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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

EDITORIAL 22.03.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


Editorial

month march 22, edition 000786, 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. JATS ON THE WARPATH
  2. HISTORIC VOTE IN EGYPT
  3. GOOD IDEA, BUT BAD SERVICE - BIBEK DEBROY
  4. LOOKING BEYOND CHANGE IN BENGAL - SHIKHA MUKERJEE
  5. AFTER LIBYA, IT COULD BE SYRIA - GWYNNE DYER
  6. WE SHOULD OPT FOR SOLAR, WIND POWER - SHIVAJI SARKAR

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. REALTY SHOW
  2. FINAL EIGHT
  3. KILLING THE GOLDEN GOOSE - VIVEK KULKARNI
  4. AN APTITUDE FOR REFORM
  5. ONE SIZE DOESN'T FIT ALL - JAY KUMAR
  6. MOMMY KNOWS BEST - SIDHARTH BHATIA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. INTO A ZONE OF UNCERTAINTY
  2. LEFT RED-FACED AGAIN
  3. MORE FUEL TO THE FIRE - SITARAM YECHURY
  4. A HESITANT HAMLET - NIALL FERGUSON

 THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. MINIMISING RISKS
  2. FLY-BY-NIGHT
  3. VOTE FOR TAHRIR
  4. IT'S NOT WEST VS THE REST - C. RAJA MOHAN
  5. THE STARS THAT NEVER WERE - SHUBHRA GUPTA
  6. MINES MIN FOR EMPOWERING NMRA TO REVIEW PROFIT SHARING MECHANISM
  7. PRIYADARSHI SIDDHANTA

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. DGH VERSUS RIL
  2. TINA TO SINGH'S RESCUE
  3. AFTERSHOCKS FROM JAPAN - STEPHEN ROACH
  4. AND NOW, RAJA MISLEADS THE AG! - RISHI RAJ
THE HINDU
  1. OBAMA IN BUSH'S FOOTSTEPS
  2. THE TIGHTENING NOOSE
  3. BRITAIN AND THE LIBYAN CRISIS  - HASAN SUROOR
  4. 2002 riots an 'internal Gujarati matter': Modi told American diplomat  - SURESH NAMBATH
  5. WHEN MODI WAS DENIED THE VISA  - SURESH NAMBATH
  6. CASTE POLITICS AT WORK IN GUJARAT  - SARAH HIDDLESTON
  7. THE BEHAVIOUR OF GUILTY MEN: JULIAN ASSANGE

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. PILOT LICENCES NEED OUTSIDE AUDIT
  2. BLOOD IN BRAHMAPUTRA
  3. SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY
  4. DO BIGHA ZAMEEN, 2011  - RAJEEV SHUKLA
  5. MINORITY INTERESTS -  MUJTABA KHAN

DNA

  1. NEED FOR COMPASSION - CHANDRIKA

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. SPEAKING WITH ONE VOICE
  2. SEMINAR ON TOURISM
  3. SHIVALIKS AND CLIMATE CHANGE - BY MAJ GEN GOVERDHAN SINGH JAMWAL
  4. AGROFORESTRY STABILIZES FARM PRODUCTION IN DRYLAND AGRICULTURE - BY PROF (DR) R D GUPTA
  5. EDUCATION AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT - BY S N RAINA

THE TRIBUNE

  1. ACTION AGAINST LIBYA
  2. ILLS IN THE JUDICIARY
  3. IT'S RAINING SOPS!
  4. NEW IDEAS IN THE BUDGET - BY JAYSHREE SENGUPTA
  5. INDIAN HOLI, US SOIL - BY MONA
  6. THE LITERARY FACE OF BHAGAT SINGH - HARISH DHILLON

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. FOUR YEARS AFTER ROCK-BOTTOM

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. FISSION, NOT FUSION
  2. CHOICES IN HARDWARE
  3. CHINA SYNDROME - FRANK SIEREN & ANDREAS SIEREN
  4. ANTONY, PULL THE PLUG ON THE MMRCA - AJAI SHUKLA
  5. SMALL CAN BE BOUNTIFUL - SURINDER SUD
  6. THE WIDE WORLD OF WOMEN WRITERS - NILANJANA S ROY

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. NOT SO SCARY
  2. OBSOLETE PATRONAGE
  3. BLOOMING CREATIVITY
  4. FISCAL BOOST TO MONETARY GOALS
  5. BRIDGE THE SUPPLY-DEMAND GAP
  6. GET REAL ON BANK LICENCES - MYTHILI BHUSNURMATH

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. PILOT LICENCES NEED OUTSIDE AUDIT
  2. BLOOD IN BRAHMAPUTRA
  3. LIBYA: A VERY LIBERAL INTERVENTION
  4. DO BIGHA ZAMEEN, 2011
  5. BAT AND FIELD FOR GOD
  6. MINORITY INTERESTS

THE STATESMAN

  1. LAST RED BASTION
  2. INTEGRITY INDEX
  3. VOX POPULI
  4. ON THE PRECIPICE - SUBHAS ROY
  5. PRO-ACTIVE FOREIGN POLICY WANTED  - RAJINDER PURI
  6. THE UNOPENED LETTER - K CHANDRAMOULI            
  7. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. TOUGH CALL
  2. CENTRAL ISSUE
  3. INFLATION AND OPENNESS - V. DESAI
  4. UNRAVEL A BITTER TRUTH - MALVIKA SINGH
  5. THE STENCH LEFT BEHIND - BY A BURNING TRAIN

DECCAN HERALD

  1. RETHINK DECISION
  2. INEFFECTIVE POLICY
  3. PROTESTING TOO MUCH - B G VERGHESE
  4. OBAMA TREADING CAUTIOUSLY IN LIBYA - MICHAEL JANSEN
  5. DOING A BULL RUN -  MAYA JAYAPAL

HAARETZ

  1. A BLOW TO THE ARABS AND TO DEMOCRACY
  2. DANGEROUS INTERVENTION - BY YEHEZKEL DROR
  3. UNFIT TO RUN A KIOSK - BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER
  4. THE RETURN OF COLONIAL THEOLOGY  - BY YITZHAK LAOR
  5. ANYONE WHO HAS MERCY ON RAPISTS  - BY NERI LIVNEH

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. AT WAR IN LIBYA
  2. A DANGEROUS PURSUIT
  3. NEW YORK'S PRISONS FALL SHORT, AGAIN
  4. SEPARATE AND UNEQUAL - BY BOB HERBERT
  5. THE PROBLEM WITH PARTNERS - BY DAVID BROOKS
  6. WISCONSIN'S RADICAL BREAK - BY WILLIAM CRONON
  7. PLANNING FOR A POST-QADDAFI LIBYA - BY MAX BOOT

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. UNDECLARED U.S. WAR ON LIBYA
  2. NO TO TENNESSEE INCOME TAX!
  3. DANGER IN COOLIDGE PARK
  4. GOVERNMENT FAVORITISM

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT – LIBYA IS NO IRAQ
  2. EU HELP NEEDED AFTER MILITARY OPS END IN LIBYA - SEMİH İDİZ
  3. THE CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE GROUP'S PROPOSAL - TARHAN ERDEM
  4. IT'S BETTER TO BE MODERATE - ERDOĞAN ALKİN
  5. IS TURKEY MICROFINANCE INVESTABLE? - BURCU GÜVENEK ARASLI
  6. HAUNTED HOUSES - ÜMIT ENGİNSOY
  7. WHAT CAN YOU SACRIFICE TO GIVE UP NUCLEAR? - ROBERT RAPIER
  8. A DIFFICULT DECISION TO MAKE - YUSUF KANLI

THE NEWS

  1. DEADLY MINES
  2. CHANGE OF GUARD?
  3. KARACHI CRISIS
  4. DEADLIEST DRONE STRIKE, BUT NOT THE LAST - RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI
  5. THE RETURN OF THE 1990S - DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN
  6. PETRAEUS ADVISES AMNESIA  - ZAFAR HILALY
  7. LOOK, LISTEN AND UNDERSTAND - DR A Q KHAN
  8. NECESSARY, NOT SUFFICIENT - DR MALEEHA LODHI
  9. AFTER SENDAI - RICHARD FALK

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. ARABS SHOULD SAVE ARAB LIBYA
  2. BHUTANESE PM FOR REGIONAL PROSPERITY!
  3. KARACHI BLEEDS, BLEEDS AND BLEEDS
  4. ISN'T PAKISTAN A CLIENT STATE? - M ASHRAF MIRZA
  5. INDISCIPLINE IN THE INDIAN ARMY - AIR MARSHAL AYAZ A KHAN (R)
  6. 23rd March 1940, what our youth must know about? - Faiz-Al-Najdi
  7. STAND-OFF BETWEEN PAKISTAN & US - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  8. WHY WAR OF CONQUEST IN LIBYA? - ALI ASHRAF KHAN

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. WINNERS TO WRITE HISTORY OF MINING TAX?
  2. WHEN REFORM BECOMES A CIRCUS
  3. MIDDLE EAST UPHEAVALS PRESENT HOPE AND DANGERS

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. BREAKING POINT IN REFUGEE LIMBO
  2. ACCOUNTANTS AT THE BLACKBOARD
  3. PRINCELY VISIT A WELCOME RESPITE
  4. IRRATIONAL DETENTION POLICIES' PRICE IS TOO HIGH

THE GUARDIAN

  1. LIBYA: MOVING TARGETS
  2. IN PRAISE OF … WINDOW CLEANERS
  3. SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY: THIRTY YEARS ON

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. TROUBLE IN BAHRAIN
  2. THE REJUVENATION OF TOKYO - BY SHINJI FUKUKAWA
  3. EGYPTIANS SHARE A DEMAND WITH CALIFORNIANS - BY KISHORE MAHBUBANI

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. STOP THE RENT SEEKERS
  2. GARUDA 'NOT RESPONSIBLE' FOR MUNIR'S DEATH - RAMAN R. SAMAN
  3. A PALESTINIAN WRONG WAY TO PEACE - NICOLA NASSER
  4. JAPAN'S CHARACTER MAKES IT STRONG IN THE FACE OF DISASTER - IKA INGGAS

DAILY MIRROR

  1. RELIGIOUS UNITY FOR POVERTY ERADICATION
  2. EGYPTIANS HAVE MADE A POINT
  3. IS AN ELECTION A 'VILLAGE TANK' TO MONITORS AND 'OTHERS'?
  4. CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM WORK AND THE STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE
  5. MAHA – SENANAYAKE DEVIYO - BY HEMAKUMARA NANAYAKKARA

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. STRONGLY AGAINST EVERYTHING ...   - BY B COMBER

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

JATS ON THE WARPATH

WHERE WILL GOVERNMENT DRAW THE LINE?


The Uttar Pradesh Government's casual approach to the ongoing agitation by Jats seeking a caste quota that has led to major disruption in train services and inconvenience to thousands of travellers is shocking. That the State Government should have ruthlessly cracked down on protesting Samajwadi Party workers recently but used kid gloves to tackle the agitating Jats demonstrates a certain bias born of short-sighted politics. It is possible that the BSP regime is actually backing the demand for the inclusion of Jats in the Other Backward Classes list to benefit from reservation in Central services and then try and seek electoral dividends. This serves to explain the community leaders' decision to back out from an earlier commitment to end their agitation in view of the festive season. With Assembly election in the State scheduled towards the end of next year, Chief Minister Mayawati is clearly in the mood to exploit the situation regardless of the consequences — the law and order situation continues to deteriorate and existing beneficiaries of the OBC quota are beginning to get restless. Since the Congress is not averse to indulging in identity politics for electoral gains, it is likely that the Union Government will eventually strike a deal with the agitationists who have now been joined by Jats from Haryana. But for the moment, the Union Government cannot but be seen to be acting tough, if only to score points with Ms Mayawati. Already there are indications that the Union Government is contemplating a series of measures to ensure that essential services are restored at the earliest. A calibrated crackdown on the agitationists cannot be ruled out if they do not fall in line. If that happens, it would further delay conciliation.


Common sense suggests that the agitationists should come to the negotiating table and find a way out in consultation with the Union Government rather than force the latter's hand. The more they continue to cause disruption of essential services — it is not just travellers who are affected but the supply of goods and commodities is also hit, impacting other States as well — the further they will harm the cause they are supposedly championing. However, there is a larger issue: How far should the Union Government go in accommodating the demands of the increasing number of communities for reservations? Unless there is a policy decision on the matter, we will have one community or the other rising in protest and holding States and the Union Government to ransom. The Gujjar agitation for reclassification that began in Rajasthan spilled over to other States, causing enormous damage. The ghost of VP Singh who institutionalised OBC reservation continues to haunt India. Even those who had supported OBC quota have begun wondering if the demand for expanding the list by discarding the 'principles' on which this particular reservation was based is justified. The stated purpose of OBC quota no longer seems empowerment but entitlement. Let the Crisis Management Group of the Union Government, which is reviewing the issue, lay down a clear roadmap on the current demand and clarify whether the rules should be changed to accept the demand of the Jats of Uttar Pradesh. In fact, since public jobs and public funds are involved, let there be a nationwide debate.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

HISTORIC VOTE IN EGYPT

BUT THIS IS NO GUARANTEE FOR DEMOCRACY


Millions of Egyptians who participated in Saturday's historic referendum have voted in favour of the proposed amendments to the country's Constitution and thus paved the way for early parliamentary and presidential elections. Egypt's first exercise in post-'revolution' democracy was largely peaceful, reportedly devoid of electoral fraud and hailed as an overall success. The chance to cast a ballot freely after several decades of autocratic rule brought out an unprecedented 41 per cent of Egypt's 45 million-strong electorate; more than 77.2 per cent of them voted in favour of the reforms package. The package included nine proposed amendments to the Constitution and voters could either accept the entire set or reject it collectively. These related to the Office of the President (unlimited six-year terms have been reduced to two four-year terms); requirements for Presidential candidates (rules have been eased for independents to seek public office); conduct of elections (judicial review of the election process has been reinstated); and the establishment of Emergency rule (if extended beyond six months, Emergency laws must be subject to a public referendum). The package that was prepared by a constitutional committee — which sadly included Islamist leaders but no women — was unveiled to the public on February 25, allowing three weeks for 'awareness-building'. Indeed, the whole process was horribly rushed: Partly because the protesters demanded immediate, radical change, and partly because the Army Generals who are currently in-charge are reluctant to get involved in the arduous task of nation-building.

As Egypt readies itself for parliamentary election in June and a Presidential poll in August, newly-formed political parties have little time to prepare and the tight schedule is bound to favour the former ruling party, the NDP, and the Muslim Brotherhood, both of which already have well-established networks and strong party structures. Naturally, these two had strongly campaigned for a 'Yes' vote while the young activists who organised the Tahrir Square protests had lobbied for a 'No' vote. The latter's fears that a dash to democracy could rob them of their 'revolution' is entirely real. The rise of the Ikhwan especially is a matter of concern. Under Mr Hosni Mubarak's rule, the Islamists were kept on a tight leash but since his departure, sectarian violence has flared in the most populous Arab country. Already, the Ikhwan has advocated the establishment of an Islamic state and maintains an ambiguous stand on the rights of women and religious minorities. Little wonder that the Christians who feel threatened by the Ikhwan and the urban folks who fear the return of the old guard voted 'No' while those in the Ikhwan's range of influence supported the amendments.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

GOOD IDEA, BUT BAD SERVICE

BIBEK DEBROY


The informal sector exists for reasons other than tax evasion. One of them is the organised sector's failure to provide reliable services to customers.

 

I just reduced the country's GDP. The incremental value of an individual's contribution is extremely marginal, but I mean the principle. Once in a while, one travels to the airport and on a few such occasions, the timing is relatively uncivilised. At such times, I don't ask my driver to drop me or pick me up. I use a cab. Not long ago, the choice of cabs in our cities was limited. There was the black-and-yellow lot and there were frightfully expensive air-conditioned cabs.

I stuck to black-and-yellow taxis, with all its trauma of haggling and quarrels. If you were travelling abroad, this was a useful yardstick to illustrate how under-developed India still was. Forget the US or Europe, even in Singapore or China, cab-drivers were relatively civilised. There was no need for haggling, fares were known, you got a receipt. You could even pay by credit card.


Especially in the road transport sector, it is impossible to ensure governance (interpreted as enforcement of laws), if there are innumerable small operators. It is far better to have a few (more than one to ensure competition) largish fleet-operators. This is true of buses, cabs and trucks. As policy, we seem to have accepted this principle for buses and cabs, but not trucks. Thus, Mega and Meru cabs arrived and the change was refreshing. When I used black-and-yellow cabs, I paid in cash and there was no record of the transaction.

I switched to Meru. If you booked through a call centre, you could book in advance, after payment of an extra fee. (If you booked through the Net, there was no fee.) If you were travelling early in the morning, you also booked in advance for black-and-yellow cabs. But there was no guarantee the cab would turn up on time. Particularly during winter, the driver would be asleep and you would have to wake him up.


Meru wasn't like that. You immediately got a SMS in acknowledgement and half-an-hour before the appointed time, you got another SMS informing you the number of the cab and mobile number of the driver. You could pay by credit card. Even if you paid in cash, you got a receipt. That made my CA happy. If you used the same telephone number to book cabs, Meru had a record of your address, so you didn't have to repeat it every time.

Contrary to a priori misgivings, Meru wasn't expensive. Barring the booking fee, I paid roughly what black-and-yellow cabs cost. That made me happy. I guess it made other people happy too and they switched. Why else should black-and-yellow cabs at Delhi airport go on strike to ensure that Meru/Mega switched from pre-paid to post-paid? They must have been unhappy at consumers shifting allegiance.


The only disconcerting element in Meru/Mega was GPRS and its terribly Americanised accent, with instructions for the driver. If you have noticed signs for toilets in T3, they have gone Indian. Why do we have American voices for flight announcements and stuff like GPRS?


The switch from black-and-yellow to Meru meant switching from the unorganised sector to the organised sector. Since Meru was a registered service, it meant a transaction that didn't necessarily show up in the GDP earlier was now a part of the GDP. After all, India has a large informal/unorganised sector and we make a complete hash of measuring and capturing it. This also has implications when we import policies from developed countries, where the share of the informal/unorganised sector is lower. As a natural process of development, the informal/unorganised sector becomes formal/organised. But in common with many other countries in the developing world, we aren't there yet.


To return to the point, organised doesn't necessarily mean higher prices, something we should remember when we contemplate FDI in multi-brand retail. (Of course, getting retail organised is conceptually different from making it organised through FDI and land costs in urban India are an issue.) Consequently, transition to organised can mean lower prices and better quality of service. The moral is no different from competition and choice driving efficiency in any sector. Nor is it the case that the informal/unorganised sector disappears. If it has a USP, it survives, sometimes by changing its line of business.


To return to Meru, there is something called the teabag principle. A teabag can only be tested when it is placed in boiling water. By the same token, you only know how good a service is when there is a problem. This wasn't that early in the morning, 8 am to be precise. Following my practice, I had booked the preceding evening. There was no SMS with the name and number of the cab-driver in the morning. Using the reference number, I rung up. They had goofed up and the cab would arrive half-an-hour late.


I would miss my flight. I legitimately thought that like pizzas, I ought to be entitled to some compensation — perhaps a free ride in the future, perhaps a waiver of the booking fee. (We did get a free pizza once.) That wasn't on. One moral of post-1991 India is companies don't pay adequate attention to software, by which I mean human resource. This doesn't mean CEOs, but call-centres (pertinent for many services), where customer-interface typically is. When customers have grievances, if the interface handles it well, 90 per cent of the time one no longer has a disgruntled customer.


However, Indian companies have yet to learn that lesson and this is true across sectors. They over-stretch themselves in an attempt to expand and pay no attention to such systems, banks and mobile operators being cases in point. In that sense, there is no guarantee that opening up of retail will necessarily improve service in the short-term.

Meru couldn't assuage me and I switched. No, I didn't switch to Mega. Nor did I switch back to black-and-yellow cabs. I switched to something that is worse, from the perspective of the GDP. Every local taxi-stand has private cars that run as taxis. Black-and-yellow cabs are at least registered. These are probably illegal and unregistered, which is why they don't possess commercial number-plates. I am certain Meru pays service taxes and I am certain these private cars don't.


We keep talking about an informal economy that doesn't get captured in the GDP and suggest it is a black economy because it doesn't pay taxes. An assertion that black and white are neat compartments is fallacious. They blur. I converted a black transaction to white and back again. An assertion that the tag of 'informal sector' is only because of purposes of tax evasion is also fallacious. There are other reasons for the existence of the informal/unorganised sector. If we only use a tax lens, we will not only make a mistake, but we are also likely to recommend wrong policies.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

LOOKING BEYOND CHANGE IN BENGAL

SHIKHA MUKERJEE


To cash in on the prevailing mood of 'change' in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress is trying to put together a rainbow coalition of opinions and talents. Meanwhile, the CPI(M), after initiating measures for house-cleaning, has reverted to projecting the party above individuals. But this is unlikely to take the Left too far in this electoral raceWill the surge to change the stuffy stability that prevailed in West Bengal from 1977 lift the Trinamool Congress into the Chief Minister's seat in Writers' Buildings is the question that is haunting the CPI(M). The brutal indictment of the voter in 2008 panchayat elections, the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and the 2010 municipal elections is being candidly acknowledged by the CPI(M) as a consequence of its failures as a political organisation and as leader of the Government. Curiously enough it is also what the Trinamool Congress is saying, albeit differently; the people want a change because the CPI(M) has failed to meet aspirations in 34 years.


Since change is the issue, the direction of the required change is important. The way West Bengal was governed in the past 34 years is being held to account. Governance is both a matter of policy as well as implementation. In terms of policies, the differences between the Trinamool Congress and the CPI(M) are slight, if not nonexistent. In terms of how policies are implemented, the Trinamool Congress has accused the CPI(M) of converting the administration into an extension of the party. It, therefore, needs to find a mechanism to demonstrate that it will function differently.


The Trinamool Congress needs to impress on the voter that it has the capacity to run the administration to perfection; hence the choice of a handful of retired bureaucrats and police officers as candidates; hence the choice of the former secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry as a candidate. The candidates indicate two things; first, that the Trinamool Congress intends to run an efficient, impersonal, apolitical and effective administration and second, that it has resolved its ideological issues over the processes through which industrialisation will be encouraged.


It is secondary that the choice of candidates from outside of politics can be considered as a measure of the Trinamool Congress's wide appeal. For the choices reveal a weakness and as well as a strength. It indicates that the Trinamool Congress needs to establish its credibility to administer through the induction of 'talent'. It also indicates that sections of people who would never have joined the CPI(M) nor been invited to do so are more than willing to back the Trinamool Congress.


Having disbanded the rainbow coalition that boosted its strength during the Singur and Nandigram protests, the Trinamool Congress is evidently trying to patch together a different coalition of opinions and talents. Even if the coalition of opinions, such as those represented by the former FICCI secretary general Amit Mitra, is confusing given the Trinamool Congress's original ideology that prioritised Government spending over private sector investment, it is nevertheless an interesting shift. The shift, however, needs to be backed up by the clarifications, first as policy and second as directions to the administration on subjects as politically sensitive as land use conversion from agriculture to industry. By taking on board a strong advocate of economic reforms, including Special Economic Zones and moreover someone who was critical of the Singur agitation and eloquently argued that the Nano project should not be disturbed, the Trinamool Congress will have to clarify exactly what its industrial policy is and how it intends to implement it.


Policies, programmes and promises are secondary to the Trinamool Congress's belief that the mood in West Bengal is primarily strongly pro-change. Placing its faith in the anti-incumbency mood of the electorate, the Trinamool Congress has taken the risk of nominating people who are not only from outside politics, but strangers to their constituents. One candidate summed up the situation by declaring himself a proxy for the Trinamool Congress leader, Ms Mamata Banerjee. He claimed that the fight, for instance, in the Dum Dum constituency was not between the CPI(M) candidate, Housing Minister and articulate leader Gautam Deb and Trinamool Congress nominee playwright Bratya Basu; the fight was between the CPI(M) and Ms Banerjee.

The Trinamool Congress is obviously banking on the charisma and popularity of Ms Banerjee to produce the two-third majority in the 294 seats State Assembly. The CPI(M), on the contrary, is banking on its organisation to deliver sufficient success to avert a disastrous defeat. The Left as a whole has moved away from projecting personalities such as the Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as the star and has reverted to its real strength, which is the organisation. It has done so by initiating a house cleaning operation against those who 'treated the party as a trade licence issuing authority' on the one hand, and nominating candidates who are not 'stars' on the other. By mobilising long serving local leaders as candidates, the CPI(M) is sending out a message: The candidate is a person with roots and therefore accountable to the voter.


Challenged by the Trinamool Congress, the CPI(M) has used self criticism to undertake widely publicised course corrections and so establish that it has the capacity to 'change', or rather, reinvent itself. 'Change', therefore, has become a chain effect, radically different from the stifling stability of the CPI(M)'s famously long and uninterrupted tenure of 34 years.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

AFTER LIBYA, IT COULD BE SYRIA

GWYNNE DYER


The UNSC has approved the use of 'all necessary measures' to protect civilians from Government forces in Libya. But would the UNSC approve similar measures in Syria? Or is the US-led intervention by the West in Libya a prelude to intervention in Syria?


Last Friday saw the first nationwide protests against the Baath regime in Syria. If these protests develop into a full-scale revolt, the regime's response may dwarf that of Col Gaddafi in Libya.


The last time Syrians rebelled, in the city of Hama in 1982, President Hafez al-Assad sent in the Army to smash the insurrection. Hama's centre was destroyed by artillery fire, and at least 17,000 people were killed.

The current Syrian ruler, Bashar al-Assad, is allegedly a gentler person than his father Hafez, but the Baath Party still rules Syria, and it is just as ruthless as ever. So what happens if the Syrian revolution gets underway, and the Baath Party starts slaughtering people again? Do the same forces now intervening in Libya get sent to Syria as well?

Syria has four times Libya's population and very serious armed forces. The Baath Party is as centralised and intolerant of dissent as the old Communist parties of Eastern Europe. Moreover, it is controlled internally by a sectarian minority, the Alawis, who fear that they would suffer terrible vengeance if they ever lost power.

The UN Security Council was absolutely right to order the use of "all necessary measures" (meaning armed force) to stop Col Gaddafi's regime from attacking the Libyan people. But it does move us all into unknown territory: Today Libya, tomorrow Syria?


The "responsibility to protect" concept that underpins the UN decision on Libya was first proposed in 2001 by Lloyd Axworthy, then Canada's Foreign Minister. He was frustrated by the UN's inability to stop the genocides in Kosovo and Rwanda in the 1990s, and he concluded that the problem was the UN's own rules. So he set out to change them.


The original goal of the United Nations, embedded in the Charter signed in 1945, was to prevent any more big wars like the one just past, which had killed over 50 million people and ended with the use of nuclear weapons. There was some blather about human rights in there too, but in order to get all the great powers to sign up to a treaty outlawing war, there had to be a deal that negated all that.


The deal was that the great powers (and indeed, all of the UN members) would have absolute sovereignty within their own territory, including the right to kill whoever opposed their rule. It wasn't written quite like that, but the meaning was quite clear: The UN had no right to intervene in the internal affairs of a member state no matter how badly it behaved.


By the early 21st century, however, the threat of a nuclear war between the great powers had faded away, while local massacres and genocides proliferated. Yet the UN was still hamstrung by the 1945 rules and unable to intervene. So Lloyd Axworthy set up the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty to popularise the concept of humanitarian intervention under the name of "Responsibility to protect".

It was purely a Canadian Government initiative. "You can't allow dictators to use the facade of national sovereignty to justify ethnic cleansing," Axworthy explained, and so he launched a head-on attack on sovereignty.

The commission he set up concluded, unsurprisingly that the UN should have an obligation to protect people from mass killing at the hands of their own Government. Since that could only be accomplished, in practice, by military force, it was actually suggesting that the UN Security Council should have the right to order attacks on countries that indulged in such behaviour.


This recommendation then languished for some years. The most determined opponents of "responsibility to protect" were the great powers — Russia and China in particular — who feared that the new doctrine might one day be used against them. But in 2005 the new African Union included the concept in its founding charter, and after that things moved quite fast.


In 2006 the Security Council agreed that "we are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner... should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity." And there they are five years later, taking military action against Col Gaddafi.

Ten out of 15 Security Council members voted in favour of the action, and the rest, including all four of the emerging great powers, the so-called BRICs abstained. But Russia and China didn't veto the action, because they have finally figured out that the new principle will never be used against them.

Nobody will ever attack Russia to make it be nicer to the Chechens, or invade China to make it change its behaviour towards the Tibetans. Great powers are effectively exempt from all the rules if they choose to be, precisely because they are so powerful. That's no argument for also exempting less powerful but nastier regimes from the obligation not to murder their own people.


So what about the Syrian regime? The same crude calculation applies. If it's not too tough and powerful to take on, then it will not be allowed to murder its own people. And if it is too big and dangerous, then all the UN members will express their strong disapproval, but they won't actually do anything. Consistency is an overrated virtue.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

WE SHOULD OPT FOR SOLAR, WIND POWER

SHIVAJI SARKAR


The disaster in Japan has exposed the risks involved in setting up nuclear power plants. With limited coal supply throttling power generation, India should focus on renewable energy sources


While Japan battles to avoid one of the world's worst nuclear disasters after being struck by an earthquake followed by a tsunami, the accident is likely to imapct India's energy security plan. The tragedy calls for a new power policy with emphasis on renewable energy sources. Nuclear energy is neither a safe nor an economic option. The accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has effectively proved it.


If the nuclear energy policy is taken up for a review, limited availability of coal could trip India's mega power plan. An acute shortage in domestic coal production is threatening to destabilise new power projects in which developers have already invested about Rs 75,000 crore.


The Government can be faulted for not showing enough interest in creating clusters of renewable energy projects. It has reduced allocation for renewable energy research by Rs 42 crore from Rs 119 crore in 2010-11 to Rs 77 crore in 2011-12. The allocations on this sector have always been measly.


The Labour Government in the UK has recently faced severe criticism for jettisoning alternative energy programmes and trying to promote nuclear power projects, mainly along the coasts. The Labour Government has not only been accused of colluding with corporate houses to promote nuclear energy at the cost of public safety but also of sabotaging offshore alternative energy projects.


Though the Indian Government cannot be blamed for such collusion, its unwillingness to promote renewable energy sources on the plea that setting up solar photovoltaic cells or wind turbines are not viable economic options raises questions.


It will not be wrong to contend that the thermal and nuclear power lobbies are strong enough to pressurise the Government to formulate policies in their favour. The country has missed targets for creating installed capacity during every Five-year plan. The Eleventh plan will not be an exception. By 2012, the Government has set a target of capacity addition of 78,000 MW. The addition will be less than half of it.


The country's policy of reliance on large capital-intensive power projects is questionable. Many power projects are unable to meet their plant load factor. The overall PLF of thermal power stations during April-December 2010 at 71 per cent was less than what was achieved in 2009 (76 per cent). A major reason for low output has been lack of coal supply.


The new capacity target of 15,000 MW is likely to be stranded for want of coal. Coal India Ltd has promised to supply 92 million tonne of coal to these projects. Most of these were expected to be operational over the next one year. However, the CIL now says it can deliver only 13 mt. The available coal, which needs to be blended with imported coal, can produce barely 3000 MW of power.


The amendment to India's nuclear law to facilitate US companies do business here will serve the interest of the US only. Being out of business in their home country, the India-US nuclear deal has come as a prop-up for these companies. If India allows them to go ahead with light water reactors — like the ones that have been used in Fukushima — it should remain prepared for a Japan-like tragedy, possibly worse.

A major objection to such reactors has been their high requirement of water. This is the reason why nuclear plants are erected near the sea. But the risks that seaside reactors like Fukushima face from natural disasters are well-known. It became evident six years ago when the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004 inundated India's second-largest nuclear complex, shutting down the Madras power station.


The nuclear plants are not as eco-friendly as they are touted to be. The fuel, uranium, is in short supply in India while the price of uranium is very high in international market. Thus, its operation cost is higher and not low as the nuclear industry propagates.


Another perpetual cost is managing the waste for at least 5,000 years — that it is a difficult proposition has been exposed by the Fukushima blast. Much of the radiation in and around Fukushima has resulted from the exposed waste dumps.


India's nuclear operations so far are limited — be it in the field of research or building of power plants. Since nuclear power plants are operated by Government agencies, they adhere to high safety norms. The foreign companies, on the other hand, may compromise on safety aspects for raking in high profits.


In the Budget this year, there has been a moderate increase in the allocation to Rs 7,602 crore from Rs 6,534 crore, mostly for research purposes. No proposal for generation of nuclear power has been made. It has to come, as per Government plans, from foreign investors. In view of Japan's tragedy, a thaw in nuclear power projects is certain.

The thrust in future has to be on renewable energy sources. Germany has installed more wind power capacity than the entire nuclear capacity in the UK at present. It is adding to its capacity at a rate equivalent to more than one new reactor a year. In 2009, Germany has installed solar photovoltaic systems with capacity equivalent to approximately four nuclear reactors and the 2010 figures will be much higher.


India needs to learn from proper quarters instead of succumbing to US pressures to formulate its power policy.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

REALTY SHOW

 

The real estate sector's performance has strong multiplier effects for the economy. Yet this growth-driving sector has a shoddy reputation not solely linked to realtors' penchant for overbuilding assets, mainly high-end, and thwarting price corrections even in lean times. Last week, the prime minister acknowledged the ugly reality of black money in realty. He's not alone in calling a spade a spade. While describing India as one of Asia-Pacific region's emerging realty markets, a study by advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and Urban Land Institute of India says lack of transparency blights the sector. Another survey by global consultancy KPMG lists real estate as India' most corruption-friendly sector. Clearly, realty needs a clean-up.


The prime minister rightly suggests lowering stamp duty will help. With this tax varying between 4% and 13% in different states, value of property transactions is routinely understated. Encouraging tax dodges and illicit financing, it also discourages building of low-cost housing for which there's huge unmet demand. Following JNNURM's recommendation, some states have trimmed stamp duty but their 4-5% figure is still too high. To make transactions and registrations transparent and boost compliance, stamp duty cuts must be bolder, say, down to 1% or 2%, and applied countrywide.


Other reforms are in order as well. Several states have wisely scrapped the Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act, boosting land availability. Laggard states need to catch up. Desired action is also awaited on rationalisation of property taxes, streamlining of cumbersome procedures for procuring land or starting projects, as well as land acquisition reform. Land records are a mess, facilitating fraud and property grabs. While these need digitisation, municipal authorities must also conduct proper market-linked valuations. We must change unrealistic floor space index laws impeding vertical construction, and junk outdated rent control laws that suppress the value and supply of rented properties by blocking fair, market-adjusted tenancy contracts.


The state and its entities hold land far in excess of requirements. Selling part of these assets on the market will help ease ever-growing pressure, courtesy rapid urbanisation, on land for housing and infrastructure. Cities being magnets for migrants, it's as crucial to incentivise low-cost housing including via PPP initiatives. Delaying realty's revamp at a time of hardening interest rates will hit FDI. In real estate and housing, it has already dipped to Rs 1,024 crore in 2010-11 from Rs 2,844 crore in 2009-10. Investors can't but be spooked by the realty market's chaotic, fragmented and opaque nature, which promotes red tape and graft and leads to costly and consumer-unfriendly project delays. Insurance and banking have watchdog bodies. Real estate needs a regulator as well to build accountability and professionalism in the sector and protect both consumers and investors.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

FINAL EIGHT

 

With India confirming their berth in the quarterfinals, the 2011 World Cup has reached the business end of cricket's biggest tournament. The competition so far hasn't been without twists and turns. Barring its disappointing loss to South Africa, Team India's performance has been satisfactory. But it falls short of the lofty expectations at the start of the tournament. Finishing second on the points table in Group B - South Africa, England and the West Indies being the other quarterfinalists from this group - the men in blue have a date with defending champions Australia - ranked third in Group A - in their first knock-out clash. Given India's current form, it should be their toughest test yet. With the exception of Zaheer Khan, the bowling has been lacklustre. Harbhajan Singh hasn't been at his potent best. R Ashwin's inclusion in the last group game against the West Indies did provide skipper M S Dhoni with greater control. But the off-spinner has little time to settle down at this late stage of the tournament.


The famed Indian batting line-up has its own problems. The middle order has been found to be brittle. Batting second, the team has looked far from convincing even against minnows such as Ireland and the Netherlands. There are major issues with the batting powerplay and India's approach needs to be questioned. India lost three wickets for 26 runs against South Africa and four wickets for 28 runs against the West Indies in this period with fielding restrictions. A repeat could mean exit from the World Cup. With Pakistan, Sri Lanka and dark horses New Zealand also in the quarterfinal melee, India have their work cut out.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

KILLING THE GOLDEN GOOSE

VIVEK KULKARNI

 

In the budget, IT's golden goose - Software Technology Parks of India (STPI), the most successful Indian scheme copied by a number of foreign governments - was squashed prematurely. While India started its liberalisation process in 1992 with attractive tax incentives for the IT sector, the Chinese had instituted similar incentives for manufacturing in 1978. Thirty years later, in spite of conquering the manufacturing sector, China continues with its tax incentives. India's decision to end the tax incentive signals the impending decline of Indian IT.


In 1978, when China was in dire straits, Deng Xiaoping went to the US to plead for more foreign currency. China had depleted all its foreign currency reserves and did not even have enough dollars to buy return tickets for Deng's delegation. The Chinese People's Bank, with just 80 employees at its head office, was the only financial institution in the country with no linkages to the outside world.


But thereafter, China liberalised and announced incentives for manufacturing and SEZs. It reduced tax rates from 55% to 25%. For manufacturing, the policy provided for zero tax for two years and just 12.5% tax for another three years. Thirty years later, China has reserves of almost $3 trillion. Its manufacturing sector at over $2,500 billion is 12 times bigger than India's. In spite of this stupendous achievement, China continues with all its tax incentives till date.


With the world recognising Chinese supremacy in the manufacturing sector, we find the "Made in China" label on almost everything we see. Indians have even found it cost-effective to worship Ganesh idols manufactured in China. Today, China is in a position to charge higher prices for their products without affecting their business, because no country will be able to respond in the short run. Building infrastructure and manufacturing plants and training industrial workers take decades. In the next decade, the Chinese can happily extract exorbitant monopoly prices for manufactured products.


Just like China, India too ran out of foreign currency reserves in 1991 and had to pledge its gold in London to borrow foreign currency for day-to-day payments. It followed a similar path in the IT sector (IT, BPO and KPO). The sector was liberalised by the then IT secretary with an innovative scheme, STPI, which provided IT companies with a single window agency for all business as well as a tax holiday for 10 years. This incentive and STPI's support nurtured the IT industry, resulting in a tremendous surge: from 13 firms in 1991, to over 5,000 companies now in Bangalore alone.


In 1992, the government invested just Rs 2.75 crore in STPI, resulting in a Rs 3,00,000 crore industry, without taking a single extra rupee from the government budget. The STPI created a vibrant IT small and medium enterprises (SME) sector that currently employs more than a million professionals. India now has 58% of world market share in this sector. After nurturing these companies and making them world-class, this year's budget abruptly buried the innovative STPI scheme. Given the scheme's success, why did the government scrap STPI?

First, the government succumbed to the SEZ lobby. Real estate wanted tax incentives for only SEZs. Most SMEs have no voice or lobby with the government. Ministers are happier to meet large real estate players and pay lip service to SMEs. Second, large IT companies found it convenient to have their own SEZ and save taxes. Some
Indian IT companies have turned out to be real estate players. As such, large companies with access to ministers encouraged SEZs and did not credit the STPI scheme with their initial growth.

Third, NASSCOM works primarily in the interest of larger companies. So they were not too concerned about looking after the interests of smaller IT players. They did not take up the cause of SMEs as Dewang Mehta did by lobbying in the initial STPI days. Fourth, IT industry captains declared that IT should pay normal taxes and implied STPI should be scrapped. Their companies simultaneously acquired large tracts of SEZ land to save taxes.

What does the future hold for IT? India will grow rapidly in the next few years, primarily due to the present growth momentum. However, it will soon begin to lose business to neighbouring countries. Currently India has a market share of 58% while China holds 33% share. But by next year, China is expected to increase its market share to 40%. By 2014, it will emerge as the world's IT superpower. Meanwhile, a small country like
Philippines has already overtaken India and holds the maximum market share in the BPO sector. East European countries with a 6.5% market share will consolidate. With the incentives taken away, a large number of India's small IT companies will be forced to fold up. Consequently, India will face job losses running into millions.

Had the tax concessions continued, India would have grown faster and created at least a million additional jobs. Every IT job creates five indirect employment opportunities in real estate, commercial space, malls, entertainment etc. That is one of the main factors contributing to India's vibrant economy.


Japan, South Korea and China became rich via manufacturing. The IT sector was India's chance to become rich. But Budget 2011-12 has killed the golden goose.


The writer is founder, Brickwork, and former IT secretary, government of Karnataka.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

AN APTITUDE FOR REFORM

 

The Staff Selection Commission aims to rationalise screening for government jobs with its proposals for a single GRE-style aptitude test. The current system tests for rote learning, which is why it needs systemic reform. If the proposals are enacted, our civil servants will be selected for their ability to solve the problems of governance, rather than arcane knowledge about esoteric subjects. The benefits extend beyond ironing out the flaws of the current selection process.


The proposed reform won't stop at testing for new qualities but restructures the entire process. Anyone aspiring to a government job - IAS or lower division clerk - will begin the process with a common exam. Standardisation would eliminate multiple routes of entry to different types of jobs. Streamlining would save the government from duplication and candidates from having to apply, and go through, multiple - and often conflicting - routes. Of course, the aptitude test is only the first step and there would be differentiation based on jobs, but that would be at a later stage of a now uniform process. A common entry test also introduces a degree of equality into the competitive process and helps break down class and status barriers within the services. Furthermore, it would also mean that candidates who might not have even considered the elevated ranks of the elite gazetted posts might discover that despite self-doubt, they are suited to those jobs.


Meanwhile, the new test would just as effectively fulfil the purpose of separating the wheat from the chaff that is currently performed by the Prelims. But the task would be done much more effectively because candidates could seamlessly apply for less demanding posts throughout the bureaucracy depending on their aptitude. The proposals need to be implemented quickly, perhaps with a bit of fine-tuning. Doing so would go a long way in renewing India's steel frame.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

ONE SIZE DOESN'T FIT ALL

JAY KUMAR

 

The SSC's plan to streamline government recruitment with a single screening test on the lines of GRE is a bad idea. It's not just that the commission's proposal appears devoid of sound reasoning and planning. If implemented, these so-called reforms would curtail the principle of equality of opportunity for government job aspirants. To start with, the range of government jobs from premier civil services to the lowest rungs of administration is huge and requires specialised skill sets for each job. The nature of these services entails a combination of objective and subjective tests rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.


More importantly, most of them already have a well-functioning preliminary screening system in place with clearly laid minimum eligibility criteria that weeds out unsuitable candidates. Such a system works both ways. It allows the recruitment agency a large pool of available talent without denying the candidates the opportunity to compete. A candidate must be judged on the basis of current performance rather than on the basis of past results, which could be the result of a combination of factors. In that context a decentralised recruitment system gives ample scope for improvement and constant opportunity to candidates.


Besides, the SSC's proposal looks elitist and biased against rural areas. There already exists a huge under-representation of people from rural areas in the government sector and PSUs. Such urban-oriented reforms will further marginalise people from the countryside. Instead of forcing reforms that ape foreign countries on a vast and diverse country like India, the government would do well by creating a level playing field for all segments of the population.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

MOMMY KNOWS BEST

 

Ever since an excerpt from the book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, appeared in the Wall Street Journal under the provocative title 'Why Chinese Moms are Superior' there has been a debate, particularly in the western media, about the proto-Fascist parenting techniques described by writer Amy Chua. Now Chua is no out-of-touch traditionalist. She's a Yale Law School professor married to an American. But she says western methods of parenting are too lax because there's no pressure on the child to excel.


In contrast, the Chinese mom has a strict set of rules which Chua herself applied to her two daughters: no sleepovers, no school plays or complaining about not being in a school play; no getting any grade less than A, watching TV or computer games or choosing their own extra-curricular activities. She talks of a regime where kids practise the piano (or violin) for hours without complaining. In short, Mommy's way or you are so grounded and punished.


But while western mothers have expressed shock, there has been a quiet chortle of understanding here in India. Many Sherni mothers not only emphathise, they cheer. Yes! At last, someone who is on the same wavelength as us. These Indian moms can be seen everywhere, ensuring that their child is a combination of Einstein, Sachin Tendulkar, Bobby Fischer, Picasso and Yehudi Menuhin. Not to forget Bill Gates. And Aishwarya Rai or Tom Cruise.

So we've got the picture of the Indian
Tiger Mom (ITM), the one species not likely to go extinct anytime soon. But what about the father? What does he think of all this (assuming he thinks independently)? For argument's sake, we will assume the father too has some thoughts on the subject. Occasionally he bleats out his views when he feels Tiger Mom has gone too far. Let us examine a typical exchange between Tiger Mom and Daddy Lamb.

The scene is set in the children's bedroom at 7.30 on a Sunday morning.
ITM is shaking her 12-year-old daughter and roaring, "Get up, you have to get ready for maths tuition." Kid: "Some more time, mummy, I slept at midnight." ITM: "But you can't be late, because after tuition you have art classes, then chess practice, then home for a quick lunch, then guitar lessons, then soccer and I don't think you've finished homework." Kid: "Mom, I did. And can I go to Jyoti's birthday party?" ITM: "Are you mad? There is no time, and she is a bad influence on you, got a B- in math in the last test."


From the corner a meek voice pops up. "Ahem, cough, splutter, don't you think you are being a bit hard on the child?" "Hard? When I was young my mother ensured I did all this. Why do you think I am so successful? Obviously your parents were lax, otherwise you would have been a big shot by now, like your classmate Rakesh. You please stay out of this."


At this point, the wise man stays out of it, the foolhardy one rushes in to counter the accusation. Most fathers retire quietly to read the Sunday papers. The papers are no help either: they carry articles such as "Board exam topper says she studied 12 hours a day". Or "Indian-American kid wins Spelling Bee".


Daddy Lamb falls into a reverie and re-evaluates his life. He had imagined he would be the tough but kind parent, a friend and guide to his children who would love and respect him. His word would have been law. The angelic girlfriend he married would look up to him for everything. Somewhere the script went wrong. His voice now counts as much as that of a tiny Pacific island in the United Nations.


With a deep millennial sigh he goes back to the papers. Well, there are many other pressing problems awaiting his attention. He can do something about the international currency crisis, look into the Middle East or advise Manmohan Singh on the best way to tackle inflation. It is to tackle these big issues that men were made. Running the home, after all, is a woman's job.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

INTO A ZONE OF UNCERTAINTY

The air war over Libya is a curious battle, being fought in strange circumstances and in an unclear atmosphere. The decision to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya seems to have been driven by two factors. One was emotional, a desire to save the rebels of eastern Libya from being crushed by Muammar Gaddafi's forces. This seems to have moved the Arab League and a fair amount of opinion in the West. Two was political. France, which has led the western effort to enforce the no-fly zone, seems suspiciously concerned about its global gravitas and giving troubled President Nicolas Sarkozy an electoral boost. The most reluctant player has been the United States. It went along because its European allies insisted and because some members of the Democratic administration were worried of accusations that it passively allowed a humanitarian crisis a la Rwanda.

Mr Gaddafi had an opportunity to put forward a vision of Libya that looked beyond the narrow tribal society that he has ruled for years. He failed to do so and thus failed to delegitimise the rebellion. While there are circumstances under which international military intervention is acceptable, it is not something that should be done lightly. It is hard to escape a sense that an insufficient case was made for such intervention in Libya. It was fortunate that the Arab League voted for enforcing the no-fly zone. That provided the West necessary political cover. But far too many unanswered questions remain regarding the goal of the intervention to make even advocates of a post-sovereign world comfortable. It remains uncertain whether the purpose is to overthrow Mr Gaddafi, force a negotiated solution between the fighting halves or allow the de facto partition of Libya. The character of a rebel regime is also unclear. The latter's talk of democracy has not been backed with any blueprint for constitutional reform or any electoral timelines.

India has continued its tradition of pleasing no one and sounding confused. It made sense to abstain in the United Nations Security Council vote over the no-fly zone: New Delhi has marginally more stakes in reinforcing the solidarity of the emerging economies than it does in political events in Libya. However, its subsequent denunciation of the airstrikes made India look naïve. Enforcement of a no-fly zone would always have included bombing and strafing ground targets - and this in turn would mean collateral civilian casualties. New Delhi's only saving grace is that not many capitals in the world paid much notice to either of India's actions. The focus is on Libya and its confusing war.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

LEFT RED-FACED AGAIN

King Henry II's plaintive plea about the then Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" seems to find resonance in the manner in which CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat has been trying to banish Kerala chief minister VS Achuthanandan. But unlike in the case of the portly king who was successful in his endeavour, Mr Achuthana-ndan, like Banquo's ghost at the banquet, refuses to go away into the twilight. So, after denying him a ticket, the politburo has had to reverse its decision and make conciliatory noises.

This is just as well for a party which lacks a bit of colour, unless you count politburo member Brinda Karat's sartorial tastes. The 87-year-old CM still wows the crowds in the state. In fact, T-shirts bearing his likeness are selling like hot cakes. The message to the party is clear, loosen up a bit. Mr Karat is known to issue his now reversible edicts with the seriousness of the Pope delivering the encyclical discourse. Now we don't expect the ascetic Mr Karat to start cracking Sardarji jokes or dancing the Macarena, but it would not be too much to expect a little political savvy when it comes to dealing with the party's dwindling number of vote-catchers.

The Left should learn a lesson or two from its bete noire Mamata Banerjee's flamboyant and often totally irrational behaviour. Tell us honestly, who would you rather spend an evening with? The icy Mr Karat who would no doubt lecture you on the virtues of a classless society or the flaky Ms Banerjee with her unintelligible hyperbole? But then, with all this we are probably making Mr Karat see red. And full Marx to us for that.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

MORE FUEL TO THE FIRE

SITARAM YECHURY

Yet another imperialist military intervention has begun with French air strikes on Libya. The US-sponsored North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) operation has been launched ostensibly to prevent Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces from attacking its people. This direct interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign country, the biggest intervention since the military occupation of Iraq, comes under the sanction of a United Nations Security Council resolution. This overzealousness betrays imperialism's eagerness to retain its hegemonic control over the oil-rich region and prevent any realignment of forces that could be detrimental to its interests. The region has proven, accumulative reserves of 103.2 billion tonnes of residual fuel oil in 2009, or 55.6% of the proven total global oil reserves.

Imperialism's double standards become clear with the US-inspired Saudi Arabian military intervention in Bahrain to prop up the Khalifa, opposed by the people seeking better standards of livelihood, human rights and democracy. In Libya, imperialism seeks a regime change while in Bahrain, it seeks to sustain the autocratic Khalifa family that has lorded it over the country since 1783. Both interventions are ironically in the name of protecting the people. The reason for such dichotomy is not far to seek. Bahrain is home to the US navy's fifth fleet and has been a steadfast ally. Libya, on the other hand, is not such a firm ally. Further, Libyan oil reserves and the ocean of fossil water reserves on which its deserts lie today have the potential of more lucrative profits than oil. A regime change here could well be to imperialism's advantage, while in Bahrain it is not.

Behind these military interventions lie the basic geo-political interests of imperialism in the region. Its post-World War I history is replete with occupations aimed at controlling its energy resources. Post World War II, in an effort to reverse the gains of de-colonisation, the US intervened to topple the democratically-elected regime in Iran and foist a pliant one. On the one hand, its propping up of Israel, military aggressiveness against Arab countries, denying Palestinians their homeland and on the other, the propping up of client regimes through massive military and 'aid' programmes, ensured imperialism's hegemonic control over the region.

The situation dramatically changed over the past few months when popular protests across the region led to the downfall of pro-US regimes in Egypt and Tunisia. Hosni Mubarak's Egypt was imperialism's lynchpin in the region. With popular protests rising in other countries like Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, imperialist hegemony was threatened. It is important to remember that all these countries received massive US military assistance. In fact, the weapons being used by Gaddafi's forces today were provided by the US and other Nato allies in the first place.

The recent popular upsurges have been triggered by the global economic crisis that has increased the burden on the people through massive lay-offs and price rise. Libya, interestingly, occupies the first place in the human development index for Africa and has the highest life expectancy in the continent. It provides food security, essential social services, education and health for its people as well as employment to people from neighbouring countries. However, the protesting youth are an unmistakable picture of indignation. The demands for a better life, a better political and social ordering and the ability or inability of the ruling dispensation to meet these aspirations are matters that have to be settled within sovereign boundaries of independent countries.

The military intervention in Bahrain a week earlier,  however, has come under the terms of the Joint Peninsular Shield established in 1990 under the umbrella of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a six-nation regional organisation, where any member state can seek military assistance from another in the face of an external threat. The threat that the ruling autocracy in Bahrain faces is entirely internal. The GCC is estimated to have $1.34 trillion of surplus assets accumulated in the last few years alone as oil revenues. The escalation of popular protests in Bahrain could well snowball into other GCC states, spiralling a political destabilisation that jeopardises such huge reserves. Already protest marches in four different locations in Saudi Arabia have been repressed.

These popular upsurges have also negated imperialism's stereotypical projection of any uprising in an Islamic country as the rise of fundamentalism and therefore terrorism. The joint statement by Bahraini opposition groups have put it succinctly, saying "this tripartite coalition adopts the choice of bringing down the existing regime in Bahrain and the establishment of a democratic republican system". The people in Islamic countries, like people anywhere else in the world, aspire for better living standards, human rights and liberty. This aspiration gets exponentially magnified in countries that have suffered for centuries under oppressive, autocratic rule backed by imperialism.

If people are sovereign, then they must be allowed to decide on their future in their sovereign country. Imperialism must be forced to roll back this military intervention. The countries that abstained in UN Security Council, including India, must now assert themselves and stop yet another military aggression in Libya.

PS: Whither Obama's promising rhetoric at the Al Azhar in Cairo soon after he assumed the US Presidency?
Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP
The views expressed by the author are personal

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

A HESITANT HAMLET

NIALL FERGUSON

'If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly.' Macbeth's famous line before he kills Duncan came to mind last week, when US President Barack Obama belatedly changed his mind about military intervention in Libya. Like Obama, Macbeth fervently hopes that this blow might be the be-all and the end-all... But in these cases ... we but teach/ Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return/ To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice/ Commends the ingredients of our poison'd chalice/ To our own lips.

The president has been more Hamlet than Macbeth since the beginning of the revolutionary crisis that has swept the desert lands of North Africa and the West Asia. To act or not to act? That has been the question. The results of his indecision have been unhappy. Hosni Mubarak, for so long an American ally, has been overthrown in Egypt. Muammar Gaddafi, the erstwhile sponsor of terrorism so foolishly rehabilitated by the West just four years ago, has - until now - lived to fight another day in Libya. Meanwhile, in Bahrain, another insurrection is being quelled with the help of Saudi Arabia - an American ally even more important than Libya.

Obama, a novice in foreign affairs, is a president without a strategy. Once a critic of American military intervention in West Asia, once a sceptic about the chances of democratising the region, he now finds himself with a poisoned chalice in each hand. In one, there are the dregs of the last administration's interventions: military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan that he is eager to wind down. In the other is a freshly poured draught of his own making.

Make no mistake. Whatever the wording of the United Nations Security Council resolution, the United States is now at war with the Libyan government, and the aim of this war is the overthrow of Gaddafi. In the words of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "If you don't get him out and if you don't support the opposition and he stays in power, there's no telling what he will do." She doubtless remembers more clearly than Obama what happened in Bosnia, when her husband took years to approve effective military intervention. Had she been president, my guess is we'd have taken swifter action. But in this play, she's Lady Macbeth, urging Obama to get tough.

This was the right thing to do. Was. But it should have been done weeks ago, when it first became clear that Gaddafi, unlike Mubarak, was able and willing to unleash military force against his opponents. Now, with loyalist forces approaching the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, it may well be too late. It certainly seems unlikely that an exclusively aerial intervention in Libya's civil war can topple the mad dog of Tripoli. And even if it's still possible to tip the balance in favour of the rebels, then what? When the news of the no-fly zone reached Benghazi last week, it was relayed from mosque loudspeakers, and the crowds responded with cries of "Allahu Akbar!" not "God bless America!" Significantly, the rebel spokesman quoted by The New York Times was an imam.

I wish I could believe the National Security Council is now presenting the president with a better set of scenarios than it put on the table when this crisis began in Tunisia. As I've said from the outset, a peaceful transition to Western-style democracy in the Arab world is, of all the scenarios, the least probable. The more likely outcomes are (a) 1848-style restorations of the old regimes; (b) a descent into protracted civil wars; (c) Islamist takeovers; (d) a regionwide Sunni-Shia conflict. By the way, (b), (c), and (d) are not necessarily mutually exclusive. They may be a sequence of events.

Fortune has not smiled on President Obama in the role of hesitant Hamlet. But better luck is the last thing actors expect when they play Macbeth.

Niall Ferguson is a British historian. 

His latest book is Civilization: 

The West and the Rest

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

MINIMISING RISKS

 

Even without the current spotlight on it, the question of nuclear power was always a fraught one. Part of the nuclear "faultline" are matters of a strictly practical nature — the how, where, when and even why of every single nuclear plant. But part of the debate — in fact, a significant reason for its public nature — is the psychological impact of the very idea of nuclear energy. Whenever a crisis hits a nuclear unit or plant anywhere in the world, as with Chernobyl at the top of the list or Three-Mile Island or now Fukushima, it triggers responses across nuclear and non-nuclear nations ranging from the realistic to the fantastic. Yet, through all this, the relative safety of nuclear plants has been demonstrated time and again, not least in the rarity of nuclear accidents.

It's also undeniable that growing economies like India will depend increasingly on nuclear power in the coming decades. And although the prime minister and the nuclear establishment have assured the nation of immediate safety reviews at all our nuclear sites, it's in the fitness of things that the government and nuclear establishment be seen to be acting on checking and upgrading nuclear safety standards to deal with multiple and simultaneous calamities. The message conveyed to the nation as well as India's current and potential nuclear partners is as important as the action. Part of that message and a big step in safety upgrade will be the independence of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) — the only body in India capable of assessing the radiological impact of any nuclear activity at present — from the Atomic Energy Commission, to which the regulator currently reports. This would enhance confidence in the autonomy and lack of bias in the regulator's assessments in the eyes of the public and nuclear partners, and also free the AERB from any sense or circumstance of deference to the nuclear establishment.

The nuclear industry is a constantly evolving sector. Thus, nuclear states are always on a learning curve. As such, nuclear safety aims at maximum risk-assessment and corresponding safeguards. So the public needs both the government and the nuclear establishment to talk to it, engage it in a debate and explain things. But that cannot be enough. Granting the AERB more teeth and making it independent is necessary as a public policy issue, because even the best and least risky institute needs unbiased regulation.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FLY-BY-NIGHT

 

After years of foot-dragging, it looks like the aviation regulators are finally getting around to sort out their own functioning, to make sure that those entrusted with flying a plane are trained to do it. The "fake pilot" issue exploded when a decidedly unorthodox landing by a pilot alerted the DGCA to review her training records, only to discover that her flying certificates were pure fiction. As several more cases of fudged resumes and fabricated certificates tumbled out, it became progressively clear that India has a serious problem with aviation personnel qualification.

The fake certificate problem stems from a structural weakness — of a sector that has expanded tremendously, year upon year, and regulation that has failed to keep up. India's domestic aviation market has grown by many times in the last decade (it is the fourth largest domestic market, after the US, China and Japan). Being a pilot is a highly lucrative job — and from a private pilot to a commercial pilot to an Airlines Transport Pilot Licence-holder, the stakes soar. First, faced with a shortfall in the number of pilots, airlines started hiring expats. Then several homegrown flying schools started, to keep up with the demand, but their standards vary hugely. Flying a plane is highly technical work, and pilot-training involves poring over pages of aircraft systems and regulation details, hours of sim sessions and study. But profit-driven flying schools sometimes inflate student logbooks and cut down on simulator sessions. The DGCA, as their overseer, needs to keep a tighter check on these practices. The DGCA test is one of the most difficult in the world (too difficult, according to some); but the problem arises because cross-verification of credentials is not built into the system. Touts and intermediaries are another problem, as is corruption within the organisation.

Now, the regulatory body has announced a set of changes that aims to make the process more fool-proof. All current licences are under scrutiny. It plans third-party audits of all flying schools, to eliminate marksheets by simply hooking up its examination arm and its licensing arm, to run rigorous tests on pilots trained abroad, and step up its game on technology-aided identification of candidates. About time.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

VOTE FOR TAHRIR

 

Revolutions are messy things. Few enough end happily; most, as they said of the French, wind up devouring their own children. But in a revolutionary spring, it is hard not to hope for an exception, and perhaps the Arab Spring's exception will be Egypt. On Saturday, its electorate came out, in numbers that overwhelmed the turnout for Hosni Mubarak's innumerable stage-managed polls, to vote in a referendum on constitutional change. The question: were Egypt's people ready to accept the changes to the old constitution suggested by a hastily cobbled together committee that examined the issue for 10 days? The answer, according to an overwhelming three-fourths majority, was yes.

Those who urged a vote for no were concerned the changes didn't go far enough to remove the malign influence of dictatorial rule — and, not incidentally, that a positive result would clear the way for parliamentary elections within months, which they feared would be dominated by candidates from the old king's party, the National Democratic Party, or those backed by the Islamic Brotherhood, the only effectively organised opposition grouping for much of Mubarak's rule. (Both the NDP and the Brotherhood were firmly in favour of a "yes" vote.) The revolution's young leaders won't be happy. Yet it is difficult to avoid the thought that a landmark has been passed, and Egypt's new dispensation is on a more stable footing.

This is a strange moment indeed: a revolution has submitted to democratic accountability. The scenes of mass protest inspired and uplifted, especially in the long-awaited moment of victory. But this, the casting of a free vote, is in its way as inspiring. Those three-fourths of Egypt's voters who demand elections within months and a new constitution framed by the duly elected body — to be submitted to another referendum a year later — are all, in a way, revolutionaries today.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

IT'S NOT WEST VS THE REST

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

As the United States, France and Britain bomb Libya, it has been quite easy for our ideologues to see the current intervention in North Africa as the return of Western military adventurism in the Muslim world despite the sobering experience from occupying Afghanistan and Iraq. It is equally tempting to interpret India's decision to dissociate itself from the United Nations Security Council's authorisation last week of a "no-fly zone" as a rediscovery of the presumed principles of non-alignment.

If the West is seen as justifying its decision in terms of a moral "responsibility to protect" the people of Libya against its dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the Indian decision is seen as returning to its traditional emphasis on non-intervention. This convenient antinomy, however, does not survive a close scrutiny.

The decision by Germany (a leading light of the West) to join China, Russia, India and Brazil in abstaining from UNSC Resolution 1973 does not allow an ideological framing of the current Libyan context.

Equally significant has been the Obama administration's reluctance to be drawn into another military quagmire in the Greater Middle East. As Paris and London pressed Washington to support military intervention in the last few weeks, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went public with their doubts about the high costs of enforcing the no-fly zone. As pressure mounted on Obama to be seen as doing something in Libya, he endorsed the Franco-British initiative. This decision appears to be based on the judgment that there will be no need for a prolonged involvement in Libya's internal affairs.

In fact, Paris, London and Washington are betting that the current military intervention will be short and sweet. India is not so sure. That indeed is at the heart of the difference today between India and the Franco-British initiative in Libya. It is about the effectiveness of the use of force in Libya and whether it can be kept limited in time and scope.

Paris and London assert that doing nothing in Libya would have meant helplessly watching Gaddafi massacre the people in Benghazi, which has been under the control of the opposition since the protests against Gaddafi started a few weeks ago.

Delhi's argument, on the other hand, is that the use of force could lead to greater bloodshed. India is saying the road to hell might be paved with good intentions and all wars start with the assumption that they will be short.

Paris, London and Washington have no desire to introduce land armies into Libya. None of them can afford it. But they hope the bombing of Libya would quickly alter the balance of power on the ground in the next few days. In constraining Gaddafi and empowering the popular revolt, France and Britain hope they can quickly produce a ceasefire and a framework for negotiations on a democratic transition in Libya.

In sounding sceptical, India has looked wishy-washy and unattached to its own political values of democracy and the right to peaceful political change.

Some in the West argue that Delhi's abstention from the UNSC resolution means that India is not ready to play the part of a great power and contribute to the management of the world order. That argument, however, is flawed. An Indian endorsement of the use of force in Libya would not have given Delhi a say in either conducting the military operations or defining the terms of the final political settlement. The current operations against Libya are not being run by an international command established by the UNSC; what the UNSC has done is open the door for France, Britain and the United States to launch a military campaign.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who believe India is ready to march back to the sterile posturing of the past. They hail India's decision to sit on the fence as a triumphant return to good, old non-alignment. That India found itself with China, Russia and Brazil on the UNSC on the Libyan question is being heralded by some others as the first step towards building a new block against Western hegemony. These ideologues might be in for disappointment.

In refusing to endorse the current intervention in Libya, the government of India has not resorted to old ideological slogans. India's policy in Libya appears to be driven by a cold calculus of national interest and a healthy scepticism about the use of force by third parties in an internal conflict.

But Delhi's articulation of this policy has been deeply apolitical. The bureaucratic explanation of the UNSC vote from New York is not a substitute for the Indian leadership's public reflection on the developments of the Middle East that are being watched with great interest across the nation.

An emphasis on India's interests in the region cannot and should not prevent Delhi from offering genuine empathy and support to the Libyan people who have shown such great courage in standing up against a violent and brutalising dictatorship.

As the situation in Libya unfolds rapidly in the coming days, what happens in the UNSC and how India votes there is only one part of the story. What Delhi does in and around Libya is far more important.

Delhi needs to effect some important correctives to its current policy on Libya that appears too tilted in favour of the status quo; whatever the merits of the Franco-British intervention, new facts will be established in Libya sooner than later.

In responding to this dynamic situation, Delhi must open contact and consultation with the Libyan opposition leaders who have formed a government of their own. Two, India must equip its military to deliver relief to whichever regions that become accessible in Libya. Finally, India must be prepared to render all assistance to a possible transition towards political reconciliation and democratic institution-building in Libya.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi, express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE STARS THAT NEVER WERE

SHUBHRA GUPTA

 

Some actors are destined to tremble on the verge of stardom, never quite managing to break into the charmed circle, never quite managing to fade away. Navin Nischol, who died of a heart attack on Saturday at the age of 65, had hovered at the edge of our vision, sometimes outlined clearly, at others hidden by that old adage: out of sight, out of mind. He existed in the sort of killing uncertainty that durable actors are placed in.

Nischol played the hero's father in his last outing Break Ke Baad (2010), typifying one of the saddest traits of Bollywood. As good actors age and weather, they are designated as "mothers" and "fathers" to the lead actors, never mind if those "lead actors" desperately need to be buoyed by more seasoned, talented co-stars. But even in this most hackneyed part, he brought an intelligence and a rare sense of self — his hallmark. This had set him apart right from his first role, which had him romancing another debutant. That film was Sawan Bhadon (1970) and his leading lady was Rekha: he was the more assured one, even if he wasn't really able to hide an inner amusement at having to dance around the trees with a dusky, plump bombshell that Madam Re used to be when she broke into films.

It was a dream debut for anyone hoping to be a Hindi movie star at the cusp of the 1960s. The film was a loud melodrama, with foot-tapping music. It made Nischol the next big thing in an industry always looking for the next big thing. He went on a signing spree, made all kinds of wrong choices and did only a handful of films that were worth noting after Sawan Bhadon.

Looking back, it is easy to see that the clunkers he did, one after the other, made sure that he never really made it to the top slot. But there are so many stars who gambol through a spree of bad movies and come out smelling of roses. Nischol's was a case of ill-timing. He came in at a time when Rajesh Khanna's star was on the wane. But when a huge star like Khanna is on his way out, he doesn't go easy. All the big romantic parts would still come to him automatically, for him to accept or reject: the leftovers would get passed around. Hungry newcomers like Nischol would only be considered if the second- and third-rung stars also cut and ran. The ill luck was made worse by the fact of having to contend not just with the short, fair Rajesh Khanna, but also with the tall, dark Amitabh Bachchan, rising swiftly on the horizon.

In Parwana (1971), Bachchan was his co-star. It was one of those films that takes everyone aback, still. It had, hear this, a discernible plot and identifiable characters. Nischol was the hero who would get the girl in the end; Bachchan was bumped off, so that it would be a no-contest. It was not only about looks. At that time, the ideal hero was the hatta-katta, fair and lovely Punjabi puttar who came from a long lineage of butter chicken and maa ki daal. Nischol was not a clean-cut, crinkly-eyed charmer like Shashi Kapoor. He wasn't a soft-hearted, muscular alpha male like Dharmendra. Nor did he have the quality that Bachchan oozed: the ability to brood and glower most satisfactorily. And, yes, sexily. Nischol was the kind of actor who never let us see that he was acting. That made him a fine actor, in the way he could fill every role differently. It was, ironically, this very trait that stopped him from being a star.

Bachchan may have been ousted from the romantic stakes in Parwana, but he walked away not just with that film, but every other film thereafter. It was not just Nischol who was forced to sit on the sidelines, waiting for Bachchan rejects to come his way: all other aspirants to the Bollywood throne during that period colonised by the Big B ended up being also-rans. Nischol's career, which zoomed into the hit territory with his first few films (the rollicking crime caper Victoria No. 203 in which he and Saira Banu played second fiddle to the bumbling duo Pran and Ashok Kumar was a blockbuster), sank into the no-no land of being and nothingness.

He never lacked for work, even though he famously never went asking. His part in the super successful TV series Dekh Bhai Dekh was memorable, as was his turn as the helpful theatrewallah in Khosla Ka Ghosla (2006). To the end, he was an actor who projected the part, rather than himself: you don't just remember him, you remember the character he played.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

MINES MIN FOR EMPOWERING NMRA TO REVIEW PROFIT SHARING MECHANISM

PRIYADARSHI SIDDHANTA

 

New Delhi : The mines ministry is understood to have approached the law ministry to ascertain whether the proposed National Mineral Regulatory Authority (NMRA) could be empowered to review the envisaged profit-sharing formula.

According to the proposed formula, which the mines ministry had inserted in the initial Draft Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Bill, 2010, miners will be mandated to share 26 per cent of their net profits (of the previous year) or an amount equivalent to royalty, whichever is more, annually, with the local populace.

However, the ministry, now, in a revised version of the Bill, has decided to add one more clause indicating its willingness to be flexible on the issue by seeking to empower the NMRA to revise the profit-sharing percentage.

"Provided that the Central government may, after taking into consideration the reports and recommendations of the NMRA, by notification, revise the profit-sharing percentage, and fix different rates in respect of different minerals having regard to the economy of mining in respect of such minerals," the new clause now states.

Earlier, the Planning Commission had also advised against the proposed mechanism, saying that it could jeopardise potential investments.

Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia recently said, "If we end up with too high a cumulative royalty burden compared with international standards, this will only discourage future investments in the mining sector."

"We cannot assume that the additional burden can simply be passed on to the consumer, since these minerals are freely importable and users will switch to imports," Ahluwalia said in a letter to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is heading the Group of Ministers (GoM) to iron out the differences in the Mining Bill.

Also, the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI), the apex body of miners, has already protested against the profit-sharing formula and warned that, if implemented, it could lead to the flight of capital and deter potential investments into the sector.

Notwithstanding the apprehensions of the Planning Commission or the industry, the royalty sharing mechanism is not unique to India.

In mineral-rich Australia, royalty is calculated in the Freight-On-Board (FOB) basis, while in India it is calculated on the basis of Pit Mouth Value (PMV). For example, assuming a FOB of $120 per tonne (Rs 6,000 at exchange rate of Rs 50 per tonne) for iron ore, the royalty payable in Australia at the rate of 7.5 per cent would be Rs 450 a tonne.

In India, the average Pit Mouth Value for ore is Rs 1,450 a tonne, implying a royalty payable at only about Rs 280 per tonne.

The benefits accrued to the affected families would be substantial as the mines ministry, at the behest of its former minister B K Handique, has proposed that all members of a family should be benefited in the proposed profit-sharing mechanism.

Second thoughts

*According to the profit-sharing formula, miners will be mandated to share 26% of their net profits (of the previous year) or an amount equivalent to royalty, whichever is more, annually, with the local populace

*The mines ministry, now, in a revised version of the Draft Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Bill, 2010, has decided to add one more clause indicating its willingness to be flexible on the issue by seeking to empower NMRA to revise profit-sharing percentage

*Earlier, the Planning Commission had also advised against the proposed mechanism, saying that it could jeopardise potential investments

*Federation of Indian Mineral Industries has also protested against profit-sharing formula

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

DGH VERSUS RIL

Whom are investors to believe? A company or a regulator? Less than a fortnight ago, the Director General of the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH), told the press that production at Reliance Industries Limited's (RIL) troubled KG-D6 gas block was likely to rise by 30% by April. The regulator said this while explaining that RIL had already completed drilling 18 of the 22 development or production wells in the area. Not surprisingly, the company's shares rose since the regulator's statement came after the company's production had been falling for several months. On Friday, however, the markets were stunned by news of RIL's reply to the DGH, which said quite the opposite—that the company's gas output from the field would fall 13% by 2012-13! It's true the DGH was talking about 2011-12 and the company about 2012-13, but there is nothing in RIL's answers to suggest it was agreeing that it's output would rise to 67 mmscmd by April (from around 44-45 right now) and then fall to around 38 mmscmd in 2012-13. So what is it that the DGH knows about the KG-D6 field that even RIL doesn't?

This, of course, is not the first time the DGH has been caught on the wrong foot and on the KG-D6 field. The DGH's previous chief had gone public saying the CAG had audited the costs of the KG-D6 field and found them to be in order, only to be contradicted publicly by the CAG, which said it had done no such audit. Some years prior to this, again under the previous chief, the DGH had put out an advertisement in leading newspapers on the day of public sector exploration firm ONGC's AGM to say ONGC had zero success in finding oil under the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP)— ONGC pointed out that it had found a lot more oil in its non-NELP blocks but the DGH was ignoring this!

The DGH has come a long way since the time it suggested that ONGC be denied deepwater blocks it had won bids for, on grounds that its track record was poor. But it needs to provide some clarity on its analysis that suggested RIL's output from KG-D6 would rise, even while the company thought it would fall.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TINA TO SINGH'S RESCUE

With all manner of scams hitting the headlines with regularity all of last year, from Commonwealth Games, 2G and IPL to the controversy around the CVC's appointment—2010 was clearly ruling UPA II's annus horribilis. Amidst all the Opposition-government muckraking and vitriolic brinkmanship, the biggest casualty, it seems, is the sullying of the 'Mr Clean & Honest' image of the man at the centre of this government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, according to a FE-Synovate survey across seven cities. Speaking for the first time on the series of corruption scandals that haunted his government since the beginning of 2010, the PM said at the Congress plenary last year: "I sincerely believe that like Caesar's wife, the Prime Minister should be above suspicion." Well, that may be so, but a majority of middle class Indians—long enamoured by Singh's impeccable personal integrity, academic pedigree and almost self-effacing humility—polled in the FE-Synovate survey says that some of that 'moral authority' has diminished, purely because of the involvement of people from his government and party in the myriad corruption scandals. Whatever his compulsions, the PM is facing the flak for his perceived inability and inaction in reining in his Cabinet and party colleagues. It is little consolation that a majority of the people polled in the survey think that the government, pushed to the wall by the media and Opposition alike, is willy-nilly now pulling the plug on the corrupt.

Importantly, even though people say Singh survived the storm but lost some of his credibility, he still remains their top choice for PM, barring the Gandhi scion, which was expected, given the dynastic nature of Indian politics. All other potential candidates in the Congress—from Pranab Mukherjee to P Chidambaram and Digvijay Singh—punch much below Singh as far as people's choice for PM is concerned. Even though people polled in the survey give credit to the Opposition for putting the government on the mat on the corruption issue, a large majority believe this government will sail through its full term till the next general elections in 2014. The fieldwork for the FE-Synovate survey was conducted before the WikiLeaks revelations on bribes-for-votes allegation during a 2008 trust vote in UPA-I, but with WikiLeaks also exposing the BJP's doublespeak on the India-US nuclear deal, the TINA—there-is-no-alternative—factor, it seems is playing to Mr Singh's advantage, both within the Congress, and without.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

AFTERSHOCKS FROM JAPAN
STEPHEN ROACH

The devastation, both human and physical, from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan is unfathomable. It is impossible at this point to gauge the full extent of the damage with any degree of precision. But we can nonetheless begin to assess its potential spillover effects on Asia and other major economies around the world.

The narrow view of the catastrophe's economic impact is that Japan doesn't really matter anymore. After all, more than 20 years of unusually sluggish trend growth in Japanese output has sharply reduced its incremental impact on the broader global economy. The disaster may produce some disproportionate supply-chain effects in autos and information technology product lines such as flash drives, but any such disruptions would tend to be transitory.

On the surface, the world's two largest economies have little to fear. Japan accounts for only 5% of the US's exports and 8% of China's. Under the worst-case outcome of a complete disruption to the Japanese economy, the direct repercussions on the US and Chinese economies would be small—shaving no more than a few tenths of a percentage point off their annual growth rates.

Within the so-called G-10 developed economies, Australia has the largest direct exposure to Japan—the destination of about 19% of its total exports. The Eurozone is at the opposite end of the spectrum, with Japan accounting for less than 2% of its exports.

Among emerging markets, the Philippines and Indonesia are the most exposed to Japan, which absorbs about 16% of their total exports. South Korea, the third-largest economy in East Asia, is at the other end of the scale, relying on Japanese demand for only about 6% of its exports.

But the narrow view misses the most critical consideration: this 'Japan shock' has not occurred at a time of great economic strength. That is true not only of Japan itself, where two lost decades have left a once-vigorous economy on a less-than-1% growth trajectory since the early 1990s. But it is also true of the broader global economy, which was only just beginning to recover from the worst financial crisis and recession since the 1930s.

Moreover, the Japan shock is not the only negative factor at work today. The impacts of sharply rising oil prices and ongoing sovereign debt problems in Europe are also worrisome. While each of these shocks may not qualify as the proverbial tipping point, the combination and the context are disconcerting, to say the least.

Context is vital. Notwithstanding the euphoric resurgence of global equity markets over the past two years, the world economy remains fragile. What markets seem to have forgotten is that post-bubble, post-financial crisis re-coveries tend to be anaemic. Economies grow at something much closer to their stall speeds, thus lacking the cyclical 'escape velocity' required for a self-sustaining recovery. As a result, post-crisis economies are far more vulner-able to shocks and prone to relapses than might otherwise be the case.

Alas, there is an added complication that makes today's shocks all the more vexing: governments and central banks have exhausted the traditional ammunition upon which they have long relied during times of economic duress. That is true of both monetary and fiscal policy —the two mainstays of modern countercyclical stabilisation. Policy interest rates are close to zero in the major economies in the developed world, and outsize budget deficits are the norm. As a result, unconventional—and untested —policies, such as so-called 'quantitative easing', have become the rage among central bankers.

All along, such unconventional policies were viewed as a temporary fix. The hope was that policy settings soon would return to pre-crisis norms. But, with one shock following another, the 'exit strategy' keeps being deferred.

Just as it is next to impossible to take a critically ill patient off life-support treatment, it is equally difficult to wean post-bubble economies from their now steady dose of liquidity injections and deficit spending. In an era of extraordinarily high unemployment, political pressures only compound the problem.

This raises perhaps the most troublesome concern of all: with a post-crisis world getting hit by one shock after another, and with central banks having no latitude to cut interest rates, it is not hard to envision a scenario of open-ended monetary expansion that ends in tears. The dreaded inflationary endgame suddenly looms as a very real possibility.

None of this detracts from the resilience factor. Yes, Japan will rebuild, which will undoubtedly spur some type of recovery in its disaster-battered economy. That happened in the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake in 1995, and it will happen this time as well.

But, just as the post-Kobe rebuilding did little to end the first of Japan's lost decades, a similar outcome can be expected this time. The upside of rebuilding—beyond the urgent restoration of normal life for thousands of people—is only a temporary palliative for an impaired economy.

That's only one of the lessons that Japan offers the rest of us. The Japanese economy has, in fact, been on the leading edge of many of the more serious problems that have afflicted the global economy in recent years. From asset bubbles and a dysfunctional financial system to currency suppression and monetary-policy blunders, Japan has been in many respects the laboratory of our future. Unfortunately, the world has failed to learn the lessons of Japan. And now it risks missing another important clue. The significance of the earthquake and tsunami of 2011 is not the relatively low magnitude of Japan's direct impact on the broader global economy. The more meaningful message is how these shocks box the rest of us into an even tighter corner.

The author, a member of the faculty at Yale University, is also non-executive chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and author of 'The Next Asia' (Wiley 2009). Project Syndicate, 2011. www.project-syndicate.org

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

AND NOW, RAJA MISLEADS THE AG!
RISHI RAJ

Dear Mr Vahanvati,

You made a startling revelation in the course of an interview to a TV news channel last week. The essential points made by you in the interview were: that the controversial DoT press release of January 10, 2008, from where the 2G spectrum scam really begins, has been tampered with as per forensic evidence presented by the CBI; that you had not seen the press release, after it was issued on January 10, till it was brought to your notice recently during the hearing in the Supreme Court and then by the CBI; that the legal opinion sought by the DoT vide its letter of October 26, 2007 was between the DoT, law secretary and the then law minister, HR Bhardwaj and you were never in the picture and, therefore, had no idea whatsoever. "I am not so foolish as to change the views expressed by my minister", is what you said.

Sir, since you have finally decided to speak on your role in the entire matter now, I have a few queries arising from your responses in the interview, seen in the context of the documents in public domain now, courtesy the Patil Committee report. Your answers to them would help because there seems to be huge gaps between your statements and what the files show.

* If you had not seen the press release till recently, how did you defend the DoT's case against S-Tel before the single and division bench of the Delhi High Court as well as in the Supreme Court?

I ask this because S-Tel went to the court basically on the situation arising out of the press release of January 10. The Delhi High court order, which struck down the cut-off date as illegal (the cut-off date was announced in the press release), had cited the press release in detail in its judgement in section 32, page 18/19. You later appealed against the order in the Supreme Court. Why did you did not point out then or protest that the release was at variance with what you had approved? Further, the press release was also reproduced on page 63 of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Surely as the government's lawyer in the matter you must have seen all this?

* Assuming that the press release was tampered with and you did not know about it, did the expunged part make any material difference to the final press release that appeared?

The last paragraph, which was removed, said, "However, if more than one applicant complies with LoI condition on the same date, the inter-se seniority would be decided by the date of application". This does not seem to be relevant since the change in the first-come-first-served (FCFS) decision was in the second last para, which has been retained as it is—"DoT has been implementing a policy of FCFS for grant of UAS licences under which, initially, an application which is received first will be processed first and, thereafter, if found eligible will be granted LoI and then who so ever complies with the conditions of LoI first will be granted UAS licence"—isn't this paragraph more relevant than the one that was deleted?

* You may have not seen the press release but what about the file that was sent to you—you noted that you had read it—which contained all the decisions of the DoT regarding licensing? The press release was nothing but an accumulation of decisions made by A Raja. The file was sent to you on January 7, 2008—three days before the scam. All key decisions that led up to the press release are included in the file, which was approved by you. You have noted in your own words on January 7, 2008, "I have seen the notes. The issue regarding new LoIs are not before any court. What is proposed is fair and reasonable. The press release makes for transparency. This seems to be in order". Is it fair and proper for you to now segregate the file containing the decisions and the press release from which one superfluous para was omitted?

* You said that the legal opinion sought by the DoT vide its letter of October 26, 2007 was between the DoT, law secretary and the then law minister, HR Bhardwaj, and you were never in the picture and, therefore, had no idea whatsoever. "I am not so foolish as to change the views expressed by my minister". How did you miss the parts of the file that very clearly said the matter was referred to the law minister and Raja decided to bypass it, saying that the advice tendered was out of context. The responses are on page 8/c and 9/c of file no. 20-100/2007-AS-I. Assuming that you missed it, did you not read the newspapers, which reported the matter extensively?

Sir, you are the government's law officer—Solicitor General in UPA I and Attorney General currently—so you will appreciate your responses to these questions are crucial, given how you say you were misled.

I await your response.

Sincerely,

rishi.raj@expressindia.com

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

OBAMA IN BUSH'S FOOTSTEPS

Less than two days after the start of attacks on Libya by the United States, British, and French warplanes and missiles, and as news and images of civilian casualties and destroyed buildings spread, powerful dissenting voices are being heard. Russia, which abstained from the United Nations vote, cites civilian casualties in calling on Britain, France, and the U.S. to stop using "non-selective" force; China, which also abstained, has expressed regret over civilian casualties. Turkey has blocked NATO from taking over the enforcement of the no-fly zone. Above all, the 23-state Arab League — which, by supporting Britain and France in their proposal for a U.N.-enforced no-fly zone, provided essential credibility and thereby persuaded President Barack Obama to back the idea — has expressed its doubts. The League's Secretary-General, Amr Moussa, condemns "bombardment of civilians." In addition, the operation is already showing what is euphemistically called mission creep, with Muammar Qadhafi's ground forces and his own residential compound being targeted.

The parallels with other episodes of western military adventurism since the early 1990s grow stronger by the day. First, the limitations of air power have been repeatedly exposed. In Kosovo, President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair were so terrified of casualties among their own forces that they ordered bombing from 15,000 feet, which was inaccurate and ineffective. That mission rapidly expanded to include attacks on Serbian infrastructure. In Afghanistan, indiscriminate NATO bombing has taken a huge and continuing civilian toll and caused great enmity towards the invading westerners. Now, although Libya's anti-aircraft defences have been attacked, the regime can still make low-level sorties very dangerous. That raises the spectre of a land invasion, despite the U.N. Resolution's explicit interdiction. Furthermore, like George W. Bush, the western protagonists have been less than clear about their purposes. U.S. commanders say regime change is not part of the plan. But British Secretary of State for Defence Liam Fox says Mr. Qadhafi is a "legitimate target", and Prime Minister David Cameron insists that the Libyan leader must go. An even uglier element the current attacks have in common with the 2003 invasion of Iraq is the domestic political factor. France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, facing heavy electoral defeat in 2012, thinks he has nothing to lose by international grandstanding. The parallels therefore must include the morality tales of George W. Bush and Tony Blair. Countless Iraqi civilians paid for that with their lives. Now Libyan civilians are dying to get Mr. Sarkozy re-elected, and Mr. Obama, by backing the attacks on Libya, is following in his far-Right predecessor's footsteps.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

THE TIGHTENING NOOSE

The move to impeach the disgraced Sikkim High Court Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran is inching forward. Constituted under the Judges Inquiry Act 1968, the three-member committee comprising two judges and a distinguished jurist has framed 16 charges against him for a shocking range of offences, including corruption, land-grab, abuse of judicial office, destruction of evidence, and violation of human rights. The committee, reconstituted after a judge recused himself following objections that he and Justice Dinakaran had heard many cases together, has taken a little over a year to arrive at framing the charges. Under Section 3(4) of the Judges Inquiry Act, such definite charges "together with a statement of the grounds on which each such charge is based" will be communicated to the judge to enable him or her to present a written statement of defence. Justice Dinakaran has been given until April 9, 2011 to reply. This will be considered and, if the panel deems it necessary, it will amend the charges and provide him "a reasonable opportunity of presenting a fresh written statement of defence" [Section 3 (8)].

With the impeachment noose slowly tightening, it remains to be seen whether Justice Dinakaran will do what he ought to have done long ago: resign. The temptation to ride it out — an attitude he has shared with Calcutta High Court Justice Soumitra Sen, who also faces a move for removal — stems from the unwieldiness of the process, which has not resulted in a single impeachment yet. Removing a judge lacking in integrity requires a two-third majority in both Houses of Parliament after various procedures are completed; it is far more difficult than dismissing a government, which can be brought down by a simple majority. The rationale for making the dismissal of judges so difficult was to insulate the higher judiciary from executive interference. But experience has shown that procedures to protect judicial independence have been exploited to promote judicial impunity. The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, which is meant to replace the Judges Inquiry Act, contains less cumbersome mechanisms to deal with complaints against erring members of the higher judiciary, including the Chief Justice of India. The proposed legislation, which has provisions to prevent judges suspected of corruption or impropriety from being elevated to higher courts, promises to make a significant difference to the manner in which judges are appointed and removed. The question is: what and who is holding it up?

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

BRITAIN AND THE LIBYAN CRISIS

IN BRITAIN, WHICH LED THE CAMPAIGN FOR MILITARY INTERVENTION, THERE IS NERVOUSNESS DESPITE A PUBLIC SHOW OF BRAVADO.

HASAN SUROOR

Two days into military action in Libya, its legitimacy is already being questioned amid fears of another Iraq in the making. The Arab League, whose support was invoked by Britain and its allies as providing justification for the invasion, has been the first to criticise it saying the bombardment has gone beyond the United Nations Security Council remit which was limited to enforcing a "no-fly" zone.

"What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians," Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, said. The 22-member group is expected to meet soon to discuss its future strategy.

There has also been criticism from India, Russia, China and a number of African states which have called for an African Union summit to discuss an "African solution" to the crisis, according to media reports. Even Americans were reported to be thinking of scaling down their role in the operation with Defence Secretary Robert Gates saying that while America would continue to be part of the coalition, it "will not have the pre-eminent role."

In Britain, which led the campaign for military intervention, there is inevitably nervousness despite a public show of bravado. The fact is that despite British claims there was never really a consensus on support for military action. Five leading nations, including two permanent members — China and Russia —besides India, Brazil and Germany, abstained from the vote on the U.N. resolution and made clear that they would not get involved in any armed intervention.

Germany, reflecting the divisions in Europe, said the move was fraught with "considerable dangers and risks." India thought there was not enough "credible" information to warrant military intervention and Brazil warned that it could actually harm civilians more than helping them.

At an EU summit days before the U.N. vote, British Prime Minister David Cameron was isolated when he pressed for a military option with only French President Nicolas Sarkozy supporting the idea. At home, too, there was — and still is — considerable opposition to an Iraq-like adventure.

Critics say the government's approach to the Libyan crisis has been amateurish, starting with Foreign Secretary William Hague's statement — in the first week of the revolt — that he had "seen some information" suggesting that Muammar Qadhafi was on his way to Venezuela "at this moment." At one stage, Mr. Hague was struggling after a series of blunders — from the shambolic airlift of Libyan refugees to the botched "spy" mission to help anti-Qadhafi forces.

Last summer, when he became Foreign Secretary he made a long and passionate speech outlining his plans for a new "distinctive" foreign policy, a sort of "Hague doctrine" that was meant to draw a line under the supposed failings of his Labour predecessors. His supporters sought to project him as the best thing that had happened to the Foreign Office after 13 years of Labour "misrule," epitomised by the Iraq invasion. (Never mind Mr. Hague and his Conservative party fully backed the invasion and still justify it on the same grounds as Labour.)

Nine months after that brave start, questions are being raised about his judgment and fitness for the job. The media are buzzing with speculation on the back of rumours that his party colleagues have already started positioning themselves in case he is forced to go.

Education Secretary Michael Gove, former Times journalist transformed into a rising star of the Conservative party with close personal links to Mr. Cameron, is among those said to be eyeing his job. The only thing that apparently counts against him is his fear of flying which, given the amount of travelling a Foreign Secretary is expected to do, can be a fatal flaw.

In the wake of the "spy" mission fiasco, Mr. Hague's position became so vulnerable that Mr. Cameron was forced to stand up in the Commons to defend him, describing him as an "excellent" Foreign Secretary. This after Downing Street was accused of trying to hang Mr. Hague out to dry when, initially, it tried to distance itself from the mission saying the Foreign Secretary had personally authorised it. Only after Mr. Hague made clear that it had the backing of the Prime Minister and the government appeared threatened with what The Daily Mail described as the makings of a "civil war" did Mr. Cameron intervene to defend his embattled Foreign Secretary.

It was on Friday, March 4, that six members of the elite Special Air Service (SAS) and two junior British diplomats landed in a rebel-held area of Benghazi, eastern Libya, unannounced. The government said their aim was to establish contact with groups fighting the Qadhafi forces and assess their humanitarian needs. But in a farcical turn of events, the men were seized by the very people they had been sent to help. They were detained and taken to a military base reportedly in handcuffs.

Their helicopter, weapons and telephones were confiscated. Rebel leaders were reported to be furious fearing that such interventions would be seized by the Qadhafi regime as evidence of western interference. It took frantic calls from London to senior rebel leaders to secure the men's release.

The government faced more embarrassment after it emerged that a call by British Ambassador to Libya Richard Northern, appealing for the release of the captured men and apologising for their behaviour, was intercepted by the Libyan regime and broadcast on state television handing it a PR coup.

Former Libyan Justice Minister Mostafa Abdel Jalil, who is now a commander of a rebel group, is heard telling Mr. Northern: "They made a big mistake, coming with a helicopter in an open area." A stuttering Mr. Northern says: "I didn't know how they were coming."

The incident sparked widespread criticism with Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Libya, saying the whole idea of sending such a mission was "bizarre." It also opened up divisions within the ruling coalition with the Liberal Democrats joining the Opposition to attack the move. The former Lib Dem leader, Menzies Campbell, denounced it as an "ill-conceived, poorly planned and embarrassingly executed" operation.

MPs wondered why the rebels were not informed of the team's mission if it had gone to meet them. Mr. Hague's claim that the mission collapsed because of a "misunderstanding" was greeted with mocking laughter in the Commons. So, what was the nature of the "misunderstanding" on which Mr. Hague blamed the mission's failure?

It seems what happened was a replay of the events that led to the invasion of Iraq, when western governments willing to clutch at any straw that reinforced their claims about Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction relied heavily on dodgy sources of intelligence.

According to The Sunday Times, the mission was conceived at the behest of an opposition figure, Abdul Fattah Younis, who hyped his influence among rebel groups. Mr. Younis was a Minister in the Qadhafi government until recently and though he has now joined the revolt he is still regarded with suspicion by main rebel groups. "When the members of MI6/SAS mission said they had come to see Younis, they may have increased their captors' suspicion," the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, observers detect an element of hypocrisy in the moral outrage sweeping Britain over Libya. There is concern that it is taking the form of a witch-hunt with reputations being trashed and internationally respected institutions denounced over their previous links with Libya. Eminent economist Howard Davies has been forced to resign as director of the London School of Economics because the university accepted funding from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation under his watch; and the LSE itself has been dubbed the "Libyan School of Economics" amid unsubstantiated claims that it awarded Mr. Qadhafi's son Saif-al Qadhafi (an allegedly plagiarised) PhD in return for the £1.5 million from the Foundation. Lord Meghnad Desai, emeritus professor at LSE, one of the two academics who reviewed Mr. Qadhafi's thesis, says he is "hurt" that his academic "integrity" is being questioned.

Every day, a new institution or individual is added to the "hall of shame" and there are calls for an investigation into its/his Libya "connection." Yet until a few weeks ago, Britain took pride in bringing Mr. Qadhafi "out from the cold" and British companies were officially encouraged and helped to do business with Libya. Britain even sold it arms. As the Observer columnist Henry Porter pointed out, Libya had "teargas [equipment] made in Britain," "Mirage F-1 planes, recently upgraded by the French," and "C-130 H Hercules transport places from the U.S." The prevailing wave of moral indignation was at odds, he suggested, with the trend over the past decade when everyone, it seemed, wanted to get into bed with Mr. Qadhafi.

The Libyan crisis is the first major foreign policy test of Mr. Cameron's leadership, and there is already a sense that he is struggling to find the right answers.

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THE HINDU

OPED

2002 riots an 'internal Gujarati matter': Modi told American diplomat

Suresh Nambath

Consul-General Owen stands his ground on 'human rights and religious freedom' in a 'chilly' 2006 meeting in Gandhinagar

U.S. itself is guilty of 'horrific human rights violations,' hits back Gujarat Chief Minister

CHENNAI: When an American diplomat raised the horrific Gujarat communal violence of 2002 with Chief Minister Narendra Modi in November 2006, he got more than what he had bargained for: a lecture on the "horrific human rights violations" by the United States.

Michael S. Owen, Consul General in Mumbai, was the diplomat at the receiving end of Mr. Modi's tirade during a November 16, 2006 meeting in Gandhinagar. This was the first such meeting since the March 2005 revocation of Mr. Modi's U.S. visa on account of his role in the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat — in which (according to an official ministerial statement made in Parliament in 2005) 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed, and 223 more people were reported as missing. The genocidal attack on Muslims by mobs of Hindu extremists and fanatics followed the burning of a coach of the Sabarmati Express by a local mob of Muslim extremists and fanatics at Godhra on February 27, 2002. The coach was carrying kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya. The police failed to quell the post-Godhra anti-Muslim pogrom that went on for several weeks, which lent credence to reports of state complicity in the violence. Mr. Modi was questioned on March 27, 2010 by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team headed by R.K. Raghavan, former Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, in connection with the Gujarat riots.

In a revealing Mumbai Consulate cable, which was sent on November 27, 2006 to the State Department and copied to an interesting selection of U.S. embassies, consulates, and other destinations ( 87085: confidential), Mr. Owen recounted what followed after "a relaxed" Chief Minister had given him "a glowing overview of his Government's achievements in building infrastructure and promoting economic growth in Gujarat" and he had responded appropriately. The Consul General then moved on to a taboo subject, an issue that Mr. Modi evidently considered to be none of his business: "while we are very pleased with our business and people to people relations with Gujarat, we remain concerned about communal relations within the state. In particular, we remain concerned that nobody has yet been held accountable for the horrific communal violence of 2002, and are further concerned that an atmosphere of impunity could lead to a further deterioration of communal relations. What is the Government of Gujarat's view on this, he asked."

'Modi visibly annoyed'

"A visibly annoyed Modi," the Consul General reported to the State Department, "responded at considerable length." The Chief Minister, he said, made three essential points: "the events of 2002 were an internal Gujarati matter and the U.S. had no right to interfere; the U.S. is itself guilty of horrific human rights violations (he specified Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and attacks on Sikhs in the U.S. after September 11) and thus has no moral basis to speak on such matters, and; Muslims are demonstrably better off in Gujarat than in any other state in India, so what is everybody griping about?"

Mr. Owen correctly pointed out that it was not only the U.S. that was concerned with this issue. "The Indian National Human Rights Commission report itself cited 'a comprehensive failure on the part of the state Government' to prevent the violence of 2002. We are reflecting a broad cross section of opinion that no one has been held accountable for the violence and that consequently a climate of impunity is developing. Secondly, Abu Ghraib is precisely the point: Americans can also commit human rights violations but when they do we have a clear procedure to investigate, prosecute, and punish those guilty of wrongdoing. This is what we and others would like to see in Gujarat."

To this, "Modi grumbled that the Indian National Human Rights Commission was biased and its reports wildly inaccurate. More broadly, he claimed, the U.S. relied far too much on 'a few fringe NGOs' that don't know the real picture and have an axe to grind. In any event, if officials are guilty of wrongdoing, then it is up to the courts to prosecute and punish them, and the Chief Minister could not interfere with the judicial process."

The Consul General reacted that it had been well over four years since the violence occurred and nobody had been sanctioned; this gave little confidence that anyone would ultimately be held accountable. "Modi noted (accurately, alas) that the culprits in the 1993 Mumbai bombings are only now being sentenced, so we should not have 'unrealistic expectations'."

'Evasive, backtracked'

When the diplomat asked if there was in fact an active investigation of the Gujarat violence still under way, "Modi was evasive and backtracked to his claim that Muslims in Gujarat are better off than in any other state in India. He noted that the BJP had won big victories in recent local bodies elections in Muslim districts, and that a recent study had found literacy among Muslims was higher in Gujarat than in any other state. The 2002 violence had involved a 'few miscreants' and had been blown out of proportion by 'fringe elements,' he said. Communal relations in Gujarat are now excellent, he claimed."

Mr. Owen responded that the U.S. acknowledged the many positive accomplishments of the Modi government, including economic growth and education: "These are to be applauded, but do not diminish in any way the importance of holding accountable those persons who are guilty of inciting or carrying out communal violence…failure to do so will create an atmosphere of impunity in which radical elements would feel emboldened in the future. He concluded by underlining that the U.S. Government considers human rights and religious freedom to be extremely important, and we will continue to monitor developments and engage his Government in these areas." Mr. Modi, switching to an apparently more conciliatory note, allowed that he understood human rights and religious freedom to be important to the U.S. because "you people keep raising these issues all the time." The meeting concluded with the Chief Minister saying" with a touch of irony that he hoped Consul General would return to Gujarat on a regular basis. 'All Americans are always welcome in my state,' he said."

Consul General Owen's concluding comment in the cable is: "Modi is clearly not going to apologize or back down on the violence of 2002, but we think it is vital for him to hear that we are not going to let the passage of time erase the memory of these events. Despite the chilly atmosphere of the meeting, Modi did take on board the message that human rights and religious freedom are important issues that we will continue to monitor carefully. We believe Sinhji's comments on Modi are indeed accurate: ironically the man most hold accountable for the communal violence of 2002 may now be the most ardent defender of communal harmony, at least on the surface. It remains to be seen to what extent Gujarat's economic boom will lead to genuinely improved communal relations over time."

The reference is to an "interesting point" that former Congress party MP and former Minister of Environment Yuraj Digvijay Sinhji made to Mr. Owen: "The fact that Modi clearly has aspirations for national leadership makes him, ironically, one of the greatest protectors of communal harmony at this stage. Modi knows that another outbreak like 2002 would doom his chances, so he is going to be particularly zealous to ensure there are no further problems on his watch."

But that was not all that Mr. Sinhji said in his lengthy meeting with the Consul General. "Asked whether Modi could become a national leader," the Mumbai consulate-general cable relays to the State Department," Sinhji (himself the scion of the princely Wankaner family and a Cambridge grad) sniffed that Modi 'lacks the polish and refinement' to become a national leader. But Sinhji raised another reason why Modi could face challenges in becoming a national leader: Modi's reputation for being completely incorruptible is accurate, and if he were to become a national leader he would crack down on corruption throughout the BJP. There are too many BJP rank and file waiting to line their pockets once the BJP returns to power, Sinhji said, and the prospect of Modi cracking the whip on corruption is entirely unappealing to this crowd. Modi would have a hard time clearing this hurdle, according to Sinhji."

(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks.')

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THE HINDU

WHEN MODI WAS DENIED THE VISA

SURESH NAMBATH

CHENNAI: Sometimes, diplomacy is more about keeping up appearances than about achieving concrete results.

After India urged the United States in March 2005 to reconsider its decision to revoke the visa of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the U.S. Embassy made an action request to Washington seeking a "review" of the case. However, the 'action request' cable of March 18, 2005 ( 29140: confidential) also had a revealing accompanying note: "Post does not expect any change, but would appreciate a cable telling the GOI [Government of India] we took a fresh look and decided to maintain our decision."

Grave concern

The cable was sent by the New Delhi Embassy under the name of Ambassador David Mulford after India's Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran called the Deputy Chief of Mission in the Embassy, Robert O. Blake, to his office on March 18, 2005 to express India's "grave concern" over the revocation of Mr. Modi's visa.

Evidently, the Embassy's only interest in sending the 'action request' cable to the State Department was the diplomatic and political necessity of responding to Mr. Saran on March 19, 2005, the day Mr. Modi was to travel to the United States.

During the meeting with Mr. Blake, Mr. Saran characterised the U.S. decision on Mr. Modi's visa as "uncalled for" and as a display of a "lack of courtesy and sensitivity." The Foreign Secretary conveyed that the refusal had already "incited a controversy and threatened to spark just the kind of divisiveness the US alleges Modi himself facilitated."

Reporting on the meeting, the confidential cable said: "Saran argued to the DCM that the USG [United States Government] had made a decision based on opinion, an opinion that even some in India hold. That opinion, however, is a separate issue from the fact that Modi is a constitutionally-mandated office holder whose position derives from the people. Saran argued that the US as a democracy would appreciate this, and argued that the dignity of the office of Chief Minister cannot be overridden. Calling the USG determination that Modi had failed to act in Gujarat during the 2002 riots a 'subjective judgment,' Saran suggested that perhaps Washington had not considered that this was a separate issue in the Indian mind."

While appreciating the importance that the United States government attached to religious freedom, Mr. Saran cautioned that this determination could have an effect opposite from that intended: "a strong emotional reaction which had the potential to polarise the Indian people." This, he noted, would not be in the interest of religious harmony, or shared U.S. and Indian objectives.

Highlighting the political ramifications, Mr. Saran said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was "up in arms." The incident, he added, might "open up an odd type of standard to give or not give visas."

On his part, Mr. Blake explained to Mr. Saran the two parts of the U.S. decision – the refusal of the A2, and the revocation of the B1/B2, "highlighting that we had acted in accordance with our own law and democratic constitution." The U.S., he told the Foreign Secretary, had taken into consideration independent reports, including that of India's own National Human Rights Commission. "The decision was not taken capriciously, but involved many people in Washington."

'Position deteriorating'

Another cable sent three days later ( 29231: confidential), also under the name of Ambassador Mulford, reported that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, after having "gone through the motions" by protesting the U.S. decision, was "unlikely to ratchet up the pressure further."

The New Delhi Embassy's reading of the situation, even if it was arguable on Mr. Modi's "position deteriorating" in the national leadership stakes, must have reassured the State Department: "Congress has long viewed Modi as a vulnerable target and will, at the appropriate time, use the visa incident as further ammunition against him. Both Congress and the BJP particularly value the US-India relationship and Modi's America bashing has made many nervous. Both parties will likely move to ensure that the negative impact on the relationship from this incident is minimal. With Modi's position deteriorating, the BJP leadership could decide to quietly push him aside at the appropriate time. This could become a further liability for [BJP president L.K.] Advani, who [was] the senior party leader most visibly supporting Modi."

The Embassy cable also reported that in private conversations with American diplomats, "Indians have expressed overwhelming support for the US decision." Initial shock at the denial was now turning to embarrassment and "Modi harmed himself by making vitriolic anti-American statements that are not resonating well." One former Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, the cable said, told DCM that "Ninety five percent of India stands with you."

(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks.')

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THE HINDU

CASTE POLITICS AT WORK IN GUJARAT

MODI HOLDS HIS FRIENDS CLOSE, HIS ENEMIES EVEN CLOSER

SARAH HIDDLESTON

 

  1. Modi timed the expansion of the cabinet to take advantage of the absence of the leader of the rebels, former Gujarat
  2. Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel.

CHENNAI: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi used "caste resentments" to "tighten his grip on power," after his "autocratic leadership style" provoked consternation in the Bharatiya Janata Party and forced an expansion of his Cabinet in 2005, the U.S. Consulate in Mumbai reported.

The August 10, 2005 cable ( 38300 : confidential; only partial extract accessible), which was issued under the name of Public Affairs Section Director Linda C. Cheatham days after the expansion, took a close look at its timing and the allocation of portfolios.

Mr. Modi's moves, the cable explained, were the result of a direction from BJP president Lal Krishna Advani following criticism from party members. According to the cable, "Modi consented under the condition that the BJP appoint a state party president loyal to him. In early June, Advani kept his part of the bargain when the BJP appointed Vajubhai Vala as Gujarat BJP president."

The Gujarat Chief Minister made the most of the development, the cable said, explaining that he "ingeniously weakened his critics by only appearing to devolve some power to them and by securing pledges of loyalty."

The cable noted: "Many contacts, including journalists Anosh Malekar and Uday Mahurkar as well as BJP official Pankaj Mudholkar, told us that none of the new ministers will have any significant policy-making clout or sizable budgets that can be diverted for political patronage. The newcomers received departments such as women and child welfare, employment guarantee and fisheries. The CM and his core supporters still control the most important portfolios, such as Home, Finance, Industry, Irrigation and Rural Development."

"Modi timed the expansion of the cabinet," the Mumbai Consulate cable pointed out "to take advantage of the absence of the leader of the rebels, former Gujarat chief minister Keshubhai Patel. Patel is currently in the U.S., where his wife is undergoing medical treatment. Modi reportedly focused on two influential Patel supporters and enticed them to join his cabinet under conditions that Patel himself would probably never have supported."

The Consulate's reading was that Mr. Modi appeared to "be using the cabinet expansion to change the power equation among castes."

The cable elaborated: "Tensions between the sizeable, landowning and better-off Patel caste and … 'Other Backward Castes' (OBC) have long simmered in Gujarat's politics. Modi belongs to a small and economically weak OBC group…Our contacts tell us nine of the 11 new cabinet members are from the OBC grouping. They are also drawn evenly from all regions of Gujarat. Having effectively manipulated religious strife to strengthen his power base during and after the 2002 riots in Gujarat, Modi is now using caste/class resentments within Hinduism to tighten his grip, many of our contacts believe."

The Mumbai Consulate surmised that the refusal of BJP MLA (and a VHP member) Govardhan Zhadapia to take the Cabinet posting offered to him, and the appointment of Purushottam Solanki, wanted by the Mumbai police for "extortion," could potentially alienate both VHP and urban middle class voters.

However, the confidential cable concluded that "in a BJP beset by internal struggles, Mr. Modi's revival sets him up nicely to influence the king making when the time comes." In fact, he seemed "stronger than at any time since the rebels took their opposition public" — indeed a "force to be reckoned with."

(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks.')

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THE HINDU

THE BEHAVIOUR OF GUILTY MEN: JULIAN ASSANGE

WHAT WE HAVE SEEN IN INDIA IS 'AN ATTEMPT TO DISTORT THE RECORD AND FOOL THE PUBLIC ABOUT THE NATURE OF THE MATERIAL…IF THIS CABLE ON BRIBERY IS INCORRECT, THE U.S. AMBASSADOR IN INDIA HAS A LOT TO ANSWER FOR.'

 

'There is no doubt whatsoever that the cables are authentic'

'We are working with The Hindu because we have seen its good work'

WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange speaks to NDTV Chairman Prannoy Roy on the impact of WikiLeaks worldwide, the consequences, the challenges the network faces, the significance of the India Cables, the partnership with The Hindu , freedom of speech versus privacy, and why governments should be more open. Excerpts from the extended interview telecast on NDTV 24X7on March 21; this is published with permission from NDTV. The interview was conducted over a satellite link.

You are under global attack... Your home country, Australia, accuses you of treason. America wants to arrest you... In Sweden you have been accused of rape. The West prides itself on the rule of law and its institutions of justice. Are you shocked by the ferocity, and the illegalities, of the attacks on you?

I'm disappointed that the U.S. administration has decided to betray the traditions of the founding fathers, and those great traditions of Franklin and Madison. Now the Codified Bill of Rights has within it important protection for freedom… in the First Amendment. So that's depressing. I would like to say that it is not shocking. We have been following the U.S. military for four, five years now, in this process of WikiLeaks. And in other countries. But we can see that there is a burgeoning security state that has spread out not just for Washington, because the centre of gravity is around there. It goes into all the Western countries, and there is a Western alliance that responds very aggressively. Previous publications have received some of that response. But it is really the size and the scale of the publication which has received [such a response], and been stimulating such aggressive attack.

Egypt, Tunishia, safest

Now, with so many countries hunting you down, where can Julian Assange live safely…? In the end, do you think going to jail is inevitable for you?

Right now, it is not clear if there is any country that is safe for [us]... But we do have the will of the majority of the people. My friends in Egypt and Tunisia say that these two countries perhaps would be the safest for us now because of the revolution…

You have got the U.S. Vice President, Joe Biden, calling you a high-tech terrorist, a former Speaker saying you should be treated as an enemy combatant. Have you been threatened privately?

We do receive threats from time to time; there are many of them. But we do not take those threats too seriously. It is the people who are not making the threats and are concerned for us that are important.

You mentioned that the U.S. President is like the super-president of us all. In the recent leaks about India, the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, the overriding feature is America's efforts to influence policies in India. Are you surprised at that, or was it expected?

Looking at what the U.S. has done with other countries, which we have revealed though these cables, it's not at all a surprise, and it is their modus operandi. When I first started reading this material I thought, my god, everything those South American Marxists in the 1960s were complaining about in relation with the State Department, it's actually true. It is not just that they are making political rhetoric. Actually it does appear that the State Department is an instrument of U.S. industry of all particular types, and it goes around the world clicking political intelligence, interfering in unions and all. We even saw this in Australia where the Australian Cabinet Minister from the Labor government was a confidential source for the U.S. Embassy, going there frequently. [He] said he has been that way throughout his political rise.

There is of course an alternative point of view that what you revealed in these cables is a set of opinions and assessments made by some American diplomats in the U.S. Embassy. And you were just saying that my task ends there in revealing these secret cables. But there are other points of view that… it leaves a lot of collateral damage where opinions and assessments by these officials are taken as facts to embarrass and weaken their states. And people ask you, was that a fair thing to do, just leave this out and wash your hands of it?

Absolutely not. It is not correct to say that all these cables are mere opinions by U.S. diplomats; that's not true. These are [part of] official correspondence sent by Ambassadors, sent in their official capacity back to Washington. Their motivations are to improve their career prospects, generally. So they want Washington to understand that they are engaged in the country. They are getting good sources of information and they are reporting back. This seems to be the predominant thing. But they report what they say are facts, and they also present opinions. It is important to keep these two different. In the case of these Indian cables, which are causing such a furore about bribery… such an interesting case.

It is very hard to understand why U.S. Embassy officials would lie about that to Washington. What is more interesting is: under what basis was he told that information? That the U.S. Embassy official was shown that cash? Could it have been that it is an U.S. issue? Could it have been to demonstrate in how compliant [a manner] certain parts of Indian Parliament work with U.S. interests? Or it could have been to set up or frame another group. It is hard to see what benefit there would be in framing another group to Washington through that method. It is not clear what benefit it would be.

But when we look at the cables in other contexts, they have been used and accepted as evidence in the [Charles] Taylor case in The Hague; they have been using quotes in Spain to reopen a rendition case. They have been used in a number of places; they have been accepted as quotes, as probative evidence, as genuine official documents. Of course, what the officials say, and how they gain their knowledge, too must be investigated and interrogated. But the comment I have been hearing from Prime Minister [Manmohan] Singh — these, to me, seem like a deliberate attempt to mislead the public by suggesting that governments around the world do not accept the material and it is not verified ...absolutely false! Hilary Clinton last year in December spoke to the Indian government, perhaps to Prime Minister Singh or a that level, to forewarn that this material would be coming out. There is no doubt that these are bona fide reports sent by an American Ambassador back to Washington, and these should be seen in that context. That does not mean every fact in them is correct: you have to look at their sources and how they gave this information.

They're official reports

But when the cables come from the Secretary of State, millions of them, it is not actually her writing…

That is absolutely correct, there is no doubt whatsoever that the cables are authentic. That is why we are being so heavily attacked by the Pentagon. That is why young intelligence officer Bradley Manning has been imprisoned in the United States for 299 days now. There is absolutely no doubt. The content, of course, varies on a cable by cable basis. It is wrong to suggest that these are just opinions, these are official reports made by U.S. Ambassadors. Sometimes it is opinion, sometimes not. It is done in a serious capacity. For example, if this cable on bribery is incorrect, then the U.S. Ambassador in India has a lot to answer for because he has been sending back very serious reports to Washington about senior politicians and behaviour in Indian Parliament, which casts it in very negative light. It would affect the relationship between India and United States, So either he has committed a grave error that would damage Indian and American relations…or the material was correct and he was reporting correctly and he had checked his fact before reporting back to Washington.

We have actually heard from our senior former diplomats, [that] all cables from India, no matter what from a junior, go in the name of the Ambassador and all the cables from Washington to India go in the name of the Secretary of State. The Ambassador and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may not read every single cable, it just all goes in their name. This could have actually been a more junior person than the Ambassador.

They don't tend to be too much junior. It depends on the seriousness of the issue. You would find probably a political officer or an ambassador who usually clears it. By reading the content you will see that PolOff — that's the political officer — was told that. The content of the cable does not fabricate the Ambassador's name, for example suppose when there is a meeting between the Embassy official or employee or Political Officer or Ambassador, they are named as that. What is written at the bottom of the cable, going back, is frequently the Ambassador or the Political Officer that wrote most of the material, but there is a reason for that: the Ambassador is made to read the cable and sign it off …

On Bradley Manning

You talked about Bradley Manning. Now he is in jail and is being treated terribly, is being kept naked for hours, but the U.S. media and society do not seem to be doing anything about it. Why do you think there has been no angry reactions to what has been happening?

Bradley Manning is America's foremost political prisoner. The allegations against him, whether they are true or not, are of a political nature and he has been kept in solitary confinement for 299 days. As a result of the political allegations that he has revealed, information like this for political reasons demonstrate the inequities and abuses that were happening. There are people in the United States who are angry about this. The State Department spokesperson resigned over this issue. However it is not getting any big media play...it is bubbling there but is not being aggressively picked up, and that is the nature of the mainstream press of the United States. It is a very destructive thing for all of us. When dealing with The New York Times over Afghanistan, I discovered Task Force 373, [on] the Russian side. Task Force 373 is an assassination squad working on a list of 2,000 people in Afghanistan and assassinating them. [There is] no judicial mechanism to get on the list or to review the list. I discovered that this group had killed seven children and tried to cover it up. It became the front cover of Der Spiegel. The New York Times also wrote about it. Similarly, with the cables, The New York Times went to the White House and went and showed them everything long before anything was published. That is [the] fact about the United States, and the security sector has grown so fat and so influential that its tendrils merge into most big companies and big media companies. That is the reality of the U.S. economy and the U.S. media.

Unfortunately, the U.S. media is so strong, [an] aggressive and sophisticated mechanism, that the bias is pushed down in English language all over the world and to the other English speakers in the world, like the Australian Indians, the Canadians and the British to somehow develop their own media infrastructure and to be able to resist the propaganda.

The Hindu praised

I hate to be, and it is slightly immodest, but the Indian media as a whole has been pretty uncompromising and brave in reporting and everything quite openly. I mean that is the aggression of the Indian media... would you agree?

Yes, that is one of the reasons we are speaking right now. That is also one of the reasons we are working with The Hindu because we have seen its good work in the past and also the times India has done some fine stories.

With these attacks are your colleagues at WikiLeaks scared? Are many leaving WikiLeaks? Is recruiting a problem?

My colleagues are brave; recruiting members is difficult for a variety of reasons. First of all, in this situation we have the FBI trying to bribe a number of people, bribe even volunteers who work with Bradley Manning support groups. Manning himself, his condition is getting worse and worse. Most people believe that it is a result of them trying to crack him open. He is not speaking to interrogators and they are trying to establish a link between Bradley Manning and myself and few other individuals in WikiLeaks too, and try and embroil us in our journalistic work as people [who] engage in espionage, a dangerous thing. The new interpretation is that the only original kind of journalism is where you are [a] completely passive recipient of information, you never speak to the sources, ask questions or ask them can you prove it and send me documents...That I would rather have you completely passive. That will be the end of investigative journalism in the United States. For people leaving WikiLeaks, we have crossed two, that is not many. It is quite heartening. There are security concerns we have. Obviously this situation is difficult and adverse... we have had in the past four years. In 2008, we had two people working with us who got assassinated by the Kenyan police trying to cover up the matter. There are serious threats against us, just like there are against all journalists who try and hold powerful organisations to account. Our situation is a bit more unusual as we have the full brunt of the superpower and any ally can pool in as well.

So do you believe in the concept of official secrecy at all, or is secrecy and privacy for individuals only?

Well, privacy is for individuals, the governments try and use secrecy sometimes for legitimate reasons, sometimes for legitimate periods of time and, most often, for illegitimate reasons. The problem with secrecy is that how do you know that it is not being abused? So if somebody can put a stamp on internal correspondence, everytime it's embarrassing because they are engaged in some sort of correspondence or abuse, then I can put a stamp 'secret' on it. No one can review to see whether that stamp is being correctly applied or not because in order to review it, you have to read the material. Of course it is a system that instantly escalates, [the] stamp starts getting on everything, confidentiality is extremely controlled. You end [up] with [a] corrupt, inefficient and abusive organisation. I say, of course there is [a] time where secrecy is legitimate, but organisations and individuals must fight for it. …there is a public appetite to know about particular abuses and scandals, and there are people inside the organisation who are unhappy about the situation. The information will flow out and that is not something individuals or CEOs or Parliamentarians jumping up and down complaining about it are going to be able to do something about. To my mind, it is a good thing. I see the rule of law as something very important and something that has broken down, in relation to how the United States, for example, has been dealing with us. However, the law follows practice; the law is a codification of practice and standardisation of practice. If enough people want something to happen and act in a way that should happen, then that creates the new standard and new laws are applied to codify it. So I believe there should be a new standard and the new standard should be the historical record, and everything that has been published is sacrosanct and pages should never be ripped from historical records. By historical record I don't mean what happened 100 years ago but what happened yesterday. Historical record is that on which we base all our political decision-making, and much of our personal decision- making as well. If we want a rich, complex and civil civilisation then we need to have this robust intellectual ingredient, which is the historical record. And we want as much in the historical record about how governments and organisations actually behave. So we can use it to understand our world, adapt it and adjust to it and to engage in the democratic process. Without that we are sailing in the dark; all of us are sailing in the dark without that basic intellectual ingredient civilisations are built on.

But it is possible that people will see some money and they would not put it down in writing, they could just talk over the phone. So they could just shift from recorded to a non-recorded form of history…

This is something I looked into in 2006, wrote a small discussion paper for internal use, but it became public because of a conspiracy in governance. What happens if a large organisation decides to go off the record, decides to stop putting everything on paper? We need to ask why do they put everything down on paper in the first place...you know I dealt with a case in Gitmo, where we got hold of the manual used in Guantanamo Bay and I discovered in that manual there was an instruction on how to falsify records in relation to the Red Cross, to hide and conceal prisoners from the Red Cross. I was astounded to see that there was an official manual on how to run Gitmo. Why would officials do that? The reason they do that is because it guards the grants, and the policy set in the centre sends them to a high level and it is then distributed to the periphery to the hundreds and thousands of people to get them to carry it out. To prevent the policy from decaying into a Chinese whisper...to permit the centre to control the whole organisation, you have to put things in writing. And that is how big organisations are controlled by their executive by putting things in writing and having people to check the writings, having to centralise repository information, centralised email records that are hard to be stored… otherwise it can't be controlled. Yes, you could have an organisation in reversible form working on the spoken word, but I say if that happens, an organisation can no longer be efficient in carrying out that work....orders will gradually decay with Chinese whispers. While for a small organisation that is completely possible because everyone can meet in the room, the boss can give verbal instructions to people while they are in the room. In larger organisations there has to be a paper trail just to carry it out. For systemic abuses, for abuses that affect a lot people based on central policy, there has to be writing. Abuse is not going to affect a lot of people. So if everyone goes to non-written form then we will see a situation where yes there will be some abuses but it is not going to affect a lot people. To affect a lot of people you need writing or recording that doesn't change when it goes from one person to another.

Personal vs political

Coming back to the cables in India, the previous set of cables, especially the Afghanistan cables expose the extent of Pakistan's role in terror against India. Does this new material substantiate that role further you think?

There are some 6000 cables from U.S. Embassy; they have been tagged by the state department about India. We have only seen the first part of that now being published by our partner The Hindu. I am sure some of the materials will be seen in the coming weeks. We will go into some of the Pakistani relationships but what we are looking at more carefully is the cables from Pakistan and those are something that are yet to be published. We are working to have those published and I am sure Indians and Pakistanis will be interested to know their reviews. Well I wouldn't like to pre- judge them before the close analysis.

And I know you really do not like to talk about what you have not released yet, but you know in India corruption is the biggest issue currently, stashing of money in foreign bank accounts the CD handed over to you by the Julius guy, I know it is a difficult one, but are there any Indian names in them, you do not have to actually name them before it is released, but are there any Indian names?

I can't discuss that particular case I believe, I could be wrong since it's been three years materials from Julius did have Indian names in them.

What do you find kind of most crucial in the expose of the WikiLeaks on India, you had a look at some others do you think there is more still to come, so far what's been your main point?

Often in these cases, it is not just the text in the Embassy cable, which is most revealing it can be the response. In response to our publishing, the U.S. government has taken certain steps, like to pressure banks to cut financial transactions to us that is very revealing about the power connections between high finance and U.S. State Department. Similarly in the response to the cables alleging that U.S. State Embassy was shown cash boxes for bribing Parliamentarians, we saw something rather disturbing. We saw an immediate rush, not to deny that allegations in these facts were not true we want to investigate properly to make sure everything is clear that we are innocent. Rather what we saw was an attempt to distort the record and fool the public about the nature of the material. First to say, they refused to comment at all, to suggest that the materials are not verified and that no other government accepted it. Absolutely false...that is actually the behaviour of guilty men. Man who is innocent doesn't tend to behave like that. That doesn't mean, people making those statements like Prime Minister Singh and so on are guilty of this particular crime, it suggests something that how Indian Parliamentarians and politicians respond to very serious allegations. They respond through indirection and attempting to cover up the issue for the public rather than address it fully and frankly. The most serious issue in the cable, I suspect, is yet to be revealed. Just looking at what happened with other countries, that doesn't mean The Hindu is necessarily holding back what it thinks to be most important for Indians to last in other countries they have dealt with ...you know an issue can catch fire, imagination of the public may not be the one you first think. There is quite a bit of time to through the material...the material from Pakistan; from China. It is likely to be interest to the Indian population.

Coming back to the impact of WikiLeaks, you have heard of the criticism that often loose conversations are released in WikiLeaks and some people are named maybe doing good work covertly or working underground, infiltrating and fighting against terrorism and once their names are public, they are in danger. What do you do about that?

This is something the Pentagon has tried to though out every time it has been criticized by the Press. Back to the 1950s, there is no allegation by the Pentagon, by the state department or by any American official that anything we have ever published, in our entire history, has resulted to a single individual's personal or physical harm. Something that is repeatedly asserted without evidence can be dismissed without argument. We have a process which has been 100 per cent effective till date. No organization is free from making mistake when you deal with things of this scale, with this seriousness. Today we have two perfect records: we have the record of never having fooled by information sent to us and we have a perfect record of not having caused any physical harm as a result of anything that has been been published.

Not anti-U.S.

WikiLeaks has generally focused on the United States. Is Julian Assange anti-United States?

Not at all we are an organization through our work we aim to protect Press and publishing carrying on the tradition of Madison and Jefferson We are actually upholding the founding values of United States. We have published materials for 120 different countries, exposed the assassination in Kenya to east Timor, billions of dollars of corruption in Africa. So we are not at all particularly focused at the United States rather we have to publish our material in order of significance and simply cannot turn US away because it comes to United States. The reality of United States now is that about 30 to 40 per cent of the economy is, directly or indirectly, bound up to the security sector. So it has a lot of secrets a lot of computers and it has a lot of people within its state department, within the government, with the military. We are very unhappy about the way they are conducting themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan, that leads to those brave people stepping forward to give us material we can try and do something about it.

Data has just come out that people of India have been among the largest donors of Wikipedia, maybe even to WikiLeaks, that data has not leaked yet. Does that surprise you?

It is very gratifying to hear. We don't know where they from are. It is for their protection so we cannot be influenced by people accepted of course to keep us going. but I am heartened to hear India is supporting something like Wikipedia has goals which is not too dissimilar from us that is we want to collect important information and present it to the public we trying to go after the hardest case that is the information of spy agencies and states are trying to restrict and when it is published will go after the publisher and Wikipedia tries to go after a large case which is relatively easy but big.

His heroes

In the life of Julian Assange, do you have heroes?

Well, I think Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower, he has become a friend over the past couple of years, fairly described as a hero. There are others in different fields (takes several names). It is better to say there are people who engage in heroic acts. Every individual is of course human, one must be careful with the hero label. Many people call me, for example, hero but I am a man and a human being, just like all of us.

One person is at a great influence in your life is your mom and listening you to say all this in the position you are in, the stands you take, she must be a very worried woman today. How do you make her feel less frightened?

She is also concerned. However, she is also a fighter. She has been very effective politically in calling attention to my plight and the plight of my organisation, more broadly in Australia. And she also came to London in December [2010], and was a very effective spokesperson. The way she has dealt with the stress of the situation is by firing and engaging with the situation. That helped actually. Everyone should deal with a difficult situation and get on to the job.

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

PILOT LICENCES NEED OUTSIDE AUDIT

It is a good thing that the issue of pilots flying with forged commercial licences has come to the fore and the government is forced to sit up and take notice. But merely scrutinising the licences of over 10,000 commercial pilots, as stated by the aviation regulator, the directorate-general of civil aviation, will not stem the rot that has percolated into the system. The DGCA is the only licensing authority and there has to be a scrutiny of how this body issued licences to these pilots with fake documents. It means someone lower down in the DGCA has been circumventing the rules. And nepotism soon follows bending of the rules. It is well known in airline circles that licences can be procured for pilots by middlemen in collusion with a section in the DGCA at a cost that ranges from `10 lakhs to `25 lakhs. The excuse that the shortage of pilots to meet the requirements of the burgeoning airline industry led to this situation does not hold water as this situation has existed for at least 10 years, if not more. The Federation of Indian Pilots had reportedly written to the DGCA over 10 years ago about the issue of substandard pilots and how only aviation professionals should examine pilots. The DGCA is reported to have written back asking for a bank of questions that could be asked! They were given a letter and CD with the type of questions that are to be asked by the examiners. Even a trust run by a corporate house that gives scholarships to pilots wanting to go abroad had brought to the attention of the DGCA the substandard quality of pilots applying for scholarships. They are also said to have brought this to the notice of the authorities at the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Udyan Akademi.

Now that the DGCA is on a rescue operation and is to scrutinise the licences of 10,000 pilots, it is imperative that they get an outside audit to scrutinise the licences, otherwise it will be just another hoax on the flying public. The outside auditors will have to be subjected to a thorough orientation programme, before undertaking the audit, with, say, the Civil Aviation Authority of the UK, which is a model of civil aviation practices, or the Federal Aviation Authority of the US. The idea is to find a method whereby fraud can be detected. There is no point getting some of the four or five big consultants to do the job as they would be as clueless as the DGCA bosses. The DGCA and the government of India have to realise that it is the lives of millions of passengers that they are playing with.

The root cause of the rot is the fact that the DGCA is headed by a non-aviation professional. This has been the situation for the last several years. These non-aviation professionals are clueless about what is happening below them. The first DGCA appointed after independence was an aviation and aeronautics professional, and the last professional was Capt. H.S. Kolah. After that there have been IAS officers, generalists, heading the DGCA.
There is also no control over institutes claiming to train pilots; many don't even have aircraft to enable pilots to rack up the necessary 50 flying hours, which is one of the conditions for getting a licence. These institutes have tie-ups with institutes in the Philippines and Malaysia where these pilots would go and get their certificates. In fact, almost all the institutes that started during the 2007-08 boom have closed down as none of their students could be recruited.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

BLOOD IN BRAHMAPUTRA

SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

With the recent killing of 24 "Indians" by militants of the separatist National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) in the Bongaigaon and Darrang districts of Upper Assam, the organisation declared the entire north bank region of the Brahmaputra as the territory of a separate Bodoland. It asked all non-Bodos to vacate the area. The killings were a show of force in a proclaimed policy of "20 for one", i.e. kill 20 "Indians" regardless of age or gender in reprisal for any Bodo killed during internal security operations. The victims were mainly Hindi speakers from Bihar, besides some local Bengalis and Assamese.

In another incident, the NDFB militants ambushed a patrol vehicle of the Border Secirity Guards in a forest area in Assam's Kokrajhar district, and killed three jawans. It is unfortunate that such outrages in the Northeast pass almost unnoticed in Parliament as also in the rest of the country. This is symbolic of the chronic disinterest and apathy towards the region.

The NDFB is merely one of the numerous and disparate ethnic and sub-ethnic groups that have proliferated in the Northeast over a period of time. These groups have a common but far-fetched agenda, i.e. a "sovereign homeland" for each tribe or even sub-tribe to safeguard against a perceived threat to their ethnic identities, which they apprehend would otherwise be submerged in the larger societies of what is regarded here as "GreaterIndia".
The Government of India has made efforts to periodically initiate talks with the main and faction groups, while simultaneously maintaining a calibrated and low key pressure through security forces and intelligence agencies. This has made some intermittent progress but at a glacial pace. Sections within all major militant groups, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isaac Swu Muivah (NSCN-IM) in Nagaland, the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) and the NDFB in Assam, are in the process of engaging with the government. However, no single militant group from the most affected state of Manipur has so far chosen to do so.

A wary and armed stalemate prevails between the militants and the government, as well as amongst the militant factions themselves, interspersed with sudden incidents of homicidal violence either against the government or against each other. Talks progress with jerks, with the militant factions sizing up the Government of India as a common opponent who cannot be defeated militarily, while attempting to eliminate rival groups in savage internecine killings.

In many ways, this is the way it should be as talks are the only way forward, especially as the government has gradually assumed a position of relative strength. Most of the Northeast militant groups (again, except those from Manipur) have split into pro- and anti-talk factions. Those who support talks are tired of the hard life in jungles and are under constant pressure from the government forces. They are looking for an honourable compromise (an important factor in any arrangement). Those who oppose talks, comprising hard line ideologues, refuse to compromise on their demands for independence and are now operating in murderous groups of mad dog.

The neighbouring countries of Bhutan and Bangladesh are attempting to bar their gates and insulate their own territories from any backflow from north-eastern India. The Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) had earlier launched active offensive operations to purge the Indo-Bhutan border areas of the Ulfa and Bodo insurgent groups who had intruded into sovereign territory of the Dragon Kingdom, to establish camps and training bases.
Bangladesh had a large and active Pakistani and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) presence during the earlier Balochistan National Party (BNP) government of Begum Khaleda Zia. It has actively commenced uprooting the large numbers of anti-Indian Ulfa and NDFB elements who had hitherto been accorded sanctuary within the country with government support and sponsorship. As a result, the Ulfa's active leadership has been decimated by capture or surrender to Indian security forces. But the surviving groups continue to sustain their violent intent, most recently demonstrated by a major explosion at the headquarters of the Congress Party in Guwahati. The attack was engineered by cadres of the extremist faction of the Ulfa owing allegiance to Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua, and operating under instructions of Hira Sarania, commander of Ulfa's "709 Battalion".
But new doors are opening. The militant militias in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura, are all "looking East" for sanctuary and transit facilities, towards the vast and poorly policed region of mountain and jungle in northern and western Burma. Here the presence of the Burmese government is extremely tenuous and on its own side of the border the presence of Indian government is not too surefooted either.

Media reports, unconfirmed but in fairly plausible detail, indicate a growing interaction between representatives of China's overarching intelligence and security apparatus, the Bureau of State Security, and Anthony Shimray, hardcore ideologue and commander of the NSCN-IM. The latter is reportedly being advised to renew attention on organising the various insurgent organisations in the Northeast under an umbrella organisation to renew activities against the Indian government.

There are similar reports of contacts developing between the essentially adivasi cadres of the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML) from the red corridor region in the Indian heartland, and their ethnic counterparts in the Adivasi Peoples' Army in the Sonitpur, Udalguri and Kokrajhar districts of Assam, raised with support from Ulfa. There are also reports of contacts between Ulfa and other north-eastern groups with the CPI(ML) for supply of weapons channelled through Burma and Bangladesh. None of these augur well for the country in the long run.

Meanwhile, transfixed in open mouthed fascination at the parade of amazing scams passing in review order across the national stage, while simultaneously distracted by the violent upheavals in the Arab world, public gaze in the country has no time to look back over its shoulder at India's own forgotten backyard — the Northeast. Is there something stirring in the darkness out there?

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

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

DO BIGHA ZAMEEN, 2011

RAJEEV SHUKLA

John Stuart Mill wrote 160 years ago that "land differs from other elements of production, labour and capital in not being susceptible to infinite increase. Its extent is limited and the extent of the more productive kinds of it more limited still. It is also evident that the quantity of produce capable of being raised on any given piece of land is not indefinite. These limited quantities of land, and limited productiveness of it, are the real limits to the increase of production". This is true for India today.

Due to increasing demands for land from the non-agriculture sector and rapid urbanisation, large chunks of prime agriculture land are being diverted for non-agricultural purposes. Over the years, agricultural production has declined and the food crisis has been on the rise. Due to a decrease in agricultural production in India, import of food materials has shot up, causing a trade imbalance. State governments, without prudent thought on agricultural production, are handing over fertile land to real estate developers, industrialists etc. In Kashmir, for example, it is estimated that at least 10,000 hectares (2 lakh kanals) of agricultural land have been converted to or used for non-agricultural purposes in the past two decades. In Bihar, the Bihar Agricultural Land Conversion for Non-agricultural Use Rules, 2010, was implemented by the state government last year. According to the new rules, agricultural land can now be bought and put to industrial use through a conversion fee that will earn extra revenues for the government. In a state with a thick concentration of rural population, where land for non-agricultural purposes is not easy to find, the new rule may provide much-awaited relief to industrialists and investors planning to enter Bihar because farmlands would be easily available to them, and that too with the consent of the state government. In Uttar Pradesh, approximately 31.4 per cent of fertile land has been diverted to non-agricultural uses when approximately 30 per cent of the state's income comes from agriculture. The state of Maharashtra has lost more than 10 lakh acres out of its 44 lakh acres of fertile land under agricultural use to non-agricultural use in the last decade. Fertile agriculture land has been converted into real estate developments, and more and more farmers are shifting to other vocations that offer them regular and better remuneration. Take the case of Chhattisgarh where 80 per cent of the population depends on agriculture. The state government's Vision 2010 document, which borrowed heavily from earlier advice from PricewaterhouseCoopers, states: "The existing rules prevent the diversion of agricultural land for industrial use. The state would simplify the procedures of diverting land from agricultural to industrial use". To achieve this, the state proposes that agriculture should be left to 30 per cent of farmers who at present control 70 per cent of agriculture land. Not just industrialisation, agriculture land is also being gobbled up in the name of infrastructure development at an unprecedented rate, as in the case of the World Bank-funded Allahabad bypass project which led to acquisition of 781 hectares of prime crop land.

Similarly, the Orissa government acquired more than 5,100 hectares of land in Kalinganagar between 1990 and 1996 to set up an industrial complex. It is possible that acquiring or buying more agricultural land than what is required is to fuel real estate speculation. The real estate sector is flourishing at a rate of 35 to 38 per cent annually.

The National Commission on Farmers, under the chairmanship of Dr M.S. Swaminathan, in its final report in October 2006, "Serving Farmers and Saving Farming", has observed that "prime farmland must be conserved for agriculture and should not be diverted for non-agricultural purposes and for programmes like special economic zones".

Conversion of agricultural land for industrial and business purposes is a serious threat to the livelihood of the majority of the Indian population. More than 60 per cent of the country's population depends on agriculture even though the share of agriculture in GDP has sharply declined. Due to the decrease in agricultural production, prices of food materials have been shooting up daily. People living below the poverty line are finding it difficult to survive. Half of the world's hungry live in India. To produce additional food grain to feed this population will require an additional 170 lakh hectares. Besides, malnourishment prevails among 45 per cent of India's children. Pulses and fats can help overcome this hidden hunger — but, to achieve self-sufficiency in pulses and edible oils, an additional 200 lakh hectares is required. Where will this land come from? Forget agricultural land, there isn't enough cultivable wasteland available to meet this requirement.
In rural India, conversion of agricultural land for the construction of hotels, shopping malls etc is on the rise. If such conversion of fertile land continues, there will be a considerable decline in agriculture production, causing an imbalance in the economy. As arable land gets reduced, more and more farmer will be forced to look for alternative sources of income and employment, thus casting more pressure on prices.

According to the Quality Council of India (QCI), an autonomous non-profit oraganisation set up by the Government of India and the three arms of Indian industry (Ficci, CII and Assocham), India's arable land totals to 1,620,388 sq. km. The QCI believes that India has huge potential in the agrarian sector and can dominate the international market. But selling off rich agricultural land for the sake of urban development will only close the doors of opportunity.

India has a total land area of 2,973,200 sq km, of which around 27 per cent is barren land. It is unfortunate that despite over 177 lakh hectares of barren land lying unused, a scarce resource like rich agriculture land is being poached upon to promote industrialisation. Instead of self-reliance, the focus has now irreversibly shifted to importing food to feed the burgeoning population.

I am not against development but am concerned about the wastage of fertile lands in the name of development. The ongoing trend is that 200 or 500 acres of land is allotted even though the requirement is only 100 acres. As per government data, cultivable land has marginally decreased from 182.74 million hectares in 2005-06 to 182.38 million hectares in 2008-09 across the country, which means around 36 lakh hectares of land has been converted for non-agricultural purposes. Also, the Central government has stated that as per the Constitution of India, land falls under the purview of state governments and so it is for the state government to bring in suitable policy/legislation to check the use of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes. But the Central government can also bring in a federal law that would restrict the conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes.

India desperately needs an Agriculture Land Conservation Act to protect its farmers and farmland. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had formed a department exclusively for waste land development. The need for such an initiative has arisen again. In my view, non-agricultural activities should be strictly restricted to barren lands and agricultural land should be protected at any cost.

Rajeev Shukla, a member of Parliament, is vice-president of the BCCI

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

MINORITY INTERESTS

 MUJTABA KHAN

It may not be an exaggeration to postulate that normally reforms in India generate counter reactions. And when it comes to any pro-minority, more particularly pro-Muslim reform, the reaction is more pronounced and conspicuous. It is in this perspective that the ongoing discourses on the issue of Jamia Millia Islamia's "Muslim minority institution" status, needs to be viewed.

The Jamia, needless to iterate, was established by prominent Muslim leaders of the anti-colonial movement with the blessings and support of the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, who, it is understood, had actually mooted the idea while he was in Vijayawada in the early 1920s. Personifying the all-inclusive secular characteristics of the national movement, the Jamia moved from Aligarh to Delhi and gradually sprouted to blossom into a distinct seat of higher learning. Its legacy as a lusty offspring of the freedom struggle brought her unflinching support from the Congress leadership. It was mainly because of the benevolent gesture of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who unhesitatingly conceded to the request of the ailing Begum Zakir Hussain to see that Zakir Sahib's dream of making Jamia a Central university was realised and that the Jamia Millia Islamia Act, 1988, saw the light of day. Of course, not without undaunted support from Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Although a section of the community clamoured for incorporating the minority status in the act itself, nevertheless, visionaries like Khurshid Alam Khan, who had a key role in shaping the act to preserve Jamia's ethos, saw a better fortune for the community in India's pluralistic fabric and Congress' secular vortex.
Unfortunately, the bizarre events of 1992 virtually shattered the community. The climate of sectarianism and communal frenzy that ensued led to a siege situation and fear psychosis. Frequent incidents of targeting innocent Muslim youth as terrorists, be it in Ajmer Dargah or Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid, branding them as Pakistani agents and their encounter killings generated a feeling of alienation, precipitating an identity crisis. The Sachar Committee, appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was a high-level committee constituted to prepare a report on the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community of India. The Sachar Committee's revelations, endorsing the worst educational plight of the Muslims, and the Ranganath Mishra Commission Report, emphasising the dire need for affirmative action, gravely sensitised and alerted the community.

Questions like the percentage of Muslim representation in legislatures, employment and education sectors started haunting the Muslim mind. A cursory look at the number of Muslim students in Delhi University or any other university will be highly demoralising. The situation is no better even in the most progressive universities such as the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) where the curve of Muslim admissions has been on a steady decline since 1969. Muslim students are virtually nil in the Banaras Hindu University in comparison to non-Muslim counterparts in Jamia or even the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). While Gujjars and Jats are on the streets articulating grievances, want of an organisational structure coupled with the prevalent circumstances deterred Muslims from raising their voice.

In this climate of scepticism, the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions' judgment declaring Jamia as a Muslim minority institution came as a heavenly gift for its majority segment. Now, it needs to be seen how long these jubilations will sustain in our "tolerant" society, particularly in view of the experiences of AMU and the fate of four per cent reservation for Muslims in Andhra Pradesh.
Academic standards and quality are not constant attributes and neither are they the monopoly of specific institutions. Allahabad and Madras universities, once rated high, are no more the same. The same may be true of JNU. Curiously, none of these institutions have altered or lost their original character. Moonis Raza, educationist and freedom fighter, declined to be the vice-chancellor of Jamia in the 1980s as he perceived Jamia to be a "14th century institution". Ironically, the same "14th century institution" successfully established a post-modern 21st century Mass Communication Research Centre that continues to be unparalleled in the country. Jamia's faculty of education and rural institute enjoyed a distinct reputation even before Jamia was declared a "deem to be university". Every educational institution excels in one or the other field, irrespective of the tag it bears, and Jamia is a glaring example.

The mere prefix "Muslim minority" cannot become the cause to "ghettoise" Jamia, as long as it adheres to its historic values of democracy, secularism, pluralism and transparency in administration. True to its traditions, Jamia has attracted talent from across communities and a large proportion of its faculty is drawn from JNU alumnae. For many scholars, diplomats and bureaucrats, Jamia has been a launching pad for lucrative assignments. In fact, Jamia is the only Central university where SC/ST reservations, both in recruitments and admissions, have been honestly implemented.

As a matter of fact, in its functional terms, Jamia is already a Muslim minority institution with more than 50 per cent Muslim students and a Muslim as its vice-chancellor. If this composition could efficiently herald Jamia on the threshold of academic excellence, how does the minority tag alter its practical dynamics except to legitimise the claim of the community on the institution? The ghettoisation logic will never catch popular imagination as long as Jamia is in the National Capital Region.

The Muslim minority situation warrants positive discrimination, more so in the education sector. Governments in the Indian federation are sensitive to the reality, be it the Congress in Andhra Pradesh or the Communists in West Bengal. The minority status to Jamia is perhaps a beginning in the right direction which is bound to benefit at least a miniscule section of the weaker Muslim segment of north India to carve a professional career in the fields of engineering, dentistry, communications, law, education and bio-technology.

Mujtaba Khan is a professor at Centre for Dalit & Minorities Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, NewDelhi

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DNA

 

NEED FOR COMPASSION

CHANDRIKA

Newspapers wrote articles, televisions hosted debates. Yet, as they argued their point and articulated their opinion, I wondered, "What is it to be Aruna Shanbaug? What would she have wanted?" For pity is a simple emotion, sympathy, a little subtler. Most sensitive of all is empathy - to squeeze into another's shoes, cry his tears, be the laughter exploding from his heart.

The scriptures tell an evocative story. Ganesha, the rotund elephant God is walking down the street. He is met by a host of friends. They spy a cat strutting over a wall. They dare him. "Can you lift it by its tail?" Ganesha does, tossing, turning, twisting it around, to avid applause. Until, tiring, he lets the poor creature trail away.

Hungry now, he rushes home, only to find his mother dishevelled, scratches all over her body. Ganesha is filled with fury. "Tell me, mama, who did this to you? I'll teach him a lesson!" Parvati replies, "His name is Ganesha." And adds, "You call me mother, don't you? Remember, I am also mother to the entire universe. You thought you were only hurting a cat. Not so. For what you do to the least of my creatures, you do to me…" The poet John Donne has said, "Every man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind."

Another story from scriptures…On the battlefield of Kurukshetra, as conches blow to herald war, Krishna suddenly stops Arjuna's chariot. He steps out of the vehicle right between the armies. And bends down attentively. Curious, Arjuna follows and notices Krishna gently picking up an injured lapwing, fallen from its nest. Krishna takes it to the edge of the battlefield and covers it with an elephant bell. Every night, thereafter, even during the most tumultuous circumstances, Krishna never forgets the little creature, unfailingly bringing it food, till it recovers sufficiently to fly back home.

That is compassion. It nurtures and nourishes the spirit, inspiring us to be human, nay, something much more - teaching us to be humane. For, wasn't it Donne again who said, "No man is an island?"

Chandrika's book, Krishna, A Joyous Celebration of the Divine will be released on March 27, 2011

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SPEAKING WITH ONE VOICE

 

In a new-found fraternizing pontification, PCC Chief Soz wants the separatists and mainstream political leaders to speak with one voice. Pricking the sensitivity of his selected audience in Dak Bungalow of Anantnag, to sub-regional concerns, he lamented that Jammu and Ladakh regions had been able to make their voice heard while Kashmir went unheard. This understatement did not elaborate what was the voice of Jammu and Ladakh regions, to whom it reached and to whom the voice of Kashmir did not reach. His party is part of the coalition government in the state that is led by National Conference. If Kashmir region has been discriminated against, it is the coalition government that is responsible for it. At the centre we have a coalition government led by the party to which Soz belongs. A complaint should have come from the NC and not from Soz. Is his insinuation against the Union government or the Congress High Command? Whatever be the interpretation, it reflects lack of cohesion within the Congress party on its policy and approach to Jammu and Kashmir. Why should a PCC try to bring dirty linen to a place of public washing? It should have been resolved within the Congress fold.
Now the separatists are honourable people in the eyes of Soz. Whosoever was in power in New Delhi or in Srinagar, they always held the separatists as honourable persons. Even to BJP as well they are honourable persons. That is why A.B. Vajpayee as Prime Minister would meet and talk to them. But what is bizarre is Soz's suggestion that the separatists and the mainstream politicians should speak with one voice. PDP, one of the mainstream parties, has always been an outright sympathizer of the separatists. It has always espoused their cause and had made the "healing touch" its essential agenda when it assumed power in 2002. Thus right from that time PDP has been speaking in one voice with the separatists. Hence, it is only NC among the remaining mainstream parties, who Soz wants to speak with one voice in Kashmir Valley. People in the valley are more aware than Soz that NC and PDP are ideologically at great variance. Their speaking with one voice seems a distant cry. Therefore the inference is that Soz is perhaps trying to play up sentiments of a handful of dissidents within the rank and file of National Conference. To put crudely, it is tantamount to alluring fence standers by playing to the galleries. If this analysis has any substance, then it is a sad commentary on our political class who, instead of forging unity of principles and action, are trying to exploit the ignorance of people. This is not going to help the state wriggle out of present impasse. Competitive politics is different from vengeful rivalry.
It is also to be noted that Soz has been speaking in Anantnag and most of his audience comprised listeners from recognized constituencies of PDP. If he finds it convenient for his faction to hobnob with the erstwhile coalition partner, then Congress is a divided house. Only some weeks ago, the former Congress Chief Minister and now Union Minister of Health, Ghulam Nabi Azad announced his outright support to National Conference. This dichotomy raises the question why Congress High Command allows blatant divergence of policy in Kashmir. It is more a conflict of egos and of sordid rivalry at the cost of the progress of the State. Soz's statement is an indirect hint to his factional group of Congressmen to informally liaison with the separatists and secessionists, who are honourable persons, and to speak with them in one voice just because his political rival has thrown his lot with the National Conference. Soz has no option but to pander to the segment that is opposed to NC because he has burnt his boats with NC.


Politics is the game of possible. Since Indian politics seems to have abandoned all norms of ethics and ideological steadfastness, any combination and permutation in political arrangement is possible. Soz has mentioned the name of Congress chief and the Prime Minister at least twice in his address lauding their concern for Kashmir's prosperity. But no inquisitive observer will miss that his "admiration" of their interest in Kashmir is loaded with far deeper meaning and in this case, iron hand is visible under the velvet glove.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SEMINAR ON TOURISM

 

A 2-day national seminar on tourism held at Jammu University, Department of Business Management has just concluded. This was the 4th national seminar focusing on integrated approach on tourism development. It is sensible on the part of planners to bring academia, industry and government on one platform to deliberate on all aspects of tourism. The input from experts should form the guideline for the department of tourism in the state to plan development and expansion of tourist industry. Any planning based on a well debated theory.should yield positive results. But ultimately it is the implementation part of the exercise that matters. Along with adequate and standard infrastructure that forms the backbone of the industry, the most important component is the tourism culture to be inculcated among the stakeholders of the industry. In European countries, the first and the last lesson for any person, organization or cartel intending to take up tourism as profession and business, is in tourism culture. If one thinks that a tourist is a cow to be milked, better stop thinking of any rewards from the industry. The culture has to manifest itself in all components of the industry. Furthermore, unless tourism is socialized, it cannot make headway. By socializing we mean that tourist industry should become a social phenomenon in which civil society evinces healthy interest and comes forward with dimensional approach to it. Homes and families in Europe are part and parcel of the tourists visiting their countries. Environ of socialization and even fraternization emerges once a tourist finds a comfortable nest during his tour. It becomes a permanent feature that promos not only the economic boost but also human relationship. We hope the seminar that has just ended will have taken up all these issues and the study should come up in the form of proceedings for the benefit of all concerned.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SHIVALIKS AND CLIMATE CHANGE

BY MAJ GEN GOVERDHAN SINGH JAMWAL


Discussing problems and possibilities of the water resources on the Water Day is not a day too soon. Infact we should have anticipated the present scenario decades ago and prepared for it. Even a layman like me was worried about the future of the Shivaliks and its inhabitants quarter of a century, ago when I along with some wise colleagues founded a voluntary Organization J&K Paryavaran Sanstha in 1985 and conducted a 250 Kms long "Save The Shivaliks" Pad yatra (foot march) from Ravi to Rajouri Tawi. Better late than never, but I hope we shall take it seriously and take some measures to solve the problems.


Problems
Shivaliks in Jammu region get 50 inches (1250 mm) rainfall annually. We don't hold even one inch of rain before it is out of the Shivaliks area. Even the two natural lakes of Mansar and Surinsar are depleting. We have lacs of acres of waste land in the Shivaliks and even a lac of cultivable land is being not cultivated due to climate change. What is climate change for the farmers? Simply it means no rain when needed and rains when we don't need it. The only answer to this problem is to hold / harvest water for use when we need it for which our ancestors had dug 500 ponds between Ravi and Rajouri Tawi, most of which have been encroached, filled up and are lying in disuse. As a result of this phenomenon the ground water level has gone down by many feet.
Because of the climate change farmers in the Shivaliks are not cultivating their fields as they do not get remunerative yield. This aspect came to fore during the yellow rust epidemic this year when many farmers could not even afford to buy subsidized fungicides as they said the wheat is no longer remunerative to the farmer. Even the Agriculture Minister in the Legislative Assembly has advocated for the diversification to high value cash crops needing less water for survival under the climate change effects. He has stressed the main focus to herbal farming which would help the State to increase agriculture incomes and help to generate employment opportunities in the farming sector which I feel should have been done decades ago.
The problem of unemployment and land utilization is becoming acute in the Shivaliks which has a volatile population of 40 lacs in six districts presently facing an acute problem of unemployment. Out of 6 lacs of unemployed youth in the State over 2 lacs belong to Shivalik region. There are many more totally unemployed as the agriculture and horticulture are no longer profitable without water in the Shivaliks. All this is bound to create turmoil, Tsunami of another kind.


Possibilities
Once rich green Shivaliks before1947 have now become mountain desert because the Govt. and the people have not taken note of the ecological problems of the Himalayas and the Shivaliks. Yet every thing is not lost and there is a solution provided we are serious and take immediate action as discussed here after.
With the grace of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji and Shri Amarnath Ji we are getting almost 1 crore pilgrims including some tourists every year which means an average of 30,000 pilgrims / tourists going up and another 30,000 going down (60,000) on the National Highway Jammu - Udhampur / Katra every day. We have nothing to offer them except perhaps 'Bhallas' at Samba whereas every tourist wants to buy local products / souvenirs at least worth Rs 1000 each generating economy of Rs 1000 crores per year. We have to produce local products which is not difficult if we harness 1250 mm of rainfall, utilize lacs of acres of waste land, lacs of acres of cultivable land lying uncultivated and grow herbs, medicinal plants and cereals which need little water and can sustain the climate change. It is possible if we grow Phalsa (Asiatica Grewia), Aloevera, Amla as these plants / herbs need much less water which must be arranged by renovating all the ponds lying in disuse, providing check dams and water harvesting structures through water shed programmes.
We have tried Phalsa in village Suchani Samba District which has proved that Phalsa is the Mantra for the Shivaliks like the Leh Berry (sea Buck thorn) of Ladakh. Based on this success story Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM) has already installed plant and machinery for processing Phalsa, Aloevera, Amla and such other products as a societal programme which must be used by the people of the Shivaliks. It may be mentioned here that many other States are creating such income generating activities like Mango Papad, Amla / Aloevera Juice in Uttar Pardesh promoted by Swami Ram Dev Ji and as I saw in Maharashtra and Goa where small packets of 100 gm of Amla, Mango, Kraunda, Kaju are selling for Rs 40 which means at Rs 400 per kg. Similarly Kokam Juice like Phalsa is selling at Rs 100 per ltr in plastic bottles. Shivaliks have much greater potential if harnessed properly through water harvesting structures.


Harnessing water resources in the Shivaliks

Besides revival of ponds, water shed treatment through gali plugging and check dams and vegetation we should exploit base flow of the numerous streams and nallahas. At the same time we should also harness the water going waste through hundreds of perennial streams between Ravi and Rajouri. We must plug the nallahas which cause flash floods to divert the water into the large ponds along side the streams as was proposed in village Sangwal in Vijaypur block Samba District. There are hundreds of such nallahas which can be harnessed to fill the large ponds which will help in ground recharge. It is a great challenge to the Ministry of water resource of the Govt. of India and the state Govt. And of course the people of the Shivalik have to rise to the occasion to make it a success to avoid catestrophy in the Shivaliks.


Although Ravi is an Indian River and so are its five tributaries Ujh, Tarnah, Bein, Basantar and Devak yet none of them have been harnessed by our State. Nor they are affected by Indus Water Treaty and yet we are deprived of their flows. Strangely even our two main canals Ranbir and Partap are closed for four months every year while Jammu region is starving for water. With the modern technology available these canals should not be closed for more than 15 days and the surplus water should be led into dry nallahas for ground recharge even the proposed Tawi lake can be augmented by this water. We should also make arrangements to lift this water in winter months to fill the hundreds of renovated ponds and other water holding structures specially created. Unfortunately Jammu leadership is not responding to this vital issue as we lack vision and are unable to persue such ideas and programmes.


Mention may be made here of the concerns shown by the Vice Chancellors of the universities of the Jammu region, Dr. Ram Vishwakarma Director IIIM and CGM NABARD Mr. Sukhdeve to help producing a vision paper on the pattern of Leh Berry vision paper prepared by Himachal Pradesh Agricultural University Palampur and DRDO for the plantation of Sea Buck Thorn in a million hectares in the three Himalayan States of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

AGROFORESTRY STABILIZES FARM  

PRODUCTION IN DRYLAND AGRICULTURE

BY PROF (DR) R D GUPTA

 

With the objective to intensify agricultural production in dryland agriculture vis-a-vis to maximise utilization of natural resources and minimise economic and environmental risk an "All India coordinated research project'' was started by ICAR in February, 1983. It is now in operation in more than 35 coordinated centres belonging both to ICAR institutes and State Agricultural universities, covering all the major ecological zones of the country with project coordination unit located at the national research centre for agroforestry in Jhansi.
"Agroforestry, which is defined as the practice of combining agriculture and forest activities in such a way that both the horizontal and vertical interspaces in forest growing trees are utilized by growing congenial agricultural crops on one hand and growing fruit trees, vegetables and grasses including fodder, trees on farms or village lands on the other hand,'' has a number of objectives. It reduces the pressure of local people towards productive and protective forests for meeting their requirement of timber, fuel wood and fodder. Agroforestry enhances grain, fruit and vegetable production as well as increases dairy and poultry produce. Provides adequate employment and promotes agrobased industrial bye products. Protects the land against soil erosion, increases the soil fertility, regulates microclimate conditions for the betterment of the crops. Maintains ecological balance and improves climate of the area.


Main Agroforestry systems: For food grain production and its sustainability agri-silviculture, agrihorticulture and silvipasture, are the three main important agroforestry systems tested on farm and on station trials, where the tree growing is the dominant component.


Agri-silviculture : This agroforestry system consists of growing multipurpose tree species along with food crops. The trees are planted either in the fields or on the boundaries of the fields. Planting right kind of trees and their management is crucial for the success of the system. Suitable tree species identified for Indogangetic plains and Siwaliks of Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, are shisham, sarin, babul or kikar, phulai, khair. All these trees have the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil and thus increase its fertility. Dhaman, khirk and bamboos are the other trees which can be grown. Scattered planting of trees in the field like Khejri in Rajasthan and poplar with rice, wheat and fodder in Gangetic plains have been found highly productive and protective in water sheds.


The impact of trees on food production is to the extent of 10-15 per cent reduction in the overall crop yields, which is however, compensated to a great extent with foliage and fuel production due to pruning of trees annually. The foliage is rich in protein and can be used for fodder as well as green manure.
Agri-horticulture: The main principle behind this system is planting of fruit trees and exploiting their interspaces for growing crops. Initially in the juvenile phase the fruit trees do not give any returns but cultivation of food crops in the interspaces solve the gap problem faced by the farmers.


Important fruit trees tested in the system are cetrus fruits like kinnow, lime, lemon, guava, mango, gooseberry and ber. Introducing ber in the system has proved quite remunerative as it gives fodder and fuel wood on annual pruning besides fruit production. Cultivation of ber in arid tracts of Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and kandi belt of Jammu and gooseberry in sodic soils of UP, Rajasthan, Haryana and submontane area (Kandi) of Uttrakhand, HP, Punjab, Haryana and Jammu has, proved very effective. Grafted ber, guava and orange have been successfully adopted in shallow, medium and deep soils of Nagpur, Maharashtra.
Silvipasture: Silvipasture, consisting of trees shrubs with grasses, is the best combination. It produces fuelwood, fodder, timber besides reducing erosion hazards. If shrubs consist of girna, ber and karonda then this agroforestry system provides fruits also.


In the upper plains of Maharashtra (shallow soils), grasslands and agroforestry with tea and soyabean have been found suitable. Silvipasture has greatly helped in increased biomass production and rehabilitation of degraded lands in Tejpur watershed near Jhansi town in UP. Foreage resources greatly increase milk production.
Role of Agroforestry in Watershed Management :


Watershed is a drainage basin of a stream or a river. Technically, it refers to a hydrological unit which comprises an area expansion of lant whence the run off flows through a natural drain as gullies or streams or rivers. For integrated and sustainable development of rainfed areas, watershed management, using a combination of low cost conservation structures and vegetative measures in a micro-watershed management, is a predominant feature.


Among the various vegetative conservation measures forestry and agroforestry together with horticultural plantations and silvipasture have played a dominant roles in various watershed management programmes funded as ''Centrally sponsored Projects''. Such projects consist of National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas , Integrated Watershed Development Project, Drought Prone Area Project, Desert Development Project, Integrated Afforestation, Ecodevelopment Project.


In any given watershed, agroforestry system is an independent entity yielding numerous products like food, fodder, fuel, fruit and fertilizer (manure), and at the same time affectively conserving soil and moisture, which are the basic pillars for the food production. Thus, adoption of ''Agroforestry by the peasants of dryland agriculture is the need of the day to fulfill their basic needs food, fodder, fuel, fruit and fertilizers.''
(The author is Former Associate Dean cum Chief Scientist Krishi Vigyan Kendra, SKUAST-J)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

EDUCATION AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

BY S N RAINA


Education as a powerful instrument has a role to play in uniting strengthening and integrating the country. Minus education a nation is just like a body without soul. Education is the heart of democracy. The important task and responsibility of education is to inculcate the spirit of patriotism and nationalism among the student community. It is the spirit of patriotism which provides encouragement to the youth for their participation in the national development. Education as a potential instrument, inspires the learners to take active part in all the national developmental programmes.


It is the rational democratic secular and socialistic thinking which can elevate and culminate our national thinking. The education as a strong and powerful agent, broadens our national conscious, national outlook and simultaneously national ideology. It is the national ideology, which can infuse the spirit of strong and powerful nationalism among the masses of the country for strengthening the national developmental programms.
It is need of the hour that our educationists, planners and policy makers should join heads and minds in evolving unified common school system and unified ideal curriculum for the school going students of different age groups.
There should be uniformity in the common school system. This common school system will certainly unified the system of school education and it will also strengthen national developmental programmes.
It is an admitted fact that the ideal citizen can contribute a lot in strengthening the nation by practically showing their involvement in the working and functioning of national developmental programmes. There should be the provision of scientific, vocational and profession education in the curriculum, prescribed for different age-groups. The need of the time is to introduce science and technology in the curriculum so that the learners and students may develop scientific mind.


For the national development, progressive developmental programmes should be initiated which will certainly help in strengthening the national development. The school should come near the community and community needs to go near the school. It will make and broaden the contact between the school and community. The education as a potential instrument, should keep people busy in the national developmental programmes.
The education should prepare the students and the youth to serve the community and humanity as a whole so that all the people may take active part in all the national development programmes. The role of education in national deveopment is tremendous and has awakened the conscious of the people and has also educated them to make their maximum involvement in all the national developmental programmes. Its importance has given a great realization to the individuals of the country.


Regarding the role of education in the national development we can say that education has to play constructive role in elevating status, name and fame of the nation amongst the other nations of the world. Education has to infuse and inculcate democratic, scientific, secular, moral and spiritual values among the seekers of knowledge and among all the people of the country. The feelings of loyalty patriotism, love and affection, not only motivate the individuals, but they also inspire them to a great extent to take active part in all the national development programmes. It is through national education and mass-media the feelings of patriotism can be generated among the people of the country. All the national developmental programmes should be shown to the masses, so that they may feel pride of the programmes and may actively participate and show their involvement in making programmes effective and successful.


Utilization of the national economy for the common interest and progress is of paramount importance and it should not be allowed to enter in the pockets of a few rich personalities. It should be properly utilized for the national development programmes for the prosperity of all the masses. The basic needs and requirements of the people should be fulfilled. The education should reach to everyone in the country which can help a lot in strengthening and developing the nation. This should be one and all time goal of our education sector.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

ACTION AGAINST LIBYA

AVOIDABLE USE OF FORCE UNDER UN UMBRELLA

 

THE pro-democracy movement against the rule of Libyan dictator Col Muammar Gaddafi is now confined to Benghazi and the surrounding areas. Colonel Gaddafi's forces have recaptured many towns which had earlier come under the control of the people seeking an end to his autocratic government. This emboldened the government troops to indulge in a killing spree by attacking civilians, who issued a call to the international community to come to their rescue. The global community (read the US and some of its allies) last week got a resolution passed by the UN Security Council for imposing a "no-fly zone" in the troubled areas in Libya. The resolution allows the use of armed force to achieve the limited objective and hence the air attack by troops drawn from the US, France, Britain and certain other European countries. Qatari forces, too, are with these non-Arab troops, but their role and number is insignificant.

 

The limited goal involves protecting Libyan civilians against attacks by Colonel Gaddafi's forces and allowing all kinds of humanitarian aid to reach them. But will the international intervention remain confined to this much? Will it not lead to regime change? Actually, the objective now seems to be what US President Barack Obama declared two weeks ago that Colonel Gaddafi "must leave". Perhaps, he believed then that the dictator's days were numbered. Many people thought on those lines and that was the time when the "no-fly zone" should have been enforced. Delayed action shows that the purpose is basically not to help the pro-democracy forces or to prevent the killing of innocent civilians by the Libyan government's troops. But in seeking to fulfill its objectives, the US and its allies must tread warily. The lessons of intervention in Iraq must be duly learnt.

 

India has rightly stated that military intervention should have been avoided and the problem settled through peaceful means. By abstaining from the UN Council vote India has been consistent in counseling caution in meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. While we must be sensitive to people's concerns, prudent politics lies in taking account of our national interest, including the scenario on the oil front. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

ILLS IN THE JUDICIARY

NEED FOR LAWYERS & JUDGES TO INTROSPECT

 

Former Chief Justice of India Justice J.S. Verma has rightly lamented the steady decline of the legal profession in the country. Speaking at a book release function in New Delhi the other day, he bemoaned the fact that while the lawyers are judged by the models of the cars they use, many judges are under a cloud and facing charges of corruption. He lamented that some lawyers have stooped to the level of "mercenaries", charging an exorbitant fee of Rs one crore from every client. Clearly, the concept and purpose of justice will lose its meaning and value if litigants are exploited by lawyers in this manner. Unfortunately, senior lawyers do not follow any set standards while charging the fee from clients. The fee varies from lawyer to lawyer, depending upon his/her seniority and eminence. Sadly, despite amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code and the Civil Procedure Code, the lawyers take advantage of the loopholes in the law, seek adjournments and slow down the pace of justice so that they could squeeze the litigants. Though the judiciary as a whole is discharging a useful purpose, some of the ills that have crept in need to be ironed out.

 

If the lawyers' conduct vis-à-vis the litigants is in need of improvement, the judges too need to introspect. Increasing corruption charges against the judges have tarnished to some extent the fair name of the judiciary. To cite an example, the three-member Judges inquiry committee appointed by Vice President Hamid Ansari has now framed 16 charges against Justice P.D. Dinakaran, Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court. He was transferred from the Karnataka High Court after corruption charges were levelled against him.

 

The problem with the judiciary is that there is no speedy institutional remedy available for the common man to bring errant judges to book. The removal of a judge by impeachment, which is mandated by the Constitution, is too slow and cumbersome. Even the Judges Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, passed by the Rajya Sabha, does not guarantee speedy justice because of the typical bureaucratic mechanism it seeks to provide after legislative enactment. To purge the judiciary of malcontents and strengthen democracy, citizens' complaints against judges need to be processed fast by making suitable changes in the three-tier committee system — the National Judicial Oversight Committee, the Scrutiny Committee and the Investigating Committee — as provided for in the proposed Bill. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

IT'S RAINING SOPS!

DMK MUST BE REINED IN

 

IT is unfortunate that election sops are being doled out indiscriminately in Tamil Nadu, seeking to influence gullible voters unfairly and thereby subverting the democratic spirit. Facing a formidable challenge from AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa and confronted with allegations of a deep DMK role in the 2G spectrum allocation scam, the ruling party in the state is trying to neutralize the people's anger with promises of sops to various sections. Electoral promises are taken with more than a pinch of salt everywhere, but the DMK's promises carry somewhat more credibility because it has a record of fulfilling many. As per the Government's claims, since 2006, when the DMK came to power, colour TV sets have been distributed free to 1.52 crore families at a cost of Rs 3,750 crore. Farm loans have been waived at a cost of a whopping Rs 7,000 crore. A free gas connection scheme has swallowed Rs 80 crore in one year.The total rice subsidy in four years has touched an all-time high of Rs 3,750 crore.

 

With the model election code of conduct coming into force for the April 13 elections, the Election Commission has ordered stoppage of free distribution of TV sets but the DMK is unfazed. From free grinders to 35 kg free rice every month for 16 lakh poor families, free bus passes for senior citizens to free laptops for Dalit engineering students, increase in old age pension to new insurance scheme for fishermen, the DMK manifesto released on Saturday has offered sops to all. Chief Minister Karunanidhi told reporters recently that if the party's 2006 manifesto was termed as the hero of the last assembly elections, this time it will be the heroine.

 

Apart from the fact that the spirit of democracy is being compromised, the effect of such electoral largesse on the state's finances is crippling. Tamil Nadu is paying around Rs 8,300 crore as interest for the loans taken to fund the freebies rolled out every year. As a result, the state's total liabilities have crossed Rs1 lakh crore. It is indeed time that a stop be put to such blatant electoral allurements.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

NEW IDEAS IN THE BUDGET

BANKING MORE ON MARKET MECHANISM 

BY JAYSHREE SENGUPTA

 

IN the Union Budget for 2011-12, many new ideas based on greater reliance on the market have been introduced by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The poor will be asked to buy food at market prices from shops in the villages. According to the Finance Minister, 'To ensure greater efficiency, cost effectiveness and better delivery for both kerosene and fertilisers, the government will move towards direct transfer of cash subsidy to people living below the poverty line in a phased manner." Thus, cash handouts will be given to the poor who will directly buy their important needs from the market at market-determined prices.

 

According to the government, all prices should be market determined and the government should not attempt to fix low prices for basic goods for the poor because it creates distortions. In other words, there should be no price control and, according to the last year's Economic Survey in which the idea of giving coupons instead of subsidised food to the poor was mooted, "setting the price of a commodity becomes a matter of politics and lobbying and adds to the distortions."

 

The government is trying to get out of the business of public distribution because it cannot do so efficiently and effectively. It wants to reduce the increasing burden of subsidy and is going for coupons and cash handouts and leaving it to the poor to buy from the market like everyone else. Subsidies have already been reduced in this year's Budget by Rs 20,000 crore which will be much lauded by the World Bank.

 

It is entirely true that the public distribution system (PDS) has got many leakages which are hard to plug and around 40 to 55 per cent of the goods meant for the poor are sold in the open market through back channels and corrupt agents. It is also true that foodgrains are not always available in ration/PDS shops and when the poor go to buy them, they are often told that the supplies have not arrived or they find the shops shut. After making long journeys to shops, the poor often give up and buy from the open market at higher prices than the PDS shops.

 

The idea is to replace the whole system of PDS with smart cards based on unique identification of the poor that will enable them to access food with coupons by which any person below the poverty line will get the requisite amount of foodgrains. It will ensure that the food that the below poverty line person will buy is not adulterated because when the poor buy from shops at market prices, it will act as a disincentive for the shopkeepers to sell adulterated foodgrains . The shop owners can cash the coupons received from the poor at any local bank.

 

What about the family head when he gets cash in hand for buying kerosene or fertilisers? Is he not going to be tempted to buy liquor, tobacco and drugs or use it to pay back some urgent outstanding loan? If women are given the money, there is greater assurance of it going for fuel and fertilisers. She would feel responsible for it but often women are weak and disempowered and are forced by the men in the family to spend money for other urgent needs instead.

 

In a country like India where there is rampant malnourishment among children and anaemia among women, and 45 per cent of the children below five are malnourished, why is the government not taking the responsibility of reaching subsidised foodgrains to the poor? It is their entitlement after all to have basic goods delivered to them. But the government is of the view that if the direct cash and coupon subsidy to the poor has worked in Latin American countries, it should work in India too. There is, however, no guarantee that it would work in India where the social structure and the level of deprivation is very different.

 

Why can't the government control corruption in the diversion of kerosene and foodgrains in the open market? Also when the Food Security Bill goes through, what will be the mode of operation of the government to fulfil its obligation to give cheap food to the poor?

 

A scheme for monitoring the trucks carrying kerosene through GPS-based vehicular tracking system is being contemplated by Petroleum Minister Jaipal Reddy for avoiding the diversion of kerosene for adulteration purposes and if it is successful, similar schemes could be tried for the distribution of foodgrains.

 

Another area for which the government is betting on more private participation is infrastructure which is the main bottleneck for higher growth rate and more equitable distribution of incomes. Many parts of rural India are not connected to towns with proper roads and this isolation leads to the perpetuation of poverty.

 

Since over the next five years (of 12th Plan) the infrastructure requirement will run into over $1000 billion, the government is hoping that at least 50 per cent of it will come from private domestic investors and foreign investors. The government has opened the sector to foreign investment further in the recent Budget and has increased the limit of FIIs (Foreign Institutional Investors) for investment in infrastructure in corporate bonds from $20 billion to $25 billion. This will raise the total limit available to the FIIs for investment in corporate bonds to $40 billion. And since most of the infrastructure companies are organised in the form of SPVs (Special Purpose Vehicles), FIIs would be permitted to invest in unlisted bonds with a minimum lock- in period of three years. However, the FIIs will be allowed to trade among themselves during the lock-in period. Also tax-free bonds of Rs 30,000 crore have been proposed to be issued by the government undertakings during 2011-12 for infrastructure development. Perhaps this greater private participation is a good thing, and raising FII limit in infrastructure bonds will attract more foreign investors.

 

But then the government has to ensure that rural roads are constructed and not just "state of the art" modern highways only. The interests of the rural people have to be protected and though the private sector will remain important, the government has to regulate and monitor its participation so that proper direction can be given to these investments. So far in the area of infrastructure the public- private partnership model has not worked all that well with big cost and time overruns because of the problem of slow bureaucratic clearances. If foreign investment is to be encouraged many more glitches will have to be sorted out before foreign investors come to India in a big way to invest in Indian infrastructure.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

INDIAN HOLI, US SOIL

BY MONA

 

NOT part of the festival of colours all those two and a half decades of life I spent in the land of Krishna (it's a festival of miscreants, my father would warn), I couldn't resist the offer to be part of Holi celebrations while on Fulbright scholarship at Stanford.

 

The two celebrations, one on the most beautiful campus in the world and another on the beach of Santa Cruz, left me mesmerised. The first one, organised by the Stanford India Association, had gulal, hosepipes to spray water around, samosas, bhang and loud music. Dancing on Rang Barse in a mixed crowd (as many Asians as Caucasians) drenched in colours is one of the favourite memories of the lifetime. The best was the traditional Stanford fountain hopping that left the clear waters coloured and hundreds of pictures of us against the Claw and the Waterclock Fountains that were duly uploaded on Facebook within minutes of the party getting over.

 

The second one was more adventurous. This entailed an early morning road trip with a few friends from Palo Alto to Santa Cruz. The winding road makes me go deaf, said the driver. Compatriots that we were, we all underwent partial deafness on that winding patch. A desi group that studied at the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) waited in the city downtown with all the stuff. Bhang milk or lassi, whatever it would qualify for, was packed, the rest poured in glasses and the journey towards the campus started. Loud music attracted a stern look from the cops, which made us all at once hide the glasses under the seats.

 

Holi was played with a frenzied game of frisbee in the UCSC. Drenched in colour, the friend who drove from Palo Alto refused to drive down unless we (including him) washed. So we had to take the school shuttle to downtown. The strange glares that we received from the students who refused to board the bus with a joker group that sported all colours of the rainbow made us rush to the shore to try to bathe off the colours at the tap. Not enough!

 

It was then that someone from the motley crowd suggested playing frisbee. Santa Cruz hosts' refusal to let us enter his pad without washing off the colours made us take a plunge in the icy waters of the Pacific.

 

As we spread ourselves on the beach, queries poured in as to what made us so colourful. Quickly going over the story of Holika, each one of us satiated queries of curious Americans. Pizza after the invigorating session was probably the only time in my yearlong stay that I enjoyed Dominos, while I preferred New York the rest of the year around. Another winding journey back to uptown Palo Alto brimming with the feeling of brotherhood on foreign soil — a Happy Holi indeed.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

THE LITERARY FACE OF BHAGAT SINGH

EIGHTY YEARS OF BHAGAT SINGH'S MARTYRDOM, WHICH TOOK PLACE ON MARCH 23, 1931, IS BEING COMMEMORATED TOMORROW. A LITTLE-KNOWN ASPECT OF THE LEGENDARY FREEDOM FIGHTER IS THAT HE WAS A VORACIOUS READER. HE WAS A REGULAR AT THE DWARKA DAS LIBRARY, LAHORE, FAMOUS FOR ITS COLLECTION OF BOOKS ON HISTORY, POLITICAL SCIENCE AND SOCIAL SCIENCES. 

HARISH DHILLON

 

BHAGAT Singh is a legend and as it happens to all legends, innumerable stories have been built up around his life and his exploits over the years, some of them historically verifiable but many others which are acrophylic. Amongst this second category, I have two personal favourites.

 

One of the strongest influences on Bhagat Singh during his early years was his grandfather, Arjun Singh. Sometimes during his early years, Arjun Singh said something to the boy which was to remain with him throughout his life: "What you learn at school is important because it will help you to get on with your life. But it is what you learn for yourself, from books other than your textbooks, from the lives and experiences of others, that learning will help you to live a life worth living." — or words to that effect. Perhaps this is what motivated him to become an avid reader from his earliest years in school and pick up an early familiarity not only with the lives of all the well-known revolutionaries of the world but also with the history of all the revolutionary movements of the world.

 

The other story is about an incident that happened shortly before he left to join school in Lahore. One dull morning the teacher took time off from his formal teaching to ask each of the boys what they would like to do with their lives. The boys mentioned the professions that they would like to follow. When Bhagat Singh's turn came he said he did not know what profession he would like to follow. But whatever it was that he decided to do it would have to be for the welfare of his people and for the good of his country. Bhagat Singh was only 12 at the time and if the story is true, he had already set the course for his life. And this course had come from the assimilation of his reading.

 

His love for reading remained with him all throughout his short life because again and again in accounts of his life by his contemporaries and in references to him in their autobiographies we are told that wherever he went, he carried a veritable travelling library with him.

 

Chabil Das, who taught him English at National College and was later to become the Principal, had this to say about Bhagat Singh: "I can say with confidence that he enjoyed his studies. He greatly enjoyed reading. Whenever the name of a book was mentioned, he wanted to read it at once. Although Bhagat Singh had read numerous books on history, I still remember the book he liked the best: Cry for Justice. He had marked many portions of this book with a red pencil. This shows how strong was his desire to fight against injustice." (Meri Inquilabi Yatra,1985). This was to be the method that he adopted to all his reading. He would underline the parts that appealed to him and even make notes of what he had read. It was as complete an assimilation of his reading as it was possible for anyone to achieve."

 

We know for a fact that he was, during his days at the college, perhaps the most frequent visitor at Dwarka Das Library. The library was, at the time famous for its tremendous collection of books on history, political science and social sciences. The library had also become a repository for revolutionary books, journals and magazines.

 

It is a pity that though contemporary accounts all agree that he was an avid reader and that books were his constant companions, there is no reference to the books that he read. For this we have to wait for his final internment for what has come to be referred to as The Jail Notebook.

 

K. C. Yadav, one of the editors who prepared these notes for publication, tells us that the notebook was bound in red cloth and was beautiful to look at. It had 404 pages of about 21cm by 16 cm size, tied together with a long thread. The pages must originally have been white in colour, were of a very good quality and texture, and weighed 90 gm. With the passage of time, the pages had turned a beautiful antique cream into colour. Each page was stamped with the page number on the top right-hand corner in black.

 

An entry on the page one of the notebook tells us that the book was handed over to Bhagat Singh by the jail authorities on September 12, 1929. Barring four couplets in Urdu, all the entries are in English.

 

The pen used is obviously a very good fountain pen, probably made available to him through the generosity of Chattar Singh. The handwriting is careful and neat and easy to read.

 

The notebook contains short entries from most of the books that Bhagat Singh read during this time in prison. Obviously, these were points that he was impressed by and felt were worth recording. These quotations confirm what we already know of Bhagat Singh's character.

 

He had an enquiring mind and always wanted to learn. He devoured books with an insatiable appetite, especially those books that he thought could help to solve the many problems that the country faced.

 

The listings in his notebook not only reveal an extremely wide and broad range of interests but also his special bent of mind. There are, among others, passages in the notebook from Aristotle, Plato, Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Trotsky, Bertrand Russell, Karl Marx, Engels, Lajpat Rai, Socrates, Victor Hugo, John Bodin, Thomas Aquinas, Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, J. S. Mill, Spinoza, Karl Kautsy, Dostoevsky, Nikolai Bukharin, Lenin, Valentine Chirol, and Upton Sinclair. He was also very fond of poetry because the notebook contains extracts from Rabindranath Tagore, Byron, Tennyson, Omar Khayyam, and Arthur Clough.

 

The notebook consists of four parts, each part devoted to a particular theme. There are blank pages at the end of each part, obviously leaving provision for extracts from future readings in that particular subject. There is a deep poignancy to these blank pages because one cannot help feeling a churning of the heart at the thought of what words would have filled these pages if Bhagat Singh had lived.

 

We can see from the notes that Bhagat Singh was attempting to understand the struggle that had waged from time to time and the theories and strategies of social evolution that had been propounded over the years in an effort to make the world a better place to live in. He also seems to be attempting to understand in simple terms, the reality, meaning, and purpose of life.

 

Having read this notebook, it is easy to understand why Bhagat Singh occupies such a unique position amongst all Indian revolutionaries. Because of his firm grounding in all the revolutionary literature that he had read, Bhagat Singh had some clear and firm tenets in the political philosophy which set him apart from other revolutionaries.

 

He believed that political freedom from the Imperialistic rule of the British would be fruitless if it was not accompanied with economic freedom. India would never be really free if it did not become totally free of the exploitation of man by man. He believed that the struggle for freedom would not have a meaningful if it was limited only to the intellectual middle classes. And that was why his efforts were directed towards making the struggle a struggle at the grassroots of the masses.

 

His speeches, his writings in journals and the pamphlets that he wrote and distributed at public places were all geared into educating the masses that this struggle was their struggle. He realised early that splinter revolutionary group would never be able to achieve very much on their own and that is why he attempted to bring them all together under one umbrella group when he organised the convention of all revolutionary groups from September 8 to September 9, 1928, at the Ferozshah Kotla grounds.

 

He understood the need of publicity for all the efforts of the revolutionary forces and he looked for any opportunity that would provide a platform for suitable propaganda. Looked at from this perspective, his trial itself was one big propaganda event for the revolutionaries. His love and his understanding of the importance of reading remained with him till the very end.

 

It was the day of Bhagat Singh's execution. The friendly warden Chatar Singh, who had been responsible for facilitating the provision of numerous books to his favourite inmate, found himself thrust into the very unwelcome role of being one of the party that would escort the prisoners from their cells to be prepared for the hanging.

 

He stood outside Bhagat Singhs' cell, his bunch of keys rattling in his trembling hands, as he fumbled to find the right key. Bhagat Singh looked up from his reading and with that same warm smile on his face, turned to his warden and asked: "Will it be possible for you to wait a few minutes? It would be very kind of you to let me finish this chapter, I have only a few pages left."

 

Charat Singh glanced at the other members of the party and seeing confirmation in their eyes, turned to Bhagat Singh again.

 

He was too overcome in the face of such overwhelming equanimity to trust himself to speak. He nodded his head in the affirmative. Bhagat Singh went back to his reading while the escort party stood outside the cell door waiting for him to finish.

 

They waited in silence but they all felt a growing disquiet, a growing sense of discomfort in the face of such supreme courage.

 

As he had promised, there were only a few pages left and he was indeed done in a few minutes. He turned the corner of the last page down as a marker, closed his book, put it aside and got to his feet.

 

"Let's go," he said, walking to the cell door, and with his back held straight and a spring in his stride walked bravely to his death.

 

The writer, a noted educationist, is currently working on a book on Bhagat Singh

 

It was the day of Bhagat Singh's execution. Bhagat Singh looked up from his reading and with that same warm smile on his face, turned to his warden and asked: "Will it be possible for you to wait a few minutes? It would be very kind of you to let me finish this chapter, I have only a few pages left." The warden nodded his head in the affirmative. Bhagat Singh went back to his reading. As he had promised, there were only a few pages left …

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

FOUR YEARS AFTER ROCK-BOTTOM

WHY THE WORLD CUP IS TURNING OUT TO BE LESS PAINFUL THAN EXPECTED, AND WHAT THAT MEANS FOR THE IPL


The first stage is over after fortytwo matches played over thirty days. In the end, the eight teams expected to reach the quarterfinals are the ones that have made it. But somehow, despite its predictability and inherent pointlessness, thanks to a series of loosely connected events the group matches of the World Cup haven't been as torturous as had been foretold.

 

Boredom is relative. If you had a rocking Saturday night party, a Sunday afternoon at home seems dull and slow in comparison. But after a long, painful Saturday, even a trip to the mall makes the weekend come alive. After 2007, when the most vibrant among us were reduced to contemplating suicide, the 2011 edition has been better than a grocery-run to the supermarket; it's been a movie marathon at a multiplex.

 

If you start breaking it down, the 2007 World Cup had everything: early upsets, six sixes, a hat-trick, a high-profile retirement, bungling officials, even the death of a coach. But still, we travelled through the West Indies four years ago like zombies on Prozac: going from one location to another to watch uninspiring cricket on dead pitches in empty stadiums. The only stories were how dull the tournament was, and how formidable Australia were. When it finished, there wasn't even time for a proper celebration. The world just wanted to go back home; the locals, out-priced and ignored by the ICC, wanted to have their picturesque islands to themselves again.

 

Every successful cricket World Cup has been lit up by one team, usually against the run of play, even if it didn't go on to win. In 1983, it was India; in '87 Australia; 1992 New Zealand; 1996 Sri Lanka; '99 South Africa; and India again in 2003. Lasith Malinga and Mahela Jayawardene did try in 2007, but the Lankans were unable to leave their mark on it.

 

Though 2011 is almost as long, peppered with as many meaningless games, and hasn't had enough on- and off-field events to flag, it has been helped by three crucial factors. First, world cricket has slowly evened out due to a series of top Australian retirements. Second, Pakistan are still alive, kicking and fighting with each other. And third, England, who came into the tournament without any ostensible hope, have managed to hang on with a combination of good fortune and old-fashioned grit.

 

Add the sidebars – superhuman India finding its kryptonite, South Africa its choke remedy, Sri Lanka its grinding quality, Kamran Akmal his love for goalkeeping – and you at least have a tournament sprinkled with enough madness to make something strange and unexpected happen every second day.

 

But most important is that the bar had been set so low that any sign of life, even a little tingling of the finger-tips, is enough to enthuse a world writing obituaries for one-day cricket by juxtaposing the Caribbean disaster with the rise of Twenty20.

 

Four years ago, the shortest version was nothing more than a desperate attempt by some countries to save their domestic cricket. It was looked down upon by the Indian board, dismissed as a tool they did not require because they didn't face the same problems that the game's smaller economies did.

 

But an accident at the World T20 in South Africa created an opportunity that would change the BCCI's balance-sheet forever. In Vanity Fair online, AA Gill wrote last week that Dubai was what money would look like if it were left to its own devices. A cricket equivalent of that metaphor would be the garish Indian Premier League.
 If the World Cup can rise two notches during the business end – starting with a cracker of a quarter-final between India and Australia in Ahmedabad – the IPL, which begins less than a week after the final, will for the first time have to compete for eye-balls. After enjoying a free run for three seasons, it will have to match something innately superior to it, or get exposed as nothing more than a Sunday trip to the mall.

 

KUNAL PRADHAN

 

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

COLUMN

FISSION, NOT FUSION

A TRULY INDEPENDENT NUCLEAR POWER REGULATOR IS NEEDED

 

The entire world is closely following the aftermath of the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plants in north-eastern Japan, caused more by the tsunami than the original earthquake. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has done well to seek a review of safety standards at Indian nuclear power plants. Indian authorities have been reassuring that India's track record has been good and there should be no fear of similar accidents occurring in earthquake and tsunami prone regions of India. Should these reassurances be taken at face value? Sceptics will point to a lack of transparency on the part of the Indian nuclear energy establishment on the safety of India's nuclear power programme — and not just because of India's shaky industrial safety record.

 

The problem in this case is that the reassurances come from representatives of the same entities that are associated with the production of nuclear power in India — the Department of Atomic Energy and the Nuclear Power Corporation, currently the sole generator of nuclear power in India. This is the equivalent of taking as Gospel the assurances by the promoters of, say, mega-chemical plant that the systems and effluent treatment processes are watertight — that too when the promoters of this plant were also responsible for environmental regulation in the area. If this appears absurd, it should. Yet, this is precisely the situation that prevails in India's nuclear power regulation set-up. As of now, the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 does not allow private parties to enter nuclear power generation. Only government-owned entities like the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) or, say, NTPC can do so and it is with them that foreign suppliers like France's Areva and US's Westinghouse will tie up to develop future reactors. Enabled by the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, India now aims to develop 39 nuclear power reactors. All these will be developed in the public sector domain and it is with them that foreign suppliers of reactors like France's Areva and US' Westinghouse will tie up. Who will regulate these entities?

 

 By convention, it should be an independent regulator. The problem is the nuclear power regulator is not independent in India. The administration of the Atomic Energy Act comes under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). But the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), which was set up in 1983, derives its regulatory authority from the Atomic Energy Act and the Environmental Protection Act, 1986. The AERB, in turn, is answerable to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) — the status of which is equivalent to the Railway Board under the railway ministry —whose ex-officio chairman is also the secretary of the DAE. Thus, the nuclear power regulator does not have an arm's length relationship with the promoters of the power plants. The recent empowerment of regulators in fields such as telecom, insurance, power and the stock market, all constituted under separate Acts, shows the way forward. The AERB should be a truly independent regulator, not an arm of the government. At a press conference, the NPCIL chief conceded that although India's nuclear power plants were safe, there was no room for complacency. The first step in mitigating risk of complacency in supervision is to delink the regulator from the government of India.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

CHOICES IN HARDWARE

OLD STYLE SELF-RELIANCE IS NO ANSWER

 

Sam Pitroda, telecommunications icon and knowledge guru, has highlighted India's dependence on electronics hardware imports even as it excels in software exports. This is a well worn theme and the inability to excel in hardware has till now been attributed to the country's overall poor manufacturing competitiveness. But Indian manufacturing has in recent years taken significant strides and the country is now considered a preferred location for manufacturing capability. Hence, the question arises: if this is a good geography to manufacture cars then why not electronics hardware? The issue is important as electronics is the largest and fastest-growing segment in overall global manufacturing. So, Mr Pitroda's concern is legitimate but the two reasons cited for it are incorrect. India imports more than half of all the hardware it consumes, and should present trends continue, the trade imbalance on this score will be worrying. Plus, depending on imports from a few countries in such an important area poses a security risk.

 

First, a country's trade need not be balanced in every sector. Being dependent on imported hardware is about as risky as having to indefinitely rely on imported edible oil and steel. Trade is supposed to be good because it enables you to export what you are good at and import what others are good at, and that is what aids efficiency and productivity. On the security aspect, being excessively dependent on imports from China may not be advisable but most countries are dependent on it for low-value consumer electronics. In case of need, South Korea and Malaysia, not to speak of Japan, can always be turned to. In fact, Japan will be happy to relocate a lot of its manufacturing capacity to India, thus bringing down costs.

 

 It is not as if India should not take up hardware manufacturing in a big way. Here also the scenario in different segments of hardware is nuanced. India does very well in semiconductor design and can do quite well in electronics system design — two areas of the highest value addition. It does not do well in components manufacturing but there is low value addition in it. Electronics assembly also has low value addition but the jobs potential in it is high and so should be a thrust area. China's success should be seen in the correct perspective too. The two areas in which it is ahead, assembly and components, are both low value addition areas and a lot of what it assembles and exports has high import content. All discussion on hardware manufacturing eventually turns to acquiring a capability in semiconductors. This requires very high investments, makes tremendous demands on resources like power and clean water, invariably depends on substantial government subsidy and is a commoditised business, which is cyclical in nature. The semiconductor people have lobbied hard and the government has put in place a policy of assistance but the initial investment which the promoters have to make has been slow in coming. Weighing all factors, the government should improve infrastructure and simplify tax laws — two perceived Indian disadvantages — and then let hardware manufacturing adopt its own growth path. If electronics assembly surges forward and semiconductor manufacturing lags behind, then so be it.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

 

CHINA SYNDROME

NOT TOO WORRIED BY JAPAN'S NUCLEAR CATASTROPHE, THE CHINESE VIEW NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY AS A NECESSARY EVIL

FRANK SIEREN & ANDREAS SIEREN

Chinese media report freely on the gritty Japanese nuclear disaster. There were even bulk SMSs circulating sent by scaremongers: They claimed a radiation cloud would reach China within 24 hours. But most people in China remained calm, almost uninterested. The government has not been trying to cover things up. It does not react with harsh restrictions on reporters as they would have, had the catastrophe happened in China. The question of nuclear safety is treated with no more than a passing mention by Chinese politicians these days. In a special press conference, the vice minister of environment covered the topic adequately: "We remain on course", was the tenor. And that means, by 2030, the Chinese government will have to build more than 200 nuclear power plants; 25 are already under construction.

The leadership and the people hold similar sentiments about this unfolding tragedy. In public opinion so far, the disaster remains a Japanese disaster, even though the red-hot kiln is just over 2,000 kms away.

 

 Why does nuclear energy leave the Chinese cold? They would reply tersely: All good things will occasionally include something bad. The economic upturn involving so many people requires compromises. If you want growth and reduced CO2 emissions, then nuclear power is better than coal. Each technology makes life easier, and that usually involves a few drawbacks. But in a worst case scenario, countless people may be contaminated, the counter-argument goes.

The Chinese know that, of course. But they also know that every year thousands of people die in accidents in Chinese coal mines. The tangible pollution from burning coal is a lot closer to them than the potential contamination of environment and people by nuclear power. And most people, for the time being, have other worries; corruption, rising costs of living, and a lack of an adequate legal system.

For the Chinese people as well as for the country's leadership, nuclear power constitutes an environment-friendly technology that is mentioned in the same breath as wind and solar energy. If in the new five-year plan, the Politburo wants to emphasise qualitative economic growth, there is little dissent that nuclear power should be part of this. It is other topics that raise public discontent. With the contaminated milk powder tragedy killing many babies, the Chinese were so incensed that the leadership showed unease and responded by censoring reporting on the issue. The difference is immediately obvious to almost every Chinese person: Contaminated milk powder could have easily been avoided by checking on the responsible manufacturers; nuclear power plants, however, are a necessary evil.

And the people understand the main argument of the leadership in favour of nuclear power: China needs to develop all available energy sources if its economy is to continue to grow. Therefore, China has become the world leader in wind energy as well as solar energy. Chinese buyers are to be spotted any place in the world where there is oil. Energy is essential for the Middle Kingdom. As long as the lights do not go out, very few Chinese question the government's energy policies. In fact, less than five years ago, workers in Shanghai had to report on Sundays for shifts as factory production was disrupted during the week due to limited electricity supplies. This is no longer the case.

Does this equanimity have to do with the fact that Chinese have not yet suffered a serious nuclear accident? Possibly. The engineers among the leadership, and that is the majority of them, will certainly not be taking any chances on it. They are careful. When it comes to nuclear power plants in China, costs are not an issue. The Chinese buy state of the art reactors of the latest generation from foreign suppliers. Bear in mind that the Japanese power plant in Fukushima was commissioned in the early 1970s. Even the older power plants in China are fifteen years younger than Fukushima.

The Chinese have taken over the pebble-bed technology from the Germans, which is considered particularly safe. German scientists had worked intensely on this for years, before the German government decided to quit nuclear energy. After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, public opposition in Germany rendered any discussion of technical advantages of nuclear technology impossible. The Chinese gratefully took over the blueprints. In the meantime, they invested a lot of money and are building the first commercial pebble-bed reactor. The intention of the government is to produce many plants and in the future export these. Small plants for the developing world, big ones for major industrial nations.

The Chinese leaning to careless building makes their nuclear ambitions appear risky to the outside world. But the government is under pressure to keep the economy going and is pushing onward relentlessly. It seems almost inevitable that one day something will go wrong. Regarding nuclear technology, it may have been safer for the world if the Germans had continued building the reactors. But many Germans also have good reasons for opposing nuclear energy. The fallout from Chernobyl taught them a bitter lesson.

But the Chinese interest in nuclear technology is not exceptional. The Indians think along these lines, so do the Brazilians and even a large number of Americans. So: A majority of the world. In vowing to continue their nuclear programme even in the face of the Japanese crisis, the Chinese, again, seem to be getting ahead of the curve.

Frank Sieren is a bestselling author and has been living in Beijing for 15 years. Andreas Sieren is a journalist and a former UN staffer

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 BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

ANTONY, PULL THE PLUG ON THE MMRCA

AJAI SHUKLA

Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshall PV Naik, has surprised everyone by declaring more than once that the ministry of defence was just days away from deciding the winner of the keenly-watched global tender to sell the IAF 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) for an estimated Rs 42,000 crore. Naik was evidently hustling his boss, Defence Minister AK Antony, into an early decision, illustrating how narrow service considerations often trump the national interest. For Antony, who has indicated that the contract would be finalised before March 2012, these are the last few months to reconsider what will be a giant white elephant.

Antony cannot be swept away by the fighter pilot community's simplistic argument that credible defence against China and Pakistan depends upon building up 42 fighter squadrons, up from the 32 squadrons that currently exist today. Instead, he must take a broader view, considering three key questions. Firstly, is victory in the air in modern warfare about mere aircraft numbers or about capabilities? Increasingly, digital networking and command and surveillance systems are significant force multipliers, allowing one squadron to do the job of three. But those networks involve top-secret source codes that no developer parts with, not even for Rs 42,000 crore. If the IAF has to be, as it often insists, a fully integrated and networked force, it must develop its own fighters, complete with network systems.

 

 Given that truth, and India's evolving ability to build its own fighters, Antony's second question should be: given our limits on defence spending, would it not make better long-term sense to invest the MMRCA billions in enhancing our flimsy infrastructure for aeronautical development? Would wisdom not lie in accepting a 32-squadron air force for some years in order to develop ourselves as a comprehensive aeronautical engineering powerhouse? Beyond the lip service paid to indigenisation, the 2011-12 defence budget allocates a mere Rs 4,628 crore for the military's capital expenditure on R&D; while allocating Rs 27,322 crore for the capital purchase of aircraft and aero engines. The project to develop an Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), with custom-designed plug-ins to the IAF's command networks, has so far been allocated a paltry Rs 90 crore.

A $10 billion infusion would fund a world-class infrastructure base of academic and training institutions; facilities for fundamental research; the upgrading of our ancillary aerospace industrial base; the building of test ranges; and adequately-funded programmes to plug our capability gaps, especially in aircraft engines, radars and missiles. A decade down the line, with the AMCA reaching completion, India would never again look abroad for a medium fighter. With the evident success of the indigenous Tejas programme reinforced by the forthcoming experience of co-developing the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) with Russia, India's aircraft designers and manufacturers need to be supported with all the financial muscle that the MoD can muster.

Thirdly, Antony must consider the question of insurance. And he should ensure with his US counterpart that, if our security environment suddenly deteriorates 3-5 years down the road, the IAF would have access to a better combat aircraft than any of the MMRCA candidates. By then the 5th-generation US-built F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be entering operational service. Unlike the 4th-generation MMRCA contenders, the F-35 will remain a cutting-edge fighter for another four decades.

Like children running heedlessly towards a cliff, the MoD and the IAF seem deaf to all warnings, even to the multiple tales of woe emerging about the MMRCA contenders. In a report commissioned by the UK MoD ("Management of the Typhoon Project", released on 28 February, 2011) the British CAG points out that the Eurofighter Typhoon, which was conceived as an air-to-air fighter, will have full ground attack capability only by 2018. "Problems with spares availability" has meant that the Typhoon "has had to take parts from some of its Typhoon aircraft to make other aircraft available to fly". Despite that, the Typhoon has fallen 13 per cent short of its target in annual flying hours, permitting only limited training by RAF pilots. Between Nov 09 and Aug 10, just "15 per cent of pilots had sufficient training hours to perform tasks beyond air defence". The report says that it will take another five years for the situation to be remedied.

It says something about the IAF's attitude towards indigenisation that it takes careful cognisance of Indian CAG reports critical of homegrown systems like the Dhruv and the Tejas. But when it comes to a foreign aircraft, the criticism is not taken seriously.

It is this tolerance for foreign folly that has made India the world's largest arms importer, having bought a staggering 9 per cent of all weaponry sold internationally between 2006–10 (figures: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). Unwilling to back our own defence industry, the MoD seems comfortable with the idea of bailing out others. Earlier this month, Sweden's defence minister announced that, without an Indian or Brazilian order, his air force would not develop the new Gripen fighter till at least 2018. But, trailing his coattails before New Delhi, he declared that it could be done by 2013-14 if a foreign order came in.

It is not too late for Antony to pull the plug on the MMRCA. The cancellation of that tender will be infused with a hugely positive buzz if it is accompanied by a public declaration to invest significant funds into fast-tracking the AMCA project. This single step would galvanise India's aerospace sector, including the industrial eco-system that must underpin fighter development. For Antony, it would be a personal triumph, burnishing his nationalistic credentials and highlighting his emergence as a defence minister with the vision to end India's dependence on foreign arms purchases.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

SMALL CAN BE BOUNTIFUL

INTEGRATED FARMING SYSTEMS CAN HELP MARGINAL FARMERS INCREASE THEIR INCOME AND HEDGE RISKS OF CROP FAILURE

SURINDER SUD

Small and marginal farmers, who account for nearly 80 per cent of India's total farming community, manage to subsist largely by pursuing multi-enterprise production systems rather than relying only on crop farming or any other single commodity-based venture. They usually supplement crop cultivation with livestock rearing, fisheries, pig rearing, forestry and the like to meet their varied consumption needs and hedge risks of crop failure.

Most research and development programmes, on the other hand, are designed and mandated to promote single commodities, commodity groups or other farm activities, whether it is crops, livestock, poultry, fisheries, bee-keeping, plant nutrient management or crop protection. New technologies are, thus, passed on to farmers in a piecemeal manner rather than as a complete package that meets all their needs. This does not serve much purpose, especially for tiny land holders, because the gains from just one activity, even if sufficient for their livelihood, usually do not allow farmers to grow or expand.

 

The Project Directorate for Cropping Systems Research (PDCSR), a wing of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), located at Modipuram, near Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, is seeking to address this lacuna. It is working chiefly on identifying the best possible integrated farming systems that can help optimise returns from small farms in different parts of the country.

The need for farming systems research is felt because farmers do not generally choose the combination of enterprises by considering their symbiotic relationship with each other but because of local factors and available farm resources. These are, therefore, not always the most rewarding production systems. The research is aimed at conceiving farming systems that can harness complementarities and synergy between crop farming and supplementary farm activities. This helps maximise output with minimum costs.

The best example of this phenomenon is the traditional Chinese practice of building animal sheds over ponds so that animal waste falls directly into pond water to serve as feed for fish. This waste, coupled with fish excreta, enriches the pond water with plant nutrients, enhancing its value for irrigation.

"To have a systemic integration of different enterprises in a scientific manner, components need to be chosen in such a manner that the main product or by-product of one becomes the input for the other," says B Gangwar, director of the Project Directorate for Farming Systems Research. For best results, small farmers should begin with just two enterprises, like crops and livestock, and gradually add more activities as they go ahead. Where the second enterprise, along with crops, is concerned, experts suggest goats for hilly tracts, pigs for north-east, cows or buffaloes for plains, and fisheries, poultry, ducks and others for most parts of the country. Horticultural plants can be grown on farm boundaries to obtain some fruit for domestic consumption or sale. Activities like bee-keeping can help supplement income besides promoting fertilisation for crops to boost output.

A case study involving the integrated farming system on a small farm of 1.5 hectare, conducted by the PDCSR at Modipuram, has shown interesting results. In this initiative, about 0.72 hectare of the available land was put under crops, 0.32 hectare under dairying, 0.22 hectare under horticulture, 0.10 hectare under fisheries and the rest for miscellaneous needs. Vermiculture (multiplication of earthworms to serve as manure and a health tonic for soil) was also added to this enterprise. Fruiting trees, like bael, jackfruit, amla (Indian gooseberry) and jamun, were planted on the periphery. Besides bearing fruit, these trees served as wind breakers to protect crops against storms and squalls.

The inclusion of leguminous (nitrogen-fixing) crops, as also green manuring crops for incorporating into the soil, improves soil fertility and reduces the need for using costly fertilisers.

This model of integrated farming system generated an average annual income of Rs 46,660 in the first four years and an even higher income of Rs 77,930 from the fifth year onwards, besides providing grains, fodder, fruit and animal-based food products for domestic consumption and sale. Moreover, this system generated relatively higher and year-round employment, estimated to be around double the employment potential of normal farming. It, therefore, kept the family members of small farmers busy for most of the year, obviating the need for them to seek jobs elsewhere. This model can be replicated, with situation-specific modifications, elsewhere for the benefit of farmers.

surinder.sud@gmail.com  

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THE WIDE WORLD OF WOMEN WRITERS

NILANJANA S ROY

 

Never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your own. Above all be pure." That was Virginia Woolf, writing in 1932, decades before the Orange Prize for writing by women was instituted, on the insidious voice of what she called the Angel in the House — the figure of the always-sacrificing, always-charming woman who lived to serve the needs of those around her. As Woolf noted: "Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer."

 

 Over 16 years, the Orange has more than established its worth as a prize; as with previous longlists, it challenges the idea that women's writing is more circumscribed than the writing men produce. Here, looking at the longlisted books, is a brief summary of the kind of subject matter "suitable for women" these days. Woolf's Angel would, we hope, have fainted.

History: Carol Birch takes her protagonist back to 1857, from London to a ship bound for the Dutch East Indies, on a dragon-catching quest. Julie Orringer's brilliant take on European history recreates Budapest in 1937, just before World War II. Karen Russell creates a Florida alligator theme park, Swamplandia, threatened by the decline of a family of professional alligator wrestlers. Leila Aboulela spins a complex family story against the background of Sudan in the 1950s. Aminatta Forna sets her ambitious novel in a hospital in Freetown, where a civil war has left its scars. Joanna Kavenna shuttles between a Viennese mental asylum at the turn of the century, and a futuristic breeding centre for babies in Norway. And life under Pinochet's cruel regime in Chile comes together with memories of Europe under the Nazis in Nicole Kraus' epic novel.

Places: From New York and San Francisco to Africa, Jennifer Egan's telling of the erratic life of music mogul Bennie Salazar shuffles time like an expert poker player with a deck of cards. Emma Henderson creates a compelling story set in a mental asylum, where an epileptic brings Paris and the world alive for a troubled young girl; in Roma Tearne's novel, a tiny village in Suffolk becomes the place where a Sri Lankan refugee and a lonely poet will meet. Wendy Law-Yone takes us to the China-Burma border, where a frontier town attracts the desperate and those who have a life to remake. In Tea Obreht's tale of books and war, a woman finds escape and meaning in the Balkans via The Jungle Book and other tales. And in Emma Donoghue's Stunning Room, a young boy and his mother build some kind of life in the room where they are held captive by a psychopath.

Families, Lovers, Strangers: Tishani Doshi mines family history for a gentle rewriting of the standard three-generation family saga; Louise Doughty goes into dark territory with the story of a mother's grief and survival in the wake of the death of her nine-year-old daughter. Anne Peile explores a tangled family history, with a daughter's deeply damaged search for her missing father; Lola Shoneyin explores the life of the fourth wife of a Nigerian patriarch in a light, undemanding novel. Samantha Hunt tackles an unusual relationship between a war veteran and a young woman 13 years his junior; Kathleen Winter's unsettling novel has a boy who might be a girl as its central character. And in one of the few more conventional books on the longlist, Tessa Hadley uses an accidental meeting between a man and a woman in London as a way into exploring relationships and absent families.
  

Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Sudanese; 3rd novel

Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch (Canongate)

British; 10th novel

Room by Emma Donoghue (Picador) 

Irish; 7th novel

The Pleasure Seekers by Tishani Doshi (Bloomsbury)

Indian; 1st novel

Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty (Faber and Faber)

British; 6th novel

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Corsair)

American; 4th novel

The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (Bloomsbury) 

British/Sierra Leonean; 2nd novel

The London Train by Tessa Hadley (Jonathan Cape)

British; 4th novel

Grace Williams Says it Loud by Emma Henderson (Sceptre)

British; 1st novel

The Seas by Samantha Hunt (Corsair)

American; 1st novel

The Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna (Faber and Faber) 

British; 2nd novel

Great House by Nicole Krauss (Viking)

American; 3rd novel

The Road to Wanting by Wendy Law-Yone (Chatto & Windus)

American; 3rd novel

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Serbian/American; 1st novel

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (Viking)

American; 1st novel

Repeat it Today with Tears by Anne Peile (Serpent's Tail)

British; 1st novel

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (Chatto & Windus)

American; 1st novel

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin (Serpent's Tail) 

British/Nigerian; 1st novel

The Swimmer by Roma Tearne (Harper Press)

British; 4th novel

Annabel by Kathleen Winter (Jonathan Cape)

Canadian; 1st novel

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

NOT SO SCARY

AT 2.5% OF GDP, INDIA'S CURRENT ACCOUNT DEFICIT IS WELCOME, RATHER THAN ALARMING


The RBI's mid-quarter review of monetary policy contained one piece of reassuring news: India's current account deficit this year is likely to be 2.5% of GDP. This is lower, as a proportion of GDP, than the alarming 4.1% totted up in the second quarter of the current fiscal and the 3.7% registered for the first half of fiscal, leading to copious concern in the third quarter review of the monetary policy. The Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council estimated, in February, that the current account deficit is shrinking and likely to come down to 3% of GDP by the end of the fiscal year. Now, the central bank estimates that it would come down all the way to 2.5% of GDP. The sudden surge in oil prices, thanks to developments in Libya and Japan, could widen the deficit a little beyond this optimistic level, but the message is clear: policymakers no longer need to panic over this macroeconomic parameter. The current account deficit is equal to the gap between domestic investment and domestic saving, and, as such, represents how much of external savings has been absorbed into the Indian economy. For a developing country, it makes sense to absorb more goods and services than it produces, to enable a higher level of investment than is possible purely on the basis of domestic savings and, thereby, a higher level of growth. The crucial thing is the economy's ability to service the deficit and foreigners' confidence in that ability. If that confidence dries up, they would withdraw the financing that makes it possible for an economy to run up a current account deficit, and also take out such investments as can easily be withdrawn.


The major determinants of such external confidence are the size of the deficit in relation to GDP and the economy's presumed ability service the external capital that flows in to make a current account deficit possible. For India, the deficit had been well below 2% of GDP till 2008-09. Now, with the need to build adequate infrastructure to sustain growth increasingly finding reflection in enabling policy, it should be possible to absorb foreign savings to the tune of 3% of GDP without a fuss. That is the challenge before policy, not to curb the deficit.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

OBSOLETE PATRONAGE

RESERVATION POLITICS IGNORES THE REAL SITE OF SOCIAL POWER IN THE ERA OF GLOBALISATION

 

The Jat agitation for reservation of jobs under the Other Backward Classes quota again underscores the fact that the idea of affirmative action, or positive discrimination in favour of the downtrodden, has been subsumed by patronage politics in India. The reservation policy, in effect, has become a battleground with political parties casting the electorate as competing caste groups and these social groups, in turn, striving for ever more backwardness. Witness the fact that the latest Jat agitation rode on the heels of — and employed the same tactics as — the Gujjar stir for reservations in Rajasthan, which in turn, itself was a result of the Gujjars' feeling of being left out due to the Meenas garnering a bigger share of the quota pie in the state. This race to occupy the bottom of the social pyramid is a result of political parties using competitive identity politics, with some communities being wooed by promises of reservations and quotas and those that are not, feeling left out from state patronage and often resorting to violence in order to address the perceived imbalance. This quota-based patronage system has led to our polity being segregated along ever-sharpening caste lines. That such competition for government jobs continues even as social power in India rests increasingly with the ability to garner the opportunities thrown up by globalisation shows how illinformed and ill-conceived our politics continues to be. Parties must retool their politics and not just economic policies in the era of globalised growth.
While this time the Jat agitation affected life more in Haryana and UP, their demand, being already granted in UP and Rajasthan, is for reservation to be extended to the central services. But the continuing tussle between social groups in various states is an example of how polarising such identity management politics can be. That practice, of course, has been in vogue with most political parties across India. And until that basic idea of political power meaning playing communities off against one another changes, the idea of reservations as a major tool of empowerment will continue to be perverted.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BLOOMING CREATIVITY

INDIAN POLITICIANS' AMAZING TACTICS TO BEAT OFFICIAL CAPS ON POLL EXPENDITURE


Louis Scala of New York sold ice cream to children from his 'Lickity Split' truck. Policemen who arrested him recently say that he also sold illegal prescription drugs from the same truck. If the charges stick, Scala will emerge as the leader of a 30-people gang that procured, distributed and sold oxycodone, some of which allegedly went for as much as $20 per pill, with sales totaling $1 million in a year. But Scala has been caught, which shows that there were flaws in planning and execution. He should have taken lessons from the people who fund and distribute campaign finance in India. Before this summer's election, thousands of people are productively engaged in finding ever more ingenious ways to dodge government-imposed caps on poll spending. And despite the best efforts of sleuths from the election watchdog, they're succeeding in reaching cash and other goodies to those who need it the most: candidates and voters in the five states across India that go to polls in April-May. The law prohibits bribing voters with booze, which nevertheless finds its way to the right people, carried in bulk in water and milk tanker trailers. The last mile is often done sloshing in the inner tubes of tyres. You're a suspect if you're caught carrying large amounts of cash before elections, but who'd even bother to open an ambulance to check for wads of currency notes? Invited to a feast in a poll bound state? Don't forget to look under your banana leaf thali for that little envelope of cash. The newspaper delivery boy doesn't just deliver the day's news, he brings saris and dhotis from candidates as well. Who said it's only about money? For such spectacular displays of creativity, we have two great Indian institutions to thank: the gaudy election carnival and j u g a a d, the improvisation trick.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

FISCAL BOOST TO MONETARY GOALS

THE BUDGET ATTEMPTS TO MARRY MONETARY AND FISCAL POLICYMAKING TO BRIDGE THE SUPPLY-DEMAND GAP

 

In one of his numerous customary post-Budget television interviews, Chief Economic Advisor Kaushik Basu observed somewhat animatedly that he had noticed The Economist's data sheet forecasting the same GDP growth number for China and India. This is unprecedented. But, there's something else about this Budget that seems to have escaped the gimlet gaze of many economic observers — there seemingly appears to be convergence between the economic objectives enunciated by Reserve Bank of India over the past few months and some policy measures announced by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee. While it is not yet known whether this is part of a grand design or just a happy happenstance, it is nevertheless an interesting attempt to harmonise monetary and fiscal policymaking.


The Reserve Bank and its various governors have used every opportunity to point out that inflation and inflationary expectations are the biggest problems faced by the economy and that, if not tackled aggressively, it might even impact economic growth. The central bank has also stated that the problem emanates from both the demand and supply sides. While the RBI governor has tried to tamp down demand with seven successive interest rate increases, two problems still remain.


One, on the demand side, despite the RBI's dampening efforts, the government has been accused of following a pro-cyclical policy of stoking demand. Second, there is the old complaint about a frail supply side which has traditionally lubricated price rise. And, as the old crib goes, if this is not tackled forthwith, the RBI's arsenal of monetary measures can have only a limited impact. This will lead to inflation becoming well-entrenched in the economy, which could have disastrous consequences.


So, how has the finance minister addressed both demand and supply side concerns of the central bank? Going by the measures announced, two distinct strategic strands seem to emerge from the Budget — encouraging investment in infrastructure and industry, and disciplining consumption demand for certain category of goods. Only one crucial piece seems to be missing from the big picture: promoting longterm savings.
Let's start with the old supplyside grumble. It is common knowledge that lack of investment in infrastructure afflicts the supply side. Inefficiencies in production, collection and distribution of goods — particularly foodgrains and other food items — are known to double (and sometimes treble) prices of basic goods. In addition, with GDP growth returning to 8% and above, the need to increase capacities is being direly felt across industry.


Therefore, the Budget has tried to further liberalise investments in infrastructure, particularly food infrastructure. Infrastructure has been allocated . 2,14,000 crore, a 23.3% increase over last year's Budget estimates. The Deepak Parekh committee's recommendation on infrastructure debt funds seems to have been heeded – withholding tax on interest income from such debt funds has been cut to 5% against the current 20%. The limit for FIIs' investment in infrastructure has been raised to $25 billion from the current $5 billion.
There is a heap of investments promised for the agricultural sector as well — while . 7,860 crore has been allocated for unplugging bottlenecks in horticulture, milk and poultry sector, another . 2,200 crore has been set aside for investment to boost production of certain crops (rice, pulses, oilseeds, nutri-cereals) and improvement of the overall agricultural ecosystem. This is in addition to the reinforced interest rate subvention scheme and the enhanced flow of credit to the agriculture sector.


    Some measures have also been taken to augment capacity in industry — like the tax break offered to new investments in fertiliser industry.

The second critical leg is an attempt to curtail consumption of certain goods through the instrument of taxation. In customs duty, the levies seem to have gone up, or introduced, on imports of personal computers and all its parts, aircraft, automobile engines and other pre-assembled machinery imported by manufacturers. The punitive blow is more pronounced in excise, where through small and unnoticeable measures, the Budget attempts to raise prices of a large number of goods that form part of the middle class consumption basket. For instance, drugs, medical equipment, sugar confectionery, textile intermediates and goods will see excise duty going up from 4% to 5%. An excise duty of 1% is being imposed on about 130 specified items (such as, coffee, ketchup, soups, food mixes, flavoured milk, etc), a mandatory 10% excise duty on branded garments and textile made-ups, introduction of 5% excise on a host of parts that go into the manufacture of a PC/laptop. Simultaneously, cash transfers and enhanced outlays for agriculture are likely to keep rural consumption at elevated levels.
From the evidence so far, three conclusions can be made. One, if there is at all an overarching design to this Budget, it assumes that the targeted duty action will indeed result in diminishing consumption demand. Two, the Budget doesn't offer much for increasing savings in the economy to meet the planned spurt of investment activity, except to continue with the additional deduction of . 20,000 on investments in long-term infrastructure bonds. Instead, it seems to depend a lot on foreign investments. The Economic Survey for 2010-11 seems content with the 33.7% savings rate and the 36.5% investment rate recorded for 2009-10. Finally, the Budget has tried to walk the fine line between politics and economics by assuming that some of the macro-variables will not deviate from the Budget estimates. That makes Budget 2011-12 sound like a big bet.

 

RAJRISHI SINGHAL

HEAD – POLICY & RESEARCH, DHANLAXMI BANK

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

FINANSTREET

GET REAL ON BANK LICENCES

MYTHILI BHUSNURMATH


The suspense over new banking licences will soon be over. With finance minister Pranab Mukherjee announcing that the RBI is planning to issue the guidelines for new banking licences before the close of this financial year, presumably, it is only a matter of days before the RBI comes out with its final guidelines. It has already issued two draft papers inviting comments; so, the motions have been gone through and according to news reports, the final version has gone to the finance ministry for vetting. Ostensibly, new bank licences are needed to ensure competition and promote financial inclusion. The FM, in his Budget speech last year, was emphatic on that score. "We need to ensure that the banking system grows in size and sophistication to meet the needs of a modern economy. Besides, there is a need to extend the geographic coverage of banks and improve access to banking services."


RBI's discussion paper on entry of new banks echoes this view. "It is generally accepted that greater financial system depth, stability and soundness contribute to economic growth. But beyond that, for growth to be inclusive requires broadening and deepening the reach of banking. A wider distribution and access of financial services helps consumers and producers raise their welfare and productivity." The only difference between the FM and the RBI's position seems to be one of emphasis. While the FM seems to regard the need for new bank licences as driven equally by the need for more sophisticated (?) banking services and financial inclusion, the RBI seems inclined to view it more as a means of ensuring greater financial inclusion. RBI governor D Subbarao is on record that financial inclusion will be one of the main criteria on which licences will be given. Either way, access to sophisticated banking and financial inclusion are the main drivers for issue of new bank licences.


Take them one by one. First, the FM's concern that we need to have banking services that 'meet the needs of a modern economy'. As on March 31, 2009, we had 27 public sector banks, seven new private sector banks, 15 old private sector banks, 31 foreign banks, 86 regional rural banks (RRBs), four local area banks (LABs), 1,721 urban cooperative banks, 31 state cooperative banks and 371 district central cooperative banks.
So, we certainly don't lack numbers! And nor, it would seem, do we lack modern banking services, given that virtually every major foreign bank in the world has a presence in India. Hence, access to sophisticated banking products is not for want of sophisticated players. They are already here.


What about financial inclusion? Here the position is less encouraging. Less than 50% of Indians have access to formal banking. Today more Indians have a mobile telephone than a bank account! If you allow for the fact that many Indians in metropolitan and urban areas have more than one bank account, the picture becomes even more disturbing with rural and semi-urban areas vastly under-banked. The far more pressing case for issuing more bank licences, therefore, is to remedy this imbalance and promote financial inclusion.


Will new banks do that? If yes, the case rests and there is nothing more to be said. We must licence more banks.

 

If not, there is no case for new bank licences; at least, not on the grounds of financial inclusion.
So, let's go back to the mid-1990s when 10 new banks were set up in the private sector (two more came up after the revised guidelines of 2001), ostensibly for the same reasons bandied about today — to promote competition and increase coverage. However, not all survived, leaving a total of seven new private sector banks on date.
Seven out of 12 is not bad but it is not a score card that bolsters the case for new bank licences, especially in the light of what the 2008 crisis has taught us of the serious systemic consequences of bank failure. But we could still overlook that if the larger cause of greater coverage were served. Has it?

No. Data shows new private sector banks had only 6.5% of their branches in rural areas as on March 2010. In contrast, nationalised banks had 31.6% of their branches in rural areas while State Bank of India had 32.7%. Meanwhile, the share of rural deposits and advances has come down from 10.8% in March 2006 to 9.2% in March 2010 and 8.4% to 7.5% over the same period.


Therefore, whatever else the reason for issuing new bank licences, financial inclusion cannot be one. Neither can access to state-of-art banking products. So, what can? Corporate lobbying? Perhaps! But that does not mean the sector should be closed to entry. Rather that the fit-andproper test must remain the only yardstick and the RBI the only arbiter of that.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

PILOT LICENCES NEED OUTSIDE AUDIT

 

It is a good thing that the issue of pilots flying with forged commercial licences has come to the fore and the government is forced to sit up and take notice. But merely scrutinising the licences of over 10,000 commercial pilots, as stated by the aviation regulator, the directorate-general of civil aviation, will not stem the rot that has percolated into the system. The DGCA is the only licensing authority and there has to be a scrutiny of how this body issued licences to these pilots with fake documents. It means someone lower down in the DGCA has been circumventing the rules. And nepotism soon follows bending of the rules. It is well known in airline circles that licences can be procured for pilots by middlemen in collusion with a section in the DGCA at a cost that ranges from Rs 10 lakhs to Rs 25 lakhs. The excuse that the shortage of pilots to meet the requirements of the burgeoning airline industry led to this situation does not hold water as this situation has existed for at least 10 years, if not more. The Federation of Indian Pilots had reportedly written to the DGCA over 10 years ago about the issue of substandard pilots and how only aviation professionals should examine pilots. The DGCA is reported to have written back asking for a bank of questions that could be asked! They were given a letter and CD with the type of questions that are to be asked by the examiners. Even a trust run by a corporate house that gives scholarships to pilots wanting to go abroad had brought to the attention of the DGCA the substandard quality of pilots applying for scholarships. They are also said to have brought this to the notice of the authorities at the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Udyan Akademi. Now that the DGCA is on a rescue operation and is to scrutinise the licences of 10,000 pilots, it is imperative that they get an outside audit to scrutinise the licences, otherwise it will be just another hoax on the flying public. The outside auditors will have to be subjected to a thorough orientation programme, before undertaking the audit, with, say, the Civil Aviation Authority of the UK, which is a model of civil aviation practices, or the Federal Aviation Authority of the US. The idea is to find a method whereby fraud can be detected. There is no point getting some of the four or five big consultants to do the job as they would be as clueless as the DGCA bosses. The DGCA and the government of India have to realise that it is the lives of millions of passengers that they are playing with. The root cause of the rot is the fact that the DGCA is headed by a non-aviation professional. This has been the situation for the last several years. These non-aviation professionals are clueless about what is happening below them. The first DGCA appointed after independence was an aviation and aeronautics professional, and the last professional was Capt. H.S. Kolah. After that there have been IAS officers, generalists, heading the DGCA. There is also no control over institutes claiming to train pilots; many don't even have aircraft to enable pilots to rack up the necessary 50 flying hours, which is one of the conditions for getting a licence. These institutes have tie-ups with institutes in the Philippines and Malaysia where these pilots would go and get their certificates. In fact, almost all the institutes that started during the 2007-08 boom have closed down as none of their students could be recruited.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

BLOOD IN BRAHMAPUTRA

 

With the recent killing of 24 "Indians" by militants of the separatist National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) in the Bongaigaon and Darrang districts of Upper Assam, the organisation declared the entire north bank region of the Brahmaputra as the territory of a separate Bodoland. It asked all non-Bodos to vacate the area. The killings were a show of force in a proclaimed policy of "20 for one", i.e. kill 20 "Indians" regardless of age or gender in reprisal for any Bodo killed during internal security operations. The victims were mainly Hindi speakers from Bihar, besides some local Bengalis and Assamese. In another incident, the NDFB militants ambushed a patrol vehicle of the Border Security Guards in a forest area in Assam's Kokrajhar district, and killed three jawans. It is unfortunate that such outrages in the Northeast pass almost unnoticed in Parliament as also in the rest of the country. This is symbolic of the chronic disinterest and apathy towards the region. The NDFB is merely one of the numerous and disparate ethnic and sub-ethnic groups that have proliferated in the Northeast over a period of time. These groups have a common but far-fetched agenda, i.e. a "sovereign homeland" for each tribe or even sub-tribe to safeguard against a perceived threat to their ethnic identities, which they apprehend would otherwise be submerged in the larger societies of what is regarded here as "Greater India". The Government of India has made efforts to periodically initiate talks with the main and faction groups, while simultaneously maintaining a calibrated and low key pressure through security forces and intelligence agencies. This has made some intermittent progress but at a glacial pace. Sections within all major militant groups, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isaac Swu Muivah (NSCN-IM) in Nagaland, the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) and the NDFB in Assam, are in the process of engaging with the government. However, no single militant group from the most affected state of Manipur has so far chosen to do so. A wary and armed stalemate prevails between the militants and the government, as well as amongst the militant factions themselves, interspersed with sudden incidents of homicidal violence either against the government or against each other. Talks progress with jerks, with the militant factions sizing up the Government of India as a common opponent who cannot be defeated militarily, while attempting to eliminate rival groups in savage internecine killings. In many ways, this is the way it should be as talks are the only way forward, especially as the government has gradually assumed a position of relative strength. Most of the Northeast militant groups (again, except those from Manipur) have split into pro- and anti-talk factions. Those who support talks are tired of the hard life in jungles and are under constant pressure from the government forces. They are looking for an honourable compromise (an important factor in any arrangement). Those who oppose talks, comprising hard line ideologues, refuse to compromise on their demands for independence and are now operating in murderous groups of mad dog. The neighbouring countries of Bhutan and Bangladesh are attempting to bar their gates and insulate their own territories from any backflow from north-eastern India. The Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) had earlier launched active offensive operations to purge the Indo-Bhutan border areas of the Ulfa and Bodo insurgent groups who had intruded into sovereign territory of the Dragon Kingdom, to establish camps and training bases. Bangladesh had a large and active Pakistani and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) presence during the earlier Balochistan National Party (BNP) government of Begum Khaleda Zia. It has actively commenced uprooting the large numbers of anti-Indian Ulfa and NDFB elements who had hitherto been accorded sanctuary within the country with government support and sponsorship. As a result, the Ulfa's active leadership has been decimated by capture or surrender to Indian security forces. But the surviving groups continue to sustain their violent intent, most recently demonstrated by a major explosion at the headquarters of the Congress Party in Guwahati. The attack was engineered by cadres of the extremist faction of the Ulfa owing allegiance to Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua, and operating under instructions of Hira Sarania, commander of Ulfa's "709 Battalion". But new doors are opening. The militant militias in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura, are all "looking East" for sanctuary and transit facilities, towards the vast and poorly policed region of mountain and jungle in northern and western Burma. Here the presence of the Burmese government is extremely tenuous and on its own side of the border the presence of Indian government is not too surefooted either. Media reports, unconfirmed but in fairly plausible detail, indicate a growing interaction between representatives of China's overarching intelligence and security apparatus, the Bureau of State Security, and Anthony Shimray, hardcore ideologue and commander of the NSCN-IM. The latter is reportedly being advised to renew attention on organising the various insurgent organisations in the Northeast under an umbrella organisation to renew activities against the Indian government. There are similar reports of contacts developing between the essentially adivasi cadres of the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML) from the red corridor region in the Indian heartland, and their ethnic counterparts in the Adivasi Peoples' Army in the Sonitpur, Udalguri and Kokrajhar districts of Assam, raised with support from Ulfa. There are also reports of contacts between Ulfa and other north-eastern groups with the CPI(ML) for supply of weapons channelled through Burma and Bangladesh. None of these augur well for the country in the long run. Meanwhile, transfixed in open mouthed fascination at the parade of amazing scams passing in review order across the national stage, while simultaneously distracted by the violent upheavals in the Arab world, public gaze in the country has no time to look back over its shoulder at India's own forgotten backyard — the Northeast. Is there something stirring in the darkness out there? * Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former Member of Parliament


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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

LIBYA: A VERY LIBERAL INTERVENTION

 

In its month-long crab walk towards a military confrontation with Libya's Colonel Muammar el-Gaddafi, the Obama administration has delivered a clinic in the liberal way of war. Just a week ago, as the tide began to turn against the anti-Gaddafi rebellion, US President Barack Obama seemed determined to keep the United States out of Libya's civil strife. But it turns out the President was willing to commit America to intervention all along. He just wanted to make sure we were doing it in the most multilateral, least cowboyish fashion imaginable. That much his administration has achieved. In its opening phase, at least, our war in Libya looks like the beau ideal of a liberal internationalist intervention. It was blessed by the United Nations Security Council. It was endorsed by the Arab League. It was pushed by the diplomats at Hillary Clinton's state department, rather than the military men at Robert Gates' Pentagon. Its humanitarian purpose is much clearer than its connection to American national security. And it was initiated not by the US Marines or the Air Force, but by the fighter jets of the French Republic. This is an intervention straight from Bill Clinton's 1990s playbook, in other words, and a stark departure from the Bush administration's more unilateralist methods. There are no "coalitions of the willing" here, no dismissive references to "old Europe", no "you are with us or you are with the terrorists". Instead, the Obama White House has shown exquisite deference to the very international institutions and foreign governments that the Bush administration either steamrolled or ignored. This way of war has obvious advantages. It spreads the burden of military action, sustains rather than weakens our alliances, and takes the edge off the world's instinctive anti-Americanism. Best of all, it encourages the European powers to shoulder their share of responsibility for maintaining global order, instead of just carping at the United States from the sidelines. But there are major problems with this approach to war as well. Because liberal wars depend on constant consensus-building within the (so-called) international community, they tend to be fought by committee, at a glacial pace, and with a caution that shades into tactical incompetence. And because their connection to the national interest is often tangential at best, they're often fought with one hand behind our back and an eye on the exits, rather than with the full commitment that victory can require. These problems dogged American foreign policy throughout the 1990s, the previous high tide of liberal interventionism. In Somalia, the public soured on our humanitarian mission as soon as it became clear that we would be taking casualties as well as dispensing relief supplies. In the former Yugoslavia, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) imposed a no-flight zone in 1993, but it took two years of hapless peacekeeping and diplomatic wrangling, during which the war proceeded unabated, before American air strikes finally paved the way for a negotiated peace. Our 1999 intervention in Kosovo offers an even starker cautionary tale. The Nato bombing campaign helped topple Slobodan Milosevic and midwifed an independent Kosovo. But by raising the stakes for both Milosevic and his Kosovo Liberation Army foes, the West's intervention probably inspired more bloodletting and ethnic cleansing in the short term, exacerbating the very humanitarian crisis it was intended to forestall. The same kind of difficulties are already bedevilling our Libyan war. Our coalition's aims are uncertain: President Obama is rhetorically committed to the idea that Col. Gaddafi needs to go, but Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, allowed on March 20 that the dictator might ultimately remain in power. Our means are constrained: the UN resolution we're enforcing explicitly rules out ground forces, and President Obama has repeatedly done so as well. And some of America's supposed partners don't seem to have the stomach for a fight: It took about 24 hours for Amr Moussa, recent leader of the Arab League, to suggest that the organisation's endorsement of a no-flight zone didn't cover bombing missions. And the time it took to build a multilateral coalition enabled Col. Gaddafi to consolidate his position on the ground, to the point where any cease-fire would leave him in control of most of the country. Hence Admiral Mullen's admission that our efforts could end in a stalemate, leaving the Libyan dictator entrenched. The ultimate hope of liberal warfare is to fight as virtuously as possible, and with the minimum of risk. But war and moralism are uneasy bedfellows, and "low risk" conflicts often turn out to be anything but. By committing America to the perils of yet another military intervention, Mr Obama has staked an awful lot on the hope that our Libyan adventure will prove an exception to this rule.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

DO BIGHA ZAMEEN, 2011

 

John Stuart Mill wrote 160 years ago that "land differs from other elements of production, labour and capital in not being susceptible to infinite increase. Its extent is limited and the extent of the more productive kinds of it more limited still. It is also evident that the quantity of produce capable of being raised on any given piece of land is not indefinite. These limited quantities of land, and limited productiveness of it, are the real limits to the increase of production". This is true for India today. Due to increasing demands for land from the non-agriculture sector and rapid urbanisation, large chunks of prime agriculture land are being diverted for non-agricultural purposes. Over the years, agricultural production has declined and the food crisis has been on the rise. Due to a decrease in agricultural production in India, import of food materials has shot up, causing a trade imbalance. State governments, without prudent thought on agricultural production, are handing over fertile land to real estate developers, industrialists etc. In Kashmir, for example, it is estimated that at least 10,000 hectares (2 lakh kanals) of agricultural land have been converted to or used for non-agricultural purposes in the past two decades. In Bihar, the Bihar Agricultural Land Conversion for Non-agricultural Use Rules, 2010, was implemented by the state government last year. According to the new rules, agricultural land can now be bought and put to industrial use through a conversion fee that will earn extra revenues for the government. In a state with a thick concentration of rural population, where land for non-agricultural purposes is not easy to find, the new rule may provide much-awaited relief to industrialists and investors planning to enter Bihar because farmlands would be easily available to them, and that too with the consent of the state government. In Uttar Pradesh, approximately 31.4 per cent of fertile land has been diverted to non-agricultural uses when approximately 30 per cent of the state's income comes from agriculture. The state of Maharashtra has lost more than 10 lakh acres out of its 44 lakh acres of fertile land under agricultural use to non-agricultural use in the last decade. Fertile agriculture land has been converted into real estate developments, and more and more farmers are shifting to other vocations that offer them regular and better remuneration. Take the case of Chhattisgarh where 80 per cent of the population depends on agriculture. The state government's Vision 2010 document, which borrowed heavily from earlier advice from PricewaterhouseCoopers, states: "The existing rules prevent the diversion of agricultural land for industrial use. The state would simplify the procedures of diverting land from agricultural to industrial use". To achieve this, the state proposes that agriculture should be left to 30 per cent of farmers who at present control 70 per cent of agriculture land. Not just industrialisation, agriculture land is also being gobbled up in the name of infrastructure development at an unprecedented rate, as in the case of the World Bank-funded Allahabad bypass project which led to acquisition of 781 hectares of prime crop land. Similarly, the Orissa government acquired more than 5,100 hectares of land in Kalinganagar between 1990 and 1996 to set up an industrial complex. It is possible that acquiring or buying more agricultural land than what is required is to fuel real estate speculation. The real estate sector is flourishing at a rate of 35 to 38 per cent annually. The National Commission on Farmers, under the chairmanship of Dr M.S. Swaminathan, in its final report in October 2006, "Serving Farmers and Saving Farming", has observed that "prime farmland must be conserved for agriculture and should not be diverted for non-agricultural purposes and for programmes like special economic zones". Conversion of agricultural land for industrial and business purposes is a serious threat to the livelihood of the majority of the Indian population. More than 60 per cent of the country's population depends on agriculture even though the share of agriculture in GDP has sharply declined. Due to the decrease in agricultural production, prices of food materials have been shooting up daily. People living below the poverty line are finding it difficult to survive. Half of the world's hungry live in India. To produce additional food grain to feed this population will require an additional 170 lakh hectares. Besides, malnourishment prevails among 45 per cent of India's children. Pulses and fats can help overcome this hidden hunger — but, to achieve self-sufficiency in pulses and edible oils, an additional 200 lakh hectares is required. Where will this land come from? Forget agricultural land, there isn't enough cultivable wasteland available to meet this requirement. In rural India, conversion of agricultural land for the construction of hotels, shopping malls etc is on the rise. If such conversion of fertile land continues, there will be a considerable decline in agriculture production, causing an imbalance in the economy. As arable land gets reduced, more and more farmer will be forced to look for alternative sources of income and employment, thus casting more pressure on prices. According to the Quality Council of India (QCI), an autonomous non-profit oraganisation set up by the Government of India and the three arms of Indian industry (Ficci, CII and Assocham), India's arable land totals to 1,620,388 sq. km. The QCI believes that India has huge potential in the agrarian sector and can dominate the international market. But selling off rich agricultural land for the sake of urban development will only close the doors of opportunity. India has a total land area of 2,973,200 sq km, of which around 27 per cent is barren land. It is unfortunate that despite over 177 lakh hectares of barren land lying unused, a scarce resource like rich agriculture land is being poached upon to promote industrialisation. Instead of self-reliance, the focus has now irreversibly shifted to importing food to feed the burgeoning population. I am not against development but am concerned about the wastage of fertile lands in the name of development. The ongoing trend is that 200 or 500 acres of land is allotted even though the requirement is only 100 acres. As per government data, cultivable land has marginally decreased from 182.74 million hectares in 2005-06 to 182.38 million hectares in 2008-09 across the country, which means around 36 lakh hectares of land has been converted for non-agricultural purposes. Also, the Central government has stated that as per the Constitution of India, land falls under the purview of state governments and so it is for the state government to bring in suitable policy/legislation to check the use of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes. But the Central government can also bring in a federal law that would restrict the conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes. India desperately needs an Agriculture Land Conservation Act to protect its farmers and farmland. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had formed a department exclusively for waste land development. The need for such an initiative has arisen again. In my view, non-agricultural activities should be strictly restricted to barren lands and agricultural land should be protected at any cost. * Rajeev Shukla, a member of Parliament, is vice-president of the BCCI

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

BAT AND FIELD FOR GOD

 

"Does the Bible say anything about cricket?" asked a teacher of her Sunday school kids. Little Vijay cried, "Yes!" Curious, the teacher continued, "And, what exactly does it say?" Without batting an eyelid he replied, "Peter stood before the 11 and was bold". Appointed headman by Jesus, Saint Peter was bold in proclaiming his beliefs not only to his 11 colleagues, but to all people. Today, religion calls for boldness in words and works, although there's likelihood of bhakts (devotees) sometimes being stumped, if not clean bowled. "Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks from you an account for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence", advises Peter in his First Letter (3:15), suggesting that we bat and field for God. Batting and fielding implies guarding against brickbats and fielding the volley of questions about God, life, death and afterlife, fully aware that one is dealing with boundary issues known fully only to God. Instead of batting for God, people often battle for God. God's bats(wo)men are pilgrims; God-battlers, fanatics. God-battles rage because the fanatics' think God is weak and must be defended by bullets and bloodshed. But, those who bat for God realise that their field of belief is limited, since, although religion connects one with the Infinite, its beliefs and rituals are imperfect as they're expressed and executed by humans. In faith expressions, therefore, there are differences among religions, just as bowling a maiden over is meritorious on a cricket pitch, not really in a bowling alley. Peter's advice to provide answers "with gentleness and reverence" is vital. Interfaith dialogue requires great prudence and respect. In cricket, would a crafty captain make gameplans by imagining his best players playing against the worst of the opponents? Wouldn't he be shrewder if he planned strategies by imagining his weakest players pitted against the opposition's best? Sadly, fanatics naively compare the best of their religion with the worst of the other's religion to pooh-pooh another's faith. "If cricket is religion, Sachin is God", screamed a cricket buff's poster recently. Arguably, with prayers propping players at crunch clashes, cricket is quasi-religion in the Indian subcontinent. Personally, I'm sceptical about God's will wilting to the willow. Nonetheless, seeing the Little Master Sachin crossing boundary after boundary, gazing upward with eyes closed, in gratitude for partnerships with the Great Master, God, gives me glimpses of the Eternal. One gets glimpses of eternity in Test matches plodding on for five days. But, in T20 or in the current 50-50 ICC World Cup, there's excitement right from the toss. While you might wisely play backfoot cricket in Tests, you'd better go forward and take risks in the limited versions from the moment you're tossed in. Boundaries of beliefs understandably divide believers. But, pitching in concertedly for dharmic duties unfailing unites all God's fielders and bats(wo)men. Surely, Sachin's kar seva of supporting social causes like the struggle against cancer among children, and Steve Waugh's selfless support for Kolkata's kids suffering from leprosy are innings that will be remembered long after the accolades of admiring fans fade away. Batting for God brings both, bouquets and brickbats. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King took stands, were bold and braved bullets. Believers do well by offering their bouquets to God and braving brickbats as price to be paid for being bold. Remember, those who cheer or jeer from sidelines are mere spectators, not the players. Continue fielding and batting for God, praying: "Victory comes from you, O God; bless your people!" (Psalm 3:8) — Francis Gonsalves is the principal of the Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi. He is involved in interfaith dialogue and peoples' initiatives for fostering justice, harmony and peace. He can be contacted at fragons@gmail.com

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

MINORITY INTERESTS

 

It may not be an exaggeration to postulate that normally reforms in India generate counter reactions. And when it comes to any pro-minority, more particularly pro-Muslim reform, the reaction is more pronounced and conspicuous. It is in this perspective that the ongoing discourses on the issue of Jamia Millia Islamia's "Muslim minority institution" status, needs to be viewed. The Jamia, needless to iterate, was established by prominent Muslim leaders of the anti-colonial movement with the blessings and support of the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, who, it is understood, had actually mooted the idea while he was in Vijayawada in the early 1920s. Personifying the all-inclusive secular characteristics of the national movement, the Jamia moved from Aligarh to Delhi and gradually sprouted to blossom into a distinct seat of higher learning. Its legacy as a lusty offspring of the freedom struggle brought her unflinching support from the Congress leadership. It was mainly because of the benevolent gesture of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who unhesitatingly conceded to the request of the ailing Begum Zakir Hussain to see that Zakir Sahib's dream of making Jamia a Central university was realised and that the Jamia Millia Islamia Act, 1988, saw the light of day. Of course, not without undaunted support from Atal Behari Vajpayee. Although a section of the community clamoured for incorporating the minority status in the act itself, nevertheless, visionaries like Khurshid Alam Khan, who had a key role in shaping the act to preserve Jamia's ethos, saw a better fortune for the community in India's pluralistic fabric and Congress' secular vortex. Unfortunately, the bizarre events of 1992 virtually shattered the community. The climate of sectarianism and communal frenzy that ensued led to a siege situation and fear psychosis. Frequent incidents of targeting innocent Muslim youth as terrorists, be it in Ajmer Dargah or Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid, branding them as Pakistani agents and their encounter killings generated a feeling of alienation, precipitating an identity crisis. The Sachar Committee, appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was a high-level committee constituted to prepare a report on the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community of India. The Sachar Committee's revelations, endorsing the worst educational plight of the Muslims, and the Ranganath Mishra Commission Report, emphasising the dire need for affirmative action, gravely sensitised and alerted the community. Questions like the percentage of Muslim representation in legislatures, employment and education sectors started haunting the Muslim mind. A cursory look at the number of Muslim students in Delhi University or any other university will be highly demoralising. The situation is no better even in the most progressive universities such as the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) where the curve of Muslim admissions has been on a steady decline since 1969. Muslim students are virtually nil in the Banaras Hindu University in comparison to non-Muslim counterparts in Jamia or even the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). While Gujjars and Jats are on the streets articulating grievances, want of an organisational structure coupled with the prevalent circumstances deterred Muslims from raising their voice. In this climate of scepticism, the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions' judgment declaring Jamia as a Muslim minority institution came as a heavenly gift for its majority segment. Now, it needs to be seen how long these jubilations will sustain in our "tolerant" society, particularly in view of the experiences of AMU and the fate of four per cent reservation for Muslims in Andhra Pradesh. Academic standards and quality are not constant attributes and neither are they the monopoly of specific institutions. Allahabad and Madras universities, once rated high, are no more the same. The same may be true of JNU. Curiously, none of these institutions have altered or lost their original character. Moonis Raza, educationist and freedom fighter, declined to be the vice-chancellor of Jamia in the 1980s as he perceived Jamia to be a "14th century institution". Ironically, the same "14th century institution" successfully established a post-modern 21st century Mass Communication Research Centre that continues to be unparalleled in the country. Jamia's faculty of education and rural institute enjoyed a distinct reputation even before Jamia was declared a "deem to be university". Every educational institution excels in one or the other field, irrespective of the tag it bears, and Jamia is a glaring example. The mere prefix "Muslim minority" cannot become the cause to "ghettoise" Jamia, as long as it adheres to its historic values of democracy, secularism, pluralism and transparency in administration. True to its traditions, Jamia has attracted talent from across communities and a large proportion of its faculty is drawn from JNU alumnae. For many scholars, diplomats and bureaucrats, Jamia has been a launching pad for lucrative assignments. In fact, Jamia is the only Central university where SC/ST reservations, both in recruitments and admissions, have been honestly implemented. As a matter of fact, in its functional terms, Jamia is already a Muslim minority institution with more than 50 per cent Muslim students and a Muslim as its vice-chancellor. If this composition could efficiently herald Jamia on the threshold of academic excellence, how does the minority tag alter its practical dynamics except to legitimise the claim of the community on the institution? The ghettoisation logic will never catch popular imagination as long as Jamia is in the National Capital Region. The Muslim minority situation warrants positive discrimination, more so in the education sector. Governments in the Indian federation are sensitive to the reality, be it the Congress in Andhra Pradesh or the Communists in West Bengal. The minority status to Jamia is perhaps a beginning in the right direction which is bound to benefit at least a miniscule section of the weaker Muslim segment of north India to carve a professional career in the fields of engineering, dentistry, communications, law, education and bio-technology. * Mujtaba Khan is a professor at Centre for Dalit & Minorities Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, NewDelhi

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

LAST RED BASTION

KERALA LDF KEEPS FLAG FLYING


LIKE the historical blunder the CPI-M leadership committed 15 years ago by denying permission to Jyoti Basu to take up Prime Ministership, the Kerala unit of the party nearly allowed a historical opportunity to get re-elected to power in the 13 April polls because of the uncompromising fight against corruption and moral turpitude in high places by Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan.  Better sense prevailed on the party's state secretariat when protest meetings and rallies were held across the state by workers incensed by the denial of nomination to the Chief Minister. Rescinding its earlier decision belatedly, the secretariat allotted the Malampuzha seat in Palakkad district held by him. According to voting tradition in Kerala, power is rotated between the CPM-led Left Democratic Front and the Congress-led United Democratic Front every five years. It is the turn of the UDF to be voted to power in the upcoming election. This being the season of corruption in the Congress and with sex scandals dogging the Muslim League, senior partner in the UDF, it is an opportune time for the LDF to break the tradition and win a second consecutive term. R Balakrishna Pillai, leader of another UDF constituent, is in jail having been convicted in a corruption case and the Supreme Court upholding the conviction. Oomen Chandy, obvious Congress choice to lead the UDF at the hustings, is hesitant to enter the fray for fear of being included in the palmolein case which had already unseated PJ Thomas from the Central Vigilance Commission.  Chandy was the finance minister when the impugned import of Malaysian palm oil at an inflated price took place, causing the State a loss of more than Rs 4 crore.


  Though a disciplined soldier of the CPI-M, Achuthanandan never compromised on principles. This kept him out of the corridors of power till he reached the ripe old age of 82. Even in 2006, the party higher-ups reluctantly entrusted him the leadership of the LDF. His moral standing gave the Left front a landslide victory. At the state secretariat meeting held in Thiruvananthapuram last week, the party general secretary sent a clear signal that the national leadership would not intervene this time to reverse any decision taken by the state unit. But reverse it did once it realised the party was committing another historical blunder. Age has not withered the sprightly 87-year-old Achuthanandan, nor has his capacity to fight against corruption and immorality in public life waned. What enabled the state secretariat to initially deny him a seat was his refusal to look the other way when lottery king Santiago Martin was doing roaring business selling tickets of Bhutan and Sikkim lotteries, banned in Kerala. Martin is one of the main financiers of the CPI-M Deshabimani, official organ of the party in Kerala, received Rs 2 crore as bond from Martin. Achuthanandan has approached the Centre for a CBI inquiry into the activities of Martin, much to the chagrin of the commissars. When the corrupt dominate our politics, it is the poor who suffer.


INTEGRITY INDEX

PM'S PERNICIOUS PROPOSITION

THIS country owes an apology to Narendra Modi, twice over. The Election Commission should abandon efforts to keep legislatures free of people with criminal records. Both Houses of Parliament must immediately dissolve their Ethics Committees. And the Supreme Court should take note of a revised code of jurisprudence in which the authority to make a final determination of right or wrong will be wrested from it and vested in the electorate. These are only some of the consequences of the contention of the Prime Minister on the floor of Parliament that the UPA's victory and enhanced seat-share in the general election of 2009 was the conclusive verdict on the cash-for-vote scandal that secured for his government the confidence motion in July 2008. While Dr Manmohan Singh was fully entitled to take what his apologists call a "combative" stance ~ critics would liken it to the hissing and scratching of a cornered cat ~ and reject the argument that the WikiLeaks disclosures amounted to corroborative evidence, he and those trademark Congress chamchas insult the intelligence of thinking people by claiming that electoral verdicts are the ultimate decider. By that token Rajiv Gandhi has been held guilty of receiving the Bofors kickbacks ~ the voters ejected him in the first election after he had come up with the most one-sided win in history using his mother's funeral pyre as an electoral plank. Whether Dr Singh tendered a personal argument or it was what the party's "strategists" spun out is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Nehru's efforts to inject a degree of principle into political discourse have come completely unstuck. Not so long ago Dr Singh projected himself as a weakling declaring that "coalition compulsions" caused him to include tainted persons in his ministerial council. He proceeded to confirm his administrative ineptitude by indicating he was unaware of a case against the man he had appointed Central Vigilance Commissioner. But he has sunk to the lowest levels imaginable with his new theory of the voter being the final arbiter ~ would that also hold good for the verdict of possibly the most "upmarket" of Lok Sabha constituencies (South Delhi) rejecting his bid to represent it? The theory he advanced is not stray thinking: it is a calculated endeavour to cripple the institutions of the Republic, subjugate them to electoral victories that everyone knows are secured through muscle and money. It will do as much damage to Indian democracy as what was done on the night of 24/25 June 1975 ~ the motivation was no different.


VOX POPULI

THE MESSAGE OF EGYPT'S REFERENDUM

THE whiff of jasmine has hopefully given way to unmistakable strains of democracy if Sunday's referendum in Egypt is any indication. The ruling military council, put in place on the terms of Hosni Mubarak as he took the bow last month, is likely to hand over power before the deadline of September. The people have spoken again and convincingly so. The referendum, held within a month of the momentous change, marks the first free election that Egypt has witnessed in decades; no less crucially, it has endorsed the constitutional amendments, in effect clearing the way for elections. To summon the seasonal metaphor, the ouster of a dictator in spring is set to lead to the installation of  democratic civilian rule in summer.  An estimated 77.2 per cent of the electorate voted in favour of the changes to the country's 1971 Constitution, indeed reforms that theoretically should lead to fair elections, both presidential and parliamentary. Yet there is no denying that the referendum has served to expose the post-Mubarak political divisions in the country. Despite the trend towards a democratic transformation, Egypt today showcases a fractured polity. The anti-Mubarak consensus that had evolved around Tahrir Square was violently dissipated when the presidential contender, El Baradei, was pelted with stones by his opponents last weekend. There is little doubt that the campaign for the 'yes' vote was robustly orchestrated by the Muslim Brotherhood and National Democratic Party (NDP). The opposition forces, pre-eminently El Baradei, are opposed to both organisations. They would prefer a year-long interregnum for a political class to develop. Equally, is it indubitable that only an election can help restore civilian rule. And the people have spoken in favour of elections and democracy. It will be Egypt's tragedy if they are let down by the emergent and squabbling political class. The country is at the crosswords.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

ON THE PRECIPICE

TILL DEBT DO US PART

SUBHAS ROY


BROUGHT to its knees because it ran out of foreign exchange to balance its external account deficit in 1990, India had turned to the International Monetary Fund for a loan of $ 1.8 billion. It got the loan but also reforms. In line with the Washington Consensus, the IMF insisted that India change to free market capitalism from the model it then followed. What followed has been an almost total dismantling of the economy: structural adjustments through liberalization, de-regulation, privatization and so on.  Some came with a bang, then and there. Others, (after seeing what has happened over the last 20 years), had a long-term sequence, vacancies in the jigsaw to be filled year after year. All finance ministers since 1991 have operated within the blinker that a liberal-economy India, come what may, has to be wrenched into the global economy, even when the global free-market economies, in effect, the developed ones, are in dire straits. When the finance minister presents his annual budget, he operates within this box.


The single-focus long-term structural adjustment process has a few implications. Annual budgets have become an occasion only for throwing populist fashion-crumbs to satisfy constituencies or to react to emergent problems. No moving and shaking is attempted really, since the die is already cast. Issues considered unrelated to the process are ignored. Priorities are re-set: many of the critical issues are shoved under the carpet. Fatally, reviews are seldom made if and when any change of course was called for.


Obviously, the Prime Minister does not think that any change of course is required. He has taken pride in the spectacular GDP growth India has been achieving in recent years and that it has about $272 billion foreign exchange in the kitty, thanks, supposedly, to the ongoing structural adjustments. He should be legitimately proud of India's growth trajectory. Equally, he should be ashamed of its flip side: how this has benefited only a small section and neglected the other ~ the majority ~ section of the people. The foreign exchange reserve is a problem, not a solution as we shall see in the later lines. Consider growth first: Which sector has led the growth, who has grown, and how? What consequences follow the growth?


Defying  logic,  since 1990-91, the GDP growth has been led by the services sector, instead of the two real sectors, primary and secondary leading and the service sector following. Such a growth-claim is not easily verifiable. Curiously, the Reserve Bank has found no co-rrelation matrix, input-output table (Leontiev inverse) or inter-sectoral elasticity as is evident from its Annual Report 2009-10 (page 18).


If the statistics are correct, India has indeed achieved stellar GDP growth specially from 2004-05, second only to China. It has produced, as of now, 69 billionaires (USA 403, China 128) and 1,26,700 millionaires. The growth, second fastest in Asia Pacific, was by 51 per cent in 2009 alone, according to Forbes, March 2010. Arguably, much of such growth has most likely come from stock prices which proffered a return of 100 per cent in 2009 and the Sensex providing an annual return of 70-90 over the last 35 years.  


The Prime Minister gloats over the high growth of GDP, but he is silent on the lack of any significant growth of the per capita GDP and in general on the state of affairs of those who have been left behind in the growth process. They appear to be outside reform's blinker, its victims suffering the  income-disparity that a liberalized economy usually spawns. India is almost at the bottom rung of the world's hunger index, home to 42 per cent of the world's under-nourished children, a third of the world's poor. It is at the 119th position among 168 nations in the UN's human development index.


A token of his priority for eradication of poverty, the budgetary allocation for the Maoist-infested areas is inadequate. This, after the Prime Minister himself declared the Maoist problem to be the main one that the country faces and with the knowledge that they control 40 per cent of India's geographic space; are active in 160 of the government's administrative districts; control about 20 per cent of India's forests; and have 50,000 regular cadre, of which 20,000 are armed and against which the government has committed 70,000 security personnel.


The other blind-spots of the governments while pursing reforms since 1990-91, appear to be food, agriculture and unemployment. They remain extremely serious issues that government has seemingly forgotten. In the budget, almost universally, crop deficits have occurred across the food crop categories or are making an appearance with a high likelihood of becoming permanent. The reform process by and large ignores the agriculture sector, since the multinationals (except for a bunch of global commodity traders) and Indian business have hardly anything to do with it. It concerns the secondary and tertiary (specially banking and other financial sectors) where MNCs and Indian corporate interests are involved. With current low yields and few structural changes in ownership, food production has not kept pace with the population growth. Unemployment was not under the scanner in the budget and the mainstream media has almost forgotten the extent of the unemployment scene.


The UPA government promises a 2.4 per cent growth in employment over the next five years; 570 million jobs if nine per cent growth is maintained. This will be chasing a chimera. Employment generation has been the worst victim of Indian reform, an example being that the number of unemployed went up from 7.49 per cent in 1993-94 to 11.24 per cent in 2004 in a clearly less labour intensive growth in the major industries of the organized sector during the post-reform period.


The Union Budget 2011-12 also shows India's continuing reliance on debt. The prescription over the years has been to borrow the way to growth. Supply-side economics, which India borrowed as an adjunct to reforms, ensured that the tax base remained low and borrowings made up for the deficit. Consequently, the borrowing: GDP ratio has gone up from 1.87 per cent in 1991-92 to 10 per cent in 2009-10. Interest payments now form about 36 per cent of the revenue expenditure and 3.8 per cent of the GDP. These are the typical features of a debt-economy.


Fiscal deficit and public debt are vital in the assessment of sovereign risk. Their reduction to more acceptable levels have proved obdurate and the combined debt of the Centre and the states was 63.91 per cent of the GDP. In 2009-10 it was 72.35 per cent. GDP will be considerably higher if external debts are suitably factored in .
Broad money has risen 109 per cent per annum, thanks largely to the existence of unsterilized foreign money in the system, having gone up from Rs 2,65,828 crore to Rs 62, 02,425 crore from 1991-92 to December 2009-10. In one month alone, between November and December 2010, the rise was of the order of Rs 1,22, 572 crore. This is dry cinder for hyper-inflation to be ignited.


A little-noticed 30 September 2010 RBI statement on the International Investment Position of India announced that India had a net external liability, inclusive of its foreign exchange reserves, of  $ 211 billion. This means India has no net foreign exchange cover. This is worse than what the situation was in 1991-92 when we had at least a few week's cover. To make matters worse in the current fiscal, the deficit in India's current account is expected to be a minimum of $42 billion.


In 2009-10, India had to arrange for a credit flow of as much as  $34.4 billion to take care of a debit of $29.4 billion, in order to garner a net capital inflow of $5.3 billion. This was almost a Ponzi  operation!
The writer is an economic analyst

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

PRO-ACTIVE FOREIGN POLICY WANTED

INDIA HAS A ROLE TO PLAY IN THE LIBYAN CRISIS IF ONLY IT CAN MUSTER THE SELF-CONFIDENCE AND CONVICTION TO DO SO, WRITES RAJINDER PURI

 

India has expressed regret over the Western nations bombing Libya. India was among the few nations to abstain from the UN resolution against Colonel Gaddafi's government in Libya. These two decisions set the Indian government apart from other nations. This is not enough. India has a role to play if only it can muster the self-confidence and conviction to do so. Events have set India apart from all other nations.


Colonel Gaddafi's appointed Ambassador to New Delhi, Mr Al-Essawi, later defected from the Gaddafi regime to join the protesters. He was subsequently appointed the director of the protest movement insofar as Libya's foreign relations under the new dispensation were concerned. Mr Al-Essawi last heard was functioning from New Delhi.


This fact seemed not to have overly angered Colonel Gaddafi who had enjoyed good relations with a number of Indian leaders. He appealed to India to provide technicians to man his oil fields during the crisis. Given the security hazards New Delhi declined to risk the lives of Indian technicians.


From all these above factors it should be clear that India remains the only nation capable of playing the peace maker's role in the Libyan crisis. Why is New Delhi hesitating? It has already regretted the bombing of Libya by the West. Surely if an agreement can be achieved to end bloodshed it should be attempted.


There are two parameters within which New Delhi would need to make the attempt. Violence must end. And change must be ensured. That would call for a peace formula that allows Colonel Gaddafi to recognise reality and dilute his power akin to that of a titular head. It would call for the protesters to realise that a smooth transition would enable them to create a more viable and democratic new system. It would also call for them to acknowledge that a ruler in power for decades allowed to relinquish office with some semblance of dignity would in no way substantively harm their cause. In other words what New Delhi needs is skillful brokering of peace by an adept interlocuting team capable of displaying tact and ingenuity.


Why cannot New Delhi make the attempt? If it has any ambition of playing a genuine global role it must first of all define that role. India is the largest and only credible third world democracy. It has a large multi-ethnic, multi-religious population that provides it with unique empathy with the peoples of the third world. And democracy worldwide is unstoppable if a stable world order is to emerge. That should indicate what role history is offering India. Is anyone in South Block paying attention?


The writer is a veteran journalistand cartoonist

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

THE UNOPENED LETTER

K CHANDRAMOULI            


In course of a routine spring cleaning, my wife Sukanya chanced upon files accumulated over years. When she posed if we lived in a house or a museum given my tendency to preserve tax returns for three decades, files chronicling my civil services exam disasters and sundry documents of little no value, I offered: "A warehouse!" before going back to the magazine I was reading on the balcony to the accompaniment of music on the stereo with the winter sun caressing my back. The absence of a repartee made me turn around to find Sukanya regarding an unopened envelope with keen interest.


A glance at the sender's name took me back a decade and a half back when Mr Richard Jacobs, senior vice-president of AT Kearney Inc, was visiting India at the invitation of a leading industrialist. Richard had come to help India usher in a revolutionary marketing strategy. The session's chair was caught in a traffic jam and we couldn't get started. After the initial pleasantries, Richard and I got talking. His grandfather had been a colleague of Winston Churchill when the future PM of UK used to be a reporter with The Times, London. During the Boer War in South Africa both were taken prisoners and became friends. After the war, they went their separate ways with Richard's grandfather immigrating to the USA. But senior Jacobs and Churchill remained friends. As he shared anecdotes with his favourite grandson, the former Boer POW also recalled his friendship with a neighbour in South Africa, an impecunious attorney by the name of Mohandass Karamchand Gandhi. We struck up a friendship and when one of our friends was scheduled to make a trip to the USA, Sukanya thought why not send a packet of Darjeeling tea to Richard? Sukanya contacted YV Reddy or Venu as we know him over the telephone and he gladly agreed to act as the courier.


The unopened letter that caught Sukanya's attention on that winter morning was Richard's acknowledgement of the gift delivered to him at his Northbrook, Illinois residence. And, in it, he had desired to keep in touch. Embarrassed, we decided to get in touch. The Illinois telephone number noted on the envelope no longer worked. An e-mail to AT Kearney came back with a response we were not expecting ~ the company had no idea where Dick, long retired, might be living now. Then we turned to Venu for help. Though he did his best, Dick couldn't be located. Similar efforts by our cousins living in the USA also drew a blank.


A search run on Ancestry.com yielded 18,84,688 results. But Sukanya was undeterred and she finally struck gold. Richard, of the MIT class of 1956, held positions in many MIT alumni associations and was now residing in Supply, North Carolina. With the help of Laura Adler of the MIT Alumni Network, we finally contacted him.
In December 2005, a year and half after Sunkanya had launched the hunt for him, as it were, Richard e-mailed, saying he had foresaken the windy Chicago for warmer climes along the North Carolina coast. And, hundred yards from his new home, lay the first hole of a golf course which hosts spectacular championships. He didn't mention the windfall of golf balls in his garden! As for our tea courier, he retired as the Governor of the Reserve Bank Of India.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

100 YEARS AGO TODAY

JUTE FIRE AT BARNAGORE


Damages Estimated At About Rs 10,000


A fire of a serious character broke out on Friday evening in a Jute Mill at North Barnagore. Information was received at 5.15 P.M. at the Fire Brigade Headquarters. Chief Engineer Phillips, with the new motor fire-engine, and the steam engine, "Rupnaraian" proceeded to the scene preceded by the Chitpore Fire Brigade. The latter had commenced to work before the arrival of the brigade from headquarters but they were unable to make much headway. The godown in which the fire broke out was stacked with a large number of bales of jute, and the fire assumed such serious proportions that the whole mill was in danger of destruction. All the available hose was turned on to the north side of the godown, but as thee was a strong wind blowing, the firemen had all their work cut out. The plentiful supply of water, however, and the combined efforts of the two Brigades were effective in bringing the fire under control after nearly three hours' hard work. The firemen had no easy task for they suffered badly from the heat of the flames which were continually blowing in their faces. By about 8.15 P.M. the fire was completely under control, and the Calcutta Fire Brigade reached headquarters at 9.16 P.M. The Chitpore Fire Brigade were ordered to stand by, in case of any emergency. How the fire originated has not yet been ascertained. More damage was caused to the jute by water than by fire. A large quantity of the jute had been removed while the fire was still burning. The damage to the jute is estimated at about Rs 10,000.


A largely-attended meeting of Mahomedans of Behar was held on Sunday evening in Patna College to organise a Behar Committee for raising funds for the Moslem University. A strong committee was formed with Mr Hasan Imam as chairman, and it is believed that Behar will not contribute less than a lakh to the University.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

TOUGH CALL

Foreign policy oscillates between ideology and hard-nosed realism. India's responses to events around the world were at one time, during the premiership of Jawaharlal Nehru, guided by the latter's ideological predilections. More recently, Indian foreign policy has veered round completely to realism. India's abstention in the United Nation security council on the issue of air strikes against Libya is determined largely by realism. All reports suggest that large sections of the people are opposing the authoritarian regime of Muammar Gaddafi. The latter rejected the path of negotiation and reform and began a policy of severe repression. Consequently, a condition of civil war prevails in Libya and the lives of thousands of innocent people are at stake. These circumstances were behind the Anglo-French resolution in the security council seeking to start armed strikes against Libya. India, whatever be its official position, did not want to immediately alienate Mr Gaddafi, no doubt because of Libya's oil reserves. It may not be unreasonable to argue that those who are openly for the armed intervention are also guided by the desire to protect Libya's oil reserves from the hands of a dictator.

The crisis in Libya is, however, one issue where considerations of ideology cannot be completely brushed aside in favour of realism. The lives of many thousands of people are at stake. Over the years, Mr Gaddafi has shown scant regard for these people and their fundamental rights as human beings. The victims of Mr Gaddafi's tyranny have finally chosen to revolt. This is the first time that Mr Gaddafi faces a major threat to his power. His response is greater repression. The upshot is a situation where those who are fighting Mr Gaddafi and his forces need help if they are to survive and escape butchery. This forms the raison d'être of the armed intervention. In spite of the strong humanitarian reasons that exist for the attacks, it cannot be denied that the air strikes do represent an interference in the domestic affairs of a country and are tantamount to a transgression of Libya's national sovereignty. It is an anomaly that in the name of protecting democracy, the armed interventions are violating a norm of democratic politics. The Libyan crisis presents a situation where there are no easy options and answers. It is best to recognize this dilemma even while supporting or opposing the air strikes.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

CENTRAL ISSUE

Every political party has its ruling caucus, but communist parties are unique in trying to invent theoretical justifications for this. The dominant coterie in the Communist Party of India (Marxist) runs the party in the name of "democratic centralism". In principle, it means that the majority view arrived at through a democratic process must prevail over the minority one. In practice, though, it is the view of the ruling faction that alone matters. There is thus nothing democratic about it, but Kerala's chief minister, V.S. Achuthanandan, must be happy that this is so. His feud with the party faction led by the general secretary, Prakash Karat, may have been long and bitter, but he has the party's central leadership to thank for his re-nomination for the forthcoming assembly elections in Kerala. It is a measure of the CPI(M)'s organizational contradictions that the leaders of the party's state unit have no love lost for the chief minister despite his popularity among the cadre. If the central leadership thought Mr Achuthanandan was too popular to be axed, it clearly showed how alienated the state party leaders were from the public sentiment.

However, the CPI(M)'s flip-flop over Mr Achuthanandan's re-nomination cannot be a matter of great public concern in Kerala. An election is a time for the people to judge an incumbent government's performance. The chief minister is known to have a clean image and has been a crusader of sorts against corruption. At the same time, his critics describe his government as the worst in Kerala in the recent past. His resistance to economic reforms, in particular, has deprived Kerala of investment opportunities. His promise to offer rice to the poor at two rupees a kilogram proves that his government still lives in the populist world of another era. At 87, Mr Achuthanandan is not just too old but also incapable of changing with the times. But it is not his personal problems or his party's factional squabbles which should be of prime concern to the people. Making these elections a battleground for the CPI(M)'s factional politics will amount to a mockery of parliamentary democracy. By re-nominating him, the CPI(M) may have tried to avoid another factional war. But it shows yet again how the Marxists put partisan interests above those of the society. Kerala's electoral history, however, shows that the people use the polls to call the politicians' bluff.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

INFLATION AND OPENNESS

INDIA COULD MAKE MORE FRIENDS THROUGH TRADE WRITING ON THE WALL - ASHOK V. DESAI

The Central government has recently been engaged with inflation. Its policy has failed, which led the government to reflect. Reflection on inflation was embodied in the Economic Survey, which was critical of policy. Its main criticism was that while the government buys up wheat and rice after they are harvested, it has no policy to sell the grains. So it has hoarded a lot of grains, and since all hoarding raises prices, the government itself has fed inflation.

Besides, the government adds to total demand. A crude measure of its contribution is the fiscal deficit. It has been running rising deficits since the Congress came to power; this is a second way in which the government has fed inflation. It can reduce its contribution by reducing deficit. It should spend less on populist programmes, raise taxes if it feels so inclined, and thus bring down the deficit substantially. The justification it gave for running the deficit was that it was a "stimulus" for preventing the Indian economy from undergoing deflation when the world economy turned down in 2008. In my view, there was no danger; there was enough expansionary pressure in the Indian economy to withstand international deflationary pressure. The government increased the deficit in 2008 and 2009 to finance populist programmes designed to win the general elections, not for any economic reason. In the last budget, the finance minister announced his intention to bring down the fiscal deficit in future years. Intentions are immaterial; his predecessor had repeatedly announced similar intentions and failed to translate them into action. Let him stop intending, and start acting.

The balance of payments is another instrument for combating inflation; the more open it is, the more it serves as one. So the government should remove all import duties and restrictions. These are particularly severe on agricultural goods. The government justifies them on the grounds that farmers are poor and have to be protected from foreign competition. A similar argument was used for industrialists when — till 10 years ago — we had high industrial protection. Poor or rich, all producers have the capacity to adapt themselves to changing markets; if imports are liberalized, farmers will adapt themselves to it. There is no presumption that they will be harmed on balance. Their capacity to adapt is greater than that of industrialists, since land is so versatile in the crops it can grow. Some commodities will be exported, and some imported; some farmers will benefit, some will be hurt. All will react to the threats and opportunities presented by the international market, and change their production patterns accordingly.

The government has another argument against opening foodgrains to international trade: that India is a large consumer which cannot depend on the international market to supply it with grains, and must therefore be substantially self-sufficient. World markets change slowly, so it is impossible to know what would happen in the long run. But the volume of world trade in wheat and rice is small in comparison to India's production, so whatever India does, it will produce most of its grains in the short run. But if it abolished duties on grains, the outcome will vary from one grain to another. India will probably become the world's biggest rice exporter. China will become our biggest customer. And rice producers of Andhra and Tamil Nadu will prosper. We will probably start importing wheat, but will have to compete with China in buying wheat from the United States of America. Punjab, which has become a virtually monoculture economy, will diversify into other crops — probably cotton, and maize, which is an amazingly versatile grain useful for food and fodder. We will become major importers of coarse grains, chiefly from the US; some of it may be eaten by the poor, but the cattle will get a tremendous boost from cheap fodder. Above all, if India guarantees a permanently open market, Africa and Australia will be happy to produce anything we need — coarse grains, lentils, oilseeds, meat — and we will get all of these cheaper. And those neighbouring countries will become a lot more dependent on the Indian market. We will eat many foods we do not know today. Our consumption basket will be enriched, our farmers will diversify, and they will get richer. So will the farmers of Africa and Australia; the more these countries export to India, the more dependent they will be on the Indian market, and the more friendly they will become to India. Free trade in agriculture is not just a great growth opportunity that the government is keeping us away from, it is an instrument of foreign policy which the Chinese government uses deftly and we do not.

A more open BoP will also be more sensitive to domestic demand. If the government keeps up such deficit financing as it is used to, it will probably run into serious payments deficits; in other words, it will take us back to our chronic state before the 1991 reforms. But the rewards of responsible fiscal policy will be equally generous; if the government runs fiscal surpluses, our BoP will run into surplus, like the Chinese BoP. We would then face the same problems; we would have to think about where to invest abroad, and the world would say that we were antisocial. But we would not be forced to run surpluses. Whereas we are in chronic payments deficit just now, we would have the choice of deficit or surplus.

The government has another argument for agricultural autarchy: that it is essential for food security. The higher the import barriers, the lower the imports, and the more self-sufficient the country is in food. But food security is a matter of degree; and imports make our suppliers dependent on us. If we removed all import barriers, we would probably import rice from Sri Lanka, wheat from Pakistan, cotton from Egypt and groundnuts from East Africa. We would become dependent on them, but so would they on us. Since they are smaller than us, their dependence on us would be greater than ours on them. This is the unavoidable consequence of our size; relatively, our neighbours would benefit more from more trade with us, and would have a greater stake in our economy and our openness. Trade is a way of making friends and influencing countries. We have become a little superpower without having planned to do so. This status gives us opportunities we did not have before, including the chance to build alliances, and closer economic ties are the best way of building them.

I began by arguing for greater openness on the grounds that it would help us bring down inflation. But as the theory of comparative advantage would suggest, trade would bring us benefits. It would make us new friends amongst our neighbours. It would enable us to knit together an Indian Ocean economic cooperation area — much faster than the economic cooperation agreements that the ministry of commerce laboriously negotiates with one country at a time. It would be far more rewarding — although it would throw the commerce ministry out of business. There is an entire array of better policies that the government shuns.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

UNRAVEL A BITTER TRUTH

MALVIKA SINGH

The unravelling continues unabated, and so it should. The exposures of blatant and unabashed corruption, fixing, nepotism and other such inappropriate truths indulged in by the men and women who make the laws and who are mandated to govern have managed to put the blame where it belongs. Greed has melted into the processes of governance and overtaken expected and tolerable levels. Our leaders and their babus have distorted every law of this land to legitimize irregularities. That conundrum is being ripped apart, and if urgent, genuine action — not additional EGOMs to investigate wrongdoings — is not initiated sooner than later, heads will roll like never before. The people of India are ready for another fight for independence from greed and malpractices. Some have begun the battle with arms, others are waiting for a non-violent movement. It will happen. Sadly, our geriatric leadership probably doesn't care because it is old and decrepit and in departure mode. Hence, it will not have to bear the brutal brunt.

The churning that we are a part of is very positive. It will soon begin to cleanse the system of those who have either looked the other way or have supported the larger status quo. Leaders will have to retreat from the political space, some with their 'aides' who, in fact, kept them disconnected from reality. They will have to pay the price for their inability to think beyond their few friends and colleagues.

India is not New Delhi. The highways of information are not Aurangzeb, Prithviraj, Akbar and other such privileged 'roads' where inmates have succeeded in insulating the members of the high command who have access to information, think they know it all, but have been fed half-truths that are dangerous. Our rulers have become victims of everything that goes with intellectual and political decay, aided and abetted by devious, manipulating operatives.

Free spirit

Among the ruling class, most individuals are unread and intellectually unaware of virtually everything except for their immediate needs. General knowledge is, more often than not, scant. Had these men and women read and re-read the Arthashastra by Kautilya and The Prince by Machiavelli, they would have been more deft and effective in their politicking. Alas, they are crass and predictable, putting India to shame. There are sophisticated ways of indulging in political engineering, spinning the manipulations with ease, ensuring a deliberate and positive response, and more. Half-baked minds cannot deliver rajniti in all its finely-tuned nuances.

India is not led by the 'ten commandments'. We are a civilization that has shown it can evolve its own special political processes and methodologies. Indians reject impositions of alien 'isms' and structures. It appals us that the WikiLeaks revelations show us dancing to the tune of some American functionary for some petty favour. We can see through the operating lobbies within the government and outside. We hear and listen but do not accept. We celebrate resistance to any 'sell-out'. We salute diversity and differences of opinion. The United States of America cannot comprehend the complex DNA of India. Economic poverty accompanied by philosophical wealth is something the declining 'super power' cannot grapple with. We will never be subservient again, but we may play along with anyone till it suits us.

Many who served in the World Bank and in the International Monetary Fund are in key positions in government today. Even the future of the tiger has been usurped by the World Bank. The United Progressive Alliance has failed the tiger and continues the lip-service, now with the World Bank.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

THE STENCH LEFT BEHIND BY A BURNING TRAIN

IN GODHRA, UDDALAK MUKHERJEE ENCOUNTERS THE BORDERS, REAL AND IMAGINED, THAT DIVIDE PEOPLE

A little over a week after being acquitted by a special court as one of the key conspirators in the killing of 59 kar sevaks on the Sabarmati Express, Maulana Umarji agreed to give me a rare interview. On my way to Umarji's house, a modest building on Vejalpur Road not far from the Godhra railway station, I was told that the maulana might not answer many of my questions. On March 1, two days before the interview, the special court had sentenced 11 'conspirators' to death and 20 others to life imprisonment. The verdict, I was told, had crushed Umarji's spirit. However, during the interview, Umarji opened up in a manner that was unexpected. He looked tired, and frequently paused for breath while talking. (The nine years he had spent in jail had adversely affected his health.) But he wasn't the broken man that he is often made out to be.

We chatted about many things: the harshness of prison life, the pain of missing out on the births and deaths that had taken place in his family during the long period of incarceration, his refusal to meet Narendra Modi, and so on. But what intrigued me the most was not the past but the future. Umarji said he was planning to meet Manmohan Singh in a few days' time, and he would urge the prime minister to annul the voting rights of Gujarat's Muslims. By bartering away the political rights of the community and turning it into an inconsequential political force, Umarji hoped to buy an assurance from the State that Muslims in Gujarat would not be subjected to yet another pogrom.

It is important that we understand that Umarji's plea to divest Muslims of a critical democratic right is not based on sentiment. It is a reflection of his disillusionment with every component of the Indian State — the judiciary, the political class, the bureaucracy and police, as well as the media — that is supposed to uphold and protect the interest of minorities in a pluralist society. But what forced this Indian citizen to lose faith in the State? Perhaps the following facts, which have been repeated many times over, will provide the answer.

On February 22, the court had freed 63 Muslims, Umarji included, who had been imprisoned on grounds of conspiracy and murder. In a damning observation, the judge, P.R. Patel, had declared that the accounts of the nine primary witnesses, who had alleged Umarji to be the chief conspirator, were "unreliable". Yet, over the years, several judges had denied bail to the accused by upholding the sanctity of such fabricated evidence. Patel's judgment is equally flawed on several counts, and is yet another instance of the shocking complicity of nearly every State agency in muddling the truth about Godhra. For instance, it relies heavily on the findings of the special investigation team. The SIT was constituted by the apex court to reinvestigate specific episodes during the riots — including the heinous deaths of the kar sevaks. But it included Gujarat police personnel whose impartiality was always suspect (Noel Parmar, whose appointment to the SIT was later cancelled for his pejorative views on Muslims, was allegedly replaced by an accomplice).

The State has also used a mix of coercion and enticement to neutralize attempts on the part of the Muslim political leadership to seek redressal. Those who had been puzzled by the BJP's electoral performance in the 2002 assembly elections — it had won all the seven seats in the Godhra parliamentary constituency— would perhaps be equally shocked by the following facts: 22 of Godhra's 42 Muslim corporators voted to elect a BJP board president, and Godhra's sitting member of parliament too hails from the same party. Sporadic attempts by the media to investigate allegations of the government's dubious role in the violence have been successfully countered by Modi's belligerent call for development.

Many of the Muslims I spoke to during my stay in Godhra were of the opinion that given the circumstances, Umarji's strategy to arrive at a compromise made sense. But then there are also those who think that such a strategy has the potential to impair the battle for justice. The willingness to fight both despair and the temptation to be co-opted was most evident in two extraordinary women I met in a house near Makki Masjid. Ruksana and Abida (names changed) are battling not only a communal and repressive State, but also many of the regressive values that plague Muslim society. The two middle-aged women, who are the best of friends, are like chalk and cheese. While Ruksana's responses were almost always measured, Abida was markedly tempestuous. Ruksana's faith in divine justice seemed unshakeable. But her friend mocked her for being hopeful, and also poured scorn on temporal agencies such as the judiciary for their inability to deliver justice.

What unites the two women is the memory of the time they had spent working in the temporary relief camps that had been set up for Muslims. Their minds went back to the Hindu nurse at the local hospital, who had refused to attend to a Muslim girl whose head had been crushed by a mob. They can forget neither the sight of families grieving even as the names of victims were being read out from a scroll, nor the paucity of food, medicines and kindness. The experience strengthened their resolve to emphasize the need for education and employment for Muslims, especially Muslim women. But their demands for such primary resources, which the State has failed to provide, are, in fact, contingency responses to the threat of a reprisal. Literacy, Abida said, would help prevent unlettered Muslims from signing chargesheets without understanding their content. Jobs, too, would help families pay for the mounting legal expenses.

Before leaving, I asked them how it felt to be reminded repeatedly that as Muslims they belonged to a land across the border. This time, it was Ruksana who broke the silence. "This land is as much mine as theirs. The borders lie inside their minds, not ours."

But such divisions lie not only in the mind. Many of Godhra's roads and localities are segregated on religious lines. Earlier that evening, we had stood watching the dusk gather around the tiny, glowing shops in Polanbazar. Abida's husband had explained that areas such as Polanbazar and Mithakhani Mohalla had been demarcated Muslim territory. Although both Hindus and Muslims lived in Patelwad and Savliwad, the former dominated the area around the Jain temple. Terms such as 'border areas', 'mini-Pakistan', 'Hindustan' are part of the local parlance. Although the two communities are bound by commerce — many Muslims supply raw materials to the shops owned by Hindus — such links, as the unrest had shown nine years ago, could be tenuous.

This fragility has strengthened the sense of siege in the collective Muslim imagination. A friend of mine, a Hindu civil rights activist who has been working to rehabilitate Muslim communities, recalled the pall of fear that descends over Godhra every time the court pronounces its verdict on a riot case. Neither could I forget the urgency in my Muslim host's face as he instructed his son to see me off to my hotel. On the way, on being asked what his father's instructions were, he said that his father had reminded him to carry his identity papers and drive with the lights on.

The segregation of physical space in a manner that leads to the reaffirmation of religious identities has been replicated in some of the refugee colonies that I visited the next day. On our way to the first — a village named Boru — the bus passed a settlement called Delol. Thirty-seven Muslims had been murdered here, and their land distributed among Hindu settlers. The mosque had been demolished too, but one of its fallen minarets is still there to see. Two hundred Muslim families live in Boru, which has an equal number of Hindu households. Each of the Muslim houses, which had been methodically identified and then destroyed, has now been rebuilt with the help of a social organization. Boru's Muslims and Hindus assured me that peace has returned. As evidence, they cited how Muslim and Hindu families invite each other during social occasions. But the borders that demarcate Godhra's lanes and localities were as apparent here: I saw clusters of Hindu huts surrounded by Muslim houses dabbed with fresh paint.

Halol, the other refugee settlement, stood at the foot of the majestic Pavagadh hill. The stories I heard here were as dismal. But Halol differed from Boru in one important respect. The residents of Boru had been resettled in their own village, while Halol was populated by displaced Muslim families. I had expected civic amenities to be non-existent, but that wasn't the case. Most of the houses have electricity and access to drinking water, although the roads remain treacherous. But what the occupants lacked was a sense of security. Shamim, Munni, Sharifa confided that although they drew comfort from the safety in numbers, they knew that this form of spatial segregation has rendered them even more defenceless. Staring at a sticker pasted by a census official on the door of her tiny hut, one woman shuddered and recalled how, before the riots, officials had visited localities and jotted down the names of Muslim residents and the details of their property. The rehabilitation colonies, she said, had made the task of identifying Muslim families much easier, thereby amplifying the perception of threat in the minds of their vulnerable residents.

On my way to Baroda inside a dark, speeding bus, I reflected on the questions posed by Godhra and its aftermath. The chain of incidents that was narrated by many of the respondents was a reminder of a fatal flaw in India's federal arrangement: the Centre may refuse to act decisively even when it is clear that a state government has wilfully neglected its duty to protect the minority community. Godhra is also a testimony to the immense powers of manipulation that the State is invested with in India: not less than four public inquiries — the Nanavati commission, the National Human Rights commission, the Banerjee committee and a citizens' tribunal headed by Justice Krishna Iyer— yielded contradictory results while interpreting the same set of events.

I also realized that the innate heterogeneity within constructions such as the 'Muslim voice' continues to be under-reported in the media. Not every Muslim was a victim of the pogrom. Indeed, there are facts, although unsubstantiated, that suggest that some Muslims were complicit in the violence in order to settle personal scores and gain materially. Ominously, the State seems to have successfully exploited the sectarian faultlines within the Muslim community to jeopardize its pursuit of justice. As a journalist, I remain concerned with the Indian media's unwillingness to problematize issues to gain a deeper understanding of complex events.

But the most disquieting of all revelations was my urgency to comprehend issues such as identity, nationalism, communalism or secularism within established frameworks that resemble a polarized intellect. For example, why had I questioned Ruksana and Abida about their allegiance to India? Would I have asked the same question of a Hindu victim (official estimates put the death toll of Hindu at 254 in retaliatory attacks)? What explains my anxiety to shove the burden of nationalism on to Muslims only? For a moment, I feared that my liberal education and beliefs notwithstanding, I was not very different from the youth I met in Ahmedabad who had confessed to joining a mob and destroying a mosque in his city without any sense of malice towards Muslims.

A day later, while returning to Ahmedabad from Baroda, I sat listening to a verse from a Kabir song. "…Ani des ra nahi/ ani des ra log acheta, pal-pal parlay mein jaayi (I don't belong to this country/People here are unconscious/ Every moment they stumble into oblivion)". On that stretch of the highway, I thanked the saint for putting into words my feelings for the land and for some of the people I was leaving behind.

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

EDITORIAL

RETHINK DECISION

''THE SOLUTION DOESN'T LIE IN SHRINKING THE CUBBON PARK.''


The state government must rethink its decision to convert chunks of verdant park land in the City into a parking lot. It has allotted roughly 18,028 square metres of land between the high court and the old KGID building adjacent to the Ambedkar Veedhi for a parking lot to accommodate vehicles of judges, lawyers and others visiting the high court.That the there is a need for parking space is not disputed. After all, the number of people coming to the court has grown sharply over the years. They need space to park their vehicles. Besides, the construction of a new canteen on the court premises will eat up already limited parking space. However, converting park area into a parking lot is not the best solution. Bangalore's legendary public parks are becoming a rarity with several gardens making way for various road and transport projects. Cubbon Park and Lalbagh are among the last stretches of green left in the City. And even these are shrinking. Around 1,135 square metres of Lalbagh has been lost to construction of the Metro as has the promenade on Mahatma Gandhi Road. Buildings have come up on tracts of land near the high court eroding Cubbon Park's greenery.


Unlike in the past when parking was allowed in Cubbon Park as a temporary arrangement, this time the government has acted to make it permanent. It pushed through legislation quietly to pre-empt public protest. Converting park land into parking spaces each time the demand for the latter grows is not the way to go about the problem. Parking space must be found outside the park. Or the high court should be moved. As demand for parking space near the high court grows in the coming years, will the government keep eating into Cubbon Park? It does seem so, given its approach to the problem.


Cubbon Park is not just real estate that is available for 'developing.' It is a park and a historical and environmental landmark of Bangalore. Its value lies in its trees and grass, the shade and coolness these provide and the lung space the greenery has given Bangaloreans for centuries. But the government is systematically destroying by converting park land into concrete jungle. And it is this that Bangaloreans must fight to preserve. The government must be pushed to change its flawed approach to finding parking space around the high court. Civil society should step in with ideas.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

INEFFECTIVE POLICY

''PERSISTENT TINKERING HAS NOT IMPACTED INFLATION.''


The Reserve Bank of India has stuck to its tight monetary policy by raising the short-term policy rates by 25 basis points. It has, in its latest review, raised the repo and reverse repo rates to 6.75 per cent and 5.75 per cent respectively and there was no surprise as the apex bank had given indications of its hawkish thinking many times in the past. The hikes, which have been resorted to eight times in the past one year, underline the concern over inflation which the RBI considers as the major challenge. In spite of all RBI and government actions inflation rose to 8.3 per cent in February.


What is worrying is that persistent tinkering with policy has no impact on the inflation curve. Food prices, which drove overall price index to high levels, have cooled off now. But other factors and the inflationary environment have remained largely insensitive to policy action. There is a recognition of this in the RBI's position. The apex bank has noted the volatility in industrial production and the weak performance of the capital goods sector. The limits to the impact of monetary policy prescriptions are being tested now. Government policies have not helped much and an adverse international climate has added to the problem. Global oil prices are ruling above $115 per barrel, with chances of further escalation. The union budget has not earmarked adequate amounts for the oil subsidy. In fact the allocation for other subsidies and social sector commitments are also inadequate and the so the government will have to go beyond its budgeted expenditure. This will create additional pressures on the fiscal situation.


Though there is no revision of GDP growth figures, the rate hikes can create worries on that score. An increase in interest rates will make capital costlier and hurt consumer demand and the competitiveness of the industry. Slower growth can also lead to a fall in tax revenues and result in higher fiscal deficit. The mishap in Japan may affect economic recovery in the US and elsewhere. Exports and foreign investment prospects may be hit because of this. The erosion in the government's credibility and standing will be another negative factor. Therefore the situation on the price front and the larger economic scenario are not the best, in spite of the RBI's best efforts.

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

PROTESTING TOO MUCH

B G VERGHESE


Asking the prime minister to resign as though he has been found guilty by WikiLeaks is absurd. It shows the impa-tience of power-grabbers.


The WikiLeaks 'India File' makes interesting reading. There is perhaps nothing startlingly new in most cases but nuances reflecting pressure, irritation and scorn are evident in certain dispatches. This would be so in most diplomatic correspondence as diplomats are expected to be upfront and frank in their assessments of personalities, events and trends from the perspective of their own national interests and concerns.


Thus the Americans were leaning on India to be more accommodating of US concerns regarding Iran's nuclear 'ambitions,' saying that the fate of the civil-nuclear deal was in the balance. Though India has come through reasonably unscathed, critics at home would wish MEA to throw all diplomatic caution to the winds in airing India's bottom line always and every time. These are macho reactions, not calibrated responses that keep the country's overall interests in mind, but must up to a point be accepted as legitimate chatter within a democratic society.

The American belief that India's West Asia policy and attitudes towards Israel are governed by the Muslim factor, are only partially correct. Every country must cater to domestic sensibilities, something that pragmatically informs India's stance towards Myanmar. But this apart, there is genuine sympathy for the Palestinian cause and outrage at the brutal manner in which the Israelis have often behaved, with uncaring American connivance. The US Jewish lobby clearly has far more influence on Washington than the Muslim factor does in Delhi. Yet there is admiration for Israel's achievements here and state relations are cordial and collaborative. There has never been anti-Semitism in India.


US policy towards the Islamic world is problematic, driven as it is by oil and geo-strategic interests. The unholy mess created in Iraq, based on a pack of lies, and Afghanistan (where the Taliban and other Islamist jihadis were  spawned with US support) have kept West Asia on the boil. Washington's long-drawn flirtation with frontline ally, Pakistan, through another long and continuing saga of unparalleled deceit, has been instrumental in the nuclearisation of that country (with Chinese assistance) and its becoming an epicentre of cross-border terror as a means of state policy.


Yet the US has also been a generous friend and it is good that Indo-US relations are vastly better than before and are gradually assuming a greater degree of mutual understanding and respect. Those at home who might now raise a hue and cry about WikiLeaks' India File should not protest too much. The revelation of an election-bribe box by a Congress supporter to a US diplomat does no more than confirm a known and disgraceful practice. But taking the diplomat's word for it may not be entirely warranted as envoys, like others, are prone to embellish and exaggerate their reports to win kudos back home.


Impatient politicians


Demands for the resignation of the prime minister as though he has been found guilty by WikiLeaks is an absurdity and shows how shallow some politicians and impatient power-grabbers can be. And to suggest that the US is wicked to want to promote its economic interests in India and might speculate on cabinet and official level changes that bear on this is equally naïve. Diplomats, including Indian diplomats are paid to win friends and influence nations.

One has this past week also heard excessive protest in India about its nuclear power programme in the aftermath of the Japanese quake-cum-tsunami disaster that has led to near-melt-downs and radiation leaks. These have no doubt been alarming developments. The government has wisely ordered a through review of all existing nuclear power plants and future programmes with special emphasis on safety standards and defensive measures.

These consultations must take into account public views and international experience and assessments. This, however, is a far cry from demanding a stoppage of the nuclear programme largely on ideological grounds and uninformed panic based on total misjoinders of facts and events. This despite India's good nuclear power safety record.

The Jaitapur site in Ratngari district falls in seismic Zone III that experiences tremors of far lower magnitude than the massive M-9 earthquake that hit Japan. The nuclear plant to be built there by the French company, Areva is designed to withstand far greater shocks than that to which Zone III is subject. Secondly, the Arabian Sea is less prone to tsunamis than the Pacific, and so tsunami waves of just over 10 metres that battered the endangered Fukushima N-plants can be ruled out at Jaitapur. Thirdly, whereas the Japanese plants are at an elevation of 10 metres, the Jaitapur plant will be located 25 metres above sea level.


The suggestion that the proposed Areva plant is totally untried and untested is challenged by Indian nuclear engineers as several of its parts and components have been tested. The assertion is a bogey intended to frighten the uninitiated. There is always a first time for everything. For India to continue on its coal-oil fossil fuel path would be to court global warming and ignore the imperative of achieving a low carbon footprint. Better demand management can help but it will take time before renewable source like solar power is available in bulk at affordable prices.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

OBAMA TREADING CAUTIOUSLY IN LIBYA

MICHAEL JANSEN


Obama has been dragged into the Libyan operation by US allies and not the other way round.
US President Barack Obama has done his best to keep his distance from the Franco-British-led effort to enforce UN Security Council resolution 1973 mandating the use of airpower to end attacks by Muammar Gadhafi's armed forces on Libyan cities under rebel control. Obama took weeks to lend his support to this effort and he was in Brasilia rather than Paris when leaders from 22 countries met to decide how to proceed with the Libyan operation.

The launch of the mission on Saturday afternoon was almost too late. Gadhafi's armour and troops had conquered Zawiya, encircled Misrata and Ajdabiya and were entering Benghazi, Libya's second city and the epicentre of the rebellion. Tens of thousands of civilians were fleeing eastwards towards the Egyptian border.

It took Obama until March 15 to agree to support a UN resolution legitimising the use of force, a demand raised by French president Nicolas Sarkozy and British prime minister David Cameron three weeks earlier.

Wait and watch


Obama continued to hesitate after the Arab League called for 'humanitarian' military intervention. The 'New York Times' reported that he only made the shift from opposing to favouring action when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was convinced that this was the right course by Samantha Power, a senior security aide, and UN ambassador Susan Rice.


Obama's male advisors, defence secretary Robert Gates and national security chief Thomas Donilon, opposed action and were, partly, responsible for Obama's protracted procrastination.


Once convinced to commit, Obama insisted on broadening and boosting the resolution by calling not just for a no-fly zone but also for military action against Gadhafi's planes, tanks and ground forces attacking rebel-controlled cities. Obama called for Gadhafi's forces to ceasefire, pull back from rebel held cities, and allow electricity, water and humanitarian supplies to reach these cities. Even as US cruise missiles were striking Libya's radar and air defence capabilities, Obama was keeping a low profile.


Hillary Clinton insisted, "We did not lead this." She was, in theory, correct. French planes made the first strikes. But the Pentagon admitted the US has the most assets in the region, was on the 'leading edge' of the operation and deployed most of the 112 cruise missiles that had flown to their targets in Libya. For the time being, General Carter Ham, head of US Africa Command, is in-charge but he will be handing over to a 'coalition' commander soon.


Obama was persuaded to go along with France and Britain because he could not risk being blamed if Gadhafi massacred men, women and children, as he had threatened to do when he said his forces would enter every home to stamp out the rebellion. While military action is risky, no military action could produce another Rwanda, Bosnia, or Kosovo. This was a risk Sarkozy, Cameron, and, eventually, Obama could not take.

Obama has a host of good reasons to avoid military entanglement in Libya. The US has a massive budget deficit and does not want to spend more money on warfare than it is already investing in faltering campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon claims the US military is fully stretched and cannot become engaged in another conflict. Anti-US sentiment is growing in Afghanistan and Pakistan due to civilian deaths from US air and drone strikes.


Sixty per cent of US citizens oppose US action in Libya which was subjected to a controversial air raid by the Republican Reagan administration in 1986. This attack was exploited by Gadhafi as an example of US neo-colonialism and deepened Arab antagonism toward the US. Since then anti-US sentiment in the Arab world has grown exponentially due to Israel's wars on Palestinians and Lebanese, the 1991 and 2003 US wars on Iraq, the US war on Afghanistan, and US backing for autocratic Arab rulers, two of whom have been overthrown by democratic movements.


An Arab commentator pointed out that, above all, Obama wants to be seen both at home and abroad as the 'anti-Bush', a president who, unlike the widely hated George W Bush, does not take unilateral action or drag others into unsavoury military adventures. Obama has been dragged into the Libyan operation by US allies and not the other way round. Finally, no one knows how the Libyan action will develop.


There is no clear objective or time frame. The hope is that Gadhafi will be killed, compelled to step down, or overthrown by his inner circle. But it is not known if the rebels, who claim to be democrats, will, ultimately triumph as the democrats have done in Tunisia and Egypt. If Gadhafi remains, Libya could be split between loyalists and rebels.


All these factors could very well cause Obama to seek an early end to the operation before the Gadhafi problem is resolved.

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

DOING A BULL RUN

 MAYA JAYAPAL


Pedestrians have no right to be on the road, acco-rding to vehicle drivers.


The other day I ran across Residency Road to get into my car which was parked on the other side. At first I panicked: my heart was pounding, my hands clammy, my feet leaden. But then years of crossing roads in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Jakarta had given me a solid foundation. Long forgotten tips came back and I achieved the miracle. I got onto the other side.


Crossing the road in today's Bengaluru is a combination of two things: a good old fashioned square dance; "Right leg in and right leg out, left foot in and take a run…", etc, and a game of Russian roulette. It requires the  courage of a bull, the speed of a matador and the psychological ability to read the minds of the crazy people driving the assortment of vehicles on the road- right from a Volvo bus to a lone cart with broken down horse. It is after all, a game of one-upmanship, a psycho social science that every Bengalurian should possess.

Having courage means not waiting for the traffic to stop for you. It also means your not stopping once you plunge into the maelstrom. I have a friend who is barely 5 feet tall and she lost her cool when crossing and just sat down in the middle of the road until her friend just pulled her up and hauled off the road!


Bangalore traffic will not stop even at crossings. Pedestrians have really no right to be on the road, according to vehicle drivers! So the agility quotient has to be extraordinarily high.


I have accumulated a few tips which I would like to share. First make sure that the drivers of the vehicles see you but do not look at them. For the moment you do that they think you are looking for permission to cross but are hesitant so they will capitalise on that.


Never ever trifle with buses, BMTC or Volvo or anything else. They have size on their side. They know it and will use it. Do not also trifle with motor cycles or scooters either — they do not have size but are intimidating because they are more arrogant and will twist and turn their way through the worst of traffic. Do not assume that a one way street is what it is meant to be. Look both ways.


The best ploy is to join a group. If you cannot find a group just go to the nearest policeman and politely ask him to help you. My white hair certainly helps and I am seriously thinking of acquiring a stick.


Otherwise think out a strategy like my friend who lives abroad but visits Mumbai every year. She alternates, visiting all the relatives on one side of the road this year, and next year it is the turn of the relatives on the other side.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

A BLOW TO THE ARABS AND TO DEMOCRACY

EXTREMISTS ARE COUNTING ON THOSE KNESSET MEMBERS WHO IGNORE THE INFLAMMATORY AND RACIST CONTEXT FROM WHICH RECENT BILLS ARISE, AND WHOM DON'T DISCERN THEIR DESTRUCTIVE CONSEQUENCES.

Two or three bills are to be voted on by the Knesset today on second and third reading, each of which is inappropriate in its own right. Taken together, however, just prior to the Knesset's spring recess, they represent a discordant and worrying summation of the current Knesset session.

The so-called Nakba Law has deliberately vague wording. It would bar entities receiving public funding from organizing or themselves funding any activity "which would entail undermining the foundations of the state and contradict its values."

Judging by the worldview of MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu ), who initiated the legislation, such a definition is liable to apply to academic conferences and historical research and discussion focusing on various aspects of the War of Independence and the events preceding it. In essence, this is a law designed to shut people up.

The proposed law regarding resident admissions committees in certain small communities has undergone changes and has purportedly been softened. The maximum number of residents in the communities to which it would apply has been lowered to 400 and its application has been limited to the Negev and the Galilee. It is an outrageous bill, which would crudely trample the principle of equality and would limit Arab citizens choices of where to live.

An amendment allowing for the revocation of citizenship of those convicted of espionage or aiding terrorism, which was approved by the Knesset's Interior and Environment Committee, encourages state abuse of power and would transform citizenship from an obvious right to a fragile privilege that the state can revoke at will.

The initiators of the bill have promised that they will attempt to pass the law before the end of the Knesset's winter session, although even Shin Bet security service officials have argued that revocation of citizenship is a dangerous weapon that is liable to escalate tensions between Israel's Arab citizens and the state.

It's possible that such escalation is precisely what the initiators of the bill, both from Yisrael Beiteinu, want; in the constant battle between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beiteinu, Arab citizens serve as a convenient punching bag.

The extremists, however, are also counting on those Knesset members who ignore the inflammatory and racist context from which these bills arise, and whom don't discern the bill's destructive consequences.

In advance of the vote, each Knesset member must therefore ask himself whether he is ready to take part in a process that will bring Israeli democracy to the edge of the abyss, or whether he will instead foil such a step

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HAARETZ

OPINION

DANGEROUS INTERVENTION

THE OVERALL INCREASE OF THE ENERGY LEVELS OF ARAB SOCIETIES, WHICH IS A SURE CONSEQUENCE OF VARIOUS FORMS OF "STREET ACTION," ARE VERY LIKELY TO HURT ISRAEL UNLESS WE CHANGE OUR STATECRAFT TOWARD ADVANCING A COMPREHENSIVE MIDDLE EASTERN PEACE SETTLEMENT.

BY YEHEZKEL DROR

On the face of it, the violent intervention of the West in Libya deserves praise from supporters of freedom and human rights. However deeper examination raises doubts about the actions' values and their expected results.

Parts of European support for the action stems from a commitment to humanitarianism. But the lack of any serious efforts to prevent mass slaughter and rape in sub-Saharan Africa raises doubts about the purity of motives to intervene in Libya. Europe has self-serving interests to stabilize Libya, specifically to prevent undesired refugees from flooding their borders. Libya's vast oil reserves also play a role. Lastly, military intervention is "cheap," in terms of risk to Western soldiers, who are able to fight from the air.

The weight of realpolitik interests in deciding on intervention in Libya will not escape the eyes of Arab-Islamic observers. Even the participation of Arab forces won't quell the idea in large parts of the Arab-Islamic world that this is mainly neo-colonialist aggression.

The absence of Western action against rulers of other Arab countries who repress civic revolts, when the West is interested in them staying in power or isn't willing to risk soldier's lives, will further entrench the idea.

Meanwhile, the transformation of Libya into a tranquil democratic state is far from assured, and the precedent of military intervention will not deter other rulers from violently repressing rebellions.

However, the action in Libya can encourage uprisings in other Arab (and non-Arab ) states and also advance reforms. The results of such developments cannot be predicted, with the exception of a distinctive process of increasing levels of social energy in Arab countries. But the intervention in Libya may easily direct such energy against the West, because of an image of neo-colonialism and a desire to force its values on Islamic societies. An uptick in anti-Western terror is a distinct possibility.

Even graver is the expected lesson Arab rulers will take from the Libya episode, that they need weapons to deter Western action. Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi surely regrets having abandoned his nuclear weapons program. If he had weapons of mass destruction, or at least the perception that he had them, the West would have backed off, no matter how despotic his regime, so long as he did not pose a serious threat to them.

Others will not repeat his mistake. The action against Gadhafi will harden the will of Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Other rulers too will learn from North Korea that nuclear weapons protect a tyrannical regime against forceful action from abroad.

The situation would be different if the action against Gadhafi did herald a new global order in which world powers intervene in other countries, including the use of force, to prevent mass killings, advance human rights and inhibit the development of weapons of mass destruction.

Israel has a strong interest in such a world order, which fits the values of Judaism and assures its security, even at the price of peace settlements which don't fully satisfy Jerusalem. But a new world order is extremely unlikely at the present time. Therefore Western action against Gadhafi may easily cause more harm than good.

Concerning implications for Israel, it is better for the country not to take a stand. Surely there is no room for sympathy for Gadhafi, but is it far from clear that those taking his place will be less hostile.

Even more determined Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapons are definitely bad for Israel. And the overall increase of the energy levels of Arab societies, which is a sure consequence of various forms of "street action," are very likely to hurt Israel unless we change our statecraft toward advancing a comprehensive Middle Eastern peace settlement.

 

The writer's book, "Israeli Statecraft: National Security Challenges and Responses," will be published in May by Routledge.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

UNFIT TO RUN A KIOSK

NETANYAHU AND STEINITZ CREATED HIGH EXPECTATIONS BY PATTING THEMSELVES ON THE BACK, AND NOW THEY ARE REAPING THE FRUITS OF WHAT THEY SOWED.

BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

When Benjamin Netanyahu became prime minister in 1996, he inherited an economy that was boiling over, with inflationary pressures and a large budget deficit. When he looked into the reasons for this, he discovered that in 1994, the Finance Ministry signed a series of extremely generous wage agreements with public-sector workers, giving them raises of dozens of percent.

Netanyahu, shocked by the discovery, declared from the Knesset podium that Avraham Shochat, who served as finance minister in Yitzhak Rabin's government, wasn't even fit to run a corner grocery store. Shochat was offended, but he learned the lesson: During his second term, in Ehud Barak's government, he was an excellent finance minister who guarded the public till.

Now, we are watching a rerun. Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz are on the front lines in the face of enormous salary demands. The doctors want a 50 percent raise, while the social workers, who received a 25 percent raise, aren't satisfied and opted to continue their strike.

How did this happen? Why is everyone dissatisfied? After all, when inflation is running at 3 percent a year, these increases constitute huge raises in real terms, of the sort private-sector workers can't even dream about.

It happened because over the past year, Netanyahu and Steinitz repeatedly patted themselves on the shoulder while telling us from every possible platform that growth is surging and the economy is in excellent shape. They thereby created high expectations, and now they are reaping the fruits of what they sowed.

The saga of excessive wage agreements actually began under Ehud Olmert's government. In 2007, elementary school teachers obtained a 31 percent raise. But that was in the context of a reform that also required them to work more hours and stay in school longer.

Next came the university lecturers. They struck for 90 days, threatening to cause the cancelation of an entire semester. So in January 2008, an agreement was signed that gave them an exceptional 24 percent raise - without their having to give anything in exchange.

In November 2008, a ruling was handed down in a dispute with the doctors that had gone to arbitration. The arbitrators said that if the university lecturers received a 24 percent raise, the doctors ought to get at least that much, "because they didn't strike." What does the lecturers' work have to do with that of the doctors? But in any case, that is how the magic number became sanctified: 24 percent.

Government attorneys saw this and embarked on their own lengthy strike. Netanyahu couldn't handle the pressure and went for the miracle cure: arbitration. I'm already willing to bet that the arbitrator, retired judge Steve Adler, will arrive at the same magic number: 24 percent.

But the record was set this week, by the social workers. After a two-week strike, the treasury offered them a very hefty raise of 25 percent. The chairman of the social workers' union, Itzik Perry, said it was an excellent agreement. Ofer Eini, chairman of the Histadrut labor federation, said that all three of the strikers' goals had been achieved. But they still feel oppressed, because that's the atmosphere Netanyahu and Steinitz have created: an atmosphere of "there are no limits" to what can be obtained.

In October 2008, Steinitz signed a general wage agreement encompassing all public-sector workers. Following some changes that were made recently, this agreement gives public-sector workers an 8 percent raise over the next four years. Even this was too spendthrift and generous. Previously, the norm was to give public-sector workers a raise of 1.5 percent a year; now, that has been increased to 2 percent - which translates into billions of shekels.

In light of the atmosphere that has been created, the doctors decided to go for the whole pot and demand a 50 percent raise. Steinitz says privately that nothing could be less justified than the doctors' demands. They, he says, are certainly not underpaid - and they also have the option of seeing private patients in addition to their public-sector job. Therefore, he will not agree to give them more than what all public-sector workers got (8 percent ), unless they agree to start punching a time clock.

But Leonid Eidelman, the chairman of the Israel Medical Association, wasn't born yesterday. He's already preparing public opinion for a strike. For now, he's confining himself to meetings with the treasury and talking about the destruction of public medicine. Next will come sanctions, and finally the strike. But then, at the last minute, he'll be summoned to the prime minister, and a moment before the hospitals are shut down, Netanyahu will sign another arbitration agreement that will ultimately result in a raise of ... 24 percent.

When that happens, everyone will understand that the public coffers are wide open, and new demands will pour in from every side. And when that happens, it will become clear that our prime minister is not merely unfit to manage a corner grocery store. He's not even capable of running a kiosk.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE RETURN OF COLONIAL THEOLOGY

OUR POLITICAL MAP, WITH ITS CONSTANT SHIFT TO THE RIGHT, REFLECTS PRECISELY THIS COLONIAL LOGIC, WHICH HAS BECOME THE LOGIC OF OUR LIVES: THE WEST IS ALLOWED WHAT THE NATIVES ARE NOT.

BY YITZHAK LAOR

Two other Arab uprisings are going on aside from the civil war in Libya. But no one in Washington has called on Bahrain's government to step down, and Saudi Arabia, which cuts off the hands of thieves, has been allowed to invade the emirate to take part in the suppression there. Protesters are being slaughtered daily in Yemen, and the West is helping. As always, Arab blood, high octane, is on sale.

To claim that this is a double standard is like complaining that a missile has a warhead and a tail. For two decades now, states have been taken apart in the name of "human rights": Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and now Libya, using human-rights missiles deployed against humans. Western media outlets are already producing a global discourse about "a war with values" and "contradictions between values and strategy," as if strategy didn't include "values."

Once again the West is quoting Homer and dropping business and partnership with Muammar Gadhafi in favor of ratings, oil and especially the use of the machinery of war. The public likes this, until it has to pay in blood and money. After the graves are covered, the mood can change. In general, indifference - the progeny of the malls, reality TV and beach vacations - takes control.

Something is rotten there. Not only the corruption of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi or French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Not only the dismantling of the welfare state, the disappearance of the left, but - in place of all this - the return of colonial theology. It begins at home with the great hostility toward Arabs and Muslims, and now, with the help of Gadhafi's drugged image, another "no-fly zone," which has turned, with a great global wink, into a tremendous, high-tech shooting gallery.

The destruction of Iraq - a crime with the scope of genocide - began with aerial attacks and a siege that went on for more than a decade. No one planned the moves at the time. So there's no point asking what the goal of the attack on Libya is. Saving human lives? As in Iraq? Maybe democracy? As in Saudi Arabia? Those who possess giant war machines with funding for research and development prefer trial and error. There are no goals. Will Al-Qaida also get there quickly? Well, there's a huge arsenal that needs refreshing, once in the name of "human rights," once in the name of "the war on terror." Something will come out of this. Ratings, oil, a peace conference, photo-ops, Sarkozy next to Angela Merkel, Berlusconi next to David Cameron and Barack Obama. A smile. Speeches.

The rush in Israel doesn't come from concerns about the lives of Libyan opposition fighters, and even the "values" have received no warm words. Since the Sinai Campaign, Israel has learned to get excited only as long as Arabs are getting killed by Western intervention. And what about Operation Cast Lead, a naive person might ask. What did the West have against Cast Lead? Well, the fact is, they didn't get in our way, a cynical person from the silent majority might respond. That's Israel's loss, historically speaking.

How many generations can recognize truth along the lines of "the main thing is that the killing benefits us" and not be damaged? Can humanism really be built on disgust over one racist rabbi from Safed or over Avigdor Lieberman and wax enthusiastic about wars like those in Iraq or Libya? Our political map, with its constant shift to the right, reflects precisely this colonial logic, which has become the logic of our lives: The West is allowed what the natives are not.

For the blink of an eye, we thought Obama would change our lives, but the U.S. presidential election - the author Gore Vidal once said - is like vying to become manager at a big bank. The customers don't care who's in charge. And from the Middle East, it's easy to see how right he was.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

ANYONE WHO HAS MERCY ON RAPISTS

THE CLAIMS ABOUT KATSAV'S CONTRIBUTION OVER THE YEARS TO ISRAELI SOCIETY ARE NONSENSE. AT MOST, HE WORKED FOR HIS HOUSEHOLD AND HIMSELF.

BY NERI LIVNEH

In a few hours from now, former president and convicted rapist Moshe Katsav will be sentenced. Of course, it would have been easier to react to the sentence after the fact, rather than argue with it ahead of time. But still, regardless of the severity of the punishment, this moment marks a turning point in Israeli public life, if not worldwide.

It is impossible to overstate the importance and seriousness of the moment when the authorities finally decided to investigate the accusations of rape and indecent acts against the person who was then serving as president - in other words, a public figure whose job it is to represent me, you and several million other people. People who we also have to hope are not rapists, sexual harassers, pedophiles or any other garden variety of deviant.

It is also impossible to exaggerate the atrociousness of the fact that the person selected for the country's most exalted position was found guilty on all counts. Had Katsav not stood trial, the fish would have rot from the head down, and his talented attorneys would have succeeded, heaven forfend, in turning their client into a model for those authority figures looking to continue to exercise their power improperly, and exploit what they consider the jus primae noctis, "the right of the first night." The existence of various Katsavs, from Moshe to Silvio (Berlusconi, who at least paid a lot of money for his deviancies ), prove the need to continue the feminist struggle.

This is further evinced by the letter of encouragement written to Katsav by dozens of rabbis, in which they told him that in their eyes he is not only innocent, but also a courageous fighter. And not only was Katsav appointed to his position with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's blessing, other rabbis added insult to injury when they came to the aid of a rapist (perhaps because they see what lies in store when one of their disciples dares to complain, as they complained about Moti Elon ). In a country where religious coercion is gradually spreading, the fact that rabbis still consider a woman the property of a man holds great significance.

Katsav's excellent lawyers said his punishment should be lenient because the trial and the exposure have already caused him a great deal of damage. But the rabbis' letter, along with the uncompromising and incomprehensible support for Katsav on the part of his wife Gila and the members of her family, and the numerous photo ops he provides when he walks calmly to the synagogue in holiday garb, prove just the opposite. The claims about his contribution over the years to Israeli society are nonsense. At most, Katsav worked for his household and himself.

"How much wickedness," attorney Haim Misgav said accusingly, when I voiced the counterargument on a television program - to the effect that Katsav's contribution placed a great deal of destructive power in his hands. Anyone who has mercy on the cruel will end up being cruel to the merciful, both male and female. After all, there are tens of thousands of women and men walking among us who have never filed complaints against those who attacked or harassed them, because they are afraid of the cruelty of the police, the court and the chauvinistic society in which we live.

From a position of far less authority, and for lesser accusations, Hanan Goldblatt - neither a president nor a leader of society, at most a former actor - was sentenced to seven years in prison (which was later reduced to six years ). At the time of this writing, it is not clear what kind of sentence Katsav will receive. We can only hope it will be at least double that handed to Goldblatt - if not for the glory of the State of Israel, then at least for the glory of the judicial system.

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

EDITORIAL

AT WAR IN LIBYA

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi has long been a thug and a murderer who has never paid for his many crimes, including the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. The United Nations Security Council resolution authorized member nations to take "all necessary measures" to protect civilians and was perhaps the only hope of stopping him from slaughtering thousands more.

The resolution was an extraordinary moment in recent history. The United Nations, the United States and the Europeans dithered for an agonizingly long time and then — with the rebels' last redoubt, Benghazi, about to fall — acted with astonishing speed to endorse a robust mandate that goes far beyond a simple no-fly zone. More extraordinary was that the call to action was led by France and Britain and invited by the Arab League.

American commanders on Monday claimed success in attacking Libyan air defenses and command and control operations. Over the weekend, there were strikes against Libyan aircraft on the ground, forces headed toward Benghazi and even Colonel Qaddafi's compound in Tripoli. Colonel Qaddafi remained defiant and announced plans to arm one million loyalists. He gathered women and children as human shields at his compound. On Monday, his forces drove rebels back from the strategically important town Ajdabiya.

There is much to concern us. President Obama correctly agreed to deploy American forces only when persuaded that other nations would share the responsibility and the cost of enforcing international law. The United States is already bogged down in two wars. It can't be seen as intervening unilaterally in another Muslim nation. But even with multinational support, it should not have to shoulder the brunt of this conflict.

After endorsing a no-flight zone 10 days ago — a move that allowed the Security Council resolution to go forward — the Arab League is sending mixed messages. This military operation requires the Arab states to reaffirm support for the coalition and contribute their own arms, forces and cash. Qatar made a commitmment: four fighter jets. Colonel Qaddafi will find it easier to dig in his heels if he thinks the region is divided.

There has been unsettling dissonance from the allies, too. The operation was portrayed as led by France and Britain. Yet the Americans — which have the ships and cruise missiles to take out Libyan air defenses — are actually directing this phase. They say command will soon shift, but it's not certain if that will put NATO, France or Britain in charge. A permanent alternate command needs to be established as soon as practical and the broadest possible coalition must be engaged.

We also have questions about the objective. President Obama has said Colonel Qaddafi has lost legitimacy and must go. He also insisted the military aim is only to protect civilians and American ground troops will not be deployed. We hope he sticks to those commitments. There are enormous questions: What will the United States and its allies do if the rebels cannot dislodge Colonel Qaddafi? At a minimum, they must be ready to maintain indefinite sanctions on the regime while helping the rebels set up a government, should they actually win. Mr. Obama should have brought Congress more into the loop on his decision, and must do so now.

There is no perfect formula for military intervention. It must be used sparingly — not in Bahrain or Yemen, even though we condemn the violence against protesters in both countries. Libya is a specific case: Muammar el-Qaddafi is erratic, widely reviled, armed with mustard gas and has a history of supporting terrorism. If he is allowed to crush the opposition, it would chill pro-democracy movements across the Arab world.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A DANGEROUS PURSUIT

In a world where most people consume their news safely, perhaps in a comfortable chair on some electronic device, it is worth remembering how dangerous news-gathering has become. Monday's release of four New York Times staff members in Libya was a powerful reminder of the hazards journalists face around the world.

Anthony Shadid, The Times's Beirut bureau chief; the photographers Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario; and Stephen Farrell, a reporter and videographer, were released almost six days after they were captured in eastern Libya by forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Turkish diplomats intervened for the journalists and helped get them out of Libya on Monday evening.

That happy outcome is tempered by the fact that so many working journalists are under siege around the world. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 852 journalists have been killed since 1992 when the committee began keeping records. Most recently, in Libya, an online journalist and an Al Jazeera reporter were killed covering fighting near Benghazi.

The Newseum, a museum about the news media in Washington, has reported that more than 160 journalists have died in Iraq since the war began. That is more than both World Wars, Korea and Vietnam combined.

That, in a tragic way, has always been the risk of covering war. But journalists also are increasingly targets of repressive governments — in Russia, Mexico, the Philippines and now in the Middle East. Turkey, which helped our journalists so effectively, has a bad record when it comes to reporters at home.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented more than 50 attacks on the press in Libya since political trouble began last month. Those include 33 detentions, two attacks on news facilities, the jamming of broadcasts and interruption of the Internet. At least six local journalists are missing, and Libyan authorities are still holding four Al Jazeera journalists. Agence-France Presse has reported two journalists missing in Libya.

The BBC reported three of its journalists were beaten, subject to mock executions and forced to witness torture of other Libyans at a military barracks.

News flows so freely and easily these days — on Web sites, on cellphone apps, on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube — that it seems almost effortless.

Getting it still requires old-fashioned courage and perseverance.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

NEW YORK'S PRISONS FALL SHORT, AGAIN

Perhaps as many as three-quarters of New York State's 57,000 prison inmates need drug counseling or treatment to have a chance at productive, crime-free lives once they are released. A three-year study of drug and alcohol abuse programs in the New York State Department of Corrections suggests that prisons are failing to provide adequate treatment programs for the tens of thousands of inmates who need them.

The study by the Correctional Association of New York, a nonprofit group, examined drug treatment programs at 23 of the state's nearly 68 facilities. It found that the programs varied wildly in effectiveness and that most departed significantly from best practices laid out by the addiction research division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

The New York prison programs have several deficiencies in common. They fail to screen candidates based on the severity of their problems, which means they wastefully enroll large numbers of people in intensive programs they don't need. They also routinely enroll poorly motivated inmates, which limits effectiveness. In a particularly glaring oversight, they fail to coordinate prison treatment programs with those offered in the communities to which the inmates will return.

The correctional association's researchers found model treatment programs in at least four state prisons, including Hale Creek in upstate Fulton County. According to the report, these prisons use a three-phase system that begins with a six-month residential treatment program, in which the targeted inmates live in a separate prison dorm. This is followed by an integration component, under which people typically receive treatment during work release. Finally, newly released men and women are formally enrolled in community programs.

According to the study, the Department of Corrections could improve drug treatment without spending any more than the estimated $19 million it currently devotes to this problem by deploying the existing staff in better designed programs. The result would be better drug treatment, safer communities and less recidivism.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

SEPARATE AND UNEQUAL

BY BOB HERBERT

One of the most powerful tools for improving the educational achievement of poor black and Hispanic public school students is, regrettably, seldom even considered. It has become a political no-no.

Educators know that it is very difficult to get consistently good results in schools characterized by high concentrations of poverty. The best teachers tend to avoid such schools. Expectations regarding student achievement are frequently much lower, and there are lower levels of parental involvement. These, of course, are the very schools in which so many black and Hispanic children are enrolled.

Breaking up these toxic concentrations of poverty would seem to be a logical and worthy goal. Long years of evidence show that poor kids of all ethnic backgrounds do better academically when they go to school with their more affluent — that is, middle class — peers. But when the poor kids are black or Hispanic, that means racial and ethnic integration in the schools. Despite all the babble about a postracial America, that has been off the table for a long time.

More than a half-century after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation ruling, we are still trying as a country to validate and justify the discredited concept of separate but equal schools — the very idea supposedly overturned by Brown v. Board when it declared, "Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

Schools are no longer legally segregated, but because of residential patterns, housing discrimination, economic disparities and long-held custom, they most emphatically are in reality.

"Ninety-five percent of education reform is about trying to make separate schools for rich and poor work, but there is very little evidence that you can have success when you pack all the low-income students into one particular school," said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation who specializes in education issues.

The current obsession with firing teachers, attacking unions and creating ever more charter schools has done very little to improve the academic outcomes of poor black and Latino students. Nothing has brought about gains on the scale that is needed.

If you really want to improve the education of poor children, you have to get them away from learning environments that are smothered by poverty. This is being done in some places, with impressive results. An important study conducted by the Century Foundation in Montgomery County, Md., showed that low-income students who happened to be enrolled in affluent elementary schools did much better than similarly low-income students in higher-poverty schools in the county.

The study, released last October, found that "over a period of five to seven years, children in public housing who attended the school district's most advantaged schools (as measured by either subsidized lunch status or the district's own criteria) far outperformed in math and reading those children in public housing who attended the district's least-advantaged public schools."

Studies have shown that it is not the race of the students that is significant, but rather the improved all-around environment of schools with better teachers, fewer classroom disruptions, pupils who are more engaged academically, parents who are more involved, and so on. The poorer students benefit from the more affluent environment. "It's a much more effective way of closing the achievement gap," said Mr. Kahlenberg.

About 80 school districts across the country are taking steps to reduce the concentrations of poverty in their schools. But there is no getting away from the fact that if you try to bring about economic integration, you're also talking about racial and ethnic integration, and that provokes bitter resistance. The election of Barack Obama has not made true integration any more palatable to millions of Americans.

I favor integration for integration's sake. This society should be far more integrated in almost every way than it is now. But to get around the political obstacles to school integration, districts have tried a number of strategies. Some have established specialized, high-achieving magnet schools in high-poverty neighborhoods, which have had some success in attracting middle class students. Some middle-class schools have been willing to accept transfers of low-income students when those transfers are accompanied by additional resources that benefit all of the students in the schools.

It's difficult, but there are ways to sidestep the politics. What I think is a shame is that we have to do all of this humiliating dancing around the perennially uncomfortable issue of race. We pretend that no one's a racist anymore, but it's easier to talk about pornography in polite company than racial integration. Everybody's in favor of helping poor black kids do better in school, but the consensus is that those efforts are best confined to the kids' own poor black neighborhoods.

Separate but equal. The Supreme Court understood in 1954 that it would never work. But our perpetual bad faith on matters of race keeps us  trying.

Roger Cohen is off today.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE PROBLEM WITH PARTNERS

BY DAVID BROOKS

These days we are all co-religionists in the church of multilateralism. The Iraq war reminded everybody not to embark on an international effort without a broad coalition.

Yet today, as an impeccably crafted multilateral force intervenes in Libya, certain old feelings are coming back to the surface. These feelings have been buried since the 1990s, when multilateral efforts failed in Kosovo, Rwanda and Iraq. They concern the structural weaknesses that bedevil multilateral efforts. They remind us that unilateralism may be no walk in the park, but multilateralism has its own characteristic problems, which are showing up already in Libya.

First, multilateral efforts are marked by opaque decision-making and strategic vagueness. It is hard to get leaders from different nations with different values to agree on a common course of action. When diplomats do achieve this, it is usually because they have arrived at artful fudges that allow leaders from different countries to read the same words in a U.N. resolution and understand them in different ways. The negotiation process to arrive at these fudges involves a long chain of secret discussions and it necessarily involves eliding issues that might blow everything up.

Sure enough, the decision-making process that led to the Libyan intervention was remarkably opaque. (It is still not clear why the Obama administration flipped from skepticism to resolve.) More important, the nations have not really defined what they hope to achieve.

Is the coalition trying to depose Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi? Are coalition forces trying to halt Qaddafi's advances or weaken his government? Would the coalition allow Qaddafi to win so long as he didn't massacre more civilians? Is it trying to create a partitioned Libya? Are we there to help the democratic tide across the region?

The members of the coalition could not agree on answers to any of these questions, so the purpose of the enterprise was left vague.

Second, leaders in multilateral efforts often obsess about the diplomatic process and ignore the realities on the ground. The reports describing how the Libyan intervention came about are filled with palace intrigue. They describe the different factions within the Obama administration, the jostling by France and Britain, the efforts to win over the Arab League. It's not clear who was thinking about the realities in Libya.

Who are the rebels we are supporting? How weak is the Qaddafi government? How will Libyans react to a Western bombing campaign? Why should we think a no-fly zone will protect civilians when they never have in the past?

In this, as in so many previous multilateral efforts, the process blots out the substance. Diplomats become more interested in serving the global architecture than in engaging the actual facts on the ground.

Third, multilateral efforts are retarded and often immobilized by dispersed authority and a complicated decision-making process. They are slow to get off the ground because they have to get their most reluctant members on board. Once under way, they are slow to adapt to changing circumstances.

Sure enough, the world fiddled for weeks while Qaddafi mounted his successful counterinsurgency campaign. The coalition attacks are only days old, but already fissures are appearing. The Arab League is criticizing the early results. The French are not coordinating well with their allies. NATO leaders are even now embroiled in a debate about the operational command structure.

Fourth, multilateral forces often lose the war of morale and motivation. Most wars are fought by nations — by people aroused not only by common interests but by common passions, moralities and group loyalties. Multilateral campaigns rarely, on the other hand, arouse people. They are organized by elites, and propelled by calculation, not patriotism. No one wants to die for the Arab League, the United Nations or some temporary coalition of the willing.

In the Libyan campaign, Qaddafi's defenders will be fighting for land, home, God and country. The multinational force will be organized by an acronym and motivated by a calibrated calculus to achieve a humanitarian end.

Finally, multilateral efforts are built around a fiction. The people who organize coalitions pretend that all the parties are sharing the burdens. In reality, only the U.S. can do many of the tasks. If the other nations falter, the U.S. will have to leap in and assume the entire burden. America's partners go in knowing they do not bear ultimate responsibility for success or failure. Americans do.

All of this is not to say the world should do nothing while Qaddafi unleashes his demonic fury. Nor is this a defense of unilateralism. But we should not pretend we have found a superior way to fight a war. Multilateralism works best as a garment clothing American leadership. Besides, the legitimacy of a war is not established by how it is  organized but by what it achieves.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

WISCONSIN'S RADICAL BREAK

BY WILLIAM CRONON

Madison, Wis.

NOW that a Wisconsin judge has temporarily blocked a state law that would strip public employee unions of most collective bargaining rights, it's worth stepping back to place these events in larger historical context.

Republicans in Wisconsin are seeking to reverse civic traditions that for more than a century have been among the most celebrated achievements not just of their state, but of their own party as well.

Wisconsin was at the forefront of the progressive reform movement in the early 20th century, when the policies of Gov. Robert M. La Follette prompted a fellow Republican, Theodore Roosevelt, to call the state a "laboratory of democracy." The state pioneered many social reforms: It was the first to introduce workers' compensation, in 1911; unemployment insurance, in 1932; and public employee bargaining, in 1959.

University of Wisconsin professors helped design Social Security and were responsible for founding the union that eventually became the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Wisconsin reformers were equally active in promoting workplace safety, and often led the nation in natural resource conservation and environmental protection.

But while Americans are aware of this progressive tradition, they probably don't know that many of the innovations on behalf of working people were at least as much the work of Republicans as of Democrats.

Although Wisconsin has a Democratic reputation these days — it backed the party's presidential candidates in 2000, 2004 and 2008 — the state was dominated by Republicans for a full century after the Civil War. The Democratic Party was so ineffective that Wisconsin politics were largely conducted as debates between the progressive and conservative wings of the Republican Party.

When the Wisconsin Democratic Party finally revived itself in the 1950s, it did so in a context where members of both parties were unusually open to bipartisan policy approaches. Many of the new Democrats had in fact been progressive Republicans just a few years earlier, having left the party in revulsion against the reactionary politics of their own senator, Joseph R. McCarthy, and in sympathy with postwar liberalizing forces like the growing civil rights movement.

The demonizing of government at all levels that has become such a reflexive impulse for conservatives in the early 21st century would have mystified most elected officials in Wisconsin just a few decades ago.

When Gov. Gaylord A. Nelson, a Democrat, sought to extend collective bargaining rights to municipal workers in 1959, he did so in partnership with a Legislature in which one house was controlled by the Republicans. Both sides believed the normalization of labor-management relations would increase efficiency and avoid crippling strikes like those of the Milwaukee garbage collectors during the 1950s. Later, in 1967, when collective bargaining was extended to state workers for the same reasons, the reform was promoted by a Republican governor, Warren P. Knowles, with a Republican Legislature.

The policies that the current governor, Scott Walker, has sought to overturn, in other words, are legacies of his own party.

But Mr. Walker's assault on collective bargaining rights breaks with Wisconsin history in two much deeper ways as well. Among the state's proudest traditions is a passion for transparent government that often strikes outsiders as extreme. Its open meetings law, open records law and public comment procedures are among the strongest in the nation. Indeed, the basis for the restraining order blocking the collective bargaining law is that Republicans may have violated open meetings rules in passing it. The legislation they have enacted turns out to be radical not just in its content, but in its blunt ends-justify-the-means disregard for openness and transparency.

This in turn points to what is perhaps Mr. Walker's greatest break from the political traditions of his state. Wisconsinites have long believed that common problems deserve common solutions, and that when something needs fixing, we should roll up our sleeves and work together — no matter what our politics — to achieve the common good.

Mr. Walker's conduct has provoked a level of divisiveness and bitter partisan hostility the likes of which have not been seen in this state since at least the Vietnam War. Many citizens are furious at their governor and his party, not only because of profound policy differences, but because these particular Republicans have exercised power in abusively nontransparent ways that represent such a radical break from the state's tradition of open government.

Perhaps that is why — as a centrist and a lifelong independent — I have found myself returning over the past few weeks to the question posed by the lawyer Joseph N. Welch during the hearings that finally helped bring down another Wisconsin Republican, Joe McCarthy, in 1954: "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

Scott Walker is not Joe McCarthy. Their political convictions and the two moments in history are quite different. But there is something about the style of the two men — their aggressiveness, their self-certainty, their seeming indifference to contrary views — that may help explain the extreme partisan reactions they triggered. McCarthy helped create the modern Democratic Party in Wisconsin by infuriating progressive Republicans, imagining that he could build a national platform by cultivating an image as a sternly uncompromising leader willing to attack anyone who stood in his way. Mr. Walker appears to be provoking some of the same ire from adversaries and from advocates of good government by acting with a similar contempt for those who disagree with him.

The turmoil in Wisconsin is not only about bargaining rights or the pension payments of public employees. It is about transparency and openness. It is about neighborliness, decency and mutual respect. Joe McCarthy forgot these lessons of good government, and so, I fear, has Mr. Walker. Wisconsin's citizens have not.

William Cronon is a professor of history, geography and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

PLANNING FOR A POST-QADDAFI LIBYA

BY MAX BOOT

FOR weeks, I've argued that the United States and our allies should impose a no-fly zone over Libya and mount airstrikes to stop Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi's advance against the embattled rebels. Last week, the United Nations Security Council authorized precisely those actions. Over the weekend, missile strikes began.

I should be elated, right? Instead, I can't stop worrying about everything that could go wrong.

The good news is that Libya's forces are few, badly led and ill armed. American and European missile and air attacks have already shown that we can inflict substantial damage on Colonel Qaddafi's military at scant risk.

The question is whether this will be enough to stop his attacks. Colonel Qaddafi's forces are operating in urban areas where it is extremely difficult to use airpower without killing civilians. His soldiers pulled out of Benghazi after the initial bombing on Sunday, but a rebel attack on the strategically important town of Ajdabiya was repulsed on Monday.

Will the rebels be able to root out Qaddafi loyalists? If not, are we prepared to use Western ground forces? So far President Obama has ruled out that option, which runs the danger of a protracted stalemate. Colonel Qaddafi could simply cling to power, while international support for the whole operation frays.

Even if Colonel Qaddafi steps down — an outcome that I believe we must now seek but that hasn't been declared as a formal aim — the problems hardly end.

In some ways Libya presents fewer risks than Afghanistan or Iraq. While Libya is bigger geographically than those countries, its population is much smaller (just 6.4 million people) and much more heavily concentrated in a thin strip along the coast.

While it has a Berber minority along with an Arabic-speaking Muslim majority, it is not divided by a bitter ethno-sectarian line. Nor is Libya surrounded by hostile neighbors (like Pakistan or Iran) that seek to foment insurgencies. We are lucky that Colonel Qaddafi has few if any outside backers, with even the Arab League endorsing intervention.

But there is still much that could go wrong in a post-Qaddafi Libya. For one, the country has had an active Islamist movement that has sent many fighters to Iraq. The collapse of Colonel Qaddafi's police state would mean greater freedom for all Libyans, including jihadists who could try to instigate an insurgency as they did in Iraq.

The danger is compounded by Libya's tribalism. Behind the thin facade of a modern state lies a long, seething history of rivalries among 140 tribes and clans, about whom we know little. Colonel Qaddafi has kept them in check with a combination of brutal repression and generous payoffs. Once he's gone, the tribes could fight one another for the spoils of Libya's oil industry; as in Iraq, some could form alliances with Al Qaeda.

To avert the worst, we must work with the nascent opposition government, the National Transitional Council, to develop a plan for a post-Qaddafi state. It is also vitally important that Western special forces, Arab soldiers or both begin arming and training the rebel fighters. They must be able to not only help toss out Colonel Qaddafi but also maintain law and order in the new Libya.

Like such other post-conflict states as Kosovo and East Timor, post-Qaddafi Libya will most likely need an international peacekeeping force. This should be organized under the auspices of the United Nations, NATO and the Arab League — a step that will require amending the Security Council resolution, which forbids a "foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory."

None of this is meant to imply that I have suddenly changed my mind and decided that we should have stayed out of Libya. This is a worthwhile intervention for both strategic and humanitarian reasons. But the Obama administration must be alive to the numerous dangers that lurk down this path, and must make plans to deal with them.

Max Boot is a senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

UNDECLARED U.S. WAR ON LIBYA

The United States last weekend made aerial bombing and sea-based attacks on the North African country of Libya, obviously to weaken troublemaking Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi, who is being internally challenged by Libyan rebels.

But who in the United States officially declared war on Libya? The Constitution says only Congress has the power to declare war. Congress has not declared war on Libya.

President Barack Obama is not even in Washington, but is on a South American tour.

Yet over the weekend, three U.S. Air Force B-2 bombers flew from Missouri to drop a reported 45 2000-pound bombs on Libyan military targets.

Fifteen U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps aircraft were joined by French and British aircraft to hit a Libyan infantry unit.

The U.S. Navy launched Tomahawk missiles on Libya from the Mediterranean Sea.

Fortunately, there have been no reported American military casualties. Clearly there have been Libyan casualties of undetermined numbers.

Libya's despotic ruler Gadhafi is an international troublemaker, and his nation has been involved in terrorism — including terrorism against this country. But who in the United States officially declared war on him or his country? No one. This action is a result of a U.N. "resolution" with which our president went along.

What's next? How shall the United States be further involved?

There are many elements throughout the world that are hostile to the United States and our interests. But should we attack them militarily without a congressional declaration?

The United States was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress on Dec. 8, 1941. Congress declared war — as the Constitution provides.

There have been varied U.S. military actions throughout American history, some declared as the Constitution of the United States requires, some in immediate response to military attacks upon the United States, and some neither in response to attacks nor with declaration by Congress as the Constitution provides.

It is highly troubling for U.S. military forces to go to war without action in clear accord with the Constitution.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Sunday the United States expects to turn control of the military operation over to a coalition of France, Britain and/or NATO "in a matter of days."

It cannot be soon enough.

We should abide by our Constitution.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

NO TO TENNESSEE INCOME TAX!

We all know, painfully, about the U.S. income tax, with tax filings due less than a month from now.

Some states also levy their own income tax.

Fortunately, Tennesseans do not have a general state income tax on their salaries and wages, though Tennessee does have a tax on income from dividends and interest. It's generally called the "Hall income tax," named for its legislative author.

Unfortunately, from time to time there is a suggestion that Tennessee might impose a general income tax. It shouldn't. But the issue isn't absolutely clear constitutionally to some. That's why the Tennessee Senate recently voted to clarify the state constitution specifically to prohibit a general income tax.

The Tennessee House of Representatives should quickly follow the state Senate's example.

That would start the process of getting the issue put before the voters of Tennessee in 2014. If it gets that far, voters should adopt a definitive state income tax ban.

That would be advantageous to our economy by keeping Tennessee attractive for more business and industrial growth for the benefit of us all.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

DANGER IN COOLIDGE PARK

 

It is natural for people, especially young people, to want to congregate outdoors as the weather becomes mild. And Coolidge Park, on the shore of the Tennessee River in North Chattanooga, is a popular gathering place.

We were reminded last weekend, however, that there may be serious danger if there is not sufficient supervision.

Hundreds of exuberant teens were in the park Saturday night when fights broke out and shots were fired! No casualties resulted, but there were several arrests.

The thought of possible deaths and injuries is chilling. This latest gunplay and a similar incident that caused multiple injuries at Coolidge Park last year should alert authorities to the importance of policing against recurrent dangers.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

GOVERNMENT FAVORITISM

Though the size of the federal government has exploded under the Obama administration — and the president wants to make government even larger — most Americans fortunately still work in the private sector, not in federal, state or local government.

Of course, it has to be that way, because without the private sector to pay taxes, government could not exist. Government does not create wealth and economic growth, after all. It only shuffles wealth around.

So let's say that like most Americans, you work in the private sector. What guarantee do you have that your current job will exist for the rest of your life, paying the wages to which you feel you are entitled? The answer, as everyone should know, is that you have no such guarantee.

Even a successful company can fall on hard times. Consumers may start buying its competitors' goods and services, for instance. That can force the company to lay off workers or even shut down. So clearly, there can be no total job security in a free market.

But did you realize that our federal government tries to create job security for workers in some sectors of the economy at the expense of other workers?

Washington pays out billions of dollars in farm subsidies — in many cases to wealthy farmers. That protects farmers from the normal ups and downs in the market to which people in other lines of work are subjected.

We spotted a revealing passage in a McClatchy Newspapers article on subsidies: "What Minnesota farmers want ... is not money for nothing, but protection against going out of business in bad times."

But don't we all want that? Wouldn't we all like it if there were a magical way to keep receiving our pay even if the company we work for goes bankrupt? Of course we would!

But if you're a plumber or waitress or an employee in some other field that doesn't get taxpayer subsidies, you are denied that "government protection."

That's bad enough, but subsidies for farmers are paid for by the taxes of other workers who enjoy no such protection — and who will lose their own jobs if their business fails.

How can it possibly be the job of government to prop up workers in one sector of the economy at the expense of others? It isn't! But the farm lobby uses its clout in Congress to keep farm subsidies flowing year after year.

There is nothing economical — much less constitutional — about that. Yet it is the sort of injustice that occurs when special interests are given priority over the national interest.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT – LIBYA IS NO IRAQ

While the group that debates the content of each day's "Straight" column is often divided, few issues have split us so much as the issue of international intervention in Libya. For some, it is the abstract matter of sovereignty, for others the concrete track record of the interveners of recent years in our neighborhood. But it is in our nature to pay particular heed to dissenting, minority voices in our midst, and the perspective of our own editor of Libyan descent we think is of unique insight – even if some of us do not share the same views.

Arguments both in favor of and against the recent decision by the United States, France and other nations to "intervene" in Libya lose sight of one very important fact: over the past 100 years, there has been constant "Western intervention" in Libya in one form or another.

From successive Ottoman administration, Italian occupation, and British and French military administration over the course of the first half of the 20th century, Libya has never existed in a self-autonomous bubble excluded from Western interests or geo-political calculations.  

Most recently, in the interest of creating a space for Western corporations to develop Libyan oil reserves, the U.S. and the U.K. in particular have taken the Realpolitik path in recent years and developed close ties with a brutal dictator who, for over 40 years, has maintained absolute power through fear, torture and the systematic and draconian crushing of any seeds of political opposition or development of civil society.  Essentially, "intervention" in Libya until today has consisted of propping up Gadhafi, an intervention that is on the wrong side of both history and human rights. The decision to enforce a no-fly zone and to bomb military targets signals a reversal of this misguided policy.

Three crucial factors distinguish the current situation from that of Iraq.  First, the latest intervention comes after a no-fly zone was endorsed by the Arab League.

Second, the current intervention in Libya enjoys broad coalition support and is driven by a common strategy. U.N. security council resolution 1973 approved a no-fly zone over Libya, authorizing "all necessary measures" to protect civilians. Third, the international response to Libya comes in direct response to a request made by the rebels in Benghazi for support.

While current intervention measures ought to be supported, several issues should give pause for concern. There is always the potential of immeasurable tragedy in collateral damage and civilian deaths when missile strikes are involved. Given this, it appears that it may be wiser for the international community to shift their focus to arming the rebels. The reluctance of the U.S. and its allies to supply the rebels, instead directly flexing its military might, suggests a cynical approach to the crisis.

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

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

EU HELP NEEDED AFTER MILITARY OPS END IN LIBYA

SEMİH İDİZ

Turkey included, much of the Islamic world expects the worst from the French-led international intervention against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Listening to the day-long commentary on the military operation on Sunday, including by some retired ambassadors, Turks appear to have no doubt that what the "wily West" is really after is Libya's oil, and nothing else.

As for U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, which enabled this operation, this is seen as something that was cooked up by Washington behind the scenes in order to facilitate the invasion of Libya, which will now be turned into a second Iraq. These views, which have also been significantly contributed to by Prime Minister Erdoğan with his at-times virulently anti-Western rhetoric on Libya, appears to be shared by most Turks, regardless of whether they are devout Muslims or secular people.

This in turn harks back to a previous commentary of ours in this column, which suggested that Turks – regardless of their life styles and political orientation – generally view the West, whose values they have not really internalized, with suspicion and not as a place that any good emanates from. The automatic knee-jerk reaction of Turkish public opinion, therefore, after Gadhafi's forces were attacked from the air was to raise the specter of the "Western bogey" once again.

Thus, claims from the Gadhafi camp that "the West was killing civilians in Libya" spread like wildfire among a prejudiced populace. It was telling, of course, that the same public did not appear to be too bothered previously about the fact that Gadhafi had killed up to 6,000 civilians and was threatening "to show no mercy" once his forces entered Benghazi.

As usual this side of the equation was overlooked because it was clearly out of line with existing prejudices. While one can understand the less-than-informed commentary of some Turks, it is much more difficult to understand the anti-western views of academics and retired ambassadors in particular, given that they are, or should be, in a position to access the material necessary for them to come up with much more objective views.

In the meantime, while anger simmers in Ankara at France for not inviting Turkey to the summit in Paris on Saturday, which worked out the modalities of the military intervention against Libya, some are rationalizing this as a positive thing since it means that Ankara was not made a "partner in crime" by the West. The irony that seems lost on most Turks is that despite some apparent defiance, Ankara is actually, if silently, contributing by means of its membership in NATO to this operation.

It is clearly because they anticipated such reactions from the Islamic world that the French-led coalition against Libya wanted to recruit the help of Arab countries against Muammar Gadhafi. They got sufficient support to start the operations but now, as seen in the wavering remarks of the Arab League's secretary general, Amr Moussa, some Arab leaders have immediately started getting cold feet because they are not sure how the Arab street is going to react to the operation.

The bottom line here is that unless the Europe and the U.S. can point to a success story in Libya and show that this is not going to be a second Iraq, the rift between the West and the Islamic world is going to get even wider.

This is why it is crucial for those countries involved in operation "Odyssey Dawn" to not only stick to the letter and spirit of Resolution 1973, but also to indicate, in words and deeds, that they have the best of intentions for the Libyan people, who they will help once they have been liberated from their madman of a dictator.

This will clearly require serious financial and technical intervention by the EU in the country as it tries to build a democratic environment and engages in a reconstruction and rejuvenation projects. What we are talking about here is a kind of "European Marshall Plan" of sorts.

While Resolution 1973 excludes the possibility of an occupying force entering Libya, there is no reason why that country should not be "invaded" by an army of European financial and technical experts who will help it back on its feet. Libya has comparative advantages, apart from the disadvantages it has due to being essentially a tribal society, which will also be helpful here.

While vast in territory, it has a population of only around 6.5 million and has no sectarian religious fault lines since most Libyans are Sunni Muslims. Most importantly, however, it has the highest grade oil and vast supplies of it, which makes it potentially one of the wealthiest countries in the world, a kind of Norway of North Africa.

If the Western can utilize these comparative advantages with programs that convince the Libyan people that they are heading for better times, it is clear that this will also go a long way in breaking the knee-jerk prejudices that exist in the Islamic world against the West.

It seems that France will have a special role to play here since it has successfully led the international community against Gadhafi. It has to tread doubly cautiously, however, given its historic baggage in North Africa. Italy is another country that is in the same position especially vis-à-vis Libya.

These countries, together with Spain, are also aware that if things go bad in North Africa, the first place refugees will head for, as seen recently in the case of Tunisia, is Europe. This should also spur European leaders into action as they try to contribute to turning North African countries into success stories, whose people interact to mutual benefit with Europe, where many have relations working or living anyway.

The European public is in an introverted and ethnocentric mood now, leading to the xenophobia and "Islamophobia" that we observe to be spreading. But while some Europeans may like to wallow in their own prejudices, not unlike the situation in the Islamic world, they do not live in a bubble that shields them from the negative fall out of developments in the international arena.

It should be made clear to the man on the street in Europe, therefore, that if things get out of hand in North Africa, the first continent to be adversely effected by this will be theirs. This is why an active involvement by the EU in the region will be of paramount importance.

Otherwise the view that "the West is only out to kill Muslims and steal their oil" will spread and fuel global instability.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE GROUP'S PROPOSAL

TARHAN ERDEM

I've known all about the New Constitution Platform, or YAP, and Writing Everyone's Constitutions Together. Last week, the Constitutional Change Group, or ADG, announced a draft proposal. I think the final version will be declared this week.

Debates over the new constitution will be launched following the general elections and I believe in-depth discussions over the new constitution should be our priority. Let's not be afraid of making mistakes while discussing the content and preparation phase of the new charter. Let's answer questions and give importance to what other says.

It's been said since the early 2009 that the new constitution would be discussed in the next election period. If legal obstacles in front of the freedom of expression and assembly as well as the 10 percent national election threshold had been removed since then, we could've had sound and productive talks today.

Demands of the group

In the ADG statement, we mainly see three demands:

1- The election threshold should be changed before the June 12 general elections and a relevant article should be appended in the Constitution accordingly. "Otherwise, the legitimacy of Parliamentary preparations on the new constitution will become questionable."

2 - Excessive control of the "execution and government," created in the 1982 Constitution and felt over the other state bodies, should be prevented from having any influence over the new constitution works.

3 - In order for Parliament's proper functioning during the preparation phase of the new charter, the approval ratio in Parliament should be increased from 3/5 to 3/4. Member distribution in the Constitution Commission should be determined in accordance with the votes gained not with the number of seats. During the preparation phase representatives of civil society should be given equal right to speak in the commission's meetings.

Various proposals similar to those above could be made during the constitutional debates. On the other hand, it shouldn't be claimed that proposals per se are necessary for "democratic functioning of Parliament" and that if they are not considered "constitutional preparations become questionable." At present, no "red lines" or "red crosses" should be presented in the face of any perspectives.

Lowering the national threshold means lowering the number of parliamentary deputy seats to be gained in the elections. We have three months left to the polling and the three parties (the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and opposition parties, the Republican People's Party, or CHP, and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP) will ignore such a proposal.

But what's important here is the ADG's fixation "legitimacy of Parliamentary preparations about the new constitution would become questionable." How could we read this? Will we postpone the new constitution to post-2015? Or what is it?

And the second demand, "the influence of execution and government on the state bodies should be prevented from having any influence over the new constitution works" seems romantic! The suggestion which could be one of the fundamental-principles-to-be in the new constitution should be open to discussion. For some want strong execution and some want distribution of power. On the other hand, it is not clear in the statement who and which institution could ease the government's influence over constitutional discussions.

It could've been more appropriate if the proposals regarding the changes in Parliamentary bylaw had been made without linking them to "democratic functioning of Parliament." Procedural suggestions usually have as many opponents as they have supporters. We should thoroughly explain our reasons. If we have others to accept them, we will not have any problem in the end.

Should it be a constitution in detail?

The details of new constitutions in rapidly changing countries should be avoided during the preparation process. Decision-making process should not be made difficult; to the opposite, it should be facilitated! Otherwise, many issues, although they deserve inclusion in a constitution, are left to laws and cannot be regulated in the constitution. As known, laws can be passed by simple majority!

The issues voiced in the proposal originate from a prejudice on a certain political party, which is expected to have parliamentary majority in the elections. In parliaments, examples such as seeking the 3/4 majority for endorsement of a constitution, considering member distribution in a commission not according to seats but according to votes gained, or having civil society organizations have the equal right to speak, are hardly found.

I am of the opinion that we should express our genuine thoughts on the essence of the Constitution without having thoughts over preventing objectives or intentions of the others. If we start talking with prejudices, the others will start with prejudices too, rather than views on the new Constitution. If everyone begins discussions by putting forward his/her prejudices, or by favoring his/her prejudices, talks lead away from the Constitution and discussions turn into a cockfight, so to speak, because prejudice nurtures prejudice.

Let's join discussions without having any doubts over others' objectives on the subject. Let's hear everyone and let's make assessments only over what they say. Let's talk about our views on equal terms.

* Tarhan Erdem is a columnist for daily Radikal, in which this piece appeared Monday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

IT'S BETTER TO BE MODERATE

ERDOĞAN ALKİN

There are two groups of people in Turkey, whose ideas about the future of the economy are quite different from each other. The members of the first group, who are not happy about the present economic situation, also make over-pessimistic projections for the coming months, even years.

The other group, which praises economic success stories, is also optimistic about the future. These two different approaches both do not seem reasonable.

There are of course reasons to expect various external shocks that create negative impacts on the domestic economy. First of all, the recent political turmoil in the Middle East and as a result the steady rise in oil prices, in addition a sudden jump in prices of foodstuffs and raw material prices, will create serious economic and even social-political problems.

According to Ali Babacan, the state minister and deputy prime minister, every $10 increase in the price of a barrel of crude oil will push inflation 0.5 percentage points up and also will have a $4 billion impact on the current account deficit. This gap in January increased already nearly 90 percent in one year. Although it was below market expectations, the monthly figure reached $5.9 billion.

However, this does not mean that a new economic crisis is inevitable. There are now some shock absorbers that macroeconomic management can use to ease the pain created by international economic problems.

It is also important to pay attention to domestic problems. Minister Babacan, during a recent press conference, pointed to the necessity of cooling economic activity. It is not an easy decision for the government just months before the general elections. The more serious problem is the technical difficulty of cooling the economic activity. It means that even the government takes a political risk in taking a decision that might be impossible to implement.

The members of the over-optimistic group, including some politicians, bureaucrats, businesspeople and economists, do not see any critical economic problem during the coming months. They are content with the current economic situation and they almost do not want to hear about any possible problem that lies waiting in the future.

These two exaggerations are both unhealthy and they might prevent sound projections for the future that are necessary to enable the timely use of economic policies against unexpected problems. First of all, it must be remembered that economic problems in Europe are ongoing. Even the probability of some national bankruptcies was placed again on the top of the agenda. Increases in oil, foodstuffs and some important raw material prices will add new problems to the difficulties in those countries. The disaster in Japan will also create some extra difficulties in the world economy. All these might have negative impacts on Turkey's traditional export markets and also on the domestic financial market.

Although Turkey has now entered the general elections process, at least some voices from the government side, especially from the macroeconomic management, give an impression that risks waiting ahead are comprehended. Again Minister Babacan indicates that their priority is stability instead of growth. This is good news, but of course if that approach does not change during the coming months. However, one consolation is that there is not enough time to implement an exaggerated "election economy." And it is believed that the new government after the elections will continue to implement tight, or even tighter, fiscal policies.

Widening foreign trade and current account deficits during the first months gave some signals of probable problems that await after the elections. Inflation figures will give also additional negative signals during the coming months. Although a jump in inflation will be partly due to the base effect, it definitely will have a negative impact on inflationary expectations.

In short, there are not yet negative signals indicating a serious economic crisis in Turkey for this and the next year. However, it is better to be ready for external shocks and for unexpected domestic problems. It must be remembered that, years ago, when there was not a serious problem in the world economy, Turkey was begging for "70 cents" because of a domestic political turmoil and the implementation of irrational economic policies.

ealkin@iticu.edu.tr

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

IS TURKEY MICROFINANCE INVESTABLE?

BURCU GÜVENEK ARASLI

This is a question that has been asked to me by so many investors over the years. In comparison to many countries in the Eastern Europe & Central Asia, or ECA, region – like Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Moldova, Ukraine, Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro – only Turkey has not achieved its potential for microfinance investment by international development agencies and/or commercial investors. Turkey is one of the biggest economies in the region and has a high volume of people who have no access to banking services and especially start-up capital to promote entrepreneurs, thereby meaning the answer to this question is even more crucial for social and commercial investors.

Currently approximately 45,000 women benefit from micro credit services with limited access to micro savings in Turkey. Micro credit is provided mostly through one implementation leading to an immature market structure. The lack of quality information on microfinance in Turkey, especially about demand and structure, and deficient legal infrastructure for new micro credit initiatives are the top reasons there is nearly a monopoly in a country of more than 74 million with a substantially low, 26 percent, rate of women participating in the labor force (globally the rate is 52 percent).  

Unemployment as stated by the government is one of the top macroeconomic problems in Turkey. Promoting self-employment through entrepreneurial activity can be an efficient solution to this problem, but the banking sector is not very friendly to the idea of financing start-ups because they are perceived as "high risk" due to their lack of credit history. That's the point when micro credit should kick in to enable the survival of micro entrepreneurs, especially in their early years, that otherwise would depend on their ability to leverage their micro enterprises through family and friends or in worse cases through illegal credit providers.

Pointing out the potential demand and its impact in Turkey, however, is not the only bottleneck in front of microfinance investment in Turkey. How could a foreign/national investor launch a microfinance project in Turkey? That is a key area to address in my opinion.

While the technical differences are very deep, there are two obvious choices for new microfinance or micro credit initiatives: following either an NGO model of a bank model.

Choosing the NGO model in Turkey is quite complicated and not the way with the least resistance. However with the correct NGO model, an investor would have full control over operations and implement the necessary international best practices as the way it should be despite the lengthier launching period of operations. The challenge with this model is that the legal framework permitting provision of micro credit through NGOs is like that of an association structure, which is not applicable in practice and resulted in failure in the past.

Choosing the bank model through partnering with a Turkish bank, most of which have advanced technologies and resources in place, not to mention the wide networks of branch offices, is much quicker way to launch a program in Turkey. However now the challenge here is to work closely with bankers on a product/business line they think they understand and feel apprehensive about implementing uniquely different micro credit methodologies and deal with a customer segment they perceive as high risk. One other challenge here is of course the bankers would see this as a corporate social responsibility project rather than a commercially viable business the way it should be. Still, these mentioned challenges of working with Turkish bankers are no different than working with bankers elsewhere in the world.

What is different in Turkey is that due to deficiencies in the microfinance legal framework, regulators are indirectly encouraging investors/initiatives to partner with banks they already regulate, unfortunately thinking that same regulatory practices would apply to micro credit operations.

The bottom line is, regardless of the chosen model, there is huge business potential in Turkey and certainly one implementation – despite its success – could possibly not cover the demand of micro credit in a country like Turkey.

From an expert's point of view, the most important result of new investments (preferably having both models) in microfinance in Turkey will be to lead into a competitive and mature microfinance-enabling environment that eventually brings along adequate regulations and contribute to alleviating poverty and unemployment.

* Burcu Güvenek Araslı is senior development finance expert and microfinance instructor at the Middle East Technical University. She can be reached at burcu.arasli@ttmail.com.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

HAUNTED HOUSES

ÜMIT ENGİNSOY

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin once famously said that "the death of one single person is a tragedy, the death of one million people is only statistics." As the regime-inflicted massacres in Libya partly approached Stalinist statistical figures, the international community moved to intervene to stop the atrocities, and declared a no-fly zone over Libya.

By mid-day Monday, the U.S. military said the bombardment so far – a rain of Tomahawk cruise missiles and precision bombs from American and European aircraft – had hobbled the Libyan regime's air defenses. Initially, French fighter jets fired salvos, carrying out several strikes in the rebel-held east. This is a war, and not a partial security operation. The objective is regime change, the removal of Moammar Gadhafi's ruling gang from Libya.

One side effect is the de facto death of many Turkish contracts that had been awarded by Gadhafi's government and altogether were worth between $15 billion and $20 billion. Once a new administration eventually takes over in Libya, these contracts most probably will be re-awarded to Western companies. One senior official from a Turkish construction company recently told me: "Libya was one of a very few markets from which Turkish firms had obtained very lucrative deals as prime contractors. Now it seems this market is gone forever."

A month ago, up to 23,000 Turkish workers were in Libya, and now almost all of them have been evacuated. These people are unemployed now. Together with their family members, the number of people affected by the situation is around 100,000, and their future is unclear.

Now you can legitimately ask me if my only concern on the whole Libyan tragedy/crisis is the lost Turkish contracts. No, of course not, I am no fan of Col. Gadhafi, who, according to some, in recent TV footage and pictures looks more like a sociopathic zombie. His critics who say that he is totally crazy may be right. I also think that his thugs, his Syrian and Serbian pilots and his Tuareg and sub-Saharan mercenaries who have killed thousands of people should be punished.

But at the same time, many of his local opponents are very not much different in appearance and psychology. And Gadhafi's regime may be replaced by a combination of equally evil gangs. In addition, I suspect that the Western operations in Libya, in the final analysis, are not totally humanitarian-inspired campaigns, but also are business-minded actions. Eventually Libya's assets, including its large oil industry, could be opened to Western companies when Gadhafi leaves.

In one example of possible political opportunism, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, one of the campaign's leaders, probably believes that the Libya move would compensate for his country's lack of action in the face of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts; bring him the image of a macho and able man before next year's presidential elections; and create fresh business opportunities for French firms. For U.S. President Barack Obama, who weeks ago said that Gadhafi must go, he will save face before the 2012 presidential polls.

In short, as you dig into the foundations of the West's Libyan move, I suspect you may find out that there is little morality in what is being dressed up as an exercise in morality.

What about Bahrain?

The tiny Persian Gulf island of Bahrain also has been facing strong anti-government protests in recent weeks. Bahrain's ruling al-Khalifa family then called for intervention from the fellow Gulf Cooperation Council countries (read as Saudi Arabia). Around 2,000 Saudi troops and some more security personnel from other council countries poured in Bahrain and conducted a major crackdown against the opposition.

This "invitation" pretext is hard to justify, and reminds me of how Afghanistan also "invited" the Soviet Army in 1979. Lebanon in 1976 also "invited" the Syrian Army, which stayed there for 29 years. Now if you ask the Americans and their Western partners if they also are thinking of a no-fly or no-drive zone against the Saudi troops in Bahrain, they would probably look elsewhere.

Because Bahrain is small, but critical. It has a 70 percent Shiite population, which is being oppressed by a Sunni dynasty that is a very close ally of the United States. Bahrain is home to the United States' 5th Fleet, the first U.S. force to fight Iran in the event of a confrontation. The tiny island state is even more critical to Saudi Arabia, which fears that its Shiite population living in the oil-rich areas near Bahrain also could rebel.

Also the other day, pro-government thugs killed at least 40 demonstrators in Yemen, a key U.S. ally in the fight against al-Qaeda. But the West, as it hits Libya, mostly is quiet in the face of the unrest in Bahrain and Yemen (and other potential conflicts in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and elsewhere).

Iran went ballistic over the Saudi intervention in Bahrain and withdrew its ambassador. I am not pro-Shiite or pro-Iranian at all, but Tehran's protests are not meaningless. I also understand that multiple standards are part of Realpolitik in dealing with the world. But at least just don't praise the Arab awakening indiscriminately and act differently in specific situations. Just be brave and openly say: "OK, my national interests dictate my individual policies. So if it serves my purposes, I hit Libya, and I spare Bahrain and the Saudis."

Actually one key problem is that many of the Middle Eastern and North African states are actually haunted houses. They are multi-ethnic, multi-tribal, unsafe, spooky, creepy, uncanny places. Their borders are not natural frontiers, most were drawn by colonialist forces (although sometimes by rulers) in the 19th and 20th centuries. Examples include Bahrain, Iraq and several others. Stalin also was a master of building haunted houses, placing rival peoples in the same Soviet republics in the Caucasus and Russia's republics in the North Caucasus.

Multi-ethnic states are not always open invitations for unrest and violence. In Europe, Switzerland has lived peacefully for ages, Czechoslovakia peacefully separated into two pieces in the 1990s. But such peaceful concepts of division probably are impossible in the Middle East.

I remember a Turkish saying that "Niyazi (a male name) is neither a martyr or a ghazi, he just died for nothing." I partly think this way for the victims of the Middle Eastern and North African violence of this year. For many places it is not an Arab awakening or an Arab revolution, but Arab massacres and an Arab tragedy.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WHAT CAN YOU SACRIFICE TO GIVE UP NUCLEAR?

ROBERT RAPIER

After the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, someone said to me "We have to stop all offshore drilling." My response was that I could get behind that idea, but I wanted to know what sacrifices the person was willing to make. That turned out to be the end of the conversation, because usually the people campaigning against these sorts of things believe that the consequences will be all good (no more oil spills) with no real downside (like less energy available). I can tell you with absolute certainty that we can live with no offshore drilling, but I can also tell you that the price of your fuel would be greater — and probably far greater — than it is today.

I believe that the reason we have so much "dirty" energy is that we demand cheap energy. I spoke to a reporter in Japan this week about the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant, and he said he couldn't help but notice that despite some rolling blackouts now, Japan remains very much a country with all of the lights on.

This gets right to the heart of why we have nuclear power: We demand cheap energy; energy so cheap that we can afford to leave all of the lights in the house on all day long. Both coal and nuclear-generated electricity are viewed as cheap relative to many other options — admittedly debatable given charges of government subsidies and the occasional environmental calamity — as well as reliable (again, environmental calamities notwithstanding).

My response to the reporter was that I love lobster, but I rarely eat it because it is so expensive. If they served $2 lobster at McDonalds, we would all consume much more lobster and of course the supply of lobsters would be under pressure. If we all demanded cheap lobster and got angry when our lobsters became more expensive, politicians would work to give us what we want lest they be voted out of office. We would see all sorts of lobster-related subsidies designed to bring us all cheap lobsters (which have to be paid through taxes and/or deficit spending). Consequences of our cheap lobster demands — higher deficits and possibly no more lobsters — would be pushed onto another generation.

This of course describes our energy dilemma. We demand cheap energy. Politicians recognize that, so they strive to deliver cheap energy or they lose their jobs. When energy prices go up, finger-pointing and congressional hearings follow. And at the end of the day, it means that our energy usage is so high that we "need" offshore drilling, tar sands, nuclear power and coal power. It is a self-sustaining cycle that diminishes resources and potentially spoils the environment for future generations.

Instead of being part of that cycle, I wish more politicians would have the guts to stand up and say "Enough! We have to break this cycle." The problem is that many of them have idealistic views that renewable energy can step up and fill the gap if we had no nuclear power or offshore drilling. I confess that I have an idealistic streak within me, but I am mostly a realist. I understand why nuclear power rather than solar power fills a third of Japan's electricity needs. It is all about the size of their electric bills and the convenience of having cheap electricity available around the clock.

Albert Einstein reportedly once said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." If we are to do without nuclear power, the way to lessen our dependence on it is to change our mindset on cheap energy. We just need to make electricity expensive enough that people don't leave all their lights on all day long. It is as simple as that. And we could accomplish that without further burdening consumers already struggling with high-energy prices.

Conclusion – Are you willing to sacrifice?

So during this debate on whether we really need nuclear power, I will ask the same questions I asked when the topic was offshore drilling: How much are you willing to pay to be rid of it? If your answer is "nothing" then you are simply engaging in wishful thinking. Personally, I would be willing to pay a price to stop some of these energy options that pose risks to our environment. I can't say that a majority would be willing to pay more, but I think the idea could be sold on the basis that your overall tax burden does not change. In that case, you are paying more for energy — potentially enabling a phase-out of nuclear plants as demand falls — but your overall budget isn't impacted.

The fatal flaw in the plan, of course, will be politics as usual. As soon as someone proposes such a thing, the focus will be "My opponent wants to raise your gas taxes." Of course that is the kind of thinking that got us to this point. But we will need to change our thinking to seriously consider a phase-out of nuclear power.

* This article was originally published by OilPrice.com, which offers free information and analysis on energy and commodities. To find out more, visit the website at www.oilprice.com.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

A DIFFICULT DECISION TO MAKE

YUSUF KANLI

Turkey is definitely in a very difficult position regarding what to do and how to do it on the Libya operation issue. It no longer has the option of staying away totally as such a development might heat up the "axis shift" controversy but it cannot undertake an active combat role either, as Turkish people would never ever approve of their country joining hands with some Western powers in what would most likely be perceived as an attack on a Muslim country.

Besides, it has been Turkey's established strategy to avoid undertaking combat responsibilities even in operations of the NATO alliance – be it in the Balkans, Somalia or in Afghanistan. Turkey might undertake patrolling duties or checking compliance with ceasefire. It might as well undertake a role in enforcing a naval blockade. But, never ever has Turkey agreed to engage in any international operation – since the Korean War – with active combat duty. Though in the early 2000s the country pondered for some time whether to participate in the Iraq War and allow the use of its territory by the Americans to open a second front in the war, a parliamentary "no" gunned down such considerations and put Turkish-American relations in a deep coma for some time. Eight years later, even those who supported a Turkish combat role in the Iraq War at the time agree that developments since then have proved that it was in Turkey's best interest to stay out.

But what to do now? Shall Turkey send some ships, some aircraft and join in the Libya operation, since the operation was legitimized with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, or shall it convince its NATO allies that if it stays out of the war it can offer liaison capabilities with both the Libyan opposition and the Moammar Gadhafi regime and contribute to a quicker resolution of the quagmire?

Ankara was dead silent Monday. On the one hand the political and military decision-makers were waiting for the prime minister to come back from a trip to Saudi Arabia – where he could not meet with the king apparently because of a gaffe about the historic Sunni-Shiite sectarian divide – while on the other hand intelligence and military top bureaucracy were busy making risk analyses.

Turkey is definitely not willing at all to see missiles fired from land, sea or air vessels of some allied countries headed by France, United States and Britain, indiscriminately pounding Libyan cities on the pretext of enforcing the no-fly zone resolution of the United Nations Security Council. The powers mercilessly bombarding Libyan cities claim that they have been showing utmost care to limit collateral civilian casualties while saying that bombarding air defense capabilities of Libya was a must to enforce the no-fly zone and compel the mad man of Tripoli agree to and abide with a ceasefire…

Yet, bombs fired by ships and aircraft of those countries who claim they believe the most sacred right of man on earth is the right to live continue pounding Libyan cities, indiscriminately murdering innocent civilians.

Turkey cannot and should not be part of such an offensive even if the aim is to eventually get rid of the extremely dangerous and unreliable madman of the neighborhood, who for the past 41 years or so most probably has been inflicting far worse sufferings on his own people.

On the other hand, since most Turks, like the rest of the population of this Muslim region, believe that enforcing a ceasefire or punishing Gadhafi is just a tale, the real aim of the attack and probable eventual invasion is to siphon off the natural wealth of the North African country, very much like what has happened in Iraq, the operation on Libya should not be just undertaken with the forces of Western powers, but should be draw participation also by Arabs as well as non-Arab Muslim countries. The pledge of Qatar to send four F-16s, for example, was a welcome development for Ankara, but insufficient. Coalition leaders must plainly commit themselves to the declared aims of the operation and make it clear that the operation is aimed at restoring Libyan sovereignty and integrity, not tapping its resources.

The prime minister was expected to arrive in Ankara just as the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review was going to print. Probably all through last night Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and related ministers, as well as top civilian and military figures, continued pondering the decision to be made. Not an easy decision to make at all, but how long can Turkey keep NATO waiting without a decision on the issue?

Still, there is one key question in the minds of many people in responsible positions: What might the eventual positive and negative impacts of this operation on regional developments be, particularly the quest for wider democratic rights and liberties?

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

DEADLY MINES

 

There appear to be no survivors of the disaster at a mine in Sorrange, Balochistan. The death toll is put at 45, with 29 bodies recovered by late Monday. The cause of the explosion that ripped through the shaft on Sunday has been identified as a build-up of gas which ignited, as evidenced by the severely burned condition of many of the bodies recovered. Those who were not burned to death, suffocated. Rescue work had to be halted for some time as the rescuers were themselves overcome by noxious gasses. Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani said that the owners of the mine had been warned in the past of the danger they were placing their workers in by their failure to provide proper ventilation. Warnings and advice had been ignored, said Durrani. And the owners of the mine are? None other than the state-owned Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation.

Nobody can pretend that mining is anything other than a dangerous occupation. Miners – usually poor manual workers at the bottom of the social ladder and even further down the pay leagues – have paid with their lives for the privilege of hauling out of the ground that which makes their employers wealthy. Those who operate the mines seek to cut costs and maximise profits, with inevitable consequences. Legislation designed to protect miners is flouted everywhere – the Chileans so dramatically and successfully rescued last year were the victims of a penny-pinching mine-owner. Our mines, particularly in Balochistan, have a dismal safety record. Legislation designed to protect the miners is hopelessly out of date. We have the West Pakistan Hazardous Occupations Rules 1963 which provides some protection but our primary legislation is the Mines Act of 1923. Given that we are likely to be embarking on substantial new mining operations in the not-far future in the Thar coalfields and Reko-Dik, now is the time to revisit a swathe of safety and mining legislation. It is simply unacceptable that the principal law covering mining is 88 years old and inherited from a colonial power whose own exploitation of poor labourers for maximum profit was the stuff of legend. The 45 who died in Balochistan probably did so because the mine-owner – the state – cared little for their welfare or safety, and their deaths set a new benchmark for culpable negligence.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

CHANGE OF GUARD?

 

The old order is fighting hard to retain its hold on power in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain and the outcome is far from clear. There are also violent protests in Deraa, Syria, and Tunisia and Egypt have yet to form into a settled shape and direction after their leaders of decades were toppled. The government in Yemen has been sacked and the country remains in ferment, and the Libyan War, 2011, is in its fourth day. All eyes may be on Libya, but for real threat, real change, we have to look at Bahrain. Bahrain has an importance in the current round of revolt out of proportion to its size. Ruled by a not very popular Sunni minority the Shia majority has pushed back, to the alarm of Saudi Arabia and to a relatively muted response by the US.


The US may be content to leave the Libyan imbroglio to the Europeans to do the heavy lifting on; it has few interests there and would prefer not to be involved in another war with a Muslim country. Not so Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, because added to the equation is Iran, the bête-noir of Uncle Sam since the revolution toppled the Pahlavi regime that was a western puppet. Since then, Iran has in large degree prospered. It is well-educated but its youth is beginning to push against the strictures that encapsulate its lives - and it is ambitious. The US may wish to foster the rebellious youth of Iran but it fears the ambitions of its leaders because the prize that they eye is Bahrain and control of the waters of the Gulf. They may hope to physically posses it (Iran declared it a province in 1957) but probably will not, being content instead to bring regime change in Bahrain that sees a Shia majority government. Saudi Arabia may find it difficult to welcome an Iran-centric government in Bahrain 26 miles of its eastern seaboard. As would the Americans. Elsewhere, pro-democracy movements have had Uncle Sam applauding from the sidelines. Not in Bahrain. Today the world watches Libya, but tiny Bahrain may well be the mouse that roared.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

KARACHI CRISIS

 

It is difficult to know whether to classify the latest outbreak of killings in Karachi as a new wave of violence. The fact is that violence here never fully recedes, or at least it has not done so for months. Nevertheless, the death of at least 15 people as new tensions erupt between the MQM and other groups represents a grave political threat. The latest unrest came as some workers of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and some of the MQM were killed, following a grenade attack on an MQM office. As inevitably happens after such incidents, there were bursts of firing, more deaths across the city –– and more such attacks. Given the ethnic and political undertones to the violence, things may well worsen over the coming days. Certainly, the "efforts" that have continued for over a year to bring things under control have failed. This has serious repercussions given the nature of life in Karachi, where it is essential for communities to live together; peace is also essential to business activity and the normal movements of citizens who for too long now have lived in a state of terror

That the new spate of violence broke out even as the PPP attempts to patch up its strained relations with the MQM is itself significant. The failure to enforce and sustain peace, despite the series of meetings held and the promises made by the provincial and central governments, makes them look especially ineffectual. This can only encourage those responsible for sporadic violence in the city. We still do not know precisely what their purpose is – but far too many innocent people, uninvolved in politics of any kind, have died because of it. Low-scale violence has continued in Karachi for far too long now. We hear of eight deaths some days, on other days of three or four. It is vital that we stop this flow of blood. It is difficult to comment on exactly how this will be achieved. But the government needs to come up with a plan and lay it before its allies so that the frightening sound of gunfire and the ensuing mayhem it brings to communities everywhere in the city can be brought to an end before we see a still greater toll taken on peace and harmony in Karachi.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

DEADLIEST DRONE STRIKE, BUT NOT THE LAST

RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI

 

A day after the dramatic release of CIA operative and double murderer Raymond Davis as a result of a complex "blood-money" deal brokered primarily by Pakistani and American intelligence agents, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) attacked a tribal jirga in Dattakhel in a remote part of North Waziristan, killing 48 innocent tribesmen, including children, and causing injuries to 50 people.


This was the deadliest strike by US drones in Pakistan's tribal areas since June 18, 2004, when the first-ever such attack killed the local Taliban commander Nek Mohammad and sabotaged the first peace deal that Pakistani authorities had controversially made with the militants in South Waziristan. Scores of civilians had already lost their lives in the previous 232 US drone attacks also. But the one in Dattakhel on March 17 was the first time that nobody doubted that those slain, wounded and maimed were all civilians. The victims had gathered to resolve an issue concerning the monetary share of their respective sub-tribes and clans from the lease of a jointly-owned hill containing a chromites mine.


A section of the Western media did try to create doubts about the identity of those present in the jirga, held in the open space near the banks of river Tochi, by pointing out that one Sharbat Khan who died in the attack had links with the local Taliban. However, this claim had no leg to stand on because everyone knew Sharbat Khan, the contractor who had leased the chromites mine for Rs8.8 million and had been summoned by the jirga to explain as to when and how he was planning to pay the lease money to different sections of the Madakhel Wazir sub-tribe that owned the Khar Sangi hill. Even if there happened to be a Taliban fighter or sympathiser in the jirga on that fateful day, no government or military would order bombing a gathering of more than 150 people discussing a mundane issue in the open just to kill one suspected militant. They weren't doing military training or finalising plans to infiltrate the nearby Afghan border to attack the US-led Nato forces. That kind of gatherings aren't held in the open, and everyone in South and North Waziristan is aware of the constant overhead presence of drones carrying out surveillance and searching for targets.


It wasn't the first time that a gathering of tribesmen was attacked with lethal missiles fired by the Predators and the more advanced Reapers. Funerals of "militants" killed in drone strikes in Waziristan have been hit due to the belief of the attackers that all those present would be Taliban or their sympathisers. Across the border in Afghanistan, trigger-happy Americans and their Nato allies employing jet fighters, helicopter-gunships and drones have attacked not only funerals and graveyards but also weddings, passenger vehicles, jirgas and children collecting firewood. In recent strikes, farmers digging, weeding and sowing in their fields were attacked from the air because the pilots thought they were planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs)!

In fact, both the militants and the Nato forces in Afghanistan, and in many cases their counterparts in Pakistan, now use the same tactic of getting even with each other, and in the process killing and injuring a larger number of ordinary civilians than their enemies. The militants trigger a second explosionm mostly through a remote-controlled device, after having ensured that rescue workers, including soldiers and cops, have gathered in sufficient numbers after the first blast. The Nato pilots flying jets and helicopters and the drone operators sitting thousands of miles away from the killing fields of Waziristan and Afghanistan in the US and undertaking operations through computer screens and remote auto-feeds, now invariably carry out the second and third strike to take out all those rushing to rescue the dying and the injured. This has been described by UNHRC investigator Philip Alston, who challenged the legality of the US drone strikes in Pakistan as the "PlayStation" mentality to killing because the person manning the computer just has to push a button to rain death from the sky.

The UAVs are operated by the CIA, which has a history of carrying out extrajudicial and targeted killings all over the world and using private security firms, such as the Blackwater (renamed Xe Services), for which Davis once worked, to gather intelligence and undertake support operations. Davis possessed a GPS device of the kind reportedly used to direct drone strikes in Waziristan. and it increasingly became obvious that he was one of the CIA contractors involved not only in the execution of the controversial drones programmes but also espionage activities in Pakistan unknown to the ISI.


The mystery deepened when the US suspended the drone strikes against targets in Pakistani territory for almost three weeks after the arrest of Davis on Jan 27 when he shot dead two young Pakistanis who were giving him a chase on the streets of Lahore. That explained Washington's desperation in seeking the release of Davis, a spymaster described by President Barack Obama as "our diplomat," by whatever means and at whatever cost. Paying $2.35 million as blood-money to the heirs of the slain Pakistanis, therefore, wasn't a costly bargain owing to the sensitive and ugly nature of the job assigned to Davis.


Though the drone strikes resumed while Davis was still in the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore, the day chosen for the deadliest attack in North Waziristan was March 17 when the disguised CIA contractor was out of harm's way and flying home to the US. The attack was variously mentioned as celebration of Davis's release and a "gift" to Pakistan and CIA's "revenge" for jailing and prosecuting its agent. army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani came out with a strongly-worded statement condemning the drone attack and assuring the people of Waziristan that their life, honour and dignity would be protected at all costs.


It was unusual for him to comment on the drone strikes, though one wondered whether the military would now be taking concrete steps to protect the people of Waziristan from such attacks in future. As if on cue, everyone in the government, including President Asif Ali Zardari, also issued statements condemning the drone strike. Few believed them, however, in view of the widespread belief, thanks to Wikileaks, that they have been privately condoning these attacks in their meetings with US officials.


In fact, the army chief's anger also seemed confined to this particular incident on March 17 due to the heavy death toll of civilians and on account of the outrage caused by it in Pakistan. A week before the attack, Maj Gen Ghayoor Mahmood, the military commander of the operations in North Waziristan, had publicly and unusually acknowledged that the US drone strikes were effective as mostly hardcore Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants were being killed. He even gave figures to the media to substantiate his claim. This was strange, because even the US military authorities have made no such claims. Rather, the US doesn't even officially acknowledge that it is carrying out the drone strikes in Pakistani territory. Instead, information about those killed in the attacks is leaked to the US media or claims about the presence of someone important in the Al-Qaeda or Taliban hierarchy, such as Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, are made in case the drone strikes miss their targets and cause civilian deaths.


Maj Gen Ghayoor Mahmood's statement must have gladdened the hearts of the Americans as it justified the drone strikes and showed their efficacy. It also angered the Hafiz Gul Bahadur-led militants in North Waziristan who aren't part of the Hakimullah Mahsud-headed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and are still bound by a peace accord with the government. Though the militants are threatening to end the peace agreement as they believe the drone attacks take place with the cooperation of Pakistan government, efforts are being made by the grand tribal jirga in North Waziristan to save the accord. The call for jihad against the US given by some members of this jirga is also being downplayed as the personal viewpoint of those tribal elders. Before long, the drone strikes could resume because the CIA's past and present heads have described them as the "only game in town" and the Pakistani ruling elite are unwilling and unable to stop them.

 

The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email: rahim yusufzai@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

THE RETURN OF THE 1990S

DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN

 

After a long delay, the government has finally announced a series of budgetary measures through the Presidential Ordinances to keep the budget deficit in the range of five to 5.5 percent of GDP in the current fiscal year. On the revenue side, the measures include a flood surcharge of 15 percent, increase in special excise duty from one percent to 2.5 percent, withdrawal of sales tax exemptions on agricultural inputs and zero-rating on plants, machinery and equipment including five major export-oriented sectors (textiles, carpets, leather, sports and surgical goods).


On the expenditure side, the measures include a reduction in current expenditure and a cut of Rs 100 billion in the federal PSDP for the year. The government also increased power tariffs by two percent to reduce subsidy on this account. While some of the above listed measures are in the right direction and should have been taken in the Budget 2010-11, the delay in taking them has seriously affected Pakistan's fiscal balance.


The ad hoc revenue and expenditure measures taken on March 15, 2011 reminded us of the 1990s when governments used to impose a series of 'mini-budgets' in the midst of the ongoing fiscal year. Even then, Pakistan used to be in the IMF Program and used to set senseless revenue targets to achieve a budget deficit consistent with the IMF Program. The government would finalise its expenditure plan based first on its political priorities and second on the budget deficit target set by the IMF. The government used to fix the revenue target. The latter was never in keeping with economic activity and tax administration.


After every quarter, the IMF mission used to visit Pakistan to monitor economic performance. Since revenue projection was not based on a sound footing, revenue shortfall for the quarter was very much expected. Both the IMF and Pakistani teams would sit in the library of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to finalise additional tax measures to meet revenue shortfall.


The same exercise used to be repeated every quarter to meet the revenue targets. Senseless taxation continued in the 1990s and in the process we created enormous tax anomalies, adversely affecting Pakistan's industrial sector. Frequent changes in tax rates made importing cheaper than producing the same goods within the country.

The current economic team repeated the mistakes of the 1990s by setting a grossly overambitious target for the FBR revenue for 2010-11. Also, the government set its expenditure plan first and then to achieve the budget deficit target of four percent of the GDP as agreed with the IMF, the economic team came up with an overstated revenue target for the FBR. The government took nine months to take additional tax measures as opposed to quarterly majors in the 1990s. It is hoped that these tax measures will not create tax anomalies, promote the culture of 'flying invoices', and promote piling up of refunds.


Let me share my thoughts on various budgetary measures. On the revenue side, the withdrawal of exemption of sales tax is analogous to the broadening of tax bases and must be supported. The withdrawal of zero-rating on plant, machinery and equipment including five major exports sector is a step in the right direction.


However, it is expected that an effective mechanism of quick disbursement of refund and prevention of the re-emergence of the culture of 'flying invoices' have been put in place in the FBR. The finance team must note that the stakes are high and any failure would kill the imposition of the RGST for ever.


Taxing agricultural inputs is a bad economic policy. It is inconsistent with the government's poverty reduction strategy. However, it is the only option considering the government's inability to tax income originating from agriculture. The government must bring agricultural income under direct tax net in the Budget 2011-12. Once this is done, it should withdraw sales tax on agricultural inputs.


A 15 percent flood surcharge is against the principle of equity and justice. The floods took place some nine months ago but the government has only now decided to raise revenue for the victims. Nowhere else in the world would one see such a senseless measure to raise revenue. This tax will be imposed on salaried persons and the urban middle-class that are already paying income tax. The feudals, earning billions from agriculture, have remained outside the direct tax net and will remain exempt from flood tax as well. How ironic is this? The captive tax payers will be paying for the inefficiency and lethargy of the economic team.


The government has also taken several measures to cut unnecessary expenditure. These should have been taken in the Budget 2010-11. A cut of Rs 100 billion of development spending resembles measures of the 1990s. The quality of spending has been compromised as allocations to physical infrastructure and social sector are reduced by 41 percent and 34 percent, respectively.


I have been arguing for quite some time that increasing power tariff is no solution to our power sector. The people of Pakistan have been forced to pay for the inefficiency and corruption of WAPDA/PEPCO employees. The solution lies in reforms to the power sector which include elimination of free electricity provision to WAPDA employees, energy audit of WAPDA's power plants, giving line losses reduction targets to the CEOs of all the DISCOs, and strengthening of WAPDA's finance department.


The writer is principal & dean at NUST Business School (NBS) Islamabad.


Email: ahkhan@nbs.edu.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

PETRAEUS ADVISES AMNESIA

ZAFAR HILALY

 

There comes a point at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue, and that point was surely reached when the latest US drone attack accounted for the deaths of 44 innocent tribesmen in North Waziristan. We were told better intelligence-sharing and greater accuracy had virtually eliminated the possibility of error but, clearly, drone targeting remains a victim of faulty intelligence and trigger-happy drone operators who care a fig who they kill or maim.


The intoxication with military power has created a loophole in the American mind through which a pervert seems to have crawled, treating civilians as expendable, mere chaff. Terms such as "collateral damage" are concocted to justify faulty targeting. They are useful contrivances which trivialise death and enable the US military to pass them off as inevitable, and, hence, an acceptable consequence of war. They are bland enough not to convey the full measure of the mayhem and grief. By depicting as unavoidable and mistaken what is deliberate and inexcusable, they suggest that a touch of remorse and a few dollars should suffice to atone for the pain caused by the killings. Such cynicism thankfully does not wash any more.


If careless bombing of innocent civilians by Qaddafi's pilots is a war crime sufficient to alert the International Criminal Court, why cannot irresponsible targeting by US drones killing innocent Pakistanis warrant a similar complaint? In fact, just so this cannot happen, America has arrangements in place preventing the transfers of its own personnel to the ICC, thus effectively extra-territorialising Americans engaged in counterinsurgency everywhere, no matter what actions they might take or what crimes they may commit.


British historian A J P Taylor said human blunders do more to shape history than human wickedness. For the US, which has a monopoly of both, the distinction is irrelevant. Americans are indeed shaping history, but in a direction that ensures their defeat in Afghanistan and in the undeclared war they are waging on Pakistan. Already, no American dares venture onto the streets of Pakistan due to flawed US policies, but more so to the reckless use of American military power. Iraq and Afghanistan are further contemporary examples of this phenomenon, just like Vietnam was of earlier decades.


Surely, Pakistan can no longer bow in supine submission to what is wrong and unacceptable, morally, legally, politically and militarily. American blundering and the accompanying mindset are intolerable. They fuel terror, and to the vast majority of our people they are evil and selfish. If pacts have to be made with the devil they may as well be made with the Taliban.


Our response to the latest drone atrocity should not be limited to postponing participation in the NATO meeting in Brussels, or confined to cliches such as "Pakistan cannot be taken for granted." We are and have been taken for granted by the Americans for as long as one can remember. Any doubt on that score should have been removed by Petraeus's recent remark advising Pakistan to forget about the latest drone incident and get on with the North Waziristan operation. It was a reminder not only of American indifference and our powerlessness but also the timidity of our leaders. Or else, by now, a drone would have been downed in retaliation, accompanied by an announcement shelving the North Waziristan operation.


We must not be stampeded into action by alarmist American prattling about the gargantuan dimensions of the threat we confront from extremists. Extremism is indeed the hallmark of empty souls and empty minds. Extremist propositions which claim to have a monopoly of the truth do enter the mind now and then to dislocate and strain, but in due course, given time, they are expelled by instinct. That's how it has always been in the subcontinent and there is nothing to suggest that our psyche has changed. The battle against extremism has to be fought against rural vagabonds and their urban counterparts, as much in the minds of Pakistanis and in the classrooms of Pakistan as in our mountains and cities. It is an ideological, political and spiritual battle, rather than purely a military affair. And, because it cannot be won exclusively by military means, the American preoccupation with force is more of a hindrance than a help.


The controversy surrounding the release of Raymond Davis and the rage that has swept the country following the drone attack have once again raised doubts about the efficacy of the alliance. The general view is that the benefits are meagre; they have been too long in coming and the price is too steep. Indeed, a recent report shows that Pakistan's "economic losses as a result of the war exceed the amount of aid received from the US by five times" ($43 billion v $8 billion). Of course, that is not to say that the expenditure would not have been incurred had the Americans not been involved; we may have had to foot the entire bill rather than only a major part. However, working with the Americans entwines our destiny with theirs and that is far, far from what we wish or what we consider in our interests.


Our respective concerns are very different. While the US does not want the region to become a ballpark for extremism which will threaten mainland America, our fear is being outflanked by India in cahoots with a hostile Afghanistan. Rather than allay such fears, America's India-centric approach to the region has further heightened them. As a result the acrimony and mistrust has seldom been greater or our security more imperilled. So much so that we seem to be working at cross-purposes and the contradictions are becoming more apparent by the day. Following the drone attack and the declaration that the Wazir tribes now regard the US as an enemy and will take up arms against them, Pakistan faces a situation where an ally has been proclaimed an enemy by the entire population of a strategically located segment of the country.


Instead of engaging exclusively with the Pakistani establishment, Washington should widen the ambit of the dialogue to include the public, because when it comes to relations with the US the two are no longer on the same page. Similarly, for our military to think that it can alone call the shots and single-handedly deal with a vexed and complex relationship is folly. Matters have gone far beyond that. Pakistan-US relations now rank with the economy as perhaps the two issues of most concern to Pakistanis. The public's voice must not only be heard but heeded or else the divisions and malaise which afflict Pakistani society and Pakistan-US relations will become endemic and terminal, and hence the urgency for a national government and national consensus.

Ultimately, action, and not words or sentiments, will determine the future of the US alliance. More errant drone strikes will effectively end it because, if truth be told, the "friendship" that exists today is no more than a pious fraud.

The writer is a former ambassador. Email: charles123it@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

LOOK, LISTEN AND UNDERSTAND

DR A Q KHAN

 

The earthquake in Japan had a magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale and the tsunami caused tides of more than 10 metres high. We saw buildings, ships, busses, trucks, cars being swept away. These horrible scenes brought to mind the unambiguous warnings given by the Almighty. In Surah Zilzal we read: "When the earth is shaken in its convulsion and the earth throws up her burden and human beings cry in distress what is the matter with her, on that day will she declare her tidings, for that your Lord will have given her inspiration. On that day will you proceed in companies sorted out to be shown the deeds that they had done. Then shall anyone who has done an atom's weight of good see it, and anyone who has done an atom's weight of evil will see it."


In Surah Qariah, the Almighty said: "The day of noise and clamour...is a day (the Doomsday) wheron men will be like moths scattered about, and the mountains will be like carded wool. Then he who has done good deeds will go to Paradise, but he who has done wrong deeds will have his home in the bottomless pit (Hell). And what will explain to you what this is? It is a fire blazing fiercely."


Now see, listen and understand how, in simple and unambiguous words, the Almighty has warned wrongdoers: "Think not that Allah does not heed the deeds of those who do wrong. He but gives them respite against a day when their eyes will fixedly stare in horror. They run forward with necks outstretched. Their heads uplifted, their gaze returning towards them and their hearts a gaping void.... Mighty indeed were the plots which they made but their plots were well within the sight of Allah, even though they were such as to shake the hills." (Surah Ibrahim.) Allah Almighty has already warned about those who perished due to earthquakes and floods in these words: "Never did We destroy a population that had not a term decreed and assigned beforehand. Neither can a people anticipate its term, nor delay it." (Surah Hijr.)


Recent calamities should be seen in the context of the following edicts of the Almighty: "Is it not a warning to such men to call to mind? How many generations before them We destroyed in whose deserted and haunted places they now move? Verily in this are signs for men endowed with understanding." (Surah Taha) "How many (countless) generations before them have we destroyed? Can't you find a single one of them (now) or hear so much as a whisper of them?" (Surah Maryam.) "As to those before them, not one of these populations which we destroyed believed. Will these people now believe?" (Surah Ambiyaa.)


In Surah Aaraf the Almighty has reminded us of His punishment to non-believers as follows: "How many towns have We destroyed for their sins? Our punishment took them of a sudden by night or while they slept for their afternoon rest. When Our punishment took them, no cry did they utter but this: 'Indeed, we did wrong.' " Also in Surah Aaraf: "Did the people of the towns feel secure against the coming of our wrath by night while they were asleep? Or else did they feel secure against the coming in broad daylight while they played about (carefree)? Did they then feel secure against the plan of Allah? But no one can feel secure from the plan of Allah except those doomed to ruin." "To those who inherit the earth in succession to its previous possessors, is it not a guiding (lesson) that if We so willed, We could punish them (too) for their sins, and seal up their hearts so that they could not hear?"


In Surah Ankabut we have been warned: "And remember also the Aad and Thamud people clearly will appear to you from (the traces) of their buildings (their fate): the evil one made their deeds alluring to them and kept them back from the right path, though they were gifted with intelligence and skill. And remember also Qarun, Pharaoh and Haman: there came to them Moses with clear signs but they behaved with insolence on the earth, yet they could not overreach Us." In Surah Tur, the Almighty warned: "By the Mount and the Book inscribed on fine parchment, by the much frequented House, by the elevated canopy and by the swelling sea, verily your Lord's chastisement shall come to pass. No one can avert that on the Day when heaven will convulse in a great convulsion and the mountains shall fly about." "On the day when they shall be thrust into Hell with a violent thrust and shall be told 'this is the Hell which you used to give the lie to. Go now and burn in it.' "

In the olden days, when modern communication was non-existent and many people could not receive the messages of the prophets, Almighty Allah gave them the benefit of ignorance and saved them from punishment. Under the present circumstances, with information accessible to all, people have no reason for "not knowing" and it is no longer a valid excuse. Surah Kahf reads: "And surely We have explained matters to people in the Quran in diverse ways, using all manner of parables. But man is exceedingly contentious. What is it that prevented the people from believing when the guidance came to them (from Allah and His Prophets) and from asking for forgiveness from their Lord except that they would like to be treated as the nations of yore, or that they would like to see the scourge come upon them face to face?"


The recent calamities are a result of ignoring and discarding the edicts of Allah, who treats all God-fearing people and wrongdoers equally without discrimination. Hence the punishment meted out to both (so-called) Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Even a senior official of the Japanese ruling party said that it was a chastisement from the Almighty.


Email: ali4drkhan@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

NECESSARY, NOT SUFFICIENT

DR MALEEHA LODHI

 

The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.

After months of indecision, vacillation and policy reversals, the PPP-led coalition has announced a number of measures aimed at containing the budget deficit. Belatedly the government's economic team was able to persuade its leadership to take minimal action to control the runaway deficit – in a challenging political environment.

These stopgap measures will not address the structural fiscal problems accumulated over time but they do signal a desire to take the necessary first steps and reassure increasingly sceptical donor countries and international lenders that the government is serious about dealing with the country's dire economic state.

The new tax and expenditure measures will help limit government borrowing from the State Bank for the remainder of the fiscal year. The measures include a one-time flood surcharge of 15 percent on income tax payable for fiscal 2010-11, an increase in the rate of special excise duty, and a sales tax on agricultural inputs. Having failed to implement the reformed general sales tax (RGST) the government has removed the exemptions from the sales tax of five 'zero-rated' export-oriented sectors, textiles, carpets, leather, sports and surgical goods.

These measures are expected to raise Rs53 billion in additional revenue. Together with the envisaged spending cuts – through slashing development expenditure – the combined impact of what has widely been billed as a supplementary budget is expected to be Rs120 billion.


The new taxes have been imposed through presidential ordinances while the removal of the GST exemptions has been effected through SROs (statutory regulatory orders). This may have been the only course available to the government after the collapse of its talks with the PML-N and resistance from its coalition partners.

But it nevertheless points to a telling political weakness: a government in power unable to take its measures to parliament. This is also not promising for stronger structural action required later this year to address the fundamental budget disequilibrium especially as the political clock starts being set for elections.

Imposing tax measures through presidential ordinances also exposes them to challenge in the courts. A key question therefore is whether the government will be able to overcome these challenges if they are mounted. Will the government stay the course when its hallmark has been governing-by-'U' turns?

Predictably, affected interests are already voicing opposition to the removal of sales tax exemptions. This however is offset by the helpful environment created by the recent initiative taken by the Pakistan Business Council, which called for a number of steps including fiscal reform to stabilise the economy. In an unprecedented move, Pakistan's captains of business and industry issued a joint call urging the government to act to lead an economy recovery.


But if an unfavourable reaction develops to the measures in the coming weeks it will test the government's ability to stand its ground particularly on steps that also affect its own rural constituency. The effort to contain a serious fiscal deficit will face another critical test ahead: in implementation. History suggests that even when governments are pushed into taking much-needed steps, poor tax compliance thwarts the effort. What is collected is what matters not aspirational and elusive revenue targets.


The government might be expecting too much while doing too little. The expectation of raising 53 billion in just the few remaining months of the current fiscal year seems a tall order given the record of chronic underperformance by the Federal Board of Revenue.


The effort is too little because half of the measures announced are temporary whose fiscal impact is limited to the end of this financial year. If the government was prepared to expend political capital to push through these measures it might as well have undertaken longer term, structural measures and also inject equity into its fiscal policy. The PPP coalition will have to use this capital all over again and surmount similar political pressures in selling its budget proposals in three months time. Was it therefore not prudent to expand the tax net – as the government had earlier vowed to do – and take more lasting steps rather than rely on one-time inflows?


As for the cuts in expenditure, too much of the axe has again fallen on the development budget, which has obvious and adverse implications for growth, and too little on untargeted subsidies, which remain the big drain on the exchequer. The huge quasi-fiscal deficit of the public sector has yet to be touched. The expenditure cuts would have been more meaningful and durable if they had a) reduced poorly targeted subsidies; b) addressed the huge subsidies given to the failing and mostly insolvent Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs), from which it is the financially well-off sections of society that derive the greatest benefit and c) created a demonstration effect by visible cuts in current expenditures.


Of the PSEs the power sector makes the biggest hole in the budget. This year Rs200 billion will be spent on subsidies to keep electricity tariffs lower than their actual cost, and Rs100 billion for payments towards settling the circular debt, which in the absence of structural reform, will re-emerge again.


Meanwhile the reversal on the fuel price increase means the government continues to incur a cost of Rs5 billion a month. The inability to pass through international prices to the domestic market will cost the exchequer Rs18-20 billion in the first three months of this year alone. World commodity prices are moving upwards and if an acceptable formula for price adjustment is not adopted, subsidy costs may become an unbearable burden for the budget.

These are not politically easy decisions to take. But the costs of deferred action are even higher. These pile up to exacerbate an already grave fiscal position – widening the budget deficit, leading to greater government borrowing and printing of currency notes and fuelling higher inflation, the most regressive tax of all.

The new measures leave most underlying economic problems to be addressed in the future. Raising more revenue principally by placing an additional burden on those who already pay tax, postponing a broadening of the tax base through the RGST and an agricultural income tax and cutting already squeezed development expenditure, does not add up to structural reform even though extending the sales tax to agricultural inputs is a way of bringing that sector into the tax net.


Pakistan's macroeconomic vulnerabilities are such that it has no cushion to withstand a shock – whether external, (a sudden and sustained increase in oil prices) or internal (a major security incident, prolonged political paralysis or instability). The current turmoil in the Middle East has already seen oil prices rise and added to the country's oil import bill. This will put increased pressure on the Balance of Payments (BOP).

Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves appear to be at a comfortable level helped by record remittances from overseas Pakistanis, a sharp rise in world commodity prices and substantial inflows in the form of short term lending from the IMF and bilateral donors. But these factors are unrelated to economic policies and reversible in their character. They provide no room for complacency. Nor do they obviate the need for sound measures to ensure BOP viability without heavy reliance on exogenous and unpredictable factors. Controlling the budget deficit within prudent limits is the essential first move to achieve this.


The latest steps taken by the government may help reduce borrowing from the central bank in the remaining months of the current fiscal year. But to institute fiscal discipline, contain inflation or protect the BOP in the context of a huge overhang of liquidity in the economy fuelled by heavy borrowing in past years, these steps will have to be followed by determined action in the next budget to reinforce and augment the effort by more substantial and real structural adjustment – not temporary expedients. Without this effort the prospect of any stabilisation will remain bleak and that of a sustainable economic recovery even more distant.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

AFTER SENDAI

RICHARD FALK

 

After atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki there was in the West, especially the United States, a short triumphal moment, crediting American science and military prowess with bringing victory over Japan and the avoidance of what was anticipated at the time to be a long and bloody conquest of the Japanese homeland. This official narrative of the devastating attacks on these Japanese cities has been contested by numerous reputable historians who argued that Japan had conveyed its readiness to surrender well before the bombs had been dropped, that the US Government needed to launch the attacks to demonstrate to the Soviet Union that it had this super-weapon at its disposal, and that the attacks would help establish American supremacy in the Pacific without any need to share power with Moscow.


This use of atomic bombs against defenceless densely populated cities remains the greatest single act of state terror in human history, and had it been committed by the losers in World War II surely the perpetrators would have been held criminally accountable and the weaponry forever prohibited. But history gives the winners in big wars considerable latitude to shape the future according to their own wishes, sometimes for the better, often for the worse.


After Hiroshima and Nagasaki there were widespread expressions of concern about the future issued by political leaders and an array of moral authority figures. Statesmen in the West talked about the necessity of nuclear disarmament as the only alternative to a future war that would destroy industrial civilisation. Scientists and others in society spoke in apocalyptic terms about the future. It was a mood of 'utopia or else', a sense that unless a new form of governance emerged rapidly there would be no way to avoid a catastrophic future for the human species and for the earth itself.


The shock of the atomic attacks wears off, is superseded by a restoration of normalcy, which means creating the conditions for repetition at greater magnitudes of death and destruction.


The reality of current nuclear dangers in Japan are far stronger than these words of reassurance that claim the risks to health are minimal because the radioactivity are being contained to avoid dangerous levels of contamination. A more trustworthy measure of the perceived rising dangers can be gathered from the continual official expansions of the evacuation zone around the Dai-ichi reactors from 3 km to 10 km, and more recently to 18 km, coupled with the instructions to everyone caught in the region to stay indoors indefinitely, with windows and doors sealed. We can hope and pray that the four explosions that have so far taken place in the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex of reactors will not lead to further explosions and a full meltdown in one or more of the reactors.


We know that throughout Asia alone some 3,000 new reactors are either being built or have been planned and approved. We know that nuclear power has been touted in the last several years as a major source of energy to deal with future energy requirements, a way of overcoming the challenge of 'peak oil' and of combating global warming by some decrease in carbon emissions. We know that the nuclear industry will contend that it knows how to build safe reactors in the future that will withstand even such 'impossible' events that have wrought such havoc in the Sendai region of Japan, while at the same time lobbying for insurance schemes to avoid such risks. And we know that governments will be under great pressure to renew the Faustian Bargain despite what should have been clear from the moment the bombs fell in 1945.



The writer is a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, writer, and appointee to two United Nations positions on the occupied Palestinian territories.


Courtesy: www.counterpunch.org

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

ARABS SHOULD SAVE ARAB LIBYA

 

THE worst apprehensions are coming true as the West, led by the United States, is persisting with its policy of eliminating and taming one Muslim country after the other. First it was Iraq, then Afghanistan and to an extent Pakistan and now it is Libya that is bearing the brunt of Western aggression that is solely aimed at occupying another oil producing country.


The way the United States and its coteries like France, Britain and Italy are using brutal force to bomb and kill innocent people of Libya is the most evil example of misuse of the dubious authority given by the United Nations to protect lives of Libyan people at the hands of Qaddafi forces. Even if the Libyan forces were killing their own people, they have now been replaced by the Western aggressors meaning thereby complications of woes and miseries of the ill-fated people of this small and weak Muslim state. There was absolutely no justification to launch military attacks on Libya when immediately after adoption of the UN resolution, Libyan Foreign Minister and military chief categorically declared cessation of military operation. But the contemptuous haste with which France, United States, Italy and UK moved to launch attacks made it absolutely clear that the objective was not to impose the so-called no fly zone but to carry out aggression and occupy a country. We believe that Arab League is mainly to be blamed for giving its consent to the loathsome idea of imposing no fly zone. Now Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa is lamenting that their approval was meant for imposition of no fly zone and not attacks yet this is nothing but crocodile tears. Western powers have a known history of betrayals and this became evident in Iraq where intensive propaganda was launched regarding weapons of mass destruction, but later it proved beyond any doubt that the sinister campaign was aimed at hoodwinking the international community. In this perspective, the Arab League should have understood the consequences of giving blanket permission which is now being misused to kill people of Libya. What Western countries are up to when they also claim that Qaddafi was not their immediate target? This is despite the fact that they have known bias against him and as in the past his residence was also bombed by Western aggressors. Anyhow, we hope that what is happening in Libya now should be a wake-up call to Arab League, which should, in coordination with other Muslim States and Third World countries, go back to the UN for review of the 'license for kill' resolution. China and Russia, which are also to be blamed for their questionable silence at UN, should also review their position, otherwise they too would be considered tacit approvers.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

BHUTANESE PM FOR REGIONAL PROSPERITY!

 

BHUTANESE Prime Minister at the conclusion of his visit to Pakistan has underscored the need for more concerted and collective efforts by the member States of the South Asian Region to boost cooperation in different fields for regional prosperity. Jigmi Thinley who is the current Chairman of SAARC lauded Pakistani leadership and people for making valiant efforts against the threat of terrorism and hoped that they would overcome the challenge.


In our opinion, the Bhutanese Prime Minister has expressed the sentiments of the people of the South Asian region who believe in peaceful coexistence and want entire attention of their leadership devoted to elimination of poverty. We believe that unless and until crucial issues facing the region are resolved, the pious intentions of the SAARC Chairman would be difficult to realize. Set up in 1985, SAARC has passed its disturbing phase but still there is lack of trust because member States are uneven in size, population, resources and among them India is the juggernaut. Other member States look at India suspiciously because of its disputes with almost all members and its aggressive posture towards them. Pakistan has unresolved Kashmir dispute and water issues with India, Bangladesh too has water and boundary disputes while Nepal and Sri Lanka have their own security concerns which are yet to be resolved by India to improve bilateral relationship with its neighbours. Despite the new dynamism and a new sense of purpose shown by the leaders at the Thimpu summit and Mr Thinley's optimism during his visit to Pakistan, regional politics and bilateral trust deficit is going to play a vital role in determining the SAARC's success. The great wall of politics and Indian attempts to impose its hegemony on small neighbouring countries act as a stumbling block. India therefore needs to be persuaded to agree and resolve its outstanding disputes with the neighbours to make South Asia not a 'nuclear flash point,' not 'the most dangerous place on earth to live in', but a South Asia of cooperation, peace, mutual understanding, so that SAARC can fulfil its basic objectives of collective efforts for the prosperity of the poor masses of this region.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

KARACHI BLEEDS, BLEEDS AND BLEEDS

 

THE situation in Karachi is defying all expectations as political moves aimed at easing out the situation there have proved to be unproductive. Analysts were hoping that following patch up between PPP and MQM — two of the main players — would help restore normalcy in the troubled city but so far there is nothing to inspire confidence in this regard. Instead, violence continues unabated with people losing their lives in target killings and protests and arson becoming order of the day.

 

The latest and fresh wave of killings across the city, said to be mainly on political and ethnic grounds, claimed over a dozen lives on Sunday. The situation is so volatile that now protestors are exchanging fire with personnel of law enforcing agencies, which is indication that things are moving towards a dangerous end. The problem in Karachi has many dimensions and all of them are fully known to the Government and other stakeholders but regrettably there is lack of commitment to address it squarely. Cosmetic measures are taken as a result of which the situation normalises for a day or two but things go out of control even over a minor incident, which means deep-rooted mistrust and chaos. The fast deterioration in security environment requires bitter and hard decision with full backing of all stakeholders but unfortunately we only resort to issuance of statements or shuttling between Islamabad and Karachi or Islamabad and London. Time has come for all stakeholders to sit together and agree on an across-the-board operation to wipe out criminal elements and purge the city of illegal weapons and mafia of all sorts.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

ISN'T PAKISTAN A CLIENT STATE?

M ASHRAF MIRZA

 

Raymond Davis, who killed two Pakistani youth in Lahore last January, has been flown out of Pakistan after his release by a Lahore court on acceptance of his deal with the bereaved families on the basis of Diyat. He has, however, left behind many a pertinent question that need to be answered by the stake holders in Pakistan. The questions include: who arranged the deal and paid the Diyat money, where are the victims' families after receipt of the Diyat money, why was the hushed haste with which the court accepted the deal, awarded minimum possible punishment to Raymond for possessing illegal weapons and clandestinely set him free. The episode has not only generated different theories and controversies on the merits and demerits of the process but has also unleashed political 'dangal' between Babar Awan and Rana Sanaullah besides giving opportunity to Jamaat-e-Islami and Tehrik-e-Insaf to establish their street nuisance and providing yet another issue to the TV channels for their talk shows, where participants are consuming all their talent and energies to prove that 'qaumi ghairat' has been compromised with the release of Raymond David. Finger is, however, being pointed towards the Federal and Punjab governments as well as ISI for their role in facilitating his release. The stake holders are also accusing each other for the US spy's release.


Inevitable has happened. It was quite evident from day one that Pakistan had hardly any option but to let Raymond Davis free. Beggars can't be choosers. With our leadership's survival resting on Washington's sweet will, it could hardly afford to refuse US demands. It's an open secret that the government of Pakistan was able to keep him in jail for about forty days on the explicit assurance that nothing will happen to him in jail and that he will soon be set free. John Kerry's meaningful silence about Raymond's fate after his meetings with the country's political and military leadership was a loud and clear message that he will not be done any harm. The fact of the matter is that our leadership was too panicky about the political and economic consequences of the US spy's conviction for killing the two innocent Pakistanis. There exists strong perception in the public that the Federal government would have allowed him to return home on one pretext or the other without any action whatsoever had the Punjab government not got hold of him and registered case against him. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has been crying hoarse that Raymond had diplomatic passport. The government's intent was thus obvious.


The Raymond episode has, however, proven once again that Washington is not fair to Pakistan irrespective of their lip service to the Pak-US ties. The revelation that many more Raymonds are actively engaged in Pakistan with clandestine missions establishes the fact that the United States has been playing dirty game with Pakistan. It overtly pretends to be friendly, but is covertly engaged in undermining its security and sovereignty. These Raymonds are obviously Pakistan on surreptitious mission detrimental to Pakistan's security and stability. It's proven that Raymond Davis had links with the Taliban, who are carrying out suicide attacks in Pakistan and killing innocent people. The US has maintained mysterious silence over Pakistan's persistent complaints about Indian role in destabilization of Balochistan and its military and financial support to the renegades operating under false nomenclatures to harm Pakistan. India's water aggression against Pakistan has also not generated any interest on its part despite its serious consequences for the regional peace and security in the future. On the contrary, it is continuing to shower military and economic favours on New Delhi on one count or the other knowing full well about India's consistent hostility towards Pakistan.


The Raymond episode is certainly an eye opener for Pakistan since the US leadership's conduct was simply a charade repudiating the established diplomatic norms. Threats on different counts such as stoppage of economic and military assistance and direct military operation to seek Raymond's release were openly hurled by all and sundry at the Capitol Hill. It used every intimidating tactic to overawe Pakistani leadership to submit to its demand. And interestingly they did it against a country that is not only major non-NATO ally, but also US partner in the war against terror. Its sacrifices in the anti terror war have been acknowledged internationally including by President Obama himself.


Washington is not so naïve to understand that Pakistan is the only country that can provide honourable exit to the United States from Afghanistan. Yet Washington's attitude on the issue of Raymond David was totally uncalled for. It's, therefore, high time that Pakistan should redefine its foreign policy objectives and priorities, Pakistan needs to assert its sovereignty rather than continuing to surrender to Washington's will and whim. It also needs to reorientate its fiscal policies to get rid of the economic blackmail by the US and international financial institutions like IMF and the World Bank. The irony is that the issue that could have been resolved through diplomatic channels with patience and wisdom was vitiated by Washington to the extent of confrontation between ISI and CIA as well as at the official level. The issue was handled by it in a bad manner right from the very beginning. Pakistan was fully justified in taking Raymond Davis into custody and presenting him before the court for trial because he had shot dead two innocent Pakistani citizens in broad day light in Lahore.

And what has happened through court was the only way out for both Pakistan and the US to address the problems linked to the episode. Washington's intimidating and blackmailing tactics to seek Raymond's release were unjust and unwarranted. It was so arrogant that it refused to swap Raymond Davis with Dr Afia Siddique. Yet our rulers seek political support for their survival in the corridors of power. The US administration, however, failed to comprehend that no government in Pakistan could set Raymond free straightaway in the given political situation in the country after he was arrested from the scene of the crime in Lahore.

Pakistan today is on a crossroad of its dignity and self respect or total surrender to the United States. With the release of Raymond Davis, Pakistan's agony has not ended. The unabated drone attacks by the CIA killing innocent Pakistani citizens remain a major irritant. Pakistan needs to end any tacit understanding existing between the two countries on the issue of drone attacks. It should tell the US authorities in unequivocal terms that Pakistan will shoot down drones in its airspace if the US is not willing to stop the attacks.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

INDISCIPLINE IN THE INDIAN ARMY

AIR MARSHAL AYAZ A KHAN (R)

 

Crime and corruption in all its manifestations has been rampant and afflicts this third largest army in the world as cancer. Indian military has been on the rampage in Jammu and Kashmir since October 1989. During the last twenty two years Indian Army and para-military forces have killed over ninety thousand Kashmiri men, women and children, and tortured, maimed, and orphaned an equal number. Thousands of Kashmiri women have been dishonored and Indian Army in due course will pay a heavy price for this bestiality. The cover up of Indian barbarities by the West, especially by the United States and The United Kingdom fully exposes they are hypocrites with regard to the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions, Kashmiri's right to self determination, justice and human rights. Indian genocide in Kashmir should have led to trials of thousands of Indian Army officers and troops through court martial, jails terms and in some cases award of death penalty for the deliberate slaughter of thousands of innocent Kashmiri's. But their crimes were covered up, and the criminals were exonerated for the inhuman barbarities against the defenseless population of Kashmir.

The sharp rise in suicides in Indian army in the past five years, is a reflection of shattered morale and lack of justice within the Indian armed forces . The trend in the third largest and one of the least-disciplined armies in the world is a cause of grave concern for the Indian defense ministry, senior army officers, political leaders, psychiatrists and the Indian society. Over 100 soldiers took their lives last year (2010) alone. Since 1989, when Kashmiri resistance movement started about three thousands JCO's and Jawans (soldiers) have died from suicides and self inflicted wounds. This along with killings by subordinates and colleagues has brought shame to the army. The reasons are low morale, refusal to grant leave, and frequent postings to the formations in Occupied Kashmir, and non-redressal of grievances.


Number of Indian Army officers have been punished for sex related crimes. Former Engineer-in-Chief, Lt. Gen. A.K. Nanda, who was accused of sexual assault by the wife of a junior officer during an official visit to Israel last April. A Court of Inquiry found him guilty but left off Nanda with a minor 'reproof' — or reprimand in common parlance acting against service discipline and decorum. He was retired.


In early 2009, two Major Generals of the Army Ordnance Corps (AOC) – Anand Swaroop and S. P. Sinha – faced separate charges of irregularities in the purchase of stores. The two officers were in the contention for the top post of Director General of Ordnance Services (DGOS) at Army Headquaters. A third AOC officer was overlooked for promotion in 2007 after he was booked in a disproportionate assets case. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had carried out searches and booked Major General Anand Swaroop for possessing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. In another case of sexual harassment, Major General A.K. Lal, who was commanding a division on the Sino-Indian border in Jammu and Kashmir, was found guilty by a military court in 2008 on charges leveled against him by a lady officer serving under him. Lal was dismissed from service.


In 2006, Major General Gur Iqbal Singh Multani was dismissed from service and was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for attempting to smuggle large quantities of liquor meant for army canteens to his hometown. Multani, he last commanded the Bareilly-based 6 Mountain Division. He was stripped of his rank. The list of officers facing charges of indiscipline and corruption include Major General B.P.S. Mander, who was charged with irregularities in the procurement of dry rations. Two other major generals – K.T.G. Nambiar and Rana Goswami – were convicted of financial irregularities in a cases relating to the Central Command. Both were dismissed.

In January 2010 Lt General S.K Sahni Director General Director Supplies and Transport, Lieutenant Generals Apdesh Prakash, and P.K Rath and six Major Generals and Brigadiers were found guilty in land scam, and thefts and were punished . On January 22, 2011 Lieutenant General P.K. Rath Corps Commander No 33 Indian Army Corps was found guilty by the Army Court in New Delhi on three counts including providing a NOC to Agrawal Geetanjali Education Trust to construct an affliate school of the prestigious Mayo College in the area. The land scam came to light in mid 2008. LT Gen's P. K. Rath and Avadesh Prakash had influenced the decision for the issue of the NOC to a Siliguri based private builder. Seventy acres of high value hand was sold to the private builder, who turned out to be a mafia scammer.


On January 22, 2011 Lt Gen P.K. Rath was found guilty by the Army Court on three counts. Providing a NOC for the construction of a school building next to the Army headquarters in Sukhna Canton, second signing an illegal MOU, and thirdly not informing the Eastern Command Headquarter Lt Gen I.J Singh the President of the General Court Martial handed down two years seniority loss and forfeiture of 15 years seniority for pension purposes.

In another General Court Martial (GCM) of Lt-Gen S.K Sahni, former Director General, Supplies and Transport was dismissed him from service and sentenced him to three years rigorous imprisonment for smuggling out troops ration. The court, presided over by Lt-Gen Jatinder Singh found the accused guilty on six of the nine charges of professional impropriety leveled against him. He had been under arrest since July 31 2009 when his trial commenced at Jalandhar in Indian Punjab. He faced charges for intent to defraud and acts prejudicial to military discipline. General Sahni's case had come to light in 2005 along with that of Lt-Gen SK Dahiya, also an Army Service Corps officer. Gen Dahiya, along with several other officers was held blameworthy for lapses in the procurement of frozen meat for the troops, had faced administrative action only. Courts of inquiry into both these cases was conducted by Headquarters, Western Command, Chandimandir.


Several cases of irregularities and theft by senior and junior officers of the Indian Army have come to light during the last two years. Forty one Indian Army officers were caught selling weapons to freedom fighters in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, and were dismissed and jailed. A senior officer was punished for selling subsidized army liquor to bootleggers. He was jailed. This is enough evidence of lack of integrity and character of Indian Army officers, especially senior and general officers.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

23rd March 1940, what our youth must know about?

Faiz-Al-Najdi

 

The Pakistani youth of today seem to be simply ignorant of the historical background of the creation of Pakistan. The reason is mostly to do with detest of theirs for Pakistan Studies while at schools. Based on my interaction with many of them, it is my considered opinion that there is a weakness and void out there amongst our youth vis-à-vis history of Pakistan. On this historic day of 23rd March – also known as Pakistan Day – I therefore thought to write something for educating my youth on the significance of this day.


The youth of today must know that Pakistan owes her creation to four erstwhile outstanding Muslim leaders, namely: Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-98), Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar (1878-1931), Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), and Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938). These leaders provided intellectual and political leadership to Indian Muslims during about ninety years (1858-1947) of the British imperial rule on the Sub-continent. It is important for them to also know that in the beginning all of these aforementioned leaders were thorough-bred nationalists at one time or another. By being nationalist means they were the proponents of a united India. Now it should not come as a surprise for our young men and women to learn that over the passage of time our leaders got disillusioned with this concept of one united India. The reasons were many. It could have been either because of Hindu ethnocentrism in the late 19th century or Congress's championing of unitary Hindu nationalism in the 1920s and 1930s.


Now let us focus our discussion exclusively on our great leader and founder of Pakistan – Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. It is very important for the youths to understand the elements of the crest and the troughs in the political leanings and ideologies of Quaid-e-Azam over his long career from 1904 thru 1948. It is interesting to note here that for some seventeen years (1904-1920), he was pro-Congress, pleading the Congress cause and envisioning a truly nationalist destiny for India. And, still for another sixteen years (1921-37), though he was practically out of Congress as he had joined All India Muslim League in 1920, he was still working for a nationalist destiny. During this period, he was still striving for a Hindu-Muslim settlement and he was still collaborating with the Congress and its leadership for the same. It is also very well known that in pursuit of his mission of Hindu-Muslim unity, he had devised several constitutional formulae, but all to no avail. It is also pertinent to mention here that till early 1937, Quaid-i-Azam was still in his "nationalist" self; preaching his credo eloquently and trying miserably to unite Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. For this he was widely known as the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity.


Fast Forward: All said and done, on 23rd of March 1940 a resolution was passed which was read aloud by Moulvi Abul Kasim Fazlul Haque - the then Chief Minister of Bengal - (sans the help of any public address system as he had very strong throat) and was adopted unanimously. The resolution inter alia stated: "Resolved that it is the considered view of this session of the All India Muslim League that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North-Western and Eastern Zones of India should be grouped to constitute 'Independent States' in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign." The resolution was seconded by Chaudhry Khaliq-uz-Zaman, and supported among others by Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, Sardar Aurangzeb Khan, Sir Abdullah Haroon and I I Chundrigar. In short, the Muslims of India on that day in fact had proclaimed to the world their determination to make the Muslim Statehood the goal of their struggle under the leadership of the Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.


A British writer Wilfred Scawen Blunt in 1883 wrote in his book "Ideas about India" that practically India is to be divided as such that all Northern provinces under the Muslim Government while the South provinces under a Hindu government".In 1887, Theodore Beck educated at Cambridge and the Principal of M. A. O. College at Aligarh observed that "Muslims are a separate nation, rule of majority is impossible; Muslims will never agree to be ruled by the Hindu majority."


Sir Muhammad Iqbal was the first important public figure to propound the idea of partition from the platform of the Muslim League. He articulated his vision in 1930, in his presidential address at Allahabad. In 1933 Chaudhary Rehmat Ali, a student of Cambridge University, issued a declaration entitled "Now or Never: Are we to live or perish forever?" and demanded a Muslim homeland.


—The writer is a Riyadh based writer and columnist.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

STAND-OFF BETWEEN PAKISTAN & US

NEWS & VIEWS

MOHAMMAD JAMIL

 

Since the arrest of Raymond Davis there was indeed let up in drone attacks, but within 24 hours of his release at least 38 people including tribal elders were killed in the Nyya Adda area of Datta Khel tehsil in the deadliest attack since 2006. It is being suggested that the missiles missed the target and hit the local jirga that was being held over some dispute over the land. But it appears that some elements in the CIA are out to spoil relations between the US and Pakistan to the detriment of interests of both countries. The most lethal drone attack, at a time when already protest demonstrations were being held throughout Pakistan against the release of Raymond Davis, has further stoked anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. In reaction, Pakistan's Foreign Office in a strongly-worded statement has conveyed condemnation to US Ambassador Cameron Munter and demanded an explanation and apology adding that the strike was, "not only unacceptable but also a flagrant violation of all humanitarian rules and norms." Chief of Army Staff has also taken exception to drone attack that killed innocent people stating "such attacks are neither justifiable nor acceptable".



The government must take the lid off the American spy service's acts in Pakistan on the basis of information obtained from Raymond Davis' mobile sim about his contacts with militant religious groups, and also cancel the visas of other 'Raymonds' roaming around the entire country. CIA agents or contractors seem to have penetrated in militants' groups and have been instrumental in the wave of attacks on police and intelligence agencies' personnel and offices. It is unfortunate that those elements raise the banner of Islam to kill Muslims, who wish to impose their version of Islam, which is at variance with the perception of vast majority of the Muslims. However, their philosophy has not worked to convince the people to support their designs. As a result of military operation in Swat, Malakand Division, Bajaur and South Waziristan, terrorists have been routed, and there is a marked let up in suicide attacks, yet their remnants are now doing things out of sheer frustration.

Anyhow, it is not just Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) which is in the throes of terrorism; the monstrosity is stalking all over the country. In its killer squeeze is Punjab, Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa, Balochistan, and Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh. And even Islamabad, the seat of national state power, is as vulnerable as any other part of the country. But instead of taking the terrorists head on, the political eminences continue with their internecine conflicts while the thugs, largely unscathed, keep thriving in their sleeper cells, stay in their vile trade of death and mayhem, to prove that they can strike at their convenience wherever they want. Indeed, so cavalier has this echelon been that internal security czar Rehman Malik clamours that an outside power is out to destabilize and disintegrate this country. If he knows, he should speak out. Or, is it that outside power is so awesome that he does not have the spine to name it? It is also his ministry's responsibility to keep a track of foreigners who have been issued visas without verification by Pakistan's embassy in the US.


Prime minister has reportedly convened the cabinet committee on defence to formulate a new national counterterrorism strategy. He must invite all the chief ministers as well so as to make the strategy's national ownership, and of course for effective coordination and collaboration between the federal and provincial state security apparatuses at various levels. At the same time, all the political parties should condemn extremism in all its forms and manifestations, and should not prevaricate from the issue by coming out with ifs and buts. It is not the time for investigating the causes of extremism but to eliminate terrorists from the society. There is a perception that Shahbaz Bhatti could have been killed by enemy's agents. Islam, indeed, is a religion of peace and tells its followers to protect the life and property of a non-Muslim. It also exhorts Muslim fraternity not to harm or kill each other, yet thousands of Muslims have been killed by the extremists and terrorists in Pakistan in the name of religion. Though differences over fiqah existed for the last 1400 years, but element of violence has been introduced since Afghan war.


However, since joining the war on terror Pakistan has suffered immensely in human life and also direct and indirect losses amounting to $40 billion. In fact, Afghan war that started after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan, the US and the West had joined hands, and the jahadists from all over the world were inspired through international media and facilitated to come and join jihad. It was in this backdrop that Commander James Mattis of the Central Command of the US in a Congressional hearing convened by the Senate Armed Services Committee admitted: "Part of the reason these groups exist is that together with Pakistan we helped create some of them". This vindicates Pakistan's position. Having that said Pakistan government and opposition parties should put their act together and amend laws to deal with the terrorists so that they are not released by the courts for want of evidence. There is a perception that police and some members of judiciary are also scared of the terrorists; former saying they are released by the courts; and the courts say the police does not produce evidence and witnesses in support of the cases prepared by them.

The problem is that enemies of Pakistan have made inroads in the Tehreek-i-Taliban and other groups' fold, as is obvious from the murder of Colonel Imam in North Waziristan who had imparted training to the jihadists during Afghan war. This was an act of soulless monsters that brutally killed their benefactor; and these monsters need a coordinated action by the federal and provincial governments, and also the will to decimate them hook, line and sinker. But unless there is peace in Afghanistan, it is not possible to eliminate terrorists in Pakistan.

It is an established fact that the CIA is responsible for the present mess in Afghanistan. The CIA's only success was in making Afghanistan a hotbed of activities against Pakistan for which it used its Afghanistan's satrapy. It posed as Pakistan's friend but in reality it mounted a campaign to project Pakistan particularly its military and the ISI as playing a double game in the war on terror by hobnobbing with the Taliban and other insurgent groups, while professing commitment to this war. If the US wants an honourable exit from Afghanistan, it must address Pakistan's concerns, stop drone attacks and respect Pakistan's sovereignty.


—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

WHY WAR OF CONQUEST IN LIBYA?

ALI ASHRAF KHAN

 

United Nation Security Council has passed another messy resolution to expose the world body's being a second fiddler of America. Resolution no. 1973 to declare No-Fly Zone on Libya to call it a humanitarian issue US, French and British fighter jets, carrier ships and sub-marines are have launched a full fledged war and within hours of air and missile attacks reports of 48 deaths and 150 injuries have come to surface, do the coalition forces know what is written in article 17 and 19 of this resolution. Spirit of these articles, which calls for putting an embargo against use of arms, what is happening actually the coalition forces are violating this article when not only they are using military fire power against Libyans but British, French and Egyptian army are supplying arms and ammunition to rebels in Libya and they have illegally put a Naval blocked against Libya without any authority.

The hollow claim of liberty and freedom are no more than an empty shell where sole super power with its so-called coalition partners is allowed to condemn Libya to destruction without any rhyme or reason just to satisfy the apatite of the leaders of Christendom waging its war for globalization. No matter how one feels about Libya today and the role of Col. Gadhafi rule; regardless of how one evaluates the Libyan opposition, a US-led war or intervention in Libya is a disaster for the Libyan people, and for peace and prosperity around the Globe.

One must understand that western democracy has political interest of the West attached to it otherwise for the third world countries it is making mockery of the aspirations of the people through World Bank, IMF & WTO, which sucks the blood of the poor people in these countries. There should be no doubt that democracy's basic principles are no where in actual practice in the present day world otherwise we would have seen Mr. Al'gore as President of United States and not George W. Bush, who usurped power through a Florida court order engineered by his brother who happened to be the Governor of Florida at that point in time, otherwise we would have seen Al'gore assuming the office of President of USA honouring majority votes poled in his favour, why this happened, because the master of hidden agenda wanted Bush and Obama in White House for fulfillment of their agenda.

Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya are being destroyed because of its oil. A US attack is the worst thin that could happen in Libya, which will unfold Arab revolutions that will inspire people across North Africa and Western Asia, in the gravest danger. Human rights, liberty and democracy are nothing but a fraud. If the public uprising is of any concern, which has first attracted their attention in Tunisia and Egypt where the out come was planned for just a face change to install another American puppet and not to empower the people in Tunisia or Egypt. Resistance given by Col. Ghaddafi, who is undoubtedly most popular leader, and has changed the socio-economic life of people without disturbing the cultural heritage under an historical system of governance, that Libya even enjoyed the most favoured nations status (MFN) till last week when the United Kingdom was not only selling arms and ammunition but involved in commerce, trade and investments with Libya, now facing illegal use of military fire power of the so-called coalition including United Kingdom, while British Petroleum company (BP) has been running most of the Libyan oil exploration, same UK is now forcefully acting in total defiance of UN resolution by attacking Libyan military and civil infrastructure to destroy the backbone of the nation to dislodge Ghaddafi. As far as I know under his rule Libya remained a very peaceful, prosperous and developing country, where people use to get every thing they needed much cheaper than one can imagine, shelter & communication was available to them, which most of the democratic countries don't have. So what was the bone of contention for this war against Libya, if uproar or voice of the people is of so much concern then why the miseries and brutalities of self styled autocratic rulers in African countries is being neglected, where humanity is dyeing for years and Christian missionaries are operating most of the refugee camps to convert Muslim youth in the name of providing food and shelter to the needy. The world body is blind in the case of Myanmar, where the most popular leader Ayun Sui is under going solitary confinement for nearly two decades, no respect for ballot has been provided to Burmese nation instead bullet and gun is hanging over their heads under American patronage with a military dictator installed as ruler under political expediency of super power.

If Col Ghaddafi is not in agreement with any uprising in Arab world with a coterie of Western motivated agitation, who have been supplied sophisticated arms and money by CIA operatives and its alikes. UNSC was quick to impose air embargo against Libya, while no such action was initiated against Myanmar to respect the aspiration of the people, where the sanctity of ballot has been trampled. This is a fact of history that all the autocratic rulers in third world countries are saddled into power under American patronage, which in turn act like traitors for their own national interest and serve the agenda of Christendom. Will the Muslim nations realize the gravity of situation or wait and see till they also meet their doom, which will come soon under the dispensation of this hidden agenda. Democracy and human rights is not a humanitarian agenda, it is rather a drive for colonization of mineral and natural resources of these countries. So far Canada, China and Russia have voiced their resentment as they fear this act of West may lead to another full fledged civil war in Middle East to comfort Israel and her Western backers working on an out-dated ambitious plan on how best to devour the Muslim world. That is why US Secretary of State Ms. Clinton went to the extent of showing their pleasure using the events in Tunisia to fire a salvo at the pro-European Arab leaders when she said "In too many places, in too many ways, the regions foundations are sinking into the sand. The new and dynamic Middle East needs firmer ground if it is to take root and grow everywhere" the term used by successive American functionaries to describe the plight of the Arab Muslim such as "sinking in the sand", "arc of crisis", balkanization", or "Greater Middle Eastern Initiative" fail to conceal their bias against the oil rich Muslim world leading to another genocide. Is the world conscience prepared to face the consequence of such an eventuality, recent tsunami has not opened their eyes so let them play havoc against mankind, which is suffering due to exploitation of the Imperialist forces and their cohorts.

The destruction of Muslim ummah, plunder of resources and ultimate subjugation to the systems of Christendom is their final goal. The only salvation for the Muslim world in this scenario is to establish Khaleefah state, strengthen the unity among Muslim brethren by taking the oath of allegiance to the Khaleefah." The Imam is a shield behind whom the people fight and are protected".

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

WINNERS TO WRITE HISTORY OF MINING TAX?

KEVIN Rudd always looked like an imposter in his own party: popular with the public but a man without deep factional backing or real philosophical connection with Labor.

Despite his huge victory at the 2007 election, there was a lingering sense he and his supporters had "stolen" the party of working men and women. But it is only now, nine months after his deposition as Labor leader, that the extent of Mr Rudd's isolation within his own government has been laid bare.

The revelations by The Australian's political editor, Dennis Shanahan, that it was Mr Rudd as prime minister who led the move to find a compromise on the original mining tax throw a rare light on the workings of government. There is only one conclusion that can be reached from the documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws -- it was not Mr Rudd who failed to grasp the gravity of his party's situation and the need to head off the damaging campaign launched by mining companies against the tax last year. We now learn that he was looking for a compromise within two weeks of the policy announcement. The question for voters -- and ultimately for the history books -- is what role his deputy, Julia Gillard, and his Treasurer, Wayne Swan, played in these efforts to fix the debacle that led to the collapse of support for Labor at the August federal election.

At the least, responsibility for Labor's failure to act must rest with the Treasurer, who had pushed for the super-profits tax to be taken out of the Henry tax report and presented as a fait accompli in May last year, only to see it blow up in the government's face. As the tax debate damaged Australia's business reputation, Mr Swan maintained an aggressive stance. The documents from Treasury show his demonising of the miners as liars was contrary to his own advice that the effective tax rate was 55 per cent -- as the miners claimed. In the seven weeks between announcing the tax and winning the Deputy Prime Minister's job, the Treasurer did nothing publicly to solve this mess. The best that can be said about Ms Gillard was that she was missing in action on the tax, absorbed in managing the crisis over her Building the Education Revolution.

Yesterday, Mr Swan was forced to admit the government had discussed a compromise model for the tax before Mr Rudd's demise. He agreed there were elements in common with the version of the tax finally put forward by Ms Gillard as Prime Minister, but he refused to spell out where the two plans overlapped. That is disingenuous: the documents from Treasury and Mr Swan's office show considerable similarities between the two models. The industry has known this all along: Fortescue Metals boss Andrew Forrest, is on the record about the compromise offered by Mr Rudd.

So what was the problem? Why did the Rudd government not move as the Gillard government did to change tack and remove the most damaging aspects of the mining impost? Yes, Mr Rudd had been distracted in the lead-up, tramping up and down the east coast on his hospitals tour and trying to win support from the premiers for his hospitals package. But it appears he was not well served by the two people, in Ms Gillard and Mr Swan, who would eventually emerge as the big winners from the mining tax debacle. Indeed, much of the negativity within the electorate and the party that was attached to Mr Rudd in the weeks leading up to the "palace coup" was possibly driven by his isolation from those who should have been watching his back. It is well known that Ms Gillard was among those who, after the December 2009 Copenhagen climate change summit, were urging Mr Rudd to dump the carbon pollution reduction scheme upon which he had staked his prime ministership. It proved bad advice. Labor's abandoning of the CPRS was a key factor in its loss of electoral support -- yet Ms Gillard got off scot-free, just as Mr Swan emerged unscathed from the mauling of his tax.

Here are some more facts for historians to consider when they come to look at the Rudd prime ministership. A key advocate of Mr Swan's original mining tax was the powerful Australian Workers Union, through national secretary Paul Howes. The AWU's national president and Queensland branch secretary, Bill Ludwig, a hugely powerful backroom operator in the ALP, goes way back with the Treasurer. It was the withdrawal of AWU support that sealed Mr Rudd's fate last June and led to Mr Swan's elevation to the deputy's job under Ms Gillard.

History will judge the extent to which Mr Rudd was the architect of his own political demise and whether his parliamentary colleagues were pragmatic or principled when they turned against him last year. But it is likely that as more details emerge about the handling of the mining tax, history will be kinder to the former prime minister's policy capacity. For the moment, Ms Gillard and Mr Swan have everything to prove when it comes to their policy delivery.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

WHEN REFORM BECOMES A CIRCUS

LAST week The Australian welcomed the possibility of a belated but sorely needed national political debate about serious tax reform.

Our hopes did not even live through the weekend, with Treasurer Wayne Swan unexpectedly hastening his ongoing retreat from a reform agenda. On Sunday morning, just days after the government's climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, pointed out the opportunity to link the carbon tax compensation measures to some of the meaningful tax reform recommendations in the Henry review, Mr Swan sent out an underwhelming first message from his new Twitter account. "I have news to share: tax forum will be Oct 4 & 5," he tweeted. "More details in my eco note later, Swanny." And so, officially, a serious taxation summit promised for the first half of the year was relegated to a "forum" and delayed until after the government has carried out all the taxation tinkering it intends for this term.

Labor commissioned the Henry taxation review in its first term, quarantining the goods and services tax, thereby deliberately shunning even the discussion of opportunities to increase or broaden that tax so that inefficient or undesirable taxes such as payroll tax or various stamp duties could be eliminated. Instead of releasing the Henry report to foster a genuine debate, the Treasurer sat on it and eventually cherry-picked the mineral resources rent tax, announcing an unsaleable version, unleashing a series of events discussed above. After a change of prime minister, a compromise was agreed, but it is yet to be delivered. In order to win over the independent MPs post-election, the government provided a written promise to hold a tax summit before June 30 this year.

The significance of the delayed timing announced by "Swanny" is that it almost certainly guarantees that the mining tax and the carbon tax legislation will already have been dealt with by parliament. The event the Treasurer now calls a tax "forum" effectively cannot have any policy impact on the areas of GST, mining taxes or the carbon tax and its compensation measures. In reality, our high hopes for meaningful reform seem dashed. While the carbon tax itself is not a productivity-enhancing reform, if Mr Swan wanted to use carbon tax compensation as an opportunity for productivity improvements through the tax system he would be bringing forward the summit, not pushing it back.

The contrast with the genuine reformist zeal of Labor's Hawke-Keating years could hardly be sharper. In late 1984, prime minister Bob Hawke promised a tax summit and outlined nine reform principles before the December election, then convened the gathering in July the following year. More than 100 business, union, government and community leaders assembled for a full week in the nation's parliament, having had six weeks to consider a draft white paper containing detailed options for significant changes. The pre-positioning, manoeuvring, debate and deliberations all played out in public. Then treasurer Paul Keating could not carry the day with his preferred plan, but a compromise option led to meaningful reform, including capital gains and fringe benefits taxes offsetting income tax cuts.

By comparison, Mr Swan's October forum promises to be a desultory affair. If the government has failed to implement its mining tax or carbon tax it will be on life-support, in no mood for serious debate and, if as is more likely, it has legislated mining and carbon taxes, it will be preoccupied with implementing them and extremely reluctant to grasp an adventurous new agenda.

The independent MPs who demanded this summit, by June, as a condition of support for the Gillard government already sound underwhelmed by what has eventuated and they are promising to force discussion on a full range of tax options. But, as they come to understand what has transpired, and how redundant the gathering is likely to be, they might conclude that the Treasurer promised them Cirque du Soleil and delivered a flea circus.

thousands of people in work.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

MIDDLE EAST UPHEAVALS PRESENT HOPE AND DANGERS

THE WEST MUST STAY THE COURSE UNTIL GADDAFI IS GONE

AFTER weeks of policy paralysis over Libya, allied attacks on Gaddafi's air defences are a welcome development, and the hope must be that they will not cease until the murderous despot is driven from power. He has no legitimacy. He must go. And the allies must demonstrate their determination to act decisively in Libya as elsewhere.

Having finally bitten the bullet over Libya, far greater fortitude and resolution must be shown in dealing with the whirlwind of crises erupting across the Arab world. From the horrifying weekend bloodbath in the Yemen capital Sanaa to the brutal crackdown in Bahrain, base of the US Fifth Fleet so critical to the confrontation with Iran, the challenges to long-standing policies and presumptions are grave.

The once omnipotent King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has had to respond to rising protests among Shi'ites that are rocking the oil-rich eastern province close to Bahrain by offering tens of billions of dollars in handouts. Jordan's King Abdullah, another key Western ally, is trying to appease extremists including the Muslim Brotherhood by including stridently anti-Israeli elements in his new cabinet. Alarmingly, after years of refusing to do so, he may accept overtures from Iran.

The West cannot afford to vacillate, but it must be alert to the forces who would seize any opportunity to hijack legitimate demands for democratic reform. There can be no one-size-fits-all response to these evolving crises, though political repression, corruption and poverty is at their heart. The reality of Iranian subversion looms large, especially among Shi'ite communities, as it seeks to traduce the demonstrations and further its hegemonistic ambitions. Bahrain has long been coveted by Teheran as a 14th province. In Yemen, things are more complex than ousting dictatorial President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in power for 32 years. Saleh is a bulwark against al-Qa'ida, led locally by the notorious Anwar al-Awlaki. Osama Bin Laden's former spiritual guide Abdul Majid al-Zindani is among the anti-Saleh protesters. How to support the legitimate demands of the demonstrators without opening new opportunities for extremism is the great diplomatic conundrum.

Egyptians, in a promising start after the Jasmine Revolution, went to the polls in a celebration of their new-won freedoms. But the ruling junta's new amity with Tehran has allowed Iranian warships through the Suez for the first time since 1979 to establish a base in Syria. And what does the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, now that the Mabahith security agency has been disbanded, and the free rein given smugglers and jihadists in the Sinai, portend? There should be no retreat from support for those clamouring for freedom and democracy. The same resolution and adaptability that governed the West's response to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe must be shown. The challenge is to offer that support while ensuring it doesn't open new opportunities for Iran and al-Qa'ida. Libya has shown that doing nothing is no answer. Staying the course and dealing decisively with Gaddafi is a test the allies must not fail. To do so would be a disaster for freedom and democracy across the Arab world.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

BREAKING POINT IN REFUGEE LIMBO

CHRISTMAS ISLAND is not proving to be the convenient oubliette that Canberra had hoped it to be. It's close enough to Asia for asylum seekers to chance a sea crossing, so small and remote from mainland Australia as to make facilities very expensive. Now things have reached boiling point at its overcrowded detention centres.

With these camps now holding some 2500 of Australia's 6500 people held under the mandatory detention system for unauthorised arrivals, they are at about three times planned capacity. About 1800 of its inmates are single men, held in limbo for up to 18 months while their claims for refugee status and security clearances are assessed.

Even before protests took a more serious turn with a mass breakout and setting of fires, the government was trying to take pressure off by hurriedly opening a relief camp near Darwin.

But the system is still manifestly putting undue stress on the island community, whose members have generally shown a more humane approach to the boat people than the distant mainlanders - perhaps because they see them face-to-face, not as some demonised alien ''other'' as portrayed by some uncaring or unscrupulous politicians and media figures.

The government is in an unenviable position. It has an opposition encouraging the public to believe there is a solution as simple as ''stop the boats'', disguising a virtual Port Arthur approach: more remote and bleak detention until the flow stops. The halfway house of camps in the hotter, harsher landscapes of north-western Australia risks more riots, self-harm and trauma as well as damage to Australia's international image.

The ideas reportedly under consideration of ''community detention'' and a new visa category could be seen as coming full circle. The first system already applies to families and children. It would see thousands of single men now locked up go to a form of community placement with strict reporting requirements. Some would see it as akin to the temporary protection visa that the Rudd government abandoned because of the limbo it created, denying people family contact and work while they waited. The new visa would apply to those judged to be genuine refugees, but still to pass clearances by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Given that ASIO clearances are taking eight months or more, and in 99 per cent of cases are approved, it seems a sensible way to reduce the detention burden for all. The chances of a serious terrorist using this route to infiltrate Australia seem slim indeed. Ultimately the remedy is for Australia to face up to refugee flows as a fact of international life.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

ACCOUNTANTS AT THE BLACKBOARD

IF YOU ask an eye specialist to operate on a case of bowel cancer you may not get a particularly successful result. The same applies to the Treasury's ultra-secret report on NSW government schools compiled by Boston Consulting, ''the world's leading adviser on business strategy''. Using business consultants to analyse the state education system ignores a fundamental problem: state schools are not a business. Some business methods may be transferable, but the profit-and-loss assumptions on which businesses run will fit an education bureaucracy poorly.

The report does get some things right. There is certainly a case for allowing state schools more independence. Teachers and principals need not wonder about whether this is a cost-cutting measure: that is precisely what it is - and should be. The alternative is to continue with centralised management that wastes money. Examples of its wastefulness were revealed with alarming clarity during the federal government's schools building program. NSW's education bureaucracy was so rigid it could use resources neither efficiently nor flexibly enough to meet individual schools' needs. If things can be done more cheaply, they should be - and the savings should be returned to consolidated revenue. That is not a cutback; it is efficiency.

The report is right, too, to question by implication the dogma that smaller class sizes bring better results. Demanding smaller classes and more teachers in the name of quality has been a shibboleth of teachers' unions for decades, but the basis for it is unclear. Smaller classes do improve the results of disadvantaged children. For others, though, the quality of teaching appears to play a more important role. But to attract more able teachers into the system would require better salaries - and that, like the quality of education itself, is far from Boston Consulting's focus.

Elsewhere, too, the consultants' cost-cutting will harm schools and bring no benefit. Moving disabled children into mainstream classrooms may work in a few cases. In most, though, it will be harmful for the disabled child and for the class, because extra resources to help those with special needs will not be forthcoming from an education system whose main focus is now cutting costs. Loading government school classrooms with this extra burden would also accelerate the flight to private schools of children from wealthier backgrounds.

Any cuts that downgrade public education narrow the choices available to parents and are a retrograde step. Yet with a $1 billion budget shortfall looming by 2012-13, downgrading the public system may well be unavoidable, and may be the underlying intention here. If it is, though, it should be stated clearly and debated, not foisted on the public by stealth.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

PRINCELY VISIT A WELCOME RESPITE

VICTIMS of natural disasters need emergency relief - food, shelter and medical treatment - and, after the initial trauma has passed, help in relocating or in rebuilding the devastated places they used to call home. But there are other human needs that are not so easily satisfied by the resources of governments and the generosity of donors.

Disaster victims also want occasional distractions from their plight, while still being reassured that they have not been forgotten by the wider world as new troubles push their own out of the headlines. It is difficult to satisfy both those wishes at the same time, but Prince William's visit to the earthquake-stricken city of Christchurch in New Zealand, and to flood-affected areas of Queensland and Victoria, seems to have done just that.

In the north Queensland town of Cardwell at the weekend, the prince told one man: ''There's a lot of people thinking of you, there really is. I wanted to come and say it to your faces.'' The inverse of this thought was expressed last week by Victorian dairy farmer Brad Wren, who yesterday was one of the prince's hosts in the Murray River community of Murrabit: ''I just thought he wouldn't come to a little place in the middle of nowhere to see what the damage was, so hats off to him for coming.''

Yes, hats off. Prince William cannot be faulted for what he has said and done during this tour, nor can it be denied that his visit has lifted the spirits of those who turned out to see him. With the significant exception of Queensland's Premier, Anna Bligh, Australian politicians who have visited the disaster areas have not notably managed to do the same. This tour will inevitably be seized on by advocates of the monarchy as a vindication of the institution and Australia's residual ties to it.

A better focus of debate, however, would be to ask why so many of Australia's elected leaders were unable to respond to natural disaster in the manner that Ms Bligh did. For when Prince William returns to Britain, this pleasant moment of distraction will fade for the flood-affected communities in Victoria and Queensland, and the need to ensure that their fellow citizens do not forget their plight will not be diminished. Australia's republican debate will not be changed, either. It will still be just as inappropriate for this independent nation to have a head of state who resides in another country, and for the people of this country to have no part in choosing the head of state.

Prince William, of course, will continue to be welcome here - however the constitutional arrangements may change.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

IRRATIONAL DETENTION POLICIES' PRICE IS TOO HIGH

THREE years ago, the new government sensibly announced that asylum seekers would be detained only if they posed a security risk. Later, under pressure to ''stop the boats'', Labor shifted back towards the Coalition's more punitive approach. The result has been to lock up boat arrivals in overcrowded, remote facilities, with the same ugly consequences as in the past. However, Immigration Department sources are hinting at a policy rethink.

Last week's Christmas Island breakout and riots led residents to question how authorities could have ignored the tensions in detention facilities that were planned to house 500 asylum seekers but now hold about 2500. One didn't need to be on the island to foresee trouble. We know that indefinite detention in crowded conditions can drive people mad. It is neither fair nor reasonable to do this to people who have fled persecution. Many detainees accepted as refugees face another year or more of uncertainty as they wait for security clearances. Consider what would happen if young Australian men were held in such circumstances.

Given the nature of the riots, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen had no choice but to order an inquiry. Questions abound about security and the contractor's performance, as well as conditions in detention. The minister won't be drawn on possible reform of the policy of detaining 6500 boat arrivals, a policy that doesn't apply to the vast majority of asylum seekers who come by air. The Age would urge him to take one sensible and logical step: apply the same rules to all asylum seekers. Transfer male boat arrivals to community detention, as has been done with women and children. This may include reporting requirements and a special visa for people who have been confirmed as refugees but are awaiting security clearance. ASIO checks take up to a year and ''in 99 per cent of these cases'', say government sources, confirm department intelligence. In any case, Australia freely accepts huge numbers of visitors without security checks.

The government's critics will try to exploit fears about ''opening the floodgates''. It is, however, the ''push'' factors of conflict and persecution that drive asylum seekers. In 2005-06, four years after the Howard government hardened its policies, 24,000 Iraqis applied for humanitarian visas, compared with 3500 in 2001-02, of which Australia accepted 2150. The 2002 decision to freeze the humanitarian intake, on the grounds that an extra 2000 would cost $60 million, looks ridiculous now that the current policy costs $1 billion.

Australia's limited refugee intake, frozen at 13,000 for a decade, is the crux of the problem. A simpler, cheaper way to stop refugees in south-east Asian camps from boarding boats is to take more from the camps. (Last year, Australia agreed to take only 500 refugees from Indonesia, the people-smugglers' main launch point.) Australia has done so in the past, to its great benefit: many leaders in industry, business and society came here as refugees after World War II and the Vietnam War.

This country can easily absorb more refugees, who accounted for fewer than one in 16 arrivals last year, and one in 25 the year before. In 1992-93 the refugee intake was lifted to 12,000 out of 80,000 arrivals in all, or more than one in six (which would be 40,000 to 50,000 today). Since then, immigration quadrupled to about 320,000, before falling 35 per cent last year. If Australia doubled its refugee intake from 13,000 to 26,000 a year, the effect would be barely noticeable, but it would be enough to ''stop the boats'', as all the boat arrivals since the Howard government left office total little more than 10,000 in 3½ years.

Australia is ''the world's most successful immigrant society'', as Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said this month. He's right, and refugees have had a huge role in that success. So when will our leaders stop wasting billions on offshore detention and move to economically rational and ethically defensible refugee policies?

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

LIBYA: MOVING TARGETS

THE LONGER THE LIBYAN CAMPAIGN GOES ON, THE SOONER THE ISSUE WILL HAVE TO BE CONFRONTED: WHERE IS IT LEADING?

George Bush assembled coalitions of the willing, a euphemism for his failure to get the UN to back his invasion of Iraq in 2003. Barack Obama has UN cover for a no-fly zone in Libya, but he has paradoxically produced a coalition of the unwilling to enforce it. US commanders expected that Nato would announce yesterday that it was taking over. That was blocked by Turkey, whose prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for immediate talks. Neither Germany nor eastern European members are keen on Nato heading an operation that has nothing to do with the defence of Europe. That might leave Britain or France carrying the can, "using Nato machinery".

An operation no one wants to lead reflects deeper unease about the scale of the air strikes and confusion about their strategic purpose. The Arab League is meeting in an emergency session today after its outgoing secretary general, Amr Moussa, called for an immediate halt to the military action and for talks. He clearly believes that the attacks have gone far beyond their stated purpose in protecting civilian lives. Mr Moussa's position is important for two reasons. Not only have Qatari planes yet to become involved, but Mr Moussa himself is a participant in the democratic revolution in his native Egypt. As a possible presidential candidate of a country that will one day resume leadership of the Arab world, he has a personal interest in what he puts his name to.

In Britain, the government appeared increasingly at odds with its defence chiefs over whether Muammar Gaddafi was a legitimate military target. General Sir David Richards said the Libyan leader was "absolutely not" a target, while Downing Street appeared to side with the view of the defence secretary, Liam Fox, that the Libyan leader was a legitimate target if his forces continued to threaten civilian lives. Three days into this mission, these are not insignificant questions. While much was made of the fact that China and Russia abstained in the security council vote, the fact remains that a large part of the world – including India, Brazil and much of Africa – is against this operation. The Arab League, whose support was so essential to the argument that military action had regional backing, is plainly wavering. Mr Cameron may say until he is blue in the face that it will be up to the Libyans to choose their leader once this is all over, but history in this part of the world is against him.

The longer the bombing campaign goes on, the sooner the real issue will have to be confronted: where is it leading? The answer matters on a day-to-day basis. Yesterday, as our correspondent's account made clear, an ad hoc motorised cavalry of scores of youth fighters on pick-up trucks charged at Ajdabiya, only to retreat in disarray when Gaddafi's tanks, which were dug in around the town, fired back. The fighters thought that air strikes had knocked out the enemy's tanks and rockets. And they were surely entitled to think that what was good for Benghazi was also good for Ajdabiya, or Tripoli for that matter. Some had families trapped behind Gaddafi's tanks, and in other loyalist-held towns there were reports of civilians being used as human shields. If the rebels lack the military means to take these towns back, are coalition warplanes going to fight their battles for them? And if not, would the revolutionary council in Benghazi accept partition? As things stand, the answer to both questions is no. So even if Gaddafi's forces accepted the ceasefire, the rebels would keep on fighting.

Members of the council have already said they fear the result of a limited air campaign will be a military stalemate and have called for an escalation of air strikes to wipe out Gaddafi's army. This is the logic of intervention, but it is not in the remit of the UN resolution. Three days ago, air strikes launched to save innocent lives looked simple enough. Very quickly, they have become part of the war.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF … WINDOW CLEANERS

The HMS Window Cleaner has been launched on the Calder to clean the panes of the Hepworth Gallery

Clarity and transparency are buzzwords nowadays, and honour for those who guarantee both in everyday life is overdue. Events last week at the Hepworth gallery, which opens in Wakefield in mid-May as a showcase for the Yorkshire sculptor and a new civic art gallery combined, provide an excuse. The riverside position of David Chipperfield's building means that land-based teams are not practicable: dangling from the multi-angled roofs would risk a dip. HMS Window Cleaner has thus been launched on the Calder, bobbing below the weir as her crew squeegee above. Their voyage is understandably a spectator sport, as window cleaning increasingly is, especially in cities. Cradles high on tower blocks are as awesome in their way as climbers on rock faces, from Yosemite's El Capitan to Kilnsey Crag. The teams on the wavy glass that encases the Guardian's own Kings Place building work like synchronised swimmers with their sweeping, soap-and-rinsing arcs. A modest new market for telescopic poles and other cunning gadgets has been created by houses whose basement areas, converted into separate flats, are no longer accessible for footing ladders. Arrangements on London's Shard are going to be well worth the wait. All this is welcome attention for a brave and skilled craft and also a satisfying complement to George Formby's twinky-twanky ukulele song. In his day it was what the window cleaner saw indoors that could be intriguing. Now the action outside promises just as much.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY: THIRTY YEARS ON

'New Labour was simply the SDP for slow learners' – the haughty verdict of one grand enthusiast for the 1980s party

"New Labour was simply the SDP for slow learners" – the haughty verdict of one grand enthusiast for the 1980s party, whose birth was signalled by the Limehouse declaration, 30 years ago today. After fighting two general elections, it splintered and expired with a prolonged whimper. Having lost the political battle, SDP enthusiasts comforted themselves that they had won the war of ideas.

That was always a generous reading, and it is doubly so today. While there was room aplenty for a party of egalitarian ends and pragmatic means, after Labour temporarily surrendered that role in the spasm that followed defeat in 1979, it is important not to over-intellectualise the SDP's arrival. It was not so much fresh thinking as the fear of mandatory reselection that persuaded 28 Labour MPs to remove red rosettes and don tricolour badges instead. The platform they sat on – multilaterist defence, EEC membership and well-funded state services – resembled that which Harold Wilson had run on in 1970, over a decade before. The SDP's break from the unions was one real difference, but even here it trod warily, being decidedly cautious about the Thatcher reforms. And in the race for second place in 1983, when the SDP fought in alliance with the Liberals, the might of organised Labour proved (just) sufficient to see off the SDP's armchair activists, who paid their subs by the novel means of credit card.

Before long, Labour's own march to the centre was under way, and the rest was history – as indeed was the SDP. For a passing moment at the end of the 1990s, while its first leader, Roy Jenkins, was serving as a confidant to the rookie prime minister Tony Blair, it was possible to believe that its spirit had been reincarnated in New Labour form. Today that appears an illusion, and one which one-time SDP supporters are keen to dispel. Lord Jenkins himself would have wanted nothing to do with the illiberal turn Mr Blair took after 9/11, the full measure of which he did not live to see, and no self-respecting social democrat would defend New Labour's acquiescence in the free ride enjoyed by the banks. Through wheezes such as PFI, New Labour galloped well to the right of where the SDP had been. It was not, then, merely the 1980s vehicle of social democracy which foundered, but the creed itself.

This last year has seen some cracks in the old mould which the SDP once promised to break – with the Liberal Democrats and Tories sharing power. It is a realignment, for sure, though not the one the Gang of Four sought. Now David Owen, once the SDP's most trenchant Labour critic, is reported to be considering rejoining his first tribe. Three decades on, social democracy is still an idea in search of a home.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

TROUBLE IN BAHRAIN

Overshadowed by the violence and civil war in Libya, the situation in Bahrain continues to deteriorate. On March 15, King Hamad al-Khalifa declared martial law and invited troops from Saudi Arabia, along with other neighboring countries, to help calm the situation. That move, unprecedented in the country's history, may only stoke the flames of discontent. Inspired by protests that overthrew governments in Tunisia and Egypt, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Bahrain last month to demand reform. The first gatherings were intended to support the uprising in Egypt — the demonstrations occurred outside the Egyptian embassy in Bahrain. They evolved into protests against the Bahraini government itself, drawing on longstanding grievances based on discrimination against the Shiite Muslim majority by the Sunni government and the ever-present desire for democratic reforms and freedom.

As the protests escalated, they were punctuated by violence. The Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, one of the leading political parties, joined the protestors, raising tensions. In the middle of the night of Feb. 17, riot police moved in to disperse protestors who had camped in the city center, killing several Bahrainis and injuring hundreds more. That sparked international condemnation but did not quell the protests. As hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets — by some estimates as much as 50 percent of the population was involved either protesting or supporting the government — King Hamad took steps to diffuse rising anger, releasing over 300 political prisoners, dismissing some Cabinet ministers and canceling some housing loans.

None of those steps was sufficient to stop the demonstrations and clashes between security forces and protestors intensified. Finally, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) authorized the dispatch of troops to help restore stability. With that order, over 1,000 Saudi Arabian forces and forces from other Arab Gulf states entered Bahrain — and the king declared a three-month period of martial law. But protests continued. On March 16, Bahrain riot police and troops cleared Manama's Pearl Square of anti-government demonstrators. The crackdown, supported by tanks and helicopters, killed at least five demonstrators and two police officers, and injured many more.

The unrest in Bahrain reflects the uneasy coexistence of Shiite and Sunni communities in the country and throughout the region. The kingdom's rulers are Sunni, who are, like other governments in the region, a minority in their own country: In Bahrain, Shiite constitute over 60 percent of the population. The protestors have thus far insisted that their demands are not sectarian in nature — they seek an end to discrimination and genuine democracy, rather than Shiite rule per se.

Both prospects — real democracy and another state in the hands of a Shiite government — unnerve Bahrain's leaders and neighbor governments. The readiness of the GCC to take the extreme step of sending military forces into the territory of another member state is driven by fear that Bahrain could be a democratic contagion and that any concessions could inspire Shiite populations elsewhere in the region.

There is one exception to this general state of alarm: Iran. Indeed, there is widespread fear that the Shiite population in Bahain, and elsewhere, is the stalking horse for a Tehran-influenced political movement. That fear is the most effective tool that rulers in the Middle East use to fend off demands for democracy and greater political participation by Shiites.

The problem is that continued repression only increases social tensions, resulting in yet more violence and alienating the public from its rulers. In such situations, disaffected Shiites will be ready to take support from wherever it comes and radical alternatives will look even more appealing. Iran's record of repression and antidemocratic behavior matters little in the face of homegrown suppression and violence. The Saudi intervention threatens to further radicalize its own Shiite minority. Their grievances look much like those of the Bahrainis: They complain about discrimination and they chafe under autocratic rule. Their government's readiness to help suppress the aspirations of coreligionists across the border is likely to inflame their own anger. For Saudi Arabia, that is particularly worrisome since its eastern provinces, which are closest to the island, are 70 percent Shiite and home to the majority of Saudi Arabia's oil production facilities.

The solution should be genuine power sharing among Sunni and Shiite. That sounds easy, but in practice is very difficult. The best solution will end discrimination and give the Shiite community more political power. The GCC should be seen as facilitating that response, even though it is likely to create pressure for change in their own societies. The lesson of recent weeks is that repression is a temporary answer at best. It does not solve problems but merely pushes them underground where they fester and intensify. It is better to be in front of change, trying to steer it in productive and peaceful directions, than steamrolled by it.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE REJUVENATION OF TOKYO

BY SHINJI FUKUKAWA

With April's gubernatorial election in Tokyo just around the corner, major candidates have announced their decisions to run. This political event comes amid the world's red-hot competition for intercity popularity.

While advanced-nation cities such as New York, London and Paris are enhancing their charms through fresh improvements in the fields of information, finance, culture and education, emerging-nation cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore are growing greatly because of their strengthening economies.

According to the world's urban rankings for 2008 released by the Mori Memorial Foundation, Tokyo placed fourth, thanks to its competitive edge in such fields as economy and environment, after New York, London and Paris in that order and remains the highest-ranking city in Asia. But its status is in jeopardy.

In the international competitiveness ratings announced by the International Institute for Management Development, Japan had stayed in first place up to 1993 but dropped to 27th last year. Reflecting this trend, the number of foreign companies listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) fell from a peak of 127 in 1991 to only 12 recently while the TSE was overtaken by the Shanghai market, with its status dropping to fourth place.

The major factors responsible for this change include the flight of direct investment from Japan and the tendency of some foreign firms to move the core of their Asian operations from Tokyo to Hong Kong and Singapore.

Foreign individuals who visited Tokyo in 2008 totaled about 5.3 million. This number was considerably lower than Hong Kong's 12 million, Singapore's 10 million and New York's 8.7 million. In terms of gross regional product, Tokyo is expected to be surpassed by Beijing and Shanghai within 10 years and by Singapore and Hong Kong within 20 years.

In retrospect, Tokyo has continued to play a central role in the economy, politics and government since the Edo Period. Having undergone the process of industrialization in the latter half of the 20th Century, its greater metropolitan area has become a megacity of 35 million people. Although measures have been taken over the years to disperse Tokyo's population and functions and to avert their concentration in its urban core, most of the central work-related functions have converged on Tokyo and in the latter half of the 1990s, even its residential functions began to return to the center of the city.

In the process of overcoming the problems caused by the "lost 20 years" in the Japanese economy, Tokyo played a leading role driving the growth of Japan.

Tokyo is not only the center of economic vitality in Japan but also a town rich in cultural diversity. Traditional culture and new technology co-exist while Japanese and Western cultures fuse together in the city.

In Tokyo, people can appreciate excellent art museums and performances from around the world and enjoy top-class cuisines from various parts of the globe. Tokyo citizens are orderly and the town is clean and safe. Nonetheless, Tokyo's rating is low because it lacks a comprehensive strategy for urban development.

In January 2011, the Committee on Urban Fascination in the nonprofit Association for Tokyo Urban Core Rejuvenation announced a 113-point proposition covering five relevant aspects with a view to strengthening Tokyo's international competitive power.

The proposition calls for realizing a "vertical creative urban core" in Tokyo, based on five value-related concepts: "safety and security," "health and medical care," "intelligence and culture," "environment and nature" and "industry and value."

Setting aside further details of the proposition, I would like to call for the following four measures as the indispensable requirements for the rejuvenation of Tokyo:

Accelerate the vertical use of land and space in development projects. It is necessary to escape from the conventional state of horizontal congestion which has continuously affected Tokyo and to utilize midair space and underground space by making full use of top-level technology. It is essential to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for people's living that is resistant to disasters while blessed with improved urban landscape.

Expedite measures aimed at regional greening. It is important to build a city with attention to the environment and nature. Energy savings and resource recycling should be promoted and adequate waterfront space including streams in the urban core should be created. Creation of a more compact metropolis should be pursued while building a greenery network in the center.

Strengthen the city's potential for globalization. Tokyo should be developed as a major hub city where enterprises and individuals working on the world stage can assemble and operate in borderless circumstances. To develop Tokyo into a city capable of making people desire to visit, live, study or work here, it is indispensable to bring the tax system and regulations up to international standards and prepare sufficient facilities for high-quality accommodations and large-scale conventions.

Uplift the creativity of people and institutions concerned. Tokyo should make sufficient preparations to become a major center for creation of new industrial values, educational evolution, technological innovation and medical- care technology development by making full use of information technology.

To enhance its cultural accumulation, it is necessary for Tokyo to preserve its traditional culture and raise its capability to send out information about its culture, including art content and fashion. Tokyo must now transform itself into a city whose attractions and competitiveness truly befit a cosmopolitan city.

Without the revival of Tokyo, it will be difficult to restore Japan's growth. I would like to hear serious discussions on how to revive Tokyo.

Shinji Fukukawa, former vice minister of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry and president of Dentsu Research Institute, is now chairman of the Machine Industry Memorial Foundation.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

EGYPTIANS SHARE A DEMAND WITH CALIFORNIANS

BY KISHORE MAHBUBANI

SINGAPORE — While Egypt has had too little democracy and is moving toward more, California has had too much democracy and is moving toward less. The common mean point they should arrive at is democracy that delivers good government — not mushy "governance."

For decades, "government" has been demonized. Ronald Reagan famously said "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." But Reagan was only the most eloquent spokesman for this zeitgeist. He did not manufacture it. Following an explosion of government programs in the 1960s, a belief developed in the minds of key American policymakers that the best government is the least government.

Reagan captured this assumption well, recalling the sixth-century B.C. Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu's famous words: "Governing a great nation is like cooking a small fish: too much handling will spoil it."

Two dangerous corollaries emerged from this view. The first was the belief that taxes are inherently bad, and thus that reducing them is the only solution to any public problem.

In California, many taxes were reduced by voter initiatives, demonstrating the damaging consequences of too much democracy. Indeed, such direct democracy helped make California ungovernable. For example, direct ballots on hot-button issues made prison sentencing mandatory, while simultaneously reducing taxes and funding for prisons.

In 1978, Proposition 13 capped California property taxes — the main source of public school funding. School revenues slumped, and from 1974 to 1979, California fell from ninth place to 44th among the 50 U.S. states in per capita spending on public high schools, with California's students soon slipping down the rankings as well.

The second dangerous corollary was that markets know best. Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, the world's leading financial regulator of the past quarter century, seemed to have little faith in either regulators or the need for regulation. In an April 2008 article in The Financial Times, he wrote, "Bank loan officers, in my experience, know far more about the risks and workings of their counterparties than do bank regulators."

Deep down, Greenspan must have believed that he was allowing Adam Smith's "invisible hand" to deliver the public good. But Smith stressed that private interests always pursue selfish interests: "To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers. . . . The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined."

Egypt's problems are, of course, vastly different from those of California. Despite the economic growth resulting from reforms undertaken by Hosni Mubarak's regime in recent years, unemployment and poverty remained at high levels. With a heavy and stifling bureaucracy and the prospect of a dynastic political succession, sheer lack of hope drove hundreds of thousands of Egyptians onto the streets. With the dictator driven from power, Egyptians, too, must redefine government.

People in both Cairo and California should look to East Asia. Despite their ideological differences, governments throughout the region have delivered rapid economic growth and improved their populations' livelihoods.

Despite the fact that most leading East Asian policymakers were trained in American universities, none was seduced by Reagan's belief that "government is the problem." Millennia-old cultural beliefs in East Asia underpin the view that if government is not part of the solution, no public good can be achieved.

Confucius, for example, said: "the man who uses his brain should govern; the man who uses his strength should be governed."

The quality of American public services has deteriorated over the past few decades, while that of Chinese public services has improved dramatically. The Chinese government has been strengthened without oppressing the growth and dynamism of the Chinese economy. There must be some principles of good government that China has developed.

Of course, neither Egyptians nor Americans would ever allow a communist party to rule them. But both must find the right principles of good government to resolve their very different public policy challenges. Abandoning the Reaganesque ideology that government is inherently bad is a necessary first step.

The bottom line is that the commodity in greatest demand all over the world is good government, which provides the best means of improving living standards, especially for those at the bottom.

Unfortunately, good government is in limited supply, in part because there is no global consensus about what constitutes it — to the detriment of people from Cairo to California and beyond.

Kishore Mahbubani is dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, and the author of "The New Asian Hemisphere: the Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East." © 2011 Project Syndicate

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

STOP THE RENT SEEKERS

Even though most new regional governments have been mired in numerous problems, ranging from fiscal difficulties, bad governance and an acute lack of competent bureaucrats, the House of Representatives continues to be swamped by proposals for creating new provinces, regencies and mayoralties.

The House confirmed last week it had assessed 33 out of 98 proposals it had received for creating new administrative regions and would soon decide which would be qualified for consideration in draft legislation for further deliberations with the government. The creation of a new province, regency or mayoralty must be based on the law.

We find it mind-boggling to understand why the House is still wasting its time and resources responding to demands from regional politicians and other vested-interest groups for the creation of new administrative regions even though the number of provinces, regencies and mayoralties has more than doubled after the enforcement of the regional autonomy law in 2001.

We think that until a thorough political and economic evaluation of the hundreds of new regions set up after 2001 is completed, allowing new regions to proliferate further would only increase rent seekers, hurt economic development and exacerbate divisive politics across the country.

Most surveys and regional autonomy watchdogs have concluded that the creation of new administrative regions did not contribute anything to improving public services – which is one of the two basic objectives of regional autonomy. The Finance Ministry also has found that more than 80 percent of 145 new regions it assessed had failed miserably in attempts to improve the people's welfare.

Instead of making bureaucrats more responsive and accountable to the public, regional autonomy has caused the proliferation of new fees, rent-seeking bylaws and corrupt practices.

Just look at the thousands of regional bylaws that had been annulled by the Finance Ministry and Home Ministry because of their damaging implications for economic activities, notably businesses. Yet more shocking was the recent statement by Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi that more than 155 regional heads, including 17 governors, had been named corruption suspects.

The latest reports from the Supreme Audit Agency also showed that less than 5 percent of the estimated 525 provincial, regency and city administrations received a clean bill of health from state auditors.

True, several of the new regions did make remarkable improvements in public services and have reinvigorated local economies through business-friendly bylaws. But their number is still very small compared to the more than 200 new regions that have been created after 2001.

The other regions are still in a learning process. While this is going on, we think it is most imperative that the House supports the moratorium already imposed by the government on the creation of new regions.

The moratorium should be upheld at least until the proposed amendments to the laws on regional administrations, on the direct elections of regional chiefs and the overall assessments of regional autonomy are completed.

The proposed amendments to the law regarding the direct election of regional chiefs are especially urgent and imperative because, as the Home Ministry has found, the main cause of corruption involving regional chiefs is the huge campaign spending candidates must extend compared to the small official salaries received by regional chiefs.

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THE JAKARTA POST

GARUDA 'NOT RESPONSIBLE' FOR MUNIR'S DEATH

RAMAN R. SAMAN

The Supreme Court has urged national flag carrier PT Garuda Indonesia to compensate Suciwati, the widow of slain human rights activist Munir Said Thaib, who died of arsenic poisoning aboard a Garuda flight from Singapore to Amsterdam in 2004.

The court turned down an appeal filed by Garuda over the case surrounding the murder of Munir. In its verdict issued on Jan, 28, 2010, Garuda was ordered to pay Suciwati a sum of money much higher than the Rp 600 million (US$67,800) ruled by a lower court. The actual amount stated by the Supreme Court has not been disclosed (The Jakarta Post, Feb. 21, 2011).

According to available information, Garuda and pilot Pantun Matondang would have to jointly pay compensation worth Rp 3.4 billion for material losses and Rp 40 million for intangible losses.

However, Garuda's lawyer, Wirawan Adnan, challenged the court ruling and will submit a case review, saying the verdict was based more on political considerations and sympathy to human rights activists than legal arguments and principles in line with the International Aviation Convention.

According to the convention, passengers can claim compensation if the losses have connections with aircraft operation or aircraft take-offs and landings (Kompas Feb.19, 2011).

Munir died aboard a Garuda Boeing 747-400 flight number GA-974 (captain Pantun Matondang was in command) on route from Singapore to Amsterdam, at dawn Sept. 7, 2004. He took off from Jakarta to Singapore at night on Sept. 6, 2004.

In Singapore he complained that he did not feel well and began vomiting violently on the second leg of the flight to Europe. He was reportedly in agony when he died just before reaching Amsterdam.

An autopsy conducted by Netherlands National Forensics (NFI) revealed a large quantity of arsenic poison (465 milligrams) in his stomach, blood and urine, which is adequate to kill four to five persons.

The Netherlands Attorney General spokesman Leenard de Lange confirmed that Munir was murdered by poisoning. (Koran Tempo, Nov.17, 2004)

According to Michael J. Kosnett, MD, MPH (Heavy Metal Intoxication & Chelators 2001, page 974-975), acute inorganic arsenic poisoning symptoms appear within minutes to hours after exposure to high doses (tens to hundreds of milligrams) of soluble inorganic arsenic compounds, with initial gastrointestinal signs and symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, "rice water stool", abdominal pain, gastrointestinal fluid loss which result in hypotension, delirium, vertigo, shock, coma and death.

In acute or chronic inorganic arsenic poisoning the symptoms appear weeks or months later.

Since the human arsenic lethal dose is between 100 to 200 milligrams, while the evidence showed 465 milligrams of arsenic poison in Munir's body, we can conclude that Munir was assassinated by acute arsenic poisoning.

To obtain more comprehensive and accurate information, this assassination case needs intelligence analysis as well, called "Deception Engineering", which includes misdirection, misleading public opinion, deception and deceit, as described by Victor Ostrovsky in his book By Way of Deception (1990).

The book is reminiscent of the motto of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad: "By way of deception, thou shalt do war".

The mastermind of Munir's murder had a smart scenario. Since Munir was an outspoken human rights campaigner, he often blamed and sharply criticized the Indonesian Military (TNI).

So, by killing Munir it was expected that national and international allegations and suspicion would automatically lead to the TNI and calculated that a great amount of people (who were voters) would also hate and discredit the TNI.

The terror and intimidation against Suciwati to refrain her from linking the TNI and the murder strengthened the suspicions that the assassination team worked for certain groups who disliked the TNI.

Their goal was to discredit presidential candidate Gen. (ret) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a former TNI officer who was then the election front-runner.

To accomplish the goal, Munir was smartly and professionally programmed to be slain by acute arsenic poisoning so that he would die not at the Changi Airport, but on route to or at Amsterdam Airport, with a purpose to obtain greater significant international political implications, including protests from outspoken European human rights groups, prosecution by the International Court in The Hague, an arms embargo toward the TNI and so on.

If only Munir had swallowed the arsenic aboard Garuda during the flight from Jakarta to Singapore, certainly he would have died during the two hour stop-over in the transit area of Changi Airport.

In fact, Munir was dying and then passed away en-route to Amsterdam, which definitively means Munir had swallowed the 465 milligrams of arsenic at Changi Airport, which would indicate no connection with the Garuda aircraft operation and aircraft take-off and landing.

Therefore, it is quite appropriate for Garuda Indonesia to reject the Supreme Court verdict and seek a case review.

The writer, a retired first air marshal, is a flight surgeon instructor

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

A PALESTINIAN WRONG WAY TO PEACE

NICOLA NASSER

When allowed to turn freely, the metaphoric Palestinian compass points in one direction — that of Palestinian struggle. But most of the time, someone is interfering with this compass, rigging it to other directions, as in the case of the continually failing peace process.

Now, with much of the Arab world up in arms against its autocratic rulers, the Palestinian compass is given another nudge, also in the wrong direction. The Palestinian public is seething, and yet Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) officials are telling us that the only way forward is through more negotiations. The "peace process", we're told, is the only thing worth saving from the current sea of Arab discontent.

It's all topsy-turvy in the land of discontent. A Day of Dignity has been called to presumably restore unity in Palestinian ranks. Most likely it will lead to further disunity. Allow me to elaborate.

The Day of Dignity, held on Feb. 11, was not meant to end occupation but to terminate Gaza's spirit of civil defiance. "Say no to division and occupation and yes to national unity," is the slogan another group of organizers chose for planned protests on March 15.

On that day, the PLO plans to call for new presidential, legislative, and local elections in the hope of regaining enough credibility to pursue its favorite goal, that of negotiating for peace. The organizers tell us that they want a Palestinian state by next September. How many times have we heard this before?

WAFA, the PLO-run news agency, is trying to give the impression that this is the only path available to the nation. We're either going to negotiate for peace, or we'll protest and then negotiate for peace. If there is a point to this argument, I don't see it.

Does anyone remember why the current split in Palestinian ranks happened? It all started when PLO officials, the endemic believers in peace, refused to honor the outcome of democratic elections held in 2006. So much of current dilemma is due to the simple inability of the PLO to reconcile peace with democracy.

So far, we've had a peace process that wasn't so much about ending the conflict as it was about managing it.

The kind of negotiations we've been having, as Rashid Khalidi, the prominent Columbia University professor said, were never about self-determination or about ending the occupation, but about allowing Israel to impose its point of view, with US blessing every step of the way.

This has been the case since the Madrid Conference of 1991. The only practical use of the peace process was to allow Israel time to build more settlements, with US approval. A US veto only a few days ago, on Feb. 18, should put to rest any lingering doubts in this regard.

But American officials are still conducting "quiet" talks with both sides, as Dennis Ross told the 2011 J Street Conference. Abbas thinks this is the only way forward, but some Israelis are not so sure.

Uri Avnery, long-time peace activist and founder of the peace movement Gush Shalom (the Peace Bloc), says that the Palestinians have other options. "What would happen if hundreds of thousands of Palestinians started walking to the Separation Wall and pulled it down? What would happen if a quarter of a million Palestinian refugees in Lebanon gather on our northern borders? What would happen if protesters gathered in numbers at al-Manara Square in Ramallah and al-Baladiya Square in Nablus to challenge the occupation?" he asked.

The Israeli peace activist is not saying that this may happen today or tomorrow. But, judging by the way things are going, it cannot be ruled out. This is perhaps why Obama's chief Middle East advisor Dennis Ross admitted that the current situation was "untenable".

And yet PLO negotiators are helping the Israelis prolong the situation, by giving the false impression that something will happen when everyone else knows that things are going to stay the same.

The PLO seems to be holding out for the day when the US, or the EU, put their foot down and broker a fair peace. It's not going to happen.

Meanwhile, the PLO continues to suppress the only two forces capable of turning things around: National resistance and a citizen-led Intifada.

The PLO is blocking any chance of forward movement while giving everyone the impression that it is doing something for the people. All it is doing is to help the Israelis perpetuate a basically untenable situation.

On March 2, the newspaper Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was working on a plan for establishing a Palestinian state with temporary borders as part of interim peace arrangements. We've heard it all before.

The Netanyahu plan is nothing new. It is a reproduction of earlier plans, all aiming to give the Palestinians a reduced version of the West Bank. Former defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, who is now chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, came up with a similar idea that would have given the Palestinians back about half of the West Bank.

An earlier version of the Netanyahu strategy was tried by Labor when Ehud Barak was prime minister. Barak, unable to complete a promised three-phase withdrawal from the West Bank, dragged PLO negotiators to a summit in Camp David in 2000 and then made sure that the summit would lead to nothing.

Kadima tried the same thing when Ariel Sharon was prime minister. Arafat snubbed him and was subjected to a cruel siege that ended in his death. Were Abbas to snub Netanyahu, he may face a similar fate. But Abbas doesn't seem too eager to take a stand.

Arafat stood firm, even when he ran out of options. He told his people the truth. He told them that he cannot give up their rights, froze the PLO's participation in the talks, and told the Palestinians that they would have to live and die for their rights. "Millions of martyrs will go to Jerusalem," were his famous last words.

You cannot have a national unity government without having credibility. The most Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad have so far proposed is a government of technocrats. How can technocrats resolve an issue that is so political at heart? Reconciliation is a political quest, and the concessions it requires are not "technocratic" in nature.

The PLO cannot partner with Hamas before reconciliation is achieved, Fatah Central Committee member Jamal Moheisen told Gulf News on Feb. 28.

This makes a lot of sense, but reconciliation comes at a price. And so far I don't believe that the PLO is willing to pay that price. The way I see it, the PLO cares more for peace talks than it does for national unity.

You cannot have negotiations without resistance, just as you cannot have democracy without fighting for it. We've always known that, and we have the Intifada to prove it.

We cannot be united until we're willing to struggle against occupation together. And we cannot be democratic until we've learned how to share. So far, the PLO is neither sharing nor struggling, and its quest for peace is therefore doomed.

The writer is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit in the West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories. This article was translated from Arabic and published by Al-Ahram Weekly on March, 10-16, 2011.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

JAPAN'S CHARACTER MAKES IT STRONG IN THE FACE OF DISASTER

IKA INGGAS

As everyone is aware, earthquakes occur frequently in Japan. However, nearly every time in the past, we have recovered from major damage. Although this disaster brings the worst destruction in Japan's recorded history, I am sure the nation will overcome, again.  I think this is our trial to make a better country and to be better persons for the world.

 Above is an excerpt of an email from my Japanese friend, posted in the electronic mailing list group of alumni of a Japanese government sponsored goodwill youth program, in which I am an alumnus.

There was no wailing, pleading or anger expressed in the letter. Instead, what we see is hope and confidence that Japan will rise up after the earthquake tragedy.

The message represents the reaction of many Japanese in facing the deadly earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in the afternoon of March 11, 2011.

The Japanese seem to be calm and hold high spirits in spite of the massive loss caused by the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that triggered a tragic tsunami, sweeping away nearly everything in its path. From the video footage, it was difficult to believe it was real rather than a Hollywood disaster movie.

Thousands were killed and thousands are missing, hundreds of thousands have been left homeless, and now comes a nuclear crisis caused by the crippled reactors.

The world is stunned to see how Japanese people, while they are in agony after losing their loved ones and saddened by the deadly catastrophe, manage to stay calm and do their best amid the calamity.

Not long after the disaster struck, the world witnessed how the Japanese stood in line patiently for hours for rations, a few bottles of water, or for some gasoline.

No complaining, no cheating. Normally after a massive calamity like this, we would see outrage, massive looting or hysterical lamenting in public, but we did not see this in Japan. Even those who had just lost all of their possessions, their homes and even their loved ones — everything — did not react negatively or selfishly.

CNN reported that tsunami victims lined up for a free cup of soup spooned out by two hotel chefs in Sendai.

Though for many it was their first hot soup since the tsunami, those who lined up took only one cup. None returned to the line for a second cup as it wouldn't be fair. How impressive!

The supermarkets, instead of taking more profit as supplies dwindled, sold their products at much cheaper prices, and when all stocks in their shops sold out, the owners apologized to the people in line for not being able to serve them all.

Japanese have all the reasons to complain, show anger or exhibit stress, but they do not. Instead, they encourage each other to stay strong, help one another and do their best to get over the very unfortunate situation.

The national character of the Japanese people, which holds even in the most difficult situations, must be responsible for this distinctive discipline in the face of calamity. Japanese people put group interests ahead of individual interests and an individual does not want to be seen as different from his/her group. In a simple way, everybody wants to be seen as the same.

Nobody wants to stand out, either as a failure or a huge success. Temple University Japan expert Jeffrey Kingston noted that the Japanese have been stricken by disaster since creation. They are therefore accustomed to dealing with disaster and the strategy for survival has been to rely on the group.

Another widely known Japanese national characteristic is the spirit "to do the best until the end," which is known in Japanese as "gambaru." The term is translated as going all out to win, and even if one is not able to win, the fight goes on. This explains why, even though the tsunami paralyzed almost everything in their lives, the Japanese do not dissolve from grief or ask for pity.

Hope and encouragement are echoed following the worst earthquake in modern Japanese history. On Twitter one Japanese wrote, "It is very dark in Sendai, but a bright, very beautiful star is in the sky. People of Sendai, look up!"

Another tweeted, "This is the largest earthquake in history. Therefore, we must give our greatest effort and love in order to get through this disaster."

Japan's heritage and cultural norms have enabled the Japanese to emerge as a stronger nation in facing all the disasters that have marked its entire history.

Forged by challenges, Japan comes out as the most prepared country when it comes to earthquakes and other natural disasters. The whole country has been "earthquake hardened." The public infrastructure is developed so that natural disasters cause minimal loss.

Nearly all the population is trained in drills and other strategies to tackle emergencies, even those who are not Japanese.

I remember back in late 1996, when I attended a one-year exchange student program at Chiba University, I received training on surviving an earthquake on only my third day after arrival in the country!

The massive calamity which struck Japan on Friday, March 11, highlighted the fact that natural disasters can overwhelm any human preparedness.

However, without denying that the loss to Japan is certainly the biggest ever. We also need to note that the toll would have been worse without Japan's decades of extensive preparations.

With their cultural norms and national characteristics, the Japanese people will surely rise from these losses. Just as it has in the past, Japan should emerge stronger in the end.

History suggests the declaration by Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan before a press conference on the quake aftermath is right. "I think that the earthquake, tsunami, and the situation at our nuclear reactors make up the worst crisis in the 65 years since the war.

If the nation works together, we will overcome." The simple statement of Japan's 65-year-old head of government relates the same message and same energy as the email posted by my young Japanese friend.

The writer is an alumnus of the Japan Program at Chiba/J-PAC (1996-97) and an Indonesian participating youth of the Nippon Maru/Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program (2003). She lives in Bangkok.

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

RELIGIOUS UNITY FOR POVERTY ERADICATION

The Rajapaksa regime, ecstatic in the afterglow of a hat-trick of resounding national election victories, has repeatedly promised that poverty alleviation or eradication would be one of the primary goals of its mega development plans for Sri Lanka. The regime also claims it is not just a promise-making regime but a promise-keeping administration citing the eradication of terrorism as one of the major promises fulfilled.

During the past 60 years of independence we have seen clear evidence that most politicians of all parties are unable or unwilling to work sincerely for poverty eradication mainly through a more equitable distribution of the country's wealth and resources. Party politics has become so hypocritical and deceitful that most politicians come to the scene or centre-stage not to sincerely serve the people but for their personal gain or glory. Gone are the days and gone with the wind are the times when political leaders came forward to serve the people and give to the country instead of dominating or abusing the people and plundering the resources of the country for instance as we pointed out in the editorial last Saturday the thousands of local council members elected at last Thursday's polls would get a monthly salary of only about Rs.5,000 plus allowances. Most of them might have spent up to Rs.500,000 on their election campaigns mainly for preference votes and their priority over the coming months and years will be to make ten times as much as they spent even by resorting to sophisticated ways of robbing from public funds.

Therefore the noble mission of poverty eradication needs to be monitored and regulated by an all-religions solidarity alliance through which there will be sincere, selfless and sacrificial service to the people.

Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne at a religious service last Sunday announced that as part of the work to celebrate the 2,600 Sambuddha Jayanthi, every temple in the country would take the initiative to build at least one house for a homeless family. If this works out well about 10,000 houses will be built and the human dignity of 10,000 families restored. If leaders of the other major religions – Hinduism, Christianity and Islam – could also take similar initiatives then tens of thousands of houses could be built in this jubilee year and the country would have taken a major step towards long-term poverty eradication. The whole humanitarian mission could be monitored by the council of religions for peace, which includes the clergy and lay people from all four major religions. This council, affiliated to the World Conference of Religions for Peace has already set up branches in 11 districts including the war-ravaged northern capital of Jaffna. The council's branch in Jaffna is headed by a Hindu priest and includes the clergy and lay people from other major religions. In this manner Sri Lanka could take major steps not only towards poverty eradication but also bring about the equally important religious unity in diversity. This is vital for Sri Lanka because through an all-religions solidarity alliance we could promote an attitude where the people – while accepting and practising the precepts of their own religions -- also learn to respect other religions and practise the truth that is preached by them. This will bring about an end to bigotry, extremism or self-centredness and usher in an era of love and non violence, compassion, sharing, care and concern for all.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

 

EGYPTIANS HAVE MADE A POINT

The spirit of ballot triumphs in Egypt. The massive turnout across the country in referendum exhibits at length the journey that Egyptians have made from an autocratic regime to one of hope and anticipation. The military regime, however, should be complimented for keeping its promise and conducting the vote that would not only result in rewriting the constitution, but also pave the way for new presidential and parliamentary elections within six months.

The change in the body-politick was already evident as people registered their praise for the openness and transparency with which the ballot was held on Saturday, as it reflected a sharp departure from the malpractices of yesteryears under the iron fist of president (Hosni Mubarak.

This referendum, instantly, pointed out at the maturity of the Egyptian for a cause that they had dearly nursed. Perhaps, this is why the youth, the political forces across-the-board and, especially, the Muslim Brotherhood were on the same page in endorsing the concept of pluralism and multiparty democracy. This is no small achievement, as a cursory look on the post-revolutionary trends worldwide indicate that forces that struggle for change often end up in bickering among themselves, and thus inadvertently lose the spirit. One of the most promising aspects in this whole episode is the fact that the junta has vowed to relinquish power to the elected representatives of the people. The military that is highly regarded in Egyptian society can then always take a back seat, accordingly, and ensure that the new set-up works in an independent environment. This is why the finer points for which the referendum has been held are so dear to the people: reducing presidential terms from six to four years; limiting it to two terms; a deputy for the president; and making it mandatory for the judiciary to supervise the electoral process. The unprecedented uprising on January 25 has borne fruit. Change has come to Egypt. It is now only in need of a legal writ to move forward. This ballot will just make that happen.

Khaleej Times

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

IS AN ELECTION A 'VILLAGE TANK' TO MONITORS AND 'OTHERS'?

There's an old joke about NGO operations in Sri Lanka.  NGOs are said to send identical project proposals to several donor agencies.  For example, money would be solicited to rehabilitate a village tank (weva).  If more than one donor agrees to support the project, the particular NGO would not rehabilitate more than a single weva but would submit the identical final project report to each donor.  Some NGOs, the joke goes, would 'rob' the work of another NGO, claiming that the weva that NGO 2 rehabilitated was in fact the one mentioned in the proposal and referred to in the relevant report(s). 

That's an old joke. Decades old.  Donors have since, we are told, tightened monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. Moreover, NGOs competing for the same funds are ever watchful and more than willing to rat on fellow-racketeers.  The state got into the act a little while later. So did individuals and groups who were suspicious of NGOs, especially those outfits that bent over backwards to promote the division of the nation, destabilization of the country and whitewash terrorists and give them legitimacy of one kind or another.  Tough.

This is after all the Age of Communication.  It is not that donors are unaware of the existence of other donors. Typically, also, the donor community, especially countries that have a diplomatic presence in the particular country, run into one another in various forums and indeed their top officials deal with one another on first-name basis.  In general they are aware of who is doing what and where.  'Who' meaning the donors as well as the recipients of their largesse. 

This is why it is strange that the Centre for Policy Alternatives could apply for and obtain a staggering Rs. 58 million to 'monitor' the Presidential and Parliamentary elections held in 2010.  The breakdown is as follows:  Rs. 13 million and Rs. 20 million for the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections respectively from the Netherlands, Rs. 9.9 million from the USA (both elections), Rs. 22 million from the Federal Republic of Germany (Presidential Election) and Rs. 3 million from the United Kingdom (Presidential Election, covering just the Eastern Province). 

The monies had been obtained by the CPA on behalf of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV).  The CMEV, according to its website, had been 'formed in 1997 by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), the Free Media Movement (FMM) and the Coalition Against Political Violence as an independent and non-partisan organisation to monitor the incidence of election related violence' and is currently 'made up of CPA, FMM and INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre'.  The FMM has a long history of engaging in fraudulent activities and its one time 'convenor', Sunanda Deshapriya, who also worked for the CPA (the incestuous nature of these outfits is well known) was asked to resign after being caught fudging accounts and pocketing bucks.   INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre has not updated its website since August 11, 2009 and that's surprising for an outfit devoted to 'documentation' in this day and age.  Sunila Abeysekera, another NGO fellow-traveller of the likes of Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu (CPA) and Jehan Perera (National Peace Council), is said to have been a co-founder of 'INFORM'. Anyway, the bottom like is that for all intents and purposes, CMEV is the CPA. 

We don't know as yet if this Rs. 58 million is a part of the Rs. 272.31 million that the CPA is reported to have received from various donors over the past three years. We don't know if other fraternal and similarly gift-exchanging organizations such as the NPC, PAFFREL (People's Action for Free and Fair Elections) and Rights Now (convened by Sudarshana Gunawardena who is also 'Convenor' of the 'Joint Movement for Democracy'), received money for monitoring activities pertaining to the said two elections from these same funding sources.  We do know that PAFFREL has come under an accountability cloud after its long serving boss, Kingsley Rodrigo passed away recently. 

We don't know whether the tax payers of the Netherlands, USA, UK and Germany are aware that their governments have been pumping money into organizations with dubious track records including surreptitious and sometimes open support of terrorist organizations.  We do know that Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu has close associations with certain political parties and has even shared stage and petition-space with politicians and parties, a fact which these funders cannot be unaware of and which moreover compromise the ability of the CPA/CMEV to exercise neutrality in election monitoring activities. 

We do not know if each donor mentioned above were aware that the CPA/CMEV were being funded for the same project by the other three.  We do not know the details of the budgets submitted by the CPA/CMEV to each of these donors and we hope that CPA gets its 'under construction' website running soon and, in the interest of his favourite buzz-terms, transparency and accountability, lays it all out for the benefit of the public they seems to love so much. What we do know is details of the budget submitted to the Secretary for State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs represented by Mark Gooding, Deputy High Commissioner, British High Commission in Colombo, Sri Lanka. 

We don't know if CMEV rented out a special monitoring office during the two elections or used the CPA office down Ernest De Silva Mawatha for the purpose, but the budget indicates that Rs 1.12 million has been allocated for rent. This is for monitoring activities in the Eastern Province.  The project duration is from December 15, 2009 to January 31, 2010.  That's 48 days or more than Rs. 23,000 per day!  That's just a single line-item of the budget.  I don't have to get into the details.  Rohan Edirisinghe who signed the agreement with the Netherlands Embassy and L.M. Cuelenaere (Ambassador) who signed on behalf of the Embassy would similarly, in the interest of transparency and accountability (to the people of Sri Lanka and the tax payers of the Netherlands), reveal details of the budget submitted by the CPA/CMEV. 

Saravanamuttu also signed on behalf of the CPA the agreement with the U.S. Department of State (Jeffrey Anderson was the other signatory).  He also signed the agreement with Germany, represented by the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jens Ploetner.  These gentlemen, given their long-standing and dedicated service to the cause of democracy, accountability and transparency, reveal all shortly, I am sure.   They will tell us how many people were required for the overall monitoring exercise and reveal their names too.  In the interest of decency and civilization and since all this is about the wellbeing of democracy and the citizenry of Sri Lanka, leave no stone unturned so that we know that things are all above board. 

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer who can be reached at msenevira@gmail.com

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

 

 

 

 

CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM WORK AND THE STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE

The eminent Buddhist leaders of the Sinhala people such as Srimat Anagarika Dharmapala, Walisingha Harischandra, F. R. Senanayake etc., were thoroughly disgusted with the unjustifiable work done by the British Government on the advice of the Christian missionaries who in order to stabilize their power, were destroying the Buddhist culture and Sinhala civilization. But this aversion had not gone deep into the hearts of the people. At that time there was no strong organization capable of presenting matters to the Government and protecting their traditional rights, or shouldering the responsibility to work for the same end. The village folk joined the Anti-liquor Society after it was formed, due to the dislike they had for liquor according to their religious tenets and not out of the consideration for  the calamity that would befall the country, or to negate the facilities that  would consolidate British power.

It was during this time that the Sinhala-Muslim riots started. On account of the very cruel and hurtful manner in which the rulers governed at that time, the feeling originally entertained by our leaders that we should obtain a free system of rule, and become an independent nation, was established in the minds of the general public. Patriotic feelings and thoughts of freedom blossomed forth in the minds of the people, who clearly realized the rough and tough rule of the British and their immense suffering under them.

Accordingly, the Muslim riot could be identified as a blessing in disguise to give life to the independence struggle. It was Mr. Senanayake who had won the affection of the people and was in the forefront of the independence struggle. He was sole protector to all the Sinhala Buddhists, poor and  rich, weak and  powerful; men and women who were like a family of parentless children without anybody's help and compassion. This was due to the wrongful conduct of and severe hardships inflicted by the British officers and the plundering of wealth of Sinhala Buddhists on the pretext of giving compensation to the Muslims.

The aim and the objective of the general public and the other leaders who well realized the absence of powers of rule to the citizens and the resultant harm, was to free themselves from British rule. It was our chief character in this story who was the senior most leader who was to go to the front with this objective. People who had unwavering faith in this noble leader's good  qualities who did not show any desire to obtain honours, titles or posts, valued his leadership always. But he did not covet that leadership. He collected all leaders who were available in the country at that time, and took them into one front in order to build a unitary Lanka devoid of divisions such as nationality, class, area, community and religion. His aim, expectation and desire was to make all countrymen a family of brothers by doing away with divisions of trade, religion and nationality that were existent during feudal times. 

Mr. Senanayake received the patronage and support of all. The goodwill and love of all he associated with or not, was with him. It is not for anything else but for the honesty, integrity, determination and humility he possessed on the one hand and the generosity and kindness on the other. His leadership was affectionately accepted by all people of the country. He who did not differentiate between Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim leaders, laid the foundation for the independence struggle with the aim of fulfilling many purposes by joining everyone of them. He acted without delay in the national interest and organized a meeting aimed at constitutional reform  in the first instance, to be held at the "Public Hall", Colombo on 25th September 1915, presided over by Sir James Peiris. That was the beginning of the modern independence struggle.

The British were quick to attempt to disrupt this meeting which was to give effect to their determination taken at the prison on the occasion of the shooting of the young man Pedris. They tried to create a division between the Sinhala Buddhists and Sinhala Christians but their efforts failed. They said that compensation will be charged from the Buddhists only for the damages caused to Muslims at the riots and the Sinhala Christians will not be treated by the Government as persons who were connected to the Muslim riots.

At this meet