish to those who cross him.

"Everyone has a temper," she said breezily.

Chicago is a city, as H.L. Mencken wrote, that is "alive from snout to tail." Which is a pretty good description of the electrified Emanuel as well; even his handshake feels hot. His campaign spots allude to that profane Rahmbo style that Andy Samberg parodies on "Saturday Night Live."

"He's not gonna take any guff," a blue-collar guy vowed in one ad.

The wiry and buff former White House chief of staff, who was known around the West Wing as "Tiny Dancer," was falsely accused of being a carpetbagger for the years he spent in Washington as a Clinton and Obama aide and Illinois congressman. Now he's such a celebrity here, he goes by only one name — on his yard signs, in his ads and even in his opponent's attack ad.

Rahm sometimes refers to himself as Rahm. "If their strategy was to get Rahm to explode," he said of his motley crew of foes, "they've built a strategy based on something I control."

Emanuel ran a disciplined and genial campaign, even showing patience during a ridiculous 12-hour hearing on whether he was really a resident of Chicago and qualified to run for mayor — a dust-up that followed an odd tenant's refusal to vacate Rahm's North Side house, which stirred up political trouble. Rahm rebutted that he and his wife, Amy Rule, still had stuff stored at his house, including Amy's wedding dress.

"I said as a joke that if the hearing went into 13 hours, I was going to put the wedding dress on," he said with a grin, as he hopscotched around the city scooping up last-minute votes.

When I asked what revenge he is plotting against his scheming tenant, Emanuel looked mischievous but bit his tongue. Of course, as Jon Stewart notes, the only thing scarier than Rahm Emanuel angry "is Rahm Emanuel smiling through his anger."

Can a city famous for its beefy pols, mobsters and steakhouse politicking handle a Sarah Lawrence College graduate who wore tights, eats organic, swims and does yoga, a lithe spirit who has more facility with Martha Graham's version of "Apollo" than the Bulls' place in their division?

"I'll eat grass-fed steaks," he smiles. "Hey, I love steak, though I've cut down. My grandfather was a truck driver for Scandinavian Meats. I'm not interested in changing the culture of this city. I'm interested in changing how we do business."

He knows it took awhile for Chicagoans to warm up to him. "The members that represented my district before me were Dan Rostenkowski, Roman Pucinski, Frank Annunzio, Mike Flanagan and Rod Blagojevich," he said. "And along comes a guy named Rahm Israel Emanuel. I don't know if I was loved, but they knew whose side I was on."

He had hoped to become the first Jewish speaker of the House, but now he is destined to become the first Jewish mayor of Chicago.

"For me, as Rahm Emanuel, the grandson of Herman Smulivitz, who came to this city in 1917 from the Russian-Romanian border as a 13-year-old to leave the pogroms, and son of Benjamin Emanuel, who came here in 1959 from Israel to start a medical practice, there's a personal sense of accomplishment," he said, after polishing off a half-corned-beef, half-pastrami sandwich at the legendary Manny's deli.

The other two members of the most competitive sibling trio on earth — his brothers Zeke, the oncologist, and Ari, the Hollywood agent — flew to Chicago to come to their brother's victory party. David Axelrod, who has moved back here to help organize the president's re-election run, was also on hand, even though it was his birthday.

"My birthday present," Axelrod said, "will be a nine-and-a-half fingered mayor."

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

IF NOT NOW, WHEN?

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

What's unfolding in the Arab world today is the mother of all wake-up calls. And what the voice on the other end of the line is telling us is clear as a bell:

"America, you have built your house at the foot of a volcano. That volcano is now spewing lava from different cracks and is rumbling like it's going to blow. Move your house!" In this case, "move your house" means "end your addiction to oil."

No one is rooting harder for the democracy movements in the Arab world to succeed than I am. But even if things go well, this will be a long and rocky road. The smart thing for us to do right now is to impose a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax, to be phased in at 5 cents a month beginning in 2012, with all the money going to pay down the deficit. Legislating a higher energy price today that takes effect in the future, notes the Princeton economist Alan Blinder, would trigger a shift in buying and investment well before the tax kicks in. With one little gasoline tax, we can make ourselves more economically and strategically secure, help sell more Chevy Volts and free ourselves to openly push for democratic values in the Middle East without worrying anymore that it will harm our oil interests. Yes, it will mean higher gas prices, but prices are going up anyway, folks. Let's capture some it for ourselves.

It is about time. For the last 50 years, America (and Europe and Asia) have treated the Middle East as if it were just a collection of big gas stations: Saudi station, Iran station, Kuwait station, Bahrain station, Egypt station, Libya station, Iraq station, United Arab Emirates station, etc. Our message to the region has been very consistent: "Guys (it was only guys we spoke with), here's the deal. Keep your pumps open, your oil prices low, don't bother the Israelis too much and, as far as we're concerned, you can do whatever you want out back. You can deprive your people of whatever civil rights you like. You can engage in however much corruption you like. You can preach whatever intolerance from your mosques that you like. You can print whatever conspiracy theories about us in your newspapers that you like. You can keep your women as illiterate as you like. You can create whatever vast welfare-state economies, without any innovative capacity, that you like. You can undereducate your youth as much as you like. Just keep your pumps open, your oil prices low, don't hassle the Jews too much — and you can do whatever you want out back."

It was that attitude that enabled the Arab world to be insulated from history for the last 50 years — to be ruled for decades by the same kings and dictators. Well, history is back. The combination of rising food prices, huge bulges of unemployed youth and social networks that are enabling those youths to organize against their leaders is breaking down all the barriers of fear that kept these kleptocracies in power.

But fasten your seat belts. This is not going to be a joy ride because the lid is being blown off an entire region with frail institutions, scant civil society and virtually no democratic traditions or culture of innovation. The United Nations' Arab Human Development Report 2002 warned us about all of this, but the Arab League made sure that that report was ignored in the Arab world and the West turned a blind eye. But that report — compiled by a group of Arab intellectuals led by Nader Fergany, an Egyptian statistician — was prophetic. It merits re-reading today to appreciate just how hard this democratic transition will be.

The report stated that the Arab world is suffering from three huge deficits — a deficit of education, a deficit of freedom and a deficit of women's empowerment. A summary of the report in Middle East Quarterly in the Fall of 2002 detailed the key evidence: the gross domestic product of the entire Arab world combined was less than that of Spain. Per capita expenditure on education in Arab countries dropped from 20 percent of that in industrialized countries in 1980 to 10 percent in the mid-1990s. In terms of the number of scientific papers per unit of population, the average output of the Arab world per million inhabitants was roughly 2 percent of that of an industrialized country.

When the report was compiled, the Arab world translated about 330 books annually, one-fifth of the number that Greece did. Out of seven world regions, the Arab countries had the lowest freedom score in the late 1990s in the rankings of Freedom House. At the dawn of the 21st century, the Arab world had more than 60 million illiterate adults, the majority of whom were women. Yemen could be the first country in the world to run out of water within 10 years.

This is the vaunted "stability" all these dictators provided — the stability of societies frozen in time.

Seeing the Arab democracy movements in Egypt and elsewhere succeed in modernizing their countries would be hugely beneficial to them and to the world. We must do whatever we can to help. But no one should have any illusions about how difficult and convulsive the Arabs' return to history is going to be. Let's root for it, without being in the middle of it.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

NEPAL'S STALLED REVOLUTION

BY MANJUSHREE THAPA

Kathmandu

I WAS at a dinner party in Kathmandu when a journalist friend looked at her cell phone and made a joyous announcement: "Mubarak's gone!"

"Really?"

"He left Cairo for Sharm el-Sheikh. The army's taken charge," she said. No one at that Feb. 11 party, neither the foreign-educated Nepalis nor the expatriates who call Nepal home, had any connection to Egypt. Yet the victory felt personal. A bottle of wine appeared and we toasted Egypt.

As protests spread in Bahrain, Yemen, Iran and Libya, what is emerging as the "Arab Spring" continues to resonate here. Just five years ago, the world was watching Nepal as it now watches the Mideast and we had our dreams of democracy.

"I don't know why, but I love to see people revolting against their leaders," Jhalak Subedi, a magazine editor, wrote on Facebook.

"We Nepalis, we grew up with political movements," he explained over a cup of coffee. He had came of age amid student politics, was even jailed in 1990 for his activism. "Despite all our movements, we still haven't been able to have the kind of change our hearts are set on," he said. "I think that's why we feel so happy when we see change taking place elsewhere."

We also approach world events seeking correspondences between our history and that of others. India's struggle for freedom from British rule inspired Nepal's first democratic movement in 1950. Forty years later, our second democratic movement was energized by events farther off: the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism in Eastern Europe.

Our third and most recent movement took place in 2006, when democratic political parties and Maoist rebels united against King Gyanendra Shah, ending a 10-year civil war. Millions of Nepalis participated in nonviolent demonstrations in a show of support. Nineteen days after that, the king relinquished power; two years later, a newly elected Constituent Assembly abolished the 240-year-old monarchy with a near-unanimous vote. With the democratic political parties and the Maoists vowing to work together peacefully, a "new Nepal" felt attainable.

Five years later, it still has not taken shape.

Instead, we have learned that it is easier to start a revolution than to finish one. Overthrowing the monarchy was difficult, but institutionalizing democracy is harder still.

Our democratic parties are inexperienced, deferring to "big brother" India on all matters political. But India has backed an inflexible policy of containing the Maoists. And the Maoists have also been unwilling to compromise, holding on to their 19,000-troop army and their paramilitary group, the Young Communist League, and refusing to turn into just another political party.

The result has been a bitter polarization between hard-liners of democratic and Maoist persuasion.

The May deadline set for finishing our new constitution is less than 100 days away, but the document remains in rough draft. The will to complete it — among the democratic political parties and the Maoists, as well as in India — appears to be wholly lacking.

And now Kathmandu is rife with rumors that the Constituent Assembly — the country's only elected body — will be dissolved through a military-backed "democratic coup." Equally dismal scenarios in the public imagination are a return to civil war, the escalation of localized conflicts or the rise of the criminal underworld.

Whether or not the worst comes to pass, it is clear by now that the democratic political parties and the Maoists prefer to prioritize their own struggle for power. They have left it to us to find our place in the world.

This, we increasingly do by leaving. Unable to earn a living wage at home, up to 1,000 Nepalis are estimated to leave the country every day to work as migrant laborers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and elsewhere in the Middle East and the Far East, often under very exploitative conditions. As many as six million Nepalis live in India, and hundreds of thousands more have migrated to the developed world. In London and New York and Toronto, Nepali is now spoken on the streets.

"Those who could lead a new movement — you could call it the Facebook generation — have left the country," says Mr. Subedi.

And there is no single tyrant against whom to direct a movement. What we have in Nepal is a "ganjaagol," a mire.

"The thing about movements," Mr. Subedi says, "is that at a certain point, the ordinary person experiences power. Beforehand and afterwards, nobody pays him any attention. But at a certain point, the ordinary person feels his own power.

"That feeling," he says, narrowing his eyes. "That feeling ... ."

He does not complete his sentence, but we both know what he means. So many Nepalis have experienced this giddy sense that change is possible.

For now, we watch others in the Arab world feel their power. We wish them well, and worry for their safety, and share in their victories.

They inspire us. They make us feel wistful, and also a bit envious.

Manjushree Thapa is the author, most recently, of the novel "Seasons of Flight."

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

FINALLY, TURKEY LOOKS EAST

BY ELIF SHAFAK

London

I STARTED reading the fiction of the Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz with a delay that embarrasses me, not until my early 30s. In the Turkey of my formative years, he was not well-known. His famous "Cairo Trilogy," published in the 1950s, wasn't widely available in Turkish until 2008.

We were far more interested in Russian literature — Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Chekhov and Tolstoy — and European literature — Balzac, Hugo, Maupassant and Dickens — than in Arab literature. Western classics had been widely translated into Turkish since the late 19th century. A number of them were even published as supplements in children's magazines, and I remember devouring them eagerly.

Paris, London and Moscow seemed closer in spirit to Istanbul than Cairo was. We saw our own writing as part of European literature, even as our country waited and waited to become a full member of the European Union.

So Mahfouz, the Nobel Prize-winning author of dozens of novels, remained at the periphery of our vision — despite the strong historical, cultural and religious ties between Turkey and Egypt. There is a saying that "the Koran is revealed in Mecca, recited in Cairo and written in Istanbul."

Recently, however, the Turkish elite has started paying much more attention to Egypt. A few years ago the governments of Turkey and Egypt signed a memorandum of understanding to endorse cooperation and broaden military relations.

And today Turks are closely watching what is happening in Cairo. At the height of the protests, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave a speech that was broadcast live to the protesters in Tahrir Square. "No government can remain oblivious to the democratic demands of its people," he said. "There isn't a government in history that has survived through oppression."

When Hosni Mubarak finally stepped down, there was widespread celebration in Turkey. It's a topsy-turvy world. The Europe we loved and admired for so long has looked down on Turkey, but the Middle East we ignored is suddenly looking up to us as a force to be reckoned with. Now there is much talk of Turkey serving as a model for a new Egypt.

Considering all this, it has been rather disconcerting to hear politicians and talking heads in the United States speak about Turkey as if it is in thrall to radical Islamists. Even President Obama has described our country as an "Islamic" democracy. But what does it mean to be an Islamic democracy?

Turkey defies clichés. Turkish society is a debating society, with some people passionately in favor of the governing Justice and Development Party and some passionately against it. At a recent event I heard an academic applaud the government for curtailing the power of the military, while a journalist criticized it for conducting groundless trials against army officers and restricting the press.

Whenever I have a book signing in Istanbul, I cannot help but notice the diversity of the people. Professional women wearing modern clothes stand in line next to women in head scarves and young men with long hair or piercings. The crowds include leftists, liberals, feminists, Kurds, conservative Muslims, non-Muslims, religious minorities like Alevis, Sufi mystics and so on. But it is not only the variety of people that is striking; it is the extent to which they intermingle. While Turkey's political system is polarized and male-dominated, the society is, thankfully, far more hybrid. It is this complexity that outsiders fail to recognize, perhaps because they are too busy watching the leading political actors to see the people.

A society with a multiethnic, multilingual, multireligious empire under its belt and 80 years of experience as a constitutional republic, Turkey has managed to create its own passage to democracy, however flawed.

Around the same time as Mahfouz was writing his Cairo trilogy, a Turkish novelist, literary critic and poet named Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar was probing the way Turkey straddled an uneasy gap between East and West. "Our most important question is where and how we are going to connect with our past," he wrote. In other words, how could we blend Islamic and Eastern elements with a modern, democratic, secular regime?

His question is as vital today as it was yesterday — for Egypt, Tunisia and many other countries in the Arab world — but Turkey has already provided many answers.

Elif Shafak is the author, most recently, of the novel "The Forty Rules of Love."

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

WELCOME SHUTOFF OF FUNDS

 

There is ample room for debate about what the federal government should or should not fund. But we can think of no justification for Washington to spend tax dollars on Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions.

 

Planned Parenthood has gotten massive funding from taxpayers -- many of whom find its "services" reprehensible. So it is commendable that as part of a recent spending bill, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to cut off Planned Parenthood's federal funding.

 

Supporters of Planned Parenthood say it does not use federal money to perform abortions. But that's just a shell game. Federal money that Planned Parenthood uses for other purposes frees up its non-government resources for abortion.

 

And recently, a manager at a New Jersey Planned Parenthood clinic was shown on video "advising" a man and a woman who had posed as traffickers of underage girls. Among other things, the manager told the couple that girls under 15 should not admit their ages because of the reporting requirements it would trigger. What the manager should have done was call the police about the possible abuse of young girls!

 

But even if you somehow believe that Planned Parenthood does worthwhile work, there is no reason why taxpayers should be required to fund its activities. Many Americans consider the killing of unborn babies through abortion unconscionable. They should not be forced, directly or indirectly, to subsidize such horrible acts.

 

It is good that the House voted to end that funding. The Senate should follow suit.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

LIBYA, GADHAFI, GAS PRICES

 

In our highly connected world, what happens in some faraway, seemingly unimportant nation can affect us all.

 

Libya is undergoing violent upheaval that may overthrow that country's government. That has major implications for the entire Middle East as well as lesser but still important implications for all of our pocketbooks because of the effect the upheaval will have on oil and gasoline prices.

 

We Americans are heavily dependent on cars and therefore on gasoline. So we feel it when gas prices rise. While we produce quite a bit of oil, and thus quite a bit of gasoline, inside the United States, gasoline supply and demand throughout the rest of the world also affect our prices.

 

Have you noticed that oil prices have suddenly jumped to more than $93 for a 42-gallon barrel? And the crude oil price on the London market has jumped to $106 a barrel this week. Obviously, "something" is happening that is affecting world oil prices.

 

One such "something" is the political instability in Libya. But what's Libya to us?

 

It is a big, mostly desert country of only 6.5 million people in North Africa, on the Mediterranean Sea, west of Egypt. But it is a huge oil producer and a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (remember OPEC?). Libya sells about 80 percent of its 1.7 million-barrel daily oil production to Europe.

 

But now there is massive political turmoil in Libya, directly affecting oil supplies to Europe and indirectly affecting our oil and gasoline prices in the United States, too.

 

Libya has been ruled with an iron hand by Moammar Gadhafi for about four decades. Libya was behind the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. That attack killed 270 people, including 189 Americans.

 

Gadhafi has been relatively quiet lately. But now, he is defiantly declaring that he will stay in power no matter the cost. He has furiously urged his backers in Libya to fight the protesters who are seeking his ouster.

 

It remains to be seen whether Libya will remain a dictatorship, and what the turmoil there may do to the balance of power in the region.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

REP. GRAVES AND OBAMACARE

 

We can understand why Democrats who voted for ObamaCare might not be eager to talk with their constituents about it. After all, one survey after another has shown ObamaCare is unpopular with the American people.

 

Most of the states, meanwhile, have taken the remarkable step of filing lawsuits to stop ObamaCare from being implemented.

 

And two federal judges properly have ruled ObamaCare is unconstitutional.

 

But at least one Democrat wants to forbid even the uttering of the term "ObamaCare" by members of Congress on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives!

 

Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz took offense when Republican Rep. Tom Graves, who represents the congressional district of Georgia that borders Tennessee's Hamilton County, called the law "ObamaCare" as he sensibly urged his colleagues to de-fund and repeal it.

 

Wasserman Schultz insisted of the term "ObamaCare": "It is meant as a disparaging reference to the president of the United States ... . It is clearly in violation of the House rules against that."

 

Not content to make that simply a matter of personal opinion, she sought to have the presiding chairman in the House declare any references to "ObamaCare" a violation of the rules of the House.

 

The chairman reasonably declined.

 

As for ObamaCare -- or whatever anyone may prefer to call it -- Graves pointed out that the law is doing so much to raise insurance premiums and reduce availability of medical coverage that the administration has had to issue hundreds of waivers to health plans and organizations.

 

The waivers have exempted more than 2 million people from ObamaCare -- so far.

 

Graves added: "Now think about that: saving two and a half million people from ObamaCare. Mr. Chairman, let's save the rest of America here today ... and zero out the payments to those ObamaCare bureaucrats."

 

That's a fine idea.

 

But unfortunately, ObamaCare socialized medicine may prevail -- at very high costs to the American people, and with no guarantee of better health results.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

'MAN'S INHUMANITY TO MAN'

 

There are countless wars, ills, accidents and enmities in our troubled world, but we are still shocked by "man's inhumanity to man."

 

Last Monday, for example, a suicide bomber detonated himself in a truck packed with explosives outside a police headquarters near Samarra, in Iraq, killing 12 officers and wounding 20 others!

 

What did he "accomplish" for his "cause"?

 

And in Afghanistan, another suicide bomber, wearing a vest loaded with explosives, blew himself up, killing 31 innocent people who were lined up to get identification papers at a census office. What was the suicide bomber's goal? To halt a NATO program to enroll people in what amounts to a neighborhood watch program.

 

Then there were four Americans sailing in the Indian Ocean, near Oman. They were seized by Somali pirates -- and all four Americans were shot and killed. U.S. military personnel arrived too late for rescue, but two pirates were killed and 13 others were captured after a gun battle. The Americans had been delivering Bibles to remote areas.

 

These are just a few of many tragic cases.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - DISCRETION PLEASE, MR KILIÇDAROĞLU

As a philosophical matter, we were unimpressed in late November when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan traveled to Libya to bask in the praise of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and accept the oxymoronically named "Gadhafi International Prize for Human Rights." Sure, it comported with legitimate Turkish business interests at the time. It may have had some defensible value as a sop to neighborliness and we know the importance Erdoğan attaches to approval from the "Arab street." Still, it was shortsighted and embarrassing; comparable to the affection the PM has showered on another regional tyrant, the leader of Sudan, who has been indicted for crimes against humanity.

But as a practical matter, we also think chief opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu's timing Monday to excoriate Erdoğan for his buddying up to Gadhafi, and his demand that the prize be returned, was ill-timed at best.

"He is doing well by the award," said Kılıçdaroğlu, contrasting the PM's rhetoric on human rights with his commitment as he went on to voice support for Libyans who have turned on their mercurial and often brutal ruler. Implicit in his remark was also the contrast with Erdoğan's quick association two weeks ago with those in Egypt calling for the ouster of Hosni Mubarak and the far more cautious tone Erdoğan is using in the Libyan case.

We think the circumstances are starkly different. In Egypt, there were ugly scenes, violence and killings. But the country did not descend into chaos and the military refrained when called upon to attack protesters. This is not the case in Libya where military discipline has evaporated, the country is essentially engaged in civil war and a growing death toll is estimated in the hundreds.

Most importantly, some 25,000 Turkish citizens are now effectively caught in the crossfire. An orderly evacuation has proved impossible. We are one of the few news organizations with its own reporter on the ground, Zeynel Lüle of our parent newspaper Hürriyet. His and other scattered reports indicate Turks being threatened and even attacked as some kind of perceived fifth column. Lüle's reporting indicates that many are trapped in isolation with dwindling supplies of food and fuel. This is the picture we reflect in today's newspaper.

There is no room in these perilous times for domestic politics. The focus of all political leaders must be clearly and singularly focused on one goal: getting our own people out of harm's way as quickly as possible. Skirmishing about a dumb prize contributes nothing to this goal and in fact risks exacerbating the danger.

Let's get our citizens home. Once they are safely back in Turkey we can engage in every facet of debate about Turkey's relationship with Libya, past, present and future. Meanwhile, we would appreciate some discretion from the opposition leader.

The views expressed in the Straight represent the consensus opinion of the Hürriyet Daily News and its editorial board members.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

MUBARAKISM WITHOUT MUBARAK, OR ARAB 'PARADIGM SHIFT'

BURAK BEKDİL

It was the aftermath of the "Romanian revolution." The dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, was gone and democracy had won. In Bucharest, I asked my Tatar guide what exactly had changed in his country after the "paradigm shift."

"Simple," he explained. "It's like lunch time at our factories. Groups of workers have their lunch, one group at 11, and as they finish the next group start eating at 11:30, and another at noon, and another at 12:30. Now, the Romanian clock shows 12:00. Ceausescu finished his lunch. Now it's time for the next group 'to enjoy lunch.'" That was the Romanian "paradigm shift."

Turkey had its "lunch break shift" about a decade ago when the Turks democratically chose to replace secular tutelage with an Islamist one. And these days it's time for a "lunch break shift" in the Arab world. 

Last weekend, I was too distracted from the "Arab spring" on a wonderful musical journey of a million notes, from Aptaliko to Athinais, when I received a letter from my colleague and friend, Ümit Enginsoy. No, we don't normally discuss politics by an exchange of letters. We do that while "we drink until we cough it out." Now I am leaving the floor to Ümit:

"Dear Burak,

"I really have difficulty in understanding why the Turkish and Western media are euphorically describing the recent events in Egypt as a movement toward democracy. Actually, what we see is a coup. Remember the fateful night of Feb. 11, when Egypt's strongman, Hosni Mubarak, eventually stepped down 'after being persuaded by the Army and aided by the Americans,' but only after ceding his powers to the country's powerful military. Since then, the head of state has effectively been a soldier with the unfeasible rank of 'field marshal,' Mohamad Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military council.

"Formerly known as 'Mubarak's poodle' because of his loyalty to the ex-dictator, this 75-year-old man is known for his conservatism. This was a bloodless military takeover, or a bloodless coup. But the Egyptian people and most of the world were so much fixated with Mubarak's exit that no one paid too much attention to who the replacement was.

"Egypt has effectively been a military regime since a coup in 1952, led by General Gamal Abdel Nasser. All successive leaders have also been generals, Anwar Sadat, Mubarak and now Tantawi. Because of the 32-year-old peace treaty with Israel, the Egyptian military has no natural enemies, but is mainly tasked with 'protecting Egypt's domestic stability.' Since Sadat expelled thousands of advisors from the now-defunct Soviet Union, the country's former mentor and protector, the Egyptian military has had very close ties with the United States and uses sophisticated U.S. weaponry, including the locally assembled Abram tanks and F-16 fighter aircraft [even Turkey in the 1990s assembled 46 F-16s for the Egyptian Air Force as a reward for Ankara's partial assistance to the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War].

"The military leadership and especially Tantawi are arch-enemies of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and best-organized political group in Egypt. Because of the 1981 assassination of former president Sadat by fundamentalists within the military and the 1997 massacre, again by Islamic fundamentalists of 62 people at the top-tourism site of Luxor, the joint Mubarak-military regime had kept the Muslim Brotherhood under strong pressure. The new Egyptian regime may be involved in quasi-reform talks with 'reasonable and acceptable' Islamists, but I expect it to prevent the Brotherhood from entering elections or joining a future government. Aware of this situation, the Brotherhood is keeping a low profile so as not to provoke the military and annoy the Americans. So they are performing taqiyya [dissimulation].

"In addition, the Egyptian Army is different from Western militaries in the sense that its business and industrial activities account for more than 10 percent of the nation's economy. The military 'runs daycare centers and beach resorts. Its divisions make television sets, jeeps, washing machines, wooden furniture, olive oil and bottled water... The military pays no taxes on this vast web of businesses... It buys public land on favorable terms and discloses nothing to parliament or anyone else,' said The International Herald Tribune on Feb. 18. It has been this way for decades, but additionally, now the military officially has taken over Egypt from Mubarak. This is 'Mubarakism without Mubarak.'

"This brilliant phrase originally was used by Ellis Goldberg, a professor of political science at the University of Washington, in an article that appeared in the website of Foreign Affairs in mid-February. 'Today, the Army presents itself as a force of order and a neutral arbiter between contending opponents, but it has significant interests of its own to defend, and it is not, in fact, neutral,' Goldberg said. 'Likely is the culmination of the slow-motion coup and the return of the somewhat austere military authoritarianism of decades past,' he said.

"The U.S. policy on Egypt is pragmatic, realist and hypocritical. While it calls for democracy and 'the fulfillment of the wishes of the Egyptian people,' its truly key strategic objectives for Egypt are to avoid the abrogation of the 1979 Peace Treaty with Israel and to prevent Egypt's transformation into something like Iran. And the 'Mubarakism-without-Mubarak' regime meets Washington's requirements. So far the situation in Egypt remains under some degree of control, but much will depend on whether anti-governments protests will continue and how the military responds to them.

"The rest of the Arab world is also boiling. The Yemenite regime, a close ally of the United States in the fight against al-Qaeda, is shaking. More significant is the case of the tiny Gulf state of Bahrain, where the United States' 5th Fleet – which will be the key force fighting against Iran in the event of a conflict – is based. There, the protesters, most of them Shiites – who form 70 percent of Bahrain's population – are being brutally attacked by the security forces of the minority Sunni regime. Iran seems to be backing the Shiite protesters, and the Sunni regime is using the Saudi and Pakistani troops it employs in its security forces to suppress the demonstrators. Saudi Arabia, which has a significant Shiite minority, as well as Jordan, are in jitters.

"About the future of Egypt and the Middle East, your guess is as good as mine. But the genie seems to be out of the bottle, and it is not a genie of democracy, but a genie of strategic conflict. And unfortunately the casualties of the Arab uprising seem to be the pawns in this war. Maybe we should talk more about the potential 'paradigm shift' in the Arab lands more than about an Arab revolution."

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

'ORGANISM' AND RAPE!

NURAY MERT

I've always been grateful to God because of my family. I wish every girl had a father like mine. I've never seen him interfering in our way of our dressing or in how I and other women in the family behave. When I gave the plate number of a car stalking me in the city of Trabzon to my father, he never asked, "What were you wearing?" He eagerly went after the issue and helped have the stalker arrested. We went to the police station together to issue a complaint.

My brother is a fine and extremely civilized man raised by that father. In fact, all the males in the family are gentlemen. Since this is my perception of men, I'd better confess that I have been kind of "insensitive" on women's issues.

After being born into this world, it is impossible not to realize the fact that other women are not as fortunate as I am. So, I am deeply disappointed. But worse is that the society you are living in is developing in the opposite direction to prevent women from having such good fortune. Controversial remarks by Professor Orhan Çeker, head of the Department of Religious Studies at Selçuk University, in which he tried to find a correlation between "rape" and wearing revealing clothes, were disappointing enough. But worse was what Ali Bulaç of daily Zaman wrote the other day in his article, "Reactions of the organism."

Bulaç resorted to "modern psychology" to explain that wearing low-cut dresses was not an "excuse" for rape but a "reason." He made an attempt to explain that men are being sexually provoked by women, adding that "modern psychology is a science to measure up the reactions of an organism provoked by an external stimulant." Bulaç accused some conservatives of criticizing Çeker and said, "They are heavily under feminist influences and the perspective of modern women." He himself is unfortunately not aware that he is looking at the human reality through a dark, positivist window that he terms modern psychology.

Like 'animals'

Apparently, people are simply "organisms" for Bulaç, who thinks that the believers have "norms such as those forbidden by religion" and that that is Islam's criteria for looking at human beings. In other words, it as if God created humans as an organism and that if this organism is a believer, he acts morally, otherwise he is like an "animal!" According to Islam and all the Abrahamic religions, however, humans are "noble creatures," and therefore responsible for their behavior. If a human does not act in a noble way, he could be lower than an animal, but he can never become an animal and cannot be counted as an animal.

A man saying "If he is a non-believer, he will act like an animal and this is a determination" fails to understand the meaning of being a "noble creature." That's all! A rapist doesn't act like an animal but becomes a "wrong-doer" and the explanation of this "wrong-doing" is not the "reactions of an organism." An animal is not capable of being a "wrong-doer," either to itself or others.

Creation, nature and the self

Since humans and animals are not the same species, sexuality is only "partially" determined in a biological frame. Factors defining "sexuality" go beyond biological facts – irrespective of humans acting in line with religion or against it. Behaviors that are "forbidden by religion" cannot be justified as "human acts in accordance with a person's nature," as some conservatives put. None of "creation," "nature," or "flesh" means "complying with natural desires." In fact, what makes a believer different from a non-believer is that a believer has faith in "the human which cannot be explained by nature only." Although I was not raised in an environment of any particular religious inclinations, I chose to be a Muslim believer because I thought humans were not simply "organisms." So, I started looking into things differently. I think I am very fortunate by doing so.

Shallow human

Unfortunately, in this day and age, an extremely mediocre "conservatism" and its shallow understanding of human and sexuality are being presented as Islamic faith. I believe this is what we should be concerned about the most in the name of Islam. Moreover, in order not to slip on such vile ground, it isn't necessary for one to be a believer. It is enough to be aware of the complexity of sexuality and social relations.

Following a parliamentary petition for "the chemical castration of those who commit sexual crimes," Yıldırım Türker of daily Radikal pointed out the mediocrity of a perspective reducing sexuality and rape to sexual organs only in his Feb. 14 article, "Castrated."

Lastly, Bulaç termed such a "mean" understanding voiced by Professor Çeker as "straightforward religiosity." Therefore, he implied that many other religious people think alike but for some reasons they try to tune down their remarks. That is to say, such an understanding is regarded as a "clear statement of being a pious" in a more widespread way than we think. We have become deeply saddened to learn this thanks to Bulaç.

* Nuray Mert is a columnist for daily Milliyet, in which this piece appeared Tuesday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

LIBYA AND BAHRAIN

GWYNNE DYER

Watching the extraordinarily rambling and repetitive speech by Col. Moammar Gadhafi's 38-year-old second son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, on Libyan television on Sunday night, I couldn't help but being struck by how ignorant the man was.

According to Saif, the protests in Libya are the work of drunks, criminals and foreigners who had been paid to destabilize the Libyan state. ("At this time drunks are driving tanks in central Benghazi.") If everybody does not rally around the regime, there will be a terrible civil war. ("We are a tribal people.") The country will break into a dozen separate emirates, all foreign investors will leave, and the oil will cease to flow.

Bereft of its oil income, Libya will have to close its hospitals and schools. Everybody will fall into a poverty so deep that it will take 40 years to climb back out. The Americans and the British will take over the country. There will be a great plague, and it will rain frogs and spiders.

I made up that last bit, but he really said the rest of it. How can he imagine that Libyans will simply swallow this stuff? The regime doesn't let them travel and state censorship is fierce, but Libyans are literate people and they are not fools. Saif's threats will not persuade them – and neither will his promises.

He offered the concessions that are typical at this stage in the collapse of an Arab regime. There will be a great public consultation to discuss the country's future, including a new constitution. Salaries of government employees will be doubled. If the people will just stop protesting, everything can change – except, of course, the regime itself.

Gadhafi's son's speech sounded just like the final television speeches made by Egypt's former president, Hosni Mubarak, and Tunisia's ex-president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, before they fled their respective capitals, so it probably won't be long now. The Gadhafi regime has already lost control of the eastern part of the country, and on Sunday the street protests spread west to Tripoli.

Saif al-Islam would not do well in exile; the money would not be consolation enough. He does actually care about the country, and he doesn't understand why its people do not love him and his family back. Whereas his father Moammar, if he makes it out safely, will survive with his ego quite undented.

Forty-one years of absolute power have so shaped the character of the Clown Prince of Arab dictators that nothing can now shake his vainglorious self-regard. Even when the Libyans finally reject him, he will see it as their loss, not his. He never was very bright.

Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, heir to the throne of Bahrain, is playing a very different game. It was he who ordered the army to leave Pearl Square in Manama, the capital, on Sunday, two days after four protesters were killed and 231 wounded in a military night attack to clear the square. He understands that the survival of the monarchy now depends on persuading the majority of Bahrainis that the promise of fundamental reform is real.

He doesn't yet control the riot police, who wounded several dozen more people with shotgun fire before they abandoned the square to the returning protesters on Sunday. So he hasn't yet won the battle within the royal family over what to do next – but he probably will, for it faces the threat of a republican revolution in Bahrain.

The great difference between Gadhafi in Libya and the ruling families of all the other oil-rich Arab states is that they have the option of retreating into constitutional monarchy. Gadhafi can only rule or flee, but the al-Khalifas can make a deal.

The opposition parties have agreed to open talks with Prince Salman if he meets their demands: the current government must resign, political prisoners must be released, and the killing of protesters must be investigated. All those things will happen, and then the haggling will begin.

The protesters do not want more killing and they certainly don't want to damage the tiny country's wealth. (Bahrain's 800,000 residents enjoy a per capita annual income of $25,000). But they do want an end to the disadvantages suffered by the 70-percent Shia majority in a state ruled by a Sunni royal family. They also want a real democracy, not the current halfway house.

Such a regime would be a frightening anomaly in a region otherwise ruled by absolute monarchies, but retaining Bahrain's royal family would mollify the neighbors greatly. In Bahrain there is unlikely to be any further bloodshed, and the outcome will probably be a constitutional compromise.

In Libya, however, there might be more blood and no compromise. As Saif al-Islam Gadhafi warned in his epic rant: "You will see worse than Yugoslavia....The army is not the army of Egypt or Tunisia. They will support Gadhafi to the last minute....Sixty years ago they defended Libya from the colonialists; now they will defend it from drug addicts. We will fight to the last man and woman and bullet."

Or alternatively, the regular army may simply force Gadhafi's praetorian guard to surrender in Tripoli, as it has apparently already done in Benghazi. It could be over in Libya quite soon, as the old Arab order continues to unravel.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ISTANBUL'S PROMISING OFFICE MARKET

ALAN ROBERTSON

The recovery in economic conditions has not yet had a full impact on the Istanbul office market, but in 2011 this will change. In recent months there has been firm evidence of renewed tenant demand, while at the same time it has become clear that the supply of new space reaching completion in the next two years will be limited in most parts of the city. With rising demand and falling supply, the office market is entering interesting times!

Total take-up of Grade A space in 2010 was broadly similar to 2009 at approximately 110,000 square meters. On a sub-market basis, the Asian side recorded the highest take-up, accounting for 55 percent of the total volume. Over one-third of the take-up was in the last two months of the year, providing evidence of the general upturn in activity.

Throughout 2010, prime rents remained broadly stable at 30 euros per square meter per month in the central business district, or CBD, on the European side and around 15 euros per square meter per month in Ümraniye.

Vacancy rates fell steadily through the year, decreasing from an average of 9 percent to 7.8 percent by yearend. The lowest vacancy rate was in the CBD at 3.6 percent, down from approximately 6 percent at the start of the year. The vacancy rate on the Asian side decreased to 5.6 percent as of end 2010, though new office projects such as the first phases of Akkom Office Park and My Office entered the market.

The amount of new Grade A offices reaching completion in 2010 was lower than 2009, totaling 196,000 square meters, compared with 250,000 square meters in 2009. The main reason for this was the slowdown in development on the Asian side. Outside the CBD on the European side recorded the highest growth in lease-able area at approximately 80,000 square meters compared with 43,000 square meters in the CBD and 73,000 square meters on the Asian side.

Office buildings completed in the CBD in the last year were mainly medium sized, in the range of 8,000-13,000 square meters. In most cases the majority of space was leased or sold shortly after completion. This was also the case on the Asian side, where Akkom in Ümraniye was especially successful.

Including the completions, the Grade A office supply in Istanbul is now estimated at around 2.5 million square meters. Of this, 44 percent is located in the CBD while another 29 percent is on the Asian side and 27 percent is in non-CBD Europe.

The development pipeline, comprising projects under construction, is currently strongest in the emerging office sub-markets on the Asian side, where some 200,000 square meters is under construction.

The Asian side is followed by non-CBD Europe with an approximate 153,000 square meters in the pipeline. Garden Office Marmara Forum, with 30,000 square meters of lease-able space, is scheduled to be completed in spring. It is expected to break new ground by providing well-located Grade A space at rent levels which compete strongly with those on the Asian side. Kağıthane is rapidly emerging as an alternative decentralized location on the European side. The most important project there is the Kağıthane Office by Tekfen-Öz, which has lease-able area of 32,000 square meters and is scheduled for completion by the end of the year.

The development pipeline in the CBD is quite limited at slightly over 100,000 square meters. This is largely due to a lack of available land in the core CBD areas of Zincirlikuyu and Levent. The largest project in the CBD is the 35,000 square meters office space in Trump Towers in Mecidiyeköy. Another major project is the Zorlu Center, which will offer high-quality office space in Zincirlikuyu as part of a major new mixed-use scheme. A number of new tower projects are proposed for Levent, but it will be 2013 before any of these reach completion.

Since mid-2010, demand from occupiers has shown signs of increasing, as corporate confidence returns and businesses begin to think about their growth plans. Office take-up in 2011 is expected to be significantly higher as a result. Ironically, this increased demand comes at a time of decreasing supply, especially in Europe's CBD. It is now virtually certain that there will be a supply shortage before a new wave of schemes reach completion in 2013.

The key impact of this will firstly be a reduction in choice for occupiers and secondly, the return of rental growth. Rents in Ümraniye have already started to rise and it is inevitable that this will also occur in CBD locations. In following this pattern, Istanbul is not different from a number of other cities across the region.

The fundamentals of the Turkish economy, together with a growing recognition of Istanbul's increasing importance as a world city, have encouraged the return of foreign investor interest. There is strong demand for office investments from a variety of sources, especially global investment funds and Gulf-based investors. In particular, office buildings with long leases, strong tenants, good environmental credentials and a single ownership structure are highly sought after. However, the number of such buildings is very limited, and this is severely restricting the amount of activity.

So, what does all this mean? For businesses who are thinking of moving office in the next two years, they should do it soon because if they delay they will be faced with higher rents and less choice. For developers with land, they should consider building offices, especially if their property is in the CBD. Investors considering Turkey should certainly look at the Istanbul office sector, because it should provide good returns over the next few years.

Alan Robertson is the managing director at Jones Lang LaSalle Turkey.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FOR TURKEY THE GOLDEN AGES WILL START

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

Unbelievable developments are lining up. The unexpected happens all of a sudden. Since the sudden collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1989, now the old rotten order in the Middle East has started to collapse. No matter what, change increases Turkey's value and strength. A new exiting period is about to start for our country.

I am following developments in the Middle East enthusiastically.

I had the same feeling in the '90s.

After arriving at the end of the Cold War, all of a sudden on Nov. 9, 1989, the Iron Curtain dividing Berlin into two parts collapsed.

I could not believe my eyes.

A wall creating balance in the world for 45 years and considered to be indestructible had been torn down in front of TV cameras and thousands of East Germans could pass to West Germany.

This scene was so striking that for a long time I thought I was dreaming.

At the time the unchangeable slogan in statements given by Americans and Germans in NATO headquarters in Brussels was as follows:

"Everything in the world may change but East and West Germany won't ever be reunited again."

But the East and West were reuniting in front of our eyes.

Frankly, it was a stand.

With a little flip, the domino effect started.

One by one, members of the Warsaw Pact quit and the European system collapsed.

Not enough and the Soviet Union scattered.

Its balance, based on thousands of nuclear weapons and a giant army, was no good. Actually, it turned out to be obvious that this system was too artificial to last for a long time.

As a matter of fact, a spark was enough to destroy everything. 

A new order was established. Within this order everybody thought that Turkey would lose its strategic importance in the Cold War and the Turkish Armed Forces its effectiveness in the international equilibrium.

But the opposite came true.

Turkey's value increased.

Even if we don't appreciate it, Turkey's stability, democracy and economy is regionally as well as internationally effective.

That is why I enthusiastically follow developments in the Middle East.

We'll win again

Again I'm very exited.

Can you imagine, the rotten order in the Middle East is collapsing in front of our eyes? All dictators, one by one, are overthrown. Some are leaving, some will leave in time.

Just like it was during the Cold War, a spark was all it took. The artificial system is collapsing.

Interestingly, Washington, the creator of this system placing the dictators in place with the purpose "to look after Israel and support U.S. politics, i.e. to protect its idea of stability in the region," is helpless and a mere spectator in view of these developments. It does not have the power to change anything.

Its former "big brother" is now only watching.

Now recalculations need to be made.

Turkey fine-tunes its attitude

In the days when protests started in Tunisia and Egypt it drew my attention that Ankara and Washington stated they adopted the same approach.

It was called: protecting stability.

That is, they didn't emphasize democracy.

It meant that even if leaders were replaced it was not preferable to change the regime but only to protect the balance. Days went by and it became clear that Mubarak wasn't to remain in his position and protests were not to subside anytime soon. That was when Ankara revised its attitude and put emphasis on democracy.

Today Turkey sets its priority on democracy and freedom. 

All these developments should make us happy.

From now on, you'll see Turkey's effectiveness and value grow in the region. The number of those asking Ankara for help and support will increase further.

Maybe I keep repeating but with our existing democratic and secular system Turkey will have great possibilities.

We should just be aware of it and instead of trying to defeat one another we should strive to grow in the region.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

DIPLOMACY ON THE BRINK: FROM ZERO PROBLEMS TO ZERO TOLERANCE

BERFU KIZILTAN

Otto von Bismarck was recognized for his diplomatic skills. His approach of Realpolitik, the type of foreign policy focused on practical rather than moralistic considerations, was often seen as pragmatic and offensive and yet he advised, "Be polite; write diplomatically; even in a declaration of war one observes the rule of politeness." In fact, isn't the art of diplomacy all about gaining the strategic advantage through negotiating with the hope of turning unsuitable conditions into gold? Not in Turkey.

Unfortunately, for the last couple of months Ankara has been falling short on conducting both successful public and foreign policy. The main reason behind this is the extremely harsh rhetoric of the government officials and their lack of tolerance for criticism.

In January, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the "Monument to Humanity " in the eastern province of Kars a "freak." As a result, the prime minister's comment provoked a new public distrust in Erdoğan's commitment to tolerance. The monument, which was built as an expression of the friendship between Turkey and Armenia, became a center of this discussion and eventually deteriorated the bilateral affairs between the two countries. Hence, let alone fostering good relations, the outcome of Erdoğan's remark created a no-win situation for Turkey.

On another front, since last December, it's been hard to miss battle-like scenes between students and police on television. For months, university students have been protesting against government policies and these demonstrations grew stronger as the police force used remarkably heavy measures to deter protestors. The "youth of Turkey's future" tried to protest against the fact that they were not allowed to attend a meeting as an audience at their own university where the country's science policies were determined; instead they were pepper-sprayed. They protested for their fellow students who were harshly beaten by security services only to be greeted by tear gas. Hundreds of students gathered in front of the Middle East Technical University, or METU, to march to the headquarters of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and 2,000 police officers made it impossible for them to leave the campus. In the meantime, a 19-year-old student miscarried after being severely beaten by law enforcement officers at a protest, a 21-year-old protester who threw an egg at Egemen Bağış, the country's chief European Union negotiator, faced 28 months of prison and dozens of students are still detained and facing jail time.

While the memory of these beatings is still fresh, a new case opened against a blogger, Barış Ünver, hit the news. Almost a week after Erdoğan's speech stating that "he personally experienced the oppressive period of 1980s, therefore coercive measures cannot be their way of handling things in Turkey," the 22-year-old blogger was sued by Erdoğan's lawyers and he is now facing a two-year prison sentence for stating an opinion about last year's constitutional referendum.

Actions speak louder than words

As a matter of fact, some of Erdoğan's speeches are promising, yet he fails to remember his own advice quite frequently. In a recent parliamentary session, Erdoğan criticized the toppled Mubarak regime by saying: "There isn't a government in history that has survived oppression. Know that governments that turn a blind eye to their people cannot last long." In spite of this rightful statement, Erdoğan couldn't back his claim. Less than a week later, the police intervened with tear gas and water cannons against protesters in Ankara who had gathered upon the call of socialist trade unions. The laborers wanted to form a chain of people around the Parliament building to express their protest against the omnibus bill, a draft bill that regulates several kinds of amnesty and social rights. It is also highly interesting that while the ruling party supported the protests in Egypt and referred to demonstrations as democratic freedom of expression, the government did not grant this freedom to its own people.

Within 10 days, the same approach caused great tensions between Ankara and Nicosia. This time Erdoğan referred to Turkish Cypriots as "dependents" and said they have no right to protest against Turkey, a country that shed blood for their survival. He couldn't defend a legitimate idea any worse. First of all, everyone has a right to protest in a democracy. Without a doubt, Turkey gave a fierce fight to protect the Turkish Cypriots; however, this surely does not mean that they can be seen as dependents. Personal thoughts or momentary aggression should not be projected as the state's official position. This would only help to further strain the relations with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and devalue the sacrifices made in the past.

Last but not least, four journalists working at Oda TV, a controversial news portal known for its criticisms about the AKP government, were detained. They have been arrested for more than three days and we are yet to find out the charges about them. Many see this as evidence of political pressure against the media and a violation of press freedom. One thing is for sure though, with the image that Erdoğan created so far, it looks like it is easier to silence the opposition than to make solid arguments against it.

Winning the hearts and minds

The level of acceptance in freedom of thought and expression seems to be diminishing at a dangerous pace. Time magazine recently wrote about Erdoğan that "he has sued more journalists than any previous leader." They also made a note of Erdoğan's recent dismissal of critics of a new law about limiting alcohol consumption, where he said, "Let them drink until they spew up."

This kind of rigid rhetoric blends well with neither Erdoğan's moderate image nor Ahmet Davutoğlu's, the Turkish foreign minister, soft power strategy. On the contrary, it both evokes resistance in the public and attracts criticism from outside Turkey. Just a week after his arrival to Ankara, Francis Ricciardone, U.S. ambassador to Turkey, expressed his worries about press freedom in Turkey and said: "Journalists are being detained on the one hand while addresses about freedom of the speech are given on the other. We do not understand this."

It goes without saying that the recipe for successful diplomacy includes a good amount of patience and tolerance, and in fact, without these two ingredients what we see is nothing but bitter politics. The government officials need to be more flexible towards criticism and keep in mind the fact that protests are cornerstones of liberal democracies. What is not so healthy is turning a blind eye to reactions and using the police force to deter people from protesting.

Similarly, it is crucial to understand the basic principles of obtaining soft power and how it should compose great amount of diplomatic skills and strategic communication. In this regard, both Erdoğan and other government officials might need to work harder to master the art of staying calm and not giving hard line declarations. Otherwise, what they will achieve will project nothing but a frustrated population and tightened foreign relations. In this light, one can't help but remember Talleyrand's words: "A diplomat who says 'yes' means 'maybe', a diplomat who says 'maybe' means 'no' and a diplomat who says "no" is no diplomat."

* Berfu Kızıltan is a researcher in Turkish politics and economics based in Istanbul.

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

MURDER AND ESPIONAGE

 

So now we know – or think we know – just what it might have been that Raymond Davis and his fellow-spooks were up to. And it was nothing to do with diplomacy, at least not in the sense that it is normally understood. We also learn something about the freedom of the media in America because it was the media in the Land of the Free that quietly, and at the US government's behest, kept knowledge of Davis' linkage to the CIA from the American public and the rest of the world. However, the media in the rest of the world is under no such constraint and when the 'The Guardian' ran a story on Sunday that reported the link the cat was well and truly out of the bag. And what a cat! Far from being some lowly member of the 'technical and administrative staff' of the US diplomatic mission in Pakistan, it is now alleged that he was part of a covert CIA-led team that was engaged in the surveillance of militant groups, including the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP). Forensic examination of the equipment found in his possession is said to show that he was in phone contact with 33 Pakistanis, of whom 27 were from the TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Neither organisation is known for peaceful or law abiding activity.

The reasons for this? We may never know with certitude, but informed speculation suggests that, contrary to the protestations of American officials that their staff would never engage in espionage or covert operations in Pakistan, this was indeed what he was busy with. The Washington Post goes so far as to detail that he was operating out of a 'safe house' and at the time of the incident he was conducting "area familiarisation" – basic surveillance – in order to better acquaint himself with the area he was working in. There is also speculation that his contacts with the TTP and LeT were more than mere 'surveillance'. If this is anywhere close to the truth then we are getting a glimpse of the very dark and very dirty side of American foreign policy as it is played out here. Protestations loudly made about diplomatic immunity suddenly appear fatuous and facile, and those making them duplicitous and utterly deceitful. Bluntly put, we have been lied to. Moreover, we have been lied to by some very senior figures in the American administration who sought to both cover their tracks and extricate their man before cat and bag parted company. Whatever the legal outcome, whether Davis is tried for murder or espionage – with the latter probably unlikely – the coinage of American diplomacy in Pakistan has been debased to the point at which it is virtually worthless. And if the Americans ever again complain about us being wary of issuing their 'technical and administrative assistants' with visas, they can, to use the vernacular, go take a running jump.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

BATTLE LINES

 

The PPP and the PML-N being locked in a battle has made the task of solving the immense problems that are being confronted that much harder. The sense of uncertainty which comes alongside this growing war of words means it will be harder to stabilise the economy – or achieve the level surface needed to build a future on. The IMF is reported to have already taken note of the storm raging between the two parties while we are beginning to hear the first whispers about the possibility of mid-term polls. The inherent absurdity of some of the comments being made would be comical if it didn't involve an issue of national welfare. At his press talk in Islamabad, Federal Law Minister Babar Awan has accused the PML-N of failing to stick to that long-forgotten Charter of Democracy, the terms of which have been ignored consistently by the PPP itself. As for the 10-point agenda of demands put forward by the PML-N Awan has blithely declared that in politics no deadlines could be set and the PPP itself is not inclined to do so. He does not explain why this line of thinking was not clearly explained to the PML-N at the time that its 10-point list was accepted by the PPP and a promise was made to implement it.


The lines have now been clearly etched out on the ground. The PML-N and the PPP are quite clearly at odds and this time round reconciliation seems harder. The PML-N is demanding action against Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza, for his harsh comments directed against the party. There is as yet no sign that Mirza will be called to heel. The PML-N has meanwhile said it will not work with the PML-Q, even as charges of horse-trading – so familiar in times of political conflict – come in from Awan. There are indications the 47-member PML-Q breakaway group may become a key player in events as they continue to unfold.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

ECONOMIC MANAGEMENT: PROMISES VS PERFORMANCE

DR MUHAMMAD YAQUB

 

The website of the Federal Ministry of Finance states that its "mission is to pursue sound and equitable economic policies that put Pakistan on the path of sustained economic development and macroeconomic stability with a view to continuously and significantly improving the quality of life of all citizens through prudent and transparent public financial management carried out by dedicated professionals".


It is worthwhile to review the ground realities to determine whether or not the government is any closer to achieving the economic objectives of sustained economic development, macroeconomic stability and improvement in the quality of life of the people, or at least is seriously pursuing prudent and transparent public financial management policies that it promises to adopt to achieve those objectives.


During the last three years, real GDP increased at an annual average rate of three per cent whereas commodity producing sectors recorded even a lower annual growth rate of only 1.9 per cent in the same period. Poor performance of the commodity producing sectors would have led to shortage in supply of strategic commodities and a rise in their prices even if prudent demand management policies were pursued. But the emerging supply shortages were persistently reinforced by excessive aggregate demand. Money supply increased by an annual average rate of about 13 per cent during the same period mainly due to an annual increase of about 40 per cent in government borrowing from the banking system. As a result, during this period, Sensitive Price Index went up by an annual average rate of 17 per cent, Whole Sale Price Index by 16 per cent, and Consumer Price Index by 15 per cent. Obviously, instead of realising sustained economic development and macroeconomic stability, as promised in the above statement of the government, the country suffered from low growth and macroeconomic instability during this period.


The third objective of achieving a continuous and significant improvement in the quality of life of all citizens remained an unfulfilled dream. Not only has there been no steady and significant improvement in the quality of life of the majority of the population, there are indicators that in fact show deterioration. According to the latest UN report, Pakistan ranks 125 out of 169 countries in UN human development index, placing it just above Congo. About 31 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, and more than 60 per cent live on less than two dollars a day. 75 per cent of the population does not have access to safe drinking water. One in ten children dies before the age of five, and 38 per cent of the children are malnourished. The primary school enrolment rate is the lowest among the South Asian countries. One third of the children who do get enrolled in primary schools drop out by Grade 2.


Recently, more people have fallen below the poverty line, there has been recurring shortage of essential goods of daily use, gas and electricity load shedding is a daily phenomenon, rising costs of electricity, petroleum products, gas and other items of daily use have caused economic hardship to a large segment of the population, there are increasing incidences of suicide due to economic hardship, children are put on sale by parents unable to feed them , and frustration is finding its way in increasing theft, robbery, kidnapping and general breakdown of law and order. The law abiding citizens feel increasingly more insecure, and there is widespread exploitation of the poor majority by the rich and powerful minority. The writ of the government is being challenged and laws are not applied universally. In short, all indicators show that the quality of life has been deteriorating rather than improving for the majority of citizens of Pakistan. It is obvious that the government has failed to achieve its third economic objective of improvement in the quality of life of the majority of the people as well.

But let us see whether or not the outcome reflects the impact of unsound economic management. Looking at the situation from the policy side, it is clear that imprudent and inequitable management of the public finances is mainly responsible for low growth, high inflation and poor economic and social conditions of the majority of the people. On the taxation side, the tax to GDP ratio has gradually declined to about nine per cent in Pakistan, which is the lowest in the world. If the underground economy that is not captured in the national account statistics, and is reported to be around 55 per cent of the recorded economy, is taken into account the tax to GDP ratio would fall to 6-7 per cent of recorded and unrecorded GDP. The bulk of the tax revenue is collected through indirect taxes which fall heavily on the poor and leads to increase in prices and income inequality. Direct taxes constitute only about one third of total tax revenue. Moreover, direct taxes are collected only from a small segment of the population consisting of salaried class and those engaged in the corporate sector. The landlords, professional groups, service sector and people operating in the underground economy mostly escape direct tax payments. Narrow tax base, inefficiency in tax collection and corruption make direct taxes very regressive in effect. Such a taxation policy is anything but sound, prudent or equitable and could not help promote social and economic objectives set by the government.


On the spending side, defence and debt servicing expenditures consume almost all the government revenue. Given the low tax-GDP ratio, expenditure squeeze has been applied in those areas that adversely affect the lives of the poor. As a result, expenditure on health, education, social services and development as a percentage of total expenditure and of GDP has remained way below the levels prevailing in other developing countries or those recommended by UNO. According to UNICEF, expenditure on education is about two per cent of the total federal government expenditure in Pakistan as compared to 17 per cent in Bangladesh, 10 per cent in Sri Lanka and four per cent in India.


Expenditure on health is one per cent of the total federal government expenditure in Pakistan, as compared to seven per cent in Bangladesh, six per cent in Sri Lanka and two per cent in India. Additionally, total spending on development as a percentage of total government expenditure has been on the decline. Development expenditure as a percentage of total provincial and federal government expenditure declined from 26 per cent in 2007-2008 to 21 per cent in 2009-2010. Moreover, whatever is spent on development is financed by internal and external borrowing. In 2009-2010, total federal government expenditure was about 17 per cent of GDP, whereas total federal government revenue receipts were about nine per cent of GDP leaving a gap of about eight per cent of GDP that was filled through internal and external borrowing. Internal borrowing, mostly from the banking system, is by nature inflationary and leads to increase in prices which hurt the poor most. External borrowing in reality is a deferred tax to be paid with interest by the next generation. Such a pattern of expenditure distribution in public financial management cannot be considered sound, prudent or equitable and it could not help achieve the objectives of sustained economic development, macroeconomic stability and improvement in the quality of life of people.


There is thus an inherent contradiction between the stated economic objectives and the current financial and economic management that could help achieve them. The ground reality is that the country is on a wrong path in terms of economic trends and economic policies. In the interest of consistency, the government is well advised to either change the course of its policies or revise its stated objectives. The public also should be aware that there is no evidence that lofty promises made by the government are meant to be fulfilled and accordingly they need to manage their own expectations realistically, and exercise proper choices in the election of their leaders when given an opportunity.


The writer is a former governor of State Bank

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

THE DO-NOTHING BRIGADE

 AMEER BHUTTO

 

There is no sign of the revolutionary fervour in Egypt letting up, even though the ruling army council has thus far acted in accordance with public demands. The victorious people are pressing home their advantage as they continue to flood Tahrir Square in Cairo with a sea of humanity, to 'protect the revolution and its demands'. Crumbling dictators in Libya and Bahrain have panicked and ordered the security forces to open fire on the crowds, resulting in hundreds of deaths, but the protests continue.


The people of Algeria, Yemen and Jordan are also out in the streets demanding social justice and democratic reform. Political tectonic plates are shifting all over the Middle East. Whether these mass movements encounter any degree of success in the immediate future or not, these nations will emerge from the chrysalis of new found public awareness and activism far stronger, more vibrant and more dynamic than before.


It is their good fortune that many of these movements are leaderless, with the public seizing initiative on their own. They have shown that it is the people, not leaders, who bring about revolutions. Leaders can preach revolution till they go blue in the face, but if the people are not ready, their efforts will go in vain. On the other hand, if the people are ready for change, they don't need leaders to achieve it.


That is what makes the silence of the people of Pakistan quite unfathomable: how can they not be ready for change even now when people are committing suicides daily and parents are selling, even slaughtering, their own children, being unable to provide for them? How much worse do things have to get to ignite a spark in us? How much further must we fall? How long will we continue to sell out for a measly watan card?


The most noticeable difference between us and the mobilised Arab nations is that we have leaders. Too many of them, most of them enjoying the fruits of mufahimat. These leaders and some of the intelligentsia have become an obstacle to requisite change. Their message to the nation is simply this: do nothing! No matter how bad things get, do nothing. If corruption, incompetence and the low calibre of those in power are destroying the country, it doesn't matter, do nothing.


If public and national interests are being sold to foreign masters for the sake of power, do nothing. If national institutions and pillars of state are crumbling before our eyes because of the malevolent manipulation of rulers, do nothing. Their prescription for the future of Pakistan is the exact opposite of that adopted by the leaderless masses in the mobilised Arab nations, because their own interests are linked with the status quo. It is a prescription that will sink this country.


Instead of playing a positive role in awakening the masses, the do-nothing brigade go out of their way to silence dissent and throw water over the burning embers of public discontent and resentment from which revolutions are born. Not only is political activism anathema to them, but any expression of anxiety and frustration also rubs their sensitivities the wrong way. If PIA employees strike against the systematic dismantling of the national airline by government appointed henchmen, they are called saboteurs and are manhandled by government hooligans. If the railway staff protests against non-payment of wages, they are called vigilantes. If civil society demands better governance and an end to corruption, lawlessness, poverty and unemployment, they are labeled 'the chattering classes'.


Even public outrage over murder in broad daylight at the hands of a rogue foreign adventurer is referred to as 'ultra-patriotism'. People are on the brink of panic in Sindh because, though new residential lodges costing three billion rupees have been sanctioned in Islamabad for members of parliament, even six months after the floods the three to four kilometre long breach in the Thori Bund near Guddu that drowned most of Sindh on the right bank last summer, has yet to be plugged.


If meteorological forecasts are accurate and there is a similar or less devastating flood expected this summer the river will once again flow, this time totally unimpeded, into the already devastated area, causing far greater destruction than last year. The do-nothing brigade would, no doubt, advise such people to stop whining and buy inflatable rafts! In short, it is not enough for the do-nothing brigade that people continue to suffer in this mess without hope for change, they would rather that they do so in silence.


If even the murder of our citizens by a highly suspect foreign national and the consequently emerging question of national sovereignty should not inflame national passions, then what should? Such passions are justified in light of the trust deficit this dispensation labours under. What has it done thus far to inspire confidence?

Everything, from its initial refusal to restore the judges to imposition of governor's rule in Punjab, tacitly condoning drone attacks (according to Wikileaks), appointing corrupt and tainted persons to head national institutions and allowing foreign adventurers like Raymond Davis to roam our streets and kill our citizens at will, has only raised further doubts and suspicions about its competence and intentions.


Furthermore, it has, time and again, proven to be too weak to withstand pressure from even its own allies in power. How can it be counted upon to stand up to the United States of America? Revelations made by the Punjab Chief Minister that Rehman Malik tried to talk him into conceding diplomatic immunity for Raymond Davis and Shah Mehmood Qureshi's disclosures, for which the do-nothing brigade have accused him of trying to emulate Zulfikar Ali Bhutto instead of considering the merits of his statements, have further exacerbated such apprehensions.

In any case, if we are guilty of over-reaction, so are the Americans. They have been desperate to free Davis from prison from day one. Even President Barak Obama himself has publicly pleaded Davis' case and Senator John Kerry was sent all the way across the globe for this purpose. All this, just to free a murderer? Not likely. There is more to this than either side is letting on.


Prime Minister Gilani has suggested payment of blood money to settle the issue. When waderas, khans or choudharies thus settle murder cases in jirgas, they are vilified as blood thirsty barbarians. But the same is kosher to appease America and continue in power?


Just because Senator Kerry left Islamabad without securing Davis' release does not mean that the matter is settled. The Lahore High Court has pointed out that the Davis immunity case cannot be decided without clarification about his status from the Foreign Office and the Foreign Office has asked for more time to submit its response. But if the Foreign Office was already clear that Davis did not enjoy blanket immunity, as Shah Mehmood Qureshi claims, then why has it now asked the Lahore High Court for another three weeks time to submit a response? Do they want to buy time to allow public passions to cool down before springing a surprise on the nation?


And if Qureshi had conveyed the Foreign Office view to his leaders, then why have they remained ambivalent and silent on Davis' status for so long, choosing to lob the matter into court, like they lobbed the Benazir Bhutto murder inquiry into the United Nation's hands like a hot potato? How can such clandestine conduct on the part of the government not raise public apprehensions and anger?


The legal drama has only just begun to unfold and until it is finally resolved, the people have every right to be concerned, even if it irritates the do-nothing brigade.

 

The writer is vice-chairman of the Sindh National Front and a former MPA from Ratodero. He has degrees from the University of Buckingham and Cambridge University.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

TRIBESMEN ALONE

AYAZ WAZIR

 

Possessing rich but untapped mineral wealth and having a 450-km-long border with Afghanistan, this strategically located area of Pakistan is still the most backward part of the country. With a population of over 10 million people it is undergoing the worst experience in its history. Economically neglected for centuries, with 90 per cent of its population living below poverty line, Fata is, once again, in the eye of the storm.


Having closely witnessed the moves of the two superpowers in the Great Game in its vicinity, the area remained peaceful. Even the Soviet invasion of bordering Afghanistan and the subsequent American occupation of that country did not disturb its peace and tranquillity. It was only in December 2003 when, at the behest of others, we decided to deploy troops in the tribal areas that peace was shattered and Fata set ablaze. Since then the area is in flames and peace became a dream of yesteryear.


There is no doubt that the main reason of the unrest in Fata is the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan. But why has this kind of unrest affected only the tribal areas and not, say, Chitral and Balochistan, despite the fact that the latter has an even longer border with Afghanistan? The reason is obvious; Fata is governed through the infamous FCR (Frontier Crimes Regulations), whereas other areas in Pakistan are governed by the normal law of the land. The FCR puts a lot of restrictions on people and keeps Fata totally isolated from the outside world, whereas in the other areas people are free to interact with their fellow citizens for the safeguard of their collective interests. Fata is deprived of that privilege.


The people of Fata have no desire to continue being governed through the draconian laws of the FCR and thereby remain backward. It is because of the government functionaries who, wanting to rule Fata with impunity, recommend the continuation of this rotten system.


While we blame the people of Fata for providing shelter to the militants we forget to look into the role played by the system of the Political Agent. It kept the area backward, and over a period of time, turned it into a fertile ground for militants to operate from. Had they done their homework as their erstwhile colonial masters had done, they would have turned the area into an economic hub for the country. Even the provision of basic facilities to Fata's residents would have been a big deterrence against the rise of militancy in that area.


As usual, our rulers did not learn any lessons from the past. They turned a blind eye to the rise of militancy in the area. This situation was fully exploited by militants and intelligence agencies of countries interested in the destabilisation of Pakistan. They found fertile ground in Fata to work in. The army reacted by launching operations, but very late in the day. By then the cancer has spread. It affected the whole body of the tribal areas and Fata soon became the epicentre of militancy.

 

The people of Fata are tired. After having rendered many sacrifices for Pakistan, right from the 1947 fighting for the liberation of Kashmir, they have IDPs in their own country. What have they received in return? They want change. They want education for their children and more accessible health facilities, but nobody listens.

The only change in Fata since the creation of the country has been the introduction of adult franchise in 1997, but without political parties being permitted. I believe this is the only place on the planet where adult franchise is allowed but political parties are banned. Elections without political parties never bring any change, of which Fata is a living example. Persons elected without a political platform or party manifesto do not feel responsible to anybody. They are not obliged to work under any parameters or rules. They are there only to explore every avenue to line their own pockets and derive the maximum benefits for themselves and their families. That is why Fata today suffers even more at the hands of elected representatives.


In a recent TV talk show, parliamentarians from Fata were confronted with the fact that they did nothing for the development of their areas. They blamed "those who matter," including the president and prime minister, for Fata's underdevelopment. It was a carefully planned policy, they said, to keep the tribal areas backward. While they blamed the president and the prime minister, they were reluctance to name the "forces" that were responsible for Fata being kept underdeveloped.


They had no convincing argument in answer to the question that while other parties (the JUI, the MQM, the Muslim League-N and the ANP) did get their demands accepted by the government as a quid pro quo for supporting the ruling party on any important issue, why were Fata members' demands for the development of the tribal areas not fulfilled? And yet they kept on supporting the government and voting for it on critical issues?

After eight years of military operations in Fata, peace still remains elusive. No one's life, property and honour is safe. Anything can happen to anyone at any time. The people there have hardly anything left to them. They have lost everything. They are tired of this situation. They want peace. They want facilities that are available to other citizens of the country. The tribal people – parliamentarians, intellectuals, retired and working civil and military government servants, the business community there, members of civil society and students – all want a change. They want to have a separate province where they can look after themselves like their brothers in other provinces of the country.


They want this change because people ruling them from outside Fata have completely failed to develop the area, and will not make that effort in the next 100 years. The people of Fata have no more patience, and are tired of the false promises of the government. It is not worth reminding the prime minister and the president of their promises to make changes in the FCR and to extend a political and economic reform package to Fata.


Islamabad and Rawalpindi have failed in resolving the problem of the people of Fata. The civilian leaders in Islamabad seem to be scared of visiting the area to interact with people so that the right solution can be worked out. Meanwhile, Rawalpindi is bent upon finding a solution only through the barrel of the gun. Neither attitude will ever lead to a solution of this protracted problem. It is high time that they listened to the people of Fata and gave them their due rights, to enable them to solve their problems themselves. This is the only option which will eventually lead to success and restore peace in the area.


The writer is a former ambassador, who hails from Fata. Email: waziruk@ hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

GIVE PEACE A CHANCE

RIZWAN ASGHAR

 

According to conventional wisdom, the warp and woof of human history is the succession of conflicts. Cleavages and consensus are simultaneously present in all societies at all times. Though civilised men have condemned conflict throughout the ages, we have not been able to avoid them.


The Pak-India bilateral dialogue with the purpose of resolving contentious issues and paving the way for enduring peace has largely been undermined by a lack of sincerity on the part of both parties. Of late, the leaders of both countries have agreed to 'resume dialogue on all issues' following the foreign secretaries' meeting in Thimphu on February 6. The leadership on either side has reiterated its commitment to remain engaged in a sustained dialogue process to bring lasting peace between the two countries.


The announcement of the resumption of dialogue, stalled since the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008, has provided a rare opportunity to both countries to approach the parleys with a new spirit and constructive mind. The meeting in Thimphu has come six months after talks between External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi ended in acrimony in Islamabad.


The dialogue would address all issues that were part of the earlier composite dialogue process including humanitarian matters, security concerns, the Kashmir issue and all other associated matters. To seek a more broad-ranging engagement and boost the peace process, India and Pakistan will have to resolve all bilateral issues which have harmed relations for decades. The political leadership should also play its role in bringing to an end covert violence sponsored by intelligence agencies within each other's countries.


Some analysts say that talks will be fruitless because the Indian leadership has always used dialogue to show the world that it is sincere in resolving all outstanding disputes with Pakistan. They think that like previous rounds of talks, the present endeavour will be futile because the Indian government would just use 'peace dialogue' to gather moral support in its bid to seek a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.


But there is no other option. Negotiations are the only way to resolve disputes between the two countries that have long remained embroiled in a confrontational engagement.


Talks should be sustained by making them 'uninterrupted and uninterruptible', in the words of Mani Shankar Iyer, which necessitates denying terrorists the satisfaction of disrupting the peace process. In addition, the dialing-down of tensions with India will help Pakistan to concentrate on combating Taliban extremists within its borders. Any improvement of relations between the two countries must begin and end with eliminating all intervening factors that make these two nations inimical. We have to move on and look to the future.


India and Pakistan were born out of the bloody partition of the subcontinent at the time of independence from Britain in 1947. Since then, both countries have tried everything including three wars and mobilisation of troops to resolve problems but have failed. So it is time to give peace a chance.


The two countries share language, culture, food, geography, and history with each other. But bickering over Kashmir has poisoned their ties. The people of both countries don't want to live as adversaries forever. They want to have friendly and good relations with each other. A nuclear war between Pakistan and India would kill over a billion people and no one will emerge a winner. It is the job of our leaders to take their people out of darkness and find political solutions to all knotty political problems.

It is hoped that a rekindled peace process, that is set to resume after a gap of over two years, could fix relations between India and Pakistan, enabling both countries to turn from the path of conflagration to the path of cooperation.
Email:
rizwanasghar7@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

ASYLUM-SEEKING REBELS

RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI THE WRITER IS RESIDENT EDITOR OF THE NEWS IN PESHAWAR.

 

The decision by Bramdagh Bugti, the grandson of the late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, to seek political asylum in Switzerland is a significant development, considering the fact that he was among the leading guerrilla commanders of the low-level insurgency in Balochistan. His departure could have a demoralising effect on his fighters. But on the other hand, his presence in a Western country would enable him to highlight his cause internationally.

Bramdagh, stated to be 29 years old, had been trying for some years to move to the West. In an interview he had argued that he saw nothing wrong in escaping to another country to plead the cause of the Baloch people abroad. Though he and his supporters have been insisting that he was present in Balochistan since the August 2006 assassination of Akbar Bugti in a military action and had not moved to Afghanistan, no evidence was made available to prove this claim. Instead, there was growing evidence that he was in Afghanistan where President Hamid Karzai's government hosted him and many other Pakistani Baloch separatists mostly belonging to the Bugti and Marri tribes.


Quoting US embassy cables, Wikileaks threw some light on Bramdagh's presence in Afghanistan. According to the cables, Karzai finally admitted to a senior UN official in February 2009 that Bramdagh was in Kabul. Until then Afghan officials had been denying that Afghanistan was sheltering him. The admission came after the kidnapping in Quetta of senior UN official John Solecki, an American, and in the wake of allegations by Pakistani authorities that Bramdagh Bugti was involved in it.


Karzai defended Bramdagh and expressed doubt about his involvement in the kidnapping. But US officials on the occasion complained that Karzai was blocking their attempts to contact Bramdagh to discuss Solecki's kidnapping. Solecki was later freed, but the incident established that Bramdagh was hiding in Afghanistan.

Again, thanks to Wikileaks, it was revealed that in January 2007 Karzai told US assistant secretary of state Richard Boucher that more than 200 Bugtis had fled to Afghanistan from Pakistan and were frightened to seek asylum with the UN, despite his advice. He was also quoted as saying that Bramdagh was not a terrorist because "fomenting an uprising does not make one a terrorist." Describing the issue as too sensitive, he requested during the meeting with Boucher that note-taking be stopped.


That the Pakistani government had been convinced all along that Bramdagh was hiding in Afghanistan became evident because of Wikileaks. President Asif Ali Zardari was quoted as saying in January 2009 that he would ask Karzai to keep Bramdagh in Afghanistan pending his government's move to draft legislation aimed at granting greater autonomy to Balochistan and removing Baloch grievances. Military officials and Interior Minister Rahman Malik had also repeatedly alleged that Bramdagh was in Afghanistan.


It wasn't the first time that the Afghan government was hosting and protecting Pakistani political dissidents and rebels. Apart from Pakhtun and Baloch politicians from Pakistan such as Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Ajmal Khattak, Afrasiab Khattak, Azam Hoti, Juma Khan Sufi, Nadir Khan Zakhakhel, Mahmood Khan Achakzai and his relation Ayub Khan Achakzai, Shahzada Abdul Karim, Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, Sher Mohammad Marri, Mir Hazar Bijarani and two brothers of Sardar Attaullah Mengal, others to receive refuge and welcome refuge in Afghanistan included Murtaza Bhutto and his brother Shahnawaz and many Sindhis and Punjabis. In a tit-for-tat reaction, Pakistan gave refuge to Afghan dissidents and rebels ranging from the Mujahideen to the Taliban. In fact, both countries continue to practice the same policy despite promising non-interference in each other's affairs.


Bramdagh could not have travelled to Switzerland without a passport. It isn't known who issued him the travel document. Obviously, he would have flown to Switzerland with the consent of the Swiss government. It is also possible that another Western country, possibly the US, or some UN and human rights organisation, facilitated his journey and stay in Switzerland.


Sher Mohammad Bugti, a spokesman for the Baloch Republication Party (BRP) headed by Bramdagh, has confirmed that his party chief had reached Switzerland and applied for political asylum. Presently he is staying away from the media and cannot travel outside Switzerland until he is granted asylum.


Before him, the Khan of Kalat Mir Suleman Dawood and Hyrbyair Marri, the son of Khair Bakhsh Marri, had to go through the same procedure while seeking political asylum in the United Kingdom. The latter even had to undergo imprisonment for a while. Both have now been granted political asylum and are busy campaigning for Balochistan's independence; from their homes in Cardiff, in the case of Suleman Dawood, and London, where Hyrbyair Marri is based. However, it is a matter of opinion how effective they are and now Bramdagh would be, sitting thousands of miles away from Balochistan and living in relative comfort while marshalling their distant fighters.


This isn't the first time that efforts were made to move Bramdagh to a safer place. According to media reports, there was once a US-backed move to move him from Afghanistan as it could have removed an irritant in the often uneasy Afghanistan-Pakistan relations. Ireland was mentioned as a likely destination. However, nothing was heard about such moves later.


There was also loud talk about exchanging Bramdagh Bugti with the Afghan Taliban's deputy leader, Mulla Abdul Ghani Biradar, following the latter's capture in Pakistan. This was unrealistic as the Afghan government had never publicly admitted that it was hosting Bramdagh. Besides, no Afghan government to-date has been willing to extradite any wanted person seeking refuge in Afghanistan. The Taliban regime sacrificed everything, including their rule and their lives, but refused to deliver Osama bin Laden to his enemies. The Pakistani government also was in no mood to deliver Mulla Biradar to Afghanistan, or to the US.


In Bramdagh's case, Pakistani authorities have been alleging that he carried an Indian passport. His supporters issued denials, although Bramdagh in his interviews has been arguing that the Baloch as an oppressed nation had every right to seek help from India and other countries, just like Pakistan was using American weapons to crush the Baloch people. Former prime minister Shaukat Aziz once alleged that Bramdagh had travelled to New Delhi on a fake Afghan passport. Gen Pervez Musharraf claimed in 2007 said he had ample proof of Indian and Afghan support for Bramdagh.


The Baloch nationalists are now clearly divided into rival camps. Most of them still want Balochistan to remain part of federal Pakistan and are hoping that Islamabad would make amends and give the Baloch their rights and enough incentives for them not to opt for independence. Some of them may have contacts with the insurgents, but they realise that an independent Balochistan in the prevailing international situation is unlikely to materialise.

Those seeking independence and fuelling the insurgency believe they have exhausted all options due to repeated military operations by the Pakistani establishment. However, it isn't easy to provide fighters and procure resources to continue the battle in Balochistan. Those still in the battlefield would surely be disheartened now that, one after the other, their leaders and commanders are escaping and seeking asylum in countries in the West, the Gulf and elsewhere.


The proverbial disunity in Baloch ranks is also visible among the insurgents. At least five armed separatist groups linked to Bramdagh, including the Baloch Republication Army (BRA), are presently operating in Balochistan. Tribal disputes, the rift between certain Baloch sardars and commoners and the class divide have also been reported in the ranks of the armed separatists. Akbar Bugti's death may have bridged some of the gaps as here was a top Sardar offering the supreme sacrifice of his life for the Baloch cause.


However, winning independence is surely a distant dream for the Baloch. It would be in the interest of both the proud Baloch people and the powers that be in Islamabad and Rawalpindi to stop shedding blood and find a way out to overcome the mistrust, and ensure that the Baloch are made masters of their resources with iron-clad guarantees for an autonomous Balochistan within the federation of Pakistan.


Email: rahimyusufzai@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

BACK TO WORK?

CARL FINAMORE

 

Exactly one week after the abrupt resignation of Egypt's President Mosni Mubarak shook the country and the world, another series of tremors occurred on Friday, February 18. In a clear signal that Egypt's revolution is not over, millions of newly energised and politically awakened people flooded Tahrir Square in Cairo and dozens of other plazas in cities, towns and villages throughout the country.


Scanning the scene of several hundred thousand people gathered in Tahrir, you truly felt the power and unity of a people who, for the first time in their lives, are realistically anticipating a "New Egypt."


I was in a hurry to get to Tahrir that morning but getting to Tahrir that morning was not easy. Everyone was searched at numerous military checkpoints. Documents were reviewed and passports checked. In my case, I was forbidden several times to enter with my camera. This was strange because many Egyptians already entering Tahrir had phone cameras.


It seemed to me the army was showing their lingering discomfort of foreign press coverage of mass rallies. But it was an impossible task for them under the circumstances. All the major world media had cameras mounted on balconies of buildings adjacent to the square.


I found another checkpoint and walked briskly around guards checking papers with a firm purpose in mind and not stopping to speak with anyone. I soon found myself, camera in hand, amidst hundreds of thousands of people.

The highly respected Iman Yousef el-Qaradawi was speaking at what was the start of the traditional Friday prayer meeting. The religious leader had just returned the previous day from political exile in Qatar. His last sermon in the country of his birth was in 1981.


Most significant, I learned that el-Qaradawi urged "patience with the military" and suggested "all return to their jobs so we can rebuild our country." This is the same political approach shared by the Muslim Brotherhood who are among the small circle of political leaders and groups thought to be currently in negotiations with the army about the timing and character of reforms.


Noticeably absent from these government negotiations are representatives of the newly formed independent unions leaders from the thousands of striking workers protesting all across Egypt.


This "back to work" theme reveals a serious political divide emerging in the original unity of the pro-democracy movement that began on January 25. But it's only inevitable that different political views are going to emerge in such a broad movement.


What about the top generals, all of them long-time cohorts of Mubarak? They have so far escaped this same infamy largely because they refused Mubarak's orders to launch a Tiananmen Square-type massacre in early February. Certainly the military command has shown itself far more politically astute than the stubborn and arrogant Mubarak, a man whose imperial detachment only fuelled the early days of the rebellion.


For example, when protestors refused to leave Tahrir Square last Sunday as commanded by the authorities, the army quickly made dramatic concessions by suspending the hated constitution, dissolving the discredited parliament, and lifting the ban on all political groupings.


Similarly, on the eve of today's huge Victory Rally, the army arrested three corrupt cabinet ministers, including the despised interior minister and one notoriously dishonest businessman. They also announced the whole cabinet would be removed, including vice president Omar Suleiman who has been missing in action for the past week.

However, in a press statement on the day of the rally, the army command also revealed its strategic goal to divide the people's movement. In a statement praising the Victory Rally, the army at the same time condemned "illegal demonstrations and strikes" that they claim jeopardize Egypt's future.


Courtesy: counterpunch.org

Email: local1781@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

BACK TO WORK?

CARL FINAMORE

 

Exactly one week after the abrupt resignation of Egypt's President Mosni Mubarak shook the country and the world, another series of tremors occurred on Friday, February 18. In a clear signal that Egypt's revolution is not over, millions of newly energised and politically awakened people flooded Tahrir Square in Cairo and dozens of other plazas in cities, towns and villages throughout the country.


Scanning the scene of several hundred thousand people gathered in Tahrir, you truly felt the power and unity of a people who, for the first time in their lives, are realistically anticipating a "New Egypt."


I was in a hurry to get to Tahrir that morning but getting to Tahrir that morning was not easy. Everyone was searched at numerous military checkpoints. Documents were reviewed and passports checked. In my case, I was forbidden several times to enter with my camera. This was strange because many Egyptians already entering Tahrir had phone cameras.


It seemed to me the army was showing their lingering discomfort of foreign press coverage of mass rallies. But it was an impossible task for them under the circumstances. All the major world media had cameras mounted on balconies of buildings adjacent to the square.


I found another checkpoint and walked briskly around guards checking papers with a firm purpose in mind and not stopping to speak with anyone. I soon found myself, camera in hand, amidst hundreds of thousands of people.

The highly respected Iman Yousef el-Qaradawi was speaking at what was the start of the traditional Friday prayer meeting. The religious leader had just returned the previous day from political exile in Qatar. His last sermon in the country of his birth was in 1981.


Most significant, I learned that el-Qaradawi urged "patience with the military" and suggested "all return to their jobs so we can rebuild our country." This is the same political approach shared by the Muslim Brotherhood who are among the small circle of political leaders and groups thought to be currently in negotiations with the army about the timing and character of reforms.


Noticeably absent from these government negotiations are representatives of the newly formed independent unions leaders from the thousands of striking workers protesting all across Egypt.


This "back to work" theme reveals a serious political divide emerging in the original unity of the pro-democracy movement that began on January 25. But it's only inevitable that different political views are going to emerge in such a broad movement.


What about the top generals, all of them long-time cohorts of Mubarak? They have so far escaped this same infamy largely because they refused Mubarak's orders to launch a Tiananmen Square-type massacre in early February. Certainly the military command has shown itself far more politically astute than the stubborn and arrogant Mubarak, a man whose imperial detachment only fuelled the early days of the rebellion.


For example, when protestors refused to leave Tahrir Square last Sunday as commanded by the authorities, the army quickly made dramatic concessions by suspending the hated constitution, dissolving the discredited parliament, and lifting the ban on all political groupings.


Similarly, on the eve of today's huge Victory Rally, the army arrested three corrupt cabinet ministers, including the despised interior minister and one notoriously dishonest businessman. They also announced the whole cabinet would be removed, including vice president Omar Suleiman who has been missing in action for the past week.

However, in a press statement on the day of the rally, the army command also revealed its strategic goal to divide the people's movement. In a statement praising the Victory Rally, the army at the same time condemned "illegal demonstrations and strikes" that they claim jeopardize Egypt's future.


Courtesy: counterpunch.org

Email: local1781@yahoo.com

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

NO PARALLEL BETWEEN ARAB, PAKISTAN BUT…

 

A WIND of change is sweeping across African-Arab countries and after departure of Hosni Mubarak from the Egyptian scene, there are indications that next to fall in line could be President Moammar Qaddafi of Libya where protests are gaining strength and anything can happen any time despite claims by the son of the President that his father would fight back till death. The emerging situation could have deeper impact and consequences for other countries of the region and in this respect the next few months can be crucial.


In this perspective some people in Pakistan have also started expressing fears that the country could also be hit by this powerful avalanche of change while others have described it as a far-fetched idea. In our view, it was not fair to draw a parallel between the situation in some of African-Arab countries and Pakistan where ground realities are quite different. There is autocratic rule in several countries affected by the prevailing crisis and that is why people are yearning for a change to have a say in running the affairs of the State. People have also been deprived of civil liberties which are being enjoyed by their fellow beings elsewhere in the world and hence the sense of deprivation. But in Pakistan, we have a democratic government in place and people are free to raise their voices and powerful media and independent judiciary are keeping a check on performance of the rulers. Different institutions of State are playing their part well and on the whole things are moving in the right direction despite heavy odds. However, one must remember that people of Pakistan too have their aspirations and sensitivities and they are not quite satisfied with what is happening in the realm of governance. There is an atmosphere of frustration and dismay because of large-scale stinking corruption, nepotism, favourtism, price hike, growing unemployment, lack of equal opportunities, and different national institutions are crumbling down because of neglect and loot and plunder. There is also widely held belief that American octopus has overwhelmed each and every aspect of our life and sovereignty of the country is being compromised in the face of unprecedented foreign interference in the internal affairs. Under these circumstances, one should not take the situation for granted as something ominous could also happen in Pakistan because of the reasons that differ from the Arab world and are more serious and frightening.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

LET THERE BE MORE THAN ONE PROVINCE

 

ONCE again the issue of new provinces has cropped up with different lobbies demanding creation of this or that province out of the existing ones. But unfortunately, the tone and tenor of such demands and proposals indicate that the motives of those behind such ideas are petty political consideration and parochial thinking which could, instead of resolving issues, complicate them further.


Days after Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Faisal Karim Kundi at a function in Islamabad made demand for creation of a Saraiki province, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has also hinted that one or more provinces could be created out of the Punjab if people so wanted. It is understood that the PM was speaking in terms of Bahawalpur and Saraiki provinces to sound pleasing to his constituency in the region. If that was not the case then he should have also referred to the aspirations of people of Hazara who are waging a struggle for a new province besides demands of people of Karachi and Balochistan for creation of more provinces to make them manageable. We believe that the issue should not be politicized and if there was a genuine need for creation of more provinces then a national commission with representation from all the political parties, interested groups and experts should be formed to study the issue in depth and make clear recommendations after going through pros and cons of each case. There is no harm in having more provinces if they have small but task oriented Cabinets and efficient administrative set-up to manage them in a better manner. It will be in line with the spirit of the 18th Constitutional Amendment under which a number of ministries, divisions and departments are being devolved to the provinces to do away with the centralization.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

POWER OF THE WIND POWER PLANTS

 

SINDH Government plans to establish a 150 MW of wind power plant in Thatta district in collaboration with USAID. For this purpose five locations in Jhimpir and Jatti talukas have been identified by the experts in wind power energy and the officials say positive developments in this regard are expected in the coming weeks.

Pakistan is facing acute shortage of energy and different sources are being considered including wind, hydel and coal energy to overcome the crisis. Wind power is cost effective, renewable and pollution free source of energy. With increase in oil and natural gas prices reliance on fossil fuels has become risky and although nuclear power is a viable source of energy, Pakistan is facing difficulties in acquiring this technology. In this situation Pakistan needs to find alternative sources of energy and wind, solar and coal resources could be exploited to meet the long-term needs of the country. Though there had been much talk of exploitation of wind energy yet as per our culture we start a project and then leave it in the cold storage for different reasons. Prime Minister Gilani inaugurated Pakistan's first Wind Power Plant in Jhimpir near Thatta installed with the cooperation of Turkey with total cost of $ 100 million. It was initially to generate 6 MW of electricity which was later to be increased to 50 MW. A study carried out by Pakistan Meteorological Department indicates that an area of 97000 square kilometres in Southern Sindh is suitable for installation of Wind Power Plants of 43000 MW capacity. We need to learn from other countries which are concentrating on alternative sources of energy and meet our energy needs with Wind Power Plants. There has been a sharp increase in the global installed capacity of Wind Power Plants in recent years. During the last two years the average annual increase in its installed capacity has been of the order of 27%. The United States and China presently head the list of nations with the largest installed capacity of Wind Power Plants. In Sindh places identified for establishment of Wind Power Plants include Jhimpir, Gharo, Keti Bandar and Bin Qasim and one hopes that the Government would take the lead in this sector along with acceleration of work on Thar coal project to meet the power shortfall as we are unable to develop hydel resources for political considerations.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

RISING POVERTY AND GOVERNANCE

SHAKEEL AHMAD

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "Everyone is entitled to the realization of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity. Everyone has the right to work. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services. Everyone has the right to education…." It is doubtful if a large majority of the luminaries that graced the former or the present Parliament and many of whom pay no taxes, have ever heard of the Declaration and the rights that it created. They would not appear to be conscious of the fact that it was their responsibility to legislate and provide the requisite opportunities for the people of Pakistan. The budgetary deficit arising from the inability of President Zardari's government to control lavish and frivolous expenditure or tax those outside the tax net, coupled with closure of industries and rising inflation is causing poverty to rise. The essence of poverty is the combination of lack of power and choice and lack of material resources. People living in poverty in both rural and urban areas are not only lacking in, material resources, but also in, freedom to decide and shape their own lives. Poverty deprives them of the opportunity to choose on matters of fundamental importance to themselves. Poor social and economic governance is the key underlying cause of poverty both in men and women. Poor governance has not only enhanced vulnerability, but is the prime cause of low business confidence, which in turn translates into lower investment levels and growth.


Governance problems have also resulted in inefficiency in provision of education and health services, which have serious implications for human development in the country. We have learnt to live with ghost schools, ghost teachers, ghost basic health services and much else that represents the inability of the government of Mr. Zardari to accept the challenge and stem the rot. The existence of pervasive poverty in Pakistan, wherein a significant proportion of the population remains poor over a long period of time is strongly linked with the structure of society and the effects of poor governance have served to reinforce the adverse impact of structural factors. Cultivated land is highly unequally distributed. About 48 percent of the farms are smaller than 2 hectares, accounting for only 11 percent of the total cultivated area.


Access to land, which is the basic factor of production, is crucial to reduce poverty in rural areas. Pervasive inequality in land ownership intensifies the degree of vulnerability of the poorest sections of rural society, because the effects of an unequal land distribution are not limited to control over assets. There are many different manifestations of poverty, hunger, poor health, premature death, ignorance, discrimination and insecurity, denial of dignity and social status. When impact on gender equity is considered, income is only a part of the equation. First of all, women's aim is seldom limited to increasing income. In addition, other changes, such as enhancing women's visibility and enabling them to voice their concerns, may be a key means to achieve long-term impact on efforts for raising women's status and improving gender equity. The impact of Microfinance alone on women's status and gender equity is limited. Most women borrowers have only partial control over loans, or have relinquished all control to male members of the family. This has serious implications for the impact of gender equity. With the over-throw of a popularly elected government in late 1999 and the unlawful take over of the country by the army, the manner in which power was being exercised in the management of country's social and economic resources for development emerged as Pakistan's foremost developmental problem. Corruption and political instabilities arising from our commando President Gen Musharraf's decision to join the war on terror and act as a front line state for the Americans, resulted in devastation of business confidence, deterioration of economic growth, reduced public expenditure, poor delivery of public services, and undermining of the rule of law. The perceived security threat on the border with India has dominated Pakistan's culture and has led to the domination of military in politics, excessive spending on defense at the expense of education and health and the erosion of law and order. Perhaps Nawab Akbar Bugti could have been left alone. In the event, a very heavy price is being paid for his elimination.


The onset of military regimes have contributed to non-transparency in resource allocation. In particular, the neglect by the Pakistani state of Balochistan and the Tribal Areas has rendered the region poverty-stricken. The people who participate in elections do not constitute the political elite and are unable to make political leaders and the Government responsive to their needs or accountable for promises. It does not appear odd to the Government of President Zardari that all members of the Provincial Assembly in Balochistan save one are either Ministers or hold other important positions with the requisite perks of office without doing any work for the benefit of those who voted for them. Development priorities in the Public Sector Development Program whether Federal or Provincial are determined not by potential beneficiaries but by the bureaucracy and a political elite which is concerned with its own constituency only. The Government of President Zardari goes on reiterating that it would complete its full term of office. There may be no need or occasion for this reiteration. Such periodic announcements are liable to create political instability and macroeconomic imbalances that are reflected in poor creditworthiness ratings, even compared to other countries of similar income levels. The flight of capital that has taken place during the last three years and lack of investment by Pakistani investors has aggravated the unemployment situation. More people are being pushed below the poverty line with each passing day.

—The writer is a member of the former Civil Service of Pakistan.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

WHY DAVIS KILLED PAK CITIZENS?

LT COL ZAHEERUL HASSAN (R)

 

On January 29, I along with my family while going to my house passed through the Jail Road and viewed the seen of the unpleasant event. In that incident on January 27, 2011 an American undercover secret agent Raymond A Davis killed two young boys just in front of famous "Bhatti Tikka Shop". The site was marked with the nylon rope and the bloodshed of killed citizens over road was visible from a distance as well. Out of these murdered persons, two were killed by Raymond who allegedly shot eight times with pinpoint accuracy through his car windshield and third one totally innocent young boy was crushed by another American vehicle which came for the rescue of the killer. Davis and others Americans fled the vehicles away from the seen of the crime but thanks to Almighty Allah Who created a defect in a private car of the unknown lady just in front of Davis' car, and forced him to stop. At that moment chasing police party successful captured Raymond Davis before he would has entered into the consulate. But the vehicle which crushed Obaidur Rehman escaped itself and went to US consulate. Despite repeated requests of Punjab government, US consulate has not produced the driver along with the vehicle to the police. Reportedly, the driver and occupants of this vehicle have been secretly transported to Afghanistan by road and later on from there were flown to US.


The investigating Agency (Punjab Police) failed to completely open the trained CIA agent Davis. However, the police recovered from him private pistol, few bullets, camera, cell phones, highly sophisticated wireless set and dollars. The screening of camera revealed that Davis has carried out the photography of Pakistani bunkers situated on Eastern border, fort located at Waris Road (ex location of an Army Unit), sensitive buildings and locations. The calls records of his mobile phones indicate that Davis was in connection with different Taliban groups (working in the interest of India and US). According to "The European Union Times Report" Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) revealed that top secret CIA documents found in Davis's possession point his connection with al-Qaeda terrorists and use to provide them "nuclear fissile material" and "biological agents" which could be used against the United States itself in order to ignite an all-out war in order to reestablish the West's hegemony over a Global economy that is warned is just months away from collapse.

The report further disclosed the information about Davis while quoting the report of "Times of India" that includes: "According to records from the Pentagon, Davis is a former Special Forces soldier who left the army in August 2003 after 10 years of service. A Virginia native, he served with infantry divisions prior to joining the 3rd Special Forces Group in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In 1994, he was part of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Macedonia. The American Spy is in the habit of drug taking {"Charse filled cigarette & Niswar" (both these drugs are extensively being used by the male inhabitants of Afghanistan and tribal area of Pakistan)}

According to the officers of investigating agencies, neither US consulate nor Mr. Davis has cooperated n interrogation of the case. It is also mentionable here that Investigating Agency has openly negated Davis stance over killing of the two citizens in self-defense.


Washington's foreign office and US ambassador instead assisting local police for fair investigation started crying for immunity of a spy under the Vienna acts. The actual situation of the case of immunity is, Mr. Davis' name has not been included in that list which was provided by the US consulate to Interior Ministry for getting diplomatic facilities on January 23, 2011. His name has been included in that list which was dispatched to Interior Ministry of Pakistan on January 28, 2011 (after the murder of Pakistani Citizens). Thus, Davis name was listed maliciously to prove him as diplomat. Mr. Obama, Hilleary Clinton & John Kerry also tried to built up pressure on government of Pakistan to release Mr. Davis on the plea that his status comes under the Vienna act which gives immunity to diplomats. Pakistan's former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had pressurized him to verify the diplomatic immunity to Raymond Davis arrested for gunning down two men in Lahore. "Hillary Clinton called me and wanted me to publicly confirm diplomatic immunity of Davis. However, I refused to do so because it was against the factual position in the case," Qureshi was quoted as saying by Dunya News Saturday night. In this regard government of Pakistan straight away refused to provide him the immunity and stated that matter would be decided by the court.

Anyhow, the above revealed facts forced Pakistani authorities to dig out the truth since now it's not the matter of two simple murders in self defence. In fact it is matter of Pakistan's national security, integrity, respect, survival and sovereignty. To reach the conclusion, the investigating agencies have to find out the answers of significant questions which are frustrating everyone's mind. The questions could be, (one) why Mr. Davis was roaming in Lahore with a loaded pistol and carried out photography of important sensitive places, (two) is murder of the two young citizens result of some secret operation "agent burning of", (three) was Davis on some covert mission and thought that he had been compromised due to continuous chase by some local intelligence people, thus decided to get rid of them ,(four) was he working as a duel agent of RAW & Mossad apart from his parent organization CIA, (five) has he been given the mission of sabotaging already scheduled US-Pakistan-Afghanistan Dialogues,(six) was he really helping Al-Qaida in getting small yield nuclear weapons (seven) was he having some connection or clue in killing and abduction of Col (Retired ) Imam, (eight) why US consulate is reluctant in handing over the car along with driver for investigating which crushed a passing bye motor cyclist ,(nine) Do the operators of Mr. Davis's desire to sabotage Obama's plan of leaving Afghanistan soon,(ten) is he on the mission to sabotage forth coming Indo-Pak talks,(eleven) Has CIA decided to get rid of Mr. Davis?,

The analysis of the evidence available and questions raised in this article are giving indication that CIA spy Mr. Davis was on some secret mission and killed innocent Pakistani citizens considering them chaser of local intelligence organization or on "agent burning mission'.


On under discussion issue of Davis top military and political leadership has unanimous view i.e. dealing the case with dignity, fairly and without taking the pressure of US. In this connection on February 18, 2011, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani called on President Asif Ali Zardari at the Presidency. "Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani was also present during the meeting. In this sitting issues relating to the war against militancy was discusses. However, an official privy to meeting revealed that the issue of terrorism was deliberated upon during the talks, but the focus was on the Pakistan-US diplomatic row over the fate of the detained American citizen. Pakistani judicial system is matured and independent. Davis case is in the court so American top brass should respect the local courts which will definitely deal the case the on merit. It is mentionable here that Pakistani government would never like to commit political suicide without taking the nation in confidence by unconditionally releasing CIA Spy. Moreover the government will never like to sign on her death warrant just because of Davis stupidity or to win American sympathies. Pakistani government should instruct foreign embassies to curtail their employees' activities. US top brass if believe in long term strategic relations with Pakistan then she has to respect the emotions of the people and local laws. America should also realize that she cannot fight the war on terror without Pakistan support. In overall scenario the point to be pondering here that "Pakistani masses have started thinking whether America is their strategic friend or strategic enemy". Thus, Washington authorities must control "Black Water" which has become the black spot for US.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

PAK-INDIA WATER WAR

ABID LATIF SINDHU

 

It is rumored that the Indian government is taking seriously a statement made by the Pakistan Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, during his visit to the United States. The assertion is "water is taking the centre stage to an array of disputes between India and Pakistan". Why to make so much fuss about this, in fact every Pakistani today feels that India is way bent to convert Pakistan into a desert by controlling its rivers and diverting the flow towards Mother India. The Indians are probably perturbed because they think that the issue has now come under the security spotlight.


The water crisis of Pakistan is directly affecting the food security of the agriculture based country. Like Egypt, Pakistan is also a single-river system-based country which is of course, the Indus. The Ganges-loving Indians are after Pakistan's Indus – a war of geographical deities. Pakistan is a hydraulic society, whose complete economy is agrarian based; even its industry is nothing more than value addition to agricultural produce. Pakistan's economy is based on informal sectors, therefore is outside the proper evaluation network. 80% of this is based upon agriculture. India has realized the real Achilles heel of this economy and is trying to steal Pakistan's share of water. The Indians are even having a second thought over the Indus water treaty, rather they have almost redefined the terms and conditions as per their own national interests.


The biggest dispute between Pakistan and India in coming months is going to be the Indus water treaty. It is the declared water aggression which the Indians have perpetrated. The Indus Basin Treaty is based upon four cardinal principles of agreement; one is the division of three eastern rivers to India and three western rivers of the Indus water system to Pakistan. Second was the financial support to assist Pakistan in making dams and canals to make with the loss of eastern rivers. Third was the harnessing of hydroelectric potential of Pakistani rivers by India with specified caveats of no storage, no diversion and no tunneling. Fourth was the dispute resolution mechanism revolving around Indian and Pakistani Indus water treaty commissioners? If that fails, then were the provisions for external arbitration through World Bank or international court of arbitration.

India is defying all these four principles of agreement. First of all it is building a number of hydro electric power projects on Chenab and Jhelum rivers. It is diverting Pakistan's water by making link canals and under ground tunnels. In case of Baglihar dam, it is funneling the water out on the plea that this is necessary to avoid sedimentation. Dams are made on head waters. In this case all the Pakistani head waters are being utilized to bolster and support Indian economy and agriculture. In case of Baglihar India won their case through international arbitration on the plea that dams have two storage levels: one, the live storage which is at, and, above the spill ways, other, is at lower level dead storage which is below the spillways level, therefore cause sedimentation, for this India has made tunnels to divert water to their rivers. Same is true for Kishenganga project on Neelum – Jhelum River. India is constructing number of water projects on these rivers, even new Jammu city is supplied with the stolen waters form Chanab.


Secondly the Pakistan has failed to built water reservoirs on its rivers, which India is propagating as another plea to apply technical digression, thirdly India is invoking a provision to utilize the hydro electric potentials of Pakistan's rivers before these waters can reach Pakistan. On the name of mere using India is actually transferring the water resource.


Fourthly the level of arbitration is intentionally raised by India from that of Indus commissioners to that of international arbitrators. The World Bank as a guarantor of this treaty supports India due to India's growing clout in international arena. Basha Dam is a case in point, when India objected about the site of Basha dam, being in northern area as disputed territory, World Bank which has promised to finance the project backed off. A whimper from India is worth plethora of arbitration requests from Pakistan, what parity. Pakistan is now in a precarious situation; water crisis is a phenomenon which is more detrimental to its security than extremism or Talibanization. There is a rapid internal population growth, the pie is shrinking and there are more mouths to feed.

The other cause of concern is that Kabul River contributes 20% water to Indus system. The big brother, India is working on a number of projects in Afghanistan to harness this flow into Pakistan.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

MAFIA POLITICS

DR KHALIL AHMAD

 

Every moment and every day the citizens of Pakistan are being inescapably entangled more and more in the tentacles of mafia politicians. Sometimes in the name of Revolution, sometimes in the name of Religion, sometimes in the name of Democracy, sometimes in the name of Enlightened Moderation, or such other traps, these mafia politicians fool and exploit the people. But they never talk of what the Pakistani citizens have desperately been wanting from the day one, and what they really need at the moment also. This is Rule of Law, which was introduced first by the British in the sub-continent. Tragically, though the British are still reviled both by the Left and the Right equally, unfortunately with their departure, the Rule of Law also departed - at least in the sub-continental Pakistan.


Living through the six decades of the so-called independence, Pakistanis are yet to witness the establishment of the Rule of Law in their country. Instead, what exists before their eyes is such a great dust that does not let them see and distinguish clearly crime from politics. Ironically, crime, religion and politics have all compounded into one – and inseparably. Whether it is the case of politicians transforming into criminals, or criminals relaxing into politics, it is certain that politics has already been pervaded through and through by mafias. Or, it has acquired the ways of the mafia!


It's not that long ago, but only a few years back, that someone wrote to the editor of an English daily: "My generation - one that once lived under British governance - knows what the rule of law meant. What we have today is anarchy. People like me, who are not affiliated with a political party, the bureaucracy, the army or the press, are treated as though we are not even citizens of the state. And yet we are the majority, the teeming, toiling citizens of Pakistan............"


The departure of the Rule of Law with the British benefited all those who do not flourish under rules and laws. Of course, these include criminals, but noticeably the political, religious, military, business, trade, intellectual, media elites. Let me add that as with time the absence of the Rule of Law entrenched, these elites converted into mafias. With time, not only their number increased, their range and scope also expanded. Land mafia, estate mafia, trade union mafia, medical mafia, (and such), are the new additions. There are other waiting in the wings to be enlisted. Sure, this does exclude the real criminal mafia! And last but not least, the corruption mafia, which lives within and without all these mafias - like a super-mafia.


A distinction may be made between two types of mafias existing in Pakistan. The one which cannot do without living and working without being a mafia; and the other, which has to adopt and adapt to the ways of the mafia because in an environment replete with mafias it cannot survive, at this or that level. However, the incidence of both is linked to one symptom: the absence of the Rule of Law. One can enumerate hundreds of small and big, and ever newer crimes, and other unethical practices, that took root and flourished in an environment where no Rule of Law prevailed. More important than all such things is the fact that under such circumstance a new "creature" took birth in Pakistan. It is devoid of any norms, manners, etiquettes, and moral and ethical principles, and regards any rules and laws with extreme arrogance. Its population is fast on the increase under the present favorable circumstances.


Finally, there comes the Supreme Mafia – the state, the government of Pakistan! As other mafias do not like rules and laws since they hinder their growth, likewise, if a government does not like rules and laws, and violates them with utter disregard, it transforms itself into a mafia. Rather, it proves to be a fertile ground for all types of mafias to grow and flourish. Ours governments have been so, and the present one is more so - like a mafia government.


The greatest crime the state and governments in Pakistan have throughout and always been committing is that they did not establish the Rule of Law in the country whereas it was their first and the foremost duty. Still, as regards the present government, it has nowhere on its agenda the establishment of the Rule of Law in Pakistan, let alone on the top of its priorities. Contrarily, it espouses a Policy of Reconciliation which in real terms amounts to a Policy of Reconciliation with the Mafias.


In plain words, this means a 'Policy of Live and Let Live' – which translates into a policy of no wrangling with any mafia! Is it this what a government stands for? Isn't it the first and the foremost duty of a government to establish Rule of Law? Isn't it the Rule of Law that ensures protection of life and property to each and every citizen? Isn't it the Rule of Law that secures personal freedom and justice to each and every citizen? The citizens of Pakistan have never tasted such a government whose top priority had or has been to establish the Rule of Law. Nor the present government has had such an agenda . So far as the manifestoes or programs of all the political, religious or other pseudo-political or religious, parties are concerned, no one talks of (and means) the Rule of Law to be established in Pakistan. No doubt, they should not; this is inimical to their politics and survival.

But the question is: for whom these parties exist? Aren't they there for the benefit of the citizens of Pakistan? Obvious enough, if they consider the benefit of the citizens of Pakistan as their top goal they must put the establishment of the Rule of Law at the top of their political program. Not only that, they should start right now a campaign for the same, and instead of 'saving democracy,' 'calling for Revolution,' build pressure on the present government to establish the Rule of Law, which may prove their sincerity to the cause of the citizens of the Pakistan!


Also as much important, it is for the citizens to use the notion and value of the Rule of Law as the only yardstick to judge the government and its institutions as well the politics of all the parties, political or religious. The value of the Rule of Law is such a touchstone that helps not only weigh the quality of the government but the quality of those parties, or better say mafias, also which aspire to be in the government. So, in order to make Pakistan a country which is not ruled by mafias, but the Laws, every street, every road, every café, every home, every meeting place, every radio and TV channel, every private and public institution, every educational premises, and finally every mind and heart, should echo but with one Slogan: We want Rule of Law! First and foremost, the Rule of Law!


—The writer is founder of think-tank Alternate Solutions Institute.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

PRESIDENT HAS NO POWER TO FORGIVE MURDERER

DR ANWAR UL HAQUE

 

The Constitution in its original form gives the president a symbolic status and ceremonial powers. Hence his acts as president are not challengeable in the court. Of course when he has no powers and he can't act without the advice of Prime Minister and the Chief Justice he can't make big blunders and his acts will not have any serious impact. Same goes with the Governors. However neither President nor Governor is immune from acts as a person e.g. if they commit a murder they can be and must be punished accordingly. According to renowned lawyer A.K. Dogar Pakistani and Indian laws are carbon copies in this regard. He quoted India's one of the most famous and respected law expert whose book has recently made a silver jubilee celebrations, who is of the opinion that President's act as president are immune from the courts proceedings while they are in the office but not their personal acts e.g. corruption, lies, murders etc. etc. However the situation becomes grim when it comes to Pakistan as we have mutilated the constitution and President has acquired all the powers of the Prime Minister and the Parliament rendering these two institutions to mere rubber stamps. How then his acts even as President will enjoy the immunity. It does not make sense and such immunity is absolutely and clearly is in clear violation of the basic human rights which supersedes and surpasses all constitutions. If someone is murdered and robbed how can he be deprived of seeking justice and getting the offender punished? No way can anyone have immunity in such cases. The victim could be an individual or the entire nation In cases of gross national thefts, corruption, treason, the entire nation is a victim and any citizen must be able to challenge this in the court and in the election commission. When Mr. Kamaal Azfar asked A.K. Dogar about any ruling of Indian Supreme Court, he answered Indians never elected a corrupt President and hence issue of such incidence did not arise. Dogar said that Indian article 361 and Pakistani article 248 are same except that in India the word State is used for the provinces.


Qazi Anwar, president of Pakistan Barr Association is of the opinion that Zardari was not eligible to run for the office of the President in the first place. Zardari has a nickname of Mr. 10% and tops the list of the criminals in the corruption cases while Mr. Altaf Hussain whom nominated Zardari for President tops the list of murders (31murders and 11 attempts to murder cases). Zardari's notorious cases include tying of the bomb to a leg of a philanthropist and eating up all the donated charity money for building a children hospital in rural Sind and his Swiss Accounts and Surrey Place. He played insane in the latter case (Which again makes him unfit for the Presidency). The kickbacks which he took to buy Surrey Palace has given the gift of Electric Load shedding and rise in petrol and CNG prices along with severe damage to the Industries.


I had filed three requests to the Election Commission of Pakistan to reject his nomination for the office of the President. The Election Commission did not even bother to issue a receipt of letters which were sent by TCS courier service. The Election Commission of Pakistan is not a free and independent institute. It has always been engaged in mass rigging of elections. In the last elections there were not real elections in Karachi but the results manufactured under gun point were verified and made legal., The Media showed the live videos of the massive under the gun rigging but no action was taken. As a result of this massive rigging Mr. Malik got "elected" as senator and holds the office of Interior Minister!


Islam is the Supreme Law of the Nation according to the constitution. We do not accept Justice (Rtd) Naseem Hassan's wrong interpretation that this clause is equal to other clauses of the constitution. How can it be? This simply shows his extremely low I.Q. as this interpretation amounts to an outright Shirk. Only Allah is the law giver. Even the Prophets could not make law. Allah creates us and He alone is the cherisher of all of us and therefore only He has the right to rule us. In Islam there is no immunity for the Khalifa. The great Khulfa-e-Rashdeen at times appeared in the court side by side with the other party. The Mussawat-e-Islam does not give the license to any one to commit crimes and get out off the hook. Granting immunity in cases of crimes as a person can not be accepted. President Nixon had to go on uttering one lie. Here we are defending the lies saying that our commitments are not Quran or Hadith!


We must understand that Allah has made clear criteria for appointment of Judges. The judges must be honest and competent. Appointment of judges on the whims of political parties in order to get protection and immunity against crimes is the most blatant injustice imposed on a nation. The nation will not tolerate such abuse and insult of justice. We need to bring proper systems and stop non sense practices. All political parties and members of civic society must unite and rise up to this challenge if we are sincere in serving people and saving Pakistan.

How President can forgive killers and murderers? Does Islam which is the supreme law of the land allow such injustice? No not at all. For Muslims only Allah's law is binding; any law contradicting Allah's law is not acceptable. This is the meaning of La ilaha Illallah. Life for life and eye for eye is Allah's law mentioned in all divine books e.g. Torah and Quran. If we accept the laws against Allah's then we are committing kufr, shirk and fasad. Convicted murderers must be hanged. Raymond Davis is no exception. If he is convicted he must be hanged in front of historical Badshahi Masjid of Lahore.

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

THE TERRIBLE LESSONS OF LIBYA

THERE CAN NEVER BE A JUSTIFICATION FOR COSYING UP TO TYRANTS.

The loathing being heaped by Libyans on Muammar Gaddafi, the despicable tyrant who has dominated their lives for 42 years, has a sharp lesson for those international leaders who brought him in from the cold, incredibly embracing him as an ally in the battle against al-Qa'ida and signing huge contracts to buy his oil. As they watch graphic coverage of courageous Libyans being brutally massacred by forces loyal to the man Ronald Reagan labelled the Mad Dog of the Middle East, the likes of Tony Blair, who seven years ago did his controversial Deal in the Desert with Gaddafi, must wonder about the wisdom of what they did.

Since sanctions were lifted in 2004, British firms have sold sniper rifles, tear gas, wall-breaching projectiles and crowd-control ammunition to the same terrorist-supporting regime that previously provided weapons to the IRA and ordered the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, the single biggest mass murder in British history. When he did his deal with Gaddafi, the then British prime minister was not alone.

Far from it. The Bush administration, on the basis of an anti-al-Qa'ida statement the wily Gaddafi made after 9/11 and a promise to renounce his nuclear ambitions and pay compensation to the Lockerbie families, also cosied up. Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, at dinner with Gaddafi in Tripoli, demurely declared that the US "doesn't have any permanent enemies". A succession of world leaders followed, including Italy's Silvio Berlusconi and France's Nicolas Sarkozy. The revered Nelson Mandela, having played a key role in the Lockerbie negotiations, went to Tripoli to invest the dictator with South Africa's highest decoration. A man who provided weapons to just about every conceivable terrorist organisation -- including ETA in Spain -- financed the Black September massacre at the Munich Olympics and was behind Lockerbie, had been rehabilitated. Outrageously, Libya was elected to the UN Human Rights Council.

Nothing would stop those sucking up to the "new" Gaddafi. One of the most shameful acts was seen when British prime minister Gordon Brown's government assisted the return to Libya in 2009, at Gaddafi's insistence, of the Lockerbie mass murderer Abdelbasit al-Megrahi on the basis that he was about to die from prostate cancer. He is still alive. Grubby new oil deals have been done. Following the 1986 La Belle nightclub bombing in Berlin that was linked to Gaddafi, Reagan ordered a bombing raid targeting him in Tripoli, declaring: "(He) counted on America to be passive. He counted wrong. I warned that there should be no place on earth where terrorists can rest and train and practise their deadly skills. I meant it." Gaddafi survived. But had world leaders who followed Reagan shown the same moral fibre, perhaps the tragic bloodbath now being seen in Libya could have been avoided.

This is an extraordinary moment in world history, with echoes for the Middle East and Africa of the revolutionary movements that began in France in 1848 and swept through Europe. It is impossible to know yet where the 2011 waves of insurrection, triggered by the uprising in Tunisia, will end. They swept away the 30-year reign of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, are forcing the hands of the Bahraini monarchy, have led to the bloodbath in Libya and surely threaten the regime in Syria, if not that of Saudi Arabia. Strong men, like Gaddafi, who have used the cult of personality and the fear of the outside world to keep their people at heel, are on the run. The lesson from Libya is that there can never be compromise with murderous tyrants of Gaddafi's ilk. They are beyond the pale and should be treated as such, whatever the inducements offered by oil deals. Those who have sustained Gaddafi in power for so long have much to answer for. So too do those whose hypocrisy towards democracy in the region has been nothing short of shameful.

This is a moment of truth for those on the Left who were prepared to tolerate the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein rather than support the American intervention that brought democracy to Iraq. The moral corruption of this position is writ large in the extraordinary events now unfolding across the region.

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

GILLARD DINING OUT ON OPPOSITION HUNGER

COALITION DISUNITY IS LETTING THE GOVERNMENT OFF THE HOOK.

Julia Gillard has received more help of late from the shadow cabinet than from her own ministry. Surely this is not what was meant by the new paradigm. As a prime minister who seized her party's leadership in a lightning coup, rushed to the polls, promptly lost her parliamentary majority, cobbled together a minority government and has failed to define an agenda or deliver on a promise since, she must not be able to believe her luck. Under pressure from her party, suffering from leaks and struggling in the polls, Ms Gillard has been buoyed by an opposition intent on self-harm.

Tony Abbott seized the leadership of his party in a similarly brazen fashion but with distinctly lower expectations. He zeroed in on the government's weaknesses, called its bluff on its centrepiece climate change policy, forged a unity of convenience in the Coalition, created chaos for caucus, ran a disciplined election campaign and won more seats than Labor at the election. Kept from the Treasury benches by a grab bag of independents, Mr Abbott has been fairly straining at the bit ever since. His impatience is part of his problem, but a greater dilemma is the restlessness of his colleagues.

Yesterday's Newspoll in The Australian should be seen as a warning, not so much to Mr Abbott, but to those fostering disunity in Coalition ranks. Liberal and National MPs, who have seen their two-party-preferred lead disappear, need to ask themselves where the public's loyalty might rest if the opposition had spent the past few weeks focusing on the government and its difficulties, instead of so gormlessly inviting the spotlight upon themselves. The Australian was critical of opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison's political ineptitude in criticising the public cost of the Christmas Island tragedy funeral arrangements. This forced Coalition MPs to distance themselves and created the first impressions of disunity. However, the deliberate, and we believe maliciously inaccurate, leaking of alleged comments in shadow cabinet was an unambiguous act of internal attack. It was clearly designed to damage Mr Morrison and Mr Abbott, and, of course, there was no shortage of willing voices in the commentariat to assist. And MPs such as Judi Moylan have taken the chance to parade their compassion while denying the undeniable success of previous Coalition policy. On the leak's substance, it would be an irresponsible leadership group that, in the past year, had not discussed immigration policy, cultural integration issues, related community concerns and possible policy responses. That this has happened in Labor's cabinet is obvious from proposals such as the small-minded pitch against a "big Australia" and the recent relaunch of multiculturalism. When sensitive matters are frankly discussed in such a forum, it presents an opportunity for enemies within to misrepresent remarks in targeted leaks, timed to create maximum political carnage. While public attention should be on the abject failure of the government's border protection policies, the opposition's public self-obsession means we look from side to side and notice only Coalition disunity.

But just as Mr Morrison initially brought the focus upon himself, Mr Abbott is not blameless. The Opposition Leader might well feel cheated by the defection of supposedly conservative independents to install a Labor government but he must move on. Constant talk of forcing a change of government sooner rather than later is unsettling for parliament, distracting for the nation and, in the end, destabilising for his own team.

Mr Abbott heads a team resplendent with unashamed ambition. The two men he defeated in the 2009 leadership ballot, Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey, are prominent players on the front bench, along with Andrew Robb, who openly discusses his desired promotion. Adding to this volatile mix is the long-serving deputy, Julie Bishop, who, for whatever reasons, is an object of resentment for some ambitious malcontents. Mr Abbott was able to keep his team on track last year because he gave them a plan, he stuck to it and it worked. Now he prefers to give voice to almost impossibly optimistic hopes of a shortcut to power. He would do better to outline a three-year strategy to win government. Make no mistake, The Australian believes Mr Abbott is the best hope for the Coalition. What's more, Coalition disunity is Labor's best hope to regain ascendancy. In order to galvanise his troops, and put an end to the short-sighted, self-defeating internal sniping, Mr Abbott must give his team, and the public, a plan for the future. Every day he delays, Ms Gillard must count her blessings.

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

MALTREATED GIRLS IN ALICE SPRINGS NEED A STRONG VOICE

GEOGRAPHICALLY, ALICE SPRINGS IS AT THE HEART OF AUSTRALIA.

Geographically, Alice Springs is at the heart of Australia. And, being riddled with danger and despair, especially for the young teenage girls whisked away each night by carloads of men in vehicles laden with illegal alcohol, it's at the heart of Australia's greatest social challenge. Had Nicolas Rothwell's account inThe Weekend Australian of what happens in the Alice after the KFC shuts at 10pm been written about white girls in another town, the national outcry would already have drawn a swift, stern response from authorities, with rape and other serious criminal charges laid. Indigenous children deserve no less. But, as the article showed, in the midst of a local leadership vacuum there is only so much police and security officers can do when confronted by 70 teenagers, some with knife-blades at the ready. Had this bleak article been set in a north Queensland indigenous community, effective leaders with consciences, such as Noel Pearson, would be standing up for the young people, insisting that parents, communities and authorities do their duty. And he would be drawing up a long-term recovery plan.

But who will stand up for the boys and girls as young as 10 marauding about Alice Springs at midnight, especially the girls who are "for sale" and those "checked out" by the African gangs and the old bush men from the desert communities, whose own lives lack aspiration and hope?

The Dodson brothers, Tom Calma, Lowitja O'Donoghue and other vocal indigenous rights campaigners should speak out now, as advocates for our most maltreated young Australians. Warren Snowdon, the local MP and Indigenous Health Minister, urgently needs to take a lead. So does the NT media, which has a responsibility to hold the NT government to account and focus on the human tragedy in its midst. Local journalists and editors must look beyond the preoccupations of bureaucrats and service providers, who are probably the bulk of their audience and readers.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has worked hard pressing ahead with the framework of the NT intervention, which the social disorder in Alice Springs shows is more urgently needed than ever to salvage the well-being of young people, especially. But for years the NT government played cynical politics of the worst kind, with Commonwealth Grants Commission figures showing that in the five years to 2009 about $2 billion of federal funding earmarked for indigenous and key services was diverted to mainstream spending, much of it in marginal Darwin seats. In 2007-08, for example, the commission assessed the amount needed for services to indigenous communities at $253.4m, but the Territory spent only $139m. That year it also spent less than a third of the recommended outlay on family services. The consequences of such under-investment are now obvious.

The Henderson government must re-order its priorities. And long-suffering Alice Springs residents need real leaders to highlight their grim predicament and ensure that authorities, the community and parents do all in their power to stop the degradation. Unless the leadership vacuum is filled, the deadly mix of alcohol, drugs, violence and despair will obliterate even more lives.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

POLITICIANS GET OUT THEIR TRAIN SETS

SOMEWHAT surprisingly, the unexciting field of transport planning is becoming a battleground at this state election. The development is encouraging, though: transport will determine how Sydney is to develop in coming decades, and the issues at stake include whether it continues to be one of the world's most liveable cities.

Unfortunately, the signs are that the confusion and backsliding of recent Labor governments look likely to continue for a time even under the Coalition if, as the polls predict, it wins on March 26.

The Premier, Kristina Keneally, and the federal Infrastructure Minister, Anthony Albanese, signed a deal on Monday guaranteeing funding for the Epping-to-Parramatta rail link. We have argued before that the project is necessary and should proceed. The Coalition led by Barry O'Farrell even agrees, but says it is not its top transport priority, which is the north-west rail link. The latter underpins the Coalition's plan to spread new development more into greenfield sites on Sydney's edges. Though that strategy is questionable, the north-west rail link is not: it, too, is an important project which Sydney needs. Albanese, though, says the federal government won't budge, and the Epping-to-Parramatta link comes first.

Into this arcane to-and-fro come the revelations, published in the Herald yesterday, that Infrastructure Australia has for some time taken a dim view of NSW infrastructure submissions in general. Whether for road or rail, IA has found NSW's requests for funding have not been backed up by convincing arguments on the projects' merits. That indictment is confirmation of the sorry standard of planning work by the NSW government. But the twist in this tale is that IA was itself bypassed by the federal government when it came to funding the Epping-to-Parramatta link. Canberra's offer - one of the lower points of Julia Gillard's federal election campaign - is thus another triumph of planning NSW-style, in which vast sums are committed apparently on little more than a leader's brainwave. NSW voters have seen too much planning of this kind, and it is more than disappointing to see it emanating from the federal government.

A problem with both railways, too, is that they will add extra trains to a network that has bottlenecks. In particular both will be underused because they will feed trains towards the Harbour Bridge, the only railway crossing east of Rhodes. Sydney urgently needs a second rail harbour crossing to get the best use out of all new rail projects.

What NSW needs more, though, is a comprehensive transport plan to establish priorities for funding. O'Farrell's Infrastructure NSW - a statutory body to set planning and funding priorities for capital works - would be a good start.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

STILL PART OF THE UNION

THE three senior Australian Labor Party figures who have produced a review of the party's position can't be called elders. Bob Carr and Steve Bracks are recent state premiers who quit while still ahead; John Faulkner is still a senator who retreated from the frontbench last election, making a point still obscure to outsiders. All these still spry people, however, cannot shake themselves loose from ALP tradition.

They have produced a report in three parts, of which only the part dealing with the party structure has been released. Unsurprisingly, this has produced a lot of supposed leaks and speculation about the other two sections, one dealing with the baleful effects of the Rudd government's concentration of cabinet authority into a ''gang of four'', the other with the lamentable election performance after Rudd was dumped. For his part, Rudd has manfully urged the release of these sections, no doubt confident of vindication overall. His call should be accepted, if only so that the party and Canberra political circles can move on to the real substance of the ALP's future.

Some reform has already started. Capitalising on his high popularity in 2007, Rudd was able to get his way and select his own frontbench. Gillard, though less popular, has been able to follow suit. It seems unlikely that the parliamentary party will revert to the former system of MPs electing frontbench candidates.

It is in renewal of policy and candidates, though, that Labor looks to be in trouble. Membership is down to about 38,000, only a bit more than a tenth of the number who have signed up to the non-party ginger group GetUp! Ageing, feeling disenfranchised, Labor members share the ''progressive'' side of politics with the Greens. Immigrant communities are no longer automatic Labor boroughs. Trade union membership is declining steadily.

The review suggests a renewed membership drive, starting with lapsed card-holders, and recommitment to multiculturalism. It can't see Labor without the unions, arguing that they still provide a connection to our largest non-government movement. The unions have modernised, now the party must follow suit. If anything, the review suggestions increase the role of unions, or at least unionists. As well as continuing to fill half the policy-making ALP conference, unionists will be 20 per cent of the voters in new US-style primary elections of candidates in open or non-Labor-held seats, perhaps later for Labor-held seats too. Here in NSW, we're yet to be persuaded the unions are the vanguard of modern Labor.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

A GIRL, THE AFL AND A TANGLED WEB OF COVERAGE

PERHAPS the most confronting aspect of the story about the girl, the footballers, the player agent and the media circus is what it suggests about our society. As a fount of media product and public gossip, this story, with its heady coupling of sex claims and AFL stars, has it all. Amid the expressions of concern and outrage, outbreaks of piety and prurience, declarations of disinterest and the public lust for intimate detail, the question of whether reporting serves the public interest can seem almost incidental - as can legal, moral and ethical boundaries in the world of 24-hour online media, Twitter and Facebook. Yet, unless we consider the questions this saga raises, it is hard to argue for any public benefits.

For all the legal, moral and ethical ambiguities, many issues raised by the coverage ought to be clear. Among these are: invasions of privacy that most of us would not accept for ourselves; the law's struggle to cope with changing social communication and attitudes; the protection of minors, however promiscuous or out of control they might be; the hypocritical horror about alleged alcohol and drug use; and the insidious objectification of people as commercial assets - whether as media fodder or part of a brand.

When adults' actions result in scandal, as with player agent Ricky Nixon, a common response is that they should have known better. The same was said of St Kilda players in compromising photographs posted by the girl. An invasion of privacy still took place; who among us has no such moment that we'd hate to have revealed? Even more disturbing are the hateful online remarks about the players and the 17-old-girl, whose identity is legally suppressed but is circulating freely. She is not the first teenager to break the rules and, like all too many, be written off as trouble. She admits to using sex as a weapon. She is also a young, vulnerable person, whose welfare ought to be paramount, who finds herself up against powerful institutional interests.

Almost everyone claims to be acting out of concern for her. If only it were so. The Herald Sun says it paid for the girl to stay in a hotel, after her time on St Kilda's tab ran out, not to control the story but because she had nowhere to stay. Both benefactors say concern for her welfare was their only motive. On that basis, the many homeless young people should call on these charitable organisations.

When Age columnist Peter Costello questioned the purity of motive in AFL clubs' and players' acts of philanthropy, albeit heavy-handedly, he touched a nerve. The fact is AFL brand promotion is part of such activities. Players and officials are assets to be protected. As long as they perform, indiscretions are indulged in ways that an ordinary member of the public could not expect.

Sacked Brisbane star Brendan Fevola, at 30, is learning a brutal lesson about his depreciation as a football asset. He is the same troubled person he was as a brilliantly talented teenager; the AFL should be alarmed that this is so after a dozen years in its ranks. Even if he is discarded, his life will be treated as public property. The same fate looms for Nixon, another vulnerable AFL veteran contemplating the scrap heap.

The AFL does run programs to promote good conduct and respect for women. This is to its credit, but the need for such programs is evidence that unhealthy attitudes persist. Of course, players, like their non-AFL peers, face temptations and risks. However, closing ranks around them when they transgress, making excuses and offering protections that are not available to other wild youth, does them few favours.

Empathy and support are needed to make the move from adolescence to adulthood, but so are consistency and an insistence rules apply to all. Respect (for people, the law, ethics and community values) is central to upholding dignity and civilised society. In the tangled web of coverage of this saga of ''sex, lies and videotapes'', respect and genuine concern for people are often distressingly hard to discern.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

A SAFE CHOICE FOR AN OUTDATED POST

TED Baillieu's choice of distinguished jurist Alex Chernov as Victoria's next governor could be seen to reflect the personality of the new Premier.

Mr Baillieu came to office late last year promising to be a secure pair of hands; the implicit contract with Victorians was that he would seek to make incremental improvements to their lives but would not be a force for radical change. His selection of Mr Chernov to succeed David de Kretser fits the mould.

Certainly, Mr Chernov's is an inspiring migrant success story. The Lithuanian-born 10-year-old could not speak a word of English when his family fled the Russian Red Army and was welcomed to Australia in 1949. One of his earliest memories is of the generosity of a stranger at Princes Pier. ''When we walked off the gangplank, somebody shoved a bit of money in my hand,'' he recalled in an interview with The Age two years ago, on the occasion of his appointment as Chancellor of the University of Melbourne.

Mr Chernov comes to the governorship with an impeccable record of public service and intellectual leadership. An honours graduate in law from Melbourne University, barrister at the age of 30, Queen's counsel at 42, he became a judge of the Supreme Court at 59 and was elevated to the Court of Appeal the following year. His former colleagues in the law attest to his wise counsel and prodigious work ethic.

His appointment marks something of a return to the tradition of selecting governors and governors-general from the ranks of retired military officers and judges. He has signalled that he will not seek to be an activist governor. Caution and discretion is essential, but he would do well to reflect on the admirable way Governor de Kretser and former governor-general William Deane, for example, fashioned the role to offer moral leadership on issues of conscience.

We mean no criticism of Mr Chernov in saying that he is a safe choice as governor. It is disappointing, however, that from the long list of candidates that Mr Baillieu says were suggested to him the Premier was unable to find a suitably qualified woman. That represents an opportunity squandered to further modernise this anachronistic post, of serving as the Queen's representative in the state where support for Australia becoming a republic is strongest.

Nor do we mean any disrespect in saying that we hope Mr Chernov will be our last governor, in keeping with The Age's long-held view that Australia's maturation as a nation cannot be complete until the constitutional ties with the British monarchy are severed.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF … STEFAN DOHR

It has been hard to miss the imposing artistic presence of the Berliner Philharmoniker's principal horn player

The public face of the Berliner Philharmoniker, who play the last concert of their starry four-night stay in London tonight, is naturally our own Sir Simon Rattle. But the Berlin Phil has always been much more than a famous conductor and his otherwise anonymous band. Part of the Philharmoniker's tradition is as an orchestra of supremely distinguished musicians in their own rights, increasingly from all around the world. Think back to the days of James Galway as the principal flute in the days of Herbert von Karajan or, even further, to the days when Szymon Goldberg led the orchestra under Wilhelm Furtwängler before being forced to flee the Nazis. During the Berliners' concerts this week, for example, it has been hard to miss the imposing artistic presence of the orchestra's principal horn player, Stefan Dohr, whose range of expression, stentorian and seductive by turns, was one of the stand-out contributions to the Mahler Fourth Symphony on Monday. Last night Mr Dohr left his usual seat and came to the front of the stage as soloist in Toshio Hosokawa's horn concerto, dedicated to him and premiered in Berlin earlier this month, a work in which the horn is asked to sound like a lotus flower floating on a pond. Tonight Mr Dohr will be back in the engine room leading an even larger horn section in the imposing launch of Mahler's Third Symphony. Oh, and he is one of the self-governing orchestra's two chairmen as well. A special musician in an orchestra that remains spectacularly like no other.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

HEALTH SERVICE REFORM: PERILS OF THE CUT-PRICE KNIFE

THE NHS REFORMS THROW UP ONE CRUCIAL QUESTION: CAN HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS COMPETE ON PRICE WITHOUT COMPROMISING ON QUALITY?

If you are due for a heart bypass next week, you will have more than a passing interest in whether or not your hospital is trying to do things on the cheap. The Department of Health worries a good deal about protecting quality, and yet its approach to pile-'em-high, sell-'em-cheap operations is not quite clear. Even though the controversial legislation to overhaul the health service is already published and before parliament, Whitehall has been giving mixed messages about how far the burgeoning medical market will be driven by price, as opposed to quality alone.

When the bill was published, the department proclaimed that the regulator, Monitor, would "oversee the process of price competition". That fitted with the white paper, which had said that regulation tariffs ought to be maximums, implying that the cut and thrust of rival bids could sometimes drive down costs. Last week, however, the NHS chief executive, Sir David Nicholson, wrote to colleagues insisting there was "no question of introducing price competition". This seeming inconsistency is explained away with a Jesuitical distinction between red-raw competition and the gently expressed possibility that healthcare providers and purchasers may agree between themselves to curb costs. The difference sounds slippery, so it is as well for the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, that he has another argument up his sleeve – namely that the new freedom to broker costs cannot be so scary since it was anticipated by Labour in an official document in 2009.

That much is true, and it is deeply embarrassing for Labour now that Ed Miliband is focusing his attack on the Lansley reforms on the dangers of price competition. There was no consistent direction on public services during the Brown years, and perhaps a market-minded official slipped in the proposal allowing contractors to bid below the NHS tariff to try to restore the lost Blairite thrust towards competition and choice. But back in the world where Andy Burnham was making public hospitals the "preferred provider", this sort of regulatory tweak was never going to have much effect. The culture of an NHS infirmary which is used to working to flat-rate contracts is not one in which the thought of launching a price war occurs. But the whole ecology of healthcare is now being transformed, with the introduction of a new-look regulator explicitly charged with promoting competition. And to the global businesses lured into the new healthcare market it will be second nature to compete on price as well as quality, whether or not that is what Mr Lansley intends.

The health secretary points to the regulator's duty to improve quality, which is indeed in the bill. But quality has so many dimensions, many of them hard to gauge, that it is hard to guarantee by statutory diktat, as Labour found to its cost. The respected healthcare economist Carol Propper says it is precisely because price is transparent while quality is opaque that price competition has not worked well in either the US or the UK, where it was briefly applied round the edges of the internal market during the mid-1990s. By contrast, she says, competing on quality can work well with fixed prices.

Cut-cost deals, it is true, will need central approval, but the demands of cash-strapped GP consortiums that are refusing patients treatments they cannot afford could be hard to resist. It is also true that individual choice will help the well-informed avoid cheap facilities, but not those many patients who will continue to be guided by their doctors. It may be that Mr Lansley judges that he needs to give his new market the potential power to reduce prices to be sure of meeting rising cost pressures, even if he hopes that this flexibility need only rarely be used. Without new safeguards, however, MPs scrutinising his bill will be obliged to ask themselves: how many of their constituents would be happy to go under the cut-price knife?

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IRELAND: A CHANGE TOO FAR

VOTERS MAY HAVE TURNED AGAINST FIANNA FÁIL, BUT GIVING THE OTHER LOT A GO WILL NOT BREAK WITH THE OLD SYSTEM

The easy thing for voters to do in tough times is to boot out the incumbents. The harder thing is to agree what they want to put in the incumbents' place. That question has been posed in one form or another in elections in almost every developed democracy since the collapse of the financial sector in 2008, Britain included. On Friday it is the turn of the Irish, who staked more than most on the financial and property boom and who thus fell even farther when things imploded. Stand by for dramas.

The scale of Ireland's collective lost financial gamble is staggering. After years of rapid growth, during which a bloated construction industry accounted for a quarter of GDP and Irish banks sank nearly a third of their lending in construction projects, the Irish economy has collapsed, a process rocket-fuelled by the Fianna Fáil government's guarantee of the banks' liabilities in 2008. That effectively bankrupted the Irish state and dumped the consequences on the taxpayer. The budget deficit now accounts for one-third of the nation's GDP. The economy has contracted by 14%. Irish bank losses would absorb every euro of taxes paid by the entire population for the next three years. The nation has been bailed out by the eurozone, ie Germany, to the tune of €85bn. But the Irish will be paying the bill for years. Not surprisingly, many have decided simply to leave.

It is no shock that Irish voters have turned against Fianna Fáil after all this. In a poll this week, voter satisfaction with Brian Cowen's outgoing government is on just 4%. Not surprisingly, Mr Cowen is not himself seeking re-election, though it speaks volumes that, having first won his Dáil seat on the death of his father, he has now turned over his candidacy to his brother. Since first winning power in 1932, FF have never fallen below 39% in any Irish general election. Today, however, the party is on 16%. Everything points to an epochal and richly deserved drubbing this week.

But what will take its place? When the bailout bit last autumn, it looked as though Irish voters might choose the more radical of the credible options. In late 2010, Labour led the polls. But as the moment of choice has drawn nearer, Labour support has faltered, down five points in this week's poll. Today, voters seem to be gravitating to the more cautious option of Fine Gael, who may even win an unprecedented overall majority. Fine Gael are almost as much a part of the old Irish political culture as FF; unlike their rivals, though, they were not holding the parcel when the music stopped. But Ireland's voters, like those elsewhere, predictably seem keener on giving the other lot a go than on breaking with the system of which both major parties have long been beneficiaries

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

FUTENMA ISSUE REVISITED

Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's recent interview with Okinawan newspapers on his failed attempt to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma out of Okinawa Prefecture has caused strong reactions from Okinawa's people and its newspapers. But his interview sheds valuable light on how and why his attempt failed despite his good intentions.

His interview caused anger because he admitted that the justification he used for the May 28, 2010, Japan-U.S. agreement to transfer the Futenma functions from a densely populated urban area in Ginowan in the central part of Okinawa Island to Henoko, a less populated area in Nago in the northern part of the island was an expedient excuse.

In a May 4, 2010 meeting with Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima of Okinawa Prefecture, Mr. Hatoyama said in effect that he had no alternative but to give up the idea of moving the Futenma air station out of Okinawa Prefecture. Asked why the facility has to remain in Okinawa, he said that as he "studied the issue more and more," he came to realize that various U.S. armed forces units, including marines, combine to maintain a deterrent.

In the interview, he said that when it became clear that he had to accept the Henoko plan, he had to find a "post factum justification." Although he did not believe that U.S. Marines in Okinawa per se directly deter war, he thought the word deterrent in a wide sense could be used as such a justification. Using the Buddhist concept of "hoben" — a way in which Buddha leads people to understand his teachings depending on the degree of their ability to understand — he said that if someone insists that his justification was hoben, he had to admit that it was hoben. In everyday language, hoben is usually taken to mean an expedient excuse.

Two Okinawan newspapers — Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times — wrote editorials criticizing Mr. Hatoyama's "hoben" remark, saying it indicated he speaks too carelessly. They also criticized his lack of leadership in his attempt to get Cabinet members and bureaucrats to achieve the goal he had set.

Mr. Hatoyama's interview and the Okinawan newspapers' reactions show that informed public discussions must be held on the question of the deterrent provided by the U.S. armed forces in Japan while paying due attention to Okinawa's heavy burden of hosting U.S. military bases. Facilities in Okinawa Prefecture account for some 74 percent of area used by the U.S. military in Japan, and they occupy 18 percent of Okinawa Island.

In the context of the Futenma issue, discussions should focus on whether the U.S. deterrent will become ineffective if the Futenma facility is moved out of Okinawa. Ryukyu Shimpo pointed out that many Okinawans have long regarded Mr. Hatoyama's "deterrent" justification as a lie because they know that even a U.S. defense secretary has harbored doubts about the U.S. Marines' functions, that U.S. military brass made it clear that U.S. Marines' top priority is to rescue American nationals in the case of a military contingency and that the U.S. Congress has begun discussions on the reduction of U.S. armed forces stationed overseas and the closure of U.S. bases abroad.

Mr. Hatoyama's interview shows that despite his strong desire to move the Futenma facility out of Okinawa, he was ill-prepared and encountered strong resistance from both the bureaucracy and his own Cabinet.

Mr. Hatoyama said that although he had a sense of mission, he lacked a well thought out plan. He also said that he did not expect that the Futenma issue would lead to his resignation. Probably his biggest mistake was that he did not inform U.S. President Barack Obama in strong, concrete terms about the suffering Okinawan people have endured since World War II, the heavy burden they are shouldering in hosting U.S. bases and their desire to see Futenma base moved out of the prefecture. He also lacked a strategy to break through the resistance that he faced.

Regarding bureaucratic resistance, which proved to be his greatest obstacle, Mr. Hatoyama said, "The Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry, which should have considered together with me the (Futenma) transfer issue, instead wanted to value the 'base' with the United States." In this case, Mr. Hatoyama's use of the word "base" apparently meant the basis the ministries share with the U.S., that is the traditional thinking about the Futenma issue. He said Cabinet members were so influenced by the two ministries' thinking that a feeling that moving the Futenma functions out of Okinawa was impossible prevailed in his Cabinet to the point that only a few Cabinet members supported his attempt.

The opposition parties have taken issue with Mr. Hatoyama's "hoben" remark and demanded that he speak as an unsworn witness in the Diet. He should voluntarily take this opportunity to have meaningful and deep public discussions started over the Futenma issue and the question of the deterrent provided by the U.S. armed forces in Japan.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

ECONOMY IS KEY TO SECURITY

BY MICHAEL RICHARDSON

SINGAPORE — Gemba Koichiro, the minister tasked with devising ways to revive Japan's sagging international influence, recently drew a link between the economic power of a nation and the readiness of other countries to challenge its security interests.

Writing in the latest issue of JapanEchoWeb, he said that the economic decline of Japan appeared to underlie the resurgence of territorial disputes with both China and Russia.

Japan, he explained, had once negotiated with Russia over disputed islands from a position of strength because the Russian economy was weak. Now resource-rich Russia was on the rise, allowing it challenge Japanese territorial claims and achieve sustainable economic growth regardless of Japanese aid.

"This same dynamic seems to be at play in the recent friction between Japan and China over the issue of the Senkaku Islands" in the East China Sea, he wrote.

China has become Japan's largest trading partner, with a 20 percent share of two-way commerce. Japan needs access to the rapidly expanding Chinese market more than China needs access to the near stagnant Japanese market — and Beijing knows this.

China's economic rise and Japan's relative decline was underscored earlier this month when official figures released in Tokyo confirmed that China had overtaken Japan in 2010 to become the world's second-biggest economy after the United States.

The U.S., too, has belatedly recognized the connection between power, influence and trade, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region where China and other rapidly growing economies have made foreign trade, often among themselves, an important engine of expansion.

The U.S. is one of nine countries negotiating to form a Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement. The group finished its latest round of talks in Chile on Feb. 18. The next round is due in Singapore in March. Apart from Chile and the U.S., other countries taking part in the TPP negotiations are Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

They aim to conclude a deal by the time U.S. President Barack Obama hosts the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Hawaii in November.

Japan, Taiwan and Thailand have shown interest in joining the negotiations. On a recent visit to New Zealand, Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that she and her New Zealand counterpart, John Key, would try to bring more nations into the TPP to give it even greater clout.

The current TPP countries are the third largest goods export market for the U.S. and its fourth biggest market for services. U.S. merchandise exports to the Asia-Pacific amounted to $618 billion in 2009, 58 percent of total U.S. goods exports to the world.

For the first three quarters of 2010, the value of these U.S. exports rose 22 percent over the same period in 2009. So crafting a comprehensive TPP is central to the Obama administration's goal of doubling U.S. exports and expanding jobs at home by 2015.

In Japan, too, some ministers want to revitalize the economy and make it more competitive by hastening to finish a number of key bilateral trade liberalization pacts and then joining the TPP negotiations in June.

Japan took a significant step in this direction on Feb. 16 by signing a comprehensive economic partnership agreement with India, Asia's third biggest economy. It is the 12th such deal Japan has signed with other countries.

However, Tokyo insists on calling these deals "economic partnerships," not free trade agreements, because they allow it to continue protecting agriculture.

Japan's 2.6 million farmers, average age nearly 66, produce no more than 1.5 percent of GDP and their number is expected to drop by 1 million in the next 10 years. However, they and other rural voters have disproportionate weight in Japan's electoral system. As a result, Tokyo has shielded farm produce from foreign competition with high tariffs — 778 percent in the case of rice.

All the bilateral economic partnerships Japan has negotiated permit it to exclude politically sensitive agricultural items. The first, with Singapore in 2002, even excluded goldfish and cut flowers. The deal with India only obliges the signatories to abolish tariffs on 94 percent of trade between them within 10 years.

However, the TPP group says it aims to end all tariffs on all trade within a decade. Since each TPP country must approve Japan's entry into the negotiations, Tokyo must either accept the entry terms or persuade major agricultural exporters like Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. that it should be allowed some leeway, particularly for rice.

The test case is with Australia, Japan's third-largest source of imports. Japan depends on Australia for over 60 percent of its coal and iron ore imports, mainly for making steel, and 30 percent of its uranium imports for generating electricity from nuclear power.

But the latest round of negotiations with Australia this month ended in deadlock. Canberra insisted that tariffs on beef, wheat, sugar and dairy products be scrapped. Japanese officials refused to budge.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard may visit Japan in April to try to break the impasse. However, the Japanese government is weak and divided over opening the economy to foreign competition, particularly in the farm sector.

If Japan is to be a linchpin of TPP expansion and a rejuvenated participant in Asian affairs, it must take action to prevent farm protection from being an obstacle. It could do so by compensating farmers and encouraging those with the most appealing produce to sell more overseas.

Aurelia George Mulgan, a Japan specialist and professor of politics at the Australian Defense Force Academy in Canberra, which is part of the University of New South Wales, believes that Tokyo also needs to establish an Office of Special Trade Negotiator with a Cabinet minister in charge.

This agency would have powers of policy coordination across Japan's ministries dealing with trade. It would be given authority to negotiate deals on behalf of the government, thus bypassing vested bureaucratic and political interests.

Writing in the East Asia Forum on Feb. 12, she pointed out that South Korea had successfully implemented a similar institutional innovation, and it proved decisive in achieving a breakthrough on FTA negotiations with the U.S. and Europe.

She added: "South Korea is showing the way in both this respect and in terms of the way in which it has compensated farmers for the likely influx of agricultural imports."

Michael Richardson is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South East Asian Studies in Singapore.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED



CIVIL SOCIETY MUST PUSH NUKE BAN

BY DAISAKU IKEDA

 

Special to The Japan Times

Last year, important international conferences were held to tackle such pressing global challenges as climate change and nuclear disarmament. While these conferences saw the emergence of constructive new consensus, it is not enough simply to sound the alarm: The time has come for action and solidarity.

Where there is an absence of international political leadership, civil society should step in to fill the gap, providing the energy and vision needed to move the world in a new and better direction.

I believe that we need a paradigm shift, a recognition that the essence of leadership is found in ordinary individuals — whoever and wherever they may be — standing up and fulfilling the role that is theirs alone to play.

Focusing on the goal of nuclear weapons abolition, I would like to propose three areas in which civil society can make an important contribution.

1. We must press all states possessing nuclear weapons to move quickly toward their complete elimination.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has called for the regular convening, starting this year, of a Security Council summit on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.

I fully support this call. In addition, I propose that participation be opened to states that have chosen to relinquish their nuclear weapons or programs. Specialists in the field and representatives of nongovernmental organizations should also have the opportunity to address these summits. Such gatherings should work to develop concrete means and paths toward a world free of nuclear weapons, with 2015 as their immediate goal.

In April last year, a meeting of former heads of state and government was held in Hiroshima. Participants visited the Peace Memorial Museum and heard the testimony of atomic bomb victims (hibakusha). They issued a communique that stressed the importance of world leaders, especially those of nuclear-weapon states, visiting Hiroshima.

In this spirit, I propose that Hiroshima and Nagasaki be the host cities for the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, which would also serve as a nuclear abolition summit. If government leaders together witnessed the realities of the atomic bombings, this would most certainly solidify their resolve.

2. We must take steps to prevent further nuclear weapons development or modernization.

Here, bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force is crucial. This will prohibit — as an expression of the will of the international community — nuclear testing in perpetuity; it will also strengthen the psychological foundations for nuclear weapons abolition.

To achieve this, it is necessary for a number of key countries that have not yet done so to ratify the treaty.

I would like to propose a series of interlocking agreements of mutual obligation to secure the signing and/or ratification of the CTBT within a fixed period. This could take the form, for example, of a bilateral commitment to sign by India and Pakistan and a tripartite agreement for mutual ratification by Egypt, Iran and Israel.

In Northeast Asia, negotiations should be pursued through the six-party talks for an agreement by which the United States and China ratify the CTBT, a zone is established in which all parties pledge the nonuse of nuclear weapons, and North Korea signs and ratifies the CTBT and abandons its nuclear weapons programs.

3. We must work for the adoption of a Nuclear Weapons Convention comprehensively prohibiting these most inhumane of all weapons.

As the Final Document adopted by the 2010 NPT Review Conference suggests, these weapons are fundamentally incompatible with the principles of international humanitarian law. This is the awareness we must foster and spread. It was to this end that the youth members of Soka Gakkai collected more than 2.2 million signatures in support of a Nuclear Weapons Convention; these were presented to the representatives of the president of the NPT Review Conference and the U.N. secretary general.

In September 2010, Malaysia and Costa Rica put forward a resolution in the U.N. General Assembly seeking the start of negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention. This passed with the support of more than 130 states, including China, India, Pakistan and North Korea. If global civil society can raise its voice and increase its presence, bringing about a profound shift in international public opinion, this would be a force that no government could ignore.

The crucial thing is to arouse the awareness that as a matter of human conscience we can never permit the people of any country to fall victim to nuclear weapons, and for each individual to express their refusal to continue living in the shadow of the threat they pose. We must each make a personal decision and determination to build a new world free of nuclear weapons.

An NWC would thus represent a kind of world law — drawing its ultimate authority and legitimacy from the expressed will of the world's peoples: It would bear the imprimatur of each of the world's citizens.

The three challenges I have discussed here require a change in attitude on the part of states. Even more crucially, they require the passionate commitment and action of awakened citizens.

I believe that we must maintain pride in the knowledge that the actions we take, based on our own decisions and choices as individuals, link directly to the magnificent challenge of transforming human history.

Today we stand at a watershed moment. We have before us the potential to bring the era of nuclear weapons to an end. We must not allow this historic opportunity to pass.

Daisaku Ikeda is president of the Soka Gakkai International and founder of Soka University and the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research. Excerpts from his Jan. 26 Peace Proposal can be found at www.sgi.org

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

REFORMING PSSI

Indonesia's consistently poor performance in international soccer competitions over the past few decades has raised concerns among fans who have demanded a major overhaul of the Indonesian Soccer Association (PSSI).

The debate over who should lead the soccer authority has begun one month ahead of the kick off of the PSSI national congress in Bali in March.

From four candidates, only incumbent chairman Nurdin Halid and deputy chairman Nirwan Bakrie passed the early verification process. It was a shock for the public as two other candidates — oil tycoon and Indonesian Premier League initiator Arifin Panigoro and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Toisutta — failed to qualify without any clear reason.

In its explanation, the PSSI election committee only said the decision was based on regulations adopted from the world's soccer ruling body FIFA and a PSSI statute. The PSSI states that all candidates for the top post should serve at least five years in the organization.

Referring to the PSSI regulation, both Arifin and George have proven their commitment to soccer. Prior to initiating the rival soccer league, Arifin and his Medco oil company had organized annual competitions for Under-16 and Under-17 children. George has been involved in supporting soccer development in West Java since 2005.

Both Arifin and George filed a protest over the PSSI selection committee ruling.

Nurdin, however, who insists on staying in power, is not without problems, apart from the fact that the national soccer team has not performed well in international competitions under his leadership.

Indonesia's best result was lifting the 2008 Independence Cup after Libya withdrew from the final match.

A 2007 government regulation stipulates that "chairman of the umbrella organization of any sports discipline who has been implicated in a criminal case should be replaced through the highest forum of the organization".

Nurdin, who has led PSSI since 2003, was sentenced to one year in prison for corruption in 2005. After his release, he was sentenced to two years, again for graft. Surprisingly, PSSI let him lead the organization behind the bars.

Nurdin may face fresh corruption charges. A graft trial at the Samarinda District Court last month found that PSSI officials, including Nurdin, received part of a Rp 1.78 billion (US$197,000) bribe from the former manager of Samarinda-based club Persisam.

A Golkar Party politician, Nurdin has also been named a suspect in the bribery scandal that marred the election of Bank Indonesia senior deputy governor Miranda S. Goeltom in 2004. The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) is investigating the bribery allegations.

 With such a track record, it's not impossible to comprehend why the public has lost trust in Nurdin.

The absence of regular competitions for young talents, rampant match-fixing scandals in domestic competitions and the poor performance of the national teams are proven testaments to Nurdin's incompetence.

With Nurdin seeking his third four-year term as the PSSI chairman, soccer fans have collected public support for a major overhaul within the association. They have even demanded that the government intercede — a move that would breach FIFA regulation. According to FIFA's Standard Electoral Code Article 2 (2), any government intervention will bring consequences, including possible expulsion from the world's ruling body.

After failing to oust Nurdin during the National Soccer Congress in Malang, East Java, last year, this time around the public is urging the government to help establish "PSSI of Reform" to enable restructuring within the organization.

No matter what the risk, the priority for Indonesia right now is restructuring the PSSI and improving the basic development of soccer. Therefore, the March congress must kick start real changes within the organization so that Indonesia's soccer can improve on the international level.

Being part of the problem, Nurdin's replacement should be the reform agenda.

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THE JAKARTA POST

INDONESIA AND THE EU: A RELATIONSHIP IN 3D

WERNER LANGEN

I am strongly conscious of the deepening ties between Indonesia and the European Union (EU) and the noble values that underpin them. The multi-dimensional nature of our relationship can be captured in 3 "D's": democracy, diversity and development.

First, democracy. Indonesia emerged from a long period of autocratic rule to form the world's largest Muslim-majority democracy. That democracy now has three successful parliamentary elections under its belt and is a beacon of stability in a socio-politically dynamic region of the world. EU citizens draw pride from the transformation that has occurred on our own continent in the past 20 years, with countries that lived for decades under dictatorship now thriving as free and prosperous members of the EU.

The European Parliament has long been an advocate for human rights and democratic values and I am keen to explore with our Indonesian counterparts how to advance those values across the world.

As a leading member — and now Chair — of ASEAN, Indonesia is taking an inspiring lead in this regard, not least through its advocacy for an effective ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.

Second, diversity. Indonesia and the EU are both "diversity hotspots", a point underscored by our shared motto: Unity in Diversity. That diversity is reflected in the 27 Member States which constitute the EU and the 33 provinces that make up Indonesia. In the EU's 23 official languages and the incredible estimated 700 tongues that are spoken in Indonesia. In our religious diversity, with 5 percent of the EU's population now professing Islam as their faith. Just as Indonesia brings together a myriad of faiths, cultures and ethnic identities, so the EU has created a common space for its citizens, in which they can work, travel and trade freely.

It is important, in a globalizing world, that we find ways to share and celebrate our diversity more effectively. Our parliamentary visit is designed to strengthen the mutually enriching political and people-to-people links that exist between the EU and Indonesia and is a natural consequence of the signature of the EU-Indonesia Partnership and Co-operation Agreement in 2009.

We will build on the exchanges that have already taken place between the European Parliament and the Indonesian House of Representatives, including the visit by Indonesian MPs to the seats of the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg last year. We will meet key ministers and civil society representatives to discuss the thriving trade between the EU and Indonesia — now standing at around 19 billion — and the expansion of cooperation in areas such as education, climate change, counterterrorism and interfaith dialogue.

I am delighted that an increasing number of Indonesian students are choosing to study in universities in the EU, an interest which is underscored by the 12,000 visitors to the European Higher Education Fair in Jakarta and the 1,000 EU Erasmus Mundus and Member State scholarships that are awarded annually to Indonesian students.

Third, development. Whilst Indonesia is blazing an economic trail that is the envy of many other economies — 6.1 percent growth in 2010 — development partnerships with the EU and others remain a welcome way in which to work together for the full realization of the Millennium Development Goals and the eradication of poverty. The EU is a committed partner of Indonesia in key areas such as education, governance, health and trade-related assistance.

The EU has also been a steadfast partner of Indonesia at times of natural disaster, including the terrible devastation and loss of life caused by the eruption of Mount Merapi and the tsunami that ravaged Mentawai islands. During our visit, we look forward to seeing several EU-Indonesia projects in Indonesia, including the substantial EU contribution made to reconstruction efforts in Yogyakarta following the devastating earthquake of 2006.

I look forward to gaining a first-hand insight into the dynamism and diversity of the engagement between the EU and Indonesia and to ensuring that the European Parliament contributes fully to making this truly "3D" relationship develop and flourish in the future.

The EU has also been a steadfast partner of Indonesia at times of natural disaster, including the terrible devastation.

Dr. Werner Langen is chairman of European Delegation for  Relations with the Countries of Southeast Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). He is visiting Indonesia from Feb. 21-25, 2011, together with nine other members of the European Parliament.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

VIEWPOINT: HANDBAG HEROES AND THE PRESIDENT

JULIA SURYAKUSUMA

The saying "Wham, bam, thank you Ma'am" had a different meaning for me until I came across a video of Ann Timson, a 71-year-old pensioner in Northampton (UK), taking on six men twice her size (http://video.perthnow.com.au/1784997849/UK-woman-beats-robbers-with-handbag?area=videoindex16). The fearless granny saw they were engaged in a brazen smash-and-grab robbery of a jewelry shop, in a main street, in broad daylight. Furious that no one was doing anything about it, she ran across and started clobbering the burglars with her handbag.

Stunned and astonished, one of them ran away immediately, but the others kept bashing the windows, grabbing jewelry and expensive watches. One of them threatened Timson with a sledgehammer, but she kept hitting him, undaunted, until passers-by joined in. Eventually the police caught four of the suspects, and are still hunting the other two.

Hailed as a hero, Granny Timson said she didn't feel she was a hero at all. She simply had to do something, she said, because no one else was.

It all sounds a bit like Indonesia to me, where no one does anything about violent crimes committed in public, in broad daylight by religious vigilantes. In fact, I'm starting to wonder if we should all club together and buy President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) a nice big handbag?

Who knows, maybe such an accoutrement could give him the courage boost he so desperately needs.

After all, Margaret Thatcher was also a handbag hero. She was poster girl of the handbag brigade in fact, and never left home without one. Prime minister of Britain for almost 12 years, she did controversial and unpopular but undeniably brave things for her country. A Conservative minister once remarked that she had  "the authority of her office always with her. It was in her handbag …"

If not a handbag, SBY certainly needs something to ward off the accusations that he — and the state — are behaving in a cowardly way by allowing increasingly violent attacks to continue against Ahmadis, Christians and other religious minorities.

Yes, Indonesia has always had religious conflict, and it has always tested the authority of the state.

Unfortunately, however, the Cikeusik tragedy, which claimed three lives, looks like a test this government probably won't pass.  

The reason? Deep down, the government probably doesn't think the attacks are wrong, even though the FPI (Islam Defenders Front) is threatening to topple SBY if he dares to disband any mass organization, including them. It is hard to avoid the suspicion that for our government the real criminals are not the attackers, but the Ahmadis, because they dare to be different.

Of course, in a democracy that respects human rights, being different is what it's all about. It's called pluralism, duh! It means the smallest, weirdest religious group has the right to exist, and that right should be defended. SBY should check out Articles 28E and 29 of our newly-amended Constitution, and get the backbone to do what it says there: Guarantee freedom of belief.

Remember the brouhaha about the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" in New York? President Barack Obama repeatedly spoke out in defense of Muslims' right to build what was, in fact, a community center. It was a politically high-risk position to take, and Obama could have lost much credibility in the eyes of many Americans (and not just Pastor "Koran burning" Jones). And yet Obama took that risk.

Why? Because the notion of human rights runs in his blood.

Not so SBY. His mindset comes from the New Order militaristic mentality that prioritizes stability above everything else. You can take the general out of the New Order (and even make him President in the Reform Era), but you can't take the New Order out of the general. Once a general, always a general — and that, sadly, is our Pak Beye.

In 2007 I wrote a column about Indonesia being a gangster state ("Den of Thieves, Republic of Gangsters", www.juliasuryakusuma.com/column.php?menu_=2&year=2007&month=5&column_id=145).

State-sanctioned violence is a classic manifestation of this gangster state, and has its origins in the "Integralistic" 1945 Constitution. Before it was amended, that Constitution granted authoritarian and arbitrary rights to the state, allowing governments to rule unchecked. SBY must have forgotten we amended it to guarantee human rights — including freedom of belief.

While extreme or radical organizations like the FPI will always exist, even in democratic countries (like the far-right Ku Klux Klan in the US), the majority of Indonesian civil society believes in pluralism. It's our state institutions that need to catch up. The problem is that there is still is no public culture of rights yet in Indonesia. The laws exist, but not the mentality.

So is there hope for us? Yes, possibly in 2014, if we all vote to kick out outdated has-beens from times gone by, and get a government led by people whose brains were not formed under the New Order.

Ann Timson, crime-buster and supergranny, says she and her handbag have been fighting crime for over 10 years. Maybe we should fly her over to Indonesia to teach SBY a trick or two? She was 61 when she started, and SBY is now 62, so he's only a year behind Britain's handbag-toting hero if he starts now!


The writer (www.juliasuryakusuma.com ) is the author of  Jihad Julia (Mizan).

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

YUDHOYONO'S FAMILY: POLITICS OF HISTORY

ASVI WARMAN ADAM

Preparations have been underway for Kristiani Herawati, better known as Ani Yudhoyono, to take over from her husband President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2014.

The truth about this issue will not be clear for the next three years. It is true, however, that a presidential candidate will need to be introduced to the public as early as possible.

Involvement in organizations and public appearances are important, but historical factors should not be left out, particularly when it concerns a daughter of a prominent military officer who led the operation to cleanse the now defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and its followers back in the late 1960s.

As far as the law is concerned, a daughter cannot possibly be punished for an offense committed by his or her father. It is interesting, however, to note how the mass killings following the 1965 coup attempt are portrayed in the biography of Ani titled Kepak Sayap Putri Prajurit (Wave of the Wings of a Soldier's Daughter), written by Alberthiene Endah. The book tells us how Ani felt about the biggest mass murder ever in Indonesian history.

It turned out that her father, Sarwo Edhi Wibowo, did not come home on Oct. 1, 1965, when he led military operations in Jakarta, Central Java, East Java and Bali. Communication at the time was not as easy as it is today. There was no news, and her family had to spend many long nights worrying, although her mother remained strong. After a couple of months, Sarwo Edhi finally came home, thin and tired, with skin darkened from days of duty as a soldier.

In the following months, Sarwo Edhi was sent on both domestic and overseas assignments. Ani went to study at the Indonesian Christian University's School of Medicine in Jakarta. She was a hard-working student and kept organized notes she wrote with her four-color pen. Taking very seriously a task given to memorize the characteristics of the human head, she once borrowed a skull from the university lab and took it home. Her father was shocked when he saw the skull in his daughter's bedroom.

The fact that Sarwo Edhi was assigned by Soeharto to eliminate the PKI is already part of history.

Sarwo Edhi became an officer with huge popularity after the abortive coup attempt. However, as there must never be twin suns, he was to be given tough assignments away from the center of power.

How could you make a naturally-flowing historical plot? Just include the event of Oct. 2, 1965 as a starting point. That day Air Marshall Sri Mulyono Herlambang took off from Medan to Halim Perdanakusuma to meet Sarwo Edhi and asked him to fly with him on a helicopter to Bogor's Presidential Palace to meet president Sukarno for an account of the tragedy. Instead of landing at the palace, they headed for Atang Senjaya Air Force Base and took a car to the palace. Sarwo Edhi decided to go to Bogor without asking for Soeharto's permission, then the Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) chief. Soeharto felt offended because Sarwo Edhi reported to him only after the Bogor visit.

Before the 2009 general election, it was also evident that SBY took advantage of history for the purpose of building his own image. In months leading to the 2009 presidential and legislative elections, Yudhoyono built a monument of history. This project clearly had to do with historical factors and values of the struggle for independence, which the individual behind this grand scheme wanted people to remember, preserve and (purposely) connect him to.  

Inauguration of the monument took place on Dec. 15, 2008, in Pacitan, East Java, his birthplace.

Expansion of the Great General Sudirman monument was a historic project. In mid-2008 the President instructed the public works minister, the culture and tourism minister and the commander of
the Indonesian Military (TNI) to start a crash program that had to be completed by the end of 2008.

Heavy machines were procured and army engineers were sent to finish all jobs on scheduled. The Public Works Ministry prepared the necessary infrastructure. The Culture and Tourism Ministry worked with the Center for Armed Forces History to gather historical data to be used for making the relief, as well as for the installation of dioramas planned for the second stage of the project.

In August 2008, a seminar workshop was held in a prestigious hotel in Jakarta to discuss the historic struggles led by Sudirman (1916-1950) and the installation of reliefs depicting the struggles at the expanded monument site. All the reliefs had been scientifically examined and accounted for. The message that the monument wanted to convey was that the capital Yogyakarta was under attack.

Both the president and vice president were detained, but Sudirman would never surrender. Despite his deteriorating health and with only one lung, he waged guerrilla warfare against the Dutch. What would have happened to the Republic if the TNI had not decided to take action at that most critical time?

Why expand the monument in Pacitan? Why not the ones in Purwokerto or Ambarawa? Why feature Sudirman, the founding father of the Indonesian armed forces? SBY's contenders in the 2009 presidential election included retired generals, but SBY was the candidate who paid the highest respect for the great general. Commemoration of Indonesian Infantry Day on Dec. 15, 2008, in Pacitan, led by the Army Chief of Staff, implied that the military was in support of the President. The project was a success, despite poor coverage as the media were busy reporting other issues.

The politics of image-building also require historical narration, and attempts have been made with greater sophistication than those of the New Order.



The writer is a historian at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Jakarta.

 

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

AS THE INNOCENTS AND THE IMMATURE CELEBRATE…

Democracy in its purest form; certainly is the aspiration of any progressive society. No country, race or a people whatever their political affiliations and belief systems, desires any curtailment of his rights, freedoms or aspirations within a system. The political histories of many countries bear witness to this reality. It is the appreciation of such desires that moves societies to ensure safeguards against any infringement on these human and political rights of the people. It is also such respect for these rights that the global community expects to be upheld with various sanctions etc against political leaderships acting against the norms that falls within the democratic framework.

Given this scenario albeit an idealist one, the progressing political trend in the Middle East is to be appreciated- if not applauded. Beginning from Egypt, Tunisia to Jordan, Yeman and Libya there is finally a people's movement that is seeking democracy. As a region that has long being denied the riches of such freedoms the desire for such change of the people is to be understood.

A large majority of the countries under turmoil have been under dictatorships with little room for any form of political freedoms to call their own. It defies all rational thinking to believe that some of these regimes have dared to rule some of these countries for well over two decades- with no room for dissent allowed and a viable opposition largely discouraged if not wholly denied. The suppressed people's desire therefore to seek change is certainly understandable.

This romanticization of democracy however is not without its drawbacks. As ideal as the idea of people taking their freedoms to the streets and banishing dictatorial regimes and instilling democracy is to the believer, the political indiscipline fast becoming the norm in the Middle East cannot be undermined. Given the serious threat of de-stability to these societies such actions carry, it is imperative that those seeking change bear in mind the necessity to instill a discipline worthy of carrying regular social and political functions forward.

The implications of this situation can have very negative effects. They can lead to a total breakdown of the social structure- from the average day-to-day functions of service providers to the political decision makers whose desire to take control of the 'freedoms.'

The ensuing vacuum post leadership change is in reality a dangerous time indeed. It has the potential of politically immature to aspire decision-making they are unqualified to do with very disastrous results. Societies in the interim, need necessarily to be aware of the dangers of many with clear and unhealthy agendas launching their programs while the innocents and the immature celebrate. The room therefore for replacing one dictator with an even worse one in this sad situation cannot be ignored.

In a strange way the workings of some dictators have succeeded in ensuring political and social security in some societies especially in the African region despite very serious levels of corruption and political intimidations. Ironically even midst flawed elections, there is a disturbingly high number who vote with conviction that such leaders are right for their countries. Often they form the illiterate but even such wishes have to be accommodated. A situation that no western society can comprehend no doubt.

Yet, these are also political realities of the developing world that cannot be disregarded. Seeking political regimes that can exert power over the opposition and stand against any threat to the country's security are more often than not a sufficient forum to provide support for, for these populations. It is in creating a healthy and viable balance between that such nations can truly give life to democracy- whether it is funded by the West or not. The final formulae cannot afford to be bought from ambitious theses of theorists with impressive credentials but with no real understanding of the people and their needs.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

 

PRABHA'S GHOST HAUNTS TAMIL NADU ELECTIONS

 'The Hindu' newspaper of India recently reported that the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs has sent alert messages to Indian security officials that the LTTE cadres in Tamil Nadu are conspiring to carry out attacks targeting VVIPs  during the Indian assembly election season,  that is ,at the forthcoming Tamil Nadu State elections  it is likely that the LTTE cadres are targeting Indian Prime Minister (PM) Manmohan Singh .

In December 2010 too, 'The Hindu' newspaper stated that the LTTE cadres who are hidden in Tamil Nadu are making efforts to assassinate Manmohan Singh, the Indian P M. 'The Hindu' also reported in February 2011 that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi is another assassination target of the LTTE. Yet , the Tamil Nadu Director General of Police,  Letika Saran has denied LTTE presence in Tamil Nadu. He has dismissed as baseless the charges that the Tamil Tiger cadres can during Tamil Nadu State elections  attack top political leaders. The Tamil Nadu opposition party however claims  , as the popularity of Karuananidhi and his Congress Alliance are on the wane, they are using the media to publish reports in order to earn the sympathy of the Tamil Nadu voters while at the same time  levelling accusations that Karunanidhi and his Congress Alliance helped Sri Lanka (SL) Govt. to destroy the Tamil Tigers . In May 2009 , Karunanidhi won in  Tamil Nadu at the Indian General elections by supporting the Tamil Tigers. It was Karunanidhi who launched protest demonstrations in Tamil Nadu against the SL Govt. Although he and his Congress Alliance did nothing to halt the war in SL, they nevertheless painted a different picture by portraying themselves to the Tamil Nadu people as having done their utmost towards stopping the war in SL.

During that election, at the inception, Jayalalitha was against the Tamil Tigers while  Karunanidhi on the other hand was the first to commence protests and demonstrations in Tamil Nadu in support of the Tamil Tigers. Subsequently Jayalalitha changed her stance and became vehemently 'pro Tamil Tiger' even more than Karunanidhi. But the Tamil Nadu people voted for Karunanidhi entertaining the belief that he was honestly attempting to stop the SL war . At the General elections , the candidates of Karunanidhi who contested under the Alliance jointly with the Congress who won more  seats in Tamil Nadu. But now the cat is out of the bag ; the people have realized that Karunanidhi had led them up the garden path .

The relationship of Karunanidhi and his daughter with  the SL President Mahinda Rajapaksa  have  also come to light . Hence, it is not possible for Karunanidhi to revert to his pro Tamil Tiger stance any more. The only option now available to Karunanidhi and his Congress Alliance is to seek and win the sympathy of the Tamil people by using  the media to make announcements that the Tamil Tigers are targeting him and his Congress Alliance members for attacks , whereby Jayalalitha and her Alliance will invariably be saddled with the incrimination that they are murderers for supporting the Tamil tigers.

The intelligence unit of India is maintaining links with the Tamil Tiger Diaspora leader Rudrakumaran, who is resident in America . Likewise the unit has contacts with the Global Tamil Forum which heads the Tamil Tiger Diaspora in Britain. The movements of the Tamil Diaspora leader Nediyawan who is in Norway are  also monitored via the Norway intelligence unit. There were rumours afloat in the recent past that the Global Tamil Forum in Britain tried to approach Rahul Gandhi . At all events , it is learnt that the Indian intelligence unit has extracted an assurance from the Tamil Tiger Diaspora that no terrorist activity shall be resorted to within Tamil Nadu or India. Moreover , if the Tamil Tiger Diaspora engages in terrorist activities in India that will militate against the Diaspora  for , that will mark the end  of the Tamil Tiger Diaspora in Europe including America .  These countries certainly will  not allow the Tamil Tiger Diaspora to use them as a base to attack India. Rudrakumaran and the Tamil Tiger Diaspora may have notified the Indian intelligence unit that if they do indulge in terrorist activities , it will be the SL Govt. which can cash in on that and exploit it fully  to its advantage.

No matter what , as at the Indian General elections in May 2009 when Prabhakaran was alive , so at the forthcoming State elections in May 2011 , the issue of the Tamils is going to play a vital and pivotal role. Not only the issue of the Indian fishermen but even the passing away of Prabhakaran's mother will be used as trumps in the Tamil Nadu elections. While the Tamil Nadu opposition politicians are expressing their condolences on the occasion of the bereavement following the death of Prabhakaran's mother, a member  of Karunanidhi's Alliance , Thirumavalavan , a party  leader has stated , he will be going to SL to pay his last respects to the dead mother of Prabhakaran.

From all these developments, it is evident, like how Prabhakaran's shadow was chasing the politicians of Tamil Nadu at all the Indian elections, now, his ghost is giving chase to  them at the forthcoming State elections too.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

LANKA IN HOT WATER AS INDIA ROCKS THE BOAT

MY DEAR MAHINDA AIYA,

Ayubowan, vanakam, assalamu allaikum and best wishes as we go up, up for the cricket world cup while unknown to most people ties between Sri Lanka and big brother India have been plunged into stormy seas. The tension between Sri Lanka and India has been building up for some time mainly over China's ever increasing influence here and the delay in finding a just and fair political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

India with the backing of the United States and Western Europe wants to be the Asian super-power and is competing with China for this. What India did last week is seen by many analysts as something similar to the notorious "parippu drop" in 1987. The big bully brother not only blatantly violated Sri Lanka's sovereignty and territorial integrity but also interfered with the judicial process here in a downright case of contempt of court. The Indian move, clearly connected to the Tamil Nadu State Assembly election in April, came after some 136 Indian fishermen were apprehended, produced in court and remanded for allegedly poaching in Sri Lanka's territorial waters. Who apprehended the 136 Indian fishermen is not clear though some reports refer to involvement by the Sri Lankan Navy or armed fighters of the Eelam People's Democratic Party. Whatever happened, what India did was totally unacceptable.

On Thursday, the 136 Indian fishermen were produced in two Northern courts and remanded till March 1st. Amidst an outburst from both the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the opposition All India Anna DMK, the Central government in India reacted swiftly and strongly. India's High Commissioner Ashok Kantha reportedly met Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and other top officials to insist on the immediate release of the fishermen. Acting in an even more blatant manner, India's Counsel General  V. Mahalingam who is based in Jaffna reportedly met one of the judges concerned and asked for the release of the Indian fishermen. The judge has reported this act of interference or contempt of court to the Chief Justice. Whatever the legal response the political clout was stunning and orders went, apparently from the top, for the police to go to courts and ask for the release of the Indian fishermen. Thus the district judges had no option but to release them. Later, the Indian fishermen were taken to the seas off Kankasanthurai and handed over to the Indian coastguard along with their boats. They returned to Tamilnadu on Saturday. 

AIA DMK Leader and former film star Jayalalitha Jeyeram in an apparent bid to outdo DMK leader Muttuvelu Karunanidhi sent a petition to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking that the island of Kachchativu be taken back by India. This disputed and strategically located island had been given to Sri Lanka in terms of the 1974 agreement between the then Prime Ministers Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Lal Bahadhur Shasthri. It was known as the 'Sirima-Shasthri Pact' and it worked well till the powerful Minister Basil Rajapaksa went to New Delhi in 2008 and signed a new memorandum of understanding regarding the territorial waters with the Indian Government.

Premier Sirimavo Bandaranaike maintained good relations with India and even with the state of Tamil Nadu as the cornerstone of an excellent foreign policy. She was well advised by experts like the then Foreign Ministry Secretary Arthur Ratnavel and Sri Lanka achieved such stature that it was able to host the summit of the 100-nation conference of the Non-Aligned Movement. But after 1977 President J R Jayewardene and President Ranasinghe Premadasa muddled up ties with India and put Sri Lanka in a bloody mess. A similar pattern has been seen in recent years; and the Rajapaksa regime needs to urgently review and change its foreign policy strategy to prevent a head-on conflict with India similar to that of 1987.

 

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

 

 

 

 

VIPS INVADE CRICKET FIELD

Democracy in its highest sense is a form of government that is of the people, for the people and by the people. But here in Sri Lanka the term democracy can mean, of the VIP, for the VIP and by the VIP and there isn't a field, which these VIPs have not invaded.

Take the case of even religion. These VIPs, or let's call them politicians, have their photographs run alongside religious dignitaries and images in a manner unheard of 10 or 15 years ago.

Perhaps in no other field can they thrive for all glory than in cricket. When Sri Lanka won the World Cup in 1996, the notion of security and VIPs never dawned and that too with the war at its peak and one devastating bomb exploding in the heart of Colombo barely two weeks before that World Cup.

Today the invasion of cricket by VIPs is phenomenal and one is left to wonder whether cricket can still be a people's game in the future at the rate politicians are demanding the best places not just in its administration but when it comes to matches especially the World Cup and other prestigious events.

People have no qualms about VIPs watching cricket, but the problem with them is that their presence and patronage at cricket or religious events creates an unhealthy situation for both body and soul. The people here are the biggest losers, pushed into drains and inconvenienced so the VIPs can get the best places and comforts. Whether the people who provide security to these VIPs know what they do we don't know, but certainly for these security officials protecting the comforts of the VIPs is more important than the convenience of the paying public who are subjected to the worst forms of security checks.

In Sri Lanka security to a large extent means not taking care of the people or their rights but ensuring VIPs get the best comforts. It is disgusting to see gun-totting security personnel sometimes ordering motorists and other road users to get away from their path whenever they steer VIPs around the country. Even the big-wigs of the security establishment seem to thrive on their positions as can be witnessed when policemen involved in traffic duties stop their work and salute a passing top cop come sun or rain. Such is the scenario in Sri Lanka. We'd like to know whether it is written in the appointment letter of traffic constables that they should leave aside public duties and salute their masters who pass by.

Cricket of course could be better off without these VIPs or politicians who ought to limit their patronage of the sport unless their presence is needed which can be extremely rare. It was hair-raising the other day in Sooriyawewa, where Sri Lanka played their first World Cup match against Canada. Hundreds of armed forces personnel some even in camouflage helmets were seen at the venue clutching automatic rifles. To have armed security forces men in every nook and corner providing security to VIPs while at the same time promoting tourism at the very places foreigners visit is somewhat hypocritical.

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

 

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS... 

BY REBECCA TORR

 

Every one of us just wants to be happy, but why at times does it seem so hard?

 

This week I got chatting on the subject to some close friends and discovered some interesting insights into how we manage the ups and downs of life.

 

One of my friends is convinced she is bipolar, because half the month she is full of energy and on top of the world and the other she disappears under the blankets, promising to surface, but can't even muster her baby toe.

 

Another friend is always upbeat and joking but confesses that although she does her best to convince herself and others she is happy, deep down it doesn't necessarily ring true.

 

A third friend links happiness to seasons, it seems she has it in abundance in the summer but lacks during colder months when not even nature has the energy to smile.

 

It seems for most of us happiness is so vital to our lives, but the pursuit of it can be such a draining and time-consuming task, that sometimes we just prefer to give up and go underground.

 

So what's the solution? Well one of my guy friends is certain that happiness isn't something we should search for, but a state of mind. For him happiness is merely a decision away and that anyone can be happy even in the midst of the most dire circumstances if he can just control his mind.

 

Through tools such as meditation and neuro linguistic programming (NLP) my friend says he can snap his mind from negative to positive in an instant.

 

And I can see where he is coming from, when we think and talk and talk and think about a negative situation or circumstance we are actually meditating in reverse, which is very likely to make us feel much worse.

 

Conversely, if we choose to think on the positive and decide to be happy and think about it and talk about it the chances are far greater that we will be in a happier frame of mind.

 

I once heard that another way to jump start happiness is to have something to be enthusiastic about, whether that's a relationship, job, a new house, a baby on the way or a holiday to look forward to, it all helps.

 

Others tell me that being in love, keeping busy, exercising, cooking, being pampered and generally thinking and doing things for others all help to ensure that happiness continues to flow in.

 

Another tested method to increase one's happiness is to spend 10 minutes a day in total silence. Oprah recently challenged her viewers to start with just a minute a day and see the results.

 

Whatever method you use to keep yourself happy I believe we should remember that life is short, each moment is precious and feeling sorry for ourselves is such a waste of time.

 

So my method for staying happy? Pray, pray, pray, fast from self-pity, think and confess the positive, live in the present, do something to make someone else happy, don't sweat the small stuff, count your blessings, plan good times and always see the glass half full.

 

And if all else fails go skydiving (but use a parachute!!!) and I'm sure all of your worries will evaporate immediately! becky@gdn.com.bh

 

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