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Thursday, March 3, 2011

EDITORIAL 03.03.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month march 03, edition 000769, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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










  2. IS IT A THAW?






















  6. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY  




































The assassination of Pakistan's Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti for his criticism of the Islamic Republic's harsh and inhuman blasphemy law is no doubt a heinous crime but let us not feign surprise that such a terrible thing has happened in that country once again. Less than two months after the powerful Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was gunned down for exactly the same reason, the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian Minister in the Pakistani Cabinet, was really predictable — "I was told by the religious extremists… you will be killed," he had said during an interview. Consequently, he had been accorded extra security but Shahbaz Bhatti had little faith even in his guards. Little wonder that when Taliban jihadis attacked his vehicle on Wednesday morning, the Minister had no security detail. Shahbaz Bhatti was declared dead at a local hospital where the customary autopsy revealed that the terrorists, all of them Pakistanis, had pumped at least 35 bullets into his face, chest and stomach. Such are the wages of the Pakistani state's collective sin. A country founded on the basis of religion is bound to degenerate into a theocracy and descend into murderous chaos. Mohammed Ali Jinnah may have grandly declared in Pakistan's Constituent Assembly that "You may belong to any religion… that has nothing to do with the business of the state" but there is little evidence to suggest that either he or those who took over from him took any of these words to heart. We also should not be distracted by what Jinnah promised and his successors practised while looking for Pakistan's 'lost secular ideals' for they never existed. Pakistan has transmogrified, as it was destined to, into a haven for terrorists of varying shades of Islamism, all of them raring to wage jihad both within and outside the country that was supposed to provide shelter and succour to the sub-continent's Muslims. Pakistan's political and military elite bred and reared a monster to implement Islamabad's policy of promoting cross-border terrorism; that monster has now turned on its master. It's a beast which can never be appeased, but this simple message continues to be lost on both the Generals of Rawalpindi and the politicians of Islamabad.

It's futile to debate and deliberate on Pakistan's future. At the moment, it's a country in free fall, a state which is collapsing with every passing day. Yet, and tragically so for Pakistanis, their rulers, including the men in khaki who persist with their dollar-fetching fiction that Pakistan faces its real threat from India and not from jihadis within, are seemingly callous and couldn't care less about the state of affairs which prevails. The Americans thought they could fix Pakistan and prop it up with large handouts of civilian and military aid. But despite billions of dollars being poured into bottomless pits that dot Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Pakistan remains as rickety as ever — some would argue even more than ever before. We can bemoan the passing of liberalism in Pakistan and the danger faced by those who are yet to be converted to the ideology that drives the Taliban and Al Qaeda to commit horrendous crimes, including against their co-religionists. But that is not going to help either Pakistan or Pakistanis. For, ultimately Pakistanis alone can save their country from imploding into a million pieces.







The ban imposed on the pesticide Endosulfan by the Government of Karnataka almost a fortnight ago should serve as an eye-opener for the Union Government towards the miseries the killer chemical has unleashed upon the people living in and around the areas where it has been sprayed for the past several decades. It also highlights the need for a nation-wide ban on the pesticide. In Kerala, where it was banned almost a decade ago, it has killed over 500 people and caused mysterious diseases that have afflicted close to 10,000 people. Till date, people are still dying in the areas near the cashew plantations where the pesticide had been used for two decades since 1980. Karnataka decided to ban it after being convinced of its adverse effects on humans, animals and birds. Still, lobbyists for the pesticides industry are trying to defend the killer chemical by claiming that there is no evidence of any direct link between Endosulfan and health problems. The tragedy is that the solid findings on the killing capacity of the pesticide by several studies in Kerala's Kasaragod district alone are totally disregarded. The lobbyists for Endosulfan say that the Union Government cannot be responsible for the tragedy because Kerala was not permitted to spray it aerially. This is a direct admission that the pesticide could cause problems. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's Budget did not even care to look at Kerala's request for a relief and rehabilitation package for the pesticide's victims despite the recommendation of the National Commission for Human Rights.

As far as the Union Government is concerned, Endosulfan cannot cause any problems in Kerala and Karnataka now as it is banned in both States. But the sad reality is that the Endosulfan tragedy is still continuing in the cashew plantations of Kasaragod and the cardamom estates of Idukki in Kerala. These places and similar ones in Karnataka will continue to suffer from the after-effects of the pesticide as long as it is being produced and made available in the country. For example, despite the ban in Kerala, Hindustan Insecticides Limited in Kochi still remains one of the largest Endosulfan producers in the world. The Union Government's argument that different States have different views on the toxicity of the pesticide is simply not acceptable. The only reason why significant reports on the impact of Endosulfan in other States do not exist is because such studies have not been conducted anywhere else apart from Kerala and Karnataka, but that does not render the pesticide any less toxic. In fact, the Endosulfan question is not just one of toxicity. It is also about how this democracy cares for the life and well-being of its citizens. The only way to do justice to them would be to ban the chemical: Completely and at the earliest.









With tensions mounting between Pakistan and the US over the Raymond Davis affair, the flaws in America's AfPak policy have become more glaring than before.

It could well have been a scene from a Sylvester Stallone 'Rambo' thriller. The 'good guy' is 'Rambo' Raymond Davis, a Special Forces sharpshooter-turned-CIA agent, sent to eliminate 'bad guy' terrorists in 'major non-NATO ally' Pakistan. 'Rambo' Raymond Davis is followed by two 'bad guys' through the shady areas of Lahore on January 27. The 'bad guys' are actually ISI agents assigned to trail 'Rambo' Raymond Davis, who has been eliminating the agency's jihadi and Taliban assets in Pakistani terrorist badlands, including in the tribal areas straddling the AfPak border. The ISI stalkers draw their pistols and move towards 'Rambo' Raymond Davis's car. He draws his trusty six-shooter and brings down the two 'bad guys'. He then radios for help and an American Consulate car rushes to the scene, with the rescuers running over a pedestrian while driving the wrong way on a one-way street. 'Rambo' Raymond Davis is overpowered and jailed. All hell breaks loose between the two 'major non-NATO allies'.

The American version of the status of Mr Davis is that he holds a diplomatic passport and was issued a visa after being designated a 'regional affairs officer' — an euphemism for his being a CIA operative — with his background known to the hosts. He was also listed as 'administrative and technical staff' which entitles him to diplomatic immunity. According to the Pakistanis, Mr Davis is actually an employee of the private security agency, Hyperion Protective Consultants. Oddly, while the Americans insist Mr Davis is an embassy employee, the US State Department spokesman has described him as a "(Lahore) Consulate employee". Amid these flip-flops by the Obama Administration, former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureishi, who had avoided a scheduled visit to Munich, evidently fearing that he was on the verge of being fired, joined issue immediately after he lost his job. Mr Qureishi claimed his Ministry had carried out a detailed study and concluded that Mr Davis was not entitled to diplomatic immunity.

These developments have come just when Pakistan's politics is becoming increasingly volatile. The Zardari Government in Islamabad does not want hassles in Pakistan's relations with the US. The issue would have been settled and Mr Davis quietly repatriated to the US if the incident had taken place in the Federal Capital Area, where President Asif Ali Zardari controls the police. But, Lahore is not the federal capital. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has shown no inclination of making life easy for Mr Zardari. After easing Mr Zardari's Pakistan People's Party out of the ruling coalition in Punjab, moves will be initiated to get his brother, Mr Nawaz Sharif, back as Pakistan's Prime Minister. Mr Nawaz Sharif knows that his PML(N) will sweep the polls in any national election. The Sharif brothers also have no inhibitions in being seen to be supportive of the growing anti-Americanism in Pakistan. Mr Shahbaz Sharif has funded Hafiz Saeed's Jamaat-ud-Dawa'h after it was declared an international terrorist organisation. The Punjab Police has swiftly arrested and charged Mr Davis with murder, knowing that the judiciary headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is virulently anti-Zardari. The Lahore High Court has deferred the case till March 14. In the meantime, Mr Davis sleeps in a Lahore jail despite assertions by US President Barack Obama that he enjoys diplomatic immunity and should be released.

Stirring this boiling cauldron is the all-powerful Pakistani Army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and his ever-loyal ISI chief, now under extension, Lt General Ahmed Shuja Pasha. There has been no love lost between the CIA and the ISI in recent days. The CIA is furious that its base in the Khost Province of Afghanistan, near the AfPak border, was attacked and destroyed by jihadis from across the Durand Line. Tensions between the two intelligence agencies escalated when the ISI leaked the identity of the CIA Station Chief then working undercover in Pakistan. Moreover, Mr Davis was undermining the ISI by establishing his own links to eliminate the jihadis in the Pashtun tribal areas along the AfPak border. Worse still, he was evidently attempting to undermine and infiltrate the citadel of the 'holiest of the holies' the Lashkar-e Tayyeba and the Patron Saint of the ISI, the redoubtable Hafiz Mohammed Saeed. The Pakistani Army quietly joined the chorus seeking to push the Americans into a corner and force them to offer concessions, even though Gen Kayani does not exactly love fellow Punjabi Nawaz Sharif. What the Americans, like some in South Block, have failed to acknowledge is that Gen Kayani believes that the US needs Pakistan just now more than Islamabad needs Washington, DC. He evidently feels that the Americans will blink first, which they show every inclination of doing, in this standoff.

The Davis affair is a manifestation of the larger malaise affecting the transactional US-Pakistan relationship. Thanks to some adept diplomacy by India, the Obama Administration soon gave up the thoughtless proposal mooted by Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid that the US should actively involve itself in meddling in the issue of Jammu & Kashmir by appointing Mr Bill Clinton as a Special Envoy. Moreover, its initial honeymoon with China soon led to estrangement, accentuated by the global economic downturn. The realisation dawned in Washington that New Delhi would be a useful partner in fashioning an inclusive Asian architecture for security and cooperation. While Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and his bureaucrats have been constantly moaning that the Americans are not treating them 'equally' with India and denying them a nuclear deal, Gen Kayani appears hell bent on giving the US a difficult time by providing support and haven to the 'Quetta Shura' headed by Mullah Omar and to the Taliban's Haqqani network.

American diplomacy in Afghanistan also needs review. Afghan President Hamid Karzai disagrees with American policies and is meeting Lt Gen Shuja Pasha regularly, seeking Pakistani cooperation for 'reconciliation' with the Taliban. The Americans have not evolved a coherent strategy of how to get the Taliban to renounce violence and abide the Afghan Constitution. Nor is there confidence that the Afghan National Army will develop the capabilities to overcome Taliban depredations by 2014. The realisation has to dawn that terrorist safe havens in Pakistan cannot be eliminated unless the US reduces its dependence on Pakistani logistical support and fashions alternative logistical arrangements with Russia and Afghanistan's Central Asian neighbours. Only then can the international community evolve viable policies for governance within Afghanistan and ensure that the AfPak border is no longer what Admiral Mike Mullen has called "the epicentre of global terrorism".






Thirty-five years after it was swept to power, the CPI(M)-led Left Front in West Bengal is facing its toughest electoral battle yet. The Trinamool Congress has emerged as the main contender for power and if the 2009 general election debacle of the Left Front is any indication, this summer will see the exit of the world's longest-serving elected Communist Government

Wednesday's edition of The Telegraph, published from Kolkata, has an excellent black-and-white photograph, reproduced from the famed archives of Ananda Bazar Patrika Group, on the front page with the main story of the day, appropriately headlined "Wait for Friday 13". The story is on the West Bengal Assembly election schedule; the headline refers to the day results will be declared — May 13, which happens to be a Friday. Those who believe in the power of the occult to influence events and are not scornful of popular superstition will read an ominous message in the headline. That message will not be entirely lost on the apparatchiks at the CPI(M)'s State party headquarters on Alimuddin Street. Marxists are no longer immune to popular faith and superstition; 35 years of uninterrupted political power has made them vulnerable to more than one illness.

That, however, need not distract us from the photograph on the front page of The Telegraph. It was taken at a Calcutta (as the city was then known) polling booth on June 10, 1977. As the caption pithily adds, "The day of the Assembly election that set the stage for the uninterrupted reign of the Left till now." It shows eight voters waiting for their turn to cast their vote. Of the five men, three would be in their twenties and the other two in their thirties. Among the women, we can't see the face of one of them. The other two are barely out of their teens. The two Government employees at the booth would be in their mid-thirties.

The photograph tells a story that goes far beyond what it shows — an orderly queue at a polling booth, possibly set up in a classroom of a school. And here's the story. The men in their twenties would be pushing mid-to-late-fifties today; perhaps even touching 60. The others in the room who are older than them would have retired by now, tending to their plants or doing whatever tickles their fancy. The two young women would be dealing with the problems that middle-age fetches, not all of them to do with the human body. In brief, all of them have passed from being young, or relatively young, to old age, or near old age, under a political dispensation that has not changed since the day they cast their vote in 1977, pushing the once mighty Congress to the margins of West Bengal politics where it has languished ever since. There's more. Their children have grown into adulthood and become parents under the same dispensation.

This, in a sense, is the story of West Bengal. One generation of Bengalis voted in the CPI(M)-led Left Front with a whopping majority in 1977. Jyoti Basu, who had sworn vengeance on the Congress for ensuring the failure and collapse of the United Front Government, had his sweet revenge. Along with his long-time foe Siddhartha Shankar Ray, the Congress was swept aside and he came to occupy the Chief Minister's office at Writers' Building, the Secretariat from where the Government of West Bengal functions as it did during the Raj. Clerks who once laboriously wrote out documents in triplicate have been replaced by clerks who now abhor labour of any kind; the only exception they make is when they join Coordination Committee rallies to raise slogans against imaginary grievances.

Between 1977 and 2011, at least three generations of Bengalis have been witness to the world's longest-serving elected Communist Government. Many have actively participated in keeping the CPI(M) in power; others have migrated to seek their fortune elsewhere rather than be stuck in a State with dwindling employment opportunities. The CPI(M) was swept to power on the promise of 'poriborton' (change). That promise was fulfilled, during the two-and-a-half decades Jyoti Basu was Chief Minister, in the most perverse manner by changing the face, seemingly forever, of West Bengal's thriving industrial landscape by turning the State into a graveyard of industry.

Boxwallah companies that once boasted of their head office being in the Empire's Second City either went bankrupt and folded up or fled to other cities with whatever they could salvage of their businesses. The ruins of Dunlop Nagar over which promoters are now raising housing blocks were once a bustling self-contained township where liveried khansamas waited upon management trainees in their plush chummery. All along the Hooghly stand rusting chimneys of factories closed during those early years of Left Front rule. Burrabazar's Marwaris and Alimuddin Street's Marxists discovered they were kindred spirits; it's only natural that traders became industrialists, a tag that they used to strip newly acquired factories of their assets and invest their windfall profits in 'labour-friendly' States. Meanwhile, the working class, heady with the excitement of participating in violent gheraoes and strikes, allowed itself to be fooled into believing that union leaders were actually negotiating a deal for their betterment behind closed doors. What they got instead were layoffs and closure notices.

Yet the CPI(M) remained in power, winning election after election, its vote share swinging between 35.46 per cent (in 1977) and 37.13 per cent (in 2006). The first-past-the-post system, coupled with a well-crafted political alliance that has come to be known as the Left Front, ensured the Marxists got a majority of seats in West Bengal's 294-member Assembly. The only time their strength dipped below the halfway mark was in 2001, but that did not reduce the Left Front to a minority in the House. Along with the Assembly elections, the Left Front also routinely swept the panchayat polls. If there was an Achilles' heel, it was the Left's uneven performance in urban areas and civic elections.

In 2001, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee led the CPI(M) into electoral battle, won a hard fought victory, and set about the task of freeing the Left Front Government from the legacy of the Jyoti Basu years. By then, Ms Mamata Banerjee had emerged as a contender for power, having occupied much of the space vacated by the Congress. Mr Bhattacharjee's effort to put West Bengal on the path of industrialisation and shake up things helped him forge what came to be known as 'Brand Buddha' — that, coupled with his evocative slogan, "Do it Now!" saw him trounce Ms Banerjee at the hustings in 2006.

But it proved to be a short-lived victory, both for him and his party. The botched effort to acquire land for a Special Economic Zone in Nandigram, followed by the Tata Nano factory fiasco at Singur, gave Ms Banerjee the opportunity she was looking for to emerge as a popular leader with the courage to take on the mighty Marxist machinery. It also left the Left Front Government looking pathetically weak in resolve and spirit. Mr Bhattacharjee had dared to discard his party line and court capitalists; what he had not factored in is the blowback, nor had he checked on the credentials of the capitalists he wooed so ardently. Crony capitalism has never done any regime any good. His slogan, "Do it Now!", suddenly sounded hollow.

If ideology drove voters to vote in the Left Front in 1977, it was pragmatism of a certain kind that kept them from moving away from the CPI(M) in the subsequent elections. To be seen with the 'Party' was necessary to survive. An elaborate network of patronage and a parallel party bureaucracy took over all aspects of life, including trade and commerce, such as it was, in Left Front-ruled West Bengal. Retribution for not being deferential to the 'Party' was swift, often horrific.

Today's voters, many of them just out of their teens and most of them in their twenties, feel no similar compulsion to either feel obliged towards the cadre brigade or be fearful of retribution. Like the regime, the 'Party' too is tottering under the combined weight of sloth and corruption. In the past it was revered and feared; today it is pitilessly ridiculed for what it has become: As decrepit as the Congress. Meanwhile, the changing profile of the national economy has brought about tectonic changes in the aspirations of the new generation of Bengalis who were born in the early-1990s. The sights and sounds of today's Kolkata reflect this better than anything else. This is no longer the city where Missionaries of Charity gathered the sick and the dying from garbage-littered pavements. Hotel Heaven now straddles the plot next to Mother House, marking the distance that Calcutta and Kolkata have traversed.

Ironically, if it was the desire for 'poriborton' that fetched the CPI(M) victory in the summer of 1977, it is the clamour for 'change' that is likely to see it booted out of power in the summer of 2011. Thirty-five years ago, Bengalis had two options: They could either vote for the Congress or the CPI(M); they chose the latter. Between then and now, it was the proverbial TINA factor that helped the CPI(M) to win six successive elections. A decrepit, compromised Congress, whose leaders were scornfully described as tormuj (watermelon) — green outside, 'red' inside — was never an option in the interceding years; it still remains so. Yet, the earlier situation of there being no alternative to the CPI(M) or the Left Front no longer obtains. As the last Lok Sabha election has shown, the people of West Bengal have found an alternative in the Trinamool Congress and are more than willing to try their luck with a different political dispensation. The rainbow social coalition that once belonged to the Congress was taken over by the Left. It now belongs to the Trinamool Congress.

The story of the Left's decline and the rise of the Trinamool Congress would be incomplete without a footnote whose irony would be lost only on unreconstructed Marxists and diehard minority-pandering secularists in the armies that will clash in a battle no less epic than the battle of Plassey this summer. It revolves around the BJP which may be a 'non-player' in the coming election but whose ability to garner votes could play a decisive role in the outcome of the polls. In as many as five Lok Sabha constituencies the CPI(M)'s candidates squeaked past their Trinamool opponents at the post in the 2009 general election thanks to the BJP's vote share. The CPI(M)'s strategists are hoping, desperately so, that the BJP repeats its 1991 performance when the party got 11.46 per cent of the total votes.

Miracles are known to happen, just as superstitions are often proved to be true. Friday the 13th of May will witness a historic event in West Bengal, irrespective of who wins the Assembly election.







With the Election Commission announcing the schedule for the Assembly poll in West Bengal, the CPI(M) is desperately trying to live down its past and woo rural voters while the Trinamool Congress is offering an agenda for change


The date has been set for the biggest match to be ever played in the political history of West Bengal. The new entrant Trinamool Congress is wooing the voter with its message of hope by offering a future that is inclusive. On the other hand, the CPI(M) is hoping that it can live down its past and reconstruct the future on with the help of an agenda of participation and inclusion.

The State Assembly election beginning on April 18 will be a contest of the establishment versus the anti-establishment. It will be a conflict between the modern and its structure of order, authority and control and the post-modern that seeks to create a different order based on authority being dispersed and control that is peculiarly centralised and yet volatile in the manner in which it is decentralised and distributed.

Reconnecting with the rural voter is the CPI(M)'s biggest political challenge. There are several parts to the challenge as the rural voter is not one homogeneous mass. There are cross-cutting interests and far too many reasons for each different type of interest to feel strongly anti-CPI(M). To find ways of delivering benefits to this complex network of contradictory interests will be one kind of political challenge. Finding a slogan that can appeal to all these disparate elements is the other kind of political challenge that requires skill and inspiring leadership.

A programme-based agenda of development and transformation that the CPI(M) leader drops hints about are promises that will signal a seriously different approach to wooing the voter. Over the past few weeks, the CPI(M) has signalled that it will propose a programme that will convert the momentum of development in the State from the current stop-start slow motion roll out of minimalist benefits to specific sections of the most economically vulnerable, namely the scheduled caste and scheduled tribes as also the Muslim minority into a scorching fast paced transformation. What is being planned is, however, unknown.

Having consolidated its spectacular victory in 2008 panchayat poll, 2009 Lok Sabha polls and the municipal polls last year, the Trinamool Congress needs to ensure that the tipping point has been in fact reached. The urban voters in Kolkata has been, despite their reputedly fickle nature, intensely loyal to didi. The rural voter in 2008 and thereafter found in the Trinamool Congress an Opposition to the CPI(M) and so poured out its pent up anger and frustrations on converting a sentiment into a viable alternative.

Carrying this burden of hope and expectations is Ms Mamata Banerjee's challenge. She not only has to carry the crowd with her, she has to outmanoeuvre the CPI(M). In 2006, the fight was to defend a vision created by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee that declared industry, globalisation and private investments as the key drivers of change. In 2011, the Trinamool Congress is placing its hopes and dreams of capturing power in West Bengal through a somewhat incoherent but compelling appeal that combines aspirations of preserving the rural idyllic with the yearning to restore the State to its lost position of leader of industrialising India.

In 2006, West Bengal's hopes and the promises made by the CPI(M) were all to do with integrating the State with the fast moving global economy via the capitalist route. Investments in the social sector were underplayed as a result of which it was easy to scare the landowners and peasants without land that their champions had switched sides. By championing the 'capitalist' the CPI(M) was painted as betraying the aam admi, a class that it had empowered through tenancy rights under 'Operation Barga' creating a stable ownership society out of a precarious tenancy regime. In terms of impact, 'Operation Barga' was politically far more radical and significant than the land reforms that redistributed acquired land to the small and marginal peasant.

The ownership society in the rural areas is not the easiest political nut to crack. It has acquired aspirations and histories that complicate the task of crafting a programme that can help the CPI(M) reconnect. Decades of grievances have produced disenchantment with the idea of the CPI(M).

For rural youth the CPI(M), as experienced through daily interactions with local 'big-wigs', is not a party with an ideology. Nor do they find its leaders the old-time austere, principled, stern and committed comrades. The party and its 'members,' including the hangers, are the new men of means. To get rid of the rent-seekers, the CPI(M) has not only admitted to the excesses but has also launched its rectification programme. Whether the 30,000 odd 'party' people, who have been either sacked or sidelined, are a convincing number is open to question. The rent-seekers of the CPI(M) inhabit every hamlet and street in the villages and towns of West Bengal.

Will the cynical rural and urban voter be persuaded by a penitent CPI(M)? Can the CPI(M)'s members be truly self-critical? Does the party have an alternative set of 'members' to undertake the massive outreach required to get across to voters before the election is announced and the campaign begins? It is easy for the Government to dress its programmes to reflect compassion for the aam admi. It is much harder for the CPI(M) to live down its past.







Research shows that cruelty to animals often transmogrifies into criminal misdeeds and adds to a city's list of crimes. The new Commissioner of Delhi Police would do well to crack down on those who treat animals without compassion

The new Commissioner of Delhi Police, Mr BK Gupta, doubtless has a host of problems on his plate, including coping with terrorism and keeping the crime rate down when sociological, cultural and economic factors combine with the national capital's peculiar location to push it upward. Nevertheless, an area which requires urgent attention is cruelty to animals.

Though the Delhi Police has been somewhat sensitised in the matter over the last few years, much still remains to be done. It continues to show a tendency not to take complaints of cruelty to animals seriously. In a recent instance in Mukherjee Nagar, north Delhi, an FIR against people accused of brutally beating a stray dog to death was reportedly registered only after intervention by those who matter.


The tendency towards 'burking' (doctoring of crime figures through non-registration of FIRs or recording offences as less severe), which policemen display everywhere, is more evident in the case of animals.

The need for a change in the police's approach to complaints of cruelty to animals is urgent because animals have right to live safely and happily and human beings, the most advanced and evolved of all living species, have a responsibility to ensure that they do so. It is also important because instances of people going scot free after violations of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960, increases the tendency toward taking laws in general lightly, which is increasingly in evidence today. Equally significant, cruelty toward animals is indicative of aggression or latent or active criminality in a person and identification of such an individual and keeping him or her under surveillance is important for any police force.

Violent criminals tend to be cruel to both humans and animals. In their paper, 'From Animal Cruelty to Serial Murder: Applying the Graduation Hypothesis' (The International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology), Jeremy Wright and Christopher Hensley write that since the late-1970s, the FBI has considered animal cruelty as a possible indicator of future serial murder.

"The FBI documented the connection between cruelty to animals and serial murder following a study of 35 imprisoned serial murderers. The convicted murders were asked questions regarding their childhood cruelty toward animals. More than half of the serial murderers admitted to hurting or torturing animals as children or adolescents (Humane Society of the United States, 2001)."

They further point out that in 1987, animal cruelty was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-III (R) as a symptom of conduct disorder and was retained in the 1994 DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association 1987, 1994). According to DSM-IIIR and DSM-IV description of conduct disorders, it commonly involves physical violence and harm to humans and animals.

In another paper entitled 'Childhood Cruelty to Animals and Subsequent Cruelty to Humans' (The International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology), Linda Merz-Perez, Kathleen M Heide, and Ira J Silverman write that cruelty to animals has long served as "a red flag in law enforcement circles with respect to extremely violent offenders" and state that "the expansive literature with respect to serial killers has often cited cruelty to animals as a precursor to the violence later targeted against human victims (Lockwood & Church, 1998)".

They conclude that the study's overall results support previous research efforts indicating "a relationship between cruelty to animals committed during childhood and later violence perpetrated against humans."

Noting that the matter is complex, the authors say that cruelty to animals in children can provide insights into violent behaviour that may or may not translate later into violence against human beings and that cruelty to animals often reveal insightful analogies to violence against human beings. They cite the example of a "violent offender, a repeat sex offender" who had been "convicted of a crime against nature for sodomising a reformatory pig" and another, "convicted of sexual batter on a person 65 years or older", described how he would throw stones at stray animals to "beat and hurt them as my parents hurt me".

Prompt and effective action regarding offences affecting animals should, therefore, be considered a critical and integral part of policing. Mr BK Gupta would make a signal contribution to enhancing citizens' security in Delhi if he can impress this on his force.









With West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam and the Union territory of Puducherry going to the polls between April 4 and May 10, the results of the assembly elections will have major implications for the Congress-led UPA dispensation. Besieged by scams and facing an impoverishment of political capital, the latter would view the polls as an opportunity to consolidate, shore up and expand its constituency. But the Congress has its task cut out as it gears up for a tough battle ahead.

Assam might just be the least of the Congress's headaches. With the two major opposition parties - the BJP and the AGP - contesting the election separately, the Congress-led government of Tarun Gogoi has reasons to feel confident. Bolstering the party's chances are the recent talks with the separatist Ulfa leadership. However, Badruddin Ajmal's AUDF could play spoiler, especially if it manages to stitch together an alliance with the AGP. A far closer contest will be Tamil Nadu. With the Congress and the DMK yet to finalise a seat-sharing agreement and the alliance rocked by the 2G spectrum scam, the opposition AIADMK has a strong chance of effecting a regime change. The latter has already stitched together a formidable alliance comprising film actor Vijaykanth's DMDK, the MDMK and R Sarathkumar's AISMK. If the Congress-DMK coalition is to lose the state, it could greatly impact the Congress's prospects in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The assembly polls are also crucial from the point of view of the Left. The CPM-led governments in Kerala and West Bengal are on sticky wickets. Riding on the high of clean sweeps in almost all local body elections since 2009, the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) is resurgent as it looks to end the 34-year-old rule of the Left in West Bengal. That the TMC has breached the CPM's traditional rural vote bank has the comrades losing sleep. In Kerala, a state that has traditionally witnessed the LDF and the UDF formations come to power alternately, the Left has its back up against the wall.

Faced with factional infighting between the camps of chief minister V S Achuthanandan and state party secretary Pinarayi Vijayan that has seen corruption charges being traded, the CPM would find it hard to counter anti-incumbency. With poor prospects in two of its most formidable bastions - in addition to loss of political capital at the Centre - the Left's leadership would do well to shed its corporatist political philosophy and adopt a brand of politics that is in tune with the times. Midway in the UPA government's tenure, the upcoming assembly elections will be a credible test of each political party's true strength. However, it also provides a good opportunity to recalibrate strategies and effect course corrections.







Growing medical knowledge is rapidly rendering a one-size-fits-all medical policy obsolete. In making the case for developing India-specific medical guidelines, a recent study flags the need for conducting exhaustive research into how specific non-western population groups respond to medication. The study carried out by two Indian doctors, A Misra and L Khurana, has been endorsed by others who call for change in the medical regimen prescribed for Indian patients. It compared South Asians with white Caucasians and found that differences between ethnic groups are not limited to social norms - such as knowledge, lifestyles and attitudes - but extend to the physiological. For instance, South Asian levels of body fat are very different to white Caucasians. South Asians have uncommonly low levels of adiponectin - a hormone which modulates glucose regulation in the body. Bodies differ in many ways along ethnic lines, but continue to be treated the same.

Generating guidelines tailored to Indians - and even sub-groups within India - is a first step to addressing this mismatch. The next is creating population-specific medicines, because they can combat disease far more effectively. Underpinning all this is R&D - the speciality of the mega-global drug manufacturers. While India needs to step up pharma research in both the private and public sectors on medical regimens suited to this region, multinational firms too should be enticed to relocate to India. That should work for them too, as drug development costs would be cheaper in India. And the outcome could be drugs and medical regimens more suited to Indian body types. Innovative medical research in India has a bright future. Some of it ought to be devoted to medical protocols suitable for Indians.









As government-to-government talks resume bet-ween India and Pakistan, it is time to consider other channels of engagement that can contribute to improving relations or at least minimising distrust. Cricket helps, of course, and we can hope that the World Cup now underway may rekindle some of the good spirit among fans that prevailed some years ago.

But the interaction needs to be constant rather than episodic, and it needs to move beyond the symbolic and dialogic to the substantive and tangibly beneficial. The best option would be to intensify trade. It is true that when countries trade goods, they are less likely to trade blows (although there are famous and violent exceptions as with Germany and the rest of Europe prior to World War I). While there is consensus that this is a good idea, little has been done to realise it.

A major obstacle to expanding Indo-Pak trade is in fact our two governments. Pakistan does not grant most-favoured nation status to exports from India. India does - but Pakistan claims that MFN status does not translate into greater exports from Pakistan because trade barriers, especially in areas of Pakistani comparative advantage such as textiles and clothing, remain high. Claims and counterclaims fly between the two capitals, echoing the stilted sound of the security discourse. It's time to think beyond the traditional, and to look for other economic options.

Consider the following possibility. Both Pakistan and India are searching for ways to improve their educational outcomes. Recent Indian experience offers one interesting lesson - which could benefit Pakistan. The demand for education, especially English-language education, changed dramatically in India with the rise of the information technology sector. The returns to possessing English language-cum-computer skills increased so dramatically that parents started seeking education and the private and non-government sectors stepped in to make up for the dysfunctionality of the public sector. All over the streets of metropolitan and small-town India, it's possible to see the evidence: proliferating signage, announcing hole-in-the-wall operations teaching English and computing.

In Pakistan, the spread of modern technical education is not just an economic necessity as in India, it's also something of an existential imperative. Modern education may be a way to check some of the more pernicious effects of those madrassas that spread religion-inspired illiberalism. Creating incentives for seeking such technical education will require a dynamic IT sector, and here the Indian private sector could make a difference.

Suppose, that Narayana Murthy, Azim Premji, Shiv Nadar, Anand Mahindra and Ratan Tata announced the following. Together the quintet would commit to creating the basis for a new IT sector in Pakistan within five years. The commitment would require as a first step physical investments in IT-technical institutes as well as imparting skills - including English language competence - to thousands of young Pakistanis in newly created facilities within Pakistan itself. It would also involve locating BPO centres in Pakistan, to provide employment for the newly trained youth.

To that end, the crowning commitment that our business leaders could make would be a declaration that, say, 5% of the value added on all international contracts they received over the next 10 years would be from the newly created Pakistan-based facilities. So, when Indian IT firms deliver a final product overseas, they will have to ensure that the quality of the Pakistani input is up to world standards: that is the risk that they will have to incur. But if successful, Pakistan can show the world its capability in this sector. In that sense, India would be committing to creating a Pakistan brand for IT - as part of its own inclusive and forward-looking 'Brand India'.

This initiative is minimally demanding on the two governments, especially the Indian government. While some forms of distance-training, making use of the technology itself, could be developed, no doubt some initial movement of Indians to Pakistan would inevitably be required, in order to help establish and run the training centres. Therefore, some reliable security arrangements would be necessary. But since the emphasis would be on self-skilling, with a view to Pakistanis rapidly moving into training and management positions, the physical presence of Indians in Pakistan could be minimised.

The prospects for success would be good. After all, the basis of India's comparative advantage in IT - low cost and qualified English-speaking technical personnel - is replicable in Pakistan. In terms of infrastructure requirements on Pakistan too, the IT sector is relatively less demanding, both in terms of sheer scale of investment and challenges of security management. Creating the necessary forms of digital connectivity is easier than trying to build power plant infrastructure or to police a gas or oil pipeline.

Success would bring with it real social and economic benefits to Pakistan, as well as political gains to India. There would be economic costs to India - the foregone Indian value-added for example - but incurring them would demonstrate India's stake in, and contribution to, a stable and prosperous Pakistan. And it would be a chance for our increasingly mature and confident private sector to take the lead in a matter vital to the subcontinent's future - to step boldly where neither of our two governments has been willing to tread.

Khilnani is director, India Institute, King's College, London; Subramanian is senior fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics and Center for Global Development.







The Kochi franchise owners are nothing if not tenacious. According to reports, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India ( BCCI) Sharad Pawar had revealed last year that some of the owners wanted to shift the franchise base from Kochi to Ahmedabad. The move failed but they're back at it now, pressing the IPL's governing council to shift the five matches scheduled for Kochi this season to another centre. They seem to have missed out on the entire point of having city-based franchises - building a brand and cultivating fan loyalty with a local base.

The reason they are offering is that the availability of the Kochi stadium is not certain. The first match of the IPL's fourth season is scheduled for April 8; that leaves time for an arrangement to be worked out vis-a-vis the Kochi stadium. But by pushing for holding the matches elsewhere, the Kochi franchise owners risk diluting their brand even before it has taken part in the IPL. Judging by the other IPL teams - or, for that matter, by the much more well-established English Premier League teams - establishing a franchise requires that the brand stay true to its fans as much as it does that fans stay loyal to the brand. The Kochi franchise owners have already run the risk of alienating fans by naming the team 'Indi Commandos' - the only IPL team not to have its home city in its name.

Factor in the initial push to have the franchise shift base to Ahmedabad and now this, and the impression they convey is a mercenary one. And that is anathema to a dedicated support base, as a league team is nothing without a local fan following. If the Kochi franchise owners wish to make returns on their investment, they would do well to correct the impression they have created so far.








IPL isn't just cricket. It's a high-stakes affair, with its share of sporting triumphs, Bollywood-style glitz and news-making scandals. You can love or hate the IPL; you can't ignore it. From players drawing big bucks in auctions to sports officials vying for control, all seek to gain from the tournament. So, why must the Kochi franchisee sacrifice commercial interests just because some want IPL teams to build cities as brands? The team owners want a shift of base to better-prepared venues like Ahmedabad for the coming season. IPL's governing council should okay it. Here's why.

The franchise owners, some of whom have little loyalty to Kochi, worry that the city stadiums won't be available or their grounds prepared right for the matches scheduled. So, they could end up making losses. Like other IPL franchisees, Kochi too pumps money into acquiring top players. These cricketers need good facilities for training and matches, while Kochi owners need the venue issue resolved to seal sponsorship deals. True, infrastructure is the state cricket board's baby. That's no reason to ask Kochi to take it or lump it. IPL authorities are required to provide alternative - and satisfactory - venues if a stadium isn't in order. The affected team could even play home league matches in stadiums used by the rival team. The Kerala Cricket Association may be upbeat about schedules. But, with their performance on the line, the Indi Commandos can hardly share the optimism.

The argument that individual teams should forge links with specific cities for reasons of branding is specious. IPL is a sporting innovation precisely because it cocks a snook at the idea of boundaries. Players from different nations unite as teammates and it's the game, not country, that counts. If IPL can transcend national markers, why make teams wear city-specific hats under compulsion?







Will Mukesh Ambani's address to shareholders at RIL's next AGM be dubbed The King's Speech? And will Anil go down as the Fighter in the ADAG sequel? Each should put in virtuoso performances considering how long the brothers have been cast in these roles.

The Academy Awards ceremony usually coincides with the Indian finance minister's presentation of the Budget. Both have gags, the kind you laugh at and the kind you choke on. The speeches are practised and delivered without a stutter. And, considering the explosion of paparazzi, both clearly have an equal number of Kodak Theatre moments. Our venerable P Muk may not be J Lo, or even Mallika Sherawat, but he has his own clutch of vital stats, no?

Last Monday, it was again easy enough to make connections between Hollywood and Parliawood. The previous year, all kinds of people, from politicians to IPL types had to skulk into a Hurt Locker; the downturn made Slumdogs of Millionaires; 2010 turned out to be a Dark (K)Night for not just Lalit-ji, but also the lead players and supporting cast of CWG and 2G; and some divas managed as usual to emerge in a sexy new Avatar. Similarly this year, apart from several contenders for The King's Speech, and as many for Fighter, our bravery awards winners as well as our Teflon politicians could successfully audition for True Grit.

Pranab Mukherjee found himself cast in the stunning film which gave Natalie Portman her Best Actress statuette. He didn't quite script the Black Swansong, but he did flutter his wings histrionically with his five-pronged strategy to get black money back, stop it from going on its tax-haven tours in the first place, and, most of all, put the opposition's stridency into an unnumbered locker, and throw away its key gripe.

The Critics Award may also go to Pranab DiCaprio for the sci-fi film which matched The King's Speech in its four-Oscar sweep, though only on technical grounds. Not only has this veteran politician been around from the Inception of emerging India, like all finance ministers, he can be accused of stealing dreams.

Last Sunday A R Rahman got no 'Jai Ho'. His nominated Best Original Song and Best Original Score for 172 Hours could not relive his Slumdog glory. Neither could Danny Boyle's biographical adventure film which came with six nominations but left empty handed. Like its real life hero, Aron Ralston, any fin min could find himself trapped between a rock and a hard place. He may not have to amputate his own arm with a blunt knife like Ralston, played by this time's Oscar co-host James Franco, but he would certainly have to wriggle his way out of a tight situation with one arm tied behind his back.

Niira Radia best demonstrates the penetration of The Social Network into every other network worth the name.

The Red Queen, White Queen, Cheshire cats, and sundry Mad Hatters can be found in governments of any stripe or coalition, but this year can't boast of the full-blown Alice in Wonderland situation we witnessed earlier. The other host of this year's Oscar ceremony, Anne Hathaway, co-starred in this film along with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. You will recall Arun Shourie's trenchant comparison between Lewis Carroll's classic and the BJP's expulsion of Jaswant Singh on account of his book on Jinnah and Partition.

Our own Filmfare awards honour our own impressive movie industry, and i would have plenty of cinemascope to show how life follows art (and vice versa) if i were to draw Bollywood into my Budget analogy. Yes, i could, but the jury is still out on which item number was performed last Monday: Pranab ki Jawani or Pranab Badnaam Hua?







The right choreography should see the Congress put up a more synchronised show than it has in a long time in the forthcoming assembly elections in Puducherry, Assam, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Kerala.

Among these, at least three are not likely to throw up any surprises and the Congress will be able to hold its own. But that can be of little comfort because these seats will be in Assam, Kerala and Puducherry which are really bus fare when compared with Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

These two are the electoral juggernauts that can either carry the UPA forward or crush it in their path. Tamil Nadu will prove the most tricky with the chameleon-like permutations and combinations on the ground. After some years in the wilderness, the AIADMK and its mercurial leader

J Jayalalithaa have been able to capitalise on the mess that the rival and UPA ally, the DMK finds itself in. Ms Jayalalithaa, no stranger to allegations of corruption, has been able to deftly play up the unending and unedifying family feuds in the DMK, and it having to accept the fact that one of its ministers has been charged with corruption and had to forfeit his job in the 2G spectrum scam.

The anti-incumbency factor could hit the party even as it tries to drive a hard bargain with the Congress on seat-sharing. Ms Jayalalithaa had earlier tried to throw the Congress what she saw as a life raft when the scam broke, but the Congress preferred to swim ashore on its own.

In West Bengal, the Congress itself is not a factor but its ally, the Trinamool Congress with its volatile leader Mamata Banerjee is in with a fair chance of dislodging the Left Front after decades in power.

But, given the extent and depth of the Left's reach, Ms Banerjee's passage to Writers Building will not be quite the cakewalk she expects. If she does trounce the Left, the Congress could ride on her coattails and begin to build up the party in the state.

The manner in which the Congress leaders who are put in charge of the elections conduct the proceedings and the results will also impact on internal changes in the government and the party.

The forthcoming reshuffle will definitely reflect the outcome of the polls and the Congress president is likely to reorganise the party accordingly. The moves have all been scripted fairly well so far. But whether it will be the trailer for the general elections depends on the supporting cast of allies that the Congress can muster.





If we ever build something called a wedding-o-metre, the Tanwar wedding will definitely put many a Punjabi shaadi to shame. The eye-popping, jaw-dropping Rs 250-crore extravaganza - yes, it was not a wedding but a pure extravaganza - took place at a farmhouse on the outskirts of Delhi on Tuesday night when 26-year-old Lalit Tanwar, son of 50-year-old Congress leader Kanwar Singh Tanwar, exchanged vows with Yogita, daughter of former independent MLA Sukhbir Singh Jaunapuria.

The wedding - a 'normal' one, if you believe the groom's father - has been overshadowed by a special 'gift' from the bride's side - hold your breath - a helicopter. As if that was not big enough, then there's more: Rs 21 crore tilak-shagun for the groom's family, and Rs 11,000 shagun and silver biscuits for the 15,000 guests, including all residents of Haryana's Jaunpur village, at the wedding. While you work out the maths yourself, here's another buzz doing the rounds: the King of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan, will also be performing at the reception.

While all this does sound a bit over-the-top even for a big fat Indian wedding, we think it's all very fine. Just think about the (black or white) money the two families have singlehandedly pumped into the economy. As for the chopper, it's not the slightest bit wasteful.

Considering that the traffic situation is Delhi is getting increasingly difficult, the two families were just doing their bit to ease the problem. Maybe our VIPs should take note. Instead of clogging the main roads and pushing us into potholed bylanes, they too can start taking the aerial route to reach their respective workplaces. And come elections, the chopper can also be put to productive use since the heads of both families are also fringe political players.

But come to think of it, for fringe players, the big, fat wedding was a real neat show. All for the economy, we are sure.






Let's make no bones about it. Motherhood is a job that needs to be done well. It is an obligation that must be fulfilled with finesse, passion and warmth, simply because the life of another human being is at stake.

Amy Chua's book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother has sparked off much debate everywhere. But what about the Indian mum? Does she get it right? Is she the right mix - neither the obsessive 'Chinese' variety nor the laidback 'American'? Does she manage to juggle her motherhood with the validation of her self through her work outside of the home? What is the working mum like at home? Does she have her priorities right? And what should her priorities be anyway?

While arranging for an event, I wondered if it was only a particular class of mothers who entered bookstores. These mothers were terribly politically correct and did not believe in strict discipline. "We let our children be. They need space to grow in. We try to instil the right values; grades aren't important." Yet, these were mothers who wanted to send their children to Ivy League schools.

Upon probing, I discovered that the Indian mother (housewife or working) put her life on hold if her child had exams or had to be carted for cricket classes. 'Giving space' was only in principle. In reality, she was forever hovering around her little one, making sure the child was well fed, had done her homework and was continually honing her extra-curricular skills.

I caught myself thinking: the Indian moms' nonchalance was just a show for public consumption. Would they let their children 'be' if their grades were slipping? Would they give them 'space' if they were out all day at the malls? Or are today's mums too busy watching their weight, going for yoga or simply busy earning good money?

Well, I'm not like that, I said to myself. My 14-year-old daughter was studying in her room. 'Aha,' I thought, 'Let me show her what motherhood is all about.' "Baby, please bring your social science books. Let us study together." "Aw come on, Mom, I've been studying for the last hour. Please let's watch Friends." Next thing I knew, we were sitting in front of the telly. I had wanted to watch Friends, anyway.

Shobha Sengupta is owner of Quill and Canvas, a bookstore-art gallery

The views expressed by the author are personal.





For a man who serves as chief economic adviser of a nation currently obsessed with GDP and growth rates, Kaushik Basu has an interesting idea. Judge a country not by its GDP but by how much the poorest 20% of its population earns, says the Cornell University professor in his new book, Beyond the Invisible Hand: Groundwork for a New Economics.

It is an idea that should fit his government's mantra of lifting all boats in India's rising tide of economic growth. But how do you ensure inclusiveness in a nation beset by governance failures, corruption and leaks so severe that roughly Rs 50,000 crore - money enough to feed many countries - never reaches the poor?

One solution, propounded by Basu, was in the budget presented on Monday by his boss, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee. It is an idea so simple that it seems radical to India: Give the poor cash instead of complicated schemes. Regular payments, in cash or as direct electronic transfers into bank or post-office accounts, can be unconditional - primarily to the almost destitute - or conditional, such as sending children to school or getting babies vaccinated. Direct payments bypass the host of grasping intermediaries who undermine India's vast, tottering welfare state.

From the Philippines to Peru, 40 countries use cash transfers. The literature on cash transfers is rich. I refer sceptics to a book released last year by three scholars in the field.

Just Give Money to the Poor: The Development Revolution from the Global South describes how cash transfers have empowered the poor, cut poverty, and boosted education and health.

The largest, most successful programmes are run by Brazil and Mexico. Until the 1990s, Brazil was one of the world's most unequal countries, part Jharkhand, part Sweden. Between 2003 and 2009, incomes of the poorest Brazilians grew seven times as much as the incomes of the richest. This is largely attributed to Bolsa Familia (family grant), now regarded as the world's biggest and most successful anti-poverty, cash-transfer programme. Bolsa unifies a set of programmes, from cooking gas to food, and pays R590 per month to poor families, on the condition that a child, 15 years or younger, attend school.

Bolsa, which now covers 39% of Brazil's population, supports up to three children. If at 16 a child is still in school, payments rise to Rs860. Families in extreme poverty get Rs 1,800, without conditions. In five years since 2003, Brazil's poverty rate has fallen from 22% to 7% and extreme poverty has all but vanished.

Poverty, malnutrition and child labour have similarly fallen in Mexico, where the programme, Oportunidades (Opportunities), covers a third of the population and pays - almost always - mothers Rs 5,570 per month to keep children healthy and in school.

India does run minor cash-transfer schemes. The most successful and widely publicised is the Rs 175 crore Bihar has given over four years to about a million girls to buy cycles to reach school. Enrolment is up more than three times and dropout rates are down by more than half.

A recent paper by World Bank economists measured leaks in pensions - 4% of India's social-security spending - handed directly to the elderly, widows and disabled. In Karnataka, the leaks are 17% (mostly because of missing beneficiaries or bribes paid to become a recipient). The authors compared the indirect public distribution system (PDS) in the same state. The leaks: 64%.

The PDS is, however, more complicated to substitute by cash. Harsh Mander, who heads the food security group at the influential National Advisory Council (NAC), says the PDS has three objectives: to procure grain, stabilise prices and subsidise food. "So, how do the first two happen if the PDS is replaced with cash?" he asks.

This question will be particularly relevant when the food subsidy balloons from its budgeted figure of Rs 60,570 crore after the Food Security Act is passed this year. With the architects of the Bill, the NAC, feuding with those who will implement it, the government, implementation is dangerously unclear.

Regardless of whether this subsidy is converted to cash, the PDS cannot be immediately removed, agrees Santosh Mehrotra, director general of the Institute of Applied Manpower Research, primarily because it will take "considerable" time to change the PDS supply chain, emanating primarily from India's breadbaskets, Haryana and Punjab. Mehrotra suggests, in a recent paper, that India convert some of its massive subsidies into five conditional cash transfers aimed at poor families, mothers, children and youth. But, he says, this cannot be done without vigorously implementing a new methodology (already drawn up) to re-identify the poor, currently estimated at 450 million people. This is vital: about half of India's subsidies reach those whom it should not.

Cash transfers are not magic bullets. In Brazil, they have not worked in urban areas quite as well as in rural areas. Brazilian officials talk of 'old' and 'new' poverty. Hunger, the lack of basic health and education constitute 'old' poverty, while breakdown of families, abysmal living conditions and violence are 'new'. With growing urbanisation, poverty in India straddles both these worlds, and one size obviously cannot fit all.

Cash transfers require certain prerequisites that India does not have - development infrastructure and good governance. Brazil has put in place an elaborate, robust governance system, the invisible hand of Basu's book. Payments are made through a debit card, every transaction is recorded in a sprawling electronic database and schemes are frequently evaluated. India's unique identification (UID) system is not yet in place, nor is the national information infrastructure that must give its databases real-time life. Yet, the government talks of moving to cash by the next budget.

India must see cash transfers as development grants that invest in youth and stimulate growth instead of only being safety nets. For that to happen, the government must first set in place the infrastructure of development. That means spending more: social-sector outlays have fallen from 2.06% of GDP in 2010-11 to 1.96% in 2011-12. If you pay the poor to buy food, educate children and improve their health, you must build more warehouses, schools and clinics than the present budget allows. As for the quality of governance, the government is worryingly silent. Before it hands over cash, India needs that invisible hand.





People in Orissa, especially those in seats of power, are heaving a sigh of relief, now that Malkangiri district collector R Vineel Krishna is free after eight days in Maoist captivity. However, it seems to be a beginning of a crisis, rather than an end to it.

The Maoists have abducted people in the past - policemen and government officials - to bring governments to their knees. But Krishna's case is different. This is the first time in independent India a high-level government officer like a district collector was abducted.

This sends a message, as a district collector is the representative of the central as well as state government. He is the totem pole of State power in a district. His abduction shows a vacuum in the State's authority in a district - undoubtedly a substantial patch in geographical terms.

The Orissa government's 'buckling under pressure', however, has sent a message to the Maoists: the higher the rank of a government officer, the better the bargain. Considering the rapid spread of Maoists across India, holding government officers, especially district collectors, hostage to be exchanged for a 'ransom' could become the norm rather than exception.

It is a fact that of late, State policies have pushed hundreds of thousands of poor people, mostly tribals, to the brink so as to make way for mining and industrial projects. The poor of Malkangiri were oustees of hydel power projects. Democratic movements against such  projects are regularly quelled by force.

Maoists have poached on marginal people who have lost their land and livelihood to strengthen their armed wing, the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) to challenge the authority of the State. After Krishna's release, a bureaucrat engaged in defusing the hostage crisis, wrote in his Facebook: "… blessings of innocent and well-meaning simple tribals gave all of us an infinite strength to secure safe and dignified release of Vineel within deadline…"

To that, there was a reply: "Hope the tribals will get the same kind of solidarity and support from the State when some mining and industrial projects try to displace them forcefully."





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






The murderous culture wars over Pakistan's blasphemy laws have silenced another voice. Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of the cabinet, has been ambushed and shot dead for arguing that these laws be diluted.

Blasphemy is acting or speaking in a way that scorns the existence or power of those held sacred — and Pakistan's penal code has a range of punishments for insulting Islam, ranging up to the death penalty. The law was substantially strengthened under General Zia ul-Haq's military dictatorship. Though no one has been given the death penalty, hundreds of people are in jail under vague blasphemy charges — the laws are often wielded against religious minorities, or even to settle narrow grudges. And merely the accusation of blasphemy is sometimes enough to spark violence from angry mobs, no matter what the judicial verdict is. In fact, this immediate wave of conflict was provoked by the death sentence handed out to a Christian woman in Punjab, Asia Bibi. But in a climate of death threats and hostility, and especially after the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was killed by one of his bodyguards for his outspoken support of Asia Bibi, many of those who advocated reform of the harsh laws have been cowed into submission. The government has dismissed any talk of amending the laws.

Pakistan has always been riven by this struggle to define its soul, the competing tugs of conservative Islam and liberal modernity. That debate has been ongoing, but now it appears as if religious bigotry is exclusively dictating the agenda through the streets and mosques, and strangling all other worldviews. The state and its institutions should see the incident for the larger threat it bodes.






Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told a group of senior company executives on Tuesday that he wanted their "support to build consensus" on both the Goods and Services Tax, which requires a Constitution Amendment Bill, and the six bills that he had mentioned in the budget as required to boost India's financial sector and the flows of foreign investment. The UPA did not, he said, have the numbers for a constitutional amendment, which requires a two-thirds majority, and must then be ratified by at least half the states. The corporate sector should thus help get states and opposition parties behind these bills.

There are two points about this statement that are definitely of interest. The first, which should be welcomed, is that it might signal a long overdue shift in the UPA's approach to the private sector. For too long the government, haunted by long out-of-date ideas about the rapacity of capital, has shied away from even being seen as cooperating with industry. This has led to a profound disconnect between India's political and financial centres of power, causing discomfort and anxiety among investors, and detaching policy-making from the demands of the economy and, in fact, the aam aadmi's aspirations. That needs to change, and reaching out to the private sector to get publicly behind policy shifts that are beneficial to all — such as the GST and pension and insurance reform — is a good place to start.

It also signals something else less palatable, both for the UPA and for India's citizens. And that is that the government still feels unwilling or unable to reach out to the opposition. The BJP, for example, has taken positions in the past in favour of pension and insurance reform, and included a mention of a GST roll-out in its manifesto prior to the last Lok Sabha elections. There is, thus, already a political consensus that these are reforms that should happen. Yet, so inhibited is the government from reaching out to the opposition, as is crucial in a parliamentary system, that they haven't happened. Therefore, if this outreach by proxy is a signal of softening of postures, then it must be welcomed.






For the communists, these assembly elections will be a watershed moment

Psephologists may find the April 18-May 10 assembly polls in West Bengal as predictable as assembly polls in the state have been for decades; that irony may be the only constant, unless there's an upset as big as the anticipation of change. For a long period in its hitherto 34-year-long uninterrupted rule, the Left Front faced no serious challenge to its continued, and reinforced, hold on power. It kept returning to office, and the change of guard intrinsic to electoral politics was unknown in Bengal. But in its seventh term, the Left Front seemed to run out of steam. So what the CPM and the Trinamool share today is the enormity of the 2011 polls. And while the CPM-led Left Democratic Front is used to sharing the power cycle with the Congress-led United Democratic Front, a possible loss of Kerala this time when added to Bengal would radically alter the Left's weight in competing with the BJP for the opposition space at the Centre — just as what happens in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu could change the dynamic between the Congress and its allies.

The record six-phase poll in Bengal is an acknowledgement of how far the state has slipped from the grasp of governance. Two factors explain the near-certainty of change in popular perception — Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's governance paralysis, and pervasive political violence, both the CPM vs Trinamool and the Maoist varieties. Besides, since the 2008 panchayat polls, the Left has been hurtling downhill, its nadir so far being the 2009 general election and 2010 bypolls. If 2011 overwrites Mamata Banerjee's illusion of 2001, the Left will have to reinvent its politics, beginning with a self-redefinition. But after three-plus uninterrupted decades in power, does the Left Front remember what it's like to be in opposition? That answer, if it's sought in May, will also determine the Left's fate as a national opposition — one possibly bereft of a regional stronghold.

This is an election devoid of the substance and symbol of Jyoti Basu. The 33-year-old who became Basu's information and culture minister in 1977 could now be presiding over the end of the world's longest-serving democratically elected communist government. India and the world have changed irrevocably since the day the Left took Writers' Building. More than a generation has come into the world since. Friday, May 13, is a long political way off, and anything could happen. But it won't hurt the Left to begin writing a new rectification document.







The demand for a JPC has been accepted by the government. But disruptions in Parliament continue to plague its functioning. The speaker of Lok Sabha and the chairman of Rajya Sabha routinely ask the members who rush into the well to return to their seats, but if the members do not heed their pleas, the House is adjourned. This kind of behaviour by MPs, and the reaction of the House's presiding officers, raises some very fundamental questions.

Every well-functioning institution has a set of rules that are designed to ensure its effective functioning. Thus our Parliament is governed by detailed rules meant to enable the smooth functioning of both Houses. The speaker is endowed with enormous powers to enforce discipline. For a variety of reasons, the speaker may choose not to use the measures at her disposal. But such a lack of enforcement of rules makes the rulebook irrelevant, and gives the impression that any group of MPs can hold Parliament to ransom. And all this is to the detriment of the institution, and a weakening of the authority of and respect for the office of speaker.

There have been suggestions to move Question Hour to a later time. But that may turn out to be a mere band-aid if core issues remain unaddressed. The real question is this: Do MPs feel that there is adequate opportunity for them to raise issues they are concerned about? Do they feel there is enough opportunity for them to oversee the work of the government, or to be effective as policy-makers? If the answer is yes, then there is a strong case for the rulebook to be used effectively to discipline disrupting MPs. But if there is a general acknowledgement that there is not enough opportunity for MPs to raise issues, then there is a need to change the rules of the House.

Many of the rules that are currently in the book were framed at a time when Parliament met for an average of 140 days a year. They were also mostly framed at a time when there were just a handful of political parties, and Lok Sabha TV did not telecast Parliament proceedings live and countrywide. But since then some things have obviously changed, which have also altered the incentive structure for some MPs, and thus how they behave in Parliament. And our rules of procedure have not woken up to this changed environment.

It would be naïve not to acknowledge that "politics" plays a big role in why MPs disrupt proceedings. In a healthy democracy, it is to be expected that parties might opportunistically exploit whatever chances may become available to them. But that would become a very costly habit indeed if the proceedings of the House are brought to a standstill every so often, and no solution is found to change this behaviour.

At another level, it can be argued that disruptions are actually symptomatic of a larger problem of effectiveness. Instead of just looking at the issue of disruptions in isolation, there is a need to take a fresh look at the multiple roles of Parliament, the changes in the internal make-up of Parliament, the changes in India's external environment, and the changes in citizens' expectations from their representatives. This will result in a more comprehensive solution and will help build systems that will increase the effectiveness of the institution in every possible way.

The idea is not to attempt to solve problems that are intensely political in nature, by throwing technocratic solutions at them. So perhaps an appropriate thing would be to first find a way to collectively acknowledge and articulate the frustration of several MPs, of the presiding officers, and of millions of people across the country. This will take us an important step forward.

It would indeed be a terrible collective failure if Parliament cannot find a way out of the mess it appears to be in, and other arms of our governance system feel the need to step in to stem the decline. There is no time to waste, not on the floor of the House, and certainly not in finding a solution to Parliament's ongoing paralysis. Fortunately, we will also be able to learn from the experiences of any number of other well-functioning parliaments around the world. It is hoped that the speaker and the Rajya Sabha chairman come together soon to find a viable process that will bring in the changes urgently needed to enable Parliament to become a more effective institution.

The writer is director, PRS Legislative Research, New









In the Arthashastra, Kautilya makes a profound observation: "Just as fish moving deep under water cannot be possibly found out either as drinking or not drinking water, government servants may not be found out while taking money for themselves." He then goes on to forebodingly remark, about the opacity in governance machinery, that "it is possible to ascertain the movement of birds flying high in the sky, but it is not possible to ascertain the movement of government servants or their hidden purposes." But even Kautilya with his remarkable perspicacity might have been amazed by the current evens in the country.

Basically, any act of corruption in public office involves the misuse of public office for private gain. In other words, it involves a public official benefiting at the expense of either the taxpayer or an average person who has come into contact with the government machinery. It also involves violating of the human rights of those whose legitimate benefits are intercepted and misappropriated by the dishonest public official.

Four tests help to determine if there is corruption in any transaction. First: transparency. Then, accountability, and reciprocity. And finally, generalisation. When an action fails on one or more of these tests, there is sure to be corruption.

The test of transparency fails when things are done in a covert manner without allowing the details to be disclosed to the public at large. The test of accountability fails when the person doing an act is not answerable to anyone else, or does not care to be answerable for his actions. The test of reciprocity fails if the answer to the question "Would I be hurt if others did the same thing to me?" is a yes. Finally, the test of generalisation fails when the answer to the question "Would it harm society if everyone did the same thing?" is answered positively. The first two tests are objective, while the latter two are subjective.

Corruption comes in a variety of garb. For most people, what probably occurs when they hear the word "corruption" is bribery; but other common types of corruption also exist, like fraud, nepotism and embezzlement. Each one of them is ethically negative and has a deleterious effect on society.

Going by Kautilya's prescriptions, it would appear that corruption in public offices existed in India at least from his time. What is worrisome for us today is the blatant level to which corruption has descended. Even during the British Raj, it was acknowledged that there was corruption in the government apparatus. The innumerable laws, rules, financial manuals and accounting procedures designed by the British seem designed with an utter lack of belief in the integrity of government servants. Nonetheless, the common man was not harassed in his day-to-day transactions, as at the top there was someone with impeccable integrity and sense of justice to whom one could appeal and expect justice. Judges were also in this special category of public officers. The British practice of addressing judges of the superior courts as "justices" evidences this widely held belief. Judges were believed to be embodiments of justice and hence addressed as justices.

Plato, in The Republic, his monumental work on government and morality, posed the crucial problem. According to Socrates, the perfect society relies on labourers, slaves and tradesmen. The guardian class is to protect the city. The question is put to Socrates: "Who will guard the guardians?" — or, "Who will protect us against the protectors?" Plato's answer is that they will guard themselves against themselves. We must tell the guardians a "noble lie". The noble lie will assure them that they are better than those they serve, and it is therefore their responsibility to guard and protect those lesser than themselves. We will instill in them a distaste for power or privilege; they will rule because they believe it right, not because they desire it. What remarkable foresight! What a sense of déjà vu today!

The 1st-century Roman satirist, Juvenal, asked in a similar vein, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" — "Who will guard the guards themselves?" This is the dilemma facing society today, with protectors seeming to turn predators. What was once considered the high ground of morality and ethics, untouched by the waves of venial conduct, is now lamentably and increasingly lapped by waves of corruption. The ramparts of the institution of the judiciary, once considered impregnable to the assaults of unethical behaviour, seem to be crumbling one by one. The impossible has been happening, as is suggested by the series of cases of misbehaviour by judges of the higher courts that are coming to light. The peccability even of those considered paradigms of virtue has exploded the noble lie that Socrates once assiduously advocated.

We entreat them that are placed upon the exalted seat and entrusted with the awesome power of rendering judgment over others, to reflect upon the words of the Good Book: "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men." About them that deviated from the narrow path of rectitude, we may sadly say with Robert Browning: "Just for a handful of silver he left us/ Just for a riband to stick in his coat —/ Found the one gift of which fortune bereft us/ Lost all the others she lets us devote."

Corruption is condemnable — and judicial corruption doubly so, for it entails, additionally, breach of the trust that society puts in judges. Manu says that the punishment for an offence for a learned man should be double that is given to the ordinary man. Thus should the punishment be for judges who deviate from rectitude.

The purity of gold is tested by scratching, hammering and fire assay. Persons whom society places on a pedestal must also be similarly tested by fire. Guaranteeing judicial independence without guaranteeing the quality of the judge is counterproductive. Even if the nominations are made by a judicial collegium, the nominees must be put to rigorous public scrutiny of their private and public conduct, with only those that ring true being selected. Even after selection and appointment, anyone found lacking in probity must be swiftly and condignly punished for the double offence. These are doubtless tall orders — but by no means impossible to achieve, if corruption is to be eliminated from the hallowed judicial precincts.

The happenings today must act as the wake-up call for all men and women of conscience holding positions of power. For God's sake, betray not the trust that society has put in you. It is also time for society to resolutely say that there shall be zero tolerance towards corruption.

The writer is a former Supreme Court judge






An article by Prabhat Patnaik in the CPM weekly, People's Democracy, talks about the acute food crisis that has hit the developing world. The deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, it says, has attributed rising food prices to India's growing prosperity, much the same way former US president George W. Bush had pinned the 2008 food price rise to improving living standards in India and China.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. Per capita foodgrain absorption, taking direct and indirect absorption together, has declined in India since the beginning of liberalisation, first gently and of late precipitously, so much so that the level in 2008 itself was lower than in any year after 1953," it argues.

Patnaik says that many have rightly stressed on speculation as an important factor. "But while speculation can no doubt conjure up an inflationary upsurge out of thin air, it typically operates on an underlying demand-supply imbalance, accentuating its consequences," it notes. Here emerges two startling acts, he says. First, per capita cereal output and foodgrain output has declined significantly in absolute terms for the world as a whole since the '80s. "Since this decline in output has also meant decline in consumption, hunger in the world has been on the increase long before the price upsurge of 2008." The second fact is even more dramatic. The article argues that since per capita income in the world economy has been going up, demand for foodgrains in real terms should have risen.

"The decline in per capita food grain output should have meant a rise in foodgrain price after the '80s, relative, say, to the price of manufactured goods... But we find that cereal price relative to manufactured goods declined by 46 per cent between 1980 and 2000... How could this happen? The answer is simple: a massive squeeze on the purchasing power (an income deflation) imposed on the working population all over the world, and especially in the Third World, by the universal pursuit of "neo-liberal" policies," he says.

Trial by fire

An article in the CPI journal New Age argues that the conviction of 31 persons for the fire in Sabarmati Express was not based on credible evidence. "Even the chargesheet, which is based on incredible and questionable facts and evidence, does not mention more than five persons as the original conspirators. "Then how have so many people been convicted for conspiracy and the 'chief' conspirator Maulvi Umarji, been acquitted," it asks. The article goes on to detail "innumerable contradictions" in the chargesheet, when compared to records.

Ignoring agriculture

The lead editorial in the CPI(ML)'s weekly ML Update criticised the budget for imposing crushing burdens on the common man while reserving its generosity for big corporates. Despite inflation, the government chose to slash fuel, food and fertiliser subsidies and signalled further cuts in the coming days, it says. "Contrast this to signals to the corporate sector — reduction in surcharge on corporate tax from 7.5 per cent to 5 per cent, and no curtailment in stimulus package, and there can be absolutely no doubt as to who the budget is meant for."

The editorial says that in terms of budgetary allocations and policy priorities, agribusiness has nearly replaced agriculture. There are indications that the government is moving in the direction of complete privatisation of agricultural trade. .

The journal slams the government for relying more on indirect taxes — borne by the rich and the poor alike — than on direct taxes, corporate or personal. The budget contains new concessions for foreign capital as well, the most significant being the entry of foreign capital in the mutual funds market. "While throwing open the capital market to foreign players, the government announced no concrete measures to check the illicit outflow of Indian wealth to foreign banks," it says.

Compiled by Manoj C.G.







When an officer was commended to his attention, Napoleon is reported to have inquired: "Is he lucky?" Luck is half the game. It's no good having it and being incapable of using it. On the other hand, great striving may come to naught without luck. My sense is that Barack Obama is a lucky man.

His early political breakthroughs in Chicago, and then in his campaign for the Senate, were helped by the implosion of his opponents, often in sex scandals. His election to the nation's highest office became inevitable when his Republican rival went on walkabout as the economy collapsed. And now his presidency has been lifted from its troubles by the Arab revolutions of 2011.

For a politician nothing matters quite as much as being able to move the spirit. Years may go by, history appear to stand still. Then, in the space of weeks, history accelerates, great events cascade upon each other, and the leader able to embody, define and propel them forward becomes forever identified with this transformative tide of hope.

In June 2009, Obama said in Cairo: "I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from people; the freedom to live as you choose." Obama's Mideast policy then veered this way and that. He struggled to find a consistent tone on Israel. He struggled to convince Muslims of the sincerity of his outreach. So it's hard to trace any direct strategic line between the Cairo speech and the revolutionary events that led to his wonderful 2/11 summation of the fall of Mubarak: "We saw mothers and fathers carrying their children on their shoulders to show them what true freedom might look like."

And yet, and yet! It has to be said that Obama intuited something, or so it now appears. He got lucky.

When, in celebrating the Egyptian people's peaceful triumph, he quoted Martin Luther King on this great awakening of Arab peoples, he looked a president in full, a man ensconced on the right side of history.

By contrast, the American right has found itself tied up in knots, wondering how to disentangle the words "freedom" and "Arab," the first demanding its hard-wired allegiance, the second its Israel-dictated scepticism.

This is an uprising of Arabs, by Arabs, for Arabs. Obama has managed to seize this moment without stealing it. Yes, there were wobbles. But he was fast to hail Tunisians fighting for their rights, he pushed the Egyptian transition, he restrained the violent initial instincts of the ruling family in Bahrain, and now he is pressing hard to oust Libya's Muammar Gaddafi. If this is the overdue collapse of a rotten American-backed order in the Middle East, it is also one that suggests the postmortems on American power are premature.

I believe 2011, in its passage from Arab rage to Arab responsibility, can be the true antidote to 2001. How can the West help forge the new regional safe house of emergent Arab democracies? Obama must bring the best minds to bear on that question and a related one: How to coax Israel into seizing this moment to seek peace? I am more hopeful about the world than at any time since 2001. The authoritarian decade, led by China and Russia, has run its course. And the most powerful man in the world happens to be a lucky man.

The New York Times







As things transpired, it wasn't a Black Sunday but a grey one as India allowed England's shadow to fall between victory and defeat on what had started out as a sunny Bangalore holiday. Moody Monday saw our fortunes fluctuate as Pranab Mukherjee alternately raised and sank our expectations with his budget. Uncle Oscar did likewise to nominees at the Academy Awards. Is it any wonder, then, that Tuesday's TV talkies were all about what had been gained and lost over the previous two days?

Talking about Sunday's match, which we won, then lost, then won and lost again before finally managing to tie, precipitates severe palpitation. So let's discuss Navjot Singh Sidhu instead, who was clearly on the losing side of Cricket Extra (ESPN) after the encounter. When Harsha Bhogle teased him about his predictions, he said, "Who would have given England a hellcat's chance to win?" Certainly not him. Unaccustomed to eating humble pie, he employed his obscure way with words to dig himself out of a hole as, he said, did England during the game: "(They) were in a dark, deep tunnel — and then (they) jumped out of the tunnel." Rather like a hellcat? Apparently, they kept their momentum going by strapping on "skating shoes" to give their team "a boundary in every over". Hmmm.

Sidhu fell into a dark, deep tunnel himself, after he said he would have given Ian Bell out after the LBW referral. Fellow panellists Dermot Reeve and Ian Chappell piled on to him. It became so contentious that Bhogle thought he was a news anchor hosting a discussion — which says as much about news TV as it did about Cricket Extra.

For those viewers who want to enjoy a life without cricket, how about Life Bina Wife (Star Plus)? You will witness an entirely different set of men win or lose the battle against elimination. All they have to do successfully is to rear their children, alone. You feel for the guys who struggle with household chores, kids' tantrums and fancy costumes. On second thoughts, maybe cricket is more fun to watch.

Then there's Pyaar Mein Twist (Star Plus). Average Anmole is married to rich Rekha and that's the problem. Her mother is visiting and wants a bathtub. Bathtub arrives. To Anmole's friends, it looks bigger than the bathroom but to Rekha's brother, it is "smaller than the commode in my house". The sitcom depends on slapstick, but maybe it is better than watching India's bowling attack being smacked around?

Try Chhaje Chhaje Ka Pyar (Sony). It's got several things going for it, not least its setting — Delhi. The capital is a popular Bollywood destination and now it is on the television map. Be it films or soaps, it seems to be a good city to see on two wheels — Rang De Basanti, Do Dooni Chaar, Band Baaja Baaraat and now Chhaje Chhaje Ka Pyar where hero Dhruv is on a mobike. The plot involves two families who live as landlord and tenant on the best of terms and share a terrace. It is up there that tomboyish Ginni and roadside Romeo Dhruv, best friends, fall in love. All resemblance to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is entirely intended: on Jhalak Dikhla Ja, where efforts to promote Sony's shows see the protagonists dance, Dhruv and Ginni performed to 'Yeh ladka' from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. So far, the romance is still to bloom, so the serial is lively and amusing. Welcome back, comedy, to mainstream entertainment channels The challenge will be not to take love too seriously, which is what usually happens.

Meanwhile, it's Thursday and if some Dutch courage can help Holland reconquer their former (partial) colony of South Africa, then it will be a special Sunday for India.







I write this open letter after considerable hesitation, not being in the habit of writing such letters to the prime minister. However, recent events have pushed me to do so, to "telling truth to power".

I have been greatly dismayed at the unfair tarnishing of the ISRO image following the media-created controversy on the Devas-Antrix/ISRO agreement. I know that many former colleagues from ISRO — and, doubtless, thousands of its present staff — feel as upset as I do. While the latter cannot speak up publicly, very few of the former (just one or two brave souls) have chosen to do so; others probably want to avoid getting into a controversy.

ISRO, as you well know, has done outstanding work. Its track record of actual achievements is unmatched by any foreign space agency or by other government entities in India. Starting from Vikram Sarabhai's days, it has stayed focused on delivering applications that are relevant to India and developing strategic and other technologies required for these. It is this, rather than the glamour of space, that attracted many of us to ISRO in the first place and kept us motivated through the decades. Much of the country's television broadcasting, telecommunication, weather forecasting and a whole host of remote-sensing applications are powered by ISRO satellites, most of which have been launched by ISRO launch-vehicles. It has contributed greatly to science and brought much pride to the nation through its successes, including missions like Chandrayan. All this has been achieved amidst technology denials, "sanctions" and constraints, within a government system, through teams of highly motivated people of the highest integrity.

It is, therefore, a matter of concern and shame that such an organisation is being given a bad name on the basis of allegations and innuendo. The agreement with Devas, which has triggered this, is a continuation of a long history of ISRO-industry partnerships. It is such engagement with industry that has resulted in tremendous economic benefits from space programme in countries like the US. In the case of Devas, the company came up with the proposal for a new and unique service, which did not exist in India. More importantly, it brought to the table not only technical, market and managerial expertise to implement this, but risk capital. Thus, in many ways, it was a true embodiment of an ideal private-public partnership.

In terms of processes, as far as I know, this agreement went meticulously through every step: a technical assessment by Antrix/ISRO experts, approval by the Antrix board, followed by Space Commission approval. If cabinet approval was not sought for the deal (as reported in the media), the question is whether it was at all required and whether past transponder deals with private parties has gone through any such specific cabinet approvals. The method — of leasing transponders at a fixed price — was no different from that followed for the many TV channels that had earlier sought capacity for broadcasting. There has never been a history of auctions by ISRO (nor, as far as I know, by any global space agency). Satellite spectrum has always been treated differently from that on the ground, and the comparison is not just a case of apples and oranges, but two altogether different species.

Safeguarding India's orbital slots and spectrum allocations in an internationally competitive context, and using the unique capabilities of satellite-delivered services (particularly to remote and rural areas) were important elements underlying the Devas-ISRO project. Breaking new ground technologically and creating new applications of space technology for rural areas and possibly for strategic needs were envisaged as integral parts of this effort. Little understanding or discussion of these aspects has been seen in all the mud-slinging that has taken place.

The media has gone to town with fanciful projections of presumed loss to the government (latching on to the word "spectrum" and exhibiting complete — or wilful ignorance — of the vast differences in satellite and terrestrial uses of spectrum). Apparently, the CAG, with little understanding of the differences, was the cause of much of this. Based on the fact that some of those involved in Devas were former ISRO employees, the media has made insinuations about a "sweetheart deal" — as if ISRO management and its processes are so fragile and malleable as to be swayed by such considerations; or as if experts in space technology can be hired from a municipal corporation. As a matter of fact it was (and, presumably, yet is) ISRO policy to encourage competent experts to become entrepreneurs; in many cases, they have become suppliers to ISRO. Organisations around the world do this, so as to "industrialise" R&D.

It is unfortunate that media now cry "corruption" at every deal, and sadder that the atmosphere in the country is such that most people do believe it to be so. It is reprehensible that media should, with no evidence or even inkling of any specific wrongdoing, imply that there has been corruption in a deal that is completely above board. Apart from implicating ISRO — presumed guilty by the media, and now with the onus on it to prove innocence — innuendos implicitly point the finger to past senior management of ISRO. This is sad and unfair: with weak laws on defamation, there is no real scope for remedy.

In this situation, I feel it was for ISRO authorities and others in government (particularly the latter, given that ISRO would be considered an "interested party") to speak up and make clear that there was no indication whatsoever of corruption and no wrongdoing at any stage, that all procedures had been properly followed and that the agreement had gone through all the due processes. The situation called for an unambiguous statement, based on facts, which could have been verified in quick time. Instead, we had a long delay in responding to media allegations, ambiguous statements at a press conference by the chairman of ISRO (which overshadowed the corrective efforts made by Dr K. Kasturirangan), and then the knee-jerk reaction of immediate announcement of cancellation which — to most people, and certainly to the media — was tantamount to an implicit admission of guilt/corruption.

The deal itself is completely defensible, as is its monetary value. ISRO voluntarily (?) gave up some spectrum in this band, in favour of terrestrial users, some time ago, but yet has a majority of the remaining spectrum (beyond that which would have been used by Devas). Incidentally, there have been no takers over all these years for this (though terrestrial operators — and, therefore, DoT — continue to eye it); nor was there a queue outside ISRO's doors for this space spectrum when Devas made its proposal. As it stands, a cancellation — without any proven wrongdoing — is sending out a negative message to investors. The ostensible reason (strategic needs and societal applications) is unlikely to find any takers amongst professionals who understand the issue.

At a more macro level, apart from the unease such sudden and unilateral action — with no discussion, no attempt at any possible corrective action like re-negotiation — will evoke amongst prospective investors, the whole concept of a public-private partnership will take a beating. Who, now, will come to the government with innovative ideas — which, by definition, cannot go through a bidding/auction process — for a partnership? Who will bring in risk capital for such new ideas? Which official will now be so foolhardy as to approve an agreement for a partnership? Who, in ISRO, will now dare to go to — leave alone seek out — industry partners to implement new applications or develop new technologies?

It is unfortunate that Devas and its professionals, too, have been most unfairly given a bad name in the process. However, I am more deeply concerned about ISRO and how its standing has taken a beating, thanks to a witch-hunting media which sees a crook behind every door (legitimised by the fact that there is a crook behind most doors), politicians who are willing to destroy painstakingly-built institutions to score political points, and a government that seems unwilling to stand up and defend the upright.

I would urge you, not only as prime minister, but equally as one of the most respected persons in the country, to defend and restore the reputation and image of ISRO. I would request you to persuade politicians across party lines (including ministers from your own party) to stop making baseless allegations that demean ISRO and its past leaders. There is little that you can directly do about the media, but the right words from you can correct the falsehoods that are being propagated. The committee that has been set up will, I am sure, determine if there was any "scam" at all, and hopefully end the vague and damaging generalisations that sully and demoralise a vital national organisation. If everything was above board, it will be interesting to know what interests — who and why — triggered this and with what intent.

My sincere apologies for inflicting this long letter on you: I would probably not have done so had it been an individual view-point. However, I am reflecting the collective angst of many who are proud to have worked in ISRO or been associated with it in some way, and so have taken it on myself to be the messenger.

In closing, let me add a formal disclosure: I was an independent member of the Devas board for about two years, up to February 9, 2011, and worked in ISRO for over 20 years, up to 1991.

The writer is former president, NASSCOM








Given the current preoccupation with scams, Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani's point, at Ficci's AGM, that issues like governance, transparency and compliance don't apply just to government but are equally applicable to business, is very timely. For every bribe-taker, it is obvious, there is a bribe-giver. If the government has to hang its head in shame over the large number of scams that have broken out, corporate India is in worse odour. The fact that various bluechip businesses are being investigated in the Raja scam can't be good news for India Inc. Businesses, as

Ambani says, have to be measured on not just financial returns, but on social returns as well—the primary responsibility of business, India's richest man said, "is the betterment of society—always!". Which means the onus of protecting the environment cannot just be the government's responsibility. Indian industry polluting the environment or displacing thousands of persons without providing them acceptable housing and livelihoods cannot be accepted—it is the government's job to prevent this, but the onus is also on industry. Indeed, as India looks to attract ethical investors or hopes to grow to $30 trillion by 2050 (the US is currently a $14 trillion economy), it cannot have the same lack of standards it has today. And the point is simple: if India Inc doesn't police itself, someone else will.

Ambani's speech, it is true, had many more layers. Inclusion is certainly also the responsibility of Indian business, if only to create more customers for its products, but inclusion cannot be defined in the narrow sense the government does, of getting industry to commit 2% of its profits for CSR or to reserve jobs for the deprived. Inclusion, as Ambani defined it, is about the government allowing industry to participate in agriculture, in health services, in education … in the act of building India. The fact that so many PPP initiatives with precisely this in mind have run aground with private promoters

trying to change their terms surely does little to inspire confidence. Ambani spoke of the need for disruptive policies as in 1991, which changed the way Indian business looked at itself and the world, but he also spoke of the need to move beyond just corporate social responsibility to a more intensive continuous social business model.





Once upon a time, he organised tiger hunts for England's Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh. That was not uncommon in Ranthambore forests, with their history of being the private hunting reserve of Jaipur's maharajahs. Going from here to being a tiger conservationist would have been admirable in itself. But what made Fateh Singh Rathore a legend was how he translated his personal conversion into a public accomplishment. Many attribute much of Ranthambore's present glory (in sharp contrast to Sariska's ruination) to his tenure as field director of this national park. In 2000, Bill Clinton got the Rathore experience first-hand and waxed eloquent over it. He was just one of the many celebrities Rathore wooed at what he had helped turn into the world's tiger capital. But let's not get carried away. Of the two tigers that he helped Clinton spot, reports said soon, one was poached and the other went missing. Which is to say that no wildlife enforcement programme, no matter how successful, can keep working if you drop the ball on it.

When the first international tiger conservation forum met in Russia last November, a key takeaway was affirmation of the 'source site' approach recommended by the Wildlife Conservation Society. The two key challenges to tiger source sites have remained unchanged over the last few decades: development and poaching. On the former front, forest people continue a territorial fight with the tiger. And given that land rights remain troublesome even in key national economy matters like mining, it's no surprise that they haven't been sorted out on the tiger topic. As for poaching, since demand for parts from China hasn't died down despite the country's ban on trade in tiger parts, the economic incentive remains as strong as ever. Meanwhile, the Mike Tyson tiger in The Hangover is more real than you would think, because there are more tigers in captivity in the US alone than in the wild in the rest of the world. So, there is this additional riddle, are tiger farms good or not? The only way to tide over all this confusion with tigers intact in their indigenous habitat is to protect existing source sites. Like Ranthambore, from where a male tiger was relocated to the Sariska reserve just last month.





In his Budget statement, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee expressed worry over the widening current account deficit (CAD) and, more particularly, the composition of the capital flows financing such deficit. This is one aspect of economic management that needs a closer study. The view taken on CAD and its financing will have a direct bearing on the conduct of fiscal and monetary policy in the medium term.

Of late, RBI too has been expressing concern about how environment sensitive policies of the government could lead to a deceleration of foreign investment flows into critical sectors of the economy such as mining, steel making, etc. This, in turn, could make the financing of CAD more difficult.

Commerce secretary Rahul Khullar has prepared a medium-term strategy paper in which he projects the trajectory of India's foreign trade over the next three years. If the economy is to grow at 8.5-9%, the paper suggests that India's trade deficit will widen from the current 7.2% of GDP to around 13% of GDP by 2013-14.

If the trade deficit indeed goes up to 13% of GDP in the next three years, the question is how this is going to be financed. What sort of current account and capital flows will finance this?

The near doubling of trade deficit, as projected by Khullar, means India may have to live with a higher CAD of 6% of GDP in the near future!

Here is how the arithmetic works. India's net invisible inflows are projected at around $85 billion this year and this is about 5% of GDP. The government has roughly projected that this could grow to about $115 billion over the next three years. So the net invisible inflows, mainly constituted by remittances by Indians from abroad, could go up to about 7% of GDP.

With the trade deficit at 13% of GDP and net invisible inflows at 7% of GDP, one gets a CAD of 6% by 2014.

Rahul Khullar says in his paper that a "trade deficit of 13% of GDP is clearly cause for serious concern. Services earnings will most certainly grow over the next few years. However, it is unlikely that even their growth can sustain the ballooning trade deficit of 13% of GDP".

It is this problem that Pranab Mukherjee emphasised when he expressed worry over how a widening CAD will be financed in the future. Of late, RBI too has been  worrying about the growing CAD.

The risk posed by a widening CAD in a high growth, import-guzzling economy depends on whether you can finance it in a sustainable way. The composition of the net capital inflows financing the CAD, at present, is skewed more towards foreign portfolio investments, which come in the stock markets.

FDI inflows actually decelerated in 2010 by over 15%, from $28 billion in 2009. In comparison, net FII inflows into India peaked at $28 billion in 2010. In fact, India received nearly a third of all portfolio investments coming into emerging markets in 2010. A lot of the FII flows into India could be hot money and, therefore, short-term in nature.

So when the finance minister showed concern about the composition of the capital flows financing the growing CAD, he probably meant there was a need to open up the economy further to attract a lot more stable FDI flows. Only then can India finance its growing negative trade balance.

Globalisation cannot be a halfway house. Either you are in it fully or you are not. The difficulty in policymaking is, at times, it might appear alright to not engage more with the global system as a conservative strategy of derisking the economy. This strategy was adopted for the financial sector before the global meltdown.

However, at other times, greater engagement with the global economy is what leads to derisking. A classic example of such derisking is the way Reliance Industries sold a part of its stake to British Petroleum for over $7 billion to bring better technology for enhancing gas production in the K-G basin. Apart from derisking RIL's balance sheet, it also derisks the country's balancesheet.

Besides the use of FDI for financing trade deficit, higher gas production will reduce the future outflow of foreign exchange for energy imports. Stable FDI flows are similarly needed to derisk other sectors such as banking, insurance, retail, etc. The Tata Group showed higher revenue growth from their overseas operations than from India in 2010. This is also a form of derisking that comes from greater engagement with the global economy.

The RIL group traditionally had a more nationalistic approach and was loath to giving a decisive stake to foreign companies in any of their operations. This has changed over the past few years as the group attempts to scale up globally.

National policy must also be designed to enable such derisking of the economy, especially from an external sector perspective. If India is going to be a massive net importer of energy and other commodities, it will have to find some way of earning foreign exchange. Or else we will end up staring at a 1991-type foreign exchange crisis, even with a robust GDP growth of 8% to 9%.

Prior to the East Asian crisis of 1997, the South Korean government actively discouraged FDI in several sectors dominated by the patriotic Korean Chaebols. After the 1997 financial crisis, the Chaebols were forced to attract stable FDI flows by selling substantial stakes in their companies without losing control. There is a lesson for India in the Korean experience.





Our finance minister, in this year's Budget speech, said " is imperative that the growth in manufacturing sector picks up. We expect to take the share of manufacturing in GDP from about 16% to 25% over a period of ten years…". This is the first time that a finance minister has laid out such a bold agenda for the manufacturing sector. Is this an aspiration that is destined to remain on paper or an inspirational call to all stakeholders that the government means business in generating employment and unleashing the full potential for this sector?

Let me put out the facts as I see them and then you can judge.

Indian manufacturing has grown at a robust rate of 6.8% per annum over the past 10 years, the second best performing country in the world. Yet, despite this stellar performance, the contribution of the manufacturing sector to GDP, at 16%, remains one of the lowest amongst the large and fast growing developing countries. Most countries in this peer set have contributions between 20% and 30%, with Thailand having the maximum contribution to GDP at 40%. The 25% target set for India by our finance minister has to be seen in this context. It is clearly a stretch, but achievable. However, this target does raise some fundamental questions.

First, what is the rate of growth required for the sector to achieve this share of contribution to GDP? Is this growth rate achievable or over-ambitious? Second, what kind of investments would be required to fund this growth and are they realistic? Third, how many people would have to be hired to man this growth and can we train this large a number? Finally, what are the other major roadblocks and are we putting in place the right strategies to overcome them?

First, on the growth rate, it is seen that, generally, manufacturing growth is closely co-related to overall GDP growth. This has been the case in India. If the estimate of 9% is taken to be the trend rate of growth for the economy over the next 10 years, the manufacturing sector has to grow by at least 3-4% higher, i.e., 12-13% per annum for the next 10 years, to increase its share of GDP. Only China has achieved such a high growth rate on a sustained basis. Also, countries that have grown their manufacturing faster than GDP, have done so on the basis of higher exports. India's manufacturing growth has been fuelled mostly by domestic demand. A key implication of this growth target is that the industry will have to pretty much double its manufacturing exports growth to accelerate to 15-20%. This is not an unachievable target, given the large scale shift of industrial capacity from the developed to the developing world, as long as we get our 'ducks in line', like removing infrastructural bottlenecks—our ports still have a much higher turnaround time than their peers—and reduce transaction costs.

The question on the amount of investment required is always a difficult one to answer in a developing country like India that has many demands on its limited capital. In 2007-08, Indian manufacturing companies had nearly R13 lakh crore of gross fixed assets, with asset productivity growth ranging between 3% and 7%. To fuel the growth target of 12-13%, assuming similar range of capital productivity, gross fixed assets will need to increase by R30-40 lakh crore in the next 10 years, of which about R10-15 lakh crore is required in just the next five years, as against an addition of R3 lakh crore of fixed assets over the previous five years. A tall order but again not unachievable if appropriate policies are implemented to channel both FDI and domestic savings into the manufacturing sector.

Turning to the question of skilled labour, this is perhaps a bigger challenge. In 2008, the manufacturing sector employed about 58 million people, or 12% of the total workforce. In the period between 1995 and 2005, manufacturing labour productivity was estimated to have grown by about 4-5%. Assuming that the industry will be able to achieve higher growth labour productivity of 5-7% per year, the manufacturing workforce would need an additional 40-50 million trained people in the next 10 years. This number can grow significantly if the productivity growth is lower. The current skill development capacity in India is estimated to be about 3-4 million per year. Again, not an unachievable target if we can get the skill development mission launched by the Prime Minister implemented successfully.

The numbers for growth of exports, investments and skilled labour are an arithmetic derivation from the growth target articulated by the finance minister. What was left unsaid was the numerous hurdles faced by the industry in acquiring land, getting raw material linkages, getting all the permissions to set up and operate a manufacturing plant, having greater flexibility in deployment of labour, besides the well known roadblocks posed by infrastructure and high transaction costs of doing business. The solutions to many of these hurdles are less in the economic and more in the political arena, and unless we find inspired solutions to them, I am afraid the laudable target of achieving 25% contribution to GDP set in this year's Budget for the manufacturing sector may well remain aspiration on paper.

The author is managing director, Boston Consulting Group, India







Elections to the Legislative Assemblies in four States and a Union Territory are set to send temperatures soaring through April-May. While Tamil Nadu and Kerala, as also Puducherry, will this time have single-phase polling, Assam will do it in two phases, as in 2006. West Bengal will, however, have the process in six phases. It has 294 constituencies, the largest number among the States in the fray. But as the Election Commission indicated, the stretching stems also from a perception of major law and order challenges. In truth, this reading can only derive from depredations by Maoist elements — thriving in a climate of political collaboration with the Trinamool Congress and, indirectly, with its ally, the Congress. Significantly, the ruling Left Front in the State has welcomed the decision to spread out polling. In its 34th consecutive year in power in eastern India's largest State, the CPI(M)-led Left Front has reason to be proud of its long-term record of governance in key areas, above all land reform. The 2009 Lok Sabha election in the State dealt the Left a severe blow, exposing an eroded base, and it remains to be seen whether anything has changed since then. In any case, given the animosities and the ideological intensity of the battle in this State, the Election Commission of India faces a major test this time. This calls for a heightened level of preparedness, anticipation, and monitoring.

The challenge will be of a different character in Tamil Nadu. Here the Election Commission's carefully structured machinery, which includes observers and micro-observers, will have its task cut out in checking the play of money power, muscle power, and misuse of the administrative machinery and the police. In a clever populist gambit, the DMK government managed to reduce the sales tax on petrol just before the Model Code of Conduct kicked in, although the next day its ongoing scheme of distributing free TV sets was ordered stopped. Assam will witness relatively peaceful conditions on the ground this time, with the United Liberation Front of Asom engaging in talks with the government. Given the political culture, Kerala elections rarely face law and order problems worth the name. This is the first time non-resident Indians will be able to exercise the franchise, provided they are in India. There are other issues that wait to be addressed and resolved, which the Election Commission and other bodies have broadly grouped under the head of electoral reform. There is also the challenge of preventing, and cracking down on, the vice of 'paid news,' which came to the fore in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. How the media conduct themselves this time, and how the Election Commission goes about rooting out this shameful corruption of journalism and the democratic process, will be watched with keen interest.





The very large infrastructure deficit is a major constraint on faster economic growth and the Finance Minister was expected to focus sharply on infrastructure development and financing. An investment of about $1 trillion will be required for infrastructure development during the Twelfth Five-Year plan period (2012-17), almost double the amount the current plan is expected to mobilise. The latest budget's move towards fiscal consolidation — the deficit is expected to come down to 4.6 per cent — should ensure a greater availability of funds for the private sector. The outlay for infrastructure has been stepped up by 23.3 per cent in 2011-12 to Rs.214,000 crore, which is 48.5 per cent of the plan expenditure. Infrastructure funding is expected to get a fillip in other ways too. The Finance Minister has opened several avenues for the flow of foreign capital. The permission given to SEBI-approved mutual funds to accept subscription by foreign institutional investors (FII) should boost overseas investment in Indian companies including those engaged in infrastructure projects. To be specific, the ceiling on FII investment in infrastructure bonds has been raised to $25 billion from $5 billion and the overall limit for corporate bonds to $40 billion. FIIs can also invest in unlisted bonds with a minimum lock-in period of three years. Notified infrastructure-dedicated debt funds will attract withholding tax of 5 per cent, instead of 20 per cent as now. As a result of these measures, the corporate bond market may well emerge as an alternative to bank finance for funding infrastructure projects.

Individual Income Tax payers can continue to claim, for one more year, a deduction of Rs.20,000 by investing in select infrastructure bonds. Leading public sector companies engaged in a range of physical infrastructure activities will issue those bonds. The power sector, which has been a laggard, will be able to attract a larger share of investments. The excise duty exemptions on supplies to mega and ultra-mega projects would place domestic equipment manufacturers on a par with foreign suppliers. These and other measures will considerably enhance the flow of funds to infrastructure. However, the infrastructure deficit is attributed equally, if not more, to delays and failures in implementing them. Major governance issues have arisen even in those public-private partnerships (PPP) that are hailed as big successes. A comprehensive policy on PPPs both at the Central and State levels is overdue.








For many health care planners around the world, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke and cardiovascular problems have hardly been a priority. South-East Asian countries are no exception. Like so many other developing and transitional countries, they have been rightly preoccupied with the communicable diseases that were the core concern of epidemiologists and public health workers over much of the last century.

New diseases

But the focus on communicable diseases has prevented many health planners from paying sufficient attention to a rapidly growing health feature of our societies — new, non-communicable diseases (known as NCDs). These health problems are emerging, and, in some cases, becoming more prominent than communicable diseases that we continue to confront.

Diabetes, hypertension, stroke and cardiovascular diseases, all of which are disabling and life-threatening, have increased in South-East Asian countries silently and relatively unnoticed. Today they constitute a growing threat to national health and national health-care systems. In South-East Asia, deaths from NCDs are far in excess of those from communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions combined. Costly in terms of long-term care, these diseases call for a type of social and financial investment that many countries will have difficulty making unless they quickly begin to re-prioritise their efforts and funding.

Social, lifestyle component

The fact that most if not all the major non-communicable diseases have a strong social and lifestyle component calls for new thinking and preventive action. Dietary patterns have changed fundamentally in our region, and there is now a real danger that the diets of both children and adults will produce serious health challenges.

In some cases it is simply a case of over-eating. There is also the issue of eating foods that lead to obesity, and that are linked to related problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

Exercise is another feature of lifestyle. Today, we walk less and exercise less, and we simply do not use up the calories that we are taking in. Even children have become more sedentary, and schools have failed to provide the physical activity that would reduce the risk of obesity. Today our region is faced with a growing epidemic of children who are grossly overweight and who are facing serious disabilities and illnesses as a result.


Around the world, there is growing evidence that migrants are especially vulnerable to a variety of non-communicable diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, reproductive problems and mental health issues. In a region that has seen massive movements of people from rural to urban areas and across borders, this raises special concerns.

Irrespective of the causes, however, prevention of NCDs must be given high priority. This will not simply be the task of ministries of health. Other sectors, such as education and labour, food and nutrition, transport and communications, must all come together to design interventions that encourage people to remain physically active and to raise awareness of what they need to do to avoid these diseases.

We will also have to think of new staff who can work at the community level — educating, informing and motivating people of all ages and in all walks of life to be proactive in preventing the onset of these diseases. This challenge will have to be taken up in schools, in the workplace, and in the home. Health-promoting activities and behaviours will have to become a part of our everyday life and awareness.

Tools are available

But prevention will not be enough. Major non-communicable diseases have already taken root in many of our countries and must be urgently dealt with as systematically and rapidly as possible. The tools are available. Early diagnosis of diseases such as diabetes can, with effective treatment, avert potentially life-threatening and disabling consequences. For this to happen, routine screening or check-ups and timely treatment of NCDs will have to be given far more priority than it has before. This will in turn mean redesigning many of our health policies, services and health care financing plans.

Non-communicable diseases also call for long-term commitments to care, and this can be very costly if the care remains hospital-based. We must think of new ways of care–giving, and care-givers who are trained in community public health and capable of working with families in the home environment.

This is not to say that we can neglect the many communicable diseases that still plague our countries, for we must remain committed to their prevention and control.

But at the same time, we must accept that the South-East Asian region is now faced with a double burden of disease, and unless we adapt our policies and plans to this reality, we will face growing morbidity and mortality from NCDs, highly elevated health care costs, and disabilities that will reduce workforce productivity and the quality of life of our citizens.






In a sign of the mounting frustration by rebel leaders at Col. Muammar Qadhafi's diminished but unyielding grip on power, the revolutionary council here is seriously considering asking Western nations to use warplanes to strike some of the colonel's key military assets, while insisting that such air-raids fly under a U.N. banner, according to four people with knowledge of the council's deliberations.

By invoking the United Nations, the council, made up lawyers, academics, judges and other prominent figures, is seeking to draw a distinction between the airstrikes and foreign intervention, which the rebels say they emphatically oppose.

"He destroyed the army. We have two or three planes," said Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, the council's spokesman, speaking of the rebel's military disadvantage.

He refused to comment on the council's deliberations or any imminent announcement, but said: "If it is with the United Nations, it is not a foreign intervention." But that distinction is lost on many people, and any call for foreign military help carries great risks. The anti-government protesters in Libya, like their counterparts in Tunisia and Egypt, have drawn broad popular support and great pride from their status as home-grown movements that toppled autocrats without outside help. And an intervention, with or without the U.N. stamp, could play into the hands of Qadhafi, who has called the uprising a foreign plot by Western powers seeking to occupy Libya.

"If he falls with no intervention, I'd be happy," said one senior council official. "But if he's going to commit a massacre, my priority is to save my people."

'Doing this themselves'

There was no indication that the Security Council members would approve such a request, or that Libyans seeking to topple Qadhafi would welcome it: Russia has dismissed talk of a no-fly zone to curb Qadhafi's still-active air-force, and China has traditionally voted against foreign intervention.

Even so, the discussions signalled a rebel movement both impatient with a military stalemate that has crippled the country, and out of good options. Those who support the airstrikes hope they might dislodge Qadhafi from crucial strongholds, including a fortified compound in the capital, Tripoli. The council is only considering strikes against the compound, Bab al-Aziziya and assets like radar stations, according to the people briefed on the discussions, who requested anonymity because no formal decision on the announcement has been made.

The discussions came as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned of the perception that western nations were interfering in Libyan affairs. Speaking to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 1, Ms Clinton laid out one of the several reasons western countries are moving with caution on the possibility of a no-fly zone, which she said was "under active consideration." The Obama administration, she said, was keenly aware that the Libyan opposition was anxious to be seen "as doing this by themselves on behalf of the Libyan people that there not be outside intervention by any external force."

At the same time, Qadhafi faced a growing international campaign to force him from power, as the U.N. General Assembly voted on March 1 to suspend Libya's membership on the Human Rights Council, following its bloody attacks on protesters. The Obama administration announced it had seized $30 billion in Libyan assets, and the European Union adopted an arms embargo and other sanctions.

As the Pentagon began repositioning U.S. Navy warships to support a possible humanitarian or military intervention, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations promised, on March 2, to maintain that pressure until the embattled Libyan leader quits.

"We are going to keep the pressure on Qadhafi until he steps down and allows the people of Libya to express themselves freely and determine their own future," the envoy, Susan Rice, said in an interview on "Good Morning America."

Qadhafi defiant

Qadhafi has remained defiant. In an interview on March 1 with ABC News, he said he was fighting against "terrorists," and he accused the West of seeking to "occupy Libya." Those unyielding words and the colonel's military attacks were met with both nerves and defiance by rebel military leaders as the two sides seemed to steel themselves for a long battle along shifting and ever more violent front lines.

The anti-government protesters, who started their uprising with peaceful sit-ins but have increasingly turned to arms to counter Qadhafi's brutal paramilitary forces, have promised a large military response that has yet to come. At the same time, government forces have been unable to reverse the costly loss of territory to a popular revolt that has brought together lawyers, young people and tribal leaders.

Workers' plight

Libya itself seemed to be brewing a major humanitarian crisis as tens of thousands of mostly impoverished contract workers tried desperately to flee to its neighbours, Tunisia to the west and Egypt to the east. The U.N. refugee agency called the situation a humanitarian emergency as workers hauling suitcases stood in long lines to leave Libya, many of them uncertain how they would finally get home.

For days, military leaders in Benghazi have said they are preparing to assemble a force of thousands to conduct a final assault on Tripoli; some of the officials have even promised to send planes to bomb Qadhafi's fortified compound, Bab al-Aziziya.

But there are few signs that a plan has materialised, though military leaders maintain they are simply waiting for the right time. ( Robert F. Worth contributed reporting from Benghazi, Brian Knowlton from Washington, Alan Cowell from Paris, Steven Lee Myers from Geneva, and Liam Stack from Cairo.)

© New York Times News Service







Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates on March 1 played down the possibility of American military intervention in Libya, saying that there was no agreement within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) about the use of force and that now was not the time for the United States to be entering into another war in the Middle East.

Nonetheless, in a Pentagon news conference with Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr. Gates said he had ordered an amphibious assault ship, the Kearsarge, and an amphibious transport dock ship, the Ponce, to the Mediterranean. He said about 400 Marines were en route to the Mediterranean "in support of the Kearsarge," although it was unclear whether they would be aboard the ship or stationed elsewhere in the region.

"We're obviously looking at a lot of options and contingencies," Mr. Gates said. But both Mr. Gates and Admiral Mullen appeared to pull back from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's blunt comments on February 28 and March 1 that imposing a no-flight zone over Libya was under "active consideration" among the United States and its allies. Such a zone — in which Libyan air force aircraft would be denied permission to operate, or be shot down — would effectively keep the government led by Col. Muammar el-Qadhafi from strafing and dropping bombs on protesters seeking to overthrow his rule.

Admiral Mullen said that a no-flight zone was "an extraordinarily complex operation to set up," an assessment shared by Gen. James N. Mattis, who oversees American military operations in the Middle East as the head of United States Central Command. General Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 1 that setting up a no-flight zone would be "challenging" and would first require disabling Libya's air defence system, presumably with airstrikes.

Mr. Gates said, "If we move additional assets, what are the consequences of that for Afghanistan, for the Persian Gulf?" he said. "And what other allies are prepared to work with us in some of these things?"

In his most pointed comment, Mr. Gates said that "we also have to think about, frankly, the use of the U.S. military in another country in the Middle East." About 50,000 United States troops are now in Iraq and about 1,00,000 in Afghanistan.

Mr. Gates said that the Kearsarge, the Ponce and the 400 Marines would be in the region for humanitarian relief and potential emergency evacuations from Libya.

© New York Times News Service







"Oil is the trouble, of course," wrote Gertrude Bell in Baghdad in 1921, "Detestable stuff!" It had fuelled a world war and already was causing upheaval in the politics of the Middle East. For all the conflict caused by securing supplies of oil, and the environmental damage that goes hand in hand with its use, the problem for Bell, and now the rest of us, is that oil was just too useful. Concentrated energy, easily transported and hugely versatile. In Lord Curzon's famous phrase, Britain "floated to victory on a wave of oil", which then carried before it the modern age and the whole of consumer society.

We all became, and remain, hooked on its convenience. Today's energy supplies provide the equivalent of the work of 22 billion slaves, according to former oil industry man Colin Campbell. But now the wave of oil looks set to leave us high and dry. At well over $100 per barrel, prices are climbing again to the level last reached in 2008. Since then, however, the tone of commentary has changed.

Awareness is increasing of a fundamental problem looming, in which rising demand departs from flattening supply, leading to a shortage in the supply of the global economy's life blood. Until now, false reassurance that we can carry on as we are has come from two factors. First, that there is still oil and second, that new oil fields are still being discovered.

And, of course, there is still oil and small, new amounts are being found. But the situation is like knowing there are 10 mouths to feed tomorrow, yet only food stores enough for eight. Worse, each day, less food is replaced than the amount eaten, while the number of mouths to feed increases.

How much is left?

New discoveries of oil peaked in the mid-1960s, and based on a range of estimates we are either very near to, or possibly living through the peak of global oil production. After that, the gap between demand and supply inexorably widens. The difficulty of knowing exactly when is heightened by the political and economic sensitivity of the size of a nation's oil reserves. Publicly available figures are open to question. WikiLeaks revealed official scorn being poured, behind the scenes, on the size of Saudi Arabia's reserves, a key producer for the West.

Understandably, some people might think this is a good thing from an environmental perspective. After all, if the oil is running out, doesn't that help solve climate change? Unfortunately it doesn't. As the price of oil goes up it makes other, dirtier fossil fuels like brown coal and tar sands more attractive. And here is a problem even for people who discount the threat of global warming. In key areas of the economy like transport, especially aviation, and agriculture, oil is hard to replace.

During the 1970s, the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) crises, the worst effects were moderated by so-called "swing producers", oil exporters who replaced access lost by the West to key suppliers. Those options are no longer available. Back then, Britain turned to its own resources, which are now in dramatic decline.

Today's reality is that if you rip the oil drip from the economy's arm, the choice is economic seizure or transition. Short-term concerns are that a high oil price, pushed by upheaval in the Middle East, endangers economic "recovery".

But there is a greater, systemic threat from the peak and decline of global oil production. Driving to the supermarket, the range of food on the shelves, the family holiday in the sun, even how we brush our teeth in the morning — the whole character of modern living in rich countries relies on the assumption of cheap, abundant oil. Yet that can change as fast as the price of a commodity on the stock exchange.

Both the left and the right are firmly unprepared for the disappearance of cheap oil. We have all grown accustomed to the benefits of oil. Our plans to adapt to its absence are seriously wanting.

To some degree the age of plastic, disposability and consumerism was an artefact of overproduction in the oil industry. Higher prices and harder access will usher in a different age. Oil is still the trouble, 90 years on from Gertrude Bell's words. The coalition has shown itself capable of a truly radical programme of government, but unfortunately it chose a regressive, ideological one instead of an urgent, practical one.

Whether we take the opportunity of the passing of cheap oil to make a better age, or remain spellbound by its vanishing mirage, is down to us. ( Andrew Simms is Policy Director of NEF, the New Economics Foundation which is the award-winning U.K. think-and-do tank, and head of NEF's Climate Change Programme. His latest book is Ecological Debt: Global Warming and the Wealth of Nations published by Pluto Press.)

© Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011





Some 350 Tunisian migrants arrived by boat on March 2 on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, the first in a week amid Italian fears of a wave of North Africans fleeing turmoil at home.

Local police said the boat arrived overnight, and that the migrants were in good condition.

More than 6,000 Tunisians have crossed the Mediterranean and made it to Lampedusa, which is closer to Africa than to the Italian mainland, since the mid-January ouster of their long-time President and a breakdown in coastal patrols. Poor weather and rough seas had prevented the arrivals over the past week.

Italy fears that unrest in Libya will prompt a massive influx of illegal immigrants, and has asked its European allies to help deal with it.

"We believe there are about 1.5 million illegal immigrants in Libya, some estimate even 2.5 million," Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told a parliamentary committee on March 2.

He said these migrants had arrived in Libya because of poor patrols on the country's southern border, and are now fleeing the unrest following the uprising against Muammar Qadhafi's regime.

"The crisis in Libya is causing these people to go toward the east, the west; nobody is going south to go back to their countries of origin," Maroni said. "I expect that as soon as the situation allows it they will go north."







As Pakistan has embraced the culture of religious extremism and political violence with seeming acceptance and frightening rapidity in recent years, the news of the assassination of high public figures in that country does not shock any more. The slaying in broad daylight of Shahbaz Bhatti, minister for minorities and the only Christian in the Pakistan government, just outside his home in Islamabad as he was driving to attend a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning, appears a logical consequence of the pusillanimous attitude adopted by the government and the state in Pakistan in dealing with religious fanatics, in the process permitting them to enlarge their constituency.

When the high-profile liberal PPP leader, newspaper magnate and Punjab governor Salman Taseer was killed by one of his bodyguards, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, on January 4, the assassin was feted by tens of thousands in different parts of the country. The lawyers of Lahore, who in 2007 appeared to be the leaders of a liberal civil society push to oust former dictator Pervez Musharraf, showed up in strength at the high court to cheer Qadri and would later shower flower petals on him during court appearances. But the top men of the ruling party and high functionaries of the government, who should have defended a slain party colleague at least in death, were too afraid even to show up for his funeral. When the present government took power, it had declared its support to reforming the country's blasphemy law, a dangerous entity in the statute book that is routinely used in Pakistan to hound religious minorities. Mr Taseer was an advocate of scrapping this law and paid for his views with his life. After his killing, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani meekly declared his government had no intention of meddling with the legislation. Mr Bhatti's aim was less ambitious than the Punjab governor's. He only sought reform in the Zia-era law, which was one of the building blocks of casting an Islamic state into an Islamist state, one in which political Islam is promoted. A pamphlet at the site of his shooting indicated that some variety of Taliban from Punjab sought "credit" for the murder. The Prime Minister and other PPP notables absented themselves from the funeral, afraid this might suggest they are sympathetic to the cause the late minorities minister espoused. So did the top brass of the military. The message is clear enough. The government is too afraid to do anything other than allow the Islamists a clear run. In the circumstances, is it any wonder that Sherry Rahman, who not long ago was a Cabinet minister in this government is running for cover and went underground right after the Taseer assassination? She had moved a private member's bill in Parliament seeking to jettison the blasphemy law.

Mr Bhatti was not a political heavyweight. He was a relative newcomer to public affairs. His killing is unlikely to cause even a ripple when nothing much happened by way of action from the government's side after the shooting of Mr Taseer. Indeed, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto some three years ago is even more instructive. A government which may not have come to power but for the massive sympathy wave generated after her assassination by jihadists, who appear to have been in cahoots with the military for this particular execution, has barely moved to bring the guilty to justice. The irony is that Ms Bhutto's widower is now President of Pakistan.

As the state retreats from public space, and continuously appeases Islamist elements, it yields more ground to them. The government in Pakistan is weak, listless and ineffective. This further emboldens the extremists. As they rise, so does decline the prospect of long-term stability and peace in South Asia. The ascendance of Islamists in Pakistan bodes ill for Afghanistan and India and endangers the wider region.






Why is every fourth Indian hungry? Why is every third woman in India anaemic and malnourished? Why is every second child underweight and stunted? Why has the hunger and malnutrition crisis deepened even as India has nine per cent growth? Why is "Shining India" a "Starving India"?

In my view, hunger is a structural part of the design of the industrialised, globalised food system. Hunger is an intrinsic part of the design of capital-intensive, chemical-intensive monocultures of industrial agriculture, also called the "Green Revolution". India's Green Revolution from 1940s to 1970s was neither green, nor revolutionary. It merely created a market for corporations by transforming war chemicals into agrichemicals and breeding crops to respond to high chemical inputs. It increased production of a few commodities — rice and wheat — at the cost of the production of pulses, oilseeds, vegetables, fruits and millets. It focused on one region, Punjab, and pushed the agriculture of other regions into neglect.

This is a design for scarcity.

Hunger is also designed into a non-sustainable production system in which costs of inputs are higher than the price of outputs. The farmer gets trapped into a negative economy with debt, and suicide is an inevitable consequence. The 2,00,000 farmer suicides since 1997 are part of the genocidal design of corporate-driven high-cost agriculture.

There is now talk of a second Green Revolution in India. This one is based on genetic engineering, which is being introduced into agriculture largely to allow corporations to claim intellectual property rights and patents on seeds. The floodgate of patenting seeds was opened through the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement of World Trade Organisation (WTO).

When seed is transformed from a source of life into "intellectual property" which becomes a source of super profits through royalty collections, both biodiversity and small farmers disappear. We have seen this happen with Bt. Cotton.

The Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) of the WTO was designed to allow Cargill and other agribusiness corporations access to world markets. This was done by forcing countries to remove import restrictions (quantitative restrictions) and using $400 billion to subsidise and dump artificial cheap food commodities on the Third World. The case of dumping of soya and destruction of India's domestic edible oil production and distribution is an example of how the global reach of multinational corporations creates hunger, driving down farm prices and destroying local livelihoods. Indian farmers are losing $25 billion every year to falling prices.

While farm prices fall, food prices continue to rise, creating a double burden of hunger for rural communities. This is why half of the hungry people in India and the world are farmers.

Globalised forced trade in food, falsely called free trade, has aggravated the hunger crisis by undermining food sovereignty and food democracy. With the deadlock in the Doha round of WTO, forced trade is being driven by bilateral agreements such as the US-India Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture on the board of which sit corporations like Monsanto, Cargill/ADM and Walmart.

Sadly, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is trying to use the food crisis his trade liberalisation policies have been created to hand over India's seed supply to Monsanto, food supply to Cargill and other corporations and retail to Walmart, in line with the US-India AoA signed with President Bush in 2005. Speaking at a conference on food crisis and food inflation on February 4, 2011, Dr Singh said, "India needs to shore up farm supply claims by bringing in organised retail players" (read Walmart). Research shows that globalised, industrialised retail is destroying farmers' livelihoods and leading to wastage of 50 per cent food. This too is hunger by design.

Both the US and Indian governments are supporting US agri-business corporations to expand markets and profits. The common citizen is politically orphaned in a world shaped by corporate rules. Farmers' rights and people's right to food are extinguished as corporate rights to limitless profits design "the market". Instead of the right to food being sacred, "the market" becomes sacred. When the Supreme Court of India told the government to distribute the food grain that was rotting in godowns, Dr Singh said that giving food away free will kill the farmer's incentive to produce and adversely affect prices and wages. When the National Advisory Committee (NAC), headed by Sonia Gandhi, drafted a Food Security Act, the Prime Minister-appointed Rangarajan Committee said that stepped-up procurements could "distort" open market food prices. In other words, corporate rights to profit through creation of hunger must be protected even as people die.

Planning Commission vice-chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia invited Gulf countries to farm in India and export food to their countries during a visit to Muscat. A Bahrain firm, Nader and Ebrahim Group, recently tied up with Pune-based Sanghar to grow bananas on 400 acres. Indian laws do not allow foreigners to buy land. So the Planning Commission chief is encouraging foreign corporations to partner with Indian companies for contract farming.

Diverting land from food for local communities to cash crops for the rich in US, Europe and the Gulf countries is not a solution for hunger; this will aggravate the food crisis. This is not investment in agriculture, it is land grab and food grab. To get rid of hunger we need a paradigm shift in the design of our food systems. We need to shift from monocultures to diversity, from chemical intensive to ecological, biodiversity-intensive, from capital-intensive to low-cost farming systems. We need to shift from centralised, globalised food supply controlled by a handful of corporations to decentralised, localised food systems that are resilient in the context of climate vulnerability and price volatility. Such system could feed India's population.

Industrial monocultures produce less food and nutrition per acre than biodiverse ecological farms. Biodiversity organic farming, if adopted nationally, could provide enough calories for 2.4 billion, enough protein for 2.5 billion, enough carotene for 1.5 billion, and enough folic acid for 1.7 billion pregnant women. We must end hunger by building food democracy, by reclaiming our seed sovereignty, food sovereignty and land sovereignty.

Dr Vandana Shiva is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust






The medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA), worth some $11 billion, is currently the biggest military deal on the block. There are two prongs to the deal: providing the Indian Air Force (IAF) with a so-called "4.5 generation" multi-mission aircraft and securing transfer of technology (ToT) to beef up indigenous capability to design and develop sophisticated fighter planes.

ToT comprises a substantial part of the payout. Except, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has lacked the wherewithal but, more importantly, the will to absorb and evolve transferred technologies. It has progressed not much beyond licensed production, which amounts to putting together planes from crated parts.
If HAL leadership had any vision and self-respect, it would long ago have chosen the more challenging path of nursing the requisite technology innovation skills to produce in-date warplanes, instead of remaining a mere serial assembler of aircraft — MiG-21, Jaguar, MiG-27, MiG-29, Su-30MKI and, in the future, the MMRCA and the Russian fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) — Sukhoi-PakFA (T50). Foreign suppliers have happily adjusted to this Indian milieu where, notwithstanding the self-reliance rhetoric, top dollar is paid for supposedly total ToT without India insisting on the transfer of the "flight control laws" that reveal why the particular plane is built the way it is, and the "source codes" — millions of lines of software — that disclose just how the various aspects of the plane are constructed. Minus these laws and the codes, it is impossible to achieve core competence in combat aircraft design and development. Indeed, foreign suppliers these days take the money but refuse to part with even lesser technologies contracted for, pleading that strictures in their domestic laws prevent such transmission! An instance of this is France denying India inertial navigation-related angular and linear accelerometer (motion sensor) technology it had bought. So much for benefits accruing from transfer of technology.

The truth is that the present acquisitions system maximally facilitates corruption, however much defence minister A.K. Antony would have it otherwise. Thus, HAL is reduced to a bit player in part because the Department of Defence Production and the IAF favour importing high-value military aircraft. This is so because other than the political class habituated to direct augmentation of offshore accounts, bureaucrats, armed services officers, HAL staffers, et al, also reportedly have their snouts in the trough, gaining from generous bribes and payments in kind, such as immigrant visas and "scholarships" for their progeny to attend fine universities in the West. In earlier, simpler, times, a bottle of Scotch sufficed. With money to spend and more aircraft suppliers than buyers, an Indian government can compel supplier countries, including Russia, to onpass even the ultra-secret flight control laws and source codes. It hasn't done so because it would choke off a rich source of black money and other goodies.

The more fundamental question is why is the IAF turning an already horrendous servicing and maintenance situation it's saddled with — given its inventory boasting some 27 different types of planes — into an absolute logistics nightmare, by going in for yet another variety of aircraft and that too an MMRCA when it already has and could acquire more of the Su-30MKI, which fits the bill and, according to reputable international aviation experts, is the most powerful and versatile fighter-bomber aircraft flying bar the American F-22 Raptor? Certainly, none of the planes in the fray — the F-16IN, F-18 Super Hornet, Rafale, MiG-35, Typhoon and Gripen — surpasses it in performance. The IAF, however, feels the need to "diversify" in order, it claims, to minimise the effects of the Russian spares stranglehold on Indian airpower. In that case, how to explain the $34 billion FGFA contract, which will perpetuate reliance on Moscow?

The real problem with inducting the MMRCA and FFGA is that these aircraft are already almost obsolete. They are extremely vulnerable to advanced air defence systems and even their missions can be more effectively carried out by ballistic and cruise missiles in the strike role and the variable range drones for surveillance, ground attack and other tasks. If sophisticated pilotless aerial vehicles are the future then, as an interim solution, it'd be more pragmatic to buy the whole lot of 126 new MMRCA off the shelf at enormously reduced unit cost and lifetime worth of spares at cut-rate prices, rather than throw good money into the farcical "ToT". All of this would be available for less than half the currently estimated price tag. The large savings could be channelled into a high-tech drones programme.

In this regard, there have been some very questionable decisions. First, the Congress Party regime of P.V. Narasimha Rao in the mid-Nineties failed to insist on a quid pro quo of a joint holding of Intellectual Property Rights for all Su-30MKI technologies and complete ToT inclusive of the "laws" and "codes" in exchange for the infusion of `6,000 crores to prevent the Su-30 programme from going under. Next, the IAF after failing in its bid to secure additional Mirage 2000 aircraft conjured up the MMRCA rather than consolidate its fighter strength by augmenting its Su-30 fleet. And lately, the IAF and the Manmohan Singh government passed up the opportunity for kick-starting an indigenous modern combat aircraft design and development effort by turning down an independent proposal by the Mikoyan Bureau. The progenitor of MiG fighter planes had suggested that India fund the development of its new "1.44" fighter it has designed to equal, even exceed, F-22 performance parameters. In return, India was to jointly own the aircraft technologies and the rights to further develop this platform and produce it for IAF use and world-wide sales. The excuse for Delhi's nyet was that the Russian government, which backed the Sukhoi Bureau and had vested interest in promoting its sales, warned that India would be making all financial investments and bearing all risks. Given the solid track record of the MiG Bureau, this was a no-brainer. But the generally risk averse and strategically shortsighted Indian government and IAF failed to act sensibly.

Bharat Karnad is a professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi






Be serious, Mr PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's assurance in the Parliament that the perpetrators of various scams will be punished sounds hollow in the context of his persistent defence of government's 2G Spectrum policy. His pious platitudes are just desperate attempts to keep the hounds at bay. In his recent interaction with the 'controlled media' he confessed to his helplessness in preventing the corruption taking place under his very nose because of the compulsions of coalition politics. If that is the case, how is he going to punish the really powerful mafia that masterminded all the scams? If he is serious about routing corruption, let his government reveal the names of the people who have stashed black money in secret bank accounts in the tax havens, without claiming alibi under 'treaty obligations'.

—VVS Mani, Bengaluru

Encouraging readers

Last month, when I subscribed to DNA, within a day or two, I was surprised to read that your newspaper will no longer have an edit page. I wondered whether my subscription decision was a wrong one, as I thought, DNA would be left with no identity of its own. But, after one month into reading your newspaper, I agree that expert comments and analysis in a simple language are very far better than any other newspaper that I have come across. I request you that, in order to encourage readers contribution to DNA, you can declare a cash prize for "Best Letter of the Week", as well as, other contests like essay writing, short story competition, etc.

—Ketan R Meher, via email

A match of what ifs

Former Australian spinner Shane Warne is reported to have commented on Twitter before the match that it was going to be a draw ('Why India didn't win', February 28). Imagine the following scenarios in which the ultimate result would have been different: i)In the last over of Indian innings, James Anderson conceded four wides, eventually adding to the Indian total. If this was avoided England would have won the match. If Munaf Patel had managed to score the second run India's total would have been 339 as inadvertently shown in the scoreboard and subsequently changed to338. India would have won by one run. India was bowled out in the penultimate ball of the last over. If India had scored at least one more run, we would have won. If the confident appeal against Ian Bell was upheld by third umpire, as correctly visible in the replay, India would have a won. And Sreesanth should have been included in the team, he is lucky for the team.

—Unny Damodaran, via email

Financial jugglery

The Finance Bill for 2011-12 contains a provision which is nothing but sheer jugglery ('Old get gold in Youngistan', March 1). It proposes to exempt those assessees from filing IT returns whose income is derived solely from 'Salary'. But can there be any tax payer from this category who does not have a savings bank account, the interest accrued on which is fully taxable in the hands of the recipient? In other words, no wage earner/pensioner can claim to be exempt under this new "facility" suggested in the latest Budget.

—Vineet Phadtare, via email


Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the UPA government have mooted plans for ending corruption and the GoM has beenappointed for dealing with the situation, but it is most unlikely that the movewill get the desired result. Experience shows that when a vigilance commission isappointed it has become partial and corrupt. Corruption is here to stay unless the system to investigate and punish the guilty is rehauled. It is high time we clean our system rather than making speeches.

—Shishir Goenka, Mumbai

Not enough relief

Pranab Mukherjee, who has by now mastered the art of financial jugglery, has once again dodged the aam aadmi by not giving him enough relief in taxes. The raise in IT limit is too miserly from Rs1.6 to Rs1.8 lakh in general category and from Rs2.4 to Rs2.5 lakh for seniors. What is baffling to all is the new category of over 80 years and giving them relief upto Rs5 lakh. The cartoon by Manjul (March 1) most aptly says that the only old people above 80 earning this much money would be politicians. However, on the flip side, the acceleration of financial reforms making the corporate sector happy is a welcome sign.

—Yash P Verma, Pune

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Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh will be in the town on two-day official visit in connection with the convocation of Sheri Kashmir Agricultural University. A lot of business is awaiting him in Jammu; and he is fully apprised of priorities he needs to address. He enjoys the credit of visiting the State regularly, not only because it is beset with internal turmoil and external sabotage but also because he is deeply interested in its development in all aspects, especially in infrastructure and industries. Unemployment of youth has been a matter of much concern with him. Appointment of Rangarajan one-man committee to report on employment scenario of state youth has resulted in the decision of the PM finding a hundred thousand vacancies to be filled by them. There are other plans as well to tackle unemployment among youth as it is considered the main cause of stir in society. PM's attention seems focused on a couple of priorities in the state such as providing better infrastructure and developmental space, youth engagement, governance, removing trust deficit, reshaping forces-civilian productive engagement, and power development. PM's J&K policy has shown resoluteness coupled with resilience, and it has already begun to yield calibrated dividends. He knows that lot more remains to be done. His government's railway minister offered incentives in rail budget to help the state improve its connectivity and indirectly strengthen its economy. The PM has been frugal in providing financial assistance to the State whenever the state government approached him. A slew of new projects have been floated and the centre's assistance is forthcoming. In terms of power supply, a chronic problem with many other states in the country, the centre is usually forthcoming, and would not hesitate to provide funds for hydroelectric power stations under state government's contemplation. This shows that there is reason for us to be apprehensive that coalition governments do not succeed. J&K is a success story. The Prime Minister has been generous. On political front, he took bold initiatives of offering talks to the separatists and others for restoring peace and normalcy in the disturbed state. It is a different matter that dissidents are obsessed with negative approach for the reason that they do not think and act independently. Nevertheless he kept his doors open for talks, something which Prime Ministers seldom do. It is unfortunate that Kashmir Valley dissidents fail to capitalize on the good will of the Prime Minister. As an astute statesman, he is not deterred by hurdles in the way of ensuring free flow of democratic governance. That is where the strength of the nation and of the PM lies.
But apart from this, the Prime Minister will need to reflect on some of the problems of Jammu region and its people. A mechanism needs to be evolved to remove once for all the complaint of Jammu region that it has always been given discriminatory treatment by successive state governments. Certain fundamental parameters need to be well thought out so that Jammu region receives what is its due in terms of allocation of funds, services, developmental projects, infrastructure upgrading, educational advancement etc. so as to keep pace with all round development process of the State. Jammu city is poised for fast growth and expansion. It is the enterport of trade and commerce for all the three regions of the State; it is State's transit hub, and it has tremendous potential for industrial growth that would be a backbone to the economy of the state. In view of this, there is justification for laying out a new township contiguous to the existing old one along the lines of Modern Township. Narrow roads of the old city are choked with heavy vehicular traffic. Its much congested areas need new treatment with flyovers, subways, culverts, sidewalks, footpaths, parks, playgrounds and recreational locates etc. Jammu city's congestion has to be thinned and the alternate township is a sensible solution. Jobs for youth of Jammu region should get highest priority keeping in mind long border of the region and its deep hinterlands. Another urgent matter for the PM's to consider is rehabilitation of 1947 refugees from PoK and internally displaced persons from the valley and other parts of the State. During his visit to Jammu in 2008, the PM had announced a generous package of 1618 crore rupees for the return and rehabilitation of the victims of terrorism, which however was erroneously called "Rehabilitation package for Kashmiri Pandits". The PM will need to have a second look at the contours of the package in view of a critique formally issued by JK Nationalist Movement---a Jammu-based organization---- and order removal of bottlenecks created by undesirable bureaucratic supervening. Importantly, its rehabilitation plan focusing on twin-city capital in Kashmir, as discussed with interlocutors also, should receive serious attention because it meets most of the requirements of those desirous of return and rehabilitation, and the parameters of composite culture to which the government is wedded. Goodwill among the saner and senior segments of valley civil society for the return and rehabilitating of the displaced minority is not lacking but needs to be harnessed fully so as to recreate traditional bonds of harmony. Today there is better understanding among wide nationalist segments in the country of the problems of J&K. Given this positive point, the state should be able to do better in the area of state-centre relationship. The state should become an enviable model of communal harmony and fraternity, the key to the prosperity of the nation. This would be the fulfillment of Prime Minister's wishes for the State.








Violence in all its manifestations is highly condemnable. Loss of life is irreparable and human blood red, no matter whose blood spills and in which part of the world it (the blood) spills.

However ironically in strife-torn Kashmir, the violence has assumed two forms- one is condemnable and evokes strikes, protests and often violent clashes and the other form of violence goes unnoticed and often un-condemned or evokes belated yet subtle condemnation.

Even a small act of violence committed allegedly by security forces' takes life to a standstill in valley and often evokes large scale protests, strikes and clashes in response to calls by separatists' but the same act of violence committed by 'militants' does not shake the consciousness of separatists, not to speak of evoking condemnation by these leaders claiming to be safeguarding the interest of people of the valley.

The recent civilian killings in Kashmir after the violent summer unrest have once again exposed the double-standards of separatist leaders not only before their own people but also before the world community.
In a span of less than a week (January 31 to February 5), three civilians including two teenaged sisters' were killed. The gruesome murder of two teenaged sisters' by 'militants' in Muslim Peer area of Sopore on January 31 evoked belated yet subtle condemnation by separatists and one-day strike.

After days of criminal silence over the heinous killings, the embarrassed separatist leaders including the hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani condemned the killing of siblings to save themselves from further embarrassment.

The separatist leaders suffered a barrage of criticism from chief minister Omar Abdullah and other likeminded people from different shades of life for maintaining a criminal silence over the gruesome murder of poor siblings by gunmen.

On the other hand, expectedly, the killing of 21-year-old youth Manzoor Ahmad Magray by army in an ambush on February 5 evoked strong condemnation by separatists and protests.


Ironically, unlike rape and murder of Asiya and Nelofar -sister in laws- in Shopian allegedly by security forces last year, which evoked massive protests, clashes and also nearly two months strike in Shopian town, the brutal killing of Sopore siblings by 'militants' after abduction did not evoke protests and strikes for obvious reasons.
Well one may ask were the killing of siblings not a rights violation and deserved condemnation? Was the blood of slain siblings not red? Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was the first person to strongly condemn the killing of siblings and also the silence maintained by separatists over heinous killings.

Separatists apart, among the political parties the largest opposition political party People's Democratic Party (PDP) also ignored this event and issued a statement criticizing the state government for its failures on all fronts rather than condemning the killing of siblings.

Even a section of world media, which does not fail to broadcast allegations of human rights violations against the security forces' downplayed the shocking Sopore event. Many other human rights activists actively working in Kashmir also distanced themselves from the brutal killing of siblings. The stark fact is that Kashmir separatist leaders find it easy to condemn the state for rights violations but condemning militants for acts of violence is like inviting ignominious death.

Over the years, the Hurriyat leaders have kept themselves in news and also held their positions by acting brave against the state and by keeping quiet over rights violations committed by militants. The leaders, who finally and for the heck of it condemned the Sopore siblings murder did not utter a word against the killers.
The double-standards of Hurriyat leaders in Kashmir is a major problem posing serious threats to the resolution of prolonged Kashmir issue. The leaders claiming to be representing the aspirations of Kashmiris are in fact pursue the Pakistan agenda.

The Sopore sisters were not the only Kashmiri women, who fell to the bullets of gunmen because of their alleged suspicious activities, during past over two decades of turmoil, Kashmiri girls have been abducted, raped, tortured and murdered and whenever security forces' were not involved in such heinous crimes (which has been a case on most of the occasions), the condemnations have been muted.

A few years ago, a foreign woman rights activist who visited Kashmir learnt from some Kashmiri women that they have been asked by some pro-freedom activists to narrate stories of rape and abduction before foreign visitors to malign the image of security forces'.

When the visitor asked the Kashmiri women why there have been no protests when militants raped Kashmiri woman, the women after lots of persuasion revealed that Kashmiri women can-ill afford to raise voice against militants.

While as for a section of people mystery still shrouds the Sopore-double murder, it needs a mention here that if the killing of the two sisters was the objective of the militants why didn't they kill them in their one-room house instead of dragging them far away from the house before killing them?

Newspaper reports say some people, who followed the gunmen at some distance, saw the killers talking to somebody on mobile before shooting the siblings dead. It appeared to the followers that they (gunmen) shot the girls on instructions from the other side of the phone.

Was the killing of sisters' part of a well-thought out conspiracy to throw Kashmir valley once again into agitations and stone-throwing before February 5, the day, which Pakistan observes as Kashmir solidarity day every year.

The day is marked by rallies and public meetings in support of Kashmiris in Pakistan administrated Kashmir (PAK) to condemn India without restraint. This time leader of Lashkar-i-Taiba (LeT) Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed had called for nuclear war against India over Kashmir.

The militants chose Sopore, a stronghold of rabble rouser Syed Ali Shah Gilani, to kidnap and murder the two sisters. Had some neighbours not witnessed the kidnapping, the girls could well have been taken to a deserted place, raped and killed.

If that would have happened, hardliner Geelani would have at once screamed for a week long hartal in the valley this time "to protest rape and killing of two Kashmiri girls by security men". The agitations, thus contrived, should have made the Kashmir solidarity day in Pakistan on February 5 more relevant.
It is high time that those concerned about human rights violations in Kashmir must raise their voice against accused no matter, who commits the violations. Kashmiris are suffering but their leaders thrive on it by selectively condemning or ignoring atrocities on them (Kashmiris). Thus, a correct assessment of the plight of Kashmiris cannot be made and as a result, Kashmiris continue to suffer immensely and be misunderstood.
As has been happening for past over two decades, as the news of the killing spread, people took to the streets raising slogans against the Army. The reaction however contrasted brazenly following the killing of two teenaged sisters by gunmen in Sopore. In latter case, people did not take to the streets and shout slogans against militants for obvious reasons.

The two incident of three civilian killings - one by militants and another by security forces - present a very depressing plight of the people of Kashmir. For the past over two decades, Kashmiris have faced death and humiliation at the hands of both militants and the security forces.

Neither militants nor the security forces really understand Kashmiris. It is the Kashmiri leaders who are supposed to understand their own people. But awfully separatists have held the beleaguered valley people hostage to their (the separatists) vested interests.








Many countries of the Middle-East are currently rocked by the people's protests demanding regime change and political reforms. The awakened public now wants the autocrats, dictators and despots to step down. The "intelligent" rulers of Egypt and Tunisia timely left the thrones in exchange for their lives. But the strange Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Qaddafi has refused to step down until his last breath. For fulfilling this ambition, he is even ready to destroy the nation. And this is the reason that even in the last moments of his rule, Qaddafi has appealed to his numbered supporters to attack the protesters and crush them like "cockroaches". One can imagine if Qaddafi can do such things at a time when his days are numbered, what he could have done with the opponents and dissidents when he used to rule the roost in Libya.
However, this call of aggression by Qaddafi has little effect on people, though some of them became victims of the violence unleashed by his police, army and hired mercenaries. But since Qaddafi has now crossed all limits of morality, his supporters are gradually dumping him. Libya's Home Minister has left Qaddafi. Many other ministers are following suit. A major part of the army is also against Qaddafi. Near a dozen Libyan ambassadors and diplomats have resigned in protest against Qaddafi. Indifference of the State, widespread public outcry and Qaddafi's stubbornness to remain stuck to the chair has created the environment of a potential civil war in Libya. If any large scale violence breaks out in such circumstances, only Qaddafi would be responsible for that. The international community is deeply concerned by the turmoil in Libya. Moreover, the prices of crude oil have skyrocketed due to the ongoing disturbance in the Middle-East.
The spate of people's demands for regime change is presently limited only to the Muslim populous countries. This wave of change is being looked at in different perspectives. While in some countries the majority Shia community is demanding removal of a minority Sunni dictator, in other places people are against the puppet ruler of America. While people of some countries are fed up by the inefficient and corrupt despots, at some places they are trying to dethrone the monarchs and establish democracy. It can be said that people in every country of the Middle-East have their share of problems. A misconception promoted since centuries has been that democracy is incompatible with the Islam and the followers of Islam only love monarchy or dictatorship. This revolution has also shut the mouths of such propagandist fundamentalists. This revolution has proved that by and large the Muslim society is not only democratic but also non-violent.
Amidst this people's revolution in the Middle-East, many political analysts are guessing whether such kind of situation can arise in India? The reason behind this thinking is that even after 64 years of freedom, India is struggling with the problems of poverty, hunger, unemployment, illiteracy, corruption and scams. Maoism or Naxalism is deepening its roots very fast. For this too, poverty, hunger, unemployment, ignorance and injustice are responsible. There is no doubt that the common man in India is unhappy with the prevailing administrative system. Every minute a debt ridden farmer commits suicide. More than half of our children are malnourished. Officers of the elite Civil Service, Indian Administrative Service, are either shot dead or burnt alive by the mafias, or kidnapped by the Maoists. In the name of corruption, opposition parties are not letting the Parliament to function. Inflation is at an all time high.
People are losing faith in political parties, leaders and the system. Common man can be heard saying that the laws are only for poor while the rich and influential easily manage to escape the law. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself has admitted this fact. The former President APJ Abdul Kalam also expressed this concern that instead of smile, there is sadness on the faces of the people. Nothing strange if some analysts are worried of potential outburst by the people, influenced by the change in the Middle-East. Notwithstanding that India is the world's largest democracy; people are equally worried about the future of their family and children as their Middle-Eastern counterparts.
But thanks to our founding fathers and constitution makers, they have woven such a political system, as a result of which the people of India are divided into hundreds of political parties, ideologies, classes, regions etc. Indian Army is constituted on similar lines- disciplined and segmented, so that our politicians can concentrate on their power. On the other hand, by hiding the ground realities, our politicians repeatedly pat their own backs by telling the world that we are the world's biggest and the most successful ideal democracy. But they should not be indifferent to the reality that people have a threshold for everything. Awakened society can't tolerate for long the fear, poverty, hunger and uncertainty about the future of their children. If India wants to maintain the tag of being the world's largest democracy, it will have to deal with the basic needs and problems of the people as soon as possible. Otherwise, the winds of change start blowing anywhere anytime.








A conference of the Chief Ministers of the States is convened periodically, by all the Ministries of the Central Government, periodically. Such conferences, turn into dos and don'ts, and homilies. They often become a big exercise, either in self flagellation or passing on the buck or ruing as to how things are not turning out as expected.


In a similar vein and on expected lines, the Prime Minister observed, while addressing the Chief Minister's Conference on Ist February, 2011, "I am happy to note that the National Investigative Agency, that was raised after the 26/11 terror attack gained much ground in unearthing the fake Indian currency notes networks operating from across our borders and in unraveling the activities of new terror groups… I compliment my colleague the Union Home Minister and his team for their proactive role in matters of internal security."


He expressed satisfaction, that 2010 was relatively peaceful in terms of terror attacks and communal violence.

It is not that India has been free from terrorism in 2010. The terrorists are on the look out for softer targets, in the soft State, that is India. There was an attack on Jama Masjid, in New Delhi, A Bomb Blasts in Pune, in which 17 persons were killed and over 60 injured, Maoists Bus Blast in Dantewada and Gyaneshwari Express train derailment, apart Varanasi bombing on December 7, 2010. It killed a two-year-old girl, sitting on her mother's lap, the mother was one of three critically injured, apart from more than 38 other people injured.


It occurred, a day after the anniversary of the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition, in which a mosque was demolished at Ayodhya leading to nationwide religious riots killing over 2,000 people.


Subsequently, Islamist terrorist group, Indian Mujahideen, claimed responsibility of the blast, via email to Indian media. This is also the second terrorism-related incident in the city which was rocked the serial blasts of 2006, in which 28 people were killed, at an explosion at the Sankatmochan Temple.


In another conference, on 3rd February, 2011, while addressing the State Chief Secretaries, the Prime Minister admitted that the Government was under attack over various scams. He added that it strikes at the roots of good governance, dents the country's international image and "demeans us before our own people…. It is an impediment to faster growth. It dilutes, if not negates, our efforts at social inclusion… This is a challenge which has to be faced frontally, boldly and quickly."


Terming the internal security situation in some parts of the country as "tense", The PM said, "There has been unacceptably high level of violence in areas affected by Left-wing extremism and in the Kashmir valley ... "What is needed is a recognition of this problem, focused attention on these issues and a commitment to improving the professionalism and the quality of our police forces ... The police man has to be equipped to have the morale and the capacity to deal with the problems of internal security" .


A few months prior to the above meeting, The Union Home Minister had admitted in his inaugural speech at the 40th All India Police Science Congress in Raipur, in 2010 that 'Policing a country of over 1. 1 billion people is not an easy task. Policing a country in a troubled neighbourhood makes the task more difficult.


And policing a country with insufficient police stations and inadequate and an ill-equipped police force makes the task almost formidable ... According to figures given to the Central Government, the total number of sanctioned posts as on March 31, 2010, in all ranks, is about 21 lakh. Of these, about 335,000 posts are vacant ... Thus, the police population ratio for the whole country is about 160 per 100,000 people.


This ratio is much lower than the international norm ... and conceals more than it reveals .. In Bihar, he said, the ratio is as low as 75, in Uttar Pradesh it is about 115, in Andhra Pradesh it is about 125, in Orissa about 135 and in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand the two states most affected by leftwing extremism the figure is 205 ...


The first order of business is to enhance the capacity of training institutes in the states to at least double the present capacity and to recruit at least double the number of policemen and women every year".


He added that most states barely have sufficient capacity to impart even basic training to new recruits.


While the Prime Minister is well equipped with all the data and facts of economy, obviously improving or pitching for a first rate polite system, and reforming criminal justice system, does not seem to be in his list of priorities.


Like many federal structures, the Constitution of India mandates, law and order as a subject of the state. Therefore the bulk of the policing job, lies with the respective States.


Even the CBI or the Central Bureau of investigation can operate only with the consent of the State Government, in its area. At any time, any State Government can with draw its consent and thus close any CBI establishment. It has happened, more than once in the country. CBI has jurisdiction only on the Central Government employees, who are paid from the Central Funds.


Still in some cases, the State Government grant permission for investigation into the corruption or other misconduct, against them, on a case to case basis.


Though police touches the lives of all citizens, yet no State is willing to bring about the reforms mandated by the Supreme Court on 22nd September, 2006.


Justice K T Thomas, Chairperson for the Supreme Court-appointed Police Reforms Monitoring Committee, set up in July, 2008, says not a single state or Union Territory Government wants to lose its power of appointment or transfer over police officers.


He says he met state politicians who found no reason in winning elections unless they were at least allowed to hold on to their power to decide their own police officers. His committee, without exception, met with "laughing" refusals from state home ministers when asked if they would-make room for the setting up of a Police Establishment Board.


"The reason is very obvious. They laugh and ask me: , Why did I win the election if I do not have even the power to decide my own police officers".


The way things seem to be going in different aspects of the governance presents a dismal picture. There are four pillars of a Democratic State, a prompt and effective criminal justice system, which includes police and judiciary, Health Care, Education and Basic Infrastructure like, roads, water supply and power.

Despite having a mammoth number of Commissions, Committees, Regulatory Bodies and Elections, the country seems to be going down hill with being classified as 87th most corrupt country in the world with an integrity score of 33 out of 100.

The country has been looted by scamsters running into Lakhs of Crores. The Government must remember that now is not the time to be afraid or timid because the challenges are formidable. Now is the time to take both personal and institutional risks, and meet the challenges head on.


It can take one problem at a time and focus on it for six months, like illiteracy or corruption or health or education. In five years, it would have accomplished what has not been done for the last over six decades. Our leaders must bear in mind that talk does not cook rice. (PTI)









THE elections to four state assemblies — in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu — and the Union Territory of Puducherry, announced by the Election Commission for April 4 to May 10, will be watched especially for the performance of the Congress, the Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu and the Left in West Bengal and Kerala. Virtually in all the poll-bound states, the BJP is a relatively minor player and its performance is largely inconsequential. While it is good that there would be a one-day poll in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, it is a measure of the apprehension of electoral malpractices that in West Bengal there will be a six-phase election. It has indeed become a pattern for the Election Commission to stagger polls in key sensitive states but this invariably leads to an administrative paralysis for the entire period of the poll process. That the counting for all would be on May 13 is an index of how long the ballot boxes would need to be guarded and the consequent expenditure thereof.


Considering that the CPM and the CPI have a significant presence only in West Bengal, Kerala and the tiny state of Tripura, the elections in their two main states would indeed be a do-and-die battle for these parties. With the Congress knitting up an alliance with the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, the odds look grim for the Left parties. In Kerala where it is rare for an incumbent government to win, the Congress-led United Democratic Front poses a formidable challenge to the ruling Left Democratic Front led by the CPM. In Tamil Nadu where the DMK and the Congress are squabbling on seat sharing, the AIADMK alliance with actor Vijaykant's DMDK has given it a head start at a time when the DMK is tainted by former Telecom Minister A. Raja's strong association with the 2G scam. In Assam, the Congress had in 2006 benefited hugely from disunity in the opposition ranks and the same situation prevails today. In Puducherry, the Congress is comfortably placed.


The issues in assembly elections are usually widely different from those in parliamentary elections, so the results would apparently not accurately reflect the public perception of the UPA's performance. Yet, predictably, the ensuing poll results could have a bearing on the longevity of the UPA government and the future of the Left parties.









THE manner in which the members of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) have been behaving on the issue of separate statehood for Telangana is regrettable. Their modus operandi for achieving their objective is flawed. Their decision to launch a civil disobedience movement in the Telangana region, the government staff resorting to a pen-down strike and the people travelling by buses without tickets are all aimed at hitting the revenue base of the government. Stoppage of several long-distance trains by the activists has caused great inconvenience to passengers. Students preparing for the Intermediate examinations are facing major hardship because of the continued agitation. This is a crucial time for them because they have to compete with other students in several all-India examinations. Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy's call to all pro-Telangana groups, individuals and organisations to stop the agitation ought to be heeded.


Unfortunately, the agitation has brought the administration in the Telangana region to a standstill over the past two weeks. Poor people are suffering due to the non-cooperation by employees. People are being denied old age pensions and necessary certificates in mandal offices. The business community, students and patients are badly hit. There is no doubt that the state is sharply divided over the issue of Telangana. And so, it would only be proper that political parties sit together and strive for an all-party consensus to resolve the issue.


Moreover, the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee report is with the Centre. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram made it clear at his monthly Press conference on Tuesday that he would convene a meeting of parties from Andhra Pradesh on the Telangana issue only when all of them are ready to give their views. The last meeting convened by him in New Delhi could not make any headway as the TRS, the TDP and the BJP boycotted it. Mr Chidambaram has refused to fix a date for the meeting owing to the refusal of major parties to attend it. The issue as it stands today is serious and a cause for concern. There is a need for all right-thinking people in Andhra Pradesh to impress upon the political parties to strive for a consensus on Telangana, and till the issue is resolved, the TRS activists should refrain from disrupting normal life.









THE practice of marrying girls off before they attain the legal age for marriage continues unabated, despite the growing outrage over child marriages in India. An indication of the fact that laws have failed to check marriages of minor girls comes with the latest UNICEF report. In a shocking disclosure, the report reveals that India has the eighth highest population of married adolescent girls in Asia and Africa. In fact, 30 per cent girls marry between the age of 15 and 18 years, and are thus deprived of their right to education and health. In Rajasthan, child marriages, often solemnised secretively, are widely prevalent.

While India boasts of demographic advantage in terms of its adolescent population, adolescents themselves continue to remain disadvantaged and often have to face sexual and physical exploitation. Early marriage also deprives them of the chance to blossom. As many minor girls become mothers, they are exposed to greater risks during pregnancy, and the risk of infant deaths too increases. While the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 has a provision for making the child marriage null and void, society and the law have to ensure that such marriages are not allowed in the first place. For, in a gender-biased society, nullification of a marriage will have its own repercussions detrimental to the fair sex.

While proposals like the compulsory registration of marriages and linking it with the issuance of ration cards and birth certificates can go a long way in curbing this social evil, institutions, especially panchayats, can play a positive role too, as sometimes they have done so in the past. If India has to reap dividends of its economic growth, it has to break the vicious cycle of poverty and undesirable social customs, which are deeply rooted in gender prejudices. For this both the law-enforcing agencies and society, including the NGOs, have to work in tandem. For the sake of both the present generation of young women and future children, marrying girls before they achieve adulthood must be prevented.









IT could well have been a scene from a Sylvester Stallone "Rambo" thriller. The "good guy" is "Rambo" Raymond Davis, a Special Forces sharpshooter-turned-CIA agent, sent in to eliminate "bad guy" terrorists in a "major non-NATO ally," Pakistan. Davis is followed by two "bad guys" through the shady areas of Lahore on January 27. The "bad guys" are actually ISI agents assigned to trail Davis, who has been eliminating the ISI's jihadi and Taliban assets in Pakistani terrorist badlands, including in the tribal areas, straddling the Af-Pak borders.


The ISI stalkers with pistols in their hands move towards the car of Davis. He takes out his trusty six-shooter and brings down the two bad guys. He radios for help and an American Consulate car rushes to the scene, with the rescuers running over a pedestrian while driving the wrong way, on a one-way street. He is overpowered and jailed. All hell breaks loose between the two "major non-NATO allies".


The American version of the status of Davis is that he holds a diplomatic passport and was issued a visa, being designated a "regional affairs officer" — a euphemism for his being a CIA operative, with his background known to the hosts. He was also listed as "administrative and technical staff" which entitles him to diplomatic immunity. According to the Pakistanis, Davis is actually an employee of a private security agency, Hyperion Protective Consultants. Oddly, while the Americans claimed he is an embassy employee, the State Department spokesman described him as a "(Lahore) Consulate employee". Amidst these flip-flops by the Obama Administration, former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who had avoided a scheduled visit to Munich, evidently fearing that he was on the verge of being fired, joined issue with others immediately after he lost his job. Qureshi claimed that his ministry had carried out a detailed study and concluded that Davis was not entitled to diplomatic immunity.


These developments came at a time when Pakistan's politics was becoming increasingly volatile. The Zardari regime in Islamabad does not want hassles in relations with the Americans. The issue would have been settled and Davis quietly repatriated to the US if the incident had taken place in the Federal Capital Area, where President Zardari controls the police. But Lahore is not the federal capital. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has shown no inclination of making life easy for President Zardari. After easing President Zardari's Pakistan People's Party out of the ruling coalition in Punjab, moves will be initiated to get his brother Nawaz Sharif back as Prime Minister.


Nawaz Sharif knows that his PML (N) will sweep the polls in any national election. The Sharif brothers also have no inhibitions in being seen to be supportive of the growing anti-Americanism in Pakistan. Shahbaz has funded Hafiz Saeed's Jamat-ud-Dawa after it was declared an international terrorist organisation. The Punjab Police swiftly arrested and charged Davis with murder, knowing that the judiciary headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is virulently anti-Zardari. The Lahore High Court has deferred the case till March 14. In the meantime, Davis sleeps in a Lahore jail, despite assertions by President Obama himself that he enjoys diplomatic immunity and should be released.


Stirring this boiling cauldron is the all-powerful Gen Ashfaq Kayani and his ever loyal ISI chief, now under extension, Lt.-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha. There has been no love lost between the CIA and the ISI in recent days. The CIA is furious that its base in Khost province of Afghanistan, near the Af-Pak border, was attacked and destroyed by jihadis from across the Durand Line. Tensions between the two intelligence agencies escalated when the ISI leaked the identity of the CIA station chief, then working undercover in Pakistan. Moreover, Davis was undermining the ISI by establishing his own links to eliminate the jihadis in the Pashtun tribal areas along the Af-Pak border. Worse still, he was evidently attempting to undermine and infiltrate the citadel of the "holiest of the holies", the Lashkar-e-Toiba chief and patron saint of the ISI, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed.


The army quietly joined the chorus seeking to push the Americans to a corner and force them to offer concessions, though General Kayani does not exactly love fellow Punjabi Nawaz Sharif. What the Americans, like some in South Block, have failed to acknowledge is that General Kayani believes that the US needs Pakistan just now more than Pakistan needs the Americans. He evidently feels that the Americans will blink first, which they show every inclination of doing in this standoff.


The Raymond Davis affair is a manifestation of the larger malaise afflicting the transactional US-Pakistan relationship. Thanks to some adept diplomacy by India, the Obama Administration soon gave up the thoughtless proposal mooted by Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid that it should actively involve itself in meddling on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir by appointing Bill Clinton as a Special Envoy. Moreover, its initial honeymoon with China soon led to estrangement, accentuated by the global economic downturn. The realisation dawned on Washington that India would be a useful partner in fashioning an inclusive Asian architecture for security and cooperation. While Prime Minister Gilani and his mandarins have been constantly moaning that the Americans are not treating them "equally" with India and denying them a nuclear deal, General Kayani appears hell bent on giving the Americans a difficult time by providing support and haven to the "Quetta Shura" headed by Mullah Omar and to the Taliban's Haqqani network.


American diplomacy in Afghanistan also needs to be reviewed. President Karzai disagrees with US policies and is meeting General Shuja Pasha regularly, seeking Pakistani cooperation for "reconciliation" with the Taliban. The present institutions of governance in Afghanistan do not inspire confidence in the minds of ordinary Afghans. The Americans have also not evolved a coherent strategy of how to get the Taliban to renounce violence and abide by the Afghan constitution. Nor is there confidence that the Afghan National Army will develop the capabilities to overcome Taliban depredations by 2014.


The realisation has to dawn that General Kayani has no intention of acting against either the Afghan Taliban or his favourite jihadi groups. Terrorist safe havens in Pakistan cannot be eliminated unless the US reduces its dependence on Pakistani logistical support and fashions alternative logistical arrangements with Russia and Afghanistan's Central Asian neighbours. Only then can the international community evolve viable policies for governance within Afghanistan and ensure that Af-Pak borders are no longer what Admiral Mullen called "the epicentre of global terrorism".









It would hardly be elusive to say that HH Late Maharaja Yadavindra Singh of Patiala exemplified the archetypal renaissance man. He was an impelling diplomat, an insightful war strategist, an accomplished flutist, a lover of exotic cars, and an ardent botanist. However, all his resplendent aspects were eclipsed by his glorious sportsmanship. Thanks to him, Patiala has come to be identified for ever with Indian cricket. At a mere 19, the handsome prince was a brilliant allround player. Later in 1934, at 21 years, he went on to play Test cricket against England. And Chail, the Maharaja's summer residence, still prides itself in having one of the highest cricket grounds in the world.


Today, my alma mater, the Yadavindra Public School, Patiala, that the Maharaja founded in 1948, carries forth his brilliant cricketing legacy. For over 50 years now, on February 2, the school Founders Day, a cricket match is played each year between School XI and the Old Yadavindrians (OYs). Many veteran cricketers of repute, including OY Navjot Sidhu, have played on Founders Day. Famous names notwithstanding, those of us who know him have come to associate the Founders Day cricket match with my friend and batchmate, Dalbir Mandi. For personal and profound reasons, Founders' Day is like no other day for him.


Dalbir has had the unprecedented distinction of having played the Founders Day cricket match for 25 consecutive years — six years as part of School XI and 19 years as an OY. In all these years, Dalbir has been named Man of the Match eight times and the Best Batsman another eight. For another couple of years, he was the Best All-Rounder and Best Fielder, respectively.


And while these are mere statistics, for Dalbir, playing cricket has come to become a metaphor for living and learning life's invaluable lessons of striving hard and playing fair. To him, the gentlemen's game is about attaining the mental grit and not giving in. It is also about accepting anguish and elation in similar strides. Most of all, Dalbir understands that the game of life and cricket is about facing one challenge or ball at a time, knowing that every ball is a new one and different from the last. And yet it can be played.


Dalbir has also come to believe that cricket reflects life by teaching the value of teamwork and walking together. In life as well as in cricket, a player knows that no matter how great his talent or how distinguished his accomplishments, he has sustaining value only in correlation to others. In attempting to conquer alone, he will conclusively fail.


However, the foremost of Dalbir's cherished memories associated with Founders Day is, of course, his first meeting with his would-be wife. He met her in 1998 on stepping off the field after the match. Needless to say, he was bowled over for life!


With cricket transmuting into life, with each Founders Day, Dalbir continues to do us and the Maharaja's legacy proud, one memorable match at a time, trailing a magnificent blaze of glory! Way to go Dalbir!n










IS there a need for creating a constitutional court that shall be dealing exclusively with matters of constitutional law? Yes. The first country to establish a constitutional court was Austria. At present, 55 countries have separate courts dealing with constitutional matters, including the Central African Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Norway and the US.

In India, the Tenth Law Commission (95th Report) in 1984 suggested the constitutional division to specifically deal with constitutional matters, instead of having judicial review at present. Under Article 246 (1) by Entry 77, Parliament has the power to make such amendment for creation of court.

As creation of separate constitutional courts would involve structural changes of very extensive and complex nature, the Eleventh Law Commission recommended constitutional division instead of constitutional courts (Report No. 125).

The huge backlog of cases in courts and delay in the administration of justice have prompted scholars and experts to argue for the establishment of constitutional and cassation courts as they may ease the work of the present Supreme Court. The Parliamentary Standing Committee of the Rajya Sabha on Law and Justice, in its 28th Report dealing with the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2008, has endorsed this.

In India, the ratio of judges versus population is 10.5 per cent per one million whereas it is 107 per million in the US and 75 per million in the UK. In India, the figure is 12 to 13 judges per million. It is thus evident that the ratio between judge strength and the population is hopelessly low. The same is apparent in the Supreme Court as well where the ratio works out to 1:112. The situation is critical if one takes into consideration the ratio of both the institution of new cases and the pending arrears which comes to 1:1854 (approximately).


There is an imperative need for increasing the Bench strength of the Supreme Court to clear the backlog of pending cases and to promote future developmental programmes in the judiciary and thereby minimise delays in the justice delivery system and promote speedy justice which is the avowed goal of the Constitution. But it is equally important that mere increase in number of judges might not help improve the system.


In an article, Dr P.C. Alexander, former Governor of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, threw considerable light on the malaise that ails the judicial system. He feels that increasing the number of judges, promptness in filling up the vacancies and improving working facilities are all very important for the efficiency of the judicial system, but these alone cannot be an adequate solution to the pendency problem.


There are many measures which the judiciary can take without waiting for additional financial support from the government, but very little effective action has been taken on these by the judiciary and they continue to cause delays in the disposal of cases. They include laxity shown by the courts in matters like production of witnesses on the dates posted for their examination, granting requests for adjournments of cases without good reasons, inordinate delays in giving copies of documents, allowing lengthy arguments by the advocates, and the practice of judges themselves writing unnecessarily long judgements.


The liberal attitude of the courts in entertaining appeals from the lower courts has also contributed to the steady increase in the backlog. Those who have the financial resources go on appeal on the decisions of the lower courts to the next higher court, and finally to the Supreme Court, even when no interpretation of the law may be involved. When the accused are influential politicians or rich businessmen, the cases can go on endlessly, bringing down in this process the reputation of the judicial system itself. If appeals can be limited to a small number, say one or two, depending on the nature of the crime, it can help a great deal in reducing pendency.


The practice of some judges in delaying the delivery of judgements for several months, and in certain cases, even till they retire from service, has been another cause of delayed justice. Though the maximum time-limit of one month has been considered reasonable for the delivery of judgement, there is no mechanism for enforcement of any time-limit, and this malpractice on the part of some judges thus goes on unchecked. Again, no serious attempts are being made by the judiciary to make use of the provisions in the Constitution for engaging the services of retired judges both at the Supreme Court and at the High Courts for temporary periods for help in clearing the backlog of cases.


We have tried some of these measures but the result appears to be far from satisfactory. The entire judicial set-up will have to be overhauled and refurbished to expedite justice. It is quite often argued that the present pattern of working of the Supreme Court needs to be revised. The indiscriminate acceptance of appeals on trivial issues of facts by the Supreme Court quite often overloads itself. In fact, only important issues need be litigated in the Supreme Court.


More important, the present situation makes the Supreme Court inaccessible to a majority of people in the country. In its Second (2004), Sixth (2005) and Fifteenth (2006) Reports, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice has suggested that for speedy justice, Benches of the Supreme Court should be established in the Southern, Western and North-Eastern parts of the country. In its Twentieth (2007), Twenty-Sixth (2008) and Twenty-Eighth (2008) Reports, the Standing Committee suggested that a Supreme Court Bench should be established at least in Chennai on trial basis as this would immensely help the poor who cannot travel from their native places to New Delhi.


The Committee is not satisfied with the persistent opposition for establishing Benches of the Supreme Court in other parts of the country without giving any convincing reasons or justification thereof. It endorses its earlier view that the Supreme Court Benches in other parts of the country would be of immense help to the poor. It wanted the Union Ministry of Law and Justice to come forward with a necessary constitutional amendment to address this deadlock.


A feasible, workable and efficient system of judicial administration could be established if it were to be divided into four zones/regions, namely, Northern Zone Bench to be established in Delhi dealing with the litigation of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh; Southern Bench in Chennai or Hyderabad to tackle litigation in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and the Union Territories of Puducherry and Lakshadweep; Eastern Zone Bench in Kolkata dealing with the litigation of West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Assam and the Northeastern States including Sikkim and the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar and Dadra etc; and Western Zone Bench to be established in Mumbai dealing with the litigation in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa and the Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, etc.


The said Benches shall act as Cassation Benches to deal with appeals from a High Court in the particular region. The apex court could, then, deal with constitutional issues and other cases of national importance on a day-to-day basis since the accumulated backlog of cases would go to the respective zones to which they pertain.


If a Constitution Bench is set up in New Delhi, the apex court would be relieved of the backlog of accumulated cases which are causing a burden and continuous strain on its resources. Since the accumulated cases pertaining to a particular region would be dealt with by the respective Zonal Bench, the apex court would be free to deal with only constitutional cases such as interpretation of the Constitution, matters of national importance such as references made by the Zonal Benches to larger Benches due to conflict of authority, cases where the interests of more than one State are involved such as inter-state disputes on land, electricity, water, etc., references for advisory opinion made under Article 143 of the Constitution, references made under Article 217, Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections, suits between two or more states, etc. This list is merely illustrative and not exhaustive.


All public interest litigations (PILs) from any part of India should be decided by the apex constitution court so that there are no contradictory orders issued and also to arrest the mushrooming of cases.


The advantage of setting up of Benches is that this can be made effective since it is a matter within the purview and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under the Supreme Court Rules. If Article 130 of the Constitution is liberally interpreted, no constitutional amendment may be required for the purpose — action by the Chief Justice of India with the President's approval may be enough.


Moreover, under Article 130, the Chief Justice as Personna Designate is not required to consult any other authority. Only the President's approval is necessary. However, in case this liberal interpretation of Article 130 is not feasible, Parliament may enact legislation.


If the judge-strength of each Zonal Cassation Bench is confined to two judges, each zone will require only six judges implying that only 24 judges will be required for all the four zones to constitute Cassation Benches all over India. The other judges will be available in the apex court, which will have a Constitution Bench in New Delhi working on a regular basis.


The concept of having a Constitution Bench along with a Cassation Bench is nothing new. The democratic transition that occurred in many parts of the world in the late 20th century resulted in the proliferation of courts with constitutional adjudication and powers of cassation being exercised simultaneously. There is a blend of functions of judicial review usually by the constitutional court or constitutional tribunal and also the exercise of powers of cassation.


Italy, for instance, has a constitutional court with the sole power of constitutional review and a Supreme Court of Cassation with the power to review the ordinary courts' decisions for consistency with the law. Egypt also maintains a Court of Cassation that monitors the uniformity of lower court fidelity to the law but only its Supreme Constitutional Court has the authority to declare laws unconstitutional and to determine and rule upon legislative intent. Portugal's Constitutional Tribunal has the greatest jurisdiction exercising both concrete review of lower court decisions and abstract review of all laws and legal norms. Other countries which blend the functions of judicial review and cassation or the review of lower court decisions are Ireland, the US and Denmark.


The writer is a former Supreme Court Judge and Chairman, Law Commission of India








Edmund De Waal, ceramicist and author of The Hare With Amber Eyes which won the 2010 Costa Biography Award, tells us that as a young man he was one of seven British students given a two-year scholarship by a Japanese foundation to get a grounding in Japanese in a British university, followed by a year in Japan.


He attended language classes in Tokyo. Two afternoons a week he was in a ceramics studio, "shared with everyone from retired businessmen making tea-bowls to students making avant-garde statements ...I had been making pots since I was a child." One afternoon a week he spent with his great-uncle Iggie who lived in Tokyo. After lunch, Iggie would show De Waal his collection of tiny Japanese carvings called netsuke (popular pronunciation "netski," nearer the Japanese "netskeh"). Among these were a hare with amber eyes, a young boy with samurai sword and helmet, a tiger, all shoulder and feet, turning round to snarl. When Iggie died in 1994, he left his collection which had been in the family for generations to De Waal.


The Hare With Amber Eyes, subtitled "A Hidden Inheritance" is a biography. You could say it's a biography of the netsuke, how the family acquired them, passed them on, and how they survived when the family lost everything else, after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the collapse of the economy, and the emergence of the Nazis. As with many of the "new histories" written today, it's a rivetting mix of personal, family, political and cultural history.


De Waal writes, "I know that these netsuke were bought in Paris in the 1870s by a cousin of my great-grandfather called Charles Ephrussi. I know that he gave them as a wedding present to my great-grandfather Viktor von Ephrussi in Vienna at the turn of the century. And I know that they came with Iggie to Tokyo.'

The Ephrussi family was a stupendously rich Jewish family in Odessa, from where they spread outwards in pursuit of financial empires. Charles, who collected the netsuke had no interest in the family businesses. He moved to Paris where he bought a mansion in an area full of wealthy Jews, at a time when large areas of the city were being demolished to make way for new boulevards, wide pavements, parks and trees. Charles seems to have had it all: good looks, charm, money, good taste, a flair for languages, and time. The French novelist Edmond de Goncourt was envious of Charles and felt resentful that he was admitted to the best salons. He commented sourly that the salons were "infested with Jews and Jewesses".


The French were infatuated with Japanese art, fabrics, screens, lacquers. De Waal writes, "Japanese art was a brave new world: it introduced new textures, new ways of feeling things…This was an epiphany of new materials: bronzes of a depth of patina that seemed far greater than those of the Renaissance; lacquers of an unequalled depth and darkness…" For Charles the images in Japanese lacquer - apple trees in blossom, sacred cranes flying across the water "interlace with his growing love of the Impressionists: the images of flowering apple trees, cloud-filled skies and women in flowing robes are straight out of Pissarro and Monet. Japanese things – lacquers, netsuke, prints – conjure a picture of a place where sensations are always new, where art pours out of daily life, where everything exists in a dream of endless beautiful flow."


 How did the netsuke survive? It was the Ephrussi maid Anna who was not Jewish who hid the tiny netsuke every time she got a chance. De Waal, who heard the story from Iggie writes that for her, "each netsuke is a resistance against the news, a story recalled, a future held on to.



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Government bond markets have responded positively to the Union budget. The benchmark ten-year bond yield often used as a reference rate for other bonds and loans has dropped by 8 basis points (a basis point is a hundredth of a percentage point). Yields are inversely related to bond prices and a drop in yields of this quantum corresponds to a fairly healthy rally in the bond market. The optimism has ridden essentially on back of the lower-than-expected fiscal deficit ratio for 2011-12 projected in the budget (4.6 per cent of GDP instead of the 4.8 per cent that was widely expected). Since government funds the fiscal deficit by borrowing from the market, the quantum of bond issuance is also lower than what the markets had factored in. Bond prices follow exactly the same principle as onions — reduced supply pushes up prices. In this case, the anticipation of a lower supply of bonds from the exchequer in the coming fiscal year has pushed their prices up.

Perhaps bond markets need a reality check. Analysts of every hue and persuasion are questioning the credibility of the fiscal arithmetic. They argue that while the revenue targets are a trifle aggressive, the allocations for expenditure are pitiably small. Thus, the prospect of the deficit going considerably over the target is somewhat strong. The corollary is that the government's cash calls on the bond markets over the year are likely to be higher than budgeted. As bond supply increases, prices will fall and yields could climb. The counter argument is that even if the government were to borrow more, it would choose to do it towards the end of the fiscal year and not towards the beginning. Thus for the next six months, at least, the markets have breathing space. Besides, the government could find other ways to fund its additional funding needs — dipping into unspent cash balances carried over from the current year, borrowing from the pool of small saving schemes and using external assistance and multilateral funding to bridge the fiscal gap. The exchequer has incidentally relied on these non-market sources of financing quite heavily this year (2010-11). The ratio of market borrowings to the fiscal deficit has dropped to 83.5 per cent compared to an earlier average of over 90 per cent. A fiscal overrun thus need not necessarily mean additional borrowings.


 The upshot is that the bond and credit markets could just be entering a sweet spot in which the strain of the last few months (short term deposit and lending rates moved up by a hefty 3 percentage points in the last three months) dissipates. Going forward, interest rates could rise more gently and this could have a positive implication for both investment and consumption spending. The government will of course benefit as its average borrowing cost will be low. The party-pooper could be oil prices. If they remain high as a resolution of the crisis in the oil-producing world remains elusive, it is bound to impact on domestic inflation. If inflation begins to climb again as the primary and secondary effects of fuel price increase, yields and interest rates could move up again. It will not take long for the fickle bond markets to forget about the payoff from fiscal rectitude and start fretting over inflation yet again.







In his 197 paragraphs speech, running into an hour and 45 minutes of time, Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee devoted precisely one paragraph to the nation's defence budget. This paragraph (para 116) reads: "In the Budget 2011-12 a provision of Rs 1,64,415 crore has been made for Defence services, which include Rs 69,199 crore for capital expenditure. Needless to say, any further requirement for the country's defence would be met." Admittedly, this has been a standard formulation of successive finance ministers for years, however, for a government that spends close to 13 per cent of total government expenditure (though the finance ministry's 'Budget at a Glance" document claims it is only 11 per cent) on defence, this is a rather cavalier treatment of one of the most important items of the government's expenditure statement. Surely, the nation's lawmakers deserve some more details, considering that so many paragraphs of the finance minister's speech have been devoted to an elaboration of so many schemes that together do not even amount to 3 per cent of the total expenditure of the government. Spending proposals in the range of Rs 100 crore and Rs 500 crore have secured more space and time in the finance minister's speech, compared to the whopping Rs 1,64,415 crore defence budget!

That the government does not share too many details about defence spending is understandable up to a point. In fact, it is entirely possible that some part of actual expenditure on equipments acquisition does not even get captured by the budget data. That a large part of the total defence budget is in fact devoted to just salaries and pensions (pensions alone account for Rs 34,000 crore) is of course obvious. To the extent that data is provided, we know that the Army continues to walk away with a lion's share of total defence spending, followed by Air Force and Navy in that order. The time has come for the government to explain and defend this pattern of spending. Is the Indian Navy being neglected? In what way does the defence budget reflect preparation to meet medium to long-term threats to national security? Is the 14 per cent hike in capital outlay on defence services, amounting to a budgeted Rs 69,198 crore in 2011-12, adequate? To what extent is this spending on defence going to trigger demand for services and goods within the domestic economy? Can defence spending be an instrument of industrial policy and technology development? If so, what is the government doing about it? What are the views of the nation's economic policy makers with respect to the role of the private sector in defence related manufacturing and services industries?


These and many such questions have been repeatedly raised in the public debate on defence and development in India that the finance minister could have tried to address while seeking the Parliament's authorisation to devote as much as 13 per cent of total government spending to defence. In not doing so, the finance minister has lost an opportunity to bring greater transparency to defence spending.








The negotiations for liberalising trade in environmental goods at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) seem to be generating some intense debate among member countries. Countries such as India, China and Brazil are of the opinion that these negotiations should not become a market access tool for pushing products of interest for some developed countries. However, the developed world feels there is a need to push these negotiations to meet the Doha Round's objective of "enhancing the mutual supportiveness of trade and environment". Mexico is suggesting the middle path through a "hybrid approach".

The debate to "reduce or, as appropriate, eliminate tariffs and non-tariff barriers" on environmental goods and services has generated heat over the years with developing countries forming a view that these negotiations lead to "super sectoral market access negotiations".


 Reports by the Geneva-based International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development suggest that the Brazilian Ambassador to WTO, Roberto Azevedo, was of the view last week that these negotiations for quick openings in the trade in environmental goods will risk destroying infant green technology industries in developing countries without benefiting the environment.

Interestingly, he argued that the goods that will form part of the list of products for tariff liberalisation should also include agricultural products. The definition of what constitutes an environmental product has been under debate for long. Many countries have adopted a list approach and 153 products have been added to the list for tariff reduction or elimination.

Indian industry and analysts, however, have been of the view that there is a need for a clear definition of what can be clearly defined as an environmental product. The list approach, it has been felt, will not help the process of helping the environment as has been envisaged by the WTO member countries.

The list approach has been questioned for two reasons. The first is the fact that many products on the list could have a dual use and the second is that focusing on technologically superior products would only help the developed countries.

Beijing has recently concluded a tariff reduction simulation of the products on this list and has found that the average cut in tariffs by the developed world on these products would be much smaller when compared with the sharp cuts by countries such as China, India or Brazil. This, it has been pointed out, also goes against the principle of "less than full reciprocity", which is central to the Doha Development Round.

In a bid to find a solution, Mexico has suggested a hybrid approach under which countries would self-select products that they consider should be on the list and then use the model of request-offer approach to arrive at the final list of products. This may not provide the right results since negotiations will then have to move towards a bilateral discussion mode. Some other countries, too, are said to have supported the request-offer approach. These include Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and Norway.

The negotiations on environmental goods have been linked to the discussions on sectorals under the tariff liberalisation negotiations for industrial goods by industry in the developing world for many years. Indian industry has been opposed to the negotiations on sectorals as it seeks to eliminate tariffs on some sensitive products since they are largely manufactured by the small and medium sector in the country. These include products like auto components and toys besides chemicals.

The linkage of environment to trade has not been a welcome move for industry in developing countries and they have made a strong attempt to link trade negotiations with environmental concerns. However, industry in the developed world has been keen on taking the paragraph on trade and environment in the Doha declaration to push its agenda of market access in products of interest to them.

Interestingly, much like in the case of negotiations on industrial goods, in environmental goods, too, discussions have mainly focused on the issue of tariff liberalisation and not on identification and elimination of non-tariff barriers as envisaged in the Doha declaration.

The next round of discussions on environmental goods is slated for this month and it will be important for industry to keep a close watch on the progress. Concern for the environment is essential but it must not cloak an objective of market access for products from developed countries to enter developing country markets.

The author is principal adviser, APJ-SLG Law Offices  








The micro, small and medium enterprises that form the MSME sector contribute about 8 per cent of India's GDP, about 45 per cent of manufactured output and about 40 per cent of exports. And the Economic Survey 2009-10 noted, "This, coupled with a high labour-to-capital ratio, high growth and high dispersion, makes them crucial for achieving the objective of inclusive growth." According to the Quick Results of the fourth All India Census of MSMEs (2006-07), there were 26 million MSMEs in India, which provided employment to about 60 million people. Rural enterprises account for 52 per cent of all MSMEs. The majority of the enterprises are in the service sector; manufacturing units make up around 28 per cent of the total.

The largest sector within the MSME sector is retail trade and repair and maintenance of personal and household goods, which accounts for a little over a third of total employment in the sector. The bulk of MSMEs fall in the unregistered category. Registered units, or the enterprises permanently registered up to March 31, 2007 at District Industry Centres of the respective State Directorate of Industries, comprise just 5.94 per cent of the total MSME units.


Across the states, though Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of MSMEs, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal overtake Uttar Pradesh when it comes to total employment in the MSME sector. By and large, of course, the larger, more populous states have more MSMEs. However, if we adjust for population, the states and Union Territories (UTs) that rank at the top are Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Daman & Diu, Delhi and Goa while Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Nagaland and Bihar rank at the bottom. In fact, West Bengal and Karnataka do better than Maharashtra and Gujarat on that score.


 2006-07 (%)



Share in total



Enterprises by source of finance

No finance



Finance through 



Finance through 



 Source: Quick Results of 4th Census of MSME, 
 Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises

Employment generation is higher in registered units than in unregistered units; on an average per unit employment is 5.93 compared to 2.05. Per unit employment in both categories is, of course, higher for manufacturing than services. Looking at average employment per unit, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu are the leaders with more than 10 people employed for every MSME. In both these UTs, there is a very large presence of registered manufacturing MSMEs with high employment in industries like plastic products, soaps, textile fabrics, paperboards and so on. At the other end are 13 states/UTs where average employment is less than two. Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat perform better than Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu in terms of employment generation.(Click here for graph)

One of the biggest problems facing the MSME sector is the lack of access to credit. More than 90 per cent of the units are self-financed; institutional finance is only for a minority. There is also a significant difference in access for registered and unregistered units — more than 10 per cent of registered MSMEs have received finance through institutional sources, while less than 5 per cent of unregistered MSMEs have had that advantage. Although the small-scale sector, now designated as micro and small units, has been a part of priority sector lending for commercial banks, small units continue to face significant credit constraints.

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








Clarity of planning and conceptualisation needs to be hallmark of policy planning


A good holding action in the face of turbulence is a real achievement. It's a tremendous relief, with a positive spin. That's what the finance minister seems to have given us with this year's Budget. So, the glass could well turn out to be half-full, if heaven plays its part, and the demons — for example, rising oil prices because of turmoil in the Arab world — are in abeyance. For now, India's spirits are up, and we have a shot at getting on with it. And if we don't, heaven forefend, the government could resort to something as irresponsible as another spectrum auction (2.5 GHz for 4G/LTE) to pull itself out of the morass.

Given this reprieve, how best can we capitalise on it? Some of us have this notion that it is a tradition that major projects or schemes are announced at the time of the Budget. Is this a good way for the government to proceed? Are there better ways, and if so, what might they be? Also, after the Budget, several opinions reflected disappointment with the lack of big moves. What sort of actions would deserve the "Big Move" label?

Ignoring for the time being the FM's statements about bills for banking, insurance and pension funds that could add up to a big bang, there was in fact a Big Move, with the ground prepared well beforehand, as it should be: the proposed cash transfer of Rs 37,000 crore allocated for kerosene, LPG and fertilisers to BPL users. This move to cash transfers will be a major change that should be for the better, despite apparent misgivings from the Left. In fact, its effect should be much more than an equivalent allocation in the previous system, with its infamous leakages. The logical extension of this process would be smart-card purchases of specified products with designated limits from any retailer, with direct rebates from the government in a single transaction. No forms, no fuss, thanks to the Unique Identification Number (UID). Next could be food subsidies of over Rs 74,000 crore through smart cards.

In this time of drift over several years, there has been an apparent lack of visible leadership until the appointment of a new telecom minister after the destabilisation of the past few months. This was followed by the prime minister's assertive statements in both houses of Parliament. Similarly, the UID thrust and the first step with cash transfers show that the government can indeed take well planned initiatives. Here we have a set of steps taken with clear objectives (although somewhat muddled in the telling), with plans being developed and executed with what we hope will manifest as high quality, on time and within Budget. So it's possible, although not our usual practice. If only we could get more of this assertive leadership to good ends.

Imagine if we brought the same clarity of objectives and conceptualisation to, say, addressing the supply of energy to end users. True, this is a very difficult area because of the multiple challenges across several ministries/agencies (fuel production and distribution, transportation, power generation, transmission, distribution, pricing, state electricity boards), and our habitual malpractices as users. The approach, however, would presumably be the same as for the UID. We would start with clear objectives that are coherent, ie, not disjointed or contradictory, and undertake a systematic, multidisciplinary effort — no ivory tower geniuses — to plan and execute through a process of sound project management to achieve the desired results. This would be an end-to-end effort that would have little to do with the budget except for the annual announcement of financial allocations, once the activities and resource requirements are specified. Its fundamental characteristic would be that it would have to be an integrated systems approach to get results.

Most important are well planned, convergent, goal-directed activities. Whether for food storage, anganwadis, power, roads, railways, integrated energy and transport programs, or communications and broadband, the process flow needs to be defined thoroughly, and every aspect specified for our environment in the implementation plan. This process would improve the odds of achieving the objectives. For instance, if cold stores are not meshed with production and markets, or transport linkages are deficient, chances are that they will fail.

The process could begin at any time of the year, and not necessarily announced at budget time in the annual cycle. Once the initial approach is conceptualised and the initiative launched, the programme plans would be scoped and spelt out, and the budget estimation completed. At budget time, as with the cash transfers linked to the UID, there would be an allocation of funds for the activities in the next 12-month phase.

Now to the Railway budget: the much touted Railways desperately need rehabilitation. In view of the significant multiplier effect that the Railways have on many other sectors, the government really must reassert its leadership in the next couple of months (after the West Bengal elections?), and reclaim this crucial area of transportation. The urgent need is to reverse the atrophy over recent years, as well as to begin to build for the future, as for instance China has done, with trains that take passengers over 1,000 km in three hours.

To conclude, it is time the government took one infrastructure sector or programme at a time, including education/vocational education/continuing education, and developed clear, goal-driven plans to provide the framework for the next budget session. 







If the union Budget were a human being it would score high on body language. It does not say anything that will cause a ripple. Neither does it make hard promises, which may not be possible to deliver. It avers, through nod and wink, what it wants to say and this greatly enhances the comfort level all round.


 Take the case of the fiscal deficit. The attempt to tame it has received invaluable help from the auctioning of spectrum for 3G services. No doubt, the return of high growth and advent of inflation (it enhances the denominator in the ratio) have helped. Without the 3G boost — a one-time event — the revenue upswing will be very difficult to repeat. But this has not prevented the finance minister from projecting not just a repeat of this year's sharp decline in the fiscal deficit but also a very conservative government borrowing requirement.

The circle has been squared by making an unrealistic projection of a very modest rise in expenditure. The effort to keep expenditure under control will be attacked from two directions. One will be the immediate fallout of the sharp rise in global oil prices. Neither the turmoil in West Asia, nor the excess liquidity created by the developed economies to revive growth, will be gone soon and either a rise in domestic fuel prices (it will negate inflation control) or the energy subsidy bill appears round the corner.

The other attack will be the pressure on expenditure from the inclusive agenda visualised for various social sectors. The fertiliser subsidy bill will go up before direct cash transfers will be able to bring it down. A vastly enhanced food subsidy bill will be a certainty once food security comes into play, in no matter how staggered a pace.

Despite the inherently unrealistic low borrowing requirement projected, the markets have acted on cue, gone through the roof. It is unlikely that anyone will want to or be able to take Mr Pranab Mukherjee to task next year for painting a misleading picture of the fiscal deficit. In a similar vein, the Budget makes the right noises on inflation, governance deficit, on both of which no promises are made.

Like any accomplished communications exercise, which a good Budget speech is, the present one knows where to promise, where to appear to promise and where to completely sidestep the issue. In the last category is the issue of current account deficit. Related to it is the issues of dwindling foreign direct investment, a dangerous reliance on portfolio investment and a resultant volatility in the stock markets, which bounce up and down on overseas cues.

A Budget worth its salt would have made some significant announcement to promote FDI (opening the gates for investment in retail was widely anticipated) and simultaneously put up road blocks in the way of portfolio investment. Instead, a measure is announced allowing mutual funds to accept investment directly from foreign investor instead of them having to come via foreign institutions. This may not create much additionality but the directional signal is clear.

And to top it up the ceiling on FIIs investment in corporate bonds is hiked substantially by introducing a large sub-section for investment in bonds issued by infrastructure firms. These bonds can even be issued by unlisted firms and an exit route is created for individual investors despite a three-year lock-in period so long as another similar investor picks up the paper being unloaded. But the prospects of continuing strain on the current account front do not appear to have upset either the markets or analysts.

In fact, the economy remains particularly vulnerable to the threat of inflation as much after the Budget as before when if there was any one point agenda that could have driven the exercise then it was inflation control. The primary inflationary push has come from high food prices and it is unlikely that the plethora of measures trotted out in the Budget will have any impact on them. Salvation on the food front can come only in two ways. One is to sharply raise food output this year itself. This can be done if a major programme is chalked out with the states to raise productivity in the rainfed areas, first by better water management (rejuvenating tanks, check dams and building new ones) and second by offering the carrot of a major procurement drive in coarse grains. The second is to reduce the price manipulation that takes place in the trade in agricultural commodities. On this the Budget is at its classical best in making the right noise, urging the states to get rid of or reform the agricultural produce marking committees, which are both anti-farmer and anti-consumer.

The second inflationary push has come from the imported commodities front over which the government has no control. Oil prices may go down in the medium term but a steady inflationary pressure from them in the foreseeable future should be taken as given.

On this the government can say that there is little that it can do. So it does what it can, adopts the right body language by aligning fiscal policy with monetary policy to promote fiscal consolidation. (Body language because in reality expenditure control and fiscal consolidation are unlikely to take place.) Through this it gains the approval of the vast majority of global commentators on economic policy and lives to fight another day — come up with the next Budget. 









 While the Budget's macroeconomic effect is encouraging, some of its sectoral initiatives are anything but. The move to levy export taxes on coffee, tea, pepper, cardamom, jute, coir, wool, cotton, groundnut, oil cake and animal feed, apart from assorted ores, pig iron, steel and steel products, is retrograde. In fact, it is doubly counterproductive. Primarily, these export taxes penalise some domestic producers, those who do the primary value addition, and favour others, those who perform later-stage value addition using the primary produce as inputs. Simultaneously, these provisions give a handle to the Left parties ruling West Bengal and Kerala, on the eve of crucial assembly elections, to charge the Centre with active hostility towards the people of these states. Export taxes on tea and jute will certainly harm millions of people associated with these crops in West Bengal. Taxing exports of pepper, cardamom, coffee and coir will hurt large sections of Kerala society. And what the government hopes to gain from these taxes, even as it hands out various sops to exporters of other products, is beyond comprehension. The idea of squeezing out surplus from the farm sector to agglomerate investible surpluses in industry is a Soviet-era strategy that was imported into the Mahalanobis model that guided the second Five-Year Plan. Farm prices were repressed and industrial prices inflated through protection, to turn the terms of trade against agriculture and transfer value from farmers to industrialists. One of the great achievements of economic reform has been to halt this process and stimulate private investment in the farm sector. Now, at a time when high global agricultural prices offer themselves as an opportunity to tackle the country's rural poverty far more directly and aggressively than is possible merely from the trickle down of fast growth in urban India, policy should seek to boost farm output to meet global demand. The Budget's export taxes seek to throttle that chance.

True, the government has suspended these export taxes for now. But this is poor defence. Why acquire big teeth, and then expect gratitude for not chomping hard?








 Five states go to polls next month, starting with Assam, where elections kick off on April 4, and closing with West Bengal, where a six-part voting exercise will conclude on May 10. The decision to phase out elections in Assam and West Bengal, both with a history of poll violence, makes sense. It makes sense to concentrate all security forces and observers in this area, so that voters and polling officers are not intimidated.
But it makes no sense to put off the vote count for Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry till May 13, three days after Bengal has cast its final vote. So Assam, which would have finished voting on April 11, and the other three states on April 13, will be waiting for a month or more to find the outcome of their elections. Why can't the Election Commission (EC) count and deliver the results for these states by the time Bengalis start voting on March 18? The EC gives no reason for bunching the counts, but it's likely to be the same reason why it banned exit polls during elections: that the trend or outcome in one place might influence people in another before they voted. But there is absolutely no data or study to prove this argument. And there's no rationale, apart from the EC's doggedness, to hold back results till everybody's finished voting. Now, let us for a moment suspend our disbelief in the EC's theory and assume that it's correct. Suppose Bengalis get to know that people in Kerala have voted to replace their CPM-led coalition with the Congress-led one, and in a fit of cussedness, decide that they need to keep their own CPM government going when they get to vote. What's so terrible about that? Surely, a more-informed voter, aware of what's happened elsewhere, is better than a less-informed one. The notion that the voter has to be shielded from information to enable him to exercise free choice is perverse. Denying him such information that might influence his voting behaviour actually only violates his rights, in fact, the EC insists on more and more information including the assets and criminal record of each candidate being out in the open, so what's wrong about declaring results as we go along?








Legislators in the US state of Minnesota are slugging it out over the so-called Cheeseburger Bill that aims to prevent consumers from suing food companies for obesity and health problems caused by fatty food and sugary drinks by implying that such ailments were the consequence of choice, not coercion. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, however, has taken at least a tiny pre-emptive step in the right direction for India. Just in time too, as lifestyle malaises like diabetes and fatty liver disease are rising alarmingly in the country. It could be hazarded that the government may have evidence to indicate that persistently-high food inflation had put people off wholesome fresh groceries and the pleasures of frugal home cooking and got them to make a beeline for mood-boosting sugar and liquor fixes instead. In that context, the timely raising of excise duty on sugary confectioneries from 4% to 5% — thus blocking off the surreptitious pushing of 50-paise sweets as alternative change in stores nationwide — and imposing service tax on air-conditioned restaurants serving libations, makes it clear that the government is concerned about the well-being of the middle class. Furthermore, the proposal for a 1% excise duty on sauces, ketchups, soups, instant food mixes and tea and coffee pre-mixes also indicates a well-intentioned move to promote more the revival of traditional forms of nourishment. Since ill-health is also sought to be broadly disincentivised by upping the cost of diagnostic services — especially in air-conditioned hospitals — by including them in the service tax net, and also by giving a carrot for longevity in the form of generous income tax concessions for those crossing the age of 80, the message to the middle class is clear: pay more now or stay healthy and pay less later.






Titus Flavius Vespasianus, commonly known as Vespasian, was the Roman Emperor from 69 AD to 79 AD and founder of the Flavian dynasty that ruled the empire for a quarter century. Vespasian renewed old taxes and instituted new ones. When his son pointed that public toilets — on which tax had been levied by his father — stink, Vespasian pointed out that toilets may smell, but money does not smell, "Pecunia non olet".
Hygienic eating and sanitised medical facilities are basic constitutional rights of every citizen, essential for a country to perform at its best. The finance minister has extended the service tax to hotel accommodation above . 1,000 per day, air-conditioned restaurants, hospitals with more than 25 beds and diagnostic test centres, stoking inflation and probably feeding corruption.

On the one hand, the finance minister stresses the need to achieve balanced nutrition in this country of widespread malnutrition, on the other, he has taxed branded food products and clean eateries. Liability for service tax will move from 'cash' to 'accrual' basis of accounting, increasing working capital costs of service providers and, thus, costs to consumer. Different books will be required for service tax and income tax. The service-tax 'measures' will stoke inflation.

According to Milton Friedman, 'Inflation is form of taxation that can be imposed without legislation.' Tax-free bonds of . 30,000 crore will be issued for infrastructure development by Warehousing Corp, NHAI, IRFC and Hudco. One would have liked a larger figure — just 1 mw of power project costs about . 5,000 crore. It seems the impending transition to uniform GST rate of 10% was the driving force behind not hiking excise duty on cars.

Confronted with sticky inflation, the government should have prioritised and targeted inflation over growth. Car sales have been extremely robust of late and an excise duty hike would have fetched the government revenue while cooling unsustainable growth (every known global auto company is trying to capture the country's crowded small-car segment).

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao recently said the nation has set a lower growth target for the period 2011 through 2015 than in past five years as part of efforts to create a more sustainable economy. The lower growth target is a signal that the government will be more aggressive in its fight against inflation.

Section 35AD of the Income-Tax Act gives tax deduction for capital expenditure on setting up cold chain and warehousing facility for agricultural produce. Budget 2011 has added certain housing projects and production of fertilisers.

Analogy can be found in the pre-1980 era, where focus was on 'investment' in specified capital goods (Section 80J of the Income-Tax Act, 1961) rather than on 'income from investment'. In other words, investment for the sake of investment will be retrograde. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has introduced lower tax rate of 15% for dividends earned by Indian companies from foreign subsidiaries to encourage flow of funds to India.
However, even under the successful Remittances of Foreign Exchange (Immunities and Exemptions) Bill, 1991, people who brought in money from abroad were not necessarily those who had taken money out. Allowing investment through mutual funds will help FIIs, who currently have to open sub-accounts with brokers. It will strengthen the depth and reduce volatility of our capital markets in one way and, in other way, make them susceptible to hot money from lowinterest jurisdictions. It would however, be positive for Indian asset management companies that are facing subdued inflows since August 1, 2009, when Sebi scrapped entry load.
    FIIs can now invest five times more compared to the last year in infrastructure debt funds ($25 billion). Considering the yields FIIs can get in India, they would be rearing to get into the country — and this is positive for the Indian rupee. It would help resolve the assetliability mismatch issue that is a deterrent to robust investments in infrastructure sector. The finance minister has promised to table a number of Bills in the current session of Parliament, including Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill and Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, which could end up increasing FDI limit in those sectors.

The concern of most economists is that the government's net borrowing at . 3.43 lakh crore and fiscal deficit at 4.6% in 2011-12 appears unrealistic. Mr Mukherjee has provisioned only . 23,640 crore in 2011-12 as oil subsidy, lower than . 38,386 crore of the current fiscal year. Another oil price hike in the backdrop of the ongoing west Asia crisis, they believe, is on the cards. I would differ here. The Budget is extremely well-crafted. Hearing the finance minister's speech as well as his post-Budget interviews, I gather that he is confident of garnering resources — greater than those from the 3G spectrum auction last year — from throwing open insurance and banking sectors. He has left enough cushion for himself. Budget 2011 has reference to every conceivable area of concern to the incumbent government: corruption, bribery, job creation, food inflation, subsidies, fiscal deficit, current account deficit, and even Lord Indra and Goddess Lakshmi. I would like to describe Union Budget 2011 as the Keyword Budget. The Budget is extremely positive for longterm growth of the economy. No wonder stock markets have positively greeted Union Budget 2011.







Fiscal consolidation is undoubtedly the big story in Budget 2011. The consolidation underway in India is remarkable in itself; it looks even more remarkable when compared with what is happening elsewhere in the world. The accompanying table shows the IMF's debt-to-GDP projections for 2014 for various countries and country groups. It shows India as having a debt-to-GDP ratio of 76.8% in 2014. The Economic Survey expects the ratio — for the Centre and the states together — to be 65% in 2014-15, way below the IMF estimate. It is also below the Thirteenth Finance Commission's (TFC) target of 68%. The Budget's projections for the Centre's own debt-to-GDP ratio take one's breath away. The medium-term fiscal policy statement, presented along with the Budget, shows a debt-to-GDP ratio of 41.5% for the Centre in 2014-15 compared to the TFC's target of 47.5%. The ratio for 2010-11 itself is below the TFC's target for 2014-15! Whether the fiscal deficit of 4.6% estimated for 2011-12 is realistic or not is, thus, inconsequential. The fiscal deficit target is only a means to the end, which is the debtto-GDP ratio.

Few could have bargained for the kind of fiscal consolidation we are seeing. That is because few had expected the economic rebound to be as strong as it has turned out to be. During the subprime crisis, when India's economic growth dropped to 6.8% in 2007-08, many rushed to the conclusion that the 9% growth seen in the previous years was entirely an outcome of the global boom. Since the global bubble had been pricked, India would have to settle for a lower growth trajectory than the one in the India Shining years.

This conclusion is now being proved wrong. India's economic growth is far less dependent on exports than that of other emerging markets. Moreover, as the Economic Survey points out, growing trade links with emerging markets make up, to some extent, for loss of exports in the advanced economies.

The slowdown in 2007-08 was not because of India's links with the global economy through trade, it was on account of our links with global finance. There was a temporary withdrawal of finance from emerging markets following the crisis. Global flows resumed thereafter, enabling India and other emerging markets to recover quickly.

We are out of sync with the advanced economies in respect of fiscal consolidation because we are also out of sync in respect of growth. The resumption of rapid growth renders consolidation easier. On top of it, tax revenues have been boosted this year by inflation.

Many commentators are sceptical about the fiscal deficit target for 2011-12. They believe expenditure has been understated, including expenditure on subsidies. But, in all probability, so have tax revenues. The Budget projects nominal growth of 14%, comprising real growth of 9% and inflation of 5%. The inflation rate is likely to be closer to 7%, which would yield nominal growth of 16%. Even if the expenditure estimates go awry, the finance minister will be sitting pretty.

The medium-term prospects for revenues are also promising. Apart from strong growth, we have the Direct Taxes Code kicking in from 2011-12. The goods and services tax should, hopefully, soon follow. Both will be revenue-enhancing. The Economic Survey believes that the medium-term inflation rate will be closer to 5% in the coming decade, which also augurs well for revenues. The Centre's tax-GDP ratio for 2010-11, estimated at 10%, is still below the peak of 11.9% reached in 2007-08, which points to untapped potential for revenues. It is hard to see where fiscal consolidation can go wrong.

The fly in the ointment is the persistence of a high rate of inflation. The Economic Survey argues persuasively that we may have to settle for a higher inflation rate than assumed in the past. First, financial inclusion, by bringing savings held as cash into the financial system, enlarges the pool of money supply. Secondly, as per-capita incomes rise with growth, prices of non-traded goods and unskilled labour tend to catch up with those in industrialised countries. Both factors are inflationary.

The best the finance minister can do in such a situation is not to aggravate inflation through high fiscal deficits. Aggressive actions to lower the inflation rate could derail growth. When revenues are as buoyant as they are, there is no need for dramatic gestures from the finance minister. All he needs to do is use revenues made possible by growth to step up spending on the social sector. That is exactly what Pranab Mukherjee has attempted.

Growth takes care of the urban constituency. The rural constituency is best addressed through expenditure targeted at it. This is smart economics as well as smart politics. For taking such a course and showing he has a mind of his own, Mr Mukherjee surely deserves a 9 on 10.








The main feature of finance minister Pranab Mukherjee's Budget proposals for 2011-12 is fiscal consolidation, although there is focus on infrastructure investment — both physical and social — and tax rationalisation as well. And the fiscal space to be vacated by government next year would likely boost markets and enterprise, and shore up the growth momentum. It should substantially boost revenues —particularly tax revenues — in the bargain, and so better provide resources to fast-forward the development delivery mechanism. So far so good. But in tandem, it's vital to credibly improve governance, transparency and proactivity, in the policymaking process, and, more importantly, in its implementation and followthrough. In arriving at the fiscal deficit figure — total expenditure less revenue receipts, plus recoveries of loans and disinvestment proceeds — of 4.6% of GDP, the FM has budgeted for only a tiny increase in total government expenditure for the next fiscal year. It is quite possible that revised estimates would show a more buoyant expenditure trend. But note also that while Budget estimates show that tax revenues are expected to go up by just under a fifth, the actual rate of increase could be much higher. Actually, it is quite likely that for the main sub-heads like corporate taxes or excise, the year-on-year increase would perhaps be in the range of 35%, thanks to high growth. By keeping the central excise and service tax rate unchanged at 10%, the finance minister has clearly — very sensibly — pitched for heightened production and greater demand offtake. The vast bulk of central government expenditure is, of course, revenue expenditure — basically of the consumption variety, and hardly investment-enhancing — but it is notable that for a sub-component under the head, grants for creation of capital assets, the budgeted increase is over 50%. Further disaggregated figures show that overall subsidies, including those for petroleum products and fertilisers, are budgeted to significantly — by well over 10% — decrease next year.

But it is possible that the ongoing political turmoil in parts of North Africa would mean only temporary supply bottlenecks in crude output, with the gap increasingly made good by one or two top oil producers. Besides, global oil demand, including in China, may well moderate in the next several months in the face of unsteady economic recovery. It should mean easier oil prices generally; the presumption that prices of petro-goods would willy-nilly plateau over the calendar year and beyond needs to be dropped. And with oil prices moderating, fertiliser prices should stay rangebound as well, on the back of easier feedstock and raw material prices. As for the food subsidy, for which there is no real budgetary increase for the next year despite a new food security Act in the making, a big increase in the bill, with immediate effect, is unlikely.

Note that in the case of the other major social intervention, the rural employment guarantee scheme, in changing over from the earlier envisioned works programmes, there was no significant stepping up of budgetary allocation to begin with. A similar funding pattern may follow the food Act. As a general rule, there would be umpteen rigidities in ramping up government expenditure in the short term. In any case, the recent food inflation was predominantly about the so-called superior foods and not cereals, the focus of the food Act.
So, budgeting for a lower subsidy level may not be totally unwarranted. It is also notable the Budget proposes to boost allocations for grain storage and silos, and has also lined up incentives for cold chains. The way ahead is to modernise the food economy with stepped-up supply and improved delivery systems. Also significant is the big increase in the allocation for education, particularly at the primary level. In parallel, it would make sense to incentivise corporates to be more closely involved in skill upgradation. As for tax proposals, the move to bring SEZs into the direct tax net by levying minimum alternate tax (MAT) on both SEZ developers and units makes eminent sense. We do need to rationalise taxes and put paid to distortions. Also, the MAT on book profits has been tweaked to 18.5% from 18%, and the surcharge on corporate profits further pruned to 5%, which is unexceptionable. And the higher exemptions on personal income tax are desirable.

The idea appears to be to raise disposable income, and so add to consumption, including housing. And for corporates, the aim seems to be to improve tax design so as to rev up investments, including abroad, with dividends from overseas subsidiaries to be amenable to lower taxation at 15%. Additionally, there is the promise of long-pending legislative reform in the financial sector, to better capitalise key segments like insurance, for instance. Also on the anvil is concessionary tax treatment for infrastructure funds, and a huge increase in the investment limit for foreign institutional investors in corporate bonds. The moves should energise the corporate bond market that still remains relatively lacklustre. But with infrastructure sectors like power distribution quite unreformed and characterised by massive revenue leakages, amounting to 1% of GDP, the underlying downside risks surely need tackling, pan-India, on an urgent basis. Power utility reforms can no longer remain on the backburner!





                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL



As Pakistan has embraced the culture of religious extremism and political violence with seeming acceptance and frightening rapidity in recent years, the news of the assassination of high public figures in that country does not shock any more. The slaying in broad daylight of Shahbaz Bhatti, minister for minorities and the only Christian in the Pakistan government, just outside his home in Islamabad as he was driving to attend a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning, appears a logical consequence of the pusillanimous attitude adopted by the government and the state in Pakistan in dealing with religious fanatics, in the process permitting them to enlarge their constituency. When the high-profile liberal PPP leader, newspaper magnate and Punjab governor Salman Taseer was killed by one of his bodyguards, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, on January 4, the assassin was feted by tens of thousands in different parts of the country. The lawyers of Lahore, who in 2007 appeared to be the leaders of a liberal civil society push to oust the former dictator, Mr Pervez Musharraf, showed up in strength at the High Court to cheer Qadri. But the top men of the ruling party and high functionaries of the government, who should have defended a slain party colleague at least in death, were too afraid even to show up for his funeral. When the present government took power, it had declared its support to reforming the country's blasphemy law that is routinely used in Pakistan to hound religious minorities. Taseer was an advocate of scrapping this law and paid for his views with his life. After his killing, the Prime Minister, Mr Yousaf Raza Gilani, meekly declared his government had no intention of meddling with the legislation. Bhatti's aim was less ambitious than the Punjab governor's. He only sought reform in the Zia-era law, which was one of the building blocks of casting an Islamic state into an Islamist state, one in which political Islam is promoted. The Prime Minister and other PPP notables absented themselves from the funeral, afraid this might suggest they are sympathetic to the cause. The government is too afraid to do anything other than allow the Islamists a clear run. In the circumstances, is it any wonder that Sherry Rahman, who not long ago was a Cabinet minister in this government is running for cover and went underground right after the Taseer assassination? Indeed, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto some three years ago is even more instructive. A government which may not have come to power but for the massive sympathy wave generated after her assassination by jihadists, who appear to have been in cahoots with the military for this particular execution, has barely moved to bring the guilty to justice. The irony is that Ms Bhutto's widower is now President of Pakistan. The government in Pakistan is weak, listless and ineffective. This further emboldens the extremists. As they rise, so does decline the prospect of long-term stability and peace in South Asia. The ascendance of Islamists in Pakistan bodes ill for Afghanistan and India and endangers the wider region.






Why is every fourth Indian hungry? Why is every third woman in India anaemic and malnourished? Why is every second child underweight and stunted? Why has the hunger and malnutrition crisis deepened even as India has nine per cent growth? Why is "Shining India" a "Starving India"?

In my view, hunger is a structural part of the design of the industrialised, globalised food system. Hunger is an intrinsic part of the design of capital-intensive, chemical-intensive monocultures of industrial agriculture, also called the "Green Revolution".

India's Green Revolution from 1940s to 1970s was neither green, nor revolutionary. It merely created a market for corporations by transforming war chemicals into agrichemicals and breeding crops to respond to high chemical inputs. It increased production of a few commodities — rice and wheat — at the cost of the production of pulses, oilseeds, vegetables, fruits and millets. It focused on one region, Punjab, and pushed the agriculture of other regions into neglect.

This is a design for scarcity.

Hunger is also designed into a non-sustainable production system in which costs of inputs are higher than the price of outputs. The farmer gets trapped into a negative economy with debt, and suicide is an inevitable consequence. The 2,00,000 farmer suicides since 1997 are part of the genocidal design of corporate-driven high-cost agriculture.

There is now talk of a second Green Revolution in India. This one is based on genetic engineering, which is being introduced into agriculture largely to allow corporations to claim intellectual property rights and patents on seeds. The floodgate of patenting seeds was opened through the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement of World Trade Organisation (WTO).

When seed is transformed from a source of life into "intellectual property" which becomes a source of super profits through royalty collections, both biodiversity and small farmers disappear. We have seen this happen with Bt. Cotton.

The Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) of the WTO was designed to allow Cargill and other agribusiness corporations access to world markets. This was done by forcing countries to remove import restrictions and using $400 billion to subsidise and dump artificial cheap food commodities on the Third World. The case of dumping of soya and destruction of India's domestic edible oil production and distribution is an example of how the global reach of multinational corporations creates hunger, driving down farm prices and destroying local livelihoods.

Indian farmers are losing $25 billion every year to falling prices. While farm prices fall, food prices continue to rise, creating a double burden of hunger for rural communities. This is why half of the hungry people in India and the world are farmers.

Globalised forced trade in food, falsely called free trade, has aggravated the hunger crisis by undermining food sovereignty and food democracy. With the deadlock in the Doha round of WTO, forced trade is being driven by bilateral agreements such as the US-India Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture on the board of which sit corporations like Monsanto, Cargill/ADM and Walmart.

Sadly, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, is trying to use the food crisis that his trade liberalisation policies have been creating to hand over India's seed supply to Monsanto, food supply to Cargill and other corporations and retail to Walmart, in line with the US-India AoA signed with President Bush in 2005. Speaking at a conference on food crisis and food inflation on February 4, 2011, Dr Singh said, "India needs to shore up farm supply claims by bringing in organised retail players" (read Walmart). Research shows that globalised, industrialised retail is destroying farmers' livelihoods and leading to wastage of 50 per cent food. This too is hunger by design.

Both the US and Indian governments are supporting US agri-business corporations to expand markets and profits. Farmers' rights and people's right to food are extinguished as corporate rights to limitless profits design "the market". Instead of the right to food being sacred, "the market" becomes sacred.

When the Supreme Court of India told the government to distribute the food grain that was rotting in godowns, Dr Singh said that giving food away free will kill the farmer's incentive to produce and adversely affect prices and wages. When the National Advisory Committee (NAC), headed by Sonia Gandhi, drafted a Food Security Act, the Prime Minister-appointed Rangarajan Committee said that stepped-up procurements could "distort" open market food prices. In other words, corporate rights to profit through creation of hunger must be protected even as people die.

Planning Commission vice-chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia invited Gulf countries to farm in India and export food to their countries during a visit to Muscat. A Bahrain firm, Nader and Ebrahim Group, recently tied up with Pune-based Sanghar to grow bananas on 400 acres. Indian laws do not allow foreigners to buy land. So the Planning Commission chief is encouraging foreign corporations to partner with Indian companies for contract farming.

Diverting land from food for local communities to cash crops for the rich in US, Europe and the Gulf countries is not a solution for hunger; this will aggravate the food crisis. This is not investment in agriculture, it is land grab and food grab. To get rid of hunger we need a paradigm shift in the design of our food systems.

We need to shift from monocultures to diversity, from chemical intensive to ecological, biodiversity-intensive, from capital-intensive to low-cost farming systems. We need to shift from centralised, globalised food supply controlled by a handful of corporations to decentralised, localised food systems that are resilient in the context of climate vulnerability and price volatility. Such system could feed India's population.

Industrial monocultures produce less food and nutrition per acre than biodiverse ecological farms. Biodiversity organic farming, if adopted nationally, could provide enough calories for 2.4 billion, enough protein for 2.5 billion, enough carotene for 1.5 billion, and enough folic acid for 1.7 billion pregnant women. We must end hunger by building food democracy, by reclaiming our seed sovereignty, food sovereignty and land sovereignty.

* Dr Vandana Shiva is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust






Future historians will long puzzle over how the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, in protest over the confiscation of his fruit stand, managed to trigger popular uprisings across the Arab/Muslim world. We know the big causes — tyranny, rising food prices, youth unemployment and social media. But since being in Egypt, I've been putting together my own back-of-the-envelope guess list of what I'd call the "not-so-obvious forces" that fed this mass revolt. Here it is:

The Obama Factor: Americans have never fully appreciated what a radical thing we did — in the eyes of the rest of the world — in electing an African-American with the middle name Hussein as President. I'm convinced that listening to Mr Obama's 2009 Cairo speech — not the words, but the man — were more than a few young Arabs who were saying to themselves: "Hmmm, let's see. He's young. I'm young. He's dark-skinned. I'm dark-skinned. His middle name is Hussein. My name is Hussein. His grandfather is a Muslim. My grandfather is a Muslim. He is President of the United States. And I'm an unemployed young Arab with no vote and no voice in my future". I'd put that in my mix of forces fuelling these revolts.

Google Earth: While Facebook has gotten all the face time in Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain, don't forget Google Earth, which began roiling Bahraini politics in 2006. A big issue in Bahrain, particularly among Shia men who want to get married and build homes, is the unequal distribution of land. On November 27, 2006, on the eve of parliamentary elections in Bahrain, the Washington Post ran this report from there: "Mahmood, who lives in a house with his parents, four siblings and their children, said he became even more frustrated when he looked up Bahrain on Google Earth and saw vast tracts of empty land, while tens of thousands of mainly poor Shias were squashed together in small, dense areas. 'We are 17 people crowded in one small house... And you see on Google how many palaces there are and how the al-Khalifas (the Sunni ruling family) have the rest of the country to themselves.' Bahraini activists have encouraged people to take a look at the country on Google Earth, and they have set up a special user group whose members have access to more than 40 images of royal palaces".

Israel: The Arab TV network Al Jazeera has a big team covering Israel today. Here are some of the stories they have been beaming into the Arab world: Israel's previous Prime Minister, Mr Ehud Olmert, had to resign because he was accused of illicitly taking envelopes stuffed with money from a Jewish-American backer. An Israeli court recently convicted Israel's former President Moshe Katsav on two counts of rape, based on accusations by former employees. And just a few weeks ago, Israel, at the last second, rescinded the appointment of Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant as the Army's new Chief of Staff after Israeli environmentalists spurred a government investigation that concluded Gen. Galant had seized public land near his home.

When you live right next to a country that is bringing to justice its top leaders for corruption and you live in a country where many of the top leaders are corrupt, well, you notice.

The Beijing Olympics: China and Egypt were both great civilisations subjected to imperialism and were both dirt poor back in the 1950s, with China even poorer than Egypt, Edward Goldberg, who teaches business strategy, wrote in the Globalist. But, today, China has built the world's second-largest economy, and Egypt is still living on foreign aid. What do you think young Egyptians thought when they watched the dazzling opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics? China's Olympics were another wake-up call — "in a way that America or the West could never be" — telling young Egyptians that something was very wrong with their country, argued Goldberg.

The Fayyad Factor: The Palestinian Prime Minister, Mr Salam Fayyad, introduced a new form of government in the Arab world in the last three years, something I've dubbed "Fayyadism". It said: judge me on my performance, on how I deliver government services and collect the garbage and create jobs — not simply on how I "resist" the West or Israel. Every Arab could relate to this. Chinese had to give up freedom but got economic growth and decent government in return. Arabs had to give up freedom and got the Arab-Israeli conflict and unemployment in return.

Add it all up and what does it say? It says you have a very powerful convergence of forces driving a broad movement for change. It says we're just at the start of something huge. And it says that if we don't have a more serious energy policy, the difference between a good day and bad day for America from here on will hinge on how the 86-year-old king of Saudi Arabia manages all this change.








tHERE WERE a lot of expectations as this was a mid-term Budget where the finance minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, had the flexibility to revive the reform agenda and take a number of decisions in the interest of the Indian economy. But no major initiatives were announced.

Inflation has been tackled only in a limited sense, by announcing incentives for agricultural growth, by allocating Rs 300-500 crore. However, what was needed was a change in agricultural strategy to enable increase in productivity in the short term. Corporates could have been allowed to undertake contract farming in a big way. This would have enabled new technologies to be inducted immediately for increasing productivity. The finance minister's proposals for encouraging investments in cold storage plants, warehouses and distribution channels will take time to fructify.

Mr Mukherjee should have announced immediate relaxation of FDI guidelines for retail trade. Multinational retailers are known to have brought down the inflation rate in other countries by eliminating middlemen, giving higher procurement prices to farmers and lowering the market price. Unfortunately, no announcement was made in this regard. Possibly, the government may come up with additional announcements later in the year.

The manufacturing sector has also slowed down in recent months. Therefore, the proposed excise duty increase of 19 per cent projected for the fiscal year 2011-12 may not materialise, leading to further strain on the fiscal deficit. Also, the minister could have increased the exemption limits for individuals to Rs 2,50,000 per annum. He could have taken bold steps to raise revenues by proposing measures to recover taxes which are locked in litigation, estimated at around Rs 65,000 crore.

While the voluntary disclosure scheme is not desirable for several reasons, Mr Mukherjee could have come up with an innovative infrastructure bond of 15-year duration bearing a low rate of interest. People investing in these would not be required to disclose the source of their funds. Having issued these bonds, the minister could have announced harsh measures for those who continue to hold on to their black money. Hopefully, the Budget proposals can be modified and several measures taken once the Group of Ministers comes to a decision on finding ways to tackle black money. Ultimately, the government has to be decisive in its resolve to tackle the issue of black money and channelise it for productive investments.

* H.P. Ranina,advocate, Supreme Court, and tax expert

* * *

FM took care of basic needs
Arun Nanda
We are never satisfied, are we? Industry was expecting an increase in excise and service tax of two per cent and a rollback in the concessions given in the wake of the global financial crisis. But the finance minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, has not done that. Isn't that an initiative in the post-recession situation? He has also not resorted to populist measures to win in the upcoming Assembly election in five states.

Let us look at the good things. The most important is the fact that Mr Mukherjee has, for the first time in the history of any Budget, dealt with the issue of corruption at the lowest level.

He has even touched on matters that farmers and common people face on a daily basis at the stamp office and registry. This he has done by saying that he is going to simplify the process so that the harassment caused to a farmer by the clerk sitting in the office stops.

The minister has also touched upon inflation, where food items are the culprit, by making states streamline the distribution process, as in getting rid of the middleman and improving the supply chain by incentivising the setting up of cold storage chains and warehouses.

In the social sector, Mr Mukherjee has introduced various schemes to encourage employment of women and incentivised vegetable clusters and cereals. He has given a higher allocation for farmers' credit and microfinancing and increased allocation for education and healthcare. Besides taking care of roti and kapda, the minister has also tackled makan by giving interest subsidy for housing loans.

But — most important — for affordable housing he's planning on bringing in some legislation and schemes for mortgage risk sharing. The problem is that we have started to expect any and everything through the Budget.

The Budget is primarily meant to approve the annual income and expenditure plan for the country, and the amendments required to various statutes primarily in the areas of direct and indirect taxes. The finance minister has done well to send the right signals for curtailing black money, improving governance, boosting agriculture, attracting foreign investment and going green and innovative. What else can we want from the finance minister who is facing so many problems for things he is not responsible for?

I strongly believe the finance minister has done a very good job of showing the government's intention to do good for the economy and the aam aadmi.

* Arun Nanda, non-executive chairman, Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd






Guru Nanak and Mardana, his minstrel companion, had been travelling for many days when they arrived at a habitation. He arrived at a beautiful mansion. It belonged to one sajjan who was a swindler in the garb of a decent-looking man. However, he would invite the wayfarers who had to spend a night in that town to stay with him and at night he and his men would kill them and usurp whatever money they had.

When Guru arrived there, the sajjan sensed from the Guru's countenance that he must be a rich man. He, therefore, heartily welcomed the Guru. At dinner time, the Guru was requested to have his meal. During the conversation, Guru made a remark that "fishermen always cast their net for fish, but sometimes a crocodile might get into their net".

The sajjan and his men sat together in a meeting to discuss this "rather different" guest. Then the sajjan and his men heard music coming from the Guru's room. The Guru was singing:

"Bronze is bright and shiny, but when rubbed, blackens like ink. Washing it, its impurity does not go, even if washed a hundred times."

The sajjan was getting perturbed:
"There are houses, mansions and dwellings, painted all over;
but they are empty within, and they crumble to become useless."
"The herons in their white attired well in the sacred pilgrimage spots.
They tear and eat the living beings, so don't call them white.
My body is like the simmal tree; seeing me, others are fooled.
Its fruits are useless — just like my own embodied qualities."
The sajjan felt that he had been found out by the holy man. He became repentant. The Guru asked him to convert his mansion into a dharamshala.

— J.S. Neki, a psychiatrist of international repute, was director of PGIMER, Chandigarh. He also received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his contribution to Punjabi verse. Currently he is Professor of Eminence in Religious Studies at Punjabi University, Patiala







EIGHT months did not suffice to convince the aviation sector, Gustav Baldauf himself included, that the Austrian executive had the capacity to lead a mission to resuscitate Air India: a terribly tall order given the cynical one-man demolition squad that was the previous minister. However, less than eight weeks after Praful Patel was ejected from office comes confirmation that his replacement, Vayalar Ravi, also deems the national carrier a completely sarkari entity and that professionalism has little role in its management. For what led Baldauf to quit so early in his three-year stint was not any major bungling, but the reaction to his having had the guts to publicly lament political and bureaucratic interference in the day-to-day running of the airline. Nothing really new in that, just that ego-fuelled Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan could not come to terms with being "nailed" ~ the neta-babu nexus at work yet again. It is not improbable that the Chief Operating Officer was alive to the implications of his comments to the media, actually opening up an exit route for himself, but it does testify to his frustrations. It is not this newspaper's case that the Austrian could emulate Hercules and clean up the Augean hangars of what was once a proud Indian showpiece, but having selected him (or any other individual) for the job the government ought to have given him enough freedom to function. Those who appointed him obviously thought he was capable, but they seemed to have expected him to be as servile as his Indian predecessors. In permitting such turbulence to develop over some straight-talk, Ravi has indicated an unwillingness to let the carrier unshackle itself from the forces that have all but "grounded" it.
The not-so-new minister has suggested that only a massive infusion of funds will let AI take off again. That is only partly true: there has to be a revival of the ethos of the JRD Tata era, some hard decisions to ensure that senior executives will be given due operational freedom, that envy of their pay packets will not lead to sabotaging their initiatives. In short, that the airline will compete. Taking this a bit beyond Air India, it is so palpable that the work culture of the public sector will never take kindly to "outsiders" who place a premium on productivity, efficiency, professional commitment. But not just the public sector alone: Greg Chappell and Ric Charlesworth could exchange notes with Gustav Baldauf!



Medical treatment in India is only for those who can afford it. This truism of public policy is confirmed with the budget's signal of intent regarding the health sector. The 21 per cent hike seems impressive at first sight; in tangible terms it will not yield any benefits to those in need of preventive health check-ups and diagnosis and certainly not to the cause of public health in the larger context. Unmistakable is the stark contradiction  in planning techniques masquerading as public policy. The five per cent service tax on pathological centres will inevitably raise the cost of diagnosis and will affect patients generally. Treatment in this day and age proceeds only on the basis of pathological investigation; for a large segment this pre-requisite might turn out to be so exorbitant as to be almost prohibitive. Costlier diagnosis defeats the objective of preventive health care. And the impact will be severe on those who require regular check-ups for diabetes, cancer and thalassemia, let alone such sophisticated investigation as the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan. Overall, it is the majority who will have to contend with the fiscal pangs of suffering. Well may the private sector carp over the service tax on hospitals with a central air-conditioning system. Here again it is the patient who will have to bear the brunt though he/she may belong to the relatively affluent class with medical insurance and/or company reimbursement.

The increase on public spending on health will have little or no beneficial impact. It may just about take care of the National Rural Health Mission; yet there is no indication of whether this mission will be geared to fulfil societal needs. It hinges substantially on the involvement and level of commitment of the states. As an expression of public policy on a critical index of welfare, the health budget would have had a positive impact only in the event of a revamp of government hospitals in parallel with the imposts on private sector health care. Their condition is horrifying in certain states, notably West Bengal.  If private health care is beyond the means of the common man and government hospitals are best avoided, where exactly does the patient below the poverty line stand? The budget has not addressed the needs of this segment either in terms of food security or universal education or for that matter health care. The raison d'etre of public spending stands defeated.




A ruling party that blames the Opposition for continued violence must view the announcement of a six-phase poll as a stinging comment on the administration. Having sent observers to examine the ground reality in West Bengal, chief election commissioner SY Quraishi makes it clear that the Centre would be playing a proactive role in ensuring a free and fair poll. Seen with arrangements for Assam where the poll will be held in two phases and in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry where it will be held in a single phase, the message is loud and clear. Kerala is Left-ruled but bears no comparison with Bengal on the law and order front. This makes it difficult for Alimuddin Street to complain of discrimination, especially when the commission, setting aside Trinamul's demands for advancing the election, has allowed the Left Front to complete its full term. Biman Bose cannot conceal his nervousness while expressing "satisfaction'' about a six-phase poll. Any other reaction would have raised questions about the capacity of the state police to handle the situation. Having earlier asked for continued deployment of Central forces which the Opposition wanted withdrawn, the state government cannot complain if it is proposed to send more companies not only to deal with Maoists but to ensure that voting proceeds without hindrance. It is thus no secret that the state police doesn't enjoy the confidence that could have prompted the commission to do what the Left would have liked best ~ keep the central forces out of the election process. The Union home minister has killed that idea with an unqualified declaration that law and order in Bengal is "still far from satisfactory''.

In case the Left considers this a political statement at a time the Congress is keen on clinching an alliance with Trinamul, the facts speak for themselves. The observers have gone back with shocking evidence of non-performance. The failure to act on nearly 75,000 non-bailable warrants that are pending has nothing to do with complaints about an alleged nexus between Trinamul and the Maoists. Nor can the administration explain why the CBI has to be asked to do what the state police ought to have done to recover illegal firearms. The existence of armed camps had initially found the state in denial mode; now the problem seems out of control. To that extent, the CEC has taken note of the reality that the Left may want to conceal. While Mamata Banerjee may be unhappy that the election hadn't been advanced, the Left faces the bigger challenge of this election being fought on relatively a level playing field notwithstanding the benefits of incumbency.








AFTER the major unrest in the summer of 2010, the Government of India appointed three interlocutors to look into the Kashmir problem and to suggest ways and means to solve it. Since then the three have visited Kashmir as well as Jammu a number of times and have reportedly interacted with different sections of the population, both Kashmiri as well as the people of Jammu. It was also reported recently that the interlocutors are ready with their detailed report and it was likely to be submitted within two weeks. Now, it is generally expected in India, specially in J&K, that with the submission of the report we may at last come somewhere close to a political solution of Kashmir.

About a year back, when I was casually surfing TV channels, I noticed that in DD1 a lady was being interviewed on the Kashmir issue. I started listening to the interview with rapt attention and to my utter surprise I found that the lady had a fairly firm grasp over the ground realities of Jammu & Kashmir. After talking to many people, I realised that very few have a good grasp and understanding about the Kashmir problem ~ outside Kashmir Valley. So this TV interview came as a very pleasant surprise. As it progressed I came to know that the lady being interviewed was one Radha Kumar who was a professor in a university near Delhi.
Several months later, when the list of interlocutors was released, I noticed her name. This was a good sign, I thought. However, I didn't know the other two interlocutors and so couldn't say whether they were equally knowledgeable like Radha Kumar.

I realised not long after that there was no real reason to rejoice as the interlocutors were not an independent authority and they had to work under the directions and framework given to them by the Home ministry.
If somebody has to work within that steel frame, how can we expect to get a proper recommendation for a solution to Kashmir? My hopes were again dashed when recently I heard the Prime Minister speaking in Parliament about the Kashmir problem. He indicated clearly that he would have nothing to do with the separatist politicians of J&K. He also said that unemployment of Kashmiri youth was at the root of the problem. Therefore, to resolve the issue he intends to create one lakh jobs for Kashmiri youth. He didn't specify whether these one lakh jobs would be in government undertakings or in the private sector.

In Kashmir, it is very important to realise that employment in the private sector is not given any importance in society. Employment actually means government employment in Kashmir. If one lakh jobs are created in the government sector it may bring about some happiness and relief to the Kashmiris ~ not otherwise. However, when will the Government of India realise that although unemployment is an important issue in Kashmir, it has no direct bearing with the core issue which is entirely political and is linked with Kashmir's relationship with the Union of India.

Since there is hardly any real poverty in the state, poverty alleviation is also not an important issue. In the entire political spectrum of Kashmir, opinion varies as to the degree of connection the Valley will have with the Indian union. No one speaks of Kashmir's full merger with India. Even the Chief Minister of J&K last year spoke about "non-merger" with India in the state assembly. He had opened his heart when he was in an uncomfortable position politically. This, however, is the scenario only in the Kashmir Valley and certain adjacent Kashmiri-speaking areas of Jammu. The rest of J&K (around 40 per cent of the state) want full merger with India. The National Conference and the PDP are agreeable to maintaining minimum links with India. Since they are patriotic Kashmiris they want to drag the non-Kashmiris of Jammu and Ladakh into this minimum link programme.
The other political parties of Kashmir like JKLF, Hurriyat Conference (both G and M), People's Conference, Democratic Freedom Party, Dukhtaran-e-Millat want 'zero connection' with the Indian union. These political parties have a vast majority support in Kashmir.

If the Prime Minister and his interlocutors do not want to talk to them, how will this vexed problem be solved? According to media reports, the interlocutors did not speak to these separatist leaders. I wonder what sort of discussion they could have had with the Kashmiri society and what feedback they could have obtained.
The Kashmiris usually do not open their hearts to people who do not speak Kashmiri. None of the interlocutors perhaps know the Kashmiri language and  probably they have not lived in Kashmir for a long enough period.


They will not be in a position to know their hearts if they cannot whisper into their ears: tohe kya chhuv yaatsaan? (what do you want?)

Therefore, I do not entertain high hopes about the report that is going to be submitted by the interlocutors. Most probably it will not get any response from the Kashmiri public and will only adorn the official library of the Home minister. If the interlocutors can specify exactly how much link the Valley will retain with the Indian union, the report will be worth reading and meaningful.

The writer is former Financial Commissioner, Jammu & Kashmir








The assassination of Pakistan minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, is the second murder of a politician in that country who opposed Pakistan's Blasphemy law. First evidence suggests that the assassination was carried out by Pakistan's Punjabi Taliban. There is no real problem between India and Pakistan insofar as the bulk of Pakistan's civil society is concerned. Apart from the extremists who fan Indo-Pakistan discord, support terrorism and keep alive the Kashmir dispute, the people of Pakistan would be content with peace and better governance. That cannot be delivered to them until terrorism is eliminated. There is no real Kashmir problem between Kashmir and the rest of India insofar as the people are concerned. Apart from the rootless separatist leaders who are too scared to test their strength in elections, and the misguided youth who are motivated by them to pelt stones, the people of Kashmir would be content with better governance. That cannot be delivered to them until the shadow of terrorism is removed. The real problem between India and Pakistan as well as in Kashmir therefore is terrorism. Until it is rooted out the region cannot be stabilised and India will not have peace.

Till now, New Delhi has pursued a policy of dialogue with Islamabad and attempted to search for formulae that would bring peace. But time is running out. However sincerely the government in Pakistan may seek peace, if it cannot deliver results in curbing terrorism, should India wait endlessly? The key to curbing and eliminating terrorism rests with the Pakistan army. The time has come for Pakistan's civilian government to confront General Kayani. The time has come for General Kayani to confront the hardcore elements within the military that sympathise with terror outfits even if that entails disaffection within the army. That is something that must be risked if General Kayani is sincere. The sub-continent urgently requires peace in order to play its rightful role in the emerging global order. The invitation from the Muslim Brotherhood to the Indian government to help organise the Egyptian elections slated for June is not insignificant. It reveals the potential role South Asia can play in the creation of a new West Asia. If either by design or by default Pakistan cannot deliver, India must consider using the hard option with Pakistan.

What is the hard option? It is to minimise contacts with Pakistan; to reduce all diplomatic contact; to recognise the aspirations of the people of Baluchistan and offer them moral support; and to recognise the aspirations of the people of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and offer them moral support to unite with their brothers in Afghanistan. This would have to be accompanied by lobbying in the UN to impose sanctions against Pakistan until the government effectively curbs terrorism and prevents its export to the world. In other words, it would encourage the disintegration of Pakistan. A Balkanised Pakistan would indeed be a tragedy. But it would help curb terrorism. The reason for that is that only nationalist fervour prevails over the ideology spread by global jihad. That is why the Afghanistan Taliban is distancing itself from Al Qaida and why the USA has belatedly decided to initiate a dialogue with it. Baluchistan has had a separatist movement for 60 years. NWFP sought independence in 1947. These strong nationalist sentiments could have been successfully addressed by a genuinely federal polity granting autonomy. That did not happen. It is unlikely to happen under the present dispensation in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. That is why it is imperative that New Delhi conveys its frustration and impatience to General Kayani through Prime Minister Gilani. One believes that even today, if General Kayani puts his mind to it, he can take on the terrorists. But that would call for a basic reappraisal of strategic goals. Is he up to it? Is the Pakistan government up to it? If not, India would be left with no option but to take the hard option. And that would be to distance itself from Islamabad and offer moral encouragement for the fragmentation of Pakistan without firing a single shot.  

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist






A correspondent writes to draw the attention of the authorities in charge of the construction of the Hooghly-Cutwa Railway to the difference of opinion that has again arisen between them and the inhabitants of Bansbaria in connection with the selection of a name for the Railway Station which is being built on the western outskirts of that town. In 1909 it was proposed by the Railway Company to name the station "Matapukur". The inhabitants of Bansbaria, through the medium of your paper, protested against this proposal and petitioned the Railway authorities to change the name to either Bansbaria, Bansabati or Hanseswari. The Railway Company eventually decided to name the station "Bansabati". It now transpires that it has again been changed to "matapukur". The correspondent suggests that the station be called Hanseswari, which will prevent confusion.

Our Poona correspondent telegraphing says:- Mr B.V. Mudlip, Special Cantonment Magistrate on Monday delivered judgment in the case in which Jalaluddin, formerly a riding boy, was charged by Mr H.B. Barucha, turf accountant, with trying to cheat him. The incident on which the charge was based took place at the first enclosure at the Poona racecourse on September 24 last and the bet which was alleged to have been altered was on the horse named Salanah which won the first race. The Magistrate acquitted the accused holding that it was Kashinath Gannoo and not Jalaluddin who presented the ticket with the figures altered. When the accused afterwards presented the ticket two noughts had been erased and it was held that the accused presented the ticket in good faith and without fraudulent intent.







When an under-secretary to the Government of India laughed aloud at some so-called witty remark of the secretary while the deputy secretary and the joint secretary were still trying to unfathom the depths of secretary's wit by their calculated silence, he did hardly realise that he had not only broken the iron-rule of seniority in the government but also violated the Rule 3 of the Central Civil Service Conduct rules 1964 as amended from time to time.

The rule of seniority strictly stipulated that he should have laughed in order to precedent, that is, after the joint secretary and then the deputy secretary had had their laugh. In other words, the under-secretary should have laughed through proper channel and conducted himself in a "becoming manner". By the afternoon he was served with a memo which said that officers were supposed to be circumspect in their speech and avoid hilarity in their behaviour.

The under-secretary was paralysed. With a memo in one hand and slip-book in the other, he ventured to meet the secretary, who he thought had a sense of humour and whose joke he had appreciated. The personal assistant to the secretary told him that his boss was a strict disciplinarian and that he should come through proper channel. Not satisfied with the PA's homily he dashed to meet the minister, but failed. Some good friend advised him to make a written submission and seek an appointment with the minister through official channels.
Totally frustrated, the under secretary thought that the best thing to do, in the circumstances, is to do nothing. The long and the short of the episode is that the young officer was let off with an advice that he should, in future, be civil in speech and avoid levity in his behaviour. The moral of the story is that once your senior officer has laughed you can follow suit but you cannot jump the gun. There is no harm in laughing, with retrospective effect, provided it is through proper channel.

But the caution is that you should not laugh with the wrong side of your mouth. Within the bounds of seniority lady officers are allowed to laugh even in their sleeves although these days they have forsaken them. In government language the under-secretary was served with a non-recordable warning which is not a penalty.
The rule of seniority asserts itself beyond the walls of risibility. It is all embracing, at all times, in all places and at all situations, in all government functions. At official lunches no one can dare fill his plate unless his senior has done it, no one can finish unless his senior has finished. You may have to stand and stare with an empty plate and wait till your senior has emptied his or hers. And if your senior officer is a glutton, you are un-done. If your officer is eating, you must continue to eat even if you have finished.

Come to sweet dish and the seniority is even more strictly observed. In toilets, the rule of seniority acquires new dimensions. When an officer goes to the toilet to "discharge his responsibility", he has to look to his right and left. It often happens that if the gentleman next to you is your own senior officer, you have to make a retreat and say: "Sir, after you."

Seniority is not your number in the civil list, it goes beyond that. It is applicable even to the wives of officers, even to their children. There is a case when a junior officer was charged with violation even in the evening club. The rule is there is delegation of authority but delegation only up to me, not below me. At a recent seminar a participant asked me: "Khullar saab, how did you survive in this jungle of rules and regulations?" I did not, I replied: "I was superseded."






Had there been a modern Bengali equivalent of Virgil around, he would have warned Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee about the election commissioner when he comes bearing gifts. The first day of March was the birthday of the chief minister of West Bengal and the election commissioner presented him with the schedule of the assembly polls in the state. The irony of this could not have escaped Mr Bhattacharjee who, on his own admission, is a literary man. No election is ever won or lost till the counting is done but even the most loyal supporter of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) will be forced to admit that the Left's prospects in the forthcoming polls are not too bright. The unbreachable Left bastion, as West Bengal was described till very recently, is now a thing of the past. There is a desire for change and this, if translated into votes, could mean the end of Left Front rule in West Bengal. Such gloomy forebodings make the announcement of elections, however inevitable, a poisoned chalice that Mr Bhattacharjee cannot refuse.

One reason for the desire for change is suggested by the fact that the Election Commission decided to hold the polls in the state in six phases. West Bengal is a small state and the long-drawn-out election schedule is partly based on the fear of violence. Over the last one year or more, there has been a marked decline in law and order in the state. Governance is at a standstill and the administration either does not move or moves only at the behest of and in favour of the ruling party. Every district has its own tale of growing lawlessness and violence. The politics of vendetta has overwhelmed the state. Over and above this trend there is the menace of Maoism that looms over large parts of western Midnapore. West Bengal has a chequered history of bloody elections. To end this history, especially at a time when the threat of violence is a palpable reality, the EC has taken no chances. The election will be in phases so that the security forces can be properly deployed. Violence-free elections will be ensured by regiments of gun-toting policemen. What better commentary could there be on the state of democracy in West Bengal? The results will be declared on May 13. Mr Bhattacharjee should note the date not because it is a Friday, but because the direction of the winds of change will be known on that day.






Rulers everywhere like to divide their opponents. But nothing pleases rulers more than to see their opponents dividing themselves. Assam's chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, can, therefore, reasonably hope to win the state elections for the third consecutive term. The division in the Opposition ranks helped him win the last polls too. But the disarray in his rivals' camps has since worsened with the main Opposition party, the Asom Gana Parishad, severing its alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party. The two parties, which had been allies even in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, had no choice but to drift apart. The AGP increasingly found the BJP's politics of Hindutva both an ideological and an electoral liability. The alliance could not work in a state where 28 per cent of the people are Muslims. That the division in the Opposition ranks has been a major reason for the Congress's success in Assam is borne out by electoral statistics. In the last assembly polls in 2006, Mr Gogoi won a second mandate rather easily, although the Congress secured only 29 per cent of the vote. The disunity in the Opposition ranks may not be Mr Gogoi's doing, but he reaps immense political benefits from it.

All this is not to suggest that Mr Gogoi's 10-year rule has nothing to show for itself. His biggest achievement is the patient and tactful handling of the United Liberation Front of Asom. Mr Gogoi can legitimately claim credit for bringing the majority faction of the Ulfa to the peace process. New Delhi's support and the changed political scenario in Bangladesh have helped him achieve this. But the chief minister showed his political acumen by involving the civil society in the peace initiative. Earlier, he had demonstrated similar skills in negotiating peace with militant Bodo groups. In a state which has witnessed unending violence by the Ulfa, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland and other ethnic groups, peace is a major electoral issue. However, a third term for Mr Gogoi will test his skills in other areas as well. His management of Assam's economic development has been less effective than his moves to make peace with militant groups. His second term in office also witnessed serious corruption charges against his government. A leader's abilities are ultimately measured not by the number of elections he wins but by the difference he makes to the quality of life of his people.






Cricket's evolution sped up in the 21st century. Till the 1999 World Cup, Test cricket was the dinosaur and the one-day international was the coming thing. This bloom faded more quickly than anyone anticipated: cricketers and commentators began to fret about the tedium of the middle overs in limited-overs contests and criticize the predictability of a game that had only come to maturity in the 1990s. Fielding circles were introduced in the 1983 World Cup, coloured clothing in the 1992 tournament, and yet, by the end of the millennium, cricket's rule-makers were experimenting furiously to enliven a 'stale' format.

There was, for example, the blithe introduction of the 'super sub'; this didn't last but the hideously named Power Plays did and were periodically tweaked to make ODIs even more batsman-friendly than they already were. But despite these anti-bowler 'improvements' (the worst of which is the free hit penalty for a no ball) pundits are still talking about the imminent death of the ODI. The reason for this pessimism is obvious: the Twenty20 game, especially its Indian Premier League avatar, has created a big business model that makes the two longer forms of cricket look like financially irrelevant cottage industries.

Once upon a time, being dropped from a World Cup squad would have meant disappointment, obscurity, the loss of lucrative national contracts and the probable loss of income from endorsements. But Irfan Pathan, dropped from every form of international cricket, still makes nearly two million dollars a year for less than two months work. The newest, shortest format of the game offers players undreamt of wealth, sells tens of thousands of tickets, and gives corporations and film stars not just the promise of a return on investment but branding opportunities and extraordinary visibility. This three-hour tamasha is so young that its impact on the economics of Test cricket and the ODI is yet to be gauged, but pundits have begun to foretell the future.

The conventional wisdom till recently has been that the shortest and longest formats will survive but the one in the middle, the one that underwrites this World Cup, will become obsolete. The reasoning is that Tests and Twenty20 matches are so dissimilar that they aren't competing for the same audience, whereas the ODI is doomed because it is too long to attract the new family audience that Twenty20 has created and too short to interest the traditional spectator.

As a result, former and current players like Chris Cairns and Sachin Tendulkar have begun to recommend radical surgery for the 50-over format to save it from extinction. They want to turn it into a four- innings game, each 20 overs long. They want to meld the come-from-behind excitement of Test cricket with the urgency of the 20-over format. The problem with the prescription is that it's being offered to the wrong patient. It's not the ODI that's threatened with extinction; it's Test cricket.

The notion that the ODI was endangered was always unsubstantiated. ODIs consistently draw full houses in India where the revenue-generating audience for world cricket lives. It's Test matches that play to empty stadiums. Advertisers would much rather air commercials on television during ODIs because there are so many more eyeballs watching the limited-overs game. Doordarshan, the national telecaster, which has the right to televise all cricket featuring India in India, will sometimes not air Test series but it always telecasts ODIs.

Apart from economics, the other advantage that the ODI has in a world dominated by Twenty20 cricket is that the skill sets needed for both limited-overs formats are roughly the same so the ecology that sustains the Twenty20 game will comfortably support its close cousin. If the IPL becomes the most important 'domestic' competition in India's cricket calendar, ambitious young cricketers will mould their techniques to succeed within this format. This won't damage the 50-over format, but it will play havoc with the supply lines of Test cricket.

The nursery for the long game everywhere is three-day first-class cricket. Why would an ambitious young buck bother with the glamour-free grind of the first class game when the riches of the IPL beckon? The death of Test cricket in India won't be spectacular. It'll be preceded by the death of first-class cricket which itself will die gradually, of disorganization and disinterest. Till the advent of the IPL, the Ranji Trophy had managed to become stably derelict without actually dying. It lived a kind of half-life because it was the route to an international debut with its attendant glory and riches.

Now that those riches are available without winning a cap (this year the IPL announced that it will allow uncapped Indian players to be auctioned in future editions), there's no incentive of any sort to play first-class cricket. As cricketing and administrative talent gravitates towards IPL's franchises, the collapse of the Ranji Trophy becomes a matter of time. Already every school- and college-level cricket tournament in India is played by limited-overs rules. Once India's solitary four-innings domestic tournament dies, so will Test cricket because you can't select Test cricketers on the strength of their showing in the limited-overs competition. When you do, you get players like Suresh Raina.

The point of cricket is no longer the challenge of representing your state or province or country in a contest. Counties, provinces, states and tournaments based on these territorial divisions still exist, but the IPL, molten with money, will make these competitions seem like charades. The IPL gestures at the territorial principle by incorporating place names in team names — the Delhi Daredevils or the Mumbai Indians — but the Mumbai Indians have about as much to do with Mumbai as Chelsea does with London. Franchised cricket, with its seasonally mobile players, has made the idea of territorial affiliation a marketing ploy rather than a genuinely felt identity.

But can't the example of football be used to argue that territorial sport at the national level and professional clubs at the league level can coexist? The football World Cup is wildly successful, with an audience larger than that of any other sporting event despite the fact that football is organized in leagues. Why can't that happen in cricket? Why can't Test cricket and the IPL coexist?

For a simple reason: league football and international football are exactly the same game; Twenty20 cricket and Test cricket aren't. A compact, lucrative sport won't make allowances for a drawn-out, calendar-hogging one. The long, bilateral Test series is the natural enemy of a franchised tournament that wants all its contracted players available, so they can earn their salaries.

Premier league managers like Arsène Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson complain bitterly when their stars are called up for national duty. In football, this happens relatively rarely; given the nature of a Test series, in cricket this will happen all the time. And it won't be tolerated. Already, there's talk of a second season for the IPL, and it's inevitable that its organizers and sponsors will try to colonize more of the calendar given its astounding success. League football shows us that it's in the nature of profitable professional sport to push for longer seasons.

Test cricket might yet be salvaged if cricket's administrators acknowledge the threat and the challenge that Twenty20 cricket poses. Test cricket has to cut its losses and shrink. England, Australia, India, Sri Lanka and South Africa ought to play competitive series against each other and the weaker sides should be relegated to a lower tier of cricket. Lop-sided matches damage the long game's credibility — that's a luxury Test cricket can't afford. Besides, uncompetitive Tests use up precious time that the IPL will soon be coveting. Triage is always unpleasant but it might save Test cricket; living in denial will almost certainly kill it.

So why do so many grey eminences and Test immortals in Indian cricket continue to parrot Haroon Lorgat's soothing mantra that all three forms of the game can muddle along, or peddle the even dafter notion that the IPL threatens ODIs more than it does Tests? It can't be bad faith because they're honourable men and care about their legacy as Test cricketers. I suspect one reason is that nearly all of them have found opportunities in the great IPL bonanza and would rather not believe that the monster they're nurturing will consume the game that made them famous. The other likely reason is that any re-shaping of Test cricket will mean so much conflict and unpleasantness that it's much easier to go along and hope that the conflict will resolve itself.

But it won't. Instead a time will come (and soon) when Test cricket will return to its original condition: it will revert to being a bilateral contest between England and Australia, the only two countries with boards and fans that care about the long game. In the subcontinent, Twenty20 cricket will rule: for Indian fans, the long game will come to mean the 50-over ODI.







The police were there in full strength, but no one turned up to protest. So they vented their wrath on foreign, camera-wielding journalists and turned a non-event into news. Thanks to the heavy-handed response of the authorities, China's 'jasmine revolution' which never was continues to make news — on the internet, and in Western newspapers. It began on a US-based Chinese website, with a letter asking the Chinese people to come out at 2 pm on Sunday, February 20, for a stroll, and every Sunday after that. It gave venues for the strolls in eight major cities. It even gave the reasons for protest, as well as the slogans to be shouted during the protest.

However, the only people who came to these venues on the first Sunday were curious onlookers and the foreign press. Curiously, there was one 'very important person' present at the Beijing venue — outside McDonald's on the capital's famous shopping promenade, Wangfujing. The choice of venues is symbolic; mostly outside US giants such as McDonald's, KFC and Starbucks. The reason probably is that you find these three on the main avenues of all major cities. But then you also find Chinese fast- food chains on such avenues, but they weren't chosen.

The VIP was the American ambassador, Jon Huntsman. He was quickly recognized, and someone there boldly asked him: "So, you want China in chaos, don't you?'' The man who had asked this question announced to everyone present that the US ambassador was in their midst, and people began asking him why he was wearing sunglasses, why he was feigning ignorance.... Huntsman quickly slunk away with his bodyguards. The entire episode has been put up on the internet by a Chinese website. The video has blurbs saying, "Honestly, there are lots of problems in China... But we don't want to be Iraq... Shall we give all our hope to US and these 'human rights' protesters to lead and feed 1.3 billion people...? Never!''

Blocked out

However, undaunted, Huntsman issued a statement berating the authorities for manhandling foreign media persons. This isn't likely to endear him to the Chinese. The amazing thing about China's so-called 'jasmine revolution' is that though it hasn't even begun, across the world, pictures are being flashed that depict crowds out in large numbers, or lone protesters grappling with the police. Turns out that these are file photos of older events, some of which didn't even take place in China. Now,, a website that came up in 2008 to counter the Western media's coverage of the violence by Tibetans in Lhasa, has traced these photographs to their original sources. News portals such as Online USA News and VG Norway, and newspapers such as Ireland's The Irish Independent and Taiwan's Liberty Times have published photographs of policemen standing on guard and Chinese citizens participating in earlier anti-Japanese protests; of a Chinese woman being led to execution; of youngsters holding up placards saying, "seeking workers" and "hiring people" at a job fair and passed these off as current protests.

Any number of China-watchers have analysed why the Chinese haven't been inspired by Egypt and Tunisia. If only the authorities themselves had understood their own people. Instead, they blocked certain words on Chinese websites, including Hillary Clinton, who spoke about China facing a "dictator's dilemma" over controlling the internet. The latest words to have been blocked are 'Wangfujing', 'Jon Huntsman' and 'jasmine'. It so happens that a popular Chinese song is titled What a beautiful jasmine. No less a person than President Hu had sung it with Chinese-language students in Kenya in 2006. That video too has been blocked.






Nearly 40 years ago, some of the best professionals across the world joined an Indian team of planners, engineers, economists and sociologists to launch a metropolitan planning and development effort in Calcutta. During the late 1960s and 1970s, it was a battle school of sorts where many lessons were learnt in devising a practical and, more importantly, an equitable approach in dealing with a city's numerous ills. While these lessons formed the substance of urban development discourses in planning schools abroad, in Calcutta itself they were forgotten.

Governance in metropolitan Calcutta has always oscillated between high promise and low performance. Surendranath Banerjee's dreams of self-government, the swarajist insistence on full democracy even though it meant subjecting the city to crippling communal and party formations, and finally, the supersession of the corporation itself coinciding with India's independence, are a part of the city's tortuous history. The travails of Partition, industrial recession and obsolescence were reflected in the Cassandra-like refrains of leaders from Delhi, including Jawaharlal Nehru, that "the city was going to pieces". Partly because of B.C. Roy's dogged efforts, and later Indira Gandhi's decisive prescription, a rescue package for the city became available.

During the 1980s and 1990s, projects picked up from previous dispensations were continued. The bridge across Hooghly was completed at its laborious pace. A single metro line was built and run more as a symbol than as part of an extensive network planned and promised earlier. In recent years, multi-storied buildings and shopping malls have come up here and there in the city and around its fringes, more as part of the real-estate game being played across the country. The promise of a functioning metropolis as a renewed focus of development remains unfulfilled in eastern India.

It was refreshing, therefore, to participate, in early February this year, in a symposium for Calcutta's development organized by the Institute of Town Planners and the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority. The debates started well and there were people from Bangalore and Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai, to share their experiences.

In the course of the debate, three sets of issues received some attention. One was economic development, the second was sustainability and the third was governance. Calcutta is yet to come to terms with the current reality that it is no longer a prime centre of manufacture as it used to be. A 2007-08 estimate places the gross domestic product of the Calcutta metropolitan area at around Rs 44,000 crores. About 52 per cent of this is from business and services and another 24 per cent from construction and trade. The share of manufacturing was less than 9 per cent as compared to 19 per cent in Mumbai and Pune and 17 per cent in Chennai. Looked at another way, 35 per cent of the 5 million jobs is from business and other services and 28 per cent from construction and trade. Surprisingly, 25 per cent is still from manufacturing. Does this mean that a significant portion of Calcutta's factories are still labouring hard to produce goods of limited economic value? Be that as it may, the trend is clear that Calcutta's economic future lies in services. That, in turn, demands a rigorous and reliable level of performance. It also means Calcutta's ability to reach beyond its boundaries and sustain business relations within the region.

The partition of the country carried two painful consequences for Calcutta. One was while Calcutta remained east of the river, the rest of the country lay west. The second was a major chunk of its traditional hinterland went to Bangladesh, a terrain sharing a common language and culture but kept apart by numerous man-made barriers. The new Hooghly bridge was to be part of a regional plan to help Calcutta to connect better with the rising hub of Durgapur. "Go west and grow up with the country" was the promise offered by the new bridge. But for years, the bridge was left hanging at the Howrah end till the national highway programme enabled the connections to be made.

Unable to decide whether Calcutta should look west or look east, the powers that be have now opted for an easier course of densifying Salt Lake and filling up the adjoining wetlands to the east. What has emerged in these past 10 years beyond the eastern metropolitan bypass and touted as a new town is a sparse and uninspiring collection of largely unoccupied high-rise apartments with some office towers and shopping malls. Complaints about lack of water and connectivity are legion. Rajarhat is more like a tent settlement strung along the road in the hope of emerging as a new town sometime in the future.

A Look East policy is relevant not only to West Bengal. It is as important and critical for the country as a whole to maintain and foster economic links with the Northeast, with Bangladesh, Myanmar and beyond. China understands this and has evolved a Look West policy for itself. For the past 10 years, the Yunnan province, with Beijing's blessings, has kept up the Kunming Initiative with annual meetings of Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar held in the different capital cities. The Kunming Initiative focuses on trade and economic links and physical connectivity. Kunming is one of the few cities connected to Calcutta by three flights a week. A part of the old Stilwell Road going northwards from Kunming towards the Myanmar border is substantially completed. New rail and road links are forging ahead towards Laos and Cambodia. A Kunming-Calcutta rally has been on the cards for sometime with a possible alignment through Bangladesh. Kunming, and therefore Beijing, are also planning links to Sitwe and Chittagong ports.

Within the next decade, it is likely that road and rail connectivity will significantly improve. If Calcutta is to take advantage of this, it has to make sure that its historical links with Bangladesh, ruptured during Partition, are restored and improved. The Sheikh Hasina Wajed-Manmohan Singh declaration of January 2010 provides a roadmap for this. Whether it is the improvement of the Petrapol transshipment point or setting up of the energy grid, this is not something to be relegated as a Central government task. It is in West Bengal's interest that the implementation of the Delhi accord proceeds.

Calcutta's ecological sustainability appears to be more difficult to reach. Surprising as it may seem, metropolitan Calcutta is running out of water. One of the objectives of the Farakka barrage was to push down salinity intrusion from the sea in the Hooghly river. Saving the Calcutta port was its main purpose. That port itself has now moved farther down the river. Instead of drawing from the fresh water of the river, the numerous municipalities in the metropolitan area are digging below their feet, only to find that tubewells are bringing up water contaminated with pollutants and arsenic. Flooding, poor drainage and solid waste continue to be major problems in the old and so-called new parts of the metropolis.

Thanks to the changed context and features of the economy, some hope is emerging to Calcutta's west. Loyalist Calcuttans now seem to realize that Durgapur and Asansol are not that far off and can be possible destinations for the future. Durgapur is not a collection of sweatshops or soot-filled chimneys. It is the creation of professionals of post-Independence India. Shopping malls, coffee shops and multiplexes might not have been part of B.C. Roy's dream of transforming Bengal from its feudatory somnolence to an industrial economy, but if these are what our young people are attracted to, so be it. For long we had grappled with the problem of Durgapur being a collection of company townships in search of a city. Fortunately, back in 1970, the then chairman of Hindustan Steel, K.T. Chandy, responded to the request to give back to the development authority a fair chunk of land which is now the City Centre. But, as in Ranchi or Bokaro, Bhilai or Rourkela, getting around within these towns continues to be a problem. West Bengal will do well to pay some attention to enhancing connectivity and provision of transport within Durgapur. Instead of loosing so much political capital and economic opportunity in the needless battle for Singur, one wishes, West Bengal had prevailed on the Tatas to take the large built-up space or adjoining industrial land available in the defunct mining and allied machinery corporation in Durgapur. After all, West Bengal can claim expertise in taking over derelict factories for one rupee and trying to revive them. Transforming ready-built and largely empty sheds into a motor-car factory could not have been that difficult.

On the governance front, little has been done. Within Calcutta itself, the mayor-in-council system was a useful new initiative which did not have to wait for Rajiv Gandhi's 74th amendment initiative. But it has remained there. On the contrary, the elevated constitutional status for municipalities, big and small, has made it difficult for a metropolitan view to be sustained. The Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Committee, supposed to provide the vision and strategy for development, has remained a sub-critical group. The development authority was expected to provide cerebral support to this group, but that body itself has been preoccupied with projects of one kind or another. What goes by the name of planning in the metropolitan area now is "plotting" by individual developers, and that too in the wrong side of the city.

A compelling observation at the symposium was that the CMDA and the government have to urgently revisit their planning perspective, strategy and governance machinery. For the hapless people of West Bengal, the defence or capture of Writers' Buildings cannot be an end in itself. It is not even an answer to the problems of the metropolis. The sooner this is understood, and the real problem grappled with, the better.

The author is a former chief executive of the Durgapur and Calcutta Development Authorities




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




Eleven of the 31 people convicted for the burning of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra station in February 2002, which resulted in the death of 59 passengers, have been given the death sentence. The rest will serve life sentences. This is the first time in independent India that so many people have been given the death sentence in a single case. The large number of persons handed out the death sentence is reason for concern.

Whether the burning of the train was an accident or the result of a conspiracy remains disputed, although the trial court settled this dispute somewhat when it convicted 31 of the accused last week. Yet, not everyone is convinced that the trial or the verdict was fair. In a situation where even the slightest doubt exists over the reliability of evidence and witnesses, should the court have handed out the capital punishment?

Capital punishment has been abolished in many countries. India is among the holdouts although it is increasingly restrained in carrying it out. The fact that at least 29 petitions for commuting the death sentence are pending before the president without decision for several years is a sign that the state is not keen to carry out the execution. Yet it is not doing anything about abolishing it. Apologists of the death penalty claim that those who kill should be punished with death. Their approach is unforgiving, based on a flawed belief that revenge provides closure. Others argue that only the death penalty will deter others from carrying out similar crimes. There is the argument too that some criminals are incapable of reform; hence it is better to execute them. Why keep them alive in jails and spend on their upkeep, is their argument.

These arguments are without evidence and based on medieval approaches to life and death. There is no evidence to show that capital punishment acts as a deterrent. There is ample proof to show that human beings are amenable to change for the better. Basing punishment on revenge rather than reconciliation is a medieval approach to justice. Studies show that revenge is not conducive to healing wounds. Capital punishment is out of sync with India's liberal democracy. The mass meting out of the death sentence in the Godhra case calls for introspection and debate. It is time we debated the issue and did away with it as it provides space for miscarriage of justice.







The revelation by Reliance Communications to the supreme court that it was instructed by government authorities to tap as many as 1,50,000 phones between 2006 and 2010 points to the pervasiveness of telephone tapping in the country. If this is an indicator it shows that millions of telephones have been tapped in the country in the recent past because similar instructions must have gone to other service-providers too. The practice must be continuing even now. Telephone tapping is allowed only on grounds of protecting national security, sovereignty and public order. Tapping on such a large scale could not have been based on these considerations as India has not obviously reached a stage where tens of thousands of people have to be put under surveillance to ensure national security. The numbers give rise to the legitimate suspicion that telephone tapping is being resorted to for other purposes too.

Under the law and the guidelines issued by the supreme court, the decision to intercept a telephone conversations has to be authorised by the Union or state home secretary and reviewed by an oversight committee headed by the cabinet secretary. Since such a large number of interceptions have come to light, it follows that these authorities have to approve or endorse hundreds of decisions every day. This is inconceivable as they have much other work also to attend to. That makes most of the tapping activities illegal.

Whenever a telephone tapping incident comes to public light and becomes controversial the government promises that it would investigate, take action against those who might have acted wrongly and illegally and ensure that it would not occur again.

But the recurrence of such incidents and the revelations which have now been made show that the government is not serious about keeping its promise. It is also a matter of concern that private service providers are given the job of tapping telephones on behalf of security agencies or other arms of the government like the income tax department or the Enforcement Directorate. The information gained from such surveillance is liable to be misused in many ways. Only government agencies should engage in the tapping of phones and other surveillance measures and they should strictly follow the law and the laid down procedures in letter and spirit.







In 2010-11, Rs 5.02 lakh crore was provided by way of tax exemptions to industry. This is nothing but a subsidy for the rich.

Tracking budgets is not easy. While the finer points in any budget get drowned in the chorus that rises to appreciate the finance minister only when more sops are doled out to industry in the name of strengthening economic growth, I have begun to realise that a budget for the 'aam aadmi' comes only when elections are around the corner.

You can accuse me of being anti-growth, but the fact remains that unless the government pumps in money to pull out the poor from the clutches of poverty, following the indirect route to sink in money to industry, hoping some of it will trickle down to the poor, remains a faulty assumption. I have always said that if the government launches a direct assault on poverty, the GDP grows.

Well, it has taken several years for the government to realise that farmers need short-term crop loans at a lower rate of interest. The National Farmer Commission had made this recommendation four years back. Pranab Mukherjee has lowered the effective interest rate for farmers who pay back in time to 4 per cent. In addition, the total quantum of agricultural credit has been enhanced by Rs 1 lakh crore, from Rs 3.75 lakh crore in 2010-11 to Rs 4.75 lakh crore in 2011-02. These are welcome moves.

With five states going for elections, Mukherjee has reasons to remember the 'aam aadmi'. Although economists call such concessions 'populist' measures, I think these concessions for the poor and marginalised are in reality true economic measures that spur growth. A special relief package of Rs 3,000 crore to the debt-ridden weavers, for instance, has come about only because the UP elections are around the corner. Rahul Gandhi had led a team of weavers from UP to meet Manmohan Singh a week before the presentation of the budget. Whatever the reason, weavers are in crisis and the debt-waiver will benefit 3 lakh weavers working with 15,000 handloom cooperative societies.

A few months back, health minister Gulam Nabi Azad was gheraoed by angry ASHA workers when he visited Jaipur. They were protesting against the paltry wages — Rs 950 per month — they were getting for delivering basic health services and awareness to rural population. These low wages have been in continuation for several years now, and no one took care. Thanks to the coming elections, the finance minister has doubled their monthly salary, a move that will directly benefit 22 lakh 'aanganwadi' workers. He has also extended the benefit of health insurance that was given to NREGA workers last year, to unorganised labour in several areas.

Integrated development

At the same time, Mukherjee has provided Rs 30 crore for integrated development in each of the tribal districts in the naxalite-affected areas. This is a delayed recognition of the exclusion that almost all budgets have maintained all these years. With a little more vision, he could have launched several sustainable agricultural, health and education initiatives in the red corridor to revitalise the rural economy. If only he knew that agriculture is the first line of defence against Maoism, I am sure he would have thought on those lines.

In the name of inclusive growth, it is only industry and trade that have always walked away with the cake. In many ways the budget is simply an annual 'maalamal' exercise for the rich and the business community. Take the tax concessions that are doled out to industry every year and clubbed in the category of 'revenue foregone'. In 2010-11, the finance minister provided Rs 5.02 lakh crore by way of tax exemptions to industry. This is nothing but a subsidy for the rich. Since 2005-06, the total subsidy being showered on the industry and business sector amounts to a whopping Rs 16.45 lakh crore.

In Budget 2011, Mukherjee has cleverly hidden the annual subsidy dole given to industry, but has in addition to Rs 5.02 lakh crore given last year provided another Rs 1,38,921 crore as corporate and personal tax exemptions this year. Since the economic stimulus that was being given to the industry for tiding over the recession has still not been withdrawn, we can safely compute the total subsidy to the industry at over Rs 6.4 lakh crore. Considering that the annual budget is an exercise involving Rs 12 crore, the massive subsidisation of business and industry has never been questioned.

On the other hand, subsidy on fertilisers, food and fuel has been reduced by Rs 20,000 crore this year, over the revised estimates of last year. This is exactly what Noam Chomsky meant when he said we live in times of 'tough love' — love for the rich and tough for the poor.

The finance minister could have easily made a drastic cut in the 'revenue foregone' category and thereby made more resources available for making cheaper food and fuel available to the masses, for rebuilding the shattered economy of the naxalite-affected regions, and also for programmes he spelled out for promoting millet cultivation, fodder development, and for sustainable agriculture. These are excellent initiatives, but the budgetary allocation is too low to make any significant impact. More so in case of fodder cultivation, which has remained neglected through the period when a lot of emphasis was given on increasing milk production.








A big issue in Bahrain, particularly among Shiite men, is the unequal distribution of land.

Future historians will long puzzle over how the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, in protest over the confiscation of his fruit stand, managed to trigger popular uprisings across the Arab/Muslim world.

We know the big causes — tyranny, rising food prices, youth unemployment and social media. But since being in Egypt, I've been putting together my own back-of-the-envelope guess list of what I'd call the 'not-so-obvious forces' that fed this mass revolt. Here it is:

The Obama factor: Americans have never fully appreciated what a radical thing we did in electing an African-American with the middle name Hussein as president. I'm convinced that listening to Obama's 2009 Cairo speech were more than a few young Arabs who were saying to themselves: "He's young. I'm young. He's dark-skinned. I'm dark-skinned. His middle name is Hussein. He is president of the United States. And I'm an unemployed young Arab with no vote and no voice in my future." I'd put that in my mix of forces fuelling these revolts.

Google Earth: While Facebook has gotten all the face time in Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain, don't forget Google Earth, which began roiling Bahraini politics in 2006. A big issue in Bahrain, particularly among Shiite men who want to get married and build homes, is the unequal distribution of land. On Nov 27, 2006, on the eve of parliamentary elections in Bahrain, 'The Washington Post' ran this report from there: "Mahmood, who lives in a house with his parents, four siblings and their children, said he became even more frustrated when he looked up Bahrain on Google Earth and saw vast tracts of empty land, while tens of thousands of mainly poor Shiites were squashed together in small, dense areas.

Israel: The Arab TV network Al Jazeera has a big team covering Israel today. Here are some of the stories they have been beaming into the Arab world: Israel's previous prime minister, Ehud Olmert, had to resign because he was accused of illicitly taking envelopes stuffed with money from a Jewish-American backer. An Israeli court recently convicted Israel's former president Moshe Katsav on two counts of rape, based on accusations by former employees. And just a few weeks ago, Israel, at the last second, rescinded the appointment of Maj Gen Yoav Galant as the army's new chief of staff after Israeli environmentalists spurred a government investigation that concluded General Galant had seized public land near his home. This surely got a few laughs in Egypt where land sales to fat cats and cronies of the regime that have resulted in huge overnight profits have been the talk of Cairo this past year. When you live right next to a country that is bringing to justice its top leaders for corruption and you live in a country where many of the top leaders are corrupt, well, you notice.

The Beijing Olympics: China and Egypt were both great civilisations subjected to imperialism and were both dirt poor back in the 1950s, with China even poorer than Egypt, Edward Goldberg, who teaches business strategy, wrote in 'The Globalist'. But, today, China has built the world's second-largest economy, and Egypt is still living on foreign aid. What do you think young Egyptians thought when they watched the dazzling opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics? China's Olympics were another wake-up call telling young Egyptians that something was very wrong with their country, argued Goldberg.

The Fayyad factor: Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad introduced a new form of government in the Arab world in the last three years, something I've dubbed 'Fayyadism'. It said: judge me on my performance, on how I deliver government services and collect the garbage and create jobs. Every Arab could relate to this. Chinese had to give up freedom but got economic growth and decent government in return. Arabs had to give up freedom and got the Arab-Israeli conflict and unemployment in return.

Add it all up and what does it say? It says you have a very powerful convergence of forces driving a broad movement for change. It says we're just at the start of something huge. And it says that if we don't have a more serious energy policy, the difference between a good day and bad day for America from here on will hinge on how the 86-year-old king of Saudi Arabia manages all this change.







Curly pressed to his heart the carcass of the dog and wept like a child.

In a world where kindness is rewarded with ingratitude and love and affection have become rare the following story of the love between a man and his dog has served to restore my faith in the positive goodness of God's creations. The man in the story is Curly, so labelled in my mind as he has curly, grey hair, and his dog as Whitey as it was a pretty little white Pomeranian, his fleece as white as snow like that of Mary's Lamb.

Every morning, precisely at 7 am this man, clad in a collarless white shirt and dhoti, would accompany Whitey on their daily morning walk. As I sat in my balcony and watched Curly and Whitey would pass by my house. The prevalent practice for dogs is to drag their masters by the leash in the direction of their choice, as though they were taking their masters out for their daily walk, and not vice versa. But Curly never kept Whitey on a leash. The latter would always trot ahead of his master, never too far away, and come to a halt in front of my house as though by appointment, for his attraction was my son's mobike parked in front of the house. To raise his hind leg and bathe the rear wheel in a hot shower had become a ritual for him, after which duty done the dog and his master would pass on, and play a return date in another 15 or 20 minutes. And this time around the dog, probably feeling that he should not be found guilty of discrimination between the two wheels of my son's mobike, would relieve himself on the front wheel. Thus, having administered the required minimum dose for an adult wheel, Whitey would pass on homewards in the wake of his master.

One day, as Whitey was in the process of supplying its quota to the front wheel, his master happened to look up. Seeing me seated in the balcony he said, "hullo!" I waved to him and said, "Your dog's contribution to our two-wheeler is much appreciated." Curly laughed. And that was the beginning of one of those fortuitous friendships. Soon I picked up bits and pieces about Curly's life. He was a widower with two daughters, both married off, and no sons. He lived all alone, except for his faithful Whitey, cooking his own meals and caring for his beloved canine companion. Once in a while I used to drop in at his house situated in the same street as mine, and exchange views.

Then, for about a week there was no sign of either the man or the dog, which was rather strange. So I called A his place one morning. I found him huddled up in a chair. But there was no sign of the dog.

"Where is the dog?" I enquired.

"When the poor thing barked and I opened the door they... killed him with a stick... before looting the house."


"The dacoits." Then he pressed to his heart the carcass of the dog and wept like a child, saying, "Can't live without bun." And he didn't. He died the next day. Heart attack,said the neighbours. Broken heart, I would have said. Love sublime, Wordsworth would have said.



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



"We're broke! We're broke!" Speaker John Boehner said on Sunday. "We're broke in this state," Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin said a few days ago. "New Jersey's broke," Gov. Chris Christie has said repeatedly. The United States faces a "looming bankruptcy," Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist, wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

It's all obfuscating nonsense, of course, a scare tactic employed for political ends. A country with a deficit is not necessarily any more "broke" than a family with a mortgage or a college loan. And states have to balance their budgets. Though it may disappoint many conservatives, there will be no federal or state bankruptcies.

The federal deficit is too large for comfort, and most states are struggling to balance their books. Some of that is because of excessive spending, and much is because the recession has driven down tax revenues. But a substantial part was caused by deliberate decisions by state and federal lawmakers to drain government of resources by handing out huge tax cuts, mostly to the rich. As governments begin to stagger from the self-induced hemorrhaging, Republican politicians like Mr. Boehner and Mr. Walker cry poverty and use it as an excuse to break unions and kill programs they never liked in flush years.

On Wednesday, to cite just the latest example, House Republicans successfully pressured the Senate to approve a bill cutting $4 billion in spending just to keep the federal government from shutting down for the next two weeks. In a matter of days, the Senate will be forced to take up the House bill to make more than $61 billion in ruinous cuts over the next seven months, all under the pretext of "fiscal responsibility." (At least the White House says it will be involved in the next round.) Many Republican governors are employing the same tactic.

But now voters are starting to notice the effects of these cuts and to get angry at the ideological overreach. A New York Times/CBS News poll published on Tuesday showed that Americans oppose ending bargaining rights for public unions by a majority of nearly two to one. And the poll sharply refutes the post-Reagan Republican mantra that the public invariably abhors all tax increases. Nearly twice as many people said they would prefer a tax increase to cutting benefits of public employees or to cutting spending on roads.

A Gallup poll last week showed that 61 percent of respondents nationwide reject Mr. Walker's attempt to revoke collective-bargaining rights for public unions, including 41 percent of the Republicans polled. Like the Times/CBS poll, Gallup found a mixed result about the overall popularity of unions, suggesting that labor is on firm ground in defending its basic rights but still needs to negotiate with the public good in mind.

Before the union uprising, Wisconsin voters might not have noticed when Mr. Walker approved business tax cuts earlier this year that made his budget gap worse. But now, with his cries of being "broke," they should listen more closely. On Tuesday, he unveiled a budget that would cut aid to school districts and local governments by nearly $1 billion over two years, while preventing those jurisdictions from raising property taxes at all to make up for the loss.

Perhaps because of the economic downturn, voting among union households was sharply down last November, which may help explain some of the Republican gains. Mr. Walker and his fellow Republicans, may wind up turning that around next year.





In a narrow ruling in the sense of applying law to one set of facts, the Supreme Court has provided an admirable reminder of how broad the protection of free speech is under the Constitution's First Amendment, including hurtful and hateful speech.

The court has said before that speech about public affairs is "the essence of self-government," warranting "special protection." Writing for an eight-justice majority, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. argued that this country has chosen "to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate."

In Snyder v. Phelps, the issue was signs displayed by picketers at the funeral of a Marine, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq. The signs included such disgusting statements as "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "Fags Doom Nations." The Rev. Fred Phelps, the founder of Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, used Corporal Snyder's funeral, as he has other military funerals, to publicize his belief that God hates the United States because of its tolerance of homosexuality.

To Chief Justice Roberts, while this view may make a "negligible" contribution to "public discourse," it is about "matters of public import," including "the political and moral conduct of the United States and its citizens." He wrote that the picketing was orderly and on public land, in compliance with local rules and done under police supervision — in other words, fully constitutional.

The court found that the church is not liable for a $5 million jury award to Albert Snyder, Matthew's father, for infliction of emotional distress and other wrongs.

A dissent by Justice Samuel Alito Jr. underscored the wounding nature of the Westboro group's words. He wrote that he would not have protected what seemed to him a "vicious verbal assault" on the Snyders.

Justice Stephen Breyer, who otherwise joined the majority, filed a concurrence to make sure the dissent is not written off as a jeremiad. "As I understand the court's opinion," he said, "it does not hold or imply that the state is always powerless to provide private individuals with necessary protection."

The Roberts opinion takes on added meaning in light of the other two. "Speech is powerful," the chief justice observed. "It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker."

In the kind of incisive language he is capable of when he cares about the legal principle at stake, Chief Justice Roberts described the effects of words wielded as weapons against individuals, while arguing that even deeply flawed ideas must be defended because they are part of the public debate on which this country depends.






Federal investigators have finally delivered a get-tough message to the coal industry with the indictment of Hughie Stover, the security chief at the Upper Big Branch Mine where 29 men perished last April. Mr. Stover is accused of lying to investigators and ordering the destruction of records as federal agents sought to get to the root causes of the deadliest mine disaster in 40 years.

We applaud the determination of United States Attorney R. Booth Goodwin II to press the inquiry as "too important to tolerate any attempt to hinder it." For too long industry has dismissed mining tragedies as the cost of doing business — while regulators have enabled even the worst operators. Before the explosion, Upper Big Branch was the site of hundreds of grossly habitual safety violations that, at best, drew slapped-wrist penalties.

Technical investigations of the blast are under way amid suspicions that inadequate control over coal dust and methane was a factor. At the core of the indictment is the widespread industry practice of spreading sotto voce warnings of the arrival of federal mine investigators so management can cover up potential violations.

Mr. Stover denied the tip-offs were a practice at Upper Big Branch. The indictment describes a surreptitious phone warning system and describes how documents were destroyed to hinder the postblast inquiry.

Reform measures — including making the tip-off culture a felony with heavy penalties — have been offered by Congressional Democrats, but Big Coal has pushed back hard. The Obama administration has proposed stronger regulations to foil the industry practice of nonstop violation appeals so obviously risky mines can be kept running. That is an absolute necessity despite industry opposition.

The country needs to know why so many miners came to perish at Upper Big Branch. The grand jury has made clear that Big Coal cannot cover up the truth.





If there is a lesson from this week's resignations of two scandal-tainted European ministers it's this: Once a leader loses trust, it's best to exit quickly. France's now departed foreign minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, and Germany's departed defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, both tried to tough it out, further damaging their governments and reputations.

That is particularly true in the case of Ms. Alliot-Marie. Her downfall came over disclosures that she went on holiday in Tunisia as protests gathered force there and then talked of offering the embattled Ben Ali regime French expertise in riot control.

The behavior was indefensible, but Ms. Alliot-Marie didn't get it, claiming in her resignation that she and her family were the victims of attacks by "certain media." Fortunately, her departure was accompanied by an immediate toughening of Paris's stance toward Libya.

Mr. zu Guttenberg's sin was of a different order. He was found to have plagiarized large portions of his doctoral thesis. He tried to hang on for almost two weeks — supported by Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said she had hired a minister, not a "research assistant."

If the resignations demonstrated the peaceful cleansing powers of democracy, they were also lamentable. Ms. Alliot-Marie, 64, who previously served as minister of defense, interior and justice, was a highly competent politician who broke many gender barriers.

The departure of Mr. zu Guttenberg, 39, a rising political star, was the right thing to do but particularly unfortunate. As defense minister, he ended conscription and introduced reforms to streamline the German military and ready it for postcold-war requirements. He declared on resignation that they would be carried out, and we strongly urge his successor to ensure that they are.

Of course, in politics, fallen stars can rise again. Ms. Alliot-Marie was replaced by Alain Juppé, a former prime minister convicted in 2004 of mishandling public funds. As for Mr. zu Guttenberg, a baron who lives in his ancestral Bavarian castle, his popularity ratings still remain among the highest of any politician in Germany.






In honor of Women's History Month, President Obama ordered up the first report on the status of American women since the one Eleanor Roosevelt prepared for John F. Kennedy. It's chock full of interesting bits of information.

For instance, did you know that the median marriage age for college-educated women is 30? I should have figured that out because I can barely think of a single college-educated woman under the age of 30 who is married. But somehow it still came as a surprise. I got married when I was 25, and I felt as if that was extremely late in the game. Of course, that was in the Mesozoic era, and we had no end of trouble keeping the stegosaurus away from the wedding cake.

Additional reports from "Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being" include information on everything from volunteering (women do more) to housework (go ahead and guess). It has some findings I don't quite know what to do with, like: "While male students are more likely to be victimized with weapons, female students are more likely to experience electronic bullying." Electronic bullying is definitely a bad thing, but I can't help feeling as though we're getting the better end of that deal.

We're a long way from the Eleanor Roosevelt Commission on the Status of Women, which was formed when there were no women on the White House staff doing anything more impressive than typing or cake decoration. "Men have to be reminded that women exist," Mrs. Roosevelt tartly told reporters when the all-male list of top Kennedy administration appointees was released.

At the time, there were 454 federal civil service job categories for college graduates, and more than 200 were restricted to male applicants. It was perfectly legal to refuse to hire a woman for a job because of her failure to be a man, or to refuse her credit unless she had a husband to co-sign her loan. The median age for marriage for a woman was 20, and the only job open to most women that involved a chance to travel was flight attendant.

We're in a different world, but this latest report highlights the one glaring gap: working women still make, on average, much less than men. Among people who work full time, women make an average 80 cents for every $1 that men take home.

There has always been a big difference: in 1979, women made only 62 percent of what men did. And the report suggests that part of the problem is because of the fact that women tend to pursue the lowest-paying professional careers, notably teaching. Perhaps part of the answer is just to increase compensation for people who devote their careers to education. Perhaps the governors could take that up next time they get together to discuss public employee unions.

I've always believed the other big factor is the strain of balancing work and family. Women do better in school — now all the way to graduate school where they get the majority of doctoral degrees. And young single women tend to make higher wages than young single men. The change comes at the point when many women have to consider their children. Perhaps the House of Representatives could take that up next time they get together to discuss whether they really want to eliminate federally financed child care programs.

"The thing that we're hoping men will focus on: This is not a woman's issue; it's a family issue," said Valerie Jarrett, who leads the White House Council on Women and Girls.

That's really the big story for today. Americans are so used to the fact that women are capable of doing anything that we hardly ever discuss it. It's been a long time since the leader of NASA said "talk of an American spacewoman makes me sick to my stomach."

A change that happened later, and the one that's going to be driving the future, is that women's ability to succeed in their work life is now a matter of concern for both sexes. The turning point for American women really came on the unknown day when the average American couple started planning their futures with the presumption that there would be two paychecks. In a country where no one has real power without a serious economic role, we entered a time when, whether we liked it or not, all hands were needed to keep the economic ship afloat. Even women who get the opportunity to stay home when their children are young have to be ready to jump back into the work force if their partner is suddenly laid off.

A while back, I was visiting a college in Connecticut where most of the students were the first in their families ever to go beyond high school. I was talking with a group of young men and women, and I asked the men how many of them felt it was very important that their future wife be a good earner.

All of them raised their hands.






In 1986, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi gave an interview to a group of female foreign journalists. Then he invited them, one by one, into a room furnished with just a bed and television and propositioned them.

They rebuffed him, and after three successive rejections he got the message and gave up. But the incident reflects something important about Colonel Qaddafi that is worth remembering today: He's nuts.

The Libyan "king of kings" blends delusion, menace, pomposity, a penchant for risk-taking — and possession of tons of mustard gas. That's why it's crucial that world powers, working with neighboring countries like Egypt and Tunisia, steadily increase the pressure while Colonel Qaddafi is wobbling so that he leaves the scene as swiftly as possible.

Unfortunately, Mr. Qaddafi has gained a bit of ground in the last few days, at least in the capital of Tripoli. He has used mercenaries to terrorize people and even drag injured protesters out of hospitals, so a sullen calm has returned to Tripoli for now.

Is there anything that America and other countries can do? Yes, absolutely. But, first, a word about what we can't do.

It would be counterproductive for American and European troops to land on Libyan soil or to start bombing runs because that would play into Colonel Qaddafi's narrative about imperialists trying to seize his country. The truth is that after Iraq, we just don't have a realistic option of invading another Arab country with oil.

But what we can do is continue to squeeze Colonel Qaddafi, show resolve and make it clear that his departure is only a matter of time. That resolve won't change Colonel Qaddafi's mind, but it can peel off more of the Libyan military. And some of those military officers already are wavering.

On Saturday, when I was in Egypt and it looked as if the Qaddafi government might collapse at any time, I had a call from Tripoli: A senior Libyan military officer who had been ordered to attack rebel-held towns was defecting to the rebels instead. The officer wanted me to report his defection — along with his call for other military officers to do the same — and he had already recorded a video of his defection that I could post immediately on the New York Times Web site.

I was delighted but asked what preparations he had made to protect his family from retribution. None, it turned out.

I urged the officer to hide his family to ensure that his wife and children weren't kidnapped or killed in retaliation. A bit later, I heard back that the officer would accept the risk to his family. I suggested that the officer think this through carefully one more time — and this time the officer actually consulted his wife, who was displeased. The officer sheepishly postponed the announcement of his defection temporarily.

In the days since then, with Colonel Qaddafi having gained ground in Tripoli, the defection no longer seems to be on the table.

My sense is that many Libyan military officers are a bit like that one. They're uncomfortable attacking fellow Libyans, but they're also fearful that they or their families will be killed if they refuse. If the outside world signals resolutely that Colonel Qaddafi's ouster is only a matter of time, there's much more chance that officers will find ways to avoid going down with their leader.

The dispatch of American naval vessels to the sea off Libya is a useful step to show resolve. So are sanctions. A no-fly zone would have only a small impact on the fighting, but it would be a powerful signal to the Libyan military to stand down. Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, said Wednesday that the Arab League and African Union might work together to impose a no-fly zone, and Western countries should cooperate closely with them on the idea. We could also try to disrupt Libya's military communications.

One possible solution to the crisis being discussed within Libya is for Colonel Qaddafi, who isn't actually president or prime minister, to retire with his sons to his hometown of Sirte and relinquish power to his longtime friend, Mohamed al-Zwai, who is technically head of state. Mr. Zwai, the former ambassador to Britain, has a reputation as a pragmatist and might then be able to bring in rival groups and tribes and stitch the country back together again in a more democratic way. It's a long shot but worth exploring — and it's feasible only if Colonel Qaddafi and his friends believe that otherwise they are going down.

The more pressure we apply, the more chance of avoiding an apocalypse. A well-connected friend in Tripoli grimly said of Colonel Qaddafi: "He believes that since he has nowhere to go, he'll take as many people with him as he can."






Benghazi, Libya

NOTHING is impossible in this life. We can discuss any subject calmly. We only need good intentions. The "are you for me or against me?" narrative is useless. I'm neither for you, nor against you, nor even in the middle.

If I take a position, then I am not being a writer. I am near you, but you can't see me. I can't see you either, even as you bleed into my heart. I'm not concerned with observing where people stand on the issues. I'm concerned only with observing the serious little girl who lost her one uncle in a massacre at a Libyan prison.

"Where's Uncle, Daddy?"

"He's traveling."

"Will he be back soon?"

"He'll be back soon, my darling, and bring you a lovely revolution."

"And why doesn't he call us?"

"He has no phone credits, but he'll charge his phone card and call us soon, my love."

"Give me his number. I'll call him. I have a phone card."

"Dial any number between 1 and 1200, and he'll reply."

The serious child tells me that she called him, and that a voice on the phone told her that he was off at Friday prayers.

"So I slept and dreamed, Daddy," she says. "That a tall man in a white robe walked around the tomb of Omar al-Mukhtar in Benghazi, then he got on his white horse and flew up into the sky; he waved at me, Daddy, and threw me a fragrant flower. When I woke up, I didn't find it planted in my heart, but the slightly salty scent of Benghazi — of Libya — is still there; take my hand, Daddy, and smell it, to make sure. I won't ever wash my hand again. I want the scent to stay with me forever."

I told my daughter: "Wash your hands. The smell won't go. Water washes only dirt away."

The revolution in my country is aflame, and has achieved considerable success, internally and internationally. Each time a city is liberated, makeshift institutions to manage everyday life and defend freedom arise, and more members of the former regime's leadership, whether they are political, cultural or business figures, join in.

Our flag is no longer a solid green field; the one we carry now is red, black and green with a crescent and star in the middle. The colors are a reminder of the darkness and colonization we have suffered in our history.

For decades, we lived in terror, surrounded by spies and informants, facing the risk of imprisonment or "disappearance" at any moment. No one could intervene on your behalf; there were no real courts, no human rights, nothing.

Everything before this revolution was dedicated to enriching the tyrant and his family. Everything was for their benefit: the army, the police, water, culture, education, hotels, restaurants, the flag. Even sex was regulated: many people couldn't marry until the regime organized a mass wedding or they were "gifted" a bedroom for the wedding night.

Fifteen years ago, in a single night, the tyrant and his mercenaries murdered 1,200 people at the Abu Salim prison in Tripoli, where political prisoners are held. The bodies were piled in a mass unmarked grave — prisoners from all over Libya, of all ages, killed without even a symbolic trial. My only brother was one of them.

I wrote about the massacre in my first novel. And my second. And my third. And I was not the only one who couldn't forget. The brutality of that summer evening was one of the sparks that ignited this revolution. The families of those victims began the current protests, here in Benghazi, and were soon joined by the young men of the revolution.

Now, despite the violence of the regime all around us, those cities that have been liberated are buoyant with joy; we have tasted freedom. The fear, terror, tension and nervousness that had characterized Libyans has vanished; old disputes have dissipated. Everyone wants to help, undaunted by rain and hunger.

This revolution has transformed Libyans, has made us feel that there is a thing called freedom that must be won, and that one should not enjoy it alone, at the expense of others' happiness, toil or lives.

I have barely any time to write: I'm spending my days among the crowds. I would rather live the revolution now than write it — it's still fresh, newborn, untainted by additions and blind custom. It is a Libyan-flavored revolution, a mixture of spice and salt and light that smells like the blessings that come from the lanterns of saints.

For years, I have run into old friends only occasionally, at the Friday market or at funerals, weddings and sporting events. Now, I meet with many of my childhood friends in the streets and alleyways of the revolution.

The walls have become murals, decorated with new slogans chanting the glories of the revolution and its martyrs, and denouncing tyrants and their terrorist ways. These phrases are full of terrible grammatical and spelling errors, but are nevertheless honest and artistic.

They were born with the birth of freedom and life, and these graffiti should never be painted over. They should be kept there until the sun's rays fade them, although I doubt that the sun would erase such eternal markings.

I don't want to speak of the massacres that have been committed in the last weeks by the regime: the world has been listening to and watching images of these brutal, gut-wrenching crimes. I want instead to speak of the people who have won, who have defeated death. The martyrs of this revolution have not just been young men and women; there have been martyrs of all ages, of all educational levels, of all social classes. Libya has risen in its entirety.

We are not copying anyone, but we must admit to having been inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. We cannot know happiness as long as the tyrant remains; how could we possibly visit Tunisians and Egyptians unless we can hold our heads as high as theirs, as high as those of all the free people of the world?

Libyans have been patient for a long time, but our patience was not cowardice. We waited for the moment of true inspiration, and now that it has come and the time is right, we have achieved our goal, with a courage and motivation that has astonished the world.

Our revolution is a revolution of the people, people who can no longer stand the stench of tyranny, who cannot be healed by handouts. The pressure reached its limit. So the people erupted and proclaimed their desire for a better life.

And they were met with the murderous glare of a tyrant, and not with mere tear gas but with live bullets and tanks and aircraft and missile fire. So we called ourselves the "grandchildren of Omar al-Mukhtar," in homage to the resistance leader who was martyred in 1931 for telling the Italian occupiers that the Libyan people would not surrender, and would either win or die. And we persevered, we endured and we won.

Now, it seems, the country is beautiful. Its women are lovelier than ever, their smiles are sweeter and their hearts are full of song. Even the sick have been healed; their disease was caused by the blight of dictatorship.

The people of the entire world are with us. And even before we had their support, we had their respect for our revolution, which has not been marred by looting or vandalism. Our goal is clear: to bring down a fascist regime that made us as a nation unwelcome in the world.

We will transform Libya into a beacon of civilization and science and culture, a meritocracy where each person will earn his or her position, regardless of ideology or tribe. We will work as transparently as we can, and we will make the world trust us, and help us. Everyone here is convinced that Libya's liberty has already been won, and that now we must work toward its safety. The revolution now needs talent, not loyalty.

The Libyan people are now brothers of mankind. We can speak freely to those in the Arab world and elsewhere whom we have longed to meet, and can embrace them without fear. Our lives as Libyans have been troublesome: for those of us lucky enough to travel, everywhere we faced an accusatory finger — for the disappearance of the Lebanese Shiite cleric Musa al-Sadr on a trip to Libya in 1978; for the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 and the downing of a French airline over Niger the next year. But now we have shown the world that the blame for these acts does not lie with the Libyan people, but with the heinous dictatorship.

Long ago, I promised a little girl that my only brother would return. He did, and he brought with him a revolution.

Mohammad al-Asfar is a novelist. This essay was translated by Ghenwa Hayek from the Arabic.






We do not know what the outcome will be in Libya, where protesters seeking freedom have been brutally attacked by forces loyal to dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

At this writing, Gadhafi and opposition forces are battling over a key airstrip and oil facility, and the opposition controls nearly half the nation's territory. Hundreds of Libyans have died.

Meanwhile, we could not help but notice that the U.N.'s badly misnamed "Human Rights Council" has temporarily suspended Libya from membership on the council.

That raises an obvious question: How did Libya come to be a member of the Human Rights Council in the first place? The supposed goal of that body is to boost human rights worldwide. What evidence has Libya, under the Gadhafi dictatorship for four decades, shown that it has the faintest interest in protecting the rights of its own people, much less the rights of people around the world?

For that matter, there is no reason to believe that the Human Rights Council itself promotes individual liberty. You'll notice that Libya, despite its ongoing oppression of its people, was not actually removed from the council but only suspended for the time being.

Ironically, just last November, the Human Rights Council praised Libya for its alleged support of democracy and defense of human rights.

That's no surprise. Among the council's other members are Saudi Arabia, Communist China and Communist Cuba. What does any of those countries have to do with the promotion and defense of personal freedom? In fact, Freedom House points out that most member nations on the U.N. Human Rights Council are themselves "not free" or only "partly free."

How can such countries have any legitimacy when they issue statements about the rights enjoyed or denied in other nations?

People of good will should fervently hope that freedom, representative government and the rule of law will take hold in Libya. But one thing is certain: The less the U.N. has to do with that process, the better off Libya and the entire Middle East will be.





Does anyone question the fact that our Congress and president have the responsibility to keep the federal government running? Congress has the job of assuring that the delegated functions of our government are financed, and the president has the duty to carry out those functions.

But disagreements over spending led to a near-shutdown of the federal government, as appropriated money was expected to run out tomorrow!

President Barack Obama had asked Congress to OK enough money to keep federal agencies running for 30 days, to avoid the partial shutdown Friday. The House rejected that, 355-91, with all Tennessee representatives except Democrat Steve Cohen of Memphis voting instead for a measure to keep the government fully functioning for two weeks beyond Friday. The mostly Republican-backed two-week extension cut $4 billion in spending, and the bill was later approved, albeit reluctantly, by the Democrat-run Senate.

The president plans to sign the stop-gap measure into law.

The short-term bill and the $4 billion in cuts show "responsible governance by House Republicans," read a statement released by the office of U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, a Republican who represents the Georgia congressional district that borders Hamilton County. "With the spending driven debt crisis in full force, our aim continues to be shrinking the size of government, not shutting it down."

The initial cuts are worthwhile, but the problem of overspending in general remains, with a majority of members of Congress still refusing to face financial reality.

So what's going to happen two weeks down the road? Most likely there will be some maneuvering, posturing and postponing — and a little spending may be cut, while too much spending will continue.

The president and all members of Congress ran for office eagerly, begging us to elect them to do our federal government's business. But how many of them do you think are doing the job they swore they would do?

Watch what happens next, and see which members of Congress "do the right thing," while others don't.






Nobody who expects to be elected president of the United States has a chance of winning without a long campaign — and lots of money.

President Barack Obama will be seeking a second term, of course. An "in" president usually has a better chance than an "out" candidate, unless the "in" becomes very unpopular because of things he does or doesn't do, or because of circumstances in the nation or the world that are beyond his control.

At any rate, there is at least some certainty about who the Democrat candidate will be.

But the field is "wide open" for Republican challengers.

What GOP candidates can be expected to run? The prospects — so far — are either not very exciting or somewhat unknown.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is making presidential noises — again. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is ever hopeful. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is "very much considering" running for president again. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty — who? — is being mentioned, as is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. And former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin may throw her hat in the ring, too.

All right, who else is "itching" to run? Whom do you want to be president? Who would have a chance to win — and should? Winning candidates and campaigns don't develop overnight.

Or will we inaugurate Obama again in January 2013?







Main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has proposed, as we reported yesterday, that the ongoing and controversial "Ergenekon" and "Balyoz" (Sledgehammer) trials be put on live television. We agree wholeheartedly. But not for the reasons given by the chief of the Republican People's Party, or CHP. 

"The hearings should be broadcast live so people can see ... who is right and who is wrong," Kılıçdaroğlu said. That would not be our goal. For decisions of right or wrong, guilt or innocence, are the province of the presiding judges. Not since Istanbul was part of the Roman Empire have the spectators been called upon to decide who should be punished or spared. 

Our view is that the conduct of these cases, sloppy at best and arbitrary at worst, has effectively put Turkey's civilian-military history and the professionalism of the judiciary itself on trial. Transparency, openness and full public access to the trials is the appropriate response in this instance and television will surely serve that aim. 

The guiding principle, of course, must be the European Convention on Human Rights that supports maximum public access with supreme concern being the guarantee of the due process rights of the accused. The latter concern would only be served by television.

We would note the ample precedent. Televised trials have been allowed from time to time in Australia, China, France, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Spain, the European Court of Human Rights, Canada and – of course – the United States. American judges have, however, backed away from TV somewhat since the infamous 1995 trial of football star O.J. Simpson, a case now synonymous with courtroom theatrics.

But two dramatic cases have parallels with Turkey, where the content and conduct of the trial were as important as anything else. 

The first televised trial in history was the 1961 tribunal in Israel of Nazi SS Lieutenant Col. Adolf Eichmann. It was a graduate of the Istanbul University Faculty of Law, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, who demanded it be on TV to reveal to the world the scope of the Nazi campaign to exterminate European Jewry.  

The second relevant case is the 1975 televised trial of the members of the military junta in Greece that had been toppled as democracy was restored the year before. It laid before the Greek public and the world the scope of crimes committed by men in uniform.

Those on trial in both Turkish coup cases are accused of crimes that cannot be compared with the Holocaust. But the public stake in understanding what an unaccountable military is alleged to have done is comparable. In the example of the Greek trial on television, we think the parallels are so direct that no explanation is needed.

We certainly hope the Turkish government and judiciary will agree.

The views expressed in the Straight represent the consensus opinion of the Hürriyet Daily News and its editorial board members.






The media usher Iran front and center whenever turmoil hits the Middle East. That's now happening again. There's a growing judgment that as Arab governments reel and revolts spread, the Islamic republic will probably end up the big winner. Commentators far and wide are coming to this view.

It's an attention-getting view, but as things stand now it's almost certainly wrong. Portraying Iran as the main beneficiary of the uprisings does feed the news cycle; Iran is one of the scarier countries in the world. But there's little substance today in the claims that the tide of revolutionary events in the region is running in its favor.

Instead, in the near future, as in the past, Iran will capitalize on events to make destructive mischief, but as things play out it will project no more significant influence outside its border than before and it will remain insecure at home. Its real power will not increase.

A look at Iran's weight in the balance of power is indicative. Iran can only be said to have come up a winner if the power of its main enemies, Israel and the United States, is diminished. Has this happened?

It's true that Israel has been shaken by the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, but there's little likelihood that Egypt, with a military-buttressed government in its future, will undercut Israel's real security any more than it did during the cold peace of the past decades. Top Egyptian generals know their Israeli counterparts personally; they have hammered out coexistence agreements over the years. Internal politics in the new Egypt will probably cause the country to abrogate its peace treaty with the Jewish state. Egypt will ease its controls on the Sinai border with Gaza to allow in more goods, inevitably including smuggled weaponry. Steps like these will cause Israel to tighten its security, and clashes in Gaza will intensify as Tel Aviv cracks down. The politics of the new Egypt, however, will not seriously weaken Israel.

The United States lost a reflexively friendly regime in Mubarak's downfall, but will retain most of its ties to the Egyptian military, which will have a telling vote in the decisions of any new government. The ties will be maintained because Egypt will need a continuation of the huge financial aid that the U.S. will make available. Except for Soviet-trained old-timers like Marshal Tantawi, almost all field-grade Egyptian officers have been trained in the United States. The ties between Cairo's top brass and Washington are close. Cairo will no longer be as obedient to the United States, but neither will it break away.

Just how much a newly autonomous Egypt will go its own way became a question last week after two Iranian warships were finally allowed to pass through the Suez Canal. A lot has been made of the stop-start scenario that resolved itself in a green light for an Iranian frigate and companion ship to come up the canal. Egyptian permission for the ships' passage was fairly predictable. The Egyptian population needed a gesture of independence from the United States. Almost certainly it was discussed with Washington.

The Iranian ships, the first vessels from their country to ply the canal in the past 30 years, will by this reading have berthed at the Syrian port of Latakia. They will have been trailed there by U.S. and other Western electronic surveillance ships and inspected by satellite. For Iran, a regular sea supply route to its Syrian ally, and hence Hezbollah, would be vastly superior to the tricky overland routes used now. One can be sure, however, that this will have been the last uncontested Iranian sea delivery. In any case, the appearance of a pair of Iranian ships in the Mediterranean should not be taken as a foreshadowing of anything comparable to the battle squadrons of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet that roamed the Mediterranean during the Cold War.

What about Saudi Arabia, Iran's regional rival? Regime collapses elsewhere, even next door, have jolted the Saudi state into crisis mode. For now and the foreseeable future, of course, the Saudis know that their collapse would be the wreck of the global economy — that they are too important to be allowed to fail. So even in this season of surprises, it is hard to imagine the end of the House of Saud, which has begun to assuage citizen discontent with cash handouts and will always have the support of the U.S.

Shock will definitely come if the Khalifa regime in Bahrain gives way to a Shiite- dominated government, perhaps one influenced by the newly-returned hard-line politician Hassan Mushaima, but there is no reason to think that such an outcome would make the co-dependency of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain any less, or that Bahrain would become a tool of Iran.

In the Gulf, then, as in Egypt, the vacuums that Iran might be presumed to fill, and the strategic losses that Israel and the U.S. might suffer, are hard to see.

Other factors, Iranian domestic ones, weigh against a surge of Tehran's influence in the region. International sanctions and seething public discontent at home may draw some of its energies away from external adventures.

Images of the Ahmadinejad government using violent force to beat back anti-regime demonstrators on its own streets are open to global view each week. The world hasn't forgotten Ahmadinejad's rigged election last year, or the days of riot that rocked Tehran afterward. Reports out of Iran by Iranians make it clear that much of the population is groaning under recent price rises and subsidy cuts. No one under 35 can remember the revolt that drove out the Shah; people privately mock the state media's glorification of a distant revolution that has paid off in few material benefits and no new freedoms.

Not many years ago the government newspaper, Kayhan, ran a survey asking readers to rate some of the world's other countries. The survey yielded surprise results, but was published and distributed before the government could confiscate the press run. Seventy percent of those responded expressed an admiration for America and the West. Kayhan was temporarily closed.

It's hard to know whether political heresy of that kind is still quietly alive in Iran. Demonstrations last week, and the ongoing energy generated by the electoral resistance of the Greens last year, make it a safe bet that the anger hasn't evaporated. One can be sure that as the rulers look for regional gains today, they are watching their backs at home. And perhaps beginning to realize that average Iranians, like Tunisians and Egyptians, are driven much less by Islamic fervor than by a wish for freedom.







One of the incidental pleasures of the past few weeks has been watching the Western media struggling to come to terms with the notion of Arab democracy.

The Arabs themselves seem clear enough on the concept of a democratic revolution, but elsewhere there is much hand-wringing about whether Arabs can really build democratic states. After all, they have no previous experience of democracy, and it's basically a Western invention, isn't it? The Arabs don't even have Athens and the Roman republic up their family tree.

Sure the revolutions are brave, and they're exhilarating to watch from afar, but in the end the military will take over, or the Islamists will take over, or they'll mess it up some other way. This is the assumption – sometimes implied, sometimes flatly stated – that still underpins much of the outside comment and analysis on the Arab revolutions.

The current rationale for this arrogant and ignorant assumption is the "clash of civilizations" tripe that Sam Huntington and his pals have been peddling around the official circuit in Washington for almost two decades now. The Arabs just belong to the wrong civilization, and so they can't get it right.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, that's because it's really the centuries-old justification for European imperial rule over the rest of the planet, re-cycled for modern use. Europe once ruled the lesser breeds with a firm hand, but it can no longer do that directly. Instead it backs tough local rulers who promise to provide "stability" – and coincidentally protect the West's interests in the area.

So when the Arabs start overthrowing their rulers in non-violent revolutions that are just about democracy, not about Islam or Israel, there is astonishment and disbelief in the Western media. Time for a little deconstruction.

What makes the Arabs suitable candidates for democracy is their heritage as human beings, not their specific cultural or historical antecedents. Democracy didn't need to be invented; just resurrected.

The default mode for human beings is equality. Every pre-civilized society we know about operated on the assumption that its members were equals. Nobody had the right to give orders to anybody else.

What drove this was not idealism but pragmatism. In hunting-and-gathering groups, nobody can own more than they can carry, so there is no way to accumulate wealth. If you want meat, then you'll have to cooperate in the hunt. These were societies where nobody could control anybody else, and so they had to make their decisions democratically.

They were all very little societies: rarely more than 50 adults (who had all known one another all their lives). On the rare occasions when they had to make a major decision, they would actually sit around and debate it until they reached a consensus. Direct democracy, if you like.

People have been running their affairs that way ever since we developed language, which was almost certainly before we were even anatomically modern human beings. So 99.9 percent of our history, say. That is who we are, and how we prefer to behave unless some enormous obstacle gets in our way.

The enormous obstacle was civilization. All hunting-and-gathering societies were essentially egalitarian. The mass societies that we call civilizations arose less than 10,000 years ago, thanks to the invention of agriculture. Until very recently all of them, without exception, were tyrannies, pyramids of power and privilege in which the few decided and the many obeyed. What happened?

A mass society, thousands, then millions strong, confers immense advantages on its members. Within a few thousand the little hunting-and-gathering groups were pushed out of the good lands everywhere. By the time the first anthropologists appeared to study them, they were on their last legs, and none now survive in their original form. But we know why the societies that replaced them were all tyrannies.

The mass societies had many more decisions to make, and no way of making them in the old, egalitarian way. Their huge numbers made any attempt at discussing the question as equals impossible, so the only ones that survived and flourished were the ones that became brutal hierarchies. Tyranny was the solution to what was essentially a communications problem.

Fast forward 10,000 years, and give these societies mass communications. You don't have to wait for Facebook; just invent the printing press. Wait a couple of hundred years while literacy spreads, and presto! We can all talk to one another again, after a fashion, and the democratic revolutions begin. We didn't invent the principle of equality among human beings; we just reclaimed it.

 Modern democracy first appeared in the West only because the West was the first part of the world to develop mass communications. It was a technological advantage, not a cultural one – and as literacy and the technology of mass communications have spread around the world, all the other mass societies have begun to reclaim their heritage too.

 The Arabs need no instruction in democracy from anybody else. They own it too.







The launch of a new TV series, "The Magnificent Century" (Muhteşem Yüzyıl) has caused considerable havoc in Turkey in the recent weeks. This costume drama has seemingly become popular for its closer look at the personal life of one of the most famous Ottoman sultans – Süleyman the Magnificent. The story of Süleyman, who reigned in the 16th century (i.e. the "golden age" of the Ottoman Empire), and his concubine-turned-wife Roxelana has become a major hit, not least because it triggered an enormous audience reaction from conservative circles in Turkey. I will attempt to explain the "rise" of "The Magnificent Century" – quite unconventionally – by dragging China into the discussion.

Another country having serious issues with its imperial past, China became a consumer of historical TV series much before Turkey. Chinese TV producers discovered the potential in this genre back in the 1990s. Today, anyone who occasionally glances at the official Chinese TV would see at least one costume drama about the Ming or Qing dynasty. If one recalls China's 4,000-year historical record, it might not be at all surprising that the Chinese people are fond of their history. Whereas China is not "a two-millennia-old nation," it holds an exceptional position among modern states for its sharing of a common geography, a written language and cultural values for such a long time. Yet it is not this historical continuity that makes the historical drama genre popular in China. It is indeed the "ruptures."

Chinese society, similar to other countries that went through a sudden and traumatic break with their imperial past, witnessed a radical rewriting of history in the 20th century. The official historiography that dominated the Mao Zedong era cast aside the imperial period as an era of "feudal tyranny," underemphasized the 1911 revolution because it was never completed and took the year 1949 as point-zero in Chinese history. During the Cultural Revolution years, this official history reached its discursive extremes, as almost anything from the imperial past became suspect, with the label "Confucian" turning into an insult. Although not bearing equally radical tones, Turkey after 1923 was also subjected to a similar reversal of historical conscience. It is not a coincidence, therefore, that in both today's China and Turkey, the "repressed" imperial period has returned with all its glory.

In both countries, a reappraisal of the imperial histories took place in the 1980s under the leadership of two charismatic men who claimed to "open up" and "modernize" their countries: Turgut Özal and Deng Xiaoping. By the 1990s, a series of historical figures who had been previously scorned in the official histories were already rehabilitated. A parallel process was taking place within academic circles, which now welcomed a growing number of revisionist histories. While several Ottoman historians criticized the so-called "decline" paradigm, Chinese historians put an emphasis on the economic and cultural awakening during the Ming and Qing dynasties. This "re-evaluation" had its reflections in daily life too. In the 1990s, Ottoman garments made a comeback at Turkish fashion shows and it suddenly became "cool" to name cafes and bars after Ottoman-inspired names. In a similar fashion, Chinese people showed more interest in calligraphy courses and Confucian classics, not to mention historical TV series.

Today, both countries (as if they are over-compensating for the times they were cut off from their imperial heritage) are more and more inclined to make references to their imperial pasts. While Chinese diplomats talk about their "centuries-old fishing rights" with regard to territorial water issues, the "Ottoman sphere of influence" has become a major theme among Turkish foreign-policy makers. On the other hand, while both Turkey and China are regarded as emerging powers with fast-growing economies, it is unlikely that these countries will soon leave behind their "developing country" status. Their fragile and occasionally tense relations with the West render all historical references equivocal and diffuse. Because on the other side of this historical medallion there are the traumatic memories of the Sevres Treaty/Opium War. In both China and Turkey, the official circles often feel the need to bash the West – an act that almost always resonates well with broad masses. In light of this background, it is more significant that the Turkish and Chinese people demand to watch the fictional reflections of the golden ages in their happily recalled imperial past. I believe that the "The Magnificent Century" series would have been a phenomenon even without the massive audience reactions. Because the ultimate attraction of the series is not its focus on the "humane side of the sultan" or the "intricacies of the harem life," but the background it sets itself on – namely, the "rise" of the Ottoman Empire. In other words, the "golden age" itself is as attractive as the love story between Süleyman the Magnificent and Roxelena. Because in both Turkey and China, the audience wants to relive the period when China/the Ottoman Empire was placed at the center of the world map. My impression is that the citizens of these two "developing countries" utilize these dramas in order to settle their accounts with the West, which has caused considerable headaches for both China and Turkey since the 19th century.

* Çağdaş Üngör is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Marmara University in Istanbul. She can be reached at






I was in İnönü Square of the Turkish quarter of Nicosia yesterday.

The last time I was there, I was not following as a journalist but indeed taking part in a political rally was days before the 1980 military takeover. It was a rather violent day, thanks to the talented Turkish police, quite skilled in beating up protestors.

It was as if the entire Turkish Cypriot population poured into that small square – one of the biggest in northern Cyprus – of the Turkish part of the divided Nicosia. According to one estimate there were some 35,000 demonstrators in the rally ground, some put the figure as high as 60,000.

Those figures of course are not significant figures at all for a big country like Turkey with a population of tens of millions of people, but for a small state with a registered population of only 265,000 – even though the unofficial population is as high as 650,000 thanks to unregistered mainland Turks living on the island – some 30,000-plus people gathering in a square to protest something is no less than 3 million-4 million people attending a rally in Turkey.

There was apparent anger against the downgrading and insulting remarks of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan against the Turkish Cypriot people following a similar rally last Jan. 28. After that rally, during which a small far-left political group carried a placard with an insolent remark against Turkey, the Turkish prime minister had said it was sad to see "people fed by Turkey" engaging in an insult on Turkey. The prime minister had further stressed that he would summon the Turkish Cypriot executives to Ankara and ask them to give an account of what has happened. "'Who are you?' I will ask them," Erdoğan had said.

In the "Existence Rally" organized by a coalition of almost all labor unions and supported by almost all political parties but the ruling National Unity Party, or UBP, of Prime Minister İrsen Küçük and a splinter center-right party believed to have been strongly manipulated by the Justice and Development Party, or AKP. Aydın Denktaş, the wife of Rauf Denktaş, the founding president of the Turkish Cypriot state, as well as many leading conservative figures and progressive personalities were in the rally ground demonstrating a rather unique communal solidarity.

Never ever in northern Cyprus, including those exceptionally crowded rallies held during the 2003-2004 U.N. peace plan, or the Annan Plan, period, had such a big political rally was organized in northern Cyprus. Perhaps the rally held immediately after the proclamation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on Nov. 15, 1983 was far more emotional, but even that demonstration was dwarfed by yesterday's rally.

"No to governance by orders, we want self governance…" a banner said.

Another banner carrying photographs of both Erdoğan and Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek asked, "Who are you?" in an open reference to Erdoğan's "Who are you" insult after the Jan. 28 rally protesting an austerity package imposed on the Turkish Cypriot government by the AKP government. The placard then continued in slang in Turkish Cypriot dialect with a phrase meaning "It's your time to go…"

Definitely, the organizers of yesterday's demonstration struggled hard to avoid any placard that would further antagonize the AKP government and of course Erdoğan. Furthermore, police searched the groups before entering the rally ground and requested placards carrying insolent expressions be removed. There were also some small fistfights between police and the groups unwilling to give up such placards. Yet, the rally was held in full peace and order without anyone's nose bleeding.

During the short period flags of the Cyprus Republic stayed in the rally ground it was interesting to see Turkish, Turkish Cypriot and Cypriot flags flying side by side while young Turkish Cypriots carrying those flags shared some laughter.

Of course people who have not yet acquired advanced democracy awareness cannot understand the hazards of the flags of Turkey, Turkish Cyprus and the Greek Cypriot-run Cyprus Republic coming together? Similarly, what has happened that in 2004 the same Ankara government was hailing Turkish Cypriots carrying the Cypriot flag and chanting "Peace now, EU entry tomorrow" on the rally grounds but now has started to consider Turkish Cypriots holding the Cypriot flag as an act of treason? Treason to what? So far the sultan in Ankara has not said that.

The message of Turkish Cypriots yesterday was very clear. The Turks of Cyprus and the Turks of Turkey are brothers and the brotherly bonds between them cannot be spoiled by some nasty politicians. Yet, those in power in Ankara should first learn Turkish Cypriot history before expecting Turkish Cypriots somehow to engage in an allegiance relationship. Turkish Cypriots want self governance. The time has come for all institutions of northern Cyprus – including its security forces, now headed by a Turkish general – to be headed by Turkish Cypriots. There should be an end to the uncontrolled expansion of the population of northern Cyprus, siphoning all resources. Above all, Turkish Cypriots want a relationship based on respect of their identity.






One is reminded of the argument of Martin Luther King when confronted by the outburst of black rage – the big city riots, the rise of black power and the birth of the gun-toting Black Panthers.

Violence is not truly revolutionary, he used to argue, because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis that is followed by a sense of futility. This was certainly the case in America where President Richard Nixon gave license to brute repression. And it appears to be the case in Palestine where the second Intifada and the rocket attacks by Hamas clearly became counterproductive.

Chris Hedges, the New York Times war correspondent, has made the case against violence better than anyone I know in his book, "War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning." "War is an elixir," he writes, "It gives us resolve, a cause. It allows us to be noble…..[But] war is a drug. It is peddled by mythmakers."

Shakespeare's foot soldier in "Coriolanus" likewise understood the appeal of war: "Let me have a war, say I: it exceeds peace as far as day does night; it's sprightly, waking, audible, and full of vent. Peace is very apoplexy, lethargy, mull'd, deaf, sleepy, insensible….."

Hedges admits that as a young reporter he got fired up by war. "The chance to exist for an intense and overpowering moment seemed worth it in the midst of war – and very stupid once the war ended. In the light of time, what looked so momentous then now looks like folly." This is the conundrum that now confronts President Mahmoud Abbas in Palestine. At least 20 percent of his people think violence is the antidote to lethargy. If they didn't fight the Israelis they would be convinced that their cause deserved to be defeated. In battle, they believe that they are living out their convictions right on the edge of the knife of life itself. If Abbas thinks he can lead by talking, he is mistaken. He is simply outflanked and outmaneuvered by the militants. He needs an alternative that would appeal to the energies of the militants and their desperate need to feel the juices and passion of resolve and sacrifice.

Non-violence is connected in most people's minds with passivity and non-resistance. Yet if properly deployed and organized, it can be a very powerful weapon of defense and a very effective tool for rapid social change. We saw it with the power of the shipyard strikers in Solidarity's Poland, the trigger that led to the demise of Soviet communism. We saw it when the crowds of protestors sticking red roses into the barrels of the soldiers' rifles brought down the fascist dictatorship in Portugal. And in Palestine, the Palestine Movement For Non-Violent Resistance has successfully organized weekly marches, but is limited to a cluster of villages in the Bethlehem area. They have been suppressed by rubber bullets, tear gas and from time to time with live ammunition.

Basil Liddel Hart, the military genius second only to Carl von Clausewitz, who had the job of interrogating the German generals after the end of World War II, wrote that the generals confessed that they found non-violent or passive resistance, as they encountered it in parts of France and Denmark, much more difficult to deal with than guerrilla resistance movements. The latter they could repress mercilessly, the former often outwitted them.

Abbas needs to give the young militants a focus for their energy. He needs to deploy them to surround Israeli patrols with unarmed crowds who while refusing to move also refuse to let the troops move. He needs to lead tens of thousands of strong young men and women armed only with pick axes to attempt to demolish the wall where it intrudes on Palestinian land, and to accept arrest rather than fight back. He needs to send thousands of people to occupy Israeli transit roads. Let them take their families too and make sure they are provided with food, medical help, tents and portable toilets. And he needs to keep up these demonstrations, week after week, month after month. If the Israeli army overreacts the world will see the pictures. So too will the Israeli public. Israel is a democracy. It is a spiritual nation. Because of fear and because of historical experience it has allowed its baser instincts too often to lead the way. But underneath there is another side – the putative deal negotiated at Taba following Camp David; and that produced the Supreme Court ruling against torture – that even today seeks justice rather than defeat for its opponent.

Abbas has to give his militants a cause and to appeal to these nobler Israeli ideals.

*Jonathan Power is a veteran foreign affairs commentator based in London. This piece appeared on the Khaleej Times website.






Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara got as frigid a reception on his Feb. 11-12 Moscow visit as anyone has gotten since the coldest days of the Cold War. Russo-Japanese relations are in a deep freeze over Moscow's 65-year occupation of Japan's Northern Territories—four islands called Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai Rocks. Moscow says they are part of Russia's Kuril Islands and does not want to talk about it.

But Moscow does want to shout about it. Last summer, Russian General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov tried to reassure Russia's Baltic and Black Sea neighbors over its quest to buy French Mistral amphibious assault ships. "We need this ship," he explained, "to increase the maneuverability of troops in the Pacific Ocean, considering the size of this geographical region and the lack of adequate forces to protect, in particular, the Kuril Islands."

Of course, no one in Tallinn or Tbilisi should breathe easier. Under the Jan. 25 Franco-Russian agreement, a contemptible shipbuilding consortium will supply Russia with four Mistral class ships—likely one for each of the Baltic, Black Sea, Northern and Pacific fleets.

And the Mistral revelation was not Moscow's last shout about the Kuril Islands. In September, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited China. In Beijing, he and Chinese President Hu Jintao signed a curious statement on the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II, which framed a joint image of the 1945 victory of Japan. Of course, that victory also established the United States as the dominant power in the western Pacific.

Two points emerge from this joint historical exegesis. First, Moscow and Beijing are making common cause in their territorial claims against Japan — Russia over the Northern Territories or Kurils; China over the Senkaku Islands, some hydrocarbon-rich rocks between Okinawa and Taiwan. Second, both resent American Pacific power, for which they perceive Japan as a surrogate.

And a further observation emerges from a broader look at Medvedev's China visit. He and Hu signed 15 agreements on energy, banking and fisheries and inaugurated the Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean oil pipeline spur that now reaches Daqing, China. Then Medvedev visited the Shanghai World Expo trade fair.

China is Russia's number one trade partner, behind only the entire European Union. Just as the world's gaze is shifting toward the Pacific, so is Russia's. Moreover, as global warming opens up the Arctic Northeast Passage to shipping between Europe and Asia, a strong Russian Pacific presence becomes very attractive.

But Moscow's view to the Pacific is bleak. Vladivostok is 9,302 rail kilometers away, most of them through tough terrain and climate. Only 25 percent of Russia's people live in Asia, and the population is declining. Vladivostok is not Busan, Yokohama or Shanghai. Kunashiri is a metaphor for Russia's rickety rule over frigid bits of Pacific coastline. The answer — guns, bravado and blather about inexistent threats.

So, as Medvedev left China, he announced his plan to be the first-ever Soviet or Russian chief to visit the Kuril Islands. On Nov. 1, he arrived on Kunashiri. During his well-televised visit, he met with resident families, peered out to sea through binoculars and frolicked among rusted Stalin-era tanks.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan grumbled, "Those four northern islands are part of our country's territory, so the president's visit is very regrettable," and Tokyo recalled its ambassador to Moscow.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov retorted, "The Kuril Islands are part of Russian territory and belong to the domain of home policy. The president plans his domestic travels himself."

Then, in a Feb. 9 television broadcast staged for the president to appear tough, Medvedev issued stern instructions to Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. "The additional weapons which will be deployed there must be sufficient and modern to ensure the security of these islands, which are an inseparable part of the Russian Federation…We will make every necessary effort to strengthen our presence on the Kuril Islands. This is our strategic region."

Two days earlier, in Japan, it had coincidentally been Northern Territories Day. Sparked by heightened Russian belligerence, Japanese nationalists dragged a Russian flag through Tokyo streets. And Kan denounced Medvedev's visit to Kunashiri as an "unforgivable outrage."

Naturally, Moscow seized upon this as an excuse for its aggressive attitude and new fortifications. The flag incident, said the Russian Foreign Ministry, was an "unprecedented and disgusting act," resulting from Japanese policies. When Maehara landed in Moscow, the rhetorical trap had been laid. Lavrov — the quintessential aggrieved aggressor — sneered, "To be honest … your visit comes against the background of a series of completely unacceptable actions."

In reality, Moscow prepared its tiff with Tokyo for some time, following an altogether familiar pattern — expansionism, paranoia, pretext, military action and righteous indignation. Although the details differ, anyone familiar with Russia's 2008 attack on Georgia will recognize Moscow's Kuril caper for what it is.

As a last minute development, senior Russian General Staff officers told RIA-Novosti that Moscow will deploy S-400 air defense missiles in the Japanese Northern Territories, which Russia says are part of its Kuril Islands. The S-400 is an upgraded version of the S-300, which is deployed by Russian occupation forces in the Georgian territory of Abkhazia.

* David J. Smith is director of Georgian Security Analysis Center, Tbilisi, and senior fellow at Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Washington. This piece appeared on Tabula, a weekly magazine published in Georgia.







Yesterday saw another murder linked to the country's blasphemy laws. The late minister for minority affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, had spoken out against the use of the laws to inflict suffering on minority communities. He had reported threats made on this basis. There are reports that a pamphlet left at the scene in Islamabad contains a claim of responsibility for his murder. An investigation is required into this latest killing. Mr Bhatti, a Christian, seems to have become the second public figure to die simply because, like the former governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer, he had chosen to voice an opinion. The barbaric killings of the two men mean that few others will choose to speak out on the issue. The government appears to have already surrendered and this may have been a factor behind the death of the minister. It is unclear if the additional security Mr Bhatti had demanded in the wake of threats had been offered to him. His demise will mean a deepening of existing fractures in society, as minority communities face a still greater sense of threat and isolation within a nation that seems unwilling to offer them any space.

The government's reaction to this latest outrage is awaited. It can simply not afford to wring its hands, make weak cries of condolence but do nothing in concrete terms. We must not stand by and watch people perish because they choose to voice an opinion about a piece of legislation they wish to see amended. Certainly, disagreements exist about the blasphemy laws. But the basic right of citizens to voice their views and for their lives to be protected must be ensured; otherwise we will continue to descend into chaos and an environment in which matters are decided by the force of guns rather than through dialogue and discussion. Civilisation has, over the past years, seemed often to be receding from the country. With the tragic assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti it has slipped a little further away.







Once again, the government has chosen to flout the rule of law and frustrate the administration and dispensation of justice. Once again, it is the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) that has attracted the ire of the superior courts. And the courts are losing patience. The matter under consideration is the Haj scam, a report on which was to have been submitted to the Supreme Court by the FIA. A report was submitted, but it proved to be to all intents and purposes worthless, and the SC has required that the government remove the Director General (DG) of the FIA on the grounds that he is impeding the enquiry and that no impartial inquiry is possible as the court believes he is shielding key witnesses or failing to adequately interrogate them. Further, the court took notice of the failure of the State Bank of Pakistan to cooperate with the inquiry in the matter of accounts held by one of the accused Hamid Saeed Kazmi. Indeed, every government agency or entity appears to be in non-compliant mode with the apex court regarding the Haj scam, and there is a distinct impression that if the government stonewalls long enough, the case will fade into the background.

The SC has now given the government three days to replace the DG FIA with somebody either more competent or less biased and preferably both, but it remains to be seen whether compliance is on the agenda. Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, the counsel for the Federation, told the court that the matter of the FIA DG, a contract employee, would be determined within three days but as the Federation was already in contempt by failing to comply with a previous similar order there seems little prospect of them bending to the will of the judiciary this time around. In simple terms, the government is choosing to ignore the findings of the courts where those findings are at variance with its own wishes or objectives. Government officers and institutions are making a mockery of the entire justice system, and as Mr Justice Khosar observed "The court is being compelled to supervise the investigation by its own". The acquisition of a judiciary that appears reasonably honest has done little, seemingly, to spread the virus of honesty and accountability to those who rule us.







There are varying reports of the numbers of our nationals that are currently in Libya, with the lowest figure given as 18,000 and the highest as 30,000. They are widely scattered across the country and most are in the oil fields or domestic work or the building industry. Getting that number of people out is a considerable task, and not all of them are going to want to leave anyway, but as with other nations, we have a consular duty of care to our citizens in distress wherever they are. Reports over the weekend suggested that our diplomatic missions in Libya, when approached by our citizens, were doing nothing more than adding their names to a list with no promise, however vague, of practical help with evacuation, if needed.

It is our eternal good friends the Turks who have evacuated 354 of our nationals, with all their expenses borne by their employers and the Turkish government. Our own Foreign Office played no part in their evacuation contrary to the picture they wished to portray, and are at the 'advanced planning' stage according to a spokesperson. Those evacuated were quick to praise the efforts of the Turks and equally quick to lodge complaints with the government regarding what they described as the 'non-seriousness' of our diplomatic and consular staff in Libya – thus giving credence to reports last weekend that there was poor support for our stranded citizens within Libya. We are in negotiation with other friendly states that might assist us with repatriation if it is necessary. There is strong evidence that nations involved in the evacuations are working collaboratively to get people out, and consular staff have been sent to the Tunisia/Libya border to facilitate our people. The UN has said that a major humanitarian crisis is developing as a result of the conflict within Libya and there is little sign of Colonel Qaddaffi yielding to popular pressure. He was interviewed by the BBC on Monday and displayed a startling disconnect with the reality of his own and his country's, situation. A White House spokesman described him as 'delusional.' Many thousands of our fellow-countrymen are still trapped, and although we will receive any help with evacuation gratefully, we should also not sit back and leave it to everybody else. And the Foreign Office would do well to remind staff at our missions abroad that they are not there for a holiday.








Power is linked with the possession of certain tangible resources, including population, territory, natural resources, economic and military strength. The term "hard power" describes the ability of a nation or political body to use economic incentives or military strength to influence other actor's behaviours.

Strategies involving hard power include measures geared to coercing or threatening other entities into compliance. Threats of military assault or economic embargo are the "sticks." The "carrots" include the promise of military protection or the reduction of trade barriers. For those who have the capacity to project "hard power," the "stick" seems to be the preferred option over the "carrot."

Hard power may prove successful in the shorter term. In the long term its gains can be elusive. Traditionally, the tools of hard power are primarily (a) military intervention, (b) economic pressure and (c) coercive diplomacy, so it has its limitations. With the advent of cyber war as an instrument of waging silent wars, another tool has been added to the armoury. The use of hard power may induce compliance, but its glaring shortcoming is the erosion of the legitimacy and credibility of those who opt for it.

Strategies that do not take into account the damage to a country's international image may have serious consequences. When a country's credibility deteriorates, international cooperation diminishes as attitudes of mistrust tend to grow. Thus, the country's capacity to obtain its objectives is seriously eroded.

The consequences of American reliance on hard power in removing Saddam Hussein, a certified criminal, from power in Iraq and the subsequent crisis provides an unfortunate example of worldwide opinion mobilising against the US. Even though the cause was just, the raison d'etre, weapons of mass destruction (WMD), was incorrect.

At the moment NATO forces are poised to intervene in Libya by imposing a "no fly" zone to restrict madman Gaddafi's excesses against his own people, anticipation of a public opinion backlash is inhibiting international action despite hundreds and thousands dying.

Hard power may be certainly necessary at times but it has limitations. Afghanistan and Vietnam are prime examples that larger armies or greater military power do not always win. Its exercise in Iraq has circumscribed the capacity of the US to attain its policy goals on many other fronts. In essence hard power can be described as "the illusion that military dominance engenders security." Its leading proponents are the US and Israel, followed by the UK, France and India.

Despite their persisting inability to translate military power into wins, for people like Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Perle (incidentally none of them had heard a shot fired in anger), it was nearly impossible to admit that military dominance generally does not always work, particularly in modern times. The continuing tragedy remains that the US still relies too much on hard power.

The failure of the hard-power policy in the region can be seen from India's forays in the subcontinent. While the military intervention against Pakistan in December 1971 was successful and resulted in East Pakistan's secession and its becoming an independent country, it was only during the first three years that India could really be regarded as a hegemonic power in Bangladesh on the basis of its hard power.

After Shiekh Mujibur Rahman's assassination in 1975 successive regimes in Dhaka were able to retain their independence so that India was not able to settle bilateral disputes unilaterally. In fact, Bangladesh is far more independent than isolated East Pakistan could ever have been. The Hasina Wajed regime is favourably disposed towards India, yet it cannot deliver all that India desires, such as the right of unrestricted passage across Bangladesh to Assam.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were trained in India by India's intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). When the Sri Lankan army was about to prevail on the LTTE, India intervened physically. This was a golden opportunity to stamp its hegemonic authority by the projection of hard power.

Even before the India-Sri Lankan Accord for the deployment of Indian forces in Sri Lankan was signed, ostensibly to keep the peace between the majority Sinhalese and LTTE, the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) had physically landed in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankans were never happy about this invasion and openly antagonistic about Indian intentions. Indian troops were forced to withdraw in March 1990 after falling out with the LTTE and suffering grievous losses.

Ironically, Indian Rajiv Gandhi, who had ordered the intervention in Sri Lanka (his son Rahul says Rajiv had presented the brutal LTTE terrorist leader Prabhakaran with his own bullet-proof vest), was assassinated in Tamil Nadu by a suicide squad of the LTTE in May 1991. The former Indian prime minister fell victim to the very monster he helped to create.

Sophisticated cyber attacks against high-value targets such as defence communications systems require a higher cost of attack. This involves large intelligence agencies to intrude physically and/or crack highly encrypted codes. The origin or motive of such attacks is often very difficult to prove as attackers can route their intrusions through servers in other countries to make attribution difficult.

On the other hand, Botnets can be illegally rented on the internet for a few hundred dollars. Organising a botnet by infiltrating a virus into unguarded computers is relatively inexpensive, individual criminals are able to do for purposes of extortion. "Botnets" of hundreds of thousands of corrupted computers (or even more) can swamp a country's internet system and prevent it from functioning. This can be done by states or non-state actors organising a denial of service attack. Other cases may involve "hacktivists" or ideologically motivated intruders. Taiwanese and Chinese hackers regularly deface each others' web sites. In 2008, shortly before Russian troops invaded, Georgia suffered a denial of service attack that shut down its internet access. The Russian government abetted the hackers while maintaining "plausible deniability."

Within the international community the exercise of military and non-military power is basically the same – or, rather, it is when the power is military in nature that there is a need for strict legitimacy in its use. That hard power is sometimes exercised without legitimacy stems from a peculiar way of thinking about the use of hard power.

However, vague its legitimacy, military power can exert a coercive influence. The problem is the need to consider just what the international justification for military action might be. This can be best illustrated by comparing how Bush Senior managed a coalition against Saddam Hussein that included military forces drawn from many Muslim countries and Bush Junior who did not care to develop such a coalition against a recalcitrant Saddam Hussein a decade later. Very few countries possess the means of projecting hard power. That by itself isolates them from the majority even when the end result may well justify the means.

Advocates of hard power must remember that, in the long term, its use in the "global village" will have adverse consequences for their image, however just the cause is.

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder9. com








Dictatorships almost invariably end in tragedy and none more manifestly as the Arab world's "Papa Doc" Muammar Qaddafi. His legion eccentricities – the troupe of voluptuous women body guards; the camels (for milk) which accompanied him everywhere; the green book comprising his asinine utterances and the rented crowds that chanted his non existent virtues – will soon be a thing of the past.

In Yemen on the face of it a similar story is unfolding. Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's most decorated war hero, who has survived more than a dozen attempts on his life and has ruled for 30 years, seems to be losing his grip. However Saleh, unlike Qaddafi, has his wits about him. He hopes to ride out the 'revolutionary' fervour that has gripped the Arab world; and if he is still hanging on we can take it that the breaking point is not at hand. In short, Saleh is no push over.

However, with the announcement on February 26 that the hitherto friendly Hashid and Baqil tribes, on whom Saleh relied so heavily, had also turned against him his prospects appear dim if not dismal. More worryingly for Saleh the defection of these tribes is a sign that the Saudis too have given up on him because had these clans not received a nod from Riyadh, which bankrolls their development, such defiance would have been inconceivable, his bellowing against the west notwithstanding.

However it is south Yemen – where Marxism once flourished and which at one time went by the name of The People's Democratic Republic of Yemen – that may become irreconcilable. Influential southerners, secular, educated and Marxist, have nothing but contempt for their rustic vagabondish northern compatriots. Thus far they have been kept in check by a large northern armed presence; however, any weakening of Saleh's tight grip will be exploited by them to demand secession leading perhaps to a recrudescence of the civil war that raged in the 90s. But regardless of whether Saleh stays or goes Yemen will remain what it has always been – the dark hole of the Arab world. It has little to offer except the port of Aden, now of diminishing importance and, of course, a new safe haven for al Qaeda.

In Bahrain too, where America's base is strategically located in the Gulf and is Saudi Arabia's farthest satrapy, a rebellion of sorts is brewing. However, it will likely run out of steam. Between the Sunni ruling family and the Saudis, the 70 percent of Bahraini Shias who have long faced acute discrimination in government jobs and appointments to key posts will either be inveigled by some cosmetic constitutional reforms, beaten or bribed into quiescence. Their true emancipation must await a resurgent and powerful Iran and the new order in the Middle East.

In Jordan the ruling family is not yet on the run mostly because they and fellow tribals have the guns, while the Palestinians who form the majority of the population bear mostly grievances. The fact that the queen is a Palestinian and the king half English has not helped to deepen the monarchy's hold on the loyalties of the native population. But such is the love the Bedouins still have for the late King Hussein that they will continue to protect his son, although allegations of corruption against the queen, if true, will wash some of it away. Nevertheless, King Abdullah is a shrewd politician and one can be sure he will do whatever it takes to preserve the monarchy even conceding democracy, if push comes to shove.

The Arabs seem congenitally unable to forge a consensus as to what type of government best suits their particular genius. While they gave the world a great religion and many notable mathematicians, scientists, explorers, they had nothing to offer when it came to designing political systems other than various forms of despotism.

That's why what happened in Egypt is important. An independent judiciary, a parliament and parliamentary oversight of politicians and a free press backed by an active civil society is the demand of protesting Egyptians. All these in turn will require a modern multiparty state in which the main political parties are organised around programs and socio economic orientation rather than overbearing personalities.

All eyes are on the Egyptian military which has taken upon itself the responsibility of ensuring a transition to democracy. The best hope for maintaining its stature as a respected national institution (as well as a pivotal future role if things go wrong) lies in facilitating a modern political process. But since the people have no prior experience to work with, while the military's intentions are not clear at this stage, it is too early to be certain of a stable outcome. Yet the prospect has never looked better following Mubarak's fall.

The Arabs have finally won global respect and admiration and this is a far cry from the impotence and sense of inferiority they suffered for decades. However, they will have to replace what they rebelled against with something distinctly better. They will also have to show some spine when it comes to Israel. All that they are doing at the moment is 'wink and hold out their iron' because they dare not fight.

What comes out of Egypt in particular will affect, if not determine, what happens in Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan and Bahrain to a greater or lesser degree. As for Libya it's not so much a new system for which it is struggling right now but for its very survival.

The writer is a former ambassador.









After a tumultuous summer the Kashmir valley has returned to a tense calm. The lull however seems transitory as no serious efforts to address the situation seem to be forthcoming. Despite a summer on the brink, the impact of which reverberated through mainland India and beyond, India seems to be weighing options strewn with "ifs" and "whethers." With the drastically changed dynamics, the situation has a window of opportunity which India cannot afford to lose.

From violent defiance the movement has transitioned to tactical non-violence sobered by realism and the need for a meaningful political process. An indigenous uprising, the present phase of the movement is driven by the youth who having grown up amidst the carnage of the 90s. These young people are driven by an intense idealism coupled by a sense of purpose and focus, yet are receptive to meaningful engagement. With the clarion call for "Azadi" signifying complete independence, the present phase also shows a divergence of approach. With the emotional affinity with Pakistan very much intact the movement seems to have diversified on the political and ideological plane. Pakistan, on its part, is keeping aloof, allowing the movement to acquire an indigenous character. This is partly due to Pakistan's own domestic compulsions and partly because it wants to allow the movement to gain credibility, and thereby international acceptance.

This mix of realities allows ample room for India to start a forward movement and deliver. Addressing the internal course is as intrinsic for any enduring settlement as the external dynamic. In this regard, the visit to the valley, at the peak of the unrest in October, of a parliamentary delegation drawn from almost all major political parties was a step in the right direction. Despite being refused audience by the separatist leaders, these parliamentarians turned up uninvited at these leaders' doorsteps, displaying both humility and a desire to discuss and, more importantly, listen. This generated general goodwill and positive anticipations and helped dissipate the seething anger.

The fact that there were no more killings after the visit, with nerves calmed on both sides of the divide, resulted in cautious expectations. Announcement of the appointment of interlocutors to address the situation added to the hope. The general expectation was that a high-powered multiparty delegation will be constituted representing the entire spectrum of the Indian polity, vested with the authority and calibre to deal with the issue and set rolling a substantive process forward.

However, the individuals eventually nominated proved to be a comedown and dampened the enthusiasm. Though eminent luminaries in their own right within the capacity of their conferred responsibilities in Kashmir, they neither had the political weight nor the authority to undertake the required movement on the issue. The whole exercise was seen as suspect, bringing things back to intractability.

The events that followed only added to the disillusionment. The announcement by Home Secretary G K Pillai of a phased troop withdrawal from the valley was shot down by the army chief, who claimed it was non-feasible. The permanent outsourcing of fiscal responsibilities of the state to the Reserve Bank of India on issues of financial indiscipline within the indigenous J&K Bank was perceived in Kashmir as an encroachment on its financial autonomy. Caught between an inflexible bureaucracy and pragmatic caution, India displays indecision.

Realities are however changing and fast overtaking faltering decision-making. The peaceful struggle within Kashmir has been able to up the ante, bringing the situation to a precipice, forcing the main players to show resolve. It has also earned international recognition and credibility, a reversal of the post-Kargil positioning. More importantly, it has been able to stir considerable debate within India.

Civil society is becoming more vocal, with leading figures championing the Kashmiri cause, as in the case of Arundhati Roy. Meanwhile, a subtle but importantshift is taking place in public opinion. These are significant developments, marking the synchronising of two essential pressure points to compel India into action. No amount of external pressure would have worked. What was needed was pressure and indispensability from within.

Outstanding regional disputes also don't sit well with India's evolving international stature and aspirations (an issue ostensibly also reiterated in private by President Obama) as do the unfolding regional dynamics. Picking up the strands where the all-parties delegation (APD) left, India should initiate a substantive process aimed in the immediate term at bridging the trust deficit. Starting with the less sticking issues such as the release of youth picked up during last year's agitation moving up a notch to the release of political prisoners India will have to take an incremental approach steadily progressing towards the more intransigent areas. It will also at some stage have to address the draconian and abhorred AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) recently sanctified by army personnel in Kashmir. Externally, the recent meeting of the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan on the sidelines of the Saarc Council of Ministers Conference in Thimphu was encouraging, as was the statement in its wake by Indian foreign minister S M Krishna that "a solid foundation" has been laid for a "sustained engagement." The track-two diplomacy between the two countries too seems to have been put back on an accelerated track. Congruent to this is the feeler by Home Minister P Chidambaram on a recent visit to Jammu and Kashmir that the government would expedite the process to resolve the Kashmir imbroglio once it receives the interlocutors' final recommendation for a "political settlement."

Within Kashmir too there needs to be a rethink and plausible introspection especially by the leadership. The present ad hoc vision limited to strikes and strikes needs to be replaced by a more realistic and fruitful strategy, both long-term and short-term, with a clearly defined equilibrium between ideology and the mundane yet intrinsic issues of survival. A weak and fatigued nation, especially economically, will in the long-term be unable to keep up the momentum created during these past few summers.

Rhetoric and polemics aside the leadership will have to undertake comprehensive spadework, bracing itself for the emerging responsibilities. Donning the role of skilled negotiators they will have to exhibit selfless character and profound imagination. The movement's leaders also need to display self-discipline and accountability. Incidents like the recent murder of two teenage sisters by unidentified gunmen in the town of Sopore must be checked and condemned. The continuation of this situation will only lead to oppression and alienation and make the possibility of a solution to the Kashmir problem still more remote.

All three parties to the issue need to display enormous magnanimity, perseverance and dexterity, not only to work for the fulfilment of the Kashmiri dream but also unlock the vast probabilities of this region.


The writer is based in Srinagar.









As government-to-government talks resume between India and Pakistan, it is time to consider other channels of engagement that can contribute to improving relations or at least minimising the distrust between the two countries. Cricket helps, of course, and we can hope that the World Cup now underway may rekindle some of the good spirit among fans that prevailed some years ago.

But the interaction needs to be constant rather than episodic: and it needs to move beyond the symbolic and dialogic to the substantive and tangibly beneficial.

The best option would be to intensify trade between the two countries. It is true that when countries trade goods, they are less likely to trade blows (although there are famous and violent exceptions as with Germany and the rest of Europe prior to World War I). While there is consensus that this is a good idea, little has been done to realise it.

A major obstacle to expanding Indo-Pak trade is in fact our two governments. Pakistan does not grant most-favoured nation status to exports from India. India does – but Pakistan claims that MFN status does not translate into greater exports from Pakistan because trade barriers, especially in areas of Pakistani comparative advantage such as textiles and clothing, remain high. Claims and counter-claims fly between the two capitals, echoing the stilted sound of the security discourse. It's time, therefore, to think beyond the traditional, and to look for other economic options.

Consider the following possibility. Both Pakistan and India are searching for ways to improve their educational outcomes. Recent Indian experience offers one interesting lesson – which could benefit Pakistan. The demand for education, especially English-language education, changed dramatically in India with the rise of the information technology sector. The returns to possessing English language-cum-computer skills increased so dramatically that parents started seeking education and the private and non-government sector stepped in to make up for the dysfunctionality of the public sector. All over the streets of metropolitan and small town India, it's possible to see the evidence – proliferating signage, announcing hole-in-the-wall operations teaching English and computing.

In Pakistan, the spread of modern technical education is not just an economic necessity as in India; it's also something of an existential imperative. Modern education may be a way to check some of the more pernicious effects of those madrassas that spread religion-inspired illiberalism. Creating the incentives for seeking such technical education will require a dynamic information technology sector, and here the Indian private sector could make a difference.

Suppose, for example, that Narayana Murthy, Azim Premji, Shiv Nadar, Anand Mahindra, and Ratan Tata announced the following. Together the quintet would commit to creating the basis for a new IT sector in Pakistan within five years. The commitment would require as a first step physical investments in IT-technical institutes as well as imparting skills – including English language competence – to thousands of young Pakistanis in newly created facilities within Pakistan itself. It would also involve locating BPO centres in Pakistan, to provide employment for the newly-trained youth.

To that end, the crowning commitment that our business leaders could make would be a declaration that says five percent of the value added on all international contracts that they receive over the next 10 years would be from the newly created Pakistan-based facilities. In other words, when Indian IT firms deliver a final product overseas, they will have to ensure that the quality of Pakistani input is up to world standards: that is the risk that they will have to incur. But if successful, Pakistan can show the world its capability in this sector. In that sense, India would be committing to creating a Pakistan brand for IT – as part of its own, inclusive and forward-looking 'Brand India'.

This initiative is minimally demanding on the two governments, especially the Indian government. While some forms of distance-training, making use of the technology itself, could be developed, no doubt some initial movement of Indians to Pakistan would inevitably be required, in order to help establish and run the training centres. Therefore, some reliable security arrangements would be necessary. But since the emphasis would be on self-skilling, with a view to Pakistanis rapidly moving into training and management positions, the physical presence of Indians in Pakistan could be minimised.

The prospects for success would be good. After all, the basis of India's comparative advantage in IT – low cost and qualified English-speaking technical personnel – is replicable in Pakistan. In terms of infrastructure requirements on Pakistan too, the IT sector is relatively less demanding, both in terms of sheer scale of investment and challenges of security management. Creating the necessary forms of digital connectivity is easier than trying to build power plant infrastructure or to police a gas or oil pipeline.

Success would bring with it real social and economic benefits to Pakistan, as well as political gains to India. There would be economic costs to India – the foregone Indian value-added for example – but incurring them would demonstrate India's stake in, and contribution to, a stable and prosperous Pakistan. And it would be a chance for our increasingly mature and confident private sector to take the lead in a matter vital to the subcontinent's future – to step boldly where neither of our two governments has been willing to tread.

Sunil Khilnani is director, India Institute, King's College London. Arvind Subramanian is senior research professor at the Johns Hopkins University







The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor

We have, of course, become well-adjusted to crisis. We live with it constantly, in private and in public life, with crippling inflation, power cuts, gas loadshedding, worsening law and order and unemployment coinciding with a civil war that shows no signs of ending as well as a governance disaster that seems to grow worse by the day.

Absurdities worsen the situation. The interior minister's announcement that students on scholarship, artistes and media professionals will require No Objection Certificates to travel to India is the latest among these. There have been many others at various levels. As the Faiz Foundation celebrated the centennial birth anniversary of the poet, it received, in response to its letter to the culture ministry seeking assistance, a query as to what Faiz had to do with culture anyway.

We live too with constant death. The suicide bombings, the target killings, the murder of teachers and the destruction of infrastructure create a constant sense of peril. But while possible disaster lurks everywhere, the state of people is most pitiful of all.

According to the UNDP Human Development Report for 2010, Pakistan is ranked 125 out of 169 nations in terms of its development, stumbling two places lower than its standing last year. This places it marginally above the group of countries with the lowest attainments and the report notes that 51 percent – a majority of the country's people – lack access to basic education or healthcare.

Other findings are just as damning. A survey by the Sindh government, supported by UNICEF, found acute malnutrition in the province six months after the floods of 2010. Experts who work among deprived people believe this is the result of many years of social injustice, the fact that the feudal system is still in place in many parts of the country, and the failure to initiate land reforms over the last many decades, rather than the flooding which has left pools of stagnant water still standing in some places. Where tenant farmers have been able to take control of agricultural land, as on a few of the military-owned farms in Okara, there has been a remarkably swift rise in living standards.

We need, at this point in time, to look back and see what went wrong. What are the factors that lead to Pakistan being ranked by some organisations as a 'failed state' or a centre of terrorist training and militant violence?

Our history is certainly an uncomfortable one, beginning with the massacre of around a million people at Partition. These tragic deaths should have created greater sensitivity to human misery, increased the desire to achieve success as a nation carved out from a sea of blood. But instead, just a few decades later, what took place is now ranked by independent historians as one of the worst killings in human history. Some 1,500,000 people are now believed to have been killed in the civil war that led to Bangladesh emerging on the map in 1971. There are estimates that put that figure much higher.

The massacres in Dhaka and elsewhere are rarely discussed in Pakistan even now; and neither is the generosity of a nation able to look beyond this awful history and cheerfully add a few numbers in Urdu to the songs that formed a part of the glittering World Cup opening ceremony in Dhaka. Pakistan, of course, remained ousted from among the South Asian hosts of the event following the murderous attack on the visiting Sri Lankan team in March 2009 in Lahore.

But while this unfortunate past has had an impact on the kind of nation that we have evolved into, with the loss of the eastern wing bringing into doubt the whole ideological basis of Partition, it does not explain everything. Till the mid-1970s, Pakistan was a fairly well-respected nation, proudly hosting the Islamic Summit in 1974, and standing as a nation with friends and admirers across the Arab world, the slide since then has come fast.

The Wikileaks documents revealed just what even 'friends' such as Saudi Arabia thought of Pakistan while Washington's remarks have on occasion been even less polite. The money coming in from the Gulf states, both to defeat the threat of bankruptcy faced in 2008 and the floods more recently, seems to have been given only grudgingly and in limited quantities.

There are, of course, some fairly obvious factors for this decline. The years of military rule, the obscurantism introduced during the Zia years when attempts were made to capture the energy of 'jinns' in vials and the role of Washington in creating the Taliban Frankenstein are all a part of this. But we need a serious assessment to determine what else went wrong, why we, as a nation, fared even worse than other nations with disturbing histories and why we have failed in granting people even their most basic rights.

At the same time, we need to develop a better understanding of the conspiracy mindset that has grown such deep roots amongst people, leading to absurd theories being propounded about why Pakistani cricketers have been found guilty of corruption or why there are so many concerns about militancy originating in the country.

Other trends need to be examined still more closely. An Urdu-language newspaper recently ran a story – which analysts examining it believe has no basis at all – on several French women wishing to marry Taliban leaders, including Hakeemullah Mehsud, who they apparently saw as 'heroes', while the West was described as a decadent place where lies about the Taliban were told.

Was this a plant, as some suspect – intended to glamourise militants who have wreaked havoc across the country? Or merely another example of the line taken so often by sections of the media? We need to understand all this better. We must accept that a very great deal has gone wrong and can be put right only by gazing back into an often murky past, assessing the impact of events on the present and then attempting to re-find the road which we, at some point, ventured off and stumbled into the lonely wilderness.









Two years after returning to power, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is enmeshed in a web of onerous constraints and seeking a way out. Polls show his popularity plunging, and his Likud party's brand has been squeezed between Kadima and Yisrael Beiteinu.

International pressure is closing him in ever more tightly. Netanyahu extracted a veto from US President Barack Obama of a UN Security Council resolution condemning the settlements, but that merely highlighted Israel's isolation.

"The world" is united in its belief that Israel is clinging to the status quo, and is demanding that it abandon the occupation and the settlements as its contribution to the new regional order. Netanyahu's warnings that the revolutions in Arab states will strengthen Iran and radical Islam – and that therefore, the wise course is to hunker down and wait – have been either ignored or rejected by a West enthralled by the miracle of "Arab democracy."

The Palestinians are approaching "White September," in which they will declare independence – and if they meet with an Israeli rejection, begin an Egypt-style popular uprising. The conditions that led to the uprising in Cairo's Tahrir Square also exist in East Jerusalem: masses of young people with no hope, but exposed to the temptations of globalization and the Internet. If they march in their thousands toward the Old City, Israel will not be able to stop them. Netanyahu won't massacre demonstrators as Libya's Muammar Qaddafi has.

Iran is continuing its nuclear program undeterred, though stopping this program topped Netanyahu's priority list. International sanctions, never very effective, have collapsed entirely due to the soaring price of oil.

Computer worms damaged Iran's centrifuges, but didn't halt them. Spring is drawing near, and with it a fleeting "window of opportunity" for a military strike.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak has proposed a two-pronged strategy to Netanyahu: a diplomatic initiative to the Palestinians and a preventive strike on Iran. Give the world the settlement of Yitzhar and secure legitimacy to bomb Natanz.

Ministers Lieberman and Moshe Ya'alon propose advancing an interim arrangement in the West Bank and skipping the attack on Iran. In Ya'alon's view, upgrading the Palestinian Authority to a state in its existing borders would eliminate all the Palestinian threats against Israel.

Netanyahu has been examining the idea of a Palestinian state in provisional borders for several months now. His advisors are divided: Zvi Hauser is in favour, Ron Dermer is opposed. It's hard to find a formula which will be generous enough to satisfy the international community without causing the break-up of Likud.

Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz's plan for a gradual agreement seems like a reasonable formula, one tailor-made for Israel's political centre. But the right would have trouble swallowing it, because it promises the Palestinians that they will ultimately receive a state equivalent in size to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu's problem is not that he lacks diplomatic formulas, but that he lacks credibility in the eyes of world leaders. He will have to throw them a juicy bone in order for them to back him and refrain from supporting a Palestinian uprising. But then he will risk losing his rightist coalition, and with it, his job – just as he did after signing the Wye River Memorandum during his first term as prime minister.

Now, he is facing the gamble of his life: Should he surprise everyone with his "Bar-Ilan University Speech, Version 2.0," in the hope that his plunge in the polls will reverse and the world will cut him some slack? Or will he understand that it's a lost cause, and his term of office will simply fade away as if it never was?










AS some of the Western nations are trying to take advantage of the instability in Libya, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) has warned against military intervention in that country. OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday emphasizing that all options should be utilized for the settlement of disputes through peaceful means and without resorting to use of force.

The OIC has administered timely warning, as the United States and Britain were contemplating military action to dislodge Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi and there are apprehensions that the move is aimed at securing control of Libyan oil. This is not mere speculation as the US envoy to UN Susan Rice has said her country was in talks with its NATO partners and other allies about the military options. The United States also announced that it was moving ships and planes closer to the country and British Prime Minister David Cameron said his Government would work to prepare a 'no fly' zone over Libya. We fully endorse the statement of the OIC chief, which is reflective of the sentiments and aspirations of 1.3 billion Muslims who are equally concerned about the developments in Libya but are deadly opposed to any foreign interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign State. What right or authority the self-declared policemen of the world have got to dictate terms to independent countries and trample their sovereignty on different pretexts. Why the United States is not using force against Israel, which is brutally bombing Palestinians every now and then only because they demand their birthright? We are not advocating in favour of Colonel Qaddafi or justifying his actions as there are complaints against lacklustre performance and promoting his own family and sons. But these are purely internal affairs of a sovereign State and Libyan people are mature enough to take care of their own problems and sort them out. The threat to use force against Libyan leader is in line with the declared US policy of 'regime change' and 'pre-emptive strikes' which is aimed at carrying out aggression against weaker and smaller countries to advance Washington's strategic and economic interests in different regions. We would, therefore, urge other members of the international community especially the Arab League to forge a united stand against such an interventionist approach, clearly telling the United States that it has to respect the sovereignty of other nations.  








PRIME Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has talked about a number of unexplained programmes at various levels for developing the skills and abilities of the youth who are the future of the country. Talking to a group of young students on Tuesday he exhorted them to equip themselves with education and skills needed to face the future challenges.

There can be no two opinions that investment in youth is investment in future and that is why the nations that pursued this policy practically are reaping benefits and leading the world in almost every field. Pakistan has a population of 180 million hard-working people majority of whom are young people, which is often described as demographic dividend because of the immense potential they offer for national development. However, unfortunately, so far nothing has been done, at least by the present democratic Government, to unleash this huge potential for accelerating socio-economic progress of the country. In the past, Musharraf-Aziz Government, at the inspiration of visionary Dr Attaur Rehman made enhanced allocations for science and technology and higher education, enabling the HEC and the Ministry of Science and Technology to initiate a number of programmes with far-reaching benefits for the country, but regrettably the incumbent Government discarded them midway because of short-sightedness and lack of vision. This is the age of high tech era and without sufficient investment in high education and research and development you cannot compete with the rest of the world. Mere expression of pious intentions would not work and the Government will have to allocate necessary funds and launch programmes that could prepare our youth to take up the challenges of the 21st century. No beginning has been made over the last three years and we hope the Government would make the next budget a turning point in this regards.







WE cannot say whether or not corruption case against PML(Q) leader Moonis Elahi was politically motivated but he appears to have won the first round by presenting himself before FIA in Lahore on Tuesday for investigations for the second time since his return home from abroad. It was widely propagated that the son of the former Chief Minister has run from the country to avoid courts of law but he has proved his critics wrong by facing the law and the courts.

The moral courage demonstrated by Moonis Elahi is a lesson for those who escape the law and even then talk about the rule of law and the Constitution. Functionaries of the Punjab Government had been claiming that Moonis had fled away and that they would have to approach the Interpol to bring him back home to face the courts. However, the young leader returned voluntarily and got a rousing reception by the supporters of his party and also presented himself before the FIA for investigations and accountability. This is in sharp contrast to the prevailing political culture in which politicians and others make it to foreign countries during cloudy days and periods of trial and tribulations. The budding scion of Chaudhry family of Gujrat has demonstrated the unique and extraordinary courage as well as resilience in facing charges against him. This is in line with the tradition of the family that is known for catching the bull by horns and always prefers to live and die in the homeland with their own people. We hope that an impartial inquiry would be conducted into the whole affair to make things clear and this should be done at the earliest as Moonis is fully ready to extend every possible cooperation in this regard. In our view, in a six round bout, Moonis Elahi has won the first round by displaying maturity and courage and that is how it should be.








After the hectic campaign for the attainment of diplomatic immunity for its national, Raymond Davis, United States has finally confessed that, he was a CIA operative, on the spying mission. He is a former member of Special Forces and now works for Xe, commonly known as the Blackwater. This security company works for the CIA all over the globe as well in Pakistan. Upon the arrest of Ramond Davis, the murderer of two persons, some of the non-standard diplomatic items like; a Glock, a telescope, more than 80 bullets, face masks, GPS and pictures of sensitive installations were recovered from his possession. As per the so far confirmed record, he is on this spying mission in Pakistan from early 2010 and since then has been tripping between Pakistan and US quite frequently. Should a diplomat be carrying all items as mentioned above during his diplomatic assignments, is a big question mark. Raymond Davis has incidentally got exposed once he murdered two innocent Pakistani youth, but there are hundreds of his brothers, whose assignments and exact location may be known to only few even in US. Apart from the fact, whether, Raymond has the diplomatic immunity or otherwise, every Pakistani is inquisitive to know as to why hundreds of thousands of the US nationals, mostly the men of special forces working for various US intelligence agencies, particularly CIA were given Pakistani visas and who is to be held responsible for that. Pakistani media has been quite informative and vocal, in indicating the influxes' of the so-called US diplomats on various occasions. As established now, there was immense US pressure on Pakistani authorities for the issuance of the visas to US national and particularly to its spying agents in the garb of diplomats without any prior security clearance and on the short notices. This practice has been more frequent during year 2009/10. Pakistani Embassy in the US has made a record issue of the visas during this tenure. As per rules of the business, issuance of visas in such an enormous number would have called for the formal approval of the Federal Cabinet. Nevertheless, there has been one man show or maximum the decision of the few in the Government, allowing this heavy influx of the US nationals, against the national interest of Pakistan, for promotion of the personal relationship.

Like Raymond Davis, almost all US spies, were issued diplomatic passport and later visas issued by Pakistani authorities accordingly. These people were disguised mostly as the US officials, embassy staffers, diplomats, journalists and media men. Unfortunately, the authorities in Pakistan never questioned the US, as to why such a huge force is being inducted in Pakistan and for what special assignments. DynCorp and Blackwater (Xe), private security companies of the USA, were issued hundreds of visas. These companies have been found involved in spying activities in Pakistan. Despite the reservations from the intelligence agencies of Pakistan, DynCorp was issued exclusive visas for over 50 personnel in 2010.

It is learnt that, Pakistani Embassy in Washington was empowered to issue any number of visas to US nationals for a period of one year, without making a reference to the intelligence agencies of Pakistan. Upon this undesired flexibility, Pakistani Embassy issued 400 visas to US nationals in first two days, including a holiday.

It is noteworthy that, in a period of six months; January 2010 to July 2010, Pakistani Embassy in Washington, issued 1895, officials and diplomatic visas. From July 14, 2010, to 30 August, 2010, US embassy issued another 1445 visas to US citizens, mostly in the garb of diplomats. Following the special power given to Pakistani Ambassador in Washington, for the issuance of visas, it is estimated that "approximately 3000 visas had been issued to US officials and diplomats by Pak Embassy in Washington. Though the spokesperson of the US Embassy in Islamabad has not issued any data of US national in Pakistan, however, as per Pakistani in Washington, "approximately 3,555 U.S. diplomats, military officials and employees of allied agencies were issued visas in 2010."

Nevertheless, the exact data of the US nationals, who are stationed in Pakistan, is still not known. In most of the cases, once security forces tried to be strict on the checking of the US nationals, entering into Pakistan, higher authorities in the Government would stop the checking procedures for these US nationals, issued with special visas. The question arises, as to why such a heavy number of US nationals were given visas without security clearance. Why US needs to raise the level of its manpower to such an extent. Since almost a year, U.S is expanding its mission in Islamabad through a fortified embassy compound by spending over a $1 billion on its construction. This expanded compound would be sufficient to house hundreds of new employees. Besides, U.S is strengthening its consulates in Karachi, Peshawar and Lahore. The former Ambassador, Peterson, had also visited Quetta and met many Baloch nationalists there in 2010. Unfortunately, there have been no worthwhile voices on these expansionist designs of US in Pakistan from various circles. Although, it is already too late, yet, the people in the hierarchal order of Pakistan must question US for over a brigade size force in Pakistan. After all, "There are huge sensitivities. This is not Iraq or Afghanistan. We are not under occupation."Furthermore, as if this was not enough, on the request of the US authorities, Pakistani Ministry of Interior Affairs, issued licenses of the prohibited bore arms to the private security companies like Inter-Risk, working for the DynCorp and others working for Xe. Through a letter the former US Ambassador, Anne W Patterson, sought the licenses for the weapon of prohibited bore from Interior Minister Rehman Malik in March, 2009. She specially mentioned about the Washington's security contract with "DynCorp International and their Pakistani sub-contractors Inter-Risk (Pvt) Ltd, and Speed Flo Filter Industries." The Ambassador also used her influence in getting the weapons of prohibited bore for US security companies and Inter-Risk, working for these US companies. It is worth mentioned that, "US Embassy in Islamabad had ordered the import of around 140 AK-47 rifles and other prohibited weapons in the name of Inter-Risk."

Now, after the unfortunate incident of the Raymond Davis, Government of Pakistan has started repairing the losses. The Government has decided to shrink the special power given to the Pakistani Ambassador in Washington and imposition of other security checks, necessary to be taken in the national interest. There has been mystifying revelations that, Interior Ministry does not have the updated record of the US nationals serving in Pakistan in various capacities. Let there be end to the era of special protocol for US spying network in Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan must investigate all those responsible for the flaws in the visa issuance process and reprimand them on their act. The broad criterion should be that, our personal relations and personal gains should not govern the national interests of Pakistan. The sovereignty, integrity and national pride of Pakistan should be kept in the forefront, while developing our relationship across the national frontiers.

The writer is an International Relations analyst.







Across the Arab world, tragic scenes unravel inspiring human struggle for freedom – police shooting on peaceful protesters at random, massive deaths, degradation of human life, disruption of social and economic activities, and cries of "Allah –o- Akbar - God is Great" and "La Illa ILLulaha - there is no god but God." Unthinkable and unexpected as it was to the Arab neo-colonial ruling elite, mostly uneducated, devoid of reason and intellectual foresight and being unable to think right, to know and understand the concerns of the masses- the typical sinking behavior to blame others, not being able to see the authoritarian self in the mirror as the crux of the problems. The people's revolutionary movements generate great deal of sensation and dramatic effects on the Western TV screens. Sometime the Western entertaining news media called it "unrest" or "uprising" but in reality the people's movement for freedom from the yoke of imperialism. The Western military-industrial institutionalized complex needed oil to sustain convenient materialistic life and capitalism, the neo-colonial Arab rulers were the best planned scheme of things to deliver the goodies to the West in return for security alliances and military hardware and protection. Under the Western sponsored authoritarianism, the Arab people were the direct object of oppression and enslavement for decades. Their pains and agonies were public knowledge but lived in denials as do the Palestinian under continued Israeli occupation. If the Palestinians could re-organize themselves under intelligent and proactive new leadership, they should be able to deal with Israel and negotiate a peaceful resolution of the problem.

The Western thinking people failed to realize that the Arab people were also human beings with similar interests, perceptions and goals for freedom and much deserving human dignity. Change has come on its own as part of the natural process but not out of the planned sketches neither of the Western mythologists nor of the Arab intellectuals. Throughout the Arab anarchy based governance, paid intellectuals aligned themselves with the establishments and dictators. The Arab political intellectuals turned out to be worst and useless than being indifferent and ignorant of the prevalent facts of human affairs craving for political change. The political change has streamlined itself from the thoughts and sacrifices of the ordinary folks. Abduaziza was an ordinary street cart vendor in Tunisia, not a political activist; he challenged the corrupt police women and died. His death triggered the societal reaction against the age-old atrocities of the political corruption. In matter of days and weeks, Tunisia is a different and free land and people. Wael Ghonim - the Egyptian Facebook revolutionary spent weeks in police custody, blindfolded, tortured and abused for nothing except that he wanted to communicate freely with his own people to foster peaceful change. Given the focus mind and its objectivity, "when a people return to Allah, surely, Allah's help come rushing to them."

Like all the Arab rulers imposed by the Western masters, Hosni Mubarak was paranoid and vengeful, how dare anyone challenge his forty years of dictatorship. After the people's success in Tunisia and Egypt, other Arab neo-colonial rulers are suspicious and uncertain about their continuity and effectiveness to dictate the masses. The realities on the ground are changing fast at a super express speed. After people' success in Tunisia and Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Yemen are the latest developing stories of prospective change and reformation of the old regimes. For over sixty years, the Arab rulers ignored the interests and priorities of the masses, only to perpetuate a family-based powerhouse to institutionalize oppression. The petro-dollars revenues conspired to make 'modernity' as the goal of prosperity replacing Islam as the values of the Arabian lives. Corruption bred fear and hatred and deprived the people of their moral and intellectual values to think of positive change. This scheme of things included elaborative secret service intelligence establishments planned and trained by the Western countries such as the United States, Britain, France and others. The single most institution that kept the despotic Arab rulers in office and prolonged the opportunities for change. The end-users oil importing nations were part of the decade-old tortures and inhuman behavior going-on in the oil producing Arab countries. The rulers could not have done it on their own except by the hired mercenaries from these nations. The Arab rulers used consumerism to forge economic prosperity without planning to develop the human resources and intellect for change. To them, this was a success but in reality achieved at the cost of ruthless dictatorship ignoring the importance of Islamic system of life and values and a materialistic success leading to degeneration of the Islamically civilized people. The rulers slipped into vices and ruins leading to political cruelty and viciousness of the authoritarian system of governance. In the process, the Arab people lost the power of thinking and urge for change and challenge to oppression. The cheap oil supplies continued to flow without disruption to the much needed Western industrial markets and capitalism flourished.

Now, the Arab people have revitalized their inborn power of thinking as believers, and interwoven passion and goals of the natural identity of being what they are and where they are, can think and imagine a new world for the future. They are organized and united as one force, one people to articulate a new world of freedom, participation and democracy. The people have come out of the institutionalized secret police fear and hatred, it is open in demonstrations on the streets, in villages, in shopping malls, in people squares, the voices of the people are loud and clear that the egomaniac leaders must go and go for ever, there is no place for complacency, the Arab people want freedom from exploitation and consumer-based foreign slavery. Guns and bullets can not silence the voices of reason and human conscience, if suppressed, louder they will become. The Arab dictators have stolen people's fortunes, they must be held accountable for their crimes and punished. Most of the stolen wealth is kept in the Western financial institutions. It is incumbent upon the Western nations to be vigilant and responsible that such resources are returned to the rightful people across the Arab world.

There is no nationalism as was in Europe, and there is no glorification of the state as did Hitler, Mussolini and other European leaders. The ex-colonial master did encouraged the Arab rulers to invent new national borders, anthems, flags and concept of nation states as they wanted to divide and rule the rule the Arab masses and undermine Islam and its culture and civilization. Islam develops and embraces the unity of humanity as One, One people and One Ummah equal in rights, human dignity and status before God. Western mythologists face a serious challenge. It is more of intellectual nature than anything else. With all the knowledge and technology-governed information age, they failed to see the people revolution emerging in the Arab world. The Western intellectual never thought of the Arab people as mature and intelligent enough to challenge the ruthless rulers against their wishes. History provides opportunities to all to take serious notice of the contemporary developments and learn from the current events shaping overwhelming people's movement for a new Arab world of unity and purpose. The change is not against any Western nations but it is part of the people-oriented governance that should have happened several decades earlier. One must realize that the Western sponsored economic prosperity in the Arab world had tragic consequences because it denied human involvement and rational importance to develop human thinking and abilities for change and development. The self-sustained Western intellectuals face a critical challenge of perception and adaptation to the emerging new Arab world enriched with people of reason, intellect and reality to do business on equal terms.

Across the Arab world, political change is not without insurmountable challenges. The Thinking People- the hub of the Arab social and intellectual bank must take notice of the developing events and plan and organize new institutions, encourage Muslim scholars and proactive visionary intellectuals to share ideas and ideals for maximizing the outcomes from these changes on the ground. They should pool resources to plan and develop new and innovative methods and alternatives to avoid future mishaps of dictatorial governance. The essence of time speaks for itself, time and opportunities lost are never regained. There are serious tasks and priorities ahead to be dealt with in rebuilding the national infrastructures and viable systems of democratic and participatory governance. Change is much needed by rejecting and opposing the authoritarianism and will be much useful when it can be transformed into concrete actions and actions are implemented to the best interests of the people.

—The writer specializes in global security, peace and conflict resolution.








March 8th is a magnificent and vibrant date on the calendar for women around the globe. From last ten decades women's' organizations, progress group and scholars are struggling for reorganization, protection and accomplishing women rights. International women day give us opportunity to pay homage and express our admiration for those who played incredible role in women rights movement.

International Women Day acts as focus point showing the importance of bringing together women of all political persuasions, irrespective their social situation to ensure that every woman can fully enjoy all human rights and basic freedoms. Whenever we talk about women interests and welfare, attention goes to feminism or feminist movement. In Pakistan this word takes in numerous ways, mostly conceive as negative impression. Actuality feminist movements address equal opportunities for women as well as equal political, economical and social rights for them. It core intend is to understand the difference between gender inequities and gender variation. Basically the faith in equality among man and woman is called feminism and believer is feminist no matter is he or she.

In presents days, when world is swiftly transforming, huge areas are under political turmoil, many regions are facing terrible financial depression, some where people are thrashing by dreadful wars, great number of people are victims of terrorism and in many areas natural disasters are examining human nerve and patents. In our own home economic and political uncertainty, floods, constant blasts, poverty, joblessness, shortage of water, gas and electricity make life hell for every body. In this scenario when universally human beings are suffering, question arises, how logical would be to talk about women movement and their rights?

I must say here that in current situation talk louder about all deprived people's rights especially about women rights is nothing less than logical and needs of time. Taking practical steps for safeguarding women rights is much important than ever before, but for this purpose human rights groups, women originations and specially academics and scholars must keep their minds open and must critically analyse world's events instead of taking them as blind and blind. Here we must also inquire ourselves that beside of establishment of democracy, liberty to civil society, media and freedom of judiciary is claimed then why the rate of crimes and brutality against women is increasing shamelessly.

According to the report of Human Rights Watch in the last six months of 2010, numbers of crimes against women were 5014, these numbers are registered cases, details are as following. Kidnapping: 2001, Murder: 719, domestic violence: 246, Suicides: 286, Honor Killings: 315 Rape: 483, Sexual harassment: 65, Acid throwing: 23, Burning deaths: 26, Rest of violence: 850.

According to the statistics this horrifying truth shows that Pakistani women is living in such a tentative and horrifying conditions. Why? To get the answer of this question, need to learn and observe closely present national and international socio-economic and cultural strategies, their creators and those who are behind the implementation of these policies. From more than a decade, one of global rule that we are experiencing in our dally lives is called "Globalisation" that stands for free movement of capital from one region to other and no trade restrictions between countries. Technically and political changes that occurred due to globalisation badly effected the idea of gender equality in entire world.

In free market economy, women lives and experiences are very diverse and complicated. It means globalisation is not only an economical change but it has given transnationals companies unlimited authorities and power to make local governments weaker and easily violate basic human rights. Women are the main and easy targets. That's why in the countries like Pakistan activities in the name of religion, language and nations become burly, aggressive and violent as they are increasing. Their main motive and agenda is undermining women and minority rights.

But all over the world particularly in Pakistan women movement strongly reacted against this attitude. Form the day of birth of Pakistan till today on the basis of religion and class women movements were is appreciable for in injustice. In the era of Zia -Ul -Haq Islamnzation, movement of women rights had to face critical challenge and such prejudice laws were implemented that women were degraded as human being. But Pakistani women fought bravely again this conspiracy.








The winds of change are blowing across the Muslim world in the Middle East demolishing dictators and kings who have been ruling over millions of people by force of arms keeping them under their heels and plundering their wealth to build their palaces to live their lives in luxury at the cost of their people's sweat and blood.

They called themselves Muslims but violated the code of life given to them by God in his Holy Book. Islam is the first religion of the world which demolished the evil institutions of monarchy and one man dynastic rule. It gave humanity the concept of good governance through consultation and election of the Caliph through Bayet. This, in fact is the first concept of democracy given to human beings by Quran. The Holy Book also commanded the rulers to do justice to all without discrimination and ordered equitable distribution of wealth among masses. Concentration of wealth in a few hands has been strictly forbidden, and the rich have been ordered to share their wealth with the poor. This, in fact is the blue print of an egalitarian society and a welfare state in modern terms. After assuming power the Khulafa-e-Rashedeen ruled strictly according to the edicts of the Quran, but with the advent of the Umayyad dynasty they remained Caliphs only in name, but for all practical purposes they became dynastic monarchs and dictators who ruled over their people for centuries as if they were inferior beings with no human rights. They amassed wealth for themselves, for their families and for their hangers on and clung to power for decades.

The bubble however burst when people in Tunisia revolted against their corrupt ruler Zenilabedin bin Ali and forced him to flee. Likewise, the Egyptian people rose against their president Hosni Mubarak in a determined campaign lasting for more than 15 day until he was forced to surrender and resign after remaining in power for over three decades. People are also agitating in Yemen and Bahrain to get rid of their rulers. They are also bound to succeed sooner or later.

Another most important country, Libya is also going through a bloody revolution by the people who have occupied Benghazi, the largest city of Libya along with some adjoining cities and towns. President Moammar Qaddafi whose authority is confined only to the capital city Tripoli and some adjoining areas is still clinging to power making speeches like a mad man and ordering the troops still loyal to him to kill the agitators indiscriminately. According to reports hundreds of people have been killed and thousands of foreign nationals are fleeing from the country to save their lives. I am reminded of my visit to Libya where I had gone to cover the visit of late Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto for PTV during his marathon trip to several Muslim countries including – Algeria, Tunisia and Libya where Colonel Qaddafi had taken over power in a military coup. During this visit an important beginning was made by Pakistan in its quest to produce the atomic bomb which was named the Islamic Bomb by the western media. Colonel Qaddafi was a young revolutionary at that time. Mr. Bhutto was a great admirer of Qaddafi who in many ways seemed to have the same body chemistry and political vision like his own.

Mr Bhutto asked me to interview Qaddafi before his departure from Tripoli. The only time available for the interview was when the two leaders sat down to sign the joint communiqué the next morning. When they came down to the lobby to sign the communiqué, the camera crew started preparation for the interview. Meanwhile Mr. Bhutto and Colonel Qaddafi were making light conversation in English which Qaddafi could understand and speak a little. Since I was standing very close to them I over heard the conversation which went like this. Qaddafi said "Muslim countries should have nuclear technology to produce atomic weapons. Israel already has nuclear weapons which is a great threat to the Islamic world. We now have enough financial resource to produce nuclear weapons but unfortunately we lack technology and technical know-how". Mr. Bhutto said, "If rich Arab countries could provide us financial assistance we can try to develop a nuclear weapon". This historic conversation which ended in a few minutes made Pakistan a member of the nuclear club some years later.

S.M. Burke and Ziring write in their book "Pakistan's foreign policy" that Mr. Bhutto was rumored to have arranged with Qaddafi the acquisition of uranium to produce a nuclear bomb. This was no rumor but a fact and I was a witness to it.

Now Mr. Qaddafi is a totally different person. He has ordered the troops still loyal to him to shoot to kill his own people who made him their leader forty years ago. Now that they want him to go like Egyptian people did to Hosni Mubarak who was also adamant for a few days but later agreed to stand down. It seems that Qaddafi too will have to surrender to the peoples' demand sooner or later because his time has come to step down. The UN Security Council has slapped sanctions against him and his family and has frozen the assets of all of them. Most of his ambassadors in foreign countries and some of the senior members of his cabinet have left him and majority of his countrymen have abandoned him. He should quit with dignity like all dictators do sooner or later.

Mr. Bhutto was so impressed by young Qaddafi that he named a stadium in Lahore after him when he came to attend the Islamic Summit in 1974 despite strong opposition by the Shah of Iran who was a frequent visitor to Pakistan as Mr. Bhutto's guest. The Shah was so annoyed that he did not attend the Summit. Regrettably Pakistan may have to change the name of the stadium as the name of a road in Islamabad which was dedicated to the name of the Shah of Iran was changed when Ayatollah Khomeini toppled the monarchy in Iran.







On January 29, I along with my family while going to my house passed through the Jail Road and viewed the seen of the unpleasant event. In that incident on January 27, 2011 an American undercover secret agent Raymond A Davis killed two young boys just in front of famous "Bhatti Tikka Shop". The site was marked with the nylon rope and the bloodshed of killed citizens over road was visible from a distance as well. Out of these murdered persons, two were killed by Raymond who allegedly shot eight times with pinpoint accuracy through his car windshield and third one totally innocent young boy was crushed by another American vehicle which came for the rescue of the killer. Davis and others Americans fled the vehicles away from the seen of the crime but thanks to Almighty Allah Who created a defect in a private car of the unknown lady just in front of Davis' car, and forced him to stop. At that moment chasing police party successful captured Raymond Davis before he would has entered into the consulate. But the vehicle which crushed Obaidur Rehman escaped itself and went to US consulate. Despite repeated requests of Punjab government, US consulate has not produced the driver along with the vehicle to the police. Reportedly, the driver and occupants of this vehicle have been secretly transported to Afghanistan by road and later on from there were flown to US.

The investigating Agency (Punjab Police) failed to completely open the trained CIA agent Davis. However, the police recovered from him private pistol, few bullets, camera, cell phones, highly sophisticated wireless set and dollars. The screening of camera revealed that Davis has carried out the photography of Pakistani bunkers situated on Eastern border, fort located at Waris Road (ex location of an Army Unit), sensitive buildings and locations. The calls records of his mobile phones indicate that Davis was in connection with different Taliban groups (working in the interest of India and US). According to "The European Union Times Report" Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) revealed that top secret CIA documents found in Davis's possession point his connection with al-Qaeda terrorists and use to provide them "nuclear fissile material" and "biological agents" which could be used against the United States itself in order to ignite an all-out war in order to reestablish the West's hegemony over a Global economy that is warned is just months away from collapse. The report further disclosed the information about Davis while quoting the report of "Times of India" that includes: "According to records from the Pentagon, Davis is a former Special Forces soldier who left the army in August 2003 after 10 years of service. A Virginia native, he served with infantry divisions prior to joining the 3rd Special Forces Group in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In 1994, he was part of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Macedonia. The American Spy is in the habit of drug taking {"Charse filled cigarette & Niswar" (both these drugs are extensively being used by the male inhabitants of Afghanistan and tribal area of Pakistan.) According to the officers of investigating agencies, neither US consulate nor Mr. Davis has cooperated n interrogation of the case. It is also mentionable here that Investigating Agency has openly negated Davis stance over killing of the two citizens in self-defense.

Washington's foreign office and US ambassador instead assisting local police for fair investigation started crying for immunity of a spy under the Vienna acts. The actual situation of the case of immunity is, Mr. Davis' name has not been included in that list which was provided by the US consulate to Interior Ministry for getting diplomatic facilities on January 23, 2011. His name has been included in that list which was dispatched to Interior Ministry of Pakistan on January 28, 2011 (after the murder of Pakistani Citizens). Thus, Davis name was listed maliciously to prove him as diplomat. Mr. Obama, Hilleary Clinton & John Kerry also tried to built up pressure on government of Pakistan to release Mr. Davis on the plea that his status comes under the Vienna act which gives immunity to diplomats. Pakistan's former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had pressurized him to verify the diplomatic immunity to Raymond Davis arrested for gunning down two men in Lahore. "Hillary Clinton called me and wanted me to publicly confirm diplomatic immunity of Davis. However, I refused to do so because it was against the factual position in the case," Qureshi was quoted as saying by Dunya News Saturday night. In this regard government of Pakistan straight away refused to provide him the immunity and stated that matter would be decided by the court.

Anyhow, the above revealed facts forced Pakistani authorities to dig out the truth since now it's not the matter of two simple murders in self defence. In fact it is matter of Pakistan's national security, integrity, respect, survival and sovereignty. To reach the conclusion, the investigating agencies have to find out the answers of significant questions which are frustrating everyone's mind. The questions could be, (one) why Mr. Davis was roaming in Lahore with a loaded pistol and carried out photography of important sensitive places, (two) is murder of the two young citizens result of some secret operation "agent burning of", (three) was Davis on some covert mission and thought that he had been compromised due to continuous chase by some local intelligence people, thus decided to get rid of them ,(four) was he working as a duel agent of RAW & Mossad apart from his parent organization CIA, (five) has he been given the mission of sabotaging already scheduled US-Pakistan-Afghanistan Dialogues, (six) was he really helping Al-Qaida in getting small yield nuclear weapons (seven) was he having some connection or clue in killing and abduction of Col (Retired ) Imam, (eight) why US consulate is reluctant in handing over the car along with driver for investigating which crushed a passing bye motor cyclist ,(nine) Do the operators of Mr. Davis's desire to sabotage Obama's plan of leaving Afghanistan soon,(ten) is he on the mission to sabotage forth coming Indo-Pak talks,(eleven) Has CIA decided to get rid of Mr. Davis?,

The analysis of the evidence available and questions raised in this article are giving indication that CIA spy Mr. Davis was on some secret mission and killed innocent Pakistani citizens considering them chaser of local intelligence organization or on "agent burning mission'. On under discussion issue of Davis top military and political leadership has unanimous view i.e. dealing the case with dignity, fairly and without taking the pressure of US. In this connection on February 18, 2011, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani called on President Asif Ali Zardari at the Presidency. "Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani was also present during the meeting. In this sitting issues relating to the war against militancy was discusses. However, an official privy to meeting revealed that the issue of terrorism was deliberated upon during the talks, but the focus was on the Pakistan-US diplomatic row over the fate of the detained American citizen. Pakistani judicial system is matured and independent. Davis case is in the court so American top brass should respect the local courts which will definitely deal the case the on merit. It is mentionable here that Pakistani government would never like to commit political suicide without taking the nation in confidence by unconditionally releasing CIA Spy. Moreover the government will never like to sign on her death warrant just because of Davis stupidity or to win American sympathies. Pakistani government should instruct foreign embassies to curtail their employees' activities. US top brass if believe in long term strategic relations with Pakistan then she has to respect the emotions of the people and local laws. America should also realize that she cannot fight the war on terror without Pakistan support. In overall scenario the point to be pondering here that "Pakistani masses have started thinking whether America is their strategic friend or strategic enemy". Thus, Washington authorities must control "Black Water" which has become the black spot for US.









Julia Gillard has been unambiguous in her opposition to same-sex marriage, declaring "the marriage act is appropriate in its current form, that is recognising that marriage is between a man and a woman." So it is curious to say the least that she appears content to allow this contentious social reform to be decided by a small, unrepresentative territory administration. The Prime Minister has been in Canberra long enough to know that the values of its tertiary-educated, public sector-dominated electorate do not always coincide with those of the wider Australian community.

The Greens' push to water down federal veto rights over laws made by territories is widely seen as a stalking horse for gay marriage law reform. It could pave the way for Australia's first same-sex marriage laws to be enacted in the ACT. If that is the consequence of weakening the commonwealth's power over the territories, it will be a reform Ms Gillard and the federal Labor government will own.

It is no surprise that a bevy of ALP caucus members have scrambled to head off the Greens' bill, causing it to be shelved to a Senate committee -- for now. Its opponents have sound arguments on their side. There is no reason in principle for the commonwealth to cede powers to the territories, which do not have the constitutional status of the states but rather exercise powers defined under federal laws. And while support for same-sex marriage can be found across the political spectrum, few would claim it is a national priority when set against other pressing reforms such as disability insurance or health reform.

Ms Gillard is in danger of reinforcing the impression that the Greens, the economic sceptics of parliament, wield a disproportionate influence over the policy agenda and affairs of the nation. Community attitudes to homosexuality have matured significantly in recent decades, and there has been popular support for equal property rights. But the introduction of same-sex marriage will be confronting for socially conservative, working-class families in traditional Labor seats, and honestly held views must be heard, not condemned. The Greens also want a conscience vote aimed at reversing the 1997 bill that outlawed Northern Territory euthanasia laws, another minefield of an issue.

The Australian makes no judgment about issues of personal choice but recognises that it is always a mistake for governments to move too far in front of mainstream public opinion on social issues. Already it is clear that debate over same-sex marriage would trigger internal splits within the government and the Liberal Party. In facing angry Labor MPs yesterday, Ms Gillard learned a sharp lesson about the pitfalls of discarding the views of Labor MPs to placate the Greens.

MPs representing Labor's traditional blue-collar base understand that the preoccupations of inner-city Labor supporters and the Greens are far removed from many people in their seats who were John Howard's battlers, then Kevin Rudd's working families and are now one of the most vital groups of swinging voters in Australia. Ms Gillard is learning the hard way that she can't please everybody over same-sex marriage or on most other issues. If and when she capitulates to the Greens, she will be held responsible.






After bringing Ireland to the brink of bankruptcy, Fianna Fail was destined for a heavy defeat in the country's election. Yet the extent of its rout and that of its erstwhile allies in government, the Green party, is extraordinary and carries lessons for countries inside and outside the euro zone. Attempts to shore up the currency through unpopular debt bailouts were not received well. There is a clear message, too, in the backlash against the Greens.

Fianna Fail, the party of power for most of the 80 years since Irish independence, was reduced to a rump. It lost 60 of its 78 seats, getting just 15 per cent of first-preference votes. The Green party, preoccupied with same-sex relationships and environmental issues, including a price on carbon, and a partner in government before withdrawing in January, did even worse, losing all six of its seats.

Eight months ago, Enda Kenny, who will be the new prime minister, was almost dumped by his right-of-centre Fine Gael, which has emerged as the largest party in the new Dail. Now, in coalition with the left-of-centre Labour Party, he will form government and seek to fulfil the pledge he made to renegotiate the onerous terms of the E85 billion bailout deal agreed with the EU and the International Monetary Fund that lies at the heart of the upheaval in Irish politics.

Mr Kenny wants far better bailout terms, including lower interest on rescue loans. He faces a deadline on March 25 when EU leaders sign off on any changes. Given the mood of the Irish electorate, Brussels would be wise to show sympathy. Ireland is in no position to sustain the conditions agreed by the previous government. The 5.8 per cent interest charged on the bailout loan is unreasonably high. The ratio of government debt to GDP has grown from 25 per cent in 2007 to 95 per cent. Living standards are falling and the Irish are voting with their feet, with about 1000 people leaving the country each week.

The previous government put Ireland's head in a noose and has paid the price. Mr Kenny's ability to negotiate improved bailout conditions will be keenly watched elsewhere in Europe. Issues of national sovereignty are at stake. Euroscepticism about the single-currency experiment was not without foundation.

Fianna Fail has much to answer for. The consequences of its incompetence have been exploited by extremist groups such as Gerry Adams's unsavoury Sinn Fein, which has doubled its representation to 15 seats and is now proclaiming itself to be a genuine all-Ireland party. More welcome is the drubbing meted out to the Green party, troublesome from the day it became part of the government until it abandoned the coalition in January. The party complains it suffered guilt by association with Fianna Fail, but in the Irish economic mess, a preoccupation with same-sex relationships and the environment were not vote-winning tactics.

Ireland has no alternative but to face the music for its past economic profligacy. The inflated expectations that surrounded the emergence of the Celtic Tiger encouraged a dangerous complacency. The only proven antidote is austerity. The Irish people know that, but the onerous conditions agreed to by Fianna Fail are neither in the interests of Ireland nor the EU. Mr Kenny has a clear mandate to seek their amelioration. He deserves a fair go from Europe's leaders.






Threats of violence have no place in politics and should, where necessary, be referred to police. Yet sadly there would be no politician, journalist or public advocate worth their salt who has not received disturbing messages, and most offices have protocols for dealing with them. If independent MP Tony Windsor has not received such messages until now, it speaks to either his good fortune or his absence from the heat of the political kitchen. It certainly does not, as he suggests, betray a change in our political culture. Mr Windsor's broadcasting of these threats seems unwise and is unlikely to elicit sympathy; the oxygen of publicity, we fear, could encourage such irresponsible acts. Linking the threats to the opposition's campaign against the carbon tax is a crass political slur and Mr Windsor scraped the barrel when he linked the issue to the murderous rampage in Arizona in January which, he should know, was the act of an insane gunman with no rational political intent.

Mr Windsor's public comments suggest he is feeling the pressure of the political spotlight he has chosen for himself. We have sympathy for anyone subjected to threats in public or private life, but we suggest if Mr Windsor has concerns, he should quietly alert the police, who can offer advice about safety and track down the culprit.






GOTTERDAMMERUNG, Untergang … somehow German words spring to mind in trying to convey the mad insistence of Muammar Gaddafi on his right to continue ruling over Libya, on the continuing adoration of his people. There is no handover deal to a college of generals, no flight out to Saudi Arabia, only a fight to the end amid the ruins along with diehard elite forces.

Gaddafi claims he has no position to resign from anyway - he is ''Brother Leader and Guide'' embodying the Libyan ''revolution'' - just as Adolf Hitler was simply the Fuhrer, or ''leader''. But that is part of the myth of direct popular democracy around his personal dictatorship, further camouflaged in Islamic green. Over the past

42 years, he has slipped from keen young army patriot into classic oriental despot and voluptuary, siphoning oil wealth into personal accounts, surrounded in his tents by young women, and with a domestic espionage and security system on the scale of the Stasi in East Germany. After decades sponsoring terrorists and violent radicals from around the world, and instigating several terrorist operations by Libya itself, he recently set about buying back international respectability through multibillion-dollar compensation payments to the victims.

Thankfully, Gaddafi seems to have been diverted from the nuclear weapons he was caught out trying to build, but his regime is thought to have stockpiles of chemical weapons and precursors. Having used aircraft and helicopter gunships against street opponents, the worry is that he would stop at nothing to quell those he dismisses as ''cockroaches''.

The Libyans newly awakened from the spell of his leadership would no doubt like to complete the job of destroying his power by themselves. They include a sizeable section of the Libyan armed forces, as well as many former conscripts familiar with weapons. It would be far better for the future prospects of a more democratic system and responsible governance in Libya for them to complete their revolution without outside help, especially from the Western powers that have trampled across north Africa for centuries.

The practical difficulties of providing military assistance to the uprising are in any case causing concerned governments to hesitate. Gaddafi has used some of his oil money to buy sophisticated air defences that would make enforcement of a no-fly zone perilous without a thorough preliminary strike to neutralise them. But if Gaddafi gives a hint of using weapons of mass destruction, or even threatens widespread loss of life through powerful conventional weapons, the outside world should be ready for a quick decision to intervene.





EMPLOYERS are investigating ways to monitor their employees' use of social network sites during work hours. Software companies are developing programs that will enable managers to monitor time spent by employees on social networking sites. Employees could be sent a notification or warning message if they exceed the average for the company.

It is intriguing. The increasing intrusion of work into social and family life has been a feature of the past few decades. Employers did not seem to have a problem when the advent of Blackberries and iPhones meant more employees checking work emails after hours. Why shouldn't social life intrude a little back into work? They can hardly then complain when technological advances like Facebook and Twitter give employees the ability to stay in touch more easily with family and friends. It is a healthier and shorter break than a smoko.

It might be time for employers to accept a little ''tit for tat'', or ''equivalent retaliation'', from their workforce, perhaps if the same employees now being monitored for time on Facebook or Twitter start keeping a written record of all the unpaid overtime they put in, so they can also send a warning message to their manager.

Accessing social media at work satisfies the need for social connection that is often impossible to maintain given increased working hours. And ultimately a happy worker makes for a happy employer. Social media can also be a time saver. They give people a way to catch up with friends that may otherwise have involved coffee breaks or long lunches. Similarly, allowing employees to access the internet at work to manage their bank accounts or pay bills is surely quicker than having them leave the office to line up at a bank teller.

Obviously there is a line to be drawn somewhere. If it becomes apparent an employee is not meeting the conditions of work due to excessive internet use, action is appropriate. But it is shortsighted for employers to adopt a suspicious attitude to social media. In these fast-paced and interconnected times, sites like Twitter and Facebook are tools for business and it is in the interest of enterprises for their employees to become adept at using them and building networks of contacts on them. At the end of the day, a good boss should already know if an employee is working efficiently or skiving off. Such matters are best dealt with between manager and employee. Social media are here to stay. Bundy clocks went out some years back.






Premier Ted Baillieu will need to move quickly if his government is to break the mould on secrecy.

THE pattern is depressingly familiar. Opposition parties condemn governments for failing to respect the spirit of freedom of information laws, and promise greater transparency. Then, on winning office, they themselves fall short of the ideal of open government. It is already clear that Premier Ted Baillieu will need to move quickly if his government is to break the mould.

Days after the election of the Baillieu government last November, the Department of Business and Innovation received an application for access to its so-called blue books - the briefings prepared for incoming ministers. It took the department two months to respond, and when it did, the reasons it gave for rejecting the application point to deep cultural flaws in the adminis-tration of Victoria's FOI laws.

The department's FOI manager said one of the blue books contained information on proposed projects ''which are still at feasibility phase and may or may not proceed''. ''If this information were disclosed, it could create a false expectation that these projects had received approval to proceed … This would jeopardise the public's perception of the government's ability to administer public moneys in a fiscally responsible manner should these projects not proceed.'' That raises concerns on at least two levels: it underestimates the intelligence of the Victorian public, and it suggests that potential damage to a government's standing is a factor in determining whether to release information.

The reasons a second blue book, on the state economy, was deemed exempt from disclosure were still more disturbing. ''The release of this information is contrary to the public interest because it would put into the public domain information which is based on estimates, assumptions and options that do not necessarily reflect the views of the government about the state of the Victorian economy,'' the FOI manager ruled. ''The content of this document may mislead the public and cause unnecessary confusion and debate on the government's views on the economy.'' Unnecessary debate about the government's views on the economy? As University of Tasmania law lecturer and FOI authority Rick Snell told The Age yesterday, that response is straight out of the British TV political satire Yes Minister.

Mr Baillieu came to office pledging to break what he described as ''Labor's culture of secrecy which is designed to suppress information deemed harmful to their interests''. His credibility - and, much more importantly, the enhancement of Victoria's democracy - requires that the new Premier live up to his promise.






THE Brumby government talked up its financial management credentials right up to its election defeat in November. As opposition leader, treasurer and then premier, John Brumby had much to do to restore Labor's reputation and to learn from the financial scandals that sank its ''guilty party'' Labor predecessor, the Cain-Kirner government, two decades ago. That makes it all the more extraordinary that, despite being burnt before, the last Labor government gave free rein to the Victorian Funds Management Corporation, contributing to huge losses.

The state's investment arm lost about half of $1 billion invested in a scheme that gambled on US life expectancies. That is a bigger loss than ultimately incurred by the Victorian Economic Development Corporation 20 years ago, which finished off careers and ultimately a government, but the lack of oversight and accountability is familiar. Despite the British regulator having rung alarm bells about ''death funds'', a 2009 VFMC review obtained by The Age found a lack of due diligence and a ''surprising'' willingness to believe sales pitches.

This is the same corporation that oversaw a plunge in managed assets from $43 billion at June 30, 2007, to $30.42 billion at March 31, 2009, which prompted the then opposition's Kim Wells, now the Treasurer, to tell Parliament that ''we have grave concerns about the way the VFMC is being managed''. Its executives still received the biggest bonuses and salaries in Victorian public service history. Mr Brumby admitted the payments were excessive, but insisted the corporation's performance was acceptable in light of the global recession.

The VFMC is an odd hybrid of corporate governance and Westminster responsibility, minus the accountability of either. Assets now total about $35 billion in superannuation savings, pensions, payouts and other public money. Clients include WorkSafe, the Transport Accident Commission, hospitals, universities, the National Gallery and about 150,000 former and current public servants. The Kennett government created the VFMC in 1994, but Mr Brumby transformed it, enabling executives to make direct investment decisions, rather than operate more as trustees. The vision was to put public money to work in an actively managed sovereign wealth fund, the biggest of its kind in Australia, ''positioning the state as a centre of investment excellence''.

As The Age reveals, the corporation's dysfunctional investment tracking and risk-management systems are anything but models of investment excellence. Another problem is government conflicts of interest as fund watchdog, shareholder and promoter. The prudential regulator is the Department of Treasury and Finance. On advice from the department, the Treasurer must approve significant investments, but government ''interference'' rankled with VFMC investment chief Leo de Bever, who resigned in 2008. Yesterday he attacked The Age's reporting, but the facts, as established by VFMC accounting and legal reviews, speak for themselves.

The government and the VFMC board failed to get satisfactory answers to questions that having responsibility for public money demanded. To obtain the Treasurer's approval, the death fund was even classed as ''international fixed interest'' rather than ''alternative investment'', which would have attracted closer scrutiny. The 2009 review was also damning about responses to specific questions put by the board to its executives.

The corporation insists stricter controls are in place, but matters cannot be left at that. An independent prudential supervisor is an essential reform, albeit only a first step. Too many people in positions of responsibility were in the dark about what was done with huge amounts of public funds, and appeared content with that. This is part of a wider political and financial culture - not just a Labor disease - that tolerates carelessness with other people's money. Changing that is a huge challenge.









One by one, those who stick their head above the parapet to demand changes in Pakistan's infamous blasphemy law are being gunned down. First Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, and now Shahbaz Bhatti, Islamabad's minister for minorities, himself a Christian. To say these men were liberals is to posit a false dichotomy. The people gunning them down are not conservatives. They are people who impose their authority by suicide bombings and murder. Their form of argument is terror, and the battle which should be fought against them by anyone who upholds freedom of belief should be as clear on the streets of Islamabad as it is in the foothills of Waziristan.

But everyone recoils. The government backs off through a misguided sense of self-preservation. Weak and fragile, it believes it is being goaded into a conflict it cannot win. So it retreats, backing up against a precipice over which it will eventually fall. Instead of mobilising mass demonstrations against the killings, the Pakistan Peoples party appeases the very forces responsible for the murder of its former leader Benazir Bhutto. The next woman on the death list is Sherry Rehman. Rather than support her bid to reform the blasphemy law and hold the debate where it truly resides, with elected representatives in a parliament (what else was the struggle to end military rule all about?), the PPP prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, hung his former information minister out to dry. Under pressure from religious clerics, he claimed that she had voluntarily withdrawn a bill proposing changes to the law. She had done no such thing. After ruling out reforms, Mr Gilani invited religious leaders to tell him how to prevent misuse of a law. The bulk of the law's victims are Muslim rather than Christian, the latest being a 17-year-old student being held in a juvenile prison after having written allegedly blasphemous remarks on an exam paper. If Mr Gilani becomes the last liberal left standing, he will not be standing for long.

The state, too, recoils. The army cultivated and supported the militants as proxy weapons for their own strategic purposes in Kashmir and Afghanistan. Soldiers are the Taliban's principal targets, but links with the militants are still maintained by some of their officers. The judiciary is also party to these suicidal games. Estranged from her party, Ms Rehman is exposed to prosecution in Lahore and Multan on petitions to get her disqualified as an MP and have her tried for blasphemy. This is not justice. It is legal persecution and any court should have thrown these petitions out. The government, the army, the courts are all playing with fire. Appeasement never works and, in the end, that flame will consume them all.






The law of unintended consequences has ruined many an ambitious minister's career. Yesterday Exeter University, highly successful and with admission requirements to match, but not one of the "prestigious" Russell Group, announced it is intending to charge the maximum fees of £9,000 from 2012. It seems that, far from being the exception, it will be the rule that universities aspiring to world ranking will want to charge the top whack – a problem that neither the business secretary, Vince Cable, nor the universities minister, David Willetts, had apparently anticipated. That means the Treasury, which had assumed that fees would settle at around the £7,500 mark, is facing a much larger bill for student loans than it had calculated. Mr Willetts is already warning of compensatory cuts elsewhere. Meanwhile the white paper on higher education reform is delayed, leaving university administrators – as Oxbridge academics complained yesterday – flying blind into an uncertain future.

There are two things going on here. One, the treasured principle of higher education as a public good entitled to unstinting public support has gone the way of other treasured principles of the postwar settlement, in the direction of the dustbin of history. In a world of rising demand and highly contested public spending choices, it is a move that has reluctantly to be recognised as unavoidable. Instead, universities find themselves in a marketplace where the student is consumer, purchasing his or her university experience from the establishment that will provide the best chance of a good degree in a subject most likely to result in postgraduate employment. This was not unavoidable, and it is not higher education as many would recognise it.

It also bodes ill for some arts and humanities degrees, especially where universities are resisting Mr Willetts's assumption that degrees that are cheaper to provide should be cheaper to study. He argues that, despite the end of the teaching grant for so-called band C and D subjects, universities had no need to charge more than £6,350, which, with efficiency savings factored in, should mean fees at the no-strings rate of £6,000. It also puts in jeopardy subjects like, say, archaeology or philosophy that enhance what it means to be human without necessarily contributing to GDP. A few such courses might survive in the most prestigious universities as the prerogative of a privileged few. Otherwise they are doomed – unless academics can attract able students by persuading them that these are subjects taught with such rigour that they have an economic as well as an intellectual value after all.

The catch-22 some universities fear is that in order to retain the top-ranked academics they must charge the maximum fee. That means agreeing an access policy with the Office for Fair Access, the regulatory body. Meeting its terms, they argue, may require them to admit less-well- qualified students. There is room for leeway at admission level. Currently, just 2% of students at the most selective universities were entitled to free school meals at school (less than 1% at Oxbridge), while a quarter came from independent schools. But research for the Sutton Trust and the government shows that all state school students taken together outperformed independent and grammar school students, even when they were admitted on lower grades. But broader admissions criteria are only part of the answer. The most selective universities still struggle to attract applicants from schools in poorer areas. Now the government wants access schemes to be assessed by outcomes: it will no longer be enough to point to elaborate outreach programmes if they do not result in higher numbers of applicants and admissions. And the sanction for failure could be the withdrawal of permission to charge top fees. No top fees, no top academics? Greater diversity is a real prize, but it must be at the right price.






For a church built by, say, William Butterfield or JL Pearson, let alone Pugin or one of the Gilbert Scotts, to be listed by English Heritage as of special architectural or historic interest would occasion little surprise. When a building constructed of corrugated iron, bought off the shelf from a supplier in Croydon, is awarded Grade II status, something unusual has happened. But that is the honour deservedly bestowed on the church of St Michael and All Angels in Hythe, Kent, created in 1893 for the benefit of working‑class families who arrived in the town towards the end of the century, but also a boon for those too infirm to labour uphill to the parish church, St Leonard's. No one knows how many such manufactured places of worship still exist, though the number is diminishing. Some were at best rudimentary; too many have grown rusty, shabby, even offensively derelict. Yet the best have an aura and grace you would hardly expect from the work of jobbing construction companies like Dixons of Liverpool, or Humphries of Croydon, to whom we owe the church of St Michael. Sometimes suppliers put them up on site; others reduced the price by leaving it to a congregation to erect the church themselves. There's a wonderful array of them in a book called Tin Tabernacles: Corrugated Iron Mission Halls, Churches and Chapels of Britain, by Ian Smith, published in 2004. Those who flock to the churches of Romney Marsh should stop to admire St Michael's, inside and outside, as well.






The Democratic Party of Japan and its junior coalition partner People's New Party managed to pass the fiscal 2011 ¥92.411 trillion budget through the Lower House early Tuesday morning. The opposition-controlled Upper House is certain to vote down the budget. But the budget will be enacted anyhow. Article 60 of the Constitution says that the budget will be enacted within 30 days of being sent to the Upper House after the approval by the Lower House even if the Upper House rejects it or does not hold a vote on it.

But the administration of Prime Minister Naoto Kan cannot afford to feel relieved because such a constitutional provision does not apply to 26 budget-related bills whose enactment is necessary to put the budget into effect. Since the prospect of the bills being enacted by March 31, the final day of fiscal 2010, is almost nil, the Kan administration will face serious trouble in managing the government.

The vote on the budget in the Lower House took place under unusual circumstances. Sixteen DPJ lawmakers critical of the DPJ leadership for disciplining former DPJ chief Ichiro Ozawa over his indictment on a charge of falsifying reports on political funds did not show up in the voting in a plenary session of the Lower House. Mr. Ozawa showed up and voted for the budget. The desertion of the 16 has completely killed the prospect of re-enacting the budget-related bills with a two-thirds majority in the Lower House in a second vote.

After Tuesday's vote, the DPJ leadership disciplined the 16 rebellious members. Their action was irresponsible. But the disciplinary measures will further aggravate the rift within the party. DPJ members supporting Mr. Ozawa are critical of Mr. Kan for not making serious efforts to implement election pledges contained in the August 2009 Lower House election, which brought the DPJ to power.

It is clear that given the nation's financial difficulties, it is impossible to carry out all the major election pledges. Some of them are ill conceived, too. But Mr. Kan failed to understand that people voted for the DPJ with a hope that it will be true to its slogan of "People's lives come first." He did not try to show that he was doing his best to turn the slogan into concrete policies even in a limited scale under financial constraints. His failure shows that he did not understand the meaning of the political change of 2009. If he had a taken different attitude, he could have minimized the rift within the DPJ. But he dropped the slogan from the July 2010 Upper House election.

In the vote for the fiscal 2011 budget in the Lower House, the DPJ took an unusual step. It separated the budget-related bills from the budget itself and postponed a vote on them. In recent years, it was customary to vote for the budget and budget-related bills in the Lower House at the same time and send them together to the Upper House because the government's reliance on bond issuance has become high and a bill for the bond issuance is included in budget-related bills.

The DPJ may think that a delay in the vote on the budget-related bills would eventually lead people to criticize the opposition parties that oppose the bills. The opposition parties on their part may think that the delay would deepen people's criticism of the DPJ and the Kan administration. Procrastination by both camps would only deepen people's distrust of politics per se. The failure to enact the bond issuance bill means that the government cannot secure some ¥38 trillion for implementing the budget of slightly more than ¥92 trillion.

After the DPJ was defeated in the Upper House election and the opposition forces secured a majority in the chamber of the Diet, the logical approach for the DPJ should have been to get cooperation from Komeito. Last year, Komeito supported the DPJ bill to give the child allowance to child-rearing families irrespective of their income levels — an important DPJ policy. If the DPJ and Komeito cooperate, they can secure a majority in the Upper House. But DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada did not make any serious efforts to make effective deals with Komeito. His failure to understand the basic situation in the Diet and to take necessary actions is astonishing and shows his inadequacy as a political leader.

If the situation continues, the budget-related bills will not be enacted, thus greatly damaging the economy and people's lives. Both the ruling and opposition forces must compromise from the viewpoint of protecting people's lives. As to the child allowance bill, the DPJ must strongly persuade the opposition parties not to kill it because that would create great confusion for local governments and families. To save the concept that society as a whole must help child-rearing families, the DPJ must do its best so that the allowance will be provided irrespective of those families' income levels even if the allowance is reduced.







Recently, I had a most bizarre experience. I was walking down a street when a total stranger approached me and asked, "What will become of Japan?" And this happened not once but three times. Under a normal circumstance, those three people would have simply passed by wondering in which newspaper or TV show they had seen my face. But obviously they felt it impossible to repress the anxiety that they felt.

Interestingly, all three encounters happened last spring, well before blatant security threats cropped up in the fall when a Chinese trawler rammed two Japan Coast Guard cutters near the Senkaku Islands, and North Korea shelled a South Korean island.

Still, even last spring people had good reason for concern. At that time, Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio was straying in his handling of the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa Island. Immediately after he told U.S. President Barack Obama "Trust me," Hatoyama made remarks that betrayed Obama's trust. He later tried to explain the intentions behind his remarks, but Obama refused to meet him. When Hatoyama told the press that he had at last been able to communicate his message to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had sat next to him during a meal, Clinton took the trouble of inviting the Japanese ambassador to the State Department to tell him that she had not acknowledged Hatoyama's comments.

People grow uneasy when they perceive that their government is not functioning well. But whatever complaints the Japanese may express about their government every once in a while, no other people trust their governments as much as the Japanese do.

South Korean philosopher-statesman You Jin Oh once told me, "The Japanese people looked down on the Koreans for their lack of patriotism during Japan's colonial rule. The Koreans are actually patriotic people, but they have few memories in history of having receive benefits from their often tyrannical government. The Japanese, in contrast, show patriotism by uniting with the government in times of emergency. In short, the expression of patriotism is different between the Koreans and the Japanese. To be different has nothing to do with the concept of good or bad."

In Europe, China or Korea, families own precious metals and jewels that they can use for funds in times of emergency. In contrast, in Japan practically nobody hoards gold or jewels for that purpose. The Japanese trust the state and society so completely that they are content to keep their savings deposited in a bank or post office.

While the Japanese people are always freely bashing away at bureaucrats, they — occasional political turmoil notwithstanding — have never doubted that the government — in particular the bureaucracy — would always protect their interests. But witnessing the Democratic Party of Japan show so little respect for the bureaucracy, the people have lost confidence in the reliability of administrative institutions.

Also, while people have indulged in criticism of the government for being too subservient to the U.S., most Japanese did not doubt that the U.S. would protect Japan in a crisis. This trust and conviction, however, collapsed during the Hatoyama administration.

While I was telling others about my encounters with the three strangers, I recalled that this was not the first time the Japanese people had become wary of their government's handling of state affairs.

One year that has long remained in my memory is 1945. The Japanese people had been excited by the country's military victories in the early battles of the Pacific War and the conquest of Southeast Asia. But after the U.S. began carrying out air raids on Japan's mainland, city streets became filled with victims and food grew increasingly scarce. And every one in those days was saying, "What will become of Japan?"

Although the government tried to conceal the true conditions of the war, the gap between the official announcements and the reality became increasingly obvious. Ultimately, the Japanese people lost confidence in their government.

Going back further in history, there was the Feb. 26 Incident of 1936, a military coup d'etat that ultimately failed. I was only 6, but clearly remember the incident — in particular the deep concern that grownups felt over the uncertain future.

Around the time Japan was commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration, the press interviewed older people to describe the most shocking events of their lifetimes. Even though they had experienced such major incidents as the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War, the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, the Great Depression of 1929 and Japan's defeat in World War II, many chose the Feb. 26 Incident. Throughout the war until its miserable end, no matter how painful the experience was to them, the people were united with the government. But the people interviewed said the Feb. 26 Incident, which was the only coup d'etat in Japan's modern history, made them feel that they no longer had a government they could rely on.

Fortunately, the atmosphere in Japan today has greatly changed since the days of the Hatoyama administration and popular confidence in the government is again growing. This is partly due to recent provocations by China and North Korea. The Kan government has openly emphasized that the alliance with the U.S. is the axis of Japan's foreign policy, and the U.S. has responded positively to this new stance. Today no objection is heard when the Ministry of Defense proposes improving the defense of the southwest islands of Japan or when Self-Defense Forces units are dispatched as observers of the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises. In addition, there is little bureaucracy bashing.

I believe this change is a manifestation of the wisdom of the Japanese people, to which the Kan government has responded. Prime Minister Naoto Kan acted boldly and dauntlessly when he appointed former Liberal Democratic Party economic planner Yosano Kaoru as minister of state for economic and fiscal policy. I hope that the prime minister will depart from all past complications and announce that Japan will exercise of the right to collective self-defense as well as revise the three-point principles to ban arms exports in the forthcoming meeting with Obama. Such actions would solidify the alliance between Japan and the U.S. and further alleviate the Japanese people's deep sense of insecurity.

While the inadequacy of Japan's defense budget will continue to pose an obstacle to the strengthening of the Japan-U.S. alliance, the above two measures would, without any financial outlay, fundamentally solidify the alliance with the U.S. and alleviate the Japanese people's deep worries.

Hisahiko Okazaki is a former Japanese Ambassador to Thailand. This is an English translation of his article that appeared in Sankei Shimbun's Seiron column Feb. 10.







NEW YORK — As the United States takes up the decision to lift its self-imposed debt ceiling, we would do well to remember why America's public debt is as large as it is, and how it matters. With the rise of the tea party, Republicans may rail against raising the debt ceiling, but they are likely to back down in the end, because, among other things, debt-funded wars — say, in Afghanistan and Iraq — are easier to defend than pay-as-you-go wars that voters must finance up front with taxes.

Indeed, the looming U.S. debate underscores a more general point: since time immemorial, war has been a double-edged sword. Human societies have slaughtered and oppressed one another on the scale of Mother Nature's worst scourges. But wars have also brought beneficial change, because mobilizing people for fighting also mobilizes them for politics.

History is replete with examples of war expanding the voice of those who provided the resources to fight. Ancient Athens became a "democracy" — literally, government by the people — when Kleisthenes organized ordinary fisher folk and farmers into a mass rabble capable of defeating Sparta-backed oligarchs. Their political freedom was secured by Athens' reliance on labor-intensive naval warfare against the Persians and other enemies.

In Rome, the army's sit-down strike in the 5th century B.C. opened politics to the lower classes. Common warriors were, explicitly and famously, the decision makers among Norsemen and in Swiss Alpine cantons in the early Middle Ages.

Medieval European cavalries later put political power into the hands of the wealthy, who could afford to support horses and their groomsmen, but the return of mass armies in the 15th and 16th centuries often turned the tables. Local militias achieved prominence and power in the Netherlands, beginning in 1568 during the long struggle against the Spanish Habsburgs, though they were again sidelined when the threat passed in the late 17th century.

Even then, European monarchs were forced to convene estates when they needed money to fight, forcing a dialogue about the purposes and costs of war. And "revolutionary" war against Britain in the 18th century helped secure democratic principles in the U.S. Constitution and encouraged a wider franchise. Napoleon's armies, unleashed by the French Revolution's mass political awakening, set off paroxysms of counter-mobilization that fueled the European revolutions of 1830 and 1848.

Modern democracy, with its mix of universal suffrage and property rights, looks remarkably like a compromise born of centuries of military competition among constitutionally evolving states, according to which the general public supplies the manpower to fight and moneyed interests supply the capital to train and equip the troops. As a result, democracies are likelier than nondemocracies to win wars, because they mobilize their societies more fully, and because citizens, who bear the costs, have the electoral power to stop politicians from fighting wars that are reckless and unnecessary.

America's extended conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, however, are different. Together, they have already cost more than America's long war in Vietnam, but they have not increased public vigilance or political accountability at home. Indeed, the younger generation of Americans has greeted military action abroad with a yawn.

What accounts for the stark contrast between the mass protests against the Vietnam War and the muted public reaction to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

To some degree, fear of terrorism might shield U.S. leaders from the need for accountability. But eight in 10 Americans think that terrorist attacks are unlikely, and many voters believe that involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq will increase rather than limit America's vulnerability to terrorism.

More likely, Americans take these wars lying down because the costs are not experienced by the average citizen. For one thing, technology-intensive warfare substitutes machines for soldiers, reducing the number of American casualties. Volunteer soldiers — including many noncitizens — and mercenary units for manpower reduce even further the reasons for voters to care.

Moreover, the U.S. is paying for these wars with debt. The government funded World War II partly with war bonds, but it also instituted the first general income tax in American history, increasing tax revenue from $8.7 billion in 1941 to $45 billion in 1945. This would have been impossible for an unpopular war. To finance today's wars, by contrast, the U.S. government has not only avoided raising taxes, but has actually cut them on an enormous scale, with the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 now extended at least through 2012.

By 2009, the U.S. budget deficit had climbed to more than 10 percent of GDP, thanks to increased expenditures and plummeting tax revenues during the recession. Overall public debt, to which each year's deficit adds another hefty dollop, is projected to exceed 100 percent of GDP in 2011, up from around 40 percent in the late 1970s.

Countercyclical spending and tax policy are widely acceptable to experts and taxpayers alike, but deficit spending on wars is known to be a paltry way to stimulate the economy. It does, however, buy political time for U.S. administrations to continue prosecuting ill-considered and expensive wars with little domestic scrutiny. With the U.S. government's access to global debt markets reducing the need to raise taxes, foreign governments now own nearly one-third of the U.S. government's $14 trillion debt.

We will not know for some time whether the U.S. public debt is sustainable. We do know, however, that until now governments have had to subject themselves to increased political oversight when they needed manpower or money to fight wars. Lacking democracy's most effective brakes on unpopular wars, the U.S. has become relatively free to get itself mired in unwelcome foreign adventures.

John Ferejohn, emeritus professor of political science at Stanford University, currently teaches at New York University Law School. Frances Rosenbluth is professsor of political science at Yale University. © 2011 Project Syndicate/Institute for Human Sciences








In the United States there's something called "Greener's Law", which tells us to "never pick a fight with a man who buys his ink by the barrel." Dipo Alam broke this law and found himself, to his dismay, in a fine mess.

Fighting against Media Indonesia and TVOne is vastly different to fighting against Yogyakarta Sultan Sri Hamengkubuwono X over the latter's remarks that Indonesia might experience a Tunisian-  or Egyptian-style revolution — or against the religious leaders who previously declared that the government had lied to the people.

In both Hamengkubuwono's and religious leaders' cases, Dipo was challenging their interpretations of current events in the national media, which is his right as a government official and as a citizen protected by the Constitution.

Dipo picked a wholly different fight in his squabble with Media Indonesia and TVOne. Had he only complained about a lack of balance and left the threat of a boycott out of his rants, he might have actually gained followers. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is still very popular and people are aware that many newspapers in Indonesia are sensational, lacking in balance and often treat the President unfairly.

In calling for a boycott of Media Indonesia, Metro TV and TVOne, however, the debate shifted. If Dipo was simply a regular citizen, his call for boycott would have been fine, because he was expressing his rights as a citizen. The government might or might not agree with his call. One thing is clear: As a regular citizen, Dipo would not be able to influence the process.

In this case, because of Dipo's role as a high-ranking government official, he supposedly has the power to impose a boycott. His actions might become political and be considered censorship to maximize his political gains. At the same time his actions might be considered as an attempt to blackmail the media and thus, constitute an abuse of power.

Moreover, journalists from rival companies will not simply sit aside and laud the coming boycott of their powerful competitors. Instead, they see this as a creeping threat to the freedom of press. If today Dipo is able to shut off both outlets, what will prevent him from going after other, much weaker and less powerful newspapers?

What will prevent Dipo, flush from his victories, from boycotting The Jakarta Post, The Jakarta Globe, Kompas, Suara Pembaruan, Sinar Harapan, Rakyat Merdeka, Jawa Pos, Viva News,, and various other outlets which might manage, either intentionally or unintentionally, to rouse the presidential ire?

For Dipo, the issue is a perceived lack of fairness and balance in media coverage of the President.

For the press, however, it is a fight for survival. It is a fight to establish that people may criticize the media and demand retractions as long as it doesn't interfere with the cherished freedom of the press.

Not surprisingly, Dipo found himself isolated in this debate. In addition, fighting the media in a democracy, especially on a matter as grave as the freedom of press, is stupid. Like it or not, the press can set the agenda, frame an issue, and make sure that the public understands the debate simply by focusing on this issue like a laser beam and repeating the process over and over again.

Dipo, however, has to rely on the media that he bashed and threatened to get his message across to the public. It is simply a bad war to wage. Most of the experienced ministers in the Cabinet understand this, and thus they prefer to stay away from the conflict.

The only person that actually can fight the media is the President. Yudhoyono commands the bully pulpit, a position from which he can set the agenda. Still, when the debate is framed this way, even Yudhoyono might receive a lot of flak.

The call for a boycott, especially from a high government official, is not wise. Rather than helping Yudhoyono set the record clear what Dipo did was to create distractions for President's agenda.

Worse, by the end of the day, the buck stops on Yudhoyono's desk, and he will be blamed for sending or at least allowing Dipo to engage in this quixotic crusade. He will be accused of attempting to rollback the freedom of press in Indonesia, and the entire affair will end up hurting his reputation.

At the same time, the media that Dipo blamed became martyrs and gained a larger audience through this confrontation. This is truly a war that Dipo would have been better off avoiding.

The writer is a lecturer at the Indonesian National Defense University.





Whether or not Islam is compatible with democracy is a misleading question. Islam and democracy are two different entities, although both cannot be divorced when dealing with politics in the Muslim world.

In Indonesia, for instance, Islam and Muslims are two themes that cannot be ignored, from the period of the country's independence to the era of reformation. The same rings true in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and other Middle Eastern countries. Islam and politics are interwoven.

Islam, like any other religion, is an old system of beliefs. Democracy is a new advancement of a modern political system. Each can complement the other. Collision between the two can also occur.

Those who apologetically insist that Islam teaches democracy and those who cynically reject the compatibility of democracy and Islam treat the religion as a monolithic entity. Both sides see Islam as one religion embraced by the same Muslims in many different countries and generations. They all disregard many other aspects, such as culture and economy, which of course play the same important role as religion does in society. Equally interesting is that the two sides see Islam and Muslims, the teachings and the people, the religion and its adherents, as the same.

In fact, Islam cannot be defined easily, as this religion has been present for a long time and has been embraced by various Muslims at different times and in different areas. All interpreted Islam uniquely and differently from each other.

It is true that the Muslim world has produced many dictators, from Sukarno, Soeharto, Saddam Hussein, Zine El-Abidine ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak to Muammar Qaddafi. Authoritarian regimes with traditional Sunni and Shiite theocratic systems still prevalently rule Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East.

The question now is does Islam teach dictatorship?

Cynics argue that dictatorship is inherent in both Islamic history and texts. Early and later caliphs in numerous Islamic dynasties ruled the people without democratic principles. They simply justified their absolute political power with religious dogma, ignoring the people's voice. However, to judge history with a modern point of view is misleading too, as democracy was not yet invented at that time.

Those who contend that Islam prohibits despotism will extract some messages from both the Koran and prophetic tradition, which can be interpreted in a certain way, so much so that the modern concept of democracy is found in the texts. Indonesian Muslim leaders, from Mohammad Natsir, Agus Salim, Sukarno to Nurcholish Madjid, took this path.

Once again, religion is not the sole factor that can be blamed for what happens in society.

In fact, many pundits suggested that the current people's movement in the Middle East that dethroned Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt mainly consists of a post-Islamic generation. The extent to which Islamist organizations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, played a role in the protests seems minor.  

The sufferings shared by the common people, disregarding their ideology and schools of thought, under tyrannical rulers became the main impulse of the peaceful democratic demonstrations.

As in Indonesia in 1997, in the current Middle Eastern euphoria the people's eagerness to topple despotic regimes was not stimulated merely by Islamic religious sentiment. Nor did religious radicalism or Western intervention inspire the people to do so, as Qaddafi accused his own people.

However, in the aftermath of the old regimes' fall, Islamists are ready to throw their hat in the political arena. This faction, like any other faction with different ideologies, wants to participate in the ballots.

As in the case of Indonesia, after Soeharto's downfall, Islamism, after having been suppressed by militaristic means during the New Order, seized the opportunity to revive. However, political distrust hampered political parties with Islamist agendas, which never gained a significant number of votes.

Indonesians preferred secular parties, which, unfortunately, are not bold enough to declare themselves as secular.

If Islam does not teach either democracy or dictatorship clearly, Islamism is ready to impose ideological tenets upon Muslims. The post-Islamic generation should be prepared to face them.

The writer is a lecturer at the Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University, Yogyakarta.






The Republic of Indonesia is a constitutional state, not a religious state. This was the first stance of Indonesia's founding fathers before and during the proclamation of independence on Aug. 17, 1945, which was declared by the duumvirate, Sukarno and Mohamad Hatta.

As a sovereign state, Indonesia has a philosophical foundation that is written in the 1945 Constitution, i.e. a Pancasila state with Unity in Diversity and democracy, and the sovereignty in the hands of the people.

The pluralistic Indonesian people, since the beginning, have never wanted a state based on religion because its people comprise various cultures, ethnicities, races, religions, beliefs, views, ideologies and so forth. This is similar to what was demanded by the Egyptian people who protested in Tahrir Square, Cairo, i.e. to live under democracy and refuse the form of a religious state.

The founding fathers of the Republic of Indonesia also envisioned a nation state that emulated the modern European principle of "separation between church and state". The state cannot determine which religion is legitimate because that is a matter between individuals and God. Neither a religion nor the state can say a religion is heresy, or should be prohibited, dissolved and attacked — for whatever reason.

History shows that the idea of incorporating the Jakarta Charter into the Constitution has never materialized and the freedom of religion and the freedom to worship are clearly stated in the 1945 Constitution.

However, in this reform era, harmony and tolerance among religious communities has been disturbed by acts of some groups who want their ideologies to be adopted as the philosophical foundation of the state.

Acts of violence, bombings, persecution and burnings of houses of worships and the belongings of people of different faiths, and even killings and persecution of religious followers, have been rampant.

This behavior is not the character of the Indonesian people who are known throughout the world as "de zachtste volk in de wereld" (the gentlest people in the world). We do not want to lose our identity and will defend it forever. We still have the Indonesian Military (TNI), which is always ready to defend the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) and the Pancasila philosophy.

Article 1 paragraph (3) of the 1945 Constitution stipulates that the State of Indonesia shall be a state based on the rule of law, which means law is superior and all problems in the life of the nation and the state must be settled according to this law.

The attacks on houses of worship, prohibition of others from worshipping, burnings of others' belongings, rioting, persecution and killings, even if their justification is to defend religion, are criminal acts and must be punished according to the Criminal Code and Law No. 39/1999 on Human Rights.

What happened in Cikeusik village, Banten, and Temanggung, Central Java, is obviously a movement to disrupt the unity of the republic and to change the Pancasila ideology. Religion is not a reason for eliminating others, so burnings, destruction, persecution and killings are criminal acts.

The right to life and the right to property, freedom of religion and freedom of worship are human rights, so the state, in this case the government, should act firmly, directly and thoroughly against such offences. The absence of a resolution for these recent incidents and those in the past constitutes a crime against humanity.

The Presidential Instruction regarding the incidents in Cikeusik and Temanggung must be implemented by all of the nation's components. The state should rely on the Constitution and not religion, so the state must not surrender to the radicals and must protect its citizens, whatever their backgrounds.

Given the current condition, where religious conflicts have escalated, the state, or the government, must be alert 24 hours a day and preserve and guard the NKRI and the Pancasila philosophy.

The intelligence must function optimally and the TNI must be involved in handling a state of emergency in every corner of the nation 24 hours a day. Thus, there should be a National Guard consisting of the Police, the TNI, state prosecutors, etc., as a special team to handle any form of violence, riot, natural disaster, emergency, which threaten the unity of the NKRI.

This National Guard should be led by the President who will coordinate the Chief of Police, the Supreme Chief of the TNI and the Attorney General, so that the chain of command is clear, efficient and quick, and it will be situational, i.e. it will only be deployed if there is any incident that threatens the unity of the NKRI.

In conclusion, the decision on religion and worship is left to the individual, while the state only preserves and guards it, so that all citizens can profess their religion and rituals comfortably and safely.

The writer is chairman of the Indonesian Advocate Association (PERADIN).






No one doubts that the coalition that supports President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been fragile since its inception. This is not only because of differences in ideology and political platforms among its members but also because the coalition was only set up after the legislative and presidential elections.

The coalition thus lacks common goals and visions that its members would otherwise fight for in elections and during their terms in office.

It was therefore no surprise when the Golkar Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the largest and second largest allies of Yudhoyono's Democratic Party, displayed no remorse and seemed unperturbed after the President expressed his discontent on Tuesday with "one or two parties" for violating the agreement that lay the foundations for the coalition.

Yudhoyono went so far as to threaten to shake up the Cabinet, which could mean the dismissal of ministers from Golkar and the PKS as demanded by Democratic Party functionaries and perhaps some of the public.

For Yudhoyono, those threats did not indicate any strong leadership on his part. Instead they indicated the contrary, that he had failed to ensure that everybody complied with the rules. The fact that he opted to speak – rather than to act against the offending parties – simply confirmed his indecisiveness and, worse, his dependence on his allies instead of the other way around.

Cracks in the coalition were visible in the move by the House of Representatives to launch an investigation into corruption at the tax office, which eventually failed. Both Golkar and the PKS sided with the opposition in voting for the inquiry in a repeat of last year's drama that split the coalition over the suspicious Bank Century bailout.

To consolidate the coalition in the aftermath of the Bank Century saga Yudhoyono formed a joint secretariat in which all problems the coalition faced were discussed and addressed. That Golkar Party chair Aburizal Bakrie appointed the executive chair of the joint secretariat was testament to that party's influential role.

There was proof beyond a reasonable doubt about the fallibility of the joint secretariat as a medium to strengthen the coalition. The coalition partners were divided on crucial issues like the parliamentary threshold in the debate on the election bill, the independence of General Election Commission members in the deliberation of the election administration bill, the special status of Yogyakarta, the legal status of Corruption Eradication Commission deputies Bibit Samad Rianto and Chandra M. Hamzah and, most recently, the planned inquiry into tax corruption. The rift has reached out into the soccer pitch as well, as coalition partners are currently at odds over the reelection bid of Indonesian Football Association chair Nurdin Halid, who is a member of Golkar.

In a nutshell, there is no point in forming a coalition in the first place if coalition partners frequently collide in this way. This contradicts the aim of the coalition — to help Yudhoyono lead an effective government, which has eluded Indonesia so far. Internal squabbling within the coalition has directly or indirectly prevented the country from achieving its development targets.

The next question is how the President can effectively govern this diverse nation if he cannot lead this coalition.

The Constitution protects Yudhoyono as this nation's leader from political harassment and even impeachment as long as he comes clean. But, unless he can show his mettle in dealing with his prodigal allies, the remaining three and a half years of his tenure will be a waste of time.








Late last week, on 23rd February 2011 a Sri Lankan Government delegation led by Attorney General Mohan Peiris and comprising Foreign Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe, Ambassador Palitha Kohona and Major General Shavendra Silva, now our deputy Ambassador to the UN, met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and a team of his senior officials. The Government of Sri Lanka, through Deputy Foreign Minister Neomal Perera first denied the meeting, reported in the Daily Mirror web, but then retracted the denial and claimed the meeting was on legal issues as reports and photographs of the meeting was splashed over the Internet by the New York based news agencies.

Increasing international pressure?

Attorney General Mohan Peiris meeting the UN Secretary General comes within the context of several developments. The UN experts panel appointed to advise on accountability issues in Sri Lanka, has reached the end of its extended deadline of end February and its report is expected to be handed over within a few days.

Now a formal report to the UN can be a serious thing. Various sections of the UN system follow up and proceed to act on such reports. Even if Sri Lanka holds off on the report reaching the UN Security Council, due to Chinese and Indian support, there is a possibility that the UN Human Rights Commissioner and the Council in Geneva would be reactivated on Sri Lanka based on the report.  On March 1st, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Bob Blake has stated on record that Sri Lanka can be hauled up before an international inquiry if there isn't a domestic remedy that meets international standards. The UN and the US, combine to present a tough international response on the accountability issues
The Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)

The LLRC is presented by Sri Lanka as its domestic accountability mechanism. Accordingly there is a heavy responsibility on the part of the Sri Lankan government in its own defense and self interest to do everything to enhance the credibility of the LLRC in terms of its results. The LLRC in public sessions has reportedly recorded of testimonies of women who were eyewitnesses to the surrender of their husbands and sons to state security forces after the war. There are also reports that the interim recommendations of the LLRC on humanitarian and rehabilitation issues have not really been implemented with any degree of enthusiasm by the government.

An interesting exchange took place in Parliament recently as recorded in Hansard, where the TNA claimed and the Government did not deny that of five hundred tractors gifted by India to the war affected IDP farmers of the Vanni less than one hundred reached the poor IDP farmers, struggling to rebuild their lives after war. Instead a hundred each was expropriated by the Cashew Corporation and the Coconut Development Board.

Counting onIndia and ChinaWith the UN and the US slowly hardening their attitude towards Sri Lanka, the government will be counting on India and China to help Sri Lanka internationally. For India's various interests, a political solution to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka, for the Sri Lankan state to accommodate the diversity of its society and a reconciliation process that unites Sri Lankan society is important and it is in our own interest to change course and move in that direction.

(The writer served as Presidential Spokesman from 2001-2005)





The rumble of discontent near ticket counters at cricketing venues across India has reached a tipping point during this World Cup. The unseemly incident at Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium where the police were forced to intervene after a restless crowd broke through the barricades wasn't surprising: with just 7,500 tickets (in a stadium with a capacity of 38,000) open to the public, it was only natural that fans would feel short-changed. Not that this feeling of discontent is likely to register any time soon with the controllers of cricket. For long, India's cricket administrators have been insensitive to the common fan, whose passion has fuelled the game's astonishing growth. The point made by an apologetic Javagal Srinath, secretary of the Karnataka State Cricket Association, that the system hasn't changed is at once truthful and dispiriting. The hyper-commercialisation of cricket, while benefiting those who run and play it, has disenfranchised the paying public. With gate collections bringing in an insignificant fraction of the money that telecast rights do, the game has been taken away from the people.

To be fair, every host association has its commitments: it has to allocate a share of its tickets to the game's governing bodies and associates ranging from the BCCI to sponsors. This apart, the five-star style hospitality boxes, while bringing in big revenue to the host association, have resulted in a loss of seating capacity. What is more, politicians, bureaucrats, police, and civic agencies partake of the shrinking pie. In global events such as the World Cup, the shortage is aggravated by the fact that the ICC has the 'right of first refusal' for a percentage of the tickets. The Bangalore episode may have also had something to do with the pre-booking of tickets — the match between India and England was originally scheduled to be held at Kolkata. While it is true that the demand for tickets will far outstrip the supply for matches involving India, the game's administrators can't use it as an excuse to exclude the common fan. Reform is needed — and a start must be made by improving the viewing experience of those who do make it through the turnstiles. For all the enhancement of stadia across the country, watching a match remains an ordeal in many centres. The limitations on bringing food and drink to the ground are draconian — no one deserves to be subjected to standing in long queues for overpriced, mediocre refreshments. The hygiene and accessibility of restrooms need remedying as well. Fans who come to watch the game live are stakeholders who must be treated decently. Cricket cannot be allowed to become just a television game.

The Hindu






The Post Conflict Foreign Policy Challenges for Sri Lanka, The J.E. Jayasuriya memorial lecture delivered by former Foreign Secretary Ambassador Palihakkara on the 14th of February is the best analysis of this important subject.

It was a thought provoking, unambiguous recognition of realities and failures of our leaders and policy makers.

The Former Secretary was brutally objective when he observed "The first contributor is a consistent pattern of leadership failures in Sri Lanka for which all successive governments and all democratic political parties since independence must bear responsibility. When domestic processes, fail to find solutions to domestic problems, external prescriptions become inevitable. You create space for external forces to advocate and even impose solutions for the latter's political or strategic convenience, be it from a regional power or from extra regional powers". How true?

Ambassador Palihakkara next identifies the role of the so-called Diaspora as spoilers. As he states quite rightly that they "have become quite influential and a vociferous opinion making body even impacting on the electoral fortunes of politicians in their host countries." Ambassador P has stated that another development which has externalized the conflict was the so called Peace Process which brought in Norway as the Facilitator and a group of Western countries who came to be referred to as the Co-Chairs. He states that this external involvement in the peace process entailed a great deal of foreign involvement in what was considered hitherto an internal affair of Sri Lanka. He next bemoans the fact that local political parties "enmeshed foreign relations with the interests of parochial electoral politics by canvassing domestic issues abroad, for the purpose of obtaining electoral advantage at home".

We have no doubt seen certain political leaders going out to the West to seek their assistance to queer the pitch for the government at home for obvious reasons; their parochial political interests took precedence over our national interest. I do not think that there is any other country in the world where political parties do not close ranks when the very existence of the State is in jeopardy. We cannot also forget the statements by opposition politicians seeking to denigrate the successes of our Armed forces against the LTTE, they took no pride in our successes or in the destruction of the terrorist LTTE, to them their parochial political interests came before the interest of the country.

Ambassador Palihakkara who was our Ambassador to the UN at the time, has with authority referred, to what is to my mind our biggest victory on the diplomatic front. It was when we were able to ensure that the UN Security Council rejected a resolution sponsored by three western countries, who were permanent members of the UNSC, to stop the war and save the LTTE. This was indeed the first time that Sri Lanka figured in the agenda of the UNSC and it is only the Security Council that could have made a legally binding directive to halt the Military offensive.

Ambassador Palihakkara has also referred to the contrived debate on accountability and the question of compliance with international humanitarian law during the terminal phase of the military operation. They usually pose this complex question as the "war crimes issue". The Ambassador refers to the government establishing the Reconciliation Commission and the response of certain lobby groups have who sought to undermine this serious reconciliation effort. They have called for international scrutiny and Ambassador says that "this is a challenge that needs to be handled in a careful and calibrated manner where policies and institutions relevant to governance, the Rule of Law and diplomacy must work with each other and together rather than work at the expense of each other".

One cannot but agree with him more when he states that we need to show those who voice concerns on accountability issues that the government is serious about addressing them. Diplomacy he says is also about seeking common ground where none seems to existAmbassador Palihakkara next refers to the concept of Sovereignty and questions as to whether we can safeguard the sovereignty "so valiantly re established by our soldiers simply by sloganeering". He states that there are several aspects to ponder. Firstly, he says that sovereignty is something that cannot merely be preached but must be asserted and exercised.

It is a fundamental tenet of sovereignty that the Government and its security agencies must have the monopoly of the use of force within its jurisdiction and no other entity within or outside the country can be allowed to impair that authority thereby undermining the rule of law.

Human Rights problems exist in all countries. The Ambassador has drawn attention to a most interesting matter. He states that many of the core values embedded in the Sutras preached by the Buddha if put together, will constitute a great Bill of Rights predating and perhaps even surpassing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Indeed our recognition of and the respect for human Rights did not come to us from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They are fundamental to Buddhism, Human Rights are very much a part of our heritage and culture, it is a core value with us; the war itself was an aberration caused by unthinking, intolerant, racist politicians on both sides of the ethnic divide.

Ambassador refers to our accession to international HR Treaties and states that the best way to reverse an adversarial relationship on human rights is to remove human rights concerns from such bilateral agendas. He states that "there are two ways of doing that; firstly, by empowering our domestic mechanisms to promote and facilitate the full and effective implementation of our constitutional obligations on human rights and ensuring that our system of administration of justice is enabled to judge independently and robustly. Secondly we can broaden our bilateral diplomatic discussions beyond a single issue agenda in other areas of common interest e.g. regional cooperation, environment, terrorism, human and arms trafficking, non-proliferation, economic cooperation etc".

The Ambassador also addresses the issue of the Tamil Diaspora and states that projects to address the real concerns of the conflict victim's communities, especially the minorities is key. The desirable course of action for the Government, he says, is to respond to the people's grievances aired through domestic mechanisms. When local actions progressively become responsive and relevant to minority grievances, the hostile Diaspora will become gradually irrelevant.

In conclusion Ambassador Pallihakkara has referred to the importance of a bipartisan foreign policy and a broad based bipartisan approach to foreign relations. He states that Sri Lanka's political parties tragically exploiting these national issues for short term electoral advantage have all contributed to the unraveling of this consensual approach to foreign policy issues.

It was no longer possible, therefore to decouple a highly externalized ethnic issue from politicized ethnic issues at home. As a result, we have seen the rather disturbing and, I would even say, shameful practice of domestic politicians taking up a range of governance issues with foreign countries and foreign organizations as they were either unable or unwilling to agree, or agree to disagree, on those very same issues locally.

As Ambassador Palihakkara affirms in his forthright analysis, we need to close ranks and have a bipartisan foreign policy if we are to meet the challenges that we need to face in a world that is shrinking in terms of access and speed of sharing information. It makes the concept of the nation state totally different from the time of the Vienna convention, the point of departure of the art of diplomacy.






Ayubowan, vanukkum, assalam allaikum and best wishes as Sri Lanka moves into March with some form of ides on the horizon. Powerful sections of the international community are reportedly planning to launch a multi-faceted political attack on alleged human rights abuses by the government and the LTTE during the final months of the war in 2009.

The controversial experts panel appointed by United Nations Secretary General Ban ki Moon to examine accountability issues relating to the final months of the war is expected to submit its report this week.

A UN spokesman confirmed the meeting between Mr. Ban and the two Lankan officials who later flew from New York to Geneva where the UN Human Rights Council was holding its annual sessions. The officials were joined there by Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe who was in charge of Human Rights during the war years.

International observers believe the report of the UN experts Panel is likely to be taken up by the Human Rights Council, with the UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillai and sections of the Tamil Diaspora pushing hard for Sri Lanka to be called before an International Tribunal on unsubstantiated human rights issues. Meanwhile, Tamil Diaspora groups are also reported to be making moves to bring one of our officers before the International Criminal Court (ICC) on similar charges.

In another international move against Sri Lanka the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is also likely to take up issues relating to the court martial against former army commander Sarath Fonseka who was sentenced to 3 years in the Welikada jail. The issue was taken to the IPU by UNP Parliamentarian Jayalath Jayawardena on the basis that former general Fonseka, the one time hero of the war victory, was allegedly not given a fair trial by the court martial. Some reports say the IPU consider a resolution asking the government to allow international observers to attend the on-going cases against the former army commander.  

Addressing a meeting at Dharmapala Vidhiyala in Pannipitiya on Monday, you said that while people are now free to go anywhere and even to the North, you did not enjoy that freedom because someone somewhere might be waiting to get you, you were possibly referring to the threats on your life and the dangers you may face.

In addition to the International concerns, the situation with our neighbour and big brother India is continuing. External Affairs Minister G L Peiris at a dinner meeting with Indian High Commissioner Ashok Kanth reportedly protested against Indias interference even with a judicial process in Sri Lanka. This came after Indias Jaffna based Counsel General V Malingam met a Northern Magistrate and virtually demanded the release of 136 Indian fishermen.

Though the Magistrate sent a protest letter to the Chief Justice and the Judicial Services Commission orders went out from Colombo for the Police to withdraw the case so that the 136 Indian fishermen could be released.

With Tamil Nadu elections to be held next month the disputes in the territorial waters between India and Sri Lanka are likely to escalate amidst pressure from India on one side and pressure from the International community on the other, the government of Sri Lanka appears to be facing a considerable international situation with uncertainty as to how it would end.







Over the last few decades there has been increase in numbers of children in need of external care with placements in 488 voluntary residential care institutions and 22 State-run residential institutions, including remand homes, certified schools and receiving homes directed through court orders. A key concern noted early on in our work was that children attending court hearings were travelling with adult prisoners. With the assistance of the Central Remand Prison and in collaboration with the Institute of Human Rights, CHA since 2007 provided a transport service for juveniles from Ranmutugala and Makola Certified School; transport to and from the Magistrate Courts (MC); newly admitted children to the health clinics in the General Hospital for medical check-ups; weekends from  homes to the remand prison for children who are from outside of Colombo. All children are provided with snacks and tea. The programme is now suspended for want of resources.

Re-integration of women inmates in institutions

Women particularly those in custody under the Vagrance Ordinance need considerable assistance with avenues for a new start in life. They need befriending and counselling with the help of professional counsellors and a regular team that tracks the improvements of the inmates;  monthly events combined with motivational talks by speakers; maximizing/capacitating in their skills; combining monthly recreational activities to create more enthusiasm among the inmates; personal development programmes and life skills training. The vision is to create an environment for women to confidently be a part of a society where her contribution to the community and family will be rewarding and worthwhile.

 Promoting Active Ageing

Interventions include advocacy, sensitization and development of linkages. The outcomes envisaged include promotion and facilitating development of accessible, appropriate and affordable health and social services that provides cost-effective, equitable and dignified care to elders; enable active participation of older people in all aspects of society; improve health and well-being and increase independence of older people and promotes Active Ageing through access to age-friendly care and creation of age-friendly environments. A hidden aspect is the experience, skills and capacity for those who are active while retiring to contribute back to society as an invaluable resource among for others through organised volunteer programs.

In 2004, there are close to 200,000 substance abusers in Sri Lanka. By 2009, the number of substance abusers had increased to 294,000, and is expected to rise to 300,000 in the next few years. Furthermore, many of the substance abusers in Sri Lanka are introduced to these substances when they are as young as 17 years old. In present times, substance abusers range from those addicted Heroin, Cocaine, Marijuana, Prescription Drugs, Performance Enhancers and Inhalants, which presents an image of the extent of substance abuse in Sri Lanka. 

Therefore, CHA has with "Lifeline focused on instilling hope and confidence in abusers who need help with rehabilitation, and awareness of the dangers of addiction and substances. The core of the project is the Call Center which will act as the first step to Rehabilitation. Intervention include establishing an Anti Substance Abuse helpline, manned by volunteers who will befriend users or family members of users of substances, provide information on Rehabilitation Homes, Spiritual Counselling, and Medical Assistance etc. This project also hopes to mobilize the general public against the use and smuggling of illegal substance. Furthermore, we hope to give a new life to former abusers who have completed their rehabilitation process and thereby enable their contributions as productive citizens.

Supporting and integrating inmates of Prisons into society.

The day a citizen enters a prison is the day planning begins for the day he or she leaves prison. It calls for a total shift of emphasis from current thinking. Interventions involve developing partnership with prison staff, inventorying skills of inmates, obtaining family details, supporting family contact, exercising options to deploy skills during time as an inmate etc.   

These projects require volunteers young and old, partners and invites younger CEO's and managers to join as drivers of these interventions.

Dr. Thiyagarajah is Executive Director of the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies.










WHAT I found myself wondering the other day, has been going on at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland?


This, you may remember, is the largest and most expensive scientific project.


It was turned on a couple of years ago, promptly broke down, took a long time to repair, was turned on again... and since then we have heard close to nothing.


To find out what progress had been made, I called in on Sir Fiskal Drayne, the government adviser for science funding.


"Sir Fiskal," I asked him directly, "what progress has been made at the Large Hadron Collider?


"Very good progress, indeed," he said. "Excellent progress, in fact. We are totally up to speed and the LHC is running well, thank you very much."


"Can you be more precise?" I asked.


"Not without getting technical," he said, shaking his head.


"Well, can you tell me, for example, whether the LHC has collided any hadrons yet?" I asked.


His head-shaking became more vigorous. "Oh no," he said.


"Oh no, you can't tell me? Or oh no, it hasn't collided any hadrons?" I said.


"The latter," he said firmly.


"Why not?" I asked. "Surely the business of a Large Hadron Collider is to collide hadrons?"


"To collide large hadrons in fact," he corrected me. "I don't know if you are aware of this but hadrons are extremely small and it's the devil's job to get them colliding with each other, even if you use large ones. So we haven't collided any yet."


"But I thought the whole idea was to whiz sub-atomic particles around at almost the speed of light, bash them into each other and see what they're made of when they shatter into even smaller particles. And if you can find a Higgs bosun in the debris, then it will validate the Standard Model of particle physics," I said.


"Something like that," he said vaguely, "but we have to make a living, so we've been using the LHC to do some other more lucrative projects."


"Such as?" I asked.


"Well at lunchtime, it becomes a Large Bread Collider, slamming slices of buttered bread into one another with slices of smoked salmon in between to make sandwiches. We've also tried to simulate high-speed genetic modification by slamming a buffalo into an ox to see if we can create the elusive Higgs Bison. But our main work, of course, has been for the London Underground."


"I didn't know that," I said.


"It's top secret," he whispered, touching his nose conspiratorially, "but our tunnel is a bit bigger than the Circle Line, so it's perfect to simulate frequent signal failure and potential collisions on that line by whizzing trains around in opposite directions."


"But the Circle Line isn't even a circle any more," I said. "The top of it branches off to Hammersmith."


"So that's where all the hadrons have gone," he said thoughtfully. "We sent them off, expecting them to come back but they've all ended up at Hammersmith. Thank you so much for telling me." And we left it at that.



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