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Saturday, March 19, 2011

EDITORIAL 19.03.11

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Editorial

month march 19, edition 000784 collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

For ENGLISH  EDITORIAL  http://editorialsamarth.blogspot.com

 

THE PIONEER

  1. UNTENABLE DEFENCE
  2. INDIA SITS ON THE FENCE
  3. TRAPPED IN ITS WEB OF DECEIT - ASHOK MALIK
  4. JESUS DIED FOR ALL PEOPLE - DOMINIC EMMANUEL
  5. HOPE FOR THE WORLD? - SWARN KUMAR ANAND
  6. …but it's not enough to end anti-Semitism - Kamal Mitra Chenoy

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. EDGE OF SEAT THRILLER
  2. JASMINE, MIDEAST AND BEYOND - NAYAN CHANDA
  3. RISING FROM THE ASHES - JEAN-PIERRE LEHMANN AND DOMINIQUE TURPIN
  4. THE CRICKET AUDIENCE IS HERE
  5. LOOK BEYOND SOUTH ASIA - AJAY VAISHNAV

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. NOT A WEALTH OF INFORMATION
  2. SOUNDS OF SILENCE - BARKHA DUTT
  3. CRICKET'S PERFECT KNIGHT - RAVI CHATURVEDI
  4. WE'RE ALL IN IT TOGETHER - NAMITA BHANDARE

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. FACTS OF THE MATTER
  2. DONOR NATION
  3. TOO BIG TO FAIL?
  4. CARTER FOR NEPAL'S CRISIS - YUBARAJ GHIMIRE
  5. THE MONEY WILL RETURN - SHOBHANA SUBRAMANIAN
  6. RATING A LACK OF LEADERSHIP - SURJIT S BHALLA
  7. PRINTLINE PAKISTAN - RUCHIKA TALWAR
  8. THE FUTURE'S STILL IN PLASTIC - SUSAN FREINKEL
  9. THE NUCLEAR TAKEAWAY – G BALACHANDRAN

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. WIKILEAKS INDIA
  2. MORE THAN INTEGRITY
  3. WHAT MARKETS WANT, RBI GIVES - SURJIT S BHALLA
  4. NOT SO EMERGING ANYMORE - V BALAKRISHNAN

THE HINDU

  1. QADHAFI REGIME CLIMBS DOWN
  2. A MULTI-PRONGED STRATEGY
  3. BRIBERY CHARGE MUST NOW BE INVESTIGATED  - SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN
  4. BJP SAYS ONE THING AT PARTY MEET, ANOTHER IN PRIVATE  - SURESH NAMBATH
  5. ADVANI PLAYS DOWN BJP OPPOSITION TO NUCLEAR DEAL  - SURESH NAMBATH
  6. IN SRI LANKA, SEEKING TO SQUARE THE CIRCLE  - K. VENKATARAMANAN
  7. ISRAEL'S PR OFFENSIVE IN INDIA  - HASAN SUROOR
  8. PAKISTAN BACKED MILITANTS TO AVOID BEING TARGETED?  - P. SAINATH

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. BATCHA'S 'SUICIDE' WON'T IMPACT PROBE
  2. WOMAN POWER - KISHWAR DESAI

DNA

  1. IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME
  2. TIME TO MERGE TROOPS UNDER HOME MINISTRY

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. POISONOUS SNAKES IN BACKYARD
  2. RETHINK ON NUCLEAR ENERGY
  3. TIME TO SETTLE K-ISSUE -  Y ML KOTRU
  4. HOLI: CARNIVAL OF COLOURS
  5. EDUCATION FOR WHOM? - BY RASHMI GUPTA RATHORE

THE TRIBUNE

  1. RESURRECTING OLD GHOSTS
  2. CLOUDS ON HORIZON
  3. SECTARIANISM IN BAHRAIN
  4. CONSTITUTING THE JPC - BY P.D.T. ACHARY
  5. MEMORIES OF JAPAN - BY PUSHPINDER CHEEMA
  6. PROTECTING WOMEN FROM DOMESTIC VIOLENCE  - VINEET KAPOOR
  7. THE LAW: ITS SCOPE & DIMENSIONs

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. LONG SHADOW OVER JAITAPUR

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. A 2-MAN ADVANTAGE - T N NINAN
  2. THE WAGES OF POPULISM - DEEPAK LAL
  3. THE NEW PILLAGE OF DELHI - SUNIL SETHI
  4. AT NATURE'S MERCY - K NATWAR SINGH
  5. WHO AND WHERE ARE THE JIHADIS? - V V
  6. AND THE HOME TRUTH IS... - ADITI PHADNIS
  7. GUNNING FOR LIBYA - SUHASINI HAIDAR 
  8. THE WINNING POLL PLATFORM - RAMA BIJAPURKAR

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. NO CAPTIVE COAL
  2. PEACE, PERFORCE
  3. STEALING A MARCH
  4. TACKLING THE BLIGHT OF MISGOVERNANCE
  5. DEFENCE BUDGET CAN'T BE JUST ARITHMETIC  - MAJ GEN (RETD) ASHOK K MEHTA
  6. WORRYING ABOUT THE RIGHT ISSUES  - FARHAT JAMAL

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. OF HEARTLESS WASHINGTON, JOBLESS MILLIONS
  2. INTERPRETER OF DREAMS
  3. BATCHA'S 'SUICIDE' WON'T IMPACT PROBE
  4. HOMER SIMPSON NEED NOT APPLY
  5. WOMAN POWER
  6. BRIBE-GIVER < BRIBE-TAKER

THE STATESMAN

  1. BEST PROSECUTOR
  2. FUNDS FOR JOBS
  3. SATELLITE TAKES OVER
  4. DANCING TO WIKILEAKS' BEAT! - RAJINDER PURI
  5. 'WE NEED REGULATIONS AND GUARANTEED IMPLEMENTATION'  
  6. ON RECORD
  7. HUMAN FOLLY CAN AGGRAVATE NATURE'S FURY  - BHARAT DOGRA

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. SEARCH FOR A BALANCE
  2. UNTIL IT IS THE RIGHT TIME  - SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY

DECCAN HERALD

  1. ABJECT SURRENDER
  2. CURBING FREEDOM
  3. DEATH BY CHOICE  - BY SUDHANSHU RANJAN
  4. LOVERS' TALES  - BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
  5. LOCK, SHOCK AND BABBLE  - BY K J SHENOY

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. SETTLING FORECLOSURE ABUSES
  2. A NEW INTERNET PRIVACY LAW?
  3. THE BROKEN MACHINERY OF DEATH
  4. MISSION TO MERCURY
  5. ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK - BY CHARLES M. BLOW
  6. A PRICE TOO HIGH? - BY BOB HERBERT
  7. THE WRONG TYPE OF TALK THERAPY - BY KEELY KOLMES
  8. ELECTRIC KOOL-AID MARKETING TRIP - BY MICHAEL WALKER

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. SHUTDOWN THREAT AVERTED
  2. THOMPSON AND ERLANGER — WHO?
  3. FORMER COMMISSIONER LOU MILLER

 

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. MOR GABRIEL - CENGİZ AKTAR
  2. THE MURDER OF THE JEWISH INNOCENTS - MUSTAFA AKYOL
  3. 'NO' TO NUCLEAR - GİLA BENMAYOR  
  4. CHP'S EVOLUTION TOWARD A GENUINE SOCIAL DEMOCRAT PARTY - SERKAN DEMİRTAŞ
  5. WHY ARE THEY HEROES? - KADRİ GÜRSEL
  6. THE CORRIDOR - ERDOĞAN'S CRITERIA - GÖKSEL BOZKURT
  7. LADIES, THROW YOUR HATS INTO THE ELECTION RING - MERAL TAMER
  8. THE LIMITS - ZAFER PARLAR
  9. A BIRD'S EYE VIEW - THE PLANET STRIKES BACK - ADVENA AVIS
  10. THE VOICE OF THE ARAB STREET - AİJAZ ZAKA SYED

THE NEWS

  1. THE GIFT OF DEATH
  2. NO-FLY IN LIBYA
  3. JUSTICE FOR ALL
  4. BLOOD, MONEY AND SOVEREIGNTY
  5. AMEER BHUTTO
  6. WHOSE BLOOD? WHOSE MONEY?  - TALAT FAROOQ
  7. DOCTORS' MOVEMENT  - DR SANIA NISHTAR
  8. INNOVATE TO EDUCATE  - SHAHID KARDAR
  9. OUR RANTING AND RAVING  - BABAR SATTAR
  10. BALOCH GRIEVANCES  - RIZWAN ASGHAR

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. DAVIS IS FREE AND HE HAD TO BE
  2. PM'S KYRGYZSTAN ODYSSEY
  3. OUTSOURCING POLICYMAKING TO THE WEST - M D NALAPAT
  4. MR KARZAI: BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER - SULTAN M HALI
  5. THE MINDSET – DR IRFAN ZAFAR
  6. THE HOLY QUR'AN AND UNIVERSE - ATIF NOOR KHAN
  7. INDIAN CROSS-BORDER TERRORISM IN BANGLADESH - SAJJAD SHAUKAT

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. AT LAST, THE WORLD SIDES WITH THE LIBYAN PEOPLE
  2. BOAT INFLUX MUST BE STOPPED
  3. LET THE TAX REFORM DEBATE BEGIN

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. BELATEDLY, THE UN MAKES THE RIGHT CALL ON LIBYA
  2. LOSING SIGHT OF REAL RISKS IN FOG OF FEAR

THE GUARDIAN

  1. LIBYA: THE PERILS OF INTERVENTION
  2. UNTHINKABLE? REALITY TV GETS MORE GROTESQUE

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. THE DALAI LAMA PUSHES REFORM

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. ECONOMIC LITERACY AND EDUCATION IN INDONESIA - EBI JUNAIDI
  2. HOW TO SELL INDONESIA IN TWO WORDS - WARIEF DJAJANTO BASORIE
  3. TO KNOW, KNOW, KNOW YOU - DEWI ANGGRAENI

DAILY MIRROR

  1. PEOPLE EXPRESS FAITH AGAIN, DON'T BETRAY THEM
  2. PREMIER'S REMARKS ON LTTE CAMPS INVALIDATES THE NEED TO HAVE EMERGENCY
  3. MAINSTREAMING DOMESTIC WORKERS
  4. LG POLLS: VICTORIES, DEFEATS AND THE WAY FORWARD
  5. THE DESPERATE STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. SCAPEGOATS AND WITCH-HUNTS    - BY PAUL BALLES

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

UNTENABLE DEFENCE

PM'S WAFFLE WON'T ABSOLVE HIM OF RESPONSIBILITY


The Prime Minister's attempt to brush aside the damaging contents of the cable despatched from the US Embassy in New Delhi to the State Department in Washington, DC five days before the crucial confidence motion came up for voting in the Lok Sabha in July 2008 would easily qualify as waffle that means nothing. True, the stunning details of how the Congress went about buying votes to save the UPA1 Government after the Left withdrew its support over the India-US civil nuclear agreement that are contained in the cable, put out in the public domain by WikiLeaks, are neither "verified" nor "verifiable", as Mr Manmohan Singh told Parliament on Friday. But that does not put a question mark on the authenticity of the cable per se — the US has not disowned the cables sent to headquarters by its missions around the world; it is amazing that the Prime Minister of India should want to do so! It's as laughable as the Union Minister for Finance, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, pompously declaring that cables despatched by foreign missions enjoy "diplomatic immunity" and hence cannot be discussed by Members of Parliament. The issue raised by this particular cable is simple: The Congress won the trust vote by 'bribing' MPs. The details of what came to be known as the 'cash-for-vote' scandal are really inconsequential insofar as it is virtually impossible to prove who paid whom how much. The attempt to bribe BJP MPs by an 'aide' of the then all-powerful Samajwadi Party general secretary, Mr Amar Singh, who counselled his leaders to ditch the Marxists and pitch for the Congress, was captured on tape. The money was displayed inside the Lok Sabha and seen by the entire country. Yet nothing came of that evidence of attempted bribery; instead, those who helped expose that misdeed were sought to be penalised. We are now told that similar efforts were made by individuals with access to the highest level of the party leadership. Captain Satish Sharma has been prompt in issuing a denial, but that does not necessarily absolve him. Nor is the Government of the day absolved of all responsibility by taking recourse to the plea that this is a new Lok Sabha and the alleged bribery pertains to the previous House. Apparently, the Congress believes that sins committed in the past cease to be of any relevance when they are discovered or become public knowledge.


The cable that has raised a storm, and rightly so, in Parliament makes a larger point: That of the Prime Minister's honesty and integrity. Increasingly the man who wants India to believe that he is 'Mr Clean' looks not only weak and feckless, but his reputation lies in tatters. The biggest scandal occurred under his watch; a bigger scam involving the Department of Space was barely averted; a tainted babu was appointed by him as the Central Vigilance Commissioner; governance has come to a halt under his tutelage; policy has gone into limbo. For every folly of his, Mr Singh has a standard response: "I was not aware." India cannot afford to have such a person as its Prime Minister. The Government has to be led from the front by a leader who is not gutless and given to spinning an elaborate web of deceit. That leader is clearly not Mr Singh. It is for the Congress to decide the next step. It is for the Opposition to ensure a decision is taken.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

INDIA SITS ON THE FENCE

DO WE DESERVE TO BE IN SECURITY COUNCIL?


Hours after the United Nations Security Council voted to impose a 'No Fly Zone' as well as authorised member states to take "all necessary measures to protect civilians" in Libya, the regime, which has been battering anti-Government protesters for days, did a complete turn-around and declared an immediate ceasefire. However, there was little evidence that the regime's pledge to cease fire was being matched by a cessation of violence on the ground. Consequently, Western forces continued with their preparations to implement a 'No Fly Zone'. The UNSC resolution which will serve as the basis of any foreign military intervention has a wide mandate but does leave several questions unanswered, which has resulted in a mixed response from UNSC members. Ten members voted in favour of the resolution while the remaining five, including India, abstained from voting. For a country that not only has global aspirations but is also lobbying for a permanent seat in the UNSC, this is particularly worrisome. India's refusal to take a stand and make a point on a matter of such importance and urgency reflects poorly on the country's ability to be a leading force on the international platform. India's position, that this "entire exercise has been based on less than complete information", is in keeping with the mindset that has dominated foreign policy barring the years when the NDA was in power and the BJP took firm decisions breaking with the past.


A country aspiring to emerge as a global leader must take risks and responsibilities; it will no doubt be held accountable for its decisions and will have to learn to deal with the consequences. An aspiring global power cannot just sit on the fence, it must lead from the front. And this is where India continues to fail miserably. We are so desperate not to be seen making a mistake, we are so apprehensive about upsetting others, that we are never willing to get off the fence and make ourselves counted. This is exactly what happened during the Security Council vote. The idea of military intervention is a contentious one and indeed, plans to impose a 'No Fly Zone' on Libya have been hotly debated around the world from New York to Brussels and Beijing. But while other world nations took a stand — for which they will be held accountable — India chose to abstain, expressing neither support nor dissent. If we were convinced of the reasons that are now being cited, we should have voted against the resolution. That would have upset the US and others, but we cannot continue to please everybody without displeasing anybody. Sadly, such bogus diplomacy and non-commitment are leftovers from an era long gone. A resurgent India's policies must reflect its new place in the world order. That reflection is tragically missing.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

TRAPPED IN ITS WEB OF DECEIT

ASHOK MALIK


There is a growing absence of logic and a delusional rejection of reality as the rest of the world sees it in what the Congress has to say in its defence.


Media briefings by Congress spokespersons increasingly resemble those by the Iraqi Information Minister during the Gulf War of 2003. There is a growing absence of logic, enhanced hyperbole and rhetoric, and a happy if not delusional rejection of reality as the rest of the world sees it. The WikiLeaks controversy is the latest platform for this.


Speaking in Parliament, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the 'cash-for-vote' scandal — alleged bribing of MPs by UPA managers during the July 2008 vote of confidence — was an issue for the 14th Lok Sabha, which ended its term in May 2009. This was a new Lok Sabha, following a general election. As such, the matter could not be raised again. The next day the Prime Minister also referred to the Congress's victory in the general election of 2009 and indicated this had put a seal of closure on the bribery accusations.


On his part, Mr Abhishek Manu Singhvi was especially Big Brotherly. "It is amazing," he said, "that an entire country must be held to ransom because of the subjective recordings of hearsay on hearsay on hearsay. This is hearsay on stilts. What is more, this is irresponsible politics and irresponsible journalism, this is the creation of chaos by forces that want to destabilise the country."

Fair enough, one may argue. Yet, before delving into the WikiLeaks debate, do consider two instances from India's recent past. First, did an intelligence failure take place before the Kargil war of 1999 and were specific warnings ignored by the Ministry of Defence and senior officers of the Indian Army? Given only a few months after the Kargil war the BJP-led NDA Government won re-election, could it have claimed that the Government responsible for the intelligence failure, if any, was the previous Government and answerable to the previous Lok Sabha? And, therefore, any question of investigating the alleged intelligence failure was infructuous?

Second, were the Tehelka recordings on middlemen and corruption in defence equipment purchases — released in March 2001 — a factual account of a real deal? Alternatively wasn't much of the evidence hearsay, the result of small-timers, fixers and crooks — and the then BJP president — talking big, offering to deliver more than they could, boasting and pocketing loose change or hospitality? Did it merit asking the Minister of Defence, who did not appear on any of the Tehelka tapes, to resign?


Admittedly these inconsistencies are the least of the Congress's problems. The WikiLeaks issue is only one of a series of scandals to have buffeted the party. While not a game-changer and no different in its political implications than any previous embarrassment, it does damage the UPA's credibility that much more. It is unlikely the Prime Minister will resign or the Government will fall — as some in the Opposition may demand or wish for — but nevertheless the Congress is rattled.


Broadly, it is battling three types of troubles. One, those scandals that can be blamed on junior, inconsequential functionaries — Mr Shashi Tharoor and the Kochi cricket mess; Mr Suresh Kalmadi and the Commonwealth Games swindle. Here, the party has taken the moral high ground by asking people to resign and presented this as evidence of its good intentions.


Two, those scandals that have been traced back to the Prime Minister's Office, perhaps not to the Prime Minister himself but certainly to dodgy decision-making by officials in and influences upon his PMO. The Devas-Indian Space Research Organisation deal and the appointment of a contentious Central Vigilance Commissioner are examples. Here, the party has outwardly defended the Prime Minister, privately attacked him — as happened at the Congress core group meeting in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court's verdict in the CVC case — but has been unable to do much more.


Three, there are accusations uncomfortably close to the Nehru-Gandhi family. The WikiLeaks papers point in the direction of Mr Satish Sharma. Eyebrows have also been raised by Mr Robert Vadra's land deals and his commercial use of farmland acquired in Rajasthan and Haryana, both Congress-run States. Congress allies such as the DMK and the NCP, which have faced similar charges of sweetheart deals in return for policy favours, must be sharpening their knives.


What we are seeing is not a linear series of swindles but a matushka doll, the Russian device that has one doll inside another, and then a third inside the second. The Commonwealth Games and telecom scandals were pinned on others and steps were taken to insulate and protect the Prime Minister. The CVC and Devas episodes have been pinned on the PMO, and steps have been taken to insulate and protect the Congress leadership.


Each time a scapegoat has been found, and a sacrificial figure offered to the media and public to assuage emotions. In the case of the PMO, especially following the CVC episode, there has been party pressure on Mr Singh to remove key officials. So far he has resisted, and the Congress has had to swallow it.


If this approach were to be followed to its conclusion, at some point the Congress may want Mr Singh himself to go — the ultimate sacrifice — to save itself from a truly egregious scandal. However, this is where the party has run into a problem. It does not have an option to Mr Singh. Should he be removed as Prime Minister, who comes next? Mr Mukherjee and Mr P Chidambaram are seen as too independent and, given their recent turf wars, cancel out each other. Mr SK Shinde, Mr AK Antony and Mr SM Krishna don't seem prime ministerial. There are vague rumours about Ms Sheila Dikshit being a back-up candidate. The elephant in the room is Mr Rahul Gandhi, and he doesn't seem ready yet.


In essence, this is a Government that is completely paralysed. The party and the PMO don't see eye to eye but there is no alternative to the current configuration without precipitating another election. Mr Singh realises he is the only feasible name for UPA Prime Minister in this Lok Sabha. He also realises he has no future beyond this Lok Sabha. The non-playing captain can drop him for the next test match, but has to allow him to bat out this innings in a manner he chooses.


As a situation, it is completely unreal. It could last another year or another three; nobody knows. Governance is at a standstill and the longer the Government stays, the more difficult things will be for the Congress in the next election. The astonishing aspect is the party realises this, but can't do a thing about it.


malikashok@gmail.com

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THE PIONEER

OPED

JESUS DIED FOR ALL PEOPLE

DOMINIC EMMANUEL


From 'the Jews did it' to 'nobody did it' it's been a road marked by blood, tears and fire. Now, after two thousand years, Pope Benedict XVI has clarified that Jesus Christ's crucifixion was a result of secular conspiracy

In Part II of his book 'Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week', released earlier this month, Pope Benedict XVI sets out to present the figure and the message of Jesus, offering an in depth perspective of the events leading up to His death on the Cross on Good Friday over two millennia ago.


The cruel death of Jesus on the Cross continues to intrigue a large number of people around the world, particularly those who do not understand the whole theology behind the events of Jesus' death and eventual resurrection. The intriguing part aside what adds to the puzzle is the belief that anti-Semitism (hated of Jewry), whose most extreme expression was the Nazi Holocaust which caused the mass murder of over 6 million Jews, is attributed to the misunderstanding that it was the whole Jewish race that was responsible for Jesus' death.

Already in 1965, the historic Second Vatican Council (Second Vatican), in one of its documents known as 'Nostra Aetate' (Relationship of the Church with other religions), had tried to clear the air by stating that not all Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. It said: "Indeed, the Church believes that by His cross Christ, Our Peace, reconciled Jews and Gentiles, making both one in Himself."


The document continued:"Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this sacred synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues."

 

True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. Further, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.


In his latest book, Pope Benedict XVI only reiterates what had been clarified by Second Vatican by explaining the difficult passage in Matthew's Gospel which speaks of the crowd shouting: "Let his blood be on us and on our children." Drawing also from the accounts in the Gospel of Mark and John, the Pope argues that the crowd spoken of refers to the "dominant priestly circle" and supporters of the rebel Barabbas, and therefore "not the Jewish people as such". Notably, he states that the words do not amount to a curse upon the Jews because Jesus' blood was shed for all people.


He writes: "The Christian will remember that Jesus' blood speaks a different language from the blood of Abel (Heb 12:24): it does not cry out for vengeance and punishment, it brings reconciliation. It is not poured out against anyone, it is poured out for many, for all. Read in the light of faith (Matthew's reference to blood) means that we all stand in need of the purifying power of love which is his blood. "These words are not a curse, but rather redemption, salvation."

It is significant that Rabbi David Rosen, Head of inter-religious affairs at the American Jewish Committee and a longtime leader in Vatican-Jewish dialogue, has welcomed Pope Benedict's second volume for further exonerating the Jewish people for Jesus' death. Rosen said the Pope's words might make a bigger, more lasting mark because the faithful tend to read Scripture and commentary more so than Church documents. "There's a natural human tendency to take things for granted, and very often this tends to lead to a lapse in awareness and consciousness" about the risk of anti-Semitism."


Dave Gifford, Chief Executive of the Council of Christians and Jews in the UK, commented that the Pope's book was "timely" and "refreshing", and should be read by the Church and Catholics in particular at a time of growing anti-Semitism. He welcomed the Pope's rejection of any scriptural basis for anti-Semitism and his call for fresh theological reflection of the Scriptures in this respect.


Elan Steinberg, head of American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said: "Holocaust survivors know only too well how the centuries-long charge of 'Christ killer' against the Jews created a poisonous climate of hate that was the foundation of anti-Semitic persecution whose ultimate expression was realized in the Holocaust." The Pope's book, he said, not only confirms church teaching refuting the deicide charge "but seals it for a new generation of Catholics."


That Benedict is a theologian makes "this statement from the Holy See that much more significant for now and for future generations," said


Anti-Defamation League national director, Abraham H Foxman. Like Foxman, people around the world have hailed Pope Benedict's reiteration of not holding all the Jews responsible for the death of Jesus.

In the book, Benedict re-enacts Jesus' final hours, including his death sentence for blasphemy, then analyses each Gospel account to explain why Jews as a whole cannot be blamed for it. Rather, Benedict concludes, it was the "Temple aristocracy" and a few supporters of the figure Barabbas who were responsible.

The phrase, from the Gospel of Matthew, has been so incendiary that director Mel Gibson was reportedly forced to drop it from the subtitles of his 2004 film "The Passion of the Christ," although it remained in the spoken Aramaic.

Pope Benedict has made improving relations with Jews a priority of his pontificate. He has visited the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland and Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. Archbishop Vincent M Concessao of Delhi, welcoming the recent book, recalls how through Second Vatican the Catholic Church has shown greater openness to all the religions of the world quoting Nostra Aetate which states: "The Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these (other) religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognise, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men."


-- The writer is a columnist on inter-faith issues and spokesperson of Delhi Catholic Archdiocese

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

HOPE FOR THE WORLD?

SWARN KUMAR ANAND


Pope Benedict XVI's exoneration of Jews from complicity in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is a watershed moment for inter-faith relations in a world seeing the return of religious prejudice. Saturday Special examines what will change after this and what won't


Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week has taken a revolutionary step in furthering the cause of Catholic-Jewish dialogue by explicitly exonerating the Jewish people from all blame for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In the book, Pope Benedict not only offers original insights into the death of Jesus, but also makes a gripping theological assessment of who was culpable.


The Pope's revelation is not entirely new. In 1965, the Second Vatican Council rejected the ancient charge of deicide. However what makes it a watershed moment is that it is for the first time that a Pope has personally made a forceful deconstruction of the scriptural texts explaining biblically and theologically why there is no basis in scripture for the argument that the Jewish people as a whole were responsible for Jesus' death.


If such convincing theological arguments were put forward a couple of centuries ago, the long history of persecution of Jews would not have found a place in history books. Maybe the course of world history would have been different. It is natural that Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week has generated a curious debate across the world as there are three main stakeholders — Christian, Jews and Muslims, particularly Arabs — whose interests coincide at points in both theology and geography.


The historical rivalry among Muslims, Jews and Christians is quite strange considering the fact they all claim to come from the same Man — Abraham. However, unlike the betrayal of Jesus allegation against Jewry which resulted in the loss of millions of lives over centuries, the ancient root of hostility between Issac and Ishmael does not explain all the hostility between Jews and Muslims, as the primary cause of present day hostility has a modern origin. Traditionally Jews living in Muslim lands were allowed to practice their religion and to administer their internal affairs but subject to certain conditions like jizya.


Seen in this context, Iran President Mohmoud Ahmedinejad's public denial of the occurrence of Holocaust has more to do with the Israel-Palestine conflict than a religious dispute. Moreover, the Christians' support for a Zionist state, as solidified by the Biblical viewpoint, has changed the equations among Christian, Jews and Muslims.

However, before we go into deep to assess the impacts of the Pope's theological explanation absolving the Jews, let us look into the causes that led to Jews' persecution around the world.


Anti-Semitism took root as early as the 3rd Century BC, when Jewish people first came into contact with the Hellenistic world. In the 13th Century, Peter the Venerable of Cluny questioned: "Whether a Jew can be human?"

Deicide became justification for some Christians' views of Jews as an inferior people with an inferior religion since they did not accept Jesus as their saviour. The Bible notes that Jews turned Jesus over to the Romans for execution but did not kill Jesus themselves. There is no hatred towards the Romans, but there is widespread anger at the Jews. This led to the Jews being forced to live in foreign lands for thousands of years, starting with the expulsion of the Israelis from modern-day Israel, Jordan, and parts of Lebanon over 2,500 years ago. They were made scapegoat for various societal problems from economic to social ills. Many Europeans blamed the Jews for the bubonic plague that wiped out one-third of Europe's population in the 14th century.


The other reason for their discrimination in the Middle Ages was their economic wellbeing, allegedly at the cost of non-Jews. Some Jews held jobs as money lenders, which allowed them to earn money by charging interest. There are stipulations against charging interest in both Catholicism and Islam. Jewish law prohibits Jews from charging other Jews interest on loans but permits Jews to charge interest from non-Jews.


Strangely, despite increasing integration of the Jews with secular society, a new form of anti-Semitism emerged, based on ideas of race and nationhood rather than the religious hatred of the Middle Ages. This form of anti-Semitism held that Jews were a separate and inferior race from the "Aryan" people of Western Europe, and led to the emergence of political parties in France, Germany, and Austria-Hungary that campaigned on a platform of rolling back emancipation. Adolf Hitler believed Jews were an inferior race that should be destroyed, and he set out to systematically realise this goal. Interestingly, there is no homogenous Jewish race. There are Jews of every race — white, black, Asian, and so on.


Unlike the times when the Church made hatred of the Jews part of its dogma — it was believed that every good Christian had a "sacred duty" to oppress the Jewish population — in modern times, particularly after World War II, most of the hatred Jews get is from the Muslim world for their Zionist ideology. A large section of the Muslim world feels that Europeans were overwhelmed by post-Holocaust guilt and their governments decided to repent by giving the Jews a free hand on lands belonging to the Muslims.


During the Holocaust, the West Asian region was in turmoil. The Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husayni, staged a pro-Nazi coup in Iraq and organised the Farhud pogrom which marked the turning point for about 150,000 Iraqi Jews who were targeted during 1948 for seeking a Zionist state. In Egypt too, Anwar Sadat conspired with the Nazis and promised them that no British soldier would leave Egypt alive leaving the Jews of that region defenseless.

Considered in this context, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's praise of the Pope is a sign of solidification of Jew-Christian forces. Benjamin said: "I commend you (Pope Benedict) for forcefully rejecting in your recent book a false charge that has been a foundation for the hatred of the Jewish people for many centuries", adding, "the clarity and courage will strengthen the relations between Jews and Christians throughout the world, and help promote peace and reconciliation for generations to come."


Though Pope Benedict had his share of controversies like quoting a Byzantine emperor who called Islam "evil and inhuman'', his earlier advocacy for the use of condom to prevent diseases like AIDS, and the present revolutionary challenge to the New Testament could outweigh the church's long opposition on unfounded beliefs. Also, it is a wake up call for practitioners of major religions to make themselves compatible with the needs of a modern, secular society. It is a time to live and let live.


-- The writer is Deputy News Editor, The Pioneer

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

…but it's not enough to end anti-Semitism

Kamal Mitra Chenoy

 

Not all Christians are bound to follow the Pope and the biggest Jew baiters today are Islamic fundamentalists. In a world seeing the institutionalisation of hatred for people of another faith, what difference will one belated Papal admission make?


Pope Benedict XVI's latest book reiterates the position of the Catholic clergy that the Jews could not be held guilty of killing Jesus Christ. Such pronouncements have come before in recent years. However despite this exoneration of what was earlier Catholic orthodoxy is unlikely to make much difference. There are after all other Churches including Protestant Evangelicals who have their own views on this question and will not consider themselves bound by the Pope's decree in any way.


But there is a deeper problem. Anti-Semitism is not based or at least not mainly based on the execution of Jesus. The fact that a famous film star and a well known fashion designer made anti-Semitic statements recently indicates a greater malaise. There is a whole complex of reasons for anti-Semitism. For example, many in the US and Europe grudge the fact that Jews are prominent in the entertainment business, in finance and the liberal arts. It is relatively easy to tell from a surname whether a person is Jewish. This disproportionate influence and wealth is a source of envy that turns into hatred.


This is ironic because Jews have also been very active for liberal causes. And have often publicly defended the rights of orthodox members of other religions. So it is obvious that anti-Semitism have deep cultural roots with folkloric history being used to damn the Jews as being blood-sucking money lenders and the like. This hatred resulted in the Holocaust and other pogroms against Jews in many places throughout history.

One of the most virulent forms of hatred of Jews is harboured by Islamic fundamentalists who damn the whole community for the occupation of Palestine and the oppression of the Palestinians. This feature is also common among secular and liberal Muslims who resent the crimes of Israel and Zionism despite the fact there are significant number of Jews who are not Zionists and are sympathetic to the Palestinians.


But the mindset about Zionism being the ideology of the Jews which the Zionists arrogate to themselves is deeply embedded even among a wide variety of religions and ethnic communities. Given the diverse roots of anti-Semitism even more aggressive support and exoneration of the Jews by the Catholic Church would take decades to make an impact. The fact is not about who killed Christ, but about those people who purportedly have a disproportionate share of money, power, and influence.


It is a tragic irony that anti-Semitism is nowhere as rampant as Islamophobia. Ever since Islamist groups who in the initial stages were funded and patronised by US intelligence, like the Mujahedeen who fought in Afghanistan, later formed the base of Al-Qaida. 9/11 was one the US's worst nightmares. Later Iraq and Afghanistan followed. Now there is a bloody struggle in Libya. So many well meaning people believe that there is innately something wrong with the Muslims, just like others think that there is something basically wrong with the Jews.


This 'othering' has become more sophisticated with time. As Eric Segal wrote in his famous book, Love Story, many of the high scoring law students at Harvard were Jews. And most people who said it did not matter were being dishonest, and were being anti-Semitic. Prejudice is never admitted. Ironically many who are themselves oppressed, like poor Muslims have themselves made the Jew the 'other' and vice versa.
The Christian Zionists who claim their right to Israel have severe biases against Jews whom they do not consider fit for a Zionist heaven. Many would think that in the 21st century, narrow prejudice and bigotry should have sharply reduced. But that is not the case. So the Pope's action welcome though it is, is not enough without the galvanisation of the entire Catholic Church against anti-Semitism on the grounds that this is anti-Christian and against the deeply humane ideas of Jesus and his disciples.


This by itself will not make anti-Semitism go away but will be a significant step forward. Also if other religious groupings, including other Christian denominations and Muslims, emulate such an activity, the image of the 'other' would be severely dented. However, Jews would remain as the other in Islamic societies, because of Palestine. That apart there would be all sorts of superstitions and folklore against the Jews.


What is particularly tragic is that Christ and his disciples were originally Jews. And the Muslims recognise Moses and Abraham as prophets. The three Semitic religions have much in common. But for quite some time it is what divides the Semitic religions that prevails. What is common is all but forgotten. There has to be for a true end to anti-Semitism repudiation of Zionism by liberal Jews. Israel with its ever expanding and never defined borders and its terrible oppression of the Palestinians is a red rag to the anti-Semitic person who knows even a bit about what is happening in Israel and Palestine. But just like the Islamic fundamentalist does not represent Islam, the Zionists do not represent the Jews.


-- The writer is Professor, International Relations, JNU

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

EDGE OF SEAT THRILLER

 

Everyone jostles for seats, on buses, cheap fare planes or gravy trains. The last being truest for politics, never undervalue the worth of the deceivingly humble contraption called a 'seat'. In our coalition era, government's high table needs more seats than usual, to accommodate certain props called "allies". The coalition big brother - the party with the most seats - gets seated at the head of the table, often at both ends. Today, however, with assembly polls approaching, regional players have upset standard seating arrangements by unfastening their seat-belts. Understandably. When allies haggle over seat-sharing, nobody wants to be tied down as a sitting - or, shall we say, seating - duck.


At least the DMK didn't. Perhaps, in Tamil Nadu's poll run-up, it had wagered that 2G was a hot seat it already shared with the Congress. But the latter still refused a backseat ride in the campaign, demanding more constituencies than its mortified ally wished to give. Some say the DMK caved in, fearing Jayalalithaa's reputation for catapulting into the CM's seat. Others say it's because Congress's Rahul baba would've otherwise boarded a single-seater bearing the "IndiGo-It-Alone" logo. On her part, AIADMK's chief, who's graced TN's seat of power in the past, had ally trouble too, having unilaterally announced a candidates' list. Maybe, instead of burning amma's effigies, the DMDK, MDMK, CPM etc, should board that 'Third Front' multi-seater. With likely hung verdicts, the best seat 'adjustments' are anyway made after, not before, the polls.


In Bengal, Congress ally Mamata-di too seemed ready to fly solo unless in the pilot's seat. Justifiably. Aren't psephologists booking Bengal's best seats in advance on Trinamool's behalf? It's courtesy Mamata that the Left's Nandigram-style throne of blood now resembles a swivel seat. The Marxists, however, still seem attached to historic blunders. So said Kerala CPM's anti-Pinarayi Vijayan faction, ruing the reported denial of a seat to CM Achuthanandan. Despite his popularity, this four-time MLA seemed sidelined for "health reasons" he wasn't aware of. So, while Karat and his comrades harangue UPA with Wiki-leaked "cash-for-votes" allegations, their own anti-graft warhorse got de-seated in poll-bound Kerala, only to be re-saddled on cadre pressure!

In political life, having no seat to contest can disastrously mean not obtaining a post-poll gaddi, by all indications a highly tradable commodity whether whistleblowers like it or not. Without an MLA's or MP's kursi, how do you get to play musical chairs, switching sides or getting reshuffled? How do you script edge-of-the-seat thrillers with pullout threats, endangering a coalition's seating capacity? And how do you get to make a splash, being accused of cashing in on votes or, even better, voting for cash? To unseat or not to unseat, there lies the question when staking a claim to form a government - or trying to save one. In this game of glorious numerical uncertainties, chalti ka naam gaddi. Rupee convertible, of course - as the Wiki-leaked
India cables once again highlight.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

GLOBAL EYE

JASMINE, MIDEAST AND BEYOND

NAYAN CHANDA

 

The wave of the Jasmine Revolution seems to have lost its momentum. With Colonel Gaddafi's army poised to slaughter its own people and demonstrators elsewhere in the region being met with bullets and teargas, is the Arab uprising near its end?


Don't be fooled. The protesters may return home to lick their wounds but the mix of combustibles that fuelled the Middle East fire are still smoldering. At its core, the uprising from Tunis to Sana is a youth revolt and it can be sparked elsewhere in the world, whether the local government is run by monarchs, generals or kleptocratic elected officials.


Observers have identified decades of oppressive rule and growing economic disparity as the main factors behind the Arab upheaval. One aspect that has not received adequate attention is the anger of the region's youth populations, educated and unemployed, most of whom have known only one ruler in their lifetimes. Products of high fertility rates and low investment in education and job creation, these young adults fear ending their lives as poor, unmarried and marginalised in their own societies. They demand democracy in order to take charge of their lives and to build a future, but what they crave most is the dignity of employment and a normal family life.

Population growth in the
Arab region followed by rise in life expectancy has created a youth bulge, not unlike in India. The total number of youth (those between the ages of 15 and 24) has grown nearly two and half times in 30 years, with 60% of Arabs aged between 15 and 59 years. (In India, the same demographic accounts for 56.9%.)

This young workforce and low dependency rate would have been welcomed as a "demographic dividend", as it is in India. In theory, young workers could have supplied the world's labour force and - with only 6% of the population over 60 - increased the savings rate. But the region's failure to generate employment and offer education and skill-sets matching jobs has instead created a demographic disaster. The region's single largest unemployed group comprises educated youth below 25, whom a recent ILO report on unemployment called a "lost generation".


This lost generation is now out in force on the Arab street hoping to reclaim its future. Angry over massive corruption, bitter about repression, arbitrary arrests, torture and censorship, they demand the ouster of their rulers. The protesters' deep hurt about their hopeless future and lack of dignity has perhaps been the most striking new feature of the youth revolt. At Cairo's Tahrir Square, protesters mixed their call for Mubarak's fall with chants of "We want to get married". This reveals the painful social consequence of prolonged joblessness. Without steady employment, millions of adults are forced to remain single and unable to raise a family. Given the conservative nature of Arab society, forced bachelorhood not only generates great frustration but also has the effect of marginalising an individual. The frustration of youth has only been intensified by the exposure they have had since the 1990s to satellite television and the different lifestyle portrayed in Turkish soaps and Bollywood movies.


The sight of a pro-democratic surge shaking authoritarian regimes in the Arab world, or China showing nervousness about the Jasmine Revolution, should not prompt smug satisfaction. It is not only autocratic countries that should fear the wrath of jobless youth. Last week, democratic Portugal witnessed a massive demonstration by tens of thousands of young graduates fed up of living on a 500-euro unemployment dole (of Portugal's 11.2% unemployed, half are under 35). A YouTube song that has become the battle hymn for Portuguese youth demonstrating in the streets strikes a similar theme as that of Cairo's before it: it fumes about being a generation living in "Daddy's home", unable to marry or raise a family.


With India's high growth rate and its democratic safety-valves, not to mention the social cushion provided by family networks, the young jobless in Delhi or Mumbai may behave differently. But unless an all-out effort is made to raise the literacy rate, provide training to prepare India's youth for 21st century jobs and create these jobs at a faster pace, India's own 'demographic dividend' might turn sour. The Arab revolt has sounded a clear warning about a demographic disaster.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

RISING FROM THE ASHES

 

We sadly mourn the many deaths and suffering arising from the earthquake and tsunami that remorselessly pummelled Japan. While there will be much analysis of what happened, this tragedy also provides an opportunity to draw broader lessons and look forward.


During the 1980s, leading Japanese companies were dauntingly innovative. But it was not just the world of industry - this was also a time when the Japanese came to master many culinary arts, including the French. Fashion, architecture and classical music were among other areas where an atmosphere of creativity prevailed.

During this period, Japan's global soft power spread. Japanese study centres opened up in numerous universities in the West. Many of Japan's Asian neighbours felt impelled to publicly express their desire to learn from Japan. Sushi restaurants and other forms of Japanese culinary arts spread throughout the planet. Manga defined a new artistic genre. Japanese overseas travellers multiplied. While
Tokyo was the world's biggest stock market, Japan became the world's largest donor of overseas aid and many Japanese brands became synonymous with excellent quality and innovation. In 1989, when IMD first published its ranking on competitiveness, Japan was firmly in the number one position, while the US was third.


Then something happened and Japan took quite a different, radical and unexpected turn. The asset bubble burst in the early 1990s, with both the Nikkei index and property prices plunging precipitately. However, it was more than just that. Japan seemed to have failed to understand, let alone anticipate, the profound transformations driven by several key driving forces of the turn of the century: demographics, the IT revolution, the rise of China and globalisation.


As a Swiss demographer once said: "The only thing sure about tomorrow is that we will be older than today." Japan, with one of the fastest ageing societies in the world, has not been able to meet the challenge to truly find growth opportunities outside of home. Many Japanese companies are stuck in their domestic market and find it more and more difficult to globalise. Also in the 1980s, Japanese companies retained their lead in many 'hard' electronic products, but the playing field was rapidly shifting to the internet. Attempts by new entrepreneurs to create venture business "a la Steve Jobs" were quickly crushed by the large traditional Japanese companies. Today, there is no Japanese Microsoft, Google or Apple.


The Japanese attitude towards China was interesting. In spite of physical and cultural proximity, it prevented the Japanese from responding appropriately to rising Chinese competition. As to globalisation, the Japanese were not ready in many ways, including concerning the basic but fundamental imperative of mastering the English language. In a 2009 comparative survey by TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), Japan scored even worse than North Korea and Myanmar!


For the last couple of decades, not only has the economy been sluggish, but so has the spirit. Whereas Japan was the talk of the town in the 1980s, for much of the last couple of decades it has been conspicuously absent from global attention and discourse. The Japanese have been closing themselves off from the world. Whereas, for example, the number of students from many countries to the US and other overseas universities has been booming, in Japan it has been decreasing. Japanese companies have been finding it increasingly difficult to post executives abroad or even to recruit new staff with basic global skills.


Japan seems to have entered a phase of deep depression and sense of isolation from the outside world. Japanese speak increasingly of the "Galapagonisation" (garapagosuka) of the country, in reference to those isolated islands situated in the Pacific 1,000 km from Ecuador. Japan's own anomie has resulted in either global indifference or criticism.


Yet this terrible tragedy shows the Japanese in many ways at their finest. It is, needless to say, dramatic that the world should be turning its attention to Japan because of the catastrophes it is experiencing. But all will concur that, in the face of this tragedy, the Japanese people have displayed awesome courage, dignity and perseverance. Many foreign commentators have remarked on the amazing stoicism of the people and the order that they managed to retain in the carnage. In how many countries in the world could one imagine such a scenario even vis-a-vis lesser tragedies?


As the world watches Japan with anguish and admiration, one is reminded of the great resilience of the Japanese people and how much, in fact, they have to offer. The dead will tragically need to be buried and mourned, those who suffer will need to be consoled and the damage will need to be repaired. But we also hope that Japan's incredible phoenix-like capacity to rise from the ashes will manifest itself again. And that having shown themselves so dignified and courageous in the face of great tragedy, the Japanese will "leave the Galapagos" and rejoin the global mainland, from which it stands to benefit and to which it can bring so much.


March 11, 2011 may mark a new phase in Japanese history, with the Japanese regaining self-confidence and the intellectual openness vis-a-vis the outside world for which they were known and respected for many decades. In this new phase, Japan will catch the next globalisation train and provide the forceful influence required to meet tomorrow's global challenges.


Lehmann is professor of international political economy, IMD; Turpin is president, IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

THE CRICKET AUDIENCE IS HERE

 

It's in the fitness of things that cricket championships in what is the most exciting format today - the Twenty20 version of the game - will be staged in the subcontinent for the next five years. Sri Lanka will host the next scheduled championship in 2012, followed by Bangladesh in 2014 and India in 2016. It is natural for matches to be scheduled where most of its fans are. The International Cricket Council (ICC) decision only reinforces the fact that cricket generates the most interest, draws the biggest crowds and in turn generates the largest revenues and profits in South Asia.


Hosting a T20 cricket championship is an expensive proposition. It can't be done if it isn't commercially viable. It makes strategic sense to locate it where most of its fans are. If T20 matches have the greatest potential to generate viewer interest, they could be converted into an entertainment bonanza which draws in large revenues. These in turn could be used to subsidise other formats of the game - such as 50-over World Cups and Tests - which could then be hosted elsewhere. That, in fact, is the game plan the ICC appears to be working on. Future 50-over World Cups are being planned for Australia, New Zealand and England, while England has been shortlisted for hosting the best-of-four Test playing nations' playoffs. That ought to meet the criticism that by locating cricket events in South Asia, the ICC is not doing enough to promote it in other nations.


Cricket, in order to prosper, needs a viable economic base. That base can at present be provided by South Asia, which has the live and television audiences needed to keep the game going. Fans will benefit from seeing the world's best players in action. The game will benefit with the profits from the tournaments being ploughed back into the game, creating a virtuous cycle. A strengthened game can then be the launching pad for cricket seeking new territories.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

LOOK BEYOND SOUTH ASIA

AJAY VAISHNAV

 

If cricket has failed to emerge as a truly global sport, then the ICC must share the blame. Time and again, cricket's premier international governing body has failed to give any concrete direction to the effort to expand the horizons of the sport beyond just 10 Test-playing nations. The ICC's latest schedule favouring South Asian nations with three consecutive World Twenty20 Championships until 2016 is a case in point. To start with, the future of cricket lies in its expansion to hitherto untapped parts of the world particularly in Europe, Americas and the rest of Asia.


And the ICC's best chance to promote cricket in these parts lies with the T20 format. The abridged version of the game could truly impress nations and people where fast-paced games like football and hockey are preferred. To say that cricket first needs a sound financial basis and fan base is a self-limiting proposition. With many new nations in the game and augmented competition, cricket could dramatically expand its revenue and fan base. Therefore, it makes business sense for the ICC to diversify cricket's revenue base rather than increase dependence on a particular region.


What's also forgotten is that there lies a huge South Asian diaspora in many parts of the world, which needs to be engaged. Even if one stages cricket events outside South Asia, the South Asian diaspora will provide an anchoring to the fan base. Instead of sticking to the subcontinent, cricketing authorities need to be bold and strike out looking for opportunity elsewhere in the world. In fact, the ICC should take its cue from the FIFA, which has shown imagination and genuine intent to spread football beyond Europe and Latin America. By scheduling three successive T20 championships in the subcontinent, the ICC has demonstrated lack of leadership and vision.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

NOT A WEALTH OF INFORMATION

A Wikileaked document claims that a US embassy official was told how the first UPA government intended to buy parliamentary votes to survive a no-confidence motion called over the Indo-US nuclear deal. It is almost impossible to verify the document, the accuracy of the official's report or whether cash was actually offered for votes.

In any case, the WikiLeak uproar that ensued has combined two separate issues.

One is the issue of US involvement in Indian foreign policy. The other is how money is being used to grease the Indian political system. On the first issue, even if the cable is taken to describe an event that actually came to pass, there is little evidence of untoward intervention by Washington. The cable shows US officials acting as mere reporters.

They did not play any role in the buying of the votes. The other Wikileaked documents are also normal diplomatic activity. If the cables of India's foreign missions are ever revealed, the hope is that they are as detailed and clear as these. The US does lobby for and recommend policies to Indian interlocutors - as do envoys everywhere in the world, including Indian ones.

The second issue is a much more important concern: the role of money power in Indian politics. One reason the WikiLeaks document has been able to get so much traction is that the idea of a small regional party putting up its votes for auction is believable. Only the naïve will not accept that votes-for-cash is a common practice in Indian politics.

It is argued that this is a consequence of the confluence of three factors. One, small parties and independent legislators often have no interest in specific Bills and policy debates and will cheerfully take up a position - for a price.

Two, both they and larger party members are driven by an insatiable need for funds. But the truth is that even an Indian politician with honest intentions faces a simple dilemma: campaigning today can cost millions of rupees a month and most parties leave their candidates to their own financial resources.

Three, the unfortunate truth is that most Indian voters are unconcerned about venality in their leaders. Corruption is as much about economic systems that encourage venality or penalise honesty as it is about moral and legal culture.

There are a host of ways to whittle down the black money economy. A commission to look into the idea of public funding of political campaigns should be instituted.

But to end corruption in higher places, an effort must also be made to stamp out the petty bribery that is so commonplace across the country. If the average voter has to pay graft for every conceivable service, he is unlikely to see his political leaders selling votes as anything other than business as usual.

It says something that it takes a foreign government's observations to arouse India's polity on such an issue.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

SOUNDS OF SILENCE

BARKHA DUTT

 

I first learnt the exact meaning of the American slang 'shellacking' when an introspective, but still humorous, Barack Obama used it to describe his clobbering in the mid-term election results. It was a disarming moment to watch someone often heralded as being the most powerful man in the world go on television and make a self-referential joke about how "some elections nights are more fun than others."

But perhaps his most important statement that day was the admission that he and his administration had "lost track of the ways we connected with the folks who got us here in the first place." More than an index of humility, it spoke of Obama's willingness to be open, informal, concede mistakes and think aloud with his people. It was also a sign of how political cultures everywhere in the world are re-adapting themselves to a generation that demands direct contact and constant communication.

When I watch the 'shellacking' the UPA government is getting on an almost daily basis both inside and outside Parliament, it's befuddling that the top leadership in both the party and the government still seems to think that 'communication' is some new-age, airy-fairy concept that has no actual impact on the political process.

If anything, more than the constant crises it's the UPA's often delayed public response to them that regularly turns opportunity into defeat. A political style that remains entrenched in formality, opaqueness and large periods of silence surely cannot be the remedy for the government's present afflictions.

No one is asking for the flamboyance of a glib showman. On the contrary, as Bihar's understated chief minister Nitish Kumar becomes everyone's favourite politician it's clear that we prefer quiet performers to motor-mouth dramatists. In fact, we are comforted and re-assured by simplicity of style, perhaps because we can relate it to our own our middle-class moorings.

At the same time, bombarded as we are by information - on television, in newspapers, on our laptops and now even on our mobile phones - the relative silence of the establishment has a volume all of its own. And it often makes a potentially bad situation that much worse.

Take the recent uproar over a WikiLeaks cable that chronicles the conversation between an American diplomat and a political fixer described as an 'aide' to Congress politician Satish Sharma.

The cable quotes a conversation that indicates that the Congress was readying to pay bribes in exchange for support during a trust-vote in 2008. In itself this cable, like so many others on the site, is a reported conversation between two people and not concrete evidence per se. It does raise some serious questions but its facts have also been challenged by the key players mentioned in it.

Ajit Singh, whose MPs are charged with having been offered the Rs 10 crore each, for instance, points out that they didn't even vote on the side of the government. The cable refers to exactly this chicanery, argues the Opposition. But because public memory is still jogged by the shocking images of thick bundles of cash waved about on the floor of the House in 2008, the cable has resurrected an old, unresolved controversy. Add to that, the sense of a government that is heaving under the weight of daily scams and this WikiLeaks story swiftly acquired a traction it may not have got at another time.

And yet, as Parliament erupted into a predictable storm, the UPA lost precious time in evolving a cogent, unified response. The veteran Pranab Mukherjee did make a couple of angry interventions but for the most part the near-silence of the UPA and its delayed responses ceded almost the entire rhetorical space to the Opposition's aggressive assault.

Now remember, this was a trust vote necessitated by the Left's withdrawal of support over the Indo-US nuclear deal. The prime minister, as every knows now, had been ready to surrender his government rather than give up on the deal, forcing his party managers into frantic negotiations. The eventual results saw cross-voting on both sides and compelled the BJP into expelling eight of its MPs for not following the party whip.

Not just because he was the head of the government, but also because the nuclear deal was seen to be the PM's obsession, the Opposition demanded a statement from him. On the first day, however, the PM said absolutely nothing at all. He eventually did challenge the allegations in Parliament the next day and rubbished them as "unverified and unverifiable" conversations, rubbing in the Left's electoral performance in the elections that followed.

But because he spoke a full 24 hours after the Opposition had ruled the airwaves, it seemed as if he was reacting to them, rather than making an aggressive intervention on his own terms. This in fact has been the pattern over the last year. The Congress may have a valid argument in pointing to the number of ministers it has eventually taken action against for corruption charges. It may even have every right to demand that the BJP explain its double standard in Karnataka.

But because its top leaders remain ensconced in silence, reacting only when pushed to the brink, its politics seem increasingly defensive and reactive. Even if the government believes that it doesn't need to cater to the self-importance of the English  media and that its real constituency is the rural masses, surely democratic principles demand that we hear more from the UPA's top leadership inside Parliament? And not just when there is a scam or a scandal.

Silence may be the most perfect expression of scorn as George Bernard Shaw famously said. But even if that is a good tactic in political warfare, the people expect differently.

Barkha Dutt is Group Editor, English News, NDTV. The views expressed by the author are personal

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

CRICKET'S PERFECT KNIGHT

RAVI CHATURVEDI

 

In 1976, 52 years after the great West Indian all-rounder Frank Worrell was born on August 1, 1924 - and nine years after his death on March 13, 1967 - I made my first trip to Barbados. Worrell played for West Indies, Barbados and Jamaica as a right-hand batsman and left-arm bowler (both as a fast b owler and a spinner). In 58 Tests, he totalled 3,860 runs with an average of 49.48 that included nine centuries and 22 half centuries with 261 as his highest score (made against England in 1950). But these numbers don't tell the whole story about this great man.

Worrell was a visionary who saw the unity of the Caribbean islands and its people through their diversity. He was born in Barbados, worked and lived in Trinidad and died in Jamaica. Barbados reached the peak of West Indies cricket due to his brilliant batting. He provided the spirit of self-reliance to the islands of Trinidad and Tobago as it emerged as a major economic power in the Caribbean. And in his death, he bequeathed tolerance and tranquility to a volatile Jamaican society.

Upset when a match was organised between Barbados and the Rest of the World to celebrate the country's independence, he wrote, "The part can't be bigger than the region." Worrell was also the first 'coloured' captain in the history Caribbean cricket.

The West Indies visit to Australia in 1960-61 was historic for producing Test cricket's first tied match on December 14, 1960, in Brisbane. The fifth and final Test at Melbourne was a touch-and-go affair won by the home team who clinched the series 2-1. The next day as the motorcade carrying the Caribbean cricketers passed through Collins Street and reached its end, a choir struck up the tune, 'Come back soon'.

Years later, whenever Worrell was reminded of the touching ticker-tape farewell to the West Indians, it was always the words, 'Come back soon' which came to mind. "Every time I think of the words my heart grieves," he said.

The Australian Cricket Board donated a Frank Worrell Trophy for the perpetuation of the competition between the two nations - a tribute to Worrell who had won the admiration and affection of the Australian public for himself and his team.

The 1963 England-West Indies series, Worrell's final one, was a memorable event. The Windies demolished England 3-1 to earn the tag of champions. It was a befitting finale to Worrell's illustrious cricket career.

Worrell toured India with two Commonwealth teams and his unbeaten 223 at Kanpur in 1949-50 was the high point of the 'series' in which India clinched the rubber 2-1. He led the second side to a 2-0 win. During these sojourns to India, he appreciated the human touch and warmth showered on him in abundance. He became a hero for Indians.

During his last visit to India as a guest of the University Grants Commission in 1967, he played a pivotal role in the resurrection of the Calcutta Test that was marred by violence.

During Worrell's pilgrimage to Vishwabharati, the university established by Rabindranath Tagore in Shantiniketan, he was touched by Tagore's ideal of education in the middle of nature with emphasis on literature and the arts.

After some students recited Tagore's poem 'Africa', Worrell remarked, "I have the same involvement as any good Indian about the human problems of that long exploited the continent." He took down two of Tagore's poems that dealt with death being a merger with the infinite - a poignant moment as Worrell was diagnosed with leukaemia during this visit to India. It was apt that Neville Cardus would describe Worrell's batting as 'poetry'.

A paper recovered from his drawer after his death read, "A good deed brings its own rewards to your soul." Obviously, there was a karma-yogi underneath the jolly personality of Frank Worrell when he died at the age of 42 on March 13, 1967.

Ravi Chaturvedi is a cricket commentator and author of World Cup Cricket: A Compendium. The views expressed by the author are personal.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

WE'RE ALL IN IT TOGETHER

NAMITA BHANDARE

 

Midway through swotting for her geography exam, Ananya, my 15-year-old looked at her watch and said, urgently: "9pm. It's time to pray for Japan". I frowned at this unwarranted interruption. We were locating India's various nuclear power plants from Kaiga to Narora on the map. But this stop-pray-for-

 

Japan had a powerful appeal that went beyond geographic borders. The thought of a world collectively empathising - at the same time - with a stricken nation was hard to resist. We stopped and prayed.

On March 26, a few days from now, in another instance of simultaneous universal action, millions of people will switch off their lights to commemorate Earth Hour. This act has less to do with saving electricity and more to remind the world that it is possible to do with less. It's a reminder, and a warning, of a potentially dark future.

In the time of social media, it is easy for causes to go viral. The 'pink chaddi' campaign launched by the Consortium of Pub-Going, Loose and Forward Women after Sri Ram Sene thugs beat up women and men in a Mangalore pub in January 2009 collected 40,000 members within just one week. I don't know how many panties were finally collected by the consortium or, for that matter, what the Ram Sene did with them. But not a peep has been heard from those fellows since.

Earth Hour is not a one-off campaign nor is it a response to a one-time provocation. Born in 2007 and organised by the World Wildlife Fund, this is a relatively young commemoration. Yet 1.3 billion people in 128 countries are already involved, and this year such places as Kota Kanabalu and Swaziland will be joining the party.

India signed up three years ago, and last year five million people reportedly switched off their lights. It is, according to the official website (www.earthhour.com) the 'biggest environmental grassroots movement in history'.  Next week, all over the world, those who are participating will switch off their lights between 8.30 and 9.30pm.

So, what happens at 9.31pm when the lights come back on? What life-altering meaning can 60 minutes contain? In India the idea of voluntary load shedding, over and above the power cuts we already endure, can be outright laughable.

I have mixed feelings about commemorative and largely symbolic actions. I think Valentine's Day is ridiculous for anybody over the age of 16. I think mothers and fathers need 365 days, not one day randomly picked out for sentimental cards and wilted roses. I totally draw the line at hug your dentist, adopt a goldfish - or is it the other way around?

But some causes are larger than personal irritation. When you set aside a minute, a day, a week or a decade, you focus the world's attention on the huge challenges that continue to confront us. You don't have to be a girl in Djibouti to declare zero tolerance for female genital mutilation (February 6) and you don't have to be disabled, autistic or diabetic to set aside a day (December 3, April 2 and November 14) to raise awareness around the world.

Yet, commemorative moments go beyond awareness-building. The point surely is to stop everything, even if it is for a minute, to remember events in history (Hiroshima, the Holocaust) that are so horrible that they must never be forgotten lest history repeats itself. Or else, pause from a maddening schedule to remember a life well lived. Can a minute's silence on January 30, lead us to question the relevance of Gandhi to contemporary India? Or has his life been reduced to cliched tributes delivered by khadi-clad politicians?

But ultimately, simultaneous collective action - whether it's a candle in the window or the simple act of switching off a light - links us to our collective humanity. It's the symbolic equivalent of raising a fist and deciding what and who you stand for. On Saturday, March 26 at 8.30 pm, the lights will go out in my house. In doing so, I'll be joining millions of fellow humans around the world to say: please, pause, think.

Namita Bhandare is a Delhi-based writer. The views expressed by the author are personal.

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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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FACTS OF THE MATTER

 

It is far from certain that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement in Lok Sabha will douse the political storm set off by the publication of a WikiLeaks cable on alleged buying of MPs in the July 22, 2008 vote of confidence. On Thursday, The Hindu newspaper had reported on an American embassy cable to the US State Department, saying a Congress leader's aide has shown an employee chests of cash to secure that vote. This immensely titillating — but, as the prime minister pointed out, unverified and also unverifiable, given the US government's refusal to authenticate or deny any cable in the WikiLeaks cache — piece of information galvanised the opposition in Parliament, leading to disruptions and calls for the Congress-led UPA government to quit. Even as the PM rejected the charges outright, he noted that a parliamentary panel had gone into allegations of vote-buying in that motion of confidence. The opposition's immediate reaction was to announce it was moving a privilege motion against the PM.

The PM could have lingered longer on the nature of the US embassy communication, and used his stature to rise above partisanship to emphasise the dilemmas posed to politics in a free society by the ever freer movement and dissemination of information. Just as we have begun to debate whether putting out raw information, without subjecting what may be hearsay, loose talk, speculation or outright bravado to the rigours of reportage, can be termed journalism, so too must others in public life consider the quality of information they act upon, and how. Dr Singh is well-placed to counsel a sense of proportion bec-

ause all parties, including his Congress party, have used incomplete information — sometimes in the form of sting operations or phone taps — to bring Parliament and political discourse to an all-or-nothing paralysis. Politics in a free society like India needs to mature to handle the overload of information that new sources put out. It needs to rise to our democratic freedoms by learning how to process hearsay, gossip, and possibly valuable leads.

There is, of course, no question that the resonance the US embassy cable finds in Parliament is because of a back-story. That July day, the griminess of the occasion was emphasised by the appearance of wads of cash on the floor of Lok Sabha by three BJP MPs alleging it was money offered to buy their votes. Either way it was a scandal, whether their story was true or constructed. We still don't fully know, but the information American diplomats were relaying was, in fact, the stuff of unsubstantiated gossip at the time. Perhaps the current WikiLeaks storm is a timely reminder that in a world of free-flowing information institutions will retain their majesty only by opening themselves in equal measure to scrutiny.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

DONOR NATION

 

Organ transplant is an area fraught with individual prejudice and institutional inefficiency in India. So much so that even when the Transplantation of Human Organs Act (THOA) came into force in 1995, it proved ineffective either in coming down on the booming black market or in streamlining the process. As the ministry of health has noted, while about 1.5 lakh people are diagnosed with renal failure every year, their only hope often being a successful kidney transplant, the number of transplants has fallen: from an already meagre 3,600 in 2002 to just over 2,000 in 2004. In a move to redress this crisis in healthcare, the cabinet has finally cleared the amendments to THOA, where both the scope and definition of transplant have been widened and penalties and punishment made more stringent.

In a belated but welcome step to address the scarcity of organs for transplant, the bill proposes not only the creation of a registry of those who have undergone transplant but also an ambitious nationwide network that would incorporate transplant centres, retrieval centres and patients awaiting transplant. Much depends on the government's commitment to follow through with these proposals and on making it a viable, accessible database that could make life easier for patients waiting for transplants of lungs, hearts, livers, pancreata and corneas. It also, as expected, allows for the transplant of tissues and widens the ambit of near relation — from whom one can receive organs for transplant without having to go through an authorisation committee — to grandparents and grandchildren.

A small step that could be a gamechanger is the creation of the post of "transplant coordinator". In this, the Centre has followed the successful experiment in Tamil Nadu where trained transplant coordinators counsel the relatives of a person who is brain dead, convince them of the need to gift organs

and take them gently through the process. A country that often baulks at the very suggestion of cadaver donation needs a hand-holder like that. It is a long way yet to the goal of presumed consent, but the bill recognises the need, first, to create awareness, one family at a time.

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 THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

TOO BIG TO FAIL?

 

For years, most newspapers have offered an embarrassment of riches on their websites, freely available to anyone. This was seen as a capitulation to the iron law that people will not pay for news any more when it's abundantly available, streaming in from many sources.

Many, many media outlets have tried and failed to make the classic subscription model work. According to Chris Anderson, author of Free: the Future of a Radical Price, "the huge psychological gap between 'almost zero' and 'zero' is why micropayments failed." But journalism comes with a certain value, information also wants to be coveted and paid for, and news organisations have been experimenting with different ways to monetise the business. Some have tried offering different tiers, like a free version and a pro version — the "freemium" model. Others dangle an abundance of archived goodies before you,

and ask for a subscription. Rupert Murdoch, of course, has led the campaign to make people shell out for the news. Subscription reportedly works for The Wall Street Journal, with its specialised content and its affluent readership. It has also worked for highbrow niche journals, and people are now used to paying for apps. Can general-interest newspapers like The Times, London, also owned by Murdoch, or The New York Times try the same tack?

As The New York Times launches its new and nuanced metered model, it will put the newspaper industry on trial once again. Whether or not this particular model wins out, it's a reminder that news shouldn't necessarily be a not-for-profit venture in the digital world.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

CARTER FOR NEPAL'S CRISIS

YUBARAJ GHIMIRE

 

Former US President Jimmy Carter is visible once again on Nepal's uncertain political scene. Last week, he called three major actors — Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal, Maoist chief Prachanda and Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala — asking them to do everything to have the new constitution delivered and the peace mission accomplished. The two left allies, Khanal and Prachanda, said they are doing everything in that direction, but Koirala blamed the duo of trying to impose their agenda on the rest and putting the peace process in jeopardy.

Carter is intimately linked with Nepal's peace process and he knows the constituent assembly's failure to deliver the constitution will discredit him as well. In April 2008, Carter, as head of the international observers' team, had issued a certificate that the election was free and fair. Carter's frequent visits to Nepal were apparently not endorsed by the US government; but the Carter Centre that he heads and his image were an asset to the international donors involved in a big way in post-conflict Nepal's development and peace process.

But as Carter appears on the scene after a long gap — at a time when the radical left alliance has assumed power — and promises his support for the timely delivery of the constitution, the election commission has come out with startling facts that may raise questions about the fairness of the election that Carter had certified in haste. The election commission, which is revising the electoral list, has now come to the conclusion that the full size of the electorate then — 17.6 million — was faulty, and the figure three years down the line would be slightly above 13 million. Apparently, those who had died or migrated continued to figure in the list and votes were cast in their names.

The election commission, packed with representatives from major political parties, and the donors' community were unanimous in their assessment that the election was part of the peace process, and that any type of election should take place in order to institutionalise the peace process and changes of the 2006 people's movement. Now the same logic is being advanced by the same group, albeit with much eroded moral authority, that any type of the constitution should be delivered within the stipulate time frame as it alone would be institutionalising the changes.

Carter's appeal is not cutting much ice this time and the fairness of the election nearly three years ago has come into question now. And there is growing opposition to the move to have "any type" of constitution delivered by May 28.

Maoist leader and Deputy PM K.B. Mahara said recently that the delivery of even an incomplete constitution would be a way out to address people's demand. But there are no takers and there are still many crucial issues to be thrashed out among political parties. The Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists

(UCPN-M), the largest party in the House and the dominant partner in government, is still busy mobilising its militant cadres, nor have its 19,000 combatants been disarmed.

Nepal's Chief Justice Ram Prasad Shrestha came out openly against the decision of the sub-committee of the constituent assembly to have a "constitutional court headed by the CJ to make final interpretation of the constitution as something that would go against democracy". The UCPN-M had agreed to this provision reluctantly, giving up their earlier demand that the judiciary must be accountable to the legislature and that the final right to interpret the constitution should rest with the legislature.

While these complexities continue to stall the smooth journey towards the constitution-making process that has increased the distance between the pro-democracy and radical left forces, the status of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) remains uncertain. Nepali Congress chief Koirala said the recent accord between Khanal and Prachanda, in favour of setting up a separate outfit of the Maoist combatants to be treated at par with the state security forces, was a dangerous move to let a political party retain its army at the cost of the state.

"The two must scrap the accord and be guided by the CPA" as a condition for the Congress's cooperation with them in the peace and constitution-making process, Koirala said. The scrapping of that accord would take away the very basis of the Maoist support to Khanal. That means Khanal has to decide between the completion of the peace process and statute delivery on one hand and retaining power at the cost of the former on the other. Carter perhaps understands this predicament of the Nepali actors — and hoping for too much from the radical left, keeping at bay the democratic forces, is not going to work any longer. Appeasement of the militant left seems to have lost its magic in Nepal now as the politics is getting sharply polarised once again.

yubaraj.ghimire@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE MONEY WILL RETURN

SHOBHANA SUBRAMANIAN

 

If the Indian stock markets do not seem to be too shaken by the unfortunate events in Japan, it is because there's no immediate material fallout of the disruption there. India does not trade too much with Japan, with barely 2.1 per cent of our total exports going there, much of it metals and ore. India also doesn't buy too much from the Japanese; again just 2.3 per cent of our total imports comes in from there, mainly boilers and electrical equipment. Moreover, the dip in crude oil prices, after the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, held up the markets. However, that's not to say that the unfortunate events in Japan won't hurt us at all.

The impact on our nuclear programme apart, the Japanese have been among the biggest investors in India over the past decade, with a presence across every sector, be it electronics, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, financial services or automobiles. Over the past few years they have stepped up their investments; foreign direct investment has crossed $22 billion over the last decade.

While most Japanese firms have chosen to team up with Indian players — Suzuki with the government of India, Honda with Hero or DoCoMo with Tata Teleservices — of late, they have also bought out businesses. Daiichi Sankyo, for instance, bought out Ranbaxy. It's not that these companies will altogether stop coming to India — the Nippon Life-Reliance Capital deal did go through. But it's possible other joint ventures could be delayed, though these delays would be temporary as would be any disruption in portfolio flows whether into the debt or equity markets. Asia, as a region, is of course more exposed to Japanese trade; but once Japan starts to rebuild itself, it should start importing from Asia and again the disruption, hopefully, shouldn't last longer than five to six months. What's more worrying is that crude oil prices have already moved back up to $116 per barrel levels with the political problems in the Middle East still unresolved and the UN authorising military forces against Libya.

Indeed, more than the disaster in Japan, rising crude oil prices, which are expected to average $105 a barrel in 2011 and could fuel inflation, will hurt the sentiment in the Indian market. Inflation is cause for concern in most Asian markets — earlier this month, China upped its benchmark one-year lending rate to 6.06, the third increase since mid-October after growth accelerated and inflation stayed above 4 per cent for a third month. India imports three-fourths of its requirement of oil and a $1 per barrel increase in oil prices would push up India's trade deficit by $800 million and leave oil companies with $700 million less unless prices are raised at the pump.

Should the government choose to pass on some of that increase to consumers, inflation, which has averaged 8 per cent in the past year could remain at 7 per cent next year too. The Reserve Bank's monetary review last Thursday confirms what economists have been saying all along; prices will continue to go up, increasing risks to growth. Given these macroeconomic headwinds, GDP growth estimates for 2011-12 have already been pruned to levels of 8-plus per cent, way below the 9 per cent hoped for earlier, with a couple of economists saying it could come in at sub 8 per cent. What's increasingly worrying is that new investments, which together with consumption should drive the economy, aren't taking off; fixed capital formation, after rising a smart 15 per cent in the first half of 2010-11, will grow in just single digits in the second half. Consumption demand is expected to remain buoyant thanks to rising rural incomes and growth in sectors such as IT, which create jobs. Should interest rates continue to trend up, however, as they are likely to do if the RBI has its way, companies will hesitate to roll out new capacities, unless they're sure they can sell what they make. The silver lining in the macroeconomic cloud has been exports; the recovery in the US and a couple of other overseas economies has helped companies that sell overseas. Nonetheless, growth is slowing down, with factory output expected to grow at around 7.6 per cent next year.

It's hardly surprising, therefore, that following the disappointing results turned in by companies in the December quarter earnings season, most analysts have scaled back their earnings estimates for next year. Bank of America Merrill Lynch has pruned the earnings estimate for the Sensex set of companies to Rs 1,265 from Rs 1,300 for 2011-12. Even after this the brokerage believes there could be further downgrades with earnings growing by just 15-16 per cent. India's vulnerability to higher crude oil prices, the unfavourable macroeconomic environment, a series of scams and concerns about the government's inaction on the policy front, have seen fund managers take risk off the table, leaving it among the worst performers in the region.

At a time when the US economy has been recovering, there has been a rotation of resources with money moving out of Emerging Markets (EMs) — more than $21 billion has been withdrawn in the first two months of the year — and into the US. As a result, the Indian markets have lost nearly 13 per cent since the start of the year and the Sensex now trades at a reasonable forward price-earnings multiple of 14 times, a shade lower than its five-year average. The market may not be cheap but it's not expensive either and the premium to other markets in Asia has compressed. That's one reason stock prices aren't likely to grind down too much unless things get much worse in Japan and the US goes into a double-dip recession. Although India may not attract the kind of portfolio flows that it did in 2010, of about $29 billion, it remains a high growth market with a large universe of companies, a market that no fund manager can afford to ignore. They may have pulled out close to $2 billion so far this year, but it should soon flow back.

The writer is resident editor, 'The Financial Express', Mumbai
shobhana.subramanian@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

RATING A LACK OF LEADERSHIP

SURJIT S BHALLA

 

In late December 1994, the Mexican peso was devalued, and within days Latin America was plunged into a currency crisis. At that time, the US economy was bustling along and the bond vigilantes at the Chicago Board of Trade were pressing the sell button on US Treasuries. Real interest rates are too low, the investment bank gurus screamed. Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve chairman, was an avid market follower, and known for looking at the minutiae of data — truck delivery times, cargo shipments and Fed fund futures. Looking at these data, he concurred with the gurus.

He needn't have looked — because Chairman Greenspan was an enthusiastic follower of the market. If the market in all of its infinite wisdom was saying to tighten further, who was he to be a leader? Wasn't the job of the Federal Reserve to be a follower of the market?

In 1994, Greenspan had already raised the federal funds rate six times to 5.5 per cent from 3 per cent in 1993 and end-1992. With Latin America and emerging markets in deep crisis, with the IMF board meeting daily to work out an emergency bailout package, with all that happening in the background, Greenspan raised the federal funds rate by 50 basis points on February 1, 1995.

Within months, if not days, of this large hike, the markets and the gurus were betting that interest rates were too high. We all know that monetary policy has long and variable lags; yet these gurus were flip-flopping on monthly or even daily data. The numero uno market follower, Mr. Greenspan, also looked at the data, especially the data on federal funds futures, and dutifully reached the same conclusion. Voila, the rate was cut by 25 basis points on July 6, 1995, December 19, 1995 and January 31, 1996!

There is a huge asymmetry in the incentive structure for market participants and gurus. If you are the only one wrong, then you get condemned; but if you get the entire scenario wrong along with the rest of the class, then you get applauded, and even promoted. This is understandable. What is not understandable is why policy leaders should behave this way. Greenspan was not one to lead — and neither, does it appear, are Indian RBI governors.

Fast forward from the Latin American currency crisis in late December 1995 to the Japan crisis, March 2011. The crisis involves earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns. Apart from the tragic loss of human lives, this crisis has just increased uncertainty. True, the world's economies are recovering and inflation has been inching up. But such inflation has not caught policymakers napping. They have increased interest rates around the world. In India, the repo rate has been increased eight times in the last year. This increase by 200 basis points since January 2010, places the repo rate at 6.75 per cent, its highest level since December 6, 2008, when it was 6.5 per cent.

Was Thursday's widely-expected repo rate hike really necessary and warranted by the international environment and domestic economic data? Or did the RBI act as a Greenspan follower, as a slave to the markets?

Regarding the international scene, there is no doubt that the environment is more investment- and growth-dampening than it has been for a long time. Arab unrest, the nuclear crisis and the spike in oil prices are all factors which dampen spirits and discourage growth. The domestic political environment is also not the most conducive to investment and demand. A shaky scandal-hit government, a divided leadership, and now, WikiLeaks about cash for votes. Not to mention flip-flops at the environment ministry. Investment, anyone?

Maybe economic growth has been too strong for comfort for the RBI and its supporting cast of in-house experts and vigilante gurus at the investment banks? For eight years now, GDP growth in India has averaged around 8.5 per cent, and, fiscal year 2011-12 is likely to be the same. Growth in industrial production has also slowed down, averaging only about 3 to 4 per cent on a year on year basis. So no clues here about excessive demand-led inflation fuelling growth.

So it must be that inflation has been on a rampage? It is high, but the rampage was about a year ago. Inflation, according to the CPI, at around 8 per cent, is less than half its peak level of 16.2 per cent reached in January 2010. According to the WPI, inflation at around 8.5 per cent, is about 5 points lower than the level of 12.8 per cent it reached in July 2008. Manufacturing non-food inflation (core inflation in India) has stayed steady in India at around 4.5 per cent. So where is the beef, and what is the grief?

The preferred RBI indicator of inflation, the WPI, is, at best, faulty. In the presence of the CPI, it adds zero information to explaining overall, GDP deflator inflation. Latest data for the new CPI index released today suggests that CPI inflation year-on-year is averaging around 7.5 per cent, a two-year low, and only the second time such inflation has been below 8 per cent. The other month was November 2010.

So no matter how one adds up the figures, or constraints, or determinants, it is the case that the recent RBI move lacks logic, and appears to be deliberate pandering to the masses (inflation hawks). Unless crude prices flare up on a permanent basis (they have averaged around $80 a barrel for the last four fiscal years, including 2010-11), expect CPI and overall inflation to drift down towards India's long term post 1996 average of around 5 per cent. Then, will the next move of the RBI be to cut interest rates, a la Greenspan in 1995?

The writer is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

PRINTLINE PAKISTAN

RUCHIKA TALWAR

 

Blood Raymond

After a debate over diplomatic status, his assignment in Pakistan (from being called a CIA operative to ISI counsel to Taliban recruiter), and after serving jail time, American consulate employee Raymond Davis is a free man. The mechanics of his release created a significant stir in Pakistan's newspapers this week.

Davis was acquitted in the double murder case lodged against him for gunning down two men in Lahore earlier this year. Daily Times reported on March 17 that he was let off after "the victims' families received blood money to the tune of Rs 200 million. The judge first indicted Davis for double murder and later acquitted him as he was pardoned by the 19 legal heirs on the payment of diyat." The families have also apparently been granted permanent US visas.

While the acquittal is in accordance with the Shariah law in Pakistan, it has ruffled many feathers. Dawn reported that a petition challenging Davis's release was filed in the Lahore high court on Thursday. The petitioner complained that the families of the victims were pressured by the government to pardon Davis and thus the law had been violated. The petitioner requested the court to invalidate the acquittal and proceed against "those who brought about Davis's release". Davis was reportedly flown out of Pakistan shortly after his release.

An interesting twist to the saga was reported by The Express Tribune: "The federal and provincial governments and the intelligence agencies had been working since February 21 to ensure Davis's release through the Qisas and Diyat laws... Three weeks ago, the interior ministry sought the particulars of the family members of the men Davis shot so it could contact them and prepare their passports... PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif had assured US senator John Kerry when he visited Pakistan in mid-February that even if the federal government did not produce documents in the Lahore high court showing Davis's diplomatic immunity, the Punjab government would help get the CIA contractor pardoned through the payment of Diyat. The sources said that the federal and provincial governments and the country's intelligence agencies all agreed on one thing: that Davis must be released via the courts through the payment of Diyat to minimise the public uproar at his release. They said that they had made a secret agreement on February 21 to facilitate the release of Davis in this manner. Around this time, the US authorities also began preparing to fulfil the formalities regarding compensation and visas, the sources said."

In an angry editorial, The News viewed the Davis affair as revealing a structural weakness in Pakistan-US diplomacy: "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... The shambolic issuance of visas to Americans without any... background clearance was an invitation to abuse the system... The Davis affair was a textbook example of how not to conduct diplomacy — by both sides."

Taking stock of the situation, The Express Tribune said: "That Raymond Davis would eventually be released was inevitable. You don't bite the hand that feeds you and Pakistan, unfortunately, has been feeding from the American trough for far too long. Davis's release was a good idea for two reasons: legalistic and practical."

Also interesting was US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's statement on the Davis saga, reported by The News on March 18: "'The US did not pay any compensation or blood money,' Clinton told reporters in Cairo. Asked who paid the families, she replied: 'You'll have to ask the families. Asked if the Pakistani government had paid compensation, she said: 'You'll have to ask the Pakistani government'."

State for a nation

Dawn reported on March 14 that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani promised to incorporate in the PPP's next election manifesto the creation of a Seraiki state. The Seraiki language is spoken in southern Punjab bordering Sindh, and this belt is the pocket borough of the PPP. Gilani himself hails from the region and speaks the language. Daily Times reported on March 15 that with this announcement, the PPP has found support from the rival PML-Q. A new state carved out of Punjab helps both the parties because it takes away from the PML-N's pie in Punjab.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE FUTURE'S STILL IN PLASTIC

SUSAN FREINKEL

Since the 1930s, when the product first hit the market, there has been a plastic toothbrush in every American bathroom. But if you are one of the growing number of people seeking to purge plastic from their lives, you can now buy a wooden toothbrush with boar's-hair bristles, along with other such back-to-the-future products as cloth sandwich wrappers, metal storage containers and leather fly swatters.

The urge to avoid plastic is understandable, given reports of toxic toys and baby bottles, seabirds choking on bottle caps and vast patches of ocean swirling with everlasting synthetic debris. Countless bloggers write about striving — in vain, most discover — to eradicate plastic from their lives. "Eliminating plastic is one of the greenest actions you can do to lower your eco-footprint," one noted while participating in a recent online challenge to be plastic-free.

Is this true? Shunning plastic may seem key to the ethic of living lightly, but the environmental reality is more complex.

Originally, plastic was hailed for its potential to reduce humankind's heavy environmental footprint. The earliest plastics were invented as substitutes for dwindling supplies of natural materials like ivory or tortoiseshell. When the American John Wesley Hyatt patented celluloid in 1869, his company pledged that the new manmade material, used in jewellery, combs, buttons and other items, would bring "respite" to the elephant and tortoise because it would "no longer be necessary to ransack the earth in pursuit of substances which are constantly growing scarcer." Bakelite, the first true synthetic plastic, was developed a few decades later to replace shellac, then in high demand as an electrical insulator. The lac bugs that produced the sticky resin couldn't keep up with the country's rapid electrification.

Today, plastic is perceived as nature's nemesis. But a generic distaste for plastic can muddy our thinking about the trade-offs involved when we replace plastic with other materials. Take plastic bags, the emblem for all bad things plastic. They clog storm drains, tangle up recycling equipment, litter parks and beaches and threaten wildlife on land and at sea. A recent expedition researching plastic pollution in the South Atlantic reported that its ship had trouble setting anchor in one site off Brazil because the ocean floor was coated with plastic bags.

Such problems have fuelled bans on bags around the world and in more than a dozen American cities. Unfortunately, as the plastics industry incessantly points out, the bans typically lead to a huge increase in the use of paper bags, which also have environmental drawbacks. But the bigger issue is not what the bags are made from, but what they are made for. Both are designed, absurdly, for that brief one-time trip from the store to the front door.

In other words, plastics aren't necessarily bad for the environment; it's the way we tend to make and use them that's the problem.

It's estimated that half of the nearly 600 billion pounds of plastics produced each year go into single-use products. Some are indisputably valuable, like disposable syringes, which have been a great ally in preventing the spread of infectious diseases like HIV, and even plastic water bottles, which, after disasters like the Japanese tsunami, are critical to saving lives. Yet many disposables, like the bags, drinking straws, packaging and lighters commonly found in beach clean-ups, are essentially prefab litter with a heavy environmental cost.

And there's another cost. Pouring so much plastic into disposable conveniences has helped to diminish our view of a family of materials we once held in high esteem. Plastic has become synonymous with cheap and worthless, when in fact those chains of hydrocarbons ought to be regarded as among the most valuable substances on the planet. If we understood plastic's true worth, we would stop wasting it on trivial throwaways and take better advantage of what this versatile material can do for us.

In a world of nearly seven billion souls and counting, we are not going to feed, clothe and house ourselves solely from wood, ore and stone; we need plastics. And in an era when we're concerned about our carbon footprint, we can appreciate that lightweight plastics take less energy to produce and transport than many other materials. Plastics also make possible green technology like solar panels and lighter cars and planes that burn less fuel. These "unnatural" synthetics, intelligently deployed, could turn out be nature's best ally.

Yet we can't hope to achieve plastic's promise for the 21st century if we stick with wasteful 20th-century habits of plastic production and consumption. We have the technology to make better, safer plastics — forged from renewable sources, rather than finite fossil fuels, using chemicals that inflict minimal or no harm on the planet and our health. We have the public policy tools to build better recycling systems and to hold businesses accountable for the products they put into the market. And we can also take a cue from the plastic purgers about how to cut wasteful plastic out of our daily lives.

We need to rethink plastic. The boar's-hair toothbrush is not our only alternative.

The writer is the author of the forthcoming 'Plastic: A Toxic Love Story' The New York Times

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE NUCLEAR TAKEAWAY

G BALACHANDRAN

 

The full and cumulative effects of the earthquake and tsunami that shook Japan are still unclear, when it comes to the nuclear power plant complex at Fukushima Daiichi. Japanese authorities, assisted by the IAEA and the international community, are straining every nerve to contain the damage at the site.

There is a 12-mile exclusion ring around the nuclear plant, and countries like the US have advised evacuations for anyone within a radius of 50 miles around the site. The situation is still fluid, with threat levels having been recently raised to 5 on the INES scale (where Chernobyl was 7) — the same as the Three-Mile Island disaster.

As the battle to contain the situation goes on, there is now universal concern about the safety of nuclear power and its future, in a context where only recently a nuclear renaissance of sorts had been held out as the answer to our growing energy needs. This debate is especially intense in India, given the special stress that our planners had placed on nuclear power. Those who had opposed nuclear energy in any form, for civil or strategic purposes, have exploited these new doubts to the fullest. The controversy over the proposed Jaitapur nuclear power plant has added to this furore. It is worth asking, therefore: first, are nuclear power plants unsafe? Second, what is the track record of Indian nuclear power plant operators? And third, what are the lessons to be taken away from the ongoing Japanese experience?

So far, the performance of nuclear power plants has been exceptionally good. The number of reactor-years logged by the civil nuclear power industry runs into hundreds of thousands. With the exception of the Chernobyl accident — which was an exceptional case for more reasons than one — there has been only one incident of level 5 in the INES scale, the Three-Mile island case, and even there was no radiation leak or any radiation exposure to anybody even though the plant experienced a fuel meltdown as is happening now in Japan. What's more, there had been no other nuclear accident above level 2 so far, with the exception of the current Japanese case. The IAEA terms events at levels 1-3 "incidents" and only events in the scale 4-7 as "accidents". Even at Fukushima, the reactor withstood, without any damage to its structure, an earthquake of magnitude 9. It was the tsunami that followed the earthquake that caused the off-site damage which impacted the reactor. Therefore, there is nothing in the history of power reactor operation to indicate that they are unsafe. Nevertheless, the IAEA, with the help of member states, is constantly examining the safety features of reactors, and there is no doubt that this accident at Fukushima will only go towards making subsequent reactor and off-site designs more robust and safe.

As for India's reactor operation in the past decade, there has been only one incident at level 2, and that too over six years back. With the newly enhanced concerns about nuclear safety, one hopes that Indian nuclear operators will be even more cautious about the safety of their operations.

What are the lessons to be learnt from the Japanese situation? First of all, the need for developing a well-established and followed procedure to alert the public, and adequate precautionary measures. In Japan, the relevant law requires that the plant operators notify the nation — prefectures, cities and towns — promptly, in order for them to take necessary action. The speed with which the Japanese notified evacuation of people, first within a 3 km zone, later expanded to 10, 20 and 30 km, and the efficiency of these evacuations, is telling. Without such efficiency, there is little doubt that some of the people in the area would have been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. Second, both the operator — Tokyo Electric Power Company — and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency were regularly communicating to the public through their website, with details of the ongoing developments at the power plant site and the levels of radiation intensity at all the monitoring sites around the plant. Third, the people also deserve much of the credit for the apparently — at least so far — limited radiation damage suffered by them. The promptness and discipline with which the population responded to the authorities' call for evacuation contributed in no small measure. All these are features — transparency, discipline, corporate responsibility and regulatory agency efficiency — that have a long way to go in India. We would do well to imbibe these lessons, as Japan goes through the greatest nuclear damage it has experienced since the end of World War II.

The writer is visiting fellow at IDSA and the National Maritime Foundation

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

WIKILEAKS INDIA

 

In 2008, after it organised a sting operation with a television channel on an attempt to bribe its MPs to break away on the trust vote in Parliament, the BJP didn't quite know what to do. The government survived the trust vote, so the only thing the party could do was to shout in the House, in television studios and on the streets. This worked to an extent, a parliamentary probe was ordered and this asked for the investigative agencies to examine the matter further, except those it wanted probed included a BJP member. The BJP, however, forgot the matter with time, and with good reason. As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reminded the BJP while replying to its demand for his resignation, the matter was debated by the electorate (along with several others including the BJP's inability to pull together with allies or even within itself)—the verdict was the Congress increasing its seats tally from 141 to 206 and the BJP falling from 138 to 118.

None of this is to say the content of the cables WikiLeaks put out were incorrect. But what do they tell us except that someone talked to US officials. There may have been R60 crore for bribing but it's also possible, as the Radia tapes and so many others showed us, there are more braggarts out there than we imagined. More important, what shocked the BJP so much that its grand old man finally asked for the PM's resignation? Apparently Adarsh, CWG, 2G didn't shock Mr Advani as much as the possibility that our politicians try to bribe MPs as well as voters, or that ministers are dropped due to US pressure—well, the fact that Pranab Mukherjee was appointed FM despite the US wanting some others should make the BJP breathe easier! The BJP would do well to heed what Pranab Mukherjee told it: take the WikiLeaks case to court. So far, all the cases the BJP has been exercised about, whether CWG or 2G, are cases that will eventually either stand up or fall in court. The legal courts and the people's court, both are impressed only with facts that look a bit more solid than a bit of stenography, never mind that it has been done by an American and a high-ranking one at that.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MORE THAN INTEGRITY

 

After the Supreme Court's strictures on the CVC's appointment, the government has decided to expand the search to include non-civil servants, FE reported on Friday, and has planned a 3-stage clearance procedure before the high-powered selection committee—the PM, the home minister and the leader of the Opposition—meets to finalise the selection. This includes an extended vigilance clearance from the Cadre Controlling Authority—had this happened in Thomas's case, the Kerala case would have come to light immediately, instead of having to be brought up by Sushma Swaraj. CBI/IB clearances are also being suggested.

What is not clear, however, is whether any change is contemplated in the procedure to judge the competence of the candidates in the short-list. Indeed, in the case of Thomas, the palmolein issue was only one aspect of the case. There was, as this newspaper has pointed out before, no mention of the role he had played as telecom secretary in trying to get the CAG to stop auditing the 2G licensing; nor was there any mention of the fact that he had failed to impose monetary penalties or to cancel licences of firms that didn't roll out their networks. Indeed, since the Attorney General sought to play down the CAG issue by telling the Supreme Court that Thomas was merely "processing (the) file in a normal routine manner", what's not clear is whether candidates get higher marks for such routine processing or whether marks are cut for such lack of application of mind, not to mention spine. Indeed, when the high-powered committee met, all it had was the bare-basic CVs of three candidates—PJ Thomas, Bijoy Chatterjee and Subbaroyan Krishnan. The CVs told you that Thomas had done a one-week course in "MS Office 97 and Internet Applications" at the NIC and Chatterjee had done a one-week course at the CMC in "Science &amp; Technology" (whatever that might mean). But they didn't tell you if either had done anything more than routine processing of files in any of the previous jobs these two worthies had held. The CVC's job, or indeed any post of any consequence, requires not just a person of integrity, it requires a person who has demonstrated ability to think out of the box, a person of administrative and leadership qualities, and a lot more. There is nothing to show any thinking is being done on how to screen candidates on this aspect.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHAT MARKETS WANT, RBI GIVES
SURJIT S BHALLA

In late December 1994, the Mexican peso was devalued and within days Latin America plunged into a currency crisis. At that time, the US economy was bustling along and the bond vigilantes at the Chicago Board of Trade were pressing the sell button on US Treasuries. Real interest rates are too low, the investment bank gurus screamed. Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve Chairman, was an avid market follower, and known for looking at the minutiae of data—truck delivery time, cargo shipments and Fed fund futures. Looking at this data, he concurred with the gurus. He needn't have looked because Chairman Greenspan was an enthusiastic follower of the market. If the market, in all of its infinite wisdom, was saying to tighten further, who was he to be a leader? Wasn't the job of the Federal Reserve to be a follower of the market?

In 1994, Greenspan had already raised the Fed Fund's rate 6 times to a level of 5.50% from the 3%-level in 1993 and end-1992. With Latin America and emerging markets in deep crisis, with the IMF board meeting daily to work out an emergency bailout package, with all that happening in the background, Greenspan raised the Fed Fund's rate by 50 basis points on February 1, 1995.

Within months, if not days, of this large hike, the markets and the gurus were betting that interest rates were too high. We all know that monetary policy has long and variable lags; yet these gurus were flip-flopping on monthly or even daily data. The numero uno market follower, Mr Greenspan, also looked at the data, especially the data on Fed Fund futures, and dutifully reached the same conclusion. Voila, the Fed Funds rate was cut by 25 basis points each on July 6, 1995, December 19, 1995, and January 31, 1996!

There is a huge asymmetry in the incentive structure for market participants and gurus. If you are the only one wrong, then you get condemned; but if you get the entire scenario wrong along with the rest of the class, then you get applauded, and even promoted. This is understandable. What is not is why policy leaders should behave this way. Greenspan was not one to lead—and neither does it appear are Indian RBI governors.

Fast forward from the Latin American currency crisis in late December 1995 to the Japan crisis, March 2011. The crisis involves earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns. Apart from the tragic loss of human lives, this crisis has just increased uncertainty. True, the world economies are recovering and inflation has been inching up. But such inflation has not caught the policy makers napping. They have increased interest rates around the world. In India, the repo rate has been increased 8 times in the last one year. This increase by 200 basis points since January 2010 places the repo rate at 6.75%, the highest level since December 6, 2008, when it was 6.5%.

Was yesterday's widely expected repo rate hike really necessary and warranted by international environment and domestic economic data? Or did RBI act as a Greenspan follower, as a slave to markets? Regarding the international scene, there is no doubt that the environment is more investment-and-growth-dampening than it has been in a long time. Arab unrest, the nuclear crisis, and the spike in oil prices are all factors that dampen spirits and discourage growth. The domestic political environment is also not the most conducive to investment and demand. A shaky scandal-hit government, divided leadership, and now WikiLeaks about cash-for-votes. Not to mention flip-flops at the environment ministry. Investment, anyone?

Maybe economic growth has been too strong for comfort for RBI and its supporting cast of in-house experts and vigilante gurus at the investment banks? For 8 years now, GDP growth in India has averaged around 8.5%, and in this fiscal year (2011-12), it is likely to be the same.

Industrial production growth has also slowed down, averaging only about 3-4% on a year-on-year basis. So, no clues here about excessive demand-led inflation fuelling growth.

So, it must be that inflation has been on a rampage? It is high, but the rampage was about a year ago. Inflation, according to the CPI, at around 8%, is less than half its peak level of 16.2% reached in January 2010. According to the WPI, inflation, at around 8.5%, is about 5 percentage points lower than the level of 12.8% reached in July 2008. Manufacturing non-food inflation (core inflation in India) has stayed steady in India at around 4.5%. So, where is the beef and what is the grief?

As discussed in detail in the first issue of Developing Trends*, the preferred RBI indicator of inflation—the WPI—is, at best, faulty. In the presence of the CPI, it adds zero information to explaining overall, GDP-deflator inflation. The latest data for the new CPI index released today suggests that CPI inflation year-on-year is averaging around 7.5%—a two-year low—and only the second time such inflation has been below 8%. The other time was November 2010.

So, no matter how one adds up the figures, or constraints, or determinants, it is the case that the recent RBI move lacks logic, and appears to be a deliberate pander to the masses (inflation hawks). Unless crude prices flare up on a permanent basis (they have averaged around $80/barrel for the last four fiscal years, including 2010-11), expect CPI and overall inflation to drift down towards India's long-term post-1996 average of around 5%. Then, will the next move of RBI be to cut interest rates, à la Greenspan in 1995?

—The author is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm

* All you wanted to know (and more) about inflation in India, available at www.oxusinvestments.com

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

NOT SO EMERGING ANYMORE
V BALAKRISHNAN

The year started with lot of enthusiasm for Emerging Markets (EMs). With the world still struggling to come out from one of the worst recessions it had seen in the last many decades, EMs provided a ray of hope. A lot of portfolio money got re-allocated to EMs. All of a sudden, there were talks about a 'currency war' with some of the EMs like Brazil, Thailand and South Korea taking regulatory measures to stop hot capital inflows into their economies. India and China lead the growth for the EMs and were clearly identified to be the future economic powers of the world.

But, all that changed in the last few months. The high inflation coupled with rising interest rates threatens the growth momentum in all EMs. The black-swan event of unrest in the Middle East region increased the political uncertainty, which turned investors more risk averse. The yields in the US and Europe have gone up on the back of strong recovery in business sentiments. All these resulted in a net outflow of portfolio money from the EMs.

The series of scams have undermined India's growth story in the minds of global investors. The world knew that corruption exists in India but the scale and the quantum of such scams had spooked most investors. The entire chain of nexus between politicians, industry and the middle-men has surprised many global investors. It is estimated that around $600 billion of black money generated out of India is residing in many tax havens. In one of my conversations, one investor told me, "India is a benami economy, with all its national resources, whether under the ground or over the air, being sold by politicians at will." The government seems to be caught unawares and had been very defensive in its response. Add to this, the concerns on inflation, trade deficit and fiscal deficit have come to the fore. Suddenly, you are finding the India story to be very weak.

China has its own problems. The easy money environment has created huge bubble in its real estate business. The government is conscious about its impact and has taken several steps to cool down its real estate markets. Despite strong pressures from the US and Europe, China refuses to appreciate its currency as it needs to keep control of its banking sector. China could open up its capital account and reduce its pace of reserve accumulation, which could result in losing control of its banking sector. This will again result in the real estate bubble ending up in a credit crunch affecting the whole economy. China needs to continuously focus on exports, which will create a huge employment opportunity for its youth; needs to keep the currency artificially low to make its exports competitive; needs to keep the real wages low in order to be competitive in the global markets; and needs to continuously use the banking system to fund large infrastructure projects (even if it commercially does not make sense) in order to boost investment and create employment. That is why James Chanos, a legendary New York investor, said that China is on a treadmill to hell. He thinks China's real estate market is the biggest "Ponzi scheme" in the world. Clearly, China needs transition from an investment-led growth to a consumption-led growth in the near future.

There are also some interesting demographic changes happening all around the world. The developed economies are ageing faster. Their structural problems in dealing with high government debt and social security/pension challenges are resulting in both job losses and an increase in retirement age. This is resulting in huge unemployment of the young population in those countries. Add to that, the traditional manufacturing sector, which created huge employment opportunities, moved to places like China. The new economy companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc, creates little employment, even though they are huge companies by market capitalisation. So, the chance of unemployment coming down in the developed economies seems to be weak in the near future.

For countries like India and China, the focus should clearly be to keep their young population fully employed. They need the western markets to export and create employment in their home countries. The entire problem in the Middle East has more to do with the high unemployment of their young population. The growth per se will create that momentum on job creation; however, they need to balance their interest between inflation management and maintaining high growth rates.

Also, with high unemployment in the West, those economies could become more and more protective.

Clearly, what is good for the developed markets today is not good for the EMs. Their interests are different and highly divergent. The world was never so globalised and protective at the same time, as it is today. These are interesting times…

—The author is CFO of Infosys

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

QADHAFI REGIME CLIMBS DOWN

In a move preceded by acrimonious argument, the United Nations Security Council voted by 10 to none, with five abstentions, for a no-fly zone throughout Libyan airspace — and Libya caved in by announcing acceptance of the resolution as well as a ceasefire. The no-fly zone, from which aid flights would be exempt, is backed by authority to member states to "take all necessary measures" to enforce compliance; this is diplomatic code for military action. In addition, the Security Council has widened the existing U.N. asset freeze and arms embargo against Tripoli and called on member states to stop mercenaries going to Libya. An occupation force is expressly excluded. The resolution would almost certainly have failed had the League of Arab States (the Arab League), the African Union, and the Secretary-General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference not already condemned Libyan violations of human rights and international law. Muammar Qadhafi's first response was, in fact, a mindless rant: he said "no mercy" would be shown to residents of Benghazi who resisted him and also threatened retaliatory targeting of all air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean.

The possibility of air strikes against one's own people, combined with Mr. Qadhafi's imprecations, might bring to mind the widely publicised possibility raised in 2009 of Indian Air Force action against Maoists, which would surely affect civilians as well; this was quickly ruled out. The Libyan strongman's threats, however, were of a quite different order, especially in the context of his regime's acts of brutality against its own people. As for the U.N. Security Council, while its tough stance might have worked for now, the course of action indicated in the resolution is deeply flawed. Jana, the official Libyan news agency, has reported that government forces might cease military operations on Sunday so that rebels could hand over weapons; a "general decision on amnesty" has also been mentioned. It is not clear what kind of Libyan action would qualify as sufficient compliance for the resolution not to be implemented. A no-fly zone would not stop Tripoli's ground troops and armour from advancing on and attacking rebel-held areas; the 1990s NATO no-fly zone in Bosnia failed, with terrible consequences for civilians. Finally, the Security Council resolution has no clear political objective. Is it to protect rebels or all Libyan civilians? Remove Mr. Qadhafi in what will amount to regime change? Something else? The U.N. has not even waited to hear from its Special Envoy to Libya. External military intervention in Libya would be both wrong and disastrous. Given the murky circumstances, India has done well to express its reservations and abstain in the Security Council vote.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

A MULTI-PRONGED STRATEGY

The Reserve Bank of India's action in hiking the short-term policy rates — the repo and the reverse repo rates — by 0.25 percentage point was not unexpected. That the central bank would continue its focus on inflation was also well known. However, the tone of the latest review, the last before the annual credit policy, is distinctly hawkish on inflation. In raising its short-term inflation target from 7 per cent to 8 per cent for March 2011, the RBI is, in effect, admitting that all the monetary measures undertaken so far have not been able to contain inflation within the pre-stated range. (The policy rates have been raised eight times during the year) The tacit admission has led to an explicit recognition that inflation can no longer be attributed substantially to structural, supply side factors relating to food items. In fact, the prices of food articles, barring those of milk, eggs, meat, and fish, have declined since January 2011. However, while the weekly food inflation index has been declining, the inflation linked to non-food manufactured products rose from 4.8 per cent in January to 6.1 per cent in February. This is well above its medium-term trend. The RBI has pointed out that the acceleration is spread across manufacturing activities, indicating that producers are able to pass on higher input prices to consumers. High petroleum prices and the increase in administered coal prices have heightened the risks further.

The latest budget, by aiming at a sharp reduction in the fiscal deficit, gives comfort to the RBI's inflation containment strategy on the demand side. Yet questions have been raised as to whether it would be possible to compress public expenditure so aggressively. Nor is it certain that the outlays for subsidies on petroleum, and fertilizers as well as for the government's flagship social sector programmes will be sufficient. Economic growth has been in line with expectations. Although there are a number of favourable indicators such as buoyant direct and indirect tax collections, significant downside risks have emerged. On the external front, the central bank takes comfort from the fact that the current account deficit at the end of this year will be lower than expected, at around 2.5 per cent of GDP. However, this year has seen robust export growth and a relatively stable inflow on account of remittances and invisibles, factors that cannot be taken for granted. There is a need to focus on the quality of capital inflows, with greater emphasis on attracting more stable foreign direct investment.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

BRIBERY CHARGE MUST NOW BE INVESTIGATED

THE EMBASSY CABLE SUGGESTS A SERIOUS CRIME WAS COMMITTED ON INDIAN SOIL TO WHICH U.S. DIPLOMATS WERE PRIVY. THE PRIME MINISTER CANNOT CITE LAME ARGUMENTS TO JUSTIFY INACTION.

SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN


Since politics is a distraction, consider the following retelling of the WikiLeaks tale. An activist dies in a traffic accident. CCTV footage from a bank nearby suggests he might have been murdered but the case is never investigated properly. Three years later, a newspaper publishes what it says is an American Embassy cable sent a few days before that suspicious accident. In the cable, a U.S. diplomat quotes a multinational company executive talking loosely about how he paid money to some criminals to convince the activist to get out of his way.

How would a civilised country which values the rule of law react to such a disclosure? Would the government cite technicalities about the "unverified and unverifiable" nature of the "purported" cable and the executive's protestation of innocence and not even bother to ask the police to look into the matter? Or would it reassure the nation that even though the information is unverified, it will do its best to find out the truth?

In the face of the political firestorm that The Hindu's publication of a secret U.S. Embassy cable about payoffs to MPs has generated, all that the people of India needed was an assurance from the UPA government that the serious crime of bribery, if established by a proper investigation, would not go unpunished. What they got instead was cynical obfuscation.

Speaking in Parliament on the subject, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have mounted a 'technical' and wholly ineffective defence of the government.

The July 17, 2008 cable sent by U.S. Charge d'Affaires Steven White stated that a Congress politician named Nachiketa Kapur — described as a "political aide" to Captain Satish Sharma, M.P. — showed an Embassy staff member "two chests containing cash and said that around Rupees 50crore-60 crore (about $25 million) was lying around the house for use as pay-offs" to MPs to ensure that the Manmohan Singh government won the confidence vote that was set for July 22. The cable, which was accessed by The Hindu from WikiLeaks, also quotes Mr. Kapur saying Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal was paid Rs.10 crore for each of its MPs.

That the RLD was actively being wooed can be seen from the Union Cabinet's July 17, 2008 decision to rename Lucknow airport 'Chaudhry Charan Singh Airport' after Mr. Ajit Singh's father. Other inducements were also on offer but in the end, the RLD voted against the government. Here Nachiketa Kapur turned out to have been remarkably prescient. After claiming the RLD MPs had been paid off, the Embassy cable notes: "Kapur mentioned that money was not an issue at all, but the crucial thing was to ensure that those who took the money would vote for the government."

In the face of this damaging information which is contained in a secret cable that was never meant to be publicly circulated (that too in a redacted form) till at least 2018, Mr. Mukherjee and Dr. Singh made five lame points.

First, the Finance Minister told Parliament on Thursday that since the allegation of bribery applies to the 14th Lok Sabha which has since been dissolved, the 15th Lok Sabha had no locus standi to discuss the issue.

Second, he said the cable was a sovereign communication between different branches of the U.S. government, was covered by diplomatic immunity and that the information it contained could neither be confirmed nor denied by India. Despite the U.S. State Department saying publicly last year that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had spoken to External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna to warn him of the impending publication of confidential cables by WikiLeaks, Dr. Singh told Parliament: "The Government of India cannot confirm the veracity, contents or even the existence of such communications."

Third, the Finance Minister said the information about bribery in the cable would not be considered admissible evidence in any court of law. The Prime Minister added that "many of the persons referred to in those reports have stoutly denied the veracity of the contents," as if the country ought to be satisfied by mere protestations of innocence by the accused.

The government's fourth argument was that a Parliamentary committee had probed the matter and concluded that there was "insufficient evidence." Finally, the Prime Minister took refuge behind the "court of the people," declaring that since the Congress got re-elected in 2009 the charge of bribery had been "rejected by the people." By this logic, the Congress has no right to accuse Narendra Modi of complicity in the 2002 massacres since this allegation has been "rejected by the people" not once but twice.

Instead of hiding behind technicalities and dubious political arguments, government managers could have defused the crisis by promising that the information contained in the cable would be probed. It is nobody's claim that the contents of a U.S. Embassy cable should be treated as gospel truth. Of course, the reason the cable struck a wider chord is because there is corroborating evidence of bribery having taken place in the run-up to the confidence vote. There are video recordings from a sting operation conducted by CNN-IBN and a Parliamentary committee tasked with probing the matter in 2008 felt there was enough material for the appropriate investigative agencies to conduct a probe. That said, the Embassy cable's contents still need to be verified.

Captain Satish Sharma, Nachiketa Kapur and Ajit Singh have all said the allegations against them are false. Captain Sharma has denied Mr. Kapur was ever his political aide and the latter has said he had only passing contact with the Congress MP and with U.S. Embassy officials. Are they lying? Or was the U.S. Embassy staff member being economical with the truth when he told the Charge d'Affaires he had been shown the cash?

A proper police investigation conducted by an agency like the CBI under the supervision of the Supreme Court can certainly make a fair attempt to establish where the burden of truth lies.

Mr. Mukherjee is right that the cable is sovereign diplomatic communication but India can surely request its "strategic partner" to help probe an allegation that has diminished the country's democratic institutions in the eyes of its people and the world. For starters, the U.S. can be asked to identify the unnamed Embassy staff member. If he was an Indian employee or an American without diplomatic status, there would be absolutely no problem in the CBI recording his statement and asking him to join a criminal investigation. He could tell us, for example, where his conversation with Mr. Kapur took place. The staffer reported back to Mr. White that he was told Rs.50 crore or Rs.60 crore was "lying around the house." Which house was he referring to? Even if the Embassy "staff member" was a diplomat — one theory is that it was the Political Counsellor himself who dropped his descriptor because he had inadvertently become party to a criminal act — diplomatic immunity would not come in the way of him informally helping the police in their investigation. India can also ask the U.S. to waive his immunity. Moreover, the call records of Captain Sharma and Mr. Kapur can be examined to fix their physical locations and ascertain the nature of their relationship, especially on the day the meetings mentioned in the cable took place. This can then be triangulated with the telephone number of the U.S. Political Counsellor, whose number is known to the Indian authorities. These are the minimum steps that any self-respecting democracy would want to take in the face of such a serious charge.

On the eve of the July 22, 2008 vote of confidence, I wrote an op-ed in The Hindu where I said: "Even if the government wins the trust vote on Tuesday, the Prime Minister and the Congress will not be able to live down the taint of impropriety surrounding their victory." The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that the listlessness, drift and corruption that so many commentators have indicted the Manmohan Singh government for in its second innings have their origins in the manner in which that trust vote was won. The UPA lost its moral centre that day, and with it, its political bearings.

In a hideous coincidence, the taint of bribery has come back to haunt the government at a time when the nuclear dream which was supposed to make it all worth it is slowly evaporating in plumes of deadly radioactive steam above Japan. "If implemented in the way it is promised, [the nuclear deal] would increase the country's energy options in the long-run," I wrote in the same op-ed. "But no deal is so good that it merits the short-circuiting of democratic propriety through horse-trading or worse."

The Opposition is wrong to insist that the Prime Minister must resign because of the leaked cable. But he has a moral obligation to ensure the cable's contents are investigated properly. Refusing to do so would be an act of immense political folly, especially in the light of all the scam allegations that have buffeted his government.

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THE HINDU

OPED

BJP SAYS ONE THING AT PARTY MEET, ANOTHER IN PRIVATE

LEADERS ASK U.S. DIPLOMATS NOT TO READ TOO MUCH INTO HARSH VIEWS EXPRESSED IN FOREIGN POLICY RESOLUTION.

SURESH NAMBATH

 

BJP insiders assured us privately that the statements were only political rhetoric meant to score points ... - Robert Blake

 

CHENNAI: A December 2005 cable, sent by Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Blake, offers the interesting reading that when it comes to foreign policy and India-U.S. relations, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress are birds of the same feather and the BJP's rhetoric criticising the United Progressive Alliance's 'subservience' to the United States is "only political rhetoric meant to score points against the UPA."

The BJP, at its National Executive meeting in Mumbai on December 26 and 27, 2005, criticised the UPA government for adopting a foreign policy that was "subservient" to the U.S. But soon after the party passed this foreign policy resolution, its leaders privately told American diplomats not to read too much into it.

In the cable sent on December 28, 2005 ( 48692: confidential) Mr. Blake said: "In a private conversation on December 28, BJP National Executive Member Seshadiri Chari urged us 'not to read too much into the foreign policy resolution, especially the parts relating to the US.' Chari dismissed the statement as ' standard practice' aimed at scoring easy political points against the UPA. BJP spokesman Prakash Javdekar echoed these statements, saying that the BJP was not really upset about the US/India relationship, but merely wanted the GOI [Government of India] and USG [United States Government] to be more forthcoming about any deal on nuclear policy."

Mr. Blake came up with this analysis of the BJP's motives and actions: "The regional policy statements are standard BJP boilerplate, but the party adopted a peculiarly harsh view towards US/India relations. BJP insiders assured us privately that the statements were only political rhetoric meant to score points against the UPA. It is not unusual for domestic political considerations to take precedence over foreign policy in India, and the BJP decided there was little risk of negative fallout with the USG."

He concluded that the BJP out of power was more interested in UPA-bashing than in nurturing the U.S.-India relationship. "There is lingering sensitivity among portions of the Indian electorate regarding possible 'subservience' to the US, and a nationalist party like the BJP can energize its core membership by asserting Indian independence. BJP leaders do not seem overly concerned about the repercussions of their anti-US rhetoric, convinced that a few well-placed private assurances will mollify the USG."

 

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THE HINDU

ADVANI PLAYS DOWN BJP OPPOSITION TO NUCLEAR DEAL

SURESH NAMBATH

CHENNAI: When in power, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will behave very differently from its days in the opposition. This was the reassuring feeling that United States Embassy Charge d'affaires Peter Burleigh got after a meeting with the BJP's prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani on May 13, 2009, just days before the results of the Lok Sabha election were out.

In a cable of the same date ( 206814: confidential), Mr. Burleigh told Washington that Mr. Advani played down his party's opposition to the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement, and assured the U.S. that there would be no imminent move to reopen the deal if the BJP returned to power.

"Looking relaxed and confident, Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani told Charge that there would be continuity and strength in U.S.-India relations should a BJP-led government emerge after the national parliamentary elections currently underway."

Mr. Burleigh wrote: "He acknowledged [that] the BJP public position in July 2008 was that the deal constrained the country's 'strategic autonomy' and the party would 're-examine' it if it returned to power but connected that stance to domestic political developments then at play in India." In Mr. Advani's view, the diplomat said, "government is a continuity," particularly in matters of foreign policy. International agreements "cannot be taken lightly," the cable quoted the BJP leader as saying.

In this context, Mr. Advani pointed to the strong objections of his party to the 1972 India-Pakistan Shimla Agreement, noting that the party did not scrap that agreement when it came to power.

Mr. Burleigh reported: "According to Advani, the problem in dealing with Pakistan today is that it is not clear who is in charge — the civilian government, the Army, the ISI or some other entity. In his view, it was easier to deal with Pakistan during General Musharraf's tenure because it was clear who had the last word. Advani expressed great concern over the rising influence of the Taliban in Pakistan. CDA responded that the USG shared this concern, noting that there is increasing congruity between Indian and U.S. interests and perceptions of threats in the region and beyond."

Mr. Advani also cautioned about the tendency of the global community to view the India-Pakistan ties through the Kashmir lens. "He said that having grown up and lived in Karachi for the first 20 years of his life, he has a certain understanding of the India-Pakistan dynamic. In his view Kashmir is only one of the problems in the bilateral relations but it is not the core issue nor one on which the entire relationship hinges. He thinks the main conflict arises from the fact that one country is a flourishing democracy and the other is not."

Mr. Advani, Mr. Burleigh recalled, recounted a discussion he had with former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto a few years ago in which they identified two factors that had allowed democracy to take hold in India while Pakistan struggled with it: an apolitical Army and an independent Election Commission in India. "Advani said he has since added a third reason for the difficult path of democracy in Pakistan: the country remains feudal in its structure while India has swept aside its feudal systems for the most part."

On Sri Lanka

On Sri Lanka, Mr. Advani emphasised that the primary Indian concern was for the well-being of the Tamil population. He told the Charge he understood the Sri Lankan government's desire to defeat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, but it should have been more mindful of the suffering of the Tamils caught in the crossfire. "Advani observed that the Sri Lankan government would make a big mistake if it was not clear and generous in its approach to the devolution of power to the Tamils once the fighting had stopped," Mr. Burleigh added.

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THE HINDU

IN SRI LANKA, SEEKING TO SQUARE THE CIRCLE

K. VENKATARAMANAN


CHENNAI: India made an unsuccessful effort to resolve the 'cohabitation' crisis in Sri Lanka between President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe late in 2003 by suggesting that the Defence portfolio be split so that he could have effective control over military affairs in the north and east as he remained in charge of the stalled peace process.

Indian High Commissioner Nirupam Sen's suggestion did not convince Mr. Wickremesinghe, from whose Cabinet the Defence, Interior and Mass Commuication portfolios were taken away by Ms. Kumaratunga in November 2003. However, according to the contents of a conversation between Milinda Moragoda, a senior Cabinet Minister who was coordinating the peace process from the government side, and Jeffrey J. Lunstead, the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister had no objection to India trying to sell the proposal to the President while she was in Islamabad for the SAARC summit in January 2004.

Mr. Lunstead reported the development in a cable dated December 29, 2003 ( 12953: confidential), accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks. The context was the lengthy stalemate in the peace process after the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) withdrew from the peace talks in April 2003 and, six months and hundreds of ceasefire violations later, came up, on October 31, with a controversial proposal for an 'Interim Self-Governing Authority' for the northeast. Four days later, Ms. Kumaratunga, marginalised in the decision-making regarding the peace process and left with the feeling that her presidency was not given the respect it deserved, divested the Defence, Interior and Information Ministers of their portfolios. This resulted in the 'cohabitation crisis' reaching a point of no-return. Mr. Wickremesinghe thought he could not pursue peace without control over the military – as maintaining the ceasefire was the foundation of the process – and believed that a fresh parliamentary election was the only way out.

On December 26, Mr. Moragoda met Mr. Lunstead to review his upcoming visit to the U.S. and told the latter that the only effort to resolve the political stalemate "was a proposal being brokered by Indian High Commissioner Sen following his consultations in Delhi." The Ambassador said: "Sen was pushing the idea that the regional commands (for the North and the East, presumably) could be carved out of the Defense Ministry and put under Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's control. This would give him the operational control he needed to resume the peace negotiations. Milinda [Moragoda] did not know if this idea would fly. Even the PM was not fully convinced it was useful, but he was willing to let Sen try it out on the President. Milinda thought that the Indians would push this idea with President Chandrika Bandarnaike Kumaratunga (CBK) at the SAARC summit in Islamabad in early January."

In a cable sent two days later, on December 31, 2003, containing a report on the handing over of a letter from Secretary of State Colin Powell to Mr. Wickremesinghe ( 12992: confidential), Mr. Lunstead said he had asked the Prime Minister if there was any chance of Mr. Sen's initiative succeeding. "PM said he did not think this would go anywhere, and even if he liked it, he did not think the Service Chiefs would accept it."

Chandrika willing

According to a cable sent on January 5, 2004, Mr. Lunstead spoke on January 2 to Mr. Sen, who, "without any prompting," said: "The technical means of squaring the circle are available. The problem is that Ranil does not want that much – he wants everything. She (the president) is willing to compromise, the problem now is his objection to accepting any piecemeal solution" ( 13027: confidential).

Mr. Sen explained that the President was looking for a way out by offering to delegate a number of defence matters to the Prime Minister, "but the PM was trying to get everything." He added that External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee might raise the issue with the President during the SAARC summit.

Throwing light on what exactly Ms. Kumaratunga's 'way out' was, Mr. Lunstead said in another part of the same cable, while recounting his meeting with Ms. Kumaratunga to deliver a separate letter from Mr. Powell, that she was willing to make Mr. Wickremesinghe Minister of National Security and turn over to him parts of the Defence portfolio related to the peace process.

Mr. Lunstead's own comments show that the U.S. did believe that the Prime Minister could not be blamed for the impasse, but at the same time he should be told that he should "give some meaningful role to the President, if he expects her to give him back operational control over defense."

"We have urged her to compromise, and will continue to do so, but she will not listen to us if we ask her to consent to her own political oblivion," he observed.

When Mr. Moragoda said on December 26 that during his U.S. visit he planned to convey to the Deputy Secretary [Richard Armitage] that the international community should understand that the President caused the crisis and was prolonging it with her obstinacy, Mr. Lunstead replied that the U.S. understood that the President had caused the crisis but its public statements had to be relatively even-handed.

The Indian efforts, however, did not bear fruit as Ms. Kumaratunga dissolved Parliament soon and called fresh elections that were held in April 2004 and brought her party back to power.

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THE HINDU

ISRAEL'S PR OFFENSIVE IN INDIA

EMBASSY HELD DISCUSSIONS IN DELHI AND MUMBAI WITH 'FOCUS GROUPS' TO IMPROVE ITS PUBLIC IMAGE.

HASAN SUROOR

LONDON: Israel is desperately trying to create a "shinier image of itself as a friend of the Indian people'' to match its growing diplomatic clout in New Delhi, U.S. Ambassador to India David Mulford noted in a cable, accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

He suggested that Americans could learn from Israel's "public relations strategy.''

The cable, dated March 28, 2008 ( 147610: confidential), is titled "Israel polishing its image — and its hardware in India," in a reference to its bourgeoning arms trade with India. Sent a few weeks after a widely publicised India-Israel Strategic Dialogue session held in New Delhi, it said that Israel was particularly concerned about the Left's criticism of the Indian government's increasingly "closer ties'' with it and was trying to "counter'' it by cultivating public opinion.

Israel's Deputy Chief of Mission in New Delhi Eli Belotsercovsky told American diplomats that the embassy had held discussions with "focus groups'' in Delhi and Mumbai as part of its campaign to improve its public image. The discussions showed that while Israel was now viewed "more favorably by the Indian public than in the past,'' there was still a vast "knowledge gap'' with "very limited knowledge about the country, even among educated professionals.''

According to the cable, Mr. Belotsercovsky "noted that their polling suggested many Indians actually see Israel as a model for dealing with Muslims — something the Israeli Embassy makes efforts to downplay.''

It concluded with the suggestion that the U.S. "can learn from the Israelis" success in India.''

"We will remain engaged with the Israeli Embassy and follow whether its public relations strategy to win hearts and minds has any success in swaying the general public while defusing attacks from India's Left. Israel's success in this area could yield strategies for the USG's (United States Government) own efforts at bridging the gap between the Indian public's enthusiasm and the government's skepticism of the U.S.,'' it said.

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THE HINDU

 

PAKISTAN BACKED MILITANTS TO AVOID BEING TARGETED?

P. SAINATH


MUMBAI: "Pakistani officials think that if militant groups were not attacking in Afghanistan, they would seek out Pakistani targets." That was part of a briefing on Afghanistan that U.S. National Intelligence Officer (NIO) for South Asia Dr. Peter Lavoy gave Permanent Representatives of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) on November 25, 2008. The briefing was to become famous for a much-reported statement by Dr. Lavoy: "… Despite pending economic catastrophe, Pakistan is producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world."

However, other vital things, which have been less recognised, came up at the meeting. These included a suggestion from Dr. Lavoy that pressure be generated to make the Taliban act at their worst. "The international community should put intense pressure on the Taliban in 2009 in order to bring out their more violent and ideologically radical tendencies. This will alienate the population and give us an opportunity to separate the Taliban from the population."


A cable dated December 5, 2008 ( 181529: secret/noforn) from the U.S. NATO Mission recorded two other reasons that Dr. Lavoy put forward for Pakistan's support for the Taliban in Afghanistan. "First, Pakistan believes the Taliban will prevail in the long term, at least in the Pashtun belt most proximate to the Pakistani border. Second, Pakistan continues to define India as its number one threat, and insists that India plays an over-active role in Afghanistan." Dr. Lavoy also said: "Although Pakistan now identifies both al-Qaida and the Taliban as existential threats," their "government institutions still support the Taliban" in key ways. That includes the ISI providing "intelligence and financial support to insurgent groups... to conduct attacks in Afghanistan against Afghan government, ISAF, and Indian targets."

"Urging militant groups to be outwardly focused, he said, is perceived by Pakistani officials as a method to safeguard internal security. In addition, Pakistan has (probably correctly) assessed that it is only capable of targeting several groups at a time, which leads to a policy of appeasement of other groups in the meantime."

Dr. Lavoy described FATA as "the command and control center for al-Qaida worldwide…" Yet, "Despite al-Qaida's presence in the FATA, he continued, it plays a surprisingly insignificant role in Afghanistan, where the numbers of foreign fighters remain relatively low."

The cable noted Dr. Lavoy as saying further: "Indian diplomats and politicians showed restraint in public statements" even after the July bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul which killed 40 people. According to Dr. Lavoy's briefing, "they seemed to realize that India's past tactic of using military pressure to influence Pakistani government to reign [rein] in militants may no longer work, especially if insurgent groups are operating against or independently of ISI. Despite this positive political development, Lavoy said India could do more to assuage what one PermRep called 'Pakistani paranoia'."

Several Permanent Representatives "noted that 'the feel-good factor of the briefing was pretty low,' and the report was 'chilling' and 'unrelentingly gloomy'." Despite this, they "appeared to agree with his assessment that Afghanistan is 'winnable,' especially if NATO took several immediate concrete steps to improve the situation."

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

BATCHA'S 'SUICIDE' WON'T IMPACT PROBE

As a society we are sometimes happy to offer a place of privilege to voyeurism. We watch the drama that sometimes unfolds with pain and suffering endured by others, derive pleasure from it to the extent that we feel superior to the victim (usually claiming a high moral perch for ourselves), and then proceed to construct hypotheses that typically denounce the victim and his associates. These we take to public forums in debates contrived to develop a political stance. Take the case of the late Sadiq Batcha, a financial associate of former communications minister A. Raja, who is being investigated in connection with the 2G spectrum scam. Mr Raja's acolyte was found hanging at his home in Chennai earlier this week. He was reported to have been involved in helping launder the bribes allegedly accumulated by Mr Raja in the process of spectrum allocation, and had been questioned by the CBI about these matters. The media was immediately agog with the speculation that the businessman had been murdered, and people who had got rid of him tried to make their misdeed look like a suicide, complete with a suicide note. All this without a shred of evidence, while sitting far away. It is the chattering classes that are typically given to a pastime of this nature. Any number of individuals pontificate on television with an air of self-importance — all saying the same thing with no known objective basis in facts. The cry that went up in this particular instance was that the 2G investigation was now doomed as the man who might have possessed any serious knowledge about Mr Raja's alleged swindles had been done away with. And who could have had an interest in making this happen? The government, of course. But this is left to the imagination and not spelt out. Which government? Tamil Nadu? Centre? You can take your pick. The puerile purpose, even if not consciously calculated, of all is to make politicians look criminal as a class.
It is to the credit of Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy — the man who had first set the cat among the pigeons in the 2G affair — to have not been carried away and maintain in his media appearances that the 2G investigation had not been compromised on account of the tragic exit of Batcha. He held the view that the loss of such a witness would not "fundamentally" ruin the cause of unearthing the wrongdoers, as the authorities were in possession of corroborative material from multiple sources. Ergo, whether the end of the businessman-associate of Mr Raja resulted from suicide or murder was not, strictly speaking, material. Let us be clear. Suicide cannot be ruled out, no matter what some may say. Of course, if it was a murder connected with this case, then those behind the crime could aim to extend similar treatment to other witnesses. For this reason, the investigators — the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate — look to be guilty of not providing protection to a leading witness. This once again calls for having a witness protection programme in place, as in several countries, notably the United States. While the Supreme Court is directing investigations in the 2G case, it could think to crack the whip on the government so that such a programme is introduced on an immediate basis.
The removal of Batcha from the scene is unlikely to be a particularly significant factor as far as the coming Assembly election in Tamil Nadu is concerned. The 2G affair is likely to influence urban middle class voters, and there the matter stands in the view of observers of the scene. But, as we know, usually it takes more than one consideration to shape an electoral outcome.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

WOMAN POWER

KISHWAR DESAI

While an enormous din and mayhem prevailed in the Indian Parliament over the latest WikiLeaks cable revelations concerning the vote over the nuclear deal, Congress president Sonia Gandhi in London was calm and relaxed. She even shared an occasional joke as she spoke about a subject which is as important (if not more) as the nuclear policy: Women — Agents for Change.

In a packed room, delivering the 14th Commonwealth Lecture, Mrs Gandhi got a standing ovation as she walked in, and her speech lived up to all the expectations that had been built up for a lecture from the leader of the oldest political party in India. She was not only optimistic about the future but also very positive about how far Indian women have come — hoping, at the end, that India would not only reap the demographic dividend, but the gender dividend as well.

Her speech was confident and comprehensive: though there were many in the audience who still doubted how far Indian women have actually journeyed, they were somewhat persuaded by her well-reasoned argument and it provided much food for thought. Whether it is non-government organisations like Self-Employed Women's Association or uprisings like the Chipko movement, or important government measures such as the one-third representation of women in all elected posts in the panchayats, change had been delivered and it will lead to a rapid and progressive transition all around in India, which, as she pointed out, was a country where women were leading four important political parties.

And, of course, she expressed the hope that very soon one-third reservation would be followed in Parliament as well. So let us keep an eye out for that!

Mrs Gandhi also laid out an agenda for what the Commonwealth could do, globally, for women in the future. She stated that there was a need, firstly, to examine and expand the creation of more financial as well as political opportunities for women; secondly, there was a need to engage at making urban areas safer for them; and thirdly, to look at how the climate change endangers their lives and how to make these deprivations more gender sensitive.

Mrs Gandhi's speech was both visionary and thoughtful — and as Kamalesh Sharma, the erudite secretary general of the Commonwealth pointed out, while all these issues were being addressed, he would press the agenda forward.

Interestingly, it was a speech that encompassed both history and literature, and Mrs Gandhi was reassuringly passionate about women's advancement. In fact, for many, her ideation, interest and engagement was exciting.

or those used to watching news clips of her delivering rabble rousing electoral diatribes, this was a refreshing change — visionary yet pragmatic, sensitive and yet humorous.

Mrs Gandhi recounted how at the 1985 Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference, there was a huge controversy about imposing sanctions on South Africa to smash apartheid. Only Mrs Thatcher was against this move. Shridath "Sunny" Ramphal decided that three heads of government, Rajiv Gandhi, Brian Mulroney of Canada and Bob Hawke of Australia, all three good-looking men, may charm her into changing her mind. Mrs Gandhi recalled with a laugh that Mrs Thatcher was unimpressed by the three "handsome" men, and refused to change her stance.

The anecdote evoked spontaneous laughter from the audience, but more importantly, through personalised narration alongside a global understanding of the subject, Mrs Gandhi was able to establish herself as not only a very successful leader of a political party but also as a skilled communicator.

It has been a good year for the Commonwealth to pursue an agenda of gender equality and persuade their member countries to take care to see that women get the prominence they deserve. The Prime Minister of Tobago and Trinidad, very-elegant Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the chairperson of the Commonwealth and secretary general of the organisation, pointed out that women like her and the Congress president are a clear indicator that the men running the organisation would be pushed into supportive roles like "book ends"!
Earlier in the week we also met with Queen Elizabeth at a reception on Commonwealth Day. I must confess that I (shockingly!) forgot to curtsey but I did congratulate her on her grandson's wedding. After all, which grandmother would not love to be reminded of such an amazingly joyful occasion? But to our surprise, she was a little a reticent about it and actually confessed her worry regarding the public reaction to the celebrations. Possibly, she was anxious that at this time of austerity it should not appear as though the wedding is extravagant and insensitive. However, everyone was quick to reassure her that the wedding, in fact, will see a lot of celebratory street parties and dancing and come as a welcome relief at a time of stringent cuts and rising employment.

Because while things have changed in the last few years and the recession has sucked the pleasure out of mere "enjoyment", no one can resist a whiff of romance!

However, Kate and William have already taken one very important step towards understanding that things have changed in the last one year: they have said that they do not want presents and would prefer donations to charity instead of gifts.

Meanwhile, the fact that the WikiLeaks expose in India comes just on the back of the Japanese nuclear disaster only serves to prove the worst fears for many of us regarding nuclear energy. Does India really need these enormously expensive (and potentially dangerous) nuclear power plants? Could we not have gone for greener, much more safer ways of bringing energy to the poorest of the poor?

Surprisingly, while most countries using nuclear energy are reassessing their future plans, the same rigorous re-examination and debate is barely happening in India. Green energy and alternate sources of power could be implemented, quite easily, because of the already low consumption of traditional fossil fuels in India.
But after listening to Mrs Gandhi, hope has arisen that perhaps, more compassionate, inclusive, "feminine" ecologically-friendly and environmentally-acceptable alternatives will be encouraged to solve India's energy problems and possibly lead the way for a global solution. Her audience in London listened to her carefully, and hoped that those in India were doing the same.

The writer can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com

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DNA

 

IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME

With all the multiple social networking platforms racing for our email addresses, a lot of us seem to have rediscovered old school friends who had disappeared (sometimes with good reason) over the years. Meeting them after more than 12 years isn't exactly an exalting moment. But dare I admit to that!

So on one of those endless searches to find where everyone is, I received an email from one of my classmates. Anyhow, I read the mail - twice. About 2,000 words (a document attached to the mail), narrating how life had taken her all over the place and she finally married the man she was having an affair with (against her parents' wishes) and after nine years of being married, she is quite unhappy but she has a daughter who is so beautiful that she can barely take her eyes off her and she also happens to be her only achievement in life.

I haven't quite found a way to reply to the saga. Apart from the fact that I have absolutely no inclination to tell her about my life, I also can't quite forget the fact that she used to despise my guts. I also remember how she, at the age of 16 (!), had claimed that she'd bedded one of the hottest Bengali actors of the time and we were so shocked by that blatant lie that it took us a while to start watching that man's films again.

Why do some people feel the need to connect with the past all the time? Unless there's someone absolutely irresistible you want back in your life, I really don't get the whole "let's get back to the old times" bit. Sure, I have found an old professor I used to admire, hoping to improve my writing or my old best friend whose number I'd lost or even a colleague I admired at the beginning of my career. But would I go and submit a 150-page dissertation on how life has been? And that is also why I can't handle the question "what have you been doing all these years?"

Apart from struggling to make a living, I can never quite find a response.

Over some really bad food one day, a good old friend put my mind to rest. Her explanation went such: We are all losers. And we move ahead in life, hoping that someone, at least one person we thought would find the hidden treasures of life, is a bigger loser than us.

We want to know if someone who knew us when we were 10 years old is fatter than us or not, richer than us or not or worse still — luckier in love or not. That is exactly why we stay up nights, haunting the various online search engines, typing in those names and wondering if any of them has an email address, a virtual profile with pictures and some dark secret that no one knows yet. After all, without such information it becomes extremely difficult for us to survive. We went back to the bad food after that — the noodles were greasy and left stains on my serviette.
I have to go back and reply to that email, I said to myself.

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DNA

TIME TO MERGE TROOPS UNDER HOME MINISTRY

A few days ago I walked into a rally in the narrow, crowded lanes of Hyderabad's old city.

The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen was celebrating its 53rd anniversary with a procession that took it through communally sensitive areas.

In addition to the khaki-clad local policemen, I also saw a detail of armed security personnel. Sporting camouflage-patterned combat fatigues and a no-nonsense demeanour, they walked in single files on either side of the congested lane.

Their epaulettes identified them as belonging to the 'BSF', the Border Security Force. Now according to the Union ministry of home affairs, the BSF 'keeps vigil along the line of control in J&K, the Indo-Pak border and the Indo-Bangladesh border'.

But here it was, in Hyderabad, keeping vigil along Abid Road.
The Indo-Tibetan Border Police was raised to guard India's boundaries with China. But in February last, home minister P Chidambaram inaugurated a new ITBP camp at Idayapatti, near Madurai, a few thousand miles away from the northern borders.

The camp, he explained, would not only allow South Indian ITBP personnel to stay close to their families, but would also allow them to assist state governments in times of any emergency.

Over the years, this force has been used to protect VIPs in New Delhi, carry out counter-insurgency operations in J&K, protect Manasarovar yatra pilgrims, and secure Indian facilities in Afghanistan.

The efficient, smart and often female personnel you encounter at airports are from the Central Industrial Security Force. It was first raised to secure vital public-sector units. In response to terrorist threats, it is now also deployed at a few large private corporations.

Another 128 private corporations have requested its protection, a service for which they are required to, and are ready to, pay. And a CISF contingent is guarding the UN mission in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

By now you might have realised that there is a gap between the stated missions and the actual jobs that our central paramilitary forces are tasked with. This gap is widening.

When forces assigned to a particular mission end up doing slightly different things, it is called 'mission creep'. Guarding the Himalayan frontiers requires an entirely different set of skills, equipment, mindset and organisational structure compared to protecting the vice president from assassins.

Mixing up the two not only creates inefficiencies but risks undermining their overall effectiveness. In the case of our paramilitary forces, 'mission creep' is too mild a phrase to describe the actual situation.

The gap is widening not because of a shortage of manpower, funds, or a sense of purpose. An ITBP recruitment rally in January, in Bareilly, UP, attracted over 100,000 aspirants for a mere 416 positions.

Chidambaram has not only provided 'huge amounts for procurement' of modern equipment but also pushed the expansion programme through the government machinery.

So our paramilitary forces will almost certainly have many more battalions and better weapons in the years to come. However, without structural reforms, it is unlikely that the outlays will lead to better outcomes.

Why do we need BSF for the border with Pakistan, but the ITBP for the border with China and the Sashastra Seema Bal for the borders with Nepal and Bhutan? Why should the Assam Rifles be distinct from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)?

My colleague Bibhu Prasad Routray argues that it is a good idea to merge the various central paramilitary forces into a single force. Indeed, given that most of them are doing each others' jobs anyway, wouldn't it make sense to bring them under one chain of command?

If this is way too radical, then why not rationalise them into three forces with distinct roles - internal security, border security, and infrastructure security? This is as good for accountability as it is for the forces to develop greater competence within their domains.

In fact, massive expansion of central paramilitary forces without structural reforms could end up being counterproductive. The most important links in the internal security chain are the beat constable, the local police station, and the deputy superintendent of police. Policing is a state subject.

The massive expansion of central paramilitary forces after 26/11 belies the total refusal of all state governments to implement the Supreme Court-ordered police reforms.

Indian states persist with a colonial police structure designed to keep a subject population under the rulers' thumb. Persuading them to change is hard enough. If a state government comes to believe that it has easy access to large numbers of central forces, it will have fewer incentives to improve its own police force.

The goal of internal security should not be about sending the CRPF (and certainly not the BSF) to Hyderabad. It should be about ensuring that the Andhra Pradesh police can handle the task without outside help.

Nitin Pai is founder & fellowfor geopolitics at Takshashila
Institution and editor of Pragati —The Indian National Interest Review

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

POISONOUS SNAKES IN BACKYARD

Obama administration seems to be exploring all options that would hasten termination of armed conflict in Afghanistan. Washington has never been clear and forthright in assessing how India could play a positive role in retrieving peace in war-torn Afghanistan. We presume it is seized of strategic relevance of the role of Pakistan in Af-Pak crisis, and is not averse to be taken for a ride or blackmail. That is part of their bilateral relationship. But the amusing aspect is that Washington wants India to make concessions to Pakistan so that she is prompted to fight America's war in Afghanistan. In the realm of international diplomacy, the more complicated an issue is the more subtle is the language of dialogue. Just examine what Michele Flournoy, Under Secretary Defence Department said while testifying before powerful Senate Armed Services Committee. It has to be noted that Michele has a key role in formulating Obama administration's Af-Pak policy. She said, "Pakistan, in particular, views so many issues in the region through the prism of its relationship with India. And so getting at some of those root problems between the two of them is one of the most important initiatives that can happen in the region, and so we are being as supportive of that as possible." The phrase "root problem" is a borrowing from Pakistan's Kashmir lexicon. And it is not the first time that Washington desires of India to undo status quo in Kashmir. Feeling the heat, UPA government has gestured constituting the team of interlocutors, which first, but very unusually, hyped its brief from home minister, and then started blowing hot and cold, and at times even talking of "solution of Kashmir issue" and "visiting Pakistan for talks". And now it has fed the press with proposition of revival of "Prime Minister and Sadre Riyast" nomenclature for seekers of greater autonomy. All these antics fit in the US' Af-Pak strategic chemistry.

However, the top American commander in Afghanistan has been much more realistic than the under secretary while testifying on the same subject before the same Committee in the US Senate. He said, "An 'enduring solution' in Afghanistan is the best way to make Pakistan realize how to achieve its national security aims without allowing elements on its soil who create problems for their neighbours." The next sentence in his testimony was much more candid and reflected the big gap in the perception of the US foreign office and its ground force in Afghanistan. Patraeus said, " There is, I think, a growing recognition that you cannot allow poisonous snakes to have a nest in your backyard even if they bite the neighbour's kids, because sooner or later they're going to turn around and cause problems in your backyard,' adding "And I think that, sadly, has proven to be the case". Thus the problem is not that "Pakistan views issues through the prism of its relations with India". The real problem is the poisonous snakes in her backyard creating problems for the neighbours. In other words, the General tells his country's foreign office that if Pakistan is not able to crush the poisonous heads of lurking snakes, the onus is on American and NATO forces to finish the job. And if that is not done, then, in the words of the General, these adders will not only bite the kids of neighbours but will cause problems in your backyard. And what are the likely problems that these can cause? The General made no bones of hinting at Pakistan's nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of the Pakistani Taliban. In these two varying assessments of Afghan situation, how does the US administration expect any improvement or success in Indo-Pak talks when the poisonous snakes in Pakistan's backyard are seeking human blood? The Pakistani Taliban have repeatedly made it clear that their agenda does not come to an end with the wresting of Kashmir from the hands of India, which they assert is the job of Pakistan Army. Their agenda is establishment of Islamic Caliphate from the shores of the Mediterranean to the Straits of Malacca, and to which the Central and South Asian regions including Kashmir are central. This is precisely what the General meant when he said that if Central Asian hydrocarbon resources are to stimulate the economy of the South Asian region, then Afghanistan has to be secured against depredation of Taliban-Al Qaeda-PTT nexus. It is unfortunate that New Delhi is succumbing to pressures and has consented to devalue the might of the state by creating the non-descript interlocution façade to its own detriment and to the detriment of the nation.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

RETHINK ON NUCLEAR ENERGY

 

Blasts in nuclear reactors in Japan after the tsunami and quake struck the land, have sent a wave of scare across the world. There is the danger of melt down of the reactors to control which, Japan is making strenuous efforts. Secondly, radiation from the damaged reactors is threatening human life. Major world powers have ordered inspection of their nuclear establishments and asked the experts to ensure that there is foolproof safety underway. The US, EU and the UK have ordered their nuclear experts to re-assure safety of their nuclear reactors. Germany has announced it will not go in for building more nuclear rectors. Alongside an opinion is building up in various parts of the globe that Japan tragedy may be a lesson to world nuclear powers to stop the use of nuclear energy for all times. Only 23 per cent of world consumption of electricity is provided by nuclear energy at present. On an average less than 20 per cent of energy requirement is provided by nuclear reactors in developed countries. The cost of production of electricity through nuclear device is high. The IAEA shall have to initiate a debate on the question whether the use of nuclear energy should be banned altogether or not. This has to be a serious debate involving a number of aspects of international relationship and the economic fallout.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

TIME TO SETTLE K-ISSUE

MEN, MATTERS & MEMORIES

BY ML KOTRU

 

Ah, for the joy of being an interlocutor! Free travel as often as you want to what the poet-king had once described as "if there be heaven on earth it is here, it is here, it is here". Sarkari bandobast at its best, beflagged 'gadis', liveried bearers at the VIP guest house. Access to very nook and cranny of the beautiful State, free access to anyone you want to meet, bar those who spurn your offer.

 

An extended joy-ride! No one really keen, not New Delhi, in any case, in a hurry to ask for quick answers to the task assigned to the chosen three. Does it really matter if the two Hurriyats, the spearhead of the separatist movement refuse to meet you? Does it matter if a former Chief Minister and a former Home Minister of India, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed quite bluntly puts on the table a four-point formula, most of whose elements had very nearly been accepted, at least in part, by the parties concerned.


Call it the Musharraf plan or the Manmohan Singh out-of-the-box solution which foresaw in the near future the irrelevance of existing borders or the line of control, if you will, between India and Pakistan. The Mufti who was not particularly impressed by the appointment of Central interlocutors last week put forth his four-point formula in Jammu almost at the same time as the three Delhi interlocutors were breast-beating in Srinagar over the longstanding complaint of Muslims in the valley about the missing, the prisoners, the special powers empowering the Army etc.


The people in the Valley are asking for shifting of the Army from residential areas which frankly is not such a tall order. The interlocutors themselves have, I am told, taken a positive view of some of the demands and if that be so why don't they do so publicly it. Or, at the very least, as the head of three-man group Dileep Padgaonkar had said weeks ago, that an interim report would be filed to the government soon; that was more than five weeks ago. In Srinagar we were again reminded last week that the interlocutors would be reporting to the government soon.


It sounds good when you learn that the interlocutors had a meeting with a large number of women, most of them with complaints about missing sons, husbands or other relatives. But is it really that good when, apart from dishing out assurances, the interlocutors do not appear to be addressing the grievance. The interlocutors, I know are well-meaning people, but I can't help the feeling that their handlers in New Delhi, notably the Home Minister, P. Chidambaram may even have asked them to ease the pace a bit until next month's Assembly elections. Even if that be the case one would like to know if it is true that the State government has lately put a large number of known or likely stone pelters into protective custody.


For a change I notice that even Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the extremist separatist leader, who heads a faction of the Hurriyat, has publicly stated that his plans this summer do not include frequent 'bandhs' calls which disrupted life in the State the whole of last summer. I don't know whether it is late blooming wisdom that has induced the thought or is it his worry over the hardship cause to the people coupled with the fact that Pakistan currently resembles a fast crumbling State. I would go with the latter considering that Geelani has staked much in the past on Kashmir's accession to Pakistan. As a sensible politician and a well-wisher of the people of Jammu and Kashmir he may have had second thoughts about Pakistan. Not a day passes in that country without scores being killed by suicide bombers, striking almost at will from the port city of Karachi, to the cultural hub of Lahore and even Faisalabad. Peshawar and the northwestern part of the country's border with Afghanistan, not to mention, Balochistan are the virtual killing fields for the US stealth bombers, Pakistani forces, and the Taliban.
Someone was telling me other day about the possible repercussions of the Middle-East turmoil. Kashmiris have already suffered much to be embroiled in anything like that. It wouldn't be unknown to them that Hosni Mubarak's departure from Cairo does not mean restoration of democracy; Egypt has infact rarely seen democracy; Muaamar Quadaffi has in desperation turned his guns on his own people. And assuming that the popular revolt against him succeeds what exactly will replace him: seven warring tribes held together under the iron heel of Quadaffi.


The wretched Saudi royal house, comprising some 800 princes and princelings, has reacted only after seeing the chaos surrounding the Kingdom, releasing a meager eight billion, of the several hundred billions held by the house of Saud, for several welfare projects. The scene hardly changes when you look at other neighbouring Sheikhdoms etc. So, I won't buy the theory that the so-called "Arab revolution" will affect the Kashmiri psyche.
Returning to the interlocutors they have had enough time already to come to grips with the possibilities in the State, its complex ethnic, linguistic and religious diversities notwithstanding. The time may indeed be ripe now for taking up most of the proposals - the viable ones, that is - that are already on the table, some nearly finalized at the governmental level in the past, others worked though the back channels and some more like the autonomy proposal of the National Conference, and who knows we may see much merit in the latest Mufti proposals if considered at an all party round table meetings.


The interlocutors may soon discover that their endeavours of the past few months will not enable them to please every section of the population of the State but they must hit upon the most acceptable.


Considering the integrity of the State and the sanctity of its accession to the Union of India it would be an understatement to say that their task even after long months of talks with all segments of population, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists of producing a settlement that satisfies all is indeed difficult.
Toing and froing between New Delhi and Srinagar or Jammu or Leh is also not what can produce results. And further dilly dallying can only harden attitudes.


In this connection, I was amused to hear about some 250 dwelling units built with Central aid by the State somewhere near Nagota in Jammu for rehabilitating some of the migrant Kashmiri Pandit families. Does this mean that New Delhi has accepted the migration of some three to four lakh Kashmiri Pandits, due to "internal" disturbances, as a precursor of a permanent solution. Why should they be asked to live in Jammu when their homes and hearths in the Valley are there. Am not sure whether this falls within the purview of the interlocutors' mandate. What I know is, some similar clusters were built in the valley in the past but in the absence of security never occupied by the Pandits.


Finally, however it may be attractive to be gaining the confidence of the many suffering Muslim families, interlocutors should not magnify the problem by their public wailing. I believe Dr. Radha Kumar, the only woman member of the team of interlocutors, had no need to be so strident a few days ago after reading a summary of what she had to say at a women's gathering in Srinagar. I am not questioning Mrs. Kumar's right to have her say but as a member of the team of interlocutors it would be much better if her comments are reserved for the report they submit to the government. By overstating the obvious one does not really help the cause. It rouses suspicions without helping.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

HOLI: CARNIVAL OF COLOURS

 

Holi is one of the most colorful and vibrant festivals celebrated in India. Like many other festivals, Holi has an ancient origin, the tradition of which is being followed since time immemorial. Considering the religious importance of the festival, it is associated with a number of mythological stories. The most popular amongst them is that of Radha and Lord Krishna, wherein, he playfully applied color on Radha's cheek, as she was fairer than him. This gave rise to the festival of Holi and the tradition of playing with colors. The significance of the festival has not diminished since then and even applies to the cultural, social and biological aspects of our lives.


Importance Of Holi Festival

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of Holi can be gauged from the fact that its origin derives reference from various mythological tales. This has led to a deep faith and respect towards the celebration of the festival, as Indians strongly believe in mythology. The moral behind all these stories is victory of good over evil, which is a lesson for the human race. The tales instill the faith of man into the ultimate power of God and his mercy over his devotees. Holi festival is the medium through which people are inspired to lead a virtuous life. Moreover, the festival is organized at the time when the harvest is at full bloom, giving people an opportunity to rejoice.


Social Significance

The social significance of Holi is seen in the form of the message of unity and brotherhood, it delivers. As per the custom and tradition, people pay visits to their friends and relatives, to give them wishes as well as to strengthen their bonds. The festival brings the nation together, as it is not just celebrated by Hindus but, also by the Sikhs, Christians, Jains as well. The festival is unique, as it does not discriminate against any section of the society and treats everyone equally. The social fabric and secular character of the society is strengthened, since people work on building cordial relations, forgiving their hard feelings for others.


Biological Significance

Apart from the cultural and social significance of the festival, Holi considerably affects the biological system of our body. The time, at which Holi is celebrated, is very crucial with respect to our body. During the festival, the season is going through a change - from winter to summer. It is the period when people feel lethargic and drowsy. Holi provides them the opportunity to wear off their laziness, by enjoying themselves thoroughly.
The dance performances and the music played during the festival rejuvenate the mind and soul. The color, especially Abeer, penetrates the body and strengthens the ions, improving health and beauty. During the tradition of Holika Dahan, people circumambulate around it the fire. This ritual kills the bacteria in the body and makes it clean. During Holi, people clean their houses and remove clutter, thereby ensuring flow of positive energy. Therefore, it can be said that apart from rejuvenating the social ties, Holi provides a wonderful opportunity to let loose all the tension and de-stress the mind.


Holi safety tips

Celebrated in northern parts of India, Holi is a festival of joy and colors. On the joyous occasion, people follow the tradition of smearing color onto the faces of their friends and guests, playfully. While playing with colors is the essence of the festival and is what breathes in life to the occasion, it can be at times very dangerous, in case you do not take precautions. This is because, in the present time, the colors available for Holi are made of harmful chemicals, which may prove to be hazardous if not used properly, without precautions. Therefore, you should take safety measures, if you want to ensure a joyous and colorful Holi. In the following lines, we have provided some safety tips for Holi.

Safety Tips For Holi


While playing Holi, always wear old and ragged clothes that can be discarded immediately after the occasion. Brightly colored and dark colored clothes are preferable for the mood of the day. This way, you will save a lot of time in laundering your stained clothes.


Wear full-sleeved t-shirts or shirts and leggings that cover your legs fully, so that your sensitive body parts are not exposed to the harmful chemicals of the colors of Holi. Wearing socks on the occasion is a good idea too.
Since it is almost impossible to save yourself face from attack of colors on Holi, so while being attacked, keep your eyes and lips tightly closed.


If you are playing Holi, apply a thick layer of coconut or any oil on your body and hair until they glisten and you become slippery. The oily coat would protect you from the immediate effect of harmful chemicals of the colors of Holi. This will not only help in escaping from the frenzied mob attack, but also will help you to wash off colors easily, later on.


While washing off the color from your face, use lukewarm water and keep your eyes and lips tightly closed.
If you are traveling on Holi, keep the car windows tightly shut. It is still better to avoid traveling on the day of playing colors, because you never know, when balloons filled with colors and water might fall onto you.
Do not make use of harmful colors for Holi. This will not only prove harmful to your playmates, but also spoil your Holi. Make use of herbal colors for the festival.


Choose herbal colors that are easily available in the market, for Holi. You may also make herbal colors at home. For instance, red sandalwood powder can be used to make red color; henna powder can be put in best use to derive the bright green color, while yellow color can be made by making use of turmeric powder.


Courtesy: festival iloveindia.com

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

EDUCATION FOR WHOM?

BY RASHMI GUPTA RATHORE


Yesterday is gone

Tomorrow has not yet come

We have only today

Let us begin

Mother Teresa

 

The first decade of the 21st century has ended. Much has been done so far to bring reforms in our educational system. Slowly and steadily, initiatives have been undertaken for re-shaping the policies and practices of education in India. Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009 is a big achievement in this direction. This Act provides a comprehensive framework for realizing the free and compulsory education as fundamental right for all children in the age group of 6 to 14 years. RTE offers a framework for ensuring quality education, creating infrastructure, trained teachers etc. Nelson Mandela has rightly said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Education plays an important role in the harmonious development of children. It forms the backbone of civilization. So school education in the initial years help in the formation of personality of children. All great educationists like Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindra Nath Tagore, Dr. Radhakrishnan etc. laid stress on the all round development of the child.


Much has been done so far but still we stand nowhere. Now the question arises Education for What and Education for Whom? Focus is always on restructuring the education system but nobody has looked at the plight of the children in the schools. Children are tender plants and teachers are like gardeners who nourish them. Unfortunately, these tender plants are trampled but not nourished. If we get a chance to visit any government school in morning; we can see that classes are cleaned up by small children, even in frozen winter. There is no provision of sweepers in the schools. It is an astonishing fact that the government is paying high salaries to the teachers but not bother to recruit sweepers in the schools. As we enter any of the Government school, there are brooms in the hands of children instead of pen. Is it the duty of small children to clean the classes? Their duties do not end here. They are always sent to get water, tea etc. for their teachers. Even they are sent to the nearby market to fetch eatables for their respected teachers. In return they get a corporal punishment which is banned under law. Schools are like heavens for such teachers. Since morning till evening either they are busy gossiping on mobile phones, even during their class work or with their colleagues. Rest of the time they take rest. If the teachers are such then we can see the bright future of our children and country. Though teaching is outmoded and conventional but this is the limit that well qualified teachers are using guides to teach in the class room. They have no time to teach through books. It simply means that books are distributed to the children because it is mandatory under article 45 as one of the Directive Principles of State Policy. Educationists say that the education should be meaningful. Then how can logical, critical, reflective and analytical thinking be developed in the children? Can we be able to make our children productive, cooperative, well-balanced and useful members of the society? What to talk about RTE Act, Globalization, Liberalization of policies and reforms. Undoubtedly, these are important for achieving sustainability. Today when we talk of IITs, IIMs, and collaborations with foreign Universities the ground reality is pathetic and worst at Elementary stage which is the FIRST STEP. Even poor think twice to send their children to Government school. But he is being compelled due to circumstances. This shows the real face of our educational system.


All reforms are made for the quality education. But one should always keep in mind that there is a driving force that can help in achieving the objectives and that driving force is TEACHER. Thomas Carlyle has rightly said, "The end of man is an action and not a thought, though it was the noblest". FOR QUALITY EDUCATION, QUALITY TEACHERS ARE NEEDED. Before blaming anybody for the plight of the present education level a good teacher can eliminate the weaknesses of the educational system. A teacher is capable of creating learning environment in his or her institution where he or she can put his or her best efforts and resources in achieving objectives. He or she can alone provide a quality education if desires so. Innovative, Dynamic, Competent, Committed and dedicated teachers are the assets for any educational institutions. Now the question arises why teachers have become so immoral? What is lacking? The answer is simple "VALUES". Today we tenaciously need The Holistic Education. A teacher can inculcate values among children only if he or she himself or herself is an embodiment of values because "Example is better than percept". What is to be needed today is "Self-Transformation", awakening of 'Conscience' or 'Inner-Consciousness'. We need a SOULFUL TEACHER. The quality of education depends on the quality of teaching by quality teachers. It is a question for all teacher community-do we really need surprise inspection? Everyday in thousands of schools inspection is not possible to carry out. Will disciplinary action sort out the problems? Then it is futile to talk of Professional Ethics for teachers. So to achieve objectives of education and to provide education to millions of students will only be possible by providing quality teaching by quality teachers. It is high time the teachers should realize their responsibilities to ensure a bright future of children.


It is a plea to all teachers that the time has come to act. We must join hands together and start action to make our Elementary Education the Best as it is the true beginning. In T.S.Eliot's words,

 

"The endless cycle of ideas and action,

Endless invention, endless experiment

Brings knowledge of motion and not stillness

Knowledge of speech but not of silence,

Where is the life we have lost in living?

Where is wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is knowledge we have lost in information?"

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

RESURRECTING OLD GHOSTS

WIKILEAKS UNLEASHES FRESH BRIBERY CHARGES

 

THE recent WikiLeaks disclosures, which involve an American embassy political councillor revealing in a secret cable that he was shown stacked-up cash by a close aide of Congress MP Satish Sharma which was meant for bribing the four MPs of Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal to vote in favour of a crucial vote of confidence in 2008 on the Indo-US nuclear agreement, have added to the ruling coalition's cup of woes. Indeed, they have given the Opposition a handle to beat the government with. For a government besieged already with scams, this is another embarrassment to contend with. There is no way to verify the veracity of the claim of bribery but with people in general being disillusioned with politicians, this could well affect the fortunes of the Congress party in the upcoming assembly elections in some states. The Left parties that have been down and out in their bastions of West Bengal and Kerala on the eve of the elections have something to cheer about while they seek to convince the voter that the US government has been far too meddlesome with Indian politics and governance.

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement in Parliament that nobody from the Congress or the government engaged in any 'unlawful act' and the charges were 'unverified and speculative' has not quite helped to silence a combative Opposition. His assertion that an year after allegations of bribery in the 2008 vote were first made, the Congress had trounced the Opposition in general elections does little to allay doubts about wrongdoing. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's earlier statement in Parliament that the correspondence between a sovereign government and its missions enjoys diplomatic immunity and, therefore, he can neither confirm nor deny it, has queered the pitch for the government even more. So has his assertion that because this purported conversation pertained to the 14th Lok Sabha the current Parliament cannot be called to account for it.

 

It would be in the fitness of things if the UPA government orders a fair and impartial investigation into bribery allegations, including claims that efforts were made to influence the Akalis, the Shiv Sena and the National Conference too. That a parliamentary panel appointed after the 2008 vote had failed to fix responsibility but had suggested a deeper investigation is cause for re-visiting the issue. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

CLOUDS ON HORIZON

RBI RATE HIKES TO HURT GROWTH

 

Continuing its tightening policy, the RBI raised its key rates by 25 basis points on Thursday. The hike was expected since inflation remains a problem. Belying all government expectations of moderation by the fiscal year-end, inflation rose to 8.3 per cent in February. The wholesale price index will remain at about 8 per cent in the current month too, which is a cause of concern. Although food prices have cooled, the country is now faced with high oil prices, which globally rule at about $115 a barrel. India's oil subsidy bill will shoot up since the government is unlikely to pass on the additional burden on consumers ahead of elections in some states.

 

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee earmarked a less-than-sufficient amount for the oil subsidy in the recent budget. Growth slowdown means lower-than-expected tax revenue and higher fiscal deficit. That India alone is not caught in a worsening situation brings little relief. The unrest in West Asia has led to the recent spike in oil prices. The looming nuclear disaster in Japan has forced countries to rethink on nuclear power. If the trend towards thermal energy gains momentum, this would put additional pressure on oil and natural gas prices, which could have global repercussions. This bodes ill for the fast-growing emerging markets, including India.

 

Worse, the Japanese government and firms are likely to withdraw from investment commitments in various countries. This could impact the US and European recovery and will not leave Asia entirely untouched. In this context the RBI's rate hikes only add to growth worries. Banks are set to raise interest rates. Costlier capital will hurt consumer demand and industry. It is a no-win situation. A series of major scams, the government's loss of credibility and political uncertainty have eroded investor confidence. The BSE Sensex, no wonder, has lost 480 points in two sessions after the RBI action. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SECTARIANISM IN BAHRAIN

WEST ASIA PRO-DEMOCRACY FIGHT WEAKENS

 

THE fight for democracy in Bahrain, a tiny Arab country, has unfortunately acquired a sectarian colour. The a month-long protests, which had been going on there along with the demonstrations for political reform elsewhere in West Asia, have turned into a Shia-Sunni problem. The Sunnis in Bahrain are in favour of retaining the monarchy whereas the Shias, who constitute 60 per cent of the country's population, are fighting for a democratic set-up there. The unfortunate situation goes in favour of the monarch, whose forces have launched an all-out attack on pro-democracy demonstrators. A 12-hour curfew has been imposed on the island-kingdom with a large number of pro-democracy activists, including well-known human rights campaigners like Hassan Mushaima and Abdul Jalil al-Sangaece, arrested by the Sunni ruler.

 

The ruler, Emir al-Khalifa, is no longer interested in a dialogue with those seeking political reform. Instead, he has charged most of the arrested demonstrators with making an attempt to overthrow the government. The regime has not taken any action against the Sunnis, as they constitute the pro-monarchy forces. The arrival of 1000 troops from Saudi Arabia and some armed police personnel from the United Arab Emirates, and Iran openly opposing the help being extended to the Bahraini monarch by Sunni sheikhdoms have sharpened the Shia-Sunni divide in Bahrain and the rest of the Arab world.

 

The emerging scenario has encouraged Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi to intensify his fight against the rebels, who had captured many towns in a few days after they occupied Shia-majority Benghazi. Most of the territories the Libyan government had lost are again under its control. It is a tricky situation for the US and other countries supporting the pro-democracy movement. If they do all they can for the demise of the monarchies in the Shia-dominated Gulf countries, indirectly they will be helping Iran to increase its area of influence in the region. Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, will be the major loser. The Saudis themselves have faced demonstrations by Shias in their two Shia-majority districts. The noble cause of democracy seems to be becoming a victim of the sectarian factor that has begun to dominate the scene in the Gulf region.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

CONSTITUTING THE JPC

IT MAY NOT HELP SOLVE THE PROBLEM

BY P.D.T. ACHARY

 

THE Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) has come to occupy the national attention in an unprecedented way basically because of the stridency of the demand from the Opposition for the constitution of the JPC and the vehemence with which this demand was rejected by the Treasury Benches till the other day. The whole of the winter session of Parliament got washed out in this curious parliamentary battle. Finally, it was decided to constitute the JPC. As was expected, after it has been set up the issue of 2G spectrum is off Parliament's radar.

 

When the agitation for setting up the JPC was at its peak, a lot of misinformation about the role, functions and powers of a parliamentary committee also began to spread. It was made to appear as if a JPC has unlimited powers to investigate any matter or anybody in any manner it chooses. It was also said that a JPC is different from other parliamentary committees inasmuch as it can call the ministers and even the Prime Minister for evidence.

 

There was considerable worry in the official circles that if the JPC is set up the Prime Minister will be summoned before it and he, thereupon, will put in his papers. It is not clear whether this bureaucratic worry, borne out of ignorance of parliamentary procedures and practices, was at the root of the stubborn resistance to the formation of the JPC. However, the Prime Minister's clear statement that he is prepared to go before any parliamentary committee set at rest all doubts and worries about an imagined resignation.

 

A JPC is an ad hoc committee of Parliament which is formed for a specific purpose. It does not have any supernatural powers. The JPC's powers are all derived from the terms of reference adopted by Parliament. As a matter of fact, in a fundamental sense, investigation is not a part of the legislative jurisdiction of the House. However, the British Parliament, which is the mother of all parliaments, acquired the investigative power being the "High Court of Parliament". In ancient times, during the early stages of its evolution, Parliament had the judicial powers of the state vested in it and it used to be described as the "High Court of Parliament". This power of investigation remained with parliaments though the judicial powers of the state were separated from this body.

But the basic question that arises in the context of investigation by a parliamentary committee is not whether it has all the powers required to carry out this task or whether its powers are limited by the terms of reference. The question which needs careful examination is how effective these committees are. Parliament, in fact, functions through its committees. The Lok Sabha alone has around 40 committees, including the departmentally-related Standing Committees. One notable fact about these committees is that on most of the issues these function on a non-political basis. This is said to be a very unique aspect of the functioning of parliamentary committees in India. However, it does not mean that on politically contentious issues there will always be a consensus. But by and large, the Parliamentary Committees have upheld a healthy tradition of maintaining political neutrality in dealing with issues.

 

Mr P.C. Chacko, Chairman of the newly appointed JPC, said the other day as quoted by newspapers that the infrastructure of the committee was weak because it lacked technical expertise required to deal with a subject like 2G Spectrum. He is in a way right in his assessment about the capabilities of the Secretariat in dealing with very complex subjects like spectrum. This certainly has a direct bearing on the effectiveness of a high profile investigative body of Parliament such as the JPC. But this is only one part of the problem.

 

This writer has long years of experience in supervising the work of Parliamentary Committees. Without any fear of contradiction it can be said that the examination of issues by the Parliamentary Committees is not as effective as it is expected to be or even as it used to be earlier. Reasons are many. The problem begins with the selection of members for the committees which is done by the respective parties. Rule 254 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha says that the members of a committee are either appointed or elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker. In reality, the members of a committee are selected by their party leadership and forwarded to the Speaker. So, the appointment or election by the House or nomination by the Speaker is just a formality. When the members are selected the parties seldom look at the special interest or specialisation of the members. It is often a random selection. The result is that there are many square pegs in round holes. A selection made on the basis of the qualification, special interests and suitability for the specific job, etc, will go a long way in enriching the committees because the members will then take genuine interest in the deliberations of the committees and contribute to its work.

 

There is a general feeling that due to other preoccupations some members do not come to the committee meetings fully prepared. There are occasions when some members come into the meeting room even without reading the agenda. This happens mainly because their commitments in the constituencies leave them little time for hard work in Parliament or in committees. Then, the questioning of the government officials in the meetings is often unplanned. Sometimes questions unrelated to the issue under discussion are put which shift the focus away from the main topic and the evidence from the officials remains incomplete and many important points do not get highlighted.

 

In the earlier times, members used to assemble in the chamber of the Chairman well before the meeting and jointly plan the line of questioning of the officials. Persistent and well-planned questioning of the officials will bring out many vital information. Besides, this created a sense of awe in the minds of government officials who took the parliamentary committees very seriously. Even the most seasoned and "tough" Secretary would sweat when a parliamentary committee got into its stride.

 

Appearing before a parliamentary committee and that too committees like the PAC, the PU, EC, etc, was almost a nightmare for senior officers of the government. Senior members with their knowledge of the subject and capacity to articulate would be devastating in their comments.

 

In one such sitting of a committee — it was, I think, either PAC or the PU -Mr Ravindra Verma, a veteran parliamentarian, told a senior Secretary who was not coming to the point even after the Chairman repeatedly asked him to be relevant, "Mr. Secretary, you are creating the bush and beating around it". Such witty and intelligent comments are very rare these days. The sense of awe that was there earlier among the bureaucrats has gone and now there is a growing tendency to take these committees "lightly".

 

Coming to the point made by Mr P.C. Chacko relating to the weak infrastructure of the Secretariat, it is true that there is not sufficient expertise in the Secretariat to deal with complex and technical subjects like spectrum. In fact, when the Standing Committees of Parliament were created, there was an apprehension in the minds of members that the staff of the Secretariat was not equipped with sufficient knowledge of the technicalities of budget. This problem did exist in the initial stages, but over a period of time the staff acquired a certain amount of knowledge about budgetary and related matters.

 

When I was Secretary-General one of the important initiatives I took was to send the staff to prestigious training institutions for getting training in financial and budgetary matters. Most of the staff got training in finance, accounts, management and other professional areas. The basic idea was to equip the parliamentary staff with the necessary knowledge so that parliamentary scrutiny of the executive becomes more effective.

 

Constant efforts at capacity building of the parliamentary staff are essential for the effective functioning of Parliament. It should be remembered that it is the officials of the Secretariat who draft the report. So their knowledge of the subject is the key to a good report. Of course, a Parliamentary Committee can obtain the assistance of any expert. But it would always be better to have in-house expertise in various matters. What is required is a proper perspective on the requirements of the system, and quick and purposive action to meet those requirements.

 

The present JPC has very senior and experienced members who are expected to make the deliberations in the committee more informed and purposive. However, the JPC like other parliamentary committees can only make recommendations which are not mandatory. The government may or may not accept the findings and recommendations of this committee. Further, the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament too is investigating the 2G spectrum and is thus covering practically the same field. In fact, a convention is followed by the committees of Parliament whereby a subject which is considered by one committee is not taken up by the other committees. The reason is that there is a possibility, though remote, of two committees coming to different or even contradictory findings. Such an eventuality will destroy the credibility of parliamentary probe.

 

JPCs have, in the past, exposed systemic weaknesses and deficiencies and suggested measures to fix them. However, nothing much seems to have been done by way of follow-up. But, then, these weaknesses and deficiencies are symptoms of the decadence of a society which has lost its civilisational moorings. A JPC cannot address this problem. So, society will have to look beyond the JPC.

 

The writer is a former Secretary-General, Lok Sabha

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

MEMORIES OF JAPAN

BY PUSHPINDER CHEEMA

 

As TV channels and newspapers flashed pictures of a devastated and ravaged Japan, I was inundated with calls inquiring about my brother who had been posted there. Fortunately, he had moved to Switzerland just a couple of months ago, but as I watched the video-streams on the TV, I recalled the Japan I had seen (thanks to my brother's posting) before the quake and the tsunami it unleashed. For some strange reason, I feel Japan's loss as a personal loss and my heart grieves for it.

 

My visit during spring, around this time, to catch the cherry blossoms turned out to be an experience of a lifetime, which left a lasting impression on me. Even Toffler's Future Shock does not prepare you for its technological advancement. On the other hand Japan is so sensual — everything breathes an air of quiet perfection and purpose, be it the artistic swirl on a cappuccino or just the packaging of mundane cookies.

 

Notwithstanding the art, culture and technology of this paradoxical country, what really impressed me were the people. The majority of Japanese do not speak English and because of their reticence in communicating with foreigners they are often misjudged as being unfriendly. I personally found them helpful, friendly, polite and very civil. The Japanese are proud to be Japanese. As a people they are first and foremost Japanese and then Shinto, Buddhist or Christian, or all three at once. Religion for them is a way of life, a journey, not a destination. Probably that is why it is safe for a lady to walk alone at midnight, and you will find your wallet where you left it, even hours afterwards. Of course, never make the mistake of giving a tip; and I don't think I ever heard a mobile phone ring or people talking loudly in a public place. There is many a lesson to be learnt from them.

 

The people of Japan and their infrastructure are prepared for earthquakes but this was much more than that. As Japan reels under the after-effects of the tsunami and perhaps a threatening nuclear disaster, I pray for its people and their safety. Even in this hour of crisis, there is calm, while safety operations are being carried out without panic. This is the spirit of Japan, which I salute. On visiting Hiroshima today, who can believe that it had once been wrecked by a nuclear holocaust? While I mourn for the country, I know that the Japanese are resilient people — they will rise again from the ashes and rubble.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

PROTECTING WOMEN FROM DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

NOTWITHSTANDING MANY LEGAL REFORMS, SOCIETAL RESPONSES TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE STILL LARGELY EXCLUDE LEGAL INTERVENTION. WOMEN'S ACCESS TO THESE LAWS IS VERY RARE AS MALE BATTERERS ARE NOT ARRESTED, PROSECUTED, OR SENTENCED AS SEVERELY AS OTHER VIOLENT OFFENDERS WHICH ARE CONFIRMED BY STUDIES. 

VINEET KAPOOR

 

VIOLENCE in the private sphere of the family and the victimisation of women in the intimate relationships has acquired legitimacy and urgent attention in the legal discourse. Starting from its recognition as a crime in the last 40 years, the issue is now actively advocated by women's rights group as an important concern of their human rights.

 

This recognition identifies violence in the private sphere not merely as a crime, but locates the context of this crime into the systemic process of structural subordination of women in a gendered social order where violence reconfirms and reproduces those gender hierarchies through fear, which produce this violence in the first instance.

 

That is why the criminal justice response is not similar to other crimes happening in the public sphere. There is a gap between the normative and legal framework on the one hand and the accessibility of justice and law enforcement on the other. Though progressive and social justice based laws have been enacted for the emancipation of the subordinated people and groups, the laws related to domestic violence remain victim to gaps.

 

The central context of the problem of domestic violence and women's access to justice is that despite a proliferation of laws, domestic violence is still perceived as less condemnable than other forms of abuse. Locating violence against women as denial of human rights raises fundamental concerns for the women's access to justice and how the legal order of any country addresses this issue.

 

The context of subordinated social existence of most women, when seen through a human rights angle, depends on how best a domestic legal order responds to these expectations (Dairam: 2004). Despite a proliferation of laws in this direction, there is a lack of proper law enforcement in case of domestic violence reflected by an international phenomenon cutting across different countries.

 

This phenomenon confirms to a gendered social order of subordination in which women exist and struggle against their victimisation. The high stakes the Indian Constitution attaches to the question of equality, by enshrining it as a fundamental right, whose mandate covers the issue of non-discrimination on grounds of sex, gives much credence to human rights readings of legal discourse and women's rights in India.

 

The women's emancipation and rights realisation on the ground, however, forms a different context. The brutalised and subordinated existence of a large proportion of women within their social environment gives formidable challenge to visions of equality and human rights which inform most of the 'progressive' laws designed to promote social justice and social change.

 

The evaluation of women's access to justice gains primacy when we find that the progress in law has not often matched with the progress in providing justice to women.

 

 

Some scholars working on women's human rights maintain that certain sections of society may encourage a culture of violence due to the socially constructed view of women as flawed and wayward creatures who require chastisement for their own and social good. The encouragement may stem from a dominant focus on male self-identity, using violence against women to define and differentiate men from the inferior 'other'.

 

It was until late 1960s that the problem was seriously scrutinised and the public concern started mounting against it internationally. The issue of domestic violence came under the sharp focus of second wave feminism from 1970s onwards when the feminists attacked the patriarchal legitimacy of violence and talked of women's rights to security within the family and their claims to equality and liberty within the private sphere.

 

They argued that "personal is political" and that the inner world of family should be open to public scrutiny so that the inequalities and power relations within the family could be made visible.

 

Since the popular conception of violence at home did not merit much consideration as a punishable offence, the feminist movement, aimed at attaining substantive equality for women, regarded the domestic violence as one of the chief disabilities for the promotion of women's rights and their claims to equality. Women's rights movement struggled hard to campaign for the inclusion of various manifestations of domestic violence as a crime within the criminal justice system to get law on the side of the women in their struggle for justice. The feminist movement exerted influence in extending the reach of criminal law within the insulated world of private sphere manifested by family and the home.

 

By 1980s and 1990s, many countries legislated for inclusion of domestic violence within the criminal law while most countries still did not legislate and were slow to respond. Most countries which did not legislate against domestic violence as a distinct crime continue to treat it under its criminal assault laws.

 

There was growing realisation since late 1980s that domestic violence needs special attention and is closely associated with women's rights. Due to the growing influence and impact made by the women's movement between 1970s and 1990s, the issue of domestic violence attained a primacy in at least the formal stance taken in public policy and criminal justice system of many countries.

 

The local women's movement in many countries, inspired and energised by the international women's human rights movement greatly contributed in exerting pressure on their respective governments to change their policy stance especially in the criminal justice system to comply with the ongoing international standard setting.

 

The international developments in this direction gave strength to the demands from the women's rights groups in India. The recognition of domestic violence as a crime in India was brought about in the early 1980s after a sustained campaign by feminist groups and women activists all over the country. There was a huge demand for tackling the criminalisation of dowry death and domestic violence which lead to the enactment of Section 498A in the IPC in 1983, Section 304B in 1986 and corresponding provisions in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

 

The criminalisation of domestic violence in the form of Sections 498A and 304B (dowry death) were considered significant developments in law in correcting historical, legal, and moral disparities in the legal protections afforded to abused women. It sought for the first time to bring the issue of domestic or family violence out of the protected private realm of the family and into the public domain in India.

 

Despite these legal reforms, societal responses to domestic violence still largely exclude legal intervention. Women's access to these laws is very rare as male batterers are not arrested, prosecuted, or sentenced as severely as other violent offenders which are confirmed by studies done by several organisations and NGOs.

 

There are problems in access to justice and implementation of these laws. The police often exercises discretion in avoiding arrest while responding to domestic violence incidents and emphasises on mediation and conciliation.

 

Public prosecutors fail to actively pursue cases of domestic violence under Section 498A, as often women turn hostile during the prosecution and agree to drop the charges. Sentences tend to be less serious for those convicted of domestic violence.

 

The result of these processes has been a higher dismissal rate for domestic violence cases at the prosecution stage, compared to other violence cases, and less serious sentences. The passing of the specialised legislation in October 2006, called The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, is a significant development in this direction as it provides the much-needed civil law remedies to help victims of domestic violence.

 

These criminal laws and the civil law provisions now make an impressive set of laws designed to deal with the domestic violence and to provide justice to the victims of domestic violence. Despite this, the question that arises is how far these laws are being used by the victimised women.

 

The delivery of these laws within a gendered social order raises a number of concerns regarding the human rights of victimised women who exist in a position of structural subordination, which leads to formidable barriers in access to justice.

 

As a background to discuss women's access to justice in case of domestic violence, it is useful to first discuss the domestic violence as an issue of women's human rights. Violence against women is also an issue of the women's human rights as the systematic perpetration of violence on women is a result of the subordinated position of women in society which in itself raises questions on the right to equality based on grounds of sex.

 

Since violence against women mostly occurs in the private sphere of the family, the human rights of women as an individual need to be considered while dealing with policy issues attached to domestic violence. The human rights tenets give credence to the responsibility of the state. Therefore, the role of the state in providing for need-based policy provisions for access to justice for women need to be urgently addressed.

 

As for policy, the government will have to consider that the women's lack of access to justice in cases of domestic violence remains victim to the structural issues of women's subordination which gets reflected in the delivery of justice and its distance from the victim, throwing challenges at law, justice and governance in the country. How this law reaches women and how and in what context it is delivered would determine whether women have access to justice as equal citizens.

 

The writer, a senior IPS officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre, specialises on human rights. He is the Assistant Inspector-General of Police (Training), Bhopal

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

THE LAW: ITS SCOPE & DIMENSIONs

 

* The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, which came into force from October 26, 2006, is the first significant attempt to recognise domestic abuse as a punishable offence.

 

* Its provisions have been extended to those in live-in relationships, and to provide for emergency relief for the victims, in addition to legal recourse.

 

* Of all forms of criminal behaviour, domestic violence is among the most prevalent and among the least reported. One reason for this anomaly is that till 2005, remedies available to a victim of domestic violence in the civil courts (divorce) and criminal courts (vide Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code) were limited.

 

* Earlier, there was no emergency relief available to the victim; the remedies that were available were linked to matrimonial proceedings; and the court proceedings were always protracted, during which period the victim was invariably at the mercy of the abuser. Relationships outside marriage were not recognised.

 

* Women and children are the primary beneficiaries of this Act. Section 2(a) of the Act will help any woman who is or has been in a domestic relationship with the 'respondent' in the case.

 

* Children are also covered under the Act; they too can file a case against a parent or parents who are tormenting or torturing them, physically, mentally, or economically. Any person can file a complaint on behalf of a child.

 

* The law recognises live-in relationships. Thus, if a woman is living with a man who abuses her, she can take recourse to the provisions of this law even though she is not married to him. It also protects women in fraudulent or bigamous marriages, or in marriages deemed invalid in law.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

LONG SHADOW OVER JAITAPUR

TWO UNRELATED EVENTS, WIKILEAKS AND TSUNAMI IN JAPAN GIVE US REASON TO PAUSE ABOUT OUR NUCLEAR HASTE


The darkness in Maharashtra is the long shadow of Dabhol Power Corporation (DPC). This darkness is literal, although it might be figurative as well.

 

Literally the extended power cuts that we experience across the state (not in blessed Mumbai though) are because the state's power generation capacity did not keep pace with economic growth. Because of the impending arrival of DPC, many of the other electricity projects were kept in abeyance.

 

The DPC conceived in early 1990's was going to produce 2000 megawatts of electricity, which at that time was a huge increase in the state's overall capacity. DPC project was the first of its kind, gas based, sea shore located large power plant in the world.

 

 Furthermore, unlike anywhere else in the world, its success was insured (i.e. counter-guaranteed) by the state and central government. The main promoter of DPC was an American company called Enron, and it did not have such sovereign guarantees in any of its other worldwide projects.

 

Of course Enron imploded and was criminally indicted in its home country. DPC was renamed as Ratnagiri Power Corporation, and is now promoted by two large public sector companies along with the state of Maharashtra. After a long and arduous journey of nearly two decades, after having spent more than 10,000 crores in the project as well as more in clearing the legal dispute, the company is finally producing electricity.

 

The legal dispute arose because the company had to wriggle out of that sovereign guarantee!) In the intervening years the state has sweltered without power, and many towns and villages have 10 hour power cuts.

 After two decades of the saga of DPC, once again there is a town near Ratnagiri which is featured prominently in a "power" struggle. Once again there is promise of a mega power plant for the state of Maharashtra. Once again there are sovereign guarantees, this time in terms of liability insurance.

 

This mega power plant is rated to be five times as big as the original DPC, i.e. 10,000 megawatts. Once again, it will be first of its kind in terms of the technology deployed. The total cost, if and when completed might exceed 1.2 lakh crore rupees, i.e. equal to India's current annual defence budget.

 

This is the unfolding story of the nuclear power plant coming up in Jaitapur, to be built by the French company Areva.

 

For a power starved state and nation, the promise of clean energy is irresistible. But it needs to clear the hurdle of environment and safety clearance.

 

It needs the approval of the people it seeks to displace. It needs a nod from political parties, who might make the Jaitapur plant a big issue.

But for the time being Jaitapur plant has run into unexpected rough weather. No this turbulence is not caused by Shiv Sena or the Communist Party of India. It is due to Wikileaks and Fukushima. By a strange coincidence these two unrelated events happened at the same time. Japan gets one third of all its electricity from nuclear power.

 

But the destruction of four reactors in Fukushima, and the ensuing radiation leakage has unnerved many nuclear power planners from Germany to China, who have put nuclear plans on hold. Why not then rethink Jaitapur too? Secondly, the Wikileaks revelation that support for the Indo-US nuclear deal was "bought" in Parliament has raised doubts about whether we really need to rush headlong to embrace nuclear power so quickly. Are there vested interests who are prodding India to unwisely rush into nuclear power with inadequate safeguards and insufficient suppliers liability? We waited 15 years for gas fired Dabhol Power. Jaitapur too has to wait in the shadows, until there's more light on questions arising from Fukushima and Wikileaks.

 

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

COLUMN

A 2-MAN ADVANTAGE

T N NINAN

 

Cricket being the kind of game it is, at some point arguments have to give way to statistics. And so, with all teams barring England and Canada having one league match left to play in the 2011 World Cup, it is easy to see which among the serious title contenders has the worst bowling attack: India, of course.

 

 But how bad is bad? Well, don't blanch, but in five matches so far India's bowlers have conceded more runs than any other team, barring by a whisker the Netherlands! (England and Canada too, but they have played an extra match each.) In five Group B matches, India's bowlers have given away 367 more runs than South Africa, and 447 more runs than West Indies. As for the four qualifying teams from Group A, Pakistan has given away the highest number of runs, but even they have given away 341 fewer runs than India.

On average, it would seem that the teams that get through to the quarter-finals can hope to score 70-90 more runs against the Indian bowling attack than they can against any other qualifying team's bowlers. What that means is obvious: if India are to win, their batsmen have to make up by scoring 70-90 more runs per match than they might have had to otherwise. Instead of 250, they have to hit a minimum of 320, perhaps more. Remember that they scored a seemingly impregnable 338 against England, and still could not win. Against South Africa, they scored 296 and lost. Even Bangladesh notched up 283 runs against India; that country's next highest score has been a paltry 227 (against England). Against Ireland they could score only 205.

Most commentators have pointed out that India has the strongest batting line-up in the competition. But here's the thing: the team is hugely dependent on just two willow-wielding wonders, Tendulkar and Sehwag, who are the biggest run-getters per match in the 2011 World Cup. The problem is that, between them, they also account for nearly a half of all the runs scored by Indian batsmen! Take away these openers and India's batting line-up too is pretty ordinary. While Sehwag has so far piled up 327 runs and Tendulkar 324, none of the five other batsmen whom India have deployed has crossed the 200-run mark. As became obvious in the run chases against even the modest totals put up by Ireland and the Netherlands, once the openers fell the tension levels climbed quickly. Against South Africa, the batting simply collapsed immediately after Tendulkar went.

So, if India hopes to win the tournament, its hopes hinge on its openers. If they fire, India is in with a chance. But the point about the knock-out rules that take over from the quarter-final stage is that they have to fire in every match; one bad match in which the openers fail and the home team can go… well, home. But if that happens, the real fault will lie with the bowlers, of whom India has just three with an economy rate of less than 5 runs per over. Australia, England, South Africa have as many as six or seven such bowlers, while the other qualifying teams have between four and five; even Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have four and five bowlers with an under-5 economy rate. Indeed, among the 20 leading wicket-takers in the tournament so far, India has just two (Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel). India may never go into another World Cup with such strength in its batting. But then, has it ever gone into a World Cup with such weakness in its bowling?

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

THE WAGES OF POPULISM

CALIBRATED REFORMS RATHER THAN AD HOC GOVERNMENT INTERVENTIONS NEEDED FOR EFFECTIVE POVERTY REDUCTION

DEEPAK LAL

 

In the late 1980s, along with Hla Myint, I co-directed a large comparative study of 21 developing countries of The Political Economy of Poverty, Equity and Growth (Oxford, 1996). One of our surprises was that two of our largest countries — Brazil and Mexico — which had three decades of spectacular growth suffered prolonged "growth collapses" in the 1980s. Thus, from 1950 to 1980, Brazil's GDP grew at 6.8 per cent, and Mexico's at 6.4 per cent per annum, as compared with Korea's at 7.4 per cent per annum. This was followed by "growth collapses", with Brazil's GDP growth rate falling to 2.4 per cent, Mexico's to 1.0 per cent, and per capita growth rates declining to — 0.1 per cent in Brazil, and —1.2 per cent in Mexico between 1980 and 87 (see The Political Economy of Poverty, Equity and Growth: Brazil and Mexico by Angus Maddison and Associates). Their lessons for India's current political economy, as a corrective to the hubris flowing from recent Indian growth performance, is the subject of this column.

 

 In both the Brazilian and Mexican cases the proximate cause of the growth collapse was severe macroeconomic imbalances leading to hyperinflation and debt crises. But, the deeper causes were numerous microeconomic distortions and unsustainable fiscal expenditures on politically determined income streams.

We begin with Mexico. It had followed a policy of relatively balanced development with macroeconomic prudence till about 1970. This changed with the 1968 suppression of the protest movement before the Olympic games. Luis Echeverria assumed the Presidency in 1970, and announced his new policy of "shared development" — reminiscent of Indira Gandhi's garibi hatao slogan of the 1970s and the current UPA's slogan of development for the aam aadmi — in contrast to the "stabilising development" economic policy since 1958. Echeverria thought that, even though poverty had declined as a result of the rise of per capita incomes in the 1960s, the inequalities in income distribution could be tackled by increasing public expenditure and expanding the public sector. This led in short turn to mounting inflationary pressures, a rising current account deficit, an overvalued exchange rate, and increased foreign borrowing. The hitherto conservative Bank of Mexico "became a printing press to finance rising budget deficits and public sector enterprises" (Maddison, p.133).

Echeverria's aim to improve income distribution was belied as, "the 1977 family expenditure and income survey showed little improvement over conditions existing in 1973, in 1963, and as far back as 1950" (ibid, p.135). The discovery of large oil deposits in 1972-73 provided a temporary bailout. But Echeverria's successor, Lopez Portillo, took the oil price rise of 1978 as a permanent rise in Mexican income and began a further expansion of Echeverria's populist economic policies. A mild boom resulted, fuelled in part by foreign borrowing based on the new found oil reserves. When oil prices collapsed with Volcker's tightening of US monetary policy, the unsustainability of the Echeverria -Lopez Portillo populist policies of dessarrollo compartido was exposed, as the macroeconomic imbalances they had created led to the debt crisis of 1982, and the Mexican "growth collapse".

There are eerie similarities with India's current economic policies. Believing that because of its "demographic dividend" India is now on a permanent 9 per cent growth path, a vast network of fiscal entitlements has been enacted, and is planned from the burgeoning tax revenues, which are assumed to automatically accrue. If these assumptions are belied because of terms of trade shocks related to the currently projected trends in world food and oil prices, India might — like Mexico — find that these politically-determined entitlements become unsustainable. Moreover, as Surjit Bhalla has documented, the "leakage" from these entitlement schemes remains as great as Rajiv Gandhi's 1980s estimate. Much faith is put in Nilekani's electronic ID cards. But this may be premature, given the "arms race" that is likely to develop with the counterfeiters. Nor do I believe that there is a demand for "equality of outcomes" as opposed to "equality of opportunity" in the Indian polity. As discussed in previous columns and in my Unintended Consequences, there is a difference in the cosmological beliefs of the semitic egalitarian religions and the hierarchical "religions" of Asia. It is this profound cultural misunderstanding of the Nehruvian wing of Macaulay's children, which accounts for their current endorsement of the populist policies and, that could lead, as in Mexico, to a growth collapse.

The lessons from Brazil and its growth collapse for India are somewhat different. In a 1970s study of effective protection in Brazilian industry, Joel Bergsman was puzzled that Brazil could produce highly capital intensive private jets competitively, when labour-intensive industries like textiles required heavy protection to be sustained domestically against imports. The Lal-Myint comparative study, by distinguishing between the different development paths of countries with abundant labour and scarce land (including natural resources), and those which were land abundant but labour scarce, argued that, as the wage levels in the latter would necessarily be higher compared to their labour abundant cousins, their comparative advantage would lie in the capital-intensive end of the manufacturing sector. As capital was also scarce in these developing countries, and with growing labour forces they would over time be forced on to a lower wage path if capital did not grow as fast as population. To prevent this disastrous outcome, and to validate the high wage capital-intensive development path, they needed to see the capital stock growing faster than the population. As domestic savings were insufficient, they sought to garner forced savings through inflation, supplemented by foreign borrowing to continue the high wage development path. 

Brazil has periodically followed this route. An innovative package, which included widespread wage indexation and  relatively conservative macroeconomic policies, was initiated by my old friend Roberto Campos as planning minister and his fellow classical liberal Octavio Gouveia de Bulhos as finance minister in Castelo Branco's 1967 administration. The "big push" initiated by Delfim Netto in 1979, after the second oil shock, sabotaged this strategy. The terms of trade shock was accommodated by changing the indexation formula to current rather than forecast inflation and higher adjustments for lower paid workers. The resulting macroeconomic imbalances led to the Brazilian growth collapse of the 1980s.

India's similarity with Brazil is not in its factor endowments. Rather, because of labour laws going back to the Raj, India has created an artificial industrial sector reminiscent of Brazil. India, too, has high-tech, capital-intensive industries, which can be globally competitive at the artificially inflated wages in the organised sector. Whilst the labour-intensive unorganised sector languishes, as it cannot grow to sufficient scale (as in China) if it is to avoid these labour laws. This is going to make a mockery of India's projected "demographic dividend" as the millions of ill-educated youth flood the unorganised sector. Meanwhile, palliatives like wage indexation, which are now being introduced for the "poor" could, as in Brazil, lead to macroeconomic imbalances.

India today, therefore, needs to rescind its colonial era labour laws, and reappraise its populist economic path. For the wages of populism, as in Mexico or Brazil, may turn its much hyped "economic miracle" into a "growth collapse".

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 BUSINESS STANDARD

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THE NEW PILLAGE OF DELHI

SUNIL SETHI

Bogota, the capital of Colombia, is a long way off from New Delhi — a distance of over 15,000 kms and the quickest air trip could take well over 30 hours with a stop or two en route. It's also not an inexpensive journey, about Rs 32,000 at the minimum for a round trip. Yet, in a curious catch last week, the Delhi police rounded up a gang of four burglars from Bogota, including a woman, who were on a spree of committing house breaks and thefts in south Delhi homes. They were caught with jewellery totalling about Rs 16 lakh, not a vast sum, given the expense and trouble the trip entailed plus the language hassles and their surreptitious moves from hotel to hotel. A few days later a Peruvian farmer was nabbed at Delhi airport, divesting a wheelchair-bound woman passenger of her luggage with valuables.

Clearly, India's image abroad is undergoing a dramatic change. Delhi, too, has recovered some of its reputation as a city of riches since Nadir Shah's notorious sack and pillage in 1739 when he carted off the Peacock Throne and the Koh-i-Noor. (The Persian emperor's plunder was so extensive, it is said that he gave all Iranians a tax amnesty for three years after his return.)

 

 By comparison, the Latin Americans' heists may seem like small change. But, it has to be said, that an amount of forethought and planning went into their long haul expedition. One of the Colombian thieves admitted to have studied Indian penal law; another confessed that his gang was drawn by images of Delhi's prosperity such as its shopping malls. It must be sobering for local criminals to face up to competition from overseas — they just have to hop into the Metro to rob retired school teachers of a few gold ornaments.

It used to be said that the south of France was the peerless pickpocket capital of Europe. The joke at the annual Cannes film festival went that the real reason why the world's most alluring starlets paraded topless on the waterfront was because they had nowhere to hide their cash except in G-strings. From Los Angeles to Hong Kong, sophisticated, well-groomed cardsharps and sleight-of-hand experts jetted in during festival week to divest the rich of their wallets. The most slickly daring thefts occurred in tandem with local mafias.

Is Delhi becoming south Asia's south of France? It might be saved from such a fate if it stopped showing off. India's national capital has got into the bad habit (like the erstwhile occupants of the Red Fort) of letting its riches hang out for all to see. At an industrialist's birthday celebration recently, there were fountains of French champagne, caviar stations and more serious jewels on display than the unseen bank vaults of Monte Carlo.

A quick Google search for comparative crime in Bogota and Delhi shows the Colombian capital to be worse off: 1,401 murders as compared to 467 in Delhi in 2007. Although Bogota was better off than Delhi for basic amenities like electricity, water and sanitation, it had more people living below the poverty line (32.6 per cent of the population) than Delhi (8.23 per cent) and its rural-urban migration rate was much higher.

Dry statistics, however, cannot fill up the picture of impressions vividly conveyed in our instantly visual, web-driven age. What the Latinos gleaned was an idea of a wealthy (and perhaps poorly-policed) Asian capital to fuel their imaginative get-rich-quick scheme. It was worth their investment in effort and expenditure to fly half way round the world to rob a few south Delhi homes. They came armed with house-breaking equipment but were driven by the same impulse as filmmaker Oliver Stone fictional character Gordon Gekko who coined the phrase "Greed is good" as a rubric for the globalised world.

Will it be only a matter of time before the south American gangs team up with Delhi's criminals to embark on a new wave of pillage in India's richest metropolis after Mumbai?

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BUSINESS STANDARD

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AT NATURE'S MERCY

K NATWAR SINGH

Japan emerged victorious in the 1905 Russian Japanese war. In the war, a Japanese mother lost all five of her sons. She was received by the Emperor who told her that Japan was proud of her and her five sons who had laid down their lives in the war. The mother's answer was that if she had a sixth son he too would have died for the Emperor and for Japan.

The authenticity of this saga of sacrifice is not significant. What the story does highlight very starkly are the deeply ingrained qualities of the people of Japan. Their discipline, restraint and stoicism are a blend of uncommon courage and inner resources, which seem to knock at the gates of immortality. Ultimately, nature holds all the cards. Human beings who stutter about complacently need to be reminded that we really are insignificant grains of sand at the mercy of the terrifying force and unpredictability of mother nature. This is verging on the platitudinous. I am fully aware of that. But some platitudes are necessary reminders of the brutal realities of life. Creation and destruction are two sides of the vaporous coin called nature. Japan's tragedy is three fold — earthquake, tsunami and near nuclear disaster.

 

 How would we in India have coped with such a calamity, cataclysm, catastrophe? Rural India perhaps would confront such a tragedy with greater fortitude, pluck and stoutheartedness. In urban India, the bedlam, uncontrolled chaos, confusion would be overwhelming. No one would stand in queues, the well -to-do would be well looked after. Discipline could only be enforced by the armed forces. Here I would put a caveat. In the Gujarat earthquake in 2002, my son spent ten days in a tent helping those who had lost almost everything. He told me that no incident of loot took place, people stood in queues to get food and water. That's a big tribute to the people of Gujarat.

Now to the nuclear (not yet holocaust) aspect of the Japan's three-fold horror. I claim no special knowledge on the nuclear problem. My worry is that even the nuclear experts are not certain about what really happened, why it happened and could it have been prevented. This in itself is very worrying. Can a nuclear plant be fail-safe? Till Fukushima, it was accepted wisdom that such was the case. It is no longer so. One nagging question. Why build a nuclear reactor on the coast in a Tsunami-prone country?

What are the lessons for India? As a citizen of India I can say the obvious — more safety, more security, more transparency, more debate, before a decision is taken on Jaitapur. The environment pundits (led by a very learned and articulate pundit) will take on the scientists who have their own very experienced and wise physicists. It should be a lively debate. Of one aspect of this complicated and urgent problem I do have a well-defined point of view. We cannot and should not think of unwinding our nuclear programme, which has both civil and military dimensions. Since the world is far from being an ideal place, we can try for a nuclear arms free world, but cannot ensure it. Seven countries have nuclear weapons including India and Pakistan. Three of them are closest nuclear weapons' states. This number is unlikely to be reduced. It is also unlikely to go up.

Libya is no longer on the front pages of newspapers. On the television screens it appears as item two or even three. The US President has verbalised that very frequently. Even his no-fly zone pronouncement got grounded, both in the Security Council, and the G8 meeting. Ronald Reagan understood Col. Gaddafi better than Barack Obama. He is now threatening to shake hands with al Qaeda and launch a holy war! He is unlikely to do so, but the idea is not cheerful.

The Saudi military intervention in Bahrain is a disturbing development. This is a gross violation of every international norm. It is one thing to go to the aid of Kuwait when it was attacked by Saddam Hussein and quite another to go to a country to suppress people protesting peacefully against the inequities of an autocratic unrepresentative government. Iran's reacting to the Saudi military intervention was prompt — recalling of their ambassador from Manama. Iran is the key player in the Persian Gulf where Shias outnumber the Sunnis, and from whom come the rulers of these parvenu kingdoms. The Saudis have blundered.

In Yemen, when will the president, who has held unrestricted power for 32 years realise that he is in serious trouble. Will he be the Mubarak of Yemen? There are writings on the walls — written in blood by those who want him out. For the protesters Egypt is the inspiration, not Libya.

Does India have an Arab policy? The answer is, "No".

Tailpiece: The Wikileaks show the UPA I and UPA II in poor light. How did the US Embassy know the details of the conversation I had with the Burmese leadership? Who told the Americans about my holding Aung San Suu Kyi in "high esteem"? I do, but that is not the point. How many moles do we have? The American penetration of the Indian establishment is alarming indeed.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

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WHO AND WHERE ARE THE JIHADIS?

V V

"There's no art to find the mind's construction in the face."

Shakespeare

Scott Atran is an American social anthropologist whose book, Talking to the Enemy: Violent Extremism, Sacred Values and What it Means to be Human (Allen Lane/Penguin Press, Special Price, Rs 699) is yet another study on jihad and the wilder fringes of Islam that includes the Maghreb, Palestine, Syria, Kashmir and Indonesia. Atran has done extensive field work and has his own take on what turns people into suicide bombers and jihadis in Muslim countries. Unlike the general run of western scholars who find something awry with Islam, Atran is interested in "sacred values" and those that have been corrupted by the intrusion of profane systems because of the shock and awe of occupation, settler colonialism, and the idolatry of markets. Though few Muslims take up arms what is it that propels some to do so against an enemy so "immense?"

 

 Talking to the Enemy is not about a collective sense of the sacred; it is about the secluded, secretive worlds where small groups of people talk about the big ideas that involve honour, martyrdom and faith; worlds where sacred is a choice rather than a set of beliefs on which a society believes. What Atran emphasises is that terrorists are social beings influenced by social connections and values that are familiar to all of us. They are members of clubs, sports teams or community organisations. But along with the association of like-minded individuals, the jihadis were leaderless; they were free-wheeling people who go with the prevailing winds.

What is important to analyse according to Atran is not who the jihadis were but their process of radicalisation. They were not mad — there was no trace of any psychological illness among them — and nor were they poor or felt humiliated. Drawing on his interviews, Atran concludes that it is the existence of a sense of community rather than any personal hang-ups that compels jihadis to take up violent extremism. As a social anthropologist, Atran dissects the various dynamics that help individuals to form groups. It is this field research that stretches from Palestine and Spain to northern Morocco that forms his world view of radical Islamic militancy as an adaptive social movement.

"The 2002 Bali bombings were largely planned and executed through local networks of friends, kin, neighbours and schoolmates who radicalised one another until all were eager and able to kill perfect strangers for an abstract cause." Terrorist networks are generally different from ordinary social networks that guide people's career paths.

Atran has had long sessions with Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) that has been associated with bombings in Indonesia, including the nightclub blasts in Bali in 2002 to which Atran is referring when he asks Farhin (one of the leading men of the movement) whether it is right that "people who are part of JI, friends of yours, have killed civilians… including Muslims." Farhin ducks the issue but when pressed says that he would still join a fighting outfit "but not kill Muslims or civilians who do not fight us", which is really not saying anything at all. You really can't talk someone out of a belief who has not been talked into it.

Atran sees jihadi networks as mobile fighting units who play it as it comes. They were autonomous units where the key decisions on targeting and timing were taken at a very low level and often in a chaotic and unorganised way. He says that individuals find their way into small, dedicated groups via the most mundane routes, including family backgrounds. For instance, Farhin's father was an Islamic militant of Darul Islam, originally an anti-colonial outfit that attempted to assassinate President Sukarno in the late 1950s. After his release, his sons became jihadis; one of them left to fight in Afghanistan.

What Atran says is that the belief that there is "terror central organisation" that issues commands to its cadres is a myth; it is no more than a franchise. Each group is separate and self-contained and is not even aware of other such groups in the neighbourhood. If clues are to be found they would be in the leafy suburbs, poor urban quarters and football clubs, across grids of kinship and marriage that dominate fathers and sons, cousins and in-laws.

The Bali and Spanish bombings seem to bear Atran out. It is true they were al-Qaida outfits with a hierarchy and army-command structure and the militants belonged to JI in spirit and in fact. But Atran says that it is far more important to grasp the amorphous nature of JI and al Qaida. Bali and other terrorist attacks were largely planned and executed by local networks in which individuals radicalised one another until all were eager to move in for the kill.

To sum up, Atran has described modern Islamic activism as "organised anarchy" with four key elements. First, its goals are ambiguous and inconsistent; second, its modes of action are pragmatic on the basis of trial and error; the boundaries of the group constantly change; and finally, the degree of involvement of its members varies of time. Taken together it is not a hierarchic, centrally-commanded terrorist organisation but a decentralised and constantly evolving network that is unstructured and unpredictable. Which is way it is so difficult to know who and where the jihadis are.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

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AND THE HOME TRUTH IS...

HOME MINISTRY INITIATIVES FLOUNDER ON THE GOVERNMENT'S INDECISIVENESS

ADITI PHADNIS

On December 23, 2009, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram delivered the Intelligence Bureau Centenary Endowment Lecture in which he announced a new plan for homeland security. He said his plan rested on two pillars: reform of the ministry and the creation of a National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) headed by a serving police or military officer. "The time to act is now and I would spell the last word in capitals: N-O-W," he said to emphasise urgency. The reform envisaged streamlining responsibilities of departments — like the Enforcement Directorate — that are not even part of his ministry. He also suggested that divisions not relevant to internal security, such as the Freedom Fighters' cell, could be moved to other ministries.

The NCTC would bring various intelligence agencies under one roof to share and process counter-terror intelligence and would be constituted by the end of next year, he said. That was in 2009.

 

 This reporter asked him at the end of 2010 when the NCTC would be up and running. "I said it would be ready by the end of next year. But I did not specify which year," he responded crisply.

Right.

The real story is that the delay has nothing to do with the ministry of home affairs (MHA). If the NCTC had been up by now, the Enforcement Directorate – which operates under the supervision of the finance ministry – might have been spared its current embarrassment. Just the other day, it was shredded to bits by Justice M L Tahaliyani of a Mumbai Special Court for not having a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in the Hassan Ali case. Ali smirked in the court muttering "stupid people" under his breath as the Enforcement Directorate counsels stuttered and stammered while making out a case that Hassan Ali needed to be in remand. "In the interest of justice and in the interest of this country, please grant us Ali's custody. For the sake of the poor taxpayers, let the black money come back to the country," said the counsel before Justice Tahaliyani, folding his hands. Abject didn't begin to describe it. Tahaliyani was unimpressed. Ali was granted bail on a surety of Rs 80,000. The Supreme Court later overturned the order. But the earlier order is still on record and emboldened Ali to challenge a Rs 70,000-crore income tax demand.

Chidambaram had also promised to set up the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) that would involve linking various databases of citizens. These were to be shared among 11 different intelligence agencies to construct actionable intelligence and combat terror. If you're wondering what happened to that, a presentation to explain NATGRID to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has been ready with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for two months. The CCS doesn't appear to have the time to listen to the presentation. The MHA's sense is that the government is concerned that a ministry that has under one umbrella the Unique Identification Authority of India, Research and Analysis Wing and Intelligence Bureau might become too powerful to control.

Chidambaram sketched the problem out himself while talking to Federal Bureau of Investigation chief Robert Mueller, as reported by WikiLeaks. Though he was referring to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Chidambaram conceded that even setting that up had been a struggle since he had come "perilously close to crossing constitutional limits" in empowering the NIA.

But is that the real problem?
The MHA interlocutor for Gorkhaland has just resigned. But the MHA acknowledges the good work done by Lt Gen (retd) Vijay Madan and has indicated he may be re-employed after the elections in West Bengal are over. Partly as a result of his efforts, a proposal to set up an interim authority had been agreed upon by all the parties involved: the Centre, the West Bengal government and Gorkha leaders.

When the tripartite agreement was on the verge of being signed, it was taken to the CCS. There two caveats were put: the Gorkhas must promise to agree that they would not demand statehood and there must be no expansion of the geographical area covered under the present interim council. It was decided that as Mamata Banerjee was being a bit touchy-feely about it, the agreement should be referred to the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA), in which people like Sharad Pawar and Pranab Mukherjee would see it through. On that basis, the MHA piloted it to the CCPA.

In the CCPA, Pranab Mukherjee vetoed it on the grounds that the time was not right. Gorkha leaders, quite rightly, are asking themselves that if the MHA can't give them an interim authority to which everyone party to the dispute is agreeable, then why should they talk to the MHA? It is a massive loss of credibility.

On Telangana, the MHA set up a committee. This gave four options for a resolution. MLAs and MPs from the Congress are telling the MHA: if Telangana is to be given, go ahead and do it. If it is not to be given, don't give it. But don't tell us you're going to grant it and then decide you won't. The government seems to be in a mood to grant statehood but closer to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections (due in 2014) so that it can claim the credit. The MHA is valiantly trying to juggle opinion, keep the protagonists engaged and sending up a short prayer every day: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Chidambaram has said on record that if others want his job, he is happy to hand it to them. But they need to come out and say so.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

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GUNNING FOR LIBYA

WHY INDIA'S ABSTENTION FROM THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL'S NO-FLY VOTE AGAINST LIBYA IS PRAGMATIC POLICY

SUHASINI HAIDAR 

The Indian tricolour in Tripoli harbour – amid all the chaos and violence of Libya's current crisis – was perhaps the most incongruous image of all. Yet, it was also the most reassuring image for hundreds of Indians bound for the INS Jalashwa, the naval warship that had travelled ten days from Karwar port to take out the last of 15,000 Indian evacuees from the Libyan capital. Interestingly, India was one of the only three countries – Turkey and South Korea being the others – allowed to bring a military ship right into Tripoli. Countries like Germany, China, UK and Greece were made to wait on the high seas by the Gaddafi regime and allowed only to escort passenger ferries carrying nationals on board. India also got unprecedented clearances to operate 47 Air India sorties. This is one of many signs of India's particular standing in this West Asian-North African (WANA) country.

On the streets in Tripoli, too, people go out of their way to acknowledge a special bond with "Al-Hind", and come up to shake hands. For Gaddafi's 40-year commemoration in power, the only non-African, non-Arab leader to feature in publicity material was Jawaharlal Nehru. In both the western and eastern halves of Libya, Indians are seen as reliable construction partners, a disciplined workforce, and its doctors and teachers are acknowledged as the best. As the West now circles its wagons around Libya, pushing through the UN Security Council's no-fly zone resolution, India's decision to abstain from the vote is more than just a recognition of that relationship. It is pragmatic policy.

 

 To begin with, the efficacy of a no-fly zone itself must be questioned. In the past week, Gaddafi's regime has already taken back many of the towns claimed by rebels during the February 17 uprising. Though it will be difficult for him to finish his offensive on the rebel strongholds of Benghazi and Tobrouk without airpower, Gaddafi may be able to keep his grip on Libya for a while. This is, incidentally, not the first time that Benghazi, the seat of the oil-rich province of Cyrenaica, has revolted against Tripolitana since Libya was cobbled out of three separate regions in 1951. The February 17 revolution in that sense may have been triggered by the pro-democracy protests in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia, but is as much about traditional rivalries and tribal history.

Secondly, Gaddafi's Libya has weathered international strictures for decades, through the 1980s and the 1990s, and may not be as susceptible to the pressures of fresh sanctions. When the US and the UK decided to rehabilitate him in 2002, despite his role in the Lockerbie bombings and allegations of gunrunning to the Irish Republican Army, they were surprised to find a very strong economy in place there. The rapid business boom that followed and the flow of oil to the West since 2002 have ensured the Central Bank of Libya now holds reserves of approximately $110 billion, enough to shore up Libyan imports for at least three years. Meanwhile, the cost of bombing Libya, as the UN has now authorised, will be felt in terms of human casualties — but also economically by the world, with the price of oil expected to stay at least $20 a barrel higher for a while, and it will also serve to strengthen the anti-West, nationalistic fervour among Gaddafi's supporters. Ironically, it may also provide fertile ground for groups like Al-Qaeda, who don't have a toe-hold in Libya yet. After Iraq and Afghanistan, it seems inconceivable that the US would take such a step lightly.

And it is the US that will bear the greatest responsibility of strikes on Libya; at the UN Security Council, the resolution for a no-fly zone hung fire until Washington's decisive shift in its favour. In addition, the move smacks of a Western double standard; on the same day this week that President Obama renewed his call for "Gaddafi to Go", Saudi Arabian-Gulf Cooperation Council troops were pouring into Manama's Pearl roundabout to quell protests there. When six protestors died in the firing that followed, President Obama's reaction was to call the Saudi and Bahrainian monarchies only to advise "maximum restraint". While those pushing for action against Libya have often spoken about Gaddafi's bombarding of civilian areas, they have not yet provided proof of mass civilian casualties. Certainly, in eastern Libya, where the media was free to report, there have been no images of buildings or homes being bombed — in Ras Lenouf, Ajdabiya, etc, Gaddafi's forces have demonstrably unleashed their airpower only on oil installations, munition depots and rebel military bases so far. The US' pressing ahead with action on Gaddafi without waiting for the UN special envoy's report, but not for other Arab countries also snuffing out rebel movements, seems to prove the American maxim "he maybe a son of a gun, but he's our son of a gun" in reverse.

Clearly, Gaddafi is no one's "son of a gun" at present — neither the West's nor the Sunni Arab world's that despises him. And yet, if this uncontrollable, part-mad, part-comic tribal dictator manages to live on as Libya's leader, India would do well to look beyond the narrow prism of regime change for its future relationship with the country and the people. Libya doesn't just have some of the best "sweet" crude reserves, its geography makes it an important gateway to all of Sub-Saharan Africa's resources, as well as the Nile Delta. In the past, India has been at the forefront of infrastructural projects in the country, bidding for oil refineries, road construction, and even the railway project that eventually went to China. It would be counterproductive for India to give up its unique positioning in Libya simply to be swept up in the train of the US and Europe's interests there.

The writer is Deputy Foreign Editor, CNN-IBN. She reported from Tripoli during the current crisis

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THE WINNING POLL PLATFORM

RAMA BIJAPURKAR

Kenichi Ohmae famously said the heart of strategy is not about beating the competitor but about adding value to the customer, and avoiding the competitive battle altogether. India's beleaguered prime minister could still go down in history as the man who made Indian fulfil her destiny not just through paradigm shifts in economic thinking and action, but also as someone who brought real and widespread changes in access to quality knowledge-building and skill-building education for all. That would be a great election platform in a child- and education-obsessed young country. And who can do it better, given Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's background and erudition, and his children's education and meritocracy-led achievements? Who else in the world, except arguably the US president, has the opportunity to change the lives of such a large part of the human race, not just at present but for generations to come? If he chooses to pursue this opportunity, he has enough time left to take it past the point of no return. So it is well worth the effort.

What does it involve? Ironically, the exact opposite of what the economic liberalisation involved. It isn't about opening markets to foreign money to help achieve goals. The courts in India have often pointed out that there are no super profits to be made for the innovative or super-efficient people, there is no pricing according to what the markets can bear, or real choice of customer mix, as this prime minister's government has decreed. The swadeshi and self-reliance mantra is the only one to be invoked — offering the Foreign Universities Bill as a solution to our education problems is a cruel and callous joke on the average young person of this country. India needs to educate its own children. This can't be done by passing the Right to Education Bill. In fact, people say that inserting the word "quality" into the Right to Education Bill will be a retrograde step because the government is the arbiter of what quality is, which may kill the entrepreneurial mushrooming of the mom-and-pop private schools in large towns. It is about executive action, central incentive-based subsidies and technical support mechanisms to encourage those interested in education, the right kind of monitoring institutions run by educationists in a "nose in, fingers out" manner.

 

 First of all, India needs three ministers instead of a single part-time one and ministers who are action-oriented and experienced in setting priorities. The three ministries would be for school education, college education, and skills-based/vocational training and continuing education. Of course, conventional wisdom in India is that inefficiency will triple. But getting the world's youngest country to become a knowledge economy with a deficit in education infrastructure, and not being able to outsource it as a market-business opportunity, means there is a lot of work to be done. For example, the ministry of school education will figure out how to frame a web of policies, incentives, centralised support actions including standardised curricula (properly done with the best educationists in the country), cheap but sturdy equipment design and manufacture so that schools can have a dedicated bandwidth for distance learning, training for teachers in using it as an aid, standardised testing so that scores can be compared across the country, designing grants that are tied up to performance, and incentivising kids to stay in school. Since it is a state subject too, we need an experienced and persuasive politician who understands how the system works.

The vocational training and skills development initiatives are being housed in different places — the PMO and finance ministry – and are entrusted to people who have never done this kind of work before, and who have no idea what real scale really is. Why can't it be with one new ministry which can develop a proper plan for it? Much as many of us are sceptical of bureaucrats, if the choice is between someone with a narrow corporate world experience and an expenditure budget of Rs 5,000 crore, and someone with broader experience in dealing with a mind-boggling scale and multi- stake holder management, the answer is clear.

For higher education, the government should, as Jaithirth Rao has been saying, pick 100 colleges with potential, give them a one-time grant of Rs 100 crore each and ask them to convert into universities. Funding is what higher education needs from the government. To say that you have to be self-funded or we will interfere is totally wrong. The HRD minister is inviting presentations on how to raise funds from alumni. Isn't his time more valuable than that. Why shouldn't our money be spent on the one thing common to the rich and the poor in this country? How can self-sufficiency, price control and 50 per cent reservations go together?

All in all, this country's young deserve better than a part-time minister who has neither the time nor an inclination or vision to create a comprehensive – not piecemeal – programme for change in all parts of education. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is good, but building human capacity through education is even better.

The writer is an independent market strategy consultant

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

NO CAPTIVE COAL

THE GOVERNMENT MUST OVERHAUL ITS POLICY TO CREATE A FUNCTIONING COAL MARKET


 The coal ministry wants to take back 31 coal blocks allotted to companies for captive mining, which have been lying idle for more than three to four years. Instead, the government should overhaul the moth-eaten policy that governs the coal sector. Today, only state-owned giant Coal India Ltd (CIL) is allowed to mine and sell coal in the market; a smaller state owned entity, Neyveli Lignite, which mines lignite for power generation, is allowed to sell extra output to small industries. Other companies, including large private players like Tata Steel, JSW, JSPL, Reliance Power and Hindalco and state-owned utility NTPC, are allotted coal mines, but for captive use. This means they can mine coal and use it to generate electricity or make steel, aluminium or cement. This policy of allotting coal mines for captive use must go. First, steel or cement makers are interested in coal only as an input, not as a final product. They, therefore, have no incentive to mine coal economically or in a sustainable way, or to research and invest in modern mining technologies. Specialised mining companies, on the other hand, have every incentive to bring technology and economies of scale into their mining operations, since for them, coal is the final tradable output.


The second problem with granting mines for captive use is inefficient utilisation of an essential fuel. If a steelmaker, say, has access to coal assets that are disproportionately larger than its requirements, it will simply dig up what it needs and keep the rest underground, even when coal prices soar. It would be much better if companies with their own mines have the option of trading the coal as well as using it for their own needs. This will balance, through the price mechanism and trade, supply and demand for coal and lead to a market that is far more efficient than today's. So, the government has to do two things: take away captive mines from producers of metals, power, cement and so on and auction them to specialised miners. And give the miners the right to trade coal in an open market in competition with CIL and Neyveli. For this, of course, the government has to first scrap the Coal Nationalisation Act.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

PEACE, PERFORCE

NON-WESTERN POWERS SHOULD BE ENGAGED IN SHAPING THE INTERVENTION IN LIBYA


The ceasefire declared by the Gaddafi regime in the wake of a UN resolution authorising external military intervention to prevent the bloodbath promised by the Libyan dictator would seem to justify the resolution, on which India, along with Russia and China, abstained when it was voted. Preventing large-scale civilian deaths is, of course, an imperative. So, it would appear, is intervening to support the cause of democracy. Yet, the western powers' indifference to Saudi forces entering Bahrain to quash the peaceful democratic protest there, even as they bristle over Libya, serves to underscore the problematic nature of the intervention. There is room to question the desirability of western-led intervention in a sovereign nation, particularly in a region where western powers, notably the US and its Nato allies, have had strategic interests that led them to support many of the authoritarian rulers against whom people have revolted recently. But with Gaddafi flatly refusing to accede to the opposition's demand for him to step down before talks could be envisaged, and with his forces unleashing a wave of repression on protestors even within Tripoli while relying on better weaponry to beat back the opposition in other parts of Libya, the opposition was forced to recalibrate its initial reluctance to call for international intervention. Russia and China, after their earlier opposition to military intervention, abstained from the UN vote rather than veto the move.


If the ceasefire holds, the best possible scenario would be a negotiated exit of the Gaddafi regime. But, at present, this does seem like a long-drawn process, if not farfetched. What needs to be avoided is the emergence of a de facto split country, with western powers working to keep the oil flowing from the energy-rich opposition-held areas. Such a scenario would, in the Arab world and beyond, confirm the worst criticism of the West's biased role in the region. International intervention remains a tricky issue. The way out would be evolving a wellthought out, genuinely international consensus. India has a part to play there, and it must do so.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

STEALING A MARCH

INDIA'S POTENTIAL HAS BEEN APTLY GAUGED BY SOME COLOMBIANS AND PERUVIANS


India's rising prosperity can be expected to attract all manner of entrepreneurs to its shores, but the MoU signed between India and Colombia last April on business development cooperation probably did not foresee that it could prompt four burglars to cross oceans to seek their fortune in Delhi. Armed with cheap bolt cutters from Walmart (which did not set off alarm bells, of course, unlike known 'suspicious items' such as liquids over 100ml and nailcutters), and bolstered by the conventional wisdom that Indian policing and prosecution are lax, all the four needed were bucketshop tickets to the land of malls and money. If the cache recovered from one Colombian is any indication — . 15 lakh in jewellery and . 1.56 lakh in cash — their faith in India Shining had been vindicated, though their endeavours would not help enhance the value of bilateral trade between India and Colombia, currently hovering around $1 billion. Even if Indian interest in Colombia may rest largely on the lilting persona of Shakira and the magic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombians have been far more eclectic about their Indian activities. The woman apprehended last month for overstaying by seven years after attending a yoga school in Munger, Bihar, would probably not have anything in common with her compatriot arrested as part of a . 25 crore chemical drugs haul in Mumbai and Thane except their vision of India as the land of opportunity. Indeed, the arrest of a Peruvian national a few days ago for purloining the luggage of unwary travellers at Delhi airport's new Terminal 3 — a year after three Peruvians were held for allegedly stealing handbags at five star hotels in the capital — shows that Colombia is not the only South American nation whose ordinary people have realised India's worth.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

TACKLING THE BLIGHT OF MISGOVERNANCE

WITHOUT FAR-REACHING POLITICAL REFORMS, INDIA'S BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT WILL CONTINUE TO REMAIN TENSE

 

Global business abhors uncertainty. The ministerial-level corruption in UPA-II has slowed FDI and FII inflows. The stock market, despite double-digit corporate profit and 8.6% GDP growth, reflects the anxiety of Indian and foreign investors. To take India's growth story forward in the 20th year of economic reforms, political reforms must catch up. Misgovernance won't do in a globalised, interconnected world.


Two kinds of political corruption blight India: episodical and ongoing. Episodical corruption — from 2G spectrum to rice exports — has cost the public exchequer possibly over . 1,00,000 crore this year. The sum could have wiped out a quarter of India's 2010-11 fiscal deficit of . 4,12,000 crore. Ongoing corruption is more insidious and, therefore, more damaging. For example, over 10% of India's installed power capacity of 1,61,000 mw is stolen every year with government connivance. At least 25% and possibly up to 50% of funds allocated to MGNREGS are siphoned off by districtlevel officials — an estimated loss of around . 20,000 crore per year. Illegal mining, water frauds skim several thousand more crores of public funds. All this public theft needs a nexus: politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats form the core and an army of district officials, contractors and middlemen form the base. Judicial oversight has replaced ministerial oversight in matters that lie firmly in the domain of the executive. The Supreme Court cannot — as it has been compelled to — play the role of the PMO.
The government must implement three urgent institutional reforms. One, enact legislation to give the Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayuktas in the states suo motu powers to prosecute ministers, MPs, MLAs and IAS officers. The proposed Lokpal Bill is eyewash. It gives the Lokpal advisory powers. He cannot prosecute a minister or MP accused of corruption without government approval. The alternative civil society Lokpal Bill, which gives the Lokpal independent authority to prosecute ministers and other public servants, is the only way to attack corruption at its root. Activist Anna Hazare has launched a nationwide campaign to revise the Lokpal Bill before it is legislated in the current session of Parliament.


Two, pass a special Act of Parliament to vest the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) with autonomous powers like the Election Commission (EC), freeing it from government control. The CBI director should be appointed by a constituted panel of three members: the newly empowered Lokpal, the leader of the largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. This will allow the CBI to investigate and prosecute without fear, favour or fetter.


Three, end through a constitutional amendment the practice of 'political' governors and speakers. The moment a governor or speaker is appointed, he or she should forfeit for life the right to serve in any other public office and also cease immediately and permanently to be a member of a political party. The Bhardwaj-Buta Singh model of governership must be buried for good. The new anti-corruption ordinance being examined by the empowered group of ministers under finance minister Pranab Mukherjee must allow for prosecution of ministers, bureaucrats and other public officials by an independent CBI and Lokpal. Land, mining and other natural resources —from spectrum to gas — must be taken out of discretionary government hands (state and central) by law, not words. Nitish Kumar's Bihar has effectively combated corruption by introducing special courts under the Bihar Special Courts Act. Under the Act, such courts headed by a sessions judge with high court approval have the power to confiscate property and cash of government officials accused in corruption cases.

 

The role of the EC is critical: the roots of political corruption lie in the black money used to fight elections. Candidates with criminal backgrounds buy themselves tickets while parties subvert voters with money and divisions of caste, religion and region. The EC can consider two specific measures.

First, set a high bar of candidate-vetting. Seventy-four MPs in the current Lok Sabha have serious criminal charges against them. To weed out rogue candidates, the EC can set up a judicial commission comprising three retired Supreme Court judges before every election (Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha) as an electoral filter. Any candidate facing ongoing criminal prosecution in a trial court would be barred from standing for election. In order to protect candidates facing politically-motivated charges, the relevant prosecution would have to be currently 'active' to trigger the bar. What does this mean? Any prosecution pending for over one year without a hearing or adjournment would not count as a valid ground for debarring candidates. This step will filter out at least 50% of rogue candidates who today stand unhindered for elections but also provide a modicum of protection to those who face frivolous and static political charges.


Second, to improve the standard of our democracy — and the quality of candidates political parties put up — the EC must impose term limitations for all office bearers in EC-registered political parties. No individual should be permitted to hold office for more than 10 years. Internal elections to all party posts — including for party president — must be held every year. If the 10-year time limitation rule is violated, derecognition of the party would automatically follow. This will mitigate the feudal structures of our dynastic political parties and strengthen India's democratic institutions. The restoration of global business confidence in India will be a natural corollary.

 

MINHAZ MERCHANT CHAIRMAN, MERCHANT MEDIA

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

DEFENCE BUDGET CAN'T BE JUST ARITHMETIC

MAJ GEN (RETD) ASHOK K MEHTA


Usually, there are no surprises in the defence Budget. The budgetary process has been reduced to simple arithmetic — add 8-10% inclusive of inflation over the revised estimates, tweak the capital account, factoring committed liabilities and new projects and tighten revenue expenditure. "There's hardly any strategic or intellectual input," said an officer in the Army's financial planning directorate. The surprise was that the MoD has, for the first time, claimed full utilisation of the capital allocation meant for modernisation of forces. This is a break from the past two decades where an average .4,000 crore every year remained unspent. Probably, there is a catch in the claim as some of the money has been parked in defence PSUs. The overall budgetary increase to nearly .1,65,000 crore ($36 billion) for 2011-12 represents an increase of 12%, but is still is only 1.83% of the GDP. The increase in capital funding to nearly .70,000 crore reflects the steady pace of modernisation though much of the enhanced outlay will cover dues for committed acquisitions — advance payment for the new MMRCA, artillery guns and helicopters. The equipment-intensive IAF has bagged the highest amount followed by the army and navy. The lion's share of defence budget is consumed by the manpower-intensive army (51%) followed by IAF (28%) navy (15%) and the Defence Research & Development Organisation (6%). These figures as well as those for capital funding are more or less predictable as allocations are unrelated to operational priorities since the planning process is not the outcome of any strategic defence and security review, but redressing self-inflicted iniquities in operational preparedness. The defence budget is the least planned non-Plan expenditure that goes through a process bereft of strategic, political and financial guidance. Worse, it is an amalgam of plans for defence spending of the three services, compiled by the integrated defence staff and rounded off by the ministry of defence, which is still not integrated with the three services. Jointness, key to operational agility, is conspicuously absent from the budgetary planning process.


Otherwise, what would explain defence minister A K Antony periodically emphasising that India needs to carry out a comprehensive review of its defence preparedness as well as remain vigilant to meet any security challenges without actually ordering such a defence review. Our Prime Minister and National Security Advisor also ask for it. The new budget does not reflect the concerns of the services and the MoD with regard to growing Chinese assertiveness and its officials reminding India of 1962. China's defence budget is more than three times that of India's.


Last month, speaking at the Asian Security seminar at IDSA, Antony said: "Modernisation of armed forces in China and its ever increasing military spending is a matter of serious concern but we are not unduly worried" and added "we also must strengthen our capabilities and infrastructure in our border areas — and we're doing it". In an earlier remark, he had noted that India's defence modernisation was 15 years behind schedule. Taken together, these statements represent the widening capability gap between the Chinese PLA and Indian armed forces. Army Chief Gen V K Singh has called for acquiring substantial conventional war-fighting capabilities against both Pakistan and China and "if need be, fighting both in a worst case scenario".


Defence budgets of less than 2% of the GDP barely manage to keep the existing inventory of the armed forces ship shape, provide it a slight edge over Pakistan but lacking in any meaningful deterrence against China. This is the result of years of neglect of the modernisation and capability enhancement. In their book, Arming Without Aiming: Indian Military Modernisation by Stephen Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta, the authors have noted that India's defence acquisition process is "amazingly convoluted".


PAC has lambasted the government for huge cost and time overruns — .8,000 crore in three years — in finalising the Scorpene submarine contract with a French company. The MoD has admitted that the delay is due to "a highly complex and excessive scrutiny-filled procedure" for arms procurement.


India will spend $100 billion in the next 10 years on arms purchases after two decades of drought in military modernisation. Enhanced military spending without new strategic thinking and a modernised defence budgeting process will merely bring in new hardware. It is time for the government to commit 3% of GDP to defence to meet the security challenges and sustain the double-digit economic growth.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

WORRYING ABOUT THE RIGHT ISSUES

FARHAT JAMAL


The World Bank recently estimated the loss from poor hygiene and sanitation in India at $54 billion, probably an underestimate. This loss to the nation is more than from many scams put together. If any nation has progressed in the past, it is only when it has been able to clean up not just the political system but also its filth ridden streets and sidewalk, it has managed to provide its people enough toilets, clean drinking water, healthcare and reasonably decent living conditions. As per the Bank, 4,50,000 people die each year of diarrhoea, primarily on account of poor personal hygiene habits: defecating in the open and lack of proper drainage systems in towns and villages.


On the same beach front in Mumbai that offers an amazing view of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, one can see people defecating in the open, apart from zillions of plastic bags. The countryside of our towns and villages is a sight that in the morning none of us perhaps want to see. The government is definitely aware about the impacts of inadequate sanitation but what is being done year on year is a serious question. It is impacting the health of the younger generation as much as the lives of the older. It is not shocking that 2.6 billion or 35% of the world's population live without proper access to sanitation and about 1.1 billion defecate in the open even today. Worms of various types affect 400 million children each year in the developing world and it impacts their physical growth and mental health.


Lack of toilet facilities in the village schools deters girls from education. A UN research has proved that every 10% increase in women literacy helps in economic growth of 0.3%. Imagine how this would impact a nation as young as ours. Almost 50% diarrhoea cases occur in schools rather than homes due to poor sanitation facilities.
It is unforgivable on the part of the state education system that basic needs like clean toilets cannot be provided in schools in our villages. The funds exist but the will is missing while in some places the will exists but funds go missing. It may be worthwhile for the state governments to conduct a random audit of the schools and find out where the system is failing, bring those responsible to book and create greater accountability. The system has to be reformed and importance given to hygiene and sanitation at the basic level. It may be worthwhile to have personal hygiene taught at school level as a compulsory subject.


The impact on tourism is not surprising. Millions of tourists do not come to our great country because we have been unable to reassure them that India is a land where you can eat and drink freely without the fear of falling sick. The message to the world has not changed, although at some five and four star hotels, food safety and hygiene norms like HACCP (hazard and critical control points) accreditation have forced them to maintain very stringent standards in the kitchens and food handling areas. Our target of getting over 10 million tourists in 2011 and a 7.6% compounded growth each year thereafter is an uphill task.


The best way to enjoy India might be to plan the least; but the mystique of India does not lie only in chaos, stench of garbage and filthy surroundings. The spiritual flavor can also be found in clean India. It could be in temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras and other homes of God. Some of our spiritual places are kept in such miserable condition it makes you wonder. Yet there are also many clean places of worship, like the Golden Temple. If we just start by cleaning the environment inside and around them, it will surely make our deities happy. Our rich heritage of diverse places of worship offer rich potential for spiritual tourism, provided we take care to provide clean drinking water and hygienic food.


Public-private partnerships can work towards cleaner streets, better drainage system; get rid of overflowing garbage dumps in the cities and improved public conveniences. A very good example is Hyderabad where the former chief minister Chandrababu Naidu showed that it is possible to keep our cities clean. It still is a much cleaner city than many. The idea of instituting an award for 'best civic management of a tourist destination in India' by the tourism ministry is a welcome initiative that will provide some level of competitive spirit for the tourist hotspots.


Compromising on food hygiene is sinful. We let food be sold at cheap price and hygiene thrown out of the window. It is not about using any expensive vessels and equipment but about good cooking, serving and storing habits. We must set strict hygiene standards and guidelines that are not negotiable for schools. It is time they provide soaps or disinfectants in the washrooms and the toilets are kept clean. It does not matter whether the school is privately run or state managed, in a village or a metro. It may sound like an impossible task or a dream but only if we dream can we find reality some day.


(The writer is a veteran hotelier)

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

OF HEARTLESS WASHINGTON, JOBLESS MILLIONS

 

More than three years after we entered the worst economic slump since the 1930s, a strange and disturbing thing has happened to our political discourse: Washington has lost interest in the unemployed. Jobs do get mentioned now and then — and a few political figures, notably Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, are still trying to get some kind of action. But no jobs bills have been introduced in Congress, no job-creation plans have been advanced by the White House and all the policy focus seems to be on spending cuts. So one-sixth of America's workers — all those who can't find any job or are stuck with part-time work when they want a full-time job — have, in effect, been abandoned. It might not be so bad if the jobless could expect to find new employment fairly soon. But unemployment has become a trap, one that's very difficult to escape. There are almost five times as many unemployed workers as there are job openings; the average unemployed worker has been jobless for 37 weeks, a post-World War II record. In short, we're well on the way to creating a permanent underclass of the jobless. Why doesn't Washington care? Part of the answer may be that while those who are unemployed tend to stay unemployed, those who still have jobs are feeling more secure than they did a couple of years ago. Layoffs and discharges spiked during the crisis of 2008-2009 but have fallen sharply since then, perhaps reducing the sense of urgency. Put it this way: At this point, the US economy is suffering from low hiring, not high firing, so things don't look so bad — as long as you're willing to write off the unemployed. Yet polls indicate that voters still care much more about jobs than they do about the budget deficit. So it's quite remarkable that inside the Beltway, it's just the opposite. What makes this even more remarkable is the fact that the economic arguments used to justify the (Washington) D.C. deficit obsession have been repeatedly refuted by experience. On one side, we've been warned, over and over again, that "bond vigilantes" will turn on the US government unless we slash spending immediately. Yet interest rates remain low by historical standards; indeed, they're lower now than they were in the spring of 2009, when those dire warnings began. On the other side, we've been assured that spending cuts would do wonders for business confidence. But that hasn't happened in any of the countries currently pursuing harsh austerity programmes. Notably, when the Cameron government in Britain announced austerity measures last May, it received fawning praise from US deficit hawks. But British business confidence plunged, and it has not recovered. Yet the obsession with spending cuts flourishes all the same — unchallenged, it must be said, by the White House. I still don't know why the Obama administration was so quick to accept defeat in the war of ideas, but the fact is that it surrendered very early in the game. In early 2009, John Boehner, now the Speaker of the House, was widely and rightly mocked for declaring that since families were suffering, the government should tighten its own belt. That's Herbert Hoover economics, and it's as wrong now as it was in the 1930s. But, in the 2010 State of the Union address, US President Barack Obama adopted exactly the same metaphor and began using it incessantly. And earlier this week, the White House budget director declared: "There is an agreement that we should be reducing spending", suggesting that his only quarrel with Republicans is over whether we should be cutting taxes, too. No wonder, then, that according to a new Pew Research Centre poll, a majority of Americans see "not much difference" between Mr Obama's approach to the deficit and that of Republicans. So who pays the price for this unfortunate bipartisanship? The increasingly hopeless unemployed, of course. And the worst hit will be young workers — a point made in 2009 by Peter Orszag, then the White House budget director. As he noted, young Americans who graduated during the severe recession of the early 1980s suffered permanent damage to their earnings. And if the average duration of unemployment is any indication, it's even harder for new graduates to find decent jobs now than it was in 1982 or 1983. So the next time you hear some Republican declaring that he's concerned about deficits because he cares about his children — or, for that matter, the next time you hear Mr Obama talk about winning the future — you should remember that the clear and present danger to the prospects of young Americans isn't the deficit. It's the absence of jobs. But, as I said, these days Washington doesn't seem to care about any of that. And you have to wonder what it will take to get politicians caring again about America's forgotten millions. By arrangement with The New York Times

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

INTERPRETER OF DREAMS

 

"On each blade of grass The secret of a passing..." From Koothey-ki-Aulaad by Bachchoo I had better describe what Midsomer Murders is before I tell you about the almighty row that has beset the TV show. It's a murder mystery winner for the Independent Television (ITV) channel. A detective and his sidekick are called in to solve deaths in an English village. Improbable though it sounds, in a village of say 3,000 people (I am making a rough estimate from having seen the houses and cars on screen for about 20 seconds in my entire life) 250 have been murdered in the last few series. The detectives have each time arrested the culprits. So one-sixth of the population is dead and another sixth has been apprehended and jailed. And yet the village continues as though nothing ever happens there. It is that hallowed place where the beer is always warm, the cricket pitch mowed and perfect in summer and there's honey still for tea, the vicarage clock hangs about at half-past-three... and so on. The series is extremely popular. It is repeated each year and is the best-selling detective series for ITV. It gets huge audience figures and sells to as many territories as there have been murders on the screen. I may, of course, be telling the aficionados of the series in Bhopal, Patna and Devi Ka Dera, the followers and disciples of chief inspector Tom Barnaby, what they already know. I am being cautious because such is the reputed penetration of the famous series. The producer of the series for these last 14 years is, or has been, one Brian True-May (Yes, these English do sometimes have wondrous names!). Mr True-May was talking to the Radio Times, a broadcasting listings journal, about the new series of Midsomer Murders which is about to be launched. The interviewer asked him a question he probably wasn't expecting: Why were there no black, Asian or other ethnic characters in the series? Perhaps, Mr True-May should have thought a little longer about his reply. What he said was: "We just don't have ethnic minorities involved because it wouldn't be the English village with them. It just wouldn't work. We're the last bastion of Englishness and I want to keep it that way". What could he have been thinking of? Didn't he realise that in a world in which Japan has been devastated by earthquakes and a tsunami, in which West Asia is in revolt against its monarchs and dictators and hundreds are being butchered by the day, that his regard for preserving his series' "Englishness" from ethnic minorities would cause the most unholy row in the British press? It was as though he had demanded the construction of concentration camps for non-white folks. The reaction was not simply verbal. Mr True-May was summarily suspended from his duties. The head of ITV confessed himself "appalled" at the printed remarks and demanded action. Mr True-May's career is, in the interests of a small fictional convention/conviction, ruined. The fantasy village of Causton where the Midsomer Murders are supposed to take place is located in the real village of Great Missenden. It's where Mr True-May lives. I have been through the village several times as it is on my route to a "music camp", a weekend orchestral retreat which my son has attended since he was very young. This retreat is a farmhouse on a hill top above the village and is host, each spring, summer and autumn to young and old instrumentalists and vocalists who camp in tents in the surrounding meadows for a few nights and play classical music of all sorts during the day — ending in a concert for friends and family on the Sunday. It is, I would have thought, a typical showcase for "Englishness" and perhaps a good location and setting for a Midsomer Murder. One of the writers of Midsomer Murders is a good friend of mine and if I suggested the location to him it may get his mind working. I would insist that he included, at least in the background of his episode, the not-quite-white face of someone like my son who is very much part of the scenario. It wouldn't violate Mr True-May's "Englishness". I very much doubt if even he would spot that a person of mixed race was amongst the viola players of the orchestra when the cops went in to check out the murder scene. One could go further. Great Missenden is very close to the town of High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. It is very likely that Mrs True-May does her food shopping in the sumptuous supermarkets there. It cannot have escaped Mr True-May's notice that High Wycombe's population is substantially made up of Mirpuri immigrants whose children speak in a Buckinghamshire accent and probably support the local football team. Some of them pass through and work in Great Missenden and their faces, if one were doing a reality show, would necessarily be seen. But Midsomer Murders is not a reality show. It is a fantasy of crime, detection and yes, of Englishness. It is as real as Harry Potter or James Bond and is one of the cultural constructs that England still manages to sell to itself and the world. In a very profound sense I understand Mr True-May's remark. It is not that he is a Nazi full of hatred for the immigrants who live on his doorstep. He is in charge of a fairy-tale, one that sells all around the world, because it purveys what is — and I am sure Mr True-May knows this — an unreal, cosy world into which murder intrudes. He is against reality. He doesn't want some non-white youths breaking into the village and killing the Vicar. If he allowed his writers to plot that, it might cause an even bigger row than we have seen. His world is that of old postmistresses, grumbling retired colonels and lively church choirs. When the news of Mr True-May's dismissal broke, I phoned my writer friend Barry and asked him if, when writing an episode of Midsomer, he was instructed to keep ethnic characters out. He said he wasn't, but while writing it and studying its enclosed fictional world it didn't occur to him to incorporate blacks or Asians about whom he has written very effectively elsewhere.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

BATCHA'S 'SUICIDE' WON'T IMPACT PROBE

 

As a society we are sometimes happy to offer a place of privilege to voyeurism. We watch the drama that sometimes unfolds with pain and suffering endured by others, derive pleasure from it to the extent that we feel superior to the victim (usually claiming a high moral perch for ourselves), and then proceed to construct hypotheses that typically denounce the victim and his associates. These we take to public forums in debates contrived to develop a political stance. Take the case of the late Sadiq Batcha, a financial associate of former communications minister A. Raja, who is being investigated in connection with the 2G spectrum scam. Mr Raja's acolyte was found hanging at his home in Chennai earlier this week. He was reported to have been involved in helping launder the bribes allegedly accumulated by Mr Raja in the process of spectrum allocation, and had been questioned by the CBI about these matters. The media was immediately agog with the speculation that the businessman had been murdered, and people who had got rid of him tried to make their misdeed look like a suicide, complete with a suicide note. All this without a shred of evidence, while sitting far away. It is the chattering classes that are typically given to a pastime of this nature. Any number of individuals pontificate on television with an air of self-importance — all saying the same thing with no known objective basis in facts. The cry that went up in this particular instance was that the 2G investigation was now doomed as the man who might have possessed any serious knowledge about Mr Raja's alleged swindles had been done away with. And who could have had an interest in making this happen? The government, of course. But this is left to the imagination and not spelt out. Which government? Tamil Nadu? Centre? You can take your pick. The puerile purpose, even if not consciously calculated, of all is to make politicians look criminal as a class. It is to the credit of Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy — the man who had first set the cat among the pigeons in the 2G affair — to have not been carried away and maintain in his media appearances that the 2G investigation had not been compromised on account of the tragic exit of Batcha. He held the view that the loss of such a witness would not "fundamentally" ruin the cause of unearthing the wrongdoers, as the authorities were in possession of corroborative material from multiple sources. Ergo, whether the end of the businessman-associate of Mr Raja resulted from suicide or murder was not, strictly speaking, material. Let us be clear. Suicide cannot be ruled out, no matter what some may say. Of course, if it was a murder connected with this case, then those behind the crime could aim to extend similar treatment to other witnesses. For this reason, the investigators — the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate — look to be guilty of not providing protection to a leading witness. This once again calls for having a witness protection programme in place, as in several countries, notably the United States. While the Supreme Court is directing investigations in the 2G case, it could think to crack the whip on the government so that such a programme is introduced on an immediate basis. The removal of Batcha from the scene is unlikely to be a particularly significant factor as far as the coming Assembly election in Tamil Nadu is concerned. The 2G affair is likely to influence urban middle class voters, and there the matter stands in the view of observers of the scene. But, as we know, usually it takes more than one consideration to shape an electoral outcome.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

HOMER SIMPSON NEED NOT APPLY

 

Watching the coverage of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station unfold on TV, I was reminded of my own close call with a nuclear emergency. In 1988 I was a newly-minted shift technical adviser at the South Texas Project, a power plant near the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Gilbert, at the time a Category 5 storm, was bearing down on us. I received word from plant management that all workers should leave except for critical plant personnel like myself. I called my wife and told her to go inland with our four-month-old daughter. Eventually the storm weakened and turned south. But there was never a question: my team and I would stay, regardless of what happened. The situation facing the 50 workers left at Fukushima is a nuclear operator's worst nightmare. Fortunately, despite harrowing situations like mine, almost none of us will ever deal with anything like it. But the knowledge that a nuclear crisis could occur, and that we might be the only people standing in the way of a meltdown, defines every aspect of an operator's life. The field attracts a very particular kind of person. I became a nuclear worker in the 1980s, in the wake of the oil crises of the 1970s. Nuclear power, for all its risks, seemed like the best alternative, and people like me who signed up at the time saw ourselves as the guardians of America's energy future. We were the ones who would prevent the risks of nuclear power from becoming a reality, who would keep the plants safe and, in turn, the country's way of life secure. The same spirit motivates today's workers. Contrary to the depiction of nuclear operators as bumbling slackers in The Simpsons, the typical employee is more like a cross between a jet pilot and a firefighter: highly trained to keep a technically-complex system running, but also prepared to be the first and usually only line of defence in an emergency. Training to be a senior reactor operator takes up to two years and involves demonstrating one's ability to process complex, sometimes contradictory information rapidly and under intense pressure. The training regimen also grinds into us the overwhelming importance of staying put in an emergency situation, even at great risk to our own safety. There are simply too many contingencies and too many functions that require close observation for an emergency to be handled remotely. And so while the world wondered why the workers at the Fukushima plant didn't flee, my fellow nuclear operators and I weren't surprised. One employee is reported to have received a significant dose of radiation while trying to vent pressure on one of the reactor's containment vessels. There is no question that this act saved countless lives. But there is also no question that the operator acted knowing full well that he could suffer long-term injury from doing so. Those of us in the industry are also watching the management of the crisis. It's easy to be critical, from a distance, and while I have yet to see anything that smacks of negligence or mishandling, a few obvious questions come to mind. For one thing, considering the difficulties of managing a nuclear accident within a disaster zone, was the plant staff provided with the necessary technical support and equipment? It's also clear that procedures need to be in place for better handling of the insatiable demand for information from the news media. Finally, given the multiple problems at Fukushima, we should revisit the standard protocol for dealing with a nuclear emergency, which assumes a problem with a single reactor, even at a multiunit site. We will likely hear numerous stories of heroism over the next several days, of plant operators struggling to keep water flowing into the reactors, breathing hard against their respirators under the dim rays of a handheld flashlight in the cold, dark recesses of a critically damaged nuclear plant, knowing that at any moment another hydrogen explosion could occur. These operators will be hailed as heroes, and deservedly so. But if they are like the rest of the tightly knit community of nuclear workers, they will simply say they were doing their job. *Michael Friedlander is a nuclear engineer By arrangement with The New York Times

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

WOMAN POWER

 

While an enormous din and mayhem prevailed in the Indian Parliament over the latest WikiLeaks cable revelations concerning the vote over the nuclear deal, Congress president Sonia Gandhi in London was calm and relaxed. She even shared an occasional joke as she spoke about a subject which is as important (if not more) as the nuclear policy: Women — Agents for Change. In a packed room, delivering the 14th Commonwealth Lecture, Mrs Gandhi got a standing ovation as she walked in, and her speech lived up to all the expectations that had been built up for a lecture from the leader of the oldest political party in India. She was not only optimistic about the future but also very positive about how far Indian women have come — hoping, at the end, that India would not only reap the demographic dividend, but the gender dividend as well. Her speech was confident and comprehensive: though there were many in the audience who still doubted how far Indian women have actually journeyed, they were somewhat persuaded by her well-reasoned argument and it provided much food for thought. Whether it is non-government organisations like Self-Employed Women's Association or uprisings like the Chipko movement, or important government measures such as the one-third representation of women in all elected posts in the panchayats, change had been delivered and it will lead to a rapid and progressive transition all around in India, which, as she pointed out, was a country where women were leading four important political parties. And, of course, she expressed the hope that very soon one-third reservation would be followed in Parliament as well. So let us keep an eye out for that! Mrs Gandhi also laid out an agenda for what the Commonwealth could do, globally, for women in the future. She stated that there was a need, firstly, to examine and expand the creation of more financial as well as political opportunities for women; secondly, there was a need to engage at making urban areas safer for them; and thirdly, to look at how the climate change endangers their lives and how to make these deprivations more gender sensitive. Mrs Gandhi's speech was both visionary and thoughtful — and as Kamalesh Sharma, the erudite secretary general of the Commonwealth pointed out, while all these issues were being addressed, he would press the agenda forward. Interestingly, it was a speech that encompassed both history and literature, and Mrs Gandhi was reassuringly passionate about women's advancement. In fact, for many, her ideation, interest and engagement was exciting. For those used to watching news clips of her delivering rabble rousing electoral diatribes, this was a refreshing change — visionary yet pragmatic, sensitive and yet humorous. Mrs Gandhi recounted how at the 1985 Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference, there was a huge controversy about imposing sanctions on South Africa to smash apartheid. Only Mrs Thatcher was against this move. Shridath "Sunny" Ramphal decided that three heads of government, Rajiv Gandhi, Brian Mulroney of Canada and Bob Hawke of Australia, all three good-looking men, may charm her into changing her mind. Mrs Gandhi recalled with a laugh that Mrs Thatcher was unimpressed by the three "handsome" men, and refused to change her stance. The anecdote evoked spontaneous laughter from the audience, but more importantly, through personalised narration alongside a global understanding of the subject, Mrs Gandhi was able to establish herself as not only a very successful leader of a political party but also as a skilled communicator. It has been a good year for the Commonwealth to pursue an agenda of gender equality and persuade their member countries to take care to see that women get the prominence they deserve. The Prime Minister of Tobago and Trinidad, very-elegant Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the chairperson of the Commonwealth and secretary general of the organisation, pointed out that women like her and the Congress president are a clear indicator that the men running the organisation would be pushed into supportive roles like "book ends"! Earlier in the week we also met with Queen Elizabeth at a reception on Commonwealth Day. I must confess that I (shockingly!) forgot to curtsey but I did congratulate her on her grandson's wedding. After all, which grandmother would not love to be reminded of such an amazingly joyful occasion? But to our surprise, she was a little a reticent about it and actually confessed her worry regarding the public reaction to the celebrations. Possibly, she was anxious that at this time of austerity it should not appear as though the wedding is extravagant and insensitive. However, everyone was quick to reassure her that the wedding, in fact, will see a lot of celebratory street parties and dancing and come as a welcome relief at a time of stringent cuts and rising employment. Because while things have changed in the last few years and the recession has sucked the pleasure out of mere "enjoyment", no one can resist a whiff of romance! However, Kate and William have already taken one very important step towards understanding that things have changed in the last one year: they have said that they do not want presents and would prefer donations to charity instead of gifts. Meanwhile, the fact that the WikiLeaks expose in India comes just on the back of the Japanese nuclear disaster only serves to prove the worst fears for many of us regarding nuclear energy. Does India really need these enormously expensive (and potentially dangerous) nuclear power plants? Could we not have gone for greener, much more safer ways of bringing energy to the poorest of the poor? Surprisingly, while most countries using nuclear energy are reassessing their future plans, the same rigorous re-examination and debate is barely happening in India. Green energy and alternate sources of power could be implemented, quite easily, because of the already low consumption of traditional fossil fuels in India. But after listening to Mrs Gandhi, hope has arisen that perhaps, more compassionate, inclusive, "feminine" ecologically-friendly and environmentally-acceptable alternatives will be encouraged to solve India's energy problems and possibly lead the way for a global solution. Her audience in London listened to her carefully, and hoped that those in India were doing the same. *The writer can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

BRIBE-GIVER < BRIBE-TAKER

 

Talk of rotten luck. Right when the government was readying to fight bribery and corruption, it was smacked silly by the ghost of bribes past. Darn! As we say, our bad luck is worst only. So just as Kaushik Basu, chief economic advisor in the finance ministry, stated that the government was looking at possible changes in law to give immunity to bribe-givers to help transparency, the cash-for-votes scam resurfaced with a vengeance to rock Parliament. According to a WikiLeaks expose, sneaky American diplomats in India had reported that the last United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had bribed members of Parliament (MP) to buy their votes during the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2008. Dr Basu, of course, was talking of more mundane cases of bribery, in the context of a policy paper being prepared to combat corruption intelligently and through critical policy changes. Right now, Indian law sees both giving and taking a bribe as offences. And under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, a bribe-giver is protected only if he does it to nab the bribe-taker. For years, many have been pointing out the unfairness of this law that further victimises the victim. Now, finally the government seems ready to break the nexus between such shifty givers and takers that would help people report corruption without fear of punishment. "Complete immunity should be available to the bribe-givers in all cases", Dr Basu said. And right then comes the charge revealed by WikiLeaks that the last UPA government doled out crores to buy the confidence of the House and stay in power. Now, it wouldn't do to claim that the alleged bribe-giver (i.e. the government seeking the confidence of the House) should get immunity while those who received the bribe (i.e., voting MPs including those who are supposed to have happily pocketed the dough and then not voted for the government) should be prosecuted. So "complete immunity" to "bribe-givers in all cases" may not work. Perhaps, we need to look at the mechanics of bribery and the role of compulsion. Compulsion does fuel most of our corruption. A study by Trace International, an anti-bribery organisation, found that 77 per cent of all reported bribes in India were out of compulsion, not real choice. Most bribes — 51 per cent — were paid to access the timely delivery of a service to which we are entitled. We have all faced this demand for chai-paani of varying lavishness, most of us have given in, the rest are probably still fighting to get their water connection installed or police case registered. Next came bribing as self-preservation — to avoid harm, at 16 per cent. Then there was the matter of the kickback, where 10 per cent had to be coughed up to receive your legitimate payments for services rendered. All that's compulsion, wouldn't you say? Bribing just to keep going, to live your life, to stay alive. Out of bribes given to gain unfair advantage, three per cent went to influence government officials, four per cent to get inappropriately favourable treatment and five per cent to win new business. So only 12 per cent of bribes were paid to get an edge over others. That bribes play a vital role in Indian business is common knowledge. A couple of years ago Transparency International did a study on countries most willing to pay bribes abroad, and apna India topped that Bribe Payer's Index. In certain areas, we have unparalleled expertise. From the angle of those demanding bribes in our country, it turns out that 91 per cent of demands is from government chaps. National-level government officials lead the pack with 33 per cent, the police come a close second with 30 per cent, state government and city officials come a joint third at 10 per cent each, state employees are fourth at six per cent and after most of the pie is mopped up, representatives of the ruling party can still claim two per cent. And you thought government service was just about warming chairs? Our bribescape ranges from the sublime to the magnificent. Right now, trapped in an unstoppable roller-coaster of scams — from the Commonwealth Games to the 2G spectrum scam, from Adarsh apartments to bulletproof jackets, from paid news to cash for votes, among numerous others — we have a kaleidoscopic vision of how money makes the world go round. What we don't have, though, is a clear picture of how to stop it and get off. The Congress-led UPA government's attempt to curb corruption could bring this roller-coaster screeching to a halt, predictably with some unfortunate fallouts. But to bring in real reform, we need intelligent changes in law. And our legal system — though not beyond corruption itself — seems ready for it as well. This month, the Supreme Court made two significant rulings that refused to punish victims and went beyond legal statutes to deliver real justice. First, it ruled in favour of decriminalising suicide, pointing out that one who attempts suicide was in desperate need of help and punishing him would be unfair. In another case, it ruled that a woman and her family cannot be treated as an accused under the Dowry Prohibition Act for giving dowry at the time of marriage. The woman is a victim and not culpable, it said. As the judiciary refuses to treat victims of crime as criminals themselves, the time is ripe to push for immunity for bribe-givers who are essentially victims. I only hope that we do not get distracted by these high-profile, high-value bribery cases that shake up the national imagination. Even if it sounds unfair, immunity to all bribe-givers may work. If the bribe-taker knows that he can be safely put away by the bribe-giver at any time, he may be less likely to accept so graciously. The fact remains that no one can force a bribe down your throat — but a bribe-taker can indeed withhold services or endanger lives to force the giver to bribe him. The two are never on par. Of course, it may seem more civilised to have a case-by-case evaluation of which bribe-giver gets immunity and which does not. Sadly, that allows too much discretionary powers to decision makers. Usually, in our country, discretionary powers are not conducive to justice. They are used merely for profit. Why on earth did the silly old cash-for-votes scam have to erupt now? Nah, our bad luck is worst only. *Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine. She can be contacted at: sen@littlemag.com

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

BEST PROSECUTOR

SC 'REQUEST' DAMNS UPA-II

 

WITH corruption-related thunderclaps bursting on an almost daily basis, not too much "play" was given to the Supreme Court's asking the Central Bureau of Investigation to appoint the best person as public prosecutor to conduct the 2G Spectrum trial in a special court that will be appointed soon. That Senior Counsel KK Venugopal appearing for the CBI said he would "take instructions" confirms that it had been in all seriousness that the Bench (coram: Singhvi and Ganguly JJ) had made that "request" on Wednesday. Does that suggest that there are reasons to apprehend/suspect that the CBI, obviously under government directive, would present a poor case before the court so as to allow the perpetrators of the biggest financial scam in India's history (at least the biggest uncovered thus far) to get off the hook?


In such a major investigation it ought to have been taken for granted that a most professional prosecution would follow a probe by the country's key criminal investigative agency: that the apex court deemed it necessary to make the point it did forcefully damns the machinery headed by the law minister. Only the brazenness with which UPA-II has gone about the 2G Spectrum allocation affair ~ no need to recall in detail Kapil Sibal's "take" on the subject ~ would render the government immune to the judicial sting. It is difficult to avoid linking the court's request with the repeatedly iterated assertion of a former Director of the CBI that the agency has little say in the judicial furtherance of its probes.


It was in the context of the failures of various aspects of the Bofors inquiries failing to stand judicial scrutiny that Joginder Singh made it clear from whom the government's law officers took instructions, but there is more than a possibility of that holding true of other cases of politically-facilitated corruption. The insistence on an efficient prosecutor may superficially appear trivial in comparison with the court showing the door to the former Central Vigilance Commissioner but there is a common root: one which has its blossoms in the increasing perception that Dr Manmohan Singh heads the most corrupt government that the Republic has known. One that has raped the nation of its honour.


FUNDS FOR JOBS

CENTRE'S BELATED TURNING OF THE SCREW

Thursday's decision of the Government of India to monitor the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme comes horribly late in the day, approximately seven years after it was floated by UPA-I. It may not be possible to rectify the damage that has been caused already, reducing this profound initiative in public policy and social welfare to a gigantic public sector failure. The Centre's blueprint suggests that all or nearly most of the states are culpable. Not that Congress regimes are above board; and it would be less than fair for the spin-doctors to cavil that the Centre is intent on needling the non-Congress states.
  The Centre ought also to admit that either by accident or design, its system of monitoring has been inexcusably poor. It is justified nonetheless in its decision to check release of funds if the implementation is ineffective. Funds are to be stopped under Section 27 of the Act if a state does not respond to allegations of failure. This section has been integral to the parliamentary legislation since it was passed. The government can be said to have woken up late to "audit and media reports" that have exposed the "anomalies" since the scheme's inception.  For the states as much as the Centre, the incompetence has been uniform in the implementation of a scheme that was renamed after the Mahatma.

As critical as the withholding of funds is the need to ascertain the factors why the guaranteed job initiative has been reduced to a fizzle. Chiefly, why hasn't the 100 days' guaranteed work been ensured?  Have the panchayats and the state governments failed to cover a wide enough field?  Are the local quangos involved in a fiscal foozle irrespective of the party in power? In Bengal, for instance, the panchayats under the CPI-M and Trinamul are equally corrupt. The audit must go to the root of the malaise. "Ineffective implementation" is the eventual outcome that ought not to be confused with the symptoms. After seven years, the scheme demands a degree of assertion in place of tinkering.


SATELLITE TAKES OVER

PETROL PILFERAGE AND HUMAN FAILURE

THE Chief Secretary's directive to check the pilferage of fuel suggests that the crime has assumed serious proportions in West Bengal, though the mafia may not be murderous as in UP and Maharashtra. The formula prescribed makes it pretty obvious that the modus operandi must have been known both to the administration and the oil companies. The illegality appears to have spread at an alarming rate if a satellite tracking system has to be installed to monitor the movement of trucks that carry petroleum products. Implicit is the failure of the district police administration to spot the pilferage from vehicles that are made to stop on the highway by unscrupulous dealers in fuel.

The pilferage and blackmarketing could not have spread to the extent that it has if the traffic authorities and a section of the dealers had not acted in cahoots with the pilferers. West Bengal lacks officers intrepid enough to personally open the can of worms. The Chief Secretary's directive to the Enforcement branch to  intensify raids near the state's seven oil depots confirms that even the minimum precautions were not in place till the first week of this month. It was only after Mr Samar Ghosh met members of the petroleum dealers' association that a plan of action has begun to be crafted.

The crime is no less serious than in UP and Maharashtra where officers had to pay with their lives for attempting to stem the rot. Not that the government and the dealers were unaware of the methods followed. In the absence of administrative action, the satellite-based tracking system will monitor the movement of loaded tankers. Should a tanker stop for 15 minutes with its engine switched off, it could be assumed that the oil is being pilfered. Clearly, both the administration and the petroleum companies are aware of what exactly happens and how. And aside from suspecting a nexus between the drivers and the locals, little or nothing has been done in tangible terms. It is essentially a human failure, and it must be mildly amusing that both the government and the dealers have left it to the satellite to make amends for administrative deficit.

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

DANCING TO WIKILEAKS' BEAT!

INDIA IS PERFORMING MONKEY!

RAJINDER PURI


Nobody even vaguely acquainted with this scribe's views would doubt his opposition to the UPA government. Repeatedly the government's actions have been faulted. Repeatedly accountability has been demanded from the government. Resignation has been demanded from the Prime Minister. Explanation regarding alleged personal corruption has been demanded from the UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi.

 

For example on 1 November 2006, fresh audiotapes, related to the aborted HDW and Airbus scams, led this scribe to warn the PM to reactivate investigation of both these scams. He wrote: "If the PM does not reactivate investigation in the HDW and Airbus corruption cases he runs the risk of himself being seen as abettor, and part of the conspiracy… If he fails to take appropriate action, there could emerge endeavours to obtain the President's permission to move against him in a court of law."


After fresh correspondence between the PM and A Raja related to the 2G scam was released this scribe wrote on 23 December 2010: "The released correspondence between Raja and the PM suggests more than violating the constructive responsibility principle. PM had full knowledge of what was being done… Dr Manmohan Singh's position as Prime Minister has become untenable. He must resign."


On the basis of information published in a book by Yevgenia Albats, a former member of the official Soviet KGB Commission, this scribe demanded explanation from Mrs Sonia Gandhi regarding payments allegedly made to her by the KGB. This demand was repeated on 15 August 2006, 18 November 2006 and 26 April 2009. This scribe wrote: "If the Albats allegation published in a reputed research book is false, Mrs Sonia Gandhi should promptly deny it. Otherwise, her silence could be perceived as assent. The government remained silent. But so did all the opposition parties! Why? Are the opposition leaders themselves also vulnerable and compelled to maintain discreet silence? Draw your own conclusions."


Other equally stringent demands for accountability were made to the government. Not once was any allegation made against the government contradicted. Not once did the government respond. Not once did a single opposition leader echo the allegation or seek an explanation from the government. Now it seems that the opposition is uniting at last to demand the government's resignation. If the government can be ousted it will be most welcome. But why is the opposition waking up only now? The reason for that leaves little room for comfort.


The opposition has gone on an overdrive because of the WikiLeaks exposure of US cables published in The Hindu. Opposition leaders who were tongue-tied throughout occasions when several individuals including this scribe had furnished information about documented corruption and misdemeanours by the government actionable under law, are today frothing at the mouth spluttering demands for the government's resignation. The editor of The Hindu, Mr N Ram, on TV justified the opposition by stating that while all the current WikiLeaks disclosures such as money being paid to win votes had been made earlier by the opposition without clinching results, now the disclosures had merited a revival. But then he floundered. He said he could not vouch for the veracity of the leaked US cables or whether these could be admitted as evidence in a court of law. Lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani was more circumspect than either opposition leaders, who ought to have known better, or sections of the media. He said that all that the WikiLeaks exposures merited was a fresh investigation.
TV anchors went to town assuming that all content in the released cables was gospel truth simply because the information emanated from official US sources. They should have reminded themselves about the veracity or otherwise of all information emanating from official Indian sources. Or is it that our great Uncle Sam in Washington cannot ever be wrong? Ah, that is the nub of the problem! The collective opposition response betrays a pathetic servility to the US. It is ironical that the Left, that never tires of castigating the US of calumny, is also displaying such touching faith in the veracity of its cables right now.
Well, Mr Ajit Singh has rubbished the references made to him in the released US cables. He pointed out factual errors. His party had three MPs not four. He denied voting for the government. Mr Nachiketa Kapoor described as aide to Congress MP Satish Sharma allegedly showed loads of banknotes to a US diplomat for distribution to opposition MPs. He has denied meeting formally any US diplomat, displaying any money, or having been an aide to Mr Sharma. He has demanded a thorough probe in the whole affair and threatened to sue for defamation those who put out the information. It could be bravado. It could be the truth. But a TV anchor argued that perhaps Mr Sharma acted individually and not on behalf of the Congress party. He assumed thereby that the leaked cable could not be wrong and by implication Mr Kapoor was wrong. Why? Because Mr Kapoor is not an American but Indian?


This hidden servility, that lies at the heart of the Indian elite, makes the nation particularly vulnerable. The West can at any time of its choosing manipulate India and make it hurtle or halt. We have reduced ourselves to acting like puppets. One fervently hopes this government goes even if it is for the wrong reason. One also hopes that this opposition does not replace it because that would continue drift towards disaster. One hopes for a mid-term general election. That might throw up a new class of leaders less servile to foreign influence and more committed to homegrown democracy.


The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

'WE NEED REGULATIONS AND GUARANTEED IMPLEMENTATION'

 THE SATURDAY INTERVIEW

 

SUNITA Narain, well-known environmentalist and director-general of the Centre for Science and Environment, has carved a niche for herself by persistently drawing attention to issues of environmental neglect that have recently been highlighted by violations of coastal zone regulations by the Lavasa project in Pune and the Adarsh Housing Society scam in Mumbai. Winner of the Padma Shri and the Stockholm Water Prize, she has been striving to bring about reform in environmental policies. As a member of the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority for the National Capital Region ~ a statutory body set up under the Environment Protection Act with a mandate from the Supreme Court ~ she monitors and implements strategies for reducing pollution in Delhi and other cities across India. In an interview with ABHIJEET  ANAND, she spoke about a range of issues. Excerpts:

 

The tussle between environment concerns and development is an old one. But the industrial lobby appears to be getting stronger. How can a balance be struck between the two?

 

We need development. We need industry. But we also need to preserve our environment and our resources for future generations. A balance, therefore, is needed. What we need, perhaps, are stronger regulations. And we need to ensure implementation of those regulations.


Isn't the "no-go" policy farcical since the government clears most mining projects, the exceptions being few and far between?

 

The "no-go" policy is just an idea at the moment. The very fact that projects are being allowed in forested areas in an ad hoc manner points to the fact that no such policy actually exists or is being followed.


What implications can the violation of coastal zone regulations have on the environment?

 

Very severe implications. Coasts have extremely fragile bio-diversity and ecosystems and any disturbance can upset their delicate balance. This can impact millions of livelihoods that depend on coastal resources and expose coastal territories to the vagaries of nature and climate change.

Many Acts meant to preserve the environment and passed by the Centre are not implemented in letter and spirit by the states. What can be done?
   As I said before, we need regulations and we need to ensure they are implemented. Both the Centre and state governments need to work together on this.

There was a lot of confusion over whether bamboo is a tree or grass. Finally, it was settled that it is grass ~ non-timber forest produce. Are there other areas on which there is a similar lack of clarity?
   Biologically, bamboo is categorised as a grass. The Supreme Court has accepted this definition as well. The Forest Rights Act has defined it as minor forest produce. This is for the first time we have a definition of minor forest produce. I think there should not be any lack of clarity on this now. In the context of forests and their resources, we don't think there is any other area where there is such a similar lack of clarity. But I must say that forest laws across the country still need to be reconciled with relatively new and progressive laws like the Forest Act and the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act that also deal with local forest resources.

Is there an inherent conflict among all the legislation enacted for the preservation of the environment, forests and wildlife?
   Multiple Acts naturally overlap ~ for instance, some provisions in the Water, Air and Environment Protection Acts may get repeated in either or all of them. But we don't think there are inherent conflicts.

What is the basis of the Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index created by the Union environment ministry to measure overall pollution intensity in an area? Is it dependable?
   The index has its problems. It does not look at resource scarcity and has missed out on many areas, such as mining towns and centres. Moreover, we do not agree with the way the ministry is withdrawing names from this list on the basis of action plans; the basis for removing names should be much stronger.

Is there a need to amend the Forest Rights Act?
   I don't think we need to amend the Forest Rights Act. It has come into existence after a long struggle and has been drafted taking into consideration substantial inputs from various groups. What we need to do now is to clarify the Act's provisions and bring in uniform understanding/interpretation across the country. States need to be on the same plane of understanding of the Act's provisions. As I said earlier, the Central government must, for example, clarify to the states that bamboo is now minor forest produce as defined by the Act.

What can be done by the government to ensure there is transparency in the grant of land titles to claimants under the Forest Rights Act?
Elaborate procedures have been laid out under the Act. If you adhere to these in letter and spirit, there will be transparency. The current problem is that lots of claims under the Act are being rejected without any reasons being given. Worse, there has been no consistent and comprehensive popularisation of the Act at the village level. So people are also not fully aware of their rights. This aspect of such a critical law must be strengthened. 

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

ON RECORD

 

I consider it improper that the play "Pashu Khamar" (Animal Farm) was not allowed to be staged in Hooghly.
West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

 

We have discussed the seat-sharing sincerely but the talks remained inconclusive. We shall discuss it again.
Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee after his meeting with Trinamul supremo Mamata Banerjee.


In the interests of agriculture, industry, peace, democracy and progress, and, to form the eighth Left Front government, cast your votes in favour of Left Front candidates.


A slogan written in bold on the back cover of the 14-page manifesto.


What else can I do when doctors' appointments have been stalled but tell all the patients visiting my ward's health units for treatment to queue up before the EC's office here and ask for treatment from them?
Atin Ghosh, member, Mayor-in-Council (health) of Kolkata Municipal Corporation.


I told my father that I was thinking of joining active politics. He said, "It's your decision... But my blessings will always be there for you." Finally, I shook off my dilemma and decided to join the Congress.
Abhijit Mukherjee, Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee's son.


The youth and capital that have fled this state need to be brought back. Five years is a good enough time for the job.
Amit Mitra, Ficci secretary-general and a possible candidate of the Trinamul Congress in the West Bengal assembly election.


You couldn't remove the chief minister, but, if you want to uproot corruption in the country, at least remove the two ministers.


Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam, attacking BJP-ruled Karnataka for openly indulging in illegal mining of iron ore.

It's very, very unlikely. I don't think we have any reason to worry on that count.


SK Dash, head of the atmospheric sciences department at IIT-Delhi, that the radiation from Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant is unlikely to reach India.


Actually, I feel lucky. Look at the people over there ~ they have nothing.


Yuka Watanabe, a Japanese woman whose house withstood the tsunami.


We will give Rs 10 lakh to the team. This is just an incentive. This triumph will help the team do better in future.
Cab president Jagmohan Dalmiya after Bengal won the T20 trophy beating Madhya Pradesh in the final.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

HUMAN FOLLY CAN AGGRAVATE NATURE'S FURY

BHARAT DOGRA


WHILE the earthquake in the sea bed that caused extensive damage in Japan was a natural disaster, the subsequent tsunami (which can be called a secondary disaster) that wreaked even more devastation occurred when the natural disaster (or the primary disaster) came in contact with man-made hazardous establishments (in this case, nuclear plants). When the hazardous establishment is not fully prepared for worst-case projections of various disasters, these can damage the hazardous establishment in such ways as to lead to a secondary disaster. In extreme cases, secondary disasters can even prove more destructive or difficult to control, compared to primary disasters.


 Consider a second possibility: an earthquake in a mountain region causes a lot of damage and also leads to the failure of a big dam which, in turn, unleashes colossal flash floods. In this case, the secondary disaster (in the form of flash floods) can spread to a much wider area and cause even more deaths compared to the primary disaster (in this case, an earthquake).


All these possibilities of secondary disasters (triggered when main or original natural disasters damage hazardous establishments) should be carefully examined, particularly in the wake of the extremely tragic events in Japan starting from the tsunami of 11 March.


   The need for such careful examination is particularly acute in India where many nuclear plants are being built in cyclone/tsunami-prone coastal areas and where many colossal hydel dam projects are being set up in seismic mountain areas, including the Himalayan region.


   It has been a long established practice in India that while safety considerations are certainly studied and examined, once high-level decisions to go ahead with some projects are taken these safety considerations are then generally not allowed to stand in the path of the execution of these projects.


   To give just one example of how extremely hazardous projects can be cleared in India, let's see what the Environment Appraisal Committee (River Valley Projects) of the Union ministry of environment and forests said in its February 1990 report about the controversial Tehri dam project. "Taking note of the unacceptable risk involved, extremely poor status of readiness to deal with the hazards, and unprecedented damage in case of a breach or over-topping the Committee reiterates its considered view that it would be irresponsible to clear the Tehri Dam as currently proposed."


More specifically, the Committee said about the hazards of Tehri Dam Project, "Therefore, considering the almost total certainty that a strong earthquake of magnitude greater than 8.0 on the Richter scale will occur in the region during the life of the dam, and considering that the dam design does not provide for such an earthquake, the Committee has no option but to conclude that construction of the Tehri dam, as proposed, involves totally unjustified risks. The magnitude of the disaster that would follow, if the dam collapsed, strengthens the Committee's opinion that approval to the construction of this dam, as proposed, and at the present site, would be irresponsible."


   This official committee said that the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation had not given the necessary attention to the hazards and risks of the TDP. This report said, "Though despite repeated requests the THDC did not provide the Committee with the risk analysis in terms of the impact of dam failure on the life, property and cultural heritage, our own tentative calculations suggest that if the Tehri dam collapsed, it would cause a flood wave which would wipe out Rishikesh and possibly Hardwar. This wave would wash away most of the settlements around this region."


   Now it is well known that Rishikesh-Hardwar is not only densely populated but, in addition, on several auspicious days the number of pilgrims and visitors from other areas can be greater than the entire local population.


   This was not the only officially constituted committee of experts that advised against going ahead on the TDP. Four year earlier, in 1996, SK Roy, chairman of the Working Group for the Assessment of the Environment Impact of Tehri Dam, had said that work on the TDP should be halted. But despite the advice of its own experts, the government went ahead and built the TDP.


   In the case of nuclear plants, the authorities can be even more obstinate in ignoring safety and environmental concerns, not to mention the livelihoods of farmers and fisherfolk. Once, due to political, diplomatic, strategic, business and other reasons, high-level decisions have been taken regarding the building and site-selection of nuclear plants, the government simply goes ahead, sweeping aside all safety and environmental concerns.
   Thus many nuclear plants have been cleared in recent times in cyclone- and tsunami-prone coastal areas, notwithstanding the strong objections of local people as well as experts who have taken exception to these nuclear plants and agreements with foreign suppliers on safety grounds.


   The safety audits of these nuclear plants, as well as several other hazardous establishments, have not taken into account the worst possible scenarios of various natural disasters and their impacts on these hazardous plants. In these times of climate change, it is widely agreed that the intensity, frequency and destructive capacity of many natural disasters can increase compared to what has been observed and recorded in the past. Japan learnt this at considerable cost when tsunami waves that surpassed past projections and expectations struck the Land of the Rising Sun on 11 March.


   We also need to learn from such extreme disaster events of recent times. We need to be extremely cautious about setting up high-hazard establishments (nuclear plants, high dams, storage facilities for dangerous chemicals and inflammable/ explosive products) in areas that are exposed to heavy damage by catastrophic disasters such as cyclones, tsunamis, quakes and forest fires. In fact, highly hazardous establishments of a considerable size that involve unacceptably high risks should be avoided at any site.


   What is most objectionable in the present paradigm of development is that some vulnerable areas (where disaster exposure is high) are being selected for a particularly high concentration of hazardous plants — for example, concentration of nuclear plants in cyclone-prone coastal areas and high dams in seismic mountain areas. Such unacceptably high risks for vulnerable areas are not acceptable and such hazardous high risk planning for vulnerable areas should be changed as early as possible.


The writer is currently a Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

SEARCH FOR A BALANCE

The terrible threat facing Japan and its fallout across the world have reopened the debate regarding nuclear power. There is an absolutist position that rejects nuclear power in any form, peaceful or otherwise. An intermediate position argues that the use of this power for peaceful purposes, with the necessary safeguards, is the only option that the world has as a source of alternative energy. Proponents of this view also argue that other sources of energy, especially solar, are far too expensive for generalized use. This view does not deny that nuclear energy has its dangers but it says that the potential threat levels can be reduced through rigorous regimes of safeguards. Recent events in Japan, a country known for its stringent implementation of safeguards in nuclear plants and also for its commitment against the use of nuclear power for military purposes, have demonstrated that against certain kinds of calamities no safeguards are good enough. Under the circumstances, there is the suggestion — assuming that nuclear power is the only viable source of alternative energy — that nuclear plants should be made completely safe. This would require a massive investment of funds on the part of various countries to undertake research in this very specialized field.

This suggestion prises open an old but important debate on the role of the State in funding and directing scientific research. A related and an even more contentious issue is the one that pits knowledge qua knowledge against knowledge for use. It is a reasonable assumption that if the State were to fund research it would like to direct that research along channels that it considers useful. Can research, especially research that is path-breaking, be directed at producing particular and utilitarian results? Scientific breakthroughs are often unpredictable and chance driven. The writer, Arthur Koestler, described scientific discoveries as being akin to sleep-walking. The fall of an apple can rouse a genius to formulate the basic laws of nature. Thus there is no guarantee that State-driven research can lead to breakthroughs in research. There is also the danger that a State, as happened under fascist regimes, may use scientists for furthering its own pernicious agenda.

The pure pursuit of scientific knowledge, without any consideration of its practical use, could lead to a situation where scientists only think about the most abstract of problems without bothering about how in the real world nuclear plants can be made safer so that nuclear energy can be used without any potential threats. There is a middle ground, of course, but it is an elusive and a shifting one. The crisis in Japan highlights the urgency of locating that ground so that a balance can be struck in scientific research between State-sponsored research and individual talent, and between research that pursues knowledge and that which chases utility.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

UNTIL IT IS THE RIGHT TIME

PETER BURLEIGH WAS NOT QUITE RIGHT ABOUT RAHUL GANDHI SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY

Contrary to Peter Burleigh's impression, Rahul Gandhi is not a "young man in a hurry". He is more cautious and circumspect and willing to abide by the mature advice of veterans like Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew — who warned him not to squander the tremendous asset of name recognition until he was sure he could deliver — than his winning ways might suggest.

"Young man in a Hurry" is the title of the confidential cable Burleigh sent to the state department on May 27, 2009 when he was charge d'affaires in New Delhi for the United States of America. It's a phrase I have used many times about Rahul's father, not disparagingly but to convey Rajiv's anxiety to overhaul the governmental machinery overnight without making allowance for personal sensibilities, bureaucratic procedure or the traditional tempo of Indian life. Lee felt sorry for Rajiv who had been forced by his brother's sudden death into a job neither he nor his wife wanted. "I thought he was ill prepared for it." He was "a political innocent who found himself in the middle of a minefield".

Everything suggests that Rahul is determined to avoid that predicament. He was not necessarily boasting when he said he "could have been PM at twenty-five if (he) wanted to". The point is, he didn't. Nor was he being dramatic when he told a small group of Singaporeans, "I had consciously decided I would go into politics the day my father was assassinated to carry on with the work he was doing." Here, then, is no "reluctant debutante" (a phrase I also used about Rajiv) of politics, but a man of steely determination who was a month short of 21 when he took that vow. Learning statecraft from Lee, a battle-scarred old warhorse if ever there was one, is part of the strategy of preparation.

These nuances may have escaped Peter whom Calcutta remembers with affection. As political officer in the American consulate-general in the early 1970s, he made unorthodox friends on whom he could practise his faltering Bengali. Quiet, introvert and a bachelor, he could not have presented a greater contrast to his predecessor, George Griffin, and his wife, Chrissie — who made a flamboyant couple. George was involved during the hectic run-up to the Bangladesh war in a clandestine move to persuade Khondakar Mustaque Ahmed, the notional Bangladesh government-in-exile's foreign secretary, and Hossain Ali, Pakistan's deputy high commissioner in Calcutta, to reject independence, oppose India and support Pakistani unity. It would have been a tremendous coup for Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger (and, of course, for Pakistan's Yahya Khan) if Khondakar, who was scheduled to present the Bangladesh case before the United Nations, had instead publicly called for a settlement within Pakistan.

The plan was foiled but Griffin was not forgiven. Ten years later, India refused to accept him as political counsellor in the embassy in New Delhi. He had additionally blotted his copybook by then, according to Soviet sources, by allegedly using his position as deputy chief of mission in the American embassy in Kabul to help the Central Intelligence Agency build up the Afghan mujahedeen who were involved in a plot to murder Indira Gandhi. Indians believed he spread disinformation in India about the Afghan war.

George never forgot or forgave the accusations or the refusal to accept his New Delhi posting. It would have enabled him to rejoin his wife who had set up house in New Delhi while he was in Kabul and Islamabad. Years later, he maintained that whatever he did in Calcutta was under orders from his superiors. As for the disinformation charge, he claimed to have briefed New Delhi reporters only once, and that, too, at a formal press conference that the United States Information Service (as it still was) organized. The measure of his bitterness was evident in the close watch he kept on the subsequent career of the Indian diplomat the US rejected in a tit-for-tat gesture.

Peter Burleigh, too, was often reviled, and for absurd reasons. His visits to the Coffee House in College Square were regarded as snooping; eyebrows were raised excitedly when he took a bus from Kalimpong to Gangtok while holidaying in the hills. It was scandalous that an American diplomat rolling in dollars should travel by bus. When the Sikkim troubles erupted soon afterwards, they were blamed on him. I advised Peter to demand an Indian freedom medal since the Sikkimese demonstrations were by supposed democrats who wanted to eliminate an allegedly repressive monarchy and find their true home in Bharat Mata's ample bosom. But the crescendo rose to such a pitch that Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then American ambassador, went to see Indira Gandhi with the blunt message that he, too, would go if Peter were declared persona non grata.

Few American diplomats are as supportive of India as Peter Burleigh. It was during his term as US counter-terrorism coordinator and because of his thorough investigations that the state department was forced to admit that "there were continuing credible reports throughout 1991 of official Pakistani support for Kashmiri militant groups engaged in terrorism in Indian-controlled Kashmir, as well as support to Sikh militant groups engaged in terrorism in Indian Punjab. This support allegedly includes provision of weapons and training".

Never before or since has the US criticized its protégé as bluntly. Armed with the Burleigh report, Nicholas Platt, US ambassador in Islamabad, delivered a letter from James Baker, the secretary of state, to Nawaz Sharif, by then prime minister, with the warning that the US might have to declare Pakistan a "terrorist state". But for all his proven friendship for India and his political and administrative courage, Peter is an impressionable man. His assessment of Rahul Gandhi as regards political nepotism, the caste factor and inner-party democracy may owe something to a personable young man's charm and fluency.

A Chinese Singaporean academic who met Rahul in Singapore called him "a rookie out to learn". That was also Rahul's description of himself. "If somebody makes sense, I listen." And the octogenarian Lee Kuan Yew made eminently good sense. Rahul met others of course, including George Yeo, the foreign minister, and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the education minister, during his week's learning in Singapore. Gopinath Pillai, an astute businessman and part-time diplomat who chairs the Institute of South Asian Studies, organized a little soirée for him. Kishore Mahbubani, diplomat and academic, was present. So was another academic, Chin Kin Wah, from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. There were visits to the port and airport, colleges, public corporations, an eye centre and even a beauty therapy salon. Rahul was particularly interested in Singapore's institutes of technical and vocational training.

But Lee was the centrepiece, Lee who told him he had "an enormous advantage" in the television age but "just looking good" isn't good enough. Rahul would have to prove himself. He should not promise anything he could not deliver. He should build up a competent team of like-minded aides so that a strong administrative machinery could implement his policies. Later, when I was researching my book, Looking East to Look West: Lee Kuan Yew's Mission India, the veteran politician spelt out for me the advice he had given Rahul, "If he is wise, he should not take the lead position until he is fully equipped to understand all parts of the complex and very intricate whole of India. Because his drawing power is very big and can vanish in one term at the helm, he should not take over until he has had enough experience to understand how it all works, and surrounds himself with very able people to run it until then."

Rahul Gandhi seems to have taken that advice to heart. Far from being a young man in a hurry, he is biding his time.

sunandadr@yahoo.co.in

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

EDITORIAL

ABJECT SURRENDER

'THE DEAL TO GET DAVIS' RELE-ASE HAS RAISED QUESTIONS.'


The US has managed to secure the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis by paying blood money to the families of the two people he shot dead in Lahore seven weeks ago. Under Pakistani sharia law, relatives of a murder victim can pardon the killer. The payment of blood money — according to reports around $2.4 million was paid — in exchange for Davis' release is therefore legal in Pakistan. However, questions are being raised over how this deal was done. The families appear to have been forced to pardon Davis. Western journalists have revealed that even a couple of days ago, the victims' kin had stressed they wanted justice, not compensation. Lawyers of the victims' families claim they were not kept in the loop and were held in detention for several hours while the deal was being negotiated. It is said that the families were under immense pressure from the right wing parties too to not pardon Davis. Ultimately, the Americans won the day.


How compromised Pakistan's sovereignty is has been laid bare by the Davis saga. Unlike the missile strikes by US drones in Pakistan's tribal areas that are happening far from public gaze, Washington's heavy-handed management of the Davis crisis has unfolded before the eyes of the Pakistani masses. The end of the crisis leaves several questions unanswered. What for instance is Islamabad's position on Davis? Was he a diplomat? If he was, why was he armed? At the height of the crisis, the US promised that Davis would be tried in a US court. The least it can do now is to keep that pledge.


Sections in Pakistan have said that Davis' release was a sensible thing to do. Indeed, the tension over Davis' arrest had thrown US-Pakistan relations into turmoil. Given Pakistan's deep dependence on US aid, fraying relations was hurting Islamabad. Davis' release has ended the diplomatic standoff. But there is little reason for the two governments to heave a sigh of relief. The manner in which the US got Davis off the hook and the Pakistan government's facilitation of this is likely to unite opposition parties, the countries religious right-wing and anti-US elements as never before. Riots have already erupted in several cities. Pakistan's beleaguered government, already on the backfoot with regard to its relationship with the US, is likely to emerge weaker from the supposed 'resolution' of the crisis over Davis.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

CURBING FREEDOM

'BLOGGERS WILL BE AT THE MERCY OF THE AUTHORITIES.'


If new forms of media have given people novel ways of expression, attempts to curb the freedom are also being planned in various ways. Governments by nature are not comfortable with the freedom enjoyed by citizens which they are afraid could be used against them. The excuses for curbing freedom are generally same — threat to public order, defamation, obscenity and many others  which are often subjective. The story of freedom of expression is a story of fight against these curbs. There is a fresh threat to that freedom in India coming from the government. The draft Information Technology (Due Diligence by Intermediaries) Rules may badly hit blogging which is an important tool of expression now.


The rules lay down that service providers should not allow abusive, blasphemous, harassing, inconvenient or various other kinds of information to be published and give them the power to remove the objectionable material themselves. They certainly have to do so on instruction by an authority. Interpretation is subjective and therefore there is bound to be no agreement on the nature of  the objectionable material. Bloggers will be at the mercy of the authorities and there will be no assurance that their views will be allowed to reach the world. They will also be responsible for others' posts on their blog. One rule says that information that belongs to another person cannot be published. This might make it difficult for whistle-blowers or journalists to support information or a story with the publication of a document. Information Technology Act 2000 provides the regulatory framework for online publications. But the rules are being changed arbitrarily and against public interest.

Internet has become a lively medium which has expanded the scope of freedom of expression. It has allowed participation of people in debates and discussions on issues of public interest. Online publications have become an important part of social and political activity. The power can be seen from the role they played in the popular protests in Tunisia, Egypt and now in Libya. Perhaps it is because they have become a powerful new medium that the authorities want to curb them. But the restrictions sought to be imposed through these rules are against the freedom of expression guaranteed to all citizens. They should be opposed by all those who value freedom.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

DEATH BY CHOICE

BY SUDHANSHU RANJAN


A terminally ill Pope John Paul II preferred to remain at the Vatican in his apartment overlooking St Peter's Square until his death.


In a historic judgment in Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs Union, the supreme court rejected active euthanasia but legalised passive, non-voluntary euthanasia and laid down clear guidelines that only a high court bench of at least two judges can allow plea for passive euthanasia after bonafide consent of patient's relatives and the opinion of an expert panel of 'reputed doctors' comprising a neurologist, a psychiatrist and a physician.

It means that life-sustaining drugs and/or life-support system can be withdrawn in case of patients who are brain dead or in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) and about whom doctors are convinced that their revival is impossible. The court, however, rejected the appeal for mercy killing of Aruna. By laying down guidelines, the court has invoked the 'fill in the vacuum' theory as it did in Lakshmi Kant Pandey vs Union (1987) laying down principles and norms to be followed in the adoption of Indian children by foreigners and Visakha vs Rajasthan (1997) giving elaborate guidelines to stop sexual harassment of women at work place.

In 2005, two deaths in quick succession made world news. Terri Schiavo of Florida died on March 31, neither because of her persistent vegetative state, nor because of her melted cerebral cortex, but because she was left starving for 13 days, not in a famine-stricken third world country but in the United States which abounds in plenty. Fifteen years ago, a heart-wrenching tragedy left her brain dead. Her husband moved the court to remove her feeding tube, which her parents vehemently opposed. The court accepted the husband's prayer.

The decision to remove the feeding tube triggered a fierce debate, like never before in the whole world whether the right to life includes the right to a peaceful, willing and dignified death. The second death was that of Pope John Paul II on  April 3, 2005. The two deaths had intimate similarities.


The pope's refusal to return to hospital despite being 'informed of the gravity of his situation' again threw up the debate whether critically ill patients have the right to spend their remaining lives on their own terms or they should be subjected to full-scale medical intervention. The pontiff preferred to remain at the Vatican in his third-floor apartment overlooking St Peter's Square.


Surprisingly the pope encouraged research to 'enhance and prolong human life' and told doctors it was a moral duty to maintain basic nutrition to patients even in a vegetative state — which brought him in direct conflict with those supporting the decision to remove Terri Schiavo's feeding tubes.


Patients choice

But the pope clarified that patients could refuse drugs that cause unconsciousness or reject extraordinary medical treatment that would lead to a 'precarious and burdensome prolongation of the life.' In fact, the Roman Catholic Church has maintained for long that there is no obligation to use 'extraordinary' or 'disproportionate' means to prolong life — a view that the Declaration on Euthanasia issued by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by Pope John Paul II in 1980 reiterated.


In August 2009, Jeet Narain, a marginal farmer from Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, filed a mercy death: plea for his four sons aged between 10 and 16, all suffering from muscular dystrophy. It sent shockwaves among similar patients struggling against odds to live a life of hope. Muscular dystrophy is a group of over 30 genetic conditions where skeletal muscles that control movement, degenerate progressively. Estimates suggest that one in 3,500 people suffers from muscular dystrophy, but these patients hardly get any support from the government.

'Euthanasia' is a Greek term which means 'good death.' But there is no unanimity over what is a good death. Many people do not find anything good about euthanasia except its name. The debate acquired a new dimension when the Netherlands became the first country in the world to enact a law in 1984 legalising physician-assisted suicide and voluntary active euthanasia. Belgium was the next to legalise euthanasia, in 2002.
Indian mythology in general, espouses the belief that the life and death are in the hands of God and man should not try to tinker with this divine scheme. In Hinduism, it is believed that the sufferings we undergo are 'prarabdha' (destiny) which one cannot escape.

However, Jainism has a different view, with its concept of 'sallekhna' which means weakening the strength of body and passion by taking a vow. 'Santhara' is a process of fasting unto death that starts after a vow of 'sallekhna' is taken.

If mercy killing is legalised, it may open the floodgates of controversy as there are practical difficulties in its application. The possibility of its misuse is also tremendous. The crucial question is whether medical science has reached its apogee where a doctor can certify with certainty that the disease of a terminally-ill person is incurable.

Another question is who will bear the exorbitant cost of keeping alive a patient in a PVS. In Aruna's case, the KEM Hospital filed a moving undertaking that it would take care of Aruna so long as she is alive. But what about others? Who will support poor patients in a PVS? This aspect should also be looked into.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

LOVERS' TALES

BY KHUSHWANT SINGH


There was a time when I was much taken up by Amrita Pritam.


She was fair, petite, pretty, a gifted poet but a poor story teller. She wrote only in Punjabi and was little known outside Punjab. I took upon myself to translate her works into English so that she could get better known in India and the English speaking world.


First I translated her novel 'Pinjar' (The Skeleton). It was published and went into many editions. Then I translated some of her poems. They were published in the brochure distributed when she was given the Jnanpith award by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao.


I refused to share royalties she earned. The only thing I asked her was to tell me the truth about her love affairs as many names were associated with her.


When her turn came to tell me about her love life, she mentioned only one name, Sahir Ludhianvi. And that only through exchange of correspondence. They decided to meet and consummate their relationship. Sahir came from Bombay to Delhi and booked himself in Claridges Hotel. Amrita went to meet him all prepared to give herself to him. They spent a few hours together but there was no sex. By then Sahir was impotent.

I was disappointed by her narration and remarked: "If this was all, I could write your love life behind a postage stamp". She liked my summing up and next episode was entitled 'Raseedee Ticket'.

Amrita's version of her affair with Sahir is at variance with Anoop Sandhu's biography of the poet's biography: 'Life and Lover of Sahir Ludhianvi' (Chetna Prakashan). Sandhu has done his homework and produced a definitive account of the poet's life and work, profusely illustrated by quotations from his poems in Roman Urdu. It was launched on Sahir's 90th birth anniversary on March 8, 2011.

Sahir (magician) was the only son of a prosperous zamindar of Ludhiana through his 11th wife Sardar Begum. The marriage ended in a divorce. Sahir opted to stay with his mother. By the time I met him first in the house of Rafiq and Fatma Zakaria, he had become the topmost lyricist of Hindi films and lived in a nice bungalow in Juhu. I sensed he was very touchy and could also be rude.

He invited us to dine with him. There I met his mother and a young woman, I gathered was her mother's niece. His mother asked me to persuade her son to cut down on his drink. I did not risk doing so, as I was sure he would tell me to mind my own business and turn me out of his house.

Poet and warrior

I have published selection of Gurudev Tagore's songs and works on many occasions. I have in hand Dilip Kumar Mitra's translation of Tagore's eulogy to Banda Bahadur who won the fort to get the better of the Mughals in Sirhind. He was later captured and executed in Delhi. I quote a few verses from Mitra's translation entitled 'Fallen Hero':

On the land of five river,
Braiding tresses of long hair,
Chanting Guru's teachings were steady —
The Shikhs, ruthless, fearless and battle ready.
'Hail Guruji' filled horizon, shouted by everybody.
The newly awakened Shikh,
They did look at the rising sun and divine blessings seek.
'Alakh Niranjan' —
The chanting got louder, shackles were torn.
Naked swords danced in air and all fear gone —
That day Punjab chanted
together, 'Alakh Niranjan'.
What a day that was, dear.
Lakhs of people ready to die, all without fear.
Life and death didn't matter, soul was full of cheer.
On all the banks of five rivers, what a day it was, dear.
In Delhi, at the Mughal palace, the soundly sleeping prince,
Woke up in fear time and again because of the din.
Whose chantings churned the sky at the dead night;
The sky was painted fiery red by whose torch light;
On the land of five rivers,
Did blood of the devouts spill and flow like water:
Like thousand birds rushing towards nests,
They embraced death with
 so much grace.
Thus on the land of five river,
The brave hearts shed blood for mother.

Desi Angrezee



My wife Savinder is fond of talking in English. Once she was telling her friend Lovely. "Lovely, my son, Gagan is ill. Ek week da, na eat da, na sleep da, bus weep da tey cheek da."

Work it out

"2get and 2 forgive creates 2 many problems. Just double it, 4get and 4give solves all the problems.

(Contributed by J P Singh Kaka, Bhopal)

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

LOCK, SHOCK AND BABBLE

BY K J SHENOY


When one barber cuts another barber's hair, which one does all the talking?


I have 'bowed my head' to a galaxy of barbers in my lifetime but I am yet to come across one who, like the Trappist monks, observes a vow of silence. The phrase 'silent barber' is in itself an oxymoron. The quintessential barber is a multi-tasker; while his scissors snip, he plays the talk show host. Unless, of course, he is a practitioner of 'oil pulling' in which case he gargles a mouthful of oil all the time making it difficult for him to talk without causing an 'oil-spill.' Or, maybe, when his doctor placed a thermometer in his mouth and forgot to take it out.


When it comes to his chatter, your friendly neighbourhood barber always finds the 'flavour of the day,' something around which his chat is built. Last Sunday, when I visited my barber, he was developing on the theme of 'the statewide bundh.' His invigorating account on the subject included a scholarly discourse on '5 ways to find food during bundh.'


Unlike other professionals, especially lawyers, a barber is quite lucid in his expressions. He is the only professional whose conversation you can follow, even though he talks over your head! When he holds court, a barber's peppy gushings can be a delight of the grandstand. The absolute depth of his erudition can make Wikipedia sound like pulp.


At a barber's salon, stormy workshops are conducted at which red-hot national and international issues are analysed threadbare. A keynote address by the barber sets in motion the brainstorming plenary sessions on topics ranging from domestic LPG leaks to Wikileaks. It is at a barber's lounge that you can gauge the mood of the society you live in; whether the society is in a jolly mood or if there is a furrow of anxiety on the society's brow. It is at a barber's shop that journos get their scoop.


Present day Gen Y 'hairstylists' have taken the multitasking to a new level. These colts watch the TV (that is kept for the benefit of waiting clientele) while they cut the (h)air. Add this to the customary banter and you get the proverbial powder keg. And if you happen to be on one such barber's chair, you get into 'shear' panic. What if the bloke pokes your eye with the scissors or shaves off your eyebrow? So you ponder over the old adage that the hair on your head is worth two in the barber's brush. Consequently, you try to divert him into a chat on, say, Rajinikanth's 'Enthiran, The Robot' before he starts acting like one. Or else, yours could end up being a case of 'hair today and gone tomorrow.'


Finally, there is one question that has always confounded me: When one barber cuts another barber's hair, which one does all the talking?

 

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

EDITORIAL

SETTLING FORECLOSURE ABUSES

State attorneys general are the traditional defenders of consumers. So when all 50 of them announced an investigation last fall into foreclosure practices at the nation's big banks, there was hope for an unsparing inquiry and a meaningful settlement. Most of all, we hoped that banks would be compelled, at long last, to aggressively modify millions of additional loans.

Unfortunately, a draft settlement recently presented to the nation's biggest banks is unclear on how to achieve that goal. And even before the terms have been clarified, House and Senate Republicans are attacking the proposal. They are arguing, in effect, that banks should not be held accountable for their misdeeds.

The proposal would impose sound reforms, like requiring banks to halt a foreclosure while a loan modification is pending and to streamline the modification process. But there is no mention of how much money banks would have to put toward reworking bad loans or a target number of new loan modifications. It is also impossible to know the extent to which banks would be shielded from future lawsuits in exchange for settling. Without those details, it is all too easy to envision a settlement in which homeowners receive little and banks win broad release from legal liability for unspecified abuses.

Our doubts about the outcome are worsened by the dissension among government officials about what a settlement should achieve. The Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency — the banks' staunchest defenders — have argued for minimal fines. State officials, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau want the broader redress that would come with more loan modifications. Since the aim is for state and federal agencies to join in one global settlement with the banks, differences among people who should be on the same side do not bode well.

Into that mix, The Times's Gretchen Morgenson reported this week that before the release of the draft settlement, the attorneys general did not conduct a full inquiry with subpoenaed documents and sworn depositions. A spokesman for Tom Miller, the Iowa attorney general, who leads the group, defended the investigation. He said the state attorneys, long steeped in foreclosure issues, had extensive knowledge of the problems and needed solutions.

Of course, knowledge is good, but in settlement talks, leverage is better. Banks are vulnerable to prosecution because of robo-signing, as the practice, exposed last year, of filing false court documents in an effort to speed foreclosures is known. But will their feet be held to the fire over other damaging practices? A brief sampling of violations — aired in court cases, Congressional testimony and academic research — include excessive fees, improper denial of loan modifications, irregularities in the packaging of mortgages and conflicts of interest that lead banks to favor foreclosures over modifications.

Unless an inquiry uncovers the extent of those and other violations, it will be impossible to gauge if a settlement is fair. Even the seemingly large settlement sum of $20 billion that has been floated would be a small price for banks to pay if the quid pro quo is to sweep potentially widespread abuses under the rug.

For too long, bank misbehavior has been indulged by lawmakers, regulators, Obama officials and Bush officials before them. As a result, foreclosures have proliferated and loan workouts have lagged, devastating homeowners and the housing market, and Americans' trust in political and financial institutions.

A powerful settlement could begin to repair all that. If it is not forthcoming, state attorneys general should keep open their options to pursue the banks in courts across the land.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A NEW INTERNET PRIVACY LAW?

Considering how much information we entrust to the Internet every day, it is hard to believe there is no general law to protect people's privacy online. Companies harvest data about people as they surf the Net, assemble it into detailed profiles and sell it to advertisers or others without ever asking permission.

So it is good to see a groundswell of support emerging for minimum standards of privacy, online and off. This week, the Obama administration called for legislation to protect consumers' privacy. In the Senate, John Kerry is trying to draft a privacy bill of rights with the across-the-aisle support of John McCain.

Microsoft, which runs one of the biggest Internet advertising networks, said it supports a broad-based privacy law. It has just introduced a version of its Explorer browser that allows surfers to block some tools advertisers use to track consumers' activities online.

It is crucial that lawmakers get this right. There is strong pressure from the advertising industry to water down rules aimed at limiting the data companies can collect and what they can do with it.

Most oppose a sensible proposal by the Federal Trade Commission for a do-not-track option — likely embedded in Web browsers. They have proposed self-regulation instead, and we applaud their desire to do that, but the zeal to self-regulate tends to wane when it is not backed by government rules and enforcement.

Senator Kerry has not yet proposed specific legislation, but he has laid out sound principles. Companies that track people's activities online must obtain people's consent first. They must specify what data they are collecting and how they will use it. They need consumers' go-ahead to use data for any new purpose. They are responsible for the data's integrity. And consumers should have the right to sever their relationship with data collectors and ask for their file to be deleted.

But there are potential areas of concern. Senator Kerry so far has not called for a do-not-track option. He would allow companies to write their own privacy plans and submit them to the F.T.C. for approval.

That would give companies flexibility to adapt their solutions as technology evolved, but it lacks the simplicity and universality of a do-not-track feature. It could yield a dizzying array of solutions that would confuse consumers about their rights and options and make it more difficult to enforce clear standards. Moreover, it would make it tougher for consumers to keep track of how their information is used and to whom it is sold.

Advertising firms still argue that privacy protections could undermine the free Internet, depriving it of ad revenue by reducing advertisers' ability to target consumers. This is overstated. Advertisers will still need to advertise. If many people opt out of behavioral targeting, the firms will find other ways to do it.

Privacy protections are long overdue. We hope the swell of support will lead to significant legislation.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE BROKEN MACHINERY OF DEATH

The Drug Enforcement Administration seized Georgia's sodium thiopental supply this week, after a complaint that the sedative used in the three-drug protocol for execution by lethal injection was imported illegally. The American producer of sodium thiopental stopped making it and the complaint says the purchase of it from an unlicensed British supplier calls into question "the legality and integrity" of how Georgia administers injections.

Texas's supply is running out and it has now announced that it will switch to a one-drug protocol, following the lead first of Oklahoma, then of Ohio, in using another sedative, pentobarbital, for executions. In none of these states have scientific studies been done ensuring that this drug will meet the Supreme Court's requirement that executions not cause severe pain.

The death penalty is capricious, discriminatory and barbaric. The shortage of sodium thiopental has stripped what Justice Harry Blackmun called "the machinery of death" of even a cloak of scientifically based reliability.

We were unpersuaded when the court, by a highly fractured 7-to-2 vote in Baze v. Rees in 2008, upheld the death penalty and the three-drug protocol used by almost all states. It said that the manner in which the State of Kentucky administered it did not pose an unconstitutional risk that someone being put to death would suffer pain that was severe yet undetectable.

Chief Justice John Roberts argued then that the court could make that finding because of an extensive trial record about the use of sodium thiopental. There is far less of a record for the one-drug protocol, which should raise serious doubts about its constitutionality, even with this court.

When Illinois joined New Jersey and New Mexico this month as the third state to abolish the death penalty in the last four years, it made the choice compelled by a long record of judicial abuses, false convictions and other fundamental problems. That should be enough for all states to abandon the penalty once and for all.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

MISSION TO MERCURY

Late on St. Patrick's Day, Eastern time, a spacecraft called Messenger, weighing a little more than a thousand pounds, slipped into an elliptical orbit around the planet Mercury, becoming the only manmade object to orbit the planet closest to the Sun.

Through the coming days, scientists from NASA and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory will check Messenger's systems and begin turning on its instruments. On April 4, observations begin.

Messenger spent nearly seven years in transit and traveled about five billion miles. It will spend one Earth-year studying the mineralogy of Mercury, mapping its surface and magnetic and gravitational fields, and trying to identify the substance covering the planet's north pole. All the while, a ceramic-fabric sunshade will be protecting Messenger from the ferocious heat of the nearby Sun and the solar reflection from Mercury. The craft will eventually plummet into the planet.

It really doesn't matter how many space missions you've followed or how many Hubble photographs you've marveled over. There is still a sense of raw excitement about reaching a critical stage in an expedition like this, an excitement that will only grow as data begins to stream toward Earth.

Part of the thrill is knowing that this is the pure pursuit of knowledge, the scientific impulse — a human impulse — carried to a remarkable conclusion. It's hard to know just what we will learn about Mercury. Like all scientific missions and experiments, this is a journey to a more refined sense of what we don't yet know.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK

BY CHARLES M. BLOW

New York City holds a special place in the collective conscience of Black America.

Not only does it have the highest concentration of blacks — according to the 2000 Census, there were more blacks living in New York City than in all but four whole states — much of black intellectual power and cultural capital has been accrued within its borders.

It gave voice to Shirley Chisholm, refuge to Malcolm X, legs to Althea Gibson and opportunity to Jackie Robinson. It was the incubator of the Harlem Renaissance, the proving ground of jazz and the birthplace of hip-hop.

It was a black Mecca and magnet. Was.

Next week, the Census Bureau will release local data for New York. And if those data come in as expected, they will show the first drop in the black population of New York City on a census since at least 1880, according to Professor Andy Beveridge, a sociologist at the City University of New York. (The white, Asian and Hispanic populations are all expected to grow.)

Part of the shift is likely from an overall trend in black migration toward the South and the suburbs. For example, the 2010 Census figures show that Georgia's black population grew by 23 percent and Florida's by 25 percent, but as The Associated Press reported Friday: "The share of blacks in large metropolitan areas who opted to live in the suburbs climbed to 58 percent in the South, compared with 41 percent for the rest of the U.S."

There is also the city's continued shedding of manufacturing jobs and shrinking middle class that is pushing it ever closer to becoming a dim, stilted wasteland of the wealthy, from edge to edge.

But to the soup of reasons and recriminations I would like to add one more possible factor that must be considered if not studied: the hyper-aggressive police tactics that have resulted in a concerted and directed campaign of harassment against the black citizens of this city.

According to a report in The Times last year, there were a record 580,000 stop-and-frisks in the city in 2009. Most of those stopped (55 percent) were black (a large portion were also Hispanic), most were young and almost all were male. For reference, according to the Census Bureau, there were about only 300,000 black men between the ages of 13 and 34 living in the city that year. A mere 6 percent of the stops resulted in arrests.

The Times article revealed that in one eight-block area of an overwhelmingly black neighborhood in Brooklyn, the police made 52,000 stops in just four years, an average of nearly one stop for each resident each year.

And many of those arrested are charged with having small amounts of marijuana. According to an analysis of these arrests by Harry Levine, another sociologist at the City University of New York, the New York Police Department under Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made more of these minor drug arrests than under his previous three predecessors combined. These targeting tactics mean that blacks are arrested for minor drug possession at seven times the rate of whites although on national surveys whites consistently say that they use marijuana more than blacks or Hispanics.

Why would people stay and withstand this if they had the wherewithal to leave?

If this is even part of the reason blacks are fleeing from, or simply not coming to, our great metropolis, then the city, knowingly or not, is engaged in its own subtle form of ethnic cleansing — a sort of  eradication by intimidation.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

A PRICE TOO HIGH?

BY BOB HERBERT

Catastrophes happen.

No one thought the Interstate 35W bridge across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis would collapse. No one thought the Gulf of Mexico would be fouled to the horrible extent that it was by the BP oil spill. The awful convergence of disasters in Japan — a 9.0 earthquake followed by a tsunami and a devastating nuclear power emergency — seemed almost unimaginable.

Worst-case scenarios unfold more frequently than we'd like to believe, which leads to two major questions regarding nuclear power that Americans have an obligation to answer.

First, can a disaster comparable to the one in Japan happen here? The answer, of course, is yes — whether caused by an earthquake or some other event or series of events. Nature is unpredictable and human beings are fallible. It could happen.

So the second question is whether it makes sense to follow through on plans to increase our reliance on nuclear power, thus heightening the risk of a terrible problem occurring here in the United States. Is that a risk worth taking?

Concern over global warming has increased the appeal of nuclear power, which does not produce the high levels of greenhouse gases that come from fossil fuels. But there has been a persistent tendency to ignore the toughest questions posed by nuclear power: What should be done with the waste? What are the consequences of a catastrophic accident in a populated area? How safe are the plants, really? Why would taxpayers have to shoulder so much of the financial risk of expanding the nation's nuclear power capacity, an effort that would be wildly expensive?

A big part of the problem at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power station are the highly radioactive spent fuel rods kept in storage pools at the plant. What to do, ultimately, with such dangerous waste material is the nuclear power question without an answer. Nuclear advocates and public officials don't talk about it much. Denial is the default position when it comes to nuclear waste.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said again this week that the 40-year-old Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County, 35 miles north of New York City, should be closed. Try to imagine the difficulty, in the event of an emergency, of evacuating such an area with its millions of residents. "This plant in this proximity to New York City was never a good risk," said the governor.

There are, blessedly, very few catastrophic accidents at nuclear power plants. And there have not been many deaths associated with them. The rarity of such accidents provides a comfort zone. We can look at the low probabilities and declare, "It can't happen here."

But what if it did happen here? What would the consequences be? If Indian Point blew, how wide an area and how many people would be affected, and what would the cleanup costs be? Rigorously answering such questions is the only way to determine whether the potential risk to life and property is worthwhile.

The 104 commercial nuclear plants in the U.S. are getting old, and many have had serious problems over the years. There have been dozens of instances since 1979, the year of the Three Mile Island accident, in which nuclear reactors have had to be shut down for more than a year for safety reasons.

Building new plants, which the Obama administration favors, can be breathtakingly expensive and requires government loan guarantees. Banks are not lining up to lend money on their own for construction of the newest generation of Indian Points.

In addition to the inherent risks with regard to safety and security, the nuclear industry has long been notorious for sky-high construction costs, feverish cost-overruns and projects that eventually are abandoned. The Union of Concerned Scientists, in a 2009 analysis of the costs associated with nuclear plant construction, said that once a plant came online it usually led to significant rate increases for customers:

"Ratepayers bore well over $200 billion (in today's dollars) in cost overruns for completed nuclear plants. In the 1990s, legislators and regulators also allowed utilities to recover most 'stranded costs' — the difference between utilities' remaining investments in nuclear plants and the market value of those plants — as states issued billions of dollars in bonds backed by ratepayer charges to pay for utilities' above-market investments."

The refrain here is familiar: "The total cost to ratepayers, taxpayers and shareholders stemming from cost overruns, canceled plants and stranded costs exceeded $300 billion in today's dollars."

Nuclear power is hardly the pristine, economical, unambiguous answer to the nation's energy needs and global warming concerns. It offers benefits and big-time shortcomings. Ultimately, the price may be much  too high.

Gail Collins is off today.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE WRONG TYPE OF TALK THERAPY

BY KEELY KOLMES

San Francisco

CONSUMER review sites like Yelp are a wonderful resource if you're trying to find a reliable plumber or good hair salon. And they provide a great forum for customers looking to rant or rave. However, as these sites begin to cover more aspects of consumer life, complications arise — as, for instance, when people review confidential mental health care services.

As a psychologist, I worry that these reviews have the potential to harm both the provider and the patient.

It's one thing to write online about your experience hiring a housecleaner, but posting about the treatment of addictions, sexual abuse, depression or chronic illness is a different matter. What patients might feel comfortable sharing today they might, tomorrow, wish they'd kept private. And while a reviewer can almost always delete or edit his post, it's impossible to know who has already read it, or whether that information has been stored someplace else.

Of course, no one wants to be the subject of a bad review, but psychotherapy services are special. If you wait an hour for an appetizer, chances are that other diners will have a similarly bad experience. But unless a therapist regularly falls asleep during sessions, patients' experiences in psychotherapy are more subjective. A certain treatment might help one person but not another. Something that works for one patient at a particular point in therapy might not work for him later, when his needs change. What makes one patient upset enough to write a bad review might not bother — in fact, might even help — another.

And psychotherapy can often bring up upsetting emotions. It's important for patients to discuss their reactions, positive and negative, directly with their therapists. Even when someone decides not to return to a certain therapist, telling the therapist why can provide closure.

If a patient does post a bad review, a therapist, unlike a regular business owner, is unable to respond in any way that could violate patient confidentiality. Equally problematic: just the fact of a practitioner being listed on a review site can look like a solicitation for patient testimonials or ratings, which is forbidden by every ethics code in the mental health professional's book.

I've run into this problem myself. As far as I know, I've never been reviewed by any patients, and yet my practice can be found on Yelp. (Presumably this is because the site combs search engines for businesses and posts the results to invite reviews.) I tried to get Yelp to remove my listing, but was told that it was public information. I know other colleagues who have been similarly dismayed to see their practices listed on the site.

Some doctors address this problem by requiring their patients to sign forms promising not to post reviews of services on Web sites. A company called Medical Justice, which helps doctors fend off malpractice suits, has encouraged its clients to have patients sign agreements giving the doctors control over Web postings mentioning their practices.

Neither of these approaches seems legally or ethically sound to me. One solution is for doctors to offer patients customer satisfaction forms, so they don't feel that the only medium to express grievances is a public one. But people should be able to find good mental health care providers online, and to warn other consumers about bad ones. The popular consumer sites that already host reviews of these services just need to take more responsibility for protecting patients and doctors.

Such sites should create separate forums devoted to health-related services, modeled after health-specific review sites like HealthGrades. These sections should offer reviewers additional protections when sharing personal information, particularly by allowing them to post anonymously without linking to their regular profiles. This might also allow practitioners more freedom to respond to reviews without compromising patient identity.

The sites could also require users to include more meaningful data, such as the duration of their treatment, what they sought care for, how long they have had their particular health concern and whether they addressed any complaints with the care provider. In addition, it would be useful to know how many other practitioners they sought treatment from, and whether they eventually found successful treatment elsewhere. This information would help those seeking care for a similar problem, as well as put a bad review in context. Finally, the sites should direct visitors to their states' licensing boards, in case a formal complaint is called for.

Consumer review sites have helped goad many businesses to make improvements. But in this case, they could use some improvements of their own.

Keely Kolmes is a psychologist.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

ELECTRIC KOOL-AID MARKETING TRIP

BY MICHAEL WALKER

Los Angeles

NOW that the 1960s are commodified forever as "The Sixties," it is apparently compulsory that their legacy be rendered as purple-hazy hagiography. But that ignores an inconvenient counterintuitive truth: Relatively clear-thinking entrepreneurs created some of the most enduring tropes of the era — not out of whole paisley cloth but from their astute feel for the culture and the marketplace. And no one was better at it than Augustus Owsley Stanley III.

Entrepreneur? Mr. Stanley, who was killed in a car accident last Sunday in Australia at the age of 76, is remembered chiefly as a world-class eccentric — his C.V. lists Air Force electronics specialist and ballet dancer — who after ingesting his first dose of LSD in Berkeley in 1964 taught himself how to make his own. In short order, "Owsley acid" became the gold standard of psychedelics.

But Mr. Stanley didn't stop there. He started cranking out his superlative LSD at a rate that by 1967 topped one million doses. By mass-manufacturing a hallucinogen that the authorities hadn't gotten around to criminalizing, Mr. Stanley singlehandedly created a market where none had existed, and with it a large part of what would become the "counterculture."

At the time Madison Avenue was at sea about how to reach the so-called youth market. "House hippies" were deputized as cultural ambassadors but didn't prevent travesties like Columbia Records' infamously clueless "The Man Can't Bust Our Music" ad campaign. Which made Mr. Stanley's effortless grasp of his peer group and its appetites — he was, after all, an enthusiastic consumer of his own product — seem all the more prescient. When his lab in Orinda, Calif., was raided in 1967 — thanks to him, LSD had been declared illegal the year before — the headline in The San Francisco Chronicle anointed him the "LSD Millionaire."

Mr. Stanley shared several qualities with another entrepreneur who, a decade later, would imbue his company with a hand-sewn '60s ethic that persists today. To compare Mr. Stanley to Steve Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple, purely on the basis of their operating philosophies is not as big a leap as it might seem.

Like Mr. Jobs, Mr. Stanley was fanatical about quality control. He refused to put his LSD on pieces of paper — so-called blotter acid — because, Mr. Stanley maintained, it degraded the potency. "I abhor the practice," he declared.

Whereas the formulation and provenance of most street drugs was unknowable, Owsley LSD was curated like a varietal wine and branded as evocatively as an iPod — "Monterey Purple" for a batch made expressly for the 1967 Monterey Pop festival, which may have factored into Jimi Hendrix's chaotic, guitar-burning finale. (Relentlessly protective of his brand, Mr. Stanley seemed insulted that many believed the Hendrix song "Purple Haze" was about the Monterey LSD — far from inducing haze, he sniffed, the quality of his acid would confer upon the user preternatural clarity.)

And like Mr. Jobs's mandate for creating products he deems "insanely great," Mr. Stanley's perfectionism had the effect of raising standards across an industry — or in this case, a culture. He became a patron of the Grateful Dead and helped transform them from inchoate noodlers into the house band for a generation. Noting the dreadful acoustics at their performances, Mr. Stanley drew on his electronics background and designed one of the first dedicated rock sound reinforcement systems, thus making plausible that highly lucrative staple of the 1960s and beyond, the rock concert. (Ever the perfectionist, he later designed an upgraded version, the legendary Wall of Sound, that towered over the band like a monolith and prefigured the immense sound systems at stadium shows today.)

It is said we are living through times not unlike the 1960s, the catalyst being not rock 'n' roll and its accompaniments, sex and drugs, but the communications and information revolution made possible by the Web. Among the movement's many avenging nerds, Mr. Jobs alone epitomizes Mr. Stanley's unhinged originality and anarchical spirit — before founding Apple, Mr. Jobs and his partner, Steve Wozniak, sold illegal "blue boxes" that allowed free long-distance calls and later proselytized so persuasively about the latest Apple gizmo that he was said to project a "reality distortion field."

Augustus Owsley Stanley III knew a thing or two about that.

Michael Walker is the author of "Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock 'n' Roll's Legendary Neighborhood."

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

SHUTDOWN THREAT AVERTED

 

It was just March 2 when Congress passed a short-term spending measure to keep the federal government from

shutting down.

 

But that bill provided funding to keep government operating for only a couple of weeks. So this week, Congress was back where it started: Democrats and Republicans were trying to reach agreement on what to fund and what not to fund in the federal budget for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

 

Once again, they could not agree. So once again, the House and Senate passed a stop-gap measure to keep federal agencies functioning at full capacity — but only for three weeks more.

 

That means sometime before April 8, members of Congress will have to try yet again to fund the operations of government for the rest of the current budget year — while also reining in wasteful spending.

 

There were a few cuts in the latest stop-gap spending bill. They come to $6 billion — which sounds like a lot until you consider the fact that this year alone, our government will run up a more than $1.5 trillion deficit.

 

It's hard to imagine $6 billion being "small potatoes," but in this case that's exactly what it is.

 

So what's the problem?

 

Well, there is a difference in viewpoint among members of Congress.

 

While there are exceptions, Democrats tend to believe that the government ought to be spending more money — arguing that would create lots of economic activity and pull the United States out of the economic crisis.

 

Republicans generally think government — which, remember, is more than $14 trillion in debt — has taxed, borrowed and spent far too much money already, and should cut back.

 

What do you think? Do you consider it reasonable to spend more borrowed money when Washington already collects more than $2 trillion annually in taxes — and borrows more than $1.5 trillion beyond the revenue brought in by our too-high tax rates?

 

To put it another way, when our nation is already trillions upon trillions of dollars in the red — and has a weak economy to show for it — is it rational to claim that we'll see serious economic recovery if we pump more money into the federal government?

 

Or do you think it would be more sensible to begin slashing many billions of dollars in unnecessary, unwise and often unconstitutional spending from the federal budget?

 

We've tried to spend our way to prosperity — with measures such as the $862 billion economic "stimulus" — and it plainly didn't work.

 

Wouldn't it be worthwhile to try being fiscally responsible for a change?

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

THOMPSON AND ERLANGER — WHO?

 

Sometimes we become so accustomed to locally important names that we tend to forget the people behind those names.

 

We really shouldn't.

 

Take the names "T.C. Thompson" and "Erlanger," for example.

 

Currently in the news is controversy over the names long associated with "T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital" and "Erlanger Health System."

 

Those names have been applied in recent years to our fine combined public hospital on East Third Street.

 

Why a name controversy now?

 

It has been proposed, for marketing purposes (though not "officially"), that the Thompson name be dropped. The new reference would simply be "Children's Hospital at Erlanger."

 

But understandably, some Thompson descendants, though living far from Chattanooga — plus some Chattanoogans — don't want the full, historic T.C. Thompson name discarded.

 

Who was T.C. Thompson?

 

He was Thomas Clarkson Thompson, mayor of Chattanooga from 1909 to 1915.

 

The hospital that bears his name originated as a completely separate hospital for children on Glenwood Drive, before being combined with Erlanger.

 

]Who was Erlanger?

 

He was a generous Frenchman — Baron Frederic Emile d'Erlanger — who had financial interests in early railroads in this area. In 1889, the baron donated $5,000 for a new Chattanooga hospital. In today's money, his gift would be equal to about $4 million!

 

Appropriately, the hospital was named for the baron.

 

Late in 2010, a descendant of the baron visited Chattanooga and toured the facility.

 

"What's in a name?" William Shakespeare asked. Well, a lot!

 

We shouldn't forget either Thompson or the baron.

 

                                                       ***************************************


TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

FORMER COMMISSIONER LOU MILLER

 

The death Thursday of former Hamilton County Commissioner Lou Miller reminds local residents of the combined more than two decades of conscientious county government service by Lou and her late husband, Ben, whom she succeeded as a county commissioner from 2004 to 2006 after his death.

 

Both Lou and Ben were truly humble, good citizens. Both of them took their community service very seriously. And both of them served honorably and well.

 

They loved their Chattanooga community and were respected as fine officials. They never sought personal political prominence, but served only in the interests of their neighbors and their community.

 

Both Lou and Ben were admirable examples of really "grassroots" political service for us all in Hamilton County.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

MOR GABRIEL

CENGİZ AKTAR

The latest European Parliament report on Turkey begins with the following noteworthy statement: The EP "commends Turkish citizens and civil society for supporting Turkey's further democratization and for their commitment to an open and pluralistic society…"

That knocking exhibit for the 20th anniversary of the Human Rights Foundation at the Tütün Deposu in Istanbul's Tophane district is the evidence of this praise. You should definitely go and see the artworks of tens of artists, mostly young, by April 22.

The government, however, is mentioned in the next paragraph: The EP "notes Turkey's slow progress with regard to reforms and recalls that the Turkish government has committed itself to undertaking comprehensive reforms both with a view to fulfilling the Copenhagen criteria and for the sake of Turkey's own modernization; calls on the government to increase its efforts in that respect…"

The 25th paragraph of the report reads that the EP "finds the Turkish Supreme Court [of Appeals] decision against Mor Gabriel Monastery, concerning a land dispute with villages and the Turkish Treasury, to be regrettable."

As I read sections reminding us of the Mor Gabriel issue and countless violations of rights, the meaning of EP's call for public authorities and of the reference made to the civil society is revealed before all eyes. Compared to European countries, the violation of rights in Turkey usually occurs as a result of flawed, incomplete or biased practices of public authorities in accordance with an understanding always privileging the state against citizens. The story of Mor Gabriel is a genuine example of this mentality.

Another aggrieved nation Syriacs

In the 1970s I visited Tur Abdin, near the town of Midyat, where holy Syriac sites are located, a few times. Tur Abidin means in the Syriac language the "mountain of helots." It is at the heart of Syriac religion and culture and one of the world's ancient centers for Christianity. Mor Gabriel Monastery is the region's oldest running monastery and the residence of Tur Abdin's metropolitan. The holy premise was established in 397 as Deyrulumur (Shelter of Priests), and from the 7th century on, it has been called the Monastery of Saint Mor Gabriel. The places I am talking about are too old for Turkey's memory capacity.

Another significant Syriac site is Deyrulzafaran. Established in 493, Deyrulzafaran was the throne of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate from 1160 to 1932. Afterward, the patriarchate moved to Damascus. And Syriacs are another ancient people of Anatolia who have experienced the religion-based nationalization process, just like other non-Muslim communities, and were run through with sabers. In fact they name the massacre they were subjected to "Seyfo," meaning sword! In the aftermath of the disaster they faced, it became more difficult for the Syriacs to remain in the homeland. The Syrian-Turkish border, as the other result of nation building, reduced Syriacs in number once again. Since the patriarchate moved to Syria, Syriacs have taken refuge on the other side of the border. Speaking of which, there is an obvious difference between the "model country" and the country to be inspired by the model. Turkey claims to be a model country for the Arab countries, but cannot compete with these states when it comes to freedom of faith and protection of diversities!

Syriacs were caught in the crossfire during the Kurdish revolts. Their outflow continued to date to the west of Turkey and to Australia, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States. Today, the Syriac population in Turkey is estimated to be 3,000-5,000. In short, Syriacs are struggling to survive in their homeland.

That the infamy as pointed out in the EP report and by many columnists for years in Turkey occurs in such an environment. A few years back, three village heads filed a criminal complaint at the Prosecutor's Office that Mor Gabriel violates their borders and occupies 100 hectares of forest. These are the villages of Qertmîn (Yayvantepe), Zînol (Eğlence) and Dawrîk (Çandarlı).

The lawsuit is like an absurd story: The monastery has paid taxes since the 1930s, the land survey has registered their lot, the local court overruled the case, but the Court of Appeals treated Syriacs like foreigners and squashed the ruling of the local court against the monastery by the help of a smart jurisprudence constituted in the 1970s: The decision disallowing foreign foundations from buying property!

Once the case is lost and all domestic remedies are exhausted, the file clearly stands a chance at the European Court of Human Rights. Yet what else could be the reason for this collective stubbornness, if not greed for money mixed with anti-non-Muslim feelings?

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE MURDER OF THE JEWISH INNOCENTS

MUSTAFA AKYOL

A horrendous massacre took place in Itamar, occupied Palestine, a week ago. A terrorist broke into a house of a Jewish settler family and killed five of its members mercilessly. The victims include a 3-month-old whose throat was slit, a 3-year-old who was stabbed in the heart and an 11-year-old who was butchered and killed by a knife.

I condemn the murder, and the murderer, with all my heart. I am no fan of Israeli settlers, and oppose their very presence on the Palestinian soil, but none of that can ever justify a monstrosity like this. Nothing, simply nothing, can justify the killing of innocents.

The rules of Jihad

That is not just common sense and universal conscious — it is also an Islamic principle. The Islamic doctrine of war, or jihad, has become quite notorious lately, for it is constantly exploited by those who commit terrorism in the name of Islam. Yet in fact, making a distinction between the combatants and the non-combatants among the enemy and respecting the lives of the latter has been a key principle of jihad since the beginning of Islam.

This comes from the very core sources of the Muslim faith. First, the Quran ordered believers to "fight in the Way of God against those who fight you, but do not go beyond the limits." (2/190) Then the Prophet told his troops, "Do not kill the old, the infant, the child or the woman." Accordingly, Islamic scholars built a doctrine of jihad, which took great pains to differentiate between the enemy and the innocents within the enemy. As the all-eminent Bernard Lewis puts it:

"Fighters in jihad are enjoined not to kill women, children and the aged unless they attack first, not to torture or mutilate prisoners, to give fair warning of the resumption of hostilities after a truce and to honor agreements." (In "Crisis of Islam," 2003, p. 30)

As Lewis adds, this principle led the medieval Islamic jurists to create a literature of jus in bello, or rules of a proper conduct of war. For example, many of those jurists limited or banned the use of mangonels and catapults, for these war machines inflicted indiscriminate casualties on the enemy.

In other words, even what the Westerners call "collateral damage" these days was a matter of concern for Muslim scholars of the Middle Ages. It is therefore ironic, and sad, that some of today's Muslims — a tiny minority, to be sure — are willing to inflict not just "collateral" but also intentional damage on the enemy noncombatants.

I believe that what drives those militant Muslims, and terrorists such as the one who committed the massacre of Itamar, is a zealous hatred of their enemy rather than a pious observance of Islamic law. In other words, they attack innocent lives not because their religion tells them to do that — it actually tells them not to do that. They rather attack out of loathing, which is rooted in their political misfortunes.

Most arguments that try to justify jihad on civilians reflect that political incentive. Those who sympathize (or at least "understand") attacks on Israeli civilians typically say, "They kill our children, too." Or those who justify al-Qaeda's attack on American civilians argue, "They pay taxes to their government, so they are responsible as well" — as if any American citizen has any other choice.

Hatred management

Yet the very hatred we see in these arguments seems to be something that the Quran warns Muslims believers against. A key verse declares:

"Do not let hatred for a people who debar you from the Masjid al-Haram incite you into going beyond the limits. Help each other to goodness and piety. Do not help each other to wrongdoing and enmity. Have fear of God." (5/2)

The people who debarred the early Muslims from the Masjid al-Haram (the Kaaba) were the pagans of Mecca, the deadliest enemies of Islam. Yet God told Muslims not to "go beyond the limits," even against them.

And that is something that all Muslims, and especially the radicalized ones, need to ponder in this day and age. They might have many reasons to be frustrated with the West, Israel, or the oppressive forces in their own countries. But none of those frustrations can justify doing things that are evil in nature.

What those evil acts only do, beyond harming innocent lives, is to stain either Islam or the Muslim causes they supposedly serve. The Palestinian cause, for example, has been only damaged by the massacre at Itamar. The terrorist of that doomed night stabbed not just the Jewish innocents, but also the innocence of his own struggle for a free Palestine.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

'NO' TO NUCLEAR

GİLA BENMAYOR

With the disaster in Japan, we have seen once again that the nuclear business is not reliable.

It is no joke.

My daughter was 2 when the Chernobyl accident occurred and I remember how panicked I was while watching radiation clouds for days from the region.

Everyone had his/her heart in his/her mouth.

And everyone was scared by the possibility of radiation clouds coming to Istanbul.

Turkey has not yet recovered from the traces of Chernobyl.

In those days, then-Industry Minister Cahit Aral, who sipped his tea saying "See there is no radiation in tea," and the likes presumed there was no danger, but today many people link the booming number of cancer cases in the Black Sea region with the Chernobyl disaster.

We know that Germany, Australia, Switzerland, Venezuela and even China have suspended construction of nuclear plants following Japan.

How about Turkey, getting prepared to set up a nuclear power plant in the southern province of Mersin's Akkuyu district?

On the day that the seriousness of nuclear danger in Japan surfaced, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was paying a visit to Russian capital Moscow.

Is Akkuyu a model investment?

Erdoğan in the meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced that the construction of the plant will begin in early May. "It will be the best of its kind in the world. We will build the best with the power of mind and science," he said.

And Medvedev, in exchange, said the Russians are experienced in earthquakes, according to the news articles I read.

Pardon me, but neither Erdoğan nor Medvedev can soothe my concerns, nor of millions, about nuclear power plants.

Besides, scientists have reservations about the new Russian technology to be applied in the construction of the Akkuyu plant.

For instance, Boğaziçi University Professor Gürkan Kumbaroğlu, who continues to do research in Germany, is one of them.

In the e-mail he sent right after the Fukushima disaster, Kumbaroğlu gave an example that Bulgaria experienced with the new Russian VVER reactor (which is like the one to be built in Akkuyu).

Bulgaria's unfortunate experience

The Belene district of Bulgaria is under the threat of earthquakes, just like Akkuyu is.

Construction of the nuclear plant started in 1987.

Upon the public's reaction, however, construction work was brought to a halt in 1990 although 40 percent of it was complete.

And then work resumed again, German RWE Co. became a partner, with a 49 percent share in the nuclear plant in 2008.

When a 5.3 magnitude earthquake occurred in 2009 in Bulgaria, the Germans withdrew from the project due to security reasons.

And the nuclear power plant built by the Russian technology in Bulgaria waits for a new investor today.

Meaning, it has come to a stop.

Which politician will give an account?

In the Czech Republic, the Temelin nuclear power plant built by the new Russian technology, which is to be applied in Akkuyu, is active but not in a desirable fashion.

Because the plant was the subject of news articles due to a radioactive cooling-water leak in 2004, according to Kumbaroğlu.

Investigations revealed that the plant came to a halt no less than 64 times because of an "emergency."

In short no secure nuclear technology exists no matter who claims what.

"If the money spent for nuclear energy or its negative outcomes had been spent for the renewable energy, we could've had a different picture today," Kumbaroğlu rightfully says.

Which Japanese politician could be brought to account for Japanese whose lives turned upside down and who are living under radiation risk?

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

CHP'S EVOLUTION TOWARD A GENUINE SOCIAL DEMOCRAT PARTY

SERKAN DEMİRTAŞ

Among so many other concrete projects launched by the Republican People's Party, or CHP, if you ask me, I would not hesitate highlighting the one on the civil society as the most important and striking. Prepared by a team led by renowned sociologist Professor Sencer Ayata, deputy leader of the CHP, the importance of the report could be cited for two main reasons:

First, it analyzes the current state of the civil society and depicts the bureaucratic, philosophical and practical obstacles before its improvement. Secondly, it underlines how the CHP wants to transform itself as a genuine social democrat party, distancing itself from its traditional allies, i.e. the army, high bureaucracy and the establishment itself.

"The CHP is the party of the people and for the people. It embraces endorsing the social state nature, placing free human in its center," said Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the party leader, at a meeting he held Monday for the promotion of the civil society report. Details of the report have already been published by the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in recent days. However, in this column, we will try to make the motives behind this report more explicit.

The party brass is very much aware that the pro-army stance of the party has damaged the party's image in recent years, at a moment when demands for a more democratic, more civilian Turkey were mounting in the country especially by the youth, women and urbanized segments of the society. Partly because of the European Union accession process led by the government for the last eight years, the greater part of this "cake" was capitalized by the Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

To the contrary, the CHP's continuing silence on the military's intervention in the presidential elections in 2007, known by some as the midnight e-memorandum, still serves as an important argument for the party's political rivals.

Having seen how such deficiencies worked for the disadvantage of the party's performance in attracting votes, the new leadership of the party under Kılıçdaroğlu made this very crucial decision to move away from earlier alliances.

This move also suits the global trend for more democratic regimes becoming obvious nowadays especially in the Arab world. Kılıçdaroğlu's successive visits to important European capital over the last few weeks and meetings with high-ranking European politicians have also helped the party end its isolation from like-minded European counterparts. That in fact resulted in the party's better reading these global trends while the CHP brass could find opportunity to express their views on what's going on in Turkey. 

What does CHP say?

Over the last four weeks, the CHP has outlined four important reports: the civil society report; family insurance; plus for the young, and the agriculture report. Though prepared in a semi-academic manner, these reports are highly political and represent the party's solutions. Among them, family insurance has become the most remarkable as we have heard so many government officials touring the television channels to explain why this project could not be implemented. Besides economic reasoning to disprove the feasibility of the project, we have also heard Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan saying: "You have dishonored the family institution. What family, what insurance are you talking about?" while slamming the party's recent pledge. For many, even this mood of Erdoğan shows how the family insurance has disturbed the ruling party.

Another finding of the CHP represents the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, as the source of growing authoritarianism in Turkey. "This trend of [the AKP's] authoritarianism will sure start to disturb some groups other [than the liberals]," Ayata said. "The priority is to limit the government's power through democratic means."

This authoritarianism was bluntly experienced during last year's referendum campaign when Prime Minister Erdoğan urged the civil society to choose their sides in order to not be eliminated. Accompanied with Ergenekon detentions and searches of journalists' and other prominent personalities' houses, this trend of authoritarianism has fueled fear and concern especially among the intellectuals, journalists and etc.

This is why the CHP's initiative to strengthen the civil society is very much important.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WHY ARE THEY HEROES?

KADRİ GÜRSEL

We are undergoing tough times in which journalism is being dragged down by those who have made it a tool for other purposes. There were always people who used journalism for political or economic ends in every period and every segment, but they have never bean as dominant in the media world as they are now.

In the face of the powerful representatives of this dominant ideology outside the media, the tragedy of those who want to be involved in journalism for the sake of journalism is that they are unable to express that their goal is nothing but journalism.

I am dedicating this piece to a speech world-renowned British journalist Harold Evans gave during the ceremony in Vienna on Sept. 13 when journalist Nedim Şener, who is now arrested as part of Ergenekon case, was declared one of the "World Press Freedom Heroes" by the International Press Institute, or IPI. Here is the abridged version of the thought-provoking speech about what journalism is actually is and how it should be conducted:

"We meet tonight in pride and sadness for the many who sacrificed their lives for truth. It is fitting that we do this on a birthday. Our birthday. The 60th birthday of IPI is a landmark. We honor those men and women who created and sustained our institution in the aftermath of the greatest war the planet has endured.

Cynicism and despair might have been the war's legacy.

Instead, they offered a rededication to the best ideals of journalism of a parallel with the political and economic institutions that gave us security, prosperity and peace on the ashes of Europe and Asia.

They believed theirs was an honorable craft – profession if you like – rooted in reason, dedicated to truth, sustained by a sense of the common good, given inspiration by the achievements of others around the world in a universal brotherhood. 

I cannot but think of my personal friends. Of Abdi İpekçi, editor-in-chief of Milliyet, Turkey's influential newspaper, telling me in London of what the example and support of his international peers – you! – meant to him in his ceaseless campaign for national unity and reconciliation against violence and terrorism. It's shame that media – you again! – rarely mention Abdi's heroism when running stories about his killer who is now free.

Every one of our 60 World Press heroes is a different story, but there is a common thread that tells us how we should honor them.

We should honor them by resolve and by rebuke.

By the resolve to keep faith ourselves with their best aspirations, and to be forthright in rebuking those who carelessly and ceaselessly do not.

Every time a reporter slants the facts, writes a story to fit his preconception, allows the "unclouded face of truth" to suffer wrong, he betrays a world press hero. We should tell him or her so.

Every time a journalist is harassed to reveal a source he should reflect on the ordeals of Samoa's Saveo Sano Malifa who never would.

Every time, a journalist invents a story, fabricates a quote, elevates a personal conviction over a professional curiosity, he betrays ten names on our roll of honor.

Every time a news organization puts excessive profit before excellence it betrays every name. We should tell them so.

Every time a journalist maliciously sets out to destroy a reputation, he dishonors these heroes.

Every time, a journalist in a country with a free press protected by law or tradition abuses the freedom by personal vendetta or political manipulation, he betrays all those around the world who struggle with half the freedoms and to liberate journalism.

Every time a journalist joins the press pack, recycling rumor, trading in second hand sources, accepting the easy feed, grossly invading privacy, he betrays the brave individualism of a name on the roll.

Every time an editor yields to threats he dishonors the memory of Russia's Anna Politkovskaya."

* Kardi Gürsel is a columnist of daily Milliyet, in which this piece appeared Thursday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.  

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE CORRIDOR - ERDOĞAN'S CRITERIA

GÖKSEL BOZKURT

On his way to the Russian capital Moscow, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan touched on the results of an opinion poll that underline the fact that nobody's candidacy for the June 12 general elections is guaranteed.

"We did a poll among 109,000 people in 81 provinces. It also covers the opposition's deputyship, not only ours. The results are locked in my safe," said the prime minister.

The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, posed questions such as, "Are you satisfied with the government's and the opposition deputies' performances? Whom do you want to see as the representative of your province?"

Currently, another poll is being done for the party administration in 81 provinces. But this time only the AKP deputies' performances will be measured. And the result of the two surveys will play a critical role in the candidate assessment process. The "Erdoğan criteria" will have the final word.

What are the Erdoğan criteria that are leaving their mark on every election?

Erdoğan gives importance to certain factors and determines criteria that were decisive in previous elections. A total of 165 deputies in the 2007 elections who did not meet the criteria are being left off of the current lists. These criteria can be summarized as follows:

1) Loyalty to the leader, the party and the cause; 2) Merit and the accumulation of knowledge; 3) Harmony, namely, strong ties with the party organization and the candidate's position in the party; 4) Displaying hard work, likely popular candidate in the election region; 5) Good responses on opinion polls.

When these criteria are combined with the results of Erdoğan's other poll, it is becoming increasingly clear who the AKP cadre for next five or so years is to be.

In the upcoming term, over 5,000 candidates will be interviewed, commissions will be convened and assessments will be made, but the real cadre will be determined by Erdoğan's key criteria.

Without question, the attitude during the constitutional referendum will be a particularly determining factor for the current deputies. It's being said that several figures – who are known to the party administration but not to the general public – that voted "against" the charter poll last September will definitely not be nominated.

Erdoğan is seemingly planning to focus on the party administration this time. Three former provincial heads are now sitting as ministers. Former Hatay head Sadullah Ergin is now justice minister, former Kocaeli head Nihat Ergün is industry minister and former Samsun head Mustafa Demir is a state minister. During the June 12 elections, there are rumors that Erdoğan will carry 10-20 provincial heads into Parliament. The rumors show that the prime minister keeps the party grassroots alive by rewarding diligent officials with places in the administration.

There is also speculation that there could be some surprise or even influential names among the AKP's eventually deputies.

Though he will comply with the choices of constituents and of the party, Erdoğan will most likely intervene directly in some critical provinces in eastern and southeastern Anatolia, in the Black Sea region, as well as in the big cities of Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Antalya, Adana and Bursa.

According to AKP bylaws, a deputy who is incumbent for three terms cannot be nominated again. Erdoğan seems determined to stick with this rule. He himself has said a few times that this would be his last time. Within the AKP, a total of 147 candidates, including key ministers, will be elected for the third and last time. It's been said that Erdoğan will make decisions about candidates by considering this criterion as well.

For instance, Erdoğan is encouraging three people close to him, namely Yalçın Akdoğan, Çağatay Kılıç and Nabi Avcı, become involved in politics. This is seen as preparation work for the AKP's infrastructure in the 2015 elections.

It is also speculated that Erdoğan will tell some of the younger deputies prepared to run in their third terms to wait until the 2015 elections.

And since Erdoğan will head to the polls with the "new constitution" as part of his election program, he will definitely include a few constitutional experts in the candidate list.

Clearly, the AKP list will be full of surprises.

Let's see who will be dropped off of the list and who will be carried to Parliament by the "Erdoğan criteria."

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

LADIES, THROW YOUR HATS INTO THE ELECTION RING

MERAL TAMER

The Association for the Support and Training of Women Candidates, or Ka-Der, organizes attention-grabbing campaigns in advance of general elections in order to carry more women to Parliament. In the elections of 2007, as a group of prominent women from various professions, we wore mustaches and asked, "Is it necessary to be men in order to be in Parliament?"

Ka-Der aims higher this time for the election period. They are not satisfied with the slogan "More women in Parliament," but demand "equal representation": 275 women and 275 men!

Among the 25 successful women as campaign faces are Turkish Industry and Business Association, or TÜSİAD, Chairwoman Ümit Boyner, Hürriyet CEO Vuslat Doğan Sabancı, renowned author Ayşe Kulin and singers Gülben Ergen, Sertap Erener and Nil Karaibrahimgil.

BDP 40 percent, AKP 20 percent

Those women who look favorably at entering politics have support, until the announcement of the list of candidates of all the women who are aware of the fact that the doors of politics will not open to female politicians unless all of us force these doors.

But of course, it is not enough only to wish to see female deputies in Parliament. Political party leaders and the heads at the parties' local administrations have a final say.

There is no problem with the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP. They applied a 40 percent quota in the previous elections; this time nothing will be different. The good news is although Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan doesn't like the word "quota," he leans toward having one female in every five candidates in this election.

It's not that our prime minister cares so much about women, but it does not matter even if he makes "the move" to mitigate negativities pulling Turkey down in international indicators. In the end, the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, doubling female deputies in Parliament will be useful for all women in many ways.

The CHP at least 30 percent

As for the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, party Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu wishes to have at least 30 percent women among the party's Parliament members. However, Kemal Bey apparently feels concerned that he might not find an adequate number of female candidates. He prefers women in the field who are in touch with constituents, not those waiting at his doorstep to lobby for candidacy.

However, as in all political parties there is an invisible ceiling of men in the CHP as well. Will those women in the field, who have the support of constituencies, be able to go beyond that ceiling and make themselves visible? That's a big question mark.

As far as I understand, CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu gives the message to women who consider candidacy in the CHP, "I will create a hole in that invisible ceiling as much as I can, but you break it as much as you can!"

It is a dream perhaps currently to have 275 female deputies in Parliament. However, without a doubt, number of women in Parliament will be doubled. All parties seem more sensitive toward the issue compared to the last elections.

On all occasions, Erdoğan says, "We will make a people's constitution"… after the elections. Ka-Der Chairwoman Çiğdem Aydın has a serious warning for Erdoğan: "You cannot make the people's constitution without women."

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE LIMITS

ZAFER PARLAR

Cultural differences are the main sources of intercultural conflicts. People often believe their way of doing things is the only right way. If both parties hold that same belief, then problems start. If you show some respect, empathy and try to understand the cultural background of the other party, you can find ways to create a positive outcome from two or more different opinions.

Societies shape the way of doing business in a particular market over many years. Business is a subculture. Every verbal or written rule is developed for a reason. You cannot come around and try to change it all because you believe you know a better way of doing things. For change, the essential first move is the effort and the ability to understand the existing system. However people often tell me sometimes they have problems identifying whether a person's attitude is a behavioral disorder or an intercultural difference that can be resolved. Well to tell you the truth, I have been lecturing about intercultural business relations for over 20 years, but time to time I also find myself wondering, "What was that now?" Unfortunately analyzing human behavior is not like mathematics, which you can formulize.

There are obvious acts that can be voted as rude behavior anywhere in the world. Just to give you some examples: If someone who wants to do business with you orders her secretary to make the first appointment directly with you. That has nothing to do with cultural differences and it is considered rude all around the world. A famous GM friend of mine used to ask her secretary to send greeting messages on behalf of her. Her clients and colleagues in the sector and we as her friends used to get email messages like "Ms. Smith wishes you a great new year." Ladies and gentleman, this is obviously not a cultural pattern. Cold or warm, a proper greeting is an essential behavior when you meet someone. If someone is deliberately ignoring this, that's his personal problem rather than his culture. If your manager thinks she is always right because of her country of origin's well being (Is there any country left which fits into this category!?) and gives you a big lecture how nothing is managed well in Turkey. That is definitely a personal problem, not a cultural one.

Being rude is a universal issue. However what is being put into that category sometimes differs per country. Let me give you some contemporary examples of rude behavior from today's Turkish business world so that you can avoid making the same mistakes. Obviously there are similarities with other cultures.

- Asking your secretary to call someone you do business with on his mobile or direct number rather than calling the number personally. Person to person, office to office is the rule.

- Greeting someone while sitting who comes to over to shake hands.

- In place of replying to someone's email, just forwarding it to your subordinate to reply. Instead, you can answer and state that your subordinate will help him out. 

- Directly starting to talk business in place of getting-to-know-each-other talk. (I can hear some of the readers complaining that they do not have time for this. Well, create some if you want to be successful in Turkey.) 

- Short business trips without lunch or dinner to get to know each other.

- Avoiding eye contact during a meeting

- Talking with direct sentences, like, "So tell me about yourself."

You could be an investor representing large sums or an expat leader of a big international firm assigned to Turkey. Both cases can make you feel very powerful to dictate your own way. However you cannot survive in a foreign country as an island. It is the people you do business with who will make you successful. Relationship building is the essential ingredient of doing business in Turkey. If you ignore that, then sooner or later you are bound to fail. However a warm and sincere approach can get you many friends who can help you achieve success well beyond your objectives. 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

A BIRD'S EYE VIEW - THE PLANET STRIKES BACK

ADVENA AVIS

Only a few weeks after the devastating earthquake of Christchurch in New Zealand, our planet struck back at humanity with a magnitude-9.0 earthquake that devastated Japan. It was followed by a tsunami that even took more human lives than the earthquake and also caused a nuclear power plant to explode, thus releasing radioactivity into the atmosphere which will, of course, create more harm to humanity. 

We all know that Japan is the country in the world best organized to face earthquake disasters and we tremble to think of the damage that would have been done had this earthquake struck any other part of the world. Most buildings withstood the shock of the earthquakes but the tsunami destroyed everything that had remained untouched in the areas where it struck. And of course the Japanese never expected that their nuclear power plants would face problems since they were constructed to withstand shocks of up to magnitude 9.5. 

What is happening is that the planet, our planet is reacting to our presence. It is showing the anger and dissatisfaction of the planet to some of its inhabitants who insist on destroying it. The planet had warned humanity but humanity paid no attention to the warnings. It continued its policy of polluting everything, the oceans, the air and the land. And now the time has come for the planet to use its methods of self-defense by gradually destroying humanity. And unfortunately there is no end in sight to what is to come, what more disasters will humanity have to face – global flooding and fires? 

A few words about the nuclear plants. We saw what happened in Japan with its nuclear reactors, explosions, fires and probable meltdowns. And Japan has developed the best technology in the world to construct earthquake-proof nuclear power plants. Of course, as we said previously, had the earthquake taken place in another country with such nuclear plants, they would have immediately been destroyed. This means that nuclear power is no longer an option for humanity and it is power created by truly green energy which remains the only viable solution. So the earthquake proved that there is no earthquake-proof nuclear power plant. The Turkish government should make a serious reassessment of their plan to construct a nuclear power plant in an area that is quite seismic. 

The economic impact of this disaster will have global negative effects on the human economic system since one of the financially strong countries of humanity has been hit hard by this catastrophe. We birds mourn the victims of this disaster. We also urge human politicians, in spite of the fact that it may be already too late, to act with concrete and effective measures to save the planet and to disregard their political ambitions which would make no sense if they are all dead. 

Ponder our thoughts, dear humans, for your benefit.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE VOICE OF THE ARAB STREET

AİJAZ ZAKA SYED

The greatest tribute you could ever crave is to get it from your detractors. So when Hillary Clinton admits that "viewership of Al-Jazeera is going up in the United States (and around the world) because it's real news," the Qatar-based television network has every reason to celebrate and pat its own back. Speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, the secretary of state warned that America is "losing the information war," citing the superior quality of Al-Jazeera as one of the reasons for her opinion.

Clinton compared the Middle East-based TV network with the giants of US media outlets saying: "Like it or hate, it [Al-Jazeera] is really effective. In fact, viewership of Al-Jazeera is going up in the U.S. because it's real news. You may not agree with it, but you feel like you're getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners."

Hmm. This is what many in alternative media and numerous independent conscience-keepers of the world have been saying for years. I mean, the bit about the unwillingness and inability of Western media, especially of those in the U.S., to see the whole picture and tell the other side of the story.

The U.S. media has been too busy acting as the mouthpiece of the American empire and protecting the interests of the rich and powerful like those big boys of the Wall Street who continue to party, Recession or no Recession. In fact, as a friend wrote this week commenting on Clinton's speech, U.S. newspapers have become newsletters of the U.S. government.

This is why it is gratifying to see the world's most powerful woman work herself up over the growing reach of Al-Jazeera and its ability and courage to offer "real news" as it happens – and in the process probably an alternative to the overbearing loudspeakers of the US media.

It's amazing what a critical difference a single voice of sanity, however frail, could make in the Goebbelsian cacophony of lies, half-truths and shameless spin. And what a fantastic journey of sheer courage and chutzpah – and of course loads of hard work and persistence – has it been for Al-Jazeera.

It has changed the rules of the game not just in the incredibly dull world of the Middle East media but is forcing the movers and shakers of the world media to watch their step and constantly read and revise their script to keep pace with the change that the Doha-based network has come to represent. Al-Jazeera has not just emerged as the real voice of the Arab street, it is pitching itself as a healthy, credible alternative, even if it is still hopelessly young and green, to the apologists and cheerleaders of the empire. That has been hard to miss for anyone following the whirlwind of change that has turned the Arab world upside down.

A great deal has been written and said about the role the Internet and social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter have played in sowing the winds of change across the Middle East. Doubtless, the history of popular uprisings in the region – in fact the history of our times – will remain incomplete without the amazing contribution the net has made. However, Al-Jazeera had been there, long before Facebook and Twitter arrived in the Middle East, educating, informing and fashioning public opinion across the Arab and Islamic world.

In fact, by faithfully and courageously reporting the dramatic, lightning-quick developments in Tunisia, beaming the action right into millions of homes across the Middle East and around the world minute by minute, it unleashed the tsunami that swept away Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and now threatens many of his fellow travelers.

With its unvarnished and unedited reporting of the ground-shifting developments in Tunisia and Egypt, it created a template of change, a truly democratic and home-grown model, suggesting to the rest of the Muslim world they deserve better. That peaceful change is possible – without the intervention of our manipulative Western friends or the cynical, diabolic extremism as championed by the likes of Osama Bin Laden.

As a student of media and someone who has avidly followed Al-Jazeera's breathtaking journey, it's uplifting to see a little-known television network, once identified as the mouthpiece of Bin Laden, grow from strength to strength and take on the Goliaths of this world.

In a region where the media has long come to act as the hand maiden of governments and journalism has largely meant the publishing and broadcasting of the endless comings and goings of royalty, Al-Jazeera came as a burst of fresh, life-giving air.

While the rest of the pliant media establishment obsessed over what is known as "protocol news," Al-Jazeera, in the words of its boss, Wadah Khanfar, looked for "the real actors."

"We have been guided by a firm belief that the future of the Arab world will be shaped by people from outside the aging elites and debilitated political structures featured so disproportionately by most other news outlets," he said.

It kept its ear to the ground, listening to the drums beating in distance. This is why all those Western wonks and professional pundits failed to see the wave of change spearheaded by the Internet generation of young Arabs, dangerously aware of their democratic rights as well as the hopeless inadequacy of their elites, Al-Jazeera saw the Arab revolt coming, as Khanfar so modestly claims.

It has exposed the shenanigans of both the corrupt, authoritarian regimes in the neighborhood and the terrorism and tyranny of big powers. From Palestine to Pakistan and from America to Australia, Al-Jazeera has defied and demolished the lies and narrative of the empire. No wonder it constantly finds itself under attack from both brotherly Arab regimes and the bullies of the West.

While the Doha-based network has been repeatedly banned and harassed in numerous Arab countries, its journalists and offices have often found themselves in the line of fire, literally, of the self appointed champions of freedom and democracy. Amazingly, despite being funded by the Qatari government, a close ally of Uncle Sam, Al-Jazeera has managed to jealously guard and maintain its independence so far. Which is how it should be.

By the way, why can't we have more Al-Jazeeras out there? God knows we do need them more than ever. Instead of chasing those billion-dollar mirages in the sand, why can't Arabs invest more in the media? Instead of crying all the time about Islamophobia and negative stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims in Western media and popular culture, why don't they do something concrete to address it?

Al-Jazeera's success, especially that of Al-Jazeera English, proves it's possible to make professionally credible attempts on this front. If a tiny emirate like Qatar can do it, surely big boys like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey could do it. Even if 5 percent of what many Muslim countries spend on the expensive junk sold by the West as arms was devoted to developing world-class media, universities and research institutions, they wouldn't be stuck where they have been.

For those who control the media will control the mind.

*Aijaz Zaka Syed is a widely published columnist based in the Gulf.

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE GIFT OF DEATH

 

There wasn't even a decent interval between the release of Raymond Davis and the drone attack in the Datta Khel tehsil of North Waziristan which killed 44. Many were civilians who had no links with militancy. Some were children. This seems a surly way to thank Pakistan for freeing Davis; the central government should be thinking hard about its role in this, its efforts to gain favour with Washington and the reward it has received in return. The US ambassador Cameron Munter was called in to the Foreign Office yesterday afternoon for a conversation unlikely to have been comfortable, and we have withdrawn from the trilateral talks on Afghanistan to be held in Brussels on March 26. Actions have consequences. The reaction from COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has been one of anger – but this may not be enough to deter the US from staging similar strikes in the future. The events of the past few days have, if nothing else, made it clear that the US looks at Pakistan with disdain, even contempt. The lives of its people have no value. What is worse still is the fact that Pakistan's own government has so far seemed ready to squander its sovereignty to a nation that calls itself an ally but has done little to demonstrate this. The drone issue has continued for years now. Over the last week or so we have experienced a stepped up series of attacks, notably in North Waziristan, with the latest strike on a gathering of tribal elders claiming the largest ever death toll in that agency. While Islamabad repeatedly voices its annoyance each time more people are killed because of drones and the missiles they spew, it is hardly a secret that the drone attacks have the tacit support of the government. The protests are essentially nothing more than a cosmetic exercise.


But the question to be asked is: Where is this leading us? The anger left behind by the drones is growing in intensity. We have heard the anguish and the rage in the voices of people from Datta Khel this time too. It is unclear if any militants fell during the attack or what the principal purpose behind the strike was. But even if some did die, even if the vehicle chased by a drone across the Afghan border did carry a wanted person, the fact of the matter is that more young men in the area will take up arms to avenge those who have died and whose distraught relatives gather for burial. Warnings about this have been issued many times and by many different people. It appears they have not been heeded; it is also apparent that the Pakistani government has failed to persuade the US of the folly of its ways, and this can only mean more danger in the days ahead for all the people who live in the tribal belt and have learnt to fear the sound of the drones which have brought death and suffering time and again, making no distinction between militants and ordinary men, women and children.

 

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

NO-FLY IN LIBYA

 

France and Britain, supported by some Arab countries, have planned airstrikes against Libya and my already have done so by the time these lines are read. They have the backing of a resolution of the UN Security Council which acted with uncharacteristic speed and decisiveness, and it is a clear statement of intent in terms of toppling the Qaddafi regime. Notwithstanding the risks, the stand of the rebels against the Qaddafi regime appears to have coalesced the resolve of his erstwhile allies to oust him. The Arab League has already given its unanimous support for a no-fly zone, and he now finds himself on the wrong end of his arms-suppliers and his brand of quasi-socialism has run its course. The Libyan regime may be able to brush off the Arab League – but not the United Nations. The Libyan foreign minister announced 'an immediate ceasefire' late in the afternoon. His announcement was met with widespread scepticism all around the Mediterranean, the Arab world generally and in Europe.


In the event of an attack Qaddafi has threatened to retaliate in the Mediterranean and this is no mere bluster. He still has powerful military assets – air, land and sea – and could inflict considerable damage on the commerce of the region if he struck at civilian shipping, for instance. Much is going to depend on how effective early strikes against him are, and a failure to take down the majority of his assets could point to a very complicated and prolonged conflict. It is one thing to support the rebels from the air, but the wider struggle for power in Libya faces much the same problems as that faced by the Egyptians. They managed to overthrow a repressive regime, but the apparatus of the state remained and a substantial body of support for the old regimes as well. These things cannot be eradicated by the waving of a flag or the exit of a dictator, and dismantling them and replacing them with something that is hopefully better than what went before no easy task. What the Libyans are going to need, as do the Egyptians and the Tunisians, is help and support as they transition from one form of governance to another. Much of that is going to come from the old colonial powers, an irony unlikely to be comfortably received.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

JUSTICE FOR ALL

 

The nets laid out in our country to trap criminals usually catch only the minnows. The larger fish, for the most part, are able to swim away unprotected – assisted by their wealth, their status, and the web of 'contacts' used by so many to save themselves when times get tough. This has been a key factor in promoting the corruption and the accompanying problems that we have lived with for so many decades, creating greater and greater confidence among people that provided they have the right 'connections', they can do as they please.

The indications that the courts may no longer be willing to tolerate this have however been coming in more and more forcefully in recent days. The LHC's cancellation of pre-arrest bail for Moonis Ellahi, and his subsequent arrest by the FIA in the National Insurance Company Limited land scam case comes as the latest of the actions directed against the powerful. The ramifications of the arrest extend beyond the case at hand or the younger Ellahi himself. They come as a warning to all, regardless of their position, that no one can expect to escape justice. In the context of our country, this is a hugely important message and one that could deter people everywhere from committing crimes, confident they will not be punished or held accountable for their deeds.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

BLOOD, MONEY AND SOVEREIGNTY

AMEER BHUTTO

 

 Oh judgment thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason!" - Shakespeare (Julius Caesar)

Isn't our legal system wonderful? On March 14, in the Raymond Davis immunity case hearing in the Lahore High Court, the government submitted that he had entered Pakistan on a 'business visa' and the court ruled that the trial court would settle the issue of immunity.

 

ust two days later, on March 16, the trial court set him free after payment of blood money to the heirs of the murdered boys. In these mere 48 hours, all 19 heirs of the victims were contacted (nobody knows by whom), they were 'convinced' to accept blood money, the amount was settled, their lawyer was fired and a new one hired, the money was paid, statements to that effect were recorded in court, the case was disposed off accordingly, Raymond Davis was freed and reportedly rushed to a waiting aircraft at Lahore airport and the heirs of the deceased were all relocated to unknown locations.


If only the system would work with the same speed for the rest of us as well. I personally know of a case in which a man convicted of murder was not released for nearly two years even after reaching a compromise with the heirs of the victim. And what about the thousands of under trial prisoners who languish in prisons for years while cases linger on without outcome? What about our citizens that are allegedly handed over, and even sold, to foreign powers?


How very nice of our government to pounce at once to implement the ruling of the trial court. It is another matter that the honourable Chief Justice and his brethren in the Supreme Court have continuously strived in vain to get the government to implement their orders and verdicts in matters of national importance, but in this case the orders of a district level trial court were implemented with lightening speed to facilitate Davis' flight from Pakistan. But contradictions have already surfaced in the accounts of the Pakistani and American authorities.

Firstly, while the official version being peddled here is that blood money was paid to the heirs of the victims by the American authorities and the recipients of the blood money even recorded statements to that effect in court, American Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has gone on record to deny that any money was paid by the United States of America.


Her statement is corroborated by media reports to the effect that the blood money was, in fact, paid by the Pakistan government. In other words, our government paid taxpayers' money to spring a foreign killer of Pakistani citizens from prison. This is tantamount to subsidising the murder of our citizens by foreign adventurists and is an invitation to others of Davis' ilk to slaughter more Pakistanis. If the Pakistan government did indeed pay the blood money as reported, then that does not satisfy the religious requirements of diyat, which the murderer must pay.


Secondly, the government of Pakistan is desperately trying to distance itself from the diyat deal, but a spokesperson for the United States authorities has admitted in a press conference that they worked closely with the government of Pakistan to secure Davis' release.


The body of Shariah Law must either be accepted or rejected in toto. It is hypocritical of western powers to reap benefits under its provisions while carrying on a full scale war against those who seek to implement the same laws in society. In any case, other questions remain unanswered. For instance, Davis' suspicious conduct needs to be explained. What business did a man who entered Pakistan on a 'business visa' have in the Mozang Chongi area of Lahore? Why was this 'businessman' so heavily armed? Widely publicised Russian intelligence reports have claimed that Davis was passing nuclear material to the Taliban. Are these not serious enough allegations to warrant investigation? Or was there a deal on those matters too? If so, who benefited from it and what were the benefits?

The clandestine manner in which Raymond Davis was set free is another nail in the coffin of our national sovereignty. We have sunk to a new low. If anybody harboured delusions of freedom they should now lay them to rest and swallow the bitter reality pill that our power hungry rulers have reduced us to a colony of their foreign masters to cling on to power with their support. Public and national interests never enter the picture. Revolution in Tunisia was ignited by the suicide of just one man who set himself on fire due to economic hardship. Hundreds of men and women have committed suicide in Pakistan in the last few years for the same reason, but there has been no public reaction here.


By the time this article is printed it will have become clear how the public will react to this issue. The future of the country will depend on their response. Lack of adequate action on their part is bound to open even greater flood gates of oppression and humiliation that this country lacks the strength to survive.


Raymond Davis is gone. All the petitions or suo moto notices in the world will not bring him back to Pakistan. But the higher judiciary can at least probe into the facts and glaring discrepancies in this matter. And if they are going to hold the authorities responsible for any form of culpability in allowing a murderer to get away, then they must also take the government to task for allowing Pervez Musharraf to escape, with full presidential protocol no less, before he could answer charges in the Benazir Bhutto murder case.


What is the opposite of the Midas touch? Whatever it is, this government has it. Everything it does, everything it touches or meddles with, is soiled with filth and sleaze. It seems almost physically incapable of acting under the umbrella of law and sound political and moral ethics. In all its dealings there is the ever-present element of deception and corruption. That is why the democratic process of electing a government is so critical. The Kennedy family holds almost royal status in America, yet the late Senator Edward Kennedy was denied nomination by the Democratic Party to contest for the presidency in 1980, mainly because of the Chappaquiddick incident in which a young woman died, allegedly because of his negligence.


Electing leaders is a responsibility to be discharged not on emotional considerations, but on the more solid grounds of reasonable expectations of fulfilment of public and national interests. It is a decision the public must take not on the basis of services rendered to the nation by deceased leaders in the past, but on the reasonable expectations of services to be rendered by the current politicians in the future based on a close scrutiny of their past conduct. When public authority is vested in unfit hands, they can do no better than to make a mockery of all that we hold sacred. They are bound to hamstring democracy, cripple state institutions and compromise national sovereignty while raking in the loot, operating under the principle of 'after me the deluge'.


How much longer must Pakistan suffer the consequences of the NRO deal? How much more pain and humiliation are the people willing to tolerate in silence? How can we hold our heads high after this? I have quoted the following lines from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar before and I offer no apologies for reproducing them again since they so eloquently sum up the sorry state of affairs we find ourselves in time and again:

"The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings."



The writer is vice-chairman of the Sindh National Front and a former MPA from Ratodero. He has degrees from the University of Buckingham and Cambridge University.

 

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

WHOSE BLOOD? WHOSE MONEY?

TALAT FAROOQ

 

It is like a slap in the face, a personal affront, legality and religious endorsement of the act notwithstanding. Raymond Davis has finally been delivered into safety and freedom by the federal government, the provincial government, the security agencies and the judiciary. How united we stand when it comes to serving our masters overseas!

Who wanted Davis back? America. And who was the guarantor and the mediator? Saudi Arabia. How did Saudi Arabia achieve this American objective in Pakistan? By using the Islamic-leverage; a strategy that Saudi Arabia has effectively applied since the Afghan-Soviet War in the 1980s. They have used the religious bent of the people of Pakistan and their sentimental attachment to the Prophet to help the US attain its foreign policy goals in Pakistan.


Raymond Davis is not only the murderer of two individuals, he is involved in espionage against the state of Pakistan. What right then did the Saudis have to arrange Davis' return? Who were they to pay the blood money on America's behalf? The sad truth is that we as beggars cannot be choosers.


The political hypocrisy of both the US and Saudi Arabia has never been more apparent than it is today. It is reflected in their responses to the peoples' uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. It is manifested in their prompt intervention in Bahrain and their delaying tactics in stopping the hand of Qaddafi. The Saudi role whether in Pakistan or Bahrain, has demonstrated how its monarchy works hand in glove with the US.

The question is how then do our mullahs find the Saudis to be the great upholders of the ultimate truth? Why are the Jamaat-e-Islami and the rest of the bearded lot only condemning America? Is the Saudi obsequiousness any different from Tony Blair's catering to the fancies of George Bush?


The Taliban that have become the bane of our lives were manufactured by the military and mullahs with Saudi riyals. Why then do we consider them our benefactors? How is Saudi intervention in our internal matters any different from America's violation of our sovereignty? The Saudis are as much responsible for what has become of Pakistan today as America and Pakistan's security agencies. Saudi riyals have bought Pakistani vested interests with as much ease as US dollars.


The US and Saudi Arabia are not the only ones who stand exposed. More importantly, it is Pakistan. The politicians, the judiciary and the military establishment are all party to this drama. Raymond Davis, the murderer of innocent Pakistanis has left the country; America, the mass murderer of innocent people all over the world, has struck Waziristan with a vengeance.


Prime Minister Gilani tells us that the drone attacks were 'irresponsible' and the government has protested to the US. And the bases from where the drones flew, where were they, Gilani Saheb? In India? Afghanistan? America?

If there were any doubts about the nature of power politics in Pakistan, the Raymond Davis drama has dispelled them. The politicians whether from the ruling party or the opposition will always be remembered as cowards of the highest order. The representatives of the judiciary will be remembered as unjust, the military as inadequate, and the mullahs as hypocritical.

They are all working according to their respective agendas. The politicians want to loot and plunder while the iron is hot. The judiciary wants to rock the boat but not to the point of drowning itself. The military wants to protect its self-created monsters in North Waziristan and Punjab; the mullahs want to use religion to attain power and blame America but not Saudi Arabia. They all have their own axes to grind.


No-one gives a toss about the people of Pakistan. They do not matter; their integrity is a joke, their dignity for sale. They are treated like commodities, used and discarded. They are a mild irritant in the way of the high and mighty and their desires. They are insects that the elite don't even notice when they crush them under their shoes. They once dared to dream of an independent country where they would live with dignity. They once believed that Jinnah's Pakistan will be better than Nehru's India. Today they are crushed, abused, broken and humiliated. Their blood is being spilled every day in the streets of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

But no one will ever ask for their forgiveness; no one will ever offer to pay their blood money in order to win freedom. They are nobodies, redundant, superfluous, and dispensable. They will remain uncounted, faceless and nameless for their life is not a matter of national interest for America or Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.


So let us then bow our heads and weep for the dreams that could not materialise. Let us bow our heads and weep for the self-respect lost along the way and for being betrayed by those we trusted with our lives and dreams; the ones we trusted with the future of our children. Let us weep for lost hopes and broken dreams. Above all, let us weep for never having the courage to stand up to the usurpers, the exploiters and the oppressors. Let us weep because our dreams were important to us but not that important.


The writer is a PhD student at Leicester, UK. Email: talatfarooq11@gmail.com

           

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

DOCTORS' MOVEMENT

DR SANIA NISHTAR


 doctors in the largest province of the country are on strike for the seventeenth day running. With revolutionary fervour from the lawyers' movement and the Middle Eastern revolutions shaping our societal political culture, it seems that the movement is having a snowball effect. An increasing number of young doctors, groups and associations are galvanising support for the Young Doctors Association, the apex body, which lent impetus to this movement. Their cause is becoming a rallying cry for drawing attention to a number of systemic constraints in relation to human resource issues as they impact young doctors.


Their demands are legitimate – pay raise, pay protection, increase in health budget, and implementation of a service structure and regularisation of doctors on contract. However, the determinants of the problem and possible policy approaches are complex and multi-dimensional. This comment aims to highlight some of the policy insights and imperatives which interplay in this complex space.


First, these demands have arisen in a fiscal year where there has been a massive development budgetary squeeze, after the floods of 2010. This is also a year where there is an elephant in the room – the 18th Amendment has altered the health sector's institutional landscape and several administrative and human resource related parameters are in a flux. As implementation of devolution gets underway, management of human resource service structures will be problematic and will need careful management.


Secondly, inadequate remuneration of doctors is part of an overarching problem – low investments in social service delivery in general and health in particular. Chronic under-funding of the state's health infrastructure is the major fault line. As a result, providers in the public system are seldom remunerated according to prevailing market trends. This creates problems at several levels. On the one hand, as a result of better incentives in the private system, doctors are driven to private practice and establishing private enterprises. In urban settings where some level of oversight can be maintained, this results in dual job-holding, with doctors working both in the public as well as the private system. However in rural/remote areas where oversight cannot be maintained, absenteeism is rampant. Public doctors simply do not serve in the public system. Some are maintained on salary books only and exist as "ghost workers".


Chronic under-funding of the public system, coupled with an unregulated burgeoning role of the market in health and lack of transparency in overall health governance also create a number of other distortions in the health system, which I have alluded to in my book, 'Choked Pipes'. There are options available to plan and institutionalise reform to overcome these distortions. Various entry points exist through which reform can be initiated – changes in human resource structures and it is here that understanding the dynamics which shape the young doctors' recent protests assumes importance.


Human resource and health systems are deeply inter-woven. Human resource is not just another input into the health system, as are financial and physical resources. Individuals are strategic actors within the system who can act individually or collectively to facilitate the process of change by improving quality and efficiency. Conversely, they can also be the critical impediment to a reform process.


For example, decentralisation can grant appropriate prerogatives and/or take away decision-making powers that promote arbitrariness. Pakistan has experimented copiously with deploying and de-tracking from decentralisation of the local government system, 2001 onwards. Its fall out is evident in many areas, but is most evident in the area of human resources for health, where a high degree of uncertainty shrouds workers' performance. The premise behind the devolution initiative has almost been defeated.


Changing public service status as a result of reform is another factor as it can have implications for workload in addition to incentives. Implementation of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa's hospital autonomy policy in 2002 is a case in point, as it sparked strikes and demonstrations by paramedics, who feared losing their flexible public job status by being part of a more stringently governed private sector. The critical role of human resource in shaping the direction of envisaged change should, therefore, not be under-estimated – ongoing protests must be viewed in light of this understanding.


Thirdly, this situation should draw the attention of policymakers to the lack of existence of a comprehensive policy on human resources for heath in the country. There are three issues in relation to the health service delivery workforce, which need attention – numerical inadequacies, issues related to distribution and deployment, and problems with capacity building and training. While the number of doctors in the country has increased since 1947, critical numerical inadequacies prevail.


Many issues need to be addressed in the domain of under-graduate and postgraduate education, in-service training, and continuing education. There is the additional dimension of problems related to human resources for health administration particularly with reference to staffing key governance positions, training and capacity building and institutionalising accountability. Over the years, political and external interference in decisions, particularly in relation to recruitment, transfers and disciplinary actions has become deeply ingrained. Erosion of mechanisms to compel accountability and politicisation of governance are an impediment for efficiency and a demoralising factor within the public sector.


A human resource policy needs to be developed taking all these factors into consideration. The policy should be based on an objective assessment of needs and can benefit from being translated into a Health Services Law, which encompasses all categories of healthcare providers and lays down consensus-driven roles and prerogatives. Insights can also be drawn from the recommendations of the National Commission on government reforms, which have not been implemented.


Despite our Pandora of problems, Pakistan's societal political culture is getting stronger with increasing awareness amongst people about matters, which impact their rights and well being. Pakistan's decision makers must accord careful attention to such movements in an overall environment charged with revolutionary fervour.

The writer is the founding president of the NGO think tank, Heartfile. Email: sania@ heartfile.org

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

INNOVATE TO EDUCATE

SHAHID KARDAR

 

When I was asked by the government of Punjab to take over as chairman of a restructured Punjab Education Foundation in 2005, with the country's education system in such dire straits, it was hard to conceive of how a foundation like PEF could make a contribution.


Today nearly 850,000 children are going to schools financed and overseen by PEF. That is more than the entire enrolment of the primary and lower-secondary system of the small country of Switzerland. PEF's costs are remarkably low: only Rs350 per student.


There are two concurrent challenges that policymakers face in trying to solve the education riddle.


The first is simply that the demand for education is high. The incontrovertible evidence of this demand is in the growth of private-sector schools in Pakistan. In some areas private schools are inexpensive, where average monthly fees, back then, were as low as Rs100. The dramatic rise in low-cost private schools is a massive indictment by Pakistani parents of the public-sector system for delivery of schooling.


Why are Pakistani parents rejecting the public-sector school system? This is a supply problem, the second challenge to the education sector. Simply put, more and more parents are choosing private-sector schools because of the problem of an unaccountable public-sector delivery system. Thousands of teachers at government schools just don't show up to work. Worst yet, the ones that do aren't held to any standards of quality of teaching. This accountability problem is a supply-side problem. The solution does not lie in simply raising the salaries of service providers-the teachers.


When I became PEF's chairman in 2005, in which position I stayed until 2008, we set a clear goal. We wanted to see whether we could meet parents' demand for education without their having to compromise on the quality of its supply. In other words, we wanted to separate the government's responsibility for financing education from its involvement in the provision of education services by establishing and running effective schools. The success of the PEF model proves that this is possible. The question is how it became possible.

I strongly believe that the PEF model works because it is based on accountability. It is this accountability underwrites PEF, and enables its people, its systems and its leadership to deliver.


To ensure accountability we had to be unwavering. We decided that the board of directors would be totally independent from political interference and from PEF's management. Its members have complete autonomy. Political leaders have no influence over how the foundation works. Management is undertaken by professionals hired for their ability to deliver results.


The real victory, however, was at the operational level. We tried to ingrain accountability in PEF through a set of incentives and disincentives. First, we made sure there was a minimum baseline for learning outcomes. We asked eligible schools to demonstrate quality, by requiring two-thirds of all students to score at least 40 per cent marks in a special Quality Assurance Test (QAT) in maths, English and science. Second, we incentivised teachers by offering a Rs10,000 bonus to the five best teachers in a district. The means of determining who is best is simple: the performance of students in QAT and continued financial support to the school was contingent upon the performance of students in the exam. Finally, we incentivised the management by offering a Rs50,000 bonus to the best school in the area, again based on students' achievement in QAT.

Being able to base a system on numbers, rather than relationships, patronage or edicts of the powerful, was possible only because we had good, robust systems, and sound leadership. PEF has documented processes for every aspects of its operation, and these are continually refined and improved. Our data is sacrosanct: without it the project is unsustainable, and we set great store by its purity. Collection of data is scrupulously impartial. Accounts are audited twice over by the auditor general of Pakistan and also by private and independent auditors. During our assessments of schools, teachers do not know which class will be evaluated, and marking of Quality Assessment Tests is carried out not by PEF staff or our inspectors but by professors of Government College and Punjab University.


The systems we have are strong and robust, not only because of their inherent strength but also because they are perceived positively. Since we know our data are honestly gathered, we are happy to make it public, thereby increasing public confidence in everything we do. Our annual report is placed before the provincial legislature, our rankings of schools are displayed on district notice boards, and PEF now has a regularly-updated interactive website for stakeholders and the community, including an online complaints facility.


The leadership we had right at the top was crucial. The inescapable reality is that good managers or executives in the public sector have zero potential for success unless they have the confidence of leadership, including a real autonomy in what they do, and how they do it. The chief minister at the time, Chaudhry Parwaiz Elahi, gave me a free hand to achieve results. Not once was I asked to do anything other than deliver the outcomes that PEF was committed to. One incident is particularly telling. During the launching phase in a district that was politically important for him, I had feared the chief minister may ask me to provide some extra schools. What the chief minister did shocked me. He sought me out and said: "Whatever you do, don't give this district any special treatment. I don't want anything to impinge on your reputation." That kind of freedom and autonomy tends to be unheard-of in the public sector, and not every manager is blessed with it. I was lucky that such support was available not only at the political level but also at the administrative and bureaucratic level. The chief secretary of Punjab at the time, Salman Siddique, and the chairman of the Planning and Development Board, Suleman Ghani, were also incredibly supportive, and their support was instrumental. I never had to deal with interference, nepotism or patronage at PEF – a curse that derails so many other executives in the public sector. This leadership and its enabling role in allowing the PEF to function as purely an instrument of service delivery, rather than patronage, was fundamental to the success of the efforts.


As PEF continues to build on its successes, perhaps the most important lesson is the simplest of all. Pakistan is not incapable of change, and government financing does not necessarily mean government delivery. Innovation and flexibility can help achieve amazing things. That's the most important lesson I'd want the March for Education campaign to convey. That we can do it.


The writer is the governor of the State Bank of Pakistan. A detailed paper by him on innovation for education reform will be available at http://www.educationemergency.com.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

OUR RANTING AND RAVING

BABAR SATTAR


What is it that makes us really mad about the Raymond Davis saga? Is it that two Pakistani lives have been lost and no one has been made to account for them? Is it that big, bad America has rubbed our noses in the dirt, robbed us of honour and established that with power and money one can even get away with murder in Pakistan? Is it that our civilian and military leaders have proved yet again that their personal servitude to US interests takes precedence over all else? Is it that with the acceptance of blood money the families of the slain Pakistanis have reminded us that ordinary citizens are as eager to sell their souls for the right price as our leaders?

Or is it a vile conspiracy against Islam that a Shariah-inspired law has been used by an infidel to get away with murder? Has the manner and speed of the Davis trial established that our justice system isn't really blind and does play favourites if they are powerful enough?


How does one explain the outpour of national outrage at the death of two Pakistanis (with suspect backgrounds at best) and nothing comparable at the killing of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti? Why are the lives claimed in Fata by drone attacks, in Balochistan by national security, and across Pakistan by morality, honour and intolerance any less valuable?

 


Does Shariah-inspired law not endorse the concept of blood money, the role of a victim's legal heirs in granting forgiveness and the legal system letting a killer off the hook if he manages to buy his pardon? Why is the use of this law acceptable when it comes into play to excuse premeditated murders of women by family members for the sake of 'honour' or to allow the rich to purchase their way out of the criminal justice system, but not in the case of Davis?


Why criticise Hussain Haqqani for showing the Americans a legal way out of the Davis debacle? Could he have shown such a way if none existed? If the Davis case has made a mockery of justice why is no one interested in plugging loopholes in the Qisas and Diyat law even today? Has the justice system faltered in this particular case? Do we not know that thousands use money and influence every day to grease the wheels of our judicial system? Is financial or intellectual corruption kosher when it comes to cases involving Pakistanis but swift judicial process abhorrent if it benefits someone like Davis?


The ability of a legal system to produce justice is contingent on the merit and substance of laws together with the integrity of procedures that comprise the system.


As a nation we are loath to critique and revisit abusive statutory provisions such as the blasphemy law or the diyat law. We understand that bigots in the past conceived flawed legal provisions in the name of religion, present-day bigots defend them tooth and nail for their public survival rests on their ability to continue to drag religion into politics and abuse it, and yet we are too timid to stand for our beliefs and confront the abuse of religion in our state.


How can a legal system comprising flawed laws and compromised procedural practices miraculously produce justice?

Leaving our hypocrisy and internal contradictions aside, let us form a fair estimate of what happened in the Davis case. The fact that an undercover CIA operative was formally arrested and information about the case was released to the media was extraordinary.


The federal government refused to declare that Raymond Davis enjoyed diplomatic immunity despite US pressure backed by all its might having been brought to bear upon it. The US administration was forced to backtrack and consider 'amicable' alternatives when Pakistan insisted that Davis' release must be the outcome of our court process.


At a time when the US is plunged into one of the most Islamophobic phases of its history (with legislators in more than 13 states having introduced bills requiring courts to disregard Shariah laws), the US administration has had to rely on a Shariah-inspired Pakistani law to buy the release of a spook in full public glare.


Notwithstanding current US status as the sole superpower and the arrogance that comes along, the Davis episode (in the midst of the Middle East turmoil) would have driven home the point that even in satellite states such as Pakistan business-as-usual might not work for much longer. The formula of relying on compliant elites within client states eager and willing to do the master's bidding is on an extended lease of life if not outdated.

In Pakistan with the judiciary and the media emerging as new sources of influence more responsive to public opinion, power is no longer as centralised and monopolised as it used to be. Such change in the power-distribution pattern will make it harder for the US to rely on a coterie of individuals within the ruling regime to secure its interests in utter disregard of street opinion.

But here lies the rub as well. The manner in which the Raymond Davis saga wound up has further entrenched the sense of disempowerment of the average Pakistani. We are angry most of all for we feel used. Our elites have not undergone a change of heart it now seems. They are still eager to sleep with the enemy. It is obvious that public anger was deliberately provoked in this case as a tactical maneuver to drive up the price.


Our faceless khakis were running the show all along. Once they extracted their pound of flesh things became hunky-dory and the 'system' started to speak with one voice again. The biggest winners in this haggle have been the army and the ISI, and the democratic process, civilian control of the military and a rational tolerant society the sorest losers.


Punishing Raymond Davis was not going to rid Pakistan of any of its problems. We feel violated because this episode has thrown into our faces the ugly realities that characterise our state and our society. Our reaction is twofold: a sense of fatalism reflected in self-loathing commentary on how we are a failed people and deserve the hand we have been dealt; or a sense of denial obvious in theories about the US-Euro-Zino-Indian hegemonic-nexus conspiring to hold down the tremendous potential of the faithful in this land of the pure.

Neither position helps one indulge in constructive self-criticism and take corrective measures. The real tragedy surrounding the Davis saga is that while getting all riled up against the US, we are refusing to learn the right lessons.

The Raymond Davis episode transpired because our security apparatus is not accountable to the people of Pakistan and the national security policy is not subject to public scrutiny. We will never know the details of why the CIA and the ISI fell out in the first place and the terms on which they made up and so more Davises will exist and thrive without our knowledge.


What we do know is that the khakis have established conclusively that anyone interested in doing business in Pakistan must go through them (first by stirring up a national crisis over the Kerry-Lugar law and then taming it, and now by getting Davis wound up in a legal conundrum and then disentangling him).


This will remind the US and other foreign actors of the necessity of building direct ties with the army, further perpetuate the civil-military imbalance in Pakistan and weaken the democratic process. Meanwhile the nation addicted to hollow notions of pride will continue to confuse jingoism with national interest and growing anti-Americanism will keep religious parties, bigotry and intolerance alive and well in Pakistan.


Email: sattar@post.harvard.edu

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

BALOCH GRIEVANCES

RIZWAN ASGHAR

 

The insurgency in Balochistan shows no signs of dying down. The upsurge of violence so far this year has involved blowing up of gas pipelines on a much larger scale. Bullet-riddled bodies of missing persons are often found in various parts of the province. The assassination attempts on the governor and the chief minister of the province reflect the state's collective failure in the maintenance of law and order.


Now people openly talk of secession. In many districts of Balochistan the subject of "Pakistan studies" is not being taught in schools any more, and Pakistan's national flag is publicly desecrated. Some moderate Baloch who talk of finding a solution within the federation of Pakistan are also being targeted.


For its part, the PPP-led government in Balochistan has failed to take any positive steps for removal of the sense of deprivation amongst the Baloch people. Its performance on developmental work in the remote areas of Balochistan has been poor from the start. There are no signs of any sincere effort for the resolution of the conflict by the provincial or federal governments.


The initiatives taken so far have fallen short of encouraging a coherent approach to the problem. The military operations launched from time to time have only resulted in loss of life, property and displacement of Baloch people. Resultantly, the Baloch people have gradually lost hope that Pakistan's discriminatory political system will provide them with justice.


We cannot leave the situation to the intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces. Recently, Salahuddin Mengal, the advocate general of the province, alleged that the Frontier Constabulary is persecuting innocent people. According to human rights groups, as many as 13,000 people are missing in the province. The issue of missing people is very sensitive for the Baloch people and cannot be ignored.


The government should hold a political dialogue with all the stakeholders. At the same time, it should engage with the common people of Balochistan by wooing them through trust-building measures.


The people of Balochistan have the primary right over the minerals and other natural resources of the province. This right has always been denied to them. The major part of the income from these resources should be spent on the welfare of the people of Balochistan.


First priority should be accorded to addressing Baloch politico-economic grievances and resolving the issue of missing persons. The intelligence agencies' meddling in Balochistan's political affairs should also stop immediately.

Meanwhile, the Baloch people have to realise that despite the fact that their province has been neglected by the federal government, some Baloch sardars are equally to blame for the sad plight of the people of Balochistan. For instance, Balochistan's first elected assembly was dissolved by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in collusion with Baloch sardars.

Similarly, during the Musharraf government Nawab Akbar Bugti had demanded an abnormal rise in land rent, but when the federal government refused to concede his demand he started clamouring for Baloch rights. Many Baloch sardars have always opposed the establishment of schools in their constituencies. During this persistent friction between the federal government and Baloch sardars, it is the common Baloch who have to bear the brunt.

Email: rizwanasghar7@yahoo. Com

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

DAVIS IS FREE AND HE HAD TO BE

 

THE man, who committed broad daylight murder of two Pakistanis and is directly to be blamed for loss of two other precious lives, has ultimately been released in mysterious circumstances, triggering protests and raising questions about different aspects of the whole episode. During the next few days and weeks different versions would be advanced and charges and counter-charges levelled in a bid to shift the blame or justify what majority of Pakistanis view as 'misdeed'.


In our view, it was understood from the day one that the CIA agent would ultimately be released – not because of legal intricacies or lack of evidence but because he was a citizen of the most powerful country of the world that has the means to make small and weak countries declare day as night and vice versa. The drop scene of Raymond Davis drama has once again established the fact that the United States has the power of arms twisting to get its way through even if it means murder of justice and prevalence of law of the jungle. For several weeks, State of Pakistan and its people tried to defend their just cause and in fact, the entire world community backed their stance but ultimately the Federal and Provincial Governments, the Army, other institutions, judiciary and even families of the victims caved in and took refuge behind 'Diyat' payment, a face-saving solution, which the lawyer concerned claims was imposed upon the members of the family of the victims. Even this arrangement is questionable, as State Department spokesman Mark Toner declared on Wednesday that Washington did not pay the blood money. Who knows Pakistan itself had been forced to pay the money from its own sources or the amount might have been deducted from Kerry-Lugar funds, as the US did in the case of earthquake related assistance when Pakistanis and the international community were made to believe that Americans were leading the list of donors. Leaving 'Diyat' and subsequent pardon apart, one might ask what about high tech gadgets recovered from the American national, who, by all accounts and leaks, was a spy with the task to gather sensitive information about strategic assets of Pakistan and undertake activities to destabilize the country. The United States has been boasting about 'diplomatic immunity' to the confirmed killer but his release through payment of Diyat means such claims were bogus. Many questions have been raised and many more would emerge in future but what about hundreds of Davis in the country with the same tasks and missions. The Government definitely owes an explanation.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

PM'S KYRGYZSTAN ODYSSEY

 

PRIME Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani during talks with Kyrgyz President Wednesday expressed the desire of Pakistan for multi-faceted and vibrant ties with Kyrgyzstan for the progress and prosperity of the two countries. During meeting the two leaders discussed the whole gamut of issues including promotion of bilateral trade, energy cooperation and regional and international issues.


In our view in the new emerging realities Pakistan must pay more attention to enhance interaction with (CARs) Central Asian Republics. Pakistan-Central Asia can work together in matters of security, stability and development of the region. They can collaborate in numerous areas, such as scientific and technical fields, banking, insurance, information technology, pharmaceutical industry and tourism. Central Asian Republics and Pakistan are also members of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) and bilaterally and through the ECO, many schemes and projects for intra-regional cooperation in trade and travel, industrial enterprises as joint ventures, banking and exchange of technology and technical know-how can be implemented for their mutual advantage. The CARs are rich in natural resources while Pakistan can export to them several products, it can import oil, gas and electricity. As the closest neighbours, increased trade relations would be a win win situation for all sides. Strategically, Pakistan and Central Asia are important to each other, as only Pakistan can provide the CARs with a comparatively cheaper and shorter outlet for its natural energy resources and its trade to the outside world through the ports at Karachi and Gwadar. Prime Minister did well to offer Kyrgyzstan the Gwadar deep sea port for trade and President Roza Otenbayeva responded positively saying her country was mounting the efforts for improvement of communication, transportation and road links with Pakistan for access to international markets via the Gwadar Port. The presence of President of FPCCI in the delegation and other businessmen was an indication that Pakistan was interested to boost commercial and trade ties with the Kyrgyz Republic. The odyssey by Gilani to Kyrgyzstan was the first by a Pakistani Prime Minister in sixteen years after Benazir Bhutto paid a visit in 1995. So the need is greater people to people and leadership level contacts as meetings at regular intervals pay dividend and remove hurdles in the way of close relationship in different fields particularly in trade and economic cooperation.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

OUTSOURCING POLICYMAKING TO THE WEST

GEOPOLITICAL NOTES FROM INDIA

M D NALAPAT

One of the country's most prestigious newspapers, The Hindu,has been carrying a series based on the 5000 Wikileaks cables which relate to India. The first installment carried details about how Mani Shankar Aiyar lost the Petroleum Ministry in a Cabinet reshuffle,because he was regarded as too pro-Iran and therefore anti-US.He was replaced by Murli Deora, who is known to be close to the US from the time of Ronald Reagan.

Mani Shankar Aiyar is no stranger to Pakistan,having served in the country as a diplomat for many years. He is among the few politicians with the ability to understand complex issues,and to take a long-term view of policy. Certainly he feels uncomfortable with those who argue that Delhi should unquestioningly follow the "advice" given by the US,France and the UK, and makes no secret of such views. Interestingly, another former Indian Foreign Service officer-turned-politician was also sacrificed, most probabably because like Aiyar,he too opposed the uncritical acceptance of advice from Europe and the US that has been the hallmark of Sonia Gandhi's policies. Like Aiyar, Kunwar (Prince) Natwar Singh too has a very high IQ and is far happier in the world of books and scholarship than he is with politics and polticians. In contrast to them,Murli Deora, who was in charge of the Union Petroleum Ministry till very recently has made no secret of his affinity for the US and for Europe, being among the many Indian politicians who spend a lot of time in both these continents. Murli Deora is a person of great charm,and it is this quality that enabled him to become one of the top fund-raisers for the Congress Party in the 1980s. Businesspersons know that he can be relied upon to help them,and hence have usually followed hos advice to donate generously to the Congress Party.

 

Murli Deora's mentor in politics was a soft-spoken barrister,Rajni Patel,who was the Congress boss of affluent Mumbai years before Deora took charge. However,while Rajni Patel had an affinity towards the Left, Deora has always been a backer of more privileges for private industry. He is the exact opposite of Mani Shankar Aiyar,and it is a commentary on Indian politics that he is still a powerful member of the Union Cabinet,while both Aiyar as well as Natwar Singh are without any official position. From the time (1947-64) when Jawaharlal Nehru was Prime Minister,the mainstream Indian establishment has followed a policy of verbally differing with the West while in effect obeying the dictates of the civilisation that dominated the globe for three centuries,till the close of the 1990s.


It is not accidental that the higher one goes in the Indian official establishment - especially in the economic ministries - the greater the proportion of children studying in expensive foreign institutions,such as Wharton,MIT,Harvard and Princeton. The monthly expenses of such tuition come to more than the annual salary of even a high official in the Government of India ( those of the rank of Joint Secretary and above), yet there has been no problem meeting these expenses. Usually,trusts and foundations indirectly funded by large corporates give scholarships and other assistance to the children of high officials. It would be a simple matter for the Income-tax authorities to get details of the number of officials whose children are studying abroad,but for obvious reasons,this is never done.


When the British ruled India,they paid very high salaries to the top civil servants. However,when Nehru became PM, he decreed that salaries should be cut to very low levels, a practice that has been followed to the present.Even the highest officials in the Government of India get a net salary of about Rs 70,000 a month, when a trainee fresh from an Indian Institute of Management gets Rs 2.5 lakhs per month in many companies. As Lee Kuan Yew pointed out,when there is a huge gap between discretionary power and official income,the temptation to be corrupt increases signficantly. It is a tribute to the quality of those entering the civil service that despite all the temptations,so many officers remain honest.


Lee Kuan Yew learnt from India's mistake and ensured that he paid very high salaries to senior civil servants in Singapore,which is an important reason why that city-state has a civil administration that is honest and effective,as does another territory where too salaries and pensions are high,Hong Kong.Unlike Nehru, the Chinese did not tamper with the salary structure of the administrative structure,with the result that while India is riddled with corruption,the Hong Kong civil service is clean.


Interestingly, not only do several children of senior officials have degrees from the most expensive foreign universities,but many are also working for foreign-owned multinationals, especially the financial companies whose greed has caused so much economic turmoil. Is it any wonder that several policies get framed in India that benefit foreign countries at the expense of the Indian people? Indeed,the Sonia Gandhi-led administration is also considering changes in the Patents Law that would destroy much of the domestic pharmaceutical industry.Since the new government came to power in 2004,the prices of several drugs have gone up by 800% and more, as has hospital care. The beneficiaries are foreign drug giants as well as insurance companies Now that events in Libya and Egypt demonstrate the fair-weather nature of the friendship of Western powers with local elites, there is an opportunity for India to join China in attracting huge amounts of capital.


Indeed, Muammar Gaddafy of Libya has already declared that he wants to divert investment from the US and the EU to India. He has asked India to provide technicians for the oil industry.Should India oblige,the way may be clear for India to become a significant player in Libya's oil industry. However,so total is the outsourcing of policy to the West that this request is being ignored by the Petroleum Ministry,which has thus far done a dismal job of ensuring either domestic production or access to foreign fields. The exploitation of proven fields has been painfully slow,while in most countries,Indian entities lose out to Chinese or Western oil companies.


That India is making progress is despite much of official policy,which remains geared towards creating multiple barriers to productive activity that can only be surmounted by bribes. India has yet to follow the example of Germany and seek out tax evaders who use offshore havens. The silver lining is that civil society is finally beginning to notice the magnitude of the problem created by official corruption,and is pressing for action. Should at least a few dozen big fish go into the net, the country would benefit substantially. However,as yet,there seems to be no evidence that VVIPs are in any danger of being held to account for the tens of billions of dollars they have stolen from the Indian people.


—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

MR KARZAI: BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER

SULTAN M HALI

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's latest diatribe regarding the international troops leaving Afghanistan and taking their fight to Pakistan has hurt the sentiments of Pakistan. Karzai owes Pakistan the hospitality of hosting him when the chips were down, and being a second home for Afghan refugees. Mr. Karzai delivered his latest criticism of NATO efforts over the weekend in Asadabad, capital of eastern Kunar province, where he was visiting relatives of civilians killed in a raid by international forces. The Afghan leader said his government has shown NATO that the terrorists and militants are not in Afghanistan, but instead are hiding in neighboring Pakistan. Even if Mr. Karzai was addressing his own people, he should not have been so callous towards his neighbour Pakistan, which bore the brunt of the Soviet invasion and besides hosting millions of Afghan refugees including Mr. Karzai for over a decade, supported operations to oust the Soviets. After 9/11, Pakistan supported the US-led coalition, which defeated the Taliban and helped install Mr. Karzai as the President.

Civilian casualties are a sensitive subject on both sides of the Durand Line. Earlier this month, NATO's top commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, apologized for an airstrike that killed nine children in Kunar province – the result of miscommunication, according to the coalition. Mr. Karzai has warned that NATO could face "huge problems" if the accidental killing of civilians does not stop. A joint report last week by the U.N. mission in Afghanistan and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission says there were nearly 3,000 war-related civilian deaths in 2010 – an increase of 15 percent over 2009's toll. The study concluded that insurgents and militants were responsible for about 75 percent of those deaths. The collateral damage owing to drone attacks in Pakistan, has led tempers to soar. However, for a US protégé like Hamid Karzai to ask NATO and other allied forces to deflect the attack towards Pakistan is pitiless. Mr. Karzai may have become overwhelmed by emotions after watching a child having had its limbs severed as a result of NATO's brutal attacks on civilian population but to wish the same fate on its ally and well wisher, Pakistan is a reprehensible act and cannot be condoned. Mr. Karzai appears to have lost all sense of reason for him to parrot the US that Pakistan is harbouring Al-Qaeda terrorists, who frequent attacks on NATO and US troops from their sanctuaries in Pakistan. If Mr. Karzai is a visionary and a statesman, he is presented to be, he would be urging the US not to 'take the fight to Pakistan'. The coalition forces will depart one day then Mr. Karzai will be left to contend with Pakistan and why does he want to turn a friend and ally into a hostile neighbour, who is here to stay. Moreover, if Mr. Karzai thinks that by 'taking the fight to Pakistan', Afghanistan will be spared; he is sadly making a mistake. Terrorists and extremists know no religion or territorial boundaries. Afghanistan will burn in the same fire as Pakistan as today Pakistan is suffering and bearing the brunt of suicide bombers and terrorist attacks because of helping Afghanistan.


There is a word of caution here for the US too. Former President Bush's impulsive action of attacking Afghanistan, without considering the consequences or even paying heed to the lessons from history is causing the US, once the sole superpower the ignominy of defeat. President Obama, too, relying overly on his trigger happy war horses like General Petraeus is going to cost him dearly. There is a time for action and there is a time for talk. Petraeus wants to negotiate from a position of strength but now it may be too late. The US has to cut its losses and withdraw, before there is total defeat. Let the Afghan-led reconciliation proceed with Pakistan's help and stop considering "taking the fight to Pakistan".

 

Under the prevailing situation in sub-continent with particular reference to US-led prolonged War on Terror and its likely outcome in the shape of de-induction of US/NATO forces from Afghanistan in coming years, a strong need is felt that Pakistan should take India out of reckoning as far as influencing Afghan media is concerned. Mr. Karzai should remember that Pak-Afghan brotherhood bonds have religious, historical and cultural foundations. Most of the Pakistanis migrated from Afghanistan. They have deep routed associations and linkages with the people of Afghanistan. It would not be incorrect to say that Pakistan is an extension of Afghanistan in the subcontinent. Pakistanis consider Afghan heroes as their own, for example Ahmad Shah Abdali, Mahmud Ghaznavi, Shahab-ud-Din Ghauri are not only Afghan icons but also symbols of respect and emblem of aspiration in Pakistan. Having named their pride after these heroes, Pakistanis feel a sense of delightful elation and a buzzing thrill. Good deeds of Afghan people are rated high in Pakistani mind. Pakistan and Afghanistan are secured / pledged by unbreakable social, ethnic, cultural and religious bonds. Any upheaval in Afghanistan palpably impacts Pakistan and vice versa. No two other counties can be compared with Afghanistan and Pakistan since they enjoy a common past, present and a foreseeable peaceful future.


Afghanistan is a cradle of civilization. It has an extremely rich culture and profound civilization based on a long cherished history. It has always positively influenced its surroundings while the external penetration of cultural change has always been brought to a standstill or out rightly rejected in Afghanistan.


This is due to tribal and traditional social order prevailing in Afghanistan. Nothing will work in Afghanistan unless the norms are followed in letter and spirit. Pakistan's national poet Allama Iqbal is highly respected in Afghanistan. Besides having full praise for Afghan nation, Allama Iqbal considered Afghanistan as the hub of Asia. He further suggested that Afghanistan must remain balanced and peaceful for peace in Asia. It is imperative that Mr. Karzai does not project the war into Pakistan and he gives due consideration to his Pakistani brothers rather than India, since blood is thicker than water.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

THE MINDSET

DR IRFAN ZAFAR

After China, Japan manufactures the most number of vehicles in the world with 7,934,516 automobiles produced per anum with Toyota overtaken General Motors as the largest car maker in the world in terms of sales volume. Iron Ore is the most important ingredient required for the production of automobiles. Ever wondered how much Iron Ore is available in Japan? None. Africa countries are one of the world's poorest nations. However these countries are blessed with abundance of Iron ore. How many vehicles are these poor Nations producing having ample supply of Iron ore? None. So the richest nation having no Iron Ore is producing the maximum number of vehicles while the poorest of the nation's having all that is needed to manufacture the same are producing none. Ever thought what is missing? It's the "mindset", a fixed mental attitude that predetermines a Nation's response and the interpretation of situations. Khewra Salt Mines in Pakistan, the largest in the world, have an estimated total of 220 million tons of rock salt deposits. The salt range has the largest deposit of pure salt found anywhere in the world.


The current production from the mine is 465,000 tons salt per annum. This reserve cannot be consumed in 600 years even at the rate of 465000 lakh tons production every day. Pakistan's Coal reserves in Sindh (Lakhra, SondaThatta, Jherruck, Thar), Punjab (Eastern Salt Range, Central Salt Range, Makerwal) & Baluchistan (Khost-Sharig-Harnai, Sor Range/Degari, Duki, Mach- Kingri, Musakhel Abegum, Pir Ismail Ziarat, Chamalong) stand at approximately 184,123, 235 and 617 million tons respectively thus giving a total of 184,575 million tons of coal. This, if seen in the context of Oil equals billions of barrels.


Pakistan is the fourth largest cotton producer, third largest cotton consumer, second largest importer and has fourth largest cotton cultivated area in the world. Pakistan's yield per hectare is around Kgs 650, lagging behind dozens of countries.


The Reko Diq is a large copper-gold porphyry resource on the Tethyan belt, located in the dry desert conditions of southwest Pakistan within the remote and sparsely populated province of Baluchistan. The Tethyan belt is a prospective region for large gold-copper porphyries. The Reko Diq mining area has proven estimated reserves of 2 billion tons of copper and 20 million ounces of gold. According to the current market price, the value of the deposits has been estimated at about $65 billion.


The livestock sector contributes about half of the value added in the agriculture sector, amounting to nearly 11 per cent of Pakistan's GDP, which is more than the crop sector. The national herd consists of 24.2 million cattle, 26.3 million buffaloes, 24.9 million sheep, 56.7 million goats and 0.8 million camels. In addition to these there is a vibrant poultry sector in the country with more than 530 million birds produced annually. These animals produce 29.472 million tons of milk, 1.115 million tons of beef, 0.740 million tons of mutton, 0.416 million tons of poultry meat, 8.528 billion eggs, 40.2 thousand tons of wool, 21.5 thousand tons of hair and 51.2 million skins and hides.


What differentiates us from the developed Nations comes down to only one factor; it's our Mindset, which desperately needs a change. The likeliness of the Nations doing what they believe they can do depends on how much faith they have in their abilities. Humans with fixed mindset believe that their basic qualities (intelligence or talent) are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They believe that the talent alone can create success without putting in any effort. In a growth mindset people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.

The dilemma being faced by our Country is the mushrooming growth of people with fixed mindsets. They somehow lack faith, motivation, hard work and above all education. Looking upwards towards leadership for the much desired change is a futile waste of thoughts, for the change of mindset comes from within each individual. Certainly not all of us will be able to do great things in life, but for sure we can all do small things in a great way. What our Country and the people living in it really need to understand is the basic fact that they won't simply become successful one fine morning, for that historical morning will never come on its own.

—The writer is a social activist.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

THE HOLY QUR'AN AND UNIVERSE

THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM

ATIF NOOR KHAN

 

Calamity comes from the Latin "calamitus" and appears to have an etymological relationship to "calamus", straw or reed. In this sense, it would refer to damaged crops. It in English means damage, disaster, adversity, catastrophe, tragedy, misfortune, cataclysm, devastation, etc. The word calamity was first derived from calamus when the corn could not get out of the stalk. Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, etc., may cause terribly disastrous consequences for life- human, animal and plant. They may also result into a large-scale destruction of property and, more importantly, lifelong human distress due to medical and psychological reasons.


The issue of natural calamities and human sufferings is one of the most baffling subjects of science and religion as well as of various other fields of study like psychology and social sciences, etc. Every time a calamity occurs, it gives rise to questions of not only immediate practical importance but also having epistemological and philosophical significance. The people, quite reasonably, want to know the real cause of the death and destruction occurring at the occasions of natural calamities. What is the real cause of the loss? Is it a result of God's fury or man's folly? Have the natural calamities something to do with the moral behaviour of the victims? Or, they are the outcome of administrative negligence on the part of the rulers.


According to the Quran, God has created the universe with truth, purpose and meaning. All the phenomena and changes are controlled and governed by his absolute Will. However, God, being all-Powerful and all-Knowing, does not take arbitrary decisions. He simply does not need to do so. To think of Him behaving in an anthropomorphic manner is actually equivalent to demeaning Him.


The wrath of God theory presents Him as God of fear who acts like a despotic monarch. This is against the Quranic concept of all-Merciful, all-Wise, and all-Knowing Creator and Sustainer of the universe. His Will operates in the universe through laws of nature that He has ingrained in it. The laws of nature, according to the Quran, are the Divine laws- Sunnah, or methodology, of God in the words of the Quran.


Disasters and calamities, however, should definitely have a lesson in them for every wise person. They must remind us of the temporariness and fragility of our existence in this world. And, every such incident should certainly strengthen our faith in God and remind us of our duty to our fellow human beings.


When bad things happen, humans tend to scream, beat themselves, scratch their faces and wail. These actions are forbidden in Islam and are actually punishable. With regard to such actions, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has said:


"He is not one of us who strikes his cheeks, rends his garments and says things like the people of Jaahiliyyah say." (Saheeh) Rather patience should be observed when dealing with the initial shock of a catastrophe. Humans should turn to Allah in repentance and seek relief from the distress from the only one who can relieve it.

Allah Almighty says: "Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: 'Truly, to Allaah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return. They are those on whom (Descend) blessings from Allah, and Mercy, and they are the ones that receive guidance." (2:156-157)


No matter whether you are rich or poor, disaster is always around the corner. Instead of being a victim, be prepared for it by trusting Allah. For this is the only way to be a true believer and to attain salvation. And remember patience is a noble virtue. Humans with their imperfect thinking cannot see past the calamity to realise that perhaps the destruction can have benefits known only to Allah. The Holy Quran repeatedly tells us that this world is merely a testing ground with the real world being in the hereafter. Allah Almighty says: "And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Saabiroon (the patient)" (2:155) Nevertheless, we must also understand the real cause of death and destruction at the occasion of natural cataclysms. We must know that it is not the earthquakes, for instance, that cause loss of lives. The earthquakes only shake the earth's surface. They themselves are not a disaster, calamity or catastrophe. They are but natural and physical phenomena caused by natural geological process ingrained by God with a purpose. It is, for example, this process that gives the earth's crust its peculiar appearance, and makes and shapes earth's topography, the mountains, oceans, rivers, etc. However, when the people fail to fulfill the demands of the laws of nature, they may fall victim to the otherwise positive and beneficial natural changes. For instance, if we construct buildings in a region prone to earthquakes without following an appropriate building code, an earthquake may cause fatalities. Therefore, administrative negligence of the authorities may result in a calamity for innocent people.


We must pray to Almighty Allah to save us from natural calamities. We should reform ourselves, refrain from committing crimes, repent for our wrongdoings and ask for His forgiveness. Maybe, Allah, the Beneficial, the Most Merciful will spare us from the dreadful fate.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

INDIAN CROSS-BORDER TERRORISM IN BANGLADESH

SAJJAD SHAUKAT

 

Terrorism has various names and forms as it is being practised through various tactics. Besides the terrorism employed by the non-state actors and the state actors against each other, cross-border terrorism is the worse form of terrorism as the forces of a state actor kill the innocent and unarmed persons or migrants inside its own border or after entering the territories of a sovereign state.


In these terms, in the past, although India and Bangladesh had agreed to combat cross-border terrorism, through coordinated patrolling along their frontiers and work closely on issues of Indian insurgent hideouts in this country and anti-Bangladeshis in India, while making substantial progress on security issues, yet Indian cross-border terrorism in Bangladesh has continued unabated intermittently.


As regards Indian atrocities on the innocent Bangladeshis, Brad Adams wrote in the Guardian, "Over the past 10 years Indian security forces have killed almost 1,000 people in the border area between India and Bangladesh, turning it into a south Asian killing fields…so far, no one has been prosecuted for any of these killings, in spite of evidence in many cases that makes it clear that the killings were in cold blood against unarmed and defenceless local residents."


While quoting an officer of the Indian Border Security Force (BSF), Adams further elaborates, "The border-crossers deserve their fate, as they are doubtless up to no good…which gives you a good idea of the attitude toward Bangladeshi migrants here. But the officer does not provide much context." In this regard, on February 3, 2011, while indicating Indian massacre aganst Bangladeshis, The Economist reported, "On January 7th, India's Border Security Force (BSF) shot dead Mr Nur Islam's 15-year-old Felani, at an illegal crossing into Bangladesh from the Indian state of West Bengal. Felani's body hung from the barbed-wired fence for five hours. Then the Indians took her down, tied her hands and feet to a bamboo pole, and carried her away. Her body was handed over the next day and buried in the yard at home."


In its report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed, "Indian Border Security Force personnel routinely gun down cattle smugglers and other civilians crossing the border with Bangladesh despite negligible evidence of any crime."


The New York-based rights group in its 81-page, titled: "Trigger Happy: Excessive Use of Force by Indian Troops at the Bangladesh Border," disclosed, "The BSF-responsible for guarding against extremists, drug and weapons smugglers and human traffickers is instead using its muscle to detain, torture and kill with impunity…while authorities (BSF) say the suspects were killed in self-defense or for evading arrest, the Human Rights Watch said they found no evidence in any death it documented that the person was engaged in any activity that would justify such an extreme response."


Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director of Human Rights Watch opined that the Indian "border force seems to be out of control, with orders to shoot any suspect."


The border force, with a peacetime mission of preventing illegal activity, is acting like it is in a war zone, torturing and killing local residents."


In fact, many of the Bangladeshis which were killed by the BSF over the last decade were poor farmers or laborers taking cattle across the border for trade. Some were hit by aimless cross-border firing or allegedly executed without due cause, such as 13-year-old Abdur Rakib was killed, while catching fish in a lake on the Bangladeshi side.

However, a number of reports and sources suggest that in several of the cases documented, victims were beaten up or killed, while smuggling cattle across the border at night. Others were tortured or killed merely on suspicion of being involved in cattle-rustling.

It is notable that the Indo-Bangladeshi border has long been crossed routinely by local people for trade and commerce. Relatives and friends separated by a line arbitrarily drawn by the British during partition in 1947—also cross the border.

It is surprise to mention that Indian security officials publicly admit that unarmed civilians trying to enter India illegally are being killed. Inspite of the fact, New Delhi has finished building a 2,000 km fence along the border of Bangladesh in order to put up a watch in stopping illegal immigration, smuggling and infiltration, but BSF has continued "a shoot-to-kill policy," even against unarmed local villagers. And the death toll of the innocent Bangladeshi people has been huge as the killings of these unarmed and defenceless local residents have no end. In this connection, sometimes those people are also shot by the Indian forces, who have not crossed the border, but are near the fence.

It is most regrettable that some Indian officials openly admit that unarmed civilians are being killed, while the head of the BSF, Raman Srivastava, remarks that people should not feel sorry for the victims—killings of the Bangladeshis as a legitimate target.

Notably, India has functional courts in this respect, but Srivastava apparently believes that the BSF can act as judge, jury and executioner. This illogical approach clearly ignores the many victims of Indian cross-border terrorism in Bangladesh. It is of particular attention that in 1971, with arms and weapons including training, India supported Bangladesh in getting independence, but afterwards, New Delhi started anti-Bangladeshi policies as Bangladesh refused to accept Indian hegemony and also established cordial relationship with China.

Here, it is worth-mentioning that at present, pro-India Hasina Wajid is the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, but even she has failed in deterring India from playing havoc with the Bangladeshi people.

In the most recent past, a report of the WikiLeaks has pointed out India's endemic torture in Kashmir, underscoring Indian soldiers and police who routinely commit human rights violations without any consequences. Permission has to be granted by a senior Indian official for the police to even begin an investigation into a crime committed by a member of the security forces such as the BSF. This rarely happens.

The response of various government officials to allegations of a "shoot-to-kill policy" has been confusing, saying: we do shoot illegal border crossers since they are lawbreakers; we don't shoot border crossers; we only shoot in self-defence; we never shoot to kill. Nevertheless, under the cover of self-defence, Indian forces keep on massacring the Bangladeshis. These facts show otherwise. India must revisit its "shoot-to-kill policy" otherwise it should be hauled up in international courts of justice.

In the wake of the Indian growing terror attacks against Bangladesh, what makes the wanton killings even more shameful is the lack of interest in these killings by major western foreign governments who claim to be champions of human rights. Nonetheless, Indian cross-border terrorism in Bangladesh continues unabated.

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

AT LAST, THE WORLD SIDES WITH THE LIBYAN PEOPLE

THE WORLD HAS DECIDED TO STAND UP TO MUAMMAR GADDAFI, BUT IS IT TOO LATE?

The international community can be under no illusions it has come anything but reluctantly to the aid of the Libyan freedom-fighters. It has taken the UN Security Council the best part of a month to intervene, but the next few days could show whether time has already run out for the Western powers finally committed to giving the Libyan people the best possible chance to dispose of their despotic leader.

The UN resolution sanctions "all necessary measures" to impose a no-fly zone, protect civilian areas and impose a ceasefire on Gaddafi's military. It is a clear mandate to muzzle Gaddafi's airpower and do anything, short of an invasion, to protect Libyans on the ground. Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd says action will include preventing Gaddafi from using aircraft to strafe his people as well as blocking reconnaissance flights that provide information for ground assaults.

This is a resolution with teeth, yet the dithering on Libya has underlined the limits of multilateralism. Early yesterday, the indefatigable Mr Rudd warned time was running out for Libya with the consequences of international inaction "too horrible to contemplate" -- just it had been in "Rwanda, Darfur, the Balkans, Srebrenica". It is easy to criticise the Obama administration for its wariness about carrying the load in Libya, but the US is heavily committed in Afghanistan and has bitter experience of the problems of policing no-fly zones in northern Iraq during the Clinton years. And anyone ready to blame the Americans for not acting in Libya should recall the battering sustained by George W. Bush for acting unilaterally in Iraq. The hypocrisy of the liberal Left has been laid bare by their excoriation of Washington for not intervening against Gaddafi. They cannot have it both ways. They cannot argue the US should have left Saddam Hussein in power in Iraq to perpetrate human rights abuses on his own people, while calling for bombs in pursuit of democracy in Libya. It is past time for those who have pursued this decade-long jihad against American unilateralism to accept the realities of maintaining humanitarian values and the price that must be paid sometimes in the democratic cause.

For almost two decades, the neo-conservatives hoped regime change in Iraq would have a domino effect across the Middle East, yet the West had limited success in engaging with oppositions in these countries to stimulate democracy. Recent uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Libya suggest the Iraq model is finally influencing disaffected civilian populations to seek change but the past few weeks have also shown that they cannot always do it alone, and that the West must not waver in its defence of democracy and its willingness to protect those who seek it. Sometimes, that must involve military action.

Next month, Australia celebrate the 70th anniversary of the start of the siege of Tobruk in World War II, in which the "Rats of Tobruk" played a key role in holding the Libyan port. It is a timely reminder of our interest in the region. The Security Council's no-fly zone is a correct response -- the only sadness is that it was not agreed to two weeks ago when Gaddafi was on the run. Our Foreign Minister was right to champion it so strongly.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

BOAT INFLUX MUST BE STOPPED

THE GILLARD GOVERNMENT'S ASYLUM-SEEKER POLICY IS IN TATTERS.

Rampaging detainees set fire to buildings and threw rocks at police on Christmas Island on Thursday night, hours after a boatload of 145 people, the largest for more than a year, was intercepted. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen's review of the heavily overcrowded Christmas Island detention facility, to be led by former defence secretary Allan Hawke and former human services departmental secretary Helen Williams, has questions to ask about security breaches, staffing levels and the performance of detention-contractor Serco. And Mr Bowen is right to ensure that rioting and destructiveness will be taken into account when detainees' visa applications are assessed. But the review is a bandaid measure that will not stop the boats.

Until it admits that its policy has failed, the Gillard government cannot stem the tide. Labor has eaten humble pie over the issue before, in late 2008 when it opened the expanded Christmas Island facility built by the Howard government. MP Michael Danby and others in the Rudd government had labelled it a grandiose stalag and an "enormous white elephant". If only.

Experience shows that the best chance to deter people from risking their lives on treacherous vessels and enriching people-smugglers is offshore processing. As the idea of a processing centre on East Timor has gone nowhere, the government should re-open the centre on Nauru, funded by Australian taxpayers. It has no alternative now that violence on Christmas Island has spiralled out of control, forcing Australian Federal Police to take control.

Our refugee program is not in question. In fact there is no reason why we should not double or even treble our humanitarian intake of 13,000 people if required. The issue is fairness. Every person who arrives by boat and who is accepted as a refugee ruins the chances of one of the tens of thousands of displaced people in danger spots around the world who are eager to move to Australia. As opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says, 90 per cent of Afghans who apply offshore to enter Australia are disappointed, but 96 per cent of those who arrived by boat in the first nine months of last year were successful. The government needs a better, fairer system that is hard-headed but not hard-hearted.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

LET THE TAX REFORM DEBATE BEGIN

VACUUMS, THEY SAY, ARE ALWAYS FILLED, WHICH IS WHY THE GILLARD GOVERNMENT NOW FINDS ITSELF REACTING TO A SENSIBLE, ALBEIT MODEST, TAX REFORM AGENDA FROM ITS CLIMATE CHANGE ADVISER ROSS GARNAUT.

Wayne Swan took a sensible first step in Labor's first term to commission a taxation review by then Treasury secretary Ken Henry, then proceeded to drop the ball.

It is instructive to recall that this time last year, the review had been completed and in government hands for three months but we were none the wiser about its contents or the government's response. Eventually, the government shelved most of it, cherry-picked a ham-fisted version of a mining tax that is still not in place, and promised a national tax summit that has since been downgraded to a "forum" and is yet to occur. In short, on the vital issue of tax reform, the Treasurer has done precious little.

This is disappointing and a missed opportunity because, as The Weekend Australian has long argued, a modernisation of the tax system to reward endeavour, reduce the tax-welfare churn and help the economy to invest the proceeds of the resources boom is a reform task crying out for government commitment. Professor Garnaut's idea of using carbon tax proceeds to fund tax cuts is a neat attempt at finding the most efficient way to compensate taxpayers for higher prices. It also provides clever political protection for the government's carbon tax by linking tax cuts to the new impost. But the broader context is that Professor Garnaut has seen Mr Swan's tax reform vacuum and inserted the beginnings of a reform agenda. The government deserves credit for commissioning him and can adopt and own any of the detailed recommendations he will deliver in coming weeks. However, as Professor Garnaut said himself, it is a great pity that meaningful tax reform wasn't taken up more than a year ago on the back of the Henry report. The onus is now on Mr Swan finally to take up Professor Garnaut's challenge, build on it and outline a visionary tax reform agenda. If he does this well, the opposition will no longer have the easy option of simply rejecting a "great big new tax" because that will also entail ditching tax cuts. The Coalition will be forced to outline an alternative plan for tax cuts and reform. If a proper debate begins, taxpayers can only win.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

BELATEDLY, THE UN MAKES THE RIGHT CALL ON LIBYA

FOR anyone who may have doubted Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's intentions as his forces pressed home their attack on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, the Libyan dictator yesterday frankly set out what he intends to do. "We will come house by house, room by room," he said. "It's over . . . We will find you in your closets. We will have no mercy." It may not be over, if the flight bans and air strikes that the UN Security Council has belatedly authorised are sufficient to check the advance on Benghazi and neutralise the loyalist forces' superior firepower. Colonel Gaddafi is already so close to a military victory, however, and to brutal suppression of the pro-democracy movement against him, that it is not certain the international intervention will be successful. One thing is abundantly clear nonetheless: the members of the Security Council could have made no other choice with a clear conscience.

The five members of the 15-member council who abstained from voting on the resolution — Russia, China, Germany, India and Brazil — would disagree, citing the risk in setting a precedent for intervention in the affairs of a member state, especially intervention that may fail anyway. But this is intervention at the express request of those who are under daily bombardment. That request has the backing of the Arab League, which has declared that the Gaddafi regime has lost its legitimacy. There is no comparison with the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which the US and its allies undertook without an equivalent local request, on the authority of Security Council rulings whose meaning was disputed, and in response to dubious intelligence about Iraqi weapons programs that proved to be false.

There are no ambiguities, however, in Security Council resolution 1973, which authorises all necessary military action against Libyan forces short of invasion. Nor is there any doubt about what would happen if Colonel Gaddafi is victorious. Those who oppose this intervention are effectively saying that it would be all right to stand by and watch while his opponents suffer that fate.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

LOSING SIGHT OF REAL RISKS IN FOG OF FEAR

CATASTROPHE. Apocalypse. Such words have been used by people in authority to describe the week's events in Japan. They were not referring to the earthquake and tsunami that have killed thousands, probably tens of thousands, of people, but to events at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The crisis is real, but reaction has been hysterical. The series of disasters - the earthquake, the tsunami and the reactor cooling failures - has exposed public and political difficulties in making risk assessments based on fact, not fear.

Certainly, the nuclear crisis demands a complete and transparent review. It is premature, however, to declare an end to the nuclear age. Fukushima's reactors date back to 1967. Do we judge prospects for any other modern technology by the performance of its 1960s cousin? The six water-cooled reactors are very different from the latest passively cooled designs, which lack the reliance on external power that led to this crisis. Terms such as the ''China syndrome'', ''nuclear explosion'' and ''another Chernobyl'' reveal basic ignorance of nuclear physics and plant design. The Chernobyl reactor had no containing structure and was running at full power when it spewed material, at truly deadly radiation levels, into the atmosphere. Fukushima has more in common with the Three Mile Island plant, scene of the 1979 crisis that transformed public opinion, even though a US presidential commission and regulators found it had not caused any deaths or detectable illnesses.

Radiation inside Fukushima spiked briefly this week at 400 millisieverts per hour. A few hundred metres away, at the gate, the peak was 11.9mSv/hr. That is about the radiation dose of a full-body CT scan. At the edge of the 20-kilometre exclusion zone, the peak was 30 times normal background radiation (2mSv a year) - still far too low to alter long-term cancer rates. In Tokyo, 240 kilometres to the south, the hourly radiation dose was about the same as from smoking a cigarette. That's not ideal, but evacuations from Japan are essentially a political precaution. Despite the implausibility of most what-ifs, these have overshadowed an actual catastrophe. Half a million displaced survivors of the quake and tsunami, including 100,000 children, are living in freezing conditions without adequate shelter, food, water, power or communications. More lives will be lost if their needs aren't met.

None of this is to say that the Fukushima crisis - the scene of past cover-ups of safety lapses - does not demand an exhaustive and open review. The lack of reliable information has been woeful. Responses to all such incidents can be compromised by political and commercial considerations, limited local expertise and a failure to recognise and react swiftly to problems. The industry has no future if it cannot restore public confidence, and access to finance with it.

It is clear that, in all matters nuclear, no nation should go it alone. As early as 1972, US regulators questioned the General Electric reactor design used at Fukushima. Outside experts may also have challenged a recent Japanese decision to extend operations for 10 years beyond this year's scheduled decommissioning of reactor No.1. Tougher protocols are required to boost international scrutiny of such decisions and ensure outside expertise is called on at the first hint of trouble (this was one of the lessons of Three Mile Island). In matters nuclear, there is some excuse for public fears. There is no excuse for complacency.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

LIBYA: THE PERILS OF INTERVENTION

Barely had a new door to international action been opened by the UN resolution than it seemed to slam shut

Barely had a new door to international action been opened by the UN resolution authorising military action and a no-fly zone in Libya than it seemed to slam shut, when Libya's foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, announced that Libya would abide by it and called for an immediate ceasefire. The shelling of Zintan and Misratah continued, however, and Britain, France and America all had a ready response. It was the actions of Colonel Gaddafi's forces, not the words of his henchmen, that mattered, they said. Assume for a moment that a ceasefire does not start – or if it does, that it does not hold – and the planning for air strikes by British, French, Canadian and possibly Arab jets co-ordinated from the Nato airbase at Sigonella in Sicily goes ahead.

The first thing to say is that David Cameron has achieved a firmer legal framework for military action than anything Tony Blair could concoct for the invasion of Iraq. Mr Cameron laid out three tests that warrant interference in a state's internal affairs: the demonstrable need to prevent a bloodbath in Benghazi, a city of one million inhabitants; regional support both in terms of a strong statement from the Arab league and the Arab countries who are expected to join the coalition being assembled in Paris today by President Nicolas Sarkozy; and the legal authority of the UN security council.

Legitimacy of the vote

The use of force in Libya, authorised under a Chapter VII referral, has international legal backing. Countries like China or Russia, which might have been expected to veto, abstained. Three members of the African Union, including South Africa, voted in favour. The legitimacy the vote conferred on a no-fly zone befits a crisis where the revulsion caused by Gaddafi's actions is widespread, especially among Egyptians and Tunisians who braved live fire from their own security forces. Libyans who rose up against 42 years of tyranny did not choose the weapons they are now using for this fight. They were chosen for them. Within five hours of them gathering, Gaddafi's troops opened fire. From that moment on, there was only going to be one outcome. It was either him or them.

Starting a fight is a different matter from pursuing one, let alone ending one. Is this intervention going to be seen through the prism of Sierra Leone and Kosovo, or Iraq and Afghanistan, where regime change was swift but where civil war then ensued? Mr Cameron, still being branded a brave failure in his determination to intervene in the lead-up to a vote everyone expected he would not achieve, may be tempted to regard the UN resolution as success in itself. But Gaddafi's forces were still 160km away from Benghazi. The city was not about to fall and no lives have yet been saved. Push past the justification, and on to the question of what the objective of this intervention is, and the consensus starts to crumble.

Paving the way for partition

Doubts were inherent in the reaction in Benghazi yesterday to the announcement that Gaddafi's forces would cease fire and comply with the UN resolution. It was a stalling tactic, said some. We should fight on, said others. They are right to be alarmed at the possibility that Gaddafi would comply with the resolution, or with subsequent demands from Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, that the regime's forces should pull back "a significant distance" from the east. Both imply that Gaddafi could live to fight another day. This falls far short of what this revolution is all about.

The National Transitional Council (NTC) in Benghazi might under these circumstances get the heavy weapons its fighters have been asking for. But that would still leave it fighting for recognition as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. It would not have sovereignty and it would cease to be national. This intervention could merely be paving the way for partition, the worst of both worlds: the tyrant and his sons would still exist and the revolution, half finished, could halt on tribal lines. The Libyans, Egyptians and Tunisians who revolted against their dictators did so in the name of their nation. They eschewed sectarian or religious symbols, choosing national flags instead. The Libyan revolution will only succeed if Gaddafi is toppled and the NTC forms a national government. But there again, how would that be formed ? If Gaddafi goes, what constitutional order or transitional mechanism is there to replace him? And what is to stop a victory degenerating into tribal splits and civil war? Letting the Libyans choose their own leader would by then look a tired formula.

Nor is Libya the only consideration. The Arab spring is still blooming in Yemen, whose pro-western dictatorship will probably be the next to fall. Last night the tourism minister resigned after a shooting attack that killed dozens of protesters and injured over 300 others. Barack Obama condemned the carnage, as he has done the repression meted out in Bahrain, another ally and home to his fifth fleet. But there will be no foreign intervention here. There are tremors just below the surface in Saudi Arabia, which sent in troops to support the Sunni monarchy in its Bahrain backyard.

So what new international order has been created by this resolution? Is it one in which the US discards some of its former allies but keeps others for its own strategic interests? Which of the many states in the region are regarded as too strategically important to keep – too big, like the banks, to fail? And where do human rights, international law and a values-based foreign policy fit into all of this? Far from supporting a democratic revolution across the Arab world, a foreign intervention in Libya may indeed be imperilling it. One of the main strengths of the revolution was that it was universal and generational. It did not require outside help and it generated its own dynamic in each country. Its ability to cross national borders was not only a function of the similarities in the military regimes and the grievances they generated. It created a possibility of an Arab commonwealth of nations, a region without visas where people could travel freely. Wild aspirations, maybe, but this is now looking less likely with an intervention which will inevitably entail its own political consequences.

Arab fig leaf

The resolution rules out a foreign occupation and western leaders repeatedly vowed that the objective was to let Libyans choose their own leaders in freely held elections. But where and when, in the whole sorry history of western intervention in the Middle East, has this happened? Were Jeffersonian shells fired from US tanks invading Iraq, planting the seeds of democracy in the craters they left? Or does the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, now behave increasingly like another regional strongman ruling over a country bearing the permanent sectarian scars of a civil war?

Today in Paris, much will be made of the fact that this intervention will be unlike any other since the first Iraq war, in that it will have active support from the Arab League. After the league endorsed the no-fly zone last week, five member states seemed likely to participate. This has since been whittled down to two small Gulf states, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, and possibly Jordan. This cover is looking more like a fig leaf than active regional support. As British Tornados, French Dassaults and Canadian F-18s prepare to patrol the skies over Tripoli, it will be business as usual – an intervention which looks much like all the others. Let us hope it has a different outcome.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

UNTHINKABLE? REALITY TV GETS MORE GROTESQUE

RUMOURS OF A NEW REALITY SHOW SEEPED OUT THIS WEEK INVOLVING EIGHT PERFORMERS LIVING NAKED FOR 30 DAYS

Back in the 1980s, the leftwing Labour MP Eric Heffer, denouncing Mrs Thatcher's apparent desire to privatise almost everything, forecast fresh air might be next. At which point a colleague chided: "Don't give' em ideas, Eric!" It's a pity the same advice was not proffered to the novelist Sebastian Faulks, whose savage account of the way we live now, A Week in December, features a TV series called It's Madness – designed, its producers claim, "to make people think differently, to challenge their preconceptions". Each week, contestants suffering from different kinds of mental disorder are paraded before a team of celebrity judges and a chuckling studio audience. The culminating edition brings them together in a secret location known as the Barking Bungalow, with an even more spectacular result than might have been planned. Faulks no doubt aimed to take reality television one step further than any programme-maker would dare. But that, as he should have realised, is exactly how these things operate. This week, rumours of a new show seeped out that, it was claimed, would make even later Big Brother series look tame. Based on a US show, The Nak'd Truth, it requires eight performers to live naked for 30 days. "Clothing," says the producer, "is such an integral part of who we are and we don't understand how it affects us until we no longer have it on." Maybe there's already a producer out there looking at Faulks' satire as a potential winner. Hideous, maybe. But unthinkable? Don't be so sure.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE DALAI LAMA PUSHES REFORM

On Sunday, legislators in Tibet's Parliament in exile will cast a historic vote. They have been asked by the Dalai Lama, the leader of the Tibetan spiritual community — and for many Tibetans, the rightful leader of their nation — to formalize the separation of spiritual and political authority.

The Dalai Lama says this move only ratifies a division of labor that already exists and lays the foundation for the creation of true democracy among his followers. Yet for many Tibetans, the move risks splitting their community and undermining its legitimacy. Even the Chinese government, a hostile and implacable foe of the Dalai Lama, is opposed to the plan, fearing that it will make it even more difficult to quiet the nationalist ambitions of many Tibetans.

The Dalai Lama has headed the Tibetan government in exile since he fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising. After settling in the Indian town of Dharamsala, he has become a global figure, the face of Tibetan Buddhism and that society's struggle for self-determination in the face of Chinese efforts to fully assimilate a sometimes hostile population. While millions of people consider the Dalai Lama to be their rightful leader, the government in Beijing sees him as "a splittist," a supporter of a feudal order and a threat to China's core interests.

At 75, the Dalai Lama is well aware that his life may be drawing to an end and he is trying to put the Tibetan community's affairs in order. His proposed reforms would make the prime minister, elected by the Tibetan parliament in exile, the head of state and administrative leader; the Dalai Lama would continue to be the spiritual leader of 6 million Tibetans who worship him as a reincarnated leader.

The new system would provide more legitimacy to the exiles' leader and the parliament, preparing them for the day when the Dalai Lama will pass on. The Dalai Lama explained that "It is necessary that we establish a sound system of governance while I remain able and healthy in order that the exile Tibetan administration can become more self-reliant rather than dependent on the Dalai Lama."

Failure to plan for that inevitability would mean that the Tibetan would risk confusion and disorder on his passing as the Chinese government's designated Dalai Lama would compete for legitimacy with that selected by the Tibetan exile group. Such a division is not unprecedented: In 1995, the Chinese government selected its reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, the second most holy lama for Tibetan Buddhists. Meanwhile, a boy chosen by the Dalai Lama as Panchen Lama was detained by Chinese authorities and has not been seen since.

Many believe that Beijing is drawing out discussions with the Dalai Lama's representatives over Tibet's future as a way of stalling and waiting for his passing. There is speculation that the Dalai Lama may identify his successor before he dies to give that person a boost in the competition.

Beijing has called the move to step down "a trick" and has added it to the long list of charges against the Dalai Lama. The irony is that the Chinese government, which is atheist and argues that it seeks to modernize Tibet and rid it of its feudal tendencies, insists that the next Dalai Lama must be reincarnated and that it gets to confirm that reincarnation.

Beijing has other concerns as well. For all the vilification heaped upon the Dalai Lama, China's leaders know that he is a voice of moderation among Tibetan exiles. There is a fear that the next generation of leaders will be more radical and perhaps even more violent in their opposition to Chinese rule of Tibet. Thus China faces the prospect of a leadership that is not only more democratic but also even more radical in its challenge to Beijing.

There is no guarantee that the Dalai Lama's plan will be approved. Many Tibetans, in particular those still in Tibet, support only him; they do not know other proposed leaders. The three candidates for prime minister are not lamas; Beijing has said that it will not recognize their authority and will only negotiate with the Dalai Lama. There is the danger then that splitting his political and religious authority can weaken rather than strengthen the government in exile. It is likely that Beijing, eager to seize an opportunity, will inform Tibetans that they have been "abandoned" by their leader in an attempt to further weaken the exile community's influence.

In fact, the Dalai Lama has been trying to prepare his followers for this moment for over four decades. Shortly after fleeing to India, he called for the transition to a system more like a constitutional monarchy. In 2001, he endorsed democratic elections for the prime minister. The latest reforms will complete the democratization process.

If the measure passes, the Dalai Lama will not retire after the vote. He will continue to serve as the head of the Tibetan Buddhist religion, and will, most likely, continue with some ceremonial roles. But he will have taken critical steps to ensure that the exile community has real leadership after he passes. It is a far-sighted move, one befitting a real leader.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

ECONOMIC LITERACY AND EDUCATION IN INDONESIA

EBI JUNAIDI

It is interesting to listen back to former US president Bill Clinton's speech during a fundraising luncheon in Springdale, Arkansas, six months ago. "The mess we got into in this country is that people didn't have enough economic literacy. Economics is a must for Americans," he said.

There is a great deal of research explaining why economic literacy is important. Some empirical stu-dies show that economic illiteracy causes low savings levels, poor risk diversification, inefficient asset allocation, unwise consumption, heavy indebtedness and financial fragility.

Other research shows that economic literacy is needed to construct good policies and working markets. Economic illiteracy could also be exploited by politicians in elections to campaign for impossible mega projects to attract voters.

In the context of Indonesia, this includes a popular label war between the so-called "neo-liberal economics versus people-oriented economics".

Unlike in the US, where only 21 out of 50 states require an obligatory economics subject in senior high schools, Indonesia has implemented a mandatory economics subject for students as early as junior high.

Economics is infused in social science in junior high schools and is a stand-alone subject in high schools. If we are one step ahead of America in economic literacy, do we really have a more economic literate society than the US?

Let us first try to analyze economic literacy indicators widely used in the latest research. One of the very common indicators is the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook (WCY).

Although the main focus of WCY is the competitiveness of the nations surveyed, its data includes an economic literacy variable, in addition to its 254 hard data variables, for countries' economic performances, government efficiency, business efficiency and infrastructure.

This variable is computed based on an executive opinion survey of senior business leaders; both locals and expatriates. According to Jappeli (2010), the US ranks 22 in economic literacy with a score of 5.7 of 10-point scale. Indonesia ranked 43rd with 3.6 out of 55 countries observed.

The data suggests that the perception of middle to senior executives in Indonesia is quite low on public economic literacy, des-pite our obligatory economics education.

We could then conclude that economic education in schools fails to create economic literacy. It is contrary to the Lusardi and Mitchell (2007) research in the US, which showed that financial literacy was highly correlated with exposure to economics in schools.

Some might argue that the perception of several business leaders was simply misleading. A more
rigorous three-year study using a standardized survey of individuals by Harvard Business School
academics found a similar result.

Of 3,360 households surveyed nationally in Indonesia, the paper showed that the average correct score was 52 percent (Cole, Sampson, Zia 2010).

This finding is slightly lower than the same research method applied to the US early baby boomers (Lusardi and Mitchell 2007), who mostly did not receive exposure to economic education when they were young. A finding by Mandell (2008) shows an even wider gap between the two countries.

The statistics raise questions about the effectiveness of economic teachings in schools in Indonesia. A test on introductory micro and macroeconomics competence among economics teachers in Greater Jakarta and Depok by the University of Indonesia's Center for Economics and Management Studies (LPEM FEUI) in 2009 and 2010 revealed a worrying figure. From 59 observations, the average correct score was a low 56.6 percent.

Economics Teachers' Association chairman Wiji Purwanta reported a 51.56 percent average correct score for economics lecturers from 18 different state universities across Indonesia.

It is important to note that the observation samples were far from sufficient and the multiple choice tests were conducted in English. However, the statistics signal the lack of subject-matter competence of our economics educators.

Another factor that influences the quality of economic instruction is the method of delivery, or the pedagogy. Former vice president of the US Council for Economics Education Patricia Elders always quotes the Confucius wisdom "I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, and I do and I understand" to stress the importance of methods of teachings. Some of our economics educators neither have any pedagogy background nor pedagogy training. The results are less "sexy" economic instruction and boring old fashioned "chalk-and-talk" methods.

Also, the modern findings on different types of students force teachers to try different strategies to accommodate students' needs. Some teachers already realize this and are willing to adopt teaching materials with a variety of activities, such as games, drama, simulation and cooperative learning.

However, they have to think twice because they need to catch up with the curriculum burden. This heavy curriculum burden is, in fact, the third problem of economics education and put the quality of teaching and the quantity of curriculum in a trade off.

An obligatory economics subject in schools should be a starting point to bring economic literacy to Indonesia, which in the end will empower Indonesians to make informed and responsible choices throughout their lives as consumers, savers, investors, workers, citizens, and participants in our global economy.

The writer is a lecturer at the University of Indonesia's School of Economics.

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THE JAKARTA POST

HOW TO SELL INDONESIA IN TWO WORDS

WARIEF DJAJANTO BASORIE

How do you sell Indonesia? In the tourist business, a tagline to brand a country as a destination can make or break a campaign. Two words in tourism branding can do or undo you. Malaysia's "Truly Asia" and India's "Incredible India" splash in countless ads in multinational print media and television.

Minister of Culture and Tourism Jero Wacik touts Indonesia's new brand line: "Wonderful Indonesia." Does it have punch? Can it drive people to descend in droves on Indonesia?

"Wonderful Indonesia", Minister Wacik explains, covers five aspects: wonderful nature, wonderful culture, wonderful people, wonderful food and wonderful value for money.

Indeed, Indonesia has all of that, as do other countries. But the competition would decidedly focus on one crucial aspect: Wonderful service. In service, first impressions count. That first impression comes upon arrival at an airport or hotel.

As a not-too-frequent traveler, I always ask for two things when I check in at a hotel: A map of the hotel's location and its surroundings and picture postcards of the hotel. The Wisma G'Fika PNRI, a modest mountain inn in West Java's Puncak highlands 86 kilometers south of Jakarta, has a sketch map of the Gunung Mas tea plantation, within walking distance.

So do the three-star Island Garden in Batam, Riau Islands province, the three-star Swarna Dwipa in Palembang, South Sumatra, the three-star Indra Puri in Bandarlampung, Lampung, and the Santika in Surabaya, East Java. They all have printed line maps centered on their hotel.

Meanwhile the three-star Quality Manado has a foldable, pocketsize color map of the city with a white bubble indicating where the hotel is located. It faces Manado Bay. The Alila Manggis, a beachside hotel boutique in East Bali at the foot of volcanic Mount Agung, has several maps of nature trails placed on its ten-gear mountain bikes that guests are free to use.

Other hotels that do not print their own maps may have city maps provided by the local government or courtesy of the Indo Multi Media Group. However, more than half of the hotels I have stayed at in Indonesia do not have maps.

The matter with postcards is more lamentable. The Quality Pekanbaru, Riau, is among the few that prints its own postcards. It has a picture postcard of its white-washed, four-story hotel in the center of a business enclave of ruko-ruko (shop houses). Blue Sky, a favorite of oil contractors in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, produces a composite of nine mini pictures of its facilities. The Amans (for Ambon Manise) in Ambon, Maluku, prints postcards of nearby Lelisa Beach.

Meanwhile the Alila Manggis prints cards with images ranging from its high-ceilinged, open-air lobby to a long-haired beauty sitting on a boulder in a fast-flowing river. She wears a batik wrap from the waist down with her golden bare back to the camera.

It is not just map and postcard availability. Little extras count too. Blue Sky in Balikpapan and Grand Mahkota in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, both four-stars, have magnifying mirrors in their bathroom.

But a final litmus test is when a traveler asks for a check-out service that should be a conventional courtesy. Travelers who mail postcards have an incurable infection to write home about their trip, such as the young backpacker in the "Incredible India" clip.

I asked the duty assistant at the front desk of a four-star, high-rise hotel in Kota Jambi, Jambi province, to post several cards, stamps already in place. She refused. My solution was to ask the hotel driver to drop the cards at the local post office after driving me to Sultan Thaha Airport. He readily agreed after I rewarded him with small change to insure prompt service.

Let's return to the tagline "Wonderful Indonesia." Does it have a catchy, contagious appeal to sell Indonesia? Whatever the brand line, what counts for me is wonderful service. That's the bottom line.

The writer teaches journalism at the Dr Soetomo Press Institute (LPDS) in Jakarta.

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THE JAKARTA POST

TO KNOW, KNOW, KNOW YOU

DEWI ANGGRAENI

There was excitement and optimism in the air. I was pleasantly surprised last Thursday (March 10, 2011) at a function organized at the University of Melbourne's Asia Education Foundation to welcome participant teachers of the BRIDGE.

Project Young Indonesian teachers, who this year were selected from Muhamadiyah schools in various regions of Indonesia. People mingled easily among their Australian counterparts, speaking in both English and Indonesian. The video footage shown during the dinner revealed even younger Australians and Indonesians speaking each other's languages.

Australians speaking Indonesian and Indonesians speaking English is certainly not a new phenomenon. However, over the last 10 years in Australia, hearing young Australians speaking Indonesian is fast becoming a thing of the past. According to Murdoch University Indonesian specialist David Hill, the number of students learning Indonesian has dropped by an average of 10,000 every year. Between 2001 and 2009, the number of tertiary students learning the language has plummeted by 30 percent across Australia. This trend is not slowing – let alone turning. Some universities have had to close down their Indonesian programs because they are no longer viable to run. In other words, funding for such programs has dried up.

Let us look back to see the events which have led up to this unfortunate state.

The Howard government axed an Asia literacy program for Australian schools in 2002 – as the estimated worth of which in today's terms is about $100 million a year. When the Rudd government came into power in late 2007, he replaced the program, albeit on a much smaller financial scale of $62 million over four years.

Understandably, the Rudd government's injection of funds was not sufficient to return the enthusiasm of the past. University of Melbourne Asian Law Center director Tim Lindsey agrees with Hill that Australia has less capacity in Asian languages now than in the 1960s.

This is an emerging situation which should worry those who are politically and socially aware of and concerned about regional harmony. Indonesia is still viewed with a degree of suspicion by many Australians who believe that Indonesians hate Australians. In fact, the 2002 Bali bombings were aimed specifically at Australians, they say. The court in Bali sentenced Schapelle Corby and nine other Australians harshly for bringing drugs into the country – something a great number of Australians do not regard as a crime fitting the sentences. In their minds this is only further proof that Indonesians harbor bad intentions in relations with Australians.

It is obvious that a better understanding of Indonesia is badly needed. This serious misconception is certainly undermining the existing good faith between the two countries. Equally serious measures are needed to address this. More intensive and extensive learning about Indonesia would be a good start. However, the negative image created by misconceptions has led to an increaser in Australian students abandoning Indonesian studies. A recent audit found that 99 percent of school students who take up Indonesian have dropped it by year 12.

Having observed the seemingly inevitable disappearance of Indonesian studies from Australia's education system, it is undoubtedly heartening to see how the Australia-Indonesia BRIDGE project is maintaining its strength and commitment.

The Asia Education Foundation, along with its partners Australia-Indonesia Institute and the Myer Foundation, initiated this scholarly partnership program in 2008. With combined funding from the Myer Foundation and the Australian government through AusAID, the BRIDGE project has been managed with consistent competence — picking up what many conventional school programs cannot afford.

It has, among other things, opened up many, many lines of communication between teachers and students from the two countries. Email exchanges between students of partnering schools go beyond mere mutual language instruction. They provide each other with knowledge about their lives and day-to-day general concerns.

For example, one assignment completed by a school on Kangaroo Island, a relatively remote area in South Australia, is a comparative study on environmental degradation on their island relative to similar circumstances on Java. Excluding interviews with local farmers, the presentation was delivered in Indonesian.

At the tertiary education level, the Australian Consortium for 'In-country' Indonesian Studies, known by its acronym ACICIS, a program managed by Murdoch University in Western Australia, has been able to continue thanks to funding from the Ford Foundation and the consortium's strong commitment. By spending three months studying in various Indonesian universities, Australian students have been able to gain better and broader understanding of their neighbor's cultures and later help dispel the built-up of suspicions harbored by many Australians.

The effort to clarify international misconceptions is always better coming from compatriots rather than from sources of suspicion.

Do we really need to know each other better? Why can't we just agree that we are different?

We are not situated on opposite sides of the globe, and are thereby certainly not irrelevant to one another. Not only are we neighbors, we are also important economic partners and regional security partners. Mutual trust is crucial. If we are different, we should know where the differences are, instead of wasting our energy in trying to address what most likely does not exist.

What is stopping both the Indonesian and Australian governments from being more proactive in addressing the situation?



The writer is a journalist and an adjunct research associate at the School of Political and Social Inquiry, Faculty of Arts, Monash University, Melbourne.

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

PEOPLE EXPRESS FAITH AGAIN, DON'T BETRAY THEM

For the third time in 13 months a majority of the people have reiterated their faith and confidence in the Rajapaksa regime, giving the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) control of 205 of the 234 local councils to which elections were held on Thursday.

Different parties will give different interpretations of the number of councils or seats won and the percentage polled. But it is clear that the rural people – despite the soaring cost of living, the failure to give salary increases, rampant corruption and trends towards a dictatorial rule -- prefer to leave their councils in the hands of the ruling UPFA which campaigned on the theme that a developed village must be the nuclelus of the mega development plans of the country in this post-conflict era.  Spiritual leaders and philosophers have often reminded us of the truism that victory and defeat are transient or impermanent. As Kipling says both victory and defeat are imposters. The people would hope that their reiteration of trust in the Rajapaksa regime for the third time would not be betrayed and that the elected political leaders would serve them and the country with sincerity, selflessness and in a sacrificial spirit. Millions of rural people are clinging to this hope despite the recent track record of party politics which has worsened to such an extent that most politicians are not givers but grabbers with a hidden agenda of plundering and pillaging the resources of the country. For instance a local council member gets a monthly salary of about Rs.5,000 plus allowances but many of them are known to have busted up more than Rs.500,000 on their election campaign, especially for preference votes. Their self-centered nature might drive them to make ten times as much as they spent and if that happens, the people are likely to get poorer while the politicians, their families and stooges get richer.

We hope President Mahinda Rajapaksa and other government leaders will set the example to the newly elected local council members by rising beyond the desire for personal gain or glory and entering into a simple and humble lifestyle. To achieve sustainable development and an equitable distribution of wealth and resources, Sri Lanka first needs to practise austerity by learning to manage with basic needs and the example for this must come from the elected political leaders among others.

For the main opposition United National Party (UNP), plagued by a crisis of defeat after defeat made worse in recent months by a leadership battle, the small consolation is that its voter base was increased from 28 per cent at the general election last year to 33 per on Thursday. But one of the best kept secrets is that the UNP is embroiled in a make or break battle for leadership with Ranil Wickremesinghe facing a challenge from the popular Sajith Premadasa and deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya. According to a deadline set by the UNP working committee and parliamentary group, a decision on the leadership must be taken before April 12 and which way the battle will go is still uncertain.

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which appeared to be emerging as a third force some years ago and had some 40 seats in parliament, was thrashed at Thursday's election and lost even the one pradeshiya sabah it controlled. Most analysts believe that the JVP on its own is still seen by most people as the killers of 1988/89 and the party needs to do some major rethinking if it wishes to remain in mainstream politics.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

PREMIER'S REMARKS ON LTTE CAMPS INVALIDATES THE NEED TO HAVE EMERGENCY

Ironically and interestingly not a single Minister of the Government seemed to have believed Prime Minister DM Jayaratne's remarks on the purported LTTE camps in Tamil Nadu, in spite of the fact that these comments were included in the official opening statement during the parliamentary debate on the extension of the state of emergency.

Despite the comments being made by the Prime Minister citing intelligence reports Minister Dulles Allahapperuma at a press conference on the very next day accepted the denial of them by the Indian Government, whereas the Sri Lankan leaders who accused India of supporting terrorism in  the eighties stood by what their colleagues said on the matter. All in all, the collective responsibility that "shall be" adhered to by the cabinet of Ministers according to the Constitution was ignored in this case.

However, the state radio alone in a daily marathon political commentary by its Chairman  last Sunday saluted the Prime Minister for his comments and justified them citing Indian media reports which last month said that the LTTE was targeting VIPs, espeially during the State Assembly elections in May. The radio conveniently disregarded the fact that what Indian media referred to was LTTE activities in the country whereas Premier Jayaratne referred to the purported LTTE camps in Tamilnadu.

A humble and harmless Mr. Jayaratne had not for more than a decade been a serious news maker, rather he had intermittently drawn the attention of the people by making comical remarks, especially on his expectations for the Premier's post.

The way the politicians in this country handle this kind of issues in most cases is ridiculous. When the Prime Minister "broke" his news on the LTTE camps in Tamil Nadu in the Parliament on march 9 the Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe rightly demanding proof on the Premier's remarks soon distracted from the issue by questioning the Government as to why it did not hand over KP, the successor of the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran to India where he was wanted in connection with the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Minister Dinesh Gunawardene competing with him on the same ridiculous line of contention, shot back and argued that it was Wickremesinghe who even signed a pact with the LTTE leader Prabhakaran while he too was wanted by India, deviating from the Government's responsibility to prove what Premier said. It was funny on the part of the Opposition to call on the Government to hand over KP to India when the Premier was implying that India was supporting the defeated LTTE. At the same time it was illogical and unethical for the ruling party to blame the UNP leader for signing a pact with the LTTE as it was the Government under the SLFP leadership that was the first to sign a similar agreement in 1995 while both the outfit's leader and his successor were wanted by India.

Needless to say that there was a time in the  early eighties when Indian Central government as well as the Tamil Nadu State government provided several Sri Lankan Tamil armed groups including the LTTE fighting for a separate State within the Sri Lankan territory with arms, training, and money and allowed them to use the Indian soil as a launching pad against Sri Lanka. When the then Prime Minister R Premadasa was accusing Indian leaders for this he was not isolated by his colleagues as in the case with Premier Jayaratne.

However, it is public knowledge that Indian authorities took a U turn in respect of the LTTE with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and helped  the Sri Lankan Government to crush the rebels in the face of the protests by the Tamil Nadu politicians. Even if there had been intelligence reports on any LTTE camps in India, the Sri Lankan Government should not have gone public with it before taking the matter up with the Indian authorities.

However, being desperate in justifying the extension  the officials who had advised the Premier seem to have relied on media reports and  cited them as intelligence reports to continue the state of emergency that has been in force continuously for more than two decades. It is not clear as to whether the Government used the emergency regulations to deal with the separatism for the past two years since the decimation of the LTTE leadership on the banks of the Nandikadal lagoon in May, 2009.

If the emergency has not been used in dealing with terrorism in recent years and also if the Government has to find pathetically lame arguments in justifying the continuation of it, the Opposition has every reason to believe that it is meant for them.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

MAINSTREAMING DOMESTIC WORKERS

The International Labour Organisation has done well to include a draft convention on decent work for domestic workers in the agenda for the 100th session of the International Labour Conference, scheduled for June. For centuries the domestic workers have lived along the margins of the international workforce. Well-documented reports by the ILO and other organisations point to the universality of their woes. Entirely informal in nature, domestic work, at its most anguished state, is nothing but a form of slavery; at its best, it is dogged by uncertainty. The most common failing by societies is the exploitation of this ubiquitous group of workers. Data available with the ILO suggest that domestic work ranges from four per cent to 10 per cent of total employment in developing economies and between one per cent and 2.5 per cent in industrialised countries. As the ILO's 2010 report, 'Decent work for domestic workers', points out, this section of the workforce is "undervalued and poorly regulated" and a major part of it is "overworked, underpaid and unprotected." An international convention backed by the ILO is an overdue move towards mainstreaming this long-neglected workforce.

In India, as in the rest of the world, there is no clarity on the number of domestic workers. National estimates vary from 4.5 million to more than 100 million. As elsewhere, they are drawn from the informal sector and comprise, largely, women and children. However, there are moves by the Central and various State governments to put in place legal measures that have the potential to create a better future. That only a handful of States have set minimum wages for domestic workers is one clear indication that the country has a long way to go before it gives them statute-backed recognition and dignity.

Two recommendations by the Central government's task force merit urgent attention: the need to include domestic work in the Union list of scheduled work for fixation and enforcement of minimum wages, and the extension of welfare measures, including health, maternity, and disability benefits and old age pension, to domestic workers.

The current moves, in India and elsewhere, can only be described as a much-delayed attempt to do the minimum decent thing by this crucial segment of the workforce.

The hope is that this will be the beginning of a coordinated process that addresses a global social injustice that has persisted for centuries and will continue unless there is political and social will to end it.

The Hindu

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

LG POLLS: VICTORIES, DEFEATS AND THE WAY FORWARD

It was the first time the North and East experienced an election outside the climate of conflict. The much debated local government elections were held in most parts of the country. The election monitors observed a low level of pre election violence however the Election Day witnessed an eruption. The ruling party experienced a landslide with over a 60per cent voter turnout shattering all the predictions.

Tamil National Alliance

MP P. Ariyaneteram

In the Tamil dominated areas that we were contesting we are proud to say that we have secured a considerable win and have once again proven that we are a force to reckon with. We are the third force and this win is a result of our resounding success. The TNA is growing bigger day by day and with each election we are making our presence felt. The strength we have in terms of the loyalty of our people is gratifying and we wish to live up to their demands. We have won in the most significant areas and now we have the power to work for the Tamils. We have contested in 15 areas and have secured a considerable representation.

We recognize that we have to have a strong presence in the post war Sri Lankan politics and  are democratically elected by the greater support of the people. We can do something for them.

Minister of Health and Sri Lanka Freedom Party General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena

The choice of the people has been announced. If people say anything about it or look at it from any angle they will see for themselves that the masses have once again trusted the Mahinda Chintana manifesto. We thank the majority of the voters who placed their trust on the United Peoples' Freedom Alliance. At the same time I thank the opposition voters since we are a democratic force. The results of the elections focus our attention on key points. Not simply since we are a political party but also for the love of this country and its people we are taking the election results into consideration when we  plan for the future of the country. Furthermore the opposition politicians should realize that it is time to work with us. We think it is time to come together forgetting all our political differences. We invite them to work with the people who have won the elections to build their cities and towns.

We request that politicians from differen political parties join hands for the future development initiatives of the country. Meanwhile the politicians of our party who have secured their win should not be so overjoyed by their win that they forget their responsibilities. They will be ushering in development at the village levels.

United National Party General

Secretary Tissa Attanayake

Although as a party we might have lost on some of the councils as a party we have secured a considerable percentage on votes when compared to the Presidential and Parliamentary elections. The Government only intensifies in their intimidations and abuse of state resources and this election saw an unprecedented revlations of the two. The state media was the most abused while many of the incidents of violence went unreported.

We are most doubtful about the election results since by 2.00pm last afternoon the monitors observed the voter turnout was 25per cent but then by the end and after two hours the voter turnout was declared to be 60per cent. How can that be? How could there have been 30 per cent of the voters turning up during the last two hours of the elections. That was not normal and impossible. We don't believe that it was the case and the voter turnout more than doubled during the last two hours of yesterday.

Minister of Power and Energy Champika Ranawaka

This election leaves no room for the opposition political parties to cry foul over elections. We hold elections timely and we proved it when we held the Presidential and Parliamentary elections proving it once again. This election was a good example to show that democracy prevailed. Especially for the North and East provinces that were facing an election for the first time since the war. We set a benchmark when we established the provincial councils in 1991 and now again we will set an example to the world in defeating the most ruthless terrorist outfit in the world and holding elections in such a short period of time.

This is similar to a public referendum and it goes to show that the majority of the public is with the government. The public can see for themselves that the UNP and the JVP will have to look for a democratic reconstruction of their respective parties looking at the outcome of the elections. Meanwhile the Government will have to look at the public servants and urban population and their preferences moving onto elections in the future.

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna

leader Somawansa Amarasinghe

Since the beginning of this Government we have seen that they have never been fair at the elections. They use intimidation and violence to the most to stamp their win at the polls. The President went to the extent of alleging to the people in Tissamaharama that they needed to protect their children from the JVP who was brainwashing them. So when the President of the country makes such a comment people surely accept it for what he says it is. The President went on a special campaign of poisoning the JVP amongst the public although we secured a victory it deterred a number of people by his misleading comments.

The people who voted for the Government will forget that they voted for the Government when the cost of living comes after them. They will have to fend for themselves cursing the Government for their problems.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

THE DESPERATE STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL

As the cost of living soars and existence becomes a daily struggle- families across the island suffer without the basic necessities of water, food, shelter, sanitation, healthcare and education. This suffering is displayed prominently in the little nucleus of a plantation in the Welivitiya-Divithura Divisional Secretariat in the Galle District. 

Our attention was drawn to this little rubber plantation when eight-year-old Subramaniam Ramesh rescued his neighbour R. Wasanthi- who fell into an unprotected well. The search for a child hero turned into an exposé on the travails faced by the families living under dangerous and intolerable conditions.

R. Wasanthi fell into an unprotected well that is no more than a five foot wide fissuring about twelve feet deep. While elevating herself on her toes to make up for the lack of length of her bucket-rope she fell in. Thankfully quick thinking Subramaniam managed to throw in his bucket for Wasanthi to hold on to and then called out for help. The story in itself raises the question; why were eight-year-olds allowed near an unprotected well without parental supervision?

According to residents of the area, watching over their kids, while they get ready for school, is a luxury they cannot afford. "We are supposed to be at work by seven o'clock in the morning- if not we won't get paid. Therefore we leave home at about 6.20- before the children are even awake," they say. The stringent rules of the plantation dictate that those who work 22 days or less from the stipulated 24 receive only Rs.280 instead of the Rs. 405.

"I didn't go to work for three weeks because I was ill and when I went back to work they said I had lost my job. I have three children to support and my husband is a drunk- I am terminally ill. How am I to find another job to support my family? ," Ramani, a disgruntled employee explains her plight. The situation is such that in order to be allowed to live in their meager huts on the plantation land at least one family member has to work on the plantation.

The "line rooms", in which they reside, barely meet the requirements of basic necessities- they are  twelve by ten foot rooms, comprised of a little attached kitchenette, sometimes housing four to five persons and at other times overcrowded by extended families of ten to twelve persons. A small shared toilet lies at the end of a row of line rooms and is badly maintained with sewage lines constantly overflowing. According to residents, compensation was paid for the maintenance of rooms but never trickled down to them. "We have asked for years and years that we be given electricity, yet nothing happened therefore we had to get it for ourselves," residents add.

The thin line between suffering and survival

The situation is most disturbing because of its impact on the children. Regardless of what poverty we go through our enduring fight for survival is dominated by the need to do justice by our children- yet the residents of this plantation are not offered this essential.

Residents did not even think to report the incident concerning Subramaniam and R. Wasanthi since three children had died in the preceding two years and they had come to accept it as their plight due to their powerlessness to protect their wells. One child had died in 2009 and two children from the same family in 2010. "There is nothing we can do about it- if we dig a well and then attempt to protect it by building a concrete enclosure the caretaker men come and close the well and break down the enclosure- there are about five to six wells like this," residents say.

Therefore the 34 families, comprising 137 adults that live within this series of line-rooms are forced to protect their 97 children under the age of ten from this virtual suicide-holes- which simultaneously provide them their daily need of water.  Despite the grave danger they pose these wells are only provide limited water. "After a while they fill up with mud and are no good for water," residents say. The source of water for daily washing comes from a stream nearby. The stream is, at the time, shallow enough that when 10-year-old boys lie facedown in the water their backs are not immersed. Residents share their little pool with inch long fish and a baby water snake.

 "This level of water is good- if it gets any higher due to the rains then all the dir from upstream flows into the stream causing it to become muddy- when this happens it means no baths for about a week," one resident explains.

The health hazards are apparent. Eleven-year-old Sujith Kumara recently spent one-and-a-half months at the Elpitiya Hospital due to a brain-germ he contracted while bathing in this water- he is now forced to visit a clinic every month. Despite his bitter experience Sujith plays and dances in the water with his friends enjoying the moment and blissfully ignorant to the health risks.  A Public Health Inspector, who spoke on grounds of anonymity, stated that when Sujith got sick the water in the stream was tested and a report filed with higher officials- yet no action has yet been taken.

The residents are not in the habit of boiling water before consumption, bathe their four to five month old babies in this water. They complain of inadequate health facilities- "we are not informed properly of when our children should be given vaccinations, if they get ill we have no place to get medication and our threeposha ration is not given," one mother complains.  Hoever the resident Public Health Midwife tells a different tale. "I always remind these women about their children's vaccinations, I go from house to house, send personal messages on allocated days and inform those even weeks in advance yet they fail to show up and then blame me," she says. She displays meticulously kept records of threeposha distributions and explains that when the threeposha ration is stopped they build up a grudge with her. "It is very rare that underweight children are born here- they are all well looked after. The general requirement is that we give threeposha based on a weight chart after the child is three months. but I give all the children whatever their weigh up until one year- when I begin weighing children for the threeposha ration after that their mothers start arguing with me and making unfair accusations," she explains.

These children are further stunted, without education, as the school they attend can hardly be said to provide them with the academic foundation necessary even for basic jobs. "Some children get to the 8th grade and can't even read or write their names," one resident explains. The school these children attend has 10 teachers for 200 children. Parents often keep their children home-citing excuses of no uniforms or books and utilize them to help out with odd jobs, such as collecting old bottles or iron. Within this little community the issues of poverty and deprivation are ripe and apparent. People are suffering without being provided their basic needs of healthcare, sanitation, education, water and safety for their children- is this simply the isolated experience of on little locale within the Galle District or is it a revelation of what is going on all over the island under the guise of mass development and prosperity?

Assisted by Janak de Silva
Pic by Kithsiri de mel

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

SCAPEGOATS AND WITCH-HUNTS  

BY PAUL BALLES

THERE is a sick mentality in the world that demands scapegoats and feeds witch-hunts. "Scapegoating is the practice of singling out any party for unmerited negative treatment or blame. A scapegoat may be a child, employee, peer, ethnic or religious group, or country," says Wikipedia.

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, one of the most famous short stories ever written, reveals the evils of village scapegoating.

The village has an annual lottery resulting in the winner being stoned to death.

Explaining what she hoped the story would convey, Shirley Jackson said: "I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village, to shock the story's readers with a graphic dramatisation of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives."

Pointless violence and general inhumanity still reign supreme in tribes, villages and countries around the world.

They function in part on established ritual. Often, the only thing required to enshrine a new scapegoat is a compulsive need for someone to despise.

It doesn't matter who wins the lottery; and it makes no difference what happens to the winner. The winner is always the loser.

If it happens that the chosen scapegoat has multiple numbers, the next step can become a witch-hunt.

The term "witch-hunt" has been used since the 1930s as a metaphor to refer to moral panics in general (frantic persecution of perceived enemies).

Wikipedia points out that: "This usage is especially associated with the Second Red Scare of the 1950s (the McCarthyist persecution of communists in the United States)."

That brings us to the present and US Congressman Peter King.

As chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, King is holding hearings to investigate the domestic threat of what he calls the "radicalisation of the American Muslim community".

King apparently decided that Islam is to be the scapegoat for America's ills; and he is now on a witch-hunt for Muslims to burn. King's anti-Islamic bias discredits him as a bigot.

According to the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson: "King once complained that 'we have too many mosques in this country' (the US), and on another occasion offered the ludicrous opinion that '80 to 85 per cent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists'. His claim to be free of anti-Muslim bias lacks credibility."

That's putting it mildly. Adding to his statement about 85pc of the mosques in the US being controlled by Muslim extremists, King told Sean Hannity of Fox News that they make up "an enemy living amongst us".

Not only have mosques coloured King's bigotry. He complained: "There are too many people sympathetic to radical Islam. We should be looking at them more carefully and finding out how we can infiltrate them."

King has accused Muslims of failing to help expose terrorist plots in America.

This is patently untrue, according to terrorist expert at the University of North Carolina Charles Kurzman.

"...in exposing alleged terrorist plots, the largest single source of initial information (48 of 120 cases) involved tips from the Muslim American community," he said.

If King had a serious concern about a lack of Muslim co-operation with authorities, he would have invited Muslim leaders to his hearings. He has invited only one.

He should have invited law enforcement officials to corroborate or correct the biased figures he has been spouting. He did not.

Witch-hunts like King's do nothing to increase security. They feed fear and breed hatred. According to a Time magazine poll, 43pc of Americans view Muslims negatively.

Scapegoating and witch-hunts have always been pointless, inhumane activities.

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