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Saturday, March 12, 2011

EDITORIAL 12.03.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month march 12, edition 000778, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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








































  1. HOW LONG?
























The PJ Thomas episode cannot be laid to rest as yet because more questions have been raised than answered in the course of recent 'clarifications' given by various Government functionaries and Congress worthies, including the Prime Minister, Mr Manmohan Singh. Since the issue deals fundamentally with the process of appointment of the head of the organisation that checks corruption in high places, there must be clarity on not just what went wrong but also who catalysed that wrong. Mr Singh said in Parliament that he is willing to accept responsibility for the fiasco. But is he really? He has slyly sought to pass the buck to the then Minister of State in the PMO and now Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan for not keeping him informed about Mr Thomas's blotted service record. On his part, Mr Chavan has passed the buck to — of all the people — Kerala's Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, who ironically has been seeking Mr Thomas's prosecution! It is ridiculous to suggest that the Kerala Government is accountable for the misdeed of the Union Government under the Congress-led UPA's tutelage. The Prime Minister, his Minister of State and the Central Vigilance Commission are culpable for the faulty and deplorable decision — Mr Singh is to blame more than anybody else. That's why an unambiguous apology from Mr Singh and an assurance that such an 'error of judgement' would not be repeated would have helped bring the controversy to a closure. But Mr Singh chose otherwise. Is it because he knows something that the nation too should know but has been kept in the dark? Has this got to do with the patronage that Mr Thomas has received all through his career of important individuals in the Congress — people the Prime Minister dare not implicate even by imputation? Because none of the explanations that has been offered so far is really convincing. In any case, the Prime Minister cannot get away with his unconvincing 'clarification' because he is yet to tell the nation as to why he insisted on Mr Thomas's appointment as Central Vigilance Commissioner despite being told by Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj about the criminal charges pending against him in the infamous palmolein import scandal.

It is obvious that the Prime Minister and his party are desperate to keep the reasons behind the decision to appoint Mr Thomas as the CVC under wraps and not come clean. Mr Achuthanandan has done well to call the Government's bluff and go public with details about how his efforts to bring Mr Thomas to book have been stymied by the Department of Personnel and Training which reports to the Prime Minister. The Opposition should persist with its demand for the Government to tell all; the question of letting Mr Singh get away with a statement that says nothing does not arise. The lead has to be taken by the main Opposition party, the BJP. Mr Nitin Gadkari, as BJP president, has done the right thing by signalling that his party will continue to raise uncomfortable questions about la affaire PJ Thomas till the full truth comes out in the public domain. Not to do so would be tantamount to becoming a party to the cover-up that has been launched in the wake of the Supreme Court's judgement which has left the Prime Minister with egg on his face.







Days before the Tibetan Parliament in Exile convenes to elect its second generation of political leaders, the Dalai Lama's decision to relinquish his leadership role in Government is a welcome move that, as His Holiness himself hopes, will provide the Tibetan people an opportunity to strengthen their democratic Constitution. For several years now, the Dalai Lama has expressed his desire to step down from his position as the leader of the Tibetan movement and instead hand over all political responsibilities to an elected representative. Therefore, his announcement did not really come as a surprise . The moment was apt: It was the 52nd anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against the repression let loose by China — a failed rebellion that forced the Dalai Lama to flee to India and set up the Tibetan Government in Exile. In the five decades since then, the Dalai Lama has converted the Tibetan cause into a formidable global movement; all the while fending off Chinese efforts to dismantle the Tibetan state and nation. Now, the 75-year-old leader believes, and perhaps rightly so, that the time has come for him to step back and let a new generation of elected representatives take over. The Charter for Tibetans in Exile, which serves as a Constitution, already provides for a democratically-elected Prime Minister, also known as the Kalon Tripa. In fact, since Lama Samdhong Rinpoche became the first directly elected Prime Minister in 2001, he — and not the Dalai Lama — has been the effective political head of the Tibetan movement. The Dalai Lama has often referred to him as "my boss in the temporal field" while maintaining that "…in the spiritual field, I'm his boss" — a clear indication of his desire to bring about a separation of the political and the religious spheres of duty. It was this desire that was made official through Thursday's announcement and it will be formalised through proposed amendments to the Tibetan Charter when the Parliament in Exile meets for its 11th session on March 14.

This, of course, does not mean that the Dalai Lama will have no role to play in the Tibetan movement. On the contrary, he will continue to be the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. Indeed, he will remain the binding force and the face of the Tibetan cause. His announcement to step away from politics is an obvious move to grant greater legitimacy to Tibet's democratically-elected Government but let us not forget that the community at large has been reluctant to embrace any other leader, perhaps to their detriment. For the moment we can only hope that, in the words of the Dalai Lama, "Gradually people will come to understand my intention, will support my decision and accordingly let it take effect".









We console ourselves that things are better today than they were yesterday. But in the 21st century world, we cannot afford to move at our antiquated pace.

Those who are really convinced that they have made progress in science would not demand freedom for the new views to continue side by side with the old, but the substitution of the new views for the old."

—What Is To Be Done? (VI Lenin, 1901)

Vladimir Illyich Lenin brought about the epoch-altering 1917 Bolshevik Revolution more or less by dint and force of his own character. He led from the front and his party men followed as he finally turned out not just the Tsar but his moderate Menshevik colleagues too and seized power. This despite being personally irascible and unpleasantly blunt. Still, the reason why the Bolsheviks stood fast behind Lenin was because he saw the issues in a clearer perspective and thought much farther forward than anyone else around him, including the altogether more persuasive Leon Trotsky.

Today, as the nation stands presumptive on the threshold of its transformational renaissance, India's political leadership lacks an overarching and strong vision to tackle the tremendous and widening disparity between the haves and the have-nots. This is all the more urgent as India's economy grows at near double digits, and cannot but be seen as a callous and glaring failure of policy.

But all we can witness towards addressing this great shame is lip service and lousy implementation of some desultory and wasteful poverty alleviation programmes. Nobody seems willing to set about solving the problem as one of our two greatest priorities by throwing massive intellectual and monetary resources at it. We need productive and sustainable rural prosperity for 60 per cent of our people. Indeed, if we were to confine our planning process to just this one objective, we would possibly be using economists in the Planning Commission far better.

The other looming and lurking 800-pound-gorilla receiving little enough attention is the crying need for comprehensive modernisation and infrastructure creation. What's being done, and it is not as if nothing is happening, is woefully inadequate and hardly on par with the best global standards.

Let us enumerate a few of our inadequacies: We have perhaps a quarter of the electrical power we need with little hope of catching up at the pace we have adopted; our roads and highways are better than before, but hardly world standard; our railways are still in the 19th century with electric and diesel locomotives tacked on in place of steam engines. Our overall systems and processes are obtusely labyrinthine and medieval. Our Government-people interaction is feudal and colonial in tone and tenor. Our legal system is ponderous and its backlogs gargantuan. Our water is unfit to drink. Our food is sub-standard in quality and neither stored nor processed properly. Our municipalities are totally swamped — chaotic, ignorant of civic standards and garbage is piled high everywhere.

The list of our weaknesses is nearly endless. Nothing works in a manner befitting a developed country, not even in the showpiece national capital of New Delhi, aspire as we might; and the end is nowhere in sight.

We manage to be self-satisfied nevertheless, consoling ourselves that things are better today than they were yesterday. But the fact is, in a rapidly globalising and technology-driven world, we cannot afford to move at our quaint and antiquated pace any longer. We are not only far behind the now near-bankrupt developed world, but practically all the other emerging nations of every political persuasion, including the much cited BRIC or ASEAN or the GCC, the G-20, even most of the nations in the UN General Assembly.

And yet we want, and will probably get, for a variety of favourable geopolitical reasons, a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. We will be the most under-developed Security Council member of them all, with little hope of catching up and hard-pressed to meet our consequent obligations on the world stage.

This gradualism, the hallmark of our policy-making in all matters, may be wise enough to contain political paradoxes but here could yet be the blight that wrecks the promise of a better future. Perhaps it isn't this realisation that matters, otherwise it wouldn't be ignored. But if more States vote to reward development as they have in Bihar recently, and in Gujarat before that, then the broader political classes will have to move out of their extended stupor for their own survival.

We cannot afford to be slow. And yet, each successive Railway Budget for instance, does not attempt to upgrade our railway system into something appropriate for the 21st century — for instance, like France's exemplary TGV system. Instead we tinker with old-hat populism as if we were still in the socialist dawn of 1950 and the commentariat is relieved because train fares are not raised.

The Union Budget 2011, as usual, has focussed on a plethora of micro issues and provided miniscule reliefs and tweaked existing provisions in a masterful balancing act signifying very little and not showing the way forward at all.

There have been no bold strokes, no attempt at a 'great leap forward', as was taken by China under Mao Tse-tung, with its exciting possibilities. This even as the meaning of the term 'Maoist' has changed completely from the policies and homilies penned by the Chairman in his once fashionable Little Red Book. Today a 'Maoist' refers to terrorists in India's jungle tracts — trained, supported and sustained covertly, however, by China.

Revolutions don't often produce the results the people may want, as is borne out by the rearguard and vainglorious battle Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is fighting to prevent his ouster from power after 42 years of iron-fisted tyranny. But he too has ruled so long in the name of the people. He too wrote his telephone directory sized Green Book in lieu of the institutions he destroyed.

But asking for policies that promote rural prosperity and widespread creation of new state-of-the-art infrastructure is not ideologically revolutionary. China and Brazil and Russia have adopted this path to their lasting benefit despite some excesses and redundancies. But at least they have left the era of chronic shortages of essential enablers behind and can now concentrate on refining the quality of their governance.

India needs to do something urgently. Now, when both credibility and resources mobilisation are far less of a constraint than they have ever been in our nation's post-independence history, there is no excuse for the Government to keep going slow. The Leninesque bit will, however, be in throwing out gradualism in favour of a dramatic makeover.







Less than a month since Manmohan Singh justified the mollycoddling of scamster ministers in the name of "coalition compulsions", Indians watched this week as "seat-sharing" talks ahead of elections in Chennai barely concealed the political adhesive of UPA-2: blackmail.

We have often heard that 'coalition dharma' demands flexibility on the part of the principals. Last month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shamelessly admitted on national television that self-preservation is the highest goal of governance, not delivering the nation from corruption, poverty and inflation. Alliance partners, even if they are criminal enterprises masquerading as political parties, should be mollycoddled — the aam admi be damned.

This week, we Indians saw how through little exercises in deceit this dharma plays out. The setting, as expected, was Tamil Nadu, where Singh's party, the Congress, was seen doing a nice tango with its rogue partner, the DMK, for the benefit of an ignoramus national media.

Political analysts shed much perspiration 'analysing' the political equivalent of a fixed cricket match. Changing alliance arithmetic, prolonging seat-sharing talks, lack of trust amongst allies, factional feuds within parties and disgruntlement among the cadres, etc., have never been so brazen. For the first time in the history of Tamil Nadu both the major Dravidian parties showed their vulnerabilities vis-a-vis a party from the north. But, by end-week, it was all hunky dory again.

The 2G spectrum scam has led scamsters DMK and Congress to break their heads over resolving the sticky situation created by the mother of all thefts. With Assembly polls round the corner, the DMK is in a state of high anxiety, as unlike the Congress which has little by way of investment in the state, Tamil Nadu is the universe for Karunanidhi and his ilk. While the Congress could afford to occupy the moral high ground on the issue just because the investigating agencies are yet to knock on its doors, the DMK felt betrayed because it perceived its bigger ally had not done enough to save its leaders including the family members of supremo

M Karunanidhi. With the Assembly election nearing, the Congress took full advantage of the issue and started squeezing the DMK to extract its own pound of flesh.The sudden increase of pace in the CBI's probe, the sacking and subsequent arrest of Telecom Minister A Raja, and the anticipated interrogation of Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi and other women of the household put Karunanidhi on the back foot. The fact that he could not prevent the CBI from raiding his own TV channel's office was weighing on his mind. This made him focus on the prevention of the interrogation of his wives and the possible arrest of his daughter, at least until the election.

Despite the Congress having an advantage over DMK as far as the 2G probe was concerned, Karuna played his cards quite well by threatening to withdraw from the Union government, thereby rocking the seven-year relationship which was mutually 'beneficial'. Though bickering over seat-sharing was projected as the reason for the mess, the real cause was the failure of the two parties to arrive at an understanding over the 2G probe. This could be ascertained by two 'giveaways'. The first was by Karunanidhi, through a statement that "hiccups" in seat-sharing was one of the reasons, and the other was by Pranab Mukherjee, who said, "We know how to create problems; we know how to solve them too".

So, the drama on seat sharing proceeded while the actual scenes happened behind the screens at the Capital. Reliable sources say that the DMK had categorically told the Congress leadership that it cannot claim a moral high ground on the spectrum scam and arm-twist the DMK because if the latter sank, it could pull down the grand old party with it. It was amusing to follow the mainstream media peddling the theory that that Sonia 'slammed' DMK leaders, or that Sonia 'snubs' Karuna and she upheld the 'prestige of the Congress'. In reality nothing of the kind happened.

Tamil Nadu is not an important state for the Congress. At first it seemed that sacrificing its minor stake there for the sake of a peaceful time in Delhi was the raison de etre of the Congress' operations in Chennai. So, in the present scenario, even if the AIADMK's Jayalalithaa offers only 40 odd seats, the Congress is confident it could swing 25-30 of them. That is preferable to the DMK's offer of 63, as aligning itself with the tainted party could hurt the Congress deeply.

On the other hand, Jayalalithaa is concerned for her health and her party's financial condition. She is quite understandably mulling over the prospects of having the Congress on her side instead of spent forces like Vaiko's MDMK and the Communists. Moreover, the disproportionate assets case has been a big headache for her. She is worried that the DMK-Congress combine might try to prevent her from contesting the election using their leverage with the Judiciary.

Even as the DMK-Congress talks were on, Jayalalithaa waited with bated breath, preparing to dump the Communists and Vaiko's MDMK for the sake of a tie-up with the Congress. Smelling imminent power in Chennai and reflected glory in Delhi, she began entertaining dreams of victimising Karunanidhi and his family. Though the Congress has not responded to her overtures yet, the possibility of post-poll ties is not ruled out.

Karunanidhi is at the fag end of his career. Since 1996 he has made it a point to cosy up to whichever party is in power in Delhi. But he was powerless to prevent the arrest of Raja or stop the CBI probe. As elections neared he developed cold feet, and reading his precarious situation, the Congress tightened its grip. The move by Jayalalithaa to offer her support to the Congress in the event of its dumping the DMK came in handy for Sonia Gandhi's emissaries in Chennai.

But by midweek, the old warhorse finally prevailed over the Congress and saved the alliance. Reportedly, the Congress has agreed to slow down the investigations, delay the interrogation of Karuna's family members and ensure that Kanimozhi is not harassed. After all, Sonia Gandhi has her own interests to safeguard. As a step in that direction, the DoT has sent a notice to the telecom companies who were beneficiaries of the scam, giving them a 60-day breathing space. Citing this and a few other 'made-up' reasons the CBI might pray for adjournments in the Supreme Court leading to the protection of the DMK first family.

For the Tamilian on the street, the dynamics of the political track are all too transparent. This is alliance politics in its most disgusting form. The ordinary party cadre has lost all respect for their leaders. Money power is set to overwhelm politics on an unprecedented scale. The aam admi is hoping that the Election Commission would be sincere and effective.

-- The writer is a Chennai-based columnist







This week the nation's public was treated to an exhibition of what makes the Congress-DMK alliance tick. Watch this space for more.

Saturday Special goes south this week, and returns via Lucknow to present the implications of that slippery concept called 'coalition compulsion'. The political fallout of the past year's scams and cover-ups was awaiting manifestation, and it couldn't have happened sooner and more surprisingly as it did this week in Chennai with the DMK deciding that "ulta chor kotwal ko daaten" is not a bad form.

But, in the end, it was the Congress who showed who is boss, at least under the present circumstances. The Congress-DMK relationship, which began after the latter abandoned the sinking NDA ship ahead of the 2004 general election, had blackmail and threats as its basis — there was no ideology or lofty principle. It was one-sided in 2004 with the DMK calling the shots after having brought to the table all the 39 seats from Tamil Nadu and the solitary Puducherry seat. But in the post-2009 situation, the Congress is positioned better. It has a better equilibrium at the national level and no longer feels pressure from the Left. So, why not return to its old ways of tweaking the noses of the allies once in a while?

To be fair, the DMK did not get much of a short shrift in UPA-2. The Congress put up with most of its tantrums, and Manmohan Singh had gone to the extent of making a joke of himself by initially being defensive about the 2G scam. Yet the DMK continued to make demands and issue the oft-repeated threat of pulling out of the Government. Finally, running out of all patience, the Congress earlier this week paid the DMK back in its own coin. A few days of brinkmanship later, the DMK fell in line.

The relationship blossomed for a while. The Congress, unhappy with Jayalalithaa's insults and insinuations against Sonia found a convenient ally in the DMK. But the DMK indexed everything on the family interests of Karunanidhi. One night before UPA-1's formation, Karunanidhi threatened to withdraw support if the DMK demand for certain portfolios were not granted. Journalists were woken up at 1 am with his threatening statement. The Congress had no option but succumb.

In the 2006 Assembly polls, the DMK failed to win a majority (118/234) on its own and with just 96 MLAs, it had to depend on the Congress' 34 to prop up a government. The state Congress then demanded a fair share of power in Tamil Nadu as payback for all the plum portfolios that the DMK enjoyed at the Centre. But Karunanidhi worked out his "equation" with Sonia to keep the state Congress at bay.

Soon, the Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) disinvestment issue cropped up. The DMK joined hands with the Left parties in protest against the proposal to divest 10 per cent of the government's stake. It was another matter that three DMK cabinet ministers were part of the Cabinet decision to go ahead with the disinvestment. The DMK, obviously egged on by the Left parties, raised such a stink that the Congress had to beat a hasty retreat.

The civil war in neighbouring Sri Lanka stirred emotions in Tamil Nadu before the 2009 Lok Sabha election. Political parties tried scoring brownie points over the sensitive issue. Karunanidhi got his party MPs to hand over their resignations to him and threatened pull out if New Delhi did not prevent the Sri Lanka army's attacks on innocent Tamil people. Pranab Mukherjee, then External Affairs Minister, was rushed in to pacify the DMK patriarch. But that did not deter the octogenarian from going on a "fast" in the middle of the election campaign demanding that the Lankan offensive on civilians stop. Home Minister P Chidambaram was asked to intervene.
But problems started again with Rahul Gandhi's effort to revive an emaciated Congress, which went out of power from the state in 1967. Karunanidhi made open remarks against him and was furious that he suggested the Congress was open to post-poll alliances, including with AIADMK. The stand-off cast doubts on the continuance of the alliance.

Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi visited Tamil Nadu on a mission to encourage youth to join the Congress. Sonia too joined in the effort. At a party rally in Tiruchi, she urged the workers to bring back Congress rule, without mentioning a word about the Dravidian parties. Karunanidhi had to meet her at the airport, as she did not schedule a meeting with him.

The 2G scam, while it became an Achilles' heel for the Congress, was a handy weapon to keep the DMK in check. The DMK was unable to make any demands during the recent Cabinet reshuffle and the Telecom portfolio still rests with the Congress. As the scam investigation is monitored by Supreme Court, the Congress pleaded helplessness in helping out the DMK.

The relationship, thereafter, began to sour quickly. Environment clearance was not given to an 'eco park' project in Chennai. An angry Karunanidhi refused to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh until he assured the continuance of the alliance. Karunanidhi, in turn, found it tough to get an audience with Sonia when he visited Delhi in February as the Congress was not prepared to guarantee continuance of alliance for nothing in return.

The seat sharing for April 13 Assembly election ended in a crisis when the Congress demanded 90 seats from the DMK, apart from due share of power if the alliance won the election and the setting up of a functioning framework like a coordination committee and a common minimum programme.

This shocked the DMK. It is clear to all that the Congress is demanding in Tamil Nadu whatever the DMK pushed for in Delhi. To its dismay the DMK realised the demands had the sanction of the Congress high command and were not part of a pressure from strident sections of the state unit. Baalu and Kanimozhi were sent to Delhi to talk the Congress out of such a demand. They failed to get even an appointment with Sonia, but left Delhi reminding the Congress that it was the DMK which rescued Sonia when the Opposition raised her foreign origin issue.

DMK quickly apportioned seats to other allies, defying Sonia's request to conclude an agreement with the Congress first. The Congress expressed its displeasure and stuck to its final demand for 63 seats. So, last Friday midnight Karunanidhi issued a statement making public the Congress demand public and followed it up with the threat to pull out of the Union government.

After much tension, the week ended with the Congress called Karunakaran's bluff and Karunanidhi yielding. The Congress is now making sure that the constituencies are identified ahead of declaration of which party are to be allotted which seat. Some of the credit for this should surely goes to Rahul who engineered it.

-- The writer is The Pioneer's Chennai correspondent







Reading the Congress' southern discomfort as opportunity for himself, Mulayam Singh Yadav spent the better part of the week performing handstands to attract the attention of the grand old party. What next in the coalition dharma soap?

The political career of Mulayam Singh Yadav seemed to have reached a pathetic dead end this week. This was apparent over the past few days when the once-pompous, self-styled patriarch of Mandal politics, saw in the Chennai imbroglio an opportunity to save his own skin. But everything, in the end, has its own logic.

Today, the Samajwadi Party, which once dominated north Indian politics, is on the verge of decimation. Founder supreme Mulayam sees no option but lean on the Congress for survival in the face of rival Bahujan Samaj Party's onslaught.

Mulayam and Mayawati, his opposite number in the BSP and Chief Minister since 2007, share not only political but also personal enmity. It is public knowledge in Lucknow that the two avoid even looking at each other on the rare occasions when they happen to share the same hall. But while the Dalit kanya can get by ignoring her bete noire because she happens to be in power, "Mulla Mulayam", who has quite a few corruption charges piled up against him, would have preferred getting even with a powerful friend at his elbow.

He cannot join hands with the BJP. That would amount to political suicide. So he hopes the Congress would somehow come around. As the Assembly election approaches (2012), the major parties are girding their loins. Fresh permutations and combinations are being worked out as smaller outfits are gathering under common umbrellas to increase their leverage abilities with a bigger partner.

SP's recent move of assuring support to the Congress in the wake of DMK pulling out of the coalition, has given a two-fold message in the political circles of the Hindi heartland. First, the main political parties are fully aware that they may not get a majority in the next Assembly elections and are therefore already on the lookout for a coalition partner, either as a pre-poll or post-poll arrangement. The SP has admitted the possibility that it could join hands with the Congress since it is enjoying good relations by standing by its side when the DMK threatened the numbers game in Parliament during the past few days.

Mulayam is believed to have assured the UPA government that it need not worry about the DMK pullout as he would readily extend a helping hand, thereby making up for the loss. The SP was already supporting the UPA government in the past, albeit from the 'outside'. The SP has a present strength of 21 MPs (down from 22, following the expulsion of Jaya Prada). In the UP Assembly it has 97 MLAs. The numbers, however, have varied from time to time as MLAs often drift off, only to return after tasting disappointment. There is even a possibility that the SP may tie up with Choudhary Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal and eventually support the Congress in case it falls short of numbers in the next elections.

Secondly, by seeking to encash the situation, the SP has obviously made a friend in the Congress. Of course, it is no secret that Mulayam is eyeing some berths in the UPA-2 ministry and wouldn't hesitate to demand its pound of flesh. If Mulayam does manage to secure a berth, he would be fulfilling his political mission of grabbing an advantage over his rival, Mayawati.

At the present time, the SP is busy with its three-day-long agitation in Uttar Pradesh demanding the dismissal of the "corrupt" Mayawati government. Mulayam has gone to the extent of alleging that Mayawati has kept him under "house arrest" and created a medium-sized stir in Parliament this week, managing to temporarily stall proceedings. Nobody was convinced, but Mulayam's intention was not to be believable, but only test the political waters in terms of how much mobilisation he can manage ahead of the election. Discussing the prospect of his extending support to the UPA government, Mulayam said: "This is coalition politics, people keep coming and going so nothing can be said at this moment. However, one thing is certain: the SP had earlier supported the UPA government from outside and is ready to extend support and join the ministry if the need arises. But all this is entirely speculative for the time being."

Faced with compulsions, Mulayam has to look up to the Congress since the pending disproportionate assets case being probed by the CBI under the guidance of the Supreme Court may crop up any time. The Congress has helped him in the past by securing for him short reprieve when it was said that his son (Akhilesh) and daughter-in-law were not under the purview of the case. In return, Mulayam has been soft towards the Congress. Another major factor behind Mulayam's recent bonhomie with the Congress is his support among the minority community. Though there had been a shift in his Muslim vote bank in the 2007 Assembly elections, there are indications that the minorities might return to the SP. This would constitute added advantage for the Congress, which needs to strengthen itself in Uttar Pradesh.

In fact, the SP and the Congress seem to make a good fit at the present juncture. Both parties would need solid numbers in 2012 to form the government of their dreams in Lucknow and keep Mayawati away. Most of the main players have already started hunting for their pre-poll partners. The SP has already made a beginning of cosying up to the Congress as it would lead to a two-way gain in ousting the BSP.


 The writer is Political Editor, The Pioneer, Lucknow









Undaunted by the definition that an expert is someone who knows more and more about less and less, specialisation is increasingly becoming the order of the day. Little boys, for instance, need no longer insist with single-track determination that when they grow up they want to be engine drivers but can instead opt to fulfil the function of a "dukey rider", in the US this apparently being the person who couples and uncouples railway cars.

A career as a "
chick sexer", whose job it is to determine the gender of new-born chickens and separate the hens from the boys, is not for the birds either, what with Japan reportedly offering a university degree in this discipline. Though it might not be as stimulating as it sounds, the profession of a " breast buffer", which involves buffing the breast of a shoe which is the forepart of the heel, has its dedicated practitioners, as does the equally delicate task of "mother repairing", which consists of removing dirt particles from the "mother" or mould used in the manufacture of gramophone records once again making a comeback in the age of the iPod.

Those with a stomach for hard work can make a go of "belly building", or fitting the interior parts or "bellies" of pianos, while others might choose to stick to "legend making", or pasting logos on display boards. On the premise that what counts is not so much what you do but how you are said to do it, garbage collectors in the West have long been called "sanitation engineers" and extras in the film industry are "atmosphere personnel".

McDonald's offers a degree course in hamburgerology, which is the science - or should it be art? - of making the perfect hamburger. Sceptics might be inclined to dismiss hamburgerology as pure and simple humbugology, but it appears that many are turning to the discipline as the launching pad for a fulfilling career, or at least a McCareer.

With its pantheon of 33 million deities, each with their own particular attributes not to mention set of devotees,
India too can boast a long tradition of specialisation. Why make do with one general purpose Divine Being when 33 million would be so much better equipped each to get on with their own specific task in hand?

Of late, a further boost has been given to specialisation by a new, fast-growing and extremely lucrative industry which has stamped its own trade mark on Brand India in the eyes of the world. The reference, of course, is not to IT and
Silicon Valley, which are already old hat, but to the sunrise industry of scams and what might be called Con Valley, without the Sili. The proliferation of scams promises to breed a host of new specialisations, including that of scamonomics, or the economics of scams, and scamologists, who study the psychological impact of scamming. And scam-doctors, of course, who are spin-doctors who put a gloss on scams. Is that what Dr in Dr Manmohanji stands for?







The rebellion in Libya stands out among the recent unrest in the Middle East for its widespread violence: unlike the protesters in Tunisia or Egypt, those in Libya quickly gave up pursuing non-violent change and became an armed rebellion.

And while the fighting in Libya is far from over, it's not too early to ask a critical question: which is more effective as a force for change, violent or non-violent resistance? Unfortunately for the Libyan rebels, research shows that non-violent resistance is much more likely to produce results, while violent resistance runs a greater risk of backfiring.

Consider the Philippines. Although insurgencies attempted to overthrow Ferdinand Marcos during the 1970s and 1980s, they failed to attract broad support. When the regime did fall in 1986, it was at the hands of the People Power movement, a non-violent pro-democracy campaign that boasted more than two million followers, including labourers, youth activists and Catholic clergy.

Indeed, a study i recently conducted with Maria J Stephan, now a strategic planner at the State Department, compared the outcomes of hundreds of violent insurgencies with those of major non-violent resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006. We found that over 50% of the non-violent movements succeeded, compared with about 25% of the violent insurgencies.

Why? For one thing, people don't have to give up their jobs, leave their families or agree to kill anyone to participate in a non-violent campaign. That means such movements tend to draw a wider range of participants, which gives them more access to members of the regime, including security forces and economic elites, who often sympathise with or are even relatives of protesters.

What's more, oppressive regimes need the loyalty of their personnel to carry out their orders. Violent resistance tends to reinforce that loyalty, while civil resistance undermines it. When security forces refuse orders to, say, fire on peaceful protesters, regimes must accommodate the opposition or give up power - precisely what happened in Egypt.

This is why the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak took such great pains to use armed thugs to try to provoke the Egyptian demonstrators into using violence, after which he could have rallied the military behind him.

But where Mubarak failed,
Muammar Gaddafi succeeded. What began as a peaceful movement became, after a few days of brutal crackdown by his corps of foreign militiamen, an armed but disorganised rebel fighting force. A widely supported popular revolution has been reduced to a smaller group of armed rebels attempting to overthrow a brutal dictator. These rebels are at a major disadvantage, and are unlikely to succeed without direct foreign intervention.

If the other uprisings across the Middle East remain non-violent, however, we should be optimistic about the prospects for democracy there. That's because, with a few exceptions - most notably Iran - non-violent revolutions tend to lead to democracy.

Although the change is not immediate, our data show that from 1900 to 2006, 35% to 40% of authoritarian regimes that faced major non-violent uprisings had become democracies five years after the campaign ended, even if the campaigns failed to cause immediate regime change. For the non-violent campaigns that succeeded, the figure increases to well over 50%.

The good guys don't always win, but their chances increase greatly when they play their cards well. Non-violent resistance is about finding and exploiting points of leverage in one's own society. Every dictatorship has vulnerabilities, and every society can find them. - NYTNS








The recent outbreak of civility among our political elite is a gratifying change from the bitter, belligerent mood that has jammed the parliamentary process in previous sessions. To read of L K Advani apologising to Sonia Gandhi over claims about long-distance banking arrangements, or to see Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accept responsibility for duff appointments, or to see the leader of the opposition, Sushma Swaraj, acknowledge this concession (sort of) - this is to be grateful for small mercies. But so we must be in an age when delivering a parliamentary or assembly speech is regularly confused with the act of catapulting a piece of footwear, or when raising a point of order is expressed through a physical surge towards 'the well' in kabaddi formation.

The recent politesse only highlights the familiar sense of how broken are our parliamentary and state assemblies as arenas of public deliberation and reasoning. The media has proudly touted its capacity to take on some of these neglected functions - installing itself as inquisitor to and tribunal of the political class. Yet, when it isn't speed-dialling tycoons, chatting up public relationists or smirking at politicians, the Indian media obediently bends to the compulsions of ratings dharma. On-screen political debate must be crunched into entertainment - if, that is, your idea of entertainment is high-volume real-life versions of Double Take. When was the last time - ever? - that you came away from watching one of these sessions with a better sense of how to think about an issue?

Civility should not be mistaken for consensus, that oft-overrated public good. Amiable agreement among the political elite is stultifying, and to be treated with suspicion. On the contrary, this recent blast of civility among opponents is precisely a reminder of just how important political disagreement, civilly prosecuted, is and has been in the making of
India - and of how much we lose by not fostering its practice in edifying forms.

For, when Parliament descends either into a grand bear-garden or silent mausoleum, it's not just a matter of propriety and unseemliness. It's the denial of the very means whereby political ideas and arguments must be advanced, criticised, justified - and decided upon. It's a dereliction of a fundamental democratic duty on the part of elected officials.

The parliamentary model is at the core of our democracy - and arguably more central than that fetish of modern democracy, elections. That model is built on a certain logic: the idea that Parliament is the nation's Aula, the chamber where political opposition is articulated in arguments. It is such arguments that constitute a society's public reason, and that transform mere opinions into justified beliefs with persuasive claims upon us.

Of course, this view of parliamentary democracy as a school for public reason is at best a misty ideal. But it's this fanciful concept that ultimately is the only thing that gives parliamentary politics its meaning. Otherwise, why bother with it?

It's an ideal, moreover, that has animated and enlivened India's history. For among modern India's distinctions has been its ability to invent ways of broaching serious disagreements and disputes through sharp but civil arguments.

Tagore and Gandhi were radically opposed over the scope of scientific versus moral explanations of events. On hearing Gandhi's claim that the 1934 Bihar earthquake was 'divine chastisement' for a society that practised untouchability, an appalled Tagore wrote to Gandhi expressing disbelief and 'profound hurt' that Gandhi was himself encouraging 'unreason' and superstition. Gandhi and Nehru also regularly quarrelled, often with high emotion and over matters of real intellectual substance. Their letters registered the 'shock' and 'pain' felt at each other's views, the inability to understand one another's 'language'. Later still, Nehru and Jayaprakash Narayan carried on a disputatious correspondence over economic and labour policies and the treatment of India's northeastern minorities.

In each case, these disputes actually helped to strengthen India. This is what separates us from other societies, which have pulled themselves apart over conflicts.

In the age of the ill-considered Twitter, one can hardly expect a return to the rhythms of an earlier argumentative era. But we can certainly hold our elected politicians to higher standards, and ensure that our institutions support reasoned debate. At a time when we are exercised by teacher abseenteeism in our primary schools, we also need to monitor those doing time-pass in our political colleges. Which of our politicians are loafing? Which are posing the difficult, thoughtful questions? Which are providing the deftest answers?

The excellent Parliamentary Research Services has started to track MPs' attendance, voting records and legislative activity. Such data needs to be deepened and extended, to cover MLAs too. And it should be incorporated into the information protocols on criminal and financial records being proposed by other salutary initiatives like the Association for Democratic Reforms 'Election Watch' platform.

Increased transparency is a step towards judging competence. It would help to foster a political culture in which political elites have to speak to one another in formal public arenas, account for their views, and perhaps in time - we can dream - learn to listen to one another. As gaudy, well-publicised scandals bedraggle our democracy, the quieter scandal is the failure of our elected politicians to argue cogently, constructively and civilly. The recent outbreak of civility is a first step - but in the long haul, it's substantive argument that will count.

The writer is director, India Institute, King's College,








Recent apprehensions over Team India's ability to go all the way in the ongoing World Cup are largely unfounded. True, there is room for improvement as far as the team's overall performance is concerned. But India were and continue to be tournament favourites. The doubts are essentially motivated by India's less than convincing performance against minnows Ireland and the Netherlands. But these were low intensity encounters that allowed skipper M S Dhoni the leeway to experiment, especially with bowling changes. Having tied one and won three out of their four matches so far, India are at the top of their group and have practically assured a berth for themselves in the quarterfinals.

With the likes of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan, India's batting line-up is exemplary. As the games against Bangladesh and England showed, the batting department has huge reserves of power, skill and experience, especially in subcontinental conditions. The bowling department might not have come good as yet. But this is a long tournament and it is important to peak at the right time. Notwithstanding the absence of Praveen Kumar, there is enough depth and variety in bowling options. Replacing leg-spinner Piyush Chawla with off-spinner R Ashwin would go a long way in getting the balance of the playing 11 right.

On the other hand, Yuvraj Singh's performance with both bat and ball has fulfilled the requirement of the much-needed all-rounder in the team. The fielding could be better but it is definitely not the worst by any stretch of imagination. Taken together, this is still one of the top teams in the tournament. With a few minor adjustments in strategy, there is no reason why India can't win the World Cup.








For a team that was odds-on favourite to win the World Cup before it began, India have been far from convincing. From the first match against Bangladesh, they have seemed to get more punch-drunk with each encounter. Certainly, they've won three out of four matches. But the three they won were against minnows, while it was lucky to escape with a point from the one they tied with England. These are not the performances of a prospective champion. And things will be much tougher come the knockout rounds. A single misstep there will be enough to end India's campaign. And as of now, this team is looking far more likely to take that misstep than lift the trophy.

Simply put, they don't have the bowling attack to contain a strong line-up. Against Bangladesh they made a mammoth 370, but let the opposition reach a respectable 283. The match against England veered from being one they should have won with a total of 338 to defend to one they barely managed to tie. There might be a scintillating burst from Zaheer Khan or a fortuitous spell by Yuvraj Singh now and then. But as a pack, the bowlers fail to impress. Harbhajan Singh has failed to take wickets and Piyush Chawla is mediocre, while for some inexplicable reason captain M S Dhoni continues to keep R Ashwin on the bench.


Other teams have stumbled and scrapped their way to World Cup glory; take Pakistan in 1992 or Australia in 1999. But neither suffered from as fundamental a flaw as this Indian team. The batting line-up can carry it to victory only so often, as the unconvincing five-wicket wins against Ireland and the Netherlands while chasing modest totals showed. When India meet the big boys, they are far less likely to be forgiving of Team India's flaws.







Tighten the tap quietly when a gentle flow becomes a torrent. That has always been the forte of authoritarian governments the world over. But democracies were meant to be different. And the world's largest democracy, India, is meant to be different: free speech is not a freebie here, it's a right. But can we be sure, anymore? Facing large-scale protests on several issues from the environment to the handling of the economy, the Indian government seems to be keener to bare its fangs than listen to the very people in whom real power resides. In an extremely shortsighted policy, which does not befit a democracy, the government is enforcing changes in the law governing foreign contributions to non-governmental organisations so that it can be easier for it to put advocacy groups 'on a tight leash'. In simple words: you criticise and we will choke you by stopping funds. The rules cover NGOs that comment on 'political activities' and 'habitually' employ common methods of political action.

It is a strange move considering that in democracies in general and in India in particular, there has been a thrust towards working with civil society members even though many are critical of governments. Criticism, as former British prime minister Winston Churchill said, may not be agreeable but it's is necessary as pain in the human body. "It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things". And, it is only in India that we have something like the National Advisory Council that has many NGO members who are critical of the government. While it is also true that there are fraudulent NGOs that must be weeded out without delay, there is a clear conflict of interest in the government trying to control the activities of the groups it sees in an adversarial role. Isn't it undemocratic to give powers to non-transparent and unaccountable bureaucrats to control the activities of people critical of the policies and programmes they make? Though it may be argued that the judiciary provides checks and balances against any such misuse by the government, we all know how difficult it is to exercise judicial reviews in such cases.

Even if we keep moral issues aside, is it really possible to stop the 'powerless' from agitating against the government? The fact that the NGOs get a ready pool of people to join the causes they espouse only shows that there are a whole lot of issues out there that need to be tackled and solved. It would be best to recognise the small acts of resistance and reach out to them rather than try to throttle them. Their loss is the government's loss too.






It was an early morning call. The caller said, "We are organising an event, a purely scientific one with archaeological and anthropological features, on the great treasures and antiquities of Kashmir, to be called the 'Crown of India'." It was an erudite, earnest voice, wanting to know if it would be possible for the organisers to meet me "for five minutes" — that very Indian metaphor for optimistic open-endedness. I asked if they wanted to do so to invite me to that event. He said that was indeed the case, "… as a chief guest or something."

I thanked the gentleman sincerely, but pleaded inability. I said I was stretched for time. Stretched for time? It is impossible for anyone, particularly an active person like my caller, to visualise that progressively regressive redundancy, namely, a pensioner being pre-occupied. He didn't persist after a point and I gratefully returned the receiver to the phone's cuddle.

The call started a train of thoughts within me as well, passive thoughts, ruminations, untied to action. And these thoughts included several things I could in all honesty — and prolixity — have as well told my caller. Except that he would then certainly have said, "Why don't you make these very ideas the theme of your speech?" 'Crown of India?'

A crown is an adornment, and like all ornaments, nothing except in relation to the wearer. And all ornaments are man-made objects, shaped, designed for something other than and beyond themselves, for another's head, wrist, neck, finger, ankle or toe.

Would the people of Jammu and Kashmir want their state to be regarded as one of those ornaments ? After all, until not so long ago, a proud Dogra in Jammu might feel, were they not a Crown in themselves, with a maharaja, not some glorified zamindar or a 'mere' raja, governing them with little let and no hindrance from Delhi, not to speak of London ?

Would a Ladakhi, on that moonscape in the rain shadow of Tibet, with vast grey and brown mountains towering above, not feel that Ladakh merits and indeed has a crown of its own, in fact not one but two, directly overhead — the Himalaya and the Karakoram?

And as to the emerald Vale of Kashmir, with a fluid sapphire in the Jhelum and with gold shimmering on its autumnal chinar, would there be any interest among its people in being or becoming a crown that another head wears , even if it be India's ?

More than any country I can think of, India's geographical shape and structure lend themselves to being described in anthropomorphic terms. Late 19th and early 20th century depictions of 'Bharat Mata' with Kashmir as the capitellum and tresses flowing down from that apex in the shape of rivers and her 'arms' extending along the eastern and western Himalaya were part of nationalist lore, legend and literature. Little clay figurines in that shape and spirit were treasured in many a nationalist home. And they undoubtedly had a certain appeal to them, instilling in the people of India a sense of destiny. Other more figurative portrayals had the glowing head of this national personification of a mother goddess placed over Kashmir, her left arm resting over a lion (whose head and mane snuggled into Rajasthan and Gujarat), her left hand holding aloft a two-sectioned flag around Nepal, her feet resting somewhere over the present Tamil Nadu. By a leap of patriotic maximalism, the present day Afghanistan , Pakistan and Bangladesh (of course), Nepal and Myanmar fell into that capacious embrace.

Metaphors work that much and no more. And there are hazards in anatomical portrayals of subjects that do not belong to biology and zoology. More specifically, there are dangers in imparting physiognomic names and descriptions to parts of a map. The risk need not be detailed. Suffice it to say that if one part of India is described as the 'head' or the 'crown', there have to be other parts of the country that correspond to other humanly limbs and adornments appropriate to those. And those may not be flattered by the analogy.

The 'Crown of India' nomenclature for a programme around Kashmiri antiquities reminded me of an episode of some 30 years ago. I was working then in Kandy, Sri Lanka, as a First Secretary in our diplomatic mission there. President Sanjiva Reddy was coming on a State visit and was to spend a couple of days in the hill town as well. The little community of persons of Indian origin in Kandy decided to present a welcome address to him. For some reason the prime mover of that touching gesture consulted me on the wording of this address. My eyes froze on a sentence that welcomed President Reddy to the emerald island which was described as 'India's pendant'.

'My dear friends', I told the generous group, 'I appreciate your spirit but no Lankan is going to like that line and besides, why should this country be described in terms of an Indian coordinate and that as an addendum to it?' They did not, I think, quite agree, but out of deference to me, deleted the line.

Abanindranath Tagore, the poet's nephew has memorably painted 'Bharat Mata'. He has not transposed 'her' onto a geopolitical map of India. His most stunning work, in my view, is the 'Last Moments of Shah Jehan' in which the stricken and deposed Emperor is shown looking wistfully at the Taj Mahal. He has also done rather less-known paintings in an integrated series inspired by Kashmir. One of these is 'Shah Jehan by the Shalimar' — an inky blue-and-white affair in which the white-robed and white-bearded emperor is shown holding a white lotus against the night sky. Abanindranath does not call Kashmir an ornament. His paintings ornament her. And what a difference that makes.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a former administrator, diplomat and governor The views expressed by the author are personal.






My mother-in-law has revealed to me that I have 3G. We were driving her to the airport, behind time and hurtling along at near-3G speeds, when she yelled that she had left her laptop behind and had to go back. We pulled over to call the airline and prevent them from no-showing her, but words failed us. There, on my phone, right there was the magic legend: 3G. For the very first time.

Next morning, I discovered a tiny wavelet of 3G in a corner of my living room. I started darting about, phone in hand, hunting more 3G signal with the alacrity of a sleuth on the trail of A Raja's stash of 2G cash. This is because my flat in Delhi is at an electronic crossroads and my phone switches towers if you go from the bedroom to the bathroom. Boss, I am excited to report that even my bathroom is awash with 3G. It's like a deluge in the shower stall.

But why am I excited about this? The new technology will do very little for me right now, and not much more in the long-term. It will keep me connected when I travel, but it is too expensive to replace the broadband at home and in the office. But the Indian mobile market is very competitive and prices will fall. And as phones become smarter, at some time my mother-in-law will be able to replace her laptop with a phone connected to a keyboard and a screen. A phone which she will probably not leave behind on the way to the airport. But that's all that 3G will do for people like us. However, 3G — and 4G, which lies ahead — will make a huge difference outside the big cities. In the long-term, mobile internet could usher in information democracy, bringing on board areas where connectivity is poor, the power supply is unreliable, and it is difficult to run computers.

'Wireless' CDMA phones with slow data connections have already put small towns on the communications map, though they do not reliably provide the bandwidth we need these days. With mobile broadband, these towns will become brighter points of light on that map and, more importantly, villages will become visible. Remember how the ubiquitous PCO changed our lives 15 years ago? I think that 3G is about to work that magic again.

This time, the very mindspace of the nation will change. Fast internet has everyday practical benefits that we take for granted but villagers are denied, but the social, cultural and political implications are much more interesting. Because fast internet lets ordinary people communicate, organise, publish and express themselves as forcefully as the mainstream. The Arab countries are now painfully  aware of this.

I don't anticipate revolution here, in our democracy. But I do look forward to hearing the real voice of rural India, speaking in its myriad tongues, unmediated by political mouthpieces, unfiltered by the media. The image of India that emerges may not be as pretty as the tourism advertisements, but it could be even more incredible. And it will certainly be more faithful to real life. Meanwhile, I have to go. I have to take my mother-in-law to the airport. Again.

Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine. The views expressed by the author are personal.





Thanks to a reformist king, Morocco has not become another Egypt

Barbary pirates once roamed the Atlantic seaboard of this poor nation at the edge of the fierce Sahara desert. Ruled by an all-powerful royal family, it's curious as to why the jasmine revolution, which has consumed neighbouring Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, has not reached Morocco in any significant measure despite the odd protest or two.

Unlike Egypt, a vast necropolis, which was ruled by a brutal dictator, life in Morocco seems touched by the lazy charm of Rick Blaine in the immortal classic Casablanca. On a visit once, I was hyperventilating to get to Casablanca. In its cobbled streets sloping down to the ocean, I almost expected Humphrey Bogart's smoky voice to say, "Here's looking at you kid." The romance of Casablanca is alive and well, even if Sam is not playing anything one more time for old time's sake and Rick's has been replaced by Turkish coffee joints.

I was struck by how many people sat around in cafes all day long, shooting the breeze. But, not once did anyone have a bad word for King Mohammed VI in a region where people love nothing more than to run down its strongman rulers.
The king is obviously a lot smarter than the dictators in the region. To counter the excesses of his father's rule, he set up the Arab world's only truth and reconciliation commission, encouraging the growth of human rights bodies.

He has also slowly created more space for the opposition, for a robust press and for civil society, quite a change from the Gaddafis or Mubaraks with their insatiable appetite for real estate in Europe and bulging Swiss bank accounts. It helps that the Moroccan royal family has been part of the scenery for centuries and in modern times have, by and large, kept their noses out of political manoeuvrings.
Much like the Thai king, this has given them the power to intervene in times of crisis as King Mohammed is doing now.

As in all countries of that region, corruption is an issue which exercises young people, but given the numerous anti-corruption institutions which exist, they have recourse for redressal, something which keeps them off the streets.

The enormous tourism industry has also exposed people to outside influences, marginalising the growth of Islamic fundamentalists. Yet, much of the architectural landscape is Islamic. One is the spectacular Hassan II mosque in Casablanca. It puts the Vatican in a shade with its Murano glass chandeliers, its glass floor over the Atlantic ocean, its laser lights targeted at Mecca and a roof which slides back allowing the faithful to worship under the stars. What was impressive was that no one seemed to mind me wandering about inside and even taking pictures, though I imagine I would have been in the clink in one of the more orthodox Islamic countries had I done that.

While Morocco is poorer than say Algeria or Tunisia, there does not seem to such a huge disparity in income. There are no overt signs of poverty, just as there are no overt signs of plenty. Again, to take the young as a yardstick, education has been a priority for the government. But where it has faltered is in employment generation which has led to many young people trying to leave for Europe which is less than welcoming. The refreshing aspect of Morocco was how free and candid women were and how they held their own with men in every sphere.

This is probably why, to mangle Rick's dialogue, of all the gin joints in that region, if I had to walk into one, it would be in Morocco.



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

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

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

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






The first shot in the battle for the control of Tibetan politics and Himalayan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama has been fired. The pre-emptive salvo came from none other than the Dalai Lama himself when he announced on Thursday his decision to step down as the political head of the Tibetan government-in-exile. For some time now, the Dalai Lama has been hinting at his political retirement. Reincarnated as the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso is both the temporal and spiritual head of the Tibetan people. Exiled in India for more than 50 years — he fled Chinese repression in 1959 — he has sustained the Tibetan struggle for its just rights in China, protected its culture and given it a credible international voice. While the Tibetan parliament meeting shortly might want to reject his decision, the Dalai Lama appears to have made up his mind, in the long-term interests of his people.

At 76, the Dalai Lama knows he has only a few active years left. In calling for an elected political leader, the Dalai Lama hopes to lay a strong democratic foundation for the movement so that it can survive internal division and external manipulation after his departure. Beijing has been waiting patiently for the death of the Dalai Lama to strike at the roots of the Tibetan movement. Organising an orderly political transition might be a lot easier for the Dalai Lama than ensuring there is no chaos in choosing his spiritual successor, the 15th Dalai Lama, which is traditionally done through a "discovery" of the "reincarnation". Beijing will undoubtedly organise its own reincarnation. It has insisted that the Dalai Lama can't choose his successor.

As the prolonged conflict between the Tibetan people and China enters a critical phase, India will be sucked into the vortex. For Tibet is at the very heart of the tensions between China and India since the late 1950s. Beijing must be expected to mount relentless pressure on New Delhi to shut down Tibetan activities after the Dalai Lama's death. Meanwhile, the democratisation of the Tibetan movement will bring multiple voices to the fore. To respond effectively, Delhi must end the kind of incompetence it demonstrated in handling the Karmapa, who heads another branch of Tibetan Buddhism, in recent weeks. Delhi needs to strengthen the interaction with the headquarters of the Tibetan movement in Dharamsala, better equip the state governments of Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka that host a large number of Tibetan refugees, improve the coordination between different Central and state agencies, and provide a higher political direction to the management of Tibetan affairs in India.






Long before Twenty20 had altered the surround sound at a cricket match in India, visiting teams from the West Indies would prepare themselves for the silence between overs and during other hold-ups — say, when a wicket fell or during a drinks break. Ramnaresh Sarwan once said he would try to keep a soundtrack running in his mind, for fear that the lack of music would wreck his concentration. At the ongoing World Cup, men like Sarwan can now submit their requests to the ICC, so that key moments in their team's outing can rock to the strains of songs of their choice. And the songs different teams have opted for make for ready sport sociology.

India, unsurprisingly, ask for "Chak De India". It's appropriation of an order only those familiar with the film of the same name can appreciate. "Chak De India" is the battle cry of a rag-tag team of women hockey players whose ultimate victory at a World Cup in Australia is really the icing on the cake for the little victories they pile up by digging deep within their resolve — over a patriarchal sport federation, over a dominant culture that privileges men's cricket over all other sports, over the rivalries within the team, over the temptation to personally shine at the team's expense. In a film that cautions against misplaced nationalism, the anthem marks the difference between vanity and wish-fulfilment. How Dhoni and his men have internalised that sentiment is an intriguing thought.

South Africa, unsurprisingly too, have opted for "Waka Waka", from the football World Cup their country hosted last year. And among the rest, with Pakistan rallying themselves with Tina Turner's "Simply the Best", the real surprise are Australia: the relatively gentle strains of Men at Work's "Down Under". Who'd have thought?






What's most likely to send one of India's aspirational millions, pushing themselves out of poverty, back below the poverty line? Health expenses. The most telling statistic quoted by an expert group asked by the Planning Commission to examine India's healthcare system is that 47 per cent of hospitalisation in rural areas and 31 per cent in urban areas were financed by "loans and the sale of assets" — and that 28 per cent of health problems in rural areas and 20 per cent in urban areas went completely untreated because of lack of access to financing. There's clearly a problem here, as the expert group points out. Their actual recommendations, however, are a mixed bag of the workable and the unworkable.

The larger idea, that preventative and primary healthcare should be based on a single-payer system — in which some unified agency would act as a single collector for funds, and a single payer of bills — is sensible. Group insurance is what works best, and, importantly for a cash-strapped state, is cheapest. The payment shouldn't be just through taxes; contributory payments should also be part of the financing system. It's certainly the case that, if left to itself, India's medical insurance system is incapable of dealing with the magnitude of the problem. There's also good reason, however, to be sceptical of some of their other suggestions: the revival of health PSUs and the reduction of FDI limits in them, for example. Also, the group's complaints that the "private medical insurance market is imperfect" should be set against the backdrop of possible changes to FDI rules that would increase the capitalisation and know-how in the sector.

Yet, the questions being asked are the right ones. The panel pointed out that many state-run medical insurance schemes so far have been "financially unsustainable". India will need, at some point, to put in place a structure that controls costs while increasing access and ensuring proper quality standards. That will need a single-payer component and a private-sector component — and some hard thinking about what the state can and cannot deliver.








Funny we still see 2012 as the most crucial year on way to the big 2014 general election, mainly because Uttar Pradesh goes to the polls early in that year and probably also because a new president has to be elected for the Rashtrapati Bhavan that year. Funnier, therefore, is how nobody looks at 2011 as a year of any great political significance.

Just liberate yourself from the notion that 2012 may be the year of the Congress revival in Uttar Pradesh (rendered outdated after Bihar), and from all the dark rumours in the Lutyens' opium den about Manmohan Singh being moved up and aside into Rashtrapati Bhavan, and it would not look like such a make-or-break year. That year could indeed be the current one, and here is how.

The five state elections that take place within two months from now (all results come on May 13) are among the easiest to predict in our electoral history in a very long time. You know exactly who will lose Bengal and Kerala. You know that Tamil Nadu will now be a very open election. In Assam, the Congress would still have a better chance of putting together a government and Pondicherry, which the Congress may again win, is of insignificant value. Generally, these elections will leave the Congress feeling much better about itself. And the BJP won't be feeling much worse either. It has no stakes in these states and it will not look like a loser. And the Left will be devastated. That is why, if these elections indeed go the way they are headed right now, they have the potential of altering our national political equations, and setting a much more interesting stage for 2014.

It is a unique set of state elections where the Congress and the BJP will hardly cross swords anywhere. On the contrary, the Left will be the Congress's adversary in all the five states, including in Tamil Nadu and Assam where it has a small but significant footprint. These elections will, therefore, have four important consequences. One, they will leave the Congress feeling much more confident, settled. Two, they will give the BJP time to regroup and savour the defeat of its bitterest ideological enemy, the Communists. Three, these will give the Congress and the BJP at least two, if not three, Parliament sessions where they can healthily cooperate and pass some legislations and economic policies on which they have a common view. And four, and most important, this decimation of the Left, unprecedented in recent years, may just push our national politics towards clearer bipolarity.

Ever since the decline of the Congress as an unassailable national force, our politics has carried the peculiar curse of tripolarity. Classically, you would expect two ideological poles in Indian politics, with the more liberal forces (or, to put it more directly, those valuing the Muslim vote) coming under the Congress umbrella, and those that do not particularly need (or expect to get) the minority vote going with the BJP. That is why the DMK/ AIADMK, Hyderabad's MIM and Kerala's Muslim League are natural Congress allies, just as the Shiv Sena and Akali Dal are the BJP's. If this was a clear, two-way division, our national politics would have been a lot more coherent post-1989. But it hasn't been so because of a third, disruptive factor, aptly called the Third Front. It fulfils the needs of those regional parties that want the Muslim vote and yet have the Congress as their main rival in their respective states; for example, Chandrababu Naidu's TDP in Andhra, Naveen Patnaik's BJD in Orissa and even to some extent Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh. They cannot go with the Congress because it is their main rival, or with the BJP because that will lose them the Muslim vote. So they gravitate to a third front whose nucleus and ideological and tactical powerhouse is the Left. After the results come this May 13, these parties will need to review their options, because the Left will lose the "third pole" status it has thrived on for nearly two decades.

This will bring the biggest change and opportunity in our national politics in a long time. These powerful regional adversaries of the Congress will have to make a choice: to stay isolated on the national stage, or to gravitate towards the NDA. The opportunity will first be the BJP's. If it can moderate its own politics and conduct, if it has the good sense of going to both Naidu and Patnaik with a humble mea culpa on the past and a promise of following the Nitish model in their states, it will have its first chance of rebuilding a credible national alternative post-Vajpayee. And if it has the wisdom and the large-heartedness to do this, gains will come from elsewhere too. The "other" Dravida party (other than the one with the UPA), for example. Even, at some point post-2012, Mayawati. Similarly, for Mulayam, Lalu, Paswan, Gowda and other regional chieftains, the Congress and UPA will emerge as their default option with the comforting shoulder of the articulate, English-speaking Left no longer available.

Exactly two months from today, therefore, India will have a rare opportunity to rebalance its politics in a manner that would be ideologically and electorally more logical than what we have had since the beginning of the coalition era. Hopefully then the phenomenon of irresponsible "outside support" keeping governments unsettled and governance distorted through a Treaty of Versailles kind of CMPs will be behind us, at least for now. But for this to happen, leaders of both national parties, the Congress and the BJP, will quickly need to reboot their own politics. Whoever manages the aftermath of the mini election of 2011 better will have a headstart on 2014. The best thing is, you do not even need to wait till May 13 to start working on that.







The Dalai Lama's decision to step down as the political head of the Tibetan government-in-exile comes at an important juncture. Fifty-two years after he sought refuge in India, his prospects of returning to Lhasa look as dim as ever. Besides, serious differences have developed amongst Tibetan émigrés on the conduct of their struggle. His move is an attempt to come to terms with these developments. Whether or not he actually steps down remains to be seen; but the factors that have impelled him to announce his decision will persist.

The Dalai Lama's announcement reflects his assessment of the current state of the Tibetan struggle and its likely trajectory in future. Discussions between Beijing and the Dalai Lama date back to 1979. The then Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping, had indicated that short of granting independence the Tibetan problem could be resolved through negotiations. In the 1980s, the Dalai Lama abandoned his earlier position of seeking independence for Tibet towards the "Middle Way" of demanding Tibetan autonomy under Chinese rule. But the Chinese did not respond to this shift with enthusiasm. On the one hand, the Dalai Lama's public statements in Western capitals did not go down well in Beijing. On the other, his conception of Tibetan autonomy kindled China's suspicion.

An important dimension of the Dalai Lama's idea of autonomy was — and remains — to unite under a single administrative entity all the areas populated by ethnic Tibetans. He wants the regions of Amdo and Kham — presently under four different provinces of China — to be integrated with the Tibetan Autonomous Region. His stance reflects his conception of the Middle Way as a means of preserving Tibetan identity and culture — issues he thinks are particularly relevant to the Tibetans' situation. In any case, other minority nationalities in China, the Uighurs and Mongols for instance, govern themselves within a single autonomous region.

The Chinese, however, claim that the Dalai Lama's demand is tactical. The creation of an autonomous "Greater Tibet" would only pave the way for eventual independence. They insist that he must not only renounce independence, but also accept that Tibet has always been part of China. The Tibetans are unwilling to do so, as it might further undercut their case for autonomy. The Dalai Lama has sought to side-step this issue by emphasising the need to look ahead to the future rather than back to the past. But Beijing remains unyielding. Indeed, China's suspicion of the Dalai Lama has deepened in the last three years. It saw the unrest in Tibet and elsewhere in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics as masterminded by him. The Chinese media unleashed a vitriolic attack on the "Dalai clique". Subsequent efforts to revive the dialogue have not yielded any result. It seems reasonable to conclude that the Chinese are only interested in dragging out the negotiations. They believe that once the Dalai Lama passes on, the Tibetan cause will lose its momentum. It will at once be deprived of a venerated leader and of his charismatic appeal to international audiences. The Dalai Lama is not oblivious of these assumptions. His decision to hand over political leadership of the government-in-exile stems from his desire to ensure that the Tibetan movement does not remain entirely associated with his own persona and that a credible leadership takes over in his lifetime.

But the move is also aimed at ensuring that his approach — the Middle Way — remains the roadmap for the Tibetan community. In his recent statement, the Dalai Lama strongly affirmed his belief in the Middle Way and in non-violent change. For some years now, the Tibetan Youth Congress's stance has differed from that of the Dalai Lama. The youth groups demand independence for Tibet and oppose the idea of autonomy under the Chinese constitution. Some of them are also opposed to ruling out armed resistance against the Chinese. China's stonewalling has merely reinforced the views of the more militant factions. They see the Dalai Lama's diplomatic posture as at best ineffectual. The divide amongst the Tibetan émigrés is evident. In November 2008, the Dalai Lama brought together different voices from the community of exiles to discuss the way forward. The final statement of the meeting came out in support of the Middle Way; but also conceded that if there was no progress towards autonomy, the objective could be shifted to independence.

The Indian government must watch these developments carefully. Since 1954, New Delhi has consistently held that Tibet is a region of China. It does not recognise the government-in-exile. Given China's sensitivity about Tibet, it will be tricky for India to take any stance on the recent developments. Yet, Tibet remains the one issue that could produce a sharp downswing in Sino-Indian relations. India may be able to duck the question of the political leadership of the government-in-exile. But the larger challenge will be the choice of the next Dalai Lama. He has himself aired several possibilities. The Chinese are already edgy on this issue. It is bound to be a difficult and contested question with claims and counter-claims from both sides. If India wants to avoid being caught out by a crisis, it should think creatively about bridging the prevailing mistrust between the Tibetan and Chinese authorities.

The hands-off approach hitherto adopted by us may not be useful in the turbulent times that lie ahead.

Raghavan is the author of 'War and Peace in Modern India'







The battle to win Uttar Pradesh in the 2012 assembly elections has begun in earnest with Mulayam Singh Yadav announcing he would "do a Mubarak" to old foe Mayawati, and recapture the state. A three-day statewide agitation by leaders and workers in several cities including Lucknow, Etawah, Meerut and Gorakhpur against the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party has flagged off the Samajwadi Party's electoral campaign. At a conference of office-bearers on February 26, Mulayam Singh outlined a strategy to revamp the party organisation and begin an early campaign so as to put sustained pressure on the ruling BSP over the next year, until the elections. The agitation led to confrontations with the police and the arrest of over 1,000 SP workers and MLAs, including Mulayam Singh's son Akhilesh Yadav. These developments resulted in three adjournments, disruption of proceedings and noisy scenes in Parliament the next day, with SP members demanding the dismissal of the Mayawati government for excessive use of force and the alleged "house arrest" of Mulayam Singh to prevent him from leading the agitation.

Mulayam Singh's keenness to make an early beginning is revealing of the current political scenario in UP, with the BJP showing no signs of interest in rebuilding its base and with little evidence so far that the Congress organisational structure is being strengthened. The next election, it appears, will be a highly charged contest between the SP and the BSP. The BSP is well-established as the ruling party, and has already begun extensive preparations for the elections, even declaring its first list of candidates for some constituencies. It won all the three assembly and two Lok Sabha seats in the by-elections held in April 2008; the Congress, SP and BJP lost badly. It also virtually swept the panchayat polls held in late October 2010.

However, despite its defeat in 2007, the Samajwadi Party obtained almost the same percentage of votes (about 25 per cent) as in 2002, and now hopes, with some effort, to defeat the BSP. Promising to save the state from a corrupt and ineffective government, Mulayam Singh has made a number of serious charges against it: the siphoning-off of funds meant for development to the building of statues and memorials of Dalit icons, and the need for an inquiry into this; completing the budget session in a mere seven days, while neglecting the passage of important legislative bills; massive corruption in the bureaucracy and political leadership; and a tremendous increase in crime, with a breakdown of law and order.

The stridency of Mulayam Singh's attack stems from his awareness that his support base is not as strong as in the past, due to new challenges that arise out of significant changes in the politics of the Hindi heartland. Over the last decade, there has been a real unravelling of backward-caste identity, as evidenced in the defeat of parties like the SP and the RJD. Throughout the '90s, despite all efforts, Mulayam Singh failed to make use of the Mandal upsurge and create a homogeneous, backward-caste constituency for the SP. Increasing class divisions among the forward and backward sections, and the importance given to Mulayam Singh's immediate followers and family, also contributed. Consequently, the SP remains largely a Yadav-based party with other sections often looking towards other parties.

A closely-related second change is that following the decline of identity politics, the issue of development has become important in mass politics, even more so after the recent victory of Nitish Kumar in Bihar. This has heightened aspirations among the electorate for a share in the rapid economic growth in the country, seen in the victory of incumbent state governments that have performed well during the 2000s: Bihar, Orissa, Andhra, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. Consequently, a new relationship is evident between faster and more inclusive growth and politics, including electoral politics. This does not mean that identity politics has disappeared, rather that it is now used in combination with an agenda of growth for all sections, and not for the benefit of a particular social group as in the past.

Hence, a major challenge faced by the SP in unseating the BSP is that it came to power on a winning "sarvajan" caste-combination and once in office has attempted development programmes for all social categories and regions, markedly different from its earlier Dalit agenda. While much publicity has been given by the media to Mayawati's statue-building spree, less attention has been directed to her attempts at urban revival, housing and the improvement of infrastructure in the major metropolises and 43 other cities — with a special emphasis on numerous projects for sewerage, garbage disposal, drinking water facilities, roads, new overbridges, and so on. There are also programmes for scheduled castes and minorities, and the government has spent considerable part of its budget on social security for backward classes, women, children and the rural and urban poor. The chief minister is reported to personally monitor these programmes to ensure that they are implemented. If some of these benefits manage to reach the people, it could help the BSP in the coming elections, and transform the politics of Uttar Pradesh.

These developments explain the shrill and nervous urgency, even violence, with which Mulayam Singh has begun his electoral campaign a good year before the elections and his plans for a long-term, critical and concerted attack on the ruling party. Much will depend on how the people judge the BSP and what the SP's alternative development agenda has to offer, in what promises to be a no-holds-barred campaign.

The writer is professor, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University







Largely unnoticed last month was the weather that forced airlines flying the polar route between the United States and Asia to detour south over Alaska. This unusual routing was a response to a "space weather" event — an enormous ejection of charged gas from the sun capable of scrambling terrestrial electronic instruments.

Such events can happen at any time but tend to become more severe and more frequent in roughly 11-year cycles. The peak of the current cycle is expected in 2011-12. What's especially significant about this is that the world's reliance on electronic technology — and therefore vulnerability to space weather — has increased substantially since the last peak a decade ago. From sporadic solar flares to ethereal shimmering auroras, manifestations of severe space weather have the power to adversely affect the integrity of the world's power grids, the accuracy and availability of GPS, the reliability of satellite-delivered telecommunications and the utility of radio and over-the-horizon radar.

The detour of recent flights was due to the potential loss of essential air traffic control radio near the North Pole and was costly and inconvenient; some airlines had to bump passengers to take on added fuel for the re-routing. Space weather can affect human safety and economies anywhere on our vast wired planet, and blasts of electrically-charged gas travelling from the sun at up to five million miles an hour can strike with little warning. Their impact could be big — on the order of $2 trillion during the first year in the United States alone, with a recovery period of four to ten years.

History is rife with warnings. In 1859, the British astronomer Richard Carrington observed that an apparently freak event causing compasses to go haywire, telegraph systems to fail and aurora to be visible as far south as Cuba was preceded by an intense white light flare on the surface of the sun. In 1921, space weather wiped out communications and generated fires in the northeastern United States. In March 1989, a geomagnetic storm caused Canada's Hydro-Quebec power grid to collapse within 90 seconds, leaving millions of people in darkness for up to nine hours. In 2003, two intense storms traveled from the sun to earth in just 19 hours, causing a blackout in Sweden and affecting satellites, broadcast communications, airlines and navigation.

A study by the Metatech Corporation in 2008 showed that a repeat of the 1921 solar storm today would affect more than 130 million people with sudden and lasting ramifications across the US social and technical infrastructure. Last November, a Lloyd's report stated that "A loss of power could lead to a cascade of operational failures that could leave society and the global economy severely disabled."

Thanks to the work of scientists across the globe, we now have a better understanding of the causes and frequency of these events. We know that space weather disturbances are strongly controlled by magnetic fields in the sun's atmosphere. We know that a storm is more likely when the sun is approaching the peak of its magnetic cycle, and we can identify where on the sun the intense activity eventually causing the storm is likely to occur.

Space scientists also indicate that the severity of future storms could be much greater than those experienced in recent decades, pointing to the critical need for careful monitoring of the sun and its effects on the earth.

At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington last month, in which both of us took part, scientists, planners and emergency managers from around the globe discussed increasing concerns about space weather and the risks it poses to international human and economic well-being and national security. All agree that for critical infrastructure to be protected, new and cost-effective mitigation strategies are vital.

And there is much that can be done to reduce risks. The possibilities include backups for crucial systems such as GPS, tougher protective shielding for satellites, and blocking devices to harden power grids; and replacements for ageing scientific satellites are needed to provide advanced warnings.

Some of these measures can bear fruit quickly, while others will pay off over the longer-term. What is key now is to identify, test, and begin to deploy the best array of protective measures practicable, in parallel with reaching out to the public with information explaining the risks and the remedies. There is commitment on both sides of the Atlantic to doing exactly that.

Holdren is the science and technology adviser to US President Barack Obama. Beddington is the chief scientific adviser to UK Prime Minister David Cameron. The New York Times







Not long ago, at the Bharat Ram Memorial Lecture, I had the opportunity to listen to the Nobel-winning economist Elinor Ostrom on the subject of what are called common pool resources, or CPRs. Indeed, her terms of reference, concepts and concerns extend well beyond conventional economics.

CPRs do not have a clear-cut pattern of ownership between the state, private players and the community. Some examples include river waters, forests, mineral wealth and the fish in the sea. Many questions arise, like: who keeps the rivers clean? Who prevents forests and wildlife from destruction, forest-dwellers from displacement, the seas from over-harvesting?

Half a century ago, scholars believed what is regarded today as a rather simplistic solution. The assumption was that markets are a suitable guide for private goods from the viewpoint of both producers and consumers, and non-private or public goods are best handled by the government, which can frame rules and impose taxes. Further, at one end of the scale is a hierarchical governance structure which would induce compliance between private citizens and officials in the orderly consumption and generation of public goods. At the other end, a single governance structure which reduces "chaos", improves efficiency, limits conflict between government agencies and better serves a "homogenous" public.

This approach, it is believed, is out of touch with the diverse ways in which people actually deal with CPRs. Current research — based on numerous studies, specially in the context of large metropolitan centres — favours a "polycentric" concept with multiple centres of decision-making. Here government bodies compete and cooperate, but have recourse to a central mechanism to resolve conflicts. At the same time there is a rider that one size — meaning one kind of polycentric governance structure — doesn't necessarily fit all situations. I wonder if MCD and DDA in Delhi are good examples to study.

Ostrom further discusses the state of some major reserve forests in India to illustrate the conflict between protecting forest cover and wood-cutting (as well as cattle-grazing). Her conclusion, based on various ground-level studies, is that the involvement of the locals or van panchayats in protecting the forests gives measurably better results than leaving the problem only to forest officials. In other words, involving all stakeholders is the best way forward.

At a broader level, Ostrom leaves us with the impression that the potential for cooperation in "common" properties has not been fully explored worldwide. One impediment appears to be the rationality-based assumptions about human behaviour: in the classic prisoner's dilemma, for example, prisoners are separated so that they cannot communicate with each other, and each has to second-guess the other's behaviour. Such constraints don't apply to users of CPRs, and therefore cooperative outcomes can be superior to those you'd get in the prisoner's dilemma experiment. Instead of a zero-sum game we can hope for a win-win situation.

Global warming, for example, has been a subject of growing concern for nations worldwide and has led to a series of debates on how to reduce the world's carbon footprint. The developed economies, notably Europe and America, are ranged on one side as major polluters; the emerging economies like China, India and Brazil on the other, as those whose rapid growth rates will lead to further pollution in the future. Progress towards a consensus has been tardy, though it is clear that cooperation is the only way forward and time is running out. Signals indicating urgency emerge practically every day. It is now believed that the current food shortages are a worldwide phenomenon closely related to climate change. In the last year alone, the US has experienced an unprecedented snowstorm that stretched from the East Coast to the Midwest, a massive typhoon caused devastation in Australia and floods plagued Pakistan.

Indeed the planet is a vast commons. Within that, regions and nations are smaller commons. And within nations are a plethora of CPRs. That they are intertwined in a complex network from the micro to the macro is beyond doubt.

The problem in India stems from its growing population and rising aspirations in the context of limited CPRs — forest cover, inland water resources, cultivable area and spaces for industrial use. Inevitably there are competing users for increasingly scarce resources, which cannot be left entirely to the market mechanism. While the state steps in to deal with CPRs that by and large belong in the public domain, Ostrom brings a body of theoretical knowledge to deal with them in a more scientific and sensitive manner.

Her approach combines empiricism with behavioural principles hopefully ensuring greater chances of success. Jairam Ramesh and Montek Ahluwalia, we hope you are listening.

The writer is a visiting professor of economics at IIT, Delhi







Pakistan's parallel

Pakistan's leader of the opposition, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the PML-N, this week challenged the appointment of the head of Pakistan's corruption watchdog, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the country's supreme court. The Express Tribune reported on March 11 that "the appointment of chairman NAB had been challenged in the Supreme Court by Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who contended the mandatory requirement for consultation with the opposition for the appointment of chairman NAB, as enshrined in the constitution, was not fulfilled... He added he was opposed to it in view of the nominee, Justice (retd) Syed Deedar Hussain Shah's past association with the PPP and the fact that he had twice served as a member of the Sindh assembly." The three-member bench hearing the case concluded that the appointment henceforth stood null and void. Shah is said to be an old friend of PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

The government reacted in two unexpected ways to the order: first, it reappointed Shah despite the court rendering his appointment ultra vires, and secondly, it called for a strike in Karachi, Shah's city. The Express Tribune reported on March 11: "President Asif Ali Zardari had subsequently reappointed chairman NAB on a fresh summary sent by PM Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani. The court had expressed shock over the development and asked for the latest record regarding Shah's reappointment as NAB chief." Daily Times reported: "In reaction to the Supreme Court's decision to sack Shah, the PPP on Thursday decided to hold a massive protest and called for a complete shutter-down and wheeljam strike in Karachi on Friday, while the enraged PPP workers also took to the streets against the verdict. According to reports, scores of armed men took to the streets and opened aerial fire in various PPP-dominated areas of the city."

Law minister indicted

Pakistan's federal law minister has been indicted in a robbery and kidnapping case. Daily Times reported on March 7: "A district court in Rawalpindi... indicted Babar Awan in a robbery and kidnapping case. The case... had been lodged with the New Town police station, Rawalpindi, in 1998. The minister, who appeared before a civil judge... along with his counsel... denied the charges and termed the case as baseless. However, the court formally charged the minister and adjourned the hearing till March 12.. Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar, expressed surprise and dismay over the prosecution in Punjab taking action on a 12-year-old case and termed it as 'unfortunate', besides 'politically motivated'." Another report gave the Punjab law minister, Rana Sanaullah's view that "the case had nothing to do with any... politics, adding that Babar was well aware of the case registered against him in the court and that he should respect the court. 'It was a citizen who had registered the case against Babar Awan and the Punjab government is not the plaintiff in this case,' Sanaullah clarified."

Third time lucky

Last week, Pakistan's former army chief and president, General Pervez Musharraf was served his third non-bailable arrest warrant over the accusation that Benazir Bhutto's security was lax. Previous warrants couldn't be delivered to him since he no longer lives at his

Pakistan address.

This week, the court ensured that the warrants reached him in London, which has been his publicly-known base ever since he left Pakistan in 2008. But Musharraf, the elusive commando, gave the warrant-wielders the slip again, and was found thousands of miles away from London.

A report in Dawn on March 10 stated: "The government sent to the British authorities on Wednesday the arrest warrant of Musharraf in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case. According to sources in the interior ministry, the warrant was sent by the Federal Investigation Agency to Pakistan's high commission in London, which forwarded it to the UK foreign affairs department...

The former president, accused of not providing adequate security to the PPP leader, is said to be in Dubai these days."







The pick up in exports by 49.8% in February 2011 is remarkable for a number of reasons. For one, it comes on top of the high growth of 31.6% registered in the same month of the previous year. The surge is no flash in the pan either as export growth has picked up over the last 7 months, with some marginal fluctuations, although buoyant exports seem to have done little to boost industrial growth, which sagged to 3.7% in January. A global comparison shows that India has registered one of the highest pick-ups. Numbers for the 10 months of the fiscal year till January 2011, the latest month for which global data is available, show that the 29.3% growth clocked by Indian exports compared favourably with that of Asian nations like South Korea (28.2%), Malaysia (21.4%), Thailand (21.6%), the Philippines (29.4%) and Japan (26.8%). The only two major Asian countries that fared better than India were Vietnam (31.9%) and China (32.6%). However, India's peers like Brazil and South Africa have also done better, with their growth rates in the 10 months at a higher 33.6% and 33%, respectively. With export growth picking up by a substantially higher 31.4% in the last 11 months, as compared to the 18% growth in imports, the balance of trade has improved marginally. Trends show that the monthly trade deficit, which averaged $9.4 billion in the first half of the year, has come down marginally to average $7.4 billion in the next 5 months. The ratio of merchandise imports financed through earnings from merchandise exports has gone up from 65% to 74% during the period, putting to rest the fears of a booming hike in trade deficits in the coming years.

The most significant trend on the export side has been the pick up in engineering goods, which account for a quarter of the total goods exports. Trends show that the pace of growth of engineering exports has improved vastly, with the numbers going up from 39.6% in the first half of the year to a spectacular 81% in the April-February period. However, some of the other important exports like gems & jewellery and petroleum products, which together account for close to a quarter of the goods exports, show contrary trends. While export growth in petroleum products has decelerated from 66% in the first half of the year to 34% in the April-February period, that of gems & jewellery has gone down from 14.2% to 5.4%. So, while the overall performance on the merchandise export front has been commendable, there is still need for pushing for a more extensive growth.





As Somali pirates poach nearer and nearer Indian shores, who is supposed to be responsible for maritime chowkidari? One would think it's the government. So the Opposition is giving it a hard time, with Sushma Swaraj asking why a tiny country like Somalia is being allowed to "cock a snook" at a big country like ours, and hold our people hostage. To put this in perspective, note that the International Maritime Bureau reports that Somali pirates are currently holding 33 vessels and 711 sailors hostage. While 53 of them are Indians, none of the concerned 5 ships bear an Indian flag. Foreign ships in foreign waters equal a jurisdictional quagmire, which calls for gingerly handling rather than lumpen machismo. Plus, from South Korea to the UK, governments tend not to negotiate with pirates because, in principle and practice, this only encourages further hostage-taking. By one estimate, average ransoms exhorted by sea pirates have jumped from jumped from $150,000 in 2005 to $5.4m in 2010. This is not a sustainable trend. In short, the position that our government has taken in Parliament and in the UN Security Council—it's the shipowners who have to be at the frontline of securing the release of sailors under their employment—seems quite tenable. Except, the Indian National Shipowners' Association argues, that the eradication of piracy is the responsibility of governments. This is quite a face-off.

However incompetent its opponents may paint the Indian government, it has actually been quite proactive in the piracy matter. Within weeks of INS Tabar's arrival in the Gulf of Eden in 2008, it sank one of the Somali pirates' motherships. Unless it comes under attack or finds that a merchant vessel is in imminent danger of being hijacked, our Navy cannot fire at pirate vessels as per the Law of the Sea Convention. This is not a reflection of incompetence but of the complexity of the matter. International forces did get together to better police the Gulf of Aden, so that incidents halved over there. But Somali pirates have now moved into the Indian Ocean. This is a problem that cannot be resolved unilaterally, domestically. Acting trigger-happy won't help either. Last month, the pirates killed four American hostages while the American Navy was closing up on them. Who will take responsibility if such daring-dos get Indians killed? We don't want our government acting like Dirty Harry. What it should do is take a leadership role in getting different governments to act in concert to fix Somali piracy, which would include bringing normalcy to the war zone that is Somalia today.





Those who earn income above a threshold must pay income taxes. Taxes are not fees. Fees involve quid pro quo. They are paid for specific services. There is no such quid pro quo for taxes. They sink into the Consolidated Fund and notwithstanding the parliamentary scrutiny about expenditure out of this Consolidated Fund, there is tax-payer fatigue and apathy about payment of taxes, since no such benefits are seen to flow. These benefits can be in the form of either public goods or collective private goods. Alternatively, these benefits can be equitable considerations of cross-subsidisation. Taxes collected from the relatively rich are used to subsidise the relatively poor. Unfortunately, tax and expenditure policy have been cluttered up and made non-transparent, with confusion about what is being done and for whom. Consider this business of subsidising the poor. Apart from the problem about not being able to identify BPL unambiguously and refusing to accept participatory and decentralised identification, is the current system of subsidising through administered prices most efficient? This is relevant not just for central subsidies such as petroleum, food and fertilisers, but also for state-level ones like roads and power. Under-graduate economics texts have demonstrations that direct taxes are superior to indirect taxes, because welfare gains are greater.

By the same token, direct income transfers are superior. By this, one means direct cash transfers, assuming financial inclusion proceeds, not this business of messing around with coupons and conditional cash transfers. The recent Budget has apparently promised this, though one should remember food coupons were first promised in the Budget for 2004-05 and nothing came of that promise. There is still reluctance to accept that we are effectively talking about a negative income tax system. It will be useful to separate out ostensible subsidisation into private flows (BPL households through negative income taxes) and the provision of public goods or collective private goods in the backward regions (decentralised appropriately, weeding out high administrative costs of delivery). This is on the expenditure side. On the tax revenue side, the system is cluttered up through exemptions, both on direct and indirect taxes. Sticking to direct taxes, is there any reason why farmers who are above threshold levels should not pay income taxes? Not only is agricultural income of farmers not taxed, neither is non-agricultural income. After all, two-thirds of sales of consumer products occur in rural India and contrary to perceptions, two-thirds of extremely rich households (NCAER data) are also there. Farmers who are in dire straits will, in any event, be below threshold levels.

Direct tax exemptions also extend elsewhere. For instance, since 2005-06, Budget papers have included a tax forgone statement, divided into corporate exemptions, exemptions from unincorporated enterprises and individuals. This explains why effective tax rates for all three categories are lower than what they should be. The sums involved are not insubstantial, 5.5% of GDP. It is correct to presume that these exemptions only benefit the fat cats of the system. First, exemptions are granted for exports and backward regions, too, and these lead to positive multiplier benefits (including direct and indirect employment) and it can't be anyone's case that these don't benefit the poor. Second, unincorporated enterprises and individuals may not necessarily be the fat cats, too. Having said this, three points are unexceptionable. First, tax exemptions are not the best method to drive resource allocation. They lead to distortions. For instance, how does one know exemptions to create physical infrastructure are superior to creation of social infrastructure? Second, fiscal incentives don't matter in developing backward regions. They can matter at the margin, but primary determinants are elsewhere. Rare is the case where everything else is constant, so that fiscal incentives matter at the margin. Stated differently, lack of physical and social infrastructure is much more important.

Third, exemptions clutter up the system and make the objective of tax policy non-transparent. The tax forgone statement should, therefore, be interpreted differently. 5.5% of GDP is being lost and this has opportunity costs. Let's clean it up, obviating the necessity for MAT. DTC was meant to do this, but has been diluted. And continuance of MAT suggests we aren't yet ready to clean up the system. Assuming we obtained that additional 5.5% of GDP, without getting into receipts through spectrum and disinvestment, there would be 22.5% of GDP to spend on individual subsidies (negative income taxes) and collective private or public goods. One can then prioritise and decide on efficient expenditure of these public resources, including zero-based budgeting exercises on ministries and government departments and decentralised transfers. Unfortunately, no Budget since 1991 has been couched in terms of such prioritisation. Had that been done, there would have been clarity about resources available and their competing uses. This is one of the first principles of economics and also figures in definitions of the subject. That such an obvious idea is not implemented, suggests the system wants opaqueness and lack of transparency.

The author is a noted economist





If the directions of economic policy proposed at the fourth session of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC) are successfully implemented, then the coming years will see China shifting to a lower growth trajectory. This would be a conscious effort. The annual GDP growth target for the 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2015) submitted to the NPC is pegged at 7%—a rate of growth that, by Chinese standards, appears too low.

Considering that the Chinese economy grew by 10.3% in 2010 after 9.2% in 2009, moderating to 7% will mean going back to growth rates that have not been witnessed in China for several years. There are very few instances of 7% GDP growth in China during the last three decades. Except for 1981 (5.2%), 1989 (4.1%) and 1990 (3.8%), China has always had 7%-plus growth rates during the last three decades. In fact, during the last decade, there were only four years—2001, 2002, 2008 and 2009—when China grew at less than double-digit rate.

Why does China want to bring down its growth rate? The western press has been abuzz for several years about the Chinese economy 'overheating'. Similar views were expressed about India as well. All these discussions took a backseat, following the financial crisis when lack of growth, as opposed to more of it, became the subject of discussions. With overall world recovery slowly beginning to assume shape, courtesy the spirited response of emerging markets led by China and India, and short-term portfolio funds beginning to scout these markets, talks of 'overheating' have begun creeping back to front pages. But this is not good enough explanation for China attempting to do what it is.

A major emphasis of the draft 12th Plan is on redistribution of income. Premier Wen's address at the NPC underlines efforts to be made for increasing incomes of low-income people and overhauling and standardising income distribution. Incomes are to be raised by hikes in minimum wages, pensions and subsistence allowances for both rural and urban workers. Income tax thresholds on salaries are to be revised along with tax rates for reducing tax burdens on low income categories. While these are measures planned for boosting low incomes, there are a series of moves planned for regulating high incomes. These include controls on wage scales in high-income industries and standardising executive pay and bonuses in state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and financial institutions. The overarching objective of all these measures is to reduce the income gap that has widened sharply, and, as Premier Wen emphasised, "ensure that the people share more in the fruits of reform and development". For those familiar with Indian reforms, economic policies and concerns surrounding them, the utterance might sound distinctly similar to often repeated phrases such as 'inclusive growth' and 'growth with human face' in the Indian discourse.

The stated objectives—cutting growth, improving distribution and reducing income gaps—refer to China's recognition that inequalities are becoming not only conspicuous but also disturbing to the extent of making people unhappy. What the Chinese authorities also appear to have realised is that obsession with GDP growth, while expanding the economy, might not necessarily make everybody better off at the same time. The benefits of high growth are being enjoyed more by certain groups at the expense of others. After three decades of rapid growth and becoming the second-largest economy of the world with an economic size of $5.5 billion, China realises that high growth is necessary but not sufficient for development.

Monetary policy, which has been expansive following the financial crisis and aided economic expansion in the last couple of years, is expected to be reined in for stabilising growth. Such a posture has also been encouraged by concerns over rising domestic prices. Monetary expansion has fuelled inflation in recent years and high prices have been threatening to aggravate economic disparities. Keeping prices stable will also be a part of China's efforts to bring down the wealth and income gap.

The 12th Five Year Plan is remarkable in terms of the radical changes that it proposes in the economic vision for China over the next five years. The implementation is not going to be easy. Difficulties will arise in shifting to a different set of incentives from those that prevail now, particularly in form of career incentives for local government officials who are used to focusing on growth targets rather than distribution goals. China's biggest challenge in doing what it aims to is to 'reform' many of its reforms undertaken during the last three decades.

The author is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies in the National University of Singapore. These are his personal views






Japan, a land that is no stranger to earthquakes and from whose language the word 'tsunami' is derived, is facing a natural calamity of unprecedented proportions. The magnitude 8.9 quake, one of the worst to have struck the country in a century, would have been trouble enough. Worse still, the quake occurred just 120 km offshore, resulting in a tsunami with waves many metres high that swiftly barrelled its way inland, producing some horrifying live television images. The unstoppable waters tossed boats aside, swept away cars and huge trucks, and left buildings marooned as they relentlessly continued to engulf more areas. Situated in one of the most seismically active regions of the world, Japan could turn itself into an economic powerhouse only by ensuring that its infrastructure was engineered to withstand quakes and its people endlessly drilled and prepared to face such eventualities. Although tall buildings in Tokyo swayed so much that their inhabitants were left feeling nauseous, they do not seem to have collapsed. The famed bullet trains promptly stopped running and many of the country's nuclear power plants were safely shut down. But human ingenuity and planning has its limits when facing the powers of nature. There are reports that there were problems in shutting down one nuclear power plant and a massive fire in an oil refinery sent thick clouds of smoke into the air. With tsunami warning and alerts issued to other nations ringing the Pacific Ocean, they braced themselves for a time of trial.

In Japan itself, the death toll will doubtless rise. There will inevitably also be the costs of destroyed houses, factories, farms, and various kinds of infrastructure to reckon with. It bears recall that the 1995 quake near the city of Kobe, with a magnitude of 6.9, killed more than 6,000 people and caused damage in excess of $100 billion. Decades earlier, in 1923, the Great Kanto Earthquake set off vast fires that claimed close to 140,000 lives in Tokyo and surrounding areas. As brave, resilient, and resourceful Japan picks itself up and rebuilds from the latest devastation, it will learn lessons about where improvements need to be made. But this natural disaster raises issues that must concern countries like India too. As this country experiences rapid economic growth, how much of its vital infrastructure and buildings can withstand a powerful tremblor? After the experience of the 2004 quake and the huge tsunami that it unleashed, India has put in place its own tsunami warning system. Japan's experience shows that even with preparation, loss to life and property can be tremendous. Without such preparedness, however, the tragedy would be unimaginably greater.





One of the most horrifying acts of the Taliban was blasting the two magnificent, 1500-year-old Buddha statues in Bamiyan with dynamites, rocket launchers, and tanks. The 10th anniversary of this tragic destruction, which began on March 2, 2011 and took weeks to complete, provides an occasion to reflect on the future of the Afghan heritage. These statues, carved on the face of the Hindu-Kush Mountains, were great representatives of Asian art. The two unique colossi, 55 and 38 meter tall — the first of which was the tallest in the world — synthesised various art styles, including the Gandhara and Greco-Roman. They also represented a wonderfully creative phase of Buddhist history. The Indian government, through the Archaeological Survey of India, played a commendable role in the conservation of the Bamiyan monuments between 1969 and 1977. Although attempts were made in the early 1980s to declare them as World Heritage sites, it was only in 2003 that the effort succeeded. Simultaneously, these heritage structures were placed in the list of sites in danger, which helped mobilise international expertise and financial support for their protection.

UNESCO, which is coordinating the conservation efforts in Afghanistan, deserves the highest praise. Instead of rushing to rebuild the destroyed icons, as desired by some of the heritage experts and funding countries, it opted for a three-phase project to demine the area, strengthen the mountain cliffs, and improve the vicinity. Involving local communities in conservation efforts and building their capacities has been very sensibly made a priority. This sustainable approach, adopted since 2003, has paid dividends and the Bamiyan site is now ready to be removed from the list of World Heritage sites in danger. The demand to rebuild the Bamiyan Buddhas has gained fresh momentum after experts demonstrated the feasibility of reconstructing the smaller of the two statues, using fragments from the original statues. A final decision will be taken after carefully analysing the costs and benefits of the project, including the social gains that would accrue to the local community. The Taliban's barbaric destruction of the Buddhas exposes the limits of international conventions meant to safeguard heritage structures of universal value. In general, these conventions only address the damage caused by conventional war; they are ineffective in dealing with rogue States that vandalise their own cultural properties. There is an urgent need to review these international legal instruments and to make it mandatory for states to protect their cultural diversity and the heritage structures that represent it gloriously.








Some suggestions for Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who plan to visit India and encourage philanthropy amongst India's super-rich.

Dear Bill & Warren,

Delighted to learn that you plan to tour India, among other countries, to inspire and 'grow' the practice of 'giving' among our super-rich. Indeed, to have them follow in your charitable footsteps and part with vast sums of their wealth as you have, for a good cause. This does get to be a bit of a problem with those for whom charity begins at home and stays there. And for a corporate world which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh concedes, (much like your own corporate world) suffers from a perceived 'ethical deficit.' On the bright side, Dr. Singh's government also generously concedes billions of dollars in freebies each year to the ethically-challenged, doubtless to bridge that deficit. Close to $20 billion in corporate income tax write-offs in this year's budget alone. This offers your campaign a vantage point, surely. No need to 'give-till-it-hurts' here. All that's been done with public revenue. Now they can give without hurting.

Moreover, your pal Steve Forbes has just brought out his new list which, taken together with our budget, lends powerful ammo to your proselytisation project. Stevie's list tells us India's billionaires have done us proud again. There are now 55 of them. That's more than last year despite a few unfortunate dropouts — Shahid Balwa of DB Realty among them — who have plunged into the misery of barren multi-millionairehood. And while China may have posted a list of 115 billionaires, theirs are mainly Little Leaguers, with an average net asset worth of no more than $2.5 billion. Way below our own $4.5 billion average. (It was over $6 billion in 2008, till those twits on Wall Street blew it). That places us above — and China below — the $3.7 billion global average net asset worth of these super-rich. And there is also our obvious moral superiority over the Russians who keep sending their billionaires (101 of them) to prison. We send ours to Parliament. And while China and Russia might have sneaked ahead of us on the numbers, we've knocked those Germans off their perch (52).

I'm eager to help with the planning of your trip. Let's start with the pre-visit homework. There are now 1,210 dollar billionaires on the planet, the Forbes list tells us. We don't believe this for a moment, though we agree it's a fun exercise to undertake each year. Our own number has to be much higher. But concealed income in India is so huge that it, firstly, denies a number of our billionaires due global recognition. Secondly, it leads to their being grossly undervalued. Anyway, 14 of those Indians whose wealth can be established in the 10-digit range occupy slots within the top 15 per cent of those 1,210 super-rich. The top seven of these make it within the first 100 of the Forbes list. And two — Mukesh Ambani and Lakshmi Mittal — make it to the list of the 10 richest men in the world. True, unlike both of you, swanking around at ranks two and three, they languish lower down at ranks six and nine. But we do have the policy structures in place to remedy that in a while.

The net asset worth of our boys (and three girls) is around $246.5 billion (Rs. 11,13,750 crore). This, of course, does not include unaccounted income, or stuff stashed away from public gaze. But even on this modest sum of wealth, let's assume they earn an equally modest annual return of 10 per cent. (Now we know that for the super-rich, anything less than 30 per cent's a joke, but let's just assume 10? At least as the part they will be persuaded to give away, by both of you.) Then you might want to glance at these humble calculations before you make it here to inspire 'giving' among the Indian super-rich.

A return of 10 per cent on the declared wealth of Indian billionaires comes to over $24 billion (Rs. 1,11,375 crore). Let's recall for a moment that 836 million Indians live on a daily expenditure of less than 50 cents (Rs.20 or even much less). We might have clocked in fourth on the billionaire stakes, but in the share of poor people, those in hunger, those getting the lowest number of calories, fastest rising food prices — we're up there at the top of the world.

Well, the modest interest amount of $24 billion would easily cover the annual consumption expenditure of 150 million poor Indians. If the return on wealth was actually 20-30 per cent, then the numbers whose consumption could be taken care of each year would be twice or thrice as many.

Take our health budget — now around $6 billion (Rs.26, 897 crore) after Finance Minister Pranabda hiked it by 20 per cent over last year. That 10 per cent return on the wealth of the dollar billionaires — let's call them DB for short, a now familiar acronym that's almost a household word here — would cover that budget for four years at least. Or the health and higher education ($4.8 billion) budgets together for two years. On a return of just 10 per cent, that's a bargain. The more so when you consider that health and higher education budgets together are just a little more than half the nearly $20 billion (Rs. 88,263 crore) Pranabda is writing off in corporate income tax, apart from other freebies for struggling billionaires.

Now that $20 billion would run our Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme at present levels ($ 8.8 billion) for at least two years. But Pranabda probably realised, shrewdly, that a 10 per cent return on the wealth of the richest would provide over $24 billion — and provide that each year. Which means all three — health, higher education and rural employment programmes — could be run for many, many years (assuming the banks stay afloat). And there would a bit left over for covering budget allocations for sectors like Handlooms. Somewhere between five and ten million families with perhaps the finest weaving skills in the world, have to depend on a fraction of the $95 million (Rs. 431.61 crore) given to the handlooms sector in the present budget. Who knows we might even be able to cover the whole central Textile budget, a piffling $1.2 billion or Rs. 5,855.75 crore. (Come to think of it, the total value of our Flying Fifty Five at $246.5 billion is just a little short of the total expenditure proposed in our Central budget at $278 billion. But let's not go there just now).

Pranabda also probably knew that the two of you were coming down to persuade our guys to part with a fraction of their wealth for noble purposes. He's a wise man, our Finance Minister. I think he's also figured that if he could get 10 per cent of the interest on the funds the Indian super-rich have stashed away overseas, we could probably bridge our deficit as well. So he's thinking of offering them an amnesty on their little fiddles. That way we could access those funds painlessly. I can't help thinking you ought to meet Pranabda too, when you visit. Like both of you, he believes in persuasion and his skills in that direction are unique. He's working hard to ensure that the men you will persuade to 'give,' accumulate more each year and thus have more to give. After all, more giving leads to more giving. He's also thoughtfully creating more hungry people they can help.

Looking forward to your visit and a year of giving.








The first decade of the 2000s witnessed what perhaps can best be described as a revolution in the way the Government of India declared it would implement its laws. From the Right to Information Act (RIA) to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) to the Right to Education Act (REA), the story was the same. The government switched from policies where implementation was left to the discretion and whims of bureaucrats and budgets to ones where citizens were given a right to — and could demand — information, work, schools, or other entitlements. Ordinary Indians were to be empowered to hold the government accountable.

And yet this change to a "rights-based approach" was at best only a partial success. For instance, there have been almost no claims in court by anyone denied their rights under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, although certainly this programme has not been trouble free. Most Indians, especially the poorest — but even those better off — simply find it too difficult to enforce their rights on their own, especially in backlogged and hard-to-reach courts.

India is still missing the needed legal infrastructure. Its legal institutions have not been able to systematically identify violations of the law and credibly threaten punishment. As a result, Indians may be excused if they think their laws frequently look more like a vision statement for the country than something that will be reliably enforced.

Rethinking accountability revolution

Recognising this larger implementation problem, the National Advisory Council (NAC) recently suggested that all government entitlements should have a grievance redress mechanism. In its note on the Draft National Food Security Bill released in January, the NAC proposes creating District Grievance Redressal Officers, who would be the enforcement "lynchpin" of programmes that fall under the proposed Bill, such as the Public Distribution System or the Integrated Child Development Scheme. These young professionals, drawn from outside the ranks of the bureaucracy for non-renewable five-year terms, would be given wide powers to investigate implementation failures under the Bill, fine those responsible, and compensate those improperly denied benefits.

This proposal is a promising start, and shows how independent sources of accountability might better ensure compliance with the law. Yet, these proposed District Grievance Redressal officers have powers that are at the same time too narrow and too wide. They are too narrow in that these officers should also be able to investigate similar implementation problems in other social welfare programmes not covered under the proposed Bill, like the REA or the MGNREGA. They are too wide because giving the same person the power to investigate, prosecute, and determine the guilt of officials creates a conflict of interest and an undesirable concentration of power. Instead, these officers should focus strictly on bringing complaints and allow an independent judge to decide their merit.

To tackle the implementation gap, the States can also build on the current Lokayukta system. Lokayuktas have been created in over a dozen States from Bihar to Karnataka, where they investigate complaints of corruption and recommend to the government that offending officials be censured. However, the office's effectiveness is too often dependent on the individual personality of the Lokayukta, and is hampered by a lack of resources, the inability to investigate without a formal complaint, and the office's non-binding recommendations. The States should consider stripping Lokayuktas of their power to give non-binding recommendations (which are of limited value anyway), and instead empower them with robust prosecutorial powers.

The Lokayuktas could be drawn from a combination of retired judges, as they are now, and younger professionals brought in from outside the bureaucracy selected through a competitive examination. Their mandate and manpower should be expanded so that they not only investigate corruption, but broader breakdowns in the implementation of law. If a Lok Pal were ever created by Parliament (a bill to create such a parallel central institution has been pending in varying forms for over 40 years), it could play a similar role in the Centre.

The idea of creating strong independent prosecutors to ensure policy implementation has already met with success elsewhere in the world; most notably Brazil's much lauded Ministerio Publico system. Brazil, which has also had an implementation gap problem, gave its Ministerio Publico, or public prosecutors, wide powers in 1988 to enforce the law and the Constitution, essentially turning it into a "fourth branch" of the government.

These local, State, and national-level prosecutors in Brazil are chosen through a highly competitive examination, drawing upon the country's best law graduates, and each prosecutor is given significant individual autonomy to decide which cases to pursue. They have become well-known for spearheading efforts to implement everything from environmental law to social policy. As the threat of prosecution by their office became increasingly credible this created a new culture of accountability throughout the government.

But does not the real failure in accountability in India lie at the feet of the courts? If the courts were efficient, accessible, or in general just worked better, no independent prosecutorial agencies would be required as people would bring cases on their own to enforce the law.

Certainly, the courts need reform, whether it is better courtroom management, new blood among judges, or sufficient resources to deal with heavy caseloads. Also, certain types of complaints, such as the improper denial of a BPL card or petty corruption, might be better dealt with by independent welfare tribunals or ombudsmen. The Office of the Ombudsman in Kerala provides one model of how appointing an adjudicator of enough stature to rise above the morass of local politics can help tackle low-level maladministration or corruption within the local government. Yet, focussing strictly on reforming the courts, or even creating new adjudicators, despite the need, misses the point.

People only go to court when there is enough incentive to do so. However, if one was denied ration for a month or is a victim of corruption, the courts are likely to just compensate you for whatever you were denied or, perhaps, just a bit more. The delays and appeals present in any court system, especially in India, combined with the expected low returns make bringing a complaint an unappetising proposition. Additionally, most Indians are intimidated by the judiciary and are uncertain of their rights. Instead, dedicated prosecutors are needed who can help identify breakdowns and then see complaints through the judicial system to their natural end.

Unleashing the "Fourth Branch"

In India, effective prosecutorial power will likely grow from existing offices, like the Lokayuktas, in combination with the creation of new institutions to tackle more discrete implementation failures, like the proposed District Grievance Redressal Officers. Such a piecemeal approach is not necessarily a weakness. Indeed, it gives the States and the Central government the ability to experiment with different enforcement approaches.

Still, this experimentation should be unified by a few general principals. These should include having truly independent prosecutors that come from outside the existing bureaucracy, as well as avoiding conflicts of interest by carefully separating prosecutorial from adjudicating powers. If India can develop these robust prosecutorial agencies to help rein in its bureaucracy, those fighting against corruption and for the rule of law will finally have the reinforcements they deserve.

(Nick Robinson is an Assistant Professor at Jindal Global Law School and a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research.)







The Pakistani Minorities Minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, died at the age of 42, shot by a gunman outside his mother's Islamabad home, defending the cause to which he had dedicated his life. He was assassinated for his unrelenting opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy laws and the injustices and intolerance they encouraged. In his official capacity, he represented the interests of Pakistan's religious minorities. However, Bhatti also stood for those subscribing to the vision of Pakistan's founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, characterised by pluralism, freedom of religion and the rule of law.

Born to Roman Catholic parents in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab, Bhatti grew up in Khushpur, a town in Faisalabad district. He was one of six children. His father, Jacob, was a teacher. In his teens, Bhatti experienced the spiritual awakening to which he attributed his life's work, saying he had decided to give his life to serve others, as he believed Christ had done for him.

Bhatti founded the Christian Liberation Front (CLF) in 1985 while studying for his master's in political science and public administration at the University of Punjab, Lahore. The movement sought to restore the rights of Pakistan's religious minorities and promote tolerance. Pakistan's population is now estimated to be 185 million, of which around 75 per cent are Sunni Muslim, 20 per cent Shia Muslim and 4-5 per cent follow other religions. Of these, Hindus and Christians each make up 1.5-2 per cent, and the remaining 1 per cent include Ahmadi Muslims, Baha'is, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and others. The CLF initiative was a brave decision given the deteriorating treatment of non-Muslims under the regime of General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-88). The group experienced violent opposition from the start.

Undeterred by this, and by the death threats and state intimidation that came later, Bhatti undertook everything from prison visits and aid distribution to political advocacy and legal support. In 1992, the CLF launched the first national campaign against the blasphemy laws. For this campaign, Bhatti first joined forces with the veteran activist, educationalist and war hero, Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry, who was to become his lifelong mentor.

In 2002, Bhatti, Chaudhry and others founded the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), and Bhatti was unanimously elected to lead this nationwide coalition of minority representatives and NGOs. APMA was founded on the back of a landmark campaign, led by Chaudhry and uniting these diverse, faith-based groups. They succeeded in convincing the government to replace the separate electorate system, described by some as "religious apartheid," under which religious minorities could vote only for candidates of their own faith. Bhatti received international awards for his leadership of CLF and APMA, but he was at his best working on the frontlines of activism. When the Christian villagers of Charsadda called him in fear of imminent attack from local extremists, he travelled to the north-west to be with them. When eight were killed and more than 100 houses destroyed in the Punjab city of Gojra in 2009, Bhatti (by then a government minister), refused to leave the police station until the crimes were registered.

Bhatti's move into politics was an unlikely but strategic decision, taken in the perceived best interests of Pakistan's religious minorities. Despite joining the Pakistan People's Party in 2002 and gaining Benazir Bhutto's respect, he had turned down three earlier governmental opportunities.

Bhatti was elected to the National Assembly in 2008 and assumed the role of Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, now a Cabinet-level position for the first time. He was the only Christian Minister. While privately lamenting the distance his job placed between him and those he represented, Bhatti capitalised on his ministerial position. His achievements include a 5 per cent minorities quota in government jobs, the first minority seats in the Senate and a 24-hour minorities helpline. He gained the respect of international leaders, as seen in the global reaction to his death.

Bhatti did not live to see the fulfilment of his ultimate goal, the repeal of the blasphemy laws. He had painstakingly negotiated amendments since 2009, but much of this progress ceased after the assassination of Punjab's Governor, Salmaan Taseer, in January. Bhatti intended to continue, and his reappointment to the new Cabinet last month was encouraging.

The last time I saw Bhatti in person was in September 2010, at a small reception we at Christian Solidarity Worldwide had organised for him in London. He joked that there were too many "serious pictures" of him — the images in the media portrayed the required sobriety of a Pakistani statesman, rather than the jovial man he was — a man who knew the gravity of his task but who retained the joy of one who has passed the moral burden on to a higher authority. A mini-photoshoot ensued. I like to remember him smiling.

Ever the proponent of Jinnah's founding vision, Bhatti pioneered interfaith initiatives. He built bridges. He spoke at large mosques at the invitation of senior imams and eventually, in July 2010, secured a groundbreaking joint statement from religious leaders to denounce terrorism. He further launched a network of "district interfaith harmony committees" to encourage dialogue and unite communities through common concerns. Bhatti had big plans and saw Pakistan leading the way for other countries. In his own words, he wanted to "make this world beautiful by delivering a message of peace, togetherness, unity and tolerance." His mother, four brothers and a sister survive him. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011





A cousin of Afghanistan's President was killed on Wednesday during a night raid by NATO and Afghan forces in which they detained the man's son as a suspected Taliban commander, as well as at least two of the family's bodyguards.

The case brought the delicate issue of civilian casualties into the presidential palace and added to the already tense relationship between the Afghans and the Americans. It also raised questions about whether a member of the extended family of President Hamid Karzai might have Taliban ties, or whether bad intelligence led to a deadly raid on the home of an innocent family.

Either way, the raid raises the prospect of another intense flare-up between NATO and Afghan officials, coming after two other cases of civilian casualties in the past three weeks. Night raids on family compounds, in particular, have long been controversial for their intrusiveness and the civilian casualties associated with them. Startled Afghan men, who commonly keep weapons at home, often react by reaching for their guns and are then shot, often by special operations forces.

This raid occurred in the southern province of Kandahar, in the rural village of Karz, the Karzai clan's ancestral home. The man killed was Yar Mohammad Karzai, a lifelong resident of the village who was in his early 60s.

On Thursday evening, a NATO spokesman said the force was "aware of conflicting reports about the identities of those involved and has initiated an inquiry to determine the facts." In Washington, spokesmen for the Pentagon and the White House also said they had received conflicting reports about the episode and declined to comment until they received more information.

The death was confirmed by the President's half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the chairman of the provincial council in Kandahar, who said the killing was a mistake. He said the raid was a joint operation by the NATO force the International Security Assistance Force and the Afghan national army that had gone awry. "The prime target was not actually him," he said. "It was somebody else. But mistakenly he was killed, and ISAF apologised for that."

This is the third serious case of civilian casualties in three weeks. Last week, NATO forces mistakenly killed nine boys gathering firewood in Kunar province after mistaking them for a band of insurgents.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, apologised to Mr. Karzai in person for those deaths, but Mr. Karzai called his statement "insufficient." He did accept an apology from Defense Secretary Robert Gates a day later.

(Taimoor Shah contributed reporting from Kandahar, Afghanistan.) — New York Times News Service





A panel of independent experts has harshly reviewed the World Health Organisation's handling of the 2009 epidemic of H1N1 swine flu, though it found no evidence supporting the most outlandish accusation made against the agency: that it exaggerated the alarm to help vaccine companies get rich.

The world is still unprepared to handle a severe pandemic, and if a more dangerous virus emerges, "tens of millions would be at risk of dying," the panel said in its draft report, which was posted on an obscure corner of the WHO's website. Although millions of doses of vaccine ultimately went unused, the panel found "no evidence of malfeasance."

The virus appeared severe during its spring outbreak in Mexico City, and it was not clear how relatively mild it really was until late summer, "well past the time when countries would have needed to place orders for vaccine," the panel said. Later, when rich nations donated 78 million doses for use in poor ones, the health agency could not deploy them because it was bogged down in negotiations with vaccine companies over liability and costs.

The panel, which has experts from 24 countries and is led by Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine, criticised the agency's "needlessly complex" definition of a pandemic, which had six levels of alert, based on the virus' geographical spread, not its severity.

Some advisers had done research for the vaccine industry, and those potential conflicts of interest "were not managed in a timely fashion," the report said. Nonetheless, it concluded, "No critic of WHO has produced any direct evidence of commercial influence on decision-making."

The WHO will not respond to the report until the final version is released in May at the annual assembly of the world's health ministers, a spokeswoman for the agency said. — New York Times News Service








There appears no end in sight to the Congress Party's self-inflicted blows on the Telangana question ever since the midnight announcement by Union home minister P. Chidambaram in Parliament in December 2009 that steps will be initiated for the formation of a new state of Telangana by bifurcating Andhra Pradesh. It is unlikely the UPA government will allow itself to be diverted by the Telangana question now until the forthcoming Assembly elections are over in four states and the Union Territory of Puducherry, and the Budget Session ends as well. As such, there is unlikely to be any immediate effort on its part to make a commitment of any kind. There can, of course, be no condoning of the mass violence by Telangana's street-level protagonists in Hyderabad on Thursday. No matter how strong the desire for statehood in the 10 Telangana districts, the largescale breakdown of law and order hardly strengthens the case for a new state. It has to be noted, though, that the Kiran Reddy government failed to anticipate trouble, especially when the joint action committee — which mainly comprises the Opposition parties in Andhra Pradesh — made no secret of the fact that it intended to create as much trouble as it could for the Congress and its state government. The committee's strategy might well be to paralyse the state government and seek to create a constitutional crisis. If so, the government would do well to stand firm or risk becoming a laughing stock. Bending in the face of largescale violence, as distinct from peaceful protests, will encourage similar tactics in other states where such bifurcation demands exist. It is a pity that Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao had not taken sufficient steps to ensure that violence does not accompany protests by the TRS.

For all practical purposes the Srikrishna Committee report submitted last December does not offer a roadmap. Its terms of reference were suitably vague. But all sides need to ask two questions: One, what was the reason that Telangana districts agreed to be part of the new state of Andhra Pradesh; and two, why did the Telangana agitation not go far in 1972? If history is made clearer, it would be possible to have a more reasoned discourse. There does appear to be an emotional case for a new state. But so far only an insufficient — and loose — case has been made out for a separate Telangana in terms of concrete socio-economic benefits that might accrue to the people of the region. The available data, some of it cited by the Srikrishna Committee, does not indicate that the state or pace of development in the Telangana districts is any worse than elsewhere in Andhra Pradesh. This, most often, is the standard argument for statehood.

In 1972, it was the Congress that was in the forefront of the agitation for a separate Telangana. That is no longer the case. The TRS has picked up the mantle, and it employs emotionalism to further its cause. Perhaps the Congress needs to engage the TRS in a sustained dialogue covering all aspects before the outlines of a solution become available. This must necessarily be different from the perfunctory promise it made in 2004 to the TRS that it would study the demand for a separate Telangana in return for TRS support for the formation of the first UPA government. The onus right now is on the TRS to disavow and condemn violence. This would allow tempers to cool and allow all parties in the state to adopt duly considered positions.






"'Power without responsibility — The prerogative of the harlot!' says the proverb.
'Sex without commitment — the prerogative of theWhore-master!' says Bachchoo"

From Bekaari ke Dohey by Bachchoo.

My motel room in Los Angeles has clean sheets, a grubby carpet, very silly pictures, a clean, functional bathroom whose showers and taps work perfectly, a "kitchen" equipped with a sink, a fridge, a table, two plastic chairs and a microwave oven. No electric kettle, no gas or electric stove or hob to cook on and a persistent smell of stale carpet.

One of my only friends in LA comes to visit on my first day there and calls my accommodation "crummy". I sort of know what she means, but out of linguistic curiosity about American usage ask her what her description implies.

"It's the kinda place guys bring prostitutes for a two-hour occupation", she says.

"In Britain we'd call it 'a knocking shop', but I assure you it isn't. The rooms, I happen to know, are booked for weeks, or if it's overnighters, it's families passing through Ventura Boulevard", I said.

In this city one is dependent on motor transport. The motel is two hundred yards from a convenience store from which one can buy expensive bottled water. The supermarkets for other needs are a couple of miles in each direction. No car, no shopping — or, at the worst, a long walk with paper bags. I find myself wishing I had brought the microwave cook-books that they give away when you buy a microwave oven in London. I've never used one or looked at it and don't know anyone who has. The free cook-book is, I suspect, strictly an adornment for shelves as most kitchens are equipped with other ways to cook. Can one boil eggs in a microwave or will they burst and cause mayhem?

I ask my friend to use "crummy" in another context and she does, it means run-down or shabby. My Oxford dictionary (yes, I sometimes carry one!) defines the word as "colloquial" and says it means "dirty, squalid, inferior, worthless". "Would you call it 'cheesy' instead of 'crummy'?" I ask her, thinking of the indelible odour of stale carpet.

"You could, but that's, like, more for like movies", she says.

The word has never settled into my vocabulary. I don't know how to use it. My dictionary says it's to do with the smell of cheese and therefore "stale, nasty and inferior". I don't suppose it does any good to argue with the Concise Oxford, but it doesn't precisely mean any of those things when Americans use it. It's one of those words I am sure I need to use because the texture and smell of cheese certainly suggests metaphorical application — it's only I can't quite see where I would use it. As far as I can tell, when applied to films, it means they are sentimental, melodramatic and in bad taste. But then don't we all eat cheese and crave a bit of parmesan on our pasta?

While India invents usages for English words in both languages: "Prepone" and "Tension mat le", it seems to me that America, while borrowing from Spanish and other languages, delves into the deep memory of English and fishes up some usages.

It always annoys me when my daughters answer the standard polite query about their health — "How are you?" or variants thereof — with "I am good".

I have taken it to be a thoughtless Americanism and one that expresses a ridiculous conceit. Mother Teresa could perhaps say "I am good", but the rest of us are certainly not entitled to make such a judgment about ourselves. Surely it's to be left to Ahura Mazda to decide after each one of us ascends to the heavens. I diligently tell them to say that they are well or, if they have to use the word, to say they are in good health.
A vain hope; American usage rules, Okay? But when the same conceit was voiced in American accents, an echo of a different usage seemed to follow. In England, when a builder does a job for you he/she includes in the bill a final item called "making good". It doesn't mean that the builder has restored your installed WC to pristine morality, but only that he/she has patched up and painted over the destruction done as an inevitable part of the installation.

This "making good" means restoring to its original condition — as our Lord Jesus Christ says, "Thy faith hath made thee whole".

I am, through this visit to the new World, hearing the word intoned over and over again, convinced that saying that one is "good" is not part of the overweaning conceit of Americans but simply a delve into the memory of language.

Even so, that meaning of good, while remaining in some usages, is an inappropriate answer to a routine enquiry about one's health. It's, like, kinda cheesy.

Which brings one to the universal teenage usage of "like". It is to the American spoken lexicon what breathing is to life. Speech, at least teenage and even silly adult speech, cannot go on without it. I have been irritated by its use for a long time. I have often said to Tir, my youngest, that she should only use the word when she saw a simile in nature or when she was speaking about affection ("Ben likes Jerry... I like Ben and Jerry's..." etc.).
She wasn't to use it to punctuate her sentences or use it to pause for her thoughts to catch up. Now I'm, like, not so sure. The sojourn in Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood, has taught me something about the unreality of America. When Shakespeare said "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players", he was predicting Los Angeles. American reality is confounded with American film. The medium is more than the message, it is The Word as it was in The Beginning and shall be in The End.

When a teenager says, "I was like 'Hello?'" she is seeing, in that part of her brain which formulates expression, a movie in which she has become the player and has to speak and act "like" that player. "And she was, like, 'Whatev-er'!" The conversation is in quotes. It means "I was speaking as though I was playing a role — like the larger than life person on the screen".






Since India is in Confession Mode — starting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — let's all start "owning up". Umm... let me think… I once stole a mango from someone's bageecha. Oh yes, a guava, too. And I threw ink bombs on my French teacher. I also bunked classes constantly. Crashed other people's cars. Pinched menu cards from fancy restaurants. Rang the fire alarm at school. Rode bikes without my parents' knowledge. Wore lipstick and kohl at age 12. Rang doorbells, harassed neighbours, made prank calls to a couple of Italian blokes… all this before I turned 14. Broke a few hearts, too. Had my mine broken. What else? What else? Oh… a lot more. But, on looking back, I realise, I was pretty stupid. Not only did I get caught every single time, I also received punishment (often, far harsher than the crime committed). Worse, when I behaved still more stupidly and owned up, I got thrashed. I knew what every child knows — owning up is a pretty dumb thing to do, if you imagine there will be zero consequences.

The rash act of owning up comes with an important assumption — it automatically means you are ready to face the music and take what follows on the chin. That could involve standing outside the classroom for hours on end. Writing a thousand lines, getting rusticated, not wincing when the cane makes contact with bare skin. You know, the usual torture that follows school confessions. But obviously, our netas have rewritten the old rules. The latest fad is to play martyr and "own up". But after this brave and reckless gesture — what? Apparently, nothing! Illey po. It is as if having uttered those impressive words ("I am willing to own up", said our pious Prime Minister earlier this week), the matter automatically ends right there. Khel khatam… Boys and girls, go home and play… or pray. The mighty leader has admitted his lapses. We should applaud and be grateful.
What rubbish!

Come on… this is nothing but nautanki. That too, on a pretty amateurish level. Is it enough to say sorry and not follow up the apology with action (please note: I did not say "resignation"). If someone in a position of great power has indeed had the guts and gumption to admit a mistake was made, the next logical thing to do is to rectify it. Or, at least, pretend to! But no. In India, it begins and ends with the person uttering those meaningless "magic" words — "I confess". Since the Prime Minister is responsible for this trend, we are waiting for the asli culprits to follow suit. Will they? Not a chance. No wonder fraudster Hasan Ali Khan is not just smirking in court and muttering "stupid people" under his breath as some of those bumbling officers of the Enforcement Directorate get ticked off by Justice Tahilyani like they were errant school kids ("Do your homework…" said the learned judge). Meanwhile, India is left grappling with the numbers being tossed around — who can understand income-tax arrears — ARREARS — of `72,000 crores (larger than the nation's health budget)? The aam aadmi (yup, the very same bloke our Prime Minister wants to impress) is unable to comprehend a thing. All he or she is interested in knowing is this: Will the bounder be punished? Will he sing? Name names? Or… errrr… own up? Since it's so cool to do so these days, why not, bhai? That goes for Maharashtra's chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan, whose image has gone for a toss in the light of recent revelations. What an irony! Here he was, Mr Clean himself, who was supposed to white-wash the mess in the state and make everybody forget Adarsh Society ki ajeeb kahani. But his brand of detergent wasn't good enough! So much dirty laundry has since come tumbling out of his personal closet that citizens are wondering how he is planning to crawl out of three prickly controversies (Chief Vigilance Commissioner, Antrix-Devas, Wadala apartments). Will he also take the easy way out and start owning up?

The trouble with confessionals is that after a point, they lose their emotional power to generate sympathy. And unless these public confessions are followed through, they remain hollow and pointless. A massive book on contemporary confessions would be fascinating to read, because such outpourings are engineered to elicit specific responses. When powerful people admit weaknesses, their words make us feel a little better about our own miserable lives… our petty concerns. George Bush Jr., quite possibly one of the most detested presidents of America, has surprised the public by admitting to quite a few gaffes. It may well have been his intention to influence American opinion and present a more human side to his crazy presidency. Barack Obama is definitely not in the mood to soften his position. While Libya's Col. Muammar Gaddafi and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak continue to rave and rant, the world unites against their tyrannical regimes.

Back home, we are more concerned with Rajat Gupta's stated position on his exact role in the various financial scams he is accused of being involved in. Will he "own up" and opt for as honourable an exit as international law permits? Or will he take former Indian Premier League chairman Lalit Modi's defiant stand and defend every single action, regardless of the facts in the public domain?

The ugly truth behind most of the recent confessions is that those going in for them are doing so with their backs against the wall. It's that route — or else. But it certainly does not make them honourable men, nor does it exonerate them. It should be seen for what it actually is — a ploy to buy time and fix things.

India is facing its Sholay moment, with the big question being: "Ab tera kya hoga, Kalia?"

But who amongst the current lot will own up to being Gabbar Singh?

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Candid admission of hoodwinking the unsuspecting public at the time of elections has come to light not by hearsay but from the horse's mouth. The health minister said on the floor of the house that during the election of 2008 four hundred health centres were opened in rural areas of the state, but neither medical staff nor infrastructure was provided. Obviously declaring open such a large number of healthcare centres was to win the favour of the voters. This is one more pattern of distortion of election code. It is not something new brought to the notice of the house. The practice with our politicians has been to make tall promises when they conduct election campaigns. It is not undesirable that they make promises of providing facilities hitherto lacking in their respective constituencies in case they are elected, yet announcing certain developmental plans for the constituencies without letting it go through normal process of planning is a fraud on the people.
Establishments like healthcare centres, schools and institutional units that need infrastructure and specially trained manpower cannot be announced in a huff just to win votes. The election commissioner shall have to take strong view of this form of hoodwinking during the elections. Unfortunately, our voters are an unsuspecting lot; they should have known that a healthcare centre does not mean just four walls of a structure. There has to be an approved blue print for any construction that fulfils maximum requirements. Secondly, without professional manpower, a healthcare means nothing.
Day in and day out there are complaints from urban as well as rural population about unsatisfactory functioning of government hospitals, polyclinics, dispensaries and healthcare centres in the state. It is not found feasible to allow the healthcare go into private hands. The reason is that being an essential service, the economic conditions of poorer sections of society need to be kept in mind. Government hospitals and healthcare centres are great support to the poorer sections of people. But unfortunately owing to lack of adequate sense of responsibility, the functioning aspect in government hospitals has come under criticism. Our health policy needs revision and reshaping. Some doctors and para medical staffers take their duty lightly; they are casual towards the patients, their tools are dysfunctional, medicines meant for distribution among the poor are pilfered, cleanliness and tidiness of hospitals and polyclinics is in a bad shape, hospitals suffer from lack of adequate staff and so forth and so on. Now even healthcare has been politicized. Patients with political clout can get all facilities that are sparingly available to ordinary patients. These are major complaints that recur everywhere in state hospitals. Even on administrative level, there is bitterness on a number of issues like selection, appointment, placement, promotion, deputation etc. Many times established norms are ignored under pressure from powerful and influential persons. Doctors spend more time in private nursing homes or private clinics than in hospitals. Many refuse postings in rural areas. But this is not to generalize the inference. We have many capable and dedicated medical practitioners with great humanism and love for profession. Just because there are irregularities on administrative level many among them feel discouraged. The ministry in charge needs to address these complaints. Is it not desirable that the election commission asks the candidate who had made promises of opening healthcare centres at the time of elections in 2008 how they made such promises and how they could satisfy themselves that they would win the election. And if they won could they garner such large amounts to fulfill the promises they made with the people? The Health Minister has said that "The Centre has already sanctioned Rs 400 crore for creating infrastructure in primary health centres," adding that the state government had formulated a project worth Rs 2,600 crore to be forwarded to the Union government." Earlier in the ongoing session there was sharp point counter point debate on the subject of criterion for opening a healthcare centre at any place in the state. Legislators have complained that favouritism ruled the roost in selecting villages and areas where new healthcare centres have been opened. Concerned authorities were accused of telling lies. The actual position was that no such centres were opened at all.






News has come about Sino-Pak nuclear nexus. It is now openly known that China is building two reactors in Pakistan. Nuclear understanding between the two is growing. The fact is that it was China that provided Pakistan essential secrets of nuclear technology not as much for the love of Pakistan as for the animus China bears against India. Beijing wants to use Pakistan as a proxy to combat India on various fronts. It is not only the export of terrorism. Her scheme of subversion is of many layers. China first allotted move than 13.5 per cent of total budget for the next financial year to upgrade its defence preparedness. The nexus between the two is becoming manifest day after day. Amidst denials from Beijing, there are confirmed reports from reliable sources that China has put up strong military presence in Gilgit and Baltistan where anti-Pakistan movement has been raging for several years. China has already begun rail connectivity between its Eastern province of Xinxiang and Karachi. This is a strategic move and transportation of war material along this route is on the cards. It is also learnt that China has established sites along the route to be used as missile launching pads for missiles of long range that can hit any city of India and even reach the Indian Ocean targets. It is also learnt that China is keen to insulate Pakistan's nuclear establishment against attacks by militants and religious extremist outfits. Beijing is trying to oust America from the region first from Afghanistan and then from the adjoining areas and for that Beijing's Afghan policy is dovetailed to the interests of Pakistan. This appears a vital threat to India's security particularly when areas contiguous to Chinese territory in the East and in J&K are in a state of tension. Of late, Beijing has not hesitated to show that it no more sticks to neutrality on Kashmir issue and is very much interested as a stakeholder in the dispute. We hope Ministry of External Affairs will take the nation into confidence on these developments.









I must confess my disappointment with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's rather casual reference to the drubbing the country's Supreme Court had handed down to the government over the appointment of a tainted man as the country's Chief Vigilance Commissioner. I had waited the whole of the week for the Prime Minister to accept the folly, of which he was very much a part, in his statement in Parliament last Monday.
Sadly Dr. Manmohan Singh, Mr. Honest of India, nearly failed to acknowledge the gravity of the decision he and his Home Minister, an able lawyer P. Chidambaram had made in appointing P.J. Thomas, senior bureaucrat as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner. Surprisingly, Manmohan Singh appeared somewhat reluctant even to repeat what he had said in Jammu……. "I have already said that I respect the judgement of the Supreme Court (no favour that) in this regard…… I accept it and respect it and I accept my responsibility as well".
Missing from his a minute-plus statement on the issue in Parliament on Monday was the reference to his acceptance of responsibility for the horrendous decision. It was only when the leader of the opposition, Sushma Swaraj reminded him of having given Parliament a watered down version of his statement in Jammu that he finally admitted "full responsibility" for having made the wrong choice.
I do not wish to repeat here the scathing indictment of the government made by the Supreme Court but it seems only proper to mention that the charge-sheet against Mr. Thomas, as the Chief Secretary of Kerala, is still pending disposal and that he was Secretary of the Ministry of Telecom at the Centre when the G-2 scam was being finalized.
One would have expected the Prime Minister to give a detailed statement how and why the government in the first place hit upon the name of Thomas and choosing to put it up before the three-man selection panel comprising the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. How come the dissent expressed by the leader of the opposition was ignored? What was the tearing hurry that persuaded the Prime Minister and his Home Minister from not seeking the truth behind the dissenting note; why not ask the Prime Minister's Secretariat or any intelligence agency to check out.
It would be churlish on my part to mention it but I must, since it is insinuated that Thomas's name was recommended by a senior party leader. That apart, I would have expected from the Prime Minister an explanation why, as the Supreme Court disapprovingly noted, must the Central Vigilance Commissioner always come from among the bureaucrats of "impeccable record". Why can't we look beyond the bureaucrats?
You know it as well as I do that most of the legislation is drafted by bureaucrats, overseen by them, and passed on to the Minister. Haven't we heard of complaints every time the Babus salaries are up for revision the recommendations are usually the handiwork of senior Babus and vetted by the Committee of Secretaries? Isn't it a fact that most Central Services, other than IAS, almost ritualistically complain of a bias favouring the blue-eyed Babus of the Indian Administrative Service. Controlling all the levels of power, as they do, the men and women of the IAS know how to feather their nests and how some of them earn the encomium of being endowed with "impeccable integrity" by Ministers, a passport, as it were, to cushy post-retirement jobs. May be the Prime Minister one time bureaucrat and an ex-World Bank hand has a soft corner for the Babus. May be it is this bent of mind that persuaded him and his colleagues to doggedly defend the dubious CVC decision initially. That it was an ill-advised move was foreseen by lesser mortals.
In the same context the Prime Minister leaves me a bit worried when you hear of the speech he delivered at the Commonwealth Law Conference in Hyderabad last month. Manmohan Singh gave full rein to his thinking (possibly) when he told the meeting that the power of judicial review must never be used to erode the role of other branches of the government. Judicial restraint, he went on to say, is vitally necessary to preserve the integrity and sanctity of the Constitutional scheme premised on the diffusion of sovereign power. Very un Manmohan Singh like, I would say.
But think of the events of the past few months and you may see how hemmed in the UPA government has been with one thundering scandal chasing another, involving hundreds of thousands of crores of unaccounted money. Lost in transit, as it were.
It is quite possible that even the normally mild Manmohan Singh felt impelled to take a mindless jibe at the judiciary at Hyderabad.
His defiant comment was clearly directed at the Supreme Court's pro-active role in the investigation of the appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner, the 2-G spectrum scam, the Commonwealth Games fiasco, the shocking money-laundering case of Hasan Ali Khan running into billions of dollars and to let him and others like him get away with the mere payment of income tax. The gradually unveiling of illegal foreign bank accounts by many Indians is another can of worms and the government for reasons known only to it has so far refused to divulge the names of the 40 'chors' whose names have been revealed by foreign banks and whose identity Pranab Mukherjee, the Finance is not willing to reveal. Trust him, all's well because, as he says, he has handed over the cases to the ED and tax authorities.
If I sound as being harsh on the Prime Minister it is only because of his image as an honest man; I also know that he is not exactly a free man. He must turn to his leader, the UPA chairman, Sonia Gandhi before taking any significant step. And I do believe that he could have spared himself the ignominy of the CVC episode had he reacted to Sushma's dissent. How else would you explain the elaborate defence of the decision to appoint Thomas by P. Chidambaram after the issue had acquired explosive dimensions. Was he acting under instructions from someone else after Sushma Swaraj had pricked the bubble.
As far as the Supreme Court is concerned it must crack its whip harder on every guilty person including the former tainted judges and Chief Justices of High Courts and the Supreme Court itself. Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, unlike his predecessor, is not the kind of judge to please the executive in the hope of getting post-retirement reward. The man's reputation is such and he has already demonstrated his willingness to take on the wrong-doers, however, mighty they be.
The Prime Minister needs to marshal all his moral authority to deal with malcontents within his own ranks. It ill behoves a man of his impeccable honesty and positive achievement to talk of coalition dharma while defending the indefensible. I am talking of the cheeky little A. Raja the DMK nominee in his cabinet who in his Ministerial incarnation showed a singular lack of manners while referring to his Prime Minister just before the little man was shown the door. Good he is currently cooling his heels behind bars.








Although the "Green Revolution'' in India brought about self-sufficiency in food grain production yet by 1990's and onwards, overall fluctuation in production and productivity levels on year to year basis have generally been greater since its introduction in rice and wheat crops grown under irrigated conditions. The green revolution, indeed, has reached a plateau for the last 10-15 years and is now sustained with ''diminishing returns and falling dividends''. It is quite evident from wheat and rice production which have stagnated at 70 mt and 110 mt for the last few years. Rice yields are hovering between 1.9 t ha_1 in 2000-2001 and 2.06 t ha-1 in 2004-2005. Wheat yields are also stagnating at about 2.7 ha-1 since 1999-2000. The downfall of "Green Revolution'' ushered due to its ill or negative effects.
Ill effects of Green Revolution: One of the main negative results of the "Green Revolution'' in Indian agriculture is emergence of monotonous or monoculture crop rotation. Maintenance of monotonous crop rotation i.e, rice - wheat has lead to increase in environmental problems and unsustainability. Following rice-wheat rotation again and again has mined particular type of nutrients from soils causing their acute deficiency. The monotonous crop rotation has become the cause of giving particular type of insects and diseases. Above all, indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has posed health hazards to the human beings, animals and soil biota.
Further, one crop of the two i.e rice or paddy needs too much of water for irrigation purpose. This has resulted in the problem of severe scarcity of ground water in many areas. If such a scenario continues it would lead to two interlinked problems. One is it would exhaust under-ground water resource, while the second one would create a threat to food security.
There is a relation between food security, water and energy. Projections show that Indian agriculture's energy needs are likely to doube in the next decade. It is clear from the fact that farmers are now going in for 15-20 HP guzzling submersible pumps rather than 5 HP centrifugal pumps since 1970. This is creating lot of stress to the state govts which are catering to the energy requirement of the farm sector.
Pumping ground water accounts for the bulk of the energy utilized in agriculture. In Punjab, about 33% of the total electricity consumed is used for pumping the water, whereas in Haryana this figure lies to the extent of 41% and in Andhra Pradesh 36%.
The geographical distribution of ground water is uneven and usage is irrational. Although 70% of the blocks in India have satisfactory ground water levels yet the maximum withdrawal continues to be short fall in 30% of the blocks. Indeed, tubewell irrigation is causing groundwater depletion. Punjab is the best example where watertable has fallen by 15 to 30 m. Extraction of ground water has led to its over exploitation in 73% of blocks of Punjab and 25% in those of Haryana. Situation is also grim in other states like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh. Recent study indicates that Jharkhand's water table has declined by an average of 3m between 2009 and 2010. The ground water resources of Jammu and Kashmir have also depleted.
Indiscriminate use of pesticides has deteriorated the health/ quality of soils on one hand and created health hazards in human beings on the other. Health hazards in humans are due to increasing toxic residues in various food stuffs.
Like pesticides indiscrimnate or unbalanced use of fertilizers during and after "Green Revolution'' has made the soils sick. The yields of crops grown in these soils have either declined or become stagnated.
It is more so in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, which are main consumers of NPK fertilizers in India. In some of these states application of nitrogenous fertilizer is very high than that of phosphatic and polassic. This is quite evident from NPK ratio which has always been found higher than an ideal ratio of 4:2:1.
This indiscriminate use of fertilizers has not only decreased productivity but also has declined organic carbon content and soil reserves of secondary (Ca, Mg, S) and micronutrients (Fe, Mn, Cu, Zn, Mo,B). There is loss of macro and micro organisms. Use of nitrogenous fertilizer alone has shown negative effects especially in acidic soils giving low yield in maize when compared with control.
Use of nitrogenous fertilizer alone has become potential source of NO3-1 contamination in ground water causing blue baby disease or Methaemo-globinaemia.
Control Measures: These days many countries are moving away from excessive use of chemical fertilizers to use of organic manures. This will not only enhance water holding and cation exchange capacities of the soils but also improve soil fertility and biological properties.
Although use of organic manures has proved beneficial in improving soil sickness caused by the imbalanced use of fertilizers and increasing thereby crop productivity yet it is not alternative to chemical fertilizer owing to the presence of less amount of nutrients in them.
In India, total availability of plant nutrients from organic sources is projected to 7.7 mt by 2025 against 37.5 mt to fulfill the requirement of 301 mt of food grains production for the growing population of 1504 m. Hence, the alternative is to supplement organic nutrients with those of inorganic fertilizers. This is known as Integrated Nutrient Management. Organic pesticides should be preferred to apply in stead of inorganic ones. Neem based products are one of the alternative to inorganic pesticides. Efforts for diversification of agriculture also appear to be a good solution.








As and when a neat and clean, fair and sound positive and healthy politics penetrates deep in our social cultural and political strata we are sure to reap a good standard and excellent harvest of our politicians in whose hands rests the policy making criteria and the entire network of formation of govts to lead the country towards progress and development, happiness and prosperity when the govts are formed as per the constitutional norms and provisions under democratic pattern by the sweet will and choice of the people through franchise.
A good and efficient political set-up provides an effective, efficient, sound and quality leadership to steer the nation towards over all progress and cheer, betterment and success at all fronts and in every field by giving a good govt for a better governance. But when the society gets infested with bad, corrupt, crime oriented , selfish or vote-bank based politics the results are quite alarming, awfully disappointing, very horrifying, shocking and enormously detrimental for the society and the nation at large.

A chair in any office be it for a PM, CM, Minister or an officer of highest rank or cadre or for any lower cadre is meant for a person who is to be fair and square, neat and clean, honest and sincere, impartial and rational in word and deed; letter and spirit to do justice without fear or favour, prejudice or duress, stress or strain to maintain the dignity of the chair by being straight forward, broadminded, bold in taking a right decision at the right time and of course in being honest and corruption free. But today as one looks at the political scenario of our country one gets into the deeps of frustration depression, bitterness to find that the thrust or lust for grabbing the magic chair by hook crook, foul or fair, by a light or heavy gear, through the favour of near and dear, from here and there, through bullet or spear, without any fear for the possible wear and tear of the social cheer is the main and growing affair of our present day political sphere. The vote-bank politics through the theory of divide and rule on the basis of caste and creed, region and religion, by the use of muscle and force, money and power is striking at the roots of our culture, values, ideals and democratic set-up to destroy and ruin our identity altogether so much so that political corruption has paved a way for political criminalisation to such an extent that politicization of criminals has become an inevitable factor in politics and election thereby enabling the people with criminal back ground to enter the supreme institutions like Parliament and Assemblies.
Thus a questions comes up to seek an answer from us all______where are we heading towards? The simple visible answer is, ''Towards Ruins''. If we continue to sail in the present boat of politics the time is not far away when the boat shall capsize and we shall be drowned. Now for all this mess who is responsible? A variety of factors is the answer. The first factor is the people themselves who are the voters to elect an able minded, honest and right representative for Parliament or legislature without coming under any spell of caste, region or religion fear or duress, otherwise they have to have a lot which they ought not have had but for their mistake in franchise.
The second factor is the mushroom growth of small regional political parties which prove to divide the votes such that no national level party has the chance to secure absolute majority to form a stable government to last for the full term. The result is a coalition govt formed under compulsions which due to its internal pushes and pulls, stresses and strains can't deliver the goods as has been seen in the past. The third, of course, the most important one being the inattention and the callous attitude of the govt. in effecting some important amendments to the constitution in respect of election process franchise and representation to Parliament or state legislature.

The fourth factor is that our elected representatives to Parliament or legislature should be such that they have the least lust for the chair and keen thrust for the welfare, prosperity and cheer of the masses. The fifth factor is the corruption leading to criminalization of politics and even politicization of criminals which must end at all levels. Corruption survives when giver and taker are both in agreement. Sometimes it is the giver who is more at fault who introduces the taker to the corrupt practice for his (Giver's) vested interest while sometimes it is a taker who compels the other to offer him the booty. Both are liable for punishment in the crime. The giver is more at fault. If he doesn't offer and instead raises voice against the crime he shall be contributing a lot against this evil.

There is a lot of lesson for us all from the statement of our Chief Minister that corruption has done more harm and created more havoc to us than the militancy. All of us have to guard against this enemy with all our energy, strength and determination.

Let good sense prevail among all the citizens, all the politicians, all the leaders, all the political parties, all the institutions and all the regions; and of course in the administration and the govt. components so that the dignity of our social, cultural and democratic set-up is elevated, and the magic chair becomes really full of real magic for the welfare and prosperity of the people and over all development of the country without fear or favour, stress or strain, pressure or fissure.









The best time to quit is said to be when people start wondering 'why' and not 'why not'. By that token, the timing of the Dalai Lama's announcement that he would step down as the political head of the Tibetan Government in Exile, is almost perfect. The 76-year-old Nobel Laureate is at the peak of his popularity and commands universal admiration for his sagacity. Not surprisingly, the announcement has created ripples among his followers and also in Beijing, which described it as a trick to deceive international public opinion. But then he has been speaking of retiring for some time and spelt out his reasons well enough. He is not getting younger and would like to resolve his succession during his lifetime so that his passing away does not create a void. More importantly, his decision to give up power to an 'elected' leader of the Tibetans is significant in view of the pro-democracy movements sweeping across several parts of the Arab world, Africa and the Middle East. It also marks an important departure from Tibetan tradition under which the Dalai Lama is identified, not elected, as the reincarnation of a previous incumbent.

A growing number of young Tibetans, however, has been questioning the 'Middle Path' advocated by him. While he, prudently as most observers would say, abandoned the demand for an independent Tibet, there are hardliners among the Tibetan youth who are opposed to greater autonomy and non-violence espoused by him. Beijing's suspicion of the Dalai Lama's motives, specially in the backdrop of the failed uprising in Tibet in 1959, may not be unnatural, but only the future will show whether China missed the opportunity of sealing a deal with him. His successors, after all, may display less enthusiasm for greater autonomy for Tibet.

Given the large number of Tibetan refugees living in India, the vexed Tibetan question requires to be handled with care. The sooner it is settled, the better it is for all concerned. While the Tibetan Government in Exile is not yet recognised by any country, not even by India, the Dalai Lama's 'retirement' and replacement by an elected leader may well change the ground rules. The complexities warrant continued moderation by the Dalai Lama and it will certainly be in India's interest to extend all help for a speedy settlement.









It is a matter of deep concern for the international community that Somalian pirates are running amuck increasingly, abducting and holding hostage large numbers of people for releasing whom they extract huge ransoms. According to the International Maritime Bureau, pirates took a record 1,181 hostages in 2010 as ship hijackings in waters off Somalia escalated. As many as 53 vessels worldwide were seized by them last year. Earlier this year, Somali pirates were holding 31 vessels and 713 crew members of various nationalities.


It is unfortunate indeed that coordinated international action to curb this menace is woefully lacking though even the UN Security Council has authorised military action against the pirates. On paper more than two dozen countries – including China, Britain, Russia, Japan, India, South Korea and the Netherlands – have joined the U.S. Sixth Fleet in patrolling the waters where the pirates operate, but there is little by way of punitive action. If there were a Somali government, it would ideally secure its own shoreline. What passes for a government at the moment controls only a corner of Mogadishu, the capital city. That reinforces the need for concerted action internationally to stave off the threat to shipping routes and international commerce besides human lives. The reality is that most nations prefer to pay ransom for their citizens — and the Navy refuses to go hunting for pirates. This makes piracy all the more lucrative. Statements like those of Indian Defence Minister A K Antony on Thursday ruling out any plans for offensive action against Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden serve to embolden the pirates. Even if such action is not planned it is wrong for Mr Antony to send out such weak signals.


To remedy the situation, diplomatic steps must be taken to encourage a functioning Somali state which can contain its lumpen elements, captured pirates must be handed out deterrent punishment and there should be more armed guards on-board ships. The international community can ill afford the kind of laxity that prevails today in this regard.








The Jammu and Kashmir budget for 2011-12, presented on March 7, takes some hard steps but is not aggressive enough in revenue generation, which is necessary if the government has to increase in any significant way the spending on health, education and infrastructure to accelerate the development process. The zero-deficit budget has two thrust areas: generating jobs and improving girls' education. But the amounts earmarked are modest. A sum of Rs 310 crore has been set apart for skill development to help youngsters of the trouble-torn state launch self-employment ventures. Just Rs 40 crore has been earmarked for the employment and welfare programmes.


Presenting his 11th budget, Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather has floated an interesting scheme called "Anmol Beti" to dissuade girls from dropping out of school. Each girl from a family living below the poverty line on passing Class XII will get a fixed deposit of Rs 5,000 as an incentive. Though the amount is meagre to pursue higher education, particularly a professional course, it is still a good gesture. There are some other feel-good steps the minister has taken like the payment of pension arrears to those aged 80 to 90 and a hike in the daily wages from Rs 110 to Rs 125.


No one may question the hefty increase in the value added tax (VAT) on cigarettes — from 13.5 per cent to 25 per cent. But a higher tax on edible oil may make no sense to a housewife already battered by high food prices. The Finance Minister very condescendingly announces the sacrifice of "the revenue of a few hundred crores of rupees annually to keep food grain prices under check". Decades of militancy has taken its toll on development. Tourism is the mainstay of the state economy. Tourists would return to the valley in a big way only if normalcy is restored. Gainful employment can wean youth away from the path of separatism and violence. The Centre's recent package can boost the state efforts in this direction.











Carl Von Clausewitz's "remarkable trinity" is the capstone thesis of his book "On War". This is interpreted by most theorists as comprising three important elements of the state: the people ("passions that are to be kindled in war must be inherent in the people"), the government ("political aims are the business of government"), and the military ("the scope which the play of courage and talent will enjoy in the realm of probability and chance depends on the particular character of the commander and the army"). These three elements and their relationship are the basis for armed forces' operations. The trinity theory has highlighted the relationship between the people and the armed forces in the performance of the role by the latter.


Before World War II, despite trinity linkage, the armed forces maintained a certain aloofness (cantonment living) from civil society. There was strong attachment to military values and a clearly defined distance from civil society. With increased democratic polity of the states and ever-increasing transparency, the armed forces have got more and more integrated into the values and interests of democratic society. Wars are no longer fought by the armed forces alone. National security has become a wider, more relevant and acceptable concept. Questions are raised whenever the role and mission of the armed forces come into conflict with civil society.


There has also been self-awareness and a shift in the self-image. The armed forces have become conscious that while remaining capable of deterring and fighting an enemy, they must remain part of a larger community. The weapons of war are to be wielded against armed opponents; not against unarmed civilians, particularly co-citizens. This attitudinal transition is best explained by the neutral stance maintained by the Egyptian armed forces during the recent civil unrest in the country to oust President Hosni Mubarak.


There are some basic differences in fighting an enemy and when engaged in internal security and law and order situations. Serving and defending the nation is a strong conviction among soldiers. There is no such conviction when a soldier is involved in handling internal conflicts. The former is unidimensional in which "attack" is the best form of "defence". The soldier's mindset of being able to use unrestricted violence against an enemy goes through confusion when he is ordered to use force against unarmed civilians for a preferred non-violent "conflict resolution". Public expressions of defiance like hunger-strikes, dharnas, marches and demonstrations by civilians cause acute discomfort because they run contrary to the essence of all that a soldier is taught: respect for civil society and obedience of lawful authority. There is a conflict between the larger civil society and a sub-system of the society whose identity is defined by martial honour. A soldier's professional and social identities come into conflict. After the Operation Bluestar experience, the Indian Army succeeded in avoiding any role in the Ram Janmabhoomi conflict.


But it must be admitted that the above mentioned military attitudinal transition notwithstanding, there are many instances, including some in close neighbourhood, wherein the armed forces have intervened to take over the nation and governance on the pretext of saving it from political instability and anarchy ("defense of motherland" syndrome!). Such instances have occurred mostly where democratic institutions have not been established or have remained weak; the forces have been politicised, and/or involved repeatedly and for prolonged durations in internal conflicts. Once in power, military rulers have developed vested interests. They have misused military authority for governance and internal conflicts and not allowed democratic forces to flourish. There are several such examples in West Asia, North Africa and, closer home, in Pakistan and Myanmar. Internal conflicts in Sri Lanka and Nepal, too, have had some impact on their armed forces.


India has been fortunate in this respect. Our armed forces have not only fought gallantly on the battlefield but also consistently and impartially upheld India's integrity and secular democratic traditions even when many other institutions have failed the nation. The armed forces enjoy their unique status in national life because they are uniquely isolated from politics. But such a situation cannot be taken for granted. It can get diluted if the armed forces are misused or deprived of their legitimate rights and status.


Let us focus on some ground realities and consequential adaptations which have been made in the strategy, doctrine, force structures and re-orientation of our armed forces for employment in internal conflicts.


With considerable experience behind us, we usually adopt a holistic strategy wherein political, economic, social, psychological and military aspects are given simultaneous attention. The aim of security operations is to arrest or eliminate hardcore militants and to deter their supporters. The rules of engagement are based on two forms of self-restraint: "discrimination and proportionality". "Use of minimum force" principle is employed in all such operations. The forces fight militants and anti-social elements but also reassure innocent people feeling insecure or neglected due to the inadequate role of the civil administration. During sustained operations, the forces often form citizens' committees to learn about their difficulties and hold meetings with them. Along with sustained operations, small and large-scale civic action programmes are undertaken. The Army launches projects like Operation Goodwill and Sadbhavna for this purpose.


No democratic nation can afford to give full licence to the armed forces to operate freely. Their responsibility, authority, legality and accountability have to be defined clearly.

In handling internal conflicts, armed forces have to uphold human rights. Terrorists and insurgents are under no such constraints. I have personally come across instances of terrorists taking shelter in and firing from religious places, hospitals, schools and colleges. There have also been cases where they have used women and children as shields to escape when cornered by security forces. False allegations to implicate security forces personnel in cases of molestations and rape are not uncommon. Then there is also the question of human rights and legal protection of the armed forces, ordered by the state to counter terrorism.


It is a complex situation, contrary to the conventional war-oriented military culture and training of the soldier, which requires constant explaining and asserting that as good citizens of the nation, we cannot afford to compromise on human rights. It needs to be recognised that in such operations where it is impossible to identify the difference between a friend and a foe and its stress, strain, and often deliberate provocations, aberrations cannot be ruled out. These aberrations have to be dealt with legally in a transparent manner as far as possible.


With experience, we have realised the need for specially organised, equipped, area-oriented forces to deal with insurgencies and terrorism. Rashtrya Rifles is one such force wherein Army personnel have been organised to deal with internal conflicts. These forces undertake training for local terrain, people, their language, customs and traditions. It must be admitted, however, that such conversions, orientation and re-conversions of soldiers affects the primary operational role of the Army, which is a substantial cost.


Based on personal experience, I would like to make two essential points on the employment of armed forces in internal conflict situations. First, military pressure alone and cannot resolve matters unless there is good governance and a strong thrust on socio-political and socio-economic issues. Political leadership and civil administration have to govern the states and the country with greater commitment and efficiency. Second, protracted and excessive employment of the armed forces leads to "Law of Diminishing Returns". The reasons are (a) over-dependence on the Army reflects lack of trust and faith in the capability of the state and the Central armed police and the paramilitary forces; (b) after a while, locals start treating the Army as another police force; (c) such deployments and prolonged duties have an adverse impact on the Army's discipline, morale and operational effectiveness. Abhorrent incidents of "fake encounters" can also be ascribed to this reason. (d) During a war or war-like situation, the Army needs public support (trinity linkage). It cannot afford to alienate the local population due to public inconveniences that go alongside such deployments.


I would like to state that although constitutionally required to help the states in internal security and maintenance of law and order, excessive and prolonged use of the armed forces in internal conflicts is neither good for the armed forces nor for the nation.


The writer is a former Chief of Army Staff








As a child, I remember sneaking a peek into my mother's diary and reading an entry dating back to 1980 when I was first diagnosed as myopic. "Miss Marie Flory said that Raji is unable to read the blackboard from the last bench. The curse of Kavasseri has affected our family." Kavasseri is my mother's village and was at one time famous for producing mathematical wizards and musical geniuses. The curse referred to weak eyesight which almost always accompanied the gift.


Growing up with glasses had to rate way up there among the worst possible things that could happen to a child. Particularly if she had Kavasseri in her roots but no noticeable mathematical genius or musical gift. Thankfully, back then, we had not heard of wisecracks like, "Boys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses", or the more graphic, "Girls who wear glasses are like reference books in the library — you do not take them out !"


When my cousins (also myopic as a consequence of the Kavasseri legacy) successfully started wearing contact lenses, I was taken to the ophthalmologist's clinic to try them out. Dr Patel made me practice on a trial pair before I could be certified fit to handle them. As he handed me my own pair, he said with a twinkle in his eyes, "Remember to wash the lenses in boiled water. For heaven's sake, do not use saliva like some of my teenaged patients do!"


Those days we had hard contact lenses and you had to really guard against a dust particle entering your eye. If an offending particle lodged itself under the contact lens, your eyes would water uncomfortably until you either took off your lenses or flushed out the Unidentified Foreign Object.


Semi-soft lenses arrived later, but Dr Patel was able to promote me directly to soft lenses which could be cleaned with a special sterile solution. While handing me a set of protein removal enzyme tablets, his precise instructions brought on more giggles : "Pop them into the lens case, not into your mouth !" As a contact lens-wearer, you learnt to keep your hands away from your eyes and to recognise a fellow lens-wearer when you saw one. You could experiment with eye make-up and recommend contact lenses to the other "chashmish" girls in college. Of course, there were still things you could never do with lenses in your eyes — shampooing your hair or chopping onions, for example.


Times have changed and wearing glasses is not stigmatic in the classrooms of today. My teenaged daughter has escaped the Kavasseri effect but envies her bespectacled classmates who get to wear Guess and Armani frames. Contact lenses are no more the sole preserve of those who need vision correction — people wear coloured lenses as fashion accessories today. No mother writes mournful entries in her diary over her child's myopia anymore.


However, words are powerful and set you thinking. It is no longer considered appropriate to call a speech-impaired person "dumb", but a decision maker's ill-conceived plans continue to be dubbed as "products of his myopic vision"!









It's acting in public interest


I am glad that the Supreme Court has issued several directions to the executive in the recent past. The people should welcome this kind of judicial activism and appreciate it because the directions it has issued are in public interest.

The Supreme Court's directions to the executive to bring out the black money deposited by Indians in foreign banks are laudable. The Supreme Court should ensure that all the ill-gotten monies stashed away in foreign banks are brought to India and confiscated by the Central Government. All these tax evaders and black marketeers deserve exemplary punishment. One should not take any lenient view on this matter.

The Supreme Court's directions in this regard are aimed at serving the public interest which will, in turn, help check inflation.

As regards the Supreme Court quashing the appointment of Mr P.J. Thomas as the Central Vigilance Commissioner, the Prime Minister has told in Parliament that it was an "error of judgement". The Prime Minister has also owned up responsibility for the CVC's appointment. Once such a statement is made by the Prime Minister, there is no need for investigating the matter any further and this is the right time to close the issue.

— Justice A.R. Lakshmanan,
Former Supreme Court Judge and Chairman, Law Commission of India

Constitutional balance intact

Judicial activism has become necessary because of a number of lacunae in the functioning of the legislature and the executive. Both the legislature and the executive are guilty of either over-action or inaction.

We also find that members of the legislature are turning out to be more and more corrupt and some corrective steps need to be undertaken. So we feel that the judiciary needs to step in.

There is absolutely no question of the balance between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary being disturbed because of judicial activism. For instance, the Prime Minister himself was pulled up by the courts over the appointment of Mr P.J. Thomas as the Central Vigilance Commissioner. And the Prime Minister had to admit that he had made an "error of judgement". So there has been a correction.

Moreover, India's judiciary has been careful not to overstep its limits. Courts are very conscious of their roles. However, politicians are unhappy because their interests have been hurt.

— M.P. Rao,
Secretary, Bombay Bar Association, Mumbai

Time to root out corruption

Whatever is happening is for the good of the country. Corruption is spreading like cancer. Time has come to use harsh remedial measures. Corruption amounts to violation of human rights of the poor people because this money otherwise would have gone to them.

This is also the right time for creating a better legal framework for tackling the menace of corruption. At a time when our Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India, Defence Minister, Service Chiefs and Cabinet Secretary are persons of unimpeachable integrity, honesty and character, it is rather surprising that a large number of corruption cases have come to the fore and an impression is gathering that everybody is corrupt.

— Amarendra Sharan,
Former Additional Solicitor-General of India

It's ordained by statute

It is a conscious and conscientious discharge of duty by the court ordained by the Constitution and a matter of judges being true to their oath.

This has nothing to do with activism or passivism. It is plain and simple discharge of duty.

— P.P. Rao,
Senior Advocate, Supreme Court

Judges must undo the wrong

There is nothing like judicial activism. The judges must decide the cases which come before them in accordance with the Constitution and laws. Matters which affect the people in high positions are rightly highlighted by the media.

By and large, the judges are discharging their duties and whenever things go wrong they have to correct them. It is the credibility of the judges which makes people feel that they are doing a good job. People don't know the niceties of the Constitution or law, but it is their confidence in the judiciary which keeps the judges going. I very much appreciate what our judiciary is doing.

— Pravin H. Parekh,
Senior Advocate, Supreme Court

Applying course corrections

If there is no activism at this juncture, the situation will worsen in administration. People have become aware of the level of corruption because the Supreme Court is directly monitoring the investigations in big scams and the media is disseminating the news in a big way.

There is need for reform in every field, particularly in education, to restore the sense of nationalism among people. Foolproof laws would rein in people in position from doing wrong things. India's image in the international arena would be enhanced only if steps are taken in this direction.

— J.S. Attri,
Senior Advocate, Supreme Court

Nothing radical about it

Is activism by judges something new? It is something expected of the judiciary. Judges have always been activists. Senior judges like Justice P.N. Bhagwati expanded the scope of roti, kapada and makan. Compared with judges like Justice Bhagwati, you cannot call the present-day judges activists.

The Indian Constitution clearly defines the role of the judiciary. Under the provisions of the Constitution, judicial review of the functioning of the legislature and the executive is mandated. So there is nothing radical about it.

There is no question of the constitutional balance being upset simply because judges are not going beyond their prescribed roles. It is the duty of the judiciary.

— Justice Hosbet Suresh,
Judge, Bombay High Court and noted human rights activist in Mumbai

Fearless, honest judges

Ordinary people can hope to obtain justice because judges like Chief Justice of India Justice S.H. Kapadia are fearless and honest. It is because of such judges that the judiciary can hope to bring about a change in the country.

The judiciary is acting within the framework of the Constitution when it looks into the functioning of the executive and the legislature. The court gives a ruling when the matter is placed before it. So there is no question of the judiciary interfering in the working of the executive as far as the CVC's appointment is concerned.

An activist judiciary does not disturb the constitutional equilibrium. Judges are not going against the constitutional framework by taking up matters pertaining to the functioning of the executive or the legislature.

— Benedict Lobo,
Senior Advocate, Bombay High Court

As told to R. Sedhuraman in New Delhi, Shiv Kumar in Mumbai and Saurabh Malik in Chandigarh



Don't undermine the role of other branches of govt

The judiciary should not exercise its power of judicial review to undermine the legitimate role assigned to other branches of the government…The role of courts and judges in making law an instrument of social stability and progressive change cannot be overemphasised.

The Supreme Court has delivered several landmark decisions in public interest litigation cases that are now part of the evolution of India's own constitutional jurisprudence.

The judicial process has a dynamic role to play, both as the guarantor of justice to litigants and as upholder of the constitutional conscience. But at the same time, it has to be ensured that the Basic Structure of our Constitution is not subordinated to political impulses of the moment or to the will of transient majorities.


    1. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
    2. at the Commonwealth Law Conference in Hyderabad on Feb 6, 2011

Tension will help develop law

Tension between the courts and the government is necessary for the law to develop. The contours of rights have to be decided by courts, not Parliament.

The courts' decisions on the legality of laws or executive action are based on many objective factors such as whether the law was restrictive, unreasonable or arbitrary. It would have been different had the rulings been based on a subjective view, and if the courts were to sit on judgement over Parliament.

    1. Justice S.H. Kapadia,

    2. Chief Justice of India during a hearing in the Apex Court on March 10, 2011

Don't exceed briefs

The judiciary should not exceed its briefs through judicial activism. According to a British Judge, "Judicial activism beyond a point is against the rule of law…" and "that is why I always tell my brother judges, 'please see to it that we also should continue to learn'".

When we talk of ethics, the judges normally comment upon ethics among politicians, students, professors and others. But I would say that for a Judge too, ethics, not only constitutional morality but even ethical morality, should be the base…If the Judge is clear on concepts...he/she will be able to decipher the difference between judicial activism and judicial restraint.

Justice S.H. Kapadia

    1. at the National Consultation on Second Generation Reforms in Legal Education in New Delhi on May 2, 2010









Mumbai has a huge shortage of public toilets. These are public amenities, and expected to be built by the municipal corporation. Despite having a budget of more than Rs 20,000 crore, the corporation is perennially strapped for money. So where is it going to find money for toilets? So the BMC thinks of a brilliant idea. It has surplus land in Deonar. About thousand acres.


It announces a scheme, that for every toilet you build, you get an extra equivalent building permit anywhere in Mumbai. That is, if you build a thousand toilets, with total area of 1 lakh sq ft, you can build that much real estate. You will get extra floor space index (FSI) to be used anywhere in the city.


What do you think will happen? Thousands of toilets will be built on the Deonar land, and skyscrapers will mushroom in Bandra and Worli, sold at golden prices. Having all the toilets in one place in Deonar will hardly solve the problem. They might as well have all been built in Vidarbha, or the Thar desert.


You see, the public toilets have to be spread all over the city. (That's why the Sulabh Shouchalaya model of involving toilet entrepreneurs is much more effective, yet inadequate.)


The toilets' story is imaginary. But in reality the government of Maharashtra actually used the same idea for building parking lots. It used FSI as an instrument to reward building parking lots. This policy was introduced in 2009 to grant builders extra FSI in exchange for parking spots. That was done with the noble intention of solving the parking problem in the city. That's because cars are congesting traffic either by moving, or being parked illegally on narrow roads. So builders started acquiring land to build new flats from the FSI they would reap from parking lots. Hence, they bid astronomical amounts for land being auctioned by the National Textile Corporation (NTC), i.e. mostly mill land in central and southern Mumbai. (NTC got that land because mills became bankrupt by the 1980s. That's because the land underneath the mills became more profitable than producing cloth from machines. That led to deliberate closures, labour disputes, strikes, mafia takeover. But that's another story.)


So, NTC land got auctioned and earned handsome profits. The builders were eyeing even bigger profits from selling luxury flats on tall buildings, built from FSI earned free from building… parking lots!

Did this sound like a win-win proposition for all?

The city thought it would get 23,000 parking spaces in return for 7.36 million sq ft of buildable area. But alas, all the parking spots came up in a tiny circle around Lower Parel and Worli. Soon, the city was contemplating a spectacle of 15-storey parking lots coming up in close clusters. Some 12,000 of these parking spots were within thousand metres on Tulsi Pipe Road. Does this sound like the hypothetical toilets of Deonar?


This huge clustering of parking lots has prompted the government to scrap this FSI for parking plan.


The concept of floor space index is a tool for urban planning. It is not to be used in isolation. There are many other factors that go into area planning to ensure balanced growth of commerce, recreation, traffic and all the trappings of city life. Unfortunately, FSI became a single magic bullet to control city growth. When combined with transferable development rights (TDR), it became a monetary instrument.

Since 1995, after introduction of the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme (free housing in exchange for TDRs), the FSI has, in fact, become a fiscal tool, i.e. to raise revenue for the government. With this heady cocktail of mixing money, monetising urban policy tools, zooming real estate values and FSI as a fiscal tool, it wasn't surprising that urban planning was soon going down the toilet. Oops!


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




There has been a chorus of protest over the finance minister's proposal to impose a 5 per cent service tax on centrally air-conditioned hospitals that have more than 25 beds. One deviant result (mimicking what used to happen in industry when small-scale reservation ruled) could be that larger hospitals get split into units of 24-bed facilities! Meanwhile, a well-regarded surgeon like Devi Shetty of Narayana Hridulaya has proposed that March 12 be observed as Misery Day, to protest against the "Misery Tax".

The protestors miss the point, and the finance minister should answer them by promising that revenue collected from the tax will fund public hospitals — a repeat of the education cess. The real health care issue in India is that there is so little that is publicly funded. India is almost unique in that public funding of health care is only a fourth or fifth of the total; the rest comes from private resources. This means that most families, which suffer the misfortune of a major illness get pushed into poverty by the medical bills; land and other assets are sold, debt incurred. The financial misery is often greater than the medical one.


 Contrast this with what happens in civilised societies, where public hospitals (and indeed publicly-funded primary and secondary care) are a real option — and not the over-crowded, under-provided places to avoid that India's government hospitals have become. The disaster in India has been that, for the last quarter-century, attention has been focused overwhelmingly on corporate hospitals, with the government adopting the insurance-driven model that has bankrupted the US economy — which spends a record one-sixth of its GDP on health care, but has a worse health record than any other affluent society. The scandal associated with this disaster in India is that doctors get patients to undergo needless tests, merely in order to use equipment and run up bills; the doctors get a commission on the tests and surgical procedures that are done. People who run corporate hospitals confess that it is difficult to get doctors without offering such commissions.

It is not too late to bring about change. A committee in the Planning Commission has woken up and pointed out that copying the US health care model will not work; that a universal, publicly-funded health care infrastructure is needed. This is saying the obvious, but all too often the obvious is not even considered an option. India has to double and treble its public expenditure on health care, in the same way that its investment in infrastructure has multiplied. Health care has to receive the same attention that education has begun to receive.

Some state governments have experimented with a medical insurance programme where the premium is paid by the state and health care bills are reimbursed to private hospitals. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this has fallen prey to bogus bills and false medical histories. Also, the public-private partnership model in which the government provides free land in exchange for concessional treatment for the poor by a private hospital, has been abused repeatedly; the poor rarely benefit. The fact is that it costs less than Rs 100 crore to set up a 300-bed hospital, and there is no reason why every district should not get a new one every year; the capital cost for 600 districts would be less than 1 per cent of GDP. Over five years, you could set up one in every tehsil or block — and effectively double the number of hospital beds in the country. Simultaneously, medical education would have to be expanded post-haste. This is the minimum that should be done in the India of 2011.








The 2010-11 Economic Survey and 2011-12 Union Budget have come and gone. The immediate reactions sought by media have dissipated. Now is the moment to deconstruct and thus view the overall fiscal stance that is emerging over the last few years through, and post, global financial crisis.

First, India's fiscal developments reveal a relaxation in tax and expenditure efforts during the crisis followed by relative tightening after the crisis from 2010-11. Thus, consolidation is taking place during the current up-cycle. Overall, therefore, the stance has been counter-cyclical as it should be. And any overall fiscal strategy behind this has to be commended.

However, the total consolidation picture appears to be dependent somewhat on serendipity as non-tax revenue growth flip-flopped due to temporary gains from spectrum sales (Table 1, Row 2) and disinvestment receipts. On the expenditure side too, though efforts towards counter-cyclical policy in non-Plan current expenditure have been successful, (Row 5), Plan expenditure maintenance has been unstable over recent years. Of course, the finance minister expressed satisfaction in his Budget Speech that last year Plan expenditure was met.

The second good aspect is that post-crisis, in 2010-11 and 2011-12, fiscal consolidation is coming mainly from the expenditure side rather than from revenue (excluding the spectrum windfall) (Table 1, Rows 4 and 7). Academic research has shown that consolidation based on expenditure tightening is less recessionary than that based on tax revenue increases.

However, further scrutiny of the effort to reduce the fiscal deficit (Row 8) as well as the primary deficit (Row 9) indicates that, while fiscal deficit tightening, or reduction, turned out to be 1.3 per cent of GDP in 2010-11, it is budgeted to be only 0.5 per cent of GDP for 2011-12. One explanation for this tepid course of action is that there were no underlying discretionary tax effort or net revenue yielding tax measures in the Union Budget. Going deeper, since no net tax measures were taken, post-crisis, the tax revenue buoyancy is coming from economic growth rather than from tax effort. During the up-cycle, the lack of tax effort appears to be somewhat pro-cyclical and remains a challenge to be corrected in the 2012-13 Budget. A positive, and higher tax effort would enable a faster reduction in the deficit, and getting back on, and recharting the course of, FRBM quickly.

Further, whatever tax effort has been made in increasing indirect tax revenue has been given away through decreases in direct tax revenue. This is especially curious in an economy that should have been continuing to reduce its dependence on narrow production taxes while expanding the direct tax base even while reducing the headline income tax rates. And this would not have been a new direction since revenue reform had already made a solid start in this direction from 2005, tilting the revenue balance in favour of direct over indirect tax.

Indeed, the components of tax effort or buoyancy are widely different year by year (Table 2). Whatever the underlying explanations, overall it appears that varying tax policies have been employed through time, for example corporate income tax (Row 1) in 2011-12 and customs duty (Row 3) in 2010-11. The overall stance in the mix and sources of tax revenue change should ideally reflect a well-rounded strategy rather than a mere bottom-line. This should occur even if the DTC or GST is awaited since neither of them would represent an immediate solution to the right revenue balance between direct and indirect taxes. Indeed, no such calculation is known to have been conducted. Thus, the revenue mix and balance between direct and indirect taxes should be independently addressed and treated as another challenge for the 2012-13 Budget.

The third nice aspect in the 2011-12 Budget was the tightening of subsidies. This has been the case in all major subsidies and has taken place over recent years as revealed in the numbers (Table 3) for subsidies on fertiliser, food, and petroleum. This too is commendable.

However, the Budget might have been cautious on its allocation of petroleum subsidy in the prevailing global environment of escalating oil prices that might not abate for some time. Instead, it has shown a tightening of 0.22 per cent of GDP in petroleum subsidy even after experiencing a loosening of 0.26 per cent of GDP in 2010-11 (Row 3). It is this hue of optimism rather than judicious caution that is a bit worrisome in the Budget. It does detract from successfully garnering the confidence of analysts.

To sum up, India has been following counter-cyclical fiscal policy outcomes through, and post, crisis. This is a welcome overall policy stance. However, analysis reveals that some of it is chance. Also, discretionary tax effort is nil. It should be revived, and in such a way that direct tax revenue effort overcompensates indirect tax loss rather than the opposite way around as in the just introduced Budget. Subsidy policy is on the right track though realistic projections for petroleum subsidy are lacking in light of last year's experience and in anticipation of the international petroleum environment that is emerging. It would help if the derivation of important Budget numbers are presented to Parliament as in mature and many emerging economies. This indeed remains another challenge for the 2012-13 Budget.

Parthasarathi Shome is Director and CEO, ICRIER. The views and opinions are exclusively those of the author








Colonel Gaddafi claims the rebels are members of Al Qaeda, who have been administered hallucinogens by the CIA. Or possibly, they are CIA agents, who have mainlined drugs supplied by Al Qaeda. It may even be that the CIA and Al Qaeda have got together to drug random persons, who have rebelled under the influence.

He may be a little hazy as to the exact profile of the rebels. But he is quite certain that hallucinogens are involved. His opinion deserves to be taken seriously since everything he's ever said or done, suggests deep, intimate acquaintance with that class of drugs.


 Or maybe he's just barking mad. Dictators do get that way. But few demonstrate their insanity with the panache Gaddafi does. He started small by abolishing all Libyan army ranks above that of Colonel. There were other minor eccentricities like an insistence on sleeping in a tent and the donning of multi-coloured robes embossed with maps and faces.

The pace stepped up when he "raised the stature of women" by creating an all-female praetorian guard of 400-odd "official virgins". In between protecting him from assassination, they used to demonstrate formation flying in hot-air balloons. There are the statutory weird monuments like a golden fist crushing an US fighter plane. And, he topped Napoleon by riding a camel through Paris.

Impressive as this may seem, other dictators have gone toe-to-toe in terms of lifestyle. It is in the realms of the literary that Gaddafi leaves most other strongmen trailing in the dust. Great leaders are expected to record their thoughts for posterity and most produce banal platitudes.

Gaddafi's magnum opus, The Green Book (TGB) is matched only by the Ruhnama of the late Turkmenbashi, Saparmurat Niyazov, in terms of mystical, messianic brilliance. Arabic is known for its literary tradition of poetical allusion and the use of paradox to illustrate philosophical truth.

Gaddafi sets new standards for both. Who else would have had the revelation that "If not for electricity, we would be condemned to watch TV in the dark"? or laid down the law by telling children that "Obeying your parents is more important than doing what your parents say"?

In case you didn't already know, TGB proves the Colonel's heart is in the right place when it comes to feminism. TGB makes a passionate plea on behalf of the female gender: "Women, like men, are human beings. This is an incontestable truth. According to gynaecologists, women, unlike men, menstruate each month. Since men cannot be impregnated, they do not experience the ailments women do."

In another paradox, he refused to implement universal education (Libya has a high literacy rate of 82 per cent) because "mandatory education is a coercive education that suppresses freedom. To impose specific teaching materials is a dictatorial act." However, Libyan schoolchildren were punished severely, if they bunked their mandatory weekly TGB catechism class.

Amidst all these gems, my favourite quote is the one that explains his rather unusual views on democracy. "Representation of the people is a falsehood. The mere existence of parliaments underlines the absence of the people, for democracy can only exist with the presence of the people and not in the presence of representatives of the people." Quite.

Finally the Colonel is cool about free speech: "All individuals have a natural right to self-expression by any means, even if such means were insane and meant to prove a person's insanity." He has obviously lived his life by consistent, rigid adherence to that precept. Now that his subjects have internalised TGB to such effect, he feels he is likely to "stay in Libya till I die or until the end of the time Allah allows me to live!"






The art of success lies in saying as little as possible. That is what carried Mrs Gandhi and Narasimha Rao through.

I have just taken my bath, I declared. The wife looked quizzically, as if to say, so what, and continued to glance through the page three of the popular paper. Then, not much later, it intoned again in the same declarative voice, I am going in for my breakfast. This time she could not stay quiet and replied, I know that, I have just served it.


 So, it went on through the better part of the morning, my declaring at every stage what I was about to do and then narrating in the shortest of sentences what I had just been up to. The problem came up when I had something longish to say, like the menu of a somewhat sumptuous breakfast. How do you compress it into a short sentence or two. But I managed, using all the skills acquired through a lifetime of copy editing and trying to write in the minimum number of words possible.

The game went on through the morning and right into early evening when she came back from office. In between, when she was not there, I naturally did not speak out loud what I was about to do, doing or had just done, simply formulated the sentences in my mind.

Particularly challenging was getting together my comments on major news items of the day culled from the over half a dozen papers that I regularly glance through. Having been a scribe for long, I naturally had a lot to say and wanted to spell it out at reasonable length. But the discipline of length cut me short. So, what would have been a full-length editorial comment of over 500 words was shrunk to just around 30 odd, beginning with something as sharp as "DMK meets its comeuppance…"

Then, in the evening, after we had finished our tea and I solemnly declared that "I have made a good cup of tea for us", the wife's attempt at nonchalance gave way. You better stop this charade or explain what great show you are trying to stage, she ordered. I put on an air of the utmost innocence and replied, Can't you see, no comment of mine is more than 140 characters long?

What character, whose character, she asked. I am practicing what I will put out soon when I will get on Twitter, you t…, managing to swallow that word at the last moment. Relief descended on her face as she ordered me to keep my twittering to my electronic devices and not announce them to the world.

But that is precisely what you are meant to do on Twitter, I have been told by the most reliable sources. You are supposed to announce what you are doing every hour or so, leaving out of course if you have just gone round the corner. But few people follow that sort of schedule by the hour, except if they are film stars, she argued.

Then what do you tweet about, unless it is meaningless bits of trivia, which no sensible person should be interested in. It takes me the better part of a day to research and write an editorial and after that I feel quite exhausted and emptied out, convinced that I will have nothing more to say for some time to come. I don't know, she said, ask those who tweet, she declared and went off towards the kitchen to drum up some dinner, leaving me to reflect in the peace of silence (I had decided to give up all ideas of tweeting) on the follies of all the new fads that ride in on the back of every new device.

I must confess that I decided to try out tweeting on seeing the troubles Sushma Swaraj had got into by letting the prime minister off the hook in her tweet. If she can tweet then I surely can, I thought with all the male chauvinism that I could muster as Women's Day approached. Then seeing her travails over the next few days with her party colleagues for having spoken out of turn, I had second thoughts. But the MCP in one doesn't die so easily and I was determined I would do better than her.

Having seen Sushma Swaraj's travails, I should have known, and having seen the travails of Sashi Tharoor, who laid the foundations of his loss of ministership with the brick and mortar of his smart Alac tweets, she should have known. And both of them, having studied India's recent politics and the styles of its successful practitioners should have known that the art of success lies in saying as little as possible. That is what carried Mrs Gandhi and Narasimha Rao through, not to speak of M G Ramachandran who ruled from his sick bet so effectively by saying so little because he could not say more.

Vindication of sorts came when I read in the papers that the rise of tweeting had led to the decline of blogging. Of course, even I knew that people held forth much longer but at far longer intervals in their blogs. Still, when blogs came I was determined not to get enmeshed in that folly because, in all honesty, I have so little to say. Once I have written a column or something else I feel drained out for the next 36 hours.

But still, old men typically want to try out a new fad once in a while. What almost got me into serious trouble (the reaction of my wife to the sample fare I produced cured me of the temptation) was the irrepressible thought that if a t… like Sushma Swaraj can, then so can I!  






What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice of vices is that integrity can indeed exist under cover of all other vices except this one. Only crime and the criminal… confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is rotten to the core.
— Hannah Arendt: On Revolution

Now that another round of elections will be upon us and the stench of corruption is in the air, is it too cynical to say that we brace ourselves for another bunch of political hypocrites and liars? After all, under the new rules of political fabrication, a lie is just a lie and since everyone one is at it, all that matters is what you get away with. And it isn't just the boldest liar who is the best because he is detached from his true feelings and knows almost instinctively how far he can go to get what is wanted; there are also-rans in the game who can do equally well with a little grit and luck. David Runciman, who teaches political theory at Cambridge has come with a sequel to his earlier book, The Politics of Good Intentions with Political Hypocrisy: The Masks of Power (Princeton University Press, $19.95) which, though based on western political thinkers and recent case studies has lessons for us too because double standards are at work in contemporary politics everywhere.


Some basics. It is cynical to pretend that politics either now or in the distant past was ever completely sincere. The problem of sincerity and truth in politics and how we can deal with them without slipping into hypocrisy is, in a sense, non-sequitor because so long as human beings are involved with their 'crooked timbers' a degree of hypocrisy is necessary to get things done. Besides, hypocrisy comes in many forms from the common type of not practicing what you preach to the classical sense of the term, which involves not believing what you say.

The original hypocrites were those who simply mouthed pieties: it meant going through motions for the sake of form or etiquette. Even here there were different ways of dissembling what was going on behind the public mask. The pious hypocrites who pretended to be true believers were liars because their claim for themselves was not true. But they concealed the truth about themselves by sticking to the truth in public: so that what they said in public was the bare minimum that allowed them to get by.

But they always held something back, something they would only share with their closest friends. People today understand that given the complexity of politics not everything can be said up-front and therefore holding back is legitimate. What they detest much more than they hate are liars and adulterers — politicians who make deals with half-truths because they serve their immediate purposes.

But the real problem is that hypocrisy, though inherently unattractive, is more or less inevitable in most political settings, especially in liberal democratic societies. Which means it is difficult to criticise hypocrisy without falling into the trap of exemplifying the very thing one is criticising. So, it is nothing new and to support himself Runciman explores a range of political thinkers from Hobbes to George Orwell for their views on the limits of truthfulness in politics, especially "in the moralistic pluralistic world of modern politics."

There are two ways that hypocrisy works as a tool to achieve the ends of political power: either by stretching the truth to serve the political cause or by being economical with the truth. Usually, it is the latter tactic of holding back crucial bits of information that would tilt the balance the other way. Here again, there are no hard and fast rules especially when "fair is foul, and foul is fair."

"The greatest exemplar of what can be achieved by a politician who doesn't hold anything back, even when he is playing around with the truth is… Bill Clinton who was the sincerest liar in modern political history, and what he, and his opponents, and the American public discovered was that sincerity could easily trump the lies. Clinton's popularity rose as his mendacity was exposed. He got away with lies, including the blatant falsehood that he never had sexual relations with "that woman" because it became clear that the absurd stories he was telling (oral sex is not sex when you are only receiving and not giving) were not just for public consumption: they were ones he was willing to try out on anyone, even himself."

Two lessons from the Clinton episode (and other public scandals) are clear. First, sincerity or the public perception of it, matters much more than double-dealing/double-crossing. Second, in the world of political triangulation (where two or more parties are involved) nothing is out of bounds, most of all changing your spots and people who are willing to change their spots are more sincere than those who don't.

Where does this exercise in hypocrisy leave us? First, our politicians should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent, though the tests that are applied to them should not always be the same in all cases. But is this enough when our double standards are glossed over to provide for corruption and personal profit?







E M Forster's famous observation about hoping to "have the guts to betray (his) country" if he ever had to choose between his country and his friend emboldens me to write about a man whose name is anathema to many people in Bangladesh and India. History moves in cycles and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury's plight is part of a continuum of violence that did not begin with him and will not end with him either.

There is a tendency in India to judge events in Bangladesh in terms of bilateral relations. Salauddin, a burly, blustering barrister who has been an MP for 32 years, is not regarded as a friend; therefore, his distress is welcomed. Such stupidity recalls the traditional American attitude towards smaller countries exemplified in Franklin D Roosevelt's remark about Nicaragua's ruthless Somoza being "a son of a bitch", but "our son of a bitch".


India's best friend would be a Bangladesh that is not paying off old scores but has come to terms with the past and is at peace with itself.

The septuagenarian conspirators who were hanged for their part in the night of the long knives were not simple murderers: they represented a strand in their country's psyche. So did Khandakar Mushtaque Ahmed's Indemnity Ordinance, the absence of even a police report of the massacre of August 15, 1975 until October 2, 1996, Ziaur Rahman's revocation of the Constitution clause banning communal parties and his erasure of the secular label, as well as Hussain Muhammad Ershad's elevation of Islam.

At another level, were all the votes that Mrs Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Jamaat-i-Islami and Jatiya Party attracted fudged? The BNP-led alliance still has enough supporters to win 32 parliamentary seats. Jamaat was reduced to just two seats from 18. But Jamaat, which reportedly set up nearly 65,000 madrassas, is less a party than a way of thinking that also sometimes finds a resonance in some sections of the Awami League.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's "Second Revolution" couldn't have gladdened the hearts of idealists who dreamt of liberation ushering in a new civilisation. A one-party dictatorship, suppression of independent newspapers and a hamstrung judiciary turned dream into nightmare. Lawrence Lifschultz wrote in the Far Eastern Economic Review in 1974 of the "unprecedented" corruption, malpractices "and plunder of national wealth" under Mujib.

This is the background to the agonising e-mails I have received from Saifuddin and Humam Quader Chowdhury, Salauddin's brother and son respectively. Salauddin is convinced his father, Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, Muslim League leader and Speaker of Pakistan's National Assembly was murdered in Dhaka jail for opposing liberation. It would be an understatement to say he was not ecstatic about it either.

That is remembered. I was staying at the Intercontinental Hotel once when his driver left a note for me at the reception desk. The young male receptionist told me afterwards that Salauddin had personally gunned down Mukti Bahinis in 1971. I have no idea if this is true. Dhaka thrives on gossip and rumour but the allegation should have been judicially examined long ago. The framework exists since Bangladesh is the first South Asian country to sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court setting standards for prosecuting people accused of crimes against humanity.

But Salauddin is not accused of war crimes. He is accused of arson in a case that was filed nine months ago when his name wasn't mentioned.

Humam's letter makes painful reading. "In the early hours of the 16th December, 2010," he writes, "a 12-member team of armed forces and intelligence officers broke into" his father's apartment "and began to brutally torture him. They continued to abuse him and use torture equipment they had brought for nearly five hours … they had (also) brought a doctor whose sole job was to make sure that he does not lose consciousness and to revive him if needed." Salauddin "lost consciousness three times and was brought back to his senses using injections of adrenaline".

"After almost 10 hours of torture, he was taken to the magistrate court of Dhaka but the blood-soaked clothes he was wearing did not stop the judge from sending him for a further remand of five days."

Salauddin claims that after his father's death in 1973 he advised Tajuddin Ahmed and his Awami League colleagues to have air-conditioners and other comforts installed in the jail because their turn would come one day. It did, with barbaric brutality.

The dream of Sonar Bangla will never be realised unless this cycle of vengeful death is broken.






Proponents of reforms in scheduling and funding of elections must factor in constraints of the parliamentary system and the use of black money in the electoral system

In a couple of months, five states will be going to the polls and another seven in 2012. This is perhaps the right time to consider two ideas for electoral reforms that are in the air. First, simultaneous holding of elections to the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas and second, state funding of elections.


 Simultaneous elections

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) senior leader Lal Krishna Advani has been saying for some years that we need to have simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas since otherwise, we keep having elections in one state or the other every year. More than once, he has cited Germany as an example that he would like India to emulate.

Though the idea is good, is it workable? In his blog*, Mr Advani writes: "In my brief chat with the two senior leaders of Government that day, I mentioned, that most European democracies have such an arrangement."

I am afraid that is not entirely correct. Several European countries have fixed-term parliaments but they do provide for early dissolution in certain circumstances. This is made clear in the monograph on this subject published by the House of Commons.**

According to the monograph, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Denmark, Greece, Portugal and the Netherlands have fixed-term parliaments that can be dissolved ahead of time — mostly in cases in which the government loses the confidence of parliament and no alternative is available. In Germany, Bundestag has been dissolved prematurely three times in the past 30 years, the most recent case being in 2002. In France and Italy, the president can dissolve parliament even if it has not lost a vote of confidence. Italy's lower chamber has a five-year term, yet it has been prematurely dissolved twice in the past two decades.

In a parliamentary system, if a party or coalition loses the confidence of parliament and no other can fill the slot, then the House must be dissolved. For instance, if in a coalition government, one major party steps out and decides to support no other alliance, how does the government pass the Budget? If it cannot pass the Budget, how does it run the government? So, in a parliamentary system, a fixed term for parliament is not workable.

Electoral spending/funding
Excessive spending during elections has been a perennial problem. Jawaharlal Nehru is believed to have said that an MP entered Parliament with a lie on his lips — and that lie concerned his filing of electoral expenses. There are two reforms suggested for electoral funding. One concerns the amount that a candidate can spend in an election and the second concerns state funding.

Last month, the government decided to raise the expenditure limit for the Lok Sabha from Rs 25 lakh to Rs 40 lakh and for Vidhan Sabhas from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 16 lakh. Will this work? Not a chance. Currently, there is an average of around 1.5 million voters per parliamentary seat, so the government is proposing a limit of less than Rs 3 for every voter. That is totally unviable. During an election trip in 2009 to coastal Andhra, the son of a candidate of a major party admitted that the candidate of each of the three major parties (Congress, Telugu Desam Party and Praja Rajyam Party) spent Rs 7-8 crore to contest that Lok Sabha seat — and we propose a limit of Rs 40 lakh! Not all candidates spend this kind of money but it is unlikely that too many spend less than Rs 2-3 crore and it is likely that many in "star" constituencies spend well over Rs 10 crore. Frankly, with a Rs 40-lakh limit, there is no possibility of removing the use of black money from our current electoral system.

Should the state fund elections? In several countries, the state does fund elections. Several commissions/committees in India have also proposed state funding of elections and recently Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily has backed the idea. But the funding is unlikely to be anywhere close to what is being spent, even if the question of setting out the qualifications of the parties/candidates to be funded can be resolved. Also, even if funding is large, given the ethics of our political class, there is no reason to believe that wealthy candidates will not spend large additional sums of money to win the seat. Over a decade ago, a leader of a major party said off the record that his party had paid substantial sums of money to two independent candidates with the same surname as the main opponent to confuse the electorate!

So, is there an answer? The answer, at least partly, lies in providing state funding under proportional representation with a complete "list" system. In the list system, at its most basic, a party gets seats in proportion to the votes won. The candidate represents not a particular constituency but the state as a whole. For instance, in Uttar Pradesh, each party will provide a list of 80 candidates. If the BJP wins 20 per cent of the votes, it will get 20 per cent of the seats, that is, the first 16 candidates on its list will sit in the Lok Sabha. Of course, it is still possible that people at the top of the list in a political party may spend black money to ensure the party gets those additional votes which may result in them getting on the list of members to sit in the Lok Sabha. But it is quite likely that a large majority of people in the lower orders of the lists will have no incentive to spend black money.

Under the first-past-the-post system, given the criminalisation of politics of India, any reform of political funding is unlikely to eliminate the use of black money.










Quick estimates of the index of industrial production (IIP) for January — over the like period last year — show 3.7% growth. But there's no need to rush to (dire) conclusions. The fact is that industrial output last January was on a strong wicket, posting 16.8% growth. So, the latest increase is on a very high base, and the overall average for this and previous January works out in the reasonable double-digits. It is not to quibble about, and not remarkable either. Also, the latest figures show that the output of manufactures, which has almost 80% weightage in the IIP, has grown just 3.3% year-onyear. But again, the latest growth is on top of the 17.9% rise; so the high base needs to be taken into account. Further, there seems real turnaround in electricity offtake (which has over 10% weightage in the index), with growth put at a buoyant 10.5% y-o-y. But too much need not be made of a month's data; anyway in the absence of distribution reforms, higher offtake would further exacerbate utility losses.

Disaggregated figures show that capital goods output for January has declined by 18.6% y-o-y. The seeming decrease is on a huge 57.9% rise last January, which needs to be noted. Besides, capital goods now increasingly consist of relatively long-gestation items like power boilers and turbines; so it makes better sense to track quarterly figures for a truer picture. And for April-January this year, growth in capital goods — which denotes investment demand, going forward — is put at a credible 12.3%, and over and above the 16.1% rise in the same period last fiscal. It suggests growing investment demand y-o-y. Further disaggregated data shows that the output of machinery and equipment (nearly 10% weightage) has grown 10.8% during Apirl-January. And in the like period, growth in transport equipment and parts — which denotes production in the auto sector — has been a fast-paced 21.7%. The January data also shows solid growth across both non-durables and durables, with the composite increase for consumer goods (weightage almost 29%) put at 11.3%. Once the IIP is revised from its current 1993-94 base, it will yield a picture that is a whole lot more realistic.








The Budget smiled on infrastructure, but the finance ministry has tied itself up in knots over how to define infrastructure. Unlike the Reserve Bank's broad-brush definition, which includes sectors like education and healthcare, apart from things like ports, roads and telecom under the broad umbrella of infrastructure, the finance ministry's list is shorter. It is nevertheless important for sectors that want certain tax deductions reserved for infrastructure to get on to this list. Education and healthcare are vital for a smarter and healthier India and should be clubbed with infrastructure. But as the ministry expands its definition of what constitutes the infrastructure, it'll have to dust off some 40-year old cobwebs from its economics cupboard.

For example, it has to forget that infrastructure is a natural monopoly and consumers can't choose between rival producers, beliefs that coloured economic thinking in the 1970s, but were swept aside by technological and economic changes. We've seen how telecom went from 'natural monopoly' to a hyper-competitive business in India, with as many as a dozen operators competing in each market. Electricity tariffs are regulated now, but only because vested interests have blocked the implementation of open access to power that can create competition between rival power distributors. Infrastructure was supposed to be non-tradable once upon a time. No longer. High voltage electricity is bought and sold every second across the country; customers trade in costlier phone cards for ever-cheaper ones every day and one day India will have to develop institutions to trade fuels like gas and coal within the country to discover their real price, rather than depending on proxies. Fixed assets like canals, highways, ports, pipelines and airports still retain some old world infrastructure characteristics, but thankfully we don't assume that they're natural monopolies to be operated only by government. These call for sensible, meaning informed and independent, regulation. The notion that infrastructure has natural monopoly as a characteristic is completely out of date, at any rate.







Funny how good or bad weather can conspire to diddle us out of our comforting cuppas. As rumours swirl that the government is being pushed to go in for the third fuel price hike in the past four months, and thus there is a greater need for something to soothe the frazzled nerves of the common man, there is news that world coffee prices hit a 34-year high — premium beans have risen 45% in the past 12 months anyway — thanks to inclement conditions in top-growing areas such as Colombia, Brazil and several other South American countries. Before people could make the ideological shift to the competing hot beverage, there is also information that thanks to very favourable weather conditions right here in India, tea prices could also rise by 20%. Even as coffee and tea deprived brains struggle to make sense of that paradox, chocolate, the other unctuous hot drink which can be turned to for succour even if it carries a practically lethal dose of calories, has gone out of reach, too. Cocoa exports are being hindered by the clouds of civil war in the top producing country, Ivory Coast, leading to vast amounts of beans lying unexported. So, breakfast tables and other places of contemplation are set to face a summer of caffeine-deprived discontent. If the UN can spare time from disasters, man-made (as in Libya) and natural (as in Japan and other quake hit areas around the Pacific's rim of fire) another crisis can be saved from boiling over. Clearly, in the interest of world peace, decisions have to be made on how reneweable (and expandable) resources of comforting beverages such as coffee, tea and cocoa can be insulated from price and availability fluctuations, so that other pressing matters can be dealt with properly by world leaders, and consequently, other lesser beings everywhere. Fuelled by unending cuppas.






The Union Budget 2011-12 has opened up lowcost finance for infrastructure financial intermediaries by increasing the aggregate foreign exchange fund-raising limit by Rs 90,000 crore or $20 billion. A new scheme for notifying infrastructure debt funds (IDF) has been launched. The IDF will enjoy zero tax rate. Both domestic and non-resident investors can invest in the specified IDF; The non-resident investors will be taxed at 5% on income from the IDF. It will reduce interest costs to infrastructure and enhance fund availability.
Exchange risk management will be essential; infrastructure projects have no export sales hedging. With the current Libor cover at 4% to 5.5%, the total cost is not attractive. Industry must take up the challenge of offsetting the high domestic interest costs by improving productivity and efficiency.

The tax holiday scheme has been made investment-linked from being profit-linked, in a regressive move, and has been extended to affordable housing projects and fertiliser industry, in addition to mineral oil pipelines, hotels, cold chains, warehousing and hospitals. However, affordable housing has no capital expenditure: the cost of building for sale is a revenue cost; the construction equipment is purchased by the building subcontractor. The renting out affordable housing is not the contemporary practice. Many features militate against growth and entrepreneurship. Assessees can claim 100% write-off of capital expenditure only for specified businesses listed (under section 35 AD, other than expense on land, goodwill, interest), but it cannot then claim normal depreciation on such capital expenditure. As it is a write-off, it becomes part of the business loss and the loss from such 'specified businesses' starting business after the respective applicable date, can be set off against profits of any other 'specified business' only.

Thus, cement companies, not being a 'specified business', are disincentivised from setting up infrastructure business as a division because such a division will not generate the 100% depreciation tax shelter for cement division profits and can only be adjusted when the standalone power business division generates adequate profits. But, by the way 'specified business' is defined, an existing mineral oil pipeline business will fall into the ambit. The capital investment write-off on new capacity creation in any 'specified business' will be available as a tax shelter to profits of oil pipeline business.

But this structure of the incentive tilts the playing field against new entrants and reduces funds for growth. India has grown on the strength of entrepreneurship, and this must be stimulated. Who had heard of GVK, GMR, Adani, Adhunik Power, etc. just 10 years ago?

Entrepreneurship in a facilitative environment is the growth engine of the economy. Capital expenditure write-off is treated as business loss in the 'specified business' without any timelimit as against the eight-year limit for other business loss. Under the old system, you could claim normal depreciation for three to four years and initial depreciation on total capital expenditure and claim tax holiday over the next seven to 10 years within 15 years as against only 100% a write-off. The old system incentivised productivity and profitability. We need to redesign the old system but with a cap on ex empted profits up to the capi tal expenditure. Alternatively let us merge this 100% write off with normal depreciation and allow set-off against prof its of any business.

Limited liability partner ships (LLPs) were meant to promote the profes sions and the small and medi um enterprises sector (by not extending unlimited liability to capital contributors). Mini mum alternate tax (MAT) will be applicable even before they have taken off. MAT, in their case, should be made applica ble only above certain busi ness level. Let us release the energies for growth and allow capital formation in LLPs The banking sector has no clue about the LLP law at the regional/branch office levels The government also needs to allow foreign direct invest ment into LLPs. Today NRI are allowed to become partners in firms; so, why not in LLPs? The world is moving to wards the International Fi nancial Reporting Systems (IFRS). The department of company law has notified the Indian version of the IFRS, but not when it will be come applicable. There is no provision to indicate how the accounting changes aris ing in the first year of IFRS implementation in India will be treated for income tax purposes. The payment of service tax was based on the collection of fee. Now it will become paya ble on the earliest of follow ing three stages: (a) at the point of receipt of advance; or (b) at the point of rendering of services; or (c) at the point of receipt of service charges. To satisfy an enquiry, the ser vice provider will now be re quired to maintain following records on daily basis to satis fy the test of when service was rendered: (a) clients to whom he/she is rendering services on that day; (b) the daily esti mated volume and value of services; and (c) calculation of relevant service tax that is payable irrespective of re ceipt of his fee from the client Many times, the fee is also not definite and settled below initial demand. This could be the case in any consultancy service. Excise duty is levied on production, a definite event with known price. Duty is payable when goods move out of the factory. The new system of service tax needs to be withdrawn or amended significantly, to avoid record keeping and harass ment by service tax officials.










When Ramco Systems was established as part of the $875 million Ramco Group, its focus was on enterprise management applications and emerging technologies. Along the way, the company has emerged as a leading software company focused on consulting, and product and managed services businesses, besides being one of the frontrunners in developing enterprise class products in India. The Chennai-headquartered company was recently ranked 54 among the top 100 R&D spenders in the country and the third largest R&D investor in total spend in IT R&D. Ramco Systems VC, MD & CEO, PR Venketrama Raja says R&D is the longterm insurance for companies to ensure that they stay on top of the game.

Among industry sectors that bemoan the lack of disconnect that our educational institutions have with the real world, the IT sector perhaps stands out. "The one distinct difference between education in the West and in our country is that in the West, the emphasis is far less on rigour, and more on concepts", says Raja.
One of the conditions, he feels, for innovation to succeed is that it must attract people to use it. "Meaningful innovation can only happen when it straddles humanities, art and science," says Raja, emphasising the need for education to appreciate the inter-linkage between knowledge verticals. This, he says, is perhaps the reason why the West is marching on in technological innovations. "In the East, Japan has been slightly different and China is getting there", though he feels India has some catching up to do. "We have started off on that track, but an R&D culture ought to grow here", he says.

The innovation-R&D scenario has hardly been encouraging in the country. A recent study has shown that India's R&D spend as a proportion of its GDP is a mere 0.7%, which is less than half of what China spends, and a quarter of the US spending. Ramco has ensured that its R&D spend was always sufficient so that the key pillar of its long-term health was not affected. The company's spend on the R&D front moved up from $4.97 million in 1999-2000 to $6.84 million in 2004-05, and further to $7.05 million in 2009-10.

"In addition to increased R&D spend, youth must be passionate about R&D. It's like making a movie: one has to be creative and passionate. Presently, the youth are very little into R&D," says Raja, who is pleasantly surprised that despite not-so- great education being offered, many of our youth exhibit good talent. "They must now decide to create IT products, rather than focus on jobs," he says.

The ground reality, of course, is that a large majority of engineering students continue to have their sights on jobs either in India or abroad, and very few think differently about academics, or research, though an increasing number of young professionals is looking at launching start-ups.

Ramco Systems is walking the talk with an enterprise application assembly and delivery platform. "What makes a real change is when a whole new architecture comes in, that will change the economics of the functioning of a sector.

The cloud, for instance, is the latest big thing, and the economics in the IT sector will change as more companies realise that moving their work on to cloud will not compromise on their security. When such a migration happens, it can actually demonstrate the fragility of the large in-house IT departments of corporates and demonstrate the cost-savings that cloud computing can bring," he says.

In that backdrop, it is easy to understand the strain that growing organisations will face in retaining business efficiency, employee productivity and responsiveness to customer needs. It is a given that companies looking for fastpaced growth require a powerful end-to-end enterprise resource planning (ERP). "One can only rue the fate of companies that have invested heavily in traditional ERP," says Raja. Limitations of the conventional ERP are being successfully addressed through the SaaS delivery model, on cloud. The enterprise-integrating ERP, which was earlier available only on an on-premise model, has thus become available on a hosted model, changing the rules of play for corporates, and changing their economies of operation.

Across diverse verticals, Indian companies are showing willingness to licence technology or buy it from providers rather than try to develop it on their own, but most often, the technology available in this fashion would not be cutting-edge. There is a perception that ERP on cloud is a stripped down version of the on-premise version, offering only a few features. But this perception is wrong, he says. Ramco's focus verticals include manufacturing, real estate & construction, energy & utilities, etc, and plans to add new verticals, but Raja avers that at the heart of everything is robust investment in R&D.










The US continues to be riven by heated debate about the causes of the 2007-09 financial crisis. Is government to blame for what went wrong, and, if so, in what sense?

In December, the Republican minority on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) weighed in with a pre-emptive dissenting narrative. According to this group, misguided government policies, aimed at increasing homeownership among relatively poor people, pushed too many into taking out subprime mortgages that they could not afford. This narrative has the potential to gain a great deal of support. But, while the FCIC Republicans write eloquently, do they have any evidence to back up their assertions? Are poor people in the US responsible for causing the most severe global crisis in more than a generation?

Not according to Daron Acemoglu of MIT, who presented his findings at the American Finance Association's annual meeting in early January. Acemoglu breaks down the Republican narrative into three distinct questions.
First, is there evidence that US politicians respond to lower-income voters' preferences or desires? The evidence on this point is not as definitive as one might like, but what we have suggests that over the past 50 years, virtually the entire US political elite has stopped sharing the preferences of low- or middle-income voters. The views of office holders have moved much closer to those commonly found atop the income distribution.
There are various theories regarding why this shift occurred. In our book 13 Bankers, James Kwak and I emphasised a combination of the rising role of campaign contributions, the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington, and, most of all, an ideological shift towards the view that finance is good, more finance is better, and unfettered finance is best.

There is a clear corollary: the voices and interests of relatively poor people count for little in US politics.
Acemoglu's assessment of recent research on lobbying is that parts of the private sector wanted financial rules to be relaxed — and worked hard and spent heavily to get this outcome. The impetus for a big subprime market came from within the private sector: "innovation" by giant mortgage lenders like Countrywide, Ameriquest, and many others, backed by the big investment banks. And, to be blunt, it was some of Wall Street's biggest players, not overleveraged homeowners, who received generous government bailouts in the aftermath of the crisis.

Acemoglu next asks whether there is evidence that the income distribution in the US worsened in the late 1990s, leading politicians to respond by loosening the reins on lending to people who were "falling behind"? Income in the US has, in fact, become much more unequal over the past 40 years, but the timing doesn't fit this story at all.

For example, from work that Acemoglu has done with David Autor, we know that incomes for the top 10% moved up sharply during the 1980s. Weekly earnings grew slowly for the bottom 50% and the bottom 10% at the time, but the lower end of the income distribution actually did relatively well in the second half of the 1990s. So, no one was struggling more than they had been in the runup to the subprime madness, which came in the early 2000s. Finally, Acemoglu examines the role of federal government support for housing. To be sure, the US has long provided subsidies to owner-occupied housing — mostly through the tax deduction for mortgage interest. But nothing about this subsidy explains the timing of the boom in housing and outlandish mortgage lending.

The FCIC Republicans point the finger firmly at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and other government-sponsored enterprises that supported housing loans by providing guarantees of various kinds. They are right that Fannie and Freddie were "too big to fail", which enabled them to borrow more cheaply and take on more risk — with too little equity funding to back up their exposure. But, while Fannie and Freddie jumped into dubious mortgages (particularly those known as Alt-A) and did some work with subprime lenders, this was relatively small stuff and late in the cycle (e.g., 2004-05). The main impetus for the boom came from the entire machinery of "private label" securitisation, which was just that: private.

The FCIC Republicans are right to place the government at the centre of what went wrong. But this was not a case of overregulating and over-reaching. On the contrary, 30 years of financial deregulation, made possible by capturing the hearts and minds of regulators, and of politicians on both sides of the aisle, gave a narrow private-sector elite — mostly on Wall Street — almost all the upside of the housing boom.

The downside was shoved onto the rest of society, particularly the relatively uneducated and underpaid, who now have lost their houses, their jobs, their hopes for their children, or all of the above. These people did not cause the crisis. But they are paying for it.

(The author is a professor at MIT Sloan) ©Project Syndicate, 2011










Congress president Sonia Gandhi may rightly take credit for forcing DMK president Muthuvel Karunanidhi to climb down from the threat of pulling out nominees from the Union Council of Ministers and forcing him to concede 63 seats to the Congress for the Tamil Nadu Assembly election against 60 agreed upon earlier by the two parties. It may well turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory. In the current phase of the alliance between the two parties, which began in 2004, the Congress remained content with whatever number of seats the DMK allotted and it worked to the advantage of both. With the advent of Rahul Gandhi as a major player in the affairs of the Congress in Tamil Nadu, the party pitched its demand for 90 Assembly seats, a minimum common programme, formation of a coordination committee of the alliance parties and one-third share in the new ministry. The electorate has never favoured a coalition government and so far Tamil Nadu has had single-party governments even though elections were contested in alliance with other parties. During the first phase of the alliance with the Congress, Karunanidhi succeeded in persuading Indira Gandhi to settle for a mere nine Lok Sabha seats out of 39 and no Assembly seat at all and paved the way for the rapid decline and fall of the Congress in Tamil Nadu. Subsequently, the Congress hitched its wagon to the AIADMK and succeeded in maintaining its presence in the Assembly.


In the second short-lived phase of alliance between the Congress and the DMK, which began in 1980, the two parties contested the Assembly election on a 50-50 basis with the promise of forming a coalition government should the alliance win. It came a cropper. In the next election in 1996, contesting just 40 seats in alliance with the DMK, the Congress won 39. In the third phase, contesting 48 seats in 2006, it could win only 34. Had the Congress accepted the DMK's initial offer of 48 plus five seats for next month's election, it had every chance of improving its tally from the last election. The Congress is a cadre-less party in Tamil Nadu and has to depend on the DMK cadres for its election work.  The anti-incumbency factor, the steep rise in prices of essential goods, the 2G Spectrum taint and the inability of the Karunanidhi government to prevent the slaughter of Tamils in Sri Lanka are working against the DMK as it faces an angry electorate. If only the Congress had stuck to the Rahul Gandhi formula and parted company with the DMK, the party could have promoted a third front without the two Dravidian majors and re-established its presence throughout the state instead of remaining a lame duck party forever riding piggyback on either the AIADMK or the DMK.



A BRIBE of Rs 20,000 in a deal estimated at $10 billion would appear ludicrous. Add to that reports of a senior air force officer being caught in a compromising position with an "imported" call girl and the result is a pointer to a no-holds-barred contest developing for the sale of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft. The bribe was sought by a middle-level IAF officer at Aero-India to arrange a more prominent place in the display of the six jetfighters in the running for the MMRCA contract. While a Court of Inquiry is probing the matter, initial reports suggest that the whistle was blown by the company that was being favoured ~ it could well turn out a rival had spilt the beans. The reported involvement of an Air Marshal with a call girl only confirms suspicions that the attractive "models", both Indian and foreign, at the various pavilions (not necessarily of producers linked to the fighter sale), were a bit more than eye-candy. It was to keep things above board that the defence ministry took over all military trade fairs but has the requisite propriety been ensured? Clearly the Indian "system" has not been cleansed, and the major arms/equipment manufacturers are aware that every sale requires many a "sweetener". Concerns over underhand activity in the MMRCA deal had been raised by none other than the Air Chief; his apprehension was that firms that failed to win the contract would raise a corruption bogey. Little did he realise that at the very venue where he spoke one of his juniors was compromising himself for a sum less than half his monthly salary. Or that another colleague would submit to carnal temptation: are faujis so allured by "white skin", and have there been precedents? But both dubious affairs must serve as early warnings. When the international defence industry is in a slump, the MMRCA sale is a lucrative lifeline. Hence it is incumbent upon both the IAF leadership and the MoD to carefully monitor every aspect of the acquisition process. Sadly, the recent track record of UPA-II does not inspire confidence, so there is that proverbial mountain to climb to come up with a clean deal within a reasonable time-frame. Deferring the purchase will only open move avenues for sleaze, kickbacks etc. Hopefully AK Antony's eye on the chief ministership of Kerala will not blind him to potential pitfalls on the MMRCA runway.




THE opposition is an afterthought, seemingly.  a virtual defiance of a court order. The Supreme Court (coram: RV Raveendran and AK Patnaik, JJ) has ruled that the Centre and the Medical Council of India could go ahead with the Common Entrance Test to medical colleges ~ both for MBBS and post-graduate courses. Yet 24 hours after the order was issued on Monday, the West Bengal Joint Entrance Examination Board has made it known it will not participate in the uniform nationwide evaluation at entry point. On the face of it, the state would seem to be going off at a tangent; equally, the Bench was acutely aware that "stakeholders" such as state governments, private medical colleges and minority institutions might have reservations. This is explicit in its interim order of 18 December. The Centre, grappling with a host of problems, was less than accurate when it submitted on 18 February that it was in consultation with the states. In its interaction with the states, the MCI has made no headway over the past three months. As with the wider issue of universal education, it is unlikely that the Union ministry of health and the MCI have taken the states into confidence. Small wonder that the Bench has couched its order with the caveat that there ought to be a "cautious approach" towards the issue as the students are "a volatile community". The West Bengal Joint Entrance Examination Board may have a point when it claims that the MCI is yet to keep the states ~ let alone the minority colleges ~ in the loop. Yet the implicit anxiety to avoid an all-India competition will cut no ice. The attitude of the CPM-affiliated Association of Health Services Doctors reeks of provincialism ~ it will curtail the prospects of local candidates securing admission to state-run medical colleges. Its threat of a movement will reduce the doctors to the level of agitators. The varying standards from state to state in the matter of high school courses and school leaving examinations can be the only valid cavil. The syllabi, for instance, is different for the Higher Secondary Board, the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination and the Central Board of Secondary Education. This could well militate against a degree of national uniformity at entry point. The minority colleges, pre-eminently the Christian Medical College in Vellore, belong to a different category altogether. There is scope in the Supreme Court order for the MCI and the Centre to reflect.








THE Ulfa's abandonment of the goal of sovereignty points to the almost predestined denouement of a revolutionary movement in a democracy. Not surprisingly, the upsurge followed a predictable course. While the roots lay in the feelings of alienation in Assam, the subsequent years of futile struggle against a moderately powerful state underlined the uselessness of chasing a mirage. The initial sense of isolation was undoubtedly the result of the state's distance from the heartland of the country's politics, located in Aryavarta in and around Delhi.

However, certain caveats may need to be entered at this stage. For instance, the distance from Delhi need not be a matter of mileage only. It can also be one of perception. The Adivasis of central India are physically closer to the national capital than the Assamese. But they may still harbour the feelings of being castaways because of the lack of empathy between them and the state and central officials. Their Austro-Asiatic identity probably also widens the gulf.

But, to return to Assam, the Ulfa's origin lay in the now-defunct Lachit Sena, which led the anti-Bengali agitations in the 1960s and '70s. At that time, it wasn't resentment towards Delhi which propelled the movement, but anger at the way the Bengalis dominated the professional and social scene. In a way, the Lachit Sena ~ named after Lachit Borphukan, a 17th century commander in the Ahom kingdom ~ was a precursor of the Shiv Sena in faraway Maharashtra since it derived its inspiration from similar sons-of-the-soil sentiments.
However, the Lachit Sena paved the way not so much for Ulfa as for the All Assam Students' Union (AASU), which shot to fame with its anti-foreigner agitation in 1979. Although this upsurge was no more than a variation of the earlier anti-Bengali movement, it received a wide measure of support from the rest of the country by replacing the Lachit Sena's provincial parochialism with religious chauvinism. Hence, the backing which the Aasu ~ and its successor, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) ~ has received from the BJP since its targets are not Hindu Bengalis but Muslim Bangladeshis. However, some of the former also fled from Assam in the 1979-85 period because the rowdies looking for the immigrants from Bangladesh could not always distinguish between the two communities who spoke the same language.

Aasu, of course, has since fallen apart and the AGP, too, has become a marginal force. The reason is that a party following a divisive ideology with a support base comprising mainly the middle class Hindu Assamese of the Brahmaputra valley cannot rule a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious province. It may have also lost the more militant of its cadres to the Ulfa. But if the cases of the Aasu and AGP are typical of sectarian outfits losing their way in a plural society, Ulfa's fate shows how the utopianism of a revolutionary faith ~ but still drawing sustenance from a Hindu middle class base ~ is not dissimilar to that of the mainstream parties.
However, the erosion of Ulfa's influence was accelerated by the fact that many of its top leaders sought shelter in Bangladesh because of the pressure from the Indian security forces. By doing so, they made a mockery of  Aasu's anti-foreigner agitation, which was based on blaming Bangladesh for the illegal immigrants who entered Assam in search of livelihood. By seeking refuge in Bangladesh, Ulfa seemingly had no option but to focus increasingly on its demand for sovereignty unlike the Lachit Sena and Aasu,  which merely wanted to establish the dominance of the Hindu Assamese in the state.

Since Ulfa had to reject the long-prevalent animus against Muslim immigrants, it had to emphasize a larger goal. What is more, it even carried out a murderous attack against Bihari Hindu labourers in Assam in early 2007, probably at the instigation of the Directorate-General of Forces Intelligence of Bangladesh and perhaps also the ISI, which worked in collaboration with the DGFI at the time. However, Ulfa's problems began with Sheikh Hasina's ascent to power. Since her government was more friendly towards India than her predecessor, Begum Khaleda Zia's, it wasn't long before Arabinda Rajkhowa and other stalwarts of the Ulfa found their way to Indian custody.

Even if, for argument's sake, the geo-political factors had been more favourable to Ulfa, its demise would have still been unavoidable. The reason is that, for starters,  a democracy always gives the disaffected an opportunity to effect a regime change without any fuss. In view of the dramatic transformations that have taken place at the central and state levels with the ouster of powerful individuals, the average citizen always nurtures the hope of evicting an unpopular government and installing one of its choice.

It is not easy, therefore, for a revolutionary group to convince anyone other than the most gullible about the virtues of the bullet over the ballot. As a result, it attracts mainly the wild and reckless elements to its ranks. They also tend to be mostly young since people in the 40-plus age bracket are usually more circumspect. As the years pass by, however, with no tangible advancement towards achieving the avowed goal, it is usually the pioneers of the movement who remain while many of the others drift away. As for the pioneers, the toll of being always on the run cannot but diminish their ardour.

In Ulfa's case, the absence of a coherent ideology was an additional disadvantage. The Maoists, for instance, are driven by their understanding ~ however garbled ~ of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. But the north-eastern insurgents  have only a rosy idea of independence from the Indian behemoth. Ulfa's rise and fall, therefore, can be considered a classic  instance of the predictable trajectory of a group of brigands in a democracy and can serve as a lesson and a warning to other insurgents. A country as large as India with its uneven development will always have bands of disaffected people influenced by utopian ideals and egged on by the nation's foreign enemies to launch an armed offensive. But the chances of their success are minimal.
The writer is former Assistant Editor, The Statesman








MEETING Jeffrey Archer is like visiting the sets of Chicago to face not the stare of Richard Gere but Gordon Ramsay after he's got his gall up over a plate of overcooked lobster and salmon ravioli. His intense stare makes you forget the loving way smalltime booksellers refer to him ~ Jeffrey Chacha. But once the conversation starts, one is reminded of A Quiver Full Of Arrows, A Twist In The Tale, Kane and Abel and, of course, Not A Penny More Not A Penny Less. Having had a fair share of hard times hasn't robbed the author of his charm. He hopes that his latest work, Only Time Will Tell, will match the success of Kane And Abel. The life of Harry Clifton will unfold over five books and through him readers will come face to face with historic events.
In conversation with Mathures Paul.

There have been many ups and downs in your life. Has it changed your writing style?

Absolutely. I've matured and I'm a better craftsman. This book is better written than anything I've ever done. But that, of course, doesn't mean you would like it more than my previous works. You can be stuck in Kane and Abel or Not A Penny More Not A Penny Less. Many Indians are stuck in these books. I'm hoping the five (new books) will be the best thing I've ever done.

I've had an amazing life. It's bound to affect one's writing. The people you meet, the people you touch, the people in your life are bound to get into a book. You write about what you know; you write about the people you live with… that's bound to be the case. I like to listen to people, meet them and… (pauses) all the time I'm stealing, stealing, stealing.

Do you read Indian authors writing in English?

Your sacred cows are interesting and they keep winning prizes. But I don't always finish them. I love RK Narayan. I think he was a magic storyteller. And a damn good writer. He's a damn good short story writer. He was a combination of a writer and a storyteller.

Did you get a chance to meet him?

No. I met his brother and he paid me the great compliment of coming down to hear me speak. I would've loved to have met him.

What are you reading now and what books did you grow up on?

At the moment I'm reading a book titled The Hare With Amber Eyes (by Edmund de Waal) and then I will read The Chinaman. My big adviser in India has told me to get it. My favourite writers are F Scott Fitzgerald, Alexandre Dumas… for short stories, (Guy de) Maupassant, O Henry, HH Munro… I like storytellers.

Any reason why your latest book (Only Time Will Tell) has been published in India before the UK and the USA?
It's one of my biggest markets and from a sheer readership ~ not from buying books but from piracy ~ I think I've more readers here than in any continent on earth. I mean, 50 million people have read Kane and Abel… and that's a staggering figure.

How do you design your stories? Do you have an ending in mind and then work backwards?
With the short stories I always know the ending. You can't write a short story without knowing what the twist is. With novels, I never know more than a third of the way. And then I pray. (Smiles) Though I'm writing five books in a row ~ covering 1920 to 2020, a sequence over 100 years ~ I've done the first; I'm doing the second one but I've absolutely no idea of what happens in the third, fourth or fifth books. It's a mystery.

When did you start working on Only Time Will Tell?

About two years ago. I had rewritten Kane and Abel because I wanted there to be a new edition of it… It has been 30 years, 84 reprints and 33 million copies… I wanted to see if I could do it again; see if I could capture the same spirit again. I wanted to take Harry Clifton from the backstreets of Bristol of 1920 and take him to 2020 and in the course, follow the history of the period. That's hell of a challenge.

Like an artist, do you get inspired to reflect on life around you?

Two or three of my short stories feature India. But you can't pinpoint moments that inspire a person. For example, yesterday I met a very interesting man and I got him to explain the arranged marriage system. He is a product of an arranged marriage as obviously is his wife. And at the moment, his daughter is going through it. I had 100 questions for him and he answered them very honestly and in a very straightforward way. So, I'm always learning. But will I ever get it into a book? I doubt it. I'm doing this all the time, always picking up knowledge. It's human knowledge I'm interested in; things other human beings would be fascinated by.

The story of Harry Clifton will be told over five books. Will he ever visit India?

At the moment, the book doesn't go to India. At present it's in England and ends up in the USA. The new book will pretty much be in America… 50 per cent and the rest in Britain. Whether I eventually go to India remains to be seen.

How important is the American market?

The American market is very important; it's the biggest market on earth, from a financial point of view. Getting on top of The New York Times bestsellers' list is always big, big, big. I don't have any more readers in America than I have in India. I sell a lot more books. But the average reader of a book in America is 2.1, for Britain it's 2.3 and for you it's 25. That's the difference.

More than being thrillers, you plots are simply clever.

I'm a storyteller. Nothing is preconceived. It doesn't work that way. If I knew the secret, I would be writing a book on how to write a bestseller. I write a sentence and don't know where it's going. Yesterday one person said that I twist every sentence. You write a sentence that makes you read the next sentence. But I don't do that consciously. I try to explain to young writers in India that you can all be good writers if you are well educated… and Indians are well educated. Storytelling is a gift.

You've previously written two screenplays. Will we see more of that?
No film. (Laughs) I've three mini serials but no film… eight of them are under auction and three of them in production. But in practice… my son says, until I'm eating popcorn, don't believe in it.

Finally, have you ever met your namesake, Geoffrey Archer?

I met him many years ago.







Obviously, there was an error in judgement.


Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in Parliament on the CVC appointment


I have asked the Vice-Chancellor to form a team and look into the matter. I have read newspaper reports and already instructed the V-C to find out the truth.


West Bengal Governor MK Narayanan on the controversy over exhibition of fake Tagore paintings

It is a matter of shame that women do not feel secure in the Capital of the country.

Delhi chief minister Mrs Sheila Dikshit at an event to mark the International Women's Day

We have the capacity to create problems and, at the same time, solve them.

Union finance minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee before the DMK announced it was pulling out its ministers from the Union Cabinet

Question Hour is almost dead, there is a need to rejuvenate it.

Lok Sabha Speaker Mrs Meira Kumar, exasperated by frequent disruptions

The CVC episode is not over and done with as far as the BJP is concerned. The PM's reply (in Parliament) has not satisfied us. Our nation-wide campaign against corruption will scrutinise the role of the Prime Minister and we intend to engage the people on this.

BJP president Mr Nitin Gadkari

We have to rectify our mistakes and reach out to people. We have to listen to their grievances. It's true that the Opposition has done well in the past few elections, but that's no credit to it. It's because of our mistakes that people voted in favour of the Opposition.

West Bengal chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee

As an ally, we want respect and a respectable number of seats to contest the election. We should share benefits and the burden of defeat together. Apart from quantity, quality of seats also matter.

West Bengal PCC president Mr Manas Bhuniya

The Left Front government has emptied the state's coffers. Thousands of government employees are not sure if they'll get paid after two-three months. The CPI-M is conspiring to destroy the economic backbone of the state ahead of the poll. They want the people of a bankrupt state to suffer.

Leader of the Opposition in West Bengal Assembly Mr Partha Chatterjee at a Press conference

This is a sad, shameful incident. Whoever has done it should be punished. I hope he is captured and action is taken against him.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's wife Gursharan Kaur on Delhi student Radhika Tanwar's murder outside her college






Last week, China announced a 12.7 per cent increase in its annual defense budget of $91.5billion, up from $78.6 billion in 2010.  With the return to double-digit growth, and actual defense spending estimated in excess of $100 billion annually, China is accelerating its military modernisation.

While most policy-analysts agree that China is likely to shape the direction of the strategic environment in the Asia-Pacific region, no clear consensus has emerged on its likely character. China's veil of secrecy regarding its strategic intentions and power projection capabilities raise questions for US allies in the region. Indeed, China's military modernisation, if sustained, is likely to have a significant impact on regional security conceptions, and may shape future defense planning trajectory of the US-Republic of Korea (RoK) or South Korea alliance.  

Over the last decade, China became increasingly attentive to and responsive to critical security developments on the Korean Peninsula.  Since 2003, Beijing has been more proactive in mitigating the North Korean "hybrid" security conundrum ~ it has provided vital economic lifeline to North Korea, inherently preventing its economic collapse, while quietly exerting pressure on Pyongyang to return to the stalled Six Party Talks.
In doing so, Beijing has aimed to mitigate tensions between the two Koreas, as well as risks and costs associated with potential confrontations, spillovers, or crises that may include both USA and Chinese intervention.  A more contending view is that Beijing is trying to avert a North Korean collapse to prevent the Korean reunification, which would likely undermine China's leverage in international and regional relations and lead to the loss of the strategic buffer zone provided by North Korea for the past six decades.  

The modalities of Beijing's strategic ambiguity in the Korean security issues amplify security dilemmas for the US-RoK alliance ~ by increasingly constraining the alliance's policy options and freedom of action.  While many analysts tend to downplay assessments of China's military capabilities, in the long term, it is likely that China's military modernisation and strategic priorities will tabulate "diversified missions" that include capabilities for securing access lines to energy resources.

Defense planners in both the USA and South Korea have been closely observing the People Liberation Army's (PLA) military modernisation drive, its sharper regional power projection capabilities, and long-term aspirations. Over the past decade, the PLA has accelerated its "mechanisation and informationisation" ~ a comprehensive force modernisation drive that includes revamping military doctrines, organisational force structures, operational concepts, while developing and integrating selected advanced weapons systems, platforms, and technologies. 

Meanwhile, the USA has been transforming its regional force posture, operational concepts, weapons procurement, and deployment.   Throughout the last decade, the U.S. military has aimed to move beyond its Cold War static posture toward a more mobile, lighter, agile force posture ~ having "strategic flexibility" to meet new roles and missions.   

With regard to the Korean Peninsula, this has implied that the nature, size, and configuration of US forces deployed in Korea are increasingly conceptualised in a more regional or even global terms rather than addressing traditional static peninsular defense. As  a response to growing Chinese military capabilities and presence in the region, both the US and South Korea may adopt "stealth benchmarking" strategies into their respective defense planning strategies in order to deny, delimit or event contain China's extending geopolitical ambitions.
Stealth benchmarking implies adopting a portfolio of "capability domains" or competencies that may mitigate military advantages and freedom of action of a potential adversary. For South Korea, this means not only the need to maintain its collective security mechanism with the US and robust force posture to meet traditional defense and deterrence needs vis-à-vis North Korea, but at the same time, also address emerging security issues that have a strong Chinese imprint, including regional resource competition and protection of energy access lines.

South Korea has already embarked on an ambitious military modernisation trajectory, with key emphasis on the procurement of advanced weapon technologies and systems ~ next generation main battle tanks, multirole fighter aircraft, multirole helicopters, state-of-the-art conventional submarines, destroyer experimental vessels, precision-strike assets, early warning systems, and array of advanced command, control, and communications systems. 

Depending on the evolving security dynamics on the Korean Peninsula, modalities in the US-RoK defense management, and transparency of China's strategic capabilities and intentions, security uncertainties linked to China's rise may offset the prevailing and in most cases, optimistic linear projections of Asia's rise.
In order to mitigate the security uncertainties, tensions, and risks, it is imperative to enhance communication channels, defense diplomacy, and cooperative dialogue between China, the USA, and South Korea in order to build mutual understanding of "core interests" and mechanisms for defusing potential crises.  

For starters, this would entail the need to better understand the modalities and country-specific responses to potential North Korean non-linear contingencies and scenarios, ranging from explosion to implosion.

The writer is a researcher and PhD candidate at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore







It is not easy to predict how the exit of a leader may change the course of a popular movement. But the 14th Dalai Lama has not been an ordinary leader. Neither is the movement he leads the stuff of ordinary politics. His decision to relinquish his political role in the Tibetan government-in-exile cannot, therefore, mean the end of history for him, his people or for the cause he has come to symbolize. The power of a leader like him has little to do with the office he holds. For all their bluster, the Chinese know this as much as the Tibetans. There should be absolutely no doubt that the Dalai Lama will continue to remain the moral force driving the Tibetans' struggle against Chinese communists. If the Tibetans have been able to keep alive their hopes of a Tibet of their mind, it is as much because of the Dalai Lama's leadership as because of the strength of the institution that he represents. And the Chinese fear the power of that institution as much as the Dalai Lama's charismatic leadership.

But institutions, too, change and assume different roles with changing times. The Dalai Lama himself initiated major institutional changes which he considered necessary to sustain the cultural and political aspirations of the Tibetan people. The way he democratized the political set-up of the Tibetan government-in-exile was not only unprecedented in the community's history but also extremely useful in giving the movement a modern face and spirit. His exit as the political head of the exiled community, which had been anticipated for some years now, is better seen as part of a planned transition. The message is not so much the end of his struggle as its new beginning. It is possible, though, that the Tibetans' struggle will take a new direction under a new political leader. Whether the new leadership sticks to the Dalai Lama's "Middle Way" in its negotiations with China or takes to other means will depend on how Beijing responds to the new reality.

However, what the Chinese, the Tibetans and the world at large would be more curious about is the future of the institution of the Dalai Lama. The 14th Dalai Lama himself raised questions about the future when he suggested that the institution could be abolished after him. He shrouded it in similar uncertainties by also hinting that future Dalai Lamas may be chosen democratically and not through reincarnation and the rituals associated with it. Curiously, the Chinese, who tried so hard to destroy Tibetan Buddhism, want the old system of reincarnation to continue. They would not accept either the Dalai Lama selecting his successor or a democratic process to find one. The Chinese plot of having a Panchen Lama under their control did not fool the Tibetans or the world. Any Chinese move to foist a Dalai Lama will be rejected just as contemptuously.







On February 26, I attended the opening of an exhibition of cartoons by Abu Abraham, a brilliant, brooding Malayali who worked for many years in London and New Delhi before retiring to Kerala. Ranging over 50 years of Abu's work, the show had as its centrepiece his cartoons of the 1970s. These were often prescient, with, for example, a politician saying, before election time, that "we must consider the relative merits of candidates", and another answering "yes, especially the merits of relatives". Another had politician A glumly telling politician B that "the gains of Pokharan have been cancelled out at Lord's".

Viewers much younger than I am might not have caught the reference. I did, immediately, for I was 16 in 1974, an age when one is just discovering one's love for one country. Like other patriotic Indians I had saluted the nuclear test of May, but been devastated by the humiliation at Lord's, when a crack Indian batting side — Gavaskar, Viswanath, Engineer et al — were bowled out for 42 all out. Within a single month, I (and very many other patriots) had thus passed from exultation to humiliation. Abu, however, had set the matter in perspective. The sardonic, sceptical Malayali had told his readers in 1974 — and was telling me now, decades later — that it was foolish to see either the possession of a nuclear bomb or victory in a cricket match as an index of a nation's worth.

The next day I was due to be at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, to watch India play England in the World Cup. Normally, I would have wanted India to win, but Abu's cartoon had confused me. I told a friend at the exhibition that I saw more clearly than ever before the utter worthlessness of sporting nationalism, and would therefore support England on the morrow.

I was a cricketing nationalist as a teenager but, over the years, had acquired more ambivalent feelings. I greatly admired the West Indian cricketers of the 1980s — Vivian Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Malcolm Marshall in particular —and the Australian masters of the following decade, such as Shane Warne, Steve Waugh, and Glenn McGrath. I still wanted India to win, but was not desolated if they lost, especially if it had been to a better or more skilful side. And I particularly deprecated the jingoism that was on display when India played Pakistan. The saddest moment of 40 years of live cricket watching remains the World Cup quarter-final of 1996, also played in Bangalore, when I was the only person in my stand (and possibly in the entire stadium) who applauded Javed Miandad when he walked off the ground for the last time as an international player.

At the same time, I had sympathy for the Indian players, for the burdens they had to bear, with tens of millions of their countrymen demanding that they win to redeem national pride, or merely to bring consolation and cheer to their own blighted lives. The saddest moment outside the ground in my life as a cricket lover occurred after India lost a one-day match against Pakistan, when the homes of some great and decent cricketers (among them, Rahul Dravid) were attacked by their deranged fans.

Fortunately, the extreme and excessive jingoism of the 1990s has somewhat abated. Some years ago, I watched Pakistan beat India in a Test in Bangalore, the match watched by a peaceful and appreciative crowd, whose broad-mindedness owed itself (at least in part) to the sentiment that in matters other than cricket — politics and economics, for example —their country was doing rather better than that of Inzamam-ul-Haq and his team. Still, I slept erratically on the night of February 26/27, juxtaposing to Abu's cartoon my own lifelong desire not to see the Indian cricket team humiliated. Juggling my emotions, I recalled that Neville Cardus had once written of how, as a boy, he had reconciled his admiration for the batsmanship of Victor Trumper with the desire to see England win. Before an Ashes Test, he would pray to god that he let his hero make a century — out of an Australian total of 127 all out. I now amended that to fit, and resolve, my own particular dilemma. What I wanted at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, I decided at 3 am, was for Sachin Tendulkar to score a hundred, but for England to win the match.

By the time this column appears the match itself would have been superseded in the readers' consciousness by other and more recent encounters. It was, of course, a tie, a result that did not displease me, since if my second wish is re-interpreted to mean that I did not want India to win, I got what I wanted. And Tendulkar scored a superb hundred, a masterful, controlled innings, playing himself in while Sehwag blazed away and accelerating smoothly after his partner got out. I will, I think, remember this century especially for the demolition of Grahame Swann (whom he struck for three sixes) and for two glorious off-drives off James Anderson.

In response, the England captain, Andrew Strauss, scored a fine hundred that, like Tendulkar's innings, was marked by genuine cricketing shots — drives, cuts, pulls, and glides, no slogs or inside-out shots over cover. But the match was also marked by high-class pace bowling. Had Tim Bresnan not got Sehwag out early, and then cleaned up the lower middle-order, India would have probably got 370 or 380 instead of 338, and won the match comfortably. On the other side, Zaheer Khan bowled an indifferent first spell, but then, when England seemed to be walking home to victory, came back to get three quick wickets, among them Andrew Strauss, leg-before to the ball of the match, an inswinging yorker.

Test cricket is real cricket, not because it is played over five days, but because it places bat and ball on par. Twenty20 is a vulgar and debased form of the game, because the bowler gets a mere four overs. Although 50-50 cricket is still biased in favour of the batsman, at least he can go beyond mere slogging to construct and shape an innings, the way Tendulkar and Strauss did in Bangalore that day. Meanwhile, given 60 rather than 24 deliveries, the bowler can still somewhat display his variety and subtlety, as both Bresnan and Zaheer showed us at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.

Other early matches in the World Cup have likewise demonstrated the ability of one-day internationals to provide attractive and meaningful cricket. Consider, for instance, Shahid Afridi's match-winning spells against Sri Lanka and Canada — both times seeing his side through in a thrilling, low-scoring contest — and Kevin O'Brien's extraordinary innings for Ireland against England, neither possible nor conceivable in the Twenty20 format.

On the evidence of its first fortnight, this World Cup may redeem the promise of the 50-over game, a version disparaged by proponents of the shorter and longer varieties of cricket, albeit for different reasons. (Test cricket purists think it too fast, Twenty20 fanatics deem it too slow.) But who will or should win the tournament? My own hope, or fantasy, which is inspired both by Abu Abraham's cartoon and the match I watched in Bangalore, is that India reach the final in Mumbai, where they shall play Pakistan. Tendulkar shall score a hundred on his home ground, but his side will not win. Nor lose, either.


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




The case of a Pune-based real estate dealer and stud farm  owner Hasan Ali Khan may turn out to be a test case of the UPA government's claimed commitment to unearth black money and punish financial wrong-doers. As it has become a norm in recent times in pursuing financial misdemeanours, the supreme court is prodding the government into action against Khan who is alleged to be a big-time tax evader. The court has asked many uncomfortable questions about the government's handling of the charges against him, while hearing a petition on the lack of action to retrieve black money stashed away in foreign banks. The apparently generous treatment received by Khan from official investigative authorities has come out into the open during the hearing.

The charges against him are mind-boggling. He is said to have deposits of as much as $8 billion in one Swiss bank account and the tax authorities have served on him and his associates a demand for tax and penalties worth over Rs 71,000 crore.

Teams have gone to Switzerland to investigate his holdings in banks there. But investigations have not yielded any concrete results and Khan has not been touched in any real sense. He was taken for custodial interrogation only after the court ordered it. But the Enforcement Directorate could not produce convincing evidence against him in a Mumbai court and had to suffer embarrassment when he was released on bail. The supreme court had to ask for reinstatement of three officers who had been abruptly transferred for taking the investigation against him seriously. It also turns out that there may be other angles to pursue than tax evasion and money-laundering. He allegedly has dealings with arms dealers and links with people associated with terrorist activities. The court has asked the government to get these aspects also investigated.

It is not certain whether the charges against Hasan Ali Khan are correct or not. But it seems the government has not been able to properly follow up on its own charges against him. Should it be directed at every stage of the investigation on how to handle his alleged offences? The government has always claimed that it is taking sincere action to fight the black money threat and to retrieve money amassed illegally in banks abroad. When it is unable to make an effective investigation against a person who faces such serious charges, how credible is the claim?







Immediately after president Barrack Obama took over in January 2009, he had unambiguously, though rhetorically,  declared that the infamous Guantanamo prison would be closed down. He had given a deadline of one year for that. But more than two years down the line it not only exists but is going to remain open in future. The US Congress has voted against the closure and transfer of the detainees to the mainland where they will have to be given normal democratic and human rights. It is an irony that the Democrats, who are considered to be much more committed to human rights than the Republicans, have driven the vote. They were afraid that a hardening popular mood in America would make closure an unpopular event. Obama has therefore shelved his idealist plan and decided to go along with the decision.

Guantanamo was a symbol of the Bush administration's contempt for human rights. Prisoners captured from Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the course of the 'war against terror' have languished there, subjected to extreme torture and without trial.

Many of them have no charges against them except suspicion. Some of them were released after the Obama administration came to power. But the idea and reality of Guantanamo will be kept alive. Some measures to liberalise treatment of prisoners have been announced. New military boards for trial will be constituted, parole may be granted in some cases and some detainees will be given legal representation and access to evidence against them. But these are cosmetic measures and will not make any substantial change to the status of the prisoners and the treatment they are subjected to. The proceedings against them will not measure up to the legal standards followed by civilian courts. The administration feels that some of the detainees may not be convicted in any court for lack of evidence but cannot be let free also because they may act against the US in future. That is dangerous logic.

Guantanamo is a denial of everything the US claims it stands for — democratic rights and the rule of law and abjuring of detention without trial. The US would condemn other countries if they practised the policies it follows on Guantanamo. Its continued existence also strains its relations with the Islamic world. Obama's failure on Guantanamo is a sign of his growing compromises.







Today almost half of the Central government's tax revenues are being pre-empted by the need to service the national debt.

The budget for 2011-2012 is arguably the most important that any government has presented since the heady days of economic liberalisation after the 1991 crisis. Pranab Mukherjee described it as a budget of transition, in which the government, having administered a sharp fiscal stimulus to the economy to get it out of recession, begins its return to 'normal,' more conservative economic management. This correction is essential, but it is not the reason for its importance.

This budget derives its significance from its candid admission that India is sinking deeper every year into a debt trap, and from its detailed discussion of the policies that will have to be adopted to reverse this descent. The debt trap had been looming at the end of the fiscal road for some time: in 2007-08 , before the global recession, the ratio of  India's national debt to its GDP was already a shade over 70 per cent. Although this was high, thanks to a slow but steady reduction in the fiscal deficit of the Centre and the states in the previous five years, the ratio had almost ceased  to rise.

But this changed dramatically in 2008-09. The so-called fiscal stimulus of 2008 — in reality a host of giveaways to powerful interest groups that  had been decided long before the onset of the global recession — pushed the consolidated fiscal deficit of the Centre and the states up from 5 per cent of the GDP to 10.2 per cent. And this was a far higher rate of increase than that of the GDP. As a result, the debt to GDP ratio rose swiftly to 73.1 per cent in 2008-09 and to 75.4 per cent in 2009-10.

Every increase in this ratio increases the proportion of revenues that the Centre and states have to set aside to meet interest payments, and consequently squeezes their power to spend on actual governance. Today almost half of the Central government's tax revenues are being pre-empted by the need to service the national debt.

This trend has not only to be stopped but reversed. The virtue of the current budget is that it has candidly admitted this, albeit not in the stark terms outlined above, and also spelt out a policy for doing so. The admission and policy suggestions  are not to be found in the finance minister's budget speech, which remains anodyne and self-congratulatory, but in the Fiscal Policy Strategy statement that he  also unveiled while presenting the budget.

The Fiscal Policy statement  is the first such document to be released alongside a budget since the Long Term Fiscal Policy statement of prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and finance minister V P Singh in 1987. It candidly admits that the gap between the Central government's expenditure and its tax revenues has nearly doubled from 3.2 per cent of the GDP in 2007-08 to 6.2 per cent of GDP in 2009-10. In absolute terms the government spent Rs five in 2009-10 for every Rs three it earned.


The Statement has made it clear that this is not a sustainable deficit and, that since it has already cut its capital expenditure (investment) to less than one sixths of revenue expenditure (consumption), this gap cannot be bridged without reigning in the latter.

This is not the first time that a government has promised to cut its consumption. Indeed this has been a hardy annual since the mid-70s. What distinguishes the present commitment is that it formalises an effort that is already under way. In the middle of the current fiscal year the government quietly lifted price controls on gasoline and diesel. This has already begun to make a dent in its subsidies on petroleum products — a dent that is reflected, albeit somewhat optimistically in its estimate that these subsidies will fall from Rs 38,386 crore this year to Rs 23,640 crore in 2011-12.

However, the budget estimates Mukherjee presented show that India is far deeper inside the debt trap than most people realise and that it will take far more than a sharp reduction of oil and fertiliser subsidies to put the economy back on an even keel.

The budget data show that the Central government's total expenditure was 2.15 times its tax revenues in both 2008-9 and 2009-10. If this ratio remains unchanged in 2011-12 actual expenditure will be of the order of Rs 14,27,000 crore in 2011-12 and not Rs 12,57,729 crore estimated in the budget. There is nothing in either the budget or the fiscal policy statement to show how the government hopes to achieve such a large reduction.

The answer, that Mukherjee has hinted at but not stated is that continued high growth will push up the rate of growth of tax revenues in 2011-12. The sharp industrial recovery during the second half of last year and the first half of this year  caused a 23 per cent jump in tax revenues.

But will GDP grow by nine per cent next year? Even a cursory examination of the trends in the economy shows that it cannot. Agriculture is slated to grow by 5.4 per cent this year but only because of a rebound from last year's unprecedented drought. Even an excellent monsoon will not permit more than a two per cent growth this year.

Slower growth means an even slower growth of tax revenues. Thus the RBI is making sure that India will continue to sink deeper into a debt trap in the coming year.








For over a week all our newspapers and TV channels kept forecasting a political earthquake of major dimensions which would shake the whole of India as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was going to reshuffle his cabinet of ministers.

The night before this was due, there was a full moon and in fact there was real earthquake in Baluchistan and its tremors were felt in Delhi around 2 am. I, who am a light sleeper, slept soundly and only got to know about it when my daughter asked me if the rumble and shaking had woken me up. A few hours later came what everyone expected — the political earthquake which would shake the country. It did not shake anyone. Many newspapers described it musical chairs which it was not.

In musical chairs the person who does not find an empty chair drops out of the game. In this reshuffle no one dropped out. On the contrary three new players were inducted with some minor changes in ministerial duties. In short, if the reshuffle had not taken place, it would not have made the slightest difference. The only positive result I can think of is that the opposition parties had been hogging with the media as if it had succeeded in reducing the ruling party into a minority and would soon be able to form the government were disappointed.

A couple of ministers indicated their unhappiness over the change of portfolios given to them but no one has declined what has been allotted to him. The reshuffle has been a damp squib; the real reshuffle has been postponed to the Budget Session of parliament due next month. Till then we keep our fingers crossed.

Tiger cub growls

It has been such a long journey
to carry forward the legacy
We have a new scion
called Aditya
Who is by no means a trivia
So spake Aditya Thackeray
While staying with Dadaji
in Matoshree
I was taught the fine art of Dadagiri
He threw out Madrasis from Mumbai
My Pitaji did the same to Bhaiyyas from Bihar & UP
So who is this fellow Rohinton Mistry?
I tell you he is only a
pen-pushing Bawaji
And listen you Mian bhais, Hussain and Rushdie
Your ancestors were taught a lesson by our Shivaji
So can we because we are
sons of our Shatrapati

(Courtesy: Sandeep Dewan, Delhi)

Dedicated to all women

One night President Obama and his wife Michelle decided to do something out of routine and go for a casual dinner at a restaurant that wasn't too luxurious. When they were seated, the owner of the restaurant asked the President's secret service if he could please speak to the First Lady in private. They obliged and Michelle had a conversation with the owner.

Following this conversation President Obama asked Michelle, why was he so interested in talking to you, she mentioned that in her teenage years, he had been madly in love with her.

President Obama then said, "so if you had married him, you would now be the owner of this lovely restaurant", to which Michelle responded, "no, if I had married him, he would now be President."

Ramayan biwiyon ki kahani

Laxman apni biwi ghar pe chhorkar chala aya
Ravan doosre ki biwi utha ke fas gaya
Hanuman ki apni biwi thi hi nahi magar doosre ki biwi
dhundhne mein Lanka jala dali
Ram ko apni biwi wapas laane ke liye 10 din tak 'war'
karni padi wapas lake bhi kya mila?
Ek dhobi ne apni biwi ko
wapas ghar mein nahin liya
to Ram ne apniwali ko 'out' kar diya
Aur end mein kya hua?
Jis biwi ke karan itni badi
Ramayan hui
wo to underground chali gayi
Abhi socho akhaa jhamela
hua kayko?
Kyun ki Dashrath ki 3
biwiyan thi!!!

Pure truth

Message from Sri Ravishankar in Goa: "Having a wife is part of living. But having girlfriend along with wife is "Art of Living".

Holy spirit:

Some people turn to God
Some turn to alcohol
Honestly speaking I don't see any difference
Both ways life is being guided by a spirit
Cheers & God bless


Pharmacist to customer: In order to buy migraine pills, sir, you need a proper prescription... A Picture of your 'wife' is just not enough!

(Contributed by Vipin Buckshey, New Delhi)






I request my friends to keep their acts of magnanimity going!

Last week, a dear friend gifted me a personalised, autographed book by M J Akbar. The book prompted me to count my blessings. Friends, books and knowledge have always come hand in hand. Radha Kannia gave me my first book and thanks to her Ms Enid Blyton changed the course of my life at seven. Company of books became a sure way to remove myself from everyday life and reading was about the only thing that I could do right the first time. The harsh truth that life without books could be dominated by anxiety and loneliness set me off hunting for them. Recognising the desperation Malathi Badami, my class teacher allowed me to borrow books from the school library over the weekend, which was most definitely a special act of generosity.

Mary Corelli's 'Thelma' was given to me by Meera Mukund (which I lost subsequently and have been unable to trace) and from that point friends took on the responsibility of keeping me loaded, a load that was gladly carried. Many a book had to be returned and that was done diligently, albeit reluctantly. Prasanna, who had lent Giovanni Guereschi, perceived this and when she had to relocate, the very same books were given away as parting gifts. These books continue to remain priceless company!

Colleagues haven't disappointed me either and have continued educating me, buying books at railway stations and airport lounges simply because the titles reminded them of a myopic bookworm. A new colleague, barely a few weeks and fewer encounters old, handed over 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen'. My amused expression was met with trust-me-you-will-like-it look and she was right. Works by Arundathi Roy, Shashi Deshpande, Rafiq Zakaria, Meghnad Desai, Bendre, G Krishnappa, Oscar Wilde, Girish Karnad, and many other writers were delivered to me by fine people.

While being extremely grateful to all my friends who've generously educated me, I unabashedly request them to keep their acts of magnanimity going! As Mary Ann Shaffer says in her book 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society', "…perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers!"



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



Hard-pressed Americans are understandably concerned about rising gasoline prices. Republicans predictably are trying to use that anxiety to promote their drill-anywhere-and-everywhere agenda. At his press conference on Friday, President Obama wisely chose not to pander to the appetite for quick or destructive fixes.

He resisted calls to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, saying he would do so only when oil supplies were genuinely threatened. He delivered instead a measured tutorial on this country's need to make itself less dependent on foreign oil, while reminding Americans that a nation that consumes one-quarter of the world's oil while owning 2 percent of its reserves cannot drill its way to energy independence.

This is what leaders do — seize a moment when something like a spike in prices at the pump has grabbed public attention and use it to instruct on larger issues, in this case the need for a saner energy policy and a cleaner energy future. Mr. Obama is good at that.

But there is another thing that leaders do, and that is to push and pull and knock heads and do whatever else is required to make sure those goals are achieved. And on this score, Mr. Obama often falls short, especially on important energy issues.

Case in point: the climate debate last year, which he framed beautifully in his speeches but then tiptoed away from. A few outgunned senators were left to try to get an actual bill passed and, unfortunately, failed.

A similar test confronts him now. As usual, the president has the music right. He said the only plausible strategy to achieve energy independence is to reduce consumption with increasingly fuel-efficient cars and alternative fuels.

As usual, too, Mr. Obama offers a plausible, worthy suite of programs. He promised to continue the search for onshore and offshore domestic supplies of oil and gas, albeit at a safe and measured pace. He pointed out to his Republican critics that domestic production had actually increased last year. (It will almost surely drop next year, though marginally, as a result of the necessary slowdown in drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico, in the wake of the BP oil spill.)

At the same time, he said, he will press for significant new investments in science, in alternative fuels and energy efficiency and, perhaps, most ambitiously, in an alternative vehicles program that is supposed to put one million advanced technology cars on the road by 2015. All of this is aimed at saving, through efficiency alone, as many as the 1.6 million barrels of oil a day now produced in the Gulf of Mexico.

But how hard will he press, and how tough will he be in responding to the challenge the Republicans have already issued?

The Republicans in the House are spoiling for a fight. They are determined to undermine Mr. Obama's authority to regulate greenhouse gases and determined to slash his 2011 budget for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

As we learned in the climate debate last year, Mr. Obama cannot depend on measured words alone to shame his opponents or energize his allies. He must be ready to enter the fray and stay there.





Turkey has long provided a heartening model of democracy for the Muslim world. Now, with so many people in the region demanding freedom, Turkey's government is betraying its values and its citizens, pressuring journalists to mute critical reporting about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his administration.

Last week, a leading investigative journalist, Nedim Sener, was arrested. He had earlier angered the authorities by digging into the 2007 murder of Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist who had also run afoul of the government. More recently, Mr. Sener has questioned the government's handling of an alleged terrorist conspiracy to overthrow the Erdogan government.

He is being held on the astonishing claim that he is somehow part of that conspiracy. His lawyers are not permitted to see any evidence the government may have against him. Human rights advocates fear that he could be detained for years. Similar charges have been leveled against another prominent journalist, Ahmet Sik.

These arrests are the latest fallout from the Erdogan government's seemingly out-of-control conspiracy investigations. A parallel investigation into an alleged military coup plot has resulted in the imprisonment of 1 out of every 10 high-ranking officers.

Neither investigation has yet come up with conclusive evidence of actual conspiracies. But hundreds of journalists have been subjected to criminal investigations for their reporting on these inquiries, leading some newspapers to engage in self-censorship.

Turkey has a painful history of military coups, and if the government has hard evidence of new conspiracies it should investigate and bring those involved to trial. But defense lawyers cannot be denied access to any evidence against their clients, and detaining journalists for what they write must stop. Mr. Erdogan's party must use its parliamentary majority to reform the penal code so that normal investigative reporting can no longer be prosecuted as a crime.

Since Mr. Erdogan took office in 2003, he and his party have changed Turkish society for the better. They have shown that a party rooted in Islam can reinforce democracy by expanding religious freedom. And they have reasserted civilian control over a politicized military. They must now set these spiraling conspiracy investigations on a sounder legal basis, or risk these achievements and their country's democracy.






We are happy to hear that President Obama has decided to restart a pilot program that will allow Mexican trucks to carry goods across the United States. We hope the announcement, which was made last week during a Washington visit by President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, puts an end to Washington's breach of its obligations under the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.

Nafta promised to open shipping between the United States and Mexico to carriers from both countries, starting with the border states in 1995 and expanding to the entire country in 2000. The Teamsters union — fearing the competition — immediately objected that Mexican trucks are unsafe. President Bill Clinton, bowing to the union's power, refused to implement that part of the deal — stopping the Department of Transportation from processing applications from Mexican truckers.

In 2007, President George W. Bush finally started a pilot program to allow some Mexican truckers through and monitor their performance. The Transportation Department found that Mexican trucks and drivers operating here had fewer safety violations than their American counterparts. But soon after taking office, President Obama nixed the program. Mexico retaliated with $2.4 billion in punitive tariffs on American exports.

Suddenly, the Teamsters weren't the only ones with an opinion. Senator Patty Murray of Washington — apples from her state were on the tariff list — took the side of Mexican truckers. So did American pork producers, big equipment companies and other affected industries.

The deal announced by President Obama is not yet fully done. The terms are similar to those in 2007: Mexican carriers whose trucks and drivers meet certain safety requirements will be allowed to transport goods from Mexico across the United States. But the two countries are still working to define exact safety criteria, as well as the statistical standards to determine when it can be made permanent. Then the administration must submit the deal for public comment before it is formalized.

Not surprisingly, the Mexican government remains cautious. It will only lift half the tariffs when the deal is signed. The other half will come off when the first Mexican trucker is allowed into the United States.

The performance of Mexican truckers should be monitored. But if their good record continues, the United States must do what it promised 17 years ago and open American highways to all approved Mexican trucks.






The presidential race is barely under way, but already we have had our first Big Thought. I am speaking, of course, of Newt Gingrich's suggestion that he was driven into serial adultery by hard work and patriotism.

"There's no question that at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and that things happened in my life that were not appropriate," he told an interviewer on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

You can imagine how much discussion this sparked. "Will 'feeling passionate about this country' become the new 'hiking the Appalachian Trail'? " asked Bruce Handy of Vanity Fair.

Really, the concept explains quite a bit. New York's former governor, Eliot Spitzer, worked a lot. And right now New York City is reeling over the indictment of a powerful state senator, who turns out to have had a secret life in a waterside mansion that he shared with two male gynecologists and their mother. We are still sorting out the details, but I can tell you that this guy used to be the chairman of the Finance Committee. You can only sit through so many hearings on tax policy before the call of the wild starts ringing in your ears.

Also, whenever I hear "former Mayor Rudy Giuliani" I think of patriotism and round-the-clock dedication to the job. Also, about the time he called a press conference to announce that he and his wife were separating and the wife, who hadn't heard, started telling reporters about an affair she believed Rudy had had with a female staffer.

Gingrich is asked about his personal life more often than most politicians. If you're on your third wife, cheated perpetually on the first two, and are running for the Republican presidential nomination as a social conservative, these things come up.

The most famous story about Gingrich's failed marriages is about his first wife, Jackie, who had been Newt's high school math teacher before he appeared at her door and suggested a new equation. Jackie was recovering from surgery for uterine cancer when her husband walked in and started talking about the terms of a divorce.

She is not to be confused with the second wife, Marianne, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was visiting her mother when her husband called to tell her there was another woman.

Anyway, you can see how the topic of Gingrich's home life would come up. Generally, he doesn't seem all that thrilled by the invitation to explain himself. But he was very chatty on the Christian Broadcasting Network. Perhaps this was because of the way the interviewer, David Brody, phrased his question.

"Talk about a forgiving God?" he asked.

Newt was quite forthcoming about both God's readiness to forgive him and the much, much better lifestyle he has embraced now that he's found true love with Wife No. 3, converted to Catholicism and "learned an immense amount."

People, can we all agree now that men who spend their early and middle ages betraying women right and left are not allowed to get credit for discovering the joys of monogamy at about the same time that they receive their first Social Security check?

Of course, Gingrich is being a better husband this time around. He's 67! By then, most men have not just finished sowing their wild oats. The oats have been harvested, ground up, reprocessed and turned into soggy cornflakes.

"In general, in men and women, the sexual hormones decrease as you age. It's a lot of work, dating and managing multiple partners," says Rose Hartzell, a therapist at the San Diego Sexual Medicine Center.

God forgives you at any age, but voters should only reward reformations that occur before the miscreant receives his first copy of the AARP bulletin.

Gingrich offered up his analysis of the cause of his sexual indiscretions when he appeared with other presidential hopefuls at an event in Iowa sponsored by the Faith and Freedom Coalition. This is a group established by the former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, who is recovering from a fall from grace himself. Reed's involved secretly working with the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff to block a ban on Internet gambling. Which I do not believe is the sort of thing you can blame on a heavy schedule and the flag.

In his public life, Gingrich's rhetoric is less forgiving than apocalyptic. His speech in Iowa was laced with attacks on Democrats ("secular socialists") and a call for "a political change so deep and so profound that nothing we have seen in our lifetime is comparable." He has called Barack Obama "authentically dishonest," and "a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president."

If only Obama had committed adultery instead of health care reform, I'm sure they'd be getting along a lot better.






Should the government have a significant role in reducing childhood obesity?

That's the question the Pew Research Center began asking poll respondents a few weeks ago. Nearly 60 percent said yes. Only about 40 percent said no.

This is a remarkable change in public sentiment from 2005 when the Harvard School of Public Health asked a similar question and got almost the exact opposite result.

So what happened in the intervening years? One major occurrence has been the push by the president and first lady to combat the problem. Their initiatives promote commonsense approaches like increased breast-feeding, better diets and more exercise. Who could argue with that? The right, that's who.

True to form, anything the Obamas support, no matter how innocuous or admirable, the right reflexively rejects, sometimes in malicious tones. Rush Limbaugh went so far as to comment on the first lady's own weight as part of his criticism last month. (I have to bite my tongue and bind my fingers to keep from pointing out the obvious hypocrisy.)

So with that as background, one can see why the Pew poll found that only 49 percent of whites, 45 percent of the elderly, 41 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of those who agree with the Tea Party movement also agreed with the majority on this question. "Their Nanny State is trying to control our Kitchens!" (Oh, like how the right's Daddy State has tried for decades to control our bedrooms? I get it, but I digress.)

The right objects even though, as the accompanying chart illustrates, many of the more conservative states, particularly in the South, are also the ones that struggle the most with obesity.

Now many would rightly argue that the data don't delineate to what degree conservatives expressly contribute to the problem. And they'd argue that large percentages of minorities — who have higher obesity rates and are more Democratic — in many of those states could skew the numbers.

Fair points, but they don't erase the anomaly.

Even when you strip away all minorities and only compare obesity rates among whites, the highest rates are still in West Virginia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee.

Even so, they'd say, there is no way to know how many of those whites are conservative. Yes, but — since John McCain averaged 71 percent of the white vote in those states in 2008 — it is safe to assume that many are.

Anyway, this really shouldn't be a partisan issue. This should be an all-hands-on-deck issue, including the hands of the government.

And red states, many of which are now the biggest losers in the fight against childhood obesity, have the most to gain.






The United States is not racked with the turmoil that is shaking the Arab world, or the tragic devastation that has hit Japan. We are not in a state of emergency. We're in a moment when it is possible to look thoughtfully at the American landscape and take rational steps to ensure a better, more sustainable future.

But we're not doing that. The big news out of Washington this week was Representative Peter King's Muslim witch hunt. Policy makers at all levels of government are talking austerity — sometimes sensibly, but most often mindlessly. Creative ideas regarding energy, education, jobs and so forth have trouble even getting a hearing.

Now comes Senator John Kerry hoping to buck the frustrating tide with a modest proposal. He mentioned in a speech in January that through most of its history America could build things — not just manufacture goods, but build the infrastructure that is required for a nation to be great: "We built a transcontinental railroad. We built an interstate highway system. We built the rockets that let us explore the farthest edge of the solar system and beyond."

But that time has passed, and it's not an overstatement to say that unless we atone for our infrastructure sins the high tide of American greatness will have passed as well. How is it, for example, that we don't already have in place the infrastructure policies to support the vast potential of the green energy market, projected to surpass $2 trillion by the end of this decade?

It's an investment opportunity not to be missed. But somehow the United States is missing it. "Two years ago," said Senator Kerry, "China accounted for just 5 percent of the world's solar panel production. Now it boasts the world's largest solar panel manufacturing industry, exporting about 95 percent of its production to other countries, including the United States. We invented the technology, but China is reaping the rewards."

It would cost the United States a staggering amount to get its overall infrastructure into decent shape — the best recent estimate is $2.2 trillion over the next five years. Without substantial investments, we're in danger of being overwhelmed by an enormous range of problems, including ever-longer commutes, an inadequate energy grid, difficulties getting commercial products to market, breakdowns in essential communications and the loss of industries, investments and jobs to competitors overseas.

The investments are essential, but where is the money to finance them?

Senator Kerry will introduce legislation next week to create a federal infrastructure bank — officially, the American Infrastructure Financing Authority — to provide loans and loan guarantees to large, essential infrastructure projects. The loans will be seed money used to leverage other sources of funding.

"These are strictly loans — not grants — for commercially viable projects," the senator said. "The federal government does no more than 50 percent of the loan. We expect that to leverage $600 billion or so in infrastructure investments over time."

Mr. Kerry said the initial cost to the government would be $10 billion. Other proposals to establish an infrastructure bank have been more ambitious and more expensive. Senator Kerry is anticipating — or, at least, hoping for — bipartisan support and a nod from the Obama administration for this more modest initiative.

We've moved so far from that forward-looking, can-do philosophy of prior eras that there is a danger that we really are incapable of preventing the nation's infrastructure from deteriorating further. We've seen how catastrophic that can be. New Orleans was all but lost for want of an adequate system of levees and floodwalls. Thirteen people were killed in the rush-hour collapse of the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. Natural gas pipelines are blowing up in city after city. And the sorry condition of so many streets and highways contributes, at least in part, to the deaths of thousands of motorists every year.

Creation of an infrastructure bank would be an important indication that leaders in Washington are still capable, despite most of the available evidence, of moving beyond partisan paralysis to engage one of the biggest challenges facing the country. If there is such a thing as a master key to a better American future, investment in the nation's infrastructure would be it. That is the biggest potential source of jobs. That is how you build the foundation for new and innovative industries.

I sometimes try to imagine New York City without its subways, or the United States without the interstate highway system. Those kinds of projects could not be built today. Try to imagine life in the 21st century without the Internet. Imagine if we had never gone to the moon.

Maybe that's what's missing today. The ability to imagine.






HERE'S a statistic you may not be aware of: about 50 percent of the world's uncultivated, arable land is in Africa. This abundance of potential farmland offers Africa the opportunity to feed itself and to help feed the rest of the globe. But consider another statistic: because of poor roads and a lack of storage, African farmers can lose up to 50 percent of their crop just trying to get it to market.

In other words, Africa needs not only greater investment in agriculture, but also in roads, ports and other facilities that are vital to moving the land's products to consumers. Fortunately, part of the solution could lie with the almost 23 million African migrants around the globe, who together have an annual savings of more than $30 billion. Tapping into this money with so-called diaspora bonds could help provide Africa with the equipment and services it needs for long-term growth and poverty reduction.

These diaspora bonds would be in essence structured like any bonds on the market, but would be sold by governments, private companies and public-private partnerships to Africans living abroad. The bonds would be sold in small denominations, from $100 to $10,000, to individual investors or, in larger denominations, to institutional and foreign investors.

Preliminary estimates suggest that sub-Saharan African countries (excluding South Africa, which doesn't have significant emigration) could raise $5 billion to $10 billion a year through diaspora bonds. Countries like Ghana, Kenya and Zambia, which have fairly large numbers of migrants living abroad in high-income countries, would particularly profit from issuing diaspora bonds.

There are precedents for such moves. Greece announced this week that it was preparing to issue $3 billion worth of diaspora bonds in the United States. India and Israel have issued diaspora bonds in the past, raising over $35 billion, often in times of financial crises.

Why would diaspora bonds work so well? For one thing, the idea taps into emigrants' continuing patriotism and desire to give back to their home countries. And because diaspora populations often build strong webs of churches, community groups and newspapers, bond issuers would be able to tap into a ready-made marketing network.

Another advantage of diaspora bonds for African countries is that migrants make more stable investors in their home countries than people without local knowledge. They're less likely to pull out at the first sign of trouble. And they wouldn't demand the same high rate of interest as a foreign investor, who wants to compensate for the risk of investing in what would seem to them like a relatively unknown developing country.

Diaspora bonds could also be issued in the local currency, as migrants are likely to be less averse to the risk of currency devaluation. That's because members of the diaspora have more use for local currency than foreign investors; migrants can always use it when they go back home or for family-related expenses.

Take, for example, an African living in the United States who now earns an annual interest rate of less than 1 percent on small deposits; a diaspora bond with an interest rate of about 5 percent certainly might seem attractive. To make the bond even more appealing, the countries the migrants reside in could provide tax breaks on interest income. Donor or multilateral aid agencies could also offer credit enhancements in the form of partial guarantees, to mitigate default risks.

Even more money could flow into Africa if countries tapped into the billions of dollars that members of the diaspora send home each year by using those remittances as collateral to raise financing from international markets. This approach has allowed banks in several developing countries — including Brazil, Egypt, El Salvador, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Mexico and Turkey — to raise more than $15 billion since 2000.

Here's how this works: When a migrant transfers foreign currency to a relative's creditworthy bank in his home country, the bank pays out the remittance from its holding of local currency. That transaction creates a foreign currency asset equivalent to the size of the remittance, which can be used as collateral for borrowing cheaply and over the long term in overseas capital markets.

Such borrowing has no effect on the flow of money from migrants to their beneficiaries. Yet development banks, national banks in developing countries and donor agencies can partner to harness enough remittances and create enough collateral to raise significant sums of money to invest in agriculture, roads, housing and other vital projects.

The people of Africa are scattered around the globe, but many still feel a powerful sense of belonging to the continent. Through diaspora bonds and remittances, they could create a better future for their homeland.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the managing director of the World Bank. Dilip Ratha is the manager of its Migration and Remittances Unit.






There is no way to calculate fully the benefits that have transformed Chattanooga, and have done good things for all the people and countless institutions throughout our community, as a result of the fabulous philanthropy of the late T. Cartter Lupton and the many members of his family, who have followed his example for decades.

Now, significant changes are taking place in the Lupton family's generous Lyndhurst Foundation, to continue the use of its large assets in many constructive ways.

Cartter Lupton was a major businessman in Chattanooga and an early investor in Coca-Cola bottling. Now, everyone is aware of how "Coke" has permeated the world!

For many years, Lupton sought ways to use the huge proceeds from "The pause that refreshes" for extensive good through very quiet philanthropy. In fact, most people did not know the source of his abundant benefactions.

Some of those involved in the good work that Lupton sponsored alluded to him simply as "Mr. Anonymous."

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the Tennessee Aquarium, the Chattanooga downtown redevelopment, the 21st Century Waterfront development, Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise for improvement of our community, widespread public and private education grants, the River City Co. and many other positive initiatives and institutions have prospered because of support from the Luptons.

The elder Lupton's Lyndhurst Foundation (named for his Riverview home) was first instituted in 1938 as the Memorial Welfare Foundation. After Lupton's death in 1977, his son, John T. "Jack" Lupton, carried on the Lupton tradition, with other members of their extended family, until Jack's death in 2010.

Since then, other family members and their valued associates have continued admirable service of many kinds.

Now, new ideas are being adopted to make beneficial use of the $193 million of current Lyndhurst Foundation assets, for continuing constructive uses in the future.

Though most Lyndhurst funds will remain focused on Chattanooga, new foundations funded by Lyndhurst will be guided by five grandchildren of the elder Lupton: Alice L. Smith, Katherine Cros-land Juett, Margaret L. Gerber, George R. Fontaine and T. Cartter Lupton II. Some of the foundations will probably be based in other cities.

Next year, the Lyndhurst Foundation will be governed by a 10-member board: Monique Berke, Stephen Culp, Katherine Currin, Kathleen Hunt, James Kennedy, Alison Lebovitz, Jimmy McGinness, Kincaid Mills, Rob Taylor and Peggy Townsend.

They have accepted the big challenge of continuing the tremendous example of the Lupton family, which has done so much for the people of Chattanooga and our whole area.

What a wonderfully generous and beneficial model the Lupton family and its allied philanthropists have set for our marvelous and beloved community!





The world watched in horror Friday as an offshore earthquake and resulting tsunami killed hundreds in Japan and threatened damage as far away as the Pacific coasts of North and South America.

Warnings were issued and evacuations were ordered along coastal areas stretching from Alaska to California.

While the loss of life in Japan was tragic, it is amazing that the extremely powerful quake and tsunami did not kill far more people.

The magnitude 8.9 earthquake generated a 23-foot tsunami that hit the eastern coast of Japan, sweeping miles inland and destroying homes and causing widespread fires and power outages. Early estimates put the death toll there at least in the hundreds, though it was likely to rise. Strong aftershocks were continuing in the region.

Then the tsunami sped across the Pacific at an astonishing 500 mph! It struck Hawaii, but with less force than it had hit Japan, so damage there was light. Residents of Hawaii and tourists visiting the state also benefited from having ample warning, so they were able to seek shelter before the waves arrived. The United States' West Coast was also spared major damage.

The quake and tsunami stirred memories of the devastating 2004 tsunami that killed approximately 230,000 people in Far Eastern nations such as Indonesia and Thailand.

The Indian Ocean quake that caused that tsunami was stronger than even Friday's powerful quake near Japan. That helps explain why so many more people died in the 2004 tsunami. Another reason for the vast difference in the death tolls is that many of Japan's buildings are sturdier than those in some of the impoverished nations that were struck in 2004.

We lament the loss of life and the destruction of property caused by this latest quake and tsunami. But we give thanks that the destruction was not much worse.






There is no excuse in the United States — where our First Amendment guarantees ample means for the people to speak their minds and otherwise peacefully seek change — to resort to lawbreaking to try to bring about change.

But some seem to believe that breaking the law to "get their way" on a political matter is acceptable.

In Wisconsin, union members demonstrating against a sensible plan to limit government workers' collective-bargaining "rights" clogged the Capitol for weeks, often staying overnight in violation of administrative rules at the building. A judge finally had to order their expulsion.

Then, after the Wisconsin Senate approved the limits on collective bargaining, protesters massed at the Capitol and tried to block lawmakers in the lower house of the Wisconsin Legislature from entering their chamber to vote on the bill.

That's government by mob force, not by rule of law!

People have differing views on the dispute in Wisconsin, and peaceful demonstrations are protected by the First Amendment, provided they adhere to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions. But state officials estimate that the protesters have done millions of dollars in damage inside and outside the building. That is not defensible, much less constitutionally protected.

An unrelated case in Utah also shows the contempt with which some view the rule of law. There, an environmentalist has been convicted of running up the bids at a federal auction for oil and gas leases. His goal was to prevent drilling by making the leases impossible to afford. But his $1.8 million bids were false because he did not have the money to cover them. So he appropriately faces possible prison time.

Speaking up in dissent is a cherished American liberty and tradition. Trying to bring about change through fraud or violation of legitimate laws is not.






It's that time of year. Our time changes at 2 a.m. Sunday. So before you go to bed Saturday night, change your watches and clocks — one hour ahead.

You know the formula: "Spring forward" in the spring. We'll "fall back" next fall.

And we'll be "on time."







What are the definition, content and attraction of the "Turkish model"? Roughly, it is the efforts to sustainably widen the sphere of democracy; enabling representation and participation of all social groups; keeping contradictions together without turning them into conflicts; preparing the ground for political Islam to exist in a secular environment; trying to duly modernize; and creating a form of living together while having respect for fundamental rights and freedoms. Has Turkey achieved this and reached stability? No. Anyway it is impossible to talk about static, invariable stability for any society, but societies reaching higher standards and therefore attaining sustainable stability do exist.

Since 1983, i.e. for over a quarter century, Turkey has obviously kept trying to go in this direction. The momentum created by the revitalization of the European Union membership bid in 1999 doubled efforts from there on. As we reached 2005, the Republic of Turkey perhaps had never been so such self-confident, so sure of itself. Since then, this new actor has begun to determine its foreign policy more independently. It has started to take initiatives, develop projects, and make suggestions regionally and internationally. The "model country" that was born out of such developments gradually came onto the agenda. Turkey has reached stability and become a country exporting stability. However, as visibility abroad increased along with frantic efforts in this direction, difficulties inside became more visible. First question marks began to appear: How meaningful is it for Turkey to be a model for its region while it is far away from resolving its own mess?

In fact, after 2005 we see that reformist willpower slowed down, European strong winds weakened and the political situation got tenser. Nevertheless the government kept taking initiatives and steps to widen the sphere of democracy though slowly and inadequately. There appeared the second series of questions asked by both national and international observers: Could a Turkey deprived of (EU) standards necessary for its democratic transformation and for the solution of its age-old internal and external problems manage the transformation on its own?

Today, answers to both questions are palpable: In such a Turkey neither problem is solved deservedly, therefore the "model" cannot set a precedent.

Looking at the empty half of the glass

If we take a bird's eye-view of the government's recent reform initiatives, the scenery is quite blurred. No matter if these steps are taken inside the country or outside, they are either inadequate or they recede to old habits, as very recently seen. It is impossible to mention worthwhile progress in initiatives taken both domestically and abroad compared to that of the period 2002-2004, perhaps except for a new dialogue with Greece. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying, "No steps have ever been taken." Indeed historic cases of Ergenekon and "Balyoz" (Sledgehammer) are proceeding but steps are insufficient in face of the gravity of issues.  

The fate of normalization with Armenia is unknown. The Cyprus knot has happened to turn into a Gordian knot due to the revolt of Turkish Cypriots. Alevi and Kurdish initiatives have ended in total fiasco. Ameliorations toward non-Muslims have always fallen short. Constitutional changes were sufficient neither for demilitarization nor for judicial reforms. No progress has been made against human rights violations. In a Turkey heading to the elections, talking about fair political representation is not possible. Political parties are racing against each other in order not to discuss the new Constitution. And the list goes on and on. Blaming the Republic of Cyprus and Mr. Sarkozy is irrelevant for so many loopholes.

Opening up of "closed" societies in our region, their ending post-colonial tutelage and turning into full fledge actors can pull higher the level of standards presented by Turkey and of the model set by Turkey. It also will make deficiency more visible. For instance, it will come to the light that coexistence with Christians in these societies is way more harmonious than in Turkey.

Therefore, democratic demands of the region may not be met by Turkey's raw model. For Turkey the safest way of becoming a model is to strengthen its democracy, raise standards, and institutionalize achievements both inside and abroad.

A visa note

In the presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister Erdoğan was rioting the other day, "Passports of our businessmen look like a book!"  The visa issue is as political as it is legal.

The EU countries began to require visa from Turkish citizens due to asylum pressure following the Sept. 12 1980 military takeover in Turkey. Greece has started visa requirement earlier, after Turkish citizens of Greek origin were kicked out from Istanbul in 1964. Our businessmen are subject to unfair competition in the EU market where we are a part of through the Customs Union since January 1996. Students, researchers and relatives of five million Turkish descents living in Europe are being tormented in visa application lines. We all know that.

The EU has already lifted visa requirements for other candidate countries before their accession. Even the Balkan countries, Russia and Ukraine, which are not in the membership process, are subjected to no visa regime applied by the EU, or considerable facilitations are provided for their citizens. Today, the EU denies Turkey visa facilitation although it has recently fulfilled required technical and legal steps. At the EU Interior and Justice Council meeting on Feb. 24 in Brussels, Austrian, Bulgarian, Danish, Dutch, French, German and Romanian ministers refused to give the European Commission mandate to negotiate visa facilitation with Turkey. There exists no legal ground to such an attitude. Europeans simply say "Don't get too closer to me" by using visa obstacle toward the "other" that materializes in Turkey.

The "other" is not an alien living in a different planet. On the contrary, he/she is a Turk, or a Pakistani or from Maghreb who present a threat to European by getting closer to him/her. The fear of "other" is an existentialist angst, a pathological situation concretized through visa argument.






Since the wave of revolts started in North Africa and Middle East and the Tunisian and Egyptian people toppled their dictators, "the Turkish model" has been a widely entertained topic among some Turkey observers in Washington, who believe Turkey could be a future model for those countries.

Especially in the case of Egypt, its strong and stable military institution reminds people of the Turkish military, an institution that has stayed intact and strong since the Turkish Republic was formed. In addition to this stabilizing military factor, Turkey's own multi-party democracy in a Muslim-majority country was obviously also a component of the "model" discussions.  

In addition to these, the leader of Pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party, or AKP's, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's strong call to Egyptian dictator Hosni Mobarak to step down a week after the revolution started there padded Turkey's democratic credentials even further. For a while, revolts for freedom and democracy in the region appeared to direct much attention to Turkey as well and boosted its image as a democratic role model.

During the weeks of uprisings, the messages that came from Ankara very much echoed those of Washington's during much of the Egyptian revolution. Various Turkish and U.S. officials, during the off- and on-the-record conversations, confirmed that both countries in recent weeks had been even closer to each other, consulting on a daily basis.

Now, however, as the Libyan uprising has turned into a civil war, Ankara's closer relations with Washington have also turned sour. Erdoğan first opposed any sanctions on the Libyan regime, then took up a very strong "anti-colonial" rhetoric against the West, accusing it of going after "its own oil interests" instead of humanitarian situation. (What was Turkey's policy again?)

While Turkey is diverging from the West sharply on the Libyan case, a new round of journalist arrests last week was greeted like a cold shower in Western capitals, Brussels and Washington alike. Brussels slammed Turkey with its latest Turkey report, a resolution ratified by the European Union' Foreign Affairs Committee that is widely seen as the most critical report in recent years.

In Washington though, U.S. officials, journalists and region experts were busy this week trying to understand what exactly is happening in Turkey and asking questions instead of answering or commenting this time.

While writing this column, the Washington Post's editorial, "Turkey's bad example on democracy and authoritarianism," came online as a signal that reflected Washington's changing tone toward Ankara.

"The recent arrests are a good example of what sometimes looks like an assault on liberal democratic values... [Turkey] is clearly headed in the wrong direction... If Turkey ceases to become a functioning democracy with unquestionably free media, neither Arab states nor anyone else will look to Turkey as a mentor," the editorial said.

This editorial should not only be taken as mere support from a Western peer to Turkish journalists. The U.S. administration has also been quite taken aback by the latest arrests in Turkey and according to well-placed sources, it is now in a reassessing mode over what is happening with the Ergenekon case and the latest arrests.

One well-informed Washington source commented that the "for years, the AKP secured the EU's and Washington's support while its leadership emerged to ask for more political freedom in Turkey and undertook reforms."

Especially in the last 10 years, the AKP's reformist posture on the path of EU full membership negotiations gained a lot of fans in the West, while the secular and nationalist opposition of Turkey often appeared to be going against the freedom tide.

For years, Turkey's religious and conservative segments read the Western human rights ideas better, spoke its language of freedom astutely, and found a refuge in Western circles whenever Turkey's statist and authoritative reflexes were resurfaced.

Even though WikiLeaks and Cablegate shattered some of the perception that Washington was behind Turkey's Islamic AKP, a significant component of opposition in Turkey always believed that the George W. Bush administration's freedom agenda and greater Middle East project was test-driving the AKP for the region.

Finding such a conspiratorial solution made it easier for Turkey's secular opposition to deal with rising conservative intellectual ideas and conservative economic clout in Turkey.  

This week though, we witnessed that the roles might be changing. Erdoğan described European Parliament's report as an ordered study prepared by group of people who did not know Turkey at all.

"There is no balance in this report. Excuse me, but I believe the people who have prepared this document lack balance. Because, the expressions used in the report do not describe the freedom of the press in Turkey," he said.

Turkey's chief EU negotiator, Egemen Bağış, who will come to Washington next week, also reacted angrily to the EU report, and it will be worthwhile to see how he will be able to defend Turkey's freedom record in Washington.

As president Barack Obama called on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to step down openly, the U.S. and EU have clearly positioned themselves "against" Gadhafi, and this means that if Gadhafi holds on the power, the American leadership, as well as the West, will be defeated.

Ankara on the other hand, must be fully aware that it is positioning itself across from the Western allies on Libya.  

Whether the U.S. would ever go for another military operation while trying to withdraw from Iraq and the still-escalating war in Afghanistan – and during days of budget austerity – is the million-dollar question.

So far in Tunisia and Egypt, where security forces mostly avoided firing on civilian protesters, regimes were toppled. Now in case of Libya though, Gadhafi has been using security forces brutally to bomb civilians and his future win will not set a good example for other autocratic leaders in the region who are desperately looking for ways to stay in power.

Within a week or two, Turkey has not done anything visible to stop or lessen this latest scenario.

In brief, recent weeks' Turkey increasingly looks like a bad model that reminds one of Mubarak's old regime supporting Gadhafi's still-surviving, thuggish one.

Not a recommendable mix to be a good model.

CHP visiting Washington

Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, is sending a delegation which consists of half-a-dozen people to Washington at the end of March for a couple of days.

Even though there are still more then two weeks until the visit, the timing of it, as the AKP is coming under much criticism in Washington, makes it more important.

For years, Washington has not hosted a CHP delegation and this will be a rare opportunity to listen to what the CHP has to offer as an alternative to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu foreign policy under the AKP.

While nobody from the opposition has been coming to Washington for years, the AKP filled the vacuum and indeed made a lot of headway. Washington's Turkey observers have been well versed by the Turkish foreign minister's vision during these years.

After a long time, the CHP's delegation, without a doubt, will attract much attention during their engagements, both with U.S. officials and various think-tank discussions.

We will see what alternative messages, if any, will be brought to Washington.






It must be hard to be a foreign observer and try to sort out what Turkey exactly is. For this is a truly mind-boggling, sometimes maddening country. Its people have totally opposite narratives about the destiny of the nation and the causes of its misfortunes.

The founder of the country, for example, is a demigod for many Turks, whereas he is a ruthless dictator in the eyes of others. The demigod of some Kurdish citizens, on the other hand, is for the majority a "terrorist master" who should have been executed long ago. What is absolutely black for some is the purest tone of white for the other.

And now, as if we did not already have all these stark divisions, we have the Ergenekon probe which divides the country into two diametrically opposite camps.

The two camps

For the first camp, the Ergenekon probe is the best thing that has ever happened to Turkey. It is a brave effort by heroic prosecutors to unearth the criminal gangs within the state (or the criminal side of the state) and its civilian allies. Every measure taken by the authorities in this probe is absolutely rightful and necessary.

The second camp thinks that all of this is a big lie and Ergenekon is just a myth created by the incumbent Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and its allies. They either totally deny that there was a coup scheme against the government, as the prosecutors claim. Or they see the coup scheme as a justified and even glorious duty of the patriots against the mistaken democratic choices of the nation.

The readers of this column might be aware that I have been roughly in the first camp – and certainly not in the second one. Yet, with developments of the past few weeks, and due to my concerns regarding a somewhat parallel case (called "Sledgehammer"), I guess I am shifting to a third position now: that the Ergenekon probe is indeed rightful and crucial, but it has excesses that growingly cause serious concern.

The case is rightful, for the existence of a military coup coalition that had various activities in the past decade is, for me, undeniable. Hence, the launching of the Ergenekon probe was crucial in not just a legal but also political sense. In other words, it not only brought some culprits to justice but it also prevented them from realizing their goals.

Indeed, it is fair to say that the AKP would have been overthrown by now had there been no Ergenekon case. Even the 2008 closure case against the AKP, which was a civilized form of a coup attempt, testifies to that. The AKP survived the case, quite barely, partly thanks to the Ergenekon probe. For the latter redefined the most serious criminal act that the closure case had attributed to "the encouragement of the Islamists by the AKP": the shooting of a secular judge at the Council of State in 2006. In the Ergenekon indictment, the suspected killer, Alparslan Arslan, is accused of being an ultra-nationalist who carried out a false flag operation on behalf of Ergenekon.

On the other hand, the excesses of the case that I am speaking about include things such as the extremely long arrest periods, especially for journalists who are accused to be involved in the coup plot. More importantly, the prosecutors seem to have taken a very worrying leap recently, by considering "propaganda on behalf of Ergenekon" as a crime as well. For me, this is unacceptable and will lead us to none other than an ideological witch hunt.

But why are the prosecutors so excessive?

The common mind

The second camp that I referred to – the all-of-this-is-a-big-lie choir – finds the answer in a conspiracy theory: The AKP and/or its Islamic allies are willing to crush all their opponents by using Ergenekon as a pretext. They further argue that all the evidence found by the police was simply fabricated by the same police.

I refuse to agree with that conspiratorial mind, and I find the explanation for the case's excesses in the exact same problem: the conspiratorial mind – this time, that of the police, the Ergenekon prosecutors and their unconditional supporters.

In other words, while the second camp believes in a grand Islamist conspiracy that fabricated Ergenekon ex nihilo, the first camp believes in a grand secularist conspiracy that reaches out everywhere through Ergenekon. Yet both pictures seem exaggerated.

(A case in point: Although Turks might be bitterly divided on political issues, they are quite united through political culture, which includes affinity to paranoia.)

The right thing to do, I believe, is to buy into none of these sweeping arguments, and to look at every element of the Ergenekon case separately and try to assess what is really going on. My sense is that some of the suspects are truly criminal people, whereas others might be just their ideological buddies.

Of course, the judges will give the verdict on all of that. But, meanwhile, they would do all of us a great favor if they decide not to keep the suspects, especially the journalist ones, in custody for many months, even years.






Turkey was a key player again this year – just like it was last year – at the ITB Berlin Tourism Fair, one of the biggest in the world.

While you are heading from the international airport in Berlin toward downtown, the Turkey billboards en route are very striking.

Turkey was a "partner country" at the Berlin Fair last year.

This year Turkey is not in the same boat. However, according to Cumhur Güven Taşbaşı, the Culture and Tourism Ministry's general manager for promotions, the money spent for the fair this year is equal to what was spent last year, 2.5 million euros.

The Berlin Fair is an important meeting point for leading figures of the Turkish tourism sector, local administrators and civil society organizations in the area. About the fair, I want to stress the remarks of Taşbaşı in particular.

"We didn't even have a place to sit here in 2000. But in 2011, we have expanded to an area of 3,200 square meters."

Only this remark is enough to explain the point Turkish tourism sector has reached in a decade.

The number of tourists, which was approximately 10 million in 2000, is 28 million today.

And the anticipated figure for 2011 is over 30 million.

$25 billion revenue in 2011

During shoot-the-breeze conversations at the Berlin fair, tourism agencies agree on "Tourism is Turkey's oil." And the reason for that is the dazzling rate of increase.

The revenue of "Turkey's oil" stands at $21 billion in 2010.

Ahmet Barut, chairman of the Turkish Hotels Federation, or TÜROFED, estimates $25 billion of tourism revenue in 2011.

Everyone agrees that tourism is an important income source for Turkey.

However, the money allocated for the Culture and Tourism Ministry is only 0.5 percent of the overall budget.

But for the "sustainability" of tourism, which has been literally ramping up for the last decade, a larger budget and a clear strategy is needed.

"The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report" released by the World Economic Forum, or WEF, last week reveals weaknesses in the Turkish tourism sector.

Turkey is ranked 50th in the list of 130 countries in the report.

According to the WEF, which prepared the Turkey section with the support of Sabancı University, we face problems in transportation infrastructure, security, hygiene and environment.

To culture tourism from sea and sand

I discussed the WEF report in Berlin with Culture and Tourism Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Özgür Özarslan. He says that he was not surprised by the results.

"When you look at eastern Turkey, you don't see a decent hotel. Transportation to some certain regions is quite difficult," Özarslan says.

In short, if Turkey wants to have more income from its oil, more investments are needed.

On the other side of the coin, there is the issue of cultural heritage as tourism operators bring to attention as well.

Michael Frenzel, the chairman of TUI Travel PLC, the biggest tour operator in the world, points out that tourism in Turkey will move from sea-and-sand tourism to more of a culture and city tourism.

Meeting with Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay at the Berlin Fair, Frenzel said they would work on "culture tourism."

It means, for the sake of the future of tourism, Turkey should pay more attention to its cultural heritage that it has neglected so far.

In fact, you see in the WEF report that Turkey is positively evaluated for its sites included in the "UNESCO World Cultural Heritage" list.

Irrespective of its being in the UNESCO list, our cultural heritage should be the apple of our eye.

For instance, we should cancel the project of the "Boynuzlu (Horn) Bridge" which is planned to be built on Haliç (the Golden Horn) but has drawn fierce reaction from UNESCO over concerns it could spoil the silhouette of the Süleymaniye Mosque.

Is protecting the silhouette of the Süleymaniye Mosque, a splendid work of Sinan the Architect, important, or the traffic, which could be shifted to a different route?

As tourism becomes a more critical sector for the future, "save the day" policies are excess baggage.






Why is Europe worried about 22,000 civilians who have been displaced due to airborne and land operations launched by the Pakistani army against Taliban, which has gained ground in North Wazirstan? Could it be because a few thousands of them might want to migrate to the West? Likewise, popular movements in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have recently caused panic in Europe. The factor putting Europe on alert? Arabs migrating to the West due to economic concerns, oppression in their countries and fear of death.

In Europe, which is stuck between crisis and security/terror rhetoric, foreigners are seen like a burden, migration like a disaster scenario owing to the replacement of human rights perspective with security concerns. Such a change of mentality will end up as either an opportunity or a disaster: Either the West will create a new (and humanitarian) discourse about migration or its scything policies will go beyond the pale and the continent will become unlivable for immigrants.

Westerners overlooking the humanitarian dimension have inclined to treat foreigners – without making any distinction among them as refugees, asylum seekers or immigrants – like different aspects of the same phenomenon. And that makes the current picture nothing but a two-volume book, the first of which is lost. Therefore, as countries take new and effective steps for having an effective fight with illegal migration, not many people realize how refugees and immigrants are being crushed by such steps.

State guilty of parallel societies

One of the instrumental discourses leaving their mark on migration debates is the fate of the multiculturalism discourse. Recently, British Prime Minister David Cameron declared the bankruptcy of multiculturalism in his country, just like German Chancellor Angela Merkel did a few months ago in her country.

However, Cameron, who has brought attention to a vital issue, has admitted that multiculturalism channels different societies toward having different lifestyles. This is very accurate. And this is also the reason behind why immigrants in European countries look like a parallel society.

On the other hand, the course of discussions over migration and multiculturalism paralyzing Europe points out that the European Union is about to lose respect and commitment to the fundamental values that have been represented by the union for a long time and have become an inspiration for the establishment of the union. It's believed that the EU member countries should be inspired by "universality and the indivisibility of human rights" in their work in the international arena.

But Europe is on the verge of becoming a continent that is slowly turning into a ball of human-made tragedies and exposing immigrants to unbearable conditions, rather than being an inspiration for democracy in its neighbors or other countries. The share of countries choosing interests over values, when they have to make a choice between spreading their values and defending their interests plays a role in this as much as the effect of showing the true color of a human rights and democracy discourse, which takes its cues from the Jewish-Christian legacy when it faces difficulty.

For this reason, we understand why the West insists on evading responsibility in poor countries rather than taking charge on the issue of immigration. It is not difficult to find a contractor third country and turn it into a blind alley for immigrants and refugees. For instance, Libya, Morocco or Ukraine is like the door guard for the EU. And Turkey is about to be added to that list. It is normal if immigration policies transform into discrimination or rejection policies in such an environment. As a result of being subject to discrimination and rejection, immigrants are either putting a distance between themselves and the host society or identifying more with their ethnic backgrounds. And this anguish creates some mental patterns like insecurity and inequality.

Immigrants have rights and responsibilities

All right, but is the West completely wrong to have fears that immigrants intend to change their host societies? That is one of the mistakes immigrants have to face. Immigrants, who are the homeless of the globalization age, should confront the fact that they have no homeland to return to. That is to say, immigrants should remove the bridge between the present and the homeland. One of the factors that make immigrants feel they have interrupted existence is nostalgia.

In addition to that, forced and early marriages; a twisted perception of honor; the maintenance of a tradition of women's oppression; and the exploitation of social opportunities and the tendency to hope for help from radical religious organizations should be abandoned. Meeting the expectations of immigrants are not a favor but a right. However, immigrants should also be aware of their responsibilities as much as their rights.

In the meantime, it should not be forgotten that the definition of immigration has changed as well. The United Nations has determined that a third-generation immigrant is not an immigrant in the host country but is a native. In other words, most of the people who are termed as immigrants in Europe are not immigrants anymore. Therefore, issues of immigrants should be examined not only as the issue of integration but also as a matter of success to respond to multiculturalism in Europe. As Seyla Benhabib puts "The guest is always a potential fellow citizen. Every society has to have institutions enabling 'strangers,' the 'others' to become members."

The solution to the immigration question is found in transforming citizens into tourists. For time removes imaginary and traditional obstacles such as borders, races, social classes, beliefs, ethnicities, visa, citizens, and patriots. It is possible to see the signs of this at present.

However, humanity faces a critical choice in the existence of this unavoidable reality: Will we help facilitate this reality by accepting it or will we recognize the reality after more suffering? The world is a single homeland, and we are its citizens. Everyone is from Earth, everyone is a citizen; but at the same time, everyone is an immigrant and refugee.

* Recep Korkut is a social worker and a journalist who has written articles about minorities, international issues, migration and refugees. Korkut can be reached at






Imagine we ask the following question to people from different business cultures: "Your boss is moving house and asked who would help him to move this weekend. Would you like to volunteer for such a job?"

The emotional responses would be very different as well as the reasoning behind them. Let's have an imaginary and humorous tour around the world.

China: "But of course. The chain of command is what makes us strong."

Germany: "How dare he ask me such a ridiculous question?"

Dutch: "In your dreams…"

United States: "Should I inform Human Resources department about this abusive behavior?"

Japan: "For sure I will. With my master we are bonded for a lifetime." 

French: "Here is another reason why my job (and my life) is so miserable."

Spanish: "Why doesn't he hire movers to do the job?"

Turkish: "I cannot go empty handed. As they will not have time to cook, I must bring some food with me."

In Turkey, your boss – unless he is a character out of a Fellini movie – is a figure who is an extension of your father, mother and your teachers. He is the guy whom you should share the most empathy with. He should be concerned when you are down, advise you, help you and maybe even personally support you when things are not going well. You are a team. You win together, you lose together. He will most probably take you with him when he moves to his next post. You know his family. He knows yours. Under these circumstances, it is very impolite to say no to him. Would you say no to your father, mother or teacher as a kid? No way.

The main motivating factor behind this help is not to invest in a future promotion. It is to enjoy the pleasure of affiliation with your superior. The pleasure of having a chance to pay back what he has done for you. These feelings change with the size of the organization, Westernization and the individualism of the Y Generation, but the current climate, especially in Anatolia, is predominantly as described above. Foreign business executives who understand and develop empathy for this local perspective can use it as a tool for motivation and become a respected leader while keeping their own identity and management style.







One of my favorite things about Muslim-majority Malaysia is that a woman, Zeti Akhtar Aziz, is the nation's economic face.

Investors know her well as the central bank governor. Smart, feisty Zeti personifies what can be in a Muslim world not always known for celebrating the talents and ideas of its female masses. Her prominence in what's become a hub of Islamic finance is a badly needed model for the Middle East.

Women and men don't often live as equals in Muslim society. Yet the world of Shariah-compliant investment is closing the gender gap in unobtrusive ways that deserve more attention than it is getting. The Koran bans the charging of interest, and investing in accordance with it requires the approval of experts. In November, Malaysia's Shariah Advisory Council added a second female scholar to its 11-member board. Indonesia, home to the biggest Muslim population, now has six women on its panel of 35 experts.

Zeti isn't the only Malaysian woman flourishing in a top finance post; the securities commission is also headed by a woman. Also, RAM Rating Services Bhd., which provides ratings for Islamic bonds and sukuks, has a female chief executive officer.

In years past, it was difficult for women to enter the industry, let alone thrive. That phenomenon is not confined to Islamic banking. Look no further than Wall Street, where women are still trying to break through the glass ceiling.

Concrete Barrier

In the Islamic world, though, it's more of a concrete barrier bolstered by culture, history and antiquated perceptions of women.

That's changing slowly, but surely, in an investment class that has been growing 20 percent annually since 2000, with assets exceeding $1 trillion.

Having women in roles of power in such a vital and visible industry is a change agent all its own. I recently raised this issue with financial-sector women in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, and the reactions were fascinating. The initial one tended to be to look around and make sure no one was listening. Next, they would launch into a spirited appeal for greater gender equality in their work orbit.

A common tale is the difficulty in doing business in key Islamic economies such as Saudi Arabia. Women are required to have a male guardian in the Sunni Muslim-majority country. So if you're a female Malaysian or Indonesian banker looking to hawk a bond issue in Riyadh, it's, well, complicated. There are those little things, like getting a travel visa, trying to find a ladies restroom or getting yelled at by police for using the wrong door.

Modernizing Effect

As an American, I always loved it when Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice visited Riyadh as U.S. secretary of state: Yes, we're women and that's an issue for you, but deal with it anyway. The steady increase in female Islamic scholars and bankers in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta could have a modernizing effect on gender perceptions around the globe.

There are few better examples of Islam and modernity coexisting than Kuala Lumpur. It's a place where micro-miniskirts comfortably exist next to headscarves. Where the muezzin's call flowing out from minarets mixes with hip-hop and Lady Gaga.

That's not to say all's well in Southeast Asia's third-biggest economy. A four-decade-old affirmative-action program that benefits ethnic Malays hurts productivity and impedes foreign investment. Ask Chinese and Indian Malaysians about it and they'll give you a mouthful.

Yet economies like Malaysia and Indonesia are offering examples of what could be in the investment world.

Female Empowerment

Over the next five to seven years, as many as 50,000 professionals are needed to meet the demands of the Islamic marketplace. It needs to recognize that the smartest bankers aren't always men. The question is whether these rays of female empowerment in Southeast Asia spread to the Middle East.

To reach its vast potential, Islamic finance will need all the brainpower it can muster, be it male or female. One area of need is Shariah scholars, of which there's a growing shortage. It increases the risk of conflicts of interest as many sit together on various advisory boards at the same time. A bigger pool of experts to discern which investments meet the Koran's requirements is needed.

The interpretive nature of Islamic investment is a risk factor.

Municipal bond investors know all too well that some court could suddenly decide the IOUs they own don't meet the criteria for tax-exempt debt and, wham, you're sitting on losses. Similar shocks could befall Shariah-compliant investments. Women can play a vital role in providing expertise.

Perception Problems

Islamic finance has its perception problems. In Seoul, President Lee Myung Bak is brawling with Christian leaders who object to South Korea's efforts to encourage Shariah-compliant investment. In the U.S., lawmakers in Tennessee want to make it a felony to follow some versions of the Islamic code. Regulators and governments must allay concerns that Islamic investment products don't empower religious extremists.

Yet here's an example of Islamic finance playing a modernizing and equalizing role where it's most needed. To see it in action, all one needs to do is visit Southeast Asia.

* This article was previously published by Bloomberg.






I hate telephones ringing violently in small hours of the night, or early in the morning. Such calls, as has been proven over and over through the years, very rarely carry good news.

"Mr. Kanlı" said a shivering voice on the other end of the line. The voice appeared familiar, but, still struggling to wake up, I could not figure out to whom it belonged. "This is Duygu, the secretary of the Indian ambassador," she said. She was apparently crying on the telephone.

"Well Duygu, what's up?" I asked, little bit annoyed to be woken up so early in the morning.

"Madame Ambassador has instructed me to call friends of Mr. Ambassador and pass on the sad news… This is a very sad day, Yusuf Bey… We have lost our ambassador…"

Knowing the frail health situation of my friend Ambassador Raminder Singh Jassal, who was undergoing cancer treatment for the past many years, perhaps I must have been prepared for such news, but I was in no way prepared for it at all.

So sad… How can such a brave man who was joking with his illness all through the past years give up the struggle and accept defeat against death so silently?

A while ago, after returning from the United States where he was undergoing medical checks several times a year, he told with shining eyes about how his illness momentarily united the Israelis, Palestinians and the Christians of Israel.

"When news of my illness spread out, I was shocked to hear that special prayers were held at both mosques, synagogues and churches through Israel and Palestine for my good health," he had explained that evening. At the time, he was ambassador of his country to Israel and the subsequent posting to Turkey, was in a way, a declaration of his determination not to give up but to battle until the last moment.

That was what he did indeed.

I cherish today those good moments we shared at a modest breakfast on the Bosphorus, the lunches and breakfasts he had for us at the Indian residence, the several-hours-long intellectual discussions on Turkish-Indian relations, the Turkish political situation, Middle East issues or some international hot topics…

Only the other week we had talked on the phone; his voice was full of energy. He was asking whether I had some time for coffee, but I had to apologize as I was packing for a trip to Cyprus. "Last week you were in Bodrum. Now you are going to northern Cyprus. You are traveling alone," he had lamented.

And, I am so sad that we postponed so many times that long-planned trip to Amasra for a fish and rakı night at a beach restaurant. How sad is it to postpone life? I promise, my dear friend Raminder, that though not physically, your memory will be with me next time I visit Amasra. May God rest you in pace.

Dear Smita, I know it was very difficult for you to part from Turkey yesterday with the casket carrying the body of your dear husband, our dear friend Raminder. It was a great shock to hear the sad demise of your loving husband, our dear friend. It is so difficult to accommodate ourselves to this bitter reality and, believe me, I do understand fully the sorrow you have been suffering because of your immense loss. My heartfelt condolences to you, your family and the Indian people. May God give you courage, strength and support and rest Raminder in peace.

Japan rattled

An immense 8.9-magnitude earthquake – the world's fifth largest since 1900, according to the U.S. Geological Survey – struck off the northeast coast of Japan, not only shaking the Far East country but also setting off a devastating tsunami that swept away cars and boats. The human death toll was not yet clear when this article was being penned, but early reports indicated that because of the quake preparedness of Japan, despite up to giant tsunami waves of up to six meters, the death toll might not be as high as is feared. Let's hope that will be the case.

Quake preparedness is important for countries in quake-prone geographies. Turkey is a quake-prone country as well. For many years geologists have been talking about how the biggest city of the country, Istanbul, might be hit at any moment by (not 8.9) but up to a 7.0-magnitude quake, that could kill tens of thousands of people.

Any preparation? Pray to God for help…

What if God is busy with something else when the quake hits Istanbul?






You humans are sometimes funny when we birds try to analyze you. Maybe we should not attempt to analyze you because the more we do the less we understand you. But allow us to be more precise.

When reading the global press, we notice articles and editorials whose author's usually quote the opinions of anonymous analysts. In the WikiLeaks released cables of U.S. embassies, we see and read many opinions of analysts, analyzing situations in various countries to the extent that the author of the cables gives the impression that he has no opinion at all.

The trend of quoting analysts has developed in the last 10 years and is getting worse and worse. But where were these analysts before? Did they exist and were unemployed or were they employed and did not analyze?

We think, and of course we may be wrong, that with the exceptions of a very small number of analysts, the rest do not exist but they are figments of the imagination of the authors who quote them. Let us explain. A newspaper columnist or editor who does not want to publish his own opinion, for reasons of fear or lack of self confidence, invents the nonexistent analyst and presents their own ideas and points of view as belonging to the analyst. The same applies to the cables of the U.S. embassies. There we saw many U.S. diplomats presenting their own analysis to the State Department, through the mouth or pen of an unknown analyst. Why? The answer is simple: If the analysis of the analyst is wrong, then the U.S. diplomat receives no blame. Of course, if the analysis is correct, then the diplomat receives no credit. However, if we look into the State Department cables that have been legally released and describe a period of thirty years ago, there opinions of analysts do not exist, and all U.S. diplomats of the past had the courage to express their own analysis with their signature. Today they hide behind the opinions of non-existent analysts.

But enough of analysis. Let's change subject. Let's go to our neighbor Greece where we were astounded to see during the general strike of Feb. 23, demonstrators using bows and arrows against the police. We were surprised because it had never passed our mind that one could use a bow and arrow in a demonstration. One of the young demonstrators who was arrested, beat up and hospitalized by the police said that he had no intention to hurt anybody and that his act was purely symbolic. Perhaps he may have wanted to bring us back the memory of Robin Hood who stole from the rich to give to the poor. But whatever his intention may have been he has become very popular in Greece.

Ponder our thoughts, dear humans, for your benefit.






Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's heated debates with the European Union officials in Brussels last week once again confirmed the fears that turmoil in Arab countries has played into the hands of the Russian political leadership vis-à-vis the European Union's energy security.

Russia has a track record of playing the energy card to pursue its strategy of containment against the West's efforts to promote democracy and market economy in the former USSR, and it seems now that Russia might get a chance to deploy the strategy of a rollback.

Russian elites have long regarded the establishment of democratic societies in neighboring countries as a conspiracy of the West. Whether the context in question is Russia's gas blackmail in the wake of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the military aggression against Georgia, behind-the-scene manipulation in both Armenia and Azerbaijan with regard to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh or support to the undemocratic regime in Iran, Russia's stance has been indicative of the ruling elite's strong interest in undermining democracy abroad at all costs. Why so? Simply put, it is easier to deal with a like-minded leader capable of holding his parliament and judiciary on a leash and clamping down on free speech than with an upstart democrat sharing his power with a representative parliament, independent judiciary and free press.

In Russia itself, the history of democratic governance dates back to 1991 when Boris Yeltsin became Russia's first democratically elected president. The reforms introduced during Yeltsin's first two years in office exuded optimism for the future of democratization, despite his periodic relapses into authoritarian rule. The macroeconomic policies during the first years of his presidency led to a host of social and economic difficulties causing dissent within the government. The deliberative and participatory approach to societal changes began to quickly weaken the hands of the reformers and before long, the government's economic policies reached a deadlock and resulted in the 1993 constitutional crisis.

In response to the calls for moderation and more consultation, Yeltsin instead implemented repressive methods by disbanding the parliament and ruling by decree, moves which far exceeded the constitutional limits of his office. This "repression" was seen by many as the point of reversal in the process of Russia's democratization. The remaining six years of the Yeltsin era were marked with the emergence of crony capitalism and rampant corruption involving high-ranking officials and eventually a financial crisis in 1998, culminating in the rise to power of Putin, the then-chief of the Federal Security Service.

Upon taking the helm, Putin brought all sectors of the economy under political control, forcing Russian business tycoons to align themselves with Kremlin's politics while sending those who refuse into exile or arrest. Soon, the power was consolidated in the hands of the so-called Siloviki, a group of influential figures from the power ministries. In parallel, the governing elite began forging a new political system that in appearance would have features similar to modern democracy.

The new political language used by the Russian establishment today to describe what is believed to be a unique political system ("sovereign democracy") is quite different from the term applied to Russia and all other regimes in the former USSR by international organizations ("managed, controlled or decorative democracy"). Yet both adjectives clearly refer to the fact that this model of governance has in some important ways departed from the universally accepted definition of democracy. The essence of this new concept is for the government to maintain a system of managed pluralism and freedom while retaining strict control over election outcomes.

Then again this choice of undemocratic political governance at home made by the Russian elite is affecting not only the Russian people; it creates bad influence and lasting negative externalities for the region as a whole. In the rest of the former communist states which are still subject to Russia's enormous political and economic pressure, the policy of containment in regard to the West's "democratization" seems to have been quite successful, with the notable exception of the Baltic states and Georgia. This influence is so strong that the governments in the rest of the region have not only adopted various methods used by the Kremlin to manipulate and imitate democracy at home (such as creating copycats of the pro-Kremlin "Nashi" youth organization, multiple "opposition parties" and NGOs funded by the government or using duplicate candidates during elections), but are also copying the Kremlin's rhetoric about the need to devise a "unique and sovereign form of democracy," as if there are so many different ways of allowing freedom of speech or establishing independent legislature. You either allow it or don't.

Russian elites with their vast resources and far-reaching arms and political leverage in the former Soviet countries will continue to use hard and soft powers to tighten their grip on the political situation in the region and continue to be a formidable obstacle in the path of civil societies in these newly independent states that strive for democratic and participatory rule. It seems like there will be no easy transition to democracy in these countries unless meaningful changes toward democracy start taking place in Russia itself. The bottom line is that the people in the countries neighboring Russia are twice cursed – once for their governments' unwillingness to democratize and twice for having the Russian Big Brother's strong influence hover over their governments.

* Rashad Aliyev is an Edmund Muskie Fellow from Azerbaijan in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland.








The sense that we are millimeters away from a crisis has been with us for months. The consistent contempt shown by the government for the Supreme Court's decisions has contributed to this. We see now a refusal to accept the verdict on the appointment of Justice (r) Deedar Hussain Shah as NAB chairman, a decision that had raised many eyebrows from the moment it was announced last year given his close links with the PPP and the unsuitability of such a candidate to fill a post that demands neutrality and integrity. In response to a petition moved by opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the three-member bench had declared the appointment void. This should hardly have come as a surprise to the PPP given the provision in the 18th Amendment that the opposition leader be consulted before appointing the NAB chief. Yet in both Sindh and the centre, the response has been almost violent. The strike called by the PPP in the province is reported to have led to deaths and to buses being torched and shops being shut down as tension grips Karachi and, according to reports, also other cities. Meanwhile in the centre, after several hectic meetings, the government has decided to reappoint Deedar Shah, claiming it has removed the Supreme Court's objections. This seems implausible at best.

It is worth noting that key PPP allies have distanced themselves from the move. Most interpreters have no doubts that the reason why the PPP wishes to ensure a loyal henchmen heads NAB is to protect leaders against whom many cases of corruption stand. It is also apparent that no system can function smoothly when there is so much unwillingness to abide by the Constitution and disregard court orders. The fear that we may find ourselves facing complete mayhem is growing by the day, indeed by the hour. As had been predicted many weeks ago the government's actions have landed us in very serious trouble indeed. The attempt to use people on the streets against the courts will simply not work. It has already resulted in disrupting normal life in Karachi – and creating a graver crisis than the one we are already locked in. The fragile relations between the judiciary and the executive have once more broken down and once more they appear difficult salvage. Each episode from the past has added to the tensions. The unwillingness of the government to abide by court orders has put the whole system under tremendous pressure. Many wonder how long it can last under the present situation and what can be done to regain some sense of order.







The Pacific Rim is not known as the 'Ring of Fire' for nothing. The tectonic plates that form the edge of the ring are the most active on the planet and are never still. On February 22, the town of Christchurch in New Zealand was struck, and yesterday, in a quake put at M8.9 the eastern coast of Japan was struck by successive deadly waves of tsunami. The quake happened 250 miles offshore at a depth of 20 miles. It is the 'rip' in the seabed and the change in seabed levels that produces the tsunami effect, and the ripples will now spread across the Pacific Ocean probably reaching the coasts of South America about 23 hours after the quake. It is impossible to predict the height of the wave as it sweeps across the low-lying islands of the Pacific, but an official of the Red Cross in Geneva said that the wave could have a peak higher than many of the islands in its path and thus completely overwhelm them and the people that live on them.

As these words are written the confirmed death toll is more than 700 with 'many' missing but few who have seen the dramatic footage streamed live by news helicopters will doubt that the final figure will be many times that. It is a sign of the times that the news networks were faster on the scene than the government in its response, and they filmed live as communities were overwhelmed, cars trying to escape down packed roads were swept away and desperate people stood on the roof of a coastal airport as it disappeared beneath the waters. Darkness fell and the catastrophe was still developing as yet more waves of water reached the shore, and it may be days, perhaps weeks, before the final body count is know. No matter how well-prepared a country may be, and Japan is one of the best-prepared countries on earth when it comes to coping with natural disasters, the magnitude of yesterdays quake is almost beyond comprehension. The economic costs are months away from evaluation, and the four nuclear power stations that are now shut down will need to be fully risk-assessed before they are restarted. Pledges of international aid were swift, but there will be few survivors in the north-east coastal areas to tell their tale. The man-made disasters pale into insignificance compared to what the forces of nature can inflict on us.








India's ruling United Progressive Alliance has just emerged from a crisis precipitated by its Tamil constituent Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham. The crisis involved seat-sharing with the Congress party in the coming elections to the 234-strong Tamil Nadu Assembly. But the episode has singed the Congress, which leads the UPA.

The Congress asked the DMK for 63 seats in place of the agreed 60. Party president M Karunanidhi reacted by threatening to withdraw DMK ministers from the central government, potentially destabilising it.

In the confrontation that followed, the DMK seemingly blinked. The Congress got its 63 seats. The DMK will now contest 12-15 fewer seats than it did five years ago. Congress-DMK differences over seats could have been resolved through discussion. But Karunanidhi precipitated a crisis through brinkmanship. Congress president Sonia Gandhi reportedly told the DMK she wouldn't give in to unreasonable demands. The DMK knew it had overplayed its hand and retreated.

However, it would be wrong for the Congress to adopt a triumphalist stand. It too made concessions to the DMK and has emerged weakened from this episode.

The real dispute wasn't about seat-sharing. At its heart was the DMK's resentment at the Central Bureau of Investigation's probe into the 2G telecom scam, centred on former DMK telecom minister Andimuthu Raja. Raja was sacked from the cabinet and jailed.

Even worse, the CBI net began closing in on the Karunanidhi family. A Rs214-crore link was uncovered between a Tamil TV channel, in which the family has a majority stake, and a firm owned by shady Mumbai-based realtor Shahid Balwa.

The DMK's resignation threat was meant to extract an assurance that the CBI wouldn't summon Karunanidhi's daughter and DMK MP Kanimozhi and her mother before the state elections. The Congress couldn't have delivered this openly because the Supreme Court has taken over the investigation. Nevertheless, an informal "understanding" seems to have been reached, that the CBI would only "call for clarifications" from Kanimozhi, not summon her. How this will be done is unclear.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh can't overtly interfere with the CBI because he wants to refurbish his government's scandal-tarnished reputation. For the same reason, Singh "accepted responsibility" for appointing tainted bureaucrat PV Thomas as the Central Vigilance Commissioner, a high office that's meant to investigate and prosecute corruption.

At any rate, the DMK couldn't have sustained the confrontation. In Tamil Nadu, it desperately needs an alliance with a mid-sized party like the Congress. The Congress too needs the DMK. The DMK's vote-share is roughly one-fourth of the total – not enough for an assembly majority. The Congress can poll 9-15 percent. This isn't enough to win it many seats. In 1989, when it fought the elections without allies, it lost badly. But a DMK-Congress combination is a potential winner.

Since 1996, the DMK has allied with national parties, joined the central government and milked prize ministries such as telecom, highways and the environment. It has perfected this system, while being in power nationally for over 14 years, barring a brief 19 months.

The DMK has used high-risk brinkmanship tactics all along. As part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, it twice threatened to withdraw support to it. In 2004, within 48 hours of being sworn in under the UPA, it threatened to pull out over portfolio distribution. In November 2008, it threatened to withdraw support over the UPA's inaction in preventing the killing of Sri Lankan Tamils. Yet again, during government formation in May 2009, it used the withdrawal threat to get telecom for Raja.

The Congress is familiar with the DMK's style, and could have handled the crisis tactfully. But it declared with bravado that it could ignore the DMK. Media briefings were informally held, in which Congress leaders claimed that the party was exploring many alternative options to the DMK.

In Tamil Nadu, they said, the party could ally with DMK rival Jayalalithaa's AIADMK. But Jayalalithaa has already allotted 50 seats in a seat-sharing deal to another local party, led by film-star Vijayakant, which recently won 8.4 to 10 percent of the vote. She cannot possibly spare 60 seats for the Congress.

Nationally too, the Congress's options are both limited and unpleasant. Were the DMK's 18 Lok Sabha MPs to withdraw support to the UPA, it would be reduced to a minority. The UPA could then rope in the Samjwadi Party (22 MPs), Bahujan Samaj Party (21) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (4), which all support it from the outside.

But that would mean abandoning the Congress's (especially general secretary Rahul Gandhi's) aspirations to revive the party in Uttar Pradesh and other Hindi heartland states by going it alone. These aspirations were set back by the Congress's rout in the recent Bihar elections. But Gandhi hasn't given up. He's banking on the Youth Congress's recent recruitment drive, which produced 13.5 lakh new members.

Yet, it's unclear if Gandhi has a political strategy to build a strong social coalition based on subaltern castes, the poor and the landless. In UP's highly polarised politics, a party with a diffuse social base has only a limited chance of success. Mere personal appeal, and the attraction of an "umbrella party", are unlikely to do the trick. But top Congress leaders don't practise coherent strategic thinking. And sycophantic second- and third-rank leaders believe the Nehru-Gandhi family will magically win elections.


Yet, the Congress shouldn't expect Rahul Gandhi to reproduce his mother's earlier role – in reviving the party, and leading its march to power. The circumstances have changed. The Congress has failed to achieve a proper transition from the older generation of leaders to a new generation, with fresh ideas, strategies, political idiom and working style.

Arjun Singh, the last representative of the old generation, has just died. He was rightly criticised for having missed an opportunity to confront the late PV Narasimha Rao on allowing the Babri Masjid's demolition in December 1992 through shameful inaction. Singh, whose secular credentials were impeccable, could have become the prime minister had he taken on Rao then.

However, for all his faults, Singh practised a broadly Nehruvian politics, with a strong pro-people and anti-communal agenda. With his departure, the Congress has lost its last major link between the 20th and 21st centuries. But a new leadership hasn't yet emerged.

Recent scandals, coupled with a Rightward economic drift, have damaged the Congress's political standing. Manmohan Singh is extremely reluctant to correct course by accepting the National Advisory Council's progressive recommendations on food security and Right to Information.

There are other slippages from the Congress's promises. The party and the government no longer work in concert. The Congress has forgotten its 2009 election manifesto commitments to inclusive, pro-poor growth, and clean, accountable governance.

The Congress is today at its most vulnerable since it returned to power seven years ago. For the moment, it has weathered the storm caused by the DMK. But it has lost some of its élan. So, it shouldn't be arrogant towards its UPA allies.

The Congress would be especially foolish to practise DMK-style brinkmanship vis-à-vis the Trinamool Congress, its major ally in West Bengal, where the Left is vulnerable. Brinkmanship can sometimes produce unintended consequences, including snowballing crises and breakdowns.

The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email:








The Raymond Davis case is the latest in a long series of incidents that have undermined trust and communication between the governments of the US and Pakistan. The loss of life has been tragic. The disputes over facts and motives show that a more honest conversation about our national security interests and operations is long overdue. And the widespread anger in both societies makes it clear that we are in urgent need of serious, long-term efforts to bring our people together.

In the eye of the current storm, a diverse group of forty Americans and Pakistanis, outside our governments but influential with them, has started to rebuild partnerships based on complementary interests and common values. We are focusing on areas that matter to ordinary Pakistanis and Americans: education, jobs, entrepreneurship, and government accountability.

We met first in Lahore. We came from universities, businesses, non-profits, media, and think tanks. Many of us worried about the potential for constructive conversation, let alone meaningful new commitments, to come from a "US-Pakistan Leaders Forum" in such a highly charged moment.

We debated Mr Davis and challenged each other's understanding of who betrayed whom over the past thirty years. Then we stepped back, and found that we agreed on a set of clear, urgent priorities: bring more honesty to the security dialogue between our governments; broaden and deepen the ties among our people; and build new partnerships in sectors where we have complementary strengths and needs. We focused first on education, agriculture, and governance.

Pakistan's public education system needs reform, but it has exceptionally innovative leadership and success in charter and independent schools. Independent and quasi-charter schools across the country are serving more than six million students. Our Pakistani and US educators plan to work together in both countries to improve and expand public-private partnerships, while maintaining teaching quality.


Historically, many of Pakistan's top students came to the US for their graduate studies. They returned to Pakistan with positive views of the US and strong ties to its universities. In the last decade, more Pakistanis have chosen to study in Europe, and US visa restrictions have made student and faculty exchanges more difficult.

The US and Pakistani university leaders in our forum are committed to creating a new generation of higher education partnerships. Together, they will spur collaborative research, faculty and student exchanges, on-line dialogue, and social networks connecting faculty and students.

Beyond the formal education system, youth leadership was a strong thread in our discussions. One of our participants has already designed a new youth-service leaders exchange, and many others want to get involved.

In agriculture, Pakistan is one of the world's largest milk producers, but its cattle and water buffalo are scattered in very small herds. Our forum's agriculture experts and business people see huge potential to get more milk per head, improve nutrition, and create commercial joint ventures. They also agreed to explore the potential for developing a commodity futures exchange for Pakistan. With a credible futures market, Pakistani farmers and traders and US investors could all gain.

Good governance is at the core of Pakistan's long term challenges, and lack of accountability is a serious problem for the US aid program in Pakistan. IT firms from the US are already setting up systems to track funds for flood relief, and there is high potential to apply them to other aid and development programs. Sister state and sister city programs can also promote accountability and public participation, by connecting elected officials, administrators and citizen groups for experience sharing and advice.

These partnership possibilities are only a fraction of what we discussed, and we have just begun to explore. The energy sector, venture capital, health insurance, the media, arts and culture are on our agenda for the future.

Most Americans and Pakistanis can grasp the potential for joint gains in the areas that matter most to families, businesses and professionals. Our group believes that broadening and deepening the relationships among leaders and people outside of government, while dealing more honestly with the differences between our governments, is the best way forward.

We know that there will be future problems in our relations, but they do not have to define our relationship. We can make sure that there are farmers, teachers, students, entrepreneurs, doctors and nurses, local officials and citizen groups in both societies who have a different set of stories to tell. Together, we can provide a counterweight when tensions arise. In the long run, we can change both of our societies for the better.

Syed Babar Ali is Pro-Chancellor, Lahore University of Management Sciences. Wendy Chamberlin is President of the Middle East Institute and former Ambassador of the United States to Pakistan








One can think of many ways of understanding the current wave of mass protests in the Arab world. These can be understood as spontaneous uprisings of an awakened populace, partially-controlled changes with foreign instigators starting the initial flame, even a conspiracy-ridden scenario with Uncle Sam at the helm of affairs, cannot be ruled out. No matter how one starts out, certain basic facts remain the same in all equations and perhaps, it is these basic facts which can provide a better starting point for a more analytical understanding of the current state of this vast, resource-filled region.

Home to some 385 million people, representing less than one quarter of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims, the contemporary Arab world consists of 22 countries. Its boundaries straddle North Africa and Western Asia. There is perhaps no region of the world with such a concentration of authoritarian and repressive regimes. According to UNESCO, the average rate of adult literacy (ages 15 and older) in this region is 76.9 percent with Mauritania and Yemen lying on the lower end of literacy curve with an average of just over 50 percent and Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan on the other end, with adult literacy rate of over 90 percent. The average population growth rate in Arab countries is 2.3 percent.


Equally important for any understanding of the current situation are the historic realities: The Arab world took its present political shape through a regional reshaping at the hands of European powers during the 19th and the 20th centuries. Arabs in Africa had to wait until the 1960s before French armies left after bloody wars of independence, leaving behind polities which were deeply scarred and which were handed over to rulers who quickly established authoritarian regimes, mostly through military coups.

The Arab world accounts for two-fifths of the gross domestic product and three-fifths of the trade of the Muslim world. The oil and gas prices, which quadrupled between 2001 and 2011, have considerably contributed to the current boom as well as rampant corruption.

Over and above all of these basic facts is the reality of Arab oil which drives economies around the globe, brings invading armies to this region, and continues to hold the entire world in its grip as even a little turmoil in the region means millions of dollars of losses or gains. Arab countries hold 681 billion barrels of crude oil, representing 58 percent of proven global reserves, oil exploration and production. Egypt does not have oil, but its Suez Canal is central to America for it is through this narrow body of water that America's lifeline passes.

There are also close to 300 billion barrels of potential, "undiscovered" crude reserves in this region. This means big money and big politics for exploration and extraction rights and concessions. This also means millions of dollars for the middle men and (some women), as well as a dirty game of who gets in first.

No matter, how one looks at these vast resources, the fact remains that "these massive reserves...mean that this region will continue to occupy special significance in the global oil industry and trade for many decades to come," as the Saudi Oil Minister, Ali al-Naimi confidently said in the last OPEC conference.

There is no change in the global understanding of the importance of Arab oil, but there is a significant change in the Arab world itself: a new generation of mostly Western-educated leadership has emerged which understands the importance of what Arabs have in their hands far more than their fathers and grandfathers' generations did.

This new generation is also becoming more confident of its potential as global leaders and although many of them are still bound to the tribal and family structures, there is a considerable change in their mental makeup as compared to their fathers' and grandfathers' generations.

In addition, a middle class of sorts has emerged in most of the 22 states. Thus, compared to the past, when only the very poor and ultra-rich constituted these polities, there is an emerging middle class which is demanding its share in national affairs.


In addition to the current production of 21.5 million barrels of oil per day, more than one-third of which come from Saudi Arabia alone, the Arab countries have nearly 30 percent of the world's proven natural gas reserves, with stocks of 54.1 trillion cubic metres and the potential to add more than 40 trillion cubic metres in the future.

Another remarkable fact is that most of the higher leadership managing Arab oil and gas reserves is now Arab. They are still dependent on European expertise and the numbers they quote in various international conferences all come from channels which are not wholly Arab, but it is still important that it is an Arab who speaks about what they have in their pocket, so to speak. For instance, it was an Arab, Saad al-Kaabi, Qatar Petroleum's Director of Oil and Gas Ventures, who told a recent conference that Arab countries currently supply 13 percent of the world's gas production and account for eight percent of global gas consumption.

Another important fact of the current state of affairs of the Arab world is global anxiety about future energy needs. With China – and increasingly India – consuming vast resources, there is fear of "running out" despite constant assurances by OPEC, whose secretary general, Abdullah el-Badri, recently said confidently that the Arab world has the potential to meet rising global oil and gas demand and "continue to play a leading role in supplying the world with energy needs far into the future."

This psychological fear, which, nevertheless, has it foundation in reality is played out in various realms and serves as a political weapon as well. The future is uncertain by definition, but estimates for 2020 of Arab oil production range between 29 million bpd and 36 million. OPEC's current actual production, including Iraq, hovers around 29 million bpd. The International Energy Agency forecasts that the demand for oil will increase from 85 million bpd now to 105 million bpd by 2030. At least 11 million bpd of this will be met by OPEC, most of it coming from Arab countries.

Everyone knows that massive increases in natural gas consumption are also predicted. Everyone also knows that rising global oil and gas consumption means much higher prices and that the age for cheap energy is simply over. Huge investments are also needed for the extraction of natural oil and gas in order to meet the needs of an energy hungry world. This also means a reconfiguration of global control over who gets what out of the oil business. For the average Arab on the street, all of this must add a certain degree of anxiety to a life ridden with the fear of midnight knocks, unending degradation, and the loss of rights and dignity.


The writer is a freelance columnist. Email:







In my article on Feb 24 on the Arab uprising and its implications for the region and the Islamic world, I looked at deprivation as a contributing cause. In this article I will analyse how the surviving leaders of the Middle East are dealing with the disaffected youth of their countries. The young in various countries in the region did not wait long to replicate what occurred on the streets of Tunisia and Egypt. While Libyan leader Muammer Qaddafi and his sons dug in their heels and brought their country to the verge of civil war, several other leaders preferred to adopt a less confrontational approach.

Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh announced that neither he nor his son would run in the 2013 elections. Algeria lifted its 19-year state of emergency, a demand of the opposition that had fallen on deaf ears. King Abdullah of Jordan fired his cabinet and tasked the new one with the job of producing political reform. He indicated that the all-powerful monarchy would be prepared to give up some of its power. Even in the United Arab Emirates, despite the fact that its population was already pampered with all kinds of economic handouts, the rulers offered some timid political concessions. The government only promised to widen the electoral college for choosing representatives to the consultative federal national council. Bahrain, having tried a bloody crackdown for a few days, pulled back the security forces and elected to use politics to appease protesters. The cabinet was reshuffled and political prisoners were released.

The governments that could afford to use resources to buy time chose that route to survival. When the wave of discontent washed up the shores of Oman, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said who had governed for 40 years, promised 50,000 new jobs and $400 a month in economic benefits. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia announced a package of economic handouts that amounted to a staggering $36 billion for housing loans, unemployment benefits and pay rises. The measures included a 15 per cent salary rise for public employees to offset inflation, reprieves for imprisoned debtors, and financial aid for students and the unemployed. The king also pledged to spend $400 billion by the end of 2014 to improve education, infrastructure and healthcare.

But this package did not satisfy those who were asking for real reforms. According to Hassan al-Mustafa, one of the 40 Saudi rights activists and journalists who signed an open letter requesting an elected parliament, more rights for women and enhanced anti-corruption measures, "we want real change. This will be the only guarantee of the security of the kingdom."

Economic uncertainty that followed the revolutions on the streets began to take a heavy toll on many countries. In Saudi Arabia, there was a drop of 16 per cent in the valuation of the capital market since the beginning of the year. This represented an outflow of more than $50 billion from the market. The Saudi stock market is worth more than the combined values of the indexes in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, but it was the worst performer in the region after Egypt and Dubai.

According to one analyst, "the marked change in sentiment is especially significant, given that Saudi Arabia's is a local and retail-dominated index. The plunge probably is being driven by domestic wealth, rather than jittery hot foreign money. The kingdom's investors may well decide to stash cash under the mattress or send it abroad to safer havens like Abu Dhabi, Switzerland or Singapore."

Some analysts believe that it is not correct to paint with the same brush all the autocrats who currently rule in the Middle East and the Muslim world. Robert Kaplan, author of Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power, advises the world to distinguish between good and bad autocrats. Sometimes the former kind can deliver better economic and social returns to their societies than democracies. Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said may belong to the category of virtuous autocrats. He has "built roads and schools throughout the rural interior, advanced the status of women and protected the environment. He governs with the vision similar to that of many erstwhile Asian dictators such as China's Deng Xiaoping, Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew and Malaysia's more problematic Mahathir Mohammad, who lifted their societies out of poverty and made them aspiring middle-class dynamos...But the very success of a benevolent dictator – his abjuration of tyranny – indicates his eventual downfall."

There was a suggestion of panic in the responses made by the leaders who felt threatened by the wave of unrest that lashed their shores. But the rulers who were struggling to stay in power did not seem to have realised that demography was not in their side. The Middle East and the Muslim world have the world's youngest populations. In Egypt 52.3 per cent of the population, estimated at 83 million, is under the age of 25; the proportion for Libya is 47.4 per cent. In Tunisia, the ratio is 42.1 percent and for Saudi Arabia the proportion is 59 per cent. The highest proportion is in Yemen, with 63.5 percent.

The region's youth did not necessarily want bribes or promise of political change but were looking for real programmes to be put in place for political reform. They also wanted the adoption of strategies that would provide the population with a much larger share in the existing economic pie. And they wanted an even a larger share in what was likely to be added to the wealth of these troubled nations.

However, in responding this way, as Roula Khalaf wrote in The Financial Times on March 1, the leaders were "missing the point of the unrest. If there is a single message from the revolts it is that for the first time in decades Arabs are clamouring for political rights and accountable government – not only social benefits." In other words, they will continue to agitate if their aspirations are not met.







  The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.

In 2009, our prime minister formed Pakistan Education Taskforce to help implement the PPP-led regime's new education policy. The taskforce website states that its creation "signals a renewed commitment by the government of Pakistan to deliver on policy pledges and to be held accountable for bringing about change." Curiously, this official taskforce has just released a frighteningly candid report entitled Education Emergency Pakistan 2011 – March for Education that lists hard facts indicting the federal government and each provincial government for breach of Article 25A of the Constitution.

True to its mandate, the taskforce report audits the state of education in Pakistan, documents the ruling regime's failure to deliver on policy pledges and implicitly identifies lack of capable leadership to account for the state of emergency in the realm of education that is quickly degenerating into a self-inflicted disaster.

March for Education, the report released by this taskforce, is mind-blowing. It is mind-blowing because it tells you how it really is: that "no country will ever enjoy security or robust economic growth without quality education," and that the "education emergency in Pakistan is now a threat to Pakistan's survival." It is mind-blowing because it breaks tradition from fact-creation and fact-fudging to make the incumbent government look good.

The report highlights that Pakistan emerges as runner-up amongst all countries of the world for housing the most out-of-school children. In other words, one-tenth of the kids across the whole wide world out of school at the moment reside in Pakistan. The report tells us that "at least 7 million children are not in primary schools and 3 million will never see the inside of a classroom," that two out of three children between ages 6-16 living across Pakistan's vast rural areas cannot read a story, and that one out of three of all rural women have never attended school.

The quality of education can be gauged by the fact that of those lucky enough to see the inside of a school, at least 50 percent cannot read a single sentence. The report concludes that the chances of Pakistan meeting UN's Millennium Development Goals related to education (that form part of our international obligations) are about "zero".

Instead of identifying insurmountable problems confronting the government in an effort to justify the government's lack of progress in securing the future generations of Pakistan, this report reveals that at least 26 countries poorer than Pakistan send more kids to primary school than us. It tells us that a failing bigger than not investing sufficient resources in education is squandering the limited resources that we do inject into our moth-eaten public school system. And at the same time, it also points out that "with the right policies measurable improvements can be delivered in two years" and with success breeding success the educational landscape can be transformed in a decade.

The taskforce that put together March for Education includes eminent individuals representing the federal and provincial governments, the government of UK, donor agencies as well as the civil society.

Led by Shahnaz Wazir Ali, members of the taskforce serving in government include men of acclaim such as Athar Tahir (Secretary Education) and Shahid Kardar (Governor State Bank), women of distinction such as MNA Nafisa Shah (National Commission on Human Development) and Dr Saba Khattak (Member Planning Commission), influential bureaucrats such as Salman Siddique (Chairman FBR and previously Secretary Finance) together with all provincial education secretaries. And thus the taskforce report is mind-blowing most of all because despite having been prepared under supervision of those directly responsible for policy and fiscal planning within the federal government, it seems to be screaming for help from God knows who.

American comedian Fred Allen famously described a committee as "a group of men who individually can do nothing, but as a group decide that nothing can be done". While completely appreciative of the content of the report and the desperate need to collate information to shake policymakers out of complacency, what is the average citizen expected to do when policymakers themselves declare that the country is in a state of educational emergency due to insufficient facilities to cater to schooling needs and the disaster will grow further if significant public financial resources imperative to stem the rot are not urgently committed?

Or can it be that after exhausting all their influence within the echelons of power in trying to secure the citizens' constitutional right to free school education without success, this report is a desperate cry of policy insiders seeking help from all and sundry ahead of the upcoming budget?

If March for Education is a cry for help, it is most certainly meant for the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The report acknowledges that right to education is a fundamental human right since the 18th Amendment and Article 25A of the Constitution requires the state to provide "free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law." The report then concedes the following: "At current rate of progress, full primary enrollment may not be achieved before mid-century... Pakistan is even further from its constitutional duty to provide all child7ren an education up to the age of 16, with only 23 percent enrollment in secondary school... Today around 25 million children are denied this justiciable right... Under a business-as-usual scenario, Pakistan risks no achieving universal education to the age of 16 in the lifetime of anyone who is alive today".

As a legal matter, we know that since April 19, 2010, the state of Pakistan is under the mandatory constitutional obligation to ensure that each citizen between the age of five and 16 gets educated free of cost. As a factual matter, we know that the state is presently denying such right to at least 25 million children across the country.

The federal and provincial governments have taken no steps to promulgate laws to give effect to the fundamental right to education. And compounding crimes of omission with those of commission, March for Education tells us that the financial allocations for education are receding even further: "Pakistan is committed to spending at least 4 percent of GDP on education, but budgets have fallen in recent years... The picture grows bleaker when one looks at actual expenditures with some provinces spending as little as 60 percent of their education budgets last year."

The report estimates that while the state needs to commit Rs 100 billion to provide education for all five to 16 year olds and discharge its obligation under Article 25A of the Constitution, the money presently going to public schools is less than the subsidy afforded to PIA, Pakistan Steel Mills and PEPCO.

For a minute, let us forget how shameful or imprudent the policies and fiscal priorities of successive military and civilian governments have been, and focus instead on the law alone. Our apex court derives its famed suo moto powers from Article 184(3) of the Constitution, which states that, "the Supreme Court shall, if it considers that a question of public importance with reference to the enforcement of any of the fundamental rights is involved, have the power to make an order of the nature mentioned in the said Article."

Can one think up a question of public importance more significant and pressing than upholding the fundamental right to education of the most vulnerable 25 million citizens across Pakistan, who might then be able to secure for themselves their right to liberty, dignity and livelihood?









Despite calls to call off the proposed Congressional hearings on the inflammatory topic of "the radicalisation of American Muslims," Representative Peter King, the Republican Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security is determined to investigate the so-called home-grown Islamic terrorism.

Numerous faith groups, including the Catholics, oppose King's hearings as a crude attack on the religious dignity of Islam. Jewish leaders and rabbis have been most vocal in condemning the undignified implication that "there is an inherent link between Islam per se and terrorism (which) is not helpful to religious tolerance in America." Other faith groups warn that "singling out a group of Americans for government scrutiny based on their faith is divisive and wrong." King remains un-persuaded, however, reaffirming regrettable popular opinions that Islam poses a threat to national security, that mosques are turning into centres of radicalism, and that American Muslims are actively planning to engage in acts of terrorism.

In addition to challenging the religious dignity of Islam, a religion now well-established in the US, King's hearings violate the principle of human dignity, the bedrock of the law of human rights. Human dignity requires that the group identity should not be the sole criterion for judging individuals. Every individual, regardless of his or her racial, religious, or any other group identity, is entitled to human dignity. This principle of dignity of the individual, though it applies to all, is particularly protective of individuals of vulnerable minorities, such as American Muslims.

King knows that several million Muslims living in all parts of the US epitomise diversity and individuality. They all are not the same. Ignoring complex compositions of American-Muslims as individuals, King's hearings endorse an inaccurate impression that American Muslims constitute a violent monolithic community; or, worse, that each and every American Muslim poses a threat to homeland security.

As public figures wielding influence, lawmakers are duty-bound to avoid harmful overgeneralisations that cause public panic or fear.

King underscores a legitimate homeland security concern. A few individuals would likely commit acts of terrorism and some already have. In 2010, Faisal Shahzad, a naturalised Muslim citizen, attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Squares. In 2009, Major Nidal Hasan, a Muslim born in Virginia, killed 13 persons at Fort Hood. However, select acts of terrorism, no matter how despicable, cannot be inflated into the collective guilt of an entire community.

History teaches us, again and again, that overgeneralisations lead to error and tragedy. Most American Muslims are like most other Americans, engrossed in their daily lives. Committing the cardinal error of overgeneralisation, King, despite legitimate concerns he has for homeland security, comes across as a prejudiced lawmaker determined to demonise American Muslims as violent radicals. At a time when the US needs the goodwill of domestic Muslim communities to safeguard homeland security, King is widening the gulf of trust and mutual respect among Americans.

Homeland security is a legitimate congressional concern. Members of Congress are bound by oath or affirmation to defend the US Constitution against domestic and foreign enemies. Note, however, that it is the US Constitution that members of Congress must defend. No responsible lawmaker would reduce the Constitution's complex rights-based architecture to mere homeland security. It is no secret that inflated concerns for homeland security can assault civil liberties and protected rights.

Rights-based democracies interweave homeland security into the precious fabric of rights and liberties. Congressional leaders, including the Speaker of the House, must not allow King to conduct these hearings that challenge the religious dignity of Islam and through harmful generalisation decline to treat American Muslims as individuals.

The writer is professor of law at Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas.









WHILE scanning newspapers, one finds almost daily gory pictures of beheaded people, limbs scattered on roads and injured children crying and grieved women wail. Apart from those who lose their lives in gory incidents of terrorism and extremism or those getting handicapped for life, there are many others who grievously suffer due to accidents, derailment of bogies, gruesome murders and incidents of throwing acids or self-immolation due to frustration over lack of social justice and inequalities of all sorts that prevail in this country.

Intensive proliferation of media, which should otherwise have been considered as a boon for information and entertainment hungry lots, are adding to the psychological complications, as electronic media repeatedly screens distress scenes with women raising their hands towards sky for help and hapless souls describing heart-rending stories of what happened to them and what is in store for them and their children. In this backdrop, sometime, one asks the question whether this was the purpose of the creation of a separate homeland of Muslims in South Asia. Founder of the State, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah definitely had a vision of a modern and progressive Pakistan free of exploitation and prejudices, providing equal opportunities to all citizens to flourish and prosper and live in peace and harmony. This dream almost stands shattered, thanks to the leadership that the country got after untimely death of the Quaid and the country is now effectively under the grip of the dark forces. All this is happening only because our leadership has either no vision to steer the country out of the existing mess or is not interested to do so, as those at the helm of affairs have other priorities that are centered on individual, group or party interests. This is true of both the Government and the Opposition, as none of them has any definite road map or programme for emancipation of the masses who have been allowed to sink in deeper economic, social and security morass. Some foreign forces and their internal collaborators are undermining the strength of the country and pushing it towards a direction where it might, God forbid, crumble down some day. But regrettably, no one is bothered to take remedial steps to prevent such an eventuality despite the fact that people have the resilience, strength, determination and necessary motivation to foil the designs of the enemy. Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani has rightly pointed out that Pakistan was in a state of war but the question is as to when this so-called bloody war would come to an end.








THOUGH the PPP leadership always gives credit to Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto for the policy of reconciliation yet to be fair enough the practical shape to the policy, which might have been conceived by her, was given by President Asif Ali Zardari. This approach has worked and paid as the system is moving ahead despite serious threats and differences amongst different power players. Analysts point out that the wise strategy adopted by President Zardari to ensure that every important player has a stake in the system is the main factor for continuation of the set-up.

However, Thursday's ominous developments have brought dark clouds over the horizon with possibilities of serious repercussions for the system and the country. The Supreme Court, which was hearing constitutional petitions against appointment of Syed Deedar Hussain Shah as Chairman NAB, declared his appointment unconstitutional and illegal, ordering him to leave the charge forthwith. Though it was a short order and contained no arguments or reasons for arriving at the conclusion yet on the basis of what transpired during the hearing it can safely be said that the apex court's verdict was based on grounds that the laid down process of consultation was not followed. It was not a verdict against Syed Deedar Hussain Shah, who was otherwise fully eligible for the appointment, nor it was made on the basis of particular domicile. The Government has the option to challenge the decision through a review petition but regrettably it followed the political response to a purely legal and judicial issue resorting to strikes and agitation and declaring its intention to reappoint Deedar even during pendency of delivery of detailed judgement. We believe that such a policy would be a setback to President's own all-pervasive policy that has so far produced positive results. Though they say old habits die hard, still we must avoid the policy of confrontation for the sake of nascent democratic process and tread our path cautiously. The President might have genuine reasons in formulating response to the court's verdict but we believe that the policy of reconciliation, weaved out during the last three years, must not be allowed to wither away like this.







IT was a matter of great satisfaction that the home remittances by overseas Pakistanis were going to reach the all time high figure of $11 billion during this financial year. According to official data, remittances sent home by them continued to show a rising trend as an amount of $6.963 billion was received in the first eight months of the current fiscal year, showing an increase of $1.176 billion or 20.32 per cent when compared with the same period last year.

The increase has been attributed to appreciation of international currencies against rupee and growing tendency to send money through the banking channels rather than Hundi as was the case previously. Bulk of these remittances have come from the Middle East countries where a wave of instability is upsetting their economy, which would negatively affect the flow of remittances. However, this might not be a long-term phenomenon, as manpower would again be in great demand when normal economic activities would resume in these countries. Pakistan can get more share of this manpower requirement by imparting market oriented skilled training to its workers. While the overseas Pakistanis are playing their part well by extending meaningful help in meeting crucial foreign exchange requirements, it is unfortunate that back home there are no concrete plans for productive utilization of this money. There are reports that in the absence of facilitation and guidance, workers and their families prefer to invest in real estate or simply buy other household goods. There are estimates that if workers are equipped with necessary skills and knowledge and viable packages are offered for investment in different sectors of the economy, then the remittances can swell to double within a few years.








Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif's proposal for a broad based conference involving COAS Gen Kayani and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in addition to the political and economic stakeholders to chart out a long drawn agenda to deal with the country's ills has failed to evoke response from relevant quarters after virtual drowning into abyss of President Zardari's call for a round table conference overtly with identical objective. Mistrust among the political stake holders, especially between PPP and PML(N), however, seems to be the cause of the fiasco despite their common objective. Understandably, Pakistan has been sinking into political and economic mess ever since the PPP assumed power three years ago, but the situation has taken turn for the worse in recent months.

Apart from corruption scandals being dealt with by the Supreme Court and the government's inept economic policy, there have been a variety of developments including withdrawal of political support by the PML(N) to the PPP government followed by removal of PPP ministers in the Punjab cabinet, Maulana Fazlurrehman's JUI(F)'s separation from the ruling coalition and his recent maneuver to unite Opposition in the National Assembly on one platform, MQM's pull out from the federal cabinet and threat to quit the Sindh government and US spy Raymond Davis's arrest after he shot dead two Pakistani youth coupled with strong pressure from Washington for his release on account of his US perceived diplomatic immunity have created political chaos in the country. And Minority Affairs' Minister Shahbaz Bhatti's assassination in broad day light in Islamabad has added fuel to fire.

Both the proposals for RTC and broad based conference are motivated by the mutual advantage on the part of the government as well as the PML(N) as the two have common motive to buy time to stretch their rule at the federal level and in Punjab respectively till the next general elections in 2013. Interestingly, they have hitherto pursued the policy of 'you scratch my back, I scratch yours' despite their overt confrontational posture. The latest stance of the PML(N) is also seemingly designed to save the PPP government's collapse following withdrawal of JUI(F) and M!QM's repeated threats to leave the coalition due to Zulfiqar Mirza's periodic stinging remarks apparently with eye on the forthcoming local bodies' polls in the Sindh province. Nawaz Sharif's pronouncement of 'juda juda raahien' with the PPP appears to be a calculated attempt to just dissipate the allegation of 'friendly opposition' although its policy of support to the government under the garb of 'protecting democracy' remains precisely the same. Nawaz Sharif's 'disillusionment with Asif Zardari' after three years of 'friendly opposition' in Parliament despite what he called persistent betrayal is just ruse. The removal of the PPP ministers from the Punjab Cabinet is nothing more than a gimmick as are and the two parties' trading allegations and counter allegations.

There is, in fact, hardly any justification to involve Army and the Judiciary in politics since both the institutions are supportive of democracy. The truth is that in the past Army intervened either on politicians' invitation or as a result of their blunders. Democracy needs not to be tainted in the name of democracy. If the two parties are really sincere in extracting Pakistan out of its present political, economic and security ordeals, they simply need to be honest and sincere by opting for good governance, curbing corruption, adopting pro-people socio-economic policies and relieving the common man of its miserable plight. Apart from the security issues that have overtaken the country, Pakistan is also plunged into economic turmoil. The government is unfortunately raising utilities' charges as economic measure to generate revenue. Even social welfare sector is being taxed to raise its revenues.

Interestingly, Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani has reportedly offered to resign last week in disgust for the callous refusal of his Cabinet ministers to accept responsibility for the alarming law and order situation in the country. It allegedly happened at last Cabinet meeting held in the wake of Minority Affairs' Minister Shahbaz Bhatti's assassination in Islamabad in broad day light. None of the cabinet ministers much less the minister incharge of law and order came forward to accept responsibility for the prevailing insecurity in the federal capital, where a federal minister fell to the evil of extremism after Punjab Governor Salman Taseer within a span of about two months. Prime Minister Gilani is either too innocent or too wishful about his ministers' moral standards. There is, in fact, no precedent of our ministers voluntarily resigning for any cause or incident of national importance. There may be such instances in other democratic countries, but we have different moral values. Our railway minister had, in fact, once told newsmen following a train disaster as to why should he resign since he didn't cause the accident. True that the Interior Minister didn't kill the Punjab Governor or the Minority Affairs Minister, but he cannot absolve himself of the moral responsibility of such ugly incidents taking place right under his nose in the federal capital which falls under his exclusive domain of authority. He has been passing the buck on account of such incidents taking place in the provinces onto others. But why should he accept responsibility for growing insecurity in the country? He is perhaps immune from doing so because of his links with the hill in the capital. Being nominee of President Zardari in the federal cabinet, he enjoys special privilege not to accept responsibility of curbing such incidents even in federal capital much less in the whole country. It's disgusting that some of the ministers operate at will and whim even to the agony of the Prime Minister, who has unfortunately failed to assert the powers vested in him under the 18th amendment. He has not been able to exercise his authority even in matters of his own exclusive jurisdiction. He is the country's chief executive but decisions pertaining to his responsibility are taken elsewhere. He has rather proven to be more a scrupulous PPP worker than a unanimously elected Prime Minister.









Relations between Pakistan and the US - allies since 1950s - were by and large based on equality, mutual trust and respect for sovereignty; however there have been brief periods marred with misunderstanding and lack of warmth due to difference in perceptions over regional issues. Pakistan on its part always honoured its commitments and stood by the allies whether it was Korean War, Suez crisis or Vietnam War despite the fact that people of Pakistan were opposed to those wars. Of course, Pakistan had expressed dissatisfaction over the West's reticence during two wars between India and Pakistan when the US stopped military and economic aid for some time. But there are positive aspects of Pak-America friendship. America has always been generous in granting aid and grants whenever Pakistan faced a natural calamity. And even in case of last year's flash floods that dislocated 20 million people and destroyed infrastructure, the US topped the donors' list. But it should be borne in mind that respecting Pakistan's sovereignty is very vital to win over hearts and minds of People of Pakistan.

The US certainly can improve its image by respecting sovereignty of Pakistan, and the nation will be all out to cooperate with the US in every field including War on Terror. Of course, relations between Pakistan and the US are a bit tense over Raymond Davis case, but given political foresight, diplomatic vision and correct interpretation of Vienna Convention, relations can be normalized. Though officially, America did not say in so many words, but there were veiled threats of severing diplomatic relations and cutting US aid to Pakistan if Raymond Davis, who was arrested on 27th January after shooting dead two Pakistan motorcyclists, was not released immediately. Trilateral talks between the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan due last month were postponed as per US State Department, which was part of bullying and blackmailing tactics. Lately, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman said that Washington wanted the immediate release of Davis and that there would be no business between US and Pakistan until and unless the matter is resolved. Such remarks could roil the relations.

The government and people of Pakistan highly appreciate America's help and hope that it would also address Pakistan's concerns regarding Indian role in Afghanistan. America has indeed a great past, and has earned goodwill by helping other countries. During Second World War, European countries suffered death and destruction unparalleled in the history. The entire infrastructure and their industries were destroyed; and European countries had nothing to rebuild their infrastructure and economies. From 1948 to 1951, US-sponsored program under the nomenclature of Marshall Plan was drawn to provide economic aid to European countries after World War II.

America has indeed traditions of freedom, democracy, human rights and human values dating back to American founding fathers. It is, however, unfortunate that barring a few honourable exceptions, their successors through their actions negated the principles upheld by them. However, on becoming President in 1933, Franklin D Roosevelt abandoned the policy pursued by his predecessor President Woodrow Wilson. He treated his neighbours with respect and acknowledged past American blunders.

For some time America is drawing flak mainly due to the policies of former president George W Bush, who caused colossal damage to America's prestige and image. It is hoped that President Barack Obama would abandon the policies pursued by his predecessor and would emulate Roosevelt and allow the developing countries to choose their own form of government. He should also rein in the CIA that has had the passion for regime changes in the countries that do not fall in line with America's policies. America is a country of diverse people bound with ideals of freedoms and love for human rights. America's national income (GDP) is more than combined GDP of the European Union. It spends on defence more than combined allocations of almost all countries of the world, which is why America militarily is the strongest country in the world. But the world can not be run with military might. Therefore, American leadership should focus more on helping the developing countries to generate employment opportunities and making them stable economies and polity. This would enable them to eliminate extremism and terrorism from their societies.

Pakistan should remain firm on its stand vis-à-vis Raymond case and make it clear that until and unless US winds up its intelligence networks in Pakistan, hands over the remaining culprits of Davis case, account for all the contractors' visas, stops anti-Pakistan activities in Pakistan, the relations between US and Pakistan can not come to a normal. In fact, America had started showing distrust when the Taliban rose to power after defeating various groups and warlords. It is true that Pakistan felt secured on its western borders during the Taliban rule. But at the same time it is also an established fact that Pakistan did not agree with the Taliban's internal and external policies. Yet the US and the West viewed that Pakistan was supporting the Taliban and other militants. After 9/11, America and its allies got mandate from the United Nations to punish Afghanistan for 9/11 events and for not handing over Osama bin Laden to America. And Pakistan was coerced into joining war on terror because of dependency syndrome. It has to be mentioned that Pakistan was not familiar with the suicide attacks in Pakistan. Meanwhile, Pakistan has lost thousands of army personnel and people as a result of this war, which now has become our own war. On the other hand, Obama administration has been prevaricating on the issue, as it faces pressure from American public, which is wary of the war. It was in this backdrop that he vowed to start withdrawing US and NATO forces from July 2011, and complete the withdrawal by 2014. It is in America's interest to withdraw from Afghanistan and let the Afghan groups or factions resolve the issues themselves. American leadership must be aware of the winds of change in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Except Libya, the turmoil in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere do not bode well for America, as it is losing friends. And one cannot predict as to what turn events would take. It is unlikely that America would be able to convert, what it calls the process, to its advantage.

Pakistan has many a time expressed concerns that Indian consulates in Afghanistan are involved in organizing terrorist activities in Pakistani provinces adjoining Afghanistan. Secondly, since India has no border with Afghanistan it could not help Afghans the way Pakistan did; yet India was praised and involved in reconstruction efforts in a big way. Ironically, all the honours and rewards are being picked up by India in Afghanistan with their munificence helping hand. Pakistan is often accused of playing a double game and harming US interests as alleged but it is the US in league with its partners which is playing this dirty game against Pakistan. This fact has been amply proved after the arrest of Raymond Davis. Anyhow, Americans must know that this country is not their colony and we are not their subject. When in Pakistan, they have to respect the law of the land. Their involvement in crime will carry consequences, if not from its hierarchs then certainly from its people.

—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.







Media channels in Pakistan are flourishing like never before. There used to be only three state owned TV Channels in Pakistan until the year 2001. With the introduction of Cable TV System in Pakistan the Electronic media in Pakistan has revolutionized with hundreds of channels emerging in no time. Interestingly, most of the prominent channels owe their viewership because of the talk shows hosted by anchors, most of them having limited or no educational background, which is certainly a prerequisite to the production of quality programs. The success of these talk shows entirely depends on the "capability" of the anchors to ridicule their participants in the most bizarre manner. More the mud thrown, the more popular the program gets. Worldwide channels distinguish themselves from each other because of the soundness of the knowledge of the anchors coupled with strong research work done beforehand.

Isaac Blitzer is an American Journalist who has been a CNN reporter since 1990. Blitzer is currently the host of the newscast The Situation room and was also the host of the Sunday talk show Late Edition. Blitzer graduated from Kenmore West Senior High School and received a B.A. in history from University of Buffalo in 1970. In 1972, he received an M.A. in International relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Joseph Lelyveld served as the executive editor of the New Your Times and is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author and a contributor to the New York Review of Books. Lelyveld worked at the Times for nearly 40 years. He was also foreign editor of the Times, and its managing editor. He graduated from Harvard College in 1958, received a Master's degree from the Columbia School of Journalism in 1960, and subsequently got Fulbright Scholarship. He received the 1971 George Polk Award for Education Reporting and the 1983 award for Foreign Reporting. Among Lelyveld's books is Move your Shadow: South Africa, Black and White for which he received the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1986. He was awarded an honorary degree (Doctor of Humane Letters) by the Cuny Graduate Center in 2007.

Max Frankel is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. He joined The Times as a full-time reporter in 1952. He became diplomatic correspondent in 1963 and the White House correspondent in 1966. Frankel was chief Washington correspondent and head of the Washington bureau from 1968 to 1972, then Sunday editor of The Times until 1976, editor of the editorial page from 1977 to 1986 and executive editor from 1986 to 1994. He wrote a Times Magazine column on the media from 1995 until 2000. Frankel attended Columbia College and began part-time work for The New York Times in his sophomore year. He received his B.A. degree in 1952 and an M.A. in American government from Columbia in 1953. Frankel is the author of the book High Noon in the Cold War - Kennedy, Khrushchev and the Cuban Missiles Crisis (Ballantine, 2004 and Presidio 2005) and, also, his memoir, The Times of My Life and My Life with the Times (Random House, 1999, and Delta, 2000).

Barbara Jill Walters is an American broadcast journalist and author, who has hosted morning television shows (Today and The View), the television newsmagazine 20/20, and co-anchor of the ABC Evening News and correspondent on ABC World News. After attending Ethical Culture Fieldson School and Birch Wathen Lenox School private schools in New York City, Walters graduated from Miami Beach High School in 1947. In 1951 she received a B.A. in English from Sarah Lawrence College. Oprah Winfrey is an American television host, actress, producer, and philanthropist, best known for her self-titled, multi-award winning talk show, which has become the highest-rated program of its kind in history. Winfrey landed a job in radio while still in high school and began co-anchoring the local evening news at the age of 19. She began high school at Lincoln High School but after early success in the Upward Bound program was transferred to the affluent suburban Nicolet High School. Winfrey became an honors student, was voted Most Popular Girl, and joined her high school speech team at East Nashville High School, placing second in the nation in dramatic interpretation. She won an oratory contest, which secured her full scholarship to Tennessee State University, where she studied communication









It is an immutable law of nature that it is always the weaker creatures that are provided with extra protection. Would be predators, by that token, would very rarely possess protective shells. Their prospective victims, though, invariably do. All in all, nature does believe in a balance of sorts. If predators were to have their way, no creature would enjoy the protection of the nature of a hard shell, spikes or colour camouflage. But, then, nature has its own priorities, quite unlike the case with humankind. One can pinpoint several obvious differences. Nature, for one thing, does not believe in multilateral treaties heavily biased in favour of the strong. Instead, weightage is afforded only to those that are in dire need, not to those that are already over-endowed.

Having trudged this far, the reader may be excused for looking askance at this sudden newfound interest in laws of nature. And with good reason, one might agree. One, therefore, owes an explanation and a plausible one at that. The fact is that one is obliged to hark back to the laws of nature when one is confronted with man-made laws in this rather unjust world of ours. This is all the more relevant in the case of countries like the Land of the Pure. Today, when talk of "globalization" is in the air, time may perhaps be opportune to have a closer look at nature's design for the world at large (not to be confused with the world's designs on nature!). Globalisation, one is informed on good authority, means open borders for flows of finance, business, trade, ideas and cultural values. Sounds good that, does it not? The advocates of globalisation – and there are many - present this as a panacea for all the ills of the world. "Globalise and all will be well" comes through as the most popular slogan directed at the have-nots. Regrettably, like all such catchy slogans, this one too has a catch in it. It is based on the presumption that what is good for the goose is equally good for the gander. The goose in the present context happens to be the industrialized developed world that happens to believe that what is good for itself deserves to be rammed down the throats of the rest of the world. As a consequence, it comes as something of a surprise to the developed world that the developing one may find their concoction somewhat unpalatable to swallow, generous sugarcoating notwithstanding.

Since the end of World War II, the economic regime devised by the victors has been heavily weighted against the poorer countries of the world, particularly the former colonies. The inevitable consequence has been a massive transfer of resources from the developing economies to the industrialized world, rather than vice versa. This has been made possible, among other things, by the very simple mechanism of maintaining an unjust and unjustified disproportion between the price structure of the products of industry and that of primary produce.The international prices of finished goods, exported by the industrialized world, have been constantly increased in proportion to the rise in living standard of the inhabitants of these favoured lands. The world prices of primary produce, on which the economies of the poorer countries depend, have not only failed to increase in proportion but also, in certain cases, have actually gone down. This one-sided disparity has been perpetuated through an intrinsically unfair international economic regime.

To have a rough idea of the inbuilt economic disparity, a cursory glance at some economic statistics may be of interest. Economies of the oil-producing countries in the Middle-East region that are commonly considered to be "rich" and those of the "Asian Tigers", such as Malaysia and Indonesia, that have had some economic successes, hardly bear any comparison at all with the 'economic performance' of the industrialized Western states. The total gross domestic product (GDP) of the entire Islamic World, comprising almost one fourth of humanity, comes to a paltry amount in comparison with the GDPs of individual industrialized states like France, Germany and Japan. What it all goes to prove is that the industrialized countries and their developing counterparts are all stuck in well-worn grooves from which there is little hope of escape.

On the face of it, globalisation appears to be yet another attempt at perpetuating the inequitable status quo. The economies that depend heavily on the export of primary commodities have never had a fair deal. The world prices of primary produce and those of the finished industrial goods, that use the former as raw material, should logically have an enmeshed relationship. Regrettably, this does not happen to be the case – prices of each being invariably manipulated by the rich industrialized countries to their benefit. Public memory is proverbially short. The courageous battle fought by the oil-producing countries in the seventies and early eighties is all but forgotten. All hell had broken loose when the oil-producers demanded a fair price for their oil. The industrialized countries had at that time termed it a "conspiracy" to undermine the international economic order. Seeing the lay of the land, the producers of other primary products also added their feeble voices to the protest, demanding a slice of the cake. The ensuing negotiations in the multilateral economic forums dragged on for several years. As always, the "haves" won not only the battle but also the war. Save for the oil-producers, the "have-nots" failed in their quest to win a fair price for their produce. What is more, they were burdened with the extra bill for the expensive oil in addition to dearer industrial products they imported from the industrialized countries – the latter having conveniently jacked up the prices using the higher price of oil as a ready pretext. The millions that that the developing countries expended in financing the jaunts of their multilateral diplomatists to far away exotic lands ostensibly to argue their case in international economic forums all came to naught.

Another aspect of the New International Economic Order on which one has not had time to dwell is the regime of the so-called "international assistance". This regime gave rise to a game of "lend lease" all to the advantage of the lenders, allied to bureaucratic corruption of horrendous proportions in the borrowing states. The result again was as can be expected, to wit, a net transfer of resources of massive proportions away from the poor economies. But, that is another story. It is high time that the economic managers (planners?) of the developing countries took time off from their high-flown day dreaming to take a closer and harder look at their own priorities. To begin with, they would be well advised to take a leaf out of the book of the developed countries and to get down to jealously guarding their own heritage rather than chase the mirage of classical models. After all, they owe as much to the coming generations. One cannot be too optimistic, though. In the ultimate analysis, all will depend on whether or not their so-called planners or their high-flying cohorts – the multilateral economic diplomatists - will find it worth their while!








In wake of continued terrorist acts in Pakistan, on March 2 this year the cold-blooded murder of the country's Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti has intensified the debate that as to who are behind his assassination. Although Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan, a militant group has taken the responsibility of Shabaz's murder, yet Pakistan's intelligence and security agencies are investigating in connection with some foreign hands or the possible involvement of Xe International, (formerly Blackwater) and indian intelligence agency RAW, specifically looking into the activities of a white foreigner who is acting as a "security consultant" in Islamabad. In this regard, some high officials of Pakistan have revealed that a third hand or party might be involved in the assassination of the federal minister for minorities.

Some intelligence officials told a Pakistani newspaper that they found suspect—the activities of the foreigner who was living under the umbrella of a NGO and running an office in sector G-11 of Islamabad. They indicated, "nobody knows what he is doing in Islamabad and on what mission", he is. The paper explained that the foreigner also met with some security officers a couple of days back posing as "security consultant" and interviewed them regarding the current security situation of Pakistan, asking them whether Pakistan could face Libya-like situation in the near future. In this respect, a Pakistan's renowned newspaper insisted, "the fact that the foreign hand that has been creating unrest in the country for a long time now could be behind the incident cannot be ruled out…links between foreign intelligence agencies like Indian RAW, Israeli Mossad and American CIA and militants have been suspected…RAW is even known for having provided financial and military support to spread violence in Pakistan." In another report, the paper, while quoting "well-informed sources" disclosed that in 2010, the Obama administration deployed over 400 pro-India and pro-Israel CIA agents in Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi, the country's biggest cities.

Washington hired these contractors from private security companies like Blackwater, and leading Indian and Israeli businessmen including their secret agencies which have been clandestinely and heavily funding such companies to carry out secret operations in the Middle East, Asia and Africa as per their interests against the Islamic countries. Some reliable sources suggest that the Blackwater has hired 286 houses in different residential sectors of Islamabad for their suspicious activities. Regarding the killing of Shahbaz Bhatti, the police confirmed that the terrorists used 7.62 mm-AK-47 Klashnikov, an automatic gun and sprayed 35 bullets with two guns, adding that police recovered all the 35 empties from the scene.

It is notable that the terrorists threw on the road the pamphlets with Kalma-e-Tayyaba printed on them and also the name of the holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) after killing Shahbaz Bhatti. Th fact remains that no Muslim can ever think of dropping on ground such sacred material. Nevertheless, that condemnable act might also have been committed precisely to divert the investigations away from the real terrorists which belong to RAW, CIA and Mossad.

It is mentionable that through their secret agencies, the concerned foreign countries want to fulfil their multiple-nefarious aims against Pakistan by the murder of the federal minister for minorities affairs. In this regard, firstly, they intend to divert the attention away from the issue of Raymond Davis including his companions who are agents of the American CIA and were on an anti-Pakistan mission. Especially, Davis is part of the illegal activities of the Blackwater whose employees entered Pakistan in the guise of diplomats. Secondly, these covert agents of the related intelligence agencies want to distort the image of Pakistan in the comity of nations as they have already tarnished the country's image through various subversive activities—are now working against Pakistan by taking advantage of the country's deteriorated law and order situation which they have themselves created through their secret forces. Notably, in this context, the rulers and leaders of the western countries have strongly condemned the murder of the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, expressing outrage and termed it as "unspeakable", "unacceptable" and a "dastardly crime", and also called it an attack on the values of tolerance. In this regard, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the assassination of Bhatti was "absolutely brutal and unacceptable". He also stated that the minister's murder showed what a huge problem we have in our world with intolerance. He further added, "I will send not only our condolences but our clearest possible message to the government and people of Pakistan that this is simply unacceptable." US President Barack Obama pointed out that he was saddened by the "horrific" assassination. He said, "I am deeply saddened by the assassination of Pakistan's Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti," and "condemn in the strongest possible terms this horrific act of violence." US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a US Senate committee, "I was shocked and outraged by the assassination of Bhatti…I think this was an attack not only on one man but on the values of tolerance and respect for people of all faiths." German Federal Foreign Minister, Dr Guido Westerwelle, expressed his shock and dismay over the assassination of Bhatti, and said, "he was the only Christian who was passionately committed to the rights of minorities in Pakistan." Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Indian leaders have also expressed similar views. However, this is what the anti-Pakistan secret agencies wanted to achieve through the murder. Thirdly, the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti was actually aimed at further creating rifts between different religious communities, accelerating sectarian violence in Pakistan. Fourthly, it is noteworthy that Pakistan is the only nuclear country in the Islamic World; hence the US, India, Israel and some western powers are determined to weaken it. Despite American cooperation with Islamabad, its main aim along with India and Israel remains to de-nuclearise our country whose geo-strategic location with the Gwadar port entailing close ties with China irks the eyes of these countries, therefore, they are in collusion to destabilise Pakistan. For this purpose, a well-established network of Indian army, RAW, Mossad and CIA which was set up in Afghanistan against Pakistan in order to support insurgency in the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and separatism in Balochistan have been extended. Fifthly, the major aim of these external secret agencies is to show that Pakistan is a prejudiced country where religious extremism is running high, and where people cannot tolerate other religious communities, particularly Christians. Sixthly, by creating such an aggravated situation, these secret forces are determined to isolate Pakistan with the efforts of Indo-Jewish and American lobbies which are already working on the anti-Pakistan agenda.

Nonetheless, while taking cognizance of the real aims of the external intelligence agencies in relation to the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, the patriot people of Pakistan must wake up in order to apprehend the secret forces which have been trying to weaken the country. For this purpose, foreigners such as covert operatives who are running clandestine networks in the country must be captured by our intelligence agencies with the cooperation of public as quickly as possible. In this respect, a comprehensive strategy must be prepared to secure the lives of all people as well the survival of the country.








JULIA Gillard has done well in Washington but her domestic pressures are unlikely to fade as she returns to Australia and the harsh reality of carbon politics.

For the past few days, the Prime Minister has been able to put to one side the difficulties of imposing a price on carbon through a tax that morphs into a market-based emissions trading scheme. But as our report from political editor Dennis Shanahan today demonstrates, the complex issues facing Labor just keep on coming. His story reveals how highly carbon may have to be priced in order for a tax to have any impact on the use of brown coal in electricity production. The government has not fixed a price, but early speculation has put it at about $20-$30 a tonne, rising to $40 by 2015-16. But confidential research by Morgan Stanley and Victorian power stations suggests it will need to be far higher at about $60 a tonne, to force electricity generators to switch to gas. The figures are a reminder of the size of the task ahead in calibrating compensation for industry and household consumers for higher power costs. Just getting to first base -- gas-fired production of energy instead of brown coal -- will require a price that could be easily exploited politically by the federal opposition. As well, there are real dangers in moving ahead of the world on this issue. The government must ensure the price set does not lead to "carbon leakage" in trade-exposed sectors of the Australian economy.

The Weekend Australian supported the ETS put forward by former prime minister Kevin Rudd in 2009. We must give the planet the benefit of the doubt and begin the process of reducing emissions. A price mechanism is the cheapest way to end uncertainty for industry and reduce pollution without the hidden costs of direct interventions. But we should be careful not to exaggerate the impact that setting a price on carbon will have on coal use.

The past couple of weeks since the scheme was announced have underlined the need for realism as we move towards a carbon price. It is clear that in the longer term, technology will be key to securing a low-carbon future for the globe. This is a point emphasised by Danish climate change expert Bjorn Lomborg, who argues that the only way to really drive down emissions is to invest in research and development to make green energy cheaper than fossil fuels. According to Lomborg, rather than making coal more expensive, the signals must work in the opposite direction: we need to make green energy so cheap it proves irresistible at an economic level. It is important to note that backing research and encouraging innovation is not the same as governments subsidising renewable energy through funding solar panels or giant wind farms. There is ample evidence of how ill-conceived and wasteful some of these programs are, with taxpayers' money draining away to produce expensive energy. It does not make much economic sense to produce solar power by subsidising programs that cut emissions at a cost 25 times more than under an ETS.

Governments around the world are wrestling with how to address climate change. It is not simple, but the Prime Minister cannot retreat from her commitment to impose a carbon price and work towards an ETS. We have seen already that the politics are hazardous for her, but she must quickly put flesh on this scheme. Australian industry needs certainty on carbon, and voters need to see the fine print of Labor's plan.






Her impressively scripted speech to the US congress this week showed she has quickly mastered the fundamental importance of the US-Australia alliance, a relationship which underpins our foreign policy. But away from the autocue, Ms Gillard has been less confident, allowing the perception to grow that there is a rift between her and her Foreign Minister over Libya. Kevin Rudd has not deviated in his public statements from Australia's official position that a no-fly zone be considered to stop Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi using his air force against his own people. Until yesterday however, Ms Gillard was less forthright in her statements in the US. In so far as any problem exists between Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd, it is largely one of perception and process rather than substance. But the Prime Minister must take control quickly.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith was right when he said there should not be a "crack of light" between a prime minister and a foreign minister. Ms Gillard, Mr Rudd and Mr Smith have advanced the same arguments about Libya, urging the UN Security Council to consider a range of options, including a no-fly zone. As Greg Sheridan wrote yesterday, Mr Rudd has spent two weeks criss-crossing the Middle East advancing a broad agenda. And while his advocacy of the no-fly zone has been ahead of most of the international community, the government, as Ms Gillard said on March 7, is "all on the same page about exploring options for dealing with this violence, including a no-fly zone".

If a government is to be effective on the world stage, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister must work in tandem, publicly and privately, ensuring that no differences or perceived differences mar Australia's unambiguous policy positions. However challenging on a personal level, frequent and close communication between Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd, numerous times a day as the delicate details of complex issues unfold, is essential, leaving no room for one-upmanship or damaging background briefings from staffers.

In the rarefied world of diplomacy, even a subtle hint of division is apt to be blown out of proportion. Perceptions of a division between the two over Libya, for instance, however misguided, were hyperbolically described by one Arab ambassador to the UN as "a major rift", creating a perception of disarray that Australia does not need. And whatever the merits of the issues, this is not the first time in recent months, as Dennis Shanahan reports, that Australia's allies have perceived confusion in the government's approach to important foreign relationships.

Mr Rudd is working overtime. His diplomatic experience and prodigious knowledge inform an ambitious agenda. But the Prime Minister cannot simply outsource foreign policy to Mr Rudd. The domestic challenges may be great, but the Prime Minister must be across the detail of the foreign affairs portfolio. In addition to Ms Gillard's successful visit to the US, she has also worked with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to restore the pattern of annual trans-Tasman leadership visits. And one of her biggest tests comes next month when she visits China. She must make it clear that she is in the driver's seat.





THERE are complex environmental issues in the proposal by Gunns to set up a pulp mill in Tasmania's beautiful Tamar Valley.

But it does not help when people like Greens deputy leader Christine Milne resort to attacking the process. There has been a seven-year process involving deliberations by three federal ministers from different sides of politics leading to this week's announcement from Canberra that the mill can proceed, subject to Gunns meeting state permit requirements. Yet the knee-jerk reaction from the Greens suggests they are more comfortable operating as a protest party than as participants in the established democratic process. Accusing the Tasmanian government of being a "company quisling" may get brownie points with the GetUp! crowd but it's an undergraduate comment from a mature politician. And what exactly does Senator Milne mean when she says Gunns does not have a "social licence" to operate a mill?

Under our system of government, companies must conform to specific legislated requirements in situations such as these. Those requirements are formulated through a democratic process in which elected governments decide the economic, social and environmental trade-offs for development. The Greens should

respect the decision.






During the past weeks, as part of its coverage of the state election campaign, the Herald has been hosting online forums on a series of major issues, as well as an online debate between the Premier, Kristina Keneally, and the Leader of the Opposition, Barry O'Farrell. About 82,000 people watched the forum on transport; 80,000 the one on health. Last month's leaders' debate, which began the series, attracted 135,000 viewers. The numbers tuning into the forums show that far from being turned off by state politics, there is a genuine interest in what political leaders have to say.

In part this will no doubt be curiosity over what the Coalition intends to do if, as the polls are predicting, it wins government on March 26. Here voters are likely to be disappointed. The scale of the predicted victory is likely to be immense. The scale of the Coalition's announced ambitions is modest indeed. On transport, for example, its promises amount to a warmed-over version of what Labor has promised several times and failed to deliver. Certainly the projects are worthwhile - with the possible exception of the baffling promise to widen the M5 and create a new bottleneck somewhere near King Georges Road. At the forum the Coalition's transport spokeswoman, Gladys Berejiklian, suggested a rapid-transit busway might be built to the northern beaches. That, too, is fine - if it happens. But promises of this sort - ''We're working towards it, we'll do it if we can one day'' - do not represent change.

Elsewhere the Coalition has been more concerned to rule change out than even to give itself room to manoeuvre. We reported on Tuesday that O'Farrell had ruled out selling Sydney Water, and ruled out any change to the ownership of Sydney Ferries, RailCorp and State Transit. One reason for the slow ossification of transport under Labor has been the iron grip which unions have held over the transport bureaucracies through their factional control of ministries. It is a basic flaw which vitiates transport planning in NSW that those who are nominally in control lack the authority to manage and to allocate resources efficiently. Decisions can always be countermanded by union bosses. Sydney Ferries, which a public inquiry recommended in 2007 should be privatised, is a perfect example. Union lobbying ensured the proposal was dropped.

No such links exist with the Liberal and National parties, of course, but a change of government would be the perfect time to challenge that power for good. Instead of guaranteeing that Sydney Ferries will continue unchanged, O'Farrell should be promising to do what voters obviously want, and to sweep away the accretions of inefficiency which Labor has allowed to build up.

It appears O'Farrell may have a dual strategy here. The first relates just to NSW. It is the time-honoured opposition tactic of presenting a small target to an unpopular government. The idea is to win power having promised as little as possible, and then once in office to consolidate in the hope that opportunities for more ambitious reforms will present themselves.

The second strategy appears linked to national politics. A bad defeat for Labor will deny the party its heartland - the state it has dominated as a fiefdom for a century, and which is the homeland of its most powerful faction, the NSW Right.

As things stand seats which have voted Labor solidly throughout that century - in inner Sydney, the Hunter Valley, Wollongong - may even fall, though some will fall to the Greens rather than the Coalition. Even so, that will be an epoch-making event. And it is all Labor's own work. Through arrogance and incompetence it has overreached itself, misgoverned the state for years, and now is about to see voters who have never voted anything but Labor choose the Coalition for the first time in their lives. The Coalition at both state and federal level want to do nothing to reduce the scale of that defeat or to discourage a single Labor voter from making that momentous change. It wants to sap the morale not just of NSW Labor, but of federal Labor, too, and to continue its campaign to undermine the legitimacy of the Gillard government.

O'Farrell's strategy is thus understandable as part of a larger Coalition plan. The chief problem with it, though, is that it leaves out the interests of the people he is most relying on for its success - NSW voters. They deserve a reforming government which will initiate far-reaching change to re-energise their state. O'Farrell, though, is promising nothing of the kind - indeed, quite the opposite. When he gets into office with his thumping majority and towering public expectations, what will he have a mandate to do?





''ANOTHER damned thick, square book. Always scribble, scribble, scribble, eh Mr Gibbon?'' William Duke of Gloucester was clearly ahead of his time when he sent this excellent SMS to Gibbon, an English writer, in 1781. According to some sites we've looked at, Gibbon's novel Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire became the screenplay of a movie. (It's amazing what you can find on the web. Not just essays to copy - there's all this really cool old stuff.) Anyway, we thought it was really relevant because the University of NSW library is getting rid of all its books and all these old traditional people are complaining. Well, they shouldn't complain, because the web is much better than books as wise, wise William of Gloucester realised all those years ago. For example, with but a few mouse clicks we have learnt that the same Mr of Gloucester also appeared in several plays by his friend Shakespeare, the famous playwright, and later served as governor-general of Australia during WWII. That just shows the breadth of his learning - something those whose noses are buried in dusty old books all the time instead of using today's modern online research techniques would never find out about.






A VISIT to the capital of Australia's principal ally has become almost a rite of passage for prime ministers - especially those, such as John Howard and Julia Gillard, who acquire the job without a background in, or inclination towards, foreign policy. A chat and photo opportunity with the US president in the Oval Office, and an address to a joint session of Congress, if it's on offer, confer the kind of credibility that does not come from an address to the UN General Assembly, or from meetings with the leaders of Australia's most important trading partner, China, or most powerful neighbour, Indonesia, or from audiences with the Queen or the Pope. Until the first official Washington tour is complete, an Australian prime minister is a global debutante. At least, that's the view from Canberra.

The kind of interest that such visits generate in Australia is not, however, reciprocated in the US. The Prime Minister may have got several standing ovations during her speech to Congress, but almost two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate did not bother to attend. The benches were filled with staff and visitors, including schoolchildren, who had been rounded up for the occasion. The same sleight of hand was used to assemble an audience for Mr Howard when he spoke to Congress in 2002.

The US media scarcely registered Ms Gillard's visit. She was pictured in The New York Times, seated alongside President Barack Obama, but there were no images of her teaching him how to handpass a Sherrin, or advising bemused American high-school students on the importance of spreading Vegemite thinly on toast. The Times report was concerned with Mr Obama's views on possible international responses to the civil war in Libya; it did not bother recording Ms Gillard's non-committal stance - that the UN Security Council should consider a ''full range'' of options - or to note the embarrassment caused to her by Australia's freewheeling Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, who stridently supports imposition of a flight-exclusion zone.

It might be argued that American attitudes to the Prime Minister's visit scarcely matter, for such visits are really about Australian domestic politics anyway. To the extent that that is so, Ms Gillard's first effort will probably be neutral in its effect. For every Australian who thinks there was a folksy charm in her use of props such as footballs and jars of Vegemite, there will be at least one who cringed as she gushed to Congress about her childhood belief that Americans can do anything. The cringe would have been experienced all the more keenly by those who remember the declarations of some of her predecessors, who wanted to go ''all the way with LBJ'' or aspired to become the US deputy sheriff in Asia. There has been a long and bipartisan tradition of subservience bordering on sycophancy, which goes well beyond acceptance that Australia is the junior partner in the alliance.

A sycophant, however, would not have used a speech marking the alliance's 60th anniversary to remind US legislators that Australia and the US do not agree on everything. In muted and still deferential terms, Ms Gillard noted that Australia does not view the rise of China as a global threat, and by implication urged Americans not to do so, either. The senior partner may not agree, but it is a refreshing change that the junior partner feels able to say it.






The destruction caused by Japan's earthquake has been savage, but the impact on poorer countries may be worse

Tsunami is a Japanese word, meaning "harbour wave". Yesterday's earthquake in northern Japan was remarkable in scale and devastation caused – but it struck a country that experiences an earthquake in or around its vicinity every five minutes, and which is home to world-beating expertise on how to minimise the destruction they trigger. The damage toll from yesterday's earthquake is still mounting in Japan, but the international impact may conceivably be even more terrible, depending on how it affects poorer countries.

To be clear, the damage caused by one of Japan's biggest quakes in over a century is already huge. National media are talking about a death toll of 1,000, between 200 and 300 of them in the northern port of Sendai alone. Officials yesterday declared a state of emergency at the nuclear plant in Fukushima. Cars, ships, homes and offices were all destroyed or swept away. The quake struck about 250 miles north of Tokyo, but initial estimates of the potential economic consequences have still been large, with one analyst talking about 1% being knocked off GDP in the short term. The world's most indebted government will probably have to launch a big spending round to make up the damage – it would not be surprising if Prime Minister Naoto Kan declared a special quake budget. And the Bank of Japan has brought forward its scheduled policy announcement next week, presumably to unveil emergency measures. Ever since Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, Japan has either been in recession, or on the brink of it. This earthquake adds to the problems of an ultra-weak economy.

The scenes of devastation yesterday naturally brought to mind the terrible Kobe earthquake of 1995. But that took place nearer a big city and left residents of the world's then second largest economy living in tents for weeks and months. This week's quake may not have such adverse or long-lasting consequences; it is worth noting that Tokyo has so far suffered disruption rather than massive destruction. But what counts now is how far the tsunami spreads, and to which countries.

The blunt rule of natural disasters is that they affect poorer countries far worse than rich ones. Non-governmental organisations were right yesterday to voice worries about the possible impact on tiny island states such as Tuvalu and Samoa. Similarly, while the first wave that hit Indonesia and the Philippines yesterday seemed to do little damage, second or third waves may obviously be worse. The destruction caused by Japan's earthquake has already been savage; but if the tremors hit poorer countries in a big way the impact may be even worse.





The collapse of a high-profile murder trial over evidential questions poses uncomfortable questions for the police. But the case is of much wider significance, since it poses equally difficult questions for the prime minister, for his former press secretary, Andy Coulson, and for all those at News International who have stuck to their claim that no one in the company – bar one rotten apple – had any knowledge of illegal behaviour by, or on behalf of, its journalists.

Jonathan Rees, who was yesterday cleared of murdering his former business partner, Daniel Morgan, is a private investigator of a particularly unpleasant and vindicative kind. In the late 1990s he was working for the News of the World, paid as much as £150,000 a year to use his dark arts to illegally trawl for personal information on the paper's targets. The work, which included bribing police officers, came to the attention of Scotland Yard's anti-corruption team, who bugged his office for six months. In December 2000 his newspaper work – which included work for the Mirror Group – came to a sudden and enforced halt when he was jailed for seven years after being caught planting cocaine on a woman. The aim was to discredit her prior to divorce hearings

Rees was one of four private detectives – all of them now convicted criminals – who are known to have been retained by the News of the World, apparently without the knowledge of a single executive. Rees's exploits were certainly no secret. They were written about in two articles published by the Guardian in 2002, while Rees was in prison. One of them named a News of the World executive, Alex Marunchak, who had been caught on tape discussing payments of thousands of pounds. Despite all this – Rees's links to corrupt police, his prison sentence, the publication of his links to, and payment by, the newspaper – he returned to work for the News of the World, now edited by Andy Coulson, in 2005 after he had left prison .

Rees was charged with murder in 2008, which meant that no newspaper could, until today, name him. But both David Cameron and Nick Clegg knew of the background to the story in early 2010, well before they entered Downing Street. The new prime minister chose to ignore it, appointing Coulson head of communications at Downing Street in May 2010. It was an extraordinary piece of bad judgment, and surprising that Clegg apparently did not demur or distance himself in any way. Did no one carry out any official vetting before Coulson was allowed across the doorstep of No 10? Or did Cameron and Clegg want the former Murdoch editor so badly that they pretended not to know, and ignored the ticking time bomb which exploded yesterday?

Meanwhile, what of Acting Deputy Commissioner John Yates, who was so quick to assure the world that there wasn't much to the phone-hacking stories uncovered by journalists on this and other newspapers? He has hired one of the UK's most notorious libel firms to warn off this newspaper for reporting the claim that he misled parliament. In a Commons debate this week, Chris Bryant, MP for Rhondda, made the direct accusation that Yates did, indeed, mislead two parliamentary select committees. Moreover, it was alleged that Scotland Yard has known for five months that its evidence was incorrect. The two committees involved should, as a matter of some urgency, invite the police to explain its position.

Until now most of the attention around phone hacking has centred on the activities of Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed in 2006 for his work on behalf of the News of the World. Rees was actually paid more than Mulcaire and is alleged to have deployed a wider armoury of illegal methods to acquire information for his Fleet Street clients. Now that his name is no longer protected by court restrictions, another chapter in this disturbing saga of intrusion, power and criminality can be written.





In the context of his predecessors some may find his record disappointingly modest

He may have embarrassed past and present governments, and indeed the royal family, but Prince Andrew, Duke of York, has at least continued a hallowed tradition of dukes by keeping society intrigued, entertained and scandalised. His predecessors, with dukes of York conspicuously numbered among them, featured in sexual shenanigans of all shapes and sizes, and indulged in ill-advised friendships and the accumulation of mountainous debts – even resorting to corruption to clear them. George III's brothers and sons set a record yet to be matched. One brother, the Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, having offended the king by marrying surreptitiously and beneath him, had an affair with his wife's lady in waiting which produced a child. A second, the philandering Duke of Cumberland, was hauled up for adultery and made to pay £10,000 in compensation, which the King had to lend him. The excesses of George IV have been much celebrated; less so those of his brother, Frederick, who was charged, but cleared, in the Commons with obtaining commissions for would-be army officers who had paid his mistress to procure them. Younger brother the Duke of Clarence, later William IV, sired 10 illegitimate children with an actress called Mrs Jordan. Still more lurid claims would rightly or wrongly surround Victoria's grandson, Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale. Today's Duke of York has been seriously imprudent. Yet assessed in this context, some may find his record disappointingly modest.







Rare-earth metals are called "vitamins for industry" because the addition of trace amounts to such metals as iron, copper and aluminum boost their quality, making them stronger, more pliable or more viscous. They are used in many products, including cell phones, electric cars, medical treatment devices, aircraft and nuclear reactor control rods. Rare-earth metals are indispensable for the manufacture of efficient motors for electric cars and the parts used in information technology devices.

China produces some 90 percent of the world's rare-earth metals. Japan relies on imports from China for most of these vital metals. Last fall, Japan learned a hard lesson when China suddenly restricted the export of its rare-earth metals. The Chinese government in mid-February strengthened the control of such metals and placed priority on supplying domestic consumption. Steep price rises for rare-earth metals appear inevitable.

In view of this situation, Japan's trade and industry ministry is pushing a policy of cutting the domestic demand for rare-earth metals, which is annually about 30,000 tons, by about 10,000 tons. It is also pushing for the stockpiling of rare-earth metals, the creation of substitutes and the development of technology to mine such metals from hydrothermal deposits in the Sea of Japan.

In addition to these steps, Japan should push a project to extract rare-earth metals from discarded electronic devices. For example, cell phone batteries contain lithium, liquid-crystal displays contain indium and vibration motors contain neodymium. A large amount of rare-earth metals can be extracted from electronic devices if they are integrated into the nation's recycling system for electronic products.

The central government should move quickly to establish a new recycling system, to develop technology to extract rare-earth metals from electronic devices, and to encourage local governments to create a collection system that will facilitate the extraction of such metals.





On Christmas Day someone secretly placed 10 boxes containing new school backpacks in front of a children's welfare facility in Maebashi in the name of Naoto Date, the hero of the "Tiger Mask" manga and anime series. This act of charity has since inspired more than 1,000 people to make donations to such facilities.

It is important to support this trend of helping the needy to flourish at the grassroots level in Japanese society. According to the Japan Fundraising Association, which helps nongovernmental organizations obtain funds, Japanese individuals donated about ¥550 billion in fiscal 2009, compared to ¥19 trillion ($227.4 billion) in the United States in 2009 and ¥1.3 trillion (£9.9 billion) in Britain in 2008.

A law revision proposed by the Democratic Party of Japan government under the concept of "new public commons," an idea of former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, aims to expand tax privileges for people who make donations.

Through 2009 incomes, a person could deduct the amount of the contribution, minus ¥5,000, from his or her income, to reduce taxable income. Under the revision, a person can choose between two options — deduction of the contribution amount, minus ¥2,000, from his or her income, and a newly introduced tax credit system. In the latter, a person can deduct 40 percent of the donation amount, minus ¥2,000, from his or her income tax. (The upper limit for the tax credit is 25 percent of his or her income tax.) The same deduction can be made from his or her residential tax.

The revision also will make less strict the conditions NPOs must meet to accept donations that qualify for the tax privileges. In addition to donations to legally certified NPOs, donations to welfare and public interest corporate bodies and educational corporations will be eligible for the tax privileges. The revision will also create a system under which a person can authorize a trust bank to manage his or her money in regards to charitable contributions. The opposition forces should cooperate with the DPJ to enact the revision, which could change Japanese society for the better.







Cool heads should prevail in reacting to Friday's report in the Australian press with the screaming headline "Yudhoyono abused power". No one wants a repeat of the time when Indonesia abruptly canceled flying rights of Australian planes in 1984 in response to a detailed report in a Sydney newspaper about how President Soeharto was amassing wealth. The stakes this time are actually much higher because they could affect relations between Indonesia and the United States.

Any report based on documents from WikiLeaks, the only source quoted in the report about President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, must be treated with caution. These are secret cables between the US embassy and Washington. Embassies all around the world do this routinely. Diplomats typically collect their information from various sources – from officials, politicians, informants, journalists and ordinary people. The information may be interesting, but is not necessarily always accurate.

Since WikiLeaks released tens of thousands of documents pertaining to US foreign policy, Washington has been at pains to contain the damage caused to relations with its friends and allies. Now, it's Indonesia's turn. By now, we assume the US embassy must know what to do to prevent relations from heading south. One can take comfort in the fact that relations are at their historic best and that they are strong enough to weather this sort of crisis.

President Yudhoyono is naturally upset by the Australian press reports and his office has already put out a statement questioning the credibility of the report and rebutting the allegations of abuse of power. Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa was quick off the mark in calling for a news conference, stating that the press reports were baseless. He also held a meeting with US Ambassador Scot Marciel.

But even if we question the credibility of the report, any accusation of abuse of power must be looked at seriously. The report that former vice president Jusuf Kalla bought his way to the Golkar chairmanship was not new because it had been public knowledge that the post always went to the highest bidder. But other allegations, such as the president's interference in corruption investigations and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono's business dealings, should still be looked at by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). The report already provides the name of one informant: A certain TB Silalahi. KPK should start with him.




The Jakarta gubernatorial election remains one year off, but the major political parties that rule the City Council have already begun touting their candidates for the polls.

Their preparations appear unperturbed by the ongoing debate among politicians at the House of Representatives over whether to give back the right to elect governors to the legislative councils or maintain the existing direct elections that have been in place since 2005.

Unlike in the 2007 election when all but one of the major parties joined forces to help then deputy governor Fauzi Bowo win the gubernatorial post, this time around they are almost all likely to desert him.

Barring unforeseen changes, the ruling Democratic Party will nominate its Jakarta chapter leader Nachrowi Ramli, instead of Fauzi — even though Fauzi is a member of the party's board of patrons chaired by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The party's, or specifically Yudhoyono's, reluctance to support Fauzi became clear recently when the President referred to the governor's promise to address maddening traffic in Jakarta as pepesan kosong (empty talk).

Meanwhile, the country's second largest political force, Golkar, has put its faith in Prya Ramadhani, who heads the party's Jakarta chapter. Golkar's choice of Prya perhaps could not be separated from the fact that he is the father-in-law of Anindra Ardiansyah Bakrie, who is the youngest son of Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie.

The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) has not named a candidate, but it claims to have shifted its political engine to top gear to win the gubernatorial post. The Muslim-based party challenged the grand coalition of parties in a two-horse race, which could not be considered one-sided in 2007 as it managed to rake in 43 percent of the vote. It comes as no surprise therefore if the PKS is brimming with confidence, particularly after its successful effort to retain the mayoral seat in Depok — Jakarta's fast growing satellite city.

Fauzi may pin his hopes on the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the country's third largest party, which finished third behind the Democratic Party and PKS in the 2009 Jakarta legislative election. A PDI-P politician has indicated the party's acceptance of Fauzi, citing his undisputed experience as a man who has been dealing with Jakarta's problems for decades. Fauzi held various jobs before clinching the gubernatorial post.

As the incumbent, Fauzi enjoys popularity and privileges that will give him an edge compared to potential contenders. In many cases of regional elections, those in the incumbency went unchallenged to win their second terms, not necessarily because of vote buying, but because of their popularity.

However, considering the daunting challenges facing Jakarta, ranging from population pressure to worsening traffic congestion, do Jakarta residents really need a popular leader? It will be the responsibility of political parties to educate voters about the need for a governor who is able to lead by action, rather than rhetoric.

The political parties bear the responsibility for advocating candidates whose track records show they have the courage to resurface the city from its current state of mess.






It looked like there would be a showdown when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised to ban violent organizations and the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) — the obvious intended target — retorted that it would start a revolution if the President failed to meet their demands that Ahmadiyah be dissolved by March 1.

The timing of the war of words has never been more critical, occurring only a few days after violent hard-line Muslims stormed an Ahmadi residence in Cikeusik, Banten, and killed three people and others attacked three churches in Temanggung, Central Java.

But, as of today, the President has yet to do anything to make good on his promise, which received mixed reactions from the weary public. It could be just another bluff given that he has made the same threat at least three times since 2006.

But, the FPI has not done anything yet either, apart from a small street demonstration it jointly organized with other radical Muslim groups like the Muslims Forum and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia in Jakarta late last month.

In numerous interviews with the media, FPI leaders promised to topple President Yudhoyono should he refuse to ban Ahmadiyah, the way the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia thrashed the authoritarian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

In fact, the whole affair has only revealed how weak Yudhoyono's government is.

When addressing the National Press Day celebration on Feb. 9, SBY ordered his aides to ban violent organizations.

But, none of his most authoritative aides: Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi, Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, Attorney General Basrif Arief and National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo seemed to heed his orders.

Instead, Gamawan hosted a meeting with top leaders of the notorious FPI at his office on Feb. 16, exactly a week after Yudhoyono made his threat. Smiling broadly, Gamawan told waiting journalists that he and FPI leaders Habib Rizieq and Munarman exchanged opinions on how deal with Ahmadiyah.

Meanwhile, Suryadharma has been busy blaming the Ahmadis for the Cikeusik tragedy and wanting to ban Ahmadiyah entirely.

Even more mind boggling, the Attorney General's Office spokesperson Marwan Effendi lauded local governments that caved in to radical demands and banned Ahmadiyah in their areas.

Yudhoyono has not made any comments on these glaring insubordinations. What has happened is that more regencies and cities are toying with the idea of banning Ahmadiyah in the name of regional autonomy.

Gamawan, like Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, is known for his anti-Ahmadiyah stance. Along with then attorney general Hendarman Supandji, they issued a joint decree banning Ahmadis from conducting religious activities outside their community. When Gamawan was the governor of West Sumatra, he was one of the regional heads who introduced the controversial sharia-inspired morality bylaws.

Ahmadiyah followers have suffered from discrimination and physical attacks since the Indonesian Ulema Council called the cult heretical in a 1980 fatwa and reaffirmed it in 2005.

For hard-liners, the controversial decree has become a license to bully Ahmadis with the tacit support of the local police and government bureaucrats. They vow there will be no peace until Yudhoyono formally bans Ahmadiyah, which they consider heretical because it does not recognize the Islamic orthodoxy that Muhammad is the last prophet.

Interestingly, while Yudhoyono has yet to prove he was not bluffing, such provinces as Banten, East Java, West Java, Lampung and South Kalimantan have boldly announced that they have banned Ahmadiyah.

This is a worrying development that can give way to more cases of violence against Ahmadis, whose numbers are estimated at 200,000, living in enclaves across the archipelago.

Yudhoyono's inaction in banning violent vigilante groups as he promised to do has given added credence to the perception that he is afraid of the small but noisy hard-line groups.

It has also left many wondering if violent radicals are enjoying the backing of some extremely powerful but corrupt individuals in the police, military, political parties or interest groups who are using terror for their personal or institutional interests.

Yudhoyono has mishandled the FPI's threat to topple him like the Tunisians did with their despot. He was ridiculed when his spokesperson Julian A. Pasha promised to take measures against the FPI.

His critics argue that the President should have ignored the FPI threat because the group is just too small to make an impact politically, because moderate majority Muslims do not share its brand of Islam. His overreaction has made it as if the FPI were so important that mainstream politics has to reckon with it.

Political analyst Hermawan Sulistyo says the FPI, which has only a few thousand members, has no financial and human resources to mobilize the masses for a revolution as it brags that it has.

To start a revolution it would need at least 100,000 people militant enough to demonstrate for at least four weeks, which would also require a lot of money, he says.

Hermawan may be right. The gargantuan anti-Yudhoyono demonstrations that the FPI promised have not manifested. And, Yudhoyono seems to have forgotten his threat as well, for pressing new issues keep arising.

This whole political comedy should not distract Yudhoyono from the real issue: protecting minorities and punishing people who break the law, not banning organizations, as the right to organize is guaranteed by the Constitution.

The author is a staff writer at The Jakarta Post






Conflicts and acts of violence have become one of the crucial problems that continue to confront us today. The incidents in Cikeusik and Temanggung are not the precedents; those cases were only part of Indonesia's dark history of ethnic-, religion- and race-nuanced (SARA) conflicts that have recurred during the reform era, such as the bloodshed in Ambon, Poso and Sampit.

There is a strong perception and presumption among the public that some of the recent conflicts were politically motivated. The National Commission on Human Rights has urged law enforcement agencies to investigate the motives behind these conflicts. Although this presumption is quite difficult to prove, this will be perceived as a truth unless the perpetrators behind those atrocities are caught.

One thing is certain, and that is the police have failed to carry out their duties and functions to maintain domestic security. The conflicts were evidently beyond police control. By failing to exercise their legitimate coercive power in confronting several groups that instigate conflicts, the police are seen as condoning violence themselves.

On the other hand, the violent conflicts have raised concerns from the Indonesian Military (TNI), which in the past played the security role. TNI chief of general affairs Vice Marshal Edy Harjoko stated that given the series of conflicts plaguing Indonesia recently, the military should be "operationally ready" at any time to launch operations other than war in support of the police, for the sake of national stability.

The TNI involvement in the framework of military operations other than war was once ordered by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono shortly after the terrorist attack in Mega Kuningan, South Jakarta, in 2009.

The 2004 Law on the Indonesian Military elaborates the main duties of the TNI in conducting military operations other than war, which include quelling armed rebellion, eradicating acts of terrorism and helping police manage domestic security.

However, this article does not provide any detailed mechanism or procedures (rules of engagement) to apply when the TNI is involved in a police security operation.

Empirically, the TNI has already backed up the police in overcoming internal threats such as conflicts in Ambon, Poso and terrorist attacks. So far, the mechanisms and procedures of these operations have based on the standard operational procedures (SOP) of the police and the military themselves.

The problem with these SOPs is that this kind of procedure is not recognized in the national legal system, which therefore lacks a legal basis and does not legally bind its actors. Because of this weakness, competing roles and a lack of coordination between the two forces often occurs while in the field. Worse, the problem of institutional pride weakens coordination between the two.

It is imperative, therefore, that such mechanisms are clearly addressed in the TNI law, because SOPs alone are clearly inadequate.

The TNI's commission of military operations other than war is a consequence of the complexity of national threats. Therefore, it must be recognized that there is always a grey area between the TNI and the police in facing such threats. For instance, in the fight against terrorism we have to let the police take the lead, but if the terrorist attack occurs aboard a plane from the Air Force special unit should also be involved.

There are several criteria that must be met before TNI can get involved in military operations other than war.

First, there must a real threat and this situation must escalate sharply.

Second, the police alone can no longer cope with this threat.

Third, the police request to civilian authorities for the involvement of the TNI.

Fourth, the civil authorities consider the request valid.

Fifth, the civil authorities decide whether to involve the TNI and to terminate TNI involvement later.

Sixth, the involvement of TNI should be under Police-led operations.

Seventh, the principle of proportionality in the deployment of military forces must be maintained.

Eighth, operations other than war conducted by the TNI should be temporary and not permanent.

Ninth, the involvement of the TNI is a last resort.

Tenth, there should be a clear division of labor between the police and military in order to avoid overlapping operations.

Eleventh, this operation should be confined to the human rights value framework.

Twelfth, there should be supervision and evaluation of the civil authority handling of the operation.

Unfortunately until now, both the government and the House of Representatives have yet to establish formal and binding rules of engagement on military operations other than war in the context of police assistance. The absence of these rules could provide undesirable space, wide and unilateral interpretation of the regime or the security actors themselves to determine TNI's involvement in the operations other than war. This weakness could also lead to abuse of power, which is why a law on the establishment of TNI assistance to police in the framework of military operations other than war is so urgent.

To sum up, strengthening the capacity and impartiality of the police force should become the primary issue that needs addressing through formation of a law. With such a law, at least the government would have a way to overcome conflict and violence, although there are still many other options that beg consideration.

Al araf is the Imparsial program director and Diandra Megaputri studies defense management at the Indonesian Defense University.






During a staff meeting about Indonesia's Economic Acceleration and Expansion policy (P3EI) at the Bogor Presidential Palace last month, President Susilo Bambang Yudoyono instructed Jakarta's governor to solve the protracted problem of traffic congestion in the capital city before 2020.

On that occasion, the President also expressed his displeasure with the many commitments to invest in transportation infrastructure that he said were nothing more than empty promises.

The statement showed the disappointment with the stagnant construction of transportation infrastructure in Jakarta and the city administration's failure to find a permanent solution to traffic gridlock. Governor Fauzi Bowo, who during his election campaign claimed to be a Jakarta expert, has so far been unable to address the long-standing problem.

The status of almost all of his programs are "will be implemented soon", as in the case of a plan to construct 15 busway corridors that have been laid out in the Macro Transportation Plan (Pola Transportasi Makro/PTM) and have not been realized.

Three TransJakarta corridors (Corridor VIII, IX and X) have not been in operation. The additional infrastructure for these corridors should have been ready since July 2008.

The public would understand the delays if the operation of the busway since the beginning had been smooth. In reality, not only was the operation postponed but the fleet was inadequate so that lines were very long, the ticketing system remained manual and the lanes were not clear.

If the condition of the existing corridors is that bad, why doesn't the city administration operate the additional corridors anyway? It is better to operate these corridors immediately so that the infrastructure will not deteriorate and it can start reducing traffic.

The delay in the operations of Busway Corridor IX-X speaks volumes about Fauzi's lack of commitment to developing public transportation, only because it was the baby of his predecessor Sutiyoso. Fauzi wants to give birth to his own "baby", which is the MRT.

Therefore, during his term, he has focused more on developing the MRT, which definitely will not happen until his term is over, while ignoring the busway. The absence of accomplishments in transportation infrastructure will deprive him of the chance for reelection next year.

If only Fauzi had focused on busway development and in his fourth year focused on the MRT and monorail then many political parties would have fought it out to lure him to contest the election under their banners. Currently, political parties have remained undecided whether to nominate him again or not due to his low electability rate.

The key success in developing transportation infrastructure is actually strong political commitment both from central and local governments. In that absence, it is difficult to expect good urban transportation infrastructure. As constructing urban transportation infrastructure is not profitable, investors are not interested in putting their money in it.

The only way to attract them is by constructing toll roads because of their high investment returns. Unfortunately, Jakarta does not need toll roads but infrastructure accessible for mass public transportation to carry more passengers.

Everywhere in the world the government is responsible for constructing infrastructure for mass public transportation because the private sector is not interested in it. Therefore, it is completely hopeless to expect the private sector to construct infrastructure for mass transportation in Jakarta, be it MRT, monorail or busway.

All of those must be constructed by the government. The private sector will only play a role in the construction process while the central and local governments provide funding.

Nevertheless, this will only happen if there is a strong political commitment. The funding to construct the MRT from Lebak Bulus to Dukuh Atas, for instance, is obviously using a loan from the Japanese government (not private investments), with the government responsible for paying it back.

In order to smoothly construct infrastructure, the funding should be allocated in the annual budgets of the central and local governments using multiyear systems so that the construction will not be terminated by the end of the fiscal year in order to wait for the new contract. Multiyear budgeting should be applied to all infrastructure or public service construction because of the ongoing nature of such construction.

In addition to the strong political commitment shown by budgeting policy, a clear division of roles between the central and local government is imperative. This is necessary not only because of the authority of the local Jakarta government, but also the scope of the problems and services available. It is therefore logical if the central government also assumes responsibility in the construction of infrastructure.

The president does not have to complain about the empty promises of transportation infrastructure in Jakarta. He just needs to order the Finance Ministry and Public Works Ministry to allocate special funding to accelerate the construction of that infrastructure in Jakarta.

If the government can allocate Rp 2 trillion (US$228 million) out of Rp 19.7 trillion in the budget allocated for the General Directorate of Public Works for the monorail project in Jakarta, the process of construction can resume. The funding to complete the monorail system can be allocated in the 2012-2014 budgets and eventually by 2014 one monorail route will already be in operation.

The government should not think about the losses or profits of constructing transportation infrastructure in Jakarta because it will be a definite loss in terms of business perspectives.

The profit of constructing that infrastructure is indirect: it can increase public productivity because the traffic is not congested and it can decrease gasoline subsidies because many personal vehicle owners will shift to mass public transportation.

Therefore, although it is a definite loss, the government has the obligation to construct mass transportation infrastructure to ensure public mobility and smooth economic activity.

Many options are available to fund a mass transportation infrastructure project. One of them is to absorb the budget for fuel subsidies.

The writer is deputy chairman of the MTI (Indonesian Transportation Community).









The fact that western leaders are considering military options over Libya is deeply disturbing. Within Libya, President Muammar Qadhafi's brutally repressive regime appears to be gaining the upper hand in what has become a civil war. Government forces are using tanks and heavy artillery as well as warplanes in attacks on, for example, the oil town of Ras Lanuf, which is held by the ill-equipped and largely untrained rebels. Almost all the western options talked about, or under consideration, involve illegal military intervention of some kind. British Prime Minister David Cameron floated the over-the-top idea of parachuting weapons to the rebels; and The Independent reports that Washington has even asked Saudi Arabia to pay for and channel U.S. weaponry to them. Some suggestions are crazier. Senator John Kerry has said U.S. aircraft could "crater airports and runways" held by the Libyan government; and Senator John McCain wants Mr. Qadhafi removed, possibly by a "coalition of the willing." Another proposal is for missile attacks on government positions; the U.S. did attack Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986. Special operations, like the 1961 Bay of Pigs attack on Cuba or the deployment of secret agents, and cyber warfare have been mooted. The most widely discussed plan is for the imposition of a no-fly zone.

All these proposals, however, are deeply flawed. Arming the rebels would bolster Mr. Qadhafi's claim that a colonialist plot is being hatched. Mr. McCain's suggestions sound very much like the threats the U.S. issued in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Aside from the flagrant illegality, such an adventure would take a horrifying toll on civilian population. An invasion would discredit the rebellion, and could turn the majority of Libyans against the invaders. The idea of a no-fly zone may appeal to western leaders because it gives the impression of action without excessive danger to their own troops, but it cannot be implemented without attacks on Libyan air defences. The rebels, who may be losing momentum, have asked for international help — but the conspicuous void is the lack of political pressure on the Libyan regime. The Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the African Union are yet to come up with a clear position. Western talk of military responses before anything else is not only hubristic but it also obscures the political failures that have led to the current situation. Above all, the military actions now proposed would constitute acts of war against a sovereign state and must be condemned outright. India, along with other developing countries, has done well to express its opposition to the use of force as well as to a no-fly zone to resolve the Libyan crisis.





If we go by the slogans in posters, handbills and cutouts of the candidates contesting at the March 17 Local Government elections, we would be so optimistic that we are going to have the most talented and humanistic set of local administrators this time, whatever party would win. For instance, one poster with the picture of a candidate and that of Minister Mervyn Silva read "vote for boundless humanism." Another poster called a candidate "heroic and noble." The list would go on if you have time to waste.

In the meantime we witnessed the first two political killings during this election campaign in Pereliya on March 4 and an election rally in Walasmulla organized by Parliamentarian Sajith Premadasa was also attacked on the same day. The Pereliya incident was said to be the outcome of an intra-party rivalry and the latter, according to political sources was that of an inter-party conflict.

A pregnant candidate of the ruling UPFA had been admitted to the hospital last week as she claimed that a UNP candidate assaulted her and her husband, an incident, if proved would explain how humanist or how heroic the candidates at this elections are. One would get a funny picture if one combines the wordings in the posters and handbills of candidates with the happenings on the ground. How can honest or for that matter humanist people kill or assault their fellow men for engaging in electoral politics?

Neither a single "humanistic" politician of the UPFA nor those of the UNP has so far criticized his own party men for killing or assaulting others. And the simple truth is that the killing in Pereliya or other violence incidents related to the election in other parts of the country occurred not due to politicians' honesty or humanistic quality, rather people have been pushed to attack and kill others in order to plunder others' opportunities to be elected to the Local Government bodies. This has been the reality so far when it comes to other elections as well.

In Pereliya it has been a clash between two groups of the UPFA. In other words it was a "manapa war."  Interestingly had the assailants in this incident attacked the members of the Opposition instead of attacking their own party men, even the men who died in the incident would have defended the acts of the attackers.

Similar incidents have taken place during the past elections as well. When the supporters of the Opposition were attacked in Nawalapitiya during the Presidential Election campaign in January last year the entire ruling party defended their colleagues in the area. However, when the same goons attacked the supporters of UPFA leaders from other areas in the Kandy District three months later during the Parliamentary elections those leaders began to howl.

The whole country was supposed to be so insane to believe that the UPFA supporters who attacked their own party members during the parliamentary elections did not raise a finger against the members of the Opposition three months before during the Presidential Election.

Despite the fact that politicians are expected to practise good governance when they come to power in national and local level legislative or administrative bodies, they use every possible illegal and unethical method for them to be elected to those bodies, no matter what party they are belong to.

Sowing hatred and resorting to violence for electoral gains is not an intrinsic quality of a particular party alone. Almost all parties in the country have resorted to use weapons and muscle power for winning elections which are said to be the democratic means to elect people's representatives at the national or local level.

One of the UNP victims of the present day violence had created history in political violence during the first Presidential Election in 1982 and at the referendum for the extension of the parliamentary term in the same year. That was a time when certain Ministers roamed around the polling booths in Colombo West wielding pistols. After 1994 the SLFP took over not only the government but also the legacy of violence and attempted to break the UNP's record during the Northwestern Provincial Council election in 1999.

Politicians do not resort to violence just out of their love for the people or due to their intrinsic ruthless qualities. They seek power by hook or by crook as it is the main tool for them to access to the state resources. Although people invariably criticize the high salaries and perks given to the politicians those remunerations are nothing compared to what they gain through power. Thus, many politicians dare to eliminate anybody or anything that would stand in their way towards power.





The abortive attempt to assassinate Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian Sivagnanam Sritharan has sent shock waves throughout. Although the incident did not receive adequate coverage in the mainstream media, the attempted murder of the Jaffna district MP has rocked the Tamil people as many feared the bad days of old were returning.

There was a time when many Tamil MP's and political leaders were being killed at regular intervals. Earlier the perpetrators were from Tamil militant organizations like the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) and Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO). Tamil moderates of the Tamil United Liberation Front(TULF) were the victims in most instances. They were accused of being collaborators and vilified as traitors. Most of the killings were by the Tigers.

The situation changed when Tamil political parties came together in the form of the Tamil National Alliance(TNA). With the TNA  moving closer to the LTTE and virtually transforming into a  Tiger mouthpiece  the Tiger threat diminished. But fresh danger emerged from other directions. Several TNA and ex-TNA MP's were killed. Certain para-military groups were accused of being responsible. It was not the Tamil Parliamentarians alone who were targets of the tigers. Many Sinhala cabinet ministers and Parliamentarians were also killed and injured  at different times in different attacks. Even an executive President and leader of the opposition were assassinated in different incidents. A few Muslim MP's and ex-MP's were also killed in other instances. The LTTE was responsible in almost all these incidents.

The nation at large was relieved when the LTTE was militarily defeated in May 2009. With the demise of the Tigers the security situation in the country eased. One indication of the changing equation was the relaxation of security arrangements for Parliamentarians. Currently an ordinary MP has only two Policemen for security.

Parliamentarians particularly those from the North and East moved about freely in all parts of the country and engaged in political activity. This would have been unimaginable a few years ago. The government was so confident about the security situation that President Rajapaksa asserted openly some days ago that anyone could travel safely in any part of the country.

The assassination attempt on the TNA parliamentarian from Jaffna on March 7th has had a profound impact on those complacent about the security situation. Many feared that the incident was a harbinger of the future and worried that the bad, bad days of old were back again. It is against this backdrop that this column delves into the aborted assassination attempt this week.


Sivagnanam Sritharan is a new face to Tamil politics. The 43-year-old ex-school principal was elected to Parliament from the Jaffna electoral district last year on behalf of the Tamil National Alliance(TNA). The TNA contested polls on the house symbol of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK).

Though representing Jaffna district nominally, Sritharan is in real terms the MP for Kilinochchi electoral division or electorate. Although a separate administrative district, Kilinochchi is part of Jaffna when it comes to elections. Before being carved out as a separate district in 1983 Kilinochchi was part of the Jaffna district. The sprawling district comprises areas both inside the peninsula as well as the northern mainland.

Sritharan was placed in charge of the Kilinochchi electoral division by the TNA during the 2010 Parliamentary poll. He campaigned actively in the area and obtained enough votes to get elected. Sritharan was one of five TNA MP's to win from Jaffna electoral district. He has been nursing the Kilinochchi constituency ever since and has primarily based himself in the region.

Parliament was to convene on March 8th last week. Sritharan based in Kilinochchi left for Colombo on Monday March 7th to attend sittings in the house by Diyawanna Oya. It was his usual practice to start out from Kilinochchi  in the afternoon  on the day  before Parliament was scheduled to meet and reach Colombo after nightfall. This had almost become a routine pattern.

The usual practice was followed on the fateful day of March 7th also. The TNA parliamentarian started out from Kilinochchi at 1.00 pm  after an early lunch in his Toyota van bearing the number plate  WP – HG 4846. There were five persons in the vehicle. They were Sritharan,his driver, his Police bodyguard and two others. The Policeman was a Sinhalese while the driver and other two passengers were Tamils.

One of these passengers was a close relative of the MP who was to be dropped off at Vavuniya. The other was a young undergraduate who was the son of a close supporter. The youth was to accompany the MP up to Colombo. The van reached Vavuniya at about 3.30 pm. After a brief stopover during which the relative took his leave the van resumed  its journey with four occupants at about 4 PM


The van was somewhere in the Medawachchiya when a white van with unmarked number plates crossed them. Within minutes the same vehicle  did a "U" turn and changed direction .The unnumbered white van overtook the MP's vehicle slowly and then sped away ahead. Soon it was lost. Although the antics of the white van attracted attention it did not cause too much concern.

Sritharan's van that was going along the A- 9 highway or Jaffna –Kandy road changed course at Anuradhapura. The vehicle now got on to the A -12 highway or Puttalam – Trincomalee road. The stretch between Anuradhapura and Puttalam along the A – 12 is 71.54 kilometres (44.45 miles) long.

The vehicle  was travelling along the A-12 in the Ulukkulama area of Maha Bulankulama region when it negotiated a small bend on the road. Further down was a pond.A white van without number plates  was parked by the roadside. Two men in  denim trousers and  white tee- shirts were standing by the vehicle. The  time was about 5.30 pm

As the  van proceeded the two men in white drew out pistols and began firing at the front of the vehicle. Two shots pierced the windscreen and entered but mercifully did not hit anyone. Alarmed but alert, the driver began to accelerate. The would be assassins were now seen with a hand grenade each. As the vehicle drew near  one of the men pulled the clip and tossed it in front. The other tried to roll the grenade under the van. Thereafter they drew back and continued to fire at the van.

The driver who had been accelerating saw the grenades and veered to a side. One of the grenades exploded without causing much damage to the vehicle. One of the rear wheel tyres burst  but it is not clear whether the grenade or the gunfire caused the damage.

Seeing that the rear wheel was damaged the would-be assassins kept on firing at the back of the van. A third person in denims and a black tee- shirt presumed to be the white van driver also joined the other two.

The solitary Policeman in the vehicle had only a 9mm pistol. The cop was seated by the side of the driver in the front. He now tried to fire back at the trio through the side from within the vehicle. It was difficult to aim accurately in this position and the first shot was an "own goal" hitting their vehicle's rear screen.


The Policeman then asked the driver to stop. Seeing the vehicle stop the three gunmen started running towards the van with their firing guns. But the lone policeman bravely got down on the road and began firing at the would-be assassins. The cowardly trio were unprepared for this type of courage and immediately turned  and ran back towards their van. Altogether the courageous cop had fired nine rounds.

The Policeman then got in and the van proceeded on the road despite the damaged rear wheel. There were quite a few people on the road who witnessed the shoot out fracas but few seemed excited. The Van limped along the road for a further 8 km. But finally the tyre was totally deflated and the van was forced to  stop somewhere in the Nochchiyagama area. The time was about 6 PM.

The four people got down from the van and went to a house nearby. Upon being told of the predicament the hospitable household invited the four  inside. As is customary among rural folk the Sinhala family showered them with hospitality serving them refreshments.

Meanwhile Sritharan had begun  telephoning the Police while the van was going towards Nochchiyagama after the incident.  He informed Police emergency and Anuradhapura Police of the incident. The Police bodyguard also informed his superiors of the incident.

Sritharan then tried to telephone fellow Jaffna district MP and ITAK secretary Maavai Senathirajah but Senathirajah was at a meeting and had switched off his cellular phone. Sritharan then called TNA national list MP MA Sumanthiran in Colombo.

Upon hearing of the incident Sumanthiran also made a round of telephone calls to various Police circles. He also called the Ministerial security division. Despite these efforts the official response was rather lethargic. Sritharan and the other three continued to remain at the Sinhala household in Nochchiyagama without any one from the Police coming there or contacting them.


Disappointed by this lack of response  Sumanthiran telephoned the Inspector –General of Police (IGP) Mahinda Balasuriya directly. The IGP to his credit, aplologised for the delay by the Police in responding. Within minutes the IGP got cracking and the Police machinery got into action.

Balasuriya got the telephone number of Sritharan from Sumanthiran and telephoned him personally. The IGP told the MP not to worry and assured him of speedy Police action. Within a short time a Police party from Nochchiyagama arrived at the house and escorted Sritharan and others to the Nochchiyagama Police station. The damaged vehicle was also towed there. Sritharan lodged a formal complaint about the attack at the Nochchiyagama Police station.

A police contingent also went to the spot  where the attack took place and cordoned off the area. A full scale probe was launched at daylight. Several people in the vicinity were questioned and statements recorded.

 Much evidence like shattered glass, empty bullets, grenade clip, unexploded grenade etc were collected.Photographs were taken of the spot. In addition to these, other pieces of evidence found in the vehicle were also collected. A team from the Govt analysts dept went to Nochchiyagama and made an inspection.The evidence collected  has all been sent down to the Govt analyst's dept in Colombo for further  examination.

Statements were also recorded in detail from Sritharan,the bodyguard, driver and the undergraduate. Fortunately none of them had any serious injury. Finally the Police transported Sritharan and the rest in a Police vehicle to Colombo with further Police escort. They had been at the Nochchiyagama Police station from 7.14 to 11.30 pm. Sritharan reached his official residence at Madiwela at about 2.30 am.


Sritharan together with colleagues Senathirajah and Sumanthiran called on the Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa at his chambers in the morning of March 8th before Parliament sittings commenced. The speaker was shocked to hear of the attack and instantly queried as to why the bodyguard did not fire back with his T-56.

It was then that the abysmal conditions about security arrangements  for ordinary MP's came to light. Each was entitled to only two Policemen with pistols. Although the cops were required to be with the MP at all times it was not possible in practical terms. So the Policemen worked in shifts and at most times the MP in question had only a single bodyguard on duty. This had been so in Sritharan's case too.

The speaker Chamal Rajapaksa promised the TNA of a full –fledged investigation into the incident. He contacted the IGP immediately and asked him for a full report. The IGP assured the speaker that he would provide a preliminary report on the following March 9th morning. The speaker then asked the TNA to be with him when the IGP presented the report.

Chamal Rajapaksa also allowed Sivagnanam Sritharan to raise a breach of privilege issue in Parliament. Sritharan made a short statement explaining in brief what had occurred. He also thanked his Police bodyguard and driver for their commendable action in safeguarding him.

Responding to Sritharan the speaker assured full safety and security for all MP's. He also told Parliament that a full investigation will be conducted into the incident and a comprehensive report would be presented to Parliament in due course.


When the IGP came with the preliminary report compiled by the Anuradhapura DIG of Police, several TNA Parliamentarians including Sritharan were also present at the Speaker's chambers. The IGP brought several photographs of the crime scene and affected vehicle. He also related the different lines of inquiry being followed by the Police.

At one stage the IGP expressed misgivings about the passenger dropped off at Vavuniya by Sritharan and wondered whether he would have tipped off the attackers about Sritharan's movement. But Sritharan said that was out of the question and stated the person was a close relative and entirely above suspicion.

The IGP then stated that two teams of Police sleuths were investigating the incident. One was from the Anuradhapura district where the attack happened. The other was a special team sent from Colombo. Mahinda Balasuriya told Chamal Rajapaksa that a final report would be submitted in a week.

After the IGP left the TNA Parliamentarians  requested the Speaker for additional security arrangements for the party MP's in the aftermath of the attack on Sritharan.The speaker regretfully informed the MP"s that increasing security personnel was not possible at the moment as it woud have to be enhanced for all 225 MP's.It was not possible to do so for one political party alone. The Speaker however agreed that there was a threat to Sritharan and that his level of security would be increased.

Apart from his statement in Parliament ,Sivagnanam Sritharan also made statements to various media organs about the attack. The gist of these reports were the same as Sritharan provided short descriptions of the aborted assassination bid. However in a statement made to the "Uthayan" daily, Sritharan made an interesting observation.

In the news  story  appearing in the "Uthayan" (which is owned by his parliamentary colleague E.Saravanabavan) Sritharan has reportedly stated that the attack was a planned attempt to kill him and that his Tamil  political opponents aligned with the government for concessions and ministerial posts were responsible.


While the EPDP and TNA have been political rivals for a long time there has been some political friction between Sritharan and the EPDP in the Kilinochchi area in recent times. What has happened is that the EPDP which was kept out of Kilinochchi for some time has now been given the green light by the Govt to do politics in the district. An EPDP's MP has been entrusted with the responsibility of politically organizing Kilinochchi. This has brought him into direct conflict with Sritharan who is also nursing Kilinochchi. He has allegedly used his political clout to restrict and curb opportunities available for Sritharan to promote himself politically. It is reported that Sritharan is not invited for certain official functions and school prize givings and sports meets at the behest of this MP.

Whatever the merits or otherwise of Sritharan's coded accusation against the EPDP there did occur a humorous incident concerning Douglas Devananda and the attack on Sritharan. It happened in the Speakers chambers during the course of the All Party leaders meeting


Since TNA leader Sampanthan is indisposed in India and other senior leaders were unavailable it was TNA national list MP Sumanthiran who represented the party at the conclave. While the meeting was on Devananda suddenly taunted Sumanthiran by saying the attack on Sritharan was a drama. Sumanthiran replied that Devananda given his past experience was the best judge of what constituted a drama.

Devananda then asked directly was not the alleged attack on Sritharan a drama stage managed by the TNA. Sumanthiran then retorted " Tell us how we managed to fire on our vehicle from inside and outside and how we managed to throw grenades under the vehicle while we were inside the van". There was a hearty laugh by many on hearing Sumanthiran's retort. A crestfallen Devananda then clammed up and left shortly afterwards.

Cabinet minister Wimal Weerawansa also quipped in Parliament that there was no attempt on Sritharan's life and only the tyres of the vehicle were fired at. Weerawansa also said the alleged incident was fabricated friction.

Responding to Weerawansa during the extension of emergency debate, TNA Jaffna district MP Saravanabavan said that they had met the IGP earlier in the Speakers chambers where the Police chief had submitted a report with photographs about the incident. Contrary to Weerawansa the IGP had confirmed clearly that there had been an attempt to kill Sritharan, said Saravanabavan.

There were also reports in some overseas Tamil websites insinuating that the attack on Sritharan was a fabrication. It was alleged that the entire episode was a contrived drama and that there had been no real assassination attempt. None of these accusations were substantiated with  credible proof. They were for the most part wild speculation tinged with venomous hatred against Sritharan.


Sivagnanam Sritharan has become a colourful yet controversial personality in recent times. While his political stock has been rising at one level in recent times there has also been an intensification of  criticism at another level.

Sritharan hailing from Kandawalai in Kilinochchi district has roots in Neduntheevu known as the Island of Delft. The former principal of Kilinochchi Maha vidyalayam is the brother in law of the legendary LTTE military commander Velayuthapillai Bhaheerthakumar alias "Brigadier Theepan".Sritharan married Theepan's sister.

When Sritharan participated in TNA election meetings after being nominated as a candidate he made a good impression by being critical of the LTTE in an indirect manner. He mustered enough votes to be elected. Sritharan was the last among the five TNA candidates elected from Jaffna (Senathirajah, Premachandran, Vinayagamoorthy, Saravanabavan, Sritharan)

There was however a remarkable transformation in Sritharan after being elected. He became rather hawkish and indulged in mind boggling rhetoric. Sritharan also began catering to the whims and fancies of the "vociferous Diaspora" that is supportive of the LTTE. Some of Sritharan's close relatives run the popular websites "Tamilwin" and "Lankasri". In addition the TNA parliamentarian had another website under his own name.


These websites began to promote Sritharan in a systematical manner. Each and every act or speech of Sritharan was given wide publicity. Anyone following these sites regularly without reading other sources would get the impression that only Sritharan among the TNA leaders was doing something constructive for the Tamil people. This state of affairs was so unbearable that an overseas Tamil website queried "are the other TNA leaders not doing anything at all or is the Tamilwin giving publicity to Sritharan alone?"

Incidently there was a coordinated cyber attack on sites supportive of Sritharan like the " Lankasri and Tamilwin" on March 7th the day on which the MP was attacked. The sites went out of circulation for a while and then resumed. There was a second attack on March 8th and sites began malfunctioning again.

The sites are now back in circulation albeit in fits and starts. A statement put out by the Lankasri group attributed the cyber attacks to mischievous elements and asked viewers not to be alarmed. Was it a coincidence that the websites  supportive of Sritharan were also (cyber)attacked on the same day that a physical attack against the MP took place?


Sritharan's growing  popularity among pro-Tiger sections of the Diaspora resulted in a lot of overseas Tamil media organs interviewing him regularly. Several Diaspora organizations and individuals channelled funds to the North through him for charitable purposes. Images of Sritharan distributing goods , utensils , books and student equipment to the people of  Kilinochchi were regularly posted on websites. The donors were from the Diaspora. Likewise there were images of Sritharan meeting with various segments of Kilinochchi society. One doubts very much whether the people of Kilinochchi saw these images. These catered primarily to the Diaspora.

This massive image build –up for Sritharan among the pro-tiger sections of the Diaspora came with a price. Sritharan was portrayed as someone close to the LTTE and as a living keeper of the tiger faith. He was at the Valvettithurai hospital posing for the camera with the bed ridden mother of LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran. He was also present at her funeral recently. Sritharan made some explosive comments at public meetings in Switzerland when he undertook a trip to Europe last year. Some of his statements to the media abroad were also obnoxiously offensive. It was obvious that he was playing to the Diaspora gallery in an irresponsible and provocative manner.

Pandering to the cash-stocked pro-LTTE Diaspora seemed to be more important than trying to constructively resolve the existential problems  faced by the suffering cash-strapped Tamils of Sri Lanka.


This identification with pro-LTTE sections brought about an inevitable  backlash. Several websites critical of pro-tiger elements began targeting Sritharan. He was accused of being a tiger cloaked in a cow skin . His relationship with Theepan was now depicted as a minus point.

A very serious charge was repeated in some websites.It was alleged that Sritharan while being a school principal had assisted the LTTE to conscript students instead of protecting pupils. It is not known whether these accusations have any merit but those making them have called upon authorities to conduct a full – fledged investigation into these.

Sritharan also came under security scrutiny on account of his conduct and statements. His attempts to form youth leagues in Kilinochchi was viewed with suspicion.


The most serious repercussion the attack could have would be its effect on the on going Govt-TNA dialogue. Somasundaram Senathirajah alias Maavai Senathirajaj when addressing Parliament during the emergency extension debate made explicit references to the abortive attack.

Senathirajah pointed out that the attackers had firearms and grenades and had managed to avoid detection at checkpoints. He also asked as to how the attackers managed to get away so easily without being captured. 

The Govt-TNA dialogue is the best thing that has happened so far in the sphere of ethnic relations after the Presidential and Parliamentary elections of 2010. The talks have by no means reached a conclusive stage but has the potential to achieve much good.

Cabinet ministers Prof.GL Peiris and Mahinda Samarasinghe and several of our envoys abroad have referred to these talks in glowing terms in International fora. The talks are depicted as positive proof of the Rajapaksa government's bona fides in resolving the ethnic problem or national question. Recently the US envoy Patricia Butenis in her meeting with President Rajapaksa asked him specifically about the talks with the TNA.

The Govt-TNA talks has also run into quite a few snags. There has not been much progress and the pace has been quite slow. The TNA alleges that some of the assurances given have not been honoured. The party is also miffed that the earlier arrangement to meet once every two weeks has not been implemented. The sudden postponement of a meeting scheduled in early March has also been a disappointment.


The tardy progress has led to disillusionment and TNA stalwarts like Maavai Senathirajah and Suresh Premachandran have been openly critical. Premachandran even told a newspaper that the talks with the Govt was a sham. In such a situation the attack on a TNA Parliamentarian could very well be the proverbial straw which broke the camel's back.

While understanding the TNA mindset at this point of time it is fervently hoped that the party would stay the course  in talks despite the irritants,misgivings and slow process. A problem festering for more than six decades cannot be solved in six months.

Whatever the provocation the TNA must stay the course and continue the dialogue with the Government. The TNA owes that much to the long suffering  Tamil people.





Deputy Leader of the United National Party Karu Jayasuriaya spoke to the Daily Mirror on the upcoming local government elections, grooming the second tier of leadership and addressed rumours of the UNP wooing Sarath Fonseka. He also touched on the grassrots structure of the UNP and the peaceful politics the party hopes to adhere to despite provocation towards violence from various sources. Excerpts of the interview follow, watch the full interview on

Q: The polls of 64 local government bodies have been postponed and some areas of the opposition claim that this was done to directly benefit the government, what is your take on this?

We are extremely disappointed and unhappy with this development. If I am to recall the sequence of events leading up to the elections; the government showed interest in conducting the election according to the new constitution which envisages the appointment of a representative representing each of the "Wards" and that was probably the best method, in our views, that would ensure the participation of the people and we went out of the way to make sure it was taken up. The President was very keen; the leader of the opposition also responded and we also nominated senior members from our party to negotiate with the government and they agreed in principle and were working around the clock to ensure these agreements were drawn up. I also recollect that there was general consensus that it should go through. Even on the day of the presentation of the news bill we were unaware that they would withdraw it. They came up with various excuses, saying there was no time; to which we responded that we were willing to defer to give them time. Then they said that the elections had to be held before the 31st of March otherwise they would be invalid.

We were to understand that this was because there was opposition within the PA towards this system and the government realised that holding elections for the urban areas was not prudent at this juncture because the government's popularity was on the wane, therefore they took this flimsy excuse of the cricket match, to postpone some elections - but if this was the case then it was only in three areas that this postponement should have taken place. But we hope they will not play the same game as they did in the Provincial Council Elections where every province was held separately.

Q: How do you think this will affect your party's ability to win these local government elections?

As it is we have seen that wherever we went, the senior officials of the party have visited all our districts and met all our candidates and what we see is unusual confidence on their part as to the change of people's attitudes. That is surprising, even in areas of the north and east and even the town of Kilinochchi we were surprised to see the whole place decorated in green.

Q: But through the elections that we have had in the past 15 months the UNP has been repeating this suggestion; "that the people are not happy with the government, they want a change and are looking to the UNP to bring this change." But it has not happened?

Well, my simple reply to that is; if the elections are held in a free and fair manner - things would be very different. I would like to draw attention to the Amnesty International report on the parliamentary elections, which clearly indicates the abuse of state media, power, wealth, vehicles, mansions and bungalows and how these have been used to gain votes.

Q: If, as you say, you feel that the system has broken down and you no longer have faith in it, then what confidence do you have that the UNP will win the upcoming elections?

Well once again, like I said before; we see the people's enthusiasm. We have seen this in 1977, when we went around the country and then I remember in the 2002 local government elections where we had a 97 per cent victory in all the local government elections. When we talk to our candidates and organisers they say "yes this time we are winning."

But I must also say that we are not sure how things will work on the day of the elections. For instance on Independence Day the incident at Borella where thugs attacked innocent party members, parliamentarians and local government members - these are things that should not happen in a so-called democratic country.

When things like this happen, people like us who believe in a decent society - can be provoked. We are not cowards; we can also meet this thuggery, but this is not how we as a political party choose to behave. We believe in a peaceful election and society and we will bow down to the people of this country on the Election Day.

But I appeal to the election commissioner to look into these matters. But we know that with the 18th Amendment, his powers are also very limited. Yet he still holds this position; so if he looks into it then we would have some confidence in taking this to the country and taking it to the world to say that this is an unfair election.

So in reply to your question we are confident of wining a free and fair election.

Q: The common argument is that the UNP has lost its connection to the grassroots and the leadership has alienated itself from the masses and the leadership crisis has also seeped into the grassroots. What do you fell about this?

I wouldn't fully agree with you but I have seen that over the years our grassroots structure has not been strengthened. Having realised this, we started the Grama Charika programme and it was a tremendous success and we have seen a great revival in the grass-roots mechanism.

Q: How soon after the elections does the party plan on implementing the reforms adopted late last year?

At the last session it was agreed that we adopted a new constitution and we have given the pledge that before the 12th of April all these reforms would be implemented.

Q: What are some of the changes you are looking forward to?

My view is that the party should have unity and team work; if we are together we are a solid force, because the UNP has the ability to become the party that will govern this country very soon.

At the moment of course, I must confess that we have various divergent views on policy matters. But those things can be finalised after some kind of dialogue and we are working in that direction. But at the moment I'm not worried about that as we are at the moment focusing on the elections.

Q: Why has the UNP failed to groom a second tier of leaders?

Well it is a matter of opinion. The party's strength lies in the experience of the seniors and the strength of the young people. I am very happy and proud that we have a group of seniors, middle- aged people and young people who we can develop into a very strong force.

Q: The government at the moment is making great efforts to connect with the TNA and this is strengthening their hold in the north and the east; why is it that the UNP has failed in this regard?

We also talk to all parties. I don't think the government has  close links with the TNA. From the very inception we have been talking to all political parties, Tamil and Muslim parties. When we went to Jaffna and we had their full blessings. We are very happy if the talks with the TNA are successful because the trust between the Sinhalese and the Tamils must be developed.

We as a party developed the 13th Amendment in the hope that devolution would fulfil the aspirations of the Tamil people and the government must also put forward their ideas on the topic.

The UNP is a party that caters to all shades of races. We have had very prominent Muslim, Burgher, Malay Tamil and Sinhalese leaders in our party.

Q: There is a rumour that the UNP plans on wooing Sarath Fonseka and offering him a position in the UNP. Is there any truth in this?

This has never been discussed at the working committee and it is the working committee that decides on these matters; but I must tell you that he was our joint opposition candidate and we stood by him.




The terrifying 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami which hit Northeastern Japan and several other countries in the Pacific area yesterday  is yet another grim reminder that top priority needs to be given not so much to terrorism or tourism but to global warming and related factors that cause such self-made catastrophes.

Yesterday's shattering calamity was also a reminder – just 48 hours after Ash Wednesday – that everything in life is transient or impermanent and no one, not even the highest or the most powerful, can escape the destiny of ashes to ashes or dust to dust. It was a full-scale warning to those who seek personal gain or glory in subtle ways, those who use their power to abuse or dominate others, those who use their power for personal prestige or popularity or plunder or pillage the resources of the country to build bigger barns of wealth and possessions. Only what is done for others, what is done sincerely, selflessly and sacrificially for the common good of all will last beyond the dust and ashes. All worldly things, built up over years or decades can be destroyed in a moment as we saw in Japan and other countries yesterday and as we saw in Sri Lanka during the 2004 tsunami.

Yesterday afternoon, Japanese television showed cars, ships and even buildings being swept away by a vast wall of water after the earthquake and the tsunami, while massive fires were also seen and even nuclear power plants faced danger. Some analysts described it as being like an atom bomb attack similat to what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

The earthquake struck about 400km from the capital at a depth of 16km. There were also powerful aftershocks.

The catastrophe at 11.15 a.m Sri Lankan time brought about tsunami warnings in some 20 countries. Waves of up to 10 metres and roaring at some 800 kilometres an hour, the speed of a jumbo jet, were seen hitting several places. 

 The earthquake also triggered a number of fires, including one at an oil refinery in Ichihara city in Chiba prefecture near Tokyo.

More details of the deaths and devastation appear in the front page lead story and the international news pages of the Daily Mirror today. While watching these horrific scenes what we and other countries need to do is to speed up measures to prevent such catastrophes which are not natural or supernatural curses but are largely self-made tragedies. Our own selfishness, self-centeredness and greed to grab more, exploit more of the world's natural resources and change the balance of the eco system have sent us plunging towards self destruction. We need to carefully read the signs of the times and take counter measures.

By divine providence Sri Lanka escaped yesterday's calamity. But it was a signal for us to act fast and act wisely to save Sri Lanka and be prepared to face such disasters.









ONE big story of the last few weeks has the US military playing mind games with civilian leaders to get greater support for the war in Afghanistan.


Sometimes, these games have been called brainwashing. Another name is "psyops", or psychological operations.


The Department of Defence Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms says: "Psychological operations are planned propaganda operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behaviour of foreign governments, organisations, groups, and individuals."


Until now, there's been very little public complaint about the use of psyops to influence foreigners. Not many - outside of intelligence services, those involved and their critics - have even been aware that such operations have been going on.


Psyop activities include electronic warfare, computer network operations, military deception and operations security.


This is in concert with activities to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp adversaries' decision making while protecting America's.


In short, US psyops amount to psychological warfare, which has a history that goes as far back as the First World War.


What makes the latest use of planned propaganda operations a matter of public concern?


According to Rolling Stone magazine, the military has been propagandising civilian leaders. The ritual relationship between the military and civilians in America has traditionally kept the military under the control of a civilian Secretary of Defence.


Recently, the Army Times carried a story about how a psyops sergeant broadcast the following message to the Taliban to draw them out in the open by insulting them: "Attention, Taliban, you are all cowardly dogs. You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing West and burned. You are too scared to retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be."


The psyop soldiers responsible were trying to harass the enemy, a common practice used by psyop teams in the past and widely publicised during its employment in the 2004 battle for Fallujah.


The latest incident occurred in February 2011 when Rolling Stone reported that Lieutenant General William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training troops in Afghanistan, ordered the use of psyops on US senators.


The significance of this is not what Chris Matthews of MSNBC complained of, that the general exceeded his proper role of military subservience to civilian leaders.


The real significance rests in the fact that the government is consistently using and developing techniques to control people's minds.


Any tactic, psychological or otherwise, which can be seen as subverting an individual's sense of control over their own thinking, behaviour, emotions or decision making, should be exposed.


In 1956, Public Relations Society of America president W Howard Chase wrote: "The very presumptuousness of moulding or affecting the human mind through the techniques we use has created a deep sense of uneasiness in our minds."


He was referring to techniques used to package and sell products through hidden persuaders in advertising.


Several movies have been made featuring psyop themes. However, as the thinking goes, movies are fictional and, therefore, not a reflection of reality.


The ability to contact millions through films, TV, newspapers, magazines and the Internet is reason to pause to examine the dangers of a growing psyops culture.


The prospects are not encouraging: military information warfare extends to political warfare, expanding psychological warfare without defined boundaries.


The best advice comes from James Thurber: "Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness."



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