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Thursday, February 24, 2011

EDITORIAL 24.02.11

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  media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month february 24, edition 000763, 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. TWO CHEERS FOR VASTANVI
  2. LIBYA'S LOONY DICTATOR
  3. LEFT'S PARASITES WILL SURVIVE - SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY
  4. A SOCIETY IN TERMINAL DECLINE? - RAJIV DOGRA
  5. INDIA'S PRIDE, NEIGHBOUR'S ENVY - PRIYADARSI DUTTA
  6. A CATCH-22 SITUATION FOR US, EUROPE - ANDREI FEDYASHIN

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. GODHRA REVISITED
  2. JPC AND AFTER
  3. PLUG THE HOLE IN THE BUCKET - SANTOSH MEHROTRA
  4. IT CAN HELP PARENTING
  5. DEATH BY LIVING - BACHI KARKARIA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. EYES ON THE JOB AT HAND
  2. A SPLENDID KNOCK!
  3. WHO'S YOUR (LIBYAN) DADDY?
  4. ADVENTURES IN TOYLAND - AMITAVA SANYAL
  5. MORE FROM THE ARAB SPRING - BHAVYA DORE
  6. NARENDRA MODI 2.0 - SAMAR HALARNKAR

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. A PEEK IN
  2. GADDAFI UNPLUGGED
  3. COLONEL'S TURN
  4. FACTORIES OF THE FUTURE - P. VAIDYANATHAN IYER
  5. DON'T HUNT THE MINNOWS - ADITYA IYER
  6. WHO AM I TO TALK? - SYEDA HAMEED
  7. ALL THAT CUP CHATTER - SHAILAJA BAJPAI
  8. FAMILY SECRETS - MANOJ C G

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. IT'S JUST A LAW, GUYS!
  2. THAT MAGIC 9%
  3. WHERE'S THE NEW REFORM SCRIPT? - SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE
  4. EVEN MORE CONTRADICTIONS TO MANAGE - MADAN SABNAVIS

THE HINDU

  1. THE BURNING TRAIN
  2. QADHAFI'S TIME IS UP
  3. THE MUSLIM AS BJP SUPPORTER IN GUJARAT  - RAHEEL DHATTIWALA
  4. G20 NEEDS TO ADDRESS AFRICA'S INFRASTRUCTURE DEFICIT  - OLUSEGUN OBASANJO
  5. HAS QADHAFI UNLEASHED A MERCENARY FORCE? - DAVID SMITH
  6. ARAB LEAGUE PRESSED TO CONDEMN QADHAFI  - JACK SHENKER
  7. QUESTIONS AFTER SOMALI PIRATES KILLING OF AMERICANS  - EWEN MACASKILL AND XAN RICE  
  8. LIBYA DESTROYING CHEMICAL WEAPONS, SAYS WATCHDOG  - NASA DELAYS SATELLITE LAUNCH

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. VERDICT ON GODHRA: TIP OF THE ICEBERG?
  2. A FARMER'S WISHLIST - VIJAY JAWANDHIA
  3. RADICAL CLICK: RISE OF VIRTUAL WARRIORS - SIDHARTH BHATIA

DNA

  1. OH! TO BE PART OF THE GROUP
  2. DON'T OTHER CITIES ALSO HAVE SPIRIT? - RANJONA BANERJI

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. RE-INTEGRATING KASHMIR YOUTH
  2. JPC AT LAST
  3. LESSONS FROM THE ARAB WORLD - BY K.N. PANDITA
  4. DIVERSIFICATION OF AGRICULTURE - BY PROF R D GUPTA
  5. NEED FOR A WITNESS PROTECTION LAW - BY PRAKASH SHUKLA

THE TRIBUNE

  1. INFERTILITY IN PUNJAB
  2. DEOBAND CONTROVERSY
  3. BIG FAT WEDDINGS
  4. DIALOGUE WITH ULFA - BY B.G. VERGHESE
  5. DEGREE MATA KA MANDIR - BY V.K. KAPOOR
  6. BYPASS OR ANGIOPLASTY DONE. NOW WHAT? - NARESH TREHAN

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. A KARACHI NOIR NOVEL?

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. TAXES AND THE DEFICIT
  2. FERTILISING POLICY
  3. WALKING THE FISCAL TIGHTROPE
  4. LAURA PAPI & JAMES P WALSH
  5. ON A WING AND A PRAYER - ARVIND SINGHAL
  6. IN SICKNESS AND IN WEALTH - BARUN ROY
  7. A MATTER OF LONG LIFE - INDICUS ANALYTICS

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. NOW'S THE TIME
  2. CHASE DIRTY MONEY
  3. DUTCH TREAT
  4. REFORMING POLITICAL FUNDING  - T K ARUN EDITOR, OPINION
  5. GOD'S OWN COUNTRY, FOR OLD MEN - ULLEKH NP
  6. SOME POLICY TIPS FOR SINHA'S SEBI  - SANDEEP PAREKH

DECCAN  CHRONICALE

  1. VERDICT ON GODHRA: TIP OF THE ICEBERG?
  2. A FARMER'S WISHLIST  - BY VIJAY JAWANDHIA
  3. RADICAL CLICK: RISE OF VIRTUAL WARRIORS  - BY SIDHARTH BHATIA
  4. TO TAX OR NOT TO TAX  - CHANDRAJIT BANERJEE
  5. DOES GOD EXIST? YES.  - BY SWAMI TEJOMAYANANDA

THE STATESMAN

  1. LAW CATCHES UP
  2. HISTORICAL HYPHEN
  3. GRACELESS AUSSIES
  4. TALK TO THE TALIBAN? - SALMAN HAIDAR
  5. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY
  6. A VACUUM OF GADDAFI'S MAKING  - PETER POPHAM 

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. LATER STILL
  2. FAMILIAR ENEMY
  3. TREADING NOT SO SOFTLY
  4. GLEANINGS - ANABEL LOYD
  5. DEEP IN DEBT  - DIPANKAR BOSE

DECCAN HERALD

  1. GODHRA CLOSURE
  2. SPREADING RAGE
  3. THE CRISIS IN AGRICULTURE  - PREM SHANKAR JHA
  4. ITALY'S POOR RECORD IN GENDER EQUALITY  - EMMA BONINO, IPS
  5. A STORY FROM THE HEART  - INDU SURYANARAYAN

HAARETZ

  1. A WARNING FROM CONCERNED FRIENDS
  2. BY HAARETZ EDITORIAL STAFF
  3. AN IRRESPONSIBLE RABBINATE  - BY YEDIDIA STERN
  4. THE HURRICANE OF CHANGE  - BY ARI SHAVIT
  5. WHO'S AFRAID OF THE TRANSPARENCY LAW? - BY ISRAEL HAREL

 THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. MR. OBAMA MOVES AGAINST BIAS
  2. HOW QUICKLY THEY FORGET
  3. NEW RULES FOR NEW TECHNOLOGY
  4. UNNECESSARILY INVASIVE
  5. ON THE LINE WITH LIBYA - BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
  6. REVENGE OF THE POMERANIANS - BY GAIL COLLINS

TIMES FREE PRESS

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

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - 'PITY' IS THE ONLY WORD
  2. POPULAR REVOLTS AND THEIR ENDINGS - RICHARD REID
  3. MEDITERRANEAN HEATING UP - SAMİ KOHEN
  4. NAGORNO-KARABAKH: BETWEEN WHITE AND BLACK - RESHAD KARIMOV
  5. PRIME DUTY - YUSUF KANLI
  6. RECENT DEVELOPMENTS TO INFLUENCE US DIFFERENTLY - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  7. THE WEST HAS JUST STARTED TO CALCULATE THE COSTS - MARC OSTWALD

THE NEWS

  1. CLINGING ON
  2. DANGEROUS WATERS
  3. A SKYFUL OF LIES  - IKRAM SEHGAL
  4. ECONOMICS OF POLITICAL DESPAIR  - SHAHID JAVED BURKI
  5. A DEARTH OF IDEAS  - AIJAZ ZAKA SYED
  6. TIDES OF DESTINY  - RAOOF HASAN
  7. A LEADERSHIP GUILTY OF DOING TOO LITTLE  -  KAMILA HYAT
  8. A 'JITTERY' ISRAEL  -  JONATHAN COOK

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. PAKISTAN'S IMAGE IN QADDAFI'S EYES
  2. RAISANI SEES BALOCHISTAN IN DARK AGES
  3. CRIPPLING GAS SHORTAGE
  4. A REVOLUTION IN THE MAKING - AHMAD HASAN SHEIKH
  5. CRUCIFIXION OF HUMANISM - AZAM INQILABI
  6. WORSENING ECONOMY - YAHYA AHMAD
  7. FREEDOM IN WRONG HANDS - BURHANUDDIN HASAN
  8. STABLE BALOCHISTAN IN PAK INTEREST - AHMAD SABAT

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. OUR ANZAC MATES STAND STRONG IN MEETING DISASTER
  2. LEADERSHIP INSPIRES ASPIRATIONS
  3. THE TERRIBLE LESSONS OF LIBYA

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. FROM THE RUINS, A CALL TO REBUILD
  2. ELECTRIC SHOCK FOR NSW VOTERS
  3. AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND, UNITED IN GRIEF
  4. SHIP OF SHAME EXPOSES NAVY CULTURE

THE GUARDIAN

  1. THE GIBSON TORTURE INQUIRY: A WHITEWASH WON'T WASH
  2. LIBYA: THE URGE TO HELP
  3. IN PRAISE OF … PLYMOUTH ARGYLE

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. RISK FROM RISING GLOBAL PRICES
  2. DPJ SUSPENDS MR. OZAWA
  3. EGYPT'S ECONOMIC FUTURE - BY MARK J. ROE

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. SYMPATHY FOR NEW ZEALAND
  2. INDONESIA'S MEDIATING ROLE IN ASEAN - LINA A. ALEXANDRA
  3. ASEAN AND THE CONCEPT OF SOVEREIGNTY - C.P.F. LUHULIMA
  4. AVERTING POLITICAL TURBULENCE

DAILY MIRROR

  1. A SRI LANKAN PROBLEM FOR INDIA
  2. ON REAL INTERNET FREEDOM
  3. THE BLOODY RETREAT FROM VADUKODDAI TO NANDIKADAL- I
  4. TRUTH BEHIND THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE SRI LANKAN TAMIL DIASPORA

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. OUR BAHRAIN    - BY MARIAM AHMED ALI 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

TWO CHEERS FOR VASTANVI

BUT THE KNIVES ARE STILL OUT FOR HIM


The Vice-Chancellor of Darul Uloom, Deoband, Maulana Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvi, seems to have won half the battle against the Islamic seminary's orthodox clergy with the Majlis-e-Shoora rejecting his offer to step down from his post following the storm of protest over his comments that Muslims have benefitted from Gujarat's impressive development and they need to put the past behind them. Those remarks were made by Maulana Vastanvi, who hails from Gujarat and has first-hand knowledge of the status of Muslims in that State, soon after his appointment as Vice-Chancellor of Darul Uloom, Deoband. Going by his track record, Maulana Vastanvi is a forward-looking cleric who believes Muslims can be empowered through modern education which alone can secure their future. The large educational institution he has set up in a backward area of Gujarat and which draws thousands of students every year bears testimony to his belief and commitment: The curriculum is a balanced, happy blend of traditional madarsa education and secular studies, something which is beyond the scope of appreciation by those who are blinded by fanaticism and bigotry and who, unfortunately, have come to hold sway over Darul Uloom, Deoband, over the decades with more than a little help and patronage from the Congress. There was nothing either objectionable or exceptional about Maulana Vastanvi's comments. Gujarat's development statistics and indices speak for themselves; as for the status of Muslims in that State, even the high-powered committee headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar, who is no friend of either the BJP or Chief Minister Narendra Modi, conceded in its report that Muslims were far better off in Gujarat than in other States, including those ruled by the Congress and the Communists. But individuals who have been running Darul Uloom, Deoband, as their fiefdom all these years and have been using the seminary to leverage political clout (and its attendant benefits) with the Congress, seized upon Maulana Vastanvi's comments; twisted them to paint him as an 'Uncle Tom' who had 'betrayed' his community; planted exaggerated versions in Urdu newspapers; and, manufactured rage, skillfully exploiting the ignorance that serves as a useful tool in the hands of orthodox mullahs who are horrified by the prospect of the community abandoning them and their regressive theocracy that militates against modernity and its wholesome, empowering benefits. An exasperated Maulana Vastanvi decided to call their bluff; hence his offer to resign which, for the moment, has been rejected by the Majlis-e-Shoora.

But it has not been a complete triumph over those who wish to see Muslims remain trapped in the past rather than help them to step bravely into the future. A committee has been set up to conduct an inquiry into what exactly had Maulana Vastanvi said and whether he had praised Mr Modi. An 'acting' Vice-Chancellor has been appointed who will exercise administrative authority till the inquiry is over. If the report of the committee exonerates Maulana Vastanvi, he will resume full control over Darul Uloom, Deoband; if it does not, then his resignation will be accepted. It is anybody's guess as to how this will play out, but for the moment, Maulana Vastanvi stands vindicated. Hopefully, this signals the final defeat of senseless dogma.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

LIBYA'S LOONY DICTATOR

GADDAFI REFUSES TO READ WRITING ON THE WALL


Perhaps Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi was under the influence of drugs. Or perhaps he had been off them for too long when he went on national television on Tuesday night because, honestly, the eccentric leader had to be delusional if he was still looking to revive his 1960s, leader-of-the-revolution persona. In a fist-pumping, finger-pointing, blood curdling speech that managed to "scare" even some world leaders, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel would testify, Col Gaddafi promised to fight till the "last drop of my blood". In his 75-minute-long diatribe, Libya's fallen star tried desperately to recast himself as the 'glorious leader' of his people and their 'revolution', but to viewers he came across more like a ranting madman. The first segment of his speech was a hotch-potch of phrases that barely made any sense but was a definite throwback to the revolutionary vocabulary of the 1960s — evidently he is caught in a time warp — but gradually he seemed to have found his voice as he roared, this time in the third person: "Muammar Gaddafi is not a normal person that you can poison or lead a revolution against. He is the leader of the revolution. He has nothing to lose." And then the leader spewed forth his venomous call to those "men and women who love Gaddafi" to get out of their homes and "capture the rats" and "attack them in their lairs." Needless to say, as Col Gaddafi raged and ranted, his militiamen clamped down on Tripoli. His supporters were out on the streets in large numbers and prevented protesters from holding any major rallies. At night, however, clashes ensued between the militiamen and protesters as Col Gaddafi reportedly brought in more reinforcements to hold down Tripoli.

In other parts of Libya, however, a different kind of picture is emerging. Protesters have taken over much of the eastern region of the country as well the city of Misrata, the largest in the western half. Despite the information blackout imposed by Col Gaddafi, there have been reports that protesters are now controlling several towns and cities along the Mediterranean coastline while along the Egyptian border his guards have fled and tribal elders and local leaders have formed self-governing units. Protesters are continuing to claim new gains and are slowly inching their way to the capital, where Col Gaddafi still holds sway. But seemingly not for long: The embattled leader has already lost the support of powerful tribal elders who play an important role in Libya's feudal society. Additionally, several Army units have refused to attack the protesters, although the Colonel has reportedly dealt with them with a strong hand and found mercenaries to take their place. At this point, there is no doubt that the week-long protests have considerably weakened Col Gaddafi's 41-year-old autocratic rule and he is on his way out. But it is clear, as he has promised, he will not leave without a bitter and bloody fight.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

LEFT'S PARASITES WILL SURVIVE
SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY

CPI(M)'s goons were the first to make the move and join Trinamool Congress. Industrialists and intellectuals are following them.

Logically, the end of West Bengal's Left Front rule — whenever it happens — should also mean the end of two parasitic groups that benefit hugely from Alimuddin Street's patronage. One is the tribe of building promoters who get land virtually for the asking; the other the peculiarly Bengali phenomenon of Marxist intellectuals (or is that tautology?) who rake in capitalist loot.

Recent meetings in Calcutta of Oxford Thinking, a high-powered visiting group trying to cash in on the university's India links to raise money, reminded me of this second species. Bengali opportunism has a hoary literary lineage. I am told of a writer boasting in 1857 that he was prepared for whichever side won by wearing a dhoti over his trousers. The dhoti could quickly be discarded if the British prevailed; no one would know of the trousers lurking beneath if the sepoys were victorious.

The Oxford Thinking meeting was equally revealing when a Marxist intellectual who wrote venomously against Indo-British cooperation in fellow-travelling Samar Sen's Now weekly appealed to Lord (Chris) Patten, the Chancellor, to ensure that Indian students are not deprived of the Oxford experience for lack of funds. In short, he was begging for British money so that Indians could study in England. The plea was not surprising; that it should be made publicly was. After all, a former Marxist Mayor kept it a dark secret that he had approached the American Consul-General to have Kolkata twinned with San Francisco (we already had a twin in Odessa) because his son was in California.

But, perhaps, with time running out, reticence can be dispensed with. The thinking brigade has done so well out of 30 years of Left Front rule that its sensitivities about taking what it can and asking for more are blunted. I am talking of the regime's cultural hangers-on though full-time Communists can also be spectacularly self-contradictory. When Eric Hobsbawm first met Indian Communists in their salad days in England, worshipping at the feet of Rajani Palme Dutt, the British Communist Party's half-Indian half-Swede but wholly upper class English guru, he "did not realise how untypical they were of their societies … the elite of the elites of the 'native' colonial populations".

Like Mrs Indira Gandhi's one-time confidant, Mohan, son of the Zamindar of Kumaramangalam (as he styled himself though others remember him better as Dr P Subbarayan), they illustrated how in the absence of an European-style hereditary aristocracy, the haute bourgeoisie rule the roost. This "bizarrerie", as Hobsbawn called it, came to life with Renu Chakravorty's Christmas dinner in Calcutta. Hobsbawm was served ham and turkey from the Calcutta Club (where her cousin was secretary) followed by biryani, and then plum pudding, also from the club.

A titled Englishwoman representing a British philanthropic trust told me how nervous she had been about calling on Indrajit Gupta, then Home Minister in Mr HD Deve Gowda's Government. North Block was uninviting and Gupta's room bleak as she awaited her first encounter with a Communist. Then her eyes lit on a framed photograph of King's College, Cambridge, and all fear vanished. Mohan, son of the Zamindar of Kumaramangalam, was also a King's, Cambridge man.

If, returning to Hobsbawm, "the dominant ideology of every society is the ideology of the dominant class", its lifestyle is the prize that inspires the masses who are not born bourgeois like Ms Brinda Karat. Her rajbati and Westernised boxwallah background makes her UHB (urban haute bourgeoisie) as the bright young White Anglo-Saxon Protestant sparks call themselves in the 1989 film, Metropolitan. Others become bourgeois like the successful producer of revolutionary films and plays who hired an interior decorator to create two sitting rooms in his house. The upstairs one in black leather and white wrought iron with a bar was for Society guests; the one downstairs with rough benches for party hoi-polloi. Not for them the fine distinction Gupta drew when talking to the leftist academic, Mr Kamal Mitra Chenoy, between being "not gentlemen of privilege, but gentlemen of the people". Being born to privilege, Gupta could afford to spurn it.

A fiery young radical who used to threaten scathingly to call his book about yesterday's revolutionaries The Lost Generation (with no apologies to Gertrude Stein) himself scaled dizzy corporate heights under Left Front benevolence. The men he held in contempt but whose ranks he gladly joined also became managing directors of public sector organisations, chairmen of important statutory bodies, university Vice-Chancellors or Rajya Sabha members. These high positions are supposed to be occupied by apolitical people but they owed their elevation entirely to Left Front patronage. As the baddie in John Le Carre's The Night Manager says, "Today's guerrillas are tomorrow's fatcats."

There are also the businessmen and promoters who may have suffered socially when Jyoti Basu retired since his puritanical successor doesn't hob-nob with them over a whisky at the Tollygunge Club. But their commercial position remains secure for even a revolutionary party needs funds. Only tycoons to whom the revolution that will never come has been mortgaged in advance can provide the funds in exchange for permits and licences.

That nexus continues. It always will. Judging by the astuteness with which Ms Mamata Banerjee handles her appearances under the aegis of the Indian Chamber of Commerce or the Ananda Bazar Patrika group, she is anxious to prove that rabble-rousing is only for street rallies. There is another side to her, and this should command middle and upper middle class allegiance. Scenting power, the classes are ready to oblige.

Neither group — intellectuals and promoters — need produce an Indian version of The God That Failed whose promotional tag read "Six famous men tell how they changed their minds about Communism". They had no god, only Mammon in which no one ever loses faith. Moreover, Trinamool Congress's language is also comfortingly progressive.

It's the Vicar of Bray all over. Defined as a person who changes beliefs and principles to stay in favour with the powers that be, the term is taken from an 18th century satirical song whose chorus explains the philosophy of survival:

And this is law, I will maintain Unto my Dying Day, Sir.That whatsoever King may reign,I will be the Vicar of Bray, Sir!

The CPI(M)'s goons were the first to make the move. Industrialists and intellectuals are following them.

--(sunandadr@yahoo.co.in)

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

A SOCIETY IN TERMINAL DECLINE?

RAJIV DOGRA

 

With mounting corruption in every sphere of life and at every level of governance, it is only natural that cynicism among citizens should reach unprecedented proportions and their expectations dip to an all time low. But should we then accept corruption as a way of life in India? Or should we the people take a stand and root out this cancer that threatens India?


Objectively speaking, it will have to be admitted that corruption has become a way of life. It is a cancer that threatens to eat into and wipe out our entire value system and the stability of society. It makes mockery of our lodestar — Satyameva Jayate. Sometimes, in great confusion, people shake their heads and wonder if this could really be happening to us; to a nation of which we proudly say: Mera Bharat Mahan.

In recent days, and after some inertia, the establishment has set the agencies after the scamsters. But there is an all pervading feeling that they are going through the motions; that nothing much will result out of it, and that the rich will continue to smile slyly in their palaces. As proof, the cynics cite the example of the Jain Hawala case. Despite ample evidence, the accused got away. The same mood of déjà vu affects people at large now; that the Government will go through the motions but the culprits will eventually laugh all the way back to their various bank accounts where they have salted away their ill-gotten wealth. But even as the rich revel in their palaces, the common man is being put through the grinder. The system shows no mercy to the innocent and the ordinary, especially the law-abiding.


Take a recent case which is a source of great anguish to the people of Delhi. Sometime during the monsoon period every year, the Municipal Corporation employees visit houses to inspect if there is any stagnant water on the premises that could breed mosquitoes. There is nothing objectionable to the stated purpose of the visit; after all it is for the larger public good. But what is grossly objectionable is the intent of the visiting official.

In most cases the official has no interest in society's welfare. Since the visit takes place during the working hours, he is likely to meet either the domestic staff, or a retired senior citizen or an over-worked house wife. Meanwhile, the Municipal Employee is busy scanning the premises. The tiniest bit of spilled water, even if it is the water from a recent shower, is enough for his purposes. He opens his challan book, looks at the offending house-holder sternly and warns in an admonishing voice, "It is up to you. Either you can settle it now, or you will have to suffer later." All this while his ball-point hovers threateningly over the challan book.


Some succumb, or simply are wise to ways of the world we live in, and pay up. A crisp bank note slides into the man's pocket and the case is closed; he marches on to the next house. But in many other cases the naïve and the principled do not get the message or simply refuse to accept it. Consequently, the moving finger of the official begins its scrawl, signalling the beginning of a tortuous saga.


A few days later the court summons arrive. The few words that are written on it are couched in legalese and largely indecipherable to an ordinary citizen. But the rough, yellowing piece of paper scares the wits out of the recipient. And as his/her inquiries with the more worldly-wise neighbour reveal the consequence of ignoring the summons would be grave — a higher fine and in the end the possibility of a six month jail term. All this because of the whims of a municipal official, the official whose palm was not greased.

Regardless of your personal problems, irrespective of the fact that you may have recently had a heart operation, or are an old and infirm senior citizen, or are a single helpless widow without any relatives, the law requires that you must present yourself in person at the court. In case you don't do so, the threat of the jail hangs ominously.

And the designated court is an average of 25 km away in Dwarka for people who live in South Delhi. The appearance in the court is an experience that should best not be recounted. Any citizen, and they must number in thousands in every part of Delhi, who has had to undergo this experience would remain bitter with the system for long.


The fundamental question that people ask is whether it is the intention of the law-makers that the law-abiding and honest citizens should be so humiliated and put through such agony. In all probability, the law-makers may not have realised the evil consequences of their writ.


But, is it not possible to remedy this situation? Surely, it is. For example, as in the case of payment for many other Government services, why cannot the penalty be deposited at the nearest post office or a branch of the nationalised bank? The resort to the appearance in a court, and even the jail term, should arise only for those who refuse to pay the penalty.


Second, why must the corrupt municipal official be the arbiter of where he chooses to see or ignore a water puddle. Today, panchayats all over India can decide on cases up to a financial limit of RS 5,000. Similarly, why the Resident Welfare Associations cannot be authorised to inspect, if necessary along with the municipal official, the houses within their jurisdiction and assess the violations in terms of accumulated water?


Such a system will free the courts from this unnecessary burden, allowing them to concentrate on and dispose of more serious and urgent matters.


In consequence, the Government would also have reduced one source of petty corruption and an issue that is the cause of great harassment to people. But is this too much to expect in an atmosphere where cynicism has reached unprecedented proportions, and the expectations of the citizens are at an all time low?


-- The writer is a former Ambassador.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

INDIA'S PRIDE, NEIGHBOUR'S ENVY

PRIYADARSI DUTTA


Every patriotic Indian is proud of the National Tricolour. Yet, the Congress-led Union Government refused to even so much as wag its finger in admonition when Jammu & Kashmir Police snatched away the Tricolour and tore it near Lal Chowk


The television news channels in the past have created storm in a teacup by reporting how TV anchor Mandira Bedi wore the National Tricolour in her sari; or tennis ace Sania Mirza carelessly put her legs up on a table displaying a miniature national flag while watching a cricket match. Hence, their silence was startling when the Jammu & Kashmir Police tore the national flag being carried by the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha activists near Lal Chowk in Srinagar.


The sacrilege of compelling the flag-bearers to drink urine or thrashing them mercilessly has not raised many eyebrows, thanks to the virtual blackout of the media in Jammu & Kashmir on that eventful day. It ensured that the world outside the State knew little about what happened.


The Jammu & Kashmir Police reportedly shouted, 'Indian dogs go back'. Whether the message was merely for the BJYM activists or the Indian state can be debated, but there is no denying that the Jammu & Kashmir Police had acted with jihadi vengeance, emboldened by the blessings of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. However, can the evident complicity of the Union Government be ignored?


The whole act is reminiscent of the connivance between Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah in 1952 when Syama Prasad Mookerjee was imprisoned by the Kashmir State Government. Jawaharlal Nehru could claim some personal immunity as he was abroad attending the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II when Syama Prasad Mookerjee died. But the Government of the day can give no such excuse as the event in Srinagar took place when the National Tricolour was being hosted at Vijay Chowk in New Delhi and every nook and corner of India on the Republic Day.


What is the response of the Congress, the grand old party of India, which has recently completed 125 years of 'serving the nation'? There was perhaps some merit in their argument that BJYM-BJP, by conducting the Ekta Yatra, was provoking separatists to retaliate. The hallowed ideas of nationalism or integrity of India notwithstanding, the fragile peace in the Valley was at stake. After all, like a case of high blood pressure, the Kashmir crisis, can only be managed and not solved. Having said that, the crushing of Ekta Yatra, arresting the leaders of Opposition in Parliament, or desecrating the National Tricolour can never be justified. The separatists' threat never materialised, but the police acted on butchers' instinct to crush the peaceful march.

The national flag is not a party flag. It belongs to all, including the Congress. In reality, the national flag, by its form and design, is almost identical to the Indian National Congress flag. Were it the 'Calcutta, 1906' flag designed by Sachindra Prasad Bose and Sukumar Mitra (as a popular symbol of Bengal anti-partition movement), it could have been associated with the BJP as it had series of lotuses. Were it the '1907 Stuttgart flag' unfurled by Madam Cama (which she co-designed with Shyamji Krishna Varma and Veer Savarkar) at the Second International Socialist Congress, the police could have mistaken it to be BJP's as it had blooming lotuses. Those flags, like those patriots, have been forgotten.


The design of our national flag evolved over a period of almost 50 years. Writing in Young India on April 13, 1921 Mahatma Gandhi provided the first of many accounts of how he was the father of the Indian national flag. It was the suggestion of Lala Hansraj of Arya Samaj to include the charka or the spinning wheel in the flag. White, green, red with charka became the flag of the Congress by 1921. The green actually represented the Muslims and red the Hindus. "The white portion is intended to represent all other faiths. The weakest numerically should occupy the first place, the Islamic colour comes next, the Hindu colour red comes last, the idea being that the strongest should act as a shield to the weakest." (Young India).


In 1930, Congress Working Committee set up a Flag Committee. The committee recommended that colours in the flag "would not have any communal significance, but saffron would represent courage and sacrifice; white would represent peace and truth; and green faith and chivalry. The 'charka' would represent hopes of the masses". When the Constituent Assembly discussed the design of Indian national flag on July 22, 1947 — three weeks before independence — Jawaharlal Nehru moved the resolution of Tricolour with Asoka Chakra in the centre, instead of the 'charka'. There was no opposition from members, all of whom pledged support to the flag design.

It appears that the present Congress leadership has lost its zeal for the national flag, whose design was approved by eminent Congress leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Flag hoisting has become a bureaucratic ritual like observing Hindi Fortnight. Rather it is the BJP-BJYM, which was seen making waves with the national flag.


It was distressing to see the Ekta Yatra stalled at Ravi Bridge, joining Jammu & Kashmir with Punjab at Lakhapur. More than 80 years ago, Purna Swaraj was pledged on the banks of Ravi at Lahore AICC. However, when Purna Swaraj or the independence of India was achieved, Lahore went to Pakistan. Is anybody in the Congress sensitive towards it?

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THE PIONEER

OPED

A CATCH-22 SITUATION FOR US, EUROPE

ANDREI FEDYASHIN


America finds itself in a tough situation: It has to choose between loyal Arab allies and rebellious Arab masses. Meanwhile, European nations are agonising over the possibility of a fresh flood of Arab immigrants fleeing turmoil and violence at home


Friday, a day of prayer and piety in the Muslim world, has become a day of protest. The quasi-revolutions that ousted the authoritarian Presidents of Tunisia and Egypt are multiplying, with protests spreading to Algeria, Jordan, Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Bahrain and Morocco.


Egyptian troubles


After Friday prayers, the faithful do not go home. They don't go to coffee shops or hookah bars. Rather they gather to express their anger over the present order, or they take their grievances to the street like their brethren in Egypt and Tunisia. Protestors have already been killed or wounded in Yemen, Libya and Bahrain.

The outbreak of discontent across the Arab world is so intense that everyone is waiting to see which regime will fall next.


Bahrain is currently causing the most alarm. This island nation, smaller than Moscow, was considered one of the most stable Arab states until recently. In February, Bahrain celebrated the 10th anniversary of its 'democratic transformation,' when the ruling Khalifa dynasty declared the nation a constitutional monarchy. In 2006, another democratic outburst shifted the weekend from Thursday and Friday to Saturday and Sunday. Another reform, clearly inspired by Western values, was to allow bars, where Western experts working in bone-dry Saudi Arabia could go for a taste of freedom. But political parties and trade unions are still banned there. Its two-chamber Parliament exists only to rubber stamp the laws submitted by the Government, headed since 1971 by Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the uncle of reigning King Hamad al-Khalifa.

Last week, troops wounded and killed protestors while trying to break up demonstrations in Manama, the country's capital.

Whom to support — allies or protestors?


The situation in Bahrain is more precarious than in Egypt, with its fairly homogeneous society. Bahrain is riven by the divide between a powerful Sunni minority (25 per cent of the population, including the royal family, all top officials, the Army, police, and big business) and the oppressed Shia majority (75 per cent of the population).

There will be no Egyptian-style revolution in Bahrain. If it were not for Tunisia and Egypt, and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, nobody would have even noticed a revolution in Bahrain, let alone civil unrest. The country is simply too small, and it lacks the huge oil reserves of other small Gulf states.

But now people are taking notice, especially in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and the UAE, which are stuck somewhere between a closed and open society. The authorities in Bahrain can use Iran, the Shia bogeyman in the region, as an excuse to crackdown on the demonstrators. And indeed, Tehran does not hide its support for its religious brethren in Bahrain and Iraq.

Bahrain also has a geopolitical insurance policy against revolution. The island nation hosts the US Navy's 5th Fleet, the bedrock of the US security strategy in the Persian Gulf.


The Americans are suffering from a split personality, encouraging protestors in Iran on the one hand, while taking a more cautious line in Bahrain. It's a fairly common disorder among countries. This is perhaps the most difficult dilemma of real politics: Whether to support the repressive ally or the revolutionary masses?

Geopolitically, US is much closer to the Middle East (in involvement, influence, and financial and military potentialities) than all of its geographical neighbours in Europe. Now the Americans will have to figure out how to hold onto its useful dictators in the region without antagonising the Arab people who are fed up with them. It's a diplomatic challenge that requires extreme delicacy. President Barack Obama recently urged all rulers to adopt "certain universal values". The President's detractors say this is an absurdly limited goal. It's like building a Parliament building and then calling yourself a parliamentary democracy, which is exactly what Bahrain has done. The fact is that almost all the countries that support US strategic interests in the region are devoid of "universal" values not to mention specific ones. Flooding these long repressed countries with democratic values would mean destroying the foundation of stability in the region.


Europe prepares to fight back


Europe's pain is even worse. It is worried that the instability across the Mediterranean will unleash a flood of illegal immigration to the Old World. They fear a repeat of what happened right after the collapse of communism in1989.

The first alarm bell went off when Italians detained 4,000 Tunisian refugees on a boat in the Mediterranean in early February.


Italy and Malta were the first to respond to the alarm. They are now calling for an emergency EU summit on illegal immigration and defending Fortress Europe from an onslaught from the south. A conference of Foreign Ministers is scheduled for February 24-25 in Brussels, although EU officials insist that it is all but impossible to prepare a summit so quickly. Moreover, Berlin, Paris and London are not as worried as Rome about the scale of the "invasion". Mr Silvio Berlusconi demanded that Italy receive an additional 100 million euros for "processing" the detained illegals and sending them home, or 25,000 euros per capita so far, which seems a tad excessive. But Rome and Valetta are now supported by other countries on the front line, such as Spain and Portugal, which are the closest to Africa. The EU has already outlined measures to protect its borders.

The concern is not unreasonable. There is no doubt that Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Morocco are in for a difficult period of adaptation. Nevertheless, experience shows that fleeing across the Mediterranean for the sanctuary of European values is not the best way to escape Arab instability.


Russia's bad luck


Russian law enforcement agencies estimate that in the mid 1990s between five hundred thousand and 1.5 million illegal refugees from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka entered Russia en route to Europe. European experts believe that this can happen again, albeit on a smaller scale.

The writer is a Moscow-based political analyst.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

GODHRA REVISITED

 

The special court's verdict on the 2002 Godhra tragedy, much as it was overdue, is unlikely to bring a sense of closure. Having triggered one of the largest ever communal conflagrations, the burning of a coach in the Sabarmati Express - leading to the killing of 59 passengers, including women and children - is widely acknowledged as an inflection point in India's recent history. Separate judicial inquiries conducted by former Supreme Court judges - at the instance of the Narendra Modi government and the UPA in its first stint at the Centre - yielded conflicting findings on whether Godhra was the result of a terror conspiracy or an accident in the course of a quarrel between kar sevaks and vendors at the railway station. Though the trial court verdict of February 22, running into 815 pages, is presumably based on a more rigorous examination of evidence, the truth behind this politically surcharged mystery is yet far from clear.


This is because even as it upheld the charge of conspiracy, the trial court found evidence to convict less than a third of the 94 accused persons. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the 63 acquitted persons include the two "main conspirators", Maulana Umarji and the then president of the Godhra municipality Bilal Hussain Kalota, who were allegedly instrumental in mobilising the mob on the railway platform to set fire to the S-6 coach. In the light of such acquittals, it would seem that the conspiracy charge upheld by the court is nowhere as sinister and far-reaching as the one spelt out in the chargesheets filed by two special investigation teams, first of the Gujarat police and then of the Supreme Court-appointed panel under former CBI director R K Raghavan.


This is a further climbdown from the conclusions jumped to by Modi and the then Union home minister L K Advani right on the first day, linking the Godhra episode to a conspiracy hatched across the border. The terror charges framed on the basis of those premature conclusions have already been withdrawn on the directions of the POTA review committee and superior courts.


If the judgment delivered by a so-called fast-track court can come after nine years, it is largely because the Supreme Court had, regrettably, stayed the trial for over five years to decide whether the Godhra and some post-Godhra riot cases should be entrusted to an independent investigative agency. The inordinate delay turned the process into a punishment as most of the 63 acquitted persons had to languish in jail for almost nine years. The positive side is that the first of the Supreme Court-stayed cases has been decided and the rest are close to being disposed of.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

JPC AND AFTER

 

Okaying a JPC probe into the 2G spectrum allocation case, the government has creditably adopted compromise to insulate Parliament's budget session from opposition blockade. That will, however, beg the question why its nod didn't come sooner, sparing the nation the recent legislative logjam. But it's better late than never that the issue's been settled. It's also good that the JPC, reportedly with 31 members, will be broad-based. Another bout of political wrestling over how many should be on board would've served no purpose. Nobody needs brinkmanship to now spill over to deliberations on the panel's terms of reference. The area covered need not be overly stretched. Should other recent scams also be looked at, as the BJP demands, what the JPC may be seen to gain in scope it may lose in sharpness of focus.


The JPC when set up must work to a deadline, and with as little friction and as much transparency as possible. Given its powers of summons and interrogation if not the authority to force punishment, it'll be expected to fix culpability no matter how high the taint goes. Past JPC reports, be it on Bofors or the Harshad Mehta case, weren't very effective. All eyes will be on how the new panel distinguishes itself. While helping uncover the truth, it should also prescribe effective ways to tackle corruption. We urgently need institutional reform curbing abuse of power by making decision-making and policy formulation rules- rather than discretion-based. The government should welcome any recommendation that gives teeth to a necessarily non-partisan combat against corruption. But it's to be kept in mind that the issue of irregularities in 2G spectrum allocation is quite apart from that of telecom policy that's been rightly geared to serving public good rather than just revenue maximisation, thereby making mobile telephony accessible. The two mustn't be conflated.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

PLUG THE HOLE IN THE BUCKET

SANTOSH MEHROTRA

 

Thanks to the Right to Information Act, 2005, and also the activism of NGOs and of the media, a culture of accountability is growing in the country. That is the good news. However, the media, NGOs and RTI activists can only do so much. They can focus the attention of the public and parliamentarians on egregious scams, but rarely address the systemic flaws that result in leakage of funds.

 

We have a long history of publicly funded welfare programmes. If programmes are well-designed, they will be more effective in reaching the poor and leak less. But most developed economies that have effective programmes that leak little also have a system which monitors, evaluates and redesigns programmes to improve effectiveness. The trouble is we do very little of the first two and so end up repeating past mistakes. All that happens is that the names of welfare programmes change when a new government comes to power - with very little fundamental change in programme design.


The classic examples of this problem of history repeating itself are all the wage-employment creating public works programmes that India has been famous for in development literature. We have had an over 40-year history of such programmes, but it was not until the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in 2005 that we finally had a well-designed programme that reached the self-targeted beneficiaries, minimised leakage and has had a major impact. Prior to NREGA, we had a plethora of programmes that fed the contractor-petty bureaucrat nexus. They resulted in some infrastructure but neither generated the scale of employment that was needed, nor raised market wages in rural areas or stemmed large-scale migration as NREGA has succeeded in doing. It is not suggested here that NREGA has not faced leakage of funds - at times on a large scale - but these are largely the result of failures in implementation, not failures of design.


For failures of design to be discovered, there is a need for programmes to be monitored well - using an online, publicly available management information system (MIS) - so that they generate data that programme managers in central ministries can then use to provide feedback to the state governments implementing these programmes. However, of the 14 flagship programmes of the central government, only eight have a publicly accessible online MIS. Moreover, there are well-known issues about the authenticity of the data these MISs provide to the central line ministry. In addition, there are issues about the speed with which the data reaches the ministry from block level.

One outcome of this state of affairs is that the prime minister's office created a delivery monitoring unit in 2009 to run an MIS on the flagship programmes.


In any case, monitoring systems can only generate a limited amount of information on inputs (e.g. financial resources released and spent) or processes. An MIS gives the manager very little information about outputs (e.g. number of tanks constructed), let alone outcomes (e.g. quality of school learning). Those who implement programmes also need information on such indicators, especially to understand whether their programmes are having the outcomes originally desired. Even more importantly, they need rigorous evaluations once every few years (usually five years) to be able to check if the programme spending is having the desired impact.

However, we have only one organisation in the country that specialises in doing evaluations, the Planning Commission's Programme Evaluation Organisation (PEO). It used to have 15 offices around the country soon after it was created in the 1950s; that number is down to 10 even though government spending has gone on increasing, both in absolute terms as well as a share of the country's GDP. Since the number of staff in the PEO engaged in evaluations has been dwindling, most evaluations have been outsourced to NGOs or research institutions. They may or may not know the difference between regular social science research and a programme evaluation that is meaningful to policy makers or programme implementers.


State governments don't particularly seem to be interested in evaluating their own programme efficiency, and have not built up any capacity in the field of monitoring or evaluation. So we have a situation where a culture of acceptance of poorly designed or indifferently implemented programmes has thrived - a culture in which leakages of programme funds are also accepted as a given.


It is in this context that the central government announced the creation of an independent evaluation office in the president's speech to Parliament. The cabinet has just approved its creation. It has its task cut out. It will first have to ensure that monitoring systems are built up in every central government line ministry, and then in state government departments. It will then have to ensure that data collected through such monitoring systems are authenticated and validated so that they are reliable tools for management and more effective implementation of programme objectives. It will then have to develop training to build capacity to conduct evaluations generally, and impact evaluations in particular - since there is very limited capacity to conduct rigorous evaluations in the country.

Finally, and most importantly, it must take the lead in conducting evaluations itself, and encourage others to undertake such evaluations, especially of large-spending flagship programmes - so that the bad design of programmes can be discovered and flaws corrected, before funding is released the following year.

The writer is director-general of the Institute of Applied Manpower Research.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

IT CAN HELP PARENTING

 

British criminologists say brain scans can help detect violent tendencies in children and treatment can arrest potential criminal conduct. This thesis can't be rejected out of hand. It isn't outlandish nor disregards the role of care and conditioning in shaping individuals. It simply establishes an empirically verifiable link between brain make-up and anti-social behaviour. True, the link merits further investigation. But its basis is not out of sync with latest research in predictive medicine.


Studies over the last few decades have led researchers to conclude that there is a strong link between genetics and biological disorders. India is among an elite group of six countries to have successfully mapped the human genome. We can now detail gene variants indicative of various diseases. Behavioural genetics is a new field of study that maps genetic traits in connection with behavioural disorders. How is this any different from what the criminologists have suggested? Nobody is saying that certain individuals are born criminals. It is just that some people might carry biological traits that make them prone to violence. Since such traits can be detected early, the knowledge would surely help parents take precautionary measures such as counselling and redouble their efforts at creating the right kind of atmosphere for their wards.


Despite guidance, a child may grow up to be anti-social. Yet parents persevere in providing the best for their children. If a child's brain scan can help them do that, why should anyone object? There is still a lot we don't know about the human body and underlying physical factors that contribute to who we are as individuals. Pressing ahead with research would help us understand and improve ourselves as human beings and create a better society.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

DEATH BY LIVING

BACHI KARKARIA

 

Two courts heard two cases in the space of four days. Ajmal Amir Kasab and Aruna Shanbaug occupy completely different spaces, but this difference itself raises deeply disturbing issues. It points to a scandalous imbalance of public time and money spent and, more fundamentally, to the polar ways in which a death sentence is deserved.

 For over two years, Kasab has made a mockery of the judicial system, of those who died and those who survived that night of 26/11. He has sulked, smirked, somersaulted, even spat at the judge via the video camera which substitutes for his physical presence in court. And he grinned when his appeal was rejected last Monday.

 

Barely 15 minutes away from Arthur Road Jail, where Kasab occupies an obscenely expensive cell, sprawls Mumbai's municipal corporation-run KEM hospital. Aruna Shanbaug has been 'incarcerated' here for the past 37 years in a near-catatonic state. The small, locked room where no sunlight penetrates is also a metaphor for the state of her mind. Not that we can tell for sure, for despite the incredible advances in neuromapping and other diagnostics, she has been inexplicably denied any of these tests. The only humane touch here is the relay of nurses who continue to tend to their one-time colleague. Them, plus Pinki Virani, the journalist who first brought Aruna's cruel fate to light and has kept her on our reluctant conscience.

 

In December 2009, the Supreme Court admitted Aruna's petition via her 'next friend', Virani. Since Aruna had consistently been denied the right guaranteed in Article 21, the plea asked the court to define 'life with dignity' and for her force-feeding to be stopped. When the court sought a reply from KEM, the hospital brazenly claimed that Aruna (who has been semi-comatose since 1974) 'accepts food in the normal course' and is 'led' to the toilet by nurses when she makes indicative sounds. The court then appointed a three-doctor committee to examine her - arguably for the first time ever. Its report submitted last Thursday was so technical that the judges ordered a more intelligible version. The hearing is on March 2. Will it hand out a death sentence?

 

Here is the case for her defence which, sadly, is also that of her prosecution. As a young nurse at KEM, she was sodomised by a sweeper in the hospital's basement and strangulated with a dog chain. It left her in a vegetative state, unable to see, speak, walk or even move voluntarily, though with heartless irony, she could still feel pain. She has been lying thus with twisted frame, rotting teeth and nails growing into her clenched palms, kept alive by mashed food which she automatically swallows. The sweeper served a seven-year sentence, and reportedly became a ward-boy in Delhi.

 

It is no insult to the horrendous magnitude of 26/11 to link the two cases. Kasab & Co waged war on the Indian state with a cold-blooded attack on human life. But human dignity should not be measured in numbers, and Aruna Shanbaug's has been undeniably violated. She has lain trapped for 37 years in a limbo with no tests done to gauge its extent, let alone the possibility of some reprieve. Dare we compare this neglect to the lengths to which the state has gone to safeguard the 'rights' of an enemy of the state?

 

Kasab's indefinitely deferred date with the hangman is embroiled in the smug salute to judicial due process. Aruna's 'death sentence' could get as interminably enmeshed in the dense polemics of euthanasia. But this is about a hapless human being who has been neither living nor dead for longer than any similar victim in the world. Aruna too needs closure.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

EYES ON THE JOB AT HAND

Like reluctant adversaries forced to shake hands by a referee, the political class has begun the move towards the constitution of the contentious Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) into the 2G telecom scam. But much muttering and grumbling under their breath is evident. After paralysing Parliament for over a session on this issue, it is not encouraging that the first thing that we hear about is wrangling on the size of the JPC and on the reluctant manner in which the government conceded ground.

While the Opposition has won a victory, all parties have a responsibility to the high democratic office they occupy to see that it is not merely a case of getting the better of one another. The Congress has already taken the high moral ground that it conceded the JPC so as to ensure that the crucial budget session of Parliament proceeds smoothly. The 2G scam has divided the polity as never before and the trust deficit between the government and the Congress also extends to a trust deficit between the political establishment and the people who are paying for the upkeep of Parliament.

A JPC in itself is no solution to the malaise of corruption that has come to symbolise large swathes of public life today. After such a bitter battle for it, the JPC should be concluded swiftly and smoothly. The worry is that it could go the way of past JPCs that did nothing to ensure that justice was done. In 1987, the Bofors JPC report was rejected by the Opposition. The 1992 Harshad Mehta scam JPC findings were neither accepted in full nor implemented. The 2001 JPC into the Ketan Parekh share market scam recommended sweeping changes in market regulations, though many were subsequently diluted. This does not inspire great confidence in the efficacy of a JPC unless a serious effort is made to see that its findings will make up for the time lost in conducting parliamentary proceedings.

It serves no purpose debating the semantics of the prime minister's pronouncement on the JPC. Much more would be served if the public could be informed of its mandate and the clear guidelines it will follow. The JPC should be inclusive but it cannot be considered a jamboree which could degenerate into unseemly spats, not an impossibility given the volatile political atmosphere at present. Perhaps the last word should go to the Opposition which brought this about. Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj has put it in perspective when she says that this should not be seen as a victory or defeat, rather as a victory of democracy.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

A SPLENDID KNOCK!

The ongoing World Cup's most exciting moment came on Tuesday. We doubt whether the excitement will be topped in the tournament. It certainly won't until the quarter-final stage. And like the legendary unbeaten knock of 175 against Zimbabwe by Kapil Dev in the 1983 World Cup, the world was again denied the glorious display of a mighty cricketer. If most of our middle-aged countrymen were denied witnessing Kapil's thunderous, life-saving knock at Tunbridge Wells because of the BBC going on strike on that magic day of June 18, 1983, we were denied Australian captain Ricky Ponting's mighty knock on the magic day of February 22, 2011, because it happened inside the Aussie dressing room.

It turns out that after being run out and sent back to the pavilion by the Zimbabweans in Ahmedabad in what ended up being a relatively thrilling match - with the Aussies winning by six wickets, it was certainly the 'closest' World Cup 2011 match yet - Ponting threw his protector on the ground in the dressing room, which bounced and hit the back of the TV. The wretched media turned the incredibly turning pitch inside the dressing room into a squalid story of an irate Ponting 'smashing' a TV set. With so much action on the field, why would the media need to veer from the truth so much?

The truth is that we secretly hope that Ponting did smash the TV. After all, if it was exciting to see Pakistani paceman Sikandar Bakht kicking the stumps in irritation on the field, it was so much more exciting to hear of Ian Botham breaking a bed outside a stadium. So Ricky, if you did smash the telly, good on ya mate! We know that Ravi Shastri must have been blabbering away on the screen at that very moment of impact.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

WHO'S YOUR (LIBYAN) DADDY?

Who was that man violently coughing and wearing Shahnaz Husain's clothes last night on television?

How dare you talk about the Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya like that?!

I thought your birthday's in December. Why are you, a Sagittarian, following a horoscope for Librans?

May the camel's dung turn wet in your serpent-addled anus! It's not Libra but Libya, you nephew of a Zionist dromedary! The man on TV was none other than Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Arab world's Che Guevara, telling his people how much he loves them.

Oh, he's the bloke who wears those cool sunglasses and has the all-woman Amazonian Guard to protect him. What was that green telephone directory he was waving in his hand yesterday?

That was, praise upon the radiating prostrate of the blue-skinned Berber tribes, Col Gaddafi waving The Green Book, his classic 1975 treatise for ruling Libya, from his stronghold in Tripoli.

 Yes, he certainly looked all tripolied out.

Do say: The protestors are all American hippies conceived while their parents smoked Jewish herbs! Death by slow fatal gum disease to them all!

Don't say: Dogs, rats, cats...

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

ADVENTURES IN TOYLAND

AMITAVA SANYAL

Oscar oglers know that the Best Picture award has often left us with a why-on-earth feeling. Can we explain Rocky beating Taxi Driver, or Dances with Wolves getting more votes than Goodfellas, or Forrest Gump winning over Shawshank Redemption?

I know I can be disappointed again when I put my tuppence this year on Toy Story 3. But there's reason for hope - reason that can put the film buzzing lightyears ahead of competition. Say, how many films can pack - apart from humanoids - two dinosaurs, an octopus, a donkey, a pig, a dog, three-eyed green aliens and a strawberry-smelling teddy bear into a tight plot? The plot itself twists effortlessly from grown-up Andy's disused play cabinet, to a playpen ruled by fascist toys, to a terrifying rubbish dump and back. Our friends - Woody (inflected not only by Tom Hanks's voice, but his morals too), Buzz (also seen in a schizophrenic 'demo' mode), Jessie and their pals - are carted off to a daycare centre where every toy is not as huggable as they seem at first.

Rather than sinking more of the hookline into our friendly waters, let's see how the sharks - those fickle Oscar voters - might take to it. The voters minded of the Oscar Legacy need only look back at the series. Remember, the movie has also snatched a nomination in the 'best writing based on material previously produced' category. Some of this year's voters might have even played with a Buzz Lightyear model not long ago.

Those tut-tuting over the animation should be easier swayed. Thanks to Pixar, TS3 makes the line between them toys and us humans so fluid that the difference between a crying Woody and his plasticky movie merchandise self is a blink. Never before would you have seen as funny a flamenco performance as when Buzz's settings are changed to a 'Spanish' mode.

Those worried of the tale's soul - and there are loads of them on the Academy voters' list - shouldn't worry at all. In another review, this could be made out to be a story of recycling. Not to forget a basic question the movie asks: if someone has cared for you for years (Andy, now a college-goer), should you run away from him or her just to have fun?

There was a eureka moment earlier this year when I thought How to Train Your Dragon was The One, despite its instructional title. It has a thrilling losers-can-be-winners plot, prickly humans and bristly dragons, and a lighting that's more sophisticated than in most humanoid features.

But then I watched Toy Story 3.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

MORE FROM THE ARAB SPRING

BHAVYA DORE

Sitting at a coffee shop off Exhibition Road near the heart of Manama, the capital of Bahrain, are four men in keffiyeh playing carrom and smoking hookahs. As tendrils of smoke curl in the background, I sip my Arabic coffee in the foreground.

Coffee, keffiyeh, hookahs - it might as well be a product placement for West Asia. As anger implodes through the region, that product placement could well do with an update - the image of the impassioned protestor.

When I visited Bahrain five months ago, the Pearl Square, lately converted into Rebel Central, was nothing more than a showpiece monument, commemorating the island nation's pearl industry. Now, it is the centre of a churning.

The country the world sees now is one trying to build a new political system, the one I saw last year was one simply building. Buildings colonised the skyline and hordes of malls announced the country's membership to the fellowship of consumerism. Economic prosperity, yes; democracy, not so much.  Ensconced in a blanket of well-being, a city of fairly placid environs seemed to have everything going for it.

Among other historical high points, Bahrain lays claims to being the original site of the Garden of Eden. The latest visitors - chaos and reformist urges - have temporarily derailed Bahrain's showcase sporting event, the Grand Prix.

The nation has done an excellent job of preserving its past, offering glimpses of ancient burial grounds, older life styles and some fine specimens of calligraphy.

As the death toll mounted last week, a nation that styles itself as 'business-friendly Bahrain' will have its public relations work cut out for it. It may also have to wait some more to bring back the tourists.

Last year, locals and visitors alike seemed genuinely fond of the royals in general, and the prince in particular. "He's very charming, well-educated and knows a lot about western culture," an American visitor who had met Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifah remarked to me. "And he's got a good sense of humour too." Pity now that the joke's on him.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

NARENDRA MODI 2.0

SAMAR HALARNKAR

When I walked into Milind Toravane's office, he was assuring three French dairy company representatives that he would address their startup worries. "I will make sure we take care of your problems," said the district collector of the eastern Gujarat town of Godhra. "Let's fix a deadline."

Much was unusual about this conversation. First, it was occurring at Toravane's office at 4 pm on a Sunday. Second, the officer was forcing a deadline on himself. Third, there were no bribes, no favours (I checked).

I was in Godhra, a sulphurous town of 180,000, in the run-up to the verdict of the burning of the Sabarmati Express nine years ago. I dropped by to see Toravane because I heard he had overhauled the public distribution system (PDS), the network of shops that distributes cheap, subsidised grain to the poor. Since PDS reform interests me, Toravane told me how he used technology to destroy a transporter-storekeeper nexus and save the district about R3 crore every month.

This was impressive, but since the people transporting and selling PDS grain were closely involved with politicians, how did Toravane handle political pressure? "No MLA or minister ever calls me, ever," said Toravane.

It's Gujarat's chief minister, the much-lauded and much-hated Narendra Modi, who has set in place an atmosphere in which Toravane flourishes. Much has been written about Modi's emerging avatar: how he creates this responsive bureaucracy, how he courts India's business leaders (and vice versa), how he elicits promises of investments in excess of $400 billion, how he leads his state to a GDP growth of 11%, how it's time to put the past behind and look to the future.

Modi, his numerous supporters insist, is India's future. The argument: India has seen many bloody riots, Gujarat is no different. If India has to move on and prosper, we must not harp on the past. We hear everyone wants to move on, Hindus and Muslims.

Indeed, in Ahmedabad last week, the Dawoodi Bohras, a Gujarati-speaking Muslim sect of businessmen, invited Modi as chief guest to their annual meeting. Some Muslims I spoke to, including families of those accused of the Godhra train burning, acknowledged that even if respect and justice eluded them, the administration worked and peace reigned.

Godhra knows how debilitating frequent violence can be. Nearly half the townsfolk are poor Muslims, descendants mainly of the Mughals for whom the town was - as it's now for the Indian Railways - a north-south stopover. Riots were common to Godhra as far back as 1932-34, when Morarji Desai, India's former prime minister, was the additional district collector. During 1981-82, Godhra was under a year-long curfew, after riots sparked by the murder of four female school teachers.

With so many riots, the town has seen no lasting peace or progress. Today, Godhra is chiefly known for its supply of train drivers to the Indian Railways and its supply of dandiyas, the colourful wooden sticks, to the Hindu festival of the same name (the sticks are almost entirely made by Muslims).

The larger district beyond Godhra town, the Panchmahals, further reflects the Gujarat left out of 'Vibrant Gujarat' slogans. Large tribal populations have human-development indices on par with the worst in India; they coexist with General Motors's largest plant in India. A series of recent reports points to Gujarat's low standing on hunger and status of minorities. The Indian Express recently reported how many Muslim-owned businesses were adopting Hindu names. I have never seen Hindus and Muslims as segregated and separate as they are in Gujarat.

The state's hunger levels are on par with impoverished Orissa and Bihar. "Gujarat is an illuminating example in terms of faster economic growth, but in terms of human development, it presents a sorry spectacle," writes Indira Dutta, an Ahmedabad economics lecturer in a paper 'Education and Human Development in Gujarat'. While the Tata's Nano foray in Sanand was a well-executed project, some of Modi's big-business drive is steamrolling local concerns and jobs, as in coastal Mundra, where the Adani Group and the Gujarat government were this month issued notices by the Gujarat High Court for illegally taking over 231 acres of village land. Group owner Gautam Adani, the seventh richest Indian on the Forbes list of billionaires and the only Gujarati, is close to Modi.

It's too soon for the effects of Modi's administration to be as widespread as he would like us to imagine. Even before Modi, Gujarat was second only to Maharashtra in industrial output. That position has not changed. But Modi has packaged Gujarat and himself in a way the corrupt, bumbling Congress administration in Maharashtra never could.

A Gujarati magazine editor told me how Modi personally reviews all images shot for his publicity posters, sometimes asking for reshoots, and how he is very particular about what he wears. The editor endorsed Modi's go-getting approach, with a rider - whether officer, MLA or minister, it's hard to disagree with him, which is why Toravane receives no inconvenient phone calls.

Modi's biggest handicap remains his inability to apologise or deliver justice for the riots. No right-thinking Indian can forget a pogrom against any community, but especially not against a minority. India can't and must not forget the 1,200, mostly Muslim, victims of 2002, as it can't and must not forget the 59 Hindus whose horrific deaths sparked the subsequent carnage, as it can't and must not forget the 2,700, mostly Sikh, victims of 1984. The memories of these outrages fade but can't be forgotten.

In his recent book, Convenient Action: Gujarat's Response to Challenges of Climate Change, the Gujarat chief minister quotes Mahatma Gandhi: "One must care about a world one will not see." Modi must ponder those words.

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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

A PEEK IN

 

Transparency is an essential feature for any public agency in a democracy. The central monetary authority is no exception. This is why Reserve Bank Governor Duvvuri Subbarao must be congratulated on publishing the minutes of the discussion that took place before the RBI released its latest credit policy. This is a welcome step, as the RBI needed to move ahead both on defining clearly the objective of monetary policy, and making the decision-making process by the monetary policy committee open and transparent. The RBI has traditionally been a laggard in terms of transparency; two recent academic surveys found that, while Asian central banks as a whole had been improving their position in terms of openness, the RBI's performance on this score had stagnated — and, according to one of them, actually worsened between 1998 and 2006. This must not be allowed to continue. The RBI needs to set itself a goal. One that is both tangible and desirable: to achieve the median transparency score among G-20 nations. It should rank at least 10th out of the 20 members.

Full reform of the RBI involves independence, transparency, accountability and inflation-targeting. While at the present time attempting this is difficult, certain improvements of the monetary policy process can now be undertaken. Consider one key element of the process, the executive monetary policy committee or MPC. This committee, through voting, makes decisions that set the interest rate. In the UK, the MPC comprises the governor, three deputy governors, and three economists appointed by the Treasury. (The finance secretary would participate in the discussions but not vote.) This same structure appears to be quite appropriate for India. In such a structure, the committee would sit every month, following a pre-announced schedule. The bank's research department would make presentations to the MPC about what is taking place in the economy. The MPC would then vote, and interest rates would be hiked or lowered. Each MPC member would write down a 1000-word rationale statement of why she voted how she did; and in a fortnight, full information — how each member voted, as well her written rationale — would be placed on the bank website. The markets would be assured that interest rate changes would almost never take place other than on these dates. The RBI has taken one step forward. It must go still further.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GADDAFI UNPLUGGED

 

In his last days in the Berlin bunker, Adolf Hitler was besieged by his final self-pitying sentiment — the Third Reich no longer deserved him. Germany had failed him, not the other way round. Every tyrant's departing words to his people are: You've betrayed me; now as I go, I'll take you down with me. For the tyrant, the state or nation has no reality apart from his own persona. He is the state. He is the people. Thus the tyrant's fall is a national rebirth — an act of baptism, a cleansing.

Muammar Gaddafi's 70-minute rambling speech on Tuesday night betrayed two things: first, he has lost control of most of Libya; second, he recognises his 41-year reign is in effect over. That holds no matter how brutally he uses force — unleashing military aircraft and helicopters on Libyans — or how vehemently he claims he'll die a "martyr", or threatens executions. Unfortunately, the violence in Libya is the worst that's been witnessed in more than a month of popular revolt across the Middle East. With the eastern half of the country under the opposition's control and violent repression in Tripoli, as well as high-profile desertions, "the Butcher of Tripoli", as the Colonel has been derided, has brought Libya to the inevitable end of continuity.

In candid terms, Gaddafi's address was darkly comic. An ailing and ageing despot on near-destroyed premises ranting against "drug addicts", "drunk, misguided" youth on "hallucinogenic pills", who should be chased by loyal citizens as "rats", apprehended, arrested and "cured". Gaddafi has made a career out of rambling everywhere, including the UN General Assembly.

However, what his rhetoric did mean through the nonsense was that he has every intention of making martyrs of the Libyan people, unless he chooses escape over "honour".

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

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

COLUMN

FACTORIES OF THE FUTURE

P. VAIDYANATHAN IYER

 

The uncharacteristic neglect of manufacturing in the last 10 years seems to suggest the government is content with the prospect of finding jobs for its millions largely through its national rural employment guarantee programme. I would like to believe it doesn't think so. Shockingly, if it does, then I must point out that NREGA pays subsistence wages, its delivery is fraught with leakages, and eventually it will empty the government's coffers with little to show in terms of productive assets.

Our manufacturing strategy so far has been marked by ad hoc and short-sighted policy responses to business situations that significantly impact employment. Bureaucrats have displayed an unwillingness to change rules that raise the cost of compliance for enterprises. Their aversion to modifying regulations even if they are archaic has left industry frustrated. The Central government's phobia of even talking about labour reforms has not only prevented the scaling-up of enterprises, but also resulted in presumptive job losses. Further, there is sheer lack of imagination in incentivising states to allow some degree of flexibility in hiring or demobilising staff. Despite the reforms of 1985 and 1991, which were aimed at making the Indian industry more competitive, a lack of vision about manufacturing has left India on a weak wicket when it comes to reaping the benefits of the "demographic dividend".

Much as one hates to compare India with China to drive home a point and wake policy-makers up, there is little choice. In India, manufacturing accounts for just 15 per cent of our economy or gross domestic product (GDP) compared to 30 per cent in China. Their machine tool industry — which cuts, grinds and shapes metals to make components for machines — is 55 times as big as ours. This industry is the backbone of manufacturing since it helps make components for all kinds of manufacturers. Of course, you could try blaming it on Indian democracy, but the Chinese have smartly adopted a region-centric approach towards reforming labour practices, and this helped companies to employ en masse. For instance, three-fourths of all factories in India employ less than 50, accounting for a fifth of total employment. In China, only 25 per cent of factories have less than 50 people, and they constitute less than 3 per cent of the workforce.

Unfortunately for manufacturing in India, nobody has raised the decibel level about its miseries because the overall economy has grown at a healthy clip over the last decade. Per capita incomes have risen and large-scale state interventions such as the NREGA have clouded thinking — even if you are without a job, there is a guarantee the government will get you one. Yes, a shining services sector has served us well. In the last eight to nine years, the BPO industry has generated almost a million jobs. Much of the employment in the years when India grew robustly was in services. In 2008, the organised sector — accounting for a mere 7 per cent of the total labour force — probably added a million jobs, almost all in services, according to Ma Foi, a leading HR firm. The manufacturing sector actually was happy cutting jobs.

Depending on whom you talk to, our demographic profile is such that over the next decade-and-a-half, about 12-14 million people will enter the job market every year. India is one of a kind: it leapfrogged the manufacturing sector, evolving from being a largely agrarian economy to a predominantly services-led economy. The services sector contributes the bulk — 60 per cent — to total output; manufacturing and agriculture chip in with less than 20 per cent each.

And while a rapidly growing services sector adds significantly to the output, it doesn't to employment. In other words, everyone can't become an IT employee. It is only manufacturing — correctly speaking, a robust manufacturing sector — that can create jobs in their millions. Because the labour market entrants will be of many different hues — illiterate and skilled, literate and semi-skilled, etc. They can be accommodated in bulk only in factories. Poor infrastructure (power and connectivity, specifically) is the most important prerequisite for manufacturing. India is addressing this slowly but surely now. A more recent problem is of land acquisition for building large factories.

But what could have spurred large-scale investment is the overhauling of shockingly archaic labour laws. For instance, the Factories Act can penalise you if you don't have a "matka" in your factory premises. It doesn't matter if you have a more hygienic water dispenser.

As manufacturing units start employing more, they are subject to more scrutiny. If a factory has over 10 employees, it comes under the Factories Act and has to comply with safety norms, overtime and women's employment. When there are over 20 employees, companies have to provide for their provident fund; over 50 and they have to offer health cover. Over 100 and a manufacturer loses the right to fire workers or even change their work conditions. The CEO of a large manufacturer of two-wheelers told me recently that he cannot change the number of hours in a shift, even if he keeps the overall number of weekly work hours constant. For example, he can't ask for a four-day, 10-hour shift instead of an 8-hour, five-day shift, although the former will allow him to produce more.

This is perhaps the reason why much of India's workforce is in the unorganised sector — almost 93 per cent of about 420 million. If you register your factory, your hands are tied. So a big diamond factory employing 1,000 in Gujarat will be made up of 50 small units employing 20 each, just to beat the plethora of rules and regulations to which it would otherwise be subject.

Perhaps the Central government will take for ever to change its labour laws. But it could at least make an effort to help manufacturing — perhaps by facilitating meetings between states and industry to resolve issues such as flexibility in work timings, night-shifts for women workers, and so on.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

DON'T HUNT THE MINNOWS

ADITYA IYER

 

High above the cramped streets of Gulistan, the commercial heart of Dhaka, King Kong stared venomously out. On his left shoulder, Ann Darrow pleaded for mercy — with a willow in one outstretched hand, and a leather ball in the other. Directly below, hundreds of thousands danced ecstatically to giant speakers, drums and plastic trumpets. Just as the opening ceremony of the 2011 World Cup got underway at Bangabadhu Stadium a couple of kilometres away, the giant ape exploded. Men and women stepped up their moves almost on cue, even those bleeding from being a little too close to the crackers.

About 40 kilometres away, on the outskirts of Mirpur, thousands of people carried posters of Sheikh Hasina and Mohammad Rafique (the prime minister and a former left-arm spinner, respectively) outside the empty Sher-e-Bangla Stadium, two days before the first game of the World Cup. Cricket's flagship event had arrived in the country for the first time, and all of Bangladesh — cricket and non-cricket lovers alike — rejoiced.

But cricket's governing body though, didn't seem to enjoy it too much. When the ICC decided to field only the 10 Test-playing nations in the 2015 event in Australia, they robbed the game not only of fantastic David-Goliath fables, but also of glorious moments. It was one such, a dozen summers ago in the chilly suburbs of Northampton in England, that eventually gave rise to the manic scenes in Bangladesh.

Playing in their first World Cup in 1999, Rafique and Co upset Pakistan in a group game by 63 runs, and celebrations then snowballed into today's frenzy. Team Bangladesh was fast-tracked to Test status within a year of the incredible win. And despite a string of ego-crushing losses, the country clung to their cricket pride, waiting four years at a time. In 2007, eight years and two Cups on, Bangladesh went one better — knocking India out of the tournament in the first round, reaching the second stage for the first time.

A packed house, which had bought tickets months in advance of what was expected to be an exciting India-Pakistan clash in the Super Eights grudgingly ended up watching, incredibly, Bangladesh take on Ireland. For on St Patrick's Day, an Irish team of painters, teachers and farmers had packed off Inzamam ul-Haq's Pakistan at Kingston's Sabina Park, the greatest upset in World Cup history.

2007's Irish were following on a rich tradition, one at least as old as 15 years ago, in Pune. After a bunch of blurry-eyed Kenyans skittled out the mighty West Indies for a paltry 93, cricket and its most-watched event were never the same again. Almost cosmically, it occurred on February 29 — a day that shows up only as often as the World Cup does. Trying to come to terms with that precedent-setting game, the then West Indies skipper Richie Richardson wept, saying the loss hurt more than his father's death. On the other hand, Maurice Odumbe, Steve Tikolo and the Otieno brothers became household names in India, as they would seven years later in South Africa when they reached the semi-finals, the first Associate nation to do so.

The World Cup is the only event where non-Test countries can rub shoulders with the best in the business. And they have repeatedly dreamed of that one shot at worldwide recognition, of replacing the "minnow" label with one saying "giant-slayers".

And it isn't just the victories that are remembered. Individual feats are too. Dwayne Leverock, the 280-pound Bermudan, created one such when both he and his excess flab were airborne for a few seconds at first slip — the catch of the 2007 World Cup. Sluggo, as he is known in Bermuda, ensured that India's first score of over 400 was for ever overshadowed. Irish skipper Trent Johnston's chicken dance following every wicket became an instant rage in the Caribbean. Nor need the moments be glorious to be remembered; when United Arab Emirates captain Sultan Zarawani decided to face Allan Donald without a helmet in 1996, the first ball, a lightning-quick bouncer, hit his temple — triggering off catcalls and boos from faithful underdog-lovers in Rawalpindi. These fans are found everywhere during World Cups, packing houses to support the minnows — just like they did in Nagpur on Tuesday.

Understandably, only a handful of spectators had turned up to watch the Dutch take on England. But by the time Ryan ten Doeschate scored his century, the numbers had trebled, the stands rattling with screaming supporters sniffing another upset. Hundreds of Oranje flags appeared magically. England won the game with eight balls to spare, but back home in the Netherlands, the impossible had happened — the cricketers had momentarily replaced the footballing gods on TV screens. It's a pity then that, even many years later, Amsterdam won't experience a cricketing moment like Dhaka did. ICC has made sure that whatever the ten Doeschates of the Associate world produce in this World Cup, no new countries will dance under a bat-wielding Ann Darrow.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WHO AM I TO TALK?

SYEDA HAMEED

 

I feel it is only reasonable that I be expected to explain the rather unlikely subtitle of my piece. The fact is that the issue of Muslim concerns in contemporary India always reminds me of the first British census in India.

As a member of the Planning Commission, I strive to respond to the "developmental" concerns of certain segments of the population. "Muslims" form one such segment. However, to capture their concerns — let alone even begin to respond to them — is not an easy task. Who is the representative Muslim, I ask myself. Each seems as authentic as the next and yet they display such different concerns. In my immediate vicinity, there are Muslims whose primary concerns, at the moment, include: their daughter's admission into a good nursery school; managing their work and personal lives, both of which veer off into unexpected directions; finishing a project, funding for which is running out; worrying about medical insurance; hoping that they will be "regularised" at work.

I realise, however, that authentic as these concerns are, they may not be "Muslim" concerns. "Muslim" concerns are those that emerge only/primarily because one is Muslim. They are not anchored in the fact of the Muslim's many other identities: where she is also a parent, or a young person in a crisis of modernity, or a worker etc. This realisation brings to mind the first British census in India.

Early British administrators, earnest as they were, could not "govern" properly because they were unable to capture the concerns of the "native" population. Who were these people? How did they behave? How could one work toward their social-cultural uplift? The census of 1872 was an exercise in exactly such social management. It sought to "understand" the "native" demographics: this entailed counting but also "categorising" every person. The state assigned each person an identity, "Mohammedan", for instance.

Earlier, before such categorisation of people into neat religious and caste brackets, communal identities must still have existed; individual and communitarian aspirations must still have been articulated. However, I believe that since these articulations/representations were not made before a newly bureaucratised state, they were perhaps allowed to be less deliberate, more transient. Perhaps, identities too were more "free-flowing". Post-census — at least for the purposes of the state — a person's aspirations were assessed mostly in terms of her primary identity.

Thus, to this day, Muslim representations to the state (and to the Planning Commission) are focused on generalities associated with the idea of being Muslim in India today. Sometimes, this results — counterintuitively — in Muslims declaring that they are second-class citizens in India. Unbelievable as this may sound, it is a logical corollary of the collapsing all other identities (of class, caste, gender and "historical privilege"), the overarching state categorisation of "Muslim". In such circumstances, such declarations may appear to be fair assessments of one's status.

One could argue that these are projected/ abstracted representations of being Muslim, for in actual life, the secondary identities that the state seems to ignore are much more real. On the other hand, there are perhaps several crucial issues where the delineations between general concerns of being Muslim (or Dalit, or a woman) and those that flow from having many other identities do collapse. One among them is finding an apartment to rent: it seems that in this endeavour, at least, class, caste, education and urbanity all collapse into the fact of being Muslim (or Dalit, or non-vegetarian, or South Indian).

"Formal" concerns of Muslims (or the representations before the state) focus mostly on the Sachar committee report and its non-implementation, on the status of the prime minister's 15-point programme, on education (and scholarships) for Muslim children, on the hunger for education in the community, on livelihoods and issues of development and integration.

These efforts are supported by civil society and in the media by a host of committed organisations that monitor some of these programmes. There are several Muslim news portals (like twocircles.net) that report on the development/discrimination binary.

However, the broad categorisation of people into set identities is constantly being challenged. New sub-groups form and express concerns that are different from those of the larger community. This is a process of democratisation: thus, for example, the pasmanda has its own concerns, that of having been sidelined in the "developmental" processes of the larger Muslim community. The demand for inclusion of Muslim Dalits within the SC category consumes them at the moment. Similarly, Muslim women sometimes project differentiated claims (women-only mosques as articulated in Tamil Nadu, for example) as do class movements within Indian Muslims.

Outside of Muslim representations to the state, internally, other debates take place. Here, the idea of being "Muslim" is contested. The controversy around Vastanvi and his new plans for Deoband typifies this: what constitutes the Muslim self is a question that is being debated between the traditionalists and the reformists. I should state that these are both loose categories in the tradition of the colonial census but refer, in this case, to groups that want to retain the experiential way of learning, and to those that believe in bringing a scientific methodology to the study of Islam.

As part of the ummah, there is interest in the stirrings in the Arab world: the modernist sees it as an enlightened move toward democracy, vindicating their stand that Islam can indeed be secular and democratic and anti-fundamentalist. Others see in this a move away from Wahhabi towards newer forms of "moderate Islam". Some also think it is a good thing.

The Muslim youth, like other young people, have also taken to social networking sites. When discussing Muslim issues they discuss Islam, Kashmir, the Zionist antecedents of Julian Assange and Mohamed ElBaradei's links with the CIA. They also worry about "encounter deaths", Batla House, terrorism and issues related to the security of Muslims. Incidentally, most are also very passionate about the market and the opportunities therein.

In conclusion, I wonder sometimes if I can only be a silent listener to Muslim concerns or whether I am authentic enough to represent them. Sometimes, we are told that being a mere observer in religious rituals, or being from a particular class, or from Delhi makes my experiences of being Muslim somewhat vicarious. I should not presume to represent. And then I think that while my experiences are admittedly different from other Muslim experiences, we cannot let any one set hegemonise all the others. There should be room for a plurality of concerns and worldviews even within the Muslims.

So let me see: yesterday I felt that Maulana Azad's death anniversary was more or less neglected in the English media, reflected on the Godhra verdict, worried about unfinished work at the Commission, got annoyed because my friend's flight from Canada was delayed and wondered why some people do not make enough of an effort with Urdu names. These were my concerns for the day, then.

The writer is a member of the Planning Commission

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

ALL THAT CUP CHATTER

SHAILAJA BAJPAI

 

"Cup chahiye to chahiye," screamed a petulant Zee News headline, then adding in a more pliant tone, "Ummeed hai cup leke ayegaa." For those completely divorced from the present, they're referring to the cricket World Cup. "The cup that counts," Times Now called it; no, it's "the cup that matters," countered CNN-IBN. Never mind all that, "Cup hamari hi hona chahiye," said that well-known connoisseuse of cricket, Rakhi Sawant, when asked for her expert opinion (Aaj Tak).

Indian TV news channels and crazed cricket fans will drink from that cup of good cheer if only Dhoni's Devils (moving on from Kapil's) realise Sachin Tendulkar's dream of bringing home the World Cup. If they don't, it's going to take more than a cuppa to calm them down.

We've got great expectations of this team and ambitions soaring higher than the Dhaka building on which intrepid performers played cricket during the opening ceremony last Friday. And the media does everything in its power to rouse mass hysteria. News 24 had Indians from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, praying India wins; and not a day passes without a TV news channel declaring us the gods of cricket.

For instance, on CNN-IBN, Rajdeep Sardesai asked his Kings of Cricket: is this the best (Indian) team ever? "Fantastic side," agreed Anil Kumble. "It's the best chance to win," added Imran Khan. "India are the favourites," insisted Allan Border. But, warned Vivian Richards who was part of the West Indies losing side in 1983, "Favourites do not have divine right to win." Yes but, protested Sardesai, not really listening to his cautionary tale, "Is this the best — better than 1983 and 2003?" The retired players are reluctant to commit themselves either way: suppose India were to lose (treacherous thought!)?

Since there's more than a month before the Cup comes home or travels abroad, news channels fell back on memories of that summer when for one brief, shining, unforgettable moment, we were the best. "But," recalled Syed Kirmani (NDTV India) who was behind the stumps when we won, "India were not the favourites in 1983."

1983: A love story. We're still romancing that famous victory. Every news channel parades one, two or even three members of that winning combination who joyously relive the Cup that was once ours: Kapil Dev, Madan Lal and Yashpal Sharma on Aaj Tak, Mohinder Amarnath (Zee), Kirti Azad (IBN-7), Syed Kirmani (NDTV India) and, of course, Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri (ESPN). We need to win this Cup if only to update our TV panels and their recollections.

TV news is teeming with cricketers-turned-commentators: there is no bar on looks, shapes, sizes, age or nationality. The problem is that there are just too many of them so we can't quite remember who said what when. If Headlines Today selected Sourav Ganguly, Kapil, M. Azharuddin, Aravinda De Silva, and Clive Lloyd, Times Now has for its Power Play Barry Richards, Graeme Hick, Shane Bond, Sanath Jayasuriya, Arun Lal and, sometimes, Atul Wassan. Alongside is the one and only maiden over whom the male anchor positively drooled. She's "the first woman of cricket, the oomph factor of cricket" with the "hottest voice" (what's that got to do with the game?) — Mandira Bedi. Don't think she's there just for her smile, oh no. She can hold her own in the company of greats: "Bhaji is a bowling all-rounder"; "Last time Bangladesh beat us, we should respect them...."

That leaves Rakhi Sawant to lead out her team against Veena Malik's in a doosra sort of game — Bigg Toss (India TV). We kid you not. It's a reality show (what else with Rakhi?) with a cricket theme where contestants bent over frequently to show their other side, but more than that we will not reveal.

Lastly, the Hindi cricket commentary (Star Sports) takes you back to an era before TV was invented. It's still a radio show: the highly excitable commentators talk throughout, their voices full of highs and lows depending on the state of the match for India. "Yeh gaind Tendulkar ko, flick kiya.. aur ye CHAAR RUN!"

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

FAMILY SECRETS

MANOJ C G

 

Family secrets

L.K. Advani may have expressed deep regret over the allegations against Sonia Gandhi and her family in the BJP task force report on black money, surprising many of his party colleagues and allies — but the RSS is persisting with the charges, perhaps revealing the rift on the issue within the Sangh Parivar.

A front-page article in the latest issue of its weekly Organiser refers to an exposé by Swiss magazine Schweizer Illustrierte about the bribes allegedly taken by 14 leaders of various Third World countries, and says that the late Rajiv Gandhi's name figured among those who had reportedly stashed away this money in secret Swiss bank accounts. "The name and the photograph of the late Rajiv Gandhi appears along with that of other 13 leaders with a remark that bribes of 2.5 billion Swiss francs are kept in secret accounts in Switzerland. The amount of SF 2.5 billion equals $2.2 billion. This amount was said to have been in existence from prior to June 1988," it says. In fact, the article goes a step further and quotes passages from a book The State Within a State: the KGB and its Hold on Russia — Past, Present, and Future by Yevgenia Albats to level more allegations against the Gandhi family and its association with the KGB. The editorial also focuses on the BJP's task force report, and calls it a "valuable document."

Resisting modernity

An article in the Organiser discusses the recent uprising in Egypt and its subsequent spread in the Arab world. It says that barring perhaps one or two nations like Lebanon, almost all 22 countries in the Arab world are dictatorships. "All of them are also Islamic countries, whatever that means. Islam and dictators apparently go hand in hand, as if they were two sides of the same coin," the article says.

"What is it about Islam that makes it unworthy as a guide to running a modern government, the stress being on modern rather than government," it asks, and goes on to answer that "while the world is going ahead with modernisation and globalisation, Islam rejects it and is going backwards."

"The Arab nations, which means essentially Muslim nations, are endowed with natural resources beyond compare. Between them, they account for maybe 90 per cent of oil reserves. They do possess other resources, including intelligent and hard-working people. But, for reasons of their own, they have rejected all this and are harking back to a world that does not exist any more, and, which in any case, is not of much help in dealing with modernity," it says.

It further argues that the Islamic countries have been "resisting modernisation, with the result the modern world has bypassed them. Hence, the long line of dictators and the total absence of democracy. You sow as you reap, and this is what the Islamic countries are doing — reaping what they have sown all these years!"

Terror stories

The lead editorial in Panchjanya says that Home Secretary G.K. Pillai's recent assertion that Hindu terror is not a huge threat nails the conspiracy hatched by the Congress and the UPA government to target the RSS and like-minded nationalist organisations. It says the charade of Hindu terror diverts attention from dealing with jihadi terror groups, which it argues are the real threat to internal security.

The article goes on to criticise AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi for his assertions to the US ambassador about the threat posed by right-wing fundamentalist groups. Referring to the similar line adopted by Digvijay Singh, the article says it has become clear that the campaign is being mounted at the instance of 10 Janpath. "Consequently, the Union home minister had also spoken about saffron terror. And when his remarks drew sharp reactions from across the country, an attempt is being made to clarify," it says. The article refers to the recent letter written by the RSS protesting the attempts to malign the image of the outfit and demanding a probe into the conspiracy to eliminate Sangh leaders.

The Panchjanya also prominently reports the chargesheet filed recently by the National Investigating Agency, about some youth in Kerala being recruited for terrorism.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

IT'S JUST A LAW, GUYS!

After defending A Raja's granting of licences at bargain-basement prices, and then arguing there was no loss caused by this, the government's arguments seem to have hit a new low. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has just filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, which argues that it wouldn't be in the public interest to cancel the licences, even though they have failed to roll out their networks as per the licence conditions. The licence conditions, which the affidavit reproduces, are very clear—if the networks are not rolled out within the stipulated period, there will be a penalty of Rs 5 lakh per week for the first 13 weeks of delay; the penalty rises to Rs 10 lakh per week for next 13 weeks and Rs 20 lakh per week for the next 26 weeks, after which the licence can be terminated—so even while the government gave out cheap licences, it argued the rollout conditions would ensure precious infrastructure would get built. And now we have the government arguing that these rollout conditions aren't quite as important as was made out.

Here's what the affidavit says, "… penalties have already been imposed. It may be mentioned that … experience all over the world shows roll out may get delayed … but by itself cannot result in cancellation of the licences … If a licence is to be cancelled after it is acted upon, only on account of delayed roll out, the investment made in infrastructure etc would be rendered nugatory which may not be in public interest." While the affidavit later says the DoT is examining termination where the delay is more than 52 weeks, the long preamble indicates the lack of seriousness being attached to the violation. Or is it that the government isn't revealing its mind?

The overall argument, of creating what are called facts on the ground, is increasingly becoming the standard excuse for inaction on illegality. Sure, the licence was illegal, but other companies have bought into them now, investments have been made, there are subscribers … in the case of illegal real estate projects, the argument will be loss of jobs, innocent home-buyers etc. Last but not least is the argument the latest affidavit in the Raja case makes, "It is submitted that issues relating to investments made and FDI receipts to the country may have to be also taken into consideration." Is this really the government policy or is it that the affidavits aren't being monitored by senior officials?

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THAT MAGIC 9%

What a difference a year, nay six months, make. Six months ago, the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council (c) levels of $50 billion for 2010-11 and $55 billion for 2011-12—the latest projection, a few days ago, was $28 billion for 2010-11 and $40 billion for 2011-12! Yet, thanks to a change in some other projections, the GDP projections for 2011-12 still remain at 9%, a figure that even the World Bank has endorsed in its projections a few days ago. Apart from the obvious caveat that we would do well to revisit the numbers a few months from now (some would argue the BP investment in RIL is the turning point), it's a good idea to delve a bit deeper.

Once you do that, it becomes clear that neither the PMEAC nor the World Bank are assuming the growth will come from a business-as-usual behaviour. There are, of course, differences in both projections. While both project a 3% growth in agriculture, the World Bank expects industry to grow a bit faster and services a little slower than the PMEAC does. Both have very different investment rates, which is what really props up GDP growth, but the similarity lies in the fact that both are looking at investment rates going up. How this is to be achieved is interesting. The PMEAC expects government consumption to fall from 12% of GDP in 2009-10 to 11.4% in 2010-11 and further to 10.3% in 2011-12—in other words, the combined state and central fiscal deficit probably has to come down by around one percentage point. It is this reduction in government expenditure that the PMEAC projects will translate into an increase in investment levels. The World Bank is of the view that increased public sector investments will come from the buoyancy in government revenues, probably due to the introduction of GST. Either way, the bottom line is that a 9% growth requires the Budget to take some big first steps.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHERE'S THE NEW REFORM SCRIPT?
SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE

What do reforms mean for India of 2011? Top of the list would be reconciling environment concerns with the demands for industrial growth; ensuring state and industry pay a fair price for resources and finally ensuring the poorest 10% of our people get food at affordable rates, those just above them get health care and the rest access to decent education.

None of these, except the food bit, figured anywhere in our list of must-dos in 1991. They did not figure even in 2001.

This is the finest endorsement of the 20 years of the Indian reform story. Our reforms then have made it possible now to create an absolutely fresh menu of choices, which were simply unthinkable even a decade ago.

So, the challenges of today and this decade are the children of the reforms, unleashed from 1991 onwards. They would not have stared us in the face, unless we had managed to clean up the earlier litter from most sectors.

It is therefore puerile for informed commentators like Yashwant Sinha to compare any of the economic indicators now with the cataclysmic year of 1991. Without the context of what we have achieved since then, the plain vanilla comparisons of the numbers do not make sense.

Critics who do not understand this sequencing of reforms miss out on the richness of the reform package of the past 20 years. Sure India still has 93% of its labour force employed in the unorganised sector, or that health indicators lag every middle-income country in the HDI list. But those are opportunities to avail of than limitations that restrict.

Because Manmohan Singh in 1991 made the choice of going for trade and industrial reforms, for instance, the benefits flowing from those have made it possible for him to go hell for leather on agricultural reforms now. The plate of opportunities is now overflowing with options.

The problem is that neither Singh nor Mukherjee seems to be grasping those opportunities now, at least at the speed at which they need to be taken. Procastination won't help resolve the issues. Instead it would show up as missed opportunities. To put it in Vijay Kelkar's words, we run the risk of growing old as a nation before we become rich, if opportunities like the demographic dividend are wasted. The best part of the dividend will have run a large part of its course by the end of this decade.

It is fairly certain that finance minister Pranab Mukherjee would refer to these priorities in his Budget speech on Monday. But that is not the same as offering workable solutions. The problem with the UPA government is that it has already front-loaded all its expenditure plans for the next three years and Mukherjee can only tinker at the edges. In terms of reforms, the big one the UPA government needs to do must be in food management, to answer the crowd in front of the Parliament House on Wednesday. But those are squarely in the control of the state governments.

One of the options the government seems to have successfully opened is on delivery of its services to those who really need it. The best way to shorten the crowd before the Parliament House is to bring the bottom 10% an assured food supply. This requires, as Nandan Nilekani says, re-engineering of public service delivery to handle on-demand, high volume, low-cost, consistent quality transactions of various kinds. Obviously, a large part of that work will have to be technologically driven, which Nilekani and his gang are up to.

For instance, if the impact of inflation has to be moderated on the poor then, besides supply-side management, programmes such as NREGA and national rural health mission have to be seen as effective safety nets for the poor.

Reform critics have always held up this mirror to say the reforms have not delivered. Their criticism is of the quality of outcome from the Budget. As of now, the government monitors it by sending out questionnaire to all the ministries. Those are very detailed but mean practically nothing. Since the finance ministry cannot discriminate between ministries, it asks both information & broadcasting as well as tribal affairs to list how the money apportioned has impacted employment generation. Some of the ministries have apparently given very interesting answers to the queries, with copies marked to all concerned.

Yet this counts. The last few years have seen significant investment and resource allocation in a broad array of programmes for social protection like jobs, pensions and food as well as social advancement, involving millions of people interacting with the state at a large number of touch points, says Nilekani. Unless these are monitored effectively, the questions about reforms will only mount.

Just like old economy sectors that fail to excite imagination, there are old economy reforms like disinvestment and one would even say stuff like banking reforms that the government can safely take on now. Beyond the Parliament chambers, very few of the crowd milling outside will even care. The new voters in rural and urban India are not swayed by bogeys of private and public sector to even notice. They want to know about banking correspondent as it touches them, they want to know about jobs which means education and urban reforms. They also want to know whether the price environment is paying for industrial development. These, in short, are the new economy challenges.

These never assumed any significant scale for the government in the first two decades in any big way. But if the finance minister has to have any hope in hell to make the large majority of Indians believe in the reform story, he has to read from an entirely new script.

subhomoy.bhattacharjee@expressindia.com

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

EVEN MORE CONTRADICTIONS TO MANAGE
MADAN SABNAVIS

Presenting a Budget is always a challenge, given that its importance has evolved from being a rudimentary reflection of the finances of the government to a policy document that drives economic activity. Budget 2011-12 becomes even more difficult since there are certain constraints within which it has to be drawn amidst multiple expectations from all constituents.

The budgetary numbers for FY11 will look good as the economy appears to be buoyant and the targets will be more or less achieved. Tax collections have been stable and increasing while expenditure has been reined in. The government has chosen not to spend the excess collections from 3G auctions, which in turn will help brighten fiscal numbers. The question, of course, is what the government will do next year. In fact, in retrospect, one could argue that the government could have been brash this year considering that globally Keynesianism has caught on, and when the mighty powers run deficits, it is accepted in the name of fostering global recovery. Such a luxury may not be available this year.

Let us look at the constraints first. The DTC has sort of capped the changes that the government can invoke and hence any tax change will have to be within these confines. Second, the GST has been a bone of contention between the Centre and the states, and also indirectly caps the changes that can be had on the domestic duty structure. Third, the benefit of 3G auctions will not be there, which cuts off a major exogenous source of revenue that was there last year. Fourth, while disinvestment has already come to a halt with a deficit likely in FY11, the number will have to be pruned in FY12, given that the stock market may be in a state of flux for the first half.

On the other hand, expectations are that the government will address inflation and growth. The recent IIP numbers will make the government think harder on the growth aspect while the inflation consideration would probably have already been buffered into the calculations. Income tax concessions as well as indirect tax relief would be expected. In fact, a judicious move would be to actually index the exemption limits on income tax with inflation so that it automatically moves up in line with price increases. Sector-specific duty concessions, especially petroleum sector, would be in order.

Government expenditure, on the other hand, will have to continue in the normal course, with added pressure on social and economic expenditure. The food inflation this year is a direct consequence of a neglected farm sector. The lacunae in logistics support will have to be addressed in a comprehensive manner. Warehousing is not a very lucrative business for large players, except where they are building their own retail chains. A look at FDI policy or credit concessions for setting up warehouses could be in order in the light of the Warehousing Act. Since there is talk of changing the APMC Acts, this could also be the focus, though this is a state subject and the government can at best make recommendations.

Two areas that have to be addressed are subsidies and MGNREGA. The petroleum subsidy bill has to increase, given that inflationary issues are a concern today. Also, until such time the UID is implemented, we cannot really enhance the efficacy of the food subsidy scheme. This will continue to remain on the government's books for some more time. The MGNREGA should be reviewed seriously. While the allocation and motivation is laudable, as this is one of the few success stories of the government, it has to be channelled in a more productive manner.

Today, the numbers on display on the Website are quite disconcerting. While the number of households covered is large, the average number of days utilised is around 35, which is much lower than the 100 that was targeted.

Also, the completed schemes are very few. Clearly, we should make this money work better, which can be accomplished by integrating it with the other requirement in the farm sector.

The basic challenge in drafting any Budget is managing contradictions. Individuals want tax concessions while corporate are never happy with what they get. At the same time, economists want the government to spend more on development while the ubiquitous critics are there to question the fiscal numbers. Even when good budgeted numbers are targeted, the cynics contend that they cannot be achieved. What we should remember is that all the ends cannot be tied up to make everyone happy and some section has to give in. This should be the spirit in which we must look at the Budget.

The author is chief economist, CARE Ratings. These are his personal views

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

THE BURNING TRAIN

Premeditated conspiracy or accident? Differences of opinion over what caused the death of 59 people, mostly kar sevaks, aboard the Sabarmati Express in 2002 have hinged on this fundamental question. In convicting 31 people in the Godhra train burning case on the twin counts of murder and criminal conspiracy, the Ahmedabad special court has upheld the broad thrust of the prosecution's contention, which is that the deaths were a result of a "pre-planned conspiracy" to set fire to the S-6 coach in which the victims were travelling. The theory that it was an "accidental fire" gained credence after the Justice U.C. Banerjee Committee, appointed by then Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, declared it as such in its preliminary report. It ruled out various other possible causes, including the possibility of the fire being caused by petrol poured into the bogey by miscreants. Although the Gujarat High Court subsequently ruled that the U.C. Banerjee Committee was "unconstitutional, illegal, and void," the question remained whether forensic evidence would conclusively establish how the fire was caused. In arriving at its verdict, the trial court was evidently greatly influenced by the findings of the Gandhinagar Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), which concluded that petrol was the cause of the fire and submitted evidence that was consistent with the police theory that the culprits had forcibly entered the S-6 coach via the vestibule.

Paradoxically, the court acquitted the main alleged conspirator, Maulana Umarji, for lack of evidence, even as it upheld the prosecution's case that the conspiracy to set fire to the coach carrying the kar sevaks was hatched the previous night at a guest house in Godhra town. The verdict, which saw the acquittal of as many as 63 accused, is bound to be challenged by both sides. It is unfortunate that a case like this, tried by a fast-track court, should have taken nine years to complete, all the more so because many of the 63 acquitted spent years in prison after being denied bail. In the popular imagination, the Godhra train burning will also evoke horrifying memories of the genocidal pogrom against Muslims that earned Gujarat notoriety across India and round the world. The complex verdict must be looked at independently, in strictly legal terms, and not through any coloured political lens; it must certainly not be allowed to be exploited by demagogues of any communal persuasion. Only when the 815-page judgment becomes available will legal experts be able to assess the merits of the verdict, including the evidential basis of the convictions. Given the time already taken, it is important that we have a just and final judicial pronouncement on the case as quickly as possible.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

QADHAFI'S TIME IS UP

Inspired by the highly successful, and in the circumstances remarkably peaceful, mass uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Libyans have been demonstrating and protesting throughout their country's major cities. The response by strongman Muammar Qadhafi, who has been in power for 41 years, has been very different from those of his neighbours. While Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak tried and comprehensively failed to stand his ground, Mr. Qadhafi has responded with typically brutal repression. He has used fighter jets and helicopter gunships to attack protesters in the capital, Tripoli; street-level militias of Libyans and imported mercenaries have reportedly fired indiscriminately into crowds and made it impossible for rescuers even to collect bodies. On television, the dictator has even threatened to kill protesters "house by house" and "fight on to the last drop of my blood." With almost all communications closed down, the death toll cannot be ascertained but foreign rights groups place it at over 200. Other sources report that protesters are in control of Benghazi, Sirte, Tobruk, and several other cities, and that in some places soldiers have left their posts and joined the people.

The mass rebellion expresses nationwide anger over the nature of the state, rather than over deprivation and poverty. In comparison with many other North African and West Asian countries, Libya is well off. It is Africa's fourth largest country, but has a population of only 6.4 million. Huge oil reserves have helped it to achieve the continent's highest Human Development Index and fourth highest GDP in purchasing parity terms. While the Libyan strongman's talent for realpolitik has put Tripoli on the contemporary international map, the politicality of the uprising and the speed of its spread are clearly a major shock to him. Even staff in high institutions of state are expressing open dissent. Libyan diplomats abroad have severely criticised the regime's conduct, using terms like "genocide." The country's Permanent Mission to the United Nations has defected. Its deputy head states that the Mission represents the Libyan people, not Mr. Qadhafi; the official has also urged the U.N. Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court to investigate Libya. The world body's Security Council has called on Libya to address the legitimate demands of the people, to act with restraint, and to respect human rights. Meanwhile protesters demand a secular interim government comprising the army and representatives of the main tribes. With the rulers unable to rule, and the people not willing to be ruled, as before, surely this is the end of the road for the Qadhafi regime.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

THE MUSLIM AS BJP SUPPORTER IN GUJARAT

IN A PATRONAGE DEMOCRACY WHERE RESOURCE DISTRIBUTION DEPENDS ON THE DISCRETION OF ELECTED OFFICIALS, IT PAYS TO STAY CLOSE TO THE POWER CENTRES IN GOVERNMENT.

RAHEEL DHATTIWALA

Ahmadbhai Shaikh is a muezzin in a mosque in the Behrampura area of Ahmedabad. If not reciting the 'azaan,' he is busy helping Bharatiya Janata Party workers in his ward to campaign among members of his community. His reason for shifting from the Congress to the BJP is "the hope that our drainage problems will be solved, after all these years." As one who was lucky to escape the arson and looting in the city in 2002, he merely calls that a "period of misfortune."

It was nine years ago that Gujarat's biggest wave of Hindu-Muslim violence was triggered in Godhra. The burning of the Sabarmati Express marked the beginning of an anti-Muslim backlash that continued intermittently for the entire year amid allegations of State complicity. That period reinforced existing residential and symbolic segregation of Muslims in cities like Ahmedabad.

Nine years later, the victims of the violence are embracing their perceived perpetrators.

As has been already discussed extensively, Gujarat's Muslims voting for the BJP is an exceptional case compared to, say, Bihar where the BJP was accepted only on the condition of excluding Hindutva (and Narendra Modi), or even other parts of northern India where Sikhs voted for their perceived oppressors, the Congress, only after a public apology the party made to the community. The reasons for the transformation behind the new 'all-inclusive' BJP have also been discussed widely.

Yet, what is far more exceptional is the kind of Muslims supporting the BJP in Gujarat.

Take Ahmedabad city, for example. The campaign trail of the BJP in the 2010 civic polls here included a patchwork of busybody Muslim clerics and traders: two groups that we would assume to have different voting preferences. The traders have an understandable, rational logic of voting for a party that has emphasised its economic development policies as never before. The voting preference of two significant trader-Muslim communities of Gujarat, the Dawoodi Bohras and the Khojas — both Shias — has always tended to be biased towards the party in power, be it the British in pre-independent India, the Congress in the 1980s to early-1990s, or the BJP later. "The Syedna or the head priest will always seek a cordial relationship with those in power. It is in his interests, and as he sees it, in the interests of the community," says scholar-activist J.S. Bandukwala.

However, if one looks at the situation five years ago, it is fascinating and almost implausible why religious Sunni Muslims, including clerics, would come out to support the BJP.

In 2006, this writer spoke with Asma Saiyed, a student at St. Xavier's College in Ahmedabad. Enraged by the events of 2002, she had taken a significant decision: to add the burqa to her wardrobe of western wear. For this eloquent young woman, wearing her religion on her sleeve was a "slap in the face" of the BJP, which she viewed as the architect of violence against Muslims in 2002. "All of us friends felt cowed down by a constant anti-Muslim rhetoric since 2002. And we thought whether it made any sense to be scared. We said, okay so you want to hate us? Here are our burqas so we know that you know we are Muslims. Now come, get us."

Ms Saiyed belonged to that section of Muslims who developed a collective identity in opposition to the majority, most of whom, they believed, endorsed the BJP's Hindutva rhetoric. This was similar to what John Ogbu's work on 'oppositional culture' among Black American students in the U.S. tells us — that their identities as minorities were developed as a response to White racism, which then led them to oppose conformism in education and all that which would be "good" (White or majority) behaviour.

Religious symbolism became a shield for these Muslims to protect their identities against the threat of rising, rabid Hindutva. Compromise seemed impossible even in the exchange of economic development. So when Congress workers told this writer recently that Muslims were paid by the BJP to support it in the civic elections, it was paradoxical, even if the claim were true. People generally refuse to involve themselves in cost-benefit calculations and reach a self-serving decision on issues of a sacred nature when given material incentives in exchange. Assuming some Muslims did accept money from the BJP in exchange of support, does it mean they are no longer looking at the 2002 post-Godhra violence as an attack on their religious identity? If the Congress is not a favourable alternative and the BJP is a lurking ethnic threat, why vote at all?

The answer perhaps lies in the fact that India's is a patronage democracy wherein resource distribution depends on the discretion of elected officials as a form of market good rather than an entitlement. Staying close to the power centres in government is the key to survival. For the traders, survival is synonymous with their occupation. For the cleric, it could mean assimilation to avoid being labelled anything from anti-social to anti-national — no surprise that most Muslim BJP supporters, including religious Muslims, have patriotic songs as their phone caller tune.

"This terrorism taint is too much for the community. As long as the BJP is in power, we have to be part of the mainstream to shun this tag," says Imranbhai, a fruit vendor in Ahmedabad. He fits the stereotype of the Congress supporter: white kurta-pyjama, skull cap, untrimmed beard and moustache. Only that he swears by the BJP. "There is no shame for a Muslim today to admit he supports the BJP," he says. Indeed, the indifference of religious Muslims to saffron flags fluttering in the dense Muslim ghettos of Juhapura and Saudagar ni Pol in Ahmedabad — areas that are alien to the local Hindu except in scary stories — was unthinkable earlier.

Moin Khan, once a CPI(M) worker, soon to sign up with the BJP, explains that the power centre for a religious Muslim is the local cleric; for the cleric, it is the people in governance. "The maulvis can mobilise masses because people listen to them. For the maulvis to establish credibility among the people, they have no choice but to get their hands dirtied in their network of influential politicians." He recalls how a Sunni Muslim cleric who was close to the BJP helped trace a local slum-dweller's daughter who had disappeared. "Some clerics help the Congress, many now [help] the BJP because there is no alternative."

Moving back again five years ago, as one section of Muslims in Ahmedabad battled issues of identity using religion as a shield, another section had begun to develop a different kind of collective solutions to the discrimination. They were of the view that survival was possible only for the fittest Muslim — one who conforms to the mainstream majority. Prepping up for an existence war of sorts, they began to set up schools and focus on mainstream education for their children. Almost 70 per cent of Muslim-managed educational institutions, for example, were established in Ahmedabad between 1993 and 2005 — after the two waves of Hindu-Muslim violence.

Qutbuddin Ansari, who became the "face of the Gujarat riots," his pleading picture making news in national and international media in 2002, refused an interview with this writer in 2007. His request: privacy. "I've moved on. Please let me be."

The movement to "move on" had already started. The recent civic elections took it to a higher level.

Remember that this remains a discussion about a very small section of Muslims — most of whom relatively (that is, not directly) affected by the violence. Moreover, political attitudes in a civic election are based on ground issues. Slum-dwellers in the old city of Ahmedabad are ready to switch left, right and centre (the CPI (M) to the RSS to the BJP) as long as they get their local corporator to provide their daily quota of drinking water. Whether the BJP will continue to embrace Muslims at the cost of upsetting its majority target voters in Gujarat in the Assembly elections, will be seen in the future.

"The BJP will always be anti-Muslim, that is its identity. But the benefits it has given to Hindus, say in the Sarkhej ward, have indirectly reached Muslims," says Shahid Ali, a Muslim entrepreneur. A Congress supporter, he is open to the BJP if it continues to welcome Muslim candidates. Speaking of former top cop Al Saiyed, who contested on the BJP ticket, he says, "I would not mind having a Muslim candidate like Saiyed. At least I have someone of my own to hold accountable for any sloppy work." Mr. Saiyed, who managed to get over 13,000 votes in Sarkhej, himself believes that the recent change in political behaviour is driven by educated Muslims and those who have realised the need to be in the mainstream. "If we do not assimilate with other communities, it's the end of us!" he says.

(Raheel Dhattiwala is a doctoral researcher in the Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, who is doing field work in Ahmedabad.)

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

G20 NEEDS TO ADDRESS AFRICA'S INFRASTRUCTURE DEFICIT

IT SLOWS ECONOMIC GROWTH AND FRUSTRATES GENERAL DEVELOPMENT.

OLUSEGUN OBASANJO

My fellow members of the Africa Progress Panel and I joined President Sarkozy on February 15 in a meeting on what the G20 can do for Africa. Our argument was simple: namely, that the G20 can and should do a great deal for Africa, particularly in the area of infrastructure development.

Lack of sufficient and reliable infrastructure continues to weigh heavy among Africa's many problems. Anyone trying to do business in Africa will tell you of their daily struggles with the continent's deficient energy, transport and communication networks. The lack of dependable electricity supply hampers production, the absence of good roads slows transport, and insufficient access to modern technology limits industrialisation and integration into the global market place. The resultant inefficiencies and wastage make Africa the most difficult and expensive place in which to do business; they also slow economic growth and frustrate general development.

However, the pivotal importance of infrastructure is becoming better understood in the continent. African leaders have agreed several plans and initiatives, including the AU-NEPAD African Infrastructure Action Plan, the Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility and the Pan-African Infrastructure Development Fund, to close Africa's infrastructure gap. The African Development Bank is now spending more on infrastructure than any other aspect of development, and there is increasing regional cooperation on cross-border projects such as the trans-Africa highway and West African power pool.

Africa's partners, too, have recognised the need to prioritise infrastructure development on the continent. As a result, they have created a vast array of policy instruments and initiatives, including the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa and the EU-Africa Partnership on Infrastructure. These initiatives are intended to coordinate and bundle assistance, and to channel private-sector investments into key projects.

However, despite the flurry of activism and proliferation of initiatives, we are still far from finding the $93 billion a year the World Bank believes necessary to bridge Africa's infrastructure gap. Given the urgency, calls for a more comprehensive approach linking the various ongoing efforts and creating synergies between them have become louder — and rightly so.

Multiyear action plan

The G20's multi-year action plan on development may just offer such an approach. Born out of the group's Seoul Consensus, it defines infrastructure as one of the group's nine development priorities and seeks to build on the momentum created by existing initiatives to develop project pipelines, improve capacities and facilitate additional investments. In practice, the plan calls for the formulation of comprehensive infrastructure action plans by the multilateral development banks. It suggests the creation of a high-level panel to look into ways to harness large-scale investments continentally in infrastructure.

The pressure is now on the French G20 presidency, which has to translate the plan into purposeful action by November 2011 and avoid the pitfalls of past efforts — including short-term thinking, destabilising capital surges, and carbon-heavy construction. Success will be measured by the amount of capital generated, and the number of projects realised, as well as by the extent to which G20 activities complement and synergise existing efforts without supplanting or fragmenting them. With the creation of the high-level panel, which is to be chaired by my fellow Africa Progress Panel member Tidjane Thiam, President Sarkozy has made a step in the right direction, but many more must follow. The multi-year action plan shows the way.

( Olusegun Obasanjo is former

President of Nigeria and member of the Africa Progress Panel.)

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THE HINDU

HAS QADHAFI UNLEASHED A MERCENARY FORCE?

REPORTS DESCRIBE BLACK, FRENCH-SPEAKING TROOPS BUT OBSERVERS WARN THEY COULD JUST BE SUB-SAHARAN IMMIGRANTS IN THE ARMY.

DAVID SMITH

There are widespread reports that Muammar Qadhafi has unleashed numerous foreign mercenaries on his people, in a desperate gamble to crush dissent and quell the current uprising.

Their origins vary according to speculation: Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Mali, Sudan and possibly even Asia and eastern Europe.

Persistent claims

The claims are hard to pin down but persistent. Ali al-Essawi, the Libyan Ambassador to India, who resigned in the wake of the crackdown, told Reuters on February 22: "They are from Africa, and speak French and other languages." He said their presence had prompted some army troops to switch sides to the opposition. "They are Libyans and they cannot see foreigners killing Libyans so they moved beside the people." In a separate interview, Essawi told al-Jazeera: "People say they are black Africans and they don't speak Arabic. They are doing terrible things, going to houses and killing women and children." Witness accounts seem to bear out the claims. One resident of Tripoli was quoted by Reuters: "Qadhafi obviously does not have any limits. We knew he was crazy, but it's still a terrible shock to see him turning mercenaries on his own people and just mowing down unarmed demonstrators." Saddam, a 21-year-old university student in Bayda, claimed mercenaries had killed 150 people in two days. "The police opened fire at us," he said. "My friend Khaled was the first martyr to fall and seven others died with him.

"The next day, we were shocked to see mercenaries from Chad, Tunisia, Morocco speaking French attacking us ... We captured some of the mercenaries and they said they were given orders by Qadhafi to eliminate the protesters." Amid the chaos gripping Libya, the volume of foreign mercenaries and much else remains confused. Some believe they could be veterans of civil wars in the Sahel and west Africa.

Ibrahim Jibreel, a Libyan political activist, told al-Jazeera that some had been in the country for months, based in training camps in the south, as if in anticipation of such an uprising. Others had been flown in at short notice, he said. Some reports suggest white mercenaries have also been spotted fighting on Qadhafi's behalf.

'Plenty of options'

Experts suggest that Qadhafi has plenty of options in the region. "He has traditionally had a network of skilled soldiers from all over west Africa," said Adam Roberts, author of The Wonga Coup [ Guns, Thugs and a Ruthless Determination to Create Mayhem in an Oil-Rich Corner of Africa], the story of a failed attempt by the Briton Simon Mann and other mercenaries to overthrow the President of Equatorial Guinea in 2004. "There are lots of Africans, particularly from west Africa or Sudan, who go to Libya because it's wealthier." Mercenaries remain a potent weapon against civilian populations, despite the African Union's 1977 Convention for the Elimination of Mercenarism in Africa. Liberian civil war veterans have been hired by Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo to terrorise protesters following his widely acknowledged election defeat.

Roberts added: "Qadhafi and other dictators tend to surround themselves with fighters who will be loyal to them rather than to a local faction. Foreign mercenaries are likely to be less squeamish about shooting at local people.

"They are likely to better trained — a small unit that can be relied upon. They might also have experience of fighting battles and therefore be more capable if push comes to shove." The view was echoed by Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch. "It's hard to get your own people to shoot your own people," he said. "In this kind of situation, you can see why mercenaries would be an advantage because it's easier to get foreigners to shoot at Libyans than to get Libyans to shoot at Libyans." Qadhafi can offer mercenaries what they want more than anything: money. Sabelo Gumedze, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in South Africa, said: "Mercenaries are purely driven by profit. As long as they make money, they're going to do it, and leaders like Qadhafi have money at their disposal." There is a constant supply of willing recruits, he added. "In Africa the process of demobilising rebels is poor. The only thing they know is how to fight. If someone can turn the barrel of a gun into profit, they jump at it. They have few other employment opportunities." Jose Gomez del Prado, chair of the working group on the use of mercenaries at the U.N. Human Rights Council, said: "You can find, particularly in Africa, many people who've been in wars for many years. They don't know anything else. They are cheap labour, ready to take the job for little money. They are trained killers." Del Prado said he has heard the reports of mercenaries in Libya from a number of sources and is "very worried."

But some analysts urged against jumping to conclusions in Libya, noting that the country has a significant black population who may simply be serving in the regular army and could be mistaken for mercenaries. These include Chadians who sided with Qadhafi in his past conflicts with Chad and were rewarded with houses, jobs and Libyan citizenship.

The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said it had received "alarming reports" that Libyans were turning on African refugees whom they accused of being mercenaries.

Issaka Souare, a senior researcher at the ISS's Africa conflict prevention programme, said: "In the south of Libya you do have people of sub-Sarahan origin, including Hausa speakers. Some might have integrated into the Libyan army and these would probably be among the first to be deployed. It will then be easy for people to say they are foreign mercenaries. "People started talking about this issue on the third day, but I think Qadhafi should have had sufficient resources to deal with the protests before resorting to mercenaries. How long would it take Qadhafi to get mercenaries together and deploy them? Maybe a week. So I see it as unlikely at this stage, but it could happen if army defections continue."

© Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

 

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THE HINDU

ARAB LEAGUE PRESSED TO CONDEMN QADHAFI

PROTESTERS OUTSIDE ITS HEADQUARTERS IN CAIRO ACCUSE MEMBERS OF BEING OUT OF TOUCH.

JACK SHENKER

The entrance to the Arab League headquarters in Cairo's Tahrir Square is normally through a grand set of wrought-iron gates, which open onto a courtyard with fountains. But after a crowd of rowdy protesters blocked off the main door, reporters and delegates alike had to make to do with the back way instead — squeezing past the staff toilets and edging round a rusting portable building. Following two months of uprisings that have shifted the fulcrum of power in the Arab world away from the region's ageing political elites and into the street, this new method of entry seemed not entirely inappropriate.

"25 January marked the beginning of the age of democracy and transparency, the age of Arabs withdrawing their consent to be humiliated and patronised, the age when we decided to create a future for ourselves," said Hakim Abdel Ali, a 32-year-old Libyan living in Egypt, and one of those demonstrating outside the building. He was referring to the date on which Egypt's 18-day revolution erupted, toppling the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak and sending shockwaves across the region. "The men in there have to decide whose side they are on, this is their final chance," added Ali. "Either they speak out now and order Qadhafi to fall, or they make themselves an irrelevancy forever." In the street the demands of protesters were clear: the Arab League must unequivocally call on Qadhafi to stand down, or face expulsion. "They sit passively while Libya is burning, and they call themselves Arabs," said Bassem Tarek, a 20-year-old Egyptian involved who wanted to express solidarity with Libya's anti-regime uprising. "Many think that Moussa [the secretary general] is just a client of dictators, a spewer of lies," added Abdel Rahman Ashraf, 19. "If he wants to prove us wrong then he has to come and talk to us here." If the age of democracy and transparency has begun, the news appears yet to have reached the Arab League's largely greying coterie of permanent diplomats, who gathered for an emergency summit on the dramatic events unfolding across the border in Libya. Secretary General Amr Moussa made a short-lived effort to step outside and speak with protesters, but his words were quickly drowned out by chants of "Qadhafi is a butcher" and he was whisked away.

Inside the graceful if rather dilapidated marble corridors of the headquarters, it was business as usual — with delegates tight-lipped, security guards ubiquitous, and journalists shut out of all deliberations. The press pack was allowed only one brief glimpse into the main hall, just as delegates were standing for a moment of silence to honour those killed in Libya — which the Iraqi representative described as "terrible bloodshed" and "unprecedented circumstances".

When the Arab League did make a decision, it was to suspend Libya from the organisation — but whether that will be enough to placate the youth on the streets remains unclear.

Inside, the round table at the centre of the room was packed but for one conspicuously empty chair: that of Major Abdel-Moneim Al-Huni, the Libyan representative who has resigned his post in protest at Qadhafi's violence.

"The regime has failed miserably, and Qadhafi must leave," said Al-Huni in a statement issued earlier. "The people have stated their final verdict which cannot be retracted; it is no longer acceptable for Qadhafi to continue another moment in power." He went on to confirm he was stepping down from his role at the Arab League: "I declare to the international community, Arab world and every Libyan man and woman that I have resigned my post because it is dishonourable to serve a regime which kills its people and annihilates them in this inhumane manner." Speaking just before the meeting, Amr Moussa — who is believed to be keen on challenging for the Egyptian presidency in upcoming elections — described the demands of Arab populations for development and political reform as legitimate and acknowledged this was a "pivotal stage of Arab history."

However, he offered no response to accusations that the 22-state Arab League is little more than a talking-shop, and went on to warn against those trying to "stir up sedition between sister states". "They will now sit and talk for hours, because they have nothing else to do," remarked one journalist with a long history of covering the institution. "These are crumbling old men completely out of touch with reality. I wish they would go to their graves instead of the brave people of Libya." Around them demonstrators waved Egyptian, Tunisian and pre-Qadhafi tricolour Libyan flags, and sang "Egypt and Libya, on one hand", and "Into Libya we march, martyrs in our millions". The contrast in energy on each side of the gates was clear; whether Moussa and the Arab League can win round those Arabs disillusioned by the old political status quo and establish a new voice for itself remains to be seen.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

 

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THE HINDU

QUESTIONS AFTER SOMALI PIRATES KILLING OF AMERICANS

U.S. MILITARY SAYS HOSTAGES SHOT ON BOARD 'QUEST' BEFORE NAVY'S RESCUE ATTEMPT.

EWEN MACASKILL AND XAN RICE

U.S. special forces, on February 22, stormed a yacht hijacked by Somali pirates after four American hostages were shot dead, the U.S. military said. They are the first Americans to be killed since hostage-taking by Somali pirates became rife.

The yacht's two owners had been sailing round the world distributing Bibles, accompanied by two holidaymakers.

According to the U.S. military, special forces boarded the hijacked yacht, the Quest, after they heard shots fired and after the pirates launched a rocket-propelled grenade at a destroyer. One pirate was shot dead and another killed with a knife in hand-to-hand combat.

The bodies of two other pirates were found aboard, possibly the result of earlier fighting between the hostage-takers. Fifteen pirates have been arrested and are aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. They are almost certain to be taken to the U.S. for trial.

The special forces provided immediate medical care to at least one of the hostages, Phyllis Macay, but she was too badly wounded to survive.

Rubbishes reports

Somali pirates in touch with news agencies claimed the four hostages were killed in retaliation after a pre-emptive strike by the U.S. navy. "This is absolute nonsense. It is false," said Lieutenant-Commander Bill Speaks, a spokesman for U.S. central command, in Tampa, Florida.

"We were in the process of talking with the pirates when we heard small arms fire and a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the USS Sterett, a guided missile destroyer," Speaks said. "It was only after that our special forces operations team went into action. The hostages were killed prior to any action by U.S. forces." The Sterett was close to the yacht at the time, only about 500 metres away, and the navy had been negotiating for the hostages' release.

The hostages were identified as Jean and Scott Adam, from Los Angeles, the owners of the Quest, and holidaymakers Macay and Bob Riggle, from Seattle, Washington state.

The Adams had been sailing round the world for seven years and visited Panama, New Zealand, China and Cambodia. They had left the southern tip of India bound for Oman and had joined a fleet of other yachts, hoping to find safety in numbers in waters where piracy is common.

The White House spokesman, Jay Carney, said Barack Obama had been woken in the middle of the night to be informed about the deaths. Obama had, on February 19, authorised the use of force in the event of an imminent threat to the hostages.

Two Somali pirates spoke with Reuters by telephone on February 22 claiming the murders had been their response to a U.S. attack. "Our colleagues called us this morning [saying] that they were being attacked by a U.S. warship," said a pirate who identified himself as Muhammad.

"The U.S. warship shot in the head two of my comrades who were on the deck of the yacht by the time they alerted us," he said. "This is the time we ordered the other comrades inside the yacht to react — kill the four Americans because there was no other alternative — then our line got cut." Hussein, a pirate from Hobyo, another Somali coastal pirate haven, said: "The killing of those four Americans and our comrades is a fair game that has started. Everybody will react if his life is in danger. We should not agree to be killed and let the hostages be freed." Andrew Mwangura, a piracy expert and maritime editor of the Somalia Report website, said the killing of the U.S. hostages was unusual. He said it was strange to have so many pirates, 19, aboard a small vessel, which would have caused tensions among them. "It's too many people in a yacht ... and that could have made the pirates jumpy," Mwangura said.

But that still did not explain why the hostages were killed if, as the U.S. reports suggest, negotiations were continuing. "Who killed the pirates that were found dead on the yacht? Was there military intervention that we don't know about? Something does not add up." The military said U.S. forces had been monitoring the Quest for about three days. Four U.S. navy warships were involved, including an aircraft carrier.

U.S. snipers killed Somali pirates in 2009 while rescuing the American captain of a cargo vessel. A pirate captured that day was last week sentenced in New York to 33 years in jail.

— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

 

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THE HINDU

 

LIBYA DESTROYING CHEMICAL WEAPONS, SAYS WATCHDOG

Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi is keeping his word about destroying his chemical stockpile for producing mustard gas and has no weapon to deliver a chemical payload, a U.N. watchdog group said on February 23.

Reports from Libya say fears the regime will use chemical or biological weapons are rampant among protesters facing Qadhafi's militias and supporters, and former British Foreign Secretary David Owen said the West should be concerned about that possibility.

"We know that this is a person who could unleash either chemical or biological weapons which he possibly still has," Owen said on BBC radio. Qadhafi "is deeply unstable, and has been for 42 years."

But the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) indicated the use of chemical weapons was unlikely.

All Libya's delivery systems, 3,300 unloaded aerial bombs, were crushed by bulldozers in 2004 when Qadhafi agreed to dismantle his weapons of mass destruction, said the OPCW, based in The Hague.

Libya destroyed nearly 13.5 metric tons (15 tons) of sulfur mustard last year, about 54 per cent of its stockpile. It received an extension to eliminate the rest by May 15, the organisation said. Nearly 40 per cent of the chemicals used to make sulfur mustard also have been destroyed since 2005, it said.

Twice-yearly inspections have found no evidence of Libya reviving the chemical weapons programme.

"So far as we know, Libya gave up the capacity to deliver chemical agents seven years ago," OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan told The Associated Press. "And in the last year we've also seen, after some delays, substantial progress toward destroying their existing stockpile of chemical agent, which is all mustard."

AP

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THE HINDU

 

NASA DELAYS SATELLITE LAUNCH

Officials at a military base in central California have delayed the launch of a rocket carrying an Earth-observation satellite.

Tech Sgt. Ben Rojek of the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base confirmed that the launch was scrubbed five minutes before its planned takeoff early on February 23.

Rojek cited a "technical engineering problem" as the reason for the delay, which pushed back the launch by 24 hours. He said a status console "was trying to tell (NASA officials) something they already knew," indicating a problem. The Taurus XL rocket was carrying the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Glory satellite, which is slated for a three-year mission to analyse how airborne particles affect Earth's climate. Besides monitoring particles in the atmosphere, Glory will also track solar activity to determine the sun's effect on climate. The $434 million mission is managed by the NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

AP

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

VERDICT ON GODHRA: TIP OF THE ICEBERG?

Tuesday's order by additional sessions judge P.R. Patel for now decides one aspect of the infamous happenings in Gujarat in February 2002 — the burning of Coach S-6 of Sabarmati Express at Godhra railway station, in which many kar sewaks returning from Ayodhya were travelling — which was followed by a prolonged spell of brutal

anti-Muslim violence in the state which took well over a thousand lives, and was widely alleged to have been facilitated with the complicity of the state government headed by Mr Narendra Modi. The special court held that the burning of the coach was the consequence of a planned conspiracy — that it was not an accident. This is exactly the position maintained all along by Mr Modi and by the BJP — and opposed by the Congress, the Left parties and many "secular" and liberal-minded sections of society. The "accident" theory got reinforced when it was upheld by the U.C. Banerjee Commission, appointed by then railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav to probe the destruction of railway property. The BJP is naturally jubilant at Tuesday's verdict, and is taunting its opponents. But there are troubling aspects arising from the Godhra train-burning affair, and its echoes will possible fade only when closure is applied to the numerous cases relating to that unfortunate period in Gujarat.
These cases are now being monitored by the Supreme Court and are being probed afresh by a special investigation team appointed by the court. Looking at the inordinately long time taken by the SIT in the Sabarmati Express case, there is no knowing when all the Gujarat cases will be concluded. The second aspect of Tuesday's verdict is that there should be little surprise if it is legally challenged on grounds of the nature of evidence that came to be relied on. Finally, India's judicial process would also be in the dock for the extreme slowness that it exhibited. It permitted 63 individuals, who would eventually be acquitted by the special court, to remain in jail for nearly nine years along with the other accused who had been booked. The Supreme Court needs to answer why so many individuals — who have now been declared to be innocent — have had precious years of their lives virtually snatched away, and why India's highest court could not exert due superintendence in the matter. Does this not amount to a travesty of justice?

The political issue involved is fundamentally this: was there a link between the burning of Coach S-6, by any yardstick a ghastly incident in which 59 people were killed, and the time of murder and mayhem that followed? Mr Modi had unhesitatingly proclaimed then that "every action has an equal and opposite reaction", an observation that was condemned on the floor of Parliament. Leading BJP stalwarts had noted that "if there had been no Godhra, there would be no riots", suggesting an intrinsic link between the two. The underlying thesis was that if "Muslims" had instigated the burning of the S-6 coach, then "Hindus" were right in avenging the dead. This shocking line of communal reasoning turns democratic ethos on its head. If medieval-era "jurisprudence" is not to be applied, it is the state that should investigate and punish the guilty. The state is also duty-bound to prevent citizen groups from taking the law into their own hands, as evidently happened in Gujarat. If the Supreme Court-monitored cases show state government complicity, then the "action-reaction" theory that the chief minister adapted from Newton would appear to be borne out. Tuesday's judgment could thus be just the tip of the iceberg. The verdict itself is intriguing as the principal accused in the "conspiracy" has been acquitted.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

A FARMER'S WISHLIST

VIJAY JAWANDHIA

The farmers are very clear about what they expect from finance minister Pranab Mukherjee's Budget this year and even though beggars would ride if horses were wishes, one wishes that the finance minister, who has just returned from the Group of Twenty (G20) meet where there was a lot of emphasis on the need to invest in agriculture, refashions his Budget in favour of agriculture and the millions who produce food for the country.

The farmers' wishlist:

Increase allotment to agriculture to 40 per cent of the Budget as agriculture has stagnated at around 13 per cent of the gross national produce (GNP) during the last three five-year plans. This money could be used for giving increased support price as recommended by the first Farmers' Commission chaired by Dr M.S. Swaminathan.
Mr Mukherjee needs to frame a good crop insurance scheme at the village level. Eighty per cent of the premium should be paid equally by the state and the Central government and 20 per cent by the farmer.
Agriculture crop loan should be given at four per cent interest and zero per cent interest to farmers with rain-fed land.
Economic support should be given for promoting organic farming — for animal raising and promoting fodder and food crop like sorghum and bajra.

Free quality education and health service at the village level should be a priority.

Mr Mukherjee should now start taxing agriculture income and sale of produce above Rs10 lakhs per annum. Below this farmers can be exempted. Unless he taxes the rich he will have little money to help the poor.
Whenever the government talks about fiscal correction (read, cutting subsidies) it is always the farmer and the unorganised sector that are at the receiving end. In his last Budget, instead of taxing the rich taxpayers he gave them maximum benefits. A person with an income of `8 lakhs and above received benefit of `50,000.
True, he announced a loan waiver of `70,000 crores, thereby accepting that there was a crisis. The non-irrigated farmer is always fighting the vagaries of nature and the market, yet, no proper insurance scheme was announced to protect his minimum income and losses. The non-irrigated farmer does not have any crop till next November 2011. So extending the loan waiver scheme limit for payment to June 2010 as he did had no relevance.
I must accept that Mr Mukherjee was generous in accepting the long-standing demand that a special policy support is needed for rain-fed agriculture. But I do wish that in this Budget he is realistic. In his last Budget he announced `300 crores for the 60,000 villages selected to grow oilseed and pulses in rain-fed land, which means each village will get just `50,000. When you compare this to an individual taxpayer earning `8 lakhs and getting a benefit of `50,000 with a whole village getting just `50,000 you see how skewed the Budget is against the producer of food who toils from sunrise to sunset to cajole the golden wheat from the ground. Also, he gave `200 crores to one city, Tirupur in Tamil Nadu, to fight pollution made by textile industry!
It is important for the finance minister to junk the old format of the Budget and keep it in tune with the times.
Since globalisation and liberalisation of the economy, the gap between the rich and the poor and urban and rural has been increasing speedily. The implementation of Fifth and Sixth Pay Commissions has added fuel to the fire. Increasing prices of urban properties is proof of accumulation of wealth in urban India.
Maybe in this Budget Pranabda may not be able to bridge the gap between the rich and poor but at least we can expect that he will not widen the gap further.

After the new economic policy the cost of education, health and transportation has been increasing. In short, the cost of living is increasing. The government has announced a slew of yojanas it thinks will help the poor, like the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (which has not been properly implemented). My point is that in MGREGS, the minimum wage is `100 per day and only 100 days work are guaranteed. Against the Sixth Pay Commission is the minimum wage of `100 justified? I will explain this injustice. In my village in 1970 the wage of a farm labourer was `90 to 100 per month. At that time the salary of a schoolteacher in the same village was `150 to 200 per month. Now, after the Sixth Pay Commission, the minimum salary of a schoolteacher is `16,000 per month. My question to Mr Mukherjee is, why shouldn't the minimum wage of farm labour be at least `8,000-9,000 per month. This means that the minimum wage in MGREGS must be `300 per day.

Now if this minimum wage is to be paid then the Commission for Agricultural Cost and Prices must take this into account for calculating the cost of production and announce support prices on this basis. The finance minister will also have to make provisions for food subsidies in his Budget on this basis. Now a common question that will be asked is where will the money come from. To answer this I have to ask, from where did money for Fifth and Sixth Pay Commissions come from?

To raise money the rich must be taxed, but except for the last Budget, all previous Budgets decreased taxes on the rich. Excise duty on cars was reduced and now the finance minister is expected to give `6,000 crore subsidy for Metro Rail for three cities. The subsidy for urbanisation is increasing. This urban bias must change. The farmer is not demanding packages, but is waiting for policy support.

Vijay Jawandhia is former president of the Shetkari Sanghatana and All-India Kisan Coordination Committee and a member of La Via Campesina, an international peasant's organisation

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

RADICAL CLICK: RISE OF VIRTUAL WARRIORS

SIDHARTH BHATIA

More than the Egyptians themselves, it is India's armchair revolutionaries, the assorted Lefties and millions of social network users, who got excited about the protests in Cairo and the way President Hosni Mubarak has been forced to leave his office. Without leaving their homes, offices, coffee shops and with a few clicks of the thumb on their smart phones, these warriors lent their vocal support to the cause of freedom and to help their Arab brothers and sisters overthrow a despot.

As the freedom contagion spread to Yemen, Bahrain and now Libya, the Facebook and Twitter accounts of these double-clicking radicals are full of articles, links, comments and cries for solidarity with their oppressed brethren. They are outraged and angry. They find the attitude of the West hypocritical. They think similar public protests should be held to show their own corrupt politicians that the people will not tolerate corruption, cronyism, clamping down on dissent etc. Rise, people rise!

A history lesson is in order. In the 1930s, as Fascism spread in Europe, students and other liberal forces, all over the continent and the world, started protesting in their home countries. The military rebellion by General Franco in Spain against the elected government brought matters to a head; a civil war broke out in the country. On one side were the Nationalists, led by Franco and supported by conservative elements all over the continent and beyond. American and other big corporations with interests in the country supplied goods and services to them and he also got the backing of the Nazis.

The Opposition was made up of the Republicans, mainly socialist and Leftist groups which were divided amongst themselves. They were supplemented by volunteers from all across the world, including many high-profile writers and journalists such as George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway who saw Franco as a key element in rising fascism in Europe. Over 2,000 Americans turned up in Spain to join the International Brigade which at its peak swelled to over 30,000 people. At the end of the war, the Nationalists emerged victorious. Many Republicans, including foreigners, were killed and thousands were sent to concentration camps.
This was hardly the first or last time that "foreigners" joined up for a cause not directly related to their country. George, Lord Byron travelled to Greece to join local revolutionaries who were fighting the Ottoman Empire in the war of Independence in the 1820s. More recently, when the Soviet Union marched into Afghanistan, the mujahideen were composed of jihadists from all over the world — young Muslims wanting to fight the godless Communists.

Support for a cause can take many shapes. Some pack up their bags and plunge into the conflict. Others send in donations. Now the preferred form to show solidarity is to tweet. Find an interesting article and post the link on your Facebook account; or you can press the "Like" button.

Granted that simply dropping everything to rush to march in Tahrir Square or land up in Benghazi may neither be practical nor feasible. You may not get a visa, for one thing. But whatever happened to that good old march in your own home town? All through the 1960s and '70s Indians — students, workers, activists — came out on the streets to show their support for the underdog or for a righteous cause. The streets of Calcutta (now Kolkata) resonated with the slogan "Amaar naam, tomaar naam, Vietnam, Vietnam". "Down with Imperialism" was the battle cry of youngsters everywhere, from the US to London to Paris to New Delhi. Is it not ironical that as we proudly speak about the interconnected, global world and declare that Indians too are world citizens, we have receded into our own spaces?

Indeed, even local issues do not excite us enough. After 26/11, Mumbai saw a turnout of thousands of youngsters shouting "Enough is Enough". It was organic and spontaneous, reflecting the frustration of citizens who felt their political leaders had badly let them down. There was much talk then about how the social media was used by the wired generation and this was how things would be in the future.

And yet, as the country grapples with scandals, corruption, misgovernance and stasis, there is no sign of any public anger, not on the streets at least, unless one counts heated panel discussions on television where politicians hurl charges against each other. And, of course, on Facebook and Twitter. The TV studio has become our public square, the computer screen our window to the world, the mouse our weapon of choice.
The social media just gives us the illusion of engagement. It allows us to participate, but at a safe and sanitised distance. We can then go on with our normal lives while assuring ourselves that we care and that we are part of something big and historical. But we do not want to inconvenience ourselves and marches and street demonstrations are oh-so-old fashioned. Facebook and Twitter is the way to go. Fully realising this apathy, is it any wonder that our ruling classes don't feel scared or nervous about the wrath of the people?

Sidharth Bhatia is a senior journalist and commentator on current affairs based in Mumbai

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DNA

 

OH! TO BE PART OF THE GROUP

 

Remember the time when being part of a 'group' was a concept reserved for teenage girls and their exclusive cliques? Only if you were lucky enough to be part of a particular group were you given access to certain secrets and invited to certain parties. There was a certain sense of belonging that came only by being part of a group.

 

Well, not much has changed. Only now, 'groups' are no longer restricted to teenage girls. The Blackberry Boys have somewhat hijacked that social institution. You can tell yourself that being a Blackberry Boy is overrated. But believe it or not, the world is pretty much divided into those who are on BBM and those who aren't.

 

At a wedding recently, I bumped into an old acquaintance. This very enlightened friend of mine, an iPhone user I might add, told me she felt peer pressure to buy a Blackberry. "All my friends are on BB chat," she rued, "and I feel left out."

 

All their after-work plans were made on the groups that can be created on Blackberry Messenger. It didn't matter that her handset was so much more expensive than most Blackberry phones. What was the point of owning an iPhone if What's App didn't allow her to be part of a Group?

 

Seems a bit much to me but then again, who am I to judge? A few days after my conversation with her I found myself walking into a mobile store.

 

Needless to say, I walked out armed with a brand new Blackberry phone. It took me less than a day to 'connect' with my friends. It wasn't enough that I had their number, email id, and their home address! Now I had their BB pins. And even better, I was a part of their BB groups.

 

h_moeena@dnaindia.net

 

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DNA

DON'T OTHER CITIES ALSO HAVE SPIRIT?

RANJONA BANERJI

 

Do you remember where you were when the first bomb blasts ripped through Mumbai — it was still Bombay then of course — on March 12, 1993? The reason I bring this up is a reaction to watching television coverage of the Bombay high court verdict on Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist captured alive on November 26, 2008.

 

The blithe and casual way in which the "spirit of Mumbai" was referred to and the pat assumptions made about the bomb blasts rankled. To set the record straight, the bomb blasts followed the riots that erupted across India after the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992.Mumbai, which, until then, was not really seen as either a communal or riot-prone city, saw terrible riots in January as well. The bomb blasts, masterminded by the underworld, followed the riots.

 

But this so-called spirit, which commentators speak of — most of whom did not live in Mumbai then or have never lived in it — has become a cliché to dog this city. Are we to assume that other places which have also suffered blasts and terrorist attacks do not have a spirit of their own? Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Varanasi, Hyderabad, Malegaon, New York — these are just random names. Surely they also reacted to some way to the assault made on them?

 

There was one more substantial difference between 1993 and 2008 and not just that the name of the city had changed. Yes, Mumbai refused to be cowed down in 1993. But it was because the city had had enough after more than three months of tension. To have your own turn against you in this manner is a wake-up call and the city tried to pay heed — but like the rest of the country, the demolition of the mosque in Ayodhya took its toll on our social fabric.

 

The attack of 2008 was an assault by an enemy country — and the reaction from Mumbai was of anger. The rage was directed towards the politicians and the officials who were supposed to guard us. Those who were at the Gateway of India the week after the terror attacks would have seen the extent of that anger and the cowardly manner in which our political classes either stayed away or ran away.

 

In 1993, incidentally, I rushed to the Air India building and then to Dalal Street as soon as the first call about the blasts came in. The day after I went to Churchgate station where impromptu blood donation camps had been set up and commuters were contributing with zest, that famous spirit in full flow.

 

That spirit was not visible in 2008 — it was just rage. However, it is also possible that the spirit of Mumbai had since been eaten up by our wonderful administrators as they have destroyed the urban landscape and infrastructure to feed their pockets. An adarsh situation, no?

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

RE-INTEGRATING KASHMIR YOUTH

 

Stone-throwing agitation conducted by the youth of Kashmir in summer 2010 has made policy planners think hard about the ways of their re-integration into national mainstream. So far unemployment has been stated as the main cause of alienation but experience has shown that there are other dimensions of the issue. Cross-border infiltration of militants and insurgents has been arrested to a considerable extent. The option of crossing over to Pakistani training camps for training in arms and subversion has shrunk and fresh recruitment has dwindled considerably. Thus Kashmir youth are to be seen on roads and streets to throw stones and do other minor mischief just because they are unemployed and can be easily manipulated by separatist leadership who rejoice in destabilization of life in Kashmir. The Union Home Ministry appears to be seized of this situation, and has decided to produce political response to the separatists who have amply maneuvered and exploited the innocent youth. Revival of Ikhwan in its new avatar appears to be the new and joint strategy of the Home Ministry and the State government. Ikhwans as counter-terrorist organization had gained strength and influence, and large number of Kashmiri youth had joined its ranks. In fact the Ikhwan had begun to pose serious challenge to the Hizbul Mujahiden militants and their other collaborators. In a bid to overhaul and modify the basic structure and ideology of the remnants of Ikhwan, it appears that Kashmir strategists are convinced that the flock should be revived and reconstituted into a political party so as to become counterweight to both factions of the Hurriyat. Floating one or two political parties with transparent agenda of promoting national interests and supported by the establishment would be a mechanism of countering separatist influence and propaganda. It may have the potential of breaking the current political jinx in the state. The fact is that ifor various reasons neither the NC nor the Congress succeeded in putting up a concerted joint or independent response to the Hurriyat and its ideological affiliates like PDP and other Hurriyat allies. Consequently, the field was left open for them to push their separatist agenda. It will be in fitness of things to stage a political challenge to separatists not only in theory but in practice. The Ikhwan had got dispersed after their supremo Kuka Parey was killed. The main difference of Ikhwan of olden days and the one now under consideration is that the new formation will fight a political battle and not become another gang of gun wielders. This gives them legitimacy and equips them with strong argument of changing the mind and heart of Kashmiri youth. That is of much importance. The two political parties scheduled to be launched soon with the support of the sinews of establishment will be led by former militants and Ikhwan commanders. The prospective leaders of two political parties are Zubairul Islam, a former militant commander, and his companion Imran Rahi. The second party is being launched by another former militant commander Liaquat Ali in South Kashmir. The parties will recruit former militants who bade farewell to arms and returned to the fold. This would also be part of rehabilitation programme of misguided Kashmiri youth. The parties expect patronage of local political lightweights with renewed perspective of Kashmir situation. This move has to be explained in the background of Kashmiri youth gotten fed up with negative politics of separatism resulting in total chaos in the valley. Forging new parties had become necessary in view of a pall of uncertainty and ambiguity overshadowing almost all mainstream political parties. It has become rather difficult for them to openly confront the separatists and secessionists for fear of life. But a sovereign state does not subject its domestic policy to the phenomenon of threats and intimidation at vulnerable spots. Obviously, on beholding the newly floated parties making inroads into the civil society, traditional parties will pick up courage to make their agenda more specific and effective. At present, militants have held mainstream political parties as their hostage. This logjam has to be dismantled.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

JPC AT LAST

 

Commentators ask a simple question. Now that the UPA government has bowed to the demand of the opposition to institute a JPC enquiry into 2G Spectrum scam, why then did it so resolutely oppose the demand when the parliament was in session previously? Surely this question will have to be answered sooner or later. UPA's obstinate refusal to concede the demand for one full session of the parliament clearly shows that it had something to hide. All that can be said is that the UPA government unfortunately trivialized the trust people had reposed in it. The manner in which the tainted Telecom Minister Raja was shown affectionate and warm treatment after his resignation from office, showed that as if nothing had happened and he would soon be taken back in the cabinet. A long time was allowed to pass between the leveling of accusations against him and the decision of the UPA government to hold JPC enquiry. Thus Raja was given ample time to tamper with circumstantial or documentary record if he found it could be incriminating when examined by competent authority. Nevertheless, now that the JPC will begin investigation into the scam, it has to be conscious of the fact that the entire country and the world will be tracking the investigation proceedings and the conduct of the investigators with extraordinary interest. Well, the JPC will one day come out with the truth about the scam and the onus will be fixed at the end of the day. The question is will the identified culprits of the scam be brought to book? We all know that unless Raja had a strong backing from political structure or establishment, he would not have summoned courage to deny all charges against him. That he was given the same portfolio for the second time either on demand or by design, is also an important question that the JPC might concentrate on. Let us wait and see the outcome of JPC's enquiry, and at the same time watch how the youth of the country will respond to it.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

LESSONS FROM THE ARAB WORLD

BY K.N. PANDITA

 

West Asia and the Arab World are seething with mass mobilization. It began from Tunisia, a North African state where, like other contiguous Arab states, French cultural influence has been accepted as well as rejected. Uprising against Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was unexpected to happen that soon. Masses in Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain and Djibouti in East Africa demonstrated restlessness. Inside stories from the Saudi kingdom are inaccessible.
Interestingly, the wave has inched onwards into non-Arab world as well like China. In Shanghai the Jasmine Revolution activists demand democratization in China. The contagion has spread to no fewer than twelve cities of the country. Authorities are jittery that anti - regime revolution may soon rock the entire nation and repetition of Tiananmen Square massacre may not be the solution.
In the initial stage of Egyptian crisis, Iranian supreme religious leader chipped in asking Tahrir Square crowds to go Islamic. They did not oblige. Now Teheran, having eaten the humble pie, thinks of resorting to sword-rattling. Two of her warships have moved into the Mediterranean waters in a bid to convey message to Syrian masses that Iran would forestall any conspiracy of overthrowing the Government there. Iran suspects America's invisible hand busy in subversion in Syria, the only Arab country in the Middle East befriending theocratic regime in Iran. Israel has expressed its concern over Iranian warships moving into the Mediterranean.
So far the mass movement in the Arab world has not shown any signs of being an Islamic religious movement. Despite subtle prompting by Iranian supreme religious leader, Cairo crowds have kept clear of theocratizing the movement. Apparently a widespread political and economic movement is rattling the entire Arab world, which has been generally ruled by autocrats, despots and tyrants. After decolonization of North African Arab states which had given rise to deep anti-colonial and anti-western sentiments, the dust settled down with the end of cold war era. Thereafter followed decades of brisk interaction between the Arabs and the western world and thousands of Arabs immigrated to the US and European cities. A new pattern of relationship developed between the Arab Diaspora and local cultural entities. The Arabs hitherto not used to democratic life style now began to feel and understand that they had been living under repression of despots back in their original countries. A lurking desire of reformation in all aspects of Muslim society ultimately became catalyst to the new phenomenon of mass movement that we witness today across the entire Middle East. If logically analyzed, one can say that this movement should not and may not be hijacked by the fanatical chapters as happened in Iran. The lessons from Iranian Islamic revolution cannot be ignored or forgotten. Rather it serves an eye opener to the pioneers of the present movement in Arab world.
However, India, a secular democratic country must try to learn some unavoidable lessons from the Middle East situation. Their movement is essentially against bad governance and lack of political freedom. These are the underlying motivations for mass movement. In India, we should not rest content with the satisfaction that we have a viable democracy in place. That is not all to be contented with. We are faced with far greater danger; corruption, bad governance and mismanagement. We have seen how the previous session of the parliament was stalled owing to unwillingness of the government to be transparent. We have seen how the government stubbornly opposed the installation of JPC thereby intensifying the doubts that the government had skeletons in the cupboard. These are not small happenings. We have also seen senior leaders trying to hoodwink the nation and we have seen how communalism is advanced subtly and by stealth. We have seen how the talisman of underplaying one communalism is made operative by profiling its counterfoil and so forth.
All this does not augur well for a democracy. Patronizing groupism, identity-ism and many more isms will fuel opposition to the system. The country is already locked in a grim battle with separatists, secessionists, Naxalites and Maoists. We are already pinned down by two big enemies on our east and west. We need to bring about a radical change in our thinking and approach. We need to redraw our priorities. It is import to stop unbridled propaganda of maligning political rivals by painting them in religious colour. That is self-destruction. These are the messages from Arab mass movements. We should not wait for the time when the masses of people mostly comprising the youth are left with no option but to imitate the Arab youth of today. Our political culture is on downslide, and needs to be arrested. Democracy is not the game of mere numbers; it is good governance for maxim of numbers.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

DIVERSIFICATION OF AGRICULTURE

BY PROF R D GUPTA

 

As the environment of variability for demand and supply of agricultural enterprises continues to change, hence farming will have to be diversified so as to include production of export oriented crops like cotton, sugarcane and basmati rice, dairy, poultry and fisheries to encourage farmers and make them self dependent. It is strongly emphasized upon Punjab farmers to increase the area under maize as a measure of crop diversification. With the change over to these crops, there is a good hope that there will be a significant improvement in the income of small and marginal farmers and crises of their deliberated economy will recede, which otherwise is not at all possible with the production of food grain crops alone (Dalal, 2008).
To achieve quick success, the state governments will have to ensure about the uninterrupted supply of electricity for running tube wells and also the canal water from March to May to facilitate the farmers for putting maximum area under organic sugarcane and organic cotton crops. Organic system of sugarcane and cotton production promote biological activity and commands proactive management of production and eventually encourage sustainability. Organic cotton and sugarcane use untreated seeds/planting materials and biofertilizers, use of biopesticides and natural predators to control pests and mechanical control measures to check the weeds.
The farmers require to take initiatives to render the paradigm replacement of coarse varieties of rice by basmati varieties like basmati-370, Ranbir basmati and basmati cultivars of Dehradun in Uttrakhand, and also by sugarcane and cotton varieties as viable diversification.
The production of each crop should be linked with marketing and grading process of cooperative sector so that the peasants are provided with financial support to save from the clutches of money lenders. This approach if properly resorted and followed, will lead to better prices and more income to the farmers besides generating more employment avenues for ruralites. Also involve various industrial organisations in this programme so that they can become financial participants in the grading and processing of farm products. Sugar and cotton mills and basmati rice mills can be helpful.
The crop yields in hills, in general are low and large area under rainfed agriculture is the major constraint towards increasing crop yields. One of the ways to increase the income and economic standard of the farmers is to adopt diversification in agriculture, which is directly related to the water resource development of growing of those crops which have betting market. This will help in compensating the loss incurred in farming by the profit gained in other pursuits.
Poultry farming : Poultry sector has brought pride and glory to the country by making the poultry revolution and pushing India as the world's fourth and fifth largest producer of egg and poultry meat, respectively. Haryana has emerged as a leading state in poultry farming business in the northern region as Punjab's poultry industry has been affected with the boom in the real estate sector. More than 15 million (m) eggs are laid by the chicks in Haryana day-1 whereas this figure is 10 m eggs. The availability of broilers in Haryana is 4.5 to 5 m in comparison to 2.5 to 3 m in Punjab. The poultry farming is now becoming popular in Haryana with Barwala surfacing as big industry for eggs in the region. One of the reason for declining poultry farming in Punjab was rise in prices of maize feed and concentration of people to real estate.
Local hill fowl of Uttrakhand has tremendous potential in poultry product, especially of organic type. It is because of the existence of traditional backyard system in the area.
Dairy Farming : Dairy farming is an important source of subsidiary income to marginal and small farmers vis-a-vis agricultural labour. Villagers get employment throughout the year. Apart from this, the dung from the animals, is a source of organic manure which helps to enhance soil fertility and crop yield. Dairy industry's first miracle was the rural farmers to join hands with professional managers to renders the country self sufficient in milk. It provides regular employment to 9.9 million people in the principal status and 8.9 million people in the subsidiary status that together constitutes 5.5 percent of the total workforce. Many farmers of Punjab are doing commercial dairy farming, using crossbeed cows to make dairying a financially viable proposition for the farmers. Special emphasis has been laid on promoting dairy farms in milkshed areas, that are 15 Km from any milk plant.
Aquaculture : To harness ocean and other water bodies for producing aquaculture is another need of the hour to ensure the food security, which is important like internal security of the country. Unlike many other states, Jammu and Kashmir is bestowed with vast expanse of water resources covering a total water spread area of 0.40 lakh ha which offer lot of potential for development of diversified fisheries. The department of fisheries has achieved a major breakthrough in raising Trout fish, the seed of which is being supplied to the neighbouring states. Trout production has been increased considerably. Similar headway has also been recorded in carp, reservoir and recreational fisheries.
In Jammu and Kashmir aquaculture provides livelihood to about 10,000 professional fishermen, covering population of 75,000 besides having equal opportunities for development of superior fisheries which is tourism related activity.
Fish-Duck Farming : Fish and duck are highly compatible to each other as both require water for completing their life cycle. There is rational utilization of limited landscape in fish cum duck farming. The droppings from duck, consisting of 09 percent N and 0.3 Percent P, are excellent source of fertilization which help in generation of increased plankton food for fish in the pond. Ducks also eat unwanted insects, tadpole larvae and weeds.
The farmers from different villages of Udham Singh Nagar district, Uttrakhand, have already introduced this farming system. Based on the current market price total income from the sale of fish duck eggs and duck meat, farmers gained Rs 2.1 lakh ha-1.
Olericulture : There is much importance to cultivation of high value vegetables in agripreneurship of farms. Under this system of farming, there is high productivity and better quality over open fields. Other benefits include off season production of vegetables for better gains to minimise the use of pesticides, strong base for organic and safe vegetable cultivation adoptable as agriculture entrepreneurship models.
Agro or Farm Forestry : Agro forestry should be adopted by all peasants as it will meet the requirements of fuel wood, fibre, timber, food and fodder. The vacant place adjoining farm roads and water canals be utilized for the purpose.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

NEED FOR A WITNESS PROTECTION LAW

BY PRAKASH SHUKLA

The criminal justice system in the country is on the tailspin as witnesses more often than not turn hostile under pressure, simply unwilling to be harassed by the police or courts. Not in hundreds but in thousands cases fall flat in the trial courts. Intimidated fathers have refused to identify the murderers of sons shot dead before them. Wives have declined to testify against their husbands' killers. But when a woman is murdered in a room full of members of the urban elite, and not a single person stands up in court to identify the murderer, it drives home the failures of a legal system in the country.
There have been hundreds of unmerited acquittals. The higher judiciary has suggested framing a comprehensive law on witness protection, but nothing has come of it. The term 'witness protection' conjures up Hollywoodesque images of witnesses being relocated into new lives and jobs with new names and background. But, in India, where every secret comes with a price-tag, such protection remains in the realm of celluloid fantasy. As lawyers, judges and human rights activists point out, basic issues must be sorted out first with respect to how witnesses are treated by the criminal justice system.
For a start, can they stop being treated at par with criminal? Honest witnesses have deserted the criminal courts because the police and the courts often treat them as the accused. The police routinely doctor the testimony of witnesses and steamroll them.
In its 2003 report, the Malimath Committee on Reforms of the Criminal Justice System details how shabbily the system treats witnesses: no facilities for long waits, a lack of courtesy, non-payment of allowances, repeated and unnecessary visits as legal proceedings drag on, and rude cross-examination by the defence while the judge sits as a mute spectator. One of its recommendations: let the witness sit while testifying!
There are, of course, weightier items on the legal community's wish list for all witnesses, rather than just those linked to terrorist crimes: clear-cut directions for courts to provide witnesses and their kin police protection; in-camera proceedings, screening the witness from the defendant, protecting the witness' identity; cross-examination of witness by video-conferencing to reduce psychological pressure and intimidation by defence lawyers in court; stronger imperatives for courts to act against those intimidating victims.
What about deterrents to witnesses changing their testimonies? While Parliament late last year amended some provisions of the CrPC and other laws to deter witnesses from turning hostile, the legal community feels the effort was half-hearted and weak.
Several lawyers and judges want stronger measures to check flip-flops. One is that the initial statement by witnesses to a major crime should be made on oath before a magistrate so that it can be used as evidence in court. (At present it is recorded by police.) According to former Law Minister, Arun Jaitley, the NDA Government was in favour of pushing through such a change, but it was not taken forward by the UPA Government.
A second is that punishment for perjurers be swifter and harsher. Observing that "the court's response to the problem of perjury is one of indifference", the Malimath panel recommended that the law be amended to require courts to try cases of perjury summarily. The punishment for perjury, currently three months' imprisonment, and/or a maximum fine of Rs. 500, should be raised to two years' imprisonment and/or a fine of Rs. 10,000, it said.
However, human rights activist Teesta Setalvad - who was put in a spot of bother when Best Bakery witness Zahira Sheikh startlingly turned against her in court - says reforms relating to witnesses are meaningless if the rest of the criminal justice system remains unreformed: "Police are generally the via media through which the rich and powerful actively turn witnesses hostile, and those put in-charge of protection of witnesses can often be informers to the 'other side'. Also, taking steps to witness protection without ensuring time-bound trials and insulating the prosecution from the police will be a case of getting one more good law in without worrying about its implementation." (INAV)

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

INFERTILITY IN PUNJAB

NEED TO WEAN YOUTH AWAY FROM DRUGS

 

A WHO study has pointed to a sharp increase of infertility among Punjab's males and attributed it to drug abuse, alcoholism and pesticides. Drug abuse is affecting not only the health of Punjab youth but also their chances of employment. The police and the armed forces used to attract well-built, tall youngsters from Punjab's rural areas. Now, as media reports indicate, many fail to meet the minimum physical standards. During the recruitment of constables in Patiala last week there were 3,300 aspirants and more than half could not run even half the qualifying distance. Their height was not up to the required level.

 

Earlier, given the pathetic state of government educational institutions in the rural areas, youth lacked the basic skills needed for a job. Since educationally they could not compete with urban students, they were successful at least in jobs requiring physical strength. Now they all lag behind in health. Unemployment drives them to depression. This, in turn, forces them to take to drugs, which are easily available all over Punjab, thanks to a thriving nexus of politicians, policemen and drug peddlers. Media reports indicate that the number of drug addicts has risen sharply to 60-70 per cent of the population in the border districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozepur. The network is well known. Narcotics are available over the counter at chemist shops.

 

At least three steps are needed to tackle the drug menace. First, drug availability should be stopped by firm police action and political backing. Secondly, the government should spend more on sports and provide adequate facilities in every school and college instead of just holding big tournaments for NRIs. Punjabis are known for their excellence in games. Thirdly, awareness should be spread among rural youth about innovative agricultural practices and agri-businesses by providing cheaper credit and training. Poverty is a mother of various ills, including poor health. A healthy environment alone can produce healthy youth.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

DEOBAND CONTROVERSY

VASTANVI'S FATE HANGS IN THE BALANCE

 

The Majlis-e-Shoora (General Council) of Darul Uloom, Deoband (UP), the most influential Islamic seminary of Asia, has taken the middle path while handling the controversy that arose after Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi, a Gujarati with a pro-Narendra Modi image, became its Mohtamim (Rector) on January 10 this year. Besides appointing Mufti Abu Qasim of Varanasi as Working Rector, the Shoora members have, as was expected, constituted a fact-finding committee, which will submit its report soon after going into the factors that led to the demand for the new Rector's removal. Maulana Vastanvi offered his resignation as he did in the past when the Shoora met on Wednesday, but it was rejected, perhaps, because this would have sent out a wrong message. But will he really wait for the committee's report to hang on to the otherwise prestigious post? A negative report will be too embarrassing for a person who has done so much for the cause of education among the Muslims. If he leaves the seminary, it will be a victory for the two anti-Vastanvi factions of the Jamiatul Ulema-e-Hind, one headed by Maulana Arshad Madani and the other by his nephew Mehmood Madani.

 

If Maulana Vastanvi survives at Deoband and completes his 12-year term as the Rector, the historic seminary may not remain what it is today. With his experience of successfully running a number of educational institutions, including those providing engineering and B. Ed. degrees, the courses taught at Darul Uloom may undergo a major transformation. The seminary will have no dearth of funds, as Maulana Vastanvi, a Bohra, is known for his influence among the Muslim NRIs, particularly those belonging to Gujarat and Maharashtra. Besides this, the Deoband seminary will be free from the clutches of the Madanis, who have been misusing it for promoting their personal interests.

 

However, Maulana Vastanvi's image, which suffered a major dent after he praised Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's administration, may affect the standing of Darul Uloom among the Muslim community. Ordinary Muslims have nothing to do with the fact that his appointment has broken the monopoly of the Madanis or that he is the first non-UP scholar to have captured the Rector's position. His poor standing as an Islamic scholar may affect the acceptability of any opinion that the seminary will pronounce. His functioning will always be compared with that of his illustrious predecessor, Maulana Marghoobur Rehman, respected for his learning by all the factions at Deoband.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BIG FAT WEDDINGS

CURB WASTEFUL SPENDING

 

Indian weddings, especially North Indian ones, are often extravagant affairs that last days, and involve many, many guests. Conspicuous consumption is the rule rather than an exception and there is no doubt that for parents, the wedding of their daughters is a costly affair that strains the resources of most, often to a point where loans are taken. From time to time, various social organisations have tried to reverse the trend, but not to much effect. As for the government, it can limit the number of guests at marriages and other events under the Guest Control Order, which was enforced during the 1960s and 1970s. Although it was successful to an extent, the social resentment it led to soon made the government rethink on the issue.

 

Now the Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister KV Thomas wants to curb extravagance, especially in consumption of food, during weddings. While the idea is laudable, the devil will be in the details of enforcement. Although it is not clear how the Minister came to the figure of 15-20 per cent wastage of food, but anyway, there is no doubt that in a nation where thousand of people eat the bare minimum for survival, wasting food is a criminal act. While the government looks at the issue of wastage of cooked food, it also needs to address the problem of loss of food grains that are stored in its facilities. It is generally acknowledged that approximately 20 million tonnes of food grain are lost every year to the damage caused by fungus and rodents. This, in turn, is because of poor and insufficient storage facilities. The government must make concentrated efforts to preserve food grains.

 

Attitudes have to change before wasteful expenditure on weddings can be cut down. Social and religious organisations have an important role to play in such endeavours, and as for the government, it could, at best, impose punitive measures like a tax on wedding and other parties where the number of guests exceeds a certain limit. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

DIALOGUE WITH ULFA

NOTHING SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO ROCK THE BOAT

BY B.G. VERGHESE

 

Talks between the government and ULFA, now formally split between the moderate Arabinda Rajkhowa wing and the militant Paresh Barua faction operating somewhere in the Myanmar-China borderlands after being expelled from Bangladesh, have formally opened with a first round in Delhi.

 

The ULFA leadership has dropped its demand for sovereignty but insists it has come to the table without preconditions. This should be accepted at face value. ULFA cannot be seen to have abandoned its core position even before the commencement of the talks and must be given enough leeway to declare in due course that it has been "persuaded" to drop this demand in lieu of corresponding "concessions" by the government. Such tactical manoeuvres are par for the course and should not be allowed to rock the boat by those unable to differentiate process from outcomes.

 

The NSCN, ULFA or the United National Liberation Front of Manipur, like the separatists in J&K, need to understand that India represents a commonwealth of peoples. They, in turn, are engaged in transforming diverse and ancient communities into a plural, democratic society of equal citizens armed with the constitutional flexibility innovatively to accommodate all manner of ethnicities and autonomous entities within a structure of cooperative federalism.

 

The NSCN (IM) leadership appears to have softened its stance on Naga independence though it must be appreciated that this will not be formally dropped until a settlement is concluded. The idea of a Naga constitution within the Constitution was earlier bruited and could conceivably yield a solution acceptable to all. These already exist in embryo in the family of Articles 370, 371, 371A to 371-I pertaining to different states and sub-regions within the country and under the provisions for upward and downward "entrustment" contained in Articles 258 and 258A. Likewise, non-territorial solutions can and have been devised in the Indian context to provide satisfaction to smaller ethnic groups without formal separation.

 

Equally, special provisions exist in or can be devised under the Constitution to provide for the special needs of various sections of society whether religious, linguistic, minority, backward, scheduled caste, tribal, women and children. So, there is plenty of negotiating space to accommodate diversity within unity.

 

Meanwhile, there will be some disquiet following reports that a ranking Naga leader, Anthony Shimray, who

was abroad and arrested while clandestinely entering India, has confessed to the Naga leadership talking to the Chinese about posting a "permanent representative" in China and seeking other assistance in return for providing intelligence on Indian Army movements in Arunachal and the activities of the Dalai Lama. If true, this would scarcely be in keeping with the spirit of the suspension of operations agreement under which the current peace talks with Delhi are proceeding. It would appear that sections of the Manipur and Bodo underground are also in touch with the Chinese. These reports merit clear explanations from those involved.

 

The 24-hour suspension of operations 10 days back by the security forces against the Maoists near Naryanpur in Chhattisgarh to permit the release of some abducted police personnel through the good offices of Swami Agnivesh and another social activist, Gautam Navlakha, in its own way offers an opening to initiate a dialogue and efforts to restore normalcy in at least some Naxal-affected areas. There has been no real or sustained let-up in their activity but with the build-up of a better coordinated and trained security grid, the Maoists have found it increasingly difficult to impose their writ at will.

 

The decision to locate an Army training camp in interior Chhattisgarh has also unnerved the Maoists as its very presence will induce caution in engaging in unlawful activities. Demanding that the Army camp not be located there if negotiations are sought is an unacceptable demand. The military encampment is not being placed there for operations and the Army will only react - in accordance with the specified terms of engagement if attacked or provoked.

 

The Centre and the Planning Commission have between them worked out a series of socio-economic measures to be implemented in the Naxal belt. These will not go far unless three obvious and essential measures are taken. First, the Fifth Schedule must be activated in full as wilful failure to implement it represents a breach of faith with tribal India and a gross violation of the Constitution. The failure to take this simple fact on board even at this juncture is astonishing. Governors have been in default of their bounden duties and must be enjoined to fulfil these conscientiously. Secondly, there must be a dedicated and suitably incentivised administrative cadre for the tribal areas with a single line administration so that innocent tribals are not driven from pillar to post even on petty matters.

 

Thirdly, the State must engage with civil society and corporates in the social and economic development of these very backward areas under a strict but reasonable framework of environmental safeguards and corporate social responsibility within a well-defined legal framework. Continuing ad hocism will simply not do.

 

Such an effort will be assured of greater success if Maoist-sympathisers are brought on board and are convinced of the bona fides of the State. Once the bowl is drained, hardcore, proletarian-revolution Naxals will, like fish, find it difficult to survive in depleting waters.

 

Finally, the murder of two young siblings by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) in Sopore sends out yet another message about the wholly negative attitude of the Hurriyat and separatists who live in fear and denial.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

DEGREE MATA KA MANDIR

BY V.K. KAPOOR

 

With a podium glibness, he used to talk of visions, omens, portents and life beyond. We lost touch after college.

 

I was covering the Prime Minister's visit. I spotted him sitting in the front row along with politicians of the area. After the Prime Minister's departure, we met after nearly 20 years. He told me that he was running a couple of educational institutions. The local Commissioner told him that his daughter had completed her M.A. He immediately offered her a job. The Commissioner thanked him profusely.

 

He accompanied me to the Rest House and told me the story of his life. After college, he did not get any job. He went to his native village. One day out of sheer desperation he buried his degree in a field, and erected a small structure over it. He called it Degree Mata Ka Mandir. He floated a story that goddess Saraswati had appeared before him in a dream and desired that he should educate children. He started teaching school children in the open. Gradually, he opened a school. As time rolled on, he started a college and called it Degree Mata Vidyalaya.

 

Villagers claimed that they had heard divine music near the college at night. To sell a product, you have to create a hype around it, and package it well. When you are talking of God, you are tapping the collective unconscious. God brings cosmic reassurance as well as fear. It is the sense of a distant cloaked observer that is really eerie. Myths mobilise people by their promise and optimism. Myths require constant re-enforcement. Gullible and unsuspecting people accept anything. Innocence is a sister of stupidly, ignorance, naivete, and other things that we would be rather without. A clever ruse is always more effective than brute force. He became a popular figure in the area. People called him "Acharya Jee".

 

I found him a sweet mix of cunning and convention and his two personalities smartly co-existed. He started meeting me in Delhi. He told me that he wanted to start a Doomed (Deemed) University. He was able to get permission, and invited a senior leader for its inauguration.

 

He got some highly educated people to work for him. He maintained that "people knowledge" is more important than "product knowledge". He spent a lot of money on gifts he gave to important people. He told me that when others blow your horn, the sound goes further, but the horn needs proper lubrication to produce the desired and correct sound. He said that some bureaucrats and politicians could sell their maternal milk for a proper price. There men were a shrines of sin. He gave doctorate degrees to a couple of uneducatecl politicians so that they could feel respectable. He was keen to get a Padma Shri and then become a member of the Rajya Sabha. He asked me to join as Vice-Chancellor of his university after I retired.

 

In India it is a time of harvest for adventurers and the unscrupulous. In the new economic order the spoils will go to the quick-witted unconventional entrepreneurs and not to people restricted to traditional professions. Things are not always what they seem. A whale is not a fish, a peanut is not a nut, a tomato is not a vegetable. There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation for something better tomorrow. HOPE deceives more than cunning can.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

 

OPED

BYPASS OR ANGIOPLASTY DONE. NOW WHAT?

THE EXPERIENCE OF HAVING UNDERGONE A MAJOR PROCEDURE LIKE BYPASS OR ANGIOPLASTY SHOULD AFFORD AN OPPORTUNITY TO THE PATIENT AND FAMILY MEMBERS TO ADOPT HEALTHIER LIFESTYLES, FOR THEY PLAY A MAJOR ROLE IN ENSURING LONG-TERM GOOD HEALTH AND DISEASE-FREE SURVIVAL

NARESH TREHAN

 

When a diagnosis of blockage in the arteries of the heart is first made, it usually comes as a shock to the patient. The first reaction in many of the patients after undergoing an angiography is to enquire whether they will be alright with medicines alone or not. Unfortunately, that is not always possible and several people require angioplasty or a bypass surgery to ensure event free, fruitful and active lives. These are life-changing experiences for many people and having undergone that, the next question is what do we do now so that we remain healthy and free from recurrences.

 

It is important to realise that both angioplasty and surgery are palliative procedures and not curative, that is,they take care of the major immediate problems, but the disease process is still active and if proper precautions are not taken, there are greater chances of new blockages developing and the previous ones getting reblocked. These procedures, by themselves, do not alter the basic disease process in an individual's arteries. It is a mistaken belief in several individuals, after the initial shock has worn off, that they are now cured and can do whatever they want. In reality,nothing is farther away from the truth. If at all, the experience of having undergone a major procedure like these should afford an opportunity to the patient and family members to adopt healthier lifestyles, for they play a major role in ensuring long-term good health and disease-free survival. These are generally simple facts, known to all but often ignored and taken for granted and so they need to be reinforced.It is also important to emphasise that preventive measures remain the same whether a person is only on medical treatment or has had an angioplasty or a bypass surgery.

 

One would think that all this is commonsense, not rocket science. Yet, you would be surprised how often this advice is not followed!

 

Diet, exercise and weight loss: We are what we eat!! An old saying, specially true in this situation. One does not have to sacrifice taste and appealing food, but some modification is required. Total fat intake needs to be restricted and a rough estimate is about half a kg of cooking oil is to be used per person in a month. One should also use more than one type of cooking oil as certain nutrients may be present in one oil and others in a different one. A combination of sunflower or groundnut oil with olive oil and occasional use of mustard oil is fine. An occasional indulgence is allowed, but only if it remains occasional! Too many sweets and unrefined sugars add to weight and increase certain blood fats called triglycerides. Total calorie intake has to be restricted. Eat five times a day, but eat right and take small amounts at a time. Plenty of vegetables and fruit, whole grain cereals and fish are recommended. Certain heart patients are recommended low salt diet and restricted amounts of fluid intake, specially if heart muscles have become weak. These instructions need to be adhered to.

 

Gradual increase in exercise, reaching to about one hour of walk at least five times a week is recommended for most of the patients, unless there are specific contraindications. More vigorous exercises and sports activities should be undertaken in consultation with your cardiologist. Exercise not only strengthens the muscles and tones up your body, but is also helpful for weight loss and cardiovascular health. Exercise should not be undertaken on a full stomach and one should avoid exposure to extreme cold. Therefore, very early morning walks on cold days are best avoided.

 

Overweight is an additional risk factor for patients with heart disease and imposes extra strain on the heart. Additionally, it contributes to several other health-related problems like arthritis which restrict mobility and impede exercise, further preventing weight loss. Weight loss can generally be achieved with prudent diet and regular exercise as outlined above. One should keep a target of about 2 kg per month till the target is achieved and then ensure that it is sustained by weighing oneself twice a week. Remedial action should be taken if weight increases by 1-2 kg and one should not wait till there is a substantial weight gain.

 

Smoking and alcohol: Tobacco in any form is to be absolutely avoided, whether chewed or in any form of smoking. It causes or aggravates several diseases like heart attack, cancers of lung and mouth, blood pressure, blockage of the arteries of limbs causing gangrene etc. Even passive smoking has been shown to adversely affect a person's health. It is, however, difficult to stop and requires constant support from the family and counselling by the physician. There are nicotine patches and gum and certain drugs which help but most of all, a strong motivation is required. Once a person stops smoking, the benefits are visible within a few days and the risk keeps decreasing progressively.

 

Alcohol has always been a contentious issue. Generally, a glass of wine or two small drinks of 30 ml each for men and one drink for women are acceptable 2-3 times a week. However, only some people are likely to adhere to that limit. As a saying goes: "One drink makes a new man out of you, but the problem is that this new man now wants another drink". So, if you have to drink, stay within this limit. Certainly, nobody should be advised to start drinking as a therapy!

 

Diabetes and high blood pressure: These two are very important risk factors for patients of heart disease and often not well controlled. Blood pressure needs to be maintained below 130/85 for all persons. A common misconception among people is that the BP should be age+100, which is not true. It is easy to learn to monitor blood pressure at home which should be done at least once or twice a week, even if it is well controlled. Diabetics are advised to keep a glucometer at home and keep a record of their blood sugar levels at least once or twice a week depending upon the stability of their sugar values. Anytime they find that it is out of range, the dose needs to be adjusted. This strategy also empowers the person to have a better control of their sugar levels, especially if there has been dietary indiscretion. A major problem in diabetics is that their heart disease may progress and they may not be aware of it. Pain is often absent and there may only be subtle changes like increased breathlessness or fatigue. Any suspicious symptoms in diabetics, therefore, need to be taken seriously.

 

Followup and medicines: Regular checkup with your cardiologist is important for several reasons. The frequency of checkups will depend upon the severity of the heart disease and the kind of medication required. For those people who had suffered a major heart attack resulting in significant damage to their heart muscle, the monitoring has to be closer. They may require periodic adjustments of their medicines, especially if their symptoms persist. A constant chest discomfort over the scar area is quite usual soon after a bypass surgery and should not be a cause of concern. It takes 3-6 months to settle down in a majority of individuals. In the first few weeks after a bypass, one should avoid pressure or trauma to the chest. However, at any stage, if a person experiences chest discomfort or breathlessness on walking which is relieved with rest, a checkup is required. As mentioned earlier, diabetics need to be a lot more alert to even minor symptoms. Three or four months after a bypass or angioplasty, one should consult their cardiologist for a review of their cardiac status and ensure that their lipids, kidney functions and haemoglobin levels are normal and a treadmill test or an Echo, depending upon their disease may be required. A yearly check on the same lines helps in an early detection of any recurrence of the disease.

 

Medicines that a person needs to take by and large remain the same for people who have had angioplasty or surgery or are only on medical followup. Usual prescribed drugs are blood thinners, medicines to keep cholesterol under control and some other medicines which reduce the chances of recurrence of the disease. In addition, people who have had their valves changed need to take stronger blood thinners called anticoagulants either for three months for tissue valves or lifelong for metallic valves. These drugs require close monitoring to ensure that their effect is within the optimal range because overdose and underdose can both have disastrous consequences.

 

Reblockages: Despite tremendous technological advances in this field, a small number of patients will get roblockages of their arteries. The reasons may be poor quality of arteries, especially in diabetics, poor adherence to the preventive principles outlined above, technical reasons or progression of the disease over time. If this is suspected by your cardiologist, further investigations may be advised, which could be stress test, thallium, coronary CT angio or a catheter angiography. If a significant blockage is found, a decision may be taken for an angioplasty or a bypass surgery. It is important to understand that having had a bypass or angioplasty does not exclude a person from having the other procedure in course of time, should it be required. A second or a third bypass, if required, is possible in technically advanced centres with acceptable results.

 

Optimal utilisation of technology and medical treatment and adherence to these simple principles generally ensures that a person with coronary artery disease can lead a fruitful and active life with relative freedom from further symptoms. Psychosocial support in the first few weeks after a heart disease and prudent lifestyle later on are the keys to achieve these goals.

 

The writer is chairman and managing director, Medanta - The Medicity, Sector 38, Gurgaon

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

A KARACHI NOIR NOVEL?

USE OF THE TERM 'NOIR' FOR THE PAKISTANI WRITER SHEHRYAR FAZLI'S INVITATION APPEARS A LITTLE STRANGE

 

At the beginning of the last century, the term "fiction noir" began to be applied in the US to the hardboiled school of crime fiction. ("Noir" is French for "black" and is pronounced "nwa"). Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler are the best known of these early writers who were unsentimental about violence, sex, and women.

Here is an example from a story by Dashiell Hammett: "The younger man slapped the speaker viciously across the face with an open hand-a hand that then flashed back to its owner's coat and flicked out a snub-nosed automatic pistol. 'You big lard-can,' the younger man cried, his voice sibilant, – 'You'll lay off or I'll spoil your vest for you."

 

Another example, this time from Ted Lewis who initiated the hardboiled school of British fiction. The quote is from his novel Get Carter, later made into a film, and describes the beginning of a brawl in a bar: "…There was a great space cleared in front of the bar, all the tables had been pushed back from it, everybody was standing up, some on tables and chairs, all holding their drinks and it was very quiet. In front of the bar in the space that'd been cleared there were eight blokes, standing facing the bar, all holding bottles or broken glasses…"

Literary terms do get pulled about and stretched to cover newer versions of the genre. Even so, the use of the term "noir" for the Pakistani writer Shehryar Fazli's debut novel Invitation (Tranqebar 2011) is a little strange. Kamila Shamsie, another Pakistani novelist writes, "'Karachi Noir' has long been a genre waiting to happen to the Anglophone novel…This story of sex, politics, aspiration and intrigue brings to life one of the darkest chapters in Pakistan's history, in the days leading up to the creation of Bangladesh."

 

Briefly: Shahbaz is sent to Pakistan from Paris where his father took refuge after an abortive Communist coup. He has to prevent his aunt from selling an orchard that belonged to the family. He spends as much time as he can away from the grotty hotel his father had booked for him. He becomes involved with a dancing girl from Egypt, and spends as much time as he can in an opium haze. He moves to the home of a Brigadier who is his father's friend, drinks heavily, and listens to the brigadier talk about the past. Shahbaz writes, "I'd learned new things, achieved a certain Karachi stature, the close company of powerful people. Yes, I would bring stories with me: of the brigadier; of the police captain; of shaking Bhutto's hand…And we were close to having a civil war on our hands, besides. Yes, in many ways this was the larger world, and now that I'd soaked in it I was sure it would satisfy the people of the smaller world of Paris. I had so much to feed their imagination. My Urdu had improved, thanks to Apa. And I was particularly proud of my new capacity for drink…Those nights on the mezzanine with the brigadier…gave me insinuations of the kind of man I might have been had we stayed in Karachi. Now only in Paris would all this new beauty take its true form."

 

Neither hardboiled not softboiled. Just staggeringly, pretentiously stupid in its assumptions. Some whisky, opium, sex and sleaze, and Shahbaz thinks he has something to teach Paris, to "feed their imagination."

Too bad. The opening pages which describe his father's sister Mona Phuppi were promising. Shahbaz writes, "Despite moments of kindness, I recalled an unpleasant, abrasive figure, a detractor searching for signs of the decay of civilisation. And in this she would often single me out as the first exhibit: 'Ghazanfar, this boy doesn't even say adaab when he greets me."

 

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

COLUMN

TAXES AND THE DEFICIT

RAISE REVENUES FROM TAX REFORM AND NOT JUST GROWTH

It is now widely expected that Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will seek to get a grip on fiscal consolidation. How he does this will impact on his and India's credibility. His aim has to be not to lose revenues on the reforms roundabout that he gains on the growth swing. Although macroeconomic authorities remain optimistic about growth, some economic indicators (growth in the Index of Industrial Production for November and December 2010 were in low single digits) seem to point to a slowing down of the economy. Inflation is also likely to taper off over the year if the impact of tight monetary policy begins to work itself through the system. Both these trends will adversely affect revenue collection, particularly indirect taxes, since they imply slower nominal GDP growth. Besides, the current fiscal year produced a bonanza for the exchequer in the form of 3G spectrum auction receipts that exceeded the Budget estimate by over Rs 70,000 crore. It is unlikely that there will be a similar windfall in the next fiscal year.

On the expenditure side of the fiscal balance, high commodity prices could pressure the subsidy bill, both for petroleum products and food (if imports have to bridge the demand-supply gap). Provisions will have to be made for legislation such as the right to food and this is likely to bloat the subsidy tab further. Then there are the allocations due for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and infrastructure schemes — the list is endless. Despite these compulsions, the finance minister will have to find ways to reduce the revenue-expenditure gap. One option is to prune the myriad programmes that get budgetary support from the Centre and use the funds released from this for flagship schemes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. The other option is to raise the excise duty to 12 per cent. However, it is important to ensure this rate dovetails with the structure of the much awaited and much delayed goods and services tax (GST). Raising revenues from such tax reform should be an objective of the budgetary policy this year.

 

 Of course, the finance minister may get a cushion from the recently revised GDP series (that uses a new price deflator) with the denominator now uniformly higher than in the earlier series on which initial Budget estimates were made. This, following simple arithmetic, is likely to pull ratios like the fiscal deficit-to-GDP down. Thus, it is possible that the fiscal deficit-to-GDP ratio for 2010-11 will print at five per cent instead of 5.5 per cent. It is important that the finance minister does not rely on this artifice alone to achieve fiscal consolidation that he has committed to. In specifying a long-term fiscal path, he has set a fiscal deficit target of 4.8 per cent for 2011-12 (this is, incidentally, also the level that the Finance Commission had recommended). This was based on the older GDP series. For the deficit target to imply meaningful consolidation using the revised series, it should be set at least half a percentage point lower for 2011-12. Tax reform can be a more lasting instrument of fiscal consolidation.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

FERTILISING POLICY

PARADOX OF RISING SUBSIDY BILL AND STAGNANT INVESTMENT

A renewal of concern about fiscal management in India is partly due to the resurgence of populism even in a post-election year. Instead of working to reduce the subsidy bill, various political elements seem to be pushing for even higher subsidies. The recent decision of a group of ministers to absorb higher import and production costs of fertilisers by raising subsidy, rather than increasing prices, is just one example. Some estimates put the likely fertiliser subsidy bill this year at anywhere between Rs 80,000 crore and Rs 83,000 crore, against the Budget allocation of merely Rs 49,981 crore. The danger is that the government, in its bid to contain the overall fiscal deficit, may let the payment of a part of the subsidy dues spill over to the next financial year, as has often been seen in the past. In 2007-08 and 2008-09, when unpaid subsidy dues had reached unsustainable levels, the government chose to issue fertiliser bonds instead of cash payments. This had caused the industry substantial losses since these bonds were traded at a heavy discount. Much of the additional subsidy this year is on account of urea, the largest consumed fertiliser that is still under government control even though phosphatic and potassic fertilisers have been decontrolled and brought under the well-intended nutrient-based subsidy (NBS) regime. This, coupled with decanalisation of the imports of these decontrolled fertilisers and intermediates for their production, has enabled the local fertiliser industry to negotiate imports on better terms to ward off any need for a steep hike in farm gate prices of these fertilisers or in the overall subsidy payable by the government. This being so, it is difficult to understand why the government is reluctant to extend similar reforms to the urea sector. Nor is it clear why the government is disinclined to decanalise urea imports and let the industry choose the right time for imports and bargain for lower prices, using India's clout as a major importer.

Bad policy has also hurt the sector by discouraging new investment. Though the demand for fertilisers has been growing rapidly owing to an increase in consumption, reckoned at 7.6 per cent per annum since 2004, domestic production of fertilisers is almost stagnant. As a result, dependence on imports has risen. Such heavy reliance, estimated currently at over 30 per cent of total supply, on a volatile international market is also not tenable. Moreover, considering food crops like rice and wheat account for a sizeable chunk of total fertiliser consumption, any disruption in fertiliser supplies from abroad, for whatever reason, can have grave implications for the country's food security. Though the government came out with a new investment policy for urea – the only fertiliser that can be manufactured in India without any import content – in September 2008, it has failed to woo any investor so far owing to inadequate reforms in this sector. The concept of international price parity announced as part of this policy has been unable to inspire confidence among prospective investors in view of strict government controls. The priority for policy must be to make the country's fertiliser industry competitive. Getting prices right is the first step.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

 

WALKING THE FISCAL TIGHTROPE

BALLOONING FISCAL DEFICIT CAN DERAIL INDIA'S GROWTH MOMENTUM

LAURA PAPI & JAMES P WALSH

With India growing faster than almost every other large economy, the government is right to address its long-run challenges. The push for investment in infrastructure is bearing fruit and the expansion of social programmes such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and the Right to Education Act (RTE) is spreading the benefits of growth across the population.

But just as improved infrastructure doesn't eliminate all traffic jams, rapid growth can't eliminate all problems. One area in which we see a role for active policies is fiscal consolidation. The government has endorsed the 13th Finance Commission's report to reduce fiscal deficit and debt over the medium term, and has elaborated its strategy in the 2010 report "Government Debt: Status and Road Ahead", the first report of its kind. For the first time, the Indian government has explicitly recognised a debt target to strengthen fiscal discipline. So, how can fiscal consolidation help India meet its long-term challenges?

 

First, consolidation will help India manage the next global financial crisis as well as it managed the last one. To cushion the blow of the crisis, central government borrowing in India rose from 2.75 to 6.5 per cent of GDP. Consolidation under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act and rapid growth in savings allowed this to be financed relatively easily. Now that the crisis is over, the time has come to prepare for the next rainy day. Important risks remain in the global economy, from surging oil and food prices to a protracted slowdown in developed countries. In the event of another global crisis, the government would again have to rely on borrowings to support the economy, and the last crisis shows that a low baseline can be of great importance. The crisis also proved that the government can support growth when times are bad. Now it should help tame inflation when times are good.

Second, the prioritisation and increased efficiency that fiscal consolidation would necessitate can help ensure that public resources benefit the greatest number of Indians at the lowest cost, and reach those who need them the most. Reconciling increases in social and infrastructure spending with a falling deficit will require finding savings elsewhere. To create space for spending on national priorities, the government has identified areas of rationalisation and reform, such as subsidies, interest payments and pensions for savings. Among these, rationalising and targeting subsidies pose the biggest challenge. It will be equally important to ensure that services and programmes are administered as effectively as possible.

Finally, rising incomes and growing companies have expanded the demand for private credit. Reducing the annual financing needs of the government will free up savings, allowing private sector investment to grow.

The importance of consolidation raises the question of how well the government has implemented its own strategy. The 2010-11 Union Budget was an important first step: funding for the NREGA, capital investment, health and education rose strongly, while growth in other areas was more restrained.

Since then, the rebound in India's economy has exceeded expectations. Strong tax revenues have helped the government reach its deficit target for the year, but equally important have been the proceeds from wireless spectrum auctions. As these are one-off receipts, it is the International Monetary Fund's (IMF's) view that they should be treated differently.

Fiscal consolidation is a question of sustainability: with spending difficult to cut, a consolidation must ensure that future revenues can support expenditure commitments. But by definition, windfalls such as proceeds from spectrum auction or from divestment of shares in public enterprises are not sustainable. Since this year's supplementary demands for grants were largely financed by windfall proceeds, they widen the gap between expected future revenues and spending commitments. While borrowing will fall relative to GDP in 2010-11, our concern is that this year's supplementary spending could prove difficult to reverse. In that case, future deficit targets could become harder to reach. There is also a risk that, with high commodity prices and growing demand for food and fuel, spending on subsidies may continue to grow.

The IMF and the Indian government are in agreement about the importance of fiscal consolidation. The benefits will be significant and felt across Indian society. But the process is not without challenges. There will not be a broadband wireless auction every year, and the need for expanding capital and social spending will call for difficult trade-offs. The 2011-12 Union Budget offers an opportunity to look closely at those trade-offs. Fuel and fertiliser subsidies should be rationalised even as the most vulnerable are protected through targeted schemes. Growth in non-priority spending should be restrained, while the implementation of the infrastructure and social agenda would continue to gather pace. Taken together, these measures would send a strong signal that fiscal consolidation is here to stay.

Laura Papi is Division Chief and James Walsh is Senior Economist in the Asia and Pacific Department of the IMF

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

ON A WING AND A PRAYER

INDIA HAS SUFFERED ENORMOUSLY OWING TO THE HUGE DEFICIT IN VISION OF ITS LEADERS

ARVIND SINGHAL

 

Recent reports suggest India's economy is likely to grow by 8.6 per cent this fiscal and perhaps as much as nine per cent in the next one. This growth rate is spectacular, especially in the context of current political dispensation and near-absence of any major economic reform for many years at a stretch. Hence, it is not surprising that at least on the economic front, optimists far outnumber the pessimists and there is almost a universal consensus that India is destined to grow at or around 8 per cent per annum in this decade and then even beyond. Anyone daring to question this premise is dismissed derisively by the wise men who profess to be able to read the tea leaves of the Indian (and global) economy. The beleaguered UPA II, fighting seemingly losing battles on many fronts, is only too happy to take refuge behind this one particular statistic (GDP growth rate) to somehow convey the message that this growth could not have happened if its vision and its policies were not pragmatic and growth-oriented. The optimists second this view in their own way, and have now begun to believe that with Bihar and a few other perennial laggards kicking in with some solid growth, the economy will get further growth momentum.

 

Unfortunately, to the pessimists (including new converts like me), the economy could be just trundling ahead on a wing and a prayer. Each percentage point of economic growth is exacerbating the current and impending resource crunch in every area. A high growth trajectory, on a base of $1,500 billion or so, makes unprecedented demands on resources such as land, energy, water, trained manpower, sanitation, healthcare, food, environment and mass transport. India's challenges magnify in the backdrop of its already huge population, which continues to add 17 million to 18 million more Indians each year implying an addition of another 175 million to 180 million in the next 10 years alone.

Unfortunately, most in the government and then their many advisors and others in various think tanks seem to be merely looking at the past to project the future demand on such resources. The government is entirely missing out on accurately dimensioning the magnitude of the challenge India faces in this coming decade. For instance, shifting of one person (in a joint family household) from agriculture to a job in manufacturing or the services sector creates a manifold increase in infrastructure required to support this job (office and residential space, energy, sanitation, water, and transportation are just some of the few dimensions). Increasing enrolment of Indians in schools, colleges and institutions of higher education/vocational learning creates similar multiplier impact on physical infrastructure needs. Higher per capita incomes lead to higher per capita consumption of not only food and clothing but of every other category of consumption, creating humongous additional demand. In any other economy, this would have been a reason for great excitement since this demand would have created sustained high levels of investment and a virtuous cycle of steady growth. Unfortunately, in our case, we are not geared to expand supply ahead or in sync with the creation of this demand.

The country has suffered enormously owing to the huge deficit in vision of its leaders and in their ability to forecast future demand in just about every sphere. The deficit in modernisation and expansion of capacity of road network, airports, ports, urban transport, education, healthcare and sanitation has already been visible for years. The deficit in food and drinking water is now beginning to show up ominously. Inflation in consumer prices is already taking its toll on middle- and low-income households. In the near future, inflation will severely threaten India's manufacturing and services sector with runaway increases in prices of all basic business-building blocks that include raw material costs, blue and white collar salaries, cost of factory / office space, logistics costs and costs of business transactions. At the beginning of the nineties, India's economy was marked by "low cost, low productivity" but the initial burst of economic reforms unleashed hope, entrepreneurship and energy that first made the economy a "low-cost, medium-productivity" and then a "medium-cost, medium-productivity". Left unheeded, this could soon make Indian manufacturing (and services) a "high-cost, stagnant-productivity" one, stalling India's growth and stoking inflation further.

Unless the government comes up with fresh visionary, wide-ranging and bold reforms, the fundamental competitiveness of the Indian economy could get eroded very seriously. The Budget next week will give some indication of how committed the current government is to securing India's future.

arvind.singhal@technopak.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

IN SICKNESS AND IN WEALTH

ASIA'S GROWTH AS A HUB FOR MEDICAL TOURISM PUTS IT IN AN ENVIABLE POSITION

BARUN ROY

 

When Bangladeshis check into Indian hospitals, or Indonesians into Singapore's, they're looking for better medical treatment and facilities they don't have at home. When American or European patients travel to Asia, they're seeking quality treatment at cheaper costs. Both these factors are behind the rise in recent years of international medical tourism that's predicted to grow into a swell.

 

The global medical tourism market was said to be about $20 billion in 2005. The US-based Medical Tourism Association believes it will be $100 billion by 2012. Even if one believes the figure is somewhat optimistic, wondering if, for example, it includes money tourists spend on buying their medicines while on tour, it gives a good enough idea of the boom behind the business. And Asia, one of its biggest beneficiaries, is getting ready to make even more of it.

The ambition isn't at all misplaced. While Asia still has countries that aren't medically developed, it has others, like China, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand, where private specialty healthcare facilities and standards are among the best anywhere. It's no surprise, therefore, that an increasing number of medical tourists, from both inside and outside the region, are flying to these pockets of excellence to get quality treatment at costs that aren't prohibitive for some (for example, patients from Bangladesh to India or Indonesia to Singapore) or darned cheap, almost 75 to 80 per cent cheaper, for others (coming from the US and Europe).

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates, perhaps conservatively, that, currently, about two million patients worldwide travel every year seeking treatment in other countries. Those in the West travel abroad for elective or essential treatment mostly because they either don't have insurance or face long waits under public healthcare systems at home. Currently, Asia receives about 1.32 million of all medical tourists, which places the region in an enviable position.

But, because the business is lucrative, others are getting into the fray and the competition is getting tougher. Over 50 countries are known to have identified medical tourism as a profitable business area. Brazil is selling cosmetic procedures and has reduced taxes to promote the business. Dubai, with the world's first integrated healthcare free zone comprising 90 medical facilities, has emerged as West Asia's top medical destination. Australia is studying its chances, having wealthy customers from developing countries in mind.

Asian players, naturally, aren't resting on their laurels. Thailand, which boasts the world's most popular hospital for foreign patients (the Bumrungrad in Bangkok, serving some 500,000 medical tourists a year from 190 countries), is in the midst of a massive e-marketing campaign to rope in more patients and get them to stay longer. It wants 10 million medical visitors by 2015, not only to fill its hospitals but also its leisure resorts and shopping malls.

Singapore, which banks on its state-of-the-art equipment, cutting-edge technologies, and an ultra-clean environment, is going outbound to promote its business further. A Singaporean company, Sourcelink Healthcare Services, is setting up a $150 million mixed-development medical facility in Kazan, capital of Tartarstan (a republic of the Russian Federation), where treatment will be provided at costs much cheaper than in Singapore. The Raffles Medical Group is opening a campus in Osaka, giving a new twist to the medical tourism story that clearly won't be the last.

South Korea, taking advantage of its near-100 per cent broadband connectivity, has unveiled a programme, called MediApp Korea, which provides all the information and services that a medical visitor would need, including searches based on preferred doctors or clinics. China is pushing Shanghai as its best bet and has established a dedicated products and promotion platform that will act as a third-party administrator/agent and organise the entire range of a foreign patient's medical, travel, diet and transport needs, including official paperwork. Taiwan is setting up an international medical development fund to promote itself globally and plans to build a major medical tourism zone next to Taoyuan International Airport.

The Philippines, already a popular medical destination, expects to host some one million medical tourists by 2015. Medical visitors will get special visas to stay in the country for up to six months without having to secure an alien certificate of registration. To rev up the offensive, real estate developer Century Properties is investing $100 million in a new medical complex in Makati, Metro Manila, which will have 28 floors and more than 500 clinic spaces. Not to be left behind, Japan has eased visa requirements as well, giving foreign patients renewable, multi-entry, six-month visas, instead of single-entry 90-day visas previously.

Whether this continuing growth in medical tourism and the consequent migration of doctors and nurses to the private sector will create a medical divide and put further pressures on public health services is, of course, another story, and WHO is justifiably worried.

rbarun@gmail.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

 

A MATTER OF LONG LIFE

IMPROVED LIFE EXPECTANCY AT BIRTH HAS ITS OWN SET OF PROBLEMS FOR THE COUNTRY

INDICUS ANALYTICS

Life expectancy at birth, or the average number of years a newborn infant would be expected to live if health and living conditions remain the same, is a standard indicator for the level of socio-economic development. In countries like Japan and Switzerland, people can expect to live till around 82 years while in Zimbabwe and Afghanistan life expectancy at birth is less than 45 years.

In India there has been a continuous rise in the life expectancy at birth over the years. Indian males who could be expected to live to the age of 32.5 years in 1951 can now expect an average life of 62.6 years. Female life expectancy has risen from 31.7 years to 64.2 years over the same period. Yet, according to 2008 World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates, India ranks 133rd out of 193 countries; the life expectancy at birth at 64.3 years is marginally lower than Bangladesh (64.7 years) and higher than Nepal and Pakistan (63.4 years). China has achieved much more with life expectancy at 73.8 years.

 

As always, there are significant state differentials in India. Looking at the latest data for 2002-06 given by the Abridged Life Tables based on Sample Registration System (SRS) estimates, Kerala and Punjab rank at the top for both male and female life expectancy at birth. However, males in Kerala could expect to live on an average three years more than those in Punjab while the female life expectancy differential is six years. At third place for male life expectancy is Himachal Pradesh, while Maharashtra ranks third for female life expectancy. At the bottom are Orissa, Assam and Madhya Pradesh (including Chhattisgarh), where both males and females could expect to live for less than 60 years. (Click here for graph)

INDIA AGES

Expectation of life at birth (years)

Male

Female

1901

23.6

24.0

1931

26.9

26.6

1941

32.1

31.4

1951

32.5

31.7

1961

41.9

40.6

1971

46.4

44.7

1980

54.1

54.7

1991

58.1

58.6

2001-05

62.3

63.9

2002-06

62.6

64.2

Source: Planning Commission

Given an equal chance at birth, female life expectancy always exceeds that for males. Moreover, gender differential is, in general, higher in high-income countries, compared to low-income countries. For five decades from 1931 to 1981, female life expectancy in India was lower than that for males. Even now, though in most states the 2002-06 data show female life expectancy to be marginally higher than that for males, the highest differential of more than two years was in the southern and western states of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. In the three undivided states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, life expectancy for women was lower than that for men, in variance with the norm. While these estimates pertain to the period 2002-06, later estimates may, of course, show an improved picture.

Clearly, different states have different issues to confront. For states like Kerala, rising life expectancy, a product of better health and living conditions, brings with it issues such as old-age care and security. Other states like Assam and Orissa have to raise the overall health situation. So, as the Madhya Pradesh State Planning Commission notes in its 2010 gender review of the status of women, the single fact that life expectancy for females is lower than males indicates the "deeper malaise responsible for the worse situation of women" in the state.

Indian States Development Scorecard is a weekly feature by Indicus Analytics that focuses on the progress in India and the states across various socio-economic parameters

sumita@indicus.net

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

NOW'S THE TIME

THE SPIKE IN CRUDE PRICES MAKES IT IMPERATIVE TO REFORM PETRO PRICING


The ongoing political turmoil in Arab lands has jacked up crude oil prices, which would add to domestic oil marketing companies' under-recoveries and further distort retail prices of the main fuels. Petro-product pricing must reform to better reflect scarcity value. Scarce budgetary funds must not be frittered away on oil consumption of the non-poor. But with crude over $100 a barrel, it is time to reduce tariffs and duties on petro-goods, and to remove a panoply of distortions in the oil economy. Retail prices of petrol were decontrolled last year but continue to require government approval for any significant revision. We surely need genuine price decontrol, and especially of diesel, the most-used petroleum product by far. The tax component in both petrol and diesel prices needs modernising as well. Buoyant prices call for slashing the import duty on crude, and there's a need to rethink the higher excise duty on petrol vis-a-vis diesel as a matter of policy. The duty differential is increasingly anachronistic, with some of the biggest cars burning diesel while petrol fuels two-wheelers. Further, local taxes levied by states on petro-goods must be moderated as well. The point is that we need to discontinue collecting a disproportionate share of indirect taxes from petro-products, and broaden the tax base instead. Also, in the medium term, it would make sense to mandate a value-added tax structure for petro-goods, as is the practice in other high oil-tax regimes abroad. Such vital industries as transport, logistics and all energy-intensive segments generally would benefit by doing away with cascading taxes on petro-products, with tax only payable on the value-added and set-offs available across the value chain. Besides, kerosene subsidy can be abolished, and solar lanterns distributed to the poor.


India and the G20 must address the financialisation of commodities like oil, which tends to harden prices. Note that global oil demand has gone up by about 1% in the last year but oil prices have spurted by about 50%! And along with the US, we need to press for reconvening the group of main oil consumers to talk down prices. But global initiatives would look silly in the absence of domestic reform.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CHASE DIRTY MONEY

BUT USE INTELLIGENCE AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, NOT RAIDS AND THREATS


The income-tax department's drive to cleanse politics of dirty money is wholly welcome, even if it comes late in the day. Politicians with assets disproportionate to their known sources of income must be brought to book. However, taxmen should nab evaders through intelligence and creative use of information technology rather than through raids and searches that are archaic, blunt instruments in law enforcement. It is indeed strange that the Election Commission had to nudge the I-T department to match the income-tax returns of politicians with the statement of assets declared by them in their affidavits. Such matching should have been automatic with annual information returns (AIR) that identify potential taxpayers by examining their expenditure patterns. This clearly shows the poor use of AIR to track down high net-worth individuals, including politicians, evading taxes. The I-T department should revive stringent scrutiny of information returns and bring more high-value financial transactions under the net. Data on spending patterns of individuals will never lose relevance, say, in property deals where tax evasion is rampant. The I-T department merely has to match data provided by the registrar of properties with the income-tax returns of the individual. This is no rocket-science, with fool-proof permanent account numbers, the tax department's unique identity number. However, audit trails snap when transactions reported by various agencies and gathered through the tax information network do not have a PAN. The tax department should, therefore, make declaration of PAN compulsory for all high-value transactions, and not just for a select few.


Corruption scandals have tainted politicians and businessmen in this season of scams. Politicians and public figures should be made to disclose their income-tax returns under the Right to Information Act. This will be in the larger public interest. However, as we have argued in our earlier columns, the mother-of-all-reforms would be to make the funding of political activity transparent. Institutional funding of politics holds the key.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

DUTCH TREAT

THE NETHERLANDS' PERFORMANCE SHOWS THE WAY FOR CRICKET'S NEWBIES


In the beginning, it looked like it would be an entirely one-sided game. Then, it seemed as if it would turn into the first major upset of the World Cup. And at the end, England barely managed to scrape past minnows Netherlands. The Oranje, who might have been pleasantly surprised to be playing in India's orange city Nagpur, stunned spectators by scoring 292 runs against a vastly more experienced England. All-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate scored a devastating 119, picked up a couple of wickets and was man of the match. England, which looked shellshocked at the Dutch onslaught, started tentatively but ultimately got its act together, drawing on its vast cricketing experience. But it could easily have been a Dutch treat that England would have paid for. On current form, give the Dutch a few more years of experience at world-class cricket, and who knows?
Which brings us to the big question: are cricketing standards converging over time? Can latecomers to the game, like the Dutch, Bangladeshis, Kenyans and Canadians become tomorrow's champions? India's own experience suggests that. For many years after Independence, India's teams played a timid game, looking for Test draws rather than outright victory over rivals like England and Australia. Today, India is number 1 in the Test rankings; it might achieve something similar in the one-day format, too. South Africa emerged from apartheid to become a cricket powerhouse. Pakistan, racked by violence and political turmoil, has consistently produced world class players. But there is one case of sharp decline: the West Indies. Under Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards, the Windies were an unbeatable team in any format of the game. Thereafter, complacence and institutional apathy let the team down. It's easy to go down that slope. Don't.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

REFORMING POLITICAL FUNDING

THE GOAL SHOULD BE TO ACHIEVE TRANSPARENCY IN POLITICAL FINANCING AND EXPENDITURE AT ALL LEVELS

T K ARUN EDITOR, OPINION


It is welcome that the government has committed itself to reform political funding. But the thinking, in terms of state funding of elections, is flawed. The basic goal in political funding reform should be to achieve complete transparency as to how much parties and politicians spend and how they finance that spending.
Reform of political funding is necessary, even if not sufficient, to tackle corruption. Indian democracy is funded by corruption. Politicians take money out of the exchequer, sell patronage and extort money, all in the name of mobilising funds for political activity. They pocket a large part of the collection and pass on the rest to the party and the workers they employ. Since civil servants must collude for misuse of state power, this method of mobilising political funds suborns the bureaucracy and procedural hurdles proliferate as rentseeking opportunities.


All the scams rocking the country have this common root. Finding a new source of political funding away from corruption will not guarantee an automatic end to corruption — that is not the argument. But that will enable non-corrupt politicians and civil servants to fight corruption.


All democracies make this traverse from very corrupt to less corrupt ways of conducting public life. The time, it would appear, has come for India to clean up its act on political funding. But precisely how do we go about this?


State funding of elections is not the answer. Politics is not just elections. A political party has to keep functioning inbetween elections, its leaders keep travelling, its offices run, its full-time workers have to be paid, its meetings, conventions, etc cost money. All this cannot be funded by the state. For the state to try and fund even a portion of the election expenses of recognised political parties would discriminate against new entrants and restrict competition. Parties can mobilise funds from patrons and wellwishers, but should make that information public.
When Sarojini Naidu famously said that it cost the party (the Congress) a fortune to keep Gandhi in poverty, she was setting up a case study on political funding. Everyone knows that industrialists like G D Birla funded the Congress and the national movement. But it is not clear that they received proper receipts for the money they gave and that the Congress maintained detailed accounts of how precisely they spent the money. This tradition continued after Independence, of industrialists funnelling money to political parties without formal acknowledgement and of parties spending the money without detailed accounting. The difference is that if the purpose was, earlier, to keep one Gandhi in poverty, the money is now used to keep an entire tribe in obscene luxury and insatiable greed.


Political expenditure has to be monitored from the ground up. In every locality, explicit political activity can be recorded on a web site, backed with photographs from ubiquitous cell phone cameras. Every party or politician must record, alongside, how much was spent on that activity and where that money came from. This must be open to scrutiny and challenge by rival political parties and voluntary watchdog groups. These locality level figures can then be aggregated at a hierarchy of higher levels, along with activity, expenditure and source of funds at each level, all the way up to the national level.


Each party and politician should be required to account for every paisa they spend or accumulate. At present, only contributions above . 20,000 are required to be made by cheque. Modern information technology can be deployed to ensure the traceability of every rupee contributed to a party/politician.

One can think of mobile phone-like hand-held devices connected to the telecom network in the hands of tens of thousands of party workers across the country, for recording even small contributions from individually identified donors. A receipt printed out on the device could automatically be recorded at the party's web site and at a central monitoring agency's web site as well. Unrecorded contributions can still be spent on unrecorded activity, of course, but competitive politics should bring to light all such activity, forcing parties to reveal its financing as well.


This will raise the cost of collecting money initially, but the benefit would far outweigh the cost. The government can place a bulk order for these devices to achieve economies of scale and then selling them on to parties.


The present ridiculous ceilings on campaign expenditure must be scrapped, not raised. With transparency achieved, public suspicion of excessive money power would cap campaign expenditure where it should be.
A central monitoring authority, an expanded and empowered Election Commission, for example, could monitor such claims of expenditure and income, scrutiny, challenge and defence, and reach legally binding conclusions.
For this, we need a new law to regulate political parties. We do have laws to regulate trade unions, voluntary organisations, etc but not for political parties. The law should ensure internal elections, audit of accounts, etc.
Industry must realise that it is in its collective interest to clean up political funding and make all contributions by cheque. The finance minister can, perhaps, double the deduction allowed for tax purposes, from the present 100% of the contribution.


Company accounts are audited, for the common good. So must political party accounts. This is entirely doable, with some political will.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

NEURAL NET

GOD'S OWN COUNTRY, FOR OLD MEN

ULLEKH NP


If you love humidity like orchid plants do, a bus ride is the best thing to happen in Kerala. Every time the bus stops, you wait impatiently, sweating, till it starts again and lets the soft breeze in. You are far too distracted, rather taken for a "rollercoaster" ride on the narrow roads. All that is business as usual, but there is something strange happening too. On buses and outside, you notice a lot of non-Kerala, non-south Indian faces, even in the largely untapped tourist spots of north Kerala. Of course, many of them are white-skinned tourists headed for the mushrooming homestays or the luring virgin beaches. Many others are dhoti-wearing types from across the country, especially from India's north and the east, speaking mostly Hindi and Bengali.


KN Harilal, member Planning Board, Kerala, concedes that the working-age population of Kerala that resides in the state is on a slide. Which explains the influx of a migrant labour workforce in the state. Dr S Irudaya Rajan, migration expert and a professor at Thiruvananthapuram-based Centre for Development Studies (CDS), says it is no "new discovery" that the workingage population in states such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu are falling while it is rising in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. "I am told plumbers come to some parts of south India from even countries like Vietnam and Malaysia," says Rajan.


Well, except for the Vietnam-Malaysia part, everything seems very similar to what is happening in states such as Punjab, parts of Himachal Pradesh and some other states. But there is a difference. Alongside the huge decline in the working-age population in the state, there is a marked rise in the number of older citizens. Experts have recently warned that one-fourth of the state's population will turn 60 by 2050. Clearly, the demographic dividend of the previous decades is steadily tilting towards a demographic challenge in the state.
In fact, Kerala will likely miss the prowess that the rest of the country will have on abundant display as the country forges ahead as an economic powerhouse in the next 10-20 years: India is expected to be the world's most populous country by 2025. Currently, India has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. It is projected that by 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years compared with 37 for China. Yes, by 2030, India's dependency ratio is projected to be just over 0.4.
But as always, in Kerala, things are different. According to the 2001 census, the state is home to some 11% of the country's 77 million older citizens: it had a ratio of 10 senior citizens to 100 people 10 years ago. With the birth rate falling, the number of younger citizens in the state is shrinking, too. It is now headed for worse, experts say. Before we go deeper into that, let's look at the original Kerala paradox: Amartya Sen taught us that there is more to development than mere GDP statistics. He had attributed Kerala's excellent social indicators to the state's role in education which also resulted in the greater involvement of civil society in political decision-making. High literacy, high life expectancy, low infant mortality — all despite low incomes! That was seen as a miracle and a model for the rest of India.


Now, with the working-age population in the state declining, it will have to depend on the rest of India for help. The rise in the number of senior citizens will mean the government will have to go for more plans to sustain its healthy social welfare system. It is a blessing that unlike the pre-1990s, the state's per capita income is no longer behind the national average. The proud finance minister of the state, T M Thomas Isaac, says Kerala, which is currently in the fourth position in terms of per capita income, will become the state with the highest per capita income by the end of this decade. But in a scenario when the tax base declines and the need for social welfare spending rises, the question is who will pay?


Back then, it was an issue of low growth and high social welfare. Now the growth is picking up, but the government isn't rich enough to spend a lot on its old population. A huge chunk of its revenues from even tourism, the cash cow, goes to the private sector, not the government. Hari Lal says, "We are preparing for it." Considering that investors will find one more excuse against anchoring in the state — an ageing people — that is easier said than done. More troubles could also stem from the inflow of immigrants to the state and how it will affect local social equations and economic concerns.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

SOME POLICY TIPS FOR SINHA'S SEBI

SANDEEP PAREKH

 

These are not the best of times for financial regulators anywhere in the world. As India's securities regulator gets a new head, U K Sinha, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) needs to take some bold actions. Some of the previous actions of Sebi were so noble that they ended up hurting investors. This presumption piece has bits of advice for Sinha based on some of my previous ETcolumns.


Exchanges: Sebi needs to take vigorous action to promote competition in the exchanges space. The entire regulatory scheme is designed to exclude new comers from entering the market. No wonder, we haven't had a single exchange register despite high profit margins enjoyed by the entrenched exchanges. Much of today's regulatory thinking arises from a 40-year-old vision.


First, exchanges are not inherently dangerous places. The entire risk management, the innards of how money and securities move, is handled by clearing corporations, not exchanges (Governance & ownership in exchanges, May 12, 2010). Exchanges are merely computer systems with an unnecessary electronic supervision attached. Unnecessary because supervising an exchange from the inside is a bit like the proverbial blind men touching an elephant and deducing six different animals. Only Sebi, with access to information of all exchanges, clearing corporations and depositories, can and does have a full picture of trades. Since Sebi has a sophisticated surveillance system, the superfluous regulatory part of exchanges can, in fact, be moved out tomorrow morning with barely a hiccup. The argument that exchanges are necessary supervisors is wrong in today's electronic world.


Second, the cap on ownership in exchanges set at 5% for most entities is not just absurd. It contravenes the parliamentary law which asks Sebi to do something totally different, i.e., demutualisation of exchanges (Exchange biz: A time to change, January 13, 2010).


There does not appear to be a single country in the world which bans shareholding at any level. The ipse dixit Jalan committee report, which goes several steps further in seeking to overturn the parliamentary law by Sebi regulations, needs to be junked in its entirety (Jalan panel disrespects Parliament, December 15, 2010).
Mutual funds: Sebi has outlawed much of the compensation paid by mutual funds to its distributors. It asked distributors of mutual fund products to negotiate a fee with its investors instead. This sounds noble, but in reality, people have stopped selling mutual fund units as they do not provide an economic incentive to sell (Sebi vs Economics, who will win?, September 9, 2010). Instead, they are peddling high-cost insurance investment products, hurting investors even more. The relatively well-regulated mutual fund industry has thus been on a steady path of decline. As someone said, there are two types of regulators: those who understand what they do not regulate and those who regulate what they do not understand.


Sinha, thus, has the thankless task of taking a U-turn in this problematic policy stand of Sebi. Having been the head of a mutual fund asset manager himself, this task will be all the more difficult.


Takeover regulations: Another area where Sebi must take (in) action is the takeover committee report. The report recommends increase in the size of the open offer from 20% to 100% in case of change of control or acquisition of substantial number of shares. The increase in the size of tender offers would make them far more expensive, thus reducing the number of offers. Thus, the theoretical gains to shareholders would never materialise. In fact, an annexure to the report itself shows that a vast bulk of offers are made at the minimum level — endangering the 85% of the market for control. This would murder the market for control and would help incumbents and promoters to hang on to their old ways with little threat from acquisitions. This would in turn be bad for corporate governance. (Two steps back for takeover rules, August 12, 2010).
Insider trading:the Indian law on insider trading has been made so broad that it seems to punish all kinds of legitimate trades. Current Sebi regulations would punish an investigative journalist, a company trading on outside information and even a private equity investor who does due diligence of a company and then buys that company's shares.


There is a need to provide comfort to legitimate traders and what the regulations should catch is fraud and not all kinds of transactions which fall within the overly broad definition of 'insider' and 'insider trading'. (Looking inside insider trading laws, January 19, 2011). Unfortunately, these prescriptions will be hard to administer, partly because reversing the existing policy or junking investor-unfriendly reports sounds like confused policy-making. Also because many changes have the optics of being investor-friendly, while helping entrenched management (exchanges, promoters), destroying product classes (mutual funds) or just being inappropriately harsh (insider trading). Good luck.

 

(The author is the founder of Finsec Law Advisors)

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

VERDICT ON GODHRA: TIP OF THE ICEBERG?

Tuesday's order by additional sessions judge P.R. Patel for now decides one aspect of the infamous happenings in Gujarat in February 2002 — the burning of Coach S-6 of Sabarmati Express at Godhra railway station, in which many kar sewaks returning from Ayodhya were travelling — which was followed by a prolonged spell of brutal anti-Muslim violence in the state which took well over a thousand lives.

The special court held that the burning of the coach was the consequence of a planned conspiracy — that it was not an accident. The "accident" theory got reinforced when it was upheld by the U.C. Banerjee Commission, appointed by the then railway minister, Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav, to probe the destruction of railway property. The BJP is naturally jubilant at Tuesday's verdict, and is taunting its opponents. But there are troubling aspects arising from the Godhra train-burning affair, and its echoes will possible fade only when closure is applied to the numerous cases relating to that unfortunate period in Gujarat.

These cases are now being monitored by the Supreme Court and are being probed afresh by a special investigation team appointed by the court. Looking at the inordinately long time taken by the SIT in the Sabarmati Express case, there is no knowing when all the Gujarat cases will be concluded.

The second aspect of Tuesday's verdict is that there should be little surprise if it is legally challenged on grounds of the nature of evidence that came to be relied on. Finally, India's judicial process would also be in the dock for the extreme slowness that it exhibited.

The political issue involved is fundamentally this: was there a link between the burning of Coach S-6, by any yardstick a ghastly incident in which 59 people were killed, and the time of murder and mayhem that followed? Mr Modi had proclaimed then that "every action has an equal and opposite reaction", an observation that was condemned on the floor of Parliament.

Leading BJP stalwarts had noted that "if there had been no Godhra, there would be no riots", suggesting an intrinsic link between the two. The underlying thesis was that if "Muslims" had instigated the burning of the S-6 coach, then "Hindus" were right in avenging the dead. This shocking line of communal reasoning turns democratic ethos on its head. If medieval-era "jurisprudence" is not to be applied, it is the state that should investigate and punish the guilty.

The state is also duty-bound to prevent citizen groups from taking the law into their own hands, as evidently happened in Gujarat. If the Supreme Court-monitored cases show state government complicity, then the "action-reaction" theory that the chief minister adapted from Newton would appear to be borne out. Tuesday's judgment could thus be just the tip of the iceberg. The verdict itself is intriguing as the principal accused in the "conspiracy" has been acquitted.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A FARMER'S WISHLIST

BY VIJAY JAWANDHIA

The farmers are very clear about what they expect from the finance minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee's Budget this year and even though beggars would ride if horses were wishes, one wishes that the finance minister, who has just returned from the Group of Twenty (G20) meet where there was a lot of emphasis on the need to invest in agriculture, refashions his Budget in favour of agriculture and the millions who produce food for the country.

The farmers' wishlist:

* Increase allotment to agriculture to 40 per cent of the Budget as agriculture has stagnated at around 13 per cent of the gross national produce (GNP) during the last three five-year plans. This money could be used for giving increased support price as recommended by the first Farmers' Commission chaired by Dr M.S. Swaminathan.

* Mr Mukherjee needs to frame a good crop insurance scheme at the village level. Eighty per cent of the premium should be paid equally by the state and the Central government and 20 per cent by the farmer.

* Agriculture crop loan should be given at four per cent interest and zero per cent interest to farmers with rain-fed land.

* Economic support should be given for promoting organic farming — for animal raising and promoting fodder and food crop like sorghum and bajra.

* Free quality education and health service at the village level should be a priority.

Mr Mukherjee should now start taxing agriculture income and sale of produce above Rs 10 lakhs per annum. Below this farmers can be exempted. Unless he taxes the rich he will have little money to help the poor.

Whenever the government talks about fiscal correction (read, cutting subsidies) it is always the farmer and the unorganised sector that are at the receiving end. In his last Budget, instead of taxing the rich taxpayers he gave them maximum benefits. A person with an income of Rs 8 lakhs and above received benefit of Rs 50,000.

True, he announced a loan waiver of Rs 70,000 crores, thereby accepting that there was a crisis. The non-irrigated farmer is always fighting the vagaries of nature and the market, yet, no proper insurance scheme was announced to protect his minimum income and losses. The non-irrigated farmer does not have any crop till next November 2011. So extending the loan waiver scheme limit for payment to June 2010 as he did had no relevance.

I must accept that Mr Mukherjee was generous in accepting the long-standing demand that a special policy support is needed for rain-fed agriculture. But I do wish that in this Budget he is realistic. In his last Budget he announced Rs 300 crores for the 60,000 villages selected to grow oilseed and pulses in rain-fed land, which means each village will get just Rs 50,000.

When you compare this to an individual taxpayer earning Rs 8 lakhs and getting a benefit of Rs 50,000 with a whole village getting just Rs 50,000 you see how skewed the Budget is against the producer of food who toils from sunrise to sunset to cajole the golden wheat from the ground.

Also, he gave Rs 200 crores to one city, Tirupur in Tamil Nadu, to fight pollution made by textile industry!

It is important for the finance minister to junk the old format of the Budget and keep it in tune with the times.

Since globalisation and liberalisation of the economy, the gap between the rich and the poor and urban and rural has been increasing speedily. The implementation of Fifth and Sixth Pay Commissions has added fuel to the fire. Increasing prices of urban properties is proof of accumulation of wealth in urban India.

Maybe in this Budget Pranabda may not be able to bridge the gap between the rich and poor but at least we can expect that he will not widen the gap further.

After the new economic policy the cost of education, health and transportation has been increasing. In short, the cost of living is increasing. The government has announced a slew of yojanas it thinks will help the poor, like the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (which has not been properly implemented).

My point is that in MGREGS, the minimum wage is Rs 100 per day and only 100 days work are guaranteed. Against the Sixth Pay Commission is the minimum wage of Rs 100 justified? I will explain this injustice. In my village in 1970 the wage of a farm labourer was Rs 90 to 100 per month. At that time the salary of a schoolteacher in the same village was Rs 150 to 200 per month.

Now, after the Sixth Pay Commission, the minimum salary of a schoolteacher is `16,000 per month. My question to Mr Mukherjee is, why shouldn't the minimum wage of farm labour be at least Rs 8,000-9,000 per month? This means that the minimum wage in MGREGS must be Rs 300 per day.

Now if this minimum wage is to be paid then the Commission for Agricultural Cost and Prices must take this into account for calculating the cost of production and announce support prices on this basis. The finance minister will also have to make provisions for food subsidies in his Budget on this basis. Now a common question that will be asked is where will the money come from? To answer this I have to ask, from where did money for Fifth and Sixth Pay Commissions come from?

To raise money the rich must be taxed, but except for the last Budget, all previous Budgets decreased taxes on the rich. Excise duty on cars was reduced and now the finance minister is expected to give Rs 6,000 crore subsidy for Metro Rail for three cities. The subsidy for urbanisation is increasing. This urban bias must change. The farmer is not demanding packages, but is waiting for policy support.

* Vijay Jawandhia is former president of the Shetkari Sanghatana and All-India Kisan Coordination Committee and a member of La Via Campesina, an international peasant's organisation

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

RADICAL CLICK: RISE OF VIRTUAL WARRIORS

BY SIDHARTH BHATIA

More than the Egyptians themselves, it is India's armchair revolutionaries, the assorted Lefties and millions of social network users, who got excited about the protests in Cairo and the way the President, Mr Hosni Mubarak, has been forced to leave his office.

Without leaving their homes, offices, coffee shops and with a few clicks of the thumb on their smart phones, these warriors lent their vocal support to the cause of freedom and to help their Arab brothers and sisters overthrow a despot.

As the freedom contagion spread to Yemen, Bahrain and now Libya, the Facebook and Twitter accounts of these double-clicking radicals are full of articles, links, comments and cries for solidarity with their oppressed brethren. They are outraged and angry.

They find the attitude of the West hypocritical. They think similar public protests should be held to show their own corrupt politicians that the people will not tolerate corruption, cronyism, clamping down on dissent etc. Rise, people rise!

A history lesson is in order. In the 1930s, as Fascism spread in Europe, students and other liberal forces, all over the continent and the world, started protesting in their home countries.

The military rebellion by General Franco in Spain against the elected government brought matters to a head; a civil war broke out in the country. On one side were the Nationalists, led by Franco and supported by conservative elements all over the continent and beyond. American and other big corporations with interests in the country supplied goods and services to them and he also got the backing of the Nazis.

The Opposition was made up of the Republicans, mainly socialist and Leftist groups which were divided amongst themselves. They were supplemented by volunteers from all across the world, including many high-profile writers and journalists such as George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway who saw Franco as a key element in rising fascism in Europe.

Over 2,000 Americans turned up in Spain to join the International Brigade which at its peak swelled to over 30,000 people. At the end of the war, the Nationalists emerged victorious. Many Republicans, including foreigners, were killed and thousands were sent to concentration camps.

This was hardly the first or last time that "foreigners" joined up for a cause not directly related to their country. George, Lord Byron travelled to Greece to join local revolutionaries who were fighting the Ottoman Empire in the war of Independence in the 1820s. More recently, when the Soviet Union marched into Afghanistan, the mujahideen were composed of jihadists from all over the world — young Muslims wanting to fight the godless Communists.

Support for a cause can take many shapes. Some pack up their bags and plunge into the conflict. Others send in donations. Now the preferred form to show solidarity is to tweet.

Granted that simply dropping everything to rush to march in Tahrir Square or land up in Benghazi may neither be practical nor feasible. You may not get a visa, for one thing. But whatever happened to that good old march in your own home town? All through the 1960s and '70s Indians — students, workers, activists — came out on the streets to show their support for the underdog or for a righteous cause. The streets of Calcutta (now Kolkata) resonated with the slogan "Amaar naam, tomaar naam, Vietnam, Vietnam".

"Down with Imperialism" was the battle cry of youngsters everywhere, from the US to London to Paris to New Delhi. Is it not ironical that as we proudly speak about the interconnected, global world and declare that Indians too are world citizens, we have receded into our own spaces?

Indeed, even local issues do not excite us enough. After 26/11, Mumbai saw a turnout of thousands of youngsters shouting "Enough is Enough". It was organic and spontaneous, reflecting the frustration of citizens who felt their political leaders had badly let them down. There was much talk then about how the social media was used by the wired generation and this was how things would be in the future. And yet, as the country grapples with scandals, corruption, misgovernance and stasis, there is no sign of any public anger, not on the streets at least, unless one counts heated panel discussions on television where politicians hurl charges against each other. And, of course, on Facebook and Twitter. The TV studio has become our public square, the computer screen our window to the world, the mouse our weapon of choice.

The social media just gives us the illusion of engagement. It allows us to participate, but at a safe and sanitised distance. We can then go on with our normal lives while assuring ourselves that we care and that we are part of something big and historical.

But we do not want to inconvenience ourselves and marches and street demonstrations are oh-so-old fashioned. Facebook and Twitter is the way to go. Fully realising this apathy, is it any wonder that our ruling classes don't feel scared or nervous about the wrath of the people?

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

TO TAX OR NOT TO TAX

TAX HIKE WILL ADD TO RISING INFLATION

CHANDRAJIT BANERJEE

Following the global economic slowdown, a raft of measures, including monetary and fiscal steps, boosted the economy, resulting in early recovery of growth. Lately the Reserve Bank of India has emphatically exited stimulus by raising the interest rate seven times. But some fiscal stimulus measures remain. There was only partial rollback of the rate of reduction in Central excise in last year's Budget. Some now argue that fiscal deficit compulsions call for an increase in indirect tax rates. Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) believes such an increase would be detrimental to growth and go against the purpose of tax reform.

Recent data shows that industrial growth has been volatile, with the Index of Industrial Production dropping to a growth rate of 1.6 per cent in December 2010. In fact, industrial growth is likely to drop from 10.5 per cent in 2009-10 to around seven-eight per cent in the current fiscal year. With RBI raising interest rates, it is important that fiscal policy remains supportive of growth in the industry and services sectors.

Policymakers have stressed that the inclusive growth agenda requires high levels of GDP expansion. Restoration of indirect taxes to pre-crisis levels could greatly hurt demand, investment and export competitiveness. This could impact employment and tax revenues necessary for social sector spending. Additionally, given current intractable rates of inflation, tax hikes could further add to price pressures. Manufacturing inflation has been contained so far but with raw material prices rising, an increase in excise duty may lead to more widespread price increases.

Another important reason why the excise and service tax rates should not be increased at this point is the impending introduction of Goods and Services Tax. Industry has been keenly awaiting this change in the tax structure as it consolidates various taxes levied by the Central and state governments and eliminates the cascading effect of such taxes.

To contain fiscal deficit the CII has recommended measures to add to tax revenue and curb expenditures. Greater efficiency in social sector schemes could improve outreach without raising government expenditure. Long-pending reforms in food and fertiliser subsidies and deregulation of petroleum prices could also aid fiscal consolidation. Moreover economic growth would add to tax revenues to the extent of 0.5 per cent. Rather than raising taxes, the CII suggests widening the tax net and simplifying tax procedures.

Stimulus rollback in the form of a hike in indirect tax rates can hurt growth. Tax reforms can be used to generate greater revenue.

* Chandrajit Banerjee, director general CII

* * *

Roll back excise cuts for growth
Jagannadham Thunuguntla
India was impacted when the global recession came into play in 2008 and the country's growth story was put on test. The government came forward to shore up the growth process by providing fiscal stimulus through measures such as cuts in excise duty although the state of India's fiscal health did not warrant such measures. So, that was an act of crisis management. It prioritised growth ahead of fiscal management. In the process, the fiscal deficit shot up to 6.3 per cent of the GDP in 2009-10, when the target, as per the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, was three per cent.

Thanks to the hard work of Indian corporates, duly supported by the government's fiscal stimulus measures, Indian economy was able to come back strongly, recording pre-crisis levels of eight per cent plus GDP growth. However, now the Indian economy has reached a point where both inflation and fiscal deficit have reached unsustainable levels. The country is facing the highest inflation amongst emerging markets despite the continuous interest rate hikes by the Reserve Bank of India. Inflation is like the worm that eats into wealth without the notice of the owner.

Further, fiscal deficit levels have started to raise concerns in the minds of global investors about the sustainability of the Indian growth theme. We have seen in the case of several European countries that deficits can weaken the economy from within and lead to sudden collapse.

Therefore, if one takes into account the lower-than-expected disinvestment proceeds, and also the various social sector schemes run by the government, it becomes evident that the government has to take bold decisions in the sphere of fiscal responsibility. In that backdrop, it appears almost certain that the government has to rollback excise duty cuts.

Really, the question then is no longer "whether there will be a rollback of excise duty cuts", but "by what extent?" It is not inconceivable that it may marginally sacrifice growth by a few basis points. However, such a step will ensure long-term sustainability in the economy. A few days ago, the Prime Minister's economic advisory council stated categorically that it was high time that the government focused on fiscal consolidation. I find no ambiguity in the message. The voice was loud enough. It just needs to be seen who will bear the invoice. Existing stimulus measures at this stage have to be balanced against the imperative of the long-term sustainability of the economy which would come into play if the objective of fiscal consolidation is paid inadequate attention.

* Jagannadham Thunuguntla, strategist, SMC Global
Securities Limited

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

DOES GOD EXIST? YES.

BY SWAMI TEJOMAYANANDA

In the present age of Internet, technology and information explosion it may interest one to know that there is even more information on one topic — God. Even God would be surprised and amused at this! God reigns supreme, whether or not we believe in His existence. The atheists endorse it by not believing and the believers by surrendering to God. The former do it by disproving His existence and the latter by trying to establish it.

The question that therefore arises is, "Does God really exist?" Believers take the knowledge in the Vedas or the scriptures of other religions, as their support, whereas the non-believers are sustained by their own logic. But logic is a peculiar thing — it can be used both to support and nullify and is, in the end, inconclusive. Even in a court of law, mere arguments are never entertained without supporting evidence.

People generally have a concept or idea of God, which may or may not be commonly accepted. It is this notion that they refute and hence their arguments cannot be accepted. A systematic approach would be to refer to the scriptures or books that refer to the word God, check its use and find out how it has been defined.

The Upanishads refer to God as Ishvara, Bhagavan, Brahman and so on. They explain the concept and if, after studying these books, we conclude that we do not believe in God, it is acceptable. Both believers and non-believers need to have clarity of the concept.

The Taittiriya Upanishad says, "That from which all beings are born, that by which all beings are sustained and that unto which they merge back is Brahman".

This beautiful statement means that if there is a creation, a product or effect, the effect must have a cause. Everyone has to accept this. There may be a dispute about the nature of the cause. Something cannot come out of nothing. So if the whole creation is the effect, there has to be something in the origin, a cause. Something exists and that self-evident being has to be accepted. It is this existence or pure being which is God.

Let us examine this point without taking recourse to the Upanishads. Take the example of government officers, ministers or secretaries. Each officer has the power to do so many things. They are all part of the collective government power.

The government is not seen, but its decisions are implemented through these functionaries, who function because of the total power of the government. Even the peon in the office, wielding the power allocated to him, proves the existence of the government.

These days we have several workshops and seminars taking place with very catchy titles. One such title, which is drawing much interest, is "P to P" (Performance to Potential). Every person has infinite potential. Despite this we find that some people succeed and some fail. The reason is that they do not work to their potential. What is this potential? Do we know the potential of the earth, the water, the sun or other energies? Their potential is infinite. That infinite potential is called God.

Now that we know He exists, the next logical question is — Can I realise God? This could also read — Can I realise or manifest my infinite potential? We are continuously manifesting some of our potential and therefore we are able to achieve what we want. So the answer is — Yes, you can realise God! And if one is able to, the true end of all human aspirations is gained.

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

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

LAW CATCHES UP

REVIEW PETITION ONLY AN ILLUSION


POLITICIANS are never reconciled to the idea of spending time in jail for corruption.  R Balakrishna Pillai, former minister in the Congress-led United Democratic Front government and chairman of the Kerala Congress (B), might never have imagined that the anti-corruption law would catch up with him nearly three decades after the crime and land him in jail. There was clinching evidence that he caused a loss of more than Rs. 2 crore by awarding contracts for construction of a power tunnel and surge shaft in the Idamalayar hydro-electric power project to one of his cronies at extraordinarily high rates in 1982. The State Electricity Board was an independent body; not under the government for him to interfere. Yet he never missed an opportunity to make a quick buck when the opportunity presented itself.  It took almost a decade to prosecute him. The trial court convicted and sentenced him to five years' rigorous imprisonment. Not surprisingly and as in the case of his former UDF ministerial colleagues, the conviction was overturned by the Kerala High Court. The UDF, which was in power then and the Kerala Congress (B) was one of its founder-members, in keeping with its tradition of shielding the corrupt, did not go in appeal. It was given to VS Achtuthanandan, then leader of the Opposition, to file an appeal in the Supreme Court. When the Supreme Court reversed his acquittal by the High Court and upheld the trial court verdict on 10 February, he nonchalantly declared that he would not file a review petition. His demand for 'A' class treatment in prison in view of his status in society was turned down by the special court in Kochi "as the offences established are going against some aspects of the two classes in the Kerala Jail Rules, 1958, i.e. offences involving moral degradation or personal greed." Only after crossing the formidable walls of the Poojapura Central Jail in Thiruvananthapuram did imprisonment sting. Even before getting locked up in a cell, he managed to get admitted to the prison hospital and moved a review petition in the Supreme Court.


Pillai's petition does not seek any relief on the substantive point of corruption but questions the locus standi of Achuthanandan to take the matter to the Supreme Court. Was Achuthanandan, who has since become the Chief Minister, interested in the administration of criminal justice or in putting down a political rival is the core issue the court should decide, Pillai has contended. The possibility of reversal of its order through a review petition would appear remote as it goes to the same Bench that convicted him after going through all facets of the case. If so, the only course open to Pillai to escape incarceration would be to plead for pardon under Article 161 of the Constitution. But in today's climate, no Governor worth his salt would interfere with the highest court's small step in putting down corruption in high places.


HISTORICAL HYPHEN

NALANDA UNIVERSITY TO BRIDGE THE GULF


IT will indubitably be a more worthwhile venture than the foreign campuses on the anvil, quite a few with dubious credentials at home. Monday's first meeting of the Nalanda Mentor Group, chaired by Amartya Sen, suggests that Nalanda University will be more than a mere revival of an ancient seat of learning. It is a testament of East Asian cooperation, pre-eminently between India, China and Singapore, one that is more profound in its objectives than the university set up by Saarc, itself an ineffectual entity. The university is no less a measure of the Bihar government's cooperation, and Nitish Kumar's constituency of Nalanda is only incidental.  Chiefly, it involved the allotment of a 446-acre tract to the East Asia Summit and the smooth settlement of land acquisition problems. A refreshing contrast to West Bengal where even a road project, let alone a car factory, has to be abandoned in the face of land disputes, the Barasat-Raichak highway being but one example. Even in terms of infrastructure, Bihar has made a promising start. Unlike once again in Bengal where a new university in Barasat was opened without a building in place. If the contours as spelt out are any indication, Nalanda will showcase a unique experiment in learning as it seeks to bridge the gap between ancient and contemporary academia, with "intellectually challenging and practically useful" disciplines, to summon Sen's words. Buddhist studies, philosophy and comparative religion are intended to preserve the tradition of the ancient scholars like Hiuen Tsang. And also to protect the invaluable literary sources of information pertaining to ancient Indian history and culture. At another remove, the teaching of history, international relations, peace studies, development studies, public policy and information technology will focus on disciplines with tremendous contemporary relevance. The achievement of Nalanda University, scheduled to start its first session on a new campus in 2013, will hinge profoundly on blending tradition with the contemporary. It will take a while for the objectives to fructify. And Sen has been remarkably realistic while expressing the hope that "the university would be recognised for its achievements 20 years down the line."


GRACELESS AUSSIES

POOR LAUNCH TO CUP CAMPAIGN

TELEVISION, by and large, reflects reality. Could that be the reason why it sometimes irks Australian sportspersons who seldom take adversity in their stride? When reading reports of how Ricky Ponting damaged a TV set in the dressing room at Motera after seeing the replay of his being run out, it is difficult not to recall how Aussie athletes threw a TV set out of their tower in the Commonwealth Games Village when hundred of miles away their cricket team was worsted by India. Even if some media reports are exaggerated and the man has apologised, it was an outburst of frustration that hardly projects in positive light the squad that is seeking to retain its grip on the ICC World Cup. The quality of the winning performance against Zimbabwe hardly made waves in the Sabarmati river, Ponting clearly has some distance to go before he returns to the form that earned him such a formidable reputation, and to carry things even further it seems that the runaway win in the ODIs against England has not erased the agony of the Ashes defeat. Should all that encourage the other teams in Group A? The evidence that Ponting's men are not quite on the boil appears corroborated. Yet fighters the Aussies have ever been, they could well bounce back to the top. That, despite some excessively "patriotic" drum-beating, would actually hone the allure of the competition in hand. While Cricket Australia does have an efficient development plan in hand it is also necessary that it ensures its players maintain a decent image. They claim to "play hard but fair", sadly at times they do not adhere to that. Maybe there are some provocations on the field, must they be carried back to the dressing room? Eminent veterans like Barry Richards, Greame Hick and Arun Lal have expressed disapproval of Ponting's tantrum, an incident involving Matthew Hayden has been recalled. Old-timers will never forget that when Jasu Patel bowled India to its first-ever victory over Australia in Kanpur some 50-odd years ago, a team that included legends like Benaud, Harvey, O'Neil and Grout shut itself in the dressing room for hours. Nobody is thrilled to be on a losing side, Ponting & Co are among still among the front-runners so there is a lot at stake. Gracelessness has no place in sport, not even when holding a trophy aloft.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

TALK TO THE TALIBAN?

THE OPENING OF THE FINAL PHASE IN AFGHANISTAN

SALMAN HAIDAR


WE are now well into 2011, which was to be a year of decision in Afghanistan. A surge in US troops was to permit more forceful action against the Taliban, which in turn would enable a drawing down of foreign forces from around the middle of the year, with local Afghan forces progressively able to take over prime responsibility for security and order. The increasingly unpopular engagement in Afghanistan impelled the US leadership to indicate that theirs' was not an open-ended commitment and that an end to the US presence in Afghanistan would soon commence. But even so there has been no conclusion to the debate on how best to proceed, and, according to some reports, influential US advisers are not yet convinced that a military solution is not attainable. In Kabul, President Karzai has called for extending the withdrawal date to 2014, and has pressed for dialogue with the opposition as part of the effort for a long-term solution. At the same time, the battle on the ground continues, adding to the uncertainty about what is going on and where events could be leading.
In the midst of these developments, it has been revealed that over the last several months contact has been taking place between the Taliban and Kabul, with tacit support from the USA. These dealings imply recognition that there can be no purely military solution to the problem, nor can the Afghan authorities be expected to conclude the task of subduing the Taliban that the USA and its partners have failed to do. Although a new model Afghan army is being created, without support it may be hard pressed to resist concerted pressure from rebel groups. This is in contrast to the situation in the time of the late King Zahir Shah, whose family came to the throne with the help of tribal militias but went on to raise a modern army, trained with foreign assistance, that was intended to keep Kabul secure against any tribal combination ~ it is another matter that it failed the test in 1973 when Sardar Daoud staged a coup.


The point is that if the centre is to maintain itself it has to have adequate military capacity, for defence and also to make it a credible pivot for a political settlement. In the long process of war that has afflicted Afghanistan, first against the Russians, followed by intense civil strife, and then invasion by the USA and the West, that capacity has been largely lost. Regaining it is problematical, for authority remains fragmented, and well-equipped local militias under powerful local chiefs are difficult to curb: they may pursue their own goals even if their allegiance to the Taliban ideology is shaky.


There is thus a complex web of groups opposed to centralized authority, with shifting and uncertain alliances between them. Their shared purpose may not extend much beyond opposing the foreign presence, which in turn has done all it can to bring such rebel groups to heel. The rebels are strong in some parts of the country, like Kandahar, where the current military campaign is focused, and their ability to use Pakistan as a safe haven has greatly complicated the military task. So intractable is the situation that counsels of despair have been heard from some quarters, proposing that the southern parts where the Taliban and their sympathizers are so strongly lodged should be left to their own devices and the international pacification and rehabilitation effort confined to the less affected northern parts. These may be no more than isolated voices on the margins but they are not to be wholly ignored.


As quiet, barely acknowledged dialogue takes shape, certain limits have already been placed, especially by US spokespersons. Thus it is made plain that there can be no truck with Al Qaida or with those accused of criminal activities ~ they remain beyond the pale, and what is up for discussion, also whether any effective communication has been possible with significant Taliban figures, remains unknown. Some observers are of the view that the Taliban may have little interest in a compromise solution because they are local people who will remain when the invaders have gone, as their forbears did, so they feel time is on their side. Nor has their ideological fervour been blunted. But such views may at this stage be premature for they are yet to be tested in negotiations.


Also to be taken into consideration is the complication of Pakistan's role. Some major Taliban leaders and their supporters are located in the tribal areas of Pakistan from where they have easy access to Afghan tribal territory. They are believed to enjoy the active support of various Pakistani agencies which thus can come to have a hand in any attempt to bring matters to a negotiated conclusion. Some Pakistan-based Taliban groups, like for example the so-called 'Quetta shura', have been mentioned in this connection. Whatever may be the reality behind the quiet contacts that have already taken place, it is only to be expected that Pakistan will be an active party in the unfolding events. For many years now, they have been actively involved in the military struggle, as a crucial US ally and also, more controversially, as an unacknowledged source of support for the Taliban. As matters head into what could be the opening of the final phase, it is hardly to be supposed that Pakistan will now become aloof from events. On the contrary, it is likely to become more closely engaged, which can add to the difficulties of an already highly complex situation.


Hitherto, India has been reserved about the prospect of talks with apparently amenable Taliban, being sceptical of the credentials of the various groups and apprehensive of any accretion to their standing through dialogue with Kabul. India has a substantial assistance programme in Afghanistan which is acknowledged as being effective and helpful to the intended beneficiaries, and should not become a target for extremist forces. Nevertheless, the probing effort to seek dialogue continues even while drone attacks on Taliban strongholds in Pakistan's frontier areas carry on. No forum has yet been established in which India and other regional countries, Iran prominent among them, could come together in the effort to re-establish durable peace. Nor is there any letup in Pakistani suspicions of India's actions, which they tend to regard as being aimed at Pakistani interests.


In these circumstances, new policy challenges are looming ahead for India. A regional effort for peace has been discussed in the past and as the foreign presence begins to be reduced, it will become more important to move in that direction. India could certainly expect to play its full part in any such regional initiative.

The writer is India's former Foreign Secretary

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

100 YEARS AGO TODAY


The All-India Committee  which was formed at the Bhagalpur Literary Conference in February 1910 to devise means of perpetuating the memory of the late Romesh Chunder Dutt have decided, when funds permit, to erect a hall in which a literary and historical museum will be located. The building is to cost Rs 25,000, and a similar sum will be required for upkeep. The amount hitherto received is a little over Rs 8,000, of which Rs 5,000 has been contributed by the Gaekwar of Baroda and Rs 1,000 by Mr Prafulla Nath Tagore. The sum of Rs 42,000 remains to be subscribed. Is this memorial to share the fate of so many Indian funds? By the way, it would be interesting to know what has become of the Ashutosh Biswas  Fund, raised or started to honour a man who died in the discharge of his duty. When and where is the memorial to be erected?


The Calcutta manager of the Eastern Bank has received by cable from the head office in London advice to the effect that the first balance sheet of the institution as at December 31, 1910, shows current and deposit accounts at pound 1,166,189, gross profits pound 23,277 and net profit pound 4,762. The directors recommend that the sum of pound 3, 586 standing at Preliminary Expenses Account, and representing the cost of floating the bank, be written off, and that the balance of profit, namely, pound 1,176 be carried forward. The shareholders will have the report and balance sheet laid before them at a general meeting on March 2 and they will no doubt regard the results as highly satisfactory. Although the bank has only been working for a few months, it has acquired deposits of substantial amount, and has also made sufficient profit to cover all current expenses and to defray the cost of its establishment.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

A VACUUM OF GADDAFI'S MAKING

COLONEL GADDAFI DID A GOOD JOB OF PRESENTING HIMSELF AS THE OMNIPOTENT TYRANT, THE MUSLIM MAO. BUT HIS POSITION WAS ALWAYS MORE PRECARIOUS THAN THOSE OF HIS AUTOCRATIC NEIGHBOURS IN TUNIS AND CAIRO, DESPITE APPEARANCES

TO THE CONTRARY, WRITES

PETER POPHAM 

It is shocking to think how recently, and how obsequiously, the Butcher of Tripoli was being feted in the capitals of Europe. Barely six months ago he was corralling the beauties of Rome into the Libyan embassy and trying to browbeat them into converting to Islam. Three years earlier he was being embraced, literally, by Mr Tony Blair and President Nicolas Sarkozy.

But the Libyan vacuum into which we are now peering ~ trying to envisage what might come after Gaddafi ~ helps explain why, once he had agreed to drop his laughable efforts to construct a nuclear deterrent, Europe's leaders were prepared to trade what remained of their dignity for a slice of the Libyan pie. For more than 40 years he ensured by brutal repression and oil-based bribery that l'Etat, c'est moi. Nobody else got a look in.
Here was a "highly controlling regime" ~ to use Mr Cameron's euphemistic phrase ~ that was also high maintenance. Either you humoured Colonel Gaddafi's innumerable whims ~ his terror of long-distance flights, his buxom Ukrainian mistress, his insistence on camels and tents ~ or you could forget about Libya. And for the oil and gas, we kept him happy. The same sort of "hollowing" process that happened in Egypt under Hosni Mubarak was far more devastating in Libya under Colonel Gaddafi because there was less to hollow in this thinly populated desert where nomadic traditions are only a generation or two in the past. There was no state to take apart. Colonel Gaddafi claimed to have taken Libya beyond tribalism, while boasting of his own Bedouin blood. But strip away the trashy impediments of oil wealth, the highways and concrete, and tribal ways and tribal loyalties are still there, just below the surface.

Colonel Gaddafi did a good job of presenting himself as the omnipotent tyrant, the Muslim Mao. But his position was always more precarious than those of his autocratic neighbours in Tunis and Cairo, despite appearances to the contrary. He surrounded himself with members of his Qathathfa tribe and made sure they staffed the elite military units ~ but the tribe itself was dwarfed in size by others such as the Wafalla, which numbers around one million out of Libya's population of six million.

To neutralise threats, Colonel Gaddafi became a master of divide and rule, bribing the Wafalla to stay loyal while ensuring that other tribes and ethnicities were at daggers drawn with each other. He kept the army weak, abolishing all ranks higher than his own rank of Colonel and bolstering it with African and other mercenaries; when he bombed an Islamist uprising into extinction in the 1990s, it was widely believed that the pilots were Serbian mercenaries.

At the same time, he built up brutal paramilitary forces and recruited a spying network of formidable size and prominence even by West Asian standards. You could not walk down a street in Tripoli without remarking on the amazing number of young men with nothing better to do than lean against walls and gaze around. The idea, fostered in particular by Mr Tony Blair, that this was a man with whom we could do business exposed the particular brand of hope over expectations that the Gaddafi Show encouraged in our more superficial leaders. How the notion of an ethical foreign policy could co-exist with the idea of throwing down the welcome mat to this monster is one of the scandals of the age.

Long-term watchers of Colonel Gaddafi remember the way he toyed with sub-Saharan Africa, championing the notion of Africa United ~ while his own citizens treated the Africans on their doorstep worse than dirt. They will remember how he winked at the mass trafficking of migrants from his coast to Italy, to put pressure on Silvio Berlusconi's government to sign a generous deal of wartime reparations ~ and once it was signed he threw the would-be migrants into his vile jails, to the satisfaction of xenophobic Italians. They will remember how he allowed absurd charges to be levelled against a group of Bulgarian nurses in the country and kept the case going for years until he had extracted a sufficiently huge European bribe to let them go. He has behaved, in other words, exactly like a mafia boss. He played us like patsies for years. And because of the oil and gas, we let him.

He has ensured over many years ~ by driving all possible opponents into exile and keeping the intellectual life of the nation subordinate to his will - that the only alternative to him was a gaping hole. That is the hole we are now staring into. The intellectual and business strengths of Egyptians and their great national pride lead one to hope that some sort of democratic transformation can occur there. In Libya, such hopes are as flimsy as the hopes of Mr Blair that Colonel Gaddafi would behave like a gent.

the independent

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

LATER STILL

It has taken the Indian justice system exactly five days short of nine years to convict the 31 people who are supposed to be guilty of deliberately setting alight some coaches of the Sabarmati Express as it left Godhra station on February 27, 2002. It so happens that Narendra Modi, under whose able leadership the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Gujarat accused the minority community of planning the event, still remains the chief minister of the state. Godhra is particularly important because the death of allegedly 59 kar sevaks in the fire was held up as the cause for the genocide of the minority community in Gujarat that followed. That the court has supported the state government's conspiracy theory is a bonus, although conspiracy was not part of the first chargesheet, and Maulvi Hussain Umarji, accused as the chief conspirator, had to be acquitted. The only positive thing that can be said about the judgment is political — it has given Mr Modi and the BJP a fillip. Very few non-political citizens would feel that a conviction nine years after the alleged crime can be fair, either to the victims or to the accused. Even Mr Umarji was acquitted after eight years in prison.

Delay has become characteristic of the Indian justice system. But even apart from that, the entire investigation into the train fire has remained shrouded in mystery, raising more questions than may ever be answered. The conviction is unlikely to erase the history of competing inquiries and forensic reports, irreconcilable findings of concurrent inquiry commissions, accusations of suppression of evidence and coercion of witnesses, tainted as that history is by the blatant efforts at manipulating the outcomes of cases that followed the sectarian violence immediately afterwards. All that was needed in Godhra was the discovery of how the train caught fire. Any report that suggested that it could have been an accident, that there was no mob, or anything that left the minority community out of the picture, was also, unfortunately, technically untenable. Even forensic experts could not agree; or if they did, that remained a secret for the public. But the Nanavati Shah inquiry commission report, the first part of which came after six years and 12 extensions, showed the minority community to have conspired to set fire to the train. That was the official outcome; the court has acted on it a few years later.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

FAMILIAR ENEMY

Sometimes even the most prescient technology is unable to forestall natural disasters. New Zealand, located in the Ring of Fire, running through Indonesia till the coast of Chile, is extraordinarily prone to geological turmoil. Nine out of ten earthquakes in the world are recorded in this area. Straddling the boundary between the Pacific and Australasian tectonic plates, New Zealand is exposed to minor earthquakes and tremors on a regular basis. The country not only has the most stringent building regulations but also advanced scientific tools to predict natural disasters. As recently as September last year, a powerful earthquake, measuring 7.1, tore through Christchurch, causing modest damages and no loss of life. Since then, tremors and aftershocks have become alarmingly frequent in New Zealand, though geologists kept assuring the people that these are but common occurrences following seismic release. But ironically, Tuesday's earthquake, believed to be an aftershock of its predecessor, left a far more shocking trail of death and destruction in spite of its relatively modest scale. Measuring 6.3, it wreaked havoc on the residents of Christchurch at the peak of the day, striking at the centre of the city, and four times closer to the ground level than the September quake. The latter had crept up on the people in the dead of night, affecting mainly the outskirts of the city. In contrast, Tuesday's quake was shallower, and therefore a far more formidable adversary.

Although seldom avoidable, natural disasters can initiate a rethinking of State policies, changing the way people live. Since the devastating earthquake of 1931 that killed 256 in Napier, successive governments in New Zealand started taking precautions to avoid a tragedy of similar dimensions. However, it is evident from the piles of brick strewn all over the streets of Christchurch that brittle materials are yet to be entirely abolished. The administration needs to review existing building rules in the light of Tuesday's calamity and identify structures that are in danger of collapsing in the event of another aftershock. In all other respects, the government's response to the crisis was admirable. It took only about five hours for power to be restored in Christchurch, and "superloos" were installed with remarkable alacrity in areas where running water was gone, or where there was a danger of sewage infection.

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

TREADING NOT SO SOFTLY

DAVID CAMERON'S NOTION OF BIG SOCIETY IS PUZZLING MANY WESTMINSTER GLEANINGS - ANABEL LOYD

Our headline news in the past few weeks has naturally been the turmoil in Tunisia and Egypt, the demonstrations of people power both exhilarating and frightening. We applaud civil society wielding the banner of freedom against tyranny but fear both local violence and the broader effects on whatever semblance of peace exists in the Middle East. Our foreign secretary, William Hague, in his tour of the region, has announced an encouragingly softly softly approach to events, a belief in and support for political and economic freedoms at a speed that is within the cultural parameters of individual countries. At the same time, one might consider that an easy cop-out that offends no important trading partner. He is correctly pressing for a speedy return of both the United States of America and Israel to peace negotiations with the Palestinians, suspended last year in the face of Israeli intransigence. It is vitally important for the region that talks are not allowed to lapse for too long while the Americans recover from their shock over present upheavals and in the face of increasing belligerence from Israeli leaders in anticipation of a future Islamist government in Egypt.

Foreign affairs have not succeeded entirely in removing our economic woes from the front pages and government support blows with the daily wind. This week's sop to the "squeezed middle" of society, who are genuinely suffering: a new £800 million bank levy that has brought a chorus of screams from City board rooms. It will have little effect on the economy as a whole, is in truth unlikely to make us feel we are all in this together for long and may discourage foreign investors fearful of such sudden and unexpected efforts to bleed the perceived baddies.

It is really very hard to keep up with government activity at the moment and to know what we should think. David Cameron and the chancellor, George Osborne, seem determined to continue with spending cuts and tax rises while dissenters both within and without the government and the Conservative Party believe that far from being slimmed down for recovery, we are being squeezed to death. The Americans' continued spending policy appears to be bearing fruit while we starve on austerity measures when we have little choice but to grin and bear it. It is a little like being fed by an anorexic and there is no doubt that those with a reasonably comfortable lifestyle, the squeezed middle we hear so much of, are indeed tightening their belts.

The so-called "big society" seems not to be faring so well either. Could it be that David Cameron's great idea was never very clearly understood? Such a pity, because much of it is so precisely what we want, a way of life we hope for and desire to implement, where common sense and community action are valued. Had he, instead of inventing new election slogans, talked about reviving concepts that were and are familiar, things might have gone better. As it is, in these straitened times, we have been left with what could easily become another empty phrase, forgetting Cameron's persuasive original explanation of his beliefs — of the importance of civil society and of less government interference where it was not needed, of a smaller government as opposed to the top heavy, expensive Labour machine, of bottom-up instead of top-down policies, of less political correctness and dreaded health and safety.

In the end, though, call it what he wills, those prepared to be most nearly associated with "big society" as a shiny new idea are rapidly distancing themselves from a concept that requires the philanthropic input and charitable activity more comfortably born of a buoyant economy and a feel-good cushion.

The government has done much in a short time to loosen its hold on communities, schools and youth programmes, but voluntary bodies cannot survive on the air they breathe alone if they are to be in the vanguard of an alternative society, however it is named. Wealth may have made us more consumerist and selfish and we have learned that everything has a price. We might fit a little volunteering into our busy lives, but whether or not, even for a moment, we now feel we are all poor together and should freely help each other out, we also know that when we were richer it was a lot easier to find the time or the money to help with.

Meanwhile, David Cameron has declared that 'multiculturalism', another term that has slipped most readily off the tongues of members of the last government, is not working. The problem here is less working or not working than defining what he means by the term as opposed to almost anyone else. The fact that his words were applauded by the English Defence League, an organization that exists on a platform of racism and Islamophobia, and yet others closely involved with anti-racist activities have previously described the concept of multiculturalism as a racist one, proves the problem. One suspects, given so broad a range of understanding or misunderstanding of the term, that it would be best avoided as much as possible. Presumably, Cameron expects that all races, creeds, and communities will find their own place within his big society which must, by default, be many cultured if not what some may mean by multicultural.

I have no doubt that the social principles and ambitions of this government, or the prime minister at any rate, are sound and, indeed, very close to those of early New Labour days. Whether long-term social change can be hoped for at a time of economic hardship and whether or not Cameron and Osborne's determined fiscal conservatism will ever bring the upturn in our fortunes needed for both economic and social growth and flowering remains to be seen. As life has sped up for us all so voters, never patient with their elected leaders, have tapped their toes quicker when faced with anything less than instant returns on promised changes. We are all less likely to stick with old party loyalties so far as our votes are concerned and young people will not vote at all if disenchanted. Any good effects in terms of growth in quality due to student fee rises will not be obvious to the present generation of protesting students. The "big society" experiment will not have a chance to take off unless there is more money in the system and will, in any case, take a long time before its effects are quantifiable to the general public.

But we have to stick with it and give this government a decent chance. It is too early to talk of the next election of course but four years or so is an eye-blink when you are in the business of social change. As for the economy, I am unconvinced about our current painful policy but I doubt we would relish whatever the new shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, might serve up as an alternative and Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, is an even less appealing prospect. If there was a sudden election now, what would I vote? Would I think it worth an attempt to keep the coalition by cheerfully voting Liberal Democrat? Probably so. But I might hope that Cameron just needed more time to get things right with or without his allies and regretfully vote Conservative.

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

DEEP IN DEBT

DIPANKAR BOSE

Spain, the fifth-largest economy of Europe, is on the edge of a debt crisis. The country was one of the most enthusiastic adopters of the euro in 1999, and since then it has enjoyed continuous prosperity till the September 2008 crisis. European funds poured into Spain fuelling private spending and a boom in construction. (An estimated 61 per cent of all loans to the private sector were to the real estate.) Consequently, there was a sharp rise in private debt and property prices. During the boom, wages and prices rose more rapidly in Spain than in other European countries. The property bubble burst in September 2008, ushering in the recession with collapsing demand. But wages and prices have fallen to a far lesser extent. This has made the Spanish industry uncompetitive. Since Spain cannot devalue because of its euro membership, it needs to cut wages and prices till they fall in line with its competitors.

But this is essentially a slow process. It usually takes years of high unemployment to push wages down sufficiently. And this holds true more for Spain, thanks to its labour laws, though these have been reformed against stiff opposition. Also, a further drop in wages would mean a fall in income but not in debt. This makes private debt-servicing more difficult. Added to this is the problem of 40 per cent youth unemployment, while general unemployment is over 20 per cent — both being the highest in the euro zone. The future, therefore, looks bleak.

During the good years, and even during the boom, Spain acted wisely, displaying both fiscal and financial maturity. It ran budget surpluses, unlike Greece, and tried hard (though only with partial success) to regulate its banks, unlike Ireland. This is the promise Spain holds out. So its sovereign rating, though lowered by both Fitch and Standard & Poor's recently, is not all that bad. The problem with its banks is that of liquidity, not of viability. Yet, the financial markets are demanding higher rates for buying Spanish bonds.

Bleak readings

Besides overhauling its labour market laws, Spain has pushed through austerity measures, like raising the VAT sales tax rate from 16 per cent to 18 per cent in July 2010, cutting average government salary by five per cent in June along with pension freeze and a reduction in State expenditure. In December 2010, the parliament had narrowly approved a 7.9 per cent cut in public spending for 2011. This is most worrisome because household demand has already been hit hard by the austerity measures and it is only the export sector that did well in 2010. But export is something that Spain cannot rely on, because it depends on many factors that are beyond its control.

Unfortunately, Spain has to go with the European Union and follow the austerity measures, which reduce aggregate demand because public spending and household consumption are both being cut. This, in turn, lowers the gross domestic product and the tax revenue, making debt-servicing even more difficult. Fortunately, Spain raised public spending sharply, incurring a budget deficit of 11.4 per cent in 2009, to pull the economy out of the recession. The International Monetary Fund has forecast a growth of 0.5 per cent in 2011, 1.7 per cent in 2012 and 1.9 per cent in 2013. Unemployment has fallen marginally. But on a year-on-year basis, it is still up by 4.5 per cent. However, the worst part of the story is that under pressure from the EU, Spain has already agreed to cut its budget deficit to 6 per cent in 2011 and to 3 per cent by 2013. Such measures would inevitably lead Spain to a 'death-spiral'.

The only way out of the impasse is for the EU to relax the unrealistically strict budget deficit conditionality, and to offer Spain a sufficiently large long-term loan. This shouldn't be difficult, considering the promise Spain showed earlier.

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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

SPREADING RAGE

''PUBLIC ANGER AGAINST AUTH-ORITARIANISM IS RISING.''

 

As the tide of protest swells across West Asia and North Africa, it is turning increasingly bloody. In Libya, over 1,000 protesters have reportedly been killed in a week of mass protests. The hold over power of Libyan leader Moammer Gaddafi, who has ruled with an iron hand for 41 years, appears to be slipping. However, there are signs that the regime will not let go easily. Gaddafi's son, Sayf al-Islam has warned that Libya's security forces would "fight until the last man, the last bullet" to defend the regime. Police and government-hired mercenaries have been spraying live bullets into crowds, causing death and injury to hundreds. Reports indicate that the government has lost control over several towns and unrest in the capital Tripoli is mounting.


Long suppressed public anger against authoritarian rule has erupted in open defiance across West Asia and North Africa. A shared yearning for democratic rights and a belief that people's power can achieve this is driving these mass movements. However, there are differences in the demands being put forward by the masses and the strategies being adopted by regimes on the defensive. Libyans want Gaddafi to go and the entire edifice he built to be dismantled. In Bahrain, in contrast, protesters want the king to dissolve the government and fire his uncle, who has been prime minister for 40 years.


After deploying his troops to suppress the protests initially, the king has sought compromise to ensure he is not swept out of his throne. He has opened dialogue and promised reform. But whether the Sunni royal family in Bahrain will be able to retain power in a country that is overwhelmingly Shia remains to be seen.

Protests are raging in Algeria, Kuwait, Morocco, Jordan, Syria, Iran and Yemen. These countries are diverse; the regimes in some are US allies, others like Iran are its sworn enemies. What unites them, however, is deep desire of the people for an end to authoritarian rule. Saudi Arabia has been silent so far but it could be the lull before an approaching storm. Can the House of Saud escape the raging fire of mass protest? Unlikely, it seems, if the mood on the Arab street is any indication. Many feel that the Arab revolution of 2011 would be incomplete if the House of Saud is not burned down.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

THE CRISIS IN AGRICULTURE

PREM SHANKAR JHA


The transformation of Indian agriculture started in the '80s when farmers began to shift out of foodgrains into cash crops.


The government has blamed the vagaries of the weather in 2009 and 2010 for the food shortages that have ratcheted up inflation this year. This is the obvious explanation, but it happens to be wrong. Food prices became the driver of inflation 5 years earlier in 2006.


What is more, their rise has been virtually impervious to recession, drought and bumper harvests — 9 per cent during in 2008-09, 16 per cent in 2009-10, and 14 per cent till December 2010 after one of the best monsoons in living memory.


The government has been able to do nothing to halt or even moderate this inflation because its origins lie in a deep, and growing, crisis is agriculture. The crisis is not a product of neglect. On the contrary, if one were to judge by the implicit and explicit subsidies that farmers receive no other sector has been so thoroughly pampered.

It arises out of an inexplicable failure of the Indian state to understand the change that has taken place in the nature of farming during the last 20 years. The two lakh farmers' suicides since 1998 are the worst, but not only, the consequences of this failure.


The transformation of agriculture began in the '80s when the Green revolution started running out of steam. Seeing the writing on the wall farmers began to shift out of foodgrains into cash crops. As a result between 1990 and 2009 the area under foodgrains declined by 3.6 per cent, but the area under cash crops grew by more than 25 per cent.


Farmers made the change with extreme caution, expanding the cultivation of the cash crops that were relatively imperishable: sugar cane, oilseeds, jute and cotton all of which commanded ready markets. But the cities were growing and the demand for fruits, vegetables and dairy products was rising exponentially. To meet it, farmers followed the same route: from the relatively imperishable potatoes and onions to tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbages, eggplants, and other more delicate produce. Every step on this road involved a rise in risk.


Without the necessary support structure, perishability put a natural limit to the expansion of the area under each crop. Thus, the area under sugar cane stopped rising in 2001-02, and under oilseeds in 2004. The area sown with potatoes doubled between 1980-81 and 1999-2000, but then grew at less than half that pace in the 2000s.

But these were relatively imperishable products. The area under onions, which are more perishable, grew by a mere 6 per cent between 1997 and 2004, and came to a complete halt after 2006. Tomatoes and eggplants have exhibited the same behaviour.


But this has not stopped farmers from continuing the shift to cash crops. As the cities have grown and become richer, farmers have responded by increasing their yields per hectare. Between 2006 and 2011 they have increased the yield of potatoes by 20 per cent and that of onions by 21 per cent. To do this they have bought expensive new seeds, often imported, sometimes genetically modified; and increased their other inputs.
This has led to a quantum jump in their working capital needs. With every passing year therefore they have placed themselves more firmly at the mercy of a whimsical fate and an indifferent state.


Tragedy of cotton

No story of the crisis in agriculture will be complete without a description of the tragedy of cotton. Nurtured in the protective arms of monopoly procurement, import bans and the multi-fibre agreement which, paradoxically, protected Indian textiles exports, cotton was the white gold of the 70s and 80s. Everything changed at the end of the 90s. The winding up of The EU's the Multi-Fire agreement freed the mill sector and made it concentrate on world markets once more.


Cotton farmers not only checked the growth of imports but began to export their produce. In 2008-09 while the import of raw cotton and cotton yarn was valued at $480 million, the export of cotton fetched the country $2.01 billion.

But obtaining higher yields has involved more initial investment and hence incurring a higher level of risk. For thousands of farmers every year this has proved too high to bear. Several recent studies have been unanimous in their conclusion that the principal cause of cotton farmers' suicides is their lack of access to bank finance. Tenants do not qualify. Small farmers are turned away.


A study of several districts in Andhra Pradesh concluded that 80 to 85 per cent of the rural credit still comes from money lenders. It also showed that the agricultural extension service had become moribund and was non-existent for the newer cash crops. Farmers were therefore at the mercy of private seed traders.


Manmohan Singh's government has tried its level best to end the spate of farmers' suicides by waiving farm loans and fixing the interest rate on fresh loans at 7 per cent. But so long as banks demand fixed asset as collateral for their loans the vast majority of farmers will remain shut out. One way around this would be to give loans against the value of the crop but only to farmers who insure it. Unfortunately, crop insurance doesn't exist.

However, the solution to this problem could lie in a novel application of the practice of hedging loans against unforeseen contingencies that is routine in international finance. All farmers, large or small, landowner or tenant, should be eligible for loans at the priority sector interest rate provided they agree to pay an additional two or three per cent to cover the cost of insuring their crop. If this has not already been thought of, it can only be because the government has still to realise that farming, specially cash crop farming, is now an industry and deserves the same treatment.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

ITALY'S POOR RECORD IN GENDER EQUALITY

EMMA BONINO, IPS

 

There are no policies in the country to balance cares of profession and family for women.

Italy is one of the most backward countries in Europe in almost every indicator of gender equality. This is despite the fact that in terms of advanced degrees and qualifications, women surpass men and, in the last 30 years, have reached positions of power in all sectors of the market and proven that a company improves with a woman at the helm.


The social and economic consequences of this situation are grave. Underemployment of women (only 46.3 per cent have jobs) is a drag on the country's growth and exposes women to poverty. There are no policies to balance profession and family for women, which makes having children problematic, slows career advancement, and even forces women out of the labour market. Women comprise a very small percentage of political representatives, which is made worse by the media's tendency to show women in a manner that is chauvinistic, damaging, and dominated by stereotypes, which impedes the formation of cultural models and conditions the aspirations of young people.


Alter agenda

The statistics in Italy are exasperating at every level. Even in those areas of labour in which women predominate, like schools, health care, and public administration, women almost never make it to the top. This is an issue that exists throughout the entire Italian system given that representation is the life blood of democracy. To reform the system so that women could reach the top-level positions would mean opening the floodgates to non-traditional interests and altering the economic and political agenda.


Women's lack of options and the obstacles they must contend with are well-known; for example, the fact that day-to-day issues frequently take priority over other activities, including work. A larger presence of women in the upper ranks of political and economic circles could make the priorities of daily life a focus of decision-making.

The Committee on Equality and Inequality has made three proposals: First, the creation of a National Authority Against Gender Discrimination that would enforce respect for gender equality and promote the equality of men and women in practice. Second, equalising the retirement age for men and women in the public administration would bring savings of 3.75 billion euros in 10 years, funds that could be used to finance programmes to create a balance between work and family life. Third, the creation of a monitor of the presentation of women on radio and television, which would have both a qualitative and quantitative function.


The new entity would have the authority to intervene not only in traditional cases involving sex crimes or abuse of women but also in employment situations in which advancement to higher positions in politics or business was delayed or blocked. The latter is a subtle form of discrimination that usually occurs without provoking scandal. In the city government of Rome, for example, a board of directors was recently named of all men except for a single councilwoman, without any protest whatsoever.

 

Though I am not a fan of quotas, it is known that even in Norway, a paradise for women, a law was necessary to bring corporate management by women to 40 per cent in companies listed on the Norwegian stock market. The law worked: afterwards the companies performed better than expected.


In Italy, the presence of women in these sanctuaries of economic power is under five per cent. The extreme gravity of the situation in Italy these days, especially from the perspective of women, could make people wish that sooner or later a major cultural upheaval would take place and that women would cease being represented as victims and see themselves as full participants in economic and social development.

Of course, this lack of interest at present is characteristic of these times. It is also true that after the victories of 30 or 40 years ago all of us, and especially the feminist movement, have been resting on our laurels. The fact that television is pumping out the very worst female stereotypes only makes the situation worse.


The fact that the public seems uninterested in women's rights might suggest that the problem has been resolved, but the opposite is true. All civil rights must be debated and re-won every day, as is true with democracy itself. The radicals have long denounced what they call 'the Italian plague' — the degradation of the rule of law over the last 60 years. Unfortunately, correcting the plight of women in Italy will be very difficult given the complete lack of both awareness of the problem and the will to do anything about it, not only in the ruling class but also among the vast majority of Italians.

 

***************************************


DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

A STORY FROM THE HEART

INDU SURYANARAYAN


They reserved for themselves a special privacy, not sharing all things.

Joyce Carol Oates is big these days. A popular and outstanding writer, her sensibilities sharp as bee stings, honeyed and minute, she produces a sure impact with every word.  When I visit my son in Princeton and go for my morning walk, I make sure to make a left turn at the end of the road and a right on the next so as to pass Joyce Carol Oates's house.


Overriding my interest in passing her house is my interest in her recent piece 'A Widow's Story.' She tells a very personal story with an amazing strength and immediacy. It is not just an obvious voice telling the story of her husband's untimely death in great detail, but a voice revealing amazing strength: a voice shaking at the loss and a grief tossing with pain; a strength that she did not possess before. What happened? Where did this strength come from? How did it come even?


Raymond Smith and Joyce Carol Oates were married for 47 years and he was eight years older than her. They met when she was a student and he also a student finishing his PhD. Not an uncommon story. Nor is it uncommon that their marriage was successful, meaning they stayed together yoked to pull the plough of marriage with balance though not harmonious synchronicity. According to her own confession, "Often we were shy with each other, reluctant to share certain things, to risk offending or surprising."


This may sound like a small thing but it is not. They reserved for themselves a special privacy, not sharing all things. They used their discretion what should be shared and what not so as to spare the other. Theirs was a marriage of self-expansion rather than sacrifices. Thus each had his or her own world and also the world they shared within the boundary of marriage. Joyce could not have sung with a full-throated voice.


With the death of her husband, Joyce faces a new situation. There is no more sharing or holding back. Her strength is reinforced with nothing held back, doubled in a way. She can speak with a new voice, say what she wants with a new strength. She is on his side and he is on her side. He is letting her tell the story, gripping and even enjoyable, for both of them. It is this strength that gives 'A Widow's Story' the appeal it has for anyone with a heart to listen.

 

***************************************


******************************************************************************************

HAARETZ

OPINION

A WARNING FROM CONCERNED FRIENDS

BY HAARETZ EDITORIAL STAFF

The European Union is in geographic proximity to the Middle East; its member states are Israel's main trading partners; and Israeli culture derives in part from European roots. In recent years, Europe has suffered an economic crisis and leadership problems, but its diplomatic positions still carry great weight on the international stage. As representatives of the largest collection of democratic, peace-loving states, Europeans grant legitimacy to diplomatic moves and decisions. That is why Israel needs good diplomatic relations with the EU and its members.

But despite Israel's vital interest in good relations with Europe, Benjamin Netanyahu's government prefers to quarrel with the Europeans and ignore their views. The annual meeting between EU foreign ministers and their Israeli counterpart, which took place on Tuesday in Brussels, ended in serious disagreement. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman gave his colleagues an information sheet that lauded the steps Israel has taken to "improve" life in the West Bank. It included a blistering attack on the Palestinian Authority, accusing it of violating agreements, incitement and glorifying terror.

Lieberman's hosts ignored the document. They made it clear to him that the EU's relationship with Israel will not be upgraded as long as the peace process remains frozen and reiterated the well-known European positions: that a Palestinian state must be established in the 1967 borders, that the settlements are illegitimate, that unilateral changes to the border are unacceptable and that Jerusalem must be the future capital of two states.

The Europeans also vigorously denounced the Lieberman-led efforts to persecute Israeli leftists and human rights organizations and urged Israel to better integrate its Arab minority - a position at odds with the racist campaign run by Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party.

Israel must listen to the Europeans' message and view it as a warning from important friends who are concerned about the direction the rightist government led by Netanyahu and Lieberman has taken: persecuting domestic political rivals, suppressing the Arab community and preferring settlements to a fair compromise with the Palestinians. Europe isn't a hostile power; it's one of Israel's most important economic, diplomatic and cultural partners. What it has to say deserves attention.

The great Arab revolution holds great promise. Like any uprising against tyranny, it arouses solidarity, enthusiasm and hope. Despite the terrible massacre in Libya, there is no doubt - 2011 is the Middle East's 1989. It could even be the Middle East's 1789. The secular Arab despotism is collapsing before our eyes. The Arab giant is awakening from a coma. A decadent, degenerate, corrupt world order is crumbling. Millions of oppressed people are experiencing their first sense of liberation.

The new era that started in Tunisia last month is spreading rapidly to Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and Bahrain. The Arab men and women of the 21st century have received an unprecedented proposal of freedom.

But the great Arab revolution also holds great danger. In the past decade, the United States dismantled Iraq, took Egypt apart and lost Turkey. In doing so, it broke down the Sunni buffer against Iran. These days Washington is dismantling Bahrain, undermining Jordan and endangering Saudi Arabia - thereby turning Iran into the leading regional power. Unless the American policy changes, the result could be a geostrategic disaster.

Under the heading of "democratization," the Shi'ite Muslims will take over a considerable part of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. Under the heading of "liberation," radicals will take over a considerable part of the Arab world. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and between Israel and Syria will become impossible. The Israeli-Egyptian and Israeli-Jordanian peace treaties will fade away. Islamic, neo-Nasserist and neo-Ottoman forces will mold the Middle East. The 2011 revolution could end up the same way as the 1789 French Revolution did - some Bonaparte will hijack it, take advantage of it and turn it into a long succession of bloody wars.

The change in the Arab world should have been sparked during another era - a decade or two ago. The change in the Arab world should have been generated in a different way - by reform, rather than revolution. But now it is too late, there is no turning back; the revolution is in full swing. This is why the Americans are right in wanting to be on the correct side of history. The Americans are right in siding with the masses who are demanding their rights. But the Americans are wrong to start with toppling their allies' regimes. The Americans are wrong in paving with their own hands the road to victory for the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran.

There is only one way out of this catch-22. Moving from defense to offense. Is Barack Obama the new George Bush? Is David Cameron the new Tony Blair? Is Hillary Clinton determined to implement the neoconservatives' ideological platform? Good luck to them. But don't do it only in the West's backyard. Don't do it only in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain. Do it alongside forceful humanitarian intervention in Libya as well. Do it in Iran, too.

Take the spirit of freedom blowing through Cairo's squares and bring it to Tehran's squares. Take the Google, Facebook and Twitter revolts and bring them to the ayatollahs. Topple Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's tyranny as you toppled Hosni Mubarak's. Fight the Shia's religious fascism and Muammar Gadhafi's madness with the same relentlessness you fought the pro-Western dictatorships.

Only in this way will you be able to implement the West's democratic values along with its strategic interests. Only in this way will you be able to empower freedom without sparking zealotry and igniting war.

For three weeks, most of the Western media told us that the Tahrir Square revolution was the faceless revolution of the Google generation. But on February 18, 2011, when a million Egyptians celebrated their liberation in Cairo's central square, it turned out that the revolution's face is that of the fanatic Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

If the Western powers don't come to their senses quickly, they could discover that the face of the new Middle East is al-Qaradawi; Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan; Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The face of those who are trying to turn the winds of change blowing across the Middle East into a violent, fanatic hurricane.

Rabbis are influential in Israeli society. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 54 percent of Israel's Jewish citizens believe that rabbis should be consulted when the country makes diplomatic decisions. So it's important to examine how rabbis use their influence. The following was the harvest of recent weeks, a source of pride: Religious Zionist rabbis issued the "rabbis letter" that seeks to exclude Arabs from Israeli cities, the book "The King's Torah" permitted killing them, Rabbi Dov Lior refused to obey the rule of law, and dozens of rabbis supported this refusal.

The ultra-Orthodox rabbinate is also doing great things: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef courageously approved army conversions, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv threatened to hold a contemptible rally, the Shas rabbis bowed obsequiously to the ultra-Orthodox extremists, and a "compromise" was reached that continues to question the status of the thousands of converts in the Israel Defense Forces. It's all racism, refusal, inhumanity and deceiving converts in the name of religion.

What a far cry is the current rabbinic display from the rabbinic tradition in Jewish history. The experience of reading texts created by rabbis of all generations - religious law, thought and every other religious creation, in the context they were written - evokes astonishment at the rabbis' ability to lead communities in the harsh reality of the Diaspora and religious persecution. Responsibility for the public welfare, broad-minded judgments, the balance between the political and religious - all these were a driving force with which the rabbis preserved our uniqueness as a religious and ethnic group. And the whole nation repaid them with respect and devotion.

The rabbis of the current generation want to carry on the dynasty of leadership. But their actions when faced with the challenge posed by the Jewish state raises doubts about whether they are up to the task. For the first time, the Jewish collective has the authority and responsibility of wielding tools of power, with all the consequences. But the rabbis, instead of sharing in the burden of sovereignty, shake it off. The undercurrents of their positions show a lack of recognition of the importance of the central Jewish phenomenon of our time: the Jewish state.

When the mainstream of religious Zionist rabbis stands behind Lior's refusal, it is using superficial judgment, with tragic characteristics, that amounts to defiance of Jewish sovereignty in our generation. Just last Shabbat we read how the Prophet Elijah ran before the chariot of King Ahab, the idol worshipper, because he wanted to show respect to the government. Well, the State Prosecutor's Office is not as bad as Ahab, and Lior is not on the level of the Prophet Elijah. Why then does the religious leadership choose to act against the tradition dictated to us by Elijah, the zealous prophet?

When the Chief Rabbinate closes ranks with ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionists (or at least tries to appease them, the facts are not yet clear ), it is leaving us with a social time bomb of mixed marriage, family pedigrees and the creation of a new national group, neither Jewish nor Arab, in the Jewish state. The rabbis are choosing the easy way out - it's easy to be strict and hard to be lenient. Thus the gates of Judaism are locked before a third of a million Israelis, most of whom have Jewish roots.

Where are the rabbis who will develop Zionist Jewish law that will grant religious meaning to the sacrifice and readiness to share a common fate of those immigrant soldiers who this week are completing the paratroopers' initiation trek? The soldiers are shouting, through their deeds, "your people are my people," and this generation's rabbinic leadership is turning its back on them.

The rabbinic influence on Israeli society in our time is undeniable. They have the power to intervene in the national agenda, move masses to action and even topple governments. But in a broader, multigenerational and fully Jewish perspective, the rabbis will be judged with particular harshness. They have the chance to be important partners in shaping Jewish sovereignty, which is such a rarity. And they are working to break it up.

The writer, a law professor at Bar-Ilan University, is vice president of research at the Israel Democracy Institute.

Human rights activists claim that the transparency law is undemocratic.

But don't they realize they also stand to benefit from such a law? After all, it would also expose the sources of right-wing organizations. But what would be so awful about exposing the sources of the money that finances studies assailing academic freedom, the campaign against the New Israel Fund or land purchases and construction in the settlements?

Evidently, they fear it would also reveal that they themselves have sold their souls to advance the interests of foreign countries. And then, when the inevitable outcry erupt, a law might even be passed forbidding them to accept such donations. And what would these hordes of activists live off of then?

The transparency law would indeed have been unnecessary had these "activists" internalized what sovereignty means. If they had even a basic sense of self-respect, they would have told their donor countries: Thanks, but we'll use our own resources to realize our shared goals.

The State of Israel was established so that the Jewish people would once again be sovereign in its own land. Sovereignty, among other things, means keeping foreigners from interfering in domestic issues.

It also means that if foreign countries do start meddling in our affairs again, as they did in the dark days of exile, we should contemptuously turn our backs on them. "Stop intervening in Israeli legislation," is what the government should have said in response to the statement issued by the European Union yesterday, in which it voiced support for the leftist organizations it funds in Israel.

The saddest symptom of this phenomenon is the continued yearning to please the foreigners and dance to their tune - to act as "front organizations" for countries that hide their hostile attitudes toward Israel and to further these countries' interests in exchange for payment, even when they oppose the policies of Israel's elected government. What is particularly problematic is their effort to alter Israeli public opinion so that Israelis will elect a government more amenable to their funders.

Those engaged in providing services to countries that seek to alter the political situation in Israel are not innocent. They know very well why their service is being commissioned and who it really serves.

Norway and Sweden do not engage directly in recruiting Israeli front organizations; they do have some inhibitions. Usually, it is the organizations that apply to them, or else to EU institutions. The organizations then submit detailed plans for how they think it might be possible to alter political views in Israel. The EU, under its freedom of information policy, publishes such documents on its websites.

The funders, as is the nature of funders, want to see results. And the Israeli entrepreneurs make haste, with unseemly vigor, to supply them. So every year, new organizations arise, which rummage through the same garbage and roll in the same dunghills. Yet, miracle of miracles, all of them find countries to adopt them and fund them generously, even when Europe is suffering an economic slowdown.

These organizations also have a silent partner - the Israeli government. Weak-willed and lacking confidence in the rightness of its path, it allows foreigners to meddle in its affairs. Britain, by contrast, would protest "It's not done" if Israel were, for instance, to donate to Scottish separatists. And Spain would pound on the table and threaten to sever diplomatic relations if Israel were to offer even verbal support for Basque aspirations.

There is no need for public rebukes. Personal conversations between the prime minister and the heads of certain European governments (some of whom may not even be aware that their embassies in Israel support leftist organizations ) might well suffice to reduce this practice significantly.

Unless, of course, Benjamin Netanyahu is perfectly happy to have Switzerland keep funding the Geneva Initiative, or to have Britain's embassy in Israel keep funding radical organizations that, inter alia, are working to unseat him.

A new North American study was cited widely around the world in the past month. It contains the finding that doctors, even experienced ones, don't show enough empathy toward their patients. It would be interesting to ask what would have been the study's findings if it had been conducted in Israel.

The situation should not have been bad. All the medical schools in Israel declare that they consider emotional intelligence and interpersonal relations when they screen students, and in medical courses several hours are set aside to teach how to treat patients in a caring and dignified way.

All that is well and good, though, only until interns and young doctors start wandering, sleep-deprived, from one hospital ward to another, while the material they are asked to study and absorb is strictly medical.

The situation gets progressively worse. At the specialization stage, out of the 56 fields of specialization, family medicine and psychiatry are the only ones that give real training in the doctor-patient relationship. Because of the tremendous pressure the doctors are under when they specialize, they are not expected to study any topic on which they are not tested.

In other words, the doctor-patient relationship is not a topic that is seriously studied in the program that trains internists, surgeons, nephrologists, cardiologists or gynecologists, for example.

These are all fields in which patients can be at significant and sensitive crossroads in their lives. Equipped with this meager training, the doctors go out into the community. From that moment on they are not required to undergo any required further training in this area. Granted, the Health Ministry director general issued a directive to train doctors in relations with patients, but its aim is to reduce violence toward doctors and nurses.

Some of the institutions employing the doctors, such as hospitals and HMO's, are supposed to conduct workshops on the subject of doctor-patient relations, but doctors report that these are meaningful mainly for doctors for whom empathy and the relationship with the patient are important to begin with.

Voluntary conferences and lectures about strengthening the delicate fabric of these relationships only preach to the choir. The disturbing result is that the emotional quality of the encounter between a patient and a doctor who is not a family doctor or psychiatrist depends many times on the personality of the doctor, and is not guided or monitored enough by the health system.

Many doctors come to the profession out of a desire to help, and they derive satisfaction from their ability to heal and comfort others. But still the situation is problematic. Medicine is a profession that provides daily dramatic encounters between participants in an unequal relationship.

In addition, the patient is in an emotionally sensitive situation, while the doctor is in danger of emotional burnout because of the nature of his work. These conditions influence the result of the medical treatment. And indeed, in addition to the main finding, the North American study also showed that patience and attentiveness by the doctor can genuinely improve the health of patients and the results of the medical treatment they receive.

Not surprisingly, the fabric of relations and expectations between doctor and patient plays an important role in the healing process.

In light of all of the above, it is clear that training doctors and updating them periodically on matters relating to the doctor-patient relationship should apply to doctors in all specialties, not only in family medicine and psychiatry. It's not only a matter of manners, political correctness or the marketing needs of health service providers. Words can be a matter of life and death, especially when it comes to the words of a doctor.

**************************************


HAARETZ

OPINION

AN IRRESPONSIBLE RABBINATE

BY YEDIDIA STERN

Rabbis are influential in Israeli society. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 54 percent of Israel's Jewish citizens believe that rabbis should be consulted when the country makes diplomatic decisions. So it's important to examine how rabbis use their influence. The following was the harvest of recent weeks, a source of pride: Religious Zionist rabbis issued the "rabbis letter" that seeks to exclude Arabs from Israeli cities, the book "The King's Torah" permitted killing them, Rabbi Dov Lior refused to obey the rule of law, and dozens of rabbis supported this refusal.

The ultra-Orthodox rabbinate is also doing great things: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef courageously approved army conversions, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv threatened to hold a contemptible rally, the Shas rabbis bowed obsequiously to the ultra-Orthodox extremists, and a "compromise" was reached that continues to question the status of the thousands of converts in the Israel Defense Forces. It's all racism, refusal, inhumanity and deceiving converts in the name of religion.

What a far cry is the current rabbinic display from the rabbinic tradition in Jewish history. The experience of reading texts created by rabbis of all generations - religious law, thought and every other religious creation, in the context they were written - evokes astonishment at the rabbis' ability to lead communities in the harsh reality of the Diaspora and religious persecution. Responsibility for the public welfare, broad-minded judgments, the balance between the political and religious - all these were a driving force with which the rabbis preserved our uniqueness as a religious and ethnic group. And the whole nation repaid them with respect and devotion.

The rabbis of the current generation want to carry on the dynasty of leadership. But their actions when faced with the challenge posed by the Jewish state raises doubts about whether they are up to the task. For the first time, the Jewish collective has the authority and responsibility of wielding tools of power, with all the consequences. But the rabbis, instead of sharing in the burden of sovereignty, shake it off. The undercurrents of their positions show a lack of recognition of the importance of the central Jewish phenomenon of our time: the Jewish state.

When the mainstream of religious Zionist rabbis stands behind Lior's refusal, it is using superficial judgment, with tragic characteristics, that amounts to defiance of Jewish sovereignty in our generation. Just last Shabbat we read how the Prophet Elijah ran before the chariot of King Ahab, the idol worshipper, because he wanted to show respect to the government. Well, the State Prosecutor's Office is not as bad as Ahab, and Lior is not on the level of the Prophet Elijah. Why then does the religious leadership choose to act against the tradition dictated to us by Elijah, the zealous prophet?

When the Chief Rabbinate closes ranks with ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionists (or at least tries to appease them, the facts are not yet clear ), it is leaving us with a social time bomb of mixed marriage, family pedigrees and the creation of a new national group, neither Jewish nor Arab, in the Jewish state. The rabbis are choosing the easy way out - it's easy to be strict and hard to be lenient. Thus the gates of Judaism are locked before a third of a million Israelis, most of whom have Jewish roots.

Where are the rabbis who will develop Zionist Jewish law that will grant religious meaning to the sacrifice and readiness to share a common fate of those immigrant soldiers who this week are completing the paratroopers' initiation trek? The soldiers are shouting, through their deeds, "your people are my people," and this generation's rabbinic leadership is turning its back on them.

The rabbinic influence on Israeli society in our time is undeniable. They have the power to intervene in the national agenda, move masses to action and even topple governments. But in a broader, multigenerational and fully Jewish perspective, the rabbis will be judged with particular harshness. They have the chance to be important partners in shaping Jewish sovereignty, which is such a rarity. And they are working to break it up.

The writer, a law professor at Bar-Ilan University, is vice president of research at the Israel Democracy Institute.

 

**************************************


HAARETZ

OPINION

THE HURRICANE OF CHANGE

BY ARI SHAVIT

The great Arab revolution holds great promise. Like any uprising against tyranny, it arouses solidarity, enthusiasm and hope. Despite the terrible massacre in Libya, there is no doubt - 2011 is the Middle East's 1989. It could even be the Middle East's 1789. The secular Arab despotism is collapsing before our eyes. The Arab giant is awakening from a coma. A decadent, degenerate, corrupt world order is crumbling. Millions of oppressed people are experiencing their first sense of liberation.

The new era that started in Tunisia last month is spreading rapidly to Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and Bahrain. The Arab men and women of the 21st century have received an unprecedented proposal of freedom.

But the great Arab revolution also holds great danger. In the past decade, the United States dismantled Iraq, took Egypt apart and lost Turkey. In doing so, it broke down the Sunni buffer against Iran. These days Washington is dismantling Bahrain, undermining Jordan and endangering Saudi Arabia - thereby turning Iran into the leading regional power. Unless the American policy changes, the result could be a geostrategic disaster.

Under the heading of "democratization," the Shi'ite Muslims will take over a considerable part of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. Under the heading of "liberation," radicals will take over a considerable part of the Arab world. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and between Israel and Syria will become impossible. The Israeli-Egyptian and Israeli-Jordanian peace treaties will fade away. Islamic, neo-Nasserist and neo-Ottoman forces will mold the Middle East. The 2011 revolution could end up the same way as the 1789 French Revolution did - some Bonaparte will hijack it, take advantage of it and turn it into a long succession of bloody wars.

The change in the Arab world should have been sparked during another era - a decade or two ago. The change in the Arab world should have been generated in a different way - by reform, rather than revolution. But now it is too late, there is no turning back; the revolution is in full swing. This is why the Americans are right in wanting to be on the correct side of history. The Americans are right in siding with the masses who are demanding their rights. But the Americans are wrong to start with toppling their allies' regimes. The Americans are wrong in paving with their own hands the road to victory for the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran.

There is only one way out of this catch-22. Moving from defense to offense. Is Barack Obama the new George Bush? Is David Cameron the new Tony Blair? Is Hillary Clinton determined to implement the neoconservatives' ideological platform? Good luck to them. But don't do it only in the West's backyard. Don't do it only in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain. Do it alongside forceful humanitarian intervention in Libya as well. Do it in Iran, too.

Take the spirit of freedom blowing through Cairo's squares and bring it to Tehran's squares. Take the Google, Facebook and Twitter revolts and bring them to the ayatollahs. Topple Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's tyranny as you toppled Hosni Mubarak's. Fight the Shia's religious fascism and Muammar Gadhafi's madness with the same relentlessness you fought the pro-Western dictatorships.

Only in this way will you be able to implement the West's democratic values along with its strategic interests. Only in this way will you be able to empower freedom without sparking zealotry and igniting war.

For three weeks, most of the Western media told us that the Tahrir Square revolution was the faceless revolution of the Google generation. But on February 18, 2011, when a million Egyptians celebrated their liberation in Cairo's central square, it turned out that the revolution's face is that of the fanatic Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

If the Western powers don't come to their senses quickly, they could discover that the face of the new Middle East is al-Qaradawi; Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan; Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The face of those who are trying to turn the winds of change blowing across the Middle East into a violent, fanatic hurricane.

**************************************


HAARETZ

OPINION

WHO'S AFRAID OF THE TRANSPARENCY LAW?

BY ISRAEL HAREL

Human rights activists claim that the transparency law is undemocratic.

But don't they realize they also stand to benefit from such a law? After all, it would also expose the sources of right-wing organizations. But what would be so awful about exposing the sources of the money that finances studies assailing academic freedom, the campaign against the New Israel Fund or land purchases and construction in the settlements?

Evidently, they fear it would also reveal that they themselves have sold their souls to advance the interests of foreign countries. And then, when the inevitable outcry erupt, a law might even be passed forbidding them to accept such donations. And what would these hordes of activists live off of then?

The transparency law would indeed have been unnecessary had these "activists" internalized what sovereignty means. If they had even a basic sense of self-respect, they would have told their donor countries: Thanks, but we'll use our own resources to realize our shared goals.

The State of Israel was established so that the Jewish people would once again be sovereign in its own land. Sovereignty, among other things, means keeping foreigners from interfering in domestic issues.

It also means that if foreign countries do start meddling in our affairs again, as they did in the dark days of exile, we should contemptuously turn our backs on them. "Stop intervening in Israeli legislation," is what the government should have said in response to the statement issued by the European Union yesterday, in which it voiced support for the leftist organizations it funds in Israel.

The saddest symptom of this phenomenon is the continued yearning to please the foreigners and dance to their tune - to act as "front organizations" for countries that hide their hostile attitudes toward Israel and to further these countries' interests in exchange for payment, even when they oppose the policies of Israel's elected government. What is particularly problematic is their effort to alter Israeli public opinion so that Israelis will elect a government more amenable to their funders.

Those engaged in providing services to countries that seek to alter the political situation in Israel are not innocent. They know very well why their service is being commissioned and who it really serves.

Norway and Sweden do not engage directly in recruiting Israeli front organizations; they do have some inhibitions. Usually, it is the organizations that apply to them, or else to EU institutions. The organizations then submit detailed plans for how they think it might be possible to alter political views in Israel. The EU, under its freedom of information policy, publishes such documents on its websites.

The funders, as is the nature of funders, want to see results. And the Israeli entrepreneurs make haste, with unseemly vigor, to supply them. So every year, new organizations arise, which rummage through the same garbage and roll in the same dunghills. Yet, miracle of miracles, all of them find countries to adopt them and fund them generously, even when Europe is suffering an economic slowdown.

These organizations also have a silent partner - the Israeli government. Weak-willed and lacking confidence in the rightness of its path, it allows foreigners to meddle in its affairs. Britain, by contrast, would protest "It's not done" if Israel were, for instance, to donate to Scottish separatists. And Spain would pound on the table and threaten to sever diplomatic relations if Israel were to offer even verbal support for Basque aspirations.

There is no need for public rebukes. Personal conversations between the prime minister and the heads of certain European governments (some of whom may not even be aware that their embassies in Israel support leftist organizations ) might well suffice to reduce this practice significantly.

Unless, of course, Benjamin Netanyahu is perfectly happy to have Switzerland keep funding the Geneva Initiative, or to have Britain's embassy in Israel keep funding radical organizations that, inter alia, are working to unseat him.

**************************************

 


 

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

EDITORIAL

MR. OBAMA MOVES AGAINST BIAS

In a heartening reversal, President Obama has instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. That deplorable 1996 law sanctioned blatant discrimination against the spousal rights of married gays and lesbians.

The announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. struck at the core of the matter, concluding that Congress had violated constitutional due process in a debate rife with "moral disapproval" of gay men and lesbians — "precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus" banned by the equal protection clause.

The decision reversed the administration's untenable position of defending the law's affront to equal rights even as Mr. Obama made clear his personal opposition. Instead, Mr. Holder said it was no longer possible to advance "hypothetical rationales" in court independent of the bias-steeped record of Congressional enactment.

The act, passed in an election year and signed by President Bill Clinton, arbitrarily denied federal benefits for married couples to married same-sex couples, including Social Security survivor payments and the option to file joint tax returns. It allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages that are legally recognized in other states.

The president's decision is a major advancement for protecting the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. It firmly skewers what has been bad law and complements the recent Congressional repeal of the government's "don't ask, don't tell" prejudice suffered by gay men and lesbians serving the nation in the military.

The administration said its revised position was in part because of the fact that current court challenges require a rigorous enforcement standard — "heightened scrutiny" — in the case of protecting minority groups who have suffered a clear history of official discrimination. The courts will still be the ultimate arbiter of the law, but it is vital that the administration dropped its commitment to press wrongheaded defenses. Congress may still pursue its own brief in the courts.

The reversal seems likely to redound into the next election cycle — a fight very much worth having. As a candidate three years ago, Mr. Obama opposed the defense of marriage law but would not endorse same-sex marriage, instead supporting civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. In December, Mr. Obama said his feelings on the subject were "constantly evolving." Wednesday's decision raises the hope that they are evolving in the right direction — equal rights for all Americans.

Meanwhile, it is stirring that the president has done the right thing on the marriage law. He has scored Congress's shabby violation of constitutional rights that supposedly protect all Americans, not just a selected majority in an election year.

 ***************************************

 


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

HOW QUICKLY THEY FORGET

Following the recall of millions of toys from China because of lead paint and other hazards, Congress got its act together in 2008 and passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Bipartisan majorities rallied around the idea that the government should ensure that products — whether they're made abroad or here — won't sicken or maim American consumers or their children.

The new Republican-led House seems determined to roll back those protections. As part of their slash-and-burn continuing resolution, they cut all the financing — some $3 million this year — for a core provision of the safety bill: a database where consumers could report product hazards and the public could check products before buying them.

House Republicans are also pushing to scale back the requirement for third-party testing for lead and other hazards in products sold to children. Some have also proposed limiting the new protections to products for children under 6 or 7, rather than up to 12 years of age.

Arguments against all of these provisions are part of a standard antiregulation litany. Businesses warn that the hazard database would open the door to bogus charges and lawsuits. They claim that third-party testing of children's products is proving to be too costly and that some should not be tested at all for things like lead because children are unlikely to eat them.

The concern about frivolous lawsuits is a predictable canard. The database was designed with safeguards to avoid bogus claims and keep lawyers from trawling for clients. Tests will, of course, increase manufacturers' costs. But that must be set against the enormous costs incurred by families and society when a child is poisoned or hurt by a dangerous toy. Exposing older children to such risks should also be unacceptable.

And there is a lot of lead out there. Since the new law has passed, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued 26 recalls because of lead paint in toys.

Some provisions of the safety law could be tweaked. For instance, there may be ways to help the smallest of toy makers gain access to low-cost lead testing. There might be a way to exempt products from testing if they very clearly do not pose a lead-related hazard.

The new consumer safety law was a much-needed response to the Bush administration's antiregulatory fervor and followed years of neglect of the regulators. By 2007, the staff at the safety commission had fallen to 385, down by more than half since 1980.

The recall in 2007 of millions of hazardous children's products imported from China proved that a gutted safety commission couldn't do its job. Why would anyone want to make that same mistake again?

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

NEW RULES FOR NEW TECHNOLOGY

The proposal from the Federal Communications Commission to stop subsidizing rural phone lines and start subsidizing rural broadband connections is long overdue. Right now an estimated 14 million to 28 million Americans have no way of getting access to the Internet.

The Universal Service Fund was established in the 1990s to provide subsidies to telecommunications companies to install lines and hook up phones in areas where there weren't enough subscribers to guarantee them a profit. Last year, the fund spent about $8 billion to support rural phones and subsidize phones in poor neighborhoods, schools and libraries.

The fund has fulfilled its original mission, and it needs to meet new technological demands. Virtually all of the country's rural areas now have access to land lines or cellphone coverage. The real deficit is access to high-speed broadband, which can also deliver phone service.

The proposal would direct the fund to provide incentives for companies to lay fiber-optic cable and digital switches to connect rural homes to the Internet at high speeds. They would also fix some serious inefficiencies in the way the fund is managed. In some areas, it subsidizes several companies — wire line and cellular — to provide the same service. It also subsidizes companies to deliver services in areas where rivals provide phone services subsidy-free.

The old rules also placed no limits on a project's cost. For instance, the fund subsidizes service for less than two-dozen people in one community in Washington State to the tune of $20,000 a year per line.

The new proposal would include benchmarks and guidelines to ensure investment projects are not duplicative and are not overly costly. The F.C.C.'s goal is for people who currently have heavily subsidized phones to keep their service at reasonable rates.

The broadband proposal is now open for a period of public comment, after which the F.C.C. will craft definitive rules to be voted on by the five commissioners. The big companies, Verizon and AT&T, generally have been supportive, but that doesn't guarantee approval.

The reallocation of money — and the promise it will be spent more carefully — unsettles many small and medium-size firms in rural areas that rely on the flow of subsidies. The proposed rules would also change the interconnection fees paid to companies, another concern to the rural telecommunications companies that count on the fees for a big chunk of revenue.

The United States urgently needs a better communications network for the 21st century. The F.C.C. plan is a good one. The commissioners should approve it.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

UNNECESSARILY INVASIVE

A warning to all women whose mammograms show an abnormality: If your surgeon says you need a surgical biopsy to determine if you have cancer, be sure to get a second opinion. The odds are good that you should get a needle biopsy. That is safer, less invasive, and cheaper.

Denise Grady reported in The Times on a study of more than 170,000 biopsies in Florida between 2003 and 2008. It found that 30 percent were surgical, while guidelines suggested the rate should be 10 percent or less.

Why would the percentages be so high? Many surgeons may fail to keep up with the latest medical guidelines that favor needle biopsies in most cases. But surgeons also have a strong financial incentive to perform surgical biopsies rather than refer patients to the radiologists who perform most needle biopsies.

Either way, the result is much higher costs. Hospitals charge more than $10,000 for a surgical biopsy, and about half that for a needle biopsy. Surgeons charge $1,500 to $2,500 for a surgical biopsy; radiologists who do the needle biopsy charge between $750 to $1,500.

An excessive resort to surgery can also lead to needless injuries. A surgical biopsy requires an inch-long incision to cut out the abnormal area. A needle biopsy requires only a tiny incision to obtain a sample of cells, requires no stitches, and carries less risk of infection and scarring. Most patients who undergo biopsies, of either sort, don't have cancer; some 80 percent of all breast biopsies turn out to be benign.

If the results of the Florida study, published in The American Journal of Surgery, are extrapolated to the entire country, more than 300,000 women a year are having unnecessary surgery, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

The new health care reform should begin to rein in excessive, unnecessary procedures. It has economic incentives for hospitals and doctors to join forces to manage a patient's care in the most medically appropriate, cost-effective way possible.

The numbers could be reduced right now if hospitals were to ban surgical biopsies where a needle biopsy would suffice — and if patients were to demand a second opinion before submitting to a surgical biopsy.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

ON THE LINE WITH LIBYA

BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

CAIRO

By telephone, I reached a family in Tripoli, Libya, with deep roots in the armed forces there, and members of the family offered some insight into what we should do to help nudge Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi from power.

One member of the family is a senior naval officer who says that his ship and two others were ordered to sail to the major city of Benghazi, which has been liberated by rebels. The boats were instructed to attack Benghazi, he said, speaking through an English-speaking family member.

Some of the senior officers were aghast at the idea of attacking civilians but feared summary execution if they disobeyed orders, by his account. In that tense situation, the officer said, four officials supporting Colonel Qaddafi staged a rally for him on the naval base. Other officers then hushed them up without explicitly condemning the government, my contact said, and there was a fierce argument that ended with the pro-Qaddafi group giving way because it was far outnumbered by the anti-Qaddafi forces.

There has been no mutiny, and in theory the naval officers accepted their orders, my contact said. But in practice they have not yet set sail. I can't say more for fear of getting some very brave people in trouble.

Likewise, in another phone call to Tripoli, I was given firsthand information about an air force unit in the Tripoli area that is staying on base and refraining from getting involved in the fighting one way or the other. The unit's leaders don't dare disobey orders directly, but they are waiting and watching and sitting out the fighting for now.

Those are the people we need to send signals to: Libyan military officers who are wavering about which way to turn their guns.

We shouldn't invade Libya, but there are steps the international community can take that may make a difference by influencing these officers who haven't yet committed. Senator John Kerry, the Genocide Intervention Network, the International Crisis Group and others have laid out sensible steps that countries can take. These include:

Offer a safe haven for Libyan pilots ordered to bomb their country. For example, they could be encouraged to land on airstrips in Malta or neighboring countries. Even if not many took advantage of the offer, Colonel Qaddafi might be more reluctant to dispatch his air force if he thought he might lose it.

Impose financial and trade sanctions on Libya, as President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has suggested, and freeze assets of the Qaddafi family. In particular, military exchanges and weapons transfers should be canceled. Sanctions take time to bite (aside from a cutoff from the global banking system), but they would signal to those around Colonel Qaddafi that he is going down and they should not obey his orders.

Impose a no-fly zone, as Libya's deputy ambassador to the United Nations proposed after he defected, to prevent the government from bombing or strafing its own people. This is what we did to prevent Saddam Hussein from attacking his Kurdish population, and in Libya we could do it without dispatching NATO aircraft to hover continually over the region. We can warn Libya (publicly or quietly) that if military aircraft or ships are used against civilians, Libya's military assets will later be destroyed. The aim is to encourage the air force and navy to keep their assets from being used against civilians.

Encourage the Arab League and African Union to continue to pressure Libya in connection with the killing of its people. Such efforts undermine Colonel Qaddafi's nationalist warnings that this is about foreign powers trying to re-colonize Libya and encourage his aides to appreciate that he is losing all his allies.

Seek a referral by the United Nations Security Council to the International Criminal Court for the prosecution of Colonel Qaddafi for crimes against humanity.

Skeptics will note that none of these moves would convince Colonel Qaddafi to be any more genteel. And these are uncertain levers, creating some risk that he would respond by going after citizens of the United States. But there are two reasons why I think it's very important to pull these levers.

The first is that so many Libyans have defected or seem to be wavering. That military family in Tripoli estimates that only 10 percent of those in the Libyan armed forces are behind Colonel Qaddafi — and the rest are wondering what to do next.

The second is that as this democracy uprising spreads, other despots may be encouraged to follow Colonel Qaddafi's example. We need to make very sure that the international reaction is so strong — and the scorched-earth strategy so unsuccessful — that no other despot is tempted to declare war on his own people.

So let's not sit on our hands.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

REVENGE OF THE POMERANIANS

BY GAIL COLLINS

Right now concerned citizens are probably asking themselves: What will happen if the federal government shuts down?

Also, why is the federal government in danger of shutting down? Whom can I blame for this? Does it have anything to do with what's going on in Wisconsin? Did Congress pass a budget last year at all? Why not? And does this relate in any way to the report that Christine O'Donnell, the former United States Senate candidate from Delaware, may be joining the next cast of "Dancing With the Stars?"

Wow, you are really asking yourselves a lot of questions, concerned citizens. Calm down.

Right now, all around the country, federal agencies are making plans for an orderly way to shut down nonessential services if Congress fails to do anything to keep the boat afloat next week. The air traffic controllers will stay on the job, but I would not plan any visits to a national park if I were you.

Hundreds of thousands of nonessential federal employees will be furloughed, stuck at home without a paycheck and contemplating their nonessentialness. The economy will tank. Nobody is going to be happy.

Except perhaps some of the House members who prowl the corridors yowling about deficits like accountants on crack. They think they were elected to shut down the government, so the idea of closing nonessential services must sound like a day at the beach.

All hope for averting disaster lies with Speaker John Boehner, who used to be a strangely tanned blowhard but is now regarded as a beleaguered statesman. This just happened a few days ago, so you may not have gotten the memo.

Unfortunately, so far, Speaker Boehner has not been all that helpful. There is very little in Washington that can't be explained by an episode of the original "Star Trek," and Boehner is playing out the one where the Romulan captain prefers the ways of peace but is saddled with a crew that will mutiny if he fails to follow through on the plan to blow up the galaxy.

Our current problem began last year when Congress never got around to passing any appropriations bills. It's not all that unusual for our elected officials to fail to complete their budgetary duties, but this was the first time they didn't accomplish anything. Really, you'd think they would have issued a stamp to commemorate the achievement.

To keep the government going, the House and Senate passed resolutions ordering the agencies to keep doing whatever they'd been doing before. The latest resolution expires next week, and the new, transformed House wants to tell the agencies to do less. Last week, it passed a bill calling for a vast degree of lessness.

This happened without a whole lot of preplanning. Although the Republicans are obsessed with stopping illegal immigration, they cut billions of dollars out of border security and immigration enforcement. "Even with all the money in the world, the administration would not succeed in securing the border because they are not serious about it," theorized Lamar Smith, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

President Obama, who has actually done quite a lot about border security, says he would veto the House version, which would wreak havoc with everything from veterans' health care to Head Start. So the clock is ticking. To make things even more dramatic, the Senate's metabolism is unchanged, and everyone has gone home to enjoy a much-needed vacation after two exhausting months during which the senators passed a bill on the Federal Aviation Administration and congratulated Barbara Mikulski on being the longest-serving female senator.

One thing that never changes in Washington is the difference in metabolism between the House and Senate. Have you ever watched pet-rehabilitation shows like "The Dog Whisperer"? The House is the deranged Pomeranian that yelps and throws itself against the window and tears up the upholstery 24/7. The Senate, meanwhile, is like a narcoleptic Great Dane you can hardly rouse for dinner.

The senators are scheduled to get back into the swing of things on Monday with a reading of George Washington's farewell address. Then the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, has until Friday to come up with a plan. It's quite a challenge. No doubt it was much on his mind when he made a big speech to the Nevada State Legislature this week and surprised everyone by demanding that the state have an "adult conversation" about its legal brothels. It did not appear to be the problem the politicians were expecting to tackle next.

Still, you can understand his eagerness to talk about something nonbudgetary. I can't wait to move on to that question about Christine O'Donnell and "Dancing With the Stars," which I am pretty sure will not require an argument about entitlements.

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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

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

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 - 'PITY' IS THE ONLY WORD

Our routine morning discussion of the contents of this daily commentary was more challenging than usual yesterday. For the logical subject was clear: the mock fratricide in Bayburt, on Monday, that marked the 93rd anniversary of the city from Russian troops and Armenian irregulars in World War I. Just what to say proved the more difficult question.

For by what logic do supposedly responsible adults organize a children's exercise with pre-teens dressed in period costume to carry out mock crucifixions of Turks by Armenians, or the reverse? It was an officially organized event so offensive as to leave us like journalist Etyen Mahçupyan, who remarked to our reporter: "When I saw the story, I said one word to myself, 'pity.'" One cannot describe the ritual more eloquently than that.

But we can go on to question the official sanction that was apparently offered to this disgrace. For one might shake one's head in sadness were this a stunt organized by some group of fringe nationalists. One might cluck about childhood "cowboy and Indian" games that found respectability in less thoughtful times, not only in the United States but in Europe and Turkey as well. Turks of a certain age all remember acting out the adventures of "Red Kit" with periodic breaks to allow cars to pass on Istanbul streets. 

But no claims of naivete can be offered or countenanced in this incident. For attendees included no less than Bayburt Gov. Kerem Al and Mayor Hacı Ali Polat. On hand were parliamentarians from the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. Even the commander of the local military garrison, Col. Faruk Kayadelen, joined the exercise in what would surely qualify in many countries as a crime, as incitement to racial hatred. For this was not an exercise in patriotism, as billed by the backers. This was something far different. 

The claim that this was an effort to keep historic memories alive is an insult. This was not in any away akin to the annual commemoration of war, suffering and loss that has become a yearly ritual at Çanakkale, a ceremony that has long bridged the peoples who fought and died on two sides of the same war.  

And this was not just an isolated incident. Last year the incident drew criticism as well, in particular for use of animal blood to enhance the air of authenticity. The mayor seem to take it all in with a sense of civic pride and boosterism, saying the town needs to improve its profile to attract new investment. Pity, again, is all we can say. 

To his credit, the No. 2 of the main opposition Republican Peoples' Party, or CHP, Sezgin Tanrıkulu minced no words in reaction: "It is shameful for Turkey that hate speech is practiced on children in such a way."

This year, we heard from the juveniles and the juvenile-minded. Next year, if not sooner, we hope to hear from the adults in this discussion of history.

* 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

POPULAR REVOLTS AND THEIR ENDINGS

RICHARD REID

Popular revolts usually begin like great operas, with overtures full of fire and brio. Gradually the bright energy of the start dims and gives way to somber themes. We begin to see characters less lovable than we expected. And then the music begins to hint at tragedy.

We can expect a sequence like this as the uprisings in the Arab countries continue to play themselves out. They won't go forward with the buoyancy of the first days. They almost certainly won't produce the happy democratic balance that their organizers had hoped for. At best they'll end well short of tragedy, but also short of the range of gains they sought. Some will indeed sputter out in tragedy, since not all rulers will shy away from shooting enough of their own people to bring silence.

Recent revolutionary experience doesn't throw a hopeful light on the prospects of the Arab revolts. There's been a progression from euphoria to bitterness in each of the world's major uprisings over the past three decades, from Iran to China to the Soviet Union, Myanmar, and beyond. Like today's Arab states, none of those countries had the civil institutions that could have absorbed and channeled the force of the rebellions.

Look at the Tahrir Square we've just watched, and look back at Tiananmen Square in China in 1989. A near-identical uprising took place there. Day after day the square in Beijing was jammed with the makeshift shelters and protest signs of thousands of Chinese, mainly the young, demanding freedoms. At first the authorities looked on without interfering. Members of the Communist Party's Central Committee were even seen among the crowds, mingling with protesters and listening to their complaints. Then the tanks came out, a thousand died, and China today remains a dictatorship with no real outlets for political expression.

Something similar had unfolded in 1979 in Iran, which saw at the start the most genuine people's revolt the world had witnessed since the French Revolution. Students, bazaaris, and mullahs came together to overthrow the regime of Shah Reza. The tide at first ran toward pluralism. Progressive-minded leaders like Mehdi Bazargan, Abulhassan Bani Sadr, and Ebrahim Yazdi were propelled to the top. Then a violent, Khomeniist conservative reaction set in. Now Iran's government is one of the harshest on the planet, perhaps more brutal to its people than the Shah's was.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Red Square echoed to calls for a nation of laws, and Russia rode its own euphoria until the momentum died – as people found no laws or institutions to cling to. Today in Russia, protesters go to jail, and the murderers of reporters investigating state corruption are never tracked down.

In Myanmar (formerly Burma) in 2007, Buddhist monks and citizens by the thousands filed along the streets of the capital city, Yangon, to call for a freer society – and the release from house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy had won 80 percent of the votes in a national election 17 years earlier. Within a week the military government had shot down scores of protesters, imprisoned hundreds of monks, and put the country under martial law. Myanmar is quiet today.

The "color" revolutions in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan began with packed city squares, pageantry, and promises that repression and corruption would end once the rascals were driven out. Although the old rulers have gone, the air has barely cleared. In Ukraine there are political witch-hunts and a pathetic deadlock between pro-Russian and pro-Western party blocs. In Kyrgyzstan the post-uprising government, headed by a veteran apparatchik from Soviet times, has built no bridges with the opposition and has turned a half-blind eye to the ethnic cleansing of the minority Uzbeks.

Can we expect much better from the outcomes in the Arab countries? In Tunisia and Egypt one has the advantages of middle classes and educated youth, but no habit whatsoever of broad self-government or power sharing – no practice in the orderly give-and-take, or the discipline of deferred gratification, that democracy needs.

In Tunisia there is a heady new freedom, and relief that the feared plainclothes police are gone, but there is also a sense that the hard-pressed new government cannot bring change fast enough to satisfy the population. The anger of thwarted expectations may begin to pull the country apart. Already thousands of jobless have given up and taken to the sea in rickety boats, gambling their lives on the hope of finding something better in Europe.

Egypt will not come apart. Its army, far larger and more politically dominant than Tunisia's, will not allow that. But neither will it be ready to fully yield power. Can one imagine that a military establishment that owns 15 to 20 percent of the Egyptian economy will willingly usher in a civilian government whose natural duty will be to cut it down to size? How will this sort itself out?

In both Egypt and Tunisia, the obstacles outnumber the building blocks. The Middle East has been the scene of Biblical miracles in the past. Miracles like those will have been needed if either country is a stable democracy a year from now.

Yemen? In that tribally-fractured country a united revolution will be hard to come by. If it does come, it will be bloody – everyone in Yemen is armed – and the downstream result could be the re-division of the nation into the two nations, north and south. The makings of a balanced democracy do not exist in Yemen. The country's qat habit, which stupefies most males for half of each day, may be the saving of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In Algeria, the polarizing hatred that divided the country in the 1990s, bringing 10 years of massacres, will emerge again in any general uprising. And again it will be the fundamentalist militias of the Islamic Salvation Front, or FIS, against the secular professionals and the army, which set off the bloodletting in 1991 by denying the FIS the electoral victory it had won. A general uprising in Algeria will not have the mild character of those in Tunisia and Egypt. It will give rise to violent score-settling. In such a context, a democratic outcome would be remote in anything short of a decade.

Jordan is unlikely to see unrest beyond street protests by the country's outnumbered Islamists, the Islamic Salvation Front, who over the past eight years have gone from 20 to six seats in the 84-seat lower house of the parliament. The country's main stakeholders – the mostly secular Palestinians and the Bedouins, who are the bedrock of the throne – both have a vested interest in the status quo, and know their interests would be imperiled if King Abdullah were to fall. The Jordanian army, a main state beneficiary, is tough, vetted, and loyal.

Up to a few days ago, Morocco stood as the Arab state least likely to be shaken by unrest. The unrest has come, but protesters' numbers have been comparatively small, their demands modest – more freedom, less absolute power vested in the monarchy – and the police have been unseen. There have been no calls for the youthful king, Mohammed VI, to leave the throne he has occupied for 11 years. Morocco has had al-Qaeda attacks but little indigenous unrest since the last years of the reign of the king's father, Hassan II, who pacified the country's restive Berbers, survived near-death experiences in riding out three rebellions, and co-opted the opposition Socialist Union of Popular Forces, or USFP, by bringing it into the parliament. Many in the country revere King Mohammed's bloodline – he is a descendant of the Prophet – and he is commonly referred to as the Commander of the Faithful. Yet Morocco is a poor nation – its per-capita income is less than that of any country hit by uprisings thus far – and if a spark were struck by state brutality it, too, could be set alight.

In Libya, Colonel Moammar Gadhafi's once-iron grip on the state has been broken by the rebellions in Benghazi and elsewhere. So many have been killed already that there cannot be any peaceful backing away – the struggle to end Gadhafi's 41-year rule is likely to be a fight to the death. His bizarre speech Tuesday night foreshadowed this. Libya seemed earlier to lack the social tinder that ignited Tunisia and Egypt. There was spontaneous combustion anyway. While almost anything could happen in this season of democratic contagion across the Arab states, the downfall of the Libyan dictatorship would be the least expected of all.

Except perhaps for Bahrain. At this writing, the end of the al-Khalifa dynasty's 200-year reign seems to be sealed. In Egypt, those who oversaw the bloody crackdowns may be given a pass; in Bahrain they will not. The Shiite-Sunni divide makes compromise impossible for the time being.

If the king goes, so will many of the Sunni wealthy, and so, for the foreseeable future, will the U.S. Fifth Fleet. Iran is the beneficiary here. For the Shiite government in Tehran, the uprising brings poetic justice. Persia ruled Bahrain before giving way to the al-Khalifas in 1782. The Saudi factor here is the imponderable. Saudi Arabia will not welcome a heavily Shiite Bahrain government. Bahrain is a mere 26 kilometers away from the Saudis' Eastern Province, where there is an unquiet Shiite near-majority.

Seen as a whole, the chances are slim that consensual democracy can soon follow the uprisings in the Arab countries. The ingredients are not there yet. It may take years for them to begin to emerge. In the end, it takes more than a ringing overture to mold the pieces of broken dictatorship into functioning democracies.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

MEDITERRANEAN HEATING UP

SAMİ KOHEN

As all eyes turn to Libya, a country on the edge of a civil war, two Iranian warships passed through the Suez Canal for the Mediterranean. This might not seem interesting, but it gets more meaningful considering the chaotic picture in the region.

Without a doubt Iran did not send a frigate and a supply ship to the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal for nothing. The Iranian ships are heading to the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal for the first time since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979.

As for its political translation:

1. The Iranian ships passing the Suez Canal immediately after the overthrown of the Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt is not a coincidence. The Iranian administration tried to "test" and force the current military regime in Egypt. The first difficult task of the military administration led by Marshal Tantawi was to respond to the Iranian move. Despite the pressures of the United States and Israel, the new Egyptian government deemed it appropriate to allow the Iranian ships in the Suez Canal.

2. A first ever show-off of Iranian warships in the Mediterranean sent the U.S. and Israel a message: "I am here in this water, too." Israel reads this as a provocation as the U.S. feels discomfort. In the end, the Mediterranean is open to Iran now.

3. Iranian warships, according to official statements, will do a military exercise in the Mediterranean and head to the port of Latakia, Syria. This is also an indication of strategic cooperation between Iran and Syria. Iranian intentions are to have a naval base in Syria and even in Lebanon in the future, according to some news reports.

In short, Iran gains several advantages through a military presence in the Mediterranean. The situation, however, creates a danger of disturbing Israel and the West in particular and paving the way for possible tensions similar to the one experienced with the Soviet fleet during the Cold War period.

Iran seems quite pleased with the popular upheavals and regime changes in the Arab world.

In fact, Iranian leaders read the developments as a success of the Iranian Islamic Revolution.

As Israel is shocked by the happenings in Egypt, Iran is equally pleased with the situation. Tehran has seen Mubarak as an ally of the U.S. and Israel and therefore as a rival to Iran all along. In the new period, there is a possibility that Egypt might go under a policy change and the Muslim Brotherhood might become influential in Egyptian politics in time.

But the most pleasing development for the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regime is the uprising in Bahrain. Shiites, who make up 70 percent of the population in the country, are rebelling against the Sunni royal family and ruling classes. Bahrain has strategic cooperation with the U.S. and it is unclear how the upheaval will end there. The incidents, however, show that the Shiite movement in Bahrain, backed by Iran, is gaining more strength. The movement is likely to spread to other Gulf countries in similar situations as well.

All right, can Iran feel the "domino effect" in the region?

As a matter of fact, following the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, protests started in Iran, too. But the Iranian government mobilized the Revolutionary Guards to fiercely disperse the protests. Pro-regime people in the Iranian Parliament have also asked for the execution of distinguished opposition leaders.

In short, Iranian administrators applauding the uprisings against authoritarian regimes in Arab countries cannot stand even the smallest protest groups raising their voices against the Iranian government.

* Sami Kohen is a columnist for daily Milliyet, in which this piece appeared Wednesday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

NAGORNO-KARABAKH: BETWEEN WHITE AND BLACK

RESHAD KARIMOV

National security is a game of managing risk – pure and simple.

During the Cold War, states were the primary target for intelligence; non-state actors, like terrorists, were secondary. As a result, national intelligence services had not digested the implications of the end of the Cold War when the first wave of terrorist attacks struck. In the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, in Russia on Oct. 23, 2002, in Spain on March 11, 2004, in Britain on July 7, 2005 and in India on Nov. 26, 2008, – the international community had not absorbed the effect of one major change when they were hit by yet another. One can see that the national security of the state is being reshaped thanks to this deluge of events.

Unfortunately, one can see that with all positive moments, changes in a world system also offer terrorist groups more effective means to operate seamlessly across borders and much greater opportunities to sustain their existence and to attack what they oppose. One of the reasons is the reality of the "safe haven" phenomenon, providing physical security for many senior terrorist leaders, allowing them to plan and to inspire violent acts around the world (for example, the hunt for the world's most wanted man, Osama bin Laden). Such areas of relative security are exploited by terrorists to indoctrinate, recruit, coalesce, train and regroup, as well as to prepare and support their operations.

One of the changes at the beginning of the century was the understanding of the notion of the "safe haven." Before, the archetypical comprehensive safe haven was considered to be Somalia: a truly ungoverned area, with no functioning central government, no single entity in control of the country and widespread localized competitions for control over small areas of territory. But, since Sept. 11, 2001, many consider the archetype to be Afghanistan under Taliban rule (pre-Sept. 11), a state-sponsored safe haven where al-Qaeda was free to recruit, train, gather resources and plan attacks throughout the country without state opposition and, in fact, with state support.

Taking this into account, one can see that most "safe havens" are associated with some degree of conflict, either as a precursor or as an outcome. For a long time, experts in international relations have warned that non-recognized territories could become a source of terrorism and criminal activities. These territories are de facto independent but not bound by any international treaties. They have their own "armies," "law enforcement" and political institutions, but a lack of financial viability may force them to earn money through weapon sales, drug-trafficking and hosting insurgent/terrorist training camps.

Accordingly, the government of Azerbaijan, on numerous occasions, has pointed to the existence of this new model of state-sponsored safe haven in the form of Nagorno-Karabakh and the adjacent territories (safe haven) that were occupied by Armenia in the early 1990s (sponsoring state). The occupied territories are presently out of national and international jurisdiction.

As there is no law without state and that there is no state without law, one can note that the social contract between the state and its citizen (thanks to the consequences of military occupation and ethnic cleansing by Armenia) has been replaced by a criminal bargain: Illicit activity becomes separatist-sponsored, and in return the sponsors are protected and enriched by the regime. As a result the rule of law is replaced by the bullet and the bribe.

Taking all of the above mentioned into account, one can summarize that whether profiting from "ungoverned spaces" or hollowing out the state from within, transnational criminal groups – plugged into global networks – can gain control of key resources and/or trafficking routes that give them a profitable market share (for example, the existing "Nagorno-Karabakh – Iran – Azerbaijan," as well as the "Afghanistan – Iran – Nagorno-Karabakh and occupied territories of Azerbaijan – Armenia – Georgia –Western Europe" narco-traffic routes, according to the U.S. State Department's 2006 International Narcotics Control Strategy Annual Report).The richer and more powerful the transnational criminal groups become, the greater the threat they pose to national, regional and global security as well as to undermining development and the rule of law.

One can argue that the evolution of international relations has gifted this "safe haven" phenomenon with a new role as a growing threat across the globe, assessing more concretely its impact on the political structures, institutions, actors and processes common to democratic regimes. Such growing challenge has typically been countered by governments at a domestic level, but once the political interests of the "modern empires" or "superpowers" misalign with the vision of the "host state," prospects for much-needed intergovernmental cooperation against such transnational threats become less and less realistic.

One can summarize all of the abovementioned as follows: Letting a "safe haven" fester can manifest itself in a terrorist attack, in international crime or the drug trade, while eliminating safe havens can be a costly policy which can bog countries down in a sticky situation of military operations.

Governments throughout the world must thus unite to combat such "safe havens," where criminals and terrorists have access to enhanced methods of travel and communication through which they can flee from detection and prosecution and conceal the evidence of and profits from their crimes. Pure and simple.

*Reshad Karimov is a military analyst based in Baku, Azerbaijan.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

PRIME DUTY

YUSUF KANLI

Reactions are pouring in. Many readers are condemning the criticism directed by this writer at the absence of a credible condemnation from Turkey of the mass murders ordered by Col. Moammar Gadhafi of Libya.

Some are stressing that there is a time for everything, the priority of the Turkish government is to first take out the Turkish nationals from Libya, then it will condemn Gadhafi's brutal handling of the so-called "Feb. 17 revolution." Some are confident that this writer, as well as political opponents including the opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, were unjustly exploiting the "Gadhafi Human Rights Award" presented to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last November and that "all opponents" would all be shocked to see the award being presented back to Libya once Turkish nationals were all evacuated from the North African country.

I find difficult to understand how people with some brains and self respect might develop a culture of allegiance. Unconditional and full surrender to an ideology, faith, party, leader, Fuehrer … you name it, I just cannot understand. That might be my personal "deficiency."

Still, through various forms of propaganda and tactics, how can millions of people be made to believe or be fooled to believe that they have a leader who is more brilliant than everyone else and who can never make wrong decisions?

Whatever the case, Erdoğan does perfectly and even if he decides to turn a blind eye to immense human sufferings in a Muslim country which recently awarded him with a farce human rights award, he has some extremely important and valid reasons.

It is as if the Turks in Libya were not already made targets by the falling dictator and his bloodthirsty sons. It is as if the dictator can be fooled that the government in Ankara is still friendly toward him. It is as if, even though it might be possible for the Turkish prime minister, it will be possible for the Turkish nation and indeed the global community of nations to forgive a Col. Gadhafi who ordered the mass murder of his own people and even went to the extent of inciting civil war even though he might manage to survive the "Feb. 17 revolution."

The prime duty of the government in Ankara and the governments elsewhere should be to raise their voices today and tell the falling Gadhafi of Libya that 41 years in power is more than enough for any dictator. The time has come to pack up and go wherever he would like to escape. He should stop inciting his people kill each other. He should stop trying to survive on the blood of his own people. He must understand that he and his sons are no longer wanted by the Libyan people. He should give up efforts to cause his own people agony.

Not only angry readers, but some Cabinet member friends complained as well that criticism against the prime minister's attitude toward Libya was unjust. Why? Because "he is the prime minister and as such he knows far better than anyone else when to say what and when not to say anything."

It is perhaps absolutely normal for the Cabinet members to absolutely support whatever the prime minister, the sole power behind their political fortune, does. Why are they, after all, to dare to comment on the undertakings of their absolute and unconditional political master? So far so good… No problem in that… But, why do those people who owe their political fortune to the prime minister think that everyone should be as cheeky as them or, like them, should fully and unconditionally surrender to the prime minister or to the ruling party?

Of course the life of every single individual irrespective whether s/he is a Turk, a Libyan, an Egyptian or whatever is important. Naturally, the Turkish government should care first about the security and well-being of Turkish nationals. The government should definitely spare no effort to bring home those Turks stranded in a civil war or something like that situation in Libya. But, can the Turkish government turn a blind eye to the mass murder of Libyans by their own government forces? Can Turkey say, "My priority is to take out my citizens from Libya, only after than I may consider deploring Col. Gadhafi and ask him to stay away from murdering his own people?"

More than 60 years on, don't the European nations and the American people feel the shame of turning a blind eye to the atrocities at the Nazi concentration camps just for the sake of some other interests?

The prime duty? It is of course to condemn all tyrants, wherever they are, without burying heads into the sand of ifs and buts like an ostrich.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS TO INFLUENCE US DIFFERENTLY

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

Many of us are following developments in the Middle East like an action movie. We've been accustomed to scenes reflected on TV screens every day. But these developments will affect this country in different ways. It is difficult to anticipate them at this point in time. Nevertheless, some clues surface, as long as we don't hurry to obtain any results but wait patiently.

Now it's time to wait and see

In Turkey we talk much.

We don't like analyzing and preparing reports.

We conduct politics through statements, chats and showing off in discussions. Neither journalists nor politicians nor scientists expend much effort.

A great revolution is taking place in the Middle East and our disease just continues its course as is.

The opposition pressures the administration, "Go on speak up, why do you keep quiet?"

The intention here is to find a loophole and score a goal.

The media is not very different. We too are after a statement and look for speculation.

But now it is not the time to speak up.

On the contrary, it's time to shut up.

It's neither time for Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to be a negotiator nor for Turkey to give advice. Ankara does the right thing. It shuts up and waits. Especially the suggestion to resubmit earned awards is certainly not a behavior great states would do but the poor behavior of lower countries.

Nothing is for sure as of yet.

Let's see if Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi can stand.

Let's see if in Egypt an administration can be formed.

If Tunisia calms down.

If in Bahrain and Jordan the storm has ceased.

It is not known.

We don't like it but let's be patient.

AKP will consolidate the situation

If the wind of change does not subside and a new search for democracy spreads, the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, will be the one to benefit the most.

These countries are accustomed to a single-leadership of one man only for many years and it will be hard for them to adapt to a multiple-leadership and working administration.

In front of us we have Iraq. For many years to come it will struggle with internal feuds before things settled.

The same is true for other countries.

This means the region will pass through long years of instability.

This passage will at times lead through "political Islam" and through opposite movements at other times.

But despite this difficult process all will keep an eye on Turkey.

The AKP's experience will be taken as a reference.

Relations with the military and steps regarding democratization will be examined carefully.

If Turkey manages to keep up its stability in the internal order and establish its equilibrium well, especially after elections, then it will become a shining star.

Otherwise it'll become dull.

That is why I attach much importance to the upcoming elections and the constitutional amendments after the elections. If we manage to keep up the existing system without enforcing anything we'll benefit even further.

At this point the greatest duty of all rests with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He needs to take his steps not only thinking about internal politics but also considering the effects on the entire region.

Real test for Davutoğlu begins now

If developments proceed as expected and things progress in a smooth environment without any great chaos, then Turkey's relationship with the Western world will change.

The West is gradually losing its former power of enforcement, which is apparent. In the new process this weakness will show even further. From now on directives from the United States, France or the United Kingdom will not be taken as seriously as before. Naturally due to their economic strength they'll have a certain effect but their previous "decision-making power" won't persist.

What will be left will be Turkey as a country using its soft power and playing its role in establishing a dialogue between the Middle East and the West. Of course, if we can manage to play this role without any exaggeration, then Ankara's value in the West will be altered.

Its place in the eye of the European Union will be different. Relations with Washington will be much more intertwined and close.

More importantly, Turkey's relationship with Israel will experience a new continuum. The big brother (the United States) won't be as comfortable anymore as it used to be which will force it to give more weight to Ankara's views.

As you see, we are facing thousands of possibilities.

The Turkish Ministry for Foreign Affairs probably is entering its most difficult but at the same time most exciting period in its history.

For Davutoğlu the real test begins just now.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE WEST HAS JUST STARTED TO CALCULATE THE COSTS

MARC OSTWALD

The widening contagion from the ouster of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali seems to have given some joy to some in the financial sector. Their fall from power has clearly offered some safe-haven support to government bond markets while also undermining "riskier" corporate, emerging market and high-yield debt. It has also put a spoke in the seemingly unrelenting rise of developed-world equities, which have partly been offset by a paring of overweight positions in emerging market equities. The ultimate trends, however, have been extraordinary, and this suggests a genuine sense of panic.

In truth, this probably reflects a couple of key factors. First, the U.S. "quantitative easing 2" remains in progress and the excess liquidity that this is generating still needs to find a home. Second, while longer-term bond yields in the Group of Seven countries have risen quite sharply since November, they still remain at a level which offers inadequate or unattractive returns to long-term investors, both in absolute terms and because of actual and potentially adverse trends in inflation and official interest rates.

What is also very clear from recent trends is that the highly correlated performance of "risk assets" since the upturn in demand for such risk assets at the end of the first quarter of 2009 has now broken down, with higher commodity prices above all being sustained by the combination of solid developing world demand, supply/demand imbalances and fears over specific commodity shortages related to the "less-than-jasmine" revolution sweeping North Africa and the Middle East.

As a long-term student of the Middle East, there appears to be a lot of "willful blindness" – a termed coined by Margaret Heffernan – in the perspectives of discussions that are applied in the media, and indeed within the financial sector.

In broad terms, what is occurring in North Africa and the Middle East is an end to the various forms of feudal power arrangements that have been in place for many centuries. The causes can be broadly defined in a number of ways: 1) The ubiquitous corruption of power which, as ever, engenders a complacency about rapidly growing social inequalities and endemic abuse of power. 2) The rapid growth in population in most of these countries that has produced a generation who are simply unwilling to accept the established cultural and political "modus operandi." 3) The proliferation of new communication technologies as well as the awareness of trends elsewhere in the world generated by greater geographical mobility. 4) A desire for education and opportunity that an increasingly industrialized and urbanized society has only served to heighten. What is evolving in each country will still be heavily defined by the local culture and not by some "Pax Americana" definition of democracy and capitalism.

The greatest risks were, among others, defined by William Pfaff in "The Politics of Hysteria: The Sources of Twentieth-Century Conflict," in which he says: "The West does not like to admit this fact about itself," namely that it "has been capable of violence on an appalling scale and has justified that violence as indispensable to a heroic reform of society or of mankind" deployed in a "mission of bringing liberty to the world." He adds that this "passion to change history and the world" admits "none of the compromise and quietism of certain other civilizations."

In his 2006 article, "The Clash of Cultural Values," Pfaff argues: "A widespread assumption in both Western elites and popular opinion is that non-Western societies have no serious future other than eventual assimilation into a universal civilization dominated by the West. Along with that assumption goes another: that liberal values and democratic government are integral parts of modernity. This is demonstrably false."

He continues in a similar vein: "The culture of a civilization is not fungible. Modern Western civilization is the product of its own history. It is what it is because of its past. Nobody imposed foreign ideas on the West; it assimilated what it chose. It owns the modern world because it made it. Urbanization, industrialization and nationalism are its own creations, as are imperialism, capitalism, communism and totalitarianism. To everyone else, these were imported or imposed, sometimes willingly, sometimes not. Modern communication has vastly accelerated what was once a slow and often-creative interaction among cultures and civilizations. Now it produces violence. A revolutionary mingling of economies and peoples is under way, carrying with it competitive destruction of human societies as they previously existed."

The hope is that the current wave of "revolution" does not prove as bloody and destructive as previous examples in human history. As Pfaff concludes: "The vulnerability of the non-West is not really military … Currently, the vulnerability is economic. The mid-90s campaign to deregulate global finance and open the world to foreign business investment had U.S. material interest behind it, and reflected the conventional economic wisdom of the period. It was accepted by most Western governments as a program that would make societies richer by admitting them to the international trading system. It has accomplished this, but at the price of destroying what was there before: self-sufficient economies functioning within traditional trading patterns. In this, the cost to the West itself, in undermining an economic society that is based on the obligations of corporate "stakeholders" and public responsibility, has only begun to be calculated."

*Marc Ostwald is a London-based strategist at Monument Securities. He can be reached at mostwald@monumentsecurities.com.

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

CLINGING ON

 

Colonel Gaddafi has long been noted for his eccentricity – his request to pitch his tent in the grounds of the UN building in New York last year was politely refused – and his latest broadcasts to the Libyan people add to his reputation. He spoke on Tuesday from inside a wrecked car, sheltering from the rain beneath an umbrella and on Wednesday delivered a lengthy rant which predicted his own martyrdom and a commitment to killing all those who opposed him. He referred to the demonstrators as being fuelled by drink and drugs and quoted extensively from the 'Green Book' which he authored and which has been the code by which Libya has been ruled during his time in power. Outside of the peculiar world he inhabits the country of which he is still nominally the leader, falls apart. Two Libyan fighter jets defected to Malta, their pilots saying that they refused to bomb or strafe civilians as they had been ordered. The military in most of the east of the country appears to be siding with the protesters, who are increasingly the target of a desperate regime. Libyan ambassadors are resigning their posts saying they no longer support their government. Conservatively, 500 protesters are said to be dead but the number is almost certainly greater. Some may have been killed by warplanes and helicopter gunships.

As the hours pass, it seems less and less likely that the Gaddafi government will survive, and he and his family will have to find alternative accommodation. This is unlikely to be in the Arab world. As in other countries that have lost their rulers recently, there is considerable uncertainty as to what might come next in Libya. The military does not enjoy the popular support that it has in Egypt, and is far from unified anyway. Politically, there has effectively been no power other than Gaddafi for the last 40 years, and building a political system from scratch is going to be a challenge. Gaddafi has had the support of the west – the USA and the UK both investing heavily in Libyan oil and gas reserves – but both are going to have to have a radical foreign-policy rethink in coming days and weeks. The west may not have liked Gaddafi, but it suited the purposes of western nations to see him continue in power. Oil prices globally have risen in response to the crisis, in part because of fears that what is happening in Libya will spill over to other oil-producing countries in the region. Some analysts have predicted $150 a barrel as a possibility; with a crushing knock-on effect for us. Inevitably, this will impact global economic recovery after the financial meltdowns of the last decade. It is no exaggeration to say that we look today at a world undergoing profound change, a change no less impactful than the breakup of the Soviet Union – and laced with just as many uncertainties.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

DANGEROUS WATERS

 

Water, who has it and who controls it, has long been recognised as a potential source of conflict worldwide. Hitherto, these have been highly localised points of friction and not likely to spill over into international conflict, but that is going to change and the sub-continent is the likely venue for future 'water wars' according to a report issued by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We have long been uneasy that all the principal rivers that water our lands have their origins in India, and it is in recognition of this that the Indus Water Treaty was agreed between ourselves and India in the hope of averting future conflict. The report notes that the IWT has acted as an effective tool to avoid conflict for decades, but a combination of the effects of global warming, dams that India is building or proposes to build and Himalayan glacier melt are likely to erode the IWT firewall. Concern is expressed that dams which are being built in occupied Kashmir may be used in future to limit the flow of water into Pakistan, with obvious negative effects on everything from agriculture to heavy industry.

The threat is real, and in the long-term, of existential gravity. Our population is expanding, as is that of India. Both our populations are increasingly energy-hungry and agriculture is getting thirstier by the year. Water distribution and management is poor and wastage high and agriculture is trending towards needing more water for a lower volume of produce. There is no single dam that India is building that threatens our supply, but cumulatively Indian dams will be able to regulate flow at crucial points in the crop cycle. The Americans worry about this because a breakdown of the IWT for whatever reason would threaten their own foreign policy objectives in the region, and either lead to open conflict between India and Pakistan or a level of tension that so hamstrings both as to be utterly disabling. Water security in the region is crucial to US foreign policy and arguably to its national security as well. Much is going to hinge on just how flexible and adaptive an instrument the IWT is, and the indicators are not promising. It has been criticised in the past for its inflexibility to changes in water levels, and any breakdown in the IWT ability to moderate and resolve tensions may threaten regional stability. To date, water has not been used as a weapon, despite being a source of chronic tension between two water-poor nations – one poorer than the other and literally dependent on the cooperation of its potential adversary for its water supply. The US Senate report notes "any perceived reduction in water flows magnifies this distrust, whether caused by India's activities in the Indus Basin or climate change". Last year, we suffered from a surfeit of water, but future years could see drought as there are predicted shifts in the eastern monsoon circulation that will see a reduction of rainfall over India, Nepal and ourselves. Terrorism may be the least of our worries in a water-reduced future.

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

A SKYFUL OF LIES

IKRAM SEHGAL

 

The upsurge in the streets of the Arab world has been force-multiplied by the planned (and unplanned) use of both the Internet and the media, Twitter, Facebook, Al-Jazeera, CNN and the rest have all chipped in.


Joining the dominos Tunisia and Egypt that have fallen, Yemen, Algeria and Bahrain are tottering, Libya is now in a state of virtual civil war. After vicious "remedial" action, the king of Bahrain decided good sense was better than bullheadedness and called off his troops from the streets.


With his eastern region under protestors' control, Muammar Qadhafi is behaving as the madman that he is to hang on to his last bastion in Tripoli. US and EU leaders repeatedly cautioned the authoritarian regimes, with which they were previously not only comfortable but virtually in bed, against the naked use of brute force, including fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships in Libya, against largely peaceful demonstrations. The commentators may be speaking different languages to describe the unprecedented images on TV screens, but the content is the same.


How the modern revolution has been conceived, nurtured and implemented is by itself a study. "To win a battle without bloodying swords" (Tsun Tse Tzu), the media (and now the Internet) can be used and/or misused.

Nik Gowing's book, Skyful of Lies and Black Swans qualifies as a modern-day primer for today's practitioners of political science across the divide from democracy to dictatorship to understand the "new art of war."

Stephen Stern holds Nik Gowing's analysis as daunting but completely dispelling. "Information now travels around the world so fast and in such quantities that all kinds of organisations – governments, businesses – are struggling to respond fast enough or effectively enough. As a result, there is a new vulnerability, fragility and brittleness of power which weakens both the credibility and accountability of governments, the security organs and corporate institutions. This often occurs at the height of a crisis, just when you need clarity from senior executives. No matter that the information – noise – which is being spread may be inaccurate, or only partly true. Leaders have to respond, and faster than used to be necessary. The new core challenge is the tyranny of the timeline." Awash in money and resources and complacent about the expanse of their power, the Arab regimes were not geared to cope with the blinding speed with which information dissemination acted in the upheavals.

The Burma protests of 2007 showed how "the ad hoc community of risk-taking information doers became empowered. Those undisputed and widely corroborated images swiftly challenged the authority and claims of the regime, an example of asymmetric, negative impact on the traditional structures of power."


Nik Gowing calls "the onslaught of new media as the low-tech empowerment of the media space resulting in a maddeningly complex new era of heightened accountability and increasing vulnerability. Couple that with the rapid speed at which social media multiplies information. As a result, civil society is beginning to act independent of the state: they gather images, edit them to their liking, and spread them via the Internet. Thus, people like you and me, without the diplomatic titles, are toying with foreign affairs, crafting an image of the state that's uncensored and difficult to regulate. In the process, even the most authoritarian regimes are being stripped of their power."

 

Commenting on Nik Gowing's book Patrick Meier says, "This "shifting of power from state to citizen is the new 'civilian surge' of growing digital empowerment forcing an enhanced level of accountability that is a 'real change to democracy.'"


As for authoritarian regimes, "the impact of new media technologies has been shown to be as potentially 'subversive' as for highly developed democratic states. The implications for power and policymakers are not well developed or appreciated. The implications of this new level of empowerment are profound but still, in many ways, unquantifiable. The information pipelines facilitated by the new media can provide information and revelations within minutes. But the apparatus of government, the military or the corporate world remain conditioned to take hours."


For leaders beset by revolution in these changed circumstances, Nik Gowing's advises: "Accept the new reality. Then from top to bottom retrain or remove the courtiers who ratchet up old means of control and like behaviour that masks the truth. Help colleagues to become more proficient operators in this new world. Those who adapt best, and quickest, will enhance their career prospects. If we are to manage all this extra information, first we have to learn to live with it. And then take some control back over our lives, as far as is possible. Here is the news. Take control when you can. Switch off when you are able. And, when confronted by a skyful of lies, move fast."


The wildfire speed caught out the besieged regimes. Conversely, their use of the media to put across their own "truth" were exposed to be a lies.


Nik Gowing offers no insight into the future while thoroughly describing the status quo. "If states can't control messages, how does this transform diplomacy? If soldiers are producing videos from the battlefields of Afghanistan on their mobiles, does that hamper security? Do states need to form new regulations for the media to curb its effects? Does this call for policy prescriptions?"


Reviewing the book, Stephen Stern states: "The paradox at the heart of this exciting world is new technology. We crave flexibility, connectivity, and speed, but we risk turning ourselves into busy fools, bamboozled by too much noise and information." Alastair Dryburgh, who runs the Akenhurst Management Consultancy in London says: "You have to distinguish between being more connected, which is potentially very valuable, and just being more distracted, which isn't. We should communicate with people who have expertise or knowledge relevant to the task in hand, and the ability to say something useful."


In his book, Nik Gowing says: "The accumulated evidence is that the asymmetric torrent of overwhelming 'amateur' inputs from the new generators of content produces largely accurate, if personalised, information in real time. It may be imperfect and incomplete as the crisis timeline unfolds. There is also the risk of exaggeration or downright misleading 'reporting.' But the impact is profound. Internal BBC research discovered that audiences are understanding if errors or exaggerations creep in by way of such information material, as long as they are sourced and later corrected. The concept of trust can 'flex' in a crisis, trust does not diminish as long as the ongoing levels of doubt or lack of certainty are always made clear. It is about doing your best in a world where speed and information are the keys. More work is needed to analyse the implications of the new phenomenon for accuracy, speed, personalisation, dialogue and trust. That challenge is the same for all traditional media organisations." A modicum of self-restraint by our media anchors against their tendency of sensationalising would be very helpful.


If peace is used as an instrument of continuing war by other means, a constant and unrelenting battle against one's enemies (and friends) alike, Nik Gowing's primer on how to handle "a skyful of lies" defines a new dimension in the "soft" projection of power.

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@ pathfinder9.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

ECONOMICS OF POLITICAL DESPAIR

SHAHID JAVED BURKI

 

The revolutions that began on the streets of Tunis and Cairo have already sent into exile two long-serving presidents. They have also become the subject of a great deal of analytical interest. Thousands of newspaper columns have been written in hundreds of newspapers across the world. These will be followed by articles in journals and magazines. Books will be written. Lessons will be learned by those who hold political power and by those in whose name that power is wielded.


With this article I begin a series that will examine what led to the challenge by the Arab Street to the rule of their authoritarian masters who had governed with such impunity for so long. Since I am an economist, my emphasis will be on the element of economics. Being a Pakistani I will examine how these developments in an important part of the Islamic world will affect Pakistan, the world's second-largest Muslim country. Being a long-time student of Pakistan's history I will analyse how the past may affect the country's economic and political future. And being a resident in a Washington suburb, I will look at how the West is coming to terms with what has happened in the Arab world, and how its own position in that part of the world will be affected by these historical developments.


How does economics enter the Tunisian and Egyptian pictures – and at a later date possibly the Algerian, the Bahraini, the Jordanian, the Syrian, and the Yemeni as well? The successes achieved by the streets in Tunis, Cairo and Alexandria have inspired and emboldened others like those who agitated in Tunisia and Egypt to look to the street as a way out of their problems. What has caused so much disaffection among the so many young people to risk so much, including their lives, to bring change in the ossified societies in which they live?

This question was ably answered decades ago by a political scientist and economist at Harvard University. Before Samuel P Huntington gained fame for writing The Clash of Civilizations – a book in which he predicted that Islam and the West were destined to clash since the values each espoused could not be reconciled – he had established his reputation in academic circles by putting what he called "relative deprivation" at the centre of political conflict. This thesis was developed in a book that appeared under the title of Political Order in Changing Societies. In explaining his hypothesis he studied the rapidly growing economies in what the Third World. The countries he studied in the 1960s included Pakistan, which then had one of the highest rates of GDP growth in the world.


Rapid growth, Huntington maintained, produced a sense of deprivation among those who were left behind by the process of economic advance. In weak political systems this discontent on the part of the relatively deprived could not be accommodated. This often led to political violence. Huntington's book built around that argument came out at the time when the regime headed by Field Marshal Ayub Khan had begun to crumble. The Harvard professor felt that Pakistan had vindicated him by providing real-time substance to validate his thesis.

The other contribution for understanding the economics of political despair came from the economist Albert O Hirschman, who published his book Exit, Voice and Loyalty about the time that Huntington's treatise came out. In his book Hirschman suggested that those unhappy with their situation could exercise one of three choices. They would remain loyal to the system if the system found a way of accommodating them and dealing with their distress. If that did not happen, they were likely to give voice to their unhappiness; this is something that was done by the crowds in Cairo's Tahrir Square for 18 days following the shorter period of agitation in Tunis. If they could not raise their voice because of repression, many of those who were unhappy with their situation were likely to exit from the system. They could become dissidents forming groups that went underground. This is precisely what those who founded Al-Qaeda did. As is well known, the situation in Egypt was one of the elements that led to the creation of Al-Qaeda.


These two arguments, now decades old, serve us well in understanding the revolution in the streets of Tunis and Cairo. With the two presidents having left their offices, the period of transition has begun. The assumption is that before too long new systems will be in place, based on participation by broad segments of the populations of the two countries, and that these systems will spread the benefits of economic growth more evenly.

There is now debate in policy circles as to why the streets in Tunisia and Egypt suddenly erupted and what will happen to other mostly Muslim countries in the area. There was a combination of many factors that produced the "perfect storms" in the two countries. The most important of these was that a significant number of people in both countries felt that they had been left behind while a small number had gained enormously.

It is interesting that the two revolutions occurred when Tunisia and Egypt were doing well economically. Egypt over the last five years had achieved a rate of growth in GDP that was unprecedented in its history. The same was true for Tunisia. In other words, the situation was ripe for a Huntingtonian-type upheaval. Those who were in despair chose to raise their voice, and in this they were helped by cable TV networks and the new communication technology associated with social networking. Al Jazeera, Facebook and Twitter were the instruments that kept the level of excitement among the disgruntled at a high pitch and also made it possible for the disaffected to coordinate their activities.


The regimes attempted old techniques to suppress agitation spurred on by new technologies. Even though the plug was pulled in Cairo to stop Al Jazeera from broadcasting, and even when Facebook and Twitter websites were blocked by the authorities, technically savvy young individuals managed to keep them alive. The old could not beat the new.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

A DEARTH OF IDEAS

AIJAZ ZAKA SYED

 

An idea can change the world. A great deal has been written about the stark simplicity and honesty of the early believers and how the rustic, desert tribes conquered the world within two decades of the dawn of Islam. What fascinates me to no end though, is their seminal contribution to modern science and all streams of pursuit of knowledge. From astronomy to anatomy to medical science, from mathematics to chemistry to physics to navigation and philosophy to poetry, Muslims have not only left an imprint on modern science, they have shaped our world.


Did you, for instance, know that it was an Arab woman, Fatima al Fihri, from Morocco who founded the world's first university? Or that the blue print of the modern camera was created by an Iraqi scientist, Ibn Al Haitham, more than a thousand years ago? He wrote the Book of Optics that led to the invention of the camera.

How many of us, accustomed to the comfort and speed of air travel, realise that the idea had been first tried by a curious pioneer called Abbas Ibn Firnas? With his body covered in feathers and 'wings' strapped to his arms, the Berber polymath took to the sky in the 9th-century in Cordoba, managing to "fly" several meters before crash landing. It was clearly a work in progress! But let's not forget it happened a thousand years before the Wright brothers attempted their flight.


New York these days is hosting an unusual exhibition profiling hundreds of such pioneers, from Ibn Firnas to Ibn Sena, in a long due tribute to the contribution of the Islamic civilisation. 1001 Inventions: Discover the Muslim Heritage in Our World opened in the Big Apple last month, after immensely successful shows in London and Istanbul attracting 800,000 visitors, is an attempt to recreate the glory of the magical millennium, from 700 to 1700 AD, that changed the world.


It was during this period between the fall of Rome and the rise of the European Renaissance, that the Muslim civilisation led the world in science and technology and virtually everything else. From the humble coffee beans to the crafty game of chess to windmills to clocks to fountain pen to soap to surgical instruments and from quilting or sewing to gunpowder, the list of Muslim inventions is endless. Five-hundred years before Galileo discovered the earth was round and was duly punished for it by the Church, the Muslim scientists had established the spherical nature of the planet.


In the empire of the faith that stretched from Spain through the Middle East to China, new ideas were constantly generated, encouraged and embraced. It's this ferocious hunger for knowledge that took the Arabs and Muslims to great heights of power, prosperity and intellectual supremacy. They fought the battle of ideas from a position of strength, challenging reigning ideas and ideologies of the time.

They looked for and embraced the best from around the world. Which was how the science of arithmetic from India and Greek philosophy were passed on to Europe and the rest of the world. Indeed, the Arab contribution played a critical role in the progress the West has made over the past five centuries.


A culture of excellence coupled with their willingness to learn enabled the Muslims to conquer new lands. Muslim countries were home to scores of universities and libraries long before Oxford and Cambridge came to be founded in Europe.


When the Mongol armies ran over the Middle East sacking eminent centres of power and learning like Baghdad, Damascus and Alexandria and killing hundreds of thousands of people, historians say that there was more ink than blood in rivers. The invaders had burnt and dumped in the river hundreds of thousands of invaluable books and rare manuscripts authored and collected over the centuries.


How would you then explain the current intellectual stagnation? Why aren't Muslims part of the knowledge revolution any more, let alone leading it? Have they run out of steam as a people and as a civilisation?


It's no coincidence that power began to slip from Muslim hands just when they stopped exploring and expanding new horizons of knowledge. Muslims haven't produced one intellectual or scientist of the stature of Ibn Rushd and Ibn Sena, or Averroes and Avicenna, in the past many centuries. A small European nation or a backward Indian state could boast more universities today than the entire Arab world put together.


All we do these days is spend all our time and energy on pointless delusions of grandeur and fruitless debates. Instead of doing something constructive and positive to lift ourselves out of the dangerous intellectual morass and stagnation we are stuck in, we are busy issuing fatwas condemning each other.

There was a time when most Arab countries did not have much by way of financial and material resources. Thankfully, that's not the case today. Yet they are not making the most of the boom driven by the oil wealth discovered during the last century. Instead of endlessly building malls, hotels and palaces and other delusions of grandeur, shouldn't the Arabs be investing their resources in building infrastructures of knowledge like universities, research centres, think tanks and the media? Ours is the age of knowledge.


A war of ideas is on. And only those well prepared and equipped for it will survive this battle of hearts and minds. If for nothing else, Arab countries should make greater investments in knowledge for their restive, young generations. After all, a majority of the Middle East's population today is young and very restive. They are growing up with a sense of purpose and direction and a keen consciousness of their place in the world. The Arab nations will ignore them at their own cost.


There's no dearth of talent or resources, human or material, in the Muslim world today. What it needs is original ideas and men who could translate them into reality. More important, what is needed is an opening of minds.

The Writer is based in Gulf and has extensively written on the Muslim world affairs. Email: aijaz.syed@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

TIDES OF DESTINY

RAOOF HASAN

 

 "I answered that the die was now cast. I had passed the Rubicon. Swim or sink, live or die, survive or perish with my country was my unalterable determination".


— John Adams


Sixty-three years is a long time for a nation to determine its destiny. But if in its journey it mostly goes around in circles, it is like someone walking for a lifetime without getting an inch closer to his destination.


Pakistani society appears to have lost its balance and composure. This is evident on the streets and roads on a daily basis. While people are aggressively inclined to laying claim even to that which is not rightfully theirs, they show gross insensitivity to the rights and privileges of others. The rush to enter a door, the disdain for the people who may already be waiting and the extreme aggression that is apparent from our gestures and movements are only some of the grave symptoms of some kind of ailment. There is utter lack of discipline and order. Look at the way we drive. There is a mad rush to get somewhere all the time. One sees vehicles overtaking other vehicles from the right and from the left. If there were three cars on a three-lane road, they would create a jam and the road would be blocked. At the railway intersections, I have often witnessed traffic from both sides parked across the entire road with no one willing to budge. Scenes at the traffic signals are worse: every vehicle that drives into the crossing would try to go on its own path. There are honks, jeers and rude remarks all around.


There are no guides, no leaders. The existence of leaders appears to be a story of the distant past. Now, it is only a motley crowd that seems to have lost its direction and is, inevitably, inclined to a crude display of destructive anger and fatalistic extremism. We have stretched everything to the limits, straining rules and relations and also, to a large extent, the prospect of regaining composure and sanity.


Corruption is rampant. While the leaders and the privileged indulge in it to create fiefdoms and empires, the poor have to resort to it to stay alive – two volatile extremes of the same malady. The ruling elite are glad that they have perfected their monstrous strategies, as they pay lip service to democracy. They have come to the point of invincibility. Their dominance is absolute. The frustration of the masses piles up and their despair keeps mounting. This is made worse by more and more people falling below the poverty line. The deteriorating law and order situation is an unnerving phenomenon. There are no jobs for the jobless, no education for those who crave it and no avenues for progress for those who are willing to make the effort in spite of impediments. A feeling of hopelessness seems to be taking over.


The political void is increasing. The Sindh home minister, who belongs to the ruling party, has vowed that "if the PPP came under an undemocratic and illegal attack (in Punjab), no office of PML-N from Karachi to Kashmore would be safe." But, then, this was expected, because hopes that the PPP government would initiate genuine steps to improve governance were a figment of imagination. After three years of grave misrule by the ruling party, the tentacles of deceit and corruption have spread all over Pakistani society. It is with the continuation of this style of governance that the PPP is irretrievably aligned and there is no hope for a change to occur. This has also been evident from the manner in which efforts for the promulgation of the rule of law have been systematically thwarted and numerous Supreme Court injunctions blatantly flouted.


But the most worrisome factor is the unbridgeable disconnect between the rulers and the ruled. While the former are busy filling their personal coffers, life has become perpetual torture for the latter, with no hope for redemption. With the prevailing levels of frustration, the lack of delivery by the political leadership is being increasingly attributed to the inability and inefficacy of the system as being insufficiently and inadequately equipped to ameliorate the problems of the impoverished.


We have drifted far into the deep sea with no boatman or beacon to show us the way. The tide is rising menacingly. The currents are taking us farther away from safety. The noise of the sea is deafening, but there is an incomprehensible stillness inside. The danger of an all-consuming storm is haunting, but the will and effort to escape it are missing. It is as if we are caught in a vortex, having irretrievably resigned ourselves to the eventualities of fate.


This is in sharp contrast to the waves of change sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa. The autocratic regimes in Tunisia and Egypt have already fallen while people in the hundreds of thousands are out chanting in Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, Algeria, Morocco and other countries of the region in an unprecedented display of efforts to "claim their country." Will the yearning for change in our neighbourhood and its ever-increasing echoes waken people from their slumber? Although they have drifted away, they may still find their way back to claim their destiny: "Man stands in his own shadow and wonders why it is dark." (Zen proverb)

The writer is a political analyst.


Email: raoofhasan@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

A LEADERSHIP GUILTY OF DOING TOO LITTLE

 KAMILA HYAT

 

The writer is a freelance columnist and former


newspaper editor


"Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue," goes the saying dating back to Victorian times. Tradition holds that a wedding outfit comprising each of the above items brings good luck to brides. One wishes good luck could be lured Pakistan's way with a saying or charm of some kind. The country desperately needs it – and it doesn't look as though its leaders have any intention of helping matters along.

Take the cabinet for instance. Of the first 22 members announced for the new federal cabinet, 18 are 'old' faces returning to occupy 'old' posts. The demand from the PML-N that 'corrupt' ministers be ousted seems to have been flouted quite deliberately with men most often named for wrongdoings returning to their ministries.

The two notable omissions weaken the ruling set-up. Both former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and former information minister Qamaruzzaman Kaira were considered the – relatively speaking – more competent members of cabinet. The reasons behind Qureshi's ouster are now clear and have added to the fissures already running through the PPP. Kaira's exit seems more bizarre, especially as he has been replaced by Firdaus Ashiq Awan – perhaps best known for her many gaffes on and off air. It will be fascinating to see how she handles an aggressive media, not given to demonstrations of mercy.


The head-count has fallen – and for this we can be grateful. The previous cabinet, with its 54 members, has probably done the country more harm than good given the exorbitant amounts spent on maintaining a body of ministers and their expansive entourages during a financial crisis.


Certainly, the performance of the cabinet left almost everyone completely unimpressed. The crises in many areas appear to have grown worse under its guidance. The state of law and order is worse than ever before, the militant threat remains in place, the economy is in shambles and the energy crisis continues.


There is talk of hyper-inflation and even economic collapse. In other words, things look rather blue – much of the 'new' cabinet is in fact 'old' and few useful ideas seem to have been borrowed from anywhere. We continue floundering on as we have done before.


The revised cabinet hardly inspires confidence, even if at least some changes, such as the return of Raza Rabbani, are good omens. What was needed was a far more drastic shift, if only to build among people some hope of a genuine commitment to better governance than what we have seen in the past.


One problem is the lack of available options within the PPP; not much talent is visible within the ranks. There are still some ministers who should have made an exit given the reputations they earned. While, the present reshuffle may have reduced numbers, it has not served to reassure the people that their well-being is of paramount interest to the government.


What Pakistan requires more than anything else at this juncture is competent and committed leadership. There is not even a glimpse of this in sight. The new cabinet hardly signals change or the beginning of a new era. The government must realise it only has two years to go before the next general election. Its track record over the last three years is hardly likely to inspire a cascade of votes. Just this factor alone should be enough to make party leaders see that genuine effort is urgently required.


Beyond the question of electoral performance, we have the far more critical matter of the future of our country to consider. At the moment, there is real risk of a rapid slide into anarchy. In Balochistan, almost every day, there are new attacks on power or gas installations. As a result, parts of the province, including Quetta, are quite often plunged in darkness – a state that corresponds with Balochistan's political situation. In Sindh, the railway lines have been attacked in action that seems to follow a similar pattern. Militancy inspired by other motives claims lives in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and in other areas where sectarian attacks have occurred.


Karachi continues to plunge periodically into a frenzy of killings triggered by ethnic rivalries and in tribal areas, the still buoyant Tehrik-e-Taliban continues to challenge the writ of the state, addressing press conferences and issuing statements, apparently undeterred by the military offensive staged against it during the past two years.

Elsewhere too, extremism seems to flourish – in some cases at least, spurred on by mosque imams and the distorted views they pass on to worshippers who are, in most cases, themselves illiterate. Social statistics paint a bleak picture and one that is largely ignored – children in the country die each day because they do not have enough to eat; across Sindh, malnutrition is acute; education and health remain neglected, and increasing numbers of people commit suicide each year because of their miserable circumstances. Parents are forced to sell children into slavery and bonded labour continues unabated in many parts of the country. These realities are rarely discussed in parliament, or during cabinet meetings.


It isn't easy to see how things will change. Nor can change happen overnight as some leaders in the past had apparently hoped. But a start that can lead toward change needs to be made – and the cabinet should be the team to lead this.


It appears unlikely that the 'new' set-up will be able to break from the pattern set by the former body. This means there is a real risk that the crises we have been facing for so many months will continue unresolved and that the problems of our people will not be given the immediate attention they deserve by a leadership guilty of doing too little, too late.


Email: kamilahyat@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

A 'JITTERY' ISRAEL

 JONATHAN COOK

 

Israel has been indulging in a sustained bout of fear-mongering since the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak was toppled earlier this month. The ostensible aim has been to warn the international community that the lengthy "cold peace" between the two countries is on the verge of collapse.


In reality, the peace treaty signed three decades ago is in no danger for the foreseeable future. The Egyptian and Israeli armies have too much of a vested interest in its continuation, whatever political reforms occur in Egypt.

And if the Egyptian political system really does open up, which is still far from sure, the Israeli military may actually be a beneficiary – if for all the wrong reasons.


The main value of the 1979 Camp David treaty to the Israeli leadership has been three decades of calm on Israel's south-western flank. That, in turn, has freed the army to concentrate on more pressing goals, such as its intermittent forays north to sow sectarian discord in Lebanon, its belligerent posturing towards first Iraq and now Iran in the east, and its campaign to contain and dispossess the Palestinians under its rule.


But since Mubarak's ousting on February 11, Israeli politicians and generals have warned that democracy for Egypt is bound to empower the country's Islamists, supposedly bent on Israel's destruction.


Last week, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, compared a post-Mubarak Egypt with Iran, saying Israel was "preparing for the worst". Likewise, Gabi Ashkenazi, the departing chief of staff, stated that Israel was braced for the peace treaty's cancellation as the "moderate camp" weakened.


Officially, Tel Aviv's concern is that, should the treaty be revoked, Israel will have to redirect much of its martial energy to preparing for potential hostilities with its neighbour, the most populous Arab state. Israel's anxious declarations about the peace treaty, however, are largely self-serving.


Peace has reigned between Israel and Egypt because it is so strongly in the interests of both militaries. That is not about to change while the Egyptian and Israeli general staffs maintain their pre-eminent roles as the praetorian guards of their countries' respective political systems.


Since the signing of the 1979 agreement, Washington has bought off the hawks on each side with massive military subsidies underwritten by the American taxpayer. The US has been happy to bankroll an accord that strengthens Israel, its useful Middle Eastern ally, and buys the acquiescence of Egypt, the Arab state best placed to resist the current regional order.


Three decades of American money thrown at the two armies have made each a key player in their respective economies – as well as encouraging a culture of corruption in the senior ranks.


Both Egypt and Israel's armies are revered by their countrymen. Even should that change in Egypt over coming months, the army is too strong – thanks to the US – to be effectively challenged by the protesters.

Israeli hawks, however, are right to be concerned – on other grounds – about the "threat" of political reform in Egypt. Although greater democracy will not undermine the peace agreement, it may liberate Egyptians to press for a proper regional peace deal, one that takes account of Palestinian interests as the Camp David accord was supposed to do.


Not least, in a freer Egypt, the army will no longer be in a position to play Robin to Israel's Batman in Gaza. Its continuing role in the strangulation of the tiny enclave would likely come to an end.


But in such a climate, the Israeli military still has much to gain. As Israeli analyst Aluf Benn has observed, Israel will use the Middle East's upheavals to highlight to the US that it is Washington's only reliable ally. Its show of anxiety is also designed to remind the US that a jittery Israel is more likely to engage in unpredictable military adventures.

A version of this article originally appeared in The National published in Abu Dhabi.


Courtesy- counterpunch.org


The writer is a journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. Website is www.jkcook.net

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN'S IMAGE IN QADDAFI'S EYES

 

LIBYAN strong man– Colonel Muammar Qaddafi is giving tough fight in the face of growing turmoil in his country triggered by protests against his forty-year rule. According to reports, he is using warplanes, tanks and mercenaries against his own people, vowing to die as 'martyr' rather than succumbing or leaving the power. The situation would become clear soon but during his television address Qaddafi made references to Pakistan, which should serve as an eye-opener for us. The Libyan leader while contemptuously terming protestors as rats, vowed that he would not allow Libya to become Pakistan or Afghanistan.


These remarks are a bit disturbing as they come from a person who is otherwise believed to be a friend of Pakistan and in deference to his love for Pakistan a famous stadium in Lahore was named after him. This is disgusting that Pakistan's image has dipped so low that even leaders like Colonel Qaddafi should pass on such remarks. This is indeed shameful for a country of 180 million that has all the potential to grow and that is one of the seven declared nuclear powers of the world. Pakistan is suffering from image problem because of a host of problems but mainly due to militancy and terrorism related incidents. For the last few years, Pakistan's name in the international media appears mostly with reference to bomb blasts, suicide attacks, demonstrations, violence and strikes. Pakistan has been in the forefront of the campaign against terror and has suffered more than any State both in respect of men and material losses but despite that our so-called coalition partners and friends are engaged in a sustained campaign in painting a black picture of the country. Their motives are understandable – they want to destabilize the country to such an extent that its nuclear assets are portrayed as vulnerable. But we are sorry to point out that our leadership too is not fully cognizant of the dangers and is blindly following American dictates, complicating the situation further. It is time that we bring the ongoing fighting against terrorism to a swift end, initiate process of dialogue and undertake much-needed reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes in the affected areas. Apart from the Government, it is also the duty of political Parties and each and every Pakistani especially intellectuals to make conscientious efforts to help improve the image of the country.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

RAISANI SEES BALOCHISTAN IN DARK AGES

 

FINALLY Balochistan Chief Minister has admitted that security situation was worsening due to activities of anti-social elements and educated people were being forced to leave the province. Talking to media persons Nawab Aslam Raisani said that those behind the killings were doing no good and if the present situation was allowed to go on, the Province may plunge into darkness.


We are glad that ultimately Mr Raisani has woken up and realized the gravity of the prevailing law and order situation, which as Chief Executive of the Province, is his primary responsibility to control. This is what we have been warning regularly that the Province is bleeding in many respects and fallen into the hands of a bunch of few militants and some foreign funded separatists who have taken the lives of people their hostage. The militants have been regularly attacking pipelines, pylons, railway tracks, trains and other government infrastructure. They have targeted teachers, doctors and engineers from other Provinces and after the death of several at the hands of the militants, many have already left. The Government is promising higher pay and allowances to officials posted in Balochistan in order to stop them from leaving. This indicates that discontent is simmering in Pakistan's largest and resource rich Province. Mr Raisani is heading Balochistan for the last three years and almost all the elected representatives are part of his Government. They enjoy a lot of influence and full control because many of them are tribal elders and no one can dare to disobey them in their respective constituencies. No doubt nationalists belonging to a couple of Parties have their own grievances because they are out of the Government but as Chief Minister it is the responsibility of Mr Raisani to serve as a bridge between the estranged people and the Federal Government by holding talks and pacifying them. Balochistan now has adequate resources at its disposal after the National Finance Award and the Government must use them by launching development schemes that would generate employment opportunities and bring down the poverty level. If he takes the initiative and holds a sort of roundtable conference, we hope he would receive a favourable response and a way out could be found to isolate those who are playing in the hands of enemies of Pakistan. We warn that if the present bloodshed continued, people would leave and the brain drain would take the Province to dark ages.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

CRIPPLING GAS SHORTAGE

 

A latest report reveals that industries in Punjab have been hit badly because of suspension of gas to them and in Faisalabad alone 450 industrial units have been paralysed, rendering over one hundred thousand workers jobless. Gas supply to the industries in the city, which is hub of textile manufacturing, remains suspended for four days a week under the gas supply management plan.


Though the Government claims that exports this year have increased significantly during the current financial year, it is understood that this upward trend is not because of increase in volume of exports but hike in value of textile goods in the international market. Anyhow, had there been no power and gas shortages, one is sure the exports would have taken a quantum jump providing meaningful relief to the hard-pressed country. No doubt, previous and present leadership have been making strenuous efforts to attract foreign investment and during his just concluded visit to Japan, President Asif Ali Zardari too offered to set up special economic zones for Japan but the question arises how such zones can succeed without provision of basic facilities like electricity and gas. As for power, we have been hearing for the last three years high sounding claims by Raja Parvez Ashraf about setting up of this and that power plant but at the end of the day the power shortage has increased and the Minister had to be shown the door out for his dismal performance. Same is going to happen in the case of gas shortage, as there is no worthwhile plan to overcome the crisis in foreseeable future. As economic development is closely linked to energy security, we would urge the authorities to take concrete measures for speedy implementation of gas pipeline projects both with Iran and Turkmenistan besides accelerating the pace of exploration at home.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

A REVOLUTION IN THE MAKING

AHMAD HASAN SHEIKH

 

Our vibrant media inebriated with no holds barred freedom is busy creating such a pervasive climate of gloom and doom that we as a nation appear to be going up in smoke any time soon.


No doubt when it puts its fingers on the oozing sores of our society, it delivers a welcome jolt to its conscience. But there are hazards, sometimes quite grave, if this line is pursued without restraint. Every human society has its pockmarks. Every society exploits its weaker segments. But to generalize and play up social abuses as some kind of an endemic ailment peculiar to us is the surrender to morbidity.


Whatever the challenges, as long as society is not made to lose faith in itself, it can meet them and even convert them into advantages. At this point, an example from the life of the Holy Prophet (May Peace Be Upon Him) comes to mind.


It is related the Holy Prophet (PBUH) while seeing off Mua'z bin Jabal whom he had appointed Governor of Yemen, asked him: "Mua'z, how will you decide when an issue comes up before you?" He replied: "In the light of the Holy Qur'an." The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said: "If you do not find guidance in it." He said: "I will follow your Sunnah." The Holy Prophet (PBUH) again queried him: "If that dos not help you either." Mua'z replied: "In that case I will exercise my own judgement."


Of course, when he said he was talking of judgement by a mind saturated with the spirit of the Holy writ and the teachings of the Messenger. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) was happy with Mua'z's answer but then gave him a piece of advice, which is of perennial value to all societies, in particular to us today. He said" "Mua'z, do not create despondency among the people, give them hope." A society that losses hope just withers away. We face that predicament today.


But it appears it is almost with masochistic glee that our media, without the professional sieve, is allowing all kinds of brazen lies, fabrications, and slander to be put across ad nauseum. Who benefits from this vicious chatter anyway. It is delivering lethal blows to the national psyche, which is becoming resigned to its threatened fate. If any positive developments take place, the media remains inert and is content to dispose them off by routine coverage. One is tempted to thank Gen Musharraf for packing off the Sharif brothers into exile because it provided at least Shahbaz Sharif, away from the rough and tumble of politics, time to reflect on the problems facing our society. He came to the right conclusion that their root cause is lack of educational facilities for the vast majority of our people, particularly those living in less developed areas. There is both the absence of institutions of modern education and of lack of means of parents to send their children to them.


Detractors notwithstanding, Mr Shahbaz Sharif has re-oriented the entire thrust of governance in Punjab towards multifarious welfare of the people. But his crowning performance is in the field of education.


Apart from several other measures in this sector, vital in their own genre, his plan, which has already been launched, to establish a network of Danish Schools to provide access to modern education to deserving children of the deprived sections of the population in less developed areas of the province is truly the first revolutionary measure undertaken by any government since the establishment of Pakistan.


Under the scheme, the government in effect assumes the role of caring parents providing the admitted students free education, free books, free uniform, and free board and lodging. How many talents, which are not the monopoly of the well-to-do classes, otherwise go awry simply because of lack of means to have access to education.

An uneducated people are an uninformed and hence unpredictable people, who become an easy prey to demagoguery, whether political or more so, religious. Our spasmodic flirtations with democracy turn into failure because our voters do not have a proper understanding of the issues and time and again back up the same discredited elements.


But the most perturbing phenomenon that has surfaced recently, and which has severely jolted national complacency, is how easily these people can be turned into a frightening combustible material by religious manipulators. The reason again is that they do not posses the knowledge to have direct access to the basic source of their faith, the Holy Qura'n, and are therefore unaware of what Islam stands for.


The early generations of Muslims, and we are not even a patch on them either in religious knowledge or piety, produced pioneers in a wide array of science, which triggered renaissance in the West. And here we are with our "Ulema-e-Karam" claiming to teach "Ulooms" but instead churning out from their seminaries social malcontents, sectarian exclusionists and religious morons.


Religious controversies, blown up out of proportion, which is their preferred pastime, is diverting the creative energises of the people away from progress and knowledge. As a result, from torch-bearers of knowledge the Muslims have become an anachronism in the international community, breathlessly making new advances in modern knowledge.


It is equally not surprising to see a big chunk of our educated classes, uninitiated in Islamic learning, either out of ennui or pre-occupation with worldly pursuits, uncritically accepting what the Mullah says as the authentic Islam. Essentially, we are Muslims of hearsay and ritual-laced variety.


One does not have to be an Allama to understand the basic thrust of the Qura'nic message, which again and again draws our attention to the manifestations of Nature as bearing the Divine Signs to read for our guidance. Only by acquiring modern knowledge we can unravel their secrets and be guided to earn Allah's Grace. We should therefore be looking upon our scientists as our modern day Auliya-e-Karam.


Viewed from this perspective, the Danish schools constitute the first meaningful inroad into the expanse of fossilised thinking spawned by religious madrasas in educationally backward areas. As the new generation nurtured on modern knowledge comes up, the society is bound to undergo a radical change.

It undoubtedly is a revolution in the making- a revolution through evolution rather than an upheaval. And it throws a challenge to our media, too much addicted to spicy fare, whether it continue to treat it as a prosaic affair, noting to be excited about.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

CRUCIFIXION OF HUMANISM

AZAM INQILABI

 

Global humanists and pacifists feel shocked and traumatized when USA blatantly and outrageously vetoes a Security Council resolution which emphasizes condemnation of truculence and intractability of recusant and contumacious Israel. Originality of ideas and facts crops up when political analysts, through introversion and meditation, delve deep into history to make a psychoanalysis of the resilient obstreperousness of Zionists.

Yes, it were the Jews who had hatched a conspiracy to hang Jesus Christ. Their nefarious designs were foiled and frustrated by God Almighty. Ascension of Jesus Christ became a reality; and bloodthirsty adversaries of the prophet felt crestfallen. It were the Jews who ruthlessly slaughtered and butchered the prophets Zakaria and Yahya. And Quran and Bible reveal and relate the torment copiously. Roman warlord Titas, under the transcendental law of retribution, felt motivated to storm Jerusalem in 70 AD to ensure requital and vengeance. Thus Jews were indiscriminately massacred and exiled from Palestine. Present-day Christians of the West, in flagrant contravention of the essence of Christianity, condoned the crimes of the Jews and "magnanimously" owned them as foster-brothers.


End of World War-I marked the beginning of the downfall of Turkish Caliphate. The ignominious Peace Treaty that was signed by Turkey and triumphant imperialist Britain in May 1920 envisaged carving out of a Jewish state (now christened as Israel) within the expanse of Palestine. Since 1947 the western countries, including USA and Britain, started patronizing, pampering and mollycoddling Israel. The Zionist state felt encouraged and emboldened to wage a war against Palestinians. They were mercilessly slaughtered and were forced to go into exile en masse. The sufferings of about two million exiled Palestinians are ineffable. The saga of their sacrifices is enviable for those who have been resisting and withstanding the onslaught of the alien forces in Kashmir, Afghanistan and Iraq.


Whither Puritanism and pietism of Christendom? What about the fideism and religiosity of the Christians in the West? Has the doctrine of fidelity and allegiance to Jesus Christ become redundant? What does your materialistic symbolism and allegory insinuate and delineate? By grafting Zionism— the movement of Jewish chauvinists and fascists ideally believing in regressive and aggressive nationalism averse to Muslims and Christians alike— into Christianity you comically epitomized a civilization muddle and conundrum. And thus is how you ridiculed traditionalism which prioritizes respect for Jesus Christ and his teachings. Now you feel contended with your materialism and capitalism which is drawing inspiration from machiavellianism. You feel happy when you find yourselves hobnobbing with Zionists hell-bent on ethnic cleansing in Israel. This political hocus-pocus of yours vitiates and aggravates the already deteriorating socio-political environment all over the globe.Capitalist imperialism of the West taught the western elite and aristocrats to sanctify and legitimize class-war between haves and have-nots, between privileged class and dispossessed people of the world. Capitalist bourgeoisie and prominenti, as lovers of cannibalism and vampirism, prioritized predatory political manoeuvre and machination. You, in order to achieve the objective of dismemberment of Soviet Union, co-opted Afghanis as "Vanguard Mujahideen" equipping them with sophisticated weapons to embark on a sustained guerrilla campaign against Soviet forces. You made a cat's-paw of these innocent Afghanis and used them as expendable pawn in the war of attribution which lasted a decade. You, through your Machiavellian manipulation, found it expedient to demonize a wanted militant bogeyman to simply camouflage your imperialistic stratagem to colonize Afghanistan. Your unilateralism, totalitarianism and quixotism facilitated your walkover in the blitzkrieg in Afghanistan. You knocked Afghanis of their perch. You battered and pulverized that country smashing it into smithereens. Your brinkmanship enticed and allured you to ignore the doctrine of consequentialism which enjoins on discreet, circumspect and nonchalant political or military activism. You pushed Afghanis to the wall through rash and brash military adventurism. Apocrypha and mythomania of the western media made you imbrue your hands with the blood of innocent people of Afghanistan, Iraq etc. You, as consummate strategists, sought the help of UN Security Council, the corporate body or the encounter group, to legalize what you called "justifiable homicide". That is how the sanguinariness of the West harried, horrified and brutalized Afghanistan and Iraq. Notwithstanding your destructive military campaign the brave, chivalrous and resolute people of these desolate countries do not sag under the onslaught and do not feel like succumbing to the devastating military campaign and hurricane of the West. Distressed and distraught people of these war-ravaged countries have reposed trust in God Almighty.


The Providence will certainly retrieve and redeem these countries from the whirlpool and vortex of uncertainty, horror and terror. Humanism, cult of the cultured people, entails and emphasizes compassion, benevolence, philanthropy, altruism, utilitarianism, egalitarianism, political freedom and universal right to democratic dissent based on logical dialectics. Humanism has become a casualty due to the onslaught of capitalist imperialism, which has crucified wisdom, sobriety, righteousness. The "order" of global disorder suits the interests of the West. It is the best for the West. Vampires of the western countries relish the helplessness of the enslaved people of Kashmir, Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq where people feel overtaxed by commotion, pandemonium, pell-mell and political cataclysm. Capitalist imperialism is interested in perpetuating the state of uncertainty in these subjugated countries.


So crucifixion of humanism, the tragic episode of the contemporary world, is the real issue the global civilization is confronted with. Enslaved freedom zealots, underprivileged and dispossessed people of the world should muster up courage to stem the rot and resurrect humanism. Hardened hearts may not subscribe to your candour, straightforwardness and uprightness. However, you have to be steadfast in your democratic assertion in the campaign for the revival and restitution of humanism, which is reeling, wincing, wailing and groaning under the unrelenting onslaught of the western imperialism.


India, under the delusions of grandeur and intoxication of power, does not feel like budging and relenting in its domineering and overbearing attitude in Kashmir. Kashmir will continue to be a grouse moor for India unless proponents of objectivism make Indian liege lords realize the exigency of entente cordiale between India and Pakistan— the coeval, co-equal contemporaneous nuclear powers of South Asia unnecessarily entrenched in the mire and marsh of political polarization and belligerency. Chanting of monomaniac "atoot ang" mantra under the spell of megalomania and ego-centricity is no answer to the complex and unpredictable situation of Kashmir. Why should the political prisoners continue to languish in the concentration camps of India? Why should the draconian laws appear "more potent than nuclear deterrent" in Kashmir? This is not the way to mitigate and alleviate the hardships and sufferings of Kashmiris.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

WORSENING ECONOMY

YAHYA AHMAD

 

Pakistan is a developing country and is considered to be a semi-industrialized nation. It is a nation of 170 million people, out of which almost 20 percent live below the poverty line. The Gross Domestic Product or GDP for Pakistan in 2010 stood at 167 billion dollars, constituting only 0.27 % of the world economy. Terrorism has cost Pakistan 6% of its GDP in 2009 – 2010. Pakistan is also considered to be the world's 27th largest economy, based on its purchasing power. The economy is deteriorating day by day, as core inflation has now reached 12%, according to the economic survey conducted by the government. Unemployment has been plaguing the country throughout its existence and especially after the global recession, the situation has worsened. The worsening economic condition has also forced the government to slow down investments in development projects, which has also resulted in unemployment. Foreign investment has been fleeing from the country, due to the existing security situation. Since the start of the war on terror in 2001, Pakistan has received billions of dollars in aid and is still unable to stabilize its economy.


It is mostly due to the rising tide of militancy and volatile security situation that, the entrepreneurs and businessmen have pulled out their investments. These economic conditions, along with the rising inflation and growing unemployment have presented the radicals, with a tool to exploit the public for their agenda. The rise of extremism has been directly linked to the failing economy, by many observers. It is human nature that, whenever an individual or nation faces difficult times, they project the blame on others, so they can vent their grievances. Throughout history fascist and dictatorial regimes have used this ploy, to unite their nation against a certain country, ethnic or religious group. The religious extremists have been using the same ploy on the ignorant Pakistani people. The lack of education and awareness among the masses has also contributed to its spreading. This is a vicious circle, where the failing economy gives rise to terrorism and the increase in terrorism deteriorates the economy.


The extremists target minorities, mostly belonging to different sects and religions, while blaming the west for imperialism. They convince people that, all the problems they face in their lives are due to these western states conspiring along with their collaborators. The word "collaborators" is mostly associated by these extremists to the minorities or state officials. They have branded the whole economic system as a Zionist conspiracy and persuade the people of it being the reason for their economic woes. A person, who is financially weak, also remains disturbed and these insecure minds are easy to indoctrinate with poison. These terrorists are not to be underestimated in their skills of persuasion, as they have been completely trained in the art of psychological warfare. Besides this, these networks also lure these people with financial and monetary rewards. Due to the strong financial resources of these networks, they are able to pay these individuals even regular salaries. This was evident in Swat and can still be seen in the Taliban controlled areas. The Taliban and other extremist groups pay regular salaries to their foot soldiers and commanders. They also promise to financially support the families of the militants, who are killed during conflict. This promise is also made to the suicide bombers, along with the promise of heaven.


It is clearly evident that, the fanatics exploit the economic situation of these people for their personal benefits. They use the finances they gather through extortion, kidnappings, drug trade and robberies to woo these people. They in fact convince the ignorant individual to make a deal with the devil. It is also a fact that these fanatics make a great contribution, towards the worsening economic situation. The bomb blasts in business districts, the suicide targeting innocent shoppers, threats to business establishments and their constant fear tactics, have added to the unemployment and poverty. The Taliban and their extremist allies have also created an illusion of Robin Hood, in the eyes of the impoverished. They claim to take from the rich and give to the poor. They also claim to fight against the feudal and capitalist system. They lure the people by giving them the vague concept of "Khilafat", of which they are themselves not clear.


The state has a huge responsibility now to stabilize the economy, both in the context of micro and macro-economic stability. It is imperative for policy makers to view the economy, through the perspective of counter terrorism. The terrorists want to portray themselves as revolutionaries, by providing quick economic salvation to the impoverished.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

FREEDOM IN WRONG HANDS

RANDOM THOUGHTS

BURHANUDDIN HASAN

 

Freedom of media is no doubt essential for keeping a watch over the performance of the government, but when it is exercised by incompetent and inexperienced journalists, it becomes a lethal weapon which not on only distorts the image of the government but also misleads the TV viewers and newspaper readers. That is why the authoritarian governments are invariably against the freedom of the media and keep it under their tight control. In Pakistan all military rulers as well some so called democratic governments kept all media outlets under their thumb. One great disadvantage was that media lost its credibility and its prestige and became for all practical purposes a government gazette.


General Parvez Musharraf was the first military ruler of Pakistan who allowed a good measure of freedom to both print and visual media. It worked well for a few years when the Musharraf government was sailing smoothly but when the crunch came and he declared emergency in the country and dismissed Supreme Court judges followed by a storm of lawyers' protests which were covered prominently and in graphic detail, Musharraf lost his cool and started taking punitive action against media barons. That was the end of media freedom.

After Musharraf's exit and installation of PPP government, media reverted to its freedom with a vengeance which is continuing unabated. The government agency PEMRA which was created to regulate private TV channels and issue them licenses after ensuring that they are competent to operate good media outlets of news, current affairs, entertainment, educational and nation building programs. It was originally planned that this body will be manned by mostly professional people who understand the purpose and requirements of the medium to provide healthy and purposeful programs to the viewers. But unfortunately this did not happen and PRMRA became an ordinary agency manned by bureaucrats without any vision for the broadcast media. Naturally, therefore many channels which had no vision or professional expertise for TV and Radio came into being like ordinary companies to earn profits or dump their black money. According to a government estimate there are about 2,500 cable operators who are airing TV transmissions in the country. A code of conduct has been laid down for all TV channels but in most cases this code is being willfully violated by the channels. There are only five councils in the entire country to monitor and report the violations of the code of ethics. Naturally therefore these violations cannot be checked properly.


Apart from obscene content in dresses and vulgar dialogues in TV plays and commercials, the most objectionable is the content of talk shows and the language and tone of the hosts of these shows which in some cases are just shouting matches in which participants insult each other in vulgar language. News bulletins too are full of items which do not deserve to be covered in a decent newscast. For example I remember a prime time news bulletin which opened with four cases of rape. Likewise, a recent news cast which highlighted the detention of a Pakistani classical singer at the New Delhi Airport for the violation of foreign currency rules; this was by no means a "breaking news" nor did it deserve to be treated as a lead story of the prime time bulletin of a major TV channel. But the channel wasted a good 20 minutes on this story repeating every part of it adnausium. In fact the words "breaking News" has become a joke which is used by most channels to shock the viewers and create unnecessary programs and news sensational.


Some top rated channels adopt partisan attitude on major political issues such the case of Raymond David's which may have far reaching consequences in the long run on very delicate Pak-US relations in the area of financial and military assistance which is vital for Pakistan's survival in the face of continuing war on terror. Some talk show hosts who are openly affiliated with radical religious parties are pleading their case on most vital issues which Pakistan is facing today. They have forgotten that these parties are against the lofty principles of Quaid-e-Azam on which he founded Pakistan. No doubt, these parties have their nuisance value and try to sabotage the Quaid's principles but people of Pakistan have always rejected them.


But now that they have earned the support of mass media they have been greatly encouraged to take out their rallies and get maximum coverage on the visual media. Media barons should take serious notice of this and stop the spread of religious fundamentalism in this country which is already fighting a costly war against radical elements while some TV anchors are openly supporting them and spreading their message all over the country to sabotage the government's efforts.


Most TV channels, they are tempted to give more than one third space of their prime time to commercials. The viewers are naturally frustrated with frequent commercial breaks which are not only irritating but also adversely affect the charm and continuity of programs. Likewise, TV channels and largely circulated newspapers give as much as fifty percent of their space to advertisements. In their quest for maximum advertising revenue, they do not hesitate to put on air indecent and offensive ads which are not suitable for family viewing. The dream merchants of advertising are weaving a web of false and deceptive mirage of prosperity in Pakistan where millions of people are living in abject poverty. Another form of advertising is puffery which is an American slang for false and deceptive advertising which could mislead the consumer.


In the United States, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been empowered by the Supreme Court to stop the false and deceptive advertising as "representation, omission or practice that is likely to mislead the consumer and lure him to buy such products which may be harmful to his health". FTC has now been empowered to impose fines or altogether ban deceptive advertising. It has formulated specific regulations to stop false and misleading advertising of products for children's' markets. These actions have resulted in considerable reduction in the incidence of gross distortions and misrepresentations.

Pakistan is probably the only country in South Asia where products which are recognized health hazards are being advertised unchecked through "puffery" and false and misleading claims. There is no agency, official or otherwise to check and control such harmful advertising, nor are there any pressure groups in society to provide protection to the unsuspecting consumers.


The Pakistan Advertising Association incorporated under Companies Ordinance, carries a clause in its Memorandum of Association calling for "protecting the art and trade of advertising and sales promotion from unethical practices and monopolies of foreign and house agencies", but in the present scenario it seems that this clause is not being implemented, but in fact is being willfully ignored by the advertising agencies themselves. There is need for print and electronic media in Pakistan to join hands in launching a vigorous education program to protect the consumers of the country from:


a) Deceptive claims of producers of goods and services and misleading sales promotion by advertisers.


b) To avoid excessive spending under the influence of advertising.


c) To protect children from the harmful effects of advertising through resistance techniques.


The government may consider setting up a watchdog commission to protect consumers from misleading and undesirable advertising.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

STABLE BALOCHISTAN IN PAK INTEREST

AHMAD SABAT

 

Peace and stability in Pakistan is integrated with peace and stability in Balochistan. Balochistan's strategic location is pivotal for Pakistan. Disorder and instability in this sensitive province would naturally imperil the solidarity of Pakistan. No Government can afford any disorder and discord in its units. No nation can barter away its solidarity at any cost. Baluchistan's mineral deposits and the Gawadar port are a blank check for Pakistan. But the law and order situation of the province is a big headache for the state actors. Insurgency in Balochistan is a gigantic challenge for the government of Pakistan. Baloch's insurgency has a host of internal and external causes. Bad governance, tribal system, ethnic diversity, corruption and issue of missing people have worsened the situation of peace and stability in Balochistan. Most of the problems are the handiwork of Baloch's sardars, Balochistan is a victim of bad-governance and its own Sardari system. Baloch Sardars have pushed the local on back and pocket all the royalties themselves. They have never approved development projects in their areas. They know that better communication, transportation, education and health systems would loosen their hold on their people. These sardars themselves live in the posh areas of Queta and Karachi let the poor wallow in the pains and sufferings. Corruption is another evil in Balochistan. Corruptions in mega projects have also decreased the rate of progress in province. So the result is that the biggest province of Pakistan has the lowest progress rate in the country; While Pakistan itself stands on the 144th rank in Human Development Index (which is lowest HDI among the developing countries).


The focus of this article is on the current insurgency in Balochistan and how to counter it. Insurgency and terrorist acts are at its peak in Baloch areas, but Pashtoon areas are relatively peaceful. Baloch areas have always been pain in neck for Pakistan's federation. Contemporary insurgency is mismatched with pervious insurgencies. In past Baloch's radical were fought under the supervision of their tribal leaders. In present Sarmachars (known as freedom fighter in Balochistan) are fighting in different clots without the guidance of tribal leaders.


First of all we should try to find out the causes of recent insurgency in Baloch areas. The wave of instability started in 2002, and reached its climax after the death of Akbar Bugti. Remnants of Akbar Bugti have been fanning the situation of instability and disorder. Now the people like Brahamdagh Bugti are openly demanding Azad or greater Balochistan.


The Gaward port and its bordering with Afghanistan and Iran made Balochistan eye-catching for greater powers. The Gaward port will be another choke point in sea trade in near future. So it is clear that the Baloch insurgency is not an indigenous insurgency. Pakistan's government statements and dossiers clearly indicate the foreign involvement in Balochistan's chaos.


Third thing is the lack of political will to crack out the problems. Military rulers have contributed much in strengthening the anti -state elements. Rather than addressing the issues the military rulers have resorted to military operations. Such things have only infuriated the Balchois. However, elected governments have always been keen in addressing the genuine demands of the people of Balochistan. Throughout the history government adopted the short term solutions to solve the problems. Making of check posts and garrisons is their ultimate strategy. These things are creating complexities and anger among the Balochis and invoke them on arm struggle. Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan is looking good on papers, but application of these reforms is pretty slow.

Last cause of Baloch insurgency is the ethnic diversity in Balochistan. Business class of province is Pashtoon. While demography shows that the Balochis are in majority, who are living hand to mouth. Now the Balochis are demanding the pull out of Pushtoon from Baloch's areas.


So the grievances of Balochistan are real. Now we need a comprehensive and coherent strategy to address the Baloch's problems. We can tackle the issue of insurgency through indirect methods. Indirect strategies are always easy on papers but they need a lot of determination and financial resources. We can divide our counter–insurgency (COIN) in two parts, Hard Power and Soft Power. We may adopt the China's COIN technique to subdue the insurgency in Xinjiang province. It is known as one of the best counter–insurgency (COIN) in world history. In soft power methods try to facilitate the locals. First of all separate the insurgents from the rest of the people. Start political reforms in affected areas with the involvement of the natives. Through local bodies election empower the people on grass root level. Create jobs for indigenous people in government and semi-government departments. Frontier Core (FC) in Balochistan consists of more than 90% of Pashtoons, a cause of grumble for the local Balochis. So Recruitment of native Balochs in paramilitary forces may help the state actors a lot to wipe out the insurgency. Two things are vital in soft power methods, education and justice for everyone. Governments must put its attention on the problem of missing people. The issue of missing people is very sensitive for the Balochis as insurgents are exploiting the natives on this subject. Education for all in affected areas would help a lot to reduce the insurgency. Knowledge of history, international relation and civics should be essential on school level.


Deployment of forces in red areas should be first step in hard power methods. Treat the insurgents and culprits with iron hand but must avoid collateral damage in military operation. Maintenance of law and order and to protect the locals from attacks should be the prime reasonability of forces and governments in affected areas. It is clear that no state actor can defeat the insurgents without the native's help. So the government of Pakistan must seek the local support as army did in Swat. Involvement of the native in peace process should be the foremost aim to counter the insurgents. The grievances of Baloch are real. Now it is time to wake up. Both the people of Balochistan and as well as the stake holders of Pakistan s' politics should try earnestly to solve this grim issue. Forget the past events and try to create a shining present and future for Balochistan. Unless all the stakeholders realize their reasonability, the solution of Balochistan will remain a far cry.


—The writer works for Islamabad Policy research Institute.

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

OUR ANZAC MATES STAND STRONG IN MEETING DISASTER

NATURAL CATASTROPHES CAN BRING COMMUNITIES TOGETHER.

At times like these, the distance across the Tasman Sea shrinks. Together with Queenslanders, country Victorians and residents in the path of Perth's bushfires, New Zealanders have been dealt a cruel lesson in nature's horrifying power with the earthquake that has devastated Christchurch on the east coast of the South Island. The death toll would be even higher if not for the courageous efforts of relief workers, Australians among them, digging survivors from the rubble.

Our thoughts and sympathies are with those who have lost loved ones or are enduring an agonising wait for news of people who are missing. For as long as it takes to find those still alive, the skills of search-and-rescue experts and tracker dogs will be critical. It is already clear that the indomitable ANZAC spirit is not ignited by war alone.

We delight in the most intense sporting rivalry imaginable, especially on the rugby ground. Paradoxically, or axiomatically, few nations share a bond and a heritage as close as Australia's and New Zealand's. Both nations were charted first by Abel Tasman and then, more than a century later, by Captain James Cook and both have developed from British colonies into independent nations with proud traditions of democracy, freedom and a fair go for all. Mateship and egalitarianism are as intrinsic to New Zealanders as Australians. Sometimes, like real kith and kin, we take each other for granted. But we fought side by side, forging the ANZAC tradition at Gallipoli and have done so on countless other battlefields, including Afghanistan. The same spirit will bind us in this crisis.

The pioneering resilience on display in the Lockyer Valley, Brisbane, Tully, country Victoria and Perth's eastern fringes, is on display in Christchurch, where neighbours are helping neighbours and complete strangers. And the wider New Zealand nation is rallying to assist. Australians are giving generously to earthquake appeals and most people on this side of the Tasman expect our governments and authorities to extend every possible assistance to the people of Christchurch, including the deployment of emergency personnel, police, medical staff, equipment and supplies. Australian search-and-rescue experts and sniffer dogs are already hard at work. As Julia Gillard said, if Australia has it and it can help, we will get it on a plane and get it there.

Many Australians who have holidayed in New Zealand hold Christchurch in great affection, as a beautiful, peaceful hub with its glorious river Avon in its midst. We share the sense of loss at the many buildings that have toppled, including the spire of the city's landmark cathedral that stood firm for 110 years.

But while Christchurch will be rebuilt, nothing will replace the lives lost and the sense of grief on both sides of the Tasman is almost overwhelming. Non-sporting nations would not understand why, at a time like this, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key would talk about rugby, expressing the hope that Christchurch will host its scheduled World Cup matches in September. Australians will get it, however. If anything will spur the city on to rebuild its centre, infrastructure, homes and services, and inspire hope and team spirit, it is the prospect of being ready to host high-level rugby internationals and cheer on the All Blacks. After this, missing out would be too cruel a blow.

Living as they do on what is known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, a stretch of seismic instability responsible for many of the world's tremors and volcanoes, New Zealanders are no strangers to earth tremors, experiencing as many as 15,000 per year. The nation's worst earthquake occurred in 1931 at Hawkes Bay on the North Island, killing more than 250 people.

While smaller than the earthquake that struck 10km underground and 40km west of the city in September, Tuesday's quake, regarded as an unusually big aftershock from the first quake, was far more damaging because its epicentre was closer to Christchurch's downtown area and closer to the earth's surface. Technology is not yet capable of providing sufficient warning of such events to save lives, leaving earthquake-prone areas vulnerable to being hit out of the blue and to aftershocks.

Unlike dysfunctional nations such as Haiti, which suffered an earthquake last year so devastating that more than 300,000 people died, New Zealand has the resources and capacity to rebuild its second-largest city. The emotional aftermath and multi-billion-dollar cost will test this small nation of four million people to the limit. Rest assured, there are 22 million people close by who will be standing with them.

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

LEADERSHIP INSPIRES ASPIRATIONS

AUSTRALIANS DON'T ASPIRE TO UNION OR GOVERNMENT INTRUSIONS.

Peter Reith's thoughtful plea for industrial relations reform has thrown out a significant challenge to Julia Gillard and to Tony Abbott. While Labor's instinct will be to greet this with the obligatory scare campaign about the opposition longing to bring back Work Choices, the Coalition will be tempted to retreat in fear. Mr Abbott will be worried the opposition could make itself the issue again, but he should recognise that this issue exposes a growing weakness for Labor and, properly handled, can form the basis of a broader government critique and a compelling agenda for the Coalition.

On election night, Ms Gillard struggled to outline a vision for the nation or a comprehension of the message that the electorate had delivered. She mentioned jobs, education, health, broadband and optimism. This was the best she could muster as an agenda for government and a statement of Labor's beliefs.

Apart from the prerequisite political skills of collegiality, communication and negotiation, effective leaders need to clearly understand two things: what they stand for, and what the public desires. Ms Gillard has not given Australians any clear idea of the reasons she and Labor seek to govern, apart from that end in itself. On election night, she said she had a "different world view and different values" to Mr Abbott. Really? On what issues and in what way? Please explain.

It is difficult not to conclude that Ms Gillard lacks an understanding of mainstream Australians and what they desire for the future. Her policies tend to stem from green and union hobby-horses, while her rhetoric seems unconvincingly pitched at so-called working families, the phrase deliberately coined by Labor to counter the Coalition's success with John Howard's battlers. Ms Gillard should take Mr Howard as her model, a man much-maligned by the Left, but who over the past decades has shown a keener understanding of the aspirations of suburban and regional Australia than any other politician. To the extent that we can generalise, mainstream voters do not want further intrusions by government or unions into their lives. The new tone of class warfare coming from senior unionists and echoed by the government will not resonate in suburbia. Such aggressive rhetoric smacks of aspirational Australia being hijacked by envious Australia.

Most Australians want fast and cheap broadband, but they are likely to resent a one-size-fits-all, take-it-or-leave-it, pay-what-you-must, government monopoly. And the newly re-regulated labour market could come to frustrate them as they experience a lack of flexibility, union intrusion, industrial disharmony and the knock-on effects, like inflation and interest rate rises, that could come from wages blowouts in critical sectors of the economy.

Labor once stood for government enterprises, stronger unions and a regulated economy. As the world moved beyond that, shall we say, paradigm, Labor under Bob Hawke modernised to embrace a market economy and flexible workforce. Over time, Australians welcomed this shift as it unleashed their spirit of enterprise and their aspiration for a prosperous, self-reliant future. Mr Howard, with Mr Abbott in his cabinet, understood that shift, successfully encouraged it and tapped into it politically. The current Prime Minister is implementing policies that jar with this trend and is resisting reforms, such as labour market reform, that complement it.

While Labor taunts the opposition for daring even to speak about labour reform, or decentralised health reform, it is playing a short game. The long game is to understand the public desire for less government intrusion, greater choice and flexibility and, above all, a nurturing of aspiration.

Mr Abbott is uniquely placed to take advantage of this for the benefit of the opposition and the nation. It is an approach that melds with the conservative philosophy. There is much potential to pitch his policies and messages around a broader philosophical framework. If he does that well, he will show Australians that he understands what they want and need, and stake out his claim for the prime ministership.

 

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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 SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

FROM THE RUINS, A CALL TO REBUILD

THERE are cities that never emerge from natural catastrophes, but Christchurch will not be among them. At present the picture is one of devastation, death and injury from the earthquake on Tuesday. The death toll is climbing rapidly, and many survivors will carry physical and mental scars from their traumatic experience. The city's life will struggle with destroyed workplaces and lost records. Many of the landmarks that have been visual reminders of Christchurch's history and identity, including its cathedral spire, have collapsed beyond repair.

Yet as New Zealand's Prime Minister, John Key, reminded his countrymen in a moving broadcast yesterday, this is not the end. Christchurch and its people will get through this. The ''great comeback'' has already started. When the grim task of pulling survivors and bodies from the wreckage is over, and precarious buildings have been made safe, New Zealanders will undoubtedly think of what, let us hope, will remain the country's worst recorded disaster, the great earthquake of February 3, 1931, that devastated Napier and nearby towns in the Hawke's Bay region on the North Island.

That levelled the masonry buildings, with fires then completing the destruction, and 256 people were killed. Yet within a decade, Napier had been rebuilt to new construction standards and to a high quality in the design of its day, making it still a worldwide exemplar of art deco architecture. This is probably what was at the back of Key's mind when he said that ruins and despair would be followed by ''hope and new opportunities''.

His other message was that Christchurch citizens are not on their own. Large numbers of New Zealanders have connections to the city, from work, travel or education. Key himself was raised there. The same goes for Australians: the city is a gateway for travel around the scenic wonders of the South Island. The interconnectedness of our societies was shown in New Zealand's help during the recent floods and cyclone in Queensland, and the quick dispatch of Australian rescue teams to Christchurch. The same goes with help being sent from Japan, the United States, Britain and Taiwan.

Although the New Zealand currency was immediately marked down by markets for the likely cost of reconstruction, the paradoxical laws of economics suggest the disaster could be a boost to national output where fiscal and monetary caution might otherwise have kept recession lingering. Rebuilding a better, more sustainable and robust city is spending that cannot be avoided - and a worthwhile investment. When the grieving eases, that should be the prospect.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

ELECTRIC SHOCK FOR NSW VOTERS

THE NSW Auditor-General has revealed that taxpayers will be up for even more fees and charges than previously disclosed under the NSW government's hamfisted electricity sale arrangements. To be precise, it looks as if taxpayers will end up pocketing less than one-fifth of the total $5.3 billion sale price for the two electricity retailers and trading rights from three power stations.

There are so many troubling aspects of this sale, it is hard to know where to begin. First, the price tag for the assets of $5.3 billion is a substantial discount on estimates the assets could have fetched $20 billion if sold several years ago. Instead, interest by potential foreign buyers waned as Labor veered to a partial sell-off and the looming prospect of carbon pricing made the mostly coal-fired industry less attractive.

Second, the government has agreed to so many offsetting concessions, fees and charges under the deal that taxpayers will net little of this sale amount. First there is

$1.25 billion to pay down the debts of the state's generators, Delta Electricity and Eraring Energy. Another $1.5 billion will

be spent developing the Cobbora coalmine. Taxpayers will be liable for up to $360 million if electricity supply is interrupted. Then there is more than $200 million in claims from power retailers that objected to having their asset sold.

What is particularly worrying is that many of the costs remain ''unspecified'', meaning the Auditor-General has been unable to find out precisely the net impact on the NSW coffers, as

yet. For instance, the government has agreed that if the Coborra coalmine is not up and running on time, taxpayers will reimburse buyers for every dollar they have to spend above $31 a tonne to obtain alternative supply. This would appear a substantial difference to the market price, putting taxpayers potentially at risk of billions of dollars in gap payments.

The report from the cross-party parliamentary inquiry into the sale is even more damning, and recommended the sale be canned altogether. But it remains unclear whether a Coalition government could rescind the contracts, even if it wanted to, or, if it did, what the cost would be. The opposition has yet to announce its energy policy. Voters will be wanting to see one before election day. If this sale proceeds - and it is highly questionable that it should - it must be done only with complete transparency and clarity about the surrounding terms and conditions. NSW taxpayers have had enough of murky deals.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND, UNITED IN GRIEF

WE MUST DO ALL WE CAN TO HELP OUR FRIENDS IN NEED.

LAST week, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard became the first foreign head of government to address the Parliament of New Zealand. ''Australia has many alliances and friendships around the world - economic and defence partnerships of every kind,'' she said. ''But New Zealand alone is family.'' Today, the words take on extra meaning.

The special bond between Australians and New Zealanders is the stuff of military and sporting legend, of Anzacs, Wallabies and All Blacks. But it is more. The two counties have an integrated economy, formalised in the Closer Economic Relations deal struck in 1983. Students pay only domestic fees for their eduction, whether they pursue it in Australia or New Zealand. About half a million New Zealanders live in Australia; about 1 million Australians visit New Zealand every year. We share an easy informality that manifests itself in a humour that takes neither ourselves nor each other too seriously. As Ms Gillard told a business audience during her visit: ''Our countries have so much shared history that there is a sense of the familiar when an Australian steps onto New Zealand soil.''

Sadly, this week we have been reminded that exposure to natural disasters is another of the many things Australians and New Zealanders have in common. The forces of nature have struck with tragic consequences on both sides of the Tasman during this unforgiving summer of destruction: floods in Queensland, New South Wales and across swaths of northern Victoria, bushfires in Western Australia, cyclone Yasi in northern Queensland and now an earthquake in Christchurch that has claimed scores and possibly hundreds of lives.

New Zealand, sitting on the so-called Ring of Fire where two of the world's biggest tectonic plates meet, is fated is to be one of the most earthquake-prone countries on Earth. It experiences, on average, several magnitude six quakes a year. Seismologists believe Tuesday's 6.3 magnitude quake - the deadliest to strike the country since a 7.8 magnitude quake killed 256 people and destroyed Napier on the North Island in 1931 - was an aftershock related to the 7.1 magnitude quake that hit Christchurch in September. It wrought such cruel devastation because the epicentre was so close to the centre of Christchurch (just 10 kilometres away) and it struck just four kilometres underground.

Victorians, fated to live in one of the world's most bushfire-prone regions, will have noticed something else familiar while watching the images and reading the stories emerging from New Zealand this week. In the days after the Black Saturday bushfires two years ago, The Age noted the courage of emergency service workers, the resilience of the bereaved, and ''the generosity and solidarity of those who may not have suffered themselves but do whatever they can to help others''. As in Victoria, so in Christchurch: in the face of nature's worst, humankind's best has shone through.

Now, more is needed. New Zealanders offered help to Victorians after Black Saturday. They did so again after cyclone Yasi and the Queensland floods. In the hours after Tuesday's quake, Australia sent hundreds of search and rescue specialists to New Zealand. Ms Gillard spoke for all of us when she told her NZ counterpart, John Key, the Australian government would provide whatever help and equipment was needed. Australians are already donating generously to quake relief funds.

As New Zealanders confront one of their darkest hours, they should know that Australians are mourning with them. As the people of Christchurch count their dead, search for their loved ones, and begin to contemplate rebuilding their lives and their city, they can know that Australia will be there to help.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

SHIP OF SHAME EXPOSES NAVY CULTURE

AN APPALLING picture of misconduct by naval personnel serving overseas emerges from the newly released report by former judge Roger Gyles. So serious are its findings of sexual misconduct, drunkenness and bullying that the navy is considering alcohol bans. The problems go much deeper than isolated cases of drunken debauchery during HMAS Success's deployment to south-east Asia and China in 2009. Mr Gyles finds the crew was ''out of control and discipline had broken down''. A tribal culture in which some acted with impunity showed a ''serious failure of command''. Defence chiefs have accepted his recommendations, with Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston saying that this culture is a cancer that must be cut out.

The number of personnel, up to 50, who face possible disciplinary action indicates how badly discipline unravelled. In finding evidence of predatory sexual behaviour, Mr Gyles notes that allegations of a sex ledger were never investigated. He concludes that the ship's engineers, through a ''culture of silence and mutual protection'', had come to dominate the ship. Lack of disciplinary action created a perception that they were a ''protected species''. Only when the chain of command was bypassed was action taken. Even then, false, misleading or unhelpful testimony to the inquiry made it ''most unlikely that the whole truth emerged''. Mr Gyles pointedly observes that other vessels may have similar cultures.

These problems have not emerged out of the blue, but reflect a navy culture that has tended to close ranks and resist accountability, much like the broader Defence establishment. Defence chiefs have known of problems aboard HMAS Success since a 2004 inquiry into claims of competitions to have sex with nominated females. ''This type of behaviour must and will be eliminated,'' the Chief of Navy, Vice-Admiral Russ Crane, now says, conceding that ''the response to this behaviour across the chain of command was ineffective''.

Such failures of command are intolerable. Defence leaders say it may take up to five years to change the navy's culture, which suggests the cancer has spread beyond HMAS Success. Indeed, as Defence Minister Stephen Smith recently observed, a report on the unseaworthy amphibious warfare fleet exposed systemic and cultural problems in fleet maintenance ''for a decade or more''. Gross misconduct, ignoring orders, intimidation and insubordination, as detailed in the Gyles report, all have a direct impact on operational effectiveness.

If naval command does not swiftly get the service back on course, heads must roll.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

THE GIBSON TORTURE INQUIRY: A WHITEWASH WON'T WASH

In a world where people are currently dying in the struggle to achieve the rule of law, Britain's standing depends on it

With Iraq, the last inquiry was always the reason for not calling the next – but the defence never held for long. Each narrow probe revealed murk that warranted fresh investigation. Thus Chilcot followed Butler who in turn followed Hutton and the various parliamentary efforts. The truth has been painfully extracted one inch at a time, at considerable public expense. Something similar had happened a generation before when the Compton report reached relaxed conclusions about state brutality in Northern Ireland, but nonetheless revealed enough to require the Parker review of interrogation techniques.

The whole purpose of the current inquiry into UK involvement with modern-day torture was meant to be drawing a final line under the darkest chapter of the Blair years – a once and for all chance, as David Cameron put it to the Commons, "to get to the bottom of what happened". Heaven knows it is a chance to be seized. In a world where people are currently dying in the struggle to achieve the rule of law, Britain's standing depends on it. The cluster of cases concerned include Binyam Mohamed, whom the court of appeal has ruled was subjected to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" by the US, and Rangzieb Ahmed who was allowed to travel abroad where he was questioned by British as well as Pakistani agents, before returning home without his fingernails. There are, however, growing doubts about the ability of Sir Peter Gibson's inquiry to establish the truth and reconciliation required.

As the former intelligence commissioner, who had thrice concluded that MI5 and MI6 were "trustworthy, conscientious and dependable", some were always going to say that he was not the man for the job, and indeed it was soon being said that he was being asked to rule that he had himself been "asleep at the wheel" at the crucial time. But Sir Peter is a retired judge who deserved a chance to prove these critics wrong, and his initial terms from the prime minister suggested he had the flexibility to do so.

But now it seems that his work could be so secretive that the torture victims will declare a stitch-up and walk away, leaving the inquiry with little to do except for listening to the tales of the agencies themselves. Equally worrying is the charge that a hidden and circumscribed investigation will fall short of the standards that the law demands in cases where the absolute right not to be tortured appears to have been compromised. Of course Sir Peter has to balance transparency and the reality that the secret services are necessarily secretive, as he is properly aware. But if he bends too far towards the wishes of the security state, the upshot could be yet another inquiry.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

LIBYA: THE URGE TO HELP

What can outsiders do to hasten the inevitable, avoid further bloodshed, and let Libyans start remaking their country?

The quicker Muammar Gaddafi falls, the better. So what, if anything, can outsiders do to hasten the inevitable, avoid further bloodshed, and let Libyans get started on the task of remaking their country? Yesterday the European Union was considering sanctions, Nicolas Sarkozy was calling for an end to all economic relations, and there were demands in the press for the seizure of Gaddafi family assets abroad. David Cameron, while against sanctions, was arguing for a stronger statement from the United Nations than the one made earlier this week. And, at the tougher end of the spectrum of possible pressure, there were voices raised in support of a no-fly zone like that which helped keep Saddam out of the Kurdish areas of Iraq, and even some discussion of intervention on the ground.

Nobody wants any more Libyans to die. Yet it has to be said that there are at this stage arguments against all these measures. The softer ones are largely irrelevant. Libya's economy is in deep disarray. Most of the major foreign oil companies, for example, have stopped working and are concentrating on getting their workers out. Shops are running out of stock. Construction projects all over the country have been abandoned. No goods are leaving Libya's ports or airports and none are coming in.

The normal working of the economy is already, it is safe to say, half-paralysed. Stocks of fuel, including the aviation fuel that military aircraft use, must be dwindling. Sanctions, in any case, are attritional in their effects, designed to squeeze a regime over time, not to deliver a knockout blow. The seizure of assets, appropriate as it may be in the longer term, might in the shorter make it more, rather than less, likely that the Gaddafi family will fight on.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that European leaders are advocating these moves in part because they want to be seen by their electorates at home to be doing something, and in part because they want to be seen by people in the Middle East as being on the right side in the Arab democratic revolution. They may hope that a dramatic line on Libya will go some way toward effacing the memory of the dithering and equivocation with which they greeted its earlier manifestations in Tunisia and Egypt, France being particularly guilty in this regard. What can be said in favour of such measures is that they would be symbolic. As news of them reaches Libyans, which it will, since the media blackout there is far from complete, it will reinforce their sense that the world is with them and thus add to the momentum which is a revolution's most important characteristic.

Military measures fall into a more serious and more difficult category. There is evidence that the regime is crumbling rapidly, principally because of military and political defections. There are also indications that air attacks on civilians are being aborted by pilots who refuse to carry out orders. If this continues, there will be no need to attempt to control Libyan air space. If, on the other hand, the regime starts, or resumes, bombarding its citizens and shows signs of being able to do so for some time, a no-fly zone should become an option. Lord Owen was therefore right to say that military preparations should be made and the necessary diplomatic approaches, above all to the Russians and the Chinese, set in train to secure UN authority for such action.

The worst scenario for Libya is one in which the regime hangs on for a lengthy period with sufficient military strength to do a great deal of harm, perhaps even through the use of the chemical and biological weapons it may still possess. Fortunately, that scenario also seems much the least likely. But if it should prove otherwise, intervention on the ground would have to be considered. The Egyptian army has the means, other Arab countries could contribute, and western forces could help. But these are bridges to cross only when, and if, we come to them.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF … PLYMOUTH ARGYLE

To lose the club would be a particular sadness. They are the only bastion of league football west of Exeter

Plymouth Argyle, a Football League club since 1920, are reported to be "on the brink". The brink, of course, is no rare place for teams to find themselves in the present state of the game. Clubs entering administration to fend off their creditors and having points docked for doing so have become part of the landscape of English football. By calling in administrators, Argyle have, so far, forfeited 10, enough to dump them at the foot of the game's third division and threaten them with the fourth. But even that may not be the worst of it. Debts to HM Revenue and Customs which landed them in the courts three times between December and February may have been paid, but the players and staff have not been. Liquidation remains a clear possibility. Lashing out money you have not got is essentially a form of cheating practised against more rigorous rivals, and merits the sternest punishment. Yet to lose Argyle would be a particular sadness. They are the only bastion of league football west of Exeter. They are the only Argyle, a name adopted for reasons never fully explained. For years they were the only English club to wear green. And for almost as many years they had the devoted, even besotted, support of the late Michael Foot, second only perhaps – and sometimes it almost seemed not even second – to his loyalty to the Labour party. As he would have been the first to observe, those who got Argyle into this mess deserve to suffer. But the football public of this proud old city certainly don't.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

RISK FROM RISING GLOBAL PRICES

A part from agreeing on a set of indicators to measure economic imbalances, the Group of 20 emerging and developed economies that met in Paris last week shared the observation that rising prices of primary industry commodities including food are becoming a risk factor for the global economy.

Finance ministers and central bankers from the G20 economies agreed to analyze the causes of excessive price fluctuations, such as the inflow of speculative funds, and collect statistical data on such matters as food stocks.

In discussing the set of indicators for gauging economic imbalances, China, which has huge trade and current accounts surpluses, and developed economies, such as the United States, Europe and Japan, aired opposing views. They agreed to use public debt, fiscal deficits, private savings rate and private debt as indicators. They also agreed to use an indicator close to trade balance, instead of current accounts balance, by accepting China's stance. They stopped short of concrete discussions to reform China's currency, the renminbi.

On the world economy, the G20 statement said, "The global recovery is strengthening but is still uneven and downside risks remain." The risks include possible overheating of emerging economies and uneasiness about Europe's financial and debt situation.

The two-day meeting was studded with conflicting views from emerging and developed economies. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who hosted the meeting, said in his opening speech that placing priority on the interests of one's country would mean death of the G20. It is imperative that the G20 countries pursue policy coordination to ensure sustainable global growth.

It is said that food price hikes are behind prodemocracy demonstrations in Middle East countries, including Libya and Bahrain. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization foresees a 31 percent, 24 percent and 35 percent rise in rice, wheat and corn prices, respectively, by 2020 from 2008.

Japan, which imports a large amount of food and industrial raw materials, should step up efforts to coordinate with G20 countries toward price stability.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

DPJ SUSPENDS MR. OZAWA

The Democratic Party of Japan leadership Tuesday endorsed the unanimous decision earlier in the day by the party's six-member ethics panel to suspend the party membership of former party chief Ichiro Ozawa over his indictment in a funds reporting scandal.

Mr. Ozawa could have avoided this humiliation as well as confusion in the party and Japanese politics if he had spoken early enough about his case in the Diet. Despite the disciplinary measure, he should seriously consider making efforts on his own to clear suspicions about him.

The suspension of party membership is the lightest of disciplinary steps the DPJ can take against members who have behaved improperly. Usually the period of suspension lasts a maximum six months. But Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other anti-Ozawa party leaders chose to suspend Mr. Ozawa from the membership until his trial's ruling is finalized. He will not be allowed to attend formal party functions and cannot run in a party election to pick a party leader. The DPJ may not put him on the party ticket in elections. This is a harsh treatment of a politician who made the biggest contribution to bringing the DPJ to power.

Mr. Kan and his supporters made the decision against Mr. Ozawa, apparently thinking that meting out harsh treatment to him will boost the approval rating of the Kan Cabinet, which has dropped below 20 percent, and help Mr. Kan steer through the political difficulties he faces. But their action will further deepen the division within the party, thus weakening the DPJ vis-a-vis the opposition forces.

They also failed to uphold the principle of presumption of innocence concerning Mr. Ozawa. In addition, his case is not bribery. Public prosecutors had decided twice not to indict him. His indictment was not an ordinary indictment but due to a decision by a citizens' legal panel.

Even so Mr. Ozawa must act responsibly as a politician. He should persuade 16 DPJ Lower House members who have revolted against the party leadership not to take a rash action in Diet voting that will wreck the DPJ as a ruling party.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

EGYPT'S ECONOMIC FUTURE

BY MARK J. ROE

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — For Egypt, the question of the day is whether the country will build an open, democratic political system or relapse into some form — new or old — of autocracy. But an equally important question — above all for Egyptians, but also for other developing countries (and for development experts) — is the economic impact of its revolution.

For the past quarter-century, a major agenda item for the international development organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, has been to bolster developing nations' financial markets. Stronger financial markets can move savings to where they can do the most to spur economic growth. And that capacity has been seen as one of the handful of key prerequisites for economic development. Making finance work should boost economic development significantly.

Economic historians point to financial revolutions as setting the stage for strong economic development in England (in the 17th and 18th centuries, following the Glorious Revolution), in the United States (after Alexander Hamilton in the 1790s built up major financial structures in a primarily agricultural country), and in Japan (after the Meiji Restoration).

The World Bank, the IMF, and dozens of academics have studied long and hard what makes financial markets grow and what holds them back. Many focus on the quality of institutions, such as courts and tax authorities. Others emphasize the quality of corporate law. Still others look at policies, like trade openness or lightness of taxation. Everyone extols property rights.

Yet, when one looks at what actually happens in developing countries, the lessons are disappointing. Though some countries have fixed their court systems, streamlined their tax administrations, and begun to get a handle on corruption, the impact on financial markets has been uneven.

Worse still for some theories of what makes financial markets flourish are the examples of the U.S., Great Britain and Japan. Financial markets leaped forward in 18th-century Great Britain, and in the 19th and early 20th centuries in Japan and the U.S. — a time when several key institutions, such as corporate law and the court system, were woefully substandard.

American courts in the 19th century were notably corrupt, sometimes incompetent, and often irrelevant, yet stock and bond markets grew, and continent-spanning firms rose up and got the financing they needed to operate, expand, and industrialize the U.S. economy. The core protective legal institution for outside finance, the federal securities laws, didn't fall into place until the 1930s — decades after U.S. financial markets had grown to finance America's economic rise.

Britain and Japan seem to have followed the same sequence: finance first, protective institutions later. Japan had no corporate law until complex business finance started developing at the end of the 19th century. Yet that sequence is the opposite of what one might have expected: only after financial markets developed did those with a stake in them press for better legislation to protect investors.

So, in Britain, Japan, and the U.S., something more foundational must have been in place before financial markets started operating. Something else must affect which countries are most likely to get strong finance, which won't, and when it all happens.

That "something" now usually seems to be basic political stability, preferably of the democratic kind. In a stable political environment, informal mechanisms — such as reputations for reliability, trade associations, and stock exchanges — can develop and facilitate financial dealings. Investors and businesses don't fear that a new regime can take power and call off all, or too many, bets, leading to losses on their investments.

The data linking democratic political instability and financial backwardness in the modern era, which Jordan Siegel of the Harvard Business School and I analyze in a forthcoming article, show unmistakably that instability powerfully predicts an inability to develop financial markets. Democratic political stability is the most important harbinger of financial development.

There is a deep logic to this finding. Even if all of the rules for finance are right, few will part with their money if they fear that an unfavorable regime change might occur during the lifetime of their investment.

More importantly, the grim stability of the type displayed by former President Hosni Mubarak's Egypt is oftentimes insufficient for genuine financial development. Authoritarian regimes, especially those with severe income and wealth inequality, inherently create a risk of arbitrariness, unpredictability, and instability. They are themselves arbitrary. And everyone knows that beneath the stability of the moment lurk explosive forces that can change the regime and devalue huge investments. Because financiers and savers have limited confidence in the future, such regimes can't readily build and maintain strong foundations for financial development.

By contrast, democratic regimes with widespread property ownership typically best protect property rights over the long term, because enough people in the polity want to protect property.

Yes, the rules of the game count for finance. But what counts even more is that the polity has a continuing, stable stake in keeping those rules in place and making them work for finance and economic growth.

So, what does this mean for Egypt? The Egyptian revolution is political thus far, not economic.

Yet, if the revolution leads to a more open, democratic, middle class-oriented political system, in which enough people believe that they have a stake in the government's continuity, the economic benefits for Egyptians could be large. Financial markets will more likely flourish, and more rapid and equitable development will more likely follow.

Mark Roe is a professor at Harvard Law School.© 2011 Project Syndicate

 

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

SYMPATHY FOR NEW ZEALAND

Our condolences go out to the victims of the devastating earthquake in New Zealand on Tuesday that left at least 65 people dead and dozens, possibly hundreds of others trapped under rubble on Wednesday evening.

We pray that New Zealand will get through its worst natural disaster in 80 years.

The magnitude 6.3 quake struck Christchurch, New Zealand's second-largest city, during the busy lunch time period. A larger quake, measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale shook the same town in September at night time and amazingly left only two injured and caused no deaths. However, reports said many buildings that were badly damaged at the time collapsed under the weight of the second quake this week.

As a nation that has seen its share of earthquakes and other natural disasters, Indonesia can empathize with the grief, ordeal and anxiety the people and government of New Zealand are going through.

We also know full well that once the mourning is over and they have buried the dead, a lot of hard work remains for the nation. New Zealand will still need to heal the psychological trauma, and many will need to rebuild their shattered lives.

New Zealand will need all the assistance and support it can get. Indonesia should stand ready to help in any way it can, and not only because New Zealand had been there for us in times of our own need when we suffered from our calamities. Geography dictates that Indonesia counts among the few near neighbors to New Zealand.

The lesson for Indonesia and New Zealand is that no preparation will ever be sufficient to deal with major disasters of the scale we saw in Christchurch. With an earthquake being unpredictable as it is with regard to the time, place and scale of its magnitude, one may be dismayed at the futility of establishing early warning systems or of even coming up with tighter regulations, such as stricter building codes in earthquake-prone cities.

But any preparation is better than none at all, just as any precaution is better than none. It may not prevent deaths in cases of massive earthquakes, but it may just save more lives than would be lost without it.

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THE JAKARTA POST

INDONESIA'S MEDIATING ROLE IN ASEAN

LINA A. ALEXANDRA

The United Nations Security Council's decision to allow Indonesia — as chair of ASEAN — to begin mediating the dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over the Preah Vihear Temple has enhanced Indonesia's foreign policy work in ASEAN. After a period of foreign policy hibernation with little maneuvering, Indonesia has now returned to demonstrate its leadership potential.

This leadership does not mean the country will be telling others what to do. Instead, Indonesia is taking responsibility and encouraging and ensuring that the countries in the region observe the principles and norms that they agreed to as ASEAN members, including the peaceful settlement of disputes.

It so happens that the country's aim to reestablish a strong leadership role in the region, as one its major foreign policy goals, faced significant challenges in the early period of its leadership in ASEAN this year.

The main focus of Indonesia's chairmanship is to ensure that significant progress is being made in the community's pillars. This would then open the way to fulfilling the second and third aims: to maintain ASEAN's centrality in shaping regional architecture and to develop the vision of the "ASEAN Community in a Global Community of Nations" beyond 2015.

It is inevitable that positive developments will result from the Indonesia-led mediation process, contributing to the development progress of the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC).

On the other hand, the breaking down of the ceasefire and the unwillingness of Thailand and Cambodia to stay at the negotiating table has been noted as another symptom that it will be impossible to achieve the APSC by 2015.

Furthermore, the impact on our foreign policy formulation could be severe. Just a few years back there was discussion to push for a rethinking of Indonesia's foreign policy that placed ASEAN as the cornerstone, with ASEAN issues seemingly overshadowing other matters.

It has also been claimed that Indonesia should not be too dependent on ASEAN since many of Indonesia's progressive proposals to move ASEAN ahead have been abandoned and compromised to satisfy the "old-fashioned" way of thinking that keeps ASEAN stagnant and irrelevant in meeting new security challenges.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa in his remarks before the UN Security Council last week described the three objectives of the Thailand-Cambodia mediation process.

First, both parties will be strongly encouraged to adhere to the principles elucidated in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and the ASEAN Charter, namely the peaceful settlement of disputes and the renunciation of the use and the threat of the use of force.

Second, ASEAN supports the two warring parties respecting the ceasefire.

Third, efforts will be made to urge the two sides to return to the negotiating table. These goals must be achieved not only through good mediation, but more importantly it depends on the strong and serious commitment and willingness of Thailand and Cambodia to seek a peaceful solution to the dispute.

If the mediation process fails, which would happen if one side resorts to the use of force for their own selfish interests, people may think ASEAN has no hope. The Indonesian public may question why ASEAN bothered to try and mediate and even why the country has ASEAN as a cornerstone of their foreign policy if other member states do not respect ASEAN's core principle to live in peace

Ideally, this case will create momentum to see the High Council mechanisms function as in Article 14 of TAC. The Rules of Procedure of the High Council, which were adopted in July 2001 by ASEAN countries, actually bind member states to use the High Council's dispute settlement procedure.

Nevertheless, the willingness of both parties to accept the decision to use regional mechanisms with Indonesia having a mediating role should be appreciated, although both parties did seek the UN's help instead of ASEAN's. But this is the best solution so that the issue is not internationalized. Meanwhile, it is expected that the more fellow ASEAN member states are allowed to play a role, the more countries will believe in the impartiality of their fellow countries, which in turn will create confidence and comfort to invoke regional mechanisms such as the High Council in the future.

It is thus hoped that Indonesia will prove itself in filling the leadership vacuum in ASEAN. Strong leadership by Indonesia should be created through continuous and tireless efforts to develop capacities to initiate the use of regional conflict resolution mechanisms to deal with conflicts.

Indonesia should even seek out this proactive role not only during its short ASEAN chairmanship period but also beyond. This role can also be played to deal with protracted intra-state conflicts that carry the potential to spill over and disrupt regional peace and stability. If these mediating solutions continue, it seems we do not have too long to go before the APSC is achieved.

The writer is a researcher in the Department of Politics and International Relations, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Jakarta.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

ASEAN AND THE CONCEPT OF SOVEREIGNTY

C.P.F. LUHULIMA

Sovereignty as an independent state and its recognition internationally is an important part of the conventional definition of the concept.

It is usually called "external sovereignty" or "international legal sovereignty". It means that a state is acting as a recognized entity on the international scene, "without being submitted to any foreign power".

Sovereignty is thus perceived as the nation state's defense at its geographic borders, be they land or sea, against military, economic and cultural intruders.

Domestic affairs are absolutely within the domain of the nation state. No interference in domestic affairs of a state are tolerated.

By agreeing to enter into a regional association, ASEAN member states have transferred or rather pooled some of their sovereignty and thus consented to the diminishing role of the nation state. They have pooled their sovereignty, to exercise it in common with other member states, sharing the same norms and values as later elucidated in the ASEAN Political and Security Community. They have reordered sovereignty at the regional and national levels.

With the proliferation of multilateral treaties regulating a growing number of issues and the rapid expansion of a body of international declarations, statements, resolutions and other instruments of what is now called "soft" law, more and more issues that were once considered domestic are now treated as legitimate international concerns: rule of law, good governance, the principles of democracy and constitutional government, respect for fundamental freedoms, the promotion and protection of human rights and the promotion of social justice.

As a matter of fact, ASEAN member countries have long realized this trend in their economic collaboration. Starting with the creation of a free trade area in the early 1990s forced upon them by the globalization process, they integrated their economies further into a single market and production base with the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community. ASEAN members have allowed foreign direct investment to greatly enrich their societies, enlarge their wealth.

As a consequence, ASEAN member states have realized that they have limited maneuverability to introduce and execute legislation that is not in accord with the rules of the game of the global community.

The situation whereby a nation state protects itself by national legislation to subject the outside world to laws within its borders has given way to the adaptation of national legislation to international legislation, and thus not risking international legal confrontation. Sovereignty must be able to guarantee that business, civic society and communities that live in an ASEAN member state can function in a globalized world.

Sovereignty is thus no longer defensive. It has developed into "offensive diplomacy, political canvassing, and maneuvers on the international stage" to safeguard a member nation's interests by collectively influencing the international system, also in ASEAN.

ASEAN's outgoing offensive diplomacy, political canvassing and maneuvers on the international stage to safeguard its interests have manifested themselves in its endeavors to accomplish the ASEAN community, in assuring its leadership in regional architecture building and in developing a common ASEAN platform for a global community of nations.

ASEAN's offensive diplomacy, political canvassing and maneuvers are conducted jointly, in concert, not individually, not by each ASEAN member state on its own. These are the seeds of a common foreign policy, emphatically intergovernmental, categorically in cooperation, yet a common stance in its relations with the outside world should constantly be endeavored.

ASEAN has achieved high comfort levels in this domain of designing joint actions. This stance should also reevaluate ASEAN's Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN). While a zone of peace and freedom in Southeast Asia should incessantly be striven for, neutrality should definitely be reevaluated. At the Singapore Summit of 1992, the ASEAN Leaders declared that "ASEAN shall move towards a higher plane of political and economic cooperation to secure regional peace and prosperity".

The ASEAN Regional Forum, ASEAN plus three, plus six and plus eight, or the East Asia Summit, are manifestations of its offensive diplomacy and maneuvers to aim at confidence building and preventive diplomacy to create peace and prosperity and sustain them. It is definitely a departure from a neutral stance.

It is at the domestic front that reordering sovereignty is having difficulties. ASEAN retains its non-interference stance. Nevertheless, interference the ASEAN way is breaking through. Aung San Suu Kyi can be reached by telephone by Indonesia's minister of foreign affairs and a member of the Indonesian media.

Cambodian minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation will ask ASEAN observers to the conflict area between Cambodia and Thailand to mediate, following the UN Security Council recognition of and support (Feb. 14, 2011) for ASEAN to continue mediating in the conflict and the disputing parties to cooperate with ASEAN.

Thailand will still have to respond. It is still a long way from an ASEAN approach to conflict resolution as stipulated in TAC and the ASEAN Charter, of "reliance on peaceful settlement of disputes". But it is a UN recognition of ASEAN's stature of conflict management and, ultimately, of conflict resolution in the region that should urge the member states to incessantly endeavor to manage conflicts toward their resolution.

Indonesia, as the 2011 chair of ASEAN, should be building trust between the disputing parties to resolve their differences amicably, weighing up the possibilities of initiating again a Jakarta informal meeting, on the model of the Jakarta Informal Meeting of 1988-1989-1990 to resolve the Cambodia-Vietnam conflict, to the Cambodia-Thailand dispute over the territory surrounding the Preah Vihaer Temple.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa should be given authority to initiate such an approach. Indonesia will have to make sure that the final resolution can be consummated in Jakarta and does not need to shift again to the Security Council for a comprehensive settlement, like the Cambodia-Vietnam conflict.

In the process a reordering of internal sovereignty in the context of ASEAN will expectantly be accomplished in time to materialize the ASEAN Community by 2015.

The writer is senior researcher at the Center for Political Studies, Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Jakarta.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

AVERTING POLITICAL TURBULENCE

The House of Representatives' vote on Tuesday against the establishment of a special inquiry committee to investigate corruption at the tax office averted a new wave of political turbulence that could adversely affect the government's policy and decision-making capability and further delay the enactment of many important bills.

Judging by the raucous manner in which the lawmakers interrogated senior officials, ministers and even the Vice President during the special inquiry into the 2008 Bank Century bailout, another special inquiry committee would only create a new bout of harsh political harassment of the government for the next few months.

In fact, if the outcome of the three months (Dec. 2009-Feb. 2010) of rowdy sessions during the Bank Century inquiry can be used as a guide, a special tax inquiry would not produce anything substantial in the way of reforming the tax personnel and administration system.

Having said all that, we don't mean to say that the tax directorate general is clean and efficient. On the contrary, the tax office is one of the most corrupt public institutions.

The tax corruption cases involving tens of millions of dollars that implicated former tax auditor Gayus H. Tambunan and the numerous suspicious transactions worth billions of rupiah through the bank accounts of many tax officials, as discovered by the Financial Transactions Report and Analysis Center (PPATK), have validated the perception.

However, we don't think a special inquiry by the House, which itself is also notorious for being one of the most corrupt institutions and acutely lacking in ethics and political culture, would be effective in cleaning up and reforming the taxation service. Instead, a special inquiry, which would take several months, would only hijack senior officials and ministers away from more important duties and further delay the enactment of several important bills.

True, we have all been shocked by the recent trial of Gayus, during which it was revealed how this 31-year-old former junior official conspired with companies to bilk the tax office out of the equivalent of tens of millions of dollars within less than four years. But most of the necessary reform measures have been taken.

What is needed now is stronger law enforcement. However, this is completely beyond the jurisdiction of the lawmakers. Moreover, House members simply do not possess adequate technical competence to uncover tax evasion, corruption or manipulation.

The PPATK and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) are now checking the bank accounts of more than 15,000 tax auditors and officials against their annual tax returns and the balance sheet of their wealth. The KPK is also probing the tax returns of almost 150 companies implicated in what is now called the tax mafia.

Instead of wasting their time on something beyond their jurisdiction, it would be in the greatest interest of the public if the House exercises a more effective oversight of how the law enforcers do their jobs in investigating and prosecuting tax defrauders and tax evaders.

The House needs only to fully deploy its working committee on the judicial mafia and tax fraud, which is fully mandated to summon officials and ministers as well as top law enforcers in light of supervising their performance and verifying issues related to tax administration problems.

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

A SRI LANKAN PROBLEM FOR INDIA

India, has a Sri Lankan problem which is two dimensional, one aspect of the problem having a technical solution and the other requiring a political one. The first part of the problem was mitigated for the moment last week with the release of over one hundred Indian fishermen that had been arrested and remanded by the relevant authorities for poaching in Sri Lankan waters. Now the attraction of Sri Lankan waters for fishing is understandable.

For the past several decades through the period of the war, deep-sea fishing in Northern waters was prohibited by the military and consequently our Northern waters teem with fish making poaching a very attractive proposition for Indian fishermen. However, this aspect of India's Sri Lankan problem can be resolved through technical solutions, including a better coast guard programme, joint patrolling with the Indians and other protective measures of maritime boundaries and fisheries resources. The mechanism to arrive at such solutions is the Indo-Lankan Joint Committee that was established way back in 2006, but has never got off the ground, an error that is being rectified now.

The other dimension of the problem that India has regarding Sri Lanka is more complex and stems from the political problem. Since the war with the LTTE is over, political issues are again at the forefront and Indias problems are as follows.

 Indian political dynamics 

 India is home to over sixty million Tamil people and consequently throughout South India there is an abiding interest in Sri Lankas political problem in general and the welfare of the Tamil Community in particular. That concern was muted when the LTTE was dominating Tamil politics, since there was little sympathy for the LTTE in India following the Rajiv Gandhi assassination. However with the destruction of the LTTE, the dynamics have changed.

It is now possible to advocate a political solution, without the fear that the LTTE would be the beneficiaries of the same. India cooperated actively in the destruction of the LTTE, by assisting Sri Lanka with intelligence sharing, especially to enforce the naval blockade of the LTTE in the North and by providing political support internationally. As Sri Lankas war neared its climatic end in 2009, India was in the midst of its election cycle and under intense domestic political pressure to bring a halt to the fighting. However they held off on such temptations.

It is widely believed that the Sri Lankan government at its highest levels gave assurances to the Indian government at her highest levels, that once the LTTE was destroyed, that Sri Lanka would deliver a political solution that would essentially ensure that the Sri Lankan State, her institutions and functioning would be more accommodative and reflective of the diversity and pluralistic nature of her society. Such an undertaking became especially serious since the Indian government at the center passed on these assurances to its regional allies in the South. Tamil Nadu's main political leaders, both incumbent Chief Minister Karunanidhi and Opposition leader Jayalalitha, find that an unresolved Sri Lankan issue, provides fodder for minor political parties and players, who seek to upstage the seniors on this issue. Further the Chief Minister is in the fight of his political life in next month's State elections and a defeat would spell the end of the octogenarian leader's long political career.

 Indias role in the world
 The other problem for India is its policy of non interference. India would prefer not to see Western or other outside political interference in Sri Lanka. As Indias role in the world expands, a regional power does not want others poking around its backyard. However, an unresolved political problem, including humanitarian and human rights issues provide a legitimate reason for other nations, especially Western ones, homes to their own significant Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora communities to have continuing and compelling concerns about Sri Lanka. Such concerns passed on to India. Now a UN Security Council member and seeking a permanent seat in that body, India cannot be seen as weak and vacillating on Sri Lanka. If India cannot assist in resolving Sri Lankas problem, what are its credentials or rights for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

Accordingly an unresolved Sri Lankan problem, poses a significant problem for India and it is in our own interest to accommodate such concerns and resolve our internal differences.

 (The writer served as Presidential Spokesman from 2001-2005)

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DAILY MIRROR

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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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

THE BLOODY RETREAT FROM VADUKODDAI TO NANDIKADAL- I

The post-Prabhakaran period, shining in the light of a new era, far removed from the clouding smoke of gun fire and exploding bombs, opens up new perspectives to view the past that was dominated by dogmatic ideologies, theories and formulas constructed for the analyses of the convulsive events that shook the nation to its foundations ever since the Jaffna elite declared war on the rest of the nation on May 14, 1976 in the Vadukoddai Resolution – the most explosive and over-determining force in the post-independence history of Sri Lanka. Eliminating the Vadukoddai violence has eased the inhibiting ethnic passions and the oppressive and the obfuscating heat of divisive and partisan politics and created a more dispassionate ambience to revisit and review the primary sources of violence, the inter-acting north-south forces that exacerbated ethnic tensions and the meandering course of violence that ended in the Nandikadal Lagoon.

The punditry of ideologues, particularly in the pro-separatist lobbies and NGOs, went down with Velupillai Prabhakaran in Nandikadal Lagoon on May 18th 2009 – the day the Vadukoddai War ended. The motivational power of the Vadukoddai ideology that led to the 33-year-old Vadukoddai War too has lost its force as it sank in the Nandikadal Lagoon and those who are still tied to the northern separatists and their "aspirations" are floundering in an ideological vacuum because the old theories no longer fit into the new realities. The Tamil separatists lost not only their most formidable leader in Nandikadal Lagoon but also the motivating power of the Vadukoddai ideology which formed the basis for academics, public intellectuals and Jaffna Tamil politicians to justify, sustain and prolong Vadukoddai violence.

 By and large the dominant ideology prevailing at the time blamed the Sri Lankan government for not accommodating the demands of the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE), which in the eyes of the LTTErs was nothing less than a separate state with Prabhakaran as "the sole representative of the Tamils". The ideologies of academic, NGO, media and other public intellectuals generally accepted this thesis. Their theorizing, analyzing and conclusions drawn, especially for peace, were based on the mono-causal theory of blaming only the Sinhala-Buddhists as the cause of the post-Vadukoddai violence.  If there is one crucial aspect that is missing in evaluating the intrinsic forces that led to the north-south crisis, starting from the declaration of the Vadukoddai War in May 1976 by the political caste/class of Jaffna, it is a fair balance which takes into consideration the interplay and the intertwining of the north-south forces. The inter-related, inter-active forces colliding head-on from colonial times are missing in the arguments of those who accept the Vadukoddai ideology. In the instances where some of these forces are introduced the emphasis is tilted to construct a mono-causal origin of the north-south crisis. 

 The imbalance is in the orthodox view that reinforced the mono-causal theory of blaming the south for the Vadukoddai War declared in the north. In this narrative the north is viewed as the victims of discrimination, denial of rights of the Tamil-speaking people, and oppression by the Sinhala-Buddhist majority. The recurring litany of accusations made by the north can be questioned and dismissed with critical analyses – a task that will be dealt with later. However, the tragic consequences of this mono-causal theory have been to deny the internal northern factors that made the Vadukoddai War inevitable. Invariably the focus is on the external (i.e., the southern) factors to exonerate the north of any blame for deciding to opt decisively for a military solution outlined in the Vadukoddai Resolution. It was the north that decided to go down the road from Vadukoddai to Nanthikadal.

 Besides, to accept the mono-causal view of blaming only the south is like believing in a bird that can fly with only one wing. One of the primary objectives of this publication is to question this mono-causal theory not only because it lacks balance but also because it distorts the historical realities that exacerbated the north-south inter-ethnic relations and led to the futile Vadukoddai War.

 Recognition of the north-south forces that met and collided is vital for reconciliation, peace and multi-ethnic co-existence. The ideology that comes out of a one-sided narrative will keep the nation divided into two irreconcilable camps. The way out of the ideological mire is to recognize the historical sequence of events where the previous acts of commission or omission led incrementally to escalate the tensions of both sides until the whole chain of events culminated in the declaration of the Vadukoddai War.

 There is a logical movement in history in which events flow from A to B, B to C and so on and so forth sequentially until you reach Z. Following this sequence of events is the most rational way of explaining the past without getting entangled in abstract theories, or starting the narrative from arbitrary or politically convenient dates. Besides, the logic of events invariably runs away from fabricated theories. Fashionable theories are more like meteors: though they streak through the skies attracting instant attention they burn out very fast. Straightforward narratives are more like constant stars guiding the travelers in the dark of the night.  Plain narratives are also open-ended and not boxed in like limited theories which must necessarily exclude the inconvenient truths to gain some credibility. 

 The violent events heading inexorably to Nanthikadal also crushed the theoreticians and the pundits. One lot of ideologues blinded by Marxist theoretical dogmas and the other lot in the NGOs and academia lured by perks and pocket money misread and misinterpreted the historical roots of the north-south crisis and projected the bitter struggle for survival of the dying feudalistic caste in transition in Jaffna -- the most reactionary political elite in Sri Lanka -- as "the nationalistic aspirations" of the Tamil-speaking people.

 Jaffna was the last refuge of the dying Vellahla caste. Their insular politics consisted of the Vellahla hegemonists, driven by the Vellahla casteist hegemonism, for the Vellahlas to retain their hegemony against internal opposition from the low-castes and external forces of modernity undermining the last bastion of feudalism in Sri Lanka.  It was basically a feudalistic caste in transition to a class. Their struggle was, first, to retain the feudalistic superior status and glory enshrined by the Hindu ideology and, second, to retain the privileges, positions and power gained under colonial patronage. This is not a theoretical hypothesis. This is the recorded history which has been misinterpreted as a "nationalist" movement.

 

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

 

 

 

 

TRUTH BEHIND THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE SRI LANKAN TAMIL DIASPORA

Human Rights activists should take a lesson from the interview made to the Press by the Deputy Minister of Foreign affairs Neomal Perera last week on the behaviour of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in European countries.  According to the Deputy Minister the Foreign Ministry is sensitive to the developments in Europe with the new tactics by the Tamil Diaspora to keep the International Tamil Movement alive. This is not a problem confronted only to Sri Lanka but India as well.

According to Prof LG Peiris of the Peradeniya University the International Tamil Movement is the thread that passes in the whole conflict scenario. It seems that Indian politics is governed by the Tamil issue. Even Rahul Gandhi has picked up the Tamil trump card to begin his maiden political campaign.

The Oxford debacle throws some insights to the lessons  need to be learned by the British Police, the Diplomatic Services,  Politicians & Academics about the Sri Lanka crisis as the Deputy Minister puts it. It seems that the History books in the Oxford Library need to be cleaned for reference on the History of the South Asia by the interested parties. The tragedy is that the British Academics are not very familiar with the complicated History & Cultures of this part of the world. This is why the external affairs of the UK are facing this kind of problems where Asia is concerned.

 According to the Deputy Minster the Tamil Diaspora attempted to tarnish the image of the Galle Literary Festival although it moved to the expectations. Unlike the academics of Oxford President Rajapaksa is no product of the Oxford University but a person who has been successful in establishing the Rule of Law after around 30 years of civil strife. Oxford must learn the lessons from Colombo where Human Rights are concerned. Sri Lankan President has all the right to address the Oxford Union with his practical record to activate democratic politics after brutal rule of the jungle. The Tamil Diaspora is active in UK with their high standard of living, enjoying the migration benefits afforded by the UK as long as the Sri Lankan crisis stands. There is no Indian Tamil Diaspora in UK where 50 million Tamils in South India are not crying for a homeland.

Bandula Nonis

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

 

OUR BAHRAIN  

BY MARIAM AHMED ALI

 

I AM shattered. I am stunned, bewildered and emotionally paralysed.

 

I write this with no personal agenda, nor any idea of what happens next and whether life will ever be normal again.

 

I write this with rawness and a nauseating desperation to get Bahrain back.

 

My Bahrain... My Bahrain!

 

This is not my Bahrain. I refuse to let this become my Bahrain. It is not possible for this to be my Bahrain.

 

My Bahrain was a place where we never thought there was a sectarian divide because it was not relevant in the fabric of us.

 

My Bahrain was a place not only where we got along with each other, but where people from every country around the globe could come to live, work, play and raise their families safely and at higher standards than they could do in their own homelands.

 

My Bahrain was a place where I could have hope that I could contribute, add value and take part in developing the country according to my generation's collective aspirations.

 

My Bahrain was at all times - despite routine protests and expression of opinion - peaceful and safe.

 

I have been known for being an unwavering patriot. I have been presented with opportunities to move away to work and I have always steadfastly turned the opportunity down.

 

I have held the firm belief that if my peers and I were all to leave the country, we would be doing much more than pursuing opportunities - we would be turning our backs on our national responsibilities.

 

Those national responsibilities include doing our bit to build this country. To work with honesty and integrity. To pay our dues and earn what we get. To be entitled to what we have simply because we worked for it. To vote, to run for parliament, to be ambassadors of "brand Bahrain". To have the courage to put our views forward and to respect that others would have different opinions. To take advantage of platforms and channels that are made available to us and, when we do not find such channels, to work on developing them ourselves with a spirit of peace and positivity. National responsibilities that start and that end with loyalty to country.

 

Today, I am shaken to the core. Everything I had ever imagined to be true in the world has been threatened.

 

No, I have not been blind to the politics and the shortcomings of Bahrain - sometime ago I was actually part of devising solutions to some of our challenges.

 

Nor have I been sheltered from the realities of how Bahrain's poor live; I have seen them and I have supported them as I could.

 

I have been privileged in my life, but I have never once put my feet up and thought that I do not need to work hard to maintain what I have.

 

With this background, I have never even considered that I have any less duty to deliver on my national responsibilities.

 

But I have always held these principles in silence. For whatever reason, I have been satisfied with being a part of a silent strata in society, taking my lifestyle and my country for granted.

 

And now, as I see my Bahrain embedded in fire, under attack internally and externally, I realise how gravely wrong I have been to be happy with the sound of my own silence.

 

As I have been talking with people about the tragic events that have occurred here, I have found that I am one of many who share the same principles of national responsibility, but have been living in silence.

 

There is a silent majority that has logic and passion, drive and emotion, and is not interested in taking sides.

 

We believe there are no sides. We cannot allow for there to be any sides. There is only one side and that is our Bahrain.

 

We reject the international media war that has been raged against us. We have attempted to contact different media and ask them to let us speak. So far, they have not put us through.

 

We have gone onto national television condemning what is happening to our Bahrain and calling for unity and security.

 

We have set up Twitter accounts and have rallied our friends from around the world to follow us and to understand what we want for our Bahrain.

 

We have joined Facebook groups, commented on blogs and signed petitions trying to make a dent in this global media machine - where only people with sectarian agendas have been granted airtime.

 

We want the space to get our agenda across. Our agenda rejects violence. We reject casualties across the board. We reject any disruptions to communications or Internet connections. We reject terrorism. We reject illegal gatherings of people who want to disrupt our normal lives. We reject allowing young children to be used as pawns and sleeping in outdoor spaces. We reject the disruption of our jobs, our businesses, our recreational facilities.

 

We reject division and sectarianism. We reject the destruction of the image that Bahrain has so painstakingly worked hard to build over the past 10 years.

 

We reject the fall of our economy. We reject the interference of any outside power in our internal affairs. We reject corruption. We reject fear. We reject the international smear campaign against us. We reject different versions of Bahrain. Our agenda is our Bahrain - Bahrain for Bahrainis.

 

We admit that we have been wrong to be silent for so long. We have now rallied and are ready to be Bahraini by word and by action. We will not be told that is too late and we will persevere until we have our Bahrain back.

 

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Project By

SAMARTH

a trust – of the people by the people for the people

An Organisation for Rastriya Abhyudaya

(Registered under Registration Act 1908 in Gorakhpur, Regis No – 142- 07/12/2007)

Central Office: Basement, H-136, Shiv Durga Vihar, Lakkarpur, Faridabad – 121009

Cell: - 0091-93131-03060

Email – samarth@samarth.co.in, central.office@samarth.co.in

Registered Office: Rajendra Nagar (East), Near Bhagwati Chowk, Lachchipur

Gorakhnath Road, Gorakhpur – 273 015

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