Google Analytics

Monday, March 7, 2011

EDITORIAL 07.03.11

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at: 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month march 07edition 000772 collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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



































































It is unlikely that we have heard the last word in the ongoing spat between the DMK and the Congress — the apparently estranged political allies may not finally part company. Politics in India would have been too staid and straight-laced had there been no games of brinkmanship between friends and foes with a pre-scripted nail-biting finish. This is all the more applicable to Tamil Nadu where politicians have a flair for what would be considered excessively theatrical elsewhere — real life and reel life tend to merge in that State when it comes to the high drama of what cynics would describe as low politics. That said, Saturday's political developments are not without significance. Ever since A Raja's exit from the Union Cabinet over his involvement in the Great 2G Spectrum Robbery, the alliance between the Congress and the DMK has turned dangerously brittle; it could now crack irrevocably. Convinced that it had the upper hand with a DMK left vulnerable by the 2G scam, the Congress pushed its luck, demanding a higher share of seats, all of them of its choice, in the coming Tamil Nadu Assembly election. The DMK made a show of accommodating the Congress's demand and then declared thus far and no farther. On its part, the DMK knows that the Congress needs it as much, if not more, than the other way round to keep the UPA Government going. At the same time, it does not want to push the envelope too far; hence its decision to withdraw from the Government and extend 'issue-based' support. This arrangement, of course, could change and if push were to come to shove — for instance, if the CBI were to come knocking on Ms Kanimozhi's door — the DMK would just withdraw support. After all, the pater familias of the party can't be seen to be abandoning his daughter and her mother, one of his many wives, simply to retain power in Chennai. That would be suicidal for him and his heir apparent. So, muscle-flexing becomes a political necessity. It now remains to be seen who blinks first — Mr K Karunanidhi or Ms Sonia Gandhi.

As for the Congress, it may well have painted itself into a corner by demanding too much from its southern ally. For, if the DMK finally has its way and the Congress settles for less, then the impact of the retreat would be felt beyond Tamil Nadu, especially in West Bengal. The Trinamool Congress is loath to give more than a fistful of seats to the Congress in West Bengal, confident that it can win the Assembly election on its own strength. That, however, has not tempered the Congress's assessment of its chances and the party is insisting on being allotted a third of the 294 seats up for grabs. Ms Mamata Banerjee has let it be known that she is willing to part with no more than 50 to 60 seats, but it is her party which will decide the list, not the Congress. Understandably, there are apprehensions in the Congress that it will be dumped with the seats where neither it nor the Trinamool Congress has any chance of winning. If the Congress emerges from its spat with the DMK battered and bruised, it will have to meekly accept whatever is given to it in West Bengal. In brief, the party that leads the UPA will have to swallow its pride and give way to triumphant allies. That does not mean the DMK will return to power. But what happens after the Assembly elections is another story.







With each passing day, Libya's despotic ruler Colonel Mummar Gaddafi is becoming increasingly desperate to retain power in the face of a popular uprising that has shaken the foundation of his autocratic regime. His desperation is showing in his absurd utterances that are fast turning into nonsensical rant. For instance, Col Gaddafi likening his brutal crackdown on Libyans to an elected Government's action against trouble-makers in the Kashmir Valley is at once laughable and preposterous. While those out on the streets in Libya demanding Col Gaddafi's exit from power are the disgruntled masses looking for political reform, the protesters in the Kashmir Valley comprise a fraction of the State's population and their demand is secession. The two situations are incomparable simply because there's total freedom and full liberty in the Kashmir Valley while there is neither democracy nor nor any assured rights in Libya. There's a third difference that merits mention, if only to put to rest Col Gaddafi's strange contention which is laden with mischief. In all these years of separatist strife by a section of the Kashmir Valley's population, the Government of India has not ordered the country's military to shoot the people at random or bomb their homes to smithereens. Col Gaddafi needs to be told, loudly and unambiguously, that India does not send out its tanks against its own people, no matter how strong and serious the provocation. All allegations of excesses and human rights violations by the security forces are promptly looked into; there are dozens of examples of Army and paramilitary personnel being prosecuted and punished for violations that pale into insignificance when compared to what loyalist sections of the Libyan military have been doing for the past fortnight or more.

Col Gaddafi's attempt to seek equivalence is not without purpose. At one level, he is appealing to 'old friend' India to stand by him in his hour of trouble. By itself, this is a legitimate expectation although meeting it would be immoral. At another level, he is taunting Western Governments by needlessly dragging Jammu & Kashmir into what is essentially a battle for his survival. If the West is not gunning for India on account of separatist violence in the Kashmir Valley being put down with a firm hand, why should it bother about what he is doing in Libya? Such taunt is inherently dangerous and the mischief should be nipped in the bed. There are enough do-gooders out there in the West who would feel morally compelled to berate India if only to make their cavil against Col Gaddafi appear even-handed. The Libyan dictator is not unaware of this possibility and in his own canny way has sought to exploit the faultlines of the West.









Arabs are rising against autocratic regimes not only because many of them are poor and unemployed but also because their rulers have failed to respond to a new society with a new economic order

That the historic 'Jasmine Revolution' that has swept through the Arab world was sparked, and literally so, by a young man with a college degree who sold vegetables by the street because he couldn't find a job speaks volumes about the revolution itself. But equally so does the fact that this revolution began in a country that you may not have been able to place on the global map but has nonetheless been ranked by the World Economic Forum as the most competitive nation in its region (and 37th globally), has an impressive per capita GDP of $4,160 and a high human development index of 0.683 — in other words, this is a fairly rich country whose citizens are well educated, enjoy a good standard of living and expect to live long lives.

This is in sharp contrast to the popular perception that the uprisings are taking place in backward countries where people live in abject poverty. Indeed, the popular narrative that has emerged from the ongoing unrest in West Asia is essentially this: After decades of autocratic rule that only enriched the ruler and stripped his people of all their rights, the poor public, now empowered by new technology (read: Facebook and Twitter) took to the streets and successfully toppled the repressive regime. The historic success of one people inspired others to follow suit but with varying degrees of success.

Of course, this is not the first time that a local uprising by the oppressed against the oppressor has spread beyond its border. Several examples come to mind but chief among them would be the Revolution of 1848 that began in France but soon engulfed Europe, demonstrations in 1968 by the so-called 'New Left' in Belgrade, in erstwhile Yugoslavia, that spread across the world to New York, Paris, Mexico City and several other cities and similarly, the events of 1989 that began in Poland but soon spread to other Communist countries in Eastern Europe. Essentially, each of these revolutions, including the current uprising in West Asia, was/is a product of a clash between the oppressed and the oppressor. But also beyond that, every one of these mass movements is bound by a unique thematic concern that facilitated its spread from one country to an entire region in the first place. The Revolution of 1848 was an attempt to establish democracies in Europe in the post-Napoleon era while the 1968 protests demanded reform in the capitalist world and finally, the 1989 movement was simply about the overthrow of Communism. Of course, each of the revolutions were a lot more complex in nature and a sweeping generalisation perhaps does little justice, but ultimately the basic idea may still be presented into a sentence or two.

So, now the question is what is that unique theme, beyond the oppressor versus oppressed motif, which defines the ongoing 'Arab Unrest of 2011'? What is it that explains the sudden eruption of anti-Government sentiment in the region at this point in time? It is in this context that the contrary images of the Arab world, described earlier, come in handy. With its motifs of poverty, unemployment and injustice, the first image of the college graduate-turned-street vendor setting himself ablaze to protest the allegedly illegal confiscation of his vegetable cart in a nondescript rural village, sets the stage for the revolution. But it is the second scenario, an amalgam of hard facts that point to economic well being supported by images of sun-swept beaches along the Mediterranean and swanky five-star hotels which provides the necessary backdrop as the Arab movement plays out. Here is how it worked.

In recent years, the Tunisian Government had marginally loosened its grip upon the national economy allowing for increased privatisation, a simplified tax structure and implemented an overall progressive social policy. This helped improve living conditions while growth rates hovered around a promising five per cent during the most of the past decade. As is always the case, growth — both economic and social — shook things up. It disturbed the stability of the old order, threw up new challenges for the Government and opened the Tunisians' window to the world which brought in the winds of change.

Typically, the Government was unprepared to handle the new challenges. An inept, corrupt and self-serving administration meant that there was inadequate and unequal growth (the numbers were promising but never potent enough) that created few jobs. Despots at the helm also prevented the benefits of growth and development from trickling down to the impoverished masses, instead hoarding all the gains themselves — this lead to greater social inequality which laid the foundation for the perfect breeding ground for dissent.

Egypt has a similar story to tell: Over the past decade, the largest Arab nation has also been reforming itself, particularly its economy. It started in the mid-1990s, when Egypt began modifying its old socialist economic system, mostly so that it could receive loans from international financial institutions. More recently, former President Hosni Mubarak brought in several technocrats to restructure the entire Egyptian economy who introduced lower taxes and tariffs, eliminated stifling regulations and reduced state subsidies. Consequently, Egypt grew vigorously at around six to seven per cent per year. But like Tunisia's former President Ben Ali, Mr Mubarak too fumbled as he attempted to gather the fruits of growth and liberalisation without sharing it adequately with his people.

Similarly in Libya as well, Col Muammar Gaddafi himself set the stage for protests when he opened up the economy. Since Libya's economic sanctions were lifted in 2004, several British and American companies have moved in to capitalise on the country's valuable oil resources and have provided a tremendous impetus to national growth in that country. But once again, the fruits of development were hoarded by Col Gaddafi and his family, especially the UK-educated son Saif who strategically positioned himself as the West's only access point to Libyan oil.

Add to this: The collapse of the welfare state in the region. For generations, the Arab world was used to living in a Government-sponsored welfare state that was significantly subsidised. They were protected from the ups and downs of a free market, received free education and handsome dole from the Government. But the system was inherently unsustainable and soon people were dealing with subsidy cuts while the Government was faced with increasing demands. A liberalised economy was supposed to fix some of the problem but poor implementation meant that the entire plan backfired. The result: A mass uprising.

To sum it up, we could recall the words of the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville: "The most dangerous moment for a bad Government is when it begins to reform itself." It seems like the Ben Alis and the Mubaraks of the Arab world slipped at that moment. Dictatorships rarely deal well with change and in this case, the regimes failed to incorporate the changing dynamics of a new society with a new economic order, inhabited by a restive population increasing well connected to the rest of the world.

What will happen next is hard to predict. Arabia is a vast and complex region and the events are still unfolding. The world, especially the West, is hoping for liberal democracies that will have free market economies. And yes, there is ample reason to hope for genuine change but we are far from knowing what that change will look like. Not all revolutions are equal game changers — the events of 1989 completely altered the global power equation but the revolution of 1848 failed at the time but managed to influence future political changes while protests in 1969 changed nothing at all. As for the Arab Unrest of 2011, let's wait, watch and tweet!

--(We will be tracking the Arab revolution on this page every Monday.)






Once again the Maoists have succeeded in forcing authorities into accepting their illegitimate demands through the expedient means of taking hostages.

The recent hostage drama that unfolded in Odisha saw Maoists and the State Government play the proverbial cat-and-mouse game. The Maoists emerged the winners. The kidnapping of the Collector of Malkangiri district, Mr RV Krishna, and a junior engineer brought the Government of Odisha to its knees. Both the State Government and the Union Government cut a sorry figure as they abjectly surrendered to the extortionist demands of the Maoists.

While proclamations are made from time to time to defend the integrity of the nation against any enemy — internal or external — State Governments, wittingly or unwittingly, continue to adopt the line of least resistance and capitulate without putting up even a semblance of a fight. The Governments of Jharkhand and Bihar, despite pressure from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, are not extending the support of their local police to hunt down Maoists. Rather than risk the death of policemen, they have opted to go slow. This in turn has emboldened the Maoists whose sole objective is to subvert the Indian state.

According to reports, Maoists held 75 'Jan Adalats', or people's courts, in 2010 which ordered the execution of 36 civilians. Thousands of civilians and security personnel have died in Maoist violence over the last five years. Out of a total of 10,268 casualties between 2005 and May 2010, as many as 2,372 deaths were reported in 2009, 1,769 in 2008 and 1,737 in 2007. These figures include the 76 CRPF personnel killed by Maoists at Dantewada in Chhattisgarh in 2010.

The state has failed to tackle the Maoist insurgency due to lack of a clear-cut policy or a unified command to deal with the problem. The tendency of succumbing to the pressure of Maoists has its genesis in an incident that took place in 1987 when NT Rama Rao was the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. The People's War Group abducted 11 Government officials, including seven IAS officers. The NTR Government buckled under pressure and gave in to the PWG's demand to release its top leaders from prison. This policy of capitulation has been followed by one State Government after another because they have neither resources, be it weaponry or adequate manpower, nor the political will to stand up against the Left extremists.

The problem is not confined only to the States. Even the Union Government it seems has washed its hands of the problem as the Cabinet has given only a limited mandate to the Union Minister of Home Affairs instead of going all out to neutralise the Maoists. In a candid admission on the need for air support to tackle the Maoist menace and the Cabinet Committee on Security's refusal to endorse the same, Union Minister for Home Affairs P Chidambaram said, "I can implement the mandate that is given to me … the security forces, the Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Odisha, all asked for air support." Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has more than once said that Maoists pose the most serious threat to the country's internal security. Hence, it will not be wrong to contend that the Union Government lacks the political will and determination to take on the Maoists.


Since abductions have so far yielded the desired results for Maoists, it has emboldened them. In the recent abduction of the Malkangiri district Collector, not only the Maoists forced the Odisha Government to concede the release of five of their jailed leaders but also immediately stop counter-insurgency operations and withdraw all Central paramilitary forces. Although the lives of the kidnapped Collector and the junior engineer were saved, the Government paid a heavy price. The effects of the surrender will be felt in the short term as well as in the long term while dealing with the problem of Left extremism in Odisha and elsewhere.

However, what the Odisha Government did is nothing new. They followed what has been the practice for long. For instance, during the VP Singh Government in 1989, five senior 'commanders' of the JKLF were freed from prison to secure the release of Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of the then Union Home Minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. Again, when the Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu to New Delhi, IC 814, was hijacked to Kandahar in December 1999, dreaded Pakistani terrorists were freed and escorted by a Union Minister to barter the release of the passengers taken hostage.

Thus, it would appear that the Union Government, irrespective of the party in power, does not have either the will or a policy to deal with hostage situations precipitated by terrorists. The Governments at the Centre and in the States seem to be more interested in buying peace at any cost, thus confirming, again and again, that we are a soft state.

At the heart of the problem lies poverty in tribal areas. The benefits of the Government's schemes have not reached tribals because of the corruption in the local administration as also at senior level of the bureaucracy. As a result, officials assigned with duties of improving the lot of the tribals fail to show results.

Further, it becomes difficult to address the issue of lack of development — the main grievance of Maoists — because no contractor is ready to put his neck on the block as long as violence and terror prevail in tribal areas. Even Government officials do not dare to go against the wishes of the Maoists and their henchmen.

The Union Government has asked the Maoist-affected States to formulate a 'cash-for-surrender' policy, in which a rehabilitation package of Rs 2 lakh is to be given to Maoists who surrender their arms. The policy gives each Maoist who surrenders an immediate grant of Rs 1.5 lakh, a monthly stipend during vocational training for up to three years, apart from a graded incentive of Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000 for surrendering weapons like AK-47 rifles or grenade launchers.

It becomes imperative for the Union Government and the far Left insurgency affected States to work in tandem to neutralise the Maoist menace. Further, the Union Government should pick up the entire tab for this fight, including that for deploying manpower, creating infrastructure and procuring weapons.

The Government would do well to remember that the objectives of Maoists are no different from any external enemy — they want to subvert the authority of the state. Mahatma Gandhi once said, "All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take."







Hillary Clinton says the US is in competition and the Obama Administration will 'fight back' in West Asia. All that we have seen till now is the US getting a black eye in this fight

In testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "We are in a competition. I just stress over and over again, we've got to be there. We've got to fight back." A competition with who? With Iran, though she didn't mention its long list of allies: Syria, Hamas, Hizbullah, the Turkish Government, the new Lebanese Government, and the Iraqi insurgents.

The Obama Administration has been in office for more than two years and I've been writing about this every day of that period. I have never seen an Administration official say anything like this before. And if Ms Clinton or others are aware of this competition, why didn't they 'fight back'?

They didn't fight back in Lebanon, or try to overthrow the Hamas regime. They have ignored the fact that Tehran is winning the competition regarding the current Turkish Government. They panicked and quickly helped overthrow (without any idea of what would come next) the staunchest anti-Iran regime in the Arab world (not Mr Hosni Mubarak as a dictator but the whole regime). They have given less support to Israel, the main (not by its own choice) enemy of Iran. And they have fallen all over themselves to reward Syria, the main ally of Iran while not diminishing the Tehran-Damascus axis in the least.

What fighting back has been going on?

Ms Clinton made these remarks in urging Congress to support US foreign aid to West Asia. Yet what has this aid bought? Pakistan ignores US interests and so does the Palestinian Authority. Aid to Lebanon goes to that country's Army which is now, for all practical purposes, in the hands of America's enemies. As for aid to Egypt, isn't this now perceived as helping a discredited dictatorship?

There was, however, a hint given by Ms Clinton as to what she meant. Iran was working, "Every single day with as many assets as they can muster, trying to take hold of this legitimate movement for democracy." In other words, the competition seems to be in the Administration's mind over who can do the most to help the upheavals in the region. Thus, the Administration rushed to show that it is eager to undermine pro-US regimes to "persuade" the oppositions to support Washington and not Tehran.

Good luck on that one. In the first test of this proposition, the new Egyptian Government let Iran's warships use the Suez Canal for the first time in 32 years. Those ships are now based in Syria, the country the Obama Administration was supposedly going to woo away from Iran. In Lebanon, a free election has led to a Syria-Iran-Hizbullah dominated Government. In the Gaza Strip, US pressure for letting Hamas participate (albeit under a previous President) was so successful in helping the "legitimate movement for democracy" that Hamas won.

Ms Clinton also made another remarkable statement about how the effectiveness of Al Jazeera and the idea that the United States is losing the "information war". Ms Clinton: Al Jazeera isn't so popular because — as you seem to think — it is providing better news coverage but because it is inciting radical Islamism which has a welcoming audience nowadays.

No policy the US Government can follow and no gimmick is going to persuade people in the region to love the US. That has a certain relationship to the fact that people think America is weak, Iran and its allies are winning, and the US sacrifices its friends. It also implies that people friendly to you won't do well in free elections. And that's not because President Barack Obama isn't charming enough or the US isn't distancing itself more from Israel. It's a basic fact of political culture, ideology, and the power of demagoguery, too.

The beginning of wisdom for US policy in West Asia is the end of the strategy used by the White House for the last two years. And that certainly isn't in sight.

--(The writer is director of the GLORIA Center, Tel Aviv, and editor of the MERIA Journal.)








Perhaps the single worst idea in this year's budget is to slap a 5% service tax on healthcare, which will put affordable medical treatement further beyond the reach of the common man. It is unfortunate that the contribution of the healthcare sector to the overall growth and development of the economy is grossly underestimated in India.

Government spending on healthcare - roughly around 1% of GDP - is woefully inadequate and even lower than countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Disappointingly, the 2011-12 budget did nothing to correct the perception. Worse, the proposed 5% service tax on healthcare - directed at centrally air-conditioned clinical establishments with 25 beds or more, consultant doctors and diagnostic centres - pushes affordable medical treatment further beyond the reach of the common man.

The World Bank estimates that around 24 million people in India are pushed into poverty each year due to health expenditures. The public healthcare infrastructure in the country hardly inspires confidence. India has just 90 beds per 1,00,000 people as opposed to a world average of 270 beds. There are only 60 doctors and 130 nurses per 1,00,000 people against world averages of 140 and 280 respectively. Around 80% of Indians finance their health bills from their own pockets. With government hospitals and clinics poorly resourced, the private healthcare sector is crucial to providing medical facilities to the masses.

It is a misconception that centrally air-conditioned hospitals with 25 beds or more - on which the levy is proposed - cater to a rich clientele alone. Air-conditioning is a minimum prerequisite for operating an ICU, operation theatre or a blood bank. If the proposed tax is enforced, hospitals will have no other option but to pass on the burden to patients. With rural healthcare already in a shambles, the tax may disincentivise poor patients from seeking formal medical care.

The budgetary allocation for various national disease programmes has also been slashed by 14% over the last two years. This seriously jeopardises efforts to fight diseases such as tuberculosis and vector-borne illnesses such as malaria and dengue. In the circumstances, the government must stop treating the private healthcare sector as a cash cow. Private hospitals and clinics cater as much to the poor as they do to the rich. Instead of burdening the sector with extra taxes it needs to declare healthcare an infrastructure industry. This will enable the sector to attract greater investment and bring quality medical services to the masses.







With many of his people having risen against him Colonel Gaddafi could well be considered to be in a pretty pickle. Nevertheless India is weighing considerably on the inimitable Libyan leader's mind. Despite large parts of the country having slipped from his grasp he has served notice that western oil firms, companies and banks will be replaced by those from Russia, China, Brazil and India. But the mercurial strongman's proving to be a fan of India in even more intriguing (some would say delusional) ways.

He has sought to score brownie points by comparing his repression of his people to Kashmir. Such back-handed compliments seem a far cry from an earlier Gaddafi avatar, in which he had championed Kashmiri independence or accession to Pakistan. Even as recently as 18 months back he had railed before the UN General Assembly that Kashmir ought to be an independent Ba'athist state (perhaps a Libyan protectorate?) between India and Pakistan.

There are some small matters the great comandante overlooks. Kashmir has an elected government with a fair degree of autonomy, which he never allowed his countrymen. There have been lapses in holding free and fair elections in Kashmir in the past, but these are being rectified. Human rights have been violated in Kashmir, both by state authorities and militants.But at no point have Indian authorities strafed its people with machine guns, mortars, helicopter gunships and fighter jets, which is how Gaddafi's forces met initially peaceful protests. Kashmir's insurgency, by contrast, started out on a note of great violence, including the expulsion of Kashmiri Pandits. In India the insurgents are aided by external forces, in Libya Gaddafi pays mercenaries to quell his own people. If he were to poll his countrymen he might find that they actually covet something like the Indian system - which is what the civil war in his country is about anyway.







Budget language, or budgetese, reveals how a society thinks. In India, concessions to the rich are "incentives", those for the poor "relief", but when it comes to the middle class it is "sops" - a drippy four-letter word. While the rest of the world, from Barack Obama to David Cameron, is wowing the middle class, in India it is viewed with scorn.

The middle class certainly deserves better. When treated right its members can be agents of modernisation. Their clocks always run that little bit faster.

Fashion designers sensed this well before economists did. From the early 20th century onwards, instead of tailoring only for the rich, or only for the poor, the best international designers aimed at the mass in between. This is why western fashionistas, unlike Indian stylists, are always looking at their society's middle and enjoying its expanse. When artificial silk was invented, European fashion designers, like George d'Avenil, went ecstatic. They could now make silk look-alikes for everybody. This was a middle class aspiration and fashion houses went mass scale on it.

There is a lot in common between designing budgets and designing fashion. In both cases the product should appeal to the middle class to get anywhere. It is in the nature of things that only a few can be rich and nobody wants to be poor, but there are no limits to middle class numbers. In countries like Sweden, Norway and Canada, almost everybody is middle class. It is among the middle classes that a society's dynamo hums and its centre of gravity rests. This is why budgets, like fashion, do well when they focus on the middle class, both existing and aspirational.

What is the point of owning a motorbike if you cannot book a table in an air-conditioned restaurant? What is the point in owning a Maruti if you cannot get treated in a 25-bed plus air-conditioned hospital? What does the finance minister have against air-conditioning anyway? He must know that no operation theatre or blood bank can legally function without one. With this budget, not only will medical care become more expensive but so will life insurance.

To be middle class it is the simple things, and not just the dirt cheap ones, that should come easy. The latest budget has ruled that even ordinary snacks and our routine teas should get dearer. This is an open assault on an everyday middle class way of life. No doubt, in the last 20 years there has been a 381% increase in the number of TV sets in India, but the total number is still 165 million - a fraction of our population.

In China there are more televisions than there are families. Impressive, alright, but they still cannot shop at the same stores the Americans do. In the US, there are more cars than people and China wants to get there fast. This is where every society wants to be, but India. Here finance ministers take a special delight in socking the middle class in the middle, and all in the name of the poor.

But the poor want to be middle class. So if that goal post is moved further and further away it would exhaust them of their staying power. When a budget, such as the latest one, makes at least 130 simple consumer items, including the fake Levis, cost more what good does that do to an aspiring middle class?

But the saddest part is yet to come. As the middle class is not the centrepiece of the budget, all attempts to belong there get short-shrifted too. Consequently, government programmes with upward mobility potentials find no favour in the budget. Funds for the National Rural Drinking Water Programme, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana or the Indira Awas Yojana have remained the same. Given inflation, such stationary figures actually amount to allocation cuts. With food subsidies there is no ambiguity: they get less money this year.

For those struggling to be lower middle class, loans for homes less than Rs 25 lakh have become easier. But as cement and steel prices have risen they will now have to pay more for the same space. Post-Budget, several departments under the agriculture and civil supplies ministries will also have less funds to work with. Among other things, this will affect school mid-day meals and raise the price of cooking gas.

When one ignores the middle class then even the poor look shabbier. Cutting budget deficits is good, but all that needs is the skills of a lowly tailor. To be really stylish there must also be space to fit in an ample middle. It is easy to incentivise the rich, it is self-satisfying to throw crumbs to the poor, but it gets eye-catching and head-turning when the middle classes look good.

Imagine a dirty white collar worker in a fast food outlet. What is wrong if he slowly slurps on a Rs 12 ice-cream cone for two hours on a hot sunny day? Just as fashion needs ordinary people to look at each other, a middle class lifestyle allows different classes to melt into one. This should happen on sidewalks as much as in cafes, hospitals and schools.

To get the right kind of budget think fashion. But our budget makers are very unfashionable. They have even raised the price of sewing machines.

The writer is former professor, JNU.








Though constantly extending the parameters of acting, recognition has been hard to come by for Irrfan Khan . A maestro of personality changes, Irrfan has lately given genre-challenging performances as a psychologically disturbed poet in Vishal Bhardwaj's 7 Khoon Maaf and as an obsessive compulsive lover in Sudhir Mishra's Yeh Saali Zindagi. The actor talks to Subhash K Jha about recognition finally coming to him:

You seem happy to share the Padma Shri with Tabu?

Tabu and i are joined by some strange coincidences. I did my first love story Maqbool with her. We had our first real international success together in The Namesake. And now we've both got the Padma Shri together. Wow! This year the honours went to entertainers i've grown up respecting like Shashi Kapoor and Waheeda Rehman. As a child i remember stealing away to watch their films. It's all a dream come true for me. My mother always thought acting was not such a respectable thing to do. I didn't have the heart to correct her because i never got any honour from the government or from those who give popular awards. I had made up my mind that awards and i just don't go together. Then this Padma Shri comes along to change my mind. On hearing about it, my mother-in-law burst into tears. Those tears made me so happy. My wife was the happiest.

Do you feel you've been deprived of recognition?

I see my colleagues do such a good job of marketing themselves. I wonder how they do it! I can't. I continue to believe that my work will do all the talking for me. The Padma Shri makes me believe i was right. The intense outburst of joy and good wishes on micro-blogging sites just makes me feel i'm going about it the right way.

You have two major international projects lined up this year. There is Ang Lee's Life Of Pi and the fourth film in the Spiderman series?

I start shooting for Life Of Pi in April. For Spiderman i've recently completed a small scene. I wouldn't like to say more about my role until i shoot further. But yes, it's a pivotal part. I play one of the villains. What i really want is to find widespread commercial acceptance in Hindi cinema. My films should be able to make a small profit so that i am considered a saleable actor.

In your recent release Yeh Saali Zindagi you play an obsessive lover?

I worked with Sudhir Mishra for the first time. And it was an enriching experience. My character can't help being completely in love with the Chitrangda character although she doesn't love him back. The character's helplessness is what attracted me. He doesn't like being in love with a woman who doesn't love him back but he can't do anything about it. I've drawn from my real-life experiences. But there were also elements in the part that were not my own. To use my own memory bank of emotions and feelings to fuel a new character is what makes acting exciting for me.

In 7 Khoon Maaf you play a poet who is a wife-beater?

To reduce my character to a wife-beater would be to take away from his complexities. This is a man, a poet in a state of constant turmoil. He is forever seeking something, he knows not what. When he finds the Priyanka character he feels his search has ended. But he realises that he has embarked on another journey after marriage. In his endeavour to find himself he ends up doing things he doesn't understand. He doesn't know why he's doing what he's doing.







There can only be one man of the match every time India wins on the cricket field. And that is the fan. Her or his contribution tends to be forgotten despite the non-stop effort which goes into securing a win. Watching cricket is a full day's work.There was this retired uncle of mine who would get ready for the day's play even before the cricketers. On Test match days, he would get up at least an hour earlier than usual so that he could not just finish his bath and breakfast before play started but also complete all the household chores like buying the vegetables and helping the aunt out in the kitchen.He would arrive at the `ground' - meaning the living-room diwan in front of the TV set - at least half-an-hour before play started so that he could catch the pre-match projections by the expert commentators.

From the time the umpire called, "Play", the uncle would watch every ball with complete concentration from the moment it left the bowler's hand till the instant the batsman either missed it or hit it to the fielder or past him. If anyone walked in front of the TV, his reaction would be akin to that of a Sachin or a Ponting whose concentration has been affected by a stupid spectator or dumb cop strolling in front of the sightscreen at the moment of delivery. There was no slacking when India was fielding and he would take liquid refreshment only during the drink's break. When the sun was directly overhead, not just the players but the uncle would cover the head with a cap. Each time the Indian players got into a huddle, he would also be there. It was he who cheered on Kapil Dev's team when India won first the semi-finals of the 1983 World Cup against England and then the finals on Saturday, June 25. And so what if he was too excited to sleep that night. He insisted on watching every moment of the replay when it was telecast.

The uncle was not around when T20 cricket took off. Cricket watching, which was always very compulsive, has now become even more so, and in inverse proportion to the number of overs bowled. Technology has added to the compulsiveness through innovations like Hot Spot, Snickometer and Hawkeye.However, even the latest innovation of the Umpire's Decision Review System (UDRS) doesn't have the final say on LBW if the distance from the stumps at the point of impact between the ball and the batsman's pad is more than 250 centimetres. The fan now has more things to watch out for to ensure that India is not deprived of a victory.

The involvement of the fans has come to be respected by former international cricketers-turned-commentators. On Sunday, February 27, when the neutral umpire Billy Bowden stuck to his decision that Ian Bell was not out LBW to Yuvraj Singh even after the UDRS showed that the ball would have hit the middle and off-stump despite the point of impact being more than 250 cm, the former English captain-turned-commentator Nasser Hussain categorically stated that, "Not only the Indian and English players but 40,000 spectators in the stadium knew Bell was out."

"What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?" quipped the Marxist intellectual-cum-cricket lover C L R James in his book Beyond a Boundary. It was published in 1964 when ODI cricket was just a gleam in the eye of the Aussie media tycoon Kerry Packer who started the 50-over day-night format in the 1970s after being denied telecast rights to an England-Australia Ashes Test series Down Under. The legendary Pakistani all-rounder Imran Khan was then photographed wearing a T-shirt saying 'Big Boys play at Night!' In today's world of prime-time television, big boys continue to play at night and the fans watch them 24-by-7.








Bhatti's murder shows Pakistan is unwilling to stem the tide of Islamic fundamentalism

Aclerical tsunami is heading towards Pakistan, in the words of a liberal writer in that country. It is clearly coming dangerously close as the killing of the Christian minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti last week shows. How terrifying this tsunami is can be gauged by the fact that barring Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, no minister attended Mr Bhatti's funeral. The interior minister, Rehman Malik, who was in charge of Mr Bhatti's security, has come out with a statement that he will be the next to go. This is a stunning admission of the ineffectiveness of the federal government to contain the tidal waves of fanaticism which claimed Mr Bhatti's life, and earlier that of liberal Punjab governor Salman Taseer who was assassinated by his own bodyguard. Both men were opposed to the medieval blasphemy laws which are being espoused by the Taliban elements as a necessary precondition for a pure Islamic state.

With Bhatti's death, the space for liberal discourse in Pakistan has been severely restricted. The blasphemy laws have been a very handy weapon in the hands of the fundamentalists to impose their harsh, medieval interpretation of the Sharia law. How deeply religious conservatism and intolerance has permeated Pakistani society is clear from the fact that Mr Taseer's assassin is hailed as a hero by many, including educated people. While the jasmine revolution in countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya seems to be for liberal democracy, Pakistan seems to be going in the opposite direction, one in which to speak for justice could invite brutal retribution.

Pakistan's descent into lawlessness and radicalism is all the more frightening considering it is a nuclear State. It has long been the dream of fundamentalist outfits like al-Qaeda to get its hands on a nuclear bomb, howsoever crude. If Pakistan's government abdicates its responsibility and the US carries on with business as usual, there is a very real possibility of the country being overrun by fanatical Islamicists. Pakistan's army is supposed to have an iron grip on the country, but its inaction suggests that it is either complicit in this radicalisation or that it is unable to take on the extremists. Army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has allegedly said that many within his ranks are sympathetic to the killers of Mr Taseer and Mr Bhatti.

Pakistan's elite no longer seems to have a stake in the country.

As Taseer's daughter put it, Pakistan does not need a revolution, it needs evolution. But the killing of Bhatti and the weakkneed response from the government does not suggest that it is capable of finding a way out of this mess. Pakistan keeps talking about how it is in the forefront of the fight against terror in the region. This would be a good time to demonstrate how serious it is. Otherwise, it will be swept away by the tsunami which is now approaching with thunderous speed.







If the thought of law courts makes a chill run down your spine, you have never been in one presided over by chief metropolitan magistrate Vinod Yadav. There, concluding a 25-year-old probe against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi for the 1986 Bofors payoff case, judge Yadav quoted Sahir Ludhianvi's lyrics from the 1963 movie Gumrah -`Chalo, ek bar phir se, ajnabi' -to justify why it's important to end on a good note a story that cannot be brought to its logical end. Given the fact that the case exonerated Quattrocchi, the lyrics must have been meant to soften the blow on the hapless taxpayer who have already provided R250 crore for the probe.


A dash of music would, of course, go a long way in keeping alive court proceedings and bringing to the fore those miscreants who were thinking about lying low and singing softly. In fact, Ludhianvi's haunting lyrics from the landmark movie Pyaasa -`Ye mahlon ye takhton, ye taajon ki duniya... ye duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kyaa hai'-can turn many a vile man's mind from crime and make him sing like a canary.


With the petitioner in the above-mentioned case considering appealing against the order, there is no guarantee that the concluding aria has been sung in the matter. Last heard, Quattrocchi was singing god's praises after hearing the verdict.

Maybe if we strain our ears a little harder, we will hear a rendition of `... is desh kaa yaaron kyaa kahnaa/ ye desh hai duniya ka gehnaa', another classic from Ludhianvi, this time from Naya Daur, singing praises of a country that let him have it so easy.







By accepting responsibility for the decision to appoint PJ Thomas as the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) following the apex court's ruling that the  appointment was illegal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has exhibited statesmanship of the highest order. In doing so, he has sent out a strong signal that if a mistake is made, it is best to admit it rather than hide behind bureaucratic notings. The PM has finally shown that the buck stops with him and that he, like any other citizen, had no hesitation in accepting the verdict of the highest court.

Equally commendable is the immediate response from the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, the shadow prime minister, that the matter should be closed and one must move on. Swaraj was also on the panel to appoint Thomas though she disagreed with both the prime minister and the home minister on the choice of the nominee. Her counterpart in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, though wants some clarifications on the issue. Given the prime minister's candid admission, the matter could blow over in Parliament.

However, the appointment has several lessons for the ruling party. In future, there should be proper scrutiny of every person nominated for a sensitive position, particularly the offices that directly deal with corruption. Singh's admission of his mistake and his subsequent comment that the appointment was not a result of coalition compulsions indicate that Thomas was shortlisted by elements within his own party.

Singh, who was in the eye of a storm after expressing helplessness in dealing with some corruption issues at a press conference last month, has redeemed his image with this. He is also perhaps the first PM to accept a mistake upfront. He has tried to scotch speculation that since many decisions were taken elsewhere, his government could not be held accountable. He has shown that if there is a decision taken, even if at the behest of those in the party, the government will not shirk its responsibility for any error of judgement that it may make. It's also an indication to the party that it shouldn't push for issues or cases which may not stand up to judicial scrutiny.

The apex court has come out with flying colours by upholding the rule of law. In that context, the quashing of Thomas's appointment must be seen as a victory for democracy rather than as a defeat for the government or a triumph for the opposition parties. There are certain issues where individual parties take secondary place since it's democracy and our values which emerge stronger.

Singh's action also proves that had

PV Narasimha Rao accepted his responsibility for the demolition of the Babri masjid, the plight of his party wouldn't have been so dismal in the years that followed his exit from government. Mulayam Singh Yadav, by dissociating himself from Kalyan Singh after the 2009 parliamentary polls, also accepted his mistake in not putting his Samajwadi Party on a secular course. Similarly, Sonia Gandhi overturned the Congress thesis of going it alone in August 2003 to forge a coalition, which finally came to power in 2004. She realised that going it alone at that stage was a mistake and that the Congress had to reinvent itself in the coalition era. Her judgement yielded many political dividends for the party.

Politicians should not always have colossal egos. They must own up to their mistakes. They are not gods and should act with humility. While there could be many question marks regarding the future of the present government in view of several scams, it is heartening to note that the PM has realised that he is the last port of call. Between us.





It's nine years since many districts across Gujarat were swept by a tornado of hate. Innumerable lives were snuffed out, women and girls brutally raped and killed, and homes and livelihoods destroyed. Thousands of people fled their homes in mortal fear.

But nine years is a long time. Nature equips the human body and spirit with extraordinary capacities to heal from great injury. Yet, there are some wounds that don't mend even after a lifetime. I encounter such unhealed suffering among survivors of mass communal violence in Nellie of 1983, Delhi of 1984 and Gujarat of 2002. There is something about the violence of mass hate, which makes its wounds fester even after many others heal.

In villages and towns of Gujarat, survivors have adapted themselves to the everyday reality of second-class citizenship. I estimate that nearly 100,000 people have been permanently ejected and their erstwhile settlements 'cleansed' of Muslim residents. A quarter of these internally displaced people endure in austere relief colonies, established after the carnage by various Muslim organisations. The remainder have moved to the safety of numbers in poorly serviced Muslim ghettoes.

Across the state today, I observe what I regard as the 'Dalitisation' of the Gujarati Muslim. Like Dalits, Muslims in Gujarat today live in segregated settlements, socially devalued and economically ostracised. They are discriminated against in schools and police stations, deprived of basic public services, discouraged in both private and public employment, and excluded from social intercourse such as wedding and birth celebrations. Dalits have lived with these social and economic disabilities for centuries. But the process of pushing Muslims to the same humiliating margins of Gujarati society as Dalits was compressed into the single past decade. This is the enduring legacy of the politics of hatred and division, which has triumphed in Gujarat. We don't know if and when this will ever change.

Muslims in Gujarat today don't live in the expectation of another imminent orgy of mass violence. But they survive daily discrimination as an incontrovertible element of survival. Markers of Muslim identity are fading from Gujarati public life. In many villages, one of the conditions imposed on Muslim residents who wished to return was that the call of the azaan from their mosque should no longer resonate in the village. Auto-rickshaw drivers in every city in the country decorate their rickshaws with symbols of their religious faith (alongside pictures of buxom film actresses). In Ahmedabad, I can estimate that my rickshaw driver is a Muslim only because his rickshaw has no markers of faith. Muslim eateries have adopted culturally-neutral names like Ekta, Tulsi and Jaihind, and no symbols of Muslim faith decorate their walls.

We're helping hundreds of survivors to fight criminal cases against those who slaughtered, raped and plundered in 2002. But we frequently lose these cases in courts, because many baulk at the last minute from naming their tormentors. They want to see them punished, but calculate that if they are to live in Gujarat they can't afford to antagonise their neighbours. Some dignify these 'compromises' as forgiveness. But in their hearts they know that these are acts of surrender. It's not easy to feel resigned to see your tormentors walk free on the dusty paths of your village everyday.

Many people who filed charges against their neighbours for the crimes of 2002 found themselves embroiled in false criminal charges, and some even spent months and years in jail. They dropped their charges, as the price to be freed from jail and be relieved from false criminal cases against them. Young Muslim men also live in fear that they will be picked up for terrorist crimes. Many are forced to spend hopeless years behind prison walls on flimsy charges of which they may be acquitted. But who can return to them the lost years of their lives? And of those of their loved ones who wait all these years outside in penury and despair?

It does little to reassure the Muslim citizens of Gujarat that their persisting persecution under his watch hasn't dimmed the sheen of chief minister Narendra Modi — an icon for legions of his admirers. He is celebrated by virtually every national corporate heavyweight for the rapid economic growth and 'efficient' administration offered by his stewardship of Gujarat. Yet, he refuses to apologise for the crimes of the dark months of 2002 and the complicity of his state administration. On the directions of the Supreme Court, his personal role has been investigated — and raises many doubts. His former home minister and senior police officers are in jail for extra-judicial killings. His public speeches are laced with barbs, which taunt and label the Muslim community as regressive, violent and unpatriotic. But these make him not less but more of a hero for millions of his adoring middle-class supporters.

Madhavrao Golwalkar, the second Sarsanghchalak of the RSS from 1940 to 1973, dreamed of an India where religious minorities could live only as second-class citizens. The India of his aspirations can be glimpsed in today's Gujarat. But the Constitution promised all its citizens a land of equality and fraternity. Its pledges lie in tatters for the Muslim residents of Gujarat, nine years after their massacre stirred the conscience of the people of India. Neither the law of the land nor the legacy of the Mahatma in the land of his birth has secured for the survivors of 2002 justice, security, social dignity and freedom from fear. How many more years will they have to wait?

(Harsh Mander is Director, Centre for Equity Studies)

*The views expressed by the author are personal.



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






After much pulling and straining on both sides over seat-sharing in the upcoming Tamil Nadu assembly election, the DMK-Congress alliance, at least for a while, seemed to have been ripped apart, as the DMK pulled out of the UPA government. The Congress had started its bargaining with demands that old seat-sharing deals be re-negotiated substantively, and the DMK, for its part, needled the Congress by being extremely generous with allies like the PMK, reducing the seats left for the Congress.

This is a new kind of brinkmanship in Tamil Nadu, which has long seen a simple electoral see-saw between the DMK and AIADMK (and their respective constellations of smaller allies like the PMK and MDMK). The Congress, which has a marginal presence in the state despite the big talk of building its own cadre, has taken victorious turns with both parties, and had a durable relationship with the DMK since 2004. But now, it appears as though this election may not play out to script. Partly, this is because the DMK, badly bruised by the 2G investigation, wants to retrieve some sense of agency. Partly, the Congress's swelling ambitions make it difficult for it to work out seat-sharing details. There seems to be a visible disconnect within the Congress, between those who want to thrash out an electoral arrangement, and the others who are busy sending feelers to other potential allies, and playing hardball with the DMK. Ghulam Nabi Azad's back and forth between the state and Delhi was clearly fraught, and reflected the state of play.

The DMK knows only too well that this is a high-stakes election. It is confronted by a formidable opposition — Jayalalithaa and her crew of allies, including Vijayakanth's DMDK, is no pushover. The party is fighting incumbency, and dealing with its own internal rifts, and the sense of uncertainty about who will succeed Karunanidhi. This restiveness among all political fronts only points to the fact that this may genuinely be an all-bets-off election. The DMK, till the 2G case unsettled its top leadership, appeared to have a well-worked strategy to garner votes — it has a record of welfare schemes that win it support. But will that tide it through this time, given the patient coalition-building by opposing forces? It is unclear what shape the alliances will finally take. But for the DMK, which has since 1996 tended to keep tranquil relations with the party at the Centre, this is certainly a new phase.






The loss of an entire winter session was unprecedented and unfortunate, but it gave a new relevance and urgency to the question of how to make our Parliament function more effectively and on the various structural and procedural changes that are required to bring this about. It led to a new searching on reclaiming the stature of the House — for protecting its debates, discussions and itself. It's in this context — and with chunks of the present budget session too being lost to disruptions — that Rajya Sabha Chairperson Hamid Ansari decided to break with tradition and bring about an elementary modification: change the timetable of the House. Ansari has decided to postpone the Question Hour — where starred or unstarred questions can be asked and which often gets derailed by eager members who want to make their point the first thing in the morning — to afternoon. Instead, the House will first take up matters "that are raised with the permission of the Chair" or what is called Zero Hour submissions. What is expected out of this tinkering is an orderly beginning to a day's proceedings.

Every institution has to evolve, to respond imaginatively to the peculiar challenges of the times. And Ansari's experiment is a beginning. We also have to consider our legislature's deeper, structural issues. One, for instance, being whether the House is subsuming the voice of the individual legislator. Isn't the grandstanding by smaller parties and individual MPs often a desperate but useful measure to call attention — of their constituency back home, the House and the media — to their importance as well as their grievances? Isn't it essential to spare a little time and some space for parliamentarians to articulate their concerns, without making a production of it? Also, shouldn't the parties themselves take responsibility and invest in pressure groups to ensure civility of proceedings?

Yet, there's only so much that rescheduling and restructuring by themselves can effect. The honour of the House and the civility of its discourse can only be elevated by the imagination of its members.






The deaths of protesters in last summer's stone-pelting incidents in Kashmir and the stampede at Sabarimala in January this year are not remotely similar — unless these are viewed through the prism of crowd-control. Our approach to crowd management has been a one-size-fits-all response. That's why the security forces have faulted on two critical counts: first, traditionally there has been no categorisation of crowds — whether pilgrimage or riot or rally. Second, there has been a single-standard sequence for police action.

Therefore, it's good that the J&K police and CRPF are training specifically to deal with situations like last summer's protests. They have acquired new anti-riot gear which offers better protection from projectiles like bricks and stones; they are also being sensitised and trained to tackle violent or excitable gatherings without recourse to the bullet or fatal shootings or other actions that further provoke the crowd, such as several policemen pouncing on and beating up a single protester. However, this also calls for non-lethal weapons, a necessity that the chief ministers' conference on internal security last month had raked up. That police forces are now being provided with the same is a result of lessons learnt from Kashmir's last summer.

While crowd differentiation has long become administrative second nature in several countries, the prime minister too noted last August that Indian policing needed to formulate variable standards according to varying situations. Policing is becoming increasingly complex, with the emergence of non-state actors and extremists — religious or left-wing. In J&K's case, police personnel need to be trained in maintaining law and order, which is a very different challenge from militancy. Police reforms in Indian states must look beyond anti-riot gear and non-lethal weapons to holistic behavioural training and skills development. In a changing law and order context, India needs a new kind of police personnel.







With inflation running at over 8 per cent for more than a year now, savers have been earning a negative rate of return from their bank deposits. Moreover, the interest rate paid out on savings accounts remains fixed at 3.5 per cent — so any upside that customers may have had from rising interest rates has been lost. The Reserve Bank of India has been wanting, for some time now, to initiate a discussion on whether this rate should be freed; a paper on the subject is expected soon. While the central bank had observed, way back in April 2006, that "in principle, deregulation of interest rates is essential for product innovation and price discovery in the long run", so far the savings rate has remained fixed.

That's probably because banks have resisted a move to free rates, because it would add to their costs and hurt profitability. A senior banker recently pointed out that to break even on a savings account, the balance in that account should be somewhere between Rs 7,500 and Rs 10,000 at an interest rate of 3 per cent; if interest was increased to, say, 5 per cent, the balance would have to be higher at

Rs 12,500. The banker went on to say that banks might be forced to altogether stop term lending because they wouldn't want to be vulnerable to an asset liability mismatch, or alm. An alm could arise since savings deposits would become more volatile with the rate varying with the demand and supply of money. It's possible that, in the near term, banks would be wary of loaning money for longer periods, since depositors could turn out to be fickle. Moreover, right now, money is in short supply.

It's also true that banks in India are hamstrung, partly because they need to mandatorily set aside some amount of cash and buy government bonds, which yield them little. There are also the compulsions of lending to the priority sector, to the extent of 40 per cent of total advances, a business that fetches relatively lower margins. And so if the rates on savings deposits rise, margins could come off. When the method of calculating the amount earned from savings deposits was changed in April last year, the cost of their deposits went up by 25 to 30 basis points, since savings deposits account for about a fourth of total deposits. However, most banks managed to cushion the impact by doing more business. A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that a 100-basis point increase in the savings deposit rate could result in a 25-basis point increase in the cost of deposits, and a hit of 20 basis points on the banks' margin, yields remaining constant.

But the regulator is right in that a free savings deposit rate would encourage innovation. After all, it's essentially a transactions account, so it's ease in transacting that customers are looking for. There are banks in the UK, for instance, which have a disproportionately large share of the savings deposit pool, but do not necessarily fork out the highest rates — simply because they offer the customer a good product proposition. This is especially true for banks that follow a branch-based model. There are others, however, who attract customers with better rates, especially those whose models are built on the Internet-banking platform.

However, a good debit-card programme, with loyalty points, has been known to induce customers to settle for a lower rate on their savings deposits. Customers do not mind paying for good service and given the increasing affluence in India, this trend should play out here too. In other words, banks can persuade savers to live with lower rates in return for better service and some innovation. A large network of ATMs, for instance, is a big draw for customers in some Latin American markets like Brazil; a former Brazilian bank, Banco Itau, which later merged with Unibanco, had 23,000 ATMs in 2007. Over time, banks can segment their customer base, tailoring products to suit various needs. Therefore money could stick — especially in rural areas.

In some senses, the savings rate has been deregulated, with some banks offering the "auto-sweep" product, in which money from a savings account is channelled into another account which offers a higher rate of interest. For their part, customers will have to learn to live with changing rates, and perhaps rates lower than 3.5 per cent in times when there is abundant money in the system. Also, banks will want to make up the higher costs by charging more for cheques, or for services like using ATMs — and may even ask customers to leave more money lying around in their account. As the senior banker quoted above pointed out, there may be no free lunch for banks, but there won't be a free lunch for customers either.

The writer is Resident Editor, Mumbai, 'The Financial Express'









All big nations have enduring myths about their foreign policies. India is no exception. One of its principal myths, the presumed commitment to non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations, has been purveyed widely in the last few days as the world debates the use of force against Muammar Gaddafi's regime in Libya.

At New York, India has gone along with the United Nations Security Council Resolution imposing a few sanctions against the Libyan regime — arms embargo, travel ban, freeze on accounts of the leadership.

But New Delhi has found it necessary to explain its vote because of domestic squeamishness about Western intervention in Libya.

Senior officials have suggested that Delhi was not even for sanctions, but had to go along with the consensus in New York.

The government's defensiveness suggests that Delhi has reverted to form — with all its humbug and hypocrisy about non-intervention as a high principle of India's foreign policy — at the very first major diplomatic test since it joined the UNSC as a non-permanent member in January.

It is a good moment, then, to scrutinise the Indian myth about non-intervention. For one, it is attributed to Jawaharlal Nehru who supposedly invented "Panchsheel", the alleged foundation of India's foreign policy.

The truth, however, is it was Chinese premier Zhou Enlai who insisted on putting the Panchsheel into the preamble of the 1954 agreement on trade and intercourse with the Tibet region of China and India.

Zhou Enlai had good reasons. When China emphasised non-intervention, it was about insisting that India lay off Tibet and cede the many special privileges Delhi had inherited from the Raj.

Paradoxical as history tends to be, Delhi and Beijing have conformed to Panchsheel more in breach than observance.

Second, if you ask any of our smaller neighbours in the subcontinent about India's commitment to Panchsheel, they might laugh but for the fact that they find themselves at the receiving end of Indian interventions.

Sending troops into East Pakistan to liberate Bangladesh in 1971 and keeping peace in Sri Lanka in 1987 are among the most notable. The Pakistanis will come up with a longer list of Indian interventions and some Nepalese might say India's political and diplomatic intervention is a permanent part of their national life.

When it comes to the subcontinent, India says it has special responsibility to maintain peace and order in the subcontinent.

Let us accept for a moment that India has good reasons to intervene within the subcontinent and object to the interventions of other powers. But does it have a consistent policy on issues relating to international intervention in the world beyond the subcontinent?

Not really. India has taken all possible positions. On some issues, it was active in promoting intervention. India took the lead, way back in the 1940s, in pressing the international community to sanction and punish the apartheid regime in South Africa. And in the 1980s, it was Rajiv Gandhi who renewed the campaign.

Not all cases of intervention are drawn in black and white. India opposed some interventions; it supported or acquiesced in others.

During the Cold War, India tended to criticise Western interventions around the world, but was somewhat ambivalent about Soviet interventions in East Europe.

There has been a particular sensitivity to Western interventions in the Middle East. Political parties are reluctant to offend the sentiments of the large Muslim population at home, whatever the merits of the issue might be. This is not a preoccupation of the Congress party alone.

The Janata Dal-led government was tongue-tied when Iraq's Saddam Hussein invaded and occupied Kuwait in the 1990s. Foreign Minister Inder Kumar Gujral went to Baghdad and hugged Saddam Hussein; it did not matter that the sovereignty of Kuwait, a fellow Third World country, was at stake. When its government was negotiating with Washington on the possible contribution of troops to Iraq in 2003, it was the BJP that came out first against it.

In the 1980s, India had difficulty publicly opposing the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. After all, the Russians were our friends. They gave us arms and backed us in the UNSC to stop the Anglo-American powers from poking their nose in Jammu and Kashmir.

While the Indian political classes are opposed to Western intervention in Libya, they are unlikely to question Saudi Arabia, if it chooses to intervene in Bahrain now to help the minority Sunni regime there put down the revolt of the majority Shia community.

Opposing Western interventions is easy. Delhi would rather avoid taking positions when one Muslim country invades another.

In an example of a different kind, India defied much of the world and our ASEAN friends in lending support to Vietnamese intervention in Cambodia to oust the genocidal regime of Poll Pot. It was for a good cause, but also involved some realpolitik — helping Vietnam stand up against China.

If you think only India is hypocritical, think again; most of the above examples indicate a similar but more consequential Western hypocrisy. Western powers for decades resisted international sanctions against White South Africa. The West opposed India's humanitarian intervention in East Pakistan and rallied behind Pol Pot's clique despite its genocide. As the Middle Eastern regimes totter today, the Western response is bound to differentiate between allies and adversaries.

The fact is that intervention in the internal affairs of nations is part of international life. Not much has changed since India's ancient scriptures talked of "Matsyanyaya" — big fish eating small-in the raja-mandala, or the circle of states.

As India rises on the world stage, its interests become global and it is called on to contribute to regional and international peace and security, the real question before India is not whether to intervene, but when, where and how.

It is not about consistency, but arriving at prudent judgments on use of force — either unilateral or multilateral. It is about choosing between competing interests and balancing India's political values and strategic interests. Pious platitudes on non-intervention are neither credible nor helpful for an emerging India.






After much pulling and straining on both sides over seat-sharing in the upcoming Tamil Nadu assembly election, the DMK-Congress alliance, at least for a while, seemed to have been ripped apart, as the DMK pulled out of the UPA government. The Congress had started its bargaining with demands that old seat-sharing deals be re-negotiated substantively, and the DMK, for its part, needled the Congress by being extremely generous with allies like the PMK, reducing the seats left for the Congress.

This is a new kind of brinkmanship in Tamil Nadu, which has long seen a simple electoral see-saw between the DMK and AIADMK (and their respective constellations of smaller allies like the PMK and MDMK). The Congress, which has a marginal presence in the state despite the big talk of building its own cadre, has taken victorious turns with both parties, and had a durable relationship with the DMK since 2004. But now, it appears as though this election may not play out to script. Partly, this is because the DMK, badly bruised by the 2G investigation, wants to retrieve some sense of agency. Partly, the Congress's swelling ambitions make it difficult for it to work out seat-sharing details. There seems to be a visible disconnect within the Congress, between those who want to thrash out an electoral arrangement, and the others who are busy sending feelers to other potential allies, and playing hardball with the DMK. Ghulam Nabi Azad's back and forth between the state and Delhi was clearly fraught, and reflected the state of play.

The DMK knows only too well that this is a high-stakes election. It is confronted by a formidable opposition — Jayalalithaa and her crew of allies, including Vijayakanth's DMDK, is no pushover. The party is fighting incumbency, and dealing with its own internal rifts, and the sense of uncertainty about who will succeed Karunanidhi. This restiveness among all political fronts only points to the fact that this may genuinely be an all-bets-off election. The DMK, till the 2G case unsettled its top leadership, appeared to have a well-worked strategy to garner votes — it has a record of welfare schemes that win it support. But will that tide it through this time, given the patient coalition-building by opposing forces? It is unclear what shape the alliances will finally take. But for the DMK, which has since 1996 tended to keep tranquil relations with the party at the Centre, this is certainly a new phase.






The loss of an entire winter session was unprecedented and unfortunate, but it gave a new relevance and urgency to the question of how to make our Parliament function more effectively and on the various structural and procedural changes that are required to bring this about. It led to a new searching on reclaiming the stature of the House — for protecting its debates, discussions and itself. It's in this context — and with chunks of the present budget session too being lost to disruptions — that Rajya Sabha Chairperson Hamid Ansari decided to break with tradition and bring about an elementary modification: change the timetable of the House. Ansari has decided to postpone the Question Hour — where starred or unstarred questions can be asked and which often gets derailed by eager members who want to make their point the first thing in the morning — to afternoon. Instead, the House will first take up matters "that are raised with the permission of the Chair" or what is called Zero Hour submissions. What is expected out of this tinkering is an orderly beginning to a day's proceedings.

Every institution has to evolve, to respond imaginatively to the peculiar challenges of the times. And Ansari's experiment is a beginning. We also have to consider our legislature's deeper, structural issues. One, for instance, being whether the House is subsuming the voice of the individual legislator. Isn't the grandstanding by smaller parties and individual MPs often a desperate but useful measure to call attention — of their constituency back home, the House and the media — to their importance as well as their grievances? Isn't it essential to spare a little time and some space for parliamentarians to articulate their concerns, without making a production of it? Also, shouldn't the parties themselves take responsibility and invest in pressure groups to ensure civility of proceedings?

Yet, there's only so much that rescheduling and restructuring by themselves can effect. The honour of the House and the civility of its discourse can only be elevated by the imagination of its members.






The deaths of protesters in last summer's stone-pelting incidents in Kashmir and the stampede at Sabarimala in January this year are not remotely similar — unless these are viewed through the prism of crowd-control. Our approach to crowd management has been a one-size-fits-all response. That's why the security forces have faulted on two critical counts: first, traditionally there has been no categorisation of crowds — whether pilgrimage or riot or rally. Second, there has been a single-standard sequence for police action.

Therefore, it's good that the J&K police and CRPF are training specifically to deal with situations like last summer's protests. They have acquired new anti-riot gear which offers better protection from projectiles like bricks and stones; they are also being sensitised and trained to tackle violent or excitable gatherings without recourse to the bullet or fatal shootings or other actions that further provoke the crowd, such as several policemen pouncing on and beating up a single protester. However, this also calls for non-lethal weapons, a necessity that the chief ministers' conference on internal security last month had raked up. That police forces are now being provided with the same is a result of lessons learnt from Kashmir's last summer.

While crowd differentiation has long become administrative second nature in several countries, the prime minister too noted last August that Indian policing needed to formulate variable standards according to varying situations. Policing is becoming increasingly complex, with the emergence of non-state actors and extremists — religious or left-wing. In J&K's case, police personnel need to be trained in maintaining law and order, which is a very different challenge from militancy. Police reforms in Indian states must look beyond anti-riot gear and non-lethal weapons to holistic behavioural training and skills development. In a changing law and order context, India needs a new kind of police personnel.







between, mining, a core industrial activity that contributes around 2% to economic value added growth and is the feeder to many critical sectors like power, steel and metals, has been in the midst of controversy all through last year. Rightly or wrongly, miners have found themselves at the receiving end of government, civil society, and sundry other stakeholders' wrath. It has been damned, crucified, and charged for harbouring irrational greed (partly true) that is destroying habitats of man and beast alike. But portraying it as just a 'search and destroy' mission, in the likeness of the 'Sky People' in Hollywood humdinger Avatar, is a self-fulfilling exercise that serves no real purpose. The realisation that for all the environmental debits that the

activity––of practically dredging up earth, and often in thickly wooded pristine forests––piles on us, it remains a necessary evil for a near double-digit growth thumping economy with its concomitant appetite for rapid industrialisation and infrastructure development. It's here to stay and just can't be wished away. All the focus then comes down to best practices in mining and mine reclamation efforts, to somewhat lighten the ugly footprint and scars of mining. FE holds a brief for no one, but in an environment where the entire perspective on mining is getting mono-focal, keeling over the side of 'touch nothing' purists, our reporters fanned out across the country to mining sites to bring to our readers first-hand accounts of how bridges are being built, and equally, gaps ignored in order to make mining as sustainable as possible.

Our series chronicles how Sesa Goa's efforts on mining land have borne fruit in the form of lush vegetation and cash crops, thanks to a well-thought out and executed horticulture and pisciculture effort at the company's over 100-hectare old mine site in Sanquelim, Goa. The lush cover of acacia, casuarina and cashew trees completely belies the fact that this area till the late eighties was deep open pits with red dust flying around. And how thirty years of bauxite mining at Damanjodi in Orissa's Koraput by Navratna Nalco has barely left a red scar, with the whole area green with vegetation. Conserving the entire top soil during digging for refilling of the exhausted mine, and enabling natural aquifiers to develop there helps not just in quick afforestation, but even feeds the company's refinery, which somehow still finds itself in locals' crosshairs due to contested levels of fluoride emissions.

But equally, in a country with an estimated illegal mine count of over 40,000, our reporters stumble, time and again, on the ecological predators of Jharkhand, where small, cottage-industry type mining leases have wreaked havoc on the ecology and economy alike. Mining per se is not bad. There are only good and bad ways of handling it, much like any other economic and business activity.





One theory that got shot down during the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference was that global warming is caused more by sunspots than by man-made factors. Solar energy striking the Earth does increase when the Sun sports more spots, which mean increased solar activity. But most scientists, including those at Nasa, agree that solar energy hasn't trended upward enough to outdo the impact of human CO2 emissions over the last century. On the other hand, it becomes more important by the day to understand and predict solar energy variations. Because these variations affect space weather, which in turn impacts the satellites that anchor so much of modern life—from communications to cropping patterns, ATM machines (GPS is involved in other financial transactions as well) to plain holiday pilotage. There is also the air traffic factor: polar routes are shorter and safer but must be avoided during heightened solar activity, which can knock out electricity grids too. Plus, better predictions require better understanding. One thing we have known since 1843, thanks to German astronomer Heinrich Schwabe, is that sunspots come and go in cycles of around 11 years. Except, during the most recent solar minimum, the Sun went spotless for an unusually high 780 days, during 2008-2010. This was puzzling and alarming.

Using computer simulations, Dibyendu Nandy (Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata), Andrés Muñoz-Jaramillo and Petrus Martens have solved this mystery. It seems that the 'conveyor belt' that intermittently sweeps sunspots for recharge in the bowels of the Sun sped up beginning in the late 1990s, allowing fewer of them to surface above the hidden production line. But as confirmed by the solar flare last month, a solar maximum is decisively under way now. A similar event back in 1938 had people calling up the fire brigades. In 1857, some buildings and telegraph wires caught fire. We were luckier this time. The Earth's magnetic field storm happened to be aligned parallel to that of the flare. But luck won't always be on our side. Unusual increases or declines in solar activity can have potentially titanic consequences. In what's called the Maunder Minimum between 1645-1715, Europe experienced the Little Ice Age. Winter became longer, growing seasons shorter. Famines were widespread. On the trans-Saharan caravan route, the Niger River saw the kind of flooding for which there are no matching records from before or after. It is this that makes the work that Nandy and company are doing critical. A better tracking of changes in solar activity and better predictions about its consequences will help us develop better shields.





Mostly, as popular perceptions go, the aam aadmi in India thinks that democracies such as ours are intrinsically different from totalitarian regimes, such as communist China. Yes, there is no doubt over that intrinsic systemic difference. But surprisingly, if you skim China's surface, a lot of the issues that the aam aadmi in India struggles with or is at least conversant with, are fairly similar to those which rankle China's lao baixing. Today, land-related issues in both countries have emerged as a hotbed of contention. No surprises, if we in India hear of rampant corruption, the emergence of a class of diwang (kingly land acquirers), land acquisition by the party-state, forcible eviction and peasant relocation are heard of in China—ringing a familiar bell.

The issue is becoming increasingly coloured with blood and gore. In China, the recent public furore over the 'accidental' death of 53-year-old peasant-protester Qian Yunhui (hit by a truck) of Yueqing, Wenzhou City, Zhejiang province, on Christmas day (2010) is a case in point. Zhejiang is a fast-growing eastern coastal province, which stands in close proximity to Shanghai (municipality). The bone of contention here was land acquisition—Qian's village, Zhai Qiao, had been identified as the site of a power plant, necessitating the eviction of an estimated 3,700 people from an estimated 14,600 acres. The related issue, naturally, was compensation, which was falling short of collective demands. The picture of Qian's severed head posted online within hours of the accident is a tragic reminder that if anything, in both China and India, if one were to be brutally honest, human lives come cheap. We, in India, are not new to controversy or such human tragedies.

Speaking of India, the abandoned Tata project and its well-publicised exit from West Bengal, as well as controversies over other large projects in other states in India, have brought into sharp focus the increasingly contentious issue of land. The spate of violence in Orissa [Kalinganagar (Tata Steel); Puri (Vedanta)], Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh (Arcelor Mittal Steel)] show that issues of land acquisition and compensation are not isolated incidents. Now that Korean conglomerate Posco's project—India's single largest FDI of $12 billion—has been cleared, it is public knowledge that Posco produced little else but controversy since it signed the MoU with the Orissa government in 2005, partly because of Posco's appetite for land—a whopping 6,000 acres, or 60 times the size of Tiananmen Square or less than half the size of Qian's village.

Land disputes have emerged as China's most volatile social problem. According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) Blue Book 2011, 73% of petitions and complaints filed by farmers, and an estimated 65% of rural conflicts are related to land—acquisition, eviction, meagre compensation and resettlement. CASS researcher Yu Jianrong mentions that 6.67 million hectares of land have been seized in the past two decades, and the discrepancy between compensation and market price is an estimated 2 trillion yuan ($294 billion). Independent studies say that up to 3 million farmers in China relocate each year and the number of farmers who have lost their land in the last decade is between 40 and 50 million. However, this does not indicate how many have been suitably compensated and how many have been left in the lurch.

The 2007 law in China recognises the right to private property, but as a right bestowed by the state, and not as a natural right. Given that China is socialist in theory, land in China is publicly owned. In urban areas, the land is owned by the state; in rural areas, it is owned by rural collectives, which can requisition the land for public projects. The basis of sub-contracting land was legally permitted in 2008. As economist Robert Ash points out—farmers were allowed to "transfer the right to operate on contracted land in the form of sub-contracting, leasing out, swap, transfer, share-holder corporation, etc". This codified an open secret of the decade. User land rights vary, for residential purpose these are usually deemed at 70 years, and for commercial and industrial use, between 40 and 50 years.

Why has land become much sought after by the local government? Land-sourced fiscal revenue (tudi caizheng) is what local governments are after. Profit lies in the difference between the cost of land acquisition and land leasing—and thus for cash-strapped local governments, a viable and easy revenue generating proposition. The mechanisms for leasing out land are tenders and public auctions. And as in India, there are ways and means to get around them.

According to a scholar, Su Fubing (2010), land-related revenues could possibly account for up to 60% of local government income, between 30% and 50% for all sub-provincial governments and around 50-60% for city level local governments. The income from land sales was 2.7 trillion yuan ($400 billion), an increase of 70% year-on-year, with an estimated 53,000 cases of offence against laws on the use of land.

Thus, while local governments are flush with cash, typically, farmers receive a token amount. The amount is woefully inadequate because besides loss of livelihood, with pay-as-you-go in place, farmers have to pay a hefty sum for social security and save for future medical care.

The central government diktat of limiting land for commercial use has been bent by cross-region purchase of land, which means geographically contiguous cities buy land from neighbouring regions for commercial purposes.

According to the revised Land Administration Law (1998), local governments can acquire land from rural collectives on the basis of 'public interest'. As is the case in India, what constitutes 'public interest' is enmeshed in controversy. In 2009, in an infamous slip of tongue on national TV, Lu Jun, the chief of the planning bureau of Zhengzhou, when answering the question as to why land that had been acquired for public housing was instead used to build expensive private villas, answered: "Are you speaking for the Party, or are you speaking for the masses?"

Under India's 1894 Land Acquisition Act, the government can declare certain pockets of land as targets for compulsory land acquisition. This was originally intended for projects of 'public interest' (highways, rail lines) for the masses, but in the recent decades has been misused by the classes. Landowners have to sell at the average price fixed at the time of notification. Land prices go up once there is corporate interest and thus landowners protest against both acquisition and low prices.

In China, the party-state is taking measured steps towards transparency—from establishing a National Land Supervision System in 2006 to setting up a 'red' line in 2007, to reserve 120 million hectares of arable land deemed necessary to guarantee grain safety. Tax reforms to ease local government coffers are on the cards.

Informally speaking, a few fortunate victims of land seizures (because of Internet activism and media interest) are now being treated to, besides the proverbial goody bag, a free trip overseas.

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





A Budget is best tasted cold. In the immediate excitement of its presentation, it is hot and almost palatable. Pranab Mukherjee is a past master. Even in his understated style, he hides many subtleties. Last Monday, it was his turn to put a stop to the slide and slither in the UPA's fortunes and reignite the troops for the battle ahead. With five elections decided by mid-May, a lot hung on the Budget.

The puzzle then is why did the Budget not have any headline-grabbing policy announcements? Why was there no single splash that could enthuse the people? There are two answers to that question. One is that the splashy item was not in the tax provisions, certainly not in the meagre upgrading of the threshold from R1.6 lakh to R1.8 lakh but in the macroeconomic news. The economy grew by 20% in nominal terms in 2010-11. This was 8.6% real and the rest inflation. The FM could not celebrate the inflation figure but it figured a lot in his positive message. Thus he was able to claim that the debt-GDP ratio at 44% was below what the Thirteenth Finance Commission had decreed as the target. Only the excessive inflation on top of a high real growth rate made this possible. This nominal number was nowhere mentioned but it has become obvious that UPA no longer regards inflation as a problem to be tackled, but an opportunity to use to lighten the debt burden. It also let the FM boast about a low budget deficit outcome, 5.1% rather than 5.5%, and even better results on revenue deficit.

It was this, plus the forecast real growth rate of 9%, which let the FM be relaxed about giving away too much. He could afford a revenue neutral budget since the inflation on top of the real growth would take care of the unbudgeted increase in expenditure. He said as much about the oil subsidy. He neither promised it nor did he withdraw it. Since he went for revenue neutrality, he kept expenditure estimates also modest. What we had instead was a lot of small measures across the board for consumers, for agricultural growth, for FIIs and a promise that manufacturing share would rise from 16% to 25% in 10 years, but no concrete policy support in that direction either.

I take the view that relying on inflation to ease your problems is a risky strategy. It will be denied, of course, that such is the case, but UPA-2 has been the most relaxed government about inflation of all governments I can recall over the last 60 years. It may be a policy innovation but its is fraught with dangers.

The other answer is that there is now a stalemate within the Congress party in the government. The two camps are the liberalisers—PM, deputy chairman of Planning Commission and the PM's Economic Advisory Committee versus the anti-liberalisers of the National Advisory Council. Thus, on a number of occasions during the Budget speech, one thought the FM was about to announce a major reform—FDI in retail or insurance—but he stopped short. The stalemate had stopped him short of the full commitment. At the same time, the expenditure demands of the NAC have been limited, though we have yet to see what food security does to the numbers.

The FM had to balance the two camps. He did a deft job, but mainly by postponing the big decisions till next year. I fear that he has left it too late. For one thing, we shall see a massive rejection of Congress in the five state elections. People do not forgive inflation easily. If AIADMK wins in Tamil Nadu, the UPA will be under great pressure in the next three years. In West Bengal, I expect a close election since Trinamool will pay the price of being in the UPA.

Next year, UP and Gujarat will loom large with no prospect of Congress winning much in either state. It is hardly likely that the risk-averse Sonia Gandhi will brook any liberalising reforms with her back against the wall. So, we will have populism for the aam aadmi and consequently wasteful schemes with no payoff. Problems of unemployment which require massive growth of manufacturing will not be taken up, nor will the reform of labour laws.

The only thing the UPA can hope for is that the real growth numbers will stay robust. Here, too, the fact that the 2010-11 figure of 8.6% growth overstates the true trend has not been admitted. The 5.7% growth in agriculture is inflated thanks to the drought last year. Food-grain output in 2010-11 is still below what it was two years ago, 232 rather than 234 million tonnes. Next year's agricultural growth rate is put at too high a number to be believable. Thus, don't bank on 9% next year.

What rabbits will Pranab pull out in next year's Budget?

The author is a prominent economist and Labour peer







The blocking of a blogging website, even if only for a short period, raises the disturbing question of curbs imposed on free speech in India through executive fiat. There is a clear pattern of Internet censorship that is inconsistent with constitutional guarantees on freedom of expression. It is also at odds with citizen aspirations in the age of new media. What is worrying is that the rules governing online publication are being tinkered with periodically to facilitate such filtering. This is done under the Information Technology Act, 2000. The Department of Information Technology recently published the draft Information Technology (Due diligence observed by intermediaries guidelines) Rules, 2011 that specifically mark bloggers for scrutiny, and require intermediaries such as service providers not to themselves host or publish any information. Evidently, this can be interpreted to cover blogs and other websites. What is worse, the rules propose to authorise the intermediaries to remove access to 'infringing' material if they themselves have actual knowledge or are asked to do so by a mandated authority. These are retrogressive provisions that weaken constitutional freedoms and the parent law. As it stands, the IT Act merely requires the intermediary to exercise due diligence and does not talk of not hosting or publishing information. Ideally, the only criterion online publications should have to meet is compliance with the general laws of the land.

The emergence of the WikiLeaks phenomenon and the use of online tools in North Africa and West Asia to inform and organise people underscore the power of citizen publishing. This is a new reality governments must learn to live with. Conflicts are bound to arise if the rules for online publication are modified specifically to prevent such publication. For instance, draft rule 3(2)(a) for intermediaries requires the user not to publish or display information that belongs to another person. Potentially, secret documents ferreted out by investigative journalists or whistleblowers in the public interest may be interpreted to belong to a third party — and blocked from the public domain. It is inconceivable that such a restriction could be applied to traditional media, which have a robust record of exposing corruption in high places. What all this makes clear is the need for wide public debate on any move to impose restrictions on online publishing. It is unacceptable that access to some websites is blocked through executive orders issued by technical bodies such as the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team, with no explanation on why such action was taken.





India Post's recent initiatives, which include slotting itself in cyberspace through the ePost Office, are pointers to the manner in which the world's largest postal network can be better leveraged to strengthen the financial and communication infrastructure. The Internet and other affordable alternatives have hit the basic function of post offices: delivering letters and other mails. In India, as an answer to a question raised in the Lok Sabha reveals, the volume of mail traffic fell from 6,677.18 million pieces in 2006-07 to 6,391.15 million in 2007-08, and rose marginally to 6,540.90 million in 2008-09. That the figure for 1997-98 was 15,749.30 million points to the severity of the fall. Internationally too, there are clear signs of the Internet eating into postal systems. Developed economies, in particular, saw postal businesses slump further with the onset of the recession. Statistics provided by the Universal Postal Union (UPU) show that between 2008 and 2009 domestic mail volumes were down 12 per cent globally (translating to about 13 billion pieces). Although there are signs of recovery now, particularly in the parcel and express segments, fundamental challenges posed by the emergence of alternatives to the post remain.

India's expansion of telephone services — the number of telephone subscribers increased from 76.54 million in 2004 to 764.77 million in November 2010 — and the growth of broadband are important developments that could further eat into the letter-post. Against this backdrop, the ePost Office, through which customers can carry out some basic services such as Money Order transactions, marks the beginning of what could be a new chapter for India Post. Its agreement with the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to work more closely in socio-economic areas with the provider of unique identity ID cards will be watched with interest round the world. An excellent way of strengthening India Post's finances would be to build on its biggest strength — as the world's largest postal network whose reach extends to all households in the country — and take a range of services closer to Indian residents: financial services and insurance products, for a start. Optimism over economic growth offers India Post an opportunity to correct its deficit-ridden balance sheets and also play a larger role in development by strengthening business-to-business and business-to-consumer segments. Making this change — while maintaining its key public service role as a provider of affordable services for a country of a billion-plus people — is the strategic challenge facing India Post.








In six years from 2005-06, the Government of India wrote off corporate income tax worth Rs.3,74,937 crore — more than twice the 2G fraud — in successive Union budgets. The figure has grown every single year for which data are available. Corporate income tax written off in 2005-06 was Rs.34,618 crore. In the current budget, it is Rs.88,263 crore — an increase of 155 per cent. That is, the nation presently writes off over Rs.240 crore a day on average in corporate income tax. Oddly, that is also the daily average of illicit fund flows from India to foreign banks, according to a report of the Washington-based think tank, Global Financial Integrity.

The Rs.88,263 crore covers only corporate income tax write-offs. The figure does not include revenue foregone from higher exemption limits for wider sections of the public. Nor higher exemptions for senior citizens or (as in past budgets) for women. Just income tax for the big boys of the corporate world.

Pranab Mukherjee's latest budget, while writing off this gigantic sum for corporates, slashes thousands of crores from agriculture. As R. Ramakumar of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) points out, the revenue expenditure on that sector "is to fall in absolute terms by Rs.5,568 crore. Within agriculture, the largest fall is to be in crop husbandry, with an absolute cut of Rs.4,477 crore." Which probably signals the death of extension services, amongst other things, in the sector. In fact, "within economic services, the largest cuts are to be in Agriculture and Allied Services."

Even Kapil Sibal cannot defend the revenue losses as notional. For the simple reason that each budget sums up these numbers clearly in tables within a section called 'Statement of Revenue Foregone.' If we add to this corporate karza maafi, revenue foregone in customs and excise duty — also very largely benefiting the corporate world and better off sections of society — the amounts are stunning. What, for instance, are some of the major items on which revenue is foregone in customs duty? Try diamonds and gold. Not quite aam aadmi or aurat items. This accounts for the largest chunk of all customs revenue foregone in the current budget. That is, for Rs.48,798 crore. Or well over half of what it takes to run a universal PDS system each year. In three years preceding this one, the customs write-off on gold, diamonds and jewellery totalled Rs.95,675 crore.

Of course, this being India, every plunder of public money for private profit is a pro-poor measure. You can hear the argument already: the huge bonanza for the gold and diamond crowd was only to save the jobs of poor workers in the midst of a global economic crisis. Touching. Only it didn't save a single job in Surat or elsewhere. Many Oriya workers in that industry returned home jobless to Ganjam from Surat as the sector tanked. A few other workers took their own lives in desperation. Also, the indulgence for industry predates the 2008 crisis. Industry in Maharashtra gained massively from the Centre's Corporate Socialism. Yet, in three years before the 2008 crisis, workers in the State lost their jobs at an average of 1,800 a day.

Returning to the budget: There's also the head of 'machinery' with its own huge customs duty concessions. That includes surely, the crores of rupees of sophisticated medical equipment imported by large corporate hospitals with almost no duty levied on it. The claim of providing 30 per cent of their beds free of charge to the poor — something that has never once happened — is an excuse to dole out these 'benefits' (amongst others) to that multi-billion rupee industry. Total revenue foregone on customs duty in the present budget: Rs.1,74,418 crore. (Which does not include export credit-related numbers).

With excise, of course, comes the standard claim that revenues foregone on excise duty translate into lower prices for consumers. There is no evidence provided at all that this has actually happened. Not in the budget, not elsewhere. (Sounds more like the argument now making the rounds in some Tamil Nadu villages that nothing was looted in the 2G scam — that's the money translating into cheaper calls for the public). What is clearly visible is that the write-offs on excise directly benefit industry and business. Any indirect 'passing on' to consumers is a speculative claim, not proven. Revenue foregone on account of excise duty in this budget: Rs.1,98,291 crore. Clearly more than the highest estimate of the 2G scam losses. (The preceding year: Rs.1,69,121 crore).

Also fascinating is that the same classes benefit in multiple ways from all three write-offs. But how much does revenue foregone under corporate income tax, excise and customs duty add up to across the years? We have baldly stated budget figures for six years starting 2005-06, when the total was Rs.2,29,108 crore. To the current budget where it is more than double that sum at Rs.4,60,972 crore. Add up the figures since 2005-06 and the grand total is Rs.21,25,023 crore. Or close to half a trillion U.S. dollars. That is not merely 12 times the 2G scam losses. It is equal to or bigger than the Rs.21 lakh crore sum that Global Financial Integrity tells us has been siphoned out of this country and illegally stashed away in foreign banks since 1948 ($ 462 billion). Only, this loot has happened in six years starting 2005-06. The current budget figure for these three heads is 101 per cent higher than it was in 2005-06 (see Table).

Unlike the illicit fund flows, this plunder has a fig leaf of legality. Unlike those flows, it is not the sum of many individual crimes. It is government policy. It is in the Union budget. And it is the largest conceivable transfer of wealth and resources to the wealthy and the corporate world that the media never look at. Oddly, the budget itself recognises how regressive this trend is. Last year's budget noted: "The amount of revenue foregone continues to increase year after year. As a percentage of aggregate tax collection, revenue foregone remains high and shows an increasing trend as far as corporate income tax is considered for the financial year 2008-09. In case of indirect taxes, the trend shows a significant increase for the financial years 2009-10 due to a reduction in customs and excise duties. Therefore, to reverse this trend, an expansion in the tax base is called for."

Rewind a year further. The 2009-10 budget says the same thing in almost identical words. Only the last line is different: "Therefore it is necessary to reverse this trend to sustain the high tax buoyancy." In the current budget, the paragraph is absent.

This is the government that has no money for a universal PDS or even an enhanced one. That cuts anyway meagre food subsidies from the largest hungry population in the planet. That, at a time of rising prices and a great food crisis. In a period when its own economic survey shows us that the daily average net per capita availability of foodgrain for the five year period 2005-09 is actually lower than it was in 1955-59 — half-a-century ago.








Karolyn Gould of New York City is alive and cheerful, so I'm not going to write a eulogy for her. But the 80-year-old knows that her time with us is drawing to a close on account of cancer, so I thought that I should pen an appreciation of one of the most extraordinary persons I have met in my six decades of being on the same planet as her.

So extraordinary, in fact, that her list of accomplishments in bringing positive change to the lives of poor children and youth, and to dispossessed and abused women in New York — particularly in notoriously dilapidated and crime-infested South Bronx neighbourhoods — would warrant a book. She has long advised and assisted Indian and other immigrants to America as well. I wish she had written her story herself, for Karolyn has a powerful voice that inevitably touches those who hear it.

I was one of those who heard that voice more than four decades ago. It would be fair to say that Karolyn, and her husband, Bruce — now a retired judge — along with the late, legendary editor of the New York Times, Abe Rosenthal, were among the dominant figures who shaped my journalistic life and my value system.

So, you see, I could write a book about Karolyn myself, and perhaps one day I will. But I want her to get a sense in print about how I feel about her and how she has touched tens of thousands of lives over these long years. Of course, I think she knows; for now, however, I want to send her a journalistic valentine.

That's the least I can do for a woman who asked for nothing in return for her warmth and wisdom, her caring and cautions, her advice and assistance. Karolyn is a serial giver. My very first front-page story for the New York Times, in fact, began in her apartment. A then colleague, David K. Shipler — who later won the Pulitzer Prize for his book on Arab and Jews — suggested that there was a feature to be done on how the celebrated Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloons were filled with helium the night before on the street on which the Goulds lived. David had known Bruce, at that time a well-known housing lawyer in New York; David covered the housing beat at the time.

Americans take their Thanksgiving Day very seriously: it marks the day that the Pilgrims from Britain first landed on the shores of what was to eventually become the United States of America. The annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York is televised nationally; it features huge balloons representing various Walt Disney characters; it also features celebrities who ride atop floats and perform songs.

In the event, I learned that marking "The Night Before Thanksgiving Day" in November was a traditional event in the Gould household. It certainly was a night to remember when I went for my story: it was bitterly cold; there were thick crowds lining the pavements of West 77th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue; vendors of hot coffee, warm donuts and roasted chestnuts did brisk business; each time a balloon resembling Mickey Mouse or Pluto filled up, there would be applause.

The best view of the action, of course, was from the Goulds' large apartment on the 12th floor. Down below was West 77th Street; inside the home, there was an endless supply of hot chocolate and cakes and savouries. The Goulds had an open-door policy: anyone could come in, and everyone did. At times, the apartment seemed as packed as the street below. Karolyn Gould was indefatigable as a hostess. I marvelled at her patience and good cheer. Her children — Tom, Roger, Sarah and Melinda — who were very young at the time, were joyous participants in the tableaux.

I wrote my story the next morning, bleary-eyed but determined to churn out a good yarn, and the following morning it appeared on the front page of the New York Times. In my heart, I dedicated it to Karolyn and Bruce Gould: they had truly helped launch my career. In American journalism, at least, a front-page story in newspapers is akin to winning a medal. At the New York Times, a front-page story is like winning a gold one.

In years to come, there were many more gold medals to be won, but that first one was the sweetest — and for that, I owe the Goulds. Both Karolyn and Bruce were behind some of the front-pagers that I produced — through their tips, their ideas, and often their active assistance in reaching the right sources and getting access to valuable research.

Bruce Gould went on to become a housing-court judge in New York. Karolyn's career flourished: She worked for CARE, creating the agency's initial technical assistance programme as a complement to its food programme. She was involved with the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) as Head Start Coordinator for New York City, and joint developer of New York City's Family Day-Care Programme. She served as founder, board member, staff or consultant to numerous national and local non-government agencies for programmes for the disadvantaged. These programmes included New York City's Agenda for Children Tomorrow (ACT) Oversight Committee, Jobs for Youth, National Committee on the Employment of Youth, the National Committee on the Education of Migrant Children, the Committee for Economic Development, and the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

If social work has been Karolyn's vocation, then museums have been her passion. No surprise there: The Goulds' apartment overlooks the American Museum of Natural History. The Gould children — now married adults with nine children of their own — spent vast amounts of time there. Little wonder that each became a successful professional. Karolyn and Bruce Gould were model parents.

They were a model because, among other critical things, they taught that knowledge was worth acquiring not only for its academic value but also because of life benefit. They taught that diverse knowledge helped shape a person's moral beliefs and tolerance. They taught that the pursuit of knowledge was a high adventure in which everyone was an equal player. The Goulds taught that hailing from an elite background or from an immigrant one did not matter one bit when it came to seeking knowledge. They taught that what really mattered was curiosity, the urge to know more about our world and the worlds beyond — and, perhaps most importantly, the world within each of us.

Lovely lessons these. They are sufficient for anyone's lifetime. And Karolyn Gould has taught them all her life.

(Pranay Gupte's new book, Dubai: The Journey, to be published by Viking Penguin, will be unveiled on March 10 at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai.)






A perusal of the DRS brings out certain ambiguities which need to be addressed, if possible during the knockout stages of the CWC 2011.

Rule 3.2 (b) lays down that the demand for a review has to be made by the captain of the fielding team or the batsman involved in the incident within a few seconds. What has not been laid down with clarity is what these few seconds could mean; this could be interpreted as mere 5 seconds or 50 seconds. Adding to this Rule 3.2 (c) stipulates that while contemplating a decision for a review, no signals can be made from the dressing room. This is a needless restriction. With only two reviews available for a match, the teams seek to be thrifty in their approach and quick response from the dressing room facilitating their decision will only benefit cricket as a whole with fewer erroneous decisions. It is always possible to avoid the rigours of this rule by devising signals which are difficult to decipher. Considering the length of a standard ODI, would increasing the number of reviews from two to four actually harm the flow of the match? Cricket is in any event a game which has natural interruptions such as the time between deliveries, time between overs and the time taken after a dismissal. An interruption in the way of DRS which seeks to reduce the element of human error should be encouraged to get a true result of the game based on player talent rather than perpetuating umpiring errors. Therefore either quick help from the dressing room should be allowed under the DRS and/or the number of reviews available to a team should be increased.

Another area where the DRS lacks uniformity is the differentiation in the rules when a 'not out' decision and an 'out' decision are being reviewed. Under Rule 3.3 (i)(2) when a 'not out' decision is being reviewed, it is stated that the centre of the ball at the point of interception should have been in line with the stumps whereas when reviewing an 'out' decision an additional leeway is given for error by stating that no part of the ball should have been in line of the stumps at the point of interception. Since the DRS seeks to reduce error and bring about uniformity in determining criteria, there is no rationale why the elementary rules determining the review decision should be different.

(Mukul Mudgal is former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the author of Law & Sports in India, LexisNexis Butterworths Wadhwa, 2011.)





When the Prime Minister of Egypt stepped down on Thursday, Shereen Diaa, 32, was cooking lunch for her two young sons in a suburb on Cairo's outskirts. A veiled woman who moulds her life around her children, Diaa had promised herself she would stop attending political protests and focus on her boys, ages 6 and 8. But when she saw on Facebook that the new Prime Minister himself would address the protesters the next day, in an unprecedented act, she could not resist. "I will leave you only two hours," she said she told the children, dropping them off with her mother and then heading downtown to Tahrir Square.

In the raucous crowd, she stepped on a water jug to catch a glimpse of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, who had stood with the demonstrators before Hosni Mubarak was ousted as President. "I see him! I am really happy!" she exclaimed, beaming, one voice among thousands. "Raise your head high, you are Egyptian!" they chanted.

Egypt's popular revolution was the work of men and women, bringing together housewives and fruit sellers, businesswomen and students. At its height, roughly one-quarter of the million protesters who poured into the square each day were women. Veiled and unveiled women shouted, fought and slept in the streets alongside men, upending traditional expectations of their behaviour.

The challenge now, activists in Cairo say, is to make sure that women maintain their involvement as the nation lurches forward, so that their contribution to the revolution is not forgotten.

"Things have not changed, they are changing," said Mozn Hassan, 32, the executive director of the organisation, Nazra for Feminist Studies. She barely returned home during the 18 days it took to topple Mr. Mubarak, but that is not enough, she said. "Revolution is not about 18 days in Tahrir Square and then turning it into a carnival and loving the army," she said. "We have simply won the first phase."

It is an indication of the place of women in Egypt that Ms Hassan was referring to the need for political gains and true equality, rather than some more basic rights denied to women in parts of the Arab world. Even as this country has become more devout, experts say roughly 25 per cent of Egyptian women work outside their homes. And they are allowed to mix more freely in public with men than in some other Arab countries.

But a recent report by the World Economic Forum ranked Egypt 125th out of 134 countries when judging the equality between men and women, in good part because so many women do not work, 42 per cent of women cannot read or write and almost no women are political leaders. (In 2010, only eight of the 454 seats in Parliament were held by women.)

Genital cutting of women is still widely practised in Egypt, especially in rural areas. Women also suffer a level of sexual harassment that would not be tolerated in many countries. They are often verbally harassed on the street in Cairo and sometimes groped in crowded spaces whether they are veiled or not, leading many wealthier women to simply abandon walking downtown.

Egypt is a step ahead of other popular uprisings in the region, which have had similar bursts of female participation, accompanied by a recognition from men that their support is vital. In Bahrain, hundreds of women wrapped in traditional black tunics stood up to the authorities in the demonstrations against the government, but in a nod to their conservative culture, they slept and prayed outside during protests in a roped-off women's section. In Yemen, only in the past few days have significant numbers of women started to protest in Sanaa, the capital, but their numbers were dwarfed by the crowds of men.

Feminists acknowledge that the battle for equality will not be easy. Still, women in Egypt are energised, and say perhaps the greatest change so far has been internal. They came to be convinced that the traffic-choked streets of downtown Cairo, long a male-dominated space, could be equally theirs despite years of rampant sexual harassment.

A study in 2008 by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights found that a vast majority of the women surveyed had been harassed. And the harassers, who are often members of the state security forces, are almost never punished, said Nehad Abu El Komsan, director of the organisation. Ms Komsan placed blame for the problem on the lack of laws protecting women against sexual violence, women's fear of reporting trouble, and a powerful undercurrent of oppression and frustration in Egyptian society, particularly among the millions of poor, uneducated and unemployed young men. But during the revolution, women faced snipers and tear gas on those same streets, and they interacted with men they had been told to avoid. "The same men they were afraid to talk to in the streets were saying, 'Bravo, the girls' revolution'," Ms Hassan said.

It did not take long, however, before the sense of unity that had grown in Tahrir Square was interrupted. On Feb. 11, just as Mr. Mubarak fell, the crowd suddenly swelled, crushing people against one another. It was shortly afterward that Lara Logan, a CBS news reporter, was sexually assaulted; the details of the attack remain unclear. Several Egyptian women also reported being groped and harassed.

But many women also note progress. On Friday, some of the many young women in Tahrir Square wore unofficial police headbands and held up signs reminding men to respect women. Outside the square, the deep suspicion that had separated secular feminists from Islamic feminists, who believe Islam should be the paradigm for women's rights, is being bridged, said Fatma Eman, 28, an Islamic feminist who is a co-founder of Nazra. "After the revolution, I was welcomed in a very decent way," she said.

A coalition including Nawal el-Saadawi, a leading feminist, is planning a million women's march for Tuesday, with no set agenda other than to promote democracy. Diaa said she planned to stay home now to give the new Prime Minister a chance to work and to help her children. But she said she would return to the streets if Sharaf did not quickly make democratic changes.

"I don't see a difference between men and women," she said, talking about her many days of protesting. "The only difference is that men are more able to take the sticks of the thugs. But that doesn't mean we don't have a voice. I believe that I have a voice, so I can't stay at home. I have a responsibility. I can be one of a million."

(Laura Kasinof contributed reporting from Sanaa, Yemen, and Andrea Bruce from Manama, Bahrain.) — New York Times News Service






A Nasa scientist has stirred up fresh debate over life elsewhere in the cosmos after claiming to have found tiny fossils of alien bugs inside meteorites that landed on Earth. Richard Hoover, an astrobiologist at the U.S. space agency's Marshall space flight centre in Alabama, said filaments and other structures in rare meteorites appear to be microscopic fossils of extraterrestrial beings that resemble algae known as cyanobacteria.

Some of the features look similar to a giant bacterium called Titanospirillum velox, which has been collected from the Ebro delta waterway in Spain, according to a report on the findings.

Expert on life

Laboratory tests on the rocky filaments found no evidence to suggest they were remnants of Earth-based organisms that contaminated the meteorites after they landed, Mr. Hoover said. He discovered the features after inspecting the freshly cleaved surfaces of three meteorites that are believed to be among the oldest in the solar system.

Mr. Hoover, an expert on life in extreme environments, has reported similar structures in meteorites several times before. So far, none has been confirmed as the ancient remains of alien life.

But writing in the Journal of Cosmology, Mr. Hoover claims that the lack of nitrogen in the samples, which is essential for life on Earth, indicates they are "the remains of extraterrestrial life forms that grew on the parent bodies of the meteorites when liquid water was present, long before the meteorites entered the Earth's atmosphere." Rudy Schild, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics and editor of the journal, said: "The implications are that life is everywhere, and that life on Earth may have come from other planets." In a note posted alongside the paper, Mr. Schild said he had invited 100 scientists to comment on the research. Their responses will be published on the journal's website from Monday. "In this way, the paper will have received a thorough vetting, and all points of view can be presented," Mr. Schild wrote.


Proof that alien microbes hitched across the cosmos inside meteors, or by clinging to their surfaces, would bolster a theory known as panspermia, in which life is spread from planet to planet by hurtling space rocks. To many scientists, Mr. Hoover's work recalls the adage that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Mr. Hoover is not the only researcher to claim a discovery of alien life inside meteorites. In 1996, David McKay, another Nasa researcher, said he had found what appeared to be traces of Martian life inside a meteorite recovered from Allan Hills in Antarctica in 1984. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011





Two key issues Budget-2011 is seen as having failed to address are inflation and mass hunger. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced in his budget speech that the long-promised National Food Security Bill would be moved in Parliament "during the course of this year" but failed to make any financial allocation to back up this statement. Against the backdrop of fresh warnings by experts that the outlook is grim given the continuing West Asian crisis and its impact on oil prices and inflation, this failure is politically inexplicable, especially considering that elections to five State Legislative Assemblies are round the corner.

Significantly, a number of mainstream newspapers across the country have editorially called attention to this failure. In a leader on the budget, The Hindu registered its unhappiness that "the big idea of food security that was announced in the last budget is still to be operationalised with differences having cropped up between the National Advisory Council and the government on the target group, extent of coverage, and the estimates of the outlays that will be called for." It called upon the government to finalise and put in place "this very worthwhile programme over the next few months." It expressed its unease over the Finance Minister's indication that the government was considering moving to a system of direct cash transfers. In two insightful articles on the subject, one published in Frontline and the other in The Hindu, the economist Jayati Ghosh explained why direct cash transfers, the new mantra, could not possibly be the answer to the problem of mass hunger and deprivation in India. She strongly criticised the tendency in current government policy thinking to see cash transfers, which at best could be a supplementary benefit, as a substitute for the public provision of essential goods and services.

The New Indian Express took sharp issue with "the silence of the Minister on inflation, deficit and corruption." The Times of India argued that "mega-schemes like food security need better preparation to be executed well," adding that "be it schools, hospitals or basic amenities, poor service delivery, not lack of money to throw around, hobbles efforts."

An opinion page article in DNA noted that "the common man is unhappy about the indifference shown by the government to basics like inflation and rising prices." The writer, who spoke with a cross-section of people, found that many of them were unhappy that the budget had not done enough to fight the rising costs of food items and inflation. A woman the writer spoke to said: "The prices of fruits and milk are going up day by day. I need to give good nutrition to my growing daughters. But the skyrocketing prices are forcing us to reduce the consumption of fruits from daily to thrice a week." It is good that people are becoming more aware of the need for improved nutrition and healthy diets but the brutal impact of food inflation on the daily lives of families that belong to the middle or lower middle classes is captured poignantly in this bit of information. The plight of those who live in extreme poverty can well be imagined.

The issue of food security for all remains unresolved at the policy level — with the government bent on confining the benefits of food security to people below the poverty line and Congress president Sonia Gandhi apparently batting on the side of the advocates of a universal public distribution system in the United Progressive Alliance's National Advisory Council (NAC). Over the past two years, several rounds of deliberation within the NAC failed to produce a good enough set of ideas for a Food Security Act. What is clear is that after all this effort, the government remains far from convinced of the financial feasibility, or indeed the need, for extending the benefits of a PDS beyond a targeted number that grossly underestimates the prevalence of hunger and deprivation across the length and breadth of India.

Even the diluted recommendations of the NAC were not acceptable to the C. Rangarajan Committee, appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to advise him. All the NAC was able to do was to get its views published in the newspapers just ahead of the budget. Harsh Mander, head of the NAC's working group on the National Food Security Bill, made this brave statement: "We have been given the full mandate to go ahead with framing the Bill based on our own recommendations." He added that the NAC's view of its job was to "advise" the government and "not to be influenced" by its predilections. Where this leaves the issue of food security is anyone's guess.

At stake here are the lives and welfare of hundreds of millions of people, including children. At stake here is inter-generational equity and the future of 'rising India.' But within the corridors of government there is absolutely no sense of urgency about tackling mass hunger at a time of deadly inflation. This is certainly an area where the media could do much more by way of agenda-building — and stepping up the pressure on the system for the public good.








It will be rash to suggest that the DMK and the Congress have given the AIADMK a bye in the coming Tamil Nadu Assembly polls through their recent postures in brinkmanship, but the more reflective elements in the two parties may find it hard to shrug off the feeling that they have conceded own goals on election eve that were hardly warranted by the run of play.

The image of the two parties had already suffered after the 2G scandal erupted. The DMK's "doer" reputation could hardly escape unscathed in spite of the party's political campaign that former communications minister A. Raja was targeted as he was a dalit. It is therefore puzzling to see why DMK supremo and Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi chose to play hardball over seat negotiations and go public about it. DMK ministers are due to quit the Union Cabinet on Monday and the party's support to UPA-2 is now to be on merits — on a case-by-case basis. A past master at politics, the DMK boss would be aware his retaliatory knock would not bring down the UPA-2 government. Indeed, even if the DMK were to withdraw support, there is no imminent threat of the Manmohan Singh government falling. There is no alternative available in the existing Parliament to take over the reins if the government falls. In any case, several parties are likely to offer the UPA a helping hand if there is any chance of a government collapse due to reasons of political arithmetic.
If the DMK finally does follow through with its threat and its ministers indeed resign on Monday, it should logically mean that the party has as good as left the UPA. (To offer the government "outside support", a party need not be in the ruling coalition, as the case of the RJD, SP and BSP shows.) The harsh anti-Congress language used in the DMK's resolution announcing its plan to leave the UPA-2 government, and a reference in it to Congress president Sonia Gandhi as well, should ordinarily suggest that the DMK does not any more see its fate tied to that of the Congress in the Assembly polls. There is not much wriggle room left for it to resume seat-sharing talks as though nothing has happened. In the event it would be unrealistic of the Congress to entertain hopes in that direction. The way events have unfolded, it is clear the DMK's disenchantment with the Congress began with the 2G case coming out in the open and the subsequent easing out of Mr Raja from the Cabinet. Being an entirely power-oriented and family hierarchy-based party, it found itself unable to appreciate that the Prime Minister had no choice but to bow before the broad laws of democratic polity once the corruption-related scandal broke and then to submit Mr Raja to the scrutiny of the law. The political error on the part of the Congress was to try to take advantage of the DMK's discomfiture and squeeze it for more seats to contest in Tamil Nadu. Plausibly, the DMK chose to go public with its discomfort with continuing the relationship with the Congress as it fears the CBI might probe individuals close to Mr Karunanidhi in the 2G affair. If the relationship is broken now, the party will be able to make the pseudo-political argument that it is under fire on account of its rejection of the Congress. At any rate, in this age of coalition politics in India, the DMK-Congress saga will be a reminder that coalition dharma cannot conceivably operate if a criminal breach of the law occurs and the public exchequer is sought to be defrauded.






On February 16, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited the leonine electronic media anchors and barons into his den. The result was mixed for both sides. Dr Singh retained his composure, bore light jabs on his chin, ignoring statesman Benjamin Disraeli's dictum "never complain and never explain".

The worthies of the fourth estate pricked not to injure, unwilling to nail Dr Singh with the Commonwealth Games, Chief Vigilance Commissioner and Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) issues, handled by appointees of the Congress or the Prime Minister's Office. Dr Singh's argument that excessive media coverage was hurting India's image abroad merits examination; as also whether it impacts the conduct of external relations-economic and political.
Dr Singh's concern about the India story is coloured by his predisposition to look at politics through the window of economics. Influential publications like the Financial Times are examining Indian crony capitalism as a subset of liberalisation as it has evolved since 1991. Ironically, this expose, long overdue, comes as the Arab world absorbs the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution tsunami, with masses rebelling against authoritarian structures and nepotistic exploitation of national resources, impelled by demographic youth bulges and unemployment. Dr Singh is anachronistic and in dangerous moral territory if he implies that a positive external image, necessary for continued foreign direct investment and institutional investment flows into India, can be at the cost of underplaying gross financial malfeasance.
Were a P.N. Haksar in the PMO today, he would have quoted a similar dilemma in the US in 1901 when Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt accidentally became the President of the United States after the assassination of President McGinley. He applied the stick to the robber barons, imposing regulatory regimes and oversight in capitalism's bastion. Businessmen's greed was weighed against the national interests of a rising power, which became a global hegemony in that century. India stands at a similar juncture. Would it be democratic in form but controlled by competing oligarchies of economic and hereditary political power or a genuine representative state that balances equity with growth and politics with principles?
The two-decade-old economic liberalisation has run its initial course. Flogging it will not make it gallop. The oil-producing Arab world is in actual or potential turmoil. Unpredictable weather is causing crop failures, as in China this winter, or floods as in Australia, bringing stress on global food stocks and hence their prices. Europe and the US are uncertainly emerging from the global financial crisis. India needs labour reform, a second green revolution, transparent regulatory regimes for exploitation of national mineral resources and national assets. Above all, India needs to demonstrably show that there is a rule of law and no one is above it. Imaginably such an India would attract genuine global capital. It would not be, as it is now, a less efficient version of China, but a competing Asian model driven by law, transparency and accountability.
With regard to foreign policy, corruption controversies impinge differently on the ruling elite. It falls into two broad categories. One where the taint is personal to the leader without impacting his official decision-making and the other where it involves the decision-making of the government.
In the first category would be the Lewinsky scandal, leading to the impeachment trial of US President Bill Clinton, as too the travails of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his fling with an underage escort. The 1998 Lewinsky affair left the public approval ratings of Clinton unscathed as every economic indicator was at a 30-year best, with unemployment at 4.4 per cent, inflation at one per cent and fourth quarter growth at six per cent. In the 1998 congressional elections, the Democratic Party gained seats in the House and lost none in the Senate, an unprecedented achievement in the second term of a President. In 1998-99 Clinton handled effectively the aftermath of nuclear testing by India and Pakistan, the Kargil stand-off, besides shepherding West Asia peace talks, almost to resolution.
Rajiv Gandhi highlights the other category where the scandal taints the regime. From 1987 missteps leading up to the Bofors imbroglio had him verily cornered. But as his domestic troubles mounted and key Cabinet colleagues turned foes, he became hyperactive abroad. In July 1987 he dispatched Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) troops to Sri Lanka to enforce the peace accord. Having failed to either disarm the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) or implement the accord they returned unsung and bloodied in 1989-90. In 1988 came Rajiv Gandhi's utopian global nuclear disarmament plan at the UN General Assembly. He achieved a breakthrough with China as that country was pursuing a larger strategy under Deng Xiaoping. With Pakistan, despite Benazir Bhutto's emergence, the talks were stalemated due to mismatched expectations.
Thus, with domestic credibility degraded, his diplomacy failed in the neighbourhood, shining multilaterally, where hope substitutes policy.
Dr Singh's dilemma is unique as he is still seen as an honest man running a scandal-mired government. He finds solace in approbation abroad. That cannot last unless he fixes the problem at home. There could be no better advice than Disraeli's in a peroration to his party before his death, urging them to "deliver to your posterity a land of liberty, of prosperity, of power and of glory".

K.C. Singh is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry








Bharatkumar Raut, Shiv Sena leader in the Rajya Sabha, recently said that students from English-medium schools in urban areas have an advantage when it comes to admission to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). The party demanded that the entrance exam should not be conducted in English alone. This led regional parties across India to voice their concerns over the growing gulf between 'India' and 'Bharat' in the education system.


What these entities have failed to realise is that the real barrier is not the English language but the decline in the standards of teaching mathematics and science in government schools. It is this decline on the one hand and the mushrooming of hi-profile tutorials in metropolitan cities that seems to have put students in urban areas at an advantage. A student in Mumbai, enrolled in an English-medium school and able to pay Rs10,000 per month per subject to tuition classes, will always have an edge over his/her counterpart in rural Maharashtra.


State education minister Rajendra Darda admits that the knowledge of a student in any year of schooling in a government school is not at par with his/her counterpart in a good, private school. The problem, he believes, lies not in the student's intelligence but in the standards of teaching. NCP chief Sharad Pawar expressed his anguish a year ago over the inability of a Std VIII student in Marathwada to write a grammatically correct sentence in Marathi. If the teaching standards for one's mother tongue are so poor, how can we expect the faculty to prepare the students for the IITs?


In some way, the concerns raised by the likes of Raut should prove to be an eye-opener for the state and central governments.


Today, higher education is the focus of our education system when it should be primary education. Merely enforcing the Right to Education Act will not help. There is a need for a curriculum upgrade. Compared to the CBSE and ICSE, the state board does not have the kind of syllabus necessary to prepare students for competitive exams.


What one forgets is that, far from harbouring regional biases, the IITs' policy has in fact been governed by a regard for regional balance. How else can one explain the presence of an IIT in cities like Roorkee or Guwahati? Today, there are 15 IITs across the country, opening up the gates of higher learning to more than 17,000 students. Yet, the big question remains: Why are the IITs becoming a distant dream for students from small towns and rural areas?







Leadership transition is a sensitive phase for all governments. This is especially the case with dictatorships and authoritarian regimes. China is in the penultimate stages of leadership transition at the highest echelons of the Chinese Communist Party, which is expected to culminate in October 2012 and its authorities are, therefore, presently at a high state of vigilance. The winds of change blowing relentlessly across the Middle East and, which have already seen the downfall of some long-entrenched regimes, provide cold comfort.


Certain developments of the past months have given cause for added concern to China's leadership. Uppermost are the rising prices of food, the steadily increasing consumer price index and growing inflation. These have contributed to the spreading popular discontent reflected in the escalating incidence of public protests across China. A survey conducted by the Public Opinion Research Laboratory of Shanghai's Jiao Tong University disclosed that "public crises" occurred every five days in China in 2010.


Conceding that the number of events had decreased in 2010, the report said they were still numerous. Of the "relatively influential" public crises examined by the laboratory, 18% related to the judicial system and law enforcement. Other causes were delayed payments, land expropriation, building demolition, labour disputes and corruption.


Significantly, the survey highlighted that the role of the 'new media' is becoming increasingly prominent in such crises and that 67% of the cases were publicised by 'new media'. This was 14% more than in the previous year. The Party mouthpiece 'People's Daily' bluntly warned of the threat of internet manipulation which 'spreads viruses of public opinion to stir up public sentiment'.


Aware of the dangers of exposing the Chinese people to reports of the popular disturbances in the Middle East, the Chinese authorities promptly imposed strict controls on the Chinese media. Reporters and editors of major newspapers in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere were instructed to use only reports disseminated by the official news agency, Xinhua and the Internet was strictly policed. Pictures of bloody street protests and army tanks in Cairo's Tahrir Square were banned. Microblogs are now subjected to heavy censorship while access to Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Linkedin have been blocked.


Some dissident Chinese have nevertheless successfully bypassed this intense censorship and sent seemingly innocuous messages to citizens in Beijing and 26 other cities to stage protests on two successive Sundays so far. The messages were intercepted by the authorities who deployed numerous plainclothes policemen to successfully disperse and round up the activists. The authorities have additionally picked up and detained dissidents. Separately, official dailies in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities front-paged commentaries criticising calls for protests like those in the Middle East as calculated to bring about chaos. These bluntly accused "…people inside and outside the country with ulterior motives…" of wanting to create instability and chaos.


Later, in mid-February, the People's Daily and its English-language subsidiary Global Times, said instability was caused by wanting to profit from social allocation of benefits, exploitation of others, social injustice etc.


Notwithstanding the stringent security precautions taken by the Chinese Communist leadership, dissident elements succeeded in registering their unhappiness. On February 12, a group of dissidents in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, gathered to celebrate the success of the Egyptian revolution. A group of civil rights activists in Guiyang, capital of Guizhou province, similarly displayed materials about Tunisia and Egypt. In both cases the demonstrators clashed with police and were arrested. On Valentine's Day on February 14, scores of people in Beijing tried to send flowers to the Egyptian embassy to 'congratulate the Egyptian people', but were prevented by the police. In what would have been an unpleasantly sharp reminder to the authorities, a photograph showing the Chinese characters "6" and "4" written in snow covering the Tiananmen Square in Beijing was recently widely circulated on the Internet.


In this backdrop it is not surprising that the Chinese Communist Party leadership has accorded high priority to internal security. The budget presented on March 5, at the ongoing Fourth session of the Eleventh National People's Congress, or China's parliament, proposed an allocation of US$95 billion for the internal security apparatus — even higher than this year's boosted defence budget!


The author is a former additional secretary in the cabinet secretariat, Government of India







Last week, villagers in Andhra Pradesh's Srikakulam district braved bullets to protest acquisition of land for a power plant.


Some died. This is not the first time we have seen farmer outrage at land acquisition. In the last few years, farmers have been taking up cudgels against forcible buying of land for developmental projects. And, these protests don't seem to be restricted to a particular state. There was, of course, the famous Singur protest against the Nano plant. Then there have been protests in Mangalore (Karnataka), Nandigram (West Bengal), and, most recently, in Jaitapur (Maharashtra). Farmers across the nation seem to be up in arms against any form of industrialisation.


On the face of it, it seems like a tussle between those who want development and those who want to continue with the traditional way of life. Dig deeper and you will find there is more to it. These are fertile agricultural lands in densely-populated areas being acquired at 'throwaway' prices and handed over to large companies to set up factories or SEZs or power plants.


Is this development required? Definitely. But should such hubs be set up on densely-populated agricultural lands? That is a crore-rupee question.


Since independence, our tax money has gone towards making agricultural lands more productive. Billions, if not trillions, have been spent not just on agricultural subsidies, fertiliser subsidies, soft loans and other direct aids to agriculture, but also on linking villages that produce the bulk of our food. The tax payer has built infrastructure — roads, rail tracks, electricity, water connections, etc.


What the current system of land acquisition wants to do is take this productive land and pour concrete on it. A simple question is: If the most fertile land in the country produces cars and chemicals, what do we eat.


Given that industrial- and power-capacity building is needed, what is the solution? All land in India is not productive. Some of it is quite barren. These are areas where economic growth is stunted.


These are also areas, such as Vidarbha, Anantapur, the Deccan plateau and parts of MP and Rajasthan and UP, which see most rural-to-urban migration.


Political will is needed to develop these areas and to usher in education, infrastructure and employment. That is where the new industrial and power hubs need to be built. Companies that are granted these lands need to put in place plans for building infrastructure beyond industries and plants — that is what tax holidays and special treatment are for. And if that sounds idealistic, it isn't.


At the beginning of last century, Jamsetji Tata had a vision to build India's first steel plant. But it was more than just the plant. He wanted to create a city around the plant that would house workers, managers and provide the best infrastructure. That city is Jamshedpur, one of the largest industrial regions in modern India.


When Tata took up the task of building the city, it was in the middle of nowhere — no roads, no electricity, no infrastructure. The company built everything. It attracted talent by providing a great environment; it integrated people from across the country; and today, it is one of the most prosperous cities in India. It has one of the highest literacy rates and is a model for development.


Post-independence, when investment in science, technology and industry was seen as the key to growth, some of the more prestigious projects were put up not in Delhi, Bombay, Madras or Calcutta (as they were called then)but in smaller towns and cities. Pune, Bangalore, Ahmedabad became the hubs for science and technology universities while industries were set up in Baroda, Coimbatore, Faridabad and Rajkot.


Both industrialists and the government showed the vision and the will to develop beyond the existing large cities. Talent moved to these smaller cities and over the next 60 years, these cities became hubs of talent, industry and the new wave of the Indian entrepreneurial dream. Development and progress did not remain concentrated in a few spots but radiated outwards.


India does not need better policies on SEZ, power, or industry. What India needs are visionaries such as Jamsetji Tata, Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai. They built more than steel plants and space programmes: they built the foundation for the future.







There were two different matches being played by India with different goals. Within the framework of a victory against Ireland, there was a search for a settled bowling combination and a reliable strategy to minimise disasters as a fielding unit.


By playing the same combination that tied the game against England, India killed any chances of learning something new about the rest of the team. If Ashish Nehra is not to be a mere passenger at the World Cup, this was the time to have played him.


Munaf Patel showed very quickly that he will have to be replaced. Well, India will have to take a chance on S Sreesanth, a wicket-taking bowler currently low on confidence. They have to give themselves a wider choice in the knockout games and not discover at the business end of the tournament that the reserve players are desperately out of match practice.


Still, it is good to see Harbhajan striking some kind of a rhythm with a promise of a better date to come. His early overs were dedicated to claiming wickets. In pursuance of this goal, the off-spinner tossed the ball up and bowled a mite lower than he would want to. He didn't break through, but his intentions were clear. There was conviction that he is a strike bowler.


Yet, as the century partnership between William Porterfield and Niall O'Brien progressed, India seemed to be looking for a miracle. This duly arrived in the form of a run out and immediately after that the spring was back in the steps.


The bowling worries continued even after Munaf. Leggie Piyush Chawla struggled to land his googly, sometimes sending it wide and for runs. He was more confident when he returned for a second spell. Yuvraj's five wickets, therefore, assumed greater importance.


With only one more game against a non-Test side — The Netherlands — to come, India have some thinking to do. Should Gambhir be given another chance or Raina brought in, should the team play three spinners, so the current form is available before they take on the West Indies and South Africa. The Ireland match suggested some answers that India might be forced to take a leap in the dark after all.


The writer is an author and columnist who has written on the


game for over a quarter century







A company is known by the men it keeps. That's possibly the message the Supreme Court (SC) delivered last week when it scrapped the appointment of the charge-sheeted PJ Thomas as head of central vigilance commission (CVC), the integrity institution set up by parliament in 2003.


Thomas did not take the defence akin to tainted politicians, who say mere filing of a charge sheet does not prove guilt. That's the reasoning that has helped 153 charge-sheeted persons — 28.3% of lawmakers so far — enter parliament.


It's an irony that former law minister Shanti Bhushan's argument that law-breakers can't be allowed to become lawmakers has so far fallen on deaf ears.


In fact what the articulate lawyer has been asserting is what SC has also held in the Thomas case.


There was no fault in the decision taken by the high-powered committee (HPC) to recommend Thomas' name for CVC, but it undoubtedly sacrificed sacred institutional integrity.


That an institution is far above an individual is what the top court has maintained. HPC recommended Thomas' name on the basis of his resume or personal integrity of empanelled officers but ignored institutional integrity.


CVC is an institution which is vested with the power to supervise vigilance administration. It controls the politically-pliable CBI and other central investigating agencies. Whether CVC has so far been able to uphold its majesty is debatable, though it enjoys autonomy and insulation from external influences.


It is expected of a body that's constituted by parliament, such as CVC, to weigh the pros and cons of its selection. If the selection adversely affects institutional competency and functioning, it is the duty of HPC not to recommend such a candidate.


However, HPC ignored this vital aspect. Institutional integrity of an autonomous body has to be kept in mind while recommending a candidate. Whether the incumbent would or would not be able to function? Whether the working of the institution would suffer? If so, would it not be the duty of HPC not to recommend the person.


If Thomas has been found unsuitable for CVC, there's no justification for tolerating charge-sheeted lawmakers in the chambers of the world's biggest parliamentary democracy. Institutional integrity of parliament is no less.









A horrifying tragedy in Bishnah tehsil of this district in which a family has suffered enormously underlines the presence of hidden killers in our State. From all accounts it appears to be the outcome of fiddling with an explosive mortar shell. One finds it strange that a retired Military Engineering Services (MES) employee and a Border Security Force (BSF) jawan, who happened to be brothers, toyed with the object in the premises of their house. By virtue of their original avocations both of them ought to have been aware of the danger involved in any such exercise. It is always better to take precaution and proceed only with the assistance of experts. But, at the same time, a reality is that being a border region we are more often that not exposed to the sight of war material in one form of the other. There are remnants of full-fledged wars of the past. There is no end either to intermittent shelling from across the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border (IB).It is generally thought that the deadly objects once fired lose their utility. Obviously it does not happen always. Some of them remain live. It is also possible that in their justified hurry to quell the enemy challenge our own forces may inadvertently drop a few pieces here and there. There is hardly any time to lose during an armed confrontation. In the wake of the 1965 and 1971 wars many inhabitants of this region have taken pride in keeping the empty explosives as victory trophies in their drawing-rooms. Of course, it is made sure that these substances are harmless and just decorative. The same can't be said about the similar stuff scattered almost all over the border villages. Some of it does not lose its fire.

That explains why off and on we come across reports of the people including totally innocent children coming to grief for playing with them. They pick up the outwardly bland junk and strive to either open or kick it only to be taken aback by the least expected blast. What has happened in Bishnah has turned out to be a big disaster far more cruel in every sense. It is not clear as to from where the ill-fated family members secured the mortal shell. Going by the available evidence it is apparent that they played with it. Did they want to put its metal to some other use? The bang that erupted left three of them dead --- the two brothers mentioned above and the minor daughter of one of them. Besides, five of their relatives were injured --- four sustaining splinter injuries as a direct fall-out of the explosion and one falling unconscious. The sound of it was said to have been heard as far away as two kilometres. What does it indicate if not the potency of the weapon? A reunion --- the brother in the BSF posted in Shillong in the north-east had come home on a holiday --- has ended into permanent separation. This is one of those happenings in which it will pay to be wiser even after the event. There is no reason to believe that it is the last live shell to have been discovered in and around Bishnah. The area is the border in itself and will continue to be infested with these explosives. Let there be no doubt about this. Our neighbour is in no mood to change its heart and, on the present reckoning, will spare no effort to keep us under pressure. The onus thus is on us to ensure our safety. All that is required is that we as the residents are extremely cautious.
As and when we notice suspicious articles we should alert the concerned agencies. We must adopt it as a habit to do so. The warning in this regard that is well publicised in crowded urban areas, trains and other modes of public transport is equally applicable to the border belt of the State. There is another threat that we as civilians face. It emanates from landmines buried along the LoC and the IB. These can be dangerous for unsuspecting walkers. It is not always that mined zones are properly earmarked. Their basic objective is to thwart the enemies of the nation. To that extent these serve a useful purpose. However, once the Army vacates these belts without demining them there is a problem. In fact, even the jawans not familiar to the territory can fall in the trap and lose their lives. Of course, shepherds and their cattle are the victims now and then. Often in the past we have in these columns highlighted the challenge on this count. There is no easy solution. For, it can't be our case that we should dilute our security mechanism against the hostile forces in any way. We do require effective deterrents which landmines are. Simultaneously, however, we must find a way to keep the ordinary citizens at bay. At the global level a Nobel peace Prize winner organisation, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), is leading a praiseworthy effort to make the earth safe. Yet, its best can't be good enough as long as the countries like ours have rogue states or non-state actors in their vicinity. The Army itself has taken the lead in clearing the border villages of Akhnoor tehsil of landmines. It is a delicate job. To demine a piece of land is difficult than perhaps mining it. Whatever that may be we should keep our eyes open for our own safety.







A husband who killed his wife has been found dead subsequently in mysterious circumstances in Majalata area of Udhampur district last week. What does this mean? Prima facie a foul play has been ruled out. Therefore, the occurrence may not be described as a case to which we can straightway apply the expression blood begets blood. "Blood will have blood" normally involves revenge murders. It is suspected that the man may have committed suicide. Did he feel ashamed of his dastardly action? Was he smothered by the thought that he had committed a sin? Had he chosen the best option for atonement? He in fact may have gone on to commit one sin after the other. He gained nothing --- actually lost his better half --- by getting rid of his wife. He lost everything by taking his own life --- another act of cowardice. Is there no hiding place for the wicked? The only apology for a murder can be to submit to the law and courageously suffer all consequences.









An earlier article in this column titled, "Three Regions, Multiple Peripheries" focused on problems of the peripheries in three regions of J&K. The primary focus of that article was what went wrong, and how the governments - Union and State, and the Civil Society should share the blame. This analysis focuses on what could be done. One strategy, the most preferred, would be to focus on investing on the entire peripheries, with an objective to bring them to the mainstream. Another strategy, relatively easier, would be to identify certain border towns and make them the center of development in the border regions; there will be developmental spin offs, of such a strategy, resulting in the classic filtering down and dispersing further.

One of the primary problems, of not having border towns with adequate infrastructure and connectivity with the rest of the State and the country, has been not only the failure of development of border regions as a whole, but also a massive migration to the regional capitals - Jammu, Srinagar and Leh. Besides the problems of violence, lack of adequate opportunities in the border regions, have also been the primary reason for the internal displacement within the sub-regions.

Consider the following three towns. Jammu, today is one of the most crowded regional town, attracting substantial movement from Rajouri, Poonch, Reasi, Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts. While Jammu is well known for being referred to as a "temple town", the internal displacement from the districts of economic and developmental reasons, has the dangers of making it as a "refugee town." Similarly, Srinagar attracts from Baramulla, Kupwara, Sophian and Pulawama districts. While there has been an attention (though limited) on this movement towards Jammu and Srinagar from their respective regions, what has not been focussed adequately, has been a similar movement towards Leh, from Nyoma, Nubra and Turtuk regions.
Reasons for the movement towards these three towns are not difficult to fathom. Two specific questions: should this movement be reversed? If yes, how could this be done? Clearly, as mentioned above, internal displacement resulting in the crowding of these three towns, upsets the ethnic and political balance, exerts extra pressure on the services sector and also increases the crime rate. Second, this also creates a vacuum in the border regions, which from a security perspective, is highly undesirable.

Historically, all the border towns of J&K, have always been a center of attraction until 1947 or 1962. Consider Rajouri, Poonch, Baramulla, Kargil and Leh. South of Pir Panjal, Rajouri and Poonch were busy towns interacting with Bagh, Bhimber and Mirpur, and with Sophian and Srinagar via the Mughal route. Both these towns, especially Poonch was the center of education. So was Baramulla; it was in the middle of the historical Jhelum road link from Srinagar to Rawalpindi. Gurez, was a part of the Silk Route feeder, linking Srianagar with Gilgit, Baltistan and Gunza regions in the Northern Areas via Astore and Burzil pass. Kargil stayed in the middle of Silk Route from Gilgit, Skardu, Srinagar, Leh and Amritsar; in fact, Kargil was a big trading town until 1947; perhaps, it remained until 1962.

Today, except for Leh, other towns have merely become the border posts, neglected by the State and worse, by its own people. Leh has been the only exception, thanks to the rapid growth tourism industry in Ladakh. Had it not been for the international tourism, Leh would also have become one of the abandoned towns with the rest.
The governments - State and Union should invest in building these border towns to start with - Rajouri, Poonch, Baramulla, Kupwara, Kargil and Leh. Perhaps, these six towns could be taken as a pilot project and all agencies advised to invest with a view to bring them to the national mainstream.

First and foremost, all these towns should be revived to become the primary educational centers. Though some of these towns are known for their literacy levels, the general educational standard from school to college levels need to be improved considerably. The unfortunate truth is, the neglect of education, over the last many decades, in these regions, have resulted in undermining the standard of students; especially, when they come to Jammu, Srinagar, New Delhi and Bangalore for higher education. They find it difficult to catch up with the rest of the students, because of the lack of adequate rigor in their respective districts. This places them at an extra dis-advantageous position. This lack of adequate infrastructure with sufficient standard, pressurize parents to send their wards at an early stage, to better places, than educate them in their districts. Thus the brain-drain starts at a much early stage in the border districts of J&K, which has its own domino effect. This early exile, robs these border districts, from having a good pool of well educated and properly trained teachers and bureaucrats who could, in turn serve the people and show the right path to the next generation.
Second, these towns should also be made into cultural and tourist centers, by reviving their heritage. From places of religious importance, such as temples and shrines to historical structures such as the forts and sarais, there are numerous avenues in these border towns, which could be used to revive them into a cultural and tourist centers. In particular, the State could invest in cultural festivals, like Gurez and Ladakh festivals. Each of the above mentioned towns have enough history and culture, to promote and sustain an annual festival. Such festivals, will serve as a two way agent, by highlighting these border regions to the rest of J&K, and by attracting people from the rest of J&K and India.

The most important ingredient to make the above border towns into places of educational, cultural and tourist attraction is by improving the connectivity with the rest of J&K and outside. Towards achieving this objective, first, certain existing measures should be strengthened further. The Mughal Route within J&K and cross-LoC bus and truck services are in place; these two initiatives need to be expanded. Opening the Mughal route for bus and truck services should be an immediate priority; this has taken too long.

Second, there should be better land and air connectivity, between these border towns with the rest of J&K and the rest of India. Except for Leh, none of the other border towns have air connectivity. Is the absence of air link in these border towns due to the lack of demand, or topographical problems or extra concerns of defense establishments?

Third, what about the land connectivity? Perhaps, this is where, we as a nation, should learn from how China is developing their peripheries. Finally, New Delhi should take extra step and pressurize China and Pakistan to re-link these border towns on the other side of the border. People in Ladakh would love to see the Kargil-Skardu, and Leh-Mansarovar routes opened.

Imagine these border towns, as center of educational and tourist attractions, with better connectivity through land and air, within J&K and across the border? This will make these border towns thrive in every sense, and solve most of the problems for India and J&K.

(The author is Deputy Director Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies New Delhi.)








Ministry of Mines has proposed that 26 percent of profits of mining companies should be shared with local people. States like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are rich in minerals but poor because most profits from mining are captured by mining companies and remitted to the urban centers. Local people, in the main, bear the suffering of displacement and destruction of environment. Same situation prevails in Africa. The continent is rich in minerals but remains poor. Multinational Companies extract the minerals and remit most profits to their headquarters located in developed countries. Naxalite activities are increasing in mineral rich states because locals see their wealth being taken away. Sharing of profits can help solve this vexed problem as well.
Many mineral-rich countries have similar arrangements in place already. According to a release by Delhi-based Center of Science and Environment, it is obligatory for mining companies in Papua New Guinea to enter into an agreement with local people. 20 percent of the royalty is paid to local people. They are also entitled to a share of the profits and mining companies have to build local infrastructure such as roads and schools. In South Africa, landowners have the right to exploit the minerals lying below their lands or to sell mining rights to companies. They get a share in the ownership of the mining companies. They also get preference in employment.
Mining companies have to pay a Royalty Tax in Peru. This revenue is distributed as follows: 50 percent to the Central Government, 20 percent to the State Government, 15 percent to Provincial Government, 10 percent to District Government, 10 percent to local administration and 5 percent to local Universities. A 'Mining Development Fund' has been established in Ghana. Royalty is deposited in this fund. These revenues are distributed among affected households, local government and land owners. Local communities get a share of royalty in Canada. Xingyang Province of China has recently imposed a tax on oil, natural gas and minerals extraction companies. Beijing is planning to impose a similar tax across the country. Australia has imposed a 30 percent 'Mining Super Profit Tax' on all mineral extraction companies. Petroleum companies already have to pay 30 percent of their profits as extraction tax. The policy of taxing mineral extraction profits for local people seems to have international acceptance. Principle is that the bounty provided by nature in the form of minerals belongs to all the people-especially local people. Just as farmers have the right to extract the groundwater flowing below their lands, or fishermen have the right to fish in the sea adjoining their village, similarly local people have the right to extract the minerals lying below their lands.

The mining companies have, however, vociferously opposed the proposal. Federation of Indian Mineral Industries has suggested that an amount linked to royalty be provided to local people instead of imposing tax on profits. Note that royalty is generally paid on the amount of minerals extracted and has no relation to the price. Windfall gains obtained by mining companies due to increase in the price of minerals, therefore, remain outside the ambit of royalty. Profits, on the other hand, increase and decrease in tandem with price of minerals. Therefore, local people do not get share of the windfall gains through royalty. The Federation has expressed concern that mineral extraction will not remain profitable for investors if 26 percent of the profits are taxed away. This appears more hype than reality. Similar concerns were expressed when Australia imposed tax on profits. But mining companies like Xastra resumed operations quickly. Mining companies are making such huge profits that slicing off 26 percent will not make much difference.

Problem with linking local benefits to royalty is that rates of royalty are typically fixed very low. For example, the price of iron ore at present is about Rs 5,000 per ton while royalty is a paltry Rs 300 per ton. Thus local people will get only buttermilk through royalty. The cream will continue to be captured by the mining companies. Another problem is that rates of royalty remain unchanged for many years while prices of minerals increase. The Australian Labour Party tells on its website that few years ago Australia got $1 out of $3 of minerals exported. This has now declined to $1 out of $7 because the prices of minerals have increased while rates of royalty have remained unchanged.

Tata Steel has suggested that local people should be provided with sustainable income generating opportunities instead of giving away share of profits. The suggestion is logical. Saying goes that it is better to teach a poor man how to fish instead of giving fish to him. But this is difficult to implement. Government of India already has made a National Relief and Rehabilitation Policy. The Policy is being wantonly violated by companies in all sectors-including mining. Local people are not provided land compensation as per prevailing market rates. Livelihood of many local peoples is affected by acquisition of forests and village commons. They are not compensated for the loss of fuel wood and grazing etc. from these lands. Local people are rarely given permanent employment. It is difficult to believe that mining companies will actually create sustainable income generating opportunities for local people since they are not able to implement the Rehabilitation Policy. It is better to make a somewhat inferior policy that is executable than to make a good policy that remains on paper.
Nitya Nanda of The Energy Research Institute has expressed concern that mining companies will manipulate their accounts and show less profits in order to escape paying such tax. He has suggested that local people may be given shares of mining companies instead. This suggestion is also generally acceptable. Only problem is that shares can be got transferred by unscrupulous operators who are able to hoodwink the less-literate local people. Also, the fear of manipulation is unfounded. Companies have to show high profits in order to attract investors. So they will not artificially lower the profits.

In fact, the principle of sharing profits should be made applicable to all developmental projects. It should not be restricted to mining companies. The objective of development is the welfare of the people of the country. Among people, the rights of local people take precedence. Vinoba had said that all development projects should be assessed on the criteria of how they affect the welfare of the poorest. This applies to all schemes. Therefore, local people should be given a share in the profits of highways, thermal and hydropower projects, special economic zones and other developmental projects as well.








Can NDA rise again from ashes has become a point of discussion in the political quarters after the results of Bihar elections came out. The big win by JDU leader Nitish Kumar in partnership with BJP has given a fresh lease of life to NDA which had virtually ceased to exist after the last general elections as most of the allies had deserted BJP with the exception of JDU which continued to run the Government in Bihar in partnership with BJP.

Another change in the scenario has been that BJP had been withdrawing more and more into its shell and going back to policies of advocating the cause of Hindutav with influence of Saffron brigade growing every day. The BJP leaders across the board started looking to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to lead the party. It was during this period that even Varun Gandhi made headlines by advocating hard Hindu line in his election campaign in the last poll.

This scenario got a further boost when Nitin Gadkari was installed as a party chief who had strong backing of the RSS who wanted BJP to go back to its old agenda and give up the soft line projected by them to keep their allies happy who were part of the NDA. This policy may change with emergence of Mr. Nitish Kumar who has won the confidence of Bihar voters by his all inclusive agenda which appealed to all communities working for development of Bihar.

It is for the first since 2002 that a political party has been able to get the support of minority community in Muslim dominated constituencies in alliance with BJP thus wrecking the Muslim Yadav combination built carefully and nursed by Nitish arch rival Laloo Prasad Yadav in Bihar. Without this change Nitish Kumar could not have performed the miracle of changing the agenda in Bihar. In new agenda development is the Mantra with emphasis on roads, power and health care. Gone are the days when Bihar voted looking only at the caste mark of the candidate.

With Nitish Kumar's massive victory many are looking at him as future candidate for Prime Ministership for NDA. He will be moving in footsteps and shades of Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and not Mr. Advani or Narendra Modi. Is BJP ready for this change as it would call for total transformation of BJP? Are they ready for it? Senior leader of BJP Mr. Arun Jetley when asked refused to commit either way, but added he would be always happy to see another NDA Prime Minister installed in Delhi.

Bihar election will also come as a warning for the Congress party and the front led by it. For sometime looking at the decline in fortunes of BJP their main rival and emergence of Mr. Rahul Gandhi as a builder of party machine at ground level made it look as if the goal of winning a mandate on its own in 2014 may not be difficult. Hopes were further raised when Mr. Gandhi succeeded in reviving Congress in a limited way in. U.P. in a state which elects largest number of members to Lok Sabha.

For all of them Bihar poll verdict will come as a rude shock. What worked to some extent in U.P has failed miserably in Bihar. The party fortunes have sunk to new low and all those who could become their allies in future have also been decimated to a point where revival of any Congress led front staging a come back in Bihar has become rather remote if not beyond repair. It will also make the UPA aware of the fact that a challenge of combined opposition to them could become more and more a reality in times to come as witnessed in their determination to get a Joint parliamentary Committee appointed to probe into alleged two G spectrum scam which has led to a massive loss of State revenue.

The recent series of scams including one in organisation of Commonwealth Games. Two G spectrum allocation, building of flats for politicians, bureaucrats and defence officials on defence land in Mumbai and latest bank scam in which senior executives of public sector banks are guilty of giving huge loans to tainted companies have tarnished the image of UPA Government including that of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh whose personal integrity is considered as above suspicion even by his worst critics.

Agreed BJP also has its own share of scams including series of charges leveled against Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurrapa, who has defied the BJP leaders by refusing to quit and continuing in his post. Chief Ministers of Uttranchal Pradesh and Jharkhand are also involved in many scams. Under the circumstances the choice for voters will be difficult as they have to keep tainted out and reward the performers. Such clear choice may not be available to voters in all parts of the country. (NPA)










Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remains as convinced as ever that India and Pakistan can improve their relations only through dialogue. He gave this impression in Jammu on Friday during his convocation address at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology when he underlined the idea behind India's decision to resume the dialogue with Pakistan that got snapped after the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack.


Refusing to hold talks would take us nowhere. After all, how long could we go on saying "no". Remaining engaged is always better than avoiding to have any kind of interaction. It is true that the experience of holding negotiations with Pakistan has not been encouraging, yet we have to keep trying with the hope that one day the two countries will succeed in resolving all the issues that have been keeping them apart.


The doors for India-Pakistan Foreign Secretary-level talks, to be held in New Delhi on March 28-29, were opened after India's Nirupama Rao met her Pakistani counterpart in Thimphu (Bhutan) on the sidelines of the recent SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) meeting. Of course, it was not easy for India to go ahead with the dialogue idea when Pakistan has yet to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist killings to book. There is also no concrete proof of Pakistan having abandoned the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy. But these factors could not prevent India from deciding to move ahead. For India, the guiding principle is that the subcontinent cannot realise its full growth potential unless India-Pakistan relations get normalized.


India is ready to "enter these talks with an open mind" and to discuss all the issues involved, including Jammu and Kashmir, as Dr Manmohan Singh pointed out in Jammu. But Pakistan will have to keep in mind that borders cannot be redrawn, though these can be made irrelevant. There is need to do all we can to enlarge the peace constituency on both sides of the Indo-Pak divide. There is also a large constituency which can make all kinds of sacrifices for creating an atmosphere so that people develop their stake in economic growth. This constituency too needs to be nurtured.









The Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that the Union Government decision to raise the age of retirement of university teachers from 60 to 65 is not applicable to Panjab University, Chandigarh, since it is neither a Central university nor a Centrally funded university under any law.


Now it is for the Human Resource Development Ministry to clarify whether it treats Panjab University as a Central university. Quite a number of teachers who had attained superannuation moved the court to continue in service beyond 60 basing their claim on the Central decision. Their disappointment with the court order is understandable.


However, the universities in Punjab and the state government are free to raise the retirement age. The issue is: Should they? Reeling under the financial burden of the revised pay scales, the Punjab government had weighed the option of retiring its staff at 60 instead of 58 so that it did not have to pay retirement dues for two years. But it stuck to 58, and rightly so, given the alarming level of unemployment and shrinking job opportunities. One can appreciate talented and skilled staff such as medical college and management teachers continuing in service beyond 58 or 60. Why everybody? Several states had opposed the Central decision to link the issue of retirement at 65 to the UGC package to teachers.


It is true life expectancy has gone up and people in general are capable of working for longer years. Society can also benefit from their experience and wisdom. But governments and universities have to strike a balance so that young India's aspirations are not thwarted by the elders' hold on decision-making. Prolonged unemployment breeds social unrest and violence. Disparities are already growing along with GDP growth. The need is to ensure social security for vulnerable elderly people. Salaries and pensions should be good enough so that no one has to work for survival beyond 60. 








The Congress Working Committee revamp effected by party president Sonia Gandhi on Friday offers a peep into who's in favour in the main constituent of the ruling coalition and which functionaries are no longer in the high command's good books. As it appears, even a hint of dissent or dissidence has been taken note of. That explains why Andhra Pradesh's representation has been whittled down.


 While G. Venkatswamy has been shown the door ostensibly for his recent attack on the party leadership, and K. Keshav Rao's belligerence on the Telangana issue has cost him his seat, V. Kishore Chandra Deo and N. Janardhan Reddy have been dropped too leaving only G. Sanjeeva Reddy to represent the Congress bastion. Old warhorses Pranab Mukherjee, A.K. Antony and Motilal Vora have been retained while Home Minister P. Chidambaram makes it to the key group. Satyavrat Chaturvedi who has often been found to exceed his brief finds himself out while Veerappa Moily has been eased out ostensibly on the one man one post principle. Two names that have bounced into limelight are Mohan Prakash who has been given charge of the crucial state of Karnataka and Shakeel Ahmed who will look after Bihar.


That former Haryana finance minister Birender Singh has found a place in the CWC despite being looked upon with suspicion by State Chief Minister Hooda is a balancing act by the high command. The fact that he has been entrusted with managing the states of Himachal, Delhi and Uttarakhand speaks of the trust reposed in him. In Punjab, it is Mohinder Singh Kaypee who has been included in recognition of his acceptability among the lower castes, but those in Punjab cannot be happy about the induction of the controversial Jagdish Tytler who is still under a cloud for his alleged role in the Delhi anti-Sikh riots after Mrs Indira Gandhi's assassination. From Himachal, it is Colonel Shandil whose army service in the north-east has been taken into account in making him incharge of Arunachal, Meghalaya and Mizoram.


All in all, the new CWC is well-thought-out with an eye on reinvigorating the party organization. Loyalty has been rewarded and special skills taken into account in giving charge of states.











The Godhra case arose after the blaze in coach S-6 of Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002, resulting in the death of 59 persons, who were reportedly karsevaks returning from Ayodhya. In September 2004, when Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav was Railway Minister, the UPA government constituted a committee headed by a former judge of the Supreme Court, Justice U.C. Banerji, to probe the causes of fire in Sabarmati Express.


In his report submitted in January 2005, Justice Banerji held that the blaze was an accident and there was no possibility of inflammable liquid being used. He also held that the fire originated in the coach itself without external input.


However, the Gujarat government of Mr Narendra Modi appointed a commission presided over by Justice Nanawati to probe the sequence of events that led to the fire and the deaths. The Justice Nanawati Commission concluded that the fire was not caused by any accident, but because of the petrol thrown at the coach concerned from outside.


Following the Sabarmati Express disaster large-scale violence broke out throughout Gujarat in the subsequent weeks. The Supreme Court appointed a Special Investigation Team headed by a former CBI Director, Mr R.K. Raghavan, on May 1, 2009, and entrusted the team with nine highly sensitive cases of communal violence, including the Godhra train carnage case.


According to the SIT findings, the prime accused or conspirators, including Maulvi Umarji, who allegedly stopped the train and broke into coach S-6 and committed arson. However, the Special Court acquitted Maulvi Umarji due to lack of evidence. While the principal conspirators were acquitted due to lack of evidence, several alleged perpetrators of the crime were convicted among the 31 held guilty. As many as 63 persons were acquitted and they had spent nine years in jail, pending disposal of the case. The judge pronounced the quantum of punishment on March 2 by sentencing 11 persons to death and the remaining 20 to life imprisonment.


Mr Raghavan, heading the SIT, reportedly submitted a 600-page enquiry report to the Supreme Court in May, 2010. The SIT reported on the serious communal riots which took place in Gujarat in 2002 and cited several instances, which show Mr Narendra Modi's true character and the manner in which he handled the communal holocaust.


The report says that in spite of the fact that ghastly and violent attacks had taken place on Muslims at Gulberg Society and elsewhere, the reaction of the government was not the type that would have been expected by anyone. Mr Modi's comments that "every action has an equal and opposite reaction" was not expected of a responsible Chief Minister.


The SIT report mentions "Modi's implied justification of the killings of innocent members of the minority community, read together with an absence of a strong condemnation of the violence that followed Godhra, suggest a partisan stance at a critical juncture when the state had been badly disturbed by the communal violence".


The SIT report says that Mr Modi displayed a discriminatory attitude by not visiting the riot-affected areas in Ahmedabad where a large number of Muslims were killed, though he went to Godhra on the same day, travelling almost 300 km on a single day. Mr Raghavan has also commented that Mr Modi did not cite any specific reasons why he did not visit the affected areas in Ahmedabad city as promptly as he did in the case of the Godhra train carnage.


Mr Raghavan's report states that the Gujarat government did not take any steps to stop the bandh called by the VHP on February 28, 2002, and, on the contrary, the BJP had supported the bandh. It was during the bandh when Hindu mobs carried out massacres at Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society on February 28, 2002.


Mr Modi prematurely dissolved the Assembly on August 19, 2002, nine months before the expiry of its five-year term, and demanded an early election. The SIT chairman has commented that the BJP clearly wanted to take electoral advantage of communal polarisation. The SIT found that the state police had carried out patently shoddy investigations in the Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society massacre cases, ignoring cell phone records of Sangh Parivar members and the BJP leaders involved in the riots. Many senior police officers who were being investigated by the SIT for their suspected complicity in the riots were rewarded by Mr Modi with plum postings while those who carried out their duties correctly were shunted out to useless posts.


The SIT report also says that at a law and order meeting held by Mr Modi at his residence late in the evening of February 27, 2002, he allegedly instructed the Chief Secretary, the DGP and other senior officers to allow majority community to vent their anger against Muslims in the wake of the Godhra incident. Mr Raghavan, however, says that the allegation was not established since the officers who participated in the meeting declined to state the facts on one pretext or the other.


On the horrible massacre of innocent Muslims in the Gulberg Society complex, Mr Modi stated in a TV interview that it was Ahsan Jafri, a former MP, who first fired at the violent mob and this provoked the mob which attacked the society flats and set these on fire. The SIT has commented that the Chief Minister had tried to water down the seriousness of the situation in Gulberg Society, describing it as an instance of a reaction unbecoming of a Chief Minister.


Mr Modi had exposed his true character also on some other occasions. Addressing a Gaurav Yatra in communally volatile Mehsana district on September 9, 2003, he said, "What brothers, should we run relief camps? Should I start children-producing centres? We want to achieve progress by pursuing the policy of family planning. Which religious sect is coming in the way? If we have five, they have 25."


Mr Raghavan, an IPS officer from Tamil Nadu cadre, had served in the IB for many years before he became the Director of the CBI. He was known for his analytical skills and sober and balanced views. He would not rush to conclusions unless they are fully supported by substantive evidence.


What the Supreme Court says on this report remains to be seen. However, the SIT report has given numerous instances of Chief Minister Modi's acts of omission and commission which have exposed his controversial conduct. The SIT has said enough in its report, which would warrant further action against Mr Modi. The final verdict of the apex court is now eagerly awaited.


More than anything else, people at large in the country would now know Mr Modi's dark side as revealed by the numerous instances in the SIT report. It may damage the BJP's electoral prospects.n


The writer is a former Governor of UP and West Bengal.








Two decades back, I queued up for a ticket for an A.C. coach for my trip to Delhi when a Sikh gentleman came and asked me: "Are you alone?""Yes", I nodded. "You can accompany me in my car," he said.I vacillated but accepted the offer, hoping for a quicker end to the journey.No sooner did I approach the intended vehicle for the journey – an old rickety "Fiat" with doors secured with ropes — that I realised my folly, just as the coach went by, closing all options on me.

"Please come," he said.Resignedly, I slipped in. The windscreen was a kaleidoscope of innumerable stickers plastered all over, with an impeded view.


Settling down, he said exuberantly, "Last time, it was birds, birds and birds, this time it is aeroplanes and aeroplanes," and stuck a few more stickers crowding the view further. His eccentricity and my stupidity stood out starkly.


Engine fired, the car went into motion, as he hummed and the car creaked in unison.Barely had we reached Ambala, when I heard the sound of metal scraping against the road with sparks flying. It was the silencer that dragged loosely.


On alighting he thoughtfully looked down, searching for a solution, and then removed the laces from his shoes, and turned a wanting gaze onto my shoes, while I cringed. Reluctantly, I freed my shoes from their bondage and handed the laces to him. He strung them together to secure the silencer to the rear bumper.


"Crank but ingenious," I thought of him.The journey then resumed, but a while later, I noticed motorists whizzing by, gesticulating wildly at our car while my companion drove on in blissful ignorance. Finally, a motor-cyclist drove up to the window and shouted that we had a flat tyre, which by now had become evident as the car wobbled and swerved uncontrollably.


I grimaced and cursed my luck, but the gentleman displayed no sign of despair and rubbing his hands, said, "Now, it won't go further. Let us take a lift," and gesticulated to a small truck passing by which stopped. The driver consented to our travel in lieu of some amount. There was only one seat in the cabin onto which I jumped while my companion uncomplainingly set himself down in the rear cargo portion, and a bumpy ride began.


I glanced back to see him reclining, cheerfully singing a Hindi song.


"Kisi rah me, kisi mor par, mujhe chal na dena tuh chhor kar — mere humsafar — mere humsafar".


I shuddered to think of myself as an object of his allusion.


The truck reached Karnal where I noticed the AC coach, parked at 'Oasis' and lunged towards it. Fortunately it had one seat vacated recently and with a sigh of relief, I settled down for my remaining journey, as the moral of episode sunk in: Be it life or a short journey, choose your Hum-Safar carefully, lest he becomes "Hum-Suffer".










The brutal murder of Pakistan's only non-Muslim federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti last week adds another high-profile scalp to the blasphemy law controversy after the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer by his own bodyguard. Bhatti was a moderate, modest but an outspoken advocate of the rights of minorities.


He campaigned for reviewing the blasphemy law to prevent its misuse, which has led to a lot of bloodletting ever since it was promulgated by military dictator General Zia in 1985.


The law mandates death sentence for any derogatory or insulting remarks against Prophet Mohammad, the Quran or the Prophet's companions. It adds a provision to the original law that was enacted by the British in the 19th century prohibiting defiling or insulting of any religion, its revered founders, teachings or worship places. Zia amended it to focus on derogatory comments against Prophet Mohammad and the death penalty was introduced for those found guilty.


The procedure for registering cases against any accused was so lax and open-ended that little emphasis was made on solid evidence. No penalty was proposed for making a false accusation. The onus of proving innocence was mainly left on the accused once some witnesses filed a complaint against the person.


It is pertinent to mention here that only one case of blasphemy was registered between 1947 and 1985. But once Zia promulgated the amendment, over 4000 people have been charged with having violated the law. Most of them have been given the death sentence by lower courts but not a single person has been executed since then. Almost all appeals were granted by high courts for want of evidence while some are pending judgment. It is a testimony to the accusation by human rights bodies that the lower courts work under immense duress and threats hurled by extremists.


Another significant feature of the entire controversy is that the majority of the blasphemy cases involved Muslims. It involved only 21 per cent non-Muslim communities that include Christians, Ahmedis, Hindus and Sikhs. In the case of the last two categories, a total of 11 cases have been registered so far. Human rights advocacy groups, which have been calling for either total repeal of the law or amendment in procedures to prevent abuse, point out that most of the cases relate to settling personal scores or grabbing properties.


The registration of cases apart, mobs have acted on their own to dispense justice. Persons accused of blasphemy have been killed outside courts or whenever anybody is acquitted. Shahbaz Bhatti was also fighting against another ominous development— holding the entire community for the presumed crime of one individual for collective punishment. Christian residential settlements in Gojra and Sangla Hill in central Punjab and some other places were attacked and their houses were burned along with residents by angry mobs.


What has appalled analysts is the extent to which fanaticism and bigotry have forced liberal and secular segments of society to beat a retreat and feel terrorised. Any rational discussion or debate has been brutally stifled. The extreme right even justified the assassination of Salman Taseer and glorified his killer, Mumtaz Qadri. However, nobody has applauded the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti.


The state itself has abdicated its responsibility and surrendered almost completely to the religious zealots. Salman Taseer was virtually abandoned to fend for himself by the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) that claims to be a progressive and secular party . Prime Minister Gilani dissociated himself from his stance on blasphemy and failed to even condole with his family after the murder. Mr Gilani emphatically declared several times in Parliament that the blasphemy law would not be reviewed at all. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said he would personally shoot anybody who violated this law while Law Minister Babar Awan proudly announced that the blasphemy law could be reformed only over his dead body.


Shahbaz Bhatti was first assigned by President Zardari to contact religious scholars and others to review the procedures prescribed in the blasphemy law. But the panel was never constituted, and the government declared that no such panel was planned. Ms Sherry Rehman, former Information Minister, had planned to move an amendment in the blasphemy law to guard against its abuse by providing a more stringent procedure for the registration of cases. But the PPP has directed her to take back her amendment proposal.


Bhatti's murder has further enhanced threats to many other people for propagating liberal views. A highly respected religious scholar, Allama Hamid Ghamdi, left the country last month and settled in Malaysia after receiving threats for contesting the claim that Islam provides for death penalty for those indulging in blasphemy against the Prophet. He maintained that the Quran preached clemency.


The top authority on Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, Imam Abu Hanifa, issued an edict that no non-Muslim could be convicted even if he passes a derogatory remark against the Prophet. For Muslims there is an option to retract from any deliberate or unintended remark. 








A loyal and solid friendship unites France and India. The precious ties between our two countries, which we must maintain staunchly, were founded on a commonality of values based on an attachment shared by both our States to democracy, multilateralism and dialogue between civilisations, which requires a sustained policy of cultural exchanges.


The richness of this multi-faceted partnership is especially illustrated in the sector of sustainable development and transport.


This year, the joint efforts of both our States to render the G20 an efficient instrument of regulation and economic cooperation capable of rising to the challenges of the 21st century will be decisive. Monetary instability, economic imbalances, the volatility of the raw materials market, and developmental gaps with regard to infrastructure constitute the major challenges for the overhaul of the international economic system. Such was the purpose of the working visit, from December 4 to 7, 2010, of President Nicolas Sarkozy, who wished to respond to the invitation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and conduct a series of intense discussions with him on bilateral, regional and international issues of common interest.


In this regard, I would like to stress on our common resolve to attain a thorough reform of the United Nations in order to make the Security Council more representative of the current international scene, France having also lent its support to India for obtaining the status of a permanent member of an expanded Security Council. Thus, our two States will be able to pursue dialogue and cooperation within multilateral bodies, be they on regional crises, terrorism, climate change, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, or disarmament at the global level. This presidential visit was crowned by an Indo-French joint statement, dated December 6, 2010, which gives a fresh boost to the strategic partnership between our two States.


Further, this partnership approach covers challenges as essential as civil nuclear energy, counter-terrorism, and cooperation in the areas of security and defence as well as space. But France and India have also developed bilateral trade, be it for leased aircraft operation, satellite launch, recording biometric data, energy, all forms of transport or urban planning.


Our common ambition is illustrated at the institutional level with the implementation of joint working groups in charge of identifying good practices that will provide future economic cooperation with a solid foundation. But we must also offer all possible opportunities to help nurture a truly decentralised cooperation. In this regard, we must hail the first Indo-French seminars on decentralised cooperation, held in New Delhi from January 15 to 17, 2010, under the aegis of the Ministry of External and European Affairs and with the support of the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transport and Housing, on the one hand, and the Indian Ministry of Urban Development, on the other, through their joint working group for urban development (founded in 2003). These seminars, which brought together 80 French representatives of self-governing bodies and an equal number of high-ranking local Indian officials, were a great success. New prospects of collaboration emerged on the themes of urban development and transport.


The next cooperation seminar between French and Indian states, regions and local self-governing bodies will be held in France in 2012. What a path we would run if we have the opportunity of welcoming a large Indian delegation on 
this occasion!


I would, naturally, like to salute India's economic vitality, which has witnessed a strong growth – an average of 6.5 per cent per annum between the fiscal years 1991 and 2010. Despite the global economic and financial crisis – which did not spare India – this country resisted well and posted a growth of 8.2 per cent in the fourth quarter.


This economic dynamism spurs a reflection on the crucial challenges of sustainable development, be it with regard to poverty alleviation, food security, or access to water. The fight against climate change is, obviously, a challenge of shared mobilisation between our two States. In this context, it is a pleasure to observe that the concept of sustainable mobility to which India subscribes will help develop types of transportation that reduce CO2 emissions, whether they concern public rail or eco-friendly modes of transport.


Further, India is undergoing a rapid urbanising process, a McKinsey report predicting a flow of 215 million new inhabitants towards Indian cities by 2025. India has been able to meet the challenge of accelerated urbanisation by launching an ambitious infrastructure programme. I believe that the French Development Agency (AFD) can be an important lever for financing these future expenses allied with the know-how and excellence of French companies established on Indian territory. Besides, France also possesses real expertise in innovative financial solutions, such as Public-Private Partnerships, which will constitute one of the highlights of this working visit – the first since that of the President of the French Republic.


Lastly, I believe that the Indo-French partnership is enriched by the development of economic and commercial exchanges, which must be further intensified. In this regard, I am pleased with the substantial investments made by French companies in India, be it the public service of water, construction material or rail transport, urban planning and housing.


This strategic partnership must be given a fresh boost so that the Indo-French friendship flourishes in all areas!


The writer is the French Minister of Transports









At a time when the Army is being accused of a gender bias in denying permanent commissions to women officers, two stories have symbolised the debate this week — Major Mitali Madhusmita becoming the first Indian woman soldier awarded a gallantry award (Sena Medal) for saving lives after the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul and, on the other hand, the Army's continuing resistance to a Delhi High Court order not to retire women after 14 years of service.


The only reason the Army is not in contempt of court is because it asked the Supreme Court for time to review the issue but it has since continued to forcibly retire women officers in the interim, forcing the Supreme Court to step in and stay such discharges.


Militaries all over the world are generally conservative in their outlook and there is an interesting parallel to the Army's obduracy here with the US military. The US Army had enlisted women since World War II but until the 1970s, they were made to serve in a separate Corps, were never put in combat roles and immediately discharged if they got pregnant, became a parent or assumed custody of a minor.


From the late-1960s though, the US Army came under increasing pressure from the rising tide of the feminist movement which gained support from politicians hoping to cash in on the women's vote. Under fire from equal rights groups, the US military too resisted change on the grounds of national security and the special rigours of military service.


This was best exemplified by an internal memo in 1975 by the Secretary of the Army, Howard Callaway: "I am concerned that we are overreacting to special interest social pressures and are failing to recognize Army defense requirements," he railed. "Military service requires a service member (male or female) to be able to move without notice, to be prepared to work long and irregular hours without relief in order to meet unit mission requirements, and to live under adverse conditions. These work conditions are not suited for advanced stages of pregnancy nor for the care of minor dependents."


The basic tone of this sentiment is not too dissimilar from the widely publicised comment in 2006 by the then Army Vice Chief that comfort level with the women officers was low and the Indian Army could well do without them. Lt Gen Pattabhiraman later apologised for his ill-considered remarks but at its heart, this is the key issue: a basic resistance to change by an officer cadre steeped in a conservative mindset.


Despite the winds of change in recent years, at some level, the Army's organisational culture still has at its core an older colonial value system where men and women are assigned very distinct roles within a strict social hierarchy. Even up to the late-1990s, officers with wives who worked in other cities were looked down upon in many regiments since the proper place of wives was to assist their husbands in regimental welfare activities. That has now changed of course but the memsahib culture still remains an inherent part of Army society. Little wonder then that equality for women officers threatens to break down long-held beliefs.


Look at what has happened. Women have always served in the medical and nursing services but since 1992, they have been allowed to enlist as Short Service Commission officers in other arms for up to a maximum of 14 years. Then in 2008 the Ministry of Defence agreed to provide permanent commissions to those serving with the Judge Advocate General and the Education Corps in the Army; to those in the Accounts Branch in the Air Force and the Naval Constructor in the Navy.


This was both a forward and a regressive move. Forward, because it recognised the claim for women's equality but regressive because it only recognised it for women in these specific categories. Women serving in other arms were left in the lurch. The Air Force, for instance, has women helicopter pilots and the Army has women serving in Air Defence Artillery, the Supply Corps, Ordnance and others arms as well. Why couldn't they be given the option of a permanent job as well?


The only argument against women serving in the defence forces is an old misogynist one that wrongly sees women as basically unfit for this kind of work and a smaller more practical one that foresees practical problems in gender-mixing (such as the lack of genderappropriate amenities and facilities). But that argument was resolved in 1992 when women were first brought in, against huge opposition.


Now, if the 2000 or so women officers currently in the defence forces can serve successfully for 14 years in some parts of the war machine, there is absolutely no reason why they cannot in others as well and for longer than 14 years. The current policy smacks of gender bias, as Major Seema Singh has recently argued in the Supreme Court.


After the High Court order last year, the Air Force agreed to provide permanent commissions but the Army is still dithering and waiting for a high-level committee's report. For an Army suffering from an officer shortage, this is a sheer waste of time and there is no excuse but to embrace the wider social changes engulfing India.

The US Army reluctantly did it in the 1970s and realised that women made it a better force. The sooner our generals realise it, the better.




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




Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should use the opportunity provided by the Supreme Court's verdict, on the appointment of P J Thomas as chief vigilance commissioner (CVC) of India, and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's threat, to withdraw its ministers from the Union cabinet and offer outside support, to seek a vote of confidence from Parliament. The PM and his government will, in fact, secure that vote of confidence, both because no political party wants the life of the present Lok Sabha to end, and also because the ruling Congress Party still has numbers with it. In seeking and securing a new vote of confidence, the Manmohan Singh government would also secure a new lease of life. The government has been battered, beleaguered, demoralised and directionless in the past few months. The PM has set in motion several correctives that will help improve governance in future. However, a renewal of Parliamentary support at this point will boost the government's and, indeed, the PM's morale and legitimacy.

Before seeking such a renewal of mandate, the PM has to attend to some housekeeping. The huge embarrassment caused to him personally and to his government on account of the CVC appointment fiasco was entirely on account of the incompetence, if not ill-intentions, of those who were responsible for the file work. Heads must roll. The fact of the matter is that the Supreme Court has rapped the government on the knuckles. The PM has done well to take responsibility, but he must demand administrative accountability as well.


 In giving its landmark judgement, the Court has laid down a selection principle that is not necessarily satisfactory. The principle of majority vote negates the essence of the consultative process. In Andhra Pradesh, Telugu Desam leader Chandrababu Naidu has refused to participate in a similar exercise because the ruling party had used the majority principle to overrule his objections as leader of the opposition. If the 2-1 principle is applied, the leader of the opposition would have no role to play apart from expressing her dissent. It would, therefore, be wise on the part of the PM to declare, when he speaks in Parliament on the issue that he respects the idea of consensus and would prefer that in future to the idea of majority vote, even though the Supreme Court has upheld the latter principle.

What the CVC appointment issue highlights is the need for eternal vigilance on the part of the government, especially the PM, in the appointment of persons to such institutions of governance. The critics of the government are right when they argue that the CVC should, in fact, like Caesar's wife, not only be above board but be seen and believed to be so. There has been a dilution of institutions and governance in India over time. The time has come for the PM to inject new life into key institutions of governance in India, starting with his own office. This done, the government, in fact, can use the vote on the Union budget as a vote of confidence, for after all getting the finance bill through is vital for the government's survival. A new vote of confidence at this stage will stabilise the government, give it a new purpose and help clean the air and the dust.






While the former managing director of McKinsey & Co, Rajat Gupta, has every right to claim that he is innocent until otherwise established in a court of law, he must adopt the same standards of good conduct in India as he has been required to in the US. If Mr Gupta chose to step down from the boards of various institutions he has been associated with in the US, he must do the same in India. Mr Gupta must step down as chairman and managing director emeritus, Indian School of Business (ISB) and chairperson, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).

Can there be one norm for the US and another for India? If Mr Gupta acquits himself of all charges brought against him by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), he can once again stand tall and return to guide these prestigious institutions. However, having been named a co-conspirator in an insider trading trial along with Mr Raj Rajaratnam, founder of the Galleon Group hedge fund, on charges of giving illegal tips about Goldman Sachs Group Inc, based on information available to him as board member, Mr Gupta is now an accused undertrial. It does immense damage to the morale and reputation of a high-profile management institutions like ISB that it is being forced to defend Mr Gupta and explain away his decision not to resign. What kind of example in corporate governance would this set for bright, young managers?


 While it may well be true that Mr Gupta is innocent and can prove himself to be so, there is no reason for anyone to presume that the SEC is deliberately maligning him. The whisper campaign by Mr Gupta's friends that he is a victim of racial prejudice does very little credit to him and to all those like him who have taken, and continue to take, great pride in their association with institutions and firms in the US. If Indian Americans have made their millions in a US that was a 'land of opportunity' for them, they must also be willing to be punished for breaking the laws of that land, and not cling to notions of racism that they were happy to junk on their ride up the ladder of good fortune.

Few who know Mr Gupta and have been impressed by his leadership and enterprise believe that he had knowingly committed any crime. Maybe he did not. Maybe he was a victim of his own success or, more likely, the hubris and nonchalance that comes with sudden success and excessive habitation in the stratosphere of power and wealth. If the charges brought against him were to stick, it would be wrong to presume that the culpability was his alone and not of the milieu he worked in. It would, for example, seriously damage the already questionable reputation of McKinsey & Co. and Goldman Sachs, who too have much to answer for.







In the week Taiwan was opening itself up to more investment from China, nearly a 100 Taiwanese business persons travelled to India, under the leadership of Taiwan's minister for economic planning and development, Ms Christina Liu, to invite Indian investment into Taiwan and prospect for opportunities for Taiwanese investment in India.

The visit to India of the Taiwanese business delegation came just a week before New Delhi hosted an India-ASEAN business summit and trade fair, and a week after India and Japan and India and Malaysia announced their intention to sign a free trade agreement.


 All this to-ing and fro-ing between India and various South-east and East Asian economies will be dwarfed when business persons from mainland China start following the orders from above! Word is out in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. The politburo's big daddies want a different kind of companies to march into India!

A year ago, I reported in these columns (BS, 29/3/2010) that "The Chinese Are Coming", referring to a desire to invest in India's steel sector conveyed to me by the CEO of a Chinese steel major. "We are not just interested in importing your iron ore", he said, "we want to build a steel plant in India. Is India game?"

Few months later, Anil Ambani hit the headlines with the announcement of a US$8.3-billion power equipment deal with China's Shanghai Electric Company, unnerving India's L&T and BHEL. Even as India stares helplessly at a rising bilateral trade deficit with China, now close to US$20 billion, and has been urging China to open its markets, China has made an offer that India cannot refuse — permit import substitution by allowing Chinese companies to invest in India!

Going beyond steel and power, Chinese companies are looking at investing in a range of manufactured goods, all the way from cars to toys. China's Jianghuai Automobile Company, Brilliance Auto, Chery International, Build Your Dreams and Beiqi Foton have all expressed interest in investing in India's rapidly growing automobile sector. "Soon Indians will be driving 'made in China' cars", reported a India-China business website, run by a former Mumbai journalist Nazia Vasi.

According to informed sources, China's Prime Minister Wen Jiaobao returned home from his India visit last year and told his officials that he saw mostly Japanese and Korean cars on Indian roads, and it was time to get some Chinese cars also onto India's crowded streets! A directive from the very top that no one down the line can ignore. Recent media reports suggest that Chinese truck manufacturers are also eyeing the Indian market and would be quite happy to build capacity through Greenfield projects.

All this is just the beginning, says India's ambassador in Beijing Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who spends more time meeting business leaders in China than any previous Indian diplomat in Beijing. China is taking a long-term view of investing in India's manufacturing sector. The stage of arriving in India with Chinese managers and workers is over, partly because India has put in place more stringent visa restrictions to limit the entry of low-skilled workers and partly because Chinese companies are here for the long haul and would like to work with local employees.

The arrival of manufacturing firms will be preceded by the entry of China's mega banks into banking and financial services in India. China's banks will not only finance Chinese investment in manufacturing and services in India, but also finance Indian firms buying from China, as in the Reliance Power deal.

All of this would be a win-win deal for an India looking at investment in new projects and for a China that is dealing with rising labour costs and decelerating growth. However, it is not simple economics that is driving Chinese investment into India. The larger strategic vision is to overtake Japan and Korea in India.

While Korean and Japanese brands have established themselves, the fact remains that China has deeper pockets and a more supportive state system that could offer strategic support to Chinese firms as they arrive in India to out-compete East Asian brands. Japan also has deep pockets but at present China is banking on Japan's slowness and hesitancy.

Having taken years to "study" India, constantly complaining about Indian systems and procedures, Japan first lost out to Korea in the Indian market and runs the risk of losing out to China, unless Japanese firms get their act together and take a strategic view of India. The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor is an important means by which Japan hopes to raise its presence in India, but unless projects are speeded up and break ground quickly, they could easily be overtaken by the coming Chinese storm.

Conscious of it having missed the bus during the first phase of post-liberalisation growth in India and now increasingly worried about the rise of China next door, Japan is finally focused on India in a way that has not be seen before. On the heels of the announcement of an FTA has come the announcement of holding an India-Japan Global Partnership Summit in Tokyo in September 2011, that will be attended by the prime ministers of both countries. The summit is expected to lay the "micro foundations of the macro vision" of India-Japan strategic partnership.

At a time when Asia to India's West appears to be embroiled in instability and crisis, Asia to India's East is rapidly fulfilling the promise of being an "Arc of Opportunity". India's increased participation in the region's markets, institutions and processes has acquired a new salience and momentum. For India, managing this increased Asian engagement requires tact, efficiency, speed and much better diplomacy.







In budget testimony last week, the Secretary of State told Congress that China is not just competing with the US around the world but, for all intents and purposes, is eating its lunch.

"Let's just talk, you know, straight realpolitik," Hillary Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We are in a competition with China. Take Papua New Guinea: huge energy find... ExxonMobil is producing it. China is in there every day in every way, trying to figure out how it's going to come in behind us, come under us."


 But how effective is the China model, anyway? And is China's approach really quite so uniform?

This much is clear: China's arrival as trader, investor, lender, and builder is dramatically changing the economic environment around the world because, while Chinese investors are not oblivious to the challenges of doing business in, say, Papua New Guinea or Niger, they have taken on risks where American and Japanese (and Indian) firms have not. Over the long term, China is likely to displace other, more traditional partners across an array of sectors.

Take Central Asia. Beijing has ended Russia's near monopsony on Turkmen gas, established eastbound pipeline connections to China for Kazakh oil and Turkmen gas, and negotiated complex transit rights for the latter. But China is not simply eroding Russian economic leverage. It is, too, eroding the economic influence of indigenous elites with close ties to Russian industry while empowering a new stratum. And Chinese preferential loans will, in time, erode the influence of nearly all other international lenders as well, especially the International Financial Institutions (IFIs).

Beijing's loans of $10 billion for Kazakhstan, $4 billion for Turkmenistan, more than $603 million for Tajikistan, and a $10 billion loan facility to members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation through China's Exim Bank and other development banks have come without World Bank-style conditionality, although China employs its own forms of conditionality through "buy China" and "employ Chinese" provisions. So, while China is providing new options to Central Asian governments, it is also assuring new bargaining power that they can leverage in new ways with the IFIs, the US, and others.

But Chinese strategies are hardly uniform. Nor have they proved to be uniformly successful.

A recent study of China's role in Africa, from my Eurasia Group colleagues, Philippe de Pontet, Michal Meidan, and Anne Fruhauf, shows why.

Resources for infrastructure deals have benefited Chinese construction, telecommunications, and hydro power companies. But Chinese oil and mining companies have failed to dominate Africa's extractive industries. And significant infrastructure investments in mineral rich countries such as Gabon and Zambia secured Chinese firms entry into the market but not a preferential position.

My colleagues identified several reasons. One is technical: Chinese oil and gas companies are less technologically advanced than their Western counterparts in deep water exploration, despite an impressive record in enhanced oil recovery. And Chinese mining companies lack the advanced technologies required for the capital-intensive mining of metals such as platinum.

Another reason is political. Chinese employment practices have produced a backlash in many countries. And that makes me wonder whether Chinese commercial engagement might not produce greater convergence with the US and others in rough, tough investment environments. We mostly take for granted that Chinese companies can bear more risk, or that China's government will underwrite the kind of risks that most other governments shy away from. But as China grows in reach, its economic incentive to revisit these practices may expand, not least to protect its own investments. Chinese companies no longer operate alone in many places. Its national oil companies are in (or seek) partnerships with international oil companies — first, to acquire technology; second, to share risks; and third, to connect to new skills and industry practices.

The Chinese even surprised their US counterparts in a 2004 round of policy planning discussions by asking about the good governance provisions in then-President George W. Bush's Millennium Challenge Account development fund. And more recently, as commodity prices have become more volatile, Chinese enterprises have become more concerned with the need for predictability in some of the countries in which they are investing.

Indeed, as my colleagues note, Chinese firms backed by state loans face growing constraints in countries that have increasingly stringent local content rules.

The bottom line is that there are limits to China's approach. The weaker the state, the more appealing is China's model of trading loans and infrastructure for resources. But the stronger the state, the more wary countries are likely to be of falling into a new pattern of dependence. And that means that Chinese firms will be forced to compete with fewer advantages and more handicaps.

Mrs. Clinton is right that the US needs to play (and stay) in the game. The business of Asia, in particular, is business. And without vigorous trade, investment, and strategic engagement, America's position will fade in a changing Asia.

But neither should we presume that China is eating our lunch. As I argued in this column in December, "we aren't China." And both the US and India, each in their own way, have inherent strengths and comparative advantages that remain appealing around the world.

Both embrace the power of private enterprise. And, increasingly, both countries share a commitment to entrepreneurship as a source of innovation and growth. That is something on which Americans and Indians can capitalise.

The author is head, Asia Practice Group, at Eurasia Group, and is also adjunct senior fellow for Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, DC





The overall financial position of the states improved tremendously till 2007-08, but deteriorated thereafter as is evident from the trend in the major deficit indicators of state government. There was a temporary halt in the fiscal consolidation process in 2008-09 and 2009-10 due to the global economic recession. Conditions in the current fiscal were expected to improve and the Budget estimate showed a lower deficit for 2010-11 over 2009-10.

Fiscal consolidation at the state level was achieved on the back of growing own revenues and higher resource transfers from the Centre. States' own tax revenue for 2010-11 was estimated to go up by 16.7 per cent to Rs 4,26,014 crore. Their share in Central taxes, after revisions, at Rs 2,19,303 crore, is likely to be 33 per cent higher than the actual share for 2009-10.


 The financing pattern of the gross fiscal deficit at the state level in recent years has changed significantly, mainly on account of the recommendations of the 12th Finance Commission for phasing out loans from the Centre to the state governments and a decline in collections under national small savings fund which was aimed at providing fixed returns. As a result, market borrowings have emerged as a major financing item for the gross fiscal deficit since 2007-08.

The Economic Survey said the combined deficits of state governments indicated an overall consolidation process in the states. The combined fiscal deficit of the states was estimated at 2.5 per cent of GDP for 2010-11. It noted that a surplus on the revenue account was recorded between 2007-08 and 2008-09. Revenue receipts grew at 17.6 per cent and 10.7 per cent for 2007-08 and 2008-09 respectively.

The consolidated outstanding liabilities of the state governments as at end-March 2000 were placed at Rs 5,09,529 crore which rose sharply to Rs 10,14,000 crore in March 2004 on account of large and persistent revenue deficits resulting in high gross fiscal deficits. The deficit led to a large accumulation of debt and a concomitant increase in the debt service burden during the period. The share of market borrowings has increased sharply over the years and it will comprise almost one-third of the total outstanding liabilities as at end-March 2010.

For Charts & Tables click here









DMK's threat to pull its ministers out of the government at the Centre is more drama than crisis. The southern party has been a core part of the United Progressive Alliance but it had resorted to a similar threat during the UPA1, as well, over disinvestment in Neyveli Lignite. On that occasion, the Congress had blinked, and abandoned the move to sell equity in the public enterprise. This time around, the Congress is less likely to back down. The ostensible reason for the DMK's decision to withdraw its ministers from the Union government and offer the central government issue-based support is the Congress' unreasonable demand for three seats more than it is willing to concede in the forthcoming assembly polls in Tamil Nadu. This is unlikely to be the real reason: three seats are not the stuff on which to break up a serious political alliance. The nub of the matter would appear to be the DMK's perception that the Congress is not doing anything to prevent the ongoing investigations into the 2G scam from winding its way to DMK supremo Karunanidhi's door. Now, the Supreme Court is monitoring the investigation and the government has its limitations on what it can do to influence the probe. More than that, the Congress has to worry about its own credibility as to its commitment to combating corruption. Therefore, it is not in a position to undertake to subvert the investigation. The DMK would have to prepare itself to sacrifice Raja and whoever he has associated himself with, in the scam. And the Congress would have to brace itself for accepting harsher terms in its seat sharing talks in West Bengal with Mamata Banerjee, on whom its dependence increases, given the DMK's move. The best case scenario for the Congress is to convince the DMK that it is really not in a position to subvert the 2G investigation and offer the DMK a face-saver in the form of dropping its insistence on those extra three seats in Tamil Nadu.
The worst case scenario is having to manage the UPA's numbers on a day-to-day basis, making use of the several sources of support available in return for a price. Given the DMK's own dependence on Congress support for the assembly polls, this is eminently avoidable.








Welcome as the democratic movements in the Arab lands are, they have the potential to create short-term disruptions in the global supplies of crude, spiking prices. Policy must prepare to countenance higher oil prices. One short-term measure that has the potential is to explore the scope for oil-for-food swaps with nations that simultaneously import food and export oil and today face rising food prices and consequent rising food subsidies. India has stocks of grain in excess of the buffer stocking norm and it makes eminent sense to put them to work to hedge against rising oil prices, instead of letting them rot. Building oil stocks is another part of the agenda of energy security on which action must begin at least now. Developed country governments have all built up reserves to cushion their economies against short-term supply disruptions. In India, oil ministers tend to focus their energies debating subsidy. Acting to curb the demand for energy in general and for diesel in particular is another key front on which action should not be delayed any longer. The biggest incentive here is using prices to discourage excessive consumption and encourage efficiency. The government must decontrol diesel prices, at least after the notified assembly elections are over. There has to be a stepped-up effort to run rural pumps on electricity rather than on diesel. This will mean finding the political courage to stamp out power theft, invest in transmission and distribution networks as required, free up coal mining and value addition, take advantage of the global doubling of natural gas reserves, thanks to shale gas, by investing in LNG terminals and pipeline networks. Investment in the railways to substitute power for diesel in traction and to lure more traffic from diesel-driven road transport are key parts of the needed action. Blending ethanol into petrol is another measure that should kick in without delay.

It is natural for the urgent to overshadow the important, but it would be inexcusable for the government to not initiate remedial action of a long-term nature, apart from doing fire-fighting for the present.







In a recent book, A e r o t r o p oli s, John D Kasarda and Greg Lindsay say, provocatively, that the great cities of the future will grow around giant airports. This aerotropolis, they say, will be connected to its hinterland with customised transport networks, gleaming shops, markets, restaurants and to offices and suburbia housing the people working in this globally-connected world. They say that in the globally-competitive markets of today, economies that work around airports will survive and grow. If that sounds outlandish, look at what's happening at home. Delhi's swank new airport is already connected to the city centre with its own metro rail link. Thousands of cars pass to and from the airport everyday on roads and flyovers designed to take large traffic volumes. There are plans to develop hotels, shops and restaurants in the sprawling hinterland surrounding the airport. Suburbs like Dwarka, located close-by, have seen property prices escalate with every new development in this aerotropolis. Beijing and Dallas Fort Worth can already be classified as aerotropolises. Navi Mumbai could become another. With hindsight, the idea gains plausibility. Many great cities of today started out as seaports in the past. Three of India's four original metros — Calcutta, Madras and Bombay — started as port cities. London, too, grew from a harbour, as did Naples, Venice and Lisbon. Shanghai owes its prominence and prosperity to its seaport. Hong Kong literally stands for 'fragrant harbour'. Fastforward to the near future and it is easy to see why the idea of aerotropolises is a seductive one. With bigger, faster aircraft, the costs of aviation are falling, just as trade and people movements are headed north. Growth could soon take off from the runway. So what if many airlines abort their flight to profits!






It usually takes about a week to digest the fine print of the Budget. That's when googlies emerge and initial reactions are revised in the light of what emerges from a more leisurely study of the Budget numbers. It's no different with Budget 2011-12.

The first flush of enthusiasm over the finance minister's 'remarkable' achievement in containing the fiscal deficit (FD)/ GDP ratio below his Budget estimate of 5.5% has been replaced with growing scepticism over his numbers. Far from being remarkable, it is the outcome of a Panglossian view of macroeconomic realities and, in particular, of the government's ability to keep expenses under control.

Bring in a touch of reality, a.k.a.government's track record in keeping expenses within budgeted limits and the FM's task of reducing the FD/GDP ratio to 4.6% in the next fiscal looks near-impossible.
With the exception of 2005-06 when the government spent less than budgeted, and 2009-10 when it overshot its Budget estimates marginally, in every other year, expenditure has overshot the Budget estimates (see table).

Despite this dismal track record, the FM has budgeted a paltry 3.4% increase in expenditure for the next fiscal. Bravado? Foolhardiness?
But first the Budget numbers for the current year. As pointed out in the Economic Survey, higher growth aided by higher inflation takes nominal GDP for 2010-11 to . 78,77,947 crore. This higher-than-anticipated denominator meant the target FD/GDP ratio for 2010-11 was not 5.5% as originally estimated, but a much lower 4.8% after factoring in the higher GDP.
Anything less than 4.8% would mean the FM has not lived up to his promise. And that is exactly what's happened. The FD/GDP ratio, according to revised estimates for 2010-11 is 5.1%, i.e., far from doing better than his Budget estimate, the FM has actually fallen short on this critical measure of fiscal health! In absolute terms, the FD, at. 4,00,998 crore, is . 19,590 crore more than originally estimated.
Take away the bonanza from the 3G auction and the picture becomes more disappointing — the FD/GDP ratio shoots up to 6.4%. Factor in the key assumption underpinning the deficit number for 2011-12 — expenditure growth of just 3.4% in 2011-12 as against 18.7% in 2010-11 — and his bravado takes your breath away.
So how does the FM intend to live up to his promise? By cutting non-Plan expenditure and effecting a modest (11.8%) increase in Plan expenditure. Considering non-Plan expenditure in the current year is up 4% and Plan expenditure is up a whopping 30%, such economy in spending during the next fiscal is highly unlikely.
Remember, the government is committed to bringing the Food Security Bill before Parliament before the next Budget and has already agreed to link wage payments under the NREGA to consumer price inflation. Yet, the provision for the latter is the same as in the current year and food subsidy is only marginally higher.
Likewise the Budget makes only a modest provision for oil subsidies — . 23,640 crore (down from . 38, 386 crore this fiscal) — though global oil prices are well above the basket against which we benchmark our prices. The same rose-tinted view pervades most other expenditure estimates.

There is, of course, the possibility that he might make up for over-shooting on the expenditure front by bettering his revenue estimates. But here the track record is mixed. In the seven years the Congressled UPA alliance has been in power, the government managed to garner more revenue than budgeted in four and fallen short in three. But except for the last year when 3G auctions enabled it to overshoot the Budget estimate by a wide margin, in the other three years revenues were only marginally higher than budgeted.


 So, history does not support the FM's gamble; in which case, we might end up with a much higher fiscal deficit with all its attendant consequences — high interest rates, crowding out of private investment and loss of investor faith. That is the first and most serious flaw in Budget 2011-12.

The second is the opening up of equity markets to all overseas investors who satisfy KYC (Know Your Customer) requirements. At a time when the US, under the guise of quantitative easing, is still pumping liquidity into the global economy and many emerging markets have imposed strictures against shortterm flows of capital, the move to encourage more short-term flows defies all logic. It is bound to result in a surge of hot money (including some of the black money stashed abroad), increase stock market volatility and hugely complicate the task of the Reserve Bank of India in managing the exchange rate and inflation.
The Achilles heel of our external sector has been our excessive dependence on fickle portfolio flows. The position has worsened in the current fiscal with flows becoming even more skewed in favour of foreign institutional investment (FII). Meanwhile, foreign direct investment (FDI) has declined. FDI declined 36% during April-September 2010 even as FDI flows to countries like China, Brazil, Mexico and Thailand increased by 6-53%, with Indonesia recording a three-fold rise in FDI.

This imbalance makes the economy excessively vulnerable to short-term volatile flows. But instead of trying to correct this imbalance, the Budget has opened the floodgates to more of the same. The financial crisis may have left the leadership in many western countries wiser, but it has clearly not taught our policy makers anything.
'Read my lips: tight expenditure control' is the FM's unspoken promise, much like George HW Bush's famous 'Read my lips: No new taxes' promise on which he was elected 41st President of the US. We all know what happened to Bush's promise — taxes were raised dramatically. Will the FM do likewise?









Let's look at the exit options the Congress had in the P J Thomas case. True, we have 20:20 hindsight. But reviewing the Congress's actions via the exit options logic will yield some interesting insights. The really smart exit option came when PJ Thomas's name was empanelled as a CVC candidate. Both the 18-year-old but still judicially alive palm oil case and Thomas's bureaucratic ruling that the CAG and CVC cannot question the telecom policy were known facts then. Also known was the fact that A Raja's telecom policy was becoming a potential political liability.

The cacophonous critique of the telecom policy had by then lost the distinction between what was wrong — giving licences to 'friends' of Raja and allowing pre-operations profit-making through spectrum sale — and what was and is right — not making spectrum a high-priced resource and making a distinction between policymaking and accounting/vigilance functions.

Politics can be like that. And it's worth taking a risk over someone embroiled in that kind of politics only when you know the payoff can be very high, i.e, Thomas was someone special — to the Congress or for the government. But was he?

So, the really smart exit option would have been to not invest in Thomas at all. But let's be fair. How many fund managers are really that smart? However, the Congress didn't take the exit option even when (a) Sushma Swaraj objected on record to Thomas's appointment, (b) when the Supreme Court questioned how the CVC, given his actions during his telecom posting, could supervise inquiries into the telecom policy, (c) when government law officers were reduced to making untenable arguments in the court, and (d) just before the court reserved its judgment on the Thomas case.

That's really strange. Almost as strange as when the Congress, during UPA-I's term, didn't take the many exit options it had till the Supreme Court severely criticised its decision to impose President's rule in Bihar. The Congress's Thomas call is stranger because in the Bihar call the potential payoff was clearer — Lalu Yadav, a key ally then, needed help. But, still, not taking the exit option was simply not worth it.
And here's an even stranger thing: the same Congress is smarter when it comes to judging exit options in certain other kinds of situations. Sonia Gandhi chose the exit option twice — not becoming the Prime Minister in 2004 and resigning in the wake of the office of profit ordinance controversy — and both paid off politically. Manmohan Singh, supported by Sonia Gandhi, chose not to exercise the exit option in the nuclear deal political standoff. That paid off, too.

Is it the case that the Congress is smarter at exercising the exit option when the top leadership has something personal-political at stake? And does the Congress tend to lose its smarts when the bets are party-political? How would you feel about a fund management firm that's smarter when its top guns are taking their own bets than when they are making decisions on investing the fund's corpus? You would feel, wouldn't you, that the fund's top management isn't serving the firm very well?

That's how Congressmen — and Congress supporters — should feel about the Congress leadership if they assess the latter's exit strategies. Their question should be, does the leadership serve the party as well as it can? And that leads to the question of how incentives are aligned for the Congress's top management. Are the incentives such that patently unsmart exit strategies on party-political issues have relatively moderate downsides for the top leadership? That points to a situation in which the organisation feels it simply can't do without the current top management.

Of course, as everyone knows, the Congress's assumption is that, ceteris paribus, it will be worse off if it's not led by Nehru-Gandhis. Most observers agree with this assumption, for good reason. Since the Congress thinks that the costs engendered by such an incentive structure can never exceed the gains that accrue from such a leadership structure, unsmart exit strategies by the leadership on party-political bets are made likelier. That means the smart strategy for the BJP is to not always target the PM or Sonia Gandhi. Attack the Congress, the party leadership is likelier to make more mistakes then.







The oil price spiral arising from the ongoing events in the Middle East will have a severe effect on India. The international price of crude oil is about to cross $120 per barrel from the $80 per barrel a few months ago. The consequences for India will be spread across several sectors of our economy and adversely affect the lives of millions of people. Some of these are obvious. The imported price of crude will cast a heavy burden on our foreign exchange resources and the domestic cost of energy will go up, thus affecting agricultural and transport sectors. Government subsidies to the oil companies and the inflation rate will also shoot up.
Obviously, the most important step we can take is to reduce petroleum consumption. If consumption is reduced in this sector, transport costs in other sectors like food, consumer goods, etc will benefit. So, we have to aim at reducing oil usage in this sector. In this regard, the government needs to take a few important steps. The largest consumer of petroleum products, that is diesel and petrol, is the transport sector.

A gadget called the hydrodrive electronic catalytic convertor has been in the market for the last few years. It has won the Best Asian Gold Award in 2001. It has obtained patents in India, the UK Canada and the Philippines. The Indian invention has been recognised and reported in scientific papers in Temple University, MIT of the US. The Tamil Nadu Pollution Board had submitted an eight-page report to the Central Pollution Control Board after testing the gadget on state-run buses. The average saving in consumption of petrol and diesel transport vehicles by the direct use of hydrodrive is about 10%.

The present method of testing and certifying the mileage of motor vehicles is misleading. The tests are done with test fuel of about 100 octane number, which is not available anywhere in India. The commercial fuel at the outlets has only about 85 octane number. Moreover, the test drive is done at a steady speed on smooth level roads with no traffic lights or stoppage. So, when the so-called kilometre per litre (KMPL) is shown as 23, the actual will be around 11 or 12. The further research on the gadget has brought even more satisfying results. Using the hydrodrive device can result in 25% saving in fuel in industrial boilers and diesel generating sets. This device is actually being operated in a factory in Tamil Nadu. This has been visited by reputed scientists, including former President Abdul Kalam.

This process is not just mixing oil and water. Hydrodrive emulsifies the oil-water mixture by the patented nanotechnology process and alters the composition of the fuel before combustion. In the case of transport vehicles, the emulsification can be brought about on board by fitting the modified version of hydrodrive. The practical ways of implementing the proposal can be devised by the government by taking a few decisions in the national interest.

One, vehicle manufacturers can be given a 10% reduction in excise duty if they install hydrodrive in their new vehicles. By equipping this device, they can save on the cost of installing exhaust catalytic converters that cost four times and have a limited life, unlike hydrodrive that can last for ten years. The hydrodrive gadget has been proved to be capable of reducing pollution by 70%. Lesser urban pollution from transport vehicles can save a lot of expenditure on healthcare.

Two, for existing vehicles, retrofitting can be undertaken in dealer and company outlets and oil companies can give petrol and diesel coupons for half the cost of retrofitting and claim the benefit from the government, which, in turn, will be saving on subsidies for oil companies. Retrofitting is a one-time expenditure.
Three, for stationary applications in industrial boilers and diesel generators, up to 25% of the cost of retrofitting can be shared by the oil companies giving oil coupons as a one-time sharing of the cost of fitting the device. Four, with the decrease in oil costs, there will be a reduction in the rate of inflation. Five, with oil imports likely to touch . 40 lakh crore, even a 10% reduction on imports will save the country . 4 lakh crore in foreign exchange. For a detailed examination of the proposals made in this article and for their implementation, a group of secretaries of the finance, petroleum, transport and environment ministries can be entrusted with the task to report to the government within a time-bound programme.

(The author is former Union secretary, petroleum ministry)






                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL



It will be rash to suggest that the DMK and the Congress have given the AIADMK a bye in the coming Tamil Nadu Assembly polls through their recent postures in brinkmanship, but the more reflective elements in the two parties may find it hard to shrug off the feeling that they have conceded own goals on election eve that were hardly warranted by the run of play. The image of the two parties had already suffered after the 2G scandal erupted. The DMK's "doer" reputation could hardly escape unscathed in spite of the party's political campaign that former communications minister A. Raja was targeted as he was a dalit. It is therefore puzzling to see why DMK supremo and the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Mr M. Karunanidhi, chose to play hardball over seat negotiations and go public about it. DMK ministers are due to quit the Union Cabinet on Monday and the party's support to UPA-2 is now to be on merits — on a case-by-case basis. A past master at politics, the DMK boss would be aware his retaliatory knock would not bring down the UPA-2 government. Indeed, even if the DMK were to withdraw support, there is no imminent threat of the Manmohan Singh government falling. There is no alternative available in the existing Parliament to take over the reins if the government falls. In any case, several parties are likely to offer the UPA a helping hand if there is any chance of a government collapse due to reasons of political arithmetic. If the DMK finally does follow through with its threat and its ministers indeed resign on Monday, it should logically mean that the party has as good as left the UPA. (To offer the government "outside support", a party need not be in the ruling coalition, as the case of the RJD, SP and BSP shows.) The harsh anti-Congress language used in the DMK's resolution announcing its plan to leave the UPA-2 government, and a reference in it to the Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi as well, should ordinarily suggest that the DMK does not any more see its fate tied to that of the Congress in the Assembly polls. There is not much wriggle room left for it to resume seat-sharing talks as though nothing has happened. In the event it would be unrealistic of the Congress to entertain hopes in that direction. The way events have unfolded, it is clear the DMK's disenchantment with the Congress began with the 2G case coming out in the open and the subsequent easing out of Mr Raja from the Cabinet. Being an entirely power-oriented and family hierarchy-based party, it found itself unable to appreciate that the Prime Minister had no choice but to bow before the broad laws of democratic polity once the corruption-related scandal broke and then to submit Mr Raja to the scrutiny of the law.






On February 16, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited the leonine electronic media anchors and barons into his den. The result was mixed for both sides. Dr Singh retained his composure, bore light jabs on his chin, ignoring statesman Benjamin Disraeli's dictum "never complain and never explain".

The worthies of the fourth estate pricked not to injure, unwilling to nail Dr Singh with the Commonwealth Games, Chief Vigilance Commissioner and Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) issues, handled by appointees of the Congress or the Prime Minister's Office.

Dr Singh's argument that excessive media coverage was hurting India's image abroad merits examination; as also whether it impacts the conduct of external relations-economic and political.

Dr Singh's concern about the India story is coloured by his predisposition to look at politics through the window of economics. Influential publications like the Financial Times are examining Indian crony capitalism as a subset of liberalisation as it has evolved since 1991. Ironically, this expose, long overdue, comes as the Arab world absorbs the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution tsunami, with masses rebelling against authoritarian structures and nepotistic exploitation of national resources, impelled by demographic youth bulges and unemployment.

Dr Singh is anachronistic and in dangerous moral territory if he implies that a positive external image, necessary for continued foreign direct investment and institutional investment flows into India, can be at the cost of underplaying gross financial malfeasance.

Were a P.N. Haksar in the PMO today, he would have quoted a similar dilemma in the US in 1901 when Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt accidentally became the President of the United States after the assassination of President McGinley. He applied the stick to the robber barons, imposing regulatory regimes and oversight in capitalism's bastion.

Businessmen's greed was weighed against the national interests of a rising power, which became a global hegemony in that century. India stands at a similar juncture. Would it be democratic in form but controlled by competing oligarchies of economic and hereditary political power or a genuine representative state that balances equity with growth and politics with principles?

The two-decade-old economic liberalisation has run its initial course. Flogging it will not make it gallop. The oil-producing Arab world is in actual or potential turmoil. Unpredictable weather is causing crop failures, as in China this winter, or floods as in Australia, bringing stress on global food stocks and hence their prices. Europe and the US are uncertainly emerging from the global financial crisis. India needs labour reform, a second green revolution, transparent regulatory regimes for exploitation of national mineral resources and national assets.

Above all, India needs to demonstrably show that there is a rule of law and no one is above it. Imaginably such an India would attract genuine global capital. It would not be, as it is now, a less efficient version of China, but a competing Asian model driven by law, transparency and accountability.

With regard to foreign policy, corruption controversies impinge differently on the ruling elite. It falls into two broad categories. One where the taint is personal to the leader without impacting his official decision-making and the other where it involves the decision-making of the government.

In the first category would be the Lewinsky scandal, leading to the impeachment trial of US President Bill Clinton, as too the travails of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his fling with an underage escort. The 1998 Lewinsky affair left the public approval ratings of Clinton unscathed as every economic indicator was at a 30-year best, with unemployment at 4.4 per cent, inflation at one per cent and fourth quarter growth at six per cent.

In the 1998 congressional elections, the Democratic Party gained seats in the House and lost none in the Senate, an unprecedented achievement in the second term of a President. In 1998-99 Clinton handled effectively the aftermath of nuclear testing by India and Pakistan, the Kargil stand-off, besides shepherding West Asia peace talks, almost to resolution.

Rajiv Gandhi highlights the other category where the scandal taints the regime. From 1987 missteps leading up to the Bofors imbroglio had him verily cornered. But as his domestic troubles mounted and key Cabinet colleagues turned foes, he became hyperactive abroad. In July 1987 he dispatched Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) troops to Sri Lanka to enforce the peace accord. Having failed to either disarm the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) or implement the accord they returned unsung and bloodied in 1989-90.

In 1988 came Rajiv Gandhi's utopian global nuclear disarmament plan at the UN General Assembly. He achieved a breakthrough with China as that country was pursuing a larger strategy under Deng Xiaoping. With Pakistan, despite Benazir Bhutto's emergence, the talks were stalemated due to mismatched expectations.

Thus, with domestic credibility degraded, his diplomacy failed in the neighbourhood, shining multilaterally, where hope substitutes policy.

Dr Singh's dilemma is unique as he is still seen as an honest man running a scandal-mired government. He finds solace in approbation abroad. That cannot last unless he fixes the problem at home. There could be no better advice than Disraeli's in a peroration to his party before his death, urging them to "deliver to your posterity a land of liberty, of prosperity, of power and of glory".

* K.C. Singh is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry






When one looks across the Arab world today at the stunning spontaneous democracy uprisings, it is impossible to not ask: What is the US doing spending $110 billion this year supporting corrupt and unpopular regimes in Afghanistan and Pakistan that are almost identical to the governments we're applauding the Arab people for overthrowing?

Ever since 9/11, the West has hoped for a war of ideas within the Muslim world that would feature an internal challenge to the violent radical Islamic ideology of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. That contest, though, never really materialised because the regimes we counted on to promote it found violent Muslim extremism a convenient foil, so they allowed it to persist. Moreover, these corrupt, crony capitalist Arab regimes were hardly the ideal carriers for an alternative to Bin Ladenism. To the contrary, it was their abusive behaviour and vicious suffocation of any kind of independent moderate centrist parties that fuelled the extremism even more.

Now the people themselves have taken down those regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, and they're rattling the ones in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman and Iran. They are not doing it for us, or to answer Bin Laden. They are doing it by themselves for themselves — because they want their freedom and to control their own destinies. But in doing so they have created a hugely powerful, modernising challenge to Bin Ladenism, which is why Al Qaeda today is tongue-tied. It's a beautiful thing to watch.

Al Qaeda's answer to modern-day autocracy was its version of the seventh-century Caliphate. But the people — from Tunisia to Yemen — have come up with their own answer to violent extremism and the abusive regimes we've been propping up. It's called democracy. They have a long way to go to lock it in. It may yet be hijacked by religious forces. But, for now, it is clear that the majority wants to build a future in the 21st century, not the seventh.

In other words, the Arab people have done for free, on their own and for their own reasons, everything that we were paying their regimes to do in the "war on terrorism" but they never did.

And that brings me back to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Last October, Transparency International rated the regime of President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan as the second most corrupt in the world after Somalia's. That is the Afghan regime we will spend more than $110 billion in 2011 to support.

And tell me that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which dominates Pakistani politics, isn't the twin of Hosni Mubarak's security service. Pakistan's military leaders play the same game Mubarak played with us for years. First, they whisper in our ears: "Psst, without us, the radical Islamists will rule. So we may not be perfect, but we're the only thing standing in the way of the devil". In reality, though, they are nurturing the devil. The ISI is long alleged to have been fostering anti-Indian radical Muslim groups and masterminding the Afghan Taliban.

Apart from radical Islam, the other pretext the Pakistani military uses for its inordinate grip on power is the external enemy. Just as Arab regimes used the conflict with Israel for years to keep their people distracted and to justify huge military budgets, Pakistan's ISI tells itself, the Pakistani people and us that it can't stop sponsoring proxies in Afghanistan because of the "threat" from India.

Here's a secret: India is not going to invade Pakistan. It is an utterly bogus argument. India wants to focus on its own development, not owning Pakistan's problems. India has the second-largest Muslim population on the planet, more even than Pakistan. And while Indian Muslims are not without their economic and political grievances, they are, on the whole, integrated into India's democracy because it is a democracy. There are no Indian Muslims in Guantánamo Bay.

Finally, you did not need to dig very far in Egypt or Jordan to hear that one reason for the rebellion in Egypt and protests in Jordan was the in-your-face corruption and crony capitalism that everyone in the public knew about.

That same kind of pillaging of assets — natural resources, development aid, the meagre savings of a million Kabul bank depositors and crony contracts — has fuelled a similar anger against the regime in Afghanistan and undermined our nation-building efforts there.

The truth is we can't do much to consolidate the democracy movements in Egypt and Tunisia. They'll have to make it work themselves.

But we could do what we can, which is divert some of the $110 billion we're lavishing on the Afghan regime and the Pakistani Army and use it for debt relief, schools and scholarships to US universities for young Egyptians and Tunisians who had the courage to take down the very kind of regimes we're still holding up in Kabul and Islamabad.

I know we can't just walk out of Afghanistan and Pakistan; there are good people, too, in both places. But our involvement in these two countries — 1,50,000 troops to confront Al Qaeda — is totally out of proportion today with our interests and out of all sync with our values.







Someone has rightly said that it is easier to climb Mount Everest or battle the sharks in the deep sea than to forgive someone who has wronged us.

Forgiveness becomes all the more difficult if the person who wronged us happens to be our friend or a close relative. We then spend endless time thinking about why a person has done that to us, knowing well that no amount of thinking on the subject is going to bring any satisfactory answer.

When we begin to look at different experiences of our life we find that we not only need to forgive others but others also need to forgive us and that this occupies a huge area of our life. Some of us are caught in our own little insecurities. For example, "why should I be the first one to relent? Won't it mean that I am not strong enough or that I have caved in under pressure from someone or because I am really guilty?"

At several places, the New Testament of the Bible speaks about forgiveness which includes both — forgiveness of human beings to one another as well as of God's forgiveness towards human beings. One of the most touching parables narrated by Jesus is found in the Gospel of St. Luke and is popularly known as the parable of the "Prodigal Son" and with which many of us might be familiar.

It's the story of a rebellious son who rejects his father's upbringing. Prideful and strong, the son heads-off to a far-away land, leads a wild life of adventure and squanders everything of value (literally and symbolically). Not until he is confronted with failure and despair, does he return home, repentant and willing to do anything to win back his father's favour.

To his surprise and the surprise of others, he is welcomed, without question, into his father's loving and forgiving arms. No amount of time, no amount of money and no amount of rebellion could get in the way of the father's patience and unconditional love for his son. "For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found".

Of course, the great message of this parable is that God is patient and gracious with all of His children and we too could try and emulate that in our lives. God is willing to welcome each of us home into His loving and forgiving arms. That is why Lewis Smedes writing in his, The Art of Forgiving: When You Need To Forgive and Don't Know How, writes, "God is the original, master forgiver. The parable narrated by Jesus is so different from some of the experiences we have of parents at times turning hard-hearted just because it is difficult to forgive the wrong committed by one's own son or daughter. And the invitation of Jesus is not just for forgiveness of our own relations.

It extends to anyone who does wrong. That is why when Jesus was asked by his disciple, "Master, how many times must I forgive someone; seven times? Jesus replied, "Not seven times but 70 times seven". Though Jesus just rhymed seven with 70 — since the disciple thought that seven was already the maximum number of times that he should forgive — what he really meant was that one must forgive others as many times as one is wronged.

— Father Dominic Emmanuel, a founder-member of Parliament of Religions, is currently the director of communication of the Delhi Catholic Church. He was awarded the National Communal Harmony Award 2008 by the Government of India. He can be contacted at [1]





In the run up to the polls, the think tank of the ruling Congress is not only working a strategy to reverse the anti-incumbency of two terms but is also trying to poach some of the top leaders of the Asom Gana Parishad. Congress leaders believe that the AGP, seized with the fight of its "over-ambitious" leaders, is most vulnerable at present.

They draw inspiration from the way former Chief Minister, Mr Hiteswar Saikia poached the AGP stalwart, Mr Bharat Chandra Narah, now a minister in the Tarun Gogoi Cabinet. The BJP too recently drew out AGP leader, Mr Sarbananda Sonowal. In case the AGP wins, the Congress expects a huge fight between C.M. Patowary and Mr P.K. Mahanta. This will enable the Congress to upset the applecart by poaching more leaders from the AGP, in case the anti-incumbency factor leads to its defeat. Poaching may work where polling did not.

Lord save us from Maya

Bureaucrats and police officers in almost every district of Uttar Pradesh are thronging temples like never before.
The babus, we are told, are praying to the Almighty for a safe passage in "Maya Raj".

Ever since Chief Minister, Ms Mayawati, started touring districts of the state, babus have been praying for their well-being and safety. The iron lady is hard to please. She orders suspensions at the drop of a hat. She has, till date, ordered action against almost three dozen officials and does not even give them time for an explanation.

"District magistrates, revenue officials, and cops are holding special pujas, promising huge offerings," quips a bureaucrat. "Some are even fasting after learning that a senior official was suspended only because he had put his hands into his pocket in the presence of the chief minister." It seems that Maya will turn all officials into devotees by the time her term ends.

Unromantic Raman
Chhattisgarh chief minister, Mr Raman Singh, backs his director-general of police, Mr Vishwa Ranjan, to the hilt when it comes to policing of the state. But, it appears he does not pay the same kind of attention to his literary prowess.

Mr Singh made his feelings known, albeit in a subtle manner, while releasing a book — Neo Naxal Challenge, Issues and Options — written by additional director-general of police Giridhar Nayak at Raipur recently. Mr Singh said the state police chief had briefed him about the contents of the book. "I was relieved to learn that the book will not have any poems", he remarked in a lighter vein, obviously pointing at the DGP, a poet of repute. Mr Singh had earlier released several collections of poems penned by the DGP.

Though, Mr Singh's observation had the audience in splits, the DGP was seen squirming The DGP's supporters, however, came to his defence. "Mr Singh is not romantic enough to enjoy poems", one senior officer said.

All hail Vasundhara
The BJP has come full circle in Rajasthan. Two years back, when the party lost the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls, the leadership asked then Leader of the Opposition Vasundhara Raje to step down and promoted RSS-backed leaders.

As a leader quipped at that time, the slogan was "Sangham Saranam Gachchami". The state BJP found a new face in Arun Chaturvedi with the blessing of the RSS. The party appointed him as state president much against Ms Raje's wishes. Besides this, the former home minister, Gulab Chand Kataria, and the former education minister, Ghanshyam Tiwari, too emerged as leaders but the Raje camp refused to give space to Sangh favourites. Even Mr Chaturvedi's hands were tied and he could not perform. Now suddenly the BJP high command sent two observers from Delhi to Jaipur to anoint Ms Raje as Leader of the Opposition and her detractors were asked to fall in line. Even Mr Kataria and Mr Tiwari were not consulted. So now the Sangh itself has taken refuge in the Raje camp. The slogan is now "Raje Saranam Gacchami", said a saffron leader.

Rickshaw as metaphor

MLAs in Bihar have a craze for swanky cars. So one does not expect to see them travelling in a humble rickshaw. But the RJD legislator from Jagadishpur, Mr Bhai Dinesh, changed that perception by choosing to reach the Assembly to attend the budget session sitting in a rickshaw pulled by a skinny man.

Lensmen waiting at the Assembly naturally had a field day. Seeing that he had become the cynosure of the media, the MLA repeated the ride the next time but gave up when attention dwindled. He had no obvious point to make by his gimmick except, as other MLAs pointed out privately, to send a message that MLAs could no longer afford four-wheelers due to abolition of the MLAs' local area development fund. With this, Mr Dinesh's ride has become a metaphor of sorts.

Courting the sick

It is surely an unprecedented means to reach voters. Punjab's Akali-BJP administration is repainting all its new ambulances to prominently include a larger-than-life, all colour image of Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, alongside the coalition's electoral tagline: "Raj Nahi… Sewa". Evidently keen to miss no voter, including the terminally ill, the smiling likeness of the octogenarian chief minister will be splashed across 50 ambulances and 25 state-of-the-art mobile medical units that are due to hit the streets.

And even though the deputy chief minister, Mr Sukhbir Badal, is expected to spearhead the Akali campaign for the elections due next February, the party is intent on squeezing every available ounce from his ageing father's stature. Akali Dal strategists are convinced that people in distress will not only be grateful but are also the most likely to remember their "saviour".

"Party-poopers" have cautioned that the photo-ambulances could prove most embarrassing if the Election Commission were to pull them off road or worse, order the CM's face painted over after the model code comes into force.








THE West Bengal Assembly Speaker's swipe at the Election Commission is unwarranted, and it is all too obvious that the skirmish is driven by a punctured ego. The EC is a constitutional authority with the prerogative to fix election dates when the legislature nears the conclusion of its five-year tenure. There is a streak of presumptuousness, if not arrogance, in Mr Hashim Abdul Halim asserting that the EC ought to have consulted him or the Governor before declaring the dates. Also in evidence is an ignorance of the law. The standard procedure that is followed on the eve of election is for the government ~ Centre or state ~ to present a vote-on-account pending the formation of a new government. Mr Halim can't be unaware that the Left Front, as indeed the Centre, has been following this system before every assembly election since 1977. The vote-on-account ~ scheduled to be presented on 25 March ~ is as much a "constitutional obligation'' as the presentation of the budget.  The Speaker appears to be driven by an afterthought in expressing his strong reservations.
Theoretically, a budget signals the government's statement of intent.  On a parity of reasoning, should the finance department go ahead with a formal budget, the risk of yet another violation of the model code of conduct is substantial. The department will stew in its own juice; its minister is already under a cloud for having signed files with fiscal implications after the election dates were announced. The Left Front can scarcely afford further setbacks in the run-up. Yes, there is a constitutional provision for the next government to alter the budget. West Bengal has reached a grim pass in terms both political and fiscal, and it would be prudent to avoid an exercise that might turn out to be redundant. An admittedly tentative budget instead of a vote-on-account will only exacerbate the complications that already exist. This isn't the time to embark on a legislative ego trip.



THE stakes are critical not merely for Nobel laureate Mohammad Yunus, the pioneer of micro-finance, but for Bangladesh's standing in international relations no less. The circumstances leading to his removal from the post of managing director of Grameen Bank, that he founded in 1983, remain fogbound despite the Hasina government's recourse to the drastic last Wednesday. On the face of it, Yunus was moved out because he had reached 70 and had served the bank for ten years longer than the stipulated age of retirement for government servants in Bangladesh.  Prima facie, he had breached the retirement rules in the institution that he founded and this must be the only charge against him that is indubitable. But Yunus' prolonged spat with Prime Minister Hasina suggests that the age factor is not the single issue. It bears recall that he had first fallen out with the political class when he signalled his intent to float a party to weed out corruption.  In a counter-blast, Hasina, after taking over as Prime Minister, ordered an investigation against Yunus, condemning him as a "blood-sucker" for imposing high rates of interest on the poor.

While Yunus intends to move court over his removal, there is need for both sides to clear the air. At stake is the functioning of Grameen Bank that was set up to provide micro-credit to the perdurably poor who can't afford to avail of bank loans for agriculture and cottage industries. Going by ground realities, the agenda by itself is not convincing enough.  Poverty remains ever so stark in Bangladesh and is indeed a primary factor behind the cross-border migration. Beyond a personal kerfuffle, the government must assess whether the bank has really benefited the poor. The work of Grameen Bank has inspired similar experiments abroad, pre-eminently compliments from Mary Robinson, former Irish President and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  For all that, the bank has been under a cloud in recent months and it devolves on Yunus to demonstrate whether the institution has had a profound impact on welfare. Thus far there has been more trading of charges than a probe into the nitty-gritty; chiefly the government's charge that he had transferred development funds from Norway ~ earmarked for Grameen ~ to some other venture.  The government has doubtless been influenced by this allegation of corruption aired through a Norwegian television documentary. The Awami administration must initiate its own investigation without relying wholly on the foreign media's claim. Equally, Yunus will have to make a conscientious effort to keep himself in the clear. Grameen Bank is the victim of allegations and denials; the casualty is the poor for whom this institution purportedly exists.


FORTUNATELY, timely intervention by their seniors contained the punch-up between a Pakistani Ranger and an Indian BSF jawan at the flag-lowering ceremony at the Wagah-Attari international border post. While the immediate provocation may have been one man elbowing the other (it is of little consequence who was the culprit) as they went through their drills, there can be no ignoring the reality that the excessive aggressiveness that now marks the joint-ceremonial created the conditions in which it took little for a fuse to be blown. In fact there is an element of the inevitable to the unsavoury incident, it was a miracle that it did not happen before. The transformation of the ceremony into a display of "aggro" is reflective of just how strained are the bilateral relations; the levels of hostility on display actually increase if there has been firing or a clash elsewhere on the frontier. In the days after Partition, old-timers insist, the closing of the gates and lowering of the flags was seen as a projection of civil conduct: indeed a reassurance that while the land may have been divided human relations had survived the trauma of 1947. People from Lahore and Amritsar went to the border, on Saturday evenings particularly, to wave to each other, share the poignancy of the "Retreat" as the border guards went through an elaborate, jointly-choreographed drill. When competitive smartness on parade degenerated into a confrontationist "mini war game" is difficult to establish. But it has snowballed. The men are now required to "stomp" their boots so hard there was talk of replacing the tarmac ~ a road runs between the gateways ~ with a rubberised surface to avert the jawans damaging their feet.

That things were going too far was recognised and occasionally orders were issued to tone down the stand-off, but sadly the impact was short-lived. Now there has been a warning of how easy it is for things to go out of hand. Ideally the local "commanders" should jointly rework the drill, inject a greater degree of civility into the affair. If no common ground is established, instructions should go out from North Block that the BSF unilaterally shed the aggressiveness. That will not be any loss of face, only a display of a capacity to rise above the petty and thereby send out a signal that cultural dignities have not been abandoned ~ by one "side" at least.







MEGHNAD Saha (1893-1955), the great  scientist, had appreciated Mahatma  Gandhi's "genuine sympathy with the victims of an aggressive and selfish industrialism". Nevertheless, he wasn't convinced that the perfect socio-economic order could be achieved by "discarding modern scientific techniques and reverting back to the spinning wheel, the loin cloth and the bullock cart".

In contrast to the Gandhian utopia of simple life, Saha advocated industrial progress, scientific nationality and a carefully planned economy based on scientific research. As early as 1922, when he was 29, he was a bitter critic of the Gandhian programme. And there were several points in his criticism. He argued that the primary basis of modern civilisation is science. For our survival, we need to fight with nature. And to win in this struggle, we have to take recourse to science. Such slogans as 'go back to nature' or do away with factories and bring about parity between capital and labour are misleading. Contrary to the argument that Bolshevik Russia had done away with industries, a large number of  units had actually come up. A  major part of the railways was run on electricity and Lenin was in favour of power-based agriculture. The Bolsheviks did succeed in erasing the differences between the rich and the poor. In Saha's reckoning, there is no substance in the argument that scientific research was responsible for the misuse of industrial civilisation. Sacrifice alone was not enough to abolish poverty. To achieve the objective, the youth must be engaged in trade and industry, both controlled by foreigners at that point in time. India, the scientist argued, would have to use her natural resources. The country will have to explore the frontiers of science.

Saha wanted the power and beauty of science to be highlighted. Gandhi's perception was essentially spiritual and religious; he ignored the material foundations of Indian civilisation. A scientist would have very little regard for the Mahatma's economic and social theories. Saha perceived Gandhi's role in India to be similar to that of Tolstoy in Russia.

Saha's views ~ similar to that of Ambedkar and Tagore ~ had a profound impact on national life in the Thirties.


In 1934, Gandhi severed his ties with the Congress and started the All India Village Industries Association. Both Acharya PC Ray and Tagore accepted Gandhi's request to become members of its advisory council. A plan was drawn up for village-based cottage industries. However, there was no scope for large industries, let alone a blueprint for setting up a Planning Commission.

After the promulgation of the Government of India Act of 1935, the Congress came to power in most of the provinces. It was increasingly realised that modern technology was essential if the problems of poverty, unemployment and backwardness were to be tackled. Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, Acharya PC Ray and Meghnad Saha spearheaded a movement for industrialisation and planned economic reconstruction. Ramananda Chatterjee, the  editor of Modern Review, supported the movement. The special issue of August 1938 contained a number of articles in support of industrialisation and scientific planning, written by  Acharya PC Ray, S Bhatnagar, GL Mehta, VP Khaitan, AR Dalal, Prof Subramanian and Meghnad Saha. The title of Saha's article was 'the philosophy of industrialisation' and it criticised the Congress leadership for not according due weightage to planning, industrialisation and scientific research.

The scientist was critical of Gandhi's Wardha scheme of education, one that ignored scientific research and planning. Saha was able to convince Netaji. On 2 October 1938,  a conference of Congress industry ministers was held in Delhi. Subhas Bose placed the proposal on a Planning Commission and a committee was formed.  Saha set about trying to convince Tagore as well. In 1938, the Planning Commission was established.
Saha went to Santiniketan on 13 November 1938 and presented an essay entitled 'a new philosophy of life'. It advocated the need for  productivity. This was substantiated with a comparison of performance levels between an Indian and an average European or American. An average Indian's productivity was merely 5 per cent in comparison to that of a westerner. In the West, the sources of natural energy ~ water, coal or electricity ~ have always been put to maximum use. In Europe and America, the energy output of machines was equivalent to one horse working for 24 hours right through the year. Deducing from this example, Saha asserted that there was no dearth of energy in India but only 2 per cent of it was used. The bulk of the work was done manually, and that meant twenty times less per capita production. This explains why India continues to be poor by 20 times in comparison to America and Europe. Saha was emphatic that if we really want to make our nation prosperous, we will have to use our natural energies and bring about an industrial civilisation.

Village life, he argued, cannot be the ideal way of life. If the town dwellers returned to the village, it would aggravate the problems of the rural areas. The demands of town and country are much the same ~ food, clothing and shelter. Creation of employment opportunities will not only help alleviate poverty, but will also enhance our capacity. To achieve this objective, we will have to industrialise and go in for planned development.
Saha believed that if we all returned to the village to make India a predominantly agricultural country, it would be easier for a few capitalists to exploit us. In the West, key industries such as energy, machinery, transport and infrastructure were under state control. They cannot, therefore, be used for the benefit of a few. In India, we will have to follow the pattern that Sun Yat Sen initiated in China in 1923 ~ establish the primacy of industry under state supervision to achieve prosperity.

Tagore endorsed Saha's paradigm. Aldous Huxley concurred with the scientist and described Gandhi's khadi movement as anti- science.  During his tour of the Harijan areas in the mid-Thirties, the Mahatma also acknowledged that khadi had become a lifeless symbol. Both Netaji and Nehru upheld Saha's perception and it became the model of India's planning and industrialisation after independence. The scientist's transformative criticism of the Gandhian view of science and technology was accepted by the Mahatma's successors. No wonder Saha became the architect of modern India's planning and industrialisation. His views are  relevant even today.







PAPUA NEW GUINEA, 6 MARCH: For 74 years, the fate of Amelia Earhart, the American pilot who disappeared over the Pacific Ocean while attempting to circumnavigate the globe, has been one of aviation's great mysteries. Did she run out of fuel and ditch in the sea? Was she eaten by crabs after being cast away on a far-flung island? Was she captured and executed as a spy by the Japanese? Did she return secretly to the USA and assume another identity?

All these theories, and more, have been canvassed since the aviation pioneer and her navigator, Fred Noonan, lost radio contact in July 1937. Now locals in Papua New Guinea (PNG), the pair's last stop before they vanished, claim to have found the wreck of Earhart's Lockheed Electra 10-E in 230ft of water, on a reef near Buka island, in the Bougainville region. A businessman, Cletus Harepa, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation yesterday that he was assembling a team of divers to inspect the coral-encrusted wreck. He said a diver who had already been down had found two skulls in the cockpit ~ and also three boxes of gold bullion.
The claims were greeted with scepticism ~ one US expert called them "silly beyond description". But PNG's Post Courier said there were "strong indications" that Earhart's plane ~ which set off from Lae, on the New Guinea mainland, on a 2,500-mile flight to tiny Howland Island in the central Pacific - was the one found in Bougainville.

"The crash site is in direct alignment with Earhart's flight path out of Lae, past north of Buka Island in a straight north-east direction to Howland," the paper reported. The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, 41-year-old Earhart ~ by then an international celebrity ~ had completed 22,000 miles of her round-the-world journey when she arrived in Lae. All that remained for the "Queen of the Air", as she was known, was to traverse the Pacific, about 7,000 miles.

Something, though, went badly wrong on that first leg. Earhart radioed a US ship, saying: "We must be on you but cannot see you ~ but gas is running low. Have been unable to reach you by radio." That was the last heard from her and Noonan.

the independent





The differences that led to the collapse of the alliance of the Congress with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam look trivial. Whether the Congress should contest 60 or 63 seats in the Tamil Nadu assembly elections is hardly an issue for a rupture. A seat or two more to the Congress would not have made the hold of Tamil Nadu's ruling family on power any more insecure. The breakdown of negotiations suggests the emergence of some courage, verging on brinkmanship, in the Congress — a trait displayed no less by the budget presented last week by its finance minister at the Centre.

At a first glance, the budget was least sensational and most forgettable — hardly the budget designed to win five elections in the next five months. Even the Opposition, which has disrupted Parliament at the slightest pretext in the last few months, was put to sleep by it. That was the most sensational part of it. It marked the end of the Congress's panic. Since the late 1990s, the Congress has been looking desperately for a path to power. In its quest, it forged alliances it would never have thought of earlier. It looked for a formula that would defeat resurgent Hindutva, and found it in a return to populism, which it once preferred to call socialism. In its earlier incarnation, the ideology involved soaking the rich. Confiscatory taxation and a stranglehold on private enterprise were the hallmark of the Congress in its heyday. That formula failed spectacularly in the 1991 payments crisis. Its ideological uniform in tatters, the Congress reinvented itself as a party of liberal reforms. But its then new suit is also getting old, and it is going back to its traditional attire.

The two legs of its new strategy are the rural employment scheme, and the public distribution scheme for foodgrains. It was on these that it marched to success in the 2009 elections. Now, though, it has halted in its march. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act has run into local labour shortages, and states are not able to spend the money the Centre has thrust on them. And, as the Economic Survey pointed out, it makes no sense for the government to keep buying foodgrains without ever dishoarding them. So the finance minister was at a loss for ideas to blow up money. This is behind the precipitate slowdown in the expansion of government and improvement in the fiscal deficit ratio. There has been a change of circumstances. It suggests a change of heart, but one cannot be too sure of it yet. The government's spendthrift ways have brought back inflation. If this threatens the Congress's power base, it will look for old ways of courting voters, which will involve a return to yawning deficits. More than one budget is needed to prove that the tiger has lost its stripes and not just taken a mudbath.






The edginess any normal human being feels on Calcutta roads is multiplied many times by the sight of numberless drivers and pedestrians talking on cell phones. There has been another death at a railway crossing in Khardah, of a young woman traversing the tracks walking a bicycle with one hand and holding a cell phone to her ear with the other. This is far from the first death in this way, even far from being among the first few. Roads, driver's seats and railway tracks are not places for talking intensely on cell phones — there was a time when they did not exist but the world did. True, an advance in technology and an easing of life's stresses are more than welcome, but only if the device really does lower stress, not increase it. If it is necessary to seize the phone every time it squeaks and burst into conversation, whether in the middle of crossing the railway tracks or a busy intersection, or while turning a steering wheel on a crowded road with multiple signals, then it has succeeded not in increasing just stress but the risk to life — one's own life and those of others — as well.

In this case at least it would be unreasonable to blame the police for not hauling up every driver who talks on the phone while driving in spite of warnings. He, and others like him, are not immature idiots. Nothing in the world could be so urgent, no boss or partner or parent so importunate, that a conversation must be carried on while walking or driving — sometimes with the phone stuck between raised shoulder and lowered cheek while both hands grip the handlebars of a speeding two-wheeler — or in the immediate vicinity of tram or train tracks. A minimum of sense, consideration and responsibility can be expected of someone who is using a machine. If people require the police to enforce laws and penalties about cell-phone usage on the roads — because they might die or kill — they should not be using cell phones.






The Union finance and railway ministers both hail from Bengal. The comparison seems to end there. The budget for the railways, presented just a couple of days before the Union budget, seemed to have only one objective — how to win the next election in West Bengal for the Trinamul Congress. Railway finances are in pitiful shape, and they will only get worse by the end of the next financial year. In contrast, Pranab Mukherjee has surprised everyone by framing a budget which has desisted from any attempt to buy votes or placate the many critics of the United Progressive Alliance government through populist measures. The finance minister has given us a pleasant surprise with a budget based on sound economic principles, but perhaps one which is unduly optimistic.

He clearly believes that the most important concern should be an attempt to restore the fiscal health of the Central exchequer. In order to achieve this, he plans to carry out the biggest fiscal correction in recent memory. The net result of the planned fiscal correction will be a reduction in the fiscal deficit to 4.6 per cent of gross domestic product, compared to the revised estimate of just over 5 per cent for the current year. But, of course, the government obtained a bonanza because of the 3G spectrum auctions during this year. The proceeds from the sale of 3G licences accounted for as much as 1.3 per cent of the reduction in the fiscal deficit. Since the government cannot hope for any such windfall gains during the next year, the budget effectively plans to bring down the fiscal deficit by almost 2 per cent of GDP during the year.

How does the finance minister hope to achieve this? On the revenue side, he hopes for an increase of 18 per cent in tax proceeds. This figure does not seem unrealistic if the economy does actually attain the targeted rate of growth of 14 per cent in nominal terms. Tax revenues have been very buoyant in recent years, largely because of a much improved tax administration and legislation which have plugged several loopholes. What seems unbelievable at first sight is the expenditure side of the budget. Total expenditure is targeted to increase by just over 3 per cent in nominal terms. Since the expected rate of inflation is around 4.5 per cent, this means that he is actually contemplating a cut in real expenditure.

But can Mukherjee come even close to achieving this huge reduction in expenditure? A second look at the figures reveals that he is pinning a lot of hope on being able to slash the expenditure on subsidies. He announced that the government would, by the end of the year, shift to a system of direct cash transfers to below-poverty-line families instead of subsidizing kerosene and fertilizers. The use of unique identification numbers will enable identification of intended beneficiaries and thus help to make the system of direct transfers feasible. More important, it will plug the leakages in our subsidy system and drastically reduce the subsidy bill. Whether it will be effective enough to bring down the subsidy bill to the level stated in the budget is questionable since it will only be used towards the end of the year. Nevertheless, any initiative of this kind is an important and welcome departure from the inefficient subsidy system that has plagued our public finances.

Some critics have attacked the budget on the grounds that it does not reveal any plan to either contain inflation or promote growth. But, of course, the budget is vastly anti-inflationary in view of its focus on fiscal correction. As far as growth is concerned, the finance minister's philosophy seems to be that the global environment has now improved sufficiently for the Indian private sector to flourish, provided it is freed from excessive government interference. So, he has left tax rates virtually unchanged while simultaneously withdrawing the fiscal stimulus package. The corporate sector must have been pleasantly surprised that Central excise taxes were not raised to the pre-2008 level — a move which was widely expected. Another gift to the corporate sector is the decision to restrict market borrowings of the Central government. So, the private sector will not have to compete with the government for loanable funds. This will mean lower interest rates and hence lower cost of borrowing.

Despite the targeted reduction in overall expenditure, the budget does increase allocations to infrastructure, the social sectors and agriculture. Apart from the increased plan outlay in infrastructure, the government also hopes to attract increased funding by making it easier for foreign investors to enter the sector. In agriculture, the main focus has been an attempt to reduce supply-side constraints by improving rural marketing facilities. Several layers of intermediaries result in a huge gap between the prices received by farmers and the prices paid by consumers. The decision to set up mega food parks and improve storage facilities will eliminate at least some intermediaries. Some funds have also been set aside to improve productivities in pulses and coarse cereals.

There is a notable absence of eye-catching, big banner reforms in this budget. However, this will not be a "reform free year" since Mukherjee has announced that the government does intend to bring forth fresh legislation during the course of the year to initiate pension reforms as well as changes in the banking sector. However, no details have been announced. More disappointing was the failure to commit to any firm deadline about when the goods and service tax scheme would be implemented. Of course, the latter needs a constitutional amendment and hence cooperation from the Opposition parties. The prime minister shifted the blame to the Opposition by stating during the course of a television interview that some Opposition parties are still opposed to the introduction of the GST. Some more openness about the state of play would be most welcome.

The government is now a small player in the overall economy. Public investment is roughly a fifth of the total investment in the economy; public sector production is even smaller. In this globalized world, the domestic economy is also heavily influenced by what happens in the rest of the world. Against this background, it makes sense for the government to play just an enabling role in so far as aggregate growth is concerned, but reserve for itself the role of the principal actor in the social sector. This budget will be welcomed by those who subscribe to this view.

The author is professor of economics, University of Warwick






One of the incidental pleasures of the past few weeks has been to watch 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, 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 that underpins much of the outside comment 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. 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.

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. Every pre-civilized society we know about operated on the assumption that its members were equals. What drove this was not idealism but pragmatism.

Popular voice

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 small societies: rarely more than 50 adults. 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. That is who we are, and how we prefer to behave unless some enormous obstacle gets in our way.

The enormous obstacle was civilization. The mass societies that we call civilizations arose less than 10,000 years ago. Until very recently, all of them, without exception, were tyrannies. The mass societies had many more decisions to make. Their huge numbers made any attempt at discussing the question as equals impossible, so the only ones that 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.




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




The Bofors case is destined to be buried without much hope for resurrection with a Delhi court's acceptance of the CBI's closure report seeking to drop all charges against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, a middleman who facilitated the gun deal between the Swedish company and the Indian government in 1986. The other accused in the case are dead and Quattrocchi is abroad, having fled India in 1993, with the knowledge and perhaps help from the then Congress government and the same investigating agency which now says it is difficult to extradite him.  Quattrocchi was close to then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and his family and this allegedly helped him swing the deal. There is direct and circumstantial evidence of wrongdoing and payment of commission, brought out by statements of those involved in the deal, media investigations and other sources. But 25 years of official investigations and prosecution attempts have finally come to nought.

The CBI's effort from the beginning has been to scuttle the case. It has, true to its reputation, acted in subservience to its political masters and tried to shield the accused and those who conspired with them. For some strange reason, even the BJP government which was in power for many years at the Centre, did not pursue the case sincerely. Therefore, the party's criticism of the government and the CBI for their failure to bring Quattrocchi and others to book sound unconvincing. The Delhi court's reasoning to accept the CBI's request is odd. It says the country cannot afford to spend tax-payers' hard-earned on Quattrocchi's extradition. This is weird logic. It was the common man's money that went as commission to the middlemen. There is nothing wrong in spending money to probe wrong-doing and corruption and punish those who cheated the public of its money. It should also be noted that the money was wasted because the CBI consciously decided to scuttle the case and dragged the investigation for decades. In any case the quantum of money spent is not the measure of public interest.

The court's decision is bound to be appealed. In January this year an income-tax appellate tribunal sought to revive the case with its conclusion that there is evidence of corruption. But legal retribution seems unlikely for the wrong-doers and those behind them, though the moral and political stigma is certain to haunt to them.








The anti-government uprising in Libya, inspired by the popular revolts against dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, has turned into a civil war with unwelcome prospects of foreign intervention. If the mass protests and responses to them in those two countries were largely peaceful, from day one they were marked by violence in Libya. Libyan strongman Muammar Gadhafi has resorted to a brutal armed suppression of his own people. He has vowed to fight to the last and kill the protesters 'house by house'. The eastern part of Libya is under the control of the protesters while the west, which includes the capital, Tripoli, is still with Gadhafi's forces. More than a thousand people have been killed and it is likely that the violence will continue.

It would be wrong on the part of the US, Britain and other western countries to directly intervene in Libya to oust Gadhafi. The US has ordered its sixth fleet to move close to Libya in the Mediterranean and British Prime Minister David Cameroon has warned of military action. But foreign intervention in Libya will only weaken the uprising and strengthen Gadhafi's position. It will reduce the legitimacy of the protests and give Gadhafi moral and political succour. It is surprising that the west has not learnt from past follies like the attack on Iraq. Instability and trouble in Libya can create problems for the world economy because the country is a major oil producer. But that is no reason for external intervention. An attack on Libya would also increase the rift between the Islamic world and the west and exacerbate tensions. Gadhafi may be transformed from a villain into a martyr.

Libya is economically better off than its neighbours because of the oil wealth and the small size of the population. The protests there are a political fight for democracy and freedom from a 41-year-old dictatorship. Gadhafi's strong-arm measures against the people, which include even aerial attacks on them, cannot continue for long and he will have to give up sooner rather than later. He is steadily losing support inside the country. Many Libyan officials and diplomats and a section of the army have deserted him. The world can extend moral and political support to the people who are fighting for basic freedoms and rights but it is wrong to try to oust the dictator through the use of external force.







'The saddest non-regret is from Pakistani leaders who are silent over the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti.'
Friday, March 4, should be declared the International Day of Regret by the United Nations. Regrets flooded Saturday's newspapers, in stories from east to west; it came in many forms, from eyes-lowered-acknowledgment to muted-murmured-sorry to the antithetical no-regret accompanied by a brash to-hell-with-you.

The most creative instance was surely that of Bangladesh cricket fans: they did not quite rue stoning the West Indies team bus after their side was hammered into oblivion; they merely regretted the fact that they had got the wrong bus. What they wanted was to throw some accurately-aimed stones at their own players. They atoned for their mistake by breaking window panes of their captain Shakib al Hasan's home. That should put Hasan in a good frame of mind for the next match. To be fair, Bengalis don't mind defeat; they just can't take humiliation, whether in Dhaka or at Kolkata's Eden Gardens.

The most ingenious example was from the London School of Economics, which had, in its infinite wisdom, awarded a doctorate to surely the most intellectual thug of the 21st century, Saif al-Islam, the second son of Muammar Gaddafi, in 2008. Saif's  supervisors detected neither irony nor plagiarism in the Saif thesis on 'The role of civil society in the democratisation of global governance institutions: From 'soft power' to collective decision-making?' Don't miss the deliciously academic question mark at the end. The director of LSE, Howard Davies, has resigned, but can probably expect to head the Saif Conglomerate of Universities for Economics and Mercenary Operations just as soon as Saif has reconquered Libya. It was, but naturally, a complete accident that LSE got a 1.5 million pound donation from Saif's dad soon after the doctorate, since British institutions can never be accused of corruption. London must be full of people nostalgic for the old days: this was exactly how it happened during those good old days of the Raj, when the British gave a gong to natives and took the jewels in return. The natives, however, have got cleverer. Saif actually gave only 3,00,000 pounds of the promised 1.5 million. He must have learnt something about economics at LSE. Regret, though, is not in his DNA; his father Muammar has at various times imagined himself as either the queen of England or the prime minister of India, but is really the French Bourbons who, famously, learnt nothing and forgot nothing.

Civil response

But the real market for regrets has surely opened in India. There is explicit or implicit regret wherever you look. The disgraced Chief Vigilance Commissioner P J Thomas must be seething with them; if he had quit in the first week of December he would have lost his job but not his grace. That is not a bad trade-off. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh still has the quality to dignify regret, which is why his acknowledgement of responsibility for Thomas' appointment received such a civil response from the BJP leader of the Lok Sabha Opposition, Sushma Swaraj. But Singh has not revealed what he truly regrets: that his leadership is under question today because he has been misled by his own side. He signed off on the decision, but the choice was not his. He would not have dismissed Swaraj's objections as politics if his own civil servants had briefed him better.

Two points arise. First, is regret sufficient? In the case of Thomas, yes, since the CVC has not done anything to besmirch the CVC's office. The real problem before the prime minister is that the list of things he should regret during the tenure of the UPA-2 government is slicing off its credibility, day by day, both in sequence and consequence. What he should truly regret is that a man like Hasan Ali Khan, fingered by Indian police for stashing away $8 billion in Swiss and other banks on behalf of an elite bunch of crooks, is still breathing free air. Khan has the mysterious ability to fall ill whenever the police want to question him; and the police have the even more mysterious desire to accept Khan's word for it. Khan used this excuse again about an hour of his latest meeting with the Enforcement Directorate, and the very solicitous police officers agreed. There is something deeply rotten in the system.

The saddest non-regret is surely from those leaders of Pakistan who have chosen silence as their response to the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian minister in the cabinet, killed for his views on the blasphemy laws. According to Ahmed Rashid, the doyen of Pakistani commentators, army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani refused to condemn the killing of Salmaan Taseer, former governor of Punjab, for similar reasons, because there were too many soldiers under his command who sympathised with the assassins.
That is the transition of regret to fear; how long before fear mutates into dread?








Bangladesh could become a model for how to handle international crimes in a local setting.

In the last days of the bloody war that created this nation out of the eastern half of Pakistan in 1971, a gang of men abducted Alim Chowdhury, an eye surgeon and independence activist, from his home. Three days later, his battered body was found in a mass grave, his eyes gouged from his head.

His killers, members of a pro-Pakistan militia, were never punished. Moulana Abdul Mannan, the man who confessed to orchestrating the killing, according to a government investigation, went on to become a cabinet minister and member of the Bangladesh parliament. He died in 2006.

Now, 40 years after Bangladesh's independence struggle, the government is seeking to prosecute individuals accused of atrocities like the one against Chowdhury.

The effort has touched a raw political nerve here and illustrates a conundrum of international law: Can a country, particularly a young and poor one, fairly try its own citizens for crimes against humanity?

Many of those accused of atrocities are not only still alive, but are also among the leading members of two of the main opposition political parties and have enjoyed long stints in power. Six men have been arrested in connection with various crimes of the era, all of them major political figures. The government hopes to try them in a tribunal of its own creation in the coming months.

A model

The Bangladesh tribunal is being closely watched, and its outcome could have wide implications. Developing countries whose governments have been accused of atrocities, from Sudan to Sri Lanka, have argued that international tribunals are selectively applied to poor nations and represent a new form of imperialism. A successful, fair and transparent trial in Bangladesh could be an important model, international justice experts say.

But it will not be easy. Indeed, the whole concept of international justice rests in part on the reality that in the aftermath of a horrendous conflict, national courts are likely to be too politicised to deliver impartial justice.

The quest for justice is particularly problematic in Bangladesh, where politics is a deeply personalised, polarising business, and almost all of the accused are political enemies of the current government, led by the Awami League's Sheikh Hasina Wazed.

After decades of being derided as a basket case, in Henry Kissinger's infamous assessment, Bangladesh is enjoying a season of stability and relative prosperity. Its current government was elected in a landslide in 2008, bringing back democracy after a spell of military-backed rule. Its economy has sprung to life, growing at about 6 per cent last year. Healing the wounds of the independence era is a crucial next step, government officials say.

Bangladesh's government has pledged to hold fair trials and has sought the help of western governments and international officials, including Stephen Rapp, the US ambassador at large for war crimes. Rapp said Bangladesh could become a model for how to handle international crimes in a local setting.

"We are now convinced that it would not be possible for this government to deliver justice impartially and fairly," said Khaleda Zia, leader of the Bangladesh National Party.

One senior member of her party is among the accused. The rest are members of Jamaat-e-Islami, a party that supported union with Pakistan during the war of independence and created several militias that were accused of killing tens of thousands of people.

Bangladesh was born in blood, and in many ways the cleavages opened by the war persist to this day. It has never fully reconciled the split between Pakistan loyalists and those who fought for independence. Abdur Razzaq, a senior member of Jamaat-e-Islami and a lawyer, said that it was not a crime to oppose independence.

"It is 100 per cent correct that they were in favour of Pakistan, that they prayed to God for a united Pakistan," he said of the members of his party who had been accused of atrocities. "But it is 100 per cent incorrect that these people were involved in war crimes."

Like many opposition leaders, he argued that the poisonous political atmosphere in Bangladesh made fair trails impossible, and he said that a process of reconciliation like the one in South Africa at the end of apartheid would be more appropriate for Bangladesh. But victims and their advocates scoff at that notion.

Another complicating factor is the death penalty. The war's victims say it is necessary to execute the guilty to ensure that they are not released by future governments.

"You don't know when Khaleda Zia is in power next time, will she let them all out of prison?" Shahriar Kabir, who has fought for the war crimes trials for decades, said.








We were all mortified at the suffering we put the old man through.

As each generation grows up there is always a curiosity to know something about the past in the family's history. An enthralling journey down memory lane is the tales about one's ancestors, preferably where the skeletons tumbled out of the cupboard. As my growing up years were in Delhi most of the stories about our family were based on what my parents told us rather than hearing them from grandparents or other family elders living in the erstwhile Mysore state.

My paternal great grandfather had been bestowed an 'Inam' village by the then ruler of Mysore. This entitled him to collect an annual tax from the inhabitants. Many years later my father would travel all the way from Delhi to the village for this ritual. Those days the main train to the South was the Grand Trunk Express powered by a steam engine. My father would prepare for the soot filled journey by buying a new pair of khaki shorts and a khaki Sola hat. He would be received at the village station with a lot of pomp and fanfare. However, at the crunch time he would be told why the tax would not be paid that year because of drought, and other supposedly natural or man-made calamities. His trips would end up being expensive as he would also have carried gifts for the village elders. The government's repealing of 'Inam' villages deprived my brothers and me from enjoying this privilege.

My grand uncle was universally popular amongst the young at all family functions. No one knew his real age but with his walrus moustache he always looked as if he was nearing his century. He regaled us with stories of a bygone era. He was addicted to snuff and always carried a small steel snuff box along with a rather 'aromatic' white-turned-brown handkerchief. It was mesmerising to watch his ritual each time it was time for him to have a 'fix'. One of my uncles once managed to sneak out that box and replaced the snuff with coffee powder. We were all mortified at the suffering we put the old man through. Being a great sport he forgave us pretty soon.

After marriage the portfolio of tales grew. My wife's maternal grandfather served in the postal department in Madras Presidency. During the First World War he volunteered for military service. He endured a long and tough journey for a posting in Mesopotamia (the modern day Iraq).One of his supposed skills was in cooking. There are several versions on what vegetarian fare he actually dished out to the other soldiers. However, we were told that there was universal appreciation in the trenches for his 'paal payasam' which he made with condensed milk to celebrate the Armistice.

I wonder, in the decades to come, what anecdotal activities of mine would interest my grandchildren to narrate to their friends. I shudder to think!









In an interview on the occasion of his visit to the Jerusalem International Book Fair, Umberto Eco talked about the question of why the popularity of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" did not wane after it was discovered to have been a forgery. He quoted one of the heads of the secret police in czarist Russia, who said that in order to quiet the masses, it is necessary to provide them with objects of hatred. Hatred, said Eco, is the force that propels the world. The discovery that the "Protocols" are a forgery pales beside the need for hatred; in fact, the text's popularity even increased.

A few days before the start of the demonstrations in Libya, Muammar Gadhafi called upon Palestinian refugees to board a ship and sail to Israel. He felt the earthquake in the Middle East was also headed his way, and tried at the last minute to divert the protests toward Israel, and to give the Libyan masses an object of hatred to quiet them. But instead of observing a tsunami striking the shores of Israel, Gadhafi has had to watch a tsunami inundating his country.

For decades Israel served as a tool for control and oppression in the hands of innumerable leaders in the Arab world. Fanning hatred and fear of Israel is a more effective means for uniting diverse and rival groups within a population and for imposing dictatorial regimes. One might almost say that if Israel didn't exist it would have been necessary to invent it.

Moreover, the unresolved Palestinian problem has served as an excuse for many countries in the region, Israel included, to avoid solving acute problems concerning poverty, the status of religion and individual freedoms. Declaring a national state of emergency in the face of an external enemy has served as an escape hatch, allowing domestic problems that cry out for a solution to be ignored. Hatred of a regime that ignores the people's troubles, or even contributes to them, has been replaced by hatred of the "other" - a much safer hatred - and the status quo has been preserved.

But that era is over. And this is one of the most important messages of the demonstrations and revolutions of the winter of 2011 in the Middle East: The protest and the hatred, everywhere from Tunisia to Iran, are no longer directed outward but rather inward, directly at the oppressive rulers. In recent days, after playing the Israeli card proved to be disappointing, Gadhafi has tried another - fear of Al-Qaida - but this too has not been a winning card.

Many Israelis have reacted with suspicion and doubt with respect to the current earthquake affecting the Arab and Muslim world, on the grounds that it is not ripe for democracy or that democracy will in fact increase hostility toward Israel. This is an arrogant and egocentric point of view, which assumes that the entire Middle East revolves around Israel - just as for thousands of years, the planet Earth was considered to be the center of the solar system. Indeed, in 1514 Copernicus showed that the sun does not revolve around the earth, but rather the opposite.

The events of this winter are presaging a Copernican revolution in the Middle East: It turns out that Israel is not at its center, and that the tremendous energies displayed by the masses involved have no connection to it at all. The WikiLeaks documents that were revealed recently also confirm this Copernican revolution.

The time has come to remove our geocentric and egocentric glasses. It is permissible to adopt a moral position when oppressive regimes collapse. It is permissible to admire masses that take to the streets in face of tanks, battleships and airplanes, even at the price of thousands being killed.

The new leaders in the Middle East, whoever they may be, will most probably remember the strength of the people's will and rage, and will not hasten to return to the old tactic of hatred and oppression. And contrary to the forecasts of the experts, in such a Middle East perhaps also an Israeli-Palestinian peace, based on two states for two peoples, will also have more of a chance.


Prof. Shalev is a mathematician and a writer.







Just when it appeared as if the neoliberal right had begun to realize that economic prosperity is not a substitute for a withering peace process, members of the so-called social democrat camp are proposing that the socioeconomic cart be put before the security-foreign policy horse. In enormous Labor Party advertisements in yesterday's newspapers, the term "peace camp" made way for "national act." Even Meretz has lowered its peace flag to half-mast, in favor of fighting for the rights of the underprivileged.

In an interview with Israel Radio after she announced her candidacy for Labor Party head, MK Shelly Yachimovich recalled with pride that "at the end of the day, Labor established the settlements," for which she was rewarded with a warm embrace by former Jewish underground member Hagai Segal in his weekly column in Friday's Yedioth Ahronoth.

Yachimovich, who frequently allies with right-wingers in order to further social-welfare issues, issued a decree of divorce to "leftist parties like Meretz," sending them off "to gather their supporters from among their authentic audience" and to let Labor "be what it should be, a centrist, Zionist, social-democratic party."

Centrist? Granted, Israelis always like a good seat in the middle, but the centrist balcony is already standing-room-only. During its extended stay in the coalition, alongside Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi, Yachimovich and her Labor Party colleagues gave Likud a ticket to that coveted balcony. Most of the empty seats were taken by Kadima, which cemented its position as an alternative to the Netanyahu-Lieberman-Barak government from the back benches of the opposition.

Zionist? It is very important to make sure that the supermarket cashiers in the settlement of Ariel can sit during their shifts. But in order to guarantee that Israel will still be a Jewish and democratic state 20 years from now, an arrangement must be reached with our neighbors to enable transferring Ariel's cashiers and the rest of the residents of isolated settlements to sovereign Israeli territory.

Yachimovich is right: It is easier to say "two states for two peoples" than to protect employment agency workers. But it is easier to protect workers than it is to protect Palestinian children evicted from their East Jerusalem homes. Labor could learn a lesson in Zionism from Ossim Shalom - Social Workers for Peace and Social Welfare, an organization of Jewish and Arab social workers whose members demonstrate in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah every Friday.

Social-democratic? Indeed, the fight against the occupation distracts the peace camp's attention from their own poor. The attention paid to Palestinian suffering, violence and the peace process's failure has pushed the underprivileged (and the privileged ) away from the leftist parties. The recipe for bringing them "home" is not to sever the socioeconomic situation from the peace process. It is hard to believe that a smart politician like Yachimovich does not understand the connection between peace and the welfare state, and between racist legislation and Israel's international status.

When European consumers avoid buying Israeli products because of Israel's refusal to suspend construction in the settlements, Israeli industrialists have a good excuse to suspend raises for their workers. When the United Nations recognizes a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and young people in Nablus and in East Jerusalem rise up against the occupation, Israel's military budget, not its welfare budget, will be increased. When the next intifada chases away tourists and investors it is the middle class, the voters that Labor is wooing, who will pay most of the price. As always.

Before announcing her candidacy for the post of Labor chairwoman, Yachimovich argued in an opinion piece in Haaretz ("Not a good woman," January 27, 2011 ), "Before we set out to make peace, there has to be a state." There is room in Israeli politics for niche parties and for MKs who devote their energies to righting economic and social wrongs, and who leave it to their colleagues to pick up the slack in security and foreign policy. But a politician who is campaigning for the top spot in a (still? ) important party cannot remain in the balcony at a time when the Middle East is in ferment and the peace process is floundering. Such a stance has nothing to do with socialism and less than nothing to do with democracy.







Some 15 years ago, a woman whom I'll call Ella wanted to speak to me about her studies. She wanted a career involving therapeutic work and was trying to figure out which specific path to pursue. "Social work," I said.

I was a veteran social worker at the time, but still enthusiastic, even though I earned less than younger people working in the private sector. I told her that it was a wonderful profession. The fantasy of healing the world was behind me, but the ability to have authentic encounters with other people and the opportunity to try to make things better by using the professional tools at my disposal still excited me. As for her question about salaries, I had no good answer.

Ella did choose this path and became a fantastic social worker, whom the social services were lucky to have. She maintained her ability to look at every person as an equal, to convey not just empathy but love and caring, to fight for her clients' rights and to go the extra mile.

The only problem is salary. Ella had a hard time making a living; she needed assistance and extra work; finally, she broke down and got a job in the private sector, enabling her to make a dignified living. Since then her bank account has been in better shape, but she misses her "real" work.

For my part, I continued to pass along a consistent message at the end of every academic year at the school of social work where I teach: "You are lucky. You have chosen a fascinating profession. You wanted to help others, but you have also opened before yourselves an interesting and meaningful world in which you will be able to study, to develop and to take part in important social processes. Don't lose the ability to have unique encounters with your clients. Learn from them and see where they fit in, in a personal and family context, while identifying the influence of the services and policies which have trouble meeting their needs. A lack of financial resources is not the only source of distress; the lack of response, funds and suitable services makes every therapeutic or rehabilitative process more difficult."

Only when it came to salary was I left with nothing to say. Most of my students were women. I knew that for them to choose this profession meant that they would continue to be dependent on external sources of funding - whether from other jobs, their parents or their partners - and that this dependence, of a social worker committed to her profession and her clients, has a heavy price: frustration, exhaustion, and, in the spirit of these days of protest, even anger.

The anger that fuels the current strike by social workers stems from the fact that a job requiring an investment of up-to-date professional knowledge, empathy and concern, plus willingness to withstand pressure and work unusual hours, does not receive suitable public recognition or compensation that dignifies those employed in the field. There is no distinction here between social workers in the public sector and those in nonprofit groups - a product of privatization that has harmed clients as well as workers.

Full-time social workers don't want to receive income supplements from the state. They want to be paid reasonable salaries and know that after an exhausting workday, they have homes to return to, and a way of making a living or to contribute in an equal and honorable way to the family livelihood. That's as true for women in the field as it is for men.

Social workers are committed people - they are committed to the values that underlie the profession, to ethics, to professional knowledge and, primarily, to their clients, for whose sake they have gone on strike on numerous occasions. This time they are striking for reasonable salaries. It is a struggle for their right to work in one of the fields that is most crucial to society; one family in four needs their help.

Indirectly, this time, they are fighting not just for their salaries, but also for the rights of their clients to receive the best possible professional services from social workers who know that society values their work - not in terms of lip service, but in a way that makes it possible for those committed to providing services for the weakest segments of the population to live independently, with dignity.


Dorit Eldar-Avidan is a social worker and the author of the recently released book "Beshem Hayeladim" ("On Behalf of the Children: Narratives and Insights of Children of Divorce" ).







Bar-Ilan University's decision to deny tenure to Dr. Ariella Azoulay is a scandal. Anyone familiar with her writings and her knowledgeability of theoretical texts in French and English cannot help but agree with the 70 faculty members from competing universities who've signed a petition on her behalf, and cannot help but suspect the motives of the powers that be at Bar-Ilan. They certainly did not have Azoulay's contribution to our culture at the forefront of their minds.

Azoulay has not only published articles in important journals abroad; with her writings in Hebrew, she has enriched the post-modern discourse on art and feminism in a way no one else has. However, the signatories of the petition related to her case have made things easy for themselves. The problem here is not "political persecution," but rather our lack of knowledge as to whether Azoulay's non-advancement is connected to her political opinions - in the same way we lack such information about other victims of persecution, victims who are less "tormented," less well-known or have a "more convenient" status for dismissal.

Anyone who has fallen victim to the universities' methods of promotion is familiar with this cynical and secret mechanism, and the hush money of all those who benefit from it. The concept of academic freedom, or freedom of research, has been emptied of all meaning under the auspices of this culture of promotion, the foregone conclusions and the "powerful" patrons who own any vacated slot. On top of all that is the nepotism rife in this world. A simple probe will reveal the intra-university and inter-generational family connections.

As is true of so many other matters, the facade here is quasi-American (doctorate, temporary appointment, tender, tenure according to the number of publications ), but the culture harks back to the cronyism of Mapai, the precursor of today's Labor Party. In the United States, candidates who are denied tenure can send lawyers to find out exactly what happened on the committee. Fear of the law prevents any committee member over there from daring lend a hand to a foregone conclusion or a sloppy procedure.

At universities in Israel, by contrast, this procedure is completely lawless. The university is very sensitive to what is said about it. It receives a great deal of money, allowing its top people to maintain quite a hedonistic way of life. And so it likes quiet. And when it gets into any kind of trouble, it sends one of its two or three Nobel Prize winners to speak in the name of "freedom of research" or budget increases. The time has come for somebody to put things in order.

Back in the "lifeguard" case (Yossi Ilan versus the Tel Aviv municipality 3751/03 ), the High Court of Justice ruled that a tender with a foregone conclusion is illegal and overturned the initial ruling of the National Labor Court. With regard to the universities, the High Court is more cautious. After all, the courts are not so different in terms of milieu and the method of appointing judges, which is also not entirely transparent.

Nevertheless, in the matter of the disclosure of the minutes of the Bar-Ilan University appointments committee, a High Court ruling (7793/05 ) given on January 31, 2011, from a bench headed by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, stated: "Disclosure is the rule and restrictions on disclosure are the exception to the rule."

Azoulay will do well not to rely on lobbyists who support her and who have themselves, for the most part, served on appointment committees, written minutes and joined up with the secret regime. Justice demands that she challenge the institution and its people from the only proper place: the rule of law. Once the unacceptable and rampant procedure at the universities changes, the minutes will begin to reflect what is actually said at meetings.

No university can remain an island of immunity from Israel's transformation into a state of law, instead of a state of elitist guilds. At some point the archives will be opened and the fingerprints of the patrons will come to light.


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



After letting a highly destructive budget fight fester far too long, the White House finally stepped in late last week to negotiate with the House, which wants to eviscerate nondefense spending. Senate leaders still seem shell-shocked by that breathtaking ruthlessness, and have pleaded with the administration for help in pushing back. The White House needs to do so, and firmly.

Last year the administration acted as referee in a similar situation and got mixed results. It allowed Republicans their cherished goal of keeping taxes low on the richest 2 percent of Americans, and even gave multimillionaires and billionaires new estate tax benefits. President Obama won an extension of jobless benefits and a cut in payroll taxes that could boost the economy.

But this is not a moment for another difference-splitting deal. The House wants to carve $61 billion out of the government for just the next seven months, which would throw hundreds of thousands of people out of work and kill off scores of vital functions. Many of them, like funding for health care reform, environmental regulation and Planned Parenthood, are on the Republicans' ideological hit list. The latest deadline for an agreement is March 18; without one, the government would close.

Republicans claim they will not agree on a penny less than $61 billion, which is too little for some more aggressive freshmen. If the Democrats try to compromise on even half that amount, they will be still be doing enormous damage to many programs and threatening a recovery that is starting to show signs of real life.

Formal talks began on Thursday, led by Vice President Joseph Biden. The White House and the Senate have countered with a more sensible proposal to cut about $6.5 billion from current spending levels, including $2 billion in Pentagon cuts that are not in the House proposal, and other reductions to job training, firefighting and federal building construction.

Though Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, called that "outrageous," Democrats are under no obligation to cut more. As bad as a shutdown would be, heading much further toward the Republicans' number would do far more lasting damage to the economy.

There is nothing wrong with having a serious negotiation over long-term cuts, many of which are reasonable and necessary. It is vitally important, in fact, that the two sides begin examining ways to curb the huge growth in entitlement spending, particularly Medicare. House Speaker John Boehner said last week that he was ready to start that conversation, echoing similar calls from President Obama and many others in Washington.

But serious cuts cannot be made against the threat of a shutdown. That discussion should be had over the 2012 budget, not what's left of the 2011 fiscal year.

Mr. Biden and the Senate should make it clear to the freshman House members who are really driving their chamber's position that they will not permit reckless cuts this year. Then let the freshmen explain to an angry public why they closed the government's doors to score ideological points.





Most reasonable people would agree that, when layoffs become necessary, teachers should be let go through objective evaluations of how well they improve student performance, and not merely on the basis of seniority. The problem throughout most of the country is that evaluation systems are not in place. In New York City, only about 12,000 of 80,000 teachers have been evaluated, based on their students' grades on standardized tests.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had this in mind last week when he introduced a bill that would speed up introduction of a comprehensive, statewide evaluation system that New York State legislators ordered developed last year. Under the original schedule, the evaluation period was to begin this fall in math and English for fourth through eighth grades, with the remaining teachers' evaluations starting in 2012. Under the Cuomo bill, all teachers would be covered beginning in September.

Over the next few years, the new law should give the state's nearly 700 school districts a system for deciding which teachers to retain and which ones to let go. But that does not address the complaints of Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, who is saying teachers may have to be laid off this year. He wants an exception from the state law's "last hired, first fired" provision.

A bill that would give the mayor that power narrowly passed the State Senate last week but was dead on arrival in the Assembly, because of opposition by both the governor and Speaker Sheldon Silver. The bill was hurt by the conclusion — among even some Republicans who voted for it — that it was too broad and might have led to arbitrary dismissals. It was also deeply, almost unintelligibly complex. The mayor needs to simplify the bill and convince lawmakers of its fairness.

Under the proposed plan, the city would be able to lay off teachers based on where they stood on nine often-confusing factors. For instance, teachers would be vulnerable to dismissal if they had an "unfavorable" rating over the previous five years under the old, discredited evaluation format. One problem is that ineffective teachers improve, sometimes dramatically, over years. An initial negative rating might no longer be accurate.

The state evaluation system will involve more intensive monitoring and would finally take student performance into account. Teachers would be categorized as highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective. Those who need help would be given it. Those rated ineffective for two consecutive years could be fired. Hearings would last no longer than 60 days.

It will take a Herculean effort to put this system in place. The Legislature should require all districts to subscribe right away, instead of rotating onto it as they negotiate new union contracts, as was specified under last year's statute. The Legislature must make sure that the scoring system weighs student performance most heavily, so that unfit teachers aren't allowed to remain on the job by performing well in peripheral areas. Finally, the Legislature must place reasonable limits on the time that teachers can spend appealing unfavorable ratings.






It was predictable that a telephone or cable company would challenge the rules proposed last December by the Federal Communications Commission to guarantee that the Internet remains an open network.

Still, the lawsuits filed by Verizon and MetroPCS earlier this year against the F.C.C.'s net neutrality rules are disappointing. The suits fall into a swirl of antiregulatory fervor among Republicans on Capitol Hill. The continuing resolution passed by the House last week forbids the F.C.C. from using any money to put the new rules into effect.

That bill, and the lawsuits, risk stripping away the F.C.C.'s light-touch attempt to ensure that the Internet remains open — an approach carefully crafted in months of negotiations with Verizon and other companies.

The suits could potentially free Internet service providers from regulation — allowing them to treat their own content better than that of rivals, and block content that they didn't like or competed with. Verizon and AT&T have about 60 percent of wireless subscribers. And 80 percent of Americans live in areas with only two wireline broadband providers. In a market with such slender competition, consumers are likely to lose out.

Verizon's argument is simple: it doesn't want the F.C.C. to write rules for the Internet. This is especially true when it comes to wireless, which it views as virgin territory. The question is, should Verizon be allowed to, say, block Web sites that compete with its own services and discriminate at will to pursue its business interests? To us, that should be an area of federal intervention.

Both lawsuits take advantage of a weakness in the F.C.C.'s approach: in proposing new rules for the Internet, it decided to stick to the Bush administration's definition of the Internet as an "information service" rather than reclassify it as a telecom service. The F.C.C. has limited regulatory power over information services, and much more over telecommunications.

In April 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the F.C.C.'s authority over information services was so limited that past efforts to ensure network neutrality exceeded its authority. While the commission believes its new rules will survive the court challenge, we fear that its strategy is legally vulnerable. Verizon and MetroPCS are bringing their cases in the D.C. Circuit.

The choice for American consumers is between the open broadband they have come to expect — in which they can view any content from sources big and small — and a walled garden somewhat like cable TV, where providers can decide what we can see, and at what price.





U.S.D.A. Inspection



F.D.A. Food Safety



The House has voted to cut $106 million from the president's request for $1.036 billion for meat inspections by the Department of Agriculture. That money would help pay for the inspectors who oversee the 6,300 plants that process the nation's meat and poultry supply.

To ensure the safety of these products, inspectors must be on site at all times. If they're not, the plant must stop work. House Democrats say the budget cuts would require 37 to 40 furlough days for many of the 8,600 inspectors. Even a conservative estimate would put the loss of meat and poultry production at about $11 billion over the next seven months — a very large dent in the $177 billion annual business. It could also make a large dent in Americans' household budgets, as reduced supplies drive up costs.

After recent problems with tainted peanut butter, spinach, nuts and eggs, Congress gave the Food and Drug Administration new authority and responsibility to monitor food safety. The House's $129 million cut would seriously impede its ability to do that job, putting the health of American consumers at risk. We are all for savings, but these proposed cuts make no sense at all.






Social conservatives can seem like the perennial pessimists of American politics — more comfortable with resignation than with hope, perpetually touting evidence of family breakdown, social disintegration and civilizational decline.

But even doomsayers get the occasional dose of good news. And so it was last week, when a study from the Centers for Disease Control revealed that American teens and 20-somethings are waiting longer to have sex.

In 2002, the study reported, 22 percent of Americans aged 15 to 24 were still virgins. By 2008, that number was up to 28 percent. Other research suggests that this trend may date back decades, and that young Americans have been growing more sexually conservative since the late 1980s.

Why is this good news? Not, it should be emphasized, because it suggests the dawn of some sort of traditionalist utopia, where the only sex is married sex. No such society has ever existed, or ever could: not in 1950s America (where, as the feminist writer Dana Goldstein noted last week, the vast majority of men and women had sex before they married), and not even in Mormon Utah (where Brigham Young University recently suspended a star basketball player for sleeping with his girlfriend).

But there are different kinds of premarital sex. There's sex that's actually pre-marital, in the sense that it involves monogamous couples on a path that might lead to matrimony one day. Then there's sex that's casual and promiscuous, or just premature and ill considered.

This distinction is crucial to understanding what's changed in American life since the sexual revolution. Yes, in 1950 as in 2011, most people didn't go virgins to their marriage beds. But earlier generations of Americans waited longer to have sex, took fewer sexual partners across their lifetimes, and were more likely to see sleeping together as a way station on the road to wedlock.

And they may have been happier for it. That's the conclusion suggested by two sociologists, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker, in their recent book, "Premarital Sex in America." Their research, which looks at sexual behavior among contemporary young adults, finds a significant correlation between sexual restraint and emotional well-being, between monogamy and happiness — and between promiscuity and depression.

This correlation is much stronger for women than for men. Female emotional well-being seems to be tightly bound to sexual stability — which may help explain why overall female happiness has actually drifted downward since the sexual revolution.

Among the young people Regnerus and Uecker studied, the happiest women were those with a current sexual partner and only one or two partners in their lifetime. Virgins were almost as happy, though not quite, and then a young woman's likelihood of depression rose steadily as her number of partners climbed and the present stability of her sex life diminished.

When social conservatives talk about restoring the link between sex, monogamy and marriage, they often have these kinds of realities in mind. The point isn't that we should aspire to some Arcadia of perfect chastity. Rather, it's that a high sexual ideal can shape how quickly and casually people pair off, even when they aren't living up to its exacting demands. The ultimate goal is a sexual culture that makes it easier for young people to achieve romantic happiness — by encouraging them to wait a little longer, choose more carefully and judge their sex lives against a strong moral standard.

This is what's at stake, for instance, in debates over abstinence-based sex education. Successful abstinence-based programs (yes, they do exist) don't necessarily make their teenage participants more likely to save themselves for marriage. But they make them more likely to save themselves for somebody, which in turn increases the odds that their adult sexual lives will be a source of joy rather than sorrow.

It's also what's at stake in the ongoing battle over whether the federal government should be subsidizing Planned Parenthood. Obviously, social conservatives don't like seeing their tax dollars flow to an organization that performs roughly 300,000 abortions every year. But they also see Planned Parenthood's larger worldview — in which teen sexual activity is taken for granted, and the most important judgment to be made about a sexual encounter is whether it's clinically "safe" — as the enemy of the kind of sexual idealism they're trying to restore.

Liberals argue, not unreasonably, that Planned Parenthood's approach is tailored to the gritty realities of teenage sexuality. But realism can blur into cynicism, and a jaded attitude can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Social conservatives look at the contemporary sexual landscape and remember that it wasn't always thus, and they look at current trends and hope that it doesn't have to be this way forever.

In this sense, despite their instinctive gloominess, they're actually the optimists in the debate.






It is a truth universally acknowledged that education is the key to economic success. Everyone knows that the jobs of the future will require ever higher levels of skill. That's why, in an appearance Friday with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, President Obama declared that "If we want more good news on the jobs front then we've got to make more investments in education."

But what everyone knows is wrong.

The day after the Obama-Bush event, The Times published an article about the growing use of software to perform legal research. Computers, it turns out, can quickly analyze millions of documents, cheaply performing a task that used to require armies of lawyers and paralegals. In this case, then, technological progress is actually reducing the demand for highly educated workers.

And legal research isn't an isolated example. As the article points out, software has also been replacing engineers in such tasks as chip design. More broadly, the idea that modern technology eliminates only menial jobs, that well-educated workers are clear winners, may dominate popular discussion, but it's actually decades out of date.

The fact is that since 1990 or so the U.S. job market has been characterized not by a general rise in the demand for skill, but by "hollowing out": both high-wage and low-wage employment have grown rapidly, but medium-wage jobs — the kinds of jobs we count on to support a strong middle class — have lagged behind. And the hole in the middle has been getting wider: many of the high-wage occupations that grew rapidly in the 1990s have seen much slower growth recently, even as growth in low-wage employment has accelerated.

Why is this happening? The belief that education is becoming ever more important rests on the plausible-sounding notion that advances in technology increase job opportunities for those who work with information — loosely speaking, that computers help those who work with their minds, while hurting those who work with their hands.

Some years ago, however, the economists David Autor, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane argued that this was the wrong way to think about it. Computers, they pointed out, excel at routine tasks, "cognitive and manual tasks that can be accomplished by following explicit rules." Therefore, any routine task — a category that includes many white-collar, nonmanual jobs — is in the firing line. Conversely, jobs that can't be carried out by following explicit rules — a category that includes many kinds of manual labor, from truck drivers to janitors — will tend to grow even in the face of technological progress.

And here's the thing: Most of the manual labor still being done in our economy seems to be of the kind that's hard to automate. Notably, with production workers in manufacturing down to about 6 percent of U.S. employment, there aren't many assembly-line jobs left to lose. Meanwhile, quite a lot of white-collar work currently carried out by well-educated, relatively well-paid workers may soon be computerized. Roombas are cute, but robot janitors are a long way off; computerized legal research and computer-aided medical diagnosis are already here.

And then there's globalization. Once, only manufacturing workers needed to worry about competition from overseas, but the combination of computers and telecommunications has made it possible to provide many services at long range. And research by my Princeton colleagues Alan Blinder and Alan Krueger suggests that high-wage jobs performed by highly educated workers are, if anything, more "offshorable" than jobs done by low-paid, less-educated workers. If they're right, growing international trade in services will further hollow out the U.S. job market.

So what does all this say about policy?

Yes, we need to fix American education. In particular, the inequalities Americans face at the starting line — bright children from poor families are less likely to finish college than much less able children of the affluent — aren't just an outrage; they represent a huge waste of the nation's human potential.






AS I left a Paris cafe the other night, instead of the usual "Bonsoir, Madame," the waiter called after me, "Happy Fashion Week!" as if we were all celebrating a national holiday.

Maybe we were. Fashion is more than business in France: it's a mythology, a secular religion, a source of national pride, especially during Fashion Week, when the country recalls its history as the birthplace of haute couture.

In recent days, though, in response to the anti-Semitic diatribe by Christian Dior's creative director, John Galliano, the French have been recalling a far more ominous chapter in their history.

According to witnesses, a drunken Mr. Galliano exploded at a woman seated near him in a Paris bar. "Dirty Jewish face, you should be dead," he is said to have told her. "Your boots are of the lowest quality, your thighs are of the lowest quality. You are so ugly I don't want to see you. I am John Galliano!"

France is highly sensitive to such matters, and reprisals came quickly. Dior fired Mr. Galliano, who now faces charges of using a racial insult, a crime in France. But beyond the spectacle of one man's abhorrent politics, the episode invites consideration of the curious relationship between French fashion and fascism.

During the Occupation, the Nazis and their French allies recognized the power and national prestige of the French fashion industry and sought to harness it. When the collaborationist Vichy government took over direction of the French lifestyle magazine Paris Soir, it announced in its pages a "summer of couture ... and shopping." The Nazis were so enamored with fashion's place in French culture that in their plans for postwar Europe, they stipulated that, unlike other industries, the fashion sector would remain in France.

Many in fashion were eager to play along. Lucien Lelong, a designer who supported Vichy and whose house stayed open during the war, saw couture as a political force: "Our role is to give France the face of serenity. The more elegant Frenchwomen are, the more our country will show the world that we are not afraid."

French fashion publications advocated a deep connection between the cultural splendor of couture and Frenchwomen's national, even genetic identity.

"Every woman in Paris is a living propaganda poster, the universal function of the Frenchwoman is to remain chic," wrote one fashion journalist in the early 1940s. "Frenchwomen are the repositories of chic, because this inheritance is inscribed in their race," wrote another. And as Vichy continued to toe the Nazi line about Aryan physical fitness, more French fashion magazines began focusing on exercise and diet for women.

Although not everyone in the world of French fashion fell in line with fascist ideas, it's no coincidence that many did. After all, there are deep and unsettling parallels between the industry, particularly in Europe, and fascism's antidemocratic aesthetic.

Both, for example, rely on a handful of oracular, charismatic leaders who issue proclamations to (select) crowds. Fascist leaders offered their followers the prospect of an enhanced, mythic identity — a dream of youth and beauty, the same attributes promised by high fashion.

While fashion has moved far beyond the worst of the Vichy years, the role of the stylized, quasi-mythical celebrity-designer remains in the form of figures like Mr. Galliano and Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld; Mr. Galliano has been known to costume himself as a pirate or a Proustian dandy, while Mr. Lagerfeld sticks to a somewhat Goth interpretation of an 18th-century Prussian officer.

At the root of the whole system is the most elusive myth of all: the impossible promise that fashion can vanquish physical inadequacy and aging, conferring the beauty and youth we see on the runways and on every page of Vogue — a cult of physical perfection very much at home in the history of fascism.

And although we insist on the racial diversity of fashion's current standards of beauty, the fascists' body ideal has persisted and expanded far beyond Europe. The hallmarks of the Nazi aesthetic — blue eyes, blond hair, athletic fitness and sharp-angled features — are the very elements that define what we call the all-American look, still visible in the mythic advertising landscapes of designers like (the decidedly non-Aryan) Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.

Which brings us back to Mr. Galliano in the Paris bar. His was not a generic anti-Semitic tirade, but the self-conscious pronouncement of a world-class arbiter of taste ("I am John Galliano!"). Not only did he use ethnic slurs, he accused the woman of being unattractive and unfashionable, associating both with ethnicity, with being Jewish (which she happened not to be).

The link is clear: like a fascist demagogue of yore, he was declaring that she did not belong to the gilded group who wear the right boots, and from this Mr. Galliano slid effortlessly to a condemnation of her very flesh, and a wish for her death.

Last week the French daily Le Monde declared that by firing Mr. Galliano, Dior had sounded the "death knell for the myth of the omnipotent designer." That may be premature, given the myth's deep roots. But the drunken ramblings of one man in a bar may have set off an important discussion about a less pretty undercurrent in a multibillion-dollar industry. Happy Fashion Week.

Rhonda Garelick, a professor of English and performing arts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is working on a cultural biography of Coco Chanel.






A clever remark attributed in varying forms to German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel is, "We learn from history that we do not learn from history."

Well, if we should learn anything from the deficit spending during the past few years of economic crisis, it is that massive government intervention is not the way to create recovery. But we as a nation seem to be proving Hegel's point that we do not learn from history.

Incredibly, after explosive borrowing that has led to record annual deficits and a record national debt of more than $14 trillion, some still think we can solve serious economic problems, such as painfully high unemployment, if only the government will spend more money.

Consider this bewildering headline atop a recent article by The Associated Press: "Government cuts threaten recovery."

In the lengthy story, various observers argued that the current so-called "recovery" is imperiled because state and local governments are cutting spending and in some cases laying off workers to balance their budgets. That, the observers said, means fewer people will have money to buy things and spur economic growth and job creation.

But that is a remarkably shortsighted way of looking at things.

Wages that are paid to government workers must first be taken from the private sector in the form of taxes — or from future taxpayers in the form of borrowing that must be repaid, with interest.

Taxes, borrowed money and the interest paid on that borrowed money all curtail productive, private-sector spending and investment.

That's not just economic theory. Look at the recent history of big promises about supposedly "helpful" government spending.

Prior to the 2009 passage of the $862 billion federal "stimulus," President Barack Obama declared that unemployment would stay below 8 percent if the stimulus were approved. Well, with virtually no Republican support, Democrats in the majority in Congress passed the stimulus, funding a range of projects — many of them unconstitutional.

Sadly, we know how that turned out: Unemployment climbed to the 10 percent range and remains around 9 percent. Plus, millions more Americans are not counted in the official unemployment numbers because they have simply given up looking for work or can get only part-time jobs when they need full-time work. That makes the so-called "underemployment" rate far higher than the official rate of joblessness.

Quite sensibly, many state and local governments do not wish to follow the federal government's irresponsible, big-spending lead, nor could they if they wanted to. They generally must balance their budgets rather than carry debt from year to year. So that means when tax revenue is down — as in the current crisis — they must cut spending.

But that is a responsible thing to do, and it should not be blamed for continued economic weakness.

We have tried spending our way out of the economic mess our country is in, and it didn't work — just as it didn't work when Congress and Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried it during the Great Depression.

Consider the words of Henry Morgenthau, President Roosevelt's own secretary of the Treasury, in 1939, deep into FDR's New Deal programs that were supposed to end the Depression: "We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. ... [A]fter eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. ... And an enormous debt to boot!"

Now, our nation is attempting once again to "solve" major economic problems with "solutions" that make things worse.

We're afraid Hegel was right: We have not learned from history.





President Barack Obama claimed last week that he wants to give states more flexibility to chart their own health care reforms. He said he would free them in 2014 from some of ObamaCare's harsh requirements, rather than make them wait until 2017 to try their own approaches. But first they would have to prove they can get the same medical coverage levels and otherwise match the results that the socialized medicine program supposedly will achieve.

Unfortunately, this "change of heart" is a cynical gesture. That's because the Obama administration will still ultimately get to rule on whether the states' plans are satisfactory. So they will gain no real freedom from federal dictation of medical care.

Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt rightly dismissed this latest proposal. He told The Washington Post that the president's message to the states was, "'We'll give you permission to ask for permission sooner rather than later.' What Republicans are saying is that we don't want to have to ask for permission at all, because we can't afford to build the system that [the president] laid out for us."

Most of the states have joined lawsuits seeking to have ObamaCare overturned as unconstitutional, which it plainly is. Regrettably, the president's latest gesture to the states gives them no reason to back down from their effort to have ObamaCare overturned.





After the U.S. Supreme Court properly ruled in 2010 that a full handgun ban in Chicago was unconstitutional, the city found a way to get around the ruling and, in effect, to keep its excessive gun-control rules on the books.

It declared that guns were technically permissible inside a private home if the owner were trained in handling a firearm. But that "training" requirement included practice at a firing range — and Chicago forbids firing ranges inside the city!

So a person who wishes to have a handgun in his home for protection is forced, at his expense, to leave the city to seek out the necessary training.

That is plainly unreasonable, and various groups and individuals have joined a federal lawsuit to overturn the anti-Second Amendment ordinance.

Gun owners obviously should handle their weapons responsibly. But government should not set up gun restrictions so burdensome that their practical effect is to forbid gun ownership.






Whitfield County, Ga., not far down Interstate 75 from Chattanooga, has long had a serious problem with illegal immigration. But there was a bit of good news recently when authorities in Whitfield County reported an increase in deportations of illegal aliens.

From 2009 to 2010, there was an approximately 50 percent increase in the number of immigration violators processed for deportation, said Capt. Wes Lynch. The number rose from 400 in 2009 to 609 last year.

Lynch heads the Whitfield County branch of a federal program operating in 25 states that identifies and deports illegal aliens after they come into contact with law enforcement because of crimes, traffic violations and so forth. Four counties in Georgia and one — Davidson — in Tennessee take part in the program.

Nationwide, the program, which operates under U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, deported roughly 30,000 illegal aliens between October 2009 and September 2010.

That shows our immigration laws can work — if they are enforced.







The idea that a spry, 82-year-old Turkish journalist finishing off his memoirs in an Istanbul retirement home is the son of Libya's first prime minister is a bit of a head-turner. Which is why we led our Weekend newspaper with the complex story of Orhan Koloğlu. In fact, we should be more surprised by the fact we are surprised.

As the Middle East commands the world's attention with daily dramas unfolding in so many countries, each turn seems to reveal a "surprise" element. That Turkey's prime minister has become so revered a leader in Gaza and in other Arab countries cannot be simply ascribed to a tirade in Davos or the emotions that have surrounded the fatal Israeli raid on the Turkish aid flotilla last year. But neither can the fact that trade volumes between Turkey and Israel have continued to tick upward despite the chilled political climate be explained by simple commercial advantage.

Turkey's commercial investment in Libya, and thousands of expatriates, are part a well-known story. It's all part of the "export opening" that in the mid-1980s, sending thousands of Turkish companies to Russia to Central Asia to the Middle East and on to much of Africa. Not quite, answers Koloğlu. Libyan trade is really a byproduct of the 1974 Cyprus operation, which led to an arms embargo by the United States. Because of his language skills and personal ties, Koloğlu became then-Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit's personal emissary to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. In exchange for spare military parts (remember Libya was just five years out from its own U.S. military alliance) and oil, many Turkish companies and workers found themselves on their first overseas adventure. The rest is history.

If the newfound love for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is something international observers have become used to, the antipathy that some Turkish workers have experienced in Libya of late, even the anti-Turkish comments of Gadhafi's son, have caught many off guard. They should not be. All memories of Ottoman times are not pleasant, and jobs competition anxieties have been constructed atop this sentiment.

In short, the amnesia of Turkey's Republican years, the severance of ties to former domains, has been much analyzed. But the viral spread of this amnesia to Western analysis is something less considered. How many people are aware, for example, that Israel's founding Prime Minister David Ben Gurion was a graduate of Istanbul University and fluent Turkish speaker? Or the long-standing scholarship grants in Turkish universities offered annually to Ottoman descendents in foreign lands?

Just as decades of autocratic rule may have suppressed public voices and aspiration in many countries, so too have contemporary political conveniences obscured a rich tapestry of relations, ties and knowledge that never really disappeared. For Turkey is a land of Koloğlus.

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






Tuesday is going to be a very cold day in Athens. Certain weather reports even predict some light snow falling in the mountains around the Greek capital and people are preparing to take cover against the whims of the "mad March."

In normal circumstances forecasting the weather in Athens would have been the last thing anybody would be particularly interested in except for Greeks or tourists. But these are not normal times and even weather conditions are part of the fragile circumstances we have been witnessing lately in our region.

The name "Hypatia" has been traditionally synonymous with scientific thinking and scholarly discourse. A Neo-Platonist Greek philosopher and astronomer who lived and taught in Alexandria around 350 AD, Hypatia was murdered by a local Christian mob in 415. An asteroid is named after her and as recently as 2009, the film "Agora" fictionalized her last days before her brutal killing. She was the last pagan scientist who symbolized rational thinking against uncritical religious faith. And it was that name that the owners of a beautiful neoclassical building in the center of Athens gave to it when they decided to restore it and furnish it with Egyptian-Ottoman splendor two years ago.

The Hypatia Mansion would have been just another lavish company headquarters in the Greek capital if it had not recently become the center of a literally life and death political drama for the George Papandreou government. There, for the last 39 days, some 100 illegal migrants, mainly from North African countries, have been staging a hunger strike and are willing to die in order to get a residence permit from the Greek authorities. Almost 200 more are taking a similar action in Thessaloniki. They are part of the 350,000 migrant workers who have been denied legalizing papers in Greece, in which some have been living and working for almost two decades. Only in 2010, 128,000 migrants, about 90 percent of the total EU number, entered Greece, mainly from the border with Turkey.

Back to the weather forecast. Tuesday is expected to be the coldest day this week. It is the day that the Papandreou government fears most; because medical circles, human rights activists and leftist parties are warning that the danger of a hunger striker dying inside or in the landscaped gardens of the Hypatia Mansion where they have set up their tents is the highest. The death of a hunger striker against an undecided and dithering government may have a huge effect on the political climate, which has already been clouded by gloomy predictions of negative attitude from the EU emergency summit toward Greece. Greek commentators in yesterday's press were speaking louder than ever about a national unity government to save the country.

On Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is arriving in Athens at the invitation of his Greek counterpart, Dimitris Droutsas. According to the official program, he will be received by the prime minister and will have talks with Mr. Droutsas over bilateral issues, ongoing – but not disclosed – diplomatic talks, Cyprus, the Middle East and North Africa.

In an interview he gave to the Greek daily Kathimerini, Mr. Davutoğlu assured everybody of Turkey's continuing determination to improve relations with Greece and expressed his optimism for a total solution in the Aegean – although he did leave out Kasterlorizo (Meis) as this small Greek island, he says, is not part of the Aegean but of the Mediterranean. He also suggested that Turkish war ships should be allowed to have "safe passage" in the Greek territorial waters of the Aegean.

However, the interesting part of Davutoğlu's visit – and the longest – is what he will do the following two days. He will spend his time touring by car the north of Greece and will be visiting the cities of Xanthi (İskeçe) and Komotini (Gümülcine) where most of the Turkish-origin Muslim population lives. He is expected to spend the night in Kavala, a city closely linked with the history of the Ottomans, and is expected to meet with Turkish Muslim community and religious leaders. He will end his tour with a visit to Thessaloniki where he will meet with the new municipal leadership and pay a customary visit to the house of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. What takes place in northern Greece is being described as a "private program" by Mr. Davutoğlu but a few months before the general elections in Turkey, one cannot but expect this private visit to become also a platform for some electioneering.

Davutoğlu's visit will find Greek society in a particularly sensitized state. If by the mid of the week the situation in the Hypatia mansion has deteriorated, the Greek government may have to manage a crisis of humanitarian nature which will show it in a negative light abroad. The suspicion with which the Greek public is viewing the visit of the Turkish foreign minister in the north may increase. In spite of his repeated denials, Davutoğlu is seen in Greece as the voice of Neo-Ottomanism and his wish to be close to his people who once used to be part of Turkey's Ottoman past can only be viewed with worrying disbelief at a time when the West is telling Greece to sell off part of its territorial land in order to cover its public debt. 







In my op-ed dated May 24, 2010, and titled "Turkish democratization," I humbly tried to warn the Turkish public, political actors in particular, of the danger ahead regarding Turkey's democratization, which I still believe is of grave importance to the future of the country. Due to the necessity that emerged subsequent to the arrest of some journalists I feel compelled to present it once again to your consideration:

Given the current turbid political climate in Turkey, if asked the source of this quotation you might very well attribute it to a sensible Turk:

"Like all good conspiracy theories, both tales contain just enough truth to satisfy those predisposed to believe in them, without admitting any contradictions that might shake up those assumptions. Their purpose is not to persuade the other side but to keep their bases agitated and assured of the rightness of their respective causes- and lure just enough new adherents to beat the other side into submission."

You would, however, be off the mark. This was a judgment made by U.S. President Barack Obama in his memoirs titled "The Audacity of Hope." The reason I refer to it here is precisely because it aptly portrays the current state of affairs in Turkish political as well as intellectual life.

For quite some time now, there has been an ongoing war of tit-for-tat accusations, defamation and condemnation marked by secretly recorded video- and audiotapes involving Turkish political actors or elites. More importantly, discussion in Turkish intellectual life has absurdly come to imply agitation. Conspiracy theories have become the only source of reference.

It is unfortunate that all this cacophony is being made in the name of Turkish democratization, but the question of grave importance is whether this type of a process will help us in ultimately establishing a firm democracy- and what kind of democratization it will bring about.

Mainstream post-World War II era scholarship was preoccupied with the search for the necessary conditions and prerequisites for a stable democracy. The emergence and institutionalization of any democratic system of governance was believed to be dependent on the availability of certain social and economic conditions such as a certain level of wealth, economic development, urbanization and the presence of a middle class.

However, following the first wave of democratization that started with Portugal in 1974, there appeared a revisionist school of thought opposing this traditional wisdom. Recent scholarship has instead tended to focus on the role that political leaders have played, or should play, in democratic transition. According to this view, leaders are responsible for much of the success of new democracies, because democracies have the potential to be manufactured whenever successful democratic craftsmanship exists.

Yet in a transition to democracy, leadership alone is insufficient. Elites are just as important as political actors, particularly in the process of democratic consolidation. Consolidation is believed to be the most crucial phase in democratic development, because the breakdown of authoritarian and/or semi-democratic regimes does not automatically lead to a process of transition in all cases. On the contrary, a transition to democracy can cause a period of great political uncertainty, one that has the risk of reversion, an important phenomenon first recognized in the cases of Bolivia and Peru. Currently, it is Vladimir Putin's Russia that most explicitly exemplifies this process of reversion. 

To prevent reversion, there must be a process of "pacting" when drafting the methods and rules for resolving political conflicts peacefully. The elites must come to an institutionalized consensus regarding the rules of the democratic political game. As important as that pact, on the other hand, is leaders' ability at mediation, because both consent and utility, the two most important components of democratic thinking and bargaining, are considered to merge through mediation. In that sense, mediation is an indicator for both stability and institutionalization.

Turkish liberals and most Westerners, Europeans in particular, believe that the leadership alone is the decisive factor in facilitating or hindering Turkish democratization. But I would say they are deathly wrong. Given the complex dynamics of the country, pacting has become more important than ever. Unfortunately, instead of pacting, there is an increasing polarization among Turkish elites, political actors and intellectuals.

In such a milieu, one should rather seriously ponder over where this type of democratization can lead Turkey. Do you have any conspiracy theories in this regard?

Tell me please; after months have passed since the publication of this piece, do you think there is any opportunity for "pacting" left in Turkey?






 Depending on whom you speak to, the latest interim report on Croatia's bid to join the EU that was approved by the European Commission on March 2 either showed the Balkan country the route needed to follow to wrap up the negotiations by the target date of the end of June, or was so critical that it effectively ended any remaining hopes it could meet that date.

For its part, the Croatian government was putting an optimistic spin on the report, which criticizes it for not meeting all of the 10 benchmarks required in reforming its judiciary and in fighting corruption and organized crime, meaning that this "Chapter 23" of the accession process won't, as had been hoped, be closed. Croatia has closed 28 out of 35 chapters in its accession negotiations with the EU.

"Croatia is making considerable progress and also very important this is a shopping list of what we need to do and I am sure that we won't just double, but triple our efforts," Davor Bozinovic, the Croatian defense minister, told bne on the sidelines of the Globesec 2011 forum in Bratislava. "Our final goal is to wrap up negotiations in June."

Janos Martonyi, minister of foreign affairs for Hungary, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency and, for the historical prestige, would love to be in charge when another country joins the EU family, said that despite all the "difficulties and challenges," his government is still determined to conclude the negotiations by the June deadline, which would see Croatia join from 2013.

One familiar refrain trotted out by candidate countries and their supporters is that the accession of a country to the EU is not just about that one country, but is also about giving hope to the others waiting further down the line and convince them that it's in their interests to continue down the reform path. "What matters here is the political message not only for Croatia but other countries – that despite all the enlargement fatigue and reservations over this process, don't give up," Martonyi said. "That will give a message that the EU is working, that it is not a fortress. We don't want to isolate ourselves."

The European Commission certainly understands that, yet since allowing in Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, both of which upon joining immediately started backsliding in their efforts to tackle corruption, it is being unapologetically stricter in forcing the candidate countries to fully meet the conditions of accession. "I think it would be unfair to say that the rules of the game have changed, but the way we work with the candidate country, yes we have, we did change. We are more demanding in trying to see the country indeed fulfills everything. What really matters is not ticking the boxes, but showing a track record," Stefan Fule, European Commissioner for enlargement and neighborhood policy, told bne. "But this should not be a surprise to anyone. We all know this since 2006 and the previous enlargement."

For Fule and others, it is only by ensuring that at the end of this process there will be a candidate country fully prepared to assume the responsibilities stemming from membership, the Commission can make the process of enlargement a credible one and one the existing member states will continue to agree to support.

And if that risks infuriating citizens of the candidate countries, then so be it. The Croatian capital Zagreb was rocked by violent anti-government protests on February 26 as a wide range of interest groups took to the streets to voice their disenchantment with an administration increasingly seen as being out of touch with public opinion. In the protesters' minds at least, the country's political elite is tainted by a toxic admixture of corruption, economic illiteracy and toadyism towards the EU, which is being regarded with increasing hostility by Croatians fed up with the long drawn-out accession process. Several thousand anti-government protestors, mostly young people, marched through the Croatian capital again on March 2 calling on conservative Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor to step down.

In the long run, Fule stresses that what the Commission is doing will be for the benefit of the Croatian people. "This will be of benefit to the citizens of the enlargement country because what the whole of Chapter 23 is about is that you have this prosecutorial council, you have legislation but does it work? Will it stand the test of independence? This is not just important for bureaucrats in Brussels, but also important for the citizens of Croatia."

With Croatia regarded by many as a hotbed of corruption – the previous PM, Ivo Sanader, who did much to get Croatia as far as it is in the EU accession process – is now in custody in Austria on suspicion of money laundering and embezzlement of millions of euros – that's probably true. But such arguments will probably do little to cool tempers when, as many predict, Croatia will have to abandon its self-imposed deadline of the end of June and move it back to the end of the year at least.

In the longer term, Fule's comments to BNE also suggest that this crucial Chapter 23, which covers judiciary and fundamental rights, will be moved up in the accession process of candidate countries to nearer the beginning rather than near the end, as it currently is. This is a reflection not only of the EU's growing preoccupation with the spiralling corruption in the newer member states – the single worst performing indicator across the set of countries over the past decade - but also in the difficulty that countries have in putting in place the institutions and laws needed to root it out.

* This article originally appeared in Business New Europe, or BNE.






The start of 2011 marked rapid and important changes in North Africa and the Middle East that have far-reaching implications. International businesses in the region have had to keep a close eye on events, in some cases evacuate staff, and must now come to grips with a new and rapidly changing risk landscape.

The Middle East and North Africa has long represented a socio-economic time bomb for risk analysts. We see this tsunami of unrest as a convergence of several factors: economic crisis, state violence, and rising Internet literacy among the youth. Unemployment rates are very high, large numbers of people live on the poverty line, and commodity prices and living costs have soared. These factors, coupled with lack of basic services and housing, and a visible wealth gap between the public and elite, has made hardship intolerable for many.

Since the fall of Presidents Ben Ali and Mubarak, Tunisia and Egypt are in a transformative phase moving towards democracy and elections, yet these transitions toward democracy are likely to be rocky and present significant security and political risks. Increased local security risks in both countries are unlikely to drop back to pre-revolt levels for some time. When a security and political situation is in flux, terrorists typically see opportunity. The new Egyptian and Tunisian leaderships also face the huge economic damage incurred from lost output, exports and tourism. Economic grievances, particularly inflation and unemployment, lay at the root of the uprisings.

Both new governments have blamed the old regimes for the parlous state of the economy and opened investigations to trace and confiscate the vast wealth and assets from the deposed presidents. It remains unclear what will happen to the vast commercial interests of the Gadhafi regime, but if he falls, a similar outcome is almost certain. As such, companies with stakes in the region would be wise to check their levels of exposure to the commercial interests of the former regimes.

In such an unprecedented and changeable environment, one of the few certainties is that companies must now reassess their exposure to new political and security risks and how they will manage them.

The spread of unrest has led to concerns that a domino effect of tumbling governments is now in motion across the region. In general, the countries experiencing the worst unrest of the "Arab Spring" are the same countries (and towns) where there was already pattern of unrest before the Tunisian revolt.

Many Arab governments have taken measures to pre-empt or quell protests. These include pledges for political reform, subsidies on commodities, pay rises, job creation schemes, and ministerial sackings. Countries that have undertaken such initiatives include Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain. Kuwait has announced it will spend $4 billion to lower the cost of commodities. Saudi Arabia has announced an even bigger package to improve the quality of life.

With the exception of Bahrain, these efforts are probably enough to stem the tide in the GCC, where governments are wealthy and the public less disaffected. But protests have continued in poorer states in North Africa and the Levant as well as Iraq and Yemen, and reforms that are more extensive may be the only solution to quell dissent.

The speed and ferocity of the North African revolts appears to have taken many companies by surprise. The sudden and dramatic deterioration of the security environment has meant many organizations have struggled to evacuate their personnel and provide them with security on the ground. Companies operating in other countries in region ought now to be reviewing how they will respond if popular uprisings break out in other countries.

It is impossible to say when this tide of unrest that has risen in the Arab world will recede, and what kind of a risk environment will remain once it does. But it will certainly be different to what existed before. Companies, and indeed governments, would be wise to take stock of these changes and recognize that the Arab world is not what it was just two months ago, and is unlikely to be so again. As the saying goes, revolutions never go backwards.

*Henry Wilkinson is associate director at Janusian Security Risk Management. This piece appeared on Global Experts, a project of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, at






At least with a dictatorship, you know where you are – and if you know where you are, you may be able to find your way out. In Pakistan, it is not so simple.

While brave Arab protesters are overthrowing deeply entrenched autocratic regimes, often without even resorting to violence, Pakistan, a democratic country, is sinking into a sea of violence, intolerance and extremism. The world's second-biggest Muslim country (185 million people) has effectively been silenced by ruthless Islamist fanatics who murder anyone who dares to defy them.

What the fanatics want, of course, is power, but the issue on which they have chosen to fight is Pakistan's laws against blasphemy. They not only hunt down and kill people who fall afoul of these laws, should the courts see fit to free them. They have also begun killing anybody who publicly advocates changing the laws.

Salman Taseer, the governor of the Punjab, Pakistan's richest and most populous province, was murdered by his own bodyguard in January because he criticized the blasphemy laws and wanted to change them. He said he would go on fighting them even if he was the last man standing – and in a very short time he was no longer standing. But one man still was: Shahbaz Bhatti.

Bhatti was shot down last Wednesday. The four men who ambushed his car and filled him with bullets left a note saying: "In your fight against Allah, you have become so bold that you act in favor of and support those who insult the Prophet. And now, with the grace of Allah, the warriors of Islam will pick you out one by one and send you to Hell."

Bhatti was not a rich and powerful man like Salman Taseer, nor even a major power in the ruling Pakistan People's Party, or PPP, that they both belonged to. He was the only Christian member of the Cabinet, mainly as a token representative of the country's 3 million Christians, but he had hardly any influence outside that community. Nevertheless, he refused to stop criticizing the blasphemy laws even after Taseer's murder, so they killed him too.

That leaves only Sherry Rehman, the last woman standing. A flamboyant member of parliament whose mere appearance enrages the beards, she has been a bold and relentless critic of the blasphemy laws – and since Taseer's murder she has lived in hiding, moving every few days. But she will not shut up until they shut her up.

And that's it. The rest of the country's political and cultural elite have gone silent or pander openly to the fanatics and the bigots. The PPP was committed to changing the blasphemy laws only six months ago, but after Taseer was killed President Asif Ali Zardari assured a gathering of Islamic dignitaries that he had no intention of reviewing the blasphemy laws. Although they are very bad laws.

In 1984 General Zia ul-Haq, the dictator who ruled Pakistan from 1977 to 1988, made it a criminal offence for members of the Ahmadi sect, now some 5 million strong, to claim that they were Muslims. In 1986 he instituted the death penalty for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad. No subsequent government has dared to repeal these laws, which are widely used to victimize the Ahmadi and Christian religious minorities.

Ahmadis and Christians account for at most 5 percent of Pakistan's population, but almost half of the thousand people charged under this law since 1986 belonged to those communities. Most accusations were false, arising from disputes over land, but once made they could be a death sentence.

Higher courts generally dismissed blasphemy charges, recognizing that they were a tactic commonly used against Christians and Ahmadis in local disputes over land, but 32 people who were freed by the courts were subsequently killed by Islamist vigilantes – as were two of the judges who freed them.

The current crisis arose when a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, was sentenced to death last November, allegedly for blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad. Pakistan's liberals mobilized against the blasphemy law – and discovered that they were an endangered species.

The murders of Taseer and Bhatti were bad, but even worse was the way that the political class and the bulk of the mass media responded. A majority of a population fully supports the blasphemy law, making it very costly for politicians to act against it even if the fanatics don't kill them. Political cowardice reigns supreme, and so Pakistan falls slowly under the thrall of the extremists.

Being a democracy is no help, it turns out, because democracy requires people to have the courage of their convictions. Very few educated Pakistanis believe that people should be executed because of a blasphemy charge arising out of some trivial village dispute, but they no longer dare to say so. Including the president.

"We will not be intimidated nor will we retreat," said Zardari on March 3, but he has already promised the beards that the blasphemy law will not be touched. Nor is it very likely that the murderers of Taseer or Bhatti will be tracked down and punished. You could get killed trying to do that.






Last week saw two important developments regarding the Cyprus issue. The first, of course was the March 2 rally held at the İnönü Square in the Turkish quarter of divided Nicosia by tens of thousands of Turkish Cypriots demanding Ankara understand that Turkish Cypriot people are living in their own state rather than a colony of Ankara. The other was the March 3 assessment report of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations on the status of the negotiations in Cyprus to the members of Security Council.

The İnönü Square was turned into a poppy field with red and white Turkish and Turkish Cypriot flags, placards carrying all kinds of slogans – including some that made Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan mad – stressing the strong demand for consolidated self governance and condemning the insolent remarks of Erdoğan and other top Turkish ministers against Turkish Cypriots.

It was a rare event. Turkish Cypriots turning out on streets so vocally against Turkey's prime minister and the ruling party and demanding institution of relations between equals in between the Turkish Cypriot state – recognized only by Ankara – and the Turkish state and publicly accusing Ankara of trying to change the demography of the island by sending uncontrolled population and acting with a colonialist mentality was not definitely something one may come across in northern Cyprus every other day. Some negligible small groups raise such complaints at their not so seldom rallies held often in front of the Turkish embassy or headquarters of a far-left newspaper next to the square hosting the "martyrs' monument," the parliament building and less than 200 meters from the Turkish embassy. Yet, it was somewhat a taboo to yell at Turkey even at times Turkey might be wrong in its behavior to Turkish Cypriots. That has apparently changed as at two consecutive rallies within past several weeks tens of thousands of Turkish Cypriots – in a spirit very much like the Annan Plan period pro-settlement tide – united in demanding Ankara respect Turkish Cypriot identity.

To what extent Turkish Cypriots managed to fine tune Ankara will be seen in the weeks and months to come. I personally believe that Ankara is preparing to undertake after the June polls something on Cyprus that would make Turkish people mad and by creating a "nasty cat" image of Turkish Cypriots trying to contain the damage. Let's wait and see.

Whatever might be the eventual outcome of the current standoff between the Ankara government and the Turkish Cypriot people – the Turkish Cypriot government is condemned as "collaborator" – the Jan. 28 and March 2 rallies will be remembered as turning points in Turkish Cypriot history as was their strong endorsement of the Annan Plan in the 2004 referendum.

As regards the second "fine tuning" effort, it came in the report of the secretary-general to the Security Council. In the report Ban stressed that his November and January trilateral summits with the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders of the island were helpful and he was indeed happy with the leaders heeding his call to increase the tempo and the output of the negotiations. Yet, he stressed time was running out and the political environment in the second quarter of this year would likely be less conducive to making substantial progress in the talks because of the elections in both the Greek Cypriot side and in Turkey. He said as those elections came closer there was "a very real risk" of the talks losing momentum.

Thus, he said there was need to intensify efforts now for greater impetus to achieve substantive agreements on the core issues across all chapters before the electoral cycles are too advanced.

After presenting a lengthy background of the statistical data regarding the talks, the secretary-general underlined that at the Geneva meeting the Turkish Cypriots put forth ideas for a plan that entailed negotiating all chapters in parallel with the exception of security, on the condition of adhering to a specific time table. While the Greek Cypriots who have been not in favor of a specific timetable for the negotiations, have submitted their ideas for a three-stage plan. Since then he said he appreciated the intensity of the talks, despite a brief absence of the Turkish Cypriot leader because of a heart operation.

The fine tuning came at that moment. While at the Geneva talks the Greek Cypriot leader refused meticulously to avoid the secretary-general disclosing the date for a third trilateral summit saying he should first check his schedule, Ban said later this month he would go through the progress achieved and "decide" if there was sufficient progress to convene a new summit.

The key paragraph of the report, however, was "I remain concerned about the rate of progress in the talks… I believe that the leaders have made efforts over the last months but more must be done to prevent the negotiations from stalling or drifting endlessly."






The Arab spring continues to wow the world. If it has the corrupt and powerful everywhere terrified out of their wits, it has also revived the long-repressed spirit of the oppressed, far beyond the greater Middle East. 

Until the beginning of this year, few in the distant lands of America, India, China and the Far East would have heard of Hosni Mubarak or would have confidently picked out Tunis on the world map. All that has changed. Forever. The Tunisian-Egyptian burst of hope has not just given birth to a magical season of change across the Arab world, it's inspiring imitation elsewhere. 

All this must come as a wake-up call to those asleep at the wheel everywhere. Apparently, what happens and goes around the other side of the globe comes around sooner or later to catch up with your reality, wherever you are. So at the height of the Tahrir Square excitement, it was curiously uplifting to hear a fellow Indian demand an "Arab revolution in India" on the BBC Hindi's India Bol (Speak up India) program. At first it sounded rather absurd. An Egypt-style people's revolt in India? Nah! 

After all, India is not a rotting, decaying Arab police state where leaders come to stay and rule forever. We are a vibrant and thriving democracy – the world's largest and most colorful. Comparisons with the Middle East are therefore odious. But are they really? 

The young and restless who drove Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Mubarak out of their once-impregnable fortresses were not just protesting their long years of absolute power. Those demonstrations were also a call to arms against the corruption and nepotism, against injustice and inequality, and against the abuse of power and misrule that characterized the so-called Arab republics all these years. They were a protest against incompetence, red tape and poverty and against all the missed opportunities that have stultified and sapped the youth and stolen their promise and hope. Sound familiar? 

India is an amazing democracy of which we are justifiably proud. But the ills plaguing stagnant Arab societies have also been gnawing at the vitals of Indian society for so long that we do not even pay attention to them anymore. In fact, this is not just confined to India. It's the same story all over South Asia. 

From India and Pakistan to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, politics is the same all over the subcontinent. Widespread and institutionalized plundering of state resources by politicians is the order of the day. While the rich get richer and our mediocre politicians become billionaires in office in no time, for ordinary people it's a daily grind, a constant battle to survive the crushing poverty. Dynastic politics is another feature that is common between the Arab republics and South Asia. 

Take a look. There are so many Gamal Mubaraks around. In fact, dynastic succession has become so de rigueur in South Asian politics that no eyebrows are raised when the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has to jump through hoops to accommodate the whims and fancies of every son and daughter of ally and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi. 

Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are only the smiling – and not so-bad – faces of the dynastic politics. And yes Rahul is yet to take charge. India has seen worse – in Rahul's uncle, Sanjay Gandhi. In fact, a son rises in every political party on the subcontinent and almost every politician in this Turkish bath is without a stitch on. 

Like much of the Arab world, criminal mismanagement of resources, red tape and crony capitalism – or socialism in some cases – have ensured that even as we trumpet our fabled economic progress into the 21st century, much of our population survives on less than $2 dollar a day. 

Last year, the Indians – and the world – were shocked when a U.N. global poverty index devised by the Oxford University discovered there are more poor people in eight Indian states than in the 26 nations of sub-Saharan Africa put together. India ranked 63rd, just after Togo, and before Haiti. 

A staggering 410 million people, far more than the population of the United States, live in extreme poverty in the country seen as one of the two emerging superpowers. The economic liberalization of the 1990s and selective prosperity that followed has only deepened the socio-economic inequalities. No wonder India is home to a violent Marxist insurgency, the biggest in the world, which the New York Times some time back described as being a bigger threat to India's security than international terrorism. 

Things are little different in the rest of South Asia. All-pervasive corruption, extreme economic inequalities, a breakdown of institutions and denial of basics like food, water, healthcare, education and others have been the bane of the entire region. 

While India has been rocked by some of the biggest corruption scandals in history in the past few years – under Mr. Clean Dr. Singh no less – the culture of sleaze has acquired a new meaning and been taken to a new level altogether with Mr. Ten Percent Asif Ali Zardari taking over the reins of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan next door.

So there's every possibility and compelling need for an Arab spring in South Asia. Especially when like those marching on the Arab street, India and Pakistan are home to a large young population that is getting increasingly impatient for change. The young are not just restless, they are also informed and know their rights. And they know how to use the power of new technology and new social tools to get what they want. Having seen the net magic in action in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere, it won't be long before they decide to take charge of their destiny. Especially when their leaders are so incompetent and clueless. 

Given the average age of politicians in our part of the world, is it any wonder they are so hopelessly out of touch with the reality of the 21st century and its young? Anyone who has seen a recent press conference with Singh would know what I'm talking about. I felt almost sorry for Dr. Singh as he pathetically pottered his way around the carefully chosen questions posed by carefully chosen journalists. Here's a man who is not just resting on his laurels but has gone to sleep on them. 

And it's not just the prime minister. Every political party on the left, right, and center boasts leaders who belong in retirement homes. It's even worse when it comes to regional players. Most political parties have ended up as personal fiefdoms of their leaders. Power is family business and remains in the family. 

Karunanidhi, the permanently wheelchair-bound Tamil Nadu chief minister, cannot move an inch without the help of his family and aides but cling on he must to his chair. Surely, a nation of a billion plus people deserves better. So does Pakistan and so do other nations in the region.

This is why, given the bankruptcy of politics in the region, don't be surprised if we see an Arab spring in South Asia soon. The possibilities for a brave new world are endless. 

*Aijaz Zaka Syed is a columnist based in the Gulf. He can be reached at








Issues related to electricity never vanish from our horizon. With summer imminent now, thoughts of loadshedding and the nightmarish realities of life without power have begun to haunt us. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has spoken of a future where no cuts will be necessitated, but this is hard to believe as things now stand. Such promises made in the past have turned out to be nothing more than eyewash. Meanwhile, a further rise in the cost of power could be due – even though tariffs have been going up steeply for months. During talks in Islamabad, the IMF is reported to have recommended that the government delegate a role in electricity power regulation to NEPRA. The IMF is keen to see a cut in the subsidy on power – which the government says will stand at Rs139 billion by June – and has questioned the formula currently used to determine pricing.

The focus of the donor bodies, including the IMF and the World Bank, is to push up revenues for the government. For the government, the pressures of increased prices placed on people should also be a primary concern. Decisions under outside pressure do nothing to make the government look good. This also brings under question the government's competence and its capacity to care for the people who elected it to power. Alongside the questions of pricing, we continue to see reports that state that more expensive power is being produced even though cheaper production is possible. A report in this newspaper asks why power plants using expensive furnace oil are being preferred over cheaper ones that could be run on gas. The issue of power plants has come up before – and the matter has been taken up by the Supreme Court. For most citizens, the intricacies are not easy to understand. But they are clear that they need power. The economy has already suffered immensely because of the shortfalls we have faced. The time has come to set up an autonomous body which includes experts to consider the many issues involved and put forward recommendations. And the public needs to know the truth. Otherwise we will remain mired in controversy, with lack of trust for the government leaving us, as citizens, constantly wondering if better solutions could have been found to a crisis that impacts both the functions of life and the budgets of households.







What began as a revolt in the east of the country quickly spread westwards, eventually to encircle Tripoli and Col Qaddafi's birthplace, Sirte. As the days pass it becomes clear that what Libya may be moving towards is civil war rather than revolt in the fashion of Tunisia and Egypt. And Col Qaddafi, well-armed and with the air force in action is showing no sign of an early climb-down. The rebels to the east are not well-equipped and their military strength is with army units that have switched sides. They have no air assets and, beyond a squadron of elderly tanks, not much by way of armour either. What they do have, particularly in Benghazi, is an emerging model of governance based around the "committees" that ruled before, but with different men and women at their heads and with very different agendas. It is far too early to say that the Qaddafi regime is at an end, and he clearly still commands support within his tribal powerbase, but the stage is now set for prolonged, and perhaps bloody, conflict.

As the Libyans play out their destinies it is possible to see that the Arab world is at very different stages in terms of the emerging revolts – most of which hinge around the common factors of anger at long-entrenched autocratic regimes, political disenfranchisement and a burgeoning youth population that wants jobs and a curb on corruption. There are even ripples of discontent within Saudi Arabia, which the BBC reported on Saturday was moving security forces to the north-east to counter any sectarian unrest that may spill over from neighbouring Bahrain. Egypt and Tunisia are still in a painful change-process, and other states have introduced – where they can afford to and not all can – hasty fiscal measures designed to buy the quiescence of their restive peoples. It may take as long as a generation for the changes that began last December to work themselves through. But whatever happens, the status quo that has prevailed for the last half century in the Arab world is gone. The certainties on which the politics of oil were predicated are crumbling by the week and major powers, supporters and beneficiaries of despotic regimes are going to have to do a rapid rethink as the Faustian pact they made with the oil producers of the Arab world unravels.







According to figures put out by international organisations, around 12 percent of Pakistanis over the age of 25 are diabetic. Another ten percent have a glucose tolerance problem. This makes for a huge number in a population of some 170 million people. While there has been increased awareness of the issue in the last few years – with public figures like former cricket captain Wasim Akram contributing to this – more still needs to be done. The connections between lifestyle and diabetes need to be made clearer to people, so that preventive measures can be taken. As every medical expert will say, prevention is inevitably better – and cheaper – than cure; or, treatment in the case of diabetes, which has no cure yet.

While Pakistan has a formidably high rate of malnutrition, obesity is also a problem we are seeing more and more often among wealthier social sections. The issue needs to be drawn attention to, and consciousness built at school level, given that eating habits are often created in childhood. There may also be a need to improve the system of testing. Quality medical care is available only to a small number of people, and even among these it is far from certain how many go in for routine testing. Rising costs make that more difficult to do so – but the rising burden of disease indicates a need to act to save as many people as we can from its hold. The government, healthcare experts and private organisations need to combine forces for this.









At the hearing of the Raymond Davis case on February17, the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court adjourned the case till March 14 to give the federal government more time to file a reply on the question of diplomatic immunity. Again, while hearing an application in connection with the case on March 2, the court observed that it is for the federal government to decide whether Davis enjoys diplomatic immunity.

Yet the government continues to evade the issue. It is not clear what it hopes to gain by this dithering. The only thing that is certain is that the Zardari government has been feverishly trying for a deal with Washington under which Davis could be released in return for some "concession" which could make the arrangement palatable to an outraged Pakistani public. Not so well-known is the fact that in its keenness to reassure Washington of its "pro-American" credentials, the PML-N is also prepared to cooperate in finding a way of returning Davis to the US in return for some cosmetic concessions by Washington. This is confirmed by an ABC News report on February 28 that according to Pakistani officials in both Lahore and Islamabad, Davis's release was a "matter of time", and that the Pakistan government was waiting for the public furore over the case to wane before releasing him.

It is no secret that in the wake of the Kerry visit, intensive contacts have been taking place between the two countries, especially through their military and the intelligence establishments, to work out an arrangement for the release of Davis. The issue was discussed thoroughly at Kayani's meeting with Mullen in Oman on February 23. The Oman meeting has been followed by telephonic contacts between CIA Director Panetta and ISI chief Pasha.

The government first offered to release Davis, if Aafia Siddiqui was transferred to Pakistan to serve her sentence here. But this proposal was immediately shot down by the White House. The two sides are now trying to work out an arrangement for the release of Davis in return for the payment of blood money. This is precisely the fear that had pushed Shumaila Kanwal, wife of one of the victims of Davis' shooting, to suicide. But our rulers are more concerned about currying favour with Washington.

Some of the details of the negotiations being held with Washington, which were divulged by The Washington Post on March 2, are also worrisome. The government has to explain why it is contemplating involving the Saudi or UAE government as an intermediary, as that newspaper reported. The government must also explain why it has permitted the ISI to take charge of this matter.

ISI should confine itself to questions of intelligence cooperation alone. Not only that, a senior ISI official has been sending emails to The Washington Post on the progress of negotiations on the Davis case. That is certainly no part of ISI turf and should stop immediately. One of these emails expresses the Pakistani desire to be regarded as partners, rather than subordinates. "We need to be treated with trust, equality and respect," it says. This is a legitimate wish. But this wish will be fulfilled not through entreaties but only if we conduct ourselves with dignity and self-respect. We should start by refusing to make any shabby deals in the Davis case.

We have a strong case under international law and should not make any compromise on this point. At a background briefing on February 21, an unnamed "senior administration official" gave the first detailed presentation of the US legal position. His main point was that since Davis had been duly notified on January 10, 2010 as a member of the embassy's administrative and technical staff, he had acquired full immunity from criminal prosecution.

However, he conveniently omitted saying that any immunity conferred by such a notification ends on "termination of functions with the mission". Since Davis was not included in the list of embassy staff sent on 25 January 2011, it can only mean that his functions at the mission – and with it whatever immunity he claims under the earlier notification – stood terminated on the date this list was sent, meaning two days before the incident.

I raised this point on March 2 in a discussion of the Davis case with John Bellinger, a leading US expert on international law, on a private TV channel. Bellinger's credentials are impeccable. He served as legal adviser at the State Department under Condoleezza Rice from 2005-2009. Not surprisingly, Bellinger maintained that Davis' diplomatic immunity had not been affected by the omission of his name from the January 2011 list. He gave two reasons: first, that the omission was an inadvertent mistake; and, second, that the original notification of Davis was "official" while the omission of his name was "unofficial."

Both these contentions are difficult to accept. First, if the omission of Davis' name was a mistake, he would not have been described as a consular employee by the State Department (January 27) and by the embassy (January 28). Second, both the original notification on Davis and the omission of his name were made in formal communications (notes verbales) of the embassy. Therefore, both have the same "official" character.

Not all American experts share the view that Davis has immunity. Ron Mlotek, a specialist on diplomatic law who served as legal counsel at the State Department dealing with such issues, has said that the American position is very convoluted and appears to be based on "legal smoke and mirrors".

The US case is weak but it is being very forcefully articulated. Our case is strong but the Zardari government is shying away from presenting it to the world in order not to "anger" Washington. The senior US official who gave a briefing on February 21 was asked what Pakistan had to say to the US stand. His reply was that he had not seen the Pakistani counter-argument. He was not the only one. No one knows precisely what the Pakistani position is, apart from the fact, as declared by Gilani, that there is a "difference of opinion" between the two countries because of "ambiguity and inconsistency that is reflected in the available record".

Clearly, Pakistan needs to declare forthrightly and unambiguously that Pakistan does not recognise Davis as a member of the embassy staff. Not only that, the government must also present its detailed case under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR), as the US has done. This can be done in a "background briefing", as the State Department did, so that it may not bind us in any legal proceedings.

The US is right, however, that the question of diplomatic immunity cannot be resolved by the national courts of either country. Pakistan must therefore take the matter to the International Court of Justice. By signing the Optional Protocol under the VCDR, the US accepted the jurisdiction of the ICJ for disputes under the Convention. As reported by the press, the US has withdrawn from the ICJ's jurisdiction for disputes under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR). But since the US claim is based on the VCDR, it would not affect the ICJ's jurisdiction in the Davis case.

Bellinger argued against taking the matter to the ICJ as this would be a prolonged process taking a year or more. However, this does not have to be the case. The Iranian hostages' case, which the US took to the ICJ in November 1979, was decided in May 1980 – in only six months.

We have a good chance of winning the case in the ICJ and vindicating our stand. There is also another reason why we must refer it to the ICJ. If we want Davis to be exchanged against Aafia, we must first obtain an ICJ judgement. If he is then convicted by our courts, the Americans will surely listen to any proposals for a swap. But not before that.

The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service. Email:








The whirlwind of protests that overthrew Tunisian president Zine El-Abedine Ben Ali and Egypt's ruler Hosni Mubarak continues unabated. The entire Arab world is in revolt, from Yemen and Bahrain in the Gulf to Morocco and Algeria in the Maghreb, to Sudan and Djibouti in the South. Protests in one country are inspiring revolts in others.

Libya is the latest flashpoint. There, Colonel Muammar Qaddafi faces an unprecedented and powerful popular revolt. He has lost territory along a 600-km stretch along the Mediterranean Sea, including major cities like Benghazi and Misrata, to the opposition. Sections of the army have gone over to the protesters. Large numbers of ministers (including the justice minister) and diplomats have resigned.

Qaddafi's regime, in power since 1969, has responded to the peaceful protests by unleashing savage repression, killing over 1,000 people. Qaddafi says he will fight to "the last drop of his blood". In a hysterical outburst, Qaddafi maligned the protesters as drug addicts, radical Islamists and American agents. He threatened: "Libya will burn."

Qaddafi's rants merely prove he's desperate. His support base is now extremely thin. Meanwhile, opposition forces are closing in on Tripoli. Qaddafi's exit seems only a matter of time.

However, the post-Qaddafi transition won't be easy. Libya (population. 6.5 million) has no political parties, trade unions or civil society organisations. But it's Africa's third-largest oil producer and has the continent's biggest proven oil reserves - 44 billion barrels. So, the Western powers, led by the US, are propping up groups like the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, which would like to reinstall the monarchy and pursue a pro-West oil policy.

The US is repositioning warplanes and ships close to Libya. Forty neoconservatives, who had earlier grouped under the Project for a New American Century, and now use another banner, Foreign Policy Initiative, have demanded that President Obama militarily intervene to help topple Qaddafi.

Such fervent "humanitarian" appeals weren't made when Israel invaded Gaza in 2009, killing hundreds of civilians. Nor are they being made with respect to the slavishly pro-US dictatorships of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain. Mercifully, Libya's opposition has firmly rejected the idea of external military intervention.

Libya is marked by strong and distinct tribal identities. The loyalty of Qaddafi's own tribe, Al-Qaddafa, one of 15 major groupings, will be crucial to his survival. He will finally rely on his ultra-loyal, well-armed 3,000-strong Revolutionary Guard Corps, drawn primarily from his tribe. But if recent trends and reports are anything to go by, the Al-Qaddafa tribe's loyalty could prove fickle. In many parts of Libya, troops sent to put down protests instead joined the opposition.

Qaddafi's Libya is a sordid case of misgovernance and brutally repressive rule. The dictator gained some credibility early on when he deposed King Idris, nationalised Libya's oil, and promoted pan-Arab and pan-African solidarity. But he has squandered it.

Despite the country's oil wealth, one-third of Libyans are unemployed. And Libya has increasingly followed neoliberal policies under capitalist globalisation, which have impoverished its people.

Yet, Qaddafi recently became a great favourite of the US which saw him as "a strong partner in the war against terrorism". According to WikiLeaks cables, the US Ambassador in Tripoli regarded him as a major force "to blunt the ideological appeal of radical Islam".

Qaddafi will have to go sooner or later - hopefully, very soon. That should send a strong signal to authoritarian Arab governments: reliance on brute force - a Qaddafi specialty, unlike in Egypt, where Mubarak restrained the army, and called back thugs who attacked crowds in Tahrir Square on February 2 - cannot ensure regime survival. It's best to negotiate a transition to some kind of broad-based government while it's still possible.

The problem is, that's becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible, in most countries in West Asia-North Africa, which have seen protests ignited by popular aspirations for democracy and accountable governance, for food security and employment, and for modernisation of society and politics.

The mould of conservatism and backwardness into which Arab rulers had cast their societies for decades is breaking up. There is a great urge for freedom, liberation from despotic rule, and participatory democracy.

Some people, especially in the West, fear that Islamist radicals like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and even al-Qaeda, would gain the most if existing Arab regimes are toppled. This fear is grossly exaggerated. The Brotherhood is a relatively moderate, non-violent organisation which believes in a degree of pluralism. In Egypt, it was only one of four components of the movement that toppled Mubarak - the others being the youth, the radical Left, and a middle class disaffected with economic uncertainty and corruption.

The Brotherhood didn't try to take over the anti-Mubarak movement, but worked with a broad coalition, of which former International Atomic Energy Agency Chief Mohammed El Baradei is the foremost leader.

As for al-Qaeda, it has played absolutely no role in the opposition movements in the Arab world, despite Osama bin Laden and his Egyptian deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri declaring many Arab dictators, including Mubarak, un-Islamic and Western puppets for years.

As a US scholar puts it: "Knocking off Mubarak has been al-Zawahiri's goal for more than 20 years, and he was unable to achieve it. Now a non-violent non-religious pro-democracy movement got rid of him in a matter of weeks. It's a major problem for al-Qaeda."

That al-Qaeda could not take advantage of the turmoil in the Arab world to instigate militancy and religious fanaticism spells a strategic defeat for its jihadi ideology, which clearly has no appeal for Arab youth.

The real challenge before the popular revolts in the Arab world is not how to fight jihadi Islam, but how to bring about a transition to a radical democracy which empowers people. This is still an unfinished task, even in Egypt. The army still controls power in Egypt. It has not yet revoked the state of emergency, freed political prisoners, or announced an interim government which can hold elections to a constituent assembly. Meanwhile, some components of the Egyptian movement, such as that led by Google's marketing head Wael Ghonim have sloughed off from the main body. What's emerging is a de-centred movement, which skilfully uses social network tools like Facebook and Twitter, and whose demands have expanded beyond the issues of unemployment and poverty that had ignited the original rebellion.

How the transition to a radical democracy which expresses aspirations for freedom and economic empowerment will occur still remains unclear. But hopefully, movements in the Arab world will inspire similar aspirations and struggles outside the region - just as social movements did in Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil and Chile in Latin America during the past decade.

Even if status quo-ist forces take over the Arab world's movements, and abort the transition to participatory democracy, the movements' demands, aspirations and mobilisation methods will stay. The shock waves generated by demonstrations, strikes, self-defence committees and other forms of popular mobilisation will resonate in every country hit by neoliberal globalisation, the recent global explosion in food prices, and rising unemployment.

The Arab world could become the midwife of great changes across the globe. We must all wish the popular revolts well and express solidarity with them.

The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights

activist based in Delhi. Email: prafulbidwai1@








Josh Malihabadi is considered to be the most famous progressive poet. All those poets who were sympathetic to communism kept quiet against the British because of Britain's support to communist Russia against Hitler. Josh, however, was not to be deterred by such considerations. He recited inflammatory verses against British rule and was promptly put behind bars. This "honour" was not earned by any other poet.

This column takes its title from the first verse of his famous quartet:

Suno ae saakinan-e khak o pasti

Nida kya aarahi-hai aasmaan sey

Keh aazadi ka ik lamha hai behtar

Ghulami ki hayaat-e jawidaan sey.

These "saakinan-e khak o pasti" is a reference to the slaves, the people of the subcontinent who were colonised the British. Josh inspired them with his message that it was a thousand times better to live a short life in freedom and independence than a long life of slavery. Whenever there is need for inspiration, determination and encouragement, there is need for a leader, a fiery orator or a redeemer—like Allama Iqbal and Josh. They had different objectives, but their course of action was similar. The people of the subcontinent lived under colonial rule for almost two hundred years, and this left such a permanent psychological effect on their mentality that even now, after 63 years of independence, the same inferiority complex prevails. They portray their cowardice as a sign of patience - sometimes as being advisable and sometimes as being pragmatic - and never take bold actions or let others do so. Poets are usually very sensitive, understand the passions and feelings of the people and express these in their work. They encourage people to rise up and sometimes even taunt those same people of cowardice.

In our own country an able prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was toppled by an ungrateful military dictator, Gen Zia. Bhutto was put in jail and hanged on dubious charges of murder. I still remember many bigwigs openly celebrating his hanging by distributing sweets. Ironically, one of those very people is now a prominent Zardari supporter and confidant and praises Mr Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. At that time there were no protests and no demonstrations were held; everyone was trying to curry favours with Gen Zia. Now the age of eulogising and worshipping the dead has dawned. People shed hypocritical crocodile tears and important buildings and educational institutions are named after them. Benazir was murdered in broad daylight surrounded by her so-called loyalists and admirers. There followed some rumpus, no more. Zardari and his colleagues have ruled the country for the past three years and the culprits of that heinous crime have not been arrested, even though Zardari and others have all openly claimed to know who the culprits are.

Elaborate functions are held on death anniversaries and processions taken out (at state expense). The person who was ultimately responsible for her security and was suspected of involvement was given a guard of honour and a grand send-off when he left the country. Now he is taunting all by asking who the holder of the two most important positions in the country is and who benefited most from her death. Well, we all know what (who) he means.

Things are changing very fast all over the world. In many Arab countries, and to a lesser extent in our own country, people are rising against cruel rulers. They are hoping and praying for change, either peaceful or otherwise. Their blood boils. The situation is like a keg of gunpowder—one spark will be enough to blow everything up. The corrupt and oppressive rulers will find no place to hide and they will have to answer for all their crimes, wrongdoings and corruption. We all know that very often a race car driver, ever-confident of his driving skills, dies in a car accident. Similarly, an expert swimmer often drowns. Those living a life of luxury may well end up dishonoured and destitute. We have the examples of Marcos, the Shah of Iran, Hosni Mubarak, Ben Ali and Musharraf.

Decades of dictatorial rule came to an end and nobody had any sympathy for the despots. The flood is moving mountains, obstructions are being swept away and, one by one, dictators are being toppled. Pakistan is awaiting its turn and it is bound to happen, rather sooner than later. After all, there is a Divine edict that states that Allah gives respite (to repent and behave) to the wrongdoers for a little while, but then He subjects them to sudden, severe and harsh chastisement. Then all their prayers, crying and lamentations will be of no avail.

On the one hand we have almost 150 million people living either below the poverty line or just above it, while on the other hand corrupt and shameless politicians and businessmen got Rs250 billion worth of loans written off, as happened during the last few years, and are living ever more luxurious lives. According to media reports, these people have stashed away about Rs28 trillion in Swiss banks. Analysts have calculated that this amount is enough for (a) a tax-free budget for 30 years, (b) providing employment to 60 million Pakistanis and (c) providing Rs20,000 per month to every Pakistani for 60 years. It could also free us from the clutches of the World Bank and the IMF. All this wealth is in the hands of a relatively small number of people while almost 150 million people are leading miserable lives.

In our country, crooks, manipulators and the corrupt have found ways and means of perpetrating their hold. All that is required is to be an American agent, follow the American agenda, and don't worry about the masses suffering and starving as these helpless poor can't do anything anyway. Some sane people, and many analysts, are worried about the impending eruption of the volcano. Some are also advising the masses to rise up and snatch their rights by force; when force is used, a lot of blood is shed.

The irony in our country is that the corrupt, sly rulers use provincial, ethnic and sectarian slogans to divide and rule and they have succeeded so far. Whenever there is some popular opposition, this is the policy which is followed.

There is an urgent and definite need for honest and patriotic members of all political parties to join hands to mobilise the masses to rise and make the necessary changes by force. The suffering masses should unite to fight current evils and consider themselves to be Pakistanis only – nothing else. If they follow such a course, they will definitely succeed. The chain reaction started from Tunisia and is knocking at our door. Rise and demand your rights and don't allow yourselves to be treated like cattle by the corrupt and selfish rulers. There is not much time left. The young generation has a great responsibility to lead in this demand for change.









The bone of contention between former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the incumbent rulers is not power or privileges, policies, or priorities. Both are known for their unflinching commitment to democracy and uncompromising contempt for despotism. Both were wronged by dictators, have rendered enormous sacrifices for the cause of democracy and have high stakes in continuation of the democratic process. Both believe in the rule of law and look down upon abuse of power. For both, the be-all-and-end-all of politics is nothing but selfless public service.

But if the two have so much in common, what has driven them apart? A glance at political developments during the last three years reveals that they only disagree over whether there's such thing as a deadline in politics.

Mr Sharif and his party subscribe to the view that in politics there's no time like the present. Just as justice delayed is justice denied, delayed action in politics is tantamount to inaction. Therefore, major political decisions have to be made in good time. In particular, deals struck between top political leaders need to be honoured within the agreed time. A politician ought to be as good as his word. So if he committed himself to doing something, say, in one month, he must stick to the deadline.

On the other hand, President Zardari and his loyal lieutenant, Premier Gilani, have no time for those who are bent upon giving deadlines. Though they agree that promises need to be kept and deals honoured, they hold that things should be done in their own good time. One doesn't become guilty of turning back on one's word merely because one is playing for time.

Down the memory lane. The elections held on Feb 18, 2008 had produced a hung parliament. Mr Zardari's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) emerged as the single-largest party in the National Assembly, followed by the PML-N of Mr Sharif. However, the PPP fell well short of a simple majority. A similar situation existed in three of the four provinces, including the Punjab, where the PML-N returned as the single-largest party. In the centre and Punjab, the PPP and the PML-N formed coalitions. In the centre, the PPP was the senior coalition partner, while in Punjab it was the PML-N.

From the outset, it was abundantly clear that if the coalitions were to remain intact, the two parties would have to bring forth a great deal of political maturity and spirit of accommodation. The two parties were on better terms than ever before and wanted a strong parliamentary system and removal of the distortions introduced to the Constitution. Hence, cooperation was in their mutual interest.

On March 3, 2008, the top leadership of the two parties met at Bhurban and announced a decision to restore the deposed members of the superior judiciary through a parliamentary resolution within one month of the installation of the federal government. However, later differences between the parties on the matter came to the fore. The PPP took the position that restoration of the judges needed nothing less than an amendment to the Constitution, whereas for the PML-N an executive order backed by a parliamentary resolution, as envisaged in the Bhurban Declaration, was sufficient to restore the deposed members of the superior judiciary. The PPP also came out with a constitutional package, which sought to amend some sixty provisions of the Constitution.

Subsequent attempts to overcome the differences on the so-called modalities for reinstatement of the judges did not bear fruit, and in the end the PML-N decided to quit the coalition and sit on opposition benches.

Notwithstanding their differences on the restoration of the judges, the PPP and the PML-N made common cause in forcing President Pervez Musharraf to step down. On Aug 7, in a joint press conference, Messrs Zardari and Sharif announced that the president would be tried on charges of gross misconduct and of violating the Constitution.

In retrospect, the PPP has fulfilled most of the promises it held out to the PML-N. Mr Sharif wanted reinstatement of the judges, Mr Zardari restored them. Mr Sharif wanted removal of Gen Musharraf, Mr Zardari did so – albeit only to become president himself, much to the chagrin of his now estranged "elder brother." Mr Sharif wanted revival of the 1973 Constitution, Mr Zardari obliged even at the cost of clipping his presidential powers. What has given Mr Sharif the pip, however, is that neither promise was fulfilled within the agreed deadline.

Coming to Mr Sharif's latest suggestions for good governance and economic revival embodied in his 10-point agenda – the proximate cause of the PPP/PML-N parting of ways – the ruling party is of the view that they need some time before the same can be put into effect. The former premier, however, suspected that the ruling party was merely delaying action to gain time.

Some federal ministers are still hopeful of a patch-up with their former ally. The fact, however, is that if the PPP wants to woo the PML-N back, it must learn to keep time with that party.

The author is a freelance contributor based in Islamabad. Email:







 Criterion quarterly.

Hope, it is said, is like a rainbow in the eye that colours every cloud with a wealth of colours. But shame and sorrow visited Pakistan yet again with the assassination on Wednesday of Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti. This was the second killing of its kind in Islamabad in less than two months, after the gunning down of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer on Jan 4 by his own bodyguard. The lives of Taseer and Bhatti were brought to an abrupt end because they had opposed the blasphemy laws promulgated by Ziaul Haq.

Taseer's bodyguard had no remorse for what he had done because he was convinced that he had acted in defence of Islam; that is, his own skewed interpretation of the faith. The murderer has been acclaimed a hero by the religious right. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan owned responsibility for Bhatti's murder and, in the absence of his security detail, nonchalantly left pamphlets at the scene of the crime which read: "Anyone who opposes the blasphemy law has no right to live."

Despite this, an English newspaper carried an editorial stating that external powers were out to destabilise Pakistan, and insinuated that Bhatti's assassination could have been the work of RAW, Mossad or CIA agents. Conspiracy theories, about hostile foreign elements whose sole purpose is to destroy Pakistan, have been churned out incessantly.

The proclivity to externalise the country's internal problems should have ended when Interior Minister Rehman Malik publicly affirmed on Sept 8, 2008, that the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and Al Qaeda were hand-in-glove. He also disclosed that all suicide bombers and their handlers were Pakistani nationals and were being financed from within the country. In an emotional outburst at the National Assembly on Friday he reiterated that southern Punjab had become the breeding ground for extremist outfits and that he, along with Sherry Rehman and Fauzia Wahab of the PPP, were on the terrorists' hit list.

Shahbaz Bhatti had a premonition that his end was near. About four months ago he recorded a video, requesting that it only be released in the event that he was killed. In the recording he said: "I am ready to die for a cause, I am living for my community...and I will die to defend their rights...I would prefer to die for my principles."

So deep has the canker of religious bigotry eaten into the soul of the nation that in January members of the Senate refused to offer fateha for Salmaan Taseer because of his stance on Ziaul Haq's blasphemy laws. On Thursday, when the National Assembly rose to observe two minutes' silence to honour the memory of Shahbaz Bhatti, three of its members, belonging to one of the religious parties, remained seated. They did not want to show any respect to a slain member of parliament because he was a Christian.

Yet there was a time when a Christian, A R Cornelius, was the chief justice of Pakistan.


Like William Pitt, who declared in the House of Commons on Nov 18, 1783: "Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom; it is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves," Justice Cornelius was fervently opposed to the doctrine of necessity. His was the lone dissenting voice in the Dosso Case of 1958 when the Supreme Court, under Justice Munir, validated the abrogation of the 1956 Constitution by Iskander Mirza by invoking the doctrine of necessity. Justice Munir justified the decision citing Hans Kelsen's 1949 enunciation of this concept, that "an abrupt political change" was, in effect, a revolution which created its own legality. Unfortunately, the service rendered to parliamentary democracy by Cornelius is forgotten.

Ayub Khan's military rule was secular and members of the minority communities were never victimised. Pakistan's ambassador to Thailand in the early 1960s, P M Choudhry, was a Hindu, who died in Bangkok. Thai newspapers extolled Pakistan as the cradle of Asian civilisations. As a predominantly Muslim country it had sent a Hindu ambassador to Buddhist Thailand.

The seeds of religious intolerance were sown in the early years of the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto with the Second Amendment to the 1973 Constitution under which Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims. Subsequently, when the popular agitation against his government intensified, Bhutto sought to appease the religious right. Nevertheless, he was toppled in a military coup and sent to the gallows.

Thus began the darkest era of Pakistan's short, turbulent history under Gen Ziaul Haq. A reign of terror was unleashed in the name of religion, from which the country never recovered. Even the Islamic world was appalled and the late King Hassan II of Morocco stated publicly that Pakistan was a nation of fanatics. The fire of fanaticism consumed the country, and in time Pakistan became the foremost victim of religion-motivated terrorism.

In his maiden speech at the National Assembly on March 29, 2008, Prime Minster Gilani declared: "The war on terror has become our war, because it has posed serious threats to our own country." But despite this, extremist violence continues. Since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Dec 27, 2007, there have been no less than 24 incidents of terrorism in Rawalpindi and Islamabad alone. A study undertaken by the South Asian Intelligence Review shows that from 2003 to Feb 20, 2011, the total number of fatalities in Pakistan from terrorist violence was 33,213. This included 9,620 civilians, 3,443 security personnel, and 20,150, terrorists. The number of deaths in Fata increased to 5,403 in 2010, against 5,304 in 2009. In the same two-year period the fatalities in Balochistan rose from 277 to 347, while Sindh saw an increase from 66 to 162.

Mahatma Gandhi once said that "intolerance betrays faith in one's cause," but what he did not say is that when faith is based on reason, as is true Islam, it is never intolerant. A striking illustration of this is provided by one of the early Muslim biographers, Ibn Sa'd (d. 845). He narrates that when a delegation of Christians from Najran called on Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the final months of his life, they were given access to his mosque to perform their religious rites, even though the attribution of divinity to Jesus, or to any person, is anathema to the fundamental tenets of Islam.

In early 2008, Sheykh Waheeduddin Khan, a prominent Indian scholar, stated that Dajjal, a concept that some theologians equate with the Islamic antichrist, is not a person but a manifestation of violence and terrorism. Shortly afterwards, no less than 20,000 Deobandi clerics of India declared terrorism un-Islamic. This demonstrates the vital role that can be played by ulema in countering the scourge of religion-motivated violence. It is for the government to wake up from its slumber and take the initiative to launch a mass movement with the help of learned clerics against the ideology of extremism.









An indicator of the health of the nation – or at least of the ability to soldier on regardless – is provided by the ATM system. We take for granted that those of us with those little plastic cards and a current account can go to any one of thousands of banks across the country at any time of day or night – and take money out. We can pay our utility bills at some ATM points and some of the banks are offering payment of utilities online as well. We are seeing ATMs out posted to shopping malls and bus stations and IDPs are issued the magic cards in order to draw money. They have become ubiquitous, and will eventually become the principal point of sale for retail banking services. Few of us would think of the technology that sits behind the cash point but I can assure you (because I looked it up) that it is both complex and expensive and requires a high level of technological expertise to keep it in working order.

When the 'failed state' argument gets waved in front of me I often point to the ATM system as a mark of our failure to fail. It is robust, reliable (mostly) and is one of the very few places where we form an orderly queue without being beaten into line by heavies wielding electronic cattle prods. But sometimes the system fails, as has happened to me recently prompting me to go inside the bank and attempt that much trickier interface than the one we have with a mute machine – that of human to human.

For many years I have used the same branch of the bank which for legal reasons I cannot name so we will call it 'Bank Aitch' to stay on the right side of the libel lawyers. The staff were always friendly enough, and helpful when necessary. They were particularly helpful a year ago when all foreigner accounts were frozen while our identities were verified. The wheel came off when the bank in its infinite wisdom decided to move my account to another branch – and did not tell me. The first I knew of it was being politely told that the cheques I was depositing and cashing would be the last such as this branch will no longer be accepting your cheques. We have merged with another branch and your account has been transferred, said the slightly apologetic bank clerk. The branch to which I am relocated is almost a mile further down the road (measured it on Google Earth) and inconvenient to say the least. Of considerably greater inconvenience is that my bank sort code has changed – which means that I had to contact my bank in UK and then get my wife to immediately do the paperwork that was necessary at that end. Then I had to contact a magazine in Nepal that I occasionally work for to tell them that they could not wire my fee to me because my bank had shifted my account. The woe went on.

'But Head Office sent you a letter' plead the bank. Well if they did I never got it. As an example of poor customer service it was a classic. 'Head Office' may well have sent me a letter, but the merger of one branch with another is not something that happens overnight and it would have not been beyond reasonable expectation that somebody at the bank – where I am visiting at least twice weekly – actually took the trouble to tell me about it. Wonderful things, ATMs. Great service. Shame that the humans behind them cannot deliver similar.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email:









THOUGH officially formal notification has not been issued for extension in the service of ISI Chief Lt General Ahmad Shuja Pasha but it is a foregone conclusion as the Prime Minister has moved the summary to the President. The extension in the tenure of the ISI Chief is demand of the time when Pakistan is in the midst of all sorts of crises at the internal and external levels and in this scenario it would not have been wise to change the command of the premier intelligence agency which is in the forefront to foil the conspiracies of our enemies.

General Pasha who earlier as Director General Military Operations and then as DG ISI has indepth knowledge and background of the security challenges facing Pakistan. Pasha has had a distinguished career, spanning more than 32 years, in the Pakistan Army. During Pasha's tenure as the ISI director general, the army has conducted three successful operations and flushed out terrorists from Swat, South Waziristan and Bajaur. The successful operations and the recent arrests of high-profile al Qaeda and Taliban commanders are considered significant achievements of the ISI. He is rightly perceived as an upright person with unique capabilities who keeps interests of Pakistan uppermost in his mind and is an outspoken person who never hesitates to catch the bull by the horns. It was General Pasha who confronted the CIA Director Leon Panetta with some highly classified and irrefutable evidence that the US agency was interfering in the internal affairs of Pakistan. Panetta was startled when General Pasha, placed the facts before him in Islamabad on November 20, 2009. The "deliberate leaks" after the meeting of the spy chiefs of the two countries, spoke of the mind of the ISI and the armed forces of Pakistan. General Pasha had earlier conveyed the facts about the interference of CIA in acts of terrorism in Pakistan to the Government but on realizing that either the message was not strongly conveyed to the Americans or it had no desired impact on them, finally put his foot down and expressed serious concerns over the CIA's crude interference in the country's internal matters. Therefore in our view the extension is in the interest of Pakistan as all the major stakeholders will have their tenure till 2013 and they would work in complete harmony to steer the country out of crises.








PRESIDENT Asif Ali Zardari in an exclusive article carried by this newspaper on Sunday has stated that Shaheed Benazir Bhutto just days before her assassination wrote presciently of the war within Islam and the potential for a clash between Islam and the West. The late leader in her piece of paper said there is an internal tension within Muslim society and the failure to resolve that tension peacefully and rationally threatens to degenerate into a collision course of values spilling into a clash between Islam and the West.

We are of the opinion that the President has rightly come out with his point of view and that of the late Prime Minister and we fully agree with them that if appropriate measures were not taken the situation at the international level would take a serious turn. The President has suggested the way to move forward. He has told the Americans that Pakistan know its challenges and seek the trust and confidence of its international allies who sometimes lose patience and pile pressure on those who are already on the front lines of what is undeniably a long war. The President was right in stating that if Pakistan and the US are to work together against terrorism, they must avoid political incidents that could further inflame tensions. The US being a super power considers it an obligation to speak on every issue in the Muslim world and that is interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. People there take it as an invasion on their sovereignty and naturally they would at some point of time retaliate. There is also realization in the Muslim world that when it comes to the rights of the Christians, the West is in the forefront to support them be they Sudan or Indonesia but when it is the question of rights of the Muslims, these are ignored and they are allowed to be persecuted. The present situation in the Afro-Arab world is very serious and the same is the case in Afghanistan. Therefore the United States and the Western countries must avoid interfering in the internal matters of these countries to avoid an all out war between Islam and the West.







NOW it is quite evident that some inimical forces are out to divide Pakistan both vertically and horizontally. Saturday's killing of brother of late Maulana Azam Tariq, founding member of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan Maulana (SSP) Muhammad Ahmed Madni, is a proof that attempts are being made to pit different religious groups against each other.

Naturally the assassination of Maulana Madni has caused a state of shock to the followers of the defunct SSP and the purpose of the assassins was to fan differences between various sections. Earlier on February 20 a leading cleric belonging to the Brailvi sect was killed in Karachi. Hafiz Adnan Sheikh Qadri was said to have had an affiliation with Dawat-e-Islami, Sunni Iteehad Council and Sunni Tehreek. Then there are signs for dividing the society on ethnic basis and the incidents of target killings in Karachi are pointer to pit different groups against each other. God forbid if that happens then it would be a civil war and no one would feel secure because all the religious parties including the banned one have amassed large quantity of weapons and they would be targeting not only religious leaders but seminaries and mosques of the other sect. What is more worrisome is that there appears to be no realization on the part of the Government as no serious effort is being made to overcome the disturbing developments. We would therefore once again warn that consequences of this dangerous situation would be very serious and urge the government to make efforts to control it. To deal with the conspiracies of anti-Pakistan forces, it is of utmost importance that the Government must convene a conference of Ulema and leaders of all schools of thought who must come out with a declaration that none of their followers would indulge in killings of not only people of other sects but also members of the minorities as this appears to be the only way to calm down the situation.








The situation in this blessed land being what it is there has been a lot of thinking about what is needed to bring the ship of state to an even keel. Having tried all known systems of government and having successively handed over the wheel of the ship of state to 'saviours' of all ilks and genres without success, the thinkers of the country are at their wits end. Nothing seems to work any more. If we keep on moving on the same track and in the same fashion, what would be needed to set things right is a Harry Potter and his magic wand. So how about re-visiting the Harry Potter phenomenon? The way Ms. Rowling caught the fancy of young and old with her bizarre but very readable narrative of the adventures of that lovable young wizard, Harry Potter, is a tribute to both her imagination and her understanding of human nature.

The way the younger generation hankered after her books is nothing short of phenomenal. What makes it even more impressive is the fact that, before Ms. Rowling's books took the literary world by storm, it was generally feared that the art of book reading, especially among the youth, had met an untimely demise. The Harry Potter mania apparently proved all that wrong. It may be of some interest to cite a report from Frankfurt, circa 2002-2003, that the world's largest Book Fair in that city had formally "thanked Harry Potter for helping to rear a new generation of eager young readers around the globe". The organizers of the said Book Fair cited the popularity of Potter's gripping exploits as "living proof that the book is not dead yet in the age of electronic media". Now that one looks at it from this perspective, one tends to agree with the conclusion drawn by the organizers of the Frankfurt Book Fair. One must not, however, discount the possibility that the Harry Potter mania is just an outstanding exception. On the other hand, it could also be seen as the exception that proves the rule and, in deed, a phenomenon that could well snowball into something bigger, one that the future generation could latch on to!

Be that as it may, the fact remains that book reading - as an art – appears to have lost out to the demon of Information Technology. Apparently no one is inclined to read a good book anymore. There are those who make do with the hotchpotch dished out by the electronic media; others prefer to wait for the film version or the television series. One wonders if the reader remembers the time when, after having read the book, one viewed the film or television version with serious misgivings. As like as not, one invariably arrived at the conclusion that the visual record was nowhere as vivid as the written word picture. One would, then, proceed to re-read the book to confirm one's assessment. Ah, those were the days! Recent advances made by computer technology have made matters worse. The practice of leisurely reading has gone out the window, so to speak (the Harry Potter phenomenon notwithstanding). One ruefully recalls the days when one used to save to buy a good book. Then, one read it at leisure; savored it and, if it lived up to its promise, read it a second or even a third time. In fact, the real flavor of a good book could best be absorbed only on the second or third reading.

But, sadly, all this was before life was overtaken by the Information Technology revolution. No one appears to have either the time or inclination to acquire a book, much less to go through it, any more. The 'substance' of the book is now ingested through the shortcut of the computer. There is little or no time to savor the book, not to talk of going through it for the second or third reading. People grasp the substance of the book but cannot enjoy its flavor. And this, the reader will agree, is not quite the same thing!

Well, the good news is that, thanks to Harry Potter, all is not lost yet. If the younger generation was out there in droves queuing up to buy the latest Harry Potter tome, it stands to reason that they intended to read it, all five/six hundred odd pages of it. The art of reading may yet be resuscitated. Let's hope that that the Harry Potter books turn out to be the exception that proves the rule!

Having settled this issue, one should perhaps move on to another little mystery of life. Why did the Harry Potter books garner so much popularity? After all, no one in his or her right mind would classify the Rowling tomes as being among the greats of even contemporary literature. To find the rationale, one must make an effort to discern the mental attitude of the Western multitude – and their Eastern neophytes - that represent the bedrock of the book-buying crowd. What makes them plump for literature of the type that Ms. Rowling dishes out in the hundreds of pages of her wizardry-filled narratives? It is possible to give the answer in one word: ESCAPISM. Surprisingly, a good section of people in the so-called developed world are looking for a vehicle to escape the realities of life. The designated 'spin-doctors' are out to filter their daily intake of reality in such a way that they see life only through rose-colored glasses. They are conditioned to dwell only on 'our way of life', 'our view of human rights' and, in general 'our civilization'. Nothing else appears to matter. In this make believe scenario, books like the Harry Potter series provide the perfect escape route away from the mundane realities of the real world.

There is little harm in going for this type of literature as a basis for entertainment. Life being the serious business that it is, a small dose of escapism, as a means of relieving tension, may be just what the doctor ordered. The time to agonize comes when perfectly sane persons start to exhibit the regrettable tendency to confuse real life with the fairy tale. The world, one hopes, is not blundering towards such a calamitous denouement, as civilization as we know it continues its bumbling march onward (?). So far as the scenario in the Land of the Pure goes, escapism is already taking over from reality. So there!








Kofi Annan was a visionary Secretary General of the UN with special focus on water. He said, "… Fierce competition over fresh water may well become a source of conflict and wars in future… But the water problems of our world need not be only a cause of tension; they can also be a catalyst for cooperation…If we work together, a secure and sustainable water future can be ours".

With the climate change and diminishing water availability in the Middle East, Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, possibility of violent conflict between states is increasing. Water usage rights and obligations remain a hazy domain as there is no codified International law on water sharing. Though Helsinki Declaration, made an attempt towards this end, it failed to address the issue squarely. Hence, there is ample room for conflicting interpretations of treaties and norms pertaining to water sharing. As a consequence, Interstate and intrastate water conflicts are very common and are difficult to resolve. Most of these conflicts emerge out of distrust and lack of political will rather than water shortage and technical inadequacies.

Nine out of twelve basins which have been identified as high risk flow in Asia. South Asia has specially been identified as one of the most critical regions with respect to water. Per capita water availability in this region is amongst the lowest in the world; and it is under perpetual stress due to swelling population, rapid industrialization and speedy reclamation of land for agricultural purposes. Pakistan is a single-river system country. India is an upper riparian to the Indus water system; and downstream is Pakistan with its predominantly agrarian economy. India has realized this weakness, hence it is mischievously trying to deny Pakistan's rightful share of water. Indians are attempting to reinterpret the settled terms and conditions of Indus Basin Water Treaty (IWT) to incrementally undermine the legitimate interests of Pakistan. India has a history of lingering water disputes amongst its adjacent countries, now it is on its way to stir up similar feuds amongst the countries of this region. Kabul River contributes 20% water to the Indus system. India is working on a number of projects in Afghanistan to reduce its flow into Pakistan. For example, construction of a dam on River Kabul for Kama Hydroelectric Project would curtail the annual flow to Pakistan by about 0.5MAF.

Senator John Kerry has recently released a US Senate report titled "Avoiding Water Wars" in South and Central Asia. It postulates that the Indus Water Treaty may fail to avert water wars between India and Pakistan. Report acknowledges that the dams India is building in occupied Kashmir will limit the supply of water to Pakistan at crucial moments in the sowing season. India is constructing 33 dams that are at various stages of completions, and cumulative effect of storing water for these dams would limit the supply to Pakistan. "Studies show that no single dam along the waters controlled by the Indus Waters Treaty will affect Pakistan`s access to water, (but) the cumulative effect of these projects could give India the ability to store enough water to limit the supply to Pakistan at crucial moments in the sowing season," the report warns.

"This report highlights how water security is vital in achieving our (American) foreign policy and national security goals." said Senator John Kerry, while releasing the report. "Others question (is) whether the IWT can address India`s growing use of the shared waters and Pakistan`s increasing demand for these waters for agricultural purposes… A breakdown in the treaty`s utility in resolving water conflicts could have serious ramifications for regional stability," the report cautions. According to the report, the drive to meet energy demand through hydropower development is also occurring in India and Pakistan. This is particularly true with respect to India, which faces a rapidly expanding population, growing economy, and soaring energy needs. To meet growing demand and cope with increasing electricity shortages, Indian government has developed plans to expand power generation through construction of multi-purpose dams.

The number of dams under construction and their management is a source of significant bilateral tension. "Any perceived reduction in water flows magnifies this distrust, whether caused by India`s activities in the Indus Basin or climate change" the report opines. Currently, the most controversial dam project is the proposed 330-megawatt dam on the Kishenganga River, a tributary of the Indus. Surprisingly, the report has not presented any concrete solutions to the problems of lower riparian and has tried to strengthen the impression that Indus Water Treaty has become redundant. The report seems to be more focused on how to coax Pakistan to succumb to India's ever increasing water requirement.

The report acknowledges that the IWT has maintained stability in the region over water for decades. But "experts question the treaty`s long-term effectiveness in light of chronic tensions between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir region, where a significant portion of the Indus River`s headwaters originate," the report adds. In fact, it is the responsibility of the international community to strengthen the treaty and urge India to honour its commitment under the treaty. IWT is a robust treaty that has withstood the stress of two wars and a number of spells of dangerous brinkmanship. Treaty is based upon four cardinal principles. Firstly, it provides for sharing of water sources by giving exclusive rights of three eastern rivers to India and three western rivers of the Indus water system to Pakistan. Secondly, it lays down a mechanism to provide requisite financial support to assist Pakistan in making dams and canals to makeup for the loss of its three eastern rivers. Thirdly, it provided for harnessing of hydroelectric potential of Pakistani rivers by India provided these dams are on the basis of run of the river and there are no storage, no diversion and no tunneling. Fourthly, it provides for dispute resolution mechanism.

Unfortunately, India is defying all the four principles of agreement, with impunity. It is building a number of hydro electric power projects on Chenab and Jhelum rivers along with storage facilities. It is diverting Pakistan's water by making link canals and under ground tunnels. In case of Baglihar dam, it is funneling the water out on the plea that this is necessary to avoid sedimentation. Same is true for Kishenganga project. India is required to release 16,000 cusec Chenab water to Pakistan whereas water flow at Head Marala has, at times, dipped to only 5,000 cusec because of Baglihar Dam's water storage facility. Another upcoming project on Chenab River is Bursar Dam, which will further reduce Chenab's water flow to Pakistan by as much as 2.2 million acre feet (MAF). Fourthly, the level of arbitration is intentionally raised by India from Indus commissioners' level to international arbitrators, just to up the ante. In case of Bhasha Dam India has registered its objection to the dam site on untenable grounds. Presumably RAW has done considerable investment to harden the attitude of anti-Kalabagh dam constituency.

American worry that breakdown of the IWT, for whatever reason, would threaten their foreign policy objectives in the region is not misplaced. America has strategic interests in the region, and enjoys good relations with India and Pakistan. It needs to convince India to give up the violation of IWT for lasting peace in the region. Moreover, the US senate needs to carryout a supplementary study focusing on finding viable solutions to the problems of lower riparian countries. Pakistan also needs to put its house in order by building a national consensus on major water storage dams on Indus water system. Moreover, last year's floods have amply demonstrated the untapped capacity in terms of rain water storage.

—The writer is international security, current affairs analyst and a former PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff.








The worldwide Jewish population is around 13.3 million as compared to that of Muslims which stands at 1.57 Billion. Roughly for every one Jew, there are 118 Muslims. The Muslims blame the Jews in particular and the west in general for their misfortunes and miseries. Facts speak otherwise. At least 181 Jews and people of half- or three-quarters-Jewish ancestry have been awarded the Nobel Prize, accounting for 22% of all individual recipients worldwide between 1901 and 2010, and constituting 36% of all US recipients during the same period. In the research fields of Chemistry, Economics, Physics, and Physiology/Medicine, the corresponding world and US percentages are 26% and 39%, respectively. Among women laureates in the four research fields, the Jewish percentages are 38% and 50%, respectively. Of organizations awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, 25% were founded principally by Jews or by people of half-Jewish descent. (Jews currently make up approximately 0.2% of the world's population).

Albert Einstein theoretical physicist, discovered the theory of general relativity effecting a revolution in Physics, was a Jew. He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for his services to theoretical physics and for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect. Austrian Neurologist Sigmund Freud, German Philosopher Karl Heinrich Marx, Nobel Prize winner Economist Paul Anthony Samuelson and the recipient of the Nobel memorial Prize in Economic Sciences Milton Friedman were all Jews.

The Business world too is dominated by leading Jewish entrepreneurs including Ralph Lauren (Polo), Levis Strauss (Levi's Jeans), Howard Schultz(Starbuck's), Sergey Brin (Google), Michael Dell (Dell Computers), Larry Ellison (Oracle), Donna Karan (DKNY), Irv Robbins (Baskins &Robbins) and Bill Rosenberg (Dunkin Donuts).The media in particular is controlled by the Jewish lobby including Wolf Blitzer (CNN), Barbara Walters(ABC News), Eugene Meyer ( Washington Post), Henry Grunwald(editor-in-chief Time), Katherine Graham (publisher of The WashingtonPost), Joseph Lelyyeld(Executive editor, The New York Times), and Max Frankel ( New YorkTimes).In short, may it be politics, philanthropy, education, businesses, scientists, sports, film actors &directors; they are all dominated by well-educated individuals with extraordinary talents who are doing all they can to help the humanity and makingthis world a better place to live.

Looking at ourselves, according to demographics, Islam has 1.57 billion adherents, making up 23% of the world population.Around 62% of the world's Muslims live in Asia, with over 683 million adherents in countries including Indonesia (home to 15.6% of the world's Muslims), Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. About 20% of Muslims live in the Arab Countries. In the Middle East, the non-Arab countries of Turkey and Iran are the largest Muslim-majority countries; in Africa, Egypt and Nigeria have the most populous Muslim communities.The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is an International Organization with 57 member states. The Organization "attempts" to be the collective voice of the Muslim World. There are around 500 Universities spread in these 57 member Muslim States compared to that of United States which has over 7,000 higher education Institutions with 103 US universities in the top 200 rankings.There are eight Universities and many Colleges in Israel, the West Bank and the Golan Heights, for a population of only 7,353,985 people covering an area of 20,770 sq. km. Israel has a literacy rate of 98.5% for men and 95.9% for womenas compared to the Muslim-majority stateshaving anaverage literacy rate of around 40 per cent. Furthermore, the Muslim world spends on average 0.2per cent of its GDP on research and development, while Israel spends 6.4% of its GDP on education & Research.

The Muslim world certainly has done all the wrong things "perfectly" to give least priority to the development of sound educational infrastructures. The point which somehow seems to have been forgotten is that the threat to our survival and the real enemy among us is the educational ignorance & backwardness creeping into our society and destroying it systematically. Why are we blaming others for our own ignorance? We lack the capacity to produce, diffuse and apply knowledge. The only achievements we tend to highlight are the ones of the past glories. While the world looks at the future, we are stuck in the past. When the west was making seats of learning, we were wasting our fortunes making useless architectures. There has to be an end to our investment in ignorance for in the end all that matters will be education.

—The writer is a social activist.








According to a 2009 study of the Purdue University, on the changing pattern of the climate, there would be an "eastern shift in monsoon circulation caused by the changing climate" causing "more rainfall over the Indian Ocean, Bangladesh and Burma and less rainfall over India, Nepal and Pakistan." Taking the contents of this study as the baseline, and otherwise growing anxiety of Pakistan over the Indian manipulation of Pakistani rivers, US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations issued a report, projecting likely wars in South Asia between two water scare countries; Pakistan and India. The Senate report entitled, "Avoiding Water Wars" in South and Central Asia, indicate that, each water dam or water storage by India on the Western rivers; exclusively dedicated for Pakistan would have long-term affect on Pakistani agrarian economy. The report absolutely clarifies that; "The cumulative effect of these projects could give India the ability to store enough water to limit the supply to Pakistan at crucial moments in the growing season,"

Out of over a hundred of the large and small water dams and reservoirs, being built by India on the western rivers, over 30 projects are nearing their completion and are likely to cause serious water shortages for Pakistan, a lower riparian country. Pakistani concern over Indian violation of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) are date back to 1980s, once India started constructing the Waullar Barrage over river Jhelum, a tributary to Indus river. Although the project was stalled on the Pakistani protests, but, India initiated many other projects of water storage and construction of dams on almost all the rivers of Pakistani share. Some Major projects like Baghaliar dam on river Chenab have already been completed. This water dam has caused over 30 percent reduction in the flow of water on Pakistani side. Other projects like Kishenganga are on their way to completion, despite Pakistani protests and asking for arbitration.

While initiating construction of a dam or the water storage project on these western rivers, India have been quoting two excuses: first; Pakistan is unable to preserve its water by constructing dams and water storages in its territory, resulting into a huge quantity of water flowing down to Arabian Sea, therefore, it (India) is securing it. Second; these water dams and storages are for the utilization of the people of Kashmir, under Indian occupation. Indeed, both excuses are without logics. While this is a reality that we in Pakistan have not been able build sufficient water reservoirs to preserve the surplus water especially during the rainy season. Nevertheless, this does not give India with enough cause to encroach over the Pakistani share of water and in the long run plans to permanently deprive Pakistan from its share of water, thus converting the agricultural land of Pakistan into the barren fields.

Secondly; the current electricity requirements of the people of Occupied Kashmir is 5000 megawatts and only a limited portion of the land could be irrigated by the river's water, mostly, it is the rain fed arid land. It means shifting of the water of these rivers to Indian Territory through a phased programmed. Furthermore, practically, India is working on the projects through which it could produce over 40,000 megawatts of electricity, which means, the production of electricity would be much more than the requirements of the Kashmiri under Indian occupation. This electricity in turn would be used to sustain the heavy industrialization of the India, otherwise, causing environmental degradation in the region. It is because of the growing industrialization of India and some other countries that has affected the rapid melting of the snow of the glaciers in Himalayas.

As revealed in the research report of the Purdue University, the climatic changes in the East are a reality. India however, has started these projects much earlier. There are a number of reasons, why India is doing so. India, in fact, stopped water flow to Pakistan in 1948, within the first year of the independence of Pakistan. Being a successor state of the British India, it had all the resources and international backings, whereas, Pakistan was a resource scare country. India indeed, has started creating these problems for Pakistan right from its inception, so that, it can undo Pakistan. Indus Water Treaty, concluded in 1960, stood the test of time for many decades. However, it is about time that India should stop manipulating with the treaty and interpreting it in its own benefit. In fact, this Indian water manipulation has compelled the international community to analyse and forewarn the South Asians, regarding the dreadful effects of a war, emanating over the water crises. Rather, undesired manipulation with the waters of the Western rivers, exclusively dedicated for Pakistani use, as per IWT, India is bound to release certain amount water in the Eastern Rivers, to avoid the environmental degradation. But, practically it never did that, except to cause the floods during the monsoons.

The US Senate report on the projected water wars in South Asia, caused by Indian deliberate stoppage of water to Pakistan is timely and rational. Although, any conflict over this extremely essential commodity would devastate the region by itself, nevertheless, it would seriously hamper the US future interests in South Asia too. This is indicative from the wordings of Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while releasing the report. He said; "the report highlights how water security is vital in achieving our foreign policy and national security goals and … provides recommendations to foster regional cooperation and long-term stability." The provisions of the treaty do not allow India with unconstrained space to manipulate with the water of the Western rivers. India therefore, is adamant to violate the treaty or else, it would not hesitate to abrogate it, to exercise it hegemonic power in the region. US Senate, however feels that, "A breakdown in the treaty`s utility in resolving water conflicts could have serious ramifications for regional stability."

Pakistan appreciates a very timely and realistic assessment of the US Senate Committee report on the likely future wars in South Asia over the water resources. However, Pakistan would appreciate any US role for bringing India to a negotiating table for the result oriented talks between both countries over all the disputes, water being one of them. India must realise that, we are in an era, where international norms are to be respected. Gone are the days, once bigger powers used to overrun the smaller neighbours for the enlargement of the frontiers of their empires. Could America capture the tiny Communist state of Cuba? Therefore, Pakistan is a reality; India must accept this in the first instance and start living as a peaceful and responsible neighbour, respecting the sovereignty, integrity and independence of Pakistan. This would bring peace, harmony and stability in South Asia, rather the current instability, caused by hegemonic designs of India.


The writer is an International Relations analyst.








At the outset, I want to make it clear that I am neither a politician or nor a beneficiary of the Local Government System. I am writing just as ordinary citizen of the country. The present Local Government system, the trumpets of which were blown at the time of its launching, as something 'divine and an innovation' is nothing new. The English had introduced this system as 'Local Self Government', controlled by the provinces and we inherited it in 1947. The philosophy of the Local Self Government was the decentralization and devolution of powers to the lowest level, which had not only an administrative value but also a civic dimension, since it increases opportunities for citizens to take interest in public affairs; and solve the problems at their level and lower the burden of the provincial administration. There were no Tehsil Committees.

However, the unit of Union Council was kept in tact (and urban areas were re- organized into small units, named Union Committees) and Ayub Khan took the benefit of establishing system of Basic Democracies, wherein the Union Councils/Committees were made the electoral college. He gave birth to 80,000 'Bacha Jamooras' to vote for him in the election. As such the 'Bacha Jamooras' turned into 'hens laying golden eggs' overnight. Leaving aside the joke of Basic Democracies, which died with the removal of Ayub Khan, the system of local self government was practiced purely on the motive of 'community service' and not politicized. No political parties were involved. Elections were held every five years. Their heads were elected from among the elected members and called 'chairmen', except that the head of a municipal corporation was called 'mayor'. They were not 'imposed' from above (as is done now that nazims are not elected from among the elected members, but imposed). Of course biradari system did prevail for the elections at all levels, as is now.

The basic spirit of Local Self Government was catering to the basic necessities of the people. The first and foremost function of these bodies was sanitation, health and prevention of diseases (which included removal of garbage/solid waste, spraying of lime in the trenches, to prevent breeding of mosquitoes and dreadful insects (now-a-days the streets are limed to herald the visits of VVVIP only), the trenches were washed with water (a bihishti pouring water and the sweeper washing the trenches), which also ensured no overflow of the gutters. In Karachi, Bunder Road (now M.A. Jinnah), McLeod Road (now I.I.Chundrigar) used to be washed with water in the nights daily and as Karachi had not yet got the title of 'the city of cars', tongas and buggies, driven by horses used to ply.

The horses/donkeys, camels used to lay offal on the roads, which was immediately picked up 'hot' by sweepers, posted at various places on the roads, to save from stinking smell and breeding of mosquitoes/insects, which would cause diseases. It is argued by some that it was possible, because Karachi was then a small city. Of course, it was a small city then, it had small revenues too. Today, Karachi is a mega city with mega revenues. Same is the position of other cities like Lahore, Faisalabad, Hyderabad etc. But there is lack of will. Meat and Fish markets were kept clean and covered with fly nets, milk was checked with lactometers, vegetable stalls were checked regularly and rotten fruits/vegetables were thrown out. Other functions were to ensure that street lights were on (bulbs used to be replaced immediately), environment protection (which included taking care of existing trees and sowing of new trees to attract rainfall and clean air to breathe. Only old trees were cut, but today the healthy trees are cut frequently and hardly attention is given to new plantation to replace the cut the trees), construction and maintenance of gardens and parks. Water supply was managed properly, with timely cleaning the drinking water with alum and chlorine. Mixing of the water supply lines with the sewerage lines was unheard of.

It was very difficult for any body to display the shopping material on the foot paths and thus encroach upon. Also it was ensured that the people do not encroach upon roads, adjacent to the foot paths and thus ensure smooth flow of traffic. The people were also not allowed to extend the boundaries of their houses. These things were checked with the frequent visits of the municipal staff to the markets and residential areas. If a person had to undertake repairs/construction of a house or shop, he had to take written permission from the municipal office, on payment of a prescribed fee, with an undertaking to remove the un-used material, by himself, and not leave for the municipal staff to do so, as the people are doing now. The municipal staff ensured the removal of un-used material.

These bodies used to maintain hospitals, dispensaries and maternity homes, where clean environment was ensured. Also schools were run by the Municipalities. In schools the children were provided quinine tablets in the malaria season every Year, during the fall seaon. Vaccination against small pox was also done regularly. Also vaccines were given as a preventive measure against the spread of diseases, whenever needed. These bodies also undertook the brick lining of the streets and. construction of roads within their areas. The young readers may take it as a cock and bull story, but the fact is that these functions were really performed by the Local Self Government before 1947 and up to early 50s till politicized.

One very magnificent feature of the Local Government Ordinances, 2001 promulgated in all the provinces and the elections held there-under provided for Village and Neighbourhood Councils, Citizen Community Boards, consisting of non-political retired educated persons, but there councils were not established because the Nazims were not prepared to devolve any powers to them. In old times, some retired educated persons e.g. judges were appointed by the government as Justices of Peace, but this system has now been abandoned due to political interference.

As sanitation and health, education etc. are a permanent requirement, whether the country is running under martial law or civilian rule, the Local Government system must, repeat, must continue, their elections held regularly, every five years, irrespective of the elections of the national/provincial assemblies. The system should not be made slave to the political set up. The Controlling Authority for the Local Government should also be the Provinces, not the Federal Government.

—The writer is retired senior bank executive.









Reciting poetry while the roof falls in will get you nowhere, but Clive James is not the only one to find solace in verse these past few weeks as our region has been battered by nature. In The Weekend Australian, he used the poem we all know at least a little -- Dorothea Mackellar's My Country -- to argue there is nothing much new about the weather, despite the claims of climate alarmists. It was Mackellar, homesick in London a century ago, who recalled the polar opposites of the Australian weather, with its "droughts and flooding rains". She drew on her own empirical experience of the cycles of nature from "pitiless blue sky" to "steady, soaking rain". Today meteorologists talk of the oscillation of warming and cooling patterns known as El Nino and La Nina to explain the big floods after the big dry. Common to scientific and literary method is respect for history, yet the scaremongers seem afraid of memory. It does not suit their arguments against economic growth, industrialisation and modernity to listen to people over 40 who can recall the cycles of droughts and floods, and know that, as James puts it "banning certain categories of light bulb" will not be enough to tame nature. This newspaper gives the planet the benefit of the doubt on global warming and supports efforts to mitigate carbon. But we don't dismiss the recollections of older Australians or the cultural record of our artists as we seek to place natural disasters in context. Memories are sometimes short when it comes to the weather. A summer's day can seem the hottest ever until you check the statistics and find it was just as warm a couple of years ago. Claims of rising sea levels can appear convincing until you ask an octogenarian surfer or two and discover that over the decades not much has changed on our beaches. In November 2009, we published pictures of Wollongong's North Beach taken 50 years apart, and which seemed to back the view that nature is "up and down, it comes and goes in cycles".

Wisdom is not restricted to the old, but it's worth listening to those who have seen the "cattle die" as well as the "grey clouds" gather. And not just about the weather. As we note today, 73-year-old David Seidler's Oscar for best original screenplay for The King's Speech is "one for an old guy". His success shows the vast knowledge, talent and experience of older people in our community. Far from being "grumpy old persons", they are valuable memory banks to tap.






It's time for the international community to show real spine and coherence in its response to the murderous rampage by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Otherwise, just as Saddam Hussein did for 12 years after Iraqi forces were expelled from Kuwait, global indecision, inaction and vacillation will allow the Libyan tyrant to get away with it.

Belatedly, US President Barack Obama has ordered the Pentagon to examine possible retaliatory measures including a no-fly zone. That is hopefully a sign the administration does mean business and that an earlier statement by Defence Secretary Robert Gates, in which he was entirely negative about a no-fly zone, was an expression of his own war fatigue rather than Washington's policy. Amid the entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan, such war fatigue is understandable. But the world cannot stand idly by while a madcap dictator whose stock-in-trade is the same savagery shown by his friend, the late Idi Amin, acts with almost total impunity.

Dr Gates worries that enforcing a no-fly zone aimed at grounding Gaddafi's air force would involve pre-emptive strikes to destroy his air defence systems. That is, direct military action. He has derided loose talk about no-fly zones, a reference to British Prime Minister David Cameron, who favours immediate action. It is true that no-fly zones are not of themselves decisive. But they did stop Saddam when he sought to take revenge against the Kurds. While they did not prevent the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995, they did eventually halt Bosnian Serb aggression. The trouble with statements like those from Dr Gates is that they send the wrong signals to Gaddafi. They add to perceptions of inaction and disunity among the forces ranged against him. This is no time for pusillanimity. Sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council are all very well, as far as they go. But Gaddafi needs to know that, as well, a no-fly zone and whatever else it takes will be used to stop him slaughtering his people. The UN would be the best channel for action, but it is hobbled by self-serving Russian and Chinese opposition. NATO or a coalition of the willing led by Washington should take the lead. And Mr Obama, and Dr Gates, should be much more forceful in warning Gaddafi that the game is up.






The outgoing Treasury secretary did not disappoint as he exited on Friday night. After 10 years at the apex of policy power, Ken Henry is no slouch when it comes to stating his views. He is one public servant who knows how to drive a lectern. So it was that in his final address, the 2011 Giblin lecture at the University of Tasmania, Dr Henry nailed the national problem: good economic numbers that dull the impetus for the radical reforms we need to ensure the good times continue and that all Australians share in the benefits of strong growth and the mining boom. We understand, according to Dr Henry, what needs to be done, but "what we don't understand is how to get it done". Roughly translated, that's a warning to the Gillard government to beware the complacency bred of low inflation, low unemployment and a "terms of trade boom that has, to date, boosted average living standards". Unlike the 1980s when Australians found themselves on a "burning platform" that forced action, no matter how difficult, it is harder in today's benign environment to marshal the will to pursue reform.

In January, we named Dr Henry this newspaper's 2010 Australian of the Year for the enormous contribution he made in helping to head off the global financial crisis and his landmark review of the tax system. These were achievements capping an influential career serving both sides of politics and revealed a creative thinker who understands how to effect change. We are not surprised that on his last day at work, Dr Henry looked forward with optimism tinged with realism; warned against turning back the clock on economic policy settings; and urged more reforms to create an even more flexible economy than the one fashioned over the past 30 years. All very apposite as industry worries about the potential damage to productivity and competitiveness of the proposed carbon tax. Indeed, Rio Tinto's Australian managing director, David Peever, pleads that case today.

In his address, Dr Henry detailed a distinctive Australian economy driven by natural resources as well as technology and knowledge-based industry, and counselled against too bleak a view of our dependence on China. Even a weakly growing Chinese market would be a big market, he suggested. But far from this being cause for complacency, he argued the need for changes to policy settings to give us the best chance to maximise economic opportunities. These included ideas he has long championed -- fiscal policy designed to lift national savings; tax reform; improvements in education and health to increase participation and productivity; and population policy to expand the supply capacity.

If Dr Henry sounded a touch frustrated on Friday, we share his pain. We too have urged Labor to address reform, and indeed have gone further in arguing the need for more workplace flexibility, for example. At times, our hopes have been raised by Labor promises to follow in the footsteps of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, only to be disappointed. As new Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson gets behind the desk this morning, we wish him well and urge him to consider how best to convince his political masters of the dilemma outlined by his predecessor: how to enact the important reforms we all know the country needs.






The Arab awakening is starting to set off some wake-up calls in Europe, not just because of the humanitarian crisis of stranded foreign workers on the borders of Libya and the horrific violence of Muammar Gaddafi's stubborn defence of his rule inside the country. The trend is bringing the southern shores of the Mediterranean suddenly much closer.

Just as Australia has its Christmas Island as a beacon for asylum seekers in Asia, Europe has the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa just 130 kilometres from the coast of Tunisia. Already some 6700 boat people have arrived there since the Tunisian regime fell in January, more than the total arriving in the whole of last year. The civil conflict in Libya threatens an end to the deal worked out in 2008 between Italy's Silvio Berlusconi and Gaddafi, whereby the Libyan dictator ''stopped the boats'' in return for some $US5 billion in so-called reparations for Italian colonial rule in the first half of last century. Italian ministers now worry about millions of Libyans and other North Africans taking to boats and landing on Italian shores.

The development suggests that Europe's southern approaches were protected not so much by a sea barrier but by a belt of authoritarian regimes willing to apply draconian measures against such emigration. The same regimes were prepared to do deals with Europe, as with Libya's pipeline supplying Italy with a tenth of its gas and a third of its oil, and keep their people at a distance.

The emergence of popular secular democracy movements in the Arab world has been cheered on by the Europeans. Now Europe will have to meet the Arab people.

Europe is being steadily drawn deeper into helping resolve this crisis anyway. The United States is reluctant to get dumped with the job of applying a no-fly zone over Libya. Barack Obama is pointing out that North Africa is more in the European zone of influence and interest. Libyans themselves are now asking for help. But so far the European response is marked by the buck-passing, blame-games and hesitation going on between London, Paris, Rome and Brussels.

Beyond the immediate worries about refugees, there is another prospect that will raise historic fears among many Europeans: that of increasingly educated and democratised countries of the Middle East seeking closer integration with the European Union. That may seem a far cry, given that even Turkey's accession is resisted. Yet Berlusconi has already proposed Israel's membership, why not others? The EU's ''enlargement'' could take some surprising steps southward.





That all schools are not created equal is hardly news to NSW parents. The new funding information on the My School website, though, reveals just how unequal - which is precisely what is needed for an informed debate. Predictably, the revamped My School 2.0 website, complete with financial details, was met with a welter of claims and counter claims over the wealth or otherwise of schools within Australia's public, independent and Catholic school systems. As expected, the state's independent schools have on average more money available per student than public schools and spend considerably more on capital works. On the same measure Catholic schools are the worst off. Yet My School also exposes the effect of so-called funding exceptions, which have created considerable resource gaps between individual schools, and confirms that some Catholic schools, for example, are actually overfunded in relation to the wealth of their catchment area.

So why the controversy? Partly because what is fair in education funding will always be a matter of opinion, of which there are many. But mainly because the new website offers the missing piece in the education puzzle. With My School mark one, parents were able to compare how schools perform academically. Now they can know precisely what resources each school has available to achieve these results, and where that money comes from. This is not only valuable information for parents weighing up their educational choices. The income and capital works discrepancies suggest the current federal and state government funding model needs to be overhauled, or at least tweaked. Predictably, the loudest objections to My School 2.0 have been coming from those doing particularly well under the current arrangements.

The bigger picture, however, is that transparency is fundamental if we want to keep education fair. Education is the key to opportunity in any society, and Australia is rightly committed to ensuring that every child, regardless of family circumstances, has access to good schools. At the same time, choice is important - both between different systems and between schools within the same system. The result is a complex mix of open-access public schools and fee-charging private and religious schools. To level this complicated playing field requires continuing, close scrutiny, not a static funding formula. How future funding should be allocated will be a charged debate. The state's wealthiest private schools, for example, will undoubtedly be a particular focus. Yet My School also confirms elite schools receive only modest government funding, arguably freeing up more public resources for public education. That's just one of many vexed questions. Let the debate begin.






EVEN as an isolated incident, the assault of a 39-year-old intellectually disabled man by two female carers from Victoria's Department of Human Services in March 2008, and subsequent cover-up attempts by a senior manager at the department, beggars belief.

It is not only an affront to human dignity, but an indictment of a bureaucracy that, through evasion and concealment, makes a mockery of the very duty of care it is there to supervise and control.

The findings of the damning report into this incident by Ombudsman George Brouwer, tabled in Parliament last week, are appalling for two reasons. The first is the callous and cruel treatment of the man involved, who was dragged along the 16.8-metre hallway of his residential unit and forced into a bus to take him to his day placement; he suffered second-degree carpet burns to his back that were not treated for more than 24 hours. The second, more insidious, reason is what Public Advocate Colleen Pearce, who brought the complaint, calls the DHS's ''shocking and shameful'' response.

Advertisement: Story continues below

''I have never come across a case before where there has been this level of cover-up and the fabrication of documentation around this matter,'' Ms Pearce told the media.

Three DHS staff have been stood down, and one other removed from duties with the disabled. Victoria Police is investigating the incident.

The abiding worry, however, is the disturbing frequency with which allegations of abuse involving people with cognitive disabilities or mental illness occur. As well as the incident of March 2008, the Public Advocate has referred to the Ombudsman two other reports of DHS staff physically abusing their intellectually disabled and mentally ill clients. Only a few weeks ago, Ms Pearce recorded 30 cases of abuse by care givers in a report that described the standard of investigation and prevention of alleged abuses as ''woefully inadequate''; she called on the Baillieu government to commit to improving the state's criminal justice system and DHS procedures.

As The Age has long argued that governments have placed low priority on the plight of those in state-run care: out of sight, out of mind, but also prone to unchecked abuse or neglect. How long must this continue?

Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge has rightly expressed outrage, and endorsed the Ombudsman's recommendation to overhaul the DHS's reporting system, but stronger commitment is required to tackle the source of the problem. Duty of care also means duty of protection.





AS LIBYAN leader Muammar Gaddafi mounts counterattacks against the rebel forces who have gained control of the eastern half of the country, two things are becoming clear.

The dictator's reliance on the support of mercenaries and tribal kinsmen almost certainly means that ultimately he will lose; but his determination to cling to power at all costs suggests his removal is not imminent. In Libya, unlike Egypt and Tunisia, democratic revolution has become civil war. And, just as both the earlier revolutions highlighted long-standing contradictions in the attitude of the West to the Arab world, so the bitter conflict in Libya has raised anew the question of whether, and in what form, intervention in the affairs of sovereign states may be justified if humanitarian disaster is to be averted.

The Gaddafi regime was once as reviled by the US and its allies as the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But when, in the wake of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Colonel Gaddafi abandoned his weapons of mass destruction program and ceased support for terrorism, the objections to his rule ceased also. Indeed, some Western countries - especially Britain - began providing him with weapons that are now being used against his own people. Now those same Western countries that armed the dictator - again, especially Britain - are considering whether there should be international intervention to protect those under attack and to hasten his end.

The US administration appears to be as indecisive and divided as it was during the protests that led to the downfall of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

President Barack Obama says that Colonel Gaddafi has forfeited any legitimacy; few would disagree, but it is not clear how that observation is being translated in US policy. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that ''no option is off the table'', an apparent warning that Washington may consider invasion as well as the intervention that has mostly been canvassed, the enforcement of a flight-exclusion zone to prevent Colonel Gaddafi ordering the bombing of his own people. Secretary of Defence Bill Gates, however, opposes even a no-fly zone, which would have to begin, he says, with an attack on Libya to destroy its air defences.

And so, not for the first time, paradox has been piled upon contradiction in Western policy in the Middle East. When the US-led ''coalition of the willing'' invaded Iraq, the pretext was the need to destroy that country's WMD, which proved not to exist. But President George W. Bush did not try to hide a wider agenda, which was to bring about the democratisation of the Middle East urged by the neoconservatives in his administration.

Yet there was no popular uprising in Iraq at the time, nor was there an immediate humanitarian crisis. In Libya, however, there is such a crisis, and it is abundantly clear that the people of Libya want to end the regime that has oppressed them. The UN Security Council agrees, and has asked the International Criminal Court to consider indicting Colonel Gaddafi and some members of his family for crimes against humanity. The US, however, is reluctant to follow the example it set in 2003.

There is a good reason why an invasion should not even be contemplated. This revolution, like the pro-democracy protests across the region, is a genuinely popular movement. The Libyan people are liberating themselves, and the appearance of US or other Western forces in the country would only give the Gaddafi regime a propaganda victory, for it would be portrayed as another stage in the history of Western colonialism in the Middle East.

Imposing a flight-exclusion zone need not have that consequence and may prove to be the only means of stopping the regime from committing atrocities against its own people.

It is a bitter irony that the shadow of an unjustified intervention in Iraq may be inhibiting the possibility of a justified one in Libya.







The promise of the NHS was a simple guarantee: no matter who you were, it would be seen to that you got the best available care

The promise of the NHS was a simple guarantee: no matter who you were or where you lived in the country, it would be seen to that you got the best available care. Whenever standards fell short – whenever, in Aneurin Bevan's phrase, a bedpan was dropped – the echoes would reverberate through Whitehall. Inevitably, there was always an element of myth here, as well as doubts about the centralism involved, but it was precisely by putting the national into the service that the Clement Attlee government removed the financial dimension from medical anxieties.

Mark Porter's complaint is that the coalition is about to remove the N from the HS. After passing seven years in opposition ingratiating himself with the doctors, Andrew Lansley ought to pay attention to the chair of the BMA consultants' committee. Damned as "Maoist" by the entrapped Vincent Cable, the big experiment planned will simultaneously attempt a once-and-for-all great leap forward, and a cultural revolution that will smash central authority. The known unknowns are legion. One of the few safe bets is that things will play out differently in different places.

Consider the planned diminution in the powers of Nice, the body established to inject rationality into the drug rationing process. Set aside the overhaul of drug-pricing, and the Lansley plan amounts to leaving GPs to decide whose pricey pills will and will not be funded. Their decisions are not going to be in any way "national"; indeed that is precisely the point. Even without the prospect of outright bidding wars for cheap operations (something Mr Lansley was recently forced to preclude), with the right financial engineering, some doctors may profit from saying no. The greatest hurricane is the proposed regulatory duty to promote competition from "any willing provider".

At a stroke, this power transforms healthcare from a public service to be planned in accordance with need, into another market. The Department of Health may discern a desperate shortage of capacity in Newcastle, but if some foreign firm eyes a more profitable gap in the market in Surrey, it will be their call about where to set up shop. Whitehall will no longer direct, it will tinker with financial incentives. Worse, the change could snare medicine up in European competition laws designed to deal with the supply of industrial and consumer goods; a future health secretary would then find it all but impossible to change course. Mr Lansley is gambling with extraordinary stakes. Every Conservative and, more particularly, every Liberal Democrat MP, must consider whether his promise of a more consumer-friendly service is a prize that justifies denationalising the NHS.





Britain is misjudging what is unfolding in the Middle East

David Cameron is not having a good Arab revolution. He was the first world leader to visit Egypt and Tahrir Square after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, which is good. But on the same Middle Eastern tour he took with him eight defence firms peddling military equipment, which is to misjudge the nature of events in the region badly. The roles of prime minister and international sales director for UK plc are different, as Mr Cameron is fast learning. Then came his comments about a no-fly zone over Libya, which were initially greeted with less than the customary enthusiasm by people – such as the US defence secretary, Robert Gates – who know what the tactic entails: a bombing campaign to knock out Colonel Gaddafi's air defences. The old foreign affairs hand John Kerry, the chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, said yesterday that the US and its allies should prepare for a no-fly zone, but that this could not go into operation without international backing.

And now there is another fiasco which highlights this government's fumbling in the desert. Hardly had news come out that Britain was to send experts into eastern Libya, to give military advice and make contact with opposition leaders, than it emerged that a British intelligence and special forces unit had been caught by the opposition with espionage equipment, multiple passports and weapons. As a senior member of Benghazi's revolutionary council told this newspaper: "This is no way to conduct yourself during an uprising." Once again Britain has misjudged the nature of what is unfolding in Libya. The mission came James Bond-style by helicopter and left more conventionally by ship.

With battles raging in Zawiyah, Misrata and Bin Jawad yesterday, and with more columns of armour loyal to Gaddafi heading out from Tripoli, the military balance is fluid. Some Libyan rebels have called for a no-fly zone, but until now – and this may change – the mood of the Libyan uprising is that this is their fight and their fight alone. Quite apart from the unwarranted legitimacy a bombing campaign would (once again) confer on the Libyan leader among his rump support in Tripoli and the damage it would do to attempts to split his camp, a major western military intervention could have unforeseen political consequences for the very forces it would be designed to support. A no-fly zone saved lives in Kurdish northern Iraq, but failed to protect the Shias in the south under Saddam Hussein. The moral strength of the Libyan rebels and their political claim to represent the true voice of the people both rest partly on the fact that, like the Egyptians and the Tunisians, they have come this far alone. The revolt is theirs, they are no one else's proxy, and the struggle is about ending tyranny rather than searching for new masters. Even if Gaddafi's forces succeed in checking the advance of rebel forces, and the civil war becomes protracted, it is the home-grown nature of this revolt that contains the ultimate seeds of the destruction of Gaddafi's regime. Thus far, it is Gaddafi and his sons who have had to import hired guns from abroad.

In Egypt, events are happening which in the long run are just as important as the battles taking place in Libya. The revolution is deepening. It has succeeded in ousting first Mubarak, then the prime minister appointed as a transition figure, and installing one of their own, Ahmed Shafiq, to the post. The ruling military council yesterday replaced the ministers of the interior, foreign affairs and justice. The reform of the interior ministry's hated security services was one of the major demands of the protesters, and the release of their secret files will be just as important as the Stasi files were in the dismantling of that organisation. The revolution in Tahrir Square may now have reached a point of no return, where it can not be undone. This is a real achievement which will empower a new generation of Arabs. This, too, requires western recognition and support.





Despite defeats the club hasn't abandoned their season

Another unrewarding Saturday afternoon this weekend for the players and supporters of Tunstall Town of the Staffordshire County Senior League second division, whose match against Cheadle South Moorlands United failed to produce the hoped-for first home goal of the campaign, and ended in a 13-nil defeat. This means that Town have now lost every one of their 16 matches this season, scoring three goals but conceding 161. It will need a stirring late rally to improve on the record of the club's two previous seasons: 2008-9, when they lost all 22 games, scoring seven goals, but conceding 166; and 2009-10, when they lost all 26, scoring an encouraging 16 goals but conceding 208. Yet at least Saturday's outcome can be seen as better than that of their earlier tussles with table-topping MMU (a 16-0 home defeat) and with Stone Old Alleynians (18-0 down at Tunstall, 19-0 down at Stone). And it's good to see that they haven't abandoned their season, as according to yesterday's Non-League Paper some teams have done. Moreover, the number of points they have gained (none) surpasses the record of clubs such as Ratby Sports and Asfordby Amateurs of the Everards Brewery Leicestershire League, who because of deductions have minus 2. Indeed, while other honours elude them, were some enlightened benefactor to institute a competition for valiant persistence in the face of daunting adversity, the name of Tunstall Town FC would be inscribed this morning as top of its premier league.






Preliminary findings in the 2010 census released Feb. 25 by the internal affairs ministry underline the overall trend of a shrinking and graying population as well as a demographic imbalance characterized by a population rise in a few prefectures and a population drop in most prefectures.

Japan cannot lose any time in working out policies that will effectively cope with undesirable effects from this population trend, including the further weakening — economically and socially — of rural areas.

The policies should include measures to revitalize local economies, improved assistance to child-rearing families and development of nursing care services that will sufficiently take care of aged people.

More importantly the government should pursue policies designed to increase stable employment opportunities for young people so that they can become financially secure enough to marry and have children.

As of Oct. 1, 2010, Japan's population stood at about 128,056,000, an increase of about 285,000 or 0.2 percent from the 2005 census. The ministry says the slight population increase was due to an increase in the number of foreigners living in Japan and a temporary rise in the birthrate. But the population growth rate of 0.2 percent is the lowest since the census was first taken in 1920.

The ministry's population estimate shows that Japan's population has declined for two consecutive years. It believes that the trend of a decreasing population has firmly set in.

The number of households topped 50 million for the first time and stood at some 51,951,500 as of Oct. 1, an increase of 4.8 percent from the 2005 census. The average number of people in one household hit a record low of 2.46. It is believed that this is mainly because the number of households consisting of one aged person living alone has been on a rise.

In 2005, for each person aged 65 or over, there were 3.3 people in the working-age population (aged 20 to 64). But it is estimated that in 2030, for each person aged 65 or over, there will be only 1.7 people in the working-age population.

It is clear that the number of younger people who shoulder the cost for pension and medical and nursing care services for the aged will greatly fall. Long-range reform of the social welfare and tax system will be inevitable.

An increase in the number of one-person households in the midst of an aging population will cause a serious social problem. The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research estimates that one-person households became the largest group in 2006 among various types of households, accounting for 29.8 percent of the total.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Medical Examiner's Office reports that in 2009, 3,875 people in Tokyo's 23 wards died alone in their residences in 2009, about three times the corresponding figure in 1990. About 70 percent of them were males. Causes of death included suicide, illness and accidents.

Local governments, people in communities and nongovernmental organizations should make efforts to prevent those living alone from becoming isolated. In working out a future nursing care services system, the health and welfare ministry must take into account the fact that quite a large number of aged people have no people to rely on in their households.

The 2010 census shows that the population is concentrating in large urban areas while rural areas are losing their population. The population increased from the 2005 census in nine prefectures — Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama, Osaka, Kanagawa, Okinawa, Shiga, Aichi and Fukuoka.

Conspicuously Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama and Osaka saw their population growth rate accelerate.

In contrast, the population decreased in as many as 38 prefectures. Among them are six prefectures — Shizuoka, Mie, Okayama, Tochigi, Kyoto and Hyogo — whose populations had increased in the 2005 census and then declined.

In 30 prefectures including Akita, Aomori and Kochi, the population decrease rate accelerated. It also must be noted that the population decreased in 1,321 municipalities, about three-quarters of the nation's total municipalities.

On Feb. 21, the long-range perspective committee of the land and infrastructure ministry's National Land Development Council said in its interim report that if the current demographic trend continues, about 20 percent of the land area where people were living in 2005 will have no residents in 2050.

It is imperative to work out policies that will attract people to rural areas. More power should be transferred from the central government to local governments to make them creative in crafting measures to revitalize their areas. The central and local governments also have to make efforts to make agriculture and forestry lucrative.

It is also important to improve medical and nursing care services and public transport in rural areas. Doing so will increase people's quality of life and encourage them to stay there.







SEATTLE — The United States will run up a record $1.65 trillion deficit in 2011. Yet Washington keeps subsidizing foreign governments. House Republicans have targeted foreign aid. This year the State Department would lose 16 percent of its budget; humanitarian aid would drop by 41 percent.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warns of catastrophe: "Cuts of this magnitude will be devastating to our national security, will render us unable to respond to unanticipated disasters and will damage our leadership around the world." Moreover, the proposed reductions will be "detrimental to America's security."

Even some conservatives stand with Clinton on this issue. For instance, Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post's in-house blogger on the right, termed Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, a "neo-isolationist" for proposing to cut what amounts to international welfare.

Despite Clinton's extravagant claims, there is little evidence that foreign assistance advances U.S. interests. The U.S. provided some $30 billion to Egypt over the last three decades, but the country remains poor and undemocratic. Indeed, aid to the corrupt Mubarak dictatorship helped turn Egypt into popular volcano.

Pakistan has been on the U.S. dole and performing disastrously for decades. The waste, inefficiency and corruption surrounding humanitarian projects in Afghanistan and Iraq are legendary. What of the $27 billion in so-called development assistance requested for next year? These outlays have had no discernible impact on Third World economic growth.

No doubt some projects in some countries have provided some benefits. But there is no correlation between aid and growth. Indeed, generous financial transfers to corrupt dictators often have impeded necessary reforms.

Aid advocates now claim to do better. President George W. Bush created the Millennium Challenge Corporation to reward governments with good policies. Yet, reported the Washington Times last August, the agency "is giving billions of dollars to nations upbraided by the State Department for corruption in government."

The World Bank also has emphasized better governance. However, reported Tom Porteous, the London director of Human Rights Watch, "multibillion dollar programs funded by the World Bank and others have been politicized and manipulated by the Ethiopian government and are used as a powerful tool of political control and repression." Aid incentives are all wrong.

The international dole has created long-term dependency and discouraged reform. Even humanitarian aid has a disappointing record. Six months after the earthquake in Haiti, reported the Wall Street Journal, "the process of reconstruction appears to have come to a halt." U.S. "Food for Peace" shipments, used to dump farmers' domestic surpluses, are notorious for ruining local farmers and thus undermining local production. This problem continues in Haiti.

On returning from a private aid mission, Don Slesnick, the mayor of Coral Gables, Florida, complained: "We were saddened to see rice bags travel no more than 20 (meters) from the gates of the distribution site before ending up in the back of a pickup truck presumably headed for the black market. To our further dismay, we returned home to read news stories that those very same donations were undercutting Haitian rice farmers who needed income to support their own families."

Worse is Somalia. Reported the New York Times last year: "As much as half the food aid sent to Somalia is diverted from needy people to a web of corrupt contractors, radical Islamist militants and local United Nations staff members."

Two decades ago Michael Maren worked with private aid organizations in Somalia and concluded: "Separately we'd arrived at the conclusion that the relief program was probably killing as many people as it was saving, and the net result was that Somali soldiers were supplementing their income by selling food, while the [insurgent force] — often indistinguishable from the army — was using the food as rations to fuel their attacks into Ethiopia."

Washington and other industrialized nations, like Japan, should reconsider the aid business. Financial transfers rarely are necessary for the West's defense. The Cold War is over and America's allies, including regional powers Israel and Turkey, should have graduated from U.S. assistance years ago.

Most Third World nations are tangential at best to American or allied security. While it's harder to criticize humanitarian aid, private money spent by private organizations is the best way to help those in need around the world.

As for economic development, officials in wealthy industrialized nations should focus on improving their own economic policies and easing access of other nations to the international marketplace.

Despite foreign aid's abysmal record, the Obama administration continues to back the program. Clinton should listen to her own rhetoric: "It's time to retire old debates and replace dogmatic attitudes with clear reasoning and common sense."

One of those dogmas is the assumption that foreign "aid" acts as assistance rather than hindrance. With America drowning in red ink, Washington must cut unnecessary programs. So must its friends and allies. Misnamed foreign aid is a good place to start.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of "Foreign Follies: America's New Global Empire" (Xulon Press).







Special to The Japan Times

LONDON — After seven long years, the Indian government has decided that the time has come to make its presence felt in Iraq by naming an envoy to the country. The previous ambassador to Iraq was withdrawn in 2004 when the security situation in the country was spiraling out of control.

Even as the situation stabilized in Iraq with largely peaceful elections last year and the U.S. decided to withdraw its forces completely by the end of this year, New Delhi took its time to come to terms with the rapidly changing ground realities. After all, when it comes to the Middle East, inaction is the preferred mode of action of the Indian foreign policy establishment.

India and Iraq have enjoyed long- standing political and cultural ties rooted in millenniums-old civilizations. Iraq had emerged as one of India's closest allies in the Middle East by the 1970s. Not surprisingly, therefore, New Delhi not only opposed the use of force against Iraq in 1991 but also vehemently denounced the imposition of U.N. sanctions on Saddam Hussein's regime.

Saddam reciprocated by strongly backing India on the issue of Kashmir and on the 1998 nuclear tests. But Iraq's global isolation meant that India's economic ties with Iraq suffered significantly even though India tried to use the Oil-for Food program to expand trade with Iraq.

By the time of the second Persian Gulf war, India's foreign policy priorities had changed dramatically. Though it publicly opposed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, New Delhi came very close to sending troops to "postwar" Iraq in support of the United Nations Security Council's resolution to help maintain security in the country.

Lack of domestic consensus prevented that from happening. Still, India has contributed $10 million toward the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq in addition to $20 million for assistance to the Iraq people under the United Nations framework.

India has been training Iraqi government officials under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Program, and the Indian Oil Corporation Ltd., the largest importer of crude oil from Iraq, has been training Iraqi oil-sector officials.

Iraq is the third largest supplier of crude to India after Saudi Arabia and Iran. Despite this, there has been no larger strategic restructuring of Indian foreign policy toward Iraq.

India's response to the hanging of Saddam underscored the continuing salience of domestic political imperatives in shaping Indian foreign policy. When the death sentence against Saddam was announced, India denounced it as "victor's justice." When he was hanged, India declared it an "unfortunate event."

Both reactions were aimed at assuaging India's Muslim community, which has been agitated over the Indian government's perceived dalliance with the U.S. Beyond that, there was no attempt by India to engage the new political dispensation in Baghdad — despite the fact that the Iraqi government had invited India to step in and help in Iraq's reconstruction with its technology and management expertise.

Iraq is slated to become the world's biggest oil supplier by 2015, and Indian companies have been looking forward to operating there.

Iraqi businesses are also exploring opportunities for joint ventures with their Indian counterparts in the field of cement, petrochemicals, hotels, and oil and gas (upstream and downstream projects). But the lackadaisical attitude of the Indian government has prevented a deepening of India-Iraq economic engagement.

Compare this with China's growing profile in Iraq. In the past three years, Chinese companies have walked away with stakes in three of the 11 contracts the Iraqi Oil Ministry has signed in its bid to increase crude output by about 450 percent over the next seven years.

China has also renegotiated a $3 billion deal that dates to when Saddam was in power. It has agreed to cancel 80 percent of the $8.5-billion debt it is owed by Iraq even as the two countries have entered into trade deals valued at $3.8 billion over the last two years.

In response to China's growing demand for oil, the Iraqi government decided to boost Iraq's crude shipments to China from about 144,000 barrels per day to 300,000 in 2010.

Since the 2003 war to topple Saddam, Chinese oil companies have been among the most eager to help to develop Iraq's oil reserves with the state-owned Chinese oil firm China National Petroleum Co. (CNPC) clinching some of the biggest deals in the Iraqi oil sector. China has secured a second deal to help to develop one of Iraq's largest oil fields — the estimated 4.1-billion-barrel Halfaya field in southern Iraq — as well as the rights to develop Rumaila, Iraq's largest oil field, alongside BP.

It is also helping to restore production at al-Ahdab oil field. Sinopec, another Chinese oil group, has a strong position in northern Iraq following its $7.9 billion acquisition of the London Stock Exchange-listed Addax Petroleum, which has been exploring for oil in the autonomous Kurdish region.

Not surprisingly, BP and its partner CNPC will be the first companies to be paid back by the Iraqi government for developing Iraq's supergiant Rumaila oil field as part of the service contracts Iraq signed with the firms.

Baghdad has to start paying back the costs of developing these fields and remuneration fees when they achieve a 10 percent increase in production.

India will have to seriously think about its role as a new Iraq emerges in a new Middle East. Delhi has an expanding set of interests in the region, and Baghdad can once again emerge as a reliable partner if ties with it are nurtured carefully.

Appointing an ambassador is a good, albeit modest, start.

Harsh V. Pant teaches at King's College London.






GENEVA — The recent sharp spike in food prices and growing concerns about food security have sparked anxiety worldwide. The possibility of being unable to put food on the table fills parents with a deep sense of foreboding. And because the world's poorest people spend a higher proportion of their income on food, they are the worst affected, raising the risk that years of progress in reducing poverty could be reversed.

The seemingly unalterable factors generating these record-setting rises in food prices — a shift to higher protein diets in many countries, growing populations, greater use of biofuels and climate change — suggest that elevated food prices are here to stay. In the absence of solutions that alleviate growing pressure on supplies, hunger and malnutrition will increase.

Clearly, investment in food production must be increased in the medium and longer term. But there is a policy prescription available to leaders today that could help remove supply-side obstacles: more trade. This proposal may puzzle some, but the logic is straightforward and irrefutable.

Trade is the transmission belt through which supply adjusts to demand. It allows food to travel from lands of plenty to lands of little. It allows countries that can produce food efficiently to ship it to those who face resource limitations that hinder food production.

For example, access to international food supplies allowed Saudi Arabia to abandon its 30-year program of subsidies for domestic wheat production. Given the financial burden of the program, and, more importantly, the cost in scarce water, the Saudis decided to phase out the subsidies entirely by 2016.

When the transmission belt of international trade that underlies such decisions is disrupted, the result is market turbulence. This is why Indonesia, one of the world's largest producers of rice and maize, recently decided to reduce trade barriers to agriculture imports.

Today, trade in agricultural products is exposed to far greater distortion than is trade in other goods. Trade-distorting subsidies, high import tariffs, and export restrictions act as sand in the gears of the transmission belt and make it more difficult and expensive to bring food to the market — and thus to the family table.

Export restrictions, for example, play a direct role in aggravating food crises. Indeed, some analysts believe that such restrictions were a principal cause of food-price rises in 2008. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, they were the single most important reason behind the skyrocketing price of rice in 2008, when international trade in rice declined by about 7 percent (to 2 million tons) from its record 2007. Similarly, the 2010-2011 price rise for cereals is closely linked to the export restrictions imposed by Russia and Ukraine after both countries were hit by severe drought.

Most people are surprised to learn how shallow international grain markets truly are. Only 7 percent of global rice production is traded internationally, while only 18 percent of wheat production and 13 percent of maize is exported. Additional restraints on trade are a serious threat to net-food-importing countries, where governments worry that such measures could lead to starvation.

Those who impose these restrictions follow a shared logic: They do not wish to see their own populations starve. So the question is: Which alternative policies could allow them to meet this goal? The answer to that question consists in more food production globally, more and stronger social safety nets, more food aid, and, possibly, larger food reserves.

A conclusion to the Doha Round of global trade negotiations could constitute part of the medium-to-long-term response to food-price crises, by removing many of the restrictions and distortions that have muddied the supply-side picture.

A Doha agreement would greatly reduce rich-world subsidies, which have stymied the developing world's production capacity, and have pushed developing-country producers completely out of the market for certain commodities. The worst kind of subsidies — export subsidies — would be eliminated.

A Doha agreement would also bring down tariffs, although with certain "flexibilities," thereby increasing consumers' access to food. Globally, more food would be produced where it can be produced more efficiently, thereby creating a more equitable, level international playing field.

To put it simply: When it comes to tackling food security, trade is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Pascal Lamy is director general of the World Trade Organization. © 2011 Project Syndicate








There is absolutely no reason why the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should not admit Timor Leste as its newest member, after the nation formally submitted its application to join last week. After all, geography, more than anything else, was the reason why the regional organization brought in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar in the late 1990s to encompass all 10 countries in the region.

Admittedly, looking back, one could argue that ASEAN expanded too fast too soon, when it was clear that, economically, the four new members were at different levels of development, leading to the impression that there were two ASEANs. But even with this gaping hole, ASEAN decided to forge ahead with the creation of a single ASEAN community based on three pillars — politics and security, the economy and social and cultural — through the adoption of the group's charter.

Since Timor Leste faces even bigger challenges economically compared to the poorest ASEAN states, its admission may slow down the process of economic integration. After all, an organization can only move as fast as its slowest member. But since Timor Leste's population is small, its impact on the pace of integration will probably be limited.

Timor Leste is not coming with empty hands. The new nation is actually more progressive regarding political freedom, human rights guarantees and governance. Indonesia, which has seen its efforts to ensure more guarantees of freedom and human rights to the organization often frustrated by other ASEAN members, will find Timor Leste a powerful ally.

It is significant that Timor Leste timed its membership application during Indonesia's chairmanship, the country that formerly occupied the territory then called East Timor for 25 years until 1999. This confirms the commitment of Timor Leste's leaders to look ahead rather than being beholden to the past. Timor Leste is far more ready for the "ASEAN ways" than most existing members, who are stuck in old rivalries and territorial disputes.

Since the creation of an ASEAN community is now the goal, the organization may as well admit the newest nation on the block to familiarize it with the various processes early on and perhaps even contributing a thing or two to the group. Let's not delay Timor Leste's admission any more than necessary.





And what was bound to happen, happened. While French diplomacy is being questioned after recent mistakes in North Africa and while the Minister of Foreign Affairs is being substituted in Paris, a delegation led last week by the Finance Minister Christine Lagarde scouted around for opportunities in Indonesia.

The "mission: impossible" of this "Sri Mulyani made in France" — who was ranked as one of the most influential women by Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and Time in 2009-2010 — consisted in taking over Zidane's visit in 2007. She had to explain that France is not only Louis Vuitton and Eric Cantona's motherland.

This exploration of a new pioneering front, far from the Françafrique (the former French colonies in Africa), does not come from nowhere; it does make sense. It is true that it is happening 15 years after the last presidential visit. Nevertheless, in the longue durée, Madame Lagarde, who was escorted by the Secretary of State for Transportation and 60 senior managers, landed in the wake of previous envoys: not only the French merchants, who sailed off Moluccas in 1615, but also after Daendels, the governor-general of the Dutch East Indies in 1808-1811, who was appointed by Bonaparte's family.

More recently, the French Secretary of State for Human Rights traveled to Jakarta in 2007, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to Paris in 2009, and the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs to Java last December.

One could add the numerous French warships, which call at Indonesian ports. But, more deeply, this cooperation-to-be cannot rely only on history, such as is the case for the Dutch people, or on strategic considerations, as for the US, India or China.

t also must rest on similar concerns, namely, infrastructure and transport -- especially air industry via Airbus and PT Dirgantara. Protection of human rights through the same kind of associations, NGOs and independent administrative bodies, for example the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in Indonesia and the High Authority against Discrimination and for Equality (Halde) in France will also link the two countries.

Additionally, secularism and Islam in the society, reflected in the Indonesian ideology Pancasila and the French laïcité, and well-balanced diplomacies initiated by the two national Bapak (founding fathers), Sukarno in Bandung in 1955 and Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) in Phnom Penh in 1966, will bolster the relationship as well.

Furthermore, in the soft power era, let us mention the Tour of Indonesia, which echoes the Tour de France, and the militant rock bands (Slank and Noir Désir in the 1990s) or movies from both countries. These later productions appear as the artistic heirs of political paintings such as Géricault's Raft of the Medusa (1819), Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People (1830) and Raden Saleh's Deer Hunt (1846) or Capture of Pangeran Diponegoro (1857). Last but not least, researchers often underline the diversity of Indonesia, as well as de Gaulle wondered: "How can you govern a country with 258 types [not of suku but] of cheese?"

Based on these actual commonalities, will the 2009 Franco-Indonesian partnership be just one more diplomatic agreement or can the societies expect something concrete beyond the polite handshakes? After extending financial support to geothermal projects and to the Agency for Meteorology Climatology and Geophysics, France could share its experience in various areas. In the 1980s, it became a decentralized state, like Indonesia in 1999. Moreover, in the 1990s, it adopted laws to regulate the funding of political parties, which is a critical issue in contemporary Indonesia.

On a military level, Paris initiated the European Union Atalante operation in 2008 to fight piracy in the Somalia Basin, while armed robbery against ships is on the rise off Natuna Islands. Besides, the Marine Nationale (French Navy) fights illegal fishing in the French Exclusive Economic Zone, which is the second largest in the world. This issue is precisely a big concern for Jakarta. At the end of the day, Indonesia could become the "lock" between the French Pacific and Indian Commands (Alpaci and Alindien) and, more generally, the bridge between the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Although the trade value between France and Indonesia was only US$ 2.5 billion in 2010 — compared to more than $25 billion for China and $12 billion for India — these European and Asian crossroads seem to be in tune. In parallel, after having focused on Indochina, the French research is switching its attention to the maritime Southeast Asia and to more socio-political issues, which is critical to accompany these diplomatic moves.

In the near future, maybe the world could take advantage of this delayed and — wrongly — unexpected partnership. As the respective chairmen of ASEAN and G20, the two presidents Yudhoyono and Sarkozy have this year a unique opportunity to remind the concerns of the non-aligned countries to the US and China. Knowing the strong ability to complain and to demonstrate in Jakarta and Paris, it should not be difficult.

 The writer is a research fellow in the Indonesia Program, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. The views expressed are his own.





Jayapura City Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Imam Setiawan's resignation to take moral responsibility for a sex scandal involving his subordinates is both surprising and commendable in this age of madness when integrity is becoming an oddity among our public officials.

As he tendered his resignation to the Papua Police chief last week, Imam said he failed as a leader to safeguard the honor of the police, which has been mired by, among other things, allegations of corruption, abuse of power and an inability to prevent mob violence against minority religious groups

"I was terribly ashamed. As the chief, I bear full responsibility for the immoral acts that my three subordinates had committed," he said of the officers who allegedly forced a woman detained for gambling to perform oral sex on them between November and January.

Imam also apologized for his failure to make good on the police's motto "to serve and protect" the people, especially the victim's family. He also said he hoped the victim's relatives would file criminal complaints against the alleged perpetrators.

The three cops have been locked up in the Jayapura City Police's detention center for 21 days now, forced to stand under the sun four hours a day and have had their promotions delayed.

Those who called for the trio to be castrated sneered at their "light" punishment but Imam was right when he said authority to sanction bad cops lies with the police's ethics council, not him.

The sex scandal, which may not be have been the first in Papua, has unquestionably spoiled Indonesia's diplomatic efforts to control the damage done by last year's revelations of torture perpetrated by soldiers against alleged separatist rebels in Indonesia's resource-rich easternmost province.

News of Imam's surprising move came when the National Police's top leadership was busy defending its generals who allegedly were sitting on top of fortunes of ill-gotten rupiah.

Last month, the National Police refused the Central Information Commission's order to disclose details on the "suspiciously fat" bank accounts held by 17 senior officers on the pretext that the information fell under the category of "state secrets".

Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Bekto Suprapto declined to accept Imam's resignation, but the young officer's display of integrity should serve as a model for the more senior officers who will soon assume new positions in the National Police as a result of the first major reshuffle under National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo, who took office in October.

An equally good precedent was established by Constitutional Court justice Arsyad Sanusi, who resigned in November soon after his relatives were accused of extorting money from a candidate who challenged his defeat in a regional election at the Court.

Arsyad said he resigned "to protect the honor of the Constitutional Court" — without waiting for recommendations from the ethics council that he himself proposed to investigate the allegations.

Indonesia badly needs a culture of shame and guilt to develop clean government. We need many more men like Imam to restore the image of public officials.






The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) has projected that Indonesia's rice production will total 37.8 million tons in 2011, while national consumption will reach 33.5 million tons. This suggests a surplus of 4.3 million tons in rice stocks for the current year.

In theory, the surplus is stock for 237 million people, with each person entitled to 18.14 kilograms, which the government is unlikely to collect or purchase. Therefore, reports of surpluses need to be closely examined to determine the true nature of the situation.

Furthermore, the reality is that the government continues to subsidize rice stocks to control prices and ensure access to food for the poor. Thus, every year, the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) needs to provide an extra 3.5 million tons of rice stock. This rice reserve, according to the government, is maintained through imports. As of today, our government has imported 1.26 million tons of rice and just a few weeks ago it placed another massive order for rice imports.

This is not a sure solution for the food shortage, as the Vietnamese and Thai governments have stated that they will prioritize their rice stocks for domestic needs. With downward pressure on rice stocks, despite reports of surpluses, the likelihood is that food prices will continue to soar unless domestic food production rises.

So how do we do this? The first option is to expand agricultural land, which is challenging since in order to prepare the lands it will not only require considerable funds but also time. Both are things we lack.

The second option is to introduce food diversification. However, as in the case of the "No Rice Day" campaign, the government's efforts to manage potential food shortages have so far been largely ineffective since rice is such a massive part of the population's staple diet.

If we take a detailed look at the problem, an Agricultural Outlook report prepared by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2007 showed that rice stocks throughout the world are likely to decline over the period 2007-2016 but that trade in rice, and resulting prices, is likely to increase.

Negative climate patterns, which have emerged without warning, are big reasons in widespread crop failure. In East Java, Governor Soekarwo said the unpredictable weather in 2010 had cut rice production by 8.6 percent. Scientists describe a sudden, dramatic change in weather patterns as "climate anomalies". Climate phenomena, such as the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), now occur more frequently, causing longer periods of extreme weather, shorter lifecycles of food crops and bring more pests and diseases to crops.

To be fair, the government has moved in the right direction in terms of addressing climate change by setting up the National Movement for Handling Climate Anomalies last month. But addressing climate change is just part of the potential solution to the food security crisis. Just as important is the need to increase food production.

The safety and well-being of the public means that the gap between projected demand for food and supply has to be addressed. The answer to the problem may lie in the third option, which is intensification. One of the methods of intensification includes the little-understood field of biotechnology.

As an industry, biotechnology always receives negative attention which mostly is driven by misperceptions of product safety and possible health implications. Biotechnology is formally defined as the creation or development of "any technological application that uses biological systems or living organisms to modify products for a specific purpose".

However, the practical reality is that biotechnological applications have the potential to dramatically increase both crop yields and resistance to plant diseases like downy mildew. Can you imagine planting rice that may only need to be watered once a month? Or planting corn without having to worry about plant diseases threatening your crops during the rainy season? Well, these are now real possibilities through biotechnology.

Apart from the definition, people want to know how biotechnology works and, in particular, how high-tech applications can produce food that is perfectly fit for human consumption.

A key value of biotechnological applications lies in the creation of transgenic crops — crops that have been genetically engineered to contain genes from more than one plant — that are resistant to pests and extreme climate. These offer a whole range of benefits — increased yields, higher quality crops, and less pesticide use, which in turn reduces the possibility of environmental damage, among others.

Basically, biotechnology could help the government meet its targets for self sufficiency in food production, increase competition in the agriculture sector, and improve farmers' welfare.

Any worries about product safety can be debunked with no reported health issues by the US-made soybeans that are genetically engineered and consumed in our daily lives. The technology also allows bio-scientists to determine which plant genes will be incorporated into crops. This means that any kind of religious norms will be duly observed.

Likewise, there should be no fears of the domination of the sector by large multinationals. There is a huge opportunity for our own people to develop these technologies and product innovation.

For users, the government should make financial support available for farmers and entrepreneurs who choose to adopt biotechnological solutions. The advantages of biotechnology represent a strong case for the adoption of technologies created by the industry. As a means of safeguarding the welfare of our nation, we need to begin the implementation of the best practical biotechnology solutions sooner rather than later.

The writer is chairman of the KTNA (Kelompok Tani Nelayan Andalan), the main representative body for farmers and fishermen in Indonesia.






The anti-Ahmadiyah decrees in Pandeglang West Java and most recently in East Java have incited fears among many hearts that the country is heading towards "Pakistanization".

Pakistan is "a laboratory of abuse in the name of religion" and Pakistan's path of intense religious violence began with an anti-Ahmadiyah ordinance.

In 1984, president Zia ul Haq adopted Ordinance XX to criminalize the activities of Ahmadiyah followers. Pakistan used to argue that banning Ahmadiyah or declaring Ahmadiyah as non-Muslims would eliminate violence against Ahmadiyah and would stabilize the country.

The argument, now commonly used by Islamic hardliners and certain state officials in Indonesia, is nonsense, however.

The reality in Pakistan demonstrates this. A country built upon egalitarian values, Pakistan is now a place devastated by religious vigilantes, a place suffocated by the rancid smell of blood, a place where Ahmadiyah, Islamic sects and religious minorities are persecuted, a place where bombings take place every day, weakening the power of the nation to build.

In its current state, Pakistan is a failed state. The Human Rights Watch records that after the Ordinance XX declaration of Ahmadiyah followers as non-Muslims in 1984, the persecution of Ahmadiyah has significantly increased.

Like in Pakistan, the decrees in West Java and East Java will criminalize the religious activities of Ahmadiyah and will embolden religious extremists to further persecute Ahmadiyah followers. The ordinances look like a license to kill. As ideas never die, violence continues.

The experience of Pakistan demonstrated that such a cruel regulation bolstered religious vigilantism and weakened the state's commitment to the constitution, the fundamental values upon which the nation was built.

The result is frightening. A country built upon egalitarian values, like Pakistan, can shift into a place of religious violence. Ali Jinnah, the founding father, was an ardent democrat, and he founded Pakistan on consensual and pluralistic grounds and belief that general supremacy would prevail rather than that of Islam per se. What is left of those ideals?

Pakistan's experience showed that following the issuance of the regulation the violence against Ahmadiyah would pattern in many forms: murder before the police, mosque attacks, expulsions of Ahmadis from many state universities, more widespread violence, exclusion of Ahmadis from votes, arson attacks on their homes, businesses and mosques, desecration of their graves and more.

Ordinance XX in fact does not only criminalize "the religious activities" of Ahmadiyah, but also "the everyday life" of Ahmadiyah followers.

Then, the effects will go beyond the Ahmadiyah followers; the vigilante will reach other Islamic groups and government officials that they think are different or not in line with their agendas.

For example, a governor with moderate voice, Salman Taseer, was killed early this year because he criticized the blasphemy law which he regarded as a "black rule" inconsistent with the national constitution of Pakistan.

We fear that Indonesia can fall in the same situation. Indonesia is a nation with diversity, which is also reflected in the diversity of its Islamic religious practices.

There are many religious practices considered as bid'ah (innovation), widely practiced by Indonesian Muslims. After Ahmadiyah, it is only a matter of time before these homeland religious practices will be persecuted.

What are the other possible consequences? As the state fails to protect its citizens, many groups in society will create their own paramilitary armies to protect themselves. We can predict the consequence of such a situation.

Therefore, not only are the ordinances in West Java and East Java a blatant violation of international human rights law, the Constitution, the dreams of our founding fathers, but they will threaten our national security and the existence of the nation.

In the long run, the decree will surely strengthen religious vigilantes and weaken the power of the state. There will be more religious and political insecurity.

The decree is also against the fundamental principles of Islam (adh-dhoruriyyatul khomsah): hifdhu ad-din (to protect the freedom of faith), hifd an-nafs (to protect life), hifdh al-aql (to protect the freedom of expression), hifd an-nasb (to protect the sustainability of human being) and hifd al-mal (to protect the rights of property).

For religious and security reason, the central government, particularly the Home Ministry, should evaluate the regional ordinances to stop the march of "Pakistanization".

Diversity remains the most valuable property the state leaders at any level could have. The central government should ensure that state apparatuses at many levels do not violate the National Constitution, and should embody diversity consciousness. It is the vein of modern Indonesia and the reason of our existence.

Indonesia has its own cultural characteristics and should not follow the dangerous path of Pakistan. History tells that a country built upon egalitarian vision can become a hotbed of religious violence when diversity consciousness is not nurtured, and when its officials lose sight of its founding fathers' ideals.

The United Nations Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities has called on the Commission on Human Rights to pressure the Government of Pakistan to repeal Ordinance XX. It is ironic that Indonesia adopts such a regulation.

Like the case in Pakistan, religious clerics are also involved in the mobilization of anti-Ahmadiyah laws. To those clerics, I invite them to renew our faith in God, the Merciful (rahman) and the Compassionate (rahim). The clerics need to embody these two attributes of God, or else they will be spiritually impoverished.

The deepest moral crises take place when religious leaders do not embody rahman rahim in themselves or when they begin to see other people merely from their outer dress, not from their inner humanity. When these two characteristics are absent, the blessings of God will leave us.

The writer is a lecturer at Semarang State University (UNNES), a former coordinator of Majelis Kataman Quran Canberra Australia.









Here we go again.

When world cricket chiefs insist that they had 'full confidence' in their umpires Australian umpire Hair had again reiterated his doubts about Murali's bowling.

Former Test umpire Darrell Hair called Murali, the number one wicket-taker in tests and ODIs, for throwing since 1995.

Since he first kicked up a row the controversy had gone through many phases-went to the edge of technology and had finally settled down with ICC accepting his bowling.  But still the bloke continues with his tomfoolery of saying that "there is still a lot of doubt about his deliveries." By his stance he had gone against the ICC ruling.  But fortunately ICC chief backed the stance of ICC and officials.

He had said that he had got full confidence in the elite panel of umpires, in the rules we have in place - and it's up to the umpires to apply them.

Most heartening is that he had placed the ranting Hair in his place. "I'm afraid Darrell is no longer part of the panel and his opinion is just that," ICC Chief had said. The punch line "no longer part of the panel and his opinion is just that" is much welcome.

Further more, the simple argument would be a professional batsman should be able to face and play a ball that comes on to him from whatever the source. That's how they practise using machines. Likewise saying a batsman could not bat because of a controversy over a bowling action casts doubts on that particular batsman's professional capability.

Moreover throwing a ball is not the best way to deliver a ball. Bowling action is something that had evolved over time. If "throwing" was the best of method to deliver a ball, it would have become the method of delivery. It is not.   Hope the cohorts of Hair and Bedi would shut up.

But most saddening is the behaviour of people like Hair, while there are a host of professionally superb umpires in field.

The recently added review system repeatedly proves that human capability and judgement is far more advanced than the technology that is called into review the verdicts given by the umpires.

Rarely, very rarely, do we see umpires' decisions going wrong. Most of the time in times of doubt it was amazing to see how umpires could so clearly see a difference whether it was a pad or a bat.

These things happen in split seconds.

It was amazing to see it in slow motion replays-several times of course -and in close up too, which goes on to prove a decision given by an umpire standing several metres away and has seen it only once!

This goes on to prove that technology still cannot match human capabilities or experience and proves that umpires should be given their due place in the sports, like players without making technology precede over them.

If an umpire's decision could be reviewed with the help of technology isn't it okay if players seek the help of technology to boost their capabilities, by the same token?





No keen observer of the Sri Lankan political scene would have been surprised that the JVP has now rendered qualified support to that bad word called 'federalism'. Nor should anyone be shocked that the party has decided to give up alliance politics at the sixth national summit in February.

To take the second issue first, the party has no doubt benefited from alliance politics in the short and the medium terms after being rendered clueless and rudder-less in the years after the Sri Lankan State and the mainline Sinhala-Buddhist polity had smashed the 'Second JVP insurgency' (1987-89) too with certain glee. That was a heady, not hardy way, where a succession of Third World Left parties has been unable to localise Czarist Russia, where, conversely, political pragmatism of Lenin gave shape to communist dogmatism - and not the other way round.

The party has since found out the truth. After President Mahinda Rajapaksa became the undisputed claimant to the 'Sinhala nationalist votes' without actually working for it politically – nor possibly desired it after a point -- the JVP has learnt that trying a hybrid concoction, mixing 'class' and 'majoritarian nationalism', would only take the party thus far, and no more.

The emerging position is also an acknowledgement of the JVP's inability and unwillingness from the immediate past, to go back to the grassroots after the 'Second insurgency', and not stopping with the ideological roots. The longevity of the ethnic war and of the LTTE ensured that the JVP lived to play the 'Sinhala nationalist' card after slain President Premadasa had taken on the competition, that too with the might of the Sri Lankan State behind him. The JVP, which like the proverbial man who mounted the 'tiger' – or, was it the 'lion'? – could not dismount at will.

This one leads to the first issue, namely the JVP's current clarification that the party was not against federalism, per se. At the party summit, JVP strongman Somawansa Amarasinghe had this to say: "There is a misconception in this country and this is evident even in the international arena. They think that we are against federalism…We have understood that federalism has two aspects, one would lead to separation and the other to unity. We will lend our support to the aspect of federalism that brings unity."

In the early days of party founder Rohana Wijeweera, the JVP was supportive and sympathetic of 'federalism'. The word acquired a bad connotation only because of its association with the 'Federal Party'. The latter kept on giving different interpretations to what was essentially an 'alien' terminology with constitutional connotations capable of multiple interpretations in different languages -- English and Tamil, in this case.

The constitutional formulation acquired a separatist identity when the party called itself the 'Thamil Aarasu Kadchi', in the local lingo. It suited everyone concerned not to imbibe the true spirit of the Tamil name, and interpret it loose and chosen terms. It suited the Federal Party too, which however could not contest the claims that were being made on its behalf by the majoritarian political adversaries on the other side of what was basically a communal divide, on which ethnic connotations came to be super-imposed.

It may have served the JVP's cause, and that of the nation even better if the leadership now had enunciated what was true federalism – whether or not it wanted to borrow the 'western, imperialist model' – and, if the party had understood the true depth and width of the political phraseology. In its 'Sinhala nationalist' avtar, the party had overlooked the otherwise manipulated Leftist course of delineating truth from fiction, and took to a course that was both short-sighted for the nation and short-lived for the JVP. At the end of the ethnic war, the JVP now finds itself having to recapture the ranks of economy-driven anti-incumbency votes, which for now rests with the UNP Opposition. The consolidated 'Sinhala nationalist votes', for which and on which the post-insurgency JVP had worked for two decades now, the party has since handed over to President Rajapaksa on a platter. It is back on the streets. From now on, frequent protests by the JVP on issues of public concern and interest would thus be not only political. It would also be poetic.

Having replaced hard work (for which the Left polity is well known) with catchy slogans, and not having distinguished ideology from idle-rhetoric since the revival of the post-insurgency JVP on a moderate scale, the party should now resist the temptation of reviving the past, if only to make its voice heard. Suggestions drawing parallels between Sri Lanka of the day and contemporary Egypt, if not Libya, are not only misleading and mischievous. They are dangerous.

(To be continued)





A generation that enjoyed the value of paisa coins will feel a tinge of nostalgia as they shed their hoard of small change over the next four months. The call-in of coins with a face value of 25 paise and less and their planned demonetisation with effect from July 1, 2011 only reflects the changed currency use pattern across all sections of society today. With the rupee losing its purchasing power, commerce was already beginning to cold-shoulder the paisa; for the government, the cost-benefit factors involved in minting and keeping them in circulation were strong enough to push for their demonetisation. It is unclear how many of the coins are still actually around. According to the Reserve Bank of India's books, at the end of March 2010, there were 54,738 million "small coins" (which, by definition, include the 50 paisa), adding up to Rs.1,455 crore. The demonetisation of what is virtually "dead money" will enable the RBI to issue currency notes or coins for an equivalent amount as replacement in the monetary system. Should a significant amount of the coins tumble out of jars and piggy banks, the handling of the mountain of small change will turn out to be a challenge for the banking system. But how much of it will surface is a moot question. There has been concern over whether the consequent rounding off of bills to 50 paise or a rupee at the till would add to inflationary pressures. It will, but its effect can only be marginal. It is for the first time since India shifted to the decimal system in 1957 that coins are being demonetised on such a scale. In the past decades, the worth of the metal content in coins has often surpassed their face value, encouraging their melting for other uses. The ferritic stainless steel coinage of contemporary issue and the aluminium-magnesium coinage introduced in 1964, in place of the nickel and cupro-nickel 'naya paisa' series introduced in 1957, faced the same risk eventually. The minting of 1, 2, 3 and 5 paise coins was phased out in the 1970s, and they have virtually disappeared from currency — even as 10, 20 and 25 paisa coins have become scarce.

And rupee coins of 1, 2, 5 and 10 denominations have come since the 1990s in growing numbers. So, time is finally running out for small change. Only four months are left for people to rustle up their coins and take them to the bank for exchange. It is possible that the exercise will excite more interest among coin collectors than the general public.





The batch of volunteers from the Kankesanthurai(KKS) electorate led by Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) leader Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam  commenced their Satyagraha campaign opposite the Jaffna Kachcheri premises at  7. 30 am on February 20th 1961.

It must be noted that the Jaffna Kachcheri was not housed then  in the present building where it is situated now  along the Jaffna –Kandy road or A-9 highway in the Chundikkuli area of Jaffna city.

The Kachcheri then was right opposite where it is now.  The Kachcheri buildings were on the same Jaffna –Kandy highway on the other side of the road. Those premises were later called the Old Kachcheri building after the present two - storey new building was constructed.

When the Satyagraha was launched the place where the present Kachcheri or secretariat is on now was a vacant plot of govt land with a few large shady trees. Many members of the public who came to the Kachcheri to transact official business would be seen loitering or conversing under those trees. Some cycles were also parked unofficially there.

The old  Kachcheri was situated in the large grounds known as Old Park. The main entrance to the Kachcheri was on the Jaffna –Kandy road. The official residence of the Jaffna district Government Agent was also within the Old Park.Known as the Old Park residency it had another separate entrance along the Jaffna – Kandy road. There was a third ,largely unused smaller gate on the other side of Old Park along Old Park road.

The Satyagrahis led by Chelvanayakam sat on the ground opposite both the Kachcheri main entrance and entrance to the residency. About 40 – 50 persons sat with Chelvanayakam in front of the main entrance. Another 15 – 25 persons sat further down opposite the residency entrance.The objective was to block Government servants from entering their office premises and working.

Apart from the volunteers from the KKS constituency , smaller groups of volunteers from other constituencies also assembled with their members of Parliament.

Some of these MPs like Dr. EMV Naganathan (Nallur)VA Kandiah (Kayts)A. Amirthalingam (Vaddukkoddai)VN Navaratnam (Chavakachcheri)V. Dharmalingam (Uduvil) and K.Thurairatnam (Point Pedro) sat along with Chelvanayakam on the first row of Satyagrahis.

The mastermind behind the Satyagraha campaign V.Navaratnam and his "vice-captain" S.Nadarajah were also at the venue but did not participate in the sit –in. They were inspecting arrangements and coordinating matters. Navaratnam was to later become Kayts MP while Nadarajah  later became Senator and Jaffna District Development Council chairman. Both were lawyers.

Amirthalingam's wife Mrs.Mangaiyatkarasi Amirthalingam along with some women volunteers sat behind the frontline leaders in the second row. Mangaiatkarasi being a reputed singer conducted "bhajans" where the lead singer chants the lines first and is followed in chorus by the rest. In keeping with the prevailing Gandhian ethos , Mrs. Amirthalingam started off with "Ragupathy Raghava Raja Ram" a favourite of the Mahatma.

Behind the seated Satyagrahis,   columns of more Satyagrahis stood in readiness. It was expected that  the Police would arrest the Satyagrahis and take them away. When that happened the next batch of volunteers standing behind would promptly sit in their places and commence Satyagraha.

If and when that group was arrested and taken away another batch would take their place. There were about 200 accredited Satyagrahi volunteers with official badges  at the Kachcheri venue. In addition further contingents waited in anticipation at the house  compound of a party supporter in the vicinity of the Kachcheri. Additional volunteers were also waiting at the Federal Party (FP) office premises on 2nd cross street,Jaffna.

The accredited Satyagrahi volunteers wearing badges had all been given classes and lectures about the principle of non – violent political protest  with special emphasis on adhering to Gandhian values of non – cooperation. Almost all volunteers were wearing white. Also many of them were fasting on that day.

They had been given clear instructions that their mission was only to prevent through non – violent protests  any  Govt employee  from entering their office. The Police was not to be obstructed in any way. They were also instructed not to retaliate violently whatever the provocation.

Satyagrahi volunteers began peacefully approaching  the Kachcheri employees when they arrived for duty. The volunteers told them of their campaign and entreated them as Tamils not to go in and start work. There were more than 250 employees of all grades at the Kachcheri. Most of them adhered to the Satyagrahis' request and did not go in.They gathered in a large group and watched proceedings as by –standers.

Some  Kachcheri workers had anticipated the Satyagraha demonstration and arrived for work by 6.30 am long before the protesters converged at the premises. Thus a handful of Govt employees were already within Kachcheri premises when the Satyagraha began.  

Many members of the public  also began arriving to transact official business at their Kachcheri. Again Satyagrahi volunteers accosted them and fervently urged them not to go in . Almost all complied with the plea. They too began waiting and watching  to see  what was happening.

Meanwhile a large crowd was gathering at the venue. With news of the Satyagraha spreading hundreds of people were now at the venue. Some were curious onlookers but most however were sympathetic spectators. The members of this swelling crowd though supportive of the Satyagraha were not trained Satyagrahis. A large number  consisted of youths.

It was at 8.45 am that the Police arrived "officially" at the scene although some cops in civil attire had been  quiet observers for quite a while. The Jaffna Superintendent of Police then was Richard Arndt. The Assistant Supd.t of Police was Arumugam Mahendran. Both arrived on the spot in separate jeeps.

The senior Police officials were accompanied by a very large party of Policemen who arrived in trucks,vans and jeeps. Many of them wore helmets and carried shields. Jaffna had not witnessed so many  Policemen in anti-riot gear before. They also had batons which they "showed off" by brandishing them before the Public and Satyagrahis.

As the Policemen took up positions and awaited orders the Supdt of Police Arndt tried to drive in to Kachcheri premises in his jeep. It was about five minutes to nine then. In keeping with the decision not to obstruct the Police in their line of duty the Satyagrahis made way for Arndt's jeep to enter the Old Park.

Richard Arndt
Richard Arndt  drove around the Old Park and then got down. He began inspecting the "area" carefully. He was also seen lingering near the unused  padlocked side gate along Old Park road. When V. Navaratnam was told of this he immediately deployed another group of Satyagrahis to block this side entrance in case any attempt was made to use it.

Richard Arndt then went into the Residency and met with the Government Agent M. SriKantha. He then came out and drove out to the road again. The Jaffna SP then ordered the Police to clear the main entrance to the Kachcheri by removing the Satyagrahis.He did not order them to be arrested as expected.

The Satyagrahis too did not expect this. They were prepared to submit to Police arrest willingly and let another batch replace them. Indeed the entire Satyagraha exercise had been planned  in this fashion where wave after wave of volunteers were to court arrest in relay fashion.

It now appeared that the SP Arndt had no intention of arresting anyone. He wanted the Satyagrahis to be dragged out and dumped forcefully. None were to be arrested.

It was only five years ago on June 5th 1956 that the Police had behaved in different fashion at a Satyagraha demonstration organized by the Federal Party in Colombo. It was on June 5th that the bill making Sinhala the sole official language was presented in Parliament.

The FP led by SJV Chelvanayakam observed a day of Satyagraha at the Galle Face Green opposite the old Parliament building. On that day some politicians in the ruling SWRD Bandaranaike Govt let loose mobs of Sinhala  speaking thugs and hoodlums to assault and stone the non – violent Satyagrahis.

The Police remained passive spectators as the thugs attacked the peaceful Satygrahis. Many years later ex-DIG CC "Jungle"Dissanayake was to reveal that the hands of the Police had been tied by orders from the Prime Minister himself. Another senior police officer Van Twest also revealed in a subsequent interview that the Police had been ordered to do nothing.

Questionable Force
If that had been the role of the Police in the 1956 Satyagraha their role seemed to be different in Jaffna regarded as the cultural capital of Sri Lankan Tamils. They were not going to arrest anyone but exercise "questionable force" in physically removing Satyagrahis from the scene.

Arndt then sent word to the FP leaders through ASP Mahendran  that they should stop blocking the main entrance to the Kachcheri  so that Govt employees could enter. If they refused the Police would clear the area by force to enable the govt servants to go in to their offices without hindrance.

Dr.Naganathan and Amirthalingam then walked up to the Jaffna Supdt's jeep and informed Arndt that they would not allow Govt employees to enter Kachcheri premises. As such they could not clear the way and instead invited Arndt to arrest the Satyagrahis if he so desired. The SP then said he would give them five minutes to disperse.Otherwise the Police would remove the Satyagrahis  through force.  

The  FP leaders then changed tactics. Ever concerned about the fragile vulnerability of their esteemed and beloved leader they requested Chelvanayakam  to move out from the place. When Chelvanayakam refused the women present led by Mrs. Amirthalingam implored him to leave. Chelvanayakam reluctantly left with the women volunteers.

A team of Satyagrahis led by Kayts MP VA Kandiah a lawyer himself changed positions and sat with their backs to the entrance. The others sat in rows facing the entrance. The Satyagrahis realised that the Police were going to use force and bodily remove them. But they sat there unflinchingly armed only with their love of their mother tongue and belief in the doctrine of non –violence.

 When the  five minutes "grace"was over Richard Arndt ordered Police action.When the SP  ordered that the Satyagrahis be removed bodily instead of being arrested even the Police at the scene appeared bewildered and hesitant.But the highly respected Richard Arndt, an able,upright Police officer was presumably acting on orders from higher up's.

Losing his cool, Arndt yelled at his chief lieutenant ASP Mahendran to "drag these buggers out  by their hands and legs".  Spurred by this outburst by Arndt the Police stirred themselves and  moved in.They began lifting the Satyagrahis one by one and carried them to a distance and threw them on the ground.

Unarmed Struggle
But even as they were thrown the Satyagrahis led by Kandiah  picked themselves up and hurried back to their places and resumed their unarmed struggle. Even as this was going on other Satyagrahis  moved in and sat blocking the  entrance.

Soon the Police began losing patience and started dragging the Satyagrahis away instead of carrying them. This too did not deter the protestors who kept on blocking the entrance. Some began to lie flat on the ground. Some policemen then began to roll the prostrate Satyagrahis. A few blows and kicks were delivered. But the Satyagrahis did not retaliate.

After about 15 minutes Arndt ordered the Police to stop. He now altered his course of action. The northern Police supdt instructed Policement to form two columns on both sides of the path leading to the main entrance.

Since the Satyagrahis were firmly instructed not to obstruct the Police in carrying out their duties the demonstrators remained passive. They realised that the Police was up to something but did not engage in any pre-emptive action. Soon the Police were standing in two lines towering above the seated Satyagrahis.A narrow path straddled by cops on either side had evolved.

Arndt then went up to the Kachcheri employees huddled in groups and ordered them to walk through the narrow route between Satyagrahis. While most govt servants hesitated a few encouraged by the SP and SP started walking towards the entrance. It appeared that the "cordon" of the Satyagrahis  was about to be breached.

Francis Pereira
But the hour brings forth the man! A comparatively young Bharatha Tamil from Chilaw was also a participant in the Satyagraha. He was none other than Francis Pereira who had contested and lost Chilaw on the FP ticket in the July 1960 elections.

Instead of sitting passively  and letting the govt officials pass through,Francis Pereira threw himself on the ground in front of the advancing officials . Inspired by this act of non – violent defiance other volunteers too started prostrating themselves on the ground thus impeding the progress of govt employees. Seeing this spectacle the advancing govt employees stopped in their tracks.

An enraged Arndt then blasted his subordinates and commanded them to break up the Satyagraha and let the govt servants  move inside. Now the cops got cracking again –literally and metaphorically. A barrage of baton blows were directed at the Satyagrahis but they remained firmly glued to the ground despite the rain of blows.The Police in a frenzied   exhibition of brute force began to kick and stomp on Satyagrahis .  

In a desperate effort to clear the way the Police also started to pull,drag and carry away the Satyagrahis. A very high degree of force was employed this time.Some volunteers were lifted up from their positions and thrown down elsewhere like inanimate obects   in a rough,haphazard manner.Others were dragged away by their hands and legs over rough terrain. Some others were pulled out and pushed forcibly on the ground.

Despite this display of brute force against unarmed protestors the Satyagrahis were unrelenting. There was a terrific scramble to fall down on the spaces rendered empty by Police action and fill the vacancies created. It was like a gigantic rugby scrum with the pack flinging themselves  with gusto into the fray.

Chilaw Cheeta
The hero of that altercation was Francis Pereira the Cheeta from Chilaw. He would  be dragged out by the Police but would immediately return and throw himself down on the ground.He would again be pulled out and hurled down but would return again. According to veteran Satyagrahis, Francis Pereira would have done so at least about fifteen times . His shirt and trousers were torn and in rags but the man remained firm , unbowed and unafraid.

Inspired by Francis Pereira the Satyagrahis continued to block the main entrance in spite of tremendous Police pressure. The situation was tense and emotional. Seeing the pathetic plight of the Satyagrahis,  sections of the Tamil spectators and bystanders  were moved.

In an unexpected turn of events members of the crowd began to rush in spontaneously  and squat opposite the main entrance. A few were  hit by the cops but did not run away.It soon became  apparent that the Satyagraha of a few was transforming into mass action by many.

After a long tussle the Police called it quits. Arndt ordered the Police  to cease action. He then drove into the Old Park again and the Satyagrahis gave him clear passage. The time was around 10.15 am. Arndt then went into the GA's residence again.

The FP leaders thanked the members of the public for their support and gently persuaded them to retire saying the registered volunteers would continue with the Satyagraha. While injured and hurt satyagrahis went away from the scene for medical treatment others took up positions again. About a 100 volunteers sat in front of the main entrance while around 25 sat in front of the residency entrance.

Assize Sessions
The drama however was not over. February 20th  was the date on which the Assize sessions of the Supreme Court were scheduled to open in Jaffna. The Jaffna GA M.Sri Kantha was required to be present for the Assize session opening as he had to present the mandate in his capacity as fiscal marshal. The opening was to be at 11 am.

Since most FP leaders were legal luminaries they were fully aware that the GA had to be present in courts at the appropriate time. They were also in a quandary because they did not want to disrupt the opening Assize sessions in any way because they too were practising lawyers.

In a bid to wriggle out of this tricky issue some FP leaders had come to a "gentleman's agreement" with the GA through the good offices of a third party. The FP had been told that the GA Mr. Sri Kantha would not attend the Assize sessions. A senior Govt servant would deputise on his behalf and would leave for courts from his private residence. Thus the FP would not have to block the Jaffna GA's departure from the residency.

This unofficial arrangement was known only to a few of the FP leaders. The bulk of the membership including Satyagraha volunteers were not aware of this. But what the FP leaders did not realise was that orders from Colombo had stipulated that the GA himself had to attend the Assize session opening and present the mandate as Fiscal marshal.

So the Satyagrahis on their watch were taken  by surprise when the GA Mr. Sri Kantha came out of the residency  at 10.30 am  with the SP Richard Arndt and clambered aboard the Police jeep. The jeep then proceeded to the Old Park residency entrance on the Jaffna –Kandy road instead of the main entrance.

As stated earlier the Old Park entrance had only a small presence of Satyagrahis numbering 25. When they saw the GA trying to exit in the Police jeep they promptly threw themselves down on the ground in front of the entrance. The jeep had to screech to a halt because a youth in his early twenties named Palaniappan threw himself in front of the jeep. The front wheel was only a few feet from him when the vehicle braked suddenly.

Arndt then bellowed to the Police to throw the "buggers" out and clear passage. The Police promptly obeyed his orders. They began to lift up the Satyagrahis bodily and hurl them away. It was only then that the ruse adopted by Arndt came to light.  

The Old Park entrance precincts were packed with more than  75 policemen. Arndt had cleverly packed the area with cops without the Satyagrahi's noticing it.With the ratio of Policemen to Satyagrahis being more than three to one the cops found it easy to clear the way unlike at the Kachcheri main entrance.

Palaniyappan the youth who had thrown himself in front of the jeep was pulled out and beaten mercilessly with batons. He received several blows to his head and bled profusely.He was hospitalised for serious injuries. But after recovering he joined the Satyagraha again some weeks later.

Alerted to the fracas at the Old Park entrance many of the Satyagrahis at the main entrance came rushing. At the forefront were five Tamil MP's namely Naganathan,Kandiah, Amirthalingam, Dharmalingam and Thurairatnam.

Battle Of The Baton
VA Kandiah  went right up to the jeep and sat across with his back to the radiator. Naganathan and Amirthalingam sat in front of the jeep while Dharmalingam and Thurairatnam  prostrated themselves on the ground. Despite this high-level attempt to thwart the GA's departure the numerical strength of the Police contingent  made it "mission impossible".

The Police reacted with brutal ferocity. The Satyagrahis were beaten with batons and pulled out bodily. Kandiah was carried out and dumped on the ground. Thurairatnam and Dharmalingam were dragged out by their hands and legs. Naganathan and Amirthalingam were baton charged.

It was then that an unusual incident occurred. When a policeman rained blows on Dr. Naganathan known for his pugnacious nature and pugilistic skills grasped one end of the baton to prevent being hit. There was a tug of war with both the MP and cop pulling the baton. In the tussle the baton suddenly broke in two with each adversary holding on to one part.Later Naganathan was to take the broken baton piece home as a souvenir.

Although the "battle of the baton" violated the principle of Satyagraha the incident created a popular image for Naganathan among Tamils. He was eulogised as "Irumbu Manithan"  or iron man thereafter because the baton broke during the assault. Incidently Sardar Vallabhai Patel of India was known as the "Iron man" during the Freedom struggle against the British.

Despite these efforts by the Satyagrahis the Jeep with the GA and SP managed to drive out through a gap created by the Police. Seeing the jeep drive away a section of the public infuriated by the escape pelted a few stones at the vehicle. The windscreen cracked as a result.

Angered by the stone throwing the Police now turned on the public and began a baton charge. By that a time a crowd of about 5000 had gathered at the spot and in the by-lanes and lanes in the vicinity. These comprised ordinary citizens who had heard about the Police brutality and had converged in solidarity at the scene.

These were not Satyagrahis trained to refrain from violence but ordinary people with highly charged emotion and anger. Some of these members of the public began to throw stones at the Police. The Police retaliated by assaulting them. The Police also surprised the public by producing  sacks  full of stones and throwing them at the people.

 While this violence went on large numbers of people also began to move in and sit opposite the Old Park entrance. Soon the numbers at that entrance increased from 25 to more than 500. Most of them were ordinary people and not accredited Satyagrahis. Findng the protesters too numerous to dislodge the Police withdrew from the entrance.

The use of force by the Police however continued with people being beaten indiscriminately. In the process the cops also attacked a large number of Govt employees working in the Jaffna kachcheri who were waiting for the Police to establish an avenue for them to commence work.

The situation began to turn ugly and with passions aroused there was the danger of the non – violent Satyagraha turning into a violent skirmish. With the crowds becoming increasingly volatile the Police resorted to firing in the air thrice and firing tear gas canisters once.

The FP leaders appealed to the crowds to disperse peacefully. Mrs. Amirthalingam with a few women went around crying and asked the people to disperse. Slowly the crowds decreased. The tense climate eased. At 1. 30 PM the Satyagraha was called off on the first day.

Talk Of The Town
Chelvanayakam issued a statement in the evening to the press. In that he said"February 20th 1961 is a great day for the Tamil speaking people of Ceylon.This was the day we resorted to direct action to win back our rights." Chelvanayakam also criticised the Police action without any reference to the stone throwing by members of the public.

53 Satyagrahis and members of the public were hospitalised for injuries. Four Policemen also receivd treatment for injuries caused by stoning. More than three hundred Satyagrahis and members of the public received treatment for minor injuries.

The Police action against Satyagrahis was the talk of the town that day. The tale spread among Tamils in the North,East and other parts of the Island. The Police action came in for sharp criticism.It had served to anger the Tamil public and popularise the Satyagraha among the Tamil people and cause much resentment against the Sirima Bandaranaike govt.

Several members of the opposition criticised the Police action against the Satyagrahis. Some questioned the use of Police action to quell a non – violent protest. Among the Parliamentarians critical of the Police action were the UNP's JR Jayewardena, the LSSP;s Dr.NM Perera,Bernard Soysa , Edmund Samarakkody, the LPP's Dr. W.Dahanayake and the CWC's Saumiyamoorthy Thondaman.

It was only a short period  before the Jaffna Satyagraha that Earl Bertrand Russell had conducted a Satyagraha campaign  with 6000 volunteers at the entrance to the Defence ministry in London.

Comparing and contrasting the London and Jaffna Satyagrahas  the Times of Ceylon in its editorial of 22nd February 1961, observed : "It is noteworthy that Earl Russell's and Federal Party's were both nonviolent demonstrators but the significant difference was that while Russell and his followers had to deal with the disciplined London police, the Federal Party had to reckon with the Ceylon police."

This then was the story of the  first day of the 1961 Satyagraha and its baptism of fire.(ENDS)

NEXT: The Satyagraha continues and spreads in the North and East

DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at








I am very happy to see that a peaceful constructive national dialogue has started between representatives of both Shi'ite and Sunni sects of Bahrain so that all issues of concern or demands by both sects are discussed and negotiated with each other and then with His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander, for the benefit of all Bahrainis, which will help abort sectarian differences.


This is not new to Bahrainis since we have been living together, Shi'ite, Sunni and Bahrainis from other religions, in harmony and peace for many decades, and we share similar grievances and demands from the government and we have never discriminated against any Bahraini based on his sect or even religion as well as there are marriages between families of the two sects.


In fact, the Bahraini example of nationals of different sects and religions living peacefully and in harmony with each other is an excellent example of a tolerant and peaceful society that should be followed by other multi-religion or multi-ethnic countries. We in Bahrain respect and appreciate the differences in religious customs and cultures of all Bahrainis and we will not allow anyone or organisation to change this way of life that we have, in which we do not feel any differences between Bahrainis from the two sects.


Therefore, I beg my brothers and sisters not to fall in the path of those who are trying to create differences between people of the same nation, and hence do not allow them to create discrimination between us, which will harm all of us with no exception. This is why I strongly believe that together we (Shi'ite, Sunni as well as Bahrainis of other religions) can work in harmony since all of us are demanding real reforms so that we can live with dignity together as one body.


From my continuous follow-up with the media in the past week, it is clear that most Bahrainis are demanding speedy distribution of suitable houses for them and their married children since currently they have to wait for many years before they can get any housing assistance from the government as well as getting decent jobs that meet their aspirations and qualifications in addition to improving other vital services such as health and education without any discrimination so that Bahrainis can live together with dignity.


It is a pity that about 12 days ago the shopping streets in central Manama were deserted and the shop-owners were waiting for customers without any hope of getting them, and I am really pleased that this phenomenon is gradually disappearing and both locals and visitors are seen in growing numbers and this is a positive indication that the situation in Bahrain has stabilised and life is getting back to normal.


I sincerely hope that we all unite as Bahrainis (Shi'ite, Sunni and from other religions) and meet HRH the Crown Prince at a negotiation table as he invited us to raise all our concerns, grievances, demands and he has said that there is no ceiling to the discussion, any subject can be discussed and the national dialogue is open for all Bahrainis, so we should not miss this opportunity to sit together with HRH the Crown Prince at the negotiation table and discuss with him all of our concerns or demands since everything can be solved by constructive dialogue.


It is worth noting that in the 60s, 70s and 80s we could not tell the difference between a Bahraini who is Shi'ite or Sunni because we were and still are Bahrainis regardless of the sect and the demands or grievances of any of the two sects cannot be ignored. Moreover, I am confident that if we all form a national unity and meet at the negotiation table with HRH the Crown Prince and discuss with him our concerns and demands in a civilised and peaceful way, he will listen and meet our expectations.


Generally speaking, we in Bahrain do not have any differences or discriminations between Bahrainis of the two sects or even of different religions but there are a few people from both respected sects who have prejudice against Bahrainis who are not from their own sect, and this creates unease and frustration among the Bahrainis, since there are those who feel that they have been discriminated against simply because they are from a different sect. This of course is not acceptable not only by us but also by our religious beliefs since according to our religion, we have to treat people fairly and equally without any discrimination or prejudice against them which is based on their religion, sect, ethnic origin or colour of their skin.


Therefore, the only way out of this crises is to truly unite (all Bahrainis) as one body, help each other, sincerely contribute towards the development of our country, be very proud to be Bahrainis and never think about personal interests but the interest of the whole country.



EDITORIAL from The Pioneer, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, The Financial Express, The Hindu, The Statesman's, The Tribune, Deccan Chronicle, Deccan Herald, Economic Times, The Telegraph, The Assam Tribune, Pakistan Observer, The Asian Age, The News, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, The New York Times, China Daily, Japan Times, The Gazette, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Guardian, Jakarta Post, The Moscow Times, The Bottom Line and more only on EDITORIAL.




Project By


a trust – of the people by the people for the people

An Organisation for Rastriya Abhyudaya

(Registered under Registration Act 1908 in Gorakhpur, Regis No – 142- 07/12/2007)

Central Office: Basement, H-136, Shiv Durga Vihar, Lakkarpur, Faridabad – 121009

Cell: - 0091-93131-03060

Email –,

Registered Office: Rajendra Nagar (East), Near Bhagwati Chowk, Lachchipur

Gorakhnath Road, Gorakhpur – 273 015

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.