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Thursday, March 17, 2011

EDITORIAL 17.03.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month march 17, edition 000782 collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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





































































The Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Mr Hamid Ansari, may feel compelled to rise to the defence of the Government, but there is no such compulsion for the Opposition. That Mr Ansari should have sought to prevent the Opposition from protesting against the Union Government's patently illegal move to harass the Government of Gujarat and scare away investors from that State by abusing its power and misusing official agencies is a comment on his predilection. Ironically, along with the vindictive attitude of the Government whose misdeeds do not appear to bother Mr Ansari, his unacceptable stricture against the Opposition is indeed, to quote him, "an extraordinary commentary on the functioning of Indian democracy". The BJP is perfectly within its rights to raise the issue of the Congress trying to harass Mr Narendra Modi and the Government he heads in Gujarat. It is astounding that the Income Tax Department should have been directed to issue a notice to Gujarat's Industries Commissioner, demanding copies of Memoranda of Understanding signed during the Vibrant Gujarat investors' meet organised earlier this year. It is equally astonishing that an inquiry should have been initiated into the MoUs. Never before has something so extraordinary happened in regard to State Governments seeking investments or signing MoUs with investors. Clearly, the Congress, which has no qualms about misusing agencies of the state, as we have seen with the CBI being instructed to frame false cases against BJP leaders and senior police officers in Gujarat, is determined to hit this State and its people where it hurts most — industrial investment. Were the Congress to succeed in its despicable attempt, it would derive perverse pleasure at having put down Mr Modi and the masses who vote for the BJP. It matters little to the Congress that this would hurt India too — the nation is never close to the party's interests and is of least concern to its leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who, of course, would plead ignorance about the Income Tax Department being made into an instrument of political subversion.

Harassment of political opponents by resorting to deplorable and dastardly dirty tricks — which is built into the DNA of the genes of Congress's leaders — is only one part of the black deed committed against the Government of Gujarat. The other part, which is equally condemnable, is to do with the Congress's brazen assault on the federal structure of our polity. A State Government is at liberty to raise funds and invite investments to further development and propel growth. That the Government of Gujarat has raced past others is a tribute to the quality of governance under Mr Modi's tutelage which no Congress leader can ever achieve — either in New Delhi or in State capitals. To try and scuttle the efforts of the Government of Gujarat and arm-twist potential investors into staying away from the State is tantamount to disallowing States to function freely. This cannot be allowed; the mischief should be nipped in the bud. On the eve of Vibrant Gujarat, the Union Ministry of Finance had contacted public sector banks and asked them not to underwrite proposed projects. Now the Income Tax Department has been roped in to inflict damage on investor confidence. The Opposition should not rest till the notice is withdrawn. There's no reason to be lenient with such a crooked Government. If that upsets Mr Ansari, so be it.






The decision of the Kerala CPI(M) not to field Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan as a candidate for the April 13 Assembly elections is a sure shot way to ensure the electoral devastation of the ruling LDF in the State, which has already suffered terrible setbacks in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and the civic elections of last October. It is almost certain that the party's decision will limit the extent of the Left's rule to Tripura as it is all set to be thrown out of power in West Bengal in the coming election. Mr Achuthanandan, despite his dogmatic attitudes as a Marxist, is the only man capable of saving the Left Democratic Front from a total collapse in the face of strong anti-incumbency sentiment and allegations of corruption against CPI(M)'s supreme leader in the State, secretary Pinarayi Vijayan. Mr Vijayan is the seventh accused in the Rs 374.5 crore SNC Lavalin case which is pending in a CBI court in Kochi. His associates in the neo-liberalist camp are also charged with involvement in scams. To make matters worse, the popular perception is that Mr Achuthanandan, who had taken the Left to power in the 2006 Assembly election on an anti-corruption plank, failed to fulfil his mission due to several restrictions imposed on him by the party. Mr Achuthanandan had even tried to expedite legal action against Mr Vijayan in the SNC Lavalin case but this only resulted in his demotion in the Polit Bureau. The CPI(M) leadership in the State is also accused of having a secret deal with the Congress that allows them to protect their corrupt members. This has only served to further tarnish the party's reputation in the State. Additionally, the imprisonment of a leader of the Congress-led UDF, R Balakrishna Pillai, in a graft case by the Supreme Court and some new revelations against another UDF heavyweight PK Kunhalikutty in a sex abuse scandal had also begun to turn the electorate against the Congress and its allies. This has had a direct impact on the popularity of Mr Achuthanandan. Coupled with the disclosure of several corruption scandals within the UPA regime, he has now re-emerged as the most popular leader in Kerala.

With Mr Achuthanandan being kept away from the helm of the Left's campaign in the name of perpetual violation of the so-called Leninist policies of the party, the Congress is most likely to find the election a cakewalk in the State. The development is sure to cause cracks in the LDF, which had come to power winning 97 seats of the total 140 in the Kerala Assembly, but the CPI(M) leadership seems to be unperturbed by that prospect. The fact is that the CPI(M) is set to pay the inevitable price for its fascist political perspective and lust for power in Kerala as well as West Bengal.








TV channels are demanding that the Government should pay ransom to free Indian sailors held hostage. We saw similar media frenzy during IC-814 crisis.

On December 8, 1989, Ms Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, who had become India's Minister for Home Affairs less than a week earlier, was kidnapped by members of the separatist Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front. Amidst a frenzy of media attention, Prime Minister VP Singh buckled and sent two of his Ministers, Mr Inder Kumar Gujral and Mr Arif Mohammed Khan, to Srinagar. Despite strong warnings from Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah and indications that Ms Rubaiya Saeed would not be harmed, the Government meekly caved in to the demands of the kidnappers, releasing detained terrorists. The entire Kashmir Valley erupted with calls for 'azadi'. India continues to pay a heavy price for this act of abject surrender.

On December 31, 1999, India released three arrested terrorists, Maulana Masood Azhar, Omar Saeed Sheikh and Mushtaq Zargar to secure the release of passengers of the hijacked IC-814 in Kandahar. Maulana Masood Azhar returned to a hero's welcome in Pakistan, founded the Jaish-e-Mohammed and masterminded the attack on our Parliament House on December 13, 2001. Omar Saeed Sheikh remitted $100,000 through a bank in Dubai to the mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mohammed Atta. He was thereafter involved in the execution of American journalist Daniel Pearl. Mushtaq Zargar, a psychopath, runs the Al Umar Mujahideen from Muzaffarabad. During negotiations with the hijackers of IC-814, India was often urged to meet the demands of the hijackers, citing the precedent set by the Rubaiya Sayeed kidnapping. Irresponsible television coverage focusing on demonstrations by relatives of passengers added to pressures on the Government to yield to the demands of the hijackers.


In recent days sections of the audio-visual media have sought to whip up public hysteria by demanding 'flexibility' and direct negotiations by the Government with Somali pirates and even advocating payment of ransom to those threatening to kill four Indian sailors, working on an Egyptian ship and held captive. Relatives of the men held by pirates were mobilised. They asserted that if Government leaders can rob billions in scams like the 2G Spectrum scandal, they should have no hesitation in paying a few million dollars as ransom to the pirates. The media, of course, had no time or inclination to either study the complexities of the issues involved or the accepted international practice that Governments will not negotiate directly with pirates. These negotiations are invariably between ship-owners and pirates, with Governments playing a discreet role behind the scenes.

Responding to the Indian media's frenzy, Egypt's envoy in New Delhi, Mr Khaled el Bakly, bluntly stated: "Egypt is doing all it can. I am on the phone every day, talking to Cairo. But please understand it is prohibited under international law to negotiate with pirates. All that the Egyptian Government can do is to persuade the owner of the vessel to negotiate with the pirates." Sadly, there appears to be very little appreciation and even less understanding in India about the international challenges that Somali piracy poses. There are navies of 21 countries, ranging from those of the US and its Nato allies, to Russia, China, India, Japan, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia, actively collaborating, to deal with Somali piracy. The UN has been involved, with Security Council Resolution 1838 of October 5, 2008 authorising ships to pursue pirate vessels into Somali territorial waters. India was among the first to deploy naval vessels to deal with piracy on November 23, 2008. Moreover, pirate vessels coming close to our shores have been challenged and attacked, with pirates killed, or taken prisoner. The efficacy of the policy of not negotiating with pirates directly has been demonstrated. While pirates continue to hold 53 Indian sailors captive, they have released 124 sailors since 2008 without our compromising vital national interests or international obligations.

Even the CIA appears persuaded that dealing with Somali pirates is not an easy affair. Pirates recently killed four American nationals when their demands were not met. Apart from the fact the writ of the Somali Government does not even extend across its capital Mogadishu, studies by the IMO, WFP and UN show that there are several other factors that result in poverty stricken Somalis finding piracy lucrative and rewarding. The livelihood and catch of Somali fishermen have been destroyed by uncontrolled fishing by foreign trawlers and by dumping of toxic waste across the Somali coast. Moreover, piracy has led to a new class of wealthy people, wielding power and patronage across Somalia. As of December 11, 2010, it has been estimated that Somali pirates use 35 captured ships for their activities and hold 650 sailors hostages. The time has perhaps come for intelligence agencies across the world to come together to work out strategies to covertly eliminate pirates and their patrons in Somalia even while undertaking measures to see that Somali fishermen are not deprived of their traditional livelihood.

Apart from the media frenzy on the need for the Government to be 'flexible' with Somali pirates, there has been carping on why enough has not been done to evacuate Indian nationals from troubled countries like Egypt and Libya. Complaints from well-heeled Indian tourists holidaying in Egypt about having to pay some excess fare for being repatriated to India from Cairo in specially chartered aircraft received sympathetic media coverage. While one can understand Indian taxpayers footing the bill for abandoned workers stranded in the Gulf, it is ridiculous to expect them to pay for the repatriation of tourists or professionals who seek employment abroad. While India completed the repatriation of all its nationals wishing to come home from Libya on March 12, most Chinese nationals evacuated from that country are still in makeshift transit camps in its neighbourhood. One hopes that norms will be evolved for positioning armed guards in Indian maritime vessels, to ward off pirate attacks. Legislation should also be enacted to give the Navy powers to seek out, capture and kill pirates in international waters.

One of the major reasons why the relatives of the passengers of IC-814 took to the streets in New Delhi was the less than sensitive handling of them by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Similarly, the relatives of sailors of pirated ships have been forced to run from pillar to post because the Ministry of Shipping has no guidelines or machinery to sensitively handle the distraught relatives. Norms and procedures should be devised to ensure this is not repeated in future.






Japan's earthquake and nuclear crisis have put pressure on the already fragile global economy, squeezed supplies of goods from computer chips to auto parts and raised fears of higher interest rates.

The disaster frightened financial markets from Tokyo to Wall Street on Tuesday. Japan's Nikkei average lost 10 per cent, and the Dow Jones industrials fell so quickly after the opening bell that the stock exchange invoked a special rule to smooth volatility.

Yet the damage to the US and world economies is expected to be relatively moderate and short-lived. Oil prices are falling, helping drivers around the world. And the reconstruction expected along Japan's north-eastern coast could even provide a jolt of economic growth.

A weaker Japanese economy could help ease global commodity prices because Japan is a major importer of fuel, agricultural products and other raw materials, notes Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics.

Even "assuming a drastic scenario," Bank of America economist Ethan Harris estimates, the disaster would shave just 0.1 percentage point off global economist growth — to 4.2 per cent this year.

"Japan has not been an engine of global or Asian growth for some time," says Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight. "This means that the impact of much lower Japanese growth on the world economy will be probably limited and small."

Japan's contribution to the world's economy fell from 18 per cent in 1995 to nine per cent in 2010, according to CLSA. And the area hardest hit by the quake accounts for just six per cent to seven per cent of Japan's output, about half as much as the area hit by the 1995 Kobe quake, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates.

After previous catastrophes, Japan has proved resilient. After the Kobe quake, manufacturers returned to normal production levels within 15 months, according to the CLSA. Four in every five shops were back open in a year-and-a-half. All told, Japan's comeback defied dire warnings that it would take a decade to rebuild.

For now, though, the latest quake, the resulting tsunami and the threat of contamination from a damaged nuclear plant have spooked financial markets. Investors are fretting about the effects on companies around the world. Japan, the world's third-largest economy, accounts for about 10 per cent of US exports.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost nearly 300 points before regaining ground. It was down about 100 points, or 0.9 per cent, in late afternoon trading, after the Fed said it will stick with its $600 billion bond repurchase programme and the US economy was on a firmer footing. Stocks plunged almost 11 per cent in Japan, five per cent in Germany and four per cent in France.

Autos and auto parts make up more than one-third of US imports from Japan. As a result, shutdowns of Japanese auto factories could disrupt production at US plants owned by Japanese automakers.

At the same time, some US auto parts makers could benefit if Japanese plants in the United States substitute US parts for those they usually get from Japan, Behravesh says.

A big wild card is the fate of Japan's damaged nuclear power plants.

"If the nuclear crisis turns into a full-blown catastrophe, then the negative effect on growth this year will be much larger," IHS' Behravesh says.

Another unknown is the impact of the disruptions to Japan's power supplies. Behravesh estimates about 10 per cent of Japan's electricity generation could be off line for several months. If so, that would disrupt steel, auto and other production.

Investors fear that Japan will struggle to finance reconstruction, which is expected to cost the Government at least $200 billion. The Japanese Government's debt is already an alarming 225 per cent of the country's economic output.

Some worry that Japan will sell some of its vast holdings of US Government debt to raise money. Doing so would push the prices of US Treasury bonds down and yields up, raising US interest rates.

But Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Tuesday dismissed the fears of a Japanese fire sale of Treasury debt.

"Japan is a very rich country and has a high savings rate," he said. It "has the capacity to deal not just with the humanitarian challenge but also the reconstruction challenge they face ahead."

What's more, the Bank of Japan has been buying Treasurys and other assets as it pumps money into the financial system to restore calm.

The quake has damaged roads, ports, airports and factories, disrupting the shipment of goods in and out of Japan. The disaster blindsided multinational companies that were bracing for trouble in their transportation lines on the other side of the world — at the Suez Canal or elsewhere in West Asia where protests are destabilising countries from Bahrain to Libya, says Patrick Burnson, executive editor of Supply Chain Management.

It's also disrupted auto production, shutting down auto and auto parts factories. Analysts at Tong Yang Securities in South Korea "do not expect production to normalise any time soon" in Japan. Even plants that stay open may have to wait for parts to arrive, a problem made worse because so many factories follow just-in-time supply management and keep few parts on hand.

Car plants in Thailand could have a harder time getting steel, much of which is imported from Japan.

Prices for goods that need Japanese parts could rise while companies scramble to find supplies. Japan supplies computer chips for cellphones and iPads. Objective Analysis Semiconductor Market Research in California predicts the quake will cause "phenomenal price swings and large near-term shortages" of those chips.

Chinese companies are bracing themselves for losses and delays from disruptions in shipments of high-end electronics and auto components from Japan and some are looking for import replacements from South Korea or Taiwan, according to the International Business Daily, the official paper of China's Commerce Ministry.

Some analysts note that companies and consumers that now buy Japanese products can often find alternatives made elsewhere.

"What is made in Japan now has lots of competitive alternatives that didn't exist 25 years ago," says Peter Morici, a professor at the University of Maryland and a former director at the US International Trade Commission. "If there aren't as many Camrys in the country this year as there might have been, you might have a couple hundred thousand additional Ford customers. If those people have good experiences with those cars, it could change buying patterns for life."

David Rea, an economist with Capital Economics in London, said, "You'll have Japan's competitors — largely South Korea and Taiwan who are in high end manufacturing, and China as well — come in and undercut Japanese businesses experiencing disruption from the earthquake."

If Japan's infrastructure doesn't get rebuilt quickly enough, Japanese companies may transfer production overseas to pick up the slack, Rea added.

The reconstruction of Japan's north-eastern coast might also provide business opportunities for foreign countries. Malaysian timber, for instance, will likely be needed to rebuild homes and other buildings. IHS predicts that the quake will "ultimately boost" US exports to Japan. (AP)







The pro-Hamas regime in Syria, backed by Iran, is celebrating the fall of the Mubarak regime. It has increased its arms supplies to the Egypt-Gaza border for use by Hamas in its terror campaign. Strangely, the US appears to be unperturbed

The story of the Liberian-flag ship Victoria is dramatic enough but few will understand, at least immediately, that it opens a new era in the region's history. It is a period when, for the first time more than 30 years that Egypt will not be a reliable force for regional peace and stability.

The Victoria was loaded with a large shipment of weapons in Latakia, Syria. Note that Syria is a dictatorship where nothing happens without Government approval. Thus, the Syrian regime decided to provide arms to the terrorist group Hamas. It did so fairly openly because the Assad dictatorship has no fear of individual punishment, censor, or even bad publicity.

The Syrian Government also supplies arms to Iraqi insurgents who murder Americans as well as Iraqi civilians. Nevertheless, the current US Government has engaged Syria diplomatically and has made a series of concessions to it. The Syrians have made clear that they view these thing as concessions showing that they are strong, America is weak, and that Syria can get away with whatever it wants to do.

Question: Will the US Government and European Governments change their policies when presented evidence of open Syrian sponsorship of terrorism and destabilising the region? Will the US engagement end? Will the European Union censure Syria the way it has so frequently treated Israel? Will the media spend anywhere near as much time criticising Syria, exposing its human rights' violations, and international misbehaviour as it does in finding reasons to vilify Israel? Answer: You know the answers are all 'No'.

By the way, some official Iranian documents were reportedly captured. It is likely that Iran paid for the weapons and supplied some or even most of them directly. You see, Iran is at war with America. It backs terrorism generally, kills Americans in Iraq, trains the Taliban, shelters Al Qaeda (according to US intelligence documents), and tries to foment war on Israel.

Question: Will US policy under the current administration recognise these (non-nuclear) threats and take up the competition seriously? Answer: You know already that it's 'No'.

The Victoria then proceeded to Turkey as a way to launder the true purpose of its voyage. Next, it headed for Alexandria, Egypt, where the arms were to be unloaded and shipped to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

This operation would not have happened three months ago, before the Egyptian revolution because Syria and Hamas would have faced two problems: First, under the Mubarak Government the ship would have been checked and the cargo confiscated. Israel would have informed Egypt about the cargo and purpose. But even if that had not happened, for its own interests the then Government of Egypt would not have wanted a large-scale arms shipment to Hamas.


Second, under the Mubarak Government even if the weapons had been unloaded there is a good chance they would have been seized at the Egypt-Gaza border. Even though many weapons are smuggled across, the chance of being caught has kept the level of smuggling below a certain point. Now, emboldened, Iran, Syria, Hizbullah (there are now Hizbullah advisors in Gaza), and Hamas itself believes that either the Egyptian forces don't care, are ideologically supportive, or can be even more easily bribed.

However, the gates are not completely open. A much more blatant arms smuggling effort to Hamas through Sudan has been reportedly intercepted and stopped by the Egyptian military.

Events in Egypt teach us once again that while countries pursue their national interests, it is up to Governments to define those interests. The previous sentence is the key to international affairs. It provides all the international relations and political science theory you will ever need. A new regime — as we saw with the overthrow of the Shah and his replacement by Islamists in Iran — has a new view of national interests.

The old Egyptian Government knew that Hamas wanted to destabilise it and replace it with an Islamist regime. That Egyptian Government also understood that an escalation of Hamas-Israel war could draw in Egypt as well and destabilise the region. The old Egyptian Government was angry at Hizbullah, which tried to carry out terrorist operations on its own soil. That regime viewed its interests as diametrically opposed to those of the Iran-Syria axis that wishes to seize hegemony in West Asia and drive out Western interests.

Egypt is in the process of redefining its national interests. Ladies and gentlemen, everything you have been told by most Western Governments and virtually all the world's media was wrong. Egypt has gone from being a force for stability in the region and the strengthening of Western interests to, at best, a neutralist state that is indifferent on the key issues. The next step could well be into the negative category.

With the US Government unreliable and the Europeans even more so, Israel is going to look after its own defence. Israel's Government is going to be very polite about all of this. It will make protests that it knows will go unheeded. It will prepare detailed dossiers of its assertions that it knows will go unpublished. It will offer potential compromises that it knows will go unmet by counterparts. And at the same time it will go about the business of protecting itself and its people.

As everyone is watching the results of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, there is a manmade earthquake and tsunami in West Asia.

Note: It is interesting to compare the Victoria to the ship Karina-B, carrying weapons from Iran to Fatah with the deal being arranged by Hizbullah. This showed that Yasir Arafat wanted to escalate the fighting into a major Israel-Palestinian war. Under a previous President, US policymakers reacted strongly, though only very temporarily, against the Palestinian Authority.

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







The slaughter of street dogs in the Kashmir Valley calls for a full inquiry. The hapless animals served as watchdogs for the Army against infiltrators crossing the LoC and alerted security forces whenever danger was afoot

The reported mass killing of stray dogs in Srinagar merits a serious probe. On September 22, 2009, a report in The Times of India by Ajay Sura had stated that stray dogs had become watchdogs for the Army against infiltrators crossing the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir. The report quoted Lt-Col NK Airy, spokesperson for the Army's Tenth Division, as saying that these dogs recognised troops and local civilians and started barking whenever there was any movement of strangers. They were quick to train, easy to maintain, did not take a huge amount to procure and could not be recognised by the infiltrators as Army dogs.

Many Army officers have testified to the invaluable role of such dogs. One of them is Mr Habib Rehman, who began life in the Army and retired as the head of a well-known hotel chain. In his touching book, A Home for Gori, about a dog who adopted his family and became a deeply-loved member, he narrates how his love for dogs was awakened by his acquaintance with Bullet, which he made as a Second-Lieutenant posted in what is now Arunachal Pradesh. Every Army picket from the LoC in the north-west to Arunachal Pradesh in the north-east, had a dog like Bullet, a mongrel of Bhutia origin of the kind found all along the Himalayan ranges, as an additional member, rendering signal service in alerting it to an enemy's approach and any other threats. A deep bond invariably develops between such canines and Army personnel.


In an article entitled The dog that did India proud in The Pioneer of March 24, 2007, Major-General Ashok Mehta (Retd) wrote fondly about Krupa, a Bakerwal puppy, who was picked up in 1963 and lovingly reared by a unit of the Gorkha Rifles serving along the LoC, then called the Ceasefire Line. Krupa did yeoman service not only with it but also the Sikh and Garhwal regiments that followed

Law enforcing authorities everywhere have acknowledged the important role played by stray dogs. As Director-General of Police, Andhra Pradesh, Mr Swaranjit Sen had advised police stations to adopt stray dogs for being alerted against approaching Maoists. Not surprisingly, Maoists in West Bengal had asked villagers to kill all village dogs. Even earlier, terrorists coming across the Line of Control had asked villagers close to it to kill their dogs; so had terrorists in Punjab.

The point in mentioning all this is the recent report in several newspapers of Sajjad Afghani, an important leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad, being killed along with this bodyguard, Omar Bilal, by the Jammu & Kashmir Police in an encounter on March 10. The reports quoted Mr RM Sahai, Inspector-General of Police, Kashmir, as saying that they were trying to set up a base in Srinagar "to carry out big strikes in the future on security force installations". Was the killing of stray dogs meant to facilitate the strikes? The matter needs to be investigated because of the State Government's shocking delay in entering into a partnership with the Animal Welfare Board of India in implementing the canine Animal Birth Control programme, the only effective means of controlling stray dog populations.

Terrorists have reason to oppose the programme which involves the neutering and vaccination (against rabies) of stray dogs and their return to where they had been picked up from. Implemented area-wise, it is calculated to taper off a city or State's stray dog population as the neutered and vaccinated dogs live out their life-spans. This means that they will continue to remain in their areas for some years and continue to alert security forces to the approach of terrorists who, one hopes, would be routed by the time the dogs live out their biological life-spans.

On the other hand, as the Guidelines for Dog Population Management, jointly released by the World Health Organisation and the World Society for the Protection of Animals in 1990, killing never succeeds in providing a solution. What it can do, however, is a temporary reduction of stray dog populations in specific areas and thus help terrorist strikes. Is this the reason why some in Jammu & Kashmir oppose the implementation of the ABC programme and favour killing? If so, who are they? One needs to find out.







The slaughter of street dogs in the Kashmir Valley calls for a full inquiry. The hapless animals served as watchdogs for the Army against infiltrators crossing the LoC and alerted security forces whenever danger was afoot

The reported mass killing of stray dogs in Srinagar merits a serious probe. On September 22, 2009, a report in The Times of India by Ajay Sura had stated that stray dogs had become watchdogs for the Army against infiltrators crossing the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir. The report quoted Lt-Col NK Airy, spokesperson for the Army's Tenth Division, as saying that these dogs recognised troops and local civilians and started barking whenever there was any movement of strangers. They were quick to train, easy to maintain, did not take a huge amount to procure and could not be recognised by the infiltrators as Army dogs.

Many Army officers have testified to the invaluable role of such dogs. One of them is Mr Habib Rehman, who began life in the Army and retired as the head of a well-known hotel chain. In his touching book, A Home for Gori, about a dog who adopted his family and became a deeply-loved member, he narrates how his love for dogs was awakened by his acquaintance with Bullet, which he made as a Second-Lieutenant posted in what is now Arunachal Pradesh. Every Army picket from the LoC in the north-west to Arunachal Pradesh in the north-east, had a dog like Bullet, a mongrel of Bhutia origin of the kind found all along the Himalayan ranges, as an additional member, rendering signal service in alerting it to an enemy's approach and any other threats. A deep bond invariably develops between such canines and Army personnel.

In an article entitled The dog that did India proud in The Pioneer of March 24, 2007, Major-General Ashok Mehta (Retd) wrote fondly about Krupa, a Bakerwal puppy, who was picked up in 1963 and lovingly reared by a unit of the Gorkha Rifles serving along the LoC, then called the Ceasefire Line. Krupa did yeoman service not only with it but also the Sikh and Garhwal regiments that followed

Law enforcing authorities everywhere have acknowledged the important role played by stray dogs. As Director-General of Police, Andhra Pradesh, Mr Swaranjit Sen had advised police stations to adopt stray dogs for being alerted against approaching Maoists. Not surprisingly, Maoists in West Bengal had asked villagers to kill all village dogs. Even earlier, terrorists coming across the Line of Control had asked villagers close to it to kill their dogs; so had terrorists in Punjab.

The point in mentioning all this is the recent report in several newspapers of Sajjad Afghani, an important leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad, being killed along with this bodyguard, Omar Bilal, by the Jammu & Kashmir Police in an encounter on March 10. The reports quoted Mr RM Sahai, Inspector-General of Police, Kashmir, as saying that they were trying to set up a base in Srinagar "to carry out big strikes in the future on security force installations". Was the killing of stray dogs meant to facilitate the strikes? The matter needs to be investigated because of the State Government's shocking delay in entering into a partnership with the Animal Welfare Board of India in implementing the canine Animal Birth Control programme, the only effective means of controlling stray dog populations.

Terrorists have reason to oppose the programme which involves the neutering and vaccination (against rabies) of stray dogs and their return to where they had been picked up from. Implemented area-wise, it is calculated to taper off a city or State's stray dog population as the neutered and vaccinated dogs live out their life-spans. This means that they will continue to remain in their areas for some years and continue to alert security forces to the approach of terrorists who, one hopes, would be routed by the time the dogs live out their biological life-spans.

On the other hand, as the Guidelines for Dog Population Management, jointly released by the World Health Organisation and the World Society for the Protection of Animals in 1990, killing never succeeds in providing a solution. What it can do, however, is a temporary reduction of stray dog populations in specific areas and thus help terrorist strikes. Is this the reason why some in Jammu & Kashmir oppose the implementation of the ABC programme and favour killing? If so, who are they? One needs to find out.

If with the Commonwealth Games, 2G spectrum or Adarsh you thought that you had seen the last or worst of corruption scandals, think again. The news that pilots who have failed to qualify for their commercial licences have been paying for fake marksheets to obtain them anyway trumps them all. Parminder Kaul Gulati, the first pilot caught just a few days ago, must be a true pioneer of corruption. Inflating the price of a roll of toilet paper or grabbing a flat meant for the kin of dead soldiers is one thing; taking to the skies without proper knowledge of how to pilot your aircraft and with the lives of hundreds of people depending on your competence - or rather, incompetence - blazes a new trail. Rules and regulations appear to serve little purpose, other than as an intellectual exercise for scamsters to figure out a way around them.

It would be farcical if it were not so horrifying - touts offering to have below-par exam papers 're-evaluated' much like blackmarketers try to scalp movie tickets outside a theatre. Or the fact that when the marksheets and other documentation for acquiring an airline transport pilot licence are submitted at the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) head office in Delhi, staff there cannot cross-check the authenticity because the databases containing exam results are not networked. Surely a process needs to be in place whereby the DGCA offices distributing pilot licences have access to their own exam results.

It is luck of the highest order that this scam has come to light without any lives being lost, despite the many hard landings by Gulati that prompted officials to check her documents. The DGCA has launched a drive now to scrutinise the licences of about 4,000 pilots who might have obtained them through a similarly compromised process. Well and good, but civil aviation minister Vayalar Ravi must take personal charge of this. It's extremely unlikely that such a scam could have been perpetrated without the involvement of at least a few DGCA officials, especially since reports allege that a number of them have been resisting a probe. There must be no scope for a cover-up.

With the scam believed to have started in 2009, it has at least come to light quickly enough that there is a fair opportunity for cleaning it up before it becomes institutionalised. The investigative and judicial process must be swift. Just like those involved in the manufacture of spurious medicines, the guilty here have endangered thousands of lives for monetary gain. They must be found before luck runs out and we have an aircraft crash on our hands.










Reservation's biggest failure is that it seems to reinforce rather than dilute caste-based popular clamour. Social groups, some not-so-needy, continue to seek its supposed protective cover, often through violent means. Try telling that to India's politicians, who've long turned quotas into a tool of competitive electoral mobilisation. Rajasthan's leaders sometime ago granted Gujjar demands for self-serving ends. Today, Haryana's Hooda and UP's Mayawati back a Jat agitation for central jobs under the OBC category. What's blinked at is that, six decades ago, it was thought that ostracised and marginalised groups needed reservation only as a timebound instrument of socio-economic levelling. India has come a long way since then.

Today, reservation has ended
up creating "creamy layers" in targeted sections. The Supreme Court's 50% ceiling on quota has been breached as well, as in Tamil Nadu. Quotas were meant to facilitate upward mobility in terms of jobs, livelihoods or status. Instead, they have virtually come to resemble sarkari privilege, promoting a race to the bottom with more and more social groups demanding inclusion under SC/ST or OBC categories. Clearly, if we're to have reservation, it must be based on the economic criterion. More important, quota-based positive discrimination must make way for affirmative action in the form of efficient services delivery to the poor across the social board.

To the UPA government's credit, social schemes are being pushed with a broad, secular approach to promoting socio-economic uplift, be it through Bharat Nirman or the National Rural Health Mission. Whether NREG, the proposed food security scheme or right to education, the focus has been on need, not caste. This is as it should be. Whereas quotas create social friction by building coddled niches, welfare-for-all has unifying potential, and hence can help bridge caste divides. The midday meal scheme in schools - encouraging community eating at a young age - is a case in point.

The underprivileged have a sense of powerlessness and low self-esteem precisely because they've been treated as a faceless collective to be swayed by political populism, rather than as individual citizens with distinct identities and entitlements. Here's where UID and financial inclusion come in. By giving the poor identity, financial agency and provable claim to social benefits, such projects can do more good than quotas ever could. Similarly, reservations in perpetuity can't substitute for genuine empowerment flowing from access to education, healthcare and infrastructure. Development, fast-tracked, will work the magic reservation hasn't in over 60 years. In a new, aspirational India where votebank politicking increasingly seems an anomaly, the needy realise this. The outcome of key elections in Bihar - a state long associated with casteist politics - has demonstrated this not once but twice.






Parliamentary debates famously bark up the wrong tree. Our parliamentarians' reaction to the latest set of US diplomatic cables from India released by WikiLeaks, is a case in point. There has been a storm in a teacup about the supposed pro-American shift of the UPA government, because Mani Shankar Aiyar, who happens to harbour anti-American views, lost out in a cabinet reshuffle. The yardstick for judging policies or ministers should not be pro- or anti-Americanism - with all the connotations that carries of an outdated victim mentality - but who or what serves national interests best. More pertinently, lost in this debate is the more sensational disclosure from the whistleblower website. In south India in general, and in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in particular, cash for votes is common.

Politicians and their aides in these two states freely and openly admitted to violating election law to influence voters in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls - through payments in the form of cash, goods or services. In one case that has been cited, the DMK distributed Rs 5,000 to each voter in Thirumangalam to secure an assembly seat. It's bound to breed corruption on a mega-scale if the word is out that this is how elections are won (the leaks indicate that the word is indeed out). Political parties will need to generate and maintain large treasure chests in order to contest successfully, robbing Peter to pay Paul. If this is the season when Parliament is debating corruption, shouldn't vote-buying - and the vicious cycle of corruption that unregulated money in elections breeds - be the subject of discussion?







The order of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions declaring the Jamia Millia Islamia a 'minority' institution has generated considerable comment. Since different viewpoints have been stated, the issue needs to be objectively evaluated, inclusive of the ideological arguments.

The Jamia Millia Islamia was formed in 1920, at the behest of Gandhi, as a counter to the increasing sense of alienation among a section of Muslims. A group of nationalist Muslim leaders including Maulana Mahmudul Hasan, Maulana Mohamed Ali, M A Ansari, Hakim Ajmal Khan and Abdul Majeed Khwaja brought in all their resources to form Jamia. Others like Zakir Hussain, Prof Mujeeb and Prof Abid Hussain were to follow and devote their lives to the cause of education, in particular of Muslims, who were way behind other communities.

Registered initially as a society, Jamia became a deemed university in 1962. All these years it retained its status as a minority institution. In 1988, it became a central university by which time it had established its major faculties and departments including engineering, education, history, social work, fine arts, natural sciences, and its famous mass communication school. At that time it had roughly 50% Muslim students. Today, 23 years after becoming a central university, it still has roughly the same number of Muslim students.

Therefore, it is firstly important to grasp that the ruling does not change anything: it formalises the status quo. In an educational context where Muslims are worryingly under-represented, Jamia has historically provided a path to secular higher education to thousands of young, underprivileged provincial Muslims who receive their school education in the traditional style, in maktabs and madrassas. It has also made singular contribution to the education of Muslim girls in whose case parents would be reluctant to send them elsewhere. Today, one of the glorious achievements of the university is that within its campus one frequently sees groups where girls in hijab mix easily with all others.

But then since Jamia is indeed having 50% or more Muslims, why declare it a minority institution? Two things stand out here. First, over the last 90 years Muslims have had a sense of ownership and a fierce attachment with Jamia. They believe it is an institution of higher learning set up by their forefathers, to further in essence the cause of Muslim education, and declaring it a
minority institution makes them secure in this feeling. Two, with the introduction of reservations for OBCs, the level of reservations in the university would go beyond 50% and therefore over time Muslim numbers will decline.

However, despite this, there are reasonable arguments, focussing on the bad consequences that might follow from minority status. The most significant is that the minimum 50% reservation that minority status permits will be exceeded and this will lead to Jamia becoming a Muslim ghetto. It is further argued that once Jamia becomes a minority institution, its students will be shunned in the job market because their degrees, and diplomas, fairly or unfairly, will have been devalued by its reputation as a 'Muslim' institution.

Two points need to be made here. All minority institutions, including the Vellore Medical College and St Stephen's College, are governed by the same rules of admission. These institutions continue to be beacons of excellence despite the fact that they can theoretically take more than 50% of their students from the Christian community. Every educational institution regardless of whether it is a minority institution or not faces a choice: does it want to recruit the best students under the rules that govern it or will it misuse the rules for the sake of patronage, nepotism or communalism?

Jamia, being an older institution than most in north
India, has faced this choice for nearly a hundred years, in good times and bad, and has consistently made the right decision. The fact that at all times in its history it retained Muslim student numbers to around 50% is indicative of this maturity. There is no reason to believe this will change now.

It is also important to understand that Jamia is a recipient of public money, it has a duty to demonstrate that this money is scrupulously spent and that with the changed circumstance comes far greater responsibility. It will, therefore, have to commit itself to unprecedented levels of transparency, submitting its admission processes to national testing. Open competition with published merit lists for minority and non-minority students will shine daylight on the processes by which students are admitted.

At the same time, it will demonstrate that a commitment to the welfare of an underprivileged community can be combined with a commitment to openness, fairness and excellence. Better still, if Jamia could frame rules that part of that 50% reserved for Muslims becomes available to Muslim women and the backward Muslim community, it would manage a trifecta: pluralism, social justice and gender equality.

While this is a huge affirmative action on the part of the government that the Muslim community must accept with grace and gratitude, i believe the government has put an onus on the Muslims to prove that they can look beyond common perceptions of ghettoisation, fundamentalism and so on and understand that imbedded in this initiative is the challenge to be tested at the altar of competence, professionalism and, above all, commitment to fierce nationalism and secularism that has been the bedrock of Jamia for the past 90 years.

The writer, a former civil servant, is the vice-chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia








Recently revealed documents indicate that the business of governance, which depends on those in government putting their heads together, is being undermined by squabbling. The differences between environment minister Jairam Ramesh and several ministers whose concerns are voiced by home minister P Chidambaram, aren't being resolved through thought out and reasoned debate. Rather, what is happening is quite the opposite and is illustrated by Chidambaram's scathing attack on Ramesh. Speaking analogically, Chidambaram asked Ramesh, would he stop all car production because cars pollute?

Obviously car production, like mining, cannot be stopped and engaging in such exchanges is not what ministers should be doing. For one, it detracts from the seriousness of their jobs. For another, it is the duty of the government to function rather than get bogged down in internal squabbles. And that requires navigating a path through what are often completely opposing points of view. Ramesh and Chidambaram are a case in point as they have differing points of view on what the criteria for granting mining permits should be. Yet, Ramesh's environmental concerns are legitimate, as are Chidambaram's about growth. Both ministers should present their differing, and compelling, concerns and resolve them through debate. It is their responsibility to ultimately resolve their differences on the basis of detailed studies about what the costs and benefits of various policies will be. After all, they have bureaucracies to assist them in doing this.

All of these various inputs, processes and debates require privacy. Ministers are however squandering the privacy reserved for decision-making without distraction by engaging in public squabbles. Instead, they should focus on resolving complex issues. The positions of the various ministers and their concerns are well known. It is now up to UPA-II to demonstrate that it can rise above them and govern.








The recent disagreement between home minister P Chidambaram and environment minister Jairam Ramesh, over automobiles that both transport and pollute, highlights the desirability of such public arguments. Purists may yearn for an old school 'stiff upper lip' approach, where no matter how bitterly opposed ministers' views may be, in public they stand united, mouth platitudes and remain largely uncommunicative on important issues, giving rise instead to gossipy speculation. Instead of that, the Chidambaram-Ramesh disagreement indicates a fresh new school of politics.

The public airing of ministerial differences is a much less starchy, more real way of communicating different stands. As India proceeds down the tricky path of economic liberalisation with social responsibility, it is natural that ministers will often find their plans at odds with each other. The healthiest way forward is highlighting differing positions publicly, thereby pointing people towards information offered by each side. This democratisation of facts, information proceeding beyond cabinet or Parliament, into a much wider public sphere helps citizens make better choices.

Public disputes in UPA-II have erupted over the government's Naxal policy (Chidambaram facing fire from Digvijay Singh), planning models (sniping occurring between then roads and highways minister Kamal Nath and Planning Commission chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia) and development versus environmental priorities (Jairam Ramesh embroiled in several arguments). These are issues with powerful ramifications for India's present and future. Political spats help citizens keep track of what is happening, promised or refuted, improving accountability and generating further debate.








She shouldn't have known the spelling of 'suicide', yet one more child, no older than 11, went through the macabre ritual of reaching up to attach a rope to a ceiling fan, tying a slip knot, putting her neck into it and kicking away the stool. How did that little girl know the drill let alone summon the courage to go through its deliberations?

Sayoni Chatterjee's suicide in Mumbai last Monday dredged up the terrible memories of January 2010, when, within days of each other, Neha Sawant, also 11, and Sushant Patil, 12, hanged themselves. If the death of a young child is unbearable, how much worse is it when it is by its own small hands? And can we even dare to imagine an abyss as dark as that of the mother who finds that she was the one who gave the fatal push?

A week earlier, Mumbai had to confront another grisly image, the broken bodies of Nidhi Gupta, her three-year-old daughter and six-year-old son spread-eagled in the compound of their suburban housing complex. Ostensibly setting off for school, the chartered accountant mother had instead taken them to the 19th- floor 'refuge area', and pushed them out one by one, before taking the final leap herself.

Nidhi Gupta is beyond pain, remorse or guilt. But consider, if you have the courage, or the heart, to do so, the demons which will forever haunt Shampa Chatterjee. She had chanced upon her daughter's 'personal diary' heaving with Sayoni's outpourings about a boy in her class, and did what many a similarly enraged parent would automatically do. She first confronted the child, and then marched off in high indignation to the school. A petrified Sayoni pleaded with her not to take the matter to the principal. But the mother was unmoved. She waited to see the headmistress, and when she returned home, she came upon the terrible sight.

A letter spelling out the little girl's anguish heightens the mutated ordinariness of the sequence of events. The childish handwriting in pencil on a sheet from a ruled exercise book could well be notes from history class. The contents may ooze desperation, but are not very different from the usual overheated prepubescent expression. 'I am really very, very, very, very, very, very SORRY' she begins. It is not Sayoni's suicide note; it is addressed to the classmate in question, telling him about her mom's discovery: 'In this diary every one and all things are wrote.'

On another exercise book page, the boy's equally immature hand remonstrates 'now ur mother will tell to teacher'. This fevered exchange seems to be going on surreptitiously in class because the girl responds below this with an emphatic 'NO', darkened for emphasis, perhaps hopeless optimism.

Did Sayoni's mother overreact to the diary? After all, both subject and object were just ingenuous 11-year-olds? Or was this bypassed innocence exactly the provocation? More to the point, which parent hasn't reacted in blind rage to a similar discovery? Monday threw a chilling factor into the scenario, but Mrs Chatterjee had displayed only the 'normal' paranoia you can sense in every mother of a young daughter today. The least worrisome of predators is an 11-year-old classmate, however hormonally confused.

Our everyday existence is a minefield of child molesters. Family member, neighbour, liftman, male servants pouncing in multi-storied ease, schoolbus drivers - tell me honestly that you've never heard of a real-life horror story. No encounter is too short, and, shamefully, no child is too young. So we can never talk of too much paranoia. What's scary now is that protection can turn into culprit. As seems to have happened in the case of little Sayoni's suicide. Being a parent has never been tougher.








The jasmine revolution began as a romance and is now ending in tragedy.

As the world dithers on intervention, Libya's dictator Muammar Gaddafi is rapidly rolling up the rebellion that a week ago had seemed on the verge of toppling him.

Bahrain's Sunni rulers have violently turned on pro-democracy protestors, backed by troops provided by fellow Persian Gulf monarchies.

A similar story of protests being slowly but surely ground to silence is being repeated in many of the other Arab countries, ranging from Yemen to Algeria, where there had been an expectation of regime change.

To a large extent this is not unexpected.

The set of circumstances that led to the overthrow of the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt were not to be found in most of the other Arab countries.

The Persian Gulf nations have sufficient oil and gas-funded resources to pacify their populations.

But most important is that most of the Arab nations are still tribal. This has made it difficult to convert protests into mass movements.

As has happened in Libya, the ruling leadership has been able to count on tribal backing to ensure that an uprising is converted into a civil war. In addition, tribal structures have meant that the government can count on the support of some military elements.

Combined with greater firepower, the result has been a jasmine withering.

The Tunisian and Egyptian militaries crucially declined to violently suppress their own people. The only hope the remnants of the jasmine revolution have today is international intervention.

This in military terms means the United States. But after the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington has no stomach for such action unless there is overwhelming international sanction.

This has not been forthcoming, unsurprisingly, from countries like China and Russia. But even the democracies have been divided with France pushing the hardest for intervention and more conservative voices like Germany hiding behind a position of non-intervention.

India has taken the latter line, continuing a long tradition of preferring passivity when it comes to value-driven foreign policy.

However, the jasmine revolution has left a powerful legacy. The most important of these is the creation of a new political culture in Egypt. Egypt is the largest Arab nation and historically the intellectual leader of that part of the world.

Where its revolution takes it will be a key determinant in whether democracy can find a place in the Arab world.

Other Arab governments will find it necessary to bend to liberal wind in the decades to come, if that wind blows from Cairo.

The revolution is over, but the reformation may have just begun.





If there is one maxim that we can always count on, it is that there is no accounting for taste.

So we see celebrity homes furnished with the most outré pieces which then become the benchmark of haute living for those who don't know better.

Some of us have spent many an evening sitting on swings converted into sofas at eye level with nightmare-inducing objets d'art which were never meant to grace any civilised living room.

So we are a little puzzled at the lack of imagination shown by the Commonwealth Games organisers in making a quick buck or two from sacking the remains of the day which are now deteriorating by the day.

Take the case of the Rs 35 crore aerostat.

It is now going for Rs 8 crore and we are sure this can be beaten down further.

A smart salesman could have easily sold it to a family looking to be one up on the Tanwars or the Lals during the marriage of their offspring.

We can just picture it.

The bridegroom entering the venue under the laser lights of the aerostat, come on, that would be a hard act to follow.

Recently, our eagle eyes spotted several props lying around from the Games.

If we were not so tied up writing editorials, we would have bought the whole caboodle at basement bargain prices and sold them as trendy household accessories.

Next time you have a bring-your-own-biryani bash, the enormous dholak in the middle of your living room will surely become a talking point and catapult you into the host with the most category.

The large inflatable Rajasthani puppets could keep you company when you are not too sociable and also scare away potential thieves who might mistake them for your great aunt or uncle twice removed.

What are the organisers waiting for?

There is still some loot to be squeezed out of the Games, something to which we expected a Pavlovian response.

Meanwhile would anyone like a volume of bound editorials, it is going cheap this season.





You've been reading the WikiLeak reports in The Hindu?

No. I don't read The Hindu. They carry colour photographs on their front page these days and it's too frivolous for me.

Oh, you must read the paper. They're publishing a whole cache of diplomatic messages sent by American diplomats back to Washington pertaining to India. Parliament was rocked by some of the leaks.

You mean over the issue of India's foreign and domestic policy being supposedly pushed by Americans?

Yes. From cabinet reshuffles to 26/11 investigations, the WikiLeaks show New Delhi is apparently kowtowing to America.

But we do have a pro-US policy now. What's wrong with that? Manmohan Singh didn't sign up to a Indo-Soviet nuclear deal. And we wanted to be pals with the Americans anyway, right?

Yes, but...

But what? It's not as if India was behaving anti-US in public and pro-US on the side. We went public with our opposition to Iran's nuclear plans, we do business with Israel, we want Washington to stop being friendly with Pakistan, so we never really needed American 'pressure' to be pro-America.

Yes but...

Now you'll say that the WikiLeaks say that America pushed the Indian government to conduct nuclear tests in 1998 so that Pakistan would also go nuclear thereby taking its eyes off their Afghan front allowing al-Qaeda to attack America so that America could invade Iraq and control their oil.

Hmm. Must read the Hindu WikiLeaks stories more carefully and get back on that one.

Do that while I read the much less anti-imperialistic but much more hegemonic Hindustan Times.

Do say: Julian Assange zindabad!

Don't say: Did you say Hindu or Hindustan Times?





Given the apocalyptic meltdown facing the Fukushima nuclear complex in Japan, India is now reviewing safety in its seven nuclear-power plants. That is an obvious step. What isn't quite as obvious is the great silence in India over more mundane issues that could kill millions if left unaddressed.

If there was no at-risk country more prepared for earthquakes than Japan, there is no country more unprepared than India, where the rush to economic growth has washed over irritants like earthquake-resistant building codes and disaster-management. I write this in a high-rise that, like almost every other, may simply collapse when the big one hits India.

The big one is only a matter of time, if you understand all that's on India's great plate, so to say.

The earth's landmasses ride like gigantic rafts on 'plates', or sections of the earth's outermost layer, the crust. These plates frequently slip and slide, causing earthquakes. We don't feel the small ones. The big ones, literally, shake us up.

The Himalayas and north India are on particularly shaky ground. Sometime in the hazy geological past, when Earth had never heard of humans, India broke off from an ancient supercontinent called Gondwana, a name still used for what is now Chhattisgarh. The Indian plate skated north, displaced an ancient sea, travelled more than 2,000 km - the fastest a plate has ever moved - and slammed into the Eurasian plate, creating the Himalayas, where you can still find sea shells.

India still grinds northeast into Asia at roughly 5 cm every year. The last significant - but not geologically devastating - quake in this area was the 2005 temblor in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, which sits directly atop the clashing Indian and Eurasian plates. About 80,000 died.

So, more damaging seismic events are inevitable in a region that has experienced some of the world's most intense earthquakes.

The only serious earthquake that modern India remembers - barely - is the temblor that killed about 20,000 in Gujarat a decade ago. Even the 2004 tsunami, the outcome of the third-most most severe quake ever recorded, has all but faded from public memory. At 9.3, that quake occurred when the Indian plate slid with greater violence than it normally does under the neighbouring Burma plate (atop which are the Andaman and Nicobar islands). It caused a 100-km-long rupture in the crust, thrusting the seafloor upwards and pushing up masses of water, setting off tsunamis that killed 230,000 people in 14 countries.

We are complacent because no Indian city in our living memory has been hit by a major quake, even Delhi, which lies in high-risk seismic zone 4 (Srinagar and Guwahati are in the highest-risk zone 5; Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata lie in zone 3).

Well, our living memory is the geological blink of an eye - it means nothing.

Consider two of the subcontinent's big, forgotten quakes, Bihar and Assam. Though its epicentre was 10 km south of Mount Everest, the Bihar earthquake of 1934 was felt from Mumbai to Lhasa, flattening almost all major buildings in many Bihar districts and damaging many in Calcutta. At 8.4 on the Richter scale, it was pretty severe, killing more than 8,100 (Mahatma Gandhi said it was punishment for the sin of untouchability).

Severity and death tolls depend on depth and intensity. Weaker but shallower quakes - near the surface - can be more damaging than stronger, deeper ones. The strongest Himalayan quake measured with instruments thus far registered 8.7 on the Richter scale in 1950 but killed no more than 1,500 people in Assam and Tibet because it was deep (another reason was the preponderance of traditional, quake-friendly housing of the time).

But the 1950 Assam earthquake, scientists say, has geologically set the stage for a really big one in the Himalayas. Now, 60 years later, the geological eye may be completing its blink. If it does, India should be prepared to not only see its growth set back, perhaps catastrophically, but to experience terrible death and destruction.

Very few buildings in India are built with what is called 'Indian Standard Criteria for Earthquake Resistant Design', first published by the Bureau of Indian Standards in 1962 and periodically revised, the latest revision being in 2005. With no enforcement, India is barely aware these standards exist.

There are exceptions. The Delhi Metro is built to withstand a quake in its risk zone. Many of the houses built in Bhuj after the Gujarat quake of 2001 are now earthquake-resistant. The rare building and high-rise may be designed for quakes.

But the 60% of India vulnerable to quakes is as unprepared as in 1993, when a relatively mild earthquake of magnitude 6.4 in Maharashtra's Latur district killed nearly 10,000 people, in what was considered a non-seismic zone. Most died because shoddily constructed houses collapsed at the first major shake, as they did in Gujarat eight years later.

The government of India today lists 38 cities in moderate to high-risk seismic zones. "Typically, the majority of the constructions in these cities are not earthquake- resistant," notes a 2006 report written by the United Nations for the ministry of home affairs. "Therefore in the event of an earthquake, one of these cities would become a major disaster."

The popular Indian notion about catastrophe is that it happens to someone else. In India that popular notion is not far from official policy.






n 1923, when a strong earthquake destroyed most of Tokyo, apan suffered a crippling economic downturn that may have hastened the onset of military rule. Yet financial markets around the world barely shrugged.

Ninety years on, Japanese cash plays a crucial role in global bond and stock markets. Despite two decades of stagnant growth on home turf, Japan is the second-largest foreign owner of US government securities, with nearly $900 billion of America's public debt. This time it could be the rest of the world that takes a financial hit while the Japanese economy booms.

To understand how this could happen it is necessary to follow the Japanese money. Savings by individuals and money held by Japanese insurers and financial institutions amounts to trillions of dollars in cash, much of which makes its way on to world securities markets. When natural disasters happen in Japan, individuals and companies need this cash to rebuild, and insurance companies need it for payouts.

Earthquake insurance is hard to get for most households in Japan, so much of the cost -estimated at $100 billion -will have to come from a mountain of ordinary savings held in Japanese financial institutions, much of it invested overseas. For anything that is insured, possibly amounting to between $10 billion and $15 billion -the situation is complicated. Japanese insurers will also have to sell overseas assets, but they will be spared the full cost because they have reinsured a lot of their risk with overseas insurance firms, who in turn have reinsured it with other insurers. This insurance trail is a global labyrinth. Japan's risk, it turns out, is the world's risk.

Sure enough, as US markets opened on Friday, the selloff of Japanese-held treasuries began. Bond prices fell and yields rose, although analysts say the selling was offset by buying from investors fleeing debt problems in the eurozone and unrest in the Middle East.

The yen was also sold off immediately after the earthquake -before investors realised that billions of dollars held by Japanese insurers and investors would have to be repatriated. Within a few hours the selling reversed itself, and the yen strengthened sharply. Japan's central bank says it will inject 15 trillion yen into the economy to stabilise markets, but that didn't stop the Nikkei index slumping 16% so far this week -the biggest two-day fall since the 1987 global stock market crash.

All of this was predictable. In 1991 I wrote a book, Sixty Seconds That Will Change the World, about the consequences of a major earthquake in the Tokyo area, and discovered that the rest of the world would come off far worse than Japan.
US treasuries would have to be sold to meet insurance claims and pay for rebuilding, resulting in falling bond prices and rising interest rates. The yen would then rise as these overseas savings were repatriated.

A model produced by the Tokai Bank in 1989 found that Japan, after experiencing severe short-term negative growth, would bounce back as the cash flowed home and the rebuilding began. It was the rest of the world, starved of this investment and hit with rising interest rates, which went into recession.

Qualitatively, the financial markets are already reacting exactly as predicted. But there are differences in quantitative terms. The Tokai model was based on a major earthquake much closer to Japan's industrial heartland, and a rebuilding cost of about $1 trillion at 1990 values. And Japan was then a much more significant global creditor than it is today. Twenty years ago it was the world's largest creditor nation and the top buyer of US bonds. Now it's lost that position to China.

Perhaps the biggest difference is the Tokyo government's fiscal position, awash in debt that amounts to two years' worth of GDP. It can ill-afford the generous injections it is making to stabilise markets and the spending that will be needed to restore infrastructure.

If the model plays out as predicted, the sell-off in bonds will continue, and the yen could rise further. The immediate effect on the Japanese economy will likely be to turn an expected 0.3% growth this quarter into negative growth, perhaps sending Japan back into recession. But within a year the rebuilding effort will deliver strong GDP growth.
Production of everything from cars to concrete will have to be ramped up to satisfy the expected demand.

The Guardian The views expressed by the author are personal




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

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

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

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






The Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit that the state government holds is its showpiece, a chance for it to show off its attractiveness to investors. Each time, memoranda of understanding (MoUs) are signed, often with extraordinary numbers attached; this year the government declared the value of the MoUs was around Rs 20 lakh crore. This newspaper has, in the past, examined some of these claims, and found them wanting. But an examination by a free press of such numbers put out by a state administration is one thing; outright harassment is quite another. And the reports coming out of Ahmedabad of the actions of the Central income-tax authority are difficult to describe as anything short of harassment.

The I-T department has written to the state industries ministry, demanding that it turn over "the details of MoUs signed by various corporate entities with the Government of Gujarat". The local I-T commissioner wants copies of "all such MoUs (worth more than

Rs 1,000 crore) signed in the Vibrant Gujarat Summit held on January 11-12, 2011" as well as in the earlier edition. Almost amusingly, the department also demands that the details of actual investments this year should also be turned over, so they can be compared to the MoUs. The supposed motivation for this request? "An inquiry pending in this office." What conceivable inquiry could require such comprehensive data? This is clearly not based on following up a particular corporate return, the institutionally appropriate method. This is not the product of a broader inquiry into dubious investment in various states. This is a fishing expedition, pure and simple — and one that appears to be, as the BJP at the Centre and the state has pointed out, born of political vendetta.

The use of all the organs of the state to go after those associating with those whom you dislike politically is reminiscent of the methods used in the Emergency. It displays a wanton disregard of the independence that tax inquiries should exhibit, and of the restraint a mature government should display. And it amounts to using blatant scare tactics against investors, something that a government that claims reformist credentials should never even begin to consider. This no-holds-barred harassment of all investors in Gujarat must end, or this government will stand guilty of further subverting yet another institution to political ends.






Given that Congress veterans had summoned all their parliamentary experience to argue against the need for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to inquire into this country's telecom policy, P.C. Chacko's anger is intriguing. Chacko is chairperson of the JPC ultimately constituted to study telecom policy between 1998 and 2009, taking within its scope the allocation of 2G spectrum on A. Raja's watch. He says he would like the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to confine its role in the matter to a scrutiny of the comptroller and auditor general's report on allocation of the 2G spectrum, and leave issues of telecom policy to the JPC. PAC Chairperson M.M. Joshi, for his part, has asked Chacko to put his objections in writing, and Chacko says he may do just that.

The PAC is constituted every year and is a primary expression of the legislature's check on the executive. It is mandated with scrutinising the government's expenditure and the CAG's report and usually, as Chacko points out, the committee refrains from matters of policy-making, restricting itself to noting losses that may have accrued on account of a particular policy. However, what lends much speculation to Chacko's exertions to remind the PAC is the politics that preceded the constitution of the JPC. The Congress had rebutted the opposition's demand for a JPC by arguing that in fact the PAC was capable of addressing most issues. While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had expressed his readiness to appear before the PAC, further raising the committee's profile, Joshi had invited the irritation of his BJP colleagues by his enthusiasm to get cracking on telecom issues within the PAC (and in their estimation reducing the need for a JPC).

So, why is Chacko now keen to limit the PAC's role? Behavioural economists speak of the endowment effect — a person places a higher value on what he already owns. So now that the JPC leadership is his, he'd be more zealous in guarding its turf than if the committee had never been constituted. More pragmatically, it may be an attempt to retain political control on the direction of the investigations into the 2G swindle. Either way, in this JPC vs PAC tension, parliamentary committees could be reorienting themselves to changed circumstances.






Sixty-six years after it was published, George Orwell's Animal Farm still has bite. Ask the Left government in West Bengal, which is embroiled in a minor drama over attempted censorship. Rupchand Pal, a former CPM MP, petitioned the administration to stop a theatre group (that prominently included Trinamool Congress members) from performing Pashu Khamar, based on Animal Farm in Hooghly's Bansberia.

While the administration has claimed many reasons for stopping the play, from police permission to non-payment of amusement tax, the CPM leader was clearer in his objection. He claimed that this elegant, cynical allegory of Soviet communism violated the model code of conduct ahead of the election. Animal Farm is the story of a revolution's failure, each of its precepts being perverted, about the gap between heady utopian promises and how things ultimately turn out. By being so touchy, the CPM leader unwittingly invited people to observe the parallels between the satire and the situation in West Bengal.

The chief minister, however, showed better sense. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee intervened decisively, insisting that nothing should come in the way of culture, and that "since 1977, the state government has been pursuing the policy of not standing in the way of any cultural programme". (This is not entirely true — recall how the state government created a ruckus over the screening of a documentary that was critical of its handling of Singur. It demanded explanations from the Directorate of Film Festivals for including the documentary in its festival of Indian Panorama films.) But it was a quick save, nonetheless, and it drew attention to the ways in which freethinking West Bengal is nothing like Orwell's dystopia. Whether or not his more thin-skinned party colleagues agree with Bhattacharjee's decision, it was the only sensible thing to do.








When the Soviet Union collapsed, there was no dearth of explanations for the transformation: the Soviet Union had fallen behind economically; rhetorical escalation by the West had finally paid off; the idea of liberty had finally triumphed. Whatever the merit of these explanations, there was a big, proximate factor at play: the ruling classes in the Soviet Union had simply lost faith in their right to rule; and with it dissipated all the will to coerce. The regime certainly had the instruments of coercion to prolong its hold on power. We can rationalise why it chose not to do so. But there is something intangible about the circumstances under which ruling formations lose the will to coerce. This loss of a will to power cannot always be easily explained. But it is often central to making revolutions possible.

There is a big gap between the image of revolutions and their reality. At one level, revolutions represent this exhilarating moment, when people claim their dignity and freedom. They seem to be able to take their destiny in their own hands. On the other hand, the conditions under which revolutions succeed are rare indeed. As Theda Skocpol argued many years ago, most revolutions succeed not because of the force of people power, but because there is prior state collapse often due to external pressures. In places where the state's apparatus of coercion is not in crisis, or where the rulers have not lost the will to hang on, revolutions turn out to be a distant gleam. This, among other things, is one reason why analogies between China and Egypt are so far-fetched. The bloody battlefields of Libya are a reminder of how impotent freedom can be when faced with a dogged ruler who has not lost his will to fight destructively. Freedom, alas, depends as much on an act of grace, as it depends on the will to claim it.

This is what makes the policy options in Libya so difficult. There are many important differences between the different states, like Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, etc, that are now seen to be vulnerable to mass protest. For one thing, the character and organisation of the protests are different. But it is not clear that their determination to hold on to power is getting any weaker. It is too speculative to second-guess the psychologies that drive these rulers. What sustains Muammar Gaddafi, and perhaps to a lesser degree, other unpalatable regimes in the region, is the fact that rulers are more able to engage in a nefarious psychological substitution: they think that they or their family are the country. The weight of history in Egypt would not have allowed such a megalomaniacal identification of self and nation.

But all of these regimes are uncanny in the way they have played on ideological investments in the West. Gaddafi's extraordinary feat of convincing the bright lights of liberalism from Anthony Giddens to Joseph Nye, that he was a kind of Libyan Gorbachev, is a testament to the corruptibility of the defenders of freedom. Many sophisticated commentators in the US like Robert Kaplan see assorted sultanates in the Middle East, like Oman, as potential harbingers of an ordered liberty. In short, it is still astonishing how much defenders of liberty give aid and succour to dictators. Doing so on grounds of realpolitik at least has a certain unembarrassed integrity to it. But supporting them on the wishful thinking that a leopard will change its spots is a remarkable delusion. Gaddafi's tenure is a reminder of how much wishful thinking there has been about dictators. But it also shows how impotent freedom is, even among its friends.

Admittedly, there is no easy solution to challenges like Libya. Enforcing a no-fly zone at this point is too little too late; and the Germans are right in thinking that a no-fly zone is pointless without a willingness to escalate. Both in Bosnia and Iraq, no-fly zones were a prelude to direct intervention. Commentators like Fareed Zakaria have argued for a Contra-style support for rebels. Whether it is already too late for this is an open question. But escalating the civil war carries huge risks which no one is prepared to shoulder. It is difficult to judge whether some form of tactical support to the rebels will help. And it is striking how the rebels have not yet managed to carve out a space in the ideological imagination of those who favour freedom; they still appear to be an inchoate mass. Gaddafi figured, quite rightly, that there is very little appetite for a full-scale armed intervention.

So he could operate with the assumption that defenders of freedom had few instruments by which to impose their writ. They bark more than they could bite.

So we have political confusion and hesitation with a train of ironies in its wake. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was for a no-fly zone in Libya, while Europe and the rest of the world dithered. China and India agree to refer Gaddafi to an International Criminal Court whose jurisdiction they do not recognise. Saudi Arabia is quick off the block in "intervening" in the state of Bahrain without informing its closest ally, the United States. The reach of American power is great. But its ability to control outcomes is very limited. Amidst this confusion in the international system, the fate of freedom is uncertain.

It is very likely that in the coming days, the emphasis will be more on being seen to be doing something rather than actually doing something. There is a real danger that a moment of liberation for the region will turn out to send the wrong message to dictators. If you have the tenaciousness to hold on, no one can come after you. The demand and upsurge for overthrowing existing regimes in this assortment of countries seems very genuine. There has always been more of a vibrant, even if underground, civil society in the Middle East than our conceit has allowed us to admit. That momentum may eventually force change. But despite the euphoria of Egypt, civil society everywhere is running into the obdurate reality of state power. And when that state power has no inhibitions, freedom seems so helpless. Where will that sense of the inadvisability of dictators fighting to the finish come from? Libya is a reminder that it is easier to call for freedom than to have a sensible strategy to secure it.

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi







In this season of scams, there is one more in the making. There has been a lot of talk about the increasing cost of elections, and state funding is again in the news as a panacea ('Elections awash in cash' by M. Veerappa Moily, IE, March 7).

The starting point of all discussions on state funding is the 1998 Indrajit Gupta Committee report. While touting its recommendations, the first paragraph of the "Conclusion" is never mentioned. It says: "The committee cannot help expressing its considered view that its recommendations being limited in nature and confined to only one of the aspects of the electoral reforms may bring about only some cosmetic changes in the electoral sphere." Coincidentally, the Law Commission of India had undertaken an exercise for "overhauling" the electoral process and submitted its report in May 1999. On state funding, it said: "It is absolutely essential before the idea of state funding (whether partial or total) is resorted to, that the provisions suggested in this report relating to political parties (including the provisions ensuring internal democracy, internal structures) and maintenance of accounts, their auditing and submission to

Election Commission are implemented.... The state funding, even if partial, should never be resorted to unless the other provisions mentioned aforesaid are implemented lest the very idea may prove counter-productive."

Then came the report of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) in 2002. Its observation on state funding is: "Any system of state funding of elections bears a close nexus to the regulation of working of political parties by law.... Therefore, proposal for state funding should be deferred till these regulator mechanisms are firmly in position."

A "comprehensive paper on the campaign finance in foreign countries" published in 1999 by the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), and quoted by the Union law minister in his article, also points out that even when public funds are provided to political parties, they continue to use other funds.

Recall the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, when 6,719 of 6,753 candidates declared that they had spent only 45-55 per cent of the Rs 25 lakh limit. This, alongside the clamour that the limit was too low, shows that state funding is not going to solve any of our electoral problems, a fact also noted by the Indrajit Gupta Committee.

The IFES brought out another paper on campaign finance in 2009 in which it said that "disclosure is meaningless unless regulators make information publicly available. (It was) stressed... that civil society must have ready access to usable reports." In this context, it is worth pointing out that disclosure of assets and liabilities of candidates was bitterly opposed by all parties in the Supreme Court from 2001 to 2003, and the government of the day even issued an ordinance to try to prevent it. Then, in 2007-08, 15 parties fought tooth and nail, in hearings in the Central Information Commission, to prevent disclosure of their income-tax returns.

The IFES paper concludes that at the end of the day, laws must be enforced. What it overlooks is that for laws to be enforced, a precondition is the existence of laws. That is what possibly prompted the Law Commission to point out: "It is necessary to provide by law for the formation, functioning, income and expenditure and the internal working of the recognised political parties." Further: "It is therefore necessary to introduce internal democracy, financial transparency and accountability in the working of political parties." The NCRWC too echoed the views of the Law Commission.

The ministry of law put out a background paper on electoral reforms. It mentions seven issues: criminalisation of politics, financing of elections, conduct and better management of election, regulation of political parties, auditing of finances of parties, adjudication of election disputes and review of the anti-defection law. Going by the general sense of the reports of the Law Commission, the NCRWC and the Indrajit Gupta Committee, regulation of political parties seems to be the most pressing issue. It is perplexing that the background paper confines its section "Regulating Political Parties" to select observations of the NCRWC, and even in those the para quoted above is overlooked. The Law Commission's report is conspicuously missing from that section.

It is hoped that we will not rush into the biggest scam by throwing thousands of crores of good public money after bad money under the garb of state funding, and the historic initiative for electoral reforms started by the law ministry and the Election Commission will not lose sight of critical issues such as internal democracy and financial transparency of political parties.

The writer is a former professor, dean and director in-charge of IIM, Ahmedabad







India has witnessed a veritable social transformation in the 20th century. A society characterised for millennia by institutionalised inequality in its most grotesque forms, like "untouchability" and "unseeability", has made a transition to juridical equality, a set of fundamental rights for all citizens, and a form of government based on parliamentary democracy with universal adult franchise. The significance of this transition, despite the fact that it still falls far short of authentic equality, cannot be overstated. It constitutes a part of our long democratic revolution.

This democratic revolution needs to be carried forward, for if it is not, then there will be an inevitable slide-back. Revolutions do not stand still; they either move forward or are overwhelmed by counterrevolutions. The Indian democratic revolution today is faced with the prospects of being so overwhelmed: counterrevolution is gathering strength, and the main reason for this lies in the shift in the position of the bourgeoisie.

How, it is worth asking, does the big bourgeoisie manage to impose upon society such massive increases in inequality, even though the people enjoy formal democratic rights? What, in other words, are the mechanisms of abridgement of democracy that permit such inequalities? The range of such mechanisms is wide; some of them are well-known; and all of them are clearly visible. A formal abridgement of democracy is the obvious first option. Indira Gandhi during the Emergency actually succeeded for a brief period in doing this, but eventually came a cropper. The BJP-led NDA, during its attempt to "revise" the Constitution, sought to institutionalise such an abridgement, but that attempt too failed. Even so, however, thanks to a plethora of measures, often initiated by the judiciary, like bans on bandhs, restrictions on the right to strike, and curbs on public meetings, there has been a whittling down of people's democratic rights.

The second obvious mechanism is the nurturing of communal-fascism, which, as Michal Kalecki put it, is kept like a "dog on a leash". It is occasionally unleashed, with devastating impact; and, even when it is leashed, the fear of its being unleashed serves to reconcile people to the neo-liberal measures of a non-communal-fascist bourgeois government. Since unemployment and distress provide fertile ground for fascist tendencies, this is a mechanism that neo-liberalism spontaneously generates for itself.

The third mechanism is to "incorporate" dissent, and to criminalise such dissent that cannot be incorporated. Here the very fact of the economy being open to the vortex of financial flows helps the neo-liberal cause: any attempt to pursue policies different from what international finance capital favours is fraught with the danger of capital flight, and this forces a degree of uniformity in policy-making among all political formations that do not have the courage to go beyond the existing arrangements altogether. Ideologically too, slogans like "keep development above politics" which is a euphemism for "let us unite to endorse neo-liberalism", and "let us endorse primitive accumulation of capital", play the role of incorporating dissent. Refusal to be so incorporated on the other hand brings the charge of sabotaging "the nation's prospects of emerging as a superpower" and hence being "anti-national". Through a myriad means in other words, involving in particular the use of corporate media, a propaganda barrage is unleashed that identifies the interests of the corporate and financial magnates as the "nation's interest".

The fourth is the spread of religiosity and the resurgence of pre-modern authoritarian institutions like khap panchayats, which the bourgeois political formations treat with benignity. No doubt, an individual has a right to pursue any religion in his or her private life; but religiosity which entails the intrusion of religious practices and rituals into public life, serves to depoliticise and disunite people.

Indeed the essence of the project of the big bourgeoisie is to depoliticise and disunite people, convert them into atomised empirical entities, rob them effectively of any subject role, and enfeeble them in the matter of defending their democratic rights. The uniqueness of the Left consists in the fact that it is opposed to all this, that its agenda on the contrary is to unite and politicise the people, which alone can make them capable of defending their democratic rights. The Left, in short, is the only consistent force that works in the direction of carrying forward the long democratic revolution in our country.

The Left is different from all of them because it can visualise going beyond the boundaries of capitalism. It can be consistently democratic because it is not imprisoned within the antagonism between capitalism, dominated by globalised finance, on the one hand, and authentic democracy on the other. It is prepared to resolve this antagonism by going beyond capitalism, which is why it can be consistently democratic.

The Left in India, notwithstanding its many mistakes, has consistently stood for the carrying forward of the democratic revolution; for further abrogating, systematically, the millennia-old institutionalised inequality of our old order; for struggling against the hegemony of international finance capital and the deep hiatus that a regime characterised by such hegemony produces; for struggling against communal-fascism; for resisting all attempts to curb the democratic rights of the people in the name of "order", "combating chaos and anarchy" and "development"(to the point of even issuing public rebukes to senior leaders whose remarks could be interpreted otherwise); and for overcoming religiosity and separateness through political praxis.

Any weakening of the Left weakens the democratic revolution in our country and hence our march to "modernity". India's march to "modernity" requires not 8, 9, 10, or 11 per cent growth rate; it requires a carrying forward of the democratic revolution. This is the touchstone by which all political formations have to be judged, and on this criterion the Left, notwithstanding all its weaknesses, emerges superior to all other political formations.

The opposition to the Left, alas, has now gathered momentum to a point where many, claiming to be "progressive", use the very arguments mentioned above to attack the Left. I can hear, for instance, an immediate riposte to what I have said above: what about Singur, what about Nandigram?

Much has been written about Singur and Nandigram, and we need not go over all that here. Let us for argument's sake accept the account of the events put forward by the opponents of the Left. Even so, nobody can possibly argue that they reflected the Left's subscription to an abridgement of the regime of rights of the people. However mistaken one may think the handling of those two cases by the Left Front government was, one cannot say that they represented an attempt by the Left to dilute or abrogate the regime of democratic rights of the people. Of course, any police firing can be interpreted ipso facto, whether rightly or wrongly, as constituting an attack on the democratic rights of the people; but there is a difference between an episode of police firing and a change in stand on the regime of rights. The Left has never changed its basic class position on the regime of democratic rights of the people. It has stood consistently against all attempts to abridge the regime of rights (to a point where it even opposed the banning of the Maoists despite their rampant murderous attacks on CPM cadres). Nandigram and Singur in short were tragic episodes; they do not represent an iota of shift on the part of the Left to any alternative, abridged, regime of rights.

All this has a vital importance in the current election season. The outcome of these polls will have a crucial bearing upon the future of the Left in India. And if the Left receives a setback then the democratic revolution in our country will be in jeopardy.

The writer is vice-chairman of the Kerala State Planning Board and formerly professor of economics at JNU







This is one of those occasions when you don't want to write a TV column, because everything that was unique, spectacular on TV, came at an incalculable human cost. So even as you held your breath at the cinematic marvel of a tsunami that tumbled over the Japanese coastline and into the perfectly landscaped village fields, you were appalled by the realisation that the homes, the people, the cars and the boats it swept aside in its angry reaction to an 8.9 earthquake, were not dinghy dummies generated by Hollywood special effects but real places, people and things. As we watched the lava debris spread like thickened gravy across the countryside, there was just one recurring, horrified thought: in the words of W.B. Yeats, a "terrible beauty was born" and everything had changed "utterly" for those who had survived it.

It has been a week when you constantly switched TV on and then abruptly off, and then, compulsively returned. You switched on, driven by the need to know what was happening, you switched on for the live coverage of a first-in-a-lifetime experience — never before had you seen aerial shots of a live tsunami proceeding on its path of calm destruction, seldom before had you seen buildings shaking even as they shook, or witnessed the unforgettable footage from mobile cameras of people in their homes, in their offices, of a group of men just beginning a game of basketball before the earthquake hit them all by surprise.

And then came a moment as it did on Tuesday morning, when CNN played new footage of Friday's double disaster: while the tsunami pursued its fatal course, you suddenly heard whimpers of pain, fear — and switched off. No, it was no longer possible to bear the aftershocks of the earthquake-tsunami for they had become more rather than less tragic with every day's telling, as people vainly searched for their lost loved ones and a nuclear meltdown went from being a threat to a reality.

But within hours if not minutes, you were back on the air, unable to bear not knowing what was happening or what, God forbid, might still happen right before your eyes.

If the aerial coverage of this natural calamity had given Japan's tragedy a surreal quality, the webcam and mobile interactions with people living in Tokyo, have made it all too frighteningly here and now. Channels like BBC World and our news channels have been in regular contact via them with British and Indian citizens there who describe the events of that fateful Friday and their daily struggles since then with a steely, matter of fact attitude they must have learnt from the Japanese. It's eerie to watch them, alongside images of the smoke rising from Fukushima's nuclear reactor No. 3 and believe they are not quaking inside.

This low-key response in a panic attack situation has pervaded the newsroom too: CNN and BBC have been describing these unprecedented events with a calmness that tends to underplay what is an awful and awe-inspiring human tragedy. You almost longed for some good old fashioned Indian histrionics — Breaking News: Japan buried...

The Indian TV news channels have been breaking sound waves with a red alert for the safety of our nuclear reactors if and when faced by a similar situation. The nuclear scientific community, a species that rarely comes out of its hibernation and only when forced to, assures us "all is well", while the naysayers warn that if India went the Japan tsunami way, well, it's something we should all be worried about.

While the discussions/reports on India's (ill) preparedness were a necessary warning bell, you eventually, magnetically, were drawn back to the struggle of the Japanese to retain their humanity in the face of such a catastrophe — and the possibility of still more befalling them. This has been television at its best — and at its worst, a human suspense drama that has swept all before it; suddenly, the cricket World Cup has been restored to what it always was; a sport, a game, not the life-and-death headline situation we've made it out to be. For that story, go to Natori, Miyagi in Japan, a city flattened into subjugation by the tsunami.







Disaster diplomacy

As a Chinese rescue team landed in Japan for quake and tsunami relief, there is some international speculation that the terrible tragedy might help Beijing and Tokyo to mend their fences. Barely six months ago, China and Japan were locked in a war of words over a maritime territorial dispute. Japan arrested the captain of a Chinese fishing vessel that rammed into its coast guard vessels.

Faced with relentless pressure from Beijing — including the suspension of rare earth exports — Tokyo released the captain unconditionally. While Tokyo yielded, it deeply resented China's exercise of coercive power.

With nationalism inflamed in both countries, mutual distrust enveloped bilateral relations. According to a poll conducted last year by the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun and official Chinese news agency Xinhua, 90 per cent of Japanese surveyed said ties with China were bad and 87 per cent said China could not be trusted. In China, 81 per cent of those polled said ties with Japan were bad and 79 per cent said it could not be trusted.

Could the triple tragedy in Japan — described by its prime minister as the worst since the end of the Second World War — alter the negative dynamic between the world's second and third largest economies?

Chinese leaders were among the first to call their Japanese counterparts after the quake and tsunami. The Chinese defence minister offered to send military assets and Chinese newspapers recalled Japanese assistance when a massive quake hit Sichuan in 2008. "The virtue of returning the favour after receiving one runs in the blood of both nations," commentary said. Natural calamities generate powerful humanitarian impulses that have the potential to overcome entrenched hostilities between nations and warring groups in a civil war. Disaster diplomacy is now a well-developed field of study in international relations and its conclusions are somewhat sobering. While disasters do produce short-term decompression of tensions, they lead to positive outcomes only when there are other factors that can engineer a structural change. In most cases the initial hopes that the disaster may generate a new basis for peace turned out to be false.

Recall the terrible earthquake in northern Pakistan and PoK during 2005, and how difficult it was for Islamabad to accept Indian aid. Similarly the 2004 tsunami did not lead to peace and reconciliation between Colombo and the Tigers. Cyclone Nargis in 2009 did see the Burmese regime open up to the US and international relief, but there was no lasting breakthrough.

The negative record, however, does not eliminate the possibilities for some genuine cooperation between Beijing and Tokyo in the coming weeks and months.

No rivalry

China's special envoy to the Middle East, Wu Sike, says Beijing is not in competition with the United States in the Arab world, but is confident of its own improving position in the region. "There is no need for comparisons or to think that as the US goes down, China will necessarily fill the void," Wu affirmed. While conceding some setbacks for the United States in the Middle East, Wu said Beijing is not in a zero-sum-game with Washington.

Unlike the Indian debate on the Middle East, which is often framed in ideological terms, the Chinese have a far more sophisticated appreciation of US policies in the region.

"The US's values and interests clashed (in the regional chaos in the Middle East) this time, and it chose to protect its interests," Wu said. The envoy pointed to the fact that China does not intervene in the internal affairs of Arab nations. Non-intervention, however, does not mean, China does not care about them, Wu added.

"We will keep advocating for the adoption of peaceful ways to solve the problems in order to avoid the losses that excessive turbulences would subject the region and world to," Wu concluded.


While officials continue to affirm that non-intervention remains a principal guideline for China's foreign policy in the Middle East, some analysts are beginning to call for a review of this policy.

One analysis published in an official website suggests that Beijing must find ways to defend its growing interests in Africa and the Middle East, look beyond rescuing its citizens from conflict zones, and merely call for a peaceful resolution of disputes. "Evacuation is not enough; China should implement other diplomatic strategies to protect its image and interests in Africa," Zhao Kejin, a columnist for wrote.

Zhao suggests that Beijing should consider mediation between parties to a conflict that affects its interests. China has traditionally avoided mediation in foreign conflicts and has chosen to deal with whoever is in power. Mediation would necessarily involve engaging all parties in a conflict. "While it will never intervene in any country's internal affairs or become involved in any party's political disputes, China has to protect its own rights and interests. It has the right to maintain close contacts with all parties and take a stand and blame the transgressors on affairs related to China," Zhao concludes.

Put simply, Zhao is saying that China has the right and responsibility to take positions on conflicts around the world that will affect its interests.







India, stay out

An article in the latest edition of RSS weekly Organiser focuses on the crisis that has engulfed North Africa and the Arab world, and the position India should take. It points out that while the US has interests in the region because of the area's rich oil wealth, New Delhi has no stake at all and strict neutrality should be its present and ultimate stand.

The task before Washington, it says, is simply to find an alternative leadership to replace the Mubaraks and the Gaddafis. "America's hypocrisy is well known. It may theoretically want democracy to flourish in Islamic states but it will be more than satisfied if it can enthrone more liberal dictators in the seats of power. What the US wants is not the rule of democracy but the installation of certified puppets who will do America's bidding and keep the oil barrels in safe hands," it says. "Does India have any role to play in settling the ongoing turmoil in the Islamic world? Hardly," it notes.

Amid reports that NATO countries are planning military interference, it says that whether in Myanmar or in North Africa, New Delhi should refuse to be party to any kind of military interference. "Strict neutrality should be our present — and ultimate — stand. We can't change the world and we don't need to be hypocritical in such matters," it adds. "We don't need to be labelled as pro-West... We are not living in colonial times when the British, for instance, used Indian forces to fight wars as in Iraq and elsewhere..... We should keep our hands clean," it argues.

PM, not commander

The Organiser's editorial says Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shamed the nation when he confessed in the Rajya Sabha that he had been kept in the dark about the background of CVC nominee P.J. Thomas. "With the prime minister's credibility at its lowest and the nation sick and tired of listening to his silly explanations, Dr Singh tried to parade scapegoats of his own party to keep himself Teflon... And it backfired," it claims.

The editorial says that "here is a prime minister who brazenly pronounces that he is not in command. I did not know, I am not aware, my advice was ignored, I was not informed, I was kept in the dark, these are my compulsions, I am sorry, I accept responsibility but please don't doubt my credentials. These are the words the PM keeps repeating these days whenever he encounters an uncomfortable query on the numerous misdeeds of his government," it says. It goes on to argue that "Singh is perhaps exposing the vagaries of the diarchy the country has come to suffer under the UPA, ever since Sonia Gandhi supposedly sacrificed the premiership and nominated Singh in her place," it says.

The CBI as lackey

An article in Panchjanya takes on what it calls the double standards and hypocrisy of the CBI, saying that the investigative agency has been reduced to being an agent of the government. The way the CBI has moved to withdraw all cases against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, "close friend of Sonia Gandhi's family", while at the same time reopening cases related to the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition has "proved that the CBI is a puppet in the hands of Sonia's party and that this party can go to any level for its political ends", the article says.

Tracing the history of the Bofors scandal, the article says "forces sitting inside 10, Janpath had murdered constitutional and judicial traditions" in India.








On July 1, 2009, the Delhi High Court quashed the press release through which the then telecom minister A Raja issued 122 licences in January 2008 to firms at bargain-basement rates. On November 24, 2009, this was upheld by a division bench of the same court which was so upset with the government's appeal against it, it even asked the government to pay costs. On March 12, 2010, the Supreme Court upheld the high court order. On January 31, 2011, Justice Shivraj Patil, who was asked to examine the Raja licencing along will all others since 2001, said the procedures adopted were a "deviation from the extant policies". And now, on Wednesday, Trai has said in an affidavit to the Supreme Court that the government never even asked it for the mandatory recommendation that is required under the Trai Act before it went ahead and issued the licences. The Trai affidavit says the government never told Trai that new licences were to be issued, and then misused its recommendations. It says that if the government really wanted to issue new licences, it should have given Trai the details it had sought on the amount of spectrum that was available—this was critical since the existing players would also need fresh spectrum as they got more subscribers—and after this, Trai could have gone ahead and made a recommendation on whether new players were to be allowed or not.

What is even more shocking, the Trai affidavit makes it very clear the government always intended to misuse its recommendation. When the then Trai chief Nripendra Misra realised the government was planning to issue new licences, he began writing several letters to the telecom ministry to remind it that no new licences could be issued with Trai's recommendations. To which the then telcom secretary S Behura replied saying 'new' actually referred to a 'new category' of licence and not just to a new licence under an old category!

With even Trai now repeating what other worthies such as the country's courts and the one-man committee appointed by the government to inquire into all telecom licensing between 2001 and 2009 have said, it is not clear what further evidence the government wishes for before it cancels the Raja licences. Whether the investigative process is able to prove Raja's criminality, along with others who have been arrested, the licensing procedure has been proved to be unlawful.






Cross-checking each fact, verifying each statement, is a good idea, but even the most rigorous taskmaster will not suggest two inquiries be held on the same issue by two different people. Apart from being a colossal waste of time, and even embarrassment for all concerned (imagine the lot of India's telecom industry as CEOs trot to the CBI office for interrogation, then repeat the same exercise before two other bodies), imagine what will happen if the two investigations reach different conclusions.

Yet, that's precisely what is in danger of happening with both the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) now inquiring into the Raja scam. When the BJP was insisting upon a JPC and the government was of the view that the PAC was the proper forum for an investigation since all CAG reports went to the PAC anyway, the BJP argued the PAC had a limited mandate. The BJP argued that the JPC would be able to do justice to the issue since it could summon more people. Well, we now have both bodies, so the onus is on the BJP to ensure we don't have a mockery of justice where both bodies are drawing up their lists to interrogate essentially the same set of persons on the same set of issues. What happens if the JPC, for the sake of argument, finds that the finance ministry also acquiesced with A Raja and if the JPC feels the finance ministry was always opposed to what Raja was doing; if the PAC says the CAG's estimates are woefully wrong while the PAC feels they are right … the list of potential embarrassments goes on.

It has been this newspaper's view that the JPC was a always going to be a waste of time, given the history of previous JPCs and given that the Raja matter was being investigated by the CBI under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court. This newspaper has argued that since the real issue was the loss of revenue, the first focus had to be on cancelling the licences so they could be re-auctioned and the government could recover its money. The BJP, however, wanted its JPC and it has got it. It now has to do the honourable thing and get the PAC, headed by a senior leader of its party, to back off, which is what the head of the JPC has asked for.






It is unfair to compare tragedies in terms of their costs and impacts. But the scale of some tragedies is such that comparisons with earlier ones are inevitable. Cursory comparisons show that what happened in Japan on March 11, 2011, has few parallels.

The initial response on part of most was to compare and contrast the developments with the Hanshin quake in Kobe in 1995. Kobe—infamously reputed as the most costly of earthquakes in modern times—was struck by a quake with an intensity of 6.9 on the Richter scale. The Sendai quake on March 11 had a magnitude of 8.9 on the Richter scale. Preliminary estimates show that the quake was almost 180 times more powerful than the one that struck Kobe. Japan is probably the world's most resilient nation in fighting earthquakes. Its seismological vulnerability has not only made it familiar with quakes but has also trained its people and systems in methods of coping with quakes. But this time the situation was different. It was not only the sheer power of the quake that heightened the calamity. It was the 10 metre tsunami that followed, which caught Japan completely off-guard. To make matters worse, nature decided to unleash its full fury on the hapless Japanese by prompting volcanic eruptions. And as later events show, in addition to loss of lives and property, the damage suffered by nuclear facilities contains a different danger that few had anticipated. The disaster is now being compared with the Chernobyl disaster in Northern Ukraine in April 1986—the worst nuclear plant accident in recent memory.

The initial couple of days after the incident had mixed responses on its impact. Sendai in Northeast Japan is not one of the most economically active regions. Japan's major agricultural and industrial areas were unaffected. Major business and commercial centres are also unhurt. The commercial losses would have been almost incalculable had Tokyo or Osaka been affected. Most estimates point to aggregate losses of 14-15 trillion yen. This would be roughly half of the economic damage suffered at Kobe in 1995. The final comparative estimates though will need to take into account the recovery costs, which will be known only later. Some estimates suggest that the housing and infrastructure losses could be as much as those in Kobe. Most agencies expect GDP growth for the current year to decline by around half a percentage point. The consensus estimate for GDP growth now is around 1.5% for 2011. There are bound to be short-term impacts like disruption in trade and volatility in yen arising from fluctuations in capital repatriation. Japanese bonds are expected to face volatility for some time ahead. As it happens in a globalised economy, troubles for some might mean bonanzas for others. A cutback in trade might be an unexpected opportunity for China, India and other Asian economies to fill up the global trade space. Similarly, there are reports that supply chain disruptions in Japan in terms of closure of quite a few steel and automobile plants might bring unexpected benefits for US automakers such as General Motors and Ford.

Japan has not been in the pink of economic health for quite some time. Depressed demand conditions have forced the economy into prolonged stagnation. Optimists felt that the reconstruction costs following the earthquake would breathe fresh life into the economy. Reconstruction costs are estimated at around 1% of the Japanese GDP. Bank of Japan stepped into action immediately by injecting 15 trillion yen for averting liquidity shortfalls. It is also expected to substantially increase its asset purchase programmes. However, the optimism over economic recovery through pump-priming appears to have subdued in view of the downsides of the nuclear damage.

The quake hit a region that had three nuclear power facilities. The Fukushima plant of TEPCO has been the worst affected. Multiple explosions and breakout of fire at the plant have resulted in widespread concern not only among the Japanese but also in the region and the rest of the world. Prime Minister Naoto Kan has warned that the radiations are now serious enough for endangering human lives. His apprehensions of the radiation having already spread and the risk of further leakage have changed concerns initially limited to contamination to full-blown threats of a repetition of Chernobyl.

The nuclear fallout has added a different dimension to the catastrophe, with panic reactions surfacing in different quarters. Stock markets have tumbled, with the Asian bourses experiencing the biggest losses. Europe and US markets have also taken to panic selling. The largest offloads are seen in nuclear-related equities, particularly technology counters. The volatility has affected commodities too, with oil and gold prices heading southward. For commodity traders though, the movements might mean unexpected relief, since oil and gold prices were hardening rapidly following the crisis in the Middle East.

The nuclear crisis has revived the global debate on safety and feasibility of nuclear power plants. The debate will intensify following Germany's decision to shut seven nuclear reactors and EU's plans to 'stress test' all its plants. India, on the verge of installing French reactors at Jaitapur, has begun feeling the heat of the debate. As the alert level at Fukushima inches closer to Chernobyl's, Japan's latest catastrophe might result in nuclear nightmares coming back to haunt the world again. While these prospects are definitely alarming, nuclear fears building up over the last couple of days have diverted attention from the staggering loss of human lives. With more than 10,000 dead, the toll is far higher than Kobe. Compounded with the threat of nuclear radiation taking and damaging more lives, the land of the rising sun could have hardly faced darker days.

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






Sometimes the brickbats hurled at the Dalai Lama sound exactly the same as those that Sachin Tendulkar takes. What's the value of the Little Master's centuries if they don't win a victory for the Indian team? However extraordinary may have been the accomplishments of His Holiness, as far as carrying awareness of the Tibet issue across the globe, what's their value if they don't yield an autonomous Tibet?

And sometimes the censure is akin to that directed against Aung San Suu Kyi with increasing frequency these days. She is also admired around the world, championed by celebrities and has a Nobel Prize in the bag. But has her long vigil yielded democratic fruit for Myanmar's people? Perhaps the lama and the lady's attachment to non-violence has only served their cause, rather than that of their people.

Even as the above charges were already hanging over his noble pate, the Dalai Lama went one step further in courting controversy. He announced retirement from political life, not a small step for someone who is credited with becoming a world leader without an official political base. After all, even when India's first PM Jawaharlal Nehru welcomed Tenzin Gyatso into India, the gesture did not mean acknowledging the latter as a fellow head of state. More recently, PM Manmohan Singh clarified to the Chinese premier that the Dalai Lama was an honoured guest in his capacity as a religious leader, rather than a political agent. The Tibetan government-in-exile's Cabinet has accepted the Dalai Lama's decision to retire as its political head, but a majority of the Parliament members were expressing opposition at the time of writing.

The interesting thing now is that charges 1 and 2 are being turned on their head to build up charge 3. How does the Dalai Lama expect Tibetan unity to survive if he abdicates political responsibility? Any new political leader, likely to be a layperson, will not be able to speak (a) to Tibetans inside and outside Tibet in the same way as the Dalai Lama or (b) marshal international sympathy with the same grandeur that the Dalai Lama has commanded.

The above questions are asked against the backdrop of a popular history of Tibet, wherein the greatest rupture took place on March 17, 1959, when consultation with an oracle instructed the Dalai Lama, "Go tonight!" This popular narrative boasts a clearly delineated good guy and bad guy. China is bad, His Holiness is good (even if unable to really deliver to his people's expectations). But we get a very different picture if the history of the Free Tibet movement is traced back to an earlier date. Let's go back, as an illustration, to the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso.

The Great Thirteenth passed away in 1933, and here's how his final testament reads: " may happen that here in Tibet, religion and government will be attacked both from without and within. Unless we guard our own country, it will not happen that the Dalai and Panchen Lamas, the Father and the Son, and all the revered holders of the Faith, will disappear and become nameless. Monks and their monasteries will be destroyed ... All beings will be sunk in hardship and overwhelming fear; the days and nights will drag on slowly in suffering." This was prophetic only because it was written against the backdrop of both bloody, internal divisions and external threats, as much from the British as the Chinese. Tibet was no Shangri-La even back then. And surviving popular images of calm were shattered during the Beijing Olympics.

It's time to move beyond popular images, to recognise that after the 14th Dalai Lama's ascension, India, the UK, the US and the UN were all asked to appeal to China on Tibet's behalf. No one came through. China is not the only bad guy. Every head of state that gives the Dalai Lama a hearing today does this at his own convenience. If His Holiness were to ask India for asylum today, it would likely not be forthcoming. After all, we refuse to host Taslima Nasreen.

So, yes, it's great that Tendulkar hits centuries. It's not his fault if the South African team turns out to be stronger than the Indian one. The Dalai Lama has done an extraordinary job of winning global support for a constituency that wasn't making any magazine covers 50 years ago. It's great that, like Suu Kyi, he has firmly held on to pacifist ideals. Responding to recent events in the Middle East, he said: "I am a firm believer in non-violence and people power and these events have shown once again that determined non-violent action can indeed bring about positive change." This is not just a moral or religious position; it has socio-political implications. Witness the world wondering how the Japanese are responding to their crisis with such calm. His Holiness knows that the Tibetan struggle is of the longue durée. That he has kept it peaceful and will now make it more democratic qualifies him as a great statesman.






The robust export performance in February is attributed primarily to the rebound in demand in the U.S. and a few other advanced economies. According to figures released by the Commerce Ministry, exports grew by nearly 50 per cent over February 2010 to $23.6 billion. During the 11 months of the current year (April 2010-February 2011) exports have grown to over $208 billion, crossing the annual target of $200 billion with one month to spare. The government's strategy of encouraging diversification into newer markets and the focus on non-traditional exports — the two important features of the Foreign Trade Policy — have paid off. Heartened by the strong export performance, the government has, in a strategy paper released recently, called for a doubling of exports to $450 billion by 2014. That can happen if exports grow at an annual rate of 26 per cent over the next three years. More in the nature of a visionary statement, the strategy is based on four pillars: a product strategy that will build on intrinsic strengths of some industries; market diversification; incentivising research and development; and building a Brand India. None of these is new but obviously the government hopes to refine some of the ongoing programmes of export promotion for even better results.

However, while a visionary approach to exports is welcome, perhaps necessary, the limitations of the Commerce Ministry ought not to be overlooked. While significant success has been achieved in fine-tuning procedures, discarding unwanted ones and building up an impressive technology backbone, the Ministry depends on various other arms of the government for achieving even some basic goals such as reducing transaction costs. Despite the adverse impact of rupee appreciation on export competitiveness, it has not always been possible to counter it just for the benefit of exporters. Facilitating infrastructure development has been a challenge for the government as a whole. On the external front, the weak recovery in the industrialised economies and the disasters in Japan call into question the assumption of world trade bouncing back to pre-crisis levels. Obviously Indian exports ought to be encouraged by every possible means to maintain the recent momentum. But trade policy is about imports too and what matters most in today's macroeconomic calculations is the level of merchandise trade deficit and its implications for the current account of the balance of payments. To a large extent, the growth in imports last year was due to the buoyant economic conditions at home, but the recent spikes in petroleum prices are a big cause for worry as energy imports are bound to enlarge in the coming years.





Niger and Ivory Coast provide a stark contrast in responses to democratic voting. They also pose problems for globalisation theory. Niger's presidential election has been acclaimed as peaceful, free, and fair by 2,000 observers from the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union, and others. The dictator, General Salou Djibo, who seized power in 2009 when the previous president, Mamadou Tandja, repealed a constitutional ban on a third term in office, is carrying out his promise to step down. The election is no mean achievement. Niger — vast, landlocked, and drought-prone — is desperately poor. Foreign corporations profit hugely by exploiting Niger's minerals; uranium extraction in particular is tainted by poor safety records and high rates of radiation-induced diseases. In addition, the country is a target for al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and faces a long-running Tuareg rebellion in the northern region. As for the election result, the second-round turnout of about 35 per cent is likely to give victory to Mahmadou Issoufou, who, having won the first round by 13 percentage points over an ally of Mr. Tandja's, Seini Oumarou, is now endorsed by many of the first-round losers.

Ivory Coast, on the other hand, has collapsed into near-civil war with a concomitant humanitarian catastrophe. The election was free and fair, and the country is far wealthier than Niger. But the incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo has rejected the result, which was a clear win for Alassane Ouattara. He has unleashed his troops, who machine-gunned an all-women demonstration in Treichville; 80,000 Ivorians have fled to Liberia, and 450,000 have been internally displaced. As essential supplies dwindle, militias claiming to support Mr. Ouattara have created a condition of near-total lawlessness in Abidjan's Abobo district, amid tribal rivalries with other groups. Mr. Ouattara and his entourage are holed up in a luxury resort, and the 8,000 troops of the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) have only a limited mandate. There is no doubting the popular commitment to the ballot-box in both Niger and Ivory Coast. The key difference lies only partly in the response of the two authoritarian regimes. The AU and ECOWAS have attempted to mediate in Ivory Coast and have imposed sanctions, but to no apparent effect. What Mr. Gbagbo is exposing, among other things, is that unless multilateral bodies create strong mandates for justifiable humanitarian intervention, the theory that national sovereignty has been vitiated in these purportedly globalised times is a vast overstatement.








India played a key role in warding off international pressure on Sri Lanka to halt military operations and hold talks with the LTTE in the dramatic final days and weeks of the war in 2009, confidential U.S. Embassy cables accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks showed.

The cables reveal that while India conveyed its concern to Sri Lanka several times about the "perilous" situation that civilians caught in the fighting faced, it was not opposed to the anti-LTTE operation.

They also show that India worried about the Sri Lankan President's "post-conflict intentions," though it believed that there was a better chance of persuading him to offer Sri Lankan Tamils an inclusive political settlement after the fighting ended.

After its efforts to halt the operation failed, the international community resigned itself to playing a post-conflict role by using its economic leverage, acknowledging that it had to rope in India for this.

In the closing stages of the war, New Delhi played all sides, always sharing the concern of the international community over the humanitarian situation and alleged civilian casualties in the Sri Lankan military campaign, but discouraging any move by the West to halt the operations.

In January 2009, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee made a "short notice" visit to Sri Lanka. The Indian Deputy High Commissioner in Colombo, Vikram Misri, briefed the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission and other diplomats about the visit, in a cable dated January 29, 2009 ( 189383: confidential).

At a two-hour meeting at President Rajapaksa's residence, attended by the army chief, defence secretary and other top officials, Mr. Mukherjee stressed he was in Colombo with "no objective other than to ensure that human rights and safety of civilians were protected."

Mr. Misri told the diplomats that while domestic political considerations were a factor in the Indian calculus, "New Delhi is deeply worried about the humanitarian crisis in the Vanni. He added that Indians throughout the country, not just in Tamil Nadu, are troubled by the high level of casualties sustained by Tamil civilians caught in the crossfire."

From Mr. Mukherjee's statement at the end of his visit, it was clear that India did not oppose the operations. "I stressed that military victories offer a political opportunity to restore life to normalcy in the Northern Province and throughout Sri Lanka, after twenty three years of conflict. The President assured me that this was his intent."

Indian theme

This was to remain the Indian theme, except for a brief period in April 2009, when New Delhi, under pressure in the context of elections in Tamil Nadu — the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a partner in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), was feeling the heat of the Sri Lankan operations — made an attempt to press for a pause in the operations, if not a cessation.

In a meeting with U.S. Embassy Charge d'Affaires Peter Burleigh on April 15, 2009, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said the Sri Lankan government had made clear it "did not want a UN Envoy in resolving the conflict with the LTTE, nor was the GSL interested now in direct negotiations with the LTTE or in a cease-fire", which is in a cable sent on April 15, 2009 ( 202476: confidential).

The Foreign Secretary told Mr. Burleigh that the Indian government had advised Sri Lanka against rejecting all such proposals out of hand and "offered a suggestion that the GSL consider offering an amnesty to all but the hard core of the LTTE."

But he also pointed out there were questions about what constituted the LTTE's core and what modalities would be used to make such an offer.

The Foreign Secretary "acknowledged that the space for such discussions was small and flagged President Rajapaksa's electoral considerations as militating against anything that could be viewed as a concession to the LTTE. 'Quiet diplomacy' outside of Sri Lanka faced serious challenges and the Sri Lankan government would have to 'be dragged, kicking and screaming' to talks."

Mr. Menon highlighted another problem: in "India's view, the group was sending conflicting signals and there was a real question as to who spoke for Prabhakaran". He also questioned whether Prabhakaran understood the situation he faced.

Ruling out the possibility of Indian involvement in any such process between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government, Mr. Menon told the U.S. official that the ongoing elections in India made such efforts "impossible."

Still, he left Mr. Burleigh with the impression that India was not opposed to the idea of talks at that late stage.

"He asked whether the U.S. was interested in such talks and said India would think about participation, perhaps with other states under UN auspices, in an effort to obtain a peaceful conclusion to the conflict," the charge wrote in the cable.

Three weeks later, U.K. Special Envoy for Sri Lanka Des Browne, visiting New Delhi on May 6-7, heard from Foreign Secretary Menon and National Security Adviser (NSA) M.K. Narayanan(cable 206806: confidential, May 13, 2009), that while there was "domestic political pressure" on India to do more on Sri Lanka due to the ongoing elections (the Tamil Nadu Assembly election was on May 13), "there was little anyone could do to alleviate the fighting as Sri Lanka government forces moved towards the end game of defeating the LTTE."

A British High Commission contact briefing the U.S. Embassy political counselor on this meeting said the Indian officials were concerned about the humanitarian situation, but "were more upbeat on chances to persuade President Rajapaksa to offer Tamils a political solution once fighting had ended.

The two Indian officials were "slightly more optimistic of the chances to persuade President Rajapaksa to offer the Tamils a genuinely inclusive political settlement once fighting had ended. It was the Indians' impression that President Rajapaksa believed this was his moment in history, i.e., a chance to bring peace to the island for good, but that the Sri Lankan Army was an obstacle, having been emboldened by its victory over the LTTE." They told Mr. Browne that if Sri Lanka did not implement the "13th Amendment Plus" devolution plan quickly, a new terrorist movement could quickly fill the vacuum left by the LTTE's defeat.

Their advice to the British special envoy: it was "useful to have Sri Lanka on the UNSC's agenda, and to issue periodic Presidential Statements, but it would be counterproductive for the UN to 'gang up' on Colombo; providing Rajapaksa with a rationale for fighting off international pressure would only serve to bolster his domestic political standing."

On May 15, the U.S. Charge met Mr. Menon again for "a discussion on the urgent humanitarian situation" in Sri Lanka, in a cable sent on May 15, 2009 ( 207268: confidential).

Acknowledging the "dire situation," the Foreign Secretary said pressure needed to be put on the Sri Lankan government to avoid civilian causalities. But once again, "he cautioned that bilateral diplomacy would be more effective than highly public pressure in the UN Security Council or the Human Rights Council."

For a 'pause'

By then, under pressure from UPA coalition partner and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, New Delhi had already tried to get the Sri Lankan government to go easy on the war-front.

On April 23, Mr. Burleigh wrote ( 203792: confidential) of his meeting that day with the Indian Foreign Secretary.

Mr. Menon told him that in a phone call to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later that day, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee would propose that the U.S. and India coordinate an international effort to force the Sri Lankan government "to take appropriate political steps to bring stability to Sri Lanka and a return to normalcy in the Tamil regions."

He told Mr. Burleigh that the Indian Cabinet had decided to make "a new appeal to pause military operations" and provide relief to civilians trapped in the war zone.

Mr. Menon and Mr. Narayanan then made a quick visit to Colombo on April 24. On their return, the NSA told Mr. Burleigh, in a cable sent on April 25 ( 204118: confidential), that the Sri Lankan President had "more or less" committed to "a cessation of hostilities".

Mr. Rajapakse would make the announcement on April 27 after consulting his Cabinet. Mr. Narayanan asked the U.S. to "keep quiet" about it until it came.

The announcement did come, but not for a cessation of hostilities. Declaring that combat operations had ended, the Sri Lankan government announced heavy-calibre weapons would no longer be used. The Defence Ministry warned this was not a cessation of hostilities or ceasefire, and said the push into a 10-km swathe of land where the LTTE leader and the members of his inner circle were holed in would continue.

Briefing Delhi-based diplomats during his May 6-7 visit, Des Browne, the U.K. special envoy, said he believed Sri Lanka could be forced through monetary inducements to accept a post-conflict role for the international community, according to the cable sent on May 13, 2009 ( 206806: confidential).

"At the end of the day they'll want the money," Mr. Burleigh quoted the U.K. special envoy as saying. Mr. Browne noted that the government had expended "vast resources" for the war, and emphasised India's "unique role" in the post-conflict scene.

But it appears that the U.S. was worried India might shy away from such a role, and Mr. Burliegh suggested in his cable that "the time is ripe to press India to work more concretely with us on Sri Lanka issues."







NEW DELHI: One month after India voted against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna for the first time, a diplomatic cable of October 20, 2005 ( 43172: confidential) noted with alarm the fact that the barrage of criticism of the Manmohan Singh government's controversial decision "is increasing rather than dying down."

The cable said that Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran had recently summoned Ambassadors from the EU3 (the U.K., France and Germany) to push to resolve the Iran issue without referral to the UN Security Council (UNSC), where he "urged [them] to encourage Tehran to compromise by presenting a 'face-saving' way to return to the negotiating table." "Public interest in the debate is continuing, spurring speculation that the GOI [Government of India] is under growing pressure to backtrack from its earlier stance."

The Embassy lamented that "only a minority of strategic analysts supported India's decision." The cable said: "In a recent London School of Economics speech, [The] Hindu Editor-in-Chief N. Ram described India's vote as a massive foreign policy 'blunder,' contrived to convince the US that it was an ally… Ram was not alone in this assessment — a variety of pundits and politicians have painted India's decision in the same harsh light, increasing the pressure on Manmohan Singh's government to abstain in any future IAEA vote."

The cable ended on a pessimistic note: "Although India voted with the U.S. in September, the GOI may not have the required domestic support to sustain that position. The GOI faces intense domestic criticism and pressure to back down from its stance, and is hoping to avoid further controversy by resolving the Iran issue through behind the scenes diplomatic negotiations that would avoid a November IAEA vote. Our German colleague told us that Saran mentioned an 'exit in honor' for Iran. As New Delhi pursues this course, we will need to be very clear about our own red lines, especially if those diverge from the EU3."

The November board meeting of the IAEA passed without any further action being taken against Iran, but a December 12, 2005 cable ( 47275: secret) lamented the fact that India "has not shown the capability to formulate its Middle East policy in a comprehensive way" and was overly preoccupied with "individual issues like energy security or citizen protection." It said the last "major breakthrough in Indian policy" towards the region was the expansion of its relations with Israel, in the 1990s. "A new breakthrough came in 2003, with the NDA's [National Democratic Alliance] serious consideration of a major troop deployment to Iraq, but that move was scuttled by domestic considerations and looming national elections, proving again the Muslim overlay in India's approach to the Gulf."

The same cable spoke positively of India's Iran vote at the IAEA in September and said: "New Delhi's decision in that case to advance its broader strategic interests with America, instead of simply following the path of least resistance for energy supplies, is a signal of more far-sighted thinking regarding the region. Whether the GOI continues to develop its thinking on broad and long-term interests in the Middle East may hinge in part on the interests and capabilities of the next Foreign Minister."

The fact that senior MEA officials continued to harbour doubts about the correctness of India's IAEA vote on Iran is revealed by a December15, 2005 cable ( 47728: secret) in which K.C. Singh, an Additional Secretary in the MEA who was the Indian Ambassador in Tehran in September 2005, suggested that India no longer had the requisite leverage to influence the Iranians as the Americans assumed. "Clarifying that he spoke personally and not in his official capacity, Singh responded that India's role in resolving the nuclear issue would have been greater had New Delhi abstained in the September 24 IAEA vote. The Iranian reaction has been emotional, he emphasized, with ordinary Iranians asking visiting Indians why they let Iran down. As a result, India's influence has been weakened," he noted.

India would like to vote against Iran when the matter came up in the IAEA again, U.S. Ambassador David Mulford quoted National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan as telling him (in a January 12, 2006 cable, 49618: secret) but was worried about its "domestic political constituency."

"The Ambassador noted that the US would likely seek an affirmative vote from India on referring Iran to the UNSC. Abstaining at this stage is not enough, he said, highlighting the importance of India's September 24 BOG vote and the fact that an abstention now would be seen as walking back the GOI's non-proliferation commitments."

Despite this blunt talk, the U.S. was unsure of India's intention till the very end. On the eve of the crucial February 2006 IAEA meeting — when Iran's file was finally referred to the UN Security Council — a February 2, 2006 cable ( 51571: confidential) acknowledged the government's dilemma. "When pressed [Shyam] Saran asked if we knew how other states — he mentioned Egypt and South Africa in particular — would vote. When told it seemed we had a solid number of votes, including those of the P-5, but did not have a country-by-country breakdown of likely supporters, Saran asked if he could receive that information… The PM told the media February 1 India would vote in its 'enlightened national interest' as an emerging global power, but intense domestic political controversy around this issue is leading the GOI to look for as much political cover as possible — including flimsy fig leaves like Egypt and South Africa."

Even after India's second vote, the leaked cables suggest there was no lessening of the pressure to tow the American line on Iran. And the fate of the civil nuclear agreement was the bait. "India is clearly rattled by Iran's refusal (after the IAEA votes) to confirm the preferential price for the sale of five million tonnes of LNG per year, and perceives that some conciliatory motions would help salvage its important energy relationship," a March 27, 2006 cable ( 58266: confidential) noted. "However, we have made clear to the GOI that dallying with Iran is not only dangerous for regional stability but also puts at risk Congressional support for the civil nuclear deal."







CHENNAI: Pakistan and India cooperated in the 2008 Mumbai attack investigations far more than they publicly disclosed.

India suspended the Composite Dialogue after the 26/11 attacks and dismissed the Pakistan proposal for a joint investigation. While both sides publicly engaged in mutual recrimination and accused each other of non-cooperation in bringing culprits to book, behind the scenes they were sharing information through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

But the cooperation could have gone further than that. A cable accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks indicates that Indian and Pakistani intelligence officials may have even held a trilateral meeting with U.S. officials to discuss the case.

It is not known for certain if the meeting was held. But it is clear from the June 2, 2009 cable ( 209723: secret/noforn), sent by U.S. Embassy Charge d'Affaires Peter Burleigh, that a trilateral meeting was scheduled for July 6, 2009, in the U.S.

The cable mainly conveys Indian anger at the release of Laskhar-e-Taiba/Jamat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed after the Lahore High Court struck down his detention as "illegal" on June 2, 2009.

The release would fan suspicions in India about Pakistan's willingness to crack down on India-focussed terror groups and the sincerity of the Mumbai investigation, the U.S. official wrote. It would also "nearly certainly" set back efforts to get the two sides to hold bilateral talks at a political level, he predicted.

Despite this, the cable noted, Indian officials were looking forward to a planned July 6 trilateral meeting in the U.S.

"In meeting with LegAtt [Legal Attache, an FBI post in U.S. diplomatic missions] on June 2, Indian Joint Directors of the Intelligence Bureau reiterated that they hope to meet with their Pakistani counterpart investigators at a trilateral meeting in the US on July 6," Mr. Burleigh noted.

But it is clear India continued to mistrust Pakistani intentions despite the backroom cooperation.

The IB officials, who are not named in the cable, told the Legal Attache that they "believe the FIA is trying to do the right thing, but predict they will be stopped by other elements in the Pakistani government if they get close to achieving successful prosecutions."

According to the cable, the Indian officials stressed that Pakistan had shared no information with India and pointed out that not even the FBI had been able to gain access to the detainees in Pakistan.

It noted that the FBI had obtained extensive access to Ajmal Amir Kasab, the surviving 26/11 gunman. "Reported claims by Pakistani officials that Saeed's releasewas due to a lack of cooperation from India will rankle even more in this context."

The idea of the trilateral meeting appears to have originated in a conversation between National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and FBI Director Robert Mueller in New Delhi on March 3.

A cable that U.S. Charge d'Affaires Steven White sent on March 4, 2009 ( 195175: secret) on that meeting, detailed that Mr. Narayanan called for "broader, real-time, effective co-operation, to include work between [Indian and U.S.] intelligence agencies" rather than just the existing "good liaison work" between their law-enforcement agencies.

When the FBI chief raised Islamabad's suggestion to conduct a joint investigation with India into the Mumbai attacks with Pakistan, the NSA "dismissed the idea" saying the "timing is not right" given the levels of mutual suspicion.

He sounded off on how the existing Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism between the two countries was meant to be a vehicle for information-sharing but had not yielded tangible results.

NSA suggestion

Mr. Narayanan felt that Pakistan could conduct its own investigation, asserting that if the government was not complicit with the terrorists, it should want to investigate and prosecute those responsible. As India gets "two to three" intercepts a day on possible terrorist activity, the NSA added that the joint investigation the Pakistanis were offering should be "across the board," and not just in response to Mumbai. In any case, he ruled out sharing the information with Pakistan at that time.

"Rather than joint investigations, Narayanan encouraged the U.S. to continue to play the role of honest broker in the Mumbai investigation. In response to the Director's suggestion that perhaps India and Pakistan could send investigators to Washington to work together, rather than in India, Narayanan said he could consider it," the cable noted.





CHENNAI: The launch of the Italian satellite AGILE on board an Indian-built rocket from Sriharikota threw U.S.-Italian relations out of kilter in 2007, after the U.S. maintained that Italy had re-exported classified U.S. defence technology to India without a proper licence.

In a confidential cable ( 110065: confidential) sent to the Secretary of State's office and U.S. embassies in India and Paris, U.S. Ambassador to Italy Ronald P. Spogli revealed that AGILE carried on board a reaction wheel assembly that was included on the U.S. munitions list and subject to U.S. export controls. The Americans, the testily worded May 26 cable showed, had engaged with Italy in Washington and Rome for up to a year before AGILE's April 23 launch, advising Rome that it would have "potential negative consequences for economic bilateral negotiations" but that the Italians had "disregarded" their council.

Italian response

Minister Giovanni Manfredi, Head of Office VI (Energy, Space, S&T Cooperation, Information Society, and Nuclear Issues) of Italy's Directorate General for Multilateral Economic and Financial Affairs gave a phlegmatic response to the delivery of "a strongly worded protest" by U.S. ECMIN Thomas Delaware.

"Manfredi," wrote Mr. Spogli, "made little attempt to defend ASI and/or the Ministry of Universities' decision to authorize AGILE's Indian launch, disregarding MFA's counsel. He explained that the MFA has no authority over either the Agency or the Ministry." He also told the U.S. the satellite "probably did not deliberately violate U.S. export control regulations," given efforts to remove other defence components originally ordered for AGILE. He said the U.S. had handled Italy's Carlo Gavazzi Spazio's export licence requests in a "confusing" way and Italy had relied upon the assurances of the U.S. company Goodrich regarding the reaction wheel component.

The successful launch of AGILE put India among an exclusive group of nations whose space programmes were to commercial use. The Italian media, to Washington's chagrin, reported "little but tough" Italy resisting an American attempt to restrict Italian research.







CHENNAI: For many young people in India, politics is a 'black box' where the entry is opaque; those who get into politics do so through family connections and friends. Rahul Gandhi, who is himself a privileged member of a privileged political dynasty, seems keen on changing this situation by bringing in fresh faces and new ideas into politics through an open and transparent process of candidate recruitment. At least this is the impression he gave the Charge d'affaires in the United States Embassy, Peter Burleigh, during a private meeting on May 23, 2009 immediately after the general election.

In a cable sent on May 27, 2009 ( 208867: confidential), Mr. Burleigh recorded that Mr. Gandhi was intent on replicating his Punjab model of candidate selection first to Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, and eventually across India. The model involves holding internal elections to the Youth Congress, something the Congress had never done before, and allowing successful young candidates drawn from this pool to fight for seats where the party was not competitive. This, Mr. Gandhi noted, presented little political risk for the party.

Although some sections of the senior party leadership in Punjab were uncomfortable with this approach, he had his way and two of the three candidates thus chosen emerged successful in the election.

"Noting unselfconsciously that most Indian politicians got into politics through family connections or friends, he said that establishing an open and transparent process of candidate recruitment starting at the most basic level and democratizing the party would do much to aid Congress in the coming years by bringing in fresh faces and new ideas," the CDA wrote.

Almost 20 per cent of the Lok Sabha members in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance were under 45 years old, Mr. Gandhi told the diplomat, while emphasising that putting forward younger candidates would help build party strength. But being a Lok Sabha member was a full-time job and new members would be better off learning their jobs rather than setting their sights on Cabinet berths.

According to Mr. Burleigh, "Gandhi conceded that many educated, upper middle class urban Indians dismiss politics as a dirty business, but he countered that there is a massive wave of interest in politics and service by younger Indians in small towns and rural areas."

Asked why the Congress decided to go it alone in contesting Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, he replied that it was vital to rebuild the party structure in two of India's most populous states, which send 120 members to Parliament.

Uttar Pradesh, which was once a Congress stronghold, had seen caste-based parties such as the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party grow at the Congress' expense. But the dominant castes in these parties drew the resentment of other groups in the organisation, who were targeted by the Congress in the 2009 parliamentary election. This 'revolt from below' against the caste superstructure of the parties created opportunities for Congress to make a successful non-caste appeal, the Charge reported.

"Gandhi noted admiringly that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had shown that good governance was enough to attract voters; campaigning on caste, as Lalu Prasad Yadav had in Bihar, was now a losing proposition," Mr. Burleigh wrote while detailing his conversation with the Congress leader.

He told the diplomat that his efforts against caste politics were just scratching the surface. "But he also acknowledged that there were 'contradictions' in the Congress Party and that a 'massive generational shift' would have an impact on not only Congress, but on other parties that wanted to compete for young candidates and voters."

One-man structure

Mr. Gandhi, according to the CDA, dismissed many parties in India as being essentially 'one-man' structures, where a single leader was the party. "Looking into the future ten to fifteen years, Gandhi asserted that many of the caste-based parties would 'crack up' because of dissatisfaction with caste as an organizing principle and voters' rising expectations of better governance. Looking 30 years ahead, he predicted that Indian voters will act much like their counterparts in developed countries and vote based on their pocketbook or on other salient individual interests."

In his comment towards the end of the cable, titled 'Young man in a hurry,' Mr. Burleigh said: "Gandhi came off as a practiced politician who knew how to get his message across and was comfortable with the nuts and bolts of party organization and vote counting. He was precise and articulate and demonstrated a mastery that belied the image some have of Gandhi as a dilettante. Given his commitment to party building, it seems unlikely he would seek a Cabinet position anytime soon. While his party work will professionalize and democratize Congress, it will also create a cadre of party loyalists which will be useful as Gandhi moves into a position where he can be a credible candidate for Prime Minister."






The news about Japan's nuclear power plants — and the threat of the spread of radiation — continues to be full of foreboding. The psychological impact of the disaster, however, appears to be more marked in debate in this country than in Japan itself. The Japanese people and their leadership, now in the midst of an unprecedented situation, have to their credit shown no sign of panic, although worry in such circumstances would be only natural. While doing what's needed to fix the nuclear problem, Tokyo has pumped in close to 23 trillion yen (around $300 billion) to generate rebuilding activity in the economy. Japanese investors outside the country are in the process of pulling out funds from elsewhere for deployment within Japan. The approach underlines for the world the determination and resilience the Japanese people are capable of in the face of disaster, no less acute than that which the country faced in the aftermath of defeat in World War II.
It is significant in this context that within Japan no cry has been raised to eliminate nuclear power generation in the country. After the Japanese people became victims of two atom bomb attacks by the United States in 1945, the island nation determined to eschew nuclear weapons and has been in the forefront of the global nuclear non-proliferation movement. This did not stop it, however, from choosing to derive electricity through nuclear power. Today one-third of power generation in Japan — the world's third largest economy — derives from the nuclear source. As such, it will not be easy for it to make a break with nuclear power generation. In the days ahead we might have a better appreciation of how Japan wrestles with the question of generating nuclear energy. In India, however, we have already seen a tsunami of criticism of our domestic nuclear power programme. India generates a paltry 4,000MW of nuclear power, around two per cent of its current requirement, but aspires to step this up to 20,000MW by 2020 and 30,000MW by 2030. Governments are likely to work toward these goals if public opinion is supportive. The crisis in Japan has led anti-nuclear groups in India to step up their campaign against the idea of nuclear energy itself. Their first target is the proposed nuclear power plant at Jaitapur on Maharashtra's Konkan coast, which is designed to be the biggest nuclear power plant in the world, with a capacity of 9,000MW.
The question of nuclear safety was always pre-eminent but has acquired urgency in the wake of Japan's recent experience. For their part, the anti-nuclear groups are, in principle, opposed to the use of nuclear power for electricity generation. They were against erecting the nuclear facility at Jaitapur in any case, and would like India not to produce nuclear power at all. The trouble in Japan only lends their campaign an edge. Irrespective of the position such campaigners might take, we need to revisit the safety question again. It is not sufficient for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and leading lights of the Indian nuclear establishment to make an assertion on the safety of our reactors. It is not sufficient to say that Kalpakkam withstood the 2004 tsunami. Barring a couple, our reactors are of relatively recent vintage compared to Japan's Daiichi reactors, which go back to 1972. As such, they do possess a greater safety factor. But on the question of structural fortifications or other factors, learning from Japan's own building codes might relieve public anxieties. In a discussion on nuclear power generation, we should bear in mind that there are over 400 reactors in the world, and no country is so far looking to decommission its facilities. The key is to strengthen safety, not to panic.






Special Forces (SF) are the stuff of legend and military lore. Their derring do and nerveless actions in the field have time and again rescued the losing side and turned the course of wars. Because the SF are geared to attaining the ends by any and especially unorthodox means, they have scant regard for the norms and procedures conventional forces live and fight by, and end up treating the regular military with disdain. The payback is in terms of the special operations forces facing institutional inattention, fighting for budgetary crumbs and their commanders rarely rising to the highest ranks in the services. The fabled Major David Stirling leading the Special Air Service (SAS) — the most accomplished of the British SF in the Allied Eighth Army active in the Maghreb — famously said that during the Second World War he fought as many battles with his own military brass as he did with the Axis Powers. The relations of the Indian Special Forces with their parent services are likewise fraught and for many of the same reasons.

The regular military find the SF's swagger and "can do" attitude grating, their unconventional methods distasteful and dealing with their commanders a strain, but damned if they don't covet the romance, glamour and mystique of the individualistic and lethal commando that attends on them and their line of work. Hence, the armed services have sought to at once perpetuate and strengthen their control of the SF and to blur the distinction between them and the line units. Thus, the Indian Army, for instance, has from the beginning insisted, firstly, that the SF are an extension, and remain within the administrative ambit, of the "Parachute Regiment" and draw their officers and men exclusively from this fraternity. And, secondly, that the purely paratroop battalions be converted to paratroop-commando, notwithstanding the quite different missions the two types of forces are optimised for. Paratroopers are infantry able to be parachuted as the airborne element for forced entry behind enemy lines, or in any sector where rapid build-up of forces is required. Para Commandos, on the other hand, are specialists in clandestine operations, able to be inserted by parachute or other means, in peacetime, war and in operations other than war. Erasing the differences between the parachute and the Para Commando units suggests the Indian Army, apparently, neither appreciates the quite different roles these two types of forces play, nor the gravity of depriving the country of military options in war by misusing the Para Commandos to do the job of parachuted infantry and vice versa, thereby limiting the forces available for these separate roles.

The other services too have their SFs. The Indian Navy's versatile Marcos (Marine Commandos), styled after the US Navy's Seals (Sea, Air, Land), have been successfully blooded, for example, in Sri Lanka (Operation Pawan). Their action prevented the escape of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leaders to Tamil Nadu by scuttling that outfit's vessels and, positioned on the Wular Lake in the mid-Nineties, they preempted the ingress by the jihadis into Jammu and Kashmir. These days the Marcos are itching to wipe out the Somalian pirates and bases, if only the Indian government affords them a carte blanche instead of the conditional approval of actions. The Air Force's Garud unit training, among other things, to destroy enemy air capability on the ground has reportedly impressed in recent realistic exercises. With the acquisition of the C-130J airlift aircraft and amphibious warfare ship, INS Jalashwa, India now has an all-services SF nucleus to mount and sustain credible special operations.

The question is: Who should control the SF? The option is between expecting the special forces to deliver as part of the parent services, or to constitute a separate Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the defence ministry as I have advocated. At an international seminar on Special Forces held last week, hosted by the Centre for Joint Warfare Studies under Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), the head of Israeli SF, Brig. Eyal Eisenberg, former chief and current Colonel Commandant of SAS, Lt. Gen. Sir Graeme Lamb, and ex-commander of the German SF, Brig. Hans-Christoph Ammon, spoke about the conduct of special operations in the context of a joint command. Indeed, the historical record favours it. After an initial period of operating under parent services, the US Office of Strategic Services and the British Special Operations Executive and SAS gained their greatest successes in the Second World War when grouped under a single Special Operations Headquarters under the Supreme Commander in Europe, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Nearer home, Lord Mountbatten, as commander-in-chief, Southeast Asia Command, had the largest number of SF in his charge, utilising them to considerable effect against the Imperial Japanese land forces.
The reasons for a JSOC are compelling. A unitary command will be best able to represent the singular as well as combined SF interests, recruit the best talent from the three services, assess the operational strengths and limitations of each type of SF, draw up special operations plans to mesh with the larger strategy, configure mission-based force mixes for maximum impact, fight for an equitable portion of the defence pie, evaluate the various capability gaps and the material and human resources requirements of the SF, and to prioritise on an inter se basis the acquisitions and augmentation programmes. It will be a radical improvement on the existing state of affairs where the armed services tamp down on their respective SF and persistently misapply SF assets.
At the conference, Lt. Gen. H.S. Lidder, a former commando and chief of IDS, proposed a JSOC under the national security adviser. An excellent idea, except he envisaged this arrangement only for peacetime, with SF reverting to the parent service in war. This last is to fall back on a bad system wherein SF, subsumed in Theatre Command plans, are penny-packeted as Army reserve and tasked mostly with trivial missions, such as blowing up culverts and ammo dumps across the Line of Control. It is akin to deputing highly trained and motivated neurosurgeons to diagnose fever and hand out aspirin.

bharat karnad is professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi






National Security adviser S.S. Menon was in Tehran on March 8, the eve of the Persian New Year. Attempted flattery went awry as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's office let Mr Menon's view be known that the President's predictions of global economic and political developments were prescient. A contestable statement, ignoring the blatant power grab by the Revolutionary Guards and the right-wing after the dubious 2009 election. The Jasmine breeze, additionally, has unnerved the regime, making them abduct the principal Opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi while challenging similar actions by the Bahrain government against their Shia majority. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's sudden urge to engage Iran meaningfully needs scrutiny.
That Iran is a complex country is a given. From Nadir Shah's sacking of the Mughal treasury and pillage and rape of Delhi on March 22, 1739, to the vacillating India-Iran relations post 1947, buffeted first by the Cold War orientation of Iran and then its Islamic Revolution, followed by the Iraq-Iran war, it has been a saga of missed chances and provocation.
Former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao's government in 1991 reset Indian foreign policy, setting a "Look East" direction for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and a search in the West for partnership with the Islamic neighbourhood. The Babri Masjid demolition in 1993 complicated this quest, though it increased the significance of Iran, which was now approached through national imperatives, ignoring the past. As Pakistan-sponsored forces rose in Afghanistan and Kabul fell to the Taliban in 1996, the bilateral relations warmed. Partnership became an alliance. Its high- noon was the 2001 visit of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to Tehran and the 2003 return visit by President Mohammad Khatami, resulting in the Tehran and Delhi Declarations, laying down the roadmap of diversified cooperation. Justification for this was: Iranian reserves of oil and gas; a North-South trade/freight corridor through Iran, Caspian and Russia; access to Afghanistan and Central Asia; countering Taliban and forces of radical Islam; and Iran as a counter-weight to Pakistan. Ironically, both Mr Vajpayee and Mr Khatami, charismatic and politically savvy, bridged divides in their respective ruling coalitions. Their vision began fraying once Iran's clandestine nuclear programme got exposed in 2003, rendering Mr Khatami lame-duck half-way into his second term, the initiative having passed to the hands of radicals. By 2004, even Mr Vajpayee had exited.
As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assumed office, India-Iran relations were caught in the complex maze of US non-proliferation concerns over the Iranian nuclear programme and a desire to open the doors to India's rise as a possible counterweight to a rising China. To unshackle India, a civil nuclear deal was the sine qua non for unrestricted access to dual use technologies and clean energy. The nuclear issue was also the stick with which they wished to flog Iran, whose anxiety was heightened by the presence of US troops to their east in Afghanistan and after 2003 to their west in Iraq. The Indian vote at the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2005, twice repeated, against Iran is thus unlikely to be easily forgotten, as Tehran felt betrayed.
The national security adviser's Tehran sojourn was perhaps based on the following assumptions: a convergence in concerns about post-US Afghanistan; Iranian worry over Gulf Cooperation Council-Saudi Arabia and the Iran stand-off over Bahrain's street uprising by the majority Shia population; and the Indian United Nations Security Council membership till 2011-12. Such reasoning subsumed that Iranian national imperatives have remained static over the last decade. In fact, as Iran's external environments evolved so did its polity and tactics. Mr Ahmadinejad, a hardliner, replaced the urbane Mr Khatami. The Vilayet-e-Faqih model created by Imam Khomeini was conditioned on the Supreme Leader balancing the interests of the clergy, the Revolutionary Guards and their off-spring, the Baseej and the Bazaar, or the business class. The 2009 election has upset this balance. China has replaced India and Japan as investor in oil and gas and technology sources. Iran has worked out a modus vivendi with the Taliban as the US is a common foe. The US is perceived as a retreating power, no longer a military threat. President Hosni Mubarak's exit was followed by two Iranian naval vessels transiting the Suez Canal, a first in decades. Even the Taliban may want to reduce their dependence on Pakistan. Sa'di, the 13th century poetic voice of Shiraz, has this advice on revenge:
Wait rather till fortune blunts his claws

Then pluck out his brains amidst friends' applause.

The Arab world is in turmoil, which can lead to a renaissance or chaos. India's Gulf policy stands outsourced to sectional Malayali interests. Its West Asia policy is in induced sleep. Iran is leafing through its Sa'di poems. The Manmohan Singh government, with its mono-thematic focus on the India-US civil nuclear deal in UPA-I and Pakistan in UPA-II, needs new advisers and a wider spectrum foreign policy. The only Arabist secretary at headquarters in the ministry of external affairs deals with Europe. Otherwise its fate shall be of the partridge in the Persian poet Hafiz's couplet:

O gracefully walking partridge whither goest thou? Stop Be not deceived because the 'devious cat' has said its prayers.

The author is a former secretary in the external
affairs ministry









Had a series of misfortunes not struck Japan so viciously, the world's attention might have remained focused on Libya and Gaddafi's atrocities there. Japan's misery has turned into a stroke of luck for Gaddafi.


Still, even as the world mourns with Japan in its unparalleled tragedy, it will be haunted for long by the troubled conscience that the people of Libya had been left to fend for themselves.


Japan's though wasn't the largest disaster in recent history. That unfortunate distinction belongs to Kolkata. A tsunami had hit Kolkata on 11 October 1737 resulting in 3,00,000 deaths.


Of late scientists have begun to doubt that figure largely on the presumption that the population of Kolkata was much smaller then. But that is not the issue.


What is important is the fact that a massive tsunami had devastated Kolkata and that a similar catastrophe could visit Kolkata again. Therefore the events and relief efforts currently underway in Japan could be of value to us.


Japan of course was reasonably well prepared for the event. In 1995 an earthquake of the magnitude of 6.9 had struck the city of Kobe. It caused a major devastation in the region; nearly 6,500 people were killed, 1,50,000 buildings were destroyed and another 1,80,000 buildings were damaged.


Over 6,00,000 people were made homeless and the overall financial damage was estimated to be in the region of $114 billion, or as much as 2.3% of Japan's GDP.


Despite the enviably high level of its industrialisation then, experts had estimated that it could take up to five years for Kobe to be brought back to its feet. But Japan surprised them all.


A spanking new Kobe was ready within 18 months; with a highly advanced urban centre and gleaming high rises built to meet fresh challenges. Soon Kobe became an important industrial and business centre.


In contrast, Sendai region is less thickly populated and it is not a business centre on the scale of Kobe. Still, the scale of devastation in Sendai has been of biblical proportions. It began with a never ending earthquake; but the enduring impression many will carry is of a calm and disciplined reaction by the people. Soon thereafter a tsunami began to batter the region, giving people no reaction time.


The waves overwhelmed all and everything; the images of houses, ships and trucks being tossed about like toys by rampaging waters are bound to remain for a long time in public memory.


Entire cities have been flattened so completely that some of the survivors find it difficult to figure out where they had lived once.


At 8.9 the earthquake that hit Sendai was 178 times more powerful than the one that had struck Kobe in 1995. But the woes of the people aren't over. There is the threat of another quake or a tsunami; a larger catastrophe in form of a nuclear meltdown looms too.


Already, the loss of life and property is enormous and this time it may take longer than 18 months to rebuild the cities. But we can take it as a given that the reconstruction will be the best that man and technology can offer.


In doing so Japan would not tolerate even the whiff of a CWG like scam. For Japanese, national pride outweighs everything else. It is also likely that Japan may emerge stronger out of this ordeal.


The expenditure on reconstruction might revive its stagnant economy.


Japan may not need outside help, but it has been appreciative of offers that are pouring in. USA is rushing its aircraft carriers and China is sending its ships.


Besides a purely humanitarian gesture, a major association with Japan's relief efforts may be in our own interest too; as a lesson in disaster management and for our nuclear experts as Japan battles with multiple problems in its nuclear power plants.


This, essentially, is the time for us to help with men and material.


If Japan is our declared strategic partner, shouldn't we reach out to them visibly and meaningfully in their hour of need? Rushing a supply of blankets may be a knee jerk reaction, but is it enough?


Can it be called a substantial help by a country that wants a seat in UN Security Council; and that too in the company of Japan? An effort, befitting a major state, is not noticeable so far.







There are a couple of points in the PJ Thomas controversy that have not received the attention they deserve in the current debate.


Manmohan Singh has stated that he did not know about the chargesheet against Thomas when the matter came up before him in the high-powered committee to select the CVC.


Since it is the PM who has made this admission and before parliament, his statement should be respected and accepted.


It is another matter that passing the blame on to his then junior minister, Prithviraj Chavan, for selecting the panel even as he took responsibility for the "error of judgment" did not go down well with many.


Through his plea of ignorance, Singh may have wanted to reclaim the high moral ground that he has lost of late, but his statement has only raised serious questions about his grip over the administration.


Information or no information, the PM has emphasised the need for "Caesar's wife to be above suspicion" during his interaction with TV editors not long ago. Everyone knew that Thomas was telecom secretary under A Raja.


There were allegations flying against Raja on the 2G spectrum from 2008 onwards. As secretary, Thomas handled queries from the CBI on behalf of his minister. To even think of making him CVC, who would thus oversee the CBI's probe into the 2G scam, should have been unthinkable.


But of greater concern is the importance given, or not given, to the process of selecting the watchdog to man the country's "integrity institution".


The Supreme Court (SC) in 1997 envisaged a high-powered committee to select the CVC to make sure that the executive did not appoint a person who would do their bidding. The early 1990s had seen CBI directors change with rapidity and it was said at the time that they could be found in the ante room of the PM's chamber!


Since the PM says he did not have information about Thomas's controversial antecedents, these facts were obviously hidden from him by those who were supposed to do due diligence.


The irony is that the leader of the opposition (LOP) brought the antecedents to his attention. Before she recorded her dissent on Thomas's name, Sushma Swaraj offered to endorse either of the other two names on the panel.


In this instance, Swaraj was not even trying to push a name of her choice, which might have aroused the suspicions of the others.


She was also willing to consider a name outside the panel and meet again the next day since the PM insisted the CVC's swearing-in ceremony had been fixed for three days later.


But neither the PM nor the home minister were ready to relent. They were adamant that the decision had to be finalised that day and it had to be Thomas.


It is still not clear whether this was due to pressure from the party or the PMO-backed IAS lobby; there are murmurings on Raisina Hill that the PM is now as dependent on his principal secretary TKA Nair as Atal Bihari Vajpayee was on Brajesh Mishra!


Home minister P Chidambaram has maintained that Sushma Swaraj did not have the power to "veto" a decision, but surely the LOP is not just a decorative piece on the high-powered committee.


Though the Supreme Court has not insisted that the CVC be chosen by "consensus", the inclusion of the LOP in the selection committee was to lay down checks and balances and prevent arbitrariness in decision-making.


It was, therefore, not surprising that the Supreme Court used strong words to condemn the appointment and laid down guidelines that the CVC had to be someone of unimpeachable integrity and need not be a civil servant.


Among other things, the Thomas affair has highlighted the needto define the LOP's role in the selection process, since the three-member HPC will always have two members from the government side who will always be able to overrule the LOP, the third member.


It would be short-sighted to view this as a Congress versus BJP tussle, for a party in power today can be in opposition tomorrow.


This is critical since the successor to Thomas — even as he plans to seek a review of the court's decision by a five-member bench — will have to be selected soon.


The manner in which the government goes about this will demonstrate how sincere it is about making amends and about ensuring the health of our institutions.







The political credo today seems to be: take care of the short term, the long term will take care of itself. The Congress is focussed on maximising its deals with the DMK for the Tamil Nadu assembly elections and with the Trinamool Congress for the West Bengal polls.


Prime minister Manmohan Singh is busy wriggling out of the tight spot with regard to the quashed appointment of CVC PJ Thomas, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is trying to get the finance bill passed, and home minister P Chidambaram is busy with the Maoist issue and Jammu and Kashmir, while Congress president Sonia Gandhi keeps the creaking party machine in working order.


It is no different in the other parties: AIADMK's Jayalalitha keeps a close eye on former telecommunication minister A Raja's spectrum allocation case, and DMK's Karunanidhi has to make peace with PMK to keep his party above water.


The communists at the moment cannot look beyond defending the Red Bastille in Kolkata. The Supreme Court is doing its bit chasing delinquent politicians and the unthinking and erratic decisions of the government of the day.


It is not a pretty scene in a country that is getting ready to become an economic powerhouse and a mini-superpower of sorts. The sense of drift staring at one's face is happening even as western investment banks and rating agencies predict the rise and rise of India in global politics and markets over the next few years and decades. It appears to be a typical Pavlovian condition - inhibiting factors intertwined with stimulus of a bright future.


Perhaps, some time in 2020 or 2025, 2011 would appear in retrospect as an insignificant year of local turmoil, where Manmohan Singh lost his sheen as the knight-n-shining armour in the dark world of politics, where the Congress was left in a lurch because neither Rahul Gandhi nor Priyanka Vadra were willing to take over the reins of the party, and their mother was left to handle the situation as best as she could, while the BJP floundered, unable to choose one leader from amongst its prime ministerial aspirants, and the communists were without bright ideas of their own.


The regional political parties are in a worse situation: confined to their respective backyards and who consider issues concerning the nation as beyond their ken.


Civil society groups that wholeheartedly hate politicians of all hues are not doing anything better either. They are only too happy to throw the proverbial stones at the venal politicians.


They have no ideas about cities, about education and knowledge, or about the people and communities that would be needed to cope with the challenges of the future.


Yet, somewhere in the chaos of the now, ideas must be taking root that will shine brightly much later and people are preparing themselves for the tasks to be done the day-after-tomorrow. At the present moment, there is just the noise and overwhelming disturbance.


Evolution is not inevitable. It does not happen, at least in human affairs, on its own. There is need for thought and deliberation, for experimentation and, yes, dreams.


These visions cannot be restricted to good neighbourliness with Pakistan and China, collaborations with the United States and Russia, or even long-distance alliances with South Africa and Brazil, and ideal resolutions to the irritants of the day.


There has to be a radical technological breakthrough that will capture the imagination of the world. India will have to develop an intellectual vanguard to take a leap forward.










The Jammu and Kashmir Bank has won laurels for its sustained progress over the years and has emerged one of the leading banks in the country. For its very satisfactory performance, the bank has won many awards more recently the World Wide Fund (WWF) Rolling Trophy for maintaining Brigadier Rajinder Singh Park Jammu. The is park maintained and developed under its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy The award was given at Science Exhibition & Flower Show organized on March 13, 2011 by Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (formerly Regional Research Laboratory) Jammu.

It is a matter of pride for the State that the premier bank is interested in contributing its share towards social enhancement. The bank has largely improved its functionality and infrastructure, and above all, it is taking good care of its customers as well as employees. To find a public sector enterprise flourishing well and not bogged with differences and contradictions with its staff is a matter of relief. It has to be admitted that the bank has prospered owing to capable leadership that keeps close watch over the policies and directions of the Reserve Bank of India. In modern times, banks have extended responsibilities and role to perform. Being an important component of social formulation, J&K Banks has still larger role to play that would directly affect and stimulate economic progress of the state and help in ushering in social transformation. Perhaps, in view of unusual circumstances of the state, the J&K Bank could think of more novel but much needed initiatives aimed at improving the lot of the people of the state especially those living in remote and not easily accessible areas. J&K is a hilly state and a large section of her population lives in higher reaches and remote areas. The J&K Bank could do a lot to improve overall economic condition of the people there. It could cooperate with other departments of the government in contributing to various requirements like communication, connectivity, education of backward classes, medical support, forestry and plantation, parks and playgrounds, road building, social welfare, sports and in addressing emergency situations. It is for the bank authorities to approach all these departments, constitute a panel for discussing how best the bank can contribute in addition to what the departments do. We know there are certain norms of functionality that have to be kept in mind when making plans for bank role in responding to social responsibilities. But as we said, taking into account the geography and topography of the state and the problems that confront our vast rural and hilly population, the bank should draw a special plan and obtain permission from the integrated banking system for floating those special plans. The bank should be able to bring some specific categories of weaker sections in far off places under the umbrella of special plans. The student community, senior citizens, handicapped and women folk need to be brought under the special plan meaning that loans are given on half the normal rate, quantum of loans is increased, and the repayment scheme is further liberalized. Education loans to school going children should be interest free and its repayment should be deferred until the student concerned becomes an earning hand after completion of studies. The bank can help establish coaching centres for professional and administrative examinations. Likewise, the bank should draw a permanent scheme of assistance to the victims of natural calamity like rock slips, fire, cloud burst, or failure of crops. The bank can cooperate with the health department in providing elementary medical assistance to the needed in far off places for which movement to towns for medical centres is usually difficult. The bank can open chairs in universities to encourage specialized studies and research. This scheme can be extended to major medical organizations in the state. The bank can open polyclinics of modest level in selected villages. In short, it would be advisable for the J&K Bank to begin a process of calibrated seminars on the subject of its role in meeting social responsibility in days to come. From its fundamental role of money transactions, it needs to move also to areas of social enterprises, and thereby adopt a line quite different from the one-action plan of ordinary banks. It has to realize that it is the premier banking institution in a strife-torn region where its role is both needed and appreciated.







The news about Saudi Arabian armed forces intervening in the domestic uprising in neighbouring Bahrain is alarming. Under the UN Charter, a sovereign state has the right to seek military support from a foreign country if it feels that its security is threatened. Hence, if the ruler of Bahrain asks its neighbours, Saudis or others, for help, it is within its rights. But the important point is that there is an uprising against the ruler from his own people and not from any foreign power that he would ask for military intervention. Saudi troops are brought in to suppress the uprising against the local ruler. The dissidents in the Bahrain know well that the Saudi monarchical regime is protected by Pakistani Army battalions and American logistics. No wonder therefore, if these very battalions that have been deployed in Bahrain are engaged in quelling insurgency in the Gulf kingdom just as Pakistani troops are deployed by the Libyan despot. In any case, deployment or non-deployment of third country troops or mercenaries is not of much significance, but the fact that the autocrats and despots receive moral and material support from their counterfoils is not acceptable. It will not lead to silencing the flames of opposition; rather it could exacerbate the situation. It is despotism and autocracy ganging up against democratic forces in Arab world. Those who are willing to go in for military option in the countries where turmoil has struck are doing great disservice to their own cause. Such indiscreet and arrogant steps usually boomerang on their initiators. The beleaguered Shaykhs, Sultans and despots of Arabian world must understand clearly that their days are numbered, and ultimately power will rest with the people of their countries. This is also a moment of introspection for those claiming to be wedded to the power of democracy but camaraderie-ing with autocrats just for self-aggrandizement and no other logic.








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. (INAV)








Millions of years ago, the first humans appeared .Their knowledge in the use of tools for hunting, clothing and building homes passed through the generations and today, humans are capable of doing the things that would be deemed impossible a thousand years ago. We became smart because our ancestors were able to adapt to their environment and developed the necessary skills for our survival. That is called intelligence. We eat other beings because we refuse to believe that they are intelligent.
What constitutes intelligence ? How do humans learn ? "Learning is acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information " Meaning, trial and error. The first time you burn yourself is the last time you will stick your hand in a fire.
How do animals learn ? Are they mindless robots who are programmed at birth to behave in a certain manner or do they evolve themselves into smart beings in the same way that we do – through observation, being taught , fear, incentives, trial and error ?
Ofcourse they learn the same way. Whether domestic or wild, from guinea pig to lion, they learn every day. Just as young children are helpless , when young birds leave the nest, they need time to learn to find food and avoid predators. Both species are more likely to starve or be killed till their learning increases.
Learning extends across all species. Even to the microscopic vinegar worm which feeds on bacteria. If it eats a disease-causing strain, it becomes ill. Worms are not born with an aversion to the dangerous bacteria. They learn , with time , to tell the difference and avoid becoming sick. Bacteria can alter behavior to help their survival. If a microbe senses a toxin, it swim away. If it senses a new food, it can switch genes on and off to alter its metabolism. E. coli , for instance, is amazingly good in adapting itself.
Insects are good at learning. Biologists at McMaster University realized that the fruitfly learns how to associate certain odours with food and other odours with predators. They also discovered that young male flies learns by hit and miss to court females by reading their signs correctly.
Researchers presented the insects with a choice of orange or pineapple jelly to eat. Both smell delicious. But the flies that land on the orange jelly discover that it is spiked with bitter quinine. At egg laying time, researchers presented the flies with orange and pineapple jelly plates. The flies chose pineapple.
Rats learn very fast. Not just how to find their way out of mazes and to pull levers to reward themselves. If you release metal-caged laboratory bred mice into the wild , they soon learn how to dig, find food, mates and safe hiding places for a group. In a study at the University of Georgia researchers were astonished to discover that rats display evidence of metacognition: they know what they know and what they don't know. Metacognition, supposedly a human ability only, is exemplified by students who have answered exam questions.They have a pretty good sense of what their grade is likely to be. In the Georgia study, rats were asked to show their ability to distinguish between a sound tone lasting from 2 to 8 seconds, by pressing one or another lever. If the rat guessed correctly, it was rewarded with a large meal; if it judged incorrectly, it got nothing. For each trial, the rat could, after hearing the tone, opt to either take the test and press the short or long lever, or poke its nose through a side of the chamber designated the, "I don't know" option, at which point it would get a tiny snack. As the test got more complicated , the rats made clear they knew their limits. When they knew the tone they expressed confidence in their judgment by indicating they wanted to take the lever test and earn their full-course dinner. But as the tones became mixed the rats began opting for the third option which gave them tiny morsels instead of pressing potentially wrong levers.
The popular belief that fish have a memory span of 3 seconds is just to make you feel better when you eat them. Scientists have discovered that fish are adept learners, with distinct personalities that change as they pick up information about the world. The study by the University of Liverpool, found that individual trout display very different personalities — some are bold and inquisitive; others are shy and passive. These traits, however, change in response to particular experiences, as the fish learn how best to cope with their environment. Bolder fish are much more likely to approach and eat unfamiliar forms of prey and tend to eat more which may make them more vulnerable to anglers. Shy trout, by contrast, will leave strange-looking food alone protecting themselves from the risk of being caught. Each adjusts its behaviour according to what they see from others' experiences, becoming shyer or bolder.
Like us animals learn how to learn—that is, once they have mastered a particular task, they can more quickly learn future tasks that have the same design but rely on different stimuli. Like us they apply accumulated knowledge to new situations. The classic example is the chimpanzee in a room with a few sticks and boxes in one corner and a banana hanging from the ceiling. The chimpanzee climbs on top of the boxes and reaches for the banana with a stick. Crows, dolphins, elephants, and parrots are creative problem-solvers as well.
If intelligence is not the ability to do tricks by rote but grasp ideas and experiences and apply them to one's own survival, then all animals are intelligent. Your goldfish swims to the surface looking for food when you move near its tank. Young creatures who live by the sea need to learn how to fish so seals, sea lions and polar bears will learn from their parents how to dive into the water and come up with a fish. A mother deer teaches her fawn to fear man by herself demonstrating such fear at the sight or scent of man. Intelligence is the ability to reason, to solve a new problem by using previous experiences. The most famous kind of trial and error method is the maze.
Mazes are based on the idea that an animal that is placed in an entrance must find the exit. As it proceeds, it finds a series of branches. The animal must make a choice at each branch or fork. If it chooses the wrong one, it comes to a dead end. Then it must go back to take the other path. The reward at the end is food . Experiments have shown that ants can master very complicated mazes, as well as frogs, turtles, rats, cockroaches and crabs. Another way to study trial and error is to place an animal in a box. Food is placed outside and the animal can reach the food only by unlocking a door. Then the animal must open the same door to get back into the box. The problem is figuring out a lock to open a door. Raccoons can open really complicated locks. Monkeys can also open locks. Both figure out the mechanism much faster than humans.
Where does this ability to learn and modify behavior come from? One of the answers could lie in the 1992 discovery of the mirror neuron. A mirror neuron is a brain cell, a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. The same neurons are fired, for instance, when I eat and when I see another eating. Mirror neurons enable us to recognize and understand what another is doing. Some scientists consider this to be one of the most important recent discoveries in neuroscience. First supposed to be only in the human brain, they have now been found in primates – and will probably turn up in every single tested animal or insect.
There will always be people who see animals as only slightly more flexible than machines- but that again, is a reflection of their own intelligence.








The relationship of education with social change is not a simple, unilateral one, as perhaps many would like to believe, education is not only instrumental in bringing about social change, it is also quite interestingly instrumental in maintaining the status quo. In other words, education plays both a conservative and radical role, it helps both in maintaining and changing different aspects of the social system. Education systems are largely also influenced considerably by economic and technological factors. Education in turn may also influence social and economic change as a consequence of the role it plays in the process of discovery and dissemination of newly acquired knowledge.
The social situations, together with its underlying socio-economic structure and the political power structure are never static. These have their repercussions on the education systems as well. In the course of its development, the education system acquires certain autonomy and its own dynamics of development. It can generate conflict in the over values of different components of a system or over values of one or more components. Education has a dual character, although the process of education socializes individuals to conform to the norms and values of society, it has also the capacity to generate a spirit of enquiry and question in the accepted norms. It has the potential to encourage people to question the dominant values & norms in society, and to make them rebel against the existent societal constraints. Education mediates and maintains the cultural heritage of the society, whilst seeking to conserve, education must also ensure that culture lag in society is minimized. There must be some attempt to adjust the old culture to new conditions in order that individuals with in a society may beep up with technological change. Patterns of culture and of institutions change rapidly, even though the average member of society may be virtually unaware of the transformations taking place around her. Schools exist not merely to reflect and mediate the cultural inheritance of a society and current change; they exist also to assist in the promotion of social change and reform. The leaders of the nation, including teachers, should be educated in a way which would enable them to understand the meaning of change. Education must be for mobility, for flexibility of thought and action, for producing individuals with a high general level of culture so that they adapt to changing economic and social conditions.
Education can facilitate the process of social change as a necessary and a vital collateral factor. If often contributes to igniting, accelerating and sustaining the process by disseminating and cultivating knowledge, information, skills and values appropriate to the changing socio-economic and pol structure. Moreover in a rapidly changing situation, Education has a bearing on social concerns; educational change follows social change. More importantly, education conditions development, but is itself a product of social and economic changes in society. Education can he planned to produce social change. We know that literacy does stimulate economic and social development. Large scale literacy programmes are important tools in the development of many countries. In most developing countries, there is an enormous demand for education because it is perceived on the gateway to an improved social position. The outcome is the rise in the number of literate people in society for whom few jobs are available. The contribution of education to development is dynamic and multifaceted. Partly because there are organized educational systems which are able to secure some of their intended aims even when they come into conflict with the aims of those who control society.
There has long been a widespread understanding in academic and Govt circles that education is the main determinant of economic growth. Especially in the post World War II period, the relationship of education to economic development received, serious attention in national and international forums. Education was considered as one of the most important factors in economic growth. Education was thought to be the main instrument of social change. It is seen as introducing the developing society to new needs and expectations, education helps in wean the developing society away from the old and lead towards the new social order, it inspires a belief in progress, in efficiency in achievement and in rationality. At the same time, education may be seen as creating the conditions for political as well as economic development by laying the foundations of a democratic form of Govt. It is believed that the higher the education level of a country, the more likely is it to be a democracy. Within countries, moreover, there is an even stronger relationship between education and democratic. The influence of education upon political attitude is much more complex than has been some times supposed, and although it may be correct to argue that a high level of education is necessary for effective participation in democratic Govt.
One of the dominant themes in educational reforms in both the 19th and 20th countries has the extension of educational opportunities to wider sections of the community. This has taken the form of free schooling, scholarships and maintenance of grants for needy students, with the objective of providing equal education opportunity for all classes in the community, many children because of their family background are unable to take advantage of the opportunities. Attention is now being paid not simply to the removal of formal barriers to equality, but to the special provision of special privileges for those who would otherwise he handicapped in terms of educational achievements. Although the idea of equal educational provision for all classes in the community is now accepted, it has by no means been translated into every day practice. Even today children from slum homes are often educated in slum schools. Schools in educated deprived areas should be given priority in many respects. Standard of schooling and infrastructural facilities should be raised.
In the period between the two world wars, education assumed a mass character, occupational and social mobility occurred among segments of population. So far education had spread mainly in the upper caste and urban upper strata in society. Now it began to percolate to sections lower in the social hierarchy, the middle castes and middle strata. This carried the process of nationalism and social awakening still further to the working class in the towns and to the peasantry in the country side. The process considerably strengthened the movement for national liberation as well as the movement for social change. The growth of the colonial system of education was developing serious contradictions with in itself and the colonial socio-eco structure. From post in dependence period up to the sixties the process of social and political awakening has taken further strides. The precise relationship of the education system to social and economic change is extremely complex and it is impossible to draw conclusions. The fact that the education system is a part of the society, which is itself changing. Therefore the real issue is that of the interrelationship between educational institutions and other aspects of the society. The education system can not be seen in isolation from its social context.
(Author is free lance writer, former Dy. Librarian University of Jammu)










The Union Cabinet's nod to the amended goods and services tax (GST) Bill is just a baby step toward an ambitious tax reform. The Bill will become a law only if there is a consensus among political parties and states since it requires Constitution amendment. The BJP-ruled states as also Haryana and Andhra Pradesh are cool to it, fearing loss of revenue and autonomy to levy taxes. The Prime Minister recently linked the BJP opposition to the GST to the arrest of Gujarat's former Home Minister Amit Shah.


The GST, set for an April 2012 rollout, will simplify India's indirect taxes. It will replace multiple taxes like the Central Sales Tax, the value added tax (VAT) and local levies and surcharges imposed by the Centre and states at various stages of production, movement and retail of goods. Under the new regime only one tax – GST — will be levied at the retail level. This will curb needless litigation, delays and tax evasion. Production costs and tax burden will fall, resulting in lower prices. Manufacturing will become more competitive. The government can help firms it wants to by issuing tax refunds, which makes the system more transparent and less corrupt. Some 120 countries have adopted the GST model.


But states are not for it yet. They want to keep the power to tax oil, alcohol and tobacco. Punjab does not want to give up its tax on agricultural produce. If state levies are permitted, this would defeat the chief goal of the GST, which is to introduce uniform tax rates countrywide and treat India as a single market. With the GST, petrol, diesel and liquor will not have varying prices in states. There are also differences over the GST council, which is meant to settle disputes, and the Union Finance Minister having the veto power over the state GST. But these are not insurmountable problems, especially when the Centre is ready to absorb the states' revenue loss, if any.









Many TV viewers will agree that there is a need for self-regulation among the private channels, just as a dash of less regulation would do a world of good to the government monopoly, Doordarshan. While the number of private television channels has increased in leaps and bounds, boundaries between news and entertainment sometimes become blurred.


There have also been complaints regarding what is broadcast on entertainment channels. It is in this backdrop that the government's plan to set up a 13-member National Broadcasting Content Complaints Council, to be headed by a retired Supreme Court or High Court judge, must be seen. The proposed regulator would have members from the media and the entertainment industry, including civil society, and would address complaints referred to it in a time-bound fashion.


The TV industry controls a powerful medium and was expected to evolve a mechanism what would allow for self-regulation, without government intervention. The National News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has proved fairly effective in regulating the news channels while the TV entertainment industry needed a system of checks and balances. The I&B Ministry has come in for criticism for intervening and changing the scheduled timings of controversial shows like 'Bigg Boss' and 'Rakhi Ka Insaaf'. It had also, in response to complaints from public figures, suspended the telecast of Fashion TV and AXN for some time.


By evolving a consensus on the proposed council, the I&B Ministry has taken the right route. Now the government must ensure that this proposal becomes a reality soon. The proliferation of private TV channels has resulted in uneven content, and there have been instances where the private channels aired programmes that were found to be vulgar by people, who agitated against them. The I&B Ministry is hampered by lack of legislation through which it can intervene in such situations. It derives its authority from the provisions of Section 20 of the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, which is clearly inadequate in the changed circumstances. The need for regulation is clear, as is that for an impartial, transparent and effective regulator.








In these times of rampant inflation, it is but fair that legislators in Haryana must get a reasonable amount by way of salaries and perquisites if they are to be held legitimately accountable for the misuse of office and corruption. In that context the assembly decision to hike their salary to Rs 20,000 from Rs 10,000 now and to increase their annual account for petty expenses to Rs 2 lakh from Rs 1 lakh can hardly be faulted.


This hike will raise their total monthly emoluments to Rs 62,000 which is still rather low considering that they have also to nurse their constituencies. Strangely, salaries for MLAs in Haryana were introduced only last year by the Hooda government, 44 years after the formation of the state. Until then, legislators were entitled to allowances only which included a constituency allowance, compensatory allowance, DA and a sum for secretarial expenses. They also received a travel reimbursement allowance which was Rs 12, raised to Rs 15 a kilometre last year. It was as though there was a tacit acceptance that they could resort to other, often dubious, means to raise resources for themselves.


It is indeed no secret that in sharp contrast to the modest salary and allowances, people in general have seen the coffers of most legislators swell rapidly and disproportionately. The unholy nexus between politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen with help from criminals in some cases is too well known to need reiteration. Use of clout by politicians and doling out of favours result in a "you scratch my back, I scratch yours" syndrome. Corruption indeed takes a heavy toll with a huge chunk of money from public projects lining the pockets of the politician and the babu.


The Hooda government has done well to raise salaries and allowances of MLAs. It may be worthwhile to raise these further and to then clamp down on governmental corruption, with sharp accountability being introduced down the line. Corruption is eating into the vitals of the nation and the sooner there is meting out of deterrent punishment the better it would be for the country and its people.











On December 8, 1989, Rubaiya Sayeed, the daughter of Mr Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, who had become India's Home Minister less than a week earlier, was kidnapped by members of the separatist Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF).


Amidst a frenzy of media attention, Prime Minister V.P. Singh buckled and sent two of his ministers, Mr Inder Kumar Gujral and Mr Arif Mohammed Khan, to Srinagar. Despite strong warnings from Chief Minister Farooque Abdullah and indications that Rubaiya Saeed would not be harmed, the government meekly caved in to the demands of the kidnappers, releasing detained terrorists. The entire Valley erupted with calls for "Azadi". India continues to pay a heavy price for this act of abject surrender.


On December 31, 1999, the last day of the twentieth century, India released three arrested terrorists, Maulana Masood Azhar, Omar Saeed Sheikh and Mushtaq Zargar to secure the release of passengers of the hijacked IC 814 in Kandahar. Maulana Masood Azhar returned to a hero's welcome in Pakistan and founded the Jaish-e-Mohammed. He masterminded and executed the attack on our Parliament on December 13, 2001. Omar Saeed Sheikh remitted $ 100,000 through a bank in Dubai to the mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mohammed Atta. He was thereafter involved in the execution of American journalist Daniel Pearl.


Mushtaq Zargar, a psychopath, runs the Al-Umar Mujahideen from Muzaffarabad. During negotiations with the hijackers of IC 814, India was often urged to meet the demands of the hijackers, citing the precedent set by the Rubaiya Sayeed kidnapping. An important factor pressuring the government to yield to the demands of the hijackers was the irresponsible coverage by some of our television channels, focusing attention on the demonstrations organised by emotional relatives of the passengers.


In recent days sections of the audio-visual media have sought to whip up public hysteria by demanding direct negotiations with Somali pirates and even "flexibility" and readiness to pay ransom to them, who were threatening to kill four Indian sailors, working in an Egyptian ship and held captive. Relatives of those held by the pirates were mobilised. They asserted that if government leaders could make billions through scams like the 2G spectrum scam, they should have no hesitation in paying a few millions as ransom to the pirates. The media, of course, had no time or inclination to study the complexities of the issues involved, or the accepted international practice that governments will not negotiate directly with pirates. These negotiations are invariably between ship owners and pirates, with governments playing a discreet role behind the scenes.


Responding to Indian media frenzy, Egypt's envoy in New Delhi Khaled el-Bakly bluntly stated: "Egypt is doing all it can. I am on the phone every day, talking to Cairo. But please understand it is prohibited under international law to negotiate with pirates. All that the Egyptian government can do is to persuade the owner of the vessel to negotiate with the pirates." Sadly, there appears to be very little appreciation and even less understanding in India about the international challenges that Somali piracy poses. There are navies of 21 countries ranging from those of the US and its NATO allies to Russia, China, India, Japan, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia actively collaborating, to deal with Somali piracy. The UN has been actively involved, with Security Council Resolution 1838 of October 5, 2008, authorising ships to pursue pirate vessels into Somali territorial waters.


India was among the first to deploy naval vessels to deal with piracy on November 23, 2008. Moreover, pirate vessels coming close to our shores have been challenged and attacked, with pirates killed or taken prisoner. The efficacy of the policy of not negotiating with pirates directly has been demonstrated. While pirates continue holding 53 Indian sailors captive, they released 124 sailors since 2008 without our compromising vital national interests or international obligations.


Even the CIA appears persuaded that dealing with Somali pirates is not an easy affair. Pirates recently killed four American nationals when their demands were not met. Apart from the fact the writ of the Somali government does not even extend across its capital Mogadishu, studies by the IMO, the WFP and the UN show that there are several other factors that result in poverty-stricken Somalis finding piracy lucrative and rewarding. The livelihood and catch of Somali fishermen has been destroyed by uncontrolled fishing by foreign trawlers and by dumping of toxic waste across the Somali coast. Moreover, piracy has led to a new class of wealthy people, wielding power and patronage across Somalia.


As of December 11, 2010, it has been estimated that Somali pirates use 35 captured ships for their activities and hold 650 sailors hostages. The time has, perhaps, come for intelligence agencies across the world to come together to work out strategies to covertly eliminate pirates and their patrons in Somalia even while undertaking measures to see that Somali fishermen are not deprived of their traditional livelihood.


Apart from the media frenzy on being "flexible" with Somali pirates, there has been recent carping on why not enough has been done to evacuate India nationals from the troubled countries like Egypt and Libya. Complaints from well-heeled Indian tourists holidaying in Egypt about having to pay some excess fare for being repatriated to India from Cairo in specially chartered aircraft received sympathetic media coverage.


While one can understand the Indian taxpayer footing the bill for abandoned workers stranded in the Gulf, it is ridiculous to expect the Indian taxpayer to pay for repatriation of tourists or professionals who seek employment abroad. While India completed repatriation of all its nationals wishing to come home from Libya on March 12, most Chinese nationals evacuated from Libya are still in makeshift transit camps in Libya's neighbourhood. One hopes that norms will be evolved for positioning armed guards in Indian maritime vessels to ward off pirate attacks. Legislation should also be enacted to give the Navy powers to seek out, capture and kill pirates in international waters.


One of the major reasons why the relatives of the passengers of IC 814 took to the streets in New Delhi was the less-than-sensitive handling of them by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Similarly, the relatives of sailors of pirated ships have been forced to move from pillar to post because the Ministry of Shipping has no guidelines or machinery to sensitively handle the distraught relatives. Norms and procedures should be devised to ensure that this is not repeated in future.n








During my days in the Indian Navy and mercantile marine we were mostly on the move and there was no steady social and stable interaction with friends ashore. Regular attending of marriages, birthdays and other social public functions commenced only after we arrived to settle down in Chandigarh after leaving Mumbai.


After a month of our arrival we had an invitation for attending a reception being held in Hotel Mountview, Chandigarh, of our niece. We had not attended a Punjabi marriage for decades and were not therefore familiar with modalities regarding offering marriage gift to the couple. My wife and I both were novices in this case. Giving cash or a suitable gift item were the only two alternatives.


We had brought a duty-free bone-china tea-set from Germany and decided to present it to the newly wed couple. Arriving in the reception hall with a gift in hand, we looked around to assess as to how it was to be delivered. We observed that none of the guests present in the hall were holding any gift. Discreetly I advanced towards my aunt who resided in Chandigarh and was chatting close by. We hinted about guests being seen without any wedding presents in their hands. She smiled and intimated us that all those guests had probably brought currency notes in small envelopes to be quietly handed over to the parents of the newly weds during the reception programme.


Thus my wife was the only lady in that crowd holding a gift box containing a fragile bone-china tea-set. Soon she was feeling embarrassed and uneasy and decided to get rid of the package at the earliest. We spotted the bride's mother near the entrance and after conveying our blessings for the newly weds handed over the package to her.


The contents of the gift package were not known to her. She thanked and promptly handed it over to his son for safe custody. Her busy son in turn asked a bar man to keep it safe. The bar man was already having a tray containing glasses in one hand. He balanced himself with the package in his other hand. Just then one of the guests standing near us asked the same bar man for another drink. The bar man dropped the package on the hard floor while executing the order. We were visibly embarrassed to see our fragile wedding present falling near our feet and felt sorry indeed for this mess inadvertently created by us.


We helped him in lifting the package and keeping it on the bar table promptly, worrying whether the bone-china pieces inside the package were still intact or not !


For future, we have decided to use paper currency only for any shagun ceremonies.n









Seventeen corporations belonging to the consumer industries community of the World Economic Forum have announced their intention to enter the food business in the name of the poor. The alliance includes the world's biggest life science corporations like Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont and BASF, the world's largest food commodities traders like Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Cargill, processed food giants like Kraft Foods, Nestlé and PepsiCo, global retailers like Walmart and Metro in addition to diversified transnational corporations like SABMiller, Unilever, Yara International, Coca-Cola and General Mills.


These colossal entities that control the food chain starting from the genetically modified (GM) seed, fertilizer and pesticide to the grain and finally to the cakes and biscuits in large retail stores hope to become the saviours of global agriculture and the defenders of food security. Without a shred of embarrassment, they assert that their project works to "advance market-based solutions to agricultural sustainability". 


They call it the New Vision for Agriculture, and they have hijacked all the clichés of food security to portray their intent: "… over the past two years, food security and economic crises have highlighted both the urgent need and the potential for developing sustainable agricultural systems". Or "Nearly one billion people — one out of six globally — lack access to adequate food and nutrition" .  Their mantra to feed the 9 billion people expected to be on the planet by 2050 is to increase agricultural productivity through investment,  innovation and the right policy framework! The sustainable agriculture growth they profess to initiate is to be achieved by market-based solutions.


It's quite another matter that the poor are barely linked to the market except as consumers because they have nothing to sell and little means to buy with. The crisis of food is exemplified in India by the twin tragedies of rotting grain in buffer stocks and families suffering from endemic hunger. Almost a billion people in Asia and Africa are plagued by hunger even as large food stocks are traded in international markets by the very people who are the stewards of this New Vision of Agriculture, the Cargills, the Archer Daniel Midlands, the Bunges and so on.


The alliance claims that it seeks a "win-win" approach that leverages and multiplies each party's investment. Revealed here is the real face of the New Vision for Agriculture, its corporate face that has little do with sustainable agriculture or solving the problem of hunger and malnutrition, but everything to do with cornering resources like land and water as well as public sector finances and make it work to earn big profits for themselves.


For instance, this New Vision for Agriculture has struck a deal in that part of Tanzania, (the south) which has bountiful water, good soils, favourable climate and a good infrastructure linked to regional and international markets. In short, ideal conditions for commercial agriculture. This is not the area that needs help because the conditions there are favourable anyway. It's the sub-Saharan countries that need a leg up to improve agriculture, food security and nutrition but the New Vision for Agriculture is not going there.


What the New Vision proposes in Tanzania reads more like the land grab that is taking place all over Africa than any activity with the philanthropic intent of solving hunger. Land grabs are rampant in the favourable, fertile parts of Africa, where African governments and foreign corporations are striking unholy deals to corner large tracts of land belonging to small farmers. This is being leased out to produce food to be shipped out, not solve hunger at home.


By its own candid admission, the New Vision project proposes to involve itself only with profitable, modern commercial farming and agri-business. This too not everywhere but only in selected areas and only with crops with high market potential. According to current planning, the project leaders will identify "profitable, scalable agricultural and services businesses, with major benefits for smallholder farmers and local communities". The politically correct categories of smallholder farmers and local communities are mentioned at appropriate places (although not too often). It is alleged the proposed projects will bring them major benefits, though how this will happen is not spelled out. The New Vision does not plan to establish anything in areas that require improvement but build only on existing operations mobilising and leveraging both public and private-sector investments into those opportunities that are viable. No talk here of investing in improving the viability of those units that are not so viable!


As part of their food security programme in Vietnam, the New Vision for Agriculture has made plans to develop coffee, tea, fish, fruit, vegetables and grain commodities for regional and global markets. A task force has been set up to oversee implementation. Members of the task force include Bunge, Metro, Cargill, Cisco, DuPont, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Monsanto and Unilever.


The current crop of New Visions and Alliances against Hunger look like con jobs. Curiously though, neither the crops selected to alleviate food insecurity nor the strategy to achieve this goal seems to strike the involved governments as the slightest bit incongruous. It says something about the state of affairs in the food domain that this in your face brazenness has not met with howls of protest from international agencies or national governments. On the contrary, even India, with its massive food security issues, is rushing to partner in this exercise. Shouldn't we be doing something to stop this blatant exploitation? Isn't anyone in any government thinking?


The writer is the Chief Editor of Gene News, published by the Gene Campaign Foundation








Golden Rice, which is genetically modified (GM) ostensibly to address the lack of Vitamin A in predominantly rice diets, is still in the research pipeline.The levels of beta carotene (the precursor of Vitamin A) were fairly low in the first generation of Golden Rice, causing justifiable skepticism about its utility .


A second round of research has succeeded in increasing the beta carotene content but the rice is still not ready for release to farmers. At first it was caught up in a tangle of patents which threatened to block its release, then Syngenta Corporation, which owns the Golden Rice technology, decided to set up a humanitarian board to give the Golden Rice genetic material to developing countries for free.


According to the terms framed at that time, developing countries could crossbreed the Syngenta Golden Rice lines with their own varieties to produce varieties suited to local conditions. The humanitarian board had originally declared that countries could use the genetic material of Golden Rice to conduct research in their own way, using research protocols developed by them. The varieties developed locally by such research projects would be made available to small farmers free of charge. It was also mentioned that the farmers who cultivated Golden Rice, could use and reuse seed for further plantings according to the prevailing custom. Big farmers, on the other hand, would be able to cultivate Golden Rice only after paying a licence fee.


A few years ago, Syngenta changed the terms and conditions according to which the genetic material of Golden Rice could be used by researchers, ignoring the earlier conditions set up by the humanitarian board. Syngenta now has much greater control over the technology after new contracts were signed with all research institutions that were involved in Golden Rice research. Syngenta has laid down stringent conditions, which do not allow researcher partners the freedom to operate in the way they want, as was negotiated earlier. Research partners, for example, have now been denied the flexibility to design their research according to the methods established in their laboratories. They are allowed to do genetic transformation only by using one particular method, the Agrobacterium method. The new contract demands that only those Golden Rice lines that have been genetically modified by Syngenta can be used further by breeders/researchers. The humanitarian board has demanded that all existing transgenic lines developed individually by the different research laboratories so far have to be destroyed. Regrettably, partner institutions have complied with this. So progress on Golden Rice is held up and it continues to hang in limbo.


The larger question today however is , does anybody really need a genetically engineered Golden Rice with its tangle of patents and it baggage of environmental and health safety concerns? There are so many other naturally occurring beta carotene rich foods that are easily available, which are safe and inexpensive. ICRISAT had announced a Golden Millet on which research is slow but it's a potential product. In the meantime, scientists have developed Golden or Orange sweet potato and Golden Maize, both rich in beta carotene.


The Golden sweet potato, selected from natural populations of sweet potato, is a wonder crop loaded with vitamin A. It is being widely promoted in Africa where people are in need of this crucial micronutrient for better health. In Africa, white or yellow types of sweet potato that have very little vitamin A are generally eaten. The Golden sweet potato varieties have been conventionally bred by scientists in Uganda and Mozambique in collaboration with the International Potato Center (CIP) in Lima, Peru. . These new golden/orange varieties are not only rich in vitamin A but are also drought tolerant, virus resistant and high yielding. They have been a hit with children and women so their consumption has gone up, making a significant contribution to the Vitamin A intake in the diets of this vulnerable population.


Whenever Golden Rice is finally developed, will it be safe to eat? How much will it cost? One of the problems with GM crops is their high cost because most of the technologies needed to develop them are patented and licence fees have to be paid to the patent holders. In addition, there is a cost to conducting bio-safety tests to rule out that GM crops are not dangerous for health and do not have damaging impacts on the environment. This makes them expensive. Given the current stand off with the owners of Golden Rice and the far more attractive developments with Golden maize and Golden sweet potato, it is time to bury Golden Rice and stop wasting time and money on it. The far more sensible approach for those genuinely interested in improving nutrition is to promote the cultivation the Golden maize and Golden sweet potato that are already developed. — S Sahai








Mirza Waheed grew up in Srinagar, studied English Literature at the University of Delhi, worked as a journalist for four years, and then went to London to join the BBC's Urdu Service where he works as an editor. I picked up his first novel The Collaborator (Penguin Viking 2011) on an off-chance. It turned out to be my lucky day. The Collaborator is that rare thing, a virtually flawless novel.


Set in Kashmir in the 1990s, at the height of the violence against Kashmiris, the novel reflects some of what the author himself saw and experienced of endless death and devastation at the hands of the Indian army. The story is told in the first person by the son of the headman of a small Gujjar Muslim village not far from the Pakistani border, who sees his friends and neighbours disappear one by one. It's a voice seared with grief, rage, and an aching sense of loss. But there is also affectionate warmth when he talks about his mother who insists on growing cucumbers when it is too cold for them, and for his father. "I recognized Baba's thick figure in the centre of a field and couldn't help smiling a faint smile at my father's enduring sense of self-importance even in times of complete uncertainty. No one yet knew what exactly happened in a crackdown. This was our first…"


Eventually coerced by a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed Indian officer, Captain Kadian to recover identity badges and arms from the growing mountain of corpses left unburied, both as a warning and as a sign that the army had nothing to hide, the narrator, in an ironic moment, describes his work as "a walk down skeleton lane." Not that the captain cares about the names. He just needs something to show the media he is doing his job. Incidentally, most of the arms recovered are made in China, not Pakistan or Russia.


The narrator says, "If you look from the top on a sunny day you can see these shiny objects scattered across the lush meadowy patch around the river. These are erstwhile legs and arms and backbones and ribcages surrounded by sparkling swathes of yellow created by thousands and thousands of flowers all across the valley.


In places they have grown in great numbers around the fallen and the decaying. You can see bright yellow outlines of human forms enclosing darkness inside…I don't know the name of the flowers. Some kind of wild daisies perhaps."


He falls asleep alongside "one of the freshly arrived boys. He smelled of hair oil. He had probably combed his hair back before leaving for his mission…His watch was still ticking."


Much later, in an astonishing episode, an elderly Muslim couple is attacked by jihadis for not helping them to find a hidden cache of weapons before the Indian army found it. The jihadis savaged the couple and their son with knives, and cut off the tip of the woman's tongue. "Mother was unconscious, half dead when they did this," the son tells the narrator's family, "but when she came to she herself quietly picked up the sliced-off piece of her tongue." She wraps it in a hanky, and has it stitched back later.


And, in the meantime, "this stream…it just flows, briefly contemplating things in its small, cyclical green pools at every small bend, and then moves on. That's what rivers do: move on, no matter what."


Mirza Waheed's book is one of a growing number of books about Kashmir. Many remain untranslated. At some point in the novel, the narrator says that, in Kashmir, there are always two versions of every event: the Pakistani and the Indian. Thankfully, we can now hear Kashmiris speak for themselves.

Women better at drama

This refers to Eunice de Souza's article 'Wanted: Respectable women' ( MM , March 10). The obnoxious notion of the days of yore that women who worked in theatre were considered 'indecent' and also looked down upon, was shocking. For a moment, I was glad I was not born in that era. And I was equally glad that today, women who work in theatre are considered to be artistes and their talent is well appreciated. Women who are a part of theatre have truly made a mark in this form of education and entertainment. As an amateur who desires to make it big in the world of drama, I think women do a better job than their male counterparts.



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The hare-brained provision in the proposed Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Bill, 2010, binding companies to share 26 per cent of net profit with the local population, is only one of the many serious problems with the proposed bill. The idea of such profit sharing is inherently uncertain, unfair, and cannot be easily monitored by the community. There are many other ways through which a community of stakeholders can be benefited that would be easier to implement and would be fairer too. The principle problem with the proposal is that there are many ways by which companies can fudge net profits. These methods are not necessarily illegal. Two, profitability is impacted by many factors, product prices, changing technologies, efficiency of management being some well-known ones; and beneficiaries from the local community could be adversely impacted by these factors. Three, there are large variations in annual profits, which bring in unnecessary uncertainty in the benefits to the community. It is not clear how such an abominable idea could go through the many layers of consideration in government. Especially when there are so many better alternatives that are more fair to the community, investors, and are easier to implement.

Take royalties for instance. The current problem with royalties shared with the state governments is that the basis for putting a rupee value to the output is highly flawed. But this can be corrected. A long-term average international price is available for all types of commodities. Such a system would be more transparent, be less affected by the efficiency of the firm, be more easily monitored by the community, and one can have more frequent transfers to the community (monthly or even weekly based on mining output) rather than waiting for annual audited profit calculations. But sharing royalties, though far better than profits, is still not ideal. Such sharing schemes are impacted by the number of beneficiaries in the local community. High population concentration areas would have lower benefits per person covered and those with lower concentrations would have higher benefits.


 Across India and the world, there are instances of mining firms not only minimising negative externalities but having a positive impact on the environment, local economy and the community. Refilling of mined land and making it agriculture friendly, providing infrastructure and infrastructure-related services such as electricity to the community, improving the irrigation systems, funding or providing educational, healthcare, and water supply services are only some examples; vocational training and employment, hand-holding and encouraging small business set-ups from within the community are few of the numerous other examples. It would be difficult to envisage an Act that can force firms to do all these — but the general framework that is easy to monitor and implement can be laid out. First, aptly compensate the land owner whose land is being taken over. Monitor this compensation and enforce fairness and timeliness. Second, ensure that those who live in the vicinity do not lose out. Pollution control measures need to be monitored and enforced, and the local community has to play a role in it. Third, credibly provide corrective infrastructure and services to the local community — irrigation, health and education services, safety and security, and electricity. Fourth, improve the local economy — source labour, other inputs such as food for labour from the locals. And fifth, ensure mine closure norms are adequately structured and land with good quality topsoil is returned to the community at the end of its life. Each of these can be monitored by the community and the state, and therefore fairly enforced.







An expert group constituted by the Planning Commission is reportedly devising a roadmap for universal cashless health coverage. The key idea seems to be to move away from the discredited US model of private insurance based healthcare, and focus more on publicly-funded preventive, primary and secondary healthcare. For this, public expenditure on healthcare has to go up from the present 1.1 per cent of GDP to 3.4 per cent by 2017. The trend of tertiary healthcare getting more and more of public funding — it now stands at 50 per cent — has to be reversed and 70-75 per cent has to go to preventive care and diagnosis and treatment of common ailments of people. And a key component of this — expenditure on medicines, which accounts for 70 per cent of out-of-pocket expenditure — has to follow the Tamil Nadu way — procurement by the state government (this will beat down costs) and free distribution through primary health centres.

Importantly, the group feels that levying user charges, while keeping things free for the poor, is ineffective in both raising resources and ensuring quality. So, we have to move towards the notion that while the state will foot most of the healthcare bill out of the general tax kitty, the system will be self-selective — available to all according to their needs. As for tertiary care, there should be a single payer system under which a public health insurance agency should collect funds and disburse payments to both private and public providers by reimbursing them. Private providers can join in tertiary care by being regulated under a contractual framework to keep costs under control. Thus, there is no place for the recent protests from private providers against the public insurance companies' move to restrict cashless treatment only through approved providers who agree to rates and protocols.


 The group's thinking on making quality medicines cheaply available is also significant — revive public sector drug companies and give them autonomy. Implicit is the premise that quality generic drugs should be available on a cost plus basis and if the gradual takeover of leading Indian generics players threatens this then remedies must be devised. The group also reiterates the obvious — weed out irrational formulations and strengthen the regulatory system. All this can live happily with private care and insurance being available to those who can afford it. A largely private and highly-profitable pharmaceutical industry should continue to remain a key engine of the system. All it means is that private pharma and healthcare providers should not hijack the system to the detriment of the poor, the way they have done in the US.








The nation witnessed a tragedy unfold in slow motion as the government and the Supreme Court clashed on the appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC). In the end the court won; but to do so it had to step into some new territory in its jurisdiction. The tragedy is not about a good man humiliated, but about the erosion of institutions that are the foundation of our democracy. The silver lining in this dark cloud of despair is the fact that the court acted with exemplary impartiality on the plea of a dedicated lawyer who is also the source of the questions about the integrity of several of its senior luminaries.

But a great deal needs to be done to restore the faith of informed opinion in the legitimacy of our democratic system. The argument that the common people do not care for all this as long as the political class delivers roti, kapda, makan and bijli, pani, sadak is short-sighted. The middle class matters, the media and the intellectual class counts because they, even more than the masses have toppled governments, as we saw in Egypt recently and in Eastern Europe sometime back.


 We must begin with the watchmen — the people who man the institutions who guard the rule of law, the rights of individuals and the probity of governance. One can include in this the higher judiciary (the Supreme Court and High Courts), the Comptroller and Auditor General and Chief Vigilance Commssioner, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Chief Information Commissioner who is the custodian of the powerful RTI Act and the Election Commissioners.

The central goal must be to ensure that the right person is chosen and that this person's independence is protected against the normal tendency of the rich and the powerful to corrupt others to serve their ends. The most common temptation is some post retirement benefit and protecting independence also means putting constraints on these inveiglements. In fact, when the Roman satirist Juvenal asked quis custodiet ipsos custodes, who will watch the watchmen, his concern was the loose behaviour of women and his question arose because the first ones they offered their favours to were the watchmen!

The selection of persons for the higher judiciary is today the responsibility of a collegium of judges though the power of final appointment rests with the government. There are stories about horse trading, "you support my candidate I will support yours", regional biases and worse. There is a case for depoliticising the process and appointing a Judicial Commission charged with this exclusive responsibility and given clear guidelines for this purpose. If gender, caste and regional balance are important for legitimacy, then put it in the guidelines and not in the ad hoc politicking that goes on now.

Supreme Court judges should be appointed for life. The active bench may consist of only the younger judges, say those below the current retirement age of 65, and the older judges would be available to the government for tribunals, commissions of inquiry and similar responsibilities of which there is no shortage. Even if there were, the financial burden of a full salary and perquisites, instead of the half salary they draw now, is a small price to pay for guaranteeing judicial independence. This would liberate, in fact prevent, retired apex court judges from doing any sort of private legal work.

A closely related reform would be to raise the retirement age for High Court judges to 65 so that the urge to please those higher up to get three extra years, if elevated to the apex court, becomes irrelevant. This reform will help to raise the standing of the High Courts so that they become the final court of appeal in all cases that do not involve important issues of constitutional principle or the interpretation of some core principle of jurisprudence.

The CAG system has stood the test of time much better. Its solidity owes a lot to the first three CAGs, V Narahari Rao, A K Chanda and A K Roy, all from the Indian Audit and Account Service, please note, and not the Indian Administrative Service, like most later holders of the post. Clearly, there was a desire then, in Nehru's days, to look for the most knowledgeable and competent, rather than to go for some one intimate with and familiar to the politicians who appoint. Since the mid-sixties, many of the appointees have held sectoral charges and, if this goes on, it may backfire if the audit throws up some malfeasance in a Ministry that was once the responsibility of the incumbent CAG. Something like this happened in the case of the CVC Thomas who was telecom secretary when the 2G decisions were taken.

The appointment of the CVC requires consultation with the leader of the opposition, not because the government wanted it but because the Supreme Court insisted in an earlier judgement. The same should hold for the principal investigating agency, the CBI. Such consultation with the opposition is even more essential in the appointment of the CAG, which services the Public Accounts Committee, our principal Parliamentary watchdog institution, directly. The appointment of the Chief Information Commissioner and the Election Commissioners must also be on the basis of a depoliticised and transparent selection process and in consultation with the opposition.

In all of these cases one needs restrictions on post retirement employment that stops a retired incumbent from participating in activities that they once regulated. Surely, it is not right for a former election commissioner to become an active party politician as has happened recently.

If the independence of the guardians is ensured then one question that arises is who will guard them. In The Untouchables, the film about the famous group of feds who went after the Chicago hoods, someone asks Elliot Ness this precise question. His answer is "The people will", which in our context means a vigilant media and civil society.

But the real need is the self-respect of the guardians themselves and the recognition that their behaviour reflects not just on them but also on the institution. The culture of these institutions must instill a sense of honour where probity and independence comes naturally because it reflects on what the soldier calls paltan ki izzat, the good name of the platoon.  








In terms of their professions, John Galliano, Andy Gray and Richard Keys couldn't be more dissimilar. The first was, till recently, the creative director of the couture house Christian Dior. The second and third were, respectively, a former footballer and commentator and football show host with Sky Sports. Yet they have two things in common. All three were stars in the organisations for which they worked. And all three were dismissed for what their employers deemed unacceptable behaviour.


 British designer Galliano's pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic remarks in the course of a bar brawl in Paris and subsequent dismissal attracted, and continues to attract, considerable global attention. That is not surprising since the controversy has all the elements of a thoroughly satisfactory scandal: glamour, a big name haute couture label and an individual whose soaring talent was matched by an excitingly decadent lifestyle.

As for Gray and Keys, both respected football pundits, they were sacked by Sky Sports for making blatantly sexist remarks about a female assistant referee's offside decision in a Liverpool versus Wolverhampton match (replays showed it was spot-on, however). Gray and Keys, who thought they were off air at the time, grumbled about how female officials didn't know the offside rule, and Gray even asked the sideline reporter whether Sian Massey, the assistant referee in question, was "a looker".

The point to note about both incidents is that they occurred outside the work sphere. Gray and Keys thought the mikes had been switched off when they exchanged this admittedly tasteless banter; Galliano was in a bar near his Paris home. In the latter case, Galliano's employers may not even have been aware of these misdemeanors were it not for the Internet. Galliano's drunken rant was recorded on video and posted on a website. Likewise, Gray and Keys' unwittingly recorded remarks were posted on YouTube, literally for all the world to see. Both Sky Sports and Dior acted swiftly in dismissing their star employees the better to protect their images as responsible, politically correct institutions.

The dismissals have undoubtedly burnished the credentials of both Sky and Dior — but here's the thing. Galliano had an established, public history of alcohol and substance abuse, none of which Dior deemed unacceptable enough to warrant a dismissal. His anti-Semitic rants were not new either. He had also made more virulent rants several months before, in December. In a video posted on the website of British tabloid The Sun he is shown slurring "I love Hitler," and your mothers, your forefathers would all be gassed". But it was only when the Paris bar incident drew public outrage that Dior thought fit to dismiss him. Even so, the case for Galliano's dismissal is clear cut: it is a crime in France to incite racial hatred, so Dior had, at the very least, a legal case against him.

Similarly, Gray and Keys' chauvinism was hardly news in the football world. Female employees regularly complained about their off-colour remarks and there is any amount of evidence of their jeers about women's football, women footballers and just about anything feminine that intruded on their boisterous locker-room world — that too on-air. Yet, it was only when their behaviour was subjected to public scrutiny and censure that their employers asked them to leave.

The big message that these incidents convey — which occurred just months apart — is that the corporate version of the Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) rules no longer apply. It is not that corporations themselves have turned more responsible; they are being forced to widen the ambit of their reputation-building outside the brand, the product or the manufacturing unit to their employees.

Indeed, the Internet has transformed the rules of engagement between corporations and the public so drastically that every employee's behaviour has the potential to come under scrutiny even in the private sphere, just as it would a public servant or a politician. The higher the designation or the profile, the bigger the danger. The days when managements winked at misbehaviour by its senior employees in, say, a club or a hotel or hushed it up are receding.

Employees these days sign codes of conduct and ethics that are wide-ranging enough to warrant dismissal if they are breached. Mark Hurd of Hewlett Packard learnt that the hard way, even though his was a borderline case. Like Galliano, Gray and Keys, he paid the price of thinking he was bigger than the organisation he headed. In today's rigidly politically correct world, that's a risky way to think.







The India-European Union Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BITA) is the next big trade agreement to be negotiated by India. Consultations are progressing and issues on the table are slowly getting resolved. However, there are some issues that industry needs to study closely if it wants to benefit from the proposed bilateral trade and investment agreement.

It is important to note that though the European Union (EU) negotiates as a single bloc, all its 27 nations are not fully harmonised on many issues. The latest matter to hit the headlines is the single patent regime. For several years, the EU has been trying to introduce a single patent regime and has failed. At present, the EU has national patents that are not covered under a single jurisdiction. The cost of filing a patent in EU countries is allegedly 10 times higher than the cost of obtaining a patent from the US. This has forced several global companies, especially in sectors like pharmaceuticals in which several patents are registered, to be judicious with their choice of filing for patents in the EU. The reason for the delay in creating a single EU patent regime is that EU member countries are unable to come to a conclusion on issues such as the language regime that has to be used and how disputes can be litigated.


 Though the EU industry has been pressing India on issues such as data exclusivity for the pharmaceutical sector, it has not been able to make much inroads with the EU legislators on issues that impact business in a large way. Latest news reports say that while the European Commission is hopeful that a solution may be in sight, some countries such as Spain and Italy have not yet come to terms with the political push from Brussels to move towards a single patent regime for the whole of the EU. This matter would be an important development for many medium-sized Indian firms in the pharmaceutical or high-technology sector. These firms view the free trade agreements as a stepping stone to turn into global companies.

Another matter of concern for industry would be in the area of sanitary and phytosanitary measures in which the EU has adopted limits for pesticide residues without providing adequate scientific reasoning which is needed according to the WTO agreement. Many meat and dairy producers also complain of different laws governing import of these products in different countries of the EU. This issue will need to be addressed to ensure that India manages to gain a foothold in the large food and agricultural market in the EU.

The EU has also been struggling to put in place a Single Services Directive. The Directive, which was introduced in 2006, aims to open up a single market to service providers in the EU and facilitate cross-border provisions of commercial services. However, in a recent debate, Members of the European Parliament were of the view that red tape and lack of information were still stalling progress in the movement towards the final objective. The deadline for member states to implement the directive's provisions expired at the end of 2009. Since India would want to tap the services market in a big way, industry in India should understand how legislation in the different countries work in sectors that are of interest to them.

The 27-nation EU is certainly a large market for India and an India-EU BITA would go a long way in opening up the market for Indian exports. But at the same time it would also open up the Indian market for EU to export products that, at present, may be facing high tariffs. Saddled with slow economic growth, businesses in the EU view the deal with India as an important milestone to expand their market base. Therefore, there is an urgent need for Indian business to understand EU markets better and provide Indian negotiators with relevant issues that need to be tackled even as they negotiate an agreement with Brussels. Indian negotiators have been successful in ensuring that India's defensive interests are protected during the on-going negotiations. But now industry will have to help the negotiators by providing information on sectors in which they could face market access issues vis-à-vis the EU.

The author is principal adviser, APJ-SLG Law Offices







According to the World Bank estimates of 2009, India with a GDP of $1,310,171 million is ranked 11th among 193 countries of the world. The Indian economy has shown consistent improvement in its growth rate over the last three decades. The International Monetary Fund data show that the leap in the annual average growth rate from 5.36 per cent in the 1980s to 7.74 per cent in the 2000s is encouraging, but growth has been far behind that of China. In the last three decades, China has maintained growth of above 10 per cent. It is also encouraging to note that in the last decade the Indian economy grew at a faster rate than Brazil, Vietnam and South Africa.

Although the macroeconomic indicators of India show an encouraging trend, a comparison of growth within the country highlights disparities across states. The top six contributors to national income are Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. 


 According to the provisional estimates by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) as of March 8, 2011, Maharashtra has been among the top growth performers. In the five-year period between 2005-06 and 2009-10, the state grew at an annual average rate of 10.10 per cent, with most of the surge in the first three boom years. Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh grew at 7.14 per cent every year — an improvement over the previous five years' performance, but still much lower than the national average of 8.33 per cent. Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh bettered the national average while West Bengal and Tamil Nadu gave lower growth performances. (Click here for graph)

Decadal growth rate of GDP (at constant prices)                       (%)


Growth in 1980s

Growth in 1990s

Growth in 2000s

















South Africa




Source: International Monetary Fund

According to the latest data released by the CSO, Uttarakhand was the top growth performer between 2005-06 and 2009-10 — its 12.82 per cent annual average was higher than its growth in the previous five years. The second highest performance comes from Bihar at 11.74 per cent every year — the turnaround in the state from 2006-07, with construction as the leading sector, is a well-known story. The state has moved dramatically from being the economy with the slowest growth in the period 2000-01 to 2004-05, though it has a huge backlog to overcome. Chhattisgarh and Orissa are the other large states that have grown at a fast double-digit clip over the period, while Haryana, Jharkhand and Gujarat have all turned in growth rates exceeding 9 per cent.

At the other end of the table is Assam, at 6.03 per cent every year, though its growth performance has actually improved consistently over the years from 3.4 per cent in 2005-06 to 8.08 per cent in 2009-10. Growth rates of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have been in the range of 7 to 7.5 per cent. These are states with large populations and need to catch up with the rest of the country.

Of the 30 states/Union Territories for which the CSO has given estimates for the period 2005-06 to 2009-10, nine have average annual growth rates exceeding 9 per cent and five have growth rates less than 7 per cent. Clearly, almost all states have shown higher growth in recent times, but some states continue to lag and this unevenness can be addressed only by identifying the potential sectors in each state.

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








India must carry out a thorough safety audit of all our 20 nuclear power plants, given the continuing crisis after the quake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima reactor in Japan. The Prime Minister has promised a thorough stress test of our nuclear plants: the establishment must act on it. We need data, expert reviews of the nuclear malfunction abroad and shore up safety features if required. But summary conclusions about the viability and soundness of nuclear power would be wholly unwarranted. Specialists say that all our nuclear stations have been tested to withstand earthquakes and tsunamis. India's pressurised heavy water reactors have builtin features to keep the core cool even in a situation of plant blackout, with injection of fire water. And unlike Japan, the bulk of India's land mass is not as prone to seismic activity or tsunamis as Japan. The Kakrapar atomic plant continued to operate safely after the severe earthquake in Bhuj in 2001, and during the 2004 tsunami, the Madras Atomic Power Station was shut down safely without any radiological consequences. We need regular safety reassessment to manage risks better.

Today, containers of steel or concrete envelop nuclear reactors to prevent large-scale radiation leakage. The plant at Chernobyl, site of the world's biggest nuclear disaster, didn't have such a container. The reactors at America's Three Mile Island did, and the accident did not lead to uncontrolled radiation leaks. Japan's plants are designed to withstand quakes and tsunamis, but no plant can be engineered economically to withstand an 8.9 scale quake. Despite that, not one reactor container has failed. Reports suggest that two reactor buildings have exploded, but they were explosions of excess hydrogen, not nuclear fuel. And they seem not to have ruptured the inner containers that encase the reactor cores. The radiation leakage needs to be controlled without further delay, but it makes no sense to conclude that nuclear power plants, built with the necessary safeguards in place, are a deadly risk. The Fukushima plant is 40 years old. India wants to generate 40,000 mw of nuclear energy by 2030, with modern nuclear technology. It should stay the course.









Making a scientific study out of what once used to be called plain common sense is clearly on the rise. What else can explain the 'extraordinary' discovery of a pair of American researchers that "while all pedestrians should exercise caution when attempting to cross a street while conversing on a phone, older adults should be particularly careful". Admittedly, age does come in the way of walking the talk, for the body becomes weak even if the spirit is willing; but to assume that modern gizmos can further queer the pitch particularly for those above the age of 59 — still a year short of the age when Indians can now claim senior citizenhood — is a tad unfair. More so when there is no data to show whether the number of people over 59 currently engaged in this life-threatening activity are reaching pandemic proportions. Advising them to walk forever in silence simply because they did not fare as well as a younger lot in a series of tests involving managing distractions while crossing a road is too harsh. Much of their hesitation, after all, could be attributed to unfamiliarity, rather than unmindfulness: walking while talking on a mobile takes as much getting used to as a new pair of spectacles with progressive lenses. But surely, the conclusion cannot be that spectacles are dangerous!

If crossing a road while chatting on a mobile is sought to be made aproscribed activity for a certain age group on the grounds of dangerous distractions, some effort should also be made to formulate scientific (rather than legal) bases to prevent drivers, cyclists, joggers and walkers from listening to Ipods, youngsters walking with hair that flops over their eyes Bieber-style or wearing hoodies, for texting when driving or any of the other affectations of modern life. Multi-tasking is both a habit and a skill, after all.





Last December, a fruit seller in Tunisia immolated himself for want of work and because he was being harassed by local officials. This one event sparked a popular uprising in the country that led to the ouster of its long-time President. That, in turn, has inspired a wider revolt against entrenched regimes in the Arab world, whether dictatorships or monarchies. Even the Chinese government has felt threatened. The Arab uprising is as sudden and unexpected as the collapse of the Soviet Union, the toppling of communism in Eastern Europe and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

However, one man can legitimately pat himself on the back for what we are witnessing today: former US president George Bush (the junior Bush). Bush deserves some credit for the Arab world's lurch towards democracy, even if the promotion of democracy was not the sole motivation for his interventions there.
The Economist (February 5) was among the first to make this point. The Economist wrote: "The Americans leant on Egypt to hold more open elections in 2005, and in 2006 they talked an astonished Israel into letting Hamas contest Palestinian elections in the occupied territories. Even the Saudis were prevailed on to hold some (men only) local elections. All this was based on a particular theory, the post 9/11 neoconservative conclusion that the root cause of terrorism was the absence of Arab democracy."

The above statements are correct but they miss the principal interventions that Bush made, namely, the overthrow of the regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush, of course, saw both these countries as sponsors of terrorism. At the same time, he was clear in his mind that, by replacing the regimes there with democratic governments, he would create a broader yearning for democracy in the Arab world. To understand the clarity of his thinking and the depth of his conviction, you have to read his memoirs, Decision Points. Bush devotes a whole chapter to his 'Freedom Agenda'.

9/11, which happened in Bush's first term in office, became the defining moment of his presidency. It prompted him to agonise deeply over how best the terrorist threat to the US could be met. He came up with the Bush Doctrine. It had four elements. First, make no distinction between terrorists and the nations that harbour them. Second, take the fight to the enemy. Third, confront threats before they fully materialise. And, fourth, advance liberty — this was the 'freedom agenda'. This was not a doctrine that Bush thought up overnight. It evolved with his interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq and became a powerful conviction by the time he was sworn into office for a second term in 2005. In attacking Afghanistan in late 2001, Bush's primary intention was to remove a regime that had provided a safe haven to Al Qaeda. When Afghanistan held the first free presidential election in its history in October 2004, it filled Bush with hope. In the case of Iraq, the replacement of tyranny with democracy was part of the early planning.

In the Inaugural speech for his second term, Bush was explicit about the agenda he would pursue: "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands…..So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." Bush was especially clear about the need for the US to change its approach to the Middle East. The alliances with the regimes there, which had been based on anti-communism, had since lost their rationale. Resentment towards the regimes was breeding terrorism. "After 9/11, I decided that the stability we had been promoting was a mirage."

    It would not be possible to overthrow autocratic regimes everywhere by force. Bush settled for a multipronged approach. The US would support fledgling democracies in the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Georgia and Ukraine. It would encourage dissidents and democratic reformers in Iran, Syria, North Korea and Venezuela. It would push for freedom more politely in nations such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia and China. Many saw — and still see — this approach as self-serving and opportunistic, an excuse for America's attempt to dominate the world. They point to the enormous loss of civilian lives in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They ask why Iraq, a cosmopolitan and secular country, became a prime candidate for democracy and not, say, Saudi Arabia.

The Economist makes the point that the Iraq war poisoned the America's ties with the entire Arab world. It also asks whether the US would have the stomach to push for democracy if meant that regimes hostile to the US would assume power.

Even if all these points are valid, they cannot detract from the fact that the election of democratic governments in Afghanistan and Iraq had a powerful demonstration effect in the Arab world. People in more prosperous or moderate regimes began asking themselves: if theycan elect their governments, why can't we? The movement towards democracy now appears unstoppable.

Bush's approach seemed simplistic like that of Ronald Reagan before him. The liberal media portrayed Bush as something of a duffer. It had underestimated him, as it had Reagan earlier. This will not be the first instance of a leader's instincts proving intellectuals wrong. Once we grasp how central the push for democracy was to Bush's presidency, we can appreciate his perception that India was a natural ally of the US. It explains the lengths to which he was willing to go to facilitate the Indo-US nuclear deal.

An interesting fallout is that India is beginning to look better in the India-China comparison — and not merely because we are poised to overtake China's growth rate in this decade. China's one-party rule, which was seen as the key to its prosperity, is suddenly looking vulnerable following the rumblings in the Arab world. India's bumbling democracy looks better in comparison. The old arguments lose their shine once democracy is seen as a non-negotiable good.









In his suite in a five-star Delhi hotel, Bernard Fornas sits talking about class, strategy and ethics. As longtime president and CEO of Cartier International, he has no immediate plans to expand the retail network of what he calls "the king of jewellery and prince of watches" in India. The 165-year-old luxury brand, owned by Richemont SA, has only one boutique in India, located in the capital's plush Emporio Mall. "If I open boutiques everywhere, in Mumbai, in all these big cities like Bangalore, then I will not sell," says he.

He doesn't want to even think of diversifying the business either: "Stay where you are." The bigger challenge is in maintaining the Cartier character. "Because when you have this phenomenal DNA, you have to maintain it," says Fornas who became Cartier's president in 2002 and pays utmost attention to even the minutest detail within the organisation. "Every single piece of jewellery is approved by me, every single reference in watchmaking, every single accessory, everything is approved by me," he says, adding that he works seven days a week, though he is slower at work over the weekend.

He insists that he will keep a close eye on India, "which is why I keep coming to this country." According to him, India has the same potential as a market for luxury jewellery and watches as China. But in China, Fornas' company has 37 boutiques. "The difference between India and China is that there are more taxes here. Indian people end up buying Cartier products from Paris or Dubai because they are cheaper. I think that the day taxes are a bit lowered, the business will go up." It is that simple, he notes. Fornas is convinced that the market for luxury watches in India is phenomenal. The Cartier chief also admires the sense of luxury Indians possess. "From your mothers to sisters to wives, you all have a great sense of luxury for jewellery and a lot of people with class have a great understanding of watches." But he expects the prices to be more competitive compared with the rest of the world. "Too much tax kills the market. Then people are always upset about their purchases…we hope that one day taxes will decline and our business will be much more here." In China, Cartier plans to add more boutiques — to make it a total of 55 or so — in the next couple of years.
How did he navigate the company during the recent financial slowdown? "We organise in such a way that our plane has five strong engines," he says. Those engines are Europe, Japan, China, the Americas and the Middle East. This way, if there is a big crisis and the Americas' engine is weak, you still have other engines, he says, smiling. "When the crisis came, Europe and the Americas were affected but China was booming, the Middle East was holding. You get your five engines running well and then even if two engines drop, you can still get home safe."

"We did a strong penetration across the world, and we are doing it now," continues Fornas. "Now we are constantly pushing more in the US and Europe and other places because I want to avoid overdependence on China. What if something happens in China?" he asks. "I am fighting against my own success in China …what we do is optimise the network."

Fornas meticulously does what he calls the "weeklybased automatic assortment" of all Cartier products across the world. "I told you that in 30 seconds, but it is a headache." The idea is not to compromise on quality. As regards craftsmen, he says the company believes in rigorous and the best training at its own school in Paris.
A graduate of the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce in Lyon, France, and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, Fornas started his career as an assistant product manager with Proctor & Gamble. He then made a quick transition from fast moving consumer goods to high-end luxury.

Asked about the ethics behind sourcing diamonds or other stones, Fornas makes it clear that every stone that is sold to Cartier has to be certified by global agencies so as to ensure that not even a single one is a conflict stone or a blood diamond.

He says, for instance, despite a pressing need for rubies, Cartier decided not to buy the stone from Myanmar, which is ruled by a military junta. "We have less and less rubies in our collection, but when you are the leader, you have to show the path and lead by example. I want to be 200 percent ethical."
"I work this way because my goal is to make products for eternity," says he, glancing at his watch.




Cartier International






First, the TV news channels quoted AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi as stating that if the Congress-led UPA coalition government could not tackle national problems like rising prices as decisively as Indira Gandhi did, it was because of the compulsions of coalition politics. Then, when asked at a press-conference on February 16 about the reappointment of A Raja as telecom minister in 2009 despite the allegations of corruption, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh indicated that he had to accept the DMK supremo M Karunanidhi's choice since "compromises have to be made in the interests of coalition politics". No one from the Congress has as yet satisfactorily answered the question of why, in the interests of good national governance, the Congress could not have applied the leverage it had in Tamil Nadu where the minority DMK government is in power because of the support of Congress MLAs. The question is not as simplistic as it sounds. And the answer need not be complicated. The DMK supremo is also the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Despite his advanced age, Karunanidhi is the undisputed leader of the party that rules in Tamil Nadu under his chief ministership. And everyone is aware of that. The Congress, however, is a party where its supremo has appointed the Prime Minister.

And so, we have a PM who has to periodically look behind his shoulder to check whether his decisions are in tune with the wishes of the party chief. It was this grey area which was fully exploited by the former home minister who made it abundantly clear that his primary loyalty was to the party chief and who continued to run the home ministry despite a series of terrorist attacks which culminated in 26/11. Over a period of time, the party leadership got comfortable with a situation where it had the best of both worlds. The PM was accountable, but not the ultimate decision-maker. The party supremo could overrule the PM but was not accountable. The courtiers in the party played along for their own benefit. Those who claimed to be loyal to the party leadership kept pointing out to the high command the advantages of the supremo distancing herself from unpopular decisions which could always be attributed to the 'politically naive' PM. At the same time, credit was fully taken in the name of the party leadership for the success of any policy. This deliberately schizophrenic approach came to the fore as and when results were announced for elections in states. If the Congress did well, it was inevitably attributed to the supremo's leadership. If the Congress fared badly, it was attributed to the party image being affected by the scams perpetrated by alliance partners in the Manmohan Singh-led coalition government.

The basic problem is that the Congress is not a party which develops leadership at the top. It is a party which excels in developing secondrung leaders who will never pose any kind of challenge to the numero uno and her successor in the family. Outside the first family, Congress leaders are good numbertwo types who excel in anticipating and carrying out the wishes of the supremo and her potential successor. When it comes to leaders from outside the first family, their motto could contradict the Avis slogan to say, "We may be number-two but we try harder not to be numberone"! Congress CMs generally make it a point not to take crucial decisions but to seek the 'enlightened' advice of the supremo who cannot be aware of the problems in each state and by the time a crisis erupts, it is usually too late to do anything about it. When the crisis reaches a point of no return, the old CM is promptly jettisoned — call him Rosaiah! — and a new CM is appointed through a standardised almost ritualistic ceremony of the MLAs saying they have full faith in the supremo's leadership and will accept whoever she appoints.

There is a lesson in all this. Instead of blaming the compulsions of coalition politics for the mess the Congress finds itself in, Rahul could perhaps look more closely at the functioning of the party. When setting out on his next talaash (Hindi for search) for future leaders on college campuses, Rahul could ponder on how to empower the existing party leadership at all levels. Merely talking of what his grandmother did as PM is not enough.
Much has changed since the time of Indira Gandhi. She never, for instance, had to contend with a 24-by-7 TV channel news-cycle where each and every sin of commission or omission of those in power is immediately highlighted. Imposing an Emergency on the country and the media is no longer an option! The complicated condition the Congress finds itself in is reflected in headlines like "PM/Sonia face leadership test". In any other democracy, the headlines would say "Obama approvalratings fall" or "Cameron faces crisis"!







                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




WHEN the earthquake struck, I was at the hot springs in Sakunami, about 15 miles from my home in Sendai. I was playing host to a couple from Britain, and as I soaked in an open-air bath with Ben, the husband, powdery snow began to shake off the surrounding boulders. The next moment, small pieces of broken stone came tumbling down. "It's an earthquake, a big one", I said, urging Ben on to the changing room next door. Without bothering to dry off, I pulled on my bathrobe. As I struggled to keep my legs from buckling and tied my sash with trembling hands, I was struck by the terrifying realisation that the great earthquake off Miyagi Prefecture, predicted for so long, had at last arrived. The fierce rolling of the earth lasted longer than I had ever experienced. As I learned later, this was not just the predicted earthquake. It was a giant quake in the waters off Miyagi; off the Sanriku coast in Iwate Prefecture to the north; off Fukushima Prefecture to the south. It lasted six minutes. I heard screams from the women's changing room and eventually Ben's wife, Liz, appeared, supported by my wife. Earthquakes are rare in Britain, and I could see plainly Liz's great shock at experiencing one. Public transportation back to Sendai, the big city closest to the epicentre, had stopped running, cellphones were not working and all flow of information had ceased. The inn kindly let us spend the night, and the following day a young tourist from Tokyo drove us in his rental car back to Sendai. The roads were torn apart and blocked at points by collapsed inns. The windows of larger buildings were smashed and the tile roofs of houses had crumbled to the ground, while old concrete-block walls were reduced to rubble. Scenes of disaster appeared before my eyes, but in all honesty, I felt the scale of destruction was rather small. When I reached my home, on high ground, the lock on the front door was broken and the floor was covered with books, CDs and plates that had fallen from the shelves. But everything was dry, and there was nothing to alter my perception of the scope of the disaster. This perception completely changed as I learned, little by little, the magnitude of the damage by way of the hand-crank radio, my sole source of information amid the continuing blackout. The Pacific coast of northeastern Japan has endured many tsunamis, including one from the 9.5-magnitude earthquake in Chile in 1960, and disaster preparedness is a strong part of daily life in the region. But this earthquake produced 30-foot-high waves, far beyond what anyone had imagined, wiping out entire towns. It is becoming clear that the number of casualties might reach the tens of thousands. We lacked both water and gas, and our only illumination that night came from candles and the moon. With the lights of the city extinguished, stars shone brightly in the night sky. When I looked out toward the ocean the next morning, I saw in horror that neighbourhoods close to the sea had simply vanished. Many of our friends lived in those areas. In the distance, I could see only the trees planted to protect the shore. I found my elderly mother, who lives nearby and had taken temporary refuge at an emergency shelter, where she said that everyone complained of the cold while sharing rice balls. Many were coughing. The shelter was overflowing, and my mother decided to come home with my wife and me. On my way to and from the shelter, I passed a gasoline station where people lined up, hoping for a small amount of rationed fuel. Reports of a catastrophe at the nuclear power plant in neighbouring Fukushima Prefecture, involving hydrogen explosions and radiation leaks, have come in. Now an invisible pollution is beginning to spread. People have acquired a desire for technology that surpasses human comprehension. Yet the bill that has come due for that desire is all too dear. Even as I write, strong aftershocks continue. As he left, Ben spoke of a "calm chaos". It is true that faced with this calamity, the people of Sendai have maintained a sense of calm. This is perhaps due less to the emotional restraint that is particular to the people of the northern countryside, and more to the hollowing out of their emotions. In the vortex of an unimaginable disaster, they have not yet had the time to feel grief, sadness and anger. Before I became a writer, I worked for 10 years as an electrician, until I suffered asbestos poisoning. My main job was to travel around Tokyo, repairing lights, including street lamps and the hallway and stairway lights in apartment buildings. For this reason, the sight of the well-ordered, unbroken expanse of the city's lights always brought me a great sense of relief. Will I ever again experience such peace? Kazumi Saeki is a novelist. This essay was translated by Seiji M. Lippit from the Japanese. By arrangement with the New York Times







The news about Japan's nuclear power plants — and the threat of the spread of radiation — continues to be full of foreboding. The psychological impact of the disaster, however, appears to be more marked in debate in this country than in Japan itself. The Japanese people and their leadership, now in the midst of an unprecedented situation, have to their credit shown no sign of panic, although worry in such circumstances would be only natural. While doing what's needed to fix the nuclear problem, Tokyo has pumped in close to 23 trillion yen (around $300 billion) to generate rebuilding activity in the economy. The approach underlines for the world the determination and resilience the Japanese people are capable of in the face of disaster, no less acute than that which the country faced in the aftermath of defeat in World War II. It is significant in this context that within Japan no cry has been raised to eliminate nuclear power generation in the country. After the Japanese people became victims of two atom bomb attacks by the United States in 1945, the island nation determined to eschew nuclear weapons and has been in the forefront of the global nuclear non-proliferation movement. This did not stop it, however, from choosing to derive electricity through nuclear power. Today one-third of power generation in Japan — the world's third largest economy — derives from the nuclear source. As such, it will not be easy for it to make a break with nuclear power generation. In the days ahead we might have a better appreciation of how Japan wrestles with the question of generating nuclear energy. In India, however, we have already seen a tsunami of criticism of our domestic nuclear power programme. India generates a paltry 4,000MW of nuclear power, around two per cent of its current requirement, but aspires to step this up to 20,000MW by 2020 and 30,000MW by 2030. Governments are likely to work toward these goals if public opinion is supportive. The crisis in Japan has led anti-nuclear groups in India to step up their campaign against the idea of nuclear energy itself. Their first target is the proposed nuclear power plant at Jaitapur on Maharashtra's Konkan coast, which is designed to be the biggest nuclear power plant in the world, with a capacity of 9,000MW. The question of nuclear safety was always pre-eminent but has acquired urgency in the wake of Japan's recent experience. The trouble in Japan only lends their campaign an edge. Irrespective of the position such campaigners might take, we need to revisit the safety question again. It is not sufficient for the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and leading lights of the Indian nuclear establishment to make an assertion on the safety of our reactors. It is not sufficient to say that Kalpakkam withstood the 2004 tsunami. Barring a couple, our reactors are of relatively recent compared to Japan's Daiichi reactors, which go back to 1972. As such, they do possess a greater safety factor. But on the question of structural fortifications or other factors, learning from Japan's own building codes might relieve public anxieties.The key is to strengthen safety, not to panic.







Special Forces (SF) are the stuff of legend and military lore. Their derring-do and nerveless actions in the field have time and again rescued the losing side and turned the course of wars. Because the SF are geared to attaining the ends by any and especially unorthodox means, they have scant regard for the norms and procedures conventional forces live and fight by, and end up treating the regular military with disdain. The payback is in terms of the special operations forces (SOF) facing institutional inattention, fighting for budgetary crumbs and their commanders rarely rising to the highest ranks in the services. The fabled Major David Stirling leading the Special Air Service (SAS) — the most accomplished of the British SF in the Allied Eighth Army active in the Maghreb — famously said that during the Second World War he fought as many battles with his own military brass as he did with the Axis Powers. The relations of the Indian Special Forces with their parent services are likewise fraught and for many of the same reasons. The regular military find the SF's swagger and "can do" attitude grating, their unconventional methods distasteful and dealing with their commanders a strain, but damned if they don't covet the romance, glamour and mystique of the individualistic and lethal commando that attends on them and their line of work. Hence, the armed services have sought to at once perpetuate and strengthen their control of the SF and to blur the distinction between them and the line units. Thus, the Indian Army, for instance, has from the beginning insisted, firstly, that the SF are an extension, and remain within the administrative ambit, of the "Parachute Regiment" and draw their officers and men exclusively from this fraternity. And, secondly, that the purely paratroop battalions be converted to paratroop-commando, notwithstanding the quite different missions the two types of forces are optimised for. Paratroopers are infantry able to be parachuted as the airborne element for forced entry behind enemy lines, or in any sector where rapid build-up of forces is required. Para Commandos, on the other hand, are specialists in clandestine operations, able to be inserted by parachute or other means, in peacetime, war and in operations other than war. Erasing the differences between the parachute and the Para Commando units suggests the Indian Army, apparently, neither appreciates the quite different roles these two types of forces play, nor the gravity of depriving the country of military options in war by misusing the Para Commandos to do the job of parachuted infantry and vice versa, thereby limiting the forces available for these separate roles. The other services too have their SFs. The Indian Navy's versatile Marcos (Marine Commandos), styled after the US Navy's Seals (Sea, Air, Land), have been successfully blooded, for example, in Sri Lanka (Operation Pawan). Their action prevented the escape of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leaders to Tamil Nadu by scuttling that outfit's vessels and, positioned on the Wular Lake in the mid-Nineties, they preempted the ingress by the jihadis into Jammu and Kashmir. These days the Marcos are itching to wipe out the Somalian pirates and bases, if only the Indian government affords them a carte blanche instead of the conditional approval of actions. The Air Force's Garud unit training, among other things, to destroy enemy air capability on the ground has reportedly impressed in recent realistic exercises. With the acquisition of the C-130J airlift aircraft and amphibious warfare ship, INS Jalashwa, India now has an all-services SF nucleus to mount and sustain credible special operations. The question is: Who should control the SF? The option is between expecting the special forces to deliver as part of the parent services, or to constitute a separate Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the defence ministry as I have advocated. At an international seminar on Special Forces held last week, hosted by the Centre for Joint Warfare Studies under Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), the head of Israeli SF, Brig. Eyal Eisenberg, former chief and current Colonel Commandant of SAS, Lt. Gen. Sir Graeme Lamb, and ex-commander of the German SF, Brig. Hans-Christoph Ammon, spoke about the conduct of special operations in the context of a joint command. Indeed, the historical record favours it. After an initial period of operating under parent services, the US Office of Strategic Services and the British Special Operations Executive and SAS gained their greatest successes in the Second World War when grouped under a single Special Operations Headquarters under the Supreme Commander in Europe, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Nearer home, Lord Mountbatten, as commander-in-chief, Southeast Asia Command, had the largest number of SF in his charge, utilising them to considerable effect against the Imperial Japanese land forces. The reasons for a JSOC are compelling. A unitary command will be best able to represent the singular as well as combined SF interests, recruit the best talent from the three services, assess the operational strengths and limitations of each type of SF, draw up special operations plans to mesh with the larger strategy, configure mission-based force mixes for maximum impact, fight for an equitable portion of the defence pie, evaluate the various capability gaps and the material and human resources requirements of the SF, and to prioritise on an inter se basis the acquisitions and augmentation programmes. It will be a radical improvement on the existing state of affairs where the armed services tamp down on their respective SF and persistently misapply SF assets. At the conference, Lt. Gen. H.S. Lidder, a former commando and chief of IDS, proposed a JSOC under the national security adviser. An excellent idea, except he envisaged this arrangement only for peacetime, with SF reverting to the parent service in war. This last is to fall back on a bad system wherein SF, subsumed in Theatre Command plans, are penny-packeted as Army reserve and tasked mostly with trivial missions, such as blowing up culverts and ammo dumps across the Line of Control. It is akin to deputing highly trained and motivated neurosurgeons to diagnose fever and hand out aspirin. Bharat Karnad is professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi









Money dousing fire in our players By Manoj Prabhakar Seeing the Indian team lose nine batsmen for just 29 runs against South Africa, I cannot help but feel that this isn't just a one-off thing. The loss in itself doesn't rankle me much — it's not the first time our team have lost a crucial game in the World Cup. It is how skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men went about their job after Sachin Tendulkar got out that pains me. Why was Yusuf Pathan sent after Tendulkar when everyone knows he doesn't have the greatest defence and bats best at No. 7? There was no need to meddle with the batting order. I can understand Pathan being sent up when we have only seven to eight overs remaining and we need someone to launch an attack. But in this case we needed someone to bat intelligently and collect six runs an over which would have easily got us to 330 or 340. Instead, we aimed for 400 with the strategy we deployed and couldn't achieve even 300. A superb start was thrown away. Dhoni would do well to realise that he not only lost a game but a chance to hit the confidence of the South African team. It's great to see the cricketers earning a lot of money these days, but too much of it can cause problems. Players often stop working hard when they start to earn four times what they expect. They become overconfident and casual in approach. I fear our cricketers are experiencing this. The current lot are not likely to agree with me. In fact, they may not even realise this. But too much money alters your way of thinking and changes you. How else do you explain India's complacency in performance not only against South Africa but also against Ireland and the Netherlands? There is no dearth of skill in our team — it is one of the strongest in recent memory. But unless the players get their heads right, great talent will be of no use. What's the use of mental conditioning experts, psychologists and so many support staff with the team? Why is that after investing millions of rupees in hiring and employing top consultants, we commit mistakes which common sense would tell you to avoid? This is probably one of the reasons why Dhoni has been scathing and public in his criticism of the team. He wants them to step up their performances. That's the right move. The problem is Dhoni too is in the same boat. He has himself been guilty of erroneous judgment. * Manoj Prabhakar, former Indian all-rounder * * * Have faith. Boys will bounce back By Chetan Chauhan There are lessons to be learnt from India's three-wicket loss to South Africa in an anti-climactic close game. Dissecting the team's performance will show that skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men let go of a splendid opportunity to thoroughly dominate the Proteas, which could have potentially helped India in the later stages of the tournament. ' But one loss in World Cup isn't the end of the world. Except Australia, every team has been defeated at least once in the tournament so far, and since it is the group stages, India can afford to lose one. However, it's important that we do not start panicking and start criticising the team at this stage. In counting the negatives, we sometimes lose focus on the positives. Mind you, India are still a very strong side, possibly the strongest in the tournament. And four or five good games from here on will see us lifting the Cup. We have spent the better part of last year gearing up for this tournament. So, motivation isn't a problem. I was the manager of the team until recently, and I can tell you that this is not only one of the most skilled Indian teams to ever compete in the World Cup, but also one of the hungriest. Most of the players have been plying their trade in the international circuit for eight or nine years. So, the argument that money and fame is getting to them is absurd. To get a chance to play in the World Cup is the best thing to happen to any cricketer. This is the biggest stage — you don't get complacent when you play in the World Cup. From my perspective, all we need to do is to tweak our playing XI a little. In such a tournament, we have to keep in mind that the opposition are also trying their hardest. There will be times when they'll trump us in spite of our best efforts. The loss to South Africa can be a good thing if it fires up India even more. Remember, South Africa too lost a close game to England before the match against India. They learnt lessons from that defeat and made sure not to repeat their mistakes when they played the Men in Blue. Credit should be given to them for making a comeback with the ball after Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar had gone berserk. I have faith in our side. I have no doubt they will get back up on their feet after the loss, and perform to their full potential in the coming games. * Chetan Chauhan, former Indian opener






If you draw your own map while driving your own vehicle, it is wonderful. But you may take a lifetime to cross an uncharted territory without a map. Let's say that you are going to Kedarnath. Somebody is driving and the road ahead is laid out for you. If you came alone and there were no proper directions, definitely you would have wished that if you had a map to tell you how to get there. On one level, a guru is similar to a map, a living map. If you can read the map, you know the way and you can move ahead. A guru can also be compared to a bus driver. We sit in the bus and doze off and he takes us to our desired destination; but to sit in this bus and doze off, with peace of mind, we must trust the bus driver. If with each curve on the road, we think, "Can this man take me safely? Will this man go off the road? What is his intention?", we will only go crazy. To live and survive, you need trust. Daily, we trust a lot of things unconsciously. Let us say you are sitting in a bus. Unknowingly, you trust this vehicle. You have placed your life in the hands of this mechanical mess. We trust the bus unconsciously, and risk our lives while travelling in it. The same trust, if it arises consciously, would do miracles for us in our lives. When we say trust, we are not talking about something new in life. To be here, to breathe in and out, you need trust, isn't it? Your trust is unconscious. I am only asking you to bring a little consciousness to your trust. It is not something that is impossible. Life is based on trust, and nothing in this earth will exist without this. — Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a prominent spiritual leader, is a visionary, humanitarian, an author, poet and internationally-renowned speaker. He can be contacted at






The National Security adviser, Mr S.S. Menon, was in Tehran on March 8, the eve of the Persian New Year. Attempted flattery went awry as the President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's office let Mr Menon's view be known that the President's predictions of global economic and political developments were prescient. A contestable statement, ignoring the blatant power grab by the Revolutionary Guards and the right-wing after the dubious 2009 election. The Jasmine breeze, additionally, has unnerved the regime, making them abduct the principal Opposition leaders, Mr Mehdi Karroubi, and Mr Mir Hossein Mousavi, while challenging similar actions by the Bahrain government against their Shia majority. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's sudden urge to engage Iran meaningfully needs scrutiny. That Iran is a complex country is a given. From Nadir Shah's sacking of the Mughal treasury and pillage and rape of Delhi on March 22, 1739, to the vacillating India-Iran relations post 1947, buffeted first by the Cold War orientation of Iran and then its Islamic Revolution, followed by the Iraq-Iran war, it has been a saga of missed chances and provocation. Former prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao's government in 1991 reset Indian foreign policy, setting a "Look East" direction for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and a search in the West for partnership with the Islamic neighbourhood. The Babri Masjid demolition in 1993 complicated this quest, though it increased the significance of Iran, which was now approached through national imperatives, ignoring the past. As Pakistan-sponsored forces rose in Afghanistan and Kabul fell to the Taliban in 1996, the bilateral relations warmed. Partnership became an alliance. Its high-noon was the 2001 visit of the prime minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, to Tehran and the 2003 return visit by President Mohammad Khatami, resulting in the Tehran and Delhi Declarations, laying down the roadmap of diversified cooperation. Justification for this was: Iranian reserves of oil and gas; a North-South trade/freight corridor through Iran, Caspian and Russia; access to Afghanistan and Central Asia; countering Taliban and forces of radical Islam; and Iran as a counter-weight to Pakistan. Ironically, both Mr Vajpayee and Mr Khatami, charismatic and politically savvy, bridged divides in their respective ruling coalitions. Their vision began fraying once Iran's clandestine nuclear programme got exposed in 2003, rendering Mr Khatami lame-duck half-way into his second term, the initiative having passed to the hands of radicals. By 2004, even Mr Vajpayee had exited. As the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, assumed office, India-Iran relations were caught in the complex maze of US non-proliferation concerns over the Iranian nuclear programme and a desire to open the doors to India's rise as a possible counterweight to a rising China. To unshackle India, a civil nuclear deal was the sine qua non for unrestricted access to dual use technologies and clean energy. The nuclear issue was also the stick with which they wished to flog Iran, whose anxiety was heightened by the presence of US troops to their east in Afghanistan and after 2003 to their west in Iraq. The Indian vote at the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2005, twice repeated, against Iran is thus unlikely to be easily forgotten, as Tehran felt betrayed. The national security adviser's Tehran sojourn was perhaps based on the following assumptions: a convergence in concerns about post-US Afghanistan; Iranian worry over Gulf Cooperation Council-Saudi Arabia and the Iran stand-off over Bahrain's street uprising by the majority Shia population; and the Indian United Nations Security Council membership till 2011-12. Such reasoning subsumed that Iranian national imperatives have remained static over the last decade. In fact, as Iran's external environments evolved so did its polity and tactics. Mr Ahmadinejad, a hardliner, replaced the urbane Mr Khatami. The Vilayet-e-Faqih model created by Imam Khomeini was conditioned on the Supreme Leader balancing the interests of the clergy, the Revolutionary Guards and their off-spring, the Baseej and the Bazaar, or the business class. The 2009 election has upset this balance. China has replaced India and Japan as investor in oil, gas and technology sources. Iran has worked out a modus vivendi with the Taliban as the US is a common foe. The US is perceived as a retreating power, no longer a military threat. President Hosni Mubarak's exit was followed by two Iranian naval vessels transiting the Suez Canal, a first in decades. Even the Taliban may want to reduce their dependence on Pakistan. Sa'di, the 13th century poetic voice of Shiraz, has this advice on revenge: Wait rather till fortune blunts his claws Then pluck out his brains amidst friends' applause. The Arab world is in turmoil, which can lead to a renaissance or chaos. India's Gulf policy stands outsourced to sectional Malayali interests. Its West Asia policy is in induced sleep. Iran is leafing through its Sa'di poems. The Manmohan Singh government, with its monothematic focus on the India-US civil nuclear deal in UPA-I and Pakistan in UPA-II, needs new advisers and a wider spectrum foreign policy. The only Arabist secretary at headquarters in the ministry of external affairs deals with Europe. Otherwise its fate shall be of the partridge in the Persian poet Hafiz's couplet: O gracefully walking partridge whither goest thou? Stop Be not deceived because the 'devious cat' has said its prayers. The author is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry










A REPORT in a business daily about the investments of Robert Vadra, son-in-law of the ruling UPA's first family, would have occasioned no comment were it not for the implications. Vadra is a businessman and according to the report has acquired "tracts of land" in Congress-ruled Haryana and Rajasthan, besides a 50 per cent stake in a South Delhi luxury hotel. But the report also states that his companies have taken loans, some of them unsecured, from a large and controversial real-estate company with substantial interests in north India and especially in Haryana. This company not so long ago was accused of and indirectly admitted to short-changing small shareholders. Realtors need benevolent governments. Their business involves purchase of agricultural land and getting it converted for lucrative commercial and residential use. Conversion is permitted by state governments on a discretionary basis. Permission involves a fee, but is also a source for large-scale corruption. For the son-in-law of the de facto head of the Central government to be in partnership with a real-estate company which has significant interests in states under the ruling party is, therefore, bound to raise eyebrows. For that person's companies to accept unsecured loans from the realtor, for them to join hands in co-owning a luxury hotel and to justify it saying they are old friends is to admit to a nexus that could easily be termed unholy.

Vadra is entitled like any other businessman to strike deals; so was Sanjay Gandhi when he embarked on his motor car project nearly four decades ago. The mere fact Vadra is married to Mrs. Sonia Gandhi's daughter ought not to be an impediment, even if he is as a consequence the country's only private citizen to be exempt from mandatory pre-embarkation checks at airports. But it is when such business ventures obtain terms which can only be termed hugely attractive that they engender controversy. For instance, would the Congress governments of Haryana and Rajasthan treat the realty company even-handedly now that they know of its close links with the ruling party's first family? Every unsecured loan Vadra takes could have repercussions on administration and state policy, and this is the reason society must be vigilant about his activities, indeed subject it to far greater scrutiny than it would in deals involving other businessmen. Thirty-seven years ago, one Mrs. Gandhi indulged a son and paid the price. Another Mrs. Gandhi would do well to ensure she is not similarly indulgent to a son-in-law.





WHEN a decade or so ago a decision was taken to buy and build the T-90 tanks to serve as the spearhead of the Indian army's armoured capability, many cavalrymen contended that upgrading the existing fleet of T-72 tanks was a better, cost-effective option. The more modern T-90 appears to have fulfilled its role ~ fortunately military hardware is not always subjected to its ultimate test ~ but the qualities of the T-72 continue to impress. Hence a proposal is being progressed to modernise the proven workhorse, and expertise from even beyond Russia (the T-72 is of erstwhile Soviet origin) is being sought for a major programme intended to render some 1600 tanks "state of the art". The project is ambitious: advanced explosive reactive armour, a more powerful engine, an auxiliary power pack to energise recently added features like night-vision devices, laser range-finders, fire-control systems etc. And an air-conditioning unit since temperatures inside the hull can rise to a strength-sapping 60 degrees Celsius ~ most of the likely tank warfare could take place in Punjab and Rajasthan. An estimated Rs 5,000 crore could be required and if the tanks are so refurbished that they are brought at par with the cutting edge of contemporary technology it could be money well spent. Though once again the question arises of just how much "non-political" faith the army has in the indigenous MBT Arjuns and what role does it envisage for two regiments of them?

Some weapon-systems ~ perhaps this is true of select machines across the board ~ win a place in their users' hearts: the T-72 seems to be following the Centurion as a sentimental favourite. It retained that spot when a limited number of T-79s did not find much acceptance, and seems to have lasting appeal even after the T-90s' induction. Sentiment has its place in every scheme of things; however there is need to ensure the highest quality of professionalism in the upgrade exercise. Since various elements of the tank are to be modified there is every risk of its "integrity" being impacted. Despite the most advanced of design capabilities, some products simply do not "click" ~ that must be guarded against. Who can forget that after the Gnat jetfighter was modernised it lost much of its sting.




SAUDI tanks have rumbled into Bahrain. The torment in the Arab world has not merely deepened; it has acquired a dangerous dimension with Monday's entry of Saudi troops to quell the upsurge in the neighbouring country. This is the first time an Arab state has intervened to crush a popular movement in another. It marks the Saudi monarchy's determination to reinforce its authority not only within the kingdom but across the borders as well. The military intervention in Bahrain comes barely 72 hours after the Saudi authorities promptly nipped the "day of rage" in the bud. The move, unprecedented as it is, is almost certain to spark a fresh crisis in the Gulf. On the face of it, the compulsion is decidedly religious ~ to rein in the Shia majority now up in arms against the Sunni monarchy.

  The Saudi rulers are worried that unrest among the Shias of Bahrain will spread to their own Shia population. Almost immediately, a groundswell of resentment has built up over the intervention with the Saudi opposition condemning the move as an act of "undeclared war", indeed "blatant occupation". Since Sunday, the movement in Bahrain has gained momentum; the government, under attack for about a fortnight, has been fighting a losing battle against the protestors in Manama. The capital's financial district is now under rebel control. The ruling Al-Khalifa family's appeal for help in the form of a task force, has largely been ignored by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a regional grouping of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait. Alone in the GCC, it is Saudi Arabia that has responded with troops and armoured carriers, shockingly insensitive to the prospect that the crisis in the Arab world is bound to intensify. In a very real sense, the Saudi monarchy is fighting Bahrain's war against its people. It is a concerted offensive by palaces of the two neighbouring countries. Geo-politically, the Saudi intervention has an important bearing on American interests in the region, principally because Bahrain is the base for the US Navy's Fifth Fleet. The waters of the Gulf will get murkier with Saudi Arabia's undeclared war on the protestors in Bahrain.









IN 2010, two books have appeared which promise to bridge the gulf between the Sri Ramakrishna worshipped by his devotees and the saint whom scholars study as a historically relevant figure. Amiya P Sen, a professor of history at Jamia Millia Islamia University of New Delhi, has written a biography of Sri Ramakrishna Ramakrishna Paramahamsa ~ The Sadhaka of Dakshineswar (Viking/Penguin Books India, Delhi 2010). The work studies him as a historical personality. The companion volume to this biography is a selection of Sri Ramakrishna's conversations in a new translation again by Amiya P Sen (His Words: The Preachings and Parables of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (Viking / Penguin Books India, Delhi 2010).
These two books are written for the devotees of Sri Ramakrishna as well as for persons with historical interests. In the biography, Sen succeeds in maintaining a fine balance between a scholarly standard of enquiry and a language which is respectful and sensitive towards the devotees without himself slipping into devotional language. Visions and ecstasies do not become mere psychological states in this book; at the same time, Sen does not make faith statements about them. He merely makes room for faith. Whatever only a believer may understand, is tactfully left uninterpreted. So the temptation to rationalize is resisted.
Sen approaches Sri Ramakrishna, the human being, the "saint" with sincerity and chalks out in his Preface the challenge he wanted to meet: "This book has grown out of my dissatisfaction broadly with two genres of biographical accounts available on Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Official biographies I found quite unexciting ~ partly on account of their hagiographical slant but also for their insipid prose and the lack of analytical rigour."(p. ix). At the same time, he steers clear of the "sensationalism" created by authors who wish to "debunk both religious imagination and faith." (p. x).

The first chapter, "Situating Sri Ramakrishna", appears to be the most useful. On some 40 pages, Sen places Ramakrishna within the rural social milieu of Kamarpukur and thereafter in the urban milieu of Kolkata. Which gods and goddesses were worshipped in Kamarpukur and Kolkata? How did these cults evolve? We read on the pre-modern religious traditions from Chaitanya until Sri Ramakrishna's time, the intellectual climate created by Rammohan Roy, Vidyasagar and Keshab Chandra Sen. In fact, we would have liked to get more information on the Kali cult of the mid-19th century of which Sri Ramakrishna became a prominent figure.

We see that his ideas and practices by no means existed in empty space, rather they found their origin and nourishment in the cultural movements of the time. Even such ideas as the plurality of religions, often taken to be unique to Sri Ramakrishna, are seen to have pre-figured, for example, in Rammohan's ideas. But Sri Ramakrishna put his own stamp on the concept insofar as he was never content with professing an idea; he aimed at making it an experience. However, in his ritual practices and in his ascetic and householder customs Sri Ramakrishna could be deeply unorthodox and shockingly original. This deviation from the norm, however, had its definite limits, for example when it came to tantra practices. So, in this book, his life is carefully delineated both in its orthodoxy and in its heterodoxy. The Brahmo Samaj, Christian missionaries, the social life of the British colonizers and their educational system influenced, directly or at least indirectly, the shape Sri Ramakrishna's sanctity assumed. Amiya Sen conscientiously unfolds the "ambivalence" of the man, thus working against a simplistic, idealizing image. "Ambivalence" must not be seen as a negative trait. On the contrary, it indicates how a sensitive Ramakrishna reacted to his environment, and how he chose consciously what to accept and what to reject ritually and socially.

The most readable biography of Sri Ramakrishna to date has been the one by the British-American writer and devotee Christopher Isherwood, Ramakrishna and His Disciples (1965). Not knowing Bengali, Isherwood relied on English language sources, mainly on The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by Mahendranath Gupta and Sri Ramakrishna the Great Master by Swami Saradananda. Isherwood's book reveals masterly literary craftsmanship and a sincere love of  Sri Ramakrishna. Yet, it lacks originality of thought and wealth of source material. Here, Amiya Sen's book is a marked improvement. As its bibliography testifies, Sen has included numerous old and new Bengali sources. It is little known that, even before the Bengali Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita by Mahendranath Gupta, there existed other collections of stories and conversations recounting his astonishing life. Moreover, Sen takes cognizance of what (in my first installment) I called the second path of knowing the saint, namely the path of solid academic research. In Isherwood's time, this kind of scholarly endeavour had not yet set in. Sen's book will be easily available worldwide with Penguin as its publisher.
Amiya P. Sen's second book, the collection of Preachings and Parables possesses two virtues: Again, it uses as its sources Bengali compilations other than the Kathamrita making it richer and more broad-based. Further, Sen has chosen to prepare his own translation from Bengali to English, thus discarding the decades-old translation of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by Swami Nikhilananda. As we are all aware, the Swami has not been a faithful translator. He omitted words, sentences, sometimes whole passages which he considered superfluous or too rough in language or too intricate. He even added words of explanation putting them into Sri Ramakrishna's mouth without any editorial comment. His language is flat and colourless, compared to Sri Ramakrishna's own rustic, snappy, wonderfully lively language. Having translated the Kathamrita from Bengali to German myself, I am aware of the challenge of translating Sri Ramakrishna's language adequately. Amiya P Sen, too, has been unable to infuse the language with that colour, rhythm and sententiousness characteristic of the Bengali original. Maybe this would have required the magic pen of an Isherwood. However, Sen's translation appears ~ in the short passages he has chosen ~ true to the text of the original. This alone is a vast improvement.







 The Central Statistical Organisation announced recently that the Indian economy will post economic growth at a rate of 9 per cent in 2010-11. So far, policy makers have been targeting a 8.5 per cent growth. When the world, especially the developed world, is going through the worst recession, a 9 per cent rate of growth may be regarded as good news. Finance minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee said the Indian economy, rising above internal and external shocks, not only overcame economic slowdown but also grew fast. The chief economic adviser, ministry of finance, Prof Koushik Basu says that though the economy will do well in all sectors, if the agricultural and services sectors post a better growth rate, the economy can grow even faster.
But a senior leader of the Indian National Congress, Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar, does not approve of this fixation with growth. He says that when 57 per cent of our gross domestic product (GDP) is concentrated in the hands of only 1 per cent of the population, an increase in the GDP wouldn't really help the poor. He also believes that an increase in GDP will be actually counterproductive for Indians as national resources are being cornered by a few. While corporate profits are growing in tandem with production, the wages of workers are not posting a corresponding rise.

The government is selling a dream of high economic growth, trying to tell people that it would bring about a marked improvement in the quality of life of the average Indian. The reality is different ~ the poor continue to have a poor quality of life. Mr Mukherjee, while addressing a recent international conference, underscored the need for formulating such policies which will ensure that redistribution does not cause treasury losses as also does not have any impact on growth. This makes it clear that for the government, GDP growth is the most sacred goal. And, to achieve this, the government is ready to sacrifice programmes to eradicate poverty or generate employment.

The finance minister's argument is that his government is spending Rs 2.5 lakh crore on debt servicing out of a total budget of Rs 11 lakh crore. The increasing pressure of debt servicing is also increasing fiscal deficit. Thus, if food subsidies and spending on unemployment go up, government budget deficits go up as well. The target of the government is to bring fiscal deficit down to 3 per cent from the current 7 per cent. This means that the government, in the name of fiscal austerity, is trying to cut down on expenditure on health care, education, food subsidy and employment generation. It has also washed its hands off spending on infrastructure. As such, the onus of building infrastructure is now largely on the private sector. The private sector, which works with a profit motive, tends to charge the users of infrastructure heavily. A high toll tax levied for the use of roads and bridges is an obvious outcome of private investment in roads and bridges. Similarly, the high impost levied for the use of airports is making air travel costlier. The government's gradual withdrawal from health care and education in favour of the private sector has left the population at the mercy of private institutions. As private educational institutions charge exorbitant fees, the poor are denied quality higher education. Government facilities used to offer health care to the poor for free or at a nominal cost. Consistently decaying public health infrastructure, as a result of partial withdrawal of the government from this sector, is making the poor depend on private hospitals and nursing homes and they charge heavily for "quality health care facilities". In such a situation, the economically-disadvantaged people have two options ~ either become poorer in order to access "quality health care" or die for lack of treatment. According to a recently published report, 16 per cent Indian families went back to living below the poverty line as they had to sell off their assets to get their near and dear ones treated.
While the government insists that economic growth will bring about an improvement in the standard of living of Indians, the reality is far from that. Delay in legislating and continuous changes to the proposed food security Bill is enough proof of that. The Bill was proposed with great fanfare. But the government's tardiness demonstrates that it's not serious about the Bill. Similarly, the government's enthusiasm for right to food waned just as had it had waxed ~ a fate shared by most welfare schemes. It was said that more than 90 per cent of the population would be covered by the schemes initiated under the proposed Right to Food Act and that, to begin with, the schemes would be launched in 200 districts. But the National Advisory Council under the chairpersonship of Mrs Sonia Gandhi has restricted the scope of the schemes to barely 46 per cent of the population in rural areas and 28 per cent in urban areas. As such, only about 40 per cent of the country's population would get highly-subsidised wheat at Rs 3 per kg and rice at Rs 2 per kg. Another 22 per cent of the rural population and 44 per cent of the urban population would be able to buy food at half the price at which it had been procured from producers. Dr Jean Drèze, a member of the National Advisory Council, objected to this by saying that it would amount to the government doing no more than what it was doing at the moment.
A debate on how to achieve the objective of poverty alleviation in conjunction with a reasonably high rate of economic growth is expanding. If the government fails to strike a balance between its welfare state objectives and aspirations of stellar growth, economic power will remain concentrated in the hands of a few at the cost of the masses. It must not abandon its responsibilities by pleading paucity of funds. Rampant corruption and the extent of losses caused to the exchequer thanks to an overabundance of scams underscore the need to husband resources well. The standard of living of the poor must be improved and the government must do it now.

The writer is Associate Professor, PGDAV College, University of Delhi







It is perhaps for the first time in India that the rejuvenation of a road is being celebrated with such fanfare. Hazratganj, the main thoroughfare of Lucknow, is 200 years old. When Saadat Ali Khan became the ruler of Awadh, he decided to lay a broad thoroughfare in the heart of Lucknow on the lines of Calcutta's Chowringhee Road. His descendant named it after Hazrat Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Mohammad. This broad, 2-km road is as much iconic as Delhi's Chandni Chowk and Lahore's Meena Bazaar. Hazratganj in its heyday was synonymous with Lucknow's pulse. It was the most happening place in north India ~ a lively place pulsating with restaurants, music, fashion, culture, departmental stores and refined people. The famous etiquette of Lucknow was evident in every nook and corner. Rickshaws were banned there and one could only see phaetons ferrying stylish families. Evening perambulation used to be long-drawn and an elaborate affair in itself. There was an unexplained sophistication about this place.


The famous departmental store of Whiteway Laidlaw stood as proud as its stupendous cousins in Calcutta and London. Only the rich and famous would shop there. The tailoring shop of WR Drapers was patronised by the Governor and was strategically located near the Governor's House. What distinguished the shop was the proprietor's insistence on having the clothes stitched right there after picking the fabric of choice. One was not allowed to carry unstitched lengths out of the shop even after paying for them. The Hazratganj kotwali, or police station, was known for its architectural beauty. It was a British-era building and an important landmark. It pains me immensely to note that it has been brought down and that plans are to afoot to build an underground parking bay at the site. Mayfair cinema hall was once the best place to catch the latest releases but it now stands shuttered with rumours suggesting that it's up for sale. No prizes for guessing what would replace this landmark ~ another nondescript shopping mall.

After Independence, there was a mad rush to replace the Raj-era architectural legacy with everything Indian ~ no matter if out of place or aesthetically-challenged. In the process, we shamelessly erased a lot of our glorious past. In Lucknow, several colonial-era buildings have been pulled down to make way for unremarkable highrises. The plan to build Saharaganj mall on a plot which was once a part of Carlton Hotel is an instance of a bureaucracy totally neglectful of local sensibilities.

But there is now a glimmer of hope. A belated beautification drive has been launched with town bosses waking up to the need for ridding the thoroughfare of encroachers who destroyed its old-world charm. It is heartening to note that overhead wires have been sent underground and all hoardings removed. The entire stretch has been converted into a no-parking zone. The buildings lining the road have been given a coat of pink and cream and brass and wrought iron lamps have been installed along with fountains. Large benches now adorn the sidewalks.
The beautification of Hazratganj is a good example of how a lot of good can be done if different government agencies, traders, ordinary citizens and historians come together with the purpose of making a difference. In all fairness, Hazratganj is now prettier and more vibrant but it will never be the same again. 








Ah, the joy of being an interlocutor! Free travel as often as you want, sarkari bandobast at its best, pennant-adorned gaadis and liveried bearers at VIP guest houses at one's beck and call. Access to very nook and cranny of the beautiful state, absolute freedom to meet anyone one desires to, save those who refuse to be met.
An extended joyride! No one is really keen, not in New Delhi at least, on quick accomplishment of the task assigned to the chosen three. Does it really matter if the two factions of the Hurriyat ~ the spearhead of separatist movement in Jammu and Kashmir refuse to meet the interlocutors? Does it matter if a former chief minister and a former home minister of India, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, bluntly puts on the table a four-point formula, most of whose elements had been very nearly accepted, at least in part, by the parties concerned? The Mufti, who was not happy with the appointment of Central interlocutors, put forward his prescription in Jammu last week around the same time Delhi's favourite trio were breast-beating in Srinagar.
The people in the Valley want no Army presence in residential areas and it's not such a tall order. The interlocutors themselves, I am told, have taken a positive view of some of the demands of the people and if that is the case, why are they not backing those publicly? The head of three-person team, Dileep Padgaonkar, had said more than five weeks ago that an interim report would be submitted to the government. In Srinagar last week, we were reminded again that the interlocutors would be reporting to the government soon.
It sounds good when one learns that the interlocutors had met a large number of women most of them with sons, husbands or other relatives missing. But it no longer sounds good when it becomes apparent that they had done very little other than dishing out assurances. The interlocutors, I know, are well-meaning people but I can't help thinking that their handlers in New Delhi, notably home minister Mr P Chidambaram, may have asked them to ease the pace a bit until next month's Assembly elections. Even if that is the case, one would like to know if it is true that the state government had lately taken a large number of confirmed or suspected stone-pelters into protective custody.
I notice that for a change, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the hardline separatist leader who heads a faction of the Hurriyat, has publicly stated that his plans this summer does not include frequent calls for bandh which disrupted life in the state the whole of summer last year. I don't know whether this can be attributed to late-blooming wisdom or equally belated considerations for the Kashmiri people or the mere realisation that Pakistan next door currently resembles a fast-crumbling state. I would go with the third conjecture given that Syed Geelani had staked much in the past on the possibility of Kashmir's accession to Pakistan. As a sensible politician and a well-wisher of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, he may well be having second thoughts about the suitability of terror-ridden Pakistan as a new home for Jammu and Kashmir. Not a day passes in that country without scores being killed by suicide bombers whose reach extends from the port city of Karachi to Pakistan's cultural hub of Lahore, not discounting Faisalabad. Peshawar and the northwestern part of the country near its border with Afghanistan, not to mention Balochistan, are virtual killing fields with US stealth bombers and Pakistani forces continuously engaging the Taliban.
Someone was suggesting the other day that the turmoil in West Asia could well have an impact on Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmiris have already suffered much. They must be aware that Hosni Mubarak's departure from Cairo does not necessarily entail restoration of democracy (Egypt has, in fact, rarely seen democracy) and that Muammar Gaddafi has, in desperation, turned his guns on his own people. And assuming that the popular revolt against him succeeds, it's a big question as to who exactly will replace him. The Colonel has so far been successful in keeping together seven warring tribes with an iron fist. The Saudi royal house, comprising some 800 princes and princelings, reacted only after seeing the chaos surrounding the Kingdom. Their response comprised releasing a meagre US$ 8 billion for welfare projects ~ of the several hundred billions held by the House of Saud. Things are hardly different at other Sheikhdoms. So, it is unlikely that the so-called "Arab revolution" will influence the Kashmiri psyche.
Returning to the interlocutors, they have had enough time to appreciate the possibilities the state offers, its complex ethnic, linguistic and religious diversities notwithstanding. Time may indeed be ripe now for taking up most of the proposals ~ the viable ones among them ~ including the National Conference's earlier suggestion of autonomy and the Mufti's latest urging to convene an all-party, round table meeting. The interlocutors may soon discover that their endeavours over the past few months will not exactly make it possible for them to please every section of the state's population but they must hit upon the most acceptable solution. It will be an understatement to say that their job is difficult. At the same time, toing and froing between New Delhi and Srinagar or Jammu or Leh will not exactly produce spectacular results. And, any further dilly-dallying will only harden attitudes.
In this connection, I was amused to hear about some 250 dwelling units built with Central aid by the state government somewhere near Nagota in Jammu for rehabilitating some displaced Kashmiri Pandit families. Does this mean that New Delhi has accepted the migration of some three-four lakh Kashmiri Pandits owing to "internal" disturbances as a precondition for a permanent solution? Why else would they be asked to live in Jammu when their homes and hearts are in the Valley? I am not sure whether the interlocutors are mandated to look into this but what I do know is that similar clusters had been built in the Valley in the past but lack of adequate security had not motivated the Pandits to occupy them.
Finally, the interlocutors must understand that breast-beating doesn't exactly endear them to the people whose interests they had been asked to honour. I believe Dr Radha Kumar, the only woman in the team of interlocutors, had no need to be so strident a few days ago while reading out a summary of her thoughts at a women's gathering in Srinagar. I am not questioning Dr Kumar's right to have her say but since she a part of the team of interlocutors, it would be much better if she reserves her comments for the report that her team is required to submit to the government. By overstating the obvious, one does not really help the cause. In fact, that can even undermine it.

The writer is a veteran journalist and former
Resident Editor of The Statesman, Delhi







Muammar Gaddafi, the dictator of Libya, has offered India, along with China and Russia, a stake in the oil reserves of his country. Significantly, his offer comes at a time when the majority of Libyans are trying to overthrow him with some help from the Western powers. The United States of America and the European Union are considering economic sanctions on Libya, alongside an imposition of a no-fly zone, in order to force Mr Gaddafi to abdicate. But India has refused to comply with these strategies — and with good reason too. For one, India believes that the struggle for democracy, currently unfolding in Libya, is a domestic crisis and is best left to the people of Libya to sort out. India has no obligation or compelling reason to get embroiled in the internal politics of the Arab world, from which it imports the bulk of its oil. Further, a great many Indians are employed in Libya, and India naturally does not wish to act in a way that could endanger the safety of its citizens. So it is in India's national interest, in every sense, to accept Mr Gaddafi's offer.

But where does such a decision leave India as the largest democracy in the world? Should India not be proactive about the spread of democracy in the rest of the world? It must be remembered that the days of the non-aligned movement and the Cold War are over. It no longer makes any sense for India to put idealism ahead of exigency and to toe the line set by rich Western powers. As an emerging Asian economy, India is eminently capable of being in the good books of the West while maintaining cordial terms with the Arab countries. The former interest need not go against the latter. History is replete with instances of Western superpowers supping with those countries that they now perceive as their sworn enemies. In the past, India failed to make the most of Myanmar's natural riches because it was reluctant about strengthening bilateral ties with its junta-ruled neighbour. This not only left India economically poorer but also led to a deepening of Chinese influence in Myanmar. So the Libyan deal is an opportunity that India must not let go of. Rajiv Gandhi went ahead with his tour of Baghdad when Iraq-US relations were at a real low. More recently, India did not let the US interfere in its relations with Iran. This is what successful diplomacy is all about. It is the art of making friends, not foes.






Violence proves nothing. Neither does it achieve anything. The attack on the Congress office in Guwahati which injured five of the party's office-bearers can only be seen as a desperate act. If Paresh Barua, the United Liberation Front of Asom's self-styled commander-in-chief, who claimed responsibility for the attack, wanted it to prove his power, he was simply deluding himself. Most of his own comrades of many years have rejected him and his violent movement by agreeing to open peace talks with New Delhi. More important, the people of the state have rejected Ulfa's idea of a "sovereign" Assam and its militant ways of achieving it. If they have grievances against the system, they trust the power of democracy to redress those better than an armed militancy. This has been proved time and again by large turnouts in elections in the state despite Ulfa's calls to boycott them. With the assembly polls in the state only weeks away, attacks on security forces, politicians and the common people by militant groups were not entirely unexpected in Assam. It was thus no coincidence that eight jawans of the Border Security Force were killed in an ambush by Bodo militants on the same day Ulfa attacked the Congress office. Both the politicians and the people are too familiar with the militants' ploy to be either scared or misled by it.

However, the elections in Assam this time have a very different background. The majority faction of Ulfa, which includes the outfit's chairman, Arabinda Rajkhowa, joined the peace talks on the eve of the announcement of the polls in defiance of Mr Barua's threats. The climate for peace will further strengthen the democratic process in the state. It will also isolate the militant faction even more. That is why Mr Barua is more desperate than before to try and disrupt both the peace initiative and the electoral process. He must be a hopeless strategist to expect that he can do so by mounting fresh violence. During earlier polls, Ulfa had used its violence to try and influence the outcome in favour of its chosen political party. It cannot now hope to do even that because the people no longer submit to its diktat as before. The only way Mr Barua can shape Assam's future is by joining the peace talks along with his estranged comrades. He has the examples of other former rebel leaders in the Northeast who, too, fought long wars but ended up making peace.







Delhi's publishers organize more launches in a week than most Russian cosmodromes manage over their entire operational lives. Hotels, restaurants, the Alliance Française, the British Council, bookshops, colleges, 'centres' (the IIC, the IHC) host literary debuts and triumphs every day. The interesting thing about this crowded literary calendar is how recently it came into being. Twenty years ago, the book launch was unknown in Delhi. My impression is that with the exception of Salman Rushdie's early novels, the first book that was given a proper send-off was Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy, sometime in 1993. I can't remember earlier novels like English, August, or The Shadow Lines or The Golden Gate being formally flagged off. They made a stir but they weren't given coming out parties.


I think launches can be wonderful occasions because they celebrate books and writers, and the promise of cocktails afterwards nearly succeeds in making the mid-list novel glamourous. But it's also true that having made the book launch a durable part of Delhi life, publishers now complain of the expense and futility of the exercise. This is in part because they feel besieged: where once they could choose the book they wanted to promote, they're now pressed by all their authors. Writers have come to see the book launch as a kind of birth ritual. In a world of launches, the unlaunched book begins to feel orphaned and unwanted.


But it's the settled ritual of the book launch as it has evolved in Delhi that is interesting. The totemic power of the printed word in India is immediately apparent in the size and fit-and-finish of the enormous sign or banner that forms the backdrop to the event. This announces the title of the book, the name of the author and the identity of the publisher.


These signs are always beautifully produced and perfectly displayed. They are also very expensive and can't really be used again. But while your publisher might balk at the expense of a cocktail reception afterwards, no one stints on the banners and no author ever objects to performing in front of something that is, in effect, a large indoor billboard or hoarding. I don't think the purpose of the sign is to supply necessary information to the people at the event. It isn't there to tell the Shobhaa Dé fan that he has wandered into an event centred on Ashis Nandy. It is there to testify to the book's being, it is a formal assertion of existence.


In the infancy of the book launch, you had an editor introducing the author, the author reading from his book and a Q&A afterwards. Over time, though, this naïve template was elaborated. The idea that the most important person in the room, the writer, was actually addressing potential readers directly began to seem crass and undignified, resembling as it did the peddling of a product. A way had to be found to merge the role of author with the more significant role of chief guest.


One small way of doing this was to get someone other than the author to 'release' the gift-wrapped book and hold it up for the photographers. This had the effect of turning the launch into an inauguration, an udghatan, which is altogether more elevated and respectable than a marketing event. But the real breakthrough in dignifying the author occurred when publishers decided to replace the reading with a 'conversation'. So the lectern was replaced by two easy chairs and a coffee-table and a person who hadn't written the book took charge of the event. He (or she) took on the responsibility of introducing the book to the audience by asking its author a series of leading questions. In this tableau, the author was no longer putting himself forward; he was being drawn out by someone else.


This reassignment of active agency is sometimes taken to remarkable lengths. There was a launch where the author of a first-rate travel book was in conversation with one of Delhi's many polymaths. This person — critic, artist, activist, curator, impresario — asked questions so comprehensive that they came complete with answers. This left the author in a state of mute dignity. It wasn't clear that she enjoyed this condition (being foreign she wasn't used to the protocols of the desi launch) but so powerful was the convention of the 'conversation' that she didn't have a choice. Even the readings from her book were performed by her interlocutor. "In that context," he would say, "I want to read this wonderful passage in your book," and for the next five minutes the writer would have to listen to a book that she had written.


But while the 'conversation' still occasionally features at book launches, it has been superseded by the panel discussion. The panel discussion takes the dignity of the author to properly third-world heights: three or four people who haven't written the book talk about it with no assistance from the author at all. The author reverts to his proper role as creator, while other people discuss the world that he has brought into being.


The panel discussion has many virtues. It's a way of freighting the event with distinction: in a city like Delhi you can, if you are lucky or well-connected, have a fashion designer, a serving secretary in the government of India, a television anchor and the moving spirit behind some luminously committed NGO on the same stage at the same time. Since they're all important enough to have their own constituencies and followings, the chances are that the venue will be filled with people and TV cameras.


The drawback, if there is one, of the panel discussion is that it's hard to predict how long it'll go on. A foreign correspondent for an English paper published his take on India. He spoke off-the-cuff for half-an-hour about the book in a lively and attractive way. Nearly everyone in that room would have bought the book if the launch had ended there, but the talk turned out to be merely the appetizer for the main course. The main course was a panel discussion that featured four 'senior' journalists and editors. A senior journalist in Delhi, is, by definition, someone who is unconcerned about the patience of unimportant people and people in an audience for a book launch are, again, by definition, unimportant because if they weren't, they would be on the panel. So these four men talked amongst themselves for another two hours and by the time they finished, no one wanted to buy the book, but the panel had achieved its purpose: it had buoyed the book launch with prestige.


The literary panel discussion in Delhi is derived from two models: the academic seminar and the TV news panel. Delhi is crowded with universities and 24/7 news channels. Its literate, educated citizens are used to people of distinction holding forth serially. So regardless of how tedious the cumulative effect of three or four blowhards in one session is, the audience doesn't really mind because it isn't there to listen to the author; the people are there because they want to be irradiated by importance and the best way of meeting that need is to invite a panel of people who are, individually and collectively, radioactive with self-esteem. Also, the tedium doesn't really matter because beyond the horizon of the panel discussion, cocktails gleam.







Japan dominates the news. Given China's recent earthquakes, accounts written by Chinese working there make for fascinating reading. In fact, a day before Japan's disaster, an earthquake of 5.8 magnitude struck Yingjiang county in the earthquake-prone Yunnan province, leaving 25 dead, and more than 250 injured. But still fresh in the nation's memory is the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which killed 68,000 persons.

Like Indians, urban Chinese are boisterous and undisciplined. The Japanese discipline during the disaster has left them amazed. An article in the Beijing Youth Daily, the party youth league mouthpiece, talked about Japanese standing in queues for public transport and in supermarkets for emergency supplies, keeping the central pathway clear even as they took refuge on both sides of shelters. A senior academic in Tokyo described how everyone calmly sat on the ground in the public square, and when the tremors were over, went back to work. No litter was left in the square. Other bloggers posted pictures of Japanese sitting patiently and children covered with protective gear with comments such as this: "This is the result of education. It cannot be won with GDP."

However, a few bloggers have tried to puncture this image. One wrote that when he complimented his Japanese friend on his compatriots' orderliness, the latter replied that it was sheer luck that the epicentre of the quake was in the ocean. Their orderliness was a result of constant practice, he said. Another blogger reported his cousin's description of panicky residents rushing helter-skelter.

Blame the West

But it's the Japanese media's coverage of the disaster that has struck the Chinese the most. A senior executive wrote that the scenes shown on television were "staggering". "I wondered: Was Japan's government not afraid that it would cause instability for them to report without fear like this? But in the TV reports, you rarely saw pictures of high-level Japanese leaders 'dealing with the disaster', and there seemed to be no images of the Japanese Prime Minister directing the relief effort, spilling his tears over the disaster-stricken area." Interestingly, these sarcastic references to the Chinese rulers' obsession with 'stability' are part of an article titled, "Japan, a society that needs no stability preservation", which was published in a prestigious website.

The most perceptive comment was this: "In Japan, the government changes hands several times per year. Yet they are very orderly on how to handle the big disaster. This sufficiently shows that a stable country has nothing to do with a stable government.'' This description by a Chinese student in Japan could prove useful to our TV reporters. "The Japanese news reporting was calm and impeccable. They provided tons of information without invading personal privacy...they listed recommendations without causing panic."

China's old enmity with Japan figures in discussions about the earthquake. What has annoyed many is the greater attention being paid to Japan's earthquake as compared to the Yingjiang earthquake, not just by the Western media but also by the Chinese media and netizens. The number of references to the two earthquakes on the Chinese version of Twitter, and the number of persons who have offered prayers for both disasters are being compared. The conclusion — the blogosphere is full of pro-West, "pro-democracy elites", who don't care for their own "flesh and blood brethren".

One reporter has defended his colleagues by pointing out that while visas to Japan were freely available, Yingjiang was kept out of bounds even for Chinese reporters by the authorities.






Recently, during an exhaustive dialogue with Roger Penrose, a novel picture emerged about the structure of the universe — a product of the intensely creative passion of Penrose about space and time in which our universe floats. We also discussed 'consciousness' at the end of our dialogue. Clearly, consciousness is a necessary element in this discussion.

Penrose has invented over the years the concept of 'cycles of time', going beyond the singularity of time or the point before which time cannot be defined, (loosely speaking) at the zero (singularity) time the universe was born in a 'Big Bang'. Ironically, he is one of the inventors of singularity and now goes beyond that time. His time, now, has no beginning, no end — which is philosophically extremely attractive. But what is the science behind this almost crazy idea? At one stroke this throws away the very concept of the beginning of the universe in a 'Big Bang', and along with it some associated ideas such as inflation.

The universe is surprisingly smooth and uniform. To understand that, physicists have introduced the idea of inflation — that in very early times, almost immediately after the Big Bang, the universe expanded rapidly and exponentially. This idea is still very fashionable and considered a major milestone in cosmology.

The centrepiece of the 'cycles of time' argument is to do with entropy and black hole. Entropy is a measure of randomness or chaos and it goes on increasing, although the overall entropy has to be conserved by definition. If one keeps on losing overall entropy, the universe could not have existed at all. This is as per the dictate of the most fundamental law of nature, the second law of thermodynamics. Penrose uses the second law cleverly to devise the 'cyclic times'.

A black hole nearly always is the remnant of a collapsing star. How does a star collapse ? Our sun is a star, fortunately not big enough. Light or, say, sunlight, is produced inside the sun because of nuclear fusion: fusing some amount of mass gets converted to energy. The hydrogen bomb is a fusion bomb. Now, if the star is big enough to cross the Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar limit, about 1.4 times the mass of the sun, the star is likely to collapse.

A nuclear fusion burns itself out after some time (the sun will have the same fate after some millions of years) and gravitational pull takes over. The star begins to shrink through gravity. There is no way to prevent that shrinking, and it eventually collapses to a black hole. Our familiar sun will never end up as a black hole, it just hasn't enough mass. The sun eventually will end up as a red giant, leading to our planet's extinction.

The gravity of the collapsed star becomes so strong that nothing can escape from its interior, not even light (hence the name, black hole). Any object which comes near the black hole is gobbled up by its almost limitless gravitational appetite. However, Stephen Hawking, in a most original work in the 1970s, showed convincingly that as per (again) the second law of thermodynamics and elementary quantum mechanics, black holes can radiate energy. This is known as Hawking radiation.

Black holes are the most important reservoirs of entropy. Penrose argues that with the expansion of our universe it cools, and becomes even cooler than the coldest black holes. At that time the black holes begin to radiate away (the so-called Hawking radiation of the black hole from the surface can, depending on the entropy). The black holes go on shrinking and eventually disappear.

The rather involved argument Penrose puts forward at this stage implies that "nothing is left ultimately which can be measured in any scale and the Big and Small become the same". There will be no distinction between big and small at that level. He goes on to propose his fantastical scheme that the "entire history of the universe is just one stage in a succession". What we think of as the Big Bang is not the beginning. It is the continuation of the remote future of a previous aeon.

That exactly is at the core of the cyclical time idea. From one aeon to another aeon, the universe goes through an eternal cycle, with no beginning and no end.

The question, I asked Roger was, "How on universe (not on earth, mind you) do we know that this is what is happening?" The cosmos is filled with a beautifully fine-tuned radiation (perfect black body radiation) called cosmic microwave radiation (the radiation left over from the Big Bang) that would reveal evidence of events taking place in the aeon before ours, such as encounters between super massive black holes. When galaxies collide, the central black holes may spiral around and swallow each other up, causing enormous bursts of gravitational radiation as a direct consequence of the "swallow up". Such a burst from the previous aeon at the last stage of the universe of that aeon would leave its tell-tale marks as circles around which the temperature is almost anomalously normal.

Penrose and his colleague, V.G. Gurzadyan, see such circles in the cosmic microwave background radiation: the temperature anisotropy was mapped by Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe and the discoverers went on to win the Nobel prize. Penrose and Gurzadyan claim that these rings are the signals of the death throes of the last universe in the previous aeon.

So, the great uniformity of the universe originates before the Big Bang, from the tail end of a previous aeon that saw the universe expand to become infinitely large and very smooth. That aeon in turn was born in a Big Bang that emerged from the end of a still earlier aeon and so on, creating potentially an infinite cycle of time with no beginning or end.

Such a fantastic and grand idea is not going to be accepted easily, I tentatively suggested. Indeed a whole host of scientists armed with scientific armoury have already challenged it vigorously.

Roger pointed out his great mathematical discovery, "the twister theorem", is properly understood by few only now after about 25 years. It will take considerable time before his idea is accepted, if at all. I put the question to Roger that today the pressure of contemporary fashion and the market value of research pose a serious threat to true originality. Penrose immediately agreed. A young man in his thirties today has very little hope of making his 'revolutionary' ideas stay — he will be simply hounded out — we both agreed. Second, a lot of money and enormous talent, and so-called contemporary seminal work have gone into the standard Big Bang theory and the associated inflationary theory. If the idea of Penrose and Gurzadyan stands the test of time, a vast amount of work done for the last 30 years will turn obsolete, if not simply wrong. Nobody swallows that in today's world easily.

We rounded up our dialogue with a touch of absurd humour: "Any mark left by the inhabitants of the last aeon?" "They indeed could have existed but that information we can never have," — it is lost forever in the black holes of that aeon.

Towards the end we touched upon the idea of consciousness and on the great scientific debate going on in the contemporary world. Penrose went back to his book, The Emperor's New Mind, where he asserts that computers will not achieve any conscious understanding. He has reasons to believe that to understand (and we do not fully understand) consciousness we have to reach out to the limits of quantum mechanics. Microtubules (minute structures in the body's cells) are the best candidates in the brain for which this might happen since they are so tiny. But, ironically, quantum mechanics has to work on a huge scale. So macroscopic, and not just microscopic, objects follow quantum mechanics. Actually, they do to some extent. "I exist therefore I am, but do you think you are what you are?" It was crossing the borderline of science and trespassing onto the territory of philosophy.

We both agreed that the role of the 'observer' regarding the 'observed' is not yet really understood at all. It is such a relief that we do know that we exist and we also know that black holes will not be produced in the Large Hadron Collider at Geneva.

Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein changed the whole world — or shall we say the universe — with their daring discoveries. Penrose is on the threshold of that, creating an audacious idea which may indeed change the worldview once more.





OBITUARY Tony Hayward (1927-2011)

Tony Hayward, or more properly, Sir Anthony Hayward, passed away peacefully at dawn on March 4 at his home in England. He was surrounded by love — with his wife, Jenifer, and their children, Charlotte, Emma, Simon and Charles, by his side.

As one of his old friends, I write this memoir as a tribute to him, rather than as a traditional obituary.

Love and affection were very much a part of Tony's life, not simply for his family but also for the environment in which he grew up, worked, married, raised children — Calcutta and Bengal. He was the second son and third child of Eric Hayward — probably better known as the man behind Hayward's Gin.

Tony was educated in wartime Britain, served in the Royal Navy for a short time before coming out to Calcutta in 1948 and joining the firm of Shaw Wallace. Those were the days of the Royal Calcutta Turf Club races, of Gymkhana races and golf at the Tollygunge Club, of Firpo's, Prince's, and the 300 Club, patronized by British businessmen, by maharajas and their ilk, and, earlier, by that infamous politician, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy.

On Sunday evenings, it was fashionable to go to cinemas like Metro, Lighthouse and New Empire for the six o'clock show, followed by dinner and dancing. Like his peers, Tony involved himself in these activities, but he had other interests too. At a place called Chandpara, outside Calcutta, Tony set up a shooting camp where his many friends and he would spend their weekends. A keen motorist, Tony's pride and joy was his Bentley Drophead.

Sooner or later, Cupid stepped in and his arrow found its mark. Tony courted and married Jenifer McCay on January 3, 1955, at Calcutta's St Paul's Cathedral. She was the daughter of Frank McCay, a highly qualified doctor skilled in tropical medicine, and his beautiful wife, Betty, whose portrait adorned his consulting room.

Tony and Jenifer were blessed with four children — Charlotte, Emma, Simon and Charles — whose initials, Tony would quip in later years, were those of the CESC, Calcutta's power supplier.

Tony rose to become the chairman of Shaw Wallace, by now a very prosperous company. In 1973-74, he was elected president of The Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry and The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India — which earned him a knighthood from the British monarch.

Leaving Calcutta, Tony spent some years in Singapore with Sime Darby, which controlled Shaw Wallace at that time, and eventually retired to England. His heart, however, had never left Calcutta, and a number of visits took place, climaxing with the celebration, at the Tollygunge Club, on January 3, 2005, of his and Jenifer's 50th wedding anniversary, in the presence of all their children and grandchildren.

Among the invitees, those who vividly remember the occasion was the silversmith, Maniklal Das, whose father, Kalipada Das, founded the modest establishment bearing his name on Sambhunath Pandit Street. Father and son were silversmiths for Frank McCay and his colleague, Maurice Shellim, besides Bob and Anne Wright, that other English couple who could never desert Calcutta and Bengal.

Tony is no longer among us but the Haywards remain in India. Charlotte and Simon have set up a boutique hotel in Goa, which has had rave reviews. Fittingly, these two siblings have been given the honourary status of persons of Indian origin.

Tony and Jenifer's very close friends, "Kutty" Narayan and Ashok Malik, have provided valuable inputs for this memoir, as have the descendants of the eminent Calcutta barrister, Sachin Chaudhuri, whose forebears, Chaudhuri & Co, were the 'banyas' to Shaw Wallace. A Chaudhuri would be on the Shaw Wallace board until that firm changed hands.






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The continuing threat of dangerous radiation from the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear complex in Japan has raised understandable panic in Japan and concern all over the world. The hazards of the use of nuclear power have always been well-known and there has been unending debates over it for decades, with the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl mishaps and many smaller ones adding to the fears. These are particularly relevant for India which has embarked on a large nuclear power generation programme. The most important lesson from the Japanese tragedy is that the safety standards in nuclear plants have to be much higher than they are. The Fukushima reactors were among the largest and best protected in the world, though they are 40 years old. But they could not escape the ravages of nature.

India has three reactors — Kalpakkam, Tarapur and Kakrapar — near the seaside. Proximity to the sea is an advantage for nuclear plants as they require large amounts of water as a coolant. The Narora reactor in UP and Kakrapar have withstood earthquakes in the past. Kalpakkam was unaffected by the tsunami of 2004. But these do not mean that there will not be any future risk. The controversy over locating a reactor in Jaitapur in Maharashtra is continuing and this project will call for special attention because the technology to be used there is untested anywhere in the world. Out of 20 nuclear plants in India only two use boiling water reactors as the Fukushima plant did. Seismic activity is also much less in India than in Japan. But there is the need to always expect the unexpected and be prepared for unknown hazards. It is stated that India's nuclear safety record is good and the latest technologies are much more efficient and safe than in the past. We must remember then Japan's safety record is also equally good.

Prime minister Manmohan Singh has told parliament that a safety review of all Indian nuclear reactors has been ordered. He has assured the nation that all facilities are safe. This has been endorsed by the nuclear establishment also. While this may be so there should not be any complacency. India plans to buy 21 more reactors in the near future and expects to increase its nuclear power output exponentially. There is a strong economic logic and need for this. But it is all the more important to ensure that the reactors are most foolproof in every way.






Use of contaminated intravenous fluids has resulted in the death of 18 women over the past month in two government hospitals in Jodhpur. The victims had been put on drip post-delivery and they developed complications, which then led to their death.

Intravenous fluid samples taken from the hospitals have tested positive for bacterial endotoxins. Legal action is being taken against the Indore-based drug manufacturer, Parental Surgical (India) Ltd. Distribution of medicines by this manufacturer have been banned. Jodhpur's unfortunate experience is not an isolated one in India. There are innumerable instances of patients being administered contaminated blood, glucose and other intravenous fluids, or medicines that have crossed their expiry date. The repeated use of soiled bandages, disposable syringes and contaminated needles is widespread in the country. It has taken a ghastly tragedy to draw the attention of authorities to the problem. Will they act on it?

It is said that roughly 10 per cent of the medicines available in the market are counterfeit, contaminated or substandard. Profits are huge in the trade. This is a massive racket that involves not just illicit manufacturers but a long chain that includes distributors and then, of course, the shops and hospitals through which these spurious medicines are pushed. It is alleged that pharmacists selling counterfeit drugs profit from doing so. If manufactures are able to push their contaminated drugs easily, it is because hospital authorities are not vigilant. They prefer to purchase medicines from those who grease their palms rather than trusted manufacturers. The problem of contaminated medicines is not one that is confined to allopathic medicines. Testing of some samples of ayurvedic or homeopathic medicines has revealed presence of toxic metal.

Indian pharmaceutical companies export medicines to Africa and Latin America. Therefore, the manufacture of substandard drugs and contaminated fluids poses a grave public health threat that extends far beyond India's borders. Stern action against those responsible for Jodhpur tragedy is welcome. But it must not stop there. The government must act against other manufacturers of counterfeit and contaminated medicines. The crime they are engaging in is not a minor one. It cannot be brushed aside as mere negligence as they are causing the death of people. They cannot be allowed to play with people's lives. It is undermining the legitimacy of our medical system.






In the autumn of his career, Karunanidhi has become a political caricature, a leader who is seen to have put family before ideology.

On the night of the 2009 general election results, the irrepressible Suhel Seth, angry impresario for all seasons, described the DMK as 'Delhi Money for Karunanidhi.' Seth's propensity to spit out the outrageous has made him a great favourite on talk shows and the DMK remark appeared to strike a chord with the chattering classes.

 After being in power at the Centre for all but one of the last 15 years, the DMK seems to have been branded as a regional party that uses its clout in Delhi to build an election war-chest. Indeed, as the DMK faces a do or die battle in Tamil Nadu, the 2G scam has only heightened the party's image in the media as epitomising political corruption.

M Karunanidhi, the octogenarian patriarch of the DMK family, has been cast in the role of an ageing political godfather, someone who is attempting to ensure a successful transition to his next generation by parcelling the spoils of power between them. The children too are seen to be dividing the Dravida empire amongst themselves. Son and heir M K Stalin, controls Chennai; the other son M K Azhagiri is responsible for southern Tamil Nadu while English-speaking daughter Kanimozhi was seen as the party's youthful face in Delhi till the 2G scam hurt her credibility. Not to forget the urbane Dayanidhi Maran, who had established a reputation for being a savvy union minister.

It all has the makings of a perfect tightly-knit family business, like most regional parties in the country. Only the DMK is not just another regional force created around a personality cult like a Lalu Yadav's RJD or a Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress. This is a party whose roots lie in agitational politics, in principles of social justice, rationalism and equality that shaped the Justice Party and later the Self-Respect movement of the 1920s in Tamil Nadu.

Karunanidhi, or Kalaignar, which means connoisseur of literature, was part of this great tradition of reformist Tamil society. His film scripts and passionate prose reflected his political idealism, shaped by the idea of creating an egalitarian society. Movies on themes like widow remarriage and religious hypocrisy earned him a deserved reputation of being at the vanguard of social change. By spearheading the language agitation of the 1950s and 60s, by being jailed during the Emergency in 1975, Karunanidhi was seen as a politician of courage and principles.

Yet, today, in the autumn of a long and distinguished career in public life, Karunanidhi is being reduced to a political caricature, a leader who is seen to have put family before ideology. By insisting on prized portfolios for DMK ministers, by issuing periodic threats to withdraw support to the centre, by anointing his children in key posts, Karunanidhi has devalued the rich traditions of reformist zeal which once imbued his politics. Instead, he has allowed himself to become, like so many of his ilk, a dynastical politician who allows loyalty to his family to overwhelm all else.


It is indeed hard to believe that the benefits of the 2G scam were being monopolised by A Raja and friends without the knowledge of Karunanidhi, or that the money was not being transferred from Delhi to Chennai. Certainly, the manner in which he virtually held the UPA government to ransom in May 2009 while insisting that the telecom portfolio stay with the DMK is reason enough to believe that behind the muscle-flexing lay the desire to be part of the 2G loot. In parties like the DMK, an A Raja is only the trusted family retainer, the rules of  the game are set by the head of the family. Karunanidhi, whatever his compulsions, cannot escape responsibility for the actions of Raja.

Which is why logically the DMK should be heading for a resounding defeat in the forthcoming assembly elections in Tamil Nadu. Unfortunately, logic doesn't always fashion election results, and personal corruption need not always be an impediment in providing good governance, or determining voter preferences. In a recent survey of the comparative performances of different states on social and human development indicators, Tamil Nadu emerged as the overall number one state, a tribute to its legacy of progressive administration.

During the last elections, Karunanidhi made two major promises: Rs 2 rice under the public distribution system and a free colour television for every family which did not have one. By all accounts, both schemes have been highly successful. A colour television for free may be scoffed at by the elite, but its role in giving a poor family 'recreational' benefits cannot be minimised. Moreover, the DMK government's schemes like providing a maternity assistance of Rs 1,000 per month for six months and Rs 300 per month to unemployed youth amount to a direct cash transfer that bypasses bureaucratic procedures.

Which brings us to the larger question: can an efficient distribution of  public utilities make corruption irrelevant in the popular imagination? There is a precedent. The late Y S Rajasekhar Reddy and family were seen to have enriched themselves when he was Andhra chief minister, but through his pro-poor schemes that again involved direct cash transfers, he was successfully re-elected.

Will the YSR model work in Tamil Nadu, or will Karunanidhi be felled by the stench of  family corruption? In the answer to that question lies the future of not just the DMK, but even the UPA at the centre.

(The writer is editor in chief, IBN 18)








For many libraries, interest from patrons who want to check out e-books has been skyrocketing.
Imagine the perfect library book. Its pages don't tear. Its spine is unbreakable. It can be checked out from home. And it can never get lost. The value of this magically convenient library book — otherwise known as an e-book — is the subject of a fresh and furious debate in the publishing world. For years, public libraries building their e-book collections have typically done so with the agreement from publishers that once a library buys an e-book, it can lend it out, one reader at a time, an unlimited number of times.


Last week, that agreement was upended by HarperCollins Publishers when it began enforcing new restrictions on its e-books, requiring that books be checked out only 26 times before they expire. Assuming a two-week checkout period, that is long enough for a book to last at least one year.

What could have been a simple, barely noticed change in policy has galvanised librarians across the country, many of whom called the new rule unfair and vowed to boycott e-books from HarperCollins, the publisher of Doris Lessing, Sarah Palin and Joyce Carol Oates.

"People just felt gobsmacked," said Anne Silvers Lee, the chief of the materials management division of the Free Library of Philadelphia, which has temporarily stopped buying HarperCollins e-books. "We want e-books in our collections, our customers are telling us they want e-books, so I want to be able to get e-books from all the publishers. I also need to do it in a way that is not going to be exorbitantly expensive."

Public debate

But some librarians said the change, however unwelcome, had ignited a public conversation about e-books in libraries that was long overdue. While librarians are pushing for more e-books to satisfy demand from patrons, publishers, with an eye to their bottom lines, are reconsidering how much the access to their e-books should be worth.

"People are agitated for very good reasons," said Roberta Stevens, the president of the American Library Association. "Library budgets are, at best, stagnant. E-book usage has been surging. And the other part of it is that there is grave concern that this model would be used by other publishers."

Even in the retail marketplace, the question of how much an e-book can cost is far from settled. Publishers resisted the standard $9.99 price that Amazon once set on many e-books, and last spring, several major publishers moved to a model that allows them set their own prices.

This month, Random House, the lone holdout among the six biggest trade publishers, finally joined in switching to the agency model. Now many newly released books are priced from $12.99 to $14.99, while discounted titles are regularly as low as $2.99.
It is still a surprise to many consumers that e-books are available in libraries at all.
Particularly in the last several years, libraries have been expanding their e-book collections, often through OverDrive, a large provider of e-books to public libraries and schools. Nationwide, some 66 per cent of public libraries offer free e-books to their patrons.

For many libraries, interest from patrons who want to check out e-books has been skyrocketing. At the New York Public Library, e-book use is 36 per cent higher than it was only one year ago. Demand has been especially strong since December, several librarians said, because e-readers were popular holiday gifts.

"As our readership goes online, our materials dollars are going online," said Christopher Platt, the director of collections and circulating operations for the New York Public Library.

In borrowing terms, e-books have been treated much like print books. They are typically available to one user at a time, often for a seven- or 14-day period. But unlike print books, library users don't have to show up at the library to pick them up — e-books can be downloaded from home, onto mobile devices, personal computers and e-readers, including Nooks, Sony Readers, laptops and smartphones. After the designated checkout period, the e-book automatically expires from the borrower's account.

The ease with which e-books can be borrowed from libraries makes some publishers uncomfortable. Simon & Schuster and Macmillan, two of the largest trade publishers in the United States, do not make their e-books available to libraries at all.

"We are working diligently to try to find terms that satisfy the needs of the libraries and protect the value of our intellectual property," said John Sargent, chief executive of Macmillan. "When we determine those terms, we will sell e-books to libraries. At present we do not."

And those publishers that do make their e-books available in libraries said that the current pricing agreements might need to be updated. Random House has no immediate plans to change the terms of its agreements with libraries, said Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for the publisher, but has not ruled it out in the future.







Even after 30 years, the cassette is as good as it was when we bought it.

Just the other day, my brother called from Mangalore, to find out if I had brought that cassette containing our favourite number of yesteryears, 'Funky Town.' I said, "Of course, I have. I had listened to the cassette, may be 2-3 years ago. Lemme once again check today, if it is in working condition." That cassette is like a treasure for us and my brother was intended to be turned into a CD.

While playing the song in my pet all-in-one Aiwa music system, memories went back to the early 80s when we were residing at Vittla, a small town, 40 km from Mangalore.

Those were the days when we used to enjoy each and every good humming song, understanding the lyrics or language not being a barrier at all. Whether it was Rajkumar's melodious duets with S Janaki or Jesudas' devotional songs or lovely tracks from BoneyM or Donna Summer or 'Yennadi Meenakshi' from Tamil, each song was something unique to us.

When Ilayaraja, the great music director from South, gave music to Shankar Nag's magnum 'Geetha,' he tried various permutations and combinations to provide us several musical hits including the lovely track, 'Joteyali, Jote Joteyali...'  Recently I heard similar rhyming song in Hindi, 'Jane do na, Jane jane do na...'

I once again switched on my Aiwa and eagerly waited for the turn of the song of 'Funky Town' by Lipps Inc in the cassette. Even after 30 years, the cassette is as good as it was when we bought it. The song brings all those memories which are still fresh, like the fresh air in the evergreen Western Ghats. Then we used to get up at 6 o'clock just to listen to that song which used to be aired between 6 am and 6.30 am from a particular radio station. It was like Suprabhata for us to begin the day on a high note. Also, in the evenings we used to take such cassettes to a hotel and give them to the hotel owner requesting him to play them.  With a smile on his face, he used to love to play them for us in his tape recorder placed near the cash table.

We had absolutely no responsibilities, then. Just completing our graduation and catch hold of some jobs. No great expectations from anybody from any quarters. Then we had the broad shoulders of our parents, who were all supporting us for whatever we did.  Now, again when the beats of that song comes out of the speaker, memories galore, flashback continues. Only difference is, now we have more responsibilities or on second thoughts, is it only a feeling of having more responsibilities?

Well, let me get back to 'Funky Town.' It is for sure that, I rate this as one of my top 10 all time favourite numbers alongside BoneyM's 'By the rivers of Babylon', or 'Ra Ra Rasputin lover of the Russian queen' or Michael Jackson's 'Just beat it'. Memories linger in our minds just as the 'dream girl' of yesteryears still hogging the limelight even in her 60s after re-entering the Rajya Sabha.







The cabinet will soon be asked to approve the appointment of a new antitrust commissioner, who will be nominated by Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon. This is a key post that affects the quality of life of every Israeli as well as economic growth. The antitrust commissioner is responsible for promoting competition in the economy - something the government has said it favors - in order to ensure rapid growth that will benefit the entire population.

Today, the economy suffers from excessive market concentration: Eight tycoons hold about NIS 1 trillion of the public's total financial assets. This gives them enormous power, including the ability to give jobs and consultancies to thousands of people - politicians, lawyers, accountants, regulators and journalists - and, in this way, to undermine democracy. The tycoons also tend to become the cronies of serving politicians, which enables them to press for legislation that suits their interests - and theirs alone.

Increased competition would weaken the tycoons, strengthen small and medium-sized businesses - which in turn would create jobs - and make the distribution of wealth in this country more equitable. In a competitive economy, businesses spring up rapidly and supply goods, services and lower prices to consumers.

The antitrust commissioner has the ability to halt the accumulation of power in the hands of tycoons - a trend which undermines competition. That is why these tycoons want a weak commissioner, who will enable them to amass even more power. Some are now pressuring senior government officials to appoint this sort of candidate for the job.

Israel is experiencing worrying declines in many areas, including education, social gaps and competitiveness. The government knows this and is trying to reverse the trend. It took one major and praiseworthy step when it set up a committee on promoting competition. Now it must rise above the tycoons' pressure, demonstrate responsibility and appoint a commissioner in line with its own views.

Simhon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must choose someone with a strong character, expertise in competition and the will and ability to take on the economy's most powerful organizations. The right candidate must believe with all his heart that excessive market concentration undermines competition, and that therefore, the power of the big conglomerates must be restricted for the sake of rapid growth and decent service to customers.







TOKYO - A red statue was lying smashed this week in the living room of a wooden house whose walls had been ripped asunder in a Japanese resort village on the Pacific shore. It was the statue of a man wearing a suit and tie; his head had been torn off and was lying alongside him. That was one of the strongest images I'll take back from this horrific journey in the land of destruction, Japan. The well-designed living room, the statue, the architecturally attractive home, the electronic equipment - all were in smithereens after the tsunami. Like all of Japan.

On Monday I saw the backyard of the great economic wonder - miserable fishermen's huts, rag-clad old people dragging along their meager possessions in plastic bags to the piles that had accumulated outside their homes, forlorn bed-and-breakfasts where people had once spent vacations, dingy workers' eateries, Indonesian fishermen who serve as cheap labor. And above all, masses of people without hope. No one other than their neighbors and family had come to help; no one could come because of the disaster's terrifying scale. I went inside the homes of poor people and gazed at the worn-out rags and tatters - scenes of Jabalya refugee camp in Japan. Even without the tragedy these were pictures from the developing world.

This is my first lesson from there: Behind Tokyo's sparkling office towers, behind Asia's first flourishing tiger with its Nike, Sony, Toyota, Canon and Nissan, hides a completely different picture. There are poor and homeless Japanese in Tokyo, and wretched fishermen elsewhere. Not far from a fishing village I visited, some of whose homes were wiped off the face of the earth, the wind turbines, those symbols of Japan's progress, continued turning in ironic fashion. They had not been of help to the mackerel fishermen who were rummaging through the rubble of their homes.

The progress had been to no avail; it merely strew nuclear fallout around. The innovations in science and electronics in the land of the rising sun, the order, discipline and cleanliness all were dwarfed, reduced to nothing, destroyed and rendered helpless during that one minute in which the earth trembled on that black Friday at 2:46 P.M.

Where are technology and progress when we need them most? It's true that a disaster of this magnitude would have ended even worse in most other countries. It's also true that Japan will once again find its feet. But this tsunami didn't just sweep across the homes of fishermen. It swept away the saccharine illusion that nothing bad can happen, that technology and economic prosperity are a guarantee of a better future, that bad things won't happen to them. One clear day, an economic powerhouse suddenly turned into a country with empty shelves in the supermarkets, lines for gasoline, electricity outages as in Gaza, and huge plants that aren't working. In one fell swoop it turned into a defeated country.

As I write these lines, it's still not clear whether Fukushima will become Hiroshima. But what has already happened suffices. A nation that uses ridiculous cloth masks to prevent allergies in the spring, that forbids smoking in the street, that has built special paths for blind people on the sidewalks of its metropolis, the most populated city in the world that has provided generous help to countries in need, that has brought us the plasma screen, fast trains and the most popular cars, everything more Japanese than the Japanese, everything produced by the Einsteins of Japan, could become the victim of a nuclear disaster. The power of yesterday became, in one moment, the destitute of tomorrow.

It will be years until Japan returns to its former self. The extent of the damage, which is already estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars, is not yet apparent - far from it - and perhaps the worst tragedy of all is still ahead. Japan will be sure to learn at least some of the lessons: This may be the end of its nuclear power stations.

Perhaps the rest of the world, too, will learn a lesson or two. But it will soon go back to its regular activities, to the race for nuclear supremacy, to the intoxication of technology, to the magic of riches and prosperity, both real and imagined. And only the widow of a fisherman I met this week will remain sobbing in the ruins of her life while no one can help her.






The mobilization of the Israeli public behind the "Five Minutes for Gilad Shalit" campaign should raise grave concerns for the Shalit family, and in fact, for family members of all soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces. It was virtually the final validation of the process of mystification that has surrounded the captivity of this soldier - a soldier no Israeli government has tried hard enough to get released.

The state president said, "We shall not relax our efforts." The slogans on the banners of the demonstrators read, "We shall not stop." But there is nothing that demonstrates just how much we have stopped and how much we have let ourselves relax than those minutes in which, just as on memorial days, every one stopped their daily business and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of one of the most powerful parties in government, led a prayer for Shalit's release.

In fact, standing still on behalf of Shalit has the exact opposite objective the minutes of silence we observe each year to memorialize the country's fallen and victims of the Holocaust. In those minutes of silence, the objective is to recall the terrible loss and to instill in each of us, collectively and personally, a sense of commitment to prevent a recurrence of such events. In the case of Shalit, standing still represents precisely the opposite - a sense of helplessness.

It was no coincidence that the citizens who paid tribute to Shalit were joined by Knesset members and cabinet ministers, those very same people whose job is to make policy and carry out policy. It is no coincidence, because the Knesset and the government are those who are behind the clear message about Shalit. It is a message of love and embraces, of bowed heads (or rolling eyes, depending on the political style ) and saying that "there's nothing to be done, it doesn't depend on us."

Helplessness often finds expression, in this case as well, in processes of mystification. In the past two or three years, many Israeli families have been leaving an empty chair next to the one awaiting Elijah the Prophet, for Gilad Shalit, at their Passover seder tables. There are many Israelis, in the media as well, who when speaking of Shalit use his first name. This is an intimate form of address that indicates a direct closeness felt by a public that believes in a mystical identity, as if the captured soldier were a biblical figure or a Christian saint.

Memorial ceremonies for a living soldier, for a real person, deliver him, his captors and rescue efforts on his behalf to the realm of the mystical world. And thus, through mystification, we push Shalit's fate out of the hands of the corporeal world, that world where decisions have to be made about policies and policies have to be carried out.

The Israeli government, which is the elected representative of the Israeli public, has full responsibility for bringing Shalit home. The mystification of his captivity is a public act that casts off this responsibility. It takes our sovereignty over our fate and our way of life out of our hands and transfers it, voluntarily and wholeheartedly, to the sovereignty of another world, one that is sublime and awesome, in which the rules of the game are bigger than we. In this act of casting things away, we do not merely lift off our shoulders the personal and public responsibility for Shalit's fate but also the understanding that the rules of the game in the Middle East are determined by us. By us, and not by some other, non-human entity, be it sublime or monstrous.






On quite a few occasions this week, my mobile phone vibrated with text messages from the settlers' lobby, Yesha. Once it was a quote from Minister Gideon Sa'ar (we must resume construction in Judea and Samaria ). Another time it was a quote from Minister Gilad Erdan (stop holding up the construction tenders in Judea and Samaria ). The third time it was a quote from MK Zeev Elkin (it's time to build cities in Judea and Samaria ). The fourth time it was a quote from MK Yariv Levin (I demand the cabinet and Minister Barak approve construction in Judea and Samaria cities at once! ). The fifth time it was a quote from Minister Moshe Ya'alon (out of the mourning we must build and develop the settlements in Judea and Samaria ).

At first I thought all these texts were a Purim prank. After all, it's inconceivable that intelligent people like Sa'ar, Erdan and Ya'alon still don't understand what a disaster the settlements have brought upon us. It's unthinkable that the sensible manager of the settlers' council still doesn't understand what a disaster additional construction in the settlements will bring upon us. It's not possible that the settlers are still such space cadets.

But after six-seven texts, I realized it was no prank and no Purim. Those detached souls are really out of it. These delusionals are totally delusionary. The right has learned nothing and forgotten nothing, and continues to live in a parallel universe. There is no way out, then. A counter text must be sent to these guys from the right wing. Here is the text:

The settlers are like the nuclear power station in Fukushima - a grandly built project of huge proportions, which was set up in the wrong place on the basis of false assumptions. The builders of the Japanese power station didn't take into account that one day the earth would quake and register a 9.0 magnitude on the Richter scale. Nor did the settlement builders. The Japanese power station builders didn't take into account that one day the tsunami would strike it. Nor did the settlements' builders. But both there and here the earth shook. The tsunami struck. The Fukushima power station turned into a nightmare; so did the settlements project.

The truth must be told: It was not the settlements that caused the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and stopping them will not end the conflict. But the settlements are escalating the conflict, and continuing construction in the settlements will cause Israel to lose it. So the settlements must be stopped not only for peace, but for national security. To ensure Israel's future and to save Zionism.

The moral issue can be debated. The left will say the settlements are expressly immoral, and the right will say the settlements are supremely moral. But the realpolitik issue cannot be disputed. The settlers have won the campaign on the hills but lost the campaign in the world. For that reason, the settlements today are beyond the legitimate international fence. And they are putting Israel beyond the legitimate international fence.

The radioactive cloud of illegitimacy rising from the settlements is moving toward Israel and endangering its existence.

When the Fukushima power station was build in the '70s, it was possible to hope that it would endure any earthquake and any surging wave. When the settlements were built in the '70s and '80s, it was possible to hope they would endure any political storm. Today it is clear that both hopes have been shattered. The Japanese power company's basic assumptions and those of Gush Emunim (a messianic movement advocating Israeli sovereignty in the territories ) were found to be groundless. They led to building tremendous energy generators on the most dangerous fraction line possible.

It is inconceivable that after what has happened, the Japanese would set up a seventh and eighth reactor on the beach. It is inconceivable that after what has been discovered, the Israelis would set up more settlements on the mountain. The future is staring at us in the face - a massive project built 40 years ago is threatening the state that built it.

The radiation emanating from it is lethal. Enough with the texts, guys. Enough with floating out there in space. It's time to cool down the settlements, extinguish them and look for alternative energy sources. It's time to go back home.






Despite the fact that it has been going on for years, incitement was never a key item on the cabinet's agenda prior to this week. The media, too, with characteristic Israeli restraint, discuss it only when forced. Like this week.

Military Intelligence once prepared a document for the media containing a collection of inflammatory statements and actions - including direct orders to carry out terror attacks - by Yasser Arafat. But Yitzhak Rabin's government - at a time when buses were being blown up - ordered that it be shelved. And the media, in defiance of normal journalistic urges, was happy.

Even when film clips were circulated openly, like the tape in which Arafat promised to launch a jihad once he succeeded in getting his Tunis Brigades back into Palestine, the Israeli media refused to broadcast his remarks. At that time, the Internet was not a viable alternative.

The media's professional obligation is to report on incitement. Instead, they ignore it. And, even worse, they whitewash it.

The journalistic vacuum has been filled by a nonprofit organization, Palestinian Media Watch, which shines a light on inflammatory material broadcast or printed in the Palestinian media.

And the Palestinian media, let us not forget, receive direction and guidance from their government, just as the media in other Arab and Muslim countries do.

But there is scarcely a media outlet in Israel that makes significant use of the video clips and press clippings that PMW distributes. After all, incitement contradicts the message that the media want to send about the Palestinians. If they do mention the organization, or others like it, it's only to stress how "right-wing" they are. Conceal the truth, their motto goes, so as to couch themselves in the "peace camp."

But it is precisely those who believe that peace is possible and that the Palestinians are partners who ought to be the first to tell the truth about the incitement and to rebuke their partners. For by ignoring it - or, even worse, by deliberately concealing the truth - they are undermining their own credibility, and above all, their own ideals.

After all, the public will eventually learn the truth, especially in the Internet era. Yet their powers of denial - or, more accurately, deceit - are infinite.

It's not possible to prove a direct connection between the massacre in Itamar and the daily incitement. The roots run much deeper than that. For years, entire villages were wiped out in Algeria - the death toll ran to over 300,000 - and thousands of babies had their throats slit. In Darfur, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Islamic world, people have similarly been killed in all kinds of sadistic ways. Palestinian incitement is an expression of this murderous tendency, not its cause.

Local and foreign human rights organizations, which are waging a worldwide propaganda campaign against Israel over every uprooted tree in the vicinity of Yitzhar, rarely discuss the atrocities committed throughout the Islamic world and report on them very sparingly. These atrocities don't fit the reigning political correctness, both in Israel and abroad, regarding Arab and Muslim murderousness.

Even the most basic journalistic urges aroused by the murder of a tiny infant are suppressed for the sake of upholding the last remnants of that delusional idee fixe, and in the (justified ) hope that the public's attention will be diverted from the political and moral significance of the murder to more recent events.

The massacre in Itamar cannot be denied, but it is eminently possible to downplay its importance, or to argue (gently, gently ) that the victims brought it on themselves. Even as the bodies were still lying in their pools of blood, the propaganda machine had already begun casting the blame on the victims' surroundings. How perverted. How utterly vile. Heaven, beg mercy for them.


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



More than two months after the killings in Tucson, Ariz., and some 2,400 American gun deaths later, President Obama has finally broken his silence on gun violence.

In an op-ed article on Sunday in The Arizona Daily Star, Mr. Obama called on gun control and gun rights advocates to set aside their broader differences for now and support a worthwhile goal: fixing gaps in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System so that it would be harder for dangerous people to buy weapons.

His starting point was the "clear and terrible fact" that the Tucson shooter — a man rejected as unfit by the Army, deemed too unstable for college and thought to be inclined to violence by neighbors and school officials — was, nevertheless, "able to walk into a store and buy a gun."

Mr. Obama said many state records on disqualifying involuntary commitments or criminal records are not being submitted to the federal background check system. He stressed the need for an "instant, accurate, comprehensive" system devoid of loopholes that allow dangerous people to avoid background checks altogether. He was alluding to the perilous exception for private sales by unlicensed sellers, including at gun shows.

"If we're serious about keeping guns away from someone who's made up his mind to kill, then we can't allow a situation where a responsible seller denies him a weapon at one store, but he effortlessly buys the same gun someplace else," the president wrote.

It was a promising start toward a sensible discussion of gun violence, even though the president stopped short of offering a specific legislative proposal or endorsing one already in the Congressional hopper. His to-do list omitted banning the big volume ammunition magazines that figured in the Tucson massacre and a long line of other mass shootings. The magazines have no defensible use outside of combat and law enforcement.

Mr. Obama owes the country muscular White House leadership to make sure his reforms happen.

Over the next two weeks, the Justice Department is planning to meet with people on different sides of the gun safety issue to seek consensus on possible legislative and administrative steps. A good starting point for those discussions is a new measure sponsored in Congress by two New York Democrats, Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Carolyn McCarthy.

The legislation would withhold federal money from states that don't submit the required reports to the national database that determines whether a would-be gun buyer is legally prohibited from purchasing a weapon. It would also close the gun show loophole.

The National Rifle Association, to its lingering shame but to no one's surprise, declined the administration's invitation to talk — a sign of real disrespect for a president who has actually expanded gun rights. It also shows disdain for the well-being and safety of the public.





A recent Congressional hearing and the poignant testimony of an unexpected victim — Mickey Rooney — have helped focus new attention on the abuse and exploitation of old people. Congress should seize the moment to help repair their threadbare web of protection.

The hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, as well as several recent studies, make clear that elder abuse is a growing problem that far outmatches the resources available to fight it.

One national study estimated that in the last year 14 percent of older adults had been neglected, abused or exploited. The numbers could be far higher since the sample did not include people living in institutions or those with significant mental impairments. A 2009 study on financial exploitation estimated that elderly victims lost at least $2.6 billion a year to fraud and abuse.

The loss of power and the isolation that come with age and infirmity make elders particularly vulnerable to abuse from unscrupulous caregivers but also, chillingly, from unscrupulous family members. "I felt trapped, scared, used and frustrated," Mr. Rooney told the committee, saying he had been defrauded by "someone close." "But, above all, I felt helpless."

The cost, on top of the human suffering, is immense: in stolen and squandered savings; the strain on the court system from abusive guardianships; the cost to Medicare and Medicaid from fraud; and from the care of fleeced victims who end up destitute in nursing homes.

The solutions begin with filling the gaps in data collection and services. The Government Accountability Office found that in 25 of 39 states surveyed, financing for adult protective services had fallen or flat-lined in the last five years. Case workers are poorly trained and overwhelmed. The study also found that federal programs to fight abuse are scattered ineffectively across the Department of Health and Human Services. The report urged the department to create a resource center to collect and share abuse data among the states.

Only with coordinated efforts — like those urged by the offices and agencies created years ago to advocate for children and victims of domestic violence — will real progress be made. The committee's chairman, Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, is sponsoring a bill to create an office of elder justice, in the Justice Department, to tighten reporting standards and definitions of elder abuse and to help states investigate cases and impose stricter protections for victims. Congress should pass it.






Here is the latest example of House Republicans pursuing a longstanding ideological goal in the false name of fiscal prudence: On Thursday, they have scheduled a vote to kill federal support for National Public Radio.

The bill, sponsored by Representative Doug Lambon, a three-term Republican from Colorado, would block all taxpayer dollars that NPR might receive, starting with any of the money given to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Local stations could not buy programming from NPR — such as "Morning Edition" or "All Things Considered" — or any other source using the $22 million or so that they get from the Treasury for that purpose. It would not actually save any federal money; it would simply make sure that none of those dollars go to NPR.

"I wish only the best for NPR," said Mr. Lamborn, unpersuasively. He said he simply wants NPR to survive "without the crutch of government subsidies."

This is not a serious bill. Unattached to a budget measure, it will never survive the Senate or a presidential veto. It is designed simply to send a punitive message to a news organization that conservatives have long considered a liberal bastion. The politicized criticism amped up last week when a fund-raiser for the organization was secretly recorded calling the Tea Party a racist organization and criticizing Republicans.

NPR has had its share of management snafus, including the clumsy firing last fall of Juan Williams, a commentator who made ill-advised remarks about Muslims. Last week, its chief executive, Vivian Schiller, was forced to resign after the recording incident. But it remains a vital news organization for millions of Americans who can no longer find in-depth reporting on the airwaves. A recent study found that NPR was the only broadcast news outlet with a growing audience last year.

Even conservatives — an "awful lot of them" — listen to NPR, said Senator Saxby Chambliss, a Republican of Georgia, in a recent interview. He said it would be unwise to eliminate their federal funds.

NPR gets only about 2 percent of its budget directly from the federal government, though other taxpayer dollars flow in through Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants and dues and payments from member stations. Cutting off that flow would have no effect on the deficit, but it would allow certain House members to pretend for the folks back home that they struck a blow for liberty. The folks back home may hear about that vote on NPR, and they may not be pleased.





This is the time of year when the paved surfaces upstate tear themselves apart. It is the work of the very thing we've all been hoping for: a thaw. The days are warm, but the nights can still freeze, the sap flows and the roadways undulate like the imaginary sandworm, expanding and contracting.

"Bump," says the road sign, and, indeed, there was a bump here two days ago. Now there isn't. It has migrated 200 yards down the highway — long after you've stopped tensing for the jolt — and is now a bone-jarring depression half-a-tire deep. Up the road, and this is a major thoroughfare, the asphalt is coming away from the understructure of a bridge. It produces not a bump but a curt steel curb running across both lanes, a jawbreaker. As for the local roads, they ride like stiff chop on a macadamized sea.

Frost heaves, the technical name for roads that go bump in the night, are a sure precursor of spring. The real sign of spring — if we're lucky — is a worker shoveling loose asphalt into a crevasse that wasn't there the day before. Something in the smell of hot tar says warmer days ahead.

The snow cover had been so deep and steady, upstate excavators say, that there wasn't much frost in the ground until after the recent melt carried the snow away. On a cold night now, the ground tenses, carrying stones to the surface and buckling roads. We think of it as the giant, Winter, writhing and stretching, preparing to leave the soil for the next nine months until it's time to enter the earth again.






It is heartbreaking to see a renegade country like Libya shoot pro-democracy protesters. But it's even more wrenching to watch America's ally, Bahrain, pull a Qaddafi and use American tanks, guns and tear gas as well as foreign mercenaries to crush a pro-democracy movement — as we stay mostly silent.

In Bahrain in recent weeks, I've seen corpses of protesters who were shot at close range, seen a teenage girl writhing in pain after being clubbed, seen ambulance workers beaten for trying to rescue protesters — and in the last few days it has gotten much worse. Saudi Arabia, in a slap at American efforts to defuse the crisis, dispatched troops to Bahrain to help crush the protesters. The result is five more deaths, by the count of The Associated Press.

One video from Bahrain appears to show security forces shooting an unarmed middle-aged man in the chest with a tear gas canister at a range of a few feet. The man collapses and struggles to get up. And then they shoot him with a canister in the head. Amazingly, he survived.

Today the United States is in a vise — caught between our allies and our values. And the problem with our pal Bahrain is not just that it is shooting protesters but also that it is something like an apartheid state. Sunni Muslims rule the country, and now they are systematically trying to crush an overwhelmingly Shiite protest movement.

My New York Times colleague Michael Slackman was caught by Bahrain security forces a few weeks ago. He said that they pointed shotguns at him and that he was afraid they were about to shoot when he pulled out his passport and shouted that he was an American journalist. Then, he says, the mood changed abruptly and the leader of the group came over and took Mr. Slackman's hand, saying warmly: "Don't worry! We love Americans!"

"We're not after you. We're after Shia," the policeman added. Mr. Slackman recalls: "It sounded like they were hunting rats."

All this is tragic because the ruling al-Khalifa family can be justly proud of what it has built in Bahrain, including a prosperous and dynamic society, a highly educated work force and a society in which women are far better off than next door in Saudi Arabia. On a good day, Bahrain feels like an oasis of moderation in a tough region.

Yet you can parachute blindfolded into almost any neighborhood in Bahrain and tell immediately whether it is Sunni or Shiite. The former enjoy better roads and public services. And it's almost impossible for Shiites to be hired by the army or police. Doesn't that sound like an echo of apartheid?

It is true that Bahrain's protesters have behaved in ways that have undermined their cause. They frequently chant "Death to al-Khalifa" — a toxic slogan that should offend everyone. And some protesters have targeted Pakistanis and other South Asians who often work for security services.

This slide toward radicalization and violence was unnecessary. The king could have met some of the protesters' demands — such as fire the prime minister and move to a Jordanian- or Moroccan-style constitutional monarchy. Most protesters would have accepted such a compromise. Instead, the royal family talked about dialogue but didn't make meaningful concessions, and the security forces remain almost as brutal as any in the region.

I wrote a few weeks ago about a distinguished plastic surgeon, Sadiq al-Ekri, who had been bludgeoned by security forces. At the time, I couldn't interview Dr. Ekri because he was unconscious. But I later returned and was able to talk to him, and his story offers a glimpse into Bahrain's tragedy.

Dr. Ekri is a moderate Shiite who said his best friend is a Sunni. Indeed, Dr. Ekri recently took several weeks off work to escort this friend to Houston for medical treatment. When Bahrain's security forces attacked protesters, Dr. Ekri tried to help the injured. He said he was trying to rescue a baby abandoned in the melee when police handcuffed him. Even after they knew his identity, he said they clubbed him so hard that they broke his nose. Then, he said, they pulled down his pants and threatened to rape him — all while cursing Shiites.

The Arab democracy spring that begun with such exhilaration in Tunisia and Egypt is now enduring a brutal winter in Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The United States bases the Navy's Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, and we have close relations with the Bahraini government. We're not going to pull out our naval base.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton rightly deplored the violence in Bahrain, and the administration as a whole should speak out forcefully. If the brave women and men demanding democracy in Bahrain  have the courage to speak out, we should do so as well.

Gail Collins is off today.







JAPANESE people are accustomed to earthquakes. I myself have experienced many since childhood. So I remained calm when the shaking started on the sixth floor of an old multipurpose building in central Tokyo. I only thought, "This is bigger than normal." But the shaking didn't stop and the swaying grew more severe. I rushed down a narrow staircase through a cloud of dust. When I turned around at the exit, the whole building was leaning sideways — it was shaking so hard that it almost hit the next building. A voiceless cry emanated from the crowd gathering on the street.

Through messages on Twitter, I learned that the epicenter was up north. One after another, the whereabouts of Twitter users whose faces or names I didn't know became clear, but I couldn't even reach my own wife.

From the quakes to the tsunami to the accidents at the nuclear power plants, we all know the chain of events now. And though concrete predictions and assessments will have to wait, there is one thing that can be said on the sixth day since the quake: the Japanese people have begun to see their nation in a more positive light than they have in at least 20 or 30 years.

The Japanese are an unfortunate people who have rarely felt pride in their country or government since the defeat in World War II. This has been particularly true in the last 20 years, during the prolonged recession after our economic bubble burst. Prime ministers have changed many times; policies have stalled; and political cynicism abounds. In fact, after the Kobe earthquake in 1995, the government response was so incompetent that it received strong criticism from the people.

But this time, the situation is different. Of course, the mass media is relentlessly questioning the government and the electric corporations for the handling of the nuclear accidents and the blackouts. On the other hand, the voices of support for them are quite strong. Yukio Edano, the chief cabinet secretary and the spokesman for the rescue efforts, has become an Internet hero, and rescue efforts by the Self-Defense Forces are praised.

I have never seen Japanese people thinking about and discussing "the public" this much. Only recently the Japanese people and the government were seen as indecisive and selfish, muddled with complaints and bickering. But now, they are boldly trying to defend the nation together, as if they are a changed people. To borrow an expression from the younger generation here, the Japanese people seem to have completely transformed their kyara (character).

Oddly enough, the Japanese are proud to be Japanese now. Of course, it may be argued that this new kyara is not so welcome, as it will likely lead to nationalism. I am seeing such concerns already surfacing on the Web. Nonetheless, I wish to see a ray of hope in this phenomenon.

Prior to the quake, Japan was a timid nation worrying about its eventual decline. People expected nothing from the nation, and the mutual help across generations and the trust in local communities was beginning to crumble.

But maybe the Japanese people could use the experience of this catastrophe to rebuild a society bound together with a renewed trust. While many will revert to their indecisive selves, the experience of discovering our own public-minded, patriotic selves that had been paralyzed within a pernicious cynicism is not likely to fade away.

I hear that the foreign media has been reporting with amazement the calmness and moral behavior of the Japanese faced with the disaster. But actually this was a surprise to the Japanese themselves. "Yeah, we can do it if we put our minds to it." "We aren't so bad as a whole nation after all." This is what many Japanese people have been feeling in the last several days, with some embarrassment.

How far can we extend this emotion, temporally and socially? On this question depends the success of the recovery, not just from the current calamity, but also from the prolonged stagnation and despair of the last two decades.

Hiroki Azuma, a professor at Waseda University, is the author of "Otaku: Japan's Database Animals." This article was translated by Shion Kono and Jonathan E. Abel from the Japanese.






Yokohama, Japan

SET out from my home in the port city of Yokohama early in the I  afternoon last Friday, and shortly before 3 p.m. I checked into my hotel in the Shinjuku neighborhood of Tokyo. I usually spend three or four days a week there to write, gather material and take care of other business.

The earthquake hit just as I entered my room. Thinking I might end up trapped beneath rubble, I grabbed a container of water, a carton of cookies and a bottle of brandy and dived beneath the sturdily built writing desk. Now that I think about it, I don't suppose there would have been time to savor a last taste of brandy if the 30-story hotel had fallen down around me. But taking even this much of a countermeasure kept sheer panic at bay.

Before long an emergency announcement came over the P.A. system: "This hotel is constructed to be absolutely earthquake-proof. There is no danger of the building collapsing. Please do not attempt to leave the hotel." This was repeated several times. At first I wondered if it was true. Wasn't the management merely trying to keep people calm?

And it was then that, without really thinking about it, I adopted my fundamental stance toward this disaster: For the present, at least, I would trust the words of people and organizations with better information and more knowledge of the situation than I. I decided to believe the building wouldn't fall. And it didn't.

The Japanese are often said to abide faithfully by the rules of the "group" and to be adept at forming cooperative systems in the face of great adversity. That would be hard to deny today. Valiant rescue and relief efforts continue nonstop, and no looting has been reported.

Away from the eyes of the group, however, we also have a tendency to behave egoistically — almost as if in rebellion. And we are experiencing that too: Necessities like rice and water and bread have disappeared from supermarkets and convenience stores. Gas stations are out of fuel. There is panic buying and hoarding. Loyalty to the group is being tested.

At present, though, our greatest concern is the crisis at the nuclear reactors in Fukushima. There is a mass of confused and conflicting information. Some say the situation is worse than Three Mile Island, but not as bad as Chernobyl; others say that winds carrying radioactive iodine are headed for Tokyo, and that everyone should remain indoors and eat lots of kelp, which contains plenty of safe iodine, which helps prevent the absorbtion of the radioactive element. An American friend advised me to flee to western Japan.

Some people are leaving Tokyo, but most remain. "I have to work," some say. "I have my friends here, and my pets." Others reason, "Even if it becomes a Chernobyl-class catastrophe, Fukushima is 170 miles from Tokyo."

My parents are in western Japan, in Kyushu, but I don't plan to flee there. I want to remain here, side by side with my family and friends and all the victims of the disaster. I want to somehow lend them courage, just as they are lending courage to me.

And, for now, I want to continue the stance I took in my hotel room: I will trust the words of better-informed people and organizations, especially scientists, doctors and engineers whom I read online. Their opinions and judgments do not receive wide news coverage. But the information is objective and accurate, and I trust it more than anything else I hear.

Ten years ago I wrote a novel in which a middle-school student, delivering a speech before Parliament, says: "This country has everything. You can find whatever you want here. The only thing you can't find is hope."

One might say the opposite today: evacuation centers are facing serious shortages of food, water and medicine; there are shortages of goods and power in the Tokyo area as well. Our way of life is threatened, and the government and utility companies have not responded adequately.

But for all we've lost, hope is in fact one thing we Japanese have regained. The great earthquake and tsunami have robbed us of many lives and resources. But we who were so intoxicated with our own prosperity have once again planted the seed of hope. So I choose to believe.

Ryu Murakami is the author of "Popular Hits of the Showa Era." This article was translated by Ralph F. McCarthy from the Japanese.






Biddeford, Me.

THE fight is not over. Whether or not Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi defeats the rebels in eastern Libya, any legitimacy he once had has been extinguished. He has weapons, tanks and planes, but he has lost the allegiance of even those elements of Libyan society that had once been willing to wait and hope for political reform. His base of support is now only diehard allies and foreign mercenaries. They might win on the battlefield, but they will lose in the end.

The uprisings in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt were precipitating events, but the resistance has drawn its core motivation from Libya's brutal experience of colonialism. What is most striking about the rhetoric of the rebellion is how the anticolonialist theme that Colonel Qaddafi once deployed has now been turned against him and is being used on Twitter and Facebook. Even as they are assaulted by Colonel Qaddafi's forces, the rebels have resisted calling for forceful Western intervention, though they support the imposition of a no-flight zone.

Libya's history explains why. From 1911 to 1943, half a million Libyans died under Italian rule, including 60,000 in concentration camps run by the fascists. Colonel Qaddafi's nationalist populism is rooted in the traumas of the colonial era, which were papered over during the modernizing but out-of-touch monarchy that ruled from 1951 to 1969.

The regime that came into existence in a bloodless coup in 1969 was led by officers who came from lower-middle-class backgrounds, represented all three regions of Libya and had the backing of a population that was largely rural. Although it was anticolonialist and anticommunist and advocated Arab nationalism and Islamic cultural identity, the new government did not have a clearly delineated political agenda; instead it looked for guidance from the 1952 Egyptian revolution. To this ideological mix the Qaddafi faction, which consolidated power in 1976, added its vision of an indigenous, pastoral, socialist society supported by oil revenues and the labor of workers from abroad.

Western analysts focused on the leader's cult of personality and eccentric style have often misinterpreted his regime as a historical aberration. In fact, it was rooted in the hinterland of south-central Libya, with its pan-Islamic culture, kinship networks, fear of the central state and mistrust of the West. Colonel Qaddafi transformed anticolonialism and Libyan nationalism into a revolutionary ideology, using language understood by ordinary Libyans. He employed his charisma to mobilize Libyans and attack his opponents. He spoke, ate and dressed like a rural tribesman.

But "tribalism," so frequently mentioned in coverage of the revolt, is not a timeless feature of Libyan society. It was merely one facet of Colonel Qaddafi's divide-and-conquer style of rule. To weaken opposition from students, intellectuals and the middle class, the regime pursued a policy of "Bedouinization," attacking urban culture; promoting rural dress, music, festivals and rituals; and reviving institutions like tribal leadership councils. Tripoli, the capital, lost much of its cosmopolitan character even as it grew.

In its first two decades, the revolution brought many benefits to ordinary Libyans: widespread literacy, free medical care and education, and improvements in living conditions. Women in particular benefited, becoming ministers, ambassadors, pilots, judges and doctors. The government got wide support from the lower and middle classes.

But starting in the 1980s, excessive centralization, greater repression by security forces and a decline in the rule of law undermined the experiment in indigenous populism. Institutions like courts, universities, unions and hospitals weakened. Civic associations that had made Libyan society seem more democratic than many Persian Gulf states in the 1970s withered or were eliminated. A hostile international climate, and fluctuations in oil revenues, added to the pressures on the regime.

It responded by transforming its rituals of hero-worship into a rhetoric of pan-African ideology. It also turned to violence. After repeated coup attempts, it beat, imprisoned and exiled dissidents. It staffed security forces with reliable relatives and allies from central and southern Libya. During the 1990s, as economic sanctions took their toll, health care and education deteriorated, unemployment soared, the economy became ever more dependent on oil and the regime grew increasingly corrupt.

But what has escaped notice since the rebellion began in mid-February is the demographic transformation that made it possible. About 80 percent of Libyans now live in urban areas, towns and cities. Libya today has a modern economy and a high literacy rate. The leaders of the uprising include lawyers, judges, journalists, writers, scholars, women's rights activists, former army officers and diplomats — a sizable urban elite that is battered and restive.

Had Colonel Qaddafi responded with openness to the calls for reform and not overreacted to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, the urban elite might have been placated, and the violent rebellion avoided. He blew it. Once his army and police shot at protesters, the pent-up disaffection of Libyan society was unleashed, and it is too late for the regime to bottle it up. In recent weeks the revolt has even gained support from the historically pro-Qaddafi rural populace. No matter how much blood is shed today, the uprising will not be stopped.

Ali Abdullatif Ahmida, a professor of political science at the University of New England, is the author of "The Making of Modern Libya: State Formation, Colonization and Resistance, 1830-1932."









Our federal government set a disturbing record last month: It ran the largest single-month budget deficit the United States has experienced in its 235-year history!


For February alone, the deficit hit almost $223 billion.


That's how much Washington spent beyond what it took in through taxes, which are already higher than they should be.


The total national debt is now more than $14 trillion — and rising! We are paying hundreds of billions of dollars in interest on that debt.


With more huge deficits month after month, is it any surprise that our country faces a total deficit of more than $1.5 trillion this year?


Unrealistically, some politicians are trying to blame our terrible debt on tax relief enacted in recent years. But it is absurd to argue that the American people are taxed "too little" when annual federal tax revenues total more than $2 trillion. Rather, our nation is obviously spending too much.


Opponents of tax relief also ignore the fact that the failed federal "stimulus" and the massive taxpayer-funded bailouts of the financial sector and the auto industry have played a part in increasing our debt.


What should we do?


More taxes plainly aren't the answer. So Republicans in Congress have proposed tens of billions of dollars in budget cuts to begin — just to begin! — getting our national finances in order.


But congressional Democrats are blocking responsible, serious spending reductions, insisting that even more wasteful — and often unconstitutional — spending is needed.


They claim that many of the spending cuts proposed by Republicans "would unfairly hurt education, college aid and support for low-income groups," the Associated Press reported. But won't higher spending and increasing debt cause greater damage? Congressional spenders and President Barack Obama surely should realize that if we do not cut discretionary spending and begin to reform our crippling entitlements, there eventually will be no money for essential and constitutional responsibilities.


Our country cannot continue pretending we can spend money we don't have on programs we can't afford and don't need — without disastrous consequences we assuredly don't want.







Chattanooga usually is properly considered to be a wonderful city of families and friends, of fine homes and communities, of schools and churches and admirable citizens. But in recent days, there have been many shocking criminal shootings here.

Some of the crimes have been by individuals against other individuals whom they knew. But some apparently have been random, creating danger to us all.


Chattanooga doesn't want to be like the storied Dodge City of the lawless Wild West, where gunplay was common.


Yet we have had deaths and woundings, shootings into homes and cars, and threats by violent people against other thugs, as well as against law-abiding citizens.


There have been far too many reports of people illegally carrying guns — and using them with terrible results.


Our police officers are patrolling our city and efficiently responding when crimes of violence are reported. But our law enforcement officers too often have to "clean up a mess" after some tragedy occurs.


There unfortunately are always some cases of armed robbery, but many recent cases were not crimes of robbery. They simply were crimes against persons — with tragic consequences for some and danger to others.


In any large population, there always are a few vicious or just plain irresponsible people who imperil others. But the recent local individual, gang and gun crimes are alarming threats that cannot be tolerated. The most serious law enforcement and prosecution of offenders are called for in such cases.







All good Americans treasure and defend our constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms of speech, press, petition and peaceable assembly to express varying points of view on political matters.

We justly and properly may communicate with government on issues that concern us. But there is no constitutional right for anyone to commit violent or threatening acts or to disrupt government proceedings.


Some who exceeded constitutional boundaries had to be reminded of that at the Tennessee Capitol on Tuesday.


Several people were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct as they shouted protests and engaged in other disruption at a meeting of some members of the Tennessee General Assembly.


It doesn't matter the issue or the cause: Orderly conduct is permitted. Disorderly conduct is not.


In the current case, some demonstrators reportedly grew impatient as a legislative committee spent a long time listening to testimony on a proposed telecommunications bill. They reportedly began chanting about "union busting."


When the demonstrators were asked to desist and defiantly would not, state troopers intervened to restore order. Some of the disruptive people linked arms and fell to the floor, causing state troopers to drag them off.


Unruly behavior certainly is no proper way to "sell" or "debate" any issue or point of view.


Speaker of the Senate Ron Ramsey correctly said that "the right of all citizens to protest and assemble peacefully is sacred in the State of Tennessee. However, this General Assembly will not be intimidated by nomadic bands of professional agitators on spring break bent on disruption. We talk through our differences here."


Disruptive conduct must never be tolerated in connection with the legal proceedings of our government.







Turkey's peripatetic foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, is that rare political figure who captures the imagination of a broad spectrum of observers and analysts. He is religious without affecting religiosity. He has developed a number of new doctrines, without being doctrinaire. His quick wit and sense of humor were displayed at a dinner when a Daily News staffer (who shall remain unnamed) spilled red wine down the front of the minister's white shirt. "Now I look like the Turkish flag," quipped Davutoğlu as he gracefully rescued the awkward moment. 

Despite the diverse views of the group that debates this column every morning, we are united in enjoying any chance to take in a Davutoğlu speech. It's always original, always an education and always certain to include the historical insight or little-known fact that had previously eluded us. 

Which is all why we found ourselves yesterday passing around the excerpt of a speech he delivered this week at the Al Jazeera Forum in Doha as it was published in the U.K. Guardian. We print a version of those remarks on the adjoining page and recommend its reading. We applaud his remarks on dignity and democracy, we welcome his call for a new "vision" for our region and we appreciate his noting the inadequacy of the Orientalist term, "Middle East." 

What some of us sought – but did not find – in his remarks is an articulation of the criteria or means for an appropriate international response to atrocities committed by a sovereign power. We share the concerns of Turkey's government about the risks of "humanitarian intervention." Without going into a litany of examples, suffice it to say that such operations have often masked other goals. Where non-humanitarian interests, say oil, are not at stake we can also cite a long list of tragedies that drew no more than a shrug from global powers. 

So what should a compassion-fatigued world do in the face of a case such as Libya, where government planes and tanks are pounding a rag-tag rebellion waged in the name of the very freedoms Davutoğlu cherishes? Turkey has made it clear it opposes a "no-fly zone" as advocated by several European countries. How would the government feel about an American idea reportedly on offer of jamming the electronics and telecommunications of tyrant Moammar Gadhafi? 

We agree conceptually with the emergent legal doctrine of an international "responsibility to protect" in the hypothetical case of governments turning on their own people. It is a concept endorsed by the United Nations, Turkey included. 

But it is an incomplete concept, and one that cannot be finished with any credibility by any of the major powers of the last half-century. This is an urgent debate that needs Turkey's leadership, along with that of other comparable states like Brazil or South Africa.

What, Dr. Davutoğlu, do you have to say?

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







Running for cover these days, and ducking quickly out of sight, are all those who at one time or another chummed up with Moammar Gadhafi and became, in effect, his groupies.

Numbered among them are many of the world's great and good. The Libyan dictator may believe in his heart that they esteemed him for himself, for his forthright character, or for the penetrating insights in his Green Book, but it now seems fairly certain that they loved him for his wealth.

Their embarrassment will deepen whether Gadhafi falls or survives, and the details of his peculiar friendships with the famous multiply. Big names not yet named will come out. The high farce of this story will feed the tabloids and confound the diplomatic community for years.

Probably the most shameless of Gadhafi's past petitioners have been the British, the French, and the Italians – among whom are those who are now calling the most loudly for no-fly zones and other actions to throttle their one-time friend.

It will be remembered that Tony Blair once made a pilgrimage to Gadhafi's desert tent, and that, for a certain honorarium, the British orchestrated the return to Libya of the convicted Lockerbie bomber, on the assertion that he was mortally ill. Prince Andrew, Duke of York, boon friend of Gadhafi's son Saif, apparently had a major role in this "humanitarian" transaction; Gadhafi personally thanked Prince Andrew by name on Libyan T.V.

It was in Britain, too, that Saif Gadhafi was able to obtain a prestigious academic home, and eventually a doctorate, for a quid pro quo that has now cost the director of the London School of Economics his job.

France stands a close second to Britain in its buttering-up of Gadhafi. Paris gave him an effusive state reception, fawning as he pitched his tent next door to the Elysee Palace.

And one can't fail to mention Italy, Libya's old colonial master, which may have been the thickest of all with Gadhafi, so thick that Silvio Berlusconi was able to believe that one of his younger female friends was the dictator's daughter. Prominent Europeans weren't alone in seeking Gadhafi's favor. Turks will remember that Necmettin Erbakan also went to Tripoli to pay his respects.

Bad guys with wealth and power have always had a flame-to-moth relationship with those who have the nerve to believe they can cash in. The Gadhafi-buddy story is by no means the rarest of its kind. Libya's oil obviously was, and is, a blinding excuse for foreign monkeying, not only by the oil companies.

For some who made nice with Gadhafi, though – for two great powers, at least -- there was a shrewd understanding of what he would do to get respect – what he would admit to, and finally give up, to have his outlaw status waived and his name transferred to the world's good books. It was when the U.S. and Britain agreed to this – to lift him out of isolation and give him diplomatic recognition – that he let the West confiscate his nuclear apparatus.

Other bad guys and their world-class groupies? We can start with Adolf Hitler. Not all of the Fuehrer's sycophants were ambitious thugs. Martin Heidegger, Germany's leading philosopher and academic, author of "Time and Being," grandfather of existentialism, quickly fell in line with Nazism and helped get rid of Jewish professors. Carl Orff, the composer of "Carmina Burana," became in effect, Hitler's court musician. The Wagner family, especially the composer's wife Cosima, showered Hitler with attention.

The horrific Idi Amin also had those who flocked to him. Amin, who ruled Uganda in the 1970s and kept human body parts in his refrigerator, had no philosophers in his court but had a circle of eager toadies, some of them white ex-colonialists who were willing to carry him aloft on a sedan chair.

Charles Taylor, the blood diamonds man, has come into view more recently as he stands trial at The Hague for war crimes. Elected president of Liberia in the late 1990s, he and his followers later unleashed in neighboring Sierra Leone a diamond-acquisition terror campaign, responsible for the amputations of thousands of hands and arms. Three months ago the world was treated to accounts of Taylor's flirtation with supermodel Naomi Campbell at a dinner in South Africa with members of Nelson Mandela's inner circle. Television coverage from The Hague showed Miss Campbell stiffening as she told the court about diamonds Taylor had sent to her room afterward.

Some in Hollywood are now as concerned about a Gadhafi stigma as Miss Campbell has been about links to Taylor. The singers Mariah Carey, Beyonce, and Usher have rushed to say they will give away the millions they made in single performances for Gadhafi's son Saadi and other family members. Elsewhere in the entertainment world, the actors Forest Whitaker, Adrien Brody, and Mickey Rourke are not commenting on their involvement in film projects funded by Saadi Gadhafi's production company.

While those in high political places courted Gadhafi's favor, he bestowed voluntary favors himself, often to terrorist groups. He regularly supplied Britain's fiercest enemy, the Irish Republican Army, with smuggled weapons and explosives to facilitate the IRA's assassinations and market bombings in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s. The leaders of the other terror organizations aided by Gadhafi were less mediagenic than the smooth Gerry Adams, the IRA leader during the bloodshed. Adams has just announced his candidacy for a seat in the Irish parliament. He will probably choose to change the subject when Gadhafi's name comes up.

Soon enough, through WikiLeaks or otherwise, we'll laugh or cringe as this story produces other prominent embarrassments. This will be healthy. We need reminding that the high and mighty are likely to make odious deals as often as they put on UNICEF T-shirts or practice sober statecraft.

We need to realize, too, that sometimes, as in the deal that relieved Libya of its nuclear weapons, good ends come from odious tradeoffs.






The only national issue as old as Turkey's bid to become a full member of EU is Turkey's efforts to build a nuclear plant.

Turkey has been trying to do build a plant since the 1960s. Attempts by the government in 1960, 1968, 1974 and 1998 in various provinces such as Sinop and Akkuyu have all failed. Despite lengthy research, detailed preparation efforts and tender processes for such projects, all of them have failed for different reasons. None of these reasons, however, were based on a lack of technology or resources.

In fact, Turkey has rich uranium reserves and has had nuclear experts since the mid-1960s. The country even has the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority, which has never been of much use because Turkey doesn't have nuclear power. (The General Secretariat of the Atomic Energy Commission was established in Ankara in 1956 by Law No. 6821 as an organization affiliated to the Prime Ministry. In 1982, the commission became the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority under Law No. 2690.)

Just like Turkey's bid for EU membership, talk about constructing an atomic power plant has been dragging over the years for no apparent reason, given that all governments have been very keen on the idea. It is as if there is an invisible hand that hasn't allowed Turkey to build a nuclear plant. There are fierce protests over the issue and much of the Turkish public is surprisingly heavily against nuclear power, although that has not stopped past governments from acting against Turkish public opinion, such as in the inundation of the ancient city of Allianoi in western Turkey to make way for a dam.

The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government is also very determined to finally build a plant in Akkuyu. The government declared that Turkey and Russia will be partners. Russia and Turkey signed a contract in May to build Turkey's first nuclear power plant with four reactors, at a cost of about $20 billion after more than a year of negotiations. Russia's Rosatom Corp. will operate the plant in Akkuyu for 60 years, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said Dec. 15, 2010.

Even Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin himself made it public that Russia would build at least two plants in Turkey. The talks took a year to conclude because Turkey wants the nuclear plants to be built by foreigners without costing the government a dime. The AKP government wants the builders to run the plant and win back the costs over the years from the bills paid by the public. Of course, it wasn't very feasible for the Russians because a plant costs more than 20 billion dollars to build.

After the Russians the government started talks with South Korea for the second plant in Sinop, but those discussions failed. That's where the Japanese came in to the picture. Just as they financed the construction of the bridge over the Bosphorus, the Japanese agreed to finance the project for the Turkish government as long as a Japanese firm would build it. Turkey aims to conclude a deal with Japan in three months, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said.

Now, however, after the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last week, both of the nuclear plants might be in danger once more. Yıldız said the plant to be built by the Russians was meant to withstand a magnitude-8.0 earthquake and could be increased if necessary.

"We can't ignore what is happening at the Japanese nuclear plant," Yıldız said in the interview with the Bloomberg news agency. Earlier Yıldız had said that Turkey wanted to launch an atomic power industry to diversify its energy mix and boost supply to keep up with soaring demand for electricity amid rapid economic growth. It wants to have 20 percent of its electricity come from nuclear power by 2030.

Right now Yıldız doesn't even want to consider the possibility of not building a nuclear plant, but he might be forced to do so very soon. In Japan 140,000 people have been quarantined for being exposed to radiation. Germany and Switzerland have postponed their decisions to build new nuclear plants and many other countries are deciding to close down all their nuclear plants built before the 1980s.

It seems that Turkey will not be building its first nuclear plant any time soon.






The global boycott movement and other related campaigns are aimed at exposing Israeli transgressions against the Palestinian people and galvanizing international solidarity. What is so uplifting to see now is how their achievements have far surpassed these initial aims. The campaigns have animated, accentuated and actually legitimized Palestinian civil society – a notion that long stood outside the official paradigm acceptable to Israel, and which had very little space within the restrictive realm of the Palestinian Authority, or PA. 

Now civil society has been incorporated into the overall political equation as a leading factor in the Palestinian struggle for rights and freedom. The society is also increasingly filling the vacuum created by the PA's localization of the Palestinian struggle, and Israel's constant attempt at discouraging any genuine alternative to the PA's leadership. 

The articulation of the rise of Palestinian civil society came loud and clear on July 9, 2005, when 171 Palestinian civil society organizations representing Palestinians living in the occupied territories, Israel, and the diaspora called "upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era."

They further stated: "We appeal to you to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel. We also invite conscientious Israelis to support this call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace."

The statement won the approval of most Palestinians, and it inspired numerous representatives of civil society from around the world. Several tangible actions were taken, and the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, finally became a real strategy. In Israel too, a growing number of Israeli Jewish and Arab activists became committed to undermining the long held notion that the conflict was exclusively racial, ethnic or religious.

Cleary the Israeli definitions of old are no longer appealing to an increasingly determined international civil society. In the last few years, for instance, we have seen the Gaza Freedom March, the heroism aboard the Mavi Marmara, and the tireless efforts of innumerable organizations and individuals working to bring Israeli war criminals to trial and to end the Gaza siege.

The involvement of international civil society in aiding Palestine is actually as old as the conflict itself. However, it was not until the Second Intifada in 2000 that the involvement of international civil society became somewhat "institutionalized" through clearly marked channels. The International Solidarity Movement, or ISM, was a particularly meaningful example. The ISM seemed like a model of the International Brigades that went to defeat Fascism during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). The ISM used a non-violent method of resistance, and its recruits of civil society activists were the very activists whose video footage, blogs, photographs, public presentations and even books helped to change international public opinion and challenge mainstream representations of the conflict that were so shamefully biased towards Israel.

The Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO, despite past shortcomings, served as a unifying platform, centralizing Palestinians efforts and defying Israel's diligent attempts at dismissing the very existence of a Palestinian collective. Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir mirrored the attitude of many Zionist Israeli leaders when she stated: "There is no such thing as a Palestinian people...It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn't exist."

The significant role of the PLO, however, was overshadowed by that of the PA following Yasser Arafat's signing of the Oslo accord in 1993. The PA had long served an extremely detrimental role in Palestine and the Palestinian people's struggle. One of its worst long-term legacies was depriving the Palestinian people from the sense of national cohesion. Although it was Israel that largely supported and propped up this new non-representative Palestinian body, it was also this very party that decried that it had no peace partner, thus de-legitimizing its own creation.

With the elected Palestinian government, Hamas, under physical siege in Gaza, and an even greater political siege regionally and internationally, the issue of representation is all the more pressing. Representation is a prerequisite for unifying and guiding the Palestinian people through future phases of their struggle.

Still, it is heartening to note that such a political vacuum had its own benefits. It has revitalized civil society in Palestine, and, by extension, global civil society. This has helped to maintain a sense of centralization in Palestinian political discourse, one that is capable of juggling both national priorities and international solidarity.

The concept of civil society is often used as a meeting point between other forces, including a healthy and fully functional state. In the Palestinian scenario, however, with the occupation, siege and regular assassinations and imprisonments of political leaders, such a state is missing. This reality has skewed the traditional balance, resulting in a political void engineered by Israel to de-legitimize Palestinian demands and rights. It is most impressive, to say the least, that representatives of Palestinian civil society have managed to step up and fill the void.

This success would have never been possible without individuals from international civil society, including Rachel Corrie, the Turkish heroes aboard the Mavi Marmara, and the many Israeli activists and organizations who are currently being targeted by the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigador Lieberman.

Israel has shown alarm over the growing importance of civil society by reacting on many fronts. In Palestine, it has imprisoned Palestinian non-violent resisters. In Israel, it has cracked down on funds received by Israeli human rights groups. And internationally, it has pushed forward a media campaign of defamation.

These Israeli efforts must be challenged on all fronts as well. Continuing to de-legitimize the illegal Israeli occupation can partly be achieved through supporting Palestinian civil society, including their call for boycott.

Israel's actions have not been limited to de-legitimizing Palestinian rights and dismissing their existence. Israel has also worked hard to defragment any sense of political or national cohesion, through many creative means, separation walls notwithstanding. Yet, it is the Israeli occupation that is now being de-legitimized, its own government that is being isolated, and its own country's reputation that is constantly compromised. The power of civil society has indeed surpassed that of military hardware, archaic and exclusivist historical discourses, propaganda and political coercion.

Indeed, Lieberman, the Israeli government and their supposedly powerful lobbies have every reason to be worried.

* Ramzy Baroud ( is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is 'My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story' (Pluto Press, London), available on






The wave of revolutions in the Arab world was spontaneous. But it also had to happen. They were necessary in order to restore the natural flow of history. In our region – west Asia and the south Mediterranean – there were two abnormalities in the last century: first, colonialism in the 1930s, '40s and '50s that divided the region into colonial entities, and severed the natural links between peoples and communities. For example, Syria was a French colony and Iraq a British one, so the historical and economic links between Damascus and Baghdad were cut.

The second abnormality was the Cold War, which added a further division: Countries that had lived together for centuries became enemies, like Turkey and Syria. We were in NATO; Syria was pro-Soviet. Our border became not a border between two nation states, but the border between two blocs. Yemen was likewise divided.

Now it is time to naturalize the flow of history. I see all these revolutions as a delayed process that should have happened in the late '80s and '90s as in Eastern Europe. It did not because some argued that Arab societies didn't deserve democracy and needed authoritarian regimes to preserve the status quo and prevent Islamist radicalism. Some countries and leaders who were proud of their own democracy insisted that democracy in the Middle East would threaten security in our region.

Now we are saying all together: no. An ordinary Turk, an ordinary Arab, an ordinary Tunisian can change history. We believe that democracy is good, and that our people deserve it. This is a natural flow of history. Everybody must respect this will of the people.

If we fail to understand that there is a need to reconnect societies, communities, tribes and ethnicities in our region, we will lose the momentum of history. Our future is our sense of common destiny. All of us in the region have a common destiny.

Now, if this transformation is a natural flow of the history, then how should we respond? First, we need an emergency plan to save people's lives, to prevent disaster. Second, we need to normalize life. And finally, we need to reconstruct and restore the political systems in our region, just as we would rebuild our houses after a tsunami.

But in order to undertake that restoration, we need a plan, a vision. And we need the self-confidence to do it – the self-confidence to say: This region is ours, and we will be the rebuilders of it. But for all this to happen, we must be clear about the basic principles that we have to follow.

First, we need to trust the masses in our region, who want respect and dignity. This is the critical concept today: dignity. For decades we have been insulted. For decades we have been humiliated. Now we want dignity. That is what the young people in Tahrir Square demanded. After listening to them, I became much more optimistic for the future. That generation is the future of Egypt. They know what they want. This is a new momentum in our region, and it should be respected.

The second principle is that change and transformation are a necessity, not a choice. If history flows and you try to resist it, you will lose. No leader, however charismatic, can stop the flow of history. Now it is time for change. Nobody should cling to the old cold war logic. Nobody should argue that only a particular regime or person can guarantee a country's stability. The only guarantee of stability is the people.

Third, this change must be peaceful – security and freedom are not alternatives; we need both. In this region we are fed up with civil wars, and tension. All of us have to act wisely without creating violence or civil strife between brothers and sisters. We have to make this change possible with the same spirit of common destiny.

Fourth, we need transparency, accountability, human rights and the rule of law, and to protect our social and state institutions. Revolution does not mean destruction. The Egyptian case is a good example: the army acted very wisely not to confront the people. But if there is no clear separation between the military and civilian roles of the political institutions, you may face problems. I am impressed by Field Marshal Tantawi's decision to deliver power to the civilian authority as soon as possible.

Finally, the territorial integrity of our countries and the region must be protected. The legal status and territorial integrity of states including Libya and Yemen should be protected. During colonialism and the Cold War we had enough divisions, enough separations.

This process must be led by the people of each country, but there should be regional ownership. This is our region. Intellectuals, opinion-makers, politicians of this region should come together more frequently in order to decide what should happen in our region in the future. We are linked to each other for centuries to come.

Whatever happens in Egypt, in Libya, in Yemen, in Iraq or in Lebanon affects us all. Therefore we should show solidarity with the people of these countries. There should be more regional forums, for politicians and leaders, for intellectuals, for the media.

Usually the "Middle East" – an Orientalist term – is regarded as synonymous with tensions, conflicts and underdevelopment. But our region has been the center of civilization for millennia, leading to strong traditions of political order in which multicultural environments flourish. In addition to this civilizational and political heritage, we have sufficient economic resources today to make our region a global center of gravity.

Now it is time to make historic reassessments in order to transform our region into one of stability, freedom, prosperity, cultural revival and co-existence. In this new regional order there should be less violence and fewer barriers between countries, societies and sects. But there should be more economic interdependency, more political dialogue and more cultural interaction.

Today the search for a new global order is under way. After the international financial crisis, we need to develop an economic order based on justice, and a social order based on respect and dignity. And this region – our region – can contribute to the formation of this emerging new order: a global, political, economic and cultural new order.

Our responsibility is to open the way for this new generation, and to build a new region over the coming decade that will be specified by the will of its people.

* Ahmet Davutoğlu is foreign minister of Turkey. This piece, an edited extract of a speech Davutoğlu delivered at the sixth Al-Jazeera forum in Doha, appeared Wednesday on the daily Guardian of the United Kingdom.






As he was about to leave for Moscow, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made a comparison to nuclear plants that he, I'm sure, has regretted later. It is obvious he was thinking about something else when he answered this sudden question.

A prime minister who led Istanbul for years and has led Turkey for the past eight years certainly knows that it is impossible to compare threats by a nuclear plant to that of gas tubes or natural gas. As a matter of fact, upon his arrival in Moscow he asked Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for some guarantee, which reveals the chaotic situation.

Now let's get down to a different perspective of the event.

The world is afraid of the accident in the Japanese nuclear plant.

Serious questions are being asked.

Nuclear energy issues are being handled more seriously by governments.

The public is in an uproar. The opposition of advanced industrialized countries will increase in the period to come.

We are interested in how this will affect Turkey.

The prime minister's general attitude these days seems to be, "I am a leader who is loyal to his promises and agreements. In order to meet Turkey's deficiency in energy we need, to some extent, nuclear energy and we will certainly meet this need, of course, taking necessary precautions first."

If this approach is not fine tuned grounds may be laid for dangerous fights. If a resistance, a nuclear tsunami in public, which is obvious to grow tenser, is not being handled now it will cost us dearly.

Step on the breaks

There is only one thing to do under these circumstances. The construction of a nuclear plant in Akkuyu in the Turkish southern province of Mersin, for which an agreement signed with the Russians, needs to be suspended for a while.

The public pulse has started to beat differently and it's not a time to be obstinate with society.

If there is no change in attitude, Akkuyu may become a point of resistance in view of recent developments in Japan.

It would be hard to recover.

I believe that a country like ours, poor in energy and with a tendency to constantly increasing dependency on external forces for improvement, should obtain at least part of its needs from nuclear power.

But developments force people like me to reconsider that evaluation. We are a society that is unable to keep simple gas tubes in repair shops under control. And under these circumstances it is weird to think we could secure control over a nuclear plant.

Let us now step on the breaks.

Let us reconsider all options.

Let us put Akkuyu on hold especially now that even the Russian can't be sure of their own nuclear plants.

We've been waiting for so long, let's wait a bit longer.

Make it paid military service and get it over with

By now we should be done with the issue of paid military service.

We've arrived at a point where at different times almost all politicians have talked about this issue. Enough now.

The arrow has already left the bow.

Let's not make this issue a new game for politics any longer.

It is progressively turning into a necrosis.

At one point the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, members of parliament mentioned this issue… and now it's the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP's turn.

Let's take the final step and not expect the administration to do everything.

Ten thousands of people are keeping their hopes high. Let's not play with their sore spot.

I know very well why this issue is opposed.

Be it objection by the general staff or the privilege of those who have money over those who don't; all issues have already been discussed in detail.

There is no need to insist on this issue any longer.

Let's do the necessary for one last time and get it over with.






The Libyan revolution is losing the battle. Col. Moammar Gadhafi's army does not have much logistical capability, but it can get enough fuel and ammunition east along the coast road to attack Benghazi, Libya's second city, at some point in the next week or so. His army is not well trained and a lot of his troops are foreign mercenaries, but the lightly armed rebels cannot hold out long against tanks, artillery and air strikes.

Even sooner, Gadhafi's forces will attack Misrata, Libya's third city and the last opposition stronghold in the western half of the country. It will probably fall after some days of bitter fighting, as Zawiya eventually fell. And if Zawiya's brave and stubborn resistance is repeated in the two larger cities then they will both suffer very large casualties, including many non-combatants, in the fighting.

What happens to the rebels and their families after active resistance is crushed will be much worse. When political prisoners in Abu Salim prison staged a protest at jail conditions in 1996, Gadhafi had 1,200 of them massacred. All the people now fighting him, or helping the Libyan National Council that organizes resistance in the east, or just demonstrating against him, will be tracked down by his secret police. They and their families are doomed.

The collapse of the democratic revolution in Libya will also gravely damage the prospects of the "Arab spring" elsewhere. Rulers in other Arab countries where the army is also largely made up of foreign mercenaries (Bahrain and several other Gulf states, for example), will conclude that they can safely kill enough of their own protesters to "restore order."

How can this disaster be prevented? Condemnation from abroad, including from the Arab League, will not stop Gadhafi. An arms embargo is too slow-acting, as are economic boycotts and freezing Libyan government assets overseas. Gadhafi is fighting for his life, probably literally, and he know that if he wins, the embargoes, boycotts and asset freezes will eventually be lifted. Libya has oil, after all.

Even the famous "no-fly" zone over Libya (now endorsed by France, Britain and the Arab League) would not stop Gadhafi's advance. It's not that destroying or grounding the Libyan air force, which is poorly trained and badly maintained, is a problem. Neither are Libya's decrepit, last-generation-but-one surface-to-air defenses. It's just that Gadhafi can win without his air force. Tanks and artillery beat courage and small arms every time.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was not being entirely honest when he said that a no-fly zone could not be imposed without the prior destruction of all Libya's surface-to-air defences, which would require a lot of bombing. It would be perfectly possible to enforce the no-fly ban from the air, and only attack Gadhafi's ground-based defense systems if and when their targeting radars locked onto the enforcing aircraft.

Nevertheless, Gates is right to reject the no-fly solution, for two reasons. First, it wouldn't stop Gadhafi's advance. Second, if it were done by American and European air forces, it would undermine the Arab sense of ownership of this extraordinary revolt against tyranny. It would be pure gesture politics, to make the onlookers to the tragedy feel better about themselves.

What is actually needed is active military intervention on the ground and in the air by disciplined, well-trained Arab forces, sent by a revolutionary Arab government that is in sympathy with the Libyan rebels. So where is the Egyptian army when the Libyans need it?

Egypt has an open border with the rebel-controlled east of Libya, and just one brigade of the Egyptian army would be enough to stop Gadhafi's ground forces in their tracks. The Egyptian air force could easily shoot down any of Gadhafi's aircraft that dared to take off, especially if it had early warning from European or American AWACS aircraft.

The Egyptian army would probably not need to go all the way to Tripoli, although it could easily do so if necessary. Just the fact of Egyptian military intervention would probably convince most of the Libyan troops still supporting Gadhafi that it is time to change sides.

Arab League support for the intervention would not be hard to get, and the Libyan rebels are now desperate enough that they would quickly overcome their natural distrust of their giant neighbor. As for internal Egyptian politics, what better way for the Egyptian army to establish its revolutionary credentials and protect its privileged position in the state than by saving the revolution next door?

It is very much in the interest of the Egyptian revolution that Gadhafi does not triumph in Libya, and even more that the forces of reaction do not win in the broader Arab world. For the first time since Gamal Abdul Nasser in the 1950s, the giant of the Arab world would also be its moral leader.

It would be nice if the Tunisian army could intervene from the west at the same time as the Egyptian army went into Libya from the east, but it is a far weaker force belonging to a far smaller country: Tunisia only has twice Libya's population, whereas Egypt has twelve times as many people. No matter. Egypt would be enough on its own.

 Only do it fast. A week from now will probably be too late.






For almost the past two decades, at least since the last Kurdish report it issued back in 1989, the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, has often been accused of talking with slogans and letting the governing parties set the agenda of the discussion in the country. Particularly since the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, came to power, the CHP has seldom come up with any meaningful new topic of discussion but instead most of the time only reacted to what was said or done by the ruling party.

Naturally, whoever sets the discussion agenda of the country is a step forward than others in the political contest for power. The AKP and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, for example, are employing scores of strategists, academics and script writers in order to be able to appear in front of the society every day with something appealing or disgusting but definitely capturing the entire scope of discussion in the country.

While some naive people like this writer tend to believe that the prime minister has a habit of making incredible political gaffes whenever he goes out of text or stops reading from a prompter machine, it is a fact that with such gaffes he indeed captures all the attention and each time he makes such oddities he places himself at the heart of controversy for at least a couple of days. Remember the latest Cyprus controversy… Why did he insult Turkish Cypriots? Did those insults serve any purpose? Yet, not only did Turkish society start discussing the Cyprus issue once again, in Turkey and northern Cyprus for almost three weeks Erdoğan and his insults to Turkish Cypriots were the top discussion subjects. The aim was achieved. As is said, there can be no such thing as a bad advertisement. Even if some people yelled at him, he was the most-discussed person once again while in the public opinion poll just a month ago, for the first time in years, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was slightly ahead of him.

Now, elections are coming closer once again. Indeed, as of Monday the election campaign period has officially started. Instead of lofty rhetoric and some empty promises – though Erdoğan described them as "like a lorry with failed brakes," recognizing no limits – the CHP has for a change started unveiling one after the other, some comprehensive and indeed revolutionary ideas. That is, an election platform is emerging on the part of the CHP, while the AKP has been pledging to write a new constitution but keeping its cards close to its chest and not allowing anyone to have an idea of what the ruling party will write in that new "national" charter.

The first concrete pledge the CHP made was the "family insurance system," under which if the CHP came to power it would establish such a mechanism that it would ensure that each and every family would have monthly revenue of at least 600 Turkish Liras (around 250 euros). The AKP reacted to that by saying the CHP had no funds to finance such an ambitious scheme, but of course it is clear for everyone that far more public funds are now spent on sofas, household appliances, sacks of food and coal as political bribes extravagantly distributed by the ruling party through the Social Assistance and Solidarity Foundation or directly through governors' offices.

Another offer was the paid military service. While I do agree that it is absurd and creates immense injustice against those who fulfill their compulsory conscription service, the offer indeed stole the show from the AKP as the ruling party has been using that pledge before every election over the past five years, and not delivering it. Three weeks later Parliament will go to "election recess" and most likely the offer will not become law. Yet, it gunned down a probable similar offer coming from the AKP.

The new Kurdish report by the CHP will be released within weeks. A series of reports on many social problems will be issued as well in the weeks ahead. According to friends in the CHP, these reports will not consist of diagnoses of the present situation, but will have some concrete ideas for a resolution of the existing problems.

For example, the "Free and civilian society" report of the CHP unveiled this week not only presents a factual background of the "civil society" establishments in the country but also pledges to resolve existing problems, that the party collected under four headings: 1- Problems emanating from the tradition of keeping civil society establishments under control by maintaining constant oppression over them; 2- Insufficiency of resources; 3- Gender inequality; and 4- Disparity between regions. Of course, there is as well a social awareness problem.

In all these areas the CHP has come up with answers in its civil society report. Thus, it might be said that for the first time in many decades the CHP has started an election campaign with concrete ideas for resolution of the problems of the country. This is at least a promising change the new CHP is offering.









As suddenly as it begun on a busy street in Lahore on January 27, the Davis case is over. It is over in the sense that Davis was flown out of the country when these words were written, but it remains very much open and unresolved in the minds of many in Pakistan. The solution to the problem was eventually to be found in blood money. It was reportedly paid to the relatives of the two young men Davis killed. They allegedly signed the relevant documents forgiving him his crime in front of the judge who had just indicted him willingly for murder. The questions are now being asked whether or not they did so under duress. The judge rapidly acquitted Davis. He left the court in the Kot Lakhpat Jail where he had been held with American officials bound for an unknown destination. Also in an 'unknown destination' may be members of the families who were said to have received the money as the local and foreign media were reporting in the evening that their homes were locked and empty, their cell phones unattended.

Details will emerge in coming hours and days, but a raft of questions remains unanswered. The application of a solution under Diyat has let the government off several hooks – the first of these being the one labelled 'diplomatic immunity'. There has not been any clear statement from the government as to whether or not Davis had diplomatic immunity; and the ambiguity that now hangs in the air leaves the door open for similar opaque arrangements to that which allowed him in here in the first place. Then there is sovereignty. Much has been said and written on the matter in the last year, usually in connection with drone strikes. But this incident was rather more 'up close and personal' than a hit by a Hellfire in deepest Waziristan. Is our sovereignty so compromised that it is within the rules of engagement for CIA stringers such as Davis that they are permitted to carry and discharge weapons in the street? To go equipped with the impedimenta of espionage unchallenged? Again no definitive answer has been forthcoming. The shambolic issuance of visas to Americans without any sort of background clearance was an invitation to abuse the system – which the Americans duly did. The Davis affair was a textbook example of how not to conduct diplomacy – by both sides, and neither we nor the Americans emerge with honour from this sorry business. There must be a certain irony that both sides were apparently saved from further embarrassment by Sharia law, although whether either side will have learned a lesson remains to be seen. The public protests on the streets, which could snowball in the coming days, may be an unpleasant task for the political governments in the Centre and in Punjab to handle. What we have now is two murders, a death as 'collateral damage' and a suicide. What we may see in the coming days and weeks is yet to unfold. But we have a trust deficit of cosmic proportions — not just between the US and Pakistan but also between the people of Pakistan and 'their' state.







The price bomb hurled at people through a presidential ordinance as a means to bypass parliament will send tens of thousands across the country reeling as they face new taxes totaling Rs 53 billion and a consequent increase in the price of virtually every commodity. Electricity will become more expensive as a surcharge of two percent on every unit is added; the salaried class – who already pay the bulk of taxes in the country – will now pay more with a 15 percent surcharge placed on income tax. Sales tax exemption on a wide range of items has been withdrawn under the Sales Tax (Amendment) Ordinance 2011 which imposes the new measures. The impact of the measures taken, which aim to achieve the new target of Rs 1,604 billion set for the remaining quarter of the current fiscal year, will be as considerable as that of a bomb exploding amidst a teeming throng of people.

The prospect of yet more inflation at a time when people can barely make ends meet in the first place is deeply disturbing. Worse still is the deceit inherent in the measures taken following negotiations with the IMF. The imposition of the surcharges and withdrawal of exemptions through an ordinance means that representatives are denied the opportunity to express their views. The core of democracy has been damaged by action from an elected government. Efforts to fool people in other ways have also been made. The GST on sugar for instance has been 'retained' at 8.5 percent. Only a close reading of the fine print reveals that it is now to be charged on the ex-factory price of Rs 55 a bag rather than on the previous Rs 28 per kg. In practical terms, this means an increase of seven to eight rupees per bag. The prices of various other kitchen items will go up too. It appears that even the right to eat is to be snatched away from the people. It is likely that we will see public anger soar over these new steps. Opposition parties are likely to make their opinion known in no uncertain terms, as they did when PoL prices were raised last year. The government's indifference to the people's condition is terrifying. Citizens are simply not able to keep themselves afloat. The question they ask is how long can this continue and what will the final outcome be. We have been in a state of crisis for so long it is hard to imagine it can grow any worse. Yet, this is precisely what we are seeing, leaving us to wonder how long it will be before chaos breaks out across the country, and people pour out into the streets against a government that has consistently treated their concerns with disdain.







The courts and the FIA have finally managed to geta hook into one of the big fish in the Haj scam,none other than the Chief Fish himself, former re-ligious affairs minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi.

He had beensailing close to the wind since the scandal first broke,but his luck finally ran out on Wednesday when he washanded over by the court on a five-day physical remandto the FIA.

The FIA are then reported to have interro-gated him for a couple of hours before taking him off toone of their lockups where he is currently consideringwhere it all went so wrong for him.

The reason that thecourt revoked his bail and remanded him was because itwas presented with some very interesting evidence thatpointed towards Kazmi being something less than thewholly pure individual that he wished both the courtsand us to believe him to be.

What will probably prove to be his undoing in the fu-ture is the paper-trail of financial movement and the dig-ital fingerprints of the conversations he had on his mo-bile phone.

The financial records show that money wasgoing into his accounts in both rupees and pounds ster-ling, in excess of what his earnings were, and he has notbeen able to satisfactorily explain this to the investiga-tors.

Potentially more damaging still is the record of callshe has made to one Ahmed Faiz who is alleged to havebeen the middle man in Saudi Arabia and whom Kazmihad hitherto denied having any phone contact with. Thelogs of the phone companies tell a different story, andone that is extremely hard to deny or disprove.

Amidstthe denials and accusations it is worth reminding our-selves that this was a crime allegedly committed by a se-nior government officer who was himself at the heart ofthe religious establishment. It was a complex criminalconspiracy to defraud innocent Hajis, many of whomwould have spent their life savings to make the trip.

It in-volved a network of people and could not have been thework of a single individual and was it not for a Saudiprince writing to our Supreme Court and asking it to takenotice of the matter, it might never have come to light.That there is to be a trial, a presentation of the evidencein open court and justice delivered in an open and trans-parent manner is much to be welcomed. We would wishfor more of the same.






Riots at the Hyderabad Central Jail, which have re-sulted in the death of seven prisoners and causedinjuries to at least 30 people including a numberof policemen as jail officials were taken hostage, are nota new phenomenon.

We have seen similar incidents be-fore where violence has broken out in past years at anumber of our jails – both in Sindh and Punjab. TheSindh High Court has sought a report into the outbreakof violence. We must hope it will also delve into thedeeper reason why we face problems of this nature againand again.Overcrowding in jails across the country is a key fac-tor in the riots; so are violations of jail conduct and ram-pant corruption in prisons.

It is next to impossible forstaff to run jails properly while the number of prisonersfar exceeds the space allotted to them. Cells meant tohouse two or three house instead, three times that num-ber.

Long delays in the trial process contribute towardsovercrowding.

We need to find ways to bring down num-bers in jails perhaps by introducing community-based re-straints for petty criminals, ensuring conditions in whichprisoners are held and also assessing the securityarrangements in place in prisons so that these can be im-proved where necessary, and situations such as the onethat arose at Hyderabad are avoided in the future.








Hard power has been used often in the context of national security by a number of states, if the aims have not been achieved it is primarily because of their inability to employ all elements of national power. The US national security system is grossly imbalanced and finds it easier to mobilise resources for hard power assets than soft power capabilities. Any national security system must employ a more balanced approach to adequately resource, train, and equip the full range of civilian instruments required to operate successfully. Interagency teams must be empowered that can effectively integrate hard and soft power by establishing common national security goals to create unity of purpose and by carrying out those goals jointly to achieve unity of effort.

Daryl Copeland says, "When it comes to Afghanistan, mixing military might with diplomatic talk is easier said than done." Some of the basic distinctions which may make their effective combination become clearer, hard power seeks to kill, capture, or defeat an enemy. Soft power seeks to influence through understanding and the identification of common ground. Hard power relies ultimately on sanctions and flows from the barrel of a gun. Soft power is rooted in meaningful exchange and the art of persuasion. Hard power is macho, absolute, and zero sum. Soft power is supple, subtle, and win/win. Hard power engenders fear, anguish, and suspicion. Soft power flourishes in an atmosphere of confidence, trust, and respect. These distinctions can become divisive when placed in an institutional setting or applied in the field. The disconnects between the two are exacerbated by the differences within and between the bureaucratic cultures of the military and civilian agencies such as foreign ministries and international organisations.

Smart power is not only a technique but also a kind of ability and capacity. A nation must be able to apply its strength and influence cleverly, adeptly, and at the right time and place in ways that are mutually reinforcing so that the purpose is advanced effectively and efficiently. Joseph Nye, Jr defined smart power" as "the ability to combine hard and soft power into a winning strategy". In essence this involves the strategic use of diplomacy, persuasion, capacity building, and the projection of power and influence in ways that are cost-effective and have political and social legitimacy. Only through the adept use of 'smart power' can one overcome one's opponents and achieve success.

The relevance of smart power has grown immensely today. The two most powerful countries in the world today, USA and China have turned to 'smart power' to achieve long term objectives in the international theatre. The Obama Administration sees 'smart power as the guiding force of its policies overseas in the future. When Hilary Clinton was appointed US Secretary of State, she moved quickly to employ this concept of 'smart power' in the foreign policy arena emphasising that it must be used as a bolster and support, and that foreign relations (and not military might) would be the centrepiece of American foreign policy in the future. China is using 'smart power' extensively to convey the idea of its 'peaceful rise' and thus head off a countervailing balance of power.

While the world is increasingly turning to 'smart power', Pakistan lags far behind; because of its weak economy the country is at a disadvantage. One reason is our tendency of looking for short term gains instead of looking at long term benefits. We will have to make conscious efforts to rediscover and re-disseminate smart power. With limited options Pakistan can either turn to its most reliable friend China to learn from their model and experience or it can harness the power of its own media potential to reap rewards. The media is one of the most powerful tools for influencing national and international public opinion through around-the-clock coverage of worldwide events. Understanding the media and the singular power it possesses can allow the strategist to make much more informed decisions by treating the media as a critical element of smart power.

Some years back, I tried to convince President Pervez Musharraf of the benefits of setting up and/or supporting an English Language Television Channel. To his credit he liked the idea immensely but this was promptly shot down by the courtiers who surrounded him when he was in power, and still surround him when he is "out in the cold", even though according to reports quite enjoying himself. In the context of a fast changing world and the speed with which technology is evolving, this has now become vital for us. The capacity of cable and satellite signals to cross national boundaries has redrawn the lines of television and the ways it addresses the audience, and makes it perhaps the most potent medium for providing entertainment, news and education; it can be effectively wielded to mould opinion worldwide. Because of a targeted disinformation campaign by India, force-multiplied by the animosity of the Jewish controlled media, Pakistan's image has been badly tarnished and our credibility has taken a major hit. Most of the gains made by India because of 'soft power' initiatives have been because of the private sector.

A new independent television station that is devoted to faithful and accurate reporting of events to reach an English-speaking international audience with no-holds barred and truthful approach must be set up. Its main theme would be to convey the Pakistani side of the story (without its origin being in Pakistan) in a manner that portrays the image of the country (and about Islam) in its true perspective, in a language that is understood by all. This station would televise almost all programmes in the English language – the primary intent would be to reach out to an audience that reacts to a common language and educate them in a subtle yet effective manner as such give the people an alternative choice to base their opinions on. Such a television station will give us the means not only to counter the barrage of untruths and allegations from across the border but also from some western nations too.

Some of our 'strategists' indulged in acts of 'adventurism' that have spawned negative perceptions about Pakistan, our premiere intelligence agency, the ISI, continues to bear the brunt of a malicious India-led campaign. A practical and pragmatic use of 'smart power' via the media can turn such perceptions around in a realistic manner. Smart power must be based upon an understanding that the dynamic, unpredictable character of today's security challenges demands a strategy with commensurate flexibility. Only by creating a comprehensive capacity to build and adapt diverse combinations of hard and soft power flexibly and rapidly can a state successfully safeguard national security interests. The challenge is integrating and finding the right mix of the two and aligning resources and structures to achieve a successful hybrid strategy that will benefit us as a nation.

(Acknowledgement is made with thanks to Joseph Nye, Jr, the "Soft Power" Guru and his two books as well as BBC's Nik Gowing and his book, "A Skyful of Lies and Black Swans". Final extract from a talk given recently at the National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad)

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder9. com








Pakistan's noisy electronic media are eerily silent on Japan's Chernobyl moment. No talk show on a possible Chernobyl in Pakistan. No "expert" comments by the Fathers, Mothers and Brothers of the Islamic Bomb. Even our raucous mullahs have kept mum. One had hoped for a Jamaat stalwart coming up with a religious solution to any nuclear fallout in Pakistan. Is the director of Aik Aur Ghazi also going to produce a film titled Aik Aur Chernobyl? Even the conspiracy theorists are silent. They did not waste any time blaming Washington for engineering the earthquake in the Pacific, as they did when the tsunami devastated Sri Lanka and Thailand a few years ago.

Experts in Japan are still assuring the public that Fukushima's accident will not turn into a Chernobyl since Japanese reactors are housed in containers, unlike those in that stricken town in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine in 1986. In desperate times, one has no choice but to stay optimistic, so let's hope the experts' predictions will come true. However, the contamination will be unprecedented if an explosion takes place. It will spread to Russia, China, Korea and most parts of Eastern Asia.

Lest we forget, Chernobyl's emissions exceeded by a hundred times the radioactive contamination caused by the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One nuclear reactor has the potential of polluting half the globe. France's ASN nuclear safety authority has classified the Fukushima catastrophe as level-six on their readings of one to seven. Chernobyl reached level-seven. There are 10 reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi facility. Fortunately, only three were operational at the time. Explosions were reported at units 1 and 3. On March 14 (as I write these lines), the explosion occurred at unit 2 as well. There are more nuclear reactors in the vicinity of Fukushima.


The unfolding Japanese tragedy, which is likely to affect neighbouring countries too, proves, if proof were needed, that the nuclear option is an apocalyptic, suicidal choice even when meant for civil use. Japan is one of the most advanced countries in the world. It is extremely well-prepared for what our mullahs and media Mujahideen callously refer to as God's wrath: i.e., earthquakes. For example, buildings in Japan are built to withstand intense jolts.

The magnitude-9 earthquake that hit Japan on March 11 was the strongest in Japanese history ever since official records began in the late 1800s. However, it was not the quake that devastated Japan or triggered nuclear worries. It was the tsunami that followed. The seven-meters-high tsunami, travelling at the speed of a jumbo jet, penetrated the mainland by ten kilometres.

The tsunami is not a phenomenon specific to Japan, and nature can go wild anywhere on the globe. But the effects of natural disasters can be compounded beyond control by nuclear plants, as the Japanese tsunami has demonstrated.

In the 1970s there were 35 nuclear plants. Today, there are 338. The United States alone, which draws 20 percent of its energy from nuclear sources, houses 104 nuclear reactors. Japan meets 30 percent of its energy needs from nuclear sources and has 13 nuclear power plants. What is happening in Japan can occur anywhere in the world. There are a lot of possible causes to worry about: flash floods, a breach in some mega-dam, earthquakes, tsunamis, a technical failure, human error.

Aging plants, like those in Japan's Fukushima facilities, pose serious risks. Such facilities have a record of near-misses and meltdowns; resulting from human error, old equipment and shoddy maintenance, or poor supervision, as was the case at Chernobyl. Even under optimum operating conditions, nuclear plants are hardly safe. Like any machine or facility, they are vulnerable to breakdowns. In technology-savvy Sweden, a breakdown was reported last year. Yet US president Barrack Obama has proposed in the budget a staggering $36 billion for new reactors. From Sweden to England, Brazil to Iran, India to Israel, a host of countries are spending more and more on nuclear options.

In Pakistan, the Zardari government has signed an agreement to buy two more nuclear reactors from China, at the cost of $2 billion, displaying shocking disregard for human safety. Even if we rule out nuclear accidents, there remains the question of nuclear waste. This topic is taboo in Pakistan, when it should constitute part of school textbooks. No matter how flawless, fortified, well-guarded nuclear assets are, they do produce nuclear waste. According to experts, a 1,000-megawatt reactor produces 500 pounds of plutonium annually. Only 10 pounds suffice for a bomb that can devastate a large city.

No country in the world has been able to find a solution to the problems posed by handling, transportation or disposal and storage of nuclear waste. Nor does it seem likely that a solution will be found. Even before Uncle Sam caused the nuclear holocaust in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, Albert Einstein was warning us that, "our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing the power to make great decisions for good and evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe." In 1946, the old sage was telling us: abolish all forms of nuclear power, or face extinction.


The writer is a freelance contributor. Email:








The instinct to make comparisons is irrepressible when a Pakistani visits India and vice versa, and I am no exception. The one thing that strikes you immediately is the realisation that the Indian media love to hate Pakistan. Even when they are talking about cheating allegations against Sri Lankan cricketers, the background television footage shows Pakistani players. Pakistanis are painted as villains in every form; whether it is terrorism or cheating in cricket and, of course, the ISI, blamed instinctively for all ills in India, is the ultimate villain.

At present, there is demand for re-auctioning 2G licenses (related to cell phone service) because Eteslat, one of the licensees, is perceived to be in cohorts with the ISI simply because it also operates in Pakistan.

Whether true or false, by continuously portraying Pakistan as the big, bad villain, the media and the establishment are making life very difficult for the leaders in the sub-continent. Since neighbours cannot be changed; both countries have no option but to coexist. In running Pakistan down constantly, the Indian public is being conditioned not only to hate Pakistan but also Pakistanis, which will make it very difficult for the Indian leaders to sell any scheme for reconciliation (if there is one in our lifetime) to the Indians.

On a visit to an archeological site in the suburbs of Chennai (old Madras), I hired a guide. While he was delivering his rehearsed speech, a group of bubbly young college students from Andhra Pradesh set themselves at a vantage point to hear the guide's commentary for free. Not to be outsmarted, he negotiated a discounted rate with the group leader after which the giggly girls and the spritely boys became very friendly with me and I soon became part of their group. After sometime, one of them asked me where I was from. "Pakistan," I answered. The group's warmth towards me promptly dissipated. When we arrived at the next statue, I found myself alone with the guide who had to complete the round with me any way.

I observed that in most places, warm greetings turned into polite smiles when Indians found out they were speaking to a Pakistani. Following the Mumbai attacks, Indian media have done irreparable damage to the Indo-Pak people to people contact. If only they were to allow our news channels to be viewed there as well and give Indians a chance to discover that ordinary Pakistanis are themselves victims of terrorism.

Notwithstanding its dislike for Pakistan, India is doing well for itself. The most striking contrast between the two countries is in terms of law and order. There are no gun-toting civilian guards to be seen in India. Automatic weapons are only seen in the hands of law enforcement agencies and that too in sensitive places such as airports, government buildings, and now, near the Taj Hotel in Mumbai after the terrorism episode that occurred there.

Whoever organised the Mumbai attacks needs to understand that such incidents only help unite Indian society in its resolve against Pakistan and as a result strengthen the anti-Pakistan stance of the Indian government.

On another note, traffic in India is terrible but commuters and drivers have somehow learnt to cope with it. Drivers appear to nudge each other off the road but do it with subtlety rather than aggression. I saw very little evidence of road rage there.

Indian institutions are intact and working, even if they are on subsidies. Their railway is still adding 500 plus miles of track to their system every year; adding thousands of new wagons and engines every year. It is the preferred mode of transport for most intercity travellers, considering the poor quality of intercity roads and excessive heavy vehicle traffic. Express ways are now being built on a BOT basis by the private sector. This approach is being successfully followed in other infrastructure projects including airports.

The inefficiency of Indian Airways is not dissimilar to PIA. They recently asked their government to give them a onetime amount of Rs 17,000 crores (Indians still talk in lakhs and crores) to enable them to overcome a financial crunch. But the private airlines are doing what the state airline is unable to do, and they are thriving, having taken up 85 percent of the market and having rendered Air India an insignificant player. The airline industry as an institution is, therefore, working very well.

Their police and criminal justice system, despite its corruption, is still intact. In Jaipur, I was stopped for sitting in the front seat without a seatbelt. The constable threatened to fine us Rs 700 and told us that he had informed his superior (apparently he did not have the power to fine us). After a few minutes of harassment, our driver took him aside, handed him a hundred rupee note, and we were on our way. Despite the corruption, the seatbelt rule and helmets for motorcyclists were effectively enforced.

Public transport, be it in the form of an 'auto' (as a rickshaw is called in India), cycle-rickshaw (still in abundance here) or taxi, all appeared properly registered, uniformly painted, and under the control of the police. In Bombay, all rickshaw and taxi drivers wear uniforms.

There are few policemen visible in most Indian towns, even if you count the traffic police. Even though the gap between the rich and the poor is acute and more than 35 percent of the people still live below the poverty line, jewellery stores do not require special guards, nor are there any visible police arrangements.

The criminal justice system is archaic and slow, but it has a long memory. The recent conviction of 11 Muslims involved in the Gogra incident, more than a decade after the incident, is a case in point.

Tax collectors are dreaded, even though, there is still a lot of black money floating around and there are more than a trillion dollars reportedly stashed away by the Indian elite in Swiss banks. Every day, there are reports of raids by the dreaded CBI (the Indian equivalent of our FIA). At the receiving end are high-profile politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists, and film actors.

As a result, people are concerned about keeping their accounts in order. The Indian tax system exists for everyone. People have to explain the source of income funding their assets and lifestyle. That is perhaps one reason why they prefer to keep untaxed money abroad. Not that they don't splurge inside the country. There are newspaper reports of a Rs 100 crore (200 crore Pakistani rupees) wedding celebrating the marriage of the children of two politicians. The bride's father reportedly gifted a Rs 33 crore helicopter to the groom.

While one can give any number of reasons for India's current confidence in itself as a country, there are two reasons, which stand out in my opinion. Firstly, the power of the state's writ and consequent law and order in society. Secondly, effective education at all levels of Indian society. These are the two goals Pakistan also needs to work towards to stay relevant in the sub-continent.

The writer is a former federal secretary. Email:







 "The audience watched in awe, the circus where harlequins faint and cry; jokers wait their cues as thieves in the dark. They clapped and danced merrily, pierrots of the centre-stage. Secretly they grinned from ear to ear like the clown with that forlorn face and the king who washes his hands, playing safe, acting cool on his throne soon to be washed out. Like fireflies in the night, the show sparkled from a distance a thousand and one lights of magic and trance. Then the breeze of summer blew like a tongue of fire and the farce ended." (Circus, by Watus Solis)

In Greek mythology a chimera is a fire-breathing monster with a lion's head, a goat's body and a serpent's tail. Over time, the anatomy of our chimera coalition changed, but the end result remains the same. Not surprisingly, President Zardari's Karachi visit and Rehman Malik's London trip gave the present chimera coalition yet another reprieve. The hopes of the masses, themselves wishing a reprieve, have been vanquished as the circus unfolded yet another act.

In medieval folklore, vampires, the fiends of the Underworld, were fabled creatures of the night. They rose from graves and roamed the earth feeding on the lifeblood of innocent victims. Today we are afflicted with modern "vampires," the musical chair political leadership that simply refuses to fade away. They have honed and perfected their craft to levels of the most devious efficacy.

This new breed does not seek out blood; instead, they suck away the monetary and financial life of those ruled. No longer content to seek out individual victims, they now prey upon the entire nation. Greed and covetousness dominates; the craving a fetter that poisons the heart and deludes minds. This insatiable lust for wealth begets an excessive greed for power.

In this century the world at large has moved on, with the majority having accepted standards of civility and governance. Tragically, our own political landscape remains dominated by primitive greed, hatred and acrimony, while the citizenry is stricken by insecurity and hunger. The nation, in all respects, is sinking.

We have become a country in which ordinary people see no hope of advancement. They see political involvement as pointless, because to them in the end it is only the interests of the corrupt elite that get served.

At the national level corruption has been rampant in the executive, administrative and bureaucratic institutions. The contributing factors have been non-existent accountability and absolute politicisation of institutions. On the societal level, as a trickledown effect, it has seeped into the very fabric of our lives with the stark realisation that only money makes the mare go.

This affliction plagued us as public office gradually ceased to be a platform for rendering selfless service and morphed into a shortcut for financial and political empowerment. Since then, brigands of political and public officers have looted the nation blind with utmost impunity. After doing that, they adopt incredible plenty, without fear of anyone prying into the ill-gotten wealth they flaunt.

If somebody, like our court of last resort, does start questioning their brimming coffers, they create diversionary ripples and whirlpools. This chimera controls and holds the political and economic jugular of the nation.

Our bloated ministries and bureaucracies are packed with cronies who reek of graft, venality and inefficiency. "Government" has become the arena of self-enrichment with everybody who wants to be rich. When confronted with the fact, they engage in self-serving arguments to defend their conduct. Does governance stand a chance within this narrow framework of our political order?

What could be more ironic than a president cocooned in his presidential bunker adamant to have the accountability head of his choice, seemingly for the "immunity" that could provide from legal prosecution? The time served by this political dispensation has been devoid of any empathy; their indifference in the face of human suffering is a denial of their oaths of office.

The whole NRO show benefited thousands of criminals and plunderers. Unscrupulous politicians, bureaucrats and individuals sold their souls and yet were inducted in the hall of shame. National flag lapel pins adorn their hearts, they seek everything but a vibrant Pakistan. A few pointers that contributed to their collective failure are disastrous domestic policies, lack of vision, executive misconduct and a severe deficit of credibility and public trust.

Only when leadership is honest and inspiring can it mobilise a critical mass of people towards an agenda of real change. As Shelley says: "The rich have become richer, the poor have become poorer and the vessel of state is driven between anarchy and despotism."

Let us hope and pray in this current crisis there evolves a new generation of untainted leaders. And that we will be rid of the NRO, targeted killings and bhatta. A tall order like this needs divine intervention. It also calls the people to take upon themselves the burden of reshaping the nation.

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email:







The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.

Pakistan is at a crossroads. Battered by a set of interlocked crises the country faces unprecedented challenges of governance, security, the economy and meeting the basic needs of an exploding population. In one direction lies prosperity and stability. In the other, a fate too frightening to contemplate.

No single issue, I believe, is more important for charting a path to a secure future for Pakistan than a transformation in the quality and coverage of the education we offer our children. Conversely, today's education deficit – which is vast and, in comparison with our economic competitors, growing exponentially – is one of the key factors driving us towards an exceedingly bleak future.

It was not always this way, and it doesn't have to be. In 1947, the All-Pakistan Education Conference warned that education would be critical to Pakistan's viability as a state. Since then, none of our successive governments have chosen to make this a priority issue of utmost urgency. No leader had the vision to pursue a comprehensive set of reforms that would have given every Pakistani child the right to an education. The blame has to be shared among all – elected and military governments, and among parties that paid lip service to achieving literacy, but lacked the political commitment and failed to provide the financial resources to translate this slogan into reality.

Education should be at the heart of any government's agenda. Human capital is the critical investment in a country's future – a transformational resource that can change the destiny of our nation. An education system that delivered basic skills to young people – the ability to read and write – would be the lasting and most meaningful and enduring contribution of any leader to the country's progress and well being. More than any other change, it would alter the future course of the country.

But the short-termism that has characterised almost every government's approach has hobbled our country's progress. This attitude afflicts almost all aspects of national life, but it has exacted its heaviest price in the education sector.

For much too long national security has been construed in narrow terms and almost entirely in its military dimensions. Our view of security shouldn't just be confined to the physical protection of borders and to state security but extend to the lives of people inside and across the borders – to human security.

'Soft' threats to security may imperil human life and welfare as much as 'hard' security threats. The security of people and their 'freedom from want and deprivation' must be assured in addition to steps that ensure 'freedom from fear.'

National security rests on factors beyond just military ones. Human security is not just about addressing dangers but also removing risks and vulnerabilities. With 25 million children (6 to 16 years of age) out of school in Pakistan today if this does not make for vulnerability what does? Unless the sources of future disadvantage and deprivation are resolved now they hold untold danger for the future stability and security of the country.

Education lies at the heart of almost all the challenges the country confronts. That is why it has to be treated as a strategic imperative, and not just a desirable social goal. It is the key that will unlock almost every problem – economic development, international competitiveness, social progress, countering extremism, promoting tolerance, and above all delivering on the social contract to the people.

Education must therefore be deemed as the foundation on which our country's security rests. And the transformation of Pakistan's education system has to be taken seriously by everyone – as an immediate goal, not a can to be kicked down the road.

On one level, the importance of education to economic competitiveness is obvious. It is acknowledged across the world even by countries which can afford to provide quality education to their young. "The nation that out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow" said President Barack Obama recently.

But beyond the imperative to compete in the global economy Pakistan needs to achieve universal literacy for more compelling reasons.

Pakistan has a large and fast growing youthful population – a large youth bulge. A 2009 report called The Next Generation set out the demographic challenges we face. By 2030, Pakistan will have around 85 million additional citizens – a number greater than the entire population of Germany. These young people should be a vital resource. They should be an opportunity. Already they are pouring onto the job market at awesome speed. 36 million more jobs need to be created by the economy in the next ten years alone.

Find these young people work and Pakistan will be poised for an economic boom, but, as the 2009 report argues, this demographic dividend does not come for free. It has to be earned. "A country needs to educate its children and make sure they are healthy; find them jobs as they get older and give them chances to save; and offer them ways of expressing their desire for social and political change".

The reverse side of a boom could be a doomsday scenario. Young populations if they face a jobless future can become a source of serious social instability. Youth bulges can often be volatile as the ongoing protests in the Middle East amply testify. Countries that have a high proportion of young people in the population are more than twice as likely to suffer civil conflict than those with older populations, while a high level of urbanisation, and competition for scarce resources such as land and water, further heightens the risk.

That the past twenty years have been ones of growing conflict and violence within Pakistan cannot of course be put down solely to demographic drivers. Many other factors have intervened. But the fact that we have an ill educated 'lost generation' should be a cause for serious concern and a spur for action. Without educating our children – all children – there is little chance of reversing the decline. The March for Education campaign is a good start, but we need to walk much further.

We need to understand and accept that education is a political, not a technical issue. Unless Pakistan's leaders own up to their responsibility, nothing will change. Given that this is really a matter of national security, that is an unacceptable outcome.

A longer paper on the role of education in national security will be available at







 Pakistan's largest province Balochistan, dotted with bleak hills and long stretches of barren land rich in natural resources, has always been in the news since the country's inception. The Baloch have attempted to assert their sovereign rights over their natural resources for which they are justified, and this phenomenon should not have become a bone of contention. But the modus operandi adopted by the Baloch youth to attain their objectives has raised many eyebrows. There is a widespread sense of deprivation among them, which is the result of the colonial approach of the rulers, who have been at the helm of affairs from time to time with immunity. At the same time we cannot exonerate certain Baloch sardars and political leaders either. They have been in power in the province but have done nothing to ameliorate the lot their people.

Over the years, growing sense of deprivation has played havoc in the province. The first warning shot was fired by the ruler of Kalat during General Ayub's era. Ironically, he was the man who paved the way for Balochistan to become a part of Pakistan. However, this discontent was crushed and the Nawab of Kalat was arrested. But that did not cool the situation, over the years emotions kept simmering which finally erupted during ZA Bhutto's regime and a movement to secure the rights of the Baloch people was launched. However, this attempt was also foiled.

After ZA Bhutto was toppled by General Ziaul Haq, the1973 consensus constitution that had guaranteed limited provincial autonomy was abrogated. The Baloch saw this as another attempt to deprive them of their democratic and economic rights.

But things got much worse during the military dictator Gen Musharraf's regime. It is believed that things only got worse in Balochistan. He allegedly let lose a reign of terror in the province which resulted in the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti, who had allegedly challenged the federal writ. This tragic incident proved a turning point. The Baloch virtually rose in revolt. Several armed groups have emerged to challenge the writ of the federal government. Killings and kidnappings have become the order of the day. Travel across Balochistan is not safe. Government installations are being attacked. Settlers are being targeted which has forced them to move to other provinces resulting in brain drain in Balochistan. Even the Hindus population of the province has not been spared, forcing some of them to migrate to India. Armed groups have banned playing the National Anthem in several educational institutions.

Thousands of people have gone missing without any trace. The incumbent PPP government led by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani attempted to assuage the wounds by announcing a special package for Balochistan. However, this also failed to win over the enraged people of Balochistan. The 18th Constitutional Amendment abolished the concurrent list and devolved several subjects to the provinces thereby increasing the quantum of provincial autonomy.

This has so far failed to produce desired results. Lately the prime minister has again invited the Baloch leadership to come to the negotiating table and help sort out the problems. So far the invitation has not been responded to. A negotiated and acceptable solution will have to be found to end the bitterness which has vitiated the atmosphere. The stalemate cannot be allowed to linger, Balochistan has to be brought back into the mainstream. The province should get maximum financial autonomy to embark on the path to development to bring it at par with other provinces.

The writer is senior news editor, The News. Email: aftabsyed










IN a move that has sparked swift and severe reaction from people as well as business community; the Government presented a mini-budget on Tuesday ahead of regular annual budget which is due within the next three months.

The new taxes imposed through presidential ordinances envisage raising of additional revenue worth Rs 53 billion in the remaining quarter of the current financial year, as per commitments with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Imposition of 15% surcharge on income tax, increase in the excise duty from 1 to 2.5% and withdrawal of 17% GST exemption on a number of important items means multiplication of woes of the business community, which is already under great stress and strain, and tsunami of pricehike that is likely to push millions more below the poverty line and that is why the day is being described by analysts as 'Black Tuesday'. It is, perhaps, for the first time that all Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the country have with one voice rejected the new taxation measures terming them as killer and unjustified. Industry and businesses are already suffering hugely due to energy crisis caused by power and gas shortages and law and order situation and imposition of new taxes would strangulate them further and as a consequence many industries and businesses might crumble down with serious consequences for the economy. No one would defy or oppose the just taxation measures but unfortunately the economic managers have resorted to the same old hackneyed approach of burdening the already taxed people. The country is facing financial crunch and there is a dire need to broaden the tax net but this should mean taxing those who have the ability to pay and bringing into net those who are still outside. Why the Government is evading tax on agricultural income and is not serious in taxing real estate business that is worth trillions of rupees? Why no serious attempts are being made to plug loopholes, leakages and corruption in the tax system that result in losses running into billions of rupees? The very fact that the Government imposed new taxes through presidential ordinances, bypassing Parliament, also means that these are devoid of support and cannot win parliamentary approval. It is apprehended that the fresh and cruel taxation might force Chambers to come on roads to agitate their demands and as a consequence the already rising political temperature could boil down. We hope the Opposition parties would represent feelings of the people and defend their interests both within Parliament and outside on this issue that will have negative impact on the common man that is feared to push more elements towards street crimes.








THE leadership of both PPP and MQM might have heaved a sigh of relief that their mid-night parleys led to renewed understanding between them to continue cooperating with each other at the Centre as well as in Sindh for their mutual interest. The latest round of trading of charges and counter-charges was threatening the fragile coalition arrangement but meeting of MQM delegation with President Asif Ali Zardari made all the difference.

The two sides might be satisfied but at the outset we would point out that the next 24 hours would determine the success or otherwise of the new understanding and the real yardstick would be increase or decrease in the level of violence — target killings and woes of Karachiites. If one sits and uses calculator to determine the exact numbers of days during which relations between the two Parties remained estranged and they were in negotiations to iron out their differences, this would come out to many months. One is forced to draw the conclusion that their relationship is essentially restricted to sharing the spoils of power at provincial and federal levels. They come closer to each other every time just because they cannot afford to lose each other for the sake of power and the accompanying perks and benefits. Frequent bouts between PPP and MQM convey a vivid impression that their relationship is marriage of convenience and not based on principles. No doubt, they are serving as clutches for one another but what benefit accrues to the people from this strange relationship. Both the Parties owe an explanation to the people in this regard.







THE incident at Hyderabad Central Jail where at least seven prisoners were killed and 30 other people including cops were injured on Tuesday should serve as an eye opener for the jail authorities across the country. The riot by the jail inmates over lack of facilities and treatment with the prisoners reflects the overall conditions in the prisons.

According to details the prisoners had been protesting for the last several days for non-availability of water and electricity but the administration did not pay any heed. They were forced to come out of their barracks and climb to the roofs to air their grievances. Instead of holding negotiations to pacify them, the Jail administration resorted to firing of teargas shells and live fire which led to the death of seven inmates. It was not an isolated incident but periodically the riots sprout sometime in the Punjab and more often in Sindh and the authorities retaliate with heavy hand. Instead of use of force, there are many other ways to deal with the agitating prisoners. However we are following the colonial system to beat and keep in solitary confinement those who agitate for their rights. Starting from the Minister concerned and Inspector General Jail down to the Superintendent, nobody pays attention to what is going on in jails. It is a known fact that hardened criminals enjoy all sorts of facilities including access to outside food, availability of narcotics and even they keep arms. These things reach them with the connivance of the jail staff who are paid by the prisoners for the favour. Even narcotics are sold within the premises. In fact jails in Pakistan have become dens of crimes instead of making them reforms centres so that when the prisoners come out after completing their term, they become useful members of the society. A conscientious sweep of the jail system is long overdue. Inmates should be provided with basic medical, psychiatric, and skill-development facilities. It is only by reforming our prisons that we can begin to address the prevalence of crime in Pakistani society and reduce the chances of riots in jail claiming lives of those who are already undergoing punishment for their crimes.







The glossy World Bank [WB] report on Agriculture for development is good for the shelf and not for implementation. It was unbelievable that such a report could have come out of the organization that has become the tool of the west and not a development organization that was envisaged by Robert McNamara. The report is only good for the board members of the WB and not for the developing countries. It does however fulfill another important aspect that of the policy makers of the world that they are doing something for the development of the world's poorest. In any case the report is full of conditions that require massive changes and understanding of the cultural context of a country before the suggested interventions can be made at the policy levels. It may be best to try and understand and analyze the suggested ways out of poverty. The WB writers suffer from verbosity that does not have any import on the agriculture of the countries that require a different set of interventions. In any case the requirements cannot be universal.

The defining of agriculture for development is suggested through widening the pathways out of poverty. Who ever defined these pathways or identified these pathways is not known. Are they aware of the difficulties of pathways? Imagine how this sentence would be implemented and I quote 'Rural House holds [RH] pursue portfolios of farm and non-farm activities that allow them to capitalize them on different skills of individual members and to diversify risks. Pathways out of poverty can be through small holder farming wage employment in agriculture, wage or self-employment in the rural non-farming economy and migration out of rural areas-or some combination thereof. Gender differences in access to assets and mobility constraints are important determinants of available pathways.' That is the paragraph that opens the entire discussion that is to follow. Examining this would mean that one would be able to state what the portfolios of farm and non farm activities would be. In other words if the portfolio is available then all that the RH has to do is to pick the best of the portfolio that would enable the RH to live reasonably. The members of the household could then be dependent on the skills that they have and thus diversify their risks. The assumptions here are that the RHs have certain skills that are required by the market place and for which the demand is there in the rural or urban areas, that the economy is buoyant and ever enlarging. However there are other caveats to this. Pathways can be through small holder wage employment in agriculture. The assumption here being that the small holder farmers have enough means and disposable incomes to meet the employment channel in the rural areas and that the products are sufficiently in demand for them to find a ready market. Rural areas are supposed to have non-farm employment possibilities. If that was so why is the western border of Pakistan under stress and why do we have in this world the kind of fight against terrorism.

The report goes on to state that if all that is stated above is not possible out migration will be the best option where the urbanites will receive them with open arms and provide them with jobs based on the excellent skills that they have some how acquired. That the out migration that has taken place has been assimilated in the existing urban setting without any problem and there are no slums in the areas where this migration has taken place. What rot and non-sense has been indicated here by the writer who seems to be some one who has not been to any place other than the most sophisticated place in USA. The writer may not be able to see the slums of USA what to speak of Latin America or of the massive poverty and slum areas of large towns like Karachi and Mumbai. Why play God and why does the WB not come down to earth? The fault probably lies in the perfunctory basis of their existence. The institutional arrangements are no longer tenable. To add to the ignorance the gender issues have been added and the asset formation for them is advocated. The determinants of effective pathways are then worked out by these lords of poverty. Everything is as it should be and they have congratulated themselves on a glossy report well written for which they deserve massive amounts of consultant fees for writing something that is not possible to implement. The art of the possible is not even thought about.

Continue, for so far only one paragraph of the report has been analyzed and if one were to so the rest there would be massive amount of effort that would be required. It is a good quarto and would decorate the book shelves well. The continuation is to this affect 'making agriculture more effective in supporting sustainable growth and reducing poverty starts with a favorable sociopolitical climate, adequate governance and sound macroeconomic framework fundamentals'. Please let me know how these intangibles can be worked out in agriculture? What is a favorable sociopolitical climate and how will any one ensure this when in Pakistan the fight against terrorism was started with the help of a dictator and by the democratic forces that are in this world. The sociopolitical system has been so mauled by the interference of the international agencies that all that Pakistan had gained in the last fifty years had been negated by the fight that is going on. Again what is adequate governance? The WB is generous in making these kinds of assertions. An intangible on an intangible does not help any one except that it confuses matters and probably that is the main objective. Then again sound macro economic fundamentals which mean that the developing countries do as they are told or else the west will sort them out. The sound fundamentals of macro economics were much lauded by the WB as the poodle government of Musharaf was responsible for implementing whatever was given to him or dictated by the west. They popped up his government and the intangibles of sound fundamentalism be dammed.

The policy diamond that is indicated in the book adds a lot of trash to the existing trash that has already been analyzed. The policy diamond is a la Porter who in his book about competition and comparative advantage writes in details on the impact of trade policy on countries. It makes a pretty picture but that is about all that it does. The diamond states the preconditions for development in as much as the above three policy initiatives. The first left arm of the diamond is for the small farmer's competitive enhancement. What is stated but how is that to be done is not indicated? How does one facilitate market access when the developed countries themselves have denied market access to the developing countries?

The economic system has to be in transition to a market economy. How can the representatives of the west make these statements when they themselves have not made any basic advances in this area for the developing countries? The third arm of the diamond relates to livelihoods and the low level of skills that would be required for rural occupations. It's a good thing that the Chinese leadership never fell for the trap that they have set up for the others. The last and fourth arm signifies increased empowerment in agriculture and the rural non-farm economy by enhanced skills. Sitting in the center of the diamond is the pathways out of poverty and there is a lot of mumbo jumbo in the diamond inside as well as outside.

Arrogantly the direction is that the countries should develop their agendas on the basis of the aforementioned directions. Nothing less than we know better about you without having visited any of the rural areas.

The WB in short is in a position to do much good but that good is interred with the death of McNamara. That is where all the good is really interred. The WB has had a disconnected policy vis avis the developing countries. It is about time a change takes place. The WB has to put its act together. The need is for sensitive person who will take charge of the policy issues within the bank. Why only Washington to have access to the job that requires sensitive individuals to understand the revolution that is going round the world. Pakistan and other developing countries have to play their own game and not do as others tell them what must be done.









The prevailing uncertainty in the political scenario in this blessed land is causing several eyebrows to be raised. As things get murkier and murkier one is tempted to talk about angling of all things, for cogent reasons that one will allude to in due course. Before one goes any further and ties oneself up in knots, why not delve a bit into the subject matter itself? Let's begin by averring that angling evokes extreme reactions in people. The great Samuel Johnson defined the fishing rod as "a stick with a hook at one end and a fool at the other". Izzak Walton, on the other extreme, said, "God never did make a more calm, quiet and innocent recreation than angling." Somewhere in the middle would occur George Parker's definition of angling as, "an innocent cruelty."

Be that as it may, one has somehow not been able to apprehend the rationale behind the sport of angling. One has never quite managed to get worked up about invidious attempts to lure a poor miserable fish to swallow the hook at the end of the line; and then to call it sport to boot! It does not look exactly sporting, to say the least. Man's yen to catch fish for food one can readily appreciate. But the desire of angling for fun is way beyond one's ken.

But enough of the so-called sport of angling! The reader would be quite justified in looking askance at this newborn interest in angling, especially when this does not even happen to be the angling season. (Is there such a thing as an angling season, by the way?). One has no hesitation in admitting that a plausible explanation is called for. So here goes. What kindled one's interest in the affair is the fear that we are well on our way to becoming a nation of anglers. A horrifying thought that; but not as far fetched as the reader may be inclined to think. A word of explanation may be in order. The first thing the reader is advised to do is to avoid looking at angling in its restrictive sense. Its scope would need to be expanded to take it far afield. For all one knows, this may well have something to do with the "genius of our people" (remember?). Permit one, then, to draw the attention of the perspicacious reader to those news items proliferating in the national media relating to the return home from another "successful" tour abroad of a (prodigal?) dignitary. Most top officials have made it so much of a habit to undertake a series of official visits abroad that it makes one wonder how they manage to squeeze in a few days to do whatever it is that they are supposed to do while holding certain position of authority in the government.

One has merely to glance through the morning paper to discover at least a dozen items reporting our dignitaries departing for, returning from or in the midst of foreign trips, all undertaken at the hapless tax-payers' expense. All this sets one to thinking, leading to startling but obvious conclusions. Angling for invitations and undertaking foreign trips has become the preferred national pastime. All-paid (out of the taxpayers money no doubt) foreign tours have become the end all-be all of our fellow nationals in responsible (?) positions. Rather than the means to an end, the "foreign tour" has become an end in itself. It matters little if the work (such as it is) suffers or even that the tour in question defeats the very purpose it is supposed to accomplish. The "foreign tour" remains, without question, a consummation devoutly wished by our public (and bureaucratic) figures. One reads a lot about the imperative need to append a precise definition to the phrase "good governance", that is supposed to be the ultimate objective of all successful ruling elites. Our policy makers and implementers already appear to have arrived at the agreed definition. To go by the lexicon of our top leaders (and bureaucrats), it would appear that the "governance" is "good" if conducted by remote control from venues abroad!

If the aforesaid has conveyed the impression that angling for foreign trips is the only priority of our elites, one would beg the reader to disabuse him/herself of the notion. Pray, do not go away with the impression that this is the only, or, indeed, the main fishing pond of our blessed anglers. Far from it! Today, the love of angling has permeated all fields.

Angling for positions, permits and plots (to mention just a few) make up the mainstay of our political and administrative edifices. Gone are the days when service to God, country and the nation constituted the declared ambition of at least some of our public "servants". Now each one angles for what he or she can get out of it. The concern is not for what one can do for the country but what one can do to the country and get away with.

Our public "servants" spend a good part of their time and effort angling for postings where the pickings are good. Those miserable few, who continue to hold on to the shreds of principles they hold dear, are hounded from pillar to post until they or their principles give up the ghost, whichever comes first. It is a matter of some pity that those whose voices are the loudest in denunciation of such practices are also those foremost among the ones encouraging this regrettable trend. Our elders and betters, when they are not dividing up loaves and fishes, keep themselves busy fishing in troubled waters, when they should rather be pouring oil on them. It has been argued that this is what troubled waters are meant for, but then who makes the waters "troubled" in the first place? Angling Pakistan-style spawns in a milieu in which established institutions in the country are virtually absent. Ad hoc ism that has permeated the system of the body politic like slow poison is gnawing away at the very vitals of the State. It may be worthwhile for the powers-that-be to spare a thought for this malaise before it is too late.

Meanwhile, coming back to the subject at hand, angling may not be such a bad thing provided it is confined to the banks of our lakes and watercourses. But there too one is batting on a somewhat sticky wicket. How does one, for instance, escape the tangled web of water storage and less than equitable distribution? And that brings us back to, what can be called, the bane of all anglers: the Big Ones invariably get away! But that, as they say, is another story!








It is hard to take issue with the permeating perception that the people are flummoxed and infuriated over the snow-balling deterioration in their economic situation, the burgeoning political instability, precarious law and order situation in the country and more so the inability of the government to mitigate their ordeal. It is in the backdrop of this scenario that the demands for change in the government and mid-term polls or fresh polls which have been resonating for quite some time, have become a hotly debated issue presently, thanks also to the agenda setting role of the media. All kinds of arguments and incantations to rub in the proposition are on offer. The debate, however, lacks an aura of objectivity and sincerity of purpose and is symptomatic of the typical mindset of a highly polarized political culture that unfortunately has been the bane of our political and economic progress.

The questions that need to be asked are, is the present government solely responsible for what the country is going through at present and are the mid-term polls the panacea for a quick-fix solution to the sufferings of the people? Pakistan today has an internal debt of Rs.4959 billion whereas its external debt liability is in the vicinity of US$ 54.8 billion. The budgetary deficit ranges from 6.3-7% of GDP. That indeed is a very precarious economic scenario and probably the root cause of the economic melt-down. Only fools can give credence to the view that the present government was responsible for this fiasco. The problem is a cumulative effect of the reckless and unimaginative policies, divorced from the economic realities, pursued by successive regimes and further aggravated by the war or terrorism and the recent floods; factors which were beyond the control of the government. Any other party in power would have been in the same situation.

A similar economic aberration in the Western countries caused a massive economic recession which hit many vulnerable European nations like Greece who had to be rescued from total collapse through US$ 60 billion rescue package by Euro zone countries and IMF. Spain and Portugal also went through the debilitating scare. Ireland also had to be bailed out through injection of a huge rescue package. US economy has also been badly battered by this phenomenon and a serious debate is raging on the policy options designed to reducing the budgetary deficit. The recipe adopted by them to salvage their economies invariably aims at reducing expenditure and increasing taxes to narrow down the budgetary deficit. The UK coalition government had to opt for a swingeing 40 billion pound budget cuts and tax increases to fix the problem.

Pakistan unfortunately is not in a position to muster the kind of financial support that the European community extended to its vulnerable member to tide over the financial crunch and stabilize their economies. It does need IMF and US support (notwithstanding the clamour by the proponents of the self-esteem rhetoric) to off-set some of the negative fall out from the massive budgetary deficit that it is faced with. However it is an inescapable reality that it will also have to adopt the same formula that has been put in place by the European countries I.e drastic cuts in the government spending and expanding the tax base that may further hit the common man. There are also other portents that suggest that the people will have to face further hardships due to the spiraling international prices of oil and food which have already hurt a number of economies of the world including US, which is contemplating to market its oil reserves to lessen the burden on the masses with a view to avoid the political repercussions. Pakistan again is not so lucky.

Those who are trying to pressurize the government against expanding the tax base and continuing giving subsidies on oil to mitigate the sufferings of the people are actually playing to the gallery with a view to gain political mileage in complete disregard to the economic realities, not realizing that this skewed approach could further aggravate the problems of the people in the long run and scuttle the chances of Pakistan ever getting out of the economic morass. These are the harsh and escapable realities. My appeal to the politician is, speak the truth to the people please. Fresh and mid-term polls are not the plausible solution to our woes. It may result in the change of faces, but it certainly cannot automatically fix the volatile economic firmament or tackle other challenges.









Terrorism, raised its ugly head with a vengeance in Faisalabad and Peshawar one after the other killing at least 25 people at a CNG filling station in a car bomb attack in a major industrial city of Punjab and blasting 43 people in the capital city of Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa at the namaz-e-Janaaza of the wife of a tribal elder. This was the second suicide attack on the Lashkar which has been fighting the terrorists since 2008.A spokesman of the Lashkar said 47 volunteers of the Lashkar have been killed in terrorist attacks so far, but the government has not paid compensation for those killed or injured as was agreed at the time of the formation of the Lashkar. As is customary the Prime Minister issued a cold and callous statement condemning the attack and reiterating the government's resolve to root out the cancer of terrorism from every nook and corner of the country. This "resolve" has been made by the Prime Minister and other government leaders hundreds of times but people are being killed regularly in terrorist attacks and target killings. There is no doubt that the government has miserably failed to control terrorism and protect the lives of the country's citizens which is its primary duty. The terror attacks are taking place with regular intensity but the government seems to have no clue to stop this carnage. It has in fact surrendered to the terrorists and has no will to meet their challenge.

In recent months radical religious parties, which are in fact the fountainhead and the source of strength to the terrorists, are playing their game openly; taking out long marches in the name of the Namoos-e-Risaalat which is no issue for Pakistani Muslims who are always willing to lay down their lives for this sacred cause and there is no reason for the molvies to agitate this issue with sinister designs to destabilize the country. The government has no power or no will to confront the religious parties on this delicate issue which may further escalate terrorism in the country. A section of the visual media is also playing an important role in highlighting the activities of the religious parties ignoring Quaid-e-Azam's teachings on the issue of religion and state and his strong views against theocracy. Late General Ziaul Haq tried his best to introduce some kind of theocracy in Pakistan but he miserably failed because the majority of Pakistani people did not want any system of government which was against the wishes of Quaid-e-Azam.

In another controversial move, the government has taken issue with the Supreme Court in the case of the dismissal of NAB Chief Deedar Hussain Shah, a retired Supreme Court judge and a long time ally of PPP who was appointed NAB Chief against the wishes of the apex court in view of his expected partial approach in corruption cases of PPP leaders. The Sind government called a general strike in the province which paralyzed Karachi and some other cities causing huge financial loss to the country. A day later, firing rang out in various parts of Karachi randomly killing 13 people at a time when President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani were present in the city. The Sind High Court Bar Association condemned the unlawful strike against the SC judgment.

Meanwhile, the President has written a letter to the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition to make the mandatory consultation and approach the Supreme Court once again requesting the appointment of Justice (Retired) Deedar Hussain Shah as Chairman NAB. One wonders why the President is so keen for the appointment of Justice Deedar Hussain Shah who had immediately relinquished charge as Chairman NAB when informed about the SC judgment against his appointment.

Another serious head ache for the government is a newly formed "amn" committee formed by Sind Interior Minister Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza to fight it out with MQM. This committee is in fact a gang of PPP hooligans who can be let loose against MQM whenever required. Mr. Mirza recently made a blistering speech against Mohajirs, as he often does, on which MQM leaders threatened to quit the government as they often do. But soon they had a meeting with President Zardari who assured them that the matter will be sorted out. As usual MQM leaders immediately succumbed to the President's assurance and that was the end of their rebel rousing demands against Dr Mirza. It is quite obvious that the President has no intention to take any action against Dr. Mirza who is his close friend and takes every step after consulting him.

The government has been so much involved in petty maters that it had no time in three years to pay serious attention to the core issues of human development as well as economic downturn. UNDP has recently issued a report entitled Real Wealth of Nations: Pathway to Human Development. The report says 54 percent Pakistanis lack access to proper education and health facilities and their standard of living has fallen two positions to 125 out of 169 countries on the Human Development Index. Other stark data includes the following: (I) Fifty one percent Pakistanis are deprived of education (II) Ten percent of people has no access to clean water (III) 55 percent population lack proper sanitation facilities (IV) More people are dying due to air and water pollution and environmental degradation.

Looking at this dismal data one feels deeply depressed as a citizen of Pakistan particularly when one looks at the huge disparity between the rich and the poor. The depression becomes deeper when one observes the dismal performance of the government with no hope for improvement in future..








Japan is currently dealing with its worst disaster since WW II. On March 11th, at 2:46PM during the usual hustle and bustle a massive 8.9/9.0 magnitude earthquake hit the North-eastern Japan, followed by a tsunami with waves as high as 20-30 feet slammed Japan's eastern coast and wreaked havoc; killing hundreds of people as it swept away boats, cars and homes while widespread fires burned out of control. The earthquake has not taken its full toll yet; it is still on a path of destruction as its after-effects have left Japan's nuclear facilities as ticking time bombs, where three major blasts at the nuclear facilities at Fukushima are spreading radiation, and already a hundred and sixty people exposed to radiation have been identified.

The sad part is that all "fail-safe" mechanisms failed as Japan's nuclear facilities while battling the disaster received two straight jabs one from the 8.9 earthquake which knocked out its main source of electrical power and the second from the Tsunami, which made the back-up power supply kaput. A Post Hoc analysis from even a layman would ask the simplest of all questions; why didn't the nuclear facilities at Fukushima have a third "fail-safe"? The answer to the question is that, the odds of this scenario to ever take place were so low that few statisticians and simulationists ever contemplated for such an event to occur, but the sad truth is that in Fukushima it has! Dealing with the impact of Japan's 8.9/9.0 earthquake is extremely difficult; the exact death toll is yet to be identified as the repercussions of this disaster are depopulating the country. It is hard to fathom that Japans 8.9/9.0 earth quake has actually accelerated Earth's spin, shortening the length of the 24-hour day by 1.8 microseconds, according to geophysicist Richard Gross at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The magnitude of damage escapes all traditional disaster management techniques, still the Japanese authorities are optimistic and believe that with an all-round help, successful recovery campaigns can be launched.

This disaster in Japan is an extremely abnormal phenomenon, which is not only making the recovery task of the disaster management authorities difficult, but also puzzling the scientists. Japan Earthquake Prediction Committee (JEPC) had predicted that the earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 nearby Sendai city would occur in next 30 years but it took place earlier. The stranger part is that the relatively small quakes with 5-7 magnitude, which occurred in different areas in Japan are not aftershocks of the first 8.9/9.0 quake. The smaller quakes did not occur in areas where aftershocks should occur. The problem is worsening as the JEPC has predicted another earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 would hit Japan within the next three days.

Traditional disaster management process prescribes that, in-order to fight disasters, countries need to follow a circular process of disaster management in which the first phase comprises "Mitigation" where all possible measures are taken to strengthen the infrastructure for carrying out recovery operations and to minimize the effects of disasters before they even occur. Extensive work had been done by Japan to ensure optimum results from this phase, as their building codes and town planning matched all the latest standards for mitigating the damage caused by earthquakes, it is true that post hoc analysis proves that infrastructure in Japan, including the nuclear plants, were earthquake resistant but were not designed to absorb the shock of the powerful tsunami - that actually undermined the infrastructure as well as the fail-safe mechanisms.

The next phase to come is that of "preparedness". Japan being one of the most developed nations in the world had prepared well for disasters and had equipped its authorities with the right tools and training, but as seen in the "mitigation" phase, the Japanese authorities had left a weak link in making their infrastructure tsunami resistant.

The third phase of the disaster management process comprises "Response". It is too early to analyze as it is still underway and the disaster keeps morphing in to a new kind of a calamity. The response teams are fighting against heavy odds, latest technology is being employed to rescue as many people as possible, all resources and all means of rescue are being tapped. A 20-kilometer evacuation zone has been established at the number one reactor and a 10 kilometer zone around the second reactor has been created to prevent nuclear fallout. About 170,000 people have been moved out of the danger area. Two robot teams are being used to assist rescue workers to hunt through rubble in areas that are inaccessible or dangerous for humans. Two different types of robots are the "Active Scope Camera", a snake-like camera which wiggles into hard-to-reach places. "Quince", a robot with wheels, climbs atop rubble, is being used. 50,000 Japanese troops are carrying out rescue operations and it is expected that assistance teams from more than 50 countries are converging towards Japan.

The fourth phase is "Recovery" in which efforts commence once the immediate damages from the disaster are curbed. Currently the "response" phase is underway and it is early to analyze the problems that can occur during this phase. The gravest concern of the rescue teams and the authorities is that once the efforts in the "recovery" phase will commence, the authorities will have to deal with problems such as preventing radiation exposure and the predicament of providing logistics. As the people are being rescued and evacuated to make-shift sanctuaries where food supplies are dwindling and communication infrastructure are badly damaged, hindering the recovery effort. Many lessons will be learned and will be employed in the "mitigation" to prevent the damage from future quakes and tsunamis. It is through courage and the sheer force of will that the Japanese overcame the carnage and disaster of WWII and the same is needed to conquer the catastrophe of March 11, the Japanese can take solace from the words of Robert Roy Pool and Jonathan Hensleigh: "Through all the chaos that is our history, through all of the wrongs and the discord, through all of the pain and suffering, through all of our times, there is one thing that has nourished our souls and elevated our species above its origin. And that is our courage."

—The author is a faculty member at the National Defence University and teaches a course on Disaster Management Policy.









Good luck to the Chinese in their marketing efforts to soften their image as carbon polluters. The communist state is keen to reposition itself on the side of the angels when it comes to consumption of coal -- with a little help, it must be said, from climate change advocates in the West. In Australia, both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her climate change adviser, Professor Ross Garnaut, have been busy supporting the notion that China is addressing carbon emissions.

The Canberra cheer squad cites this as evidence that Australia has not gone out on a limb ahead of the rest of the world with its plan for a carbon tax-cum-emissions trading scheme. The argument is that, as China and India tackle emissions, there is less danger of jobs leaking offshore as production here becomes dearer. Indeed, we must lose no time in moving to exploit a "first-mover advantage" in alternative and renewable energy technologies.

On ABC TV's Q & A on Monday night, the Prime Minister implied coal-based energy in China was being replaced by wind-generated power. If only. The facts tell a different story. China may be closing down its "dirty coal-fired power generation" facilities, but that doesn't mean it is using less coal. Rather, every kilowatt hour of electricity saved from the old stations has been more than replaced by power from a coal-powered station using newer technology. Hydro, nuclear, wind and solar will reduce the proportion of electricity China generates using coal -- but not the overall amount. Under China's latest five-year plan, nuclear power will increase four-fold to 40 gigawatts; hydroelectric capacity will grow by 63GW; gas-fired generation by 22GW; wind power will more than double with an extra 48GW; and solar capacity will grow to 5GW. The figures pale against the extra 260GW of coal-fired power that will be produced.

China's moves on carbon were recognised by Professor Garnaut in his recent update to his climate change report, although he acknowledged the problems with renewables. But, overall, he now appears less worried than in his original 2008 report about the risk of exporting jobs in trade-exposed areas. Yet China's continued reliance on coal will make it harder for Ms Gillard to reassure voters about the tax.

The reality is that coal is king in the developing world. Globally, in the 25 years from 2008, coal-fired power generation will increase from 8000 to 11,000 terrawatt hours. (A terrawatt hour is equivalent to 1000GW hours.) Any drop in coal-generated power in the West will be more than offset by growth in Asia.

It is the developing world's need for energy that has motivated many in the West to try to use climate change policies to redistribute the world's wealth. This flawed agenda was exposed at the failed 2009 Copenhagen climate summit. For low-consumption advocates and far-left Greens, carbon reduction is about slowing capitalism and enabling Third World countries to catch up. This won't work. Nor is it good economic policy to use household compensation for the carbon tax as a proxy for more welfare. The Prime Minister must resist any temptation to mix economic and social policy. She must drop the generalisations about China's efforts and start getting down to specifics about her tax.






Tony Abbott is one of the most talented politicians of his generation, so why does he keep fluffing his lines? This week, the Opposition Leader was on the attack, and then quickly in damage control, over the science of climate change. His performance at a Perth forum, where his loose talk on carbon dioxide led to headlines about the Coalition questioning the impact of carbon emissions on climate, was sloppy. Yesterday, on Ray Hadley's 2GB radio program, he was carefully rational in his comments about Rob Oakeshott, but ended up leaving his own constituency disappointed when he failed to get stuck into the independent they love to hate.

Getting it right for different audiences without leaving the media room for a Gotcha! moment is an art that modern politicians must master if they are to survive the relentless analysis of their every statement. Mr Abbott is better equipped than most of his parliamentary colleagues and foes: blessed with an excellent brain; years of reading, reflection and debate on the major domestic and international issues; and strong oratorical skills. On a good day, Mr Abbott can hold his own with the best leaders around the globe. Not for him the programmatic rendition of official departmental "talking points" that form the utterances of so many politicians.

The Opposition Leader is good on his feet and has a genuine distaste for the rehearsed answer. He understands real engagement with voters comes from an authentic statement of honestly held belief. But that openness, which is one of Mr Abbott's most attractive qualities, requires discipline. And here's the rub: the man who employs such extraordinary physical self-discipline seems unable to call it up when faced with the news cycle. He can't seem to help himself: like the boy warned not to play in the mud, Mr Abbott usually heads right for the prohibited space, almost gleefully disobeying his better instincts.

Enough with the pyschoanalysis. We urge the Opposition Leader to develop a consistent message on climate change. He need not be afraid of acknowledging that some people are sceptical, but nor can he deny the value of carbon abatement. The Australian has said often that we "give the planet the benefit of the doubt" in this complex debate. Perhaps Mr Abbott needs to adopt similar language.






That the G8, comprising the world's eight most powerful industrialised nations, has adopted a limp-wristed response to the Libyan crisis is a sad comment on the failure of the international community to respond effectively to Muammar Gaddafi's atrocities. Britain and France, to their credit, argued for a principled stand on immediate measures, specifically a no-fly zone. But there was resistance from Germany, Russia and the US, and the inglorious end to the meeting came with a communique in which there was not even a reference to a zone. Instead, there was a mealy-mouthed call for increased pressure on Gaddafi, and for him to respect the legitimate claim of the Libyan people to fundamental rights, freedom of expression and a representative form of government, as if the madman in Tripoli has in the past 42 years ever shown the slightest indication he has regard for such concepts.

Having scuttled the proposal for a more forceful response, Germany and Russia won immediate applause from Gaddafi, something that should embarrass them, but probably won't. He announced that they, with China, a veto member of the UN Security Council, and India, which is outspoken in opposing action, will be rewarded with investment and oil contracts. The G8's response is a major boost to Gaddafi as his forces intensify their onslaught. Although US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, after the meeting, met Libyan opposition leader Mahmoud Jibril, nothing emerged from the G8 to suggest other than that within the Security Council it is going to be difficult to get agreement on a no-fly zone or anything else. No wonder the dictator is so cocky.

This is a tragedy for those fighting for democracy as much as it is for international morality. Standing on diplomatic niceties as people are being slaughtered is a gross betrayal. In Bahrain, where the Sunni King Hamad is under threat from an uprising by the Shi'ite majority with highly significant Iranian involvement, Saudi Arabian troops and police from the UAE have arrived to restore order without approval from the Arab League or Security Council. While legitimate questions may be raised about this incursion, it shows a decisiveness that eludes the world on Libya.

The G8 members have missed an ideal opportunity to turn the screws on Gaddafi. They have given him a fillip: tragically, Libyans will pay the price.






WE TALK of the spirit shown by people in our summer of natural disasters and in the Christchurch earthquake, but the doggedness of the Japanese in the aftermath of their triple calamity of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear breakdown is something to behold with admiration.

With thousands killed and half a million left homeless, the survivors are quietly enduring their hardships in sports halls and other public buildings. Food and water is being shared around, with rescue workers sometimes going without to help the young and elderly. People are stocking up with food and fuel where they can, but there are no scuffles at shops or petrol stations, no reports of looting, no honking of horns in the long lines of cars trying to get away from the disaster zone and, so far, no blame-games. The machinery of government swung quickly into action, with most of the available defence forces on the scene within a day, and a quick assessment was made that foreign assistance should be welcomed immediately.

What a contrast with the financial markets, which went into a generalised worldwide tailspin as soon as they opened on Monday - with a massive fall in the indices of the Japanese and other sharemarkets and a sharp fall in currencies of countries closely linked to the Japanese economy, such as Australia - only to rebound yesterday as the same panic merchants suddenly found ''bargains'' and buying opportunities. We should not be surprised at this, only reminding ourselves that financiers are not disinterested sources of wisdom, merely the bookies to a market of punters.

Of course, the disaster has been a great economic blow as well as a human one. But as the Australian National University economist Peter Drysdale has pointed out, the affected Sendai region is a much smaller component of the economy than the port city of Kobe, devastated by a major earthquake in 1995. That also caused a big drop in share prices, but recovery was almost total within three years.

The added dimension this time is the struggle to avert a major release of radioactivity from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant. Assuming the reactors can be brought under control, as the weight of expert judgment suggests will happen, there will be a big gap in Japan's electricity supply and perhaps critical financial pressure on the plant operator, the world's biggest power firm and a major customer for Australian energy exports. Yet the stoic resilience of the Japanese seems a more valid pointer than the financial market alarm bells.



EVEN as the world ponders the possibility of global recession, Australian policymakers continue to prepare for another contingency: that a booming economy and resources sector will drive skills shortages in the Australian economy for the foreseeable future. In a praiseworthy display of long-term policy thinking, the federal government has announced it will adopt all 31 recommendations of a taskforce report into the future workforce requirements of the mining industry.

The National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce's final report, released last July, warned of emerging skill shortages in the resources industry later this year and into next year, particularly in Western Australia and Queensland. An investment pipeline worth hundreds of billions of dollars over the coming five years would mean increased demand not only for miners, but construction workers, labourers, engineers and technicians. Australia would face a shortfall of 36,000 tradespeople by 2015 if nothing was done.

In response, the government will implement a host of measures, including a fast-tracked, 18-month qualification to upskill already experienced workers, a $200 million investment fund for skills programs, measures to boost indigenous employment in mining and an audit of resource projects and their demand for workers.

Such measures are prudent. Both Treasury and the Reserve Bank have speculated recently that the processes of industrialisation in China and India would create added demand for commodity for decades, albeit with bumps and jolts in the road, such as the Japanese disaster. The resulting export price boom will stretch the Australian economy's productive resources, including capital and labour. The ageing of the population will also make it harder for employers to fill positions. The retirement of the baby boomer generation, which begins in earnest this year, will leave behind it a smaller cohort of Generation X and Y workers. It is important that this new workforce is equipped with the skills and experience needed to fill their shoes.

So while the Gillard government deserves praise, it must go much further. Noises have long been made about reforming the antiquated apprenticeship program. Increasingly, young workers opt for a shorter TAFE qualification to sidestep the onerous, multi-year apprenticeship process. But the value of apprentices learning on the job from older workers is not to be understated. Apprentice positions must be adequately remunerated and flexible to remain an attractive choice for younger workers. Reforms such as adding more levels of possible qualification into the apprentice system should be examined. Immigration will also be needed to bridge emerging skills gaps, but it behoves us to make the most out of our existing workforce, too.