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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

EDITORIAL 08.03.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month march 08, edition 000773, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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
















































  8. 18TH Amendment makes a difference - Muhammad Saleem





















Exactly a week before the third anniversary of the March 14 riots that killed 18 and injured at least 400 people in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, China has hijacked the occasion to attack the region's fragile peace by launching a tirade against the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader. The chief of the Chinese Communist Party in Tibet, Mr Zhang Qingli, has called the Dalai Lama a "double dealer" and a "secessionist chief who fools his believers under the guise of religion" and then, for good measure, referred to the late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai's description of the Dalai Lama as the "wolf in monk's robes" — in a particularly brazen attempt to gain ground in the so-called autonomous region by manipulating religious sentiments to open old wounds that are yet to dry. Discontent has been brewing in Tibet for years — for one, Tibetans resent Han Chinese from the mainland settling in Tibet, a strategic move by the Chinese to alter the social and political dynamics for its own benefit; second, strict controls on religion, particularly the repeated insult of the Dalai Lama, have transformed Tibet into a hotbed of anti-China sentiments. It is little wonder that the 2008 riots were sparked after a Tibetan mob burned down shops owned by Han Chinese and Hui Muslims. That officials in Beijing are willing to subvert religious issues in Tibet to further their own interests is not only a worrying trend for Tibet but also for India, which should be particularly concerned by its neighbour's aggressive policy.

These concerns were recorded on Monday by the Minister for Defence AK Antony in a written reply to the Lok Sabha which dealt at length on the expansionist moves of the Chinese Government. China has undertaken several projects in Tibet to make it more accessible to its troops and evidently "situations have arisen on the ground", as Mr Antony put it while referring to China's unacceptable transgression of international norms. He went on to add that it "could have been avoided if we had a common perception of the Line of Actual Control (with China)". Reports suggest that in 2010 alone, a 58,000-km-long road network was constructed in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Additionally, the extension of the Qinghai Tibet Railway to Xigaze is also in progress while another railway line from Kashgar to Hotan in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region is under construction. As many as five new airfields have become operational. Mr Antony has taken care to point out that necessary steps have been taken to ensure that India's national security concerns are not compromised by China's strategic posture. He has cited the development of infrastructural facilities as an example of India's preparedness — this includes the activation of new and old air fields and the construction of new roads that will allow for quicker movement of troops and equipment. Additionally, the military is also stepping up its presence in the region with the deployment of four squadrons of the IAF's frontline Su-30 MKI fighters. The Army is raising two mountain divisions in the North-East and considering the deployment of Ultra-Light Howitzers and light tanks in areas along the LAC. While much of this is in consonance with India's threat perceptions, as Mr Antony has rightly pointed out, nonetheless, China's expansionist aspirations and its strategic decision to use Tibet as a military platform is a matter of grave concern in this country as well as the entire region.







It is amazing that policy-makers should continue to give a step-motherly treatment to healthcare in the country when both social and economic prosperity depends directly on the well-being of the people. The introduction in this year's Union Budget of five per cent service tax on centrally air-conditioned hospitals with 20 beds or more and the dipping allocation for the many national disease control and eradication programmers are an indication of the Union Government's apathy towards the health sector. Even more distressing is the failure of authorities to provide adequate primary healthcare to millions of people in rural India. The Budget lacks big ideas on ways to revamp primary health facilities — in terms of both trained personnel and equipment. A recent study by the Medical Council of India suggests the country could have a shortfall of doctors by more than nine lakhs in the next 20 years. The trend is even more worrisome because medical colleges, especially in the private sector, have been flourishing as never before, leading one to assume that, if anything, there should be a surplus of doctors. It could be argued that the alarming rate of population increase outpaces the speed with which colleges can produce doctors. But China, with a bigger population, has a better doctor to population ratio at 1:1063 when compared to India's 1:1700. It is obvious that we require more doctors and for that we need to have a larger number of medical colleges besides increasing the capacity of existing institutions without compromising on the quality of education.

It is nobody's case that this can be done overnight. What can be done on a priority basis is the optimum use of the existing number of doctors. It is well known that most doctors prefer to practice in urban India, and the short stints that they do in rural areas is largely because it is mandatory. Thus, while there is no apparent shortage of doctors — even specialists and super-specialists — in cities, there is a crisis of trained medical professionals in the villages. It is not sufficient to recommend better remuneration and other incentives for doctors to opt for jobs in villages or set up clinics there. What we really require is a set of stiff penalties so that men and women who graduate from taxpayer-funded medical colleges or who have availed of education loans at discounted rates from public sector banks think twice before trying to opt out of serving in rural areas. The rules currently allow doctors to pay a token fine if they decide not to serve in villages after securing their MBBS degree. That rule should be entirely scrapped and replaced with a non-negotiable law that anybody who fails to put in at least three to four years service in rural areas will be disqualified from practising medicine. That should help take healthcare to our rural areas.









It remains a mystery as to why Manmohan Singh took so long to accept the demand for a JPC inquiry into the 2G Spectrum scam.

Much like the reluctant bridegroom who is kidnapped and dragged into the mandap kicking and screaming and married to the daughter of a mafia don in the badlands of Bihar, the Prime Minister, Mr Manmohan Singh, has, much against his will and with the utmost aversion, given in to the Opposition's demand for the constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee to inquire into the 2G Spectrum scam.

Going by his statements, the Prime Minister's discomfort is obvious. He suddenly finds that much of the goodwill that he had earned as a 'clean' politician has evaporated over the last six months and, for reasons best known to him, he fears that a full-fledged JPC inquiry will further undermine his position. In his view, his conduct is above reproach while all others — the media, the Opposition, some of his Ministers and his coalition partners — are blame-worthy on one count or the other. Therefore, like the reluctant bridegroom who goes through the rituals while someone holds a gun to his head, Mr Singh behaved as if he was doing something under duress as Parliament went through the formality of constituting the JPC.

Mr Singh gave vent to his annoyance over the JPC issue a few days before the opening of Parliament and reiterated some of these arguments when the matter came up in the Lok Sabha. According to him, the media is to blame for all the muck-raking that it has been doing since last September. He told editors of television news channels that as a result of the media's focus on these scandals "an impression has gone round that we are a scam-driven country" and that such coverage is willy-nilly "weakening the self-confidence of the people".

Therefore, he wanted the foot soldiers of the media to return to their barracks (in the national interest) because it is not good to "focus excessively on the negative features" as this will only result in the people losing their self-confidence. Mr Singh's media advisory was much like that of Mrs Indira Gandhi. This was her view of the media, too, in the 1970s around the time her position as Prime Minister became untenable.

The Prime Minister's next target has been the Bharatiya Janata Party. This party, he says, has been raking up the 2G Spectrum scandal because his Government proceeded against a Minister in the Gujarat Government headed by Mr Narendra Modi. No one who has an understanding of politics will ever take Mr Singh's theory seriously.

First, no political party will make such a disproportionate trade-off and let go of the biggest scandal the country has seen merely to secure some legal relief for a Minister in a State Government. Second, even if the BJP was willing, the others in the Opposition and the media — both of whom are sensing a kill — would ever let go. Further, is not the Prime Minister aware that the Supreme Court is monitoring the case involving the 2G Spectrum scam? Will the court back off if the BJP 'loses interest'?

Meanwhile, Mr Singh has been repeatedly asserting that neither he nor his Government has done any wrong. He wrote letters to the Telecom Minister, listed a number of issues and mentioned a number of concerns. A Raja, the then Telecom Minister, said auction of spectrum was not suggested by either the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India or the Telecom Commission, arguing, "It (auction) will not give level playing field for new players."

Further, Mr Singh found nothing wrong in the licence-holders making a killing soon after getting the allotment. "The basic policy was as per prevailing practice — I don't know the motivations of those who got licences (and sold their equity for higher prices ). If they have to roll out, they need money, they can do so by selling equity or by borrowing money," he has said. Even more preposterous has been his comparison of spectrum subsidy with subsidy on food and fertilisers.

Finally, the Prime Minister has shifted the blame onto his coalition partners. "There is a coalition dharma in coalition politics — some compromises have to be made in managing coalition Governments," he told the news television editors. In Parliament, Mr Singh has repeated this theme and said the Government agreed to a JPC "as the country can ill-afford disruption of the crucial Budget session".

The Prime Minister's protestations and stiff resistance to a JPC inquiry go against established traditions in democracies and in our Parliament as well. Not only have we had three JPCs until now, we have seen the enlargement of Parliament's powers and responsibilities through two of them.

The JPC that was set up in August 1992 to inquire into irregularities in securities and banking transactions set new benchmarks for parliamentary scrutiny. Since Direction 99 of the Directions of the Speaker says a Minister shall not be called to a committee of this nature, the chairman of the JPC made a special request to waive this rule. The Speaker granted the request "in view of the uncommon nature of the case and the views expressed by leaders of all political parties".

Armed with this power, the JPC called for information in writing from as many as 10 Ministers and former Ministers (Mr Manmohan Singh, B Shankaranand, VP Singh, Mr Yashwant Sinha, SP Malaviya, Madhu Dandavate, Chinta Mohan, Madhavarao Scindia, Mr ND Tiwari and Mr P Chidambaram). It also recorded the evidence of three of them including that of Mr Manmohan Singh, the then Finance Minister.

Yet another JPC which adopted this approach was the one constituted in April 2001 to look into "the stock market scam and matters relating thereto". This JPC too sought waiver of Direction 99 of the Speaker. It said it wanted to call for information from some Ministers. With the Speaker's permission, it called for written statements from two Ministers and two former Ministers and later recorded their evidence. Mr Singh and Mr Chidambaram appeared before this JPC as well.

Given the fact that 14 Ministers and former Ministers have been summoned by JPCs in the past and Mr Singh has appeared before two of them, the Government's obstinacy vis-à-vis a JPC inquiry into the 2G Spectrum scam is certainly inexplicable. And after agreeing to set up a JPC, there was no logic to the Government's initial move to limit the size of the committee to 21 when the earlier committees had 30 members each.

Hopefully, since Mr Singh refuses to come clean, the JPC inquiry and the investigations monitored by the Supreme Court will one day throw light on his reluctance to have the 2G Spectrum scam investigated.







With the Supreme Court ruling the appointment of PJ Thomas as non est, he has ceased to be the Central Vigilance Commissioner. But what about the Central Vigilance Commission which failed to check his rise through the ranks and his controversial appointment as CVC despite pending criminal charges against him? This aspect merits rigorous scrutiny or the existing system of checks and balances will continue to fail

In the disgraceful PJ Thomas episode, what has gone largely unnoticed is the dubious role the Central Vigilance Commission played as an institution in facilitating the elevation of the now displaced IAS officer. This happened before he became the Central Vigilance Commissioner, and much earlier to the Supreme Court's landmark verdict of March 3 that set aside Mr Thomas's appointment as non est — an appointment that never happened. A reading of the judgement — that ranks as among the most significant verdicts of the apex court since independence — clearly establishes the flip-flops of the Commission on the matter that was used by both the Union Government and Mr Thomas to project their righteousness.

On February 18, 2003, the Department of Personnel and Training referred the matter of sanctioning Mr Thomas's prosecution in the palmolein oil import case to the Central Vigilance Commission. Less than four months later on June 3, 2003, the CVC responded, "Keeping in view the facts and circumstances of the case, the Commission would advise the Department of Personnel and Training to initiate major penalty proceedings against Mr Thomas…"

Nothing significant happened for four years after that, except that the Governments changed both in Thiruvananthapuram and in New Delhi, and the matter of granting prosecution sanction remained in limbo. The Union Government remained ambivalent to pleas from the State on the matter. Meanwhile, the issue of empanelment of some officers including Mr Thomas to central services came up for consideration. On May 10, 2007, after persistent prodding by the Kerala Government, the central regime wrote to the CVC seeking an opinion whether the pendency of response from the Union Government on the request can come in the way of the empanelment.

Here, the Commission went beyond its brief to take a U-turn on its earlier stand that he should be proceeded against. As the apex court observed, "Rather than rendering the advice asked for, the CVC vide its letter dated June 25, 2007 informed the Ministry that no case is made out…"

The Commission went a step further and stated that the case against Mr Thomas "may be dropped and the matter be referred once again thereafter to the Commission so that vigilance clearance as sought for now can be recorded". Two points need to be noted here: One, the CVC went out of its way to suggest dropping of charges, and two, it even offered a way out to the Centre by suggesting that, once the charges were dropped, the Government could return to the Commission for vigilance clearance.

The Supreme Court took exception to this change in attitude when it stated, "Neither in the reply nor on the file, any reasons are available as to why the CVC had changed its earlier opinion/stand as conveyed to the Ministry (earlier on June 3)." But that was not the Union Government's concern. The problem for it was that, despite the CVC's convenient shift in position the Union Government still could not have its way because the Kerala Government that had pressed the charges was in no mood to oblige.

But even that did not deter the UPA Government. Fortified by the Commission's "advise", it empaneled Mr Thomas — by now the State's Chief Secretary — to the central services. On October 6, 2008 the CVC gave him the vigilance clearance, ignoring not just its earlier stand but also the various observations made by the DoPT along the way. On this the apex court remarked, "From the files we find that there at least six notings of DoPT between June 26, 2000 and November 2, 2004 which has recommended initiation of penalty proceedings against Mr Thomas, and yet in the clearance given by the CVC… there is no reference to (these) notings."

The Commission's remarkable vacillation and doubtful ignorance of the adversial remarks by the DoPT eventually cleared the way for Mr Thomas to enter the central services and later become the Central Vigilance Commissioner. It also led to his disgrace.

If the role of the CVC was questionable, the conduct of the Congress had been no less so. While it is well known that the Congress-led UPA Government backed Mr Thomas all along in the Supreme Court battle, the support can be traced back to the early days when the IAS officer was charge-sheeted in the oil import case — a charge-sheet that stands to this day. It was a Congress Government in Kerala that wrote to the DoPT in January 2005 saying it did not want sanction to prosecute Mr Thomas. In fact, it sought withdrawal of an earlier request for sanction made by its predecessor, the Left Front Government.

Again, in November 2005 the State Government took the position that since the charges levelled against Mr Thomas were invalid, the case against him should be withdrawn and the request for sanction to prosecute him need not be pursued. The move would have been a success but for the will of the people of Kerala. In May 2006, the Left Front, which was swept to power replacing the Congress-led alliance, opened the case and asked the Union Government to proceed with according sanction for prosecution.

Now, the Congress-led Government in New Delhi perked up. It demanded to know the grounds on which the State was seeking to revive the prosecution sanction request. Interestingly, it had sought no such clarification when the Congress Government in the State had sought withdrawal of request to sanction the prosecution — a request that had been made by an earlier Left Government. Also, the Congress-controlled regime at the centre had not demanded an explanation from the CVC as to why the agency had summarily given a clean chit to Mr Thomas when all it had been asked to do was to offer some technical advice.







There is little or no reason for Mamata Banerjee to be generous while sharing seats with the Congress in the coming Assembly election in West Bengal. The Trinamool is confident of winning a majority on its own and does not really need the Congress to win the poll

The Congress's reiteration of the dharma that governs coalitions suggests that there is a common understanding of precisely what these rules are on all sides. It assumes that once the rules have been laid down, interpretations cannot substantially alter the application of the rules.

As bargaining with the Trinamool Congress grows more urgent with time pushing both sides to sort out pending differences, one fact seems to have been ignored by both negotiating sides: The Trinamool Congress has other claimants on its seat-sharing formula. Recent reports indicate that small parties, especially community specific and territorially limited, like the Jharkhand Disom Party with foot prints in Purulia, Bankura, Hooghly and West Midnapore have raised the question of what will be its share of seats in the coalition that the Trinamool Congress forges?

As a party that closely identifies with the tribal populations in the four districts, the Jharkhand Disom Party represents a particular idea of difference. It claims for itself the right to speak on behalf of the tribal population through voices that are from within the tribal community, unlike the larger political parties. Whereas it is required that parties must field appropriate candidate on seats reserved for members of the Scheduled Tribes. Nonetheless there is difference in the concerns that a nominee from the larger party will voice and the concerns that a nominee from a community based party will voice.

For the Trinamool Congress negotiating with the Congress is important but handling this sensitive issue and dealing with other claimants with skill is equally necessary. In 2008, there were enough seats 51419 in all to make the sharing easier. In 2010, with 1791 municipal wards that required candidates, there were enough seats to go around. In 2009 for the Lok Sabha where the principal parties were the Trinamool Congress and the Congress, the task of working out who gets which seats was infinitely simpler.

In 2011, the Congress and the Trinamool Congress will need to fix a formula for seat-sharing governed by an agreed understanding of coalition dharma. The Trinamool Congress will also need to keep some of the politically sensitive smaller parties sweet. Its need to do so is based on the idea on which coalition dharma works. The combination of two or more parties is stronger with greater chances of winning.

However much the Trinamool Congress may have consolidated its position in West Bengal, its wider appeal continues to be that of the most viable anti-CPI(M) alternative. As the antidote to and the anti-thesis of the CPI(M), the Trinamool Congress needs more than just three decades of anti-incumbency to stage a triumph in the 2011 State Assembly elections. It needs force multipliers everywhere from the tribal majority areas up to Darjeeling.

In resolving the problem posed by the dharma of coalition politics, the Trinamool Congress must also resolve the problem of aspirations. As a party led by a singular leader, Ms Mamata Banerjee, the resolution of all claims vests with her. That however does not negate the aspirations of the many. Different claimants are dealing with their aspirations differently. Some have clearly established dominance over their territories such as the Adhikaris in much of the combined East and West Midnapore. Some others are obviously local, but not specifically from a particular constituency. Others are aspirants who may be holding some office at some level, but may also want to be a State Legislator. Among these aspirants, some are willing to forgo the MLA slot as the lowest risk option and some are eager to get as many endorsements as are permissible under the existing laws.

Dealing with the aspirations within the Trinamool Congress is probably the easiest of tasks. The aspirants know that their combined appeal counts for nothing. Nor would many be willing to risk displeasing their leader. Dealing with the Congress has become a lot easier now than it was last week as the central leadership of the beleaguered party deals with the impact of a DMK threat.

As the most stable and loyal partner that has helpfully ignored the failures of the Congress in dealing with inflation, 2G Spectrum scam, Antrix scam, Central Vigilance Commissioner scandal, Commonwealth Games fiasco, the Trinamool Congress has been angelic. It has neither turned up the heat nor demanded a price for its loyalty.

In the fitness of things, the Congress should, out of gratitude, agree that the obvious political dominance of the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal requires that it seriously curb its ambitions and settle for a small share of the cake. The fuss over sharing formulas, discussions at the highest level, is pointless. The Congress has a limited capacity to make good. Expectations that the Trinamool Congress that needs to secure its future as the undisputed leader in West Bengal would pamper the Congress because it wants to satisfy its vanity based on its once glorious past is ridiculous.







Pakistan's growing urban middle class is still playing out a redundant fantasy: A flight of fancy that sees Pakistan as some monolithic and single-dimensional construction where everyone can be pigeonholed within a single concept of faith and language

Sixty-three years old and suffering from grave identity crisis. Sixty-three years old and still requiring hoards of people to continue knee-jerking their way across a number of hyperbolic patriotic clichés and chants. This is Pakistan.

This is a country with an economic, political and military elite and an awkward but growing urban middle class that is still playing out a redundant fantasy: A flight of fancy that sees Pakistan as some monolithic and one-dimensional construction where everyone can be conveniently pigeonholed within a single concept of faith, language and patriotism. Many dictators, terrorists and ethnic and sectarian fragmentations later, the retarded evolution of this country has given birth to a generation of young, urban Pakistanis who have lost all capability to look through hypocrisy and deceit.

This is a generation that was born and raised in the post-Cold War world. A world where Communism had been defeated and in which a mixture of consumerism and the resurgence of faith collaborated to turn everything, from entertainment to information to faith itself into an industry. An industry squarely catering to a highly depoliticised market of young people in a scenario where the state was eroding, where politicians had delegated much of their roles to multi-national corporations, to the NGOs and to a new set of preachers who had turned religion into a media-savvy enterprise.

Faith and capitalism came together to celebrate the fall of communism/socialism — creatures they had accused of keeping the middle class distracted by ideological issues, and in a state of stasis from which this class could not progress economically or spiritually. But Communism's defeat and the end of the Cold War did not solve problems like poverty, economic disparity, despotism, etc. It did however give the post-Cold War generation a chance to enjoy (on credit) services and products that were almost unattainable among the many from the generation before.

To enjoy these without having much of a guilty conscience, the same triumphant system of post-Cold War capitalism also constructed attractive valves through which young hip consumers, neo-yuppies and aspiring new bourgeoisies could escape into the spiritual realm. Here fast-talking corporate gurus would tell them how to balance hefty profit-making with 'corporate responsibility', and where slick men and women of faith would (basically) explain to their ever-growing audiences how to enjoy the fruits of brand-waving consumerism with a set of spiritual lingo and rituals that would help keep them connected to god.

All this took place mostly after 1995. A sham democracy manipulated by the military from behind the scene that had turned politicians into punching bags for whatever that was putting a spanner in Pakistan's economic progress saw the new urban generation consider democracy as a corrupt hindrance in their growth as an economic force. Though millions of young people suddenly became aware of the corrupt ways of politicians, ironically the same millions could not figure out the scams they were being burdened with in the name of plastic money by the banks.

Neither was this generation willing to ask that simple question: If politicians were siphoning off millions of rupees, weren't these still only a fraction of what the military got by way of military aid, jobs, industries and, of course, the largest chunk of the country's Budget? Then came our own nuclear device, the clandestine and expensive making of which our leaders had boasted about earlier and we were ready to eat grass. But it was certainly neither the elite nor the middle class that were chewing this figurative grass. It was the majority, the so-called masses.

Alas, though the coming together of neo-capitalism and faith only managed to instill psychic confusion in the youth, this confusion, instead of lashing out against the artificiality and dichotomies found in the new ways of economics and spirituality, buckled under the weight of a narrative constructed by the drivers of the new arrangement. Those who had benefitted most from the setup — the military, the slick religious preachers and capitalists — with the help of the corporate gurus, seth-owned private media, began to invoke god and 'honour-cum-pride' against those whom they considered to be enemies of the middle class, the country and religion.

These 'enemies' were politicians advocating democracy — they became labelled as 'corrupt' and insensitive — not that many of them were not corrupt. Enemies also included the last bastions of liberal or the shrinking Left-leaning journalism (who suddenly became 'liberal fascists') and certain Islamic scholars who, unlike the political-religious groups patronised by the military and the traders, spoke more about the benevolent, tolerant and democratic aspects of Islam instead of hatred in the name of faith and national honour.

The glaring dark irony surrounding even the most modern members of the new generation is that they have ended up equating the availability of all the goodies of the corporate and consumerist set-up that they have become addicted to with a projected belief. A belief that suggests that a 'moderate' authoritarian political setup (preferably by the Army or at least backed by it), coupled with an identity defining version of bourgeois Islam, is what will make Pakistan more sovereign and more proud.

It's like a hoard of sheep all going baa when told by the media, the military and the political maulanas, that they are the defenders of Pakistan's honour. The sad part is, each sheep, though baaing exactly like the other, is eluding himself into believing that he truly is a proud citizen.

-- The writer is among the most popular Pakistani columnists. He writes for Dawn. Courtesy: Dawn.









Regardless of how the current deadlock over seats is resolved, cracks have appeared in the Congress-DMK relationship. They will, in all likelihood, reappear even if papered over temporarily. As of now Congress stands to lose, but the DMK will lose more if the relationship doesn't work out.

The conflict is more than just about seat sharing. The Congress's demand of a minimum of 63 winnable seats and DMK threat to pull out of the UPA government at the Centre stem from each party's estimation of the other. DMK and its patriarch M Karunanidhi are overplaying their hand. Based on the family mode of politics and depending on old-style coalitions in which the tail habitually wags the dog, the DMK is out of sync with political realities. Regardless of its tough posturing, the party needs the Congress to stay in power in Tamil Nadu. More so as it faces a tough election ahead.

Apart from the anti-incumbency factor, the DMK faces a formidable challenge from a resurgent AIADMK. The latter has been busy cobbling together a potent coalition comprising, among others, film actor Vijaykanth's DMDK. If the Congress-DMK alliance were to break, the possibility of a quid pro quo between the Congress and the AIADMK cannot be ruled out. But given that AIADMK can be an even more unreliable coalition ally, that's not necessarily a gain for the Congress. To top it all, there's internal strife in the DMK as well - given the testy equation between M K Stalin and M K Alagiri as well as the blow-hot-blow-cold relationship with the Marans. Investigations into the 2G spectrum scam have added to the strain. With the arrest of former communications minister A Raja - the DMK's Dalit face - and the possibility of Karunanidhi's wife and daughter being subjected to CBI questioning, the DMK is as eager to assert itself as the Congress is to wash off the scam taint.

If the DMK withdraws support from the UPA altogether at some point, the government is not in immediate danger. Congress would look to a host of smaller parties such as the SP and the RJD to make up the numbers. But such a move would certainly underscore the fragility of the UPA, which is currently having a tough time fending off allegations of corruption. The strains in the Congress-DMK alliance signal the possibility of larger realignments in political equations after the assembly polls in Tamil Nadu and other states. There could be a stormy ride ahead for the UPA even before it gets to the 2014 Lok Sabha election.







Dismissing the euthanasia plea for Aruna Shanbaug, the Supreme Court provided guidelines distinguishing between passive and active euthanasia, revealing its ambivalence on the issue. Decisions will be case-by-case and made by high courts after hearing the family's and a medical panel's opinion. Safeguards are essential because the people they pertain to are by definition enfeebled and unable to express themselves. They also need special care and protection given that violence towards the elderly over property and inheritance disputes is rampant. The apex court judgment, however, does open the door for euthanasia in certain circumstances, and that needs to be welcomed. What does one do in the case of terminally ill patients who have no hope of cure and who, moreover, would welcome termination of their suffering? Even with the distinction between active and passive euthanasia, is there a case that in some circumstances, active euthanasia may be the more humane alternative? Aruna's case opens up these debates, and the Supreme Court judgment highlights a significant legislative lacuna in this area.

It is up to Parliament to consider these complexities and perhaps reconsider our founding principles in the process, for formulating a Bill on euthanasia. Meanwhile, society needs to be sensitised to the issue. Educating people about the law and what medical science has made possible - in terms of the prolongation of life though not necessarily of consciousness or a pain-free existence - prepares us to make decisions ourselves. A considered decision by a person whose life hangs in the balance needs to be backed by medical and legal consent in cases where euthanasia is permitted. Building these principles into humane legislation is called for now.







The two torrid item numbers which have seized the imagination of a horny male populace say it all. March 8 will amplify the sound over the blossoming of India's women - and express some fury over how many more continue to be crushed under the heel of disgrace. Let us concentrate on the lost jawani, and call for an audit of the larger waste when women's lives are thrown into the dustbin of politics.

This year's budget proposals make no special offers to women. But what Pranab Babu threatens to take away is more ominous than what he did not give. It is hoped that the 5% service tax on healthcare will be revoked. Women bleed most from any cut in health services, partly because of their own conditioning to cower at the back of the queue.

India is a dubious topper in many testy statistics. Just yesterday, the headlines declared that Indian men stand 'first in sexual violence and last in gender equality'. But i would rather dwell on two older claims to global shame. Both deal with health, and if reversed, could push India up the human development index. It currently ranks 119th, unacceptable in a country that's among the top 10 in GDP growth.

Last year, the UN applauded the 59% fall in our maternal mortality rate (MMR) between 1990 and 2008, but cautioned that it remains the highest in the world: 230 per 1,00,000 live births, that is 63,000 of our women still die from pregnancy related causes every year. Are you surprised? Only 37% of Indian mothers-to-be see any health worker at all.

This grim and expensive toll is unacceptable because the causes of maternal mortality are known, recognisable by trained workers and treatable or avoidable: severe bleeding after childbirth, infections, hypertensive disorders and unsafe abortions. None of these need 'mountains of coins or small armies' as Jill Sheffield, the untiring founder-president of Women Deliver, tells her audiences of global leaders, but already have proven low-cost solutions.

Apart from the woman's right to life as guaranteed in Article 21, the death of a mother severely skews the survival chances of the newborn, and to a considerable extent, that of all her children below the age of five. Imagine the social waste, and ask what is the point of grandiose plans for education, food, shelter, etc, when a significant number of kids simply won't survive to benefit from them.

If the life of the marginalised does not merit your concern, think of the economic waste. No one has bothered to come up with an Indian figure, but in 2001, it was estimated that maternal mortality led to a global productivity loss of $15 billion. So preventing the death of a new mother in a UP village makes national economic sense; more so in a time of fiscal belt tightening.

Sheffield emphatically believes that unless the MDG 5 - reduction in MMR and universal access to reproductive health - is achieved, all the other Millennium Development Goals will be negatively impacted. The cost of doing so is affordable; the price of not doing so will bankrupt all progress.

If the world puts in just an additional $12 billion a year (that is a total of $24 billion), it would fulfil the unmet need for family planning and provide every woman with the recommended standard of maternal and newborn care. It would reduce unintended pregnancies by more than 66%; prevent 70% of maternal deaths; avert 44% of newborn deaths; cut unsafe abortion by 73%; and slash by 66% the disability-adjusted life years lost to pregnancy-related illness and premature death.

Several yeas ago, a World Bank study found that antenatal and delivery care and family planning were among the six most cost-effective health interventions for low-income countries. So it's really win-win.

Coming to shaming global record No. 2, India also accounts for the highest number of the world's cervical cancer cases, as many as one in four. It is estimated that 1,34,420 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, and 72,825 die from the disease. It is the most frequent cancer among women in India, especially among those between 15 and 44 years of age. It also happens to be the only cancer that is preventable, with the help of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, and with effective screening.

Last year, the vaccine got into a strident political controversy, even though the six reported deaths in the pilot projects were found to be of totally unrelated causes. There is better news on screening: the Qiagencare HPV test, anointed by PATH, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It can be used in places where there is no running water or electricity, and provides results in hours, not days. This is critical for women who need to start treatment immediately, and generally for those who travel long distances to get to a clinic. It is already part of a five-year screening project covering 50,000 women under the aegis of Kolkata's Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute.

Preventing women's death and disability spreads large concentric circles of health and happiness, makes all other developmental investments pay larger dividends, and restores precious womenhours otherwise lost to the exchequer. It's a simple enough math, but yet to be grasped by those who make the political decisions and allocations. Invisible scams are deadlier. So is the invisible scream.







To say energy efficiency is vital for human welfare is a truism. Developed and developing nations may quarrel over targets linked to carbon emissions reduction. But neither doubts it must contribute to realising such cuts by conserving energy. However, going by a recent study, achieving greater energy efficiency may be a waste of time courtesy its 'rebound effect': a proportionate rise in energy demand. US think tank Breakthrough Institute suggests the gains registered as energy savings could thus be erased, and carbon emissions actually increase. For, higher energy efficiency seems to boost rather than trim energy consumption.

The theory isn't new. True, improved energy efficiency raises economic productivity, which impacts demand. The more inclusive growth is, the greater the number of consumers of ever-improving energy services and products. But surely the solution isn't to junk conservation. Going by the study's logic, the only way to curb consumption would be by slapping punitive taxes on energy use. This can boomerang dangerously, apart from being prejudicial towards the disadvantaged. Stop saving energy and the ecological costs will escalate sharply. The poor will be the main victims of an ever-expanding carbon footprint, being less able to insulate themselves against environmental damage and harmful climate change.

Developmental goals and growth targets will also be imperilled. If development is to be inclusive, energy use can't be restricted to the privileged while keeping other potential users out in the name of slashing consumption. Rather, we need campaigns raising awareness across the social spectrum about the urgent need for sustainable energy use. Finally, the International Energy Agency says greater energy efficiency in industrial processes, buildings and transportation could trim world energy needs in 2050 by one-third. This is only one such reassuring projection, among many others. Clearly, saving energy is the way to go.







The concept of the rebound effect is not a new one. Its original name, in fact, is the Jevons paradox, named after English economist William Stanley Jevons. In a book published in 1865, Jevons took a look at advances in the technology of coal-consuming industries and machinery, making them more efficient. But instead of decreasing coal consumption, this increased efficiency pushed it up. More than a century later in the 1980s, economists Daniel Khazzoom and Leonard Brookes took a fresh look at the issue in what is now called the Khazzoom-Brookes postulate and came up with similar conclusions. These are the foundations of the Breakthrough Institute's study. Far from being some controversial, crackpot theory, it is carrying on an established line of research.

When less of a commodity is needed for a particular task - and, therefore, usage costs go down - there is naturally a shift towards capitalising on the lower costs by using the commodity more widely. The truth of this is only too easy to see in an Indian context. The massive water and electricity subsidies granted to farmers have been slammed by economists not just for the burden they place on government finances, but also because of empirical proof that lowered costs have led to farmers using far more of these resources than is necessary for their needs, leading to inefficiency and wastage. The dangers of this sort of wastage are illustrated by projections that the relative low costs and high availability of oil are pushing us faster towards peak oil production, after which it will begin to decline rapidly, severely impacting the global economy.

The solution becomes obvious. Technological improvements increasing energy efficiency must be coupled with higher charges on energy usage to offset the rebound effect. Will this cause a certain level of economic pain for consumers? Undoubtedly. But in the long run, it is preferable to the wastage and concurrent illusion of being energy efficient that technological improvements will cause.







Strange country, America. It pardoned former president Richard Milhous Nixon ('Tricky Dick') who, besides waging an illegal war against North Vietnam, bombing and killing millions, also brought disgrace to the presidency by lying, cheating and abusing the vast powers vested in his high office. But former New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, announced not too long ago that there would be no posthumous pardon for famous outlaw Billy the Kid who was shot down by lawmen 129 years back. Having investigated this case from the time he took office (this means American governors have less work than Indian ones), Richardson said people should not neglect the historical record. Further, a former territorial governor, Lew Wallace, reneged on his promise to pardon Billy the Kid.

Billy, also known as William H Bonney and Henry McCarty, was no doubt a gunman who operated from New York, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico, and accused of gunning down 27 people (many say the figure was 40). But don't forget he was a product of the Wild West when the man who shot first survived. Having read hundreds of westerns and watched movies starring all the topmost Hollywood heroes as gunslingers, i have a lot of sympathy for Billy the Kid but none for Tricky Dick who agreed for 'peace talks' with the North Vietnamese even as US planes carpet bombed Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The deadly chemical, Agent Orange, sprayed from planes, defoliated large tracts of fertile Vietnamese fields.

The Kid, as a young man, did what many young men in those days did - held up banks, rustled cattle and occasionally functioned as a hired killer. America had very few job options for young men in those days and the gun was as handy and useful as the laptop today. It was not bad to be labelled an outlaw in those days. In England, Robin Hood in his heyday would have won any popularity contest, surging ahead of the royal Johns, Henrys and Richards who either went away on Crusades or fought among themselves after heavily taxing their subjects. Of course, unlike Robin Hood, Billy the Kid robbed the rich but did not share the loot with the poor because by that time, inflation was up and he had to fend for himself. He was shot in the back and killed by lawman Pat Garrett, perhaps the first encounter killing in history! Billy the Kid became a sort of legend, a cult figure not only in the US but also in India where we remembered the kid through films like Quick Gun Murugan. And who could forget the spaghetti westerns which made millions.

I don't like to remember what i know of Nixon, but i can clearly visualise Billy the Kid. He was supposed to be slightly built, beardless, an appealing personality. He was quite a guy and that was why he was featured in 25 films where great actors including leading cowboy actor, Roy Rogers, famous Hollywood romantic hero, Robert Taylor, American war hero Audie Murphy and the blue-eyed Paul Newman all portrayed him. Further, top Hollywood director, King Vidor, directed the first Billy the Kid movie in 1930. Marlon Brando directed his first (and last) film, One-Eyed Jacks, which was based on the life of Billy the Kid. American intellectual and writer Gore Vidal made a movie on him. Add to all these all the stage presentations and music albums! This gun-toting hombre was a national figure.

Compared to him, i remember just one Nixon film, Frost vs Nixon. Now, will someone ask Bill Richardson who deserved the pardon more, Billy the Kid or Richard Nixon?








The political version of Russian roulette is in full spin with the announcement of the assembly elections. The players, however, don't seem content with the number on which the ball stops, asking the croupier to play on. So, as of now the alliance between the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) seems over in the state and delicately poised at the Centre. But then we cannot predict where the wheel will stop with the endless negotiations still on. The fact that the UPA is playing it cool about the DMK pulling out of the government suggests that it is not averse to distancing itself from a party that has single-handedly bought inglory to the government and to the prime minister himself. That the Congress cannot go it alone in the state elections is another matter but clearly it calculates that the DMK is not going to come up trumps either.

The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is all set to pose a stiff challenge to the DMK with its leader J Jayalalithaa having stitched up an alliance of 14 parties, among them the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), led by popular actor Vijayakanth, who garnered a staggering 8% of the vote in the last Lok Sabha elections. Though the CPI(M)'s Prakash Karat, an ally of the AIADMK in the state, has with his characteristic finesse, ruled out any alliance with the Congress, it remains to be seen whether the mercurial Jayalalithaa will concur. She had earlier offered support when the government was in hot water over the 2G spectrum scam. The UPA's nonchalance could also be due to the Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav's barely concealed attempts to declare the availability of his party with 22 seats in the Lok Sabha to join the government.

With the DMK ministers threatening to pull out, Mr Yadav who has been in the political wilderness for a while could be hoping for a nice berth or two, something the UPA might concede if push comes to shove. The Congress also clearly calculates on the anti-incumbency factor in Tamil Nadu as working against the DMK, which now seems hostage to the internecine turf wars among its leader M Karunanidhi's wives, children and associates. For once the UPA seems to be looking beyond the numbers game. If it disassociates itself from the scam-tainted DMK now, it may suffer in the short-term. But come the next general elections, this may prove to be a game-changer in Tamil Nadu. It may lose in the first few games of roulette but eventually the white ball could stop at the number which will bring in the jackpot.





The political version of Russian roulette is in full spin with the announcement of the assembly elections. The players, however, don't seem content with the number on which the ball stops, asking the croupier to play on. So, as of now the alliance between the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) seems over in the state and delicately poised at the Centre. But then we cannot predict where the wheel will stop with the endless negotiations still on. The fact that the UPA is playing it cool about the DMK pulling out of the government suggests that it is not averse to distancing itself from a party that has single-handedly bought inglory to the government and to the prime minister himself. That the Congress cannot go it alone in the state elections is another matter but clearly it calculates that the DMK is not going to come up trumps either.

The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is all set to pose a stiff challenge to the DMK with its leader J Jayalalithaa having stitched up an alliance of 14 parties, among them the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), led by popular actor Vijayakanth, who garnered a staggering 8% of the vote in the last Lok Sabha elections. Though the CPI(M)'s Prakash Karat, an ally of the AIADMK in the state, has with his characteristic finesse, ruled out any alliance with the Congress, it remains to be seen whether the mercurial Jayalalithaa will concur. She had earlier offered support when the government was in hot water over the 2G spectrum scam. The UPA's nonchalance could also be due to the Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav's barely concealed attempts to declare the availability of his party with 22 seats in the Lok Sabha to join the government.

With the DMK ministers threatening to pull out, Mr Yadav who has been in the political wilderness for a while could be hoping for a nice berth or two, something the UPA might concede if push comes to shove. The Congress also clearly calculates on the anti-incumbency factor in Tamil Nadu as working against the DMK, which now seems hostage to the internecine turf wars among its leader M Karunanidhi's wives, children and associates. For once the UPA seems to be looking beyond the numbers game. If it disassociates itself from the scam-tainted DMK now, it may suffer in the short-term. But come the next general elections, this may prove to be a game-changer in Tamil Nadu. It may lose in the first few games of roulette but eventually the white ball could stop at the number which will bring in the jackpot.





Last week, Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee walked up to CPI secretary D Raja in the Rajya Sabha and presented him with a set of doodles she had drawn. Considering it's a month away from elections in her home state of West Bengal and that her distaste for the Left is legendary, the friendly gesture took Raja by surprise. But the communist is happy and plans to frame some of the sketches for his drawing room wall. Just as well since the Left may very soon have to change the colour of their curtains from red to something less passé.

Wrong signals to didi

And it's not only Left leaders that Banerjee has been dealing with these days. For the railway minister, the repeated disruptions and adjournments during the rail budget discussion in the Lok Sabha over the Telangana issue came as a dampener. But what irritated her the most were the half a dozen-odd MPs who, during the adjournment, constantly appealed to Banerjee requesting rail services and other amenities for their constituencies. Especially irritating was one particular MP who followed her about the House. Didi was left with no option but to shout at her stalker, wanting to know why she was being harassed even after she had delivered all she could have. "Go there and pour out your agony," she said, pointing to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee standing in a corner, whose ministry is said to have scuppered many of her plans. And lest we forget, there's no poll tie-up between the Congress and the Trinamool in Bengal this time.

In God, he trusts

In case you forgot about the existence of Mamata's predecessor in Rail Bhavan, RJD chief Lalu Prasad has been missing from action in Parliament for some time. It turns out that since being crushed at the last assembly polls in Bihar, the man has turned to divine and celestial interventions. He has been visiting temples all across the country. There are even reports of Lalu consulting astrologers and chanting Sanskrit mantras. Power changes people. It seems that not having powers also does.

The Mallu monolith's cracking

Malayali bureaucrats on Raisina Hill are going through a bad patch since the whole PJ Thomas controversy cropped up. The 'Mallus' are seen as being a powerful bunch. Principal secretary to the prime minister TKK Nair, cabinet secretary KM Chandrashekhar, National Security Advisor SS Menon, foreign secretary Nirupama Rao, home secretary GK Pillai... the list is long. But with Thomas not 'quitting' as CVC, the holy aura of Mallu babus being efficient and loyal has taken a beating. We all await a speedy reputational recovery.

The diplomat at home

Prema Krishna, wife of external affairs minister SM Krishna, was shocked to see the wife of a sailor held captive by Somali pirates complaining on TV that she was unable to meet ministers in Delhi. On asking officials why the distraught lady from Mumbai was unable to get appointments, the response was: 'She doesn't have the money to travel to Delhi'. Prema immediately handed a cheque to the staff to provide air tickets for the sailor's wife and an accompanying family member. The next day, they were at the Krishnas' residence and had a south Indian breakfast before they met the foreign minister himself. Here's a domestic policy that can guide foreign ones.

New faces in phases

After a six-month wait, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has finally reconstituted the party's working committee. Gandhi now has to revamp the All India Congress Committee (AICC) departments and cells. Among the many changes, a reshuffle is expected in the coveted media department. Apparently, its chief Janardan Dwivedi wants to give up the post. The big question is who will be his replacement during these difficult times? Also, expect some new spokespersons on the panel, given that Shakeel Ahmed and Mohan Prakash have been elevated and are now in charge of important state





Incongruous as it may sound, in these tumultuous times in Libya, wisdom contained in an ancient Libyan fable is very appropriate for our discussion on the economic policy trajectory being followed by the present UPA 2 government as reflected in the latest budget. The fable informs us that an eagle, when struck by a dart said upon seeing the fashion of the shaft: "Not by others' hands but by our own feathers/We are now smitten."

Notwithstanding the rhetoric of the aam aadmi and inclusive growth, the current budget, nestled in the overall economic policy framework, will only further widen the divide between India and Bharat. Over the past two years, the number of US dollar billionaires doubled to 52, holding a combined asset value that equals to a fourth of our GDP. This year, we are informed that the number has risen to 69 (may their tribe increase!). Yet, we are far away from either allocating 3% of our GDP to public health or 6% of our GDP to education. This economic policy direction not only denies the realisation of our potential as a country and people but also, in the process, weakens our economic fundamentals.

There has been a singular failure in the budget: of not addressing the basic issues, like price rise and corruption, that confront the aam aadmi. Far from providing any relief, the budgetary proposals will increase the burden on the people. Major subsidies on fuel, fertiliser and food have been cut by over R20,000 crore compared to the 2010-11 Revised Estimates (RE). The budgetary support for the central plan has increased by only 12% when the nominal GDP has grown by 14%. This squeeze in real expenditures is reflected in decreased allocations for agriculture and rural development compared to last year's RE. The total non-plan expenditure is also lower than the RE with major reduction in economic services, which includes agriculture, industry, power, transport etc (from R32,216 to R25,391 crore) and social services, which includes education, health etc (from R35,085 to R20,862 crore).

The hype over India's 'growth story' masks not only the growing economic inequalities but also the weakening of our economic fundamentals. This column (Health of the nation, February 22) had pointed out the massive tax concessions of R414,099 crore given in 2008-09 and R502,299 crore in 2009-10. In 2010-11, these concessions have risen to R511,630 crore. In this, the tax concessions given to the corporate and high-end income tax-payers was R104,471 crore in 2008-09 and R120,483 crore in 2009-10. In 2010-11, this rose to R138,921 crore. A reduction in subsidies for the poor and an increase in concessions for the rich — indeed, a government for the aam aadmi!

It is an illusion to presume that these concessions to the rich would have generated greater domestic demand in the economy and propelled growth. The Economic Survey informs us that the growth rate of private final consumption expenditure fell from 8.6% in 2005-06 to 7.3% in 2010-11. It will be yet another illusion to presume that these concessions have gone into increased investments in the economy. Any economist will tell that the health of the economic fundamentals depends crucially upon the rate of growth in gross fixed capital formation. It fell from 16.2% in 2005-06 to 8.4% in 2010-11. The overall investment growth rate fell from 17% in 2005-06 to minus 3.9 in 2008-09 and rose to 12.2% in 2009-10. Worse is the fact that the growth rate of investment in agriculture fell from 13.9% to 3.4%.

So where have all these concessions gone? Partly, they have been laundered in tax havens abroad. Partly, they have found their way into speculation including forward/futures trading. Partly, they have gone towards the accumulation of valuables and obnoxious 'conspicuous consumption'. The Economic Survey informs us that the growth rate of valuables has risen from minus 1.4% in 2005-06 to a whopping 54.2% in 2009-10 and further to 19.5% in 2010-11.

To propitiate international finance capital and enlarge the avenues to further siphon off huge amounts of our resources, the budget announced seven new legislations to carry forward financial liberalisation. It is precisely because UPA 1 was prevented from undertaking such measures by the Left that India withstood the devastating impact of the global recession. With the now-declared  desire to further appease international finance capital, India is being rendered dangerously vulnerable to international speculative shocks. Further, with India's current account deficit widening, such greater inflows of speculative finance do not augur well.

During the last three years, corporate and personal income tax concessions according to the budgetary Statement of Revenue Foregone amounted to a whopping R361,415 crore. If this legitimate revenue were instead collected and utilised for public investments, we would have been able to build our much-needed infrastructure and generate significant employment. This, in turn, would have substantially enlarged domestic demand laying the basis for a healthy-sustainable growth trajectory.

Such a trajectory would have substantially increased our investment in our youth. Given our demographic advantage today, if our youth is provided with proper health, education and employment, it will not only build a better and equitable India but will also turn India into a true global leader. This is the potential that we have. This is the potential that we are being denied from realising. There is no one else to blame but ourselves.

Rather than bemoaning like the eagle in the Libyan fable, it is time to stop being smitten and, instead, bring about a radical shift in our policy trajectory.

(Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP)

*The views expressed by the author are personal





If you're a young 'liberated' woman who has managed to bypass those grindingly righteous 'gender rights' seminars and have figured out that being a 'feminist' (how's that for 'female objectification'?) won't get you a discount at any Fab India outlet — but that being a woman entitles you to 'happy hours' at a South Extension bar on 'Ladies' Night Thursdays' — you should be thanking one woman: Bela.

You probably can't even register the name. And yet, more than any other iconic role model, it's Bela of the bell-bottoms and green kurta (kurtis were still gender-neutral those days) that symbolised the modern Indian woman that was yet to come. Bela was the 'love interest' of the desi comic book hero Bahadur created by Aabid Surti in 1978. Bela, like Indrajaal Comics in which she appeared, disappeared when the publication folded in 1998. (She is slated for a comeback this year on a new 'Bahadur' website.)

Unlike the 'trophy girlfriends' of comic book heroes of those pivotal post-Emergency, Angry Young Man times — Phantom had the ditsy Diana; Archie had the blonde and 'blonder' combo of Betty and Veronica; Amar Chitra Katha heroes, (barring the 'Rani of Jhansi') were mostly surrounded by brainless demi-apsara sorts — Bela was more 'sidekick with benefits'. And she had dollops of attitude, certainly more than the young Ravi Shastri-looking Bahadur. Together, Bahadur and Bela would kick dacoit, smuggler, gangster ass.

She was proficient in martial arts (prefiguring today's knack for hitting the gym) and was 'whole woman'. Not only was she in a live-in relationship with Bahadur — and, mind you, this is small town north India that she and her boyfriend inhabited — but she was also very much rooted in her Gangetic plains surroundings and didn't require to be westernised to be 'liberated'. There are episodes in which she snapped back at village elders when panchayat head Mukhia and police officer Sukhiya were in a spot. No khap panchayat claptrap for her.

Bela would have found it deeply patronising if any culturewalla tagged her as being 'as tough as a man' (unlike another icon Indira Gandhi, who was called 'the only real man in her cabinet' as a compliment). Her response to Bahadur every time he would want to take her out was the lovingly caustic, "Neki, aur puchh puchh" (That's a good thing and you want to keep on bloody asking me?) is delightfully coquettish.

For a country where the (misplaced) perception of a woman being modern was to be westernised, where the Pill didn't  set a generation's bodies free, where no one burned bras, or dissed men by coining convoluted slogans that involved the image of bicycles and fish, Bela was the original spunky woman, an invisible role model for all those Belas out there now.

(Mondy Thapar is a Delhi-based writer)

*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






Che Guevara's eyes are still said to burn indomitably from Alberto Korda's famous photograph of the Argentinian-born revolutionary who met his end in Bolivia. Perhaps, the faithful claim to still see the fire in Che's eyes because he never grew old. Because he became the ultimate, single-brand marketing tool of the idea of revolution — revolutions that would never be. But the 88-year-old man who died last Saturday in Havana made his sole claim to fame as Guevara's friend.

And yet, the eight-month-long journey across South America in 1952 that made Che, was the idea of fellow Argentinian Alberto Granado Jiménez. Once Guevara and Fidel Castro had invaded Cuba, Dr Granado's political experience had been eclipsed by the guerrilla six years his junior. Granado would subsequently move to Cuba, on Guevara's invitation, from Caracas in Venezuela, become an academic and found the medicine faculty at the University of Santiago. He would remain Che's friend — rather, Che would remain Granado's mentor long after his own death. What made him still seek Che as do youngsters at an awkward age? In Granado's own words, the idea of Che as "a man who fought and died for what he thought was fair" — an example, not a god.

Revolutionaries are not needed after the revolution. We may never know if Castro was at all instrumental in Guevara's exit from Cuba. Born under a wandering star, Che couldn't settle down. Unlike Granado, who stayed put in Havana. "Che" the icon didn't need Walter Salles's 2004 film The Motorcycle Diaries about two dreamers' initiation into reality. But, without it, would Granado be remembered across the world in his death? Well, Guevara's "motorcycle diaries" were published in 1992, Granado's in 1978 — another instance of Granado getting there first. Never mind Guevara's death in 1967.






India's burgeoning aspirations and crushing restrictions on agriculture that cripple its growth and productivity combine to cause the search, as old as modernity, for places where non-farm employment is to be had. But India's policy towards urbanisation has been horribly lax, the most glaring lacuna in reform. To remedy that, the government has now been presented a new report on urban infrastructure and services, drafted by a committee that includes Isher Ahluwalia and Ranesh Nair, who have been writing on these issues for The Indian Express.

The report argues that from both growth-enhancement and poverty-alleviation perspectives, the needs of urbanisation have to be taken into account by policy-makers: "India's economic growth momentum cannot be sustained if urbanisation is not actively facilitated. Nor can poverty be addressed if the needs of the urban poor are isolated from the broader challenges of managing urbanisation." It argues that strengthening governance and investment in infrastructure requires prioritising urban self-government: municipalities should have "clear functions, independent financial resources, and autonomy to take decisions on investment and service delivery." The committee stresses how crucial is a refocusing of energy on ensuring that local government can provide adequate services — or, as the report argues, "shifting the focus of policy from creating physical infrastructure to delivering services. The challenge is to focus on reforming governance for service delivery." Service delivery, however, is not independent of the ability to raise revenue for those services — requiring the capacity to access forms of financing that include the private sector and predictable, rational, transfers from the Centre and states. It also, however, will need the setting up of a rational framework of user fees for services, and the political will to enforce it.

That political will, to accept that services will have to be paid for, would be a much-needed but long-delayed development in our politics. More generally, most of our political parties, while naturally willing to back the agricultural sector, are not nimble in getting behind the urbanisation project. That needs to change for India to reach its potential.






At what point does life end in a meaningful way? That is as ethically and politically fraught a question as, at what point does life begin? If a patient's life has become intolerable, and she freely requests medical assistance to end it, should such intervention be allowed? Or is it tantamount to murder? The extreme circumstances of the Aruna Shanbaug case have made it the definitive one for euthanasia advocates and opponents in India. Formerly a nurse in Mumbai's KEM hospital, she has been in a semi-vegetative state since 1973, when she was brutally sodomised and strangled. She has no speech, vision or mobility, but she used to scream for long hours. She has been fed and cared for by KEM's devoted nursing staff for decades now. Her fate had become the point of contention between journalist Pinky Virani and others who fought for Aruna to be delivered from her condition, and the hospital staff that wants to care for her "until her last breath by natural process".

The "right to die" debate rages across the world, and is likely to assume greater force in coming years as medical science advances. Many jurisdictions have sanctioned physician-assisted death under strict conditions. Advocates of euthanasia, or "merciful killing", frame it in terms of compassion and autonomy. Those who oppose it point to the inevitable slippery slope — would it lead to people being killed even when their severe suffering can be eased with palliative care, would it extend to people who didn't really want to die, how could it be ensured that such permission is not misused, if legalised?

Confronted with the complicated Shanbaug case, the Supreme Court has rejected active euthanasia as an option, but allowed for passive euthanasia — the withholding of life-sustaining treatment — in exceptional cases. This can be either explicitly allowed by the patient, or in cases like Aruna's where the patient is unable to give informed consent, by a panel of doctors, with permission from the high court. In doing so, the court has indicated morally relevant differences in each situation, and opted for case-by-case scrutiny. Yet it is also negotiating uncharted waters, and checks need to be put in place to rule out misuse or trivialisation. It is clear that we require a cogent legal framework — on what constitutes a case for passive euthanasia, whose permission is needed in cases when the patient cannot decide, and what procedure should be followed by the court. Parliament needs to weigh in on this debate.







For my generation of IAS officers in Madhya Pradesh, Arjun Singh was among the tallest of political leaders in the last 30 years. I first met him in 1980, a few months after he became the chief minister. He was visiting Peetambara Peeth, a temple in Datia district. I took him around, explaining the background of the Peeth and the story of the saint whose seat it had been. I noticed he whispered something to the DIG (Intelligence) accompanying him, who later told me that he was wondering how a Muslim knew so much of the Peeth and its traditions! In the years that followed, I had the opportunity of working in MP while he was CM and of maintaining a degree of social contact till his passing away.

Arjun Singh began his tenure as CM with a challenge to the dacoits of the Chambal ravines. At that time I was posted as collector and district magistrate of Datia, a district faced with the dacoity menace. Detailed joint operations were executed by the MP and UP administrations, and in a span of four years, the dread was gone with most gangs either being eliminated or having surrendered. The CM was in personal contact with the collectors and the SPs, hearing them out (he always listened more than he spoke), making bureaucratic changes wherever required and encouraging and applauding each success. This was a motivated boss who cheered his players from a premier box seat that was located in the middle of the field.

In 1981, he posted me as collector of Raipur. Sumit Bose, the current disinvestment secretary, was the private secretary to the CM then, and he has an amusing story on this posting. Arjun Singh wished to reward me with a good posting. He indicated that he would post me to Sidhi, his home district and constituency, as a recognition of my work. Bose, with just five years of service and all the impulsiveness of youth, said: "Sir, Sidhi would hardly be a reward for his good work." That settled the issue, and I was sent off to Raipur, one of the more important district postings.

In his first visit to Raipur after I had assumed charge, he quietly told me, "Najeeb sahib, I hope you understand the enormous responsibility you now carry towards the underprivileged and the tribals of this district."

During my three-year stay in Raipur, he was always available on the phone, hearing me out, advising with the minimum of words, assuring of government help on all occasions. Two things he was clear about. There would not be communal rioting under his watch and the district administrations would remain singularly sensitive towards the poor. I remember a tense communal situation in Raipur when a "baba" passed away, with both Hindus and Muslims making a claim over him. Arjun Singh was clear on the course we were to follow. His sources had told him that this could be an issue for considerable discontent and we should be clear that if there had to be a clash, it should only be between the police and protesters of a community, not between the two communities. When the Adivasis of Dhamtari and Nagri (north Bastar) marched to Raipur, claiming harassment at the hands of forest and revenue officials, Arjun Singh called me to Bhopal. The right of the Adivasi over his land must be respected and issues pertaining to ownership, cultivation and social customs looked at with sensitivity.

I remained in touch with him, albeit frugally, over the 1990s and this last decade. My last meeting with him upset him and I now wish it had ended differently. He had written a letter to the PM advising against granting minority status to Jamia Millia Islamia. While I had nothing against this view, the words purportedly coming from him as reported in the press caused consternation. He reportedly said that making Jamia a minority institution would take away its secular character. I sought time to see him and said I was surprised that he, above all, should feel that if any institution had 50 per cent Muslims, it would not remain secular. He seemed surprised and asked me whether I knew the history of Jamia, and that it was set up on the bedrock of nationalism and secularism. We remained quiet for a while but when I looked up I saw him looking at me with moist eyes. I looked away, and with a quiet namaste bade goodbye.

The other day, as I stood next to his body, my eyes were moist. Whatever his views, policies or politics, he was a big man and, in his passing away, Indian politics is a loser.

The writer, a former IAS officer, is vice-chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi









Change is not necessarily, and not always, the best remedy for something that has gone wrong. Let me explain.

At present, under constitutional provisions, read with the Judges Inquiry Act 1968, a judge of a high court or the Supreme Court cannot be removed except after following a tortuous procedure, deliberately so structured, only to ensure the independence of every judge of the higher judiciary: a motion has to be moved in either House of Parliament, signed by 100 members if moved in Lok Sabha, and 50 members if moved in Rajya Sabha; on it being admitted the speaker (of Lok Sabha) or chairman (of Rajya Sabha) must then appoint a committee of three persons (a Supreme Court justice, a high court chief justice and a jurist) to investigate the allegations in the motion and to make a report giving its recommendations. In the meanwhile, the motion is kept pending. When the report of the committee is received recommending that such judge be removed for "proved misbehaviour", the political process gets into gear; the motion is then put to vote and if a two-thirds majority of members present in each House accepts the committee's recommendation, then on an address presented to the president of India the judge stands removed upon an order made by the president.

This is all heavy-going, and for long many persons (myself included) were critical of the dilatory procedure involved and the difficulty of ensuring that a judge who lacked probity got his just deserts.

The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill introduced by the law minister in November last year now offers an additional alternative: the procedure for the ultimate removal of a judge for "misbehaviour" can be initiated on the complaint of "any person making an allegation of misbehaviour..."; of course with the safeguard that the complaint must first go to a scrutiny committee (of judges) which can dismiss it if frivolous or vexatious; but if not, it goes to a National (Judicial) Oversight Committee which, after charges are framed against the judge, ultimately enables the oversight committee to give a warning to the judge to behave better or to recommend his removal. The bill is certainly well intentioned.

But in my view in India at this time and in conditions as they are at present — of profound disbelief and suspicion about everyone and everything including judges of the higher judiciary — to permit complaints by all and sundry against superior court judges is inadvisable: simply because good judges far outnumber the bad.

Besides, the word "misbehaviour" — even though exhaustively defined — is an elastic one. It encompasses gross and palpable acts of dishonesty; but it may even include persistent dereliction of duty: and much depends on the perceptions of those who sit in judgment.

A former distinguished law minister once told me that when he took a copy of the motion to remove V. Ramaswami (then a sitting judge of the Supreme Court) to his leader, Mr Vajpayee inquired what the judge's "misbehaviour" was? When told that the principal charge against Ramaswami was that as chief justice of Punjab he spent public moneys imprudently and excessively on decorating the chief justice's house at Chandigarh, and was also keeping for himself some pieces of furniture bought at the cost of government, Atalji's response was: "Yeh to moorgi chor ke baat hai." And yet on this "moorgi chor ki baat" a committee of three very eminent and fair-minded judges ultimately found Ramaswami guilty and recommended that he be removed from his office as judge of the Supreme Court. The verdict was turned down only through the political process — for want of a two-thirds majority in Parliament as required by the Constitution for the removal of a judge.

At one time I was of the view that we should follow the American system of judicial councils — with judges sitting over the conduct of other judges on complaints made by all and sundry. But not now: with present-day media exposure (24x7) coupled with the burning desire of some unsuccessful disgruntled litigants to seek revenge (and some governments and some public corporations who lose cases are often the most disgruntled of all litigants) it is very easy for a tutored private TV channel to trump up a series of complaints of "misbehaviour" against a sitting judge howsoever fair and honest he (or she) be.

And in any case this bill is unnecessary, because with the aid of PIL it has not been difficult for a bench of judges to deal effectively with complaints under existing law and practice against some errant members of their own fraternity.

My own view is that it is far better and safer to catch the "bad eggs" in the judicial basket (and we must admit that there are quite a few) when they retire. What the law minister has to do is to have the Judges (Protection) Act 1985 repealed. This act has provided almost absolute immunity to sitting and retired judges. Honourable sitting judges in this country (and believe me, there are still many who deserve the prefix) do not need this additional protection. It is now used only as a shield for the few who belong to the "integrity-extremely-doubtful" class of erstwhile members of the higher judiciary.

And if a sitting judge does do something glaringly dishonest, then with prior permission of the CJI, a criminal prosecution can be launched as was done just a few days ago against a then sitting judge of a high court.

It may be true that the honest judges have nothing to fear. But the harassment caused to honest judges by the prospect of even frivolous or vexatious complaints is real. Judges of the higher judiciary take an oath when they enter upon their office to decide "without fear or favour, affection or ill-will..." This was greatly facilitated by the 1968 act which made it extremely difficult to remove them: it is now much easier to do so. But what worries me is that the bill is premised on the assumption that more judges of the higher judiciary are or may become dishonourable or dishonest: a questionable assumption, but even if true it is the wrong approach to law-making. Extreme care must be taken when appointing a person to the higher judiciary but, once appointed, its serving members must not be traumatised with the prospect of complaints by anyone and everyone. In the end this will only make judges more populist, and necessarily less fearless. And in these times we do need fearless judges.

The writer is an eminent jurist







SG: In this season of scams and scandals, my guest is somebody with the courage to stick his neck out and say: 'Don't tar everybody with the same brush until you have thrown the cold light of facts on what exactly may have happened or has happened.' Kiran Karnik, wonderful to have you on Walk the Talk.
Pleasure to meet you, Shekhar.

SG: We didn't quite choose this venue. This just happens to be an old ruin in your neighbourhood and mine. But it is called Chor Minar. This is where in the old days, all the thieves of Delhi would be hanged.
I am not there yet, neither are you.

SG: But given the mood right now, it looks like we need something like this in every street of not just Delhi but this country. As if this is a country of thieves, you know, sab chor hain.
This is what concerns me greatly. Somehow, the way the things are being made out, it is as if every person, every deal, every activity is somehow ridden with some problem...

SG: Kiran, you are a rare bird. You were a scientist who also learnt management at IIM-Ahmedabad. You worked at ISRO, you headed NASSCOM and then you write this very anguished letter to the Prime Minister on the ISRO-Devas case. You were on the board of Devas and now you are appointed, as we talk, as a member of the UGC. You have one foot in the establishment, one out of it, and yet, you can challenge the establishment. And yet, when the chips are down, when Satyam happens, the establishment reaches out to you. So where do you see yourself post Devas-ISRO?
This has been a point of great anguish for me. I spent many years in ISRO and I can't think of one organisation which is more upright, which has more integrity and which has such highly motivated people doing things because they have the passion to do things, not just in technology but for the country. I loved the time there and so, to see this organisation being tarnished on the basis of no facts, no evidence, nothing concrete, just because the word spectrum appears to happen and just because they do a deal with private parties...I feel terrible, I feel sad.

SG: You were at ISRO.

I was there for 20 years. It is not a pure technology organisation; it is something distinctive. It is in fact the only organisation in the world in space area which has a huge component of social science people and the concept from the beginning, from Vikram Sarabhai's days, was that this has to be technology that is geared to solving the real problems of this country. So you need sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists to get these problems out and then pose a challenge to technology: this is what the country needs, can you create it for us?

SG: Could this have been handled better?

Personally, I think it could have been. I don't know what compulsions there were. But I think just in terms of handling, it could have been done much better.

SG: By ISRO or the government?

 would say both. I think ISRO could have handled it better, so could the government. I would have liked them to stand up and say, 'Look, we have no evidence, not even an inkling of anything wrong having been done. However, we are reviewing the agreement for other reasons, I mean strategic and societal reasons were mentioned. If those were the reasons we could have said that is why we are looking at it and we might cancel it; not because there is something wrong.

SG: So you don't believe there was a scandal?

I don't believe so at all.

SG: And you know business and you know science?

I have been out of it, I must say. I am not in ISRO.

SG: But you were on the board of Devas.

I was on the Devas board and I can tell you that even before I joined the board, in the year-and-half to two years that I was there, I went through to see if we were doing things properly, have we done things in the systematic way, have we got approval and clearances? I have seen documents which clearly showed that the clearances that were required from Devas's side were there. I can't speak for ISRO. But as far as I know, as far as I could pick up, even they went through all the due processes.

SG: But why did you leave the Devas board on February 9, because that is what confused people. People said if Kiran Karnik is deserting this ship, this deserves to sink.

I know it might have sent out a wrong signal but very frankly, I was at the stage where I didn't want to spend endless hours answering queries and trying to explain to everybody the difference between satellite bandwidth and terrestrial bandwidth, an agreement that is signed versus all kinds of allusions, spectrum equal to scam. Maybe I should have. Number two, I felt more comfortable being out of it to be able to speak more openly because now I don't have an interest, I never had one because I was an independent director. But now, I am completely out of it so I am much freer to speak up and say things.

SG: What about the market impression that independent directors in Devas may have been paid humungous amounts of money?

I can tell you they were not. I might wish they were but the fact is that they were not.

SG: So explain to our viewers now the difference between the two bands of spectrum, terrestrial and S-band.
It is very simple. If you take terrestrial spectrum, take the cellphone thing...If I call you on my phone, we are using a part of the spectrum bandwith and if your friend in Bombay is calling somebody else in Bombay, they can use the same part of the spectrum, so the spectrum gets reused. It can be reused very frequently because the cellphone towers cover a limited area. When you broadcast from the satellite, it is like sunshine raining down on the whole country, so that spectrum can't be reused again. Therefore, the value of something that can be reused many many times is obviously far more. It is, in a sense, a trade-off between capacity and coverage. The ground spectrum gives you far more capacity, the space spectrum gives you coverage and obviously, when you use something that is commercially valuable many, many times, the value of that is far more. So these fictitious figures like Rs 200,000 crore—I use the word fictitiously very advisedly—I don't know who calculated it and where. It just doesn't make sense. Anybody who knows the least bit of technology will tell you that this is nothing but taking two big figures, both of which have no validity, and multiplying them with each other.

SG: So what is this spectrum used for?

Look at spectrum as a pipe that carries something. So you know it carries your communications across and how much you can carry in it is determined by a number of factors. But in simple terms, given everything else being the same, on a given spectrum, you can carry a certain amount of capacity, so more the spectrum, the wider you can carry. This particular part of spectrum has been allocated for space services which is from the satellite. ISRO had, without getting into details, some part of it. They gave away some part to ground telecom, the rest has been retained for space use. What Devas would have used is only a small part of that, not a big part of it.

SG: What part?

Well, 70 out of 150, roughly. And then there was a large remaining part for which, incidentally, as far as I know, there are yet no active takers. So all this business about auction... How do you auction something that has one person interested who comes up with an idea and one giver.

SG: Did it all happen so suddenly or did you get an opportunity to reason with somebody, 'Look, don't panic yourself into doing stupid things'.

I think it is a big setback because you had a great satellite with phenomenal technology which is almost ready to go. You had application which would have taken the country to a different level and now, all that has been put on hold. It will require some time obviously and the one thing we don't have is time.

SG: In these situations, it is very difficult to retrace your steps because you first have to say, I was stupid, I didn't apply my mind. Those are big confessions for the establishment and media to make.

I think the media also has played a role in this which has not been exemplary. The media have put out headlines, television in particular, but some newspapers on their front pages...not based on a great deal of fact. Where there is fact, they have been turned into something that makes it seem sensational. So sensationalism has undoubtedly played a role in this.

SG: Do you think the government got spooked because there was this spectrum issue going on...ek museebat aur kyun?

That is part of the story because they thought: spectrum, another one, somebody has mentioned Rs 200,000 crore, we don't want to dirty our hands with this.

SG: So if S-band spectrum was auctioned, what would have happened?

If you restrict it to space use, for which it is meant, you couldn't have auctioned it because at that time when this proposal first came about and the agreement was signed, nobody else was interested. Period. So who would you auction it to?

SG: What was the story about the sweetheart deal to former ISRO scientists in Devas?

I joined the board less than two years ago, when the deal had been signed. But even those who were initially involved had left the board many years ago. The key person who chaired the Devas thing, the CEO there, has never been with ISRO at all. The chairman was an ex-ISRO person. He left many years ago, went and did other things and came back. So it is not fair to put it that way. Second, when you look for people in space technology in India, they couldn't have come from anywhere else. Rather crudely, they couldn't have come from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. You had to get them from ISRO. The third point is, irrespective of this, you shouldn't underplay the processes, the robustness of systems within ISRO. I mean, suppose there were guys from ISRO who were trying to do something, you mean it is such a weak system that they can be influenced?

SG: If they could be, they wouldn't have achieved what they have achieved. Because ISRO has had to deal with most withering restrictions because of technology denials. And it has held its head high.

Yes. The unique thing is that while it is within the government and therefore follows government procedures and systems at a broad level, it has been able to achieve things that very few government organisations have in terms of efficiency. It has done this because they have followed the systems, yet done them well and efficiently with none of the friction points.

SG: So how do you start repairing this now—ISRO's name, India's name?

I think this is critical. The Devas deal whatever it is, is separate and I am no longer with Devas but I think the ISRO name, what it stands for and ISRO's reputation, needs to be safeguarded.

SG: So how does one fix this now?

I would say that Devas apart, it is necessary for people in authority within the government to come out openly and say, after verifying whatever they want to verify, that look, this has been very clean, there has been no hanky-panky, no corruption, no cronyism in this case.

SG: Kiran, you have had both experiences with the government. You had one where, as you said, the government has ruined a fairly simple situation. But there was another one where the same establishment was able to rescue India from a much messier situation and you were part of that as well—Satyam. You were among the people who were called to fix Satyam when the scandal broke.

I think if you look for an exemplary way of achieving something, it is what the government did in Satyam. They were quick, they were prompt, they were very open, they didn't interfere in the least way with the board.

SG: I have always said that it was a dangerous thing to join the board of Satyam then but you came on board for no financial benefit and performed a great national service and deserve the highest of national honours.
Somebody asked me, 'what were you feeling the first day'? I said I can tell you from a visual analogy. I have spent many years in the media myself and I can think of films— you know they always have a standard shot in the film where the bomb is about to go off and the guy is sitting with a cutter: red wire, green wire, red wire, green wire. You cut the wrong one, bang. It is going to blow your face.

SG: So, the same establishment can show so much nerve and so much cool and so much wisdom in one situation and then they can show so much panic and so much haste, and if I may say so, so much cowardice, in another situation.

It surprises me tremendously because, as you said, it is pretty much the same establishment and in one case they were exemplary and in the other case now there is a two-man committee. Shouldn't you have waited for some investigation before making a decision? You don't make decisions on the basis of reacting to something or a press article. If you wanted to investigate, which is what this two-person committee which has been set up is going to do, you could have waited. Again I repeat that what saddens me in this whole thing is not the cancellation of the deal per se but the implications of the implied innuendos that it has for the ISRO having done something wrong.

SG: I will take your mind back to something. Almost two decades back, ISRO had again been rocked by a completely fake scandal called the ISRO spy case where everybody believed that top ISRO scientists were involved in espionage. It was very difficult to take a stand against that, to again shine the cold light of reason and fact.

You were one of those who did. Probably, the only one who did.

SG: I stuck my neck out. I used to work for India Today. I had to deal with many court cases after that, but the fact is that the Supreme Court finally concluded that this was a completely fraudulent case. In fact, it even ordered cash compensation for the scientists who had been harassed, who had been kept in custody. How does an organisation like ISRO get such bad treatment? Do you think that the scientific organisations have no mai baap in Delhi when the chips are down?

I wouldn't say that. At many times, we have seen the government showing great fortitude. I remember the first failure of SLV-3 or the first launch vehicle. It just fell into the sea. I know the government at that time, a very different government, stood up for it and said no, these things happen and we are fully behind you. This was in the mid-70s. I think there have been times when the government has been good and has stood up and done things and by and large, as far as ISRO is concerned, the government has been very supportive, they have been hands-off. Which is why, what surprises me even more now is the way it is reacting to this.

Kiran, you have shown that you are not short of moral courage, otherwise you would not have written this letter, you would have waited for someone else to do it. So, congratulations again and thank you very much.

Transcribed by Mehraj D LoneFor full text, visit






Once it became clear the Supreme Court-monitored CBI wouldn't have any option but to question DMK chief Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi over the R214 crore given indirectly by DB Realty, one of the companies that benefited from A Raja's largesse, it was abundantly clear the Congress-DMK relationship was on rocky grounds. Never mind the pious statements made by various government functionaries saying the DMK was fully on board as far as the arrest of Raja and the subsequent investigations are concerned—the immediate crisis appears to have receded with the DMK ministers putting off their resignations. More trouble could occur if the CBI follows through on the new angle that has now presented itself, that Malaysia's Maxis, which owns 74% of Indian telco Aircel, picked up a 20% stake in the then telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran's brother's firm. It is possible, indeed likely, all concerned will have explanations for the investments. The point, however, is that the markets are skittish already and any news of investigations is certain to get them more morose—if that is possible, given how they reacted to FIIs pulling out a small fraction of their investments and the panic over what the developments on Arab Street are doing to global oil prices.

The government is in no danger of collapsing. Not only are efforts on to placate the DMK, but enough others—Mulayam Singh Yadav, J Jayalalithaa—had made it clear they're not averse to supporting the government. What's worrying is that things aren't fully in anyone's control anymore—the DMK, reports suggest, wants to postpone Kanimozhi's questioning till the time the elections are over, but the timing is something the Supreme Court will decide in case the CBI decides to go slow. Until the investigations are over, the markets and investor sentiment are likely to remain skittish. Too many large Indian corporates are involved in the 2G investigations for the markets to be able to easily ignore developments. Coupled with a poor FII outlook, especially now that the US economy is beginning to act like a magnet once again, that suggests weak investment outlook. All of which means the government needs to pull several confidence-building reforms out of its hat. A David Cameron having to write to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the delays in the Vedanta-Cairn deal can't be very good news.





With a fifth of India's urban population coming from migration each year, and the population of urban India set to rise almost three-fourths over the next two decades, a revolution is in the making. Urban India always earned a lot more than rural India, citizens in even small towns earn 50% more than their rural counterparts, but the scale is truly huge (NCAER analysis shows

Top 20 cities account for 10% of India's population, 20% of expenditure, 30% of income and 60% of surplus income!). With 40% of India's population likely to live in cities that will generate 75% of the country's income in the next two decades, the most obvious point is that the future has never been brighter for urban politicians. It is equally obvious that if urban India doesn't rise to the challenge—in the next two decades, India will have to create as many cities as it has in the last several hundred years—it could look like an extended Dharavi. About a fourth of India's urban population is in slums, and in places like Greater Mumbai the figure is as high at 54%.

The Report on Indian Urban Infrastructure and Services, chaired by Isher J Ahluwalia, puts a sum to what urban India needs—R39.2 lakh crore over a 20-year period at 2009-10 prices. Since that means little to the lay person, the committee simplifies this to say around 2.2% of GDP will have to be invested in urban areas by 2030. But as Ahluwalia has pointed out in a monthly series in FE for over a year, money is probably the least of urban India's challenges. Cities don't have any powers to levy taxes, and they desperately need to get their governance structures right—Pune and Chennai, among the best-run cities, meter just 16% and 4% of their water connections, respectively. Given that roughly half this amount is additionally required for O&M, the importance of getting governance structures right is critical—Ahluwalia's Postcards of Change is precisely about cities that have made such shifts and got a payback in relatively short periods of time. Since most urban projects, whether the Delhi Metro or the new airport, have been financed by huge dollops of land—250 acres for the airport and 960 acres for the metro—availability of finance cannot be the problem.

The Report talks of other solutions such as increased FSI since urban India's FSI is probably the lowest in the world. But the real issue is of the government ceding powers to mayor-CEOs who can design and run cities efficiently—a well-designed city can cut energy consumption by 40%; mayor-CEOs who can raise taxes to finance development … Just the land requirements and the environmental clearances required makes the mind boggle, Ahluwalia's committee is asking for really fundamental governance reforms—empowering urban local bodies to collect taxes, for formula-based transfers from the central tax pool. At the end of the day, the Report is about whether primarily rural-centric politicians are willing to give urban India the space it needs.





It's a pity that the system of learning through case studies does not exist in government. Why else would it flounder when it comes to cases of reviving loss-making Air India or BSNL, when it has a record of giving a package of as high as R8,000 crore to a public sector undertaking that revived within two years of getting this bailout? This may sound incredible but that's the sum the government provided to its largest steel maker, the Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), in February 2000, when the company posted losses of around R1,500 crore. A few years earlier (1995-96), the same company had posted a net profit of R1,300 crore.

Imagine a scenario where a PSU that posted profits of R1,300 crore three years ago slips into making losses of R1,500 crore and runs to the government for a relief package. What would the latter do? The probable options are: set up a committee to look into ways of reviving it, hire a private sector CEO to turn the PSU around, fill its board with independent directors from the private sector to run it along commercial lines, ask it to cut costs without giving it the leeway to hire and fire employees and maybe grant a bailout package of around R2,000-3,000 crore by infusing equity. Most people, whether within or outside the government, should, however, know that none of this will work. It is almost certain that the PSU will squander everything and come back to the government a few years later for yet another rescue package. And the story will repeat itself at frequent intervals.

This is the kind of story that we are seeing play out with Air India today, and BSNL is on course to tell the same. If one delves into history, scores of such examples will be available. The government's record of reviving companies is dismal and yet it keeps attempting to do this. While most people are cynical about the government's bailout packages, the truly puzzling thing is that it hasn't tried to replicate the revival model that has actually worked. Of course, the case of each PSU will differ in details but there can be broad similarities in principles applied.

This brings us to the case of SAIL in February 2000, when the company's losses stood at R1,500 crore and it was saddled with around 1.6 lakh employees. Also, the steel market was down. With the exception of Tata Steel, every other private sector company was also posting losses. If nothing was done to save SAIL, it was clear that the company would not be able to survive. It is then that the government came out with probably the largest-ever bailout package of R8,000 crore, but only with stringent conditions attached. If the company was supposed to hive off certain non-core assets, there was a timeline attached to this. Further, McKinsey had prepared a restructuring plan for the company, which was adhered to. Of the plan's several components, the major ones were breaking the company into strategic business units like flat and long products, and hiving off its non-core plants like Salem Stainless Steel, Alloy Steel Plant, a fertiliser plant and captive power plants. With the company implementing the SBUs and a slight revival in steel markets, SAIL started getting back on track. By 2002, it was back in black and since 2003 the story has been different, so much so that the government plans to come out with SAIL's FPO either this fiscal or the next.

If one examines the restructuring approach adopted by the government towards Air India, it is quite evident that nobody has done a proper case study of the SAIL turnaround. Today, for all practical purposes, the Air India revival is a lost case with all the key lieutenants hired by the company to reshape it having put in their papers after a series of controversies. The case of BSNL is even sadder because, with proper interventions, it could replicate the SAIL success story. The company was started in 2000 and was doing quite well till 2007, but then started sinking because its procurement process was not in sync with the sector in which it was operating. After slipping into losses, BSNL has just enough money to last a year. This means that it's still not too late for the government to thoroughly examine its case, provide the required support and then attach timelines for achieving set goals.

Following the SAIL approach has another advantage. The government signals to the entrenched unions as well as the lobbies who are against privatisation that it has done its bit. But if the company does not revive even after this, the government has no option but to sell it off or close it down. Rather than doing this, the government has come out with a bizarre solution, which it calls disinvestment. Let's be clear that disinvestment, as we are practising it today, cannot revive PSUs. By selling off some 10% stake in the company, all that the government is doing is listing it on the bourses to make its financials transparent, while still controlling the company and its decision-making process. Anyone who thinks listing is the solution should look at loss-making MTNL, which is only 56% owned by the government and even listed on NYSE!

Strategic sale (bringing down government stake to 26%) is a better option but it is not politically palatable today. Anyway, since the government knows that its record of turning around PSUs is dismal, the least it can do before sinking money into them is to do a careful case study of whatever little success it has met. Apply the lessons.





The entire Arab world is quaking at the moment as the aftershocks of Egypt and Tunisia percolate through the minds of those striving for democracy. The populations of these countries, among many other important political demands for reform, are calling for more jobs and housing. As a consequence, the rulers of many of the autocratic regimes in the region are now promising long-overdue concessions.

These concerns are primarily political but many have economic underpinnings. They are not restricted to the very poorest in society, although their concerns are, of course, pivotal. Members of the middle classes are also concerned about employment, housing, pensions and retirement. Concerns have also been expressed in the aftermath of the financial crisis about trust in financial institutions. Can they be trusted to preserve and create wealth for the ordinary public rather than merely enriching the elite? The Arab world is an extreme example of the manifestation of concerns that are highly important for people in the bottom two-thirds of the income distribution globally.

Economics has moved towards thinking about these problems more broadly. What was once the purview of specialist economists studying narrowly-defined poverty reduction problems has moved into the mainstream. One way to come at these problems is to define them in terms of the largest financial choices that households make. For example, mortgage availability and choices, personal defaults and payday lending, retirement savings, equity market participation and mutual fund investment. These decisions are affected by two equally important questions. First, are financial institutions structured and regulated in such a manner as to encourage fiscally prudent and responsible choices by their clients? This question is being actively pursued at the moment by global regulators and academics alike; presumably it will be at the top of the agenda for the new head of Sebi.

The second important line of inquiry is about whether households have sufficient financial education to correctly make choices that are optimal. Here, there are also important issues to grapple with. The evidence is that there is significant variation across individuals in their level of financial sophistication. As John Campbell described in his Presidential address to the American Finance Association in 2006, "For a minority of households, particularly poorer and less educated households, there are larger discrepancies (between observed and ideal financial behaviour) with potentially serious consequences ... these discrepancies, or investment mistakes, are central to the field of household finance."

What investment mistakes are most common? To answer these questions, detailed data on households' investment decisions are important. Such data are available from countries such as Sweden, where there is a wealth tax and well-kept records that are made available to researchers. Using such data, academics have discovered that financial sophistication tends to be correlated with wealth, in the sense that wealthier households hold better performing portfolios. (Continuing with the theme that wealth and financial sophistication appear to go hand in hand, there is also evidence that wealthier households are quicker at refinancing their mortgages when it is optimal to do so.) Furthermore, poorer households tend not to participate in equity markets, even when they have the ability to do so. It is also the case that many households appear not to hold well-diversified portfolios, contrary to the standard precepts of finance theory. Ironically, this lack of diversification appears to eliminate some of the gain from participation in the stock market.

What can we take away from some of these results for policymaking in India? It is clearly the case that better financial education is an important ingredient towards improving people's economic lives, in addition to financial regulation and transfers. To go further with this important agenda, however, we need more research that is tailored towards the needs of emerging markets like our own. Thus far, most household finance research has concentrated on developed countries, mostly on account of better data availability. This gap can be rectified if we invest significant resources in collecting such data in our country (perhaps in combination with initiatives such as Aadhar), and make it available to interested researchers.

These questions are interesting intellectually as well as from a policy perspective. We are experiencing financial innovation at a much faster pace than developed countries, and it is critical to find out how our households are handling the new financial instruments that are becoming available. There are also significant questions about micro-finance and other investment products that have evolved to suit the circumstances of poorer households. The Malegam Committee report is a serious look at how best to regulate this sector, but research on this important area from the perspective of the customers is still ramping up. We should devote more resources towards answering these important questions.

The author is a financial economist at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford







It took a nudge from Sushma Swaraj, the Leader of the Opposition, for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to admit in Parliament that he had made an "error of judgment" in appointing P.J. Thomas as Central Vigilance Commissioner. Although Dr. Singh can be given credit for allowing himself to be coaxed into reiterating his acceptance of full responsibility for the appointment, which was set aside by a censorious Supreme Court, his statement throws no further light on the shameful episode. How did it come about that a senior civil servant charge-sheeted in a corruption case was chosen as the country's top anti-corruption watchdog? Were the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, who were part of the three-member selection committee that appointed Mr. Thomas, really unaware of this? Why did they not apply their minds to the objections raised by Ms Swaraj who, as the third member of the committee, specifically raised the issue of the pending charges against Mr. Thomas in the palmolein import case? Was there pressure from any quarter to make Mr. Thomas CVC? Answering these questions is vital to institutional integrity.

The little we know officially about the circumstances that led to Mr. Thomas' appointment is a piece of obfuscation. This is in the form of Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati's laboured submission in the Supreme Court that the Department of Personnel had failed to place the full facts about Mr. Thomas, or the relevant "papers and file," before the selection committee. This sounded like a lame attempt to absolve the Prime Minister and Home Minister of accountability by making out that the appointment was a result of bureaucratic inefficiency or oversight. As we have made clear in earlier editorials, Mr. Thomas is entitled to a fair trial under the procedure established by law and no presumption of guilt should be attached to his part in the palmolein import case. What is scandalous is the government's decision to shield him and ipso facto protect itself against the fierce criticism about the highly coloured circumstances under which he was selected for the post. After the Supreme Court quashed his appointment and indicted the government for attempting to defend the indefensible, the least Dr. Singh should have furnished was a detailed account of how or why he was led into 'error.' An acceptance of responsibility is a step forward but insufficient. The proper course for a Prime Minister with a reputation for personal financial integrity would be to square with Parliament and the public on what it was that made him and his senior government colleague insist on, and rush through, the appointment of Mr. Thomas in defiance of morality, the law, and common sense.





Budget 2011-12 belies hopes of effectively addressing the housing needs of the poor. It fails to provide the much-needed impetus to improve the supply of affordable housing for economically weaker sections (EWS) and low-income groups (LIG), particularly those who live in the urban areas. About 99 per cent of housing shortage pertains to these two socio-economic categories. In absolute terms, by the end of 2012, the deficit will be as staggering as 26 million units. Instead of devising schemes to target this segment, the budget assumes that a broad stimulation of growth in the housing sector will solve the problem. It relies on the upgraded interest subvention scheme, which will now offer one per cent discount on home loans for dwellings priced at Rs.25 lakh and below, and revised home loan limits to improve the supply of affordable housing. But the question is will it? As the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation points out, any dwelling unit that costs more than Rs.250,000 for the EWS and Rs.500,000 for the LIG will not be affordable. It is clear that the budget schemes that encourage construction of houses priced at Rs.25 lakh and target buyers who can mobilise Rs.10 lakh on their own will neither benefit the poor nor bridge the housing deficit.

The Finance Minister has proposed to set up a Mortgage Risk Guarantee Fund and to offer investment-linked tax deduction for affordable housing schemes. Setting up a risk fund to guarantee housing loans extended to the poor is not a new idea. The draft National Housing Policy proposed it in 2005, recommending a corpus of Rs.500 crore for the purpose. Unfortunately, this proposal was not implemented. It has now been resurrected and integrated with the existing Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY). However, the ground reality is that RAY, announced in 2009 to improve the housing conditions of the poor, is itself in the preparatory phase, with the parameters yet to be finalised. Providing income tax benefits to encourage private developers to build houses for the poor is one of the approaches successfully adopted by several countries. Indian policymakers who are trying this method for the first time have an important lesson to learn: fiscal incentives by themselves will not produce desired results. Unless it is integrated with a well-worked out delivery mechanism and a regulatory framework, the scheme will not benefit the needy. It is true that State governments also have a responsibility to address the housing needs of the poor. But the Finance Ministry could have done its part better by showing more commitment to meeting basic needs.








It's a slap that echoed around the world — and without exaggeration, struck fear in the hearts of dozens of regimes across it. Every cliché from 'forest fire' to 'dominos' to a 'house of cards' has been used in the past weeks to describe what's happened in West Asia ever since 24-year-old Mohammed Bouazizi was pushed around by a policewoman in Tunis. The slap was reportedly the final straw of humiliation for the vegetable seller, already weighed down by inflation and the responsibility of caring for his mother and six brothers and sisters. Bouazizi protested in the most horrific way imaginable, setting himself on fire. That fire grew unbelievably quickly and within a couple of weeks claimed Tunisian President Zinedine Ben Ali's position and forced him and his family out of the country. The pictures of hundreds of thousands swarming Tunis's main boulevard were dramatic, yet had this been the end of it, the world could have moved on.

Except within days, crowds were gathering at other capital city centres in the region, and then another — Tahrir Square in Cairo, the Pearl roundabout in Manama, the University main square in Sana'a, and on and on — until about 20 contiguous countries saw mass protests. After Ben Ali, it was Hosni Mubarak's turn to go, and the next may be Bahraini Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa, or Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. In many places like Jordan the people were given assurances that the current rulers would not seek a re-election. Other regimes have tried to throw money at the problem. The Emir of Kuwait simply handed out bonuses of 1,000 dinars (about $3,000) transferred to every bank account, the Saudi Arabian King Abdullah injected $37 billion in pay rises and grants to students — many Gulf countries have raised oil and fuel subsidies, Tunisia promised 1,00,000 new jobs, while even Muammar Qadhafi offered to recharge mobiles with 100 Libyan Dinars each time someone sent an SMS out in praise of him.

To put Libya in the same basket of other 'revolutions', though, would be a mistake. To begin with, each of the countries that are seeing demonstrations has more or less weathered them. Often, because the 'real' power has been not the head of government, but someone else. In Iran it is the Mullahs; in Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait, it is the monarchy that holds the key. In Bahrain, it is the Crown Prince Salman bin-Hamad Al-Khalifa, who has been able to broker peace with the protesters who want the Prime Minister (the King's uncle) to go.

In Egypt, it is not the monarchy, but the military that fulfils that role. Many now say the Tahrir Square protests may have pushed Mubarak out, but the real break came some months earlier, after he rigged elections and proposed his son a successor, and the army felt he had broken his contract with it. That may explain why, in a move without any precedent worldwide, the Egyptian military put out a statement clearly supporting the 'legitimate struggle of the people', and refused to open fire on the protesters. The 'M' factor of the power behind the seat of power has in fact led to a strange scenario — where pro-democracy protesters are targeting their Prime Ministers and Presidents, but not their Army or royalty.

Libya's Qadhafi, and as a result, Qadhafi's Libya are different. Col. Qadhafi seized power in 1969 when, with the help of his own militia and the backing of other tribes, he deposed King Idris. In the decades that followed, he never disbanded his own militia that remains loyal personally to him. He also never allowed his army to be strengthened, spending more resources on building a strong intelligence network instead, that has kept a closer eye on revolt within the country than on an attack from outside. In addition, his sons command their own battalions, and his Al Qadhadfa tribesmen hold key positions in the government and the forces. Despite his comic utterances, Qadhafi's grip on his government is so tight that Indian officials dealing with getting clearances for evacuation flights from Libya, reported the sense that he was personally deciding every landing permit himself.

Also, unlike Egypt and Tunisia, Libya is less susceptible to pressure from the outside world. In his bestselling book, ' The Prize,' Daniel Yergin calls oil Qadhafi's 'jackpot', detailing how the country's vast reserves of crude ensure that Qadhafi has had less to worry from the West cutting ties with him, than the West has to worry if he decides to shut off his pipelines to the Mediterranean. To add to that the IMF now estimates that the Central Bank of Libya has about $110 billion in international reserves, enough to cover at least three years of imports.

Meanwhile as talk of sanctions and a no-fly zone gain ground in the international community, it must also be remembered that before Qadhafi's rehabilitation in recent years, he spent decades as an international outcaste. After he was charged with ordering the bombing of two planes — one French and the other American — that left 400 dead in the 1980s, Libya fell under and withstood strict sanctions till 2002. Qadhafi's own home was bombed, a fact he won't let anyone forget, even as he stood to give one of defiant speeches last week from one of the shelled buildings still preserved from that era.

Qadhafi understands the symbolism of that and many other gestures that frighten both the West and his own people. His bombing of key oil-terminal towns and opening artillery fire on protesters are far more serious than the surreal scene in Cairo's Tahrir Square, when pro-Mubarak riders on camels and horses rode in to attack the crowds.

Clearly the revolt in Libya may have begun as a copycat effect of regional unrest, but its leader Qadhafi will have more to do with scripting how it ends — whether he digs in for a long and bloody civil war or in the chaos he will leave behind after.

( Suhasini Haidar is Deputy Foreign Editor, CNN-IBN. She is the only Indian journalist reporting from Tripoli.)








India has the extraordinary opportunity to link its leading government research institutes and pharmaceutical companies in a unique public private partnership to address the diseases of the poor throughout South Asia.

Despite India's dramatic modernisation over the last decade, it remains "ground zero" for some of the world's most dreaded tropical diseases. A recent report in The Lancet reveals that 205,000 people in India die annually from malaria, mainly in Orissa and the surrounding states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, with almost one-half of those deaths in children. Similarly, India and its South Asian neighbours account for one-quarter of the world's intestinal worm infections such as hookworm and roundworm, and more than one-half of the world's cases of elephantiasis, leprosy, and visceral leishmaniasis (VL). The State of Bihar alone accounts for a large percentage of the world's cases of VL, a serious parasitic infection also known as kala-azar that affects the bone marrow, liver, and spleen, and is associated with high mortality. Thus, while much of the global health attention is largely focused on sub-Saharan Africa, the truth is that India and adjoining Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka are just as devastated by neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

A little known fact about NTDs is that they not only adversely affect the health of the poorest people in India and elsewhere, they also have the capability to cause and prolong poverty. For instance, the disfigurement and swelling of the limbs and genitals resulting from elephantiasis prevents adults from going to work or working effectively. Dr. K.D. Ramaiah of the Indian Council of Medical Research in Pondicherry has estimated that India suffers almost $1 billion in annual economic losses as a result of this NTD. Similarly, chronic hookworm infection occurring in over 70 million Indians stunts the growth and intellect of children to the point where a child's future wage earning is reduced more than 40 per cent. In the first-ever comprehensive report on NTDs released in October, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported the economic burden of dengue costs India $30 million annually. NTDs can impoverish entire families and communities. The bottom line is that NTDs are one of the reasons why India is trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty.

The good news is that India is beginning to fight back and show global leadership in solving its own NTD problem and, to some extent, the challenge of NTDs among its neighbouring countries. According to the World Health Organization, the Indian National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme has scaled its mass drug administration programme to treat 85 per cent of the 600 million people at risk in India for elephantiasis. As a result, the overall prevalence of this disease in India has been cut in half since 2004, and there is the prospect that this ancient condition, which has affected the people of India for centuries, could be eliminated in the next decade. Similarly, India is aggressively implementing leprosy elimination through multi-drug therapy programmes, while in 2005 the governments of Bangladesh, India and Nepal signed a memorandum of understanding to eliminate kala-azar by 2015, with an emphasis on the border districts of these three countries where more than 50 per cent of the cases occur. Another notable achievement for India was the elimination of yaws in 2006, a chronic infection affecting the skin, bone and cartilage.

With these successes, India has the opportunity and indeed the moral obligation to take these NTD control and elimination activities to a higher level. India, together with nations such as Brazil and China, are sometimes referred to as innovative developing countries (IDCs). The concept of the IDC refers to the fact that while these countries may have chronic and debilitating poverty and high NTD prevalence, they also benefit from having top universities, medical research institutes and biotech companies. The track record of scientific publications and patents among the IDCs indicates that nations such as India have the capacity to produce a new generation of drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines for NTDs such as hookworm and kala-azar which require technologies in order to ensure that they can move towards disease elimination.

However, a big problem with new biopharmaceuticals for NTDs is that these products will almost certainly not become money makers. Almost by definition, NTDs occur exclusively among people living on less than $1.25 (or roughly Rs.56.4) per day. The people who need new NTD vaccines and treatments the most can never afford to pay for it. Hence, there is no financial incentive for India's private industry to embark on research and development activities for NTDs. Therefore, India urgently needs new strategies to link its government institutions and its powerful private biopharmaceutical companies together in a public-private partnership to stimulate innovation for the poor. Examples of this include a handful of non-profit product development partnerships (PDPs) supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and sources. The PDPs include a joint venture between Merck & Co. and the U.K.'s Wellcome Trust, which is now being established in New Delhi. Brazil has set a strong example through two well-established public vaccine manufacturers, FIOCRUZ and Instituto Butantan, that collaborate with PDPs, including the Sabin Vaccine Institute, where I serve as president. As a result Brazil is producing a new generation of NTD vaccines.

The reason there are not more than a handful of PDPs is the dearth of adequate government funding specifically targeting PDPs as well as well-financed private philanthropies beyond the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In addition to increased support, there are formidable obstacles for applying complex technologies to solving global infectious disease problems, working with national regulatory authorities in low- and middle-income countries, and the difficulties of conducting clinical trials in resource poor settings.

Having had the pleasure of meeting the current and past leadership of the Indian Council of Medical Research, I know first-hand that a vision does exist that can link industry, government and the PDPs in an innovative partnership to address diseases of poverty.

An Indian public-private partnership for NTDs could produce a new generation of drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines that will benefit all of South Asia, and indeed the entire world's "bottom billion" — the 1.4 billion people in the world who live in extreme poverty. Innovation for the poor could truly become India's greatest gift to the world.

(Peter Hotez is president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, a product development partnership for NTDs, which also hosts the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases. He is the author of Forgotten People, Forgotten Diseases.)







U.S. military planners are sifting through a range of options as the United States, like other Western nations, weighs the response to the bloody Libyan military assaults on rebels trying to oust Muammar Qadhafi.

Rebel commanders have begged for U.S. strikes on troops and weapons that have turned on civilians and assaulted strongholds of the resistance. And on Sunday, three influential members of the U.S. Senate, from both major political parties, renewed the call for a "no-fly" zone to ground the Libyan Air Force and prevent it from attacking its people. They also pressed the Obama administration for a more aggressive response, including supplying intelligence, arms and training to the rebels.

Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates and top commanders have warned of the political fallout if the United States again attacks a Muslim nation, even to support a popular revolt. So military planners on the Pentagon's Joint Staff and in its field commands are offering a broad range of approaches to choose from, depending on how events play out in Libya and how tough the United States and its allies want to be.

Even without firing a shot, a relatively passive operation using signal-jamming aircraft operating in international airspace could muddle Libyan government communications with its military units. Administration officials said on Sunday that preparations for such an operation were underway. The latest military force to draw within striking distance of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, is the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard two muscular amphibious assault ships, the Kearsarge and the Ponce. Known as a Marine Air-Ground Task Force, this unit provides a complete air, sea and land force that can project its power quickly and across hundreds of kilometres, either from flat-decked ships in the Mediterranean Sea or onto a small beachhead on land.

In this task force are Harrier jump-jet warplanes, which not only can bomb, strafe and engage in dogfights, but can also carry surveillance pods for monitoring military action on the ground in Libya; attack helicopters; transport aircraft both cargo helicopters and the fast, long-range Osprey, whose rotors let it lift straight up, then tilt forward like propellers to ferry Marines, doctors, refugees or supplies across the desert; landing craft that can cross the surf anywhere along Libya's long coastline and about 400 ground combat troops of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines.

Not that every option would require such firepower. Helicopters from that same Marine Expeditionary Unit, for example, were sent to assist after the catastrophic floods in Pakistan. Pentagon planners can also look at templates from large humanitarian missions carried out after the Haitian earthquake, Pakistani floods and an Indonesian tsunami, as well as the military operation to protect and feed residents of Iraqi Kurdistan after the first Gulf War.

And the Kearsarge provides a large floating hospital.

Already, a military airlift of refugees is under way. Four more flights of propeller-driven C-130's carrying international refugees back to their home nations were planned for Sunday. Earlier military flights carried relief supplies for refugee camps just beyond Libya's border and then carried out Egyptians who had escaped into Tunisia.

But the firepower arriving off Tripoli could prove convenient, and not only to protect the expedition from coming under attack.

The flotilla can be seen as a modern-day example of "gunboat diplomacy" intended to embolden rebels and shake the confidence of loyalist forces and mercenaries, perhaps even inspiring a palace coup.

Should President Barack Obama opt for direct intervention, he has a range of choices short of what Mr. Gates cautioned could be an expensive, exhausting "no-fly" zone though that might be simpler than he portrayed, if the United States proved willing to attack Libyan runways, missiles and radars outright.

Another tactic would be to air-drop weapons and supplies to rebels, an idea floated Sunday by Stephen Hadley, who served President George W. Bush as National Security Adviser.

"If there is a way to get weapons into the hands of the rebels, if we can get anti-aircraft systems so that they can enforce a no-fly zone over their own territory, that would be helpful," Mr. Hadley said on State of the Union on CNN. (In Kosovo in 1999, providing air cover for one side proved decisive in what otherwise would have been a lopsided civil war.)

Other options include inserting small Special Operations teams, perhaps just a dozen troops, to assist the rebels, as was done in Afghanistan to topple the Taliban.

The teams are specially trained to turn ragtag rebel groups almost overnight into more effective fighters, with a modest infusion of know-how, equipment and leadership.

A handful of strikes on valued government or military targets could be ordered, as was done in the Gulf of Sidra raids in 1986 after Libya was linked to the bombing of a Berlin club popular with American troops. (An American plane was shot down, and residential areas were blasted, showing the many risks of even a limited operation.)

There are ample planes based in Europe and on the aircraft carrier Enterprise and its strike group, now in the Red Sea, for missions over Libya.

Pentagon officials said on Sunday that those vessels were carefully sailing in the direction of the Suez Canal, gateway to the Mediterranean.

Support for a no-flight zone was voiced Sunday by Democratic Senator John Kerry, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as two Republicans Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, and Senator John McCain of Arizona.

Mr. McConnell also urged exploring other options like "aiding and arming the insurgents". But he cautioned he was "not sure who the insurgents are" so the United States "ought to make sure who we're dealing with here". But the Obama administration offered no change in its position.

"Lots of people throw around phrases like no-fly zone they talk about it as though it's just a video game," William M. Daley, the new White House chief of staff, said in at appearance on Meet the Press on NBC.

General John P. Jumper, who served as Air Force chief of staff from 2001 to 2005 and commanded all Air Force missions in West Asia from 1994 to 1996, said past flight-denial missions over Iraq proved that requirements reach far beyond the jet-fighters and bombers that are the most obvious instruments of carrying out a presidential order.

The fleet of aircraft needed for such a mission would easily reach into the hundreds. Given the size of such a mission, it would be expected that American and NATO bases in Europe would be used, and that an American aircraft carrier would be positioned off Libya. — New York Times News Service






If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those imposters just the same.

Rudyard Kipling

If any player in Indian politics over the last 30 years has symbolised the sort of spirit Kipling referred to, it was Arjun Singh. Throughout his long public life, as he was praised and pilloried in turn by friends and foes, he maintained his equanimity. He neither basked in the glow of success nor sulked in the shadows of defeat. He was as much misunderstood as he was understood for his out-of-the-box thinking on many issues of national importance. Many of those who came to scoff at him remained to pray.

Civil servants in Madhya Pradesh will remember him as a shrewd administrator and the architect of the State's industrialisation during his first tenure as Chief Minister in the early-1980s. He had a vision of the State's progress and expected everyone to share it and be driven by it. The industrialisation of western Madhya Pradesh began during his time: he wooed many an industrial house from Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi to set up base in the region around Indore. Power generation received the highest level of attention, and the Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board emerged as one of India's most efficient power utilities. Presiding over the government of an upper riparian State, he realised the need to establish cordial relations with its lower riparian neighbours. He implemented many an inter-State agreement.

Arjun Singh's singular contribution to Madhya Pradesh was the allotment of 900 acres of government land free of cost to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre to establish the Centre for Advanced Technology in Indore. This centre, a quarter century old now, has put Indore on the world nuclear map.

With civil servants, his attitude was dignified and never overbearing. He would give due weight to their views and took his own decisions, always owning up responsibility for any adverse consequences that followed. He was not one to look for scapegoats. This writer recalls many occasions when his views differed from those of his Chief Minister. Each time he was encouraged to speak out what he thought was right, and not what would please his master.

Arjun Singh's relations with the media were extremely cordial. He moved with mediapersons at every level with easy familiarity. The media found in him an excellent and forthcoming communicator. In his passing, the circle of the graceful politician-cum-administrator has shrunk indeed.

(As an IAS officer, the author was Secretary to Chief Minister Arjun Singh during the period 1981-1985.)







As we celebrate the centenary of International Women's Day today, we must guard against platitudes as well as patronising. As for gains recorded in the working and living conditions of women the world over, and in the matter of achieving some of the rights that men take for granted, it cannot be gainsaid that much that is positive has

happened since March 1911 when the day was first celebrated in Germany. The political rights of women — including that of voting and to be elected to public office — have advanced even in countries which are ultra-conservative or in the throes of multiple crises. Examples can be found in Central Africa, and West and Central Asia. But an observation such as this needs to be treated with caution. Gains in political rights have not necessarily led to social and economic emancipation, as was the case, say, in the former socialist bloc in the matter of workers' rights. It is clear that there is nothing automatic about the gaining of freedoms by a section of society, women in particular, who in most cases suffer a double disadvantage — in the public sphere and on the home front. They work hard, often putting in longer and more arduous hours than men, but do not get compensated sufficiently in remuneration, recognition, or in the award of property rights or leadership roles in society. While it is true that the spread of education-induced awareness does lead to the raising of the position of women in society, this by itself does not necessarily translate to equality. Numerous studies in North America and Western Europe suggest that women do not enjoy the same remuneration as men in many spheres of economic life, and that in-built social prejudices often inhibit their rise to top levels in various institutions, including in industry and business. There is also a fair amount of patronising. In addition, the flagrant display of images of women's bodies, severed from context, is extensively placed in marketing, media and entertainment with an eye on sales through titillation, which many feel might be just a step away from the encouragement of pornography.
In the world's poorer countries, including India, gender discrimination takes on more raw forms. Women and girls in a household typically get to have their first taste of inequality in terms of diet, nutrition, access to health and education, and very often in the matter of asserting their reproductive rights. Governments make the politically correct noises but budget allocations that might help change the inequality status of women are not sufficiently in step with pronouncements made to mark occasions such as International Women's Day. This is particularly an irony in India where many women are found in leading positions in an array of fields, where the intellectual underpinning of women's emancipation remains full of verve, and there exists the historical dimension of the participation of women in the anti-colonial movement. If we look at the world picture, we cannot but remind ourselves that the last 100 years have been the most violent in human history on account of world wars, revolutions, forced migrations as well as natural disasters. It is a truism that women and children bear the brunt when a society faces such upheavals. If International Women's Day is to have any serious meaning — the UN Secretary-General is to make a formal statement on this day and US President Barack Obama has officially proclaimed March to be Women's History Month — and not become a victim of tokenism, the women's movement must consciously seek to become a part of other movements for wider democratisation. Only then are governments and the entrenched power-wielders in society likely to pay any heed.






The furore over the abduction of R. Vineel Krishna, IIT Madras alumnus and Malkangiri district collector, by Naxalites died down with his release from captivity after nine days. Malkangiri district is an appendix of Orissa jutting into Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh — an administrative never-never land with the barest traces of official

governance — lying on the extreme tri-junction of all the three states. Not surprisingly, it has become an ideal sanctuary for Naxalites who have de facto control of this no man's land. But unlike the state governments, they have a clear chain of command and hierarchy emanating from the Andhra Pradesh-Orissa Border (AOB) Special Zone Committee.

The Malkangiri episode briefly occupied national headlines and provides an interesting case study of "Clear, Hold and Build", the basic philosophy of counterinsurgency. Media accounts of the incident have given rise to several anecdotes about Mr Krishna who comes across as an unorthodox civil servant quite untypical of the normal career bureaucrat. To begin it with was his idiosyncracy in volunteering for assignment to this difficult tribal district, prostrate and comatose from extreme backwardness and prolonged neglect, with the added disincentive as the focal point of a Naxalite "liberated zone". (The Army equivalent would be volunteering for service on the Siachen glacier, which, by the way, happens with reasonable frequency, thanks to our young officers.)
Mr Krishna also had the unwise but nevertheless admirable propensity of moving around without an armed escort to facilitate personal interaction with the local population of Koya and Bonda tribals in the deep interiors of the district, where several public works had been initiated by him during his relatively short tenure of 13 months. In short, an ideal "frontier administrator" whose proactive perceptions of governance had turned the principles of Maoist propaganda on its head and applied them on behalf of the government in a "hearts and minds" approach to the local people. Knowingly or unknowingly, Mr Krishna was attempting to practice the first principles of counterinsurgency as taught in the Indian Army's Counterinsurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Vairangte, Mizoram. It says: "Fight the guerilla like the guerilla", integrating socio-political and administrative initiatives in tandem with action by security forces.

Mr Krishna's activities were a threat to the Maoist agenda, hitherto unchallenged in the region. He was accordingly abducted and taken hostage at Badapada, in the utterly remote Chitrakonda tehsil of the district, during one of his periodic programmes of public interaction and inspection of projects in the deep interior. At the time he was very typically riding pillion on the motorcycle of a subordinate officer Pabitra Majhi, since there were no roads for four wheeled vehicles in the area. Fortunately, the story had a fairy-tale ending, because after eight days in captivity both were released unharmed. Mr Krishna has only himself to thank for his good fortune, because the local tribals held him in high regard and put pressure on his captors to see that he came to no harm.

However, Naxalites are no fuzzy-headed idealists, but shrewd, ruthless, hardheaded tacticians who gauge every move to obtain maximum effect. In this instance, they judged that a happy ending would pay better dividend and released Mr Krishna. But there should be no doubt that had they calculated differently, the ending could just as likely have been exceedingly tragic.

Of course, there always has to be a price to be paid for such transactions. In this case a list of 14 demands put forward by the Naxalites before Mr Krishna was released, chief amongst which were the release of high-profile Naxalites in prison, Gauti Prasadam, Padma and Sriramulu Srinivas, as also cessation of counterinsurgency operations in the region. The government had no option but to comply with all demands, though still attempting a feeble defiance by proclaiming that the state government had not "capitulated" to the Naxalites.

There is barely any mention of police and paramilitary forces in the entire episode, though a fairly substantial quantum in the shape of three battalions of the Border Security Force (BSF) and six units of the Special Operations Group of the Orissa Police are reportedly deployed in the Malkangiri region. These are controlled by the district superintendent of police Anirudha Kumar Singh who would certainly have his own viewpoint on the entire incident, whose fallout put all police operations on hold.

So the larger issue here is the mechanism by which the "clear and hold" activities of the police and paramilitary and the "build" agenda of development and administration are formally dovetailed overall into a cohesive "clear, hold and build" strategy of counterinsurgency. Therein lies the basic weakness in the administrative organisation at the cutting edge level of the district, where the district collector and the district superintendent of police are co-equals, even though the district collector is in full charge of the district. This is a cultural relic of the old British Raj, where the district collector and district superintendent of police were both largely expatriates in an alien environment, and hence more socially homogenous and compatible.

Interactive coordination is personality-oriented and what may have worked in the Raj era, might not be ideal in a totally transformed environment. Some thought must be given to review the existing system, to establish clear and separate departmental lines of command for police forces and state administration, from state headquarters down to district and sub-divisional level, with adequate cross linkages for coordination and interaction at each stage. The complexity is further intensified when paramilitary troops, with their own channels of command and operational ethos are inducted in substantial numbers as reinforcements to state police.

So, the Malkangiri dilemma continues —which way lies salvation? Is Mr Krishna an individual phenomenon or the general rule amongst civil servants and police officers? Much will depend on the answer, because the civil and police services are required to operate in an increasingly combatant mode in areas affected by insurgency and must refurbish their professional culture appropriately.

Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament






Dear Damu and Shanu,

The day before yesterday your grandmother went to an event organised by a local non-governmental organisation. It was meant to felicitate and honour women of her generation who had been active in the movement for women's rights. She was delighted to be there. Along with her were a handful of other women, some in their

Eighties — Dadi was probably the oldest of them. They all had very interesting pasts — one had been part of a women's militia in Kashmir and had taken training in gunmanship, another took part in the salt and swadeshi campaigns, a third was an academic who had battled with her colleagues to introduce the study of gender. I thought then that there was so much we had learnt from these women, and I wondered how they had lived their lives and managed things with such equanimity — or, at least, seemed to. Take your grandmother, for example. Four children, all within a year or two or each other, a husband who did not earn very much and who often stayed away from home, a mother-in-law, a brother-in-law, a sister, living in the same house — she handled all household responsibilities and also had a teaching job that helped her earn money. How gracefully our mothers dealt with their multiple tasks.

It was the legacy of their battles that opened up so many things for us. Having a feminist mother made it so much easier for us — my sister and me — to negotiate things like jobs, the choice to marry or not marry, where to live and so on. Our battles were similar, yet different. I remember that we fought long and hard for buses in Delhi to have women's seats and with the university for a special bus for women. Most of the time it was impossible for us to travel on buses, not because we were sexually harassed — that was another campaign, to make the city safe for women, though in this we had very little success — but also because young Lotharios would grab whole seats and sit on them with their legs spread wide and to engage with them always meant a battle and continual harassment. It was better to keep away.

Just as we took for granted many of the things our mothers fought for, so also for your generation, some of the things that formed the subject of our battles, have been givens. You have studied in institutions where, until a decade ago, few girls went. You've lived — and you continue to live — on your own. And it's not only you, for this is not just a class thing but wider (although it is true that those who belong to the more privileged classes do have a greater degree of the luxury of choice). I wonder if you remember the story of young Priyanka, the daughter of our presswalas across the road. Inderpal and Ramvati, Priyanka's parents, have been fully supportive of her desire to delay marriage and to make a career for herself, and they have helped her to first train and then work as a beautician. Today, young Priyanka earns a decent income and is saving money for her marriage, contributing to the home and enjoying her career.

So things have changed, there is no doubt about that. The women's movement hasn't been entirely ineffective. And yet, we have to be careful of becoming complacent: there's so much that remains to be done. You live in a world where choice is a given and where your parents and your peers recognise you as human beings, but the moment you start interacting with the world in earnest, you realise how precious this faith in your humanity is because there is so much that militates against it. Living in a loving atmosphere at home, it is almost too easy to forget what things are like outside. In our country, it is a sad fact that while women themselves have changed, and changed radically, men, institutions, male thinking has not kept pace with this change. This is why, for example, only recently a judge was able to acquit two rapists after they had served a short sentence, because he felt that they were young and had their lives ahead of them! But the woman simply did not exist, no matter that her life may have been ruined. For the powers that be, she did not count. What is a woman's life after all?
You may recall that some years ago, after the rape of Bhanwri Devi from Rajasthan, a group of women (I was among them) sat together to appeal to the government to bring in legislation on sexual harassment. The Vishakha petition, as it was called, resulted in the Supreme Court issuing a set of guidelines on sexual harassment that women have found very empowering. This doesn't mean that all women who have been harassed have come forward to complain, but the fact that the guidelines exist, give women the reassurance that the law is on their side. And yet, for how long? For even as I write, the Sexual Harassment Bill awaits parliamentary discussion to be turned into an act. But between the guidelines and the draft bill, things have crept in that are so totally insulting to women that they make you wonder if we've made any progress at all. One of these is the provision that punishes the woman if a complaint is found to be false. The lawmakers justify this on the grounds that many false complaints are filed and the law is misused. Yet no one has bothered to ask which law is not misused in India, and say a man accuses another man of murder or theft and the accusation is found to be false, will the complainant then be fined? Or jailed? Not so, these punitive measures are meant only for women. The battle of changing mindsets is far from being won.

I write this to you on the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day — an anniversary that will arrive and go with much fanfare (including some advertisements for fairness creams!). This is our day, a day which carries our history. It's a good day to take stock of our lives, to celebrate our successes, but also to remind ourselves of how much further we need to go.

Happy women's day, my dears

Your aunt,Urvashi

Urvashi Butalia is a writer, publisher and co-founder of India's first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women. She is now director of Zubaan, an imprint of Kali









A tiger is not known for cowardice. It is not daunted by challenges. Therefore, it is quite hilarious to see the top functionaries of Shiv Sena with their tails firmly between their legs.


An interesting phone tapping case involving Shiv Sena and Pune Police has so far not grabbed public attention in the manner it should.


Undoubtedly, Radiagate, with its explosive mix of politicians, ministers, media stars and corporate bigwigs, was a natural headline-smasher.


The Sena case is not as glamorous, but it is, one may assert, equally important because it exposes how politicians instigate riots and vandalism of public property.


Over the last fortnight, Pune Police, led by senior IPS officer Meeran Borwankar, has been trying to get Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray's personal assistant Milind Narvekar and party spokesperson Neelam Gorhe to record voice samples.


Police have secured a magisterial court order to scientifically administer a voice test to the two charged with provoking rioting and criminal conspiracy.


Rather than cooperate, Narvekar and Gorhe twice skipped police appointments. Gorhe's excuse was that she was yet to receive the magisterial order allowing her voice test and that she plans to challenge the order in a superior court.


Earlier, her counsel had opposed the request for voice sample stating that his clients were entitled to "their right to remain silent" and that there was no provision for voice sampling in the Code of Criminal Procedure. The court, however, rejected these arguments and allowed police to plan the voice tests.


The police case of December 29, 2010, relates to the conversation on mobile telephones between Narvekar and Gorhe on December 27, a day before the Pune bandh called by Sena.


The bandh, which was backed by the BJP and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, was called to protest against the removal of a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji's teacher Dadoji Konddev by the Pune Municipal Corporation.


Police have submitted that Narvekar instructed Gorhe to gather about 300 people on the morning of the bandh, attack and damage five or six buses near three prominent bus depots, inform TV news channels, and burn two trucks on the Mumbai-Pune highway to disrupt inter-city traffic.


Narvekar, according to police, told Gorhe, "Everything should happen in the morning and should appear to have taken place suddenly.... The bandh should create an impact in the city."


On that day, 55 buses from an already strained public service were damaged, further weakening the poor service and bleeding the public exchequer.


It is a matter of shame that Gorhe, who is known for helping distressed women, should be involved in the alleged unpatriotic act.


Rioting and vandalism during bandhs are engineered. They are rarely a "spontaneous outburst" of public. The Sena case exposes this open secret and therefore, it's time to act: The Prithviraj Chavan government and Maharashtra Police must pursue this case aggressively and not let it drag on and die a slow death.


The media must not treat this case with routine cynicism but build it. The citizenry and prominent personalities too must help build pressure to ensure that the guilty are punished.







In the second killing this year of a senior government official who had spoken out against the country's stringent anti-blasphemy laws, Pakistan's minorities minister, the only Christian in the cabinet, was gunned down by suspected Islamist militants in Islamabad. The assassination came as a severe blow to Pakistani liberals, who are increasingly being silenced by Muslim hard-liners willing to use violence against those who do not share their views. Bhatti led a government investigation late last year into the case of a Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges. Bhatti said at the time that he had determined she was innocent and deserved to be pardoned and Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari had appointed him to a committee to review the blasphemy statutes.


Bhatti's death removed one of the few leaders still openly advocating the reform of laws that make insulting Islam a capital crime — a stance that PM Yousaf Raza Gillani and other politicians disowned after the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was killed in January.


As happened after Taseer's assassination, the government condemned Bhatti's killing and said in a statement that "the time has come for the federal government and provincial governments to speak out and to take a strong stand against these murderers to save the very essence of Pakistan." But the government, led by Zardari's Pakistan People's Party, has not championed the views of Taseer and Bhatti.


Zardari and Gilani did not attend Taseer's funeral. Sherry Rehman, a ruling party lawmaker who had proposed legislation to reform the anti-blasphemy laws, withdrew the bill, saying the party did not support it. The government-employed bodyguard who killed Taseer was showered with petals at his court appearances by lawyers, who a few years back were considered to be the vanguard of a more open Pakistan.


This radicalisation of Pakistani society is complicating American attempts to effectively counter extremists in Afghanistan and now the cancer has spread to Pakistan itself. Though Pakistan remains key to success in defeating the Taliban and eliminating al Qaeda's activities in the region, the Obama administration has grown impatient with Pakistan for its foot-dragging against the militant sanctuaries in border areas.


The Pakistani military leadership has also rebuffed American plans to move against key militant stronghold in North Waziristan. Radical extremists are exploiting the growing chaos to their advantage as ineffective governance has forced diversion of resources away from the nation's struggle with Islamic militants.


The US views Pakistan as a dishonest partner, unwilling or unable to stop elements of the Pakistani intelligence service from giving clandestine aid, weapons and money to the Afghan Taliban. The US president, Barack Obama himself has made it clear to author Bob Woodward that "the cancer is in Pakistan."


For Obama the reason to create a secure, self-governing Afghanistan was to prevent the spread of the 'cancer' from Pakistan. Pakistan's main priority has been to take on its home grown branch of the Taliban, Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP). But the links between TTP and other terrorist organisations are much too evident to ignore. The US has also pressured Pakistan on Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). Though Pakistani government is holding the commander of the Mumbai attacks, he "continues to direct LeT operations from his detention center.


"But the Pakistani military has other priorities. Its chief, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has admitted to the US that his focus remains on India. In Woodward's account, he proudly informed the US national security advisor that "I'm India-centric."


Despite the tide of religious fanaticism sweeping across Pakistan, most recently exemplified by the assassination of liberal governor of Punjab province and now of the minorities' minister, the Pakistani security establishment continues to view religious extremist groups as assets that could be exploited to serve strategic interests during and after the endgame in Afghanistan.


Fearing American withdrawal soon, Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, now seems ready to hitch his wagon to Pakistan. He now views Pakistan playing a positive role by helping deny terrorists sanctuary and use its leverage over some elements of the Afghan Taliban.


Facing the collapse of the nation-building project in Afghanistan on the one hand and Pakistan's rising influence on the other, India's policy in Afghanistan stands at a crossroads. Growing influence of radicals in Pakistani society further makes Indian position difficult. The biggest foreign policy challenge for New Delhi in the coming months will to contain the spared of radical Islam from Af-Pak.







Looking for a holiday destination off the beaten track this spring break? Consider Malkangiri.


No doubt, in the popular perception, it is the sort of place where Maoists lurk at every corner, hell-bent on kidnapping district collectors, and perhaps everyone even aspiring to join the "repressive state".


But there is more to Malkangiri than Maoists. This hilly, forested district in Orissa, blessed with breathtaking beauty, has always had popular picnic spots for locals.


And now for the culture tourist, Malkangiri offers a delightful opportunity to witness first hand not only how some 'primitive tribal groups' (PTG) like the Bonda and Didayee live, but to also meet an illustrious specimen of the mostexotic and endangered tribe of them all: R Vineel Krishna, the district collector.


Krishna is a civil engineer from IIT Madras who cracked the IAS — a combo which makes him a poster boy of aspiring India, with the world as his oyster.


Strangely, this 30-year-old chose to make a small part of this world a better place.Stranger still, even after being kidnapped and released by Maoists after a harrowing week in dense jungles in the back of beyond, he refuses to seize the moment.


How many times in life does an IAS officer expect to be kidnapped, even if he is from IIT? If another bureaucrat gets kidnapped, as many members of the commentariat have been warning, irked by the state government's decision to heed Maoist demands, Krishna would lose his shot at glory. So why isn't he milking the moment for all its worth? Immediately after being released, he did talk to reporters, thanking everyone and all that.


But then, he kept the focus on roads, access and tribal development in the area.


Since then, there has been silence. No sharing of the minutiae of his life during his captivity or after. Not even a tweet, as far as I know.


My worst fear — that Krishna has gone quietly back to work — was confirmed when I saw a news item which mentioned that undaunted by successive failures in building a bridge over the Gurupriya river that separates the "cut-off" area, where Krishna was kidnapped, from the rest of Malkangiri district, the Orissa government has once again floated a tender for a 900-metre-long bridge that would finally provide a road link between the Maoist-influenced zone and the rest of the state.


The would-be bridge has a long history. Its foundation stone was laid twice since the '80s when it was first proposed. But the project never took off. Five years ago, contractors reportedly cried off, citing the Maoist threat.


This is yet another shot at building the bridge. Krishna may well be one of the moving spirits.


What is this "cut-off" area? For a tourist, it is Malkangiri's unique selling proposition — eight panchayats of the Kudumulugumma block separated from the rest of the district by a reservoir (Balimela) that came up in 1977 due to the construction of a dam.


Over 30,000 people were separated from the rest of Orissa though they still had a road to Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh. Lack of a bridge scuppered all development work in these villages.


This helped the Maoists spread their influence.


What are Malkangiri's 'must see' sights? Well, tourist guides suggest that you don't miss Balimela. It is a favourite picnic spot because of its scenic beauty. Many come to see the hydroelectric project.


A prime attraction — the Bonda hills —the land of the Bondas, one of the primitive tribal groups. There are some 75 such PTGs in India, spread over 17 states and one union territory.


They are the 'poorest of the poor amongst scheduled tribes', according to government documents. Then, there are hill temples, waterfalls, the Satiguda dam.


What you cannot afford to miss if you really want to convert this merrymaking in Malkangiri into conversational ammunition for all times — a first-hand experience of the "cut-off" area where the state was conspicuously missing till a certain Vineel Krishna came along in 2010.


On the day he was kidnapped, electricity had arrived to one of the villages in the "cut-off" area, for the first time. Krishna celebrated with the tribals.


There is still no easy way to reach this area. But it sure is a pretty place for adventure tourism. Take a boat at Chitrakonda and enjoy the cruise on the reservoir through the maze of forest-covered islands till you reach the "cut-off" area at Janbai and start seeking masks and beads.


And don't forget to have a dekko at that rare and endangered species - a bureaucrat actually trying to do his job.


Patralekha Chatterjee writes on development issues in India and emerging economies, and can be reached at







Courts are messy affairs, is perception of the common man. It strikes me as a paradox of sorts that the same courts today provide respite to our country riddled with misgovernance and corruption. If the honourable Supreme Court helms India at large by reining in Spectrum Raja, Suresh Kalmadi and PJ Thomas, the Bombay high court has taken up the cudgel on behalf of the ever-so-pliant Mumbaikars by ticking off the state administration on potable water, railways amenities, illegal hoardings, and hawkers.


When the Bombay HC raps BMC for providing contaminated water that led to the death of two pregnant woman due to jaundice last year, we are forced to ask ourselves if we actually reside in a civilised society run by the representatives we have chosen for our own good. The question today is when our elected representatives have failed us and when we too, as voters have failed ourselves, what would we have done without a constitutional watchdog like the court? The larger question is where and how do these so-called rulers get the temerity to take for granted our compliance with the shenanigans and ham-handedness they so conveniently indulge in?


The malady lies with our chalta hai and jaane do attitude as does the panacea in raising the collective shrill against all swindles, dwindles and scandals. I will not adduce cliches, but come to think of it - from trains being blown to bits, terror ripping the city apart, the megapolis being smirched with banners of joker-faced politicos, roads and power in a shambles and even drinking water with creepy bacteria crawling all over — we simply keep mum.


While we salute the unflappable spirit of Mumbaikars, there is some truth in the perspective of 'thus far and no further'. Gone are those days when a bribe was paid for getting wrong things done, but today bribe is paid for getting right things done at the right time.


Corruption in India has wings, not wheels. As the nation grows, the corrupt continue to invent new methods of cheating the government and public. India is ranked 55 of the 106 most corrupt countries in the world.


How much can we take? Where are we headed? How can we, each time we are inconvenienced by a bunch of politicians or a platoon of no-work babus, look up to someone else to mitigate our woes?


If the media stopped its role as a whistle-blower and the courts went cold on PILs filed every time we have a problem, can we take on the Machiavellians roaming unfettered at the taxpayers' money? It's high time we dug our heels into our conscience to find an answer, and possibly, a solution.







I bet no one's ever gone to the dentist with a smile on their face. The return from the clinic may or not bring a smile, depending on what the four-eyed monster did to you with his razor sharp weapons.


So here I was, sitting on the reclining chair with my mouth wide open and the devil looking for the one with the weakest faith. Mind you,he does this strange — he refers to teeth as individuals, 'this fellow' and 'that guy', making them sound like living beings inside one's mouth.


We speak about the cavities, crib about Mumbai's dust and pollution and I realise you could actually have a normal conversation with the hero of your childhood nightmares.


"I have chronic cold," I rue.


(Giggling) "I have it too. In fact my family has it. It's the pollution and dust," he shoots back. He then rattles off some complicated name of an anti-biotic that gives instant relief. I thought I could ask him before I left, but forgot anyway.


"Anything you do to my teeth has to be under anesthesia," I order.


"Not necessary. It's only a ticklish feeling. Just raise your left hand if you feel even the slightest pain," he assures.


I'm ready to raise my hand the moment the drilling machine comes on. But then I realised what Dr N said was right. There's no pain really just a vibrating sensation in the shoulder.


Boy band of my growing up years Boyzone is telling me 'No matter what they tell you, what you believe is true' in the background followed by Enrique Iglesias who's saying 'Wanna be with you'.


I take it that everything around wants to make me feel that a visit to the dentist isn't as bad as it used to be.


I assume the doc knows that playing soothing, popular music can help ease pain to an extent by diverting attention. By now I was fully enjoying Daniel Bedingfield's 'If you're not the one', which even the doctor noticed.


Half an hour down and I was told we were done for the day. "Five fillings done, we'll start the root canal treatment when you are here for your next visit," doctor tells me.


"That was quick," I said amazed at how time passed and I did not even feel any of the excruciating pain, that I was imagining, the one that is synonymous with a visit to the dentist.


Painless treatment, a good conversation and some good music and my conclusion: not all dentists are bad. So, for now, D for dentist is not necessarily D for devil.









It is once in a blue moon that the head of a state speaks so passionately and candidly on a host of problems, mostly complex, that facing his state. If the opposition and rank critics could break the shell in which they are living and ruminate over the dimensions of Chief Minister's motion of thanks speech in the assembly, they will realize the huge responsibilities awaiting them in bringing normalcy to the strife-torn state. The behaviour of the opposition gives the impression that it thinks the state is a private fief of Omar Abdullah and they would not allow it unless they have a share in spoils. This flawed and outdated thinking has to be reversed. There is a big perceptional deficit with the opposition particularly the main opposition party that frets and fumes as if stung by an unwanted predator. The Chief Minister has dwelt at length with very important matters that are of as much concern to him or his party as to the entire political brigade. In these columns we had said that if PDP's persistence with a debate on last year's unrest during summer is to be the bone of contention, the solution is to bring entire gamut of militancy and its corollaries and dimensions into account from day one. Chief Minister's defence of this line of thinking, though belated, is what had been suggested by a host of saner segments among Kashmir watchers. The Chief Minister has suggested the house to make a resolution proposing that the Union Government constitute an impartial Truth and Reconciliation Commission to probe into the rise of militancy and extremism in the State two decades ago, and all crimes that were committed against humanity. Circumstances and causes that led to genocide, disappearances, ethnic cleansing, exodus, custodial killings, arson and abetting terrorism, in short all dimensions of the past events have to be probed into and the truth has to be unveiled. This is a crucial and much needed decision which should have been taken long ago and enquiry should have been conducted without delay. The important purpose that this step will meet is to pinpoint the responsibility and prevent its recurrence in future. Now that a semblance of normalcy is in sight in Kashmir, the Omar Government has moved on to next important step in sorting out the ailment of Kashmiri society. A large number of Kashmiri families have been affected in one or the other way by two-decade long militancy. There are many traumatized families who still do not know what befell their near and dear ones. Truth has been swept under a thick carpet of canards. Only weeks back, a senior and responsible member of APHC (M) confessed in public that Maulavi Muhammad Farooq, the Mirwaiz of Kashmir was gunned down by the militants. So were Abdul Ghani Lone and many others. It is only after two decades of bringing the onus of their killing to the doorsteps of security forces that the truth has come out. Likewise many more skeletons will drop out of the cupboard when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is constituted and provided with wherewithal to proceed with the assignment. The exodus of the Pandits from the valley has been ascribed to unsubstantiated intervention by the then Governor, Mr. Jagmohan. A host of lies have perpetuated all these years that has conditioned the thinking of ordinary men and women and more often than not historians and commentators are carried away by this kind of canard. This is distortion of history, and hence a great disservice to the nation. Credit should go to the chief minister for breaking the ice and initiating the process of constituting the commission. Let it be said without mincing words that fingers have been raised towards some political heavyweights for their overt or covert involvement in a phenomenon of subterfuge that dogged the state in past two decades. Nobody can testify to the veracity of such accusations. The proposed Commission will sift truth from falsehood with the purpose of absolving the innocent and calling the culprits to book. The time has come when the state should throw off the superimpositions and re-appear in its pristine purity as a welfare state dedicated to the service of the people. The Chief Minister has made a historic announcement and this is one big step towards restoration of normalcy in the state. All nationalists, democrats, secularists, and more especially the opposition in the assembly should come forward and speak out what their conscience feels. The call of the day is to close ranks and work for the betterment of the beleaguered state. How long do we require crutches to walk a step? Let us have the courage to speak the truth and listen to the truth.







Sensible observers appreciated Sushma Sawraj's very guarded and statesmanlike reaction to the historic verdict of the apex court on CVC issue. She had said that the dignity of the office of CVC had been restored at last. This one sentence speaks a lot. But there are hawks in BJP who want PM's scalp. Responsible elected representatives of people do not work with an element of vengeance while dealing with the affairs of the state. Jaitley's line of argument is historically unchallengeable but democratic traditions and culture deal more with realpolitik than any code of ethics. No less a person than the Prime Minister of the country, the head of the Government, is involved. And unusual to the established norms of statecraft, we rarely find a Prime Minister so humbly and so unequivocally accepting his responsibility of administrative lapse. The matter should rest with that. It lends grace to the opposition and raises the profile of our democracy in the eyes of the world. The entire Congress structure is shaken by PM's honest confession. BJP leadership should try to understand the implications of PM's confession as the message goes down the ranks of the party that has projected him. It should not demonstrate any sort of fierce repercussion to what the PM may state on the floor of the house. It should desist from doing something that could damage its image which the party has assiduously built after its debacle in previous general elections. Elections to four states are round the corner. Exit of the PM at this time could prove extremely harmful to BJP's electoral interests knowing that in India voters vote out of emotion and personal loyalty than by a balancing act. Sympathy syndrome is a strong armour with the PM and the opposition should do all to ensure that he is not forced to use it.








International Women's Day (IWD) is a major day of global celebration for the economic, political and social achievements of women. It is celebrated on 8 March every year by women's groups around the world. Organizations, governments and women's groups choose different themes each year that reflect global and local gender issues. Some years have seen global IWD themes honoured around the world, while in other years groups have preferred to 'localize' their own themes to make them more specific and relevant. The theme of IWD 2011 is "Equal access to Education, Training, and Science & Technology: Pathway to decent work for women." The first IWD was run in 1911, so this year we are celebrating the IWD Global Centenary. Widespread increased activity is anticipated globally this year honouring 100 years of International Women's Day.
In India, International Women's Day is all about celebrating a woman and paying tribute to the multi-roles she plays in life. This important day provides an opportunity to celebrate the progress made to advance women's rights and to assess the challenges that remain. IWD encourages us to consider steps to bring about equality for women and girls in all their diversity and to celebrate the collective power of women past, present and future. One can see a lot of celebrations going on this day. It is observed as an occasion for men to express their sympathy, love and honour to the women around them or in their lives… mom, sis, wife, girlfriend, colleagues, etc. by presenting flowers and small gifts. This portrays the power of women in the modern era and how vital their role is in the society.
But what does International Women's Day mean for millions of girls in India who cannot attend or finish school because they have to graze cattle, labour in the house or fields, or are sexually harassed and humiliated by their teachers/principals? According to last census held in 2001, the percentage of female literacy in the country is 54.16 per cent. If we analyze the state-wise percentage of female literacy, the minimum percentage is in Bihar (33.57) followed by Jharkhand (39.38) and Jammu and Kashmir (41.82). The conventional view of illiteracy is that it is closely linked to poverty. While that is certainly true, there are numerous other factors responsible for the low levels of literacy, especially among females, and it is only by understanding the impact of these other factors that significant - and meaningful - increases in illiteracy can be achieved.
The significance of the International Women's Day lies in our re-affirmation to improve the condition of women especially those at the margins of our society and empower them to take their rightful place in the society. Despite existing policies women are still socially disadvantaged section of our society. Even within the family they suffer the discrimination. There is a growing trend of crime against women. Domestic violence is the most prevalent form of discrimination against women. About 45 percent of Indian women are slapped, kicked or beaten by their husbands. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the entire scenario is rather scary: one crime against women in every 3 minutes, one rape in every 29 minutes, one dowry death in every 77 minutes, one case of cruelty by husband and relatives in every 9 minutes and one suicide in every 240 minutes.
Finally the knight in shining armor for the Indian Woman has arrived in the form of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005. The highlighting point of this Act is that it not only provides protection to women who are legally married but also those who are in live-in relationship, women who are sisters, widows or mother. The new law also addresses sexual abuse of children, or forcing girls to marry against their wishes as well. This certainly proves that the new Act has been formed keeping the current relationship culture in India and the irregularities in previous Domestic Violence Laws, in mind. The new law provides an all-encompassing definition of domestic violence including not only physical violence by the husband, such as beating or physically hurting his wife, or sexual violence like forced intercourse, but also verbal or emotional violence such as insulting the wife or preventing her from taking up a job, and even economic violence such as not allowing the wife to use her salary.
With this background in view, it is to be welcomed that the Jammu and Kashmir Government has also decided to strengthen the legal provisions for the protection of women victims of any kind of violence occurring within families. The Government has proposed the Jammu and Kashmir Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2010. Reports in newspaper say that a feature of the proposed act is the appointment of protection officers in each district. These functionaries, as far as possible, will be women. They will assist the sufferers in getting justice from making a report to a magistrate on the receipt of a complaint to arranging legal aid, medical assistance and shelter homes. From the available details it seems that there is an effective scheme to ensure that the women are not deprived of their assets by their tormentors.
Indian women have political rights or status fully equal to that of men. If a cross-cultural or multi-national analysis of legal provisions for women is made, India is likely to emerge as one of the most progressive countries. But the Indian problem really lies in the fact that the mass of the Indian women are not yet fully aware of their new rights and opportunities. The bureaucracy they must deal with in order to exercise these rights, or to obtain redress for grievance is too complex, too slow, too distant, and even too expensive for them to use. By far the most serious tragedies that occur like dowry deaths, suicide, and impoverishment of widows - arise out of women's failure to use the legal safeguards and redress provisions with reference to marriage, divorce, dowry and property. Their general inability to use the law is further aggravated in situations in which they have to fight a husband or a father. In the role allocation within Indian culture, these are the persons upon whom women normally depend to handle court matters.
Annually on 8 March, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate their achievements. While there are many large-scale initiatives, a rich and diverse fabric of local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government-activities and networking events through to local women's craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more. So make a difference, think globally and act locally!! If this is skillfully done, the women's movement could be lifted from its current status as a feminist issue to the status of a much larger issue of human rights. Make everyday International Women's Day. Do your bit to ensure that the future for women and girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.








The Godhra judgement, as we await the sentencing on March 1, 2011, does not exhilarate. Instead it raises serious questions, for time and again, high-profile criminal cases in the country have been falling flat in the courtrooms. The Godhra train carnage in its final stretches was investigated by the Special Investigation Team led by R. K. Raghavan, a former director of Central Bureau of Investigation appointed by the Supreme Court. Of the 94 charged with conspiracy, two-thirds walked out free, including two persons mentioned in the media as key conspirators - Maulana Hussain Umarji and Mohammad Hussain Kalota. They were not exonerated but let off for want of evidence.
How seriously deficient the prosecution was is evident from the acquittal of two persons dubbed the key conspirators. Key conspirators are the hub; the others are the spokes of the wheel, its rim being the conspiracy. How did the main actors not get conviction but others did? How does the entire case stand proven, with the loose ends of key conspirators out of it? Which means the investigators did a poor job, including allowing a certified blind man remain on the list of accused; he was one who needed a companion to go out with.
When Faeem Ansari and Mohamed Sahabuddin, the alleged Indian hands in the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai too were set free because the police did not adduce corroborative evidence, the Maharashtra DGP S. Sivanandan at least asked the force to introspect.
We have not heard even such palliatives from Gujarat. It would appear to me that had Ajmal Kasab not been caught red-handed by a brave policeman, the case would have not stood up in a court. Like after the 1993 Mumbai blasts, hundreds would have been rounded up. Pakistan would have not batted an eyelid and India would not have had a weapon to beat it with. It would have remained a whodunit; innocents would have been picked up with the attendant miscarriage of justice.
Shoddy investigations give rise to two possibilities. One, a guilty person could walk free which causes serious injury to a civilised society for it would enthuse more crime. Two, an innocent could get punished which is against all cannons of not just criminal-justice system but also morality. And assuming that the 63 released were innocent - not let off just for want of evidence - then issues of human rights arise. I think the demand for compensation for wrongful arrest and long incarcerations is justified, the investigating officers being asked to pay from their pockets.
Such failures are caused by lack of professionalism of a force sans self-respect but filled with arrogance. The impunity with which they can pick up a man and turn him into a convict but fail to prove the guilt of a criminal allows them lot of leeway. Everyone in authority seems to be happy with any conviction, for they can be filed away as statistics. Nothing could be more irresponsible. The third degree, not investigative capabilities, seems to drive the working culture of the force, whether in the local polices, their elite CIDs or even the CBI.
Use of third degree is pretence of investigation. A person terrified with police brutality would confess to everything and anything which become the basis of prosecution. Police don't distinguish between a suspect, an accused and a person who can assist by giving clues -- all are rounded off and ill-treated, probably in the knowledge that given their own inadequacies, the punishment in the lock-up during the pendency of the probe itself is the only rough and ready retribution for the cases won't anyhow stand in courts. Knowing a person is guilty is one thing. Proving it is another.
When cases monitored by the apex or a high court too fail, the risk of these institutions falling into disrepute becomes strong. There already are issues in public domain about judges' involvement in venality and even white collar crime. It has to be understood that a court supervised investigation does not mean judge does the policeman's work; the court believes that having to report periodically to them ensures a moral burden of probity on the investigators. But policemen have for decades got away with concocted cases, often built around the confessions extracted by third degree.
We are not talking about pickpockets and petty thieves here though the culture stems from the belief among the policemen at the cutting edge that if not for an extant case, the accused would have been, being habitual criminals, involved in one undetected case or the other. A punishment on any pretext could help clean up the streets. But big ticket cases like Godhra, the Arushi Talwar murder, the Ghatkopar bus blast case in Mumbai in 2002, the Mulund train bombing in 2003, the Saqueeb Nachan case, the Malegaon blasts, et al are of far serious a nature to be casually dealt with. The list can be embarrassingly long and from across the country.
Sivanandan termed the police raids on fuel adulterators a "farce" to "satisfy the media" because the police are not empowered to deal with that issue. Actually, this strengthening incest between the media and the police is visible. The game appears to be to summon and grill, and then take people in for custodial questioning, repeatedly seek extensions, delay charge sheets, and shamefacedly accept acquittals. The media plays up, implying that a big shot - for instance A. Raja in the 2G scam - has been "jailed" were punishment enough. Satyam's Ramalinga Raju is a case in point but the public is expected to be satisfied that he "is being punished". As if that were enough.
A combination of poor investigation and poor substantiation in the courts are the apparent causes. The investigative agencies and the prosecutors at every level need to introspect on this and change their ways. Confidence in both is by now shaken, not just with regard to Godhra. This is not good. But quite scary indeed. (INAV)








The Government must be relieved since the Economic Survey for 2010- 11, which was tabled in the Lok Sabha last week, predicts that the economy will recover from the effects of the recession in this fiscal year and begin to grow at over 9 per cent. It has not gone so far as to predict double digit growth, but it is not impossibility. Rapid growth would allow the Government to make an irresistible pitch for massive foreign investment in India. In fact, India would become as attractive a destination for investment as China, which showed a GDP growth rate of 9.8 per cent in the last quarter of 2010.
A surplus of money would be politically useful at this point. It would flow into stimulus packages for industry and developmental and employment guarantee schemes aimed at rural populations. It would eventually trickle into the pockets of the citizenry and perhaps help people to forget that India is facing an inflationary crisis. Anyway, everyone loves to be part of a success story, even if they do not get a share in the success.
So, it is politically essential for this Government to secure growth. It is hard to justify a dispensation headed by an economist of some repute, which oversees an economy, which has not fired on all six cylinders in the last three years.
Especially, when it is relatively young as an open economy and should be accelerating fast. On the contrary, this time last year, our economy featured double digit inflation rather than double digit growth.
But as every paediatrician knows too well, growth is attended by growing pains. A fast growing economy does not only mean that there would be more money to go around, but also that the value of money would fall. In other words, the inflationary spiral in which we are trapped could become steeper.
The Economic Survey predicts that rapid growth would pump up the inflation rate by an additional 1.5 per cent.
That would not cause disquiet, had not this Government been in the habit of under reporting inflation to such a ridiculous extent that one wonders if it lives in denial of the phenomenon.
It is only now that the Government has taken full cognizance of the crisis and admitted to figures that it had denied or silently witnessed last year. But now, the Economic Survey has explicitly expressed something that we knew already: that growth is of paramount importance, even at the political cost of public anxiety. In this case, it is at the cost of 1.5 per cent rise in the rate of inflation.
Given its reluctance to face up to realities, we must take this as a conservative estimate. The excess inflation attributable to growth is likely to be double that figure, or at least 3 per cent. If inflation stays over 6 per cent, as it will, the best case scenario we can look forward to is about 10 per cent inflation and 10 per cent growth, neck and neck.
But best case scenarios have a habit of not coming true. Several factors will trammel India's growth in the months ahead. Already, we were grappling with uncertainties in external trade, as the trading capacity of regions and nations like the European Union and the US rose and fell. The purchasing power of the US and the UK is diminishing and that of China and the European nations is rising. And now, we face imponderable turbulence in oil prices as a result of the Jasmine Revolution.
In addition, as India grows, it will cease to be a credible recipient of foreign aid. Twenty five years ago, India was the world's largest recipient of foreign aid. Today, aid accounts for only 0.3 per cent of GDP. Half a decade ago, India committed to accept bilateral developmental aid only from the EU and five nations: the UK, the US, Japan, Germany and Russia. And last autumn, there was some talk that India might stop accepting British aid from the next financial year. At the same time, the UK external aid budget, which is to be made public this week, will freeze aid to India because far too many Britons feel that a country which is achieving growth just short of 10 per cent cannot be in need of aid. Especially from a country whose coffers are running dry and which is tightening its belt.
Indeed, India will have to slowly turn into a donor -- and a rather munificent one -- in support of its bid for a larger presence on the world stage. Aid is an established component of diplomacy in general, and India has already taken the high road. Indian aid to African nations has been growing at a rate of over 20 per cent for years, with the objective of securing markets there.
With $ 1 billion committed, we are already the fifth- largest donor to Afghanistan, a nation we are interested in for purely strategic reasons. Regionally, India wants to shake off the fear of being hemmed in by Chinese influence in its region and is increasing developmental aid to its neighbours.
And yet, paradoxically, India is a poor country. Its population is much poorer than that of many nations it aids. It will be further impoverished by the compulsion to increase the volume of aid. And other forces -- inflation as a feature of growth, international uncertainties and so on -- will also be in play. In short, even if India succeeds as a nation, the people of India may not be the richer for it. (INAV)
(The writer is professor of Applied Economics, King's College, London)









The Supreme Court's rejection of the petition for mercy killing of Aruna Shanbaug, who has been in a "persistent vegetative state" for the past 37 years, comes as no surprise. There is no law to allow it. The surprise is that the apex court has permitted passive euthanasia under certain conditions supervised by a high court. The conditions require the high court to seek the opinion of three eminent doctors as well as listen to the government and close relatives of the terminally ill patient. Under passive euthanasia the life support system of a terminally ill patient is withdrawn, while under active euthanasia the patient is given a lethal injection by a doctor.


During the arguments Attorney General G.E Vahanvati had contended that the withdrawal of food to the victim "will be a cruel, inhuman and intolerant approach unknown and contrary to Indian laws". Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra weighed the possibility of misuse of euthanasia. Doctors and relatives could collude to grab the victim's property. Hence, the involvement of a high court and the government. The court ruling may trigger a debate on the issue. Doctors here already practise euthanasia as often they discharge incurable patients to let them die at home and make space for other needy patients whose life could be saved. A law is yet to take note of such realties.


Euthanasia, also called assisted suicide, has been debated worldwide. Only a small number of countries permit it: Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg and Switzerland in Europe, Thailand in Asia and the two US states of Washington and Oregon. Australia and the UK have toyed with the idea but dropped it due to opposition from the beleivers. Pope John Paul II dubbed it "a crime that no human law can claim to legitimize". However, support for mercy killing is growing, especially in Europe. Polls in the UK and France have shown up to 80 per cent support for a law to shorten life if illness is terminal and causes intolerable suffering. 









Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been true to his word in accepting before Parliament full responsibility for the 'error in judgment' in appointing Mr P.J. Thomas as Central Vigilance Commissioner in September last. His categorical assertion that the government respects the Supreme Court verdict (which had recently struck down the appointment) and would consider the guidelines given by it in appointing a new central vigilance commissioner should set at rest any apprehension that the executive and the judiciary are heading for confrontation. Considering that the appointment of Mr Thomas had been made on the basis of the approval of a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister and the Leader of the Opposition with the last of these giving a dissenting note, it devolved on Dr Singh to set the record straight. It is a measure of his level-headedness that the Prime Minister did not stand on misplaced ego in accepting responsibility. That is indeed the hallmark of integrity.


The guidelines suggested by the Supreme Court as part of its ruling in the Thomas case must be followed in letter and spirit. While Leader of the Opposition must give reasons for dissent, it is equally incumbent on the Prime Minister and the Home Minister (as members of the selection panel) to give reasons for ignoring any such dissent. The court indeed rejected any veto power for the Leader of the Opposition, thereby turning down any suggestion of unanimity or consensus being necessarily insisted upon. Another significant recommendation is that the panel for CVC should not be restricted to civil servants only. With the stranglehold that the senior bureaucracy has on governmental decision-making, this would be a test for any government. Other recommendations like the emphasis on fairness and transparency merely amount to a reiteration of generally-accepted principles.


While the BJP has given indications that it will let things move, the Left walked out from the Lok Sabha on the ground that the Prime Minister ought to explain how the 'error of judgment' occurred. It is to be hoped that Parliament would now move ahead with important legislative business, putting this issue behind it.








The Jammu and Kashmir government's policy of allowing militants to start their life afresh if they abandon the destructive path has started paying off. Over 600 applications have been received from relatives and parents of militants who had sneaked into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir for purposes of training, but now have a change of heart and want to come back home under the state's rehabilitation policy announced in November last year. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has hinted that their requests may be granted after a close study of their cases. There are ways to find out the genuineness of all the applicants, who are prepared to resettle in their hometowns and villages with their wives and children.


The rehabilitation policy had evoked both appreciation and criticism when it was being drafted by the state government last year. Union Home Minister gave his full backing for the innovative idea whereas the BJP and some other political parties were opposed to giving any kind of concession to those who had joined the ranks of the nation's enemies, but were now repenting their decision. Interestingly, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, now a Cabinet minister at the Centre, had also expressed his reservations about the policy, which, in his opinion, could lead to opening a Pandora's box.


The truth, however, is that those who look at the rehabilitation policy without keeping their political glasses aside cannot see its advantages in the long term. There could be no better and peaceful way to weaken the militant forces having their control and command on the other side of the Line of Control. More than 600 youngsters who had taken to the path of militancy openly admitting their mistake will send a powerful message to the others to take to the path of reform. This can help make the misguided youth believe that militancy can solve none of the problems of Kashmir. Of course, each and every case must be considered on merit to prevent the policy's misuse. 











Western powers have perfected the art of bringing about regime change during the last two decades. On some occasions, it is in the garb of a flower or colour revolution, organised by overt/covert operations, as it happened in Eurasia. At other times, direct military interventions are made to either ostensibly destroy the so-called weapons of mass destruction or for the promotion of democracy as it happened in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the hidden agenda remains the same — to take control of oil reserves or ensure its transit through a hostile country. Whenever it serves their strategic interests, non-democratic dictators/ kings are not only tolerated but also promoted for decades together and sometimes dumped unceremoniously when the situation so demands. The end result remains the same — a trail of blood bath, where thousands of innocent people are killed and a sham democracy is established under the patronage of the invading army. Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, etc, are the cases in point.


What is happening in Libya currently appears to be a re-enactment of the drama that unfolded before the invasion of Iraq. The main villain this time is Colonel Gaddafi and the ploy is the saving of innocent population from massacre. While the real reason seems to be rooted in the need for controlling around 46.4 billion barrels of oil reserves of Libya, the largest in Africa. In addition, Libya also has 55 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. Recent new discoveries will substantially raise these estimates. Libya produces 1.8 million barrels of oil per day, which is 2 per cent of the total production in the world. It also produces more than a thousand billion cubic feet of gas per year. Nearly 80 per cent of Libya's oil reserves are in the Sirte Basin which is the bastion of the Gaddafi clan. The other main fields of Ras Lanuf and Sarir are being protected by neutral factions. Rebels control some oilfields and pipelines.


A million-strong Warfalla tribe from western Libya is in the forefront to oust Gaddafi's regime. It is centered in the town of Az Zintan, south of Tripoli, and had earlier played an important role in the failed 1993 coup. It is supported by a number of other tribes. In terms of resources and numbers, this alliance lacks the strength to oust Gaddafi from Tripoli and control the whole of Libya. They are dependent on Western powers for material and tactical support and also to save them from air attacks by Gaddafi's air force.


This would explain the decision of the US to move its ships and planes closer to Libya and the intention of British Prime Minister David Cameron for creating a "no-fly" zone to protect the Libyan people from genocide unleashed by the Gaddafi regime. Western powers are trying to use their old strategy which they did by enforcing a no-fly zone in the oil-rich Kurdish area of Iraq for exploiting oil resources, by paying the tribal war lords in the areas, without entering into a formal conflict.


DEBKAfile's military sources (Israel) have stated on its website that hundreds of US, British and French military advisers were dropped from warships and missile boats on February 24 at coastal towns of Benghazi and Tobruk in Cyrenaica, Libya's eastern breakaway province. Their main aim seemingly is to consolidate the hold of rebels in this region with a view to ensuring the flow of oil from the fields and oil terminals under their control. This appears to be a prelude to bifurcate Libya so as to ensure the flow of oil and gas to Western countries.


The immediate flash point for this interference by Western powers could be the changes in the production sharing agreements in Libya under the EPSA - IV licensing round. This has reduced the share of oil output of Western oil companies up to half of what it was there initially. In addition, oil companies are required to make a commitment of fresh investment in exchange for an extension of the licence period (some up to 15 years). This has severely affected the profitability of oil companies.


Another reason could be to increase oil supply in view of tightening of the oil market due to the increase in world crude oil and liquid fuel consumption by an estimated 2.4 million bbl/d in 2010. This is the second largest annual increase in at least 30 years, and it is difficult for the existing suppliers to fill the gap between supply and demand. As a result, oil prices are escalating in the international market. Libya is the only country apart from Saudi Arabia which has the potential to increase its existing production level of oil from 1.8 million bbl to nearly 3 million barrels per day, a production level existing in the late 1960s in Libya, that too, at a much lower cost than in other countries.


However, the present international political scenario is different this time for military intervention. Russia and China with veto power have their own energy and strategic interests in Libya. They have refused to agree to the no-fly zone idea in the Security Council. France has also ascertained that humanitarian aid must be the priority in Libya rather than military action to oust Gaddafi.


Western countries have strange ways — they courted Gaddafi when they needed him and now paint him as a despot when it suites their interest. However, Gaddafi must get credit that under his rule Libya has made great strides, socially and economically, irrespective of the diverse pulls from tribes and clans. Women in Libya gained full liberty in work and in dress code, subject to family constraints. Life expectancy is in the seventies. The literacy rate is 88 per cent and education is free up to the college level and beyond. Nobody is homeless today — there were corrugated iron shacks during the pre-Gaddafi period. According to the World Bank, the per capita income in Libya is estimated at $12,000(2009), not a mean achievement by any standard. It is a country of young people with a median age 24.2.


Libya is one of the most tribal-dominated nations in the Arab world. The political landscape is shaped by clans and alliances through the maze of 140 tribes. The tribal structure has played a crucial role in the country's history in resisting foreign dominance. Over one million people had died during the struggle to overthrow Italian colonisation from 1911 to 1932. Colonel Gaddafi has controlled the country for more than 40 years by his mastery of tribal management skill. His ability to maintain that skill will decide the future outcome of the present turmoil. Western powers should learn from earlier fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan and should not destabilise another country, which will give a further boost to jihadi elements.


The writer, an Emeritus Professor, is a former Director, Energy Research Centre, Panjab University, Chandigarh.







THE first time I came to know about International Women's Day was when I joined the Women's Studies Research Centre at Gauhati University as a Research Assistant. We, at the centre, had organised a seminar on women empowerment on that day and I was assigned the duty of chaperoning the chief guest, Indira Miri, a popular social activist, to the venue.


I had the feeling of being the most burdened woman of the world that day because the venerable chief guest was frail and old and I was a nouveau driver. There were no margins for error.


Somehow, I managed to bring her safely and the seminar turned out to be a huge success. By the end of the day, I could even mull over Miri's passionate lecture on women's issues. It is still etched in my memory.


Later, I had an opportunity to attend a similar function in Delhi, presided over by the then National Commission for Women head, Mohini Giri. The daughter of former President V.V. Giri impressed me with her illuminating observations on the social conditioning of the girl child. She explained how the women of India were still reeling under names like Hemlatas and Premlatas ('lata' means a creeper that needs the support of a solid trunk to grow) that conditioned their young minds to remain in the shadow of their menfolk. I vowed never to saddle my daughter with such a name if I ever had one.


My profession has changed and so has the tenor of International Women's Day celebrations. Now, I get invitations not for some drab seminars for which I would be required to drive around and listen to fiery old ladies, but for some social do's like the launch party of "Pink Wine" for women to toast the day and a panel discussion-cum-fashion show, yet another lucrative one for Satya Paul's latest sari collection, which promises to celebrate womanhood.


So, let's deviate a little from Clara Zetkin's original concept of International Women's Day which was meant to celebrate the economic and socio-political achievement of women and re-run my first two events in the present-day context.


Even if a seminar on women's empowerment happens, today's Indira Miri wouldn't come in my rickety car. The event manager would only be too willing to hire a BMW or a Porsche for her. And Mohini Giri would not have to worry about Hemlatas or Premlatas as she would be addressing Parminder Kaurs and Harinder Kaurs sipping pink wine.


Come to think of it — visionaries as they were — could they visualise the day which has become as market driven as St Valentine's? I hope they didn't.










riving past a coffee place near my home yesterday I noticed a special invitation out for women customers, for International Women's Day. At home, the newspaper had a full page advertisement with similar special offers on jewellery to mark the same day. And then, as I started to look around, I saw it everywhere – community centres celebrating the day with meetings on cookery or healthy eating for women, the Delhi government organizing large seminars on women, a newspaper hosting a 'summit' at a luxury hotel featuring women who had probably never held a women's liberation banner in their hands… if you did not know better, you would think that somehow, International Women's Day had finally got its due.


And yet, I wonder how many of the women who will attend high profile seminars, or cookery classes or special all-women sessions at the gym, actually know – or indeed care about - the history of this day. Or, how many of the companies that use the moment to market special products are even interested in the history they are drawing on. But today, a hundred years after this day began to be marked as being dedicated to women, it's worth remembering that history, and reminding ourselves that many of the issues women raised then, are still alive today.


The early years of the twentieth century were years of considerable political activity across the world – including in India where women were active in the movement for liberation and had begun to set up a number of women's organizations. But it was in the West that women's day began to be first marked – after early demonstrations in the United States. One of the most significant of these was a 1908 demonstration in NewYork with over 15,000 women demanding voting rights, better pay and shorter working hours.


It wasn't until two years later though, that at an international conference for working women in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin, leader of the women's office of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, mooted the idea of an international women's day. She suggested that this should be an annual event, that women in different countries in the world should use this day to press for their demands. Her suggestion found widespread approval and the idea of International Women's Day took root. Over time, the day would become one where women took stock, came together to celebrate, to lobby, to share their campaigns and politics. And in some countries it began to be marked as a holiday where women downed tools so to speak, and took the day off.


The day itself came to be fixed later – in the early years, it varied between February and March, and over time, the 8th of March began to be identified as the day for women the world over – kept alive as a political day, by activists and academics within women's movements. Until, that is, it was taken over by the market.


In India, we've been celebrating International Women's Day for many years. Marked by large rallies and marches in different towns and cities, over the years the day has taken on different aspects in different places. Many events – and they are not always celebratory – have become more local, with groups concentrating on issues that are particular to their areas. But also, in several places, seminars and discussions, festivals of film and theatre have replaced rallies, and discussions on the internet and in blogs have become an important arena for drawing attention to this day. Indeed everywhere women activists have ensured that the day, and its events, retain a political edge and do not lose their feminist moorings. This despite the fact that a day on which demands of various kinds were addressed by the State, has in some ways been taken over by the State to centrestage its 'achievements'.


What's most disturbing though is the way in which women's day has turned into an opportunity to market different products. Today, the market uses this day to focus on those very things that feminists have long raised questions about – cosmetics, jewellery, decorative items for the home. All of these put together do little or nothing to help women win what they so desperately need, their full rights as citizens. Instead, they do everything to turn attention away from the real issues at stake.


So this women's day, let's mark the centenary of this important day not by going off to buy the next diamond necklace at a discount, but by remembering that a decade into the twenty first century, there still remains much to be done. There is no other country in the world where female fetuses are killed in the womb in such large numbers as India. None where the law punishes a woman if a complaint made by her against her husband, or in a case of sexual harassment, is judged to be false (and this can happen often in a country where the judiciary and police are so deeply anti-woman). None where rapists are routinely acquitted even if the rape is proved 'because they have their whole lives before them' – as if the woman's life did not matter. None where the real face of poverty is still a woman: hungry, emaciated and worked to the bone, and yet resilient, strong and always ready for battle.


Today, international women's day is on facebook, on twitter, there are websites dedicated to it, and soap and shampoo makers are furiously thinking up advertising campaigns that will draw on this day to sell their products. Perhaps it's time for feminists to reclaim their day, to draw on its history, to remind themselves that even if much has been gained, there's much still to do. It's time to remind ourselves that we cannot afford to let up the pressure on the State and indeed on ourselves. It's only when we see the results of this continued pressure, that the celebrations can begin. And one way of beginning them would be to do what our foremothers began with – to reassert the agenda of a social order where women are given their due in decision making!


(The author is director of Zubaan Books, an imprint of Kali For Women, the first feminist publication in India. She is a writer, publisher, historian and feminist.)








Chandigarh does not carry the baggage of tradition or history, it was tailor-cut to suit modern aspirations and has evolved differently from all other cities in the country. The city prides itself on its status as "one of the best cities to live in" with highest bank density, highest car ownership etc, despite the boom in migrant population over the last few years. The literacy rate in the city is at 81 per cent, yet the sex ratio stands at 777 females to 1000 males -the worst in the country. Why does this happen in a modern city?


In a city of pronounced prosperity and culture, are girls not treated at par with boys? The lack of logic behind this phenomenon will baffle sociologists. A city where girls and boys seem to be having fun, study, excel and work together, why is female foeticide so rampant? Sometimes, one feels that behind many of these big houses where status is measured in 'kanals' and the number of the sector one resides in, people are still living with mindsets of medieval male superiority such as:


 A girl does not carry forward the family name


 Her marriage can be a financial burden


 After marriage the family property will pass to her husband


 She can be a victim of dowry


 She is never safe from crimes against women


 Boy's birth has higher social sanction


 The in-laws pressurize for pre-natal ultrasound scans etc


Are we truly educated and cultured? The irony is that many doctors/nurses are a party to this feudal mind-set despite higher education. If we believe in gender equality in our country, then statistically over 1 billion population of our country should have 528 million women, whereas we are at 496 million - where are the missing 32 million women? Some are never born and some die prematurely because they are not allowed to live, or, are not cared for to survive!


In our work with the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan centers, medical check-ups are conducted on children from disadvantaged and economically underprivileged families in the age group of 6-14 years, and 80 per cent girls are found anaemic and malnourished. On the basis of this our recommendation for folic acid tablets has now been supplemented with the mid day meal being provided by the Administration. A study conducted on 3-6 year old children of 145 Anganwadis in the slum areas of Chandigarh revealed malnutrition rate of 60 per cent among girls was much more higher than the boys.


In a city of such developed infrastructure, is there a forum or platform for women to get together, network and form action groups to fight against the social ills against women? There are so many laws for prevention of crime against women but where is the awareness and the awakening, or the institutions which could spread this actively? A city becomes beautiful and cultured not by concrete and mortar or by organising musical soirees, but, by providing equal dignity to female gender. The city has a strong need for such a forum which corporates/NGOs could fulfill by providing legal and moral support to women especially those belonging to the economically weaker sections.


The working women in Chandigarh are aware and are much more empowered than her rural counterparts because they are financially independent. However, the urban woman of today finds herself stretched in different directions. From the clutches of dowry –which rested on the greed of the other, to the lure of the market, that brings greed and compromise to her own doorstep, seem to weaken her own stand. In the race for consumerism whether cosmetics, jewellery, garments or luxury goods, hyped on television and print media, many women of substance are losing their own identity. They seem to have lost the freedom of choice for the bonding of money and are being pulled into a typhoon of consumerism and greed. The confusion has resulted in an undue focus on personality and grooming at the cost of substance. Like Alice in Wonderland, many women seem to have lost their way in a market place.


(Neena Singh is Trustee, Bharat Prakarsh Foundation, Chandigarh)


Some of the global United Nation themes used for International Women's Day to date:


2011: Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women


2010: Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all


2009: Women and men united to end violence against women and girls


2008: Investing in Women and Girls


2007: Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls


2006: Women in decision-making


2005: Gender Equality Beyond 2005: Building a More Secure Future

2004: Women and HIV/AIDS


2003: Gender Equality and the Millennium Development Goals

2002: Afghan Women Today: Realities and Opportunities


2001: Women and Peace: Women Managing Conflicts


2000: Women Uniting for Peace


1999: World Free of Violence against Women


1998: Women and Human Rights


1997: Women at the Peace Table


1996: Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future


1975: First IWD celebrated by the United Nations










It's not the despair. I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand." In the classic British comedy, Clockwise, the life of an anallyretentive schoolmaster spins out of control when he finds himself running late for a conference, and leaves a keynote speech sitting on the train as it pulls out of the station. The remainder of the film is a comedy of errors as a bumptious pillar of the community desperately attempts to catch up with a world that refuses to stand still.


England have often felt like that in one-day cricket. Priggish, upstanding, technically correct, and often years off the pace, they've bumbled along to a succession of World Cups only to discover that the plans they've perfected since their previous campaign have become hopelessly dated in the interim. This year, however, England's plan is that there "is" no plan. And somehow, it seems to fit their current mentality to perfection.


Right at this moment, England are living on their wits, and barely even managing to do that at times. Shedding tears for professional sportsmen does not come naturally, but this is a squad that's been on the go for six consecutive months, keeping the faith through the strains and emotions of a rare series win in Australia, before steeling themselves to raise their games all again for the equally massive summit of the sport's premier global trophy – a prize that England have never yet claimed in nine campaigns and counting.


 If they look right now as though they are making up their strategies as they go along, then who's to blame them if that's the case? With the best will in the world, just how many team meetings can the average twentysomething outdoorsy-type sit through before the eyes start rolling into the back of the skull and the "yeah whatevers" start tripping off the tongue? So far this winter, England have made plans for Xavier Doherty, Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Brett Lee, Rizwan Cheema, Ryan ten Doeschate, Zaheer Khan, Trent Johnston and Dale Steyn, to name but a handful. And they've still got Shakib Al Hasan, Kemar Roach, Lasith Malinga and Umar Gul to come, among several others. Yeah whatever, indeed.


 At some stage Andy Flower's chalkboard is likely to go flying out of the dressing room window, because his players have found themselves an alternative motivation in the last few days of competition. By raising and dropping their game in accordance with the level of threat each new opponent poses, they've left every one of their opponents wondering what on earth they've got lined up next, while at the same time pumping themselves full of adrenaline courtesy of each new cliffhanger finish.


Their most recent plan was to send a bloke with a hernia, Kevin Pietersen, in to open the batting, presumably using the same inspired logic that applies to office workers on pay day. Spend all your money before it runs out!

English cricket teams tend not to be associated with chaos – incompetence, yes, but not the sort of force-of-nature chaos that has made Pakistan's mercurial wonders so captivating for so many years. And yet, any strategy, however ad hoc, has to be an improvement on past showings.


Fifteen years ago, England embarked on the last World Cup in the subcontinent, and performed exactly as everyone expected. They won (unconvincingly) the games they were meant to win – against UAE and the Netherlands – and lost (hideously) against everyone else – namely New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The sheer banality of their efforts exacerbated the whole miserable experience, but in mitigation, they put both minnows in their place with ease and sauntered into the knockouts, which is more than can be said this time around.

 Who knows where England will end up in the coming weeks. In a mangled heap, in all probability. And yet, for the first time in a generation, their World Cup fate is impossible to second-guess. Any side that can lose to Ireland yet outplay India and South Africa is worthy of our undivided attention, as well as the heightened expectations that invariably tag along after such performances. The familiarity of English despair is giving way to the agony of hope. And it's remarkable how alike the two can feel.


 Andrew Miller is UK Editor of ESPN Cricinfo. Kunal Pradhan's column will be back next week.



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If there was ever a decision that proved that the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) isn't doing its job properly, it is its blanket ban on part-time MBA courses. This means that the regulator for technical education will no longer approve such courses and those that are in operation will not be given permission to extend them once they are completed. In other words, by 2012, there will no longer be any AICTE-certified part-time MBA courses. AICTE officials say the rational for doing this is that several B-schools are misusing the facility, running other programmes under the guise of an MBA course and are even recruiting fresh graduates instead of those with work experience. This is undoubtedly true, as any recruiter will attest. But there are also many reputed institutes running decent part-time courses. Should they be penalised for other institutions' sins? Surely AICTE should do some soul-searching about its own efficacy as a regulator and enforcer of technical education standards. Its solution to a problem of poor governance in part-time MBA courses is the equivalent of, say, the electricity regulator banning electricity transmission on grounds that T&D thefts are high. Using the same logic, there are many fly-by-night B-schools under AICTE's bailiwick. Should it ban all B-schools?

To be sure, the ban on part-time is unlikely to be as disruptive as the rules for admissions, curricula and fees for the post graduate diploma in management (PGDM) that it notified in December, a matter that is now in court. Compared to the 200,000-odd seats available for full-time MBA courses from some 2,000 institutions, part-time MBA courses under AICTE's ambit cover just 20,000 students in some 400 colleges. But as with the full-time PGDM, demand for the part-time MBA is growing robustly. Just as the PGDM is replacing the college graduation degree as the basic qualification for entry-level employment in a host of professions, the part-time MBA is increasingly being considered a tool for mid-career advancement by employers and employees alike, since it does not require a sabbatical. The popularity of the MBA degree can be seen from the fact that the US, the world's largest economy, turns out just over 100,000 MBA students each year; in India, 300,000 youngsters appear for the full-time PGDM entrance tests. Part-time MBAs from reputed institutions also fulfil an economic gap because at Rs 1 lakh at the most, they are significantly cheaper than the full-time MBA, so it is easy to see why they are likely to grow in popularity.


 Given the robust latent demand a blanket ban is unlikely to put an end to part-time MBAs. If anything, the lack of regulation is likely to encourage more and more unscrupulous businessmen to enter the field by offering such degrees with uncheckable affiliations and certifications from questionable "foreign" institutions, intensifying the very anomalies that AICTE hopes to check. Indeed, AICTE has not covered itself with glory with its indiscriminate approvals to all manner of B-schools and other technical educational institutions. Instead of trying to cover up for its mistakes with restrictive and heavy-handed regulations that are unlikely to enhance the quality of business management education in India, AICTE should focus on better, not more, regulation.







Marine fisheries in India has steadily been losing out to inland aquaculture, in terms of fish production, but its relevance for exports has not diminished. Given that marine exports have not done too well in recent years, reports of marine export trade registering a record $2-billion mark in the first nine months of this year is significant. During this period, seafood exports have seen a 6.6 per cent growth in terms of quantity and nearly 19 per cent growth in value, that too in the face of an appreciating Rupee. The marine export business seems upbeat — and justifiably so — and hopes to touch the $2.5 billion mark by year-end. However, this laudable performance is not yet being driven by improved supply side response. Rather, it is the sharp rise in global demand, especially in major overseas markets like the US, European Union and Japan that is pushing prices and profitability up. On the domestic front, the main trigger for this growth came from the recently introduced Vannamei shrimp aquaculture as this variety of shrimp has a high demand in the global market. Furthermore, higher catches of squid have also helped boost exports.

That said, the fact remains that the marine exports industry suffers from some basic shortcomings that constrains export growth. To begin with, India's marine export products basket is rather slim, comprising largely of shrimps, squids and cuttlefish. Several other exportable marine fish species, which are available in the Indian waters, albeit in the deeper seas, remain largely untapped. No doubt the availability of Vannamei shrimp has provided a new outlet for exports but there is tremendous competition in this segment of overseas market from other established exporters, notably Vietnam. Besides, exports depend on the volume of catches, which vary from year to year. This has been an exceptionally good year for squid landings, at Kollam, Kochi and Mangalore ports. Moreover, the country lacks a well-conceived deep sea fishing policy to harness the full potential of the Indian Ocean. As a result, much of the country's vast exclusive economic zone (EEZ) remains underexploited. Though the participation of coastal fisherfolks in deep sea fishing is almost negligible, yet the concern for protection of their interests is coming in the way of harnessing fishing resources at deeper depths. This issue needs to be examined afresh to find a way out for making better use of our EEZ to augment and diversify export products basket.


 India must also diversify its marine export market beyond the traditional markets of the EU, the US and Japan. China and some other small destinations are the recent additions to this list. The EU and the US, which together account for nearly half of India's marine exports, are among the most difficult markets to cater to because of various kinds of conditions laid down by them from time to time. While the EU often imposes tough sanitary and phyto-sanitary curbs, including highly stringent standards of antibiotic and other residues, the US has for long been putting undue dumping duties on Indian shrimps. There is, therefore, urgent need for exploring new export destinations as well as improve the competitiveness of Indian exports worldwide.








Is the euro crisis any closer to a resolution? Europe's leaders have promised to devise by the end of this month a comprehensive package not only to end the crisis, but also to preserve the euro's stability. Unfortunately, they are unlikely to succeed, because most of the elements of the package revealed so far address the symptoms of the crisis, not its underlying causes.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel likes to emphasise, rightly, that one should not speak of a "euro crisis," but of a "debt crisis." If she had added that this is a crisis of both sovereign and bank debt, she would have been even more right.


 But an immediate corollary of this diagnosis is that dealing with this crisis requires finding a solution to the debt problem — that is, the problem of over-indebted sovereigns and insolvent banks. Unfortunately, nothing is being done on either of these crucial fronts.

The new complex mechanisms for economic-policy coordination that dominate the European Union's agenda might be useful in pushing eurozone member countries to adopt more sensible policies to increase their economies' competitiveness and strengthen their fiscal positions. But one should remember that, until recently, Ireland and to some extent Spain were held up as shining examples of competitive economies that created a record number of jobs.

So, it is doubtful that closer economic-policy coordination will prevent new bubbles from emerging. When powerful booms emerge in other sectors, the temptation to argue that "this time is different" will again be irresistible.

In any case, financial markets do not care much about the future framework for policy coordination in the eurozone. They need to know how the existing debt overhang will be dealt with today.

But why should a debt problem in economies that are usually called "peripheral" be so important for financial markets? Greece, Ireland, and Portugal, which is now teetering on the brink of insolvency, account for less than 6 per cent of the eurozone economy. Their problems would not constitute a major issue if Europe's financial system were robust. A peripheral debt crisis has mutated into a systemic crisis because the eurozone's financial system is too interconnected and too weak.

Given the interconnectedness of financial markets in a common-currency area, weakness in any one corner spills over into the entire system, which cannot be stabilised until all major components of weakness have been addressed. But Europe lacks a common body with the fiscal resources needed to stabilise the system as a whole. Such resources exist at the national level, but purely national considerations and interests generally guide their use. In other words: Europe faces a fundamental collective-action problem.

Experience has shown that only an acute crisis can force Europe's leaders to act together in a concerted effort. But, in the autumn of 2008, at the height of the global financial crisis, eurozone heads of state did not consider the creation of a common bank-rescue fund. Instead, they settled for a package of national measures to stabilise national banking systems one by one.

The sum of the headline commitment was impressive, amounting to 20 per cent of GDP. But the show of unity was short-lived. Execution of the package was uneven, with some countries ending up not doing anything. The key areas of weakness in Europe's financial markets, including undercapitalised banks in core countries, were not addressed, and the system was not able to withstand the second wave of the crisis, triggered by the peripheral countries' loss of credibility in financial markets.

The EU dealt with the Greek and Irish crises by granting both countries new lines of credit. But very little was done to strengthen the financial system's ability to withstand a default of any significant magnitude. The only attempt in this direction was the publication, in July 2010, of the outcome of stress tests on more than 90 of the EU's largest banks. But this episode showed once more what to expect when no EU-wide body exists to oversee systemic stability. Every national supervisor has an incentive to find that "our banks are safe," even if many institutions are only thinly capitalised and thus weaken the system as a whole.

The degree to which this was true became apparent in November 2010, when it emerged that essentially the entire Irish banking system, which had received a clean bill of health in June, was bankrupt. The market decided that this might also apply to the Irish government, which then had to be bailed out by the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).

The "euro crisis" can end only when debt problems on Europe's periphery can no longer threaten overall stability of the eurozone's financial system. This will require a range of measures, such as higher capital requirements on sovereign debt, real stress testing of banks, and enlarging the EFSF's mandate so that it can also recapitalise banks, not just bail out countries.

Ensuring systemic financial stability is the order of the day. That, rather than elaborate mechanisms for economic-policy coordination or grand designs for competitiveness, should be at the top of the European Council's agenda.

Daniel Gros is Director of the Centre for European Policy Studies.
Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.







The going-nowhere dialogue with Pakistan will restart later this month when foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao, meets with her counterpart, Salman Bashir. As our foreign ministry well understands, a fresh start does not guarantee fresh results. The dialogue is doomed to failure for the simple reason that New Delhi will again be talking to proxies, with the military — the real power centre in Pakistan — exercising its veto from the shadows.

Few would dispute that New Delhi must engage Pakistan's democratic leadership, providing them credibility and building a constituency for peace. But Indian decision-makers have blundered in leaving all interaction with the Pakistan Army to the US and the UK, both of which are being manipulated with consummate ease by a Rawalpindi club that has perfected this art since the Cold War days of Ayub Khan. It is time for New Delhi to buttress its political dialogue with a direct engagement of the men in khaki. The best way to begin that is through military-to-military ties.


 For two reasons, this is a controversial suggestion. The first is democratic India's penchant for playing by the rules: political and diplomatic engagement, New Delhi reasonably believes, is the preserve of politicians and diplomats, not soldiers. The second reason is the outdated apprehension that allowing India's military role in engaging Pakistan might encourage praetorian pretensions of the kind that have politically eviscerated our western neighbour.

Ask a New Delhi bureaucrat about the possibility of the two army chiefs talking to each other and you will get the acid retort: "There is absolutely no question of General VK Singh discussing the Kashmir issue with General Kayani."

But Kashmir is hardly about to head the agenda in any military-to-military engagement. Many Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) already exist, including a 1998 prohibition on attacking each other's nuclear facilities; a 2005 agreement to notify each other before testing ballistic missiles; a 1991 agreement to notify each other about military exercises near the border; a 1991 agreement on preventing airspace violations; and agreements for border meetings and communications links, including a hotline between the two director generals of military operations, or DGMOs. What is needed now is an institutionalised system of visits and exchanges that will turn faceless, nameless, dehumanised enemies into rivals that one knows and meets.

Any form of interaction — even a game of golf at a hypothetical Annual India-Pakistan Military Commanders' Conference, held alternately in New Delhi and Islamabad — would gradually erode the bitterness and mistrust that is the legacy of Kashmir, Bangladesh, Kargil and Siachen: names that symbolise perfidy and ill-intent on both sides of the border. To illustrate the extent to which distrust prevails: very few responsible Indians would consider invading Pakistan at short notice today; but the Pakistan Army's General Headquarters (GHQ) at Rawalpindi has, despite assurances from India, decided against thinning out its defences against India to reinforce the troops operating against militants in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (the erstwhile North-West Frontier Province).

This complete absence of personal knowledge was not always the case. Until the mid-1970s, senior generals on both sides had served together before independence. General (later Field Marshall) Cariappa could actually consider an impromptu road trip to Lahore at the height of the 1947-48 war to discuss an issue with a Pakistani general. Today, however, Pakistani and Indian soldiers known each other only as targets in the cross hairs of weapons. But when they meet and work together, for example on UN missions, wariness turns quickly into respect and camaraderie. Capitalising on this soldierly affinity, New Delhi must renew its offer to Islamabad — made earlier in 2004-05, but turned down then by Pakistan — of direct military-to-military CBMs.

The value of such contacts was evident during the 1999 Kargil conflict when, even as the two armies battled each other, the two DGMOs spoke to each other regularly. As Lieutenant General SS Chahal recounts, his conversations with his Pakistani counterpart, Major General Tauqir Zia, were always courteous and resulted in the defusing of several thorny issues, especially when the Pakistani Army was withdrawing across the Line of Control (LoC). Today, New Delhi must have more answers to that classic diplomatic question: "if there's a crisis relating to Pakistan, who can I call?"

The need for engaging the Pakistan Army is especially important as "Zia's children" rise to its highest echelons. The devout Muslims that Zia attracted in large numbers by making religiosity a criterion for promotion are now major generals and would soon become corps commanders, the arbiters of Pakistan's destiny. General Kayani is not known for any love of radicalised officers. His predecessor, General Musharraf, who faced serious personal threat from radicalised officers, tried hard to weed them out from the promotion chain. Inevitably, though, fundamentalist generals will slip through the cracks and contribute to the radicalisation of that army.

Institutionalised military-to-military interaction would allow Pakistani officers to travel to India, countering the widespread belief in Pakistan that Indian Muslims face severe religious persecution. While our Muslims lag deplorably in indices relating to economic and social development, they are far from the tyrannised community of Pakistani demagoguery. Pakistani officers would also get a chance to see India for what it is rather than what it is regarded as in Pakistani army messes.

Indian hardliners, who would oppose any engagement of the Pakistan Army, would do well to remember that the resumption of dialogue this month would not be possible without Rawalpindi's concurrence. The only time the two countries have come near a compromise on Kashmir was when Musharraf, an army chief, spearheaded the dialogue. Like then, India may end up being surprised by the Pakistani Army's willingness to talk and compromise.







Is this year's Budget pro-agriculture and farmer-friendly? The answer is both yes and no. It seems pro-agriculture because Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has diagnosed several weaknesses of the farm sector truthfully and has made all the right noises about them in his Budget speech. It seems farmer-friendly since it has proposed some measures that can benefit farmers, in theory.

The downside is that the action proposed in some of the areas identified by the finance minister has not been matched by the fiscal allocations required to produce positive results. So the net impact of the budgetary proposals on agriculture may not be noteworthy. The paucity of public investment in agriculture and allied sectors is also reflected in the total central plan outlay, which has been pitched at Rs 14,744 crore for 2011-12. This is just Rs 382 crore, or 2.65 per cent, higher than the revised estimates of 2010-11. If inflation is taken into account, the provision would work out lower than the last year's actual spend.

The focus areas include extending the Green Revolution to the eastern region, integrating the development of 60,000 pulse villages in rainfed areas, promoting oil palm, developing vegetable clusters around urban centres, popularising the production and consumption of nutri-cereals (millet and coarse grain), accelerating fodder development, promoting sustainable agriculture and supplementing people's diet with proteins through livestock development including dairy farming, piggery, goat rearing and fisheries.

Although these are well-conceived and need-based programmes, regrettably, the amount earmarked for at least six of them is a paltry Rs 300 crore each, which is nothing given the magnitude of the task. The scheme for developing 60,000 pulse villages is a case in point. Allocating Rs 300 crore means each village gets Rs 50,000 which may not even cover administrative expenses, let alone worthwhile measures to incentivise farmers to produce more pulses. No different is the case of the much- needed plan to revolutionise agriculture in the east the way it happened in the north-west in the late 1960s and 1970s. This is an idea whose time came long ago but it is still not too late to implement it. Compared to the north-west, the eastern region is agriculturally far better endowed since it has deep and fertile soils, plenty of sweet water and copious sunshine. However, only Rs 400 crore have been set aside to work the miracle of ushering in the Green Revolution in as many as seven states — Assam, West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, eastern Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. One can well imagine how much funding each state will get and what this can achieve.

Also, Mr Mukherjee did not forget to talk about sustainable agriculture to maintain land productivity. He also listed distorted pricing resulting in indiscriminate use of chemical fertilisers among the reasons for deteriorating soil health. Besides, he rightly prescribed the promotion of organic farming practices, such as biological control of pests and weeds and green manuring, to restore soil health. But he kept mum about allocating funds for this purpose.

This apart, the finance minister has, in a significant move, opted to raise the subsidy on interest charged by banks on agricultural loans to those farmers who repay their dues on time. This will reduce the effective rate of interest chargeable to such farmers to just 4 per cent — the level suggested by the National Commission on Farmers headed by noted agricultural expert Dr M S Swaminathan.

However, the worry is that this will prompt banks to lend more and more money to the same set of farmers who repay their loans regularly (generally large farmers). Small and marginal farmers, who actually deserve cheaper finance, may be left out since they are, at times, forced to default on repayment because of natural disasters and other factors beyond their control.

On agricultural marketing, the Budget speech has merely spelt out the weaknesses that denied the producers remunerative prices even when the consumers paid high prices. But it fell short of stipulating concrete action to remove these problems. This being the reality of Budget 2011-12, its impact on the vast agricultural sector is not too difficult to foresee.  








It is wholly welcome that the Budget announced a phased overhaul of the subsidy regime through cash transfers to target beneficiaries, instead of distributing subsidised products through leaky mechanisms such as the public distribution system. The proposal is to start with kerosene, cooking gas and fertilisers. The basket should be expanded to cover all subsidies including foodgrains, and even schooling. It will radically reduce leakage, improve the welfare of the poor and end the distortions arising from dual pricing of the same product, such as adulteration and black-marketing, and pave the way for competitive markets that work to reduce prices. The poor can then spend cash that is transferred to them to buy whatever commodity they need from the open market, provided they meet some conditions. Conditional cash transfers (CCT), implemented in over 30 countries, empower the poor, cut poverty, boost education and health. They have been successful in Brazil, Mexico and middle-income Latin American countries that have scored well in targeting the beneficiaries and plugging leakages. States such as Andhra Pradesh and Bihar are experimenting with cash transfers in health and education. These social security nets should cover all poor families in India. A school voucher can surely be a tool to change the way the government funds school education. These vouchers will empower children with choice to join a school that is best equipped to service their educational needs. It would create competition among schools that would also compete to bring qualified teachers on board, and improve the quality of teaching.

Robust infrastructure and governance systems are prerequisites for the proposed overhaul. The challenge is to identify the poor and ensure that money is transferred to their accounts. This would mean using technology to create low-cost banking facilities for the unbanked population. This, in turn, would call for a countrywide broadband network and enlightened banking regulation. All this, ultimately, calls for political will. Particularly because the leakages that would be stopped serve today as a part of the mechanism of political funding/patronage.









The Centre wants to spare small salaried taxpayers from filing their income tax returns, and rightly. The move would avoid duplication as the employer deducts tax-at-source and provides the information to the government. It also quells the myth that widening the tax base means getting more people to file their income tax returns. Small taxpayers yield tiny amounts of tax, too small to justify the administrative cost involved. The tax administration should, instead, go after the big fish with big incomes who float outside the net. To start with, an individual with salary income of upto . 5 lakh a year will reportedly be spared filing a tax return. A bolder reform would be to exempt all salaried taxpayers who also earn interest on their bank deposits from filing their returns. This is eminently feasible with a truly foolproof permanent account number (PAN), the tax department's unique identifier. A deposit holder's PAN is available with a bank that deducts tax-at-source each time interest is paid during a financial year. If the salaried taxpayer conveys this information to her employer, it can then be captured in the tax-deducted-at-source (TDS) statement of the employer that will become the proxy for tax returns. Refunds should also become automatic. The point here is for both banks and the tax department to make efficient and imaginative use of information technology. Today, most taxpayers do not disclose all their sources of income to their employers because they are not obliged to do so. But if they do, it could pave the way for exempting all salaried taxpayers from filing returns. The tax information network (TIN) already gathers data on large financial transactions. A foolproof PAN allows the tax department to match the expenditure pattern of an individual with her tax return. The goal should be to link every financial transaction with a PAN. Instead of taxpayers telling the government how much they earn, IT-empowered PAN should enable the government to tell citizens how much tax they should pay/have paid. Tax returns are relics that should quietly be buried where they belong — in the pre-information-age past.






It is a century today since women have had an annual day dedicated to them, though the 364 left to the other sex indicates which way the balance still tilts. The fact that the greeting card industry has not taken note of March 8 even though it has been celebrated for 100 years, however, is particularly ominous. Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Rakhi, Karwa Chauth and a slew of other women-related days have all been validated by the sheer volume of business they generate, as being celebration-worthy. Curiously, despite the distinctly international appeal of Women's Day and its endorsement by glamorous proponents, there has been no move to popularise — and thereby monetise — this annual event. Indeed, not only has the normally nimble hospitality sector been remiss about themed meals and holiday packages, there has been no advertising blitz by marketers of items conventionally coveted and bought by women from gold and jewellery to clothing, accessories and cosmetics. In the run-up to this landmark W-Day, no fawning campaigns by makers of cars, laptops, mobile phones, kitchenware, appliances, cleaning agents or insurance policies have been unleashed, either. Yet, they all acknowledge the changing profile of women by increasingly featuring them in their advertisements as decision-makers and instigators, rather than as arm candy.

Perhaps, they are stumped about what exactly can be pitched to the woman who measures the right to work and the right not to work, bra-burning to bustier or b u r k awearing, homemaking to office-going and back again as equal milestones. That, too, on a day she is not being specifically lauded for being a mother, sister, lover or wife. A hundred years is obviously not enough to understand the contradictions of the feminine mystique.







The International Woman's Day provides an occasion to mark the remarkable progress made by women in the last 100 years. But the truth is, women still comprise only 10% of senior leaders in Fortune 500 companies; less than 4% of CEOs, presidents, vice-presidents, COOs; and less than 3% of top corporate earners. Clearly, the glass ceiling remains. What will it take to finally shatter it? Not a revolution. In 1962, 1977 and even in 1985, the women's movement used radical rhetoric and legal action to drive out overt discrimination. But most of the barriers that persist today are insidious — a revolution couldn't find them to blast them away. We need a more holistic strategy — one that unearths and addresses underlying systemic disadvantages within the fabric of the work itself. I call them as the 'challenges that have no name'.

The first one is the prevalence of 'unbounded work'. It refers to the general lack of clarity and discipline around time (meeting over-runs, lastminute schedule changes, tardiness, etc.). The consequence: work constantly expands and consumes one's being. The second challenge is the lack of value placed on 'invisible work'. This is support work (often staffed by women) that connects teams and facilitates information flows. The third challenge is that of 'overdone work' — the tendency to generate multiple scenarios complete with sophisticated charts and graphs, which can be substituted with simple yet effective data. These challenges affect men and women. But they affect women disproportionately more than men, skewing the work-life balance further. These challenges are further compounded by managers who have tried to resolve these by 'fixing the women'. Indeed, over the past 40 odd years, organisations have used three approaches to rout gender discrimination: assimilation, accommodation and celebration.

Assimilation seeks to minimise gender differences by modifying women's behaviour to enable them to fit in. It is like asking tall people to stoop when they enter the doorway and hunch in chairs so that they can fit into a world of short people. Assertiveness training, as a ready example. Accommodation is akin to making taller doorways so that the 'tall' don't have to stoop any more, higher desks so that the tall can sit in comfort, etc. Offering alternate careers only to women, extended maternity breaks, etc are some examples here.
You see celebration when the 'differences' in tall people are called out and put to good use. This is when the tall people are given jobs that use their advantage of height. Sensitivity training and creating 'women only' jobs fall under this approach.

These three approaches have run their course, because they offer solutions to deal with the symptoms rather than the sources of gender inequity. Mentoring programmes don't change the fact that informal networks, to which few women are privy, determine who gets resources, opportunities and information. Telling people to 'value differences' doesn't mean they will.

Therefore, the time has come to herald in a new approach — a persistent campaign of incremental changes that discover and destroy the deeply embedded roots of inequity. These changes will be driven by both the tall and the short since they will equally benefit from a world where height is irrelevant to the way work is designed and distributed. I like to call this approach as 'building the House for gender balance'.

    Taking on the challenges with no names emphasises that the existing systems can be reinvented by altering the raw materials of organising — concrete, everyday practices in which biases are expressed.
This approach begins with the recognition of gender inequity, as happens when women fail to join in significant numbers, stop short of leadership positions or leave the organisation at above average rates. The next step is diagnosis, where people get together to talk about the work culture and everyday practices that undermine effectiveness. Next, experimentation. Managers can launch a small initiative — or several — to eradicate the practices that create inequity and replace them with practices that work better for everyone. Some good practices that help level this playing field are parenting benefits, daycares, sabbaticals, flexible and agile work practices open to both men and women. Often, the experiment works, and more quickly than people would believe. Sometimes, it fixes only the symptom and loses its link with the underlying cause. Then, other incremental changes must be made before a real win happens.

The true power of this approach is that it routs discrimination by fixing the organisation, not the women or men who work in it. In that way, it frees the women (and men) from the feelings of selfblame and anger that can come with invisible inequity. It is not the ceiling that is holding the women back; it is the whole structure: the foundation, the beams, the walls, the very air. But dismantling our organisations is not the solution. We must ferret out the hidden barriers to equity and effectiveness one by one. Personally, I am optimistic. The new generation workforce is far more inclusive and technologically advanced. We will have to move with speed to ensure that we translate its expectations into reality. I am asking leaders to act as thoughtful architects; to reconstruct their buildings beam by beam, room by room; and rebuild their House with practices that are strong, equitable and balanced — not just for women, but for all people.









The AICC reshuffle has disappointed a group of middle-level party ministers who were hoping to make it to the CWC this time. So, the likes of Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh, Salman Khursheed and Kapil Sibal will have to wait for now. But the high-profile P Chidambaram has, finally, made it to the top party forum, albeit in a manner that surprised many. Chidambaram, though a senior minister and a member of the Congress core committee, was not inducted as a full-fledged member of the CWC but as a permanent invitee. Traditionally, the party high command accommodates leaders/loyalists on the wrong side of the age line or second-rung leaders who have not yet acquired the political profile to fit into the party's elite group in the permanent/ special invitee category. So, among those giving Chidambaram company as permanent invitees are M L Fotedar, Mohsina Kidwai, Karan Singh, R K Dhawan, S C Jameer, Shakeel Ahmed and Jagdish Tytler. No wonder the post-reshuffle buzz is whether Chidambaram's induction actually amounted to a promotion or a right-sizing demo.

The Master's Hand

At least three erstwhile socialists who had converted to the Congress to join the war against Mulayam Singh have been rewarded despite the GoP's traditional distrust of products of the Jayaprakash Narayan school. So, Mohan Prakash and Beni Prasad Verma have become CWC permanent invitees while the third, Raj Babbar, has made it as a special invitee. But the biggest surprise was the 'drawing room socialist theoretician' Mohan Prakash, a follower of Sharad Yadav in the past, also becoming the party in-charge of states like Gujarat, Maharashtra and J&K. How did it happen? The fact that the allpowerful Ahmed Patel always makes it a point to control party affairs in his home state of Gujarat through hand-picked people sheds some light on the issue. As for Prakash's J&K role, who does not know Ahmed bhai never takes his eyes off party affairs in the state, given his delicate, if not volatile, relations with another entrenched insider Ghulam Nabi Azad. So, let us enjoy the spectacle of Mohan Prakash taking on Narendra Modi in Gujarat, Sharad Pawar's anti-Congress moves in Maharashtra and the Ghulam Nabi faction of the J&K Congress. Who said Ahmed Patel does not have a sense of humour!


Spin vs Tweet

The Ashoka Road BJP HQ is full of tales about how the Arun Jaitley camp is determined to tame his inner-party rival Sushma Swaraj. The party is buzzing with jokes about the so-called Jaitley-Sushma tug-of-war, now nicknamed the "off-the-record spin vs onrecord tweet". Old timers say the Jaitley camp virtually went mad when Sushma stole the Jammu tiranga show with her non-stop tweeting from the spot. When Sushma tweeted "let us move on'' after the PM owned personal responsibility for the CVC fiasco, Jaitley supporters swore revenge and told everyone their leader won't 'compromise' in the fight against the UPA and that he would single-handedly close down Parliament, force a midterm poll and even contest an election this time to show Sushma, Congress and the whole world (in that order) that he, indeed, is a leader of the masses and prime ministerial material! But then, some Jaitley well-wishers, who claim to know his politics and instincts well, say he is a realist, fully aware of his limits as well as the limitless over-enthusiasm of his supporters in the party. We hope so too.


As Suresh Kalmadi faces an uncertain political future, keep an eye on his original mentor Sharad Pawar. It's well known Pawar never forgave Kalmadi for ditching him to join the Sonia camp. Pawar could also never stomach the fact that Kalmadi could build his own political/real estate empire in Pune without even offering any 'worthwhile respect'. So, storming Kalmadi's Pune empire has been Pawar's long-cherished dream. Thus, with Kalmadi battling for survival in Delhi, Pawar pushed himself into the power game in the Pune Municipal Corporation, known to be remotecontrolled by Kalmadi. Pawar chose to break his local NCP's pact with the Congress and join hands with BJP and Raj Thackeray's MNS to wrest the Pune municipal standing committee which controls affairs in the area. No wonder even his rivals say Pawar always knows when the iron is hot....







Pranab Mukherjee's Budget left many things undone. For example, he could have allowed FDI in multi-brand retail in cities with more than one million people, but chose not to. Labour reforms, critical to boost India's manufacturing competitiveness, are no longer on the agenda. The current account deficit, at about 3.1% of GDP, is probably the highest since the crisis of 1991, but the FM did nothing done tackle this head-on.
The Budget provisions too little money for subsidies, including the newly announced Food Security Act, which could cost over 1% of GDP. Mukherjee did not hike excise duty to provide for an MGNREGS that is linked to consumer price inflation, nor did he cut corporate tax surcharge when the economy is in the grip of excess demand with high inflation. The Economic Survey talked of many innovations in delivery systems for social services, but the Budget did nothing concrete in this regard. State electricity boards have losses amounting to a whopping . 76,000 crore. They were restructured when their losses were around . 22,000 crore, but there's no mention of any reforms here.

Yet, taking a leaf out of Ruskin Bond's Seven Murders Forgiven, the finance minister may still be forgiven these sins of omission, if he manages to hold the fiscal deficit around 4.6% of GDP after the inevitable tug-of-war over allocations with all ministries and departments. If he can implement the infrastructure debt fund and direct cash transfer of subsidies for kerosene and LPG to at least half the population by the March 2012 deadline, then much can be forgiven.

The nicest thing about the Budget is that it is the harbinger of eternal hope on every possible front, for every sector of the economy. The Budget announced conditional cash transfers (CCT) to replace kerosene and LPG subsidies. This project has been assigned to Nandan Nilekani and might have a good chance of success. The announcement that several legislations, including the insurance reforms Bill and pensions reforms Bill, will be introduced in this session is welcome, though dependent on how bipartisan consensus evolves.
Ahike in the allocation to the infrastructure sector, the possible introduction of the direct taxes code on April 1, 2012 and a promise to introduce GST some time in future, depending on state governments agreeing to the share of the spoils, and most importantly, a promise to keep government borrowing under check in FY12, would go a long way in cleaning up the tax structure without crowding out private investment.
But the Budget presents a bunch of contradictions when one looks at the fine print. Subsidies are supposed to fall from . 1.64 lakh crore to . 1.43 lakh crore when five states are going to polls. The Food Security Act has been promised and the spending on MGNREGS has been linked to inflation. Oil is almost certain to touch $125 per barrel and yet, the oil subsidy is projected to fall from . 38,000 crore to about . 23,000 crore. Similarly, global fertiliser prices are at an all-time high, and procurement, stocking and disbursement of foodgrains cost around . 1 lakh crore; yet, the other non-Plan expenditure shows a decline.

The power sector is in a complete mess. Power producers have little access to known fuel sources. Environmental extremism in the form of an unimaginative 'go, no-go policy' that counts every shrub that grows accidentally on any wasteland as a 'reserve forest' has stalled 40,000 MW of private sector power projects. Finally state electricity boards are unwilling to implement the open access policy in the face of looming bankruptcy, something that needs emergency reform. Yet the Budget ignored the power sector completely.
Safe passage of a number of reformist Bills is going to depend on bipartisan consensus, absent for now. When the original amendment to the Insurance Act was enacted, the BJP reached out to the Congress and a happy bipartisan consensus ensued reforms. So far, the Congress has not reached out to the BJP for the second round of reforms in insurance, even though both parties promised these reforms in their respective manifestos. The key lesson, which seems to escape our political pundits, is that the UPA did not win the 2004 elections because the NDA's reforms were a failure, nor did it win 2009 because its own populism was a success.
In sum, consider the following scenario: an alarming fiscal deficit, an astronomical current account deficit, unrest in the Middle East and rising oil prices, high inflation, a significant crisis of confidence and FDI numbers falling, and rampant corruption in governance and politics. And you thought I was talking about 2011? No, I was referring to 1991. The parallels are eerily similar, except that we have bountiful forex reserves today to protect us. However, if history is a teacher, then tipping points do occur and it's best if that is recognised and respected in policy formulation.

(The author is an IAS officer. Views are personal)






                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL



As we celebrate the centenary of International Women's Day today, we must guard against platitudes as well as patronising. As for gains recorded in the working and living conditions of women the world over, and in the matter of achieving some of the rights that men take for granted, it cannot be gainsaid that much that is positive has happened since March 1911 when the day was first celebrated in Germany. The political rights of women — including that of voting and to be elected to public office — have advanced even in countries which are ultra-conservative or in the throes of multiple crises. Examples can be found in Central Africa, and West and Central Asia. But an observation such as this needs to be treated with caution. Gains in political rights have not necessarily led to social and economic emancipation, as was the case, say, in the former socialist bloc in the matter of workers' rights. It is clear that there is nothing automatic about the gaining of freedoms by a section of society, women in particular, who in most cases suffer a double disadvantage — in the public sphere and on the home front. They work hard, often putting in longer and more arduous hours than men, but do not get compensated sufficiently in remuneration, recognition, or in the award of property rights or leadership roles in society. While it is true that the spread of education-induced awareness does lead to the raising of the position of women in society, this by itself does not necessarily translate to equality. Numerous studies in North America and Western Europe suggest that women do not enjoy the same remuneration as men in many spheres of economic life, and that in-built social prejudices often inhibit their rise to top levels in various institutions, including in industry and business. There is also a fair amount of patronising. In addition, the flagrant display of images of women's bodies, severed from context, is extensively placed in marketing, media and entertainment with an eye on sales through titillation, which many feel might be just a step away from the encouragement of pornography. In the world's poorer countries, including India, gender discrimination takes on more raw forms. Women and girls in a household typically get to have their first taste of inequality in terms of diet, nutrition, access to health and education, and very often in the matter of asserting their reproductive rights. Governments make the politically correct noises but budget allocations that might help change the inequality status of women are not sufficiently in step with pronouncements made to mark occasions such as Women's Day. If International Women's Day is to have any serious meaning — the UN Secretary-General is to make a formal statement on this day and US President Barack Obama has officially proclaimed March to be Women's History Month — and not become a victim of tokenism, the women's movement must consciously seek to become a part of other movements for wider democratisation.






The furore over the abduction of R. Vineel Krishna, IIT Madras alumnus and Malkangiri district collector, by Naxalites died down with his release from captivity after nine days. Malkangiri district is an appendix of Orissa jutting into Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh — an administrative never-never land with the barest traces of official governance — lying on the extreme tri-junction of all the three states.

Not surprisingly, it has become an ideal sanctuary for Naxalites who have de facto control of this no man's land. But unlike the state governments, they have a clear chain of command and hierarchy emanating from the Andhra Pradesh-Orissa Border (AOB) Special Zone Committee.

The Malkangiri episode briefly occupied national headlines and provides an interesting case study of "Clear, Hold and Build", the basic philosophy of counterinsurgency. Media accounts of the incident have given rise to several anecdotes about Mr Krishna who comes across as an unorthodox civil servant quite untypical of the normal career bureaucrat. To begin it with was his idiosyncracy in volunteering for assignment to this difficult tribal district, prostrate and comatose from extreme backwardness and prolonged neglect, with the added disincentive as the focal point of a Naxalite "liberated zone". (The Army equivalent would be volunteering for service on the Siachen glacier, which, by the way, happens with reasonable frequency, thanks to our young officers.)

Mr Krishna also had the unwise but nevertheless admirable propensity of moving around without an armed escort to facilitate personal interaction with the local population of Koya and Bonda tribals in the deep interiors of the district, where several public works had been initiated by him during his relatively short tenure of 13 months. In short, an ideal "frontier administrator" whose proactive perceptions of governance had turned the principles of Maoist propaganda on its head and applied them on behalf of the government in a "hearts and minds" approach to the local people. Knowingly or unknowingly, Mr Krishna was attempting to practice the first principles of counterinsurgency as taught in the Indian Army's Counterinsurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Vairangte, Mizoram. It says: "Fight the guerilla like the guerilla", integrating socio-political and administrative initiatives in tandem with action by security forces.

Mr Krishna's activities were a threat to the Maoist agenda, hitherto unchallenged in the region. He was accordingly abducted and taken hostage at Badapada, in the utterly remote Chitrakonda tehsil of the district, during one of his periodic programmes of public interaction and inspection of projects in the deep interior. At the time he was very typically riding pillion on the motorcycle of a subordinate officer Pabitra Majhi, since there were no roads for four wheeled vehicles in the area.

Fortunately, the story had a fairy-tale ending, because after eight days in captivity both were released unharmed. Mr Krishna has only himself to thank for his good fortune, because the local tribals held him in high regard and put pressure on his captors to see that he came to no harm.

However, Naxalites are no fuzzy-headed idealists, but shrewd, ruthless, hardheaded tacticians who gauge every move to obtain maximum effect. In this instance, they judged that a happy ending would pay better dividend and released Mr Krishna. But there should be no doubt that had they calculated differently, the ending could just as likely have been exceedingly tragic.

Of course, there always has to be a price to be paid for such transactions. In this case a list of 14 demands put forward by the Naxalites before Mr Krishna was released, chief amongst which were the release of high-profile Naxalites in prison, Gauti Prasadam, Padma and Sriramulu Srinivas, as also cessation of counterinsurgency operations in the region. The government had no option but to comply with all demands, though still attempting a feeble defiance by proclaiming that the state government had not "capitulated" to the Naxalites.

There is barely any mention of police and paramilitary forces in the entire episode, though a fairly substantial quantum in the shape of three battalions of the Border Security Force (BSF) and six units of the Special Operations Group of the Orissa Police are reportedly deployed in the Malkangiri region. These are controlled by the district superintendent of police Anirudha Kumar Singh who would certainly have his own viewpoint on the entire incident, whose fallout put all police operations on hold.

So the larger issue here is the mechanism by which the "clear and hold" activities of the police and paramilitary and the "build" agenda of development and administration are formally dovetailed overall into a cohesive "clear, hold and build" strategy of counterinsurgency. Therein lies the basic weakness in the administrative organisation at the cutting edge level of the district, where the district collector and the district superintendent of police are co-equals, even though the district collector is in full charge of the district. This is a cultural relic of the old British Raj, where the district collector and district superintendent of police were both largely expatriates in an alien environment, and hence more socially homogenous and compatible.

Interactive coordination is personality-oriented and what may have worked in the Raj era, might not be ideal in a totally transformed environment. Some thought must be given to review the existing system, to establish clear and separate departmental lines of command for police forces and state administration, from state headquarters down to district and sub-divisional level, with adequate cross linkages for coordination and interaction at each stage. The complexity is further intensified when paramilitary troops, with their own channels of command and operational ethos are inducted in substantial numbers as reinforcements to state police.

So, the Malkangiri dilemma continues —which way lies salvation? Is Mr Krishna an individual phenomenon or the general rule amongst civil servants and police officers? Much will depend on the answer, because the civil and police services are required to operate in an increasingly combatant mode in areas affected by insurgency and must refurbish their professional culture appropriately.

* Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament






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 on March 4 with former Florida governor Jeb Bush, US President Barack 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 analyse 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 US job market has been characterised 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 labour, 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 labour 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 six per cent of US 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 computerised. Roombas are cute, but robot janitors are a long way off; computerised legal research and computer-aided medical diagnosis are already here.

And then there's globalisation. 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 US 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.

But there are things education can't do. In particular, the notion that putting more kids through college can restore the middle-class society we used to have is wishful thinking. It's no longer true that having a college degree guarantees that you'll get a good job, and it's becoming less true with each passing decade.

So if we want a society of broadly shared prosperity, education isn't the answer — we'll have to go about building that society directly. We need to restore the bargaining power that labour has lost over the last 30 years, so that ordinary workers as well as superstars have the power to bargain for good wages. We need to guarantee the essentials, above all healthcare, to every citizen.

What we can't do is get where we need to go just by giving workers college degrees, which may be no more than tickets to jobs that don't exist or don't pay middle-class wages.







Dear Damu and Shanu,

The day before yesterday your grandmother went to an event organised by a local non-governmental organisation. It was meant to felicitate and honour women of her generation who had been active in the movement for women's rights. She was delighted to be there. Along with her were a handful of other women, some in their Eighties — Dadi was probably the oldest of them. They all had very interesting pasts — one had been part of a women's militia in Kashmir and had taken training in gunmanship, another took part in the salt and swadeshi campaigns, a third was an academic who had battled with her colleagues to introduce the study of gender. I thought then that there was so much we had learnt from these women, and I wondered how they had lived their lives and managed things with such equanimity — or, at least, seemed to. Take your grandmother, for example. Four children, all within a year or two or each other, a husband who did not earn very much and who often stayed away from home, a mother-in-law, a brother-in-law, a sister, living in the same house — she handled all household responsibilities and also had a teaching job that helped her earn money. How gracefully our mothers dealt with their multiple tasks.

It was the legacy of their battles that opened up so many things for us. Having a feminist mother made it so much easier for us — my sister and me — to negotiate things like jobs, the choice to marry or not marry, where to live and so on.

Our battles were similar, yet different. I remember that we fought long and hard for buses in Delhi to have women's seats and with the university for a special bus for women. Most of the time it was impossible for us to travel on buses, not because we were sexually harassed — that was another campaign, to make the city safe for women, though in this we had very little success — but also because young Lotharios would grab whole seats and sit on them with their legs spread wide and to engage with them always meant a battle and continual harassment. It was better to keep away.

Just as we took for granted many of the things our mothers fought for, so also for your generation, some of the things that formed the subject of our battles, have been givens. You have studied in institutions where, until a decade ago, few girls went. You've lived — and you continue to live — on your own. And it's not only you, for this is not just a class thing but wider (although it is true that those who belong to the more privileged classes do have a greater degree of the luxury of choice).

I wonder if you remember the story of young Priyanka, the daughter of our presswalas across the road. Inderpal and Ramvati, Priyanka's parents, have been fully supportive of her desire to delay marriage and to make a career for herself, and they have helped her to first train and then work as a beautician. Today, young Priyanka earns a decent income and is saving money for her marriage, contributing to the home and enjoying her career.

So things have changed, there is no doubt about that. The women's movement hasn't been entirely ineffective. And yet, we have to be careful of becoming complacent: there's so much that remains to be done. You live in a world where choice is a given and where your parents and your peers recognise you as human beings, but the moment you start interacting with the world in earnest, you realise how precious this faith in your humanity is because there is so much that militates against it. Living in a loving atmosphere at home, it is almost too easy to forget what things are like outside. In our country, it is a sad fact that while women themselves have changed, and changed radically, men, institutions, male thinking has not kept pace with this change. This is why, for example, only recently a judge was able to acquit two rapists after they had served a short sentence, because he felt that they were young and had their lives ahead of them! But the woman simply did not exist, no matter that her life may have been ruined. For the powers that be, she did not count. What is a woman's life after all?

You may recall that some years ago, after the rape of Bhanwri Devi from Rajasthan, a group of women (I was among them) sat together to appeal to the government to bring in legislation on sexual harassment. The Vishakha petition, as it was called, resulted in the Supreme Court issuing a set of guidelines on sexual harassment that women have found very empowering. This doesn't mean that all women who have been harassed have come forward to complain, but the fact that the guidelines exist, give women the reassurance that the law is on their side. And yet, for how long? For even as I write, the Sexual Harassment Bill awaits parliamentary discussion to be turned into an act. But between the guidelines and the draft bill, things have crept in that are so totally insulting to women that they make you wonder if we've made any progress at all. One of these is the provision that punishes the woman if a complaint is found to be false.

The lawmakers justify this on the grounds that many false complaints are filed and the law is misused. Yet no one has bothered to ask which law is not misused in India, and say a man accuses another man of murder or theft and the accusation is found to be false, will the complainant then be fined? Or jailed? Not so, these punitive measures are meant only for women. The battle of changing mindsets is far from being won.

I write this to you on the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day — an anniversary that will arrive and go with much fanfare (including some advertisements for fairness creams!). This is our day, a day which carries our history. It's a good day to take stock of our lives, to celebrate our successes, but also to remind ourselves of how much further we need to go.
Happy women's day, my dears

Your aunt,

* Urvashi Butalia is a writer, publisher and co-founder of India's first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women. She is now director of Zubaan, an imprint of Kali






Isn't it a pity that we are still celebrating the woman's day in the 21st century. The fact that there is a need to create a special day to support women itself is derogatory, as if women are a separate species; a subject to be discussed in specially organised conventions and seminars. Interestingly, there are no discussions on men's problems or the uplifting of men. Nor do any institutions come forward to celebrate men's day.

There have been organised efforts to liberate woman from her slavery which did not have spectacular results, but they have succeeded in spreading awareness about looking upon a woman as an individual. The reason why the women's liberation movement has not succeeded is that the issues it had picked up were not women issues at all. These issues cannot be resolved unless they are acknowledged as "men's issues", too. Men and women are inseparable like two sides of a coin. If women have to breathe freely in the society, men have to be free of their conditioning. A society in which a woman has to be always afraid of men, is not worth calling a civilised society. Unless man has transformed his repressed sexuality, women cannot feel free and fearless in his company.

Also, it is futile to expect that social organisations or the law can resolve any conflict between man and woman. The relationship is too intimate, too complex to be sorted out by social or legal agencies. Unless the male mind undergoes a radical change, woman's predicament is not going to alter. What is needed is men organisations educating men. May be women can be on the board, too and give men an understanding of the female mystery. They can give them a perspective on and sensitivity towards women issues.

The need for women to take a larger role in the political arena is quite evident, particularly in countries like India where parliamentary sessions have become a noisy and rowdy affair. In peacemaking and conflict intervention, women's qualities can outshine men. In fact, Osho has suggested 50 per cent reservation for women in Parliament. The presence of feminine grace in the House will change the quality of its operation.

The second step towards resolving women's issues is we all stop looking at women through the eyes of men. By doing so we will discover a treasure trove of amazing qualities, such as beauty, grace, trust, love and care, intuition, patience, resilience and a passive strength. The feminine principle, which constitutes half of the universe, contains a tremendous source of creativity. The denial of it has resulted in a paralytic and perverted society.

The good news is that we have not missed the boat entirely. We can change the axis and start paying attention to the neglected half of humanity. Osho calls her the new woman. The new woman does not have to compete or compare herself with man, she just have to be herself. Primarily she has to deeply look into and get rid of her conditioning given to her down the ages. It may look like an uphill task, but a change of gestalt will help her reclaim her lost power. Femininity is indeed very powerful. It is the power of creation, the power of a flower, the power of the water element.

One of the most original contribution of the Osho vision is the appreciation of the feminine. It encourages women to blossom into their fullness and win men over not by fighting, but by becoming more loving and caring. A woman is endowed with these qualities. The greatest strength of the new woman is meditation. It will come as a surprise that women can meditate more easily than men because they are more in touch with their heart, their interior world, are natural and more relaxed. Meditation will free them from their inhibitions, pettinesses and past conditioning; and for the first time they will be independent. And so will be the man.

— Amrit Sadhana is in the managementteam of Osho International Meditation Resort,Pune. She facilitates meditation workshopsaround the country and abroad








SINCE every Congress-led or Congress-supported government has bent over backwards to prevent the beneficiaries of the Bofors kickbacks from being nailed, there is every possibility that the last nail in the legal coffin has been driven with the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Delhi, allowing the CBI to withdraw the prosecution against Ottavio Quattrocchi ~ the last survivor among the accused. Charges against some others had been quashed much earlier. Yet since the infamous gun deal has dimensions that outstrip the legal, it is certain that the spook of Bofors has not been buried. It may no longer be politically profitable for the Opposition to make an issue of what blasted Rajiv Gandhi from Race Course Road, hence the latest judicial order might not kick up a storm, Still, for the Congress Party and its dynastic deities moral closure is generations away. For even though it made some astonishing pronouncements, the order of the CMM did not issue any clean chits. The stigma persists. The "lack of evidence", which has dogged all the related legal matters, is as scandalous as the kickbacks: the CBI and the government's law officers have ever conspired to thwart such evidence being tendered in court (there was some proverbial flattering to deceive during the BJP regime) and that is what makes "Bofors" synonymous with corruption in high places. This truly is mother of all cover-ups to protect "family and friends".

A couple of points about the CMM's order. It erroneously deemed the kickbacks amounted to Rs 64 crore, that was the figure cited by a dubious JPC that came up with a command performance (that one of its members has been nominated to the parliamentary panel just set up to probe the 2G Spectrum allocation tells you something, doesn't it?), other estimates were much higher. The order also spoke of the expenses incurred on the probe ~ as if establishing moral accountability is to be measured in money terms. The CMM is absolutely correct in noting that the CBI "has not been able to put forward legally sustainable evidence" ~ there was never any intention to do so. Hence the gap between delivering "justice" and doing "right" remains unbridged. And ethical governance remains a distant Indian dream.  A former director of the CBI recently iterated that while the agency itself lacked requisite independence, it did not handle its own legal affairs and the government's law officers often let the investigators down ~ particularly in matters with political implications. In the wake of some unsavoury developments, the method of appointing the next Central Vigilance Commissioner could become more transparent. Has the time not come for similarly scrutinising the government's law officers? Do they "represent" the Union of India or the ruling political entity?




IN a state virtually without order, it is a dismal reflection on the enforcement of the law. As revealed by this newspaper, there are no fewer than 70,000 non-bailable warrants pending in Bengal, which remains poised on a powder-keg. There is an unexplained disconnect ~ would 'defiance' be a better word? ~ between the Election Commission's instructions and the implementation by the administration on an issue that relates to law and order, increasingly explosive as it is. Given the scale of the warrants on which no action has been taken it is cause for alarm not merely to the EC, but to the electorate generally. The peaceful conduct of elections becomes still more uncertain with the state dragging its feet on the directive of a constitutional authority, itself an index of the politicisation of the police. The state ought to have got the message when the EC decided to replicate what it calls the "Bihar model" in terms of execution of non-bailable warrants. In the main, this entails the seizure of illegal arms and ammunition and preventive arrests. Fears that the model may not be quite as effective in Bengal are not wholly unfounded. Nitish Kumar had performed better in ensuring a measure of discipline in accord with the EC's instructions; the CPI-M doesn't even have the nerve to rein in the cadres. Political will remains a scarce commodity. The party's government cannot be impervious to the short point ~ the constitutional authority's directive will have to be followed through. Aside from action on the NBWs, the EC has called for the deployment of the central paramilitary in Burdwan and Jalpaiguri, two districts where 8000 warrants are said to be pending. It is fairly obvious that in terms of threat perception, both districts have been accorded equal weightage. It must be clear too that these warrants cut across the intra-state demarcation of North and South Bengal. The 70,000 NBWs pending across the state may pose as forbidding a challenge as the one by the extremists. The outlook is grim on the twin tasks of dealing with the Maoists and enforcement of the law.




Queen Elizabeth II will visit the Republic of Ireland this May ~ the first British monarch to visit the country after King George V spent six days in Dublin in 1911 when Ireland was under his reign. The welcome accorded to him and Queen Mary at that time led the King to tell friends it was "as warm-hearted and enthusiastic as any that he has ever received". Soon after Buckingham Palace confirmed that the current monarch had accepted the invitation from Irish President Mary McAleese, the British Ambassador to Dublin, Mr Julian King, said it "symbolises how far the relationship has come in recent years…" The relationship has certainly come far since 1922 when Ireland won its independence only to engage in a decades-long dispute with London over Northern Ireland which remained a part of the United Kingdom. The strain over the bloody attempts of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to wrest the province hit an all-time low in 1979 when Lord Louis Mountbatten ~ an uncle to the Queen's husband and the first Governor-General of Independent India ~ was killed in an IRA bombing. Relations between the two countries assumed a semblance of civility only after the 1998 Good Friday peace accord. The timing of the Queens's acceptance is significant. It comes barely a week after the ruling Fianna Fail party suffered a historic electoral loss, the worst since it was founded in 1926. The party had been in power for 61 of the past 79 years. Unapologetic republicanism has been Fianna Fail's hallmark in contrast to the strong pro-EU orientation of Fine Gael, the party that will form Ireland's next government. What also distinguishes Fine Gael ~ which constituted Ireland's principal Opposition until recently ~ is its intolerance for violent Irish republicanism and a liberal approach in dealing with the country's crippling economic woes. That the British government offered to lend Ireland £7 billion to tide over the crisis certainly helped improve ties. The Queen's decision has been hailed by the political establishment across Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain. But the Left-wing Sinn Fein ~ traditionally associated with the IRA ~ remains skeptical; its response was tame. In a carefully-calibrated reaction, it called the proposed royal visit "premature" and said it would offend many Irish citizens. That things have indeed changed in Ireland becomes apparent when Sinn Fein's traditional rival in Northern Ireland ~ the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) tells The Irish Times: "What is a visit by the Queen compared with the financial crisis that the country is now facing?" Pragmatism is finally crowding out parochialism.   









Several farmers have recently committed suicide in Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh due to their inability to repay loans and the failure of their crops. This confirms that the livelihood of the distressed farmers hasn't improved despite the relief package announced by the Union government, notably the loan-waiver up to Rs 71,000 crore for small and marginal farmers. Last year, farmers in Vidarbha and its neighbouring regions had committed suicide. Clearly, the   relief package has not been able to mitigate the distress, let alone address the tragedy of suicide by farmers.

It is shocking that 86,922 farmers in the country committed suicide between 2001 and 2005. The rate rose sharply to 17,060 in 2006. Maharashtra tops the list followed by Andhra Pradesh. An estimated 40,000 farmers in Punjab killed themselves between 1988 and 2006. They could not withstand the impact of natural calamities and were not able to repay the loans. The Vidarbha region has around 2.4 million small and marginal farmers. Rural indebtedness, the insufferable pangs of hunger, the failure of crops either because of spurious fertilisers and pesticides or unseasonal rain and hailstorms or drought have been the critical factors behind these tragedies.
Another problem is that the farmers have not been receiving proper remunerative price for their produce. The government effected certain policy changes in an effort to help the farming community. It removed the restrictions on storage, sale and movement of food and agro-products.  However, these  steps did not prove effective in checking the rate of suicides.

The agro policy had earlier envisaged an annual growth of over four per cent. It provided a comprehensive crop insurance for farmers from sowing to post-harvest operations to protect their interests. Agriculture was also accorded the status of industry.

But it is the rich and progressive farmers who have been the beneficiaries of the government's measures. In consequence, the disparity between the rich and the poor has widened considerably. The poor peasants obtained loans to be in step with the rich farmers. But the misery deepened with the failure of their crops. Also, agricultural development in Maharashtra did not generate adequate employment opportunities. As a result, there was a sharp increase in the number of unemployed youth.

India's new economic policy has posed a  challenge to the farm sector because of the burgeoning population, dwindling natural resources, the depleting underground water resources and growing indebtedness. In recent years, the stagnating yield and decline in productivity are the disturbing trends. It is now apparent that certain problems are rooted in the Green Revolution. There has been a general degradation of environment and natural resources.

The national agro policy was framed to meet the major challenges of Indian agriculture, chiefly to ensure food security and restructure the agricultural sector so as to benefit the farming community. It highlighted various shortcomings in the rural sector in respect of regional disparities, marked by  uneven development and low levels of productivity, low incomes and unfavourable prices, problems relating to rainfed and dryland areas, unemployment, lack of rural industry, constraints on movement, storage and sale of agro-products and so on.
The policy envisaged an effective pricing strategy to ensure remunerative and profitable rates to the farmers and a better distribution system for the needy. There was a degree of flexibility in the fixing of support prices on a regional basis to protect farmers from the adverse impact of price fluctuations in the world market. The rural-based approach was intended to meet the socio-economic aspirations of the farmers and to improve their standard of living.

Today's agriculture is a high-cost and energy-intensive technology, which needs high inputs in respect of quality seeds, chemical fertilisers, pesticides, irrigation, farm mechanisation etc. Therefore, farming has become an expensive proposition. It is the rich and progressive farmers who are in a position to provide these inputs. No wonder they have been the beneficiaries of the government's policies. The small and marginal farmers could hardly afford the required inputs. Further, there was no mechanism that could assist the impoverished farmers. As a result, the gap between the rich and the poor farmers has widened. The rich became richer and the poor poorer. The rich farmers became big landlords and a privileged group, and this intensified the wide disparity in the rural areas. The farm policy has to work out a mechanism that will provide for subsidised inputs and incentive pricing to the poor. This will raise this segment above the poverty line.

In rural India, agriculture is the most important means of livelihood for over 65 per cent of the population. It is, therefore, essential to achieve sustainable development of agriculture. The agro policy should aim at developing agro-based industries. This will generate employment and income for the poor round the year. Small and marginal farmers as well as farm labourers will thus be gainfully employed and will not have seek employment elsewhere. This may even raise their income level to enable them to procure food.

Our food output in 2009-10 declined to 218.19 million tones from 234.47 million tones in 2008-09. The reason was insufficient rain in 2009. The population has increased by 1.4 per cent over the last five years. It has risen to 119.8 crore in 2009-10 from 115.4 crores in 2008-09. Therefore, the present food output will not be enough for the country  if the entire half-fed population is fully fed. At present, one-third of the population is half-fed because of poverty and lack of purchasing power.

Thus, it is urgently imperative to overhaul socio-economic and farm policies in order to remove rural disparities. The public distribution system has to be revamped and the "Antyodaya Anna Yojana" programme  expanded to cover rural households. The task of ensuring food to the poor to make the country hunger-free is extremely challenging. It is important to implement the poverty-alleviation programmes in order to ensure food availability to the poor farmers to and prevent suicides among them.

The writer is former Principal Scientist, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi







Where sexual pleasure is a marketable service, how can the person who sells it be excluded from the category of "workers" and be bracketed with beggars and prisoners to be labelled a "non-worker"? The Census of India lists homemakers, beggars, prisoners and prostitutes as "non-workers" because they are "economically non-productive workers" as defined by it. Last year, the Supreme Court objected to the Census categorisation of a homemaker as a "non-worker". But a sex worker is yet to recognised as someone who performs a work.
 When non-governmental organisations and social activists pressed the establishment to change the colloquial reference to prostitutes to sex-workers, the shift remained colloquial and was never accorded a legal stamp. But if the nomenclature has the word "worker" included in it, how can a person classified as such continue to be defined as a non-productive consumer? Does the discrimination stem from the establishment's usual indifference reserved for the marginalised, including the beggar and the prisoner? A sex worker is not considered productive and acknowledged to be a worker likely because her line of work is not considered legal.
Indian law statutes define prostitution as the act of a female who offers her body for promiscuous sexual intercourse for hire, in exchange for money or kind. The "Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1956 ~ amended in 1987 by the Amendment Act 1986 with the name changed to read Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act and the 2006 Bill ~ stipulates two conditions that define a woman to be a prostitute. First, a female has to offer her body for indiscriminate sexual intercourse and secondly, that she should do so for a financial consideration. Thus by legal definition, a prostitute is a productive worker because her work has both use-value and exchange-value.

 The perceived illicitness of commercial sex largely stems from social disapproval. When women place a monetary value on and claim payment for work that they traditionally (within marriage) perform for "free"~  out of love, instinct or intangible non-monetary rewards ~  it is viewed as a "betrayal". At the same time, when professions such as prostitution get "feminised" in the wage market, they get devalued. Perceived from this angle, commercial sex is nothing more than an inferior version of consensual sex driven by instinct or considerations other than commercial.

 Belgian feminist and cultural theorist Luce Irigary says a prostitute's "value" cannot be categorised either as use-value or as exchange-value (the mother and the virgin, respectively, representing the female 'types' of these values). She adds that prostitution amounts to usage that is exchanged. Irigary insists that she is only an object of exchange between and among men. Performance philosopher Shannon Bell writes in Reading, Writing and Re-Writing the Prostitute Body that the ambiguous unity in the prostitute body of use and exchange value, positions her as a speaking subject which makes her "an active participant who exchanges her own use-value".
Catherine Cowley, tacitly points out in a study how "the supply of women from lower castes into the sex trade is driven by the demand for prostitutes, though prostitution is illegal in India. Its very existence and pervasiveness in Indian society is an anomaly in an otherwise conservative country. Yet, there is a historic culture of commercial sex in India, with eroticism enshrined in the myriad religious traditions. Consequently, there is greater tolerance of prostitution in areas, usually rural, where it is seen as a continuation of a cultural tradition." The study focuses on young girls from the Bedeni community in Madhya Pradesh one of whose members, 18-year-old Raveena, became a prostitute to support her family. She is the sole breadwinner of an extended family of 20. She says: "There is tremendous pressure (on me) to provide for my family in the only way I know." Where does one place this teenager from the Bedeni community?

 The Constitution of India categorises Bedeni as a Scheduled Caste and its members have been traditionally treated as menial labourers, discriminated against and excluded by the wider community, with no possibility of upward mobility. The exertion of power by the members of the upper castes over these lower-caste prostitutes also reinforces caste hierarchy as the women's bodies come to represent their community. And, the problem is not confined to Madhya Pradesh. Many women from lower castes such as the Kanjar (Gujarat), the Kolathi (Maharashtra) and the Dewar (Chhattisgarh), are known to enter into the sex trade cimply because they belong to a certain caste. If Raveena is selling her services to support a dependent family, is she not a productive worker who is creating surplus value? More pertinently, is she not "producing" more than she consumes?
 As per tenets of capitalism as defined by Karl Marx, the exchange value of commodities lies in their inherent monetary property and that, in turn, money achieves a social existence quite distinct from all commodities and their natural modes of existence. The circulation of money and its abstraction as a sign in a system of exchange serves as a mirror image for women as a sign in a system of exchange. Ironically, the women who form the very commodity that is exchanged have little or no control over the money that is exchanged. It is confiscated and appropriated by representatives of trades ancillary to prostitution such as the brothel owner, the pimp, the bouncers, the brother madam, the hooch seller and so on. They do not have access to circulation of money, either. The very fact that a prostitute's value-in-exchange helps support the procurer, the pimp, the brothel owner, the brothel madam and the bouncer, among others, proves that she is a productive worker. Remove the prostitute from this arrangement and the system will collapse. Perhaps, the time has come to revisit the common perception of prostitution as illegal and non-productive.

The writer is a freelance contributor







Ottavio Quattrocchi reportedly thanked God and sighed happily after hearing the court verdict accepting the closure of the case against him. His relief may be premature. The petitioner, Mr Ajay Aggarwal, has already indicated that he will appeal to the High Court. How will the High Court respond?

The judge of the Tis Hazari Court who delivered the verdict exonerating Mr Quattrocchi had his head immersed in clouds of poetry. Was he influenced by poetic license in delivering his judgment? The defence case had a glaring contradiction. The Income-Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) passed an order indicating that kickbacks of Rs 61 crore were paid to late Win Chaddha and Mr Quattrocchi in the Howitzer gun deal. Therefore tax was due from Mr Quattrocchi.

The ITAT is a government department which asserted that Mr Quattrocchi received a Bofors payment attracting tax. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is also a government department which asserted that the Bofors case should be closed because there was no evidence against Mr Quattrocchi. So is it the right arm or the left arm of the government that is correct? Clearly each does not know how the other moves. It is in deciding this question that the petitioner's case gathers strength.

The CBI Director, Mr Amar Pratap Singh, who sought closure of the Bofors case, is doubtless endowed with sterling qualities that helped him reach his high position. Unfortunately his appointment made by the Personnel department under Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh was cleared by a Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) who was himself under a cloud. The Supreme Court dismissed the CVC because he was accused for offences under Section 13(2) read with 13(1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act under Section 120B (conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

If the PM, whose party's fortunes were directly affected by the Bofors Case, was responsible for the appointment of the CBI Director, it was approved by a CVC himself charged with corruption. Is there any guarantee therefore that the new incumbent in the CBI is an appropriate choice? The CBI director sought closure of the case against Mr Quattrocchi despite the ITAT charging him with receiving bribes in the Bofors case.

The PM has accepted responsibility for the flawed appointment of the CVC. Opposition leader Arun Jaitley said that was not enough. The PM must tell the public "whether he was misled or allowed himself to be deliberately misled". The PM as promised has made a statement on the subject in parliament. As was expected his statement in no way provided answer to the question posed by Mr Jaitley. What we do know is that in flagrant violation of the objection raised by Mrs Sushma Swaraj the PM and Mr Chidambaram overruled her in the three member panel to appoint a tainted CVC, that the CVC cleared the appointment of the CBI director, who in flagrant violation of the available evidence closed the case against Ottavio Quattrocchi. The buck stops with the PM. The luck stops with Quattrocchi.    

Weighing the ITAT against the CBI, which arm of the government will the High Court uphold? The public will watch with incredible excitement how incredible justice incredibly unfolds in Incredible India.

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist 







News Item


Ex-Professor Of Hooghly College Arrested

As a result of the confession said to have been made by Noni Gopal Mukerjee on Sunday night, the police were very active throughout Monday and the early morning on Tuesday, and not only were several houses searched, but some four men were arrested on suspicion of being implicated in the bomb outrage.
The police investigations have not been confined to Calcutta, but a number of C.I.D. officers went over to Chinsura, the native place of Noni Gopal, on Monday and searched three houses there and made an important arrest.

They commenced their operations at the house of Babu Surendranath Mandal, a local zemindar. Every nook and corner of his big residence, including the female apartments, was thoroughly searched for some hours, and amongst the seizures were a copy of Burke's "Reflections on the French revolution", a copy of Carlyle's "French Revolution", a printed appeal to the young men of Bengal by Swami Vivekananda, and a book relating to the history of the Sepoy War in Bengal. A large number of letters, the nature of which is not yet known, were also taken away by the police.

The second search took place in the house of Babu Jotish Chandra Ghosh, M.A., of Chinsura, an ex-professor of

the Hooghly College, who was also placed under arrest. It has not yet transpired if the police succeeded in recovering anything incriminating from his house. Jotish Chandra Ghosh, who, it is said, was arrested in connection with the bomb outrage, was brought down to Calcutta yesterday morning under a police escort.
Jyotish Chunder Ghosh, M.A., whose Calcutta residence, which is within the jurisdiction of the Muchiparah Thana, was searched in the early hours of yesterday morning, is stated to have been dismissed last year from Government service Professor of English in the Hooghly College, owing to his having taken part in the last Hooghly Conference in violation of Government orders.







The detention of a special forces regiment of the British army by rebel groups in Libya could not have been entirely unexpected. Britain's failure to anticipate such an awkward turn of events merely revealed a former colonizer's inability to imagine the fallout of imprudent interventionism in a post-colonial world. Britain may badly want to let sleeping dogs lie, but Libyans are not willing to play second fiddle to its wishes. It would be underestimating the power of public memory to assume that ordinary Libyans have forgotten the sight of Tony Blair shaking hands with Muammar Gaddafi, who has unleashed a reign of terror on civilians all over their country. For decades, as Mr Gaddafi grew from strength to strength, Britain, and most Western powers, enjoyed a ringside view of the spread of dictatorship across Libya. The concessions offered by Mr Gaddafi, in the form of lucrative oil deals and help in the 'war on terror', proved good enough to win the collective silence of the West. But now that a wave of turmoil has started spreading across the Arab world, the West feels compelled to do its bit — partly for the cause of an 'Arab democracy', which it has never much cared for; partly for its own strategic interest in the region; and partly to bask in the greater glory of freeing an oppressed people from the clutches of a tyrant, who it had abetted in the first place.

Libyan opposition leaders are understandably wary of Britain imposing itself on what they would like to think of, and conduct as, their own revolt. Those who have taken to the streets in Libya have done so in the belief that they are no one's proxy. The aim of their struggle is to end years of misrule, not to install a new set of masters from nations that once looked the other way as Libyans were robbed of their basic rights. While there is a core of truth in this feeling, certain exigencies make it all too daring to hope that Libyans would be able to overthrow Mr Gaddafi entirely on their own. The fiasco over a no-fly zone, for instance, shows how crucial it is for Western nations to exert their influence on the Libyan struggle. But then, foreign intervention in Libya will have to factor in domestic sentiments. The West must work with the people, not in its own wilful way.






If some states in India have done better than others in economic terms, it is not entirely due to Centre-state financial relations. There are well-known historical reasons for this. But the most important reason, at least for the big states, is the quality of governance. If Bihar's economy has lagged behind that of most other states, it is primarily owing to poor governance over a long period of time. It is only under Nitish Kumar that Bihar is showing some signs of a turnaround. No one knows it better than the chief minister that the state has a long way to go. It is thus perfectly understandable why he wants the Centre to accord the "special status" to Bihar. He argues that the state needs it in view of its "high poverty, poor infrastructure, low tax base, low expenditure and negligible private investment". It was not his fault that other factors such as a high rate of corruption and an administrative collapse in the recent past also contributed to Bihar's appalling decline. Add to this the loss of revenue that Bihar suffered because of the creation of Jharkhand. Mr Kumar is right when he complains that Bihar has still not received the funds due to it from Jharkhand under the terms of the Bihar reorganization bill, 2000.

While few would dispute Mr Kumar's case for special assistance to Bihar by the Centre, the demand for granting it "special status" should require a close look at the constitutional and financial issues involved. The original idea of giving a state the "special status" dates back to 1969, when the Fifth Finance Commission gave it to three states on the basis of the Gadgil formula of Centre-state financial relations. Although the number of such states has since risen to 11, the criteria for identifying them have remained largely the same for the 13th Finance Commission. These are "hilly terrain, sparsely populated habitations and high transport costs leading to the high delivery cost of public services". Currently, all the seven states in the Northeast, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir fall in this category. But constitutional provisions have been amended over the decades in order to address new challenges. Bihar can make a new beginning with the tax breaks, excise duty concessions and the much larger allocation of Central funds if it gets the "special status". But so can other states which too are asking for it. Mr Kumar's demand points to the need for a holistic reappraisal of the issue.






I had occasion in recent months to spend time in Calcutta and Chennai. The structure of both is surprisingly similar. Calcutta is spread out north-to-south along the Hooghly; Chennai is similarly spread out along the Bay of Bengal. This layout generates traffic along the long axis. To carry the increasing traffic, parallel roads spread out to the east or west, wherever space is available, like the metropolitan bypass in Calcutta. They act as walls segregating different parts of the city, each of which acquires its distinct character. One standard pattern is that big buildings on large plots are strung along the arteries. Increasingly, these are office buildings. In the interstices between the arteries are districts which are more residential.

The most striking difference is in the character of the traffic. Animal-drawn vehicles have been long gone in both cities, but cycle-driven vehicles survive in Calcutta, whereas they have been completely removed in Chennai. As a result of this single difference, traffic moves much faster and more smoothly in Chennai. Local authorities in Calcutta are not unaware of this factor; they have largely banished cycle rickshaws from the main roads. But they still allow them on side roads, from which they frequently spill out and clutter the main roads. Black-and-yellow taxis too are common on Calcutta roads. They have virtually disappeared from Chennai roads; there if people want a taxi, they ring up various taxi services. So taxis do not crowd the streets.

Another factor that makes an enormous difference between the two cities is the use of footpaths. Calcutta's footpaths are cluttered with shops and hawkers; such intrusion is almost entirely absent in Chennai. The result is twofold. First, pedestrians in Calcutta use roads as pavements, and motorized traffic sneaks in between pedestrians. In Chennai, motorized traffic is completely unobstructed by humans, and moves smoothly. The other, less obvious, result is that the pavement shops in Calcutta generate an enormous amount of refuse which they throw on the roads. So the roads are strewn with waste which pedestrians adroitly avoid. Their dance-like, non-linear movement forces drivers of wheeled vehicles to become equally adroit in avoiding the pedestrians.

Because motorized traffic moves faster in Chennai, it is possible to take in more meetings in a day. A visitor like me can safely plan up to five meetings; locals, who have better knowledge of roads and traffic density, can do better. In Calcutta, I find that it would be unwise to plan more than three meetings in a day; and even then I find myself ringing up my contacts, warning them that I am going to be late and apologizing. They equally waste their time waiting for me.

The interstices between the roads were originally residential, but commercial activities have penetrated them. The commercial activities in Calcutta are mostly in the nature of small shops. In Chennai, such shops are absent; interstitial commercial activity is entirely in the form of offices. This is one reason why Chennai has become a hub of the information technology and business process outsourcing industries. To begin with at least, IT firms start in residential buildings. Slowly, the residential buildings become entirely commercialized, and streets change their character. This trend has been slowed down to some extent by the arrival of high-rise buildings; they pack offices much more tightly than old two- or three-storey buildings. The same shift to high-rise buildings is happening with a lag in residential accommodation.

But here there is a significant difference between Calcutta and Chennai. Before the advent of cheap lifts and high-rise buildings, the conventional wisdom was that humans could climb four storeys on their own steam. So governments allowed four-storey buildings in the 1960s and 1970s, and allocated vast tracts of new land to them. So the outskirts of Calcutta are infested with thousands of such five-floor buildings. Poorly maintained, they present a depressing sight today. Chennai also has these mass- produced chawls. They are populated by the poor, or the lucky ones amongst them whom the government accommodated there; in the space around, they have set up shops, and thus converted the localities into modern villages or near-slums. But the extent of this failed bourgeoisification is more limited in Chennai, which to a great extent has kept its leafy side streets. Today, those streets are also getting crowded with offices and the cars of office-goers. But the neighbourhoods are still more pleasant than either the crumbling old residential districts or discoloured new residential buildings of Calcutta. It looks as if the people of Chennai repaint their buildings more often.

The other big difference between the two cities is that Chennai is a bustling deep-water port, whereas Calcutta has virtually died out as a port. Considerable industry has come up around Chennai, which uses the port. The outstanding one is automobiles; the Chennai region is India's biggest automobile hub, rivalled only by the hub south of Delhi. Automobile production has settled down here not only because space and labour are cheap. It is also because it is much easier to import components through Chennai port. Industrial firms today buy in and buy out to a great extent, and specialize in a few operations; Chennai port enables them to do this on an international scale. Chennai port, too, is not deep enough for modern tankers and carriers. They unload cargo in Colombo, which is then transhipped to Chennai in smaller ships. Now Chennai port is also getting crowded, and traffic is spreading to ports further south; the next candidate for a major port is Ennore.

Because of the presence of industry and logistics on such a large scale in Chennai, there is enormous demand for white-collar labour. So the middle-class suburbs survive and prosper. Small houses are being demolished and replaced by taller and more luxurious houses. This is going on in Calcutta as well, but on a smaller scale.

Chennai, like other peninsular cities, has girls sputtering about on scooters. But scooters and motor cycles no longer dominate Chennai roads; they are giving space to cars. Calcutta has proportionally more two-wheelers, which add to road hazards and make driving a more skilled occupation.

Both West Bengal and Tamil Nadu are going to have state elections soon. This is unmistakable in Calcutta. Banners flutter, processions proliferate, and three-wheelers equipped with microphones carry political messages to streets and corners. Election fever is not entirely absent in Chennai. Portraits of members of the ruling family are often prominently displayed. But aside from them, there is little disfiguring of the streets. Processions are virtually unknown. The normal economic and industrial activity of Chennai goes on, uninterrupted by electoral applications of the roads; in Calcutta, election processions and rallies are impossible to miss.

Finally, the two cities differ greatly in women's dress sense. Calcutta women mostly wear simple cotton saris; in Chennai, it is common to see them in embroidered silk saris. The use of ornaments is rare in Calcutta; they are mostly confined to an occasional nose or ear stud. In Chennai, on the other hand, women wear much more jewellery, especially bangles, bracelets, necklaces, nose and ear studs. Silver, once very popular in southern India, has virtually disappeared. Today, it is all gold and gems.






The Supreme Court has been 'reduced' to behaving like the upright headmaster dealing with errant children at school. It is very disturbing to see how the political class has managed, over the decades, to diminish probity in decision-making, and, therefore, in the public domain. If the court has to reprimand the executive for operating out of turn while making constitutional appointments, the government cannot be trusted to deliver civilized governance according to the laws of this land. We are in limbo, and do not quite know how to respond and react to a government that is being led by comparatively good and intelligent men and women. Why this lack of respect for the rule of law?

Here is a Congress-led coalition that could have changed the slippery course that Indian politics had started taking. The slide is there for all to see and experience. All political parties in India suffer from the same consumptive disease that has invaded our great civilization and is eating into the body politic, much like poisonous termites. The edifice is collapsing. And it is as though the inmates have sensed it and seen the writing on the wall and are blinding themselves to the truth, indulging in the dregs of the spoils. It is scary, much like what we read in history about the 'end of the empire'.

When the British retreated, we inherited their acts and laws that were designed to work 'against' the natives, in favour of the colonial masters. Today, we continue to be governed by them. Constitutional bodies were intended to be non-partisan and independent, but we have seen how pliable the heads of such institutions have been over the years. The honest have stood apart, much like a sore thumb. It is surprising that the United Progressive Alliance government did not rectify some of these terrible mistakes over the last six years. For example, it could have reinvented the Central Bureau of Investigation as a constitutional body that answers to Parliament, thereby giving it the teeth it deserves to have if we are to become a clean and transparent nation state.

Correct signal

It should be a statutory rule that a person who retires from a constitutional post must retire completely and not be given plum posts for the continuance of free home and hearth in repayment for 'loyalty' to a political master. No one who has served as a cabinet minister should be made the governor of a state. Chief justices must retire and sink into oblivion. No serving politician or bureaucrat should be given any national award. The list is long and obvious, and the instructions to change this unfortunate reality will not take more than an hour and one signature. It definitely does not require yet another empowered group of ministers. An immediate cleansing will ensue and a correct signal will go out that will give the ruling dispensation a break from the unending scams that have suffocated it.

Before this truth pervades the hinterland and affects the support base of the Congress and its partners in the UPA, a salvaging operation needs to kick in. Complacency needs to be kicked out, and honesty needs to be saluted by action and not by mere words. If the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam wants to break loose, it must be encouraged to do so. The partymen have exploited their presence at the Centre to feather their nests and to indulge in practices that are unacceptable according to the law.

The Congress needs to be firm and project itself as a determined party that is committed to real change and transparency. It cannot be seen as escaping from the hard realities. Patchy solutions, which have been the wont of the Congress general-secretaries for decades now, have corroded the spine of the party. To stem the rot, sacrifices will have to be made. Individuals will have to be reshuffled and some, shuffled out.






In the 1940s, Joseph Needham, a British academic and sinologist, together with a team of international scholars, began cataloguing China's achievements in science and technology in an effort to understand why they were inferior at the time to the West's. The study, which took more than three decades, found, not surprisingly, that though China might have been behindhand at that particular point in history, it had led the world in science a millennium earlier. He concluded that because Confucianism and Taoism allowed only slow and incremental innovation rather than overnight breakthroughs, scientific revolution was less likely. He did, however, admit that this was a partial explanation that could not explain why China led the world at the time it did. Although Needham failed to resolve this great mystery, he made it impossible for future historians to ignore questions about why some societies pull ahead while others fall behind over the ages. His agenda has come to be known as the "Needham question".

On to the Middle East, circa 2011. First Tunisia, then Egypt -— the scent of jasmine revolution, as Tunisians are calling their recent national upheaval, has spread across the Maghreb, along the Mediterranean's southern coast through Saudi Arabia to the Gulf and Yemen. The buzzword is freedom from autocratic rule and better living standards. Why, they ask should they fall so far behind Europe even if, for much of history, their economies and indeed their histories were intertwined? In other words, how does the Middle East fare when subjected to the "Needham question"? Angus Maddison, the noted British economic historian has calculated that in the year 1000, Middle East's share of the world's domestic product was larger than Europe's, at 10 per cent to 9 per cent respectively. By 1700, it had fallen to just 2 per cent while Europe's had risen to 22 per cent. Standard explanations for this decline are all unsatisfactory. The most often used is that the spirit of Islam is hostile to commerce.

But, if anything, Islamic scripture is more pro-business than Christian texts. Muhammad was a merchant and the Quran is full of praise for commerce. A second explanation is that Islam bans usury. But so do the Torah and the Bible. A third, popular in the Islamic world, is that Muslims were victims of Western imperialism. But why did this great civilization succumb to the West? What Islamists offer as an improvement is an Islamic economic system, the key components of which are an Islamic banking system that avoids interest, an Islamic redistribution system based on Quranic principles of sharing and equity and a set of norms to ensure fairness and honesty in the marketplace. To anyone familiar with the complexities of modern economic relations, this list seems hopelessly truncated. Government-championed 'economic Islamization' efforts in Sudan, Pakistan and Iran have all ended in failure. A modern economy is far more complex than the 17th-century Arabian desert economy that contemporary Islamists treat as their model.

Timur Kuran, a Turkish-American economist based at Duke University in the United States of America, offers a new perspective on this problem in his new book, The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East. According to him, the Middle East fell behind the West because it failed to produce commercial institutions, most notably joint-stock companies, that were capable of mobilizing large quantities of productive resources that endured over time. Europeans, inheriting the concept of corporation from Roman law and using it as a base, experimented with a host of more complicated partnerships. By 1470, the house of the Medicis had a permanent staff of 57 spread across eight European cities. Limited liability, highly conducive to building up enormous capital bases, became widely available in the mid-19th century and business in all forms simply took off. In the Middle East on the contrary, a combination of generous inheritance laws and practice of polygamy resulted in wealth being dispersed among numerous claimants. None of this mattered when business was simple. But the West's advantage grew as it became more complicated. Whereas business institutions in the Islamic world remained atomized, the West developed more resilient corporations as well as a host of technologies not only related to manufacturing but such essential aids as double-entry bookkeeping and stock markets.

From the late 19th century onwards some Middle Eastern politicians borrowed Western institutions to boost economic growth. In the 1920s, Ataturk introduced a thoroughly secular legal system in Turkey and a semblance of democracy took root. Later, corporations and other capitalist institutions were imported by progressive governments that believed the region faced a choice between Mecca and modernization. Also, local business, particularly capital-intensive ones such as transport and manufacturing, were permitted to be run by Jews and Christians who were allowed to opt out of Islamic law. Today, the Islamic world boasts dynamic and profitable companies as well as active stock markets, with the market capitalization of the region's three biggest countries, Turkey, Egypt and Iran, doubling between 2003 and 2008. Yet the "long divergence" continues to shape the region's business climate and the Middle East has a lot of catching up to do. Income per head is still only 28 per cent of the European and American average. More than half the region's firms say limited access to electricity, telecoms and transport is a problem for business. The figure in Europe is less than a quarter. There are more subtle echoes. Business across the region remains intertwined with the State while the wider commercial society remains weak and fragmented.

The "long divergence" also helps explain some of the Islamist rage against capitalism. Traditional societies of all kinds have been uncomfortable with corporations which, as Edward Thurlow, an 18th-century British jurist, famously stated, have "neither bodies to be punished, nor souls to be condemned". But that unhappiness has been particularly marked in the Middle East. The region will vastly improve when economic institutions that were responsible for putting Europe ahead really take root. There are reasons to be sceptical. Centuries of poorly organized private sectors have left civil societies weak and democratic institutions fragile throughout the region. In the absence of a stable democratic system based on political checks and balances, incentives to make longterm investments in new businesses and freedom to innovate are limited. There is no guarantee that the region will develop healthy democracies soon and thus may face long periods of political turbulence. For economic development to take deep root in the region, somewhat matching Europe's, Thurlow's soulless institutions will have to flourish.






Everything virtually remains in the realm of information technology today. The media glare, at times, is too sharp for the comfort of those who thrive in the dark alleys of the nation state. Yet countries like India continue to face hostilities from within and without.

In this background, the verdict of a single-judge bench of the High Court of Karnataka delivered on February 11, 2011, rejecting the bail plea of a "political leader" and "accused" in the 2008 Bangalore serial blasts case, needs to be considered. When the defence counsel pleaded that there is "no prima facie case" and "no direct evidence" of the involvement of the accused in criminal conspiracy, the judge pointed out: "It is seldom ever that direct evidence is there in such cases. Conspiracy, by very nature, is hatched in complete secrecy, otherwise the whole purpose will be frustrated." The judgment concluded, "inference could be drawn from whatever evidence had been collected which is/was sufficient proof of the conspiracy.... Actions speak louder than thoughts. ". Understandably, the accused could not get bail.

Something similar can be said about those who wage war against India, spreading mindless violence. There exist several outfits and organizations in South Asia that are eager to break India up. Loads of authentic information regarding these outfits exist in the open sources.

Thus, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) is one organization whose members, directly or indirectly, aim at overthrowing repressive state governments and replacing them with a communist administration. To this end, the members have significantly expanded their activities and areas of operations since 2004. According to Jane's World Insurgency and Terrorism — "On September 09, 2008, an intelligence report says that the Communist Party of India (Maoist) rebels were aiming to 'liberate' 35 per cent of India's territory" and at least "39 left-wing extremist groups were operating in the country with a presence in all but six states — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Sikkim, Goa and Himachal Pradesh." It further says, "Maoist rebels had approached other groups such as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for procurement of arms and explosives."

Then there is the Students Islamic Movement of India, founded 1977 and often "linked" with the Inter-Services Intelligence and Pakistan-based extremist groups. Reportedly, the Simi was originally created as an organization to "disseminate Islamic values" among Indian Muslims. However, the group turned more "militant and fundamentalist" in the late 1990s, and now "advocates the Islamisation of India."

The most turbulent and consistently violent of all such outfits, however, is the United Jihad Council, which was formed in November 1990. It had its beginnings in the hostile actions of some of the most radical groups operating in Kashmir in the late 1980s. Blatantly instigated by their Pakistani mentors, the number of non-Kashmiri militants swelled from 1994 onwards. It transpires that the UJC today is a terror consortium of a number of established organizations, all of which have been, nationally as well as internationally, known to "pose a significant threat to Indian targets in Kashmir".

Virtually everything is in realm of public knowledge — from threat perception/assessment; targets, tactics and methodology; personnel and recruitment; area of operation; operational preparedness; training; weaponry; funding from external sources; sources of weapons; group structure and logistics; political/religious representation; to background information on leaders. Yet, things invariably do not go the way of the state per se owing to different perceptions and divergent interpretations of various individuals and institutions.

India is big and there exists within this mammoth landmass elements inimical to the concept of a unified India. And they are in no mood to tolerate the existence of the Indian nation as it stands today. And so a potential tragedy looms large at present.







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A recent report about students of a village school near Davangere protesting against the proposed marriage of one of their school mates, a 12-year-old child of Class VI, is a source of hope and confidence for those who campaign against this wrong practice.

The children prevailed on the parents not to go ahead with the marriage of their daughter and they should be congratulated for their efforts to stop the marriage. If reports are true, the teachers of the school had refused to support the students, arguing that the marriage was a personal matter, and the neighbours intimidated the children. This is shameful and shows the hold of superstitions and bad traditions on the minds of grown-up and even educated people.

In spite of widespread campaigns against child marriages for many years, they are rampant in Karnataka, especially the northern parts of the state. Two out of five girls are estimated to be married off before they attain the age of 18. In districts like Raichur and Koppal more than half the number of marriages involve under-aged children.

The situation is the same or is worse at the national level, especially in states like Rajasthan. Girls are married off much earlier than boys. According to a UNICEF report, nearly 50 per cent of the girls are married off between the ages of 15 and 18 and one-third of the world's child brides are in India. All of them are denied the right to childhood, education and health. Most of the children drop out of schools, if at all they are school-going, after marriage and often take up the responsibility of early motherhood for which they may not be physically or emotionally prepared. There are attendant health risks too.

Laws against child marriage have failed to check the practice. Officials, politicians and the society not only shut their eyes but are sometimes seen encouraging and participating in child marriages. Many child marriages take place as part of mass marriages.

Doctors issue false age certificates to children to show that they are of marriageable age. A committee on prevention of child marriage under former supreme court Judge Shivraj Patil recently held consultations on the practice and is planning to submit an action plan to the government. While the law needs to be enforced effectively, it is more important to increase the awareness of the people. The school children's protest is therefore good augury.







A US state department report has confirmed Pakistan's role in distributing counterfeit Indian currency on a large scale in India. India has many times drawn attention to the problem but Pakistan has consistently denied its involvement in the activities.

The denials are not convincing because there is strong evidence of fake currency distribution rackets based in Pakistan. A few months ago a number of people were arrested from various parts of the country and were found to carry fake notes worth about Rs 1 crore. Their interrogation had pointed to the involvement of Pakistan in their activities. There have been other seizures also. Last year's seizures amounted to over Rs 10 crore. The seized notes might be only a small part of the actual currency which is pushed into circulation.

The US report has pointed out that the distribution of large amounts of fake currency poses a threat to India's economy. Much of the fake currency comes from neighbouring countries through porous borders. Conditions in India are also conducive to such operations. It has a big unorganised economic sector where fake currency can be easily circulated. The high level of remittances from abroad, a lax tax administration and pervasive corruption are factors that facilitate the infusion and spread of fake currency and money-laundering. The damage is not only to the economy but also to national security.

The quality of paper, production and security features of these notes are so good that they cannot be produced by non-state actors. Only high-tech and costly printing machines available with governments can print such notes. India has approached international agencies like the Financial Action Task Force which works to curb money-laundering and terror financing, and the World Bank and the IMF for suitable action. The nexus between drug-trafficking, terrorism and financial malpractices like money-laundering is well known. If India can prove its case against Pakistan it can lead to the blacklisting of that country by the IMF and the World bank.

It was estimated by the Naik committee 10 year ago that Rs 1,69,000 crore worth of fake currency was circulating in the country. Now it much be much more. Apart from taking effective steps to prevent circulation of fake currency, the security features of high-denomination notes should also be changed to make counterfeiting difficult.







The font of corruption is electoral politics and the assiduous cultivation of the corrupt to amass funds from any

and every source.

Recent events, with action often being propelled only by media exposure and court directives, reveal the parlous state of governance in India. This is truly alarming and scandalous as much of what passes for lofty decision-making constitutes just bumbling along. The supreme court has removed Thomas as CVC consequent to bureaucratic mishandling of his papers as put up before the high-power selection committee.

The court has laid down future guidelines, stressing the overriding importance of institutional over individual integrity, though the latter is not unimportant. It has also questioned limiting high level posts to government servants. This pernicious practice stems from a misplaced 'spoils system' premised on wisdom and competence residing exclusively within the government.

The prime minister has properly taken responsibility for the Thomas muddle though no mala fides attaches to him. But he must now act and clean the Augean stables.

This can only be done by building a national consensus as good governance cannot be a matter for partisan predilections. One question that must be asked in all these cases — and of the judiciary and investigating agencies too — is why the Thomas case and so many other sensitive matters drag on for ever.

Liberhan and Nanavaty are outstanding examples of how not to do it. The Qattrocchi 'closure' masks the deliberate sabotage of the Bofors inquiry early on, with the then foreign minister used to further a cover up. Hasan Ali, a named multi-crore tax defaulter is regularly at the gym and seen at the races but was allowed to roam around free until the court had to bellow about 'what the hell' was going on.

The BJP may smile, but its conduct in Karnataka is equally reprehensible.

The breakdown of the criminal justice system is palpable, with even justices and former chief justices being arraigned, one such being the current chairman of the National Human Rights Commission. Another judge has remarked that 'no government wants a strong judiciary.' The supreme court has shared its agony over low provisioning for justice in the national budget. What comes in the way of greatly expanding the judiciary at all levels, with nyaya panchayats and honourary magistrates at the base? This, of course, will be useless without police reform and independence for bodies like the CVC and CBI, the later having its own autonomous prosecution agency.

Much of this can surely be done within weeks by ordinance, on the basis of a broad national consensus that starkly exposes stand-out elements that patronise the corrupt and corruption. Legislative ratification can follow. Undemocratic, some will exclaim! But is the persistent and massive loot of the nation's conscience and wealth a democratic virtue?  And do we have the luxury of time with a billion mutinies on hand?


And why cannot the full gamut of police reforms, endlessly debated and refined for 30 years, be enforced at least in Delhi, Pondicherry and Chandigarh without further delay? It is a crying shame that even after the home minister's plaintive cry in parliament that mala fide transfers have reduced the police to a 'football,' absolutely nothing has happened. The charade must end.

The font of corruption is undoubtedly electoral politics and the assiduous cultivation of the corrupt and corruption to amass funds from any and every source. Hence the criminalisation of politics and the politicisation of crime. With five states elections slated for April-May and the corrupt readying to gather their harvest, let us see how many with criminal records are given nominations.

The Election Commission is expanding and strengthening its election expenditure monitoring system — including paid news in which sections of the media are involved — and favours inserting a 'none of the above' box in the ballot paper and introducing a run-off system so that the winning candidate is elected by a true majority of those voting. All this will call for long-pending electoral reforms that must include registration of political parties with a roster of paid members, annual elections of office bearers and public audit of accounts. A simplified primary system on the American pattern may also be considered at the next stage.

The sudden Tamil Nadu crisis is likely to blow over as the DMK has few options. The withdrawal of its Union ministers could facilitate a cabinet reshuffle but should not incapacitate the government from vigorously pursuing governance and economic reform for that is what the country wants and will strongly support.

In Pakistan, liberal voices have been further intimidated by the brutal killing of the minorities minister, Shahbaz Bhatti in Islamabad. In Track-II dialogues, such spokespersons say they are fighting back but fall a prey to old mindsets when they talk of threats from across their 'eastern borders.' Yet they deny they need a permanent enemy in India to cohere. They cite a huge 'trust deficit' and want India to put behind 26/11 but cannot plainly assert that Pakistan will live up to its 2002 promise of ending cross-border jihad. They welcome restoration of dialogue, with the Pakistan army fully on board, and their bottom line is that India cannot be an island of peace in a continent in turmoil.







Not so long ago, my colleague Nasrin Sotoudeh was the lawyer that so many of us human rights defenders in Iran called when our own government harassed us or put one of us, or a family member, in jail.

Sadly, it is now Nasrin who is in jail. Her crime? The government's accusations against her include acting contrary to 'national security', 'propaganda against the state' and 'membership' in the Defender of Human Rights Centre, an organisation I founded in 2001. The government has also accused her of failing to wear a hijab. For just a few of these trumped up charges she was recently sentenced to 11 years in jail and is now banned from practising law for 20 years.

Unfortunately, Nasrin is not alone. This courageous 45-year-old mother of two young children is one of many in Iran who are targeted — and punished —  for speaking up for the rights of others.

As we know from the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani — an Iranian woman sentenced to be stoned to death for allegedly committing adultery — women are all too frequently on the receiving end of the Iranian regime's wrath. But what makes Nasrin's case especially poignant is that it raises a fundamental question about Iran's future.

Equality and justice

If the Iranian regime is failing to protect the human rights of its own citizens, who can take on this fight? And if the people who come to the defence of those whose human rights are being flagrantly violated are forbidden from doing their jobs, who will ultimately ensure that such values as equality and justice are upheld in Iran?

Iranian authorities arrested Nasrin at Tehran's notorious Evin Prison last September during one of her routine visits to a client who is a political prisoner. Since then, Nasrin has spent most of her time in solitary confinement.

To protest her illegal arrest, Nasrin has gone on several hunger strikes, in one instance, refusing to drink water. Iranian officials have denied her access to a lawyer, and for the first month of her detainment she was not allowed to talk to her family even on the phone. At one point, authorities detained Nasrin's husband for speaking publicly about his wife's case.

Why is the Iranian government so afraid of Nasrin?

The government is clearly frustrated that an Iranian woman's work is shining a light on the deplorable human rights situation in Iran. The other reason is that Nasrin is fearless in taking on tough cases that other lawyers would carefully avoid. She took on the case of journalist Isa Saharkhiz, and also that of Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, the leader of the banned Democratic Front of Iran.

She also took on the high-profile case of Zahra Bahrami, a Dutch-Iranian who was arrested for participating in post-election demonstrations in 2009. Zahra was denied her right to an appeal. Despite the intervention of Dutch authorities and a call by the European Union not to, Zahra was executed without on January 29.

Nasrin was my lawyer in a complaint I filed against 'Kayhan', a conservative newspaper under the control of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and she also defended me when Iranian authorities seized my assets in 2009.  Equally brave, Nasrin has also taken on cases involving juvenile executions. Iran is one of the few countries in the world that still puts children to death.

A few days before her arrest, Iranian officials searched Nasrin's house. Later, authorities summoned Nasrin to the tax office and froze her assets. While she was at the tax office, Nasrin realised that the government was carrying out similar 'investigations' of at least 30 other lawyers in Iran, and she bravely provided that information to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has urged Iranian authorities to review Nasrin's case and expedite her release, and various international human rights groups around the world have called for Nasrin's release. Her case, among others, is making Iran's failure to uphold basic human rights increasingly obvious.

This is why some countries are currently pushing for a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution that would create a mandate on Iran, with an independent Special Rapporteur to carry out an investigation into the many human rights abuses there.

Such a push is encouraging, but it will still take a few more countries to reach a majority within the UNHRC.

If Iran jails those who are defending human rights, we need to step up efforts to ensure that justice and equality are upheld there. On this International Women's Day, such a concrete international action to let the people of Iran know that the world cares about their human rights would be, in my mind, the best way to honour my colleague Nasrin.

We must not let her voice be silenced.







He studied in London and Harvard and taught there too but he was so simple and humble that one easily mistook him for a high school teacher.

He was with the Benares University for three decades as professor of law and was professor emeritus at other prestigious law institutions but not once did he put on any air of snootiness. His hospitality was warm and genuine and treated his friends as if they were as scholarly as he was. He laughed and it was so innocent and friendly that we thought we were with one of our family elders and not a legal luminary.

That was Prof B N Sampath who passed away a day before Shivaratri. That night when my cellphone flashed his name on the screen I was delighted but the message

I got stunned me — the gentleman professor had bid us all goodbye. The list of people whom I revere, already short, shrank further that night. It was one call that I did not wish to receive.

Journalism puts one in touch with scholars who blow their own trumpet and put on a larger than life appearance. But this professor was an exception. He never hankered after fame and waited for awards. A quiet doer he was and those who knew his worth as a legal authority — as an academician of course — sought his guidance.

And Prof Sampath was ever ready to share his erudite knowledge about the personal laws of various religions.

He voluntarily retired from BHU and devoted his time to spread legal literacy.

The Indian Institute of Legal Literacy of which he was the honourary director has published several of his books written in simple style for the benefit of laymen. He wrote a column on law for layman in 'Sudha' weekly, which incidentally brought us together, as if he was writing a court judgment. He worshiped work.

I had bought a book to give to this erudite man and it now mocks at me and says never put off till tomorrow what you should do today. Up in heaven God's must be seeking his help to redraft the personal laws and make them more practical for mere mortals like me down here. So, goodbye professor, hope to catch up with you some day; will then apologise for not giving you the book here on earth. I cannot bring it with me after all!







At the end of last week, it seemed the changes taking place in the Middle East and the growing international pressure to set the diplomatic process in motion had not gone unnoticed by the prime minister. At a meeting of Likud's Knesset faction, Benjamin Netanyahu rejected criticism because of the slackening pace of construction in the settlements.

Sources say he declared in closed meetings that a binational state would be "a disaster for Israel" and that, to prevent this, he was putting together a diplomatic plan that would break through the stalemate in the negotiations. He went so far as to promise the German chancellor that he would shortly present his plan in a "Bar-Ilan speech 2" on the peace process.

It now appears that the hope that Netanyahu understands that the foot-dragging on the Palestinian track is not serving Israeli interests has been exaggerated. During a news conference with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, Netanyahu once gain put the responsibility for the diplomatic deadlock on the Palestinians. He claimed that Israel had taken numerous steps to further peace and was ready to compromise, while the Palestinians were pinning their hopes on an agreement that the international community would force on the two sides.

It's not clear what Netanyahu means by "numerous steps to further peace." Is he referring to his refusal to freeze construction in the settlements during the negotiations on their fate? Or to his opposition to renewing the talks from where they left off during the previous government's tenure, or to the basis of the 1967 borders? Or maybe to his repeated demand that Palestine should be the only Arab country that must recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people?

According to stubborn rumors (that have not been denied ), the "compromises" that Netanyahu mentioned two days ago refer to a plan that basically calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state on around 50 percent of the West Bank. The agreement on permanent borders, the arrangements in East Jerusalem, and the refugee problem would be put off until an unknown date. The Palestinian leaders have once again rejected this plan, basing their argument on the road map and the Annapolis Declaration, which stated that the negotiations would lead to the end of the occupation that began in 1967. These plans also presented a timetable for realizing a final-status solution.

Flowery speeches and pushing responsibility onto others are no alternative to serious and courageous diplomatic action. If Netanyahu doesn't have the power to prevent the "disaster," as he phrased it, he must hand his mandate back to the people.






 International Women's Day is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, but before we clear our schedules to join in the festivities - like a day of pampering at the spa, or getting flowers from the bank that charges us excessive interest for pointless services - it's worth reminding ourselves what the celebration is actually about and asking whether it is justified.

March 8 has been designated to commemorate the time when women joined the economy in general and the workforce in particular. In this respect, as in many respects that concern women's lives, far-reaching changes have indeed been made. Feminism is arguably the most successful revolution in contemporary times. But a close examination of the situation for women in Israel in recent years reveals a number of worrisome steps backward.

Let us set aside for the moment the really serious problems - trafficking in women, child marriages (Balad MK Hanin Zuabi is to submit a bill calling to raise the legal age at which girls can get married, but agreements between families in fact bypass even the existing law ), child prostitution, violence against women and so forth - and focus on the average woman here. A woman from the middle class, who has been told by the government that her life has improved immeasurably in recent years thanks to the impressive growth of the economy.

What does she have to complain about? She has a job, an apartment, a car, and let's assume also a husband and two or three children, as is accepted practice in Israel. She attended university, where she specialized in a modern profession and now, at the age of 37, let's say, she enjoys good health and the kind of freedom her great grandmother could have only dreamed of. But perhaps not.

Her great grandmother was indeed married off and had five children at a young age, without anyone consulting her; she barely ever left the kitchen, and no one heard her opinion about anything. The great granddaughter, by contrast, looks more like a small personal enterprise than a human being. When today's woman reached the age of 29, and was still not married, her surrounding environment - which until then had politely clapped its hands over her academic and professional achievements - stopped being enthusiastic and started to get worried.

When she got married, everyone heaved a sigh of relief, but when she was not yet pregnant at the age of 33, all the well-wishers began asking what she was waiting for, whether the time had not yet come and whether she perhaps needed the address of an excellent specialist in fertilization. From the moment she became pregnant, she became the property of everyone in sight. All her work colleagues asked personal and embarrassing questions and the family interfered in every decision. This merely grew worse once the baby was born, and she joined the club of those women who "combine a career and a family."

This nasty phrase is the front for an entire system of social codes, all of which demand the young woman be an exemplary mother who will nurse her baby, take him to all the developmental groups, and swimming and yoga classes; that she be an excellent cook and a sweet wife; but also that she keep her trim figure by taking exercise classes, and give off an aura of sexiness (but not too much, of course ) and charm - and all of this without losing the momentum of her success at work.

Her partner, too, who is supposed to be attentive and sensitive, a model father and a wonderful husband (there's no way he would forget a birthday ), while also developing a brilliant career and an impressive income, is collapsing under the pressure. To this we must add the crazy prices of apartments, massive mortgages, the lack of security about employment, and the huge costs of day care centers, emergency visits to the doctor, special medication, dental treatments and additional academic study - all those services that a welfare state is supposed to provide its citizens - and you have a desperate and fearful couple. Only the woman even more so.

Women in Israel earn about one third less than men. Compared to their counterparts in the West, they are doubly inferior. The majority of women here serve in the army, which means they must delay their academic and professional plans; they are under pressure to start a family at a young age and to give birth to more children than what is accepted practice in the West; and all of this in a traditional and conservative environment that denounces any exceptions (and this is several times more serious when talking about Arab women ), despite the dramatic rise in the number of divorces. Of course, they find themselves facing additional emotional and economic struggles.

On the one hand, women are subject to draconian laws with regard to marital ties and must face rabbinical courts that are galloping back to the Middle Ages; and on the other hand, they must contend with the oppressive demand for eternal youth (to be obtained through botox injections ) and success in a wild work market filled with hatred toward families in general, and specifically toward mothers (as well as fathers ) who are merely trying to remain sane.

In short, the Israel of 2011 is not a state for women. Instead of a holiday, could we perhaps just have a little rest?






For a while now - even more so since Ehud Barak left the Labor Party - there's been a feeling of a momentum within the left wing. True, it's only early signs. Political pundits will probably say it's a storm in a teacup. Nonetheless things are happening.

The feeling is strengthened by the growing activity of numerous movements and new parties - the National Left, The Green Movement, Peace Now, Be Free Israel, Sheikh Jarrah and several social-democratic movements that various people are trying to set up behind the scenes. There are lots of new parties with minor distinctions, all consisting of involved people eager to do more for the country and society, all convinced that the existing frameworks are over and that what's needed in something new. A new left.

But what is over is the trend of new parties and movements. Such are Israeli dynamics, that successful trends are done to death then thrown into oblivion. Like Feng Shui, Be Free Israel, anthroposophic education, celebrities for "causes," Spinning and Zumba in gyms.

The Center Party was hailed as a kind of historic "Dash" or "Rafi" party when it was founded, but since then many others have exhausted the "new party" tactic. These included Shinui, the Pensioners, Green Leaf, The Greens and many others, no matter if they managed to get into the Knesset and succeeded for a while or failed.

The gimmick has been eroded, the public is tired - a new party, great, next. The media, which play an important role in any trend, certainly in political life, are already snorting at any new organization, toying with it for an hour or two until they get bored and throw it into the bin. Moreover, the left has recently experienced a scathing failure in a "New Movement." Why should the public have confidence in an attempt to repeat that failure?

One of the arguments to set up the new parties was that as long as Barak was in Labor it had no chance. Well, now that Barak is not in the Labor Party, the way to it is open. True, it's more exciting to set up something new. Shape the values and ideas yourself! Make something from scratch! It's harder to join an existing system, continue, strengthen and look for creativity within it. It's also true that it is easier to lead, to call the shots, than to be part of an existing organization, to have to give up the leading role. Harder, but much-needed.

From the marketing perspective too, the two existing center-left brands, even in their current nadir, are stronger brands than all the potential new ones. A sweeping enlistment of good people with "media appeal" into their ranks could rehabilitate both Labor and Meretz beyond expectation - Israeli politics have already restored Likud from 12 Knesset seats to 27 and Ariel Sharon from persona non grata to prime minister.

Such a move to join these parties would give them and those who join them power, volume, credibility, energy and true renewal. It would also provide a sort of trendiness, a feeling of being part of the right thing, as well as the new one. All the people, movements and parties that want to form, run and act must choose Labor or Meretz, join them - as individuals or as a group - and contend for a place within them.

Quite a few elements and bodies are interested in a small, divided left. But beyond that, quite a few are interested in a weak, dismantled political system. Joining Labor or Meretz is also the right thing for the vigor and health of the Israeli political system.

Anyone for whom democracy is important knows that a jumble of small parties has been less helpful to Israel. Israel needs large, strong parties, which have both continuity and development. Israel needs parties with people who are hungry for action, entrepreneurs, but the kind who see themselves as part of the whole, not merely as soloists. Israel needs parties that are capable and willing to maintain an ideological debate, make ideological decisions and act upon them.







If the South Sudanese and East Timorese gained independence before the Palestinians, something went seriously wrong. How can one compare these places to the religious and international standing of Palestine? This must be the thinking of any Palestinians who have calculated their private profit and loss columns since the Oslo Accords.

The uprisings against autocratic kings, sultans and presidents in North Africa and the Arab world, too, are causing the Palestinians some discomfort: How is it that in all these places the people are racking up such gains against oppressive regimes, and here we are stuck with the Israeli occupation, that dictates to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas what to do and what not to do.

What conclusions can the Palestinians draw from the unrest in the Arab world? Salvation will not come from the United States, which does not support Abbas despite the multiple concessions he has made. The documents released by Al Jazeera recently disclosed just how far he was willing to go in the negotiations with Israel, but he received no assistance from Washington.

As if that were not enough, the United States decisively vetoed the UN Security Council resolution condemning the settlements. And all this despite the fact that in the past - after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu caused headaches in Washington and expanded settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank (thus putting a stop to the peace process ) - the United States itself slammed the settlement enterprise.

The events of recent weeks demonstrate that nonviolent civil uprising, not diplomatic concessions, bring American support. Abbas in the past firmly rejected proposals from various circles to organize a nonviolent mass uprising.

Top Palestinian Authority and Fatah officials took steps to contain the weekly protests in Bil'in and other West Bank villages. They were wary not only of the rise of political rivals, but also of a slide into violence that could only hurt the Palestinians, as indeed occurred in the second intifada. The balance of power in the event of violent confrontation is in the hands of Israel, which has an interest in encouraging such a slide in order to overpower the Palestinians.

The situation is different now. The positive model of the nonviolent rebels throughout the Arab world and their self-restraint could teach the Palestinians that this is the way to historic gains. If Israel uses violence to suppress the Palestinian demonstrations it will be seen as another Muammar Gadhafi or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

There is a great unease on the Palestinian street. Disappointment over the peace process and over Israel and the United States is rampant. Palestinian society has the kind of technological infrastructure that in other places was the engine behind mass demonstrations - Internet, cell phones and satellite dishes. The "generational accelerant" that was a factor in Egypt is already in place: Palestinian society is a society of young people whose futures are blocked by the occupation. The second intifada and Israel's iron fist shaped the teen years of today's 20-somethings, and constituted their first contact with politics.

Soldiers, settlements, checkpoints and restrictions have long been part of their daily life. All that is needed is a single spark. The writing is already on the wall.






It was a long time ago. I was a junior diplomat in our embassy in Holland, in charge of media and public affairs. The first Lebanon war and the events of Sabra and Chatila were unfolding. My daughter asked me if I was going to resign from the Foreign Ministry. The thought had crossed my mind. But then a senior journalist in Holland - and a critic of Israel - with his clear perspective, gave me the faith to believe that this would pass and other days would come for my country. I remained. And indeed, that is what happened.

Gideon Levy demanded on these pages that Israeli diplomats take a public political stand ("Israel's choir of ambassadors," March 6 ). Since when are Foreign Ministry officials identified with any one particular government? Governments come and governments go, foreign policy goals have their ups and downs, and the international environment in which diplomats work continuously changes. The only personal political step an Israeli diplomat takes is on election day, at the ballot box.

The Israeli diplomat is exposed to risks. In my own experience, a number of young Kurds broke into the consulate I headed in Berlin and were shot and killed. In Oslo, there was a plot to kidnap and behead me. Along with those risks, diplomats must personally consider questions about the image of the society and country they represent. But those are the same questions that trouble every good and thinking citizen.

The soul of the diplomat is pained by the xenophobic mood and the racism that exists for its own sake in our country, with its many polarities and ethnic communities. They find the lack of constructive dialogue with the Palestinians difficult. But is that a reason to call for the resignation of a skilled and caring diplomat, a career Foreign Ministry person? Are a few Libyan diplomats to be the model? What will the Foreign Ministry in future Israeli governments look like, if diplomacy is political and professionals resign?

The public does not know what is said during Foreign Ministry meetings - and things are indeed said. For example, I once disagreed with a directive from the deputy director general, and my opinion was accepted. I had to then explain to an ambassador that it is my job to act according to professional considerations, and not blind obedience. The shocked ambassador was an Irgun veteran and a political appointment. In essence that is the way discussions go in the Foreign Ministry.

Diplomats today do not handle only public affairs, as Levy believes. They work in various capacities: developing economic accords, advancing commercial goals, reaching cooperative agreements in aviation, health, agriculture, justice, environmental protection and culture, providing assistance to developing states in distress - and that is just a partial list.

Alongside the lack of vision in Israel's current foreign policy, diplomats must also deal with Israel's delegitimization internationally. But in our system, governments in Israel change while diplomats remain at their posts. I understand the relief one feels when one can finally express one's thoughts freely and become involved in political activity. That is certainly the way the talented and valued diplomat Ilan Baruch feels. But that is the privilege of diplomats nearing retirement or who have retired from the Foreign Ministry.

Israeli society owes a great deal to the people in the Foreign Ministry serving abroad, who are exposed and constitute the spinal cord of Israeli diplomacy. Indeed, not everyone is perfect, but that is a long way from Levy's characterization of the Israeli diplomat as having a "swollen sense of self-importance" as well as "power, prestige and opulent residences."

I was fortunate in that I retired when the government changed and Avigdor Lieberman became foreign minister. Indeed, one cannot explain what is "un-hasbara-able," as one senior foreign ministry official said decades ago.

The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to Finland and Norway.


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



Not much spreads fear and bigotry faster than a public official intent on playing the politics of division. On Thursday, Representative Peter King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is scheduled to open a series of hearings that seem designed to stoke fear against American Muslims. His refusal to tone down the provocation despite widespread opposition suggests that he is far more interested in exploiting ethnic misunderstanding than in trying to heal it.

Mr. King, a Republican whose district is centered in Nassau County on Long Island, says the hearings will examine the supposed radicalization of American Muslims. Al Qaeda is aggressively recruiting Muslims in this country, he says. He wants to investigate the terror group's methods and what he claims is the eagerness of many young American Muslims to embrace it.

Notice that the hearing is solely about Muslims. It might be perfectly legitimate for the Homeland Security Committee to investigate violent radicalism in America among a wide variety of groups, but that doesn't seem to be Mr. King's real interest.

Instead, he is focusing on one group that appears to have obsessed him since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, resulting in slanders and misstatements that might have earned him a rebuke from his colleagues had they been about any other group. More than 80 percent of the mosques in America are run by extremists, he has said, never citing real evidence. Too many American Muslims are sympathetic to radical Islam, he said.

Most pernicious, he has claimed that American Muslims have generally refused to cooperate with law enforcement agencies on terrorism cases. He has cited no evidence for this, either, but a study issued last month by Duke University and the University of North Carolina found just the opposite. The American Muslim community has been the single largest source of tips that have brought terror suspects to the attention of authorities, the study found. (It also found that the number of American Muslims found or suspected to be part of terror operations dropped substantially in 2010.)

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights has written to Mr. King pleading with him to postpone or reframe the hearings. It said his single-minded pursuit "will inevitably stoke anti-Muslim sentiment and increase suspicion and fear." Terrorists should be identified by behavior, not religion or ethnicity, the group said. All of that has been dismissed as political correctness by Mr. King. Fortunately, he has not seemed to gather much enthusiasm from his fellow Republican leaders.

Denis McDonough, President Obama's deputy national security adviser, aimed a speech directly at Mr. King on Sunday when he said at a Virginia mosque that this nation does not practice guilt by association. An unrepentant Mr. King later told The Times that there is no need to investigate any other group.

Mr. King plans to call as witnesses two family members of Muslims linked to terror groups, as well as Zuhdi Jasser, the leader of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, a Republican who has echoed Mr. King's suspicions. Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota who is one of two Muslims in Congress, is also scheduled to testify, though he opposes the hearings.

Democrats on the committee plan to call Leroy Baca, the sheriff of Los Angeles County, who has often said that American Muslims have been crucial in helping terrorism investigations. But that involves empirical facts and expert observation. Nothing could be further from the real purpose of Mr. King's show trial.





Seven months have passed since Proposition 8, California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages, was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in San Francisco following a much-publicized trial that turned up no evidence to justify the measure's denial of equal protection and due process.

Yet the 2008 initiative continues to inflict serious harm on same-sex couples and their families thanks to a court order that prevents gay men and lesbians from marrying in California while the case is being appealed. That stay should be lifted now.

The appeal was argued in December before a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. It could be many more months before the panel rules. In February, it asked the California Supreme Court to resolve a procedural question regarding the standing of the initiative's sponsor to bring the appeal. The state's top court has said it will not even hold a hearing on the issue until September, at the earliest.

In legal papers filed last week, lawyers challenging Proposition 8 took note of the "serious, lasting, and irreparable damage to gay men and lesbians who wish to marry" caused by this extended timetable and called on the federal court to lift its injunction.

The stay should never have been granted in the first place. Applying traditional legal criteria, the extraordinary relief of a stay is only warranted when the applicant makes a strong showing of likely success on the merits and of irreparable injury in the absence of a stay — two arguments that cannot be satisfied here.

As the trial judge's ruling affirmed, the denial of marriage equality furthers no legitimate governmental aim. And defenders of Proposition 8 can point to no real injury they would suffer if gay men and lesbians are permitted to wed.

Every day same-sex couples are denied their right to marry is another day of injustice for them and their families. Couples who wish to wed knowing that the appellate court could decide to uphold Proposition 8's ban should be allowed to take that chance.






In the last decade, Congress has missed several chances to reform a patent system that is slow, costly and puts the United States at odds with the rest of the industrial world. On Wednesday, the Senate has another opportunity to reform the nation's patent law.

The America Invents Act offers a step toward a more effective and transparent patent protection system. This should encourage investment in inventions and faster diffusion of ideas. The bill, which has broad bipartisan support, would boost the patent office's resources by letting it keep all the fees it collects. This would enable it to speed up the review of patent applications — which currently takes almost three years to process — and work through an immense backlog of 715,000 applications.

The bill should reduce costly litigation by creating an in-house system to look into claims of patent infringement before they go to court.

The bill would also replace the first-to-invent standard prevailing in the United States — which grants formal protection to the creator of an innovation — with the first-inventor-to-file system used in most nations.

This change would make it cheaper for American patent holders to get patent protection around the world. But it has been met with vocal opposition from some groups of small businesses and inventors who claim the change would benefit big corporations at their expense.

We disagree. The new law would make the process simpler and cheaper. That should benefit the little guy.

Small inventors who needed time and money to fully develop and test their ideas could request a provisional patent until they were ready for a full filing. It costs $110. And because it is easy to determine who filed a patent first, the new system would better protect small inventors from challenges by corporations with deep pockets, reducing the chance of costly litigation.

Right now, proving who invented something first is difficult and expensive. According to the patent office, it costs $400,000 to $500,000 to challenge a patent on the grounds of a prior invention. Most small inventors don't have that kind of money. Big corporations do.

In fact, the current system mostly protects whoever files first for a patent. Of the last three million applications filed, only 113 were granted to entities who filed second but proved they had invented first. In 88 of these cases, the winners were large corporations.

The patent system is too cumbersome, and it doesn't protect the small inventor. The America Invents Act is a smart reform.





In July 2009, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar imposed a two-year halt to uranium exploration and mining on one million acres around the Grand Canyon. The moratorium was a much-needed timeout to a rush of prospecting claims near the canyon, most of them by Canadian and British companies. The rush was fueled by two things: an increase in uranium prices and the wide-open exploitation allowed on public lands by the harmful, antiquated 1872 mining law.

The Interior Department has now prepared four possible alternatives for how to proceed. The public has another 30 days to comment. The only sensible alternative is the most sweeping one: withdrawing one million acres around the Grand Canyon from mining and prospecting for the next 20 years.

Restricting mining in this area would have little effect on America's uranium supply, a vast majority of which comes from Wyoming and New Mexico.

Setting that land off-limits would protect the delicate ecosystem in and around the Grand Canyon. It would also eliminate the risk of radioactive materials, disturbed by mining, leaching into the aquifer and the Colorado River. That would affect the Havasupai Indians, who live in the canyon itself, and 27 million people who draw water from the river in Nevada and California.

The prospecting free-for-all that followed the rise in uranium prices is yet another reminder of why the country needs to reform the mining law of 1872. That law allows free access to stake mining claims on public land and gives mineral extraction priority over other uses. This perhaps made sense in 1872, but in 2011 it is simply irresponsible, especially because, under the law, mining companies are obliged to pay no royalties to federal, state or local governments.

Congress has talked for years about reforming this law only to have the effort blocked by Western senators. The majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, has long been the leading opponent. Real reform would include strict environmental regulation and real royalties — at least the 5 percent royalty called for in the president's new budget. That would be best for the environment and for America's taxpayers.






Muscat, Oman

NOT so long ago, we joyfully celebrated Oman's 40th anniversary.

Almost everyone — but especially the young people here in Muscat, the capital, and in small towns — decorated their houses and cars with stickers and fliers in support of the government. As an academic I usually like to watch from the sidelines; this time, I joined in and decorated my black Toyota Camry with the national colors of red, white and green. Together, we rejoiced over what we have achieved since His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said came to power in 1970.

Never would I have thought that just a few months later Oman would find itself part of the "youthquake" now sweeping the Middle East. Never would I have imagined that demonstrations in our peaceful, media-shy nation would end up on the front pages of newspapers around the world and mentioned in the same breath with the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

So what happened?

On Feb. 18, a small protest was held in Muscat's Khuwair neighborhood, where most government ministries are situated, expressing thanks and professing loyalty, but respectfully asking for more job creation and a few other changes. This was followed by letters posted online on the Omani Sebla (our local social network) that also requested relatively small social and political reforms but with respect and love for country, people and leader. So far so good.

But then the protests in Sohar happened. In that northern city, during a Feb. 27 rally, the police and protesters lost control: there was violence and vandalism; some reports indicate one person was killed, others say two. We were all stunned.

The government, though, was quick to take the right action by promising to create 50,000 jobs, provide aid for registered job seekers, reshuffle the cabinet, improve the social welfare system and allow citizens more say.

Most important, it responded to the people's request for dialogue. As the government was doing damage control, and as Omanis were trying to grasp what was going on, I kept answering my overseas friends' e-mails, explaining that Sohar was an anomaly, a lapse in judgment, a momentary loss of control.

Then a sense of shame swept over Oman. We do have problems, we all agreed. But doesn't everybody? What country doesn't suffer from unemployment? Censorship and monopoly control are also problems in many nations.

But the bigger question was this: Is this how we as Omanis try to effect change — vandalism and shootings? And after 40 years of living in peace and prosperity, is this what we want to broadcast to the world? Is this how we repay the wise leader who has done so much for Oman and its people?

Westerners may not understand the kind of love that Omanis have for our Sultan. But ours is a visionary leader who brought our country out of the dark ages and into a state of modernity; Sultan Qaboos bin Said has placed Oman at the forefront of many Arab countries, if not of the world, in terms of rights for women, people with disabilities and foreign workers and in providing free education and health care for all. These efforts have allowed Oman to strike a unique balance between traditional values and progressive development.

Then three nights ago, I received a text message from a colleague that has been circulating ever since: it was a heartfelt apology to His Majesty written by an anonymous Omani.

Facebook and Twitter might have helped bring down Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt. But here in Oman, where we are masters of cellphones, using them every Friday to send holy greetings and jokes, we used text messages to get back on track. The text apology sent this message: Stop! We clearly have problems but let us not forget that after 40 years of building our country, we have to ask not just what our country can do for us, for it has done a lot, but, as John F. Kennedy eloquently stated decades ago, what we also can do for our country.

I finally got it. There is a clear disconnect between Oman's forward-thinking government and the young people who grew up with — and thus take for granted — free education and free health care. My own university is a cutting-edge institution in the Middle East thanks to the foresight of the government.

Somewhere along the way, the older generations of Omanis forgot how to talk to our young, to instill responsibility and to share our story of the trials and tribulations we went through to make Oman not only one of the most beautiful places in the Arab world, but also a better place to live. In our zeal to protect a generation from the hardships of the past, we failed to impart a sense of appreciation.

Recently, in one of my college seminars, a student screamed that Oman needed to give those with disabilities their rights. I had to remind him that laws establishing their rights already exist, along with everyone else's. The problem was that he didn't know about those laws and that some private and public institutions don't abide by them. That's something we all have to figure out how to fix.

So what I and my fellow Omanis have learned from the protests is that we need to talk, peacefully, respectfully and responsibly, about our past, present and future; about our recent disconnect; and about our shared investment and responsibility. And that is what is happening in Oman — we are talking!

Najma Al Zidjaly is an assistant professor of linguistics at Sultan Qaboos University.






Williamsburg, Va.

IN voting last month to eliminate financing for the United States Institute of Peace, members of the House of Representatives did not do their research. You will find the institute's competent work behind practically every American success in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has undertaken missions from the Balkans and Sudan to the Philippines and Somalia, where I supported the institute's efforts to mediate conflicts, promote the rule of law and encourage democracy.

This week, as the Senate considers alternatives to the House budget bill, we should remember that the stakes for national security and peace-building are high. The institute was created in 1984, when the cold war was still at its height. Congressional leaders guided by Senator Spark M. Matsunaga, a Hawaii Democrat, saw the need for an institution that would strengthen the nation's ability to limit international violence and manage global conflict. President Ronald Reagan signed the act creating the institute. A bipartisan majority of Congress has supported it since — until now.

The Institute of Peace is like the Marine Corps or special forces for foreign affairs and peace-building. When others are fleeing conflict around the world, you'll usually find institute staff members going in. They were working in Afghanistan before 9/11 and were among the first nonmilitary personnel on the ground after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The institute's headquarters in Baghdad has twice been damaged by rocket and mortar attacks. At the height of the Iraq insurgency, when virtually every other American and international group pulled out their personnel, the State and Defense Departments requested that the institute stay. Under fire regularly, it was the only United States organization outside of those departments that did not flee Baghdad.

But the institute's value goes beyond the bravery and commitment of its staff. In 2007, when the Army's 10th Mountain Division arrived in Mahmudiya, a city of half a million in the "triangle of death" dominated by Al Qaeda south of Baghdad, officers asked the institute to mediate between Shiite civil authorities and the Sunni sheiks who controlled the area. Institute-trained negotiators convened warring Iraqis to consolidate security, restore services, develop the local economy, enhance local governance and improve the rule of law. Gen. David H. Petraeus called it a turning point in the war.

In the six months before the institute's intervention, there had been 93 attacks on American forces in the area with homemade bombs; in the six months after, just one. Mahmudiya became a cornerstone of peace in the district, allowing the Army to reduce its strength from a brigade combat team of 3,500 soldiers to a battalion of 650, with corresponding savings and reductions in casualties.

In Afghanistan, the institute conducts mediations on issues from refugees to property and water disputes. In the last year, these operations have resolved 18 tribal disputes throughout the country, mostly involving the abuse of women, and included 30 training programs for government officials, lawyers, mullahs, tribal councils and community leaders. The network is even supporting dialogue along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the earth's most dangerous frontier — home to Taliban and Qaeda attacks and a wellspring of religious and political extremism.

Congress would be hard-pressed to find an agency that does more with less. The institute's entire budget would not pay for the Afghan war for three hours, is less than the cost of a fighter plane, and wouldn't sustain even 40 American troops in Afghanistan for a year. Within the budget, peace-building is financed as part of national security programs, and is recognized as an important adjunct to conventional defense spending and diplomacy. The institute's share of the proposed international affairs budget, $43 million, is minuscule: less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the State Department's budget, and one-hundredth of 1 percent of the Pentagon's.

The idea that eliminating the United States Institute of Peace would benefit taxpayers is extremely shortsighted and ill informed. America deserves better from Congress than eliminating something that saves American lives and taxpayer dollars.

Anthony C. Zinni, a retired Marine general, was commander in chief of the United States Central Command from 1997 to 2000.






It has often been the case in America that specific religions, races and ethnic groups have been singled out for discrimination, demonization, incarceration and worse. But there have always been people willing to stand up boldly and courageously against such injustice. Their efforts are needed again now.

Representative Peter King, a Republican from Long Island, appears to harbor a fierce unhappiness with the Muslim community in the United States. As the chairman of the powerful Homeland Security Committee, Congressman King has all the clout he needs to act on his displeasure. On Thursday, he plans to open the first of a series of committee hearings into the threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism and the bogus allegation that American Muslims have failed to cooperate with law enforcement efforts to foil terrorist plots.

"There is a real threat to the country from the Muslim community," he said, "and the only way to get to the bottom of it is to investigate what is happening."

That kind of sweeping statement from a major government official about a religious minority — soon to be backed up by the intimidating aura of Congressional hearings — can only serve to further demonize a group of Americans already being pummeled by bigotry and vicious stereotyping.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, the president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, was among some 500 people at a rally in Times Square on Sunday that was called to protest Mr. King's hearings. "To single out Muslim-Americans as the source of homegrown terrorism," he said, "and not examine all forms of violence motivated by extremist belief — that, my friends, is an injustice."

To focus an investigative spotlight on an entire religious or ethnic community is a violation of everything America is supposed to stand for. But that does not seem to concern Mr. King. "The threat is coming from the Muslim community," he told The Times. "The radicalization attempts are directed at the Muslim community. Why should I investigate other communities?"

The great danger of these hearings, in addition to undermining fundamental American values, is that for no good reason — nearly a decade after the terrible attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — they will intensify the already overheated anti-Muslim feeling in the U.S. There is nothing wrong with the relentless investigation of terrorism. That's essential. But that is not the same as singling out, stereotyping and harassing an entire community.

On Monday, I spoke by phone with Colleen Kelly, a nurse practitioner from the Bronx whose brother, William Kelly Jr., was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center. She belongs to a group called September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and is opposed to Mr. King's hearings. "I was trying to figure out why he's doing this," she said, "and I haven't come up with a good answer."

She recalled how people were stigmatized in the early years of the AIDS epidemic and the way that stigmas become the focus of attention and get in the way of the efforts really needed to avert tragedy.

Mr. King's contention that Muslims are not cooperating with law enforcement is just wrong. According to the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, an independent research group affiliated with Duke University and the University of North Carolina, 48 of the 120 Muslims suspected of plotting terror attacks in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001, were turned in by fellow Muslims. In some cases, they were turned in by parents or other relatives.

What are we doing? Do we want to demonize innocent people and trample on America's precious freedom of religion? Or do we want to stop terrorism? There is no real rhyme or reason to Congressman King's incoherent flailing after Muslims. Witch hunts, after all, are about seeing what kind of ugliness might fortuitously turn up.

Mr. King was able to concoct the anti-Muslim ugliness in his 2004 novel, "Vale of Tears," in which New York is hit yet again by terrorists and, surprise, the hero of the piece is a congressman from Long Island. But this is real life, and the congressman's fantasies should not apply.

America should be better than this. We've had all the requisite lessons: Joe McCarthy, the House Un-American Activities Committee, the demonization of blacks and Jews, the internment of Japanese-Americans, and on and on and on. It's such a tired and ugly refrain.

When I asked Colleen Kelly why she spoke up, she said it was because of her great love for her country. "I love being an American, and I really try to be thankful for all the gifts that come with that," she said. But with gifts and privileges come responsibilities. The planned hearings into the Muslim community struck Ms. Kelly as something too far outside "the basic principles that I knew and felt to be important to me as a citizen of this country."








There are lots of reasons, but one of the biggest is that we seem to think excessive federal spending "for us" is OK, while excessive federal spending "for somebody else" is the only exorbitant spending that needs to be cut.


But it just doesn't work that way.


Sure, some federal spending for us (and for everyone else) is appropriate. We all benefit when Washington carries out its constitutional duty to "provide for the common defense" by funding our military for our national security. And the federal government appropriately handles treaties, certain disputes among the states and some other limited and specified duties listed in the Constitution.


But there are many things that are not the federal government's proper business.


Consider, among many items, federal government funding of Amtrak and a proposal for high-speed rail, for which President Barack Obama is seeking $53 billion. Those are expensive items that constitutionally are not responsibilities of the federal government.


And while we highly value public education, that is not federal government business, either, but constitutionally is a responsibility of state and local governments. (Moreover, federal control of local education policies has hardly proved successful.)


Another example: We surely don't want federal control of medical services through ObamaCare and that law's constitutionally impermissible rule that everyone buy Washington-approved health insurance.


There are countless other expensive and improper federal activities, too. Some such things need to be cut to get us onto a sound financial footing.


A recent headline declared, "Georgians warn of agriculture cuts." A Democrat member of Congress argued that there would be a "pretty devastating effect" from Republicans' proposed $5 billion cut in federal agriculture spending.


But there should not have been such spending in the first place!


And say we take the Democrat's advice and don't cut that $5 billion from unconstitutional farm spending. It would need to be cut elsewhere from the budget — or taxes would need to be raised, or $5 billion would have to be added to the national debt.


But there are some members of Congress and many lobbyists promoting not only that spending, but also insisting on countless other spending items that are unconstitutional, inappropriate, too expensive, not needed or just plain unwise.


They will warn of "devastating effects," too, if we cut the funding they like. "Cut somewhere else," they will insist. But then — surprise! — somebody will insist that we keep that "other" spending intact, too, and will warn of "devastating effects" if we cut it.


In short, we will find that virtually all federal spending has a host of defenders declaring that it simply cannot be cut without horrible consequences.


The only consequence they don't consider is the economic disaster that is rapidly approaching from our continued deficit spending of about $1.5 trillion a year, added to our $14 trillion-plus national debt.


When will that kind of red ink eventually require alarming cuts in Medicare and Social Security benefits, or confiscatory tax increases that would slow economic growth and invite further recession?


If we don't cut spending now for many unnecessary things — such as ethanol subsidies, Amtrak and Planned Parenthood — won't we create economic calamity, and then wonder why, when it's too late?







There are two key reasons why Congress should appropriate the money to complete the replacement of the crumbling lock at Chickamauga Dam.


First and foremost, it is clearly a federal responsibility. The lock is on a major interstate waterway, and its maintenance is a federal obligation under the Constitution. The funding to replace the lock is not comparable to wasteful pork-barrel spending such as peanut subsidies or music halls of fame, which have no rightful claim to federal funding.


Second, failing to rebuild the lock — which was constructed in the early 1940s — imperils thousands of jobs. A massive amount of barge traffic moves through the lock, promoting economic development for hundreds of miles upstream and downstream — and certainly not only in Tennessee.


And yet, President Barack Obama included no funding in his spending proposal for the upcoming budget year to finish the lock. (Ironically, the president's proposed budget does include enormous amounts of unconstitutional spending.)


Third District U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., commendably plans to seek federal funding changes to secure the money for the new, expanded lock at Chickamauga Dam.


"This lock is critical to our national security and to the great commerce we have moving up and down the [Tennessee] river," Fleischmann said recently in Chattanooga.


He has his work cut out for him. Unfortunately, constitutional spending in Washington seems to get no extra consideration compared with unconstitutional spending these days.


But we hope Fleischmann does get the necessary — constitutional — funding for the vital lock at Chickamauga Dam.







We can delight in the view of the architecturally magnificent $299 million BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee


headquarters on Cameron Hill from many parts of our city. But it is also significant that the fine BlueCross facility has earned the honor of being the largest corporate campus in Tennessee — and the second biggest in our nation — to earn LEED Gold certification.


What does LEED stand for?


It's "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design," as certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.


As a LEED structure, the BlueCross headquarters reportedly is saving between $3 million and $4 million a year in energy, water and other environmental considerations, as compared with its previous 10 to 12 locations downtown before the new building was erected.


That's great — environmentally, architecturally and economically.


But much more significant is the fact that BlueCross BlueShield, from it eye-catching building, helps promote better health and personal economic convenience in meeting medical needs for many of our people.







Many of us know the lyrics to the U.S. "Marines' Hymn": "From the Halls of Montezuma/To the shores of Tripoli/We fight our country's battles/In the air, on land and sea ... ."


The song's reference to Tripoli dates back to the early 1800s, when Marines were instrumental in a war against the Barbary States on the Mediterranean Coast of North Africa to halt piracy against American ships in the area.


Tripoli is in the news today, of course, as Libyan despot Moammar Gadhafi is being challenged near the Libyan capital by rebels.


The United States has closed its embassy in Tripoli, evacuated its staff and frozen Libyan assets under our control.


But fortunately, there is no need for U.S. Marines or other American forces to intervene in Libya today.









Apropos of Shakespeare's Hamlet, we don't know if something is still rotten in the state of Denmark, but it certainly is in Turkey as far as press freedom is concerned. The latest spate of arrests of well-known, respected journalists, for ostensibly being "members of the Ergenekon terrorist group," has even the president of the Republic, Abdullah Gül, "concerned."

And so he should be because - as he told daily Milliyet's Fikret Bila over the weekend - the present state of affairs relating to the media and journalists in this country is not just bothering the public conscience, but also "harming Turkey's image, which everyone has come to appreciate."

Gül was naturally referring to the fact that many reforms have been made in Turkey in the name of democracy, a fact that is also the reason behind why Turkey is being pointed to as a "model" for countries such as Egypt as they try to democratize. All of this had, as Gül suggests, increased the country's international profile in a positive manner.

But that situation now faces the risk of changing rapidly since Turkey is once again under international scrutiny for trying to prevent journalists from doing their job, and for incarcerating those who report about things unfavorable to the government or the authorities.

The prosecutor in charge of the investigation into the "Ergenekon terrorist group," which is supposed to have conspired to overthrow the government by illegal means, argued in a written statement on Sunday that the journalists arrested last week - who by the way include Nedim Şener, an internationally renowned and awarded investigative reporter from Milliyet - were taken in not for what they wrote, but for their illegal activities.

He refused, however, to say what these illegal activities were, indicating instead that this was classified information. Those in the government-friendly media, who have clearly sold their sense of solidarity with their colleagues, as well as their professional commitment to the freedom of the press, down the river in an effort to propagandize for the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, are trying now to stand behind the prosecutor and the government.

But genuine journalists, who are more interested in carrying on with their jobs rather than being a spokesperson for this or that political or ideological group, are extremely doubtful about this claim of the prosecutor's, given that even the president of the Republic is "concerned" about the latest developments. It appears from their strong reactions that international press organizations are also doubtful about the claims against the arrested journalists.

It was also telling that the prosecutor's statement on the topic – which was an anomaly in itself – tried not only to respond to the strong criticism from the media over the latest and previous arrests of journalists, but also contained a barely shrouded threat to all reporters who criticize the way the Ergenekon case is being conducted. 

In his statement, the prosecutor said the press articles that harmed the Ergenekon case "are being followed very closely and with great attention to detail." This means in effect that if any reporter or columnist writes something that the prosecutor is not happy about, or interprets as being detrimental to his pursuit of the Ergenekon case, then he or she may be arrested.

We of course appreciate President Gül's concern over the latest arrests, which we suppose also covers previous arrests. It was telling however that Gül said initially of such arrests, as he was traveling to Egypt to ironically exhort democracy to the provisional government there, that the prosecutor should be left alone to do his job.

Gül reportedly changed tack after he returned from Egypt, and following a conversation with Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin on the topic. Whatever the reason for this change may be, we nevertheless appreciate his position on the latest arrests, and stand by our previous assertions that he is a democrat at heart.

It is not enough for him, however, to just express concern over these developments. As the head of the Republic who is concerned about Turkey's good name, he should also act within the limits of his power and call on the government to do what it can to improve the situation given its strong position in Parliament.

It is questionable; however, that the government will do anything in this regard, even if Gül exhorted it to do so, since it does not appear too bothered about the arrest of journalists. If Prime Minister Erdoğan and members of his Cabinet are bothered at all it is because of what they see as an effort to pin the blame of the latest arrests on the government.

They are clearly also worried about the international repercussions. Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, who has also expressed dissatisfaction over the arrest of journalists, has said the government is working on a bill to prevent this kind of development. Perhaps this was said to cool down international criticism. But whatever the case may be, we are faced with an "I'll believe it when I see it" situation here.

It is also telling that for all the foreign and domestic criticism his government is getting over the issue of press freedom, Prime Minister Erdoğan has made no mention of the change which is supposedly on the way according to Arınç. Instead he has been pursuing the line that everyone should trust the law and let the prosecutor do his job.

This however is a totally dishonest attitude given the position he took when there was a closure case against his party, which also tried to ban him from politics. At that state there was none of this "trust the law and let the prosecutor do his job" stuff. Instead what we had were full frontal attacks against the same legal system that the AKP is now trying to defend, obviously because its political interests demand this.  

If, however, the government wanted it could introduce bills that prevent the incarceration of journalists for what they write or for the information they gather in pursuing their jobs. Instead it prefers to watch the arrest of journalists it does not like, even if it says it is not directly behind these arrests.

Neither does the AKP administration appear to be too concerned about the illegality of some of the methods of the prosecutor in going after journalists. It transpires now, for example, that Nedim Şener's phone was tapped for nearly two years, and that his private conversations listened to. But this kind of phone tapping is illegal under Turkey's current laws. Neither the prosecutor's office, nor the minister for justice, nor for that matter Prime Minister Erdoğan himself appear too bothered about this fact.

There is indeed something rotten in the state of Turkey and one just has to look at how press freedoms are being treated now to understand this. At this rate, let alone Turkey being a model for Egypt, or any other country for that matter, it is could very well be that Egypt will become a model for Turkey in terms of freedom of the press.






Sexual violence has long been used as a weapon of war by all sides in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC, which has been described as "the rape capital of the world."

In a report on Feb. 21 by the U.N. News Centre, it was noted that in October at the Security Council it was stated that hundreds of women who were raped by rebels in eastern DRC in the summer faced the possibility of the same abuse from government troops.

A U.N. human rights team confirmed that more than 300 civilians, including some boys and men, were raped between July 30 and Aug. 2 in the Walikale region, in eastern DRC, by members of armed groups. More offences took place over the New Year holiday in Fizi and Bushani, where elements of the national army, known as FARDC, are alleged to have been involved in over 60 rapes. Not only did the Congolese authorities react swiftly to the Fizi rapes in January and apprehended a number of the alleged perpetrators, but by all accounts the legal process has been fair and efficient. It is now imperative that the remaining perpetrators are found and brought to justice, for the Fizi incident as well as last year's Walikale atrocities. It is equally important that the victims of and witnesses to instances of sexual violence are protected, as well as their families.

A U.N. envoy commended the Congolese government, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in DRC, known as MONUSCO, the American Bar Association, the Open Society Initiative and local non-governmental organizations for their assistance in this "crucial" case.

During war and armed conflict, rape is frequently used as means of psychological warfare in order to humiliate the enemy and undermine their morale. War rape is often systematic and thorough, and military leaders may actually encourage their soldiers to rape civilians. War rape may occur in a variety of situations, including institutionalized sexual slavery, war rapes associated with specific battles or massacres, and individual or isolated acts of sexual violence. War rape may also include gang rape and rape with objects.

When part of a widespread and systematic practice, rape and sexual slavery are now recognized under the Geneva Convention as crimes against humanity and war crimes. Rape is also now recognized as an element of the crime of genocide when committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a targeted group. However, rape remains widespread in conflict zones.

In eastern Congo, the prevalence and intensity of rape and other sexual violence is described as the worst in the world. Since fighting broke out in 1998 tens of thousands of women and girls have been raped in the DRC. It is estimated that there are as many as 200,000 surviving rape victims living in the DRC today.

Kahindo Ndasimwa, dressed in little more than rags, told of how militia attacked her village one night two years ago, forcing her to flee into the bush. The 40-year-old was then repeatedly raped by four men – their legacy a continual stream of urine down her legs (BBC, 2004).

Witness accounts include an instance of a woman who had the barrel of a gun inserted into her vagina, after which the soldier opened fire. Incontinence and vaginal fistula leads to the isolation of war rape victims from their community and access to reconstructive surgery is limited in the DRC.

On the conclusions of Wilhelmine Ntakebuka, who coordinates a sexual violence program in Bukavu in South Kivu Province: "The epidemic of rapes seems to have started in the mid-1990s. That coincides with the waves of Hutu militiamen who escaped into Congo's forests after exterminating 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus during Rwanda's genocide 13 years ago. Mr. Holmes said that while government troops might have raped thousands of women, the most vicious attacks had been carried out by Hutu militias."

More than 500 rapes were reported in eastern Congo in August 2010, leading to an apology from Atul Khare that the U.N. peacekeepers had failed to protect the population from brutalization.

Many other instances have been identified where women and girls are abducted for the purposes of supplying combatants with sexual services. According to one soldier from the DRC: "Our combatants don't get paid and therefore can't use prostitutes. If we politely ask women to come with us, they are not going to accept. So, we have to make them obey us so we can get what we want." 

Without money or other resources, displaced women and girls may be compelled to submit to sex in return for safe passage, food, shelter or other resources. Some may head toward urban settings, possibly in search of the relative security of a densely populated area or in the hope of obtaining employment. Whatever the motivation, both internally displaced and refugee women and girls in urban settings are at risk of ongoing exploitation by local residents, especially because they are less likely than encamped populations to be targeted for assistance and protection by governments or by humanitarian agencies.

Reconstruction or exploitation?

The challenges of meeting the myriad health needs of survivors of war-related sexual assault are complicated by the absence of adequate facilities and trained staff in many war-torn settings. Even where services do exist, they may not be free – as is the case in many countries in Africa, where state-run health centers operate on a cost-recovery basis. Moreover, many health clinics are constructed with open waiting areas where women are girls may be expected to disclose their reasons for seeking care; in the absence of confidentiality, they are likely to conceal their victimization. Health workers' beliefs that it is their responsibility to prove or disprove rape is also a limiting factor in the quality of care. In some settings, a woman seeking medical treatment may be required first to report her case to the police in order to get a medical referral. This prerequisite, in turn, may expose women to further violence.

For those who are subject to discrimination by family and community, and who also don't receive basic psychological support, the emotional effects of their violation may be as debilitating as any physical injuries.

It is necessary to make clear that programming to assist survivors is imperative to any lasting efforts at reconstructing the lives and livelihoods of individuals, families and communities in the wake of armed conflict.

In most conflict-affected settings, however, human rights and humanitarian activists are still fighting to ensure that the most basic services are accessible.

The ultimate goal – putting an end to the epidemic of sexual violence against women and girls during war – seems an even more distant aspiration than developing adequate response services.

* Ayşegül A. Yarpuzlu is professor of Public Health Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, Ankara University. She can be reached at






With two presidents unseated in Tunisia and Egypt and highly publicized protests across Libya, the recent demonstrations in Yemen are catching the world's attention. The escalating violence is worrying and only time will tell if it will lead to a quick overthrow of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh or whether change will take much longer in Yemen. But one thing is different in Yemen: the international face of the Yemeni pro-change movement is a woman.

Profiled in high profile outlets including The Washington Post, The Toronto Star and Time Magazine, journalist and human rights activist Tawakkul Karman represents a positive image of Yemeni women. Long before she was photographed leading February's protests against the government, she was called a brave defender of freedom of expression and human rights in Yemen.

In a January 2010 interview with Al-Jazeera, she spoke of detained journalists, a sheikh's tyranny against villagers in Ibb, a governorate south of the capital, the lack of justice for the family of a murdered doctor, and – long before January's WikiLeaks revelations – even went so far as to accuse the government of being "in alliance" with al-Qaeda. Today, she continues to protest, demanding peaceful change.

Finally a refreshing change from the "over-sized post box" image of the Yemen's women in the niqab (a face veil worn in addition to the headscarf), or the photos of child bride Nujood Ali that have fuelled Yemen's early marriage debate since April 2008.

Of course, all is not rosy for Yemen's women. Yemeni parliamentarians (one out of 301 is a woman) still have not agreed on a minimum age for marriage to prevent girls like Nujood, nine years old at the time of her divorce, from being married before they finish school. Illiteracy among women is still a whopping 67 percent, women are typically the first victims of food shortages (one in three Yemenis suffers from severe malnutrition according to the U.N.) and many have difficult and limited access to healthcare. Women's participation in politics is minimal and, despite two female ministers, Yemen has consistently ranked at the bottom in the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Index since it was first included in the ranking in 2006.

But there is hope.

Karman and fellow female human rights activists, such as journalist Samia al-Aghbari, are on the frontline of protests in the Yemeni capital. They may not be representative of Yemeni women in general, but they are indeed inspiring. In fact, one Yemeni man was so impressed by al-Aghbari's courage during the protests of 13 February when she was knocked onto the pavement by a member of security, that he wrote her a poem, "Revolution of the Green Hijab... To Samia al-Aghbari and all the other revolutionaries," which was published the following day on the Nashwan news website.

Although they are not all out on the streets, there are a number of inspiring women in Yemen. In addition to Karman and al-Aghbari, Yemeni women are human rights activists, journalists, doctors, educators, members of civil society, academics, wives of political detainees, photographers, and even Tweeters.

Dozens of brave women have run against all odds and lost in local council and parliamentary elections. According to Nadia al-Sakkaf, female editor-in-chief of the independent Yemen Times, winning is difficult without the support of a political party, and most politically ambitious women at the moment are waiting to see how the current situation develops.

Then there are the women who quietly start their own revolutions. In May 2010, a literacy eradication course inspired women in rural Dhamar, a governorate south of Sana'a, to go home and ask their husbands and brothers for their rights to education, inheritance and political participation. Course organizers received phone calls from confused male family members asking what they had been discussing. Participants also rallied together and prevented a man from marrying off his 12-year-old daughter.

When Karman was detained by security for organizing protests on Jan. 22, she made the most of a bad situation by chatting to her fellow female detainees about their rights. "I was happy to discover the prison and talk to the prisoners," she told The Yemen Times after her release.

But perhaps the most inspiring thing about Karman is that she is not speaking up only for Yemeni women, but for Yemeni society as a whole, addressing national grievances such as unemployment and corruption.

It may be too early for a female president in Yemen, but Karman adds a new, welcome dimension to the media coverage of a country usually associated in the Western mind with al-Qaeda, poverty and oppressed women.

* Alice Hackman has recently returned to London after two years as reporter and Features Editor for The Yemen Times in Sana'a, Yemen. This piece first appeared on the Common Ground News Service.






The Economist magazine has prepared two lists of economists who were the most influential before and after the recent crisis. The name of the most famous economist of the last century, John Maynard Keynes, is naturally in the first list but not in the second. However, during the recent crisis, when modern (!) economists could not put effective instruments into the hands of authorities on how to minimize the damage, Keynes' ideas became the only savior.

Almost 80 years ago, during the 1929 Great Depression, when economists could not find a solution to ease the pains of widespread unemployment, a courageous politician, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt tried state intervention to fight against unemployment. Theoretical explanation of the reasons of the 1929 crisis and the remedies to cure economic and social problems it created were presented in a book published by John Maynard Keynes seven years later, in 1936.

The same weakness of economics as a science repeated itself during the first oil crisis. When inflation and recession began to walk hand in hand, not only economists but also politicians were paralyzed. Unfortunately, Keynes died in 1944 and there was nobody to call for help. However, during the recent crisis, nobody heard the footsteps of the approaching disaster, but at least both economists and politicians were aware of the policies they could use to mitigate the damage. Because of a lack of new ideas, they turned to Keynes again as state intervention became the main part of policies against the recession.

Then, why now Keynes, together with some other prominent economists such as Ben Bernanke, Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Krugman, are not placed on the second list, which carries the names of the economists who have – according to The Economist – "the most important ideas" in the post-crisis world (Nouriel Roubini, also called Dr. Doom, is on the second list).

It is interesting to see that all the names on the second list say the real malaise that contributed to the recent crisis was the rapid credit growth and consequent debt bubble in the United States. It must be remembered that besides small ones, the starting point of all big crises during the last 80 years – in 1929, 1974 and 2008 – was the United States. It is amazing to observe how a crisis in a single country spreads all over the world in a very short time. The main reason is of course the size of the American economy. However, when monetary and fiscal policies were still national, financial markets became international during the last century and that made national economies vulnerable against serious crises that started in other countries.

First, it was hoped that the U.S. could stop the crisis she created. However, it was soon understood that even the comparatively huge economic and political power of the U.S. was not sufficient for that immense task. "The most important ideas" of the economists on the second list do not, of course, indicate how to end serious crises, but at least they show the way to prevent them. For that reason, their diagnosis is really very important. The problem is the political and technical difficulties in designing and implementing feasible policies to stop rapid credit growth and debt bubbles.

Let us repeat the question: If Keynes is out, who is in? Another question: Is Keynes really out? To answer the second question one must remember what he advised to stop a worldwide recession. Technically, it was a very simple and practical suggestion: If people are hesitant to spend, governments must expand in order to stimulate total demand. After WWII, this advice became so popular, it brought great fame to Keynes who could not have imagined this before his death in 1944. Moreover, during the recent crisis, almost all Western governments implemented similar policies to halt the recession. Then, regardless of his name appearing on the second list or not, Keynes is not out.






One morning last week, two Georgia lawmakers did a remarkable thing. These Republican men from affluent, conservative districts stood before the state House of Representatives to speak up for teenage prostitutes.

Girls are manipulated and violated, held captive through violence, isolation, threats, economic dependence and emotional abuse, said Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, whose district covers the wealthiest neighborhoods of Atlanta.

"Right now there are hundreds of girls all across Atlanta and this region who are waiting in hotel rooms to be purchased by men on the Internet," said Representative Buzz Brockway, from the suburbs northeast of the city.

My, how times have changed. In the 1950s, when Georgia lawmakers came to the state's biggest city for their annual legislative sessions, they held their own "whore auctions," says historian Clifford Kuhn, who teaches at Georgia State University.

The legislator with the winning bid didn't always keep the prize for himself. Sometimes he'd give her to a key constituent in exchange for continued support at election time, says Kuhn.

As for the woman, traditional views of the prostitute justified whatever came her way. Whether considered a good-time girl, a fallen woman, a call girl leading a life of glamour, she had chosen her lot. And though she was a lawbreaker, hers was a victimless crime.

Maybe there are some happy hookers out there, but they are a comparative few within a sea of misery that their outsized myth helps create. If you meet such a person, ask her how she started out in the business and how old she was.

Victim status

Increasingly, the prostitute is now understood to be a trafficked object, a slave to a pimp, a victim trapped in demeaning, dangerous servitude.

What if she's too young to legally consent to sex? State laws say she is a victim of rape even if she willingly engaged in sex. But if money's involved, she can be jailed as a prostitute in most states, even if a pimp forced her into it.

With so many conflicting views, it can be difficult to write laws to help people brutalized by those who buy and sell them. If she's a victim, she should be protected. If she's a criminal, she should be prosecuted.

In grappling with such conflicts, states across the country have been rewriting laws to make it tougher on traffickers, pimps and johns and easier on those they prostitute.

New York, Illinois and Washington state, for example, have so-called safe harbor laws that "ensure that children, from the moment they are discovered in prostitution, are assisted with services rather than placed in the juvenile justice system," says Mary Ellison, policy director for the Polaris Project in Washington, D.C.

At the same time, beefed-up sentences meant a 25-year stint for an Iowa man who prostituted two runaway teens. In Louisiana, a man who kept a 15-year-old in a motel room while pimping her got 18 years.

This week, the Georgia House passed some of the most progressive legislation in the country on the subject. The vote was 168-1, and when it passed the lawmakers broke into applause.

For traffickers, pimps and johns, the bill imposes higher fines and longer sentences, which get even longer if their victims are young. There would be a 25-year minimum prison sentence for using coercion to traffic someone under 18. Buying sex with a 16-year-old would bring a sentence of at least five years. Younger than that and it's a 10-year minimum.

At least as important, the bill would make it harder for the sellers and buyers of sex to defend themselves. Didn't know her age? Wouldn't matter. Was she previously involved in selling sex? It would be harder for pimps to raise that as a defense.

As for the prostituted child or adult (regardless of gender), the Georgia bill would offer a get-out-of-jail-free card to those who can show they were coerced into it. Physical abuse, threats, confinement, destruction of immigration documents, drugging, financial control – all would be considered coercion and could be used as a defense against a prostitution charge.

It's not everything advocates had wanted. Children can still be prosecuted, and it doesn't set up services to help them get out of prostitution.

But it's a giant step forward. And it applies to those trafficked for labor servitude, not just for sexual purposes.

The legislation is headed for likely passage in the Senate, an assembly that caters to the Christian Coalition on issues like the Sunday sale of alcohol.

But on this one, people usually on opposite sides of social issues came together: religious groups and feminists, Republicans and Democrats.

The new Republican attorney general, Sam Olens, contributed ideas he picked up from the National Association of Attorneys General. Prosecutors worked on the bill with a group called A Future Not a Past, which aims at ending the prostitution of girls. Georgia Women for a Change suggested approaches from national anti-trafficking organizations. A Baptist group that last year opposed a bill that would have banned prosecuting underage prostitutes supported this one.

Atlanta's public radio and television stations ran special reports on the topic. A conservative columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kyle Wingfield, lauded the bill.

A state commission and a private study opened lawmakers' eyes to the deeply troubling scope of the problem and its consequences.

"We created a cultural shift," says Stephanie Davis, executive director of Georgia Women for a Change.

A cultural shift is exactly what it took.

* Ann Woolner is a Bloomberg News columnist.






Gender inequality continues to remain a major global challenge confronting humanity. However, it is no longer acceptable to live in a world where young girls are taken out of school and forced into early marriage, where women's employment opportunities are limited, and where the threat of gender-based violence is a daily reality.

Equality for women and girls is indeed a social and economic imperative being one of the most important human rights. Empowered and educated women are a sine qua non for the robustness and sustainability of economic growth. Similarly, the equitable representation of women in political, economic, social and cultural spheres leads to societal peace and stability, not to mention a more responsive and responsible articulation of the needs and preferences for integration in the national, regional and local planning, programming and decision processes.

The neglect of women's rights means the social and economic potential of half the world's population is underused. In order to tap this potential, our world must open up places for women in political leadership, in science and technology and as heads of corporations.

To this end, the theme of this year's March 8 International Women's Day is "Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women."

Global figures testify that we must act fast and collectively if we want to create decent work opportunities for women, and thus make true gender equality a shared legacy of humanity in the 21st century. 

Gender gap a global epidemic

Gender inequality in job opportunities and violence against women still haunt societies. While up to 70 percent of women are victims of violence during their lifetime, women make up nearly two thirds of the world's 759 million illiterate adults. Women also dominate low-paid, low-status, part-time or contract work that offers limited opportunities for social security coverage.

Though women perform 66 percent of the world's work and produce 50 percent of the food, they earn only 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the world's property.  

In Turkey, although important achievements have been recorded, there are areas that still require improvement.

In Turkey, compared to the labor force participation rate for men, which was 70.4 as of November 2010, an estimated 27.5 percent of women were in the labor force. This falls far behind the global average rate of 52 percent.

Due to the prevalence of negative gender stereotypes based on social, economic and cultural barriers, women face serious difficulties entering and remaining in the labor market. This is clearly seen in the 19.6 percent rate of non-agricultural unemployment for women as of November 2010.

Violence against women and honor killings are also serious crimes.

There is a key gap in the participation of women in decision-making. The representation of women in politics at the parliamentary level is 9.1 percent (with only 50 seats held by women in the 550-member Parliament) and that of local government is less than 2 percent.

The Gender Inequality Index, or GII, reveals gender disparities in reproductive health, empowerment and labor market participation, with Turkey ranking 77th out of 138 countries. 

United Nations agencies in Turkey are working with the government and NGOs to empower women and for gender equality.

The Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, provides technical support in the gathering and analyzing of sex-disaggregated data for the agricultural and rural development sectors. It also raises awareness on the importance of gender, equity and decent rural employment issues for achieving food security and agricultural development.

The International Labor Organization, or ILO, in line with its policy on gender equality and in cooperation with Turkish authorities, works to enhance women's employment and the provision of decent work in Turkey.

The International Organization for Migration, or IOM, as it enters its 21st year of operations in Turkey, continues efforts to uphold the human rights and dignity of migrant women. 

The United Nations Development Programme, or UNDP, in cooperation with other U.N. agencies, national and international partners, aims for the empowerment of women through capacity-building and skills development in addition to creating employment and income-earning opportunities.

The United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA, is working to increase the involvement of young people in promoting gender equality and combating gender-based violence.

The U.N. Refugee Agency, or UNHCR, provides gender-based training for civil society, NGO staff, host-country border guards, police, military units and others who come into contact with refugees.

UNICEF's the Girls' Education Campaign and catch-up education initiative have born very successful results in decreasing the gender gap in school enrollment.

With the participation of FAO, ILO, IOM, UNDP and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, or UNIDO, and the United Nations Joint Programmes, "Growth with Decent Work for All: National Youth Employment Program and Pilot Implementation in Antalya" and  "Harnessing Sustainable Linkages for the SMEs in Turkey's Textile Sector," aim at increasing decent work opportunities for women.

In Turkey, all essential elements required to achieve the empowerment of women are present and at work – a determined government, a strong private sector, effective NGOs and a vibrant media. Moreover, the U.N. in Turkey will continue to work closely with all parties involved to promote women's rights and achieve gender parity in Turkey. 

The U.N. takes the lead to spur global progress

In an historic move on July 2, 2010, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution to establish a U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (called U.N. Women) by merging four different entities to accelerate the progress in meeting the needs of the women and girls worldwide. The U.N. Women is committed to boosting the promotion of gender equality, eradicating discrimination and expanding opportunities for women around the globe.  The world indeed is at a critical juncture for transformative change and the world must seize and deliver on this opportunity to ensure and secure gender parity and emancipate women for economic, political, social and cultural servitude.

* Shahid Najam is the U.N. resident coordinator in Turkey.







Construction work started on a nuclear power plant at a site close to the UAE border with Saudi Arabia last December, and the first reactor is scheduled to go online in 2017, despite expected delays. The UAE managed to convince potential supplier countries of its peaceful intentions with a pragmatic approach to nuclear energy and a shrewd negotiation strategy. The country sequenced its international negotiations smartly, offered far-reaching concessions, espoused transparence and gained endorsements from well-known nuclear experts. Crucially, the UAE commands an effective security apparatus able to contain eventual terror threats, enjoys a stable government and is awash with cash. Its transparent and open approach has been lauded as a new "gold standard" for nuclear energy acquisition.

This development is particularly remarkable given the UAE's location and history. The country's geographical proximity to the Islamic Republic of Iran, coupled with Dubai's importance as a trade hub evoked international concerns about the UAE's nuclear power ambitions. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear engineer who had supplied several countries with nuclear technology, had used Dubai as an operational base up until 2004. Before 2007 trade with dual-use goods had gone virtually unregulated, and Dubai had repeatedly been accused of acting as a "sanctions buster" for Iran. Compounding the concerns were fears of terrorist attacks and the question of whether the spread of nuclear technology within the Arab world was to be welcomed.

Overcoming obstacles

The UAE concluded its first bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement with France in January 2008. France was an excellent starting point given parallel negotiations over a French military base in the UAE and the UAE's history of using nuclear technology as a foreign policy tool. This first agreement marked a breakthrough and signaled that the nuclear program would go forward - irrespective of whether other potential supplier states would agree to sign such agreements.

By the end of 2009 the UAE had signed cooperation agreements and Memoranda of Understanding with five governments: France, the US, South Korea, the UK and Japan. Despite their qualms about a nuclear program in the UAE, those states had a major incentive to sign nuclear cooperation agreements. Refusing to sign would have shut out their domestic nuclear industry from the bidding process, a tough call in times of economic strain and rising unemployment.

Convincing the US to enter into a nuclear agreement, called the "123 Agreement," was the hardest part. The "Dubai Ports World" controversy of 2006, in which US Congress had blocked the Dubai-owned enterprise from acquiring six ports in the US on national security grounds, was fresh in UAE policymaker's minds. To prevent a repeat, the UAE invested $1.6 million in a campaign to convince the US Congress of its peaceful intentions.

Further, the UAE adopted maximum safety and non-proliferation norms and promised not to pursue domestic enrichment capabilities to prove its benign objectives. The decision to forego domestic enrichment significantly reduced the nuclear program's proliferation risk.

The UAE also committed itself to complete operational transparency; voluntarily adopted the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) Export Guidelines and installed a "UAE International Advisory Group on Nuclear Energy" staffed with international nuclear energy luminaries and headed by Hans Blix. Additional endorsements from prominent non-proliferation figures such as Gareth Evans were consciously sought, giving the UAE's declarations additional credibility.

From ambitions to reality

In December 2009, no more than two years after the conclusion of the first bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement, the UAE government announced the outcome of the tender. The South Korean consortium headed by the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) had won the $20 billion contract. The French and American bidders were thought to be frontrunners, but reportedly KEPCO's bid was $16 billion less than the one by AREVA (France). Moreover, South Korea's government had invested itself heavily in the bidding process and provided strong governmental support to KEPCO in anticipation of its first nuclear export.

Concerns remain about the country's ability to impose a stringent export control regime for dual-use technologies. At the moment there is little evidence that wide-scale implementation and enforcement of the export control law have gone into effect across the country. Each of the seven Emirates still has a separate customs agency, which complicates the implementation of the export control law.

Finding the necessary capable workforce will be another major challenge for the UAE. There is currently no indigenous workforce for the program; the necessary manpower has to be recruited from abroad. The government has announced highly ambitious "Emiratization" targets: It wants 60 percent of the workforce to be indigenous - a quota that will be difficult to meet even under the best of conditions.

* This article was originally published by, which offers free information and analysis on energy and commodities. To find out more, visit the website at






There are countries where journalists are not required to register with a state agency, obtain a press card and then perform their profession. A person declaring that he has been working with a press institution as a journalist is enough for her/him be considered and treated as a journalist.

There are countries where being registered at a state agency, having a press card or even being awarded by an association of journalists are not enough to be considered "authorized" to engage in journalism, accreditation of the person with the Prime Ministry or the information department – obviously no need to further identify it – is required as well in order s/he can engage in the journalism profession.

Journalism, or media freedom, is considered as one of the main pillars of democratic governance in some countries, but in some other countries who also claim to be democratic or indeed "advanced democratic" journalists are considered spies, media freedom is limited with eulogy to the "absolute ruler" and his "all successful" government. As criticism or any sort of opposition to the "absolute ruler" or the "all successful" government is prohibited in those countries, there are huge concentration camps with special tribunals in such states where opposition figures, critics and of course journalists are banished, prosecuted and executed. Pardon me, before courts sentence such critics and opponents of the "absolute rule" on the front pages and screens of the allegiant media they face summary trial and execution. They are declared guilty even before they are placed in the concentration camp or face the special tribunal manned by prosecutors and judges handpicked at the discretion of the "absolute rule authority."

Is this discrepancy a product of the confidence and non-confidence of states in their citizens? It is of course a matter of being democratic, advanced democratic or ultra-democratic.

No… No… No… I am not trying to ignite yet another polemic, we have more than enough. But, I should say this country never ever believed its people and for example the universal principle that in the absence of a guilty verdict of a court everyone is innocent has taken an awkward dimension in this country. Here, everyone is guilty, wrong, someone who should not be trusted as well unless s/he proves s/he is innocent, correct or trustworthy.

Can there be a state in this age who can claim to be a democratic one; where the will of the nation is supreme to everything; where presumably law is supreme to everything, respect to law and equality of all in front of law are fundamental principles.

In this country we of course need to register with a state department, prove that we are working with a newspaper, wait for some time and obtain a press card. Though some people like this writer are eventually issued a permanent press card and are no longer required to be officially with any press institution in order to be considered a journalist, in order to attend a newsworthy event at the Prime Ministry, at the military and at most ministries or government agencies having a press card is not enough, special accreditation is needed as well. Why do we have the press card, I just can't understand.

Now we have several types of journalists. One type is rather happy with whatever happens in the country. As long as the "absolute ruler" is happy with them, they are happy as well. I do not of course want to insult those journalists by their eyes shine when they see a glimpse of smile on the face of their bosses or ultimate bosses, the absolute political authority.

Another type still remembers the basic rule of journalism and tries to retain skepticism in following developments in the country in full awareness that media should serve as the critical eye of the society. That was indeed why journalism is considered as some sort of a public work.

There are several classes of journalists as well. Of course, I would exclude those opportunists selling their pens for some individual benefits and while all their colleagues lead average lives such "journalists" live in extravaganza. One class of journalists is those who are still able to work with a paper, radio or TV channel. These journalists are divided in several subgroups as well. Another group is those who are waiting to be placed under detention any minute because they insist on trying to fulfill the prime requirement of their profession. That is to report rather than engaging in analysis of the government. A third group is those who are paying the price of being critical of the government and the absolute ruler and are either under detention or arrested and waiting for some years to see a judge.

There is yet another type of journalists… With silence looks through prison windows they are shouting loud… How democratic are we?






As the United States continues to wage a costly war in Afghanistan and engage in aggressive saber-rattling with the Islamic Republic of Iran, policy-makers in Washington rely on the repetition of three main "truths" to justify U.S. policy in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

These "truths" are derived from a firm belief in the righteousness of the American cause and are rarely examined. In fact, they are spoken from a preconceived position of power and predominance that precludes analysis. However, recent events in the Muslim world demand that the Barack Obama administration critically analyze these notions if the U.S. wishes to avoid further bloodshed and costly foreign interventions.

The classic case of an American official realizing that such "truths" need to be analyzed involves the work of the late U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. McNamara left the U.S. government in 1968, but refused to leave the lessons he learned from his service behind, documenting 11 by the time his memoir was published in 1995. Though all are relevant today, one stands out in relation to the current U.S. mentality that has engineered nearly a decade of constant war. 

"Our judgment," McNamara says, "of what is in another people's or country's best interest should be put to the test of open discussion in international forums. We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our image as we choose." 

If the United States hopes to pacify the lands where its military occupies resistant peoples and to establish solid relations with revolutionary governments forming in the Muslim world, it is imperative to consider McNamara's statement in light of three perceived American truths.

Truth 1: The infallibility and invincibility of the U.S. military 

An uncritical certainty in the use of military might to effect social, political, economic and religious reform in the Muslim world betrays a lack of understanding of the cultures the U.S. military is now engaged with, not to mention a poor reading of history. Such firm, though misguided, confidence leads to audacious displays of staged bravery as well as inflammatory, exaggerated, and counterproductive rhetoric. 

President George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech aboard the USS Lincoln in May 2003 comes to mind as does his "Bring it on!" statement a few months later. 

More recently, Obama's belief that increasing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan would stabilize a nation torn asunder politically, religiously, and economically and defeat a homegrown insurgency betrays an uncritical continuation of his predecessor's policies.

Truth 2: America's enemies are extremists while the U.S. is rational

Frequent use of terms like "extremist" has served to obfuscate any understanding of what America's enemies are fighting for, since the term packs with it a powerful anti-American and uncivilized wallop that does not need to be explained. This takes on greater significance when one considers the fear trumpeted by U.S. media outlets and public officials that the revolutions currently gripping the Middle East will fall into the hands of Islamic radicals. Thus, it is unthinkable the Muslim Brotherhood or any other homegrown Islamic political party could possibly represent the best interests of the people. Even more incredulous is that Taliban ranks may be filling with young men not necessarily fighting for Mullah Mohammed Omar, but for the removal of foreign forces from their villages and cities. The equation is simple: Islamic political parties = extremist = Taliban style governance = terrorist state (Taliban-style governance in Saudi Arabia exempted, of course).

A brief look, however, at the price tag on America's current wars, and its actions at Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, and Guantanamo Bay as well as support for the fallen Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt and continued support for the Saudi Wahabbi monarchy could very well be perceived as extreme. Yet, using that term to describe the U.S. or its allies would be akin to calling them "terrorists," a major faux pas that would instantaneously ostracize the speaker from any "rational" conversation. Therefore, we struggle within the confines of language constructs that prevent us from understanding our own role in the conflicts, let alone the motivation of our enemies.

Truth 3: Iran as the personification of evil in the Middle East

The U.S. government and media speak with disdain and disbelief that Iran would dare interfere in the affairs of its neighbors, Iraq or Afghanistan. 

These statements are uttered without a hint of irony, even though the U.S. has reserved for itself the right "to remake" the entire region. The fact that Iran, surrounded by the U.S. military on three sides (Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf), may feel threatened by a U.S. administration determined to use force rather than diplomacy, is rarely considered as the Islamic republic explores ways to further their national interests and survival. 

Moreover, as the second-leading democracy in the Middle East behind Israel, Iran is much closer to the American model of self-government than our besieged allies in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. Though post-election protests in 2009 ended in bloodshed and show trials, one now cringes at the daily video of how our staunch allies in the region are cutting their own protesters down with sniper fire. Also, as Shiite Muslims, Iranians are the sworn enemies of Sunni groups such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Nevertheless, the belief that Iran is the incarnation of evil hinders any diplomatic dialogue and strategic cooperation, unfortunately foreshadowing more conflict and instability in the region.

It is certainly unrealistic to expect that the U.S. government and media can reform these three basic beliefs overnight. They are solidly embedded in our education system, woven into our historical narrative, and prevalent in subtle, though daily reminders that seep into our news broadcasts and entertainment. 

On the other hand, it is not unrealistic to believe that a conversation challenging these three "truths" could be initiated. In this case, it would be beneficial to lean on the words of former Defense Secretary McNamara, a man whose convictions, charts, and equations allowed for only one possible outcome in Vietnam: victory. That victory rested on the assumption that the Vietnamese people agreed with U.S. foreign policy objectives. Few were asked.

Accordingly, U.S. policy makers need to ask themselves, Arabs, and Afghans if our efforts at maintaining or creating stability in the Middle East and Afghanistan are worth the price tag in blood and money. This requires a re-examination of how we perceive and speak about our enemies, as well as the truth about ourselves and our allies.

* Dana E. Abizaid is an instructor of history at the Istanbul International Community School.







There is never a dull moment in Pakistan's politics. Only weeks after the MQM and the PML-N had been persuaded by the PPP not to withdraw support for its government in the centre, a new and potentially more bitter fracas has broken out. While the PML-N, angered by the failure to implement its 10-point agenda, has already parted ways with the PPP and shoved its ministers out of the Punjab coalition, the MQM stated at a media conference on Monday that it too might end its coalition with the ruling party. The MQM, following meetings in Karachi and London, has already begun a boycott of the Sindh Assembly. As in the past, the fracas arises from comments made by the Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza, stating that the Lyari-based People's Aman Committee was affiliated with the PPP and its members were 'children' of the party. The PPP has in the past, repeatedly denied any link with the group accused by the MQM of being involved in Lyari's gang wars and the murder of its activists. The MQM, in turn, also stands accused by this group and some others. It is hard to say what prompted the home minister to make comments that were bound to rile the MQM. He is either especially prone to blunder or engaged in some power game of his own. Despite attempts by the interior minister and other PPP leaders to defuse the situation, the MQM has accused Dr Mirza of patronising criminals while announcing its decision to quit the coalition.

The PPP stands on a very sticky wicket, with seemingly few expert players in its line-up to tackle the situation. It faces an onslaught on other fronts too. Chief Minister Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif has reiterated a suggestion that major parties in the country sit together, alongside the military leadership and the judiciary, to work out a plan to prevent further deterioration in the country's situation. He has also said the prime minister had been contacted in this regard. The PML-N is clearly displeased at the absence of a prompt response to its magnanimous suggestion and the apparent failure to even realise just how grave matters are. The law and order situation worsens by the day, and it seems obvious the government is clueless about what to do. The latest twist in affairs in Sindh will obviously not help matters. We wonder how long they can continue on this strained note, with the clouds growing darker across the skies and threatening to bring an especially angry storm crashing down upon us.






With Raymond Davis still behind bars there is little evidence of there being an end in sight to what has become an extremely damaging incident. Taking a broader view, the Davis Affair is emblematic of the changing world that America has to operate in. Events across the Maghrib and in the wider Arab world are reshaping international relationships almost by the day, and whilst it is unlikely that there is going to be a wholesale regime-change in the region it is almost inevitable that the countries within it are going to have a significantly changed relationship with America and the old colonial powers – as are we. Davis is just the latest in a line of covert operatives that have spanned the world from Indo-China in the 1950s to Nicaragua and the Caribbean. They are the dark side of foreign policy, the hit-men, the manipulators, the subverters of government, the arm-twisters and the infiltrators. They operate outside the law of whatever land they find themselves in and are accountable to nobody but their masters at Langley.

Thus it has been since the end of WW2, and hitherto there has been little or no challenge to American unilateralism. Wherever there has been an 'incident' it is usually quickly tidied up and the evidence erased. Apologies may be made – or not. But the Davis case is taking a different turn. It is unusual both in the type of incident that it is with an outsourced covert operative opening fire in plain view to the response of ourselves – which is to prosecute the killer as per the law. Both are something of a rarity. The message – albeit confused at times – that we are giving the Americans is that it is no longer acceptable that we allow your spooks free range over our country to do as they please. Pakistan is not your back-garden, it is our country and we get to say who plays on the swings and roundabout and who paddles in the pool. The Libyan rebels also like to determine who paddles in their pool – hence the unceremonious bundling out of a junior British diplomat and his protection team over the weekend after they were helicoptered in at dead of night sans invitation. America in Pakistan (or anywhere else) can no longer go about its covert business unchallenged. Moreover, if one of its agents oversteps the mark then they must expect to meet the full force of the law. Diplomatic immunity? We won't fall for that one again.








March 8 has rolled around once more. Sadly, International Women's day finds the women of Pakistan no better off than they were before. Despite the contents of its manifesto and the many promises made by leaders, the PPP has been able, in real terms, to do little to improve their plight. Discriminatory laws remain on the statute books and while legislation, including a bill introducing penalties for harassment at the workplace has been introduced, implementation remains poor. Similar problems with the enforcement of laws are a key reason behind the continued rise in cases of violence against women – with surveys by internal human rights watchdog bodies in the past indicating 70 or 80 percent of Pakistani women suffer violence in some form, be it emotional, physical or sexual in nature. Growing social frustrations and economic pressures add to their suffering, triggering an increase in crimes directed at women. The destruction of schools for girls by militants meanwhile continues in the north.


Despite the odds stacked up against them, we can still find the spirit of March 8, marked first in the US and then in nations around the world since the early 1900s, among the women of Pakistan. More and more have risen up to confront those who have wronged them. Girls have refused to be forced into marriages, a growing number each year bravely report rape, women who have faced domestic violence have spoken out about their suffering and awareness of their rights has grown quite dramatically over the past few decades, even among rural women. This is the first step along the road to greater equality that women everywhere seek, and which is indeed the key to the future prosperity of Pakistan and all its people.







 Protests have broken out in Kabul and other cities in Afghanistan against the US-led foreign forces, following a spate of civilian casualties in military operations and a lawmaker wept during the session of the Meshrano Jirga, the upper house of parliament, as he described the agony of the families that lost 65 members in recent airstrikes by Nato aircraft in the eastern Kunar province.

Afghanistan has been a tragic place since April 1978, when the communist Saur Revolution triggered violence that continues unabated. The two superpowers of the time, the USSR and the USA, took turns to inflict death and destruction on the unfortunate Afghans by sending in thousands of troops to occupy Afghanistan and chase an elusive victory against their respective determined foes.

Every time the Nato forces, armed with the most lethal weapons and airpower, bomb targets in the hope of eliminating Taliban fighters, they end up causing civilian casualties. It is no longer "collateral damage" because that should happen once in a while. At times, so many civilian deaths, including those of children, are caused that it would be appropriate to refer to it as carnage.

On these occasions, one wishes that there were some powerful world authority which could stop a big power from committing such war crimes. Or that that power could be shamed into halting military actions on moral grounds, because those being harmed are defenceless and also among the poorest in the world. Without warning, they are condemned to death from the air and the next moment they are blown into pieces.

It is followed by the usual denials by the US and Nato authorities, which insist that those eliminated were militants, even if eyewitness accounts show that civilians were killed and injured. Invariably, it is subsequently established that civilians rather than militants were killed, though differences persist as to how many of those who lost their lives were innocent. Grudgingly and after a long delay, the US and Nato admit their mistake, offer condolences to the bereaved families and promise compensation and better judgement in their military actions in future. President Karzai issues his customary condemnation, launches vocal protests and warns about the falling support for foreign forces among the Afghan people. Before long, another such incident happens and this cycle of events is repeated.

The Taliban too cannot escape blame for causing civilian deaths in Afghanistan. As UN annual reports indicate, an increasing number of innocent civilians are killed and injured in Taliban attacks. Most such casualties are caused in suicide bombings and by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted by the Taliban to attack military convoys. The majority of civilians getting killed are in Pakhtun-populated south-western Afghanistan, where the insurgency is at its fiercest due to the presence of both foreign and Afghan soldiers and the Taliban militants in large numbers.

In the latest attack by the militants, 12 civilians. including five children and two women, were killed in the south-eastern Paktika province on Sunday when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. Such incidents have become common in southern Afghanistan where most unpaved roads have increasingly become unsafe due to the use of IEDs.

Though the hundreds of protestors who gathered in Kabul on Sunday were expressing their outrage against the foreign forces for causing civilian deaths, and in particular shouting slogans of "Death to America," there were some among them who also condemned the Taliban for harming civilians. It is rare for Afghan women to join such public protests, but dozens were brave enough to do so, chanting slogans demanding peace, criticising both the Americans and the Taliban.

However, even those critical of the Taliban concede that attacks by the militants would not take place if there were no foreign forces in Afghanistan. The real issue, then, is the presence of the US-led Nato forces totalling around 150,000; backed by thousands of private contractors, or mercenaries if you like, hired from scores of countries and known to use strong-arm methods and violate local laws with impunity. Those foreigners aren't going away for the next four years if one were to believe the Western leaders, who decided at their Lisbon Summit late last year to retain their forces for four more years in Afghanistan and keep the options open beyond 2014 in line with the ground situation at that time. This means four more years of bloodshed in Afghanistan and its dangerous fallout on Pakistan.

The US has already broached the subject of its military plans for Afghanistan beyond 2014 with President Hamid Karzai, who has been telling his people that the Americans want to retain military bases in the country. Obviously, the beleaguered Afghan president doesn't want to take such a crucial decision himself and is, therefore, seeking advice from members of parliament, his political allies and religious scholars, as well as ordinary Afghans. Mostly, the response he is getting is negative and it appears that opposition to permanent US bases would grow with the passage of time.

Former Mujahideen commander and Herat provincial governor, Ismail Khan, who is now Afghanistan's minister for water and power, was the first to publicly oppose permanent US bases. He was followed by the elected provincial council in the eastern Laghman province. Others are following suit.

Anti-government clerics led by Maulana Abdullah Zakiri had issued a statement opposing establishment of permanent US military bases in Afghanistan and stressed that the on-ongoing fight against the foreign forces was real jihad. Now pro-government clerics have taken the same stand.

The Ulema Council of Afghanistan, the pro-government body of clerics, in a meeting rejected the establishment of permanent US military bases in Afghanistan and termed it a useless attempt. A delegation of the council led by its deputy chief, Maulvi Qiyamuddin Kashaf, then met President Karzai to convey the decision. An official statement issued by the president's office after the meeting said it was the right of the Muslim nation of Afghanistan to take decision with regard to this important issue.

President Karzai may take the issue to the Loya Jirga, a traditional assembly of elders convened at times of crisis and national emergency, because the newly-elected parliament may not be the right forum to make a decision. A referendum too isn't an option in Afghanistan, where every recent election has been marred by allegations of electoral fraud. It is likely that the Loya Jirga may oppose giving the US the right to retain military bases in Afghanistan.

The issue of civilian deaths in Nato military operations hit the headlines as a large number of civilians were killed in Afghanistan in recent weeks. President Karzai said 150 Afghan civilians were killed in Nato military operations and other acts of violence. They included 65 in Kunar province, in one bombing raid in Ghaziabad district. A delegation sent by Karzai came up with this figure of 65 civilians: 21 boys, 19 girls, 10 women and 15 male adults. In another Nato raid a few days later, nine boys collecting firewood in Kunar province's Manogai area were killed, followed by five men on a hunting trip in the mountains in neighbouring Laghman province.

The Afghan lawmaker from Kunar, Maulana Shahzada Shahid, said after the recent Nato bombings in his native province that he would take his complaint against Nato to the International Court of Justice. The issue became so emotional that Afghan lawmaker Rafiullah Haideri wept during the recent session of the upper house. He was unable to control his emotions as he narrated the story of his visit as part of the official delegation to Kunar to investigate the civilian deaths.

The issue of civilian casualties has certainly aroused resentment in Afghanistan and triggered protests. The Nato forces may have scored some small military victories against the Taliban and killed some of the militants, but they have lost the battle to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. It is a losing battle, and the sooner they accept this fact the better.

The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email:








Mr Finance Minister! You presented your maiden federal budget for 2010-11 in parliament in June 2010. Unfortunately, the same budget could not see the light of the new fiscal year because your revenues were grossly overstated and expenditures were highly understated. Fiscal indiscipline of the provincial governments also played a key role in sabotaging your maiden budget. You failed to present a revised budget and as such, the nation is living through a budget-less year for the first time in the country's history. What a great beginning, Mr Finance Minister!

Your statement in Karachi on March 5, 2011 avers that "we have a commitment with IMF to maintain a balance between revenues and expenditures, as this imbalance results in borrowing". You also stressed "the need for immediate tax reforms in the country and highlighted that all political allies of the government have to be taken on board in making policy decisions". You further argued that "we must not allow politics to defeat economics or partisanship to defeat national interest".

These are nice words, Mr Finance Minister. The question I would like to raise is, what have you done so far to balance revenue and expenditure? Did you make enough effort to broaden the tax bases? Have you made any advancement on RGST and adjustment of domestic fuel prices in line with international oil prices? Did you convince the PML-N team in your 45 days parley to support the government on RGST and oil prices?

Did you take any initiative, Mr Finance Minister, to bring agricultural income under the direct net? You must learn from honourable members of parliament like Jehangir Tarin and Shah Mahmood Qureshi who have vociferously advocated agricultural income tax. Did you initiate any work on improving withholding tax regime? Did you ask the Chairman, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), to minimise the gap between the tax collected and tax deposited in the government's treasury?

Mr Finance Minister! Have you taken the provincial governments on board in relation to the need for placing binding constraints on them to generate surplus directed at keeping budget deficit at a sustainable level? Did you look at the power sector reform which is currently handled in the Ministry of Finance by an Under-19 team? What have you done so far in terms of addressing the issues of rotten public sector enterprises?

Mr Finance Minister, your statements in the press clearly reflect your frustration and inability to address Pakistan's fiscal challenges. You stress "the need for immediate tax reforms" but who would undertake these reforms? It is none other than you, Mr Minister. You stated that "we must not allow politics to defeat economics". The economics has been defeated time and again over the last year in particular. The recent retreat on the issue of passing the higher cost of oil prices to domestic consumers is a classic example of defeat. The fact is that you are a Finance Minister of a lame-duck government which is bent upon clinging to power at any cost. It has been observed throughout the world that a weak and lame-duck government cannot implement economic reform and will hesitate to take difficult economic decisions. Simply postponing the reforms will put the economy in dire straits and will increase the adjustment cost.

Two pieces of advice, Mr Finance Minister, from my side. Firstly, you should not behave like a politician. You are an educated person and a technocrat and must avoid giving political statements. Your statement that appeared in an English daily, dated March 5 that "the government inherited a shattered economy" sounded political in tone. You were a part of the previous regime for a long time, therefore, your contribution to the "shattered economy" cannot be ignored. Secondly, whether the government inherited a 'sound' or a 'shattered' economy, you must read the first two paragraphs of the Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies, dated November 20, 2008, submitted to the IMF by your own ministry.

Let me give you another piece of advice. At the time of presenting the budget 2010-11 in parliament, the revenue number was grossly overstated. The drawback of such overstatement is that, in anticipation of higher revenues the provincial governments planned their expenditures accordingly. The performance of revenue, thus far, has been dismal. The FBR has collected Rs 865 billion in the first eight months (July-February) of the fiscal year, thus depicting an increase of only 9.2 percent. What is happening in the FBR? Did you get the time to find out the reasons for such a pathetic performance?

The IMF Mission is in town and will be finalising the country's macroeconomic framework for which the revised revenue target of the FBR will be required. The FBR Chairman has categorically stated that the FBR would collect Rs 1630 billion in the current year. To achieve this target, the FBR would have to collect Rs 765 billion in the remaining four months of the year. This translates into a growth of over 42 percent in the remaining four months. Don't make your future projection of revenue on the basis of an inflated base. You will collect in the range of Rs 1500-1530 billion, at best, with considerable effort. Even this would require a growth of 18-23 percent in the remaining four months. Plan your expenditure accordingly to keep budget deficit at 5 percent of GDP in the current fiscal year.

Mr Finance Minister! You need to lead the ministry from the front, shed the lethargic and laid-back attitude, communicate with the people of Pakistan, talk to the private sector regularly, appoint a spokesperson of the ministry and strengthen your team which is by far the weakest that I have ever seen. God help you Mr Minister.

The Writer is Principal & Dean at NUST Business School (NBS), Islamabad.









For anyone with even the slightest interest in Pakistan's future, Shahbaz Bhatti's assassination should spur some serious problem-solving. The first question any good problem-solver asks is: "What is the most urgent and immediate problem that needs solving?"

For some Pakistanis, it is that people aren't outraged enough by these killings. Not enough Pakistanis condemn terrorism, and not enough reject extremist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba. This failure to reject extremism, the thinking goes, creates the space for acts of violence, like the suicide bombing in Nowshera, and the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti. Indeed, the lack of moral clarity about violence in the name of ideas is a huge problem. But is it the most urgent and immediate problem?

For other Pakistanis, it is that the CIA and other intelligence outfits are operating with impunity in Pakistan, and conducting false flag operations. These operations, the thinking goes, are designed as a psychological operation to de-legitimise Islam, and pave the way for the "secularisation" and "de-nuclearisation" of Pakistan. Though the evidence for these claims is scant, and the linearity of the arguments is questionable, if foreign intelligence operations do enjoy impunity in Pakistan, then this is a failure of the Pakistani intelligence community, a huge problem, if there ever was one. But is this the most urgent and immediate problem?

It seems that if the discussion is about dead people – people killed by suicide bombs, fedayeen attacks, targeted killings and assassinations – then the most urgent and immediate problem is that people are dying. It is shocking how controversial and unpopular this simple truth really is.

The problem is not whether or not those dead people are mourned appropriately, and how much moral outrage their funerals generate. For example, (thankfully) the funeral for Shahbaz Bhatti, a Pakistani hero, was attended by thousands in Islamabad, and over 30,000 thousand in Faisalabad, at his home village – but Salmaan Taseer's was not. Muslim clerics were more vocal in condemning Bhatti's assassination than they were in condemning Taseer's. Does this mean that there is something more morally wrong with Bhatti's assassination, than Taseer's? Of course not. Because when a politician campaigning for justice is killed, the primary, most urgent and immediate problem is not how many mourners he leaves behind. The most urgent and immediate problem is that he is dead.

The problem is also not whether or not those dead people are victims of false flag operations by the CIA, RAW or Mossad. Indeed, even if the JSOC is operating in Pakistan with impunity (and the approval of both civilian and military leaders), these operations would represent a problem that is altogether and entirely different in nature than the problem of people dying.

The problem of foreign conspiracies against Pakistan – even if it is accepted, at face value that they exist – is a problem of a weak intelligence, poor counter-intelligence and ineffective foreign policy. Pakistanis, including Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, may be getting killed within a context of these weaknesses, but they are being killed with bullets coming out of guns, and bombs strapped to young men.

Weak intelligence, poor counter-intelligence and ineffective foreign policy are certainly important problems worth attending to, but the most urgent and immediate problem they are not. The most urgent and immediate concern is that Pakistanis are getting killed.

These distinctions are uncomfortable, because in Pakistan, we have spent the entire post 9/11 era on opposite sides of each other, flinging names, accusations and ideological claptrap. Innocent Pakistanis keep dying, and different kinds of narratives keep attempting to frame the problem in accordance with the cultural and ideological principles that they hold dear.

Thus far, the argument between the minority so-called "liberals" and the vast majority in the so-called "mainstream" seems to be about whodunit and why. "Liberals" insist the violence is Islamist terror and is committed in order to destroy an orderly society, and take over power. Mainstream opinion seems to insist that the violence is externally funded and arranged, in order to destroy an orderly society, and take over Pakistan's nukes. These are the caricatures of the two poles that define the debate in the aftermath of this violence.

Save for a vocal minority that celebrated the Taseer assassination however, it is almost unheard of that either side disagrees on the fact that violence that kills innocent people is bad. This tremendous resource, the consensus that people dying is a bad thing, is being wasted at the altar of our specific ideological passions. We are wasting the opportunity to come together and defeat this menace, and reclaim both the Pakistani state and society.

In trying to solve the problem of Pakistanis being killed due to violence, the Pakistani state (civilian and military) is on the wrong side of the equation, no matter whether you are liberal or conservative, outlier, or mainstream. Impunity for violent killers exists because the state is either incapable of dealing with them, or is unwilling to deal with them. There is no third explanation for it.

If the state is incapable, either out of fear, or genuine incapacity, or a lack of resources, then it needs to ask for real help – not just the financial support it keeps getting, but actual material assistance. This could mean Turkish and Malaysian boots on the ground, Saudi intelligence, Israeli technology and Indian and Afghan support.

If the state is unwilling, either because it is in league with killers, or because it fears taking them on could mean the end of the prevailing "order" of things, then serious thought needs to be invested in just how long Pakistanis and the rest of the world can wait till international intervention is something we begin to seriously discuss.

The problem however is not in the state alone. Pakistani society is bitterly divided. It is time to attempt the bridging of this divide.

If a majority of Pakistanis believe in conspiracy theories about violence in the country it is time to begin investing effort in understanding what is causing such a failure of reason and logic, above and beyond standard explanations of the manipulative nature of the establishment. It is time to begin to inspect the anger and sense of indignity that serves as an engine for this lack of reason. No country in the world can have an irrational and unreasonable majority – without some context. It is time to start exploring what that context is, why it exists and what can be done to deal with it. Notwithstanding the manipulation of the mainstream by the establishment, calling people names may be a poor way to begin this process of engagement.

If we want fellow Pakistanis to share the pain and despondency of the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, the least we can do is to empathise with fellow Pakistanis' politics and positions – no matter how unreasonable they may seem. Such compromises are a part and parcel of the very civility that is so lacking in the public discourse. They represent small but vital investments in a better, more coherent Pakistan. There can be no better way to honour Shahbaz Bhatti's memory.

The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy.







UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, "Women nearly everywhere are living longer than men. They face a higher risk of chronic illness and disability, discrimination and marginalisation"

This year March 8 the theme of International Women's Day is: "Equal access to education, training, science and technology - pathway to decent work for women". However, along with the importance of access it appears to be extremely important that we understand the concerns of women not only from the gender balance and equal rights perspective but also cater to the feminine experience.

The IWD is an important platform to recognise and mainstream older women's contribution – the silent strength and workforce participation that remain forgotten and many times not recognised in the fast phase young force vision of development.

The gendered nature of ageing reveals that women tend to live longer than men, and that a large number of older women live alone than men. In Pakistan, large numbers of Pakistani women over the age of 50 years are widows because they are married to relatively older men. Men often remarry if they lose a spouse but women do not. The current UN figures estimate that by 2050, 22 per cent of the population will be older persons and that the majority of these older persons will be women. The figures also revealed that 75 per cent of older women would be living in developing countries. This population structure has profound social, cultural and economic implications.

In Pakistan, older people live with their extended families. Despite the strains on the traditional support systems caused by migration and urbanisation, the social expectation is that the family will take care of their older members. But if this was completely true, why do we have increasing numbers of old homes in Pakistan? Government programmes like Benazir Income Support Program, zakat, pensions, should be such a well knitted structured that these funds provide services to older people (especially women) with dignity. Widowhood, poverty, illiteracy, childlessness, social isolation and displacement, put older women at risk of physical, verbal abuse and neglect.

Women often suffer more from chronic diseases that may not be life threatening, but disabling. Health care delivery is generally geared more towards acute care, and often ignores the needs of older women who might benefit more from home healthcare than hospitalisation. Postmenopausal difficulties and absence of geriatric medicine and health prohibit older women from quality life.

Older women have always made an important contribution – as caregiver, counsellors, mentors, confidants, and grandparents or great-grandparents. While their contributions remain significant, the situation of many older women, especially the poor and disadvantaged, has remained bad. Mainstreaming older women can be done though "grandparents programmes" or by establishing wisdom banks, where older women are contributors of wisdom and not as hurdles to care and disputers to modern practices.

There are certain recommendations to challenge these stereotypes in our society. Media, education and advertising should be used to combat damaging stereotypes and recognise and promote the contributions of older women in our society.

Improve living conditions and economic security of older women – through legislation and programmes that ensure that older women can get jobs, fair pay, and access to credit, equal inheritance rights, and eliminate discrimination in pension schemes.

Improve older women's well-being and health status – by educating health-care providers to recognise and address the specific needs of older women, and providing mental health services and access to in-home assistance services.

Promote lifelong learning for women – by providing training and re-training to equip older women.

The writer is the country director of HelpAge International Pakistan Program.









The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.

Forecasting the future is hazardous but essential business. Extrapolating emerging trends into the future is necessary not just to equip ourselves for what might happen but to help avert crises and mitigate risk.

A conference earlier this month at Wilton Park on what the world would look like in 2030 was aimed at examining trends and challenges relating to global conflict. Organised by the British government in association with the US National Intelligence Council, the two-day event brought together officials and experts from around the world for what turned out to be a rich and lively discussion.

Speakers identified several elements that will characterise the international landscape:

• The world will continue to be in flux with diffusion of power to a multiplicity of actors.

• The shift in economic power will accelerate from the West to the Rest especially with the rise of China.

• Globalisation will make hard for any state to be immune to external shocks.

• Competition for scarce resources will be a driver of tensions or conflict.

• The character of conflict will change; new frontiers will include cyber space and use of robotic technology.

• The risk of violence will intensify in countries with institutional deficits in security and justice.

• The mismatch between state capacity and complex challenges will heighten the danger of conflict.

• There will be winners and losers in the process of economic change.

• Structural unemployment will be a key source of instability.

• Multilateral institutions will face a greater test to adapt to a multipolar world where the role of non-state actors will increase.

One speaker described the present era as one of many kinds of revolutions – economic, the most fundamental driver of change but involving uneven patterns; demographic, with falling fertility rates across the world enhancing the challenge of managing aging populations; and political, being driven by economic and social transformation. The enabling revolution for all these is technological.

The future will be about how to adapt to the challenges unleashed by these revolutions. Every crisis would be different. No single template is available to make their management simpler.

Although it was acknowledged that there is no shared sense of challenges in the world today it was stressed that the way we envision a challenge affects how we can engage with it.

An important theme on which consensus developed was that large scale military interventions are unlikely in the light of the experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. This was not just the consequence of a loss of appetite, but of the ability to achieve desired outcomes. Coinciding with the opening of the conference was a statement by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates invoked by speakers as the most explicit acknowledgement of this. In a speech to American cadets Gates said that any future defence secretary who counselled the president to send large American land forces to Asia, the Middle East or Africa "should have his head examined".

There was general agreement that the sources of conflict in the next twenty years will be diverse. Inter-state conflict will be rare but will not disappear. Instability in failing and fragile states, tensions over access to natural resources, and struggle for regional and global hegemony will be among the drivers of future conflict. The world in 2030 will have to be watchful of how a range of outside powers will be engaged in regions of conflict.

A hopeful account came from a participant who said that compared to the 1950s, international conflict was down by 80 percent, high intensity civil wars had dropped by over 70 percent since the Cold War, and battle fatalities had declined by 90 percent. Others however pointed out that conventional conflict may be less frequent but instability remained persistent. Risks and societal vulnerabilities will continue and resource competition especially over water will emerge as a significant cause of inter-state conflict.

Nevertheless the cost of war will make other options more attractive. As one participant put it, interventions will occur but will be harder to mobilise and justify. For the most part war will be "permissible" only on two grounds: self-defence and when authorised by the UN Security Council.

Correlations were emphasised between the youth bulge and armed conflict in situations of economic stagnation as the eruption of the Arab street demonstrates. Among top challenges the intersection between Weapons of Mass Destruction and terrorism was stressed, as also the nexus between terrorist and criminal networks.

Differences in North-South perspectives were evident through the proceedings. For example on the nuclear issue speakers from developing nations urged a balance between non-proliferation and disarmament goals. There were calls for the West to abandon unilateralism and on a different note, to acknowledge – especially in the context of the Arab upsurge – that democracy was not a Western export, but valued for itself. Western nations were also urged to draw and adhere to the distinction between 'helping' countries and 'meddling'. Dialogue was all very well but meaningful engagement had to go beyond this and accommodate the interests of the developing world.

All participants agreed that there was an urgent need to find appropriate policy tools and multilateral mechanisms to deal with emerging and enduring threats and challenges. Institutions of global governance were increasingly out of step with the changes sweeping the world. It was recognised that power transitions are perilous moments in history when risks are especially high. Managing these in a consensual way becomes all the more urgent. So too is managing the risks of democratisation as difficult transitions lie ahead in the Middle East and beyond.

On the theme of global governance a spirited debate took place on what kind of cooperative mechanisms will be relied on to find solutions to problems in a world characterised by the decentralisation of power. This turned on a discussion about the balance between multilaterism, bilaterism and minilaterism. Will impatience with the cumbersome, consensus-based multilateral process mean a greater resort to informal 'coalitions of the willing'? Will legitimacy and representativeness, the principal advantages of multilaterism, be compromised for effectiveness of action by smaller, like-minded groups?

Minilaterism, understood as an approach that brings to the table a core group of countries to solve a specific problem, has always been utilised in the form of ad hoc groupings, commissions and contact groups including the 5 plus 1 group an Iran, the Quartet on the Middle East and the G20 comprising the world's largest economies.

Coming decades may see a combination of the two approaches, but while minilaterism will supplement multilaterism, it will not supplant it. I pointed out that minilaterism can lead to rule-making by a powerful or unrepresentative oligarchy and risk reducing problem solving to a power play. Moreover were lasting solutions possible if they were imposed on those with no voice in 'club governance'?

Some issues may well be more amenable to minilateralist solutions but as a general principle, unless there is a reporting mechanism that links decisions by a select group to a larger multilateral body, the UN, an exclusionary approach would be contested and produce compliance failure.

Minilateralism or ad hoc responses are therefore no panacea. Instead efforts to strengthen and reform multilateral institutions should be launched to achieve both effective and credible outcomes.

As the conference drew to a close a clearer understanding emerged about the complexity of a world that had to be navigated thoughtfully and collaboratively. Two messages were particularly important. One, that we need to think globally to be more effective locally. And two, finding a balance between national interests and international norms remained integral to global efforts to minimise conflict and promote wider and more equitable prosperity.








Empires develop an illusion of permanence, it is said. So it seems has the Pakistani state establishment. Although without achieving anything even remotely comparable to the accomplishments of a developing country with comparable or even less resources, let alone an empire. But an onlooker observes that our powers that be, the top brass of military, the higher echelons of civil bureaucracy, the superior judiciary, that part of political leadership and media barons who are hand in glove with those running the key institutions of the state, continue to think that they are in control.

Even as indiscriminate use of brute force by religious and political militias who were once created or encouraged by the powers that be is on the rise and the limits of religious extremism that the rulers set themselves for the society in the past are being crossed, the institutions of establishment perhaps continue to think that this could still be managed.

But things have changed in Pakistan and the old establishment's mindset demonstrates no understanding of what is happening in the precincts of its empire. For our power elite, the security challenges somehow still do not include food and economic security, social security and the right to freedom of expression and human dignity.

While there is so much making us implode we think someone would try to explode us from the outside. In the same week when three men lost their lives in Lahore at the hands of an American, 32 young recruits were blown to pieces in a military training school in Mardan by a suicide bomber. Both are highly deplorable crimes but which one has attracted more attention and why?

Perhaps the post-2014 Afghanistan is more important to us than the Pakistan of 2011. The state and society are slipping out of the hands of their old managers like sand, too fast, too soon. But they are not getting it. Being drunk would mean that the view blurs and the judgement falters. Our old establishment is drunk with power, be it limited to power over the valueless bodies and souls of a 180 million inhabiting about a million square kilometres of landmass.

Nevertheless, this is not something progressive elements in society should rejoice over either. For the old establishment's mindset is not being replaced by any new thinking of enlightenment, social justice and economic prosperity for all. It is being replaced by the ideology of those who impose their authority by suicide bombings and murders. The legitimacy to these actions is provided subtly by elements within the PML-N and explicitly by the JI and the JUl.

Can someone remind me of one unqualified, categorical denunciation of any act of violence against innocent civilians or our soldiers and police by their leadership? Shame on the three legislators of the JUI who kept sitting while others stood in parliament to observe a minute's silence for Shahbaz Bhatti, martyred for sticking his head out for a poor peasant woman.

Why isn't the PPP mobilising rank and file to condemn these killings rather than backing up against this cliff of compromise over which the party always falls? Maybe the ones at the summit have learnt something from the party's past which is hidden from the rest. A friend from Lahore told me the other day that the incumbent governor of Punjab has no qualms about praying behind the same cleric in the governor house mosque who refused to offer memorial prayers for his predecessor. This can't be true.

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet, author and public policy advisor who works with progressive social movements. Email: harris.khalique@gmail. Com









IT is for umpteen times that Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, who has gained notoriety for loose talk, opened fronts against PPP's own coalition partner MQM but every time the PPP leadership resorts to cosmetic measures to cool down the tempers. In his latest outburst, the Provincial Minister has claimed patronage of People's Amn Committee, adding that to dub all its members as criminals would be tantamount to levelling the same allegation against him, evoking strong reaction from MQM, which has threatened to the extent of parting ways with the PPP in Sindh.

There has been uneasy relationship between the PPP and MQM from the very beginning and one of the main factors in shaking the alliance is irresponsible attitude of Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, who spares no opportunity of launching scathing attacks on the party's crucial coalition partner. Though an impression has been conveyed that the party Co-Chairman and President Asif Ali Zardari has taken notice of Sunday's remarks of Mirza but no one would buy the excuse that the Minister was doing so on his own without knowledge and tacit approval of the Party leadership. Of course, this can happen one or two times but not frequently and that too in a calculated manner and that is why analysts have a point in arriving at the conclusion that Mirza's statement represents more than his personal views. Being a close buddy of President Asif Ali Zardari, Zulfiqar Mirza is not expected to churn out time and again derogatory, explosive and provocative statements on his own that have a direct bearing on the party's alliance with the MQM whose support is so vital for the Government for not only maintaining peace and tranquillity in Sindh especially Karachi but also keep the Federal Government afloat during this turbulent phase of our political history. PPP leadership never gets tired of speaking about the politics of reconciliation but its actions and policies betray its pronouncements in this regard, as is abundantly clear from its attitude towards PML (N), MQM and JUI(F) and that is perhaps why Maulana Fazlur Rehman has described PPP's policy of reconciliation as a farce. One fails to understand why disciplinary action is not taken against Mirza if he was violating Party's policy and guidelines.








IN a move unheard of in any civilized society and where rule of law prevails, President Asif Ali Zardari has come out openly to save the skin of one of his close confidants and Federal Law Minister Babar Awan on the issue of his indictment in a robbery and attempted kidnapping case terming it as 'baseless and politically motivated'. Apart from presidential spokesman, who issued a statement on the judicial process, a spokesman for Bilawal House in Karachi also came out with a statement disregarding the principles of rules of law and justice.

It is for investigators to provide proof and for the court to determine whether or not there was any substance in allegations levelled against the Minister and, therefore, one is not in a position to comment on the veracity of the charges. But it is unfortunate that instead of pursuing the case in the court of law, the PPP has preferred to politicise it by issuing contemptuous statements. You can try to belittle the issue by referring to it as twelve year old politically motivated case but what about frequent appearance of his name in the Punjab Bank scandal. In the first place, if you are convinced of your innocence then prove it in the court rather than trying to politicize a purely judicial process and trying to bring the judiciary into disrepute. Secondly, judiciary has the same rules, laws and procedures throughout Pakistan, then why single out one province by saying that the 'Punjab prosecution was abusing judicial process', meaning thereby that you have no faith in the judiciary in the province. But this is surely in line with the overall approach of the PPP Government towards the judiciary as it is disregarding even rulings, verdicts and directions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in different cases. Thirdly, as Head of the State and symbol of the Federation, the President is not supposed to create hatred or make remarks against one of the federating units. The Party leadership has been meting out discriminatory treatment to Punjab, which is evident from its past actions like unilateral abandoning of Kalabagh Dam, dismissal of the elected government of the province, imposition of the Governor's rule followed by intensive campaign to form its own government, exploiting water issue, and above all utter discrimination bordering punishment in power and gas load-shedding but even then it wonders why its popularity graph is falling in the Province. Anyhow, by launching attack on courts, the PPP has lowered its image further in the eyes of the public.







THE issue of slow reimbursement to Pakistan by the United States under Coalition Support Fund (CSF) has surfaced many times during discussions between the leadership of the two countries and we have been hearing commitment every time that the process is being streamlined but no visible progress has been made so far. The issue was discussed once again during the maiden visit of new American special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman to Pakistan where he held out assurance to look into ways and means to expedite the process.

Most of the country's economic and financial problems are directly linked to the ongoing war on terror but regrettably coalition partners and allies are not sensitive to our woes and as a result people of Pakistan are suffering and resultantly the anti-war feelings are intensifying with the passage of time. That Pakistan's economy is in a shambles is known to all but despite that they are not realising even the importance of speedy reimbursement of the expenses actually incurred by the country from its limited resources. Pakistan has been funding the war by cutting its development expenditure to an alarming extent and even obtaining costly loans from the IMF and both the options have compounded miseries of the people in the shape of shrinking economic and employment opportunities and rising cost of living. Apart from reimbursements, the United States is also paying only lip-service to its long-standing commitment of establishing reconstruction opportunity zones in the tribal region and is unwilling to grant more market access to Pakistan. Similarly, most of the aid under Kerry-Lugar Bill is routed through the private sector, which effectively means NGOs that are known for eating most of the aid in the name of overhead expenditure. We are sure that satisfactory resolution of these issues can bring the real substance to American aid and could help contribute towards improvement of its image in Pakistan.








George Friedman, internationally recognized expert in security, intelligence and information warfare issues, in his recent treatise has given thought-provoking analysis of America's wars — World wars and four major wars thereafter. On one hand he mentioned America's strong points, while on the other hand he exposed vulnerabilities and flawed perceptions of its leadership. It would be pertinent to dwell on the salient features of his treatise. He quoted US Secretary Defence Robert Gates who told the audience at West Point recently: "US. Army must be prepared for a wide range of future wars; the U.S. will need swift-moving expeditionary and special-operation forces to respond to disasters, counter terrorism or conduct stability operations. But a state-on-state land war with tanks and artillery? Don't count on it…Any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined." General Douglas MacArthur had given similar advice to President John F Kennedy in 1961 after the Korean War.

It is an established fact that the US is a sole super power, and naturally has global interests. By virtue of its position, it has also responsibilities towards the world, and should have achieved its objectives through diplomacy rather than through the wars – Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. George Friedman writes: "When the United States fights in the Eastern Hemisphere, it fights at great distances, and the greater the distance, the greater the logistical cost. More ships are needed to deliver the same amount of material". One can conclude from these lines, that all these wars involved tremendous costs whereas America did not achieve any of its objectives. What is not understandable that why America had to go to war with Korea and then Vietnam, as America did not achieve any of its objectives, if it had any? Was it to show that Capitalist countries are better equipped and stronger than Communist countries and the US is a dominating power? There is a perception that to invade Iraq and Afghanistan, the US tried to terrorize Muslim world so that it toes the American line. But the US again took recourse to false flag operations.

Website carried an article captioned 'History of American false flag operations' producing a detailed account dating back to American War of Independence and then from Mexican and Spanish wars. First and Second World War, Korean War, Vietnam War, Grenada invasion, Panama invasion, US-Israeli sponsored war between Iraq and Iran, Desert Storm (First Gulf war), 1991, and then War on Terror in October 2001, Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan invasion), Enduring Justice (Second Gulf war), 20th March.2003 later known with less irony as Operation Iraqi Freedom. As stated above, the reason for attacking Iraq was presumed danger to the US, as it possessed weapons of mass destruction. Since no WMDs were found, the reason for the invasion was changed to bringing the democracy to Iraq. Nevertheless, America stands exposed as all the pretexts for attacking Afghanistan and Iraq have been proven wrong. The reason for invading Afghanistan was ascribed to Al Qaeda, which reportedly had planned 9/11 terrorist attacks. But none of Afghans were involved in the attacks, and reportedly planning was done in Germany.

Once again efforts are being made to blame Pakistan for supporting and ensconcing Taliban militants, and America is pressurizing Pakistan to conduct operation against, what they call Haqqani network in North Waziristan. The fact of the matter is that Haqqanis are giving a tough time to the US and its allies in Afghanistan, so their leadership is right in Afghanistan. The objective seems to be that if Pakistan conducts operation in North Waziristan those militants that are not against Pakistan would turn against Pakistan. Anyhow, President Obama's decision to start withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2011 is acknowledgment of the eidetic reality that the war is not winnable.

In America, before mid-term elections, Obama administration wanted to showcase its success in controlling situation in Afghanistan and also to assure Americans that it has achieved its objectives of destroying militants so that they do not pose a threat to America. President Barack Obama therefore once again said that 9/11 attacks were planned in Pakistan tribal region, which is travesty of the truth, because it has been proved beyond doubt that attacks were planned in Germany. Before bombing Cambodia and Laos, America had blamed them for providing logistic support and providing safe haven to Vietnamese guerrillas.

But America's own declassified documents, objective accounts and analysis by their own historians including war veterans, bear testimony to the fact that the Vietnamese resistance was wholly indigenous and the war was fought by the Vietnamese themselves. Even the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which the American warlords had made the casus belli for their Vietnam War, has turned out to be a big hoax. Even Saddam's possession of weapons of mass destruction and his touted links with Al Qaeda that American conservatives and militarists had made the pretext for invading and occupying Iraq was a preplanned conspiracy. Incontrovertible evidence has come out from declassified American documents that no US naval ship was attacked by the North Vietnamese Navy in Gulf of Tonkin. In fact no action had taken place on the night of August 2, 1964 nor was any American ship assaulted. In fact, there was no US naval ship in the area in the first instance.

Now comes the interesting part. The author writes: "The example of the capitulation of Germany and Japan in World War II is frequently cited as a model of U.S. forces defeating and pacifying an opposing nation. But the Germans were not defeated primarily by U.S. ground troops. The back of the Wehrmacht was broken by the Soviets on their own soil with the logistical advantages of short supply lines. As for Japan, it was not ground forces but air power, submarine warfare and atomic bombs that finished them — and the emperor's willingness to order surrender. It was not land power that prevented resistance but air and sea power, plus a political compromise by MacArthur in retaining and using the emperor". The position is that Americans are earning less and consuming more. The US government is spending more than its resources on misadventures, and this is the sure recipe for disaster. In these circumstances, Americans themselves would bring down America. The US should review its self-destructive policies, and should rely on diplomacy rather making the world more perilous and dangerous to live in. America should stop giving unqualified support to Israel. President Barack Obama should fulfill his promises vis-à-vis Kashmir and Palestine to bring lasting peace in the world.


The writer is a Lahore-based senior journalist.








On 25 February 2009, over 1000 NCOs and Sepoys of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) had staged a mutiny at its HQ in Dhaka in Pilkhana compound where about 9000 troops were present celebrating 'Annual BDR Week'. During the address of Director General Maj Gen Shafiq Ahmed, several unruly Sepoys stood up and started expressing their grievances offensively. Their long standing demands included increase in pay scale, greater benefits, more holidays, opportunity to serve in UN missions, ration scale at par with Army, discontinuation of system of deputation of army officers to BDR and instead original members of BDR to be promoted from ranks. Soon after, the DG and senior officers were taken hostages and later on, all were brutally killed. They also attacked officers' residences and looted and killed families of officers. DG's wife was among the killed and after looting valuables the residence was torched. All told 58 officers were killed.

On the following day BDR soldiers revolted in 12 other outposts in different towns and cities. Besides, 46 additional outposts of BDR showed signs of agitation. At that stage the Bangladesh Army (BDA) that had been kept away for unknown reasons was asked to move out but remain 3 km away from the BDR HQ. When the Army carried out flag march with tanks in Dhaka and also entered Pilkhana on 27th, it hastened the process of surrender. The mutiny was Army officers specific but pretext was something else. Hatred against officers on 2-3 years deputation to BDR among the lower ranks was brewing up for quite sometime. Corruption and opulent lifestyle of officers were the chief reasons of their aversion. Surprisingly neither the chain of command nor the intelligence agencies detected it. Likewise, grievances were neither attended to nor satisfactory explanations given. It may be recalled that suchlike horrendous massacre of Army officers on deputation and families had taking place in erstwhile East Pakistan Rifles (EPR) after Gen Yahya Khan unwisely postponed the inaugural session of Constituent Assembly in Dhaka scheduled on 3rd March 1971 without giving a fresh date under pressure from ZA Bhutto. Intelligence agencies had failed to assess the level of Bengali nationalism as was witnessed from 3 March onwards. In EPR, the victims were West Pakistani Army officers and families and the killers were Bengali soldiers. Hair raising atrocities were inflicted not because of materialistic grievances but because of ethnic hatred seeped into the minds of each Bengali by Indian psychological operators, Bengali Hindu teachers and professors. The bloodbath came to an end when a military operation was launched in Dhaka on 25 March as a consequence to Mujib's uncompromising stance.

This time the Bengali BDR soldiers instigated by India massacred Bengali officers at a time when a democratic government of Hasina led Awami League (AL) very friendly to India had recently taken over in December 2008. The government disbanded BDR. BDR's anti-India stance and domineering posture along the 4096 km long border with India had become a cause of serious concern for India . Apart from BDR which infuriated Indian political leaders and BSF, India has also remained wary of growth of Bangladesh military power and its rapidly growing cooperation with Pak Army. It had broken the eastern wing of Pakistan in 1971 so as to enfeeble Pakistan 's military capability and to have a subservient Bangladesh antagonistic to Pakistan . Conversely, the two Muslim armies have not only made substantial all round progress, the two do not carry any grudge about the unfortunate dismemberment. Overwhelming majority of Bengalis is convinced that the division occurred due to Indian machinations. The thought of Pakistan and Bangladesh forming a joint front against India send shivers down the spine of Indians. It is these fears which compel India to weaken the armed forces of the two countries through covert operations.

Smarting under these disturbing thoughts, India was on the lookout to deliver a deadly blow to the BDR, create serious rift between the Army and BDR and also to tarnish the image of the Army and to bring its officers to disrepute. It took its revenge on 25 February 2009 in the form of bloody mutiny in BDR directed against Army officers. The scale of the mutiny and brutality of its perpetrators were too vicious when seen in the backdrop of seeking petty economic gains. Killers had with them a hit list of Army officers whom they searched out and slaughtered them. They went a step ahead by mutilating dead bodies of officers and burying them in mass graves or throwing them in sewerage lines, burning dead bodies, burying alive some of them, raping, torturing and killing their wives and children. It didn't stand to reason that such grisly acts could be undertaken for unfulfilled petty demands. It strongly suggested that forces behind the upheaval had their eyes on bigger objectives.

Dispassionate appraisal of the sad incident leads to a firm conclusion that only India was the net gainer while all others in Bangladesh were losers. 67000 strong BDR that had become a powerful entity was shattered and chain of command completely smashed. The Army lost some of its finest officers which impacted the morale of officer cadre. It took a considerable length of time to rebuild BDR and to restore morale of the Army and to diminish antagonism between the two organizations. It was an attempt to create misgivings between the government and the Army. Had the Army tanks rolled into Pilkhana and BDR HQ on 25th, it would certainly have resulted in bloodbath thereby creating permanent cleavage between the Army and the BDR. As a follow up, the battalions of BDR might have escaped to India thereby giving yet another chance to BSF and Indian Army to open up rebel camps and create Mukti Bahini force. India had created Shanti Bahni out of Chakmas in mid 1970s in Hills of Chittagong and clandestinely supported them for many years against the country it had mothered. Indian media and leaders have been propagating against BDA that it harbors and supports anti-India terrorists. It alleges that some elements within the security forces have links with insurgent terrorists like ULFA, HUJI and al-Qaeda. It also alleges that Bangladesh military intelligence in cooperation with ISI is fomenting trouble in eastern states of India . Allegations of similar nature are hurled against Pakistan.

The hand of India in the BDR mutiny became known when it was learnt that during the mutiny BDR soldiers received SMS messages from BSF assuring them of full assistance. To put Bangladesh authorities off track, Indian media was quick to blame Islamic militants in Bangladesh wanting to destabilize pro-India government. Indian Army and air force were alerted to be ready to assist Hasina's regime. Indian hand had become so obvious that Hasina was compelled to seek assistance of USA , Britain , UN and Scotland Yard to not only investigate the matter but also help in restructuring armed forces and paramilitary forces. When India desired creation of Joint Task Force in place of BDR and to accept its demand for transit route facilities and to be involved in restructuring of BDR, protests were raised that the mutiny was stage-managed to give an excuse to the ruling regime to purge religious extremist elements particularly anti-Indian officers from the armed forces and paramilitary forces and to let Hasina tighten her grip over armed forces and to convert the military into a counter terrorism force.

India had planned to weaken and possibly destroy BDR and in the process defame BDA but the mutiny has helped Bangladesh to rename BDR as Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) and to further refurbish and expand the new force by creating 46 battalions and 12 sector HQs each under a Brig. BGB has recovered its operational capabilities and is going for modernization and expansion.

—The writer is a retired Brig and author of several books.








Pakistan is a country which has faced the brunt of terrorist attacks in the recent history. No school, market or religious site is safe at the hands of the terrorists. At the end of 2009, there were a record number of civilian casualties related to terrorist events, which mounted above 2,000. The start of the comprehensive army operation in Khyber Pakhtunkua and FATA region has clearly effected the terrorist operations, as the training camps and sanctuaries have been eliminated, but the terrorists and their various cells are still active inside the country, carrying out attacks. The recent sectarian attacks in Lahore and Karachi and the attack on the CID building in Karachi are to mention a few. Throughout most of the decade of the war on terror, the initiatives carried out by various agencies against terrorism have been inconsistent and un-coordinated, which as a result have not presented the desired result. The government, addressing the situation, has installed an authority based on the structure of the US Homeland Security to counter the terrorist threat. While its mandate may not be as broad as that of Homeland Security, but the basic objective is similar.

It has been mainly two years since the first news of the establishment of the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) by the government popped up in the media. In July of 2010, the government immediately put into effect this organization and assigned it with the task of addressing the issue of prevalent terrorism threat in the country. The function of this authority is to coordinate the efforts of various intelligence agencies and law enforcement departments, in order to counter the terrorist threat. So far, little is known of the progress being made by this department apart for the acronym that has been decided upon. The organization is so far seems to be enveloped in a cloak and out of national limelight. It is understandable that the work carried out by NACTA is sensitive, but the public has the right to know the progress made by the department, as their safety is the sole concern for this organization.

Unfortunately, it took Pakistan ten years to initiate an organization, which has been structured on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). While, the establishment for the Office of Homeland Security was announced only eleven days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Pakistan, which is at the forefront of the coalition in the war against terror, took a much longer time to comprehend the need of such a department. Department of Homeland Security coordinates the activities of at least, 40 federal US agencies. The basic activities of this department include, controlling and monitoring the US borders and ports, working with local authorities to respond to any emergency and coordinate the information and analysis received from various government agencies. By the mid of 2002 the department was fully activated and is now considered the vanguard organization for the US, in the war. The department has gone through various changes, since its inception, as and when required by the administration.

The terrorism incidents taking place throughout the world are either, due to security lapse or intelligence failure. The reason cited mainly is the inability of the security apparatus to perceive a threat, or failure to alert the proper authorities of the danger. This has been true for most of the major terrorist attacks, including 9/11. It is a fact that the intelligence is present against the backdrop of such attacks, but is either ignored, or finds itself trapped in a bureaucratic system and fails to reach the proper people. The absence of a simple common database has generated difficulties for law enforcing, to keep track of the culprits, or establish their identities. Given the current scenario, this has given rise for the need of a single umbrella organization, to facilitate efforts against terrorism. The earliest of such broad based umbrella organizations can be traced back to the establishment of Interpol or International Criminal Police Organization, which has 188 member countries. Its main purpose is to coordinate and facilitate the efforts of the law enforcement agencies of member countries, to counter international crime. In other words, it acts as a liaison among the police of different member countries and brings consistency in their efforts, by providing assistance.

NACTA has been established on the resolve to counter any terrorist threat, while working on the same level of DHS. It also shows the level of seriousness and commitment of Pakistan in this war. The establishment of this authority has come under serious criticism from various quarters, as the level of power and the mandate that it has been granted have still not been made very clear.








Women rights have a direct linkage with women's socio-economic empowerment and emancipation. Thus, International Women's Day provides us an opportunity to reaffirm our resolve and strong commitment with the cause of women empowerment and emancipation. This commitment is important as the status of women is a key indicator to judge the pace of progress of any society. Today, the developed societies of the world have not only acknowledged the importance of women but also benefiting by the active role of the women in the development and construction of the society. However, it has been remained a bane of our society that the women were denied their due role and status. Thus, the phenomenon has resulted in compounding our socio-economic problems. The Father of the Nation, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, while highlighting the role of women, said "I have always maintained that no nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with the men. No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men. There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the women."

Similarly, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto strongly emphasized on women rights and women empowerment while Shaheed Benazir Bhutto remained a staunch believer of women empowerment throughout her life. Besides her commitment with democracy and human rights in Pakistan, her vision is inspiring for the cause of women emancipation as well. The cause of women's empowerment has special significance for present democratic government as empowerment of women is an integral part of the legacy of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. It's worth mentioning here that the first ever Ministry of Women in Federal cabinet besides various other women specific measures, aiming to uplift the status of women in society, was also introduced the government of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. In this regard, the present democratic government has not only enacted appropriate laws to safeguard and protect women's right but also working to ensure proper implementation of these laws. Yes, there are several challenges that yet to be addressed. However, it's a highly elevating reality that we are heading towards the right direction.

The following excerpt from one of the speeches of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto could be termed as the most beautiful depiction of the idea of women empowerment. Shaheed BB said "Empowerment is the right to be economically independent. Empowerment is the right to be educated and make choices. Empowerment is the right to have the opportunity to select a career. Empowerment is the right to own property, to start a business, to flourish in the marketplace. Empowerment is the right to rationally plan and balance profession and family."

Translating this socio-economic vision of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, the present democratic government has initiated Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) to alleviate the sufferings of financially vulnerable, underprivileged and deprived segments of society and to enable them to live financially self sustained life. Moreover, the programme has become a true manifestation of this vision and it is successfully advancing the cause of women empowerment and emancipation in society.

BISP is first ever such initiative in Pakistan and largest social safety net in South Asia, which provides benefit to more than 3.5 million families at present. The programme has a significant role in women empowerment as the financial assistance, under the programme, is being provided to women head of the deserving family. Moreover, the ownership of business ventures under Waseela-e-Haq Programme, also lies with the women head of the family. Similarly, to strengthen the concept of women empowerment further, the vocational/technical training under Waseela-e-Rozgar initiative of BISP has also been provided to women head of a registered deserving family or her nominated person.

The importance of these measures taken by BISP was also reflected by the fact that more than 10 million women have obtained their National Identity Cards during last two years. Of course, holding of CNIC has ushered a new era of the women social emancipation and besides giving them identity, it has enable them to open and run their personal bank account, get the property registered on their names and obtaining passport etc. Moreover, with the help of financial assistance provided by BISP, these women are able to not only protect their self esteem but also to contribute in the improvement of the financial position of the family. Thus, BISP has contributed significantly in the socio-economic empowerment of women. The most important aspect of the BISP is its contribution in uplifting women status and respect in the society. It is first ever such initiative in the social sector of the country, which has gained support and trust of various prestigious international organizations as transparency, objectivity and impartiality is the hallmark of this programme. BISP has also started first ever country wide door-to-door Poverty Survey as well which is based upon internationally recognized method, proxy means test, which is a transparent mechanism to identify poorest of the poor of a society. Its being expected that the total number of beneficiary families registered with BISP would rise up to 5 to 7 millions at the completion of survey till June 2011.


Similarly, BISP has initiated the payment mechanism through Mobile Phone Banking and Benazir Smart Card. This step would not only strengthen the delivery system further but would also facilitate beneficiary families, especially women in receiving cash grant without any hassle. With the introduction of this system, BISP will be able to obtain real time reconciliation and check on leakages. These steps of the BISP would provide relief to people in need, in an effective, transparent and efficient manner. One may hope that these measures would ultimately lead us towards the establishment of social welfare state as well as to achieve the objective of women socio-economic empowerment on sustainable basis.

—The writer is Chairperson Benazir Income Support Programme.





18TH Amendment makes a difference

Muhammad Saleem


The parliament recently made numerous fundamental changes in the Constitution of Pakistan by passing the 18th Constitutional Amendment under which the province of NWFP has been renamed as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the spellings of provinces of Baluchistan and Sind changed as Balochistan and Sindh, the scope of offence of high treason enhanced, three fresh fundamental rights added, Gen Zia's name deleted from the Constitution, concurrent list abolished, besides various other changes were made. This has been regarded a significant step towards maturing the democratic process.

Previously, high treason was defined as abrogating or subverting the Constitution by use or show of force or by other un-constitutional means or attempting or conspiring to do so. The practices by two former military dictators – Gen Zia and Gen Pervez Musharaf – indicated that they neither abrogated nor subverted the 1973 Constitution as was done with the Constitutions of 1956 and 1962 but they cleverly either suspended it or held it in abeyance to exonerate themselves from the charges of high treason. The new Amendment provides that whoever abrogates, subverts, suspends or holds in abeyance the Constitution by use or show of force or by other un-constitutional means or attempts or conspires to do so shall be guilty of high treason. This Amendment further adds that any High Court or Supreme Court of Pakistan shall not validate the act of high treason. The Constitution has now explicitly prohibited the superior courts from validating the act of high treason for the first time.

Twenty fundamental rights were originally provided in the Constitution. By virtue of the 18th Amendment, an addition of three fresh fundamental rights has been made which are: a right to fair trial which provides that all persons shall be entitled to a fair trial and due process in civil and criminal proceedings; a right to information which provides that every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law; and, a right to education which provides that free and compulsory education for children of the age of five to sixteen years shall be provided by the State.

Gen. Zia got inserted his name in the Constitution in the year 1985 by becoming President of Pakistan as a result of referendum held in December, 1984. By virtue of the 18th Amendment, his name has been deleted from the Constitution. Previously, the President had power to hold referendum under the Constitution on any matter of national importance at his discretion or upon advice of the Prime Minister. Now the PM may exercise this power who will first refer the matter to both houses of the Parliament for its approval and then hold referendum. There were two lists in the Constitution which included Federal list and Concurrent list. Federal list consisted of those subjects in respect of which only the Federal government had power to legislate while both federal and provincial governments were empowered to legislate in respect of the subjects given in the Concurrent list. By virtue of 18th Amendment, the concurrent list has been abolished and as a result thereof, several federal ministries and divisions stand transferred to the provinces.

Fresh provisions have also been inserted with regard to disqualification of members of Parliament for nonpayment of loan and utility bills. These fresh provisions provide that a person shall be disqualified for being elected as member of the Parliament if he/she has obtained loan worth two million rupees or more from any bank, cooperative society or financial institution in his own name or in the name of spouse or dependents which remains unpaid for more than one year or he/she has got such loan written off. Moreover, if a person or his spouse or his dependents has defaulted in payment of government dues and utility bills including telephone, electricity, gas, water in excess of ten thousand rupees for six months shall also be disqualified to become a Member of the Parliament.

The Amendment provides that the Attorney General as well as Advocate General cannot engage in private practice during their tenure of office. Previously, the President could nominate any person as acting Governor when the Governor was absent from Pakistan or was unable to perform his functions but now by virtue of 18th Amendment, the Speaker of Provincial Assembly shall act as acting Governor. The Constitution of 1973 did not provide the specific tenure of the Auditor General of Pakistan. 18th Amendment provides that the Auditor General of Pakistan shall hold office for a period of four years or till he attains the age of 65 years whichever is earlier.

A separate High Court for Islamabad Capital Territory has been constituted under the 18th Amendment. For appointment of judges of superior courts, a Judicial Commission has been established whose composition is as under: Chief Justice of Pakistan, Chairman; two most senior judges of Supreme Court, Members; a former Chief Justice or Judge of Supreme Court to be nominated by the Chief Justice as Member; Federal Law Minister, Member; Attorney General of Pakistan, Member; A senior advocate of Supreme Court, Member to be nominated by Pakistan Bar Council for two years. Where the appointment pertains to Judges of High Court, the Judicial Commission shall also consist of: Chief Justice of High Court concerned, Member; The most senior Judge of High Court, Member; Provincial Law Minister, Member; A senior advocate to be nominated by Provincial Bar Council for two years as Member.

The Amendment further provides that the Judicial Commission, by majority of its total membership, shall nominate to the Parliamentary Committee one person for each vacancy. The Parliamentary Committee shall consist of four Senators, and four MNAs. Out of these eight members, four shall be from treasury (two from each house) and four from opposition benches (two from each house). The nomination of members from the Treasury Benches shall be made by Leader of House while from the Opposition benches they shall be nominated by Leader of the Opposition. The Parliamentary Committee may either confirm the nominee of the Judicial Commission by majority of its total membership within 14 days or it may not confirm him by rejecting the nominee by 3/4th majority of its total membership in which case the Judicial Commission shall send fresh nomination. The Parliamentary Committee shall, in case of confirmation, forward the name of nominee to the President for appointment.

The 18th Amendment lays down that the most senior Judge of High Court shall be nominated as chief Justice of High Court. This provision was not in existence before this Amendment. Peshawar High Court had its benches at Abbottabad and Dera Ismail Khan. A Bench at Mingora has newly been established by virtue of 18th Amendment. Balochistan High Court had bench at Sibi. Now a new bench at Turbat has also been established. Previously, the President had power to direct the Supreme Judicial Council to enquire into the conduct of a superior court judge. Now, this council may also enquire the conduct of a judge on its own motion.

—The author is a law & constitution expert based in Islamabad.









The Australian Taxation Office is, of course, within its rights to investigate any citizen and The Australian makes no comment as to whether Hogan owes the tax office money or not. It would be alarming, however, if the treatment meted out to him was anything like the ATO's normal behaviour towards those it is pursuing. If, on the other hand, its conduct is abnormal, then Hogan would appear to have a point when he complains that he is being targeted because of his high profile.

After years of investigations as part of the Wickenby probe into the use of offshore tax havens, Hogan was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by the Australian Crime Commission. Yet the ATO's approach in trying to cut off any source of income he might earn in Australia raises questions of whether he is being treated with procedural fairness. The matter smacks of inefficiency and delaying tactics in that the ATO has apparently failed to back up its claims relating to $150 million in back taxes, penalties and interest by providing documents that would allow Hogan to undertake the "objection" process under which taxpayers challenge tax assessments.

For example, in one covering letter, the ATO's Serious Non-Compliance Unit promised Hogan that: "In order to address the taxpayer's concerns about this process and to enable the taxpayer to participate effectively in the objections process, I have decided that key documents relied upon in the assessment should be provided to the taxpayer outside of the FOI Act." It was followed up by several documents, including one with 14 heavily blacked-out pages.

After more than five years investigation into Hogan as part of the Wickenby probe, raids on his accountants and questioning by the ACC, it is time the tax office moved the matter to a close. The ongoing Departure Prohibition Order, slapped on Hogan last year when he arrived in Sydney for the funeral of his mother, 101-year-old Florence, needs to be resolved. Hogan was allowed to leave Australia only after pledging an unknown amount of "security" to the tax office, but whenever he returns to Australia he is obliged to tell authorities in advance and give 21 days' notice of his intended departure date.

Such issues can be deeply complex, but it is not good enough if Hogan is still not being given the details that would allow him to respond to issues raised in a 148-page "position paper" sent to him in late 2009, which outlined why the tax office was pursuing him. Nor is it reasonable that the ATO has made references to information gleaned from interviews with third parties but will not tell him what those sources said.

For the sake of fairness and efficiency, the ATO should put its full case to Hogan clearly, and allow him to have his say like any other taxpayer so that the matters in contention can be concluded as soon as possible.






Those days seem to have disappeared under a wave of university degrees and green mantras that is dismissive of anyone worried about the price of bread and electricity. These days, rather than addressing the concerns of ordinary Australians nervous about the cost of a carbon tax, Labor and the Greens, along with their friends in the media, prefer to blame talkback radio hosts for the backlash against the policy. Some even suggest there is an orchestrated campaign to produce a movement styled on the American Tea Party, with naive consumers provoked into anti-government rhetoric by shock jocks in league with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. This stance would be laughable if it did not reveal a deeply worrying divide in our community.

It is the divide described by editor-at-large Paul Kelly when he wrote in The Weekend Australian of the "insiders-outsiders split that shaped the August 2010 election result". It is a divide cemented by Labor's ill-conceived alliance with the Greens, a divide made devastatingly clear in the collapse of support for Labor and Julia Gillard in today's Newspoll, with voters appearing to reject both the tax and the Prime Minister's backflip on the issue. From inside the tent where carbon policy is argued in moral, not economic, terms anyone who questions the cost of a tax to their household budgets must seem misguided, if not downright ignorant. To the largely tertiary-educated insiders, backing a carbon tax is proof of their intelligence, just like gay marriage or euthanasia.

This group, personified in Green parliamentarians and their supporters and many on the Labor Left, seems to have forgotten the egalitarian values that once defined their politics. No longer driven by a desire to provide jobs for workers and opportunities for their children, they have sought to close down the debate on carbon before it even begins. Yet acknowledging, as this newspaper does, the need to address carbon does not preclude debate on the effects of the policy. The need for action should not be seen as an automatic passport for the Gillard scheme. Nor should discussion of compensation be regarded as off limits. It is not just Rio Tinto and other companies warning of the risk posed by a carbon price to trade-exposed sectors of the economy. Saner heads in government, among them Climate Change Minister Greg Combet, are deeply concerned to save jobs. Yesterday, the ACTU argued for a comprehensive industry policy to protect jobs as Australia makes the transition to a low-carbon economy.

There is nothing new in the argument that pricing carbon ahead of the world can send jobs offshore. Overcoming "carbon leakage" through adjustments has preoccupied serious advocates of such measures for decades. Bob Brown and his colleagues may believe compensation is a capitalist conspiracy to allow industry to pollute and profiteer, but they are out of touch with global economics. Worse, they have little understanding of the lives of ordinary Australians who do not share their zeal for slowing growth, but who will end up carrying the burden of higher prices. When Rio Tinto's Australian managing director David Peever argues for the Gillard plan to provide more generous compensation and protection than Kevin Rudd's 2009 cap-and-trade scheme, it is obvious he is worried about his own business. But this is not just special pleading: Australians understand their prosperity is linked to the health of the resources sector. Yesterday, Annabel Hepworth reported the premiers' fears that Canberra's renewable energy scheme could add as much as $90 to annual household power bills. No one doubts the value of solar heating. The problem for those on the inside of this debate is that everything, including heavily subsidised renewable energy, has a price -- one the "outsiders" will not swallow without an argument.

Labor now has an uphill battle to sell this tax. Compensation will be crucial, and it is time for Senator Brown to start explaining how his party would protect jobs and families. The Greens are inside the political tent now and, along with Labor, they must take responsibility for policy. Time indeed to stop blaming the shock jocks and start listening to voters -- and talkback radio.





THE Governor-General's $110,000 flower bill is a trifling contribution to the multi-billion-dollar compost heap of public waste.

But Quentin Bryce has form when it comes to floral indulgence. As governor of Queensland, she reportedly had garden beds dug up to plant purple and pink blooms for International Women's Day. Ms Bryce should be careful with taxpayers' money, of course, but her real offence is against our egalitarian spirit. As Henry Lawson wrote, Australians "call no biped lord or sir and touch their hat to no man". Nobility's trappings may be a perk of office, but we have a sharp eye for pretenders to the Bunyip aristocracy.






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.







INTERNATIONAL Women's Day commemorates a broken promise. A hundred years ago, at the urging of the German socialist Clara Zetkin, the first International Women's Day on March 19, 1911, harked back to the revolutions of 1848 when King Frederick William IV of Prussia had agreed to grant women the vote and then promptly reneged on the agreement. Since 1913 International Women's Day has been celebrated on March 8, and there are rival explanations as to why. But Zetkin's idea remains the template: it is a day on which the world is reminded of the gap between the ideal of gender equality and the realities that many women still experience in their working and domestic lives. The broken promises of men who give only lip service to the ideal are still prominent among the reasons for the gap.

As Age senior writer Jo Chandler writes on the opinion page today, in many societies around the world even the lip service is absent, and women cannot aspire to the autonomy and opportunities that their sisters in countries such as Australia take for granted. This is hardly cause for smugness in developed Western societies, for it is often their politics that prevent change in the developing world. In the US, for example, Republicans in Congress want to reimpose the global ''gag'' rule, which forbade aid to any group, anywhere, that even talks about abortion. The effect of the gag was to restrict severely the work of family planning groups, which is why President Barack Obama lifted it after taking office. But the President's Democratic Party lost its majority in the House of Representatives in last year's elections, and the gag is on the agenda again.

In Australia, too, the cause of gender equality is not as secure as might have been imagined under the nation's first female prime minister. At the time of Federation, this country was a pioneer of women's rights: women could vote in national elections from 1902, decades before the same right was extended to women in Britain or the US. But in the course of a century the international scorecard has changed. In December, a survey compiled by a UK group advocating changes in gender roles, the Fatherhood Institute, ranked Australia 17 out of 21 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries for gender equality. The ranking was compiled from 10 criteria, including gender gaps in pay, parental-leave provisions, childcare spending, female workforce participation, and women's representation in parliaments and on company boards. On paid parental leave, Australia ranked second last, and it is unlikely to move much higher now that the federal government's 18-week, minimum-wage leave scheme is in place. The countries at the top of the rankings - Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark - have more generous entitlements.

The reality is that although women constitute more than half the population and about 45 per cent of Australia's workforce, they earn about 84¢ in the full-time male dollar, and about two-thirds of part-time male earnings. Fewer than three in 10 seats in Federal Parliament are held by women, and less than 10 per cent of seats on company boards. And, only 2 per cent of the boards of Australia's top 200 companies are chaired by women.

Affirmative action is a much contested notion in Australia, and it is unlikely that the political will exists to follow the example of Norway, which imposes quotas to ensure at least 40 per cent female representation on company boards. Nor is the reluctance to intervene in support of greater equality evident only at board level. It took vigorous lobbying by unions before the Gillard government supported an equal-pay case for workers in the community sector, most of whom are women. Australia may have been a pioneer of women's suffrage, but it is not the land of equal opportunity its citizens imagine it to be.






THESE are the floods that won't go away. Seven weeks after the worst floods on record hit western and central Victoria, the disaster may seem like yesterday's news for city dwellers, but some of the 3300 affected properties are still under water. Despite efforts to increase the run-off from flooded areas, it may be weeks, even months, before all the water is gone and recovery can begin. Some of the 97 flood-affected towns have been through a nightmare six months in which residents have been flooded three times. The ordeal is taking its toll. ''It's the sadness you feel when you go down the street,'' says Gail Smyth, a resident of Charlton for 36 years. ''It's the emptiness you feel … nobody is smiling any more.''

To add to the misery, those who have been able to return to their homes are finding the floodwaters have left a hazardous legacy. Even after the mud and filth have been cleaned out of homes and businesses, the interiors are riddled with mould. Respiratory illnesses, caused by fungal infections and allergies, are on the rise. In Charlton, the hospital and aged care service may have to be replaced; a tent currently serves as the town's medical clinic.

Clouds of disease-bearing mosquitoes present another health hazard. Since January, the Health Department has recorded almost 500 cases of Ross River virus, a sixfold increase from a year ago. Barmah Forest virus notifications have topped 100, compared with a handful last year. Murray Valley encephalitis has also been found in flocks of the ''sentinel'' chickens that health authorities monitor for the presence of the disease.

The resilience of flood-affected communities is being sorely tested week after week. With the passing of time, however, some flood victims fear they may be forgotten. All Victorians should think about the thousands of people who face many more months of physical and mental hardship.

The state government has made the first funding allocations to 16 councils to restore community facilities, but these will cover only a fraction of the costs of recovery. The $4 million federal-state Floods Community Recovery Fund needs to be distributed to all 26 flood-affected municipalities with a minimum of red tape and a maximum of urgency.

Through the Red Cross Victorian Floods Appeal, the public can help ensure continuing help for flood victims in the long struggle to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.








Why is being a prime minister of Japan such a short-lived affair? There have been six of them in five years. It used to be said that after more than 50 years of almost uninterrupted rule, the Liberal Democratic party had run out of energy. Junichiro Koizumi was the last man who could credibly fill the boots of a leader. But the same is now also true of the ruling Democratic party of Japan, which appears to be discarding its leading lights with similar abandon. Ever since the DPJ ended the LDP's virtual monopoly of postwar power two years ago, successive governments have been in a state of crisis.

The first DPJ prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, promised more than he could deliver, particularly on a pledge to relocate US marines and one base out of Okinawa. His successor, Naoto Kan, has repaired the relationship with Washington, but only at the cost of distancing his government still further from the wishes of most Okinawans. Both the left and, cynically, the right on the island are against such a heavy US military footprint. Mr Kan has toiled instead on two fronts – breaking the gridlock in parliament over the budget, and cleaning up a series of funding scandals that have dogged the party since its inception. He suspended the membership of a party grandee and founder, Ichiro Ozawa, after he had been indicted in a political financing case. Mr Ozawa cast a long shadow over the government, taking 16 DPJ members of parliament with him. A key warrior in Mr Kan's fight with Mr Ozawa was his feisty foreign minister, Seiji Maehara. Now he himself has had to resign after receiving an illegal donation, and Mr Kan's chances of survival are looking slim indeed.

Mr Maehara's resignation is a loss. He had both the vision and energy to navigate a military alliance with the US and an increasingly important trading relationship with China. Having been one of the leading critics of Mr Ozawa, he felt compelled to resign, even though the amounts involved in his case were trivial. But it is a measure of Mr Kan's political fragility that even bright prospects for the future can not survive what any other democracy would treat as minor technical infringements. An expenses scandal this is not.

There is no consensus on why Japan's prime ministers are so frail. Some put it down to the fact that the ultimate stability resides in the emperor, and dismissing a prime minister is no more traumatic than changing the coach of a baseball team. Others point to the postwar education system. Prime ministers have relatively low salaries, little authority even within cabinet, and limited terms. Whatever it is, Japan could do with one who can stay around for more than a year. All applications are welcome.






These are, to put it mildly, difficult times to be a Liberal Democrat. What is more, as Nick Clegg regularly tells colleagues, those times are about to get a whole lot worse. Lashed to the mast of a coalition with the Conservatives whose existence has made many of the party's erstwhile voters despair, the Lib Dem high command nevertheless feel compelled to stand up for coalition decisions on a range of policies with which many of its voters and activists, and even some ministers, disagree. Increasingly, the party is also taking real electoral punishment at the ballot box, with support in most opinion polls down by a half from 2010, knocked into sixth place in the Barnsley Central byelection last week and now facing a further pummelling when voters go to the polls in local and devolved elections at the start of May.

Yet to cut and run from the coalition is scarcely a credible option either. Not only do the parliamentary numbers stand in the way of any other configuration at Westminster until after a new general election. The hard truth also remains that the Lib Dems made the only plausible choice they could in the circumstances last year. To abandon the coalition now, just 10 months into what is supposed to be a five-year deal, would therefore be doubly devastating. The Lib Dems are fated to see it through and hope for better times ahead, as economic conditions perhaps improve and as enough middle-ground voters conclude that the shock treatment over the deficit was necessary. They, and we, are stuck with it.

What they – and the country – are not stuck with, however, is the requirement that the Lib Dems stare silently at their feet whenever the coalition does something particularly egregious – like the BSkyB decision last week – that was not in the agreement they struck last year. The top-down reorganisation of the National Health Service, a momentous and hazardous decision which was not in either party's own 2010 manifesto, and which was not in the coalition agreement either, is a particularly major example. Lib Dems are supposed to be defenders of the NHS. They are supposed to be supporters of an evolutionary, not a revolutionary, approach to reform. Whether on grounds of cost, accountability, the role of the private sector or patient choice, the NHS shakeup is not a policy that Lib Dems, even those who back the coalition, should support. On the contrary, they should oppose it. If they do not, one may ask, what is the point of their party?

Or take the question of the Tory side's increasingly strident approach to court decisions, here and in Europe, under the European convention or the Human Rights Act. A liberal party should always stand up strongly – though not of course uncritically – for the convention, for the courts, for international codes and for the Human Rights Act. Liberals should also make the reasoned argument for prisoners' votes, or for the right to seek review of the inclusion of one's name on a criminal register – the issues which have triggered the right's current campaign. Of course the issues are difficult. But the Tories are up for a fight on them. If the Lib Dems, of all parties, will not fight back and make the case for rights, who can?

The Lib Dems took an immensely difficult decision last year. Whether it will make them or finish them – or a bit of both – remains to be seen. There are still four years to go. A yes vote in May's alternative vote referendum would change the terms of politics significantly, perhaps allowing the party a hearing they do not now get. So might a sustained economic recovery of which there is currently not much sign. At the moment, however, the Lib Dems are not making their voice heard on issues where their voice ought to be. If the party is true to its liberal roots, as well as alive to its own self-interest, it must be willing to stand up for the values that helped raise the party to a position of power in the first place. If not now, when?






That census takers will shortly be moving among us compiling the 10-yearly audit of how many we are, where we come from, where we live, and what we do, is the legacy above all of three men. Thomas Potter MP was the first to propose it in 1753, though his bill got nowhere; it took a further 47 years for the legislation to pass that set up the first rudimentary census, conducted by John Rickman in 1801. Until 1841, no names were taken. Even ages were imprecise (in a society where many had no clear idea of when they were born, a five-year bracket was considered acceptable). The founding purpose was simply to establish, at a time when some maintained the population was growing and others that it was in decline, how many of us there were. That the census thereafter developed into a wider, deeper and far more socially useful guide to the British people was largely the achievement of William Farr, successively an apothecary, medical journalist, statistician, and pillar of the General Register Office. The work of John Snow, who first linked the spread of cholera to polluted water, developed with the help of population studies by Farr. The census has always had critics: as recorded in an exhibition which opened at the British Library yesterday, William Thornton, MP for York, called the 1753 proposal "totally subversive of the last remains of English liberty". Happily, more enlightened views prevailed – to the lasting benefit of policymakers, planners, historians and, indeed, the rest of us.







New Zealand authorities on March 3 ended their search for survivors of the Feb. 22 magnitude 6.3 earthquake that devastated Christchurch in the country's South Island. They judged that there was no possibility that any survivors remained under the rubble. The death toll from the quake rose to 166 by March 6 and is expected to reach about 200.


Twenty-seven Japanese are missing, 12 of them students from the Toyama College of Foreign Languages. Sixty-nine Japanese family members went to Christchurch in search of their loved ones. Most of them have returned to Japan. Whether in New Zealand or in Japan, the family members are suffering from anxiety and grief. The 12 students were in Christchurch studying at a language school in the Canterbury TV building, which collapsed during the temblor.


A first-year male student from the Toyama school was having lunch with a friend on the fourth floor when the quake hit. He was rescued some 12 hours later, but his right leg was amputated by rescuers in order to extract him from the rubble. A female student from the same school was also on the fourth floor when the quake hit, and thought that she would die because the space in which she was trapped was flooded. Fortunately, she was rescued.


Many survivors of the quake experienced the horror of being trapped for hours under the rubble. They and their family members may be suffering emotional trauma, so they must be given proper mental health care. People who experience terrible disasters or accidents often are left with psychological scars that do not heal easily. Their trauma can last for more than 10 years.


According to a 2009 survey of 106 people who lost family members in the January 1995 Kobe earthquake, 54 percent still suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and another 54 percent continued to experience depression. This underlines the importance of local governments giving timely advice and support to those who have returned from Christchurch, including having experts give psychological counseling if necessary.







Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara Sunday resigned for receiving a ¥250,000 political donation from a foreign national in violation of the Political Funds Control Law. He is a leader of a group of Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers who support Prime Minister Naoto Kan. His resignation is likely not only to deal a serious blow to the Kan administration but also to negatively impact Japan's diplomacy.


The law, intended to prevent foreign interests from unduly influencing Japanese politics, prohibits politicians from receiving donations from foreign nationals, foreign corporate bodies and other foreign organizations. Mr. Maehara resigned only two days after his problem surfaced. He may have wanted to minimize confusion in Diet deliberations on the fiscal 2011 budget and budget-related bills. But even so, opposition parties will assail Mr. Kan for appointing him as foreign minister.


The problem does not end here. It has also surfaced that a company linked with a person indicted on a tax evasion charge bought ¥500,000 tickets for a fund-raising party for Mr. Maehara and ¥800,000 tickets for Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, and donated some ¥1.2 million to government revitalization minister Renho. These three politicians have been critical of former DPJ chief Ichiro Ozawa, who was indicted in connection with false reporting on his political funds. There is a strong possibility that Mr. Maehara's resignation will lead pro-Ozawa DPJ lawmakers to strengthen their attack on Mr. Kan and the current DPJ leadership, which suspended Mr. Ozawa's party membership. Such a move will further weaken the Kan administration's foundations.


Mr. Maehara should have screened donations more carefully, but there are mitigating circumstances. The foreign donor, a South Korean resident of Japan, used her Japanese name. It is unclear whether Mr. Maehara knew that she was a Korean national. Nonetheless, by resigning quickly and avoiding becoming a political target, Mr. Maehara may have preserved his future political prospects.








TILBURG, Netherlands — There are times to think outside the box, and there are times to return to normality. The West's major central banks — the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, and the U.S. Federal Reserve — should take this to heart.


As former Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin put it: "It's the task of the central bank to take the punch bowl away when the party is still going." Recently, however, the Fed decided not only to keep the punch bowl in place, but to refill it.


When the financial crisis erupted with full force in 2008, the world's major central banks were right to employ exceptional measures. Granted, one could argue that in some cases they overshot — for example, with the second round of so-called quantitative easing in the United States — but, roughly speaking, the response seems to have been appropriate.


More than two years later, however, the situation has changed. Economic recovery is not stellar, but it is a recovery nonetheless. Almost all developed economies have left recession far behind, and the danger of deflation has disappeared. The Swiss central bank recently adopted this position, and the ECB is worrying about higher inflation, not deflation, in the eurozone.


In emerging economies, such as Brazil, China, India and South Korea, inflation is rapidly rising and increasingly becoming an economic and social problem.


So the time has come for the West's central banks to become "normal" again. This applies especially to the Fed and the Bank of England.


Central banks in emerging-market countries like Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Peru, Thailand and South Korea are providing good examples to follow. They have embarked on the normalization path by hiking official interest rates to nip inflation in the bud, thereby preventing price volatility from choking off future economic growth.


Faced with the economic growth in the short run, or over the medium to long term, these central banks are opting for the latter. By raising interest rates to prevent inflation from spiraling out of control, they inflict some pain on the economy now. But that pain is negligible compared to the pain that would be needed to fight runaway inflation later.


In that sense, emerging-market countries' central banks have learned the lesson of the 1970s and 1980s, when inflation ruled the world and crippled economic growth — in large part because central banks did not act in a timely fashion. Central banks like the Fed and the Bank of England seem to have forgotten that history. So, what should Western central banks do?


• (1) Put aside use of a "core inflation" indicator. There is much to say for using core inflation in conducting monetary policy and explaining decisions to the public, but only when price increases of food and energy — which core inflation strips out — are temporary in nature. That seems not to be the case anymore.


In Britain, for example, supposedly "temporary" factors have been keeping the inflation rate well above the target for almost two years. The ECB recently published a report saying that food prices will most likely increase because demand is structurally higher than supply. The same can probably be said of various commodities, including oil, demand for which has been structurally underestimated.


• (2) Start rolling back the emergency measures put in place in response to the financial and economic crisis. This applies particularly to the Fed, which in the autumn of 2010 launched a second round of quantitative easing to stimulate economic growth and employment in the short run, but also to the Bank of England, which is criticized for being too lax.


• (3) To stand a chance of preventing inflation from increasing much further, let real interest rates, at the very least, be equal to zero or slightly positive. That has not been the case for a long time, and still is not the case with headline inflation running at 2.2 percent in the eurozone and 1.5 percent in the U.S.


Even when we look at core inflation, real interest rates in the U.S. are still deep in negative territory. The picture is especially grim for the United Kingdom, with the official interest rate at 0.5 percent and inflation at 3.3 percent.


To prevent inflation from spiraling out of control, the Fed should increase the federal funds rate from almost 0 percent now to at least 3 percent within a year or so. In the same time frame, the ECB should move its official rate from 1 percent to at least 2 percent, while the Bank of England should aim for 5 percent.


Choosing a short-term boost to economic growth and employment, rather than enforcing price stability, wrecked the world economy in the 1970s and 1980s. The outcome may not be much different this time around if Western central banks maintain their current monetary policies for much longer.


Maybe the time has come for the teachers to learn from their "students" (developing and emerging-market countries).


Sylvester Eijffinger is professor of financial economics at Tilburg University, Netherlands. Edin Mujagic is a monetary economist at ECR Research and at Tilburg University. © 2011 Project Syndicate








A hundred years ago today, women across the world took an historic step on the long road to equality.

The first ever International Women's Day was called to draw attention to the unacceptable and often dangerous working conditions that so many women faced worldwide.

Although the occasion was celebrated in only a handful of countries, it brought over one million women out onto the streets, demanding not just better conditions at work but also the right to vote, to hold office and to be equal partners with men.

I suspect those courageous pioneers would look at our world today with a mixture of pride and disappointment. There has been remarkable progress as the last century has seen an unprecedented expansion of women's legal rights and entitlements.

Indeed, the advancement of women's rights can lay claim to be one of the most profound social revolutions the world has seen.

One hundred years ago, only two countries allowed women to vote. Today, that right is virtually universal and women have now been elected to lead governments in every continent.

Women, too, hold leading positions in professions from which they were once banned. Far more recently than a century ago, the police, courts and neighbors still saw violence in the home as a purely private matter.

Today two-thirds of countries have specific laws that penalize domestic violence and the United Nations Security Council now recognizes sexual violence as a deliberate tactic of war.

But despite this progress over the last century, the hopes of equality expressed on that first International Women's Day are a long way from being realized. Almost two out of three illiterate adults are women. Girls are still less likely to be in school than boys.

Every 90 seconds of every day, a woman dies in pregnancy or due to childbirth-related complications despite us having the knowledge and resources to make birth safe.

Across the world, women continue to earn less than men for the same work. In many countries, too, they have unequal access to land and inheritance rights.

And despite high-profile advances, women still make up only 19 percent of legislatures, 8 percent of peace negotiators, and only 28 women are heads of state or government.   

It is not just women who pay the price for this discrimination. We all suffer for failing to make the most of half the world's talent and potential. We undermine the quality of our democracy, the strength of our economies, the health of our societies and the sustainability of peace.

This year's focus of International Women's Day on women's equal access to education, training, science and technology underscores the need to tap this potential.

The agenda to secure gender equality and women's rights is a global agenda, a challenge for every country, rich and poor, north and south. It was in recognition of both its universality and the rewards if we get this right that the United Nations (UN) brought together four existing organizations to create UN Women.

The goal of this new body, which I have the great privilege to lead, is to galvanize the entire UN system so we can deliver on the promise of the UN Charter of equal rights of men and women.  It is something I have fought for my whole life.

As a young mother and a pediatrician, I experienced the struggles of balancing family and career and saw how the absence of child care prevented women from paid employment.

The opportunity to help remove these barriers was one of the reasons I went into politics. It is why I supported policies that extended health and childcare services to families and prioritized public spending for social protection.   

As President, I worked hard to create equal opportunities for both men and women to contribute their talents and experiences to the challenges facing our country.

That is why I proposed a Cabinet that had an equal number of men and women.

As Executive Director of UN Women, I want to use my journey and the collective knowledge and experience all around me to encourage progress towards true gender equality across the world.

We will work, in close partnership, with men and women, leaders and citizens, civil society, the private sector and the whole UN system to assist countries to roll out policies, programs and budgets to achieve this worthy goal.    

I have seen myself what women, often in the toughest circumstances, can achieve for their families
and societies if they are given the opportunity.

The strength, industry and wisdom of women remain humanity's greatest untapped resource.

We simply cannot afford to wait another 100 years to unlock this potential.

Women still make up only 19 percent of legislatures, 8 percent of peace negotiators, and only 28 women are heads of state or government.   

The writer is UN Women executive director and former president of Chile.





On Feb. 25, 2011 the French Economy, Finance and Industry Minister Christine Lagarde was accompanied by several senior French officials and around 40 CEOs and key figures from private French companies on a visit to Jakarta to meet several Indonesian senior officials, in particular Indonesian Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo and Central Bank Governor Darmin Nasution.

The top priority of the meeting was to discuss ways to develop bilateral ties between the two countries, and in particular to convey France's intentions to intensify its investment in Indonesia — which explains why there were so many CEOs.

But more importantly, the meeting was held to discuss how Indonesia, as the chair of ASEAN, and France, as the chair of G20 in 2011, can work together to address the world's economic challenges, especially on food security issues — a pressing issue not only for Indonesia but for the world as a whole.

The recent weather phenomenon, the increasing size of the human population and the practice of commodity speculation have worked together to create surging increases in food prices around the globe — including in Indonesia.

The recent World Bank report states that the world food price index increased by 15 percent between October 2010 and January 2011. The index is now 29 percent above its level a year earlier. As can be expected, the number of undernourished citizens around the world soared from 850 million in 2005 to 925 million in 2010.

The condition in Indonesia is not much different, with the prices of almost all food commodities becoming steadily increasing.

One solution to this problem, as pointed out by many studies including those from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), would be to initiate an extensive investment program to revitalize agriculture industries.

The World Bank in 2007 reported that the agriculture sector had experienced severe underinvestment from both public and private sources, which in turn was bringing about severe inefficiencies within the sector.

This has not only limited production capacity, but has also deprived farmers of appropriate standards
of living.

Take Indonesia for example; even though the budget for agriculture has been increased significantly by 88.8 percent from Rp 890 billion (US$ 100 million) in 2010 to Rp 1.67 trillion in 2011, that figure still only accounts for around 2 percent of the total Indonesian state budget.

Since the recent spike in world food prices in 2007/2008, several initiatives by international bodies and individual countries have taken place.

In September 2009, leaders at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh called on the World Bank to develop a multilateral trust fund to scale-up agricultural assistance for low-income countries.

To answer the call, the World Bank thus enacted the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) in early 2010.

ASEAN countries were already one step ahead when they established the ASEAN Integrated Food Security Framework and Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security, in 2009 in Cha-Am, Thailand.

African nations have also established similar initiatives by enacting the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme. Nevertheless, these initiatives have not brought in enough capital to revitalize the agriculture sector. As reported by the FAO, the world needs to invest US$200 billion per year on the industry, and $150 billion of this amount needs to be invested in the Asia–Pacific region.

This is the amount the organization says is required for us to double food production by 2050 — which is required to feed the ever-growing population. But for us to reach this target we still need to boost annual investment in the sector by 50 percent.

In February, senior United Nations experts and G20 ministers expressed concerns at the need to
call for greater investment in agriculture from both the public and private sectors, to improve smallholder productivity.

In its communiqué after the Paris G20 minister meeting in February, the group expressed concerns about the consequences of potentially excessive commodity price volatility and asked that G20 deputies work with international organizations and report back to ministers on the underlying drivers and challenges posed by these trends for both consumers and producers, and consider possible actions.

They also reiterated the need for long-term investment in the agricultural sector in developing countries by keeping in mind the impact of this volatility on food security.

The limited funding capacity of these initiatives has left Indonesia and many developing nations short of benefits of agricultural investment at its maximum potential.

The investment/funding we have received so far has been very limited. Significant increases in agricultural investment in Indonesia would allow us to increase the production capacity of our agricultural sector thorough improved use of technology and better agricultural management.

Such investment would also open job opportunities for our people, and thus revitalize our economy.

Such assumptions are outlined in the World Bank report in 2007, which presses the importance of agricultural sector development in poor and developing countries — especially considering the large number of people who are employed in this sector.

Cooperation between Indonesia and France as the chairs of these two organizations, ASEAN and G20, is essential to push these initiatives forward to a broader extent.

Indonesia should utilize its alliance with France to make sure food security remains a focus of the G20 discussion and that a tangible commitment to an increased agricultural investment is made.

However, it would not be easy to convince countries, especially developed countries with already overheating debt conditions, to invest more in any areas, especially considering their stance on budget consolidation.

It is very fortunate for us to learn that France will be a strong ally in this regard. France is one of the most outspoken countries pushing for such investment.

To broaden these initiatives, Indonesia must seek, with France's support, to incorporate the ASEAN initiatives on Integrated Food Security Framework into the G20 framework.

ASEAN needs the G20 because its initiatives will not run well without the support of developed nations that are mostly members of the G20. Conversely, the G20 will need ASEAN as its developing partner considering the region is the main target of agricultural development.

The meeting between Minister Lagarde and our government was short, but it opened a door to the possibility of a solution to the world's common problem of food security that we must seek to utilize.
Considering the unquestionable importance of food security for our society and the world as a whole, a failure here is not an option.

The writer is a senior desk officer at the America and Europe Bilateral Cooperation division of the Finance Ministry of Indonesia.






As discussed in our previous article that focused on rice, the past several years have seen the prices of commodities fluctuating dramatically, with a tendency toward increased prices.

Indonesia is certainly not immune to these price fluctuations. Regardless of import restrictions or subsidized pricing, global price increases are inevitably transmitted to domestic markets.

Given the impact that such price rises can have on the poor and the degree to which they can undermine the government's efforts to reduce poverty, it has become vital for policymakers to understand the extent to which international price shocks are transmitted to domestic markets and the speed, geographical patterns, and drivers of the transmission of these price shocks.

With such an understanding, policymakers are in a better position to formulate policies that benefit consumers, while at the same time protecting producers. And it is important not to forget Indonesian producers in the equation.

Weak integration between domestic and global markets implies a weak domestic supply response. This in turn represents a huge lost opportunity for the Indonesian economy, with agricultural producers generating suboptimal levels of revenue from their products.

In a report recently published by the World Bank in Jakarta, the extent to which commodities in Indonesian markets such as sugar, cooking oil, soybean and maize were integrated into world markets was analyzed.

The analysis shows that all four commodities are well integrated with world markets. Over a period of about one year, a one-percent increase in world prices leads, on average, to a one-percent increase in domestic prices.

The different commodities are found to respond to world price shocks at varying speeds. In general, the speed of adjustment of domestic prices to shocks in the world market is fastest in the sugar and cooking oil markets and slowest for soybean and maize markets.

The speed of transmission of a shock in the international price to the domestic market also varies between the different provinces.

Within Indonesia, the report finds the main factors determining the extent of market integration between the various provinces are remoteness and the quality of transport infrastructure in that province.

The analysis also shows that those commodity markets with the highest degree of integration across provinces have smaller price differences: In the sugar market the average price differences across regions is 5 percent, while in the soybean, cooking oil and maize markets they are 16 percent, 19 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

Similarly, the differences between the maximum and minimum price in the country are lower for commodities that are deeply integrated across provinces.

Buying maize in the most expensive province can cost up to 117 percent more than buying it in the cheapest province.

Up to 70 percent of price differences across provinces can be explained by differences in the degree of remoteness, transport infrastructure, amount of locally-produced output, land productivity and income per capita. Remote provinces pay more unless they have a good transport infrastructure.

The report also finds that after taking into account for variations in exchange rates and world prices, remote provinces appear to have a higher level of price volatility than central provinces.

The results of the study suggest that international commodity price shocks are fully transmitted to domestic prices.

Thus, their impact on the economy is not just through changes in the prices and volumes of exports and imports, but also through changes in domestic production caused by changes in domestic prices.

The results also imply that the economic impact is not homogenous across the country because of the differing degree of integration between provinces. The speed and magnitude of the price change in remote provinces will be generally slower and less significant than in other regions.

The analysis has some important policy implications. The study indicates that government intervention is rarely the most effective means of reducing price volatility because shocks in international commodity markets will be fully transmitted to the domestic market.

It also shows that improving the quality of infrastructure can alleviate constraints to the transmission of price signals created by geography and remoteness.

This has important implications for food security. Targeted policies that aim to protect the poor and vulnerable from volatility in food prices are considered a priority.

Policies that aim at decreasing transportation costs by improving infrastructure or by eliminating bureaucratic impediments to transport will enhance integration of commodity markets within Indonesia and contribute to a reduction in price differentials between provinces.

The study also highlights the importance of improving agricultural productivity as a way to reduce prices for consumers, while at the same time increasing incomes for farmers.

The writer is an economist at the World Bank office Jakarta. The views expressed are his own. The full report: Boom, Bust and Up Again? Evolution, Drivers and Impact of Commodity Prices: Implications for Indonesia, can be found at






This year's celebration of the International Women's Day (IWD) on Tuesday is special as it marks the 100th anniversary of IWD. One hundred years ago, gender equality and women's empowerment were largely radical ideas.

Today, 100 years later, there has been significant progress achieved in women's empowerment and participation through determined advocacy, practical action and enlightened policy making.

However, in too many countries and societies, women's social position is still subordinate and lots of women are still trapped by poverty, discrimination, unemployment, illiteracy, intimidation and violence.

The United Nations' theme for this year's IWD is "Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women".

Strengthening the bridges between education, training, science and technology and the labor market is important in order to promote equal opportunity to decent employment.

As a basic human right, education is a key driver of economic growth and social change and a basis of women's empowerment.

The global economy is increasingly knowledge-driven, and requires an educated workforce able to apply the existing technology and to develop new science and technologies to combat poverty and adapt to emerging issues such as climate change and pandemics.

Therefore, ensuring that women acquire the necessary skills and competencies in science and technology is an economic imperative.

It could also empower women and girls to make informed decisions on critical aspects of their lives, including their health.

Nevertheless, like other members of society, women still suffer the impact of repression, corruption and lack of social justice.

In Indonesia, women nowadays have greater access to education and opportunities in the work place than ever before. Noticeably since the reform era of around early 2000, the socio-economic status and freedom of expression among Indonesian women have increased remarkably.

More and more Indonesian women are entering higher education, earning their own income and have the autonomy to choose where they would like to be enrolled for higher education or employment.

As for some Indonesian women who have the luxury of combining work and family, many are pursuing their career as professionals, bureaucrats, politicians, lecturers, teachers, researchers as well as entrepreneurs.

Indonesian women have now come a long way; not only do they contribute to the labour force, they increasingly also determine policies at the highest levels of both government and the private sector.

Indonesia has achieved overall good progress toward gender parity in the net enrollment ratio at primary and junior secondary levels. Nearly 98 percent of girls now receive basic education with 54.5 percent making it to senior high school, thanks to the nine-year compulsory basic education program.

Literacy is a powerful tool as it allows women to read and understand their rights. While literacy levels are high, more women need to make it to higher levels of education so they can pursue careers if they choose to and occupy top decision-making positions in the government, legislation and private sector.

Progress has been made in advancing women's participation in science and technology education. At the tertiary level, women now dominate in some fields of science, particularly life sciences and humanities.

However, women generally continue to be under-represented in computer sciences and sciences such as physics and agriculture research.

Nowadays, Indonesia has skilful prominent women concentrating on science and technology. To name a few, Deby Susanti Vinski is one of Indonesia's anti-aging doctors. Prof. Sri Kumalaningsih focuses on agriculture and food technology, and Zullies Ekawati has carried out extensive research on pharmaceutical drugs and could now help millions of people recover from diseases by measuring the human genes and reaction of medicines.

Srisupar Yati Soenarto is a paediatrician who introduced the famous diarrhoea medicine called Oralit, and Sidrotun Naim was the first and only Indonesian woman expert focusing on a fatal shrimp disease.

As mandated by the Indonesian Constitution and as part of its global commitments to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Education For All (EFA), and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the government has been implementing general policies to promote basic education by improving access and expanding learning opportunities for all school-aged children.

The government has also issued specific policies to promote gender equality in education by providing equal access for all boys and girls to quality and gender-sensitive education; and implementation strategies by creating a national movement on gender-sensitive education involving related stakeholders such as parents, community leaders, NGOs, as well as private and industrial sectors.

However, access to education in Indonesia becomes increasingly more limited as children go to higher levels of education.

There are complex gender-related issues that become barriers to achieving gender equality in education such as gender biased textbooks which reinforce gender stereotypes with more illustrations showing males/boys than females/girls, and more prominent men's names are cited than those of prominent women; gender stereotyping in the selection of specialization at vocational schools and universities in which social sciences are generally dominated by female students and technical sciences by male students; inadequate programs of the national policies to directly address inequalities in education by increasing access and participation of disadvantaged children, including poor and marginalized girls; inadequate gender awareness and expertise to socialize gender concepts within the Indonesian socio-cultural and religious beliefs and traditions; early marriage that could affect girls' access to and participation in education; and inadequate reliable sex-disaggregated data that hampers the education sector's ability to assess progress beyond access and participation.

Moreover, gender-related problems are indeed significantly inherent in the state system and cultural structure due to typical stereotype differentiating women and men, cultural and traditional values disrespecting women, and religious beliefs entrenching patriarchy.

Only through women's full and equal participation in all areas of public and private life can we hope to achieve a sustainable, peaceful and just society.

As education is the key to greater empowerment for women, investing in women and girls through the education sector has therefore a positive multiplier effect on the well-being of their families, their communities and nations.

The writer is a PhD candidate at the Australian demographic and social research institute, Australian National University.





The National Police Headquarters' plan to set up an "Anti-anarchy Detachment" in view of the increasing number of anarchic acts by protesting mobs has been receiving mixed responses from the general public, with many concerned about how the Police could remain cognizant of basic human rights principles in a critically chaotic situation.

While the idea deserves endorsement from all Indonesians as the country is in urgent need of a police force capable of tackling anarchic acts carried out by mobs, support for the establishment of the detachment, however, should be given with reserve, as such a unit has the potential of ignoring, if not violating, everybody's — particularly the protesters' — rights to assemble and express their opinions.

The people's freedoms of expression and right to assemble are protected by the 1945 Constitution and are clearly stipulated in Law No. 39/1999 on Human Rights.

The Police badly need the public support. Otherwise they will remain incapable and even lack confidence in dealing with protests that turn violent, as was the case in Cikeusik, Banten, and in Temanggung, Central Java, last month. A violent mob attacked the Ahmadiyah congregation in Cikeusik on Feb. 6, leaving three Ahmadis dead, while two days later a different mob group raided and vandalized three churches in Temanggung in front of the watchful eyes of underutilized police personnel.

National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo has announced that the anti-anarchy detachment — initially to be established in high-risk regions, such as Jakarta, West Java, East Java, South Sulawesi, South Sumatra and North Sumatra — will specifically clamp down on riots and violent clashes. The detachment would gradually be established in all 33 provinces.

Timur specifically mentioned that in order to quell riots, officers in the field would be given shoot-on-sight authority. National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Boy Rafli Amar went into details, saying that the detachment members would be allowed to use live ammunition if protesters became uncooperative or attacked officers. "But shooting is meant to immobilize and not to kill the rioters," he insisted.

Despite the assurances that members of the detachment will be trained in special skills to incapacitate rioters, especially the provocateurs or masterminds, the license to kill given to the duty detachment personnel is not without risk as they will have to deal with the fact that our legal system recognizes the principle of presumption of innocence. Under the principle, it is the court, i.e. judges, that holds the authority to declare someone guilty or not, rather than the police. Killing one innocent person to save many other innocent people has remained an endless moral debate.

    Also, despite the claim that the Police will not seek additional funds from the state, the establishment of the anti-anarchy detachment will undoubtedly increase the National Police's operational expenditures. It remains unclear how the Police will cover their extra spending if the detachment is fully operational.

Apart from the legal technicalities, the Police's anti-anarchy detachment will unlikely be able to completely tackle the problem of the increasing trend of violent and anarchic mob acts. Many observers, especially those from the security sector, have suggested that the Police improve their intelligence unit, which is more prevention-oriented, rather than establishing a completely new organization that will be more offensive-oriented.

Unless the Police could prove that the establishment of the detachment is the best formula to tackle the increasing trend of anarchic acts, they should be improving the skills and capacity of their existing units, rather than establishing a new one, such as the anti-anarchy detachment.









Women constitute over half the country's population. They also contribute a larger portion to the country's economy, whether it is from the dreary corners of the Middle East, by the pluck of every tender leaf in the highest elevations in our own country or stitching garments in a multitude of factories throughout. They are the hundreds of thousands of mothers toiling away to meet every cent count in a day- in-day-out struggle to survive. They are the wives who suffer a silent battle for dignity and equal share. They are the daughters whose futures are as bleak as they were for their mothers and every woman before them.

As the world celebrates a centenary year of womanhood today, it is pertinent to question if there are real grounds for such celebrations for the ordinary woman. From fighting for an equal share within the marriage, making ends meet amidst the soaring prices and battling innumerous indignities; the plight of the average woman indeed leaves much desired. Despite forming over half the voting population there is less than five per cent of her represented in Parliament. The numbers of women forced into various sexual violations increase daily. She is still, more often than not, the one overlooked over a less qualified male candidate at a job interview. And tragically she is still the one who suffers more left victim to the horrors of war.

Left widowed early on their marriages as wives of heroic soldiers, or childless as a terror group forcibly took away their innocents to fight the same war, the trauma that the Sri Lankan women endure is immense. The scars of the terror are heaviest on the women, as they fight battles both legal and emotional to get their lives back on a rough path, post war. The post war reconstruction or rehabilitation process does not offer them any concessions. They fight the same battles- win few but struggle on as the country celebrates a hundred years of womanhood, with placards, platforms and elaborate functions, that will not touch their hardships; never their hearts.






UNICEF's "State of the World's Children 2011" report states that though India hosts the world's largest number of adolescent girls (20 per cent), 56 per cent of them—in the 15-19 years age bracket—suffer from anemia while 45 per cent are affected by malnutrition. These appalling health figures for adolescents, according to the UN report, put India at par with the least developed African countries like Congo, Burkina Faso and Guinea.

Needless to say this discrimination against girls triggers a vicious cycle of adolescent malnutrition, child marriage and maternal mortality. The unhealthy state of the young mothers is also one of the causes for infant mortality in India. Ironically, even after 63 years of independence, just 43 per cent of births in India occur in medical institutions as compared to even a tiny Asian nation like Sri Lanka which scores 97 per cent.

According to UNICEF, every five minutes an Indian woman dies of pregnancy-related causes. It is estimated that for each woman who dies, 30 others develop chronic and debilitating conditions that seriously impact their quality of life. For every 100,0000 live births in India, 504 mothers die—a number five times higher than the National Population Policy (NPP) 2010 goal of 100. Despite this shocking state of affairs, India's spending on health is under 2 per cent of its GDP while private spending on health is 73 per cent.

Punitive action against offenders of female feticide laws in India has been a joke. In the 16 years since the Pre-Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostics Techniques (PC/PNDT) Act of 1994 has existed, only 406 cases have been registered against offenders across the entire country. Out of these, only two convictions have taken place!

Under pressure from activists, the Indian government outlawed the use of ultrasounds to reveal fetal gender in 1994. The penalties were upped in 2002 (three years in jail and a $230 fine for the first offence and five years imprisonment and $1,160 for the second). But despite this, easy access to modern diagnostic technologies like ultrasounds and amniocentesis to determine the gender of fetuses continue to spur female feticide. If the fetus is found to be a girl, families have no qualms in terminating the pregnancy.

Extracted by an article by Lal a New Delhi-based senior journalist





I wonder how many people will be aware that this year we celebrate the centenary of International women's day which was first observed on  March 19 1911 in Germany following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. The idea of having an international women's day was first put forward at the turn of the 20th century amid rapid world industrialization and economic expansion that led to protests over working conditions.

The evolution of   women's day was strengthened when  Russian women began a strike for "bread and peace" in response to the death of over 2 million Russian soldiers in war. Opposed by political leaders the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.

 Usually there is quite a fanfare about Women's; day on the 8th of March but this year while the authority in charge of women and children's protection appears to be very active yet her priority perhaps rightly seems more directed to child abuse and matters connected to children.

Politicians as usual will say what a lot has been done for women and women's activists will complain that the quotas that should be allocated for women's representation in Parliament Provincal councils and local government institutions are yet not properly observed.

But would such representation really change the suffering and the problems women face? The few women members in politics are divided according to their political ideologies and they do not act as a united body with regard to the various issues facing women.  

Traditionally the women have been the protector of cultural and moral values but today with economic necessity bring a new dimension into the social fabric in the country, we find many women seeking employment migrated from their villages to work in local factories or to go to the Middle East as domestic workers. The Government proudly often announces that they are the second highest contributors to the foreign exchange coming into the country. But what really has been provide for them, they are often harassed and brutalized by their employers and our women' representatives in Parliament have not even considered that this large number of women must be given the right to vote. Can the many Women's day rhetoric made by political leaders change their situation, make arrangement for them to vote for the elections that are held here and treat them with the bureaucratic consideration they deserve when they come back.

The theme for this year's international women's day is equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.  While the theme itself is profound one wonders what our women's affairs ministry and the few women politicians we have in Parliament would do. Give the escalating cost of food , the high level of malnutrition   in mothers s and children the various social concepts that breast milk is the best food for the infant becomes irrelevant cause how could a mother who is cutting down on her own nutritional needs due to lack of a sustainable livelihood and the ever increasing cost of nutritional food breast feed her infant .

She ends up giving coriander water or plain tea to her infant to assuage his hunger. Would our women politicians be courageous enough to forget for once their political ideologies and perks and join  their marginalized sisters in the villagers and  urban areas and ask as the Russian women did so many years ago.

 Usually there is quite a fanfare about Women's; day on the 8th of March but this year while the authority in charge of women and children's protection appears to be very active yet her priority perhaps rightly seems more directed to child abuse and matters connected to children.





Q: This year is supposed to be the centenary celebration of women's day, and for years women have been campaigning for their rights. But how far do you think that we have come, what has been achieved in the past one hundred years?

I think there is a great change for the better with a few gaps which can be addressed. Women have managed to distinguish themselves as human beings with hearts, minds and needs in equal proportion. We have established that like men, we too like to be free from boredom, household constraints and limitations. Women have discovered themselves in the past 100 years and established an ideal, although in a very rudimentary form we have been able to construct a setting in which we can use our skills and talents to live a fulfilled life.

Women now have aspirations to fly, to be managers, to attain a degree and then another and be leaders in whatever fields that they have chosen to pursue and excel in them not to just get by but to be true groundbreaking leaders. Therefore I would say that in the past one hundred years we have come very far and achieved a lot. We have made it clear that we too are human beings and our rights should be catered to- we dislike violence, constriction and dominations. Domination is also a violation of our human rights because it hinders our right to freedom.

Q: How sensitive do you think Sri Lankan Society is to Gender issues; whether it's in the workplace, the media or in education?

I think that we have not broken the barriers in a wholesome way across the country. Our men still feel that it is ok to hit their women and abuse them. In my little experience I have come across a number of women, and eight to ten women in the past week alone, who have now turned to divorce as a solution to their issues. And I ask why? Why so many divorces; and the answer is domestic violence. This violence need not just be physical where they are hitting and shouting at each other but violence in that they could be verbally abused or kept away from doing what they would like to do, in pursuance of their dreams.

Women are being constrained and fenced in as mothers; they are being told that this is all they are good for to take care of children and the home. Of course we all have this maternal instinct as women we want to take care of our children, but this is not all that we can do. Therefore I think that we have not broken down the barriers.

In the cooperate world what I find very disturbing is women being kept to work till very late in the night. This adds to the stres